Viewing Weddings

Making Something Out of Nothing

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

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Making Something Out of Nothing with Raph Nogal

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July 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.

There is an expectation for professional wedding photographers to deliver our best work at every single wedding. Location can certainly help with this. It’s a lot easier to create impactful images in the streets of Venice than Flint. Now, I don’t know about you, but I rarely get to shoot in the streets of Venice, and still create artistic, impactful images for my clients on a consistent basis. You need to set yourself up for success. Try sending out a questionnaire to your clients prior to the wedding with not only questions, but also with a guide so that they understand what it takes to create the images they are hiring you for.

Experience, thinking on your feet, challenging yourself and a drop of “I can do this” all go a long way toward achieving this. But it seems challenges somehow always present themselves on the wedding day.

Here are some examples of how I managed to get out of a jam on the wedding day when the location was less than ideal.

The Party Room

I arrived at the groom’s condo and we all headed to a party room in the basement. I was taken aback by the extremely low ceiling and the collection of pot lights scattered throughout. This is where tools such as the Westcott Ice Light 2 and off-camera flash come in handy.

With a location like this, there was really nothing to work with. There were four walls, a couch, a table and a kitchenette. After doing some getting-ready images, I had the idea of using some of these elements in my shot to create something dynamic. I shot through the handle of the refrigerator. The highlights on the stainless steel created some interesting patterns. We lit the groom with off-camera flash.

Rained Out

Sometimes things get out of our control. On this wedding day, we got a torrential downpour. The first look was initially planned for an outdoor location in a nearby town, but that was quickly scrapped due to weather. We had to move indoors. Without a gorgeous, stunning venue, we still had to deliver great images, but we had to shoot them at the groom’s parents’ home. For bride and groom portraits, we settled for the dining room.

Fear starts to fade if you have the right tools in the bag, if you embrace spontaneity and if you have a vision.

I love dramatic images. Using off-camera flash and the right modifiers, we were able to cut out the messy bits of the room and focus our light on our bride and groom. I used a snoot and a grid on top of my speedlight to prevent the light from spilling onto parts of the scene that I didn’t want lit. Grids are useful when you are working with existing light elements, such as existing ambient or natural light, chandeliers and wall sconces. You can see these elements and light up only the parts of the scene that you want.

In the dining room, I noticed two wall sconces and a light fixture above the dining room table. I asked my assistant Oliver to snoot and grid the speedlight to expose for the sconces and the light fixture and control that light beam. We were able to turn an ordinary dining room into something special. We repeated this process and shot into a mirror as well to create some complementary images for the wedding album and to carry the story along.

The Mail Room

The bride and groom finished their first look upstairs in the hotel room, and wanted to go downstairs for some photos. This condo, unfortunately, did not have any particularly stunning features, but I thought, “Wait a minute! There’s a mail room.” My clients gave me a puzzled look. I posed them, then used a red gel on the backlight and a grid on the keylight, creating a vibrant, cool image in the mailroom of their condo.

Hotel Lobby

Hotel lobbies are packed with nooks and crannies for some great photo opportunities. You just have to find them. In this example, the bride was rushing away from the hotel into the limo to head to the first-look location. As I walked past this alcove in the wall, I knew I had to drag her back in to do a cool fashion-inspired image. I placed the bride in the alcove and made sure that her heels were visible and staggered. I tilted her face toward the light to create a beautiful jawline and cheekbones.

With the dress cascading off to the side, the image comes together. At the end of the day, we need to seize these opportunities not just to scratch our creative itch, but to give our clients our best.

The next time you find yourself in a location that is less than ideal, take two minutes to look around, think outside the box and see how you can make it work. There is always a way. Hold up a reflective surface, shoot through some clear bottles, take out a prism that’s been sitting in your bag for a year.

As Sal Cincotta always says, innovate or die. I think that statement applies not only to our business, but to life.

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July 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.

5 Tips for Better Lighting on Location

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

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5 Tips for Better Lighting on Location with Michael Anthony

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July 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.

Being a location portrait photographer has its drawbacks. We are often at the mercy of our environment, which means we are going to be faced with lighting challenges. If your schedule is busy, you won’t always have the luxury of planning all your sessions at sunset.

A few years back, we had to start stacking shoots in our calendar to accommodate all our clients. We had to book shoots at 1 or 2 p.m., in less than optimal lighting conditions. Being forced to learn to overcome these situations, I picked up a few skills that are sure to help any photographer overcome bad lighting on location.

Come to your shoot with a plan.

First step, know exactly what the lighting needs are going to be at your shoot prior to the day of. This means that you may need to make a quick scouting trip if it’s a new location. After doing this a few times in your local area, you will have a clear idea of the lay of the land. If this is a wedding day, you could even offer to do a site visit with your clients beforehand.

Knowledge is power, and knowing what you would need for your shoot will help you to be efficient when the time comes to get out there and take amazing photos. Every time we have a shoot, I think about all the possible scenarios that we would encounter, and I pack accordingly for the session so I am not bringing equipment that I don’t necessarily need.

For typical sessions, I bring three lenses: 135, 24–70 (or 50mm) and 11–24. I bring two cameras, and leave one locked in my car.

Lighting equipment changes depending on the situation, but I usually bring one B1 or B2 flash, a soft light modifier, a reflector and a gel kit.

If I am on a commercial shoot or a wedding day, the needs are totally different; now I bring speedlights, video lights and different modifiers.

For this recent shoot in San Francisco, I knew we would be working with cloudy weather all day, so I didn’t see the need to bring along the extra weight of the B1 flash, and brought the B2 system instead, saving some weight in my carry-on.

Purchase high-quality, reliable equipment for all situations.

A professional photographer should have the right tools for every job. By doing so, you will be best equipped to handle any situation. You will need to purchase artificial lighting at some point if you want to master all situations. We use three diverse types of artificial light in our kit. From lightest to heaviest, they are low-powered, mid-powered and high-powered.

These are the tools of your trade, and they need to be reliable, durable and future-proof. There has been a rush to buy imported knockoff flashes lately. I did it early in my career to save a few dollars, and had terrible experiences repeatedly: flashes not firing or syncing, and even one that exploded after just a week. I was embarrassed to explain to my clients why my flash head was smoking.

I have learned that it is just not worth it to buy equipment from non-name brands. While there are certainly higher-end brands for strobe gear, there are other reliable ones that are moderately priced. Find flashes that are TTL- and HSS-capable to help you get to the shot quicker.

Regarding modifers, for location shooting, you will want to look for gear that is portable and easy to set up and break down when moving from spot to spot. I don’t want to have to break down a softbox to walk 25 feet because my hands were full. I love photographic umbrellas. I prefer the silver umbrellas with the diffusion fabric to soften the light when needed. This allows you to get a little more specular output from your flash. You can also use it as a soft light at the same time. Profoto makes excellent umbrellas.

Bring an assistant.

This can be a tough one. I have had good and bad experiences with staffing. But the best thing that has helped me create beautiful images quickly and efficiently is a voice-activated light stand, or human monopod. Having someone who adjusts the light position when I ask means more time to interact with my clients and less time running back and forth between them and the light.

An assistant can hold a reflector or scrim, making it easier when you’re starting out with multiple-light setups. You can have your assistant hold your keylight and keep your kicker on a stand somewhere.

But how do you find a good assistant, and how much do you pay them?

Looking for seasoned photographers in your network to assist you is a fruitless effort. For whatever reason, many photographers view assisting as a stigma. I never understood that, and it was the most problematic issue I ran into early on.

Look for talent in local schools. See if there are any students looking to enter the photography industry who would like to learn from you. Don’t stop at just one, since it will be hard to sync up your schedule with theirs. Hire three assistants so you can choose between them whenever you need someone. Book them at least seven days out and compensate them hourly after they have proved they are reliable.

Look for natural light first.

If you have read my past articles, you know that I always say good light is about proper balance. Balance could mean anything related to the situation you are photographing in. When we are not shooting our signature-look portraits, we are shooting natural light, about 99 percent of the time. This means we look for good reflective surfaces in our environment to create directional light on our subject.

You can see in this image a neutral-colored wall with direct sun on it. My bride was standing in the shade in front of me, which allowed me to make her the brightest part of the image, as the light reflecting off the building fell off gradually into the background. There are surfaces like this in almost every environment. The key is knowing where to use them.

Look for interesting shapes created by natural light. Use those to create patterns that shape your compositions.

Use gels to create fake sun flare or turn day into night.

I have talked about these techniques in depth in Shutter articles dating back to 2015. You can use either a half CTO gel, or a full one to mimic sunlight or to light a background. You can also use a creative white balance trick to turn day into nighttime using a CTO gel and the white balance settings in your camera when the light gets low.

To fake sun flare, place a high-powered flash like a Profoto B1 in the same direction that the sun would naturally be coming from. Placing it behind foliage creates a believable look that looks great. Next, use a half CTO gel on your flash, and expose your scene for natural light. From there, you can get a beautiful golden-hour sun when it isn’t golden hour or when you aren’t in the best position to take advantage of the early evening light.

You can also use your flash gels to light your background and create pretty silhouettes of your subjects. Place a speedlight on the floor facing upward, close to your background. Select the widest zoom on the flash and place your subjects in between the flash and the camera.

Lastly, to turn day into night when it gets late in the day, underexpose your scene by two to three stops. Set your in-camera white balance to 3200k. Place a CTO balanced flash to turn the light on them back to white. Optionally, place a bare flash behind your subjects to give them a beautiful blue glow. If you have a bit of the early dusk sky in the frame, you will get amazing results with this technique.

Location lighting doesn’t have to be intimidating. You just need to have the right tools and knowledge.

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July 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 to Make Sure You and Your Clients Are Speaking the Same Language

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

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Be Understood: How to Make Sure You and Your Clients Are Speaking the Same Language with Vanessa Joy

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July 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.

One of the hardest things for a photographer to learn is how to communicate with clients. Client communication isn’t normally taught at tradeshows, in college or even in mentorships. What you should say at consultations and sales sessions, and even how to answer the phone, are often overlooked skills.

One of the best ways to remedy this is to ask a fellow photographer if you can eavesdrop on one of their consultations or sales sessions. I usually offer this to my interns, who more often than not respond with, “Oh yeah, I wouldn’t have even thought of that!”

Effective communication between you and your clients cannot be taken lightly. This determines how pleasant your time with each client will be, not to mention a deciding factor for whether they will even work with you at all. If speaking to others isn’t your forte, change that about yourself. I am actually a very shy person. I often worry about what others think of me, and would prefer to hide away in my home rather than have to be outgoing in social scenarios. Do you want to know my trick to overcoming shyness? I pretend I’m not shy.

One method I used for honing my people skills is by talking to strangers. I know, Mom would be horrified, but hear me out. One of the best ways I learned to speak to people was by traveling alone. I’m not talking about cross-country, though that helped me as well. It can be as simple as taking public transportation one day and striking up a conversation with a random stranger. I often take the train into New York City and find people to talk to on the way there.

Doing this boosted my confidence in speaking to people, and it also taught me how to talk to just about anyone. It’s actually quite easy. First, I’d comment on an article of clothing they were wearing, or maybe a bag a woman was holding, just to break the ice. Then, I’d continue by asking them questions. It’s all small talk, but that kind of small talk is all you get when talking with clients. You get just one first impression, and it’s best to give it while not shyly stuttering. Just last month, I was on an airplane to Los Angeles. While I wanted to crawl into my hole and do my own thing, I decided to talk to the girl next to me. She turned out to be a food blogger with 235,000 followers on Instagram (@rachLMansfield), and I photographed her just last week. Score!

We’ll take a look at the basic points of communication with your clients and go over best overall practices for communication throughout the relationship.

Basic Points of In-Person Contact

Organize what you want to communicate, and then determine the most effective way of doing so. There are four main points of contact: the consultation, shoot, sales session and closing the relationship.

The Consultation

When I first meet with a client, I have two goals in mind. First, I obviously want to do my best to be appealing to them to earn their business. Second, I want to start setting expectations right then and there.

Setting the right expectations during this time is crucial. Talking through items like turnaround time, package contents and delivery schedule is the foundation for the rest of the relationship. Delineating realistic guidelines is how you lay the path to easily satisfying your clients and not driving yourself crazy later on.

During the Shoot

Obviously, most of this time is spent taking photos, but there is a great deal of communication here as well. I reassure my clients of the style and personality that they hired, and I never leave a session, engagement, wedding or otherwise, without giving them the next steps. Always be one step ahead of your clients so they’re not left wondering what to do or, worse, constantly emailing you with questions you should’ve already answered.

Sales Sessions

This is similar to the initial consultation where I’m attempting to make a sale and at the same time educate my clients on products and process. By this point, I know my client fairly well, so I’m talking up the products so they fall in love with them. I clearly explain package contents, product sizes and options so there isn’t any confusion about what they’re getting.

It can be hard to explain albums. I sell albums by the page rather than the picture. It makes the most sense to count album pages like you count book pages, but it can be confusing for clients when they’re looking at digital two-page spreads. I always reiterate this until it’s clearly understood.

Closing the Relationship

When it’s time to deliver your final product, it’s not just a “Here ya go, goodbye.” This is a good time to communicate next steps. Perhaps you’ll introduce them to a referral or repeat client program. For wedding clients, I usually send them off with a “Dear John” letter and goodbye gift.

Communication Protocols

Never assume your clients speak your photography language. Have you ever spoken to an IT person about a computer problem and it seems like they’re speaking French to you? Photographers often make this same mistake by speaking to their clients in photography terms that most people either don’t understand or misunderstand.

I’m not saying you need to talk down to your clients like an IT guy telling you to restart your computer (I hate that!). But you do need to make sure they comprehend the words coming out of your mouth.

Photojournalism is one of my favorite examples of this photog/client language barrier. I don’t recall where this buzzword came from in the wonderful world of weddings, but somehow most brides think of it as the opposite of old-school wedding photography. You might be on one side or the other here. You can hit all the right keywords during a wedding consultation hoping they book you. Or you can educate the client, letting them know that some parts of the day are more candid, while others are more posed.

Check out the video to find out the three most commonly misunderstood photography terms. You’ll want to set these straight to avoid setting unrealistic expectations for your clients.

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July 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 to Rock Your Styled Shoots

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

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How to Rock Your Styled Shoots with Jewels Gray

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July 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.

My big thing is styled shoots. I love them. I love coming up with a unique concept, obsessing over the details, styling the models and working with vendors for a cohesive design.

They also give me a chance to shoot something I want to shoot (as opposed to weddings where I have no control over the timeline, lighting or weather), and they let me practice new poses and lighting ideas.

Getting Started

When I started out on my own, I didn’t have a full wedding to show. I had always been a second shooter, so I had a lot of detail shots and candids. I didn’t have the wide money shots and portraiture to complete the collection. Styled shoots gave me something to show potential clients what a full wedding collection might look like. I still use the first one I ever did as an album studio sample.

Putting them together can be a daunting task. It can take months, but they’re totally worth it, from building relationships with vendors to getting those photos published.

What’s Your Concept?

First you need to come up with a concept. What inspires you? Is there something or somewhere you have always wanted to shoot? Perhaps you’d like a good excuse to get on a venue’s preferred list. Or maybe you just want to do something crazy and different. I am inspired by unique locations, fashion and movies.

So You Have An Idea—Now What?

I would start with research. Has this concept been done before? If so, what did you like and dislike about it? How can you make it better or different? Obviously, you wouldn’t want to copy something someone else did. Put your twist on it. I wanted to do Bonnie and Clyde themed shoot at last year’s ShutterFest. I love the styling of that era, their story, and all the details you could incorporate were awesome (guns, money, vintage car). Sure, it’s been done, but I haven’t seen a Bonnie and Clyde shoot that I was in love with; many aren’t complete shoots with a tablescape, flowers and props.

Making It Happen

At this year’s ShutterFest, I wanted something killer for the Rock Your Styled Shoots hands-on class. Last year I did get to do Bonnie and Clyde, but it rained buckets the afternoon of the shoot, so we didn’t get to use the Model A I had lined up. I love using old cars as props, so I take advantage of every opportunity to incorporate one into a shoot. I was more determined than ever to make it happen this year.

This year, I wanted to execute an idea I’ve had for several years, something ’60s mod/Elvis and Priscilla. I love rock and roll, big hair and lashes, and could easily pull the styling together. I also found out that May 1 would have been Elvis and Priscilla’s 50th wedding anniversary, so it was perfect.

The story is that Johnny and Presley eloped and had a courthouse wedding, small and intimate, just the two of them. Later, they wanted to throw a party for their friends and family. The Union Station Hotel in St. Louis had all the perfect locations to tell the story—from the blue suede couch in an atrium to the natural light of the reception setup, the steps out front simulating the steps of a courthouse, to the grand archway where we parked the car, setting the tone of the shoot.

The logistics of putting it together were challenging, since I am in Denver and ShutterFest is in St. Louis. I had to put together my team of St. Louis vendors. I made a list of the ones I wanted to work with, and asked if they would be interested. A couple of them passed, but eventually I got everything I needed. Some of the smaller stuff I brought with me, but that’s not possible with some things (cake, flowers, table, chairs).

Benefits for Vendors

The benefit for vendors is that they get to show off their work, gain exposure for their business and get professional portfolio shots of their product. By tagging and linking to your vendors, you’re building a relationship with them, and they’re getting value. Inbound links to their websites help their SEO, and every time the shoot gets published, you’re both getting inbound links and, hopefully, leads.

Start Here

The first place to start compiling your ideas is Pinterest. It’s an incredible resource for collecting your ideas. I make a board and start pinning anything and everything to it that might work for the shoot. Then I start refining it by deleting those pins that don’t necessarily work together. Sometimes I invite other collaborators to pin to the board; that way, you both see your ideas in one place so you can make them more cohesive.

Next, build your team. Make a list of the vendors you want to work with—your dream team. When you ask if they’re interested, be enthusiastic. Sell them your concept and brainstorm how to make it work. If they’re too busy or not interested, that’s okay, don’t get discouraged. Just move on to your next choice. Involving a planner is always helpful because planners help you with coordination and logistics of the shoot; it also gives you a chance to work together and build a relationship for future business. Building those relationships and providing a good experience will bring more referrals, and that is the best form of marketing.

The Shoot

Executing the shoot can be an all-day affair, and sometimes multiple days. It snowed on the day of our Gold Rush shoot in Colorado several years back, so we had to do the outdoor portraits two weeks later. Thankfully, the models were down, and we shot at the Colorado Railroad Museum (which wasn’t initially planned), and the pictures turned out awesome. Again, flexibility goes a long way.

Make a list of the shots you want to get so you don’t forget. I also find it helpful to have a cheat sheet of poses, compositions and lighting I want to try. These images will be in the portfolios of your vendors, so get some killer shots for them. The shop that provided the dress and formalwear still uses my images in its marketing and has a huge print in its showroom.

Publishers

Publishers love details, the more the better. So my workflow on the day-of is to shoot wide, middle, tight, horizontal and vertical. This gives publishers options when they put their spread together. I also try to incorporate multiple elements of details into each shot. If I’m shooting a tablescape, I don’t just shoot the place setting by itself. I have the top of the chair in the foreground and the centerpiece in the background. This gives your image depth and makes it more interesting. Next, narrow in on the place card and use the top of the plate in the foreground or off to the side, and use the flowers in the background. If you start with your wide shots and work your way down to all the tiny little details, you’re bound to get lots of variety and not miss anything.

Editing

Now it’s time to get to work editing and polishing the photos. They need to be ready to go to print once you submit them for publication. One of the biggest mistakes I made starting out was not editing the entire collection the same way. We would do a few signature edits, but then the rest of the collection would be kind of boring and less dramatic. Even though the concept was unique and we had lots of details and images to choose from, they wouldn’t get picked up, and this is why. There has to be consistency.

Two Bright Lights

My favorite platform for getting published is Two Bright Lights. It’s efficient and affordable, and makes it easy to track what is going on with each submission. It brings the photographer and publisher to one convenient location. No longer do you have to go to each one, size the collection to their specs and submit them whichever way they prefer (Dropbox, email, zip file). All you have to do is upload the collection, enter your vendor team, include the story/details of the shoot/event and choose which publications you would like to reach. Done. They’re sent all at the same time, and you can easily see which ones are accepted, rejected or otherwise. For more information, visit www.twobrightlights.com.

Reach

Right after ShutterFest, I posted a teaser shot on Facebook and Instagram. I tagged the models, the venue and all the other vendors involved. So far, the reach is over 4,000. That may not seem like a lot, but that’s just from the first image.

Summing Up

The most important element of the entire process is to enjoy it and have fun. I keep a list of shoot ideas on my whiteboard in the office so I can constantly be thinking of the next one. There are a few that have been floating around in my head for a while, and I hope to execute them in the next year.

For more details about the shoot, visit my blog at http://jewelsgray.com/60s-mod-wedding-stlouis-photographer/, and keep your eyes peeled—they may be coming to a wedding publication near you.

Models: Joshua McCall and Stephanie Morrison (a real couple) | Venue: Union Station Hotel, St. Louis, MO | Dress: | Formal wear: Model’s own | Tablescape: | Florals: Artistry Florist & Event Design | Chair Rentals: Weinhardt’s | Cake: The Sweet Divine | Guest Book: | Vehicle: Motoexotica | Hair & Makeup: Jewels Gray | Shout out to my friend who took a load of stuff I couldn’t fit in my suitcase: Vinessa Olp | Special thank you to my lovely assistant Sharon. | Special thank you to my girl Chelsea for being my wheels while in town.

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July 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.

Is It Time to Expand Your Product Line?

Monday, May 1st, 2017

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Is It Time to Expand Your Product Line? with Skip Cohen

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.

 

The hierarchy of why people hire a professional photographer in the portrait/social categories goes brides, babies, pets. With brides in the number-one spot, weddings represent a huge potential for a never-ending demand for your work, plus an incredible opportunity to sell new products and services.

 

I want to get you thinking about some fresh ideas along with a few tried and true standbys to increase your revenue. Let’s offer your clients a greater selection of add-ons.

 

Before I hit you with a list of things you should be offering, let’s talk about pricing. I bet that at least half of you have priced your product too low. As Sal Cincotta once said in an old video, and I’m paraphrasing a little, there’s no greater way to screw up your business than to wrongly price your products and services.

 

Review all your costs. Compare what you’re offering with your competitors. Understand the margins you need in order to eat something other than macaroni and cheese every night. Expanding services and products won’t help your business grow if you’re already running below an acceptable level of profitability.

 

This is a shameless plug for my Lynda.com videos: Search my name on Lynda and check out my video on pricing. I had a lot of fun doing it, and it’s loaded with solid tips and other resources to get you on the right track.

 

If you don’t have a solid profit foundation to start, none of these ideas will help you very much.

 

Engagement Shoots

 

Not every idea I want to share this month is new. Here’s an old idea—one that I’m amazed more photographers don’t use.

 

The primary reason to always do an engagement shoot has nothing to do with expanding your product line. It’s about establishing trust with the client. An engagement shoot gives you and the couple the chance to get to know one another. It’s about relationship building. On the wedding day, you’ve already established trust, so you’re more likely to get the natural expressions you want during the shoot.

 

Videos, Posters, Save-the-Date Cards, Stationery

 

If you do a great job on the engagement shoot, you should have plenty of images for the couple to share on social media. Here’s your chance to demonstrate pure creativity.

  • Engagement videos: It’s the perfect extension of your storytelling ability as a wedding photographer. I’m a big fan of Photodex and ProShow Web. Create a slideshow from the engagement shoot, and you’ve got a great first chapter of the story of a new couple. What’s even more exciting is taking full advantage of technology and bringing together a few short video clips with still images and great music.
  • Posters: Two years ago, Marathon Press launched Bella Art Prints, which offer a great way to promote the love story you’ve been hired to capture. Think about a Hollywood movie poster starring your bride and groom. If you don’t have the design skills, find somebody in your community who does. Bella Art Prints gives you a way to create an affordable poster that becomes an extension of your product line and an amazing surprise gift to your clients.
  • Save-the-date: Use your still images to create a postcard, video or stationery in a format your clients can mail. I know this isn’t a new idea, but it is if you take control of the process. You’re the one who implements the idea, working with a local printer/design company. Marathon can help you through each step of the process.

 

Holiday Cards

 

A holiday card is the perfect addition to the albums you’re going to create for the client after the wedding. As you’re shooting the engagement and wedding images, look for that opportunity to shoot something spectacular for the couple’s first holiday card.

 

Shooting for the Silver Frame

 

I’d love to take credit for the idea, but it belongs to wedding photographers Justin and Mary Marantz. The “silver frame” refers to an image that’s so outstanding it can stand alone, outside of the album. It’s the image the parents will have on the piano or fireplace. It might be a classic portrait or simply something unusual. This is a quality image with impact that shows off your skillset.

 

“What’s New?”

 

All it takes is one phone call to your lab to ask that question. Labs are always coming up with new products and ways to share images, but you won’t know about them if you don’t ask. While walking ShutterFest gives you a chance to see new products firsthand, you don’t have to wait until April every year.

 

“What’s Old?”

 

It’s not a typical question you’d ask your lab, but while you might be tired of canvas prints, many of your clients have never seen one, let alone owned one. I have two oversize canvas prints in my home, and I’m always surprised by the response from friends who visit.

 

We might be tired of canvas prints as members of the photographic community, but the public isn’t close to getting bored with the idea—especially when they’re the subject in print. A great lab can print on virtually anything. This is an opportunity for your creative skills to shine.

 

One Big Print

 

When a couple is scheduled to come in to see their proofs, wedding photographer Joe Buissink creates a special surprise gift. He picks one of his most favorite images and prints it nice and big. He frames and hangs it in his studio before the couple comes in. It’s his gift to them before they even begin thinking about their album.

 

Here’s one more piece of brilliance from Joe. He always signs the print. Why? Because he wants them to remember he’s an artist, and artists always sign their work.

 

Jump Drives, Proofs, Prints and iPads

 

Technology has given you the ability to do whatever you want with digital files. One of my favorite digital content companies is PhotoFlashDrive.com. It offers an ample collection of creative ideas for the packaging of jump drives, prints, etc. You’re the only one who can create the excitement around the services you provide. If you don’t elevate the value of the images to the level they deserve, nobody else will.

 

First-Anniversary Sittings

 

Here’s an idea I learned from photographer David Ziser years ago. He would do his best to contact every bride within a reasonable travel distance of his studio on the couple’s first anniversary. He always wanted to be the first to wish them a happy anniversary. His special gift was a complimentary portrait sitting.

 

The younger the bride, the more friends she has who will be getting married. This is a word-of-mouth business, and a surprise call from the photographer who shot the wedding is going to spread to every friend and family member of the bride. You couldn’t ask for better PR.

 

All of these ideas can help you build a stronger wedding business, but don’t forget your skillset comes before pricing. You’ll never be able to justify your pricing if your skills aren’t better than Uncle Harry’s. Your clients deserve the very best, and so do you. You’re not just working to be an outstanding artist, but, in the wedding world, the ultimate storyteller.

 

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.

The Big Shot

Monday, May 1st, 2017

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The Big Shot with Sal Cincotta

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Getting the big shot looks easier than it is. Over the years, it has become a signature shot for my studio. Clients and photographers alike recognize our style. Clients pay a premium for that perfect signature shot of their day.

 

Let’s explore what goes in to creating that epic shot for your clients.

 

Seeing the Shot

 

It all starts with vision. My style is architecture-heavy. Find your own style and look for that big shot that best represents it. I prefer scenes that are somewhat clean—clear of clutter and other distracting elements. Some of that can be edited out in post-production, but there is only so much you can do.

 

If you are looking for an urban location, find a scene clear of people, trash and cars (mostly). That’s one of the big mistakes I see people make when shooting big. You are showing everything in the scene, so it’s very hard to block distracting elements. Cars are the most difficult thing to remove from a scene, and nothing will date your photo faster than some shitty cars in the background.

 

If you are looking for more of a landscape scene, don’t go too big. That is another challenge. Your subject will get lost. Keep your subject above the horizon line. If you shoot in a big landscape like in the mountains or a giant park, and your subject is below the horizon line, there won’t be enough separation, and your subject will be lost in the final shot.

 

Lighting the Shot

 

I almost always use artificial light in the scene to create separation from the background. I also like more directional light versus flat light directly on the subject. This gives a more realistic and pleasing look overall.

 

I use the Profoto B1 in the field, especially on a sunny day. I also use speedlights, but on a sunny afternoon, your speedlights don’t have enough power to light the subject. Something much more powerful, like a Profoto B1, is the better choice.

 

I also use natural light. If I am working on a wedding and the wind is coming from a direction that forces the bride to look toward the sun, I use natural light. This ensures the wind gives me a gorgeous blow of the veil, and it keeps my lighting setup simple. I love when this happens because it makes the shot that much easier to see—and, of course, less editing is always better.

 

Composition Is Key

 

Poor composition is by far the easiest way to screw up your shot. If you’re careless, you can wind up with poles coming out of your client’s head, a crooked horizon line or a horizon line through a head.

 

Composition is meant to drive your viewer’s eye to the primary element. It’s about the arrangement of elements in your frame that best expresses the goal of your image. In a wedding image, the main goal is to showcase the primary element in the shot, the couple. How you arrange the elements can make or break the image.

 

Is there a path leading to the client? Where does your eye first go when you look at the image? Is it where you want the viewer to go? If not, you might have a problem. What about brightness? Your eye tends to go to the brightest part of the scene. Is that where you want the viewer to go?

 

Hone your composition skills. It is one of the quickest ways to become a better photographer.

 

Here’s a trick I still use that can help you immediately. While looking at your image, close your eyes and open them. Where is the first place your eye goes? If it’s not your subject, you need to fix it. This can be done via lighting, posing or cropping. Second, look for natural lines in the scene, like a staircase, horizon line or railing. Look for ways to use that to drive your viewer to your subject.

 

The Devil Is in the Details

 

Now you have the lighting and scene right. Perfect, right? Wrong. Time and again, I see otherwise amazing images posted that lack the most basic of details or that have details that don’t make sense, such as an errant sun flare that looks completely fake, or emotion that doesn’t look sincere.

 

So, you are trying to create this gorgeous bridal portrait, and your couple looks like they can’t stand each other. Who would buy that for their home? What I love even more is when photographers are shocked that they can’t sell these images or that their clients don’t love them. Of course they don’t love them—they are lacking any connection whatsoever. Show your couples in love; that’s what they want to celebrate. This is not only in their facial expressions, but in their body language. If they look uncomfortable in real life, they will look even worse on camera, and they will notice that when they see your final images.

 

Spend time on the details and make things perfect. Perfect is not just lighting or the scene. Stop tinkering with your gear all the time. Lift your head to engage your subjects and get them relaxed on camera. Their expression and pose are seemingly small items, but so crucial in the final image.

 

Selling the Big Shot

 

After making the image, you’re still not done. You have to sell it. What’s the point of having this incredible image if it dies a horrible death on your hard drive? You have to sell it, and sell it big. One thing that has helped us sell big prints is to ensure we have large prints, metals, canvas and acrylics in our studio. If you don’t, how in the world can you expect your client to have enough vision to see how it will look in their home? It’s impossible.

 

Big dramatic shots are meant to be displayed big. When clients try to buy them as 8x10s, I immediately tell them no. I explain that it will look ridiculous, and then show them the size of an 8×10 on our wall. They see that they will be the size of an ant in the frame.

 

Something that has helped drive this message home visually is the new N-Vu platform (at N-Vu.com). It has a free built-in tool called Room-Vu. A client takes a picture of a room in her home, and with Room-Vu, she can see what various sizes of an image will look like on the walls.

 

The best way to improve your skills and wow your clients is to get out and practice. Push yourself hard to look for your mistakes. We all love to celebrate our victories, but the details matter. Every time you shoot, ask yourself, what did I miss? What can I fix the next time I do this? This is the quickest path to success.

 

I should know. I have been pushing myself for 10 years, and I have gotten better and better every year. It’s a journey, not a destination.

 

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Wedding Video for Photographers: 5 Tips for Getting Started

Friday, April 28th, 2017

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Wedding Video for Photographers: 5 Tips for Getting Started with Ning Wong

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When I started my wedding photography business seven years ago, I never imagined I would become a videographer as well. The Canon 5D Mark II had recently been announced, and the DSLR video revolution was born. When Canon added the ability to capture video on the DSLR, it was a game changer: Now you could create cinema-quality films using your DSLR, lenses and accessories.

 

After a dozen or so requests for video, I felt that I should start adding it to my business. I was tired of losing these leads to others. So, about five years ago, I went for it, and it was one of the best decisions of my life.

 

I apprenticed under a local videographer, took workshops and learned through trial and error. The learning process never ends. Even now I am still learning new techniques and ideas that help elevate my wedding films to another level. I encourage you to reach out to fellow videographers. On-the-job experience is extremely valuable, teaching you things you can’t read about online.

 

If I could go back in time and give myself five tips for getting started in wedding videography, here is what I would tell myself.

 

  1. Know your gear.

 

Knowing the ins and outs of your gear is crucial. You don’t want to be fumbling around on a wedding day trying to figure out how to change the ISO or white balance. If you know how to use your gear, you can concentrate on shooting the wedding.

 

If you aren’t confident with your gear, practice whenever you can. Go out, shoot stuff, read the manual, look for tutorials. Practice makes perfect. Look at it like this: If you were a concert pianist, you would spend countless hours practicing your music before a concert. You wouldn’t wait until you got onstage to start practicing.

 

Think of the concert like your wedding. Don’t practice when you are “performing” at the concert. Spend all the time before your event to practice so that when it comes to your client’s wedding day, you are ready to perform.

 

  1. Use a tripod or monopod.

 

Shaky footage is not your friend. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is to not use proper support for your camera. Whether it’s a tripod, monopod or gimbal, use something that will help keep your footage steady.

 

If you want a simple way to add production value to your film, keep your footage stable. While you’re at it, once you have a good shot lined up, focused and exposed on your tripod, leave your tripod and camera alone. Quit fidgeting with it—you don’t want to ruin a perfectly useable shot just because you couldn’t keep your hands off your camera.

 

  1. Shoot for the edit.

 

When you’re shooting different kinds of shots throughout the wedding day, keep in mind what each shot will be used for. Don’t just take a shot that doesn’t have any purpose. You want each shot to help drive the story of the wedding.

 

Shoot for transitions. That means using a slider or a pan/tilt movement to bring your viewer into the scene.

 

I encourage everyone to edit their own footage. That way, you can critique your shots and work on improving. If you do the editing yourself, you’ll quickly learn how to shoot certain shots and shoot for transitions, and how to make your life easier.

 

  1. Anticipate the unexpected.

 

A wedding photographer should be able to anticipate when the moments happen—things like the first kiss, a relative crying during the vows and the first look.

 

Shooting video is tougher because you have to be ready to shoot the moment something happens. If you always keep your eyes peeled and ready to go, you’ll be able to anticipate the unexpected.

 

Of course, make sure you still shoot the safe shots first so you get what the client expects. But you also want to wow them with those creative shots they weren’t expecting.

 

  1. Shoot B-roll.

 

B-roll (for “background roll”) is extra footage that is used to enhance your film. Some great examples of B-roll are audience reaction shots, your groom/bride getting ready and funny bridal party portrait shots.

 

B-roll boosts your storytelling. Instead of having talking heads yakking throughout the film, cut to B-roll for depth.

 

B-roll also helps you cover up messy transitions or unusable shots. You can cut from your main shot to B-roll, and then back to your main shot. That allows you to smooth over a jump cut or missing footage. You can also use B-roll during a voiceover to control your storytelling.

 

Bonus tips:

 

  1. Show up early.

 

The early bird does, in fact, get the worm. If you want to get a head start shooting the day, show up early.

 

You’ll quickly learn that videography takes a lot more gear and prep than photography does. Take the extra time to get your gear ready, to shoot B-roll and details, and to establish rapport with the wedding party before anyone else gets there.

 

  1. Use licensed music and content.

 

When you create your client’s wedding film, you may be tempted to use the latest song on the radio. But if you can’t properly license that song, don’t use it.

 

Musicians are artists, just like us. How would you feel if someone ripped off your work? Don’t do that to someone else—use only licensed music.

 

Several websites offer great licensed music. One of my favorites is SongFreedom. They offer mainstream artists like One Republic, Imagine Dragons and Lady Gaga, along with a plethora of new and upcoming artists.

 

I purposely didn’t tell you to know your audio and lighting, because these are basic things you should know before you start offering videography to your clients. These two elements are just as important as knowing how to shoot video on your camera. Learn how to properly capture audio, and use lighting to mold your wedding films.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you get started in the world of wedding videography. There will be so many things you’ll have to learn and adapt to, but if you’re willing to do it, you’ll be able to start offering wedding videography to your couples too.

 

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.

Curating the Editorial Wedding

Friday, April 28th, 2017

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Curating the Editorial Wedding with Bobbi Petersen & Doug Weittenhiller

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Wedding photography began shortly after photography was born in the early 1800s. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert get credit for not only the first wedding photograph but also the first “re-created shot.” At that time, wedding photography was reserved for royalty and the wealthy due to the tremendous cost. It was not documentary photography as we know it now, but a single photograph. This severely limited any storytelling elements about the wedding day. Due to the bulk of cameras, most wedding photography of the 19th and early 20th century was relegated to the studio using traditional poses. Modern wedding photography became commonplace after World War II with the commercialization of smaller SLR and rangefinder-type cameras. Today we are seeing a further modernization of the genre: editorial wedding photography.

 

A traditional modern wedding photographer turns out classic, posed images of people and places. There are hefty doses of direction from the photographer to organize family photo groupings, the wedding party and portraits with the couple. Some studio equipment may also find its way into the fields and streets of the wedding as specific lighting conditions are masterfully created. In contrast to this, a photojournalistic methodology is very hands-off. There is a greater emphasis on storytelling; a photojournalist observes and records rather than interact with people and details. The results are more emotional photographs that highlight the feelings of wedding participants.

 

Most photographers today blend some of these two approaches in their telling of the wedding story. Editorial wedding photography unifies elements of posed fine art with the details of a documentary. Its roots are in fashion photography, with expressive compositions being mixed with dramatic lighting and shooting angles. The locations for portraits are a point of emphasis, such as never-ending landscapes or a bustling metropolis, and many details of the wedding are recomposed in a way that seems illogical. For example, a table centerpiece can be photographed as a setup for a conventional shot, or can be moved to a location with better lighting, more texture and other details, perhaps outside. Couples who would otherwise smile for the camera in front of a tree or wall can instead snuggle together at a campfire wrapped in quilts.

 

Portraits and details take on new, beautiful meanings, with layers of variety and splendor—which blog and magazine editors love. There exists a certain liberty to photograph beyond the specific constructs of the wedding: a blue sky matching the bride’s eyes, the local flora at the venues or rain droplets on a window of a dressing room. And therein is the appeal. No longer is the wedding narrative just pictures of the couple marshaling through the timeline; rather, it’s their story interwoven with those of friends, family, places and accoutrements.

 

An editorial wedding narrative—and by extension the client’s experience—needs to be created by the photographer. This begins long before the first client contact, through a combination of strategic marketing on social media and the true storefront of a modern business: the website. These images are intended not to retain current clients but excite new ones. Published images should reflect a consistent style and brand. The attraction of potential clients to editorial photography begins with a bride holding a wedding cake in the middle of a field at sunset. Consultations are no longer about showing off products but instead finding connections between three human beings. This simple change alone helps personalize the experience for everyone.

 

None of this matters if there isn’t a specific wedding experience before, during and after the wedding day. A consistent product is made much stronger with a consistent construct for every client. A common mistake new photographers make is to change their shooting style and approach to deliver a product the client requests. While this sounds like good customer service, no favors are paid to anyone. Unnecessary time is spent trying to figure out what is needed instead of what can be created.

 

A wedding timeline must take advantage of lighting conditions. Editorial wedding photography requires adequate time allotted during certain portions of the day. Sunset can be an important factor in the creation of a timeline. If a warm sunset glow is part of the documentary, go over this in detail at consultations. Set aside however much time is needed to discuss required detail shots. It helps set the tone and allows for more successful client management.

 

Once a contract is signed, execute a planned workflow that prepares the client for the needs of the editorial process. Give them a gentle nudging a year before the wedding to discuss vendors, timing and family concerns (before the invitations go out). This can help avoid pitfalls that derail the wedding. Planning too much time for photographs at midday can wear out the couple before the beautiful light begins. On the other hand, unfavorable locations or unnecessary stops in the timeline can inhibit the creative process. Engagement shoots give the client a taste of editorial photography. A prewedding questionnaire offers an easy way to organize the final details, and is a tool that reiterates a cadence for the wedding day that will create a beautiful narrative. This time investment makes for happier clients and a much less stressed photographer.

 

All this setup makes sense on the wedding day. The clients trust the brand and have a clear understanding of the needs this approach demands. It’s not about client or photographer needs any longer, but about what can be done to serve the editorial process.

 

The wedding narrative 100 years from now will look completely different than it does today, because of technological advancements or breaks with tradition. Curating an editorial wedding narrative takes time and trust, careful marketing and communication. It starts before any contract is signed and continues long after the client has received the finished product. Making a desirable brand, be it editorial-based or otherwise, is the easy part. The challenge will always be in the creation of a unique experience for every client.

 

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.

3 Steps for Coaching Emotion with Wedding Clients

Friday, April 28th, 2017

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3 Steps for Coaching Emotion with Wedding Clients with Mariea Rummel

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Putting emotion into your images can set your work apart. There is something magical about an image that tells a story. Whether that story is about passion or laughter, people are drawn to these images. It’s so simple, yet very few photographers can tap into this with clients.

My journey to photographing emotional images started six years ago when I was tired of using the same poses with my wedding clients over and over. “Smile. Now don’t. Pretend you’re dancing.” Ugh. The feeling of being stuck and uninspired spurred me to change. I knew I needed to alter my photography style, but how?

It was when I dug deep that it finally hit me. I didn’t need to “pose” my clients. I just needed to help them tell their love story.

And so I started building a style of photography that would drive my whole brand. Here are the steps I took to create emotional photos and build trust with clients so they could relax and become vulnerable in front of the camera.

Step 1: Build Your Relationship

Trust and time are the keys to getting your clients to open up. Meet with them face to face when booking them. If they are out of town, use FaceTime or Skype. Let them talk. Get them to tell you their love story.

After booking, I send out a small questionnaire titled “Getting to Know You.” These few questions help me understand their personalities. I refer back to them right before their engagement session or wedding.

  1. How did you meet? I want details.
  2. What was the first thing you thought of when you saw each other?
  3. What do you love about your future bride/groom?
  4. Tell me about the proposal. I want details.
  5. What does a perfect day together look like?
  6. What are your hobbies? What do you like to do together?
  7. Who’s the extravert? Who’s the introvert?
  8. What are you both looking forward to the most during your wedding?

If your clients feel you are truly invested in and care about their relationship, they will feel more comfortable with you. Adding an engagement session into their collection is a great way to build a stronger bond before the wedding. They see how you work behind the camera, and you see how they are in front of it. On the wedding day, they are relaxed because they know what to expect.

Step 2: Coach Your Clients

Having photos taken, for the average person, is a little nerve-wracking. Our clients aren’t all models. If we threw them in front of the camera and said, “Do something,” they would freeze up. They want to know that you have this under control. Before most of my engagement sessions, I take them out for happy hour. We chat and laugh, and I get them to relax before their sitting. I’m watching their personalities a bit more so I can plan the best approach for the shoot and sales. I reassure them that I will help every step of the way and that we are going to have an awesome time. I give them a funny example of my coaching method so they completely understand.

Be confident. Be witty. But remember that what works for one couple might not work for another. I don’t tell a more reserved couple to yell out their favorite cuss word. Evaluate your coaching topics for each couple.

When talking to your couple during a shoot, keep it simple. Let them relax between coaching topics. Don’t throw the whole book at them. You’ll overwhelm that poor couple and yourself. For your own sanity, make it a goal to try one new coaching topic every few clients.

We have a million things going on in our heads during a shoot. “Where’s the sun? F-stop, ISO, WB…is that dirt on her dress? Where did this wind come from?” Stop. Breathe. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Focus. You got this. Now you are ready to deliver.

Just like an actor, you are setting the stage, and delivery is everything. When you are coaching, take the camera away from your face. No one can hear you behind the camera, and your voice and facial expressions set the mood. I walk right up to my clients, inches from their faces, and whisper, “Luke, kiss Sarah like it’s the last kiss you will ever give her.” The whisper and the closeness is a perfect delivery. If I stood 15 feet away and loudly said the same thing, the outcome would be far less emotional. You want to take the shots right after you offer suggestions. Those reactions contain the true emotion you are looking for.

Here are a few of my coaching topics.

Love coaching

  • Without saying a word, show how much you love each other.
  • Say what you love about each other.
  • Close your eyes. Think about what a blessing you are to each other.
  • Close your eyes and touch foreheads. Breathe in and out together, and think about when you knew you were in love.
  • Cuddle tight like you’re trying to stay warm. Close your eyes and, at the count of three, slowly open your eyes and look at me. (This is three reactions in one.)
  • Tell each other three things you are most thankful for.
  • Cuddle with just your faces.
  • Wrap your arms around your future spouse. Without words, show that you are here to always take care of this person.

Laughter coaching

  • Say the first thing that comes to mind when I say: honeymoon, sexy time (in your best Borat voice), bridezilla, your best man.
  • Whisper something sexy in the other’s ear.
  • Go in for a kiss but don’t let the other kiss you.
  • Tickle your partner’s neck with just your lips.
  • At the same time, yell out the color the other was wearing on your first date.
  • Who’s the saver? Who’s the spender?
  • At the count of three, yell out your partner’s favorite cuss word.

Yes, you will act like a fool and you might feel a little out of your comfort zone. But your images will be amazing, and that’s all that matters. My clients always say their time with me was a blast.

This form of coaching isn’t only for your couples. You can tweak these suggestions for the bridal party and other photo opps.

Step 3: Empower Your Clients

Throughout the engagement session and wedding day, remember to praise your clients. Sometimes we are too deep in our own thoughts that we forget to empower the people we are photographing. Tell them often that they are doing a wonderful job. Whenever they might feel awkward, give them praise. Don’t be afraid to show them the back of the camera. Instant visual gratification is a confidence booster.

Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to memorize all of these coaching suggestions. Pick one or two and perfect them. Use them to break the ice or when you feel stuck. Challenge yourself to think outside the box and create your own suggestions.

 

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.

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