The infamous “SNOW DAY!”
My wife Patty is a teacher and like her students she just loves a snow day. It’s relished because it is completely unplanned and spontaneous. Another teach who is a Facebook Friend has created a list of things that her young children do when they are hoping for a Snow Day. They have to wear their pajamas inside out for one. And this week she had them run in their front yard and yell “SNOWWWW DAYYYYY!” as loud as they could as the snow was falling from the sky. Patty said that she tells the kids to put ice cubes in the toilet.
It’s all in fun, but what do you get to do on a SNOW DAY?
In Patty’s case she recruited her husband and photographer to take some pictures of the beauty all around us (that would be me!). Tell me what you think of what God did here in SW Ohio and how I was able to capture it in images.
With a blizzard warning throughout the mid section of the country just after Christmas, first I want people to be careful driving. Whatever you do, being in a hurry is not as important as being alive. Take your time getting where you need to go and get there safely.
For others, people who love photography, for people who just got a camera for Christmas, you are going to want to go outside and take some great snow pictures. Here are some tips that will help you get great snow pictures.
1) Before taking your camera directly outside, you need to let it acclimate to the outside temperatures.
Why do you need to do this? If you walk outside with your warm camera into a very cold environment, moisture will condense on the camera and fog up the lens and the eye piece so that you cannot take pictures or even see what you are pointing at.
To acclimate to the outdoor temperatures, if you have a camera bag, just put the camera in the camera bad and take the camera bag outside. In about five minutes the camera should be cool enough to avoid the problem above. If it is really cold out, unzip the bag just a little to let the cool air in slowly.
If you do not have a camera bag, you can use a bag of some sort or perhaps wrap it in a towel. What you are trying to do is to keep the frigid cold from immediately contacting the warm camera and lens. You just have to slow down the process a little bit to keep from having problems. Once you are outside for about 5-10 minutes slowly bring your camera out into the cold. Since the change was less sudden, you should not have a fogged up camera and you should be able to start shooting.
2) I hate my snow pictures because they turned out all dark and muddy looking
With Facebook you will frequently see people sharing their snow pictures and you will see gray snow and people who you can hardly see because they are so underexposed. Why is this and what can I do about it? Here is a link to a post from 2010 about the same questions with a guide to taking better snow pictures. Taking Better Snow Pictures.
3) If your camera is new to you, you may just need to read the operators manual
As a professional photographer, I have read the operators manual many times. In addition I have tried out many features of my camera so that I have a working knowledge of all its features. If you have not read your manual yet, you may have to read about using Manual Mode or about Exposure Compensation. My favorite method of dealing with the problems associated with snow pictures is to use the Histogram to determine which Exposure Compensation is best in a given situation. If this paragraph is confusing you, perhaps you did not click on the link above. You’ll need to do it now: Taking Better Snow Pictures.
Now that you have read that, there should also be some additional links at the bottom of this post about the same subject with lots of sample photos. Click on any of those that capture your attention as well.
Jen Hellinga all day workshop sponsored by PPSO
I just finished up an all day workshop learning more about running an effective and popular portrait studio. Our workshop leader was Jen Hellinga (pronounced Hell-ing-gay with emphasis on last syllable). She also has the business JensFabulousStuff.com which sells templates and textures and many other tools for portrait photographers to use with Photoshop. This is the third PPSO all day workshop that I have participated in since joining PPSO as a professional photographer. Hands on training, in my estimation is 10-20 times more effective than the same time spend reading books or exploring online sources for information.
Jen has a very successful studio and does children, families, senior portraits and more. She shared with us about how she got started in photography and about going through several studio disasters before landing where she is now. She has a business partner that does the business side of the studio while she stays in the creative and photography side of the business. They both agree that if they wonder into the other person’s area or tried to run the business alone, they both would struggle, but together they do great.
It was really fun trying out some new posing and seeing Jen interact with the seniors as she might on one of her own senior sessions. We also spent some time indoors using studio lighting and discussing posing there as well. One of the models was a senior that I had photographed earlier. The other two were two of three triplets who had been photographed earlier for their senior session by another one of our photographers, Toni Forgue. I have to say everyone did great and they were all great fun to photograph.
Here are some of the portraits that I took during the workshop.
Senior picture ideas are many times about posing the person so they look great, rather than having dated props that will make the senior portrait seem dated within a year or two.
Senior picture boy posing is about strength and making the kid relax and enjoy the session.
For girl senior pictures, creating an “S” curve in the image is a great want to add motion and interest to the image.
Messing up a girl’s hair can add some pizzaz to the image for sure.
In this senior picture reflections and lines on the ground add interest. Again the “S” curve gives this image motion and emotion.
Spending more money on your training, and your equipment, and computers can mean much better images for your clients, but they also have to know that your prices have to generate a profit. Today, many people are satisfied with “it’s good enough” images of the people they love, but we have to show them portraits that are far better than “it’s good enough” so that they will be willing to invest in photographs that capture cherished moments for a lifetime.
Great examples of portrait photography posing and ideas
I’ve been having fun on Pinterest over the past month or so gathering examples of creative family poses, creative senior portrait poses and even creative equine portraits. On Pinterest when you re-pin something it always takes you back to the original pin and usually it shows you the originator of the actual image. If I pin something directly from another photographers web site, I always add the name of the photographer in the comments section under the photo. I think this is only professional courtesy as I do not want anyone to think that some of the images were taken by me.
At the same time, I have many of my own images represented on my pin boards. Images that are my own always have “© Peter DeMott, www.photosbypdemott” right on the image in a non-obtrusive way. If you are a photographer and you rely only on the meta data on your image your images could be doing a little more work for you. Place a logo and web address on your images when ever you place them on the internet period. It is only wise.
Creative family portrait poses:
Creative senior portrait and senior pic poses:
Here are some lovely equine and horse and rider poses for photographic portraits:
I hope that you will visit my Pinterest boards frequently as I add new portraits almost daily. Almost all of my boards are about portrait photography and better posing and learning about photography as well. Please leave a comment here if you enjoyed your visit to my pin site. Much appreciated.
Also, if you are in the area of the photographers that I have pinned as examples, please schedule a portrait session with them to take advantage of their talent to create lasting mementos of your family, your children, and your equine companions and pets. Have fun on Pinterest.
If you would like to see all the images that have been pinned to other people’s pin sites from my web site:
Peter DeMott Photography • Dayton area and SW Ohio • Portrait and equine photography • 937-478-6222 • Contact Peter DeMott
How to Christmas family portrait, the little things that most people don’t do that can improve your family portraits
Christmas gatherings are great times for group portraits
This year we had several families on my wife’s side gather at my wife’s sister’s house for a nice Christmas party. Of course I brought my camera and a few other things as well. Usually I don’t make it into too many pictures at these events, but this was a lot of people who had come a long way to be together so I figured I would be taking a group picture.
Prepare to take the portrait
Here are some things that I did in preparation for the image. First, I set up my camera on a tripod and pointed it toward the fire-place and chair that I thought would make the most pleasing arrangement. I took some images and determined that I could get away without using my flash (however, in retrospect I think that the flash would have helped and if I had been working on a professional basis, I would have devoted much more time to determining lighting).
MOVE THINGS and get rid of clutter
MOVE FURNITURE… There was a coffee table in front of a sofa facing the fireplace. Rather than have them show in the pictures, go ahead and move things around some to PRE-COMPOSE the shot without distracting elements like coffee tables in the image.
While checking composition of the background look around for other things that can be removed from the picture. In this case, there wasn’t anything else that needed to be moved out of the view of the camera. I took a couple of shots to test out the auto timer on the camera. There was the short one and the long one. The short one would not give me time to get into the picture in time, so I set it to the longer timer and that looked like it would work fine.
Start with the key people then gather others around
Now I started moving people into the frame. First grandpa who would be on the large chair, then is daughters and their families grouped somewhat together.
I made sure there was a pathway for me to get where I was going to stand then I explained to everyone that I would be taking 10 pictures. When shooting a group it is very common for someone to blink each time the camera fires. In this case, I had a very slow shutter speed of about 1/20th at f4 with an ISO of 1000. Again, I would certainly not use ISO 1000 on my current camera for professional portraits (there is a certain amount of digital noise at a higher ISO and this is an older camera / Canon 1D mark IIn). But, for a quick family portrait on a non-professional level, this was going to work fine. I explained to look toward the camera and that as the red light flashes quicker, the camera will fire. After about 4 shots, I checked the images and found that my son was making faces each time. After several people explained to him scornfully that this is something that everyone wanted to be nice, he relented and I took about 6 more shots of the group.
Don’t forget to have some fun
Now for some fun. “Okay, everyone do something cooky for this picture.” Here is what resulted. With family and even professionally, why not have some fun with the people you are photographing. Make is something to remember.
With a little further investigation on your part you can see that I was not quite able to move the coffee table out-of-the-way enough to completely remove it from the portrait. However, with a little Photoshop stamping I was able to use the open area of carpet to cover up the coffee table in the top final image.
What might I do to improve these images. I would have attached my camera flash and pointed it up into the gabled ceiling to my right. By bouncing the flash off of a wide area the light would have been soft and pleasing (Never use on camera flash directly pointed toward your subjects if you can find something that you can bounce it from). I would have moved the sofa and coffee table some more so that I would not have to do Photoshop work on the image.
Did you take any family portraits at Christmas time? Did you have some fun with it? I hope so.
It was exciting to hear three certified judges assign various images scores to prints presented on a large color corrected monitor. A score of 80 or above is a merit print.
As I said in my last post, I had entered 7 images into the competition. Last night two of those seven prints were judged to be merit prints. There were approximately 50 entries along with 5-6 album entries. Out the fifty or so prints it seemed like there were about 15 or so that achieved merit status. I did not keep tabs on the exact numbers of anything. Each print was scored then one or more of the judges would comment on what they liked and didn’t like about the print. If the judges scores were more than a few points different, then either the low scoring judge would challenge the higher scoring judge or the higher scoring judge would challenge the low scoring judge. They would discuss their differences and then re-score the print. Sometimes minds would be changed and other times the scores would stay the same.
Here is one of my entries that achieved merit status. It is framed in black in a horizontal format to fill the monitor screen during the judging. Suggestions to improve the score on this image (perhaps to a higher merit status) included completely removing the picnic table and cloning out every small stray hair on the subject. The title of the image was, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.”
I found that sitting through the judging of 50+ images was very instructive and challenging as I knew it would be. This is one of the many ways that PPSO (Professional Photographers of SW Ohio) encourages its members to become better photographers each day. If you are a photographer in SW Ohio (from Troy to Dayton, from Dayton to Cincinnati and throughout the region) I would encourage you to consider joining this group or a similar group in your area. The web site is currently being rebuilt (sorry for the mess) http://www.ppso.org You can also email me with questions if you like.
Last, if you are a photographer and you have entered your work into judged competition, was it a learning experience for you? Were you able to watch the judging? Please comment below (or click on the “leave comment” link near the title.
All you have to do is watch American Idol to understand what Jeff Smith is talking about in his blog post “Could be your photography sucks”. Each week you see people that are encouraged by their friends about their wonderful talent. Perhaps their parents (who are apparently tone deaf) think they have the ability to become a professional singer in a very competitive field. Then we get to see them and see that they are deceived by the complements of those who do not want to hurt their feelings or by parents afraid to consider reality.
Like Jeff, I believe that many people pick up a camera and think they can instantly become a professional. It happens so fast that in many cases they don’t know how bad they really are, but it can also be their business practices are really bad too.
Tonight I will get to see what two PPA certified judges think of 7 of my portraits. I am hoping that some will be graded to have “Merit”. However, I will hear everything they say about each image and I am sure their thoughts may cause me to regroup and try even harder in the future. This is one of the values of being in a professional organization like PPO and PPSO. These judges will hold nothing back. They do not know whose photographs they are judging and they will not care if their constructive criticism or perhaps low point score will hurt my feelings. Their goal is to be as objective of the qualities of merit images as possible. It’s not my mother or my wife or my friend saying, “Oh yes, I think it’s a pretty portrait.” I’m a big boy and I can handle it and I plan to grow from it no matter how scary it is going in.
I offer my clients a 100% refund if they are not happy with the results of a photography session with me. They can have a re-do session or I will even give their money back, whichever they prefer. So often I see new photographers with little confidence offering their services at very low prices because of their lack of confidence OR in order to assure that they not get criticized (If someone pays $4 for an 8×10 what are they expecting?). Very poor quality can be accepted when the prices are far below professional rates.
Far better that new photographers would work on the quality of their product until they can command professional rates BEFORE they start charging customers for work. Slow down a little and work on your product until it IS of professional quality, then keep on improving THAT each day as you go forward.
If you are not ready to have people who don’t know you judge your photography, perhaps you would do well to purchase some of Jeff Smith’s books and work on improving the quality of your work. I think I have three of his books and their should be a DVD in the mail right now. I consider photography to be a profession where you can always learn more and be challenged and grow.
Wish me luck. I will post any images to make the grade in the days to come.
I love to hear comments from photographers and clients. Just click on the Leave Comment link near the title or at the bottom of this post, there may be a leave comment box.
Good photography can “tell the story” of your business
If you have a business and want some free exposure Facebook can be a great tool to get yourself out their and connect with people. While you connect with your customers and future customers it is important to tell the story of your business. As people explore your PAGE, they want to see what your business is about. Photography can play an important roll in helping to present your business as friendly and interesting. Without good photography, your page can come across as boring or perhaps even dull.
I work with advertisers every day selling advertising in REACH magazine here in the Dayton market. So many times we have advertisers that say, “I have pictures to use in the ad”. Many times we find that the pictures they give us are incorrectly exposed, have a color cast, or are far away and out of focus. These are what I call “snap shots” and in most cases we suggest alternative stock images or arrange for a professional photographer to do some photography for their ad. What does a family sports bar do by showing dark, underexposed, poorly lit photos of some folks in their place say? On the other hand, what does a nicely lit, interesting, well composed image say?
Here are two photographs of a salon which have been used in their web site and print advertising
I work with home improvement companies and landscapers as well. Frequently they have bad photographs of projects they have done. I explain that if they had better photographs, they would be able to close more business. People would be better able to say, “Wow, that project looks great” if your share good quality imagery.
Appropriate model releases when using photographs of persons to promote your business
As a professional photographer, I also know about things like the importance to acquiring appropriate model releases from people you photography and use in commercial promotion of your business. I have the appropriate paperwork and am willing to get out there and ask when needed to protect your business from possible liability.
Contemporary, fun, and relaxed portraits of YOU can make a big difference in first impressions
I can provide you will relaxed, contemporary and fun portraits of YOU for your facebook profile and albums on your business page. Give people the opportunity to get a good first impression of you and your business by showing yourself in a good light. I frequently see people with profiles on Linked-In and Facebook and other business networking pages with either a scary or boring snapshot as their profile. Even worse is a profile on a business networking site with NO PROFILE PHOTOGRAPH AT ALL. Nothing is worse than having no profile image at all.
I was networking with Rainmakers (business networking group) here in the greater Dayton market and I mentioned to one person that her profile image “was not doing he any favors” in helping people to want to get to know her or learn about her business. It was a far away snapshot where you could not even recognize her. It left you wondering, “what is that all about?”. Finally I convinced her and some other Rainmakers to let me take their profile portraits. In this one case, the young lady said that people were complementing her about her new profile image for weeks. The first three are Rainmaker networking participants. The second three are Young Life staff members in the Ohio region.
To schedule a facebook mini session or business facebook page session to tell the story of my business, just email me or give me a call.
Everyone can take better horse and rider portraits
If you keep trying to get good portraits of your horse and are frustrated because they never turn out as good as you would like, or if you have a friend or family member that wants some portraits of them with their horse, these 5 tips can help you capture much better portraits. Even if you know little about horses, I explain why these tips are important for better horse and rider portraits. I hope that you will consider commenting at the end if you find these tips helpful and informative.
1.) LONGER LENS: If you want horse and human, horse and rider portraits you can be proud of, it is important to use long lenses and stand back a good distance from your subjects. Why is this? It’s because horses are large and long animals and there will be distortion of the conformation of the horse if you are close in with a short focal length lens. It is not a problem with the lens, but a problem of perspective. When you are close in with a short lens, you will see that the horse will have a BIG HEAD and tiny bottom. Have you seen those cute puppy portraits where the photographer uses a very wide lens to create these really cute puppy portraits with the eyes or the nose of the puppy REALLY BIG and the body is super tiny. That is exactly what I am talking about and I see it all the time. However, it does not look cute on a horse. A horse with a large front end and a tiny back end is deformed, bad breeding, terrible conformation.
So, you want to stand back 20-30-40 feet and use a lens not shorter than 150mm. Many pros use the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens and for portraits keep the lens at between 150 and 200mm. Longer is good as I know many pros that shoot certain breeds with 300mm lenses for the best look and conformation of the horse. I see so many horses for sale photographs that are taken with short lenses from 5-10 feet from the horse. Based on the look (really bad conformation, BIG HEAD and teeny tiny bottom), I have no idea how these horses would ever sell. If you want top dollar for your horse you need professional photographs that are taken by someone who understands the importance of good conformation for that breed.
2.) QUICK REFLEXES: When taking a portrait of a horse and rider, I explain to the person to relax and look at me. If they watch the horse to see when his ears are perked forward, then look toward me, it will be too late for me to get the shot. By the time they look at me the ears will be going in another direction and the moment is lost. To get ears perked forward and bright alert eyes I have someone behind or next to me do things that will get the attention of the horse. For a good portrait of the horse it is important that the horse look alert and interested with ears perked forward and eyes bright and open. If someone has sqeeky toy or a tupperware with some grain inside I explain that these will only work for a short time and not to do anything with them until I am fully ready. Then I give the signal. The horses ears perk forward, I click the shutter and capture the very quick moment. Inevitably the person in the portrait then looks up at the horse whose ears are already going every which way and thinks…oh, well that is not going to look good. But, they don’t realize that in that 1/1000 of one second I did in fact capture the ears of the horse perked forward (there are 1000 moments in one second if the shutter is set at 1/1000 of one second and 35/1000ths later when the person looks up at the ears can be a very long time after the image is already captured). Of course if you are shooting with a small point and shoot camera that has a delay when you click the shutter, this becomes exceedingly difficult to accomplish. By the time you push the button and the camera shutter finally clicks, the horse’s ears will be facing another direction – I guaranty it. – but keep trying and take lots and lots of pictures and you may get lucky.
3.) GROOMING AND TACK: This is really before the other two, but those are critical and this is esthetic. Of course you want to groom the horse and brush off dirt and grim, but if you bath the horse it is important to give time for the horse to become dry before the session. If you take pictures of a wet horse it will look like a wet horse. Next you want to have the nicest lead line you can find, not the bright orange rope lead that you like because it is easy to find in the grass, but if possible a leather lead or at least a rope lead that is a solid color (black, brown, white) so that it does not become a distraction from the image. Another nice alternative is a CLEAN leather bridle and reins. This can also help the person have more control of the horse during the session. Nothing detracts more from a great horse and rider portrait than a ratty lead.
4.) WATCH YOUR BACKGROUNDS: One thing that truly differentiates a snap shot from a professional looking horse and rider portrait is a clean uncluttered background. Sometimes this can be a tricky thing as when I visit a farm for a farm call portrait session sometimes there will be old rusty gates or perhaps semi repaired sections of fence around the barn yard. But, by taking some time and walking around I can find a better background opportunity. I look for foliage that creates a shaded darker background for the portrait. I want my subjects to be the most important part of the portrait and if you take your portrait with a bright background your eye is drawn to the brightest part of the image and drawn away from your subjects. Ideally we find a wooded area where I can shoot the subjects in open shade (in the brighter part of a shaded area) and have the background in the deep shade. In addition I like to use a large 52″ reflector with feathered light onto the horse and rider. This adds catch lights in their eyes and brings up their brightness by one or two stops again darkening the background and making them stand out better in the image. One more thing you can do to eliminate a distracting background is to use a wider f stop on your lens (lower number) like f 4, f 5.6 for example when using a long lens these will soften the focus of the background significantly.
5.) GOOD COLOR AND GOOD LIGHT: As I mentioned in #4, I frequently take portraits of horses and riders in open shade. But, if you want good portraits you need to have good color too. If you leave your camera on auto white balance, you may end up with portraits that seem very cool because shade picks up the color of the sky and is cooler in color than bright sun or you may pick up a color cast from the foliage or the red barn near by. To get good color, I use a color target from PHOTOVISION.com. These targets help me check exposure and provide a center stripe of perfect gray for color matching. I always take portraits in RAW so that I can use the dropper when processing the images to click on the perfect gray portion of the target which gives me great color for my images (not green-reflected from the foliage, not blue reflected from the sky, but nice pleasing warm images with accurate color) If you don’t have a tool of this type, then you will need to either take a custom white balance of the scene (read your camera manual about how to do this) or adjust to feel when processing the images (It is very important to have a color balanced monitor in this case and you may be tweaking for a long time to get a good accurate color).
So, there you go. Now go out and take better equine and rider portraits. Don’t forget that fall is a great time to hire a professional equine photographer for portraits of you and your equine companion. I am available evenings and weekends for farm calls in SW Ohio including Dayton area, Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, and even as far as Columbus and Indianapolis. You can call me at 937-478-6222 or email me using the CONTACT page on this web site. To find an equine photographer in other areas of the country go to the Equine Photographers Network and look at the portfolios of photographers there (If you will go to my home page, you can click on the equine photographers network logo at the bottom of the page to take you there)
If you have some tips you would like to add to this post, please feel free to add them with your comments. If you appreciate having this type of post and found it helpful, please comment about that as well. Near to title at the top of the page is a link “Leave Comment or Comments”.
On Saturday my wife and I went to Marshallville, Ohio to visit with her brother Mike and Sister-in-law Kathy. It was Kathy’s birthday and at the same time the Marshallville “history days” or some such celibration. Patty’s dad was there, her sister Pam, and Kathy’s parents were there too. There was a hot-rod show and I caught the last tractor pull of the afternoon. It was a good day.
The portraits below started with my asking to take a portrait of Mike and Kathy, then we decided to take a portrait of the girls, then the brothers and sisters, then the family. Then Kathy asked if I would take few pictures of her mom and dad too. Kathy’s mom and dad are very old and her mom is starting to have memory issues.
Patty’s dad had fought through cancer last year (he was at death’s door) at the same time in the same hospital her mom was critically ill.
I’m telling you all this just to encourage you to pull out your camera and volunteer to take some portraits when you are with your family and friends. Tomorrow the entire situation could be completely different. And it is not always the oldest person who we loose. These portraits took a few minutes, not like the hour or so I normally spend with my photography clients, but they too will last a lifetime and have great meaning for those who choose to keep them.
Don’t forget to have the portraits printed out. Computers change. Hard drives crash. Technology changes quickly and computer media becomes corrupted or out of date as well.
PORTRAIT TIPS: Use a wider f stop to make the background more blurry (f 2.8, f4, f5.6). Shoot with a longer lens (at least 85mm) for more pleasing portraits of people. Shoot in open shade, not in the bright sun. The light will be much more even and pictures will be much nicer without having people squint and without having dark shadows in their eye sockets. Try to have your subjects brighter than the background (keep the background in the shade too). Last of all I always say, ” Now touch each other, it will make people think you like each other!” This always brings some natural smiles AND the portraits seem so much more intimate when the subject are touching.
Here are just a couple of the portraits I offered to make for a few minutes during the day we spent with Kathy and Mike to celebrate her birthday. This is Mike & Kathy.
This is Patty’s family. Left is her older sister Pam, then dad, then Patty and her brother Mike on the far right.
I took some candids of other things from the day, but I also put my camera in the trunk of my car (nearby) to socialize with everyone.