One of the best ways to improve your portrait session is to first start with a plan for posing. My uncle Knolan Benfield had a studio in Hickory, NC where he did mainly portraits for his business.
You may have seen some of these folios that many photographer still sell as a way to display more photos from a session for the client.
He realized that he could shoot to help sell those and up his average sale. Well it worked. He started to pre-visualize the photos in the folio.
The customers were buying more photos and he was getting better photos for the customer in the process.
At first it will feel a little mechanical and formulaic, but over time you start expanding the poses.
At first you may just be having a person face to one side and then the other. Slowly however you will start to experiment. You start to learn that each basic pose of the body is endless when you start going for different expressions.
What was surprising to me was the likes on the fun photos verses just stunning photos of theatre students I did this past weekend.
Shoot to for a folio
Add a photo each time you do a portrait
Try for different expressions in each pose
What a thrill it was to get the chance to go up in helicopter and see the lava flowing at the Kīlauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. Dorie and Chelle gave me this present for father’s day.
While I had been in helicopters many times clients paid for the experience. This time it was out of our pockets. I had wanted to do this for years.
I have been coming the The Big Island of Hawaii at the invitation of my good friend Dennis Fahringer. I have been teaching photography to his School of Photography students with the University of Nations which is part of Youth with a Missions.
Now for 12 years I have been coming driving to the Volcano hoping for good photos. I have made some pretty good photos through the years. Here is one from February this year before they closed the Volcano National park due to the recent activity.
Really the best way to see the volcano is from the air.
This is an untouched photo right out of the camera. Just converted from Nikon NEF to a JPEG.
By shooting RAW you can then work with the photo in Lightroom just like we did in the film days in the Darkroom.
The number one tool that helps you when shooting from a helicopter is the Dehaze Slider.
There is a lot of haze created by the atmosphere and over the volcano with VOG you need to use this tool or the haze just clouds the photos literally.
Just compare this photo of Rainbow falls that I processed to the unprocessed photo.
Now here are two short videos I shot while up as well. I processed these in Final Cut Pro X and also corrected the footage for better contrast and color.
Dorie, my wife, knew when making plans for our children when they were young that there was a time limit. It was about 2 hours and then it was as if we hit a wall.
We like being at a fair: there are rides, games, entertaining acts, and tons of food. It’s exciting at first, then it becomes overwhelming, and finally it makes you sick (and you hate it!).
When you’re sick of something it shows in your attitude and performance most of the time. Just like our kids would be at places like Disney World.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
Often we hit the wall in our careers just as we did when we were young. It isn’t fun for us any more. If you are a freelancer you can feel that you are just not in step with your client as you once were.
I have discovered this happens with every client that I hit a wall at some point. It is the same feeling that happened with our kids on an outing.
I think what happens is we have become too focused on what we do in our jobs and less on the people that we work with in doing those jobs. This can happen to you if you are extroverted or introverted.
Too much focus can be a problem: It drains your brain of energy, makes you care less about people, and prevents you from seeing what is happening around you. When you become more focused on say a product that you are producing in a job rather than realizing you are working with other people and they need to enjoy the process and not just the end result.
I came to this conclusion when over the years I find that I must rekindle a working relationship. In the past I would work on my portfolio or some new skill to talk to my client. I was thinking the client needed to see my skills are valuable.
While working on some materials this latest round of rekindling relationships I realized that no matter what I did it was going to look like I was going to do some “Explaining” to the people in the meetings I was setting up.
This approach can be very condescending to others. It actually undermines the relationship that you are trying to nurture.
Thinking about his it really hit me – I had not worked enough on the relationship with my clients.
In your work have you been measuring using your skills in our work as well as developing relationships?
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
We spend a lot of time at work; there is nothing worse than someone who cannot get along with others. It’s so important and involves being helpful, understanding the unwritten rules, being respectful, reliable and competent.
Here is a simple way to start this conversation, “We’ve been doing business together for almost a year. I’d like to take you to lunch to get to know you a little better.”
The single most important thing you can do at a business meal is to listen. You want to hear what the other person cares about, what their interests are, what makes him or her tick. They need to know you care about them as people and not just the money they give you to pay your bills.
One time we were at Disney and we ran into my daughter’s friend from home. While normally our daughter would be ready for a break from the theme park this “Relationship” gave a burst of energy to go through not just our daughter but the entire family.
Theme parks can be like your product in business. At a certain point this really isn’t going to keep your client enthused. Remember friendships do keep your help energize business relationships as well.
In film and television production, B-roll is supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot. This can be still images, video and even graphics.
The overall goals and pace of your video should help determine the length of of your B-roll shots. Say you have a longer support video demonstrating a specific process to your customers. Those illustrative shots might be 20 to 30 seconds long, depending on what you’re trying to achieve.
Having a still image up for 20 – 30 seconds can be made more interesting by zooming in or out as well as panning across the image. We call this the Ken Burns effect is a type of panning and zooming effect used in video production. The name derives from extensive use of the technique by American documentarian Ken Burns.
Just like music has a beat, most interviews have a similar feel. The very best editors have a good feel for finding that beat and pacing to then know when to start and stop B-Roll clips.
Literal vs Abstract B-Roll
When I took a course in church music during my seminary days the professor helped me understand how a creative [organist for example] can help lead people in worship. He divided music that an organist plays when people are coming into worship, leaving or during the service can be literal or abstract.
When the organist plays “Amazing Grace” this is literal, because people so know the song that the begin to sing it in their heads and sometimes even out loud when they hear the music.
However if the organist starts to play something like Mendelssohn wrote, which is often music that isn’t associated with words then the people can let their mind wander. The organist can create a mood, but how the people hear it individually will let their mind wander. This is abstract type of music.
My suggestion is to use literal B-Roll when you can show something about which relates directly to what the person is talking about. For example if they are talking about their parents then a pan across their dresser to a photo of their parents works quite well.
Now often during interviews people are talking about things in the past or even future. This is where often abstract B-Roll works great.
When someone reflects on growing up some where this is a great time to use nature shots from that area. It is kind of like helping the audience dream with them as if they are thinking back and looking out their window or like they are driving down the road looking out the car window.
Flowers blowing in the wind or a person’s hand moving through a field of flowers can work as an abstract. Seeing rain hitting a puddle or a stream of water flowing can be quite soothing.
Closeups of tools can work great as well. Seeing the blade cut wood verses a wide shot of a person cutting wood can often look more abstract. Closeup of welding that goes from out of focus to in focus is another way to create abstract B-Roll.
There are many times you need to transition the audience from one scene to another in the storyline. This is where B-Roll of a door opening and closing or having someone walk through a scene can help you transition to a new thought.
Video portraits are quite popular today for B-Roll. They can work with transitions as well. This is where you roll for 20 to 30 seconds on a person with video verses the still portrait. I would advise getting a lot of different takes if using this technique. Have the person look out a window. As they look out the window have them turn and look into the camera. Reverse that and do another take.
Have people look into the camera and they then walk away with the camera following and another time staying still.
Have them go from pretty expressionless face to anger or smile. Start your shot out of focus and then go in focus. Start in focus and then go out of focus.
With video you are capturing motion. You can keep the camera still and have the environment moving or you can move the camera within the environment.
Car scenes are notorious with showing motion. You can have camera stationary on the person while they are driving. The windows are like cinema screens showing life happening around them as they are driving.
Shooting from another vehicle you can drive along side them to give a sense of context.
Type of shots
You have a variety of types of shots which I encourage you to get lots in each category for easier editing later.
Wide Shot – helps to establish the context Medium Shot – often two people close together or where you are seeing the subjects hands type of distance Tight Shot – This is often where you are just showing the face. You are letting the face expressions help tell the story. More than 50% of most movies are the tight shot. Close-up – These are the detail shots. Where you see someone’s ring on their finger, pouring a cup of coffee, the cork on a bottle of champaign being opened.
You can never have enough B-Roll. I have never heard this said in an edit suite that what were they thinking giving me all this B-Roll. I do hear it over and over that there is not enough.
In Part 1 I suggested the gear you need to use your DSLR/Mirrorless camera to do video. This post will do with some basic settings I recommend for the camera when doing a video.
Camera Video Settings
On my Nikon D5 The Frame Rate, Resolution and Frame Size all show up in the upper right hand corner of the Live View on the LCD. We need to address all three.
Resolution – I recommend Full HD 1920×1080
While there are many other resolutions like 2K, 4K, 6K and even 8K I believe they are overkill for web distribution. Even my friend Ben Smallbone whose credits include the movies: Priceless, Taken, and Steve McQueen: American Icon to name a few of his movies told me that when it came to distributing their films to movie houses all over the country that they said not to give them anything bigger than 2K.
Now there are really two resolutions in video just as there are two resolutions with stills. You have the capture setting and the exported resolution.
While you can shoot say at 4k for the similar reasons you would shoot RAW your computer must be really top of the line to process the 4K files. Unless you want to crop in on your video in post-production I believe there is little to gain for the average project to shoot higher than the Blue Ray Full HD 1920×1080 resolution.
Frame Rate – I recommend 24 Frames per Second
Here is a good video showing why 24 fps is an industry standard for movies.
24 FPS is the Cinematic Look that is used in motion pictures. There are reasons to shoot other FPS and one worth mentioning is to shoot super high rate to then slow down for that “Slow Motion” affect.
Shutter Speed – I recommend 1/48 or 1/50
As a rule of thumb, you want the denominator of your shutter speed to be approximately double the number of frames per second that you are recording. For example, when shooting at 25fps, your shutter speed should be 1/50 of a second. If you have the 24fps and do not have a 1/48 then pick the closest frame rate like 1/50 or 1/60.
Manual Mode – Shoot this rather than Aperture, Shutter or Program mode
If anything on the camera is set to automatic your exposure can change when say something changes in the frame like your subject just moves a little. The camera may think the lighting has changed and it hasn’t. Shoot manual mode and manual focus as well.
Look – use Neutral
In video, just like stills, you can pick a picture color mode. There are modes on most cameras like: Standard, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Neutral. If your camera doesn’t have a Neutral setting then pick Standard.
When later we cover your post production you can do more with a Neutral setting than with say Vivid. More on that in later posts on making videos with your DSLR.
Audio Recording Settings
You want to have your recording levels set manually and not automatic for the same reasons for the video. When someone stops talking the Auto level will increase the volume and introduce noise.
Most levels on cameras or a separate recording device like the Zoom Digital Audio Recorders have a way to show you it is too loud.
Most video editors agree that the overall audio level of your audio mix (all of your audio combined) should normalized between -10db to -20db. I personally level my videos around -12db with occasional peaks to -8db.
What this means for me on my Nikon D5 is I want the level to peak right up to the last line before it goes red. I have a person talk for a while and then set the sound recording level before actually recording.
I recommend doing a test video for sound. Set your video settings to get a good exposure and audio levels for good sound. Record 30 seconds to a minute and then download to your computer and play using Quicktime or other video software that came with your computer.
For testing sound play something on your computer like music you downloaded. After you set your speakers for proper volume when listening to your music then play your video. If you have to adjust the volume to hear the recording then you need to adjust your recording levels. The biggest problem is if it is too quite or if too loud and giving you distortion.
Be very careful that you are not using the headphone volume as a way to see if the audio level is set correctly. Use the levels for audio the same way you use a histogram. Once you have those levels set then adjust your headphone volume to where you can hear properly.
Picking a location to do an interview
When picking a location you need to pay attention to two things: 1) Sound in the location and 2) lighting/visual.
My recommendation is to just turn on your microphone and put your headphones on and just listen to the environment. Are you trying to do a interview next to a waterfall or water fountain? That will prove to be difficult to impossible.
Finding a totally silent location would be “ideal,” but not always possible.
Make finding the perfect location weigh sound quality over visual.
This is how I start most days–a cup of coffee. Everyone has a time of day that we are most productive. Over time we most likely try to be most productive during our sweet spot of the day.
Today more than any other time in my life trying to get any message to an audience is more like trying to getting people’s attention on the highway.
Do Billboards Work?
According to the Arbitron study, billboard advertising is effective. According to the study, which reported that 71 percent of Americans “often look at the messages on roadside billboards,” a majority of Americans at one time or another learned about an event that interested them or a restaurant they later patronized.
However, consumers are no longer looking at billboards in the same way they did twenty or thirty years ago. While they may still be considered a premium advertising space, consumers are engrossed in their smart phones, tablets, and gaming systems. Eyes are down, not up, for much of our lives.
Six Words or Six Seconds
Six seconds has been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard. So, around six words is all you should use to get the message across.
In the 1990s we started to call the internet the Superhighway. Our messaging has become more like a billboard on the highway.
If you can get your message to be short and sweet and it delivers all one needs to know to take action then you are poised to make people’s daily commute in life worthwhile and more productive.
The More Billboards, The Better.
Being sure your audience is getting your message on the highways often requires more billboards. Your message must be concise. As billboard experts will tell you if you are using a headline that explains your visual, you’re wasting words.
When your are limited to 5 to 10 seconds for messaging, you need to be sure they see it. You need your billboard on the bypass and downtown as well to be sure you are reaching your audience.
Engage & Deliver
We all get ticked when someone takes more of our time because they are not well organized. I get even more frustrated when someone has done a great job of hooking me and leading me through well written or visual communication, but in the end don’t deliver.
Before you can talk you must listen.
In most conversations, the person who speaks least benefits most and the person who speaks most benefits least. This is why social media is often preferred over main stream media, they get to talk and be heard on those platforms.
Instagram, Facebook, Google, Pinterest
Today due to Starbucks, Seinfeld and Friends in the late 80s and early 90s we have the third space–The coffee shop. Today brands are realizing that people are looking for an experience. They are looking for a place beyond work for an encounter that leaves an impression. They want a place they can interact with others.
BREAKTHROUGH with your audience!
Don’t think of your job as creating content. Think of your job being like a counselor, parent or friend. If you really care for someone you want to know how they are doing. You want them to be happy.
As a counselor you are trained to not just take what someone is telling you are being the real problem. Often what they are talking about is a symptom.
As a parent you tend to know your child’s personality and how that can shape how they see the world and how this can affect their child’s view of circumstances.
As a friend you often tolerate some traits because you know their heart.
Can you as a communicator say you know your audience well enough to know their hopes and fears?
Your breakthrough is probably pretty simple, but it will start first with you understanding others more than just knowing yourself and what you can do.
Sometimes your breakthrough isn’t about your skills or service at all. Often it will be in helping someone with something other than your product.
Look what guides on of the Gold Standard brands the Ritz Carlton:
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.
We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.
The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
I love the words “Genuine Care” in that first sentence.
Genuine – truly what something is said to be; authentic.
On your camera you can pick your ISO setting or you can pick Auto ISO.
On my Nikon D5 you choose the ISO setting and then you can toggle right into the AUTO ISO setup screen.
You pick your range of the lowest ISO and the highest ISO you want the camera to use. This is great for the photographer who says I like up to only ISO 5000 and while another photographer is ok with ISO 102400.
On the Nikon D5 you also can set the maximum ISO when the flash is detected. This works with the flashes using the hotshoe and have TTL.
Now in photography we talk about the exposure triangle. All three of these controls together can over expose, under expose or properly expose a photo.
When you set your camera to Aperture priority then you set the Aperture and the camera will adjust the shutter speed if you have chosen a specific ISO like ISO 100.
If you are in Shutter-Speed priority, you pick the shutter speed and the camera picks the aperture.
Now if you have AUTO ISO picked the Auto ISO will pick the lowest ISO as the Shutter-Speed you selected and then you can control the Aperture when in Aperture priority.
If you are in Manual mode and using AUTO ISO the camera will pick the lowest ISO to expose the picture based on the Aperture and Shutter-Speed you picked.
If you choose to not use AUTO ISO then you must go and manually change this every time you change Aperture or Shutter-Speed and the camera let’s you know you are either over-exposed or under-exposed.
I found that 99% of the time the camera is making the same choice I would make when I set the AUTO ISO to what I want as the low and high ISO as well as the Shutter-Speed.
When I need to turn off the AUTO ISO for things like shooting with strobes on the Nikon D5 I just push the ISO button on the back and spin the front wheel and turn it off. To turn it back on I do the same thing.
Auto ISO for me is similar to anti-lock brakes on a car. The AUTO ISO will adjust the camera faster than I can and let’s me get more photos that are properly exposed.
Billy printed 11×14 prints and left a large area for each person to write their own words. One person took over a year to get the print back to Billy. When the guy talked about how hard it was to write what would most likely be his last words is when Billy realized these words were Epitaphs.
Blending words and pictures all started when Billy was a writer for a newspaper and wanted to take photos.
To hear more about how Billy became a photographer and the many other projects he is working on click on the video below to hear and see his presentation.
Many who first buy a camera put their camera on the Green “P” button or like on this camera the Green Camera. That is the mode where the camera does all the thinking for you.
Soon you realize to get the results that you were looking for you have to tell the camera what to do. This is when you start to learn what M, A, S and the other settings on that dial do other than the green camera or even the P mode.
When photographers start trying to make a living at this they look for the green “B” mode for their camera. They want a simple business mode that thinks for them and tell them what they need to do to be successful.
If they are not careful on some camera models the B mode is actually standing for “bulb” and that is another discussion for another day.
What prompted this blog post was a Facebook post.
Facebook post question: What is it that editors, photo buyers and parents are sick of the most as far as buying photos?
My first response: Photographer over explaining their prices. Just tell us the price. Give me a low, medium and high price option and let me pick.
Facebook response: Are you talking about editors parents or both?
My response: Everyone
Facebook Response: I just got fotobiz X. Is there a way to package that for people?
My long response:
Yes there is. The software is really designed for editorial, freelancers who do B2B verses B2C. However you can create your own price items. It doesn’t create a price list that you hand to people. It is used to create estimates and invoices.
I notice you and many others post a lot of detailed questions that really cannot be adequately answered on a Facebook or even blog post. Those questions about business are often show some lack of understanding of business practices.
This is quite common in photography. People take up photography and most realize at some point that putting their camera on “P” doesn’t mean professional photos.
The learning curve then becomes quite steep as they go from pointing and shooting to making the camera see the way they want it to see. Most will spend some money on classes or workshops.
Once you then decide to charge for your services and try to make money doing photography you quickly realize the “B” setting on trying to run your business doesn’t work. Well it is even more difficult than photography because there is no “B” setting.
You really need to take a class in business practices for the profession. You can pay a photographer with more than 3 years of experience that is successful to help you get started. I recommend talking to photographers who are members of ASMP.org or PPA.com. Both of these organizations have business practices at the core of the reason they were formed.
Because where you live can also impact how you run your business due to tax laws you also then need to talk to an accountant and an attorney. Each of the organizations have a list of those who work with photographers. Nothing can be worst than making money and then finding out that you owe more taxes because you didn’t do something right.
In most communities there is the US Small Business Administration that offers many classes for free. They want you to be successful. here is where you can find out more about their “FREE” help https://www.sba.gov/.
Going back to your original question that started this thread. You basically have asked about two types of businesses, one is business to business model and the other is business to customer.
Talking to a customer who is part of the industry [i.e. editor at publication] is totally different than talking to someone not a part of the industry [i.e. a mother wanting photos of the family]. One person hires photographers regularly and will talk a lot differently about hiring you.
While you can create a basic price list for services, in this industry you will find yourself having to create custom estimates pretty often. It is much easier to do when you understand the how you create a price for a service.
You have to know how much you have to bring home to cover your base. You know your phone, rent, gear, software, marketing materials and more are always ongoing expenses to run your business. You must know this number and if you don’t you cannot create a price for anything. You don’t even know what you must charge to break even.
99% of every photographer I have ever helped that came to me about business practices was losing money on every job. They were actually paying most people to shoot for them, but because they didn’t know what their bottom line was to run their business they were charging most of the time 50% or more lower than the price that they needed to break even.