As a photographer, there are always those images that take your breath away. Sometimes they’re planned, and other times, they’re completely out of the blue. A moment captured in time in a way that you didn’t foresee. A movement or an emotion that you knew was happening when you pressed the shutter release, but that you might not have known just how raw or pure or beautiful it was. These are the best surprises, the little gems that you might even pass over the first time you flip through the images, but which catch your eye and make you go back to that image again and again. These are the hidden beauties that make photography such an addictive form of expression, knowing that among every single set of images you make, there will be these lovely little surprises sprinkled all throughout.
There are times when I’ve been so busy that I don’t get to start editing images from a session for several days or even a couple of weeks, so what happens is this: I upload all of my images immediately following my session. I sit down and mark at least 20 of my favorites. I might even go ahead and give in to the urge to edit a couple of them. And then I continue on with the client on whose images I was already working, leaving the new gallery alone until I get to it in my workflow. And upon my return to this new gallery, bam, I find the hidden gems. You see, upon this return, I’m no longer working with the emotions and expectations I had at the end of the session; at this point, I’m working with fresh eyes and new emotions, and this is when I’ll see the shot that I might have passed over initially. Maybe I passed it over because it wasn’t perfectly sharp, or maybe I was looking in color at an image that belonged in black-and-white, or maybe I just wasn’t seeing. Until I was.
In the past several months, I’ve had several emails from amateur photographers asking me questions about how I do certain things. I’ve taken most, but not all, of these questions from the latest email and am answering them here. I know that I certainly had a fair number of questions early on, so hopefully this can help some of you a little bit. But please know that my way is not the only way, nor is it going to be the best way — it’s just the way it’s evolved for me. Keep on researching the methods that work best for you.
What’s In Your Camera Bag?
My go-to camera body is my 5D Mark iii, but I also have a 5D Mark ii. For film, I have a Canon 1V 35mm and a Contax 645 Medium Format.
Lenses: Canon 24mm f/1.4 L II, Canon 50mm f/1.2 L, Canon 85mm f/1.8, Canon 135mm f/2, and Zeiss 80mm f/2 Planar
Compact CF Cards: Lexar 3 32GB and 2 64GB, 1066x, 160mb/s
Lens hoods, cleaning cloths, small handheld reflector, transfer cables uv filters, neutral density filter, extra battery
Backpack: Lowe camera backpack
How do you store photos?
On high quality external desktop back up drives.
What is the best way to get photos to a client?
I interpreted this question as asking about the best way to get digital images to a client. The simplest answer is to put them on a flash drive. Another option, depending on the usage and type of client, is to use a service such as Dropbox. And of course, a third option, is to open an account with a service such as Zenfolio or Smugmug, and allow direct downloading from the site.
The longer and more complicated answer is that you also need to look at the bigger picture (no pun intended) and decide what you think is the best way to run your business. Are you selling only digital files, or are you offering prints and products. Why are you doing what you’re doing as far as this goes?
Clearly, this will be different for different photographers. And having grown up in the film world, perhaps I see digital files differently than some folks, more like a physical negative. Because I want to make sure that my clients have beautiful images they can hang on their wall or view in a beautiful custom album, I don’t just sell digital files. While I understand the desire to have digital files to make reprints for family members or “just to have,” the reality is that many people put these digital files on a hard drive and never get around to doing anything with them. Moreover, it’s my job to provide products that are truly beautiful, and that means I’ve tested out my labs, made sure the color on my monitor is as close as can be to the prints that we order, and that the product is made to last. I want to make sure that my client’s investment feels tangible and gives them pleasure on a daily basis. After all, when I make a big purchase on something I’ve wanted for a while, I want to see it or touch it or wear it — not have it sit in a drawer or a closet or out in my garage. For that reason, I want to make sure that my clients have something physical – tangible – right in front of them — prints or a gallery wrap or an album. See, touch, smile, love.
So coming back around to the original question, if it’s just about digital files, then put them on a flash drive or upload them to Dropbox or another file sharing service. But if it’s about prints and products, then you’ll be delivering those in person in whatever format (print, gallery wrap, etc.) you and your client have decided is the best fit for the image and the client’s space.
How do you organize your photos?
I have to say, I wish I’d had a better grasp of this when I first started out. Here’s what I do now, and believe me, I’m sure there are better systems out there. The first thing I do after every shoot is back up the photos onto an external drive; some people believe you should have a RAID system set up, but I don’t have that. Each one of my backup drives is a desktop 4TB drive.
Once the images have been transferred to the backup drive, I name the image folder in Year_Month_Day_Client/Event format (for example: 2016_05_30 Omohundro Family Session). I use Lightroom as an organization tool once I begin working on the files, and there are some great articles on the best ways to organize within Lightroom.
Why do I prefer the camera body I use?
Honestly, I don’t think it matters whether you use Canon or Nikon or Sony or whatever you have. What I think matters is what you can do with that camera. I learned on the most basic of basic film cameras when I was 15 years old, and got my first SLR on my 16th birthday. It was a Minolta x370, and it was downright fancy compared to the camera I had been using from my high school yearbook. I used that camera for several years, and then got a Sony film camera. After that, I got a Canon film camera, and then I was given a Sony digital camera that sat in a bag for 3 years before I ever decided to play with it. When I finally decided to buy a nice digital camera, I chose Canon. Why? Because the Canon film camera I had was my favorite camera ever, and the dials and controls were instinctive for me. Purchasing a Canon digital camera made sense for me, because my fingers and thumbs knew right where to be to adjust settings on the fly – no thinking involved. To be fair, I researched a Nikon thoroughly and loved its features, but when I held it in my hands, it was foreign to me. Go with what feels right, plain and simple. Brand doesn’t matter.
If there was one ideal lens you could have as a portrait photographer, what would it be?
Oh dear, this is a tough one because I love all of my lenses for different reasons, and I cycle through which one lives on my camera for spontaneous excursions. If we’re talking strictly portraits, as in really capturing a person’s face, I’d have to say the 85mm is one of my favorites. But the 50mm gives a crispness that can’t be beat, and the 135 creates the most magical bokeh, while the 24mm feels incredible and gives an unbeatable documentary perspective. I know I didn’t really answer this question, but I can’t help it! There are other lenses I plan to buy as well, but I try to keep my gear obsession in check.
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As far as unasked for advice, here’s what I’ve got for you. And you’ll hear this over and over and over from every photographer because it’s true – get your shots right in camera. Shoot in manual mode. Learn your camera; read the manual. Shoot, shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. Learn to match the image in your head with the image that comes out of your camera by really SEEING. Understand light. Most of all, have fun with it and remember why you were drawn to this amazing art form.