Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Photo Books for Weddings and Other Occasions

A trend I'm seeing lately are clients wanting us to publish Photo Books instead of traditional matted Wedding Albums.  

Everyone is offering Photo Books these days - but make no mistake - you get what you pay for.  Still, they can offer a substantial savings cost compared to the Wedding Album - especially considering that some of these albums can carry a wholesale cost of $500 and beyond just for the materials - and that doesn't even begin to cover the cost of any editing, creation, design, graphics, or photos.  On a $1,000-$1,200 budget for entry level wedding photography, that's not going to cut it - the "fancy album" would eat 70% of the budget - and nobody wants to do the kind of work a wedding photography gig takes, for free.

Chances are if you've seen a teaser ad for a cheap photo book, it's from a company that does a whole lot of consumer level mass production.  In the end - the finished product will be the equivalent of going to Sam's Club or Costco to get prints done.  The prints might be in the general shape of the picture you took - but pale in comparison to the top notch quality a professional lab produces!  The lab print not only will be more clear and color accurate, but will last years longer too.  Books are no different.  Quality is everything - and for a truly custom photo book, be prepared to pay for not only a superior hardcover work - but also for specially designed graphics and the skills of an experienced layout designer as well.

Enough of that - let's take a look at one example I've posted on my website -

The lab I used to produce this piece did a lovely job.  I probably spent a sum total of two whole days putting it together trying to get everything just right.  Whoa - that doesn't sound right?  Well, if you don't count design time for backgrounds, maybe about 6 hours total over two days.   Here's what this involved.

Books come in unnatural sizes - many are square - this one is 11x8.5 - and while that's great for your printer - it's not so good for the images a 2:3 crop or full frame DSLR sensor produces.  In some cases the images we wanted to use had to be cropped - or in the case of this cover photo - needed to be extended to fit....not just resized but reconstructed to add content where it was needed using advanced post processing techniques.   Of course I didn't have to do this - I only did it because that's the exact image we wanted - and I'm a perfectionist.

I also designed custom graphics backgrounds to use throughout the book - lots of them so it wasn't repetitive or cheesy looking.  Using cookie cutter backgrounds, stock layouts or plain color, is not only lazy, but just anther way to make a photo book look terrible.  I wanted to do it right - and completely custom from the ground up so it would be truly something unique and treasured.  

In the case of this photo book I didn't want to use any text at all other than our studio logo.  This is really up to the tastes of the client, but I find that catchy sayings and text in general, may actually take something away from the image viewing experience.

Doing the layout is also something else that requires some real vision along with skills and talent - in the design state it's really difficult to picture how the end product will look.  I have an extensive background working in graphics, publishing and advertising so was able to freely draw on those skills in "seeing" conceptual things like facing pages and syncing the background graphics with the images on the page as well.  It's not anywhere near just dragging and dropping a bunch of pictures into a template - at least if you want a custom, professional looking product in the end.

For a full gallery of images of the book and how it was put together - visit the link below!

Now for the bottom line - cost.  The wholesale price of just printing this single book was $70+ shipping!  That doesn't include developing and creating my original artwork/graphics, design time, materials/tools or labor.  If I were to charge someone $150 for it - they might think it was outrageous... but in this scenario, I would only be making roughly $13/hour with absolutely no compensation for overhead.  That's not much better pay than working at McDonalds.  

Moral of the story - there's much more than meets the eye to a photographer's job - so never underestimate the work and time dedicated towards delivering a professional product.

Friday, November 4, 2011

How To Choose A Wedding Photographer

How To Choose A Wedding Photographer  
As seen on the Wedding Blog

It doesn’t matter if you’re in Charleston - Huntington, WV or California - no matter where you go there are good photographers available for your wedding day!  Ultimately, choosing one is all a matter of personal taste and your budget, though this guide is intended to help you find the best qualified match for someone who can shoot your event and create high quality pictures that will stand the test of time.  

Anyone can take photos in this day of cheap automatic digital cameras, but it takes a true artist to create timeless classic images that are enduring and captivating.  Producing these kinds of images isn’t just pressing a button - it is a craft that requires not only technical skills, but is as intricate as any other art form.  The photographic artist puts concepts, materials and development together to create something unique and expressive.  This is the difference between a professional photographer and the inexperienced.

Things to look for
When viewing the photographer’s portfolio in person or online, there are some basic fundamentals to look for in their photography.  So you can be familiar with what to look for, the following are some of the general points to consider.

Composition -  
One of the considerable things that makes the difference in quality is the “photographer’s eye”.  Professionals can see a vision of what to capture, and are able to create what they see - and fit it perfectly within the frame.   The inexperienced will just try to fit everything/everyone all in one shot or do all kinds of random stuff in hope that quantity overshadows quality.  Beware someone who claims they only shoot “photojournalist” style - what it may actually mean is that they don’t know how to compose images and may likely shoot like a machine gun and have all kinds of different odd angles and zoom because they can’t envision how to compose an actual cohesive image!  The photojournalist style is OK in limited quantities - but doesn't take a lot of talent or creativity.  Also keep in mind this "style" is a passing trend so it will be very dated in just a few years.  A pro photographer can compose an image and frame it perfectly to tell a story.  
Example 1a
A “photojournalist” style at that identical moment in time would not see or capture it the same way at all and might look quite awkward.

Example 1b

Exposure -  
There’s a fine line between getting a good amount of light onto a subject and overexposing or underexposing them.  A white wedding dress that is so overexposed it looks like a blank sheet of white paper (example 1b) is poorly done - this image also fails by underexposing dark areas at the same time where detail is completely lost.  The professionals know how to balance the exposures for both the light and the dark to make them work together harmoniously (example 1a) showing both fine details and subtle undertones.
Color -  
There are many technical tools available to serious professionals to ensure color accuracy for their images both in print and digital form.  I always use a fair amount of resources to keep things “tuned up”, however there are a large number of people who do not even know about it, care, or bother.  Typically online especially, you’ll see pics that are unnatural looking - way over saturated, too red, yellow or other kinds of variations far beyond the human skin tone.  Ultimately, images of people should look natural unless the goal is a special effect (to be used very sparingly).  Hold your hand up next to that over saturated skin tone you’ve spotted online.  Imagine what it would be like if your skin really WAS that color!  Now ask yourself - Is that how I want to look in my wedding album?  Of course the easy fix for bad color by novices, is to make it sepia tone, or black and white - like (example 1b)!  (The average computer at home may not be set up for color accuracy when surfing websites, so keep this in mind as well.)
Focus -  
There are techniques and tools that pros know and use to ensure crisp and clean images for their clients every time, so it won’t be very often that they miss a shot.  The inexperienced aren’t so skilled and can often be the inverse of this - only catching a few shots that are actually in focus.  

Despite the technology of “auto-focus”, it also requires a great amount of skill to be able to frame, focus, and steady a shot, not move, and keep on going quickly to the next.  At weddings the pros will be moving REALLY fast!  To check for focus and clarity online, try to zoom into the faces of people and see if they hold up upon closer examination.  In person, looking at prints, it's handy to have a "Loupe" so you can see if the details are sharp.
A Loupe
Cheap photo labs can also diminish the clearness of photographs with inferior materials, sloppy work and "mass produced" handling.  

Prints -
One thing inexperienced people do is send prints out to get done by discount merchants or warehouse stores to save time and/or money.  A professional will always be very picky about using a high grade professional lab, as the end result is a reflection on their competency and their business.  The disparity in quality between the two is absolutely astounding.  I like to show my clients one printed image from my preferred lab, and one from Sam's Club - just to tell the story for itself.  It makes a difference!  Since I live and shoot in West Virginia and the Ohio Valley area, I choose to use an out of state lab to do all my client's prints - it delivers the quality I expect and ensures they are getting something that's going to hold up over time.  Make sure you plan your wedding album images with someone who really knows about this stuff.  Getting cheap on the bride and groom’s prints is kind of like putting $49 tires on a Lamborghini.  

Pro Gear -
You may hear in some places that a "good" photographer can create a fantastic image with even just a disposable camera.  While that may be true to a limited extent, pros don't carry big heavy expensive cameras and lenses for the extra calisthenics - good gear makes all the difference in the world!  Watch out for “wannabe” photographers that typically have a cheap DSLR from the BigBox store and use the "kit" lens that came with it.  This type of equipment is marginal at best and only exacerbates their lack of skills.  Granted, all the expensive camera equipment in the world can't make a bad photographer a good one - but in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing, high end lenses can skyrocket the quality level from acceptable, to stunning!  Camera resolution matters too - especially if the couple or parents want an oversized enlargement.  

Post Processing -  
In high end digital photography, an expert skill level in the digital darkroom is mandatory to put out a full wedding’s worth of images.  The images from a pro are probably pretty nice to begin with, but the difference between nice and WOW is all done in Post Production.  Here, the artist treats each image by hand individually to bring it the “magic” and add their own style and creativity.  Having done high end beauty retouching, fashion and commercial work I can personally testify that sometimes even just a single image can take days to finish!  Of course if you have a wedding shoot of 1000 or more images to go through, the photographer won’t spend that kind of time - but if they know their stuff they can do brilliant finish work - be patient though - it does take time for greatness!  The other side of the coin on post processing that isn’t so good is - everybody is doing it!  Your Aunt Mildred can do something very fancy to her cell phone pics with any one of 1000 different photo special effects apps too - so why not hire her to shoot your wedding?   Canned effects like the fake sun in (example 1b) or other things to look new, fun, crazy, different, unique etc. - this is what a lot of the “photojournalistic” wedding photographers do - the only thing is - they forgot the photography in there somewhere.   Watch out for it.  If all they can show you are shots with goofy angles and effects - don’t walk - RUN away.

Selling “All Sizzle And No Steak” -  
So - A great image doesn’t need special effects.  But if you are shopping online for a wedding photographer, sometimes you will find you’re not just being sold on heavy handed/tasteless post processing, but also poor composition, bad exposures, unnatural color and marginal focus, cheap prints all put together in some grunge filled, over saturated “eye candy” gallery probably on a website you ran across searching for the perfect photographer for your special day.  A lot of them use cheap “flashy” website templates that are slow and clunky and sometimes even pop up/out to hog your entire screen using “Adobe Flash”, (which can bring your computer to a grinding halt).  Not to say that they are automatically bad photographers, but it’s poor manners and bad business to put your clients through an experience like that.  Its also tasteless and makes one wonder if that's the kind of photos they would do for the bride and groom too?  If they were considerate, they would value the viewer’s experience more.  It’s just not professional, in this professional’s opinion.  Rather than going all out for every bell and whistle one can dump onto a website, why not present something clean, clear and easily viewed?  

Price Structures
There is a real wedding photography school out there, actually being TAUGHT in seminars across the country, that tells photographers to charge MORE and compete LESS.  True!   I just shook my head when I heard about that.  What nonsense.  In my local business around the Kanawha Valley in WV,  I feel like I can provide photography services to just about anyone, and can work within just about any budget if it’s reasonable.  Yes, I can do a full tilt wedding engagement family extravaganza with full bound leather albums for each family ranging from $4000 and up - but we can also work with someone who might only have $500.  They won’t get the same level of time, products and services that the “royal wedding” gets, but they will get the same quality images (in digital with limited prints).  What to be very careful of are the “A La Carte” photographers who have itemized prices for everything under the sun - so you end up paying much more than you were expecting for the so-called "extras".  What to look for -  a set package of things to be delivered from your wedding photographer.  Prints, albums, and beyond.  Just make sure you can get it clearly in writing before signing any kind of contract.  Final word on prices - just because they charge 3x as much as someone else doesn’t always mean they are 3x better.  Sometimes it’s just smoke and mirrors.  

The one line advice from this all?  Go with someone who can get clean natural looking images and is sincere about doing exceptional work and not just "selling" you something.  You will thank yourself with each and every anniversary you have, while turning the pages of your exquisite, timeless wedding album!

Karen Engel
Owner, Karen Engel Photography

Karen Engel is a professional family and wedding photographer in the Charleston - Huntington WV area, with additional expertise in commercial, fashion and modeling.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Steve Jobs' posthumous victory

For the average person this may not mean a lot - but it will make your life better, trust me!  :-)

This is great news for the future - Flash has been choking the web for years and looks like it's on the way out finally.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion DOES Ship With X11

And I’ve got the eyes to prove it. There seems to be some concern online that Mac OSX Lion ‘ships’ (can we even say that any more?) without X11. I did some searching online and found this tip!
Open a Terminal window, type ‘xeyes’ at the prompt and you’ll see X11 staring right back at you, and the "eyes" will roll as you move your cursor.  This confirms you have it. 

It is an option in the installer - so if it does not appear you may have to go back and look inside the installer package to find and install it... 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Adding a Blogger page to a Zenfolio website

This is some work around code one can use to embed the blog into a Custom Page in Zenfolio. It is an iframe and where it says yourblogURL, please insert your URL. 
You can adjust the widths and heights to suit yourself.

iFrame Code for Zenfolio page

What this does, is puts that page, inside of an "iFrame" (has nothing to do with iAnything else) - basically it's a FRAME - meaning you're putting an entire external website inside of a smaller area on your own page.  This can lead to some unexpected problems however.   Read on!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Migrating a Mac Mini Snow Leopard to a Lion Mac Mini

One thing the photography business does is force you to stay in touch technology.  Today's challenge was to replace a 2009 Mac Mini with the 2011 model running the Lion operating system.  This is quite different largely because in Lion they have decided to partition the startup disk into two pieces - One hidden partition for the base operating system - and another partition for all your other stuff (user accounts etc.).

I had the new 2011 Mac Mini sitting in my office for the past month, being too busy to get back to it as I had a few local photo shoots to do in Charleston, Scott Depot and over in Huntington WV.   When I first got it - I ran the Apple Migration Assistant - which imported all the old computer's accounts, settings and data into the new one.  Problem was, that since then, I kept using the old 2009 Mini - adding more data onto it.  So the new one was no longer a complete copy.  So you guessed it - I had to do it all over again!  But HOW?  Migration Assistant is a one time - one shot deal and you cannot choose individual bits to migrate over - it's all or nothing!  Plus I could never possibly remember everything I added over the last month anyway - so - I had to reformat the Lion based 2011 Mac Mini and start over from scratch.

Qwikster? - You've got to be kidding!

Netflix has just released a "statement" about further dividing/separating their mail DVD business from the online streaming.
Having used both DVDs+Streaming for many years, I was one of the ones that was OK with the 50% price increase they recently implemented (considering the price of postage and amount of use one can access) - although they did have a massive amount of negative feedback and mass exit from their membership/user base.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Unique event photography for weddings or golf

Some of the greens were under repair today at Berry Hills Country Club in South Charleston today.  Just in front of the ones getting worked on - they had these "temporary" greens areas with giant holes.  It was hysterical :-)

When I'm not shooting weddings or engagement and family photos on the weekend - of course I'm out golfing and shooting low scores (hopefully).  It's a great way to meet a lot of great new ladies, have a lot of fun and enjoy the many events we get to attend throughout the year.  Berry Hills also has a reciprocal arrangement with Edgewood Country Club for play and use of each other's facilities - so it's double the fun!  It's not unusual to see a wedding or party at one of these fantastic, popular venues!

In just a matter of a few months here in WV, I've met over 100 women through my involvement in the golf community from places all over West Virginia - locally where we live in Teays Valley - (right in between Charleston and Huntington) - to Parkersburg, Morgantown, Wheeling, Weirton, Beckley, Fairmont, Martinsburg, Clarksburg, Vienna, Bluefield and beyond!

So many places to shoot - golf - weddings - events - and portraits!

Friday, September 16, 2011 discount coupon code: ESB-HVJ-QZR

The title says it all - but it's worth saying again -
Save on accounts!
Referral Code:  ESB-HVJ-QZR

Having been with them for many years now, I'm a big fan of Zenfolio, although it has limitations, I find it's intuitiveness a key factor in being able to maintain a library of now almost 14,000 images online!  The only thing better they could do would be to replace their Flash slideshow builder with HTML5.  But the features have kept on coming out year after year - so we're sure to see some great additions in the future!

If you've been thinking about doing a gallery website check them out - there's a free trial available. 

And this referral thing - yeah - it saves you some money too.  How sweet is THAT?  :-)

Karen Engel Photography Website Redesign

Welcome back Blog Readers!

Having moved to Charleston - Huntington WV earlier this year sure was a lot of work and a distraction from wedding and portrait photography to be sure! We did get some last photo shoots in before leaving to West Virginia and the Kanawha Valley area... it's really the entire Ohio Valley as we are also very near Eastern Kentucky and the Ohio borders too!

While we are still looking for a place to set up the studio, new efforts have begun to relaunch the weddings and portraits this fall and into next year.  High school seniors will be wanting those unique portraiture sessions again too!

As part of this we've just completed a major streamlining/overhaul of our main website (including new music) - gearing up for a busy 2012 of photography for weddings, portraits, events and also some original creative and artistic projects as well!

Hard to believe there were over 14,000 images to navigate through on the old version - This undertaking was the photographers equivalent of cleaning out your garage, closets, basement and attic - all at the same time!

In the end though - less chaos = a more focused impact.  Let us know what you think of our redesign!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Amazing Golden Guard Dog!

Amazing Golden Guard Dog!
This isn't one of those stories you hear on the news every day about a Golden Retriever dragging a baby off of the railroad tracks seconds before being struck by an oncoming bullet train, LOL. But a "hero" story none the less.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Social Network and Website Juggling Act

Project waiting in the wings - if I ever get a break between shoots here in Bakersfield, and working on my main website and photoshop skills (ha ha) - Figure out how to synchronize my Facebook - Blogger - My Space blogs so I don't have to bounce back and forth between them all the time! There is syncing working now with Twitter to both My Space and Facebook, but sometimes I need more text than just a line or two!

It works but sometimes the updates are slow.

Then of course I have all my other sites to maintain as well - Model Mayhem, Flickr, Zenfolio (with my other domain name - - which if you haven't checked out, is a great image hosting site which I still use for my client proofing since it has a super fast and easy "drag and drop" Mac style interface. They have free trial accounts but also several levels of higher services you can subscribe to - 

Save some cash on new paid accounts with this - Zenfolio Referral Code: ESB-HVJ-QZR

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Completely Superfluous Q & A

Q: Do you like to talk about yourself or your pictures? If yes, about what aspects of photography? If no, why?

A: I don't have a massive ego so I prefer to talk about my images rather than myself.  Generally, there is a really interesting story behind every image I create - and every person I shoot.  It's a lot of fun and very entertaining to share these things.

Q: How do you describe your photographic style in one word?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Links - plus, meet Cecilie Harris

I can't believe I did it - added a MySpace.....what's next?  Facebook?   Uh oh.  And just a day later I added the Facebook page as well, although their system is very strange to deal with if you are not creating a personal page... in fact, one is forced into creating a personal page even if they don't want one!  ha ha

I did have a moment of serendipity in the whole experience however, in meeting a brilliant photographer from the UK named Cecilie Harris -  I ran across her by chance while researching "how to" put a photography Facebook site together.  Do take a look at her work... it's quite nice and she keeps a very engaging blog as well.  OK Cecilie - how did I do?  Is that enough links for you?  :-)  If you ever make it out to California, you have a standing invitation to visit if you like.

Now the only thing about all these social networks and photo sites is running all over the web trying to keep all these places current...I should be out shooting instead!  LOL

Speaking of social networking sites, rumors from high sources indicate that Microsoft is going to buy You Tube, MySpace, Twitter and Facebook and combine them all into one new Microsoft branded social networking site called "You-My-Twit-Face".

You heard it here first.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Karen's Top 10 Quick Tips for Models

1. Be punctual - and be in touch – make sure to let us know if you're running late.  We need all your contact info too - cell, email etc. so communication is good between us at all times.  The ability to make, and keep appointments is one of the big differences between those who succeed in modeling, and those that don't.

2. Bring more than one outfit/look – suggested minimum is three.  Let us know what style you're going for in advance if you can as we may adjust locations, studio sets and lighting accordingly.

3. Accessories/props – coat, hat, scarf, gloves, purse, umbrella, fan, vest, boa, travel case, costume jewelry - any other curiosities you might like - Bring along props that either match your outfit or can tell a story!  They make a photo more believable and interesting - and also can give you something else to do with your hands.

4. Make sure your outfits are clean and wrinkle free – shoes should be in good condition.  The "out on the town" or "classic style" looks are always good - but don't be afraid to bring something crazy, fun, sexy, wild or strange too...

5. If wearing sleeveless tops/outfits – shave your pits (ha ha) and use a clear deodorant.  Being overly tanned, or showing dark tan lines is not a good thing so keep this in mind as well.

6. Bring a hair brush, comb, curling iron etc. - what ever you need to style and shape your hair.  Also bring clips, scrunchies or anything else you have to change your hair stye quickly on the spot so we can get various looks.

7. Cosmetics - powder for your nose (to keep the shine off), and any other makeup needed to maintain or alter your look during the course of the shoot - also moisturizers for the skin, and lips and any other items you may have to add that "sparkle".

8. Nails should be done evenly in a complimentary or neutral color (or left natural) - eyebrows should be shaped and clean of strays.

9. Skin blemishes happen even with the best skin care regimen, do not irritate them.  If you have any skin marks or scars that you would like removed in the retouching process, this should be discussed, though typically we will do these things as a matter of course on female models.  Tattoos and piercings will remain unless specifically asked for removal.

10. Drink plenty of water, have a good night's sleep beforehand and eat healthy so  your skin will look good and there are no bloodshot eyes!

Also don't forget – Let's Have Fun!  

Tale of a new lens & last minute Kristin!

A brand New Carl Zeiss 24-70 f2.8 had just been added to the lineup...
See sample results in Kristin's Portrait Gallery - (our first shoot with this lens).

Just thrilled and mortified with the expense of such an item is a strange combination - very Yin Yang, but we were looking forward to it nonetheless.  Lens in hand and ready.

Then out of the blue came Kristin!  She came over after briefly participating and bailing out on a big group shoot over at the local Bakersfield park - just 5 minutes away from us.  How perfect!

We exchanged a few calls and accelerated the timing a bit which was fine by me as it was a day of mostly finishing work for me and I needed to take a rest from it regardless.  She arrived with a full bag of model goodies, wardrobe and accessories - COOL, and very pro, plus, a model that had her makeup on and ready to go - perfectly!  (Advice to the modeling interested - hire a makeup artist or learn how to do it for yourself - and makeup for camera is not what you wear to the grocery store!!!)
We got right into it quickly and knocked out some great images in no time flat!  She has an amazing and inspiring back story which I will not go into here, but suffice to say, I was thrilled to do this shoot and create the results for her we did!  Mega Kudos.  A job well done!

Great model - yes I would shoot with her again, no question.

FRAMED by this blog!

The blog on our site - - uses a type of web design technology called "Frames" - which is designed to keep the internal navigation links (above) active, and have the reader remain on our site -  even when loading an external page via some links within the blog.

Some pages may go to external sites, while others may not due to how they are set up on the other end.  If a page you would like to thoroughly visit does not go to an external site - you can always jump to it by using this link -  External Link to this blog - on  - Also seen in the upper right hand corner, listed under My Other Sites.


As much as I like having my blog page "framed" within a page on my site - I've decided there are just too many limitations when doing so - as a result I am going to do the necessary customization to the formatting of the blog itself so that it integrates nicely with the rest of my website - designed in Freeway for OSX.  There is a great tutorial for anyone looking to integrate blogs with Freeway, by Dan Jasker, here -

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Abby - Part II - Two for the price of One!

As we learned from the previous blog entry back in July, Abby is a young, up and coming model here in the Bakersfield area.  I thought she did brilliantly in our first session together so I rang her up to return for a second set, and she happily agreed.  Since our last shoot I had made some considerable improvements in the studio itself, the gear and with my techniques as well so I was enthused to try and improve upon the first shoot with these new things in hand.

The results were excellent - She was much more relaxed this time around (though still quiet as a mouse) - she got right into it  and we developed a very good flow during the session- so we managed to get a very high percentage of "keepers".  It was very clear that she was confident and improving her skills in addition to being more comfortable.   She had also grown her hair out and had a little different look than before with the style of wardrobe she brought - all things that added extra elements of interest to the end results!  One thing that I had not anticipated however, was not one - but two surprises arrived on my doorstep as she did...

She showed up with her entire family!  Dad, Mom, multiple sisters, multiple brothers, a friend of hers and maybe a grandma or something, I can't recall now as I was completely overwhelmed as it seemed like about 10 people to me at the time!  ha ha  Her friend, Lorena added to the confusion on my part as it was clear she wasn't a sister (by lack of resemblance), but also because she was dressed in a cheerleading outfit and had these captivating, large amazing eyes!  In the back of my mind upon seeing here I was thinking I would really like to shoot her too, but was not sure how to go about asking as this was Abby's session time and I am by nature not a pushy person.  Luckily I didn't have to ask, as they approached me to see if it would be permitted for her to have a few images created as well.  She was very nervous and I had to work hard to keep her from looking that way, but we did get some very nice images in the few we shot!

Abby is however, still so young and new at this - for the first time ever I offered for her to come back another day and view the entire shoot on my Mac in Lightroom so she could see the things that are working for her, and those things which are not and learn from it in order to improve.    The side benefit of this was that she actually helped me rate them and cull through them to a select, final group of images.  It's not something I would ever normally do, but she is very nice and I really want to help her learn, and find the success she's looking for!  Happily, the whole family did not come back for this as I would never have room for them all in my office!

At some point in the future, I'm sure we will work together again.  I would not hesitate to ask her back for any fashion/catalog/commercial work that comes along down the road.  She arrives on time, does the job well and sometimes even brings along a few surprises!


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Abby Part I - Models from Unexpected Places

The very first time I worked with Abby, she arrived with her dad Pete at my studio ready to work.  This was particularly impressive as she was only 15 years old, but very dedicated to making a success of herself in modeling - and it showed.  In fact she was currently a student at a fashion/modeling school so much more serious about it than one would expect a 15 year old to be.  

She has an amazing and exotic look and was quite versatile - going from looking her age to well beyond her years with the simple change of a pose or facial expression.  I wondered for a while if she even spoke English as she barely made a peep!  ha ha  But of course she was just very shy and wide eyed.    Like a pro, without instruction, she brought several outfits along and had plenty of moves without needing too much direction, which was good as my skills as a director were not particularly stellar at the time, though have seen massive improvements since.

They had driven down from a very small town 1/2 hour north of Bakersfield called Delano, which is by reputation, primarily a farming community.  Delano is a town so small in fact, it makes Bakersfield look like a booming metropolis - which it most certainly is not!  While this is probably the last place on earth someone would expect a model to appear out of - there she was - a pleasant and unexpected surprise.  The place where she found out about me was also a bit surprising - on Craigslist!   I had a casting call posted there looking for something new instead of the usual repeat model hopefuls a small town like Bakersfield produces regularly...when I got her reply, I had a feeling there was something special in the offing.

I was experimenting mixing studio strobes and hot shoe type flashes together - something I discovered was not always the best idea in the world without a very specific lighting design - but part of the way I work is to change things up on every shoot, to make sure I do something that pushes the limits beyond what I already know how to do, into places I've never gone before.  It keeps me fresh and different in every shoot instead of being a photographic chimpanzee - mimicking my own shots/setups and going through the motions to produce the exact same thing over and over again with different faces.  How unimaginative and boring would that be?   Might as well get a job shooting pics a JC Penny.  blah

In the end we had a great session and managed to pull off some excellent images together.

  There was some real magic in some of the images, especially for a first time session with a new model. Without question, we wanted to work together again.  
And we did.  See Part II for MORE!


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