Location, Location, Location

firehouse-4

A lot of the time people ask me what suggestions or recommendations I can give them when they look for a photographer.  It’s usually because the person is not in an area I can get to, or it’s a family member or a friend that wants to pick my brain (even though it hurts sometimes! 🙂  )  When I get this question, I tell most people that choosing a photographer is much like choosing a house or real estate:  It’s all about location!

What do I mean by this?  Simply put: a photographer can shoot on-location.  I see many photographers speak to their ability to shoot on-location, and this is an important aspect of many genres ranging from wedding photography, to band photography, and even architectural work.  Heck, last week I did a maternity shoot that was “on location.”  So, why is this such an important thing to be able to stake claim to?  Three key things come to mind for me:

1.  Adaptability – Being able to shoot on location means you can adapt.  If the surroundings are beautiful, you can adjust your composition to include elements of the scene to give a sense of time and space to an image.  If the surroundings aren’t so beautiful, then it equally means you are able to diffuse things so that you can’t tell where a shot was taken – only that it’s a beautiful shot!

2.  Controlling – Yes, being able to shoot on location means you are adaptable, but it also means you can control for a number of factors, and of utmost importance here is the ability to control the light.  You can bring flash to fill shadows, or scrims to bring shadows to harsh light.  If a photographer can control for the light in a scene – the shot will improve by a factor of ten in most instances.

Castle Rock Firehouse

3.  Fundamentals – Given the above two factors are in place, this also usually means that the photographer brings a certain set of fundamental skills to the table.  He or she knows an aperture versus a shutter setting, and can likely tell you whether ISO 100 is better or worse than ISO 32000 (depending on the look of course!).  Although many like to wax esoteric about photography in abstract terms (myself included), there are certain fundamentals that every photographer worth their salt would and should know.  If you can shoot on location, you likely have these fundamentals.

These are just three of the factors that I think about when I see a photographer say they are an “on-location” photographer.  Of course the proof is in the pudding, and while I certainly would not pick a photographer solely on whether or not that term is included in their online presence, the ability to back up statements with a solid portfolio (and yes, an interview if you have the time to talk to a potential photographer!)

While we all like to think we have these traits, and in enough of a capacity to “bring it” for any client – let’s face it…some photographers are better than others.  Either they’ve got a natural knack for it where others have to work harder at it, or they’ve just simply been shooting a lot longer.  Seriously…time means practice, and the more you practice, the better you are at anything!  There are photographers who have been shooting for decades and some of us can’t hold a candle to them.  Meanwhile, others have been shooting for days, and I often stand in awe of their work.  So, consider the above three things when you decide to hang out your own shingle – because people will likely be looking for these traits.  Do you have them?  Do you have more?  Less? Something different? Something new?

What traits do you bring to the table?  Or better yet, what traits do you think are important for potential clients to consider when hiring a photographer?  The above is just my opinion – but that doesn’t mean it’s the ultimate answer!  Am I right or am I way off base?  Sound off with your own thoughts as the conversation is always the best part about this blog!  Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!  Until next time, keep the comments coming – oh yeah, and keep on shooting!

One final announcement today before the monthly contest series ends this weekend:  Get your photos in with the theme of “light” to be eligible to win a free BacklitBox print of your own favorite image!  Details here.

The Basics Behind Posing Your Subjects

Castle Rock Fire House

After a while, landscapes are really just a matter of metering your light, exposing correctly, and composing to position lines in appealing perspectives.  The same goes for many other types of photography too.  Whether you are talking about candid street photography, event photography, and even architecture – it’s all about timing, composition, and exposing for the light.

Portraiture though, brings a unique set of circumstances to the table though.  The timing is much more controlled, lighting is managed more strictly, and little is left to chance.  Yet, even in these controlled environments, many photographers have trouble because of the fears associated with guiding and instructing people on how to pose.  It’s understandable, considering all that goes into posing your subjects, as well as the fact that some subjects aren’t the best at being guided.

To those ends – here’s some basics to start with in posing your subjects.  For starters, focus on the face – it’s what we all gravitate toward anyway, and body posing can be very complex depending on a persons body style.  By focusing on the face, you can really highlight that which we all look at anyway.  Here’s the simple secrets to posing a persons’ face:

MOVEMENT AND CONFIDENCE

1.  Movement – If you think about it, we can only move our faces in three different directions:  Left to right, up and down, and tilting to one side or the other.  Look at it directionally speaking:

Left and Right

Up and Down

Tilt Left or Right

When broken down to these simple directional perspectives – you can easily explain this to your subject.  I’ve found that using hand gestures to both indicate the current and desired direction is also extremely helpful.  When you start using left and right, the question becomes “your left or mine”?  Directions can get confused, as can both photographer and subject.  By using your hands, you maintain a sense of connection too, because the person is looking at you and following your guidance.

2.  Confidence – If you project hesitation, your subjects pick up on that and it becomes more difficult to effectively manage a shoot.  On a recent outing with the local photo club, we were at a firehouse (remember the shots here?).  When they got one of the crew to agree to don their gear and pose – nary a soul stepped up to offer guidance and direction.  I stepped up, introduced myself, shook his hand, and started talking about some of the looks and poses I was going to try and get done.  I asked him if he’d be cool with that, started talking up his background and experience (“So, how long you been a fire man?  Are you married?  Any kids?  What was the scariest fire you had to put out?” )

After getting him comfortable with me, I got a few poses set up and went to back up a little to get him framed right – and found myself backing into the rest of the group – literally everyone in the group was following my lead.  By simply exerting some knowledge and confidence, people gravitated toward that and completely deferred to my experience.  Some of the guys in this group have been shooting for decades!  It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the photo club know more about composition, post production, and even lighting than I do, but my willingness to engage the subject, direct, and pose got the job done…and the model also really responded well to that too!

Castle Rock Fire House

 

Castle Rock Firehouse - Profile

 

Castle Rock Firehouse - The Heat of the Flame

As you shoot more people and start to pick up a particular style or approach, that can help build your directing abilities and confidence across the board.  So, keep on shooting and we’ll see you back here next time!

*****

Today is a very special day for me, so I would like to take a quick moment and give a special shout out to my wife Tracy – 8 years ago today, she said yes and changed my life forever (for the better).  How a guy like me lucked out to get a gal like her still amazes me to this day!  I love you!

Improve your photo workflow!

Lightroom Logo

Lightroom Logo

Keyboard shortcuts are great ways to improve your efficiency when working on post production.  Here’s a couple that I use in Lightroom to help improve things so I can get my processing done, and get out and back to shooting that much quicker!

CMD/CONTROL+8

This takes me all the way down the Develop Module to Camera Calibration.  If I ever want to make adjustments to which profile to use (typically I use Camera Standard, but it’s always fun to experiment), this gets me there a lot quicker than scrolling with my mouse or tablet!

R

Yup, that’s it – just the letter R.  From the Library Module, this will take you to the Develop Module, turn on the crop tool and show you how you currently have your image cropped for composition.  That’s it – one letter, no fuss no muss!

Module Switching

A super slick way to move between modules is to use your Command key (CTRL Key on Windows) and the ALT key along with the number for each module.  It’s super easy to remember too:

Library = CMD/CTRL+ALT+1

Develop = CMD/CTRL+ALT+2

Slideshow = CMD/CTRL+ALT+3

Print = CMD/CTRL+ALT+4

Web = CMD/CTRL+ALT+5

That’s it – 3 easy ways to improve your work flow with Lightroom shortcuts!  Wawnt some more?  Check out the full detailed reference guide straight from Adobe here.  What ways have you found to improve your own work flow?  There’s tons out there, so share your own in the comments!  Thanks for stopping in and we’ll see you here again next time!