Musings on becoming a real photographer

Who, what me? A photographer. Yea right, I thought to myself as I sipped down my second glass of wine. I was sitting with my good friend who had begun taking online classes from the New York Institute of Photography.  She did landscape and wanted to…hmmm…I am not sure what she wanted to do now that I think about it. She probably told me, but I was probably knockin’ back my third glass of wine before she got to that part.

She showed me some of her work and told me about the classes she was taking and her weekly assignments. It was all very fascinating to me. From what I recall she was pretty good even back then.

What struck me was this;  she was spending money and doing remote instruction to do something she loved to do.  When I thought of when I was in college, I was doing it because I had to…how else was I going to get ahead in this world? I mean I enjoyed my subjects for the most part, but I was actually there because I thought that is what one was supposed to do after high school.  It never occurred to me to go to college to simply enrich my life.

Several weeks later, I was still pawing at this idea of photography. I mean I had always loved it. I had always been in awe of images that made you stop and look. To feel. To cry. To think about that image long after you had stopped looking at it. I was in awe of the person who could create that. I wondered if I could go to school and actually try to make a living at it? I mean, my friend was going, why couldn’t I?

I lived in San Francisco at this time which was, I must admit, many MANY moons ago. I was making good money at my job and thought why don’t I take some of the money and enroll at the Academy of Art College? Its now the Academy of Art University. I jumped in with both feet. My mom bought me a Minolta as a surprise present… film camera…these were the film days in case you were wondering and on film is how I learned. I learned the hard way in comparison to today. I learned that it was expensive to make mistakes, you couldn’t just delete and start over. A light meter was a must as you couldn’t just guess at exposures because then you wasted film, wasted time in a dark room, wasted paper and well just got yourself into a tizzy over missing the shot.

Speaking of light meters, back in “the day” whatever that really means, I had to understand light, light temperatures, directional light, light color and how to shoot–in manual–with correct exposures. Today’s technology is much easier…the cameras are amazingly sophisticated, but the education I got in learning…really learning to shoot…is invaluable even in today’s amazing digital world.

After many many invaluable classes and amazing instructors who were actually working in the real world as professional photographers, I started out to build a business. I did weddings here and there. Some for free, some for minimal costs while I built a portfolio. Some were great, some were not. I cut my teeth on the fast paced life of weddings. I failed miserably at the business end. I didn’t know how to run a business! Who would have thought that being a photographer was more than taking pictures????

Looking back, my first websites were terrible. My marketing skills were all but nonexistent. I floundered for years.

I didn’t just flounder trying to run a business and be successful at it, I floundered in what it was I wanted to photograph. I floundered when it came to crossing over to digital.  I fought the digital revolution tooth and nail. I felt it wasn’t art. I felt the panic of no more darkrooms.

Eventually I embraced it and being in it now for many years, I love it. An actual darkroom has become a virtual darkroom and so much beauty can come out of this. I truly feel like one of the luckiest people since I actually learned the camera craft and understand what all the buttons on a camera do. I feel lucky to have spent hours in a darkroom, I feel lucky to have been able to develop my own negatives. I feel lucky to know what developer is, fix is, what stop bath is and how to manipulate the time negative stays in these chemicals to change the construct of the finished negative image.

Wow, that last paragraph brought back memories!!! It is true that I really do feel lucky to have had an amazing education, that enriched my life beyond measure.  I think back to that time many years ago, sipping wine, musing over how my friend took online courses and how that really prompted me to find out more about photography.  That moment was instrumental in who I am today.

Well, at present time, I have found what I love to shoot; birth photography and beauty portraits. I will explain my version of beauty portraits in the next blog post.  I am a better business person, but always have room to grow. I will also attempt to explain what goes into a photography business on another blog post.  For now, I wanted to explain how it is I became a photographer.

If you made it to the end of this blog post, I commend you…lots of words…too many for a photographers blog, but hey, that’s how I roll I guess.

 

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Adding texture to portraits

When I am between assignments, I bring out some older work and play. I sit and look at an image until something comes to me to make it better, different or more creative.

While I have been doing a small amount of texture experimenting in small doses, I realized I could add a lot and make portraits more painterly. This is a look that I am really starting to love. While I love all of my portraits and think they are worthy of a frame and sit prominently in someone’s home, textures and the color of those textures can add so much to a homes decor.

Below are some screenshots of adding texture and making a beautiful portrait even more beautiful.

First you start with your image and your texture…screenshotX1

Then with your move tool, drag the texture on top on your portrait…screenshotX2

Once the texture is in place, you can change the lighting and opacity of that texture layer. I tend to use multiply a lot, but play around and see what suits you best…screenshotX3

Once you have your lighting and opacity where you want (you can always tweak later), add a mask so you can erase portions of the texture you do not want. Remember to set your opacity and flow from the top menu bar…screenshotX4

Here is an example of having 100% opacity and 100% flow. You may like this and it can work for various portraits. However; with this portrait, I will dial it down a bit…screenshotX5

I generally choose an opacity and flow in the 20 range…just so the subjects blends into the texture. Don’t worry about getting every last piece of texture off the subject, it actually looks a bit better and makes it look a little less “cut out”…screenshotX6

The eyes, I will erase a little more. I have the opacity and flow around 70. If you use 100%, it might look like she has cut out eyes…screenshotX7

You can play around this the textures saturation and hue to get it to where you would like. Make sure you click off the mask and click on to the texture to do this…

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Then do some dodging and burning and experiment with what you like best. 🙂

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Modern and fashion inspired engagement photography

Has he proposed? Has she proposed? If so, you are likely over the moon and already thinking of the dozens of things to do in order to throw a wonderful wedding.  Have you thought about memorializing where you are right now…on the brink of embarking on this new adventure? Most people get engagement photos nowadays. You see really brilliant work out there and depending on your style, there is likely a photographer for everyone. I love doing beautiful pieces that you can hang proudly in your home. I love fashion. Plain and simple. I am not super trendy, but classic style I have always been in love with. I try to incorporate that in my work in some way. The images below satisfy my urge to elevate the standard engagement photo to new heights. I wanted to do a real fashion inspired shoot that could easily fit on a large print or grouping of framed prints in their home. I hope you love them as much as I do.

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Portraits of ballerinas as fine art

Often times, we feel portraits should be of a person looking at the camera and saying cheese. These portraits can be really great and fulfilling and most definitely have their place.

I tend to take a slightly different approach to portraits and fine art work. Everyone has a beautiful and unique gift to give. Whether you play a musical instrument, knit baby booties or are a computer programmer; we all have a light shining from within. Now, I don’t mean to sound cliche with that. I mean it in all seriousness and it is that very quality, that unique gift that is your and only yours that I am looking to capture in a fine art portrait.

Speaking of fine art portrait, what makes something a fine art portrait and another a only a  portrait?

Well there is no real black or white answer to that. Loosely speaking a portrait is when a client comes in and wants a family picture, child portrait or a head shot of some sort. It is the making of a photograph for a client’s specific needs.  Like I said these can be extremely fulfilling and quite lovely.  With a fine art portrait, the concept, composition and lighting of a shoot is left entirely to the artist, they envision how and where to shoot, how that image will be processed and what the final creation should look like.  Often times this is creating art for the sake of art, but not always. It can mean a client comes to them and wants them to create something for them and  that the final photograph will be left up to the photographer to create in it’s entirety.

Below art some fine art images I did. These young girl’s special gift, among other things, is the gift of dance. I wanted to capture some fine art portraits in way that was unique to these specific to these young ladies.

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A Dancer

Sometimes I get a shoot that transcends all expectations. I was thinking I would love to shoot the elegant lines, angles and form of a ballerina. These dancers are truly amazing, elegant and a true delight to photograph.  I knew I wanted to try some new lighting techniques and shoot through fabric. I wanted to go after something artful and meaningful.

In walked this wonderful girl. So lovely and graceful, not to mention stunning. She was just starting en pointe.

Some of the images you will see have a soft filmy look. I had white tulle fabric wrapped around the lens and pulled it over the lens in areas.

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Sunday portrait day

Hello again.

I had a wonderful friend of mine make some fabulous dresses made of tulle awhile back. I just knew they would photograph beautifully. As I planned for this photo shoot today, I got more and more tulle out and decided to play. Perhaps, wrap her hair up? Place it around her shoulders? The ideas are endless really and only limited by imagination. This young lady was gracious enough to bring her guitar for some personal touches.

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Birth Photography~why is it so expensive?

Birth photography can be expensive and you may wonder why. After all, it’s just one day (or night) of shooting pictures. The truth is, it is much much more than that. A birth photographer has to first and foremost be dedicated. By this I mean, as birth photographer, I need to be on call day or night two weeks prior to your due date and  2 weeks after. We all know these babies have their own time table. Dedication means no family vacations and no late night parties with too much wine during this on-call time. It doesn’t matter if it is a holiday, my child’s first theater production or  if my high school girlfriends pop into town unexpectedly. You are the priority. You have paid me to be on-call and on-call is what I will be.

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All of that on-call time leads to one beautiful day (a day that can last 24+ hours). Afterwards, there is culling and then editing. It takes time. It’s much much more than just one day of “taking pictures”.

This isn’t a blog post about the sacrifice it requires to be a birth photographer, but the value of the service I provide. If photographing the birth of your child is not of value to you, then it wouldn’t matter what I charge.  However; I do find that educating people on what birth photography is goes a long way in adding value. Birth photography is real moments, real people bringing a beautiful child earthside. It isn’t a bunch of pictures of “icky stuff”. These images are your moments, moments you may not even remember happening, that help you relive that glorious day years down the road.

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In a way it seems odd to me to put a price on birth photography and early on I felt sheepish when I quoted prices. Perhaps I felt this way when people looked at me and gasped birth photography? Are you serious? I felt their anxiety and didn’t stand behind what I felt was the most important photographic experience of a persons life.  I crumbled, didn’t educate, and slunk off to my own little happy place.

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I am not sure what exactly changed inside of me or when it changed, but I came to a point where I realized I was worth it. I value what I do and I am good at it. I see no shame in saying that. I also realize that this is what I was put on earth to do, but I was also put on this earth to take care of and nurture my family and I could not do that, or do that well by making $10 an hour (after deducting equipment, taxes, education and so forth).

I started to value myself and this incredible service I offer. There will always be bargain shoppers, as a person and business owner I fully understand that. I, myself, look for bargains, but not on everything. Some things I want to invest in especially a luxury item. I am not saying those that are just starting out or who charge a lesser amount are not any good. I am saying that as an industry, birth photographers should know their value and the service they provide. I, as a mother and birth photographer, am here for you. I want you to be comfortable with me. I want you to feel secure knowing that I will capture your moments authentically, with respect for you and your birth space.  I want you to know I am dedicated to this work. It’s not something I take lightly.

 

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Family portrait California Style!

Family portraits come in all shapes and sizes. You don’t need to do a portrait shoot for your wall, or an album…you can actually schedule a portrait session for your Christmas card! This is exactly what this couple and their fur babies did. Right here on the beautiful Central Coast on Monstone Drive in Cambria.

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Portraits for Christmas!

I have taken photographs of this family for several years now. I can’t believe how fast these little kidlets grow. These were taken as a special Christmas gift for the grandparents. I hope they love them. 🙂

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Birth and Beauty

If you have followed my site or blog at all, you will see some differences occurring. These are very exciting changes for me and hopefully for you.

I am redirecting my sweet little business. I love photography. I am passionate about it. If everyone just sat and thought about what they love best and then pursue that, practice it, live it, breathe it and mold it into a little business, I think our society would be a happier one.

I have a little boy all of 2 years old. It would be so much easier to go to a 9-5 and not worry about marketing, equipment maintenance, seminars, practicing new posing and lighting. It would be so much easier, not to worry about liability insurance, medical insurance, equipment malfunctions and finding a sitter in the middle of the night when there is a birth to photograph. Did I mention worrying about website maintenance, keeping images fresh, writing new blogs, paying the mortgage each month, having a social life and being a mom. Why would I do this? I could just come home from working a shift and not worry about anything…no deadlines to meet and no inquiries to respond to. Just relax with my son. I chose to do this.  I do this because I love it. I love image making and while I may not love all those little worries that come with it, I do it all to satisfy both myself and my creativity and make beautiful images for people.  It is my little business, my little creation and it’s something I can do for people that can make a difference. Making beautiful portraits or shooting the miracle of life as it unfolds makes a difference in a persons life.

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The image above will be with this momma forever. A tiny moment in time that nobody else saw. That tiny baby when grown up will have that image of her mother and their first kiss to keep her warm at night long after she has had her own children. You can’t tell me, this one image doesn’t make a difference in a persons life. I know it does and that’s why I do this. This is why I have my sleepless nights worrying about those little stresses a mentioned above.

So whats is all of this about Birth and Beauty? Instead of trying to please everyone with different types of photography, I have decided to specialize in Birth photography and Beauty Photography.

First off, birth photography is so special to me that it is so hard to put into words. It is not just blood and gross stuff. It’s not just a woman giving birth. There are so many misconceptions out there. What birth photography is, is beauty. It is the emotion so very present. It is the interaction of the people there witnessing the event. It is the pain, the struggle, the excitement, the feeling of jumping out of your skin…all of that is captured…all those wonderful, scary and overwhelming feelings are all there and captured to tell the perfect story. It’s so much more than a physical act. To be able to document that. No, document isn’t the right word…to be able to bear witness and tell a unique journey on film is unbelievably gratifying and to have that for your very own…well, let’s say I would have given my pinky finger to have had that with my own son.

Beauty portraits holds a big space in my creative soul. Beauty portraits come wrapped in a family portrait, a child’s portrait or a contemporary portrait that celebrates you and where you are right now in your life. When is the last time you had a professional portrait of yourself, you and your children, your mother or your significant other? Photographs are so important in our lives.

Does that mean I no longer offer wedding photography? Heck no, but I only take a few a year since I still do love them!

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