Do You Really Need A Website?

Before Facebook and Instagram, photographers established their brands and showcased their work through their personal website and blog. Everything they wanted to share to their clients and potential clients was there. Portfolio? On the website. Their thoughts and future plans? Website/blog. I wrote more about this on my personal website, click the link below to read more about it.

There is a lot of cyberspace out there still. The corporate platforms and strict governments haven’t completely taken over it, even if they do fancy themselves as masters of the universal internet.

As Facebook took over personal websites, a lot of photographers were encouraged to set up business pages. Everything was decent for awhile until they were hounded by Facebook to buy ads, Buy Ads, BUY ADS to reach their audience. And Facebook wasn’t kidding. Photographers could not reach their intended audience without paying for the right to do so. Then the algorithms changed. For those who did buy advertising, they were prompted to buy more because their reach had not reached to the intended potential clients. All that time, effort and money has been wasted.

And ever since Facebook has purchased Instagram, photographers have seen more of the same. “Get a business profile! Separate your brand from your personal profile. Promote this post with an ad!”

Yes, I have an Instagram page. Yes, I cannot stand it. The one piece of social media I am on and I want to be rid of it. No longer though, will I let it outgrow my own website. I have switched to a personal account as opposed to a business account. Why? Re-read the previous paragraph.

While their old websites were left static, outdated and the last entry they posted was from three years ago, these photographers were pumping up social media sites that did not belong to them. They were working for someone else on someone else’s land while their own land was unattended and neglected.

Over time, these same photographers realized what had happened. Since they were so embedded with Facebook and Instagram and could not control what their audience saw, they decided to wean themselves off slowly.

Owning your own website takes more work than just creating an account and turning over all your personal and creative freedoms to a company that is not your own. The money that was used to buy advertisements or gear or another set of presets to look like everyone else could be better spent on buying your own domain name, buying your own web host and creating your own content.

Another benefit? You control the design, the content and the marketing. These are your lands to build on as you see fit. One company will not be able to censor you for something you posted or something you say. You are in charge, not some vague community guidelines that can force you off their land without getting anything out of it in return.

To answer the question in the title of this note, yes, absolutely. In 2019 we all need our own place to call home on the world wide web and we need it now more than ever.

See more:
Website | VSCO | EyeEm | Flickr | IG

How To Make Your Client Comfortable

Stiff, awkward pose does not yield the best results

Let’s start from a nervous model’s perspective:

“Does this photographer know what they are doing? Can I trust this person? Will my _____ look horrible?”

Unless your subject is a professional model, you are going to have people who do not know how to stand, bend, or hold there hands a certain way unless they are coached. You are in charge, direct your scene how it needs to be done. If you don’t, then the session could be set up to fail. Your model won’t have confidence in you and the results can be disasterous. Go in there prepared. Have your list of shots that you want ahead of time. If possible, scout the location prior to the session.

Another way to help a client become comfortable can be humor. Have a positive, non-offensive joke or two ready to go whenever needed.

If these fail, then have your subject share something about themselves. No customer wants to hear their barber, bartender or barista talk about themselves, they want to be heard and understood. The same for photographers. This session is about the client. Let them open up and relax by letting them talk it through.

Okay, so far you can direct your subject to get the results you need and you can also have your client relaxed by opening themselves up. They trust you by now but showing is always better than telling.

Don’t believe me?

Because if those don’t get you your results, then bring your photos up on your camera and show them how well they are doing. Throw in a compliment.

At this point, the confidence should kick in because their image turned out better than they had expected. This will help even the most unrelaxed person settle in and finish this session with success for you and them.

Most people have no idea how to calm their inner voice and doubts. Only you can help them with this. And I hope this helps you as well.

See more:
Website | VSCO | EyeEm | Flickr | IG

Why Portraits

Someone asked me the other day what type of photography do I like to shoot. Immediately my response was “portraits.”

Why?

Because people are fascinating!

Because people have individual personalities and expressions.

Because people have stories to share.

Because people are intrigued by other people.

Ever go to a museum and notice we are drawn to portraits more often than any other subject? Because people back then are just like us. In the future, they will appreciate and absorb content about us.

This is why I focus on photographing people. 

How To Photograph Naked People Without Being A Jerk

Muse: Crystal

Boudoir photography is a divisive subject. Some view it as art and others see it as a chance for some photographers to get cheap thrills.

Since I’ve focused on this genre of photography I open myself to everyone. I capture not only women, but men. Male models want and need the same courtesy, privacy and respect as the ladies do so I am not just talking about the mean ol’ male pervert photographer and the young, innocent lady model. This goes both ways.

Now, some people, both men and women photographers, do not have the best intentions in mind and just want to see naked people.
Others, just want to create art. Yes, the nude body is a beautiful work of art and if photographed tastefully, respectfully is an art form.

I honestly did not plan on photographing boudoir, implied or full nude people. The clients and friends I would work with were very self expressive, artistic and creative. I’ve captured actors, musicians, burlesque and belly dancers, etc. The number one reason I was allowed to work with them was because I had their trust. I picked up a camera when I was in high school and then traveled everywhere with it. We’re talking about a period of over 25 years. Almost half of my life! No way am I going to throw away something I love for half of my life by abusing this trust.

After I grew tired of doing studio portraiture I needed a challenge.
My first experience was nerve-wracking, challenging, and to my surprise, a lot of fun. Not because of the nudity factor, but just creating with the model. There wasn’t a large team, a big budget client breathing down my neck, or hard to please clients wanting me to shoot something to their tastes and not mine. It was a liberating experience and made me fall in love with photography all over again. I wanted to get better at it, so I stuck with it. I love the shape of the human form, so I photograph it.

Some tips for the photographers out there;

Never touch your subject. Talk it through. If you aren’t clear, then use hand gestures. If all else fails, have someone they trust explain it or do it for them. Not you. Explain to them why they need to move. Communicate.

Your subjects, again, both male and female, need to trust you. Their mind is already overactive because of this situation of their exposure. Their confidence and trust are ready to be pulled back if they perceive something is not right and they are looking for it. Constantly. Don’t give them a reason to doubt you.

Without trust and security, you won’t get the images you want because your subject is not relaxed. Call it a day and walk away.

Integrity

The people I photograph are all beautiful people. Inside and out. Truly. Believe it or not, I have never been sexually attracted to any of my clients. Not a one. Again, they are beautiful people. The scenes we capture can be very alluring. Some even sexually charged. But there is no desire on my part. I save this for my personal life as should all photographers and talent. If either the photographers or talent are physically attracted, then please be careful. If you are honest with yourself, don’t do these types of shoots unless you’ve proven to yourself and them that you have flawless integrity and intentions.

Have respect enough for the person and gain their trust.

And before I finish I want to make mention to deliver your images to your client securely. Make sure you have a client proofing page on your website or on your cloud. Keep the link and password secure and only for them. They can share if they want to but not you. Ever.

See more:
Website | VSCO | EyeEm | Flickr | IG

Photo Exercises

In order to take advantage of the benefits of a good photo walk, try some of these visual exercises as well.

  • Walk around shooting anything and everything. Don’t discriminate, keep your mind open
  • Focus on color, monochrome, texture, composition
  • If you shoot primarily with your camera, try your phone’s camera instead. Vice versa. Change it up.
  • Look for different color combos, shapes, curves, leading lines
  • Process your photos with different styles. Over-saturate, add shadows.
  • Use your flash to drastically change the outcome.

Any or all of these exercises could help you flex your artistic muscles

Flexibility & Patience

At some point in every portrait photographer’s career there will be a
time when things just don’t work out according to the plan. Two
characteristics will be very beneficial in getting around these
situations; patience and flexibility. You also need to use what
resources you have so the session won’t go to waste.

When my original plan to capture a model on roller skates through the
park seemed like a good idea at the time, circumstances got in the way.

The golden hour should have been ideal but it was over an hour away.
The lighting was complicated and scattered. The backdrop was beautiful
in itself but was too distracting with the various trees, hills, rocks
etc. Also, the surfaces to skate on were bumpy at best. Lastly, the
model and her wardrobe was gorgeous but the backdrop did not compliment
it at all.

Two lessons learned here

  1. Have an alternate nearby location.
  2. Make the most of what you got.

Even if I am working on a photo session and it all goes wrong, it is
still worth making the most of the scene. You can walk away with
something for your efforts and the model’s time.  There were a few
portraits to be proud of and to be honest, they actually came from the
model’s suggestions on which area and poses we used. Again, remaining
flexible and adapting helped salvage this photo session.

How Much Is Beauty Worth?

Almost nothing as it turns out.

Here’s what I mean: it takes little effort to acquire beauty thereby the value of it decreases. You can push a button to make music from digital instruments. The internet gives us access to useful and useless information. Some of us pay hundreds of dollars for photo software when most of us pay little to free for apps on our phones to do the same thing. Why have expensive cameras and lenses at all when we have our phones?

We expect all of this to be free and on demand. We expect it to be free because it is easy to do and acquire. Anyone with a phone can now compete directly with professionals. Yes, the quality and style may be less but we’re trained to compromise quality for cheapness.

So who am I shooting for? You? Someone who wants my stuff and is willing to pay for it? Absolutely not. I shoot for myself because it is fun, therapeutic and I get to see new shit all the time. If someone else places a value on it, cool.

A Simpler iPad Photo Workflow

cd-com:

Following up on my previous post about editing photos with the iPad and VSCO workflow, I wanted to add some even more simple tools. The iPad and it’s Photos app have some very basic editing tools and help simplify your workflow.  

When I import my images to the iPad from the Lightning SD card adapter I like to think of it as a contact sheet just like we used to use for film and a darkroom. When I review the thumbnails of these images I can tell almost instantly which are kept or to be discarded. And speaking of importing, lately I have been shooting more jpeg file format as opposed to RAW. Again, simplicity. When these everyday photos are just for my use and storage, I want to minimize the file size. Faster importing and lighter on the storage. Now when I shoot for clients, I will almost always shoot in both jpeg and RAW for the sharpest, best results. Moving on.

Every photographer’s goal is to get the image right in camera. While that isn’t always possible, it is possible to have fun and play with the lighting and filter tools. 

Adjust the lighting, exposure, shadows, saturation, contrast and more. Just explore and experiment with what looks good to you. Not for anyone else. For you. This is your time to play.

There is no such thing as the perfect processing technique. When playing with the process, take a look at the offered filters.
For color filters, I lean more toward the “Dramatic” look. For black and white I prefer the “Noir” look. If these don’t do it for you, I’d suggest looking at the filters in the VSCO app.


Be sure to fine tune your image with a careful crop and rotation. These can help eliminate background clutter and even a different perspective.


Another handy dandy feature is the Favorite button. These help me sort the best from the rest. When you favorite an image it’ll go into it’s own folder. From there I can process my fave images.

When the images are finalized I will usually distribute them to various places online like my websites, Flickr, VSCO and EyeEm. But before I do that, I ensure I have access using all of my devices such as the iPhone, iPad and my laptop. Your experiences will vary but for me, I keep it simple. I use the iOS Files app, iCloud backup and Microsoft’s OneDrive. Because…Windows.  

To wrap this up, the iPad for me is quickly becoming my default device for photo production. I am constantly tweaking and refining my experience to simply my workflow. 

iPad + VSCO Workflow

cd-com:

The advancement in digital photographic technology has come a long way, baby. When I acquired my first digital camera 18 years ago the post processing was minimal and the software was expensive. More recently, I’ve converted from a Nikon and Compact Flash adapter to desktop drive to an SD card to laptop situation. Why? Simplicity.

I am simplifying and tweaking my workflow all the time because I want to do more shooting as opposed to editing. Get me back out there!

Lugging a laptop around with all my photography gear is not ideal or even necessary anymore. With the technology improvements of the iPad it is becoming my go-to workhorse to catalog and process my images. Other benefits? 

– [ ] Speed. The iPad can load and process faster than a laptop and Adobe Lightroom
– [ ] Cost. A good iPad is cheaper than a laptop

So how do you get your RAW/JPEG images from your camera to your iPad?  Well, you could use the camera’s WiFi transfer feature. Or wait for them to load into your cloud drive and download them. For me? I prefer the $29 SD card adapter from Apple. This is one of the best, cheapest investments I have made. 

When I insert my SD card into the adapter and then into the iPad, the Photos Import module appears. You can choose to import all or select individual images.

To help keep me organized I add these photos to a new album such as this example here, After Dark.

VSCO, The Visual Supply Company

I am a big fan of this software. They have grown from a photo filter software app to a full fledged photographic community that could and should replace Instagram. They have both free and paid subscription model that allows them to avoid ads in their software. I pay $20 a *year* for their products as opposed to $10 a *month* for the Adobe photography plan. I just saved $100. Follow me there if you’d like: https://vsco.co/photodenbow

Now that I’ve opened the VSCO app to import my selected photos I can choose the presets to set the tone I want for my images. VSCO presets emulate actual film effects from Kodak, Fuji, Iilford, etc. They even have creative, fun presets.

After I’ve chosen the effects I can tweak individual settings such as saturation, hues, white balance etc. From there I will save to my VSCO feed or journal as well as download to the iPad. After that, do what you will with your finished product.


There is no perfect workflow for me because I am constantly tweaking it to keep it simple. Who knows? Maybe next month it will change again.