Monday, August 27, 2012

Blush Cover Model Tracey - A Story of Survival & Triumph

Today I've got a long story that I've been dying to share with the world, but I'm going to start with the fantastic ending and then share the rough beginning on another day.  Because I'd much rather share the fantasticness with you today! in conclusion, after several years of desiring an incredible studio space where I could create beautiful portraits for women, I have finally been able to partner with BLUSH studio.  

BLUSH is the premiere studio exclusively specializing in women's portraits, located in Dayton, Ohio.  
Their super-chic loft studio is a girls' dream, complete with exposed brick, vintage chandeliers and hot hot hot props!  When I confirmed that I was able to start shooting at BLUSH, the first thing I had to do was choose a Cover Model to debut my marketing campaign for the BLUSH portrait sessions.  

I'm one of those women that is super lucky {or not!} to be surrounded by gorgeous friends that seem to wake up in the morning looking like they belong in a magazine.  Basically, I had no lack of choices of women that would photograph wonderfully and would love a day of feeling like a supermodel.  But I knew that I wanted more than a pretty face.  I wanted to showcase how the BLUSH experience is not only about how it makes you look, but also how it makes you feel.  

Tracey was the first lady that I approached with the opportunity to be my BLUSH Cover Model and I knew she was the perfect choice.  Her life has been a whirlwind of emotion for the past year or so and I really wanted her to have this opportunity but was hesitant that she would accept it.  
She's not the "look at me" kind of gal, but I was hoping that she would realize this was about so much more than just pictures.  

Here's Tracey's story in her own words:

There are moments in life that you cannot prepare yourself for.  Moments that test your faith, your courage, and your strength.  In May of 2011, my life was turned upside down and I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  I was faced with the toughest decision of my life and chose to have a Mastectomy in June 2011.  I have since had 4 reconstruction surgeries.  I could not have made it through this journey without the love and support of my husband, family and friends.  I am a survivor.

When presented with the opportunity of the "Blush Experience", I felt a bit anxious and nervous.  I would not typically do something like this for myself, a mom of 3 and still feeling insecure about my reconstruction.  Although still intrigued, I agreed to do it.  When I arrived, my makeup was done by a professional makeup artist.  Now that is a confidence builder!  The studio was full of the most beautiful props and accessories ~ a girls dream.  Once we began, I was still a little nervous, but was quickly put at ease by the professionalism and confidence building in the photographers around me.  This was not just a "Blush Experience" but a "Personal Experience".  

I was extremely anxious to open my gallery, but when I saw my images, I was amazed.  I couldn't believe it was me.  Everything was perfect...the makeup, the lighting, the studio.  Christy is an amazing artist.  I didn't think I would really benefit from or even enjoy doing something like this, but it was an empowering experience.  It was more than just posing for pictures, for me it was a way of saying "I'm Back!".  Plus, every girl deserves to be a princess for a day.

Having her makeup applied by Blush makeup artist Lauren.

I'm so grateful that Tracey trusted me to capture these portraits that meant so much to her and her family.  
And I'm so excited to work with more women and empower them with whatever they're needing thru the BLUSH experience! 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Photography Idol? I'm in!

I am entering my first-ever photography contest and I'll tell ya why ~
It's not for the usual prizes....nope, none of that.
I'm entering a contest because it offers the chance to have my images critiqued by some amazing photographers in front of the whole cyber world.

Chic Critique, which is an incredible source of knowledge for any level of photographer, is invading the photography world with Photography Idol.  To sum it up...photographers submit one lone image (boy that's hard) that "totally represents our style and skill".  Judges will then select 10 images to continue on to the next round based upon image quality and memorable impact.

The top 10 contestants will then have to complete a series of photo challenges for several weeks.  This means I would have to create unique concepts, find models, execute the shoots, edit images and produce fantasticness like never before.  Very quickly.  During my absolute busiest time of year.

Bring it on.

I had about 5 different shots in mind to submit but I decided on this one because I think it fit the "memorable impact" the best.  It's kind of risky since the majority of the images being submitted are soft  and beautiful...of baby girls in frilly skirts and lots of dreamy sun flare.  Leave it to me to mix it up with a hard core black & white of boy behind bars!

I'll keep you updated!  Check out Photography Idol to see all the other wonderful entries!

Monday, June 11, 2012

One Shooting Location...So Many Options

A lot of my clients, and other photographers, think that you need a large, sprawling, fantastic venue full of great scenery to get a good photo shoot.  But since we don't have a lot of those within a reasonable driving distance to me, I've had to refine the art of finding just a few great spots and using those the best that I can.

Actually, I'm the photographer that walks my models right past all the pretty flowers and architecture and I know they're behind me thinking "What's she doing?  I thought we were supposed to stand in front of flowers and say 'Cheese'!"

I've found that I really don't look for typical scenery at all when determining where to shoot.  I look more for texture and color and if it has plenty of that I can work it out with just a small amount of space if needed.

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite little fields in a small park that I've been using quite a bit for my photo sessions.  I'm finding that every few weeks the texture of the field changes which creates all new opportunities for me to the unique textures and colors that are within it.

Here's some of the portraits I've shot over the last year that shows how one small field, hidden in the back of a playground park, can be utilized for a variety of different looks.

~ June 2011

~ July 2011

~ Early May 2012

~ Late May 2012

~ June 2012

So the next time you find a great little spot to take some photos, keep an eye on it thru the seasons and see if changes for you.  You never know what you'll be able to create!

Wanna see more images from these sessions?  Of course you do!  Check out my Facebook to see all my photo albums and lots more great photo tips and ramblings from me:)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Should This Photo Be Saved?

So I'm going thru my photos from a session with my one of my favorite models ever, Little Ms. Alexis, when I come to this image...

...and I have to make the decision "Do I trash this photo or save it?".

There's so many obvious flaws...the crop is so wrong...the white balance is awful...the exposure pretty much stinks.  This SOOC image will definitely NOT be in an upcoming blog about "getting it right in camera"!  It was actually a test shot when I was testing the lighting to photograph her baby sister and I told her all she had to do was sit there:)

Also, I already had so many images that I knew were going to be fabulous.
What would you do?  Would you save it or trash it?

Despite all the flaws, the expression on this photo just captivated me and I knew I had to save it.

Of course the first thing I did, since I'm a cropping maniac, was crop in Lightroom to make sure there was no mistake that this portrait was all about that expression.  Here's my crop...

Then I had to get rid of her sunburned cheeks but I didn't want to lose the detail of all those great freckles so I did a few curves adjustments then decided to a very light black and white photo.  I used a whole mish mash of Florabella actions and finally came up with a recipe I liked.  Here's a comparison shot of the SOOC and my final portrait...

And here's the final image in all it's glory~

I pretty much luv it.

So tell you think it was worth saving?  

{you can check out all the other images from this session that I saved by clicking right here}

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Breathe Thru Your Mouth...And Other Posing Tips

A lot of photographers like to advertise how they never pose their clients and all their photography sessions are natural.  Well that's all great for them but I think one of the advantages I can offer my client is that my sessions are very very posed!

My clients are paying me to make them look their absolute best and typically that just doesn't happen naturally.  It's a scary thing to be set in front of a camera and it's even scarier when you feel abandoned in front of it.  So many of my clients have said something like "Just tell me what to do." before we even begin the session.  Luckily I assure them quickly that I'll be in control the entire time and let them know exactly how to behave to achieve the most flattering looks.

I've learned thru the years that posing my clients actually takes a lot of skill and learning!  When I'm at a session there are a million things pulsing thru my brain at once....I'm concentrating on my lighting, my camera settings, the background...but then I have to set aside all those things and guide my client into a flattering pose that accentuates all the good stuff, and diminishes all the not-so-good stuff.  And I have to do this in a simple, easy-to-understand way so the client doesn't get confused and feel like they're doing something wrong...or worse, feel like they look stupid on camera!

The biggest trick to posing though is making it look unposed on camera.  After I finally get all the hands and arms and hips and everything else just where I want it, I have to get them to look fantastic and NOT self conscious right before I make that click.  I've learned so many great tips for achieving that so I wanted to share one that I use quite often for close-ups.  I call it the "Can you breathe thru your mouth?" tip.
Yes, I'm quite technical:)

I love to get great, dramatic close-ups of my models which usually means their mouths are closed with their lips together.  But sometimes that look can come across as too stiff or without any personality.  So I'll keep my model in the exact same pose but I'll ask them "Can you breathe thru your mouth?"

Almost every single time I ask that my model will open their lips just the slightest bit and their expression changes completely.  That's when I'll shoot.

I did it here...

And here...

It's not that it always produces a better photo or expression, just a different one.  Which means that both myself and the client have more options.  I like options.

Here's a few side-by-side comparisons of portraits taken with the closed mouths and then 2 seconds later after I've asked her to breathe thru her mouth.  Thanks to the lovely Shelby for being my model here...

Can you see the difference?  It's amazing how just the tiniest change in expression really changes the whole feel of the photo.

And another one...

I'd love to hear any of your favorite posing tips...or what do you find most frustrating about posing?  
My favorite resources for posing inspiration is Bambi Cantrell and Sue Bryce.  Check out their sites for fabulous tips!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Meet Abbi...High School Senior 2012

I've realized that I've never really blogged my sessions like most normal photographers do.  I don't do a lot  of things that normal photographers do but I've decided I should really take advantage of this internet thing to show off the fabulous people that I've gotten to know thru photography.  And I'd like to start with Abbi.

I met Abbi and her parents and sister a few years ago and her mom and I became instant friends when I worked with her for a day.  I was thrilled when I found out Abbi was interested in pursuing photography and she was the perfect choice for a summer assistant. 

Abbi is the girl that every mother hopes her daughter will grow up to be.  That was my very first impression of Abbi after spending just a few hours with her. 

As we were planning her Senior portrait session last fall I was thinking about how lucky I was to photograph this beautiful girl and how much fun we were going to have at her session.  And her portraits did turn out beautiful...

But her session ended up being about so much more than photos.  One week before her Senior shoot was scheduled Abbi's father died at their home, very unexpectedly from a heart attack.  The girl that seemed to have everything...a close Christian family, a smile always on her face, the perfect little had to experience one of life's worst devastations.

Abbi and her mother decided to go ahead with her Senior session just a week after the tragedy.  I was a little nervous about this but they were the ones helping me thru the session...they would discuss it when they wanted to and when they didn't we just enjoyed a beautiful teenage girl on a lovely fall evening.

This was her fathers' jacket and she included it wonderfully into her photos...

She also included fun stuff like an awesome dress and a great pair of shoes...

I've spent a lot of time with Abbi and her family since last fall and I can't express enough of how my first impression of her has only been confirmed again and again.  She's stood so strong on her faith and has continued to be an example to teenagers in everything she does.  I realize she's not perfect but her fantastic attitude and her sweet spirit have never wavered.  I'm just honored to have been a part of this time in her life.  

Abbi has ended up being my cover girl for a lot of my Senior marketing.  I've used her portrait on lots of my promo pieces and website and I can't wait to start using her fabulous album as one of my samples...

This may sound weird, but Abbi's experience has given me so much more respect for the service I provide.  When Abbi and her mother and her sister look back on those photos I took on a lovely fall evening, I believe they'll be seeing so much more than just pretty pictures. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Why Do You Need A Better Camera?

"I wish I could take better photos. I really just need to buy a better camera."

I hear that comment all the time.  I've even said it myself.  And I just happen to have a little story that goes along with it...

Back in 2010 when I was spending hours and hours trying to decide which camera to upgrade to, my hubby asked me a question that I thought was pretty funny.  It went something like this...

"Why do you need a better camera if all you do is mess up your pictures anyway?"

I've had to convince myself that question was asked in pure love:)
But I'm pretty sure he was talking about my photos like this one...

His question made me laugh but I also had to think of a pretty good answer of exactly why I needed a better camera.

It's been said a million times that "better equipment does not make you a better photographer", but a good photographer can absolutely do wonderful things when given better equipment.  

The camera and lenses I was using at the time were actually pretty decent considering they were non-pro models.  But I knew there was better and I was getting so frustrated with the slow focus on my lenses.  I felt that I was missing so many great expressions because my lens just wasn't fast enough to capture the exact moment.  And the color quality just wasn't as smooth as I was wanting.  I'm not trying to bash my pentax camera, just stating that even though I was using all my buttons and options to their fullest extent, I still wasn't getting the quality that I was wanting in my images.  

But why did I need better quality in my images if all I do is mess them up?  Because I wanted to start with the absolute best image so that my options are open to do whatever I want with it.  There's just no substitute for starting with the best image possible.  

So I needed wider apertures to get better bokeh and more creative control...I needed higher ISO options to get better exposure in low light...I needed faster focusing on my lenses so I wasn't wasting time.  

Here's an example of a 2 similar photos: the one on the left was a "behind the scenes" shot taken by my assistant using my old pentax.  The one on the right was taken by me within a few minutes using the camera I upgraded to, a Nikon d300s.  

These are both SOOC, no editing.  I set both the cameras before the shoot at as close to the same settings as I could.  The widest aperture on the lens for the left photo though was 3.5.  I was able to use an aperture of 2.8 for the photo on the right.  Can you tell the difference in detail, clarity and overall appeal of the 2 photos?  I used a 50mm 1.4 lens on the Nikon.  And when you're working with kiddos this young, a lens that can focus superfast is worth every penny!

So what's my answer to the age-old question of "Should I buy a better camera?"  

Yes and No.

My answer is NO if right now you're not using all the buttons, settings and options on your current camera.  If you haven't learned how to operate the one you have chances are you won't learn how to operate a new one with more intimidating options.  Plus if you do some more research about what you currently own, you may realize you just need to change some settings.  Maybe you just need to take a workshop and learn how to use it better? (I just happen to know where you can find a great one)  Or you may just need to buy a different lens?  Lenses have as much, or sometimes more, to do with your image quality than your camera.  And if you don't know why lenses are so important then I suggest you research and find out if you're using lenses that aren't a good match with your style of photography.  You could save money by upgrading your lenses rather than your camera body and then you'll thank me!

I would definitely answer YES to that question though if you've outgrown your current camera.  That means if you know what you're missing on your current camera, if you know what it can't do, then you're probably ready for an upgrade.  When you're shooting in manual and adjusting your lenses accordingly but you still aren't getting the quality you're wanting then you're probably ready to have some fun and go camera shopping! 

Keep in mind that there is a downside to improving your equipment...I can no longer blame bad photos on my camera!  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Why I'm A Sucker For A Good Template

I mentioned in yesterday's mish-mash of a post that I'm a sucker for a good template.
I bought quite a few last fall whenever a designer I liked would have a sale or coupon code, but like any good sale, it still adds up.

But the longer I do this business thing the more I'm a believer that great templates are essential to me.  I've learned the complicated way over the past 2 years that the end result of the photographs, the products, are where I'm able to make money and please my clients.  And let me tell ya folks, there's no shortage of fantastic products available!

I really really really stink at graphic design but I know exactly the design and style I like to showcase my images.  This is where the templates come in....I can buy beautiful templates for albums, cards, frames and everything else to create a very unique and eye-catching product that my client will love.

Here's some examples for you...this is a 4x8 Accordion album which is one of my absolute favorite new products I just started offering.  I bought this template...

...and turned it into this beautiful accordion album...

Graduation cards are another thing that are so easy to customize and the templates I've chosen for grad cards just pretty much blow the school cards out of the water!  Look how gorgeous...

My true weakness though is album templates...I have to restrain myself from buying every album template by Crave Design.  Here's their French Script Ohh La La which I've made several times into albums for Children and High School Seniors...

Since I'm kinda decent at working in Photoshop Elements I can alter all the text, colors, frames and pretty much rig all these templates up to fit what I need.  That way they're truly unique to the images that I'm creating them for and each client gets the product thats perfect for them. 

Anyway, templates have become a slight obsession and I've shown ample proof as to why I love them. What about you...are you a template junkie?

And since I want everyone to have the guilty habit I do of splurging on great templates, here's a few of my favorite sites for designs....Enjoy~

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I'm Back

I'm baaaaaack!  And I'm better than ever.
{well, that last part remains to be seen, but haven't you always wanted to say that?}

In case you were wondering if I had fallen off the face of the earth, I haven't.  Last fall I had the great fortune to actually start booking more clients...
which meant I spent more time shooting 
and editing
and meeting
and designing
and learning
and emailing
and facebooking
and and and

You get the picture.  Surprisingly enough I realized that with a short 24 hours in a day I am only capable of doing so much.  And with 4 children who want to eat every single day and demand clean underwear at least twice a week, something had to give.  So I stepped away from my beloved blogging to try and maintain a grasp on the chaos I still had left.  

But the blogging gal inside of me never shut down.  Every time I would learn something new or make an epic fail or try a fantastic new photo product I would be thinking in my brain about how I would love to share my thoughts with the world.  So here I am back in the blogging world with an overload of random thoughts spilling onto the page.  
I warn you, it may get messy.

I've experienced sooooo much since last fall in photography and business and everything in between and I just can't wait to share it with you.  Every experience is just swirling around in my brain and I can't quite seem to sort it all out yet.  You ever get like that?

For instance, a few things I've learned over the past months:

~ Facebook is an evil necessity to me.  Necessity because it's the only place I can reach tons of people with my photography for free.  Evil because it breeds insecurity and doubt when browsing other photography pages and comparing to my own work.  

~ Getting the shot right "in camera" beats fixing in photoshop any day.  

~ I'm a sucker for templates.  I stink at graphic design so I bought a ton of templates last year to have plenty of options for products.  I need to control myself. 

~ Even though I stink at design, I wish I could create new marketing products every day.  I love the creative outlet it provides and I really love showing off all the awesome people I get to photograph.  

~ Shooting with the end result in mind has completely changed my photography habits.

I'll talk more about all those things later.  I hope you stick around for it.  

One thing that hasn't changed...I still love textures.  Always and forever.

Here's a lovely B&A with 2 lovely sisters/singers, showing how I enhanced their photo with just a few lovely textures.  Aren't they lovely?

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