Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sometimes life just gets in the way

We all have lives that we have to attend to, and every artist out there has been through the starving artist time in life; even if only briefly. Starving artist isn't a myth, it's a fact. This is only more apparent in these troubled times and economy, where money that one spends on pleasure rather than necessity runs short. Art is not a necessity, but a pleasure. As such, it is much more difficult to sell, and this is where our starving artists come from.

Knowing this, I definitely did not plan to just live off income from my photography right off the bat--that'd be crazy! It takes time to build up a reputation, and to get your name out on the streets and into the public's mind. So of course, this meant I needed to find something to pay the bills.

Off I went to find a job, and it was actually my belly dance instructor that helped me in to one. Her older sister was the manager of a local bagel shop and was looking for help. Awesome. I was basically hired on the spot, and I didn't look back. Here was a job willing to give me close to 40hrs a week, at pay that was just above minimum wage, and heck, it was a simple job too!

This mentality lasted for about a month. Unfortunately, this job had quite a bit of drama that you were a part of even if you didn't want to be. Because of the drama, we had a high turnover rate. And since I was a supervisor, I had to help the manager make up for all the people who left... meaning one day I'd be working from 5am-1pm, and the next day it might be 10am-6pm. I never was given either an opening or a closing schedule; I was always bouncing around and not able to set into a routine. This severely interrupted my creativity, because I was run down and had no energy for photography. In fact, I pretty much napped the summer away because the job left me so drained.

I decided about a month ago that this just wasn't working. I wasn't able to work on my photography at all, and I definitely wasn't able to promote myself. So I went job hunting.

I ended up much luckier than most in this economy, because one of my friends works for a small company that produces Architectural Signage. So I applied there, was fought over between the office and the shop, and ended up getting hired to work in the shop. This job starts on the 20th, and that means I'll be out of retail for good. It's a M-F 7am-3:30pm position. No more bouncing around a schedule. And I will be trained in a specific skill set, which I'll be able to put on my resume from here on out, just in case.

All in all, it should prove to be a very good move for me. And it will definitely open up far more time for my photography, so look forward to it!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The "Rules" of Photography

We've all heard about the "rules" you're supposed to follow when it comes to taking photos. Anyone who has taken a photography course has probably had the rules drilled into their brains until they can recite them in their sleep. But what exactly are the rules, and do you really have to follow them to get good results?

Rules are things such as:
  • Sunny 16 (f/16 1/125sec for photographing the sun)
  • Catchlights in human eyes
  • Using short lighting
  • Color cast removal
  • Never centering an image
  • Specific uses of light
  • Angle usage

These are just a few examples of things you may have heard of/been taught. And many people probably follow them without a second thought.

The rules aren't so much rules, as they are a foundation though. They're a starting point for learning, on which one can build. Everyone needs to learn and use the rules to start--it's just a good base to get yourself started with. It's a way to see how a photo will be effected by certain elements. And by forcing yourself to use the rules at first, you will learn to be a careful photographer who plans a shot. Planning allows for a finer execution 90% of the time, and can really make the difference in many cases.

Of course, once you have the solid foundation, you have to start building the creativity on top of it.

Photography is nothing but a big experiment. By learning the rules, and using them, you've created a control for yourself; think back to science labs on this one. Now that you have a control, you can start breaking the rules and experimenting to see what works, and what you probably never want to do again. And since you have the control, you'll be able to identify just what it is that's causing the effect you're getting.

For example, the Sunny 16 rule states that when photographing the sun (or moon, since it's a reflection of the sun) you should shoot with an aperture of f/16, and a shutter speed of 1/125 sec. This does indeed produce a crisp sun or moon with no halo. And in some cases, it's a beautiful capture. But maybe you want a gentle gradation and for the sun to really blend into the sky or sunset. You can leave the aperture alone, and try slowing the shutter speed down, or you can leave the shutter speed and open your aperture up more; at least to start. Then maybe you'll stop down or up. The choices are endless, but because you understand what the Sunny 16 does, you'll understand what's going on in your experiments all the more. And for someone who is just starting out in photography and really getting to know their camera, this can be a crucial learning point to really understand what each function does. After all, hands on is usually the best teaching tool!

The other thing we must always bear in mind though, is that the rules came about because they work, and almost always create beautiful imagery so long as the creativity is there. So when people look at your photography, they may be a bit adverse to your experimentation. Don't sweat it. We all have a personal opinion, and everyone has certain things that they just don't like. You're going to meet personal opinions all over the place, and most of the time you just have to let them go.

My suggestion: Don't take the advice unless you hear it from three or more people, or over 50% of the comments echo the same feeling (depending on how many you get). If multiple people feel that you didn't do too well in one aspect, then chances are you could do better. But just one opinion doesn't mean too much a lot of the time. After all, it's only one person.

Why do I say this?

Let me give you an example.

A big thing right now in the world of photography is the use of angles to create interesting views. Photographers all over are tilting their cameras and their photos to come up with more interesting crops. The rules state that you shouldn't do this. Most people out there really enjoy it when this rule is broken though, and so the angles have become quite the fad. Me personally? I usually hate angles. It's not because of the rule, but it's because unless they're done really well, I feel like the subject is falling out of the frame most time.

So if I were to comment on a photo taken that uses the angle idea, I would probably mention that I don't care for the angle much. However, I wouldn't expect that advice to necessarily be taken because the majority of people who left comments will probably love the use of the angle.

Basically, this means when it comes to these "rules", you do need to learn them before you break them. They will be a good foundation on which you can build. Don't get hung-up on them though, because it's the rebellious that get noticed. Use them to find what works for you, get rid of what doesn't, and improve yourself. And don't let anyone's opinion get in your way of this journey because remember, everyone has one and most of them stink.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's a Three-Part Process

Many times, as a photographer, I find that people who are in awe of my photos wonder how someone can learn to see the way I do, and take the shots that I do. And I know I'm not the only photographer who gets this--anyone who has learned the craft and spent years doing so and refining their knowledge does. Granted, I don't have as many years under my belt as some of my fellow photographers, but I can tell you a little bit about how I learned what I know.

Photography, for me, started off as something fun. Like so many out there, I just picked up a camera and went with it. The difference is, I was somewhat selective in the shots I took, and shared. I was no Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz, but I tried. I had no technical skill at all. I set my camera to Aperture Priority, and I ran with it. Mostly because that's what seemed easy to do at the time. And rarely did I change anything except the ISO, because I only had a loose idea of what anything did.

What I did have at this time, back in 2006, was an eye. I saw things that I knew I liked, and I had a vision in my head of what I wanted. I didn't realize how much of this was done out-of-camera, so I never quite achieved it. But I did do a lot of fun things with posing, and just of breaking all the rules--mostly because I didn't know the rules. I had a creative vision, and I had a lot of fun.

When I entered the Hallmark Institute of Photography in the fall of 2007, that changed. Slowly I lost my creativity as I worked to learn all the technical details. And, when I learned the rules I naturally wanted to follow them--all of them. I didn't break the rules, and it wasn't as fun any more. Now I had technically sound photos, but the life and creativity in them just wasn't there as much. I could see it, and it disheartened me a bit. Part of this was because I was trying to do it "right", and a big portion of it was from the stress of the school. I can do well under short bursts of stress, and in fact I often excel in those circumstances, however this was a year of stress and it does take its toll after a while.

So when I left Hallmark the summer of 2008, I had all the knowledge in the world of the technical side of photography. I always properly exposed my images, I knew how to crop them, I had a finer grasp of composition than previously, I understood color theory, and so much more. Photoshop had gone from being an enemy to my best friend, my tablet was now actually an asset, and I had all the makings for starting my own business.

It's been two years since I attended Hallmark. And in those two years I have been on the third part of my journey where I'm slowly combining together the creativity I once had, with the technical skills I recently learned. It's not an easy journey, either, because I am constantly second-guessing myself on whether it's okay to break the rules, and still there are times that I get so caught up in the rules that I forget to try breaking them. But as I watch the work I produce, I see more and more of me in my photos, and less and less of technical knowledge. I know I'm on the right path again, finally.

So if you're an aspiring photographer out there reading this, wondering if you'll have a similar experience, you might. We all have to learn the technical side of photography at some point if we truly want to master the craft. The question is, will you be able to learn the technical side without loosing your creativity to it? It's not a bad thing if you do, as you can see from my experience, but it does mean your process is going to take longer than others perhaps.

Someone once told me, and sadly I am no longer in contact with this person due to the circumstances of life, that "Sometimes, I wish I didn't know all the technical stuff so that I could just shoot. But I'm glad I have it."

How true those words are.

So remember, photography is a journey. No one truly gets it over night, and few are lucky enough to have the talent to just pick up a camera and run with it. It takes time to learn your tools (camera, software, lighting, ect) and time to discover your creativity and where you do best in the world of photography.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Livestream Success! And More...

I'm sorry that I forgot to make a post on here about the Livestream actually happening, but if you follow me on Twitter, then you knew about it. Anyways, the Livestream went off really well this past Tuesday at 6pm EST, and it was a blast! You can still see the videos if you'd like, right here on my channel. I say videos, because there were a few disconnect glitches--one which actually cut off and never returned, even though I thought it had.

Still, it was a lot of fun, and I had a great audience. They were small in numbers, but very lively! I'll definitely be doing another one in the future, and I hope to see you there! The next one will have much more advanced notice, and it will be shorter--much shorter. Only one photo next time, but we'll go right through the entire process again. And someday, I'll do ones for specific techniques I like to use and such. So if there's anything you're curious on that I do (retouching wise), just speak up in my comment box on here and let me know! I'd be glad to cover things you're specifically interested in!

Thanks to the Livestream, I do have some new imagery for you as well! Remember, you can see larger versions of these images on my website!

The first one I have I didn't actually cover in the Livestream. It's something that I created, posted on my DeviantART, and then wasn't sure if I wanted to share it on my main site. After a lot of debate with myself, I decided that I would. It's from when I decided that playing with glitter would be a lot of fun, and hey, why not add some fire too?

I've been told this is a very dreamy image in a way, and a lot of people are very fond of it. What do you think?

These next two images were retouched during the first Livestream and can the processes for each can be seen in their entirety in the videos. Definitely a lot of fun, and I recommend viewing the videos!

This first one stems from my love of glassware, and of putting red against white. There's just something so powerful about that combination, and I use it at every available opportunity. I will have another version of this eventually, but here is the first one. This photo will be made available for purchase in the future, so watch for that as well!

This image is a macro shot that was not planned at all. I've just been enjoying macro photography a lot as of late, and this happened to be the winner out of a lot of failures from that particular photoshoot. You can see all the failures and more in those first Livestream videos, if you're interested! I talk a little bit about why things fail, too, so it's totally human and no ego! A nice change from some of the things you can see out there, I'd think.

All this macro is, is some really funky fabric and awesome eyeshadow I found at Hot Topic. The eyeshadow is fairly untouched, which is why it's so clean--and perfect for macro photography! Enjoy!

This last image is going to be best viewed on my website, because it's a triptych and therefore the details are very small for the blog image. It's definitely worth a larger view though! My model was a good friend of mine, and my sister did the hair and makeup for us. I started retouching a photo from the set that these three came from as a part of the Livestream, but that's where it cut off so you never actually get to see the end. Very sad. Still, I love so many of these images, so you'll definitely see more! Please enjoy!

And remember, view them all larger and better at my website!

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I have a wide network of artistic friends--not just photographers--because I feel we can all learn and share with one another. And it's true, because I often find myself looking at paintings or drawings and sometimes even music videos, and I say to myself, "Wow, the lighting used on that is awesome!" or "I really like that pose!" There are tons of other things I might enjoy too, but those are just a couple of examples. If I'm saying this to myself though, I find a way to save the image, or link, or whatever the case may be; and then I go back to it. I call it my Idea Book, really.

Since I have such a large network, I often hear of cool or interesting ideas they're playing out. One that is huge right now in the anime and manga artist circles are Livestreams. They're live feeds of what the artist is doing at that very moment, and it's popular with fans and aspiring artists because they get to watch how a piece of art is created.

So I thought to myself "Hmm... people are interested in my workflow and retouching techniques, and I'm interested in reaching out to those who admire what I know how to do."

With the push of a couple good friends, I decided that I am going to attempt a Livestream of my digital workflow. It's going to cover the entire process; adding photos to my Lightroom catalog, reviewing images, selecting the best ones, tweaking in Lightroom, retouching in Photoshop, cropping, and probably much more! You name it for the computer, and I'm probably going to cover it--at least for my style.

Some people might say "Well then they won't need you anymore!" and I say so what. Just because I show the process does not mean everyone is going to be able to repeat the steps. I spent a good year learning what I do, and I forgot a lot of it because there was so much information to take in! By no means am I a pro. However, artists work better in a community than in competition; so if I can help just one person get a better understanding of a digital workflow, or help them to decide if they think a program would be a good purchase; then I've done a good thing.

I have no worries about someone "stealing my secrets". There are no secrets. If you look hard enough, you can learn everything that I know. So why should I be worried that someone will steal something? I had to learn it from somewhere too, after all!

The only thing I might be worried about, is that people are going to be able to see all my rejected images, screw ups, and things that you just don't know what the heck I was trying to do. But that's okay too, because no one is perfect. I am not a perfect photographer, and neither is anyone else. I am, however, a strong photographer because I never give up, I never stop practicing, and I always try to do my best.

People deserve to see the truth. And the truth is, 90% of what you photograph you will never use at first, because you're learning. As you start to develop a solid style, you will use more and more of the photographs that you see and/or create. But it's highly unlikely that every photo you take you will use. Art is a constant learning process, and to learn you must make mistakes.

So despite all the "negative" aspects of what could come of a Livestream, I'm going to give it a shot once I have some new imagery. I'm going to let my audience help me to choose some of the images, I'm going to have audio enabled on my end so I can speak and explain as I'm going along, and there will be a chat box on the side for commentary, chatter, and questions.

I think it's going to be a great creative and learning process for both myself, and anyone who decides to view my feed! So if you're interested, please keep an eye on my Twitter or Facebook Fanpage for details on when a Livestream will be hosted! It won't be for a few days, at the most, since I do need to create some new imagery to use in the first one. But I look forward to it when I'm ready!

My Livestream will be located here:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone! In honor of this super green day full of rainbows and pots of gold, I bring you some new photographs! Including one specifically for this day!

As you're about to see, I was playing around more with the macro stuff. I have one re-shot photo that I think you'll enjoy, and two new ones! I definitely feel like I'm getting the hang of this style of photography, and I really hope that you enjoy what I have to share with you!

My biggest problem, definitely, is the fact that I have pretty bad eyes. Sure, they could be a lot worse, but I still have issues with my viewfinder on my camera. Every time I switch which lens I'm using, I need to change the diopter so that I can see if I've got true focus or not. Because of this I've become pretty reliant on auto-focus... but auto-focus doesn't really work as well for macro photography. You really want to have full control with macros, and so I'm running into a few road blocks with it. But, rather than alter the diopter, I'm just learning to see differently. That way I will just get used to it, since this isn't my most-used lens. And if you've ever had to adjust your diopter, you know what I mean when I say it's a pain in the butt!!!

Either way though, the more I use it, the better I'll get at seeing what I'm creating. Eventually, I will just know if I have achieved good focus or not, regardless of if it actually looks sharp through the viewfinder. And maybe someday I'll have the guts to let the optometrist surgeons stick lasers in my eyes to fix my vision... but that's pretty unlikely!

Along with all these new photos, I also updated my website! I had to, because I needed two new galleries, plus I had to add all the photographs! So I bring to you my Origami Project in its own gallery now, and my Macro Photography also has its own gallery! Please enjoy!

And now what you've been waiting for! The photos! Remember, you can view them even larger on my website, here:

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rediscovering an Old Friend

Five years ago I was a film photographer... student. I was in high school, and I was using a Nikon N75 for my b+w photography class. My parents got the camera for me only after all other options were ruled out, and we paid a smooth $250 for it at Ritz Camera.

It came with this cute little Quantaray 28-90mm lens, with macro capabilities at 90mm. Back in that high school photography class, I often wondered what that macro thing was, and just never bothered to ask. I was having too much fun with the projects.

After that class it went in my closet, and wasn't heard from again until I let a friend borrow it for the same class. Came back home in perfect condition, and back in the closet it went. That was about two years ago.

I recently thought to ask about the lens though, and if you could take a lens from a film camera and use it on a digital one. Felt kind of like an idiot for asking, but hey, I only know how to use a lens, not too much of the hardware. The answer was how I thought though--yes, I could.

So I dug out the N75, and I switched that Quantaray from the N75 to the D200, and went to town.

I have been itching to do macro for a while now, and wishing I had the thousand some-odd dollars for a beautiful macro lens to do it with. I've been trying to fudge it with what I have at low apertures, and in very few cases it kind of worked. But after my failed water drop stuff, I realized I really needed the macro lens.

Do you know how badly I wanted to put my head through a wall for being so dense to not have thought about my old N75 until now? Wow... I've had a macro lens collecting dust in my closet for five years.

Playing with it tonight was euphoric, to say the least.

Here are my results, re-shooting will be coming up after some feedback. Enjoy! And don't be afraid to leave me some comments and critiques! You can view more of my photography at

This was the first shot. The focus is definitely a bit off, but I really loved the idea and the angle, so I included it. It is going to be re-shot.

I had forgotten I had these little daisy buttons... until tonight. I really loved how it "reflected" on the fabric, but I need to re-shoot it with some better focus as well. Still, the concept makes me smile and I wanted to share it.

Looking at this shot makes me smile... a lot. I totally planned this, and pushed colour theory as far as I could.

For this, I had a broken bead and some interesting fabric. I think I'm going to re-shoot it and try to adjust the focus a bit, but I still really like this shot as it is as well.