Photographers today are the first generation of image makers who are entering an industry completely dominated by social media. Over the course of the last decade, social media has utterly surpassed virtually all other forms of marketing and has quickly become a dominating factor in lives of a huge part of the population, especially photographers. Social media use, however, suffers from some pretty severe implications that can have a limiting factor on the quality of work a photographer creates.
Spring has arrived, which means the time for gorgeous golden hour shoots in wonderful weather is nearly upon us. Sunset (and sunrise) are indisputably the most consistent crafters of amazing natural light for portraiture. The warm soft glow of the sun as it falls towards the horizon not only creates fantastic atmosphere but also some of the most flattering light that can be found. For portrait photographers the golden hour as the sun rises or sets is the perfect time to shoot.
As photographers, part of our job often involves making a relatively unexciting location into something exciting. Everything from subject to exposure to framing plays a part in this transformation but one often overlooked tool at a photographer's disposal is color. By adding color to a scene with the use of gels a photographer can bring an uninteresting scene up a notch by creating ambiance and drama.
Being able to preserve the ability to alter any of the edits you have already made while working on a photo is critical to ensuring that you are able to maximize the influence of your creative vision on a photo. There are few greater frustrations than realizing that an adjustment you have made was not quite right but it is so far back in the history that it cannot be altered without starting over. In order to avoid such situations it becomes quite critical to build an editing workflow designed to let you make alterations at any time to any aspect of the photo without the need to start over to undo work.
Every photographer is always on a quest for sharper photos, but many only have a vague idea of how to actually create sharper images. The obvious is fairly well known such as high shutter speeds, closed down aperture, keeping ISO low, etc. There are also quite a few other minor techniques that can make a huge difference and are often ignored.
As a photographer who happens to live in Canada, shooting in the winter for me often means braving the snow. The problem with snow is that it means facing the cold. As the photographer you are more that free to bundle up in order to stay warm. However, the model often is much more limited by wardrobe which is an excellent recipe for hypothermia. Goose bumps are an utter pain to retouch so my best advice for you is to come prepared to keep your model reasonably warm.
Portrait photography comes with a tremendous sense of anxious pressure that most other forms of photography do not. The nature of working with a living, breathing human that brings with them strength, weaknesses, and expectations can be enough to trouble many new portrait photographer. A shoot filled with anxiety almost never works out. In fact, the anxiety itself is far more harmful than anything that a photographer could possibly be anxious about.
The dreaded 2016 has come to an end and from the ashes has risen a brand new year filled with creative opportunity. Everyone wants to be better this year than they were last year, no matter what year it is and 2017 will be no different. Improvement, however, doesn't just happen, it begins with a plan. If you don't have one, you need one. Antoine De Saint-Exupéry once wrote: "A goal without a plan is a wish." He was right, stop waiting for a road to being a better photographer to reveal itself and instead start paving one for yourself.
Every photographer worth their salt has had that moment when they get a message from an excited friend who just bought their first camera. That friend is absolutely thrilled with their purchase and has become starry-eyed with the prospect of all the amazing photos they will soon create. There is only one problem: they know nothing about photography. That is where you come in. You have the opportunity to mentor them and create a shooting buddy for the indefinite future, so get it right!
Joe McNally once said: "the easiest way to take better photos is to point your camera in the direction of more interesting subjects." One of the most common challenges photographers face is finding incredible people to work with. There is a misconceived belief out in the world that convincing amazing talent to step in front of your camera is actually really terrifying and hard. Fantastic talent is always looking for the opportunity to create new images to toss onto social media, and thus is always looking for great new photographers to work with.
I'm a portrait photographer. I think that is pretty obvious by my portfolio being completely full of people photos. The nature of the portraits I shoot varies from time to time, but ultimately I make images of humans almost exclusively. Being specialized is great, and even critical, according to many, in regards to creating a photography career. There really isn't any doubt it in that. However, don't let that specialization bar you from ever trying out other types of photography.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know how much random, toxic, hate is spewing around the internet. Many sites have even started getting rid of comment sections because trying to moderate so many putrid posts gets exhausting after a while. Photographers are often the target of completely uncalled for, targeted, hateful notes from some of the web's most vile cretin. Learning how to effectively handle these sorts of attacks is critical to maintaining your sanity and resolve.
Photographers can often be lumped into two distinct camps. The first is the "what" group which is represented by people who study their craft and follow tutorials as if they are a scripted set of instructions never caring about anything other than if the technique works or not. The second group is the "why" group who study their craft and follow tutorials while also striving to learn about why what they are learning actually works. The second group has a tremendous advantage over the first as their deeper understanding of technique gifts them with far more versatility than those who simply collect a library of preset recipes with little care as to why those recipes work.
It goes without saying that creating a comfortable, safe environment while shooting beauty photography can go a long way towards building a strong working relationship with your model. Comfortable, however, is what I'd define as the "barrier to entry." What you really want to do is go beyond that by giving your model a slight boost in confidence. By building up the model's self-esteem you get her thinking positively, and that state of mind leads to fantastic moments which create a genuine spark of expression.
Nearly every day I am hearing about some pseudo-horror story from a model or client about a shoot that went missing because of some technical problem after the photos had been created. Nothing is more frustrating than working hard to create the images that your client wanted only to be unable to deliver on time (or at all) because of some unforeseen technological problem that derails your entire process. As a professional you need to be prepared for these sorts of surprises before they happen so that you can always be ready to pivot and still deliver on your promise.
Recently, Ted Forbes over at The Art of Photography posted a rather interesting video that challenges the pervasive axiom of the artistic world that the action of making art will inevitably translate to an audience valuing and appreciating your work. Forbes asserts that our society is so saturated with creative content makers that it is nearly impossible to create photography that people care about unless you are pushing beyond the normal limits and expectations of what is already present in the world. I agree with this on the surface; however, I also feel that it doesn't tell the entire story.
As a group, we photographers tend to like to do everything ourselves. I think it is something about depending on someone else that pushes against our most basic instincts. However, great portrait photography is always a team activity. This team can range from just you and your model all the way up to a full production, but one thing remains consistent: without a team, there is no photo.
Your online portfolio is one of the most critical tools you have at your disposal when looking to make a sale. Clients are looking to your website as a sign of both your skill and professionalism. The customer wants to find a photographer who is the perfect fit so your website needs to be built to enable that feeling. Below are four priorities that photographers often overlook when designing their websites.
Photographers almost always begin as artists. The camera doesn't draw the interest of the business minded, rather, it draws the passion of the creative. We all entered this pursuit chasing expression of some sort or another. For some, that passion eventually transforms into the longing for a career. The business of photography, however, throws a nasty wrench into the artistic pursuit of photography forcing photographers to overcome several of our most core creative instincts in order to create value that a client is willing to pay for.
I’m baffled by how often I encounter photographers who tell me they have been shooting for years but still haven’t created their portfolio because their work isn't good enough. After a bit of convincing, I can usually prompt them into sending me a few shots to take a look at, only to find out their work is more than ready to be displayed.
Recently, a rather scathing article went up on Resource Mag’s website discussing the toxic behavior of a certain photographer. You can feel free to read the article. I, however, won’t mention him here other than to say that he is the sort of person who claims to be a teacher, but instead uses his fame to attack and belittle other, less experienced, photographers. He has made a hobby of robbing others of their love and passion for his own selfish delight.
Keyboard warriors, draw your swords! That fool just suggested that gear is actually a really important aspect of photography! He is breaking all the conventional narratives. Fire up the torches and roast him alive!
Almost everyone goes through times when the belt need to be tightened because money just isn’t abundant. During these times when income dips, we need to take care to avoid spending as much as possible. Photography, however, is an expensive vocation that seems to be an endless drain on the bank account. It becomes increasingly helpful to avoid having to replace gear you already own due to wear or damage.
We all have that time of year when lethargy seems to run rampant by pulling our desire to keep creating great photos to the ground. For Vancouver, where I live, that time is right about now. Vancouver was carved out of the middle of a rainforest, which means we have a rather aggressive rainy season. It is pretty common to go weeks without even seeing a hint of sun. During this time, the motivation to shoot seems to wash away. As photographers, we need to take this time to toss several new logs on the fire and re-ignite that passion that is threatening to slip away.
The first instinct most will have when looking to improve image quality is to buy better gear. It's so easy to blame low image quality on your crappy gear even if most of the time the photographer is the one who needs to improve their habits.
Every photographer wants to be creating their best work each time that they touch their camera, but the reality is that inspiration ebbs and flows. No photographer can consistently create their best work every time they shoot. As photographers, our goal is often to steadily improve by continually expanding our body of work. Sometimes, however, a shoot becomes magical as creativity and motivation climax into one of those images that you know will sit proudly in your portfolio for years to come.
Recently, I have been experimenting with creating a sort of more intense style of headshot for certain clients who are interested in a more surreal, vibrant, look to their headshot as opposed to the more traditional headshot which is designed to to more closely emulate realistic lighting. The heavy cross-light look uses powerful lights that are positioned perpendicular to your the main light to create a strong highlight to the side of the face while living a distinctive shadow down the subject's cheek. Heavy cross-lighting can do a great job of building a sense of three dimensionality without sacrificing the soft, flattering, feel of a traditional headshot.
As a society, we have a rather odd predilection against the act of doing something wrong by accident. As photographers, we often feel like even the smallest mistake is reason for self-condemnation. Not only are mistakes inevitable, they are also one of the most powerful tools that you have at your disposal.
So, you want to be a successful photographer? Or retoucher? Or art director? Or just about any other creative field imaginable? It is a treacherous road, ranging from emotional bliss to hopeless depression. Be prepared to battle the fiercest of foes with nothing more than obsessive determination and your arsenal of skills.
Creativity is the core building block of every great photographer. Those who know how to foster and stimulate the power of their creativity often can enjoy a tremendous boost in their work. Some methods such as listening to music or getting hammered are pretty common knowledge but there are also an endless collection of somewhat less orthodox methods that are also worth giving a whirl!
Gear, of course! Camera bodies and lenses galore! Nothing makes you a better photographer than dumping thousands of dollars on the latest technology! Right? No? Ok, I digress, I guess blowing all your hard earned (or borrowed) cash on the latest and seemingly greatest in camera equipment is probably about the least effective thing you can do to improve the quality of your work. So what SHOULD you be spending your money on then?
I’m often amazed by how many photographers don’t really know all that much about the technical aspects of operating their gear. While I’m not expecting everyone to go out and study how the mechanics of a lens works, I think it is utterly paramount when you are on a shoot that the actual act of operating your equipment to achieve a professional-quality image should be trivially easy so that you can focus on the more important aspects.
Photography is crazy hard to master. That difficulty becomes impossible when you start locking yourself behind walls of your own creation. Stop deluding yourself, those little restrictions that you keep using as crutches to excuse your lack of progress are only inhibiting your ability to grow. Shatter those internal lies so you can keep pushing your photography forward and become the photographer you dream of.
The morning of a shoot has arrived and you are running around frantically loading gear trying to make sure that you haven’t forgotten a lens, power cable, or battery that will be the key to making the shoot a success. In the haste of focusing on gear, it can be too easy to forget to load a few simple tools that can come to your rescue and make sure everyone is as happy as possible throughout the shoot.
Recently I was sent a YouTube video of an artist who spent a huge amount of time creating drawings using MS Paint. The end product was decent enough, even impressive if you consider the tool he was using, but if you were to eliminate knowledge of his method it would merely be a mediocre, unimpressive digital painting. How amazing could this guy’s work be if he didn’t arbitrarily limit himself? This is clearly an extremely talented artist that is limiting the quality of his work by stubbornly insisting on using an inefficient tool. Which, of course, got me to thinking about how as photographers, we have a tendency to do the exact same thing.
As beauty/fashion/glamour photographers the quality of our work is often largely driven by how well we can tell the story of an intimate moment within the frame. A big part of being able to do this is by building trust with the model to ensure that she feels safe throughout the entire shoot.
We have all been there, that moment when your stomach slowly turns to drizzled mush as it discovers the harsh brutality of a critical comment. In a few short words your career, art, and passion is reduced to the strangling grip of failure. Receiving criticism is not for the faint of heart but with the right frame of mind you can get the most out of any critique, solicited or otherwise.
The critical value created when shooting a great portrait is tied to building impact that lasts. Psychologically, humans have evolved to take notice of sexually attractive people, focus on them briefly, then completely forget. This phenomena helps maximize genetic quality in a population but can also have an impact on how viewers remember your sexy photos.