28 November 2007

Musings From a Clear Heart

Happiness doesn't interest me. What I really want is a deep peace in my life, the kind that comes from living my greatest life.

A clean house doesn't interest me. I want a welcoming and relaxing home where the goal isn't a perfect environment, but rather an inviting gathering place for those I love the most.

I'm not interested in a loving relationship. What I want is a deep soul connection, a bond beyond this world. A knowing in my bones that I am cherished and adored. A passion that grows and expands to hold both of us for an eternity.

I don't want a successful business. What I really want is the opportunity to work with my greatest potential to craft an awesome lifestyle, and work with what I love each day.

Financial stability doesn't really interest me. What I really want is to risk my financial livelihood on what I love. To break my feelings of inadequacy and embrace the best part of myself, and to believe that I am worth that much.

The appearance of a person doesn't interest me. The condition of your heart interests me. So many of the people I meet are heartsick. I'm interested in exchanging a little light in our lives with whatever time we have together.

I'm not interested in the cliche. What I really want is to be true to my deepest heart and experience that reality in my everyday life.

Meditation on Creative Growth

Insecurity is the only way to grow, to face danger is the only way to grow, to accept the challenge of the unknown is the only way to grow. Adventure is a quality that can come into your life anywhere. Whenever you move into the new and unknown with the trusting spirit of a child, innocent, open, and vulnerable, even the smallest things in life can become the greatest adventures.

The relief and expansiveness you will feel once you have put aside all the dithering thoughts that are preventing you from acting now will make you wonder why you ever waited so long. Never postpone for tomorrow. Make up your mind. Embrace all that you are and have been and grow the wings to fly. Be courageous enough to take responsibility for who you are and live your truth. You are ready for the fresh and the new. Something wonderful is just on the horizon and you have just the right sense of clarity to welcome it with open arms.

See life as non-serious and the burden in your heart disappears, becoming weightless and lifting you in flight to the open sky. Whether you are beginning something new and need inspiration right now, or you've just finished something and want to rest, go to your Source. There is a vast reservoir of energy available to each of us and we tap into it not by thinking or planning, but by getting grounded, centered, and silent.

The experience of creativity is an entry in to the mysterious. It makes no difference what form that takes. Be open to what wants to be expressed though you. Do everything you do joyfully, and lovingly.

19 November 2007

Hand Position Can Make or Break an Image

I often enjoy other forms of art than the ones I participate in. I found this video of a dance troupe in China comprised completely of deaf individuals. I found myself thinking that so often, a great image is comprised of small details. Small things like hand position contribute to the overall effect. This is an amazing display of a teamwork and visual design. Enjoy!

17 November 2007

Tips for Capturing Great Snow Images

Here in Montana there is a lot of snow in the winter. Snow is a difficult photographic subject because of it's reflectance value. Depending on how new or wet the snowfall is, it can be up to 90% reflective. Light meters, and the meter in your camera are calibrated to calculate a standard 18% grey tone. This means that if you trust your meter, you are generally going to end up with a dull dark grey tone, which is usually what you don't want. Compounded with snow's reflectance value, the best way to get a great snow shot is in manual mode. Over the years I've learned some tricks to help get a better exposure with snow.

Add some Exposure

The first tip is to simply add 1 1/2 to 2 stops to whatever your camera says is the correct exposure. You camera is most likely stopping down due to the snow's reflectance, on top of trying to put the snow at a middle grey tone. In a shot filled with white, you have to add exposure.

Bracket your Exposure

When working with snow, I almost always bracket my exposure by a 1/2 or full stop around the exposure I think I need. You usually can't tell which exposure is the one you really want until you are back at the computer analyzing what you have done. I'd rather be safe than sorry.

Meter the Sky

This tip was given to me by a National Geographic photographer. The horizon line opposite to the sun is usually the mid tone for the lighting you are working with in a snow scene. If you spot meter that area, it will generally give you a great exposure, and you don't have to carry anything else with you. If you can't see the sky, spot meter anything that is a grey tone, a card if you have one, otherwise, a parka or pack might have the tone you are looking for.

The Correct Exposure is Going to Be Blue

Blue light and a very reflective subject will usually turn the correct exposure blue, especially in the shadows. Plan on having to warm your image up in the computer if you want white snow. I use color balance in Photoshop and correct shadows, mid tones and then highlights.

Winter photography can result in some of your best work. A little bit of extra care and thought with your exposure will yield you some great images. Just remember to move a little slower and you'll be fine. And don't drop your lens in the snow!

16 November 2007

Notes on Ansel Adams

I had the opportunity to view an exhibit of Ansel Adams work that is here at the Museum of the Rockies until January. I took the time to really enjoy the 25 original prints on display before listening to an overview of Ansel Adams life that was given by photo-curator Steve Jackson.

I have a love hate relationship with this iconic American photographer. I admire his work and his technical mastery, and even more what he did for conservation efforts in the USA to preserve the lands that he loved and shared with others through his art. However, in college I was beaten over the head with his zone system, once paying nearly $2,000.00 in film and processing costs in a semester to print a zone test that I couldn't seem to get right. I did that project four times over, and the professor finally gave me a mercy grade for effort. I never did make it all the way through that assignment. I will say that the effort I expended on that project made me the marginally successful darkroom printer that I became.

Last night, with almost ten years between me and that unforgettable project, I truly enjoyed viewing the prints. I learned a few things I didn't know about the man. He was a very good pianist that nearly went professional in the field of music. In every photograph I had seen previously of Ansel himself, he was wearing a hat. Until last night, I had no idea that he was bald. I also enjoyed this story. In 1933 he traveled at the height of the depression to visit Alfred Stieglitz in New York city. It was a rite of passage. Getting Alfred to approve your work meant that you had a hope of becoming a successful photographer. Alfred viewed Ansel's portfolio, opening the case, looking individually at each print, and putting each print individually back into the portfolio, and then retying the case. And then he repeated the entire process. Alfred looked at Ansel and said only, "You are welcome here any time." Ansel received the approval he had traveled across the country to receive, and he also burned his rear end on the radiator he was sitting on, because Alfred was sitting in the only chair in his studio.

Here are some quotes by Ansel that were shared with me last night.

"A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed." - Ansel Adams -

"To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which are latent in all things." - Ansel Adams -

"No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied - it speaks in silence to the very core of your being." - Ansel Adams -

"The negative is comparable to the composer's score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways." - Ansel Adams -

"It is my intention to present - through the medium of photography - intuitive observations of the natural world which may have meaning to the spectators." - Ansel Adams -

"The truly capable photographer is no more conscious of the physical presence of his camera, than the musician is conscious of his instrument." - Ansel Adams -

"Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships." - Ansel Adams -

15 November 2007

A Modern DaVinci?

I love how the human mind works. I believe that there are people alive today with the ability to be the next Einstein, Keppler or DaVinci. Theo Jansen may be one of them. This guys mind works on a genius level, and what he is comming up with in his kinetic sculptures is impacting manufacturing, transportation and the world of art. Take a look and enjoy!

Beautifully Toned Digital Black and White

Remember the days of film photography when you had to shoot something twice to get a great color version and a great black and white version? It always seemed that you were focusing on trying to get two 'really similar shots' instead of the best shot. Now with digital photography, any good color exposure can net you a great black and white. This allows you to simply focus on what's going on in front of your camera, instead of worrying if you got the shot.

To get a black and white, some people just desaturate the image, re-adjust levels and walk away. I have a simple Photoshop maneuver that allows you to get a beautifully toned black and white without all of the time and smelly chemicals of a darkroom. (I can slam the darkroom only because it's really my first true love.) This Photoshop technique also allows you to get an artistic 'split tone' in your black and white images. I personally use this technique to recreate my beloved selenium toning in my digital images, as shown above. In fact, almost every time I process an image this way, I end up liking the image better in the Black and White version.
So what's the secret? Here's my destructions...er directions.

Pull up your color image in Photoshop.

Go to the adjustment layers in the layer menu.

Select channel mixer.

When the menu comes up, select the monochrome button at the bottom of the menu. This will remove all the color from the photo. There are three channels available in the menu, red, green, and blue. As you move the sliders, the channels will affect the image. Think back to the colored black and white filters you used on your camera lens with black and white film to get an idea of how to use these sliders.

Once you have the black and white tones that you want, go back to adjustment layers in the layers menu.
This time, select color balance, and maneuver the sliders. This will allow you to 'tone' your image with much more control than you would have if you were in the dark room. To get a 'split tone' simply use the shadow control to adjust to a color you like, and use the highlight control to set your highlights to a cooler tone. This is also the best way to get a beautiful sepia tone.

There are other, less flexible ways to get a beautiful black and white in the computer, but this technique allows for a great amount of control and variety, keeping the photographer in the decision making process all the way to the final image, much like the darkroom used to be.

If you are a photographer who shoots in a controlled environment, like a studio, this technique is very easy to turn into a custom action for your studio. Simply record yourself picking the black and white tones that you like, on an image taken under your standard lights, and also choosing the color balance you like. And then never share your own numbers! If someone asks how you get the results you have, just show the technique and let others play with it until they have a look that they like. Everyone wins.

14 November 2007

Bootstrapping Seminar Notes

I had the opportunity yesterday to go to a Bootstrapping seminar here in Bozeman that was hosted by the Tech Ranch. www.techranch.org I sat in a very condensed format, but they will be sending the seminar to some of the smaller communities around Montana as a full one day seminar that is free to attend and I think it will be a better format. The information is excellent and worth attending. Here's a condensed version of my notes from the day.

The bootstrapping mentality is about climbing stairs. You might identify the next few stairs on the flight, but your resources and time allocation will only be on getting to the next stair in your business. When you have achieved that stair, then you move on to the next stair. This keeps your business focused. For a very small or new business, the stairs might just be the next project, or client, or the sales goal for that month.

Sales in Your Business

Sales is the way to tell if you have something to sell and sales is also your market research.

Pre-sell a new product to your current clients. This can be done by asking, "If I offered X, would you be interested? Why or why not?" This can be done as part of your regular sales session and allows you to do market research with your strongest customer base - the customers you already have. When you introduce a new product it won't be a shot in the dark. You will know you can sell it.

Focus on niches, and grow incrimentally. Find a small area where you can make an incrimental value add.

Aquire cash, not assets.

Marketing Your Business

Get close to your customers and use your customers as a source of market research and product input.

Spend money ONLY on MEASURABLE forms of marketing. If you can't measure it, don't buy it. When you are little, you can't afford the luxury.

Do public relations for you business yourself. You need this plan, but execute it yourself. You send press releases, you join the chamber, you take someone out to dinner, you write articles. No one knows your business like you do, that's your biggest asset.

You don't have to be a lone wolf. Partner with other service providers. This allows your business to act bigger than it is, because you have a good supply chain and you know where to go for the services you need to provide. Photographers might think of a lab as their partner, but a partner could also be a payroll service, accountant, or mailing company. Outsourcing these activities might be a good idea if you are tight on time. Time is your most precious resource as a small business.

Hiring in Your Business

DO NOT HIRE FOR SKILLS, THEY CAN BE TAUGHT. Hire for personality, integrity, intelligence and initiative with an emphasis on sales.

Hire "Swiss Army Knives" that can sell. Get a cleaner that can sell. Get an accountant that can sell. Get a retoucher that can sell. If your people can sell your product to your customers, it doesn't matter what their primary job is, you won't have to worry where your payroll is comming from.

BEWARE of managers and sales people. Professionals have been indocrinated with some bad habits you probably don't want in your business. Selling doesn't have to be a high pressure numbers game. In small business, selling should always be about a relationship and great service.

On-board new people on a paid project basis first. "I'd like to hire you to do X, Y and Z projects. If I'm happy with your work there will be a place here for you." This allows you to actually see the production of a new person and experiment with their true fit within your business. Someone might walk into your business with a resume filled with retail experience, and they might turn out to be the most organized accountant your business has ever had. If you experiment, you will find the best place for them, they will be happy, and your business will run better.

Look for the hungry vs the experienced. If someone has three kids and a ton of bills, they will be more motivated than someone who has a tremendous amount of experience and no pressure. You want your people to come to work motivated, your business will do better.

Employees are either 'revenue generating' or 'cost generating.' Your business needs both types. One person could be in both categories depending on the areas that you have them working in. The trick is to keep you business balanced toward the revenue generating side. This will help keep you profitable.

Service in Your Business

Your sales team is your revenue center and your market research center along with being your customer service center. Don't give up this area unless you have a dynamo working for you. Keep a close connection an eye on this area if you do give it up, because the most valuable information comming into your business happens during sales sessions.

CROSS SELL, UP SELL and RETAIN (CUR) (We like dogs in Montana.)
Cross sell - sell them another product, consider discounting with the current purchase; for a photographer this would be selling a family session to the mother of the senior or a third generation session to a family.

Up Sell - Have desirable add ons that are not a part of your packages ANYWHERE. Have add ons at different price points.

Retain - Make sure your customer walks away happy. Thank them. Follow up with them. Mail to them. Ask for referrals.

How to perform great customer service cheaply:
Tackle problems quickly
Be proactive
Manage Expectations
Survey Routinely

Finance in Your Business

Cash is king. Your CASH FORCAST IS THE MOST IMPORTANT BUSINESS MEASURE THAT YOU PRODUCE. Most businesses just produce an accounts receivable and an accounts payable report. Those reports look backwards. A cash forecast is the month comming up. The only way you can produce one is to sit down and actively plan your business activities for the next month. This forces you to be actively working on and setting goals for your business. Your business will not grow at the rate you want it to grow unless you do this!

Manage you accounts recievable closely. Make sure you are getting paid for your work. Get to know your customer's account payable staff (be nice and friendly) so you will get paid more promptly.

Be cheap. Don't buy things you don't need. Aquire cash, not assests.

Nothing happens until somebody sells something.

13 November 2007

Ten Ways to Evaluate Any Client

In any industry there are people you want to have as good clients. In a competitive creative market identifying and keeping good clients returning to your business is a matter of life and death. In a rural market, this is especially true. Your business may not have the opportunity to work with a large number of steady repeat clients. Keeping the good clients you do have will help you keep your doors open. If you are trying to decide what level a client is at, here's a list of ten criteria that will help you evaluate, or score that person as relating to your business.

This takes the evaluation out of what you might "feel" about a person due to their personality, and brings the evaluation back to a logical business perspective. Simply assign a score O-10 for each point on the list, O being no match at all, and 10 being the best possible client. At the end of the exercise you will have 'graded' your client and will have a better idea of how to work with them based on their value to your business.

1. This client never asks you to do work on speculation, or bend your professional procedures.

2. Before they call you, the client has a good idea of their budget, objective, and timeline.

3. This client is organized, provides complete information and doesn't waste your time.

4. This client is willing to provide you with adequate time for you to complete the project without stress.

5. Knows great work when they see it, and wants that level of service from you.

6. Doesn't nitpick you on tiny details or the style of your work.

7. Provides helpful criticism that helps you bring the project toward their objectives.

8. Never tells you how to do your job, but will provide a precise description of what is wrong.

9. Does not begrudge you your payment and is appreciative of you time and talent.

10. Pays promptly.


90 or above - True "A" list clients. These are people you want to work to develop a professional and long standing relationship with. They are extremely valuable both as a regular client and as a source of referrals for your business.

70 or above - Great long term client with the potential to become an "A" eventually. These people are also a great referral pipeline and should be the bulk of the customers your business serves.

50 or above - Good person to do business with. About average.

Below 30 - Consider referring this client to a competitor. This person probably brings you a lot of headaches every time you work with them. Are they costing you too much in time and stress? Are they worth keeping? What do they cost you to work with in terms of good clients you could serve with the same amount of time and resources?

12 November 2007

Content Aware Image Resizing

The author of this project, Shai Avidan, was hired by Adobe. Hopefully this technology will soon be added to an Adobe version near you! This is one of the coolest things I've seen in a while!

10 November 2007

Kill Your Alligators While They Are Small

This piece of business wisdom, is so ingrained, I'm not sure when I learned it. When I think about it, all I hear is my mom telling my dad, "We have a few alligators to deal with today." An alligator is a problem in your business. I just grew up with the analogy and didn't really understand that it wasn't a universal thing until I had to explain it to a number of other business owners. Over the years I've realized that my parents naturalized rules for dealing with alligators were actually a very good system for dealing with problems that come up in small business. When ever there was a problem they would say, "We need to kill this alligator while it's small." The faster you can deal with a problem after it comes up, the easier it is to make it go away. If you ignore it and wait until its grown into a twelve foot toothy beast, it's a lot harder to handle.

The Five Steps to Kill an Alligator

1. Respond to the problem as soon as you know about it. This will help the person you are dealing with, either customer or staff know that they have been heard.

2. If at all possible, go and assess the problem in person. Listen to both the customer and your staff to gather as much information as possible. The first thing you do with your customer is apologize and assure them that they will be taken care of. The first thing you do with your staff is to assure them that they aren't going to get fired for having the problem, but you expect them to learn from it. This gets everyone on your side. Listen to the person that has the problem and let them vent. Stay calm and reassuring. Provide a solution as soon as you have an opening in the conversation.

3. If it's fixable, fix it as soon as possible. Offer 3 choices, and let the person choose what will make them happy. In the case of the client the choices are:
A. Re-do the work.
B. Refund the work.
C. Replace what was damaged.

4. Do follow up with the customer and your staff after the agreed upon solution has been executed. This cements the good relationship with the customer and allows you to use the experience to train your employees.

5. If you really feel that you have been taken for a ride by the person who had a problem with you, fix the problem and then fire the customer. Firing a customer can be accomplished by a notation in their file that tells you that you don't want to work with them anymore. If they call again, (pulling a customers file should always be part of your phone script, but that's another post)you'll see the notation and you can simply tell them, "The last time we did work for you, you were really not happy with our service. It might be better for both of us if you found someone else to work with, I can give you a couple of recommendations."

Handling the business problems sooner rather than later will help your business grow and help you to maintain a good reputation. Killing your alligators is about taking care of what is most important in business, your relationships with people. However, it also allows you to maintain control of your business and assess the people and customers you work with to the benefit of everyone.

09 November 2007

500 Years of Women in Western Art

This video was sent to me by one of the women I know. I thought I would post it here to share with others. I have studied painters since my first internship to develop my artistic eye. There's something about seeing a lot of my favorites in one place that inspires me. One thing that I have noticed in this depiction is how the representation of women in painting has changed in the last century. I'm not sure if this is because of photography, or in spite of it. I love how the positioning and lighting was done by the old masters, and I try to bring some of this into my own work. Enjoy the show!

08 November 2007

What's Wrong with Photojournalistic Weddings?

I had an internship with a man who started a portrait studio after a 15 year long career in newspaper photography. After winning many national awards and publishing a book of images, he felt that he was ready for the next phase of his career. He shoots weddings with great results at a fairly high price point. On of the first things he told me when I started with him was, "The word photojournalism is not an excuse to turn in crap."

Some professional photographers view the word photojournalism as a cover for something nearing amateur candids. What I was taught by a true professional in this area is that your photography skills matter more because you are working with the traditional knowledge areas of lighting and posing, but you are working on the fly to catch the best "moments" as they happen. It's a dynamic engaging form of photography that requires interaction with the subject and the ability to read what is going to happen next and the ability to get in position ahead of the action. These photographers spend years honing their skills to become professionals. The requirements of great lighting, color tone, and composition don't go out the door because you are a photojournalist.

Plain amateur candids are easy to produce. You simple back up, put everything into wide angle view and shoot away. Invariably a few will fall into the salable category. True photojournalists are artists, some of the most selective shooters I've seen, with distinguishing iconic works that capture universal emotions. Don't believe me? Study Henri Cartier Bresson.

Brides are now paying somewhere between $2,000 to $5,000 on average for a professional wedding photographer. Photojournalistic "moments" will certainly ad readability and variety to a wedding album. However, these brides are paying a lot for their treasured photographs. They deserve something more than what Uncle Harry can shoot. Make sure your candids are dynamic, have emotional impact, and great tonality.

The ability of a professional to integrate all of the traditional bench marks of lighting, posing, and capturing the best possible expression in beautiful memorable images is required. These are the images that are purchased for long term display in an album or wall hanging. If you are a bride searching for a good photographer, ask to see samples of albums they have actually sold to people to ensure they have the quality photography you want to tell your story. Make sure the person is a good fit with your personality and that you are comfortable with them. Ask for references for brides they have worked with. Don't accept a low quality of work because it's in a "photojounralistic style." Great photojournalists will hand you something unforgettable, a bad one will do no better than Uncle Harry.

06 November 2007

Quotes for the Creative Life

"The road to happiness lies in two simple principles; find what it is that interests you and that you can do well, and when you find it, put your whole soul into it - every bit of energy, ambition and natural ability you have." - John D. Rockefeller III

"Creativity is NOT the work of art; it is the art of work." - Georgia O'Keeffe -

"Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson -

05 November 2007

Why Being Nice to your Competitors is Good Business

One of the long standing business rules in my family is to be kind, friendly, and helpful to any colleague in your industry that is professional, charging a fair price, and treating clients well. This is a cross industry tenet that has helped my family to stay in business over the generations. I've heard arguments over the years about your competition being evil, and wanting to steal your business. In some cases that is true, and the best way to handle this problem is simply being polite and distant with these competitors. Here are the arguments for professional camaraderie.

Since most people shop around for the products they want, your competition will have a say in how you are perceived by your customers. If your competitors like you, it's hard for them to knock you down in the clients mind. They will sell based on what they can do, rather than what you aren't doing. When a customer asks them, "How does your service compare with X?" You want them replying, "She is fair to her customers and has a different style, niche, or look than I do." You do not want them saying, "I've bailed a lot of people out over the years that have used X service, you might pay a little more with me, but in the end you will be much happier staying with my business because of the service you will receive." The tone of your competition's sales pitch as regards to your business will be influenced by whether they like you and think you are serving your market well.

While some competitors will stay cold and distant, others are perfectly willing to have a professional relationship sharing techniques, tips, or tricks. As long as this is not one sided, (you have to share too) this can greatly benefit your industry over time. You will learn more, they will learn more, and you will get better, be able to serve your clients better, and you can raise your prices. If your local competition is not willing to have this kind of relationship get yourself plugged in with a professional association, industry magazines, or a mentor relationship outside your immediate market area. When I was first starting, I needed professional experience in a studio. I couldn't get it locally because no one wanted to train their competition, and I didn't blame them. I traveled to another city to take my internship and its one of the best moves I've ever made. I expanded my knowledge, learned the ropes, and came back and networked as a colleague with the same competitors that didn't want to train me. When I handled the relationship professionally, shared some things I had learned and participated in a local industry group, I became a friendly competitor; someone they were comfortable with, could refer to, and liked being around.

Did you know that your competitors can be one of your most valuable sources of referrals? If they have a problem, are booked and can't take a client, or get a client outside their niche, they are likely to give a professional referral. These referrals ALWAYS go to the professional in their area that they like and trust. If that person is you, your business will benefit and have a greater chance of surviving. In my area my niche is Adobe program consulting, concept art, commercial photography and family photography. I don't really like shooting weddings or small children. When I am asked by clients to do those things, I almost always give a referral saying, "You know I'm not really set up for small children/weddings but this photographer over here specializes in that niche, and you will be very happy if you become their client for that service." My client stays happy, I stay happy, and here's the awesome thing...I usually keep the client I referred in my niche area, because I am viewed as an honest competent professional for being able to make the recommendation. I have a very short list that I will refer to. Almost every one of those people has built a professional relationship with me over time. There are probably other people in my area that would work for a referral, but I don't know them, so they don't make my list.

Your friendly competition can help your business grow. Last year, a photographer in my area came to a professional gathering with some images she was considering for professional competition. After the critique of her work by her peers, she was scared to enter. I asked her if I could trade a few hours of studio time for computer lessons. I helped her with the skills she needed to retouch her images and stretched her to grow and enter the competition. At the end of the day she became one of the top ten photographers in my state. She has been able to market with that award for a year and her confidence has soared. I used the studio time I traded to create some images I needed for marketing in my business. Our businesses both grew from the professional relationship we have.

If you have a problem, do you have someone who will help you? My father is the person who taught me this friendly competition benefit. He's a home inspector. Last year his main competitor, who had trained him, helped him get involved with his professional association, and given him some great advice on how to start his second career, broke his leg in an accident.
He was told to go home and rest for 3 months in order to heal his leg properly. My father called him and said, "You've really helped me over the last few years, let me do inspections for your business on the days when I'm not booked out to help you keep some income coming in. You can keep the money for your family, and I'll get the experience of working with you for a few weeks." Dad improved his skill level, and his competitor kept his business. I asked my dad why he had helped his competitor stay in business when some people would have just let them go out of the industry and not have to deal with them. My father replied, "Every business has hurdles it has to jump, from equipment, to training, to crisis. Your competition is in the best position to help you. They know your industry, they are well trained, and they are often your best resource when you are dealing with a problem. My competition knows I helped him when he really needed it, and it just about ensures that he will stay friendly toward my business in this market. That's a good thing to have. I want good competitors in my field, it helps my business overall, because I have a better industry in which to be involved."

04 November 2007

Notes on Posing a Bride Well

Five or six years ago, I was given the following tips on photographing a bride by a Master Photographer in my state. I am referencing my notes from this professional conversation for this post, but the photographer who gave me these points told me they originally came from Charles Lewis in a seminar he attended. If you would like more from Mr. Lewis, an icon in the professional photography world, the title of this post will take you to his website.

These 20 details are the things I mentally look for as a professional in a formal bridal portrait. Every photograph should contain a majority, although it may not contain all points. The more points you have on this list, the better the chance you will end up with a winner portrait and a happy client.

1) Different parts of the body should point in different directions. If you don't understand counterpoint, study old painting masters from the Renaissance, and look at their body positioning.

2) Make sure the weight of the bride is on the rear leg, as defined by the position of the camera. This will help with creating a nice body curve and a solid relaxed stance.

3) Make sure the front leg is bent. This helps move the weight onto the rear leg, sets the hips into a curved line, and allows the shoulders to move.

4) Tilt the head and set the hands of the bride at the same time in order to get the bride to move into the pose in a natural way.

5) Keep hands on different levels in the portrait unless they are together.
6) Show hands from the side to make them look more graceful.
7) The wrist angle will give flow - above the waist palm is down, below the waist palm is up.
8) If the veins on the hands are showing, put their hands above their head for a moment to drain the veins down. (This trick also works on older people.) Again, if you don't understand any of this positioning, study Renaissance painting masters.

9) The body is turned away from the light
10) The head is turned back into the light.
This is classic female lighting in portraiture. Using these two points in any formally lit photograph of a female will greatly help out your work.

11) Set the eyes. The best way I have found to get your client to look in the right place is to tell them to focus on the top of your lens. When setting the eyes, also look at the position of the nose. Especially if your bride is short, they will be holding their head back too far. You will need to bring the nose down and the eyes back up in order to achieve a flattering look.

12) Set the front toe if possible. You may want to have the bride take her shoe off and put it in a position where the toe of the shoe is visible. This makes the legs of the bride look longer; its a pure photographic trick, but if the bride is wearing tennis shoes for comfort under her gown, skip this step.

13) Frame the photo so that the eyes are on the top third of the photo. On a close up, consider loosing the top of the head to achieve this as this position will result in a dynamic photograph with the focus on the brides face.

14) Clear the perimeter of the face.
15) The veil is either all or nothing, otherwise it complicates facial lines.
Do not allow the veil to intersect the facial line of the bride. Either bring the veil forward more, or move it back, but don't allow the edge line of the veil to follow the line of the face. Not watching this will create a very distracting element in your image. You may want to photograph your bride both ways.

16) Keep the joints bent.
17) NO 90 degree joints on a bride, the lines are too strong.
The lines will help the photograph read better and encourage eye movement throughout the portrait. Straight arms especially can take eyes right off the edge of the portrait.

18) In a front portrait, the train is behind the bride. If the dress has a lot of detail, also position the bride for a rear profile to show off the dress.

19) The train can be positioned to create a good base for the photograph.

20) Once the portrait is set, before taking the photograph double check the small details including jewelry, creases in fabric, bouquet, and stray hair.

As you are taking the photograph, engage the bride to create genuine emotion and enthusiasm. This is easiest if you have been creating a friendly rapport during the posing process. This technique sounds like a lot, but if it's a checklist you have memorized beforehand, its really easy to just look and check as you are moving, resulting in quick, beautiful formals that will delight your bride and set you apart from average snapshots.

The creative UN-LIFE and EVITA

Have you ever met a creative that could only talk about their work? I'm talking about the person who works overtime and then only wants to talk shop in their off time. You know, the person you won't always answer the phone for on YOUR day off because you know they want to have a two hour industry conversation? They have a one track mind, and it's whatever project they have currently.

Now, I'm not saying this is all bad, because some of my dearest friends fit this bill. I'm also sure that I've been guilty of this a few times over the years. However, these same people are also at the greatest risk of burning out. It's like watching fireworks. Bang, bang, bang, big lights, great moves, silence. I've watched some of the most talented creative people I've met burn out because they can't pace themselves, and get away from work.

I love what I do, I do it well, and I've been known to work overtime on a project I'm really exited about. I also host a dinner party once a week, go out with my friends, volunteer in my community, workout and pursue hobbies outside of my field. I have a life. It's balanced, vibrant, and fun. The one track creative has what I like to call an un-life. If you're suctioned to your computer, eat only office left-overs, and your friends have forgotten what you look like...get a life.

I was reminded about this recently when I went to see a performance of Evita in my town. Now, I live in the Northwest, not New York. The production was not Broadway quality, but it was excellently produced, and about as good as it gets where I live. I took the night off and took a friend with me to the second row seats I had procured for the evening. For two hours I was enthralled, entertained, and carefree. I walked out of the show creatively recharged and excited to go back to work, because I had left work.

Incidentally, the friend I took with me to Evita was my second call. She's someone with a life too. The first call I made was to a creative with an un-life who turned me down with, "It's just some knock-off production, not a REAL show." So my first friend stayed slogging at work and I went on to have a great evening with another friend. I saw the friend that turned me down a few days later in the grocery store. We chatted for a few minutes and they said to me, "You always have energy, and I'm always tired." I suggested taking a little time off once in a while and they gave me the you-are-phenomenally-crazy look and the conversation ended a few minutes later.

I have creative energy because I take care of myself. I have friends, I have a life outside my industry, and I take part in activities that refuel my mind, heart, and soul. I happen to be someone who can go to Evita and feed off of that for days. Evita is not the point, the creative charge is. Your cup of tea might be motocross, a challenging chess game or a hike in the mountains. Whatever your fuel of choice is, just make sure you aren't living an un-life!