Seeing the Scene
So before you know, without any further ado, we think we should probably just kind of jump into it, but before I really pull out the pictures, and I start talking about actually making pictures, where we're at right now in our thirty days, is we've talked about opening up your eyes, right? Like we've talked about finding inspiration, we've talked about how I find inspiration. We've talked about sort of those fledgling early days of your business and emulation versus inspiration versus direct copying, which we don't d'oh, and then yesterday, we talked about gear on part of the point of talking about gear was simply to understand what all of these tools do when it comes to making a picture. When you have that vision, you have that creativity, the gear that you're using shouldn't be bogging you down, it should be like a painter who knows what they want to paint, and then the brushes air just the thing that they picked, oh, make that come to life, so we're going to take what we talked abou...
t yesterday, all the technical, and then today we're going to talk about how you put that all together and finally start actually making pictures, but before we go any further, I want to talk a little bit, just about creativity in general, on a read a quote from for two very wise women that I know run the funniest photography block of all time is called a camera and a dream dot com and if you think that's sarcasm, it totally is but this is what they had to say we're surrounded by feel good stuff in this industry and all it does is make people feel bad you aren't his hip your hair doesn't look as good you aren't as in love with your husband by focusing on what's actually important in the business instead of all the woo you could get your head out of the muck and back onto your own forward motion and there's a lot of people talking on the end of, you know, on the internet right now and I'm not talking about photography but just about shaming in general oh you're too fat or you're too thin or too this or too that nobody is going to be perfect and if you sit around and you look at what other people were doing like on facebook or on instagram or on the internet everybody in the world has a better life than you d'oh everyone is happier to be going to a wedding nobody ever wakes up in the morning and feels oh my god really we do this again everybody's got the best marriage ever their kids behave and all they do all day is craft craft that they found on pinterest right? And it makes you feel kind of bad and that for me is the biggest time suck out of my creativity is feeling like I'm less of an artist then somebody else and yes, I am a photographer in business and the business part is about eighty percent of what I d'oh the creativity we all get into this thinking oh, we're going to go toe weddings every single weekend we're gonna shoot the picture is gonna be awesome and they were gonna go home and we're going to an artist all week long on our private jet with our legions of fans and it's gonna be sweet but what you don't realize is it's eight hours of shooting on a saturday and then a lot of time at the computer after that on the phone and with your accountant and, you know, going to the bank and going to the post office and nobody has given me a private jet yet. So it's really hard to stay focused on the creativity when not only do you get bogged down in the day to day of the business, but then you get bogged down in like that your life isn't as good shaming on the internet and nobody does that better than wedding photographers and I mean, am I right? So if I can teach you anything out of the thirty days is that life is not awesome about ten minutes ago, I was eating apples and peanut butter in my sweat pants in my uggs and trying to get them to let me go on air in uggs, which they wouldn't let me do. S so this is not what every day looks like to me every day is I can't believe I have to do the dishes. And why is my thirteen year old daughter screaming at me? And where are their choose for school and its life? So if you get sucked into the delusion that when you finally make it as a wedding photographer, your creative all the time, that's literally ridiculous because the great catch twenty two of it is, the more successful you are is a wedding photographer, the more business you actually have. Two d'oh, and when I go home, I get to shoot a wedding on a saturday, and I'm really excited about that. It might snow, and I like weddings in the snow, but then I have to work, and then I have to download, and then I have to back up, and then I have to return phone calls and, you know, it's all that stuff, so if you're not feeling creative, if you're feeling stuck or you don't know how to expand your creativity don't feel bad about that, they feel ok about that because we're all there. No matter how long you've been in the industry it's hard to stay fresh like it's hard to think of something new you think I invent something new every single time I go out I don't but all you can do is the best you could do all the time so you know if you're looking on the internet and you think that everybody's got it better than you they don't sow that said let's talk about how to actually be creative and I've alluded to it already first things first you have to stay fresh right? And for me staying fresh means getting some sleep and some of you at home might be like wait a minute I thought we were talking about vision and creativity but if you're going to talk about seeing and you're gonna talk about being creative, you kind of need to be in the right headspace for that do I feel creative right now and my shoes hurt my feet are tired I'm wearing three hundred pounds of makeup if I had to go make a picture right now I would have to switch the way I was thinking I don't feel particularly creative right now I'm kind of tired, but that doesn't mean that when I wake up on saturday morning and I go out to a wedding that I'm not gonna be ready to go because I'm gonna do everything that I can to stay fresh get sleep! I know that sounds ridiculous, but how can you be creative if you're exhausted? Now? I understand that sometimes you guys reached the point of exhaustion where you get kind of delirious and you start to hallucinate and you feel really creative that's really not healthy let's not do that every day, so I try to stay bright. I try to stay fresh eyes try to get sleep. We're going to talk about this when we talk about balancing your business in your life I tried to eat well, I tryto you move my body in some athletic function several times a week you just have to be in a good place and I'm not trying to be here and be all spiritually and say that if you're not in a goods in place, the energy is not going to come in. But it's kind of true if you're exhausted and your demoralized and you're frustrated with yourself, you're not open to see anything you have blinders on in all forms of the word you have to open your eyes to the world and what I mean by that is in I know I joke with one of my friends is that you have to feel your feelings and if you're not out there and you're not living a full life and you're not happy, you're not going to be a creative person you're not going to be a productive, creative person, so before you could even pick up a camera and go to a wedding, I just try to live a good life, and I mean, I know that sounds really basic, but have my friends and be good to my husband and take care of my children, and that makes me a better person, which makes me a better artist. I watch a lot of tv, and I know this is probably, like the worst advice ever I'm saying forget the computer like, put on your jammies and go sit on the sofa, but if I can leave my space and go into someone else's space for a while, I'm that kind of person that when I'm reading a book and you're talking to me, not hearing you because I'm not here, like when I'm reading my husband will be like, so, hey, what we gonna do tomorrow? And I'm just like reading my book because I go into that other world entirely, and sometimes I feel like that's what it really takes for me to immerse myself in creativity is to lose myself in it, so I watch a lot of tv and go to the movies a lot, I listen to a lot of music, I try to look at art, I read a lot of magazines like I said the other day, I go to the mall and I just touch stuff and look at stuff I look at people walking around on the street, so I'm watching and experiencing and learning and all of that is just feeding life, he said, look at a lot of things, you know, I can pull inspiration from just looking around this room in here from how the lights coming through the windows, how the lights are set up in here to everything that everybody's wearing and just the vibe I'm getting off of people. So if you're trying so hard to be creative that you're not actually out there in the world experiencing the world, I got nothing for you, which is hard because we all sit around at home all day by ourselves, on the computer, in our sweat pants, doing nothing, so get up and get outside like when I get really, really stuck a walk around the block I mean, if I'm gonna make a phone call, I'll go sit on my front porch just to breathe real air. So again, it's a well rounded world and that's something that I tell my kids all the time how many of you have kids? Yeah, how many of your kids come home from school and you're like, what did you learn today? And they're like nothing or why do I have to learn this math? I have a calculator or why do I have to learn this? I have google what I try to tell my kids is everything that you learn in school and everything that you learn in life even if it's not directly applicable to what you do for a living or directly applicable to anything in the entire world the more you know the more well rounded you are as a person so I mean part of that is me being a parent telling them to just shut up and go to school and then the rest of it is actually true the more you know about more things the more you are is a human being and the more receptive I believe that you are to be creative so to me that's kind of important and what we're going to talk about super heavily when we get to the tail end of these thirty days and we bring it on home with managing your business and your life is that you have to have jobs separation you know, I've stood up here so far today and I've talked to you about how everything you are is a person fuels who you are as an artist but I'm not my work and my work is not me so I need to have a point in which I go home and I don't think about photography at all I don't think about the industry or anything, I go home and I live my life, you know? I'm really looking forward to going home and living my life. I miss my family, so if you don't have that place that you can go to where you're not at work anymore, which is hard, because when your business is you it's really difficult to do that if you don't do that, it will break you. So now that I have demoralized you entirely let's talk about actually taking actual pictures, so I'm gonna re caps and examples that I've shown already, but I want to talk about them in a little bit more detail and what today is really going to encompass is it's going to encompass the eye? How I actually see a scene, the gear, obviously that I bring to the scene because as we've talked about those were the tools that actually make the picture and then just the creative process, which is a very elusive and difficult thing to describe because I can't teach you how to see things. You have to learn how to see things on your own, but I will do everything that I can today to actually help you strengthen your skills. To be able to see things we should probably do that we've looked at this every single day so far, and I still think that it's an extraordinary example for those of you who haven't been with us so far, showing a scene at twenty four millimeters showing the wide scene showing that, okay, why in the world did you put these people on this sidewalk there? Kind of next to roses? But then they're kind of against scaffolding and their people walking by and on all of the locations. Why in the world did you put them here? Well, what I'm looking for when I put them there to describe it in more detail, I'm looking for three things I'm looking for, foreground, I'm looking for background, and I'm looking for lighting. So what I've got here? I have my light coming from exactly the direction that I want it to, and when I'm talking about in this instance, the exact direction that I wanted to, it means that if you put a pin in the sun with a string on it and you pulled that string right out and you attached it to your chest in that line between you and the sun, your clients are there, they're not kind of here, they're not kind of here, it is a straight shot line, you client's son and I see a lot of photographers see this. They're like, okay, son clients and then I'm going to stand over here well, but if you stand over here and you're off of your line access, the light isn't going to hit it exactly the way I want it. Tio it's gonna hit, but I'm not gonna be viewing it from the right angle, so I need that straight shot line and the best advice that I got about light, which we're going to talk about when we talk more about portrait's of the bridegroom together. I was really struggling with this. And how many times do you go outside? Try to see a scene and you have to put your hands up like this over your eyes because you can't see the scene because there's just too much sun in your eyes and it's all hazy, right? Well, you're camera lenses the exact same way. If you can't look at a scene without doing like this when you put your camera up to your face. What you think's gonna happen, your lens exact same thing. Now part of it is putting a lens hood on your lens, obviously that's going to help, but part of it is also making sure your lindsay's out of the sun. So if I'm looking for something like this with justin, her husband, the light is coming in that direct line that I want, I need to make sure that I'm in the shade and it's a funny concept, my client service in the sun, but I'm in the shade that's a little weird, but it's so that I don't have hayes and flair in an unnecessary way. So literally how this all went down. I was trying to shoot a bridal portrait of my husband was with me and he's just kind of watching me, and I just kept kind of like putting my hand over the lens and, like, holding stuff over the lens, he's like, what are you doing? Which is a really great thing for somebody tell it to tell you write like you're trying really hard and they're like, you are doing it wrong, but he's, like, what are you doing? And I said, I don't know, I'm having a lot of trouble, like the images, just really hazy and he's like there were a couple of four letter words in there because he was irritated with me, but in the polite way he was like, get out of the sun. Is that what you're talking about and he's like no amount of you know no amount of lynn's hood at two o'clock in the afternoon is going to help you here go get in a shade over there you're going to be fine and I was like right and it was one of those lightbulb moments like when you're struggling and struggling so hard with something and then someone looks at you and goes just use email signatures you're like oh my god right like or why do you have a shoebox of receipts why don't you just use ever no you're like great why don't you tell me that two years ago it was just one of those little ah ha moment so justin her husband here are in the sun I'm in the shade if I can't find my own shade I have a reflector it's not to bounce light at the client's its toe hold up and keep me out of the sun so anybody who doesn't know what you're doing is going to think that you are a massive diva because you literally have like an assistant holding an umbrella over your head but it's so that the exposure is bright and crisp straight out of the camera and I don't have to work to adjust that hes later so that's first what I'm looking for when we're looking at this scene back here of them standing around out here you can see the light on her head you can see where the light is coming from because you can see the shadows falling down from the trees on the lawn so I've got my life and I've got them in the right space now I've also chosen the right lens the seventy two, two hundred at two hundred because when I'm looking at my foreground and background which I mentioned before is something that I need to be conscious off, I want to compress my background and I also want to compress my foreground so your eye goes right to your subjects and in the foreground and the background add visual interest, I deliberately have them against a dark ish background so that that light really separates if they're against a light background like if you look up higher if they're up against the yellow of the building or the white of the sky look at the light on jessica's hair how are you going to see that against a background that's the exact same color you're not so I make sure that I put them right there and it's funny because when I think of competition when competition see I already jumped ahead when I think of composition now I think about it like I met print competition and I think about all those years that I went to w p p I and I sat there and I listen to the judges say and now this takes away from the picture, and this takes away from the picture, and this enhances the picture before I even click the shutter, I'm automatically print comp judging myself, which is sort of a depressing head space to be in, but when I look at this even further, I'm making deliberate compositional choices. The columns in the front of congress hall lead you down right into your subject. The brightness at the top pushes you down onto your subject, the darkness at the bottom waits the frame and then the foliage very deliberately in the front. Those are all leading lines that point straight up at them. So when you look at it, okay, why in the world did you stand them on the side of the road and shoot them like this? That's? Why? And then in the exact same scene, all I did was change my angle of view, nothing else change settings didn't change, I didn't move them, I didn't do another thing at all. I simply filled more of the background with the dark space, and what that did was it made the light even more prominent because there was no distracting light space at the top, your eye goes straight to the darkness and the light around her head and the flowers in the foreground push you all the way up. That's what I'm looking for when I'm looking at a big scene foreground background light and then what tool am I going to bring to the job to get that done? This wouldn't look the same if I shot it with a thirty five when I shot it with the twenty four it looked like that other picture before and a lot of people might be saying, well, just shoot with twenty four but go closer and I understand that, but it's not gonna look like this it's not going to give you the compression at two hundred millimeters and for the record, these air shot it off for in case you were wondering and again the image on the left there's nothing wrong with that image whatsoever, I mean it's perfectly fine it's seventy millimeters, the light isn't exactly the spot that I want it to be, but it's not working for me compositionally for a lot of different reasons, so just because you see a senior like, okay, well, the light is here I mean it's cool, but maybe you have to bring the limbs that you're going to use into play to really see the scene like, you know, you see a lot of behind the scenes stuff of movies and you see directors to like this, right? I'm literally trying to figure out what I'm framing out okay if I eliminate those things and I use this lens this is gonna look totally different image on the right the light really comes into play because I'm more careful about my background in the image on the left my dark separating background is low in the frame and in the image on the right I brought it up higher into the frame so the light around them is a little bit more prominent same scene same pose different way of seeing and again not to belabor the point on this wedding over and over and over again but here's another example taking out the distractions you've got quite on the side you have white on the bottom I have a bench going through her body I have another column growing up over here in the image on the left and it doesn't focus on to me what the story of the scene is which is her sweet face in that building behind her so that's why a seventy two, two hundred that's why a different crop? So when you're looking to see a scene, you need to look beyond the scene in front of you for example, we looked at this yesterday look beyond the fact that there is a street and that there are tourists walking down the street and that there are people coming this way and that there's all of this light foreground background linds selection learn how to see a scene when I saw that when I'm walking down the street, when I'm seeing where am I going to take these people next cause we're just walking around kate may I had about thirty minutes with them to make some pictures were walking around. I'm seeing what I'm seeing, this is what I'm seeing. I'm not seeing that scene before this, I don't see the people and I don't see the street I see dark background, amazing, like interesting foreground, great compositional opportunity. I see that now. Ten years ago, I didn't see that right away. Ten years ago, I probably didn't see that at all, but that's what I was talking about before, where you always need to be looking when you're always kind of assessing wherever you are, even if you don't have a bride and groom with you, what could I do here? What can I do here? And then you practice practice on your own time? I don't take a camera with me everywhere I go, but I have friends that do, and they're constantly looking for things to photograph over and over and over again, and then the more you practice and the more you see just a street with a bunch of bushes next to it will become this and just walking from one place to another will become this because you'll learn how to see the scene within a scene and howto work the scene over and over and over again now I promise you I'm done beating that dead horse of an example there you're never gonna want to see those pictures for me again but surprise you'll see them in a couple of other days. What is this you might say this is my favorite print competition image of the year no, I'm just getting what's going on here this is an image my client took with her iphone right? And the story behind the image that you're going to see next is my clients for a wedding that I shot just a few weeks ago part of her family one of her generations before them woman met the man because the verrazano bridge was built and for those of you who don't live in new york or who aren't you have no idea what I'm talking about the varies on abridges the bridge that connects staten island to brooklyn and a satin island person in a brooklyn person met and fell in love because of that bridge and generations respond years down the road creating my client lauren so on her wedding day when we were talking about the timeline of the day when we were talking about you know where do you want to go when the ceremony is over and I have forty five minutes with you guys what do you want to do for your pictures? Well the church isn't great we don't really want to shoot there and the reception spaces okay but we don't really want to shoot there what we really want to do is we want to find a place where we can get a shot of the various on a bridge my initial thought was oh god why do you want a shot of the verrazano bridge? Because it's just I mean it's just a bridge you can see it in the background here it is literally just a bridge so we work together to try to find a couple of different locations that we could go make this happen for them and one of them was a fort unfortunately we had to have a permit to be there it wasn't listed very well on the website we do try to make sure that if we're going somewhere that needs a permit that we know it and that we apply for it but we didn't know so we get to the gate of this fort were turned away they won't let us in is it okay so we had a backup plan which was the boardwalk and humorously enough the boardwalk was not my first choice it's in a weird location the sands kind of this is staten island you guys and if anyone is watching from staten island please don't take offense your beaches air not that pretty I mean, that's we've got a recycling can we've got a trash can it's raining in this picture? The left side of this frame is a disaster and the bridge is so far away in the background how in the world am I going to make something for these clients that's interesting that pleases her that lets the bridge come in and be a major component to the picture because it's important to her how do I pull all this stuff together and tell a story? Ps we got to do this at night because when we go here it's going to be dark this is what we got this doesn't look like that scene before what you're looking at here dead middle in the frame level up with where that recycling can and that trash can are that's where they're standing this is seeing a scene that bridge that look so far away in the background before looks like it's ten feet behind them now because of the magic of you can see my settings down here at the bottom a two hundred millimeter lens I've pulled that bridge up behind them so instead of thinking ok, I've gotta work this scene I've got to bring this bridge in I've got to get them as physically close to the bridge as possible I knew the tools in my bag well enough to know that that's not what I needed to do what I needed to do is get a good unobstructed shot of the bridge and then I could make a lynn selection that would allow me to make the picture that I saw in my mind and what's going on here light wise you're looking at the subjects over here and we're gonna pretend I'm my assistant so this picture is actually happening in front of us I'm sandra I'm holding a light I'm freezing because it's fifteen degrees outside she's standing on this side of them you can tell because the light is hitting the bride's face but she's behind them I cannot physically walking climb behind this television here so I'm not going teo but she's about six feet off that way and about six feet back that way so if you draw a six foot diagonal line you see where this is back here kind of the four bottom area she's a little bit off camera there and she's holding the light up like up and over so even though I'm not getting her body in the frame the light is really like up here a little bit now I'm never gonna have my assistant in the frame and photoshopped her out later I know some people who do that I don't have time for that I need to get it right right away so the mono pod is stretched out as far as it possibly can and the flashes one very very very low power I think we were on one hundred twenty eighth of a second, just a little pop. Now, why am I not using a video light here when I'm seeing this scene? Well, first of all, there's no way that she could have stood to put that type of power from a video light onto their faces from the distance away that she had to be by the time the video light reached their faces, the shutter speed that I would have to work at and the s o all the way through the ceiling, they would've had to stay super super still on. I would have had to use a tripod because the video light that I use just isn't it's not meant for that type of power, and a lot of the video lights that I've seen are not meant for that type of power, so I've got the flash coming in from off camera you can see them in a fiftieth of a second. Now, I've talked to you about the shutter speed that you need to work with when you're working with a long limbs when I'm on aperture priority, I'm usually at a four hundredth of a second because the lens is heavy and it's long, I don't want any shake I'm at a fiftieth of a second because my flash is freezing my subject forming. Now I can't shoot at a ridiculously low shutter even expected to be frozen by the flash, but I can go in a fiftieth I could go to forty if I can get it down now if they started running around and moving, we're going to start getting a little blurry, but they're standing still and again, just one quick shot I'm at f two point eight because I'm deliberately wanting that two point eight effect on the background and because I've made sure that they're on the same plane, so they're both in focus and I was very deliberate about that because this was a little bit more set up than how I normally do portrait two hundred millimeters all the way out, no one is out there, it's literally freezing. We're all dying. The poor bride's arms are like goose bumps on top of goose bumps she didn't care the picture was really important to her, so luckily we did have boardwalk to ourselves and at s o twenty five hundred still lets you bring in the ambient light in the background shutter speed is still slow enough, and then I go in a little closer with exactly the same settings without changing my settings at all because my flashes on manual and my camera is also on manual, and then I just show the scene in a couple of different ways. And again, you can see the settings are not changing my my assistant is not moving her distance between herself and the subject's, right? So the flash output is the same every single time I haven't changed anything on my camera manually, so my settings are the same every single time and nothing in the ambient light of the scene has changed so there's no need to make any adjustments there now if they'd turn on a floodlight or something had gone out or what not obviously, I would have to make a change to compensate, but when all of the circumstances today the scene stay the same, my steady ings stay the same, and all I have to do is see the scene in different ways. So while the bridge that that was important to them is still a component in every single photograph, I'm finding a different way to show it full length, three quarter vertical and you can see they're all still at two hundred millimeters. Obviously, the only thing moving is me. So it goes to show that when your client sends you a picture of a bridge and a boardwalk and says, oh, by the way, we're going here at night, all of the knowledge of the technical stuff, I didn't even think about it, I just took a look at the picture and said okay, this is fun sure, now in ten years ago if I were doing this, maybe I would have needed to go to the boardwalk and take a look beforehand maybe I would have needed to take a friend out there into a couple of test shots beforehand there's no shame in that if you have to go out there and you have to practice a couple of times, go do it so that you're prepared and eventually a day will come in which you don't have to do that maybe you just have to make a site visit or maybe you just have to kind of try it out in your own backyard to make sure that the flash is doing what you want and then one day will happen when you don't have to think about it at all and you just do it on the fly very easy, great season because so many people have been asking that if you started out kind of scouting every location, taking images, everyone was really curious about that. So there you go internet that answers your questions I never really did like I never really scouted or did because when I got started I was living in a hut in tallahassee and I knew the area is really well, but in that by the time I moved up here and I started going places that I've never been to before I was already in a place that I could start, kind of making some snap decisions, or I could have looked around on the internet, right, like you're working at a place you've never looked at before. Google maps, street view I've walked around the neighborhood without ever leaving my desk at all. That's. A pretty great thing. I've looked at it, you know, done a google image search, wedding photography, verrazano bridge, okay, not to do what other people have done, but to just go. Oh, this was shot at that fort. I didn't know you could go to that ford, get on the internet and start looking it's great.