EVENTS! (W. Brett Wilson for Kelowna Foodbanks)

Here are some photos from a breakfast event at Global Gym. It was held in their massive indoor tennis courts. If you find yourself in here please share it to facebook! It is a community event that I shot pro bono so please spread it around. Supporting our community foodbanks is a DHB thing to do. (DHB = Decent Human Being)

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Deals, Tips and Fun Stuff

To get current deals, summer photography tips and other fun things (like, join my photography team to community events!) please send me your email address and I’ll make sure that you get the word.

The big deal for the beginning of summer, from now until the end of June is a FREE book of your portraits with every family session. The book is really great too. It is 5×7 and 20pp.

How on Earth do you Price Wedding Photography?

Sometime in the next 10 years or so I am going to need to find a pile of cash to pay for good wedding photography for my children. It is very expensive since it is a highly specialized skillset. Back in the Manitoba Chapter of the Professional Photographer of Canada we used to talk about pricing.

We talked about pricing at almost every meeting. One of the presenters compared us to trades. How much does a Red Seal plumber make? On average $22/hr. He decided that he had equivalent training time, training difficulty and practice, apprenticing, etc. to someone who was a Red Seal plumber.

Then he broke down the amount of time including consultations that he would spend at a wedding – 1hr consultation, 1 hr creation time shooting engagement photo, 2 hours editing and retouching, 1 hr presentation and image selection with the couple, 2 hr creating engagement book or framing the enlargement, 1 hr delivery. 1 hr pre-wedding checkin, 12 hours wedding creation time, 24 hours editing and retouching, 1 hour presentation time with the couple, 5 hours in book design, sizing and editing, 1 hour framing enlargement, 1 hour delivery. Equals 51 hours on an average wedding. That comes to $1100. Plus paying the second shooter $600, frames $500 (average), custom books $800 (average) = $3000, and that is for someone who rates their artistic talent, people skills, social appropriateness and problem solving at the same level as a plumber.

That is a rough idea of how it is priced. Out of the photographer’s plumber-like wages he also pays for insurance, PPOC memberships, conferences, on-going training, studio lighting, backdrops, cameras, upkeep of all equipment and functioning vehicle. Sometimes he will also have a family and be the primary wage earner for the family.

So hooray for plumbers! I had a leak somewhere in the wall in my basement and I certainly didn’t trust myself to dig around and try to fix it. I would never begrudge my plumber of his $22/hr. Sometimes you have a job that only a pro can do. If you are like myself and see some big jobs coming on the horizon, best to start saving up now.

Artist Headshots

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This young woman has years of theatre experience and it shows in her dramatic demeanour. These are a few of the images that resulted in just one hour of photography time:
she will have images appropriate for linkedin,
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facebook, business cards and some that are appropriate for her boyfriend to make into a huge framed print for the days that she feels insecure. (Let’s face it, we all have those days.)
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Trick #7: Relax, You Have a Contingency Plan

7. Create a contingency plan for everything that can go wrong. Your portrait photographer will already have several plans because they are experienced and they have had things go wrong before. Ask them to share them with you as it will bring you greater security. I will describe some of my contingency plans. -10 Tricks

What can go wrong? Well, a bunch of stuff actually.

Is the subject a small child? It is a general rule that the smaller and younger the subject the greater variety of things that can go wrong. Think about it. It is rare for a 20 year old to vomit and poop herself during her portrait session but completely expected that the newborn will. Therefore, have wet wipes, change of clothes, a changing blanket, and fresh props on hand during a newborn session.

For the most part the biggest thing to go wrong is the weather. It is a wonderful thing to have a storm-tossed sky in a photo but that can turn to unruly ground wind and buckets of rain so quickly. Therefore, have hair styling equipment, umbrellas, and a place to run if things turn ugly. Conversely, if I’m doing something daring anyway a huge rainstorm could be perfect. Some people look completely amazing drenched.

Kevn watermarked This is Kevin. The weather for his session was terrifying. It is one of the best portraits that I have made. It is electrifying!

samara watermarked This is Samara. It was on the verge of raining throughout the session. Imagine the image without the wind and the clouds. It wouldn’t be as dramatic.

tiffany lebel rain watermark This is Tiffany. Rain is such a cool thing to have happen in a shoot, if you can find a way to use it everything is better.

IMG_8324 small waterm This is Ian and the weather outside was frightful. So we made drama with an off camera flash and reflector, both managed off screen by my husband. This image was shot mid-day in our livingroom. It was very bright but we made it look like night.

In the family photo featured at the top of this post there were several things going wrong at the same time. The children were restless, the day was chilly, it was pouring rain through the entire shoot. This is what went right – they were perfectly wardrobed so they didn’t match but they looked like a unit, the children were a variety of sizes which is amazing for posing, there is no worry about identical sized children overlapping. Their attitude toward the shoot overcame the rain and made what would be call-off-able weather into a massive improvement to the ordinary. The colours are more saturated, the use of water as an element in the image makes more sense, everything looks clean and the family was having fun doing something unusual in the rain. Also, we had the park to ourselves.

What if the camera isn’t working? Your portrait photographer will probably have a backup with her. What if it some equipment breaks? I actually had a client snap the foot off of my hotshoe (on the flash unit) during a sitting. He was “helping” me. But I know how to make the flash go if I need it without that part. Also, I carry duct tape, gaffer tape, rope and an assortment of bungie cords.

If we plan on sun but get clouds, I know some ways to make it look like the sun is shining on you. If we get sun but we hoped for clouds, I know how to make it dramatic and amazing.

For the things that you are bringing to the session such as clothing and props, please bring extra. If you are planning on wearing a blue shirt pleas bring two or three blue shirts. If you are bringing a baby who will be in the portrait, please bring five blue shirts and extra baby things.

Trick #6: Meaningful Props

6. Collect props that you love and are meaningful. How to choose the props to build in layers of meaning into an image will be unpacked. – 10 Tricks

Here is a real-life example: Tanya and Tyler got married (I was honoured to photograph both the wedding and engagement) then they had a baby (I was honoured to photograph both the maternity and the newborn). Their wedding was country themed with lace and natural elements and plaid. These elements were in every session. When it came time to do the newborn session we had a choice. We could choose from a pile of props that I had or build something meaningful for them.

Here is the beautiful baby:

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Everything in this image, every prop carries meaning. There is lace, a basket from their wedding, even the red plaid is the tail of Tyler’s favourite shirt.

Compare the richness of building in the layers of meaning compared to using someone else’s props, props that are in so many other baby photos.

How would you apply this to an adult portrait? For me, I would look around my home and find the objects that mean something to me. The Bible that my mother gave me, an apple (it was my father’s pet name for me), I would have a guitar propped up against the wall (both my husband and my son play) and some of my daughter’s artwork hanging and maybe some discarded dance shoes (both girls create art and dance). I imagine that I’m building this image on my deck and I would have some large photobooks from my favourite artists and probably my dog sleeping at my feet. I’d be curled on a chair with the quilt that my mother-in-law crocheted. So even though it is just a photo of me, it is also a photo of my family and a statement of what is important to me. I think I’ll make that image. Would you like to see it?

Trick # 5 : The Planning Session

5. Attend a planning session. I’ll describe what a planning session is actually like so that you’ll know what to expect. – 10 Tricks

A great deal of anxiety around professional portraits comes from the unknown and the feeling of being out of control, that someone else will be telling you to do things that make you feel uncomfortable. (I don’t mean something as radical as taking off your clothes, I mean looking cheesy or awkward.) The planning session is the beginning of a collaboration between artist and subject where you start to shape the end result. This empowerment takes away a measure of the risk and usually replaces that anxiety with anticipation.

Some portrait photographers have a planning session and some don’t. If yours doesn’t offer one, you can suggest it. It is generally a complimentary service because at the end of the day both of you are more comfortable and happy.

Here’s what mine look like:

1. We chat online or on the phone (text or voices) and choose a place to meet. My studio is mobile and so am I. I have relationships with a couple of coffeehouses that are happy to go the extra mile, where the atmosphere is comfortable and we can sit for a spell without people giving us the “go-away-eye”.

2. Before we even start talking about the portrait session I will want to know about you. What do you love? I don’t have a list of questions. I listen. I watch. While you talk about things, causes, work, places and people that you love I listen, watch and ask questions.

3. I will have a portfolio book with me if you are interested and I can tell you a bit about myself or my training, etc. but generally I don’t. Usually you have vetted me before our meeting by reading references or the “Hullo” section of this website. Since nothing is hidden, you already know the price but you might want to make some sort of alternate payment arrangements such as paying a little bit every month.

4. Finally, we will talk about the session itself. I will pull out a sketchbook and make a rough sketch of what I imagine for you. If you have a firm idea on what you would like to try, I will sketch that. One the paper will be details such as props, lighting, location, wardrobe. And a list of what you will do and what I will do. This looks like: you – make appointment with makeup artist, make appointment for hair, find old hat with the feathers / me – book location, arrange lighting, book assistant

5. The last thing that happens is a followup email with all the details as I understand them. You can correct me wherever I misunderstood.

The best things about the planning session is that it creates a blueprint for the portrait session and it creates familiarity. When we meet for the session it actually feels like meeting a friend and working together on an art project. Now we are collaborators!

Trick #4: How to Deal With Portrait Lights

4. How to deal with portrait lighting. We all have our techniques. I use a bare minimum to get the results that I want since I specialize in creating confidence I reduce anxiety by reducing non-human elements – like 12 lights all firing (scary for everyone). I have three different lighting schemes and I’ll tell you how I choose which one to use for your portrait. -10 Tips

Portrait lights bug me.

For one thing, when there is a strobe (flash) I always look intoxicated. One eye shuts a bit. It is genetic. My eye doc told me about it.

The second reason is that I don’t do very well with blue-wave length light. In fact, it makes me throw up after about 20 minutes of exposure. When I have to be around that type of light I wear funky amber shades. They cut out the blue and I can go for about an hour.

Maybe you are like me.

My body just doesn’t like flashes and blue-light (fluorescent-type) and even before I knew why, I hated them. Call it instinct.

Whatever the reason, my genetics or my instincts, I try to minimize artificial light. There are a few things though that I will use.

1. Ambient light and reflectors. This is the free-range organics of light. It is all around you all the time. Look around you right now and you will see natural patterns of light and shadow. Portrait photographers use those natural patterns to create shape in your face and body. It is the most subtle way to shape. Reflectors just take what is around you and concentrate it. If helps to draw attention to the sparkle in your eyes or add a glow to your skin or hair.

misha one This is Misha. She is lit only by window light. It is a type of directional ambient light.

2. Speedlight. For whatever reason it never has made me sick. It is also tiny and discreet but packs a wallop. There are a ton of ways to modify it. Things that concentrate or diffuse its beam are fun to use and give different effects. It can even be used to cast shadows or to gently or dramatically shape a face.

IMG_5766 57 watermarked This is Jordan. She is lit by both the ambient light of the bookstore and by a speedlight positioned between the rows of books. That what gives her the edge of light on the left side of her body and creates separation from the bookshelves.

3. If I only need to blast you once or twice and if it is a photobooth or huge gang type photo I will break out some studio lights. I have two types of studio lights – one set is a flashing strobe that is very powerful and the other set is a couple of constant lights. They are often used in video. Neither of these sets are mobile and I like to keep everything fluid and moving through an environment so these are rarely out of their packs.

IMG_2985 This is Ed. He is in a studio setting with one of the constant lights. I am using this light to mimic what nice ambient light would do.

For your portrait I can almost guarantee that I will use a combination of natural light and a speedlight or two. The only time when you will see me setting up studio lights if if your “happy place” portrait location is the bottom of a well or crypt of some sort. Yeah, if it is hopelessly dark I will bring in other lights.