Saturday, September 4, 2010

A few snippets of what little I know about photography...'s no secret.
I'm NOT an expert in photography.  (Or motherhood or wife-dom for that matter.)
But for some reason, some of you incredibly kind people have asked me questions.
And so...I'll share what little I do know and a little of how I do things.
And if it actually helps anyone, I'll be thrilled.  Like...I might dance a jig.

So here are a few that I've gotten:

Is there a method to your madness when posing people? Such as what angles look the best, lighting, depth of field, etc.

My method...
I tell clients I only 20% pose. Because for me, I don't want people looking back at their pictures thinking - "man that felt seriously awkward". Or - "That's soooooo not me."
So...I have ideas, but I give loose suggestions. And I tell them why - because usually, if they'll become comfortable, they'll fall into GREAT poses. (Some clients need a little more input, but as a client becomes more and more comfortable, they usually bring it.)
So, I see stairs and I have this idea of them sitting in some cute little Anthropologie-esque type way (because I think it would seem authentic for the person) I tell them to sit and let's see how they fall. From there I adjust anything that looks odd or give little suggestions to make it better.  And granted, depending on the client's personality, we might pose a little more - as long as they are loving it and having fun.  And we might get a little more technical, but it really just depends on the person and their comfort level.
My main goal: to take pictures that help them see how beautiful they truly are when they are themselves.  If someone can rock that out in a pose - I'm in.  If they need to be in a moment - I'm in.

For kids - GET TO THEIR LEVEL.   I cannot tell you how much better my pictures became once I started doing this.
Unless someone has a really large forehead, I also like shots where I'm looking down on them slightly. So I stand on stairs higher than them or on a bench beside them or something of the sort a lot of the time. Or even have them sit. Plus - you can combine this with a shot on their level and have two really great looks in very little time!

That's an in depth one. It's all about the time of day and where the light is. So, that's one that either we could do over coffee or send me situations and I can help you think through it.

How do you pick locations?
I pick locations based on the client and who they are. And then from there it's based on what stands out to me. So...for my shoots I look for a location that has a meaning or just captures a little bit of who they are or even just makes them feel really at home.  Then I just take a second to walk around and see what stands out to me.  And we just have fun finding little nooks and crannies.   And indulging every so often in minor trespassing - but only minor.  (I like to explore...)  Sometimes, I decide myself if the client is unsure, but I try to get to know them well enough that I feel like they'll like the end result.

Are there cues that you give people when you want them to act natural, interact with one another, etc for capturing action shots/candids?
Oh cues...
Now that I've put in the time on learning my camera and ISO and aperture and exposure and all that jazz, I'm free to focus on this a lot more. And it's my favorite part.
So, in individual sessions:
I try to draw out the person.
I ask for embarrassing stories. I tell my own embarrassing stories. I tell Hannah stories.
I ask about their dreams. I ask them to think about certain things. For example, one of my sessions was of a girl about to go for 9 months to Peru. I took my camera down for a second, looked her in the eyes and asked her to take a moment, take in a deep breath and just take in the fact that soon she would be in Peru. That picture - to this day is one of my favorites of ALL time.
I had a client that was having trouble being herself. She was so together and almost model-ish. (Which isn't bad, I just wanted both) So, I found out she used to sing and I made her sing the Star Spangled Banner in the middle of the forest preserve. It was epic. And a guy passing by joined in with her. I got some great shots of her laughing and hopefully left her with a slightly hilarious memory.

For couples...
Oh how I LOVE couples!!!
It can be even more than just pictures - you have the opportunity to reconnect people with their love for each other and that is SUCH a sacred awesome thing.
So you can bet that I'm learning about their story.  How they knew they wanted to be with this person...what they love about that person, etc.
And I find ways to get them interacting.  Whether it's dancing or practicing Ninja skills, if it fits the couple and gets them laughing, it's fair game.

For weddings...
I see that my role is to constantly bring them back to the beauty of this day and the person they're marrying.  If I can do that successfully, I'll have unbelievable pictures ALL DAY LONG. And...I love it.

What do you shoot in (settings whys) in general?
I shoot in Manual mode.
I like to have control of my aperture and my exposure (shutter speed) and everything. It just gives me the freedom to really capture the moment the way I see it.
Also, I shoot in jpg now. I used to shoot in raw because it helped in case I was off a little - I could usually save the picture, but now I like JPG because I feel like I'm challenging myself to get it right in camera and I feel like JPG files end up looking more like prints from film and I really like the classic look of film.

If you are looking to learn more about photography, here are some websites and blogs that are far more helpful than I will probably ever be.  As a matter of fact, these people have taught me so much:
Check her FAQ posts.!!!
And she just so happens to be an INCREDIBLE person, photographer and writer.
Check out the photography section.  She has mad skills in explaining all sorts of technical jargon and she was basically my best friend when I was starting out.

And now...I'm going to bed.  But first, I'll end with a picture of the little lady who didn't want to take a nap...


  1. yayyayyayay thanks for the shout out pretty pretty friend.

  2. Mark, you're cool. And is this Mark Miller or Mark Dunning?
    Catherine - I didn't even know you ever saw my blog. But seriously - that picture - I love it. It's one of my favorite pictures I've ever taken. I'm sure it has to do with the fact that I love you to pieces - but just who you are and your emotions are so there and I love it. Kind of like how I love you.