THE INTERNET MACHINEA few ideas on getting your brand out there, and how to keep in touch with your fans
TIPS FOR TRAVELThoughts from my trip to Peru to help you with your travels
SHOOTING INTO THE SUNGet a grip on backlit situations
EMBERBehind the scenes with one of L.A.s most forward thinking jewelry companies
Welcome to Ninety-Two.
As a photographer, there are
two things I hold in high regard. The
first is shooting personal work; taking some
time away from doing paid work and allowing
room for error. Shoot anything you have been
wanting to and work your creative muscles.
The second thing is giving back to the photo
community. I have learned so much from the
photographers I look up to and I want to be
able to pass that on. Ninety-Two is my yearly
magazine put out at the end of summer to
display the personal work I shot and to share
tips and tutorials with the photo community.
It will only contain images taken within the
ninety-two days of summer.
Kick back and enjoy.
MORNING LIGHTReasons to get your butt out of bed
SHOOTING BACKLITUsing the sun and getting a grip on backlit situations
EMBERBehind the scenes with one of L.A.'s most forward thinking jewelry companies
ONLINE PRESENCEWhy and how to carry your brand through the internet machine
TESTINGWhy unpaid personal shoots can pay off, and how to properly set them up
TEN TIPS FOR TRAVELThoughts from my travelsto Peru to help you withyour travels
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There is something to be said for morning light. It seems like the sun would shine the same on the way up as it does on the way down, but the morning light is just so cool and soft in comparison to the light of the afternoon.
If you have the goal of shooting for
publications you will need to train yourself to shoot vertically. It
seems like it might be a simple thing to do but it is a bigger
switch than you think. The more you practice
it, the better you will be and the more comfortable you will
feel doing it.
5d II + 35mm 1.4 L1/400
Ninety Two 1 / 2
Since I tend to shoot in the afternoon a lot I decided
to do a few morning shoots this summer and after
each one I was always so glad I woke up early. My
favorite thing about Florida mornings is that the
haze is still out, adding a lot to the atmosphere and
taking a lot of the contrast out of the background.
This allows the subject in the foreground to really
pop. Its that same haze that makes the sunlight
softer when it breaks the horizon. The softer light
takes away the worry of harsh shadows and will give
you some different looks when shooting backlit.
While afternoon light will give you harder sun flare
when shooting backlit, the early morning the haze
makes the sun flare into more of a sun wash. I
love both results, but for different reasons. The
afternoon light always gives me great shots when
I am looking to portray that easy-going, summer-
fun style because it gives a much more dynamic
flare. The dynamic flare creates a sense of action
and movement. That combined with some laughing
models can create a strong lifestyle image.
The morning light is great for editorial and softer
fashion work because of the peaceful atmosphere
that the haze provides.
I love the editorial feel to this shot and the way the softer
morning sun doesnt give off any harsh
flare. To give this shot more of a morning
feel I brought out the blues in the shadows.
Typically, morning light is a lot cooler (color-
wise) than the late afternoon light.
5d II + 35mm 1.4 L1/400
Ninety Two 3 / 4
I set up this shoot because I wanted some swimsuit
shots in my portfolio that arent lifestyle but also
dont come across as sexual. Let Talk about this
shoot specifically. Why this location? Why this
model? Why the one piece? I wanted it to feel less
like a sports illustrated shot and more like an
editorial shot. Even though there were a few things
I wanted to focus on this summer they all were
driven by the same idea. I feel comfortable with
my skills when it comes to shooting late afternoon
happy lifestyle work but I wanted to branch out.
While it is extremely important to have a solid and
recognizable style, it is also important to allow
yourself the freedom to experiment. If you arent
pushing yourself then you will never get past the
level that you are at right now. After doing a few fun
lifestyle shoots early in the summer I tried to shift
my focus towards things I dont usually do.
If you are going to follow my advice on branching
out, it is a pretty simple process. The first thing I
did is thought about why I wanted to try different
things. Is it because I am not happy with the style
I have developed? Am I bored with what I shoot?
The truth is that I love my style and I always have
a blast shooting lifestyle. The reason I wanted to
experiment is because I want to let my brain work a
little more and I want to have a photographic style
that comes through in more than just one shooting
style. By that I mean that my I want my work to
be recognizable as Ben Sasso wether it is lifestyle,
fashion, editorial or even video. That is why I spent
a large portion of this summer shooting anything
other than smiling afternoon lifestyle.
While it is extremely important to have a solid and recognizable
style, it is also important to allow yourself the freedom to experiment. If you arent pushing yourself then
you will never get past the level that you are at right now.
Since Haley has killer freckles I wanted to do a few shots that emphasize them. I wet down her hair in order to make it darker because I knew that would make her freckles pop. In post I also bumped up the sharpness on her skin to bring them out even more.
The lens I shot this with is all manual focus which is always fun to shoot. There is something about it that makes you appreciate photography more. Just like shooting with film, shooting manual focus really makes you slow down and think more about what you are doing.
Left5d II + 45mm 2.8 ts-e1/250f/2.8ISO 640
Below5d II + 35mm 1.4 L1/800f/2.2ISO 160
5 / 6
I love these boulders. They give a great texture but still have a subtle enough color that they arent distracting or overpowering. I shot this right when the sun was coming up and since it was still hazy out the light was soft enough to not cast any harsh shadows on Haley.
5d II + 35mm 1.4 L1/400f/2ISO 320
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5d II + 35mm 1.4 L1/400
Ninety Two 9 / 10
If you want to be a solid photographer, you need to understand light and how to use it.
Longer lenses like the one used for this photo will give large washed out
flare like the rings towards the bottom of the image.
Depending on your settings and how strong the sun is
you can get a beautiful mix of looks with a lens like
this. The sun for this photo was just behind Prestons face so I hid it, focused, recomposed and shot.
5d II + 85mm 1.2L II1/2500f/2.0
Ninety Two 11 / 12
When shooting into the sun with a wider lens you will see smaller artifacts of flare like the ones on his neck and stomach. Wider lenses can give you dynamic images and a good flare can add a lot to that.
5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/1600f/1.8ISO 160
Lighting is key. If you want to be a solid photographer
you need to understand light and how to control it.
It is something that can solidify a photographers
style or put them on the map as someone who still
has some learning to do. Among the many lighting
techniques I see and use, shooting into the sun
has always been a favorite of mine. My love for the
technique was brought about by the imperfections
and happy accidents caused by the sun hitting the
lens. Over time I have grown to appreciate it for its
ability to be specifically manipulated. Depending on
the lenses used, the time of day, and the personality
of the subject, back lighting can give you anything
from a dynamic summer lifestyle shot to a peaceful
On most occasions, I prefer even lighting on my
subjects which means I shoot with my subjects
face either fully in the sun or fully in the shade. The
trouble with shooting an evenly lit photo is that if
it isnt done properly the photo can easily lose its
strength. To bring back a dynamic feeling to the
image I use the sun and the artifacts it can create
when it hits the lens. The trick with shooting into the
sun is learning how to show the power and beauty of
the sun while preserving the details you want to in
your images. One of the most common mistakes that
photographers make when starting to shoot into the
sun is exposing for the sky instead of their subject.
This leaves the subject underexposed and less of
a focal point. I hardly ever worry about blowing
out the sky because the details I want are on the
subject. What I aim for is the limit right before I blow
out the highlights on my subject. Even if you are
shooting RAW you will not be able to get back blown
out details in post because the image data simply
will not be there. A good way to find that limit is to
turn on the highlight alert on your camera. Every
camera has a different way to turn it on which can
be found online or in the camera manual without
much trouble. The highlight alert will tell you where
you have lost details due to over exposure in your
image. Every pixel on your image that has lost detail
will flash on your LCD screen. If you see flashing
pixels on your subject, dial down the exposure to the
point right before it starts to flash. This way if you
choose to push it farther in post, you still can but
the details will remain in your image either way.
Ninety Two 13 / 14
HAVE THE SUN EITHER PEEKING IN FROM THE VERY EDGE OF THE FRAME OR HAVE IT JUST PEEKING OUT FROM BEHIND THE SUBJECT.
5d II + 85mm 1.2L II1/800
Now that you are shooting away, dont be discouraged
when you are getting shots that look washed out.
Shooting into the sun can give you stunning results
but you usually need to pull them into post for a bit
of work to get them there. The two biggest things
you will notice once you are working with them on
your computer is that they are washed out and not
vibrant. Worry about vibrance and saturation last
because when you fix the contrast you will find
that the saturation is often fixed with it. Bringing
back contrast to an image is pretty simple. You can
either do it through levels in Photoshop or through
your contrast and blacks sliders in Lightroom or
whichever program you are working in. For a bit more
punch you can bring up the clarity or sharpness until
you are satisfied. After doing this and working with
the temperature of the photo a bit you may find that
the saturation is already back to where you want it.
Obviously processing will vary from image to image,
but unless you like washed out photos you can
expect to do this to the majority of what you shoot.
Something you will learn pretty quickly is that every
lens handles the sun differently. Longer focal lengths
will handle it differently than wider ones and even
two different lenses of the same focal length will
give you two different results. This is because the
sun flare is a result of the sun shining into the lens
and bouncing around the glass inside. Longer lenses
will give you larger washed out artifacts while wider
lenses will give smaller and more dynamic flare.
The distance the subject is from your lens and the
aperture that the image was shot at will also effect
the final image. The reason I am telling you this is
so you experiment. Shoot with all of your lenses and
change up your settings to see what you prefer. Now
just wait for the golden hour between the afternoon
sun and sundown and go shoot!
Once the right exposure has been found the next
step is the decide where to put the sun in the sky.
My general rule of thumb is to always have the sun
peeking. This means to have the sun either peeking
in from the very edge of the frame or to have it just
peeking out from behind the subject. Sun shining in
from the top corner of a photo will give you a strong
flare shooting diagonally down into the photo
while the sun peeking out from behind the subjects
head will usually give you a nice dynamic shot with
the flare drawing the viewers eye towards the
subjects head or face. This peeking trick works
with anything you are photographing: trees, street
signs, kittens. Having the sun peeking out from
behind something (almost) always makes a stronger
photo than a sun in the middle of the sky.
One difficulty you may come across when shooting
into the sun is acquiring focus. With the sun beating
through your lens and into the sensor the camera
will have a hard time finding the point of focus. An
easy way to battle this is to focus and recompose.
The majority of cameras will allow you to focus by
pushing the shutter button half-way and will hold
that focus until you push it all the way to take the
photo or release the shutter button. I almost always
have my center focus point selected and then just
focus on my subject and then recompose the shot to
how I want it before firing the shutter. So, how do
you battle misfocusing when shooting into the sun?
If you are shooting with the sun peeking out from
behind the subjects head, put the sun right behind
their head so it isnt beating into the lens, focus by
holding the shutter button halfway, recompose so
the sun is peeking out again and fire away. Hide sun,
focus, bring the sun back, fire. It is a pretty simple
process that will save you a lot of frustration from
waiting for your camera to focus. This works just the
same when you are shooting with the sun peeking in
from the side of the frame. Just put it out of frame,
focus and then recompose. Bam! Problem solved.
Ninety Two 15 / 16
THE distance THE SUBJECT IS FROM YOUR LENS AND THE APERTURE THAT THE IMAGE WAS SHOT AT WILL ALSO EFFECT THE FINAL IMAGE.
TOP5d + 35mm 1.4 L1/640f/2.2ISO 320
BOTTOM5d II + 35mm 1.4 L1/250f/2.5ISO 350
Ninety Two 17 / 18
5d II + 35mm 1.4 L1/1250f/1.8
Ninety Two 19 / 20
The lower the sun falls in the sky, the softer it will become. When it is about to break the horizon you will be able to get more washed out flare that wont give you those bright flare artifacts.
5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/250f/2.5
5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/250f/2.5
Ninety Two 21 / 22
Behind the scenes with
The Ember shoot was one of the bigger productions I undertook this summer. Ember is a company that I have always loved for their efforts to bring others out of hardship while providing a beautiful product. Ember partners with women in Northern Uganda who have lived through the trials of war and works with them to create jewelry solely out of recycled materials. Magazines are turned into bracelets and necklaces, plastic bags are turned into earrings. Its simple. Its good karma. Its brilliant.
Ninety Two 23 / 24
Canon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/1250f/2ISO 160
Now lets talk about the shoot.
What was the purpose? How many people were
on set? Why did we shoot where we did? How did
we make it happen? When hiring a photographer
for a shoot that involves products, there are
typically two directions you can take. Direction
A will lead to photos that are meant to do
nothing but display the product for what it is.
Make the product look good and make it look
clear. Direction B will lead to photos that are
meant to convey a thought or an emotion. Think
about Roxy advertisements. Any Roxy ad you
see will be of a blonde surfer girl having a blast
at some tropical location with the sun peering
through her hair and a huge smile on her face.
What does this make you think? It tells you
that she is the kind of person that wears Roxy.
Therefore, you now relate Roxy with fun, summer,
and good times. This is photographic branding
at its best. Direction B is better known as
lifestyle photography which is the direction we
went in on the Ember shoot.
Ninety Two 25 / 26
BOTTOMCanon 5d II + 85mm 1.2L II1/800f/2ISO 320
TOPCanon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/1600f/2ISO 160
In a lot of these shots you will notice that there is not direct eye contact with the model. Eyes are the first thing that people typically connect with in a photo. In order to draw more focus to the jewelry I made the decision to breakeye contact which made the model less overpowering.
The amazing crew on set for day two of shooting. From left to right: Lauren Shute model, James Pearson Embers main man, Michelle Tobias extra hand/unpaid entertainer, Jennifer Welsch model, Rachel Burney hair and makeup artist, Tony Sasso brother/assistant/DJ and Matt Wood boat owner/wine and cheese supplier.
Having a strong and energetic crew behind you can make your life a lot easier on a job like this. James was a blast to have on set, Rachel kept the models fresh and Tony was everything from a camera rack to a DJ. I really couldnt have asked for a more solid crew. After a full evening of shooting, the night was wrapped up with a
delicious Italian dinner in Santa Monica.
Preproduction for this included tech (location)
scouting, booking models, a hair stylist, a make
up artist, and purchasing wardrobe. We decided
to outfit the shoot using J. Crew and Banana
Republic because both of their lines are simple and
sophisticated. We went with clothes that were plain
enough to make the jewelry the focus instead of just
blending into the rest of the outfit. After clothing
was taken care of, we had to find location.
Tech scouting for me always means just getting in
a car and going. I always have a general idea in
my head of what I am looking for but sometimes
it takes a while to find the perfect spot. There
is one thing the perfect spot shouldnt have:
commercialism. A beautiful photo can be ruined
with a big fat McDonald's sign in the background.
I dont like to see anything that can be easily
recognized by all of America; that takes the
mystery out of the photo. Since this was a two day
shoot we had two main locations to scout. One
would be more natural and the other a bit less so.
Looking for the first location was AWESOME. We
drove around in the Malibu mountains for hours
and screamed and gasped at every turn. Taking a
simple right hand turn becomes a lot scarier when
the only thing on your left is a cliff and a view of
nothing but straight down. We found a great spot
on the side of a mountain that was just what I was
looking for. It had rocks, shrubs, flowers, and a
view of the what seemed to be the rest of the Earth.
The less natural location we decided to use was our
friends sailboat at the San Pedro Yacht Club. The
rest of the pre production for this shoot was pretty
straight forward. The models were Lauren Shute
from Orlando and Jennifer Welsch from LA. Our hair
stylist and make-up artist was the AMAZING Rachel
Burney, also from LA.
Day one of shooting was a blast. Upon arrival to the
mountain top everyone walked around and gazed
at the view before settling down to remember why
we were there. On set were our models, our hair and
make-up artist, James from Ember and Tony Sasso
who was the extra hand for the day. We started
shooting around 5pm when the light was where I
wanted it and shot for a few hours into the night.
The beginning of the shoot gave us great sun flare
coming from behind the mountains and as the sun
fell lower in the sky we were left with a beautiful
soft light. Shooting went on without a hitch and felt
a lot more like hanging out than shooting. Having
a strong and energetic crew behind you can make
your life a lot easier on a job like this. James was a
blast to have on set, Rachel kept the models fresh
and Tony was everything from a camera rack to a
DJ. I really couldnt have asked for a more solid
crew. After a full evening of shooting, the night
was wrapped up with a delicious Italian dinner
in Santa Monica.
Day two of shooting was further south at the San
Pedro Yacht Club. In addition to the crew from the
following day, we had the owner of the boat, Matt
Wood, and extra set of hands, Michelle Tobias.
Shooting in the yacht club was killer for lighting
because the light would bounce off the white boats
and fill in the models perfectly. The second day of
shooting ended up being just as great as the first.
After another full evening of working, the shoot
was wrapped and we headed over to Yogurtland for
our post shoot dessert.
We drove around in the Malibu mountains for hours and screamed and gasped at every turn.
On the following pages you will find a collection of the images from each day.
To learn more about Ember or to purchase jewelry get on the nearest computer and
Ninety Two 27 / 28
Canon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/400
With this shot I tried to make the viewer feel as if they are being invited to
follow Lauren down the path instead of feeling as though
Lauren is walking away from them. I did this by not
blocking the view of the path with her body so you can
easily see where you would be walking instead of feeling
trapped by not knowing where the path would lead you. Small details like that are things you need to pay attention to if you want to successfully carry out your
final vision for a photo.
Ninety Two 29 / 30
For this shot I had a HUGE white boat right behind me that was bouncing the sunlight back onto Lauren. The result was
great even lighting on her face even though the sun
was behind her.
Canon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/2500f/2.2
This is one of my favorites from this shoot. A great tool you will find when shooting is natural framing to draw attention to your subject. In this shot I used the two diagonal white lines to draw your eyes in between them and I put the Lauren right in the wooden window frame to draw focus even more. These types of frames can be found all over the place when you are shooting so keep an eye out for them and use them to your advantage!
TOPCanon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/500f/2.8ISO 320
BOTTOMCanon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/1000f/2ISO 320
Ninety Two 31 / 32
In this shot I really wanted to show off the bracelet and have the viewers eyes go straight to it. I cropped below Laurens eyes make it harder to connect directly to the model. This takes away the aspect of seeing the human in the picture and instead seeing the mannequin displaying a product. However, the smile adds to the mood of the photo without being too distracting.
Canon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/2500f/2.2ISO 320
Ninety Two 33 / 34
Canon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/3200f/2.2ISO 320
One of the many things I love about the 35mm focal length is that it feels real. You dont get the crazy distortion like you would with a wider angle lens and you dont get the extreme isolation that you do with longer focal lengths. It can create a very dynamic image without going overboard.
Canon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/1600f/2ISO 320
Ninety Two 35 / 36
When it is later in the day and you are looking to get a nice blue sky you can shoot with the sun behind you. This allows your subject to be brighter so when you expose for him/her/it the sky will hold its color.
Canon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/400f/2.8ISO 320
There is something about this photo that makes me feel refreshed. Since she is stretching and taking a deep breath as if she just woke up I processed this one a little bit cooler to match coolness of the morning light instead of the warmer afternoon sun.
TOPCanon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/400f/1.8ISO 320
BOTTOMCanon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/500f/2ISO 320
Ninety Two 37 / 38
The rule of thirds comes into play here. Putting your subject out of the center in the frame will give a more cinematic feel to the image. This is something to keep in mind when shooting but not something to get hung up on. If you feel an image would be stronger if you centered the subject then you are probably right. Do it!
This shot was just a fun one since we were nearing the 4th of July.
TOPCanon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/2500f/2ISO 320
BOTTOMCanon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/640f/2ISO160
After the sun fell behind the mountains in the background we werent able to get that great sun flare anymore but we were left with a great soft light.
TOPCanon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/125f/1.8ISO 320
BOTTOMCanon 5d II + 35mm 1.4L1/1600f/1.8ISO160
Ninety Two 39 / 40
When is the last time you went longer than a few days without checking your Facebook? Im almost positive that the internet is in
the process of taking over the world. Its in your living room. Its in
your pocket. Its everywhere. If you want to make it as a photographer,
you need to have a strong online presence made up of three essential
elements: consistency, personality and content that draws viewers.
Consistency not only includes branding that is strong throughout
your different online outlets, but also updating blogs and social
media. Having a blog and a Twitter or Facebook account that allows
your personality to show through is a killer way for people to connect
more to your work. When people know who is behind the lens you
become less of a company and more of a human.
This can come across in your words and also in your design. Hiring a graphic designer who you work well with is key to creating branding
that carries your personality. However, consistency and personality
are not enough; you need to have content that will draw in viewers.
This means strong work, good stories, or even tips and tutorials. These
three elements arent all it takes to have a strong online presence, but
they will give you a solid foundation to build upon. From here I will
discuss the three outlets for an online presence and what I believe
they should be used for.
GET ONLINE OR GET OUT
GET ONLINE OR GET OUT
WEB SITEIf you dont have one, get one. It is a necessity.
Dont be cheap and get a free version of some do-it-
yourself web site . Instead, spend some money and
get yourself a site that represents you and your work
well. Generally speaking, your web site should be
considered the home base for your online presence in
the sense that it stays the most constant. It should
be easy to navigate, showcase your portfolio, host
brief information about yourself and what you offer
and also have an easy way for potential clients to
get in touch. Keep the extra bells and whistles to
a minimum. I love hearing that people enjoy how
simple my web site is to navigate. Since I am a fan
of minimalism it is rad to know that I got rid of the
information and extras that do nothing but clutter
my site. Keep this in mind when designing yours.
BLOGI have always been a huge fan of blogs. Chances are
if you only have a web site people will visit it a few
times and thats it. There is no reason for them to
continue to browse if there is nothing new to see. This
is where blogs come in. Once you get a blog going
it should be updated consistently in order to keep
people coming. New photos from shoots, thoughts,
etc. Remember, if people come to your blog it is
because they want more. Dont be afraid to give it
to them. Along with your photos you can talk a bit
about the behind the scenes of the shoot: a funny
incident that happened, a story about the client, or
your ideas that inspired the shoot. When people hear
your thoughts they will relate to you more which will
create a stronger connection to your work.
SOCIAL MEDIAWith sites like Facebook and Twitter it isnt hard to
get your blog posts out there. Set up a Facebook
and a Twitter account for your photography that are
separate from your personal accounts. Every time
you post a new blog, post a link on your accounts
so people know. You can also use it to keep people
updated in between blog posts. If you are working on
new promo pieces, let the world know. Small updates
like that may not seem important, but every time
you post something photo related that shows up
on a persons news feed it drills your name into his
or her head as a photographer. Sometime down the
road that person may have a friend that is looking for
a photographer and your name will come up. Bam.
Name repetition. So go for it. Post updates about
your work, sneak peaks from shoots, etc. The two
rules I try to stick by: dont be annoying and dont be
inappropriate. Let your personality come through but
dont forget that this still represents your business.
Ninety Two 41 / 42
Ninety Two 43 / 44
If you want to get a solid start in the industry and
want to continue to be creative when the jobs are
slow, testing is the way to do it. A test can be
anything from a photographer shooting a friend for
practice to a full production including models, hair
and make-up, props, wardrobe, assistants, etc.
The size of your test really depends on a few things
including where you are in your photo career, where
you want to be, why you are testing, and how much
money you can invest into the shoot. No matter
how large or small of a production you are able to
pull off, if you dont test you will be static. Testing
is vital to a photographers creativity and growth.
It is a great way to build a portfolio if you are just
starting out and a great way to supplement it and
try new things if you are already established.
If you are looking to enter a commercial
photography career you need to shoot for where
you want to be. Feel free to practice on your
friends but when it comes time to test, find a real
model. Once you start working with models you
will quickly see that they know how to move, they
know how to pose, and they add a lot to the shoot
and the final outcome. There are a few places you
can look for models that will work as a trade for
photos or a lower rate. One of them is a network
for photography related creatives called Model
Mayhem. Google it. Its a great place to find people
to work with in your area. Fair warning: you will
have to sift through a fair share of flakes but
there are plenty of creative and talented people
on there. When you find them, get in touch and be
professional. Another great place to find model is
a modeling agency. Crazy, right? Get in touch with
a few agencies in your area and tell them that you
are a local photographer and would love to test
with any new models they have that are in need of
photos. Dont be pushy. If they have new models
and they think you fit the job, they will get in touch!
Testing can get expensive if you are planning a
larger production so it will benefit you to use
your resources. Over time you will begin to build
relationships with make-up and hair stylists as well
as wardrobe stylists and many other creatives. Use
this to your advantage. If someone knows they will
get solid shots for their portfolio and they enjoy
working with you it will be a lot easier to work on
the cheap. Keep your eyes open for other ways
you can gain something for a test. Over this past
summer I had someone contact me who owned a
140 acre ranch in Cleremont, FL that had a lake, a
rope swing, horses, dirt roads, and cabins. They
got in touch with me because they wanted to have
me shoot photos of the property in order to start
renting it out for weddings and events. A buzzer
went of in my head, so after the client described
what he needed (just a simple one day job) and
requested a quote I told him that I could shoot it
for free if I could use the property the following
day for a test shoot. After asking a few questions
about what the shoot would consist of he said, Of
course! Once we scheduled a weekend for shooting
I started preproduction for the test.
Since the date and location were already set my
next step was booking models. I wanted to have
four girls on set so I started with two girls I have
been wanting to work with for a while and two
others that I have worked with before. Luckily all
of them were available (although one had to cancel
last minute). When testing I usually have the exact
look I am going for in mind which is important when
communicating with the make-up artist (MUA), hair
stylist and models. I always tell the models what
kind of wardrobe to bring along with them even
though I shop for outfits also. The more options
the better. When I first started testing I quickly
learned that happy models and crews make better
photos. Even if it is a small scale shoot, always
consider your crews comfort, hunger, thirst, etc.
If it is blazing hot out (it was for this shoot) make
sure you have an air conditioned spot for them and
some ice old beverages. Snacks like chips, fruit
and trail mix are always a good thing to have on
set also. This way, during the shoot when you see
the models are getting hot you can go inside, grab
a snack and take a break. Luckily the couple who
owned the ranch was extremely hospitable and
bought tons of food and a huge selection of drinks
for everyone on set so I didnt have to worry about
this at all.
When shoot weekend came I set out towards the
ranch with my assistant to shoot photos of the
property. With the test shoot the following day we
were invited to stay in one of their cabins for the
night. After a full day of shooting and golf carting
around the property the owners told us to be ready
for dinner and karaoke in an hour. Neither of us
were expecting that but before the night was over
we ate some delicious barbeque salmon and sang
some Johnny Cash and Journey. When we finished
This is another one where I was sliding downhill alongside Kristina. In order to reduce motion blur I took the ISO up to 640 so I could speed the shutter up to 1/2000. In addition to freezing Kristinas movement it also froze the water droplets in the air and the back lighting gave them a real pop against the darkness of the her skin.
5d II + 35mm 1.4 L1/2000f/3.5ISO 640
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This shot of Megan is from the 50 ft. slip and slide through the yard and down a hill. I had my camera in an Aquatech water housing and rode down next to the models. When you and your camera are covered in soap and you are flying down a hill, technical expertise takes a backseat and simply holding down the shutter takes the wheel.
5d II + 35mm 1.4 L1/2000f/3.5ISO 640
up at about one in the morning we were told to be
ready for breakfast at 8:00 am. This is one thing
I love about my job. The experience of meeting so
many interesting people is irreplaceable. If I wasnt
a photographer I probably would have never sung
karaoke on a 140 acre ranch with my assistant and
a senior couple.
After breakfast the next morning and some last
minute shoot prep, the MUA and models started to
arrive. We began shooting at about 5:30 PM and
shot at a few different locations until sundown. The
ranch hand and my assistant were a great help all
evening and we had a blast getting some solid shots.
All in all the weekend was a success. It was a
fairly low budget test because of the trade for the
location and I was able to give strong images to
everyone involved. Although I have mentioned a
few tips to help keep the price down on your tests,
please keep in mind that while saving money is
important, sometimes spending some can greatly
improve your shoot. Dont be stingy and book an
inexperienced MUA or hair stylist when you know
they arent going to be as talented as you want.
Dont be afraid to spend a few bucks on props,
travel, etc. If the goal of your test is to create solid
images, be willing to invest your time, money, and
talent into it.
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Lately Ive really been loving this kind of shot. Just a straight forward, deadpan portrait. To make the subject pop a bit more I lowered the contrast on the background using a mask in Lightroom. This also made the blurred trees easier on the eyes.
This is where having a confident model is a huge plus. Laughing is one of the harder things to make look natural, so be a people person and joke around with your models. If your models are comfortable you will more than likely get some great natural shots when it comes time to laugh.
TOP5d II + 35mm 1.4 L1/1250f/2ISO 320
BOTTOM5d II 35mm 1.4 L1/1000f/1.8 ISO 320
In order to make Kristina pop in this shot I put her in front of a darker background. The background in your photos is something you need to pay attention to just as much as the subject.
This is one of my favorite photos from the shoot. I did a set of photos with the pony instead of the horse because I wanted the model to be the focus and the animal an accessory.
TOP5d II +35mm 1.4 L1/500f/2ISO 320
RIGHT5d II + 35mm 1.4 L1/1600f/2ISO 320
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This shot was taken in one of two beautiful old Fords that were on the property. I was caught eyeing it by the owner so he said, Its unlocked. Feel free to shoot in it. We did.
5d II + 85mm 1.2 L II1/400f/2ISO 320
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This is one of the photos I took for the ranch owners
of their horse, Hannah Montana. I threw this
one in black and white to draw more focus to the highlights and shadows
that emphasize the horses muscles. I am always blown
away by the strength of these animals.
5d II + 35mm 1.4 L1/500
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Bring backups. Technology
is more prone to failure in harsh environments so make sure you have extra batteries, more than one lens, and an extra body. If you have the backup gear you probably wont need it, but the one time you only bring one camera body it might fail right before you come across a flying unicorn.
5d + 45mm 2.8 ts-e1/500f/2.8ISO 640
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A smile and a little effort can go a long way. If you want to take a photo of someone, learn how to ask it in the local language and be friendly. Not only will that make your subject more likely to say yes but it will loosen them up a bit and give you a more natural expression from them.
These guys were so rad. I tried to always converse a bit before asking to take a photo in order to loosen people up. Miguel (left) offered to put me in a wet suit to go dive for oysters with him. If I had more time I would have accepted.
5d + 35mm 1.4 L1/320f/2ISO 160
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When walking around
town keep your camera
ready, your settings correct
and your lens cap off. You
never know when you might
see something that you want
to shoot before the
moment is gone.
If you are looking for something to shoot besides landscapes but dont know where to find it, check out the local market. Most markets are filled with everything from fruit stands to butchers. Take your pick and start snapping away.
LEFT5d + 35mm 1.4 L1/400f/2ISO 160
RIGHT5d + 45mm 2.8 ts-e1/1600f/2.8ISO 160
Get out of town. If you stick around the center of town you will end up leaving with plenty of photos of things that people have already seen. While in Cuzco my travel buddy and I waved a few taxis and asked them to take us up the mountain and away from town. They took us up, dropped us off and we walked back. On the way we got some great shots and got to see a part of Cuzco culture that most tourists dont get to see.
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Leave your diamonds
shoes and gold chains at home. Some places you travel will be more dangerous than others, but no matter where you are there are a few ways to make yourself less of a target. Try not to wear flashy clothing that will attract attention to yourself as someone who has money. If you need to carry camera equipment around, dont carry it in a nice camera bag but instead in an old backpack. Moral of the story, dress like someone who wouldnt be beneficial to mug. If all else fails, grow a
In order to show the magnitude of the landscapes you are shooting, offer the viewer a size comparison in the shot. I had a few images of these dunes but this is the only one that did them justice because of the tiny dune buggy riding across them, the buggy you just now noticed.
5d + 35mm 1.4 L1/1600f/3.5ISO 160
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Dont go home empty-handed.
After every day of shooting you
should be backing up your work.
You can buy hard drives that you
plug your memory card right and
they will copy your data. If you are
traveling with a partner, buy two
and copy all of your work onto both
of them. Keep one in your bag and
one in your partners. This is what I
did for our two week trip to Peru.
If our trip was longer I would have
brought more hard drives and
mailed them to someone at home
every week or so.
5d + 45mm 2.8 ts-e1/2000f/3.2
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Be prepared for the elements. In the desert outside of Nazca we were met with howling winds blowing sand all over our equipment. Luckily I brought along a rain cover along that allowed me to continue shooting. It would have been a shame to be on those dunes without the ability to bring the camera out of the bag.
During our last day in Cuzco while we were waiting for our bus, we happened upon a parade in the plaza. The local Official Photographers (as their reflective vests stated) were shooting the event with compact point and shoots.
To capture a more dynamic shot of the parade in Cuzco I took a lower angle and placed the subject against the solid blue background.
LEFT TOP5d + 45mm 2.8 ts-e1/500f/2.8ISO 640
LEFT BOTTOM5d + 45mm 2.8 ts-e1/160f/2.8ISO 1000
RIGHT TOP5d + 45mm 2.8 ts-e1/1250f/3.5ISO 160
RIGHT BOTTOM5d + 45mm 2.8 ts-e1/1250f/3.5ISO 160
Whether you like it or not, chances are that your photos will take on a different style when shooting travel work. Before you arrive wherever you are traveling make sure you already have an idea of the kind of shots you want to take so you can hit the ground running. Having said that, keep your eyes open. Dont miss out on great shots because you were too busy trying to find the shot you pictured in your head before you even left home.
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LEFT TOP5d + 45mm 2.8 ts-e1/2000f/3.2ISO 160
LEFT BOTTOM5d + 45mm 2.8 ts-e1/1250f/3.5ISO 160
RIGHT 5d + 45mm 2.8 ts-e1/3200f/3.5ISO 160
If you arent adventurous enough to travel the wilderness on your own, consider hiring a guide. In most countries it wont be hard to find someone who will love to show you some killer photo spots in exchange for a bit of pay. If you decide to take this route, make sure you interview your guide before you hire them. Ask them what they can show you that other guides cant. It will also be a good idea to let your guide know that you are a photographer and may ask to pull over to the side of the road if you see something you want to shoot. They will more than likely be fine with that but it is always best to make sure ahead of time.
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Stay awake on the bus and try to get a windo
seat. If you have an appreciation for beaut
buses can be the best part of your trip.
5d + 45mm 2.8 ts-e1/1000f/2.8
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RIGHT TOP5d + 35 mm 1.4 L1/1000f/2ISO 160
RIGHT BOTTOM5d + 45mm 2.8 ts-e1/2000f/3.2ISO 160
LEFT5d + 35mm 1.4 L1/640f/2.2ISO 160
Kids are always great subjects because they love checking out the camera and are more than happy to have you take their photo. We didnt have a problem with this particular kid but one boy in Miraflores was trying to pry my camera from my fingers for about thirty minutes before he gave up.
This image was taken on the train to Maccu Piccu. Although Maccu Piccu was amazing, I would argue that the three hour train ride was just as great as Maccu Piccu itself. The train was slow moving and took us through the mountains, farmlands and other beautiful landscapes. I may have gone crazy if I didnt have a window seat.
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