It is official, I really don't know anything at all

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by ejder, Nov 25, 2011.

  1. Probably a rant post, but I feel like I have at last reached the point where I fully realize and accept that I don't know what I'm doing. I don't really know how to use off-camera lighting very well (though I have been doing it for several years), and my photos show inconsistency and lighting that is generally unsatisfactory to me during receptions and other indoor shoots. I really am not sure how to properly even use on-camera bounced flash anymore. On top of these things, I don't really know how to properly use the rules of composition, and I don't know how to "put together" a compelling composition with available elements using framing, angles and light.
    Now that I have declared this to myself, maybe I can actually learn something.
  2. Moderator Note: Joey--we can't really help you unless you post an example of what you feel is lacking. Otherwise, is this just a rant? If so, please focus yourself to ask a specific question or two. It just sounds like you are having one of those lack of confidence moments, which affects everyone from time to time.
  3. It's not really much of a help question, although a few of my current problems include balancing ambient with flash output during receptions, getting the primary nearby subjects exposed by bounced flash in a soft way without causing raccoon eyes or unpleasant lighting, and general use of off-camera flash. I know that sometimes what I do works pretty well, and other times it really doesn't work well at all. I don't know why it works when it does or doesn't work when it doesn't.
  4. Then on top of that there is creating effective compositions that tell the story in a photojournalistic manner, avoiding 2-dimensional photography that seems plain and not really compelling or interesting, getting desirable and consistent skin tones and white balance throughout a whole set of photos...and posing all sorts of other things.
  5. OK, I understand the sentences, but if you want to have any help at all, I still think you need to pick one or two 'trouble spots', and provide an example, or at least, a specific written example with information that will help us know what you are talking about.
    You know, asking for help (for real) never hurts. You don't have to take any advice given if you don't want to, and maybe you will indeed learn something, if only about yourself.
  6. Joey, are you using extra lights at the receptions? Are the raccoon eyes inside or somewhere outside?

    Balancing light inside may be a bit tricky at first but knowing the basics will surely lead you to excellence. Same with outside. Outside shooting for me is the same as far as difficulty.

    Throw out an example or 2. Email me if you are on the shy side and you don't want the world seeing.

    Wedding photographers are really creating evolving studio's. Each site is diffrerent. Knowing fast ways to get the job done and also getting the time for quality work with the bride and the groom.
  7. Do you or did you have a mentor? Maybe go back to being a 2nd shooter, and learn by helping someone you admire, maybe, who can give you specific help with the equipment you have.
  8. Joey, having looked through your work, I can't imagine you having any of the issues mentioned. Maybe it's a case of coming full circle from knowing so much.
  9. You know the funny thing about my work is...I forgot what it was that allowed me to do what I used to do. I don't remember how to "see" anymore, and I don't really remember good consistent reception lighting methods (if I ever had any).
    As a point of reference to a similar feeling, during christmas as a child I would frequently forget how to fall asleep. A more recent scenario (about 12 years ago) was when I woke up one day and could not remember how to correctly use the bathroom. I remembered later, but it was if everything was new and I had to figure it out all over again. TMI for sure, but as of late the same puzzled and unsure feeling has really hit me hard in my work as a photographer.
    I had no mentor. I wanted to have one but nobody would take me on as a second except a few photographers who had me for a stray job here and there. I do second shooter work whenever I can get it.
    I use on and off-camera flash, and have since I started wedding photography. I have apparently forgotten how to best use them in combination or to form the light that I really want from the angles I want and blended with the ambient the way I want...or else I never really knew it in the first place. I don't really get raccoon eyes with my lighting, but I'm not satisfied with the shadows I get. Sometimes I think I need much taller light stands, and other times I think I need some way to attach my lights to the ceiling so I don't have to worry about light stands/etc.
    I would post samples of the most recent shoot where I am not happy with my reception lighting, but I do not want to draw attention from the bride/groom/family by accident.
  10. Joey, I took the time to look at your work, and read all the words on your website ... which to me was revealing. Please allow me to respond as a Creative Director, which was my chosen profession before photography ... one that I was very good at.
    Often the drama of being a perfectionist is that it undermines confidence. Never "satisfied" is the key to constant improvement, but when taken to far it can become a neurotic habit. Personally, from what I can tell, I think that is what is going on here.
    Basically, you want total control, which is also an off-shoot of perfectionism ... and have picked one of the least controllable types of photography out there to control. The amount of time we have, the amount of things we have to cover to meet expectations, the vast range of choices to solve problems, coupled with the unexpected and unplanned, is a far cry from a highly planned, highly organized, fashion shoot you seem to admire ... not to mention all the people who help pull such a shoot together, where wedding photographers are either working alone or with one assistant.
    Often the solution for wedding photographers is to establish a pattern with set selections of gear and applying previous knowledge to solve issues such as lighting or composition that you specifically mentioned. Look at wedding websites, and you usually can see this pattern. Few wedding shooters are willing to admit to it, but it is there none-the-less ... and often rightly so, because it allows the control needed to fulfill all of the requirements.
    The question then becomes can you discipline yourself to limit the possibilities, and get a rhythm and pattern down pat so you know exactly what you are doing, and why, at each stage of a wedding. BTW, the more creative and spontaneous you are the harder this is to do ... as a great mentor I had as a young art director said to me when I was agonizing over an ad campaign, "The problem with making a decision is that it eliminates all the other possibilities."
    Sometimes the push to personally change can be a little depressing .... but that is a natural human reaction as long as it doesn't go on to long. It often hearlds the next step in your creative trek.
    BTW, IMHO, based on your work as it is now ... you are pricing yourself way to low. Perhaps a symptom of lack of confidence?
  11. I think Marc's comments above are right on the money but I also think your sentiments may indicate a "growth spurt" which reflects a move from the sophomoric "know it all" stage to a new level of professional craftsmanship which demands a deeper understanding of technique, style, and people skills.
    IMO your affection towards fashion photography is a double-edged sword. While it gives you a creative, fun, spontaneous drive for your images, at the same time it discounts the use of formula shooting and traditionalism. Shooting the odd job as a 2nd shooter here and there with good established pros should help you with harvesting traditional sure to "pick their brain" to understand why/how they do what they do rather than concentrate on how your approach would be different. When you get a chance, catch Parker Pfister when he is town at the WPPI convention and follow some of his work.....IMO, he's mastered the blend of artistry with technique and style.
  12. I really wish all of this nice stuff being said about me and the potential for the future was true, but I have been feeling this way for a while (with ups and downs) and the only thing that has really changed has been that my posing of people has become more stale and compositions more limited and uninteresting. I used to really try to make sure context was in every PJ shot I would take so the photos made sense, and I used to have some more variety and maybe a bit of creativity for photos of the b&g. I don't see how an appreciation for fashion or glamour really conflicts with weddings, since people like Jerry Ghionis do both at the same time. I do recognize that I am bothered by imperfections in the capturing of a wedding, but I believe that great art can still be achieved in weddings with knowledge, a good eye, the right light, and timing/luck. I have seen it and know it to be possible.
  13. Very insightful post by Marc. However, I still maintain that given the 'near questions' you've asked, such as the one above, an example in the form of an image or specific description needs to be posted.
    It's not really much of a help question, although a few of my current problems include balancing ambient with flash output during receptions, getting the primary nearby subjects exposed by bounced flash in a soft way without causing raccoon eyes or unpleasant lighting, and general use of off-camera flash. I know that sometimes what I do works pretty well, and other times it really doesn't work well at all. I don't know why it works when it does or doesn't work when it doesn't.​
    Is this about specific issues or is this about an overall discomfort?
  14. I used to have some more variety and maybe a bit of creativity for photos of the b&g.​
    Most people who are into photography for the art of it before starting to shoot weddings start out having really great, and usually, fresh ideas for weddings. They may or may not run into the necessity of meeting client expectations early on, but eventually they do. As their understanding of what needs to be done 'for the client' expands, those fresh ideas may fall by the wayside before the need to provide 'this' photo and 'that' photo, particularly since now it is so easy to compare with what others are doing via the internet.
    I have seen it time and time again.
    It is also true, since this is a business, that one's ability to have the time for fresh ideas is somewhat constrained by the kind of weddings one does. The longer you are toward the lower end of the market, the longer you will have to deal with unrealistically high client expectations about what can be done in the shortest amount of time (the cheapest to be paid, in other words). The sooner you get out of the lower end, and begin to yes--demand--more time, you will be able to exercise your mind's eye more. The sooner you will have clients who appreciate you for your mind's eye, and will let you use it, not for the fact you do good work for cheap.
    I believe that great art can still be achieved in weddings with knowledge, a good eye, the right light, and timing/luck. I have seen it and know it to be possible.​
    See above.
  15. I realized perhaps I should have given some suggestions.
    1. Re-do your packages to not be some time dependent. Influence the couple when they set up their schedules to give you the time you will need to shoot the way you want. If you don't put a direct time to cost factor in your packages, this should be somewhat do-able.
    2. Raise your prices by a 'chunk' and start marketing to the 'next level up'. Since (you've posted before), you are coming back to shooting weddings, the usual brief loss of some potential clients will not be so bad.
    3. Force yourself to 'ignore' what you see on others' blogs. Re-think how you can both meet basic client expectations and put your imprint on the images.
    4. Be realistic about what can be done, however. Know when to stop pushing because you aren't getting the basic, expected stuff. Life is often not perfect, as you know. Some level of acceptance is necessary so you don't make yourself crazy, as you appear to be now.
    In the meantime, if you do have specific issues, let's hear them.
  16. An aside re light stands. With my large umbrella and when I want to use monolights, I bring standard 8' stands. Most of the time, I use the Manfrotto Nano stands--these are the compact ones that only go to 6.5 feet. However, I have Lowell Half Poles. These add another 3 feet or so. It looks funny since the Half Poles are beefier, but I get to keep my load to 20", yet can set a speedlight up pretty high.
  17. This sounds to me like the issue really isn't your shooting.
    I looked your site over and your work is good, really good in fact.
    Your site layout kinda sucks but that's another topic.
    I think one of two things is going on here.
    1: Is it possible your have any kind of condition? i.e. depression or medical condition? Your story of being this way since a kid and bathroom story make me think this.
    2: OR maybe you've just grown stagnant in your craft? I would need more info about how long you've been doing this, how many jobs have you had the past 2 years & how many are booked for next, full time photo job etc. But I'd also suggest you go to some workshops... Jeremy Cowart is kicking off his LifeFinder tour in 2 days & it's not most workshops. It'll be focused on creativity and doing good with your photography. He's also the man who started (also something to get involved in if you aren't already). Sadly the LifeFinder tour isn't coming near you but here's the link if your interested.
    That's what seems to be the issue to me. You're not gonna take pics like what is on your site and then start sucking all of a sudden. I think the issue is something else...
  18. Joey, Jerry Ghionis's work is inspired by and fed by his positive view on life ... which translates to his work. I happen to agree with him that if you think your work is getting boring and uninspired, maybe you are getting boring and uninspired (his words, not mine). However, rather than words taken out of context, read his blog to see what I mean ... lots of insight there.
    Technically, a lot of his work is highly styled and much of it appears to be well planned in advance. I have no idea what his method is, or how many people work with him, I'd suspect at least one other besides himself.
    When I shoot this type of work, I plan it out in the days before, and even sketch diagrams for the lighting with notes ... that way I have exactly what I need with me to pull it off ... including one or even two more people to help me if necessary. I learned this by observing the best photographers in the world as an Art Director. Very little is left to chance. So, even if it's just planning one killer shot during a wedding, it's a start.
    Meaning that not every shot is like this, and I'd guess it isn't for Jerry either. What we see is his best, which is all any of us can strive for ... our personal best. That comes with hard work no two ways around it. That starts with one step , then the next and the next. To do it all at once is inviting defeat.
    One other aspect to keep in mind ... different styles of photography often reflect (actually SHOULD reflect), our personal vision of the world around us, and maybe you are frustrated in trying to adopt someone else's attitudes and look/feel. Your current work is pretty spontaneous, and it feels real as opposed to a fantasy. Maybe you are barking up the wrong "talent" tree? Just because I personally like someone's work a lot, doesn't mean I want to shoot that way at all.
  19. Joey,
    Lay off photography for a while, then see if you want to get back to it. You do not have to be taking pictures, do you?
  20. Joey, I agree, your stuff looks great, and WAY under priced. You seem to be in Vegas. I don't know if you have a ton of family there, etc, and I suppose every wedding there isn't done on the strip, I did have friends back in college from Vegas and I'm like wait what, people grow up there and families live there??? But I would think that being a wedding photographer in Vegas you probably might get jaded over time. It's supposed to be like a wedding factory right? Working in a different market might make you feel differently. I nearly fell over when I saw your prices in conjunction with your sample photos.
    I'd say this, during the off season, recharge your mental batteries. Your stuff looks great that you present on the site (although the presentation on the site is what is SERIOUSLY lacking!). Go through each of the points you listed that you feel you have problems with. Go through your images and find examples where you did it right and where you did it wrong, feel free to post these examples here. People can be VERY helpful in figuring out what you could do to do it better next time. See all the helpful advice I got on the forum here when asking about a particular photo:
    Higher end clients often have wedding planners that can back you up on the importance for extra time, separate bridal portrait sessions, trash the dress sessions even. But I have had high end clients who didn't want this at all and have had clients on the lower end of the budget spectrum (because no clients are low end) who did want it. But I'd say percentage wise, those in the higher budget brackets were looking for more of the artistic shots I think you are striving for and also may then give you better material for it. If I have a couple that all they really want are photos of them hugging their friends for facebook, they are going to be less likely to want to spend an hour walking around the reception location just to take artistic photos, and you know what, that's totally fine too!
    What I have started to do is with clients is show them before their engagement shoots what more artistic shots can look like, if they like that, then we go for that in their shoots. If they don't then I don't push the issue.
    If you are having problems with quality of light, I HIGHLY suggest the Rick Sammon Creative Live course, going to other workshops in person, and asking questions here on this forum, and LOTS of practice in your home. The number of flash bulbs that have gone off in my poor dog's eyes as my test subject! Do it until you get it right. Then make notes on how you did it. Then move to a new location, and try to do it well there. etc. It's a great example of how practice really does make perfect.
    Putting together a compelling composition, you seem to be practicing most of them in your shots already. But just to list some obvious basic ones, rule of thirds, have actions leading into your shots not out of your shots, be aware of backgrounds particularly lines as they can direct where you look in the images, don't cut people off at joints (like you did at the wrists here SharonJoey_Esess-0014.jpg). Try unique angles, like you did here, I find this a very compelling composition SharonJoey_Esess-0024.jpg
    But avoid shooting up people's noses SharonJoey_Esess-0009.jpg but this one of yours is a great example of when breaking this rule can result in a great shot ElissaMatthew-0329.jpg
    If this is one of those shots you think you had dark circlesSharonJoey_Esess-0014.jpg, fill flash would only do so much before making the couple look 2-d, if I was bothered by it a ton or the client was, I would fix it in photoshop.
    Try to be aware of what makes the female form look complimentary in people with NON-model build types. This goes for poses as well as treatments in post. Some treatments in post make women look almost varicose-veiny
    It looks like you could use some work with how you use a bright light coming through because you get lots of photon spill over with that technique, it is a VERY hard one to master that I'm still working on myself.
    I love your wide angle work. That could even be a signature shot look that you have that couples come to you for.
    Basically, go through your shots and say, ok which shots leap out at me as great and which do I really not like. You have LOTS of great stuff in Elissa and Matthew's wedding (with the exception of the first dress shot, which if you'd taken it to a better lighting situation would have been made much easier for you to get a great shot). The only thing it seems to suffer from is that it doesn't seem to have a consistent point of view or feeling. The different treatments give your images VERY different feels, making it kinda schizophrenic. If you want a more detailed critique, message me and let me know and I'll go through your stuff with you during the down season. I don't have the years of experience that many of these wonderful others have on here, but I am happy to go through and try to help. =) And if not me, Rick Sammon actually has a service where you can pay to have him review your portfolio and give you pointers on what you are doing well and what you are doing not so well.
    One key thing to remember...don't expect your couples to be models. Most people have zero modeling experience and are uncomfy with the idea that they are going to be the center of attention on a camera. So I find the best way to deal with that is to not OVERLY pose things. Get them into basically flattering spots and then let them talk to eachother, watch for those nice moments between them that are naturally beautiful rather than forced. If they were masters at being in front of the camera, they would be models, so you help make it easier for them.
    Lastly, and probably most importantly, you seem to have (at least from what you've written here and your site though) a HUGE lack of self confidence. If you aren't exuding confidence in your work and how you do it, you WILL make your clients feel ill at ease, and this will be felt in the resulting images. Trust what you are reading here, your stuff is good now, you deserve a higher rate for your images. Once you start trusting yourself more your stuff will get even better! =)
    Sorry for my rather stream of consciousness post by the way!
  21. This is a comment that kind of works for me, regarding getting a bit stale, doing a lot of the same stuff at every wedding. I often like to get away for a few days and go out and play with light. For me this would mean nature photography and avoiding noon type of lighting. I like to get up before he sun comes up and same with the evening, look for color as the sun sets, clouds can often make or break a photo. I also like shooting in B&W.

    For me after a few days away from city life, shooting new subjects will often help you create new ideas. Sometimes on the way home from your trip, other times as weeks continue and couples get married at different times of the days, you will remember and create that new style or new image of shooting.

    Since it's the slow season, maybe take a break, go to different places, even large cities and play with light. It doesn't have to be a nature trip. Vegas is a blast to shoot at night. Maybe these ideas will help.

    As far as skin tones and dark eyes take some time and start metering your subjects. I still carry a meter with me at every wedding. For off camera flash, I always meter the lights. Sometimes I won't aim the flash units at the dance floor, but at the back walls because you can often pick up a lot of assorted background setting. It's difficult to get perfect skin tones every time. I sure can't, but if you are close to the proper exposure photoshop bridge works well for me.

    I'd say take it easy and let things just happen. Perhaps it's the holidays. I really don't like the holiday seasons because I shoot lot of company parties. These parties are pretty much a brainless job. You set up the 2 strobes and a green screen and photograph people as they walk into the party. No camera adjustments need. Simply point and shoot. I actually leave my mark 3 cameras home and use the 20d cameras. The cool part about company parties is you can make a lot of money in just a few hours.

    I think we all get into ruts. Here in LA when it's over 100 degrees for 2 or 3 months straight it's hard to be creative when the wedding party is dying! You just want to get the needed pics and get inside where it's cool. Wedding couples have assorted emotions and you can pretty much figure out what kind of shots you can create and if time allows you can get creative. For me time is a major factor at weddings.

    I love it when the wedding is around noon and the reception is 3 or 4 hours later. You have time to slow down and look around the areas you are at and play with poses, backgrounds, whatever makes a different type of artsy image. When I see water I look for reflections, things like that. Doing nature photography sort of geared my mind to look for reflections.

    So take it easy, it's the slow season and turn your photography "Job," into something different and fun.
  22. Most weddings I do here are on the strip, many ceremonies at strip resorts and many people want "strip tours" which I really do not care for because the the traveling from point A to point B and C if there's time...and I have seen all of the same areas before...and I hate getting kicked off private property...etc. etc.
    I really have very little interest in going out and shooting anything on the strip because I'm not a glitz person. I like quiet, romantic, subtle, intimate. I generally also become very bored very quickly with shooting if I don't have a human subject (which I never do outside of work).
    Boredom sets in the boring mind. Probably true, probably part of my problem.
    Lots of people charge lower rates in Vegas. This is the place where brides come to have comparatively inexpensive weddings as opposed to staying in their hometown. The cost of facilities and vendors is simply less here overall.
    Tonight was an exhausting shoot, about 13+ hours and lots of running around. I got almost everything, but once again I get frustrated by the duo-dSLR videographers at least once. This couple was much better than the last, we coordinated well for everything except dance sessions and the bouquet/garter tosses. The problems with dSLR videographers are 1. Always seems to come in pairs, which means much harder to avoid, 2. they LOVE to get those 360-degree walkarounds of the bride/groom scene frequently, 3. Their lenses are shorter than standard video cameras and end up calling for closer range work within the same realm as I have to work.
  23. And as usual the videographers I worked with tonight charge at least twice what I do for their starting rate. No big surprise. I do wonder why people even hire me as their photographer when they also hire a videography group who charges so much more than videography actually more expensive in general? I doubt I expect that these people booking me should be looking in the realm of photographers around $2.5k+.
  24. To quote Shakespeare ... " Me thinks thou protest to much."
    If you don't care for "Strip Tours" don't do them. If that is all anyone wants in Vegas, and you hate doing it, then you're either in the wrong city shooting the wrong kind of photography ... or shooting for the wrong type of client. Position yourself as doing what you do well and promote it to the right clients.
    Hate shooting in the same places over and over? Think about different ways to shoot at a location ... you know, get creative.
    If you are forced to work 13 hours for chump change, limit the hours and charge more. The former moderator here NEVER worked more than 8 hours for any wedding no matter what. I have the same time limit and rarely break that for anyone ... unless I get paid oddles of money to do an extra hour or two. Can't do good work if you are exhausted. I've never spent 13 hours shooting photography for anyone in my entire career.
    Video folk are a fact of life, we all have to deal with them. I refuse some jobs if it's going to be a herd of video people swarming the couple and hogging their time. Most of the time I just PJ my way around them. A sense of humor helps here.
    Best of luck.
  25. I just wanted to echo what others have said. Your work is lovely. Your prices look incredibly cheap - I would have thought they would be at least three or four times the level mentioned on your site - or more, and while Vegas may have low prices, I'm amazed that they could be that low. Your website design isn't good and doesn't do your work justice at all. It sounds like you have low self esteem - both from what you say, and the prices you charge. If you did less weddings at a higher price, you might have more space to breathe and feel you weren't repeating yourself. And the fact that you are questioning your own abilities just suggests that you are being demanding of yourself, which is a good thing, but you have to balance actually making a living with putting absolutely 100% into every minute of every day. If you can do something new just some of the time, then you're doing better than 99.9% of the rest of the world, it doesn't mean you have to be innovative every single moment of the day. And if you have weak points in your technical knowledge of lighting, then they can be addressed easily enough.
    Maybe it all comes from being annoyed by a couple of videographers. But I bet your pictures from the day will turn out great in spite of the obstacles.
  26. Joey, if I were getting married today, I would definitely hire you to be my photog. Your work is great.
  27. Now that I have declared this to myself, maybe I can actually learn something.​
    Joey, I think you are doing the right thing. If you start with the notion that you know nothing who knows what new insights you could have?
  28. I have a good friend, a wedding photographer, just outside of Vegas. He was the guy that taught me how to shoot. I spent 2 years learning. Anyway email me if interested.

    If you'd like his email addy let me know. If anything, you will have a blast talking with him. I'm sure he will show you some of his work that may light up some senses you feel you lost.Frankly I really like your work.

    As others have said, your are a great photographer.

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