Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Woman in the Red Dress

This is me.

Hair up in a pony tail, comfy clothes, no makeup, surrounded by family and flanked by to-do lists that never seem to end. I'm a mom, a wife and a small business owner and not one of those things lends itself to having a whole lot of free time. I know that I am not alone in this. Many, if not most, of the other mommas I know have a pretty similar story.
We wake up early and get our kids out of bed. We harass them until they're ready for school and send them out the door with a hug and a sack lunch we threw together at the last minute while berating them for not brushing their teeth...again.
We may or may not change out of our jammies, but we do run the errands, sweep the floors, answer client calls and emails, wash and fold the laundry (let's be honest here, we don't put the laundry away. That's simply asking too much) and avoid cleaning the toilet at all costs. We pick our little ones up from the bus stop, help with homework, switch out loads of dishes in the dishwasher, fix dinner, brush teeth, read bedtime stories, and then stay up an additional few hours trying to finish all the work stuff we didn't have time to during the day.
Wash, rise, repeat.

I am grateful every day for this truly beautiful life; it's full of care and love and all the warmth and security of family life. In between the routine stuff are the moments that make it all worthwhile; hugs and kisses and "I love yous," quiet moments on the couch together, tickle fights and baseball games and all that jazz.

This is who I am.

But it is not ALL that I am.

This is ALSO me.

I'm a seriously bad @$$ fashion and portrait photographer who is making a career out of capturing the beauty of my clients. I'm damn good at what I do. I love to wear a beautiful dress, you know, the kind that you would probably never have a legitimate reason to wear? Having my hair and makeup done is, no joke, one of my favorite experiences ever. Pamper me! Take me to a fancy dinner, let me eat something I can't pronounce, serve me some wine and then take me to the art gallery. Talk to me about philosophy and history and the human condition. Let's check out the latest Reem Acra designs and drool over Demarchelier's work. I'm brave, I'm opinionated, and I'm the woman in the red dress.

Amidst the chores and homework, between battles of will with my 2 year old, homemade fettucini noodles and the snot that somehow got wiped on my shirt, I am STILL the woman in the red dress. That part of me is just as legitimate as the part that makes lunches and folds laundry and reads bedtime stories.

Not every woman is a stay at home mom. Maybe your day consists of a subway ride, a business suit, long meetings and hastily eaten lunches. But the premise remains true for all of us. We can be who we are every day, but still take the time to celebrate the beauty of our WHOLE selves.
I spend a lot of time trying to convince women of their beauty. I think, maybe, woman have been tricked by society and the simple habit of daily routine into thinking that the woman in the red dress isn't really who they are, or who they should want to be. The woman in the red dress is always someone else, but never them. Caught up in the routine of every day life, they let the red dress stay in the closet and gather dust. Oh, they day dream about her but they rarely, if ever, take her out dancing.

I'm here to tell you that you ARE still, and always will be, the woman in the dress. Don't be ashamed of her or forget that she's in there. The Cinderella story IS true every time you stop trying to hide the side of yourself that you feel too guilty to show.

I want to send out a clarion call to every woman out there who is convinced that the woman she sees in the mirror every day is the only valid side of herself, who thinks that the glamorous side of herself is just a day dream, who feels too guilty or self conscious to buy herself a beautiful dress or to spend the time to get her hair done or put on a little makeup. I know you. I AM you. I want to tell you this: you do NOT have to be ashamed! Don't hide. Don't be afraid. Break out the red dress and wear it for all you are worth! Embrace ALL of yourself, because you are valuable, complex, unique, and dammit you LOVE glitter and that's okay!

I'm not going to be ashamed of the woman in the red dress anymore.

I am her. She is me. We are beautiful.
I am beautiful.

Are you ready to release the woman in the red dress?

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Portrait Photographer's Love Letter

Hey You!

I know it's pretty crazy, me writing this love letter to you when we haven't even met, but I just wanted to let you know that I've been thinking about you a lot. Actually, I've been thinking about you for a long time, now- years, in fact. I think about how amazing it is that you were born into this world so absolutely unique that there is no one else like you in existence. I think about how beautiful you are, and how that body that houses your soul is incredibly special, and that includes that mole you always try to hide and the scars you can't.

You always tell yourself that you're a bit weird but, honestly, that's part of what I love about you! That thing that makes you secretly feel different from your friends...I think it's inspiring. You are so complex that I spend hours a day wondering what I could possibly do to show you just how special you really are. Yeah, I know that you're just a regular person living a regular life like everyone else and I know that you have problems, too.

The thing is, I can see how those struggles have made you stronger, wiser, and more resilient. Actually, there is quite a lot I can read in your face. The line between your brows tells me you've been thinking long and hard about how to handle the problems in your life. That twinkle in your eye says that you're mischievous.The fine lines around your eyes say louder than words that you love to smile and laugh, and that you do it a lot. Kindness and humor are there at the corners of your mouth, but somehow you can't see it as clearly as I can.

So here I am, sitting at my computer and thinking about you in all your wonderful, messy, unique glory and I'm wracking my brain trying to come up with ways to get you to notice me. How could I possibly get your attention to tell you all the things that are on my heart when there are a million advertisements pointed directly at you telling you that you aren't good enough, smart enough, cool enough, fit enough, or stylish enough BUT if you buy some product or pay for some procedure, you might be.

How can I show you that my greatest desire is to capture some part of the unique essence of who you are, to create a piece of art that you can look at to see just a little bit of the incredible person that I see when I look at help you see the one of a kind person, one of a kind beauty, one of a kind character that makes people love you?

I guess all that I can say is this: all the years that I've spent learning my craft and perfecting my technique, all the time I spent away from my kids practicing, all the money I invested, all those sleepless nights, every mistake and every victory...those were all to prepare me for meeting YOU one day. Where I am today, it's because I knew I might meet you eventually and you might grant me the privilege to show you just how truly extraordinary you are.

So, when you're going through your day to day life and feeling like maybe you really are just one crayon in the box, one thread in the tapestry, another shade of grey in a black and white painting...give me a call. Let me show you the heartbreaking beauty that is YOU, so that you'll always know what I know: there is no one else who can fill your place in this world.

You are exquisite.


Your Portrait Photographer

Friday, October 16, 2015

You Aren't Using Off Camera Flash...But You Should Be

I need to get something off my chest, so let me say it loud and clear: there is no badge of honor in a photographer calling themselves a "natural light photographer."
Any photographer worth their salt should constantly strive to master light: ALL light. There are times when Natural light simply wont cut it on it's own. In such cases, many photographers fall back on Photoshop to make up for the lack of light and, as a result, they end up spending valuable time in front of a computer screen when they could be doing other things; like shooting, marketing, filling orders, spending time with their families, writing the next great American novel, etc...

As a photographer, you must master light. As a businessperson, you want your work to stand out from the crowd. Why? Because as long as your work looks the same as everyone else’s work, you’re competing with them for business based almost solely on price. If your work is unique, then you’ve elevated yourself from being a common commodity to offering something people can only get from one place: you. One of the best ways you can elevate yourself is by your technique and use of light.
This allows you to not only have command of the light no matter what the conditions are like outside, but also to make sure that the light you choose fits your needs and flatters your subject.

There was a time when portraits were taken almost exclusively in a studio. Now, most portraiture tends to happen out of doors. I spent the last couple of hours going through a huge list of photographers on Facebook and looking at their images and you know what? There was almost NO difference between any of their work. It was almost all taken outside in natural light with a shallow depth of field and little or no additional light. Aside from some technical details like lens compression and glass quality, an average client would not have been able to tell one photographer from another.

One of the most common critiques I could make in regards to these images is something that happens very often when you take a portrait outside: the eyes are too dark and the exposure on the subject is almost exactly the same as the exposure on the background, which means the subject isn’t differentiated from their surroundings except by the depth of field.
This is something that can be handled easily with a flash.

Electronic Flash can be used in a myriad of ways but the one I'm going to cover in this post is one of the most simple: fill flash.
Fill can be done with everything from a flash to a reflector or any surface that can bounce enough light back into your subjects face to fill in the dark shadows that tend to pool beneath the brow bones, cheeks and nose. Since eyes are generally the most important aspect of a portrait, bright eyes are a big deal.

The reason I'd suggest a flash as opposed to a reflector or other device is simple: most photographers making a go of it out there are solo shooters. They need something easy, effective, portable, flexible, and with enough power to get the job done. A speedlite or other electronic flash fits the bill.
While simple fill can be done with your flash attached to the camera if you need to move quickly, most professionals will suggest moving your flash off camera in order to create a more natural and flattering light angle. All you'll need in order to do that is a set of triggers and a place to put your flash. For the examples I'm going to show in this post, I used two Hahnel TUFF triggers and mounted the Canon 580 exII Speedlite on a tripod. Simple, lightweight, and easily maneuverable for a single shooter.

Light fill is easily achieved by pulling up the white fill card on your flash head and firing the flash in a safe direction (generally at the sky or to the side, if you're shooting in portrait orientation.) If your flash doesn't have a fill card, you can easily rubberband a white notecard to your flash head for the exact same effect.
The fill card takes just a bit of light and reflects it toward your subject to fill in the shadows. If your flash is in Manual mode, you can easily adjust the power to suit your needs.

I took a few simple photos that are very similar to the outdoor portraits that are so common right now, and then added some fill flash.
The simple examples below have only been edited to adjust the color a bit, but otherwise are almost exactly as they came out of my camera.

If you can see the difference with simple fill, imagine what you could do with a thorough grasp of all your flash was capable of!

We will be getting to THAT in another post.

For now, if you have a flash that has been gathering dust, grab that sucker and go experiment with it! Even if it's just to play with fill and see what the difference looks like in your own work, you won't regret it.

Stay tuned and we will get more in depth with the other things your flash is capable of.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Family Portraits With A Twist

I'm going to admit to something: there was a time when I thought that I didn't like photographing families.
I would get contacted by a family and we would set up a shoot and I would head out to a park somewhere near sunset and I would take their portraits. Then I would go home and edit the photos and the whole time I would be groaning to myself because I would have rather been doing anything else. I thought that maybe family portraiture wasn't for me. Maybe I should stop offering it so that people could go to other photographers who loved photographing families. After all, I want people to have amazing portraits of themselves that they cherish and they're much more likely to have images they love and have a great experience if they're working with a photographer who is passionate about their work. They could offer something to these families that I couldn't.
It wasn't until my first conceptual shoot that I realized something; I didn't dislike photographing families at all. I just disliked photographing families the way everyone else was doing it. In fact, the industry is SO saturated with the exact same photograph just repeated over and over again with different families that it almost feels like running people through an assembly line: here's a family, here's a park (or a field or a beach) here's a sunset, wash, rinse, repeat.
 I found myself so drawn to fashion photography because it was DIFFERENT. It was artistic. Every session was new.
Recently, I was thumbing through a Vanity Fair magazine and found myself wondering, "why can't I photograph families like that?"
Something clicked in my head and I realized then that I DID have something to offer the families, I could offer them something no one else would have...I could give them the fantasy.

We live in the mundane every day; mowing lawns and making beds, cleaning up cereal messes and wiping down toilets, commuting to work and helping with homework, driving to baseball practice and staying up late to finish that report for our boss. These little things are important and even beautiful in their own way but, since they make up our every day life, we tend to grow so used to them that they don't spark our imagination anymore.
There is a reason that people love a Cinderella story. It tells everyone's heart that the dream isn't just a fantasy; you CAN live it. That's where I can help. That's what I can give.

I have a chance to take people out of their  mundane lives and create a bit of magic that I can capture forever in a work of art.

I can introduce you to Peter and take you off to Neverland

I can add a bit of Fairy Magic to a little girls life

I can bring my hair and makeup team and give a family the full fashion experience

I can take you out of the routine of your day to day life give you the chance to live the fantasy for a little while, and create a piece of artwork that will let you re-live it for the rest of your life.

Give me a call and let's find out what YOUR fantasy is so we can make it a reality.

Monday, October 5, 2015

1 Step to Looking Great in Every Picture

In this blog post I am going to share the one, surefire way to look great in any photograph.

STEP ONE: Get in front of the camera.

That's it! You are now photogenic. Good job!

Seriously, that's all it takes.

Will it make you a supermodel? No. Only one in a thousand people have the kind of bone structure that makes photographers weak in the knees. That isn't the important thing, and it's not why we want to photograph you.

You deserve to exist in photographs. Not because of your looks, either. Because you are the only YOU there is. No one can ever replicate or replace that. You will never be made more valuable by makeup, the loss of 5 pounds, or perfect teeth.

You are irreplaceable. The people who love you deserve to have images of you and you deserve to see yourself as exactly what you are: unique, irreplaceable, one of a kind.

My favorite part of being a portrait artist, though, is creating a fantasy world where you get to see yourself not only as the special snowflake you are, but also as the person you dream of being.

Monday, August 31, 2015

When All Your Work Sucks

I was trying to think of a super clever way to open this blog post; something about how everything happens in seasons and you have to go through the winter in order to enjoy the spring and blah blah blah, but all of it just sounded trite so I scrapped it.
It feels a lot more honest to simply say that I'm kinda bummed out right now because I'm going through a phase where I feel like all my work sucks.
I'm not looking for compliments or pity or anything like that because I know that this is a phase and I know it will pass but the honest truth of it is that it's really hard to be an artist, and even harder to earn money doing it.
The whole seasons thing is a really overused metaphor but it's accurate. I've noticed that I will go though a period of immense growth where I'm seeing a lot of change in my work and I'm feeling excited and fulfilled and I'm happy with just about everything that comes out of my camera. Shortly after that, I will hit some kind of bump in the road where I look at my portfolio and I just want to pour bleach in my eyes.
There's no knowing what will cause that sudden change, it could be anything, but it's always something that makes me question the value and quality of the work I'm putting out. Maybe I didn't get a job I was hoping for, or a sale was less than I expected, or an editorial that I thought was amazing didn't get picked up, or whatever it is, and I start questioning myself which just poisons everything I look at.
It's a frustrating thing, but now that I've gone through it more than a couple of times I'm able to recognize something. Phases like this always push me to get better.
This is the time I start ruthlessly culling my work and narrowing down what I put in my portfolio.
This is the time I feel hungry to learn everything that I can about my profession.
This is the time that I'm able to look past the emotional attachment and be more objective about my work.
This is the time it becomes easier for me to recognize how much I still have to learn, how far I still have to go, how hungry I am to become the best at what I do.

When this season of sucky work comes to an end, I my passion and creativity will be rekindled and I will be out again, chasing the dream.

For now, I'm just going to shoot through it, try to make amazing images, and spend way too much money on junk I don't need...and chocolates.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Helicopters, Explosions and Beautiful Women; Birthing a Composite

Not too long ago I got the wonderful opportunity geek out a little bit. I've been watching James Bond movies since I was a little girl and I've always loved the action and intrigue. When one of the models I love to work with, Miss Amberlyn, contacted me with an idea for a shoot and tossed out the words "spy" and "helicopters" I was on board without having to think twice.
We were lucky enough to work with Northwest Helicopters Incorporated who gave us access to the Tarmac, and Yellarich Productions on hair and makeup.
If you've been following along on my Follow Sarah Blogposts, you'll know that I've got an intern, Sarah, who is really hitting the ground running in her photography business. She got the fun job of being VAL, my Voice Activated Lightstand, as well as grabbing bags and making brilliant suggestions like, "you might not want that bright orange flag in the shot."

I wanted to approach this shoot with a very cinematic feel, using my vast knowledge of spy movies as inspiration. And while the photographs were stunning strait out of camera, (SOOC, for all you photogs out there) I couldn't help but think...what is a spy movie without a good explosion?

*Cue mad photoshop skills*


Unfortunately, you don't just get to have explosions on a commercial Tarmac in the middle of your state's capital, so I knew I would have to composite one in. I first needed to find a stock photo of an explosion since I don't have a very good chance of photographing one of my own...unfortunately. I searched around on to find an explosion that I liked the look of but was also on approximately the same angle as my photograph was.

Here is a fun look at the image from start to finish.

This shot is SOOC (straight out of camera)
I shoot in neutral, which means that no contrast, sharpening or saturation is added to the image in camera. It will look a little bit dull, but it gives me a lot of range while editing.

This is the stock explosion

And the image after compositing the explosion in and adding a bit of reflection on the helicopter and some orange light that would be there if the explosion were really there, adding a sense of realism

Finally, I needed to do some color work to give the image a more cinematic feel.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Follow Sarah: Lighting Patterns

In an earlier blog post we covered the very basics of light and the qualities we need to pay attention to when choosing what kind of light we want to use to light a subject. With this post I want to go a bit more in depth with lighting and how to achieve what kind of light quality and light pattern you want. Before you ever start shooting you need to plan out what kind of light you want to use and why. What quantity, quality and direction you want in order to achieve the effect you want.

Remember that every light pattern can be made with soft or hard light in high or low key.

Important term to know:

Light Ratio: describes the difference in QUANTITY between the lit and the shadowed side of the face. A high ratio will be a very bright light and very dark shadows.

Standard Light Patterns:

Over the years, portraitists have used light to define their subjects and create mood. Those patterns can define bone structure, show or diminish texture, and flatter (or not) features. These are the most common light patterns used. Most (if not all) can be done in studio or with natural light, though natural light will often need modification or possibly another light source as fill.

Keep in mind that all of these light patterns can be accomplished with hard or soft light and modifiers can be added.

Most of these patterns can be split into 2 categories: Broad light and short light

1. Broad 
Broad light is when the key light covers the side of the subjects face that is facing the camera and falls into shadow on the off camera side of the face. Broad light tends to make the face appear wider.

2. Short
Short light is when the key light is directed at the far side of the subjects face so that the shadow begins to fall on the camera side of the face. This light pattern is slimming to the face.

yes, that is a minion on my couch

3. Butterfly 

Butterfly lighting is a beauty light pattern that is created with a key light at 45 degrees or more above the subjects face and on axis with the camera. This light creates a shadow beneath the subjects nose that is shaped a like a butterfly. This light pattern will give shadows beneath the brow bones and cheek bones so that the structure of the face is clear. This style was epitomized in old Hollywood Glamour photographs.

yes, that is a bra strap holding my remote to the light stand.

4. Clam shell

Clam shell is a modification of Butterfly lighting and aims to give an even, flattering light and showcase features with minimal shadows in order to keep features soft and minimize skin detail. In this light pattern, the key light comes from just slightly above the subject and a second (fill) light or reflector is just below the subjects face in order to fill in the shadows caused by the direction of the key light.

 *notice how the shadows under the nose, chin and lips are much lighter?

5. Rembrandt*

Rembrandt light, named for the Dutch Master painter, is signified by the triangle of light that is created beneath the eye and between the nose and cheek on the shadow side of the face. This is a very traditional light pattern and usually lends a sense of gravitas to the portrait.
I missed the pull back shot of this set up, but it's just like the Loop set up below only slightly farther toward camera left and around the side of my assistant, Ms. Styrofoam Head.

6. Loop*

Loop lighting is a variation on Rembrandt so that the triangle of light on the cheek meets up with the light on the chin and jaw.

*both Rembrandt and loop are a type of short light

7. Split 

Split light is when the light is on a 90 degree axis and the key light only lights 1/2 of the subjects face. Its not used often in general portraiture without heavy modification because it is such a strong and contrasty pattern and not flattering.


Each of these light patterns can be modified in some way to adjust the light quality or quantity, and you can also bring in additional light sources for other effects. Some of the most common additional light uses are to give additional definition to the subjects face or body, to fill the shadows and lower the light ratio, or to help separate the subject from the background.

Rim Light: this is when a light is placed directly behind or just to the side and behind the subject to give a little glow to the outside of the subject. This helps separate them from the background.

Fill Light: Any time another light source or reflected light source is used at a lower power in order to lighten or "open up" the shadows.

To illustrate what fill can do have a look at the shadow on the far side of the subjects face.

Now I've added a reflector to the right side of the subject just outside the frame. Notice how the shadows have been opened up a bit?

Finally, I brought the reflector in even more, inside the frame so that you can see just how much light has been added to the shadows.

Now that you know these patterns, you can practice and finesse them. Keep in mind that the quality of the light will effect the portrait as well because light direction will show texture, so if you have a client and you want to minimize the appearance of the texture of their skin, you want to use a much flatter light that wont give as much of a shadow. If you want to show off the texture of a clients skin, you can raise your light and give the light more direction. Hard light will also show more texture, so it's generally avoided for people who have larger pores, acne, scaring, or wrinkles and fine lines that you don't want to make appear more visible.

All these things are points you need to consider when you are planning a shoot. If you go in prepared, knowing what quality of light you want to use for your subject and what you can do to shape that light and achieve the results you want you will be a capable and confident guide to getting the absolute best photo of your subject.

Here are a few real world examples in different kinds of light.




Get out there and start practicing these!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Follow Sarah Homework Follow Up: Posing #2; Expression

Welcome to part 2!

This is how I work. I believe that this will translate for many photographers and clients because this is what I've learned by experience as a photographer over the past 8 or so years, but that doesn't mean that there aren't other ways to get things done that will be effective. Much of this advice will still apply to those who shoot more candid photos, though obviously the more controlled posing is genre specific.

There is so much to learn about posing that it would be impossible to tackle it all in one blog post. The first blog post about posing focused on the fundamentals and that leans heavily toward posing the body.  Once the fundamentals are learned, there are a million other things to tackle when posing a person such as what to do with their hands or what angle to turn or tilt the head; but those are all things that can be fine tuned once you've mastered the foundational principles. What you need to learn about posing now, because you'll be working to master it your whole career, is how to capture expression.

Body language is a big deal in portraiture. We read it in people every day, almost like a second language that everyone knows but few people ever take the time to think about. As portrait photographers, you must take that time because what you capture is frozen forever to be stared at and nit-picked. Start paying attention to people around you and note what they do with their bodies. As a a voracious reader and someone who has always loved to write, I've learned to pay attention to body language because it's also a fundamental way writers communicate what their characters are thinking and feeling.
Picture this person in your head: she's shifted her weight to her right leg and she has her arms folded over her chest, the toe of her left foot tapping against the ground.
What impression would that person's body language give you? Impatience, maybe?
Picture this person: his fists are balled at his sides, shoulders tense, as he braces his feet apart and lowers his head.
What impression, now? Anger?
One last example: she stands on her toes with her feet apart, chest lifted up to the sky with her arms stretched heavenward and thrown wide, her face turned up toward the sun.
How would you imagine she felt? Joyful, perhaps?

Body language communicates so effectively without the benefit of speech that when you are taking a portrait, the subject's body language will speak volumes about how they feel. You need to learn to pay attention and direct their body into a pose that will communicate what the intention of the portrait is and that extends right to the expression on their face. We could do the same imagination exercise with facial expressions that we did with body language but I don't think it's necessary. Most people can read anger, discomfort, anxiety, joy, contentment, jealousy, or love on someones face.  If you want to test it and see how well you can interpret the expression in someone's eyes, you can take this test by the New York Times for fun. If you didn't score very well, consider studying people just a bit more. Just for reference I got a 33 out of 36, so I was pretty impressed with myself!

Expression and body language come together to give the viewer a clear picture of how the subject of a portrait is feeling. Your job, as a portrait photographer, is gain expression from your subject.
In order to do that effectively, you need to earn your subjects trust. You need to make them comfortable around you. They need to see you.

Most of time, portraits are intended to show someone comfortable and at ease, as they would be with old friends. That's what we're going to focus on. If you intend to capture fine art portraits then your methods might need to differ but most of what I'm going to say about connecting with your subject should still apply.

One of the fastest and most natural ways to build trust with your subject is to get to know them. Talk to them. Ask them about themselves and tell them about yourself. Feel free to throw in an embarrassing personal story if you want, one that will show them that you are human, too. If someone can laugh with you as your laugh at yourself, you've broken the ice. The key here is not to find some contrived method, but to be yourself genuinely. Be interested in your subject and be honest with them. Not only does that make you a human being with whom they can connect and not just a big ol' scary looking lens, but it also helps YOU to find interest and empathy so that when you're shooting you are truly invested in capturing something authentic about who your subject is.

There are many people who are just not comfortable in front of the camera. This could be for any number of reasons. I've talked to many photographers who start to panic inside because they can't get the expressions they were hoping for. They have a hard time getting their client to relax or give more than one bland expression and, instead of taking a step back and trying to figure out WHY their subject is less than comfortable and address that, they just keep shooting in fear that if they reveal their frustration it will damage their subjects trust in their ability to get a great photo.This will not work. I know that from personal experience.

The one time I've ever had a client who wasn't happy with their expression in a photograph, it was because it was a last minute shoot and I didn't take the time I should have taken to get to know her better. If I had, I would have known that she is a smiler, someone who sees themselves as a happy person and didn't feel that her features represented who she was if they weren't happy. Score one for me, who took a look at her inspiration for the shoot and interpreted that she wanted something sultry. That was MY fault, not hers. As a portrait photographer, I know that it's not my clients job to look great for the camera or be photogenic, it's MY job to get great images of my clients that they connect with and love. If I had followed my own advice, it wouldn't have happened.

Personal example #2: I took the professional portraits for a company in Olympia. This company, a CPA firm, would need portraits of their employees that made the subjects look professional, competent, trustworthy and approachable. One of the ladies I was supposed to photograph was naturally very tense in front of the camera. Some people have a difficult time smiling naturally while having their portrait taken, and she was one of them. I started by chatting with her and playing with my lights a bit. Not because I needed to fix the light, but because I wanted to give her some time to loosen up in front of the lens. She was a gorgeous lady with big blue eyes and a chic, salt-and-pepper bob. I complimented her on her eyes. I made a few jokes. I told her that her outfit would be perfect for the portrait. She seemed comfortable enough with me, but as soon as I brought that camera up, her expression stiffened and her lips thinned and her shoulders got tense. No matter what I tried, and I even broke out the threat of poop jokes, I couldn't get her to relax for me.
Finally, I pulled my trump card: I asked her about her family. She has a daughter in college, of whom she is very proud. Her daughter plays music. I chatted with her while my camera was at the ready, asking about her girl and what she was studying. I watched as her eyes softened, as the tension relaxed from around her mouth, as her shoulders began to relax. That's when I fired off a few more shots. By the end of the shoot I had gotten exactly what I needed to capture from my subject. When she left the room I overheard her say to her boss, "she's good," and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I was relieved not only because I knew I got the shot I needed but because I want the folks I work with to have a great time in front of my lens.

Practical Tips:

  •  Talk. Talk, talk, talk and don't stop talking. Photograph while you talk. 
  • Give praise. Pepper your conversation with praise words when your subject is getting it right.
  • Always give direction to perfect the pose. Most of the people you photograph will not be models who can keep their body under control for long periods of time. They're going to shift or turn or do something that changes the pose you've worked so hard to get right. As you're talking and photographing, correct their pose.
  • Use hand gestures as examples of what you'd like your client to do. You can ask them to tilt their head or bring their eyes to a certain point or turn their chin or angle their shoulders and use your hand as a visual example for what you mean.
  • Take your time. It's okay to stop what you're doing for a second and chat or make a joke as long as you're always communicating and keeping your subject comfortable. Comfort = trust and trust = better photographs.

Practical Example:

This is how you might sound while working with a client. Keep in mind that you should be working the entire time. That doesn't mean you are taking 8 million photos in 4 seconds, but you should be paying close attention to expression and body language and pressing the shutter when your subject is giving you what you need.

"Did you really say that? Man you're brave, I don't think I could have said that! Turn your shoulder toward me just a bit. Perfect. Can you give me a bit of a smile? Oh come on, give me a real one, don't make me break out the poop jokes. Ah, there it is! These are looking amazing, Joe. Can I have you drop your chin just a bit for me? Right there, stop. Ahh, that was the shot! So what did he say when you told him?"

If you sound anything like that then you are truly directing the shoot, keeping your subject comfortable, and getting genuine expression.

It's important to note that nothing is fail safe. No two people will react or behave the same way in front of the camera. That's why you need to talk to people, and always be working on being a communicator. Get to know your clients as much as possible so you can find the best way to suit them. Be your authentic self and it will help them to be theirs for you.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Follow Sarah Homework: Posing

There is always something new to learn and ways to increase your mastery of any particular area of photography. Most photographers are life-long studiers of light. You can learn new things about composition every day, if you're so inclined. What is nice about many of the areas of photography is that you can learn these things on your own time.
One of the areas of portrait photography that people find the trickiest to master is posing. Posing is difficult simply because it does require directing another person to move their body in ways that wont always make sense to them and might even feel uncomfortable. The important thing is to learn as much as you can because knowledge equals confidence and if you are confident in giving your subject direction, they will trust you and trust = comfort and comfort = better portraits.

If you've been following along, you should have been able to download The Foundations of Boudoir Posing. That is a great primer to introduce you to the fundamentals of posing. In the next few paragraphs I am going to introduce the concepts that are fundamental to posing, found in the The Foundations, and then expound on those a bit.

It is very important to note first that the camera and lens do not see the way the human eye sees. The camera sensor and the construction of the lens actually alter the appearance of your subject. Wide angle lenses tend to exaggerate distance so that the part of the subject that is closest to the lens will appear larger and the parts that are furthest from the lens appear smaller. This can be used to your advantage if you use it carefully BUT it's not generally recommended because it can also distort your clients face. It makes perfect sense if you think about the fact that a face is rounded so whatever part of the face is closest to the lens is going to appear to be stretched toward the  viewer. 85mm is generally considered a "portrait" length because it does away with the distortion and renders the face closer to what the human eye sees.

The 4 Ps of Posing

Posing can be looked at like a standard recipe. There are a few ingredients that you know you will always need in order to make the dish but, to an experienced cook, the variations on the recipe are endless. Just think about how many different ways there are to make a cookie!
The same concept applies to posing. There are some basic fundamentals that every pose is built on and that will work for every individual. Once you've mastered those, you can begin to add variations that will make each pose specific to each individual you photograph.

#1: Position

Position is the part of the pose when you direct your subject to move their body into a position that is compositionally interesting the also flattering to their physique. If you look back at the FS post on composition, you'll remember that negative space defines shape, which is a key in positioning the body. You want to define a shape that is flattering to your subject. The best way to do this is to think of the body in triangles.
For men, the most important triangle is the shoulder to hip, with the widest part being at their shoulders. It's a masculine, angular shape. For women, it's a double triangle with the widest part being the shoulders and hips and the narrowest part being at the waist line, which creates an hourglass. Women have the additional bonus of a third triangle between the hip and knees which, when posed correctly, produces a lovely S curve that is flattering to any feminine shape no matter what size.

When you're positioning your client, pay attention to the triangles you are creating in their body. Arms and legs contribute to the composition and can either be posed inside the body line, such as in the example above, or outside the body line to create additional triangles. A hand on the hip, a bent leg, thumbs hooked through belt loops or hands on the waist all create triangles that leave negative space between the arm and the body to help define the shape of the body. The only thing you have to be careful of in that circumstance is to keep the limbs from pointing directly AT the camera, which foreshortens the limbs making them appear shorter and sometimes larger in proportion to the rest of the body. That helps to tie us nicely into P number 2.

#2: Perspective

Something I mention in The Foundations of Boudoir Posing is that "the right pose from the wrong perspective is the wrong pose." It's important to remember that. You can direct your subject into a very compositionally interesting and flattering pose, but if you photograph it from the wrong angle it's going to become awkward. This is why I mentioned above that whatever is closest to the camera is going to look largest.
A good rule of thumb is that whatever you want to make appear larger should be pushed toward the camera and whatever you want to appear smaller should be pushed away from the camera. That's why you will almost always here a portrait photographer telling their female clients, "put all your weight on your back foot." That pushes the hips backward, thus making the hips and tush appear smaller, and allows the front knee to bend and give that third triangle to create an S shape.
If whatever is closes to the camera appears larger, and you shoot from a high angle, what part of your subject is closest to the camera? Their face. Which means the face will appear larger and body smaller. If you client has broad shoulders and a narrow hip and you have them push their shoulders toward you and the hips away from you, that is going to exaggerate the difference.
Find a perspective that keeps the focus where you want it but doesn't distort the body so that it falls out of proportion. Chances are that if you're standing at a certain angle when you're posing someone, that's the angle you should be photographing them from. Be careful if you decide to move up or down or to the right or left because you've changed your perspective and there's a good chance that you will now need to direct your subject to alter their pose in order to compensate for that.

#3: Proportion

Proportion and perspective are tied together because of the nature of the camera/lens and also by the way our brains interpret distance.
Things that are father away appear smaller. Which is why tourists can take photographs that look like they're holding the Eiffel Tower. That is why I gave the advice to push whatever you want to appear smaller away from the camera. The Question is, how do you know what you want to appear smaller?
Consider what is classically considered the proper proportion for the human body. The general proportion is that the human body is just about 8 heads high. The distance from the top of the head to the hip is considered proportionally pleasing when it is roughly equal to the distance from the hip to the feet. For men, the shoulder should be the widest point on the body. For women, the waistline should be the narrowest with hip and shoulder wider.
There are a million variations on that guideline since there are a million beautiful body types, but that general guideline will provide a rule of thumb because if any part of the body is very clearly out of proportion then the eye will be drawn to that part. You can usually see something that is out of proportion right away. After all, the hand shouldn't appear larger that the head, right? If a body part or section of the body is out of proportion, then you can alter the above 2 P's, perspective and position, in order to compensate. To make the body appear longer and leaner, you can shoot from a lower perspective which lengthens the body. You just have to make sure that the head doesn't look comparatively smaller. Remember what I said about changing perspectives and altering pose? If you shoot from a low angle to lengthen the body, you might need to ask your subject to bend just enough to bring their face closer to the camera so that it dones't appear too small and stays in proportion to the rest of the body.
Want the hips and tush to appear a bit larger? Have the client put their weight on their front leg and push their hip toward you. This requires you to think and pay close attention to proportion but, as a portrait photographer, that's part of your job.

#4: Participation

Participation is the part of the posing process that ties everything together and helps the pose make sense. The key in portraiture is connection between the subject and the viewer. That connection is made most of the time by the eyes, but can also be found in the environment or the subject themselves. A pose should make sense. The subject should either be interacting (actively participating in the interaction) with the viewer, interacting with their environment (which can include other subjects), or interacting with themselves.
Subject to viewer participation is most usually by a direct gaze at the camera. Subject to environment participation can be found by leaning on a fence, putting on lipstick, picking a flower, eating a bowl of cereal, lifting a child into the air, a kiss or a hug, leaping over a wave, almost anything you can imagine that has the subject of the photo participating in their environment. The viewer will feel connection based on the shared experience of doing those same things.
Subject interacting with themselves might be a glance down their own body line, closing the eyes in thought, touching the throat or collarbone, adjusting the clothing, laughing, etc...
Participation makes the pose make sense and tells a story.

The Four P's are the foundations, the simple recipe that gives you the WHY behind the poses. Once you've mastered them you can go on to make the poses more intricate or varied and customize them to your subject, location, and the intent of the photo.

If you have a bit of money to spend on educating yourself (INVEST in your photography education, you will not regret it) on posing, I highly recommend Lindsay Adler's class, Posing 101 on Creative Live. It's a very thorough course that get's in depth on all the things we have covered above and that added benefit of seeing things real-time. You can see the free section of the class, "Guidelines for Posing" to get a good taste for what the rest of the class is like.

We will do one more post on posing, which will cover connection and how to help your subject relax and get comfortable in front of the camera, but that will be at a later date so keep your eyes open for that lesson!


Get yourself a subject to photograph, preferably someone old enough to take direction, and take a series of photographs. Use the 4 P's to have your client pose in a way that is compositionally interesting and flattering to their body as well as makes sense to their environment and the purpose of the image, then photograph them from above, at eye level, and from below. Don't forget to have them slightly alter their pose to suit the angle if need be. Load at least 1 pose with the 3 different angles in the comments section and explain how you used the 4 P's and why each angle either works or does not work.
Good luck, I can't wait to see what you do!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Family Portraits at Larimont

Hope and Cliff have been married for 10 years, and wanted to celebrate with a family session up in their hometown of Bellingham, Washington. Hope thought it would be great to take their family photos at the same place she and Cliff were married, and I couldn't agree more.
"Lairmont Manor," she said.
I consulted the Google (the Oracle of all knowledge) and my jaw hit the floor. It's a truly lovely building with soaring ceilings, fantastic natural light and a very charming and carefully manicured garden. I instantly fell in love with the location.

The day of the shoot couldn't have been more beautiful with sunshine and blue skies with just a bit of a breeze. We were able to take some photos outside and then make the most of the interior of the building and all the natural light that came pouring through the windows. If you're looking for a place to get married or hold an event, I can't recommend Lairmont Manor enough. My assistant and I were enchanted with the place and I loved it so much that I scheduled a fashion editorial just to photograph it there!

Hope got to wear her wedding dress for a second time, and I felt completely honored to have been able to photograph her in it. It was so sweet and completely romantic to be able to walk these lovebirds back through the place they said their vows and capture a little bit of what their love and life look like 10 years later.

Sabiston family, thank you for choosing me to capture your memories. I was honored.

Taking the Guilt Out of Pricing in 1 Simple Step


It's a common thread among many photographers who are just starting out in business.
They don't know what to charge so they start low. Often, clients will get a shoot plus all their images and the photographer's first born child for two-hundred bucks. This is a high volume, quick turn around business model with a high level of burnout. Ask me how I know?
At the burnout stage, the photographer knows that they can't sustain that level of work for such low prices and they realize that, in order to keep providing amazing portraits, they need to raise their prices.

Cue the big, ugly guilt monster.

This nasty bugger climbs all over you and chews you up. It whispers terrible things in your ear like, "Who do you think you are? You've only been in business 6 months, how dare you think you can charge those prices?"
Another thing he's fond of saying is, "No one will pay that."
The guilt monster sits around and feeds off of your insecurities, your uncertainties and your ignorance until he's fat and firmly settled in.

So many photographers out there start their businesses with a dream of providing an amazing service by doing what they love. Somehow, they don't realize that it's OK for their business to earn money. I mean, after all, that's what a business does. The purpose of a business is to provide a service or product to consumers and earn enough revenue to keep the business afloat and provide the business owners and employees with a livable income. If the business is very successful, they might even live a very comfortable life or...heaven forbid...get rich enough that money isn't a concern anymore.
For some reason creative  business owners seem to think that those things don't apply to them. We seem to instinctively feel that the price of our service and product relates directly to our personal worth, which means that if we charge money for it, we must be greedy. Perhaps this has to do with how deeply the creative process is tied to who we are.

I know how this feels. I've been there. I was practically giving away my time and effort but never seeing any change in my bank account. When I had someone inquire about a shoot and then not book with me, it almost broke my heart. I KNEW I could give them beautiful images. I knew they'd love the photos I took. Hearing that I was out of their price range made me feel like some kind of a failure. I thought that if they really loved my work then they'd be willing to pay $200 for a session that included their digital files.  It hurt me on a personal level, as if I personally just wasn't worth their time and effort. It made me want to chase them down and give them MORE, to try to convince them that I really was worth it if they would just trust me.
The worst part is, I know that I'm not the only one to feel this way. I see it in online forums and social media groups all of the time.
Desperate photographers are asking "what do I say when they ask if they can only pay $X? My prices are so low already!"
"I know I need to start charging more but I just feel so greedy!"
"I want to try in person sales but I don't know how to price my product."
"How can I ask someone to pay this much for my work?"
"I just don't want people to think that I'm selfish or better than anyone else."

When I finally realized that I wouldn't be able to sustain my business at the prices I was charging, I began to change things. I got some great advice (you can read about that life changing process HERE) that drastically altered the way I perceived my own value. But there was one thing that made the biggest difference on how I viewed my pricing and how it was tied to my self worth. It removed any guilt I held about asking my future clients to pay prices that were considerably steeper than what I previously charged.

I'm going to share with you the one, sure fire way to get rid of the guilt monster once and for all.

Here is what I did, and I think that if you do the same thing you will find that pricing your business becomes a matter of fact and not a matter of guilt.

The one simple step is this: DO THE MATH.

Here's the truth: pricing your business has nothing to do with what you are worth.  I know that flies right in the face of what so many people are saying right now, but it's true. Pricing your business is a numbers game, pure and simple. As long as you try to price your time and work on what you think you're worth, there is going to be some kind of guilt associated with your price structure. Is that really what you're worth? And if people don't want to pay your prices that translates into the idea in your head that they don't think your time and talent are worth their investment and THAT hurts.

Instead, you need to do realize that what you charge has everything to do with the numbers and those have no emotional ties to you.  What you charge clients has nothing to do with whether or not you are worthy and everything to do with how much money you need in order to run a business. When you realize this, the guilt will fade away and you'll be able to approach your price structure with confidence because it's not based on your own perception of your personal value but on cold, hard facts.

Start here:

How much money to you need to earn per year in order to stay alive?
Write this number down. 

Make sure to include things like:
your rent/mortgage
car payments
car insurance
school costs if you have children
Basically all the things that are required in order to live. Most of the time you can guess at a number because you're surviving on it already. Let's just use $40,000 for an example.
*this number will be different for everyone*

Okay, $40,000.
Step 2.

How much money your business needs to earn in order to stay afloat?
You should include things like:
the cost of your equipment
services to keep everything clean functioning
replacement parts
studio or space rent
insurance to protect yourself and your clients
gas to get yourself to and from shoots
props if you need them
your editing software
a computer
a cell phone (if you need a separate one for business)
 the cost of studio samples
how much you intend to spend on marketing
professional advancement
a personal accountant (unless you're a whiz)
possibly consulting a lawyer to make sure your contracts are solid
*this isn't an exhaustive list and will be a little bit different for every business because everyone starts out in a different situation. It may be lower for people starting out with a lot of gear and a good space, higher for people starting out with less equipment, and significantly lower if you are running bare bones.

Now, I know that sounds like a lot of stuff and it is. But, if you want to be in business for yourself, this comes along with the territory.
Once  you have that number, add it to the amount you need to pay yourself in order to live.

Lets say that the total of your income + your business income equals $70,000.

Divide that number by how many weeks you intend to work per year.
Say you plan to work 50 weeks per year with a few days for sick leave and a bit of vacation. You can arrange that however you need to based on what you'd like your life to look like. Maybe you only need to work 42 weeks per year. It's up to you. For the sake of the example though, we'll say 50, because running a business is hard and requires a lot of time.

SO, $70,000 per year divided by 50 weeks per year means that your business needs to bring in $1,400 per week (that includes the business costs and your take home.) That does NOT include state and local taxes, which need to be figured in in order to be accurate but it gives you an idea.

$1,400 per week.
How many days do you plan to work per week? 5 days? Then you need to earn $280 per day. It's up to you how your business does that. You can either work with one client every day for a $Y session fee and hope to sell them at least $X in product (where $Y +$X = $280), or you can can work with 1 or two clients per week with a higher session fee and more expensive products or anywhere in between.

Can you handle high volume or would you rather devote your time to two clients a week and have more time to handle the other aspects of your business? Ultimately you need to decide what is going to work for you, your business and your family.  How much time you devote to the different aspects of running your business like marketing, book keeping, editing, ect. is all up to you and how you want your life to be, but the important part to remember is that what you charge is 100% a numbers game.

Putting a price on your time, work and product actually has nothing to do with what you're "worth" and everything to do with math. This way, if a client says "you're too expensive" you'll know it had nothing to do with you personally or the quality of your photography.

If a client says, "I really love your work but I just can't do $$. Could we just get the digitals for $?" You can say with complete honesty, that has NOTHING to do with selfishness or greediness, that you understand portrait photography is an investment but cannot meet them there. You can say that with confidence because you KNOW the numbers and you now know exactly what you need to earn in order to run a business and pay yourself. It isn't personal. You must earn a profit in order to have a functioning business and put food in your mouth, so if potential clients come along who aren't contributing to you feeding yourself, you don't need to feel guilty about not working for them. They will find a photographer within their price range and you will work with clients within yours.  Aston Martin doesn't feel bad that some people want to drive a Ford, and Hyundai doesn't begrudge Ferrari their customers. They each need to earn a certain amount of money in order to thrive. Everyone walks away happy and fed.

For me, this was the most freeing thing in the world because now it wasn't a matter of whether I thought my skill was worth X amount of money. People were coming to me for their portraits so clearly they liked or connected with my work. Now it was simply about the numbers and whether or not they added up. That's why, when someone asks me what my session fee is, I can confidently say that it's $X for the session and then you'll purchase your products during the reveal.  I can say this because I know what my business needs to earn in order to stay afloat.

This takes all the guess work out of it. If you want to earn more, then write a bigger number down for your yearly income and do the math accordingly. There are no rules for how much you, as a business person, are allowed to earn. 

Photographer: you can either earn money doing what you love or  working for someone else. Either way you are working for your pay. Neither of those decisions has anything to do with your worth as a person or an artist and everything  to do with simple math.

Do the numbers add up?

**I did not cover sales or personal convictions or attitudes towards money or wealth poverty because those things are very personal issues that stem from a variety core beliefs than need to be tackled separately, and often are something that has to be readdressed and fought with as it resurfaces. These issues SHOULD be dealt with and you definitely want to admit and confront them. What I wanted to do in this post, thought, is give a straightforward tactic that will not only set you up to properly price your services, but more also sever the guilt from the concept of putting a price on your time/effort/product

Monday, June 15, 2015

Follow Sarah: Posing Prep

If you've been following along with Sarah, you know that I've been covering the fundamentals of photography. No one can ever be TOO strong in the fundamentals.
One of the upcoming lessons will be about posing, so I want to give a gift to those of you who are following along and are keen to learn more about one of the more difficult aspects of portraiture: posing.

This guide was designed specifically for Boudoir Posing, but the basics of the techniques can be used across all forms of portraiture for women and modified to use for men in ways we will discuss and expand on in upcoming lessons.

So if you plan on following along with Sarah, send me your email and I will send you a code for a free copy of The Foundations of Boudoir Posing.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Follow Sarah Homework: Composition

Composition is important in all forms of art. It has to do with balance. The balance of negative and positive space, the balance of color, the balance of movement and stillness, the balance of shape. Composition affects how the eye moves through a photograph and influences how a person perceives the photo. Will they feel relaxed or agitated? Soothed or stressed? Are all the elements of the photo in harmony?

There are  2 main types of compositions: Symmetric and Asymmetric.
Symmetric composition are balanced by even spacing of the focal points or subjects and are placed in the photo so that there is a balance of negative and positive space. Symmetric compositions will often have repeating shapes or lines placed at equal intervals on both sides of the image. If you were to split the image on it's symmetrical axis it will be matched on the opposite side. This photo by Ferdinand Choffray is a stunning example of symmetrical composition. Go check out his tumblr, it's lovely.

Asymmetric compositions will have more positive space on one side or the other, generally with a larger amount of negative space. However this doesn't mean the image is unbalanced. An asymmetric composition is balanced when the "weight" of the negative space matches the "weight" of the positive space.

Let's do a thought experiment to illustrate.

Imagine a scale, the kind used to balance weight. On one side of the scale is a heavy weight and the other side of the scale is empty. The side with the weight on it will sink down toward the ground. That is an  unbalanced composition.
Now imagine that we add another heavy weight of exactly the same size to the empty side of the scale. The scale would then balance out and both sides would be the same distance from the ground. The composition is now balanced and symmetrical.
Finally imagine that we took one heavy weight off and replaced it with 12 smaller lighter weights. While the smaller weights are lighter individually, together they equal the weight of the single heavy weight. Now the composition is balanced and asymmetric.

One of the most well known techniques of composition, especially in photography, is the "Rule of Thirds." This rule states that if  you divide an image into thirds both vertically and horizontally, the most pleasing areas toward which you want to direct the viewers eye are placed along those lines and where those lines meet. This image by Prem Anandh, shared in a lovely article about the Rule of Thirds by Photography Mad, is a perfect example both of the rule of thirds and of asymmetric composition.
Notice how the butterfly is placed right along the lines, but also how the composition still feels balanced because the "weight" of the butterfly is equaled by the "weight" of the negative space.

Another way to compose an image, which is a bit more complicated, is a classical technique called "the Golden Mean" or "the Golden Ratio." The rule of thirds is a simplified version of the Golden Ratio.
It developed from a philosophical view that had to do with finding the perfect balance in life. In art it lays out what a pleasing (and also mathematical) proportion is.
You can see it in nature (such as the shell of a Nautilus) and often in classical artwork like renaissance paintings.
There is a fantastic article on Uni that illustrates the Golden Ratio (as well as some other compositional techniques) using the famous sports photo "The Catch."

The balance of positive space (the areas in a photo that have a subject) and negative or empty space is also a very important component of composition. Negative space helps to define shape, and the ratio of negative to positive space can also impart either a sense of tranquility and peacefulness if the ratio is balanced, or a feeling of tension and unease if the ratio is unbalanced. 
Do a search of negative space photography on Google and look at the way the use of negative space affects the composition and also the feeling you have when viewing the photo. Is there a sense of peace, of loneliness, danger or unease?

There are only 2 other aspects I'm going to cover about composition in this post:
Leading lines and Framing.

Leading lines are compositional elements that help to draw the viewers eye into the photo. It is a very popular technique, as evidenced by every photo of a person standing on train tracks. Leading lines can be found almost anywhere if you are observant enough; the rail on a staircase, a stream, a sidewalk, the shape of shadows cast by the sun. If you place those leading lines in your composition in a way that causes the viewers eye to be led toward your focal point (your subject) then you have used them successfully.

Framing is a compositional technique that is used to isolate the main subject. This can be done by including objects from your landscape into your shot in order to effectively place a frame around your subject. This can be done with almost anything available from leaves in a bush, a tree, buildings, doorways, tunnels, natural rock formations, or even other people.
This is a photo I took at a wedding where I used a an element from the decorations in order to frame my bride and groom having a private moment.

Composition is a huge subject to cover and one that authors and artists have devoted whole books to; much  more information than we can cover here.
Color, movement, contrast, balance, negative and positive space, rhythm and lines are all aspects of the huge subject that is composition. We've only covered a few of those things here but my hope is that this crash course will give you a new understanding for how you want to approach shooting and that you will take your time and use these techniques to create strong compositions in your photographs.
Do more research on you own! Composition is the biggest thing that will take your photos from looking like snapshots to looking like professional images that tell a story.


First, take 20 minutes out of your day and watch this great tutorial. The accent might take a bit of getting used to, but the information is spot on and very useful.

Academy Photography: Photography Composition Basics - the truth about the rule of thirds, symmetry, repetition and rhythm.

This week I want you to shoot 5 different compositions using the following techniques: symmetry, asymmetry, the rule of thirds, leading lines, and framing. Extra points for including several compositional elements in 1 photo!
We will critique and cover how effective you were next week!

If you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comments! I would love to know how you are finding these lessons and how you're benefiting from them. I hope to have some updates from Sarah to share with you soon!