Prague The Hidden Forest

August 11th, 2014

Prague The Hidden Forest

Being a photographer is probably one of the best jobs in the world. Not gonna lie, I am, of course, a little biased. But being a professional photographer is not without its challenges.

As I have grown as an artist I have come to realize more and more than the best shots come from a sprinkle of chaos. Not everything needs to be perfectly planned. We have to be able to embrace the moment. A little improvisation never hurt anyone.

While in Prague on a recent trip, we were driving about an hour outside of the city to get away from the flood of tourists. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Prague, especially the dumplings… I digress… but damn, the amount of tourists everywhere made it a very challenging city to photograph and enjoy. To the countryside we headed.

En route, with no real idea of where we were, BOOM! the hidden forest appeared. The leading lines, the light, the grass, the time of day, everything… JUST FREAKING PERFECT!

One major problem…. We were not prepared for a shoot. No model. No hair and makeup. Just what we had with us. Alissa was on deck for any random shoots and it was time for her to suit up. We had a vintage wedding dress that we picked up in London for $75 at a second hand store.

We jumped out of the car and just started wandering around looking for the light and leading lines, etc. Then we found this perfect spot where there was a tree that had fallen or been cut… I thought to myself, “Perfect!”

Alissa started applying makeup while the rest of the team prepared for the shoot, testing lighting, etc.

Here was the challenge, while the lighting was perfect to the eye, it was not perfect for the camera. We needed an alternate light source. Enter the Profoto B1. 500 Watts of portable power wherever and whenever I need it!!

I wanted something soft, natural, and even surreal. That would not happen with a hard light, which is my normal choice when lighting portraits. No light modifiers, just a hard edged light. Time to improvise. We took a white reflector and bounced the light into that to create a larger and softer light source to ensure she was properly lit, but not overpowering the shot.

End of day, don’t be afraid to add a little spontaneity and improvisation to your shoots. You might be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Enjoy.

Camera | PhaseOne IQ250
Lighting | Profoto B1
Glass | Schneider 55mm

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Freedom Tower NYC

August 7th, 2014

Freedom Tower NYC
Freedom Tower NYC

Being a native New Yorker there is no way to describe the feelings I had when the opportunity to photograph from the very top of Freedom Tower was given to me. The old saying couldn’t have been more true. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This was a rare opportunity indeed. I was being given access to a location not many photographers will ever have access to.

While 9/11 may seem like a distant memory to many of us, I still remember where I was and the emotions I felt on that fateful day. I was still working my corporate job at Microsoft and I was at a conference in Seattle. I woke up to emergency news reports on every channel and I remember thinking to myself “what movie is this?” Only to be smacked with reality as I went from channel to channel. Shortly thereafter, the first tower fell! All I could think about were all my friends and family that worked and lived in Manhattan. It was an attack on America.

Fast forward to this day in late 2013, I was given an amazing opportunity to go to the very top of Freedom Tower. Not the observation deck, but the maintenance level another 5-10 stories higher. Like I said, it’s not what you know, but who you know.

Riding in the maintenance elevator all the way to the top was an incredible high – literally and figuratively. Slowly watching the city of New York reveal itself as we rose above the other buildings. Last stop was the 100th floor. Yet for us, it was just the beginning of our next leg of the journey. We now had to climb multiple levels of scaffolding all the way to the top. No windows exist on these levels, so there is nothing but a mesh windscreen standing between you and the elements and of course a 100+ story drop.

The wind was incredible at this point – just howling. I remember holding on to the ladder for dear life. Step. Grab. Step. Grab. This was all I could think of. I am not necessarily afraid of heights, but “comfortable” was definitely not a word I would use to describe my feelings at the time. Not going to lie, I was toting a 30k+ camera system in my Phase One IQ260 – so that was the one thing I was worried about more than my own safety on the ladder.

Once you made it to the very top… it was just incredible! You could see for miles and miles! This was like no view I had ever seen of NYC. No windows, no obstructed views, just an incredible peace and SILENCE. I remember saying “what the…” to which I was quickly educated on the dynamics of the building. Apparently the way it was designed and because of the physics of wind, as the wind hits the side of the building, it is guided up the side of the building and up and over the building, well over our heads. This was just incredible. Eerily so, but incredible nonetheless. Imagine sitting in your quiet living room listening to your tv. Now turn off the tv, that’s how quiet it was. No yelling or shouting to the people we were with, just normal conversation levels.

Now the real fun begins. Making a great photograph! After all, this was why I was here.

Walking around the top of freedom tower and enjoying an unparalleled and uninhibited 360 degree view of NYC, Brooklyn, and New Jersey is something I will never forget! It was an honor to have the opportunity to document this part of American history.

For myself and Taylor, this was a once in a lifetime experience and one we are not soon to forget. Thank you to everyone who made this possible for us. You know who you are.

I hope you enjoy the images.

Sal Cincotta

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The Birthday Club

August 1st, 2014

The Birthday Club

The Birthday Club

Years ago I became known as a maternity and baby photographer. That led to baby’s-first-year sessions, and I soon found that clients weren’t coming back in on a regular basis. Usually I’d see them again only when they had more babies. Sometimes I’d see them a few years later for a family portrait session or even during one of our studio specials or mini-sessions, but I wasn’t doing a good job keeping up with clients or encouraging them to come back regularly. I also knew that photographing kids was my first love. That’s why I started in the business. I wanted those kids back as they grew, and continue to photograph ages and milestones. So the “Birthday Club” was created.

Our Birthday Club is a promotion that any baby or child I photograph is automatically entered in. Every year during the month of the child’s birthday, the birthday kid gets a free session. Yes, there are circumstances in which the word free can work against you. However, I’ve found that the Birthday Club has offered a way to honor our clients, say thank you for their business, allow me to reach out to them annually and create yearly revenue that I was previously missing out on.

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Breaking Into Destination Weddings

August 1st, 2014

Breaking Into Destination Weddings

Breaking Into Destination Weddings

Let your imagination run wild: What are the top three goals you dream of accomplishing as a photographer? In all likelihood, travel or shooting exotic locations makes your bucket list. Using your camera to put food on the table is a blessed life, wherever you do it. But there’s no question that tales of beautiful European weddings impress potential clients. Ego aside, their awed reactions are precisely the kind of sentiment you want engaged couples to associate with your brand. Whether your potential client is local or far, far away, a strong destination portfolio increases the perceived value of your services. The experience of building it could be the most exciting ride of your life.

So how do you break into the destination market? First, know that your goal really is within reach. The world is smaller than it was. Now, if you don’t happen to already live in an exotic location, don’t want to fall into a rut shooting the same remote venues over and over, and aren’t one of the anointed few celebrity photographers who attract wealthy clients worldwide, what do you do?

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Shutter Speed Doesn’t Matter in the Studio

August 1st, 2014

Shutter Speed Doesn’t Matter in the Studio

Shutter Speed Doesn’t Matter in the Studio

Did the headline make your head spin? Well, it was supposed to, and it’s almost always true. In practical terms, shutter speed plays a very small role in the studio. I’m speaking about situations where you’re working with strobes, with little to no ambient light and within practical shutter ranges and ISO values one typically uses in the studio.

There is one caveat, and that’s an all-important shutter speed setting known as your maximum flash sync speed. This setting is critical to your success in the studio and in mixed-light situations. Your camera’s maximum flash sync speed is the fastest shutter speed at which you can successfully use flash. Maximum flash sync speeds differ from camera to camera, but generally fall somewhere between 1/160 and 1/250 of a second for DSLRs with mechanical shutters, and higher for cameras with electronic shutters and medium-format digital cameras equipped with leaf shutters.

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5 Tips For Better Branding

August 1st, 2014

5 Tips For Better Branding

5 Tips For Better Branding

Last month, I talked about how picking a specialty can help your photography business. Every day I see a new photographer pop up in my area. I think the photographers who specialize and brand well are going to be the only businesses that make it. So this month, I want to dive into branding your business and define what a photography brand actually is.

You can search the Internet for a million different definitions of branding. But I think when you strip it all away, a brand is how potential clients think and feel when they hear the name/company. So applying that to photography when someone says Kristy Dickerson, my brand, will make him or her feel a certain way. Does my name imply wedding photography, does it imply high-end, low-end, exclusive, etc.? Branding is a process and it is not something that happens overnight. And branding is not just a logo and a website.

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Wedding Video Edits: Music Videos vs. Short Films vs. Full Coverage

August 1st, 2014

Wedding Video Edits: Music Videos vs. Short Films vs. Full Coverage

Wedding Video Edits: Music Videos vs. Short Films vs. Full Coverage

Wedding videos used to be simple: Record the wedding and just put it on VHS or DVD. Today there is a battle between filmmakers who shoot music videos, short films and full coverage. Most of my filmmaker friends claim they have the best formula for success and are totally convinced that brides want what they offer. It’s hard to argue with wedding film/photo companies that are successful making money and giving brides the most unforgettable experience, especially if you are a filmmaker who is doing it the way you want to do it—right? Maybe not.

I’m going to throw a curve ball at you and make a bold statement. The majority of filmmakers are missing out on a tremendous upside for themselves and their companies. They can double their income and cut back on half of their editing time if they keep an open mind and rethink the way they deliver and edit wedding films.

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SEO and a Good User Experience

August 1st, 2014

SEO and a Good User Experience

SEO and a Good User Experience

Google’s last major algorithm update places more emphasis on making sure your website provides a good user experience. What does this mean? A good user experience can be broken down into a four major factors:

1. Your website loads quickly.

2. It looks great and is readable on any device.

3. There are no error pages.

4. The pages are optimized with relevant content.

Your website needs to be fast-loading!

How many times have you clicked a link and left because it was taking too long? Make sure you are not losing traffic because of this. How do you know if your website is too slow? Visit it from a couple different computers and devices at different times of the day. Ask friends in different locations to check it. The best way is to use Google Webmaster Tools. Log in and then click the Other Resources link in the left column. Click the PageSpeed Insights link, type in your website URL and hit the Analyze button. It will give you a Mobile and a Desktop score. If either is red, you need to do something ASAP. Yellow is OK, but green is what you need for a great user experience.

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White Balance In-Camera For Better Results

August 1st, 2014

White Balance In Camera For Better Results

White Balance In-Camera For Better Results

I have always been challenged with capturing the most out of my subject matter. Whether it’s landscapes, architecture or portraits, I want to head into post-production with a fine-tuned image.

In my last article, I talked about controlling color in your photography by calibrating your monitor and creating a custom camera profile. This doesn’t solve the issue of color balance; you still need to apply proper white balance when shooting and editing. We all use ISO, shutter speed and aperture to control our exposure, but how do we control blue and orange color cast? We’ve all seen the WB button or option on our cameras, but what do we know about changing it from Auto? Auto does all the white balance correcting for you, right? What about other presets like incandescent, fluorescent, daylight, flash, shade, cloudy, etc.? Understanding your camera’s white balance settings and color temperature can save you all the painstaking hours of correcting color in post-production. We all want to capture more in our images, and by controlling white balance while shooting, you will achieve better results. We need to start by getting an understanding of color temperature and how it relates to lighting conditions.

Color temperature is the visual measurement of light, broadly described in photography as cool or warm. It is measured in kelvins (K), which describes the temperature rising, and is balanced with varied intensities of blue. As the image’s color temperature starts around 1,000 K, it gives the scene a bluish cast. At the opposite end of the color temperature spectrum, 15,000 K has a deep yellow/orange cast. Increasing the K number in your white balance settings adds less and less blue. Knowing this becomes useful in photography when planning for your event’s lighting conditions. For example, if you start the day by shooting in a lamp-lit room where the lighting is ultimately orange, using a lower-kelvin white balance setting adds blue to balance the neutral tones that are too warm. Vise versa with clear blue skies: a higher-kelvin temperature adds orange to bring back that daylight or balanced look to the image.

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