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March 1990

Email : Volume 3

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Email by LeahAndMark.com

Atlanta photographers

Move your feet.

Let’s begin.

One of the most important things that changed the way Leah and I photograph, was the purchase of a fixed 35mm lens. On our DX format DSLRs, that equates to roughly a 50mm focal length. Of course, none of that really matters or makes sense to you if you’ve only ever used a point-and-shoot. That’s not what’s important. Because even if you only have a point-and-shoot, you can still force yourself to learn how to photograph differently – but it will take some forcing.

The thing about a fixed lens is that there is no zoom – except for moving your feet. Without the ability to zoom in or out, you are forced to take more time composing your images. Which will inevitably improve your photographs. You start noticing things that you didn’t before because all of a sudden, you’re REALLY looking at what’s in the frame. Since you can’t just zoom the lens to ‘crop’ out an object, you’re really looking at everything in your viewfinderand manually composing your shot.

When you are shooting with a fixed lens, obstacles are actually obstacles because when you want to get closer, you have to get past that crowd of people, or that chair, or the line of tables.

Now – if you’ve only got a point-and-shoot, the way to learn this is by simply setting your camera back at it’s widest setting, and never touching the zoom. Never. Ever. Act like it doesn’t exist. Just. Don’t. Zoom. You’ll be forced to move and get closer to people. Along with composing your shots differently, it’ll force you to interact with your subjects differently. Especially if you’re photographing an event like Leah and I are often doing. It’s difficult not to be noticed when you’re 2 feet away from a person because you can’t zoom, and you don’t want all of your photographs to be shot from that common 3-5 foot zone radius where everyone else is comfortable taking photos. Which brings us to the next topic.

Point-and-shoot photos with an expensive camera

We photograph a lot of events. If you keep up with our emails, we’ll probably repeat ourselves – a lot. One thing that we stress, almost like a mantra, is that our photos must not look like snapshots. Even our snapshots must.not.look.like.snapshots.

It’s pretty simple. We’re the professional photographers and our photos shouldn’t look like they were taken by an amateur. I’m not talking ‘perfection’ – but I am raising the bar, and saying ‘professional’. We produce professional photos. It’s not because of the camera, and it’s primarily not due to post-editing. Strip away all of the Photoshop tricks and at the core, you still need a quality photo to work with. Quality in terms of composition, light, and how the subject matter is handled. For us as professional photographers, this is the primary edge that we might have over anyone else with an expensive camera.

Learn your craft. Try harder. Don’t take obvious photos. Anticipate.

I mean all of that and more. Find some magic.

Because honestly – we see too many ‘snapshots’ taken by ‘professionals’. Among all of the goals we aim to achieve, we aim for photographs that look like they were taken by a professional – and not just someone who happens to have spent 5k on a big fat camera. Which isn’t to say that upgrading cameras isn’t a good idea – but we ARE saying that even with a point-and-shoot, you can blow away many ‘professionals’ out there. So don’t hold back – find the confidence to photograph everything you want to photograph. Remember, the stats office says that 96% of people with DSLRs don’t ever get off of the ‘auto’ setting – so they’re technically in the same boat you are with your point-and-shoot, except you’ve actually been working on your craft.

So stop zooming, and move your feet.

Next time? We’ll talk more about light.

See you next week.

Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

Leah and Mark Tioxon
LeahAndMark.com

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Email : Volume 2

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Email by LeahAndMark.com

Atlanta photographers

Early.

I know. This is a surprise for you and me. Who knew we were going to send out another Email so soon. I definitely didn’t – at least until I started thinking about the one we sent out yesterday – and how I was… generally bored.

So let’s make up for that one. I’m going to make some assumptions and you can back out at any time.

1. You like our photos to some degree
2. You signed up because you think we’ll give you a few tips on how we make our photos.

That’s about all I’ll assume for now. So. Here we are.

Forgive me if this gets to be too much like actors talking about acting – because it’s going to get close.

We like people and we like photos of people. Those are the main reasons why we shoot. Photographing people lets us get to know them in a way we otherwise wouldn’t. If you read today’s blog post about our session with newborn baby Logan – I talk about how we enter peoples lives and look for ‘moments’ to capture. I’m not talking about being voyeuristic – I’m talking about being there when things happen so that I can share a piece of that. I’m talking about making a connection with almost-strangers so that they feel comfortable enough to share a piece of themselves with me, with us.

And while I try not to take myself too seriously – I take photographing people very seriously – because at the same time that they’re opening themselves up to me – I’m accepting the responsibility to make them look great, or at the very least, honest.

How do I know that they’ve opened themselves up to me? Even if just a little bit? Well there are several signs that signal this, but I know because usually I’m right in their face with my lens. I’m close. I get closer. I usually get really close – closer than I otherwise would. Closer than you usually allow someone you met 10 minutes ago, to get to you and your face. Right. I’m all up in their faces. Even when I’m across the room, I’m kind of in your face. I don’t really hide. I’m a big Asian guy with a big camera and the autofocus light shines in your eyes – you can’t miss me.

(ProTip – if it’s low light and the autofocus light keeps coming on to shine in people’s faces, I’ll pre-focus on something at the same distance, like their shoulder, so that it doesn’t shine in their eyes and then pull up the camera to take the shot.)

I hardly ever zoom. Unless we’re photographing a wedding – I’m shooting at one of two focal lengths – very wide at 18mm or standard with a 35mm prime. Very rarely will I compose a shot by zooming in with my lens. I move my feet. I’m all over the place. So any photo you see of ours where we’re close to the persons face – we’re probably even closer than you think. This isn’t always a good thing – and you can see in our shots that we’re almost always shooting with a wide angle because there’s no compression of the background.

When we start out photographing people, we tend to stay back. Sometimes you’ll see an entire portfolio or photos from an event where every shot is taken from a distance of about 3-5 feet. This 3-5 foot range is where everyone else takes photos. You should try your hardest to spend less time there. Sure you can zoom in, but our eyes know the difference in perspective. Now. Composing your shot while you’re right in the middle of an event with everyone moving around – that’s a different email.

See you next week.

Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

Leah and Mark Tioxon
LeahAndMark.com

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Email: Volume 1

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Email by LeahAndMark.com

Atlanta photographers

Hi!

First! Thank you for signing up for our Email by LeahAndMark.com. We know there are a lot of photographers out there, and you can learn this stuff from anyone – so the fact that you’ve signed up to receive yet another piece of email – well, we appreciate it very much 🙂

(We will always throw photos into these Emails so if you’re not seeing any because your email client doesn’t automatically show them – click on the ‘display images’ link usually at the top somewhere)

So. We really struggled with deciding on what we were going to write about in this first Email. Shutterspeed? f/stops?! Light?! no. Although all of that is pretty simple to explain – it’s not what we’re trying to do through these Emails. We just want to give you some new ideas, remind you of concepts you forgot, and maybe help you reinterpret old ones. What’s the tip in this email? Perspective. Well – having a specific perspective in mind when composing your shots.

Without trying to sound smart or go into any kind of a textbook explanation – we’ll just say that for now, if you aren’t already – try photographing your subjects at eye level or lower, especially children.

It’s really that simple. In fact – it’s so simple that whenever we photograph someone, we start at their eye level and adjust from there depending on the composition of the photo. An easy generalization you can make is that people who just take ‘snapshots’ – take the photo from whatever position/height that they just happen to be standing or sitting in. They take a picture as they see it. Most adults are taller than children – so you end up with mostly photos that have a downward angle. This is the same shot that nearly everyone takes of children. It’s not exactly ‘bad’ – but it’s what we actually SEE with our eyes – what we’re aiming for with our photos is to capture a different perspective. That’s part of the reason why photos are COOL. Because they’re different from how we see the world most of the time.

If you want to make it a very simple rule to start with – simply shoot from an angle/height/position that you would not normally be in, eye-level or lower than your subject. Doing that alone will change your photos by 63% and all of a sudden they won’t look like all of the other snapshots you’ve taken.

If you check out our children/family portfolio – you’ll notice that we follow this rule pretty closely. Even if there are adults in the shot – we’re taking the photograph from the child’s height. That’s how you can make better photos of children without buying a new/better camera.

And if you think it’s tiring – bending down on your knees and running after kids, trying to get that shot while being at their height – you’re completely right. Sometimes we’re lying flat on our stomachs in the dirt, or kneeling down in the dirt, or on our sides, in the dirt. Yeah, it’s like that for us because we’d rather get the shot than stay clean. Of course you don’t have to go to such extremes, but you get the idea – don’t be lazy and stop taking all of your photos while standing there with locked knees.

Get down at least to eye level, or lower – and get close. You may have already seen it – but in this ‘behind the scenes’ video from our Phoenix sessions, you’ll notice how I’m basically on my knees for every photo I’m taking.

We’re fans of art. I’m a big fan of renaissance art (and if you want to be really specific, Dutch Baroque) – one of my favorite painters is Jan Vermeer. In EVERY painting of his, the perspective is just below eye level or lower.

But that’s a completely different discussion.

Up above, the very first photo of this Email absolutely has nothing to do with being at eye-level, but it IS shot from a different perspective than one that we see from a ‘normal’ position. It also has something to do with next week’s composition topic of shapes and lines. If you look through our photos – we’re very interested in lines and shapes and how they frame people, or balance compositions. This is how we look at a room and ‘see’ the photo – by looking at the shapes and lines that are present – and then we throw people in there. Honest – that’s how many photographers ‘see’ a photo when they walk into a room. They look at the lines and shapes, and then decide how they want the ‘people’ to fit into that.

…and we’ll probably also cover the one thing that really changed the way we photograph. It’s a very simple thing, and if you’ve only ever shot with a point and shoot camera then you’ve probably never done it before – but you can, even with your point and shoot. So check us out next week.

Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

Leah and Mark Tioxon
LeahAndMark.com

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