On Being Professional

Sunday, August 25th, I did photography for a wedding.  While not the first wedding I’ve worked, it was definitely the biggest.  I’ve learned a lot from the experience and am going to pass that learning on to you, dear readers.

First thing is to make sure you have your own ideas to bring to the table.  Just because your clients want certain things doesn’t mean they won’t also want something you suggest.  On top of that, who hires someone who doesn’t add to the job with their expertise?  Going hand and hand with having your own ideas is accepting that your client is the one that’s really in charge.  You may have the expertise and equipment, but it’s ultimately them that need to be happy with the photos.  

For example, since my forte is natural light, I had a spot picked out where I wanted to take Mike and Missy’s first look photos.  It was out next to the lake, by the hotel’s outdoor area to their restaurant.  As pretty as I thought the location was, and as sure as I was that I could get an amazing shot, Missy just was not comfortable being in a position where so many strangers would see her in her wedding dress (which was stunningly beautiful, by the way) and have to deal with all of the attention.  Even if she had agreed to the location, I wouldn’t have gotten that shot out of it because Missy would have been uncomfortable.  It’s a give and take between photographer and client.

Don’t be afraid to make requests, either.  I was lucky enough to be able to attend the rehearsal before the wedding and quickly found out that with the way the chairs were set up, I wouldn’t be able to move down the right-hand aisle without getting in the way.  The wedding coordinator, also named Missy, was able to adjust the chair placements with hotel staff before the actual ceremony and I was able to move around with ease.

Speaking of being lucky enough to attend the rehearsal, don’t pass up any opportunity you might have to prepare for a job.  I was able to assess the lighting situation beforehand, and knew what to expect from the setup.  I knew where I needed to be and when I needed to be there to capture the best moments.  I was far less prepared at previous weddings and I feel that the extra preparation really paid off.

Another example: I was on location in Walker, MN, and completely unfamiliar with the area.  The bride and groom wanted to have their family and bridal party photos outside.  I was able to go with them and their wedding coordinator before the wedding day and we picked out locations close to the hotel, decided what photos would be where, and went over a list of must-have photos.  The day of the wedding, it was a scorching 119° F outside.  Even in the shade, it felt like we were melting.  Because of the preparations done earlier, I was able to save family and bridal party alike from waiting out in the heat for their turn to be in pictures.  We had allotted two hours for bridal party and family pictures, and we ended up only taking an hour and a half, maybe a bit less.  Those not needed to be in photos immediately were able to stay cool and wait inside, and because of the list of who was needed in what pictures, no one really needed to stay outside longer than 15 minutes.  With the exception of yours truly.  But, being the professional that I am, I powered through it and got beautiful results.

Lastly, I want to touch on doing paid jobs for friends.  If you’re just starting out in the photography-for-money world, more likely than not you’ll end up working gigs for your friends first before getting more business from outside your personal connections.  The wedding I worked over the weekend was actually the wedding of one of my best friends.  He was constantly encouraging me to take it easy and not work so hard, asking if I needed a break or if I was okay.  While part of my work ethic on his wedding was absolutely because Mike is a very dear friend to me and I wanted him to both have fabulous photos and get the biggest bang for his buck, an equal part was simply because I was being paid to do a job and I would be damned if I didn’t do it to the absolute best of my ability.  I learned the hard way on a previous wedding job with another friend how easy it is to take advantage of a friendship, as either the photographer or the client.  I was able to enjoy the reception once my duties as wedding photographer were done, and I will admit to breaking my professionalism once during the ceremony (c’mon, who doesn’t cry when one of their best friends gets married to the woman of his dreams?).

In these situations it’s a fine balance between friendship and professionalism.  And while my favorite couple is honeymooning in St Lucia, I will soon be sorting through all the photos and editing where needed.  A photographer’s work is never done!

Be professional when you get out there and shoot!

-Kate

P.S. All the best wishes and happiness in the world to Mike and Missy!

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Collab Post: Hack My Photo! #1

Alright, dear readers, Kate here.  Today’s a special day for all of you!  Today, Anne and I have teamed up for a post!  It’s a new thing we’ll be repeating a lot as we get this whole “post a blog post” thing under our belts.  Today’s collaboration is called Hack My Photo! and here are the rules:

  1. You choose a photo for your partner in crime to edit.
  2. This photo cannot be more than a year old.
  3. You have a set time limit to edit the photo you are given.  Our time limit is 30 minutes.

And that’s it.  Pretty easy.  Except when you’re editing a photo you didn’t take.

Here’s the original photo Anne sent to me unedited, followed by the original unedited photo I sent to her.

Anne's original photo.

Anne’s original photo.

Kate's original photo

Kate’s original photo.

We’ll start with my edits because I’m the one typing this up.  When editing photos, I don’t usually even think to crop them.  This is because my shooting style is to zoom in/out to get the shot I want or move around until it’s framed the way I want it without me having to crop it in post.  So then, my first thought with the photo I was given was to bring out some sunlight and brighten the sky up a bit since it looks like it was a dreary day the day this photo was taken.  I did all of that in Camera Raw by adjusting the exposure and brightness and such.  I fiddled with specific colors’ saturation levels to try to get the sky even the tiniest bit more blue, but couldn’t make it work.  So I took the photo into Photoshop.  My go-to edit is Linear Contrast, so I slapped that on before doing anything else.  I love the way it looks.  From there, I did some more hue altering and brought out the blue in the sky by using the magic wand to select the sky area, making a new layer, adjusting the hue and saturation, and then changing that layer’s opacity to make it look more natural and less obviously edited.  I also did something similar to get the dark colors darker – I copied the original layer in Photoshop and layered it on with Darken and adjusted the opacity until I had it where I like it.  I tend to like darker photos with heavier contrast, and that’s what I ended up doing with this one.

Edited only in Camera Raw.

Edited only in Camera Raw by Kate.

Continued edits in Photoshop.

Continued edits in Photoshop by Kate.

 

Anne's edit of her own photo.

Anne’s edit of her own photo.

And now, here’s Anne’s bit, as written by her:

When I first saw this photo I loved the colors, the purple, yellow, white and bright spring green. So I opened it and got into editing it. However, because I am OCD or ADHD or whatever other acronym you want to throw in there my eye kept being drawn to the brown curly leaf(?) behind the iris. So I thought okay I will take this into PS and be done with it… I forgot about the fuzzy yellow stuff! So to cut a long story short it was just too much work in the 30 min time limit we gave ourselves. I liked the daisies on the right side and so I just went with them. For the first edit after doing a screen layer and a multiply layer and flattening them both in-between I went into the lens distort filter and added a small vignette and then a small bowing of the lens to give it a miniscule fisheye effect but in reality to bring the front flower and stem closer. The second part I didn’t crop as close as I wanted more of the vignette and more of the colors. I love the hint of pink in it. For the last one I cropped it closer but I’m not sure if I am happy with the results as you can see grain/noise in the photo. If I had more time I would probably go back in there with my pen and get all the fuzzy yellow stuff and use the picture as a whole but my (acronym here) wouldn’t let me.

 

Anne's first  edit.

Anne’s first edit.

Anne's second edit.

Anne’s second edit.

Anne's third edit.

Anne’s third edit.

Kate's edit.

Kate’s edit of her own photo.

 

Kate here again to send you off, dear readers.  What do you think?  Do you think our editing styles are similar?  Would you have edited either photo differently?  Let us know in the comments!  We’d love to hear from you, our lovely readers!

Get out there and shoot!

Kate & Anne

Get a Different Perspective

Don’t you just hate when the photography bug bites and you’re somewhere that you’ve been a thousand times before and it just sucks because there’s nothing to really inspire you?  You just sit around the park by your house or the lake at your family’s summer cabin, camera in hand, staring wistfully at the screen or through the view finder.  All you can manage are a few family photos that you’re basically forced to take just because you have the “nicest camera!”

In these situations, you have to force yourself to think outside the box.  When you’re at Grandma’s house for the millionth time, you can’t expect to find the same tree that’s been in the front yard since your mom was born as interesting as it was the first twenty times you photographed it.

This advice comes from personal experience: don’t be afraid to get a little dirty.  Get on your knees.  Lie on your back.  Get a little closer than you usually would.  Move a little farther away.  Look at your surroundings from a different perspective.

Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Steven’s Point, WI.  Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Take a walk around and make a note of the things you have photographed a thousand times before.  Think about where you usually stand or what angle you usually take the photos at.  Then don’t do those things.  Do something different.  And again, don’t be afraid to get dirty!  I was up to my eyes in this tall grass in a ditch on the side of a dirt road.  Bug bites galore, but I love this shot of my grandparent’s barn.

Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Steven’s Point, WI.  Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Us grandkids have always been told to stay away from the barn, which is falling apart at the seams.  But be willing to break the rules, so to speak.  Get up close and personal with something you’ve stayed away from.   Look critically around you and step outside your photography comfort zone to find a picture you wouldn’t have typically taken but will absolutely love.

Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Steven’s Point, WI.  Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Even things that you would normally take photos of (for me, that’s flowers) can become a source of inspired photographs – especially when the subject seems old hat.  It’s all a matter of twisting your body and holding your breath to get the shot.  Composition is, of course, important when searching for inspiration in everyday, familiar subjects.

Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Steven’s Point, WI.  Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Find things around you that you might take for granted.  For me, for this shot, this mobile hanging from Grandma’s laundry line has just always been a part of the scenery.  It never really stood out to me and I never had a reason to look twice at it.  Don’t get put in a situation like I did for this shot.  Grandma recently moved out of the house that she grew up in, that she raised her own children in, that I’ve spent quite a number of summers at.  She’s 92 years young and lives on a farm by her lonesome.  She decided that she didn’t need or want to care for a huge amount of land and a dilapidated house that had more problems than there were solutions.  My last trip to the farm was a few months ago when I visited for a few days to help her pack.  It was a bittersweet experience for me.  I’m 100% supportive of my grandmother’s decision to move to an apartment – she’s still completely capable of taking care of herself – but on the other hand, I’m going to miss the farm house and the creaky floor boards and the crab apples and the tire swing hanging from the tallest tree in the yard.  She ended up selling the house to a neighboring farmer who currently rent out the actual farm land.

The lesson to take from that story is don’t take anything for granted.  That old boat at the end of the dock at your cabin, the slide at the playground of the park next to your house, wherever you think you’ve already captured your favorite memories – look harder.  Look again.

Nikon D5100.  No editing.

Steven’s Point, WI.  Nikon D5100. No editing.

Above is my ultimate “different perspective” photo.  It’s an old old old make-shift fence my grandfather put around Grandma’s little garden to keep the deer from eating everything.  Change your focus.  I have this picture focusing on the post and the background, too, but I like this one the best.  It’s such a small detail to focus on, something I typically wouldn’t look twice at.

That’s the whole point of photography, no matter what or where you’re shooting.  Always look at least twice!  Feel free to share your own stories about looking at things with a new perspective in the comments.

Get out there and shoot!

– Kate

Introduction Part 1

Hey all!  My name is Kate, and I’m one of the writers for this blog.  If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering something along the lines of “Why are you, of all people, starting a blog?”  Am I right?  I bet I’m right.  Well, I’d be happy to explain my reasons behind getting involved with this blog.  I want to improve my photography – both technically and knowledge outside of knowing how to operate my camera.  That’s the main reason.  The other big reason is that I’m beyond pumped to be working collaboratively with one of my best friends – Anne.  You’ll hear more from her later, as she’ll do her own introduction post.

Anne and I have known each other since 2006, when we met in college.  We’ve been friends ever since!  And even though she’s living in Japan and I’m still stuck in the States, the distance can’t keep us apart.  Anne’s actually the person that got me into photography as more than just a hobby.  She’s been shooting longer than I have, and I respect her and her work quite a bit.  But we both want to improve, hence us doing this blog together.

My current shooting style is based heavily on using natural light with minimal editing.  Natural light doesn’t mean I like to go out and shoot nature (although I like to go out and shoot nature), I just don’t use flash or external photographic lighting if I can avoid it.  HINT: I can avoid it pretty much all of the time.  Which works just fine for me.

Stop

Shot with a Nikon D3100, no editing.

I’m big into landscapes, although I do people as well.  Concerts are my specialty.  The low light really suits my style and I see it as a challenge to get the best shot in an environment where the lighting is constantly changing and the subjects are constantly moving.  I hope you’ll stick around and watch my shooting and editing styles develop and change.  I’ll leave you with my favorite photo I’ve ever captured, and one that means a lot to me not only because it’s one of my best works but also because of the story behind it.

Patrick Stump @ The Varsity Theater in Minneapolis.  Fujiifilm Finepix J10.  Edited in Photoshop.

Patrick Stump @ The Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. Fujiifilm Finepix J10. Edited in Photoshop.

One last note, I will be posting every Thursday to the best of my ability, so keep checking back every week for new stuff!

Get out there and shoot!
-Kate