Which lenses are your favorites (and in what situations)? I shoot with my 50mm probably 75% of the time because it is so versatile and fast. I do absolutely love my 100mm macro and use it whenever I can though (usually if I am in a field and know I have lots of room to back up or “zoom with my feet” if I need to). It is super sharp and the bokeh is buttery and beautiful. I’ve found at times the auto-focus can be a little slow though. I also love renting lenses from my local camera shop and do that frequently to experiment with new lenses and looks so I don’t have a big investment for a lens I know I won’t use very often (like a Lensbaby, which I used in the shot below). That being said, my current favorite is most definitely the 35mm 1.4, hands down!
Do you ever “give up” in a newborn session? Yes. I realized I am not a newborn photographer in the traditional since. I do not enjoy the studio look (no offense to those that do it and do it well, it just is not my thing) and I tried doing newborn portfolio shoots because I thought I needed to as a photographer. I realized that I do not have to shoot all things and things I do not enjoy or am not good at. I tried shooting newborn twins not that long ago. I was trying to do the “baby curl” and halfway through I threw up my hands and mentally said “ok, no more… this isn’t me and this isn’t what I do” and just started doing more of a lifestyle type shoot because that is more my style and what I excel at. Guess which shots mom loved more? So, now I still do newborns but I refuse to shoot anything that isn’t me. I tell people upfront that want newborn sessions that I do more of a lifestyle and/or concept session with newborns but that I don’t really do the cutesy sleepy shots and if that is what they are looking for I am happy to refer them to a great photographer that will do that for them. Long story short, my advice is to be you in your work, regardless of how that looks. It may take a while, but there is a market for you even if it is very niche. You will be happier and your clients will be happier. Trust me.
What do you think is the perfect size blanket for a newborn session? See above.This isn’t really my area, but I would guess that the bigger the better if you are using it for a backdrop. If you are using it to wrap or drape, then probably throw size… at least that is what I did when I was doing this sort of thing, but then again, I wasn’t very good at that style.
How do you photograph people that blink often (think light eyes) or are not-photogenic at all (yes, they do exist)? I personally do not believe that people are not photogenic at all. Sure, some people are more attractive than others and sure some people have some features that are difficult to work with, but as a photographer it is my job to know how to minimize these “flaws” or quirks. I’ve worked with a LOT people that have thought they weren’t photogenic because they were notorious for being the blinker or funny face maker in snapshots or family photos or because they had body or self esteem issues but once I got them in front of my camera and shot them at flattering angles and had them relax (the key really is getting them to relax; in my experience, the first 10-15 minutes almost never turn out winners from anyone over the age of 8) and got them laughing and joking and goofing off, they realized that they really are photogenic! On the other hand, I’ve also had a couple people in front of my camera that did have genuine “quirks” (I really hate using the word flaws because we all have things that could be construed as flaws but that is also what makes us different and we are all beautiful in our own way) and it was definitely more challenging, but the person being photographed is very aware of it, trust me. I would never mention it and I think the key in this situation is to be really graceful and treat them just like you would any other person. Without going into specifics, I again think it is about angles and also lighting to minimize this sort of thing. Photoshop is also your friend.As far as the blinking and light eyes, I like to use Amanda Holloway’s trick: if you have someone that just can’t stop blinking or the light is super bright, get them posed how you want them, get your shot framed and focused, and let them keep their eyes closed the whole time with the agreement that when you say “Open!” they will pop their eyes open and give you the smile or look that you want. As soon as they do, you snap the shot. Their pupils will be perfectly dilated and their eyes will be open and gorgeous and not at all squinty. Works perfectly most times… when you have someone that can take direction. This doesn’t work so well with really young ones or babies. When they are that little you just have to embrace it and go with what they give you.
Mac/PC? I technically have both. I used to use a Macbook but my super-uber-ultra-awesome-rockyoursocksoff techie husband got me a Dell Latitude E6410 with 8gb of RAM for Christmas last year so I kind of was forced to switch to a PC. It blows my Macbook out of the water as far as how well in runs. So, while I definitely prefer Macs because they are prettier and far more user friendly, you can’t beat PCs when it comes to price. And since my husband is my IT solutions guy, I defer to him on these things. He set up a really amazing back up system and all sorts of other cool stuff for me and since it is all PC based, I’m running on a PC system right now. Unless you count my iPhone. One day I hope to be back on Macs, but I know I’ll get a ton of grief for it.
Favorite lab? Right now, it’s Miller’s, although there are a couple others that I am looking forward to trying out soon. I love them for almost everything. I use Pixel2Canvas exclusively for my canvas and metals though. I will never use anyone else as long as they are around; even though they have a bit of a turnaround time, they are the best by far and definitely worth the wait! I have accounts with several labs and use them for certain things. I am of the opinion that most labs do a couple products really really well and the rest are average so I have no problem placing orders with a few different labs for one client. This is obviously just my opinion though, formed from my own experience.
Biggest fear as a photographer? That’s a toughie. Even though I haven’t had technical issues in, like, forever, I think this is one of my fears. I think it is always in the back of my mind that I am going to royally screw something up. Or that for some reason the family isn’t going to love what I shoot. I also really worry about creative stagnation, but I think these are all common fears.
How do you balance family/work? I don’t. Not successfully anyway… not yet. I’m working on it! Although, I just got some pretty awesome tips from Keren Brown, the busy momma behind Foodportunity. She suggests blocking out your time if you work from home just like you would if you worked in an office, using timers to break up your day (set a timer and only give yourself 30 minutes to write that blog post; don’t finish it? give yourself 30 more minutes tomorrow!), keep phone calls short, and don’t be afraid to tell people “Hey, I’m having to pay for child care and this is my work time so i really can’t chat right now, but I’d love to catch up at XYZ time!” She also said that if you block out your day then you need to stick to it and not mix stuff from other blocks in. If it is supposed to be family time, do not work (put your out-of-office responder on your email
if you have to)! Work time? Family stuff can wait. Keren also said the productive moms she knows take naps. This chick rocks.
How do you deal with glasses at outdoor sessions? Again, it’s about the angles! Are you getting sick of me saying that yet? lol It really is true though! I would never ask a client to take off their glasses. If they choose to take them off, that is one thing, but you as the photographer asking them to take their glasses off risks being insulting. If I start to notice a glare on glasses, I first try changing my shooting angle and recomposing the shot. If that just isn’t cutting it, then I will adjust the actual glasses on the person’s face (usually tilting them down slightly) but I can almost always avoid this by simply changing my angle.
Do you give out your phone number or do all (or most) of your interactions online? Most of my interactions are online. I definitely prefer that since I work from home and my dog thinks that any time my phone rings it is prime barking time.I do give out my phone number to clients (I have a variety of reasons for this) and happily plaster it all over the web. I use Google Voice for my business number so I am not giving out a personal number but I can have it ring my cell phone (or wherever else I choose, for that matter).
Do you get nervous before a session? To an extent but usually not full on butterflies. I am confident in my creativity and technical ability but I do get nervous about interacting with people. From what I hear from very successful photographers that have been doing this for ages, this feeling doesn’t really ever go away. I guess it is good though so we don’t get too big of an ego, right?
Do you ever worry that you aren’t going to be able to produce something that someone is expecting? Not really. When someone hires me, they are hiring me for my style and creativity. Knowing that gives me the artistic freedom to shoot how I need to. The only time a client has been unhappy with their photos since I have been looking at it this way and really letting my creativity flow has been when their kids didn’t act the way they anticipated. This is part of the reason I think it is so important to find your artistic voice/style. Once you do, you will be so much happier.
When you arrive on scene for a shoot, how do you go about finding the best natural light? I just look around me. I can’t really say how I do this because once I learned to “see the light” it is now like I can’t not see it. If you are really struggling though, look at your subject’s eyes and turn them until you find the best catchlights.
What have you found to be the best way to let people know you are out there? Obviously if you don’t have a website, you need one! If you aren’t on Facebook, you need to be. It is absolutely free advertising and everyone and their mom is on Facebook. Pretty much any and all social media needs to be taken advantage of and hand your business cards out like they are candy!
camera raw…. what is it that makes shooting raw so worth it if you can get correct exposure in camera without it?? Oh man. I don’t know why anyone shoots in jpeg anymore! Seriously. Even if you get your exposure correct in camera, chances are very high that you are going to blow some highlights. How many times have I blown the sky in my photos in order to properly expose for the skin? Way too many times too count. The awesome thing about shooting in raw is that you can recover a lot of this detail. Maybe you didn’t blow it all the way but you want to bring back more of the detail in that white shirt, or, for you wedding photogs, that bride’s dress. I don’t know about you, but I want that little bit of insurance. Plus, it just looks better to me. I can’t describe it really, but I can just see the difference between jpeg and raw when looking at the same photo.
What do you process your image in? I start in Lightroom 3 and then finish in Photoshop CS5.