Intro by Skip Cohen
For me personally, the fun of a blog like this is getting to know more photographers/artists. Meet a soon to be good buddy, Paul Lucia. I've personally never met Paul, but I love his work and thanks to Tamron USA, we were introduced in cyber space. A couple of emails and phone calls later and *poof* here we are.
Paul's post today is part of a daily double with a podcast as well. In both, Paul shares some terrific tips essentially reminding you to always bring your "A" game to a wedding, along with some great gear. I love his approach in this post, for example, you're there to photograph "Joy". There it is, your ability to be a magician and turn the intangible into something tangible! Plus, his pitfalls on weddings couldn't be more on target!
Check out more of Paul's work on his website at PaulLuciaPhotography.com.
Weddings are about one word, “Joy”. As a photographer, your role is simple – capture the moments that best reflect that fleeting emotion.
Interestingly enough, given the standard formula weddings follow, and despite all the planning, timetables and production schedules, you will find each wedding evolves into its own set of dynamics. These powerful forces can’t be controlled, nor should you wish to, for it presents the opportunity to seize images that are unique.
Regardless of the chaos surrounding the moment, remember always search for “Joy”. In one instance, I was photographing a bride when her mother walked in and an argument ensued. I quietly moved and focused on the intricate details on the back of the wedding dress. When the bride later viewed the images, she caught her breath and confided these were among her favorites.
When shooting weddings, the most difficult task begins before you pick up your camera; the need to establish rapport, and more importantly, gain the trust of your bride. Possess confidence in your craft and the ability to instill that confidence, and your images will catapult from average to stellar.
Brides are usually not professional models, and as such do not possess the gift to instantly turn “it on and off”. Add in the pressure of the bride being the center of attention, along with too much time between prep and ceremony to ponder any problems (real or imagined), and you have a recipe for anxiety and doubt.
Think of weddings as a theatrical event, with the bride being the star, and the groom being the co-star. Everyone else is in supporting roles. It’s up to you to learn who the players are, along with their significance to the production.
Insist on photographing: Save the Date, Engagement, Rehearsal Dinner, and if possible a Boudoir session. There are two advantages: first, these are sessions you can control the elements (magic hour, venue, wardrobe, etc.), and will inevitably yield quality images. This is how you will build trust and confidence in your bride. The second advantage, you’ll gain insight into just who is important, solving the problem of who the players are.
My “go to” Tamron lenses are as follows: the 24-70 f2.8 Di VC. It allows me to move around, grab full open shots, and details. The 70-300 f4-5.6 Di VC is one of my favorites, and undoubtedly the best in its class. With this lens I can sneak in and grab shots of those subjects avoiding the camera. The 90 f2.8 is a must for bridal prep and post ceremony. It’s intimate, flattering and crystal clear, lending itself to clean, crisp enlargements.
Image copyright Paul Lucia. All rights reserved.
Intro by Skip Cohen
This requires no explanation from me, except to point out this is the second part in a two-part post series, thanks to Ashley Krapf, baby Christopher's mother who shared her thoughts on the importance of Vicki Zoller's work yesterday. The three images below are from the portrait session Vicki did for Ashley and her family. If a picture really is worth a thousand words, then Vicki's images easily match the complete works of Shakespeare!
A big thanks to Vicki and the entire team at Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. I know it sounds pretty sappy, but you guys make me so proud to be part of this industry.
Note: NILMDTS is constantly looking for more volunteers. To find out how you can be involved just click on the link above or at the end of Vicki's post.
My name is Vicki Zoller and I am a photographer and Regional Coordinator for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. I have been with this amazing organization for 5 years and have photographed and participated in over 100 sessions for families requesting our services.
NILMDTS is a nonprofit organization of volunteer photographers that provide heirloom quality remembrance photography for families that will not be taking their babies home from the hospital. It is the MOST heartbreaking and the MOST incredibly rewarding photography that I have ever done and probably will ever do.
When I am in that hospital room I feel more like a photographer than any other time I hold my camera. I am creating a lasting, meaningful, and treasured, tangible piece of history for a family that needs something, ANYTHING to hold onto and help get them through some very dark days. I am recording a moment in time that can never come again or be recreated. It is an honor for me to be allowed to do this, to be with these families during an intensely private and painful time in their lives.
The best type of photographer for this volunteer work is one who appreciates the gift they possess and are willing to share that gift in a meaningful and powerful way. While photography skills such as technically understanding your camera settings and how to control artificial lighting are essential, they aren’t the most important thing you will be bringing to a hospital room; your commitment and compassion are your best tools. Your skill, a unique skill that allows you to come into that hospital room and forever record this moment is something you either ‘get’ as a photographer or you don’t.
The photographers I have worked with, trained, and became friends with in this organization have a PASSION for this. There is a chord that resonates in us that tells us, “How can I NOT do this?” How often in life to we get the chance to make this kind of difference? How often do we really get the chance to make something a bit better out of something so horrible? It is a chance to not just stand on the sidelines and say, “Oh, how sad” or to feel powerless. It is an opportunity to know that you are TRULY making a difference.
Many photographers worry about the emotional aspects of doing this special kind of photography but with the training and support we provide, photographers will find they able to slide right into ‘photographer mode’ and provide the services these families need as part of their healing process. Having that camera in front of your face allows you to ‘filter’ the emotions and just concentrate on the job at hand. You are looking at the world through a bit of space holding only a piece of the room at a time and that makes it much easier to complete the session. That isn’t to say that NILMDTS photographers don’t feel the emotions, but we tend to rely on each other as a support system. Plus, we have a good photographers forum at the website for support and education as well.
Photographers interested in volunteering for NILMDTS need to go to the website www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org and apply. Applicants will be asked to submit a series of images demonstrating their use of natural and artificial lighting. If they want more information before applying they can, at the same website, click on the ‘find a photographer’ link and contact a local NILMDTS affiliate that can help answer their questions or email/call our main office in Denver.
Intro by Skip Cohen
I've written a lot over the years about the importance of photographers giving back. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is one of those organizations giving you an opportunity to put your skill set to exceptionally good use. They're a pretty amazing group of people.
This is the first post in this series thanks to Christopher's Mother, Ashley Krapf. Christopher was born still on June 1, 2012, but the way he touched the lives of his family and especially Ashley is remarkable. A big thanks to Vicki Zoller, the photographer. We'll hear from her in a guest post tomorrow!
Note: NILMDTS is constantly looking for more volunteers. To find out how you can be involved just click on the link above.
I carried my son Christopher until six days before my due date. We found out he no longer had a heart beat and I was induced and delivered him.
The feeling when you find out your baby is gone is like no other. Everything you saw ahead and the life you planned is suddenly gone. You will never hear your baby cry, or change their diapers. You won't feed them or spend the next years of your life teaching them to be a good person. You all of a sudden have nothing to do.
I had no idea when I first was told he passed, that I would have such an amazing opportunity to have beautiful pictures of him taken that I would cherish forever. Swedish Hospital told me about the NILMDTS photographers. I immediately knew I wanted the pictures done.
Even though it was such a painful time to have a stranger in the room, it was almost like they were there for support as well. Most people I talked to agreed they would have wanted photos too. After all, it is your only time you will ever have with your baby after you dreamed of years to come.
These pictures of my baby not only represent the hard time I went through and the love I have for my son, but the love and support of all our family. Each grandparent and aunt had a picture taken with him as well. When you lose your baby, a lot of times people don't have these beautiful pictures taken.
When I found out, I had said, "I don't want to remember him looking dead." I remember him as perfect as he was ever supposed to be. When I look at those pictures he looks like a peaceful sleeping baby. It's not eerie and I don't have to remember the bad that happened, but how perfect his hands and feet were instead.
NILMDTS has truly been a blessing. I got a chance to see my baby through those pictures how I envisioned seeing him; strong, handsome and at peace. I would tell any photographer who is thinking about joining to most definitely do it. It's so much more than the photography itself. You literally change someone's life. I couldn't be more thankful for Vicki and the photos we forever have because of her.
It's Valentine's Day tomorrow and I can't think of a better way to relate to the day than a guest post from a very special couple Sheila and I met recently at an art show. It's funny that I would use the word "special" when we hardly know them, but after you read this guest post, you'll agree with me!
Sarasota has several great little art shows throughout the year and we try and go to all of them. Well, we walked by Russell Grace and Angie Kullman's booth and simply fell in love with the images...all of them! It's rare I see an artist displaying nothing but infrared, especially when each one was a "wow" print.
Well, that led to a short introduction about the SCU blog and me doing everything I could to not beg for a guest post. What I got has blown me away and that's why it's perfect for Valentine's Day. You've heard me say, "You can't create images that tug at people's heart strings if your heart isn't in it." Well, not only do Russell and Angie put their hearts in their work, but it's in their relationship and the passion they have for imaging and each other.
While it might seem a little long for a traditional blog - this is anything but traditional work. There was nothing I wanted to cut and trim down. If you want to see more of the Russell and Angie's work, here's the link. You will not be disappointed. And, check out their blog , "In the Best Possible Light"- you've got to love a couple with a tagline of " Images and Eclectic Commentary From A Photographer, A Philosopher And A Pug As They Travel The Country."
We like to say that while some couples have a song, we have a collection of black and white infrared photographs. It’s delightful. We get all of the magic without the awkwardness of dancing.
It started simply enough. As a lark, we took a few rolls of infrared film and an old Pentax camera with us on one of our first dates. The results changed our lives. We tumbled down a rabbit hole into an infrared wonderland; and through our adventures there, we found our voice as a couple and as a couple of artists. That’s why when we celebrate Valentine’s Day, it’s about more than sappy cupid cards and candies. For us, it’s an opportunity to celebrate everything we have created together; a life, a marriage, and an artistic body of work that brings us great joy and makes us very proud.
The key to everything that came after that first infrared afternoon is VOICE. Both Russell and I share the belief that if you are picking up a camera, taking photographs and selling them in any way, shape or form, you absolutely must find your own voice. The good news is that you already have it. If you have the urge to pick up a camera and the courage to share your creativity with the world, you have a voice. The bad news is that it is becoming harder for aspiring photographers in any area to find their voice. There’s a lot of noise out there. There are websites and blogs with step-by-step instructions to achieve specific results, and there are software packages, applications and shortcuts galore. It’s incredibly easy to shoot and sell without laying the groundwork that leads to real success and satisfaction.
We came to our conviction that voice is everything from different directions. Russell had been a professional photographer for more than twenty years and owned a gallery in Tallahassee for much of that time. He attributes his success to the fact that he had a clear, unmistakable voice. People who look at his images know that they are Russell Grace photographs. His coastal and collegiate collection filled a special niche in his region. Yet he felt change coming. He wanted to do something new, so he sold his gallery; and rather than waiting for his muse in a corner bar, he took a teaching job and began to rediscover his medium through the eyes of his students.
I formed my opinions about the value of voice during my tenure as an art show organizer. Through the thousands of images that we reviewed while jurying our festival, I saw many talented artists with strong voices and unique work and many artists who struggle in this area. The artists who are struggling were often penalized because their collections lacked cohesion or originality. The part of this that I found most unfortunate was how often the jurors or judges would note that the body of work was not doing justice to the artist’s talent.
While it’s easy to articulate the importance of finding your voice as an artist, it’s much harder to offer guidance on how to actually do it. In a world full of shortcuts, there are no Photoshop plugins or tricks that will merge slivers of your soul into an HDR-style instant voice and vision. However, we did discover something rather amusing on our infrared dates. A lot of the questions that you ask at the beginning of a relationship are similar to the ones you ask when you’re embarking on a creative endeavor:
The reality is, if you don’t take the time to answer questions like this at the beginning of a relationship, you may eventually find yourself drowning your sorrows in a pint of beer or Ben and Jerry’s. Likewise, if you don’t take the time to do this work before launching yourself as a professional photographer, you will struggle to distinguish yourself from your competition. More importantly, you will also sell yourself short. You have a voice. You are already investing in it by spending time on skill development and money on equipment. Finding your voice is the only way to bridge the gap between the desire to create that makes you pick up a camera and the creation of a body of work that is uniquely yours.
We have created a collection of infrared photographs that embodies everything that inspires us, and our voice is clear to anyone who sees it. Using the pure radiance of infrared, every image is deliberately rendered to evoke a particular set of emotions in the viewer. Famous or familiar scenes take on a surreal quality, and unfamiliar scenes seem other worldly. We know we are succeeding because when people step into our booth they respond to our images the way we intended. They smile at the Blue Whale. They stand before our images of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or the Korean Monument in silence, or they open up about their experiences, their hopes and sometimes even their fears for our country. They share memories of their own travels or plans for trips yet to come. Using infrared film, we are giving people a new experience with their country: We are truly photographing America In The Best Possible Light.
It’s exhilarating to feel like you’ve found your voice, but there are also tangible benefits that impact your success as a photographer. Last year a judge at one of the top festivals in the country walked into our booth and asked us to tell her what was unique about our work. She asked every artist in the show the same question. Some people grumbled about it, but the question was more than fair. If we hadn’t been able to answer her, it would have made me question what we were doing and why we were doing it. Similarly, if you specialize in portrait or event photography, being able to articulate what makes your work special gives you a profound advantage when you are talking with prospective clients. If you are someone who becomes uncomfortable talking about money, this solid sense of self can also significantly increase your comfort and confidence.
We feel very fortunate that our voices blended rather harmoniously and that we’ve been able to parlay that into a life together and a collection that we believe is our life’s work. To celebrate, we’ll be spending our Valentine’s Day in a way that honors this - setting up our booth in Coconut Grove, Florida and preparing to share our work with a new audience.
Whether you’re just beginning the search for your voice or working hard to hold on to it in our cacophonous world, we encourage you to take a moment today to celebrate the passion that makes you pick up your camera, the burning creativity that drives you, and the courage you demonstrate every time you pour your heart into an image and share it with others. That’s a love worth celebrating on Valentine’s Day.
Bruce Berg has shared a number of great concepts on the SCU Blog and previously the Photo Resource Hub. What I've always enjoyed the most is his comfort at sharing his "secrets". In a workshop, he does exactly the same as the sincerity in which he wrote, "A Promotion Worth Having" last July.
Today's guest post is part of Bruce's 7 hour program that he gave at Imaging 2014 earlier in January. Most of his presentation dealt with Marketing, Selling, posing and lighting, but he prefaced it with the content below. Check out Bruce's site, blog and Facebook page - you'll always find a lot of helpful information.
The foundation you have as a person and business owner translates in the base on which you build your business upon. Jesus talked about not building on sand, but on something more permanent. What is that in regards to us? I think it is our moral compass, our relationship with God, our view of ourselves and others and how we elect to run our business. Its all those little things that make us not only who we are, but who we become.
Unless we build our foundation properly, how can all the other things we create survive? We can't be like the house built upon sand, shifting to the tide of public opinion whether it's cheating on our taxes or using someone else's copyrighted music on our website. It might be easy, but the better thing to ask is: is it fair to all concerned, is it the right thing to do?
A. Stand behind your commitment. Two years ago I was booked for a simple wedding on New Years Day about 4 months prior. I accidentally put it on my employees calendar and the couple never called me since they had made their payment. Plus, we were closed from Dec 23-Jan2.
Long story short, I forgot their wedding. My heart sunk as I listened Jan 2nd to the answering machine. It was the nightmare all wedding photographers may have had, but in this case, it was a reality. What do I do? Apologizing like crazy and giving them their $2,000 back was the easy part. I said I'd do whatever and they just wanted to forget it.
Sure they were older and had been married before, but forgetting it wasn't an option for me, so I really forced the issue and pleaded with them to let me do SOMETHING. I offered them $2,000 in credit for any other type of session. A few months later, the wife did a glamour session and used her full credit and actually went home happy.
By having integrity, I salvaged a disastrous situation.
B. Help others for helping you. I went to a Christmas Tree farm this fall for Christmas portraits. I called the owner in advance to ask permission. She was actually surprised I called, because "most photographers just show up and don't ask for permission". She said she was getting frustrated about that and I sympathized (and told her they need to show her their business license, but that is another story). I also told her that I wanted to do something to help her. She wasn't interested in a family portrait, but wanted images taken of her cattle to advertise their meat products. So I spent 20 minutes photographing what she wanted a week prior to the actually shooting date. She appreciated the CD I gave her.
When I came out to do the photographs, I had 13 sessions on the books. I told her I wanted to do something to benefit her as well. She said, that she sold her own Christmas ornaments. I told her I'd be glad to buy them. "Okay, I'll sell them to you at wholesale" No way, I said, you are in business to make a living, I'll pay retail. She smiled. Why did I pay retail? Wasn't it the right thing to do by her? It's NOT why I did, it, but will I ever have trouble going back to that farm? And who will she probably recommend when someone is looking for a photographer?
C. Being late with an order... If its going to help, bite the bullet and call in advance, don't wait until they call you. We all like to under promise and over deliver, but when that can't happen, then be proactive and toss in an extra print or two as a thank you.
D. Be Honest. One of the worst things you can do is BS people. When something goes wrong, it's best to just lay it out. You might get away with lies some of the time, but eventually they'll come back to get you. Maybe you don't have to disclose the full story and at times, you can "blame it on the lab", but overall, it's best to say, "I blew it and I'll make it right".
The other elephant in the room is with copyright issues. None of us like it when others copy our work, so shouldn't we respect other artists' work as well? Using a popular song on our website might be "hip", but its also wrong and not legal. With all the options of buying copyright free songs, there is really no excuse.
With the recent revelation that some well known industry "superstars" were plagiarizing other's material or photographs, it was very disheartening. Those photographers who are front and center in our community and hold dozens of workshops a year should be totally ashamed. Of all professions, we are SUPPOSED TO BE CREATIVE last time I checked. And how can that happen if we copy or steal from someone else's work? It's one thing to gather nuggets and knowledge from a speaker or others in or outside our profession, but we can at least twist it to make it our own.
A. Answering your phone & getting back to people. This is a big one. It's one of the biggest complaints I hear about other photographers.. "I tried calling xyz photographer, but they never got back to me. " It not only kills your reputation, it hurts you financially as well.
B. Not being late for your session. OK. I admit that I tend to be late for most things, But there is one thing I try my utmost NOT to be late for...a client. I'd rather take the time, relax and get there early and enjoy the moment than frantically rushing to get there.......four minutes late. When you are prompt it shows that you respect your client's valuable time.
C. Paying your vendors and staff promptly and give to charity. When times are tough, its hard to do this one, but it's key not only for the image of your business, but your sanity as well. The last thing you want to do is to get behind. We also want to honor and respect those who we employ and do business with. It is worth your reputation to pay your bills in a timely manner.
I have found that when I give to charity, my needs somehow get met as well. I don't know if its karma, God honoring a tithe or just some secret universal law, but it does seem to work. I encourage you to go out on this limb and try it.
D. Delivering a high quality product on time. Don't cut corners on your photography-both in the capture and in the printing. The same can be said for packaging, as that is the clients last contact with you and can go miles to enhancing your image to the community. I think I've already made my point about not being late.
A. Have a smile on your face even when you don’t feel like it. Talk about them, not about you. People light up when you sincerely take interest in them and their family. Use their names, touch them when appropriate. In this highly digital world, we are losing contact and intimacy and as ones who capture emotion visually, trying to capture it personally should also be our forte.
Dale Carnegie said it well: "If you want to have a friend, you have to be a friend."
B. Have a heart for others. Write those thank you notes. Support others when you can. It can be lonely in this world, no matter how many friends one may seem to have. Our heartfelt response is key not just for them, but for us as well. Our foundation is based on these three key elements: Integrity, Responsibility and Friendliness. You will find that when these are your base, you will not only find great clients, but have a life that shines.
All images copyright Bruce Berg. All Rights Reserved.