Feedback welcome – on your own terms

JHP on Yelp

Yelp me out if you want to!

If you are like me you get feedback requests from nearly every online service you use. I get texts from my cell phone company asking me to fill in surveys after every call I make to them, emails from news sites I subscribe to asking for my opinion, and then there are all those annoying little slidey-up, pop-up windows that appear when you’ve visited a site asking for your opinion. Not to mention apps that periodically request a review – even ones you’ve already paid for. I get it – businesses large and small (especially small) often thrive on positive reviews and sink on negative ones. Word of mouth marketing can be the Midas Touch or the Kiss of Death, depending on how well you perform as a business in satisfying your customer needs. For an independent freelance photographer, providing superior client service is just table stakes. Nonetheless, I’ve always believed that if a client is really happy with your work, they will make the time to say so. If you’ve really done a great job, telling their friends and network about you will reflect well on them as you can then provide the same great service to their social circles. Everybody wins.

But I respect my clients and people’s time above everything and since I find requests for feedback increasingly annoying, I assume others do as well.

Which is my round-about way of saying, that I’ve created a separate page on a the pretty popular recommendations service, Yelp, where reviews from my past, present and perhaps future clients are welcome. Good or not, your honest, real feelings and thoughts on the work I’ve done for and with you are welcome and if you feel so inclined, and have the time, please stop by and let me – and the world – know what you think.

Here’s the link: Julian Haber Photography on Yelp

Thank you!

Family Portraits in Westmount Park

9157eTaking family portraits in a park is such a fun and easy way to create a lasting memory of your family. Even without the photography, an afternoon in a park is a great way to spend time with your family. Put away the phones, turn off all notifications, and just spend time with each other. It’s a simple, yet often overlooked way to reconnect with each other and nature. Using a park as natural setting for a series of family portraits is also a fun thing to do on these summery afternoons. 9198eI was recently hired to create some memorable family photographs by a dad whose daughters were growing up and moving away for school. As a parent of a young daughter I was sympathetic to how he might have been feeling. I look at my little girl and can’t imagine her more than an arm’s reach away, but of course, they grow and spread their wings. Which is what we want them to do and what we spend our lives preparing them for, but still…it’s a little bit sad to say goodbye, even if it’s for all the right reasons. When taking on this contract I really wanted to do a good job for my client and give him photos he would be able to treasure of his beautiful daughters. I imagined myself being in his shoes one day and did for him what I would want someone to do for me in the same situation.9205e The photos almost shot themselves. In Westmount Park (in Montreal), there is an abundance of settings and backdrops to choose from. We began in the greenhouse and just wandered down one of the paths leading to the small lake at the other end of the park, stopping along the way wherever my instincts told me to stop. I’m pretty proud of the results and my client was delighted with his photos, a sample of which are included here.

Professional photoshoot for professional women

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The future looks bright

Over 90% of the people who hire me directly are professional women. This may be because there are usually more women working in professions like communications, public relations, and marketing then there are men and professionals in these fields dominate my client list, bringing me in to cover events they are organizing, or produce marketing materials they are managing.

As well, I am often hired directly by professional women who are engaged in their own branding. These entrepreneurs (as they almost all are), know what they are looking for, know the image they want to project and are smart enough to invest a little time and money in working with a professional photographer to get the results they are after. Typically the images from these sessions are used across a variety of platforms such as websites, email marketing, newsletters and of course headshots to accompany the bio documents that these professional women use often when invited to speak at conferences, publish a chapter or article for a journal, or simply update their LinkedIn profile -which they do regularly as they are productively growing and developing their careers.

Lara Evoy & Stephanie Garrow: Strategic Consulting for social innovation and organizational learning

Lara Evoy & Stephanie Garrow: Strategic Consulting for social innovation and organizational learning

On a recent shoot, one of my clients had the brilliant idea to gift a professional photographer session to other women in her networking group. As we were working together on our shoot, collaboratively producing great images (because though my job is to get the best shots, I can’t do it without engaging my clients and having them participate actively in their own photo shoot) she realized that the photo session she’d booked with me was not just a ticked box on a to-do list for updating a website, it was actually fun and something worth sharing. I can’t help but agree.

 

Your headshot is your avatar

The Mad Hatter

The Mad Hatter

We no longer live in a purely physical world. While everything we need to sustain ourselves (food, water, shelter, love) comes from the world of things (and people) for better or for worse many of us live as much online as we do offline. For anyone born after 1980 the wall between the “real world” and the “digital world” is thin, and getting thinner. Eventually, in a rapidly accelerating future, as wi–fi becomes ubiquitous and free, our refrigerators order beers for us when their shelves are bare and our cars drive themselves for us, I believe we will cease to recognize the distinction between online and offline. Such terms will become quaint artefacts of a time when living memories remembered things like rotary phones, or even no phones at all. Which is my roundabout way of getting to the point that how we present ourselves online matters. It is, in effect, another aspect of ourselves and just like the avatars in video games (or movies), these avatars represent our idealized selves.

We want to look young, smart, healthy, interesting, perhaps a bit mysterious, alluring, attractive and like someone you would want to know. We want to look like our best selves, (or in my case, like someone seriously into tribal head dresses – yes, it’s real). There are a few simple things you can do before uploading your next profile pic, to ensure that your headshot/avatar represents you as you wish to be seen and in your best light.

Here are a few tips to help you choose the best online profile picture to represent you in that brave new online world, that’s not so new anymore:

  1. Show some teeth! By that I mean use a photo in which you are smiling. No matter how awkward you feel smiling (and sadly, many grown ups do) humans respond to smiling faces way better than they do to non-smiling faces. If you are bothering to show yourself online at all, then presumably you want someone to see you and like you. Smiling helps. (If you need some help with smiling, read my post on the subject here).
  2. Use a photo taken on one of your good days: we all have good days and bad days. Don’t use a photo taken on a bad day. Simple as that. If you were having a bad hair/skin/attitude/breath day and your photos didn’t come out the way you wanted them to, do them again. The short-term inconvenience of taking another photo pales in comparison to the amount of time your photo will linger online. (You can read about preparing for a photoshoot here and here if you need a few tips before any shoots you have upcoming).
  3. Make the effort: when you are posing for your professional headshot, on this one day, no matter how else you choose to dress and live, make the effort to look your best. Get a good night’s rest, shave, do your hair, and wear nice, ironed clothes – preferably with collars. Better to be over dressed than under-dressed and in photos, a simple, classic, elegant look will never get stale and can serve you well across multiple online platforms.

There are countless other ways to make sure your headshot/avatar does what it is supposed to do for you online. Backing it up with some investment in the content you share is also important, but almost all relationships in business, or personal life, these days begin with someone you don’t know looking at your photo online. Make it a good one.

Book a full day shoot onsite to save big money

 (Julian Haber | 514.757.7657 | events@julianhaber.com)I am frequently asked to shoot onsite corporate portraits in different offices throughout Montreal, on and off-island. My set up is all portable (I can even work without electricity if necessary) and I provide quick, professional portraits for use on company websites, social media networking sites like LinkedIn and company publications.

One of the needs nearly every company has these days is to look for ways to save money and cut costs without compromising on quality. With the war for talent still raging (particularly in the high tech industries) it is critical companies project a friendly face to their future prospective employees. Nothing does this better than showing photos (lots of them) of your people and your offices, working, relaxing and socializing together. People are increasingly focusing attention not just on what the job offers in terms of salary and benefits, but also work environment, company culture and other intangibles that are hard to explain in words. Using photography and video to help communicate to your prospective clients, employees and partners helps declutter your site and leave visitors with a strong visual impression of who you are and what your company is all about. In a world crowded with messaging and information overload, this is a valuable service you can easily provide at a very low cost.

 (Julian Haber | 514.757.7657 | events@julianhaber.com)

Marketing and Communications teams, Human Resources and Talent Acquisition managers are all operating on tight budgets and being asked to do more with less. Getting a photographer to come to your office is a great way to get both a set of profile photos for your whole team, but also to boost your image library of your space and work environment. Rather than purchase rights-restricted and generic stock images you can have your own customized images created that tell your own story.

To optimise your use of an onsite photographer, hire for a full day over a half day (saving at least 20%-25% of the cost of a half day rate), and book all your employees’ headshots on one day which can provide substantial savings reducing your price per shot to well below the market rate of having a single or small number of headshots taken onsite.

And don’t forget to update your website and headshot photos at least once a year!

Taking pictures of people

It still often puzzles and amazes me that what I do for a job is take pictures of people. And after taking probably hundreds of thousands of photos of people getting married, people in love, new parents, old friends, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, best friends, new friends, strangers in crowds, models, actors, performers, artists and my own beloved family in over fifteen years of living and working as a photographer, I think I have finally learned a few simple things about what makes a good picture that are worth sharing:

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1. Care about your subject: yes, you can. You may not have the same rapport with each and every one of your subjects, but the best photographs, like the best meals, are made with love in your heart. You need to have a genuine, unaffected, real care of the person or people you are photographing. This is not to say you need to know them very well (I often meet and shoot my clients on the same day, sometimes within minutes of our first encounter). But you need to put yourself into their minds, try to feel what they are feeling with you there sticking a camera in their face, try to empathize with how they may feel insecure about how they look and accommodate them. Help them. Guide them to their best showing. They will appreciate you for your thoughtfulness and leadership. And you will have a better photograph as a result.

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2. Pay attention to details: this is true for anyone trying to master a craft. Assuming you know how your camera works, and have a familiarity with the technical aspects of what you are doing, your mental energy should be focused on details in the shot your subjects are not necessarily aware of. This includes the obvious, like backdrop and setting, but also the little details like a stray button undone, or a misplaced lock of hair. If you have the luxury of time during your shoot, pause before pressing the button and scan the scene for details you may have missed. Of course you can do all kinds of repair work in Photoshop, but I think you take better photos and are a better photographer if you actually try to get it right in real life instead of relying on software skills.

3P5A0547 - Version 23. See the beauty in others: let’s face it, not everyone is a supermodel. Even supermodels aren’t always supermodels (see this post) and even Cindy Crawford has famously said she wishes she looked like Cindy Crawford. I believe that everyone has inner beauty that can be revealed through an insightful and thoughtful portrait. It may sound like a cliché, and perhaps it even is, but it doesn’t matter. Look for and find what makes the person you are photographing beautiful. If you can’t see it, you can’t show it.

Thank you to all my readers and clients this past year and all the best for 2014.

Don’t let Photoshopped images deny you the pleasure of a good meal this holiday season

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Here’s a quick 5 Minutes Of What The Media Actually Does To Women video,  I discovered on Upworthy, a great site I’ve recently stumbled upon that shares news worth sharing. As a photographer I often spend more time than I want to toiling away in Photoshop making people look like the enhanced versions of themselves. I’m usually working on images of regular working people for their corporate portraits, family portraits or LinkedIn headshots. These are not models with body images but even still, there is the latent desire to see oneself perfected, to have a few lines removed here, a slight restructuring of the jaw there. I admit my guilt in doing these digital cosmetic surgeries, but share the opinion voiced in this video that unrealistic images, particularly of women, are damaging to women themselves, promote self-loathing and create a space where violence against women can happen by dehumanizing and objectifying women. I’m a father of a young girl and I feel a personal responsibility in making sure she grows up with a healthy self-image. She sometimes sits with me as I work in Photoshop where I show her how images are created and hopefully she learns a little bit about the difference between images and reality. She may still love Princesses and Hello Kitty, but when it comes time to eat, she’s fed a good wholesome meal which she devours with pleasure. So this holiday season my wish is that the women of the world reject the notion of false beauty projected through dehumanized, over-Photoshopped images of women, and dig in to their holiday meals with gusto!

 

 

Best sizes for your online profile pictures in all social media

Thanks to my friend Ray Hiltz, who sent me a link to this article on How to Optimize Your Profile Photos Across Social Media, the highlights of which I’ve summarized here below. Worth checking out the full article if you are a professional photographer and/or just looking to have your profile photo looks its best on the most popular social media platforms.

One big happy family

One big happy family

Facebook:

  • Profile pics are displayed at 160 x 160 pixels, but the image you upload must have minimum measurements of 180 x 180 pixels.
  • Cover photos should be 851 pixels wide, 315 pixels tall and less than 100KB

Twitter:

  • Maximum file size for a Twitter avatar is 2MB, though it will show only as 73 x 73 pixels on your profile page and a very small 48 x 48 pixels in tweets
  • Header photos can be up to 5MB in size; the recommended dimensions for these images are 1252 x 626 pixels

Google+:

  • consider what kind of image will work in a round format as the default form in Google+ circles is well, a circle
  • avatar displays 120 x 120 pixels on your profile, but not all of that will show up due to the round crop
  • Post images will be as small as 48 x 48 pixels and just 28 x 28 in comments

You Tube:

  • Since Google owns You Tube, the same image requirements for Google+ apply, however unique to the You Tube platform is cover photo You Tube calls “channel art” for which the recommendation is to upload a 2560 x 1440 pixel image

LinkedIn:

  • Max file size of 4MB
  • Upload a square JPG, GIF or PNG (default size for a LinkedIn avatar on your profile page is 200 x 200 pixels, but users can click to enlarge the image up to 450 x 450 pixels).
  • Company logos on company pages display on LinkedIn pages at 100 x 60 pixels, and the square logo is 50 by 50 pixels. You can also upload a homepage cover photo-style image to a company page. The minimum recommended size is 646 x 220 pixels.

As mentioned above, this summary is taken from an article on Mashable, worth checking out for more ample detail on the content quoted above.

Your backyard is a studio – family portraits at home

3P5A5071eEvery once in a while as a professional portrait photographer in Montreal, I get to do some work that really makes me feel good about myself and the people I am working with. There is a family I have known for many years, people I’ve grown up with, whom I love and respect deeply. They are a wonderful family, all boys (really big boys) and all smart, successful, personable and just really good people. Of course, a brood like this doesn’t come out of nowhere and the pater and mater familias are themselves true gems of humanity – the kind of people who make you proud to be a humanist and happy to know them.

I had the great honour and privilege to do a family portrait for this family, in honour of a 75th birthday for a man who is, for want of a better word, noble. It was a balmy end of summer evening, the cooler on the back deck was well stocked with white wine and beer, and the grandchildren were all shiny and freshly bathed. To keep things simple, and convenient given the number of people involved, we opted to do the portrait right there in the back yard. And I must say, the results were stunning. I’ve never been prouder of a family portrait than I am of this one, for many reasons but also for the simplicity of the set up and the ease with which we managed to get a series of families portraits done in one quick session.

(We also had a little fun recreating a family portrait taken twenty years earlier.)

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Leverage your Human Resources department to get the best deal on a new corporate portrait

3P5A6506eI regularly visit professionals in their workspaces in and around Montreal to update their corporate portrait. Almost without fail, the need for the portrait is immediate, last-minute, rushed. There are many reasons for this:

  • I was nominated for an award and I won! Eek!
  • I am being featured in an article on the company website
  • My department/team hit a major milestone and we want a group photo
  • I was recently promoted and the announcement comes out in 3 days!
  • Our company will be featured in an upcoming news story and they need a new photo of me!

The list goes on and on, but the end result is always the same. I come to the office with a small, convenient professional lighting setup (with seamless backdrops in grey and white), pass a few pleasantries with my subject, shoot a series of portraits (head and shoulders, full body, tight crops around the face, etc) and quickly submit proofs online so the client can immediately choose one, have me edit it and send it out in time to reach the impending deadline.

As you can imagine, waiting to the last-minute and putting a rush order on everything has an impact on the price, as it may entail shifting around other less urgent contracts and/or other accommodations.

3P5A0547 - Version 23P5A2323A good idea and easy way to save on your corporate portrait or LinkedIn profile picture is to work with your HR resource in-house and have them schedule a half or full day shoot in your office. Any day can work, your time commitment is minimal (usually no more than 20 minutes) and even if you are paying out of your own pocket, you will benefit from a group rate as it is much more economical to shoot several portraits in one day in one location, than one or two here and there over the course of many days. It is not unrealistic to gain an 80% reduction in the price of a portrait, simply by coordinating internally to have at least 5 other people in your company have their portraits taken on the same day.

October and November are great months to book a portrait session so that your profile picture is updated and ready to whirl out into cyberspace once 2014 rolls around (it’s sooner than you think!)

 

Creative corporate portraits

Playful Portraits

Playful Portraits

Not all corporate portraits have to be cookie-cutter just-add-barcode-on-forehead head and shoulders shots. Once and a while it can be fun and fruitful to play around with relevant props and even (dare we) use a little humour and have fun with the shot.

I was recently hired by Queens School of Business to shoot a portrait of a senior VP at Monster and, while I was asked to provide straightforward corporate shots, was also given the leeway to shoot a few playful shots with my subject. Of course, a client needs to have the right attitude, be flexible and willing to play ball, but if they are, the in-office corporate portrait photoshoot can be effective and fun. Here are few takes from the shoot at Monster Canada’s offices in downtown Montreal.

How does an onsite portrait session work?

blog 4I am frequently called by prospective clients looking for a professional portrait photographer to take their picture. While many of these calls relate to corporate photography, a good portion are from professionals and individuals looking for a portrait because they need it, and usually quickly. Maybe they’ve won an award or been asked to speak at a conference and they need the portrait to accompany their bio, or maybe they’ve just published a book and need to provide their publisher with a headshot to go (proudly) on the back sleeve of their novel. Regardless of the need, many people have questions about how it works so I thought I’d try to help them and others looking into having a professional portrait taken by explaining the process of an onsite portrait session.

First of all, onsite portrait photography means the photographer comes to you. Whether that is your place of work, a home office or some other space you’ve got access to, the photographer will bring the necessary lighting, backdrops and gear to do the shoot where you are it. This is both more convenient for you (no moving around, no parking hassles) and saves you time.

Upon arrival, your photographer will scope out the area and determine the best space to set up in. Alternatively, you can show him/her where the shoot needs to happen and he/she will merrily begin accommodating you by putting up the backdrop stand, lighting and tripod for the camera. Depending on the kind of shot you are after, you may want to use an exposed brick wall or you may just want the traditional seamless white or grey found commonly in corporate portraits.

Setup may take 30-40 minutes, during which time you don’t need to be present. You can use the time to carry on with your work, or if your schedule allows, do your makeup and hair or just relax with a cup of coffee and chat with your photographer.

Once the setup is complete, your photographer will ask you to come into the area designated for the shoot and may ask you to pose for a few shots to test the lighting and get the information he or she needs to do any last-minute tweaks to the lighting set up.

After that it’s showtime. Your session may last five minutes if you are in a hurry and nail the shot right away, or it may go on for twenty or thirty minutes or even longer if you have booked the photographer for a full session including full body shots.

Usually during the shoot I like to show and tell. I share the photos I am taking with my subjects by showing them the images on my camera, or from my laptop. This helps assuage any lingering nervousness a client may have and also can improve the shots by giving the two of us something to discuss objectively.

Once I’ve done the shoot and my client has reviewed the images and agreed that at least one (if not several as is usually the case) of the images is good, I very quickly do a sort and clean up then post the images to a private site and send the link to my client. Unless asked, I leave the final selection to the client who can take as much time as he or she needs to review each image privately and at their own pace on my site. Once a choice is made (between 1-5 images) my client sends me an email with his or her selections and I edit those final images to perfection.

I then repost the final images to a new private password protected gallery (at high-resolution) and send the link to the client who then downloads the images directly to his or her computer and the job is done. If there are any requests for final changes then I make them, though usually there are none. corportrait33a

The whole process, from arrival to delivery of final images can take no more than 24 hrs. The usual turnaround is 48-72 hours with much of that time due to me waiting for the client to send me his or her final selections.

My goal and the goal of most professional photographers is to deliver a perfect image that makes my client happy they chose to work with me. As photographers, everyone gets to see our work – there is no hiding what we’ve done as it is usually published or used by our clients very publicly, so we need to get it right.

And that’s it. The process is quick, painless and fun and you end up with an up-to-date, professionally taken, photomagically edited photo (where necessary and not too heavily so that you look like you have fake plastic skin) and you no longer need to rely on that old vacation shot you cropped out of a group photo.

Happy Valentine’s Day! 2-for-1 portraits this February only

VDAYSPECIAL

If your restaurant dinner and special little Valentine’s Day present set you back a little more than you really wanted to spend, I’ve got some good news on how you can save big on a corporate or personal professional headshot this February.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, Julian Haber Photography is offering a 2-for-1 special on headshots.  Whether for your corporate profile, to update your LinkedIn profile to go with your new job, or just because you want a beautiful photo of you and your loved one to put on your desk in pretty little Valentine’s Day picture frames, this special is for you.VDAYport2

Here’s how it works:

  1. Pair up with a friend, a colleague, partner, spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend (heck bring your pet) and book your 2-for-1 shoot to be taken any time between Valentine’s Day, February 14th (that’s tomorrow for forgetful boyfriends/hubbys) and February 28, 2013
  2. You both get all your photos from your session delivered via download within 24hrs + one photo printed at size 4×6 on the spot
  3. You also get to choose up to 3 high res images (good for printing) each edited to perfection and delivered to you via password protected download within 24 hrs

Book today. No limits. But don’t wait till March or you’ll be too late for this fantastic, once a year, incredible deal. Which reminds me, I haven’t mentioned the price. Get ready. (Trust me, it won’t hurt and is likely less than a dinner for two cost you on Valentine’s Day)

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Special Valentine’s Day Price: $150 for both (yup that’s just $75 each. Sorry the deal can’t be split in half.)

 

Start 2013 with a new LinkedIn profile picture

LinkedInblogYou don’t have to pay a professional photographer to do your profile picture for LinkedIn, but if you are serious about your career, why wouldn’t you? For less than the price of one work outfit you can have an expert corporate photographer take your portrait providing you with at least three different shots to choose from so you can even refresh your image throughout the year at no additional cost. If you monetize and factor in the time it would take you to take your own photo, edit it so you look your best and then post it to your profile, the cost of having it professionally done for you is a wash.

But hey, maybe even knowing all that, one of your goals this year is to be as frugal as possible and you think you can do as good a job as a pro on your own. If so, you need to at least make sure you do a few things right – and a cropped shot of you from your beach vacation in Cancun isn’t appropriate in case you were wondering. What might look great on your Facebook profile page viewed by friends and family isn’t necessarily what is appropriate for the more professional “Facebook for adults” environment that LinkedIn represents.

While having a profile picture is not mandatory on LinkedIn, would you trust someone online who didn’t want to show a true likeness of themselves, particularly in a professional networking context? Did you know, for example, that “LinkedIn can remove your profile image if it is not your likeness or a headshot photo and that if LinkedIn removes your “photo 3 times, you will not be able to upload a photo to your profile again.”

With that in mind, you need to also make sure your photo is in the following formats (taken from LinkedIn’s photo settings recommendations page):

  • You can upload JPG, GIF or PNG files
  • File size – 4MB maximum.
  • Pixel size: 200 x 200 minimum and 500 x 500 maximum

I would recommend using the maximum pixel sized image to take full advantage of the space allotted to the profile photo. Try to show yourself in the best  light possible, ideally looking straight on into the camera with your shoulders at a slight angle to ensure you don’t look like you are posing for a mug shot. Have your hair done as best you can, apply a small amount of glare reducing makeup and even though this is a professional site, you don’t have to look like a stern prison warden (unless of course, that’s the kind of career you are pursuing).

 

Top five most popular blog posts

View of Montreal from atop Mount Royal, looking south to the St. Lawrence riverJust a little past the deadline for year-end reviews, I know, but I still think it worthwhile to share the top five most popular posts from blog based on how often they were viewed and read. I’ve also made a tweak to this blog to allow for comments (which I had turned off initially due to an unbelievable amount of spam), so please feel free to comment if any of the links to articles below are helpful for you.

1. Personalized family portrait sessions in your own home

2. Adding a photobooth to your next event is easier than you think

3.What’s in a photographer’s price?

4.Stop getting ripped off for wedding photography

5. What Makes a Great Wedding Photographer?

Julian Haber PhotographyAs one of Montreal’s leading corporate portrait photographers, event photographers and family portrait photographers, I want also to take this time to thank my many clients from 2012 and all the new friends who’ve liked my Facebook page and/or lePartybooth on Facebook and who’ve experienced the mad silly fun of hosting one of lePartybooth‘s madcap set ups at their event.lePartybooth If you haven’t already, please do visit either of these two sites. Many of my clients spend time on Facebook which is why these sites were created. Most (though not all) blog posts I publish here are linked to on either of those two sites so if you prefer streaming all your media through your Facebook account, then you may find it easier to follow my blog posts there.

I am always looking for new content to post here so if you have any suggestions or questions you’d like to ask a professional photographer in Montreal, please send me an email anytime.

I am looking forward to 2013 and have some exciting new ideas for a new line of personalized portraits I will be blogging about in the coming months so stay tuned and keep smiling — the best is yet to come.

 

 

Printing your photos – don’t bury your photos alive on your hard drive!

Printing your photos

There are many easy ways to appreciate a photo, but none in my opinion beat actually seeing one printed. While for some, viewing digital images on a tablet device (iPad or other), or phone, may be good enough, there are still many people (including myself) who value and appreciate the tactile quality and beauty of a printed photograph. There is a special power in an actual printed image that does not exist in the purely digital version of the identical image. Perhaps it is simply due to an over-saturation of images we see digitally vs. framed or mounted images so that the latter has the thrill of the new about it, or perhaps it is more reflective of us and our condition of mind when we approach an image that is framed and hanging on a wall, or printed into a photo book, that differs qualitatively from simply fingering our way through one streamed photo after another on a touchscreen. Regardless, from a photographer’s point of view, understanding and working with prints is another key skill that must be mastered to fully satisfy client needs.

The original photowall

The original photowall

As this is a time of resolutions, one of which for many is surely to finally sit down and sort through the thousands of digital images buried on hard drives (or floating in the cloud) and curate a neat and tidy collection, here are a few printing options I’ve experimented with over the years that I think people this time of year may find handy:

Print on canvas:

Printing on canvas has been around for a number of years now but I still encounter clients who’ve never heard of it or realize how easy it can be to do. While it is not something I do frequently, I have printed a few images this way and am always excited and pleased with the results. I use a company based in Ottawa (Canvas Pop – and no, I am not paid to advertise their work, I just think they do a great job and provide a friendly, reliable service). Essentially, any digital image can be printed on canvas. The basic technique involves printing the image on a specially treated material that is then bonded with the canvas, though I am sure there are various technical differences among providers. The end result is a photograph that is imperceptibly a part of the canvas on which it is printed. The resulting product is long-lasting and comes in different depths (up to 2 inches) so it can be hung directly on the wall as is, or framed to give it an even more formal look.

Print on aluminum:

This used to be a specialty technique but is popping up in more and more photo servicing shops. As with printing on canvas, getting your photo onto aluminum is actually an image transfer technique that bonds the image with the aluminum to create a very durable product that can be hung as-is, framed and exposed to either indoor or outdoor applications. It works extremely well with colourful images as the process highlights and adds a bit of saturation to colours, much like a glossy finish on a conventional print does, but with even greater impact. The price is considerably higher than printing a regular photograph and more than printing on canvas, but for certain select images (travel shots, art pieces) it works very well.

Print on photo paper – multiple finishes:

Photos are traditionally printed on photo paper, either with a matte (flat) finish, or gloss. Additionally there are metallic papers that are almost a cross between metal and paper, with high resistance to scratching and creasing, and are much more difficult to tear.

Print on watercolour paper:

Usually reserved for art prints, or high-end wedding photography, photos can also be printed onto a wide array of papers with different qualities and degrees of ink absorption and saturation. A good resource for which papers are best for which application would be the vendor at a quality photo store where high end printers are sold. If you are into fine art photographer (as a creator or buyer) than you will likely want to ensure that every part of the process employs museum quality archival techniques and products (inks, acid-free paper, etc).

Postagrams and other ways to print your Instagram, Facebook and other social photos:

There are now also a number of apps that can connect directly with one or another of your preferred social media hangout and print images directly from your account. I’ve used both Postagram and CanvasPop to print Instagram photos. Postagram is fun because it lets you print an image as a postcard that it then sends on your behalf. When I signed up the first five were free, though things may have changed since then. (This was all before I deleted my Instagram account based on concerns that one day my fun and private photos of my family would be used in advertising)

Photobooks:

photobookOne of my favourite ways to use images is to create a photo book with them. There are many providers ranging from the built-in options for for Mac users, to in-store kiosks and a number of websites (like Blurb). The book I created of my daughter’s first year of life was both a wonderful process to do, reviewing the many thousands of images I’d taken of her from her first 10 seconds of life onwards, and resulted in an instant family heirloom. I think of all the ways I’ve rescued images from the obscurity of cold digital storage, photo books are actually my favourite. In fact, I think it’s time I get going on another one!

If for no other reason then to have an objective to motivate you to review, refine and curate your collection of digital images, consider printing a few photos this year using one of the methods described instead of consigning all of your digital output to a cloud-based storage somewhere never to be seen or appreciated again. Just like the Velveteen rabbit, a photo has to be seen to be loved.

Happy 100th Birthday

Over the holidays I was invited to photograph an intimate and, in my mind, historic event: the 100th birthday of a family matriarch. As I travelled to the home in Hudson where the party was being held on a bright and sunny day after a huge snowstorm, I passed an overturned car on the highway and was reminded of the fragility of life and the importance of family. I was especially motivated to do a great job for my client covering his grandmother’s 100th birthday that afternoon in Hudson.  As part of the coverage, I set up a small studio in one of the large bedrooms on the ground floor so that each individual family (as well as all eight great-grandchildren!) could have a chance to be photographed with the guest of honour.

During the lunch the birthday star was asked about her life as a young child, growing up in a time when horses were the main mode of transportation and international travel was done by long, ocean-crossing boat voyages. It was inspiring to witness the occasion and to be able to contribute portraits of lasting value to the families. A great way to end 2012 and ring in the new year.

Planning a big family gathering? Hire a pro to get the shot

If you are planning a big family gathering over the holidays you will surely be posing for at least one, if not several family portraits. While it is always feasible to take the shot with you in it by setting up your camera on a tripod, using the timer and then running into place (and these  types of shots can be kind of fun to take as well), you may want to consider bringing in a pro to get the shot done for you so you can enjoy being at the party with your family and friends, and not worry about documenting it.

It is difficult to get a whole family together, particularly an extended family, and show up somewhere for a studio portrait shoot, so, as I have written about here, you need a photographer who will come to your home to do your family portrait on site where they are all already gathered. With some portable lights, a colourful backdrop and a good camera, you can have studio quality images taken in your living room. You’d be surprised at what can be fit into even the smallest of spaces, and if you are lucky enough to live somewhere beautiful, in-situ portraits using the natural views as backdrops add a very personal touch to the family portrait impossible to recreate in a studio.

As a portrait photographer in Montreal, holidays, weekends and evenings are my busiest times, so don’t think that just because it is a holiday you can’t benefit from having a professional portrait photographer come to your house when you’ve got the whole family finally gathered together, looking their best and feeling cheery for the holidays.

5 Tips for How to Photograph Young Children in Family Portraits this Holiday Season

Around this time of year families will be gathering and happily, many will have at least one, if not several, young children in the mix. As a family portrait photographer I have a lot of experience taking photos of children, alone, with their siblings and parents.  As a general rule, the younger the child, the more difficult it is to get a shot with the child looking straight at the camera, and miracle of miracles, smiling too. Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks that family photographers may find useful over the upcoming holidays and I’d like to share them here:

  1. Control the parents! While it sounds off-topic, I have had countless photos ruined by parents who are so worried about what their child is doing, they forget they are in the portrait too. I always tell parents (often several times during a session) to not worry about the child, keep smiling and look straight at me. Parents of young children in particular have a very hard time keeping their focus. One or two shots of both parents smiling and looking at the child (who ideally is smiling and looking back at one of them) are okay, but there is nothing more frustrating than working with a challenging toddler, finally getting the child’s attention and a smile to boot – and a parent is looking askew at the child with a furrowed brow worried about what the child is doing.
  2. Say hello to the child or children before you start the shoot: Children are just little people. They have feelings and think about things just like adults do. And just like many adults, they need to warm  up a bit before smiling on command for a photographer. If you are not photographing your own family, take a few minutes before doing the shoot to get to know the children. Play with them, or let them have a look at your camera. I often even let the children take a photo or two if their hands can handle it, as this demystifies the camera, turning it into a toy and making the experience fun.
  3. Treat children as you would a small wild animal encountering a human for the first time: Young children are like squirrels. They are easily distracted, unpredictable and rarely sit still for long. But they are usually curious too and interested in what you are doing if you include them in the process. To capture a good photo of a child you need either to take lot of photos or catch them off guard and take the photo quickly. Either way, the trick is to stay calm, stay in control and keep up a steady patter of soothing language in soft tones that calms the child. (This may also help calm the nervous parents as well and help with #1 above).
  4. Take a break. Sometimes the first round of photos is just a warm up. Take a few in a series, then give the child a break. Let him or her play with a favourite toy or even walk away for a few minutes. If you relax and critically, help the parents relax, often the child will realize that the most fun thing to do right now is take a photo and want to come back and start smiling.
  5. Make it a game: as in many things in life, adding an element of play to taking a photograph will help you get great, candid looking photos of people really smiling naturally. Depending on the age of the child I’ll try things like asking them to spot my eye through the lens, or balance a stuffed animal on my head. As mentioned in #2 above, letting the child see the photos taken in the LCD screen or even letting them snap a few shots themselves helps win their trust and puts them in a more cooperative frame of mind.

There are several more ways to get great photos of children but key to all is making the experience fun, natural and relatively quick so that child (and the rest of the family) can get back to having fun with each other and not worrying about how they look in photos. Keep in mind that your demeanor, level of relaxation and visible enjoyment for taking the photo goes a long way in encouraging the same response in your subjects. So have fun, enjoy the holiday and good luck with your family portraits.

Sometimes a portrait needs a little digital surgery

As a corporate portrait photographer, many of my contracts involve visiting an office to do a series of portraits in one day. This is a time and cost effective way for both the client and photographer to get the job done, and helps ensure consistency with the images. However, as with any people based business, even if corporate portraits often follow specific conventions, occasionally a subject steps a little too close to the lens, or too far away, or the crop is a little tight and suddenly a problem is created. While all the other photos show the top of the head, in one or two a tip of the subject’s head was cut off. This happened to me on a recent shoot but it is an easy problem to solve.

It’s important to take more photos than you will use when shooting portraits for a few reasons. Primarily, clients will want a selection to choose from period since it is their portrait after all. It is also, however, important for the photographer to have a few takes that can be used to “harvest” from, in the case (as above) where you may need to perform digital surgery. While the first portrait in the above series showed the requisite amount of head, the more interesting portrait didn’t. No problem.

The first thing I did was extend the canvas size of the selected image so that I would have some space to “stitch” the missing head piece onto. Then, using the lasso crop tool and feathering the selection to about 15 or even higher, I selected the amount of head I wanted to add and dragged it over to my destination image.  Since I was creating black and white portraits, once I had attached the head tip where it belonged and (using the Transform tool) slightly resized it to fit the new head, I added a new layer for black and white and made any final touchups necessary to blend the two pieces into one.

There are many other cases where having more than one portrait to choose from helps get the job done, like fixing glare on eyeglasses, or even adding in an eye on an unfortunately timed blink. It is all part of a professional portrait photographer’s tool kit and having an extra set of images in store helps ensure delivery of one final portrait for the client. These kinds of edits are best avoided of course, but sometimes can’t be helped. Ultimately, the best portrait is the one the client likes and will use for its intended purpose whether that is an updated website or a holiday card going out to clients at the end of the year. The job of the portrait photographer is to ensure that the client gets what he or she wants, even if it takes a little surgery in the digital darkroom to make it happen.