photography student

"Ask Me Anything..." {5/17/16}

Los Angeles Wedding Photographer_0117 Ask Me Anything..." is a weekly blog segment where I answer your questions about photography, me, or...anything. Check back next Monday on my Instagram and Facebook pages where I'll be taking all of your questions.

1-What's your greatest memory from high school?

High school feels like forever ago and, then again, like it was just yesterday. I have so many great memories with friends that I am still close with today. From school dances, to getting my driver's license, to first kisses...they all seem to blur into one big memory of adolescent bliss. If I had to choose one memory that I valued the most it would have to be the time I spent on my high school dance team.

I started dancing when I was eight years old. I'll never forget the first time I got to see the Saugus Dance Team perform. They were so amazing and, from that point forward, my life goal was to eventually become a Saugus dancer. I'll never forget how nervous I was going into try outs. I was sick for weeks beforehand from the nerves! Walking up to the list of dancers who had made the team to see if my name was on it was probably one of the longest walks of my life. When I saw my name, I knew I had accomplished a goal 7 years in the making and it felt pretty great.

We performed at football games, basketball games, and pep rallies. We also traveled to various cities to compete against other teams around the country. Not only did I learn how to work really, really hard (we worked our asses off at early morning practices, literally), but I also learned how to work as a team while forming close bonds with my teammates. I LOVED performing in front of an audience so being able to dance gave me the outlet and confidence I needed to eventually pursue other goals in the performing arts.

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2-What does photography mean to you?

This is such a huge question that I'm not sure I can answer in just one little post. Obviously, discovering my love for photography changed my life. Apart from dancing, I've never done anything that makes me feel like I can escape my mind so completely. When you get into the flow of things while you're taking pictures, it's a high I can't really explain. Without trying to sound dramatic, it's like this heightened sense of self. Tapping into your creative being can be a very spiritual experience.

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I'd have to say though, that the reason I love taking pictures is actually very selfish. I strive to capture these moments in people's lives because I hope that, when they look at their photos years from now, they'll see a little piece of me in them. I guess I hope that by showing the world my perspective, by capturing the way I see things on paper, a little piece of me will continue on through my art. Maybe it's an ego thing, or maybe it's just my way of wanting to be remembered when I go.

3-I feel like the quality of my work is poor quality, bland lighting, and dull highlights. What are your top tips for getting photos that are crisp and sharp while still looking natural?

It definitely takes time to get to a point with your editing style that feels like a reflection of how you imagine it will look in your head. Finding your style and your voice as an artist takes time! When I was first starting out, I found a few photographers whose style I really admired and tried to emulate it. I think it's important to really study the work of those you admire to perfect your own eye when it comes to editing. This is not to say you are "copying" their work. Your work will never look exactly like someone else's because you have your own unique vision as an artist. What I'm saying is, really look at the images you love and think about why you are drawn to them. Do you love the dark shadows? Do you love the soft skin tones? What about the vibrant colors? I currently have images of Jose Villa's work hanging above my desk as a constant reminder of what I'm striving for in my editing and career.

Feeling like your images are poor could be a result of a lot of things. Perhaps you are comparing your work to those you admire and don't feel it measures up? Perhaps you are still in the stage of your career as a photographer where you need to work on honing your eye when you edit? Here are a few tips that work really well for me when I'm shooting/ editing:

  • I usually shoot at f1.6 or f2.o on my 50mm 1.2L lens. I'm drawn to that dreamy depth of field and shooting at this setting helps me to emulate the film look I love so much. This takes practice though as it can be really difficult to get sharp images at this aperture. I still struggle with it!
  • Your focal point should always be on the eye. If the eyes in my images aren't sharp, I usually don't use the photo. For me, the eyes are the most important part.
  • In Lightroom, the very first thing I do is slide the "Sharpness" and "Noise" bars in the "Detail" module to the right a little. Be careful not to overdue this though, as you can make your images look too soft which gives a fake look that I don't love. Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.55.23 AM
  • I typically overexpose in camera by about 1-stop. I do this because I'm usually backlighting my subject when I shoot. You have to expose for shadows and then overexpose a bit to compete with the strong light from the sun. This way your subject isn't in silhouette.
  • I almost always lift my exposure and bring down highlights and shadows in Lightroom when I'm editing. I edit with Mastin Presets so I usually just apply the preset and make a few tweaks until I'm happy with the way it looks.
  • Maintain sharpness in camera by making sure you're at an appropriate shutter speed. Anything below 1/250s is probably going to be a bit blurry if you're photographing a moving subject.
  • I hate to say this because I'm a firm believer that the camera doesn't make the artist, but the lack of crispness in your images could be a result of the camera you're using or your lenses. You can have the best camera and lenses in the world and still take crappy pictures, but if you know what you're doing, having quality gear can really make a difference. When investing in lenses, it's important that you choose one that can shoot at wide apertures. I'd say it's best to strive for a lens that can get at least as wide as 2.8. Having quality glass can help you to create images with vivid colors and sharpness straight out of camera.About me photo

Ask Me Anything... {12/1/15}

2015-10-06_0003 I am recently starting photography and had a question about social media! How do you feel about having separate personal and professional accounts? Do you recommend it? Thanks!

This is a great question and definitely something I thought about when I started my business. Ultimately, I decided to maintain one Instagram account and I'll tell you why. I came to the realization that I AM my business. My business literally has my name in it and is made up of ME. This means that who I am as a person is a direct reflection of how I choose to brand myself. So, while most of the images I post are used to feature my work, I also post images that might help my followers learn a bit about me on a personal level. At the end of the day, the biggest thing that will set you apart from other photographers is if your clients like who you are as a person. Do you both like beer? Do you both have a love for travel? Do you and your clients have a similar sense of humor? I don't think it's a coincidence that I tend to attract clients that have very similar interests to mine. I brand myself to attract my ideal client and sometimes that means being open and a bit personal on social media.

 

I have a crop sensor camera. Should I get the 35mm or the 50mm 1.2L?I already own the 50mm 1.4, is there a huge difference between the 1.4 and 1.2 lens?

This is kind of a two parter question. Both related but kind of different topics. First, we'll start with your question about crop sensor cameras. There are full frame camera and crop sensor cameras. In simple terms, a crop sensor camera is going to crop part of the image in camera and will affect the look you get from different lenses. If you have a crop sensor camera and are thinking about getting a new lens you should take something called the "crop factor" into consideration. The "crop factor" is the ratio of the sensor size to 35mm. So, let's say you bought a 50mm lens with a camera that has a 1.5 crop factor. This lens would actually make images look more like 75mm. If you go for a 35mm lens and have a crop sensor camera with a crop factor of 1.5, your images will look more like they were shot at 52.5mm.

In answer to your question, the difference between the 50mm 1.2L and 1.4L is the amount of light it lets in. A 50mm 1.2L will be able to perform better in low light situations and shoot wider than a 1.4L series lens. I personally LOVE my 1.2L lens but I also haven't shot on a 1.4L. Sometimes there can be differences in how well the lens focuses, too. If you're torn and looking to make an investment, I'd recommend renting both lenses and testing them out. Do a side by side comparison and see which lens works best for what you're using it for.

 

How did you price your photography as you were starting out?

Pricing your photography when you're starting out can be really difficult because it's hard to sit down with yourself and decide how much you're worth. As creatives we have a tendency to doubt ourselves and it can take awhile before we feel confident enough to stand by what we're charging. I think the first step in learning how to price myself was to learn standard rates in the industry, or knowing my market. I spent a long time studying what others were charging and what my ideal client was willing to spend while also taking into consideration what my demand was. I started out charging something like 75 bucks for a session just to have work in portfolio. As my business has grown, I'm lucky enough to say my demand has also grown. As my demand grows I am able to increase my rate. The way you price yourself will be an ever evolving process. As you grow in skill and popularity, your rates should be growing as well.

You also have to ask yourself how you want to mold your business. Do you want to charge less and work more? Meaning more people are hiring you because you don't charge as much as others in your industry? Do you want to charge more and work less? This means you charge a competitive rate and don't get hired as often because you're in a higher price range. Both business models will result in equal profits. What works best for you and your lifestyle? What works best for the way you want to run your business?

Don't forget the value you're offering your clients is WORTH something. Your perspective as an artist, the time you've put into improving at your craft, the investments you've made towards working with quality equipment...these are all well worth charging for the service you're providing. Sit down and ask yourself, "What am I worth?" Now own it.

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Ask Me Anything... {11/24/15}

2015-10-06_0003 What is your favorite Mastin Labs preset? What was the hardest part about perfecting  Mastin Lab's presets?

I've talked a lot about how I use Mastin Labs presets for my editing process. These presets have been the first to offer me consistency in my editing while also delivering the classic, film look I love. Using these presets isn't just the click of a button for me though. It took me some time to get into the groove of  how I can make these presets work for me. I have both the Fuji Pro and Portra Packs and use them for different environments. The preset I use about 90% of the time, however, is Fuji Pro 400H Neutral.

One of the issues I had most often when I first started using these presets was skin tone. Skin tones can sometimes seem a bit undersaturated with this preset so I typically increase the vibrance and up the warmth. I also have to be careful sometimes to avoid blowing out the highlights in my images. I usually bring highlights down a bit after applying the preset.

I don't know that I could choose just one of the packs. I think the Portra Pack and the Fuji pack are both amazing and have their place for different settings and tones. Someone just mentioned they're having a 50% sale for Black Friday! I swear I'm not getting paid to promote them. I just really love these presets and hope they can make someone else as happy as they've made me.

How did you start networking with other photographers?

I love this question because I think networking is a very important skill to have in any industry. Having a strong network of peers in your field is vital to building a supportive team that you can trust and depend on.

I think the most important tip I can give would be to participate. Participate in workshops, seminars, classes, conventions, and parties. Go out to events and be social. Attending events like WPPI has been one of the best things I've done for my business and I can't wait to go again next year. Surrounding yourself with people who are just as passionate about what they do as you are helps to ignite and inspire you.

These will be the places you meet other passionate photographers. You can swap tips and tricks, offer your services if they need an assistant, etc. I would try to avoid coming across like you want something though. A person can sense when you're using them for your own agenda. Be generally open and interested in what people have to say. Show that you're eager to learn and can be a team player. At the end of the day, we're all just looking to work with someone we can rely on to work hard while having a little fun, too.

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Do you travel for weddings? I would love to hear more about you and your style! 

YES! YES! And more YES! My love for travel is a huge part of the reason I decided to pursue a career in wedding photography. In 2015, I was lucky enough to shoot weddings in Maui, Yosemite, Costa Rica, and Joshua Tree among many others. I love when I get to meet with couples who love to travel, too. Destination weddings are my favorite because they're typically a little more intimate and can be stretched out to be more of a week long experience as opposed to one day.  Next year I'm setting my intentions to book more weddings internationally... maybe a Bali wedding? Perhaps a whimsical wedding in Ireland? Mama needs some more stamps on her passport!

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Ask Me Anything... {10/6/15}

2015-10-06_0003 This week I answer your questions about shooting in overcast weather, my workflow after a wedding day, and shooting backlit images. Have photography related questions? I take questions on Instagram and Facebook every Monday and answer them on the blog every Tuesday. Check back next week!

Can you still capture good lighting on a cloudy day? Is it harder to shoot in overcast weather?

Absolutely! Shooting in overcast weather is actually a bit easier, in my opinion, since I don't have to be as concerned about harsh shadows on my subject's face. The cloud coverage acts like a natural diffuser of light, casting even light over skin. I've been grateful for overcast weather on a few wedding days when portraits were scheduled in the afternoon with no available shade...this is when the sun is usually the highest and shadows are the harshest. Unfortunately, if the sun isn't out, it does make it difficult for me to capture those glowing, backlit images I love so much. However, cloudy days can make for some very dramatic shots as well.

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How do you retain the sharpness in your backlit photos? I often lose focus because of the sun.

Backlighting can be kind of tricky when it comes to shooting directly into sunlight and maintaining the sharpness of your images. There's a couple of techniques I use when backlighting my subject. First of all, I'm going to place my subject directly in front of the sun's rays. I know I've found the "sweet spot" of light when my subject has a beautiful halo of light around their hair. I use the subject as a human shield to literally block the sun from my lens. I then expose for the shadows on my subject's face (typically focusing by pressing the shutter release button halfway and placing my focal point over the eye), then I overexpose by about 1 stop, recompose my image, and push the shutter release button again to capture. The main trick here is to meter the exposure of your subject and then overexpose a bit so the subject isn't in silhouette. You're basically overexposing to compensate for the overpowering light behind the subject.

You may also want to try using a lens hood or a scrim over the subject's head to shield the excess light entering your lens. Angles are also important here. It can be helpful to angle just slightly to the left or right of the sun so your lens doesn't have trouble focusing and there isn't too much light flooding the exposure. I usually increase the sharpness in Lightroom (using the "sharpness" slider) to give the image the final touch.

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When it comes to your workflow after shooting a wedding, how many images do you deliver to your clients for a full day wedding on average? How long does it take you to complete post processing and how do you improve this time?

Post Wedding workflow can vary a lot based on the personal preferences of the photographer. This is what works for ME. What works for you may be entirely different. Here is what my workflow is after a wedding day:

The first thing I do when I get home from a wedding is import the images into Lightroom and BACK UP the images onto two separate external hard drives. Backing up a wedding to multiple sources is crucial! I then "cull" through the images marking what I feel are the best images from the day. "Culling" is simply a term used for going through your shots and picking the ones you like the best. Culling can be difficult and time consuming because, as photographers, we grow an emotional attachment to photos and tend to want to keep too many. In my opinion, quality is always better than quantity. Choose the images that tell the story in a beautiful, yet concise way. Your client doesn't need 20 images of the same exact pose or moment.

As I'm culling through images I filter them by color. For example, all images with a "red" filter could be "Getting Ready" shots I chose to deliver to the client. All images with a "blue" filter might be "Details." Once all the filters have been applied to the all the images I decided to keep, I'll go back in and start editing the wedding by filter. Once an image has been edited and is ready for delivery I will flag it as well. This process enables me to organize images from the day in a way that makes sense to the client for final delivery.

Editing a full wedding can take me anywhere from 15-20 hours. A lot of photographers use "batch" editing techniques to improve this time but I haven't found that this works for me. Batch editing is a technique of applying certain edits (presets, color corrections, etc) to every single image all at once. I physically go through each and every individual image and edit it until it looks exactly right. I'm a bit anal when it comes to my edits. Another way to cut down your editing and culling time is by shooting tight. This means you carefully think about each image you take (composing and waiting for moments) rather than "machine gun shooting" which is taking photos of anything that moves....mindlessly clicking. Sometimes this works if you're trying to capture a candid moment, but, for me, it just makes more work later. Getting exposures and compositions right "in camera" is also helpful in cutting down editing time.

Lastly, I will import images to Pixieset to deliver an online viewing gallery of web sized, watermarked images to the client. They can share this gallery with friends and family, giving them the option to order prints if they'd like. I love Pixieset because my clients and their guests can view the images in a clean and beautiful platform that is easy to use and share. I also send the client a custom, keepsake USB drive of their high resolution digital image files. I typically tell clients to expect about 75-100 images per hour of coverage. This amount can vary greatly depending on the number of guests, details, formalities, etc. Ultimately, you should deliver enough images to accurately and completely tell the story of their day. I don't believe in trying to meet a quota of images. Delivery is promised within 6 weeks of the wedding day.

Oh! I also drink a lot of red wine when I'm finished. :)