November 2013

Who’s in charge here?!?


You Da Boss

 In every shoot there needs to be a leader.  If it’s a commercial shoot there is an art director running the show.  This is, no doubt, less than 1% of the shoots taking place on any given day.  Most shoots are Trades and of those many are for fun and practice.

We will be talking about those trade shoots.


Photo by Linda Kelley

In every shoot someone needs to be in charge, someone who is watching it all and looking for opportunities to get a great shot.  This is not to say there shouldn’t be collaboration of ideas.  Some of my best work came from the creative minds of others.  This is a good time to point out that the sooner you can surround yourself with the best makeup and hair talent the better.  It’s always a mix of everyones style that make a shoot rock.

In any endeavor that involves a group of people there has to be someone guiding the group.  I think there are many reasons this needs to be the photographer.

The photographer has the rights to the images.   Why would the photographer allow a shoot to get out of hand and head in directions he or she knows are pictures they don’t want or need?

There is only one person who can see what your camera sees, you, the photographer.  You can see how the light is hitting the scene, what angles don’t have a telephone pole sticking out of someone’s head, and can move to get just the right framing.  No one else can see what you can.  That puts the entire responsibility on you to take the time to think, look, and imagine what can be done in any given situation to get that shot.  Everyone else is counting on YOU to do just that.


Photo by Linda Kelley


And, last but far from least, your reputation is on the line.  You are only as good as your last shoot.  The only direction you want to go is up.  Better.  More creative.



I never hesitate to try something, my idea or someone else’s on the set.  Some of what I thought were not stellar ideas turned out to totally rock.  And some turned out to be, well, not stellar ideas.

But I always call the shots.  Pun intended.  My camera is down at my side most of a shoot.  I have to see it in my head, then see it form up with the lights, and THEN I bring the camera up and start capturing it.  The constant nagging of that little voice asking, “Is there a better angle?”, “How’s the lighting look?” is always there.

Failure is an option

  To many times in the past I’ve sat down to go over a shoot at my workstation late at night, after all is shot and everyone has gone home to find myself saying, “What the hell is this!” or “What was I thinking?!?”

Failure is an option you can avoid.

So, now I’m also thinking about what I’m putting on that memory card and how my job will be to create from it.  If I shoot crappy work there is nothing Photoshop is going to help me out of.

All the more reason why YOU have to be in charge of a shoot.  Everyone is counting on YOU to bring out amazing shots from all the effort being put into it.  YOU are most likely the most experienced of the group.  You know your skills and limitations.  You know what you can do with that shot in post.

Say NO when the little voice tells you to

  One last thing, if you haven’t guessed it yet.  Say NO when that’s the answer.  Say this isn’t working when it’s not.

The finesse in saying no or this isn’t working and not hurting anyone’s feelings is a bit of a bedside manner and important to keep the creative energy and excitement high.  For me it’s usually something like ‘that’s a great idea but I can’t get the angle or lighting to make that one rock’.  I guess I take the responsibility of a failed idea on myself so it’s not an issue for anyone to feel bad about, and then move to the next set quickly to keep it rolling.  After all, there are no bad ideas…except around cliffs and rail road tracks.

Just remember, the photographer is in charge of a shoot.  Period.  As the captain you are the one that’s going down with the ship if it sinks.  It’s on you.

There are times you CAN lay down on the job though….


Photo by Linda Kelley

For satisfaction or just fun?


  Everyone has a motive for being a photographer.  For some it’s obvious.  For some, not so much.  I find myself admiring the photographers that are in it for the satisfaction of creating something.  Generally something artistic.  Even wedding photos or new born shots can be amazing art.  Of course, there are photographers that spend hours just taking pictures without giving the slightest thought of how the light on the subjects look.  They don’t learn lighting.  And their finished product, in my opinion, isn’t much better than those cell phone shots.  These are the photographers where I just can’t put my finger on why they shoot.  Don’t get me wrong, as long as they are having fun I’m good.  Not judging, just wondering.

I think photography is very different from 20 years ago when there were far fewer cameras.  I think it’s actually easier to stand out with art than ever before.  With the flood of cameras in cell phones and social media giving us those wonderful pictures of food, cats, and selfies it makes a great photo stand out even more.  In my opinion.  There may be a thousand times more photos out there but there certainly isn’t even ten times more art.


This was a test to just see what it might look like.

My motive is to create artistic photos.  Art touches the mind, heart, or both.  It can bring out an emotional response.  A gasp, a tear, a smile.  That is what I shoot for.  Often I only make someone tilt their head and squint…and sometimes scratch it.  You never know if others are going to love, hate, or scratch.

In order to be creative and get results that don’t look like yesterday’s or last weeks, you always have to think about what might be interesting to try.  It might fail, but even failures usually lead to other ideas that work wonders.  Everything from finding an old wooden ammo box in the alley (thank you Linda!) to getting an email from an electronic parts/gadget store.  They can and should trigger a curiosity of how something you see can help you create something interesting.


  The above shot of Caitlan with a light fiber going around her face was a last minute test shot to play with something I found for sale in an email.  Well, it was a ‘LIGHT’ after all and that’s what we paint with in photography, right?  And even when I shot it I wasn’t sure the test worked…until I got it in the software and started to play and this shot emerged out of the darkness.  Worth playing?



And sometimes it’s a test shot turned art.  I was testing the lighting and normally I’d have Cassandra have her feet up to catch more curves.  I told her to relax and I kept adjusting until I got the lighting I wanted.  Then we did all the shooting of legs up and other body scape work.  When I went to edit I found a set of legs making as straight a line as a female can make and messed with it until it turned into some art I’m really proud of.  It was a test.  I was playing.


  If the pictures you take today look like the ones you took last month, or last year, your motive might be just taking pictures for the fun and not the satisfaction.  If it’s for fun you can bet your pictures will look the same in 5 years.

Think about lighting.  Always!  Do something different by thinking of options.  Let your mind wander.  Set your camera down often and think about how you might improve or change up the lighting to give you something outside your comfort zone.  Hell, what’s a comfort zone!?!