Monday, March 26, 2007

Your burning questions, answered

Here are some of the questions I received from all you blog readers out there:

Q: Do you offer any type of private lessons for amateur photographers?

A: This has been the most frequent question I have been asked in my 8 years of photographing kiddos, even more than "When are you available?". There was a point in time that I was answering more emails/calls from photographers across the country about my marketing, my images, my camera, than I was to prospective and current clients. At that point I decided to start offering a "Photographer's Package" to those who were interested. It includes a marketing packet, lots of questions answered, technical tips, the process of proofing, etc. There is also a package that includes a consultation where I can work with you on finding your style, learning your camera, critique your images, and just answer any general questions you may have. I've tossed around the idea of having a workshop for moms and dads who just want to learn how to use their cameras to take better pictures of their kids year round. That's something I'd like to hear from you guys on if you think you'd be interested.

Something else I offer-anyone can come and hold my bags/reflector/assist/work on proofbooks/help package prints at anytime. This is how I learned, more than any classes or books-helping someone who was already in the business and picking their brain. I've taken on countless interns, some of which are now established photographers in the DFW area, and some of which just wanted to learn to use their cameras efficiently to take shots of their kids when I'm not there.

Q: How do you edit your photographs without losing the quality of the original image? I have been shooting in JPEG/RAW format and saving them as a Tiff after cropping but still lose quality...what am I doing wrong?

A: You might be underexposing your images and seeing noise. Tiffs do not compress and therefore should not show any loss of quality. Check your ISO and make sure you are shooting 800 or below. The lower the ISO, the less noise you will have in underexposed images. Also, if you're shooting in JPEG format, make sure it's set to the highest quality (JPEG Fine). Other than that, it may be how you are processing your images.

Q: When shooting in b/w, where do I set my ISO?

A: Part of the reason I love b/w is that it is much more forgiving of noise-it translates to grain, which gives images a more "filmy" look. So when I know the images I'm shooting will be in b/w, I usually shoot on 800 ISO. Outdoors or for color sessions, when I want a nice even color (in color, noise just translates to redness and wierd colors) I shoot as low as I can, sunny days 200 ISO and cloudy days 400 ISO. Here's an example of a b/w image at 800 ISO to create a grainy look: (yes it's my baby, I have to get her picture in as much as I can, right?)

Q: How do you get that sparkly look in the children's eyes???

A: I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you.

Just kidding. It's really simple- I don't use flash, and I always face the subjects towards the light source (like a window).

Q: (from a professional photographer) How do you shoot indoors without camera shake or motion blur?

A: I try to always check homes ahead of time (I've been doing this location thing long enough to know most neighborhoods in the area, and if their homes have enough light). I open every window I can get my hands on. Most of my clients have newer homes with big floor to ceiling windows, but if they don't, we use a covered patio, or my favorite trick is to open the front door and sit them in their entryway. I use a fairly high ISO because I like the grainy look, which gives me flexibility with my aperture and shutter speed. Most of the time I shoot on or around f4, wider for closeups of single subjects, and I don't let my shutter speed go lower than around 1/100 (w/ my 50mm lens, w/ my 85, I don't go lower than 1/160). I also learned just to relax - motion is natural with children. For example, this picture of a little girl dancing- slower shutter speeds illustrates the motion of her dancing.

If something is happening that's really great and I don't have enough light for a decent aperture, I let my shutter speed go low and just steady my arm against a wall and hope for the best :)

Q: How do you run a busy business and raise three young children?? (OK, so that's me wondering outloud...)

A: I work at night quite a bit. My typical day starts at 5AM when I wake up and feed the baby before heading to the gym. I get back and get the kids ready and off to school. When I shoot, my wonderful assistant Pam watches Maddy for me (talk about a bonus!) My middle child goes to school on three days a week, so I spend the other two with her. On the days I don't shoot and have 2 out of 3 at school, I might get some work done in between feedings, diaper changes, and spontaneous photo sessions with the baby. But in general, after dinner, my wonderful husband takes care of bedtime and baths, and I start working and sometimes don't stop until very late. I also couldn't do it without Pam (who by the way is a professional organizer, and you can hire her too :) ) She takes care of all the details, books, packaging, etc. that I can't get to, and keeps my office (and sometimes, a bonus like my laundry room!) organized for me.

And, just to note- as I type this, my 4 year old is trying to climb up behind me in my chair, crying because I'm not letting her, and shoving a construction paper butterfly in my face while my baby screams from teething pain and my son runs around in circles dressed like Superman. Ah, the glamorous life.

Q: What lens do you shoot with?

A: Outside, 2 or less subjects- 85mm lens always. I love that thing. Indoors, 50mm lens, sometimes the 85 if it's an older child alone.

Q: What is your best advice for the average parent who is just taking snapshots but wants them to be as good as they can be?

A: Great question! When I'm shooting outdoors and I see people taking shots of each other or their kids, I always want to go up to them and say GO GET IN THE SHADE! It's the easiest way to make a picture smooth, colorful, and pleasurable to the eye. I figured I'd get kicked out of the Arboretum for that so I keep it to myself :)

Q: I hate my digital camera, because the camera doesn't actually shoot what I see in my viewfinder-there is a delay. How can I fix this?

A: Easy answer for most digital p&s, turn the screen display off and use it the old fashioned way, held up to your eye.

Q: I'm tired of point and shoot- I want a good camera that I can take pictures of my kids with, that is excellent quality but doesn't cost thousands of dollars-any suggestions?

A: Nikon D50, Nikon D70, Canon Rebel are all excellent cameras for under $1000. I'm a Nikon girl myself. (by the way I have never bought anything from Broadway Photo so can't testify to their reliability)

OK that's all for now, feel free to post further questions in the comments section and I'll try to get to them ASAP. Thanks again for all the great questions!!



Molly Johnson said...

hey there! my cousin turned me onto your blog- she reads it all the time. I love your work- it's so crisp and beautiful and truly captures the essence of the beauty of life. I am a "fellowette" photographer in San Antonio. I was just wondering what type of conversion you do in Photoshop to make your B/W images pop so much? They have beautiful contrast, without having too much shadow and highlights block-ups. I know everyone has a different way to convert from color to B/W- was wondering if you'd share one of your tricks?

Sally Gupton said...

What software do you use for your slideshows? Amazing work! Your an inspiration!