camera

Better Gear DOES NOT Make You A Better Photographer

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…never have truer words been spoken. This has been a constant debate and topic of discussion among photographers in forums and the like for years upon years. It’s a pointless argument/discussion because it’s neither the camera nor the lens that make the picture, it’s the photographer!

Over the years, I have often heard from many people: “oh I need to buy this expensive camera”, “that expensive lens” or “I can’t create the images I want to because I only have this shitty camera or this crappy lens”.  STOP with the excuses!  Nothing could be further from the truth. You absolutely DO NOT need expensive gear to create amazing images.

I wish I had the money to buy all the gear I wanted but I don’t and I don’t feel that is truly going to help me create better work. I suggest you start out with a relatively inexpensive camera and the kit lens that comes with it. Get to know the ins and outs of your camera.  Practice, practice and more practice with what you have. Master your camera.  Learn it inside out.

You can worry about better gear and spending more money later on once you have worked on and honed your craft.  Learn the basic principles of photography and master the camera you have.  So many people get caught up in spending a ton of money on gear when they are just starting out it and it really isn’t going to make you a better photographer nor is it necessary.

Only YOU have the ability to make YOU a better photographer. So get out there practice, learn and talk to other photographers who have been at this awhile. Take courses, get a mentor but MOST importantly get out there and shoot!

Challenges and Limitations

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As a photographer sometimes we face challenges on set while we are shooting. Whether it be indoors or outdoors, it could be weather, lighting, wardrobe or even camera gear.

Now, to overcome these challenges sometimes we need to be quick on our feet and improvise.  Sometimes we just have to roll with the punches and somehow make it work. I personally enjoy the challenges that pop up from time to time because it keeps you thinking, keeps you sharp and pushes you outside your comfort zone which is great for growth as an artist and as a person. Now that’s not to say I don’t like when shoots go smoothly and come off without a hitch, those are my favourite kind of shoots for sure.

Sometimes the limitation of our gear presents a challenge although this is a challenge I really welcome. I am speaking about lenses in particular. As we know, different lenses have their weaknesses and strengths as some are more suitable types of photography while some aren’t so versatile.  Being a boudoir/portraiture/headshot photographer, I have my go-to lens, which happens to be a 50MM lens.

Currently it’s the only lens I have for my full frame camera so if I want to shoot with my full frame I have no choice but to accept the challenge and limitation of said lens. Sure I could shoot with my cropped sensor body and have multiple lens options but I like shooting with my full frame and frankly love the challenge of using my 50MM for boudoir shoots.

I find it helps me grow as a photographer by forcing me to think about my shots before I take them. I have to use different angles, really think about my lighting and use it the best way possible. I have to move around my subject more and get multiple shots out of one pose.

Now you should be doing that anyway but with a fixed lens (no zoom capability) you are left with no choice BUT to make it work. This is one of the challenges that I face every time I shoot but I love being challenged that way.

I find it’s constantly helping me grow and ALWAYS pushing me outside my comfort zone!

Is a Photograph Made or Taken?

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In the words of the amazing Ansel Adams... “You don’t take a photograph, you make it”.  I truly do not believe that just anyone can make a photograph.

Just the language used in that phrase right there seems to be a big topic of discussion among photographers. There are some from each school of thought. Some would say that “anybody” can take a photograph and others seem to be of the mind that a photograph is “made”.

Perhaps, depending on the moment or instance, some are made and some are taken. When I think of a photograph being taken, it makes me think of a snapshot or a cell phone shot. That’s just me though. I think as professional photographers, we “make” photographs.

When talking about making a photograph, there are so many factors that go into the “making” a photograph.  It’s more in depth, things like: thought, time of day, subject, camera settings, composition, post production (and perhaps one of THE MOST important things) LIGHT and LIGHTING.  All of these things go into making a photograph. It is all about the photographer’s vision and that’s where it all starts, with the vision!

Regardless of how you view it or think of it, I guess it is up to the individual to interpret their idea/thought on the subject of taking or making a photograph. I was just curious as to people’s thoughts and take on it so I thought I would write it down to perhaps spark a conversation.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth is... In Front of the Camera

 

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I can honestly say I really don’t like having my picture taken and I am sure there are quite a few photographers out there who would agree with this sentiment. I know it sounds strange, a photographer who doesn’t like being on the other side of the camera?!

For me, I am most comfortable BEHIIND the camera; I don’t like that feeling of feeling vulnerable and awkward. I don’t know how to pose or genuinely smile without having it come off looking fake.

I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately and the more I think about it, the more I see clearly that it’s quite hypocritical of me as a photographer to take that stance on getting in front of the camera. How can I possibly expect my clients to relax and feel comfortable in front of the camera if I don’t do it myself? A practice what you preach moment, if you will. 

Perhaps it’s even a little bit more hypocritical for me being a boudoir photographer.  I have women who are complete strangers, wearing very little clothing getting in front of my camera. I pose and light them for photographs.  I talk them through the photo session. I try to help them feel relaxed and forget they are in front of a camera to make it a little less of an intimidating experience.

Now more than ever I think we male photographers need to step into our clients shoes and get in FRONT of the camera.  Maybe have a female photographer shoot us in a “dudoir” session.  You know, put my money where my mouth is!  I have noticed a trend online over the past while that more men are doing exactly that and I think it’s amazing. It doesn’t have to be cheesy just because I am a male.  It can be done very tastefully. All the images I have seen from male boudoir (dudoir) shoots were very well done.

We need to do this in order to feel and understand the vulnerability and nervousness our clients feel when they step in front of our cameras so we can HONESTLY relate and genuinely say we know how they feel.

I am challenging all my male counterparts in the industry to do exactly this! Including me! I am looking for a female photographer that is up for the task of photographing this mug of mine!  Any takers????

Live Life According To You - Think Outside The Box

I had a very interesting conversation with a family member over the Christmas holidays. He is older than me and currently retired.  Our conversation started about jobs, pensions, vacation time and medical benefits, things like that. I was telling him about all the wonderful things I get from my employer for my years of service and he in turn told me about all his.  I already knew about most of it because he is family and I was familiar with the company he had worked with and what they offered to their employees.

I told him all about my job and the things that annoy me about it. He proceeded to tell me that I just need to suck it up and deal with it because EVERYBODY hates their job!  It’s just a part of life. He went on to tell me he hated his job and wanted to quit repeatedly over the last 14 years he was employed but stuck with it because of the pension and of course, the money.  Typically his generation stayed at one job for the duration of their working careers but things have changed and will continue to change with the each generation.

I found his statement to be kind of sad.  Giving it even further thought, I felt that it’s even a wee bit close minded.  Just because that was the path you chose doesn’t mean it has to be your destiny. On one hand it’s just human nature we stay with what we know, what’s comfortable but on the other hand so many people stay in something they are not happy doing every day for a variety of reasons.  Whether that is the money, the benefits, the pension or just the fear of the being without those things I do understand it and why he made that statement.

It really drove some things home for me.  I am thankful for our conversation but why the fuck should ANYBODY stay and be miserable at their jobs if they really don’t have to?  Who says you have to? Fear dictates this to a certain degree but why stay stuck in that box? Why be miserable at something we spend over half our lives doing? We typically spend more of our lives at work then we do with our families at home. This miserable feeling/mood will undoubtedly spill over into multiple areas of our lives, right? Break out of that box people I urge you to do so if you are unhappy. Life is far too short to be unhappy. Don’t stay just because everyone else says it’s the right thing or the responsible thing to do! Follow your heart and do something out of the ordinary.  Think outside the box and helllllz yeah it will be scary and there will be times you will be paralyzed with fear but at the end of the day, aren’t YOU worth it?

Male Boudoir Photographers - It's NOT a Man's World

Now I am fairly new to boudoir photography and when I say new I mean I have done a handful of shoots.  I know there are lots of guys out there who aren’t photographers at all but think wow that is so cool and what a great gig that would be. Believe me I have even heard that from a few friends. You get to photograph half naked women in lingerie, look at sexy women all day and so on. While yes this is true I photograph women in lingerie this is not what it’s all about for me, not at all!

When I am shooting a session I am not even thinking about how sexy the woman is or anything like that because I am too busy focusing on posing her.  I am making sure the lighting works for the shot and ensuring my camera settings are correct in order to make certain I get the shot as close to perfect “in camera” as possible. I really don’t have time to be concerned about the other stuff especially when I am in the zone shooting, interacting with my subject.

I know that some people would balk at that and say I am bullshitting and it must be at least part of the intrigue and interest but it really isn’t. In all honesty for me it is truly about making the women who get in front of my camera feel comfortable in their own skin.  Feel beautiful, help them build their confidence, help them love their bodies.  Ultimately I want them to be happy with the images/art I create for them and if I can do that for EVERY woman that gets in front of my camera then I know I have done my job as a photographer.  I will have helped another person to realize their self-worth and beauty and that my friends is the icing on the proverbial cake!

All In A Day's Shoot - The Anticipation

Ever looked forward to something so much that you were just bursting?! Literally bubbling over?! Remember that feeling you got as a kid on Christmas morning?! You know the one where you just can’t sleep and you woke up at 5am just dying to rip into the presents! After a day of shooting that is the feeling I get. EVERY TIME.
There are so many components to MY creative process. It might start with an idea, an image or even just a simple walk. I so enjoy the solitary act of being out there walking around the streets of downtown Toronto my camera in hand, all alone, enjoying the sites, smells and sounds of the city. There is something to be said for having that time to myself to go out and create. To be able to document the things I see through my eyes is all in a day’s shoot or day’s adventure.
Then comes my absolute favorite part of all in this creative process: the editing process. Here comes that feeling again! It’s bubbling over inside! I can feel it and can hardly contain myself! The anticipation and excitement having built up to the pressure point. I take my camera out of the backpack I got for my birthday a month ago; I open the door on my camera to eject the memory card. I insert my memory card into my computer and copy all the files over to a folder on my hard drive. Next, I throw some music on, get in the right headspace and begin to put my personal touch, or “digital signature” if you will, on each of the images I have captured during the course of the day.
The moment of magic, when what I created in the camera that day comes to life on the screen in front of me! To be able to get these images from camera to canvas is just pure joy for me. Creating images that invoke feelings and thoughts. It’s such a natural high!

The Professional Headshot - The Importance of One!

The world is evolving technologically and at a rapid pace. In this, the Interweb age, we are constantly being bombarded with images, snippets, catch phrases and sound bites. At these breakneck speeds people don’t take the time to slow down and talk with each other as much anymore. Elevator pitches are the way of the future. Say what you need to say in 30 seconds or less. Capture someone’s attention or they’re out the door.
How does this affect the photos you post online, specifically those of a professional nature. You may own a quality camera and can take a selfie with the best of them. Post that photo on Facebook or Twitter and you may get all the likes in the world from your friends and family members. But now ask yourself these questions:

  • Should I put this on LinkedIn?
  • Does it look professional?
  • Would I get into business with me if I came across this picture online?

 
Now I know what you are thinking, we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover but let’s be totally honest here, we ALL do it anyway. Your headshot is the first thing people online will see. If it’s professionally done, people will notice and see that you actually care about the details and your appearance. With the growing importance of networks like LinkedIn you should be asking yourself: does my profile picture convey professionalism.
A professional headshot is essential to your personal brand. Here are a couple of key things to consider;
Look the Part
When you are getting a professional headshot done, make sure you dress appropriately and look approachable. I hear from so many different photographers who say their clients show up unprepared for their photo. When it comes right down to it, you are selling YOURSELF so look the part!
It Takes Money to Make Money
Why wouldn’t you pay a professional to do the job? Yes you have to spend a bit of money up front but think of how it will pay dividends in the long run. I have heard the headshot referred to as a digital version of your business card. Do you want to be taken seriously? Would you hand someone a business card that looks like it came from a vending machine? Probably not!

As my Dad always told me, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”, so why not make a great impression with a professional head shot. You ARE your own ambassador, your OWN BRAND. Do things the right way, dress for success and hire a professional. You’ll thank me later.

Headshots - Photographing the Photographer

I don’t know about you or anyone else for that matter but I can tell you with absolute certainty, I cannot stand having my photo taken.
When you think about it, is this really an oddity among photographers? I am not too sure it would be. I would much rather be the one behind the camera pressing the shutter and giving direction. I’d rather not be the subject and take direction.
On the other hand, I would say it’s a necessary evil for photographers to have a great head shot. We are after all trying to sell ourselves and when all is said and done, we are sensory, visual beings. It would be nice for the people hiring us to be able to see who they’re hiring instead of some faceless photographer.
Don’t get me wrong, I do have a head shot on my website. It’s a very dramatically lit, artistic photograph. I like it very much however is it appropriate for me to promote my services with this type of photograph? Probably not! I do realize I need to update it sooner rather than later. I have agonized over this realization for some time now but have decided it’s time I man up or bite the proverbial bullet and just get it done and over with.
I will be attending a photography workshop next month and it just so happens there are a couple of photographers offering a “photograph the photographer” photo session and I have signed up for it. So look out for a new head shot of me sometime later next month.

Photographers - Making Pictures vs Taking Pictures

Is there a difference between “taking” a picture and “making” a picture? I have heard this debate/discussion a fair bit lately and I find it quite an interesting topic. I would have to say without a doubt, there is a difference. Those two little words are also what distinguishes a photographer from someone who happens to own a camera, a machine operator.
Taking a picture is essentially a snapshot whereas making a picture requires forethought and planning. You have to envision the photograph, think it out, plan. It captures emotion, it makes someone feel something, elicits emotion as they look at the image. The photograph tells a story!
When I first started out in photography back in high school and even into my late twenties, I can see I was only “taking” photographs. When I look back on my work, as I sometimes tend to do, I just want to see how much progress with my style has been made and how much I have improved. I can clearly see a progression or evolution and am not ashamed to admit it. We all have to start out somewhere. Not many people jump right into making photographs, it takes practice and hard work to get to that point.
Look at other photographers work, admire, study it, see what they are doing differently than others. This will help on your photographic journey to “making” photographs. With practice you will begin to develop your own style. Shoot what you love, things you are passionate about. If you are passionate about something you are photographing, it will definitely show up in your images. This will go a long way in helping you with the journey and to define your style.

Everyone Is a Photographer - Is Access To Technology Helping or Hurting The Photography Industry?

In today’s day and age, where technology is so easily attainable for anyone and everyone, all of a sudden everybody is a photographer. This is constantly a hot topic of discussion on the internet and it periodically reappears and rears its ugly head. I have heard and read rants from other photographers in the industry about the fact that anyone with a camera fancies themselves a photographer. Even I have been guilty of venting about this very topic.

Digital Single-Lens Reflex or DSLR cameras have come down in price so much in the past 5-10 years that it has made it affordable for everybody from your Grandmother to your Aunt Josephine to Uncle Sam, to go out and purchase a camera and start taking pictures.

The cell phone camera has just exploded onto the scene now as well. We have people releasing books that consist entirely of iPhone photography. Albeit the people releasing the books like that are in fact professional photographers, it is another tool with which people capture images.

I think it’s a great thing that technology has become so affordable in the photography world and more people are jumping on the proverbial photography bandwagon. Although just because someone picks up a DSLR or an iPhone or a compact camera this doesn’t make them a photographer. It takes practice, hard work and frankly you just have to have an eye for it. Can someone develop an eye for “making” a photograph? Personally, I don’t think having an eye for capturing images can be taught to someone. It is innate and you either have it or you just don’t.

Having said my piece, I would like to leave you with a couple questions to ponder: Is the affordability and ease of accessibility to photographic technology helping or hurting the photography industry? Let’s be honest, are we really concerned about the Uncle Joe’s or others that go out and buy a DSLR just because they can, encroaching on our business and stealing work away from us? I think not but what do you think?

Image courtesy of lolroflmao.com

Full Frame vs Crop - Is It Worth It?

I myself have faced this dilemma before: on a few occasions in the past and always for whatever reason at the time have failed to pull the trigger and stuck with what I currently own which is a cropped sensor camera.

Well as of late, this query seems to have reared its head to me once again and like the previous occasions when this occurs I am unsure about what I should go with this time. For some reason it is playing on my mind more than usual. It’s like I have a little angel on one shoulder whispering in my ear to stick with what I currently own and shoot with. On the other shoulder I have a little devil yelling in my ear, telling me to man up and just take the leap once and for all, stop being so ambivalent about it already.

Now of course money is going to be one of the deciding factors involved in this internal struggle for most people, as I am most certainly sure it has been for countless other photographers that have dealt with this exact inner conflict. Weight and size are also factors to consider when deciding whether to make the jump. Full frame cameras are bigger and heavier so keep that in mind as a photographer when you are lugging around your gear. Yes the sensor on the full frame is bigger, back to the days of 35MM to be exact. It is also said that the full frame cameras are better in low light situations. These are just a few of the benefits of full frame as stated by many photographers who choose to shoot with this type of camera body.

I guess when it comes right down to it, in order to make the jump it has to be the right fit for the type of images you are shooting as well as the right decision for your pocketbook. Do your research and make an informed decision. Only you can decide what’s right for you. At the end of the day, it’s YOUR work, YOUR images that are going to get you the gig, NOT the gear you own.

Image courtesy of cplc.ca