How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta | December 2015


How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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To read the full article, launch the digital version of the December 2015 magazine.

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