Recently the family took a visit to a local landscaping nursery in north Austin (Red Barn Nursery). They always have great fall events going on and this year was no disappointment. There was an animal petting zoo, face painting and pumpkins as far as the eye could see. Ok, there weren’t really pumpkins as far as the eye could see, but still, there were lots of pumpkins. I personally am not a fan of the cliche’ family and childrens photos in the bluebonnets here in Texas, but for some reason I can’t explain I always enjoy photographing our son amongst the pumpkins. Unfortunately this year he made it a little tougher than last year because this year he is very mobile and can run away (whereas last year he couldn’t even walk). Anyway, here are some shots from our visit to the pumpkin patch. Happy Halloween!
This past week I photographed a couple’s engagement in downtown Austin, which has been all-the-rage for some time now. Some of the wonderful elements that downtown has to offer are texture (which can be seen on brick walls/doors), skylines (imagine buildings stretching into the blue Texas sky) and murals. These were the things that I had in mind when I ventured downtown with Andrea and Taylor, and they made my job pretty easy.
Another concept that’s popular these days among both photographers and those being photographed alike is post processing of images – particularly contrast-y, grainy, saturated (i.e., heavily edited photography). And one of the great things that shooting digital allows is capturing the image as it is and then making copies of the image during post-processing for conversion to something different and artistic, which is what I’ve attempted to do here. The result means that I can provide my photography clients with a photo of what our shoot looked like (more/less) on the day we shot and also a version of the same photo that has been “artistically rendered”, shall we say.
At any rate, there’s lots to see in downtown Austin. If you frequent downtown only at night then I recommend coming downtown on a Sunday evening and taking a walk down the same streets you usually visit (during the daylight). You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what there is to see. And we all could use a little exercise!
In the years that I’ve been photographing weddings it has been my privilege and honor to be the photographer at a number of military weddings. And they are a lot of fun to photograph because they are a part of what Austin Americana is: The American Spirit of Tradition.
Military weddings typically have lots of pomp and color, which adds a certain sort of mystique to the images captured on the big day. Military traditions such as the saber ceremony, cutting the cake with a military sword and more are exciting and fun. But hidden deeper amongst the fancy uniforms and display of tradition are strong beliefs like unity and commitment, which are frequently in short supply these days. Getting to know my brides and grooms has allowed me to be able to see the dedication that a soldier has, even on a day when he or she isn’t really required to be a soldier.
I suppose making these observations about U.S. military personnel didn’t occur to me until later in life, when I married my wife. I guess you could say that I chose to look at things from only one vantage point until I fell in love with a soldier. My wife completely changed my outlook of what it was like to be in the military and the experience that military families have when their loved ones are working. In fact, my wife is the one who inspired me to offer a military discount for active military service men and women who get married and need a photographer.
At any rate, I just wanted to share some fun and beautiful military wedding photographs that I’ve collected over the years. A number of these weddings occurred at places such as: Villa Antonia, Zilker Botanical Garden, Star Hill Ranch, Rural Central Texas and more. Enjoy!
In Mid-October I was given the opportunity to photograph something a little different from the typical weddings that I shoot: a political fundraiser and celebration. The event was held in downtown San Antonio at the historic Spanish Governor’s Palace. I don’t normally photograph celebrities or high-profile clients, but this event had a number of well known Texas faces.
The event location and timing was fantastic. Since I’m from Austin and don’t often get the opportunity to visit San Antonio I didn’t really know what to expect at the Spanish Governor’s Palace; but it was a treat photographing here. The event location is laid out like an historic mission corralled by plaster and stone walls which creates a open air garden/courtyard in the middle, where the event was held. The courtyard was filled with plants and full-sized trees and the ground was lined with brick paths leading around a water fountain.
Since the event was held in the evening, there was a beautiful, orange light that cascaded over the walls and through the trees onto the attendees and greenery inside the courtyard. The temperature lingered in the mid-seventies underneath the shade trees, along with a light breeze, making for a comfortable and enjoyable evening.
Although I enjoy lots of styles of photography including portraiture and landscape, I always cherish the freedom and creativity that is bestowed by photojournalism. And this political event allowed me to simply capture truly candid images of the crowd of politicos and supporters while walking amongst everyone. These quiet moments to one self, photographing people and things without being disturbed is both gratifying to me and an opportunity to truly tell a story from an artistic viewpoint.
Austin Americana Photography Studio Chosen as Official Portrait Photographer For The 2010 Armadillo Christmas Bazaar
Austin Americana Photography Studio Chosen as Official Portrait Photographer For The 2010 Armadillo Christmas Bazaar
Austin, TX (October 25, 2010) – We are pleased to announce that Austin Americana Photography, a popular portrait and wedding photo studio located in Austin, Texas, has been chosen as the official portrait photographer for the 2010 Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. December 17 & 18th, from 6-10 pm, Austin Americana Photography will be on hand at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar offering free portrait sessions to all attendees.
Armadillo Christmas Bazaar Background. A beloved Austin cultural tradition for over 3 decades, the Armadillo Bazaar has celebrated Austin’s unique cultural identity since 1976. The show is renowned as a treasure trove of original, one of a kind art and gift items made for you by the very best local and national artists and artisans. This year the Armadillo is proud to present 29 musical performances by great new bands and Austin legends alike. This year at the Palmer Events Center, we continue the popular emerging musicians in our weekday lunchtime series. This year (2010) The Bazaar will be held from December 15-24 at Austin’s Palmer Event Center.
Founder of Austin Americana Photography, Martin Whitton, stated, “We are proud to be a part of the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar’s long-standing Austin tradition of holiday fun and art.”
In January 2010, Martin Whitton, the founder of Austin Americana Photography was chosen as a winner of the prestigious annual 2010 Bride’s Choice Awards™ by WeddingWire, the nation’s leading wedding technology company – representing the top five percent of all vendors in the WeddingWire Community, which includes over 100,000 wedding professionals across the US and Canada.
In 2008, Martin Whitton was selected for the 2008 Best of Austin Award in the Wedding Photographers category by the U.S. Local Business Association (USLBA). The USLBA “Best of Local Business” Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USLBA identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.
Austin Americana Photography Studio – http://austinamericanastudio.com/
I was just looking at some older photographs that I took some time ago of my sons hands. These are really some of my favorite photos…
Ok, so I’m not sure if this qualifies as trashing the dress, which has been all the rage for the past few years, but it was definitely one of the more fun shoots I’ve had as a photographer in the past few years. And I think it’s a great idea.
Julia and Rick, who were married at Chapel Dulcinea in 2008 are featured tubing down the Guadalupe River here in Central Texas. A lot of brides tell me that they wouldn’t be willing to “trash” their wedding dress just to tube the Guadalupe River. But my bride and groom were more than excited about tubing in their wedding attire. And I have to give them credit for getting up relatively early on a spring morning to hop into a tube on the icy-coldGuadalupe River!
I knew this would be the perfect photo-op for my newlyweds, given the history of how they met. Julia and Rick met on a tubing trip to the Guadalupe River with friends – a trip that would eventually lead them both down the aisle together. So when I pitched the idea of the shoot to them they were surprised and excited.
As a result of the great images we were able to capture of Julia and Rick tubing in their wedding garb, the two became minor celebrities. Several of the photos from the event were featured on my Wedding old Website and at my old display at David’s Bridal here in Austin. Frequently when I meet with new clients they ask me about the shoot of the bride and groom on the river, which always brings a smile to my face…
Oh, and I’ve been holding on to a great *NEW* and fantastic idea for a “trash the dress” session, so if you’re interested let me know. Email me at email@example.com
Many people don’t know it, but many cultures believe that it is lucky for it to rain on wedding day. Be that as it may, there are still some issues to attend to if it rains on your wedding day. So are you prepared if it rains?
As a photographer I’ve seen several weddings that got “rained out”. Ok, so it wasn’t like a baseball game where everyone just goes home early in the 2nd inning and the game is rescheduled for another day. Weddings aren’t allowed to do the same things that occur at sporting events. These are once in a lifetime events where family and friends come from far away and where plans are made a year or more in advance.
The weddings that I photographed where rain unexpectedly appeared were outdoor ceremonies with indoor receptions. Well, that’s not completely true; one of them was actually supposed to occur entirely outdoor, but luckily when the rain started during the reception everyone was able to quickly (not by choice) move the event into the large, family residence on the property where the reception was being held. But not everyone is so lucky…
So what can you do to prepare for a possible rainy day?
First, when you visit possible venues for your ceremony/reception ask if they have a plan in place in case it rains on the day of your event. Many popular wedding venues these days that host both the wedding ceremony and reception have the capabilities to facilitate both indoor and outdoor ceremonies and receptions. Since the bride and groom will likely be renting the entire facility for the day this usually means that the indoor facility will be at your disposal in the event of bad weather (assuming it will accommodate the number of people attending). But ask first.
If for some reason your outdoor ceremony or reception does not have the indoor contingency option, then you might consider renting tent(s) for the day. Tents typically make nice protection from direct sunlight and wind anyway, so having them at the ready for rain just makes sense.
If it does indeed rain on your wedding day don’t let it ruin your day; embrace the cards that have been dealt you. You may have imagined a bright sunny morning or afternoon for your big wedding day, but rain can be refreshing and cathartic. And as a photographer I can tell you that it makes for dynamic and beautiful photography. So if you do all you can to prepare for the worst and it still rains, just smile and go on enjoying the most beautiful day of your life. Keep telling yourself that it’s good luck when it rains on wedding day!
So you’ve set up your appointment to get your photo taken at a lovely spot you picked weeks ago and now the day is here. But are you ready to look and feel your best on photo day? Here are some recommendations on what to do to prepare for the big day to not only look and feel your best, but to also have a successful and fun photo session with your photographer. I’ve used past experiences in photographing brides, couples and individuals in the Austin area to develop these tips…
1. Scheduling. Be sure to schedule your photo session early on, which will allow editing/processing time on the part of your photographer. Many people have to reschedule later anyway and you’ll want to allow yourself some wiggle room. You’ll also need time to get the prints completed and find a frame for your beautiful photo.
2. Locations. Is your session indoor, in studio, at work or outside? Don’t be afraid of trying a new location. Your photographer should have a list of many popular outdoor locations in the Austin area that to share with clients (I do!). If you need some ideas just ask! J
3. Attire. What do you wear to a photo session? I recommend wearing solid colors (no large logos). The rules in attire are wide open and you can wear just about anything. Just try to consider what statement you want your photo to make and what part your clothing will play – “This is my relaxed family at the lake”, or “I’m a professional at at my job”, etc.
Also, keep in mind that if you choose a location that requires walking you probably will want to bring comfortable shoes.
4. R&R. (Most Important!) Make sure you get plenty of rest the night before (i.e., no late night partying!). If you stay up late the night before it will definitely show up in the photos, so just rest and relax beforehand and you’ll look great!
5. Styles. Make sure your style matches that of anyone else in your photos. If one person is dressed up then make sure the other person follows suit and doesn’t dress casually. You don’t have to wear the same thing; just try to be on the same page, so to speak.
6. Makeup & Hair. Try to stick to the normal hair and makeup routine. You definitely don’t want to come off like you’re doing a Glamour Shots commercial with over done hair and makeup. Also, bring lipstick and lip balm.
7. Fun. Have fun on during your photo session! It’s your time to spend with your partner – so just sit back, relax and let your photographer do the work behind the camera – making you and/or your family look great!
- In your spare time take a look at portrait photos online (just Google “portrait photos”) to get some ideas of what you like. There are a million poses and ideas out there. If you don’t really care then you can leave it to your photographer. But if you want to get creative and have more involvement then share your ideas with your photographer and your creativity will likely pay off.
- Is there a fee or admission for taking photos at the location you are going? You’ll want to consider this before arriving.
- What time does the facility close where you’ll be photographed? If you arrive just before closing time you and your photographer will feel rushed, which does not cultivate the relaxed environment needed for portraiture.
This past week Austin Americana Photography visited an Austin doctor’s office for some professional portraiture. Although we don’t do portraits all the time, we occasionally do portrait sessions for professionals. And a nice service that we offer is coming to your office during your lunch hour (or whenever) and capturing portraits of you in the environment which you work.
When potential customers visit your business website, they love seeing photos of you doing what you do. And since a picture is worth a thousand words (as the old saying goes), the potential customer has the opportunity to make a personal decision about your profession based on what photo they see. And that’s where Austin Americana enters the picture, so to speak. We capture photos of you and your coworkers in the best light doing what you do. How exciting!
At the doctor’s office this week, we were able to complete quick, professional portraits of 2 doctors at the doctor’s office in less than 20 minutes. Quick, painless and effective!
What is Depth of Field (DOF)?
According to Dictionary.com DOF is,
“the range of distances along the axis of an optical instrument, usually a camera lens, through which an object will produce a relatively distinct image.” 1
Viewing 2 almost identical images (below paragraph) you can see a demonstration of two very different DOFs. In the top image, moving left to right, you can see that most of the planks in the fence are relatively sharp and in focus throughout the photo. This would be considered a large DOF. In the bottom image only the very center of the image appears to be in focus. The fence planks to the left and right of center are out of focus, creating a shallow DOF. Each image is also labeled with it’s respective aperture (f-stop).
In not-so-technical terms DOF is everything that is considered to be “in-focus” or sharp in a captured image or photograph. Consider the two black & white images below…
So what’s going on inside the camera and lens to create these two separate images?
First, we need to quickly understand what aperture means. Without going off on a technical tangent here we know that as a rule of thumb, aperture is determined by how wide the iris of the camera lens opens when the shutter button is pressed (see black and white figure below). Larger apertures (think larger opening, more light) create shallower depths of field; inversely, smaller apertures (think smaller opening, less light) create deeper depths of field. A large aperture where the iris is open very wide might be f-1.2 or f-1.4. An example of a very small aperture might be f-222.
The primary difference between these two wood fence images is the aperture (f-stop) at which the camera lens is set. Even if we didn’t have the metadata at our fingertips that would tell us the exact aperture that was selected for each photo, we could still hypothesize that the top image was captured at a small aperture (small f-stop), perhaps f-11 or f-15. The bottom image was likely captured at a large aperture (large f-stop), perhaps f-2.0.
Predicting DOF. DOF can be calculated based on three primary factors (and one secondary factor): focal length of lens (50 mm, for example), aperture or f-stop (f 2.0, for example) and subject distance (distance between camera lens and subject). The secondary factor affecting DOF is your camera; different digital cameras have different sensors and components which affect DOF. If you would like to calculate DOF for your camera and lens combination you can easily do so by imputing the three primary factors mentioned above here on the fantastic online DOF calculator graciously provided by Don Fleming of Dofmaster.com3.
Using Don’s DOF calculator I compared two of my favorite lens/camera combinations: the Canon 5D Mark ii + 50 mm prime lens with the Canon 40D + 50 mm prime lens. The factors I used were 50 mm focal length, 2.0 f-stop and 10 ft subject distance. The results:
|Canon Camera||Lens Focal Length (mm)||F-Stop (Aperture)||Subject Distance (ft)||Calculated Depth of Field (ft)|
|5D Mark ii||50||2.0||10||1.45|
The differences in DOF from these two examples are significant: 0.14 (ft) [1.45 – 0.91 = 0.14 ft], which is approximately 6-7 inches in difference. I’d rather not cover too much detail here on why and how this works, primarily because I don’t pretend to be an expert in how camera sensors work or in mathematics. For the purposes of this article you only need to know that every digital camera is different and it might be worthwhile for you to bookmark the DOF calculator link for future reference.
So why do we care about DOF?
DOF and blurring created in any image is subjective and will vary from one photographer to another. Where art and science collide there can be no one rule that is never broken. In many cases photographers simply photograph a subject or event in a way that they choose to interpret it, regardless of whether another person may like the image that is captured. My rule (in general) is for the foreground to be in focus and background to blur. However there are always exceptions and the rule of universal appeal supersedes everything else; Can I answer “yes” to the question, “does the image have a general appeal about it and is it pleasing to view? Hopefully so.
1. Modern Language Association (MLA): “depth of field.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 14 Oct. 2009. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/depth of field>.
2. University of Victoria. http://web.uvic.ca/ail/techniques/phototechniques.html
3. Depth of Field Master. http://dofmaster.com
In Central America where the tenuous little strip of land separating North and South America becomes especially thin (just 10 degrees north of the equator) lies a tiny little country called Costa Rica. Considered the Switzerland of Latin America, it is known for eco-tourism and a higher quality of life than many other Central American countries. In fact, “Ticos” (as the local inhabitants refer to themselves) place lots of importance on family, friends and “pura vida” – a saying shared by locals which, strictly translated, means “pure life”.
On the northwestern coast of Costa Rica in the Guanacaste Province is a small beach called Playa Flamingo. There isn’t really a town located here – just a few quiet resorts and some high-end homes overlooking the coast. My family recently spent some quiet time here, at a place called Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa.
The hotel is located directly on Playa Flamingo (Flamingo Beach). The beach itself is beautiful, featuring light gray sand and beautiful blue water. Northwestern Costa Rica is known for it’s excellent surfing conditions and while we were there we experienced strong waves and light undercurrents while swimming in the ocean.
As a wedding photojournalist, I can tell you that Flamingo Beach Resort is a great location for weddings. It has all of the luxuries and conveniences that you would find in most luxury hotels anywhere combined with the privacy and anonymity you can only find in a place that is off the grid. Consider this: Flamingo Beach Resort isn’t associated with a town, per se; it is remotely located at where a road dead ends at a beach, where almost no one else has access to – a big selling point for someone who wants privacy.
One of the things that my family and I will probably always remember about our stay at Playa Flamingo is how genuinely friendly the staff were. We had initially read conflicting online reviews for Flamingo Beach Resort regarding how friendly staff were. But any reservations that we had regarding the issue were quickly allayed by the outgoing and personable staff treatment we received during our stay. Front desk staff including Pedro, Jose and others were always helpful and inquisitive as to whether we needed assistance. They were always saying hello and asking how our day was going.
Other staff at the hotel also exceeded our expectations. My son, who’s 18 months old, made friends with the cleaning staff and looked forward to seeing his friend Dora every day when she would visit our room in the mornings to turn down our beds, sweep, mop and drop off clean towels. Staff during our regular morning breakfast also made life lots of fun for my son. They were always warm and playful with him and encouraged him to engage them in conversation and fun.
Another favorite experience of mine was getting to know hotel staff at the upstairs patio bar, which had a fantastic view of the beach and coastline. Several of our nights were spent chatting with Oscar, the talented and friendly bartender, who makes fantastic mixed drinks, including the best Mojito that I’ve ever had (seriously!). Oscar was always glad to discuss recipes for his delicious drinks, Costa Rican lifestyle or a quick Spanish lesson (he, like most staff in the hotel, is bilingual).
As you can tell, we spent time getting to know the staff which is a testament to how important service is in the hotel. Flamingo Beach Resort is a full service hotel, offering services above and beyond the norm including, child care, quick laundry service, full sized rooms with kitchenette, daily turn down service, pool bar, world-class foods served fresh 3 times per day (room service available), transportation service, workout room, tennis courts, and a casino!
Our trip was during the end of September and the beginning of October, which is smack-dab in the middle of the off season for this region. This means that there were days where we rarely saw any tourists or anyone for that matter in the hotel or on the beach, which was great, given that our vacation objective was to enjoy a quiet week away from the hectic life that we live in Austin, Texas.
Visit Flamingo Beach Resort on Facebook!
I wanted to take a moment to share 7 new, great reviews we received in the past few months with everyone who reads my blog. Recently I asked my clients to tell others on Yelp.com about their experience with myself and Austin Americana Photography. And I’m happy to say that many of our happy clients responded in larger than expected numbers. All of our clients had nothing but fantastic things to say about Austin Americana (we’re now rated 5 Stars!), which makes me feel like I’m doing the difficult job of being a wedding photographer well.
Unfortunately, Yelp.com (or it’s filtering software monster) doesn’t like too many good reviews at one time. Even though all 7 of our Yelp reviews were legitimate past clients of Austin Americana and were not paid or compensated for their reviews, Yelp.com will not allow 6 of the 7 reviews to be posted to the Austin Americana Yelp Page (the reviews were essentially relegated to Yelp’s “filtered” area where almost no one views them, and thus not available for easy viewing by future clients).
I’ve officially complained to Yelp about the problem, but I’m not holding my breath since the Yelp FAQ website states that all filtering is automated and not under the control of one individual (hard to believe, I know!) In the meantime, I’ve taken the liberty of posting these wonderful reviews that I’m so very proud of here on my blog for all past, present and future clients to see.
Again, I’d like to send out a big “Thank You” to all our happy clients who took time out of their busy schedules to tell others about their positive experience working with Austin Americana Photography. Thank you! All of the reviews are below…
You Can View Our YELP.COM Business Page Here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/austin-americana-photography-austin
Filtered and Unfiltered Recent Yelp Reviews For Austin Americana Photography:
1. 9/17/2010 5 Stars *****
The website photos are great! I can’t wait to see the photos from our wedding. Martin was very pleasant to work with and I recommend that you contact him if you are looking for a photographer for your special event!
- Anna K. – Austin, Texas
2. 9/16/2010 5 Stars *****
we are so pleased with our photos. Martin is extremely professional and warm in his demeanor. he arrived early to set up on a saturday morning to take photos of our doctors for our website. we recommend him highly and have already called on him again for another photo session.
- Sylvian U. – Austin, Texas
3. 9/9/2010 5 Stars *****
We would like to thank you for doing such an amazing job in making our Wedding day so special. We also thank you for showing such patience in a very long wedding. We knew that you had not done Indian Weddings before, but we felt relaxed after we had a sitdown with you few days before the wedding. We were confident that we were in safe hands.
Every moment big and small was perfectly captured.
We highly recommend Austin Americana Photography. The wedding pictures posted on http://austinamericanastudio.com truly speak about your work. What more do I have to say.
We are blessed too to have you as our photographer. Thank you for providing your services!!
- Pallavi and Praveen – Osseo, Minnesota
4. 9/2/2010 5 Stars *****
When I started planning my wedding, the only thing that I wanted to make sure was amazing and flawless were my wedding photos. Martin’s photos were just that. Martin went above and beyond my expectations. Every time I look at my photos, I’m sucked right back into that day, because his photos captured the mood and tell the story of my wedding moment by moment. Martin was very professional, showed up on time, and my photos were available to view before the promised date. You can’t go wrong with using Martin to take photos for any occasion.
- Monica O. – Austin, Texas
5. 9/1/2010 5 Stars *****
I met Martin and Michaela when they were traveling through our home town in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Martin used his incredible eye and talent to capture our community coffee house, The Common Cup. His photography has made a difference in our online presence, and I recommend his service if you need to capture the true essence of your business and project it in your marketing. Thanks Martin for what you do, and thanks for helping us here in Costa Rica!
- Kenneth L. – Monroe, Georgia
6. 8/31/2010 5 Stars *****
Martin did both our engagement photos and our wedding. Outstanding! His eye to catch the unscripted moments is priceless. We had to reschedule a couple of times for engagement photos due to weather, and Martin was most accommodating. His prices are reasonable and the extraordinary value received exceeds expectations. Martin goes above and beyond. We will be recommending him to our friends and family.
- Renee H. – Austin, Texas
7. 8/31/2010 5 Stars *****
I hired Martin twice to take photos of my extended family and then again of my immediate family. Both sessions were a success! His pictures were great each time. He is excellent at the formal type pictures as well as the spontaneous ones. He can do large groups and individual pictures without blinking an eye. Additionally, Martin is flexible in his dates and times and accommodated my schedule. He was always on time and I received my discs earlier than expected. His prices are very reasonable and he delivers quality work! I highly recommend him! Nina
- Nina J. – Round Rock, Texas
Some photos from the luxurious and modern Hotel Valencia in San Antonio, Texas. The bride and groom recently married there as well. It is a beautiful location for photos of any occasion. It has both an indoor and outdoor feel of a modern hotel, since it has a patio overlooking the San Antonio River Walk, a courtyard located inside the hotel and of course beautiful, modern decor from wall to wall inside.
I recently read the following on the photo.net online discussion forum:
Question: “What makes a photo a fine art work (that is, special or good)?”
Answer: “When you say it is. The better answer is when others say it is.”1
While speaking in simple terms this is correct, surely we can explore the topic a little more deeply to find more significant answers to what makes a photograph great. According to iconic landscape photographer Ansel Adams, “A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.”2
Let’s refine our search a little and ask ourselves some questions. The first question we should be asking is what is the subject of the photograph or image? The most common problem encountered when attempting to create a great image is not establishing an obvious subject. Try to imagine what subject another person might see (if any) while viewing your photograph.
Is the photograph composed in an appealing way? Composition is probably the most elusive concept in photography because it is subjective (what one person likes another person may not) and because the rules of composition are concrete. Here are some important composition concepts to keep in mind:
Framing. Try to fill the image frame and make sure there are no voids within your image. There are exceptions to the rule, but there shouldn’t be open space that distracts from the subject.
Law of thirds. If you imagine your camera viewfinder as a tic-tac-toe-like grid where space is divided into thirds, it is considered more pleasing to the eye to place your subject where third lines intersect (instead of splitting your
image in half).
Photo Courtesy of Microsoft Corporation
Perspective. How your subject appears to the viewer determines perspective. Many times your subject can determine perspective as well. Here are some beautiful Examples of Different Perspectives3 which might better illustrate the concept.
Focus and exposure. Make sure your subject is in focus and exposed correctly. If everything else mentioned here is correct, but focus or exposure is not correct, your photograph’s message will likely be lost.4
There are more compositional ideas that were not discussed, but hopefully these give you some foundation to build upon. Now comes the overarching questions. Does the photo tell a story? Does it elicit emotion? Is there an inherent creativity about the image? Is it appealing to people from all walks of life?
If you’ve followed the compositional rules for photography laid out above, and you can answer the aforementioned questions with a resounding “yes”, then you’ve probably created a great photo. If taking good photographs were easy then you wouldn’t be reading an article about it. Every good photographer takes bad photos; what separates the good from the bad is continuous practice and always maintaining the personal resolve to capture a better photograph. Perhaps that is what defines a passion for photography.
To provide you with some photographic perspective and a starting point I’ll leave you with a quote. As legendary French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson once stated, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”5
So how many photographs have you taken today?
Martin Whitton is a professional wedding photojournalist who lives and works in Austin, Texas. See regular updates on Martin’s work additional wedding photographs, bio and more at http://www.austinamericanastudio.com/
1. Photo.net Forums. http://photo.net/philosophy-of-photography-forum/007Nad
2. PhotoQuotes.com. Ansel Adams. http://www.photoquotes.com/printableshowquotes.aspx?id=10
3. What makes a photo good? A Basic Checklist for Evaluating Photo Quality by Charlotte K. Lowrie. http://wordsandphotos.org/Commentary/WhatMakesAPhotoGood.htm
5. Digital Photography School. 10 Photography Quotes that You Should Know. http://digital-photography-school.com/photography-quotes
Some hints on what to look for (and what to avoid) when searching for a wedding photographer.
The Amateur. When I first came to Austin, Texas about 10 years ago my family (my brother, my sister, my mother and I) were all together for a limited time and it was decided that we should hire a photographer to take photographs of us as a family. We all knew that we would be moving in different directions for years to come and who knows when the opportunity might present itself again. So my mother got in contact with a photographer who promised to meet us at Zilker Botanical Gardens and capture some family images. I distinctly remember what the photographer looked like. She was slim, small framed with short curly hair. She was quiet, reserved and she photographed us with what may have been a “Rolleiflex” medium format twin lens reflex camera. At the time I didn’t know much about medium format cameras, so I can’t say what kind of camera it was for sure.
After about 45 minutes of photographing in different locations of the gardens she let us know she was finished and that she’d be calling when the photos were developed and ready to view. Little did we know, that would be the last time we would see her or our photographs again. After some exchanges of voicemails, we accepted that we wouldn’t likely ever see our photos, probably because she really didn’t know the first thing about professional photography. We had simply been her experiment in portraiture – an experiment that went horribly wrong.
The Swindler (allegedly). And this summer I read an article about another photographer in San Antonio who is accused of not delivering what he promised to his clients. The surprising part in this story is that he charges so much and is apparently a talented wedding photographer. One couple even claim that they paid him as much as $7000! Wow! According to the article the photographer in question enthusiastically charmed his clients into paying exorbitant amounts of money for wedding photography. Then when wedding day came he photographed their weddings and they never heard from him again. I personally looked him up on Wedding Wire, and there are a lot of angry brides that are mad at him for not returning their money, and most importantly, not providing them with wedding photos as promised. I would be mad too!
So you’re probably asking, “Well, how do I tell the difference between a wedding swindler and a legitimate photography business?” That can be tough to do, but the most important thing you need to know about any business is their record of service. Do they have a history of providing a quality service? Are people talking raving about how great their experience with the business was? I recommend starting your investigation by reading my article on Finding The Right Wedding Photographer. Bottom line: do your homework! If he/she sounds too good to be true, perhaps you should look elsewhere. I wish you the best of luck in your search!
Martin Whitton is a professional wedding photojournalist who lives and works in Austin, Texas. Email: AustinAmericana@gmail.com