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How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

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How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

Drone photography is here to stay. If you see drones as merely for playtime, you are missing out. But with this bold new frontier comes unique challenges. There are all sorts of rules and regulations we are going to have to learn about and adhere to, and they seem to change daily. If you ask someone to explain them to you, well, it’s clear as mud.

Don’t let this discourage you. Drones can give you a different perspective on life and photography. When people think drone, they think video. But recently, we have been using drones to enhance our photography coverage.

This article isn’t about how to use drones. The Internet is filled with that content. Instead, I want to talk about what was going on in my mind to produce the recent shots you see here.

 

Drone.

I use the DJI Phantom 3 Professional with 4K camera. Are there better drones? Yep. Are there better optics? Yep. Are there better . . . yep. I am not about to have the age-old Canon versus Nikon debate here. Find what works for you. There are countless online reviews to slog through.

The Phantom 3 is perfect for us for a number of reasons. Ease of use and portability are the main two reasons. We travel a lot, and portability is key. Everything fits in a nice Pelican case or backpack that is carry-on size, so we don’t have to check it. And when it comes to ease of use, I can have this bird in the sky in less than four minutes—that’s out of the box, blades assembled, GPS calibrated. I know because it took some work for me to nail down the process in record time.

We love the 4K video. Would I love better optics for better still imagery? Without a doubt. But for now, that’s a tradeoff I can live with.

These things are getting better and better and cheaper and cheaper every year. As I write this, I am getting ready to leave for a National Association of Broadcasters event in Las Vegas, where they reveal the latest and greatest in video tools, so I expect to be blown away by cool new drone tech.

 

Lighting.

When working with drones, the concept of off-camera light is not going to happen. It’s all about available light or possibly constant light sources, like an Ice Light from Westcott. We’re talking WYSIWYG: With these optics, you are not going to get the same quality of imagery you would from your DSLR, but that’s not the goal. With that in mind, lighting as best you can will save you lots of frustration in post-production.

 

Focus.

The focusing system is complete shit. It’s a video camera. I use it with a spray-and-pray mentality. You have to overshoot. If you are shooting landscape or architecture, you need to shoot more frames than you usually would to ensure you end up with a sharp image.

The differences between the Phantom 2 and 3 is huge. There are massive differences in the camera and software. Pay attention to your settings, and don’t let your settings get to 1/30th of a second. While the drone uses GPS to hover somewhat smoothly, taking a still image from a drone at 1/30th of a second will almost certainly result in a blurry image.

 

Setting up the shot.

Using a drone for your portrait photography requires that you see the world a little differently. You have to start thinking top-down. Posing and composition are way different. Drones also aren’t meant for close-ups. Use your normal camera for that. When I am using the drone, I am thinking big and dramatic, with my subject smaller in the frame. It’s a bird’s-eye view of the scene. Your clients will be blown away when they see an image from this perspective. They’ll tell you they’ve never seen anything like it before. Be the hero.

 

Printing the results.

Here is where things get a little tricky. This is not a DSLR with 8-bagillion megapixels. This is a 4K camera with 12-megapixel images coming off it. Using software like ON1’s Resize 10, you can blow up images with no issues. Recently, I printed an image as a 15×30 for one of our bridal shows, and it looked incredible. It was a showstopper for our brides, which is totally the point. Do something different, something with impact. Clients don’t pay big money to get something that every photographer is doing. They want something different. Show them that difference by thinking outside the box.

With Resize 10, we were able to resize a nighttime drone shot that was used on both the client’s website and on a huge banner on the side of their building.

 

Conclusion.

Drones will only become more pervasive with time, and what you do with them will help you stand out from the crowd. Start embracing these tools as an add-on service. The options are endless, and your clients will love what they see. Sometimes the smallest addition to your arsenal can make the biggest difference to your bottom line.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

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How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the April issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

Travel is one of my favorite things. I love to travel. I love seeing the world. And photographers who travel for work have the best job in the world. We get to see some amazing places and, with any luck, capture some incredible and moving imagery.

 

To most people, travel photography conjures thoughts of landscapes and monuments. A lot more goes into travel shoots for wedding and portrait photographers.

 

When I travel, I almost always try to schedule a photo shoot of some sort. I often have a dress or concept to ensure I can create something magical from that location. Even if I am shooting for just an hour, I want to make the most of it.

 

Getting started is easier than you might think. Sure, you might not have the opportunity to travel to exotic locations, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I want to maximize every single trip I can, and I get pissed when I don’t. It’s a lost opportunity. Every city in the world offers something unique, and we all see the world a little differently.

 

Embrace it.

 

Concept.

 

The concept for this shoot was to embrace the gorgeous landscape of Iceland. Now, let me start by saying, if you had asked me the top 10 places in the world I would like to visit, Iceland would have been last on my list. After visiting this incredibly diverse, visually challenging and inspiring environment, I can tell you that I can’t wait to return.

 

We were looking to create something that embraced the beauty and uniqueness of the landscape. Blue water and black lava rock—yes, please.

 

The next part to this entire thing was having the right subject. Icelandic women are gorgeous and have a very unique build, look and skin type. Our model for the day fit the bill perfectly.

 

My vision was to have something soft and flowing to counter the harsh landscape. I love the juxtaposition of it all. We used a loose wedding dress and a long veil we had with us. In addition, we wanted to bring in all the beautiful blue colors. For that, we knew we would need some additional lighting in the scene. More on that below.

 

Location.

 

We shot just outside Reykjavik near the Blue Lagoon, a natural hot spring. If you have never been, I highly recommend a trip out there. The water is baby blue. That’s not Photoshop you are seeing in this image. It’s incredible to lay eyes on this natural phenomenon.

 

Locations like this can be challenging because you are not always working with light. Or, maybe better stated, the light is not always working with you. Looking at the shadows, you can see that the light is coming in from behind, creating a beautiful hair light for separation.

 

This location and the available light posed a bit of a challenge. Expose for her face, and the sky and water would be blown out. More than likely, her dress would suffer the same fate. Expose for the deep blue sky, and the water and her face would be in shadow.

 

So, what does all this mean? Gorgeous locations don’t always translate to gorgeous images. You have to step back, analyze the scene and determine the best way to get the results you are looking for. You never want to compromise natural beauty.

 

Lighting.

 

It should be no surprise at this point that lighting had a big impact on this final image. Without external lighting, we would not have been able to capture the dynamic range of this scene.

 

For this shot, we used the Profoto B2 bare bulb to push in some light on the front side of the image. There are all sorts of light modifiers out there, and Profoto offers a plethora of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love their beauty dishes and softboxes, but from time to time, I am just looking for a hard-edged light. That’s exactly what we did here. The B2, located camera left behind me, had the perfect punch for this shot.

 

At f16, there is no way a speedlight would have enough power at this distance to provide the light we needed. We were able to use the light from the sky to create a well-balanced image.

 

Gear.

 

Profoto B2

Hasselblad H5D

Hasselblad 24mm lens

1/125th of a sec @ f16, ISO 100

 

Closing thoughts.

 

Travel photography is more than just landmarks and landscapes. No matter what type of photographer you are, there is a way to incorporate your travels into a portfolio-building opportunity.

 

The key is planning ahead of time. Where are you going and what do you want to accomplish? I typically look for opportunities to showcase local architecture or landmarks to create something that has my signature style incorporated into it. Make the investment and have a dress with you wherever you go. Wardrobe will typically be the thing that trips you up. No matter where I go, I like to have an extra dress with me in case I get the urge to shoot something. You can find wardrobe at ridiculously low prices at thrift stores around the world.

 

Finally, break out of your box. We all have our favorite spots to shoot. We know when the light is perfect, etc. What fun is that? Photography is an adventure and a lifelong pursuit. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.

 

Get out there and give it a try.

 

Want to see how we edited the shot? Sign up to be an Elite+ member today. Get the printed magazine and access to behind-the-scenes videos like this at www.behindtheshutter.com/shutter-magazine

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the April issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

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How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the March issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

It’s senior month here at Shutter Magazine, so it’s time to get your butts in gear if you are going to have any success this year. For this month’s cover, we tapped into the always beautiful Maddi. We worked with her on a previous project, and I knew I wanted to work with her again. Seniors 2016 it is!

 

Winters are cold here in O’Fallon, Illinois. So, what do you do? Not shoot? Come on. It’s time to make it happen. Can’t just sit there complaining about the weather. I know, more than most, that shooting indoors is not always the most creative environment, but there’s a ton of ways to create unique sessions in-studio. Lighting, props, backdrops and gels all lend themselves to creating unique and memorable portraits.

 

Seniors are a blast to work with, but it can be intimidating working with teens. Will you pass the cool test? At the end of the day, just be you. Have fun, and remember: Every teen everywhere in the world is going through an identity crisis of some sort and just wants to look great and fit in. That being said, if you create something amazing for them, including the experience, they will be forever loyal and tell every person they know on the planet.

 

Concept.

 

It was cold here, so we decided on an indoor shoot. But indoors can be so boring, especially for a senior. How can we jazz it up a little? I remembered seeing something on Facebook about this can of “atmosphere” that creates instant and lasting fog. In addition, we wanted to use some gels to create mood.

 

The original concept was for Maddi to be wrapped in a fake fur. We bought one online, and once we put it on her, we quickly realized how bad it would photograph. That’s the thing sometimes, isn’t it? What you see in your mind and what the camera sees are often different things, and we have to be able to adjust. It seems like every single month, no matter how much prep time goes into the shoot, something inevitably goes wrong.

 

#pivot

 

We have to adjust. The adjustment here was to get a black leather jacket and clip the fur to the jacket to look like a fur collar. Problem solved.

 

Another part of the concept for this shoot was the fog. This was new for me. I had never really photographed fog. We bought cans of Atmosphere Aerosol for about $12 each. You have got to check this stuff out. Just Google them. They’re super easy to use and they add depth and mood.

 

Now, the challenge here was lighting the fog. It’s easy, like everything else, once you figure it out. Originally we had the light firing into the brick wall and sprayed the Atmosphere behind the model. So the light was hitting the wall and not hitting the fog. After that, we moved the light to right behind the model, firing it into the wall from about 10 feet away. In that 10-foot gap, we sprayed the Atmosphere. This allowed the light from the Speedlites to hit the fog and light it up on its way to the wall.

 

Location.

 

Rather than shooting on a backdrop, we used the brick wall in our studio for some texture.

 

This year, the plan is for us to shoot more of our seniors in-studio to allow for the variations in temperature here in the Midwest. The summer months are brutal, forcing us to cancel shoots almost daily when the heat index reaches 100 to 115 degrees. No one wants to shoot in that heat for two or three hours. Working in the heat for 10 hours straight takes its toll. So this year, I have committed to working more indoors and getting more creative with lighting, posing and backgrounds to create unique looks for Salvatore Cincotta Photography.

 

 

Lighting and background.

 

This month, we decided to use Canon Speedlites in our studio on a brick wall. This was a five-light setup. All Speedlites were in manual mode.

 

Main lights were a clamshell setup with Canon Speedlites in their own group. The light modifiers were the Westcott octa and Westcott strip boxes. These things are super light and super portable. They’re the perfect accessory for your Speedlites.

 

On the backside, there were three Speedlites. We gridded two lights with MagMod grids hitting Maddi from behind and providing some nice edge light for separation. We gridded the final light with a gel to provide the color. We fired it into the wall, lighting up both the wall and the Atmosphere.

 

All Speedlites were in their own control groups. Group A was the main lights. Group B was the edge lights. Group C was the wall light. If you don’t understand the value of groups with your lighting setups, I highly suggest you grab that manual that came with your Speedlites and get your learn on. Seriously. The number of photographers who just put a flash on their camera and slam light into the scene is mindboggling. Spend a little time and practice. Your photography will immediately jump leaps and bounds.

 

Gear.

 

Canon 600 Speedlites

Canon ST-E3-RT Transmitter

Westcott Strip Rapid Box

Westcott Octa Rapid Box

MagMod Gels

 

Canon 1Dx

Canon 85mm 1.2

1/200th of a sec @ f1.2, ISO 100

 

Closing thoughts.

 

Shooting indoors doesn’t have to be boring. There are lots of options for you and your clients. The key to all this is ensuring you are challenging yourself to do something different. There are lots of options out there for lighting, modifiers and backgrounds, and the combinations of these tools in creating your own unique look and feel are limited only by your imagination.

 

Seniors are an incredibly fun and profitable sector. Stop convincing yourself that senior photography won’t work in your market. It will. Every teen wants to look and feel beautiful. Create an amazing experience for your clients, and the financial rewards will follow.

 

And your seniors will eventually become your brides. This year, we are photographing two of our seniors who are now getting married. Talk about slam-dunk marketing. It’s a no-brainer for you and your business—and working with seniors is some of the most fun I have every year.

 

Get out there and give it a try.

 

Want to see how we edited the shot? Sign up to be an Elite+ member today. Get the printed magazine and access to behind-th- scenes videos like this at www.behindtheshutter.com/shutter-magazine.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the March issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

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How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

This month’s shoot was, in a word, fun. I love having a creative group of people around me. This time, we had an internal debate about the direction and concepts for the cover shoot. We had two options that we just couldn’t decide on. So we did both. I know, a good problem to have.

 

Alissa had this vision of a high-fashion metallic silver background. Krystal, one of my staff members, had created this killer headpiece from scratch. Both ideas were really cool and enticing, but only one would get the cover.

 

No spoiler alert here, but as you can see, the headpiece won out. It’s interesting how we all work creatively. It’s so important that the photographer “see” the vision. For the silver paint, it wasn’t my vision and I just couldn’t see it. As a result, I was not happy with the final shot. Admittedly, I didn’t do the best job shooting it. As artists, we see this a lot, don’t we? The free advice we get from those around us is always, “You should try this.” I want to smack people sometimes. Yeah, and you should try playing in traffic blindfolded.

 

My point is that vision encompasses so much more than the obvious factors around you. I have learned something about myself over the years: If I can’t visualize the shot beforehand, I’m going to have a very hard time taking the shot. I imagine this is true of most visual artists, and something to keep in the back of your mind.

 

Okay, back to the action.

 

Concept.

 

The concept here was all about the custom headpiece. When Krystal offered up the idea, I wasn’t onboard with it at all. I couldn’t see it. Her description didn’t knock me out: “Okay, it’s gonna be cool, with feathers coming out of the top, but the feathers will be gone, and I am going to spray-paint it too.” Huh? I was thoroughly confused. I couldn’t visualize it.

 

She put a lot of time into it, working away at the head of a Styrofoam mannequin on her desk. Watching it all come together was pretty cool. Suddenly, I had vision.

 

Altogether, I am pretty sure this piece cost us less than $40. Not that this is something you would wear out on a Saturday night, but it’s pretty damn cool for a commercial-style shoot.

 

Location.

 

Have hotel room, will travel. Not everything you do has to be on a large set or with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of set design, staff, lighting, etc. We were in Chicago and had access to some talented people. First up, makeup artist Vanessa Valliant, signed with Wilhelmina, who has worked with the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Lady Gaga, Madonna and Kardashian Kollection. Suffice it to say, this girl knows her stuff.

 

Our model is an adorable law student named Kellen. What I loved most about Kellen was not her good looks, but her smartass personality. As a native New Yorker, I appreciate sarcasm more than you will ever understand. We spent the day laughing and making great images.

 

Lighting and background.

 

I know, you must be tired of hearing me talk about the Profoto B1, but it really is one of the best products on the market. It’s got the portability and the power I need. I am all about the right tool for the job. Sometimes that tool is a speedlight, and other times that tool is a B1.

 

We had two Profoto B1s, one with an umbrella and another with the portable 2′ Octa Softbox. Super light and super portable. Equally as important, in a small space like a hotel room, the lights and modifiers are easy to work with and, best of all, put off little to no heat compared to traditional heads.

 

The background, as you can see, is nothing fancy. Just an unlit white background. This will go gray, which I like for this shot.

 

Gear.

 

Profoto B1

Profoto Umbrella

Profoto 2′ Octa Softbox

Canon 1Dx

Canon 85mm 1.2

1/250th of a sec @ f1.2, ISO 200

 

Alternate shot.

 

Alissa had pitched another idea that didn’t make final, but let’s talk about it. The concept was a fashion-fantasy-meets-Tin Man-from-The Wizard of Oz commercial shot. It just didn’t knock me out. I couldn’t see it.

 

I can tell you this, though: It was pretty cool to watch it come together. Vanessa had to order special makeup, a metallic-silver body paint. And the background? That was pretty damn crafty. Now, I can’t take credit for it—credit goes to Alissa, who somehow MacGuyver’d it using aluminum foil and a cardboard box.

 

The lighting setup was a little different. If you look into her eyes, you can see the clever setup. We had the Profoto B1 with Octa Softbox on the right of the shot, and used the Profoto Silver Reflector on the floor, camera-left, to push light back up into the shadows. The main light was just bright enough to catch the crumpled-up foil on the background to give it some dimension.

 

The settings for this shot were 1/100th of a sec @ f2, ISO 160 using the Canon 85mm 1.2 and the Canon 1Dx.

 

While this didn’t make the cover, it’s still a neat shot.

 

Closing thoughts.

 

It’s all about vision. You have to be able to visualize your shot before you take it. Having some creative people around you for inspiration and collaboration is what I love most about working on shoots like this. You never know what you are going to get. You have an idea, a concept, a vision, but you never know until that shutter is released and the image made.

 

I learned a lot about how I work and see things. I hope my team learned as much about me as well. Challenge yourself every day. Challenge yourself to do something a little out of your comfort zone, even if you don’t initially see the vision. Create a vision and adapt. I promise you, you will be a better photographer in the end.

 

I am a wedding and portrait photographer, and shoots like this challenge me to think a little differently about what I am doing. Because of that, I have watched my knowledge and skill increase tenfold over the past year. So, where do you want to be as a photographer? Go out and make it happen.

 

Want to see how we edited the shot? Sign up to be an Elite+ member today. Get the printed magazine and access to behind-the-scenes videos like this at www.behindtheshutter.com/shutter-magazine.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

Friday, January 1st, 2016

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How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the January issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

Can you believe it’s 2016 already? Are you ready for another year of building your business, your portfolio, your bank account? Well, I am anxious to get started kicking ass this year.

 

This month, I was inspired by a recent W cover shoot with actress Kristen Stewart. I don’t know about you, but I am constantly looking at images and trying to figure out how they were lit, where they were shot, the background, the pose, the wardrobe. It’s like being a private detective.

 

Inspiration for what will come to be an iconic cover image for us is based on that W cover I couldn’t stop staring at several months ago. As always, I encourage you to go out there this year and push yourself to become better at lighting, posing and all the moving parts that make us better photographers—while always seeking your own inspiration that drives you to capture gold.

 

Concept.

 

We are all inspired by art, cinema and other photographers. Inspiration is all around us. Obviously, I don’t have access to Kristen Stewart, but I can certainly take a concept and try to recreate it for my clients, my portfolio and my own education. This month, that was the goal.

 

The fun part of it was working with my team to coordinate makeup, models and wardrobe. The creative process is one of the most exciting parts of what I do. I love seeing creative people get excited about new ideas or about doing something that we have never done before, working outside their comfort zone.

 

Location.

 

The original shoot was scheduled for Chicago. We had some amazing models lined up, but logistical issues forced us to make last-minute changes. That was probably one of the best things that could have happened. At the time, I thought it was going to be disastrous, but when you have a team around you that can #pivot, greatness can come from the ashes.

 

We photographed this at our home studio in O’Fallon, Illinois. It’s a high-key shot, so it was on a simple white background.

 

Lighting.

 

Ah, yes, this is where the fun begins. I have had the Profoto Giant Silver 210 for a while now, but have not used it. I know, I know: Sal, how do you have gear like this and not use it? The truth is, I didn’t understand the power of the 210 umbrella, but now I know. She is all-powerful. Yes, I just referred to my umbrella as all-powerful.

 

We had a four-light setup for this. In our studio, we have the B1, B2 and D1 strobes. I find myself using the D1 less and less. I am limited by cords, and it’s an all-around pain in the ass. The B1’s put out 500 watts of power, more than enough in most studio setups, and are battery-powered rather than 110v. The portability can’t be beat.

 

We had two lights firing into the back to blow it out. We fired the center light at her back and upper body to create more separation. Granted, on a white background, she was going to have plenty of separation, but I wanted just a little more pop on the hair.

 

The main light was a Profoto B1 fired into a Profoto Giant Silver 210 umbrella. To soften the light even more, we used a one-stop diffusion sock.

 

Gear.

 

Profoto B1

Profoto Giant Silver 210 Umbrella

Canon 1Dx

Canon 85mm 1.2

1/125th of a sec @ f5, ISO 100

 

Closing thoughts.

 

Working on any photo shoot requires a team of people working together on a single goal. Over the years, I have been very open about the people behind the scenes who make what I do possible. I love how some of our industry “rock stars” would have you believe they are creative geniuses and we should feel blessed by their very existence. We all need creative backup.

 

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I just suck. And who knows, maybe you are just like me. I need my team, because without them, none of this is possible. It’s that creative team process that I am addicted to. There is nothing better than collaborating with other professionals. The results are almost always better than going it alone.

 

For this shoot, I had an amazing model in Rachel, an amazing hair and makeup artist in Rory, and my personal team of Alissa and Krystal engaged in this shoot.

 

My hair and makeup people are right there, front and center, engaged in the shoot, fixing things in real time. I am showing them what I see and what needs to be fixed. When working with my subject, I am giving clear direction on what I need. The entire team of creatives is working in concert to produce a great image.

 

This is why I do what I do. Building a team is no easy task. Collaborating is challenging, but it can be so rewarding when you accomplish the mission. Take time to build your own team, and the results will be greater than you ever imagined.

 

Want to see how we edited the shot? Sign up to be an Elite+ member today. Get the printed magazine and access to behind-the-scenes videos like this at www.behindtheshutter.com/shutter-magazine.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the January issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

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How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

I am constantly talking to photographers around the world about building their portfolio. How else do you attract the right clients? The funny thing is, photographers are hired to help businesses create a vision and a brand. What do they need for this? Great photography. So, here we are, camera in hand and in complete control of our brand, yet when we look at our website, are the images on it representative of our brand? Most of the time, no. For some odd reason, photographers have a hard time figuring this out. There is a massive disconnect with the images we like versus the images our clients may want or like. We have to bridge this gap. I do it by spending a lot of my time every year building my portfolio.

 

Who am I? An artist? Businessman? Creative director? This is a question I am constantly asking myself. I have to know who I am, and embrace it. Stop running from it. Stop trying to make every single client happy. It’s impossible. It’s not even a goal of mine. Not everyone who walks through our doors is our client. This is something we all have control over. We can say no—which of course is a very difficult thing to do for any of us. In the end, trust me, you will be much happier. And, of course, we can ensure our marketing and our imagery are targeted at our clients, the clients we want to work with. We have to be zeroed in.

 

This month, I had an incredible opportunity to shoot in Brooklyn, New York—my hometown—and do something epic. Not to mention, build my portfolio.

 

Concept.

 

The concept for this shoot was to have something dramatic in the way of fashion. Of course, as a wedding photographer, showing a bride in a wedding dress is par for the course, but for this shoot, we wanted something a little more dramatic and outside the box of standard dresses.

 

Enter Enception Rentals, a new rental company created for photographers. For this shoot, we created a custom red dress with incredible details. It was just the piece we needed to really pop off this gorgeous carousel.

 

Location.

 

Brooklyn is home to Jane’s Carousel, a historic ride built in 1922 and meticulously restored to its original glory by artist Jane Walentas. Part of the shoot was to create something dramatic, and that required a gorgeous dress created by Enception Rentals.

 

Brooklyn is an incredible place to shoot. Sure, I am a little biased, but there is so much in the way of architecture and character that the city has to offer. In this case, we wanted something different from what you would typically expect to shoot in a city. The backdrop should be part of the shot, but not dominate it. And with something as grandiose as a carousel, that’s not easy.

 

The most obvious shot would be to place your subject on the carousel. Trust me, we took plenty of those shots. We took the cliché shots and then we started to move away from those. The reason should be obvious: Having your subject on the carousel makes it very difficult to get to the subject. In fact, it creates some confusion. Is the subject the carousel or is it your couple, model, etc.? I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here. It’s about what your goal and messaging is.

 

The challenge here was how to balance the two. We shot in and around the carousel all day, but the final image that stood out the most was the final one we selected. It seemed to strike a good balance between the two by bringing the carousel in as a secondary element and allowing our real subject here to jump out.

 

Lighting.

 

Having the right equipment with you is paramount. I get asked all the time what I use for lighting. Well, the short answer is everything. When I travel, I have speedlights, a Profoto B1, Profoto B2 and a reflector. How can you possibly know what you will need until you need it? It’s imperative that we build our toolbox accordingly. Think about a carpenter. What kind of tools do they have in their toolbox? Do you think they run around with one hammer and one screwdriver? That’s almost laughable. The same is true for photographers. Right tool for the job.

 

For the final shot here, we used a reflector. The light at the time was gorgeous, and we just needed a little pop of light to fill some of the shadows under her eyes. Other shots in and on the carousel used the Profoto B2—I will show these in a future blog post because they are equally as gorgeous.

 

I can’t stress enough that lighting is probably one of the most powerful tools we have. In many ways, it’s more important than your camera and lens. A $60K camera with no light is useless. What you do with the light, how you shape the light, is critical to creating something above average.

 

Gear.

 

Profoto Silver Reflector

Canon 1Dx

Canon 85mm 1.2

1/2000th of a sec @ f1.2, ISO 50

 

Closing Thoughts.

 

As we wrap up 2015, you have to ask yourself, what do you want 2016 to look like for you and your studio? This is no small task. The truth is, you are running out of time. The more you procrastinate, the more likely you are to repeat the mistakes of the past. Take control of your business and your career. This is how you do it. You have to get out there and make it happen. No one is going to hand it to you.

 

Shoots like this require preproduction work, and you can’t do it alone. Without my team back home, none of this is possible. Alissa handles all the preproduction work, including concepts. Krystal worked on wardrobe, models, locations and permits. Heather worked tirelessly on actually making the dress. Together, we can accomplish things no other single entity can. You can’t do this alone. None of us can.

 

I’m proud of my ability to create a high-performing team. Without them, nothing is possible. Creating a beautiful image is always the end goal, but how you create it and get to that final result is usually an effort of a team of people all marching to the same beat. Sure, I get to be the one who finally clicks the button, but I have learned to check my ego at the door while building a business. I want to surround myself with great people.

 

So, the question you should be asking yourself is: Do I want to be a rock star and an egomaniac, or do I want to be a successful photographer and business owner? One is riddled with loneliness and emptiness, and the other is filled with laughs, challenges, highs and lows, and a sense of family. One is short-term with a constant search for the next fix, and the other is long-term, building something bigger than you and something that will give you a sense of lasting accomplishment.

 

Which do you choose? Control your future and control your destiny. Build a team and support network that’s geared toward accomplishing amazing goals and objectives, and your life will change forever.

 

Want to see how we edited the shot? Sign up to be an Elite+ member today. Get the printed magazine and access to behind-the-scenes videos like this at www.behindtheshutter.com/shutter-magazine.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

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How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the November issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

This month for the cover shoot in Los Angeles, we got to work with the beautiful Mahlagha. Most of you probably haven’t heard of her, but she is a bit of an Instagram sensation. You see, Mahlagha has 1.2 million followers. Yes, the M is for million. She is not only beautiful; she is a sweetheart through and through. We had an awesome time with her, and couldn’t have asked for a more professional model.

 

We also worked with iconic L.A. fashion label Stello. They provided us with some wardrobe from their unreleased line that was being unveiled at L.A. Fashion Week. Again, an incredible partner to work with. Visit our Instagram page at Instagram.com/salcincotta for behind-the-scenes pics.

 

Hair and makeup, meanwhile, was provided by the always-on-time and incredibly talented Sabrina Bates-Whited out of L.A.

 

Concept.

 

The concept was simple for this one: killer model, killer wardrobe and killer location in downtown Los Angeles. We had rented an apartment with a view of downtown, a perfect backdrop that offered some amazing natural light.

 

I wanted to ensure I was on my A-game while working with a pro like Mahlagha. She has worked with some of the best photographers on the planet, so the pressure was on, and I wanted to outshine them all.

 

Location.

 

This proved to be pretty unsettling. First of all, you would think with a downtown urban oasis, I would be in heaven. But with my run-and-gun style of shooting, my concern was that I would run into a constant battle of permits.

 

There were so many great locations and shooting opportunities, but I had to make smart choices. The city has an impressive number of helipads on the tops of skyscrapers. (As a native New Yorker, I use the term skyscraper with a bit of a smirk on my face. Regardless, these helipads were pretty badass.)

 

Then we had the typical street shooting and unique architecture. I also wanted to shoot the Disney Concert Hall. And finally, we had our apartment with amazing views and north light. It wasn’t about where, it was really about how the hell am I going to shoot all these fantastic locations? Sometimes, I find that too many options can be a distraction. I like to go into shoots with one or two locations in mind so I can focus on the task at hand.

 

This particular day, my biggest challenge was going to be my ability to focus—figuratively and literally.

 

Lighting.

 

We used everything in the bag. We used natural light. We used a reflector. And we used Profoto B2’s.

 

For this shot, we used natural light and a reflector, camera left. The best part about it is the fact that we had no intention of taking it. We were in between looks and getting ready to go to another location outside the apartment when Alissa, my assistant, insisted I take at least one shot to see how it looked. As you can see from the behind-the-scene shot, there was nothing there. Great light, yes. But we were shooting into the kitchen—so a very noisy and cluttered scene. Now, after taking a test shot, my mind was racing. I saw incredible light and incredible opportunity.

 

We needed to block out the background, so we took the painting off the wall and used it as a backdrop for the image, adding great color to the shot and really working with the red of her lips. The hat was an added bonus. This was Alissa’s hat, not something we had with us for the shoot. So, yet again, the ability to pivot and improvise created something extremely beautiful for us.

 

Gear.

 

Profoto silver reflector

Canon 1DX

Canon 85mm 1.2

1/320th of a sec @ f1.2, ISO 200

 

Closing thoughts.

 

I have highlighted this over and over again. You have to be open to what any particular scene is giving you, and be open-minded about the possibilities. Sometimes, the first shot you see isn’t always the best shot. And in this case, had I not listened to Alissa, I would have missed a golden shot. This shot is a result of creative collaboration.

 

Ego gets in the way for a lot of people. There is a huge difference between ego and confidence. I am a very confident photographer, but I am not an egomaniac. I listen to the ideas and creativity of the people around me—and, quite frankly, sometimes they are damn better than mine. I am honest when I say I am not insecure, nor do I feel like I am any less of an artist because I listen to those around me. Good collaboration helps the creative process. That’s how you build a great team. And great teams accomplish great things.

 

This was a day of incredible shooting opportunities. These opportunities were a direct result of planning and collaborating with an incredible group of people. Mahlagha, Alissa, Sabrina and I worked together to create some amazing imagery—some of which you can see in the article. There were too many to write about this month, but look for future blog posts about those images and how we got them.

 

Want to see how we edited the shot? Sign up to be an Elite+ member today. Get the printed magazine and access to behind-the-scenes videos like this at www.behindtheshutter.com/shutter-magazine.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the November issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

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How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the October issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

October is family portrait month across the country. Not officially, but it might as well be. The colors are changing on the trees, the weather is cooling off, kids are back in school. It’s the perfect time for portraits. The thing is, you have to advertise and market it, or no one will know you exist. The best way to market and create something that people want is to get out there and just start shooting.

 

This month’s image is a testament to that. On my recent trip to Iceland, I was able to capture this family portrait of Laurin, his wife, Melissa, and his daughter, Sophia.

 

Concept.

 

We were in Iceland. That is the concept. I mean, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so what family wouldn’t want something unique? Our mission on this trip was simply to capture a unique family portrait. Sounds easy enough, right? With all this beautiful scenery, how could we go wrong? Well, welcome to family portraits with a 4-year-old. We wanted to showcase the beautiful and vast landscape along with the family. In addition, it was going to be a formal portrait. Everyone dressed in their Sunday best. With a pretty solid concept, we were ready to rock and roll.

 

In Iceland in the fall, the sun never really sets. This portrait was made at about 11:30 p.m. local time. Crazy, I know. However, once the sun goes down, it gets cold fast.

 

Location.

 

This shoot took place in Vik, Iceland. I am not sure my images are enough to capture the beauty of this gorgeous location. Driving just a short distance, you see everything from fields of bonnets to huge mountain ranges at sea level to, finally, a Martian landscape of black lava rock. It was incredible.

 

So, as always seems to be the case on my shoots, something inherently goes wrong. I swear, it’s like a bad movie where you know the plot but are somehow still surprised. Our first location is a wash. The location we think we want turns out to be inaccessible in a normal car. There is a lot of that in Iceland. If you ever go, rent a true four-wheel-drive all-terrain vehicle.

 

We are losing light fast. We scramble to a backup location where we think we can still get enough light, but I watch the sun get lower and lower as my ISO gets higher and higher. Even though the sun never really sets this time of year, it gets really low on the horizon. We get to our second location and love it—the color of the sky, the leading lines behind my subjects, everything is perfect. I get dialed in and frame up the shot when, suddenly, Sophia decides she is too cold and no longer wants to take pictures. “No! No more pictures!” her tiny lungs belt out. We are trying to joke with her, distract her, bribe her with candy, cookies, anything that will get her to give us one shot. Nothing. She is not having it.

 

What’s a photographer to do? Improvise. We wrap Sophia in a blanket, and Taylor, who is assisting me, starts playing peek-a-boo behind the light with Sophia while I shoot away. We manage to get her to smile for just a few shots. The first frame was taken at 11:43 and the last frame at 11:45. Two minutes. Two bloody minutes she gave us.

 

Lighting.

 

Natural light during sunset hours disappears fast. If you don’t understand your camera, your exposure settings and how to use artificial light sources, you are going to be in a world of hurt in a situation like this. I thought I had plenty of light, and at first I did, but shit happens in the world of photography, and you have to be able to #pivot on a moment’s notice.

 

This image was lit using the Profoto B1 and the Umbrella Diffuser Kit, my new favorite light-shaping tool. Normally I shoot without any modifiers, but I felt this method would be too harsh. I am glad I switched it up. We are all very happy with the result.

 

Gear.

 

Profoto B1

Profoto Umbrella

Profoto Umbrella Diffuser

Hasselblad H5D | 1/125th @f8 ISO 400

Hasselblad 50mm

Gitzo Monopod to hold light

 

Closing thoughts.

 

If it were easy, everyone would do it. As crazy as that sounds, it’s so true. It was cold. Light was all but gone. I had two minutes to make a family portrait with a screaming 4-year-old. We have the best jobs in the world, and there is no more rewarding feeling than creating an image that was difficult to pull off. I love this image. I love it because of the final result. I love it because my client loves it. I love it because it challenged me to be a better photographer.

 

I hope this month’s issue challenges you to get out there and push the limits of your own skills.

 

Want to see how we edited the shot?

 

Sign up to be an Elite+ member today. Get the printed magazine and access to behind-the-scenes videos at www.behindtheshutter.com/shutter-magazine.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the October issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

How I Got The Shot: with Sal Cincotta

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

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How I Got The Shot: with Sal Cincotta

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the September issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine. ­

 

Black and white—some of the most iconic pictures are presented this way. There is just something about black and white that sucks you into an image. It’s that absence of color that really gets the viewer to focus on the things that matter, the story being told. Color becomes a distraction.

 

In honor of this month’s editorial namesake, “The Black and White Edition,” we wanted to blow you away with a beauty who really shines in that medium. Rachel, with her sublime freckles, was the perfect candidate. Yes, we used her for her freckles. We love them.

 

Concept.

 

While traveling in Scotland this summer, we ran across Rachel, who is as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside. And let me tell you, this is one smart cookie. She is in the process of getting her degree, and wants to be an engineer when she graduates. Are you impressed yet? Well, I certainly was. While abroad, I wanted to photograph someone local, someone with a unique look, and she fit the bill.

 

Wardrobe was nothing fancy, just some gray chiffon. Ultimately, we wanted it to be about Rachel and not about glam makeup or glam clothing. We were going for pure beauty.

 

For hair and makeup, we used some local talent. We got to work with Angie and her assistant, and they turned me on to some local slang—and, of course, Cadbury Chocolate Buttons. (Um, yeah, I will eat these all day long. They were life changing.) They were absolutely amazing to work with, and fit right in with the team.

 

Location.

 

This particular day, we were shooting all over the Isle of Sky in Scotland, but this specific shoot was in the living room of our rental home (Image 1).

 

We had some great light coming in through the window, but it was directional and not very flattering. Beauty portraits don’t have to be overly complicated. In fact, sometimes the simplest of setups is all you need to create stunning portraits.

 

Lighting.

 

This is where things start to get interesting. The directional light in the room was not the look and feel I was going for with this portrait. If it were a man, maybe. I like harder light on guys sometimes, but for Rachel, I wanted a nice soft light.

 

In a situation like this, it’s really easy to start slamming light into the room and overpower everything. What is tough is to get the artificial light to match the ambient light in the room.

 

So, time to get out that light meter. First, take a reading in the room of the ambient light. That reading, whatever it is, is what you are working with in the room. The goal is to balance that light with a strobe. The key here is to start at the lowest power setting and push from there until you get the look you are going for.

 

For this shot, we used the Profoto B1 and an Octabox fired into the ceiling. Then we had a reflector pushing both natural light and the reflected light from the B1 up to provide some balanced fill. The final shot is exactly the look and feel I was going for. The light looks natural and soft, but it took a combination of several light sources and modifiers to get that perfect look.

 

Gear.

 

Profoto B1

Profoto Octabox

Reflector

Hasselblad H5D | 1/125th @f2.2 ISO 100

Hasselblad 100mm

 

Closing thoughts.

 

Lighting doesn’t have to be complicated, but sometimes getting that look you are going for requires you to put all your knowledge to the test. Creating a portrait that looks like it is naturally lit—but that is achieved through a careful balance of modifiers and lights—is an art form.

 

Don’t underestimate the importance of light and the light shaping tools in your arsenal. It can make all the difference in the world to your final results.

 

Finally, while this image was shot in color, I wanted to tell the story of Rachel by highlighting her unique features. I wanted to remove any distractions from the image and draw attention to her freckles. The final black-and-white treatment makes them pop.

 

As always, get out there and make some amazing images. Your best work is ahead of you.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the September issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine. ­

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