Session Planning

I have been teased about being overly sensitive about small details and using time to fix them. Well, this is about the planning of a specific photo, we should step back and consider planning the event.

I have mentioned in other posts about planning your shots, choosing your locations and getting it written, but what about plans for specific events such as weddings, graduations, engagements or family portraits.

Ask (according to the event) for a list of photo priorities.

Write down and give a kind of visual demonstration shots you have in mind for the session.

Keep a list of poses and shots for “plan ‘B'”.

Weddings are events that the bride and groom will remember and certainly one that they want photographs of for time to come. Photos of weddings are all over the place and there will be almost without exception a photo or two that the bride will want of her and her man, so it is a good idea to ask her to make a list of her priority shots. Keep the list close on the wedding day. You can almost guarantee that the wedding day will be filled with nerves and schedules not making any of their deadlines.

After interviewing the couple there may come to mind a few shots which are perfect for them. Keep good notes for later reference. These shots will come in handy as you have already taken the stock wedding shots and one party or the other are busy.

‘Plan “B”‘ can take several forms. One solution is to have a second photographer picking up shots simultaneously to your own.

Another alternative could be taking two or three days before the wedding to stage the shots with the couple and taking candid shots “in the moment” during the ceremony.

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Portraits – Candid Scrapbook

How do I use candid shots in a scrapbook?

There are a few things to remember before getting into this process:

  1. Scrapbooking starts with a good photo.
  2. Scrapbooking does not need full face shot (unless  you “the creator of the scrapbook” require it)
  3. Scrapbooking is meant to tell a story (pictorially and in written narrative). It depends on how the story is written about what pictures the creator chooses for the book.

Now this is not to burden you down and squash your creativity; however this is meant speak on the photography side of what to expect in a candid shot and how many photos you may shoot or reject as you choose between the “good” and “great”.

As we have covered in the earlier posts, all photographers will take more shots in a portrait session than they would in a studio of a piece of jewelry. This is to ease the stress on the subject by asking them to hold an uncomfortable place for an indeterminate amount of time.

For instance, the piece of jewelry is not going anywhere and will not lose shape under common conditions. For a model or paying customer, this changes dramatically because even sitting in a relaxed position, their radiant smile, twinkling eyes and squared shoulders can become a dark frown, dull eyes and rounded shoulders.

So as to avoid these issues, I urge you to learn to let the natural motion continue of daily life and capture those moments and times of spontaneous laughter, joy and thought.

Do not be surprised about getting 1 good photo out of 15 or more, because it was the continuous shooting which enabled you get that 1 good shot.

Candid shot is best focused on the persons emotions. That is to say, ask yourself what could take away from the emotion being shown. Next ask yourself what is important to draw out the emotion being shown which is already inside the viewing frame.

Have fun, because that is important! If you are not having fun, your model or person of interest may be keying off of your attitude or intensity. Besides, it is the holiday season, fun is in the air!

Portraits – Candid Capture

Q. How does a photographer catch the candid emotion, expression or action?

A. It can be difficult, however there is something consistently said by every portrait photographer I know, only 1 in every 10 is a good photo at best. The more experience in the portrait field, a photographer has I have heard the numbers dramatically increase from the 1 in 10 to 1 in 100.

I certainly found this to be true as I shot a wedding. Out of the hundreds of photos I got throughout the time of the wedding, reception and exit I only liked as many as 7! Remember though that I am coming from a viewpoint of quality and clarity, so even though the pose is good, I may not like it for smaller details that no one else might notice.

This may be a little steep for some photographers shooting film, so my caution to that is “Be careful on what you use your film.” In this age of technological advances and affordable digital cameras, use both styles (film and digital) but do not stop shooting with the digital until you get the right shot and then pick up your 35mm to get that one shot you found through the inexpensive digital shot. Do not hesitate either about deleting the digital photos! They essentially cost cents on the dollar as compared to the 35mm photo which costs a good part of a dollar if not more.

Q. How can a candid be posed with the same intensity of emotion?

Several things factor in but I will say one of the most important parts of getting that smile or   intense concentration is being able to communicate that emotion to the subject. Now, for a truly candid shot being that the subject does not know they are being photographed means the photographer should be ready to take a minimum or 3 – 10 pictures in a burst so that you can choose from the best of the expressions. One last point is to do your best to get the surface of the eye in focus because the soul of the person and the eyes being the window to the soul will give the true emotional expression.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Portraits – Candid

Candid shots can be hard to pick out from a few select pictures because posing does not have to show the subjects awareness of the photographer. However for our purposes we will call those posed shots candid anyway for simplicity’s sake.

What does “Candid” really mean? :

“Truthful and straightforward; frank.
(of a photograph of a person) Taken informally, especially without the subject’s knowledge.”

So we could even say that the most important quality of a candid photo is not, the lack of knowledge on the part of the subject but how truthful the image is to practical life versus our Utopian fantasy. This is not to say, a photo should include our frustration, irritation and messes, but rather kept simple and uncomplicated.

Is that easier said than practically applicable? Perhaps, although here are some suggestions to inspire your own creativity for simplicity.

  1. Focus on your subject and what has drawn their attention.
  2. Beware of your frame corners so as not to include distractions.
  3. Intentionally use backgrounds that support your shot and not stealing your viewer’s attention.

Focusing on your subject and the object holding their attention: Using a macro lens will crop a lot of the surrounding scenery bringing your focus to rest on your subject and their object of attention.

Being aware of what your frame corners catch which may distract a viewer is easy to forget. In fact I have found that if I am not paying attention I still catch minor undesirables. It can sound like photography is an art impossible to meet or only for the totally devoted  who do nothing else but study for the next super-image. I can nearly guarantee you this is not the case in most photographer’s cases.

Intentionally using backgrounds that are not flashy or precisely perfect have helped me draw out more of my subject’s presence versus a nice scenic shot with a presence.

Snap shots – Part 2

Have you ever had one of the best snap shots ever, but something in the photo distracts you from what you originally saw? You are not alone! At the end of this post I will show you two of my images, one original one edited. However it is not completely on our topic today.

As we talked about in the original “Snap shots” post, anticipating the action will give you a  head start on getting the camera up and ready or even as much time as getting a different perspective on your subject. Be careful of too much enthusiasm by “over composing” the candid snap shot. I suggest being able to take a different perspective on the snap shot; if you are able to anticipate that far in advance; to avoid photographing undesired objects.

My next suggestion is, if while reviewing your snap shots you see a distracting object surrounding the subject or in the background, crop the photo to exclude the distraction.

Crop definitions:

Passive cropping – is removing an undesirable object from the photo without cropping out any part of your subject.

Aggressive cropping – to remove part of your subject from the photo to direct attention or remove distraction without removing vital elements.

Please never be afraid of cropping “too close” to your subject. You camera only sees a small portion of what you see. So take advantage of it by getting in even closer! The less surrounding your subject, draws more of your viewer’s attention to your subject. Aggressive cropping can be bad, but I have not seen anyone over crop their own photo, because they know their intended subject.

So the two suggestions being:

  1. Get closer to you subject physically or with a zoom lens.
  2. Crop the digital image.

Now for my little “mess-up”:

Oh well! We cannot win them all! Those we lose, we just edit. Right?

Simplifying The Message

I find it difficult to discern the line between too much interest in a photo and too little. Let me give you some background about myself and some things which I have found helpful when I am on a photo shoot.

In college I was required to prepare and if called upon, give a public speech which was at-least 25 minutes in length and not to exceed 45 minutes. This can be a challenge! How does this apply to photography?

  • How do you gather enough interest or information for a photo (or to last 30 minutes)?
  • After putting together what I have, how do I put it in order?
  • Once a “dry run” is complete, how do I pare it down and still make sense?
  • What are the “key words and phrases” I must include?
  • How can I “beef” it up to be more than reading a script?

These are all very valid questions. Let me start by saying that in photography there hardly is ever a concern for “gathering interest”. I am grateful to have such beauty and splendor around with which to use as a back-drop!

The difficulty often comes when trying to put it all in order. Most of the time I take shots in neatly manicured gardens so that I do not have to set things in order. They already are in order! So, what about when I do not shoot photographs in a garden? I make sure of my subject (the person or object which the photo will display) and find a way to use the best available scenery as the back-drop.

Now to leave out the things that do not matter or take attention away from the subject. Getting closer to the subject or zooming closer in is a quick and easy solution, but do not be shy about moving around and changing the perspective of the shot to avoid specific things. Do be sure to keep your attention on the subject so that the shots do not come out with an odd feel because you were focused on not including “…that!…”

Our next to last question is even more subjective than the previous three, because this is part of your “style” as a photographer. I have seen many friends’ engagement photos and thought to myself, “I would have shot that different”, “I would have included this…” or “I would have excluded that!” That is just fine. Just because someone else would have done it another way does not mean that they are right, but shows the difference in style of photography. Remember: couples will usually ask for a portfolio of your work and it is your style that will grab their attention and get you the contract (providing of course prices are competitive and people skills are not horrible). The point is, price and people skill may be great, but if they do not like what they see in your portfolio, it probably will be a “no go.”

So whether you are shooting pictures of your adorable kids, or fascinated adventurer with a camera, remember; keep it simple and let your story be told!