Category Archives: FAQ

{photography} FAQ3 : What should a paying photography client know about a technically accurate photograph?

What is considered a technically accurate photograph is a tricky question because the more in depth you learn photography, the more factors exist that influence a photograph’s technical accuracy.  As a paying client though, you should know whether you are purchasing quality images and if your photographer did their job!  So, what exactly is a technically accurate photograph?

A technically accurate photograph in its most basic assessment should have proper white balance, be sharp on the image’s primary object of interest (your baby’s eyes should be in focus in her portrait for example), be properly exposed (not too bright or dark), effectively use available or the absence of light to compose.  I will briefly elaborate on each factor without being too technical in the hopes that a layperson or normal client can easily understand.

  • White balance.  Photographs capture light and how light reflects or creates color.  Light has color.  Daylight tends to be warm (more yellow) and light in the shade or late afternoon tends to be cooler (more blue).  Indoor lighting is often warm (very yellow).  Certain cameras also produce images with a stronger green or red overall color (aka tint).  A photographer needs to know how to adjust their camera for these different temperatures of light and camera imbalances to produce an image that does not have color cast.  Whites should appear white in the photograph unless there is some creative reason for the color cast. For instance, a white T-shirt being worn during a beach sunset would have a yellow tint in real life as it reflects the sun’s golden rays.  However, a white T-shirt being worn inside your home at night should probably appear white and not yellow.  Achieving proper white balance by eye (not relying on software calibration) takes many years of experience and is almost a lost art now but it can be done!

Left: White Balance is too warm/yellow and green Right: Adjusted White Balance

Left: White Balance is too cool/blue Right: Adjusted White Balance

  • Focus.  The primary object of interest in your photograph should be in focus to tell the image’s emotive story.  If a photographer wanted to capture the moment of when a baby suddenly smiled at his stuffed animal but the baby’s face is blurry, then the story is somewhat lost. Where should the viewer’s eyes go?  If the foot is in focus instead, what story is the photographer trying to tell?  Portrait photography is about capturing the person’s unique physique in some creative way.  If the person is out of focus without any creative reason for doing so, this defeats the purpose of trying to capture the person’s physique.  Sometimes there are creative reasons to use blur (bokeh) such as to capture motion, convey a feeling, create depth but in general a good photographer should be able to nail focus well when needed.

Left: Main object of interest is out of focus Right: Audience can see the primary subject of the story (airplane) is in focus outside

  • Proper Exposure.  There is a limit to every camera’s dynamic range, which is (without being super technical) the ability for the camera to capture seamless information in a scene’s shadows and highlights.  Generally, the darkest area of an image should not be completely black for an amount more than needed to tell the image’s story.  If an image is overly dark, it is underexposed.  Likewise, the brightest area of an image should not be completely white for an amount more than needed to tell the image’s story.  If an image is overly bright, it is overexposed.  A professional photographer should absolutely understand their camera well enough to be able to adjust for proper exposure, their camera’s dynamic range in order to effectively convey their image’s story.

The image on the left is so dark that information about this little girl’s messy summer hair and her surroundings is lost. The image on the right is dark but the detail of the little girl’s hair is preserved as well as the surrounding summer grass.

The left picture is too bright (aka overexposed) and the attention on the flowers is lost. The right picture preserves all the flower petal details and the image’s focus on the flowers is preserved.

  • Sculpting with Light in Composition. Light is very important in photography because it can create depth and give life to objects.  A keen photographer can see light and use it to give life to their photographs.  If you were a client and wanted glamour portraits taken, your photographer needs to know how to avoid using harsh lighting because that creates dark shadows and can make the client look old, masculine, dramatic.  At the same time, your professional photographer should know how to use light to flatter your face and make you look younger!

These two pictures were taken just moments of each other as the sun was passing through a cloud. The sun was covered up in the picture on the left so the result is a very flat looking building. The sun shone through in the picture on the right and illuminates the rooms inside the building and gives dimension to the building by creating depth.

Conclusion. A technically accurate image should have proper white balance, be properly exposed, have focus nailed on the primary subject and composed well.  These are the very basics of a technically accurate image.  However, every genre of photography has their own technical standards.  For instance, in newborn photography, a baby in the bum up pose should have their feet on the back leg placed on the top of the feet on the front leg.  If you want to know more about proper posing and technical standards for the genre of photography you are interested in, you have every right to ask your photographer and expect a reasonable answer.  As a paying client, you also have the right to expect quality images.  If you understand the basics of what is considered a technically accurate image, then this knowledge will help you in selecting the right photographer for you!

{photography} FAQ2 : How Do I Choose a Good Photographer?

1. How do I choose a photographer for my photoshoot?

  • What kind of photoshoot are you looking for?  Are you looking for a photographer to photograph a documentary, wedding, portrait, newborn, family, business event, headshot, landscape, sports, nature, animal, pet, food….  While all professional photographers should be able to produce technically accurate images, a wedding photographer would not know how to soothe and pose a newborn baby for a newborn baby photoshoot.  A landscape photographer would not necessarily have experience and know how to pose a couple on their wedding day.  A documentary photographer probably would not know how to pose a 35 week pregnant woman for her maternity photoshoot.  Depending on the genre of photoshoot, you need to do some due diligence and research to find a photographer that is trained, experienced and knowledgeable about that particular genre of photography.
  • What is your budget?  Are you looking for digital files to post on social media?  Are you looking for wall portraits to hang in your home?  Are you looking for fine art on hand torn paper mounted under museum glass?  Each product commands different prices based on the photographer you choose – professional or amateur.  Professional and amateur photographer fees do not generally adhere to an industry standard because – how do you price art?  However, there generally is a direct relationship between how experienced a photographer is and price.  The length of experience, talent and financial overhead of a professionally active photographer, type of fine art products offered will usually command a higher price.
  • How important is technical accuracy to you?  Whichever photographer you choose should produce a technically accurate photograph.  What is considered technically accurate will be covered in the last blog in this FAQ mini series.  In short, how important is a photograph with accurate true-to-life colors with the main subject(s) in sharp focus to you?  There is a direct correlation in price with how capable your photographer is in capturing a technically accurate image and therefore will affect your budget.

2. What is the difference between an amateur and professional photographers?

  • Amateur photographers are portfolio building, developing their expertise in learning to shoot with their camera in manual mode, to compose and finding their personal style.  They may shoot in manual mode, possess a great variety of camera gear but lack the experience to compose aesthetically or they may have the creativity to compose but unable to produce their vision technically in camera.  An amateur photographer may often rely on their image processing software instead of their camera (filters, Photoshop, photo editing apps etc…) to create their raw image.
  • Professional photographers produce technically accurate, artistically beautiful photographs that sing with a personal style in camera and can produce a variety of products, most notably prints that are worthy of being displayed under museum glass.  Photoshop or photo editing software is typically used as a professional photographer’s finishing (not creation) tool.  Images produced by a well seasoned professional photographer can expertly capture emotion, tell a story and speak to you through their images.
  • Professionally active photographers are professional photographers who run an active business and incur financial overhead costs.  They have a business license, pay for proper insurance, attend continuing education courses, pay for professional association membership dues, pay state, federal and sales tax, may own or rent physical retail space and hold themselves accountable to a higher industry standard in terms of how to ethically treat clients.  These photographers will command a higher price due to business overhead, professional membership fees and the professional boutique experience that is offered.  For instance, Mint Purple Studio® is a professionally active photography studio.  We pay taxes, have insurance, belong to the PPA, is a lifetime member of Click and attend continuing education classes every year.  Our clients normally spend a higher amount per session for a professional photographer plus a custom boutique experience knowing they are protected by insurance with the knowledge that we hold ourselves accountable to a high standard of client conduct.

3. Conclusion

  • To summarize, finding a good photographer depends on a) what genre of photography you are looking to capture, b) your budget, c) how important technical accuracy is to you and d) the type of service and warranty/insurance you wish to have depending on the type of photographer you are willing to hire!
  • Happy Photographer hunting!  <3

{photography} FAQ : How Can I Learn Photography?

Recently, I have received many questions from what camera to buy, how to find a good photographer to questions on how to learn photography! Each question builds upon the answer of another so I decided to create a mini FAQ blog series.  There are tons of way to learn photography, tons of cameras to choose from and so many wonderful photographers out there.  In this first post, here are answers to how I would personally approach the questions but keep in mind these are not necessarily set in stone for you!

  1. What and which camera should I buy if I want to learn photography?
    • A camera to a photographer is like a paintbrush to a painter.  It is a tool and not definitive of what would produce a good photograph or photographer.  If a painter does not know how to stipple or use other important paint techniques, would an expensive paintbrush help?  If a painter has no vision of what he wishes to compose for his painting, would an expensive paintbrush make up for lack of creativity.  The same answers apply to whether or not to buy an expensive camera.
    • To learn photography, I would personally buy an entry level mirrorless or DSLR camera with manual shooting capability. Mirrorless cameras are small, easy to carry around and can perform well in many environments.  DSLRs are larger but the handling can feel more sturdy.  My first DSLR was a Canon Rebel but I now photograph with two Sony mirrorless cameras –  the Sony RX1 and Sony a7r – both of which are first generation models of their line.  Newer models exist but I love some of the features retained in the older Sony mirrorless models that are not available in the newer models like the RX1’s built in flash and the super small size of the a7r while offering lens interchangeability.
  2. How can I learn photography?
    • Daily Practice. More important than the camera itself, I would set aside time and commit yourself to learning how to shoot in manual mode as well as composition for whatever camera you buy.  Photography is a combination of art and technical shooting. Learning to shoot in manual mode is the technical component to being a good photographer while learning to compose is the creative component to being a good photographer.  There is no way around it.  Good photography skills as with anything takes time, continuous effort and constant practice.  I completed a Project 365 (photographing daily) for three years before considering my technical skills acceptable at a professional level but even now I still feel that I can practice more!
    • Online Communities. Joining a supportive and encouraging photography forum can help with keeping you inspired to shoot and practice daily as well as offer many resources like workshops, mentoring, critiquing opportunities. Here are a few of my favorite forums:
      • Click & Co.  This is an online forum that began as a small group of moms wanting to capture their children’s every day.  It has since grown into a super supportive community rich in knowledge of all things photography for the novice to those in business for years!
      • illuminate.  A substantive forum for learning about light and documentary style photography.
      • Creative Live.  Founded by Klenna Klosterman whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a newborn photography conference recently.  The encyclopedia of workshops for all genres of photography!
    • Accredited Associations.
    • Mentoring.  Mentoring is invaluable and key to really refining your photography skills.  Mentoring can be found almost everywhere from reaching out to your favorite photographer through Facebook to online forums and networking at photography conferences.
    • Photography Conferences.  Depending on what genre of photography you are interested in, there is a probably a conference for your genre.
      • Click Away.  An incredible photography conference for many genres of photography covering a variety of topics from style, composition, light to capturing emotion and technical camera use.
      • Baby Summit. A Conference for newborn baby and maternity photography that covers posing, lighting, processing, video and much more.
      • Real Life Photography Conference for Women.  The name speaks for itself!