Lessons Learned from Beauty Retouching

BeautyRetouch_BannerLast week I met with the French photographer Clovis Lalanne who does a lot of work in the beauty and makeup industry. Talking with him made me realize how little I know about shooting and retouching beauty photos. Far too often I’m guilty of looking at an advertisement and saying to myself, “I could’ve shot that…” and then usually end up in a bout of self loathing as I reason why I’m not doing work at that level yet. Meeting with Clovis helped me understand the gap and realize I still have a lot to learn. After looking at my portfolio he suggested that I work on retouching, so that’s where I began. Continue reading

Four Steps to a Better Business Card

I just got hired for a shoot solely because of my business card. Here’s the deal…

If you are a photographer and you don’t have a photo on your business card then you’re simply doing it wrong. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional, hobbyist, amateur, or self-proclaimed iPhoneographer. Your job is to shoot and deliver photos, so make sure your business card reflects that. Your card may be the only way someone remembers you, and pictures stick in our memories longer than names and contact info.

Practically speaking, here’s how I recommend you do it and why:

  1. Pick ONE photo that serves as a testament to your style then print it full-bleed on one side of your card. Don’t try to squeeze three images on there; it will only weaken the impact.
  2. Don’t leave the photo by itself. (This is important! I’ll explain why below.) Include some sort of text on there like your website, but keep the text to a minimum so you don’t distract from the image. A photo with negative space is ideal because you can place the text directly on top of the image (it tends to feel too rigid if you have the text next to the image, rather than on top of it).
  3. On the back side is where you put all of your contact information. Keep it simple. Don’t make the two sides of your card fight for attention. This is where smart branding and typography will serve you well.
  4. Lastly, when you give someone your card hand it to them with the photo facing them. Often they will compliment your picture and in turn find one more reason to like you.

By having the main text and the photo on the same side it makes it clear to the viewer that that is the front side. If you put all the text on one side and then the photo by itself on the other side it immediately feels as if the image is on the back (i.e. the less important side). If someone is flipping through a stack of cards I want them to see my photo before they see my email address. It’s faster to process, it conveys a lot more information, and it’s easier to remember.

In my case I had given someone my card about 15 months ago. I emailed him promptly after we met and then followed up a couple weeks later, but I never heard back from him. I figured he knew enough photographers already. Apparently he hung onto my card because I got an email this morning saying he needed a photographer this week. “Are you sure we haven’t worked together before?” he asked, “Because I’ve got your card and I don’t know how else I would’ve gotten it –it had the picture of the benches in the snow… yeah, I liked it.”

Lessons Learned: Making Your Work Accessible

I’ve barely gotten any real work done today. I’ve spent most of my time sorting through hard drives and trying to locate photos. It’s annoying, but it’s been a good reminder of how important it is to make your work accessible not only to myself, but my clients (lesson 3 below). Here are a few things that make this easier…

Lesson One: Don’t delete your photos.¬† Today I’ve had three completely different clients say, “Hey, can you re-send the photos from ____?” They all have different reasons for needing them again, but the point remains the same. If I didn’t keep my photos long term then I’d have three disgruntled clients to deal with. It seems like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how tempting it is to delete photos when you find that your hard drives are full. Which leads us to the next point…

Lesson Two: Establish an archiving solution. The important thing is that you have a system. Buying another external hard drive to “free up space” is not a system; it’s a symptom of a bigger problem. What you need is a plan. You need to know where to export your photos when you’re done with them, and you need to know how to find them years from now. I’ve blogged about my system before, but there are many different ways to do it. Find a solution that works best for you.

Lesson Three: Create online client galleries. This is where I’ve slacked off, and I’m paying the price for it today. Basically, you want a place where you can upload your finished, high resolution jpegs for the client to access on their own. I use Zenfolio, and I couldn’t be happier with it! I create a new group for each client, and then I add a new album for each shoot. This is ideal for corporate work where you’ll do multiple shoots for the same client, or destination weddings where you will have multiple days of shooting for a single wedding. The real advantage comes from the various options available such as privacy, expiration, and access control. This means my clients can locate their photos and download the high resolution images without having to wait for me.

Moral of the story, there is nothing sexy about file management. Do yourself a favor by making it as efficient and accessible as possible.

Lessons Learned Shooting with Canon

AnnapolisCanon-0226.jpgMy friend and fellow photographer Emily Chastain approached me with a great idea. She suggested that we plan a shoot where we swap cameras; I would use her Canon and she would use my Nikon. Now, I’m not sure if she was just tired of my Canon bashing or if she had something else in mind, nevertheless I jumped at the opportunity to give her a chance to experience the greatness of Nikon. We scheduled the shoot in Annapolis, giving her home field advantage…

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Lessons Learned from Shooting a Chef

This is maybe the 4th or 5th time I’ve shot portraits of a chef, and I’ve really come to love it. I felt like I learned so much this time, and I’m excited to share it with you all.

Don’t tell him to smile. Give him a reason to smile. The difference is night and day.
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Lessons Learned: Shooting a Fashion Show

I had the joy and privilege of shooting a week long fashion show called Crystal Couture earlier this year. Given that I’ve never shot fashion it was a big learning experience for me. Fortunately my client wanted a lot of “event photos” too, so I didn’t feel completely outside my element. I shot photos for four hours every night then I sorted, edited, and uploaded all the photos by 10 AM the next day.

Every night I made notes of the things I learned that day and hoped to do differently the next. I’ve copied those notes below and added some of the photos to illustrate what I’m talking about. Most of the text here was written for personal use rather than public consumption. I feel like it loses a bit of flavor every time I try to rewrite it, so this post is still a little gooey in the middle. If you have questions don’t hesitate to hit up the comments section below and I’ll clarify as best I can.

The lighting for runway fashion is very different (in a good way) than shooting events. I was able to get some surprisingly good photos with minimal effort because the lights were already set to make the girls look good. This should be true of any respectable fashion show. No additional lights/flashes were used for these two shots, but I did make sure my White Balance was set to Tungsten/Incandescent to match the color temperature of the runways lights.
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Lessons Learned: Jenny and Ben’s Engagement

I’ve said it many times before and I will say it again: I learn so much more while editing my own photos than I do while shooting them. During a shoot I have way too many things on my mind and I never have all the time I want. My thought process changes entirely when I put down the camera and reach for my mouse. Below are some of the things I noticed and learned while editing Jenny and Ben’s engagement photos.

For couples, have the dude put his arm around her back underneath her arm. It’s far more intimate than if he puts his hand on the outside of her arm. The former is how I might pose with my girlfriend, but the latter is how I pose with my sisters.

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It’s amazing how much difference a simple camera angle can make. In the first image the bright background draws too much attention to the pedestrian. By shifting my angle slightly I am able to hide the white wall, show more of the glass background and less of the floor, and I didn’t cut off Ben’s knee this time. Also note that a person in the background doesn’t pull your attention as much if you can’t see their face.

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Use telephoto compression (more about this in a later post) to exaggerate the size of something in the background. Note that Jenny and Ben did not move between shots –count the floor tiles if you don’t believe me. The only difference is that I backed up and zoomed in.

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When using an external light source/flash around sunset, place the light 180 degrees from the sun so that your subject is sandwiched between the two. The external light will function more like a reflector rather than an obvious catchlight. This produces much more flattering results. Note the harsh shadows on their faces when I put the flash to the right of my camera.

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“One-handed” half dip kiss is a really sexy pose. Her right hand around his neck, left hand hangs freely. I should use this pose more often.


Don’t always assume that f/2.8 is the best aperture. Sometimes it’s better to stop it down so you can get a little more depth; bring the background into focus a little more. This image was shot at f/2.8, but I have a feeling that I would like it better if I shot it at f/5.6.


Having the dude sit facing forward instead of sideways is a great solution to the cheesy, gay back-to-back pose.


When doing a lower body shot make sure they are holding hands. It creates a stronger connection between them.


I missed an opportunity for a cool shot here. Next time I’ll try a profile shot of him kissing her hand, but he should be kissing her left hand with the ring on it. Try a close-up one with his eyes closed, and maybe a medium shot with him looking at her while kissing her hand.