Creative Portrait Photography

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Making Good

This past week, I messed up big time, which led to a professional I respect very much messing up big time, which almost ruined a big, important, life-changing event.

That’s a really big mistake, folks.

I’ll admit, when it all went down my first reaction was shock, then my skin went icy with horror, then I pretty much just wanted to go to bed and cry until everyone had forgotten about me for all time. But we all have to wear our big-kid pants, right? I am happy to report that it was because everyone was wearing their big-kid pants that the situation was resolved with no one was blaming anyone else, and no one walked away angry. In fact, I think we all developed an increased respect for each other because of the way things were handled by everyone involved.

The professional, when she realized her mistake, immediately devoted herself to correcting it. Not only did she resolve the issue very quickly, she surpassed everyone’s expectations and left us somewhat stunned by the results. And she did it all with a great deal of compassion and class. That’s why she’s a professional.

When I realized my mistake, I made immediate efforts to assist in the resolution (um, where I wasn’t needed, because the professional had it under control), and I apologized sincerely to the professional and to the others affected by the mistake, and I admitted my wrongdoing. It’s a blow to ego and pride to admit failure and apologize, but I think it’s really important to show colleagues and clients that sometimes I mess up, too, but I’m going to face up to it and fix it the best I can. We’re all only human, after all.

Most importantly, I (and probably the professional) learned a whole lot about double-checking and verifying things with the right people well in advance of major projects. Because of this snafu, I’m less likely to make this mistake again, and I’ve developed a new attention to particular details and processes where I was, apparently, formerly deficient. If I had run away and hidden, I would be much worse off for it as a businessperson and as a human being.

May your week also lead you to greater professionalism and personal growth!


Weekly Wanderings

Some of the cool stuff I stumbled upon this past week. This week: camera flashes are really cool in a music video, and food rises from the dead.


Prepping Yourself for a Photo Shoot

Recently I was talking to a client about prepping models for photography. The client did not have a lot of experience with models or the behind the scenes of a photo shoot with make up artists and hair stylists. It reminded me of some questions I saw posted once by some young, inexperienced models on a forum. I thought it might be helpful for models, folks who hire models, and anyone who is going to have their photo taken to hear what one photographer has to say about getting ready to be photographed.

A lot can be done in post processing to touch up skin, hair, clothes, but if you do some prep work beforehand it saves your photographer a great deal of time and could, therefore, save you some money. It can also improve the quality of your images.

  • Clean your fingernails. Dirty nails aren’t hard to retouch, but it’s one of my pet peeves. Don’t ask me why! I dislike cleaning up dirty nails.
  • Show up to hair and make up with a clean face and clean hair–no products at all. This gives the stylists a clean place to start and makes the process go much faster.
  • If arms/legs are going to be photographed, ask the make up artist to tend to these areas to cut down on retouching time later. Often, make up artists only work on the model’s face, so be sure to ask!
  • Go a little heavy with the make up, especially the eyeliner. It depends, of course, on the image you are trying to get, but camera flash and studio lights can really wash out make up color, so laying it on a little heavy in real life translates to just right in the images. Again, it depends on the image, so talk to the photographer first. And we’re not talking about clown quantities here, just a little heavier than you would normally wear.
  • Shave your pits and use deodorant that won’t leave white residue on your skin or clothes. Cleaning out armpits is a little too personal for me.
  • Iron and de-lint clothing, especially black clothing!
  • Clean and polish shoes.
  • Clean your teeth! If you really love your photographer, have your teeth whitened prior to the shoot, but this isn’t by any means a must. Definitely brush and floss, though.
  • Prior to the shoot, get plenty of rest and drink lots of water. This will help prevent red eyes and puffy eyelids that will need to be retouched later, and will help you enjoy the shoot a lot more.

This is the list I give my models when they ask how to prepare for a shoot. It’s worth it to ask your photographer what they prefer, and some won’t care at all about any of this. It depends on the shoot, as well. For example, for a gritty urban shoot, I won’t want polished and clean shoes and I may want the clothes rumpled. If you’re a model or just having some photos taken, take a moment to check with the photographer to help the photo session go more smoothly for everyone.


How NOT to Choose a Photographer

You’re getting married next spring, or maybe next week. You want photos of your new baby, a headshot for your business website, for your fashion line. You want coverage of your family reunion, your father’s 70th birthday, your bridal shower. You want a good photographer at a price you can afford, but a search on Google, through the Yellow Pages, and through craigslist.org reveals an overwhelming selection in a vast range of styles, quality, and rates. How do you choose a photographer? That’s largely up to you: your budget, your aesthetic preferences and needs, and your personality. But let me share some tips on how NOT to choose a photographer:

  • Find one with specific gear. You read an article in a bridal magazine that told you that you should never hire a photographer who doesn’t shoot with a full format camera. Do you know what that is and why it matters? And are you now confused because you can’t find a photographer with a full format camera willing to shoot your wedding for under $1000? Full format cameras are expensive, and photographers working with good gear will charge more. Rather than looking for photogs with specific types of cameras, focus on the images they are making–do you like their photos? Are they good quality? Do they have good reviews from previous clients? Then what do you care what they are shooting, so long as they deliver a quality product?

    This is a $5000 camera. Nice, but not essential to taking good photographs

  • Find one who will work for free or very little. Your wedding dress cost you $2000, so you don’t have much left to spend on a photographer. $150 for a day’s worth of work is not bad, and anyone should be glad to get that much in this economy. People who pay thousands of dollars for a photographer are suckers! Nope. They’re smart. Think of it this way: you are going to wear that dress one day, then it goes into a closet for the next several decades. Your photos will be viewed over and over again. You’ll show them to your children, your friends, your relatives, and eventually you’ll hand them down to the next generation. It’s my opinion that you should budget as much or more for the photographer than you do for the dress. Good photographers are expensive because photography is hard work. Following a bride and groom around for 10-12 hours while carrying 30 lbs and $20,000 in gear is stressful and exhausting. Wrangling people into poses, competing with guests who are jockeying to beat you to the good shot, working with bad light, squatting, stretching, bending, and constantly thinking, thinking, thinking–it’s a ton of work to get those gorgeous wedding photos you crave for your album. Then, after the big day, processing and retouching the photos can take weeks. It’s not worth anyone’s time to take photos for less than $1000, and realistically it’s not worth it for most photographers unless it’s much more than that. Some people try to justify paying less by saying things like “this will be good for photographers looking to build their portfolios” or “this would be a good gig for a photography student” but no, it still isn’t, not for them or for you.
  • Hire your friend’s roommate. After all, he has a camera that costs $500! And he takes nice photos. So, he’ll be able to take all the photos you need at a fraction of the price. Right? Not necessarily. Again, the gear is not really a big deal, but good photography is hard work, especially weddings. It takes experience and really quick thinking. Can your friend’s roommate make an instant decision on how to deal with the low light in the church so he doesn’t miss those important walking down the aisle shots? Does he know the industry well enough to get all the shots you’re going to want later? Does he know how to process the images afterward so you have files or prints you can actually use? That being said, sometimes your friend’s roommate is a really good photographer who would be a photography star if someone would just give him that first gig, so a risk could really pay off. Look at his images and learn whether he can work well and quickly under intense and fast-paced conditions.
  • Hire the first photographer you find in your price range. Then, the day of your wedding or portrait session, discover that things are really awkward between you and the photographer, you don’t seem able to communicate clearly to each other, and the whole day feels off. When the images come back, they aren’t anything like you wanted. It’s so important to really examine the photographer’s work. Everyone has a different style and aesthetic. Find someone who produces photos you like. Meet with the photographer first over coffee and chat about what you are looking for. You want to find a photographer you are comfortable talking to, someone whose personality meshes well with yours. It will make the shoot much more enjoyable for everyone, and the images will be better for it.
  • Wait until the last minute to book a photographer. This is a sure-fire way to ensure you end up with someone you are not happy with. There is a chance of getting a good photographer at a good rate just days before the wedding/party/day you want to shoot, but it’s not likely. Most photographers book weeks to months in advance, and many wedding photographers are booked full a year or more in advance. Book as soon as you can.
  • Declare you will edit the photos yourself, thereby justifying the low rate you want to pay. Rather than attracting photographers, this will end up scaring them away. A photograph is a photographer’s bread and butter, and also her reputation and her advertising. Maybe you’re really good at editing photos, but most photographer’s aren’t going to take the chance you aren’t. If you take her photos and edit them until they are unrecognizable as her work, she’s not going to want her name near them. Most photographers want to control the editing of their own work simply because it is vital that the final image is something they can stand by–it could be the death of their career otherwise.
  • Justify not paying a photographer because you are really attractive. I actually saw this once. It’s nice that you’re pretty, but you still need to pay for services received. Photographers see pretty people all the time, and while it is so nice of you to share your pretty with the photographer so generously, he still needs to pay rent and buy a new lens, so pay up.

Finding a good photographer who is right for you and your event takes time and a little research, but it’s well worth it. It’s also worth it to pay your photographer well–most photographers are not living the high life, and you’re not seeing the cost in time after the event, the cost of insurance, equipment purchase and repair, and so on. Do your research, make good choices. Best of luck!


Weekly Wanderings

Some of the cool stuff I stumbled upon this past week. This week: bloody cult musicals that aren’t Rocky Horror and event invisibility cloaks.


Weekly Wanderings

Some of the cool stuff I stumbled upon this past week. This week: the vanishing kakapo, the color of dinosaurs, and monkey photographers.