Natural Light, Part 3

So as a professional photographer, you’ll want to make sure that you are using the best possible quality of light.  When photographing under the sun outdoors, you need to consider the best time of the day.  Usually during early morning or late afternoon, the light is gorgeous.  The sun is either just coming up or it is on it’s just starting to settle down, when the light is softer, warmer, and easier to work with.  Try to avoid high noon when the sunlight is at its harshest, which means your subject will have dark shadows along with blown out highlights.  Even when you’re shooting in raw those blown out spots will be hard to take back, and the dark shadows will make any face look chiseled.  Details will be lost!  I for one do not like having to “fix” bad images in post process when I could have easily just picked a better source of light.

Of course there is always the exception – that is, if you’re purposely wanting to do a shoot that defines your subject(s) in dramatic highlights and shadows.

Another option is to take advantage of cloudy or overcast days.  I know it’s hard to predict weather and plan on doing a shoot in perfectly even light, but it’s worth a thought.

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Natural Light, Part 2

Now that you have a purpose for your photo shoot, you need to think of LOCATION.  The location choice can make or break the quality of your “natural light” portraits.  Think of the appropriate place for your type of shoot – are the backgrounds crucial to conveying your style?  Do you want simple and clean backgrounds, do you need a background that would support the theme of the shoot?  Are the background elements (trees, ocean, blue skies, architecture, people, etc.) going to matter?  You might want to portray your subject(s) in the midst of a busy city with busy crowds and urban icons.  Maybe you need to do your photo session indoors with large windows for good lighting.  A small room would limit your light source, but a large indoor space might be too difficult to acquire.  Don’t forget the surrounding structures, natural or man-made.  Think of all the possible elements to include or exclude from your pictures.  Your choice in location will dictate what the setting will be for your shoot.

The other, more important thing to consider for location is the actual source of “natural light”.  When shooting indoors, will you have enough of it and which direction will it come from?  Outdoors would give you other challenges, such as harsh sunlight or dappled light from trees above.  Then you’ll have to think of how to harness existing light to define your subject(s).  Do you want to use the sun as rim light or key light?  You’ll have to now consider the surroundings as well as direction of the light, especially if you shoot towards it (when using the sun as rim light).  Don’t leave anything to chance!

How to Take Pictures with Natural Light, part 1

Natural light, in my opinion, is the best lighting source when used properly.  I’m talking about (mostly) outdoors where the sunlight surrounds us and shapes everything we see.  Light defines objects.  In this case I’ll be talking about how to use natural light when taking pictures of people outdoors.

Part 1: Decide what your purpose will be for the photo shoot.  Consider the “who” “what” “where” “when” etc…  Is is for an aspiring actor wanting to build their portfolio of headshots?  Could it be for something to promote a person and their business?  Or is it all about the newborn baby?  Do you need props, extra clothes, plus a hair and makeup artist to come along?  What type of environment did you need for the backgrounds?  Most importantly, what is the goal for each image?  Think of the style for the shoot – this way you’ll have a better understanding of what will reinforce each image.  Knowing the purpose of the photo shoot will dictate all the details that go into planning it.

 

As a professional photographer, you need to start with a checklist (either written or in your head) so that you’re better prepared for any challenges.  Stay tuned for more..

Professional Photographer’s Good Night

I know I slacked off in posting again! It’s so hard for me to write something, anything, at all.  I told you before, I’m a professional photographer in Orange County, not a writer.  But I force myself.  I want to get better at writing as much as I always want to improve my photography and creativity.  If you have any suggestions on how or what I could do to write something every single day.  Sometimes my mind is just blank.  Like a blank computer screen with no icons or background pictures.  This must be what authors go through when they experience writer’s block.  It just doesn’t want to come out.  So here I am, at 1:14 am still awake, but dying to get to bed.  I force myself to write.  Even though it’s just this pointless rant, at least I’m writing something.  It doesn’t have to be anything about photography, taking pictures, learning how to take better photos, wedding photography, or teaching some useful photo tip.  I want to be the best photographer in Orange County and I need to learn how to blog about it!  It’s all part of marketing to the Orange County market of brides looking for the best photographer.  Blog posts like this will stroke the google bot so it will notice that this blog is about the journey of a professional photographer in Southern California (Orange County really, but I’m trying not to over saturate the post with those words).  So if you’re still reading this, and you want to become a wedding photographer or some sort of pro shooter, learn to write.  It is essential to your web presence.  With that I will call it the night.  Good night folks.

Preparing for Wedding Photography

As a professional wedding photographer in Orange County, there are a few things I do as part of my routine when preparing to shoot a special event.  I have a checklist that covers equipment inventory, battery charging, lighting plan which includes looking at google maps and figuring out where the sun will hit during a particular time span, to checking the coordinator’s timeline, and making sure I have everything in my camera bag.  There are checklists on my gear, lenses, batteries, maps and directions, the wedding timeline, the photo itinerary, and shotlists. (it 1:31am, so please forgive my bad grammar and/or misspellings)  But besides going through the standard mundane day-before checklist, I’m going to focus on preparing my mindset. I believe this is something that many photographers neglect to do before or after they check their tangibles. Knowing myself, I need time to prepare my mind.  I scour the internet for inspiration so that I have a mental checklist of photo ideas for the next day. If I didn’t do this, I’d feel lost the next day, almost as if I didn’t know what to do.  So I visual my shots ahead of time.  I’m a professional photographer so I can’t afford to have a lapse in creativity.  I want to know what I will set up on game day.  I like to have a short list of new poses I want to try.  This is part of my creative process.

1. I look through my notes from the initial client meeting so I can remember their vision of the wedding day, and so I’ll keep their requests fresh in my mind and we’re all on the same page. In my notes, there is usually key information that I need to be aware of, such as divorced parents – I can plan the family group portraits accordingly.

2. Look up new poses on the internet, get new ideas, get inspired. I get the butterflies in my stomach. I get doubts. Looking for inspiration gets me excited about photography and it helps get rid of my nervousness.

3. I visualize my camera bag and think of where each piece of gear is located, and how I will access each item throughout the day while I’m shooting.  This keeps me sharp and prevents me from fumbling around in my bag frantically looking for something.  I like to know where everything is exactly located for quick and easy retrieval.

Becoming a Professional Photographer

Improving Your Photography

  • There is no secret to being a successful photographer.  You just have to focus on your passion and constantly work on creative projects. Make time to shoot what you love for yourself and your portfolio will grow as you develop your digital photography techniques. At the same time your confidence as a professional will also grow. This is true for any hobby that becomes a business.
  • Bring a camera (or two) everywhere you go.  If you want to try landscape photography try to have two good cameras: one for planned photography and one to carry around and take quick shots for practice.  Work on lighting, composition and getting to know your gear.
  • Invest in good photo editing software like Photoshop and/or Lightroom. Keep in mind though, that a great photo begins with each shot you take.  Do your edits in-camera rather than relying on the post process.  Photo editing applications should be used primarily for enhancing you images, not fixing them.
  • When you start to take photos as paid gigs, be aware of what the clients want.  Take the important shots that meets their requirements, then do more creative ideas with them.  Make them happy first, then you can wow them with additional shots.
  • Make use of your free time to get better at taking pictures. Practice will only make you better, even if you use a point and shoot camera that’s easy to carry everywhere you go.
  • Start your business slowly and be sure to learn the nuts and bolts of running a small business – the marketing part of it is very important!  Good luck.

Professional Photographer’s Journal Day 4, Hello Google

Just a quick little post to remind Mr. Google Bot that I’m still here posting about how I am a professional photographer in Orange County.  Remember me?  I am that dude that said I will start posting on this photo blog every day.  No matter what.  It’s part of kickstarting my creativity and stroking my uh, page ranking.  So here it is, in case you don’t know what I do – I take lots of artistic pictures of beautiful brides and grooms during their wedding ceremony, bridal prep, family portraits, reception dinner, and bridal portraits.  I love the interaction between two love birds and trying to capture their story in photography.  Most of my weddings are located in Orange County or Los Angeles, but some happen outside of California too.  Those are considered destination weddings.  I’ll go anywhere as a professional photographer to take photo assignments.  I also shoot quite a bit of special events for Toyota and Coca-Cola, most of which are used for marketing their charity or fundraising events.  They use my commercial photos or studio shoots for internal marketing and press releases.  Those images are then used to promote that they are doing good through community outreach, volunteering and public works.  Once in a while I also set up mobile studios to shoot executive portraits at their place of business.  One common avenue is real estate portraits (of agents), but I’d like to get into shooting properties for sale.  Real estate photography and videography might be a good source of business as well, so I’ll include that here.  I believe that high quality pictures and/or video of luxury home listings would attract more buyers to visit the open house.  The bigger the number of buyers that see the property, the more potential for selling the house.  Having an online presence via virtual tour could have a positive impact.  So basically I do anything from portraits, to wedding photojournalism, to corporate portraits, commercial or special events, marketing projects, and real estate photography.  Thanks for looking kind google bot.  You’re welcome here any time.

Professional Photographer’s Journal Day 3, Missed One!

Ok I missed one day (yesterday) of blogging.  I have no idea how it happened, but yesterday was a blur to me.  It must have been one of those days when things to-do stack up and I got side-tracked on top of that, and so the day slipped by without a post.  I know, you’re disappointed, especially after I stated that I will write every day and post something no matter what.  But this is what professional wedding photographers go through because we’re all super busy like that right?

Today I was thinking of how I can incorporate google search phrases into my “best wedding photographer in Orange County” SEO.  Probably just like that, what I just did.  So in order to attract google bots and allow them to index my site as being a resource for professional wedding photographers, real estate photography, or even Orange County’s top photojournalist, I need to keep adding those certain “photography” keywords in my journal entries.  So here’s one more time – I am the best Orange County Wedding Photographer in Fullerton, CA.  I hope I don’t bug the crap out of you and make you (my one and probably only reader) never come back again.  Pleas stay.  Now I just need to figure out how to start monitor this site to see if it has any effect whatsoever on increasing my google ranking among photo blogs.

 

Professional Photographer’s Journal Day 2, I’m a Professional Photographer Damnit!

It wasn’t long ago when I paid my dues.  I took the time to learn my craft.  I learned enough to take ok pictures.  Instantly I became a “professional photographer” and all I needed was an online portfolio, a website template and one of those expensive digital cameras.

In 2006 the internet was all about forums, and photography forums were popping up everywhere, almost as fast as wedding photographers.  I had to jump on the wagon so I joined one or two photographer forums online.  Maybe three of four, I can’t remember, but I was posting and reading on those forums every day and night.  I had to learn more, get better, and be the best.  Not only that, be able to post my wedding photographs on the forums to “wow” other wannabe’s.  If one person posted something really cool and aesthetically appealing, two dozen other would emulate that person or style.  The same thing went for photoshop processes – if someone came out with a nice sepia or vintage feel to their pictures there’d be a frenzy on how to do it.  Then followed the frenzy to out-do each other.  Then there was the dawn of wedding photojournalism.  Some real photojournalists took pictures of some wedding as if it was a news event, and people went nuts over the idea.  Wedding photojournalism was the thing to do and the buzz words to include in one’s website or ad.  Looking back at those days makes me smile and frown at the same time.  I was one ant that got caught up in the wave of trends, frantically trying to keep up.

I did pretty well for myself back then.  My first year I booked 30-something weddings, my second year 40+ weddings.  I was netting six figures.  It was easy.  Too easy.  I think that was the reason for my current demise.  All I did was include the right keyword searches on my website and Google put me in the first page for wedding photography searches in my area.  Over time, Google evolved, and I didn’t.  Search engine optimizing got a lot more sophisticated and more difficult to harness.  At the same time, my peers and I had glamorized the life of being a photographer through our blogs postings, bragging on forums, and the dawn of social media.  We created a universal image of us photographers having the time of our lives, photographing “fabulous” couples, coming up with uber gorgeous images (fabulous and uber were the trendy-hip words at the time) and making a good living out it.  Of course the reaction was pure envy or inspiration.  Probably it was both.  So droves of newly married couples, internet surfers, real (or wannabe) photographers, and anyone seeing the fabulous life that photographers lived online were buying up the latest and the greatest new digital cameras so they too could get a piece of the fabulousness.  Then I wasn’t doing so well for myself.  I’ll go into this whole turn of events in an entirely new post and topic.

Now where was I?  Oh yes, I paid my dues.  I consider myself a professional photographer.  A real PROFESSIONAL.  I’m different from the dude that got his first DSLR from his parents, or the gal that was enamored by photo “rockstars” whom they saw speak at the WPPI (wedding and portrait professionals international) convention in Las Vegas.  I actually know how to take pictures with film or a DSLR.  But this whole post is pointless, because it doesn’t matter.  The whole internet is full of proof that you can be a “pro” without the education, the background, or paying your dues.  I’m a professional photographer, damnit!

Professional Photographer’s Journal Day 1, I Will Write

Ok, here it is. My first post in many years!

My biggest problem is writing and updating my own blog. I’ve read numerous articles on “how to write a blog” and many of them suggest writing everyday. No negotiations. It could be about anything, as long as I sit for a minute and post an entry. Everyday. We’ll see how long this lasts. This is an effort for me to regain my creativity – not just writing, but for my photography business. I’ve just about killed my internet presence because of my “writer’s block”, my inability to get off my ass and update my photo blog (not this one, I have a real business website).

I’m not a writer. This is painful to me. I guess I’m doing this as a last ditch effort to save my photography business, so I can write on my blog again and hopefully start coming up with posts that are at least half interesting. So here I go…

I am a photographer, artist, thinker, dreamer, and a damn good daddy (I think). I love taking pictures, but love it even more when one or two come out looking good. I thrive on discovering that one OMG image that I’d be proud to post on Facebook. I get off on seeing my image (on FB) get more than a few “likes”. I need that to validate my craft. Unfortunately, that’s not what keeps me in business. I have to bring up my search engine ranking and recreate my internet presence after a long absence. If you’ve stumbled onto to this page, I hope you stick with me. I’m not going to make a promise yet, because I’m honestly unsure if I can do this. At least this one post is a try. Stick with me. Please.