FAQ : Reader Questions, III

Photography

Today I realized I was abnormal. No, no. I knew I was abnormal (freckle-faced, vegetarian, laughs too loudly, who says inappropriate things at inappropriate times), but today it was confirmed. After visiting the seamstress for jean alterations (I’m a little on the leprechaun side), she told me one leg was longer than the other. Awesome. Add this to my laundry list of my funk in the trunk and I’m a hot mess. I should write JD a thank you letter for EVERYDAY he remains by my side.

Because me and my short leg are in a working mood, we’ve decided to answer a few questions for a FAQ Post. And I know I say this every time I answer questions, but it bears repeating: If this post helps just ONE person, then I’m stoked. I don’t think I’m a sage, a guru, or a know-it-all. These responses are merely MY responses and I don’t think they’re particularly good…they’re just honest and I hope they help!

Chris asked:
I have this burning question on backlighting that you do so well. I have practiced, practiced, and practiced but still get dull and hazy images. I know everybody does some PS post production but how can I get a decent shot SOOC and do very little tweeking? What is your method? Camera settings? Metering?

This may be a difficult question to answer, but if dull and hazy images are consistent, I’m guessing it may be an issue with exposure and light management. I’d strongly suggest shooting manually, keeping your iso as low as possible, metering precisely and shooting with a wide aperture. More than anything, practicing is what will cause a significant change. When you practice outside the realm of a legit shoot (like, say, photographing your kids, dog, or Pez dispenser collection), you have the freedom to experiment and, well, fail. I learn the most when I make mistakes…and I made a TON when I first started. The more I practiced on my own, however, the more I realized what I needed to do to make my photos decent straight out of the camera.

Kristen asked:
How do you master the “colored vignette”? I’ve tried several things and can’t get it right…

To be honest, I have yet to master anything in my life. Well, I’ve mastered the Art of Eating Into Oblivion, but that’s a whole other post!
Because I frequently shoot wide open, a natural vignette is easier to achieve. I enhance the natural vignette with the burn tool in Photoshop, set at a low opacity (around 20-30%) and slightly burn the edges. I definitely shy away from black or dark vignettes as they look so artificial…kind of like an old Western picture. Without the horse and gun.

Andrea asked:
I am in the 2 year of my business “officially.” I am wondering how did you drum up advertising, or how did you advertise in your first year of business to make it a success?

To be honest, I didn’t drum up anything my first year of business. Except for Drumstick ice cream. I was all over Drumstick ice cream my first year of business as it helped bury the ups and downs of starting a business. Ice cream makes everything better. Everything.
The only advertising that’s occurred since the inception of my business has been Word of Mouth from my clients and their friends and family. I’ve never paid for a print ad or any other form of formal advertising…partially because in the beginning, I just didn’t have the luxury of doing so. When my business grew without advertising, I never felt the urge to pursue a different avenue.
The main component of my business growth was using online slideshows I created with Showit Web. I’d make (and still do!) online slideshows for my clients, and they’d send the link to their friends and family showing off their good looks and fabulousness. The slideshows–essentially–become a Jasmine Star commercial starring THEM! This is a true win-win for my beautiful clients and my burgeoning business! These slideshows have become the backbone of my business and I gain no greater pleasure than seeing my clients show off their photos via their slideshow!
If you’d like a discount for Showit Web, type in STAR at checkout and you’ll receive $50 off! Start making some commercials and you’ll see your business grow simply from caring and loving your clients!

Kevin asked:
I know you get a lot of technical questions all the time but i want to ask…because you shoot wide open a lot of the time, do you not get a lot of focus photos because your subject moves of what not? What’s your shooting technique in getting sharp images wide open. I know you mentioned Kubota’s sharpening before but what is it that you do? AI Servo? Center focus point only? I am always afraid of shooting wide open when I am at a distance.

Like most other photographers, I do get out of focus images, but I don’t think I get an over abundance of poorly focused images because I shoot wide open. I shoot in One Shot mode, and rotate my focus points. I know it goes without saying, but I always focusshoot…focusshoot….focusshoot. I focus in between frames because everything happens so fast. My focal point is always on the subject’s eye.
If my subject is walking or running, I still focusshoot…focusshoot on her eye, but I’m panning the camera along with her. As in, I do whatever I can to ensure the focal point remains where it’s supposed to.

Michele asked:
I’d love to have a mentor, but many people have told me that this business is very cut throat and most photographers are reluctant to have a student because they fear that they will leave and take their clients and become competition. What would you suggest? Should I approach a local photographer?

I often get asked how to procure a mentor. To be honest, I have no idea. What I do know, however, is making friends and genuinely caring for people has moved my business in a far better direction than had I spent my time trying to find someone to help me. Early on, when I realized established photographers weren’t into the business procuring mentees (understandably so!), I looked for ways to help others. If I saw another photographer in need of something, I’d do everything in my power to do it for him or her. For example, when I heard Mike Colon needed an article written for his business, I offered to write it for him. I had contacted Mike six or seven months earlier to see if we could meet, but I didn’t hear anything from him (again, understandably so!). When I offered to write the article, Mike invited me to his studio and we spent the afternoon talking about life and business. Helllllllo! It wasn’t until I helped another person that I realized I could then ask for help.
I firmly believe this is a general rule of thumb for life. Help others, and help will also come your way!

And because every post is better with a picture, here’s a snapshot of Polo this morning. He thinks he’s so high-class since he was groomed last week. Just this morning he put on his scarf before our walk and was all, I’m ready for my close-up…and I’ll take an extra belly rub after my manicure. That’ll be all.

I’ve created a monster.