High School Senior Girls

Life just gets away from you at times.  Between working, kids and maintaining a home and business, there just never seems to be enough time in every day.  I sound like every other Mom and business owner I imagine. I have finally returned from the vacation of a lifetime taken in my grandmothers honor to Italy.  I had an incredible experience seeing new places, making many  friends and spending much needed non work time with Nick.  I couldn’t have asked for a better two weeks.  But now, it’s time to get back to business and catch up on some of my blogs.  I am grouping the girls, then the boys into separate blogs.  It will showcase many of my favorite images taken throughout the season.  I do hope I haven’t missed anyone.  If so, my apologies. Senior portraits is another area I love of my business.  I love capturing the “almost 18” young man or woman who in a years time will be off to college and creating all new experiences for themselves. I see this as the last time we as parents will view our son’s and daughter’s as our little children.  They will soon become independent of us out making their own decisions and finding their separate ways.  Their new found maturity and life experiences will soon grow and define who they will become as a mature adult.  I see these images as capturing the innocence before this life change becomes a reality. I am an empty nester as of this fall with my last off to college. I have seen the growth and change in all three of my children as they have ventured off into their college experiences.  I wish every one of my seniors who are making college decisions, accepting and signing intent letters, or who are choosing military service or entering the work force, the very best of a bright and happy future!

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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 “NEW” senior portrait

The “new” senior portrait is a topic I feel so excited to write about. I have spent countless hours scouring the internet and other senior portrait photographers to get ideas about what high school seniors are looking for these days. When I first began shooting senior portraits it was much like one would expect in the days of film.  You would shoot a roll of Kodak Portra film, in studio only, and then sort through 36 images and pick the best images to showcase to your clients in a folio.  WOW, so much has changed in the last ten and even last two years.  Maybe five years ago I added environmental portraits to the mix.  We would still shoot in studio, funny, one background color only,  but also go to a location outside and shoot some natural light portraits.  This worked for many years for my high school seniors but then the market started changing again. Now the new must have is a stylized shoot.  Yikes, what the heck!  I have three children.  Two of whom have stayed very active vocally with my photography business. I have heard from the most vocal of the three, “Mom, the kids want something different .”  Of course I didn’t quite get what the “different” was.  My son kept  trying to explain this new vision with his words and actually picked up my camera, shot a few images and tried to explain.  Yup, I still didn’t  get what he was talking about. I spent my winter months rebuilding my website and redefining my marketing.  Winter became spring with an abundance of green and the wonderful New England colors.  I started  trying to shoot  this new style of photography.  Minimal studio work! The kids just aren’t looking for the posed images anymore.  They want something fresh, something unique which defines their style and personality. I start thinking, this could be fun!  No more perfectly posed images with perfect lighting ratios, blah, blah, blah.  Just go with it I tell myself.  So I give it a go and try to shoot the way  I view everyone else online  shooting.  It so totally goes against everything I have ever learned in regards to photography.  OK, so I don’t shoot “exactly” like the rest of the industry is doing.  I still don’t get the high ISO. We were taught to shoot on 100 ISO with a minimum aperture of F8.0 for a portrait, but I have tried it and I have to admit, it has its purposes. At least the newer digital DSLR cameras have come a long way in efforts to make higher ISO shooting a much better quality image.  I won’t go into all the camera settings, the crazy expensive fast lenses, the $3000 camera bodies with full frame sensors….I will just post some images which show the different styles of shooting.  I do like it.  It’s different, it’s fun, it’s fresh and it pushes me to think differently. I guess if you can’t keep learning and trying new things, you will never keep moving forward.  Enjoy the series of images.  I had a blast creating them and thank you to my high school seniors displayed who never complained when I asked you to do some crazy things and tell you to just, “go with it”

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