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The Creepy Doll Project. . . .

Alright. So, in every “B” movie horror flick opening where the shots are all stagnant, the dust is an inch thick on piano keys and the light is always swinging so the shadows dance across the frame there is always a creepy doll. I love those shots.

So, I have always wanted to do a project with such a doll. Simple in concept, but, I think it would yield some cool photos! As in:

I don’t know that this is the doll for the job, but, it’s a good start. I just wanted to get the ball rolling in testing out the lighting and see if I could create what I had in my head on the LCD. Now, that is a key concept to this project. Photoshop makes creating things in the brain a lot simpler nowadays. No need to focus on the lighting or angle or hell, even taking the picture. Just make it all in photoshop, right????? Wrong-o. One of the reasons I wanted to take on this project, other than to get the images of creepy dolls out of my head finally (I have wanted to do this for quite a while), was to work on lighting.

“But, lighting should be simple, it’s just a little doll, right?” Well, uh, no. It’s a doll, not a person. These lights suddenly become HUGE sources when talking about lighting proportionally. Think of the size of a speedlight head. It’s almost the height of this doll’s head, now imagine a light that is as big as your head, and that WHOLE source is pouring out hard light. It’s not like a softbox, where it’s a big source, but at least it’s diffused a little, nope. This is solid hard light. So, in a combination of Honl grids and Gaffer tape, I’ll try to restrict that light down to slivers and spots as needed.

For now though, I just wanted to get a couple quick grabs. The best part of this whole process? It’s all aperture mode and TTL. Why? I don’t want to think about the camera specifics. I want to totally wrap my brain around how the light is falling, if I want it brighter or darker, I can dial that in with the +/- flash exposure value. It’ll automatically fix that for me, allowing me to really concentrate on how my lighting is happening, instead of on the technical banter of getting it to the levels I want.

Ultimately what I want to make of this project is having a doll that I can carry with me, that I can toss into any scene I see fitting, throw a little light to bring attention to it, and make a photo. Side of the road, a busy mall, a wide angle forest floor, dirty downtown alley way….. sky’s the limit. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll just throw it up in the air and see if I can get a shot. Add it to the list of ideas.

For now, the ball has started rolling. That’s what matters. Getting myself back into the having of a project, the regular shooting routine, the doing what I love.  Not sure if this is the doll for me, but, it’s the beginnings of the project. We’ll see what happens. More to follow. . . . . . .

                     -30-

Getting My Shit Together. . . . more or less. . . .

Not entirely sure what to name this post. Or honestly what it is about. I have gone on quite the business break here…… I have hit a pothole and gotten a flat tire. Proverbially.

We’ve had a lot happen lately. I got rear-ended. My car got totalled. And I have had to focus my entire life on being able to find a new car and work to make up the difference in payments. Keep the other car from getting repossessed and work my butt off to make that monetary difference……  Gotta focus life on making sure we hold down the basics for a while, along with another more recent personal project that came up that I had to turn around really quick! (It’s a personal family based thing that I had to get done…)  The entire ESP business and a lot of what we were doing got put on hold. My photography ambitions and pro-active nature got put on hold. It has been quite a huge frustration for me to turn away shoots, struggle to make time to finish editing the shoots that I had going on when all this happened and not have any time to shoot and keep practicing my lighting.

I have been failing hugely; in short.

But, we are slowly getting back on our feet and I am slowly starting to find time to start picking up the pieces, putting them back together, and getting this all back on track.

I have a huge sorry to put towards the customers I had at that time whose photos and projects got kinda put on hold while our lives fell a little bit apart. I can’t begin to express my true aggression and irritation I had with myself in not being able to get this stuff turned around in the time it should have been. I have a wedding album that still needs to be laid out, and it is going to be the center of my complete focus over this weekend. Hopefully I can get it done by the end of this next week.

Now, you may be asking yourself a couple of questions here; depending on who you are. The general variant version is the same one question I think:

WHY would you put this kind of stuff up for CUSTOMERS to read???????? And my answer is simple enough, you may not agree with it, but, hey, it’s my business, so, deal with it ;) My answer is as follows:

I try as hard as I can be to stay as translucent to my customer as possible. Stuff has come up, I have had to take a hiatus, but, to an extent, I kinda hope that the customer’s  I attract would be the crowd that is slightly understanding of the delays given the situations I have been going through. Also, by explaining my reasons behind the need for and really lack of time available to be able to sit and complete these projects, I am giving everyone “the lowdown” as to “what’s been up” as the cool kids say. And we all know, I love to imitate the cool kids.

Also, I try to make sure that within the blog, I put up as much information as I can so should a fellow starting out photographer find my blog, they will know that life ain’t easy, and it’s not a simple process. Shit comes up and life, as well as your business, can get really complicated to balance.

So, to try to wrap it all up here, I am doing what I can to get back on track, finish the pre-existing work I had to do and start putting myself back out there in hopes that people want me to capture their whatever they want captured. Have the last few months probably had a bit of an impact on my word of mouth, probably, and that makes me truly sad, but, I also understand from the client’s point of view. Best mindset is to put what’s happened behind me and prepare to push forward. Shrug and move on. Focus on making the best and ready myself for what’s next. Whatever it may be….

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My learning notes from my last boudoir shoot…. and what we’ll do differently this time….

Ok. First of all. I am really pissy and ashamed of the photography community as a whole when the word boudoir comes up. There are so many people trying to capitalize on the knowledge right now it makes me sick. Give me a frickin’ break people.  Stop only offering DVD’s and charging for “boudoir blog” subscriptions…. urgggghh!…….

That off my chest; let’s move on to the point.

We had our first boudoir shoot, as you noticed if you follow the ESP Facebook page . . . . It was a good time; lots of fun. But with every first time comes a TON of learning and a few mistakes here and there. And there too,  and over here again…. eh, you get the idea.

My first and biggest notice? GET RID OF THE STUDIO LIGHTS!!!!! They were just too powerful, and I found myself having to shoot on the lowest ISO and not being able to manage to keep an f/1.8 or 2.8 when I wanted it even at the lowest flash power settings. We were using Alien Bee 800′s and a 400. I recently ordered an SB-600 and will be bouncing back and forth between the 900, 800 and 600 with this next shoot. The poor assistant will have to hold them through the strip lights and big softboxes if we need to use them, but I think she’ll manage ok.

I am really going to try to push available light and adding in only one light. The big reason behind this one light source is really so that I can maximize the use of my new Flextt5 system from pocket wizard. They are smokin’ hot little chunks of gold that radio transmit all my TTL info. Auto flash, no line of sight needed, it’s like I’m cheating almost. Actually, truth be told, I’ll probably shoot through a ring light on the camera for fill if needed, so technically a two-light set-up(ultra technically a three-light set-up, as you should always think of available light as, well, a light source). We’ll see what happens though.

Another big mistake we made in our last boudoir shoot was a lack of detail shots. we got these full body/head and shoulders shots. That’s all we got. No presentation of curves, no real good outfit details. . . . . . Showing photos that leave the face out of the photo do two important things. One, it shows a woman in a different view than what she or her other (should they be given as a gift) would normally see, thus presenting a sort of sexy twist, this kinda “left to the imagination” feel and just a general different view than what the average person see’s in. Secondly, and to the photographer in the long run more importantly, anonymous photos mean no need for a model release. Still let the client know, point out that they cannot be recognized, should they not want their photos in your portfolio, have them realize it’s a very anonymus photo, no face in the picture, no identifying marks, all that jazz. But getting the details will also help set you apart from the average shooter I think. Besides, if they want you to make a sexy little album as a gift to someone, those detail shots (just like in wedding photography) will be PRICELESS when you need some filler while laying out the album. Shoot a rim lighted full length while she is laying on her stomach, highlighting the curves of the back and booty and legs….. make that a REAL LONG and narrow crop, there’s a fill across the top or bottom of a page. Or throw it in between two other photos to separate the page… Shoot it high in the frame, and shoot it low in the frame, now you can make it a light opacity background photo and gradient away into that extra space. That’s just one shot………Detail shots. They apply to every form of photography. Get them like I didn’t on our last shoot!!!!

I would say another thing I was pretty rickety with was the finer points of the posing. This comes with experience I think though. I had the “idea” but I didn’t know exactly what to do with the fine tuning of the idea I would start with. Funny enough, making a woman look comfortable and “normal” (not all bent outta shape and awkward) when doing provocative posing isn’t as easy as I thought it would be…. What you see in person and what the final image looks like are different. I chock it up to experience, and therefore I have been continuing my obsessive researching.

Passing along something I picked up and will be trying, one thing I read was to make a list and have the client choose certain words they want to see in their photos. “Provocative, sexy, imaginative, risqué, conservative, cute. . . ” I thought this was a really good idea and I am working on the “word list” right now. This seems like it would help get a feel for what the shoot will be like as well. You’ll know whether the client will be a little more comfortable, or if they are a little unsure about the whole thing. Either way though, you (obviously) should be very patient and understanding. They are as uncomfortable as I would be in lingerie, in front of a camera, and I am a guy….. You have to be understanding to that kinda stuff, it’s all part of the job. But the point is that the word list is a pretty nifty idea.

 

Those are the biggest things that I can think of that we need to improve on for next time. We will be trying some different lighting approaches, aside from using the speed lights, just trying some more rim lighting ideas, higher contrast images, just generally different stuff than what you see in everyday boudoir stuff. Some of it will work, and some of it won’t, but if you spend all your time just imitating what everyone else considers good, you’ll never be different, and therefore you will sit among the masses. Create something different and you’ll be offering something that no one else does, in my case, I want to find a slightly different view on lighting for boudoir photography…. therefore, there will be trial and error, but I’ll get it! That’s it for now. More later though///

Lighting Set-up Recommendation:

Ok people. Here’s the deal. Well, hold on I need to get another cup of coffee before we start this post…..

   Well, I went with a Diet Coke instead. Ok. I have had a lot of people ask me lately about my “lighting set-up” What am I using, how am I using it…. What do I recommend as a good solid set-up. So, here it is:

   Starting with the camera. Why start with the camera? Light sensitivity. Always consider what your ambient light is doing. Can it be a part of the image. This is something that a lot of people, when starting to dive into off-camera flash, forget to consider. They get so tied up in what the flash is doing, this part goes out the window. Back to the camera. The better your camera does in low-light, the more options you have. Therefore, I am going with the recommendation of the D700, it’s what I have; it’s what I love.  Whatever you have works, but this is just a rundown of my set-up and each piece of gear’s role in the “lighting set-up.” Another big piece of this for the “start-up” photographer is that this has a pop-up flash and supports Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS). This is a system that will wirelessly talk to the off-camera flash and automatically adjust it’s output for a proper light amount. Big flaws in this system? It’s line of sight only. We’ll come back to that.

   So you have your camera, which you paid tons of money for, and now you hate all your images because you want to get some off-camera light in there. The options from this point are vast and endless. If you have tons of money. Which, well, obviously you don’t, or you would have just bought all the gear you could from the get-go…. Here’s my recommendation for the cheapest, but MOST versatile set-up. Let’s re-visit that comment and focus on most versatile. What I am going to present is not the “cheapest option,” but remember you didn’t buy the “cheapest” camera. I am presenting a set-up that will grow with the budding photographer. This is meant for someone who wants to save a little, but not spend a lot. That said, here ya go:

   Start with the one off-camera flash. I recommend the Lumopro LP160. Keep in mind this is a manual powered flash. BUT. When on a budget, and learning the art of lighting, I would recommend learning manual powers. It helps you understand light amount in relation to your available light, plus a manual only flash is MUCH cheaper. Get rid of all the auto adjusting technical stuff inside the flash, and you are going to save a lot of money. This particular flash is AS strong as the SB-900, which puts out as much power as a small studio flash. I have lit the side of a two-story building with an SB-900.  

   Now to trigger that flash. As, without the ability to MAKE the off camera flash, well, flash, you are just outta luck. Most everyone starting out learns the joy and fun of “on-location” work. This normally ends up being out in sunlight and therefore using the little pop-up flash to trigger the off-camera flash becomes a real hit or miss option. Note, that is an option. But it’s kinda a last resort, I am a hobo and can’t afford triggers kinda thing. Plus then you have to use on camera flash and that is going to make your photos look like poo, most of the time.

   So, to trigger the flash. There are a ton of options out there. I am going to immediately refer to my favorite option, which I still use on a regular basis. The Pocket Wizard Plus II. Try to find them used at first if you can, look on your local Craigslist ads. Almost always a set on there, barter as needed. Here’s the deal with these things. One costs as much as the flash when bought new. $169 a piece. You need two. BUT, and stay with me here…… I have been using these things for a couple of years now, I have YET to have one not go off (when I hit the shutter, and they are actually turned on…) I have used them from crazy far distances, and they trigger every time. The coolest thing about these, and any decent radio trigger really, is that you can now put your flash around a corner, behind a door, at the end of a long hallway for cool dramatically lit photos (mixing available light and off-camera flash……….) There are other options, like the cactus radio triggers, Radio Poppers….. There are others, and I want to point out that I don’t know much other than what I have heard…… but I GUESS those are reasonable alternatives. Never used them, have no personal experience…. Just throwing it out there. Don’t buy ‘em and get mad at me if they suck. But if you do buy them and they rock, shoot me an email and let me know.

   So, you have a flash and a way to trigger it. Let’s say you get the LP160 and a set of these cactus things, because you are super poor…. you are now at $192.95.  If you decide to stop there for a while, you have a set-up that, as long as you have someone there to hold the flash for you, can work. But stick with me. A few accessories will take you a LONG way here.

   Something to hold the flash. Ah, a light stand, if you are always working on your own. Firstly. A light stand is NOT a light stand is NOT a light stand. When you are starting out, well, strike that, in the world of photography, you are going to drop and beat and smack your gear around….. buy something that is well-built and it’ll last you much longer. Again, I bought light stands when I was first buying stuff, and I still have these things. I recommend anything by Manfrotto. First and foremost. That said, there are quite a few well-priced and reasonable options out there. This is a do your research kinda thing. Look for the good reviews (though, that applies to anything you buy) If you wanted a direct recommendation on what to buy, I would say something along the lines of THIS one. It’s a Manfrotto stand and runs about $60. That’s a little pricey for a starting out, but I am really referring the height and quality idea here. Make sure whatever you get can stand about 6/7 feet, and has at least three sections. It’ll be sturdier when fully extended.

   So, now you have to attach the flash to the stand. My go to recommendation it a Justin-clamp. (sidenote, I just realized that I know it’s called a 175F clamp technically. I really am a photo nerd….) It’s not the cheapest option, but it’s a tool that if you are using off-camera flash, you need. They are awesome. Just go look at it and you’ll understand it’s versatility.  Stick a flash anywhere in a tight spot, both figuratively tight spot, and literally.

   Justin clamp aside, Something along the lines of this, a hotshoe mount, will work perfect for you. They are reasonably priced, and the fact that they swivel (note the middle section) will give you the ability to direct your light upwards or downwards, rather than straight on.

   Now, you have the flash, the trigger, the stand, the holder…. technically. that’s all you need to start out. It’s a base point of reasonable gear that will allow you to produce images far above the average “photographer” that just buys a camera and thinks the price tag means good pictures.

   For the record, here are some modifiers I recommend.  A quick rundown of what I use regularly. Not everything I have, but what I go to when on the average shoot.

   For starters, my newest piece of exciting gear is the Pocket Wizard Flex tt5 system. I have two of them, which means one on-camera and one on the off-camera flash. Long story short, they wirelessly transmit the TTL (auto-adjusting) flash information through radio trigger, vice the line-of-sight system that Nikon uses. They rock. They are also pricey, and require that you have Nikon flashes (when using a Nikon camera, same idea for a Canon shooter).  I linked to the Pocket Wizard sight for the information and explanations they have. I’ll hopefully be making time to do a post about them soon. I am backed up on blogging. Stupid day job.

   The “Joe McNally” Ezybox 24″ softbox is another go to item. When I need soft light (getting rid of harsh contrast and shadows) from my small flash, this is the item to do it. Again, with this and all this stuff I am trying to find time to do shoots and write some posts on. Time. I need more of it.  For now, I must say, hit up google…… ;( yup. Sad emoticon face.

   Lastolite also makes Tri-grips. I have the 30″ version, with the slip-on reflector sleeves, more versatility, more space saved. You can buy like 8 reflectors for $20 a piece, and then replace them when they rip or break or start fraying on the edges in a year. You can also get pissed off at how flimsy and awkward the round ones are to hold while on a shoot by yourself, trying to bounce some light back into the subject’s face. You can also get upset at how much space 8 reflectors take up. OR….. You can save a bit of money and buy one of these tri-grip sets, have a well-built item with a cool and very sturdy built-in handle and a product that is built to be beaten and abused and used regularly. PLUS, the slip-on reflector surfaces fold up nicely and all fit into a little round bag that takes up minimal space. If you hadn’t noticed, I really like my tri-grip.

   Now that I have an assistant for most every shoot, which really helps make lighting easier, I use my light on a stick. same mount that goes to the light stand, but I put that on something along THIS line…. This lets my assistant get the light up high, bring it down to the side, go directly overhead the subject. Gotta shoot for like ten minutes, then let the assistant take a little break for a minute or two. Holding it up for awhile works the arms pretty well. Plus when I throw, say the ezybox on there, or use the tri-grip and shoot through it for quickly softened light,  I am suddenly creating a bunch of different looks to my light. And with an assistant, it becomes a quickly changed type of light, thus creating a much more diverse set of photos in the final product.

   So, there is my “list” of lighting gadgets on the quick. I tried to make sure I linked everything to a page to further explain or buy. Everything but the cactus triggers I recommend when it comes to buying.

   Hopefully you take something from reading all this. As you can see, it takes a little money however you approach it to start getting good light. But, if you have the little money to put out, you can start creating portraits stunning enough to make people want to pay, therefore getting the money you spent on the equipment back, and then some if you are good.

   Hopefully I’ll have the time sooner than later to go over all these things I have and be able to give my own in-depth opinions and reviews on the gear I have. For now though, I hope this at least gives you an idea of what a GOOD starting set-up should look like. Just remember, in the world of photography, buy crap, get crap. Do your research and save a little money. 

   That’s all I got for the time being, now get to saving and go buy some new toys….

   Oh, P.S. total sidenote! iPhone 5 drops tomorrow. Speaking of saving///

Been Busy, Must Blog More…

Ok, so. Another wedding down; got an engagement shoot coming up, and I am pleased to say that we got through our first boudoir (boo-dwah) shoot with some not only usable, but pretty good images. . . I am pretty happy with where the business is going. Like I keep telling people, it is super cool to have worked and worked getting all the gear, saving and spending to make sure I have the right tools, pushing myself and my business non-stop, all the schmoozing!!! And now finally in the last few months, random people are starting to like the facebook page and here and there people are starting to find me for work, rather than me having to search for and initiate the conversation.

I guess it’s simple enough to say, hard work pays off, or some kinda cheesy one liner. What I see as the bottom line though is that none of it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t worked my ass off in pushing myself to potential clients. I always have cards on me. I spend time every day looking for “photographer wanted” ads on Craigslist. I have worked with other local photographers. I am constantly reading and trying out different lighting and editing techniques. I have done a ton of free shoots, both for experience and portfolio work. But. Finally. I think it’s safe to say that I am in a place where I can start letting my work speak for itself. To clarify, that doesn’t mean that I am going to be advertising myself any less, in fact, just the opposite. My issue until this point has been trying to advertise Navy-based photos, stagnant spooky hallway shots, and the occasional portrait-like grab that I get while shooting out and about. “This is my work, look at the style and creative eye, not the fact that I haven’t actually shot a wedding myself.”  

Part of starting this blog was for me to have a place to express thoughts about the business as I grow. I would call where I am right now a point of growth. Like taking the training wheels off point. Still going to fall on my ass plenty, but, at least it’s progress forward, right? I have neglected the blogging severely over the last month or so. I also need to kick my assistant in the ass to have them kick me in the ass while on a shoot to take set-up shots. I have somehow managed to forget to do that a lot lately. Going to be writing a few blogs in the next week or so. One on the recent boudoir shoot we did, I have some cool stuff we did at a wedding recently with light, and I want that to lead into a post on the new Pocketwizard Flex tt5 system for Nikon. I am highly pleased with them thus far. More to come on that.

I suppose the point of this post is just to let those working on their business know that it gets better. You are going to hit a point where all you can think is “what the f-, I spent all this money on all this gear, why the hell am I not getting shoots?” Either you suck at photos, or you aren’t advertising yourself enough. Get one on one with people, hand cards out in public. Sidenote. Whenever I am in Barnes and Noble, I wander over to the wedding books section. I do this for two reasons. One, I open one of the many planning books to see what kind of photos they have in there. These are the books brides stick their noses in to learn how to have a perfect wedding….. those photos will help shape their mind to what a perfect wedding photographer’s work looks like. Make sure you have photos similar to those books on your website. Have your own style, but, still make sure the “shot list” is at least resembling what they see. . . . details (as if I don’t say it enough), group shots, my favorite is the f/1.8 35mm flowers in the hand held at stomach level with the bride. I am a sucker for that shot. Don’t know why. Don’t really care, I like what I like and well, I like that shot.

Two, I am hopeful that there will be someone poking through those books. Pick a book up, flip a few pages, and strike up a conversation with the bride to be, or the guy who just proposed and has no idea what a wedding really entails. And don’t be afraid to be honest. Tell them why you decided to come lurk hang out in the wedding section for a few minutes. “I like to get an idea of the kind of photos they have in these books, bounce my style off what brides to be will see in books like these…” Keep it short, let them know to give you a call and hand them a card. Then take that book with you and go sit in the coffee section. Don’t just set the book back on the shelf and walk off, that’s the difference between clever marketing and kinda lame self promotion. Besides, they will see sincerity in your attempt to better your own work if you walk away with that book and go plop in a chair with it. They will watch you until you disappear. It’s human nature. Make sure to shake hands too. They will remember you a little better.  But keep the conversation short on your end. If they start asking questions and such, that’s fine, but don’t make it seem like you are trying to push yourself, the key here is casual coincidental timing.  I feel like I am giving tips to a 13-year-old on his first date…. “don’t forget to tell her how nice her hair is, compliment her father. DON’T put your hand in the seat before she site down at the movie theater, you little wierdo, she won’t think it’s funny and I am not bailing you out of jail….That’s a fourth or fifth date move…”

I am getting side tracked on what should be its own post probably (wedding stuff, not the butt grab move). Point is, advertise yourself everywhere, every chance you get. I am a card handing hoe, and I tell people that. “Well, I am shameless, here’s a card.” In so many words.

The only way you are going to “make it” is word of mouth and a strong and varied portfolio. You can hear advertisements all day about a business, but what makes you say, I’ll have to check them out, is when your friend says something good about that place. When is comes to a varied portfolio, your friend’s kids are cute, but if that’s all you have in your portfolio is one or two people over and over, people will shy away. They want to see a bunch of different people, shows more experience.

One other big thing to keep in mind is networking. Network the hell outta everything you can. I will do free work for someone if I can afford it at the time and I see the opportunity for them to help me. It’s not rude or “using” someone, it’s business. If they can benefit by getting free photos, and you can trade the immediate “payment” of money for furthering your name down the line, wouldn’t you???  You have to be able to help to be helped. Gina, who I have mentioned before, runs a farm out in Pungo called Back Bay Botanicals. I do anything I can for her for free. She needs help being advertised and getting off the ground like I do. But I also see that she has a business that can help me advertise. Picking your own bouquets of flowers is a very family oriented idea for a Saturday afternoon. Families love portraits, therefore, if she is talking to those families and mentions me, there you go. Being green is coming into style big time, so if a bride can get in touch with the environment and pick her own flowers for her and her bridesmaids, I am going to pass Gina’s name along, just like I know she would do if they were already there and didn’t happen to have a photographer for some reason. Gina also does a program called “rent-a-chick” She has chickens, sells eggs, and is slowly building her chicken collection. When she first gets the chickens, they are babies. She makes a little money “renting them out” and letting kids raise baby chickens for a few months. She needs/wants photos for her brochure to put in the kit that goes home with the kids. Want photos done for that? Uh, no problem (I’m actually doing that shoot this evening). In exchange for those photos, just drop my name and number in a small corner at the bottom of the brochure. Guaranteed that a family or two will call for portraits when they see the cute little girl all excited with her baby chicks on the cover, or so I hope.  “Wow, cute photo, you know we haven’t gotten photos of little Sally/Sammie done in awhile….”  I am even tossing the idea of offering a “rent-a-chick” portrait discount. . . it’s all about give and take and helping each other. It’s called networking.

Also, I have ready access to her beautiful empty, but furnished, house she has on her property until it becomes a bed and breakfast. And that is a big deal right now as I am starting to get into this boudoir scene. I am saving myself and or the client about $150 each session by not renting a NICE hotel room for a day to do a shoot in. It’s a perfect remote and quiet location, helps create a calm and quiet atmosphere to make some cool photos.

Another big networking piece of advice is keep everyone you meet stored in your phone (which hopefully is an iPhone….just saying). Be able to put people in touch with other people. If you can help someone out, even if you don’t benefit right then…. they will keep that experience in mind. A friend of theirs says “I want to get photos taken” Oh, they know this really nice guy, helped me find out this, I think he is a photographer…. referral made.

Never be an a-hole. Another valuable piece of advice. I do everything I can to be personable with everyone I interact with. The ability to call someone up that you worked with two years ago for a just a week, even if they don’t remember you, it’s better than “oh, yeah, I REMEMBER you….” Always do what you can to leave people with a good note.  Schmoozing is my term for networking. . . . and I schmooze every second I can.

Blogging is like talking to my mother, no matter how hard I try to keep it under 30 minutes or a thousand words, I just can’t seem to keep it short. So, to wrap it up bluntly, Eye of the Shutter is moving forward and slowly growing and these are some of the thoughts and processes that have gotten me this far and are continuing to carry me along. To those just starting with a camera, wanting their own business, don’t slow down for a second, or you’ll miss an opportunity. To those big shots charging $5,000 a wedding and $500 a boudoir session, I can only hope to be competing with you in a couple of years.

More on the way///

Something I had never realized…

And to clarify, this is not a “my photos are so special” kinda post. What I took may very well have been total crap. This isn’t a boasting of my personal skills kinda post, though I will cover the technical aspects of the photos. I wanted to put this up because this blog in its entirety is about my development as a photographer; growing, learning, etc. etc. . . .  And I realized something that I had never really seriously thought about before. Funny thing is, I am aware of it, and I talk about it all the time, but I have never realized the gravity of it… Gina may kill me for this post, but I don’t think so, but, well, it’s just how I see things. Here we go:

Ok, so…. I have never really put any thought into just how much people value photos of themselves. During a photo session you are capturing a person in that moment. Be it portraits, wedding stuff, photojournalism, whatever. . . You are responsible for showing that person, those people, whatever, in their current existence. This is partly why I hate studio posed photos. No surroundings, no background, nothing there that tells a story about that subject and shows who they are in that moment. Thus my utter disgust for chain stores like “The Picture People…” That’s a separate conversation altogether. I digress.

I did a shoot with Gina of Back Bay Botanicals for her blog, (in case you missed that here’s the link: www.backbaybotanicals.blogspot.com) for a ‘About Me’ page. I think everyone should have a portrait of themselves. Especially when they are busting their backside in a small business, whatever it may be. Recently, as you’ll find on her blog, her newlywed jackass of a husband decided to fool around. From what she told me and what the blog read, it was (obviously) a pretty big blow to her. When something like that happens to a person, it destroys your self-esteem, personal image, and general view on the world… I speak from experience… I talked to her and found out about a month after she had found out, and she was picking up the pieces and getting back on her feet. All while trying to balance an entire farm, now totally on her own. She has awesome friends and family that have been helping her pick up the leg work.

When I told her after hearing the news that we still needed to do her ‘About Me’ portraits, especially after the events that took place and how I felt it was important for her to show off that SHE is doing this all by herself, she really seemed excited about it.

We got there, and she was really jazzed about the shoot, we got some good photos It was a HOT day and humid as hell, but we pressed forward. After the shoot she made a notion that made me realize how valued a photographer is to their subject. The act wasn’t important (well, it was, but it’s not important to point out here what it was), but it hit me like a ton of bricks how appreciative she was. I was just out there gettin’ some photos for a good-hearted person. I was honestly worried that I was taking up too much of HER time, as the photos were my idea and I was pretty jazzed about getting to expand the portfolio that much more. After we left she thanked me again a couple of times through email, and I realized that she really did appreciate it, A LOT.

I think really my point in all of this is that a photographer should be VERY aware of how appreciated they are. They should know that to  the person they are taking photos of, they are the bee’s knees, super great, totally tubular. They should know this for ONLY one reason though, and it’s not so they can feel cooler, or walk around like ‘Yeah…. look at me.” I think it’s a big deal to realize this because it makes those photos THAT much more important to get right. It means that much more if you screw something up. A photographer should know how much s/he is thought of so that they know how far they will fall and how bad it will hurt if they do a half-assed job.

A photographer should take the photos he is taking as seriously as the client will be appreciative. And by realizing how much you are appreciated, whether you are being paid for it or not…. should make you realize how important it is to constantly be learning and trying to better yourself as a photographer. The more you know, the more of a chance you’ll actually get a good frame every 1,000 you shoot. I’m kidding…. most days.

Anyways, the point here is that as a photographer, you are being given one of the biggest jobs I think there is in this world today. You are recording someone’s life. They are choosing you to help them remember those moments. It sounds cheesy as hell, but that’s all a photo is good for. Remembering. Looking back, appreciating the moment in time you were in when that photo was made of you. To me these photos are Gina’s first visual cue that she is fine. She is making it without that ass, and she is making it PERFECTLY well, judging by how amazingly the farm is coming along. Those memories will stick with these photos. Showing that she is happy was a big deal to me in these photos.

Now, onto the shoot real quick….

This was shot with a 24” EzyBox softbox camera left, with a ringflash on camera to fill in the shadow’s just a tad.

24” EzyBox was my light of choice for this shoot. play it safe 45 degrees to HER right. That would be camera left. We were working at 2 in the afternoon with a high sun. Light was shit outside on it’s own, very bland kinda sorta overcast, but still harsh enough to give yucky overhead light shadows. So, I just figured out the “ambient light’s” proper exposure, made that a little underexposed, and use the flash as create a nice flattering light. I think they came out pretty decent. The windy day made for quite the hassle with her long hair, but we did what we could to fight back.

Here’s the flash/softbox location relative to Gina. Holding the flash is my potential new assistant Jacqueline. She did ok the first time around, put up with my half-explained explanations to what I wanted. “Ok, move over here a bit, no not you Gina. Jacqueline, you, sorry…” or holding the camera to my face…. “Ok, move back just a bit… No, sorry, you stay there(pointing to Gina) You, (pointing to Jacqueline) just a little bit (waving my hand about in a non-descriptive motion) Ok that’s good…right there…” I would imagine I am a pain in the ass to hold lights for. We’ll see how it goes with Jacqueline… . .

This is the photo I wanted as soon as I heard the news about her now ex. This is a nice explanation to her world right now. “Hands full, but still smiling the whole way.” Makin’ it on my own and happy about it. At least that’s what it says to me. Full hands and a smile. That’s Gina in this moment for sure. She seems to be pretty upbeat and positive, I like her expression in this one, it sums everything up really well. Same light, same spot. It’s what works and we were fighting the weather, as soon as we got done with this one, it started to sprinkle. In Virginia, when it sprinkles, that can mean a five-minute (at MOST) warning to the downpour. So…. I grabbed this:

(hey, I get distracted….”ooohh, bewtiful buhtahfly, let me get a picture of it…oh, photoshoot, right…”)

And then we got a photo of Gina with her new D3100. Which she (as she should…it’s a Nikon) absolutely seems to love. See her blog for more explanation, she’s getting the hang of it.

Everything we shot for the day was TTL and CLS. Which made for a few frustrating moments making sure we had the softbox angled just right to get good light and let the sensors see each other…. effin’ line of sight. As soon as we showed up, I knew we would be running against the weather, so I figured A priority and pushing Nikon’s CLS would be the best choice, I’ll take a few frames without the flash firing and not having to balance light intensity on Manual to trying to adjust and shoot when fighting off weather… you just don’t know how much time you’ll have. Gotta work fast. Here’s the photo takin’ shot set-up:

We did this shot with the ring flash on camera and obviously the softbox. What the softbox did was give that nice almost rim on the side of her face away from the camera, separates her nicely from the background. Then by having the ringflash set to be just bright enough to fill in the shadows, which is not a lot of light, but notice how you can see into the shadows, without the ringflash that would have been totally crappy dark. It also puts more focus on the camera with the main light being the rim. Points out her and leads you into the camera and what she is shooting…. Makes her more of a sub-tone to the overall photo, which is what a photographer should be…. second to their camera. Without the ringflash though, you would not have seen anything in those shadows. This combo can give you get a nice almost natural looking light. The softbox also throws light onto the open eye, and I chose this frame with hair covering her face closest to camera because, well, have you ever seen a photographer’s face when looking through the viewfinder? We tend to look funny with the squinched closed eye. Not appealing.

All-in-all, a fun shoot. But I walked away realizing how important it is to value your time with the client as much as they will value having those photos afterwards. Respect the position you are in as a photographer, and don’t take on a job for money, for status, for any other reason than appreciating being able to capture that person’s moment in time. And understand the importance of what you are about to do before you do it, because the bottom line is, if you screw it up, you’ve wasted a moment. Whether it can be done again or not, it probably WON’T be done by you, because you didn’t take the time to make sure it was done right, which means you didn’t care about your subject to begin with. Appreciate being a photographer for all it’s “glory” and the awesome ability you have. To capture moments and preserve memories… Time for a beer and a good movie… more later///

Just a thought on zee creation of a wedding album…

Well, after a little more than a month of working on a customer’s album when the time permitted; I have finished my first wedding album. It has been a big learning experience about the shooting of a wedding as well. I realized the importance of having a TON of detail shots, they are the fill space I could have used to really balance things out on a page. Didn’t have NEARLY enough of them. Secondly, shoot vertical, shoot horizontal, and shoot vertizontical too. This is a habit I had gotten into doing photojournalism already having the layout in mind. When shooting for a newspaper, you need to remember that what may keep your photo from getting published can simply be the orientation. If a less better photo gits the page better, the person doing the layout is going to use what causes him less work.

Back to the point, before I stray too much. Having two orientations of the same moment can make for a MUCH simpler time laying out down the line.

I also noticed the importance of a simple and middle-grounded background. Too busy or too bold and it was distracting from the photos. Something with a light overall opacity made the photo pop off the page a little more than just a blank white backdrop.

As for the middle-ground. The color around the photo affects the look of the photo(s) it(them)self(ves). You get the point.

Anywho. Album done, just uploaded it. Now to wait for it to arrive and hope it looks good when it gets here. And most importantly, hopefully the client likes the final product!!!! More later///

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