Aug 22, 2011

5 tips for better beach photos

I have been fielding a lot of questions lately about shooting on the beach, which I do a LOT of all year round.  Since I live in a beach town most of my clients are either locals for whom the beach is a natural setting for family portraits... or they are tourists from other states who want to remember their visit to the Atlantic Ocean.  Either way, they want beautiful images that can bring them back to that amazing time on the beach... the sound of the waves... the sunsets... running bare foot in the sand. 

The beach presents many challenges to the photographer.  First and most obvious - it is BRIGHT.  While light is the most important thing to consider in any kind of photography, you CAN have too much of a good thing... which brings me to my first tip:

1.   Shoot during "golden hour"... that hour or so before sunset.  If you MUST shoot before then, try to find some kind of shade, whether from a building, a pier, or anything else you can find.  If there is no shade, you can use a scrim (this will require an assistant, or a willing client to hold it).  Or you can do what I do in a pinch, as in this image, and position another person between your subject and the sun. 

In this case, baby's mom was sitting at the baby's right shoulder (camera left) both to block the sun and to "spot" this little guy who was just starting to sit upright.  But look how beautiful and soft the light looks!  Had mom not been there the right side of his face would have been too bright, and the left too dark.

Ok... so you've got your clients at the beach and there's about an hour and a half before the sun sets... where do you start? 

2.   Think backlight...backlight... backlight!  I always try to start the shoot with my subject's back to the sun.  If I'm shooting a family, this is when I try to get some nice group shots while everyone is still relatively clean and dry... because believe me as you get into the shoot that will change very rapidly!  Shooting into the sun does not have to be difficult.  I use my in camera meter, set to center weighted, and get nice and close to one person and meter off of their skin.  I then take my position and start shooting, regardless of the fact that my meter is now screaming at me that I've got it all wrong!  Remember, the meter is going to try to expose for all that bright sun in front of you, causing your subjects faces to become horribly underexposed.  So once you've metered for the subjects face and you've set your camera you can ignore the meter until the light changes.  Here are a few examples...

You can also capture some beautiful sun flare using this method!  Such as this one...

Your clients are going to want images of them with the water as a backdrop as well, which leads us to the next tip:

3.   Save the "water shots" until the sun is very very low on the horizon, or has set behind any buildings.  Here's an example of one taken when the sun has almost set:

See how nice and even the light is, and how it has that beautiful golden glow?  Its also a lot more comfortable for your subjects to look at you without having to squint! 

Now, if you're lucky enough to have a cloudy day - that's great!  But you still need to keep in mind where your light is coming from.  If the light is overhead, even though it is softened by cloud cover, your subject's eyes will be dull and lifeless... not to mention the racoon eyes! 

Now this is by no means a comprehensive tutorial on how to handle this kind of lighting... there are other ways to deal with it such as off camera flash... but that is for another day!

4.  Choose your beach wisely!   Last week I had a shoot where I obviously did not choose my beach very wisely.  It was overcrowded, and there was litter strewn everywhere.  On the plus side, there was plenty of shade from the buildings on the boardwalk, and there were some palm trees... something not often seen in New Jersey!  So we made the best of it... we used the shade and the palms to get some nice family shots with some tropical flair...

I did the best I could to avoid the garbage in the images, but I did have to do bit of cloning on some images. 

5.  Go with the flow and be prepared for anything!  During that same shoot, perhaps 15 minutes into it, the littlest one got knocked over by a wave.  Thankfully I came prepared with a blanket we used to dry him off, and again we made the most of it and just stripped him down to his diaper.  To be quite honest, I prefer the shots of him shirtless! 

Its a good idea to advise your subjects before the shoot to bring towels and a change of clothes!

I hope these tips will help you improve your photos next time you're on the beach, or in any other harsh lighting condition!

Aug 16, 2011

Spotlight on... Terry McKaig Photography!

I'm super excited about this spotlight interview!!!  I have been a HUGE fan of Terry McKaig's gorgeous photography for years.  She is such an inspiration to me.  When I finally "met" her on a forum we are both members of I was so excited - and definitely a bit intimidated given her amazing talent.  But she is such a sweet, down to earth kinda girl... and I'm happy to now be able to call her my friend.  So, if haven't seen Terry's work, you're in for a real treat today!  

Tell us where you live?  What do you love about living there?

I live in sunny Arizona……..Peoria to be exact.  Peoria is a suburb of Phoenix on the Northwest side of the valley.  The people are very friendly here and when it gets hot for the few months out of the year we can be at the beach in California in about 5.5 hours or up in the mountains in 2 hours.  The desert is gorgeous and I love the sun… makes me happy…….all of that vitamin D I suppose!! : )

Describe your photography style.

I would describe my photography style as chic, modern and stylized. Magazine style comes to mind as well.  I come from an interior design background and love to stylize a session when my client is up for it.

How did you get started in Photography?

I got started in photography when my husband and I started traveling to New England in the fall to experience the beautiful fall colors and small, quaint towns in Vermont that seem to have not changed in the last 80 years!  I wanted a “good camera” so I could take “good pictures”.  Boy was I in for an education about photography.  Having a good camera will no more produce amazing images than a high end oven/stove will give you a gourmet meal but that is another subject all together!

After learning landscape and macro photography and learning about my “good camera”, I started photographing models and seniors.  I now primarily photograph engagements and weddings but will photograph seniors and families now and then.

Do you shoot professionally?  Describe what you do and why?

Yes, I am a professional photographer.  I love to make people feel beautiful or handsome and for them to have an amazing photography experience with me on their wedding day or for any given photo session.  My goal is for my clients to have images that are works of art, not just pictures that they will cherish for the rest of their lives. When they see their images and feel beautiful and confidant in who they are and the images bring about emotion that they will want to see and experience over and over………..that is amazing!!  Just a few days ago a mom of a bride said to me, “you made my daughter look and feel beautiful and even though we have always told her how beautiful she is her entire life, for the first time in her life, I think she believes it” 
That is what I do and why!  :  )

What’s in your bag and what one piece of equipment could you absolutely not live without?

I’m a canon shooter.  I have two camera bodies on me while shooting.  One 5D Mk II and one regular 5D.  Normally the 24-70 is on the Mk II and the 70-200 on the 5D.  I also have the 35mm in my bag for portraits, 50mm for getting ready images and the 100 mm macro for detail images.  I also have two 580EX II flashes and Radio Poppers for my OCF (off camera flash) along with a Sunbounce reflector for natural light.

My go to lens is the 24-70mm lens with the 70-200 being a close second.

What is your best post processing tip?

While developing your own processing style, learn enough along the way to make your own actions. It will save you a lot of cash and the knowledge you gain is priceless.  Lighting is everything, not only in design but also in post processing.    

Was there ever an “aha’ moment when you knew you had found your photographic voice?

When I stopped letting fear have influence in my photography experience…….my photographic voice came to the surface.  Fear stifles creativity and does not allow the freedom you need to have a voice.  Once the fear is gone…….amazing things happen!

What is your best advice for those who are new to photography?

Photograph what makes you happy, be original in that expression.

If you could spend your life doing anything you wanted to do with no financial concerns, what would it be?

Probably nothing very different than what I’m doing now, I enjoy my life and consider myself very blessed.

What inspires you?

Nature inspires me.  The beauty that surrounds us each and everyday is amazing.  It gives me the energy and joy to be creative.

Show us your favorite image made by you.

It was pretty much impossible to pick a favorite image. My favorite images end up being the last images from the the most recent engagement or wedding I photographed, then the next engagement or wedding images are my favorites........I wonder if that is weird? Anyway, I blew this one up big to show clients, so It must be a fave!! : )

Thank you so much Terry for inspiring us with your incredible artistry!  Be sure to check out Terry's website at the link above, and leave her some love here in the comments!

Aug 10, 2011

So you think you're ready to "go pro"?

Think again.

"But I've got a great camera, and my family and friends LOVE my pictures!"

We've all been there.  You want to make some extra dough and photography seems an easy way to make a few bucks.  But before you consider hanging out your shingle, please consider what it really means to be a professional photographer.  A nice camera is just one teeny tiny factor.  Do you know that camera inside and out?  Do you understand how to shoot that camera in full manual mode and do you understand the exposure triangle?  Do you even know what an exposure triangle is?  Do you understand good composition?  Posing? Do you have an understanding of light, and how to best light your client for the most flattering portrait?  Do you understand how to use a flash?  (and not the pop up on your camera... if you're using that you have NO business calling yourself a photographer!) No?  Ohhhhh but you're a "natural light" photographer!!!  Dont even get me started.  You may PREFER natural light... who doesnt???  BUT, if you are going to put yourself out there as a pro, what do you tell your clients when your "great camera" cant go over ISO 800 without your images becoming a gritty mess?  Are you really going to try to shoot an evening wedding without knowing how your flash works and how to balance flash and ambient light?  And while we're on the subject of weddings... do you have backup equipment?  Please please please don't even THINK about it unless you've got at minimum a backup body and flash, and a good supply of lenses!  Murphy's law tells us that if you don't, your camera will choose that particular day to die.  It happens... don't think for one second you can get by without backup equipment.  These are moments that this couple cannot get back... you MUST be prepared!!! 

Can you figure out how to make this happen?  This is a balance of ambient (sunset) and flash...

So, have I scared you yet?  Good!  You need to be a little scared.  Are you legitimate?  Are your business ducks all in a row?  You need to register your business and pay your taxes.  You also need to know how to price your photography.  There are plenty of resources out there to help you figure that out.  Check out Served Up Fresh to learn how to get all your business ducks in a row and properly price your photography.  You can also check out forums such as I Love Photography  where you can have some real pros critique your work and help you learn the ins and outs of being a professional photographer. 

Check out Improve Photography, for a great article "20 Myths About Becoming A Pro Photographer (And their Solutions!).  There are loads of resources out there, many of them free, that will help you become a better photographer and business person.  Take advantage of it and LEARN before you decide to go pro!

I hope that as "That Pixel Chick" grows it will become a great resource for you as well... and we will certainly be delving deeper into the points I've made above.  Becoming a photographer doesn't happen overnight simply because you bought a kick-ass camera!  A great photographer can make a beautiful photo with a toy camera.  Remember the camera does not make you a photographer!   Please check out You Are Not A Photographer.  If you see work on there that looks a bit like yours, then you really need to step back and LEARN the craft before you start charging people. 

I would love to hear from others on this subject... please feel free to leave your comments here on the blog!

Aug 8, 2011

Spotlight on ... Cindy Harter Photography!

Cindy Harter-Sims is a very dear friend of mine.  Despite the fact that we have never met in person, we have spoken, encouraged, taught, cried and laughed together virtually every day for the last five or so years.  So although we have never been in the same room together, we are nonetheless the closest of friends and I simply adore everything about her!  We met as part of a Yahoo! group of photographers who came together to learn this crazy obsession together around 2006.  That larger group has since disbanded, but a core group of 8 of us remain together to this day.  That group has been one of the biggest blessings of my life and I love each one of my girls dearly.  

Cindy has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know... and it shows in every bit of her work. She is an amazing woman and artist... come meet her and see for yourself!

Cindy Harter

Hi Cindy!  Tell us where you live?

I live in Cartersville, Ga.  It is a small town about 40 minutes northwest of Atlanta.

What do you love about living there?

I live in a small southern town that is filled with artistic people.  This town really appreciates the arts.  We have museums, potters, painters, musicians, actors and many who are big fans of the art world. It's perfect for me!

Describe your photography style.

I feel so passionate about what I do and why I do it.
My photography style is one of describing the connections between people.  I hope that when a viewer looks at my work, they can feel how the subjects feel for each other.  It blesses me to be able to create a hard copy image of how people feel about the love in their lives. I believe that a having a special image in your house, that reminds you that the people in your family truly LOVE you, can change how you live out your day.  I love being a part of that!

How did you get started in photography?

My story is a journey of understanding connections between people.  I have five grown children, so I always understand the bond between a momma and her kids, but I didn't have a romantic love connection for myself.  I knew what it looked like and longed for it in my own life.  After a divorce, I began shooting other people's families, hoping to show a family the gift they had in each other so they would appreciate each other and stay together.  I truly thought the closest I would ever get to a love story was to photograph other people. Thankfully, other people responded to the message I was saying through my pictures. My business began growing, and it is beyond anything I could have imagined for my life.  Not only has my work brought people together, but I have been blessed to find contentment in my work by knowing I am doing something good. AND God sent me the right man, so I have also have my own love story.  I keep going on this journey with the excitement of not knowing what is around the next corner!  I can't wait to see where my life story goes and would love to have you go with me.

Do you shoot professionally?

Yes. Yay!!!  (Cindy recently opened a beautiful new studio in Cartersville!)

Describe what you do and why.

I have always had a gift of being able to read the dynamics in relationships without knowing the person really well.  I always thought my gift was so that I knew how to pray for others.  I still believe it is helpful in knowing how to pray for someone, but I now realize that it goes much farther than that. My journey was all leading up to this place and this job!  When I meet a family, I know who is in pain and why, and I can feel who needs to spend more time with who and who needs to be touched more by whom. I take those needs into account and choreograph a session that shows each person what they need to see. Then, the DVD slideshow reinforces that message. I talk a lot about the gifts they all have in each other during the session.  I am an expert in longing for love and am the biggest fan of appreciating the love you have.  It is easy for me to communicate this during a session and most couples and families really understand how precious the people around them are, after our time together. When they see their pictures, they see the love they already have and begin that awesome journey of thankfulness.
 I had a session with a family where I felt the dad was spending way too much time with his work, and just needed to be reminded of his blessings, by making his kids laugh and making his wife smile.  I created an environment where I captured that in a picture and when he saw his final images and heard the music with the DVD slideshow he called me right after crying ... All he could say was "my girls, those are my girls ".  I knew I had done exactly what I had set out to do!  I knew they would all cling to each other a little closer, and that is something that a special picture can remind you to do!  How awesome to play a part in making that happen :)

What’s in your bag, and what one piece of equipment could you absolutely not live without?

I have 2 5D Mark II's and 2 Cannon 580ex speedlights. I don't want to live without my 24-70 2.8 lens, most of my work is done with that lens. Other lenses include 16-35 2.8, 50 1.4, 100 2.8, 70-200 2.8, 15mm fisheye,  2 Alien B800's and 2 medium soft boxes. I also have reflectors and a studio full of chairs, fabrics, and other fun stuff.

What is your best post-processing tip?

Get the exposure and crop perfect when you take the pic, so that you have minimal work afterward.

Was there ever an “aha” moment when you knew you had found your photographic voice?

The first time someone responded emotionally with an image of mine and they "got the message", I knew I was doing something good. Now I am an addict!  I admit it!  

What is your best advice for those who are new to photography?

Practice!  Learn everything you can!  Do not hang a shingle until you have a professional understanding of exposure and how to paint with light.

If you could spend your life doing anything you wanted to do with no concern for money, what would it be?

I would be doing THIS!!!

What inspires you?

Seeing love and connections between people.

Show us your favorite image taken by you
This is probably my favorite image I've ever taken.  These precious babies were five days old, and I wanted a fresh take on a daddy and his boys.

Thank you so much Cindy for sharing your talent and vision here on the blog!!!  Be sure to leave Cindy some love in the comments!  ;)

Aug 5, 2011

Where children sleep...

I was incredibly moved by this photo project by James Mollison, a documentary photographer and wanted to share it with you all.  Where Children Sleep  is a look at children all over the world and the diversity of their lives and living conditions.  I highly suggest checking it out and looking at all of the images full sized if you can.  The power of a photograph never ceases to amaze me. 

Aug 4, 2011

5 ways to improve your photos right now...

For those just starting out, I thought it would be fun to put together a list of things you can do right now to instantly improve your photography...

1.  Get closer!!!  This is one of the easiest things you can to to make a more compelling portrait.  Go ahead, fill the frame with your subject!  Put the focus on the eyes and draw your viewer right in.

2.  Leave some negative space.  Negative space can help draw the viewers attention to your subject, and make for a more dynamic composition.

3.   Lead them with lines!  Use lines to lead the viewers eye to your subject.

4.  Frame 'em!  Use your surroundings to find natural "frames" for your subjects...

5.  Shoot from above... or below!   Create a more interesting image simply by changing your viewpoint!

Try some of these tips today and see how quickly you can transform your ordinary snapshots into images that wow!

Aug 2, 2011

Reader Photo of the Day!

Couldnt resist posting this one from This Day Photography

I love everything about this one!  To have your own photo considered for Photo of the Day, be sure to "like" That Pixel Chick on Facebook and post them to our wall!  We love to see your photos!!!

Aug 1, 2011

Spotlight on.... Laura Zimmerman! | Iphoneography

I dont have an iphone... though I sure wish I did!  I've noticed all the seriously cool photos being posted on facebook and whatnot taken by iphones and have been intrigued... to say the least!  Photographer Laura Zimmerman contacted me recently in response to my call for submissions to tell me about her obsession with iphoneography.  Her photos were so fabulous that I asked her to speak here on the blog!  So without further adieu...

Name: Laura Zimmerman
Website or blog:
Instagram: LauraZim 

How did you get started in photography? 

I got my first SLR when my first daughter was born. I didn’t want to let any moment of my children’s first years go unrecorded, and have been shooting ever since. It’s been just within the last few years that I’ve gotten more serious about it.

As far as my start in iphoneography, I am always looking at photo sites, and this past spring I saw a reference to Instagram, which is the gorilla of iphoneography apps. It’s both a filtering (photo effects) app as well as a photo sharing app. I downloaded the free app and was hooked immediately. People from all over the world upload photos to Instagram as they go about their day. Not only do I get to see great photos, they are of everyday life in places like Moscow, Japan, Hong Kong, northern Scotland, Malaysia -- places I may never get to visit.

Do you shoot professionally?  Describe what you do and why.

 I do shoot professionally. I photograph mostly graduating seniors and some families. I got started about three years ago when a friend of mine asked me to shoot her daughter’s senior pictures. From there, it grew by word of mouth. I also do some art shots that I sell at a local art gallery.

For those who may never have heard the term, what exactly is iphoneography?

Iphoneography is the capturing and editing of photos, all with the iphone. There are dozens, if not hundreds of iphone apps for this, from capturing to editing.


What do you do with the images you take on your iphone?  Can they be printed and how big?

The main thing I do with the images is to share them on Instagram with other iphoneographers. I also have them on my website for sale. Although the native iphone resolution is high, after going through filtering, the resolution is often reduced by quite a bit, but you can get a nice 5x5 print out of them. (Instagram uses a square crop, even though iphone pictures are rectangular.) I have enough now that I plan on printing some for the art gallery, as well as making greeting cards.

What are some of your favorite iphone filters or effects?

I love Dynamic Light, which is an HDR (High Dynamic Range) app that has a lot of neat effects. One of the effects gives a softness to photos that I really like. I also have been using SwankoLab, Camera+ and qbro quite a bit. I just downloaded Iris and the early results are promising! I often like to layer effects, sometimes using up to three different apps to get the look I want.

What else is in your bag, and what one piece of equipment could you absolutely not live without?

Amazingly, there is actually a macro lens for iphones. It’s only $20 and you can get it on You attach it with a magnet and the quality is simply stunning. But otherwise, I think that is one of the huge draws of iphoneography -- it’s just you and the iphone and a handful of apps. And the real advantage is that I may not have my camera with me, but I always have my iphone!


Was there ever an “aha” moment when you knew you had found your photographic voice?

 After I joined Instagram, I was always looking for things during my day to share and so I started to look around me in a different way, a more creative way. It made me realize just how much art there is in everyday things. I’ve become aware of naturally-occurring patterns, leading lines, reflections, silhouettes and shadows -- my favorite compositional elements -- as well as how the light interplays with them. Since Instagram, I can’t even go to the grocery store without looking for those things. My kids are even starting to pick up on it: “Look, Mom! There’s repetition in those coffee bins!!”

What is your best advice for those who are new to photography?

Take a class. Once I learned the relationship between aperature, shutter speed and ISO and how you could change them to get different effects, it opened up a whole new world for me. Also, look at other photographers’ work. See how others use light and compose a shot and how you might want to apply that to your own work.

If you could spend your life doing anything you wanted to do with no concern for money, what would it be?

 This is a fun question – but truly, when all is said and done, I love spending time with my family, traveling a bit, shooting portraits a bit, and doing iphoneography every day. I wouldn't change a thing!

Show us your favorite image taken with your iphone.

With this photograph, everything comes into play that I look for – light, shadows, patterns, leading lines. We were on a train trip and stopped at a depot in Oregon. We had a little time to explore the area and this bridge was over the tracks. When we climbed the stairs to the bridge and I saw the gorgeous light and shadowing and patterns, it stopped me in my tracks. It was a bonus that an elderly couple was making their way across the bridge. Fortunately, I had my iphone with me!!  

 Wow... seriously cool images right???  Thank you so much Laura for sharing your amazing "iphoneography" with us here on the blog!  Be sure to leave Laura some love in the comments... and check out the rest of her work at the links above!
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