My Extra Right Hand (I am looking for an individual who in very energetic, more energetic than me.)

 

Model: Kendall 2015

My Extra Right Hand

To I want to talk about working with an assistant and how much easier life can be.

I think anyone would agree that having an assistant would make life easier; So why then would I post about it? While it seems like a “no brainer” I still see many photographers working without an assistant. I seen wedding photographers hire a second shooter, but no assistant and I cannot understand why.

First let me say that I have another business aside from my photography and I realized a long time ago the power that having an assistant can give you and how much pressure is taken away when I have a really hectic job to do. My other business is catering and we mostly cook on-site. For me it is not high pressure anymore because I have been doing it for over 20 years. However, I didn’t hire an assistant until about 5 years in. Sure, I had people working for me as employees, but one day I realized that “maybe I need an assistant.”

So, you’re most likely thinking “well what’s the difference between the two?” Employees in my opinion are workers who have a more or less defined set of tasks that they perform on a regular basis, whereas an assistant is someone who is by your side working and interacting with you to help you accomplish your set task.

Okay, so I only use a photography assistant when I have a really important job to do. A job that requires me to stay focused (pardon the pun) and keep on a schedule. Jobs like weddings, large project shoots or maybe just a fast-paced event. Aside from these kinds of jobs most times I am a solo act and I do just fine.

Let me describe what it is that I am looking for in an assistant because I think most people are confused as to what they really need an assistant for. First and foremost, my assistant is paid and paid as well as I can they pay them. I work the cost for the assistant into every job. They are not a family member or a friend and most times they know very little about photography. Anything they need to know about photography I will teach them and most times that is just how-to setup and take down gear such as light stands and running power cords. However most of all I am looking for an individual who in very energetic, more energetic than me. I want someone who has their own means of transportation and is also comfortable driving my vehicle too. I want some one who knows how to use a smartphone/device, can do an adequate Google search in seconds, knows how to get to the nearest, store, coffee shop, deli and camera shop. I want someone who is great with people, they can not be shy at all, they must exude common sense thinking. They must be the kind of person I trust enough to hand them my credit card/s to go buy something and they won’t steal my money. I can also hand them cash money to

Tiny & Kendall

hold. Essentially, I want someone who is me, but better, faster and I can trust them with anything.

About now your saying “where the hell do, I find somebody like that.” I’ll agree it is not an easy thing and it doesn’t happen overnight, but once it does you need to find a way to hold on to that person. If they are a college age student it is inevitable that you will not have them forever and they’ll move on sooner or later. At this current time, I have a few different people I use. Because it is on an “as needed basis” if one is not available usually the other one is. One is a big strong guy we appropriately call “Tiny” and the other is a lady named Amy.

Tiny & Cynthia Ann

Tiny works a as a truck driver and appliance installer during the week, he also works for my catering business on the weekends. He meets all the criteria described above and he is an all-around good guy at heart.

Amy is a legal business administrator for a university and she too works for my catering business. I have known Amy for years and she is a very intelligent and motivated person.

Between the two of them they no nothing about camera exposure, aperture or ISO. However, they do know everything that I need them to know, things like how to change out batteries and lenses and help me stay organized. As any photographer knows the life of a photographer is “always forgetting something,” sure it may not be something critically important like a camera body (OMG could you imagine?). It is those other little things that could turn into big things, like running back to the parking lot to get something from my vehicle or maybe finding a cup of coffee on a cold day.

Amy

Each person I work with has their strong points. If it is a wedding Amy is very good at scouting the location for good spots to shoot. While Tiny on the other hand is great with lighting setups and adjusting. Tiny can also fly a drone and have it ready when I want to do an overhead shot.

So, to sum it up into one easy statement; having an assistant is like having an extra right hand or two or three.  To have that extra pair of hands to carry a camera bag, to have someone to bounce ideas off of and basically be there when things are not going as planned.

In conversation with other photographers I have found some who wholeheartedly agree with me about paying an assistant “as good as you can pay them.” However, I have had a few people disagree on the amount an assistant should be paid. Some people are cheap and don’t understand the value a good assistant can bring to your gameday.

One photographer I know who has a studio and does mostly portraiture work, she hires mostly teenagers from the community. She pays them the same as if they worked at the local grocery store. She doesn’t want to pay them more because they lack experience. I feel this is a different situation, this is more of an employee than it is an assistant. And yes, teenagers are very lacking in experience and life skills. Not to rag on teenagers and I know there are good ones and bad ones, however most American teenagers lack life skills that it takes to interact with people of all ages on a personal level. Life skills come with time and experience of dealing with people. Even when I myself was 20 years old I did not have the life skills of dealing with people as I do today.

I really feel there is a distinct difference between an assistant and a general employee or at least in my interpretation of “assistant.” And as stated earlier finding the right person is no easy task. But for me it just kind of happened, I found Amy many years ago when I placed an add on Craigslist looking for general weekend catering help. I found several people that fit the bill for what I needed. Amy however did not fit the bill, she was extremely overqualified, holding a masters degree among others and being an administrator at a university just didn’t jive with doing weekend catering work. She told me she just wanted to stay busy and make some extra money. So, I gave her a chance and she is still with me to this day. As my photography business increased and I needed and assistant to shoot a wedding I asked her if she would like to do it and it was all good.

Tiny came to by way of a friend of my wife. My wife is a Thai lady and she has many Thai lady friends living here in the USA. A few of her friend have worked with us over the years and they were all amazingly motivated people. Tiny who is Thai, moved to the USA as a young boy when his mother married and American man. I met him when he was in his mid-20s, he was looking for extra work on weekends so we brought him on board so to speak. Now he is part of the main fabric of our catering business. One day I needed an assistant to help me with a rather large project shoot. I asked Tiny if he would like to make some money for the day helping to setup lights and tear them down. He jumped at the chance. Little did he know he had to carry all the gear to the third-floor studio with no elevator. And “yes” it was not easy and yes, I paid him good.

Like anything in life and we have all heard it over and over “you only get what you pay for,” however in the realm of good photography assistants you must first find them and that is the hardest part.

Tiny & Francis

The last job Tiny and I did together was covering an event. It was a private premiere showing for a yet unreleased reality TV show about a family who is in the Monster Truck business. They needed a photographer to cover the event and we had a lot of fun, plus I got to meet the producer and director and a lot of other interesting people. Yes, it was a fun time and we both made money.

Now as I draw to a close on this post, I must say I know a few wedding photographers who take a different route when it comes to finding assistants. Some will actually use other photographers. They will use the photographer as both a second shooter and as an assistant. I have actually done this, I have worked as a second shooter/assistant for weddings and really it is not a bad deal at all. I help you and you help me… just as long as we both don’t have jobs the same day. Yeah and just my luck I was on the losing end of that deal a few times and that is why I just use people who are not photographers.

Thanks so much for stopping by and reading.

 

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Can you find a flower on Instagram? (Coco Rocha’s name Zhan’s face lit up like a Christmas tree… You just had to be there to see it and feel the energy from it.)

Can you find a flower on Instagram?

I have had the social media app Instagram on my phone since 2009. I have blogged in the past how I was turned onto IG by a chat/photography friend I had in China. Her name was Grace. We met on Skype and we wanted a way to chat with our phones and I must add that in 2009 there was no Skype app for phones. China doesn’t allow Facebook, so IG was perfect for sharing a photo and sending comments. Over the years I have used IG to grow my photography business and at the same time build a network of friends and acquaintances. While many people open IG and just hit hearts and leave emoji’s in place of comments… and I have to admit I’m guilty of that too, or at least to a certain extent. I do however open IG and actually sit and taken in some of the content that really resonates with me.

 

For me IG is about photography, it is not about trying to find a date or sex or love or anything like that. I have to say that now because there many people on any of the various social media platforms who are there to scam money or who are looking any number elicit forms of entertainment. So yeah… for me it is about my passion of photography which also happens to be a business.

So back to my question “can you find a flower on IG?” And I have to say the answer is “yes.”

Sometimes I will sit and troll through hashtags just to see what is out there. Or I may just look at profiles of random people or lifestyles… Let’s just say for example “surfers,” I will look at profiles, look at the locations and most of all look at the photos they are posting. Are they phone shots, Go-pro shots, or are they professional shots. These are all just few of the things that I will look at. Having never surfed I know nothing of that lifestyle, but IG gives me some insight into “what surfers are about today.”And if I like a certain topic I may look at it more than just one time, I may spend a few days looking.

So in one of the IG rabbit holes I ran down about a year ago I came across a female model who I thought was interesting enough to follow. She is Asian and looked most likely Chinese and I don’t know what or why, but she just stood out to me. I would see her post content from shoots she would do with various photographers and she always gave off an authentic vibe, as if she was really into it.

I say “really into it” because sadly as a photographer I get hit on all the time from people who say they want to “collaborate” or “create” and it turns out they are just looking for IG content that is professionally shot and edited and of course they want this content for free.

Anyway moving on… So this model was located in Nova Scotia and I thought to myself “if I’m ever in Nova Scotia I will look her up and see if she would shoot with me.” However the chances that I, a photographer from West Jersey ending up in Nova Scotia would be very slim… But hey, never say never.

One day I see that this Asian girl (name to come later) posted a plane ticket to Newark New Jersey and I knew this most likely meant she was coming to NYC. So I jumped at the chance to ask her if she would like to shoot with me and create some nice photos. Hey, it never hurts to ask and I have been shot down more times than Zeros over the Pacific. To my surprise she gladly said “yes.” Although this was the answer I wanted to hear, now I had to put together a plan lol.

Turns out she was going to school in Nova Scotia and came to NYC on student exchange to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology, however she is from China and her name is Zhan (Chan).

After a few weeks of settling in and getting acclimated to NYC we planned a shoot. We conversed back & forth via IG messenger (not my favorite form of messaging). I did what I always do and chose a location and then researched the hell out of it to make sure it would be a good place to shoot. I chose the Javitz Convention Center in Midtown Manhattan. I was limited because of… well let’s just look at the logistics of the shoot.

She in in NYC going to Fashion Institute of Technology and having limited resources as most students do, she could not travel very far, so I had to go to her. I had visited the Javitz Center many times, mostly photography seminars. I had often thought “how nice it would be to have a model right here and shoot.” So I need to plan out how I would get there and how she would get there and then after all the planning I need to create the dreaded “plan B.” Not to mention wardrobe makeup and all that jazz. So “yes” while I need to make a plan I also know I should not get my hopes up too high because the failure rate of TFP (time for print) models showing not showing up for that first shoot with a new photographer is very high. For me it runs about 50%.

Amazingly enough it all came together, she brought two looks and I provided a third look with shoes & sunglasses for one of her looks. She did her own makeup and hair and we were good to go. I parked on the Jersey side and took the ferry across to NYC and I also brought an assistant to carry and watch over my gear bags. I sent a ride to pick up Zhan and her friend and it was as easy as that. We all met inside the nice cool Javitz Center and talked for all of about 5 minutes and out the door we went.

My biggest fear was that security would chase us away; because we were literally shooting by the taxi line and then Zhan was standing up on top of the cement walls… she would go anywhere I asked her too. I might add plan B was that if we were told to leave we would all just grab an Uber to somewhere like Union Square and just shoot in the park with all the people. However plan B was never needed and we shot inside an outside at the Javitz Center with no problems at all. Well almost no problems…

As I first started to shoot the sun was on a high angle with not a cloud in the sky. I had checked and calculated the sun angle days prior to the shoot so I knew exactly where it would be and I was hoping for a cloudy day. However there was not a cloud to be seen all morning. I fired my first shot at 11:51am and I was really fighting hard to keep her face out of the sun and get a good background at the same time. And then within a few minutes the clouds arrived. I saw her face turned from harsh to even light and I looked up that sky to see large clusters of clouds rolling in over the city. What a relief! So the sun was really the only problem we encountered and even that turned out to be minor.

We moved around a bit to change up lighting and background and we found ourselves down on the lower level but still outside. The only people down there were cigarette smokers looking at their phones and relaxing. We ran through the three different looks that we had planned and while shooting the last look Zhan started to “go flat” as I call it. She just didn’t have the posing anymore and I could see on her face she had enough. So I just said “we’re done, you’re looking flat and we’re not going to push it any further.” She understood and agreed and this really is something I would like to point out.

I learned a long time ago that when the model is “flat” your shoot is done. And in all fairness as per our planning we said in the beginning we would shoot three looks in two hours and I actually fired the very first test shot standing inside the Javitz Center at 11:45am and the very last shot at 1:39pm. Of course there was some time spent with wardrobe changes, me sending my assistant for cold water and Zhan and I talking and discussing shots. In the end it was all good and we had a bounty of beautiful images to edit.

Although Zhan and I had agreed a TFP shoot. I still provided the Lyft service for her to & from the shoot and gave her enough to buy Sushi for her and her assistant’s lunch.

Yes I did find this wonderful Asian flower of a model on Instagram and I look forward to shooting with again soon. She is the first model I armature model I have come across in a while knew who Coco Rocha is. I know that sounds crazy, but that is the reality of my experience in meeting armature models. Some will say they’re “doing it for fun” and that is fine. Others will say they are “serious,” but cannot name a single relevant or current well known model. When I mentioned Coco Rocha’s name Zhan’s face lit up like a Christmas tree… and that reaction was so intense. You just had to be there to see it and feel the energy from it. And it was at that moment I knew this girl really into what she is doing.

Will Zhan become a professional model? In talking with her she said “jewelry design” is her passion. However she liked armature modeling because it helps build confidence. And I agree 100% on that.

When I asked where or how did she learned to pose? She claimed “mostly from looking other models and just trying emulating what they are doing.”

So yes she was a joy to work with and a true pleasure to meet in person.

Thank you Zhan Zhan.

Technical: The shot total came in at 680 and that includes the test shots, out of focus and misfires. I shot using a Canon 6D with EF70-200mm f/2.8L and I also had a few shots with the EF24-70mm f/2.8L. I jumped between manual and aperture priority, but mostly staying in aperture priority. Most times I shot at f/3.2 & f/3.5. There were no shots at f/2.8 because I wanted to make sure the face was well focused, even on those angular shots. I kept the ISO set to auto but most times it would fire at ISO 100 and in a few special shots I set to ISO 50. I used no reflectors other than using the sidewalk to reflect light back of her.

After shooting the Sandisk card was locked and I dumped everything to a wireless hard drive as a backup before I even left the city. I love this method because as soon as I arrive at my PC I can start editing while I am uploading a second backup to the cloud and that about covers the camera/technical.

She’s Got It (So in the beginning it is all about building confidence and creating your persona.)

1/250 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 168mm
Model Jade Gleason

Some photos just resonate and stand out, however like beauty it is all subjective. I’m drawn into this photo for visual reasons as well as emotional reasons.

The visual; is the angle of the face, the eyes are closed; the arms frame the face and the textures of the sweater and the headband all come together to make a visually appealing image. Then there is her youthful & natural beauty with minimal makeup.

The emotional; is the fact that this was Jade’s second shoot with me in two weeks. Her first shoot with me she was “like a deer in the headlights,” very nervous, rigid and just trying to understand the direction I was giving her. She took it all in stride and came back for the next shoot a few weeks later. Now she was eager, prepared and had been practicing her posing. When I look at this shot I see her potential, I see her trying and I see her ‘wanting.” Wanting to grasp it, hold it and run with it.

Remember for a new model modeling is not always about making it to the top and becoming a high dollar fashion or runway model. Most important it is not always about how you look per say. Although when we think of models we think of beauty and often models define what the public thinks beauty should be. However we all know beauty is subjective and because we are bombarded with images of models everywhere we turn we tend to accept certain styles and looks as the norm. When in reality fashion & runway modeling is not about the models looks as much as it is about how the model can pose creating a visually appealing image that will show off wardrobe or design. I really do not think the fashion designer wants you to look at the model as much as they want you to be drawn to their artistic creation. The model is merely the vehicle to carry and represent the designer’s artistic work.

So in the beginning it is all about building confidence and creating your persona. You are creating that person or character who gets in front of the camera and performs. When you step in front of the camera you need to pose, but you also need to convey emotion and energy. It is not always “high energy” but rather a feeling, a mood and a look all rolled into one. I sit here writing about it and I myself cannot do it. However I am a photographer and I know it when I see it. Amazingly enough I seen this moment of Jade as I captured it and what I mean by that is; She was facing me straight on and I was shooting, she for a moment turned to her right for just a second and I caught a change of light on her face. Then she turned back facing me straight on, but I called out to her “wait, turn back just like you were and hold it.” She did. There was this even and soft light on her face and with her eyes closed it gave a peaceful & blissful look. I could see it in the viewfinder and I didn’t dwell on it, but I knew it was special. Not too often do I see it as I’m capturing it. Most times I’m paying too much attention to other things like “is there hairs across her face,” or looking for some other “aesthetic distractions” as I call them. But this time I seen it in real-time and it was such a beautiful moment for me.

If you know me and have read previous blog post you know I really loth photography clichés and the “capturing a moment in time” is one that just kills me to the core. Yes I did capture the magic moment in time with Jade, but it is not the moment in time that makes it all that magical. It is the fact that she improved so much in two weeks, it is the fact she is getting comfortable in front of the lens and most of all she has a drive to learn what it is all about. I am no famous photographer, however I am a very good photographer and I have for the past several years worked with many models just starting out. I have been the “first” photographer for several amateur models. Some get it and some do not get it. Some are under the misconception that they stand there and the camera clicks and “bam” there are awesome images are created. And when this doesn’t happen they don’t understand why not. I explain to all new models that it is about posing, that it is about emotion ect. I explain to them that I understand they are new, but “I am here to work with you and help you.” I explain “I am a photographer, I know how this camera works inside & out, I know Photoshop and I can edit the images to look good, but I first have to start with a good image and that means having a model that can bring a good pose and some emotion.” And with emotion it could also be the lack of emotion that makes the image great. I will offer advice about what makes for good posing like triangles, negative space, lines, and curves and so on. None of this information is a secret, however many will choose to ignore it because now it starts to make modeling sound like work. And it is work, and like anything in this world it takes practice and knowledge of the craft to get better and advance. Even someone who has a natural talent needs to nurture the talent to bring it to the surface. This all leads us to the age-old conclusion that “nothing in life comes easy.”

So who gets it? Who gets it is the model that walks away from the first shoot and listens to my advice, but doesn’t just stop there. They dig deeper and deeper, searching on their own. They are the one who learns to pose for the camera and not for the photographer, the one who realizes right up front that this is going to be work and starts working at it. They are the one who realizes they need to give up some free time to get something in return. That’s who gets it.

Jade https://www.instagram.com/p/BgAahCUg_UP/?taken-by=writingawayy_

 

1920s Flapper Girl (Soon the project turned into an onion of sorts with many layers.)

Nicole Gallagher 1/160 sec at f/3.2 ISO 320 160mm. Hat by Patricia Josephine Antique Style, Dress & gloves from Unique Vintage Makeup by Ambre Baxter

My latest photography project has many layers to it. It started out as a straightforward project themed around the stereotypical 1920s Flapper Girl. Soon the project turned into an onion of sorts with many layers. I really don’t know where or how the idea it started; but I think it was when I was looking at some old silent film footage and seeing women dressed in the cloche hats and stockings rolled at the top.

In the past I had read much about the women of the roaring twenties. Although it was way before my time, the one thing I always remembered about it was that it was a “time of big change” for our country and women were part of that change. The 19th amendment to the constitution ratified on August 18, 1920 gave women a right to vote. This certainly was a time of change and the “Flapper” came to life. Flappers were already on the rise and there is also much debate as to where the term flapper was born and to what it actually meant. Wikipedia describes Flappers as such; Flappers were a generation of young Western women in the 1920s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. Flappers were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles, and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms.[1] Flappers had their origins in the liberal period of the Roaring Twenties, the social, political turbulence and increased transatlantic cultural exchange that followed the end of World War I, as well as the export of American jazz culture to Europe.”

So as I do with all my projects I started off with hours of research and reading, and to some this may seem boring however for me it serves a purpose. It gives me time to relax and read (I love research reading) and while reading it gives me ideas and also helps me solidify my thoughts of a specific look. It also helps me find what looks I don’t want to do. For example I did not want to go with a Gatsby style look. At first I did want the Gatsby look and then as I researched I realized the look would be rather generic at this point do to the movie being out a few years back and… well I just wanted a different look and feel. I think the biggest obstacle was wardrobe. While there is so many websites that offer so called 1920s style dresses, they are not at all 1920s style. Any moron can Google 1920 era images of women and easily see that the wardrobe offered today that is listed as Flapper style is hardly that. Hats were the hardest to find. Finding a hat that actually looked like a true 1920s style is practically impossible if you want “just an everyday” hat. Fancy hats were easier to find. Subsequently I had to compromise; I used three hats and one turban. The turban looked authentic and while two of the hats looked amazing they still were not authentic to the time period. Shoes were easy to find, that was not a problem.

I chose to go with a “day dress” look rather than the evening or party attire of that period. In the beginning I was going to shoot two looks with one model. I then thought; why not add another model and shoot one look on each. As for dresses I found Unique Vintage, a website that had dresses that fit the budget and they really looked pretty close to 20s era dresses. Although the fabric would be different it would not a big deal at all.

As for models; Kallie was my first choice because she is new and I wanted to give her camera time. But when I thought of Smithville Mansion as the location and I also thought of Nicole Gallagher. She is the one who first introduced me to the location and she is perfect for the shoot. Her posing is awesome and she has a rounder face (as opposed to angular) that was classic to the Flapper look. Flapper makeup techniques purposely made their face appear rounder as opposed to most current makeup techniques that give an angular look. So I used both Nicole Gallagher and Kallie Pyatt. This worked perfect because of the hot weather I was able to shoot each model separately without the heat & humidity killing the look. It damn near killed me, but the models did fine.

Kallie Pyatt 1/125 sec at f/6.3 ISO 640 155mm Makeup by Ambre Baxter, dress by Unique Vintage, hat by Patricia Josephine Antique Vintage

For a makeup artist I reconnected with Ambre Baxter and she was amazing. Doing makeup on location in the heat is truly a challenge. However both models looked amazing and again not 100% true to the period, but good enough.

Project goals: This project had several layers to it as I had stated at the opening of this post. First was to create a Flapper Girl look, using day dresses. I wanted the looks to be as if she was a 1920s girl out and about in the daytime. Kallie’s look was a little more reserved than Nicole’s look and neither girl looked as if they were heading to the party or jazz club.

Second goal was to shoot a good portion of this shoot on 35mm film. As of this writing I still have not received my 35mm scans, but I’m hoping for the best. I used CineStill 50 Daylight in two cameras, a Canon EOS 650 film body with an f/1.4 50mm prime and a Pentax Spotmatic with a f/1.4 50mm prime. I also used Ilford Delta 100 (B&W) with a Canon EOS 650 mounted with an f/1.8 85mm prime. I have had the film just waiting for a project and this was the project.

Third goal was that I always wanted to shoot Nicole at Smithville Park because our very first test shoot was supposed to be at that park. However the day we went to shoot there was a huge event taking place and we couldn’t even get close to the park, let alone into the park. We opted for a second location and went on with the shoot. However Smithville Park is a place that is very near & dear to Nicole for personal reasons and I always said to myself “someday we’ll shoot there.” And now we did.

Fourth goal was to give Kallie more camera time. She is new and she is advancing I see her getting better with each shoot. She fun and easy to work with so why not.

Fifth goal was I needed a new cover photo for my business Facebook page and as crazy as it sounds I take cover photos very seriously. Your cover photo and profile photo are your first impressions when a newcomer first visits your page. “First impressions are lasting ones” as they say (whoever they are lol).

Sixth goal was to get at least one portfolio quality image out of this shoot and I can safely say this was accomplished.

In closing I would like to say the shoot could have been better… it can always be better, but I’m very happy with what I did get from it.

I will write another post when I receive my scans and I discuss shooting with film and the techniques I used.

Thank you for stopping by and reading. Have a great day.

 

 

 

Energy Failure (…bounding through the door hyped on two lattes, one espresso and a bottle of 5 hour energy)

Chevy Corvair

“It is all about energy and without energy life is flat.” That statement holds more meaning than one could begin to interpret or write about in a single blog post. Sure you don’t get enough rest and you wake up lacking energy and your day runs kind of flat. But it gets much deeper that; Why I’m gonna bet that if you thought about the most memorable concert or music performance you ever attended, it was packed full of energy. That was one of the key components that made the performance so memorable. Sure you may have like the band or the performer/singer, however if the singer came out on stage and just sat on a couch and performed… well I think you see my point.

On a photography level and speaking in the realm of photo shoots energy is paramount to capturing great images. Even if the mood of the shoot is meant to be somber and there is no smiling, there still needs to be energy. And this is the very reason I have chosen this topic to write about today. Because I feel that energy is the key component (or lack of) that is missing in many photo shoots. The truth be told, lack of energy is missing in a lot of areas of our lives and I’ll talk about that later. But for now let’s break it down by each individual who is part of the photo shoot.

So does the photographer really need to have a lot of energy? Isn’t he/she the one who should be capturing the energy? Ok, so the answer is “yes and yes.” Sure the photographer’s job is to capture the moment (oh god here comes the clichés) but at the same time the photographer is the leader and the catalyst between this world and the eternity of the world where the frozen moment of the image will live. As much as capturing images and the technique of lighting the scene the photographer needs to draw the energy from the talent/model and this is not always easy if the talent is not at a professional level.

Scenario; your hired to for a private shoot, the subject is not a professional by any means. It is a girl, she somewhat shy, she has never had a professional birthday photo shoot before. She looks like a deer in the headlights… what do you do to get energy injected into this shoot? I’m not going to go into a long detailed synopsis, which would be for another post. But rather I just want you to see in your mind how those images are going to look. “Flat & boring” are just two words that come to mind.

Makeup artist… really? They need to have energy too? Sure it is the whole positive vibe thing, you know how infectious a smile can be and having energy to go with that smile will really help any job, photo shoots included. Now I’m not saying the makeup artist needs to come bounding through the door hyped on two lattes, one espresso and a bottle of 5 hour energy drink, that might be a little (or a lot) too much. And I am using the makeup artist as an example for anyone who is working the shoot. So the same goes for lighting assistants, hair stylists, wardrobe, and art directors and so on. I know it sounds hokie , but it is so true, everyone needs to project a positive vibe.

While all this sounds so obvious it still really is in my opinion why many photo shoots fall short of capturing great images. You could have the best of the best camera equipment, lighting, location ect… but if the energy is not there you’re on a sinking ship. And just the opposite; you do not need $10,000 of equipment if you have good energy.

The model; Ok so if he/she is a professional most likely they are bringing their own energy to the shoot. After all I said they are a professional and that is most likely one of the key things that has raised them up to a professional level… they have drive and they have energy. However what if your model is new to this, they are nervous, they lack experience and they just don’t project that energy. Again I’m not going to go into how to solve this problem; this post is more about identifying and understanding how lack of energy is a huge problem. Many new photographers fall short of identifying this missing component in the beginning. New photographers are focused more on camera gear, lighting and just hoping the talent and makeup artist show up on time.

The biggest way I have found to keep the energy level up and flowing is by “planning” and more planning. Having a plan gives you comfort and this will add or keep energy flowing. Many times I will deviate from my main plan, but not by much. Some things are obvious such as everyone knows the time, date and location of the shoot. However it is the little things that can mean big problems. Now I could go on a long tangent of “what ifs” but for an example; the shoot is an outdoor location and we had to walk to it from the parking lot. Only a fifteen minute walk, but what if a rain shower comes? It only rains hard for ten minutes and passes. Where does everyone take cover? If everyone and everything is wet… well I’m betting energy level will be in the negative lol. And again that is just one “what if” that could have been easily avoided with proper planning. There are many things that can tax the energy from the shoot.

How about your energy? Your personal energy level is important. Did you get enough sleep? Seriously for me this is a big one, because I seem to most times stay up later that I should working or just watching Netflix. But when I think about how important the job is and how good I feel when I sleep early and wake early. Waking early after a good sleep for me is such a good feeling, not to mention the fact of how relaxed life is when you’re not in a rush. I have time to sit a drink that morning cup of coffee, maybe walk a little extra with the dogs, rather than racing around with the dogs and drinking the coffee on the go in the car. I never eat a large meal before a big shoot, but I do eat something. A large meal will slow me down and having no meal is even worse. I tend to snack and I try not to drink too much so I don’t have to keep taking bathroom breaks. After the shoot a nice sit down meal is so nice and enjoyable.

Look around and give it some thought, energy truly is the key thing to all performances. And a photo shoot is just that, it is a “performance.” You’ll know you’re doing it right if at the end you are tired, depleted and spent. And that holds true for pretty much anything, whether it be an athlete running a race, a stage performer or someone looking after children all day. To do any job right you need to expend energy, to create something you need to expend energy, both physical and mental. And when you expend energy you project energy and a vibe. Projecting good energy is like projecting a smile, it is infectious and contagious. Or it scares people, positive vibes and good energy make some people uncomfortable and they just can’t handle it, and that is ok. Either they come on board or they leave or avoid it. If your smile can not make another person smile it is ok, maybe they’re having a bad day or they are a miserable person. I have no problem with them personally; however they cannot be part of my photo shoot.

Your energy comes from more than one place or maybe I should say there is more than one kind of energy. You have your personal energy, you slept well, you have a plan for what you’re doing, and you have confidence. Confidence is like a smile, if you are confident about what you’re doing and you’re the leader the vide goes out to everyone. Then there is your reputation and as they say “you’re only as good as your last performance” although I tend to not believe that whole heartedly because we all have a bad day or a bad performance at some time or another. However I think more over it is the fact that others had a good experience working with you and therefore more people want to be part of whatever your next project is. I call it the “Tom Sawyer” effect. Although I am not being punished to do something as Tom Sawyer was being punished to paint Aunt Polly’s fence. I do find that if you project a good vibe, have lots of confidence and you generally seemed happy about what you’re doing, people will join in… Of course money always helps lol. Money is a motivator but it is not an energy maker. Money will get people to show up to work as millions go to their daily jobs every day. But do they go to work with energy? Hell no! People of all skill levels from doctors to janitors (no disrespect to either) go to work each and every day just waiting for the day to be over as soon as it started. While I’m not a big fan of this thing called “work” I am a big fan of feeling good about what I do. Sure I have days when I just feel down and not so… full of energy. But if I have a big job (photo shoot or otherwise) I know the key to completing the job with a successful outcome is energy.

Many times when I see a local band playing I will see a huge lack of energy. They’re playing a good song, they’re all in key and they sound good, but they don’t sound great… something is missing. They lack energy. They lack that pure raw power or energy that a great performer can put out. And again it is not all physical it is also mental in most cases it is a synergistic effect that comes from both. Think of any good entertainer that ever took to the stage whether it be Billy Joel sitting at a piano or Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler and of course the list could go on and on, but you get the point. I am a huge AC-DC fan and I am also a guitar player and I can play a few AC-DC songs pretty damn good. But could I ever project the energy that Angus Young projects while he is performing? Just watching him makes me tired and again I am just using him as one small example. But when I walk into a club or a bar and I see somebody covering an AC-DC song… sure the song sounds good, the singing, the guitar, but most times the energy is not even comparable. This just confirms the difference between one who has learned how to play the guitar and one who has learned how to play the guitar and use it to master the art of performing while playing a guitar.

Ok, so let’s apply this concept to photography. There are millions of camera geeks out there that know all the tech specs of their cameras and their neighbor’s cameras. They can even tell you all the specs of the cameras that haven’t even been released yet. They spend hours, days and months reading the camera gaga on the internet. So while they have this vast data base of knowledge filling up their brain, subscribing to every tutorial site and taking in every camera expo, they still cannot create and to them energy is something that comes from a rechargeable battery. They’ll never “get it” and some don’t really “want it.” “It” being the ability to use a camera to find energy and capture it or to pull energy from the model or subject and capture it. I’m not here to say it is easy nor am I saying I have mastered it. What I am saying is “without it, you’re just another Saturday night bar band chugging away at playing a tune someone else created.”

So I will say it again “it is not about high dollar gear or fancy cameras” but rather the ability to create energy and capture energy. Learn how to use your tools, your camera and your lights, learn how to pose and after all of these things are in place create some energy and capture it.

Thank you for reading and have a great day.

 

Summer Fun (Most important thing was keeping air in the bicycle tire and playing in the creek.)

Summer Fun Model Kallie, Styling by Lenzwizard
1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 100 80mm

Nothing says summer in the country like “playing in the creek.” As a small boy I can remember so many good times (and some bad ones) of playing in the creek in the summer time. I can also remember playing in the creek in the winter time, but that is a story for another day.

Ah summer time, no school, no shoes, no shirt, not a care in the world. Most important thing was keeping air in the bicycle tire and playing in the creek. It might be swimming in the creek that would most likely be the case if it was scalding hot and dripping humidity. But just playing in the creek was where all the real fun was at. Walking along the edge or in the water, it really didn’t matter. Muddy legs and little cuts and scrapes that you never realized were there until later that night.

Skipping flat stones, lifting rocks just to see what was under them, trying to catch a fish with your hands… or just walking the creek to see where it goes. Slipping and falling and getting back up as if nothing ever happened. When I think back about it, and I mean really think back, past all the nostalgic surface memories and dig down deep… still I remember it as fun, just good ole fun.

So cut to 42 years later I’m still playing in the same exact creek. I’m at a spot working a project shoot with a model. While she is walking in the water to position herself, my mind is drifting back to how many times as a small boy I waded that same water with my childhood friend. Talk about surreal and “Déjà Vu” to the tenth power… I never dreamed as a boy I would be back there as a photographer. But still the best thing about all today was… summer fun. The weather was absolutely amazing, not too hot, not too many bugs, no snakes… No snake is always a good thing lol. After the shoot I felt just like that little boy who rode his bike there 42 years ago… I didn’t want to go home; I just wanted the day to last forever. But we had the shots we needed and we reviewed them, we were done. I’m sure Kallie will remember this day too. She looked amazing. Here is one of the looks from the shoot.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

 

Color Grading (…while others are looking at you like your asking if you can sell their child on the black-market.)

Model Nicole Gallagher 1/160 sec at f/2.8 ISO 50 88mm Color Graded

Color grading has been around for a very long time, used both in photography and cinematography. The names have changed as time and technology advance. What some refer to now as “color grading” was on once called “color timing” during the film era and was accomplished in a laboratory or darkroom by adjusting the exposure process during the developing stage of the film. Mostly used for color correction and not so much as an artistic tool. In the cinematography world it was primarily for color correction although the process was a lot more complex, requiring vast knowledge in dealing with correcting color for television tube screens. So todays “color correcting” has become a lot easier and nearly all is performed digitally making life a lot easier. I do color correcting using the X-Rite Color Checker and correct everything from camera to the monitor I use for editing. So what I now refer to as “color grading” is more of an artistic tool rather than a correcting tool.

So why color grade? Because it can lend an artistic value to your images or video work. Both photographers and videographers like to use color grading as a way to give an image or a video scene a certain vibe, feel or mood. Color grading is important because it could be what sets you apart from the crowd when it comes to editing. It is very common in movies to create a “look” for the overall movie that in-turn creates a “feel” or “mood” for the whole feature and individual scenes will vary from the main look based on the lighting, color, time of day ect… Examples are movies like Manchester by the Sea that has a rather soft and somber vibe due to the nature of the plot dealing with a lost loved one. As opposed to Hacksaw Ridge that has a very “high contrast” look do to the fact that most of the scenes take place on a battle field during intense fire fights.

So let’s step back a few years to when I was a beginning photographer and like most I was obsessed with “trying to make my images look professional” and could not figure out why I was failing. First let’s describe “professional” because a nice fashion shot certainly has a different look than say a nice sport shot. For me it was fashion photography. I would look at a magazine (remember them?) ad or editorial and fall in love with the image’s vibe. Not so much the content of the image, but more so with the way the image looked… the feel. Sure the image may contain a nice looking person in wondrous wardrobe (or lack of wardrobe) or it could be an advertisement with just a wrist watch. Either way I would sit and wonder what they did to make the image look the way it did. So when Photoshop found its way into my photography I already had several things in my mind I wanted to learn how to do. Sure basic editing comes first, along with just figuring out how to navigate through the universe that is Adobe Photoshop. But soon I was trying my hand at color grading although I had no clue what I was doing. Then I started asking other photographers their techniques and ideas on color grading. …of course as always the case with photography some photographers are more than willing to share while others are looking at you like your asking if you can sell their child on the black-market. Then of course there is the “oh just go to my website and download my tutorial” for a mere $99. So I basically continued on my own and bought a $10 automated (prerecorded) Photoshop Action or two along the way. I would analyze the layers of the action and it soon became apparent that I was doing it that way all along. But I had other ways to color grade that were sometimes so much easier than creating layer after layer in Photoshop. Adobe Lightroom has some really nice tools for creating awesome color grades and saving them as presets. This of course leads to photographers and websites selling Lightroom and Camera RAW presets, and this is fine, but I would suggest finding free downloads over paying for them.

So for my workflow I always start in Lightroom and if needed I head over to Photoshop and I finish back in Lightroom. I would say for me; 80% of the images I color grade I do in Lightroom, the rest are done in Photoshop. Also with the power of having Adobe Camera RAW as a filter in Photoshop I could technically do everything in Photoshop; however I like to save my master file without a color grade and make a separate file with the color grade.

So day we still see color grading as a strong artistic tool in both photography and cinematography. It was always said that “Instagram is for photographers” and nothing could be truer with all the filter choices IG has to offer. After all the IG filters are nothing more than preset color grades. And now that drone video is getting easier for the average person and vlogging is all the rage we start to see the color grading moving in to the mainstream. Not only do the top vloggers create trends with how they hold their camera or their scene transitions they also create trends of everybody wanting to color grade their video content to look like they’re favorite vlogger. With all this said color grading isn’t always as easy as an Instagram filter. There truly is an art to it, and in video what looks good in one scene looks horrible in another. Photos can be a lot easier to color grade, however I find that when editing a series of photos it can at times be challenging when the series contains images from different looks of light. Look for a vlog post in a few days where I will walk through a few of my techniques on color grading.

 

Thanks for reading.