Category Archive: M4H Tutorial Fun & Recipes
  1. Shooting from the Heart | Tips on Capturing your Clients

    You have your camera in tow. Your clients are dressed to the nines and the big session date has arrived.  Sometimes as photographers I believe we get so caught up in the normalcy of family portraits since this is our job and we photograph  them all so frequently we forget how exciting and sometimes scary family portrait sessions can be from your client’s perspective.  Despite the pre-session consultations, emails and phone calls getting in front of the camera is just not natural for everyone.  I can attest to this personally. I am so often behind the camera that when I get in front of it I freeze up.  My heart literally races, my palms sweat. I stress.  There is simply so much that goes into a photo session on a client’s end. Figuring out what to wear and styling their family.  Finding the right photographer for them.  Getting their children to cooperate. It is really all incredibly overwhelming.  I believe as photographers it is our job to help and reassure our clients.  To hand hold and let them know that you are going to be there for them and we are going to do absolutely everything in our power to give them not only memorable and beautiful photos but an equally memorable and beautiful experience. As a fairly introverted person in “real” life though as a photographer I do get nervous as I am sure many of you do.  I think… a lot. And all the disastrous scenarios run right on through my mind.  What if they don’t love their images? What if they don’t like me.  What if I do something embarrassing? Yes I do think like that! There really is a lot of give and take on both ends.  Of course once I get to my session and begin working that unbelievably manages to fall away. I get completely immersed in my work. I remember why I love this. Why I chose this as my profession. As our livelihood. There are some things I do however to really prepare for my sessions.  I thought I would pass a few of these tips on to you to possibly help you as well if this is an area you struggle in or even if you are looking for a way to freshen up your work.

    My goal coming out of a session is to have images that tell a story.  I want my clients to look through their gallery and have every single photo resonate with them on a deeper level. I want them to see their children as they see them. Not just as I see them.  I do everything in my power to get my clients to open up to me.  I am not a formal kinda gal in life so it wouldn’t make sense to approach my clients that way either though.  I don’t take myself to seriously.  I don’t get all crazy with the technical jargon. I don’t bark orders at them. I am simply just myself.

    These are somethings I stand behind and believe yields fabulous results and has helped me tremendously.

    -Before the session even begins and your clients initially email you for information of any kind you want to have some form of client education on hand. Whether you designate a special section of your blog for it or have a PDF designed try to compile as much information about YOU and how YOU work that they can utilize.  Right off the jump you want them to know that you are here for them.  That you value their time. You want them to have a good feel for how you work and what your expectations are.  Right away I send information on my pricing so they know what to expect and their is no sticker shock involved.  Also in the information I send I include my perspective on photography and why I love what I do, a bit of background on me so they know just who I am, helpful tidbits on styling their session and anything else I can think of from booking a session to how my ordering system works. I make sure to fully answer any questions that they have. I do this as much for me as them.  I want to build a relationship and more then anything I want my clients to feel like they can trust me.  I want them to have a sense for who I am because I really want them to go into their session as comfortable as they can.  I try to dismiss any stigmas and sooth any insecurities. I also let them know they are welcome to bring a change of clothes if so they so choose. I tell them what kinds of snacks to bring or what they should pack in their bag. I encourage them to bring anything of sentimental value.  I want them to know that I want this to be as seamless for their family as possible.

    -I am not afraid to post “personal” posts on my blog.  I share lots about my family.  Despite what some feel I personally believe that photography is an incredibly personal business. We pour ourselves and our hearts into our work.  I want my clients to have access to the kind of photographer they are hiring.  Not just as a professional but also as a person. Think about it. Our style and our vision but also WHO we are makes up our work.  It is what sets you apart from other photographers in the field.  It aids your creative vision and perspective.  My tag line for years now has been “Heart Inspired Art.” As cheesy as it may sound it pretty much sums up my view on my work.  What comes about from my work stems from who I am.  I also feel that the more my clients know about me the more comfortable they will be on our big session day.

    -I follow up.  I answer ALL emails from my client and I do my best to be reassuring. The closer the day comes the more the anxiety can build.  Photography is an investment. I want my clients to feel that they really are getting their investments worth.  I don’t just mean investment in money but time.  Time is of the essence with family photography.  Our children grow and change every day.  A lot of thought and planning as I mentioned does go into these sessions.  I want them to know that I appreciate not only their time but THEM.

    -Now it is time for the big day.  I try to arrive early so I can scope out my location. Even if I have been there a million times before I like to walk the grounds and get a good feel for what the light is doing that day. If it is a busy location I try to find areas where it isn’t flooded with people.  I know how uncomfortable it can be trying to act natural when there are literally people staring at you.  Aside from not wanting too much going on in my frame I want our session to be as distraction free as possible. Especially if there is small children or multiple children in the family.  My husband comes to every single session with me.  He is a God Send. I know this isn’t possible or practical for everyone but if you can make this happen try it! I love having Wes there because he is well my security blanket but he also has an amazing purpose.  He helps with the men. The dads. YES I know some of you can relate.  A lot of times trying to interact with the men can be tough.  You want them to be comfortable. I know from personal experience and not having Wes there I had a really hard time getting the dads to open up or be comfortable.  My goal as mentioned is to get the family to act as naturally as possible and interact together.  Wes being there is fabulous because he chats up the dad. The dad isn’t watching the clock or huffing loudly. He is enjoying himself! Wes also helps me with my gear so that I don’t have to run back and forth and scramble for lenses.  I don’t have to carry a ton of things around while trying to shoot. My hands are free and I can capture everything as it comes. If you can’t bring your husband try a friend or assistant.  It gives me one less thing to stress about.

    -Your clients have now arrived.  Right away I try to be warm and open right up to them.  I get down on the children’s eye level and introduce myself.  I want them to know that I am a friend.  At this point I have hoped that the parents have somewhat familiarized their kids with me so they aren’t afraid of this big weird stranger.  I do NOT take my camera out and shoot right away.  I give a good fifteen to twenty minute warm up period when possible. This is also why I choose not to time my sessions. I do not want anyone to feel rushed.  It is a process.  I joke with the mom. I ask the children a ton of questions about their interests. I already know most the questions because I try to ask the parents well in advance but most children are like mine. They love to talk about themselves lol! Which I honestly find adorable. Some common topics are family pets, school, television show Characters (I.e Oh you love Dora?! I love Dora!) I have even been known to break into full tv show theme song. Du-Du-Du-Du DORA! I am nerd but I own it lol!

    -I am not a HUGE pose-y person.  I do give a ton of direction especially for the family portraits.  We just kind of go from there. I let them know right away that the first fifteen minutes or so WILL be awkward. It will feel odd.  I also tell them that my favorite photos are always towards the end of the session. Time seriously flies. Once we are set up I get to chatting. I joke. I ask a bunch of questions (“How long have you been married, “Where did you meet?” Etc etc.) I do this all while they are in position. It really helps them be less aware of my camera.  They focus on each other. I love the way a wife looks on her husband as she recalls their wedding day or how she goes on about the day her child was born. I do ask personal questions. It does wonders though. And most times it gets the dad chatting as well.  I usually bring along a blanket or ask my clients to.  Our sessions actually often feel like one big hang out session. If the light gets particular gorgeous in one area I will let them know! Communication is a million percent important.  I want to make their job as easy as possible.  If they kids seem to be getting overstimulated we take a break. I tell my clients way in advance it is absolutely okay if your children get cranky.  We let them run around and explore and play. If it is okay with the parents sometimes I will even take their kiddos aside one by one and spend a little time with them. They tend to be way more comfortable in front of the camera without an audience. I have had sessions where I have made flower crowns with the girls or practice ninja moves with the boys lol! I am a big kid at heart so I let them know we are here to have FUN!If the kids are shy. That is okay too. I don’t try to make them be something they aren’t. If they aren’t all smiles that is okay too. I don’t push. I am not a pushy person by nature but my goal is to capture them as they are. Not how I want them to be! The parents know this way up front so they tend to be totally okay with that!

    -The session is winding down. These are my favorite shots.  When shooting families I let them know it is important for them all to be touching in some way. They don’t have to do anything over the top or cheesy but interaction and connection really comes through. I also let them know to let me know right away if they feel uncomfortable. That will show in the images. Usually the end of our session is a free for all. We hang, we laugh, we gab, we twirl.  We let the kids do their own thing. When it is time to part ways I remind them of how things will work from there so they are reassured.  I call this the “honeymoon” period.  The other upside to approaching sessions as I do is I find the parents are more relaxed. They are better focused on their family. The interaction has been way more genuine.

    Anyhow I hope this helps a little. These are just a few things I have done in the past that have helped me a million percent with my clients.  Not only does it yield amazing results with their session but it keeps them coming back. We really do bond. It really is a beautiful thing!


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  2. Lifestyle Photography Indoors | Finding the Light

    Since I have began my lifestyle project and have been sharing a bit on my fan page I have noticed that I have been getting more and more questions about lifestyle imagery in general. I promise that I am not the know all/end all of natural light or lifestyle photography but for me it is a passion and something I am always striving to learn about.  There is something so special about what would be seemingly mundane to some.  I am always looking for a way to translate how I feel about or see things into my imagery. Since I can remember I have always been fascinated with photographs. Not just photography but the actual photos. In fact I have close to no images of my childhood not because my mother didn’t take any but because I used to steal them out of their albums as a child lol! I wish I would have let them be truly. But as a photographer I couldn’t imagine not using a gift for my own family. That is how I view Photography. As a gift.  We are here for such a short time on this earth so why not leave your footprint. Your mark on the world.  These are our keepsakes and memories. Our gift to our future generations. There is something mystical about being able to capture time and freeze it. The term “time in a bottle” couldn’t be more appropriate. As I started picking up steam with my business I noticed I was taking fewer photos of my children.  There were so many excuses and deterrents coming from me. “Oh but my house is a mess or Well I do this for work so I am just too tired to take my camera out.” And then I realized that was my burn out speaking. It really wasn’t how I felt. So I picked up my camera and started shooting for me again. For my children. And in just a short couple of months since I began I have come away with so many precious and treasured keepsakes. So how do I do it?

    Like all things lifestyle photography has it’s own science. A lot of times I am just shooting in my home.  We actually just moved into our place about two months a go. Before that we lived in a fairly tight apartment with big picture windows but with way less available light.  The new places has windows and ambient light at every turn. I know not everyone is so fortunate. My biggest tidbit is to make the most of what you have.  Find the windows in your home that work the best for you and focus on those. Now this is lifestyle photography so there will be times when you simply don’t have access to those windows and that is TOTALLY okay. The biggest tidbit I can share in the way of advice is you are shooting for YOU. Don’t be afraid to experiment. I admit that when it is getting dark out or I don’t have the light I crank up the ISO on the camera. Does that produce grain? Yes it does. Do I mind? No. This is lifestyle photography. The main objective for me is mood. I actually think the grain in those images help accentuate the mood in many times. Perfection isn’t practical with lifestyle photography. Actually I tend to embrace the imperfections. I love the blur. I love the out of focus images. The little things matter. They help tell a story. I get a lot of questions about particular settings on particular images. As awesome as it is to know things like that too get a feel for how an image was created the lighting situations are usually different for different people. Even the gear and the way different camera bodies handle light (for example a full frame camera and a cropped sensor camera are way different I have found from personal experience in the way the light is processed by the sensor.) My particular style of shooting involves a pretty wide aperture. There are times I do need to stop down a bit if I have a ton of things going on in the frame our multiple people but I really love a shallow depth of field. Especially when it concerns portraiture. During the day when the light is more optimal I can get away with a higher shutter speed and a lower ISO. As the sun sets or it gets dark in our home I usually compensate by having to up my ISO and pull back on the shutter speed. Now I recently upgraded to the Canon 5d Mark III. I can’t reiterate enough that gear does NOT make a photographer but like all things it is a tool and it helps. I have a lot of wiggle room now with being able to set my ISO quite a bit higher and dealing with less grain and a better white balance (Under exposure almost always accentuates and white balance issues you have.) Shooting in Full manual and RAW help me really get more creative without stressing too much since I can quickly clean up my images when necessary exposure wise too.  They are just more versatile and unlike JPEGS are non destructible.

    Gear does play a role.  I choose to shoot with all prime lenses. Do you have to use all primes to get beautiful lifestyle images? Absolutely not. It is just a personal preferences. I love primes because they are tack sharp, quick to focus in lower light and produce glorious bokeh and depth of field. They also tend to open up wider.  They are more compact and work extremely well in indoor situations.  I have a plethora of prime lenses since I don’t use zooms and like to have a variation of focal lengths at my disposal. I use just about all of them indoors and outdoors but my home has a more spacious floor plan so I usually have room to back up if necessary when shooting with a “tighter” lens. If you are using a crop sensor such as a Canon Rebel or 7d for example a 50mm will work fairly well indoors. Having a full sensor camera I can actually get more in the frame so I don’t always have to go as wide for lenses and can even use my 85mm when I need to but I always seem to prefer my 35mm indoors. Again total personal preference. I just love the lens in general. I keep a full list of my gear HERE though in case you are curious.  Your lenses will have a very prominent effect on your imagery though. Different focal lengths do produce different types of images.

    Some general tips for lifestyle photography from my own personal experience:

    -If you are shooting your kids let them be little. Messy faces, bedhead, crazy clothes are okay! I try not to be intrusive at all actually and tend to shoot my own families at the moments they tend to be completely in their own world or oblivious of me.

    -Change your perspective. Try different angles. Move around and get creative!

    -Keep your camera close at hand! You never know when an opportunity is going to present itself BUT don’t forget to savor the little things and be a part of the family so there are times when an IPhone will suffice just as well!

    -Your home doesn’t have to be perfect!!! I do tend to favor areas of my house that are less cluttered or pick up a bit when I tend to spend time in a particular room with my children but i don’t obsess. It is just part of our lives! I will however try to be conscious of blatant things in the background like a garbage can or a sink full of dishes LOL!

    -Experiment with different lenses. You may surprise yourself. It really helps lend different perspectives to your photographs. A fish eye and a 50mm are going to yield totally different results!

    -Learn to master shooting in manual and know your camera.  Being able to choose my settings on the fly now through lots of time and practice helps me not miss a thing. I don’t have to fumble or guess it kind of comes second nature now but it wasn’t always that way.  Using your camera everyday or as frequent as possible will really help you get more cozy with your camera and before you know it you will be flying through your settings. I would say it took me a year and a half before I got there but it is different for everyone and you may find yourself catching on a lot quicker. My biggest tip is if shooting small kids I try to keep my shutter speed over 1/125th or higher if I can get away with it and if you aren’t familiar with shooting wide open you are going to miss focus quite a bit so try stopping down to begin with and opening your aperture more and more as time goes by and you get more comfortable.

    -Play with light. I have a huge picture window in my home office. I am fascinated with the light it produces. When I am looking to capture a portrait of my kids and they are actually in the mood to cooperate I place them in different areas in relation to the window. I like to watch the way the light hits them differently and adjust the settings on my camera accordingly. I also love to really play with shadows.

    -Simplify your photo processing. I tend to choose a lighter more airy processing for indoors.  I even prefer black and white almost 100% off the time. Shooting in RAW I can make any general white balance tweaks or quick changes to my exposure I need but I try to get it as right as I can straight out of the camera. The goal is to accentuate what is already there, not fix what isn’t.

    Another tip to help you “see” and find the light is to place your subject near your light source. Now slowly turn in a clockwise motion with your subject while they move with you and watch how the light changes around them and the shadows differ on their face. I noticed when i really started to become more detail oriented and studied the light (not just on people but all around me) I started to really grow.  Even now I am always watching for it everywhere even when just driving around in the car!

    Have fun and practice! Don’t stress yourself out. The more you use your camera the more akin you will become to different situations and settings. Baby steps are okay! Take it one day at a time!

    I hope this helps some!! Here are a few of my lifestyle images from the past couple of months.I included the settings, lens and the unedited version to give you an idea of how I work. 🙂 I don’t convert everything in black and white I just happened to grab all black and white photos here but you get the idea. I also usually do most of my cropping in camera but once in a while once I get something in Photoshop I will decide it looks better in a different way!


    Shot with a Canon 5d Mark III, A Canon 35L and the settings are ISO 100, F-Stop 1.4 and SS 1/340

    Shot with a Canon 5d Mark III, 35L ISO 100. F-stop 2 and SS 1/200

    Canon 5d Mark III, 35L, ISO 100, F-stop 1.4 SS 1/1000

    Canon 5d Mark III, 85L ISO 100 F-stop 1.4 SS 1/125

    14 Lovely Comments  •  Leave a Comment for Sarah

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