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Summer is officially in full swing, and the Fourth of July is just days away. After a day of celebrating in the sun, be sure to grab your camera for the evening’s main event: fireworks. Whether you’ve photographed fireworks before or are just starting out, this year, we want to challenge you to expand your creativity by taking your Fourth of July images to the next level. Charge your cameras and dig out your tripods! Get prepared and inspired, using this behind-the-scenes look at how these images from photographer Greg Pease came to life.
Guest blogger, Greg Pease, is a photographer, located in Baltimore, MD. Specializing in location photography, he uses his expertise to capture images of people in the workplace, aerials, and landscapes. Find him online at www.gregpeasephoto.com.
Fireworks displays have always sparked my imagination with their light, colors and patterns. Early in my career as a professional photographer, I began documenting my hometown of Baltimore’s revitalization in the mid 1970’s. I photographed the developing skyline, using the fireworks displays to illuminate the city and its marinas that ring around the Inner Harbor and the hundreds of boats gathered to view the fireworks above.
Fireworks provide a creative opportunity to use the quality and massive volume of light to illuminate and provide color and drama to large-scale subjects and scenes, such as landmarks, monuments and skylines at night.
In 2011, I was hired by Visit Baltimore to photograph the reenactment of the Bombardment of Fort McHenry for their kick-off ad campaign for the Star-Spangled 200 Bicentennial Celebrations commemorating the War of 1812.
At the close of the Star-Spangled 200 Celebrations, I photographed the grand finale at Fort McHenry. I wanted to use the fireworks to create the atmosphere that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words that would become our National Anthem: “the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air…”
My planning begins with an aerial photo of the general area of the fireworks display. Google Earth Satellite is a pretty good source to determine where to set up cameras.
Pro-tip: Reflections in water are an enhancing feature, so look for water view locations.
I set up two cameras, each with its own tripod.
45mm and 90mm are my favorite lenses (with a full frame sensor camera), and both are tilt/shift lenses, which enables me to shift up and down or vary my image format from horizontal to vertical to include more fireworks in the sky or water reflections below.
I use a LADDERKART (3 step) to transport equipment and to get above people standing in front of the camera/
Long exposure noise reduction should be enabled.
f5.6 @ 5 seconds @ ISO100 was successful in many of the examples shown here.
Set your color balance. My preference is for a cool colored sky to make the generally warm fireworks visually move forward.
Shoot as the fireworks are ascending and descending, and vary the effect by shooting only the descending fireworks. This technique will prevent the fireworks from obscuring the buildings, etc.
Shoot as rapidly as you can before the smoke builds up.
There you have it! Try out these tips this weekend, and be sure to share the results with us by tagging #bestofLB8 on social media.
Guest Blog Post By Chris Humphreys
In late 2010, an old high school friend contacted me asking if I’d be interested in shooting sports. He worked for USA Today Sports Images and they were in need of more shooters out in Denver. Up to that point, my business had been focused almost exclusively on weddings and I had virtually no experience shooting sports. However, the idea of trying something different appealed to me, so I made the leap by purchasing a Canon 400mm f2.8 and bravely entered a whole new world.
To say the experience of going out to shoot sports is different than shooting weddings is, well, quite the understatement. In both activities you attach lenses to cameras, you dial up exposures, look through your viewfinder, and hit your shutter to take pictures. And while there’s also the pressure to perform, knowing that you don’t get a second chance if you miss a critical moment, that’s about where the similarities end. Whereas at weddings you are constantly interacting with the bride and groom, family, wedding party, and guests, at a professional sporting event interacting with a player is likely to get your credentials revoked. I’m always amused when folks ask me if I “know” Peyton Manning once they find out I photograph Broncos games from the sidelines. (The answer to that question is a resounding “No.”)
Further, at weddings you of course want to dress up nicely, in order to look professional and blend in with the crowd. On the other hand, with sports, it’s safe to say that I’ve never exactly worn a suit and tie to a game. In fact, I have an old tattered ripped up pair of jeans I refer to as my “football jeans.” I only wear them for football since I end up kneeling in the grass on the sidelines at a lot of Broncos and college football games and I would never want to subject a good pair of jeans to the punishment those take over the course of a season.
Despite all the differences between weddings and sports, I wholeheartedly profess that shooting sports has made me a better wedding photographer. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned (or become much better at) since shooting sports.
Without a doubt, this is probably the biggest lesson you must learn when you start heading out to professional sporting events. If you only expect yourself to be able to react to what is happening instead of anticipating it happening ahead of time, you will almost always be a step behind the action. Professional sports simply move too fast to expect yourself to react to what’s happening. You have to be constantly thinking ahead to what is most likely going to happen and where you need to be, before the play even begins. For instance, if I’m shooting baseball and there are runners on bases, I don’t usually follow the ball once it’s hit. I move my lens to where the final play is going to be. The speed of the game is simply too fast to try and follow with your lens.
With football, if it’s 3rd down and 20 yards to go, I’m thinking like a defensive coordinator and am probably going to follow the best wide receiver on the field with my lens because I know there’s a very good chance the ball is going to him. If I try to keep my lens trained on the ball from the time the quarterback has it to the time the wide receiver catches it, I will miss the play 95 times out of 100.
It’s amazing just how many times I’ve applied this lesson to weddings. When I’m photographing toasts at a reception and I’m listening to a funny story the father of the bride is telling to the crowd, I begin to anticipate at what point in the story everyone is about to laugh. And when that happens I’m already focused on the couple’s faces to capture that moment.
Or when the bride is walking down the aisle and I quickly move my camera to capture the groom’s reaction to seeing his bride for the first time, I’m also out of the corner of my eye looking to see if the mother of the groom is reacting to her son because there’s a very good chance the groom’s mom is probably more focused on her own son at that moment than the bride walking down the aisle. Who knows, if you’re lucky maybe the mom even gets out of her seat to give her son a hug as he tries to control his emotions.
These aren’t hard things to do, but they take practice, and more than anything they require a photographer to always be aware of what’s going on around him/her and thinking several steps ahead.
Stop Complaining About the Rules
I’ll admit as a wedding photographer I’ve privately rolled my eyes after getting a lecture from the “church lady” who tells me that I can only photograph from behind the last pew, that I can’t use flash, or that I can’t even be at the bottom of the aisle for when the bride comes down the aisle. After all, I want to provide the best photographs I can for my client and these “silly” rules keep me from doing that. If you start photographing sports however, particularly at the professional level, you’ll realize that you’re constantly restrained by rules. Rules about where you can shoot from. Rules about where and when you can move. Rules about what you can do with the images on the internet (and particularly social media). Rules about how some photographers from some agencies can shoot in specific sports, and photographers from other agencies can’t. Each league has it’s rules and beyond that every venue has certain rules as well. Some make total sense, others seem very arbitrary.
For instance, at Coors Field photographers can only walk on the field from one photo well to the other after the top of the 4th inning (photo wells are the on-field position in baseball where photographers shoot from – usually located next to the dugout). Any other time you have to walk up the stairs to the concourse and carefully weave yourself through the throngs of people as you make your way around the stadium, and then proceed to walk down the stairs (again dodging more throngs of people) to the photo well on that side. But why is it only after the top of the 4th inning can you make the much easier and quicker transition from one side of the field to the other? Why not after the top of the 5th? Or the bottom of the 7th? What difference could it possibly make? Other MLB baseball stadiums don’t have that restriction on photographers. Why does Coors Field find it necessary to make photographer’s lives harder?
I’ve come to the realization that these are simply dumb questions to ask. The fact is it doesn’t matter. Those are what the rules are and if you want to photograph at that venue you follow the rules. Period. (Breaking rules while photographing sports is never a “better to ask forgiveness than permission” type of situation. Always, always, always ask for permission if you think there’s even a chance you might be breaking a rule at a sporting event at the professional or collegiate level.) If you’re lucky enough to photograph a higher profile event such as an All Star game, a Superbowl, or a Conference Championship game, fully expect even more rules to magically appear. Again, just accept them and learn to live with them.
Most importantly, figure out how to create stellar images working within the rules. Because while you’re focused on complaining about the rules, some other photographer is focused on figuring out how to make great images working within the rules.
Tell the Story of the Day
Maybe this seems obvious, but for those who have been shooting weddings for years and who feel they’ve “seen it all” it’s very easy to get into a rhythm and go on auto pilot and to get the predictable shots you know work well and look good. In doing that though, you may completely miss capturing what the really important images are to the bride and groom because you’re just busy focusing on the poses and the types of images you’re used to getting.
One big misconception is that sports images are just about capturing amazing action shots. Certainly, that’s a part, but it’s not everything, You have to be aware of what happened during the game. Editors at newspapers and sports outlets expect you to know what ongoing story lines are going on with a team and who the most important players are for that game. It’s important to note that doesn’t always mean the star players. It could be the small forward who came in off the bench and managed to get a triple double. Or the right fielder who normally isn’t a star hitter and bats eighth in the lineup, but today had 4 RBIs and scored the game winning run.
Sometimes the story of the day is told in an emotional moment (either happy or sad). Capturing emotions and reactions are a huge part of sports photography and unlike at a wedding where photographers tend not to shoot the rare moment when someone is upset or disappointed (because what kind of bride wants to see images of people looking sad at her wedding), those types of moments tell the story in sports just as well as images communicating victory or triumph.
Sometimes, it’s about going a step further and trying to find that unusual image that tells the story of the day that you think other photographers aren’t capturing. This is particularly important with sports where you want to try to do something to differentiate yourself from the dozens of other photographers capturing the exact same event. Back during the 2013 AFC Conference Championship game, I captured an image of a Broncos cheerleader making snow angels in the confetti after her team’s victory celebration. There were easily over 30 photographers photographing the game, and so coming up with a truly unique image that not many other of the highly talented experienced photographers would have captured that communicated the Broncos winning was difficult, but that’s the job.
At a wedding there aren’t usually 30 other professional photographers that you’re competing with to get great images (hopefully not anyway!) but that should have no less impact on our desire to capture wonderfully unique images that tell the individual story of each couple. At one wedding I was at, the bride’s father had passed away when the bride was quite young and her grandfather was not only like a father figure for her, but clearly one of the people she was closest to in the whole world. Had I simply gotten stunning pictures of the bride and groom, but had failed to get great images of the bride and her grandfather, I would have completely failed at my job that day.
Sometimes the story of the day doesn’t revolve around a person or a specific relationship, but is instead something that goes wrong or unexpected like the weather. No matter what it is, if it has an impact on the day or is something you think the bride and groom will remember when they thing back on their wedding, make sure you have a picture that tells that aspect of the day.
Regardless of whether you ever have the opportunity to shoot sports, the important point is to step out of your comfort zone and try shooting something completely new. You might surprise yourself and discover new lessons for how to better photograph a subject or genre you’ve been covering for years.
Based out of Denver, CO, Chris Humphreys travels across Colorado and the rest of the United States photographing weddings for discerning couples who want their weddings captured in such a way as to be true to who they are.
In addition, when Chris isn’t photographing brides and grooms, he also freelances for USA Today Sports Images. Chris’ images have been featured in Sports Illustrated, USA Today, ESPN.com, CNN.com, The LA Times, The Chicago Tribune, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon among others.
Chris is also a sought after speaker and teacher for other photographers.
Few destinations make me voluntarily get my bags ready and happily embark on a forty to forty-five hours flight mission with all the hassle and sleep deprivation it entails. Among those, some selective and still relatively unexplored dive areas remain, promising enthralling marine environments of a certain kind that cannot be found close to my home town of Half Moon Bay CA. Raja Ampat in Indonesia was one of these irresistible places to dive and photograph before its present-day remoteness, to some degree shielding it from the risk of environmental degradation, perhaps turns less inaccessible to more people. Simply put, I wanted to go there before it changes.
Raja Ampat diving is all about the small creatures and critters, the abundance of fish life, and most certainly its diversity of soft and hard corals. A marine biologist’s dream no doubt. This environment in many ways is the polar opposite of one of my other favorite escapes Cocos Island; the Island of the Sharks with its ferocious currents and large pelagic fish life which I wrote about recently on this blog.
Though I love capturing the action of large pelagic marine life, I also think that macro expressions below the surface captured as photographic images are somewhat overlooked. With exquisite anemone species, the intriguing solar powered nudibranch and peculiar orangutan crab, a walking shark at night (or more like running when we spotted him), pygmy seahorses almost indistinguishable from their surroundings, and an explosion of color in soft corals and the magnificent hard coral, there was so much to explore. And I loved every bit of it.
Raja Ampat, or the Four Kings, is an archipelago of about 15,000 square miles, comprising over fifteen hundred small islands and cays surrounding the four larger islands from Waigeo in the north to Batanta, Salawati and Misool in the south. Instead of heading north as planned, we headed south towards Misool because of a typhoon over the Philippines stirring up the water. Though December is the monsoon season, we were lucky with sunshine and the calmest water I have experienced over the years living on dive boats for several days taking these types of trips. Nonetheless, the visibility was only fair at times and for macro captures the currents complicated matters when using the macro lens at its edge.
This time I experimented with lighting and focused on macro expressions. I wanted to capture the beauty I see in the marine life, the splendor which is surely there but perhaps only perceptible when you look closely. There is an intimacy so tangible in this environment, one that you can truly feel when you are down below if you take the time to appreciate and interact with what surrounds you. The trick is to focus on what you “see” and not merely on what it “is” directly appearing in front of you. In an endeavor to express the feeling I wanted to convey, I also used the depth of field differently from how I have previously captured the macro life.
I believe that people generally tend to care about what they see and what they can relate to. It is my hope therefore that images not focusing merely on epic wildlife encounters, including what to many would be experienced as scary imagery of large pelagic sharks for example, will spark an interest in the marine environment among people not otherwise aware of its wonders. Find my series “Amphimone” “Eudora” and “Amatheia” captured during this trip at www.lifethrills.com.
by Jamie Rose, Director of Momenta Workshops
When I began my career as a photographer many years ago, I signed up for National Press Photographers Association and first learned about their seminar and convention programs. Being strapped for cash, as most graduate students are, I was informed NPPA gave free tuition to attend the Northern Short Course to students who volunteered for the program. As a volunteer, I attended my first ever NSC in Providence and was hooked.
With free portfolio reviews by some of the industry’s best editors, seminars ranging from lighting to business skills, keynote speakers like Bill Eppridge, Joe McNally and social gatherings until the wee hours of the morning with titans like Sam Abell, I left with my batteries recharged, new photo story ideas and a fresh perspective on the industry.
I’ve attended numerous workshops, seminars and conventions ever since and have always felt it was money well spent. The PDN PhotoPlus Expo in New York is a great place to see seminars, get inspired by amazing speakers and shop for the latest gadgets and gear. Likewise, the Look3: Festival of the Photograph is a wonderful 3 day event held in Charlottesville which celebrates photography from all over the world with three photography legends presenting each day.
This year, I am a guest presenter at the NSC in Providence and will be teaching seminars on The Business of Nonprofits Photography and Photo Mechanic: In the Field. My fellow presenters and speakers are awe inspiring: Matt Eich, David Gilkey, Karen Kasmauski, Amy O’Leary and so many more. The workshops cover audio and multimedia, Final Cut software training, business skills for freelancers, a student’s guide to presenting your work and much more.
As any photographer who has attended one of these seminars will tell you, professional development and networking in person cannot compare to being Facebook friends with photographers or hitting a happy hour every once in a while with other pros. The skills learned and the people you meet at these weekend-, week- or even day-long seminars is invaluable for your professional growth. I’ve made some of my best friends in the industry at these conventions, reconnected with colleagues I’ve not seen in years and seen presentations that reminded me why I became a photographer.
Every year, NPPA and other organizations offer scholarships for students and working professionals. For example, the NSC offers full tuition opportunities for working pros and volunteering in exchange for the attendance fees and there are slots left for 2011. Many other groups offer members a discounted rate and reduced tuition for students. With prices under $500 for many seminars, you simply can’t pass these opportunities up.
Trust me when I tell you: you won’t be disappointed when you invest in your career in this way!
An interview with Mary Virginia Swanson, creative consultant on making and marketing art. Written for our friends at APA National.
MB: First of all, thank you for taking the time to add your insight and expertise on this subject for the rest of us to benefit from. As we’ve discussed in the past, I started out as a fine art photographer in the late eighties, well before the internet gave artists access to a global marketplace. I’ve seen first hand how commercial photographers have gone from shipping physical portfolios from agency to agency as their primary form of promotion to circulating links to a wide distribution list with a well designed email campaign. How have you seen the world of promotion and commerce change for the fine art photographer over the last 10-15 years?
MVS: Today, introducing your work to new audiences or keeping in touch with those whom you’ve met should be consistent in brand identity and intention whether it is in print or via email. Depending on the market segment you are targeting, using social media such as Facebook and Twitter may be appropriate. Regardless, your website should be the anchor of your marketing, featuring a tight edit of images, and a clear message, with simple navigation.
By Jamie Rose, Director of Momenta Workshops
Trust me when I say this: I know how busy you are! There just don’t seem to be enough hours in the week between client relations, editing, post production, invoicing and photographing. However, even the busiest photographers will agree, you still need to make time for professional development. The easiest and most fun way to accomplish this is to get involved with your professional community.
Be a Joiner
Joining a photographic organization can provide you with many professional resources you don’t get by working in isolation. You will have access to other photographers, editors and multimedia producers in your area. You can find mentors, editors, assistants and even job opportunities. Many professional groups have a vast array of educational and learning opportunities normally free or discounted for members. As a former board member of the WHNPA: White House News Photographers Association and the current President of WPOW: Women Photojournalists of Washington, joining a professional organization is a great way to develop your network, expand your leadership skills and meet other passionate photographers.
You can start by getting involved in large international organizations like NPPA, APA, ASMP, ASPP and PPA which provide regional groups, seminars, workshops and learning experiences for photographers from all parts of the country and the world. These groups are great for finding resources for projects you are working on, getting discounts on gear and insurance or even having access to job listings.
Think Globally, Act Locally
Local chapters of these organizations are also a great way to increase your business presence in your hometown. For example, ASPP DC-South is very active in Washington, DC and offers seminars, lectures and membership slideshow events. City- or region-based organizations in your region are another great asset. In many cases, the dues are smaller and the networks are easier to navigate for new photographers. WHNPA , for example, is open to regionally based photographers in Washington but offer wonderful networking opportunities, members-only contests and grants, and local event-based support like Inauguration resources.
Consider starting your own group or organization. You can create a LinkedIn or Facebook group, like the Maryland Photographer Ladies. Help it grow by offering opportunities to group members. WPOW started as a small group of local female photojournalists who wanted to gather quarterly to share their work, encourage young photojournalists and learn from each other’s experience. Today, the organization has grown into a nonprofit with over 200 members and offers exhibits, mentorship, workshops and educational opportunities for its members.
Take the Lead
After you’ve been a member for a while, consider joining a committee. If you are really ambitious, take the plunge by running for an officer position or heading a committee. You will expand your leadership skills and be seen as a leader by your peers. No matter whether you choose a large or small organization or to create your own, you won’t regret the free time spent on this part of your career. Once you start getting involved, you’ll be amazed at the great experiences, great friends and great connections you will make!
For more suggestions or questions about starting your own organization, please feel free to contact Jamie Rose directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When we are defining our company’s branding identity, we often create a design based on our preferences. We like red and such our identity becomes a red logo. Or, the trend color is turquoise and the website becomes turquoise. The problem with creating branding identity based on these preferences is that it is built on the surface of a business. This type of identity doesn’t represent what runs deep in our business.
Want to build a strong brand that best represents your business? Sit down and define the following:
From here, work to define the identity that will draw people to your company. Powerful identity will work to link the customer’s eye with your business inside and out.
Branding is so much more than your logo, website, and stationery. It is in the way you answer the phone, the way you dress for a meeting, the way you present your porfolio. Branding that is carried through all aspects of your business will create a consistent experience for your customer. It is this consistent experience that makes your brand strong. These factors are what makes a brand become instantly recognizable and highly valuable.
Wanna learn more? Visit Sage Wedding Pros’ blog for more on mission statements, values, and branding.
It’s hard to pass up on buying new gear, new equipment. There is always something cool and cutting edge out there. And, we feel compelled to keep up with our competition. We hope this will improve our work, give us something unique to offer the client. So, we purchase and run with it…. Only for a few months… Until the next big thing.
The client could care less. Sure – they want quality and they want delivery. But ultimately, there is only ONE thing the client cares about: YOU!
The client wants to know that you are listening and want to meet his or her needs.
The client wants a RELATIONSHIP.
We all want this. We all want to know that whomever we hire for whatever we need is listening to what we say. We take our car to the mechanic. Do we care what tool he is using to fix the thinga-majigger? Nope. All we care about is that he is listening to our needs. We care that he is trustworthy and dependable and is quoting us a fair price for the work done. We want to know that he is looking out for our best interest. I had a mechanic like this when I lived in LA. I still dream of driving my broken down car 3000 miles cross-country just to have John do the repairs. Why? Because I know he listened to me. And, I trusted him. And, I liked the guy. I wanted (and still want) to do business with John.
When you stop to think about this, the client’s needs are quite simple. The client wants a relationship with YOU. Sure, your work will impress him. You bet that she’ll want to know you can deliver. But ultimately this all boils down to WHO YOU ARE. Are you listening to him? Are you helping them? Are you kind? Are you trustworthy? Are you fun?
We are in the business of selling relationship, nothing more.
Wanna learn more? Visit Sage Wedding Pros’ blog for more on sales to the wedding and event industries.
Our thanks to APA for the following article, penned by our very own Matt Bailey.
Do you want to add more dimension – and distinction – to your brand? Start using video on your website.
Video can help you market yourself as a professional who brings more to the table than a handful of carefully selected images. It can help you develop an effective brand, communicate your personal vision and illustrate what it’s like to work with you. And, with a slew of HDSLR cameras on the market and numerous other gadgets to help you capture video, it’s never been easier.
Where should you start?
The uses of online video can range from highlighting your videography work to showcasing a slideshow of stills. You can also use videos in lieu of a traditional “bio” page, to present testimonials or as a behind-the-scenes look at how your studio operates.
To view some different ways that photographers are using video online, check out these photographers’ websites:
Mark Wallace and
Follow the link if you want to read the full article @ APA
Justin Francis won’t tell you he’s a big deal, but he is. He’s a New York-based director, filmmaker and photographer who made his name in the music industry and has worked with the likes of Mariah Carey, The Cure, 50 Cent, Eminem, Gwen Stefani and The Roots. He’s the mastermind behind Alicia Keys’ award-winning “Unbreakable” and “No One” videos, and this year he directed commercials for companies such as Target, M&Ms, Dunkin’ Donuts and Adidas.
It wasn’t until later, after he had established himself in the film industry, that Justin began to focus on his other passion: Still photography. It was then – in January of 2008 – that he decided he needed a website to house his images, as well as some of his videos. He was one of the first liveBooks customers to effectively implement video on the Web.
In this Q and A session, we asked Justin to share his insights and offer advice to those who are just starting to incorporate video on their websites.