Value Statement

Working with you and for you to make your memories last forever.

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Sunday, 30 June 2013

No Cameras Allowed

Over the last couple of months, I've offered hints, advice, and solutions. Now it's time for a little bit of a rant.

You know what really ticks me off in the photography world? Camera discrimination.

You probably know exactly what I'm talking about. You arrive at a venue -- be it a concert, a festival, or even a clothing store -- and a sign on the door states in big, bold letters that no cameras are allowed.

That I can deal with (mostly), but what really gets my goat is that while SLR after SLR is turned away, the camera phone is allowed through without question.

Take, for example, a concert. Most, if not all, refuse you the ability to bring a camera, whether that be point and shoot or SLR. If they were so serious about eliminating  cameras in the venue, shouldn't they be concerned about the rising megapixel count built into the newest cellular technology? Restrict them all, if you're going to turn my Canon away at the door. It's not like people can talk on their phone during a concert anyway. It is out for the sole purpose of taking shots, tweeting, and facebooking, so restrict them or let us bring other types of cameras in.

The current quality of cell phone cameras is excellent. There are stock photography sites solely aimed at collecting and distributing high-quality phone pictures, and if that doesn't speak volumes about this issue then I don't know what does. The current iPhone boasts 28 megapixels, video in 1080p, and the ability to shoot 240 degree panoramas  -- all in a single hand-held device with no special equipment. The sensor is small, but the reality is this camera outperforms many point and shoots on the market today. Check out this pic from their site.

I'm guessing you've realized that this rant is coming out for a reason, and you would be right.

I attended a benefit concert last week and left my camera at home. (Not a smart move, by the way: a photographer should always have his/her camera with them). While I was there, I saw a person capturing some of the action with a point and shoot, so I decided to quickly fetch my camera and follow suit.

Before I left, however, I was informed that photography was not allowed. The person with the camera was a staff member. Oh well, I thought, and I sat back down.

Except then I started to look around, and noticed that everyone had their cellphones out, including a good friend of mine who took this shot.

                                                                                     Photo used by permission of KG
She also shot video without issue, and she wasn't the only one. There were people who came right up to the stage to get pictures. Again it begs the question: what's wrong with allowing cameras into venues?

I don't really have a solution to this problem. But I guess the answer (other than sneaking in your equipment, which on the advice of my lawyer I DO NOT advise) is to remember that as a photographer, you have many tools at your disposal.

And like it or not, one of those should probably be a camera phone.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Giving control to the clients: the editing process

You've been approached by a client. You've met with and hashed out the details of a shoot. You've shot amazing photos of the subject and now it's time to do some editing and wrestle with the age old question: what to keep, and what to discard?

In this new age of digital photography, there are some who firmly believe in setting the camera on auto  and firing away, relying on the law of averages to get some good shots.

But you call yourself a photographer, and when you're charging a client for your skills there'd better be more to it then that.

The last shoot I did was a family of three: mom, dad, and baby girl. In all honesty, there is no real way to screw that up. They were an extremely photogenic family, and they chose their nicely manicured backyard as the shoot location. I shot for about an hour, and ended with just under a hundred shots.

Then the real work starts: I returned home to do my editing.

First of all, I deleted any photos that were grossly out of focus, which brought me down about eighty shots. Not bad. After going through the remaining photos, I found myself with about thirty-five photos that I believe delivered the wow factor I'm looking for. Burn to disk. Deliver to client. Done!

Or so I thought.

During the shoot and just after, I showed a few of the shots to the clients on the camera LCD, just to give them a small taste and make sure I was still capturing in the style that they wanted. This is something I always do in shoots; clients are usually a bit apprehensive, and nobody is going to be as picky about their appearance as they are, so giving them a little taste is not a bad thing.

But with this particular shoot, my clients took that little taste a bit further. They remembered some of the shots I had shown them, which I was not happy enough with to include on the disk, and asked after them.

So we went through the rest of the photos together, I was stunned when they specifically requested copies of another twenty shots or so. Especially when dealing with a nine-month-old baby, there's always an element of surprise with candid shooting, and you can end up with some (shall we say) "unusual" facial expressions. These were shots that I took out, but when we went over the photos a second time, the parents thought that these expressions were natural and adorable. Even if they were kind of funny, they were shots the parents wanted to keep.

I've already talked about how it's important to keep your client in the loop when choosing the circumstances of a photo shoot, and this just goes to show how important it is to have the client's feedback. In the future, I'll try to include the client in the editing process as well. It's still important to go through and cut out any blurry or out-of-focus shots first, but when it comes to subject matter, who is the photographer to judge? Again, it's important to remember the client knows what they like; you only think you do.

Remember, as always, the client needs to be in charge -- especially with candid photography. This can be a hard place to work from, but clients are starting to look for an "interactive" experience with a photographer, instead of the traditional studio shoot. All too often you'll be the only one interacting with your photographs, and you won't always have the opportunity to ask your subject what they think of the final piece. When you can ask a second opinion, do so. Involving the client will end in a more relaxed atmosphere, better photographs and a completely customized experience for your client.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

And the winner is...

Thanks to everyone who took the time to swing by my Facebook page and like me there.

The winner was Roxanne, and she now gets to pick an original digital print for her own use. Way to go, Roxanne!

Anyway, I'll keep this short and sweet. I will talk to you all on Friday about including the client in choosing photos they want. Stay tuned!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Giving control to the client: candid photography

As a photographer there are many clients that we meet with on a regular basis. You might be a studio photographer and have people come to you. Maybe you're a magazine or newspaper photographer who freelances for a variety of publications. Or maybe, like me, you do a little bit of everything and wear a variety of hats. This week I did some portrait work, and I discovered that I'm photographer who prefers candid photos to formal poses.

Candid portraiture is a bit of an emerging area of photography, and the type of portrait photography I like looking at and shooting best. There are some very special shots out there to take if you watch for them and are ready to shoot, and I find that catching candid moments can be far more effective than putting people in poses and expecting them to smile.

The problem with candid portraiture, however, is relaying that style to a prospective client. When people hear the phrase "portrait photographer," their first thought is a studio environment -- and it takes some time for them to wrap their head around this candid philosophy.

I met with clients the other day who fell into this type of category. This wasn't their first time hiring a professional photographer, and they actually have a portrait sitting two or three times a year. They've had the studio experience, had portraits taken on a cruise ship, and a variety of portrait experiences. Our session together was definitely not their first time at the rodeo.

But before this, they had always been told where to be, how to stand, when to smile, what to do with their hands -- and so on. Do they have some amazing shots to show? Absolutely. That style of photography produces very nice, traditional shots that will stand up to the test of time.

But that's not my style of portrait. I'm a candid photographer, and I don't want to control anything.

So when they asked me where I preferred to do the photo shoot, I gave them an answer they probably weren't expecting.

"I've only known you folks for about five minutes," I said. "What gives me the right to tell you what you will like in an environment? What are your ideas?"

What a difference that made in the rest of our time together.

After they warmed up to the fact that they were in charge and I was there to capture their moments without interfering, the ideas came flooding out. Given the chance to explore and make their own decisions, they came up with about a thousand concepts and ideas in terms of locations, clothing choices, and subjects -- meaning their dogs were included in the photos.

This is great creatively speaking, because they'll end up with exactly what they want. But on the other side of things, this is also a great place to be in as a business: we likely won't be able to tackle all these ideas in one session, and assuming they're pleased with how the photos turn out the first time, they'll automatically turn into repeat customers. They'll not only be pleased with how the photos turned out, but proud of the role they played in the shoot -- meaning the photos will hopefully be passed around more so than they would normally and the name of my business will spread by word of mouth.

Keep this in mind. Find your niche market, study it, create it if you need to, and ultimately stay true to it. As I've said before, there are certain aspects of your business that define you as a professional. Stay true to those areas, so when a client hears about you and your work they will get the same experience and energy you provided for the person they heard about you from.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Just over a week left until contest closes!

Time is running out!

We're coming down to the final week before the contest for one of my original digital prints is over.

It's super simple. Like me on Facebook (by heading on over here) and on Wednesday, June 19 we will draw a name from my current fans. The winner chooses one photo from the four below.

The photo will have the watermark removed and you can use it for any personal use you would like. You can print it, use on your site, or anything else (except sell).

Easiest thing ever. Like my Facebook page and you could win!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Graphic Designer: Yes or No?

What is a graphic designer, and should you use one?

This is a question for the business side of things, rather than the nuts-and-bolts of photography, and it comes out of the leap from hobby photographer into the world of selling your work. This could mean trying to edge into the stock photo market, or it could mean hanging prints on coffee shop walls with a card and a price. Either way, and especially if you post your work online, you're going to need a logo. You can use it to brand yourself and your business, but I also use mine as a watermark over any photos I post online to make sure the photo gets accredited to me if anyone tries to use it.

I originally didn't plan to use the services of a graphic designer to design my logo, but the opportunity sort of fell into my lap – and I'm glad that it did.

My original logo was constructed by a very good friend of mine after I shot a music video for her daughter. I quite liked the logo, so I didn't see the need to hire a graphic designer to do one up for me.

The layout of this logo was awesome and I love the emphisis on the CTF which was very important when the logo was reworked. The 35 mm film reel was also a brilliant touch.

However, after I did a shoot at the Chilliwack Flight Fest I was approached by one of the organizers about my logo. The organizer asked if I would mind if he sent my logo to a friend of his for a bit of rework before he posted the credit for my work. 

It turned out that his friend was one of the guys over at Big Cat Productions, and over the next week or two my logo was worked and reworked. Now you see the final results all over my media pages. I use it as a watermark, as headers and footers, on business cards. Anything and everything that has my name has my logo from Big Cat Productions. (You can take a look at some of their other work here.)

As you can see both are simalar in design concept which is what I liked, but there is a flow to the professional one that just works for who I am. The 35 mm film reel still exists and the CTF is also still emphisised but in a different aspect. I also loved the plain black on gray and if you follow other sites I am on you will see this trend throughout when I can control the look.

Even though I was pretty fond of the old one, at the end of the day I'm glad that I was able to use professional services to develop it further. The thing to keep in mind is that your logo is your public identity. It defines you and your work in many cases, since this is the first point of contact for perspective clients. You want to put your best foot forward, and that might just mean shelling out a couple of bucks to get someone to do it for you. As a photographer, you probably have a pretty good eye in terms of composition and design, but you might not have the program experience to sit down at a computer and put something like a logo together yourself.

In the beginning stages of setting up a photography business, you'll be cook, captain and cabin boy all rolled into one. There isn't a need for (or a way to necessarily pay) employees or assistants to work for you, so you'll be in charge of getting everything done – from scheduling to billing to advertising to marketing to graphic design. This isn't a bad thing, because it'll teach you a lot about yourself as well as the business.

However, always try to remember that your primary focus should be to shoot and shoot and shoot some more. We're in the photography business because we love to get out and capture the world with a camera. The time you spend doing that is what pays you, both financially and creatively, and that's what you should be spend most of your time doing. 

But even in those early days when you're doing it all yourself, I think it's worth it to get a professional graphic designer to do up your logo. You can see the difference between my original logo and the one I now use for everything – which is basically a cleaner, more professional-looking reworked version of the one I liked in the first place.

Remember, when anyone searches for your company the first thing they see when they land on your pages is your logo. You control what that first impression is – and in this case I can say I am beyond glad that I chose to let a graphic designer have a crack at it. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Surprise Blog/ Photo Contest


I'm going to run a contest over the next two weeks!

Head over to my Facebook page, hit the "Like" button, and you will be entered to win a hi-resolution photo of your choice from the photos in the blog this last week. It will be a digital copy that you may print, use on your site, or anything else, except sell. It's really easy! Click the link, like me there, and follow the blog and Facebook. Winner will be announced on Wednesday, June 19th.

Oh, and if you already Like me on Facebook then you are already entered.

Good luck! And I'll see you on Friday for another blog post.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

What to bring, what to bring!

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges to an SLR photographer is what equipment to carry. The easy answer is all of it — but is that a logical response?

This past Tuesday I was a parent escort on a trip to the local aquarium with my son's biology class. I traveled on a school bus with the students for an hour and a half, and if you've forgotten what that's like, I can definitely say avoid the experience if possible. The seats have shrunk by half, and the manufacturers seem to inject the smell of sweat into the seats. (I'm sure it can't be that I got bigger and learned the value of good hygeine.)

Anyway, I digress. Long before pondering the school bus experience, another question filled my attention as I started preparing my equipment the night before. What to bring, what to bring. The urge is, of course, to bring everything. But that's not always possible — especially if you have to cram into a bus with a bunch of highschoolers. How do you narrow lenses, filters, tripods, and miscellaneous equipment when it is all begging to be taken along?

The first question is what subjects will be available to shoot. Then consider what lighting conditions are available — what are the local restrictions, if any? The easiest way to find the answers is to look at websites if available. You will be able to see what others have shot, by looking at any photo galleries that pop up online,  as well as check to see if there are any restrictions on what you can bring in or use.

At my aquarium nothing is off-limits to photograph, so I then considered what my subject matter would be. I was excited to see they were currently running a jellyfish exibition so needed to consider equipment for that in particular, as well as equipment to shoot frogs and reptiles in the rainforest room. I figured taking a light source was not an option, since any flash would only reflect against the glass and setting up a separate light stand would be in danger from the milling crowds. Cutting out lights means only taking lenses and tripod — easier and a whole lot heftier to pack. In the end  I decided on taking a standard lens, medium telephoto, macro, and (just to be interesting) the 50mm prime. I also packed the tripod, since I knew I would be shooting in a very dim enviroment and the shutter speeds were going to be a bit long. Like this post.

Here are a few of examples of the photos I took with my pre-planned-and-packed equipment.
3D Dolphins. Hope you don't get wet:)
Undersea Life
Yes I am a frog and I am looking at you
The beauty of Jellyfish

The other benefit to planning ahead is that you get to enjoy your time far more. I ended up arriving at the aquarium 40 minutes before it opened, and was allowed to wander the nearly-empty aquarium and shoot to my heart's content before the crowds arrived. I had the luxury of being able to really set up and plan the shot, which is not always possible at a usually-busy attraction like the aquarium. When the doors opened and the public came in, shooting was very tough, and again it came in handy to have all my equipment organized and close to hand where I wanted it.

By the time the crowds became too thick to handle, it was time for lunch and a coffee followed by enjoying the displays as a casual observer. This is another important lesson for any photographer: don't forget to come out from behind the camera and enjoy the experience.