The Biggest Wedding Shot Challenges and How to Own Them

It doesn’t matter if you are a friend of the bride or groom and you’ve given them a sweet deal on the cost of their wedding photos. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out as an amateur photographer and you are doing this wedding for free to improve your book. It doesn’t even matter if the bride and groom have said to you, “Don’t worry, just get shots really candidly and casually. We want things to seem natural” While these or any number of scenarios may be what brought you to the point of calling yourself a wedding photographer for a day, none of them trump the one simple and unbelievably daunting truth of weddings: this is the big day, and you only get one shot…literally.

Since there is no “do-over” when it comes to the wedding day, there are 4 basic principles to keep in mind when you’ve taken on the incredible task of shooting wedding photos. Remember to accomplish each one of these and you will never find yourself scrambling for extra batteries as the bride turns red with frustration because you are losing the perfect lighting.

Wedding Shot Principle #1: Scope out the location EARLY. Wedding days are inherently busy and jam packed to the minute. The last thing you want to do as a photographer is have the wedding party scampering all about the venue searching for the best lighting and angles. Arrive at the ceremony location earlier in the day or even a day before if possible so you can survey the scene. Decide which areas will provide the components necessary for the styling your bride and groom have chosen.

Wedding Shot Principle #2: Bring backups of EVERYTHING. How does the saying go? ‘Better safe than sorry’ Again, there is no re-doing a wedding day. So whether you have to buy stock in AAA batteries or carry two extra flashes around with you that day, the bottom line is this: just do it! You will find yourself so much more at ease knowing you are completely prepared for anything. Additionally, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your flash battery and camera battery will run out with all the burst mode snapping you’ll be doing.

Flickr
Flickr petesmart

Wedding Shot Principle #3: Have a shot list. When it comes to formal wedding pictures, the bride and groom will know best what arrangements they will want so most likely the happy couple will provide you with this.  However, if this is not the case, ask for one and make sure, even after the formal pictures are done, that you keep the list with you so you can be sure to get a couple candid’s of each person on the list. Everyone loves action shots of laughing, smiling and dancing!

Flickr acclaimed-wedding-photographer
Flickr acclaimed-wedding-photographer

 

Wedding Shot Principle #4: Bring a step-ladder. These days, couple’s are getting a little tricky with where and how they are getting married. While some remain in a church, many are getting married outside, on a mountain, under water…? With these added components of location having a step ladder handy can help you access angles and shots that otherwise would be lost. After all what is the surest way to get more business? Get the un-gettable shot and hear the happy bride sing your praises forever!

Home Studios, They’re Easier Than You Think…and cheaper too!

What comes to mind when you think about professional studios? Indoor photo shoots? I’m guessing you are imagining some flashy car or a gorgeous model, set in front of a flawless white background, multiple bright spotlights shining directly onto the perfectness of the subject matter. Sounds pretty high fashion (a.k.a. high dollar) and intense huh? The reality is that it doesn’t have to be so intense and it doesn’t have to be so costly. These days, studio gear has come down in price and advances in technology have made this gear far more user friendly. Thus, more of our fellow photographers are able to set up shop in their own homes at a fraction of the cost. We’re talking only about $1,000.00 to get you up and running. Just don’t meet clients still in your pajamas…I know it’s a home studio, but that may detract from the professional image…just sayin’.

Below are the 5 must-haves for a successful home studio:

Home Studio Must-Have #1: Background – We can’t all have a world class cyclorama as a part of our studios, at least not yet.  A fantastic alternative is to use seamless background paper. It’s inexpensive and the two most popular sizes (53 inches and 107 inches) can be purchased for anywhere between $20-$40. The stands that support these paper rolls only go for about $60 themselves so for a mere $100, you have your versatile studio background.

Home Studio Must-Have #2: Strobes – Ok so first things first, we aren’t talking about disco status strobe lights. Strobes are just pro speak for studio flash, aka lighting. They are basically the same thing as your off camera flash however they are far more powerful and put out more light which is necessary for killer studio shots. And p.s. they can be acquired for as little as $300. Say what!?

Home Studio Must-Have #3: Softbox – In last week’s post we talked about window lighting and how this diffused light creates some of the best elements for photography. Same thing applies to studio shots. However, studios are usually very dark with the exception of the strobes so how do we create that same diffused lighting? You guessed it, a softbox. For only about $200, they fit right over your strobes and are the pro choice for making the harsh light of your strobe, bigger and softer.

Flickr j_kacey
Flickr j_kacey

Home Studio Must-Have #3a: Speed Ring – Some softboxes will come with a speed ring built right in. However many do not, so if this is the case for you, make sure you put it on your shopping list. Be super on top of your game though and make sure to purchase one that is made to fit your brand of strobe. Speed rings are small metal circles, with four holes on the sides designed to hold the four thin poles that give your softbox its shape. Depending on the quality, they can cost anywhere from$50 to $120.

Home Studio Must-Have #4: Light Meter – These little babies are so helpful when you are working with multiple lights and possibly multiple reflectors and need to choose the perfect exposure. They are super easy to use and will save you hours of stressful Photoshop adjustments. Besides, your time is far more valuable than the $250 it costs to purchase these tools of exposure perfection.

Home Studio Must-Have #5: Silver Reflector – Are you thinking you need to spend another $300, for a second strobe in order to handle those pesky shadows? Not necessarily.  Be nice to yourself (and your wallet) and just pick up a $40 silver reflector. It will throw a ton of gentle light back toward your subject matter and quickly illuminate any undesired shadows.

Flickr afshinheidary
Flickr afshinheidary

Ok, drum roll please as we do our Financial Re-Cap:

  • Background – $100.00
  • Strobe – $300.00
  • Softbox – $200.00
  • Speed ring – $120.00
  • Light Meter – $250.00
  • Silver Reflector – $40.00

 

Home Studio Grand Total:  $1010.00

You, Your Subject and Window Light – Top 3 FAQ’s

You really can’t get more perfect lighting then from natural window light. The reason being, that the window diffuses the bright light coming through it, especially at the edge of the window. This will leave you with soft, yet clear and illuminated images and none of those squinty-eyed smiles. For as gentle and beautiful as window light is, there are some subtle nuances to be aware of when shooting subject matter utilizing the natural glow. Below are the top 3 most frequently asked questions of window light shots.

Window Light FAQ #1: Where do I position my subject?

If you are shooting a portrait, start by having them sit just past the window, about 6 feet away from the wall. This will allow the light to gently and fully envelop them. Too close and too direct in the sunlight will have you seeing some real funky dark and light contrasting. Also, have your subject sit with the side of their shoulder facing the window. This allows the light to fall flatteringly across their face, leaving soft natural shadows on the far sides.

Window Light FAQ #2: Where do I position myself?

Although it may seem more natural to stand right in front of them while shooting, what actually is more natural is to shoot closer to the angle in which the window light is streaming. This means that you will position yourself with the side of your shoulder right up against the window. Be careful not to stand in the light, but right at the edge of the window. You will end up aiming backwards slightly, due to the way you positioned your subject, but it will create the most striking portraits.

Window Light FAQ #3: What if I’m not shooting a portrait?

As with the picture below, sometimes allowing the light to shine through the subject matter, can create lovely and dramatic photos. Obviously that doesn’t work with humans, and if it does, they may need more calcium… In any case, it all depends on what emotion you are trying to create. Start by placing your subject in the same position mentioned above. Again, that edge light is the softest and most complimentary. Once you have accomplished that, feel free to move around it and see what each angle will produce. As always, make sure you are zoom checking each shot for tack sharpness.

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BONUS Tip! Ok, so we’ve established that natural window light is fantastic, but did you know that you may still want or need a light reflector? Additionally, and contrary to popular belief, you don’t always want to place that reflector on the shadowy side of your subject. If you want to open up those shadows, try placing the reflector above the camera position. Bouncing the light down onto your subject matter from closer to the window will accomplish the same thing but in a less aggressive way. And that’s what we’ve been talking about all along right? Soft, natural lighting? Awesome, get to practicing and pretty soon you’ll be known as the Portrait Specialist in your ‘hood!

Creative Ideas for Must-Have Wedding Reception Photography

must have wedding shots-signing the marriage licenses_venson

As we mentioned in our previous article, it’s important to create a Wedding Photography Shot List before even attempting to photograph the big event.

If you want to avoid having your shots look “ho hum” (and thus avoid upsetting the bride and groom!), we’ve put together a fun montage of wedding reception photo ideas to spur you on to creative victory. Feel free to add your own spin on these ideas and enlist creative input from the bride and groom as well.

Signing the Marriage License– Experiment with your distance to capture this moment from every possible angle. If you have a second shooter, take turns photographing from different sides of the bride, groom and officiate.

Continue reading “Creative Ideas for Must-Have Wedding Reception Photography”

14 Charming Toddler Portrait Ideas

toddler portrait ideas ducklings-fabulousphotosbybrittany

Oh, the toddler years! It’s a time filled with endless discovery, curious exploration and growing independence. A toddler’s energy is a force to be reckoned with, matched only by their powerful self-will. Since capturing these pint-sized whirlwinds on camera can be (more than a bit) tricky, we’ve compiled 14 easy to re-create toddler portrait ideas that are sure to bring a smile to both the child’s and their parents’ faces!

Toddler Portrait Idea #1-3 – Close Up

Mommies, daddies and grandparents agree – there’s nothing better than a “close up” of their favorite little sweetheart! It doesn’t matter if the child is smiling or snoozing away, a close up is always a sure-fire hit.

toddler portrait ideas close up-jrishel
Flickr: jrishel
toddler portrait ideas close up bw-vivarin
Flickr: vivarin
toddler portrait ideas shh sleeping-oaspetele_de_piatra
Flickr: oaspetele_de_piatra

Toddler Portrait Idea #4-5 – Exploring the Great Outdoors

Little ones just love playing outside! Whether it’s a blooming meadow, a babbling brook or a park filled with playground equipment, each setting lends itself to the mood of adventure and discovery.

toddler portrait ideas country bridge-joelleim
Flickr: joelleim
toddler portrait ideas picking flowers-trebecca84
Flickr: trebecca84

 

Toddler Portrait Idea #6 – Peekaboo!

It’s the first game a child learns to play which also doubles as a great ice breaker for nervous children and their eager photographers. Playing peekaboo with your hands or with a prop is guaranteed to bring out the giggles in everyone – fast!

toddler portrait ideas playground-brandobean
Flickr: brandobean

 

Toddler Portrait Idea #7 – Off to the Side

There’s no rule that says a head shot must be taken…well…head-on. In fact, jazzing it up a bit by having part of the child’s face just out of view creates a winning artistic touch. Be sure to keep a framed sample copy nearby to showcase this idea to its fullest potential.

toddler portrait ideas peekaboo-beattys
Flickr: beattys

 

Toddler Portrait Idea #8-9 – Walking Hand in Hand

Those wobbly first steps are precious indeed! Experiment with this portrait idea by having the child walk holding their parents’ hands or fingers, or walking along with an older sibling to add perspective and a wisp of nostalgia.

toddler portrait ideas walking with parents-anvuela
Flickr: anvuela
toddler portrait ideas ducklings-fabulousphotosbybrittany
Flickr: fabulousphotosbybrittany

Toddler Portrait Idea #10-11 – Just Mommy (or Daddy) and Me

It’s time for your subjects to pucker up and snuggle in close with this classic parent & child pose. Frame the photo within a variety of settings such as a nearby park or a big cozy chair to kindle that familial bond. Include grandparents or a favorite aunt or uncle to create a beautiful family treasure in minutes!

toddler portrait ideas father and son-joelleim
Flickr: joelleim
toddler portrait ideas mommys kisses-lab2112
Flickr: lab2112

 

Toddler Portrait Idea #12 – One Small Step

When you’re less than 3 feet high, climbing the stairs is a monumental feat! Capture this proud-as-can-be moment with a photo of the wee one ascending that magical staircase of victory. Jazz up the scene a little bit with a sparkly crown, fairy wings or even a little super hero cape for added effect. (Be sure to have an adult or parent nearby for safety!)

toddler portrait ideas one big step-svenstorm
Flickr: svenstorm

 

Toddler Portrait Idea #13 – So Curious!

Toddlerhood is a time for asking all sorts of questions from morning ‘til night. A sweet portrait depicting a little one’s ponderous expression captures both the innocence and wonder of this all too fleeting time in their lives.

toddler portrait ideas curious-37115419@N02
Flickr: 37115419@N02

 

Toddler Portrait Idea #14 – Angelic Profile

A little one’s profile is truly a thing of beauty – just as their mama! The contours of their faces are soft and rounded, from their sloping foreheads to their tiny button noses. Be sure to allow for plenty of light across the eyes to create a slightly ethereal look.

toddler portrait ideas angel eyes-foxtongue
Flickr: foxtongue

 

18 Pet Portrait Ideas

Pet Portrait Idea-Backyard BBQ-nick_lee

Whether it’s a dog, a cat or even something more exotic like say – a turtle or a guinea pig, the family pet is a cherished and often doted-upon member of the family. This is why, if you’re not already in the habit of photographing pets, you might want to give it a try. Pet portraiture has become extremely popular over the past few years, providing both the amateur and professional photographer a new outlet for their creativity and a strong conduit for reaching new clients.

We’ve rounded up some of the most adorable pet portrait ideas, complete with props. See how many of these suggestions you can incorporate into your next “fur baby” portrait special!

Pet Portrait Idea #1

Mirror, Mirror – A mirror or sunny window makes a great prop for the curious kitty or pup! Watch as the animal encounters the “stranger” and get ready to take that prize winning comical shot! Just be sure you’re positioned off to the side so as to not interrupt the shot with your own flash.

Pet Portrait Ideas-Mirror Mirror-nick_lee
Flickr: nick_lee

 

Pet Portrait Idea #2-3

Outdoor Chic – Bundle up that little fur ball and get ready to brave the great outdoors! To ensure optimal attention and safety, look for a location that is as free from other distractions as possible (read: other dogs, kids on bikes, cars, etc). Also, ask the owner to either stand nearby (just outside the frame) or directly behind you so the dog looks “up” toward the camera.

Pet Portrait Ideas-all dressed up-ellegphotography
Flickr: ellegphotography
Pet Portrait Ideas-Great Outdoors-plasticwool
Flickr: plasticwool

 

Pet Portrait Idea #4

Backyard BBQ – Nothing brings out the “canine” like a juicy burger or charbroiled steak! If the subject’s family is into camping, cookouts or tail-gate parties, a portrait featuring a cooler, picnic blanket, plastic food (ahem), and their beloved companion is a sure-fire hit.

Pet Portrait Ideas-Backyard BBQ-nick_lee
Flickr: nick_lee

 

Pet Portrait Idea #5-6

Shh! Baby’s Sleeping – If you’ve got a tired pooch or kitty on your hands, don’t fight against their internal snooze button. Instead, opt for a charming sleepy pose! You could wrap the little one up in a blanket or simply capture their afternoon siesta right where they landed.

Pet Portrait Ideas-Shh Baby Sleeping-wishymom
Flickr: wishymom
Pet Portrait Ideas-Nap Time-phlora
Flickr: phlora

 

Pet Portrait Idea #7-8

Play Time – Whether they’re chasing a ball, playing tug-o-war with a sock or batting a ball of yarn, dogs and cats of all ages love to play! These silly moments produce plenty of laughs on their own, so go for the candid and try not to “create” the scene too much. In fact, a playful scene like this would be great ice breaker as it eliminates the animal’s anxiety and helps them feel more relaxed.

Pet Portrait Ideas-Kitty Play-picturepurrfect685
Flickr: picturepurrfect685
Pet Portrait Ideas-That's My Ball-51710725@N08
Flickr: 51710725@N08

 

Pet Portrait Idea #9

Santa Baby – “Dear Santa, I’ve been very good this year. Love, Fluffy” A portrait featuring the little critter decked out for the holidays not only makes a great gift idea but a fun holiday greeting card image as well. Just add a few glittering packages, a decorated tree and you’re in business! If your subject is a puppy or kitten, consider tucking them inside a stocking for a sweet-as-candy pose.

Pet-Portrait-Ideas-cturley

Pet Portrait Idea #10-12

Hugs & Kisses – Nothing could be more endearing than a portrait featuring the pet – and “his” child-master! But beware: certain factors, like maintaining both subjects’ attention and ensuring the child isn’t “squeezing” or holding on to their pet too hard, can suck the life out of a staged pet/child photo rather quickly. Instead, go for the candid to capture that, “You’re my best friend forever” moment.

Pet Portrait Ideas-Hugs and Kisses-bdwaydiva1
Flickr: bdwaydiva1
Pet Portrait Ideas-Best Friends-the_napkin
Flickr: the_napkin
Pet Portrait Ideas-Puppy Love-28045310@N08
Flickr: 28045310@N08

 

Pet Portrait Idea #13-15

Am I Cute or What? – A close-up of their favorite companion is guaranteed to make any owner smile! Get to know the animal a bit first, so you can capture their unique personality in the shot. Portraits like these are great for framing and never go out of style.

Pet Portrait Ideas-Am I Cute or What-mims_art_of_life
Flickr: mims_art_of_life
Pet Portrait Ideas-Sweet Kitty-gideonvanderstelt
Flickr: gideonvanderstelt
Pet Portrait Ideas-happy_smile-kakissel
Flickr: kakissel

 

Pet Portrait Idea #16-18

Young ‘n Innocent – It’s hard to resist a sweet pair of kitten or puppy dog eyes staring back at you! Capturing those adorable first few weeks on camera is sure fire way to elicit plenty of “Awwww!’s” from your clients, both now and well into the future.

pet portrait ideas-angel eyes-brambleberries_photography
Flickr: brambleberries_photography
pet portrait ideas-baby face-vonschnauzer
Flickr: vonschnauzer
pet portrait ideas-wink-meaganjean
Flickr: meaganjean

13 Maternity Portrait Posing Ideas

classy maternity portrait posing idea-maternity meadow_coreyann

A lovely set of maternity portraits not only captures the miracle of life growing within, but also allows the woman’s blossoming beauty to shine through. (Beauty in which the “mommy-to-be” might have a hard time seeing amidst the daily throes of pregnancy itself!) Therefore, it should be considered an honor to be asked to photograph a woman during this most special time in her life. Your skills, coupled with a few trusted techniques and posing ideas shown here, are sure to create a one-of-a-kind portrait session that will be cherished long after the little one is born.

Classy Maternity Portrait Posing Ideas #1-3

Back to Nature – Incorporating nature into your shot is always a winning idea. Be sure to look for a location which provides plenty of character, such as a wooden glen on a fall day, a sandy beach, or a flowery meadow.

classy maternity portrait posing idea-maternity tree_rsmith4321
Flickr: rsmith4321
classy maternity portrait posing idea-maternity meadow_coreyann
Flickr: coreyann
classy maternity portrait posing idea-maternity natural mom_happylizzz
Flickr: happylizzz

Classy Maternity Portrait Posing Ideas #4-6

Silhouette & Light – There’s nothing quite like a shot of a new mom in silhouette – either by herself or with the proud daddy! The look is not only soft, but provides a glimpse into the sacred bond between mother and child. Experiment with time of day and location, and be mindful of your position. If you’re seated too low or too close, mom will come out looking a lot larger than she would like!

classy maternity portrait posing idea-maternity shadow_kristaphoto
Flickr: kristaphoto
classy maternity portrait posing idea-maternity beach shadow_gmunroe
Flickr: gmunroe
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Flickr: jcaputo4

Classy Maternity Portrait Posing Ideas #7-8

Hands & Hearts – A classic photo of loving hands cradling the “baby bump” is both charming and endearing. Incorporating big brother or sister into the photo allows siblings to feel special and connected to this magical event.

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Flickr: kristaphoto
classy maternity portrait posing idea-maternity hands family_kiermacz
Flickr: kiermacz

Classy Maternity Portrait Posing Idea #9

Daddy Snuggle – Give the daddy-to-be a moment “alone” with his little one! A portrait highlighting daddy’s love – whether through a kiss or a cuddle on the belly, or perhaps reading a bedtime story to the little bundle – provides a feeling of protection and tender strength. (This idea is especially great around Father’s Day!)

classy maternity portrait posing idea-maternity daddy snuggle_kristaphoto
Flickr: kristaphoto

 

Classy Maternity Portrait Posing Idea #10

Side of the Frame Embrace – Keeping your subjects positioned off to the side of the frame is a great way to take advantage of your natural surroundings and keep things aesthetically intriguing for your viewer.

classy maternity portrait posing idea-maternity embrace off to side_kristaphoto
Flickr: kristaphoto

 

Classy Maternity Portrait Posing Idea #11-12

Name that Belly – Using a set of alphabet blocks to spell out the baby’s name or initials provides a fun twist to your portrait session! Consider using the blocks exclusively on mom’s tummy or have both mom and dad hold a few blocks to spell out the baby’s name (or just his/her initials). Either way, this personalized look is sure to secure a prominent place on the child’s nursery wall!

classy maternity portrait posing idea-maternity blocks_blogjunkie
Flickr: blogjunkie
classy maternity portrait posing idea-maternity block single_djonesphoto
Flickr: djonesphoto

 

Classy Maternity Portrait Posing Idea #13

Maternal Profile – Few things in life are more beautiful than a pregnant woman in profile. Just remember – location, as well as position, for a shot like this is critical. Therefore, look for a space that has minimal distractions such as the beach, a beautiful tree, the family’s back yard – you get the idea. And as for position, having the mother stand with her belly angled a few degrees toward you is often more flattering than a full profile shot. However, it doesn’t hurts to shoot from both angles, just in case.

classy maternity portrait posing idea-maternity profile_caharley72
Flickr: caharley72

 

 

9 Photography Prop Ideas to Create Unique Portraits

Whether your photographing children, your pet or your best friend’s engagement, the creative use of props can take your photos from “nice” to “incredible” in a matter of minutes. Just remember – the idea behind using photography props is to enhance your photos, not detract or overpower them.  Many household items, as well as those already cherished by your subject can be used in a variety of ways.

Here is a list of photography prop ideas to consider using during your next portrait session…

Photography Prop Idea #1

A Bench – A bench can be dressed up or down to fit a variety of portrait themes. Look for one with a bit of character as it will help spark more artistic possibilities. Experiment with your subject’s placement too – whether sitting on, standing behind or lying underneath the bench itself.

flickr: seanmolin

Continue reading “9 Photography Prop Ideas to Create Unique Portraits”

Ten Tips for Photographing Family Portraits

A typical family picture session scenario looks something like this:  Mother is frazzled from all the pushing, prodding, and preparing she had to do prior to arriving. Dad just wants to get it over with, but acts mildly supportive to avoid the wrath of Mom.  Kids have been threatened with the loss of TV, Wii, or social life. Teenagers act as if they’ve been led to the slaughter.

Children have your attention for about 3 minutes — even with the bribes the parents gave them.

There are always exceptions, but I really find this to be typical. So is Mom’s dream of a priceless family portrait doomed? Is it even worth your time? Continue reading “Ten Tips for Photographing Family Portraits”