Monday, September 28, 2009

Q and A 2009, part I. shooting!

here you go everyone! part one. =) enjoy!


andrea said...What all do you take with you on a shoot? How do you manage to carry your photo equipment AND your furniture?

i keep all my lenses, cards and extra batteries in my bag, and I also have my reflector. I also try to bring myself a BIG FAT diet coke and eat something before hand ( I can’t THINK if I’m hungry!). =) If I use props or furniture, I keep it all in the car until I’m ready to use it.

Heidi said...

Hi there! I'm so excited you are doing this -- as I (like most of these people posting questions it seems like) am working on my photography with the long-term goal of starting a business some day, and love hearing from people who have already slogged their way through the trenches. Some of the things I have been wondering lately...

1. Do you shoot in RAW? I'm assuming yes, but I guess you should never assume anything :).


Yes! I didn’t shoot in raw until around Christmas of last year. For me, I prefer it. I like the ease of editing raw images in lightroom/camera raw, and it’s great for working with wedding dresses (using the recovery tool to retain dress detail- the best!!). However, some people talk about shooting raw like it changed their world, and I don’t really feel that way. Though it seems my canon friends especially feel like that, so maybe it’s a bigger difference that way.


2. Do you use a reflector or any type of diffuser outside when you shoot in sunshine?



I use a reflector more often in the shade to bounce a little light onto the face, but I DO use it in the sun for myself to shade my camera. So if you ever run into me downtown crouching and holding a reflector over my head, that’s why. And yes, I look SOOOOO cool while I do that…


Ashley Henry Photography4. Do you mess with any of your in-camera settings such as brightness, contrast, saturation, etc.? Or do you leave all those on just average settings? Are there any other in-camera tricks you could recommend to help improve images?

I actually don’t, I like to keep it simple I guess!

Ashley Henry Photography said...

1. I know some about light, but I can never get over how amazing your light looks! I swear even at the most perfect times of the day it is so hard to get the light quality to my images that yours have. So how do you pick your light? Especially in less than ideal situations and times of day?

I love using the sun to back light whenever possible (my favorite!) and also open shade. The key when using shade is to keep your subjects face toward the light source. Say you are in the shade of a large building, you want to have your subject looking toward the sunny area, not the building. If the light isn’t perfect though, a good reflector goes a long way!

Why does some shade look better than others? Do you usually shoot at the same time every day? How do you get such amazing window light quality such as in your newborn shoots?


i prefer shooting in the evening during the two hours leading up to sunset (and during sunset of course!), or first thing in the morning. Indoor lighting is a little different at various locations, but a bright day and lots of white back drops helps a lot. I try to reflect light off of white poster boards whenever I can!

Katie Blacker said...

I love your pictures. And your style. I just came accross your blog while blog-surfing. I like the blogs that offer "eye candy" -as a very amature photog - I have tried to make mine that way as well.

Here are my questions:

I want to know how you get that creamy look to your pics -the background a soft color contrasted with the bright colors! (i.e. in the post just above this one - the last 3 pictures are a good example of this)


for tips on the creamy look, there will be more info in the photoshop section!


also, how do you shoot in the sunlight with out overexposing the "whites" in the picture. My pictures tend to have the "whites" blown out.

As far as the whites/shooting in sun go, I can not say enough about shooting in manual! I used to shoot in aperture, which I thought was fine, and honestly, I got good results. However, I switched to manual and found that it was LESS WORK that shooting in aperture! I just like being in control and calling my own shots on exposure, rather than relying on my camera to decide. GOODBYE blowouts.

Elise said...

Wow! I ABSOLUTELY loved when you did this last year. I've been following your blog for a while and I L.O.V.E. your work. I think it's just amazing.

… Do you use an expo disc or what do you do for your WB settings?


I usually shoot in Kelvin (K on your white balance settings), where you basically set the exact temperature you want. I just like it. Call me a control freak.

Rob, Ann, Ava, and Brooklyn said...

I love your work! Thanks for doing this!
What type of metering mode do you use most? And could you explain how to use spot metering?

I prefer SPOT all the way. Because I am most concerned about exposing for faces, I’m not too worried about blowing my backgrounds. But the truth is, I worry VERY little about what my meter is saying. If you always shoot with your meter right in the middle, you might as well save yourself some time and put your camera in auto, because it’s pretty much the same thing. I use my meter as a general guide for my first practice shot. Then I look at the image, decide if it needs some changes and adjust my settings accordingly. I have never in my life checked my histogram. Maybe that’s not “technically” what you’re supposed to do, but I frankly could care less, because it works pretty well for me.

Melanie said...

I found you a while back and I think your work is amazing and so inspiring!! I think everyone asked mostly all of the questions I was thinking of, but here's one: What settings do you use most of the time when shooting outdoor portraits? Say, if you are shooting with a 50mm? Do you shoot wide open or like f4? I recently got a 50 mm f/1.8 and initially was shooting wide open apertures and then I went back and looked closer and it seemed like NOTHING (not the person, or much of anything) was in sharp focus. What is your trick for getting great bokeh but still keeping the subject sharp?

I like to shoot wide open as much as possible unless I am dealing with people on various planes. However, you have to be picky on you focus, which is hard! I use my focus points and stick it right on the subjects face, or if I am closer up I set my focus point right on the eye closest to me. My camera has 50 something focus points, so it helps a lot.

Camille said...

When you shoot in low light situations, how do your images still come out sharp? When I use a high ISO and/or low aperture, my photos come out more grainy/blurry than I'd like. Any tips on that besides using more light or longer exposure?

I bump up my ISO, but if you don’t have a pretty good professional camera, the ISO will really affect your clarity. Mine does pretty well, much better than the lower grade cameras but not as well as the D700 (which I am sooo lusting after) or the Canon 5D Mark II. So if you find yourself shooting in low light frequently, it my be time to upgrade your camera or get an off camera flash or video light. However, it’s important to be sure you are PLANNING on good light while shooting portrait sessions. There is just no reason to extend a family session past sunset unless you WANT to use a video light or flash or something.

Melissa said...

Yay! Thanks for taking the time to do this Jess! 

My question: Can you give us a run down on your technique for getting the sun flares?


(one of my favorite sun flare shots! do remind me to post all of these someday, i don't think i ever did...)

This could take quite a while, so I am going to refer you to a great tutorial from the fabulous PIONEER WOMAN! Have at it:

http://thepioneerwoman.com/photography/2009/06/sun-flare-for-beginners/

kg said...

I have the same equipment as you, so it's fun to always see the results of your pictures, I love your work. Questions...what's your favorite action(s)/most used, any tricks for full sun shooting

We talked a bit about sun shooting already, but also make sure the sun is fully facing your subject (if it isn’t too bright, just before the sun goes down) or make sure it is directly behind them so you avoid harsh highlights and shadows.


shara said...

How to do approach a new location you've never shot at before? Do you scout it out before you go there with your clients or just let your creative spark lead you with your clients.

I do both, sometimes when I am getting sick of my spots, I go for a drive by myself and just scout some things out. But, I would say that I am generally pretty spontaneous! I usually decide where I am going to take a client AFTER I meet them the day of the shoot (if it’s a bride I have usually already met them though, but not always). I take into account their clothing, their personalities, what their home d├ęcor style is like… that sort of thing. Then while we’re driving/walking around and I see something that catches my eye, we use it. I always have some good default loacations and then go from there. =)


Marla said...

When shooting kids - toddlers like Max's age - do you have a preferred setting (app and shutter), or do you change that up? I struggle to change my camera settings and my focus area before the kiddos move or run or jump away . . . .

Shooting an active toddler is always a challenge, (I know! I have one!) so sometimes that means chasing them. I tend to keep my aperture low whenever I can, and that also allows me to keep my shutter speed higher so I don’t get motion blur. Ultimately though, with toddlers, you just have to try and keep them entertained and hope for the best. =)


andrea said...Do you do anything specific to captivate childrens attention to make them look in your direction for a picture? Or do you take someone with you to be silly behind the camera while you snap away?


nope, it’s just me, although a parent sometimes helps if its an idividual shot. There are all of the usual tricks, asking silly questions, making noises, etc. but the ones I like the best are putting DOWN the camera, and having a conversation with the child. I love to tease a little and ask if they have a boyfriend/girlfriend, I ask them about their teacher, what they like to play at recess and who their friends are, then I sneak the camera back up and snap all those priceless little expressions. There’s NOTHING better! And the look is so much more REAL.

Newborns- since most sessions are taken inside, do you have a suggestion for what time of day provides the best lighting?

I usually like mornings and early afternoon, but it depends a bit on where you are shooting and the weather.

Marcie Meredith said...

I just discovered your photos. They are beautiful. I don't know if someone already asked, but I am trying to explore lighting in outdoor situations. So, do you use a flash very often? Also, do you use your flash on-camera or do you do alot of remote flash work? One more- Do you prefer posing your subjects in a certain light? Thanks for this!

During the day (and even sometimes during the night!) i ONLY ONLY ONLY use natural light. Ditto for indoor portraits like children and newborns. It's what i love, it's what makes me happy! i firmly believe that light can ALWAYS be found somewhere, you just have to get creative. they usually end up being my favoite shots too!

I am still in the relatively early stages of learning off camera flash, but I am LOVING it for night shoots and weddings! I use my speedlight with a gary fong light sphere for basic/formal reception shots sometimes, but I prefer to keep the light natural as much as possible. For artistic shots of the couple, off camera is the ONLY way to go. I also use a video light.


OFF CAMERA FLASH:

VIDEO LIGHT

NATURAL LIGHT

yea, that's right, this one's NATURAL LIGHT TOO! remind me to post these too someday.... i love love love crazy natural light.


marissa moss said...

okay, I might have to come back later in the week if i think of others, but my big hurdle right now is lighting. currently, I’m using 100% daylight, which is great… until it’s not. i think you’ve mentioned using the gary fong lightsphere before, but lately I think you mentioned speedlights. do you use both? Is it one or the other depending on the situation? or have the speedlights replaced the lightsphere? also, are the speedlights on or off your camera?

Gary Fong’s light sphere is a filter than goes on top of your external flash to keep the light softer and more even. I use my speedlight both on and off my camera. On camera for a formal shot at a wedding reception or something or for a light fill flash, off camera for a more artsy dramatic look (sooo fun!).


Brad and Alison said...

hi!
How do you get multiple people in focus when they are in different planes? Does that make sense? It seems like somebody is always out of focus. Do I just up the aperature? What focus mode is the best? Do you use a specific setting on your camera?

If you have a group of people on different planes, there is no way around it. Aperture has to go UP! I use the dynamic selective focus thingy on my camera. How technical of me. =)

Crystal said...

How do you get those backlit/flash pictures with all the dust motes lit up like that? Do you use off camera flashes or any other flash-type equipment? How do you set that stuff up?

see all those little dust particles? who knew dust could be so lovely.

I use plain old sunlight. You have a limited time of day to get these types of shots, usually during sunset unless you’re in a wooded area or something. I set up my composition, and then the key is to get yourself and your lens in the SHADE so the light doesn’t completely flood your lens and blow out the image.

Little Cherry Blossoms said...

Any advice for me who takes product shots... What do you think is the best way to take a product shot?
Any organizational tools that you use that you just love?

Hmm, how you organize your images is kinda one of those things that has to work for you, but I organize my client files by year, then type (wedding or portrait), then by client name, then raw files, proof edits, and final edits. This file organizing system is courtesy of KELLEE SMITH, who flat out saved my bum with her business workshop. But more about that later…

Shooting products. I like to use natural light for products, it’s the cleanest most neutral light and it gives products a bit more dimension. So find yourself a nice window, and hop to it! And call me if you need help, I can always use an excuse to drop by your amaaaazing store! =)


Brittany Stucki said...

Hi, I also love your work. The question I have is how do you decide what props to bring, do you have your clients bring props, do you have a bag full you bring to each session? Do you have a place you like to buy them at? I love the little boys hat, and even before I saw this site I was trying to find something like it and have had a hard time.

Props are always tricky because I don’t want the pictures to look like a Sear's backdrop. I usually just ask the client before hand if they would like to bring something or what they want me to bring. I like to base it off of the location and clothing choices. I don’t really have a specific place I go “prop shopping” other than my own home, I just don’t have that many. The hat I think you’re referring to was brought to the session by the family, but I picked one up for my max a month or so afterward at GAP for like $6.

DSC_2622

(the hat in quesion)

Isaac and Jenni Marshall said...

...
Posing- ANY and ALL tips you have on posing for groups would be so helpful... especially when it comes to maintaining the attention of numerous kiddos. Do you have someone standing behind you, helping? Do you give specific or general posing suggestions to your clients? Do you have any resources that have been helpful in teaching you more about posing?

Posing is always a challenge when you’re starting out. And some people are easier to pose than others! When I am posing groups, I am thinking a lot about all of the various levels and shapes that the people are making. I want the family portrait to look like art! Composition is a huge part of that. I usually start by posing the first couple of people and then adding one at a time.

baker013

for the first shot, i posed the parents first and worked the other kids around them. second shot, i really liked the spacing and levels here.

With couples or smaller groups, I feel like there is a lot more freedom. I usually like to give them a pose as starting off point or a scenario and then see what unfolds naturally, throwing in some directing in the process, keeping it fluid. Sometimes if people are camera shy though, I completely take charge. As in, touch their faces, physically move them, and tell them EXACTLY what to do. Usually the people who need that though, WANT to be told exactly what to do so they don’t feel silly.

Kylee said...

3. Where do you get all your ideas for posing, etc?


i get ideas from everywhere, from magazines, studying amazing photographers (especially ones who are very different from me, you don’t want to copy your competition, rather let differing styles influence yours and come up with something unique!), from my clients natural interactions, that sort of thing.

Brittany Stucki said...

Also, any tips on posing? Do you try to pose the little ones at the beginning and then just go with it??

NO!!! I pose parents and older siblings first, little ones always last because their attention span is the shortest and they won’t stay in one place while I pose everyone else. So they get to play until the LAST second. =)

Cris, Callie, and Cayten said...

I have a major problem with posing families. More like telling them how to position themselves. How do you find new unique ways to pose and how do you explain what you are trying to get them to do? Does that make sense?

A lot of this has already been answered, but when communicating the pose to your client, I either demonstrate what I want them to do or physically put them in position if they aren’t understanding what I mean. I think because I was a gymnast/coach/choreographer for so long, I have no problem pushing someone’s shoulders down, tilting their heads a certain way, or showing them how to get a little sassy. =)

Heidi said...7. Have you set up any sort of home studio?

Nope, although I do make my own little backdrops and natural window night for newborns! Maybe someday I will have a studio… we’ll see.

pollard035

who needs a studio when you have WRAPPING PAPER?



ok guys, hope that helps. let me know what you think!

31 comments:

Katie Blacker said...

very helpful! thank you thank you!

Heidi said...

Wrapping Paper! That is GENIOUS!

karlee said...

I love it! I'm even more impressed than I was last year. Will totally stick around another year! ;) Thanks so much for all your info Jessica. You are such an inspiration.

Sarah said...

Jess, thank you so much for being so open with all of your knowledge. You are so awesome! Although I already knew that, but what you are doing to help fellow photographers out is so thoughtful. I can't wait for the rest, but what a great group of q's to start with! Congrats again, you are the best!

marissa moss said...

thank you, thank you so much!!

as I saw all of the questions accumulate, and accumulate, and accumulate, I was pretty sure you were going to say to heck with it! or, at the very least, take a month to find the time to answer them all!

i am so impressed you got this done so quickly. i really enjoyed reading all of these answers and i can’t wait for the next set!!

Kyle and Lesley said...

amazing, amazing, amazing. I can't believe you answered all of these so quickly! Talk about wonderwoman.

I'm still saving my pennies for mentoring :)

amymom24 said...

Thank you so much for this, Jessica! Your generosity is much appreciated!

Kattrina said...

Great so far, I am totally going to be trying out many of these ideas! Thanks Jess ;)

Tracy said...

Thanks so much, Jessica! I am learning all I can until you can mentor me. I am so excited that you will be taking Brady and Lyndsey's wedding pictures!

Melanie said...

Thank you, thank you!! Great tips!

Amber Duron said...

you are so awesome! i am excited for the next part!!

btw wrapping paper? GENIUS! =)

andrea said...

You are freaking phenomenal Jessica!! I can't wait for the second half! I'm pretty sure I am going to pring this post and your next one and highlight/underline like CRAZY!! :) Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! :)

The Elmers said...

I will echo everyone else...you are so amazing and extremely generous! Such an insperation and so glad I stumbled across your blog almost two years ago :) You're the best Jess!!!

NeLz said...

this post should be called "Jessica's little Secrets" or something :) super cool of you to help out like this! I ♥ your work!

sara amber said...

hi jessica!

i found your blog through the savvy photographer website and i have to tell you - this q & a post was one of the most helpful and informative posts on photography i think i've ever read. i think it's because the questions are from real people with real creative curiosity and the fact that your answers are so honest and open to the fact that in the end, it's really not so much a "THIS IS THE WAY YOU MUST DO IT" and more of a, "go with what you like best" topic.

anyway, i hope that makes sense. i've just started a photography website of my own (http://littledynamitephotography.com) and i've been doing tons of research and practicing lately.

Kristen Marie Photography said...

Dude, you're awesome.

Let me know when you're back up here. I'd love to take you to coffee (tea).

Also, I still want to pay you to learn your photoshop skillz.


Take a day off.

Chappell Photo said...

So fun that you are doing this. Love your tips about lighting. I am obsessed with natural light and playing with back-lighting as well. Can't wait to try out some new techniques.

Luke and Marissa said...

I really enjoyed reading all of this. I have no intentions of starting my own photography business but I want to implement some of these tricks to my family snap shots. Thanks!

Kayleen T. Photography said...

Loved reading this! That picture of the girl against the blue wall with only natural light is mind-blowing cool! LOVE it!

Isaac and Jenni Marshall said...

So helpful!!!!! I loved seeing all the example images that you haven't yet posted on your blog- STUNNING!!! Thank you and can't wait to read more!!! Congrats on your Savvy Photographer spot as well=)

Karenin Jaar Robison said...

thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. this was so helpful. i can't wait to the photoshop section. i feel so lost with photoshop.

Marla said...

You = Awesome!

Thanks!

Oakstream Photography said...

You are sooo kind to do this. You need to hold a seminar ;-)

Crystalyn said...

sooo cool that you would do this! thank you! you're awesome.

Bagiera said...

I'm so excited for part II!!!!!
You are amazing!

Anonymous said...

Alot of wonderful advice but I think you should explain to most of your fans that its not all about the lighting but also about your photo editing skills. Smooth, creamy, saturated, and sharp, detailed images of yours and many other photographers come about from using certain actions and filters that photo editing programs provide. Any great photographer wont be able to produce such an image of yours just by shooting even under great lighting conditions. It has to saturated, and retouch in order to produce such an amazing image.

Terese said...

Amazing! I love your work. You are one of my faves to check out. You are always taking what is hip to the next level. Thank you for so much help. You are a creative genius.

Leslie said...

You are so helpful!! Thanks for answering all of those questions! And the ones I asked you in the interview! I hope you liked how it turned out!!

Erin said...

LOVIN' this!!!
Can I sneak in a question? It's totally easy to answer. You can even email it to me (madsen7@gmail.com)
Where did you get your baby cocoons? I am due in 10 days. . .and would love to do something similar! Do a favor for a big fat pregnant lady? Pleeeease?

Ash and Matt said...

Matt and are are DYING over those two new pictures you posted! We'll be sure to remind you to post the rest as soon as your life gets a little less crazy--you are seriously superwoman answering all these questions on top of your busy schedule! We're excited to see them, though, and can't wait to have your art hanging in our home :-)

Jaci said...

your q&a sessions rock! you might as well be the next PW! you are right up there with her on skill and popularity. love your work. you have a gift!