Behind-The-Scenes: Jalin

It’s time to take a peek behind-the-scenes (BTS) of one of my shoots!

Here’s some background:

Jalin loves the city, so she knew she wanted to have the shoot in the city.  We started at the crack of dawn.  Nah, I’m kidding.  It was dark though because of the fog that is typical of San Francisco mornings.  The air was brisk because the fog that sat over the city completely blocked the morning sun.  I came in full Winter gear.  My childhood friends from Massachusetts would shake their heads if they saw me in my thick scarf and jacket with thumb holes because it was in the 50s.  :)

Behind-the-Scenes #1

We started at this restaurant that hadn’t opened yet.  I liked the outside of the building, so we walked around to find a good spot, and then…

I spotted the fog rolling under the bridge.  Knowing that the light changes every minute, I threw out the wall idea and had Jalin sit with her coffee.  There wasn’t much time to reorganize the tables and chairs; we only had time to wipe her chair from the morning dew and pull a couple chairs out of the way.  The disarray of the rest of the furniture ended up being a representation of life, and her stillness in the chaos was symbolic, so we loved it.

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What I Shot

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[Specs:  ISO 320, f/2.5, 1/8000 sec, morning sun, dense fog]

Behind-the-Scenes #2

The light was so cool because it was early enough that the sun was low in the sky, thereby providing a glow on one side of Jalin’s face; meanwhile, the fog acted as a diffuser, so the sunlight came in soft.

Once I captured the environmental shots (Jalin with the bridge and fog), I moved up to get some close-up shots of this beautiful High School Senior.

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What I Shot

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[Specs:  ISO 3320, f/2.2, 1/4000 sec]

Behind-the-Scenes #3

We walked over to one of the piers.  There were locals fishing at the end, the fog was clearing, and it was starting to get really bright.  Bright sun means shadows and higher contrast images, which isn’t ideal for portraits.  However, I love the lines on piers, and we wanted to shoot the cityscape.

To make it work, I used a reflector to brighten the shadow on Jalin’s face.  I also shot into the sun.

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What I Shot

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[Specs:  ISO 200, f/1.8, 1/6400 sec, bright full sun on the right of subject, reflector]

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[Specs:  ISO 250, f/1.4, 1/8000 sec, bright full sun behind subject, intentionally 'blew out' the image to soften the shadows]

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[Specs:  ISO 250, f/1.8, 1/8000 sec, full bright sun to subject's left, embraced the contrast!]

Behind-the-Scenes #4

Doopdeedoop….we’re just walking by a construction area and you know what they say about how life is about the journey, not the destination?  Well, that’s true in Photography as well.

I loved the urban vibe of the wire fence, and the “danger” signs were really cool.  They are symbols of life’s many crossroads, am I right?!!  ;)

The BxW BTS shot shows what is behind Jalin:  not much!  I angled my camera to completely miss the messy area and shot wide open to blur it out.

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What I Shot

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[Specs:  ISO 400, f/1.4, 1/3200 sec, open shade, late morning]

Behind-the-Scenes #5

I had this idea that Jalin could stand very still while crowds rushed by her, but that never happened.  We waited for awhile, but it was a Sunday, which meant less foot traffic.  The light was also not super interesting, so I found that BxW pulled the image together best and made Jalin stand out the most.

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What I Shot

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[Specs:  ISO 800, f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, indoors, low light]

Behind-the-Scenes:  Tada!  

We just finished, so we took a quick pic.  That’s the proud mama who is also my friend on the left, the beautiful Jalin, and yours truly.

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If this is helpful to you, you can check out my BTS of Crystal or this one of Katy and Tammy!

Embracing Lines

Have you ever noticed how many LINES there are at the playground?

From years of shooting, I — regardless of whether I want to or not (haha) — notice lines, patterns, light and shadows wherever I go.  If you see me checking my watch, it’s most likely because I am memorizing the time I should shoot in that location because I like the light!  If you see me squatting down, it’s probably because I noticed that a lower perspective changes the lines of something I’m looking at, or I like the way the light hits something from that angle!

Sure, that’s a little wacky, but as one of my favorite cartoon characters would say:  I yam who I yam! 

That brings me to my periodic quick tip!

PHOTOGRAPHY TIP:
Look out for lines.  Embrace them in your photography.  Once you really, truly notice them, find ways you can incorporate them into your photograph.

This can be at any location, but during a recent shoot, we stopped by the park’s playground for the last half hour or so.  It was really fun to let the kids run around, and everywhere, I saw lines, patterns, and light.

Below are some examples.

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My Everything Bag

I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of person.  I love boots, hats, flip flops and sunglasses.  I rarely pick up fashion magazines because I don’t care to follow trends.  I wear what I love, what feels good, what makes me feel good about myself.  Maybe that’s not even really “a style”, but that’s how I choose what to buy and what to wear.

So when I was online one day and stumbled across this bag that perfectly sums up my style AND happens to be a camera bag… omg. <3

Today, I took it out for a spin for the first time and decided last minute to take photos of it — so don’t judge my flat hair.  ;)

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Here is what I love about this Kelly Moore (Collins) camera bag:

- It’s made of thick canvas and genuine leather.  This makes the bag sturdy, and not too heavy.  The dual material gives it an urban edge.
- The shape of the bag allows it to be slouchy, but the material makes it rigid enough to hold its shape.
- It has lots of metal buckles, studs, zippers, and lots and lots of pockets!
- It has a lined, padded interior with adjustable/removable dividers to protect my gear.
- The bag has a removable long strap, so I can choose to hang the bag on my shoulders or carry it by the handles for a different look.

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My favorite part…

It has a separate area (a zipped pocket on the outside) for my wallet items!  In my last lens bag, I had to put my cash, keys and cards in one of the lens compartments, which meant they sometimes fell out because I would need to reach into the various slots to find what I needed.  With this bag, it’s right there on the side, and I don’t need to dig around or touch my gear unnecessarily.

The extra wallet area makes this bag a fantastic accessory for everyday use, not just for shoots.  Yup, this will be my bag for everything:)

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To get more information about this bag, click on this link (go to Canvas collection and click on Collins).

[FYI:  Kelly Moore did not contract me to write this or give me the bag.  I bought this because I was looking for a new camera bag -- one that will last longer than a year and one that doesn't actually look like a standard camera bag.]

How to Choose a Photographer

When you want to hire a photographer, there are many factors in your decision-making.  It could be the talent and expertise of the photographer.  It could be value, if you are on a budget.  It could be the artistic style of the photographer.  It could be the type of shoot — ie, posed in studio vs styled with props vs lifestyle/photojournalism.  It could be one thing or all of these things.

The part many people don’t often think about is chemistry.

I know this isn’t dating!  ;)  But your chemistry with your photographer makes a huuuuge impact on the end result:  your photos.  It impacts how much you can relax and be yourself — which is, to me, THE most important part of your photoshoot!

How you feel during your shoot will show in your eyes, your smile, your shoulders…in how you move and interact.  Unless you are a professional model or actor, you will be aware of the camera and the photographer, and thus, need to have good chemistry with that person.

How do you determine chemistry if you haven’t met them yet?

For starters, you can get a good sense from how they communicate with you in emails, texts or on the phone.  Do they make you feel at ease or like you’re bothering them?  Read their blog to get a feeling for their likes and dislikes, and whether they’re serious, quirky or casual.  How do they describe their photoshoots, clients or themselves?  You can generally tell if you will get along or are vastly different kinds of people.

For me, the main thing I want for my clients is to be themselves.  Whether that means telling jokes, singing a song, sitting and chatting, or making fart sounds with their mouth!  hahahaa…that hasn’t happened yet, but you never know!  It doesn’t matter what it is exactly, as long as they are being real.  Don’t subscribe to what you think I want or what you’ve seen online somewhere.

Do YOU.  Be YOU.

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Pom Pom Bouquet

Wanted to share this fun DIY pom pom bouquet I made for our Beach Room.  (Yes, I named many of our rooms because…well, why not?!!)

I made pom poms with my kids, collected sticks around our neighborhood, washed a bottle from a drink I had, and used shells the kids gathered on the beach last Summer.

I love the result!  The bouquet gives the room a touch of whimsy and fun!

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How is this related to Photography?

Well, it isn’t.  But it turned out to be because I decided to photograph it.  So it became a mini shoot of an item, like a Product Shoot.

If you’re ever needing creative inspiration or have time in your busy schedule, I encourage you to try it on an everyday item or a special item, if you prefer.  It can be anything, even a fork.  Really.

Task yourself with finding a way to shoot that item to make it look its best.  Give yourself a time limit.  What kind of light will compliment that item the most?  Where can you place it?  How would you arrange it?  What angle would you shoot it at?  What settings would you have?  How would you compose the image?

This is a great 5 minute activity that can be helpful for any experience level!  I’ve been doing this for years to spark creative juices, and these mini shoots have helped me on my client photoshoots.  :)

Setting Up Families for a Lifestyle Shoot

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Michael F. asked me a fabulous question after reading my latest Behind-The-Scenes post, so I wanted to share the Q and A!

His Q:

I thoroughly enjoy your images, and your comments are wonderful. But I’ve always wanted to ask how you “stage/setup” your models/families. You mention in this blog using stories to create an atmosphere, but is that also how you have your lifestyle families work? Do you mind sharing how you interact with your families to create the powerful images you share on your blog? What do you say, how do you direct them, etc.? Thanks so much.

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My A:

How I structure a Styled Shoot is vastly different than a Lifestyle Shoot.  The main reason for that is a Styled Shoot requires my subjects to look relaxed, but their poses don’t have to appear “natural”, whereas in a Lifestyle Shoot, I want my subjects to FEEL comfortable, LOOK relaxed, and HAVE natural poses.

For this reason, I limit how often I direct them and am careful with how I word my directions.  (If you give them too many directions, it usually results in stiff poses and forced expressions.)

What I do is direct them to “hang out” in areas that I know will photograph well — such as, areas with nice light and areas with an interesting backdrop.  What they do there is up to them.  That way, the result is nicely lit, interesting images with natural expressions and real interactions.

Every child, family, person…they are all different and unique, so there isn’t one magic thing you can do or say to get powerful images.  Instead, you have to understand whom you’re photographing, and work with their personality to get the images you want.  I do this by communicating a lot with my clients.

Here’s an example.  Let’s say there is a family with a toddler and a preschooler.  The parents are nervous about their first professional shoot, so they stand around and look stiff.  In this case, I may tell them to pretend I’m not there, and just play with their kids like it’s a regular weekend morning.  Usually that’s all I need to do to get things flowing.  In rare instances, the parents may still not know what to do with their children, so I may give them some ideas.  Such as, “Does your children like playing _____?  Have you ever done this _____?  Maybe you can _____?”

Usually that sparks ideas for my clients, and they remember how Little Nancy loves to twirl when there’s music or how Baby Joe laughs whenever they throw him up in the air.  The key is to not tell them what to do, but rather, offer suggestions, so their actions are natural.

My end goal is to create beautiful images of my subjects in their natural element.  I want their expressions to be real and want them to be sooo comfortable that they reveal their personalities and even emotions.  <3

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Does Location Really Matter?

You can spend countless hours coming up with the photoshoot location, but let’s be honest.  Does the location REALLY matter?

This is one of those questions where different photographers may have different answers.  Here is my opinion as a Lifestyle Photographer.  (This answer would be different if I were a traditional portrait photographer or a landscape photographer, for instance.)

The answer:  It does and it doesn’t.  I know, I hate it when people say that (haha), but it’s true.  Let me explain.

When location MATTERS:

  • You want a meaningful spot (ie, where you got engaged, your home, your neighborhood park).
  • You want “good light”.
  • It makes the subjects relaxed (ie, a newborn will be more comfortable in their warm home, a family with young children may be happier at a quiet playground than in a city).
  • It provides you with activities (ie, you have a toddler who loves to pick flowers, so you choose a garden or you have a couple who loves dining out, so you choose a chic restaurant).

When location DOESN’T MATTER:

  • You want someplace “pretty”.

Here are examples of the last point.  I took these images this weekend with long-time clients whom I know very well.  We started at a park near their home, and towards the end, I took them to the parking lot next to an open field.  Though it may look picturesque, I guarantee that 98% of people who drive to the parking lot don’t stop to look at this.  Then we walked over to our cars, and I captured a few sweet hugging shots right in the middle of the lot.

Point is, parking lots aren’t usually considered “pretty” areas, but you can get great shots just about anywhere.

So don’t just look for “pretty” when you are deciding on a shoot location.

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Shooting in the parking lot and other interesting places is not foreign to me.  You should check out my blog post part one  and part two!

Behind-The-Scenes: Crystal

Styled Shoots involve more directing of subjects, which is a fun contrast to my regular shoots (Lifestyle Photography) that are more natural-flowing.

In this shoot with Crystal, for instance, I took her into a deserted building and a cemetery ==> NOT your typical photography locations.  Some of that occurred on a whim because the other areas were occupied by another photographer.  Instead of leaving altogether, I got more creative!  It feels amazing to still achieve the quality of images I had visualized beforehand, even with the unplanned changes.  Boo-yah!

Before diving into the behind-the-scenes (BTS) images, I’d like to share a phone selfie of me and Crystal taken before the shoot, so you can see what she looks like on a “normal” day.  She is stylish, cute and gorgeous, right?!!

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And, I know you’re thinking it, so I’m just gonna come out and say it for you… I need a tan!  ;)  Alright, let’s get to it!

Behind-the-Scenes #1

I chose this area because I liked how the green in her top (it was a silk scarf!) matched the leaves in the tree, so I placed her here.  Since she has never done a professional shoot before, I gave her a branch to hold, so her hands had something to do.

(PHOTOGRAPHY TIP:  Sometimes hands can look awkward. They need to have “a purpose”.  Don’t just let them fall to the side.  I call that “a dead arm”.)

I also love her muscular arms and back, so finding ways to curve and bend her body highlighted those areas.  It also makes the image more editorial than headshot-y.  (Do you like my formal terms?!!)

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What I Shot

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[Specs:  ISO 400, 1/1000 sec, f/1.4, shade.]

Behind-the-Scenes #2

I started shooting her in different angles (straight on with the cemetery behind her, through the trees, etc), but none of those gave me the “wow” effect that I wanted.  I ended up moving closer and closer, and shot her from the side, as you see below.

I found the side view more flattering.  It showed off her arms in a feminine way and created a harder line around her jaw, which I liked.

Also, from this side view, I can see her wrist tattoos, which offers a visual detail that I find interesting.

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What I Shot

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[Specs:  ISO 400, 1/400 sec, f/1.8, open shade]

Behind-the-Scenes #3

I could see that the sun was hitting the bush with the flowers, so I knew I wanted to shoot through that for a cool foreground bokeh.  To get into position, I am looking through the viewfinder the entire time, so I guess I ended up in a funky legs-all-twisted kind of position!  haha.

The other image (below right) shows me giving Crystal posing direction.

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What I Shot

I love this shot of Crystal.  She looks flirty and fun!  Her stance also shows off her athletic build.  (She is a volleyball athlete!)

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[Specs:  ISO 400, 1/1250 sec, f/1.4, speckled light]

Behind-the-Scenes #4

So at the end of the shoot, I looked around for a strip of light.  I visualized a dark environment with a tiny bit of light, so I could create more of an emotional, storytelling image than just “a pretty” one.

I found this strip of light inside a deserted building that worked great, however, based on how the sunlight streamed in, the light was very low to the ground.  I gave Crystal directions to sit, kick off her shoes, and bend forward into the light.  I painted a story for her so she would have “activities”, so that the image would have a story…

She was a girl at a party who stepped away from it to be alone for awhile so she could think.  The rest was up to her.  Was she sad?  Pensive?

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What I Shot

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[Specs:  ISO 250, 1/4000 sec, f/1.4,  super bright stream of light]

Then I walked up to her to get a close-up.

I wanted to highlight the shapes from the light and shadows on her face and body, so I had her body produce even more shapes by making her limbs bend and her body asymmetric.

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[Specs:  ISO 320, 1/5000 sec, f/1.8, bright stream of light]

 

If you want to see more Behind-the-Scenes posts, check out this one.  And this one.  And don’t forget this one:)

Behind-The-Scenes: Little Princess

As part of my 1 hour Styled Session of my 5-year old’s birthday, Ava changed into her flowy pink dress and wore a handmade glittery gold crown that I ordered from etsy.  (She wanted a Princess theme whereas I wanted The Train Station theme, so we compromised by doing both.  Actually, she had 3 outfits, but that’s another post!)  :)

The fog had rolled in, so the temperature dropped 10 degrees and the wind picked up.  I knew this leg of the shoot needed to be really quick.  It was a time to just “get the shot and go”!  We were there for about 15 minutes, including walking to/from the parking lot.

My oldest daughter held my reflector when I needed it, and she took a couple behind-the-scenes shots with my phone as you can see here.  Thanks, Mia!

Behind-the-Scenes

Ava’s dress had a gauzy layer that kept getting caught on the prickly wild flowers, so I had her stand on a stool.

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I had waited til the end of the day to get the “golden hour” light, but didn’t anticipate the fog that rolled in after we started.  With the dense fog, you can see that we were running out of light quick!

My poor girl was so cold that she used her arms to hug herself to keep warm — which actually looked pretty darn cute, so I shot through it.

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What I Shot:

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Conclusion:

You can’t always control every aspect of your shoot, like the weather.  So find ways to make the most of what you have.  Sometimes that means finding an alternate light source.  Sometimes it means shooting through the cold and having artistic “thoughtful” shots of your subject rather than “happy” ones.

Use the resources you have, think quickly, and have fun!

The Secret About BxW

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I love BxW images so much that I asked our photographer to shoot Lawrence and my engagement portraits entirely in BxW film.  This was a long time ago, but I remember it vividly.  The photographer responded politely:  “Usually when people come to Hawaii, they want their photos to be in color, so they can see the beauty of the island.”

Hmmmm…he has a point, I thought.  “Alright, take a couple shots in color and the rest in BxW please.”   :D

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What does this have to do with my lesson on BxW?  Not much, but it was a funny story.  All true, by the way.

Alright, let’s get to it…. Secret #1:  NOT ALL IMAGES LOOK GOOD IN BxW!

Shocking, right?!!  The problem is, not everyone realizes this bec they are learning with a digital camera.

With digital photography, it becomes easy to adopt the philosophy of shoot-NOW-think-LATER, because it uses technology where you can view your images a second after pressing the shutter and many rely on post-processing to fix something or change a photo to BxW.  All with a few clicks of a button.

This process leaves little reason to need to think very much before you shoot.

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Secret #2:  SHOOT INTENTIONALLY FOR BxW

When I shot entirely with a film camera, one of the things I learned very quickly was looking out for imagery based on what kind of film was loaded in my camera.  I’d shoot differently with BxW film versus Color film.

If I had a roll of 100 speed color, then I’d bring my camera somewhere sunny and colorful, like a beach boardwalk.  (FYI:  The speed of a roll of film is like a digital camera’s ISO.)  If I had a roll of 800 speed BxW, then I’d look for a shady area or shoot at night… and I’d look for interesting textures, patterns and variations of light.

With BxW images, I think about how light and dark would shape the image.

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If you still think “BxW rocks and everything looks great as BxW”, then let me give you an example of why that’s not true…

* REAL LIFE EXAMPLE *

A few months ago, I took Lawrence’s relaxed, lifestyle-esque headshots in color to be used for color.  So I chose a location that had cool indoor lights for a colorful backdrop and a small window for natural light on his face.  Recently, he needed a BxW headshot for something else.  For the sake of time, I took the existing photos and converted them to BxW.

The Problems:

1. There were too many colors with the same tonality, so when I converted this color image to BxW, my subject no longer stood out as he did in color.

2. Some of the colors blended into each other, like his shoulders and hair.  EEK.

3. In BxW, the lines in the background became irritably distracting.  One line even cut through his head — Oy!

This photo did NOT translate well into BxW.

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The Solution:

We did another shoot — but this time, it was intended for BxW images.  (I shot as if I had a roll of BxW film in my camera.)

To prepare, I had to pick a good location.  I knew my subject has dark hair and would be wearing a black suit (because I picked his outfit!), so I chose a location that would provide contrast to my subject.  In other words, no dark backgrounds!

First stop was a garden for a textured backdrop.

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Now there is definition between my subject and his background!

Below is another image taken at the same place.  I angled the camera slightly downward to give less emphasis to his jaw.  (I also made him laugh, so this image is my favorite.)

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Before leaving this location, I found a giant cream-colored door.  Voila, the “clean” light backdrop!

The thin lines, in this shot, provide context to my subject without being distracting and makes the headshot feel more lifestyle than studio.  The fact that the door was cream translated to a light grey, which works perfectly because a white-white would be too stark.

East-Bay-commercial-photography-corporate-headshot-man-in-black-suit-and-light-wall-background-BxW

Nearby, there was a garage.  I like the industrial feel of the cement and hard lines of the building.  So now I have a texturally interesting background for BxW!

East-Bay-commercial-photography-corporate-headshot-man-in-black-suit-and-cement-background-BxW

TAKE-AWAYS:

~ Not all color photos should be changed into BxW; and not all BxW photos should be color.  Some images look best only one way.

~ There are different things to look out for when you are shooting in color versus BxW.

~ With BxW portraits, you need a background that will be contrasting to the person.  (Sometimes you can’t control this, like if it’s a Lifestyle session with children, but it’s something to look out for.)

~ You also have to consider tonality of colors (e.g., medium shades of red and green may look great together in color, but when changed to BxW, they will both look like a medium grey).  Things with similar tonality will blend together in BxW.

~ Especially with BxW images, you can use light and shadows to shape or define your subject.

QUESTION OF THE DAY:

Is my husband lucky to have a photographer for a wife, so he can get free photoshoots — OR — is he UNlucky because it also means I get to blog about him?!!  :)

HOMEWORK:

If you have a DSLR, change your setting to “BxW”.  (Most cameras will have that option.)  Then go out there and shoot with intent to create a good BxW image.  You will end up training your eyes to notice the background, tones, etc.

If you have access to a film camera, even better.  So leap in the air and cheer “HOORAY”!  heh heh.  Afterwards, shoot two rolls of film, one in color and one in BxW.  Use both rolls in the same location and same time of day, so that most factors are equal.  Shooting with film, even for just one day, will improve your photography skills.  I guarantee it.