I love styling. It plays a huge role in both our wedding and lifestyle photography and I think the more you practice, the better you get. I recommend finding some photographs you really love and then attempting to re-create them; it’s a great way to practice and you often end up with something original anyway. Here are some other tips I live by:
Keep it simple. Sometimes when a photograph isn’t looking exactly right, we tend to add more layers to it when the best practice is to keep unnecessary elements away. The simplest things are often the most striking.
We read a photo from left to right, so try not to block the left side too much. If I have a whimsical or larger element, I tend to place it in the lower right hand corner and find that it works well. I do this a lot with flat lays or our wedding invitations — the ribbon or flower works best in the lower corner.
Keep your colors consistent or complimentary. Nothing busies a photo more than a mess of colors. While I love to break this rule from time to time, I try to do it very strategically and thoughtfully as it often ends up being messy rather than purposeful
Try it a few different ways. I often find that the first photo I take is my favorite, even though I have tried a million variations after. It’s much more about gut instinct than you think!
Make sure that the subject matter makes sense and is feasible, i.e. make sure that the wine glass would be in that spot, or the cheese is realistically cut into. Oftentimes, our most natural tendencies are the most translatable and read the best in camera. xxx
Hi! One of my many goals with this website is to help you learn how to execute your vision. I really would love to be a resource for you to turn to when you’re learning photography and developing your eye and brand. Originally, Will and I had just planned to go out and shoot all of the beautiful flowers around town as it looks so incredible right now (“Charleston in Bloom”) but, as I spent the morning clarifying the mood I wanted to set this spring/summer by creating inspiration boards, I saw a direct influence on what we photographed and thought it might be more beneficial to break down that thought process instead. Here we go (and you can still enjoy some beautiful flowers, too):
Pre-determine the mood. I grab a lot of inspiration from what’s around us in our daily lives but, when I am feeling stuck or creatively drained, I scour coffee table books, iconic images on Pinterest, and I love Mark Sikes’ blog, too — in my view, he does a great job of combing through great old magazine spreads and pulling out the best images. Most of the shoots that we do are designed to feel dreamy/light-filled but I think I am developing an eye for moodier images, too.
Gather color inspiration. I often pull colors from an image as well as a few photographs/items which I feel set a similar or complimentary mood. I try not to go into a shoot totally oblivious to the colors that we’re trying to capture. I would rather pre-determine what I think goes well together and then try to find it/create it.
Oftentimes what I execute is totally different but infused with a feeling which I feel is inspired by these images and colors. Here is an example of a board that I had created earlier, with the thumbnail from our afternoon shoot which I think demonstrates a similarity:
I love the pale blue, deep tropical green and magenta red in combination. Since I picked up this skirt last week, I realized that I already had a piece which could help execute this vision, particularly as that blue and those greens are readily available in town. I often send my mood board to my phone so that I can reference it while we’re working.
I have said this time and time again but do make sure that you’re heading out in flattering conditions! I really love sunny days and try to shoot in the late afternoon/early evening (I start the day slowly!). My favorite is early evening/dusky light but because we also like to be home for dinner and chill time with the baby, this isn’t always our priority so we head out around 4 or as late as we can for favorable light.
I’m not a natural in front of the camera but being in front of it has really helped me direct our wedding and other clients. It’s particularly challenging right now with my mouth full of braces (and missing teeth no less) because I find that it gives me my version of RBF but, I find that the best shots are always when you’re laughing or more relaxed (so brace yourself for LOTS of laughs once these bad boys are off…) … Perhaps that’s why you see me with so many glasses of wine …. 😉 In all seriousness, movement seems to draw out a more natural feel and the more you do it, the easier it is. I find that walking, shifting weight from one foot to the other, and working with someone you really trust seems to help! xxx
We have a big post coming tomorrow on personal style and the value in your own closet and collection but I just wanted to quickly touch on one of my favorite business tools: mood boards. A lot of our shoots and ideas are pulled from one object, photograph, or color study. I also set the mood for the season ahead by thinking about which colors excite me the most and should lead our brand story. The sea and flowers have always provided huge inspiration, and lately I have been pulling old photographs from all across many categories; I am particularly enjoying Vogue and Vanity Fair spreads from the 90s and early 2000’s.
I had an amazing photography teacher in NYC at ICP (Palmer Davis) who said that you should never press the shutter (take the picture) unless you’re feeling an emotion. That sentiment has stuck with me and it’s what I come back to when I feel creatively out to sea. In the end, a photograph should evoke an emotional response. I like to remind myself of this from time to time, especially in regards to our Fine Art work. Below are two of my favorite images from Robert Doisneau:
I also think that mood boards are a wonderful way to start to shape your ideal personal style: what you’re drawn to visually is a great place to begin. I love Pinterest but sometimes find the inundation of imagery creatively stunting as it’s such an overload. I prefer to pull down images which really stick with me, like the one below, and then begin to play with what goes well with that mood. This is how I gather ideas for setting the table differently (although a lot of it is just messing around in person, too), or colors I didn’t think would go together all of a sudden have me feeling like I’d like to work within that scheme. So much of the time, these exact visions don’t come to light, but I hold the ideas in the back of my head and find that I execute them in some shape or form because they have given me fresh ideas which feel true to our vision. xx
Hi All! We started this series the week before last, in case you missed it here is the first post. I’m going to review quite a bit in this post and hopefully answer some questions from last time. It has come to my attention that it might be helpful to have a more formal video tutorial series so that we can really review everything from the beginning, is this something you might be interested in?
In this post, I will cover these topics great starter cameras & lenses and photography basics (aperture, shutter speed, ISO). Photography basics can be a bit overwhelming but don’t let it get to you — I really only use a handful of settings and my goal is to get you to a comfortable place by the end of this series!
Great starter cameras
I have said it before and I will say it again I really love my iPhone. I know this might not be the answer you’re after, but I wouldn’t totally dismiss it, particularly if you have a newer model. It’s an easier way to familiarize yourself with photography fundamentals, like how to use light and composition, without getting very frustrated and wanting to give up. Some of my best-performing Instagram images were taken with the iPhone, like this one below:
I haven’t reviewed cameras beyond the ones that I already use, so I do recommend speaking with an expert (you can always call Adorama or B&H and talk to someone who knows about all the brands/models) but, I think you would be in good shape working with one of the big brands: Canon, Sony, Nikon, Leica.
For those of you who are looking for a professional grade camera but something light and portable, I have worked with the Canon G series and found that it took great pictures, and that was back in 2011 on my trip to Cuba. I also know that Sony is ahead of the game right now and doing great; I have heard good things about the Sony A 7 and am certain that you could do a lot with that camera.
For those who are looking for a professional DSLR camera, I have only worked with Canon and love the mark IV. I would start with a 50 mm 1.2 lens and add in a 24-70 2.8 when you can. The 50 will get you a long way and is very versatile. I also think that with the 50 on, the camera isn’t that big.
The three basic principals that you need to know about when setting your exposure are: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. In last week’s post, I recommended that you work on aperture priority but I can see that this is still a lot to wrap your head around if you aren’t familiar with these concepts. Honestly I took photography 101 four or five times; I find that when I didn’t practice, I forgot everything. It’s so great to shoot a lot because as it is more and more familiar, the technical becomes second nature and you can really focus on the artistry which is what it’s all about.
Don’t let the following totally overwhelm you, I really only use a few settings but this is just to explain a bit more so that you can start to think about why we select said settings:
Aperture sets the depth of field, i.e. what is in focus in your image. I shoot on the lowest possible aperture most of the time. This is because I like one thing in my image to pop and to be in focus and the rest to be pretty blurry or soft. Sometimes this is more pronounced and sometimes this is quite subtle. Do you see how the bottle and glass are sharp in the image below but everything else around it is quite soft? This is the effect I like to achieve.
Here is another good example where the glass in front is in focus but the background is soft:
Shutter speed is important when you’re capturing fast moving things — ever take a picture of a person walking or a moving object (car, bike) and found that it’s blurry? That’s shutter speed. You have to start around 1/125 to get a moving object to hold still, but if you’re shooting on aperture priority, the camera will set the shutter speed for you. I also happen to like a bit of blur/movement in my images and so sometimes intentionally leave it low, on 1/60. At a certain point, like if you drop to 1/30 or 1/15th of a second, you might not be able to hold your camera or you will need a very steady hand to make sure that the image is in focus. This is when a tripod is a great tool!
ISO controls how much light the sensor lets in. The ISO is what allows your camera to work during the very bright light of midday and then in lower light settings, like at dusk or indoors. During the day, I keep my ISO around 100/200 outside and 400/640 inside. Turning the ISO up inside means that I could still shoot on the same settings (Say aperture is 2.0 and shutter speed is 1/60th) from outside to inside but adjust the ISO to keep the image light/not too dark. The two images below were probably shot on similar apertures and shutter speeds, but the increased ISO allowed me to get the glow of the bottom image without it looking too dark.
(above: outside f2.0 1/60th, ISO 200, below: inside f.20 1/60th, ISO 640)
I increase my ISO a lot, and it is important for me to work with cameras that have a good ISO capacity. Cameras that do not work well in low light will need flash/other lighting sooner because the quality of the image falls apart and gets too grainy. I like to work as much as possible without flash, and I like to shoot in lowlight settings a lot, particularly at dusk or in candle-lit situations.
As always, here to answer questions and do let me know if you think the video might be easier! xxx
Our goal is to help you take great snaps right out of the box! We’re thrilled to launch this new series which breaks down some photography fundamentals and hopefully enables you to take the photograph you envision as quickly as possible.
Photography can be a maddening mix of art and science. There’s nothing more exciting than ordering a new camera but sometimes it can feel a bit daunting — where do you start? In the face of how complex photography is, it can be easy to give up. In the following series, we will try to break down what we feel helps us take great photos. This post assumes a basic level of photography fundamentals, so do let me know if you would like me to backtrack 🙂 As always, let us know what questions you have along the way — there’s no such thing as a silly one!! xx
I believe that a great way to take the pressure off is to start by shooting in aperture priority. I know a lot of professional photographers who still use aperture priority for big events. I shoot in manual because it gives me full control but I think that using this system is a great way to learn and will allow you to get quicker results thereby encouraging you to keep using your camera.
Aperture priority allows you to set your f.stop and then the camera determines the shutter speed. You can also set the ISO on automatic or, if you’re outside, have it around 100-200 and as the light drops, you can continue make it higher, say 400 or 640. I will explain this in a moment but quickly back to setting your f. stop: most of the time I shoot “wide open” which means that I have the f. stop on the lowest possible number, say 1.4 or 2.8. The reason I love shooting “wide open” is because a shadow depth of field puts your subject in focus but blurs the background, making it soft and dreamy. If you’re shooting on a shallow depth of field but your subject and the background are both far away, everything might be in focus but the images is still softer and more pleasing to my eye.
The challenge when you shoot shallow depth of field is that you need to get the focus right. I always find out where the focus points are on my camera — and this is worth a good youtube session if your camera system is relatively new to you. Focus points allow you to pick where the camera focuses (just like it sounds) but if you don’t use them, the camera will focus where it thinks it “should” which often throws off your composition, especially if you use the rule of thirds a lot. I know this might not make a lot of sense on paper, but these are something I use for every. single. shot. !
If you’re in a low light environment (I love to shoot a lot at dusk), and you’re wide open on aperture priority but the images are still too dark, you can adjust the ISO setting to go a bit higher. Our Canon cameras have amazing ISO capacity but a lot of junior DSLRs will not. With this in mind, I recommend that you try to keep your ISO below 1000.
Of course, lighting conditions are very important. I would highly recommend practicing the most at pleasing times of day, like sunrise or sunset, to make sure you’re giving yourself an easier time of getting great images. Shooting at mid-day is tough for anyone, no matter the experience level.
I love to backlight my subjects. This means that I place my subject between myself and the sun. You might have tried this on your iPhone and found it didn’t work so well but this is where a more advanced camera/lens does so well. I place the sun is behind my subject; if it’s directly behind you might get some flare (which can be fun in the right setting) but if the sun is behind what you’re shooting and then a bit off to the left or right, should get a really nice image which pops.
Light in the eyes in a big one. Oftentimes, we can’t figure out why our portrait looks off and it’s because there’s no light in the eyes. We will go into this more in another post because I have lots of tricks but it’s certainly something to watch out for, like wearing a white shirt when I shoot somebody else.
I hope these tips help a bit, please let me know if anything is confusing/unclear!! xxx
I am so thrilled that you use this blog as a resource for photography tips. For those of you who are newer to the site, I am a professional photographer by training (with a Masters from SCAD) and have been working in the field ever since. I love that this blog allows us to shoot what we feel most passionately about and it is such a pleasure to work on it, thanks to you all! I also love helping teach about photography and would love to hear more about what you’re eager to learn — I am an open book and wish to enable each and every one of you to take your best photographs yet. I had a lot of questions yesterday after our 2017 round up and so wanted to gather everything that we have produced so far in one place for you so that you can dive in and then let me know what else you might wish to know. We did do a Q&A last summer which covered some reader questions, let me know if there’s any more photography tips you’d like to learn!
Here are a few tutorials on how to shoot and figure out what you’re doing in the moment. It might be best to start with 5 ways to maximize your photoshoot, and then to move on to this post about how to shoot in challenging conditions, understanding light, and how to photograph all day long . Any photographer will tell you that it’s best to shoot as close to sunrise or sunset as possible for the most flattering, golden light but we know it’s not always possible and that tutorial covers a bit more on shooting all day long. This post covers some composition basics for eye popping instagram posts!