Feb 28, 2011

Interview with The Maternal Lens

We, here at Las Vegas Photographer Magazine, love to hear how other people work. I'm fascinated by photographer bloggers and how they got to where they are. So, when I came across The Maternal Lens, and saw how successful they are, the first thing I thought was, "how did they do it?". So I thought I'd ask them...of course I never thought they'd be interested in contributing to our little baby, LVP, but they were thrilled to participate! The Maternal Lens is a group of five women who met online, became fast friends, and decided to collaborate and start a blog about motherhood, photography and friendship. Sit back and enjoy the tips and advise from these successful women!

What type/make/model camera do you all use?

Shannon-I'm a canon girl. I use a 5d (classic). I do have a mark II, but I use that as my back up. That's a whole other blog post. Haha.
Sarah-Canon 50d at the moment
Megan-Nikon d700 with the d300 as back-up
Meg- Nikon D300
Jen- Nikon D80…time to upgrade!

Which two lenses do you find yourselves using all the time? in other words which lenses are your "go to" lenses. 
Shannon- I LOVE my 50mm. I mean love. I also love my 85mm. Other lenses I use often are the 70-200, fisheye and 100 macro.
Sarah-50 1.4, 85 1.8
Megan-50 1.4 ; 17-35 2.8
Meg-1.8 and the 24-70mm 2.8
Jen-I use my 50mm 1.8 100% of the time…time to upgrade that too!

What kind of equipment do you take on a "normal" shoot?

Shannon- I'm a two camera girl. I always have 2 camera on every shoot. Two 5ds and then the 50 and 85 is pretty typical, but I usually take them all because you just never know what you might need!
Sarah- My camera bag and its contents, me, sometimes a reflector if I will be inside...
Megan-Camera, 50 1.4, 85 1.4, 70-200 2.8, 17-35 2.8

Meg-50mm 24-70mm and 85mm tucked into my shootsac – I may also bring along some props for inspiration always a bottle of water and a positive attitude!

Jen- I travel light when shooting since I don’t change lenses or use a flash often, so it’s usually just my camera and a reflector and I keep a vintage wooden folding chair in the car.

How long have each of you been doing photography professionally?

Shannon- this year will be my 3rd year.
Sarah- about 5 years
Megan-about 5 years
Meg- 3 years (but a lifetime of dreams!)
Jen- I consider myself the least “professional” of our group, but I have been shooting for other folks since I was 18, so 15 years.
Where do you get your expertise? online classes? self taught? college courses?

Shannon- I am completely self taught. I learned my looking, reading, doing. Practice, practice, practice. Even still I try and take pictures every single day. The more you do and the more you try new/different things, the more you’ll learn.
Sarah- self taught--shooting, reading, shooting, reading, shooting... 
Megan-High school photography class, self taught, research online, trial and error 
Meg- My passion was handed down to me from my father (his from his father) I learned in the darkroom in high school and later on refreshed my skills at The New England School of Photography in Boston. But mostly I am self taught – there’s nothing like being hands on especially with photography you must keep on shooting. 
Jen-I don’t have any formal training in photography. I have learned most of what I know from my fellow photographer moms in online groups and forums.

What's the biggest mistake you see pro photographers making when it comes to running their business?

Shannon-oh, gosh! Didn’t we all make mistakes when we started our business? I think that’s all a part of the process. I would just suggest that you go into it knowing who you truly are and know what you want your outcome to be. There is always going to be someone better or not as good. cheaper or more expensive, uses the latest actions or none at all…just do you!!
Sarah- Going into business too early (not enough portfolio building, not putting enough thought into branding or taking proper care of the 'business' side of things...) 
Megan-Not evolving, changing with the times, or continuing to improve with each shot. 
Meg- I honestly feel that how another photog runs his/her business is his/her own business. Who am I to judge. I only know what works and doesn’t work for me. Remaining true to my own style and not following the trend is something I hold very close to my heart. 
Jen-I think it’s a huge mistake to become overly concerned with what other people are doing with their businesses. I often see photogs getting very wrapped up in what their competition and peers are doing, and that never leads to anything good. Focus on your own work and business and what makes you and your clients happy and let everyone else do the same.

What's a little thing that make a big difference in your photography?

Shannon-Passion! I think if you feel what you are doing instead of just going through the motions, your photography and all that you do will show it.
Sarah- Think more, 'click' less.
Megan-Having patience.
Meg- White balance, White balance, White balance.
Jen-Learning to shoot in manual created the most noticeable changes for me overall. Most recently, learning to work with backlighting and a reflector has changed my work considerably.

What's your philosophy regarding workflow?

Shannon-simple, simple, simple. I don’t spend a lot of time on the ‘after’ part of photography. I want to be taking beautiful photos, not spending hours/days fixing them or creating them. I’m a keep it simple kind of gal. 
Sarah- If the image has spirit, work it. If not, Don't! Keep it simple.
Megan-Have fun with it!
Meg- I like many other photogs spend far too many hours in front of our computers culling, editing, tweaking, resizing, downloading, uploading, the list goes on. For this reason I have been thinking of film. I miss the organic aspect of shooting film – the beautiful colors of film that I spend hours trying to mimic in photoshop. However, I’m not sure if I am ready to let go of digital yet. But as far as my workflow goes, I try to remain consistent and I try to narrow down the very best images and learn to let go of the so-so ones. I am drawn towards the vintage feel and want all my images to to look similar across the board. I tend to get lost in my editing and if I stick with my own formula I can get my blog posts done sooner and my client galleries up faster. 
Jen-I try to keep things simple, but I treat each image as its own unique work of art, so I am certainly not a speedy processor. I don’t have a large amount of photography work on a regular basis, so I am able and more willing than others to take my time and tweak things.

What's one piece of equipment they'd have to pry from your cold, dead fingers?

Shannon-My camera! Oh how I love my camera  and my 50!
Sarah- my 50 1.4 :)
Megan-Besides my camera body, of course, probably the 85 1.4
Meg-(besides my camera!) I would have to say my laptop!!
Jen-Honestly, my laptop. I do everything on it, even editing. I spend more time on it than I spend with my husband. Secondly, my camera.

How did you all meet and what sparked your desire to start the Maternal Lens blog?

The 5 of us met about 5 years ago on a website called cafemom. At that time a couple of us had just started their business and a few of us were just beginning to test the photography business waters. The friendship, knowledge and support we gained from those days is something that will live in the hearts of all of us. We laughed together, cried together, loved together and an incredible friendship was born.

Somewhere along the way we thought ‘hey, the 5 of us should start a blog!’ haha. What, when or why we didn’t know, but we did it and we are all so happy we did. This march will be the 3 year birthday for the maternal lens. How awesome!!!

What is your favorite thing about collaborating on your Maternal Lens blog? And, what are some of the challenges?

Shannon- seriously, what’s not to love?! I get to work with 4 other amazing ladies, we have the greatest readers, vendors, contributors…you name it! The maternal lens has so much support backing it up, it’s completely overwhelming (is a great way!).

I love the people that it has put in my life and I love the strength that it has added to the bond of the 5 of us. Challenges? I would say time. There is a lot ‘behind the scenes’ work that goes into the blog. Between my family, my business and the maternal lens, the time to put 100% into sometimes is lacking.

Sarah- I love these ladies; their friendship and inspiration as mothers and photographers. One BIG challenge is all of our busy, hectic schedules and finding the time to give the blog what it deserves.

Megan-I love these gals! A challenge of my own is finding time to give it the attention it needs, while trying to run a business of my own, and be a mom to three little ones.

Meg- There are so many favorite things about TML but honestly, 5 women, 5 friends, 5 mothers, 5 points of view it’s all so wonderful! We are all on different schedules, so it is always a challenge to make sure the “load” is shared by all and not carried by one.

Jen-My favorite thing about TML is how it keeps us close. It’s like our baby and we love it and we’ll always be connected because of it. I think our biggest challenge is keeping the workload balanced. We are all mothers of young children, balancing work and everything else in our lives, and each of us struggles with finding time and content to contribute. I feel we are still trying find our individual strengths when it comes to the blog. We all know there’s so much more we could be doing with it.

What do you wish you knew when you were starting TML?

Shannon- I don’t think there is anything that I wish I knew. It’s been an amazing adventure. But what is didn’t know is how it would take off and become such a great blog. I also didn’t realize how much I would come to love our blog. I sometimes feel like it’s my 3 child 

We do this blog simply for fun. Simply to share and to inspire. I think we are doing that!

Sarah-How awesome the ride would be!

Megan-How many people would actually read and love it!

Meg- The entire journey has been so wonderful for me. There really is nothing I wish I knew then that I know now. We are 5 women that came together on the internet – drawn to each other by our personalities, our lives, our photography and our inspirations to each other. It is very special to me and something I will always treasure.

Jen-I wish I had known how it would grow! Its amazing to me that we touch as many people as we do.

What's the single most important thing that photography bloggers should master?

Shannon- listen to your readers. I get hundreds of emails asking for certain things, as well as emails saying that they really aren’t loving something. Our blog is for the readers, so if we don’t listen to their feedback, we may have no readers…..in turn, no blog.

Sarah- To connect with people.

Megan-Making the time to blog frequently.

Meg- Wow – that’s a hard question to answer but again I think it goes back to being true to your own style – to your own thoughts – I really think people would rather have honesty – you can’t please everyone and that’s what is so great about TML – we are 5 viewpoints – it’s very refreshing.

Jen-I think with any type of writing, you should know your target audience. Have a firm idea of who you want to speak to and what they want to hear.

What do you think it is that makes TML successful and have so many followers?

Shannon- I think our blog is something that everyone can relate to. Whether it be photography, parenthood, a place to come get inspired, a place to learn a little something new or enter in a kick butt giveaway, we have something for everyone! And I think the 5 of us are pretty awesome gals. Haha!

Sarah- Well, our fabulousness of course. ;) the giveaways, the eye candy, the tips and tricks...I could go on!

Megan-Our genuine love for all things photography related. And Shannon's dedication.

Meg- For all the reasons I stated before 5 women, 5 friends, 5 photogs, 5 viewpoints – there are a lot of “us” out there and encouraging and supporting each other is really what it’s all about. Motherhood isn’t easy. Photography isn’t easy. Life isn’t easy but the ride sure is fun when you’re not alone and can identify with someone.

Jen-There’s a huge network of photographer moms out there and I think TML is just a great outlet for us and our common interests. We keep things real while keeping a positive outlook. Giveaways don’t hurt either!

To someone just starting their photography blog, what advice would you give?

Shannon- have fun!! Make it your own. Involve those who want to be a part of it.

Sarah- To offer a variety of features, become an expert on drawing people in...and network!

Megan-People love giveaways!

Meg- Just take the plunge – be consistent – have fun – just be you!

Jen-Know your audience. Stay focused on the message and image you want to portray. Don’t be afraid to inject your own personality into your blogging…people can see pretty pictures anywhere, so you want them to come to you because they enjoy what YOU are posting. Be unique – be yourself.

In reading through your blogs, I see that all of you have children/families. How on earth do you do it all??

Shannon-this was something I really struggled with last year and had to make some big changes for this year. I tried to do it all and I was failing. I was overwhelmed and my family, sadly, paid the price.

This year i have cut back my workload…by a lot. Time with my husband and boys is time that I will never get to repeat, so I will be making the most of every minute of it. But don’t get me wrong, you will still find me behind my camera doing what I love!!! I’m in a happy place 

Sarah- Well, I don't! I don't do it all. I do what I can. I try to make that enough. I have to know what my priorities are and set boundaries. Still working on this one!

Megan-That's the question I'm still trying to figure out. When I figure it out I'll let myself know. ha ha.

Meg- I wonder that myself sometimes – my house isn’t in perfect order, and my hair might be a mess and there may be dishes in the sink {I’ll never tell!} but I know that when I found these wonderful women out there in the world I felt a kindred spirit and I knew it all would be okay. Our children are around the same age, we’ve supported each other in selling homes and moving, changing careers, starting our photography businesses, encouraging each other, caring for each other and most of all laughing about it. Daily. I’m not the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect friend or the perfect photographer. But I have 4 perfect friends who I adore and somehow that is enough. Xo

Jen- Any mom will tell you it’s a hard thing to juggle everything! It’s a real struggle sometimes, but you always find time for that which you love.


Shoot Share :: Cherie Hogan Photography

These images were taken at my most favorite location in Vegas... Calico Basin.  Its definitely not a secret spot, but, it's still my favorite! I always try to start shooting there before the sun has gone behind the giant rock mountain.  I don't like it being too shady because then I start getting the gross skin tones and dark eyes.  I would SO much rather shoot in too much light, than not enough.

Most of the questions I get are about posing... and since posing is one of the most important aspects to portrait photography - I thought I would focus on that! Here's just a few tips to make posing easier for you...
When we first got to Calico Basin for this shoot, we had my absolute most favorite light to work with.  We had light whispy clouds acting as the most perfect diffuser for sun light.  Her skin still had some warmth and her hair was reflecting the golden sun.  Love it!

I think this first shot is all about the angle and the composition.  Posing is not just about what their body is doing... a really boring pose can become interesting with a different angle, unique lighting etc This picture would not be nearly as interesting if I had taken it eye level with her. Nor would it have been as interesting if she was perfectly vertical in the frame.  I feel like its simple things like that, that can turn a boring picture into something awesome.  When I shoot seniors (and anybody for that matter) I tell them EXACTLY what I'm wanting them to do to achieve what I'm going for.  I let them know what I want them to do with their hands, their head, shoulders, feet, even LIPS.  In this photo, I told her to part her lips slightly.  I even critique their "serious" face... which brings me to this next image dun dun dun...

I can't decide which way I like it better so you get to see both!  In most cases, when you tell someone not to smile, or to give their serious face... they just look mad, or seriously unhappy.  So everytime I'm going for "serious" face, I tell them to think of something happy.... (like maybe that knock-knock joke I just told them to get the candid laughs cause I'm so hilarious) or I SHOW them (by doing it myself) how I slightly turn up the corners of my mouth to look less angry.  For this pose, you'll notice how asymetical she is.  I told her to sit down.  Then I placed her chin resting on her hand, her other arm relaxed and actually pulled one of her legs out so she wasn't stiff with both legs together - SO MUCH more natural! One last thing... I told her to FAKE resting on her hand! If she'd really completely relaxed her head resting on her hand, she would have smooshed her skin, pressed in her face... it just wouldn't have been so flattering.

One thing that is super simple that I always have girls do is play with their hair. Since I always want to have hands doing something... I can always fall back on this little trick. Tell her to play with the ends, tuck it behind her ear.  I probably also told her to flirt with the camera like it's a cute boy!  I know things like that sound silly but not only does it direct them, it also makes them laugh and get comfortable with me.

How about a smiling picture now?  Usually I bust out my knock knock jokes.  Usually they're really juvenile... and usually, I learned them from the other seniors I photograph.  But its the best way to get a genuine smile... when they are genuinely laughing. Makes sense right?? Here's another trick to help you make your poses more interesting.  I pretty much never let their head be straight on to the camera, I SHOW them which way to turn it.  Down and to the side, up and to the side, just down and look kind of up at me, sideways... whatever! Its awesome because by the end of the shoot, they can work their head like a supermodel. Hopefully this post was helpful for you.  If you liked it, stop by my blog and let me know.  Maybe I'll do more posts on posing??

Cherie Hogan Photography

Feb 27, 2011

Should I hire a stylist?

by Jennifer Mercier

"The perfect photograph
takes not only time, but effort. The photographer knows this, and a stylist knows this as well.  When you put a lot of time and thought into the location, lighting, and creativity to obtain the optimal images, bringing a stylist on board can be the final piece that brings it all together. Here are a few things to consider before the day of the special event, so that you are not left scratching your head wondering why the look isn't as flawless as you envisioned it to be. 

Product, product, product! The cold hard truth is that the lenses used on cameras pick up every little flaw. From the slightly dark circles under the eyes to the newly formed stress pimple, these are things that a common makeup brand will show through to the camera in conjunction with lighting. A true makeup artist will use professional products that are specifically designed to cover problem areas. We have expertise in hiding flaws and accenting your client’s best features, such as making the nose appear smaller, making cheek bones look higher, and getting the eyes to glisten under the flash.  These little tricks are just a few benefits you get from inviting a make-up artist to be a part of your creative team. We can truly transform ordinary into extraordinary. 

Photo by Nick Moody
Initially it may seem to be a great idea to cut costs by having a friend of the clients do their hair and makeup, however it can be a slippery slope.  Generally once a client leaves their salon they're on their own.  If you happen to find a stylist who will do a location shoot, that is an added bonus.  Even with a run through, hair can have a mind of its own. A run-through is always recommended and a lot of stylists will add that into their overall fees. Stylists are professionals that are trained in the art of dealing with moody hair, and having a stylist on location allows for a lot of perks. Should you need a style change on the shoot, or your hair needs to be prepped for a new shot, that’s what we get paid for. Think of us as your creative wing man. 

Photo by Cherie Hogan
Also, here is some food for thought.  Alot of photographers and stylists work very well together in the art of creativity. If it’s out of the box pictures that you seek, have a sit down with the client and stylist together. Creativity gets us all excited! As for cost, a lot of people bargain shop. Do not go with a stylist just because they are the least expensive.  Remember there is a reason for that bargain basement price. It's also not necessary to book the most expensive stylist either. Most of us will work out a package deal, should both parties decide to go that route. I usually recommend a decision based on personality and portfolio. Also, find a stylist who loves to think out of the box. This can help take a simple graduation or engagement picture to a whole new level!  Communication is an absolute must for any photo shoot. It is imperative that you and your stylist get on the same page. At the end of the day we both are in this business to make people look and feel beautiful."

Photo by Cherie Hogan

Feb 11, 2011

February 2011 Cover

Photography:  Malea Ellet 
Cover Design:  Cindy Larkin



by Kelly Willette

[image by Kelly Willette]
Let’s take some baby steps to REALLY use your digital SLR....and I realize that I’m throwing a ton of info your way with this...so read it several times if you have NEVER attempted to shoot in manual mode.

(this is for digital slr owners/users, but if you have a point and shoot, you should read along as well!)
  • First of all, read in your manual how to turn the camera to FULL MANUAL mode (this is NOT the same as full manual focus mode on your lens).  Your camera may have a few different shooting modes: program, Auto, Aperture, Manual, Sports, etc. (totally depends on your camera model as to what they are called/what modes you have).
  • Now, look through your view finder.  Hold the shutter down half way, and keep looking through the view finder.
  • You will see something similar to this:
This is called the in-camera light meter.
  • This is what will help you figure out if your combination of settings (shutter speed, aperture and ISO) is working towards perfect exposure.
  • If you see tick marks to the left of the center 0, then your image is overexposed (or, too bright)
  • If you see tick marks to the right of the center 0, then your image is underexposed (or, too dark)
  • If the tick mark is right at the center 0, then you should have perfect exposure.I, personally, shoot just a tick above the 0 to the LEFT to make my photos a bit on the bright side).
  • Your goal, is to figure out what the winning combination of aperture, shutter speed and ISO is to get a photo perfectly exposed.
  • It is kinda like algebra….once you “get” it, then you’ll always understand it.
  • Now, read in your camera manual HOW to adjust your shutter speed, your ISO AND your aperture.
  • Practice changing all three items, taking shots in between and seeing how each affects your light meter’s reading.
  • I usually keep my aperture between f/2.2 and f/2.8 (unless I’m photographing a ton of people together….in which case I use a larger f/stop number).  So my aperture is usually my constant with my camera.  That is the factor that I usually just keep at my magic f/2.5 number and I worry about the other two factors (ISO and shutter speed)
  • How I go about getting my tick mark in the center….
o   If my image is OVER exposed, then I have TOO much light coming in….I first start by decreasing my ISO, then I check my shutter speed and INCREASE my shutter speed.  If I’m still over, THEN I use a larger aperture (f/stop) number (I rarely have to get to this point since I’m primarily an indoor photographer)

o   If my image is UNDER exposed, then I don’t have enough light….I first start by increasing my ISO, then I make sure that my shutter speed is at a low enough number (but not too low…I rarely go below 1/200th of a second shutter speed if I’m hand holding….just to ensure crispness with the image), and I make sure my aperture is a low number/low f/stop (since this opens up to allow more light in).
Soooo….I know this is a lot to swallow, so just keep plugging away.  I will try to post a video of me messing around with my camera this week so you can see how I work.
You may have some limitations with your camera….
o   If you have an entry level dslr, you may not be able to use the high ISOs due to massive grain
o   If you have a kit lens (the lens that came with your camera), you may not be able to get the lower aperture/f-stop numbers due to the lens’ inability to “open up” that wide.  Most kit lenses only allow you to go as low as f/3.5.
I recommend an inexpensive prime lens to start exploring being able to use the lower numbered apertures (such as the 50 mm 1.8 lens, which is only about $100, or my personal favorite, the 35mm 2.0 for tighter spaces).  Both give you the option of using the lower aperture numbers.  Smaller fstop/aperture numbers = creamier backgrounds.  So once you have a lens that has the lower aperture capabilities, your photos will start having those creamy backgrounds.

And, I HIGHLY recommend purchasing and reading Bryan Peterson’s book Understanding Exposure for more info on how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO work together for perfect exposure.

Once you master exposure, your photos will be even more amazing!

Kelly Mcmahon Willette is a life-long resident of Norfolk, Virginia where she lives with her husband, two kids, "wild as hell" dog and senior citizen cat.  She affectionately refers to her home as the Willette “Gong Show.”  She runs Willette Designs, which is a photography business that offers on-line photography classes for parents and photographers.  She also makes a mean beef stew, still knows all the words to the Beastie Boy’s song “Paul Revere,” and has gotten used to being the master of multi-tasking.  You can find her at www.willettedesigns.com or on facebook at www.facebook.com/willettedesigns.  She’s also been known to be found at her local starbucks. 

{Pssst} Kelly is featuring a FREE online course for February!  You can sign up HERE.   Everyone is welcome, and you don't have to be a professional photographer to take advantage of this awesome class!  Did I mention that it's FREE??

Feb 7, 2011

10 Tips For Better Portraits

By Yasmin Tajik of Shalimar Studios

Here are some of my favorite tips to share with clients for stunning portraits, whether it be a portrait session, or your wedding.  Read through these ten tips and use them as a guideline and starting point when you contact us for your consultation.  We want to learn as much as possible about you and your style so that we can make this a fabulous experience for you!

 10 Tips for Better Portraits

1.  Cut/color your hair at least 2 weeks before your portrait session or wedding.  This allows for more of a natural look with a little regrowth, rather than a freshly cut look in your images.  Remember, we still want the images to look like you naturally, not as if you just got up from your stylist's chair.

2.  Drink a lot of water the entire week before your session for flawless skin.  This is a Red Carpet secret in Hollywood, as you'll often see starlets downing bottles of water in the week prior to any appearance.  Utilize this tip by keeping your skin hydrated for a beautiful glow for your portrait session.  Trust me, even your MAC makeup will look better and stay on longer.

3.  Get plenty of sleep the night before.  Nine hours is ideal.

4.  Have your hair and makeup professionally done the day of your session or wedding.  This is one way to let the experts play up your best features while making you still look like yourself.  Trust expert hair and makeup stylists such as Your Beauty Call or Hera Beauty who know what will make you look your best and who also know what photographs the best.

5.  Dress head to toe.  Full length images will show everything, and shoes speak volumes of you and your style, so don't forget to bring those fabulous Christian Louboutins or Jimmy Choo heels!

6. Have a theme in mind that represents you through your clothing style.  We work with a few select stylists and they have wonderful ideas on how to create the perfect outfit to showcase your personal style through accessories, props, or anything that may be of importance to you and your fiance or family.  Ask yourself, is your style modern, chic, bohemian, glamorous, sporty or edgy?

7.  After choosing the theme that reflects your personal style, schedule your consultation with us so that we can choose the perfect location for you.  If you're bohemian, we may suggest shooting in a field of tall grass. If you're modern, we may suggest shooting amongst contemporary buildings or offices.  And if your edgy, we might suggest shooting in the Arts District.  Together we'll pick the perfect backdrop for your personalized and unique session.

8.  Look through magazines for inspiration and brings clippings with you to your consultation.  Knowing ahead of time what style, poses and overall feeling you are attracted to, helps us better understand how to capture similar moments for you.

9.  Choose the time of day very carefully.  The time of day is crucial when shooting on location.  The golden hour is 1 hour after sunrise or 1 hour prior to sunset.  That is the best light of the day and will only enhance your portraits with soft, beautiful lighting.  Shooting midday usually is very harsh lighting with high contrast between highlights and shadows, thus producing unpleasant images.  Make a commitment to schedule your session during these key periods of the day.

10.  Have fun!  The most important aspect is to walk way from the session energized and excited to see the end result.  I want you to have a wonderful experience knowing you just had images captured of artwork you will cherish for generations.