I hear a lot of chatter out there about how many photographers are in the market, and how soccer moms with a camera are taking your clients. Are you sure they are taking your clients, or are you losing them because you are not trying to be the best photographer you can be? (sounds like the army!) Just because Digital SLR cameras are affordable doesn’t mean everyone can be an amazing photographer.  Your job is to be the best photographer you can be, and stand out among the others.  How, you ask?  Well, start with the basics as it builds a solid foundation:

1.  Focus on the eyes…please!

I see so many portraits where the focus is on someone’s arm, knee, elbow. Until the elbow is the window into the soul let’s try focusing on the eyes (yes there are exceptions… but the elbow usually isn’t it). By learning how to control your focus on your camera you can stop your camera from focusing on the closest thing to it (like the nose not the eyes)

2.  You look like your brother Yoda

Skin tones are usually not green, or orange. Proper white balance and exposure will fix this issue most of the time. I personally use a target to calibrate my white balance card (it has black/white/18% grey on it).  If you are still catching a color reflection from a nearby object or clothing, you can fix this in post processing. Some of the ways I suggest are MCP actions or PictoColor iCorrect Portrait

3.  Reach out and touch your neighbor

We have heard it over and over and over again: get closer to your subject. Unless you are photographing a wild animal, chances are they won’t bite. If you are capturing a family, they want to see their faces, not everything around them.  Same goes for product, the client is trying to sell the product, so show it off!

4.  Target called…they want their sign back

A.K.A. bulls-eye syndrome. Your image will be more interesting if the subject is not smack dab in the middle of the image. Play with the rule of thirds (hint, the focus points in your camera are conveniently placed in one of the thirds). What is the rule of thirds, you ask? Divide the area into thirds from side to side and top to bottom.  Place the subject on an intersection of the lines at one side or the other. Go try it!

5.  Get it right in camera

There is this cute little book that came in the same box as your camera. Read it. Learn it. Live it!  Knowing how your gear works will not only help you become a better photographer, but it will also benefit you in that you will spend less time working on post-production!  The less time you spend in post, the more you can spend shooting. The more you spend shooting, the better you get…  Alternatively, you could think of this in terms of music: “Just because you can buy piano, doesn’t mean you don’t still have to learn to play it!”   A lot of what you do in Photoshop can be done in camera.  After realizing I did the same thing over and over in Photoshop, I set my user-defined picture style. The contrast is bumped up and the saturation bumped up. That is 2 less steps I have to do in post which in turn lets me spend more time in the field and actually doing what I enjoy – taking pictures!

6.  Part of being a good photographer, is being a good editor

Here, I don’t mean post processing editing, I mean what are you going to even pull into post, and then what will you show your client and the world. I was recently teaching a private lesson, and my student said “I bet you never take a bad picture”. Well she was in for a surprise when I handed over my Compact Flash card to see the images I took that day. There were bad ones on there, but she will be the only person who sees them besides me.  Show only your best, and you will look like the best photographer you can be!

Andie Smith Photography
Andie Smith Photography

Andie Smith Photography
Andie Smith Photography

Andie Smith Photography
Andie Smith Photography

Andie Smith Photography
Andie Smith Photography

Andie Smith Photography
Andie Smith Photography

Andie Smith Photography
Andie Smith Photography

Andie Smith Photography
Andie Smith Photography

Thanks go out to Andie Smith for delivering such an amazing and well-received first “Guest Blogger” post!  More Guest Bloggers should be forthcoming.  If you are interested in becoming a Guest Blogger, please feel free to email me at: jason <AT> canonblogger <DOT> com!

17 thoughts on “For the Love of Gravy Focus on the Eyes …. Please

  1. Fabulous article. Now I just have to get out and practice what I’ve learned. Thanks!

  2. Thanks Andie, Good article! In regards to soccer moms taking great photos of there kids. The first things moms do when they see their child is they look at their eyes to read the child is he /she OK!, sick, sleepy, grumpy, happy, etc. when they pick up a camera they look at their kids eyes without even thinking about it. Just my theory as a grandpa.

  3. Good Post, Andie!! Skill set is not the most important thing.. its having a good basic foundation and that is the bottom line.

  4. I did read through the entire article, but almost closed the window when I saw, yet again, someone mistake “loose” for “lose”. Somewhat ironic for an article on giving your best . . .

    1. Thanks for the feedback Frank, and that is on me – Andie actually is a professional photographer and since she submitted the content to me for publishing, it was my job to edit – which clearly I had not done. Please accept my apologies for the presentation. The subject though, I would say was very well covered by Andie, and judging by the comments received thus far (14), this is now ranked as the 3rd most popular post of all time for the blog. Impressive to say the least! 🙂

  5. Awesome Andie…great advice for everybody, no matter what your level is!

  6. Great article Andie! Well written. I do need to get me one of those field WB cards!

  7. Awesome post, Andie! Great advice and beautiful photographs!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *