Summertime is here! And with the longer days and extra sunshine, this is the perfect time to take some friends out for a photo shoot. But whether you're new to photography or you're a seasoned pro, inspiration for shoots can be hard to come by. Luckily, summer provides its own unique set of photographic opportunities.
1. Gather up a group of friends for a day at the beach. Bring sunhats, boogie boards, and all of your beachiest props. Get candid shots of your friends splashing and playing in the water. Use a high shutter speed to freeze the movement of hair flying and waves crashing. Take portraits of your friends posing in the sand with their hats, towels and boards. Once the sun goes down, have a bonfire on the beach and take advantage of the firelight for more candid shots of marshmallows roasting and friends laughing.
2. Buy some sparklers and experiment with long exposures. Place your camera on a tripod and set the shutter speed to between five or 10 seconds. Have your friend spell out a word in the air while the shutter is open and the sparkler is lit. This technique requires some trial and error, but it can produce amazing, fun results with a festive, 4th of July feel.
3. Summer is the time for bright colors, short dresses and funky sunglasses. Grab your most colorful outfits and accessories, and bring a group of friends to your favorite scenic location or set up a fun backdrop in your home. Take pictures of your friends in every combination of colorful garb. Play around with the reflections in the sunglasses. Have fun with it by taking photos of your friends jumping, giving each other piggy back rides and goofing off. You’ll end up with a gallery of photos ready for a spread in the summer issue of your favorite fashion mag.
4. Practice your food photography with a picnic in the park. Bring a colorful, patterned blanket, your favorite dishware, and, of course, some grub! Lay out your meal on the blanket and experiment with different combinations of food and drink for the photos. Continue to photograph the meal even after you start eating. Get a before picture with everything set up, and an after picture with just the crumbs.
5. Bust out your sprinkler and bring some friends over to jump around in your backyard. Give your models umbrellas and to use as props. Experiment with different shutter speeds to create different effects with the water -- faster shutter speeds will freeze the droplets, while slower shutter speeds will create a milky effect. Have your model twirl an umbrella overhead and set your shutter speed to 1/30 of a second. This will give the water and umbrella a blurred effect, while still keeping the model sharp.
The Family photo seems as old as disposable cameras, alongside dial tones and the telephone time lady. Isn't it funny, that the more technology progresses the more we tend to reflect on what came before? Sure, these days we’re arguably happier and better equipped to take on the challenges of each day, but there’s no shaking this rose-colored vision we still have of the past. Our nostalgia shows itself superficially, in fashion and Instagram filters, but it especially shows in a little trend that’s been gracing the internet for a little time now: the infamous “Selfie," and it influences the way we now have our photos taken: controlled, front and center.
These days, most of us already know how we like to be photographed. The selfie is just one particularly poignant manifestation of the current spirit of our culture: internal, controlled, front and center. Many of us are so used to photographing ourselves that we forget how another’s lens can capture our uniqueness and beauty. Selfies are fun and all, but they pull us away from learning more about ourselves. A selfie will never capture the spirit off-guard or responding to something outside of itself.
Think of the process of taking a family photo and compare it to taking a selfie. The family photo is holistic, temporal, and chaotic while the selfie is disparate, atemporal, and curated. The family photo alleviates the perfectionism of the selfie, and authenticates the self. A good photographer will know how to free you from yourself, to find what's remarkable about you and your family, and to bring out your character in surprising and innovative ways.
So treat yourself this holiday season with professional family photos! If family is the bread of life, capturing those shared moments is the butter. Remember family photos from your own family, and think about what making new memories will mean to you. How will the family portrait describe you? Will it be candid or traditional? Will it be a soft and intimate record of a few individuals, or a broad and inclusive portrait of many generations? What idea would you like to show? Maybe it's love or commitment, legacy or tradition, or something else altogether. Maybe it's about how silly your family can be - jumping in the air together, or dressed in identical elf costumes and beards - or just how good everyone looks all dressed up.
Even in our ever-paperless society, we still reserve the content we care for most in print. We all have photos - of ourselves, of our parents, our grandparents, and sometimes even further back, but when they’re circulating on the interwebs it just ain’t the same feeling as taking a stepping stool to your bookshelf, brushing the dust off your massive family photo album, and sharing them with the guests of the house!
1. Sleep. Get plenty of rest the night before. You don't need to worry about much more than that - you just need to show up. It is called "beauty sleep" for a reason so plan to take the night off before our day together (or for afternoon shoots, take some time to unwind/slow down before we meet up).
2. Alcohol. Avoid it. It is dehydrating and dulls the skin and eyes.
3. Makeup. It is not required for everyone but if you do intend to apply it, you may do so at home or bring it with you to do at the shoot. If you are unsure, bring some and we can try it out - a little makeup can be a great enhancer in photos.
4. Wardrobe. plan ahead and bring a few different outfits. Some days and lighting might make a certain color look more flattering on you or you may want a variety of styles to show various aspects of yourself.
5. Location: you have a number of options available, but please let me know if you prefer an outdoor or indoor shoot. Some outdoor locations have included Tilden Park, Cesar Chavez and Lake Merritt. Indoors can be at your home, office or a photography studio that I rent. If we are shooting outdoors, be prepared for weather changes and plan your outfits accordingly.
6. Changes: I would suggest holding off on any dramatic haircuts, facials, or cosmetic procedures before the shoot. Give yourself at least a week after any of these changes to acclimate. Even if you are just planning to get your hair professionally styled, try it out in advance to make sure the stylist knows what you are going for and there is time to correct anything that turns out less than you would have liked.
7. Hydrate: drink as much water as you can the day before. Coffee drinkers, make sure to rehydrate before the shoot as well (and maybe bring a toothbrush to take care of coffee residue from the morning espresso).
You're ready to shine!
You've seen it. You've done it. The pictures of blurry heads quickly turned away. The flash-bleached palm shot of a hand roughly shoved towards the camera.
As a photographer, I've worked in the presence of "photophobia" many times. To make great pictures, you have to understand what is hindering your subjects from being equal participants in the process. Here is a list of a few reasons I've observed that result in photo avoidance:
We are afraid of seeing ourselves in less than perfect form.
We may love a good picture here and there (profile pic!) but even the most photogenic people get caught in a bad frame sometimes: an unflattering angle, bad lighting or a sleepless night of cleaning up cat barf can make us second guess the image we have of ourselves in our mind's eye - or confirm our deep fears that - gasp! - we may not be that good looking.
We are afraid that someone else will own a part of us.
There is a vulnerability that comes with being captured on film or in pixels that feels incorrigible. It is a fixed second of our lives and it will not change. The permanence can be terrifying. We may not trust the person or the intentions of the photographer who will now have our image forever.
We are embarrassed to be seen with/doing something that we think will reflect badly on us.
What if my boss sees this? My family? My friends? My local political chapter? While doing something illegal is certainly reason enough to avoid the photographer's gaze, many times this kind of paranoia overshadows otherwise beautiful photographic opportunities, and creates the bad habit of thinking too hard and potentially missing a golden moment.
We just feel shy, want privacy, or feel like someone else would be a more interesting/worthy subject of the photo.
Women especially are drilled to be beautiful yet modest and having our image presented in a photograph can feel self-aggrandizing, which could lead to further scrutiny. Easier to just avoid the whole thing.
But when we withhold our light, we give up on our right to assert that yes, we are here, living this moment that is unique and never to repeat.
Tips for feeling comfortable in front of the camera
Get out of your head.
Part of the mindset necessary for being a great photo subject is actually turning off our thoughts and getting into our bodies. Don't think about what is happening. You don't have to change or be anything other than the person you are in that moment. Let the photographer guide you but otherwise, the harder you try to make that perfect smile, the more you are going to be stressed about it. It's no wonder that candid photos are often better than posed ones because there is no time for the subjects to psych themselves out.
Think of photography like a game.
The camera is a friend and you're just hanging out. The more you neutralize the power of the little device in front of you, the more you can enjoy the moment and just be creative.
You can always decide later which photographs to show.
Most cameras are digital these days so no need to worry: photos can be deleted instantly. But if you don't take a few bad shots, you aren't even going to give yourself the chance to have some good ones. You won't have anything to choose from at all.
You might be pleasantly surprised to see a side of yourself that others get to see but that you weren't familiar with. Have you ever caught yourself standing in front of the mirror and quickly correcting the face you were making to something you think looks a little better? Every person can make so many different expressions. Be curious and let your face tell all of its stories. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Remember that this is for you, not for anyone else.
You might be pleasantly surprised to see a side of yourself that others get to see but that you weren't familiar with. Have you ever caught yourself standing in front of the mirror and quickly correcting the face you were making to something you think looks a little better? Every person can make so many different expressions. Be curious and let your face tell all of its stories. You might enjoy seeing another side of yourself.
Two years ago, I traveled to Guatemala. It's combined allure as a colorful, indigenous, and relatively underdeveloped country makes for excellent gringo bait, and I definitely wanted a bite. Speaking of gringos, I am used to being called out as foreigner the moment I speak: my Hebrew accent, Russian heritage and friendly smile have raised many eyebrows in the foreign lands that I have traveled. Answering the question, "Where are you from" is a regular part of my day, even back at home.
But the photographer's sweetest nectar is found when we blend in and become part of our surroundings. I've found that the difference between being a tourist and a traveler often comes down to two things: speaking the local language and having a local friend.
So I found a month-long Spanish language program in Antigua, a cobblestoned colonial town whose colorful buildings and lush plaza are nestled among three looming (and active!) volcanos. It was there that I met Ruth, my Spanish teacher: youthful, warm and angelic. I immediately realized that I had met someone special - and perhaps was the most ambitious I've ever been as a student, so captured was I by her inspiring glow.
I saw how this mother of three laughed with her students, and brought her passion for Spanish and her country into every lesson. I saw how valuable she was, how special a gift she had and was giving to bring gringos like me into her culture. As the month drew to a close, I knew I couldn't just leave Ruth behind, and carry on with my journey as planned. I was compelled to do whatever I could for this woman who was living so modestly but, I believed, had so much to offer to the world beyond.
I asked myself, "What can I do to give back? To not simply pass through and leave this place but to make an impact for one person living here?"
She admitted to having very little knowledge about technology so I offered to make her a website, promoting her teaching skills to a larger, global audience. Neither of us were sure it would make much of a difference, but at very least it would be a way for me to honor her and all of her hard work as my teacher. Shortly after making the website, Ruht began to receive inquiries about teaching small group or individual lessons. She began to use Skype and now even offers lessons overseas. Now she is self employed, earning more than she would have at the language school where we met and setting her own hours.
A gringo I may always be, with plenty more Spanish to learn. Yet I am forever connected to Ruth and Guatemala because of this small project we did together.
This experience two years ago led me to the a significant realization. People like to do what they like to do. Sadly, they often don't do what they like to do because they cannot earn a living in the process. As with Ruth, I want to support creative work for artists, teachers, visionaries, and passionate people to help them allow their passion to be their profession. Through business planning and consulting, I hope to help bring them clients so that they an focus on what they do best. For that, I created a team called First Leap that helps them carry this load to achieve proven results, with social media, SEO, marketing, outreach, and widespread exposure.
Ruth's site was a free, very basic web page, yet, despite the simple format, having a web presence made a huge difference in her business. At First Leap, we are using the same concept but producing more stylized, advanced websites for our clients. If you are an artist looking to get started on setting up your business, I welcome you to take a look.
The holidays are just around the corner -- are you ready for the upcoming festivities and fun with your family and loved ones? If you’re the one planning the family gatherings, you’re probably working hard to throw the perfect holiday bash that will be celebrated for years to come. Of course, no festive get-together is complete without a collection of beautiful pictures showing off the good cheer!
To help you include all your family and friends in the memories, I’ll share with you today some essential tips and tricks to photograph your event as seamlessly as possible. Announce picture-taking times in advance.
This gives your guests ample time to prepare and gather ‘round the camera when it’s time for those after-dessert pictures!
Tip #2: Let them eat cake. If your toddler is happy playing with her toy dinosaur, let that shine through during photos. Try having the photographer call out her name to get her to look up!
Every family is different -- what have you found to be the best ways to photograph your family? ‘Tis the season of giving, so comment below!