I currently have 585 photos on my iPhone. I love my iPhone. It’s an amazing tool to have in my pocket; so much so that it’s the camera I use the most when I’m not being paid by someone. When it comes to dragging a seven pound chunk of metal to Grace’s ice skating lesson I’d rather just reach into my pocket and pull out my phone. If you think the quality isn’t up to par, the following photo was printed at 20×16. I bring this up because, like me, the majority of my clients have hundreds of photos on their phones and in their digital library that they never do anything with. If you are like me, most of those images don’t see the light of day. Maybe a couple end up on a blog or on Facebook, some end up on Instagram but for the most part they are left in digital purgatory and after a few months the special moment you wanted to document is lost. I took it as we were heading out the door to have our family portraits shot.
Like most two year olds, Charlie doesn’t smile for the camera. He gets uncomfortable and goofy and often moves his eye-line away from the camera. This moment was special because both of my kids looked great…at the same time… and in the same photo. I love seeing this every time I walk in the door. It’s a reminder and a keepsake.
When it comes to hiring me to shoot your wedding, children, family portrait, fill in the blank; I want you to leave with something you can touch and cherish. This is a 16×24 Giclee canvas I recently made for a client.
In 2011 I started using this image of Tutu in my promo material. When Tutu’s mom saw the mounted 18×12 print she loved it. I asked her what she did with the CD of files she purchased from me; she confessed that she hadn’t made time to do anything with them. Life is full; we all get busy….I want your experience with me to be easy and result in photos hung in your house that make you smile when you stop to look at them.
I shot this (riveting) video to show the results of one of the hard cover press printed books I offer. This is the fourth book in a row I’ve made for this client and when I dropped this off she remarked how special they are and that she loves having them to look back on.
By handing over a disc or a digital file I am handing you work. It means you have to make the prints, buy the frames, frame the prints, send Grandma a copy of the prints…..I don’t want your experience with me to be sullied by the stress of added work after the shoot is over. This is the reason I offer the products and services that I do. I want you to enjoy your photos. Granted clients still want copies of their digital files which are available, but as a photographer I want you to have something you can touch.
A few years ago I made a slideshow using photos from every assignment I shot during the year. The idea stuck and has become a great way for me to reflect on what I did right and what I did wrong during the year. 2012 was both challenging and incredibly rewarding. All of those experiences brought one theme to the forefront – Family is Everything. And by family I’m not limiting myself to the family I was born into or married into. It’s the people that I have chosen to surround myself with. This year we have had the warm blanket of family wrapped around us when we needed it and we were able to be that same blanket of warmth and strength for others when they needed it. This year was life-changing for so many of our friends and loved ones.
Over the past couple years I’ve skipped using photos of my family in the slideshow, after all they weren’t paid assignments and so many were just snapshots. This year I’ve included them because my wife and kids are my world and are definitely the most photographed subject in my life. I also opted to include more than one image from the assignments. Limiting myself to one single image per shoot didn’t represent the scope and the fruits of my labor.
As with every slide show I always struggle with music. Each year I want to use a song that I fell in love with during the year. This year there were a couple of contenders.
Mumford & Sons – I will wait
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop I dare you to not bounce your head while listening to this song. I was bouncing my head for a couple weeks before I even listened to the words.
Ryan Adams – From The Ashes In January NPR streamed a pre-lease of this entire album. I listened to it over and over until the day it was released. Go buy it directly from his label/website.
Walk the Moon – Anna Sun This is probably my favorite song on the album but I opted for Tightrope becaue it matched the tempo I wanted for the slideshow.
For those of you that supported me and helped me create this year I owe you a world of thanks. Without you I’d be stuck behind some desk.
As I start planning my family portrait shoots for the holiday season I started digging for images to use for marketing materials. Phyllis suggested I use my year-end slideshow and then I figured I’d start fresh since a lot of those images aren’t family portrait based. The following are images shot from 2009-2011. The great thing about shooting family and children’s portraits over the years is that I get to see kids grow up. Towards the end I’ve grouped images of kid’s I’ve shot over the past couple years. Enjoy.
I’m now booking appointments through October. Mini shoots are $150 and individual sessions start at $250. If you want to kill two birds with one stone you get the mini shoot and 100 cards from Phyllis for about $300.
The opposite scenario from the last post about having the opportunity to scout locations is editorial portrait photography. For the most part it’s either budget or time constraints that don’t allow for location scouting. That’s why I test. Over the past few months I have been throwing myself in situations where I go to someone’s apartment or a location of their choosing and try to make situation work. Its my job as a photographer to be experienced and prepared enough to walk into any location and make great photos. On location photography always has it’s challenges. Lighting is probably the biggest challenge, although with enough gear it’s easy to overcome. The next biggest challenge is backgrounds.
In March I wrote about my shoot with Devon. Her apartment was roomy and had great elements and decent natural light. A few weeks ago I went into Hollywood to shoot Kasia. She had mentioned that she had a pink apartment so I figured it would be a great place to shoot portraits and capture a bit of her personality. Before I packed up I asked her about natural light in her apartment and she mentioned it didn’t have much. I brought small speedlights as well as my Elinchrom Ranger. I showed up to find out she lived down the street from a hugely popular hiking trail in Hollywood. That meant parking sucked. I drove around the couple blocks near her place a handful of times and finally settled on a space a block away. Because of the distance and the weight of the Elinchrom (a 35 pound pelican case) I opted to leave the ranger in the car. I took my rolling camera bag (about 40 pounds and a light stand bag. When I got to her apartment I realized I’d need to make a second trip because I’d need the power of the big strobes.
For the first look I used the strobes to fill the room with light. The shots looked a little too safe so I moved her to the frame of her patio door and used natual light. The shots were a bit more dramatic and interesting.
Space in Kasia’s apartment was limited and the pink wall was so defining it was time to move on. We walked around her building and found a couple of interesting spots. These shots were taken in the hallway of her apartment and the elevator. I wanted to add a bit of variety.
Given the opportunity I will always scout a location prior to a job. There is so much information to be had by checking out the location. By checking out the location of a shoot it allows me to take my time and think about the shoot. Who am I shooting? What is it for? Where and how will the photos will be used? Do I have a lot of space to work with? Is there good light? Is there interesting backgrounds or furnishings? What equipmnet will I need to bring to make the shoot work? Will I need lights? A ladder? A tripod? As I walk through and around the location I start to develop ideas and pre-plan my shots.
Last night I scouted for an upcoming wedding. It started with a meeting at Loft Seven Penthouse in downtown LA where the ceremony and reception will take place. Haley and Joaquin have a place in their heart for downtown LA and being in the middle of downtown LA will allow for unique wedding portraits. After we walked though the location we took a walk around the block to see what we could find and what would be interesting for portraits. There’s plenty of cool opportunities within the couple blocks of Loft Seven but I also have to keep in mind other factors.
- The bride and Groom don’t want to miss all of their cocktail hour
- Wrangling a group of 14 people on a wedding day
- Time of day and temps
- Comfort and stress
- Bride and groom’s goals
As great as it is to have amazing and unique wedding portraits there’s a bit of a trade off. That trade off is usually time. As much as I’d like to spend hours creating interesting, fun and memorable portraits, this isn’t about me. There are so many factors to consider. In the case of Haley and Joaquin they will be seeing each other before the ceremony which allows me to shoot couple’s and bridal party portraits before the ceremony. This will allow them to get back to their reception as soon as possible. When we are talking about photographing a group of 14 people, each person has their own schedules and willingness to participate. Comfort and stress are huge considerations. Wedding days can be stressful enough and my job is to alleviate stressful situations. I can’t think of one wedding I have participated in that everything happened on time. Sh!t happens, people are late, there’s traffic, shoes break, people forget things, babysitters don’t show up etc…. My job is to go with the flow and make do with the time I get. As much as I’d like to walk two blocks to this great location I have to ask myself; If I was wearing a suit on a summer afternoon would I want to walk four blocks to get the shot? If I were wearing high heels or a brand new white wedding dress would I be willing to walk that far? How much can I ask of my wedding party?
Haley and Joaquin will be staying at the Biltmore Hotel a few blocks away. After I left the loft I drove to the hotel to look for more possible locations. Typically I will shoot bridal and groom’s portraits at the location they are getting ready at. Sometimes it’s mom’s front yard other times it’s a grand, historic hotel. I walked around the hotel and was excited at the history and grandeur. A perfect place for photos.
I could picture the group shot along this double staircase at the hotel…..but then there’s reality. I’ve shot in some high end hotels before. And even though I have been there to shoot the wedding, many upscale hotels in Los Angeles have their client’s privacy to think about and ask me to shoot with discretion and not disturb other guests. I decided I’d ask security about setting up a large group shot on these stairs. They basically said no and implied that the difference between being able to shoot on the stairs and not is about $50,000. Since the wedding and reception aren’t being held at the hotel I just happen to be shooting some of their guests and don’t have the same privileges of someone shooting a wedding that’s being held at the hotel. Sometimes it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. We just might stop here as we walk out of the hotel. I came across these locations as well. Stairs are a photographer’s friend when shooting a group of 14.
Like I mentioned above, I get what I get. These are just ideas and locations that I can go to if the opportunity arises. Having this information is better than showing up day-of and trying to find interesting locations on the fly.
It was an interesting year…for everyone. Many parts of the world changed and so did my business.
When I was in college it took me three years to stumble into a finance class and enjoy it enough to declare it as my major. In order to weed people out, the school of business required eight pre-requisities before applying. Once in the school of business I gravitated to finance and made a decision I wanted to be a sell-side analyst. At the time, circa 1995, the market was on a tear straight up. The faces and voices of the market were the sell-side analysts on CNBC. I decided I wanted to be an analyst. I didn’t know what their day-to-day activities were nor what was really involved with being an analyst (a two word description would be Sell Stock) but that was my goal. Once I got there I realized I made an uneducated decision and grew to hate it.
When I started my photography business around 2003 so many professional photographers and consultants said the same thing: In order to be successful a photographer must focus on ONE type of photography. Being a jack of all trades meant a life of mediocrity and that in order to be noticed, a photographer had to have a singleness of purpose so people would recognize you for that one type of photography. I didn’t buy it. And with the economic collapse and the resulting shrinking of advertising that logic proved to be fatally wrong for many photographers.
I vowed I wouldn’t make the same mistake I made in college. I figured I’d shoot, work, and let the cards fall where they may. My work and what I gravitated towards would determine what type of photography I would pursue. The cards fell into place and for me it meant photographing people and architecture. With the economy and the state of the real estate markets I can count the number of architecture jobs I shot in 2011 on one hand. I can also reflect on all the calls I got for architecture-related jobs but lost based on price. If there’s a ton of unemployed architecture photographers, they will under-bid each other in order to get the job. I on the other hand focused on people.
This is the third year I’ve gone through and made this slide-show. It’s a great way to look over the year to see what I did right and what I could have done better. In 2011 I also felt the pinch that most wedding and family photographers have been feeling for years. The loss of business because of the growing ease and access of great digital cameras. Why pay a professional photographer when we have our own camera? Why hire someone when Judy’s son offered to shoot the (insert photography job here______) for free? The answer comes down to quality. Sometimes the price of a good deal isn’t paid until after the client sees the results and isn’t happy. In order to combat this type of thinking I have to focus on providing value. My clients have to know and expect a quality that they know they can’t get by shooting their family portraits themselves or giving the job to the least expensive photographer. In 2012 my goal is to improve my client’s experience and continue to focus on value.
2011 got off to a slow start because Charlie was born at the end of 2010. And despite fewer jobs, business was better than 2010.
I my last post I mentioned how important music is to me and how much thought goes into selecting a song to use for these slide shows. This year I went with a song by James Vincent McMorrow.