A Note on Content

The purpose of this blog is twofold: (1) to advertise my services as a photographer, and (2) to provide useful information to people who want to take better pictures, particularly when it comes to photographing children.

Although I have not organized the blog posts in any particular order, I have tried to start with basic information and build from there, so those wanting to learn more about photography and visiting the site for the first time may want to start with the oldest posts first.

If you have questions or comments about the blog, please feel free to leave a comment or to email me directly. I hope the photos and other information presented here help you appreciate the art of children's photography, and inspire you to take great photographs of your own.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Disasters in Portrait Photography - Episode VII: Toxic Waste Dump

I get it: industrial backgrounds are "in," but seriously, the photo is cluttered, the girl in back has her eyes closed, and it looks, for all the world, like three small children decided to have a picnic at a Superfund site.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Seize the Day

Sometimes great portraits happen almost by accident. Take this one. During a break in a family portrait session, I noticed this two year old standing in interesting light with golden leaves to match her hair. A few quick shots later and I had this. No smiles (she's very camera shy), but there's something captivating about the image, no? The hair, those deep blues. Something in the look. It's an image that--at least to my mind--makes one stop AND look.

The point is to not be afraid to "seize the day" and press the shutter button, even if it's not according to plan. Perfect lighting, that perfect moment--it's all rather fleeting, so be sure to grab hold of those little unexpected moments and see what can happen!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Disasters in Portrait Photography - Episode VI: Nice Weeds

When used properly, selective focus is a beautiful thing. When used clumsily, however, you get ... this. Why, in God's green earth, is the couple out of focus?! To my eye, this is a photo of weeds (what's in focus), and there just happens to be a couple in the background. Looks like a cute moment as well, but no, the grass is far more interesting. Put this in your wedding announcement, by all means, and your seed catalog as well.

Disasters in Portrait Photography - Episode V: Search & Rescue Training Video

Okay, so maybe "disaster" is a bit strong to describe this one. The concept's not bad: a path, a girl, she's placed off-center left, but what's up with that pose? The model looks neither natural nor comfortable (may have something to do with the pending rock slide) and the image is cluttered: dude, what does that sign say? (Probably "Beware of falling rocks and cheap photographers.")

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Disasters in Portrait Photography - Episode IV: Land of the Lost

These kids are cute, and the colors in this picture lovely, but the children seem to have been placed randomly around the frame and just left there, standing awkwardly, wondering what the photographer wants them to do. There's no relationship suggested between the kids either, and they are each "standing alone."

Disasters in Portrait Photography - Episode III: Earthquake Victim

The human eye expects things like the laws of gravity to apply, even in photography. So, while shifting the horizon DOES make photos look unique, it also makes them look uniquely silly, and, at the risk of repeating myself, detracts from the subject.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Disasters in Portrait Photography - Episode II: "Off With Their Heads!"

"Amputation" is the word used to describe a cropping error in portrait photography, and then there's this (triple amputation with a double decapitation thrown in for good measure). Where's the focus on this picture? Looks like an ad for a fertility clinic.

Disasters in Portrait Photography - Episode 1: "There's No Place Like Home ..."

After reviewing ads for photographers on a local website, I decided I would start a new series called "disasters in photography" highlighting photos that are so deliciously bad they are almost--dare I say?--good. Enjoy.

Though I hope the "badness" of these photos is readily apparent, I thought I'd throw in a serious critique in the spirit of informing rather than merely criticizing. And please know that I'm not trying to make fun of any of these poor models, who only had the misfortune of hiring a photographer of questionable skill and/or taste.

Critique: So, what is this picture about, anyway--is it a shoe ad? Did this bride get lost in the desert and then take off her shoes to recline in the shade of a rock, fending off the vultures with her bridal bouquet? The pose is awkward--the bride looks uncomfortable (not surprisingly) and the props are distracting and compete for attention with the bride herself. Other than that, it's perfect!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Great Article on Portrait Photography

Ran across this article today at the Digital Photography School: http://digital-photography-school.com/tips-for-portrait-photography. Some great tips--and photos--there. Happy shooting!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Photography as Story Telling II

In a recent post, I talked about how the best photography often tells a story: it has depth and layers of interest.

My wife Becky snapped this photo the other evening of my youngest daughter. Though a casual snapshot, it tells a story, no? (The yarn under her chin, by the way, is the hair of a doll that my older daughter, Sarah, made for her sister a few year's ago, a doll that has become Mary's greatest source of comfort in times of trouble.)

P.S. Everything turned out okay, and the tooth fairy did in fact visit that night to claim Mary's first baby tooth. A bittersweet day for Mom and Dad.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Moon

It walks the sky
cloudless, clear
the moon alone
- Ogiwara Seisensui

The moon rose full on an exceptionally clear night earlier this week. So, I pulled out the camera and snapped this shot. 70-200mm zoom at 200mm. Tripod. Remote switch and mirror lock. Cropped.

To get the detail in the moon, you have to underexpose significantly. So, I used the spot meter, underexposed by one stop, then two, then three, etc. until I got the detail I wanted.

But that's all technical mumbo jumbo. In the end, it's just the moon. Alone.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Window Light

Ah, window light. I'm a big fan, as anyone who spends much time with my photos can tell.

Why? Because typically it offers the best kind of lighting for portraits: soft and directional, creating that Vermeer-like quality in an image: the deep reflective eyes and warm skin tones. Lovely.

This photograph required almost no post-processing because the lighting was right where it should be, to my mind anyway, and the effect--while possible to duplicate with studio lighting--is soooo easily done without studio lighting (a big plus in my book).
The subject here is positioned close to an open window, at a little more than 90 degree angle from the light (one can experiment with that), with the light either reflected or filtered by a diffuser of some kind (here, high clouds). I also positioned a reflector at camera right, to throw a little light back on the shadowed side of the face. The idea there is to keep some detail in the shadows and prevent the contrast from becoming too sharp.

So, the challenge for the day is to attempt a portrait using window light, if you haven't yet. With low light levels, you'll likely need to either adjust the ISO to a higher setting and/or brace the camera with a tripod (ideally) or against a wall or other object (less ideal, but still works).

Happy shooting!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Vampire Eyes

A plea to all aspiring portrait photographers: please do not Photoshop your subject's eyes to the point he/she looks like a little vampire. It's creepy, and it's wrong. (Not to mention kitschy--like pink flamigos and garden gnomes.)

Just sayin' ...