Monthly Archives

November 2010


Earlier this month Sabrina and her family hired me to photograph their family in Philadelphia – Pennsylvania! (Alright it was actually my first time going to Philly so I was kind of happy about that.) After we discussed the logistics of me flying up – we decided that I would fly up in the morning, hangout with them for most of they day, and then fly back down to Atlanta later that afternoon.

Yeah. Being flown up for the day to photograph a family portrait session? Let’s just say that it was a nice opportunity – and that a few weeks later I got the chance to do it again for an engagement session out in Pomona, California (photos to be posted sometime soon as well.)

Like all photoshoots – portrait sessions can be tricky. Especially considering that I hadn’t ever met Sabrina or anyone in her family in real life. So I was going to be landing in Philadelphia, meeting everyone, and then sticking a camera in their face for 6 hours. The potential for things to go wrong… was present – but like I tell our Interns, work on connecting with your clients.

In no particular order, you must show them that you know what you’re doing, that you have ideas, and at the same time, connect with them on a level other than photography.

There is a reason we’re able to consistently capture natural smiles, and our clients look absolutely relaxed in our photos – it’s because we talk with them, and then we keep talking with them, and when we’ve done that, we do it some more.

Now I’d like to think that I know a few magic tricks to make people comfortable with me – but I don’t. Between Leah and me, she’s the super social people machine. Me? I’m alright. I can’t connect with everyone on everything – but it’s not about that. It’s about connecting with most people on something. It’s even better when that thing is something that matters to them.

It’s different for everyone, and they might not even realize how much it matters to them – but you’ll notice how the tone of the conversation changes when you find it.

Of course, some people are just easier than others. But just because they’re comfortable, doesn’t mean that they’ll give you their genuine selves. It takes time, and that’s why even with our in-town portrait sessions we schedule a 2-hour block instead of the normal 1 hour like many portrait photographers. Sometimes 1 hour is all we’ll need and we’ll cut it short – but we like to have the option just in case.

Since I was going to be with them for most of the day – I made sure to make the regular family portrait shots, but then I also just kept photographing. Sometimes families don’t get together as often as they’d like – and if I’m the reason they’re getting together, then I’m definitely going to photograph as much as possible, and document their day… LIFE magazine style… right? ha.

Of course – the food photos are really just for me. Hey. I was in Philly – of course I’m going to try some cheesesteaks… or two.

Now I know these aren’t regular ‘family portrait’ shots – but don’t worry, we took those as well. Over the course of the day so much more happens – and doing the normal round of ‘stand over here and pose, now stand over there and pose, oh – and stand over here and pose’ – just won’t cut it, and we’ll all get bored after 6 minutes…

As much as we photograph ‘portraits’… there’s a fair amount of life that we try to capture as well. Because while it’s a great thing to capture special events in our lives… it’s just as important to pay attention to some of the normal days we spend with family – because there are even more of those and we tend to take them for granted.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Atlanta. Philadelphia. Family. Portrait. Photographer. Different. Unique. Travel.

Weekend Shooting Spree

That’s my friend Amy. Please note that she is holding coffee, wearing one of my gear bags, and wearing the Intern orange badge. I cannot thank her enough for helping me out all weekend.

I landed in Phoenix, Az. last Friday and basically started shooting the moment the plane touched down. I went to high school in Phoenix (Tolleson!) and my parents still live here so it’s always nice to visit them – of course, if I can knock out a few portrait sessions on the same trip – that’s even better.

Now – Everything I do is probably part of some kind of experiment I’m running – some new idea I’m testing out – and that’s a good thing for the Interns since they eventually benefit from whatever I learn or find out that works (or what I learn doesn’t work).

For this trip in particular, I was really interested in figuring out how to book as many portrait sessions as I could while I was in Phoenix. Of course doing that from Atlanta seemed like an interesting challenge – but hey, I organized and put together a workshop in Montreal, Canada from Atlanta so booking a few portrait sessions shouldn’t be too difficult right? (Other than the ones for our Interns, that Montreal workshop was the first one ever, and now we’re confirmed to teach one in Kathmandu, Nepal next month.)

One thing that I knew for certain was that I would need an assistant. So I asked one of my best friends from high school (Amy!) to help out over the weekend. I had a few other options as far as assistants, but things got really crazy and after partying too hard on the first night with Amy and another friend from high school (Michelle!) – I was pretty delirious and shooting with half of my brain from Saturday through the end of Monday. Luckily, no matter what, I’ll always wake up to start shooting (just ask Leah).

Still. I think I figured a few things out about getting more photography ‘work’, managing a schedule, and… drinking lots of coffee. Of course, it’s not like I’m completely clueless on the ways of getting paid work – but coming up with new ideas and methods is always a positive. Not only that – but these are ideas I can share with the Interns so that they can use them to get new paying work.

Because the fact is – I think it’s a unique thing that I convinced a family to drive from El Paso, Tx., to Phoenix, Az., for their maternity session, another family to drive the 3+ hours from Northern Arizona, and three friends who I haven’t seen since high school to drag their families out into the windy, cold, and sometimes rainy conditions for a portrait session. Yes – it was raining during one of the sessions and we just waited it out underneath some trees.

Remember, Leah and I like to say that nothing we do is secret, but not everyone knows everything we do.

Leah arrives in Phoenix on Thanksgiving and then we’re here until Tuesday. With all of the photoshoots we’ve been doing lately – there’s quite the backlog of editing. It’s an all out war on editing right now since I’m flying out to Kathmandu, Nepal on December 6th and staying there until the 23rd.

I always tell our Interns not to rely on ‘interesting’ subjects to ‘make’ your photo. Far too many photographers do that – with their TFP model shoots, using makeup artists and hair stylists (TFP = trade for print). Early on, it’s too much of a crutch. It’s a distraction from what you should really be doing as a people photographer – connecting with your subjects.

Except for the family that drove from El Paso, I basically didn’t know any of my clients this weekend. Sure I knew some of them a little bit from high school – but that was over 10 years ago (what?!).

Everything was like herding cats at times – but in the best kind of way. You might notice that we make it a point to get people to look right into our lens. It takes time. Kids aren’t always in the mood. Heck – adults aren’t always in the mood. I do a lot of talking. Imagine how much talking I might do – and then triple that – I talk a lot and I get the clients to talk a lot. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s… less easy.

But you have to be confident in your ‘people’ skills if you’re willing to fly across the country and spend 5-6 hours with a couple you’ve never met before, follow them around like papparazzi and basically have a camera in their face the entire time. Last Monday I did just that – with Emily & Ben. They hired us to photograph their wedding in Ojai, Ca., and this was their engagement session. I flew into Ontario, Ca. Monday morning, hung out with them for 6 hours and then flew back to Phoenix that same night.

There is a big difference between a 2 hour session and a 6 hour session of constant photographing.

No matter what though – your job as a photographer is to get the clients to a point where they’re no longer uncomfortable in front of your lens. Not the lens. Your lens.

I’ll be editing for the next two weeks… and we’ll be posting again soon. Until then, have a great Thanksgiving.

Atlanta. Phoenix. California. Photographers. Weddings. Family. Portraits.

Covert Ops with the Intern Army

This is about how Amit proposed to Alpa at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

In case you haven’t noticed – we kind of go all out around here. We fly all over the country now for weddings, we currently have 9 interns, and when a cool project comes along – we do whatever it takes to get the job done, and have some fun at the same time.

So when Amit contacted us and asked if we could secretly photograph him and his girlfriend as they walked through the Atlanta Botanical Gardens – I said yes!… and then he also explained that at the end of the walk he would propose to her. Oh heck yeah!

Knowing the difficulties I might run into – I enlisted the help of our Intern Army. A total of eight photographers wandering around, hiding in plain sight, photographing the couple as they walked through the garden. We had way too much fun with this. (And you can check out what each intern wrote about the experience over at the Intern Blogs.)

Check out Intern Team One: Niki, Brett, Sonya, and Raven.

Check out Intern Team Two: Amanda, Carrie, and Megan.

I even bought us walkie-talkies so that we could pretend to be spies/covert ops even more. Besides – this sort of thing takes a carefully orchestrated plan of action. We arrived early so I distributed maps to everyone and showed them the route that the couple was going to take. After memorizing everything, we all burned the evidence and broke off into our separate teams and our starting positions.

Raven & I found our position on the roof in front of the entrance and kept an eye out for the subjects. When we saw them coming from the parking deck we used our walkie-talkies to notify the other teams. (Did I mention that we were having fun?)

For the first half, one team was going to be in front of the couple and the other team following behind them. Halfway through the walk, the teams would switch. This was so that Alpa wouldn’t keep seeing the same people photographing them – of course the goal was to not get caught photographing them, period. The best way to do that was to hide in plain sight.

Of course – sometimes you can’t help but get too excited and giddy and run away laughing… right Niki?

But having so many photographers working together REALLY helped when they entered the indoor gardens. I followed them halfway through the building and then Raven picked them up for the other half. It was relatively close quarters and without the switch, Alpa would have surely caught us… or she would tell Amit to beat up the creepy photographer.

Eventually, they made it to the rendezvous point. Where Raven was tasked with presenting a portable DVD player to show Alpa a short little movie that Amit had made for her with the help of friends and family – basically asking her to marry him… and then he got down on one knee.

We are honored that Amit hired us for this job – and the Intern Army definitely had A LOT of fun. Thank you and congratulations Amit & Alpa.

Engagement. Photos. Atlanta. Botanical. Gardens. Ideas. Creative.  Photographer.