Archive for October 2010

Holiday Family & Children’s Portrait Sessions

It’s been a busy couple weeks. With Phyllis of broadcastingbaby.com we’ve continued our partnership to offer packages that include the photo shoot and holiday cards and have managed to have a couple weekends of great shoots. The great thing I love about this time of year is the great variety of shots and personalities I get to work with.

First up, we have the Mahony brothers. When I was their age, a family portrait meant getting dressed up (in an outfit that my mom deemed appropriate) and trying to smile and look natural in front of a backdrop. With these brothers we get to walk around, take some shots and hopefully have a bit of fun. I try not to force things when I’m shooting kids and teens. If I push ‘em too far or try to force something that’s not for them I loose them. My goal is to make them look cool and have them walk away thinking “that wasn’t so bad”. Here’s the shot we got last year and I’m happy with the shots from this year.

The Mahony Brothers

The Mahony Brothers

This year I shot Annabelle, Lilly and Charlie again. Mom always does a great job of making them look great for the shoot. Getting three young kids looking cute, at the camera, at the same time takes a bit of luck and a small miracle. The great thing about shoots likes these are the stolen moments. The cute pic of all three ends up on the Christmas card, the other ones help us remember the fun.

Annabelle,  and Charlie

Annabelle, Lilly and Charlie

Lilly

Lilly

With most family portrait shoots I start with the “safe” family shots, then the safe brother sister shots and then I set ‘em free to have some fun.

Jackson and Grace

Jackson and Grace

In some cases it takes a while to get people to relax. Let’s face it, when a stranger points a camera at you and asks you to look natural – does it feel natural? Not for me. My goal is to get past the point, or at least get a few moments, where they forget I’m there.

Brooke

Bradford

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How to choose your wedding photographer

I got an email from a bride that will be getting married at the Hotel Marina El Cid, in Cancun Mexico. That’s the resort I shot Jo Anna and Todd’s wedding at.  Jen lives in Minnesota but found me searching the web for information about the resort. She emailed to hear details about the venue and ask about the resort’s staff photographer. She already had a Minnesota wedding photographer in mind to take with her to Mexico.

Jo Anna and Todd - Cancun Mexico

Jo Anna and Todd - Cancun Mexico

Jo Anna and Todd - Cancun Mexico

Jo Anna and Todd - Cancun Mexico

When anyone anywhere asks me questions relating to photography I am always willing to help.

We exchanged a few emails before she found out that the photographer that shot their engagement portraits wouldn’t be able to go to Cancun to shoot the wedding.  Hiring the resort’s staff photographer was now back in the equation as was hiring a new photographer to fly in from the U.S. The resort’s wedding package was $950 for 90 images on disc and in print. Yes – Nine – Zero.  Not that volume is necessarily better, but the idea of only seeing 90 images of my entire wedding doesn’t strike me as a good value.

The view most of Jo Anna's guests saw during the entire ceremony

The view most of Jo Anna's guests saw during the entire ceremony

Jen wasn’t looking to hire a photographer she couldn’t shake hands with first but I was willing to provide her with some info on how to find a local Minnesota photographer and what to ask. So here’s my advice on how to select your wedding photographer.

It doesn’t take much to call one’s self a wedding photographer. All you need is a website, some decent photos and a camera. When I shot my first wedding in 2005, that was all I had. I didn’t even have any wedding photos on my site and had never shot a wedding. A friend of my wife’s took a gamble and hired me. My first wedding involved shooting on the sand, in bright late afternoon sun, in Long Beach. It could have gone horribly wrong and I could have ruined their wedding photos. I borrowed or rented a second camera because at the time I didn’t own two cameras. The photos turned out great, the photos still stand today and they got a great deal on their wedding photography by taking a risk with an inexperienced “wedding photographer”.

Lori and Curtis  - Long Beach Wedding 2005

Lori and Curtis - Long Beach Wedding 2005

A website is a great way to get attention and it’s also an easy way to misrepresent the quality of your photography. It’s one thing to have 20-50 edited images on a site, it’s another to be able to deal with the stress, importance and dynamics of a wedding and produce great images throughout the entire day. When I was searching for our wedding photographer I looked through a friend’s wedding proofs. At the time Selima was still shooting film and box after box of proofs had solid images. That makes for a great wedding photographer.  I suggest to my clients that they look at an entire wedding’s proofs and possibly the resulting album to get a true gauge of what to expect. Selecting a handful of the best images from a wedding and then making sure they are perfect via Photoshop makes someone a smart editor, not necessarily a great photographer. Ask to see proofs, read their blog archives, look at other photo shoots, ask for references, ask to see albums.

A good friend of mine was duped by a great website. They didn’t hire me to shoot their wedding because they wanted me to have fun and “be able to enjoy the wedding”. They selected a photographer based on a website and the resulting photos from their wedding didn’t come close to the quality they saw on the website. I took my camera and shot most of the wedding anyway.

Shane and Eileen - Santa Ynez California

Shane and Eileen - Santa Ynez California

I don’t think being a “wedding” photographer is a necessity.  If someone is a good photographer and has ever been to a wedding before they can figure it out. Being a working professional photographer is a must. What does that mean? It means they make part of their living as a photographer. I’ve had the pleasure of shooting a handful of weddings in the San Francisco Bay area and used Rob Snavely as an assistant or second shooter every time. When I met and first hired Rob he still had a “day job”.  It didn’t matter that photography wasn’t his main job. He was and is an amazing photographer.

Don’t be afraid to ask about their equipment. Having back-up equipment is a sign of professionalism (so is insurance which some wedding venues will ask a photographer to have). Cameras break, accidents happen, baggage gets lost – that’s why we have at least two of everything.  In regards to destination weddings , whether in the U.S. or another country, having a laptop is another must. You can be assured that there are at least two copies of your wedding photos before the photographer gets back on a plane. When I shoot a wedding in LA backing up the files is the first thing I do.

This is a job interview and you are doing the hiring. Remember all the hoops potential employers made you jump through to get jobs? The applications, the tests, the “what would you do in this situation” questions? This is your chance, ask good questions. How many weddings have you shot as the main photographer? Do you shoot for or assist other wedding photographers? If so can you provide references? Have you ever photographed a destination wedding? Have you ever shot a job in a foreign country? How do you handle the proofs? Do you color correct and edit the files or does that cost extra? How much are wedding albums? How long will it take before I see my proofs?

When shopping for wedding photographers or any other vendor ask around. People remember and are always willing to share their experience. Ask enough people and you will hear stories of bad photography, lousy DJs, horrible catering and late florist deliveries.  You’ll also get glowing reviews and referrals.

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Revisiting

I was reviewing the images on my website and wanted to look back at all the shoots from the closeup portrait series. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the series. It was another exercise for me in portraiture. It was my second series and I used the same lighting, background and look for all of the shots. Most were shot wide open at F1.2 using natural light.

With all of my portrait or fashion sessions I like to take some time for both me and the subject to “warm up”. When I’m working with someone for the first time I try to get to know them and especially get them to relax. In the case of the closeup series I asked them to bring a wife-beater tank top and an outfit of their choice for some photo options. Most of these sessions lasted 15-20 minutes.

The first person I met and photographed was Anthonio, an inspiring actor and director. The image without the shirt was cropped and used in the series.

Anthonio_040210_013

Anthonio_040210_015

I met and photographed Noah the same day. The birth of his first born was eminent and because I had a two year old daughter at the time, I was able to relate to what he was about to experience.

Noah_040210_015

Noah_040210_008

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