I'll warn you up front, it's a guest post I found in the archives from almost three years ago on my first blog, but it's a classic piece. The images and story behind them are so relevant to what every portrait artist is working so hard to accomplish. It's also one of the most read guest posts I've had over the last several years.
We're all part of an amazing industry and there are people who come into our lives, who, when you think about them, you can't remember a time when they weren't around. It doesn't matter how long you've actually known them. Well, meet our good buddy, Elena Hernandez from Dallas. She's an artist and a great photographer, but more important is her passion and dedication to the industry. She's a diehard believer in education and there's no such thing as too many workshops, programs, webinars etc. She attends everything she can and never stops learning or encouraging other photographers to do the same!
This guest post hits on an important topic, universal to every specialty in professional photography, getting to know your subject! Knowing your subject gives you the opportunity to photograph more than just their physical being - it allows you to capture the intangible, their personality. So, thank you Elena, but not just for this blog, but your dedication to our industry and helping so many photographers think about their passion for the craft! Skip Cohen
"Only Passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things." Denis Diderot
A few years ago I had the honor of being asked to go to Mexico to teach photography. The other artists invited were Oscar & Jessica Lozoya, Armando Chacon, and John Tanguma. We were asked to go to the border town of Nuevo Laredo. We were also told there was a war going on between the drug lords and the corrupt police/politicians of both sides of the border. (huh? a war? you want me to teach during a gun fight?)
Yes...We went there even though there were people being killed everyday in this little border town over drugs and politics. What was even more amazing: there were students who were willing to travel through this war zone. We were limited to staying at the hotel to teach those who attended the seminar, for fear of gang reprisals in the area.
I was supposed to have a wedding couple as models, but because of scheduling conflicts they cancelled. I was given an alternative to photograph an elderly gentleman by the name of Vincente Medina. I thought to myself,
" Not a problem, I will just do a nice portrait of an older gentleman. Until I got to know him..."
One night, over a glass of wine....He told me a little bit about himself. He was a professional photographer who was a pilot in the war. He was married to his lovely wife for over 50 years and she gave him nine children. He lost her 4 years ago and they use to be ballroom dance champions. That is what he missed the most, dancing.
I immediately had a vision how I wanted to photograph him. I could visualize him in a bistro type setting drinking a glass of wine, smoking his cigarette reminiscing over the photograph of his wife. In the background, I wanted to have a couple dancing a tango. They represented to me, Vincente and his wife dancing when they were young. I wanted this portrait to portray his story and his love. In the beginning I was just going to do a portrait of an elderly man, but once I got to know the MAN, I had to do a portrait that told his story.
The day came for me to do my segment, which was "available light", and the day ended up being filled with thunderstorms. I originally wanted to be outdoors, but because of the rain, ended up doing this image by window light. I was on a ladder to get a higher camera angle. I photographed with a shallow depth of field on purpose. I wanted the couple in the image to be out of focus so that your eyes were drawn to the man in the image. This image was shot at ISO 800, F4 at 30th of a second, with a Nikon camera & an 85mm 1.8 lens.
As I was photographing Mr. Medina I was also telling the class what I was doing and waiting for the interpreter to repeat what I said. I noticed that while I was shooting, Vincente was speaking to the photograph of his wife, which added to the poignant expression he had.
After the session, I showed the class what I would do to the image in Photoshop. I decided it would look good as a black and white and after I tweaked the image Mr. Medina wanted to say a few words...
He walked up to the front of the class...sat down on a stool, bowed his head and began to quote a poem that was his wife's favorite. My Spanish is rusty, but I could follow what he was saying. At first he was speaking in a low tone but he then got more and more passionate about this poem as he was reciting it. Everyone in the room was crying. When he finished the poem the class gave him a standing ovation. Wiping my tears, I thanked him. There was nothing I could have said to top that.
He paused, came up to me and took my hand. He said he was so moved by the photograph that he wanted to share with the students what he was saying as I was photographing him and that he was so grateful for the experience
I wanted to share this with you in this blog, because even though I was there to teach...I learned a valuable lesson as well: If you get to know your subjects and listen to them before you set up your camera, you just might create a session that's not only more intimate for your client, but will tap into your imagination and find new ways to be creative.
" To Dance With You Again" This image Merited at PPA and hung at nationals.
I've always said the best thing about imaging has nothing to do with photography, but the friendships that come out of everyone's mutual love for the craft. I've had only two conversations with Ed Heaton, one of them a new podcast that's airing today, and I can already tell this is the start of a great friendship. We may not have met before, but we share so many common friends and companies we've worked with, including all our friends over at Tamron.
I love Ed's tagline on his website, which pretty much tells you what he's all about,
"Learning to capture light will make extraordinary images out of ordinary subjects!" There are a lot of you who are thinking that a post on composition is just too basic for a how-to blog post for professional photographers. Sadly, having looked at so many galleries over the last year, great composition seems to be one of the biggest challenges for so many photographers. And, while Ed may be focused on landscapes, the principles of great images never change, no matter what the subject!
When Ed's not shooting, he's teaching and without question he should be on your radar. It doesn't matter what your specialty is, this is about understanding how to capture and create extraordinary images. Follow Ed's workshop schedule for some great opportunities to grow your skill set and visit his site for some outstanding images in his galleries.
And after you read his guest post, wander over to his podcast and then check out this month's featured Tamron lens of the month, one of Ed's favorites!
Here a just a few tips for mastering composition.
Composition is the logical arrangement of elements so that their relationship is pleasing to the eye. The elements are things that make up the scene (e.g. lines, shapes, texture, patterns, colors, tones, light, etc.).
Let’s be honest, some people seem to have an easier time with composition. They appear to be born with an artistic eye or should I say an inner vision. The rest of us need to develop it through practice and visual stimulation.
You will have to pay special attention to all of the elements in a scene. Not just your main subject but also the small things. Once you start to notice these things, you are beginning to see. Once you are seeing, mastering composition is within reach.
Keep It Simple
One of the most effective tools you can use in composition is to simplify.
Learn to look at the entire frame and eliminate elements that don't need to be there. If something in the frame isn't supporting what you're trying to show, don't include it. You need to show your subject clearly, leaving no confusion on the part of the viewer about what you were photographing
Elements and lines within the scene can be used to create implied or actual frames. Use these frames within the photograph to call attention to your subject.
Lines, Lines, and more Lines
Lines in photographs provide a path that lead the viewer’s eye from one element to another and hopefully, keep the viewer in the photograph. There can be many types of lines in a photograph.
Create a Sense of Depth
Images that are well executed tend to have three distinct regions.
Foreground leads the viewer into the scene – it provides a starting point. So, you should probably include something of interest that will anchor the image.
Middle ground may contain the main subject of the image. It may also serve to move the viewer along to the background.
Background, like the middle ground, may contain the main subject, or it may merely provide a pleasing completion to the image.
Color, more than any other design element, determines the emotional content of a photograph.
A light subject will have more impact if placed against a dark background and vice-versa. Contrasting colors may be used for emphasis, but can become distracting if not considered carefully.
All images copyright Ed Heaton. All Rights Reserved.
There are so many ways you have to give back, both with and without a camera in your hands. I saw these images from Giovanna Mandel and asked her to do a guest post and I'm grateful she was willing. So often, new photographers especially, seem to get stumped on ways to get involved in their community. Well, here's a little program Giovanna has been doing with Indy's own Riley Hospital. Giovanna's helping to make the world a better place, one little corner at a time. Now, imagine what we could do as an industry if EVERY photographer got involved in programs like this!
When I was eight or nine years old the act of charity overwhelmed my home. My mother was always “doing” for other families and I have a distinct memory of her wiping the forehead of a young girl who she had just accompanied to chemotherapy, and now was waiting on her parents. On the days that her parents couldn’t take off work and drive into NYC for the treatments, my mother did. A neighbor in need, you help. Cancer would rear its ugly head one too many times, taking my father from us when I was 19.
Years later I would chat with a friend about a new venture through Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
The Cancer Center at Riley Hospital would host its very first Riley Cancer Prom. I offered my photographic services and was greeted with open arms by all involved. Besides the event itself, the patients and families are treated to an outing at Promingdales where they choose clothing and all the necessary bling to look fabulous on the night of Prom. The day of Prom volunteer hairstylists and makeup artists converge on the hospital to provide a Day Spa for all the ladies attending. The EVENT itself is decorated to the extreme with a chosen theme for the year.
On Friday I photographed the fourth annual Riley Cancer Prom and it is my favorite day of the year. Fathers dance with their daughters, mothers hug their boys extra close, children dance their feet off, as only children can.
Even though many of the children sport hairless heads, the smiles they display and the laughter that resounds in the building allows them a brief moment of normalcy. I feel blessed to be a part of this event and to provide families with images that show joy during a time in their lives that is painful.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the epitome of charitable giving, St. Catherine of Siena:
"Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”
I am fortunate beyond measure to be a part of this day and it fills me up with love of humanity and compassion for those who suffer. Yet more than anything, my time at the Riley Hospital Prom fills me with joy and hope for the future.
All images copyright Giovanna Mandel. All Rights Reserved
Saxophone player, Will Donato, is the latest image created for a restaurant/nite-club in Sedona.
Intro by Skip Cohen
Sheila and I were in Sedona in March and got out to dinner one night with Bob and Holly Coates, hitting a restaurant/nite club I've heard about for a long time, Sound Bites. Imagine an entire room decorated with images like this. It had sort of a "hall of fame" feel for all the musicians. In fact, so much so that some of them have now requested a photo shoot with Bob Coates as part of their compensation package when playing at the club.
The growing revenue stream that Bob talks about in this guest post is a nice thing to have happening, but there are two additional benefits. First, the idea for the work came out of a new technique he was working on for a personal project and now word is getting out in the community. Second, he's got a great relationship with the owner of the restaurant and their food and wine list are terrific! LOL Check two previous guest posts from Bob on the process and follow Bob through his website. Also check out Bob's blog for the latest on what he's working on. There's a lot going on in the not-so-little town of Sedona.
All Images Copyright Bob Coates. All Rights Reserved.
I'm teaching a class at SCU's Summer Session
on Fine Art Photography, Personal Projects and how to take the work generated to market and make some money on it. Photographers don't always understand how this can work. Here's a case study on how one of my personal projects, a fine art technique I call 'Photo-Synthesis', has been turning itself into income.
I've been playing with this technique in creating fine art images that have a painterly feel in order to create a unique look for wall decor for businesses and fine homes. I've only just begun to sell these outright to the market I was originally thinking about.
I was contacted by a restaurant to photograph their build-out upon expanding and taking over new space. I suggested I could create some original art for some of their decor needs and was subsequently commissioned to create five art pieces. Following their seeing these images the owners asked if I could do that same style in an ongoing fashion to document the live entertainment performing at the club. I agreed.
They asked for a discount and to trade for some goods, because it was going to be an ongoing project. I've learned never to give a discount unless I am getting something in return. My 'return' for the discount was being able to brand all the art pieces with my logo and web address. I now have a high traffic business that is displaying my work and promoting Bob Coates Photography on a regular basis. We are soon going to offer images with this technique for sale on site and through our web sites.
Extra business is being generated by the artists being exposed to my work and wanting to either use the images already created or have me design new work for their CD's and promo photos. Income from the past year from just the restaurant alone was just under $10,000 and it's growing more for this new year.
All of this happened because I was experimenting with new techniques for a personal project. There's a wonderful side bonus when it comes to working on a personal project like this. I really have to stretch to push my techniques further in order to create a unique look and feel to the images, which is forcing me to continue to grow as an artist.Bob Coates
by Skip CohenWhile this is a guest post, Dawn Davis didn't really send it to me for the purpose of posting. With the WTF series, Bob is always in the spotlight, but having been around these two for a lot of years, I know it's always been a team approach. When I got these images a couple of weeks ago I was going to ask her about doing a guest post and then just got tied up. It slipped my mind and then today I was watching episode 11 in the WTF series and realized the connection in the first few seconds of the video.Bob takes you through the first image and what Dawn has done, but the video doesn't do the work justice and I decided it was time to post these on their own. The work is stunning and they deserve their own moment in the spotlight! Bob and Dawn will be teaching at SCU's Summer Session in August and you can catch more of their work and educational programs by following their workshop series.
And if you haven't seen Episode 11, it's just a click away
. (I wonder how many aquariums will be purchased in the next few months for people who will never own a fish!)
I'm not sure when Levi Sim came into our lives, because he's one of those personalities you just feel has always been around. While he's only been shooting for four years, the passion he has for people and imaging simply knows no bounds. Walk into any program that Levi's attending and he'll be the first one you'll meet.
What's amazed me is the enthusiasm and appreciation he has for life. The first year he met my wife Sheila at Skip's Summer School a thank you note arrived just a few days later, thanking her for the support to all the projects I work on. And it's that quality of appreciation and caring about this industry that's made him so legendary in such a short period of time.
I heard Levi speak for the first time at an Unconference for TAP (Technically Advanced Publishing) last January. It's the best line yet for explaining how everyone should behave with each other,
"Act as if your grandmother is always watching!"
Levi, couldn't come from more humble beginnings as a professional photographer...he knew virtually nothing, but had the passion and pulled together one of the strongest Smugs in the country...manages a photography club he started of his own with over 600 members and is President of SCU's advisory board, the Student Council.
He's a prime example of somebody who's simply a sponge when it comes to education and is constantly studying with some of the finest instructors in professional photography today. Skip Cohen
I have owned a camera for four years, and I've learned everything I know about photography in that time. Before my camera even arrived, I had read Joe McNally's The Hot Shoe Diaries and attended a terrific workshop with David Ziser. So I'm not one who started in photography by shooting landscapes and learning everything over time; I dove into people pictures from the start with a focussed effort on lighting things well.
The trouble I ran into was finding subjects to photograph. I knew I needed to get some practice and really understand how the things I thought I had learned applied to my work, and I knew I needed lots of practice before I could hang out my shingle and claim to be a pro. My only solution was to ask! I turned to the people I sat next to at church and asked if I could invite their daughter (a senior in high school) for a portrait session. They said, "Yes, please!"
We ended up having a great time, and I learned volumes (for instance, don't clamp your speedlight to a dumpster and then leave it there when you switch locations...)
That summer I wanted to get the word out I was available for business, and I thought the local Garden's Market would be a good place to meet people. I rented a space and set up a tent with a backdrop and stood there smiling, waiting for people to come into my booth. It wasn't long before I realized that I'd be waiting a very long time for folks to approach me. So, I starting asking everyone who walked by if I could make a free portrait, and again they said, "Yes, please!" I spent the whole morning photographing kids and siblings, and I learned volumes (for instance, green grass underfoot results in green shadows under chins).
Still, I didn't get any bookings, so I thought it was kind of a flop. Until a few months later when Beth called and said I had asked to photograph her daughters at the market, and could I come and do a portrait of them before Christmas? I said, "Yes, please!"
Beth has since become a great friend and I've photographed all her daughters' senior pictures, and we made a terrific portrait of her and her five girls just the other day. And it's all because I asked if I could.
Shortly after my session for Beth, I started traveling all over the country for my job. My first trip was to Alaska, and I saw the guy sitting next to me on the plane had great light shining in his eyes from the window, so I asked if I could photograph him.
Later, I was just finishing up my work, and the guy who owned the place had good light in his face from the window behind me, so I asked if I could make a portrait. The next day, I was done with the job, and the sun was still up (Alaska in the summer!) so I climbed a mountain nearby and met a father and son on the trail who were camped in a beautiful spot, so I asked if I could make a picture.
Before leaving town, I drove outside Anchorage down Turn Again Arm and was shooting a waterfall in bad light when the high school's cross country ski team came riding into the parking lot on bicycles, so I asked if I could make a picture. And they all said, "Yes!"
I was on the flight home from that trip and my seat mate told me about his time in the Vietnam War, and about how he was recruited from college by the state department and was promised he would not be sent to the war, and about how he was not only sent to the front but was there for five years instead of the shorter term army recruits were sent for and about the terrible things he witnessed and the secrecy and the awfulness of war, and he was thoughtful and the light was great in his face and I'll never forget speaking with him. But, I was kinda tired, so I didn't ask if I could make a picture. That's one of my few regrets.
Have I been turned down? Yes. I was in a restaurant in Atlanta having lunch when a few moms came in with their daughters, like a girls' day out. The light was great, and these 8 year old girls were super cute, acting like ladies at their own table, so I asked if I could do their portrait. Actually, as I recall, I said, "Hi, do you mind if I make a picture of your girls?" "Um, what are you going to do with it?" "I dunno, maybe put it on my blog..." (this is when I realized what a creeper I sounded like) "Uh, yeah, not such a fan of that--thanks, though." Bless those southern ladies.
With the exception of those times when I was sounding creepy, people have almost never turned me down for a portrait, including people I've run into around the world from Seoul to Riyadh.
This is how I learned to find great light, and how I learned to talk to people, and how I learned that talking to people makes a better picture than anything else on the planet, and shows more about places and cultures than any landmark ever could.
Just ask, and always ask. It'll change your life.
"Arthur" by Arthur
Once upon a time, long long ago.....life was simple. There was film. There were nice black boxes to put it in, all pretty much the same – they made pictures. There were nice labs that processed the film and made really nice pretty prints...presuming we gave them latent-ish (that’s a word isn’t it?) images that were relatively well exposed and cropped. And we were Professional Photographers, revered by one and all and we saw it was good and we rejoiced in it for a very long long time. For this was the time of BC – Before Computers.
And then, out of the black n blue, it was a dark and stormy night. The time.......AD – Adobe Dependent. There were pixels – millions of ‘em. There were incredible new boxes to put them in that focused for us in a hundred ways...all at once... and exposed in even more ways... better than we ever could with 20/20/20/whattheheck20 vision....and had untold bells and multiple whistles and cost a whole family of arms and legs.....
But wait...there’s more....
And because times they are a changin' the need was felt to make hundreds, yea, thousands of exposures....just because we could.
And because times they are a changin' pixels couldn’t just get shipped off to the lab like film...we had the good fortune to be able to “Play With Them” and our world thought.... life was good. And Photoshop led to Painter led to LightRoom led to NIK Filters led to godknowswhat...and life was good...wasn’t it? And the poor labs could print on paper and on canvas and on plastic and on metal and on godknowswhat...and life kinda was...whatever.
And now it’s time for the inevitable sequel... THE REVENGE OF THE LAND OF THE LOST.... and the life of the photographer – strike that – Image Creator – is perhaps becoming less grand.
Yes technology has marched on, society’s likes, dislikes and demands have, paradymely (is that a word...it is now) changed, and, well, the view of the world of what a “Professional Image Maker” is has all but crumbled into the proverbial potty.
But wait..... what’s that streaking across the horizon? Is it a grain...NO. Is it a pixel....NOOOOOOOOO. It’s a streaming gleaming full blown HD-ta-Boot VIDEO!!! And it landed on You-Tube and on someone’s Face....book and is tweeting ta boot and we again saw it was good and we rejoiced in it for who knows how long (please God cut us some slack here, amen).
Ok, I know...the last thing you needed was to have to embrace change once more in your lifetime. But as they say, whoever they are...
You can’t stop the waves; all you can do is learn to surf the inevitable.
Please understand, I have no desire to be a naysayer, no doom and gloom a-la-carte in the throws of despair deliverer of bad tidings here.
I only offer a watchful eye, a coy smile and the pledge of being a hopeful romantic and prognosticator.
Our precious ‘stills’ on our precious ‘paper’ will - and I do believe this with all my heart – never go away. But the world of technology is of course here to stay. And a whole new audience of short-attention-span-theatre consumers will more and more cry out for the latest and greatest....and sure as I’m spoutin off here – that could be a wild and woolie moving picture show on their new fangled IWatch or maybe a nice little Hologram of a loved one sleepin’ in the corner lazyboy.
Does it truly matter if it’s film or pixels or flickering fancies on the screen?
Isn’t it the message that counts? Were you not put on this earth.....
To leave a tender trail.....by whatever means the day and age affords?
So this is our challenge, our quest – to be revered (and paid) for the taking like the alchemists we should always be viewed as.
We can of course, choose to ignore the obvious. Or we can start now to set a course for the next generation of Professional Imagery, there will be a tomorrow.
You have been empowered with God given rights to make choices. You can build a stone wall as a laborer or an artisan. You can choose to duke it out with the peasants for a 99 cent photoburger or you can choose to become the Kobe Beef of the image world.
It’s time for a New You – Choice Agent Extraordinaire !
By Arthur Levi Rainville M.Photog., Cr., CPP, API
And that's why I love talking with Arthur! I became a diehard Arthur follower years ago after hearing him give the very best presentation I'd ever heard on creativity at a program in Boston. Take the time and enjoy his podcast, his first guest post here at SCU and a classic video thanks to Tamron on classic posing. And if he's speaking at any convention you're attending - RUN don't walk to get a seat! His quote on his faculty page sums it all up
...Live, Love, Laugh…you were put on this earth to leave a tender trail.Skip Cohen
I asked each faculty member to answer the question, "What advice would you give new photographers?" Doug Box gave me so much great information that it deserved its own blog post. There are six outstanding points here...whether you're new to the industry as a professional photographer or you've been at it for years, each one has so much validity in building strength for your business.
Follow Doug on his site and check out his faculty page! Skip Cohen
#1. Spend as much time marketing, learning marketing, selling and learning selling as you do learning and doing Photoshop. There are two ways to make more money in our business, save money on expenses or bring in more income! Doing your own retouching and printing “saves” you money – not much, but some. Developing a marketing plan and selling to your clients instead of taking orders can bring in thousands of dollars. Which is a better use of your time?
#2. Learn to run a business – develop a business plan, then a yearly marketing plan. Learn to love selling or hire a sales person. Consult with an accountant to set up your books and your business! Join a local, state and national professional association. They have tons of resources and, you will foster friendships and relationships with fellow photographers and vendors alike.
#3. Do what your clients can’t do! If you are taking close up photos of small children with no lighting or posing techniques, your clients can do that themselves! Be creative! Use different backgrounds, props, poses or even different lenses than you’re clients don’t have access to. Look for a niche – who do you know? Does your son play baseball or is your daughter in the local ballet. Then develop a plan to work with this niche business. What are you interested in? Do you love babies but live in an area that is full of older families? Then babies may not be the best niche for you. Three hot niches that are hard for clients to do themselves are families, pets and photo restoration.
#4. Be realistic – there is nothing wrong with having a small part-time photography business. Going full time, having a studio space, hiring full time employees is a BIG STEP. Remember, it is not how much money you handle, it is how much money you keep that determines success!
#5. Watch the trends. If putting a couch in the middle of a field and photographing a family with lens flair is hot, then do it! If clients want the files so they can share them on Facebook, etc, figure out a way you can still make money and give them what they want also! Try a sliding scale – the more your client spends on photography, they less the files cost.
#6. Don’t listen to negative naysayers. You have the same right to start your own photography business as the photographer who has been in business for years! They were new at some point and got better and so will you! Don’t undercharge – you won’t make money, you will go out of business and you will dilute the market. This is where an accountant, your professional associations and fellow photographers can help you. Figure out what you need to charge to make money, establish that as your price. Then when you are starting out, you can give a discount in some areas as you learn and build your business, but you have established a fair price for your work. As you grow, your discount gets smaller. This is much easier than starting cheap and having to raise your prices to make money.
I guess the most important thing I can tell you about having a photography business is Never Stop Learning!
Introduction by Skip Cohen
In my college days I took a course on public speaking. On the very first day of class the instructor had us try and explain to him how to put on coat with the assumption that he knew absolutely none of the components of what made up the jacket. Imagine trying to explain something this simple if the person you were talking to didn't know what a sleeve or collar was, let alone which side was up on the jacket.
Well photography is no different and so often we completely miss the appreciation for the complexity of teaching or explaining something. Just because you can create a great image, doesn't mean you can explain the "how to" aspect going on behind the scenes.
I've known Stewart Powers for a lot of years, but we've never really worked on anything together. Well, I love the way he's about to take you through the process of adding another dimension of complexity to your images. This is another way for you to raise the bar on the quality of your work and separate yourself from your competitors and the Uncle Harry's of the world.
Take the time to wander into Powers Photography. You're about to go on a journey into some outstanding images. Personally, I love his wedding section. Just watching the slide show was enough to to nail the "wow" factor on every image. Is he a photographer, an
artist or a creative genius ? I'll let you make the call. Another thing most photographers don't realize is what it takes to build something like SCU and this site. It takes great partners and a commitment to education. A big thanks to Tamron USA for stepping up to the plate and bringing some great educational elements to the SCU party! Special programs, workshops, conventions and even this blog couldn't happen without the dedication to the craft by companies like Tamron!Circle the Dates: Check out Stewart and Susan's upcoming program at the Florida School of Photography, part of FPP (Florida Professional Photographers)
Imagine a nice PB&J sandwich without the J. Or a bagel and cream cheese without the cream cheese. It’s a one dimensional experience and it’s just not as tasty. Photographically our brains can interpret many levels of complexity and in some photographic compositions I prefer to make it more interesting by adding another subject dimension/element - a secondary subject. This secondary subject is usually not sharply focused. I make it game when I photograph a wedding to find more tasty compositions. (Potentially there can be foreground, middle and far subjects if you like.)
The trick is to see the potential quickly so you can pose the subjects to create two dimensions. This means the bride is not actually in the gazebo, or leaning on the limo and the groom may not be in line with the groomsmen, ( see image 1 below). That creates a one dimensional composition. The bride, groom or couple need to be in front, or behind and on a different plane from the secondary subject. The magic of a wide angle lens or telephoto compression will create the tasty composition. I think a zoom lens is crucial so the final composition can be quickly realized.
You can train your mind to look for these in many situations – from the cake cutting, B&G at the gazebo, couple with the limo, bridal party group, etc. The juxtaposing of two elements often makes an overall stronger and more interesting visual statement. Visually literate people will appreciate this.
On the job I use a Black Rapid strap that holds two full frame Canon 5D II’s with my two favorite lenses ready to go. The Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 VC SP lens
and the Tamron 70-200 F2.8 VC SP lens
. These are absolutely first tier professional gear. These lenses cover 90% of the images I capture at a wedding. The other 10% are with a 300mm, 90 macro, and a 16-35mm.
The distance between the subjects and the total space you have to create your composition will make the lens selection easy. If I work at the limo and it is a classy Rolls Royce I might have the couple in a kissy moment with the RR hood ornament in the foreground in focus with the B&G as a secondary out-of-focus (OOF) addition. ( see image below) The 24-70 works great in this situation. It is a similar composition when I place the couple behind the wedding cake. I do not use a wide open f-stop because the couple can get too mushy. Better around f 5.6.
This image is a bit wonky and romantic. It was made using the 70-200 f2.8 Tamron performance zoom at the 80mm mark. The camera was on a tripod and I used the depth of field preview button to select f9 as the fstop that made the composition work. (The DOF preview is the button you never use.) Faster fstops made the flowers too blurred – there needs to be some definition in the OOF secondary subject. This is also an example of selected focus. Isn’t the art of photography FUN!
This last image is one of my recent favorites because of the new friendship between little Katie and Cinderella bride Katie. Little Katie was magically enchanted. They are over thirty feet in front of the limo. This was captured at f4.5 and the RR limo is very OOF but sharp enough for me because of the tele compression of using 200mm. Using different fstops will give different effects and you should experiment to discover what you love. It’s a bit like the icing on a cake – there are a few rules to consider but lots of room for creativity. Go forth and be secondary.
Images copyright Powers Photography. All Rights Reserved
Introduction by Skip CohenOne of the fun things about SCU and previously Skip's Summer School is the strength of the community. As sappy as it sounds, everybody becomes part of the family. On the Skip's Summer School Facebook page everybody watches each others backs. They simply help each other. It's reminiscent of the way the bigger forums first started, but without the trolls. Or, as Levi Sim, one of the founders of the page along with Brent Watkins, "No meanies allowed!" (There's the difference between me and Levi - I'd just drop a few four letter words - but you have to love somebody who still calls them "meanies".) Well, meet Cindy Harter Sims who's a member of the SCU family. Last week she put up a shot of her store front on the Summer School page and announced it was the second anniversary of her Main St. studio. Within thirty seconds of seeing the image I was begging Cindy to do a guest post about opening her own studio.
Having your own studio is a dream of so many photographers. Well, Cindy made the jump two years ago and in this post she's done a terrific job of taking us on her journey. Reading her post reminded me of a quote of Eleanor Rosevelt's: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Cindy's studio as it is today, but it didn't start out this way!
If you were to walk down main street in my hometown, the first thing you would see after the railroad tracks and before the next red light, is Cindy Harter Photography Studio. That quaint little shop is the result of two years of effort. I spent a lot of late nights pouring over thousands of photo edits and early mornings consoling brides over hairdos and last minute wedding changes. I'm a successful small town photographer, and I'm proud of what I've built, but the key word here is "built". It sure didn't happen overnight.
It didn't start as very much - just a vision and a dream. Lots of work, great colors and the dream started to become reality.
Like most small towns, I know someone at every stop light, when I go grocery shopping or stop in at my local sandwich shop for lunch. My accountant's office is next door to my studio and when I work in my beautiful studio, anything can come in my front door: maybe a walk-in client, or maybe someone from the local bakery down the street bringing in some delicious ginger bread for me to try. Well,
with the help of all this quaint charm, I've made it to the two year mark of an open thriving business with NO debt. I was able to go from a full-time teaching job as the primary school music teacher to full-time professional photographer in less than five years. I knew the dream was to have my own little shop, but I had to make sure it was possible to live from my earnings as a photographer, before I made the leap.
The only way to overcome fear is to have sufficient planning in place. Here are some guidelines that helped me in my first couple of years, as I transitioned into a full-time career of photography.
- Find online communities to learn.
- Seek out a mentor whose skills you admire.
- Read everything you can get your hands on.
- Enter images for honest objective critique from your peers.
- Invest what you can afford in the very best camera and equipment. If you want to be a professional, you NEED professional gear.
- Learn your equipment! Shoot everyday in manual mode, until all aspects of the camera and equipment are something your fingers and brain do on their own.
When I felt my skill set was on the level that I could begin the journey of making photography a full-time career, I put a plan in place. I saved my teacher salary for a certain period of time and lived off of my photographer income. When I was finally living on what I was making as a photographer, I put in my resignation and quit my day job with the savings from planning ahead for this day.
I had paid for all my equipment as I went along, and had my eye on my adorable main street studio. The economy in my little town had taken a turn for the worse and it had been empty for a little while, so I called the owner to check on the monthly price. My sweet owner gave me her price-per-month and it was more than I was willing to risk paying out every month. I told her "When and if you think you could come down to my number, please call me." One day, she took me up on the offer and I knew my stars had aligned. I was going to be living the dream soon. My savings paid for all renovations for my space, and I was able to open Cindy Harter Photography Studio with no debt and move forward with my dream.
I have always been interested in relationships. I have always valued and believed the best gifts we receive are the people we call family. My main goal with all aspects of my business is that families see what a gift that they have in each other. I want my photography to help their relationships become stronger because of their experience with me in the session and their enjoyment in the images we create together.
I photograph people every day. Relationships happen from birth until death, and I don't want to miss any of it! I have worked very hard to improve my skills, so that I can stay in business and bless others. You know you are doing the right job when you can hardly sleep, because you're excited and thinking about the next day's work.
Every day I walk down Main st. with my little green key to my studio in my hand, about to open my very own shop for the morning, and I can hardly believe it! Sometimes it still feels like I am playing store, but it's real! I've put a ton of planning and pleasure into living my dream, and now that it's a reality, I can't imagine doing anything else!