I am a mom of two, and I have definite insecurities when it comes to my body. Since having kids, I have tried to regain my former...form. But as you know, it is easier said than done. There are things that just will not be the same after growing a human being (human beings actually, though thankfully one at a time!) inside of you. But here we go, this is real and I want everyone seeing this to know that boudoir is in the realm of possibility for every woman of any size, shape or age.Read More
I am so lucky to get a chance to take pictures of babies, newly arrived on this earth. I had a lovely little cluster of newborn shoots recently that had me all giddy with delight. All of these sessions took place "on-site", meaning I went to each family's home. I think it's really important to provide that service, I mean, who wants to leave the house after giving birth? Everyone is in their laying-in, baby-honey-moon stage, and I love to enter into that environment, and take pictures where everyone, especially baby, is at ease. As these lovely families would attest, I don't require a lot of space to take pictures, often just a few feet of space with some great natural light.
My first session came with the arrival of Kayla, such a delight to Christine and Steve and big brother Brayden. She was so bright eyed and easy going. In fact, she was so bright eyed that we never got any sleepy baby poses as she just wanted to stay awake to take it all in, despite some good mama's milk. Christine had gorgeous hand knit items they'd received as gifts that we got to outfit her in. I was so pleased with the images we got from this session. Big brother Brayden LOVES to do photo shoots (we did a session a little while ago when Christine was still cookin' Kayla in her tummy and he took to it right away). He could not wait for me to get set up and was super eager to get into position. He is the sweetest kid and I am so excited for him; he is already nailing being an amazing big brother.
I couldn't and still can't stop giggling at little Kayla's spiky hair- I LOVE it!! Asian baby hair is the BEST ( I can attest to this as my sister had that hair too and we used to pour over her baby photos and laugh and oooh and ah). Here are a few of my favorites from the session! Look at those alert little eyes.
Next, baby Chase. He was only a week old! So tiny and so fresh that he still hadn't lost his chord (ironically, a few hours after our session, it came off, Autumn informed me! Cue head smack.). I always suggest that if there are any special "props", items of significance you want to include, that we should use that rather than props that I can (and will) bring. Autumn and Ricky had some great props and ideas and we tried to incorporate as much of it as we could. Like Kayla, Chase was resistant to sleep even with mama's milk, but with patience we managed to get a few gems with him curled up on the back of a big toy truck. I love these! He was so cooperative.
I have to share this: Little Chase was...very well hydrated (as all babies are, drinking milk all day long!), and as a result of all my administrations, removing diapers, wrapping and placing him, was quite stimulated to ease his little bladder...several times. I say this, because when one looks at baby pics they often don't think of all the stuff that happens in the background, between the shots. It's not all picture perfect, but it is perfectly normal and totally joyful! Autumn and I, both seasoned moms, are unfazed by such things. We were well stocked with swaddling cloths and baskets, so a quick switcheroo and we were back in the game. Big Brother Rilo needs mentioning here too. I had the pleasure of first taking his picture along with mom and dad over a year ago. He has grown quite a bit since then! Adjusting to being a big brother, can be a big learning curve (this goes for all kids welcoming a sibling!) but he was taking it in stride, guided with love and patience by mommy and daddy. He is a sweet, curious boy who, it would appear, had remembered how to model from last time! He gave me some great, direct gazes (his Magnum?) that made the shots- thanks Rilo!
My final session was in beautiful Petaluma at Anat and Travis's home with their new addition, baby Ayden. Let me just say that, as a photographer I couldn't have asked for a better setting. Their home was perfect for a lifestyle shoot, Anat having carefully chosen colors, props and furniture for Ayden's room, which made my job exceedingly easy. Some of my favorite shots from this session took place right at the beginning, on their bed with the light streaming in, with them cuddling and laughing, Travis tending to Ayden when he fussed. Again, I had promised that mama's milk would most likely do the trick and he'd be all sleepy, but these babes keep proving me wrong! Ayden, like his cohorts, wanted in on the action and didn't stay in dream land for very long! All babies are different and Little A did not like going sans clothing, but that was okay because we had plenty of cute swaddling cloths and clothes to dress him in. I think he and I had a connection, because he posed just perfectly for me with nary a fuss.
In fact, all these babes were incredible! I cannot believe how amazing all of these sessions were, how lovely and welcoming each family and how chill and adorable these little ones were. I left all of these sessions feeling totally jazzed, and filled up with love.
I wish so much joy to all of these beautiful families. I know that at the session I seem very down to business, trying to get all the shots in, but inside I am SO very much aware of what it is like, adjusting to your new addition. It's not all roses, it is exhausting and confusing, but also SO incredible, even mind blowing. You made a human!!! Thank you for inviting me into your homes to document such an incredible moment in your lives.
As always, with gratitude and love,
Last week I did a post about taking better photos in outdoor lighting conditions, with natural light. Today I want to address the more challenging conditions of low light, indoor photography. While shooting in low light can be challenging, there are a few tricks that you can use to vastly improve your images.
Well, you say, "low light, no problem, just use a flash". Yes. Yes, you can use a flash. It's very easy to default to flash by pressing that lightning bolt symbol, but, in all honesty, it doesn't look very good. Cell phone camera flashes end up making an image look cheap and ill exposed. Take these two images for example, I bet you can guess which one is with a flash:
The first is with ambient indoor light, it is slightly yellow and a bit fuzzy around the edges. Cameras have a hard time focusing in low light and have to "collect light" by keeping the shutter open longer. This is the case even with digital as well, the sensor needs more time to gather the info. Thus a slightly blurred image.
The second one is with flash. It is a lot clearer because the flash shortens the time the sensor needs to be exposed to collect light, thus no blur. However, there is a cut-out quality ( due to the cast shadows) to it that I just don't like. It throws a cool light on the subject which is different from the warm light around them. Often the flash leaves shine marks or "hot spots" on the subjects face. I would choose the image on the left and adjust the yellow cast using filters. There is a time and a place for flash- namely at a party, with revelers goofing off for the camera. In that instance the subject being sharply highlighted by the flash in all their glory with the background fading to black is acceptable. That is the one exception.
Here is a set of three images, 1. No flash, 2. Flash (in Selfie mode which is inadequate), 3. No flash and adjustment filter:
In number one the shadows are terrible. Number two looks just too blown out. Both one and two have bad shadow placement and uneven light. Number three is shot with no flash and a simple adjustment using the phones built in filters that evens out the shadows, de-saturates the color, and in my opinion looks the best, not good, but better than the first two.
Okay, so if we are going to avoid using the flash, what kind of light should we be looking for?
Look around you for the sources of light. If it is overhead lighting, make-sure that you stand a little ahead or behind the light, not directly under or you will look like this:
The easy fix is to stand a little back of the direct light and to tilt your head upwards:
Better yet, look around you for white or light, neutral walls. White is your friend, your handy dandy natural light reflector (conversely, very colorful walls are your enemy since the color will be cast back onto you). Take a look at these two photos up next. In the first I have my back to the bright white of my kitchen walls and cupboards. In the second, I simply rotate in place and I face towards the white. Tell me which one you find to be better lit (hint: the second one!), even the color of my skin is better and more accurate as white does not have a color cast.
I took a shot of the space, our kitchen (don't tell my hubs, he'd be mortified by the clutter). On the right the wall is bright, but not as much as on the left which has under cabinet lighting that bounces around against the white tiles and cupboards.
Okay, here's another tip that might seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be amazed how often this rule is not followed: Face towards the source of the light. Unless you are going to use flash to fill you in, never put the light behind you when it's dark.
Here's a shot of my hallway. The light in the bathroom is on. In the first shot I stand in the doorway facing out to the hallway. In the second I stand in the hallway facing the source of light:
So simple, right?!
Okay, last bit of advice. Our phone cameras are pretty smart these days. They automatically adjust to lighting conditions as best as their amazing tech can, quite frankly I'm amazed at how well they can take photos in low light. Even in how the camera tries to calibrate color.
Here's the thing, if you are in mixed lighting, i.e. you have a good ol' tungsten light on (think yellow cast) alongside a fluorescent or more likely these days, a cool tone LED overhead light, your camera is going to start flipping-out a little. It will do it's best to adjust half way. But it's not always going to get it right.
So, here's how you help your poor camera sensor out: Choose one light source and eliminate the other (if you can. If you are at a club, forget about it- just go with whatcha got!) by turning it off.
Here's an example for you again: I am in my art room. I've got the overhead light on which is tungsten ( conventional light bulb) and I'm standing by my patio door with natural light spilling in (cool light). My camera was working over-time switching between making me look blue or yellow as it tried to decide how to read the situation. It settled at this:
I decided to have mercy on my camera- I turned off the room light and was left with only the light from the window.
And that is it! Simple fixes for getting the best shots you can in low light, indoors. I hope you found that helpful. Try out some of these fixes and let me know how it goes.
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Cell phone cameras are amazing. They have come a looooong way. We take them for granted, but this technology is sci fi come to life. In our lifetimes, our phones also functioning as cameras became a thing. Before that, it was something out of Star Trek. Don't forget that.
The ease with which we can now take images, without buying film and loading it, without even having to bring along a bulky camera body that does only that one function (gaw! It doesn't make phone calls?), has lead to an explosion in the quantity of images we possess.
Yet, even with all the built in auto focus, color correcting, exposure, etc.etc. built into these amazing feats of technology, we can still end up with lousy shots. Tech cannot correct all our errors...at least not yet...
So, while we wait for that, here are a few tips for great images in a variety of outdoor lighting conditions.
Before you can make these small adjustments to vastly improve your images, you need to know the basics of assessing light quality. This might sound daunting, but it's not rocket science. Simply ask yourself:
Is the mid-day sun blazing down on me with nary a cloud in the sky? Okay, that's intense, full sun. Think: dark shadows, unflattering, contrasty.
Is it an overcast day with nary a sliver of sun shining though? That's diffuse light. Think: even light, flattering, not as much light, very few shadows.
Is there sun one moment and then overcast conditions the next? You've got mixed light, baby! This will keep you on your toes. But the same rules apply...you just have to adjust to which rules to use as the conditions change.
(Then there's night time, but that is a post for another day).
None of these types of light quality negate photography. Au contraire, if you know what light you are dealing with, you can adapt to it in order to get the best shot possible.
This is the type of light professional photographers who like to use natural light, shy away from like vampires emerging from the crypt prematurely. Why? Because intense sun creates too much contrast. So much so that one end of the spectrum, either the light or the dark is not going to register in the image. It can also be very, very unflattering on a subjects face: dark shadows in bad locations, squinting subjects.
So, if professionals don't want to shoot in it, should you not take any shots then? Of course not, photographers have to take shots in full sun all the time at weddings and other engagements. They have some secrets that help them deal:
1. Find solid shade (not mottled as this will be far worse!) and take a picture there. Easy peasy. Just don't try to include a background that is in the full sun, like a mountain range, flower garden with open sky etc. All of the background that is in the sun lit area will be blown out beyond recognition. Frame in only what is in the shade.
2. If no shade can be found, place your subjects back to the sun and shoot towards the sun. Have your subject block the sun with their body, or use a tree to block the strongest rays. Turn on your flash mode to force a flash. You will need this to fill in the big shadow that is your subjects face. You want the person to be perfectly exposed for and let the background blow out. Expect to have some crazy flare and haze in your shot...but it can be really cool and desirable to have depending on where the flare is placed. Experiment with your shooting angle.
3. Use the environment to help reflect fill light back onto the subject. Think white, or light. Have the subject stand on a light walk-way with the sun behind them. The light ground will take some of that light and reflect it back onto the subject and fill in some of that shadow.
I want to show you how dang easy it is to improve a shot on a sunny day. Below, yours truly, taking a rare selfie with her phone just to prove a point:
Here I am in the first shot. The sun is directly infront of me, it's about 2pm, I have to squint to see anything. The light has thrown dark shadows under my eyes, the shadow lengthening along my nose is unflattering, my eyes look dark, I even have a shiny spot on my forehead. Not a keeper.
Now, take a look at my second shot. I literally took two steps to change my location and vastly improve the results. What did I do? I stepped in the shade. Note how the light is now even on my face, there are no gnarly shadows where they shouldn't be. I look like I'm glowing in comparison to the background that is in shadow. You can even see the detail in my eyes which are now nicely lit up. I can also smile and look at the camera without squinting.
As you can see, I simply had to move from one corner of the building to the other. A few steps. This was at the Children's Museum in Santa Rosa. I took these two images on the way to the car with the girls. It took all of 30 seconds and most of that time was taken with unlocking and pulling up my camera on the screen. Simple fixes, folks.
Overcast Days: Diffuse Light
These are the best days for portraits/selfies. Overcast (even rainy) days are like stepping into the shade on a sunny day, only you don't have to find any shade because there isn't any (at least not much). The cloud cover provides a defused light, much like photographers achieve with light boxes in their studio.
The only caveat is that the filtered light provides less light, so be careful of blurry images because the sensor can't collect enough light quickly enough. Stick to subjects that are going to stay relatively still.
Some helpful pointers:
Tilt your subject's face slightly upward while you shoot downward...this allows more light to fill in under the eyes. Shooting upwards at a subject is inherently unflattering and in this type of light, you will not have enough available light to fill in the subjects face very well.
See here, another example. This one I shot quickly as we exited the house and the sky was completely overcast. When I shoot from below everything is a mess, namely I look like a gremlin that is all cheek and jowl, and nostrils! Don't forget the nostrils! The shadows overwhelm my face, there's just not enough ambient light to light my face properly. Then in the second I simply hold my camera at an angle slightly higher than I am and I tilt my face towards that beautiful light box in the sky and voila! Much better, don't you think?
Dull days can be...well...dull. So make sure that you use color to your advantage...pops of color in the background or better yet, on you, will make your image more interesting. During overcast conditions, colors are at their best, not blown out, not in shadow but lit just perfectly. So go find that patinaed barn door you love, that rock wall with glowing moss, your electric blue corvet, put a red rose in your hair and take some pics!
I hope you found this helpful. Please comment below, ad your tricks for improving photos, or ask any questions that have popped up for you.
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Let's all just admit it right now: we have too many photographs. The ubiquity of photographs has exploded since the advent of cell phone cameras. If you look back in our history, when photographs were first made available to the general public, photos were only available, firstly, to the very rich (thank gosh that's not the case anymore), and then the number of photographs a person had was probably a handful in their life time, if that. The introduction of consumer grade cameras like the Kodak Brownie put photography into everyone's hands. If you could buy a roll of film, you were set. And still, because of the cost per roll and getting prints made (the only way you could view what you shot), photographs were capped at the hundreds. Already there was a problem for the consumer in getting all those prints into albums. Most pictures would wallow in the envelope they came in from the lab.
Fast forward to today with our cell phone cameras. We're not talking hundreds of images, we're talking thousands a year, millions over several years. Just one year of you documenting your kids, your pets, a sunset, an event, your smoosh face selfies and of course those dinner plate shots creates an incredible cache of digital files. The sheer quantity would be inconceivable to, say, your great grandmother or even grandmother (though she may very well be taking those gazillion photos as well on her nifty new smart phone!).
But what happens with all of these images?
I seriously get stressed-out thinking about the sheer mass of digital image data I have stored. There is no way I can keep track of all the images I have.
And what happens when we leave this earth (die, to be more blunt)? What are these files to do now? I think about how my mom is all ready to hand me all the negatives from the photos she's taken and collected all these years. I don't want her to get rid of them, after all, it is our visual history. But at the same time, there is just too much to go through. It is incredibly daunting and I, quite frankly, don't have hundreds of hours to go through them...and we're talking negatives here.
I find myself wishing that over the years my mom or dad had learned how to cull all the images down to just the very best.
I realize that the next generation, the one after me, would probably appreciate a synopsis, a concise version of the literal millions of images I will have taken in my life time. Will they care that I had a cappuccino with a froth heart in it?
So I'm here to distribute a little tough love here and maybe, maybe help you learn how to curate your photos like a pro.
I will admit that my personal photographs of my own kids is my weak spot. As a professional photographer, I can cull clients' images, no problem. I want only the best left on the table. I am doing my clients a service. With my kids, there's more emotion invested in those shots. Yeah, some might be less than perfect composition etc. but it still captures their essence.
But let's get real. We need the essence of the essence here. No one is going to be able to look at all these images and appreciate them, not even if you are the detail type who remembers everything you shot and like to scroll through what's on your phone, you too could bear to be more concise with your collection. No one else wants to look at all of them, guaranteed. My eyes burn just thinking about it.
So I'm telling you now, you need to become an expert editor of your own images. Right away. I mean, as soon as you take the photos, cull, cull, cull. I've accidentally held down my camera button and shot 50 frames in one second. That is CRAZINESS! Choose the best, right now and delete the rest.
Why right away? Because you, like me, probably have some cloud back-up that is going to go ahead and back all those junk shots up at it's next available opportunity. Don't let that happen! In fact, turn off your WiFi and data before you take shots and don't turn it back on until you've deleted all but the best shots you've just taken. The consequence to not doing this is that you will have those junk shots unnecessarily backed up before you know it and it is unlikely that you will take that extra time to eliminate what's already in the cloud (smart phones are too smart sometimes!).
How do you choose the best shots? Here are a few tips to edit like a curator of your own personally gallery:
Look at the pictures you've just shot.
1. Run through them quickly (this is of the essence) to choose the best of the best. Which one has the wow factor? Which one made you laugh out loud, sigh, makes you look GOOD, etc. that is the one you are going to keep.
2. Now...and I know this is hard...delete the rest. Look for the blinking eyes, the weird half formed smile, the blurry shot, the badly aligned/composed image, the too dark picture, the repeat shot (yes, don't keep the repeat shot,"just in case", don't do it.) and delete them. I promise, I promise, promise, you are not going to regret it. You DO NOT NEED twenty shots of the same situation. You just don't. The one or two you just chose will tell the story and capture that memory.
3. Sometimes a series of images tell a story. In this case, choose the best image for each moment that is a key element of the whole story. For example: You are documenting a birthday. You have 5 shots of your kid standing in the doorway, waiting for her birthday cake. Choose the one, best shot of her doing that. Delete the rest ( I know it's hard! Take a deep breath and do it). Now, from the 10 shots of someone bringing the cake and your kid getting ready to blow, and then blowing it out, choose just two or three: someone holding the cake with your kid's eyes all wide with excitement, a shot of them with their mouth pursed and ready, and a shot just after the candles are all out. That is all you need. TRUST ME!
If you find that you have captured an incredible series that you can't bear to pare down, you can keep them but in a more concise and sparing way: I recommend using a program such as Google Photos on your phone to make a collage. Save that collage. Then delete the original files. Done. That is all you need. That one collage now represents that entire series and it's conveniently in one file! Yay you!
4. If you took a photo for temporary documentation, or to post on a sharing site and already did, erase the image once it is no longer needed. I'll give you an example: sometimes I take a picture of an item I need from a store, that has a particular part number. Once I've purchase said item, I no longer need that image. Remember to delete it! If you take a picture of a meal you ate at lunch to make some witty comment on via Instagram, once it's posted, eliminate the image. In a few years are you going to want a picture of your meal? Will future generations? If it doesn't ad to your visual history, delete it.
But you are feeling queezy about culling your images. How do you know what is important?
I want to suggest that you have already curated your images. If you use facebook or Instagram (or both) regularly, chances are you have already selected the best of the best to share. I know many people who use facebook as their online album: you have the images and you have the descriptions, built in date and time. BAM!
With such conveniented services like Social Books etc.. that create books directly from your timeline, life and curating those pictures of it, has become very easy peasy.
Think, if all your images you've backed up on the cloud, saved on a hard drive, on your phone were to suddenly disappear and all that remained was on your social networking sites....would you be happy with what was there? Could you rebuild an abreviated, concise visual history?
I've thought about that a lot, and the answer is yes for me. I am terrified about losing all my photos, but you know, a small part of me feels relief when I run that scenario through my head. To not have the burden of all those files hanging over me, to just have those few that document and tell the story of my life is comforting.
Because, what are photographs? They are a documentation of us, our lives. When we take images it's because we are trying to capture something that is fleeting. We use photographs as our memory banks.
Quality over quantity, my friends. We cannot hold every memory equally in our own minds, same with photographs. Choose the ones that matter, and try, try, try to let the others go.
I think you will feel lighter for it.
How, might you ask, does one make a photo session thrifty? Isn't it inherently pricey, given that you are getting professional photos taken?
Yes and no.
If you've made the decision to have professional photographs taken, you already know that you are looking for quality images that you can't achieve on your own or with the help of a relative who "likes playing around with cameras". As with anything, you make choices as to what you value. Some people invest in a PlayStation, some in a vintage car, some invest in a vacation, others in art like a painting or a beautiful heirloom photograph.
Being thrifty does not mean that you are scrimpy.
Don't scrimp out on the quality of your photographer. Your photographer is the person who is going to capture those images you will hold onto and look at for a life-time. Choose someone who will create images that are worthy of being a family heirloom. Check out their website and decide whether their artistic eye jives with your aesthetic. By all means, look around for a photographer who fits your budget, but balance skill with price when making your final decision. Your time is valuable too, you don't want to go through the trouble of buying clothes, doing make-up, corralling the family only to find your discount photographer can't take a decent shot. Choose a photographer who has genuine technical ability and will truly be doing you a service by doing the skilled work of editing and printing high quality archival photographs.
Okay, you've chosen the photographer who best suits your needs, now here's where you can get truly thrifty.
A great rule of thumb should be: Don't spend more on clothes than you're spending on a photographer.
You may laugh here, but I've known folks to go out and blow hundreds of dollars on matching outfits at their favorite clothing store, then spending hundreds on make-up too, far exceeding what they paid their photographer.
Remember, the camera does not recognize name-brands, nor even new clothing, it just likes (clean, and pressed) clothing in harmonious colors. So, with that in mind, and provided you've left enough time ahead of the shoot, now's the time to start thrifting it up.
First, check your closet. The best deal is not having to spend any money at all, right? What do you have there that is a classic staple? Jeans? A blazer? A great cozy sweater? Maybe you have a great hat or unique accent piece you want to work everything else around.
Choose that as your launching point. I personally love Jeans because they are so versatile, they can be casual or high fashion depending on what it's pared with.
Second, decide on your palette. If you are doing a personal portrait shoot, you get to wear whatever you please, so your job is simple, choose the colors you love. If it's a couple or family shots, you need to start thinking about what your colors are going to be based perhaps on the location you will be shooting at ( think surrounding colors ) or season ( Christmas, Easter, Spring, Halloween etc.). You're going to be looking for clothing in your color palette, but each outfit does not need to match in any other way! Such freedom!
Now hit the thrift stores. These days thrift stores are smart and have started to sort their clothes by colors. This makes it SUPER easy for you. If you've decided on your palette, you can just head straight for that rack. Consignment stores, thrift stores, yard sales are your friend.
Note: be aware of the fact that lots of thrift stores carry a lot of common, low cost brands. Skip those, since brands like Old Navy, Merona, Forever21 etc. have their own sales often that can cost the same or even less than what thrift stores are selling it for (one of my pet peeves with thrift stores). Scan for the more desirable brands in order to really score on quality. The caveat to this rule is, if you LOVE it, just get it.
Super Thrifter Note: If you want to be uber thrifty, only scan for the clothes that have the sale tag of the day- often thrift stores will have a 50% off a specific color tag. Sundays are often the big score days when those 50% tags magically turn into $1 dollar deals! Check with your local thrift and consignment stores to see when these special deals happen.
There are even thrift stores on-line now. I haven't personally tried it, but I'd say give it a go if you're limited on time or don't like combing through racks.
If you don't like the thrift store route- too dusty or icky for you, check out the sales racks at low to mid level clothing stores. Places like Old Navy have seasonal sales that are ridiculously good (so cheap I can't fathom how it's even possible to sell it that low as it is a clear loss in fabric and labor alone). Scan for your colors, and if you don't see them, move on! It's not a deal if you end up buying a whole new wardrobe unrelated to the session!
Another method would be to post an ISO (in search of) on the multitude of community buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook. You'd be amazed by what you can find when you call on your community's help. Sometimes you really score and get something for free because someone is just happy to find a home for the clothes their kids or they themselves no longer need.
Hair and Make-up.
This one is fairly simple but very individual. If getting your hair and make-up professionally done makes you feel your best and like you can rock a shoot, by all means do it, but it can be pricey.
To be thrifty you could look at just having your make-up done or vice verse. Generally it is more affordable to have your hair styled than getting make-up done. Think $25-$30 versus make-up which is around $75 to $95.
If you have someone in your family or friend group who loves doing make-up ask them if they can do it for you.
Better yet, if you are a seasoned pro at doing your own make-up, do that.
Alternatively, if you, like me, don't know a thing about doing your own make-up, and you have no one willing to do it for you, check out listings for local beauty schools and see if they can do your hair and make-up at a discount price. You may find some keen beauty school kid who's willing to practice on you between their study schedule. They might not be seasoned pros, but most likely are pretty darn good at it since that is the field they've chosen to pursue.
Prints and Digital Files.
So, you manage to get your outfits at bargain basement prices, and your make-up for either nothing or a reduced price, what about the actual photography?
Like I mentioned, you don't want to cheap out on your photographer. After all, they are the ones making you look good and capturing memories.
However, do check out their pricing sheet for prints. Often times, if you go for the packages, the overall cost per item is cheaper vs trying to buy prints etc. a la carte. If you are wanting files plus print work such as an album that you don't want to have to try and put together yourself, this is the way to go.
If you like to order your own print work, and the photographer is willing to sell their digital files individually, you can also go the route of being an excellent editor and just choosing the best and your most favorite couple of images to purchase. It's hard to choose only a few images, but you have to be brutal about cutting all but your most favorite. After all, what can you do with 50 images of the same shoot? Be discerning and chose the ones you're going want to see on a card or in a frame on your mantle.
Similarly, if you want an expert to produce the high quality archival print work, ie your photographer, choose the one investment piece that you are going to want to look at for years to come. Will a beautiful canvas mounted over your sofa bring a smile to your face everyday? Is that worth it to you? Or an album you can page through on rainy or contemplative, sentimental days? One precious object is worth more (and hits the wallet less) than an gazillion meaningless objects you have no place for in your home.
I hope that helped a bit. Please, if you have more ideas about how to make a photo session more thrifty, ad them in the comments below.
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This past Sunday I had the pleasure of meeting up with Allie and Jonathan for the second time. The first time was several months back to discuss wedding packages and let them suss me out and see if they wanted me as their photographer for their wedding in July.
Happily, they did choose me and I am so very excited for their special day!
As part of their wedding package, they had an engagement session. Allie and Jonathan already had a beautiful engagement session at Disneyland where Jonathan proposed, but I thought it would be a great opportunity for them to get in front of my camera and do a "practice" so to speak, before their wedding day.
Allie and Jonathan are such sweet and down to earth people. They let me know that they felt awkward having photos taken and that they would prefer doing it somewhere not too public ( I completely empathized, I as the photographer don't like being the center of attention!).
I did a few scouting missions leading up to the day. Allie had mentioned a few wineries, but when I directly inquired with one of them they shot me down immediately. I knew that rules and regulations for weddings in the Napa Valley are strict, but was shocked to learn that it even extended to professional photography related to weddings. Very disappointing.
Luckily, in a previous scouting mission for mustard fields, I'd found a great public access space in St. Helena. No fear of being shut down and a relatively quiet place with the occasional dog owner taking their pooch for a walk. It ended up being perfect because Allie wanted their dog Zoe in a few shots and it was a great environment for her.
The day started off overcast and rainy. In fact, both Allie and I had been monitoring the weather all week and the forecast stubbornly insisted it would be nothing but gray. I arrived at the site a half hour early to scout and figure out how to light for a dreary day. I even had a prop umbrella and plans to do some rainy day shots. But literally, just before Jonathan and Allie pulled up, the sun burst out from behind the clouds. Gorgeous. However, I now had another set of challenges with light. Because of the sun's intensity, I decided to find shaded locations while we waited for the golden hour glow. We started under some redwood trees and then did a small walk-about, stopping at various locations that suited the ever changing light. By the end, Jonathan and Allie seemed totally in their element. When Allie's mom arrived mid session with their dog Zoe, everyone was instantly even more relaxed (should have started with her!), I caught some of my favorite images of the day right around then, at the end of the shoot.
Being very aware of how Jonathan had expressed his discomfort with being photographed, I tried to be better about explaining how it would go, give some tips on posing etc, and remind them both to just have fun and enjoy being with each other. This was good practice for me as I can sometimes be so excited to get shooting that I don't give enough of a preamble. Always learning!
Well, I think Allie and Jonathan nailed it. Going over the photos to edit I was laughing at their interactions and feeling all warm and fuzzy looking at how much they love each other, so visible in the images. What a gorgeous couple, I can't wait for their nuptials in July!
Trying to figure out what to wear for a shoot can be the number one struggle when preparing for a session. Nearly all of my clients have expressed their stress and/or uncertainty around it.
Hopefully I can eleviate some of that uncertainty, and thus stress, for you:
You have choices, you can go all out and buy all new outfits for everyone or you can work with what you've got.
For those of you who love an excuse to go on a shopping spree- this is an excellent one! It doesn't have to be pricey- Old Navy and similar stores have a ton of awesome, current, trendy or classic outfits, often at deep discounts if you catch a sale.
If you are doing a maternity shoot and want that flowy gown, specially designed to enhance your gorgeous belly, look to online sellers, I've heard from many that that is the way to go as actual stores specializing in maternity are hard to find and tend to be expensive.
You can also go the route of...what do we currently have in our closet? This is fine too. I don't know about you, but my kids have WAAAAY too much clothes, there's always something in there that is dressy that has not been used. You yourself must have a few go to pieces that will serve you well. Simple and elegant or classic is what we're going for- your clothes are not the subject, you are!
Essentially, what I want is for you to feel great in the clothes you choose. If you are comfortable and feel good, it will show in the images. Kids DO NOT respond well to wearing tight, scratchy clothes- you will get a lot of shots of them tearing off your thoughtfully assembled outfit!
The main rule of thumb is to wear something you feel really good in, and, if you are doing a family session, to choose outfits for everyone with a unifying color. We’re going for a harmonious look. I do not suggest that you all wear identical outfits- maybe the kids at most. Looking identical has its place and if you are looking for a comical family portrait, we can totally do this. However, if you want a less humorous, more dreamy, calm, beautiful family photo aesthetic, the best look is when everyone is wearing the same color palette, but entirely different pieces. For example, Dad might wear a gray sweater and blue jeans with a navy blue hat. Mom wears a navy blue dress with gray shawl or scarf, kids wear blue jeans and navy shirts with gray sweaters.
Additionally you can think about where you are taking the shots. Outdoor in yellow mustard fields? Contrasting colors like blue are great. White or off white is very dreamy and light. Are you in an industrial gray location? Then be the pop of color- red, orange, teal would look AMAZING!!
You might also be choosing seasonal colors depending on what type of session it is.
If all else fails, Pinterest and other amazing sites on the web are bound to give you some great ideas.
As always, we can message each other and work it out. I don’t want this to be stressful for you!
Another question that comes up is: Should I do hair and make-up? The simple question that leads to the answer is: "Would it make you feel more confident?" If “yes”, then yes!
Make-up can really make you pop in an image, and great hair, is, well, great hair! But if you are more of the au natural personality, I dig that too!
I want the photographs to celebrate you. When you look at yourselves, will you see you? If you are going to judge yourself on specific things, then attend to those things for the shoot. If what matters most to you is that moments, expression, emotions are captured, then I've got you covered!
Please, if you found this article helpful, comment below, like and share.
You can also follow me on Instagram and my Facebook Group: sharolyntownsendphotography- deals, inspiration and events.
I'm going to be honest here, it is very hard for me to speak for other photographers because the way that photographers set up their booking system is so varied.
I've been on sites where you can book a package without ever talking to the photographer, you just click on the package you want, scroll through the pop up calendar for available dates et voila! The magic of automation.
I am impressed by that photographer's ability to dial in their package what with all the possible variables and their skills with setting up automated intake.
Other photographers will have no info at all. It's basically a "call me" scenario. I don't know about you, but that scares me off instantly. Clearly I'm not their consumer if they don't even want to tell me a round house figure. What am I going to be quoted? $500? $1000? $10000?!? I'm too embarrassed to inquire and find it is way over my price range.
So really, I can only speak to what I do and hopefully you can gain some understanding of one process and tentatively apply it to other photographers you are looking at (keeping in mind their system could be entirely different).
On my pricing page you will see a general portrait commission price of $200. This is the fee that any 1 hour session, be it newborn, engagement, grad, maternity, boudoir starts at. This fee covers the session time plus editing and communication. It will also cover a certain number of digital files (this is not the case for all photographers- some do not give any files away, some require that you pay for every file you get). I like to include some files because I know that these days folks like to have the images on their phones, or have consumer grade print work done on online sites like Shutterfly etc. That said, I don't give them all away. Each file represents a piece of visual art crafted by me. Additional files to what you get in your session package and printwork are extra and you can take a look at those via your online gallery after your session.
I have not automated my booking, though sometimes it is tempting, because I like to communicate with my clients one-on-one via email, text or messenger to get a more detailed picture of the type of session you are looking for. Hiring a photographer is like commissioning an artist, the artist needs to understand the elements you hope to see in the work before they can figure out the amount of time and expenses that will go into the project.
Another piece to know is that every type of session comes with its own rigors, so to ask to have a family photo shoot, but also a few newborn shots, or combining family photos with maternity, or even including the family pet introduces a whole other shooting scenario. Don't be surprised if the price goes up because of this. The more elements in play, the more the photographer has to do to achieve the shots.
For the most part, most sessions are very straight forward, no extras, so that fee you see on the pricing page is the exact amount you will be paying. The other great thing to know, is that because I really, really, really want to encourage you to print some of your favorite images, if you order a print package I will always apply $100 of your session fee to your print package order. So you're already starting ahead there!
To give you an idea, when you first inquire about my services I will ask for your email so that I can send you a basic intake questionnaire. Following your response I will be able to quote you a session price based on your parameters. If you like it, we move ahead to the nuts and bolts of a contract and reserving the date with a retainer fee. If it's not quite what you are looking for, you let me know and we try to tailor it to you more accurately. I always appreciate the interest and will not be insulted if, after inquiring, you are not ready to book. I get it, hiring a photographer is a big decision.
Once you agree to the type of package, your photographer should send you a contract. This could be a paper contract sent via mail, by email for you to print and send, or online. I am now set up to send contracts via ShootProof and you can digitally sign the contract, and I will as well (all hail technology!). You should also receive an invoice for the retainer or reservation fee (usually a percentage of the total session fee) which is non-refundable. Once that fee is paid, the date is set and will be given to no one else. This is one of the reasons why the fee is non-refundable: the photographer is potentially turning down other clients requesting this date and time. Each photographer should have a cancellation or re-schedule policy. I allow for one reschedule with one week notice.
As far as final payment goes, the photographer should specify. I always ask for final payment before or on the day of the shoot.
And, there you have it. It should be a fairly straight forward process. Enjoy the search for the best photographer for you. The images that are created will last a life-time!
This is an excerpt from my welcome package after you book a session with me. For those of you who have lots of questions and really want to know what to expect so you can be prepared, I hope this helps!
I will be at the location ahead of you, barring something unexpected, to scope the light and possible locations for shots. I’ll be that gal with the camera; please wave and let me know it’s you if we haven’t already met! We’ll get a bit of time to chat (If you arrived a little early! Always ideal.) I will take payment if that hasn’t already been dealt with ahead and then we will jump right into it.
I often call the first few shots my “throw away shots”, they are really to get the light exposure and to get you used to my lens pointing at you. DO NOT WORRY, it is TOTALLY NORMAL, to feel TOTALLY AWKWARD. Unless you are a celebrity, it’s unlikely you are used to being the focal point of a shoot. The biggest thing to remember is to breathe and try to relax your body and facial expressions, I will be there to guide you!
The truth of the matter is, that most of the great looking “natural” shots you see are at least partially posed if not entirely. This can seem counter to what you desire, if you want to just feel like yourself and not feel “fake”. I totally get it, I’ve always come from the approach that I want it to be as natural as possible. I will be shooting a lot of candids, (I love them so much!) but I will be tweaking stances and positions to be as flattering as they can be for the camera. I will also suggest poses to try as we go along.
End of Shoot:
Either the light will be what ends our session, the designated time, or the fact that I’ve already gotten all the shots I need ( yay for efficiency!). I will, no doubt, continue to shoot even as we wrap things up and you breathe a sigh of relief….I find I often get some of the best shots at the end, when you think you’re done. LOL!
We will go our separate ways, but you will be seeing sneak peaks in the next one or two days via Instagram (if you opt into that by signing a model release). You can expect to get your edited files within a week or two and print work anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks after a session depending on the type of print work (more on that later!).
If this is helpful to you, please comment below and let me know. Likewise, if you still have additional questions, fire away! I will be happy to answer them.
I will be posting more write-ups about "What to Expect..." in the coming weeks!
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