Catherine shows you her tips and tricks
Tips + Tricks
Tune in at 1:30 Pacific time today on TWiT TV for a live demo of this particular tip and guest of the show, Photographer Agent Frank Meo.
Here’s the deal. The softer a light source is, the more attractive it appears when lighting a subject’s face and skin. Soft does not mean flat. You can still achieve plenty of drama by changing the ratio between your fill light and your soft key light. Softness is a factor of various elements. One if these elements is size … (now here is the important part) … with respect to the subject. This means you can have a small softbox and if it is literally on top of your subject, it will achieve a softer light than large octabank that is 10 feet away.
Why does this happen? The inverse square law is why. Because of how measurements in three dimensional space work, light sources become four times smaller and less bright when they are moved twice as far away (and 9 times smaller and less bright when they are moved 3 times further away, etc.) So if you have an 8 foot diameter octabank (Big, right?) that is 10 feet from your subject and a 2ft by 3ft softbox that is 2 feet away, the small softbox will appear much bigger to your subject and therefore will be much softer.
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My mom is a typical Southern belle from North Carolina – and she always carries herself with impeccable grace and greets everyone with genuine warmth and a smile. And like every Southern lady worth her salt, she never stands for poor manners – and my siblings and I would get a serious tongue-lashing if we ever misbehaved. Her ability to maintain grace, empathize and stay above it all has greatly influenced how I run my photography business.
I love the latest gadgets – and strive to learn more about the fast-changing photography world daily. When running my business, however, I prefer not to forget old-fashioned values. The world might have changed, but people’s desire for high quality and a trustworthy service provider remains the same. Here are a few old-school values that have helped me in my life and my business:
Build long-term relationships
When you build relationships for the long term, you build a reputable brand and the client base to support it. Too many businesses worry more about profit margins than the people they serve. If you take care of your clients, they will recommend you to friends and family and support the growth of your business. I firmly believe that the real proof of a successful business is when you consistently exceed client expectations creating outspoken “evangelists” for your company. A referral truly is the greatest compliment and strongest marketing tool.
Make something that lasts forever
My mom has an exquisite jewelry box that she’s had on her dresser for as long as I can remember. I love new things and I’m not big on nostalgia. But I do miss craftsmanship, where every item was a work of art and a result of dedication and conscientious effort. A lot of photographers are influenced by current trends of retouching, which seem really cool at the time of production, but your clients end up with images that might not stand the test of time. Be conscious of the difference between innovative advancements and passing trends to create timeless art that you can be proud of – 2, 5, 30 years on.
This seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes, we allow our ego or impatience to get the best of ourselves. You might not understand the specific needs of your client so take the time to listen. Then, reflect on what they are saying so you can understand things from their perspective. The key is communication and finding a solution that works for both your business and the client.
Honesty – still the best policy
We live in an age where people are fed so much data and so many sales pitches that in many ways, they’ve become jaded and skeptical. Be honest and completely transparent in all client communication (or all communication for that matter). Communicate your style of photography and pricing to the client, and you will attract the right people. You should not compromise on your style of photography or the value of your work for the sake of gaining a new client.
All these old-fashioned values require you to treat people with respect and recognize that you have to take time to nurture client relationships. Treat your client the way you wish to be treated – and you will not only build better and long-lasting client relationships, you will also build a better public perception of your brand.
This article is originally published on GoingPro2010.com.
Engagement sessions aren’t just about great portraits of a couple. Photographers usually have a limited amount of time to interact with the couple on the wedding day because of the tight schedule. At engagement sessions, the atmosphere is much more relaxed and this allows the couple to get to know you and be comfortable in front of the lens. Come wedding day, you will enjoy a better rapport with the bride and groom – and your photographs will form a more poignant wedding narrative.
Here are my 5 tips to magnetic engagement sessions:
Seize the Golden Hour
Unlike weddings, you get to arrange the date and time to shoot an engagement session. Seize the opportunity to shoot during the famous golden hour and schedule your session 1-2 hours before sunset. As the sun will be low in the sky, it creates portraits with a soft wash of dramatic warm light (flattering!). The session usually lasts between 1 and 1.5 hours, and during that hour-long session, you can take advantage of opportunities to play with the natural light ranging from direct sunlight to the dramatic backdrop of sunset.
Who Let the Dog Out?
I love it when a couple brings awesome props to spice up the shoot. Whether it is a dog (they are always great fun) or a picnic basket, your subjects will have more fun and feel more comfortable when they are enjoying themselves. The best props are those that have a special meaning for the couple – it could be something they made together or an anniversary gift. This makes for more unique images that showcase the personalities and rapport of the couple. Before the session, you can also suggest props such as balloons, cool sunglasses, bubbles and hats – but let their imagination run wild.
No Prego Shirts, Please!
Prego shirts and white or gray clothing are an absolute no-no. Clothing and style can make a couple portrait really pop. You, as the photographer, need to advise your clients beforehand about what would look best on camera. Generally, they should stick to more form-fitting clothing. The couple’s attire should compliment one another – so always suggest bringing at least one change of clothes so that you have a variety of looks to play with. Ladies should also have their hair and makeup done prior to the shoot. They could always schedule and appointment with a professional or have their wedding day makeup trial on the date of the engagement session.
Take Me Out to the Ball Park
A favorite park, a movie theater, the ball park – pick locations that are significant to the couple. Couples might be nervous, as they are concerned about how they look or how to pose. Take them to locations that are special to them, so they feel more at ease. This also helps you to create images that are consistent to who your clients are. Search for dynamic backgrounds that complement the clothing and personalities of the couple. Don’t stick a conservative couple against a graffiti wall just to get your shot – it won’t resonate with them and you won’t get the best out of your clients.
Be Creative on the Fly
Say it rains, what do you do? Some of my best engagement sessions have been in the rain. When circumstances seem to go against you, think on your feet and you may end up with fresh and innovative shots. Maybe you can start in a glorious indoor location and end the session with some cool outdoor umbrella shots. Push yourself out of the box – maybe the sun’s in the shot, or have the couple lay on the grass. A lot of shots won’t work, but you might just get that magical one.
We could have gone for hours; I was having so much fun talking with photography “Godfather” Rick Sammon and the students of his CreativeLIVE course, Exploring the Light. I brought 5 of my favorite photographs and shared their stories and the techniques behind them, and the students offered their comments on the photos. It was such a treat to hear their reactions to my work. Thank you to the students for your fantastic feedback, and to Rick for inviting me! Check out the video to learn some of the techniques behind my favorite photographs, and my top 5 tips for creating your own opportunities to capture the most meaningful images.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of filling my week with Rick Sammon! The photography educator joined Leo and me on TWiT Photo in our swanky TWiT studio in Petaluma and did a live demo of creative lighting solutions. That same week, I made my way down to Google HQ at Mountain View and introduced Rick at his talk to Google’s photography club. I even got on the other side of the lens and posed as a model as the “Godfather” shared his know-how with an eager audience. Watch the video for the expert’s vital lighting tips, and check out his blogpost!