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Head in the Clouds

When I’m taking photos of someone, I really get lost in it. For an hour or two while I’m shooting, I don’t think of what I’m wearing, what I look like, how I’m standing or sitting. I put all my focus and energy into what I see through the lens. It’s like a focused tunnel vision. Like a strange yet exciting meditation. There’s really nowhere else I’d rather be than behind that camera.

I took senior photos for my coworker Dawn’s daughter recently. Dawn snapped a couple behind the scenes shots and it’s so funny to see because I literally do not remember kneeling like that or standing like that. It’s crazy! All I remember is what I saw through my camera and the relationship I made with the family.

It’s refreshing to be able to let down your inhibitions, enjoy yourself, and just completely be who you are for a couple hours. During shoots I’m usually sweating to death, my back is in pain, my wrists are sore, my feet hurt…but I don’t even take those things into account. My mind is really caught up in the friendships I make, the imagery, the light, the laughter, the art of it all.

As dumb as it is, seeing pictures of myself on the job puts it all into perspective for me.

And hey, I end up with pretty little photo “trophies” to show for it!

Have a nice weekend.
-Ashley


Express

Live to express, not impress.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

This is something I’m needing to tell myself a lot these days. Not everyone will love your creations. Not everyone will stick around forever to applaud your efforts. Not everyone will really care what you’re working on or how hard you’re working.

Live to express, not impress.

It’s easy to take things to heart. Someone “un-liking” your Facebook page, someone preferring another photographer’s work, someone disliking your work in general. Art is personal. But criticism should not be taken personally. You’re just not everyone’s cup of tea. No one is everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe you’re not even tea…..WHOA, right?

Live to express, not impress.

Quit being so hard on yourself and just make art for the sake of making art. Express yourself and forget about making everyone happy. Everyone in the creative field has a specific audience and clientele. Someone looking for pineapples is not going to go to a hardware store.
Once you decide to quit trying to impress everyone, you end up expressing yourself in the way that you want to, not the way you think they want you to.

#wisdomwednesday ? ;)
-Ashley


Sofia : Floral - Behind the Scenes

Just to have something to blog about, I’ll give you a little insight to how the mornings of my fashion/portrait sessions go. This is from my morning shooting a boudoir-like session with my friend Sofia last Saturday.

Before Saturday :

I created a small, simple mood board to send to my model, Sofia Noethe and my hair & makeup artist, Sarah Taubman, just to give them some vague idea of what I was going for. I didn’t work hard to make it perfect, but I did work hard in finding the right inspiration. I used just a crappy online collage maker while I was at work, but it did the trick :

Morning of :

I went to Kowalski’s and got a great deal on daisies. Three bouquets for $11.99! And you can’t really see exactly how many there are here, but I will tell you that this bundle was LUSH.

Then I :
-cleaned my house before the girls arrived
-formatted my cf card
-charged my batteries
-gathered my lenses
-and rallied up the other gear I needed.

I also used everything in my power to keep my cat from eating my flowers. :)

Then Sofia & Sarah arrived and started on hair and makeup! While they did this I set up the rest of my “set”.

Now, I don’t have all the resources in the world, so I just make use of what I have. I use my own apartment for my “studio”, I found an old wooden stool in the alleyway once and use that for makeup and as a prop, etc.

For this shoot I had Sofia lay on a white presentation board. This board has gotten a LOT of use since I bought it. It’s one of those little science fair boards that folds up. I use it all the time. In the past I’ve used it as a baby portrait backdrop, a reflector, a product seamless look, and now as a white floor for a model to lay on! It’s small, but it gets the job done. Here it is :

Then I set up my lighting as well. I just have a cheap strobe, cheap softbox, and not even a wireless trigger for it, it’s a cord that goes from my light to my camera. Luckily my dear HMUA sometimes sticks around to assist and was able to hold the cord for me! At this point in my career, an expensive strobe is not necessary. This cheap little thing is powerful, the softbox is great, it weighs next to nothing, and if it were to break somehow it would not be the end of the world.

Then hair and makeup took a little under an hour and we began shooting.

We got GREAT shots. For light we used some strobe and then switched to natural light for a while because my window light can just be heavenly. All photos were taken in my living room (which is not out of the ordinary)!

I used a 24mm 1:4 lens for the shots on the floor and then switched to my beloved 35 f/2 for the seated shots.

Here’s the preview I posted on Facebook the other day.

I can’t wait for you to see the rest!
-Ashley


Styling

I’m learning, more and more, the importance of styling.

After studying the work of successful fashion photographers and trying to see what makes their photos stand out, I’ve started to realize that styling is what really brings a photo to the next level. They (or their stylist if they have one for the shoot) strategically choose the hair, the makeup, the outfit, the accessories, and the location. They make everything FIT. No matter what I do, if my model is wearing boring clothing, an outfit that just doesn’t fit the setting, or if I decide the hair is “eh, fine the way it is”, then I haven’t done my job in painting the whole picture and my inattention will shine right through.

You may get plenty of Facebook likes on a photo from people who know the model and think she looks great in the photo. But is the photo interesting enough to people who don’t know the model? This is what I’m starting to ask myself.

To understand the importance of styling, try this : look at every portrait you love in magazines or blogs or advertisements and imagine the person in it wearing just a plain black, non-fitted t-shirt. Imagine them with no accessories. Hair down, nothing notable. Or even worse, imagine them in some poorly fit Aeropostale shirt with dirty flip-flops and flare jeans.
Now, are these photos still as breathtaking as they were before? Maybe they are, or maybe now all you see is a random person standing near a wall.

Would the photo below, by the ever-talented Lara Jade, be as stunning without the colorful clothing, the crazy shoes, and the wild red hair?

Without the styling, the picture would become incredibly average. Just two girls sitting in front of a pretty wall.

I’ve been getting a little bit better at this. My Blair Witch shoot was one where I spent the extra bit on a dress and drove to a location. Some planning was involved and the shoot ended up being one of my most popular.

But my OLD photo shoots went something like this:
I’d tell someone to come over with no specific vision in mind. They would show up with a couple nice outfits or something. We’d rummage through my closet, put on something random and go shoot around my apartment building. Then maybe we’d come back inside, grab something off my shelf to use as a prop and take a few more pictures. These were definitely fun shoots and I learned a lot, but really, they made absolutely no sense. I have gorgeous people modeling for me, like Heidie as you can see below, but the alarm, for example came out of nowhere. It could have been a cool concept, but I completely half-assed it and just threw it in the frame…on top of a washing machine? I don’t even know.

I especially noticed in my self-portraits. I dress very plain, in only neutrals usually, and thought that would be fine for photos, but I realized that when I focused more on my styling, I could make my photos a whole lot more interesting.

I also just discovered an amazing photographer, basically my new idol, Amanda Diaz. I can’t believe I had never seen her work before, but she is a styling QUEEN. Her photos are great for many reasons, but again, if you take the flowers off of their heads, uncurl the hair, etc. you’re left with simple portraits. Every photo she takes is styled to a perfect T as you can see in the two photos below.

www.amandadiaz.com
(Seriously, go look at her work)

So, my new goal is to step up my fashion, hair, makeup, and prop game. I eventually want to get to Amanda’s level of styling extravagance! And to do that I’ll need to spend more time on the following :

-Creating inspiration boards before a shoot
-Heading to the thrift store for props or outfits
-Spending a little extra on those items
-Really mapping out my concepts
-Visualizing what I’d like my end result to be

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on the matter. Have a good weekend my dear friends!

-Ashley

(copyrights are that of each artist mentioned, Lara Jade & Amanda Diaz)


Defining my Purpose

As I’ve said before, I am learning like crazy this year. One year ago today I didn’t have a website, a Facebook photography page, a fraction of the equipment I have now, classes under my belt, or even the idea that a business could come from this pastime of mine. And basically everything has changed since then! October is when I decided to dive in. I launched my website, etc. It was exhilarating and everyone has been so supportive.

So now that the business side of things is out of the way and I generally know what I want to do with my life, it’s time to get down to the heart of things. To figure out the WHY.

I’m taking a small course online right now about photography pricing. Now, I was expecting all business, but the photographer teaching the course, Julia Kelleher, is actually taking a lot of time helping others figure out WHY they love doing what they do, WHY people should pay them for their work, and WHY they have this business in the first place. If you’re a photographer, you more than likely already know you have a passion for photography…I mean, that’s pretty much the only reason you’d step into this field. You could be going to law school or trying to become a nurse right now, but instead you’re choosing a career that doesn’t always carry a guarantee for a high income. All you know is that you love photos and want to be a photographer. What I’m learning is that to really be successful you should try to dig even deeper than that. What do you love about taking photos? What is your ideal shoot; something you could shoot all day every day for the rest of your life? And what about that shoot do you feel passionate about? What in your life connects to the photos you take? There’s something more than just, “taking pictures is cool and fun.” What is your reason?

Passion, in my opinion, is what separates the good from the great. And, as cheesy as it sounds, people will believe in what you do when YOU believe in what you do.

So I’ve been trying to answer these questions for myself. I’ve been observing how I feel at different types of shoots and I definitely notice which kinds I feel passionate about and the kinds I do not feel as passionate about…I love it all, but there’s always that one kind that really gets your blood pumping and your mind reeling. There’s got to be something that you take photos of and can’t WAIT to get home to edit. You’re willing to do the dirty work on these shots for hours upon hours because you just know this is what you’re meant to do, you know? This is your art.

Here are my own personal findings :

  1. For me, my ultimate favorite type of shoot is one where I can dress the model up in something they would never normally wear (play dress-up, of course), they get their hair and makeup done, and we just run around and explore random locations. I love making the girl (usually it’s a girl) feel like a badass supermodel queen. I love seeing someone step out of themselves and feel ultra glamorous for a few hours. I’m realizing that this is what draws me to fashion photography. I love the production and going over-the-top in styling.

  2. Growing up, I was a major girly-girl and always loved magazines, pretty dresses, and makeup. When my family was waking up and wearing sweatpants downstairs on Christmas, I was wearing tights, tiny high-heeled shoes, and frilly dresses. I had Britney Spears plastered all over my walls and cut out supermodels from magazines all the time. I’d pretend I was being interviewed by someone in the mirror for my outfit. I think this all plays a part in why I love doing what I do today and why I love portrait and fashion photography. I think it’s interesting to look into your past to notice patterns of things you loved growing up. I have a friend who always wanted to play with dolls, be their mom, and who would be very detailed in the care of her fake children. She now has three kids and loves every second of it. If she were a photographer, you know what I bet she would love photographing? Children and families. I think it would just make sense to her, just like portrait & fashion makes sense to me. You really can learn a lot about yourself by examining your past.

  3. I also have always loved art. I took only art classes in my senior year of high school, majored in art in college, and have been drawing since I could pick up a pencil. I think that photography is just another art tool and for my personal work I try to look at my photos as pieces of art. And dressing someone up, posing them, choosing the location and the face, is all about painting the picture. I love catching people in the moment too, of course, but there’s something about manipulating a shot that just makes me feel like I’m composing a piece of my own.

All of this pondering has only further revealed my passion, which is fashion and portrait photography. I just love making people look and feel beautiful. And I love making art. And portrait photography is an art medium that allows me to connect to someone else and to make them feel awesome, while also allowing me to express myself artistically. To me, it really can’t get any better than that. Knowing why I like what I like may not mean much to others in itself, but it does set a foundation for my work and lets others know that I really do care. This is why companies usually have mission statements I think. It gives them something to fall back on when they’re getting too caught up in the financial stuff, the stress, and the day-to-day chaos. Knowing WHY lets you get back to the heart of things and remember why you’re doing what you do and why you love it. And I think people can tell when you’re working from the heart rather than just for money.

What is your what, and why? All I’m saying is that it’s worth a thought.

-Ashley



Soon to come

I have many things in the works right now!
I’ve been really busy lately, working full-time at an office, shooting on the weekends, editing on weeknights, and adding a social life in there somewhere!

So needless to say, I haven’t had much time to update my website, especially this blog. But fear not, I am creating a plan!

Soon, after shifting my efforts, changing my schedule around, etc., I will be blogging at least twice a week; mixing things up with thoughts, how-to’s, behind the scenes, and photo shoots themselves! I also have a photography Tumblr that I’ll work to update as often as possible.

At the same time I’ll be working to create a cohesive collection of images to showcase in my portfolio…This is something I’ve been struggling with all year. I love all of my photo shoots and want to show photos from every single one on my website! …but I’m realizing that’s maybe not the best way to go about it. I have changed my editing style countless times in the past year and I really want to work on choosing one style to use as my portfolio, and keep one separate style to blog with. From me you’ve seen crisp vibrant colors, somber hazy colors, blurry action, grainy, smooth, etc. And that’s great for my personal development because I’ve been able to test out what I like, try different techniques, and learn along the way. The only problem is that my clients have no clue what they’re going to get…! I am learning that successful photographers will still experiment, but when it comes to their websites they stick to what they want to get more business from. They choose a style and clientele and they showcase that in order to attain the kind of business that they want to attain…I guess that’s not rocket science, but it’s something I still had to learn! If you don’t like taking pictures of babies, why are you posting pictures of babies? If you want jobs shooting headshots in the studio, why are you posting outdoor family photos? Don’t feel bad if this is you. I am currently doing this. My portfolio has more personalities than I can even count! Time for a makeover.
SO long story short, I’m going to blog all of my photo shoots, but be much more selective for my website itself.

And then this summer I’m shooting a couple weddings, I’ll be assisting a great photographer at his studio, and many more themed shoots are in the works!

I’m excited for what’s to come and I hope you are too! Have a happy Friday.

And yeah, no, this picture has nothing to do with this blog post. :)


Mood


Rainy days are quite inspiring to me. But not in the way you may think…I really actually hate bad weather. On nice, sunny days I feel motivated to get everything done. I love running errands, working on projects, going to coffee shops, calling people, etc. But rainy days…I feel like sitting at home. I feel like staying in bed, having deep thoughts, and just thinking. I don’t feel happy necessarily.
BUT both moods are important. Rainy days bring about nostalgia to my teen years, mainly, when I used to write angst-y poems, make art, and question life.
And because of this, bad weather days tend to produce the prettiest images, images with mood.


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