Photo tidbits from my perspective.....
So to make my life just a little easier, I'm doing some q&a here. Though I have to preface it with anytime I get a photography question I'm super humbled and (yes, I'll admit it) embarrassed. I have very little formal training.
I've had a lot of help along the way- I have had the most amazing mentor, Amy Finney Photography, whom has taught me most everything I know. Studio T has shared some great lighting hints with me. And Paul is just an all around nice guy with some great skill.
So. Some questions I've gotten in my inbox lately:
What's in your camera bag?/What do you recommend?
Well first, can I just say I love my favorite camera bag- Kelly Moore! :) I have the mustard messenger and the grey hobo. Love them and definitely recommend them!
For moms wanting great shots of their kids (and any beginner), I recommend anything from the Canon Rebel series. I have several friends with them and no complaints. (As a side note- after Christmas this year I had several people with new cameras wanting a lesson. I'm working on setting that up- email me if you are interested!)
For advanced beginners, I recommend the Canon T1i (now the T2i). I have it and love it. I keep it in my bag and use it everyday (though not for paid sessions). I love how it works with all of my lenses. It's a really great body!
For my paid sessions, I shoot with my Canon 5d markii.
Two of my favorite lenses are the 50mm 1.4 and the 24-70mm 2.8. I have a few others that I occasionally use but I should probably just sell them. (Let me know if you're interested in them!) (Updated: I also have a canon 70-200 2.8is that I've been using some.)
I've tried out some Nikon bodies/lenses and liked them too. I just stuck with Canon because it's what I've always had.
What do you use for backdrops? Anything! Paper, fabric, blankets, walls, etc, etc. Anything that I can find that will completely surround the subject(s).
Where do you get your props? Anywhere! I'm always keeping my eyes open. But my most frequented 'shop' for props is my mom's house. She has all sorts of fun stuff tucked away. My uncle is great at rescuing junk from the trash. I love junk stores. Goodwill and Salvation Army are good, too. (If you are from Southern Iowa, check out my sister's mother-in-laws junk store: http://www.whiddledottles.com/ She's great about putting out PSAs when I'm looking for a specific piece!) My limit on most props is $10. Furniture is $15. (It takes some creativity.... and
sometimes almost always paint.)
What is your lighting situation? I try to use natural light when possible. I prefer shooting in the shade and my favorite shooting grounds are my favorites because of the shade they provide. When I must, I have a Canon speedlite 580ex II with a diffuser that rarely comes off. I rarely use the flash. Inside, I use soft boxes. Unless I'm shooting speedy children, my goal for a shutter speed is 1/60; I love the soft look it provides. I have a tripod but I rarely use it. Maybe I'll start dragging it around too. (Though I am left eye dominant and have been known to use my 'built in tripod.') When I'm out and about with my T1i (with a pop up flash) in my purse, I always turn that pop up flash off. If you cant get a shot without the pop up flash, it's probably best to wait.
What settings do you recommend?
This is almost impossible to answer because it changes with every shot. Though I will say, when I started doing paid sessions, I felt obligated to shoot EVERYTHING in manual. It was great practice for me and gave me a real respect for manual mode and what my camera can really do, but after hanging out with some awesome pros, I learned not everything needs to be done in manual. When shooting (fast) kids, I often use aperture priority and keep an eye on the shutter speed (I want it at least 1/100 when shooting kids on the move). I always want my focal point on the eyes. This gives the bright eyes without the fake photoshopped eye look. (See more below.)
Tell me about the collages. -I make them in photoshop. I make them as wide as my blog layout and 300ppi. If you want to print them, make them as big as you want to print at 300ppi.
What is your PS workflow? I typically slight sharpen, slight lighten, slight brighten, slight gaussian. I love vintage but always save the full-color version. That's not really full of information but one of these days I do a mini-tutorial on it.
I'm including a before and after shot. The straight out of camera shot (sooc) wasn't great. We did the session at 3:30 pm (a time of day I don't typically shoot at) so the lighting took me ahile to get used to. My shutter speed was probably too slow for an almost 2 year old. The almost two year old also had just face planted in the gravel the week before and had a few leftover war wounds.
When I upload into photoshop (I do not batch edit), the first thing I do is any band aiding/clone stamping that needs to be done. I fix any blemishes the client has asked to have fixed (be careful with that one- you don't want to erase a mole or a scar that makes the photo not look like them!) and fix any fly aways that might be there. While you are fixing this up, you could run pro-retouch on their skin if needed (I only recently got pro-retouch, the amount of time it saves me is ridiculous. I used to use protraiture, but messed up my settings on it. I need to fix it so I'm not wasting the money that I spent on it! I especially liked using it for newborn photos).
Next, I sharpen (almost every photo) and brighten if it needs it.
I try to always have my focus point locked in on the eyes. I like them to be the sharpest point in the photo. For really dark eyes, I run the eye bump. For light eyes, I generally don't. With the focus point being on the eyes already, they're usually bright and sharp enough.
I lighten/darken the photo as needed. Generally, it's good to lighten just a bit under the eyes. I always run the brush at 100% then change the fill to about 20%.
Finally, on my full color edits, I like to run gaussian blur. Especially if I had to use a faster shutter speed (because it was so bright or because the subject was so fast). I like this feature on portraits because it softens the features. I don't like it as much with the vintage or black/white edits. But I do try to achieve the softened look with a slow shutter speed (I always shoot for 1/60 but that doesn't always work!).
Hope this helps a little. I honestly just play with the fill and opacity features until I like the way the photo looks. Even though I have this 'usual recipe' saved as an action, I still go in and individually set each one once I've ran the action. Happy editing!
(Updated again: My PS workflow has changed again. It's such an expansive program. I honestly don't think I'll ever learn all there is to learn in PS but I've learned a lot since this update and my workflow has completely changed. Set up a time to come work with me if you want more help on it!)
Do you allow second shooters? -Yes. Maybe. If you really think it might be valuable to you. And if it's okay with my client. Though I'm not sure you'll learn anything from me!
(Updated: I've had a lot of requests for this. I've tried to keep up and really cant anymore. As my life/work schedule is drastically changing, we've decided it would be best for our family if I only take on a limited number of these. To keep the numbers down, I'm now offering a 'tag along' session at a regular session fee. You pay the session fee to tag along for the session and hang out afterwards for photoshop work and q&a. Your session fee will go towards a purchase of a print package for the client whose session you followed along on and for the extra time involved. If you are a current and returning client, I will offer this to you at a discount. Thanks for understanding!)
If this was at all helpful to you would you do me a favor and leave some comment love? If it's helpful, I'll add to it. If not, well, I'll take it down to save the embarrassment of someone that actually knows about this stuff reading it. ;)