Photography Education 101

I promised myself that in 2014 I would have some new goals for my business.  My goals for 2014 would be to educate people on the benefits of professional photography and to work on different styles of lighting to create dramatic effects for my images.  I had started working on each of these goals in 2013 but really wanted to  bump it up a notch.

Now for education, I think I want to head in a different direction than most blogs do about why to hire a professional photographer.  We have heard countless times about the cost of running our business, the expensive equipment, the editing time, blah, blah, blah.  I have already written those articles myself too.  Yup, got my dander up too just like everyone else in the business. My sister told me after I wrote the last “why to” blog that no one cared about all that stuff.  And, to tell you the truth, many don’t.  Everyone has their reasons for the choices they make regarding their photography.  Whether it be style, price, quality or another reason all together. You all make decisions that you can only hope are the right ones for you. I respect everyone’s decision to hire whom they choose yet I want to address, yes, this is the education part I was talking about, a few points to consider. Today’s education has to do with wedding photography since that has always been a large area of my business. I have been fortunate enough to  have couples supply information when I am not the photographer they choose. This gives me a foundation to work with and information to keep helping my business move forward in today’s economy.

When you hire your photographer whether it is a friend, someone right out of school, someone that does it on the weekends, someone that does it full time, whoever you hire….Please make sure to notice the quality of the work they are showing you.  Now, this is another issue.  Some people just can’t identify quality or are willing to accept sub par images because they just plain old don’t know the difference. This may help. Ask to see multiple weddings and a progression of images from one particular wedding.  Make sure you aren’t being shown only a handful of the best images taken for the one wedding they shot. Are they creative?  Are they well lit? Is the exposure correct? Are they composed well?  Every photographer has a different style and artistic vision. There is a wide range of pricing depending on the level of experience and commitment to excellence that you will receive. When a newer photographer enters the market it only makes sense to offer their services for a nominal fee while they are creating a portfolio.  I did it myself back in the day. That way, when I made all my mistakes, the client knew I was newer to the industry and was willing to sacrifice on some level.  It was either that or they just really liked me:) Make sure to ask yourself, “What am I willing to sacrifice”? For a wedding, honestly, I don’t think I would be to willing to sacrifice my memories with a newer photographer.  But, that’s’ just me.  I know what it takes emotionally and physically to shoot a wedding. Many newer photographers haven’t had the years of experience dealing with venue bloopers, DJ issues, nervous brides, late florists and yes, sorry if I offend anyone because I know you have a job too, the makeup and hair specialists who tend to run late! What to do in those situations comes with experience.  It is hard just to wing it when you haven’t dealt with the situation before. So back to quality! I have learned to go with the flow when a client tells me they have hired a friend or Uncle so and so is going to shoot their wedding.  I totally understand and respect the fact that we all have budgets.  I do too just like everyone else.  Just be aware when making your photography choices that it is the images you will have after the party is over.  One can only hope that your wedding will last forever.  There is no “do over”. You get what you get.  The feelings and emotions cannot be recaptured after the most special day of your life is over. Do your homework and really think about what you want to walk away with and what you are willing to sacrifice to make a budget.  I have done my homework.  Guess I am just a good student.  Most Wedding Photographers in the Western Ma area that have had years of experience and are dedicated to excellence range in price from $1600 to $3000 for full wedding coverage.  Make your choices wisely.  If you are being offered an extremely low price, there is usually a reason.  Unfortunately you may not realize that reason until it is too late.  It is funny, when I get quotes for various services that I need, I almost NEVER take the lowest quote and sometimes take the highest. It’s all about the quality and workmanship to me.  But then again, that’s just me here too.  Do what you are comfortable with but make good solid choices and be armed with lots of information.

Okay, now on to the lightning part because I just LOVE this!! I have been experimenting with many different types of lighting.  They all create different looks and moods depending on the artistic vision you are trying to create.  (This is also something you should notice when viewing a photographers work for your wedding.) It was mentioned recently by a friend that I have really changed my style of photography in the last year and the images have been stunning.  I don’t know if I have “changed”, but I have tried many different ways to shoot in the last year.  I have been fortunate to be able to purchase new equipment which allows me the ability to create the stunning images I capture.  I used to say it is the person behind the lens ( and to a degree of course it is) but it is also the equipment I use.  I look back at some of the cropped sensor images I took in the past and now the full frame images I take and honestly I can say they are all good but the vibrancy and quality is just so much better with a full frame camera and spectacular lenses I now use. For lighting there are so many different options I work with.  I now use daylight balanced soft boxes which replicate window light for my babies. I really like it better than my flash units because it appears softer and there is not the constant flash to disrupt the baby.  I can also meter differently for the look I want to achieve. For high school seniors I worked with reflectors all last year and started with off camera flash (Thank you Nick for being my reflector assistant) With the reflectors you can create really dramatic lighting depending on which reflector you use and how you spread the light. I really enjoyed learning and experimenting with my reflectors. Off camera flash or should I say flashes because I will be using three for weddings, has been a ball practicing with.  I have totally had my bloopers there as well but think I finally have it down pat.  I Have to mention this as it flows back to what I said about weddings.  I never “practiced” my craft with paying clients.  I have always experimented with clients who I did not charge.  I think it is important to continue learning but not at the expense of the paying consumer.  Anyways, back to off camera flash.  I have had so much fun with my friend Mike and his mannequins Stella & Manny practicing with all our setups. I Have to say the mannequins work fabulously because It saves me from annoying my children trying to get them to help. Lighting will continue to be my focus for 2014.  I will post a few images with the settings and style of lighting to show the differences.

IMG_7472CThis image is shot at 6400 ISO 1/30 sec at 2.8 with available light from the bare bulb in the room.  Loved the cool grungy feeling.

IMG_0656CThis was shot with off camera flash to the left of the model.  Notice how one side of her face is lit and the background still retains all its beautiful color. Image shot 400 ISO 125 sec at F22

IMG_0346This was also shot with off camera flash.  flash held high on a mono pod to couples left. This image was shot at dusk.  Notice the nice lighting around the couple. 1250 ISO 1/80 sec at F1.8

IMG_0018This image is lit with a reflector.  Light is being filled in from the left with the silver side of the reflector. 400 ISO 1/2500 sec at F2.8

IMG_8208BThis is my softbox lights balanced for daylight.  Nice soft light for babies. 800 ISO 1/125 sec at F2.8

IMG_8449CThis is natural light overexposed intentionally for the dreamy look (+1) shot near dusk  1250ISO 1/60 sec at F2.8

IMG_9479This is window light diffused through a curtain.  No flash. 200 ISO 1/60 sec F4.5

As you can see, there are various forms of lighting a subject.  All of them create a different mood and a different feeling.  I find that in the last year I now ask clients how they would like me to shoot.  I find that I LOVE all styles and can usually create a vision with any form.

In closing, if we go back to the quality issue, many photographers may not be interested in different forms of lighting.  In order to do so it requires additional equipment and expertise.  The decision is yours as a consumer who you hire.  Being in the business I obviously know what to look for.  Educate yourself and make good choices when hiring your professional.  You will find that you will be much happier in the end.

The Value of a Printed Image

Today digital media is the rage. Maybe not a rage I am totally confident with but a hot topic none the less. Because of this deviation in the photographic mind set I felt it important to make a statement as a photographer about the benefits of a printed image.  To say I am very passionate about printing images would be an understatement. It is a topic I speak about often when interviewing wedding clients as well as something I address when photographing a family, baby or an individual portrait. I began my photographic journey experimenting with countless rolls of film and massive amounts of  slide film.  I have printed 4×6 images from all those rolls and books upon books of mounted slides. I saw the image posted below on my facebook page and absolutely loved it.  it was the inspiration for this blog.

print itI am an advocate for printed images.  I swap out images of my children as I update them often. Printed images in frames are placed around my home in locations where they can be easily viewed.  It makes me happy when I walk into a particular room and see a picture of one of my children on a table or wall. I reflect upon when the image was taken and how my child’s personality was at that moment in time. It also makes me reflect upon how they have evolved into the young adults they are today.  I am actually sitting here smiling as I write thinking about those images. It is not to say I also do not have countless files of digital images in addition to what I have printed.  I do.  However, my favorites are printed and displayed so  myself and others can enjoy the beauty of “the Print”.  It is such a shame many people rely on “the disk” for their memories. I still have wallet prints in my purse.  Call me old fashioned but I have to say, when I want to show someone a picture of my kids or another important image I have it at my fingertips. When your phone, Ipad, Ipod or whatever device you use to display your images is “out of juice” it is impossible to be displayed.  It was also mentioned in conversation recently, and of course my ears perked up, that when a computer crashes or disks are lost, poof…there goes your memories. Lost forever. A print can be restored.   A digital file? Not so sure.  Prints can last a lifetime and be viewed forever with our eyes.  Wouldn’t you say this is priceless?

Copyright and the Cost of Photography

Copyright and why it’s important.

Copyright has been a very hot topic not only for photographers but wedding clients as well.  As a photographer, having learned my craft with slide film and and traditional film, I originally found the topic of copyright to be a minor concern.  Throughout the photography industry clients understood if they wanted an image reprinted that it needed to be done through the photographer and the commercial printing lab.  Back then, it was rare that an image was scanned or reproduced. That has all changed with the introduction of digital photography and because of that technological change copyright has become a much larger issue.  These days clients routinely request the rights for all the images taken at their weddings or portrait, in an effort to present the photographers side of copyright debate I submit the following:

A little on the cost of photography and copyright.

I am a full time professional photographer. I derive my living from my business and consider myself fortunate to work in an industry I have a passion for and enjoy.  Now the REALITY. Owning a business comes with costs; no great big revelation there.  Many potential clients do not realize what goes into producing even a single image. Every wedding comes with time spent on phone calls, contract preparation and signing, meetings, emails, engagement sessions, travel time and all this occurs prior to the actual event. After all the planning is done my ability to be successful as a photographer is determined by my ability to see and create on the day of the event. After the wedding there are technical skills required to properly prepare and present images to my clients. Editing to ensure proper color and crisp images often takes many hours of preparation after the event depending on the size of the wedding. Loading images into viewing galleries also takes countless hours of preparation. Photographers are protected by copyright law as soon as our image is created. Created as in the moment the artistic vision happens when arranging a group, child, family or individual bride and groom in a certain manner.  Our creativity, vision and technical abilities are our skill set.  Just as an artist creates a painting, we create an image to market and sell.  How well we are able to do this determines our success.

For a wedding photographer, copyright is extremely important so selling the copyright also has ramifications.  As are most professional photographers, I am also a stickler for proper color and exposure.  The image is my work so when I sell the copyright I am in effect relinquishing control of how my work will be represented and for what purpose the images will be used ( Facebook, printing, albums or just to have as memories.)  If for print,images reprinted in non commercial printing labs will not be anywhere near the same quality as those reproduced at my printing lab. These completed images can often be poor in density and color and it is simply not the way most photographers, myself included, want their work represented.  Our name and business reputation is attached to the images we create and produce.  When a professional lab is used, every image will be printed properly.  The machines are calibrated multiple times a day and the lab is typically owned and staffed by other professional photographers.

So, personally, do I sell my copyright? Yes, I do.  Does it always concern me?  Yes, it does.  I am looking into alternative ways to present images to clients for keeps while still maintaining the image quality and integrity of my name and business.  For example to accommodate the desire of many of my clients I have begun to offer CD rights as an option within my pricing packages. I am constantly re evaluating my offerings.  Do I look for ways to cut costs?  Absolutely.  I have an in home office and studio, do much of my own marketing and website design.  This saves on overhead. Those savings are passed along directly to my clients. I keep my pricing structure as affordable as possible; this economy demands it.

My hope is this blog generates an awareness and educates clients as to some of the hidden costs and issues involved in running a successful photography business.