Category Archives: Photography tips

Tips for better photography.

Halloween is quickly aproaching.

Halloween will be here soon… in just a few short weeks.

When I was a child, the eve of Halloween was a wondrous thing; The streets filled with pranksters and trick-or-treaters. Today, it seems much more reserved. For me, It just seems to be a time of year when my Facebook page fills with night club and party invites. On the uptake, this is a great time to get some event photography gigs that can expand your portfolio and put some extra cash in the bank. There are all sorts of events that take place that can provide a photographer with opportunities.

Depending on my schedule, I will hit the local Zombie Walk. These Zombie Walks are held nation wide and give you a wide range of candid shots. I do not know about other cities, but the event in Indianapolis is geared to benefit the local food bank.

There are plenty of parties that occur as well as night club events that can yield some opportunity as well. Bars and Nightclubs will often host costume contents and events that are sponsored by local promoters. You can work with these venues and promoters to shoot for the evening or set-up a small photo booth to sell photos to the patrons. Bare in mind that setting up photo booth is hit or miss as far as profitability .

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Daily Shoot Ideas – In the City

Continuing this series of daily shoot Ideas, I present you with things to do in the city. This is an opportunity to explore your city and surrounding areas. Grab your gear and hit the streets.

  • City Landmarks and monuments
  • Architecture and Interiors
  • Skyline Sunsets
  • Streets and buildings

The above bullet points pretty much say it all. When you are out, find those interesting scenes in your town and shoot them. Photograph local landmarks, monuments, buildings of interest.

Head out after dark and capture some night photos of your city or town Most towns have lighting displays during the Christmas season… go out and get them. You can even get some nice urban sunsets while you are out there.

Another thought is to pick some land marks and photograph them through out the year. Show the changes of the seasons and how they affect the mood and feel of a location.

Another option is to go into buildings and shoot the interiors. Photographer, Brian Matiash, will go into abandoned warehouses and shoot some beautiful HDR photographs. He will play with perspective and composition. Check out his website and get some ideas from his work.

Hit the streets and start shooting up your city with your camera. There are lots of things to shoot in any town or city and I am confident that you can find them!  This is one of those daily shoots that can also server to brake you away from the confines of your office, studio or house. Enjoy some of that weather and happy shooting!

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Keeping a Shoot List.

There are different types of shoot lists to maintain and all of them have different functions when it comes to your work. Some are general wish lists of shoots that you would want to do in the future while others are a list of shots that your want to get during a particular photo shoot. And there is the list you update during each photo shoot.

The shoots that I would like to do, I call my “Shoot Wish List.” Essentially, I come up some ideas and over time flesh them out until they are ready to go. These lists are detailed in lighting diagrams, prop and wardrobe needs, and model details. I can even include my inspiration for the idea into this so that I can draw upon that later.

The day prior to a planned shoot, you should go over your shoot notes and print them out so you have them handy during the shoot. This is good way to make sure you get what you want out of the photo shoot and you don’t regret any missed photos. Try as you might, you will have a hard time recreating a photo shoot to get those missed shots.

Note: Wedding photographers will keep “Day of” shoot lists to ensure that they get every possible shot that the bride and groom are wanting. A missed opportunity here is forever lost. Good luck recreating this day!

The third type of list that is helpful to keep is the rolling shoot list.  This was more beneficial to me when I was shooting in film as I would number the rolls of film and take notes on each frame that was shot. Once the film was processed I could go back to my notes and see what was going on in terms of the model, exposure settings, etc. Unfortunately, the digital camera can not do it all (yet), so you may find it necessary to keep some notes. If you are working with multiple models in one day you will want to know some of those details.

  • The shoot wish list will help you flesh out your ideas, find locations and models.
  • Day of shoot list will help you capture the shots you want.
  • The rolling shoot list will assist in post production and help you remember some of the fine details of each shot taken.

There is another list that I keep that is a stock shooting list. Simply put, it is a short quick list of ideas that I keep for shooting stock photography; That is another article for another day. In any case, this is an important means to planning and working through your shoots and is a part of my work flow.

Blog photo provided by BigStock

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Photo Walks – Daily Shoot Ideas

Here are a couple more daily shoot Ideas for you.

  • Photo Walks
  • 100 Steps

There are a couple of ways to view a photo walk. You can go out on your own and walk around your local city, or where ever you happen to be at the time, and look for ideal scenes to shoot; Or you can go on a paid tour. There are a number of attractions and destinations around the world that offer guided tours for photographers and they will point out spots of interest to photograph. Either way, it is some good exercise and you will come home with great photos.

I will often go to one of my local parks and just walk around for hours looking for interesting shooting places. I will also walk through the city and shoot as much as possible as an opportunity to work on composition. While I have not been on a guided walk, I will likely do so at some point.

100 Steps is very much like the the photo walk except you are forcing your self to shoot on intervals. Start at point (A) and take photos. Find every shot you can possibly take and then take 100 steps in any direction and shoot some more. Wash, Rinse and Repeat. The 100 Steps idea is great for macro photography as you can spend an entire day shooting and come home with hundreds of photos.

One of the many benefits to these photo walks is that it trains you to look for the shots you want to take so that you are constantly looking. You will be developing your eye and building a good base for your portfolio.

Something that I would like to point out is that you can mix and match your daily shooting list depending on your available time to shoot, weather conditions or any other factors. The main idea to these daily shoot projects is take photos every day.

Blog photo provided by BigStock

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DROID-ography because I don’t use an Iphone.

Being a photographer means that you often have to field questions from your friends about cameras and photography; This happens to people who work in IT as well. The computer geeks in IT get, “hey, I am having x problem on my computer. What do you think it is.” Where as the photographer gets questions about what camera to purchase.

Recently, I had one such question.  A friend of mine had started sending me links to cameras he was thinking about purchasing; all of which were in the sub $300.00 range. Instead of sending him back any finding from, I had started asking him what he wanted the camera for.  He had indicated that he just wanted a good camera to take snap shots of his daughters and capture the moments.

That being said, I remembered that he had a Droid 4 and while it is not the perfect camera, it can work just as well as any sub $300.00 point and shoot. After all, that is exactly what the camera is on his cell phone! With decent lighting and a little know how, one can still take good photos with an Android phone.

When I am out and about, perhaps I forgot to grab my Canon G12, I will use my droid to capture images.  Chase Jarvis wrote a book called, The Best Camera Is The One You Have With You. This book, partially,  illustrates why I will use my droid while I am out. With Geo Tagging features, I can also use the Droid when I am scouting locations; This allows me to quickly recall where a location is and tie it in to a map via Google Maps.

I have been able to produce some nice work with my generation 1 Droid; This is partly due to my experience in photography. I do not use any special apps on my phone, nor do I do any post processing on these photos. As they say, all the work has been done in camera. Just as with any piece of equipment, you have to realize and understand it’s strengths and weaknesses. I tend to view the camera phone as the digital version of the Holga.

Recently, I upgraded my Droid to the Droid 4; Though I have not had time to go out and really get a feel for the new version with the 6 Mpx camera. Likely I will go out this weekend and play around with it a bit. So far, I have been impressed with the hardware and the OS on this new phone and I am looking forward to using it in the coming months.

Why don’t I use the Iphone? Honestly, I am just not that interested in the Iphone. It is not a Droid vs. Iphone, Mac vs. PC or even a Canon vs. Nikon thing; It is just a personal preference. At first, I was disappointed in the lack of professional tools that were available for the Droid, but the developers are catching up and understanding that not everyone has or wants Iphone. I will admit, I did give Apple’s little toy some consideration before sticking with the Android format.


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5 Daily Shooting Ideas Involving People

PhotographerAs a photographer, professional or amateur, it is important to stay frosty and shoot constantly. This is the first  article in a series that will, hopefully, give you some ideas on daily shooting projects.  So, lets get started!

Daily Shoots:  5 Ideas involving people:

  1. Self Portraits
  2. Portraits of others
  3. 100 Strangers
  4. Facial Expresions
  5. Emotion

Self Portraits: This is, by far the easiest daily shoot project. Who are you? Can you capture who you are in a daily photo? You can be elaborate or as simple as you like. I had a friend who was into action figures, so he took a self portrait of himself in a bathtub filled with his action figures; This was a part of who he was and illustrated his nature and one of his interests in a single frame. Get creative and have fun with it.

Portraits of others: This can be as simple or complex as you want and you can get your friends, as well as your family, involved. Go out with your friends and family, set up your shots and shoot. Offer them prints of the work and have a good time.

100 Strangers: “People are strange, when your a stranger…” This is an opportunity to step out and talk to people you would not normally. Find people on the street and explain what your doing, then take their photo. You can even go editorial/ street photography and just go out and shoot people on the street. Essentially, capture people in their environment, walking to work, going shopping. The goal is to tell a story about the person you are photographing in a single frame.

Facial Expressions: Sounds easy, right? You would be surprised. Whether you you focus on one person or many people, try to capture a full range of facial expressions. You can even narrow it down to focusing on just the eyes or the mouth. Smiles, frowns, scowls, grimaces, laughs… find it or create and capture it!

Emotion: This is closely related to the facial expressions idea but you want to capture a person’s range of emotion. Try to, again, tell a story about the person; capture the environment and mood. If the person is stress or happy, what is making them happy and can you include a visual in the photograph that would illustrate the reason or cause?

The intent of these projects is to get out and shoot every day. While it is a lot of work, it builds a good habit and is meant to be fun. Get out there and Shoot! Oh, And have some fun while you’re at it.

Happy Shooting!!

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Some tips on working with models

Photo ShootThere are a thousand things that could be said in regards to working with models. I am sure that no matter how in depth I try to cover this topic, there are going to be things that I miss. Also, this is a subject that I will bring up from time to time as it is important to me and when one photographer treats a model poorly, it can alter the way all of us are seen in the eyes of that model.

  1. Always show your models respect.
  2. Make sure that all the details of the shoot are clear to the models prior to the actual shoot date. This will eliminate confusion later.
  3. Check the models references. Talk to the photographers that he/she has worked with.
  4. Always provide a separate changing area for the models. If you are on location, improvise the best you can.
  5. If you are shooting nudes, Keep a robe on hand for the models to wear while not shooting
  6. Do not enter a models personal space. If you must touch the model in order to manipulate an article of clothing, ask them first Feeling safe to a model can mean the difference in a good or bad shoot.
  7. Communication is golden. After you set the shoot, follow-up with them the day before the shoot and after the shoot. If for some reason the shoot is delayed or postponed let the model know as soon as you can.
  8. Do not bad mouth a model. If you had a bad experience with them, keep the explanation simple as there is no need to go overboard. Remember, your words can prevent a model  from obtaining work in the future.
  9. Always make sure that the model is exactly what you wanted for the specified shoot. Don’t wait for he/she to get there and then decide they weren’t.
  10. Professionalism at all times.
  11. If the model did a good job in your eyes, tell them. But don’t limit it to the model. If you have a crew that did well, tell them too.
  12. Never present yourself as something that you are not.
  13. Always have a model release on hand for the model to sign. She will also need to have valid ID with her.
  14. If you are shooting nudes, you will want to make sure to get copies of Photo ID’s prior to shooting.
  15. Communicate with the model what your intentions are for the resulting photographs.
  16. Make sure that the model has what they will need for the shoot, changes etc. If you have the right clothing etc. let them know ahead of time, and make sure that the sizes are appropriate for the model.
  17. Try to be as clear as possible on every aspect of the shoot as you can be.
  18. If the shoot is time for prints (TFP) be clear about this prior to the shoot while you’re in the planning phases with the model.
  19. A good photographer will be as professional as they can be. And this will come through to a model.
  20. If you have a home studio let the model know this. I think this is pretty straight forward as you should be when talking to your models.
  21. When working long shoot days, you will want to provide some light refreshments. During the planning process, find out what light snacks the model enjoys and also keep plenty of water on set.
  22. If you make a promise or set the expectation that you are going to do something, make sure to follow through. This includes setting dates that you will provide a model “prints” “slides”  for TFP shoots.
  23. Credibility is a valuable commodity, strive to achieve this, and maintain it.
  24. If a model leaves you a message regarding a business matter, do not keep them waiting on a response. If you do not have an immediate response, then let them know and get back to them as soon as possible.

I realize that there is a lot of communication points in this, but what else can be said? However, there are two main keys to working with models; Making them feel safe and relaxed as well as communicating with them at every opportunity.

Blog photo provided by BigStock

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Headaches can be a pain in the back side.

HeadacheI often have frequent headaches that range from being a nuisance to affecting my ability to function. When this happens out on set, it could mean the end of a perfectly good photo shoot. The  typical response is to shove pills down the gullet and hope for some relief. Personally, I despise popping pills for pain relief.

The Customary Disclaimer: This article is meant to be medical advice. One should always consult with their doctor before trying to treat any health condition, including headaches.

Here are some things that I have found to provide some relief without destroying my liver.

Cold or heat therapy is one of the oldest natural ways to relieve a headache. Placing a cold pack on the head, face or neck can lessen the severity of a headache, but don’t use anything that’s too cold as that can make the headache worse. Heat can be applied in the same way, and excessive heat should be avoided as well. Everybody is different, so you may need to see which temperature works best for you. How this works is still the topic of discussion, but what really matters is that it does indeed work, not how it works.

The body is covered with pressure points that affect other parts of the body. You can find pressure points that will help alleviate headaches. They can be found on the temples, the bridge of your nose, the hairline, the crook of your arm, your back and certain parts of your feet. Using a bit of trial and error, you should be able to zero in on the areas that bring you the most relief; however, if you want to be more precise then you can find information that shows you exactly where to apply pressure.

Aromatherapy can work wonders on your headaches, but you need to be careful. The reason is that some people are highly sensitive to certain scents, and they could end up making your headache worse. On the other hand, there are sure to be some aromas that soothe and clam you and lessen your headache pain. Some of the more popular scents for the treatment of headaches include lavender, eucalyptus and peppermint.

Staying in good health isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it can definitely help control your headaches. After all, what could be better than preventing them in the first place? Make sure that you drink plenty of water throughout the day, eat right, exercise on a regular basis, practice stress reduction techniques and get a good night’s sleep.

The cool thing about all of these natural ways to relieve a headache is that they can be done by just about anyone, and you don’t have to worry about popping pills and adding chemicals to your system.

Blog photo provided by BigStock

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You must have a really great camera!

After showing off photos in my portfolio, I have heard (Many Many Times), “You must have a really great camera!” It is easy for people to think that a camera is responsible for the image you are looking at, but this is only a part of the story. A great photo is mostly the creativity, skill and work of the photographer and saying the camera takes good photos is a kin to saying a sharp shooter’s rifle is responsible for the kill shot.

In many cases, I am using below average gear and antiquated equipment to do my work. For example, I often will use an Holga during my shoots. An Holga is a toy camera that happens to take medium format film and has 2 or three settings. This is by no means a great camera, except that it produces some interesting images through the distorted plastic lens.

Remember to put all of yourself into your work and use the equipment as a tool and not an excuse.

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Shoot, But Don’t Touch!

In this day in age, photographers have enough problems. The unfortunate part of being a photographer is that once you present yourself as such to a model, you are are burdened with a stereo-type of being a creepy pervert. Sadly, there are enough sexual predators out there that use the title, “Photographer,” that it has created the stereo type that all professionals must live down to.

Not only do you have the concern of age old stereo-types, but lawsuits and litigation. You do not need to loose your business, money or reputation over a photo-shoot gone bad.

Some simple rules to live by.

  • Do not touch the talent – if you need a wardrobe adjustment, point it out to the model and see if they can correct the issue, otherwise ask them for their permission to correct the problem yourself.
  • If the model is nude and you need to move towards your model to adjust the lights or take a reading, Ask his/her permission first.
  • Encourage models to bring an escort – this is for her safety and comfort. Conversely, always have someone else on hand in your studio to assist you.
  • CHECK and PHOTOCOPY ID before the shoot begins. If the talent is not the appropriate age, send them away immediately. Of course, be cordial when doing so.
  • Be honest and upfront – Meaning, do not surprise a model with nude shoot if it was not agreed upon prior to the shoot.

The above can save you a lot frustration and can garner you more shoots from other models. Remember, Photographers and Models talk a lot to each other and one, perceived, wrong action can cost you.

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