Category Archives: Tips

Shooting small items for online selling.

My wife Bonnie recently started on the task of cleaning out many years of collectibles that both she and her mom had accumulated. No small task, and she needed photos of all her items to post online.

If you sell or trade items online, like on Ebay, Esty or Facebook,  you know that having a good photo of your item or craft is so important.

Fortunately, this is something most everyone can do themselves using some common household items and your camera phone. Today’s smartphone cameras are plenty good enough to produce great quality images of small to medium items. You don’t need to hire a pro, like me, in order to get good quality photos!

Producing a sharp, clear photo without distractions takes just a little bit of knowledge and some common household materials you probably already have.

First, you will want to create a background that provides minimal distraction. What I did was create what photographers call a “sweep” out of a tablecloth.

This is done by draping an ironed sheet or tablecloth over a box or something tall enough to create a background that flows into a foreground without a crease or seam.

White is very common in professional photos, but be aware that if you are using your phone, a white background may cause your items to record too dark, so something of a medium color and mid-tone will be a better choice. Likewise, a solid black background will cause your items to record too light. A DSLR camera gives you the ability to adjust the exposure to compensate, but this is more tedious to do with your cell phone camera and you want to avoid having to do more adjustments than necessary, Avoid anything with a busy pattern or print as this will distract from your item. A solid, mid-tone cloth or bed-sheet will be perfect.

Next, locate a window, or even better, a bank of windows in your home that will provide soft, even lighting. Be careful that direct sunlight isn’t falling on your windows during the time you want to shoot your pictures, as this will cause harsh shadows and streaks of sunlight on your items that will be very distracting. Shoot on an overcast day or pick a window that doesn’t have harsh, direct sun hitting it while you are shooting,

Position your table top setup so that your window is about 45 degrees left or right of where your camera will be. If you put the window directly behind you, you will cast your own shadow on your items when you take the photos.

Having the window to one side gives some direction to the light which provides what photographers call “modeling” or dimension to your items.

If your window is small, you may find that you get too harsh a shadow from your items on the background. If that’s the case, prop a large piece of white cardboard, or even newspaper on the opposite side of the window will reflect some light back and lessen any too-dark shadows. In our case, we had a bank of windows running the whole length of our breakfast room, so the light was soft and perfect.

Position your items several inches to a foot out away from the background. This will help avoid shadows from your items falling on the background, and will also allow your background to fall gently out of focus, minimizing any wrinkles or textures in your fabric and focusing attention on your item.

Play with the positioning of your item to show it to its best advantage. If you get any glare or reflection on shiny surfaces, they can usually be eliminated by angling your item slightly left or right until they disappear. It’s important to make these adjustments while looking through your camera or at the screen on your phone as they may appear very different from what you see through the lens.

For most items that can stand up, it is also important to keep your camera or phone down perpendicular to your item. Shooting from too high an angle will introduce distortion that will be a problem. 

If your item can’s stand or be propped, you can always lay it flat and shoot directly down from over top.

In my case, I shot these pictures with a DSLR on a tripod, because.. duh… I’m a professional photographer. But if you doubt your phone can’t take just as good a shot, I shot this one with both my Canon and my iphone… can you tell which is which?

BTW, one item well worth the investment is a tripod on which to put your camera or phone. It will allow for sharper photos, make centering and composing your photos much easier, and free your hands for making minor adjustments to your items. Small light weight tripods can be found for around $20-$30 online and are well worth the investment if you do a lot of this stuff.

I found this handy bracket that holds your smartphone securely and allows it to be attached to any tripod for about $7. Definitely nice to have, but not essential.

Hope these tips help you to present your items or crafts in their best light!

Behind the Scenes – Classic Car Shoot

This was a fun shoot I did recently. If you know a car enthusiast, wouldn’t one of these look great in their office or garage?

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I thought it would make an interesting post to explain how I go about creating one of these. I use a technique called “Light Painting” which is the only way to really properly bring out all the details, curves, and reflections that make a car guy (or girl) swoon!

Let me start by saying that these take a LOT of work and skill to put together. But for anyone who may be interested in learning how it’s done, here goes.

First, here is a “before” shot… which is how the scene actually looked. Found a nice, but simple location and started the shoot about 15 minutes before sunset and established a “base” shot. Using a moderately wide angle lens allows us to accentuate the lines of the car, in this case a classic ’72 Corvette, AND make it stand out from the background.

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Not a bad picture… but we want that bad boy to jump off the page, so with the camera on a sturdy, rock solid tripod so that it does not move even a millimeter during multiple exposures, we start to take individual photos lighting each of the cars features:

Here, I’m lighting the front wheel:

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Here, I’m illuminating under the wheel well and grill.

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Next, the back wheel and side pipes.

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Here, I’m lighting the car’s far profile and edge of the right fender and windshield.

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Adding some reflections to highlight the hood.

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And the top part of the hood and roof.

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Can’t forget the interior, which would be black without some illumination.

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And then, the grass under the car to help separate it.

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And, of course, the grill.

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Then, we begin the painstaking task of layering the individual highlighted parts over the base image. Then, using a technique called “masking”, we hide the parts of each individual image that we do not want to show. So, we end up with a picture where all the individual elements are combined into one image that we could never actually create in one shot. Enhance the sky behind the car, and done!

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Viit 01a

Here’s a before and after to see the transformation you can do with light painting:

Viit 01e

If you know someone who has a hot or classic car that they love, this makes an absolutely awesome gift!!  Call me at 856-228-4399 and I can create a one of a kind look for you too!

Also posted in Dennis Kelly Customers, News and Happenings

How to Get Great Color

or… why I never use auto white balance, and neither should you…..

I have a vivid memory etched in my brain. I was in Las Vegas, standing in front of a room of about 450 of the best professional photographers in the country…. and I was about to be humiliated.

11"x17" French Fold TemplateWe had all gathered for a week long workshop on marketing. One of my marketing pieces was being displayed for critique on three giant projected displays positioned around the ballroom. It was a Jumbotron of scrutiny and shame.  I stood alone at a microphone at the foot of the stage, while the speaker, an internationally recognized expert in marketing and a damn good photographer to boot, peered down on me from above. I felt like the 2nd grader called into the principal’s office, and I braced for the humiliation I was certain was coming.

His voice thundered through the microphone and went straight to my spinal cord.

“Man, you really got this color thing nailed… Wanna tell us how you do it?”

BAM!… I was instantly everybody’s best friend, and I didn’t have to buy a lunch for the rest of the week. It was… well, it was cool.

This was in the beginning days of the photography industry’s transition to digital imaging, and photographers were struggling with this new technology called “color management”.

02eSee, in the old days, all photographers had to do was drop their film off at a professional lab and somebody ELSE took care of the color for them.

An expert, or someone who at least kinda knew what they were doing, just handled it. We, as shooters, didn’t need to think about it much, unless we weren’t getting good color. Then the solution was to send the order back for reprints, or find a different lab.

But Not For Me.

You see, I began my career in photography in the darkroom. I WAS “the guy” the other photographers trusted with their color! I was “the expert.” So, when digital flipped the responsibility for good color from the lab onto the photographer, it was no big deal for me. I just had to learn the nuances of the new technology, but what good color looked like, and how to get it, was second nature to me.

I Know Color.

These days though, I see a LOT of bad color, from both amateurs and professionals.

It’s particularly troublesome when it’s a professional, because they are supposed to know better. But I see a lot of professional portraits with yellow, orange, or even greenish skin. You have too. I’m sure you’ve seen photos with skin tones that look like the image on the left, and no, it’s not good. The background here is actually blue, not green, and her hair… well, nobody’s hair is that color, at least not on purpose.

Scarduzio-4577Its a shame, because it isn’t rocket science. Whenever I teach a class to professionals, one of the most frequent questions I get is about how to get good color consistently.  The techniques are applicable to both pros and amateurs alike, so I though it would make a valuable blog post.

So, Here Goes.

The color from typical household bulbs is very yellow-red, and ACTUALLY looks like this.

The color from typical household bulbs is very yellow-red, and ACTUALLY looks like this.

The first thing you need to understand is that light that we see as white, can actually be many different colors. Our brains do an amazing job of compensating for us, but “white” light comes in many different shades. For example, sunlight on a cloudy, overcast day is very bluish… or as we say, “cold”, while sunlight just before sunset, when the light filters through much more of the atmosphere, is very reddish, or as we say “warm”. Light from typical household light bulbs is very yellow, and fluorescent light bulbs are typically very green.

The relative color of light is defined by something called “color temperature” and to get correct color, you have to match your camera’s settings to the color of light you are photographing under. This is set under something called “white balance”.

 

 

“But wait a minute, Dennis… my super wiz bang hyper doodle fancy digital camera has an “auto white balance” setting. Why do I need anything else?”

Matching our camera's while balance setting to the color of the light we are shooting under let's us correct the color to something that looks more natural. Our brains do this for us. Our cameras, well, they try....

Matching our camera’s while balance setting to the color of the light we are shooting under let’s us correct the color to something that looks more natural. Our brains do this for us. Our cameras, well, they try….

Here is why. Your camera determines how to set the white balance by looking at the colors in the image, and trying to figure out what colors are present in excess. So, if you are photographing under very yellow light, your camera will see an excess of yellow and adjust the settings for the photo to be more blue… the opposite of yellow on the color wheel. If your camera sees an excess of blue… like on an overcast day, it will shift the color to be more yellow to compensate.

So, whats the problem?

Well, the problem is the camera doesn’t really KNOW what it is looking at. It can’t tell the difference between a scene that is blue because the color of the light is filtering through clouds, or if the subject is standing in front of a blue wall wearing a blue sweater. In other words, there is an abundance of blue because there is SUPPOSED to be an abundance of blue. This is referred to as a “subject failure”.

 

 

Tina's skin should look like the image on the left. But the camera sees an abundance of blue in the background and fabric, so it adds a bunch of yellow to try and "fix" it. YUK.

Tina’s skin should look like the image on the left. But the camera sees an abundance of blue in the background and fabric, so it adds a bunch of yellow to try and “fix” it. YUK.

Likewise, when Tina is wearing red, the camera will try to compensate by adding cyan to the image, trying to "correct" what isn't actually wrong.

Likewise, when Tina is wearing red, the camera will try to compensate by adding cyan to the image, trying to “correct” what isn’t actually wrong.

I once knew a professional photographer who shot a prom with the camera set on “auto”. Every photo was a different color… if the girl had a blue dress, her face was yellow, if the dress was red, her face was cyan (a kind of blue-green that is the opposite of red), a green dress would yield a magenta skin tone. About the only pictures where the color was right was where the girl’s dress was white, gray, or black. In other words, where the dress wasn’t introducing a FALSE color bias that was throwing off the camera’s auto color feature.

If the colors in the image are basically neutral.. an even mix, auto wb will work ok. But you never really KNOW.

If the colors in the image are basically neutral.. an even mix, auto wb will work ok. But you never really KNOW.

It was a mess. Even if she had photographed the whole job on the WRONG color setting, it would have been better… because they all would have at least been consistent. It would have been relatively simple to make one color correction and apply it to ALL the images in post processing. But, because every one was different, she had to try and manually fix the color one at a time on hundreds of pictures.

This is why professionals in the know refer to the “A” white balance setting as “Awful White Balance” and almost never use it!

So, how SHOULD you set your camera to get best color?

Well, there are other settings on your camera… they are named, or marked by icons for situations like “daylight” “cloudy” “flash” “tungsten” (light bulbs) “fluorescent” and even a “custom” setting.

Untitled-1(1)Setting your camera to the setting that most closely matches the conditions you are actually shooting under will usually get you much better results! Even if the color of your pictures is a little off, you can apply a color correction to all your images at once in your photo editing software, because if they are nothing else, all the photos taken under those same lighting conditions will be the SAME. But, if getting great color is really important to you, there is an even better way….

Continue reading »

Also posted in Dennis Kelly Customers, Uncategorized

Bad Photoshop…

By now everyone is no doubt aware that there is a serious backlash in the media and on social networking against the use of Photoshop in the altering or “airbrushing” of images. The sentiment is that the use of image editing software presents an unrealistic and unattainable  standard of beauty that is unhealthy and harmful. This was highlighted by a couple recent stories that have gone viral decrying the evils of Photoshop. In one, a journalist sent an un-photoshopped image of her self to a number of freelance Photoshop “artists” from all over the world. The idea was to demonstrate the cultural differences in the perception of beauty.  The story is linked here: o-ESTHERHONGORIG-900 In my opinion, all this project REALLY demonstrated is how many absolutely horrible “photoshop artists” there are out there. The author even freely admits that she found all her “artists” on the website “Fiverr” which she utilized after her boss “asked me to use the site in order to contract cheap work for whatever projects I might be assigned.” So, we are comparing work done by freelance “professionals”  competing with each other over who is the cheapest. Further, the author freely admits that the process was purposely manipulated. “…one person would add a filter and a little airbrush while others really went all out. I’ve chosen the images that were more manipulated to publish for my collection.”

But, should we blame the process of being able to fix and enhance our photos when the real problem is people who just have no sense of taste? I think perhaps not!

In another recent viral video, singer “Colbie Caillat Snubs Photoshop & Goes All Natural In New Video“.

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Curiously, if you actually watch the video, it deals entirely with MAKEUP and has nothing at all to do with Photoshop… but of course, no one is vilifying makeup companies, and I’ll bet good money on Colbie’s next album cover and at her next concert, she’ll be wearing makeup. But it is easier to pin the blame on the evils of Photoshop.

Let’s back up and get a little history and get some perspective before throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Often mistakenly referred to as “editing”, “retouching and enhancement” is the process of correcting flaws in a photograph not able to be addressed when shooting. Only the methods have changed.

“Editing” as most photographers actually use the term, refers to the process of selecting which photos to keep, and which hit the trash can. A culling process, in or out, yes or no. That is editing.

Photographers have been doing “retouching and enhancement” on photographs since the invention of photography. In the old days, photographers would learn to remove dust spots from prints using dyes applied to the print with a brush. Temporary facial blemishes and such could be removed from an image by blending the blemish on the negative to the surrounding skin tone using pencils sharpened to a needle point or dyes with very fine brushes. This usually needed to be done with the aid of a powerful magnifying glass or even a microscope. Needless to say, this level of artistry required a great deal of skill and talent, took years to master, and there were limits to what could be done.

More extreme corrections would be done by applying colored pencils, chalks, or airbrushing actual paint onto the surface of the photograph. The more work that was done, the more apparent it became and the more the image took on the look of an illustration or painting rather than a photograph. This is where the erroneous use of the word “airbrushing” comes from. No one today actually uses airbrushing as a tool to enhance photographs.

Enter Adobe Photoshop. A natural extension of the way photographers have always “polished” their images, Photoshop has simply, and perhaps sadly, made it easier for almost anyone to go crazy and alter images badly. Just as Karaoke brought forth an entire universe of awful singers, Photoshop enabled countless “photographers” to do retouching and enhancement, really, really poorly.

But why do we even need retouching? I mean, why can’t we just accept that people have pimples and blotchy skin and bags under their eyes and crow’s feet? Why do we have to aspire to some level of unrealistic perfection?

Fair question, but I think there is actually an answer. And the answer lies in what a photograph actually represents to most people… a slice of time… a MEMORY. Here is the reality about memories. When we meet with or recall someone, a loved one or relative, we do not spend time staring at and scrutinizing every pimple, blackhead, stray hair and wrinkle. We engage the person, talk to them, smell them, touch them. We do not have these additional distractions when viewing a photograph. All we can do is look at it, and with that, we scrutinize it. We see things, in razor sharp detail, that we would simply not see in reality. THAT is the purpose of retouching and enhancement. It brings our photograph more into alignment with our actual memory. Is that wrong?

Here is an image of my lovely friend, Tina. Yes, Tina is wearing makeup… shoot me. Let’s be real, modern sentiments aside, it is the rare woman who is going to sit in front of my camera without any makeup on. Is that really so horrible?  Anyway, right away we can see one of the first problems… today’s cameras and lenses are WAY TOO SHARP for portrait photography. I can promise you, if you had been there when this photo was taken, this would NOT be an accurate representation of your MEMORY of what Tina looked like. You will notice things in the photo that you simply would not be aware of in person.

Tina-5493 So, for me, the first step would be a slight amount of general softening and contrast adjustment to help compensate for the ability of the camera to record every pore and line in  harsh crispness. Step one, for me would look like this:

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OK, better… and for many, this may be all that is really needed… but to me, I see a few things going on that I don’t think would stick in my mind as my impression of how Tina actually looked that day.

Tina-5493a

Is it “wrong” to remove these tiny flaws and allow the viewer to focus on Tina’s actual beauty and expression? Some of those blemishes are transitory and will not be there in 2 days. Why should her photo be eternally fixed with a temporary blemish? Other things are shadows and lines caused by the way the light is falling on her. Sure, they are real… but are they necessarily a part of her actual appearance? I don’t think so. Let’s retouch then reasonably and see if our resulting image is really a gross distortion of reality.

Tina-5493c

I’d bet money that most people would gladly choose this image over the 100% “realistic” one. Is that presenting a false ideal? I don’t think so. I think it is presenting an artistic representation of what we actually see, with our eyes AND our hearts.

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So, what’s all the backlash over? Well, sadly, many photographers have taken the ease of making corrections in photoshop to the extreme. They haven’t taken the time to learn the proper use of the tools of retouching and enhancement to improve an image without making it look cartoonish and fake. This is what we often see on photographers portfolios these days:

Tina-5493d

The skin is retouched so that all texture and contouring is gone. The colors are blasted so that they look like a bad spray tan job. The whites of the eyes are enhanced to the point they look like doll eyes, and in the process, often fine details in things with texture, like hair and even clothing, turn to mush. Yeah, I agree, it makes you want to throw up, right? But it isn’t Photoshops’s fault. It is 100% operator error.

But what about those magazine covers that shrink women to impossibly thin proportions and give them skin that looks like polished porcelain? Well, that is a fantasy, and everyone knows it. Is it really any different than portraying a model wearing a dress of fire or water droplets, or a fashion model wearing 12 inch platform shoes and purple hair?

Yes, I agree that it send the wrong message to take a normal person of healthy weight and manipulate them to look anorexic. But does doing so really give young people an unrealistic standard of beauty? Only if we don’t educate them to the difference between fantasy and reality!

Tucking in a wrinkle in clothing that is making someone look a little heavier, or even, god forbid, helping someone out by removing a little love handle  now and then isn’t really the end of the world is it? As before, we just don’t focus on those things in real life as we do in a photo, so why not use our skills as professionals to help the subject look their best? It’s how the world actually sees them, and if done with skill and restraint, I just don’t see anything wrong with it.

Sadly though, I see many, many newer photographers in my own field of portrait photography who have never learned the “art” of retouching and enhancement, and the importance of restraint. Photoshop does make it way too easy to do way too much, way too easily. When you see this plastic, overretouched, “Barbie Doll” look, consumers need to learn to just say “No.”

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FAQ about Senior Portraits at Dennis Kelly

 Senior Portraits.

Frequently Asked Questions

For a complete guide to available session options, prices, and help in planning your senior portrait photoshoot, click here for our 2016 Senior Session Guide.

As always, if you have questions or concerns that aren’t answered here, feel free to call me at 856-228-4399. We are always happy to help and answer any questions you may have.

There’s a lot to know about senior year. It can be confusing. As a father myself, I remember!

Karavangelas-7007One of the decisions you’ll need to make is where to have your senior portrait taken. These “Once in a Lifetime” portraits mark the transition from childhood into adulthood. They are likely to remain in your family and be displayed in your home for a long time. They are also something of an investment, in both money AND time, so it is important to understand your options, so you can choose wisely.

You have choices! That’s good, but it can also be confusing. So, here are the straight answers to the questions we get most  about senior portraits  at our studio and in general. No matter where you decide to go, we hope this information will help you make an informed decision about this important milestone, because you don’t want to make the wrong decision.

How much does it cost? I’ve heard it’s expensive.

You’ve probably already heard a lot about Dennis Kelly Photography. Some things are true, like we do amazing work. Some are not, like you must spend thousands of dollars to come here! Truth is, it’s completely up to you. Although many of our clients love their portraits so much, they do spend a lot on them, we also have other clients that spend much less. At Dennis Kelly, most people find a budget of $500 to $700 is a good range to plan on, but it ultimately comes down to what you want to purchase.

Curcio-0278-2Dennis Kelly has a reputation as being expensive, but the reality is, our prices compare very favorably to other quality studios. People sometimes spend more here than at other studios, not because they have to, but because they love the pictures so much they really want to buy more! We can’t apologize for that!

Most of our clients opt to use our easy “Create a Package” system that allows you to choose exactly what you want in 4 simple steps and provides the best value for your money, but you are always completely free to purchase as little, or as much, as you desire.

Our prices reflect not only the quality of our work, but the amount of time we invest with each client. We find this is absolutely essential to get the quality and variety of images and the natural expressions that we are known for. We simply won’t cut corners or hustle you out the door in 6 minutes to save a few bucks!

Remember, things of  great value always do cost a little more.

This is true in all things, the cheapest price rarely gives you the best value, especially with something like your senior portraits, which will stay in your family forever. If you are considering a photographer who offers a seemingly very low price, ask yourself why they believe their work is worth so little?

Don’t you have to get your pictures from the school picture company?

New Jersey public schools are required by law to accept outside photographs, as long as they meet yearbook standards. You do not have to go to the school picture company, even for your yearbook portrait. This is true for all public schools in NJ.

Jankowski-5405RGPrivate schools may require that your yearbook picture be from a designated studio, but they cannot require you to purchase anything. You are always free to choose any studio you want for your senior portraits. We provide you with a yearbook glossy or digital file absolutely free with any package purchase, so here at Dennis Kelly Photography, you’re covered! If you are considering another studio, check their policy as some may charge you extra for a yearbook file.

School picture companies work on huge volumes. Because of that, you probably won’t find cheaper prices anywhere. But, what you give up for that cheaper price is quality, service, and creativity. Your session will likely be shot by a photographer who is only permitted to take about 4 to 6 minutes to do your shots. You will get an extremely limited selection of poses and every one will be exactly the same as the person before and after you in the line. There is zero chance that the photographer will capture anything unique or personal about you. It’s basically a mug shot session. But, if price is your main concern, this will undoubtedly be your cheapest option. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as your expectations aren’t too high. At Dennis Kelly, we simply don’t work that way. It’s just not what we do. Every session here is individualized so that we capture not just your face, but your  personality.  This is crucial to understanding why portraits here require more time, and cost more, than mugshots from a high volume school picture company.

Martino-7072Everyone in your pictures looks great, but what if I don’t look like a supermodel?

We make everyone look their best, it’s what we do, and we simply do it better than anyone. Dennis is a PPA Master Photographer and Photographic Craftsman, degrees earned by less than 6% of photographers worldwide. He has over 30 years of  EXPERIENCE, so he knows how to use posing, lighting, and all the other skills to bring out your very best features! That’s something you simply won’t get at other places. PLUS, our style is always interesting, fresh, and exciting.  Year after year after year, WE are the TRENDSETTER that the other studios copy, because Dennis is really good at what he does! That’s why you’ve never seen a bad picture from Dennis Kelly!

My friend/mom/neighbor has a good digital camera. Why shouldn’t I just let them take the picture?

Because a good camera doesn’t take a good portrait, a talented, trained, and experienced photographer does. Would you let someone cut your hair because they had a nice pair of scissors? A camera is only as good as it’s operator, think before you trust your once in a lifetime memories to an inexperienced photographer. Keep in mind also, that a picture in a park or by a  dilapidated building is probably NOT acceptable for your yearbook picture. All schools have specific requirements for what is acceptable for the senior portrait section of the yearbook. You may discover that you are left out of your senior yearbook if you don’t have a suitable photo to submit.

Lombardi-0531When should these portrait be taken? I haven’t even begun senior year yet. What’s the rush?

Senior portraits are typically taken during the spring and summer BEFORE the start of senior year. This is because the deadline for your school to submit the senior portrait section of the yearbook to the printing company is typically in the Fall. That is why it is important to have your  portraits completed BEFORE school starts up again after Labor Day. Trust us on this one… every year we have families who end up paying unnecessary rush charges because they waited too long to have them done.

What’s the difference between a “Session Fee” and a “Portrait Package”?

There are two different types of costs involved in the senior portrait process: Session fees are charged for doing the actual photoshoot, and all the work associated with it. These fees will naturally vary according to how involved you want your photoshoot to be. At Dennis Kelly, we don’t offer “One Size Fits All” photoshoot packages like most other studios. Every session starts with an individual one to one planning session where we will talk about what YOU want and we will tailor your photoshoot to fit your exact needs. Your photoshoot will be what YOU want, not what the studio wants you to have.

Most of our sessions at Dennis Kelly Photography are $50. There may be additional fees if you want us to travel to a location, like the beach, or your dance studio, athletic field or gym. We have our own outdoor shoot areas right at our studio, so we don’t charge extra for outdoor sessions done here. We are very creative and very flexible, so if you have a specific idea, concept, or location that you’d like to use as part of your senior photoshoot, ask us about it! We love it!!

Portrait sales, or packages, are determined by what you actually want to purchase in the way of prints, albums, collages, frames, etc. Everyone has different needs and different budgets, and there is something for almost everyone. At Dennis Kelly. the actual cost is determined totally by what YOU decide to purchase. At other studios you may be forced into a package that contains items you don’t really need or want. Not here!  In reality, the most expensive portraits are ones you paid for but didn’t love! We suggest that if you plan to budget between $500 to $700 that’s a good place to start. But don’t be surprised if you want to spend more, because you WILL love your pictures that much!!

Kouser-6702aIs it difficult to get an appointment with Dennis Kelly?

You won’t get to “make an appointment” with the school picture company. They will typically just send you a card telling you when you are required to show up for your shots. At Dennis Kelly, and most other independent studios, you can schedule a time that is convenient for you. Our summer schedule does tend to fill up quickly. Of course, there are always “holes” in our calendar that pop up due to rescheduling and such. Toward the end of summer, as the yearbook deadlines approach, it does become more difficult. But you won’t know until you call! Dennis does photograph all sessions personally, and we do spend a lot more time with you than other studios do, so available appointments are limited.

What if they don’t turn out, or I don’t like them?

With the school picture company, you’ll usually have to pay for a retake. Other studios may have similar policies, but you’d need to check what their policies are. At Dennis Kelly your satisfaction is guaranteed! If you’re not happy with your portraits when you see your previews, if the problem can’t be fixed, we’ll do more poses at no charge or refund your money. When you receive your finished portraits, if something isn’t right, let us know within 3 business days and we will get it fixed,, even if we have to completely remake the order, or refund your money. You are never at risk of being dissatisfied.

Karavangelas-1507Why Should We Choose Dennis Kelly?

Simply, we have what YOU want!

Unlike ordinary studios, we do not shoot everyone in the same place the same way. You get individual attention.

We are the INNOVATORS and trendsetters in senior portraits. Year after year, we set the trends. Check the other studios that advertise senior portrait. Compare their images to ours, and the choice will be clear. Nobody does what we do as well as we do it!

Dennis is a PPA Master Photographer, Photographic Craftsman, and a Certified Professional Photographer. These degrees are awarded to less than 6% of photographers worldwide. You get the very BEST!

Our Create a Package program allows you to customize your order to EXACTLY what you need and want.

Gambone-0856Your Senior Portraits are a ONCE IN A LIFETIME event that you will show to your children and grandchildren one day. You want the BEST for these all important images!

We HELP you with EVERYTHING! We will meet with you before you even book your photoshoot to discuss exactly what you’d like to have done. Then we provide you with a “Style Guide” to answer all your questions about your shoot, clothing, makeup… everything. We will provide suggestions for you as to the best way to display your portraits. We can even show you how your portrait will look — ON YOUR OWN WALL – before you purchase it. No surprises!

We have the finest quality products available in the industry. Your portraits will be in your family for generations, you don’t want cheap drugstore prints for your important memories.

We know how to make you look GREAT! Seriously, have you ever seen a bad portrait from Dennis Kelly? Can you say the same about any other studio?

Dennis Kelly Photography has the largest camera room of any studio in the Delaware Valley, with the widest selection of unique backgrounds and sets anywhere! We also have a full acre of outdoor shooting area with many unique and beautiful looks designed specifically for photography. Your portraits will be perfectly tailored to your look and style and will be a reflection of your own individual personality and style.

We will go ON LOCATION with you to wherever you “do your thing”. If you have a sport, activity, hobby, or other interest that is important to you, let us capture it in your environment.

Martino-1297

There are so MANY reasons you should choose Dennis Kelly!  Making an appointment couldn’t be easier.

Just give us a call at 856-228-4399 and we will take it from there!

We Do Extraordinary

Also posted in Dennis Kelly Customers, Senior Portraits, Uncategorized

Introducing “Room Views”

Our clients usually display their beautiful Dennis Kelly Portraits in their homes and proudly make them a feature point of their home’s decor. We are told over and over again how an exquisite portrait of family or loved ones, when handsomely framed and displayed in an adequate size, quickly becomes the most talked about item in the home.

But, until now, deciding on the proper sizing and arrangement of  the portraits in your room has been somewhat of a guessing game. This is why at Dennis Kelly Photography, we have always made a point of offering our expertise and help in selecting the proper size and framing for your portraits.

Like any piece of art or furniture for your home, you don’t want to make the wrong choice and end up with a piece that doesn’t look quite right in your living space. Fine photography can be an investment, and certainly will be something that will hang in your home for many years. You don’t want to make the mistake of investing in something that is either too small or too big for the space. Naturally, you want it to be… perfect! So do we!

We now have the perfect answer!

Introducing “Room Views” an amazing new service at Dennis Kelly Photography that allows you to preview your portraits… at actual size… right in your own room! No more guessing about how your framed pieces will “fit” into your decor. You will have the chance to see it… in your own room!

And the best part is, we offer this service to our clients at absolutely no charge.

The process is easy and painless. After your portrait session with Dennis, but before your scheduled time to preview them, simply take a photo with your cell phone or digital camera of the room where you are thinking of hanging your portraits and email it to us! That’s IT! That’s all you need to do. We’ll take it from there…

The only thing we need is for you to include a ruler (we’ll even give you one to take home), yardstick, or really anything of a known length, somewhere in the picture (for instance, you could simply tell us that the mantle is 72″ long). This allows us to calibrate the viewing software so it will properly display the various sizes in perfect scale… exactly how it will look in YOUR room! How cool is that?

Then, when you come in to view your previews, we can show your portraits, at actual size, right where they will hang in your own home. You can even get an idea of how it will look with different framing options.

Here, you can see this portrait is a little “lost” in it’s place of honor over the mantle. This would have been a poor choice that the client no doubt would have regretted.

Here you can see a more suitable size that fits the space and allows the client to enjoy the portrait to the fullest extent.

But that’s not all we can do with this incredible new service!

Suppose you are considering a collection of images to display together in a grouping? With Room View, you can experiment with various arrangements, sizes and framing options…. all while seeing them right on your own wall.

Pick the arrangement that looks best, swap the pictures around, experiment with different frame styles, change the sizes…

We are very excited to be able to offer this amazing ability to our clients. Just one more way Dennis Kelly Photography is working to provide outstanding customer service and 100% satisfaction to our valued friends and clients.

By the way… when was the last time YOU had your family portrait taken? Portraits make GREAT Holiday Gifts! Call us today at 856-228-4399 to find out how to make YOUR home even more beautiful by decorating it with a Dennis Kelly Portrait of your family!

 

 

 

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Get to Know What “Good” Is

 

This is the time of year when we start to get lots of calls from parents of seniors who just received the proofs from their school senior pictures, or who went to another studio, and were disappointed with the results. Happens every year, like clockwork.

I remember there used to be an ad campaign (although I have to admit I don’t recall what company it was) that’s theme was “Get to Know What Good is…”

This struck home for me recently when an out-of-state friend asked my opinion on some “professional” photos he had a photographer take of his kids. They weren’t very good, at all… but of course, as a fellow professional, I hesitate to knock another photographer’s work. But a friend was asking, so I gave him my honest opinion.

“I thought so.” he said.  “I knew something was bad about them, I just didn’t know what….”

“I just didn’t know what…” That statement kind of resonated with me.  With Facebook and Twitter and all the rest, I’m seeing a lot of really poor quality work getting passed off these days as professional photography. It occurred to me that many people simply don’t know what a professional image should be.

I mean, if you hire a contractor or carpenter that doesn’t do a good job, it’s usually obvious. Things aren’t level, corners don’t meet, the job looks shoddy.

A fancy camera doesn’t make you a photographer.

But other things often aren’t so obvious. If your accountant does a poor job, you might pay more in taxes than you owe, but you may not know it unless you had some clues as to what to look for. These days, with almost anyone who buys a digital SLR camera calling themselves a pro photographer, it may be hard to know the difference without a little education.

Remember the local clothing store that’s motto was, “An educated consumer is our BEST customer.”? Having customers who understand the difference between good and bad photography is good for my studio, so I decided to write this blog article about it.

Now, I understand that beauty is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. And when it comes to something as personal as a photograph of your loved one, all that really matters is that they are appreciated by YOU. But still, if you are trusting someone to do a job that you are paying them to do, you really should have some idea of what you are paying for.

So, here is a short list of things I see as “problems” that get passed off as professional photography frequently today. This is by no means a complete list, but may give you some idea of things to look for before you spend your hard earned money with someone simply masquerading as a professional photographer.

Correct color is always noticeable in skin tones, and in neutral areas, like grays, blacks, and whites.

#1. Poor Color.

This is a tricky one to uncover, especially if your only exposure is on the internet. Did you ever go into an electronics store where they have all the TV sets on display playing the same program?

The color and picture quality varies tremendously (actually, this is a sales technique to steer you into the sets they want you to buy!) But, the same holds true for your computer monitor. The color and quality of the image you are viewing has a LOT to do with how your monitor is adjusted. But, there are “standards” for monitor calibration that  pro’s should use to make sure the color is good. (Hint: If in doubt… look at the image on an ipad or smartphone. Most of those displays are pretty darn close to “correct” right out of the box.)

Professional photographers use high end graphics monitors and hardware devices called colorimeters to calibrate and profile their monitors so they display “correct” color.  These cost some bucks, but there is no substitute.

Professional graphics monitor with colorimeter.

Without proper color management, a photographer has no chance of matching his or her display to the prints they will get back from the lab.

Cyan, or blue green skin is never a good idea!

So, the proof is in the print, and the easiest way to decide if the photographer has a clue about color is to look at the prints.

If your skin color looks like a cheap spray tan… that’s NOT GOOD!

Skin tones should look like… well, skin. If the face looks like a really bad spray-tan (orange or yellow) or even worse, blue or green… it’s a sure bet the photographer doesn’t know how to correctly set and adjust color. Neutral areas (grays, whites and blacks) should be free from color casts. If your black shirt looks kind of red, or your white sweater is pink or blue, or your brown haired teen looks like a redhead, that means the photographer didn’t do a good job.

 

Most amateurs (and sadly, many professionals too) set their camera’s color setting on “auto” and think that’s all they need to do. Seasoned professionals know that the “A” on the white balance setting stands for “awful” and never, ever, use it!

Now, sometimes a photographer will use a special technique or style, like a candle-light look, or an intentional off-color effect to accent a mood or style. That’s intentional and different from someone who’s entire portfolio is filled with funny, weird skin colors.

  #2 Bad Lighting

Most people tend to think of “lighting” as simply whether a picture is too light or too dark, but in reality, lighting is way, way more than that.

 

Light is what gives the appearance of depth and dimension in a photo, it focuses attention where you want it to go, (and away from areas you don’t want it to go), it makes the eyes sparkle with life, and it makes the photo “pop off the page”.
Poor lighting can result in things like the eyes being in dark shadows (raccoon eyes), overhead light hitting the nose (clown nose) and even making the overall color, contrast, and look of the image appear flat and “muddy”.

Pro location lighting can be complex

Lighting on location can be especially tricky. If a “photographer” shows up at the shoot with just a camera and proclaims he or she is a “natural light shooter”, that’s usually an indication that they aren’t well versed in light control.

Good lighting makes the eyes look alive and the subject look great!

Experienced photographers have the ability to bring back professional quality images in ANY lighting situation… and that usually means equipment… lots of it. Reflectors, lighting equipment, flashes, scrims, gobos, shades… all are things a true professional spends years learning how to use to best advantage. Look at the photographer’s pictures… if the images seem flat (lacking a 3 dimensional look), if the colors and contrast and weak and muddy, or if the images have flare (a kind of ghostly, halo effect around the edges of the subject) chances are that photographer doesn’t understand lighting. Yes, a very skilled and experienced photographer can frequently “find” good lighting without the use of a lot of extra equipment, but these rare talents are few and far between. If you are shooting with one, the quality of their images will leave absolutely no doubt in your mind that they know what they are doing.

#3 Overused or poorly executed “gimmicks.”

When a trendsetter photographer starts showing a new style or technique, the copycats are usually quick to try and capitalize on it, but often do the technique poorly, or use it in situations where it just looks silly. For example, several years ago, I started incorporating the use of a fan in the studio with senior girls to gently lift and blow their hair. I “borrowed” this idea from the fashion photography industry, where it is a common technique, but we were the first studio around here to use it in senior portrait photography. The idea, of course, is to very gently lift and fluff the hair to give it that “fashion model” look.

 

 

Other area photographers soon took my idea, and now everywhere I see pictures of senior girls that look like they’re standing in a wind tunnel or are facing an approaching tornado! Sorry, it just looks dumb.

 

We also pioneered an “edgy” look to sports pictures in our senior sessions, giving them a gritty, “Sports Illustrated” type look in the style of Joel Grimes or Joey Lawrence.

 

Now the competition is copying our poses, but without the extreme lighting, gritty feel, and dramatic power we do. Well, they look kind of… lame.

 

When famous photographer Anne Geddes started photographing babies in flower pots, photographers everywhere started sticking babies in flowerpot with silly hats.

 

 

While Geddes’ work was breathtaking, the knock offs were hideous.

So, when looking at a pro’s work, ask if their style seems to be their own, or a lame attempt at copying a style without a real feeling for what works, and what even makes sense. Sitting on a fancy couch on railroad tracks?  Fire coming out of a saxophone? Seriously?

 

#4 Bad Posing.

The way a photographer directs the pose can make a picture look great… or ridiculous.

“Posing” is a dirty word with consumers. Everyone wants their photos to look “un-posed” and “natural”. What they really mean is they don’t want their pictures looking stiff and un-natural.

When you see a photographer shooting a supermodel on TV… the model is hitting all these incredible poses, and the photographer is shooting away, saying “yes! Yes! YES!!!”. Well, those supermodels get paid BIG bucks because they KNOW how to do that. Most people, like Uncle Rico here, don’t. And a quick look through your family photo albums will show you that completely unposed photos are often completely unflattering!

“Natural” posing mimics good body language in a flattering way.

The key is being able to direct people into “poses” that not only look comfortable and natural, but make them look good at the same time.

Learning “good posing” takes a long time. It involves not only learning about anatomy and facial structure, it involves understanding body language, angles, and a ton of other “tricks” to make sure people look their best. Is clothing properly adjusted, or are there wrinkles and bulges that are making the person look heavier? Do the arms, hands, or legs look “awkward”? Does the body position make the person look uncomfortable? Is the weight distribution on the correct foot for the subject and angle? Does the pose work with the light? Does the pose “make sense”? Is it believable?

Posing also has a lot to do with “body language”. Humans are very adept at interpreting body language, but inexperienced photographers often don’t “get it”. For example, there is a distinct difference between “masculine” and “feminine” body language. How men and women tilt their heads, use their hands, walk, lean… everything. Directing a male into a feminine body position is a mistake that most males will recognize immediately, yet I see boys and men with feminine head tilts and eye positions on photographer’s pages all the time. It’s a rookie mistake, and I’m sorry… it looks awful!

#5 Over Retouching

Today’s cameras and lenses are way too sharp for portrait photography. Let’s face it, no one looks good when you can see every pore, wrinkle, blemish and blotch. That’s why pro photographer judiciously retouch their images. When you meet a person in real life, you don’t stand there scrutinizing every pore and zit… but when looking at a photo, you are forced to do just that.

Retouching is an art, and must be done with skill and restraint, so the person still looks real. But many studios take a short cut and use some automated photoshop filters that result in what I call the “Barbie and Ken Plastic Skin Syndrome”.

No Retouching – Good Retouching – Overdone Retouching
Too much retouching makes your skin look fake and plastic… like a Barbie.

Over-retouching is a sign of a photographer who hasn’t learned good technique.

#6 The Ghost Syndrome

Looking a little pale???

This last pet peeve I have is actually a “style” that a lot of newbie photographers are imitating. I suspect because it is easy to do in photoshop and hides a multitude of mistakes. It involves tweaking the density and color saturation, using very flat, blah lighting, and making the subject look “ghostly”… although the photographers prefer to call it “porcelain”. I suppose for a very specialized look, it’s ok once in a while, but so many “faux-tographers” make EVERYTHING they shoot look like this.

Don’t have to worry about not getting the color right… it’s hardly there anyway. I know a lot of newbie children’s photographer use this style, but lets call it what it is, a fad, and not a good one!

Well, I hope that gives you some insight into things to look for. This is hardly a complete list, but hopefully, it will give you some things to consider when deciding to hire a professional photographer. There are many fine photographers around who have spent years learning and perfecting their craft, and who work hard to produce beautiful, timeless images for their clients. Once you start to “Get to Know What Good Is”, it will be easier to recognize them so YOU don’t have to say, “I knew something was bad about them, I just didn’t know what….”

D

 

 

 

 

Also posted in Dennis Kelly Customers, News and Happenings, Senior Portraits Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Do You Know Your “Why”?

I have to admit. I’m a skeptic. I’m not really much into new age self-help gurus. Not impressed by psycho-babble. Don’t buy into the trend of the week. Not an Oprah fan, sorry.

But, a while ago someone sent me a TED video by Simon Sinek, a writer and sort of  modern day philosopher. It really struck a chord. In the video, Sinek speaks about why some people or companies are always the artists, the trendsetters, the innovators, that command unbelievable loyalty. One of the examples he used was Apple. Apple has an unbelievably loyal customer base. But why?

The answer is actually the question. It’s the Why? Apple is always the innovator because they do not focus on the “what” (computers and electronic gadgets) or on the “how” (cool designs and innovative products) even though they do both of those exceedingly well. But Sintek observes that people embrace not the how, or even the what, but the WHY.  In Apple’s case, the “Why?” is that Apple, at its core, believes that technology should enrich and make our lives easier, not more complicated. (Ironically perhaps, I’m typing this on an iPad… so there you go.)

It made me think about the “Why” for my studio. Everyone knows “what” we do. We sell photography. Some people even understand the “how” of what we do. That we create beautiful portraits that not only flatter our subjects, but that capture personality and spirit. That we provide unparalleled service so that our clients can fully appreciate and enjoy the images we create, usually by displaying them proudly as something beautiful for their homes.

But, is that it? That’s the “what and how”, but WHY are we in business? The obvious answer for any business, it may seem at first, is to make money. But let me tell you honestly… there are far easier ways to make a living than photography, and I’m not rich, that’s for certain.

Yet, I wouldn’t want to do anything else… Why?

It seems many studios I see focus only on the “how” and “what” of photography. How many sheets of paper you get for $xx dollars. How many different poses or outfits you can fit in a session. I have  always been known as the innovator and trend setter in portrait photography in my market. I have always been the studio that the others try to emulate. Perhaps the reason for this is not the “how and what”. Perhaps the reason is actually the “WHY”.

The “WHY” is the reason I do what I do, and is the reason we are in business:

•    I believe everyone is beautiful, and everyone’s beauty and inner spirit should be captured and recorded, because every life is precious.
•    I believe our children and our families are our greatest achievements.
•    I believe that the art of photography has the unique ability to give us joy and happiness in celebrating LIFE.
•    I believe portraits of our loved ones should be family heirlooms to be treasured for generations, not disposable pieces of paper sold by the square inch.
•    I believe strongly in the value of professional photography to “Celebrate the Story of Life”.

We had a tragedy in our community a few years ago. A young girl whom I had photographed, was tragically killed in a car wreck, just weeks before her high school graduation. Being in business for 30 years, this sadly wasn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened. It’s always difficult, but this time it hit me particularly hard.

I don’t know if it was because we had worked more closely with this young woman and her wonderful family than a “typical” client (she was a member of our “Senior Model Team”… seniors that act as ambassadors for our studio to their class). Or maybe it was because I’m just getting older and starting to appreciate just how short life actually is. Whatever the reason, this time, it was different.

Kellenyi-2402When we went to her viewing, her family had many photographs of her on display. Many of them I had taken. Her too short life on display for everyone to share, and remember. My heart broke for that family.

When we stopped to pay our respects to her parents, they hugged me and thanked me for the beautiful images of their daughter that they would have forever. I gotta tell you… I wasn’t expecting that, and it  really kind of knocked the wind out of me. I’m not typically at a loss for words, but I was speechless and couldn’t really do anything but try (uselessly) to fight back the tears.

But, in a sad way it made my choice of career, and the years I have devoted to my art, all seem worth it. Worth it for that moment anyway. Worth it for whatever small comfort my work could offer that family at the worst time of their lives.

My “why”, I think, is maybe a pretty good one.

I celebrate life.

Do you know what your “why” is?  If not, I hope you find it.

Please feel free to leave a comment, and tell me about your “why”.

Dennis

 

 

 

Also posted in Dennis Kelly Customers, News and Happenings, Uncategorized

Will You Be Sorry?

The Importance of the Print…

A big issue facing our children’s future is the lack of the printed image as a family legacy and heirloom. Years from now, your grandchildren will be going through the history of their parent’s (your children’s) past. Will they find neat looking round silver disks containing all the image of their parent’s childhood, only to find they no longer have the technology to open and view them? Think about how hard it is even now to view or convert old movie film from your parent’s past. Or, will all the photos from your child’s past be lost on discarded or non-functioning cell phones and computer drives?

Fortunately for us, our parents made prints from our childhood. These prints last longer and are the easiest media to view. They are the best way to preserve our history and heritage. The will not become instantly un-viewable if a few disk sectors become corrupt. Even if they begin to fade or age, you will have years to have them them restored and reprinted. They will not become lost to history in the blink of an eye.

Recently a friend told me he and his wife had all of the pictures of their child growing up on their laptop. The unthinkable happened, The laptop was stolen, and along with it, went all their baby photos and many other priceless memories. All they had left were the few prints they had made. Another family member told me about having all his children’s photos stored “safely” on an external hard drive. Well, one day when he went to add some more photos he found the drive had failed, and all the photos were, well, just gone.

Framed portraitWith photography playing a larger part in our lives today, some people may think that the immediacy of Facebook somehow will take the place of an album of family photos, or the family portrait on the wall. What they fail to realize is that it is highly unlikely Facebook will even be around 20 years from now. We will have moved onto something else, and all those images and memories stored in the cyber world of Facebook will be long gone. As we progress in our lives, our photos and other memories of our past play a more significant role than we realized in our youth. It’s important that you help your children to understand this, and encourage them to “make those memories” or they will be lost forever.

Don’t let a “photographer” convince you that you want a disc of your images from your family or child’s portrait session. Insist on high quality prints, from a reputable studio, with a guarantee! Otherwise, your family’s heritage may consist of some pretty silver disks hanging over your sofa.

Also posted in Dennis Kelly Customers, News and Happenings

Semi-Pro or Do It Yourself?

There is an explosion of “new” photographers entering the profession these days. I see their work often on Facebook and social media. Many of these newer professional photographers have little more than a digital camera and a very basic understanding of photography. Many of them offer a low cost session and “all the files” on a disk for a very low price so you can “print them out yourself.”

We can understand the appeal to many consumers who are attracted to the low prices these “new professionals” can offer. After all, they aren’t burdened with the overhead of a studio, insurance, education etc.  And the appeal of having “all the files” on a disk to print out yourself or share online sounds better than paying for individual prints from a studio, doesn’t it?

But, what are you really getting for your money? A fancy digital camera does not make you a good photographer any more than a stethoscope makes you a doctor. But, the sad thing is, many people do not understand or appreciate what a professional, with years of training and experience, really brings to the table. If you went to a fine restaurant and ordered a meal and they brought you out a bag full of ingredients for you to prepare yourself, do you think it would taste the same as if a 5 star chef cooked it for you?

Here is an image of a lovely young lady I had the honor of photographing lately. I thought it would be interesting to talk about some of the steps that go into making a professional portrait, and perhaps why you would want to hire someone skilled to create it, rather than just a friend with a nice camera.

Shot one is typical of what I see on Facebook and other social media sites more and more. This is an outdoor portrait in a lovely location, and is what you would get out of a modern digital camera set on “A” for automatic or “P” for program mode. It is sharp and well exposed. Today’s cameras are really a marvel of engineering. Even someone who knows nothing about photography could pick up a camera and get an image this good.

But let’s take a closer look… is it really good? There are deep shadows in her eyes, and the light, coming mostly from overhead, is making the pockets under her eyes and cheeks look very dark and strong. “Seeing” light is one of the most difficult things an aspiring photographer needs to learn. Some never learn to do it. Once I discovered how to “see” the light, my world changed. I now am constantly “aware” of light… all the time, everywhere I go, everything I look at, I am conscious of the direction, character, and quality of light all around me. It’s who I am.

So, the first thing I did here was to modify the poor light. The key to this is to make the light flattering, without looking artificial. In this particular case, I added some flash, off camera, to mimic what would have been ideal “natural” light, had it been there. I carefully adjusted the flash output to closely match the ambient lighting so as to keep the image looking balanced and natural. In other instances I may have chosen to use reflectors, scrims (to block the overhead light) or perhaps a combination of all 3. The key here for the photographer is 1st, to realize the light needs to be modified, and 2nd, to be able to control it accurately and quickly.

So, much better. Let’s zoom in and see how modifying the lighting on the subject has opened the deep shadows in her eyes and let us see her beautiful facial features.

But, we still have some problems. The color, while accurate, (she is standing under a tree that is filtering greenish light down from the sky) is hardly flattering. We don’t think of healthy people having bluish-green skin. The camera, on auto setting, will only record what is there. But by carefully adjusting the color settings, we can compensate for the unflattering color cast and produce a beautiful, warm appealing skin tone.

Much, much better… right? Hold on, we’re just getting started. Let’s take a closer look at our new and improved portrait.

Our addition of quality lighting to the subject has had some unintended consequences. Notice the somewhat unflattering shadow from her nose onto her cheek and from her hair onto her neck? Just because these are “natural” doesn’t mean they are good! There are also some messy looking fly away hairs around her head. And, while our subject in this case has a flawless completion, this would now be the time to fix any blemishes and perhaps soften the slight lines under her eyes.

Ok, now we’re getting somewhere!! Are you beginning to see that there should be a LOT more going into a professional photograph than just taking a sharp, clear picture?

Here’s what we’ve got now. Beautiful, right? But we’re still not done.

Our client really wanted to have her outdoor portraits done with some beautiful fall colors. Unfortunately, the area we had to work in hadn’t really started to show the brilliant oranges and yellows we typically think of when we think “Fall”. So, into Adobe Photoshop we go, where with some advanced masking and color manipulations, we can selectively change the green foliage to a more suitable color palette, without altering the skin tone or other colors. Also, our subject here is not in the least bit heavy or overweight. But notice how the loose fitting shirt is blooming out around her waistline and adding some pounds that aren’t there? That won’t do! A little bit of “tucking” of her shirt will give her back her truthful waistline.

Next, I used a technique photographers and painters have been using for centuries, called a “vignette.” Simply put, we often will selectively darken the edges or certain areas of the image in order to focus the viewer’s attention on the subject. Notice how, by slightly darkening the edges of this image, the feeling of depth and dimension is increased and your eye is drawn into the subject? It’s subtle, but important.

Lastly, there are a few distracting elements that were kind of bugging me a little. Minor things, but why not take care of them and make the image “picture perfect”?

So, here we go. Before and after. Most people will see a pretty obvious difference when shown side by side. But most people also would not see much wrong with the “before” image without the “after” image to compare. This is the level of technique and attention to detail that should be the mark of a true professional.

I hope you found this article informative and helpful.

Dennis Kelly

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