Photographing a group of mad clowns for an upcoming theatrical presentation was truly one of the more inspiring studio portrait sessions I’ve worked on. With a little make-up , a simple lighting set up, and a whole lot of talent, we created some beautiful images that will be used for marketing and promoting the show through both print and online campaigns.
My brother, Daniel Francis Haber, and I recently shot the seven-hour portrait photo session for the upcoming Clowns Gone Bad production MöcShplat, directed by local Montreal actor/director (and current star of 18 to Life), Alain Goulem and to be presented by Geordie Productions in February 2011. (MöcShplat is a version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth unlike any you’ve ever seen before: all the actors are clowns and the language they speak is gibberish. I’ll add the link to their blog soon once it is complete).
We used a great new rental studio in town and loved it. We took group shots, headshots, posed and candid portraits and special poses for a top-secret marketing piece involving a really cool band from the eighties with big hair and lots of makeup. We had so much fun and are so proud of the photos, we want to share a few of them here and are calling out to all local actors, musicians, artists, real estate agents or anyone else wanting to book a studio session for headshots. Now booking for September offering great fall rates. Contact me by phone (514.757.7657) or email: email@example.com
*Please note: all images shown in this post are copyright protected and cannot be copied or used for any purpose without explicit permission from www.julianhaber.com and the actors featured in the images.
As an event photographer in Montreal, every now and then I am fortunate to shoot stars in intimate settings, and last night at a boutique hotel in Montreal, I and my assistant Celia Lavinskas, had the pleasure of shooting the talented and lovely Dolly Parton. The event was a fundraiser in support of Invest in Kids. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a partner with Invest in Kids and she was there to pack her star power behind the Invest in Kids fundraising efforts. Lucky for us, Dolly photographs beautifully and is a gracious model, posing not just with Montreal’s elite but also the working people at the events who help keep events running smoothly. Here’s to you Dolly!
I often shoot intimate portrait sessions of clients in the comfort and convenience of their own home. A question that sometimes arises is how can you create studio-perfect images if you are not shooting in a studio? While there will always be a certain number of shots that are simply not possible to take in every uncontrolled (i.e. out of studio) situation, the vast majority of clients will be delighted with images taken in their own homes, gardens or nearby parks – and not just because it saves them money.
As a portrait photographer in Montreal, I have developed a growing portfolio of pregnancy photos (pun intended). A pregnant woman, usually within two to three weeks of her scheduled due date is a magnificently beautiful subject. People often refer to the “glow” a pregnant woman has, full of joy and expectation for her coming child and truly blossoming before your very eyes. One thing, however, is also true of very pregnant women: they are probably very uncomfortable. They’ve not been sleeping well. They have to pee a lot. The last thing they want to do is schlep themselves and all their gear into a car, drive to a photo studio, struggle to find parking, haul their aching bodies out of the car and into the studio and cross their fingers hoping there is a bathroom on site. Not to mention her ever-loving partner who is also probably not sleeping too well and may be receiving ever so slightly more “requests” from his (or her) spouse who, understandably, has more on her mind than worrying about tender egos.
All this to say, a photo shoot in the comfort of your own home by a professional portrait photographer is not only ultra convenient, it is relaxing, fun and can result in photos just as good as any you’ll get from a studio shoot – without the hassle.
Use what you find in the home – move furniture around (you, not your pregnant subject who should be doing whatever she feels like doing while you prep the shot). Need a backlight? Draw the blinds and position your subjects in front of the curtain. As long as it is not the middle of the night and a torrential, sky wrenching downpour, you should have enough light from the good old sun to give you exactly what you need. Fill in the rest with your on camera (or, preferably, on Stroboarm) flash and play around with bouncing it off walls, ceilings (even out of frame mirrors) to get the look you want.
Staircases, balcony, comfy chairs – everything you’ll find in most homes provide interesting opportunities for set ups and they don’t require much effort to optimize for the shoot. An additional benefit, particularly for pregnant couples (and even more so for first time parents) is that their home is now a fully feathered nest. That baby is on its way in just a few weeks! The home where the child will soon be living is the ideal space to capture the thrill and joy of being pregnant. The images that result will become treasured memories you can share with your child and enjoy for years to come.
What are some of the reasons why people hire an event photographer? As an active Montreal event photographer I’ve had many opportunities to consider this question as I am photographing events for different clients. I think people hire event photographers for at least the following three (+ one) reasons:
To document the event for a client (i.e. if you are running the event as a brand marketing, communications, or PR firm and are providing photographs as part of your contract)
To generate visual content for a range of media (internal newsletters and websites, external publications, annual reports, etc.)
To provide photos as gifts to your guests (usually this entails a meet-and-greet set-up where the guests enter and are photographed in singles, couples or groups in front of a branded backdrop)
I would add a fourth, perhaps less explicit reason as well: an event photograph adds excitement to your event and if done well by a professional event photographer, can serve to create moments and not simply document those that naturally arise in the heady mix of well dressed beautiful people, alcohol, luxurious settings in high-end restaurants or boutique hotel event spaces and music.
If you are running an event for a client you are very likely considering at least these reasons as you plan out your event schedule (please feel free to suggest more). This also means, that you are very likely most interested in getting great shots quickly when the event is complete. In addition to talent and experience, you will want to query your prospective event photographers on their process and how they will get the images of the event to you (and how quickly). If you are not leaving the night with a DVD of your high-resolution images in hand (or won’t be downloading them the following day from a password protected website) then you may not be dealing with a professional event photographer.
As an experienced event photographer, I shoot an average of 100 shots per hour, and factor in time at the end of the evening to transfer these images to a DVD which I burn and leave with my client before the night is over. This provides the client with the assurance that should they get any media requests for images they can respond immediately with visuals, and allows the client to begin using the images for their intended purposes right away rather than waiting a week or two for a series of images to be released by the photographer, at which point much of the punch and usefulness of these transient event photos may have evaporated.
It is for this same reason – to quickly provide clients with images as the event transpires – that I do not edit my images unless requested. This saves an enormous amount of time for the event photographer and gives the client complete control of the images they have purchased by hiring an event photographer in the first place. I always include with every event photography contract I am hired for a reasonable number of edited images. I use the word “reasonable” because it is hard to predict exactly how many images a client may or may not want edited in post-production for very specific purposes, but my experience as an event photographer has taught me that 99.9% of all clients are reasonable. Most people do not want a deluge of images edited. They may come back and ask for a few to be edited for lighting here, a detail there, but by and large, the output of a professional event photographer direct from the camera to DVD meets the needs and expectations of clients who hire event photographers. This also ensures maximum convenience to the client who knows that once their event is done, they will have all the images they paid for in their hands before the lights go on and the clean up begins.
If you are an event planner, a public relations professional, wedding planner, event space manager, branding or communications professional and have been tasked with hiring an event photographer for an upcoming event (particularly in a city not your own, i.e. a Toronto-based firm looking for a good event photographer in Montreal), consider the reasons why you are hiring your event photographer and put into your requirements what you expect from the contract. A professional event photographer should have no problem providing you with full coverage and all your images delivered to you within (latest) 24 hrs of your event. You’re paying for the service, so make sure you get what you need and want. In event photography, the client is ALWAYS right.
Pricing one’s work is often one of the trickiest things to do as a photographer (or any artist for that matter). As a Montreal photographer who shoots events, weddings, portraits and real estate – four very different markets with four different types of clients, I have learned that the key to getting to a price both parties are comfortable with, is to clearly understand your client’s expectations and make sure they understand what they are getting from you in return for the price you are asking.
While some event planners or wedding planners are familiar with contracting photographers, for most people finding, choosing and hiring a photographer is not an easy task. For one thing, there are countless photographers out there, many of whom have their own websites or blogs with different ways of packaging and selling their skills and their work. The sheer abundance of choice can be overwhelming, even to a skilled buyer like an event planner or wedding planner. What accounts for the difference between one photographer and another? There are many factors that I have observed, which I will share here with you to help you choose an event, wedding, portrait or real estate photographer the next time you need one:
Who owns the final images?: In the pre-digital days and through the industry transition as older photographers held onto their film cameras and film-based pricing structures, a price was bounded by and built upon a monopolistic control of the negative. The photographer took your picture, but her or she held onto the negative. They would make you a print and charge you for it, but keep the negative in order to charge you more each time you wanted a new image or an image in a different size. In my opinion this business model is dead and does not serve either the customer or the photographer’s best interest. It certainly makes no sense in the digital era yet still I am surprised at how many photographers cling to the notion that they somehow retain some implicit right over a client’s images. It is even more astounding when the client has already paid you for your time and effort if you are charging an hourly rate or session fee. It pays to ask up front if you will be given a copy of all the images taken during your shoot or if you will only be allowed to select the ones you want and then pay for prints. If the photographer retains the digital images and only lets you have prints you will be guaranteed to pay more.
Hourly or fixed fee?: As a Montreal wedding photographer and Montreal event photographer I charge by the hour for my work. My price is based on a few things. Firstly, I will be providing full coverage of your event, usually non-stop. The only point in an event where one can safely take a 15 or 20 minute break in my experience is during meals as no one wants a picture of themselves with their mouth open shoveling food into it, no matter how pretty the face. Unless you are documenting some kind of food related event, eating shots are unnecessary and provide a built-in break. Otherwise, you cannot afford to be unavailable and so you will be out and on the move and ready with your camera for when the moments happen. I tend to take a lot of photos (roughly 100-125 per hour) which provides clients with security knowing they will have their event fully covered. A fixed fee, on the other hand, makes sense for small groups or individual portraits and real estate listings photography where the agent is more concerned with getting good results than the time you spend inside – in fact, most agents would prefer you spend as little time as possible shooting as they are not getting paid for the time they spend waiting for you.
Is your price negotiable?: From time to time I get asked this question and my answer is always the same: no. But I don’t stop there. In the case of wedding photography or event photography I explain to my prospective client that my rate is based on the time I will spend working and providing live continuous coverage of the event + the time I will spend uploading and preparing viewing galleries for the client + the time I will spend responding to emails and queries from the client + the time I will spend editing the photos the client selects for final post-production + the time I will spend burning a final DVD of the images + the costs of delivering the DVD to the client + an allocation of the cost of my investment in professional photographic equipment, computers and the latest versions of professional photo editing software which is expensive. Once a client sees all the many inputs that go into a price, it is much easier for them to understand that my price is actually more than reasonable. I then ask them to consider the costs of the food they will be serving, or perhaps the venue rental fee or some other fee attached to the event against any one of which I am certain I will be one of the least expensive. And my work yields lasting images that document the event or wedding and forever retain the beauty or significance of the event – the food will be eaten and gone tomorrow, the lights turned off, the flowers wilted and composted while my photos will be looked at, shared, posted across Facebook accounts, websites and sent by email around the world. Finally, if the client is really looking for a discount I recommend them to other, younger and less exeperienced photographers who will work for the experience.
Quality matters: This one is simple but needs saying nonetheless. Yes the ubiquity of digital cameras has made it seem much, much simpler to take photos of anything and everything you want. Yes, even the most inexperienced photographer can come up with a few good lucky shots. But can you – or your sister’s younger cousin who just started taking photos – consistently set up, find, capture and produce quality images time and again? Does your photographer know how to shoot in different or changing light conditions? Are they prepared with backup gear, batteries, storage cards and chargers should something happen? Do they know how to interact with you and your guests to elicit real smiles and laughter without overdoing it and taking up more space than they should as someone who works for you. There is ALWAYS a cheaper alternative. But quality is hard to fake. If your photographer comes with great references, a portfolio you admire, a personality you like and a professional, client-focused attitude, then he or she is worth the price being asked. Quality counts because photographers, just like other professionals who put their name to what they do, live and die by their work. A professional cares about his or her reputation – and so do you if you have chosen to talk to them about their price. They get it from producing quality work clients love.
Educating your client about what goes into producing quality photography is key. Even if all it looks like you are doing is pointing your camera and clicking a button, you should now know that there is much more work involved in producing a gorgeous image. Whether your charge by the hour as I do for event photography and wedding photography, or work for a fixed fee as I do for portraits and real estate listings photography a photographer’s price is based on the effort before, during and after the shoot that goes into producing an image that will exceed the expectations of you, the client. Clearly explaining how photography is priced helps both photographer and client appreciate each other. Having achieved understanding, you will both be happier and better prepared to discuss a photography contract.
As a Montreal wedding photographer I have had the opportunity to photograph many weddings in and around Montreal in churches, hotels, restaurants and parks. I have photographed both traditional weddings, as well as more personalized, unconventional weddings of couples from many different backgrounds and religious beliefs.
Whether the couple is young and getting married for the first time, or it is a second marriage later in life, whether it is a same sex marriage, or a marriage between a man and woman, certain underlying themes recur. Real feeling and true emotion happen spontaneously and if you are there when they happen ready to capture the moment your job as a wedding photographer is 90% done. I am often in the most privileged position to see and observe what is happening throughout the entire wedding party, not only in the key moments between the bride and her groom. I love feeling almost invisible, blending into the crowd and witnessing real moments of human love wherever and however they occur. Being there and being ready when the moments come is one of the most important things I have learned as a Montreal wedding photographer.
When shooting wedding photography, I believe it is my responsibility to do these moments justice and document them as they happen, where they happen, capturing the light and atmosphere in which they transpire. These moments, when the bride’s mother wipes an unexpected tear from her eye as she suddenly realizes her baby girl is getting married, or when the whole rooms bursts into laughter at some witticism the best man reveals in his speech about his lifelong friendship with the groom, are really the basic elements of the memories your client will hold onto. A wedding day is a special day because there is such a density of these moments, textured and coloured with emotion and they can happen right in the heart of the action – the expected yet always satisfying kiss between bride and groom – or off somewhere in another room or in a hallway. As the couple’s wedding photographer, it is up to me to provide them with a true portrait of their wedding day, sewing together all these beautiful moments into images that unfold throughout the course of the day and into the final, late hours when the dancing is in full swing and the relief and relaxation is as abundant as the flowing wine and multi-coloured lights.
Over the past ten years working as a Montreal wedding photographer, I have learned a few things that every wedding photographer, particularly those starting out in the business, should keep in mind which I would like to share here. If you are a bride reading this, you can use this as a handy guide to query your Montreal wedding photographer about how he or she works. If you are a fellow photographer, consider how these tips could be worked into your own style (and feel free to share your own tips and feedback in the comments section below).
Make sure you get all the key group shots early: These group shots are tough to get right as they are best taken just after the ceremony but before the reception as everyone in them is in a hurry to be somewhere else and start the party. I’ve found that while these photos can be done quickly if you are well organized and have scoped out your background for the shots first, they should not be so rushed that you miss any of the important ones. One thing I always do is shoot the largest group first, that way if there are any extra people who will not be in any other photos you can send these people away as soon as the big shot is done so that you progressively whittle down the size of the crowd you are working with. The more people there are in a group shot the more likely it will be that one blinks or looks away when you snap the shutter, forever locking themselves into an album of memories with their eyes shut. It is the job of you, the wedding photographer, to get a great group shot with everyone looking at you and nowhere else, and looking good and in focus.
It’s all about the bride, all the time: the bride is your client – if she isn’t happy with her photos it doesn’t matter if everyone else thinks they’re great – you failed. How do you know what makes her happy? You don’t; so take lots of photos of her. While it is a fine balance between being obtrusive and being thorough, your job is to make sure you have a zillion photos of the bride, posed and unposed, and she should look as fantastic as she feels in every single shot. Of course you can’t ignore the rest of the wedding party, but trust me, the bride is the star of the show and as a wedding photographer, you need to make her feel like one.
Be there when it happens: if you learn nothing else from reading this, learn this. Moments happen quickly. And then they are gone. You need to be there when they happen. It sounds difficult – it is – but that’s what you are getting paid for. You literally need to be everywhere at once – this means learning the layout of where you are shooting, wearing really comfortable (while still presentable) clothes and moving around all day and all night long. You are a hunter and your quarry is on the move – you’ve got to move with them. Don’t stay in one place too long or the looks get stale and people stop enjoying themselves. Work the crowd, work through it, hang back on the edges, run up to a balcony and get some overhead shots, then run back down and work the room from another entrance, and on and on. You are paid to be there when the moments happen – don’t miss them.
Be overprepared!: It can happen to anyone and it usually has happened to every wedding photographer at least once. The moment arrives, they are closing in for the kiss – I mean THE KISS, you pop up for the shot and…click. Nothing happens. Battery dead. Card full. Flash doesn’t fire. You name it – it can happen. Don’t let it happen to you. Have triple the battery power (fully charged and ready to go) and card capacity you think you will need. I can remember back in the beginning when I first started shooting weddings having my assistant cabbing it to the nearest pharmacy to buy up extra batteries and cards as I had maxed out on everything I had with hours left in the wedding. Lucky for me the store was open.
Interact with the guests: While being the unobserved observer is great for some shots, for the candid but smiling full frontals of pairs, groups and other guests you will get much better results if you lightly touch their arm, ask for their attention, and tell them to look right at your lens. Take more than one shot.
Don’t forget the wedding photographer “classics”: In nearly every wedding, even the most casual and laissez-faire, there are a few classic photos every couple wants (even if they don’t ask for it explicitly). These include:
bride alone (as many as you can – she is the key customer)
bride and groom together – position them on alternate sides and make sure the lighting is right on their faces particularly. It is usually far more effort working up lighting effects on the bride’s face in Photoshop then it is just taking the extra minute or two to get it right when you shoot.
bride and groom and bride’s parents
bride and groom and groom’s parents
bride and groom with both sets of parents
bride with maid of honour
bride with maid of honour and other bridesmaids
groom with best man
groom with best man and other best men
bride and groom and full wedding party
While there are plenty more tricks of the trade that I’ve picked up as a Montreal wedding photographer, I’ll save those for future posts. Thanks for visiting my site and reading about my work as a Montreal wedding photographer.
Many people I know have had their portraits taken at a well-known photo studio that operates out of malls around the city. They often walk away from the sessions involving cutesy and unnatural poses that the photographer sets up, having spent several hundred dollars and having been forced to make a decision to purchase prints almost as soon as the last shutter closes on the shoot. For some people, this kind of in-and-out studio service may be all they want even if it is a little expensive. However, few people realize that having an in-home portrait session done (either in your own house, or when the weather permits in a nearby park or in your backyard) is not only more convenient for the modern working family, but can also result in extraordinary photos that capture the real beauty of you and your family in a comfortable, familiar setting. No parking fees, no travel time, no big battle with younger children who have an uncanny intuition about being disobliging when you want them to look their best. Just you and your family, having your photos taken at your own pace in your own home.
A family portrait session can be done in just an hour or it can last a little while longer if you have the time. A good portrait photographer doesn’t need an elaborate set-up to shoot beautiful images. All that is needed is one light or maybe two, possibly just a flash or none if the weather is obliging. More important than gear and set-up is the relationship your portrait photographer has with you and your family. A good portrait results from the subject (you!) feeling relaxed and comfortable, knowing the photographer you’ve hired is going to make you look good and natural. Now looking natural doesn’t mean snapping up documentary style photographs of you at the end of a trying day in the office (unless that’s the look you’re after). It simply means allowing yourself to be comfortable with who you are, letting your love for your family show through in the images – the reason you want a portrait done in the first place.
Have fun with your portrait session! Getting ready for the photographer can be fun (like getting dressed up for a party) and the time you spend with him or her should be as enjoyable as having anyone else a guest in your home. Having your family’s pictures taken should be a collaboration between you and your photographer. You will be the one leafing through your photo book or looking at the framed portrait on the wall for years to come so you should have a say in the way it looks while trusting your portrait photographer’s instincts and judgments to take (and choose) the best shots for your final selection.
If you are thinking of having your family portrait done this spring (or even better, if you’ve been blessed with a new baby and want to share your joy with the world!) think twice about what you want to get out of your portrait session. Keep in mind that you can easily hire a photographer to come to your home and photograph you and your family in your own environment, on your schedule, with the least amount of inconvenience to you – and you can probably save about 50% of the cost you’d otherwise spend on a studio session while also having as much time as you like to decide what prints you want done, if any. Today’s digital photographers can provide you with a wealth of choices and there is no need to rush to buy a print to try to pressure you to spend as much as possible while the flash heads are still warm.
The Concert to fight Cancer 2010 was a great success with a sell out crowd of over 2500 people at Place des Arts on Friday, February 5th, 2010, gathered to attend a benefit concert starring Kent Nagano and the MSO in support of the Institut du cancer de Montreal (ICM). In addition to the strong turnout for the concert, the cocktail party before and after the concert was well attended by Montreal luminaries. Julian Haber Photography is a proud supporter of the ICM and once again was there to cover the evening from start to finish.
I’ve worked for many successful real estate agents in Montreal and the surrounding area and I believe one of the secrets to their success is providing their clients with professional real estate photography to showcase their properties in the best light possible. These real estate agents know what it takes to stand out in a competitive industry: superlative client service. By investing in professional real estate photography rather than relying on quick snapshots taken with a pocket camera, they are showing their customers that they take their work seriously and that they are committed to providing an excellent service to help them sell their property. Here are a few tips real estate agents should keep in mind when preparing their listings’ images of property for sale or lease:
Use pro gear! Real estate photography requires the use of a professional camera able to capture the way the actual lighting appears in the property in a way that enhances the space and is attractive to potential buyers. Most prospective property buyers are looking for natural light, clean, well decorated living spaces. By using a tripod, long exposures and a professional camera even a less than spectacular room can be made to look attractive, warm and inviting.
Clean up and declutter! Whether the owner of the property is still living in the home or condo you are selling on their behalf, or if it is a new development still yet to be moved into, it pays to have the space professionally cleaned up and prepared in advance of the real estate photography session you’ve booked. Take a page from a homestager’s book (or hire one to help you). Put magazines away leaving just a few in neat stacks on clean, polished surfaces; put away the dishes in the kitchen; roll up the dingy bathroom carpets; hang the towels as if you were preparing a room in a 5 star hotel; brighten up a space with a few well placed plants or even better, a vase or two of fresh cut flowers. Make the rooms you are advertising look like a space someone wants to live in – without letting it look too lived in.
Hire a professional real estate photographer! Admittedly, this is a shameless plug, but considering the fees paid to a professional photographer are both business expenses and fractions of a percentage point off the value of a commission, is it really worth your time and effort to take the shots yourself? Professional camera gear (even just a basic set up that fits in a small backpack) costs upwards of $10,000. Leverage the investment and skill of a professional real estate photographer to do what he or she does best, so you can focus on what you do best: making the sale and making your client a happy (repeat) customer.
Good luck with the spring real estate 2010 season. From my vantage point working with real estate agents around the city, the Montreal market has held up well during this past recession and looks to be heating up again. Professional real estate photography will help make your properties shine and get you quickly to your next sale.
Update Feb 27, 2010: A day after the image above was posted to my client’s website www.montrealrealestatesource.com the condo sold! Great real estate photography really works!
The Haiti TweetUp organized by Flow Consulting on January 19th was a great success. We raised over $10,000 for Medecins Sans Frontieres and hopefully motivated people to do more to help Haiti, a country that was already in need of help before being struck by the worst natural disaster in our hemisphere ever. You can catch the wrap up here in case you missed it.
I’ll be shooting a gala fundraising party tonight at Place des Arts, the Concert contre le Cancer on behalf of the Institut du cancer de Montreal. Last year’s event was a huge success and I’m looking forward to the show and capturing unique shots of the evening as it happens. You can see the photos from last year’s event here.