Valentine’s Day

It’s estimated that as many as 10 per cent of all couples pick Valentine’s Day to get engaged.

So if you’re one of those lucky couples perhaps you’re thinking of engagement photos?

There’s a couple of ways of going about this.

You can hire a professional photographer (and maybe make it part of the wedding photography package). You can ask a friend. You can do it yourself!

So if you were looking for a professional, where should you start? Always look at portfolios and seek out personal recommendations.

Remember you get what you pay for. If your “pro” says he or she will shoot the wedding for $1000 (and only provides a DVD of the best images) and will throw in the engagement shots for free I’d be worried. If you’re not expecting the marriage to last then go for the shoot-and-burn DVD sales guy.

If the pro says they’ll shoot the wedding for a total investment of let’s say $1,800 and for that you get a wedding album, a slide show at the reception and perhaps on 11″X17″ framed image and they offer extras such as the mom’s photo books and perhaps small framed images for the wedding party at a reasonable extra cost (You’re going to end up paying somewhere around $2500 for all this but these images and the album are going to be family heirlooms and treasurers that last 100 years or more and worth the investment.) and then say the engagement photos will be an additional $500 I’d be feeling like I was dealing with an honest business person who understands the value of their services and will care for you at this important time of your life. Yes it’s not cheap but you’re worth it.

Remember next to the cost of the hall, the photographer is likely to be your next most expensive decision. Make it wisely.

Okay but you’re friend is pretty good with a camera and owns a real DSLR with a couple of lenses and flash.

Here’s what I’d do.

I create a shooting list of perhaps 10-12 photos. I’d pick a place or two where you don’t need permits or have to deal with crowds.

If your friend doesn’t know how to use flash (I’m an available light photographer. They all say that and it means they don’t know how to use flash.) you might want to hire a pro. Your images will thank you. So will your children and grandchildren and their children.

And you can do it yourself.

That is if you can get over being self-conscious in front of the camera. This is tough to do. Plus you need a decent DSLR and a tripod and a remote shutter release. Yes you can use your self-timer but it’s hard to get into the mood for a photo after doing the 15 yard dash before the self-timer fires the camera. Then if you understand white balance and exposure you and upload your images to Lightroom ($299) or Photoshop ($800) and take a day creating your perfect pictures.

Next you’re going to need to know how to pose. It’s way harder than it looks and some really great pros actually take courses on posing people.

I have 🙂 and so has my partner in photography Mike Cauterman.

Congratulations on this special occasion in your life.

 

 

 

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Street Photography

Funny thing after being a news photographer for years and having no compunction about sticking my camera in somebody’s face without permission or notice, I find actual street photography very weegeeintimidating. But street photography has a great history and has been served by some amazing photographers.

If we go back to Weegee we can see street photography as it was in New York City decades ago. Weegee, whose real name was Arthur Fellig worked for New York dailies between 1935 and 1945 using a 4″X5″ Speed Graphic.

But he wasn’t the first. Henri Cartier-Bresson is considered to be the father of modern photojournalism. He started shooting with the newly introduced 35mm camera in the late 1920s using the iconic Leica rangefinder camera (You can buy a digital Leica M9 today.) 800px-Cartier-Bresson's_first_Leica

A modern street photographer Jay Maisel is one of my photo heroes. I attended a talk he gave when he was in Toronto last year and I loved it. Jay has shot New York City for decades. He owns a brownstone building from where he shoots often from his rooftop. Here’s a great video about Jay taken by Scott Kelby.

Now here’s a video that I just found. It’s from 1981 and it’s about Joel Meyerowitz who also shot in New York City. The video is an educational tour of street photography and despite its rather amateurish presentation is pretty neat to watch.

I do this in mind of Podcamp Toronto which is coming up next weekend. Think I’ll take the Olympus Pen E-PL5 with a fast lens and see what happens.

BTW I’ve got a copy of Robert Frank’s The Americans. Printed in Germany it has a forward by Jack Kerouac. Shot in 1955-56 it’s a classic.

Boudoir Photography

Yes it’s true. I took the three-day Creativelive Boudoir online workshop and I loved every minute of it. Of course shooting photos of attractive and healthy young women wearing lingerie isn’t hard on the eyes. But surprisingly I discovered that boudoir photography isn’t about women or even photography at all. It’s about making your client feel better about how they (and others) see themselves.

Workshop instructor Jen Rozenbaum was terrific. The photography part of her workshop was all about posing the human body and even I learned a few new things about how to get a better image.

(BTW one of Jen’s secrets is to use cheap insulation boards for reflectors. These big boards have silver on one side and can be painted black on the other and are available for $20 or so from Home Depot!)

Not everyone can conduct a three-day online workshop but Jen sure can even despite the cough she had as she was recovering from a recent illness. Poor girl was drinking water laced with cough drops for most of the session. I know how she felt as I shot a dinner party and dance a week ago for a group I’d contracted to shoot for and despite having the flu rather severely I showed up. Tried not to breath on anyone and the shots came out fine and I’m recovering nicely.

BTW it may come as no surprise that I don’t have any boudoir shots (but call me if you’re in the GTA!) of my own but Jen sure has so if you want to see what I’m talking about go visit her site. Especially check out the section on her site where she shows you the before and after photos to see what a gifted photographer can do. Amazing stuff!!

It’s been my experience that very few men can shoot boudoir without it ending up looking like a skanky strip show. It gets worse if there’s a pole in the photo.

But Jen’s teaching and her images were in a class by themselves.

One of the best images was a butt shot. I know. I know. But really it was inspirational (not the butt – the shot!!! And I’m not kidding!) One of our models, who stood almost six feet in high heels and would be tough to shoot as she’s so tall and the studio room was so small, photographed really nicely but the shoot I thought was terrific was one where she was wearing a very skimpy piece of lingerie that fully showed her natural beauty. Jen cropped the image at her waist and just showed a little bit of her leg and in black and white this would be an image that anyone would be proud to put up on the wall in their bedroom.

The image was stunning without being offensive in the least and certainly wasn’t prudent. The reason being is Jen’s workshop was all about self-esteem and feminine beauty and not so much about the gear and pushing of the buttons (which likely upset the usual gearheads who show up to these workshops asking what aperture the photographer is using as if that mattered).

A big part of Jen’s workshop was on the business of photography.

The in-studio students came in not understanding they were in a BUSINESS and needed to conduct themselves as business people. Business management and business growth were a big part of the workshop which you can buy from Creativelive for $149. (I own four or five workshop videos which come only as downloads but you can always burn your own DVD for safe keeping.)

One of the best stories Jen told was she no longer allows husbands, boyfriends or men in general into the consultation or sales meeting. Her contract to shoot is with her client and not her significant other. Why? Because she had an experience which, by the sound of her telling it, was with an insecure blowhard of a boyfriend or husband (can’t remember which) who basically put down her client in front of her and whined about the cost and just didn’t get what boudoir photography was all about. Jen almost pitched him out of the room. I would have.

Anyway Creativelive is a bold new venture in world-wide learning where you can go and watch the workshop for free (or the rebroadcast which follows so others in different time zones can watch at a convenient time) or you can buy the download at a reduced rate during the workshop or at full price (still a bargain) after the workshop is over.

One caveat is I’d recommend not visiting the online chatrooms. Creativelive has three. There’s one for questions and answers among chatroom participants. It can be helpful but there are a lot of basic questions that get bantered about over and over again.  The second is for questions to the instructor which get passed on and the third is the Creativelive Lounge. The Lounge is riot and there are some very funny people there but it is a colossal time waster and a major distraction from the workshop itself. There are often 400 to 500 chatters in the lounge and the Creativelive folks have some perverse compulsion to attempt to regulate online behaviour. It seems there’s always some seemingly 14-year-old moderator warning chatters about their language or their level of respect for the instructors (comments can be hilarious but also overly personal and hurtful. If I was teaching at Creativelive I’d never read the chatroom comments.). Personally I find this level of control irksome and demeaning and if it were up to me I’d never run a lounge that wasn’t open. But this is a minor annoyance and one easily avoided by actually watching the workshop and avoiding the Lounge especially.

So what’s coming up?

Glad you asked! Creativelive is always adding new workshops and while some are better than others (and some like Jen’s Boudoir Workshop are sensational) the one I’m looking forward to is Photoshop Week which is coming the week of February 18 to 23. I’ve booked the week off (with the exception on one professional workshop I’m giving) and will be on Creativelive for the week. (I’m also booking off April 11 to 13 for a three-day workshop on Final Cut Pro software.)

Regardless of where you are in photography, Creativelive will have courses coming up at your skill level. Aside from taking one of my courses (I’ve got one coming up in Oakville, Ontario on Wednesday Feb. 20 and email me if you want to attend.) this is a great way to learn photography.

BTW this unsolicited pitch is my way of paying back to Creativelive for some excellent free online training. Besides I’ve already spent almost $500 in training videos and I can see spending a couple of hundred more in the next couple of months so that’s my two cents worth 🙂

Rock and Roll Photo Workshop

Here’s a chance for photographers in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) to learn the ins and outs of music concert photography from a shooter has been there…and back. Toronto-based concert photographer Darko is conducting a concert photography workshop and there’s a chance there might be a ticket or two still available. The workshop is being held at Darko’s studio on Richmond Street in Toronto on Sunday, Feb. 24 from noon to 6 p.m. kissdarkophoto

Here’s the copy from a flyer that was sent to members of the Oakville Camera Club and I sure couldn’t have said it any better:

Darko has been on the bus with Motley Crue, had coffee with Ozzy, zombies for brunch with Slash, dinner with AC/DC and all nighters with the Scorpions and fancy desserts with Phil Collins.

Darko survived the mosh pits of Biohazard, Slayer and Pantera, the warzones of Metallica tours, blistering heat thrown off by pyro explosions by KISS and Black Sabbath. He’s dodged spitballs from Marylin Manson, had the best seat in the house at sold out shows, record release parties, and, contrary to popular belief, HE shot Kurt Cobain……Darko has been behind the scenes with Madonna, Steven Tyler, Van Halen, Neil Young, Bon Jovi, Ted Nugent and the list goes on and on.

Somehow he remembers most of it. Thanks to his camera. Ask him, but speak up, he has only one good ear left.

So bring your own equipment and get the inside scoop on getting the gigs and clearances to shoot concert photography. Checkout Darko’s site to get a sense of what you’re in for if you can get a ticket to the workshop. His images are amazing.

For more details and ticket information contact Kieley at kieleyworkshops@gmail.com. It’s Rock & Roll baby.

Troubled In Tennessee

That’s the way a new photography teacher signed her comment on the website of the fabulous photographer Jasmine Star.jasmine-star

Ms Star is an emerging celebrity wedding photographer and celebrity photography teacher. When Jasmine first started to make a name for herself on the American and later international scene I wasn’t much impressed. Ms Star was a good photographer (and I dare say better than me) and a pretty good teacher (I like to think we’re equal on this one.) but it was as a compassionate photographer blogger where she won my heart.

And now she’s done it again.

You see Troubled In Tennessee is a relatively new photographer who it seems works in a small town. So when she (I’m assuming it’s a she.) offered a photography class the competitive photographers in the community started questioning her motives and put her down saying she was too new a photographer to offer classes.

So let’s get a couple of things straight.

I teach photography classes for money. Period. That’s my motive and it should be the motive of Troubled In Tennessee. Nobody tells me whether my photography classes are any good with the sole exception of my students.

I love it when I see the light of understanding flare in my student’s eyes when they start shooting better images but there was a ticket price to be paid at the door.

The admission fee creates value for them and for me.

Next question about how long someone should be shooting before they teach.

One of the world’s celebrity photographers came to Toronto last year for a one-day hands-on workshop for pro photographers. This is a BIG NAME guy and he made sure we knew it. Guess what? I hated the class and found the teacher so arrogant and such a poor instructor I won’t name him here just in case he was having one off day (but I doubt it. I’ve read similar complaints from pros in other cities where this guy showed up.). The whole day was one disorganized mess.

On the other hand, when I taught at a local photo school which was run by a camera retailer a couple of younger, much less experienced photographers turned out to be a couple of our best teachers.

Why? Because like me, they love photography and they love teaching it.

So Troubled In Tennessee here’s the remedy for your problems.

  1. Put together the very best photography course that you. It will get better over time 🙂
  2. Promise your students that they will learn how to take radically better images after taking your course.
  3. Raise your rates so you attract the most dedicated and eager students.
  4. Not only ignore your critics but pray for them and their release from the karma of their thoughts and comments.
  5. Astonish yourself and your students with your infectious joy of being a photographer as you teach your butt off.

As I said in a comment on Jasmine Star’s site: My dear we need more teachers in this world. We’ve got enough critics. Keep teaching.

New Photo Classes In Oakville

I’m putting together a list of names of people interest in taking a beginner’s photography class on Wednesday, Feb. 20 with the likely venue being Paradiso Restaurant on Lakeshore in downtown Oakville. Depending on the turnout we could do a second follow-up class the next Wednesday.

I’ll be teaching along with my professional shooting partner Mike Cauterman.

In the first class we’ll show students how to radically better images from their digital camera regardless of whether it’s a point-and-shoot or full-frame DSLR.

We’ll cover how to better compose, expose and exhibit your images. We’ll recommend equipment and talk about what you do and don’t need when it comes to vacation or wedding photography for amateurs and even pros.

Everything will be hands on so bring your camera. If you’re interested, let me know right away so we can book the space. (peter@peterwest.ca)

The second class we’ll show you how to professional quality images using your aperture, shutter speed and program modes as well we’ll talk about some other advanced topics but always using easy-to-understand, plain-language terms. You’ll never get lost or overwhelmed taking one of our classes.

As many of you know, I taught photography for several years for one of Canada’s top photography retailers so you’re going to get the benefit of learning about how to shoot better in an intimate and friendly setting.

Again let me know if you’d be interested in taking both classes and I’ll forward you the registration information.