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#6. Ya Gotta Serve Somebody.

June 16, 2010 | By | One Comment

Offer to help those around you with your photography. Venues need good photography of their rooms, their gorgeous landscaping, their events in progress, their food. Friends need headshots. Friends need family shots. Spread the love (i.e., do these things for free) and the love comes back.

#5. Get Closer. Get Further Away.

June 16, 2010 | By | No Comments

Seems everybody’s got a camera at weddings nowadays.

One way to make your pictures look different than everybody else’s is to get up real close, and to pull way back.

Use a long lens (200mm) to get in real close.

Get close with a long lens, or by walking right into the action (not advised during the ceremony!) You’ll have captured the feelings of the moment, and your brides will be forever grateful when she looks at your photos.

Get far away - see the moment differently than everyone else.

Use a wide angle lens (like 17mm) to get far away.

Step Outside of the Action. Capture the Big Picture. Get far away to take in the big picture, the cityscape, the landscape, the drive into town, the outside of the reception hall, the whole room.

#4. Invest In Yourself. Take Workshops.

June 16, 2010 | By | No Comments

Invest in Yourself. Take Workshops. All clichés aside, you’re worth it! If the workshop is good, and you put that learning into practice, then you’ll quickly earn back its cost with your next several shoots. If you don’t have $1,000 or $500 to go sit at the feet of someone you consider a master, then you’re not trying hard enough, and you’re not serious about becoming a better photographer. Sell your couch. Sell your TV. Have a yard sale.

If you don’t take workshops because you think you have nothing to learn then you have bigger problems 😉 and you may want to consult a member of the psychology profession 😉 Please note, that last comment is not directed at Joe McNally or his peers 😉

Following are some of the workshops I’ve taken that have moved my photography forward:

  1. Doug Merriam, Studio Lighting, The Santa Fe Workshops
  2. Joe McNally, Location Lighting with Small Flash, The Santa Fe Workshops
  3. Matthew Jordan Smith, Glamour Portraits, The Santa Fe Workshop
  4. Denis Reggie, 3 Day Wedding Conclave, Atlanta, GA
  5. Nate Kaiser, Shoot Shop, Oceanside, CA

#3. Hire An Assistant. Keep the Vision Flowing.

June 16, 2010 | By | No Comments

Always work with an Assistant.

Once you’ve learned to notice reflected light and distracting objects etc., and once you start using off-camera lights and reflectors and you understand how to use a Key and a Fill and a Kicker light, it’s better to hire someone who will execute your thoughts while you’re shooting, rather than interrupt yourself.

Hire help and keep the vision flowing.

#2. Seek Out your Betters, Listen, Learn.

June 16, 2010 | By | No Comments

I’m embarrassed to remember how many of my mentors I’ve disrespected by being a know-it-all around them. Photographers by nature are independent risk-takers. But displaying your own vast knowledge instead of listening to someone with something to teach you, who is willing to teach you, is to squander a gift. [Sorry Derek! Sorry Brian!] Find someone whose work blows you away – a mentor – then shut up, listen, watch and learn.

#1. Shoot Ordinary People.

June 15, 2010 | By | No Comments

When starting out in portrait photography, I shot the best looking people I could find, models and aspiring models and other members of that human minority who enjoy being in front of a lens.

It took me a while to realize that my beautiful models were carrying my bad photography.

Models not only look great just standing there, they usually know how to pose themselves and bend this and that without direction.

If you’re like most photographers who shoot weddings and portraits and high school seniors etc., the vast majority of your income will come from photographing normal people. Regular people have no idea how to pose themselves, and about 95% of people are just not comfortable in front of a lens. As a working photographer, it will be your job to get regular people comfortable in front of your lens. It will be your job to bend and pose them in the most flattering ways.

I can hear the purists now saying “well I don’t pose anybody – I’m a pure photo journalist, and I only capture what’s actually happening.” Here’s a bonus inside secret about earning a living as a photographer. People buy the photos in which they look the best. With zero exceptions, the brides who have hired me who tell me that they only care about photojournalism (pj) buy and ooh and ahh and share and make their avatar POSED DRAMATICALLY LIT PORTRAITS.I love pj and I do a great job of it. But, if you want to make your living selling your photography, you must learn how to bend and pose people to look their best.

Better to shoot average, awkward people as you strive to improve your lighting, composition, story-telling, scouting, banter, post-processing. Then when you get a photo that you and everyone else loves, the love you’re feeling is about your photo, and not your model.