Seeing the Scene Q&A
Vision and creativity is a really tough thing. So ask me anything you got. I think this is cool from d s w photo. Who says what happens if you have to choose between a beautiful scene that everyone wants to shoot or the beautiful light that you know is more flattering? Isn't that the same thing? Good question. Well, I think they mean, like, uh, environment versus lighting. So if there's this great bridge but the lighting is absolutely terrible. Would you move your subject of court and say, I know this is what you want, but the lighting is so much more flattering over here? Or would you just say let's? I would have found a plan of attack, right? Like if she said we want to go to the bridge at like, three o'clock in the afternoon, I would have had to say okay, well, how is the light falling in this location that you want to go at three o'clock in the afternoon? And how can I surrounded if it's coming from a terrible angle that I know is going to be really difficult to work with? What can...
I do to either overpower that light or find a different angle to get the same scene great and for me that my my arch nemesis is the staircase. Oh my god, we really want a picture on the staircase, another investor case it's like so beautiful and then you show up and you're like where's the staircase and they're like that's right here and you're like that it's like six steps in an iron railing like that's the grand staircase you wanted okay, and then you have to adapt immediately is it in the sun what's the angle of the sun coming from can I block the sun? Can I overpower the sun? And sometimes that might have involved okay, I know I'm gonna have to take a picture on this staircase I've never seen this before. I know it's outside and you're going to be out there at like, three o'clock I'm just gonna go over there another day at three o'clock and see what's going on I don't have to do that anymore, but I used to have to do that or I used to have to find something comparable and figure my way around it. I do think that we as photographers have a responsibility to educate our clients. You want to do your family formals outside on the beach at noon? I mean, my god, unless I rent a generator and I bring every light known to man, I'm not gonna be able to overpower the sun on the beach at noon, so I try to educate um do we go back out later? Could we maybe find another place for your family formals and then go to the beach later with the two of you guys it's just about client education so hopefully that in a roundabout way I answered your question awesome, thank you and while we're on the subject of creativity he's a few people were asking is creativity something that you think is a learned or is it eight? How do you how do you approach that when people ask you about your talent? I think it's a little bit of both, I have had people in my life in the past who literally think that all I do for a living is take pictures of rich people at parties and I say it like that because that's pretty much what they said to me like you just take pictures of rich people at parties I mean, you're pretty good at it, I guess and this was said to me like two years ago and I was like, okay, I mean, you don't see any difference between what I do and like what you do with your iphone, okay? But I mean for me that's the exact same thing as like me going to a modern art exhibit, I have no idea what you're doing there, it just looks like something my kid did at school like I don't get it and some people will never get what you're doing but I do think that I think that you're born with an I right and everybody has an eye but every artist can also develop it while I can't teach you how to see I can give you tools that will help you enhance your ability but I've seen photographers who are shooting for thirty years who are wretched no matter how hard they try cut come on you you know it's true, I've seen photographers shooting for five minutes who are a technical disaster but see a scene in a way that I've never would never even think of it. So while some people have extraordinary in eight ability technically or in the way that you see I think that everybody could be developed no matter I am in no way musically inclined, I'm tone deaf I cannot tell the difference between one note or another and if I tried hard enough I'd be able to learn how to play the guitar but I would never be very good but I would get better the more I practiced so we all go into it at different levels of skill just creativity skill but if you are struggling and you think god and terribly uncreative I'm never going to get anywhere that's absolutely not true you'll you'll absolutely get somewhere you just have to work on it and to sit back and say well you were either creative or you aren't it's there's nothing you can do about that that's crap because otherwise artists would never develop over the course is of their careers we would always just see the same thing always for the rest of our lives and that's not true so go wash in tv I'm sorry realize I'm giving that you know go on tv go to the movies lincoln uh but you can you can always refine and ability even if you think that it's just a metaphysical ability oh you can either see her and you can't maybe no eyes get better cool thanks your welcome so this is me this is me at a wedding this is exactly what I look like at a wedding you will get to see that ad nauseum and all of the videos that I'm going to show you over these thirty days this is exactly what I look like someone who was asking me yesterday about how I carry my compact flash cards there's the wall that I was talking about this is gotham hall in manhattan and for those of you who have never been the gotham hall it is one of the prettiest places I have ever been dead smack in the middle of herald square it's like across the street from the macy's which is really weird toe have this extraordinary grand beautiful building across from the macy's so it makes outdoor portrait's really tough but it's a really interesting indoor location but there were all of these rooms everywhere and there's this massive big ballroom and it's you know, conference room here in conference room there and mezzanine here and visiting there I'm in a closet here, the videographer that I was working with on this wedding day and it was one of those videographers that we talked about the other day where when you work together it is a true collaboration he and I were working together and I had all the details in my arms and I said I've got to find a different place to shoot these because all of this is just tungsten light here and a table lamp there and I'm not seeing anything interesting, so I started opening doors, you know, walking around like what in here what's in here who hears a closet with a light that doesn't work and here's a radiator that spitting steam and there's cords everywhere you can literally see I'm in a closet, but I found a radiator by a window put the shoes on the radiator and shot this that's exactly what I was shooting in the image before and then I shot this because it's not about the room that you're in or how fancy the room you're in looks like and some people were talking to me the other day about well, you know doesn't the fancy place that you're shooting in help sometimes, but I'm not shooting this in the ballroom, and I'm not shooting this on a table that was decorated by a decorator with a pin spot on it. I'm shooting this on a radiator in a closet with the lights turned off because I'm looking for the light and I'm looking for something interesting. I put the shoes on this radiator, the lines of the radiator lead up to the shoe, the light falls down on the top of this you and it looks like it's sitting on like dragon teeth all from walking around, opening the door and assessing the scene. So to me, that's really important to be able to figure out what am I going to do in this space and either it's a space that I found that I want to work in or it's a space that a client wants you to work and I want to get ready in this room. I'm going to get ready in this room. How do I assess that? Or I'll get ready anywhere here just tell me where to go and then you start going in other rooms and looking around so again, I'm looking for a light I'm looking for my background, I'm looking for my compositional scene. What I have seen this ten years ago no did I see this in a split second? Yes, but I'm not saying that to brag I'm saying that to say at one point in time I couldn't do this or I wouldn't have seen this and if you look at everybody's instagrams about wedding days it's just oh, and then I just made this thing happened and I just made this thing happened and I did this in thirty days all by myself without even trying that's not true this tastes experience and this takes time and this takes going out their wedding after wedding after wedding and continuing toe look, which is daunting so a fast track to success and a fast track to have a good eye. There is no such thing there's not it's just experience, which sucks nobody wants to hear that another example that is my assistant she's not just standing there because she has nothing better to do she's standing there with my back drop so what's going on here, the sparkly stuff sitting over the ring is the comb that my client is going to put in her hair it's got a bunch of stars on it and a tortoise shell bottom I'm sitting I'm still a gotham hall here and I'm up in the mezzanine and they're setting up the mezzanine for cocktail hour and they've got black clogs on the table there about to come over fight claws on top of them, but I said, you know what? Can you hold off on this table for just a second? I want the black cloth on it there's a window at my back. So I'm facing this scene that you're saying I shot this with my iphone just to give you an illustration. And when I shot it for the first time, there was too much distracting stuff going on in the background. So my assistant who's wearing all black I said, hey, can you stand right there and she's like, are you using my butt for a ring shot again? I said, yes, ma'am, I am and got this it's the exact same scene just shot instead of with with an iphone with one hundred five millimeter macro. We're talking the other day about the macro f nine f nine it's, the exact same setup here. I haven't moved anything. The ring is still in the same spot. The comb is still in the same spot. Sandra has still been instructed to just stand there. The black on the bottom is the black table. The black in the background is sandra standing in the distance and all that sparkly. Is just the hair comb that I set on top of it I'm not a hundredth of a second I was iike kind of shaky hand that day normally I try to go a little lower because the ring is not going to get up into a dance I was tired my hands were a little wobbly so I'm at one hundredth of a second f nine even it as nine with a macro this your logic says f nine all of that's going to be in focus we're talking about the magnification of a macro so it's all gone and because I've made sure that the comb is arching over the ring you've gotten a little in the front you've got a little in about in the back this falls through the different planes of focus so it's not all in and it's not all out it gives it some texture and dimension the light behind me from the window is illuminating all the sparkles in the stars and it's lighting up the ring I am manually focusing here because mice camera said I have no clue what you're trying to do their shiny everywhere seeing a scene so all it took to get this with a table a black cloth somebody standing behind it and a hair comb it's not magic right and it's not bringing props or being at a fancy venue or shooting a high end wedding got hate the term high and wedding it's just seeing the beauty of what's around you so it's howto work that scene and again no one can teach you to see about yourself I can help you all day long and I am glad to help you all day long but until you go out and you start applying this on your own and you start actually working on this you're creative eye is not going to get moving so before we move on any further just any general questions about creativity yes, susan, would you prefer a daytime wedding or a nighttime wedding for creativity? What would be your particular preference? I have no preference. Okay, honestly, maybe a nighttime wedding because it forces me to try harder. So okay, so you do, you might approach it. Creative italy creativity I know where you're going with that I bought today from a different standpoint from a different standpoint. No, but I believe that adversity makes you try harder. So when I go into a day and I know it's going to be beautiful on the light's gonna be beautiful when I wake up in the sun is shining and I've got two hours for portrait and they're gonna do it it's sunset and like everything is like laid out in front of you I'm like okay that's good, but saturday the wedding that's coming up this saturday it's going to snow and the church is really dark and the reception venue is old tra dark and I would have about five minutes with the bridegroom together and then they want to do night time portrait it's and it's dark and I'm like what I do here because I know it's gonna be hard and you love it e meaning it gives me an aneurysm but I love it because it's a it's a chance to stretch your brain how hard can you stretch your brain at six o'clock when the sun's coming from the right direction and everything is beautiful and we're all twirling and buttercups in the fields? And I mean that that's like handed to you when you're standing in the middle of a closet and there's no light anywhere and you have to pull something out, you have to flex your brain and that's when I feel like I grow as there are a lot of questions I know you keep saying I hate hyeon weddings or people saying, well, I don't shoot as glamorous of and as glamorous of settings. And one woman said seriously that's not glamorous but it's a really great because a lot of things are coming in about you know their small or messy or so are like finding seriously I in the past six months, I've shot away to get a hilton garden inn I shoot weddings in people's backyards the misperception that people have about my work is that I'm shooting these multi million dollar weddings every single weekend you have literally got to be kidding me that's completely not true then it's that I found myself in is your average everyday middle class wedding where people are willing to invest in photography I will show up at weddings where there's no light in the city in the reception room where there's nothing going on at all that image over there that I keep talking about on the wall at the bottom I'm in catering hall it's a catering hall like there's other weddings going on and it's you just find the creativity where you find it some of my favorite images I shot in richland center wisconsin on the side of a road so if you're sitting there and you're saying I can't do this because my weddings aren't fancy or their cluttered or a blow bubble bubble aw those air all day excuse is the stuff that I'm showing you you can do this anywhere that ring shot that I just showed you I was in this venue that is you know tens of thousand dollars to rent and where am I? I'm in the corner of the mezzanine next to a window you could be in the corner of a room next to a window in a motel six like there are no excuses the on ly thing that ever can hold me back. That I can't help is if the clients don't let you end your only and my husband says it over and over again, you're only as good as your clients, right? Like these, this picture here of the bottom with the big crying, and that it never would have worked if they hadn't let me in, right? And the bride coming down the stairs, the moment was theirs. I was just there to document it, but that's another story altogether. The image on top of sarah in the arch of trees, I found that myself. Now sarah is gorgeous and graceful, and she gave me beautiful body movement and beautiful whatever. But this is I'm in cape cod, literally in someone's backyard, and I'm not talking a multi million dollar home by the water. I'm talking like a vacation cottage, it isn't fancy, I don't do fancy, and I don't I don't want that I don't want the high in new york society weddings, I don't want to work with celebrities, I just want to work with people. So, yes, you can be limited a little bit by the circumstances in front of you, but you can't use that as an excuse, gretel seems to be a perception thing like instead of looking at a room and saying seeing what you don't have seen, what you do have and just kind of switching, switching that in your brain and true, the person who asked about the the room who was mess that was messy and ugly and all that they asked you have any specific suggestions on how to see things right away? Are there any practices or exercises to see things right away? No, because you just have to keep seeing and for me, when I go into a getting ready room and it's messy or it's cluttered or there are a million people there it's like you put the white noise filter on your brain, right? Where it's like, I'm not gonna look at all you people are not gonna look at all your stuff on the floor I'm going to go to my happy is in place with white noise, okay? Where's my thought process where's the light coming from where my windows can I open the curtains? Are there shears like I'm literally looking at the creative live studio here there's windows over there, but the blinds are down and I could raise the blinds, but there aren't shears. Okay, I need to keep that in mind, and I've got a bunch of lighting in here, but if I turn on the natural lights in the room, I'm pretty sure they're fluorescent that's not great. But I've got a white wall and I've got a black wall so I could do some stuff high key with the white wall I could do some really dramatic stuff actually with the black wall if I turned off all the lights and get my video light then I've got some texture over here and then the floor is actually pretty shiny it's just a mental process as you go through the room see the camera's spinning around to show you a three sixty creative life studio but I mean right now I'm fascinated there's light that you guys that are in here there's some interesting shadow falling on the wall over there as it comes in through the windows that could actually be kind of cool but there's a thermostat over there is that kind of sucks I don't want to remove that post so maybe I won't work with that over there and I mean I understand that every getting ready doesn't have one two three four five like thirty two kino flows in it which would but I came out if I'm going to shoot it getting ready in here do I want to go high key and go over by the windows or do I want to keep the windows closed and go dark by the wall that's kind of how my thought process works it works a little bit like a three year old like a toddler squirrel who block who is this? Right but the first thing I look for is I look for light I looked for how I can control the light both coming in through the windows in the existing light in the room then I start looking at my backgrounds what do the walls look like what's on the walls can I remove any of these distractions? Okay, now that I found my light now that I've assessed my walls what kind of do with the space can I clean it up? Can we go to another room in the bride's room is really filthy is her mom getting ready down the hall? Could we get her dressed in her mom's room? There is a thought process to it but in the past it used to take me kind of ten minutes to get through that thought process now it's an instantaneous I walk in I can tell you exactly how did you know brian getting ready and here I can tell you where I would put my family formals in here I could tell you that I would turn off all of the you know flo's in here before I even got started and I know that within five minutes of being in the room so you just have to keep practicing and you have to keep looking and there's nothing stopping you from being at home and being like, oh cam in my living room if the bride were getting ready in here what I do in here, okay? Well, if I couldn't do that but what I do next test yourself all the time and it's daunting and it's frustrating, but it takes months and it takes years and it just takes continually going out and wanting it and you're going to develop a way of seeing just put on your little here mostly white noise and keep looking really helpful it's almost like malcolm gladwell's ten thousand hour you know what I think ten thousand hours is actually a conservative estimate? I mean, I started my business in two thousand one two ish on. I don't think I started seeing until two thousand eight. Really? Thank you so much. Yes, sir. Express how helpful it is. You post the behind the scenes for thos e I think that she shot I know you just post it on your block last week I think maybe the ring shot as well and I look through them and I took your course a while ago and I left your course was like, yeah, I could do this stuff, but I've sort of come back a little bit and I looked at your photos and I'm just like, oh, well, she's just using magic like that's how she does it but it's really funny because, like you know, at my own wedding, right? I was there like I was there all day long and daniel daniel of davina and daniel, one of the shooters of our wedding, I think I maybe saw him, like twice throughout the day he's a little ninja, right? And then he delivered the images and I was like, I hate you, I didn't even see any of this, and I was there like I was in the room and I don't know how you saw what you saw that was insane, and then we watch our wedding video and I was like, I didn't see that either, like, how did you do that? And sometimes my husband will go work in a location that I've worked out before, and I looked through his block post, and I'm like, where was that? How did you do that? And he's like, oh, illness in the corner by the trash can, and I'm like, I didn't see that that or he'll look at something of mine and he's like, where were you there, he's? Like I've been there a million times and I never saw that so it's just doing it again and again and again, and then you'll find they start going to some of the same venues over and over again, you see something new every single time you go full pretty the show a shot like that ring shot and wear the sparkle is coming from and I think that I didn't show you is where I stand in the middle of a room and go I got nothing like I don't know uh and that happens to me I'll get to a wedding and I'll look a space and I'll be like I'm just screwed here I have no idea what to dio like no, I know I have an idea of what to do I just can't turn my brain on so I'm gonna go shoot the bride getting our makeup on while I try to get my brain on and it's like starting up a car in the winter time like you got to get it moving sometimes and some days you're more creative than others some days you're on and some days you're not, but that doesn't mean you get to phone it in yeah, from a perspective of somebody who doesn't yet know howto walk up to a table and take I don't know what you call that thing over here but it's a hair come right this girl things you know to put all those together and make an incredible ring shot it's you know I'm not that level yet and so it's just really helpful for me to be able to see your thought process and have you back it up and just I mean even the shots of you know, on the boardwalk and and you know she is shooting in places that look like where I'm shooting I can go through your blogging something like well yeah, I mean like some of your detail shots are obviously coming from very, very wonderful places but it's it's just helpful to see that you're shooting in similar places us yeah yes sir good morning. So you said that you don't like the time the term high end wedding but in seeing your work over the past few years like isn't that the experience that you kind of give your brides like that you make them feel like hyeon broads? I just don't like the term because I think it's tacky I'm not necessarily the term but do you understand? I'm saying like you like I try to make them feel cared for I don't try to make them feel like they're in a luxury princess experience I do want them to feel like they're working with a well established well thought of I guess, for lack of any better term high end business but what makes my business high end is the care that I give my clients the consistency and quality of the work and the fact that I really do try to make every single client that I have feel like their wedding is the only wedding I've ever shot and ever will shot we'll shoot, but there are a lot of photographers out there who are like, I just want to shoot high end weddings and my question to you for that is why why do you want to do that? Do you think it's gonna make you more creative because it's not it's just gonna make you crazy because they come with their own set of insanity? And do you want to do it because you think you're going to make more money? Maybe you will, maybe you won't ah, high end wedding doesn't mean that they value photography. I've seen million dollar weddings on people flogs that I no charge fifteen hundred dollars in do mediocre work. You can't make that a priority too, your clients and so what I would rather I'd rather be in someone's backyard and I would rather be at the catering hall with joyous, happy, amazing people getting paid fifteen grand to go shoot a luxury wedding where there is no emotion whatsoever. I'd rather book my base package in someone's back yard work with happy people who love each other because they're going to give them in there going toe there gonna be more in their photographs, then the dead people who feel nothing, you know what I mean? Like it's that's what I want, I just want people who like life and maybe have a little money but obviously making but but you make your your bride's look very glamorous and you make them look like hyeon weddings not and not to term but you make them and I'm sure that when you're shooting you probably make them feel that way emotionally I try very and so then they're like oh my god susan's awesome right? And then they remember all we were standing next to a trash can on the boardwalk freezing in the middle of a cold but then when they see the image there just like you, I'll care for in all ways of the world and I want them to feel beautiful because there's a weird thing in wedding photography might my current dislike beyond the mason jars are those horrifying, disaffected fashion based portrait's where like the groom is standing and then the brightest like catching his leg and then they're like looking in different directions they look like they don't even like each other I'm like, what is that like? Were you not here? Not at a wedding like did you not just get married? You want toe like maybe hold each other? I don't know so I don't want my stuff to look weird or trendy you're different or anything like that I just wanted to be beautiful and I want my clients to feel beautiful both how they look and how they are so if that makes it high end okay but for people to be like, well, you're a gotham hall. That place is super duper fancy. Did I not show you? I was just in a closet, and then by a window, that huge, amazing ballroom in the background. I wasn't shooting that for any of these images, so it doesn't matter where you are. There's something, there's, something beautiful there. There really is.