SnapKnot Contest

Big thanks to the SnapKnot wedding photography directory for offering this great camera giveaway!

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Why I Started Shooting People… With a Camera That Is

Sawyer's Mk IV Twin Lens Reflex Camera

My working Sawyer's Mk IV Twin Lens Reflex

I’ve been a photographer for a long time.  When I was little, my Dad had me in the darkroom in the basement learning how to develop pictures.  I can’t remember the first time I held a camera.  I actually used to play with an old twin lens reflex as a toy.  Photography was a part of my life that was handed down from my Grandmother, to my Father, to me and now I’m passing the bug along to my children.

However For almost all of that time until just a few years ago, I considered myself exclusively an enthusiast landscape photographer.  I did the required portraiture in my college photography courses, but I never really got the knack for it.  I was happy just taking pictures of rocks, trees and water.

It wasn’t until I made the switch to digital when my kids were born, that I found myself


Old Bridge

more and more interested in expanding my art.  I’ve always admired photographers who work with people.  It was something I thought I would never really be able to do.

Eventually I found myself running into a wall with my photography.  I decided that the best way out, was to push myself out of my comfort zone.  I started taking pictures of friends and family and found that at least with people I knew, it was actually kind of fun.  Everyone liked the pictures I took, so I kept going.


The photo that change my wife's self image.

At one point I took a picture of my wife that really showed me the power of photography.  My wife normally hates having her picture taken, but I was able to talk her into posing for me, with the excuse that I needed to practice with some equipment and techniques.

What happened next was unexpected.  She loved the pictures.  They really boosted her self esteem.  So much, that she posted them to Facebook, and let me post them in my portfolio.  Since then she has been more outgoing and confident.  Her self esteem improved a ton overnight.  It really did change her life.  After that, I had several more requests from friends to, “make them look as good as her.”  I managed to do the same for them too.  I was hooked.

Soon after that, I decided to go WAY out of my comfort zone.  I signed up for a glamour photography workshop at a studio in Toronto, but it ended up getting cancelled for some reason or other.  Disappointed, vowed to myself that I would book the very next event on their schedule before I lost my nerve.  The only thing they had coming wasn’t a workshop.  It was a shoot where they provide the model, sets and makeup artist, but no instruction whatsoever.  The scariest thing was that it was a nude shoot.

It was the only event they had on their schedule though, so I bit back my fears and signed up anyway.  It was amazing.  The model was very talented and I got some great pictures.  My nervousness was completely unwarranted.  The nudity was lost in the professionalism of everyone there, and in the drive to get the best shots possible.

It went so well, and I gained so much confidence from it, that the next day I decided that I

Kirsten Visima

This is model from my first model shoot, which was also my first nude shoot. Talk about pressure.


would go pro.  It’s been a long process that is still underway, but it’s going really well.  It’s definitely something I see myself doing for the rest of my life.

The moral of this story, I think, is that no matter who you are or what you think your specialty is.  You may find out that you have been missing out on something you never imagined.  My advice is to try something new.  Landscape photographers, take a course on portraiture.  Portrait photographers, try some street photography.  There are so many sides to photography that it would take many lifetimes to explore them all.  The fun part is trying.

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Remember the Small Things When Preparing for a Shoot

Empty Studio

What you will find when you get to the studio. Did you bring everything else?

Getting ready for a shoot can be a hectic and busy time.  There are so many things you need to have ready in the right order or things may get lost or forgotten.  If you don’t have everything you need at the shoot, it can spoil the whole flow of the day, or worse spoil the entire shoot.

Forgetting something big could be a disaster, but because of that, you are very likely to remember to have them ready.  For instance, your lenses, camera, props etc., are things you are likely to have checked, double checked and triple checked.  But the small things are just as important.

When preparing for a shoot it is important to remember the little things.  I find it easiest to make a list of the things I think I will need to bring or do, so that when the day of the shoot comes, I won’t forget them.  My list is usually in two parts.  One side is the things I’ll need for every shoot.  The other is for specifics for a particular shoot.

Some good examples to start your list are:

  • Spare batteries for your light meter, Pocket Wizards, GPS, etc.
  • Ensure your lens cleaning supplies are clean and ready.
  • Paper towels, tissues or wipes for fixing smudged makeup, props etc.
  • Spare model release forms and other contracts.
  • Business cards
  • Your phone is charged, plus you iPad, iPhone, iPod, etc to show your portfolio.
  • You laptop is charged, and the desktop is free of too many icons.  (This is important.  Like a messy desk in your office, a cluttered desktop on your laptop can show unprofessionalism.)
  • A towel.  For reasons you can never think of before hand.  Can be used to wipe things up, as a knee pad, etc.

Other things that you may need to think of involve a little research.  For example, I promised to do a photo shoot for a friend at a studio on a seamless background.  The shoot would include her posing with a Harley.  I knew the studio has a freight elevator, and was built for that kind of thing, but then I realized that there was no direct access to drive the bike inside.  I am going to have to arrange for a ramp to get the bike from the street to the loading dock.  I’ll also need a mat and some pads to protect the floors from oil and the kick stand.  Imagine how the shoot would go if we got everything there, but couldn’t shoot with the bike because there was no way to get it inside.

You’ll never be able to remember everything, but if you make a list when you think of the little things, it can go a lot smoother.  That way you can spend your time worrying about exposure, lighting, poses and everything a photographer is supposed to do at a shoot and now worry about how you are going to get a 700 pound bike up the stairs!

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Model shoot with Lucina Monroy at CIS

Lucina Monroy - High Key

A rare high key image. Rare for me any way.

Last night I attended a photo shoot at Creative Image Studios in Toronto.  It’s an amazing studio that offers several great studio spaces for rental, as well as equipment.  It also hosts some great arranged model shoot events, workshops, seminars and guided shoots.

I had the privilege of shooting the beautiful Lucina Monroy there and this is the first image that I have managed to finish processing.  It turned out great in my opinion.  I’m usually known for darker images, but I decided that this one would look great as a high key black and white.

There will be more from this shoot as I manage to go through the over 300 images I took.  I hope you like them.

For those who are curious, this image was lit with a beauty dish on a boom just above me pointed at Lucina.  There was also a large soft box off to the far left as a fill light.

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Things to Remember Before and At Your Portrait Session

by James Baker

An outdoor portrait shoot in the beautiful Sunnidale Park in Barrie, Ontario.

There are a few things you can do as the client to make your portraits better.  Some you need to think of before the shoot, and some you need to think of during the shoot.

  • Make sure you have an idea of what kind of pictures you want.  Things like the background, the clothes you will wear, the style of shoot like classic or something more fun.  You will discuss this with the photographer, but it can help if you consider it before then.  Then continue to go over it in your mind a couple of days before the shoot to make sure you have clearly in mind what you want and how you might help the photographer get it.  On the other hand, you may have an idea of a picture you really want, the photographer will do his or her best to get it, but sometimes the location, time, or other factors may make this impossible.  Don’t be too disappointed if the shot you wanted really didn’t work.  The photographer will have many more that look great and will be more “you”.
  • Pack grooming equipment like a brush, makeup, etc.  If there is a breeze, it can ruin hair no matter how much time was spent getting it right.  Bring what you need to fix it if needed.  The same thing goes for makeup.  Depending on the location, and time of day or year, it may be hot or wet.  Make sure you can keep yourself looking how you want in your pictures.  Keep them handy during the shoot in case you need them.
  • If you haven’t already discussed wardrobe with the photographer, try to stay away from black or very dark clothes, white or very light clothes or clothes that too closely match your skin colour.  Unless you have discussed otherwise with the photographer, it can make getting the shot exposed properly very difficult.  Also avoid bright colours or loud or detailed patterns.  These can detract from your face and even put a tint on your skin.
  • If there is going to be more than one person in the pictures, wear clothes that are of a similar shade.  They don’t have to be the same colour, but if someone is wearing dark clothes and another is wearing light clothes, the lighter clothes will attract the eye more than the dark clothes and the person wearing the dark clothes will start to blend into the background.
  • Avoid sunglasses and hats on the way to the shoot if you can.  They can mess up hair, put lines on your head and nose that will be visible in the photos and sunglasses can make it hard to adjust your eyes to the light when you are having your pictures taken.  This may cause you to squint in your pictures.
  • If you are bringing kids that won’t be in every shot, it might be a good idea to bring someone else to keep an eye on them when you are in the shot and they aren’t.  You won’t be able to keep an eye on them and pay attention to the photographer at the same time.  It may be a good idea to bring something to keep the kids occupied.  A favourite toy also makes great bait for a child to, “Look at the camera and smile.”
  • Feel free to bring someone with you to the shoot that isn’t going to be in the pictures.  Make sure you discuss it with the photographer first.  Not all photographers are ok with this.  Also make sure that they will not try to talk to you or otherwise be a distraction during the shoot.  Everyone there should turn of their cell phones as they can really spoil the rhythm of a shoot.  The photographer may ask your friend to hold lights or reflectors if they come, so be warned.
  • Another good idea for kids it to bring a change of clothes.  You never know what can happen with kids on the way to the photo shoot.  It’s not a bad idea to have a change of clothes yourself.  As Jeff Foxworthy said, “Babies are nauseated by the smell of a clean shirt.”  If there’s a place to change them, it might even be a good idea to get them dressed up after arriving for the portrait session.

You may get these tips from your photographer, and you may get others.  You may even get instructions that contradict these.  These tips are guidelines that will help your portrait session experience easier, but no matter what is said here, the bottom line is that the photographer knows best.  They do this a lot.  Listen to what they say and trust them to get the best portraits possible.  And most of all, relax and enjoy the experience.

Please leave a comment if you have anything to add as either a subject of a portrait or as a photographer.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Welcome to My New Blog


The Creative Image Studios "White Wonderland" Shoot in March 2010

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time.  I even had some blog posts on my main web site, but it wasn’t really well suited for a real blog.  Here is my new attempt.

I am planning to have postings in a few different categories.  The first category will have tips and tricks for photographers, both for pros and advanced amateurs.  Another category will have tips for those who are thinking of hiring a photographer, and things they can do to get the most out of their photographic experience.  The third main category will be a place where I will talk about my own work and experiences in photography.

I hope you enjoy my blog as it grows.  I hope to grow with it and I hope you do as well by reading it.

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