How distorted perceptions of yourself can ruin your enjoyment of life and what you can do about it

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It’s all inside your head

In photography, there are two kinds of distortion that impact an image: optical and perception.

Optical distortion, also known as lens distortion, is caused by the design of the lens itself and its effect is to make straight lines in reality appear bent or curvy. You may notice it happening yourself when you take a photo with a wide angle lens of a group and notice that the figures on the edges of the group (and inside the photo) appear to bend inwards or look wider and larger than they actually are – which is one of the reasons I always advise people who really want to look their best to take the centre position in a group photo if they can).

Perspective distortion, technically, is a function of where the subject of a photo being taken is in relation to the positioning of the lens. People or objects positioned closer to the lens will appear larger, wider and if you are very close, the physical features of their face will look stretched and larger than life. The same thing happens with your own eyes (things closer look larger, things further away look smaller – hence the “super power ability for the infamous Head Crusher in the classic television comedy series Kids in the Hall from the early nineties).

Both are explained in longer format here.

There is, however, another kind of perspective distortion, as it relates to how people, usually women, perceive themselves in photos. As a photographer of people, men and women, I have seen the effects of a distorted perception of reality time and time again. There are many contributing factors, both intrinsic to individuals (low self-esteem, poor body image) and extrinsic from a media saturated world drenched with images of “perfect’ looking people that glorifies body types on women like Kim Kardashian as some how representative of all women.

As a photographer, particularly an event and portrait photographer, my job is to take photos of people looking their best. But at the same time, I believe I am also responsible for showing people as they are and because I look for moments when they are smiling and interacting with people that genuinely interest them, I always find angles and views of people that I believe they look great in. It’s actually one of the things I am most known for as an event photographer, and yet, there are still times when I, and I am sure all working photographers today, encounter clients who just can’t get over how they look in photos.

These kinds of people have unrealistic expectations but more significantly, they have a distorted view of themselves. They focus on details that no one else would ever notice and these loom large in their eyes, while ignoring other positive features or facets of how they are actually perceived. Rather than see themselves as most people do, they hold themselves up to a truly black mirror that distorts their self-image, and no doubt brings psychological pain and discomfort. This can of course then lead them to behave in ways that creates friction or conflict with others when the source has to do with their own distorted view of themselves.

As a people photographer, I sometimes find myself playing the role of therapist, taking my clients through a narrated tour of their photos and trying to help them see themselves as I see them, and surely most other people do as well.

I am not always successful, but I think that it does help to be told that the single out of place strand of hair you are fixating on is invisible to people you are interacting with who are almost always concentrating on what you are saying or what you are about, rather than the way your face looks.

Just like in high school, that pimple on the edge of your cheek is much larger to you than it is to everyone else around you. It may still feel uncomfortable and unpleasant even if you really are obsessed with how you look or really dislike something about yourself (and I know because I had terrible acne as a teenager) but the truth is there is no better version of yourself than the one that recognizes its flaws, works on what can be controlled, and accepts what cannot.

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. If you suffer from a  perception distortion habit when you see yourself in photos, try to recognize that while your perception may be distorted, you aren’t.  You can change how you see yourself.

Understand that no one pays as much attention to your perceived flaws as you do, and many people (not all, but they have other problems to deal with) are actually trying to see who you are when they meet and interact with you – not what you look like.

When we truly connect with someone it isn’t because of how we look – it’s because of how we make the other person feel. People like–or dislike–other people mainly because of the way they feel when they interact with them. If you are focussed on yourself and adopting stances and postures, both physically and psychologically designed to defend or protect yourself where you feel vulnerable, exposed or uncomfortable you are most likely going to invoke those same feelings in others. If you want to be seen for who you are, accepted, respected, loved even – your first responsibility is to change the way you perceive yourself so that you feel that way about yourself first. Change yourself and you change your world.

How to feel good about how you look in photos

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Seeing the world through Snap-coloured glasses

Being a photographer requires a thick skin and an appreciative eye to help deal with the number of times people tell you, “I hate having my photo taken.”

It comes from women and men, young and old, in professional settings and at parties. It doesn’t matter what the person actually looks like, it’s how they think about what they look like that matters.

It’s not all just insecurity, though that plays a role. Far too many people have a distorted view of themselves. They look in the mirror and see what’s wrong with their face, their nose, their eyes, their teeth, their hair etc. I look and I see someone who is almost always much more photogenic and pleasant to look at than they believe themselves to be. The slight “imperfections” they balk at are the features that distinguish their faces from others and what gives them each something uniquely their own that makes them uniquely themselves. Alas, we are our own harshest judges.

The reality of a photograph is, well, it’s not really a reflection of reality. It’s a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional world and therefore it is inherently misleading.

The same face can look remarkably different depending on a wide range of factors. In a portrait or group photo for example the most common elements that affect the way someone looks are:

  • the kind of lens being used (85mm to 100mm portrait, or 70-200mm telephoto are best)
  • the distance a subject is standing from the photographer
  • where in the frame the subject is standing (on the edge or in the centre)
  • the angle of the photo (from below, from above)
  • the lighting/shadows at play influenced by time of day, indoors or outdoors, with flash or no flash, etc.
  • the way a person stands (posture), and holds his or head (angle/tilt of head)
  • whether or not the chin is tucked in or thrust out (which impacts how well-defined, or not, the jawline is)
  • what someone is wearing (scarf, plunging neckline, collar short, etc)

So, now that you know that there are a lot of variable at play, which ones can you influence the next time you have to have your photo taken despite hating having to do so?

Three tips for liking the way you look in photos:

There are, of course,  a few little tricks that people who really hate having their photos taken can keep in mind the next time it happens at an event they are attending.

  1. Smile widely and naturally: this one doesn’t come easily to everyone, which actually always kind of surprises me, so I recommend practice. Smile in front yourself in mirrors. Smile at your colleagues. Smile at strangers. You don’t have to be weird or leery about it. Just smile when you see something out there in the world that is smile-worthy. It may come slowly at first, but once you start doing it, it’s a hard habit to break.
  2. Think jawline: people almost alway prefer the image of themselves that shows a distinct jawline vs. one lost in a double chin, or a twisted, wrinkled mass of neck. To get yours to look the way you want, practice thrusting your chin out for photos ever so slightly. It doesn’t take much to pull the chin away and bring out the line. Conversely, try not to turn your face too much away from the camera and don’t tuck in your chin (which many people do habitually when having their photo taken)
  3. Take centre stage: if you are in a group shot, put yourself in the middle or as close to the middle as you can be. It’s the sweet spot for all lenses, and your image will therefore not suffer any distortion that can sometimes impact the people on the edges who may be a little closer to the photographer, or be stretched a bit by lens distortion.

Number #1 Rule for Looking Good In Photos

The best way to look good in photos is to dispense with believing in the “one ideal body type” fallacy, love yourself and smile like you mean it. And mean it. Really, happy, smiling people who are comfortable with themselves and the way they look are ALWAYS more attractive. We all come in different shapes, colours and sizes. We’re supposed to look different from each other. That’s normal. A bland, homogenous and artificial sense of beauty is damaging to self-esteem and is fake. Be you and you will look your best.

How does your profile picture rate?

Using profiles to sort through people is a bit of a dirty word in policing but online we’d all be lost without one. We’re now “seen” hundreds if not thousands more times by people (and bots, and spammers, and other internet undesirables) online than we ever are in real life – but are we paying a proportionate amount of attention to how we -or our avatars– are being perceived?

You probably wouldn’t leave the house without at least a cursory glance in the mirror to check your hair, scan your complexion and make sure you had nothing large and green stuck in your teeth but how long have you had that cropped vacation pic up as a placeholder on LinkedIn that you’ve been meaning to change but just haven’t got anything better to replace it with?

Here’s something fun you can try out. I discovered PhotoFeeler while listening to a great podcast from Terry O’Reilly’s The Art of Persuasion . The site lets you upload a photo of yourself and have it ranked across three metrics (that change depending on whether your purpose is business, social or dating). The “free” test actually requires 10 credits which you can get easily enough by voting on ten other photos of random people the site serves up to you. The results, as this excerpt from an email I got today show, can be quite revealing, showing marked differences in opinions on the same person from photos taken seconds apart:

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Here are my results (for the first two I selected “Business” and the last one “Social”):

This is my current LinkedIn photo (soon to be old LinkedIn photo as you can see from the results):

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Not what I expected, but then maybe I should have sprung for the $12 evaluation which gathers more than 10 quick hit votes. Or maybe I need to change my photo. I do think that with half my face hidden behind the camera I may be turning off people as it’s hard to trust someone if you can’t see their eyes and a smile.

Now here are the results from my last LinkedIn photo that I just changed away from (but looks like I’ll be switching it back in!):

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My personal Facebook photo did alright, though I care a little less about this one. I think the hat is pushing up my grade in the Fun category.

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All in, though this was only the free version and a rough vote, I think it probably correlates well to how these images are perceived. A handy tool for anyone on the job/dating market looking to get a bit of insight in what their profile picture says about them. I’d like to see, in addition to these raw results, a few guidelines on how to improve the photos selected and more detail on what elements people are reacting to in particular, but perhaps that comes with more votes/the paid version.  In any case, a fun way to get a look in the mirror through someone else’s eyes.

 

 

How to take better beach portraits

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Context counts

Taking pictures on the beach is a great way to extend the pleasure of a vacation. Long after the waves have receded into the ocean and your week in the sun is a distant memory, photos and videos from your lazy days on the beach can cast a warm afterglow on the experience.

But it’s also a pain having anything electronic on the beach because of all the things that make a beach, well, a beach: salty air, salt water, intense heat, sand, sand, and more sand.

fuerte1I can’t do much about the sand except to recommend keeping your gear (which includes your phone) in a ziplock bag before stuffing it into the sandy catch-all beach bag, but here are a few recommendations for making the experience less technically frustrating and for maximizing the images you take home along with the seashells you gather up from the shore:

1) Shoot early or late: depending on where you are in the world, there are optimal times to go to the beach, and unsurprisingly, these also present the best lighting opportunities for photos. Everyone has probably heard the term “the golden hour” that photographers love to gush on about. It’s actually a bit of a misnomer as it pertains to two distinct periods during the day – shortly after sunrise and shortly before sunset, and may not even last a full hour, but the idea is simply that these times are when the sun’s light is warmer, characterized by a golden, reddish tone which bathes people in a very flattering light. If you’re looking to get a great family portrait on the beach, grab a few glasses for the bubbly, gather up the kids and get to the beach about an hour before the sunset. Then position yourselves facing the sun, so the light is on your faces, and fire away (you’ll need a tripod-see #2)

Getting ready to surf at the "golden hour"
Getting ready to surf at the “golden hour”

2) Bring a tripod: there are myriad tripods on the market and I’m not going to recommend any specific brand, though I think the GorillaPod style (the original is by JOBY but there are now lots of copycat brands) is best suited for a beach as you can use the flexible grips to wrap around a piece of driftwood, or balance on your bag or even a bottle of water. The only disadvantage is height as the pod legs aren’t extendible nor very long. For that you can go for any number of travel tripods that are lightweight (no heavy SLRs here) but ideal for packing, carrying and using a lightweight camera or your phone beachside.

3) Watch out for overexposure: beaches are some of the brightest light saturated environments your camera will ever deal with. There is light bearing down on you from above, bouncing off the sands below and refracting off the water before you. Be careful when you set up your shot to expose for the faces in your image, and not have them turn into blackened silhouettes by letting the camera choose randomly.

beachportrait1.jpg4. Use a flash: given the excess of light on a beach you may wonder why I’d recommend using flash. If you want really great shots of people standing in front of a gorgeous sunset, a flash is the only way you can get it right. If you don’t either you’ll expose for the sunset behind them and their faces will be too dark, or you’ll expose for the faces and the sunset will disappear.  Use a flash to highlight everyone in the shot and you’ll get the best of both worlds.

With these few tips you’re guaranteed to take better pictures on the beach, and come away with more than just tan lines.

Happy travels!

Using context, collaboration and communication to create great portraits

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Classical Studies Summer Students

School may be out for most classes, but the hard-working students at the McGill School for Continuing Education are in session right through the hot summer months, and yesterday posed for their class photos on campus. The weather was hot and sunny  but this Montrealer is not complaining as winter is always just around the corner in this city.  After this brief  portrait session was done, I reflected a while on what it takes to create a great portrait whether you are just snapping a few shots of your family on vacation, or looking online to gather a few guidelines to inform your next corporate portrait photo shoot.

  1. Draw out the connections between subject(s) and their relevant subject matter or theme: whether your subject is someone famous, or just one of the millions of hard-working corporate workers out there in the world today, or a group of young summer students taking a course in a Classical Studies program, your job as photographer is to come up with ideas that can be translated into images that represent visually what is relevant to your subject. For example, if your subject is a Math Professor you could set up your shot in a classroom posing your subject in front of a blackboard covered in formulas and equations. Or if your subject is an author, you could set the subject in a contemplative space, perhaps the one where they write, or surround the writer with books. In the case of the McGill Classical Studies students, we (why we? see next point) sought out “classical” looking backgrounds to imbue the young group with a bit of the weight and substance of what they had gathered to study. In brief, contextualize your subject within the essential context of what makes your subject portrait-worthy in the time frame of your photograph.

    Cuban born artist, Alexander Poll
    Cuban born artist, Alexander Poll
  2. Collaborate with your subject(s): In my many years of experience photographing all types of people alone or in groups, from CEOs to
    Let's get married! On skates???
    Let’s get married! On skates???

    toddlers in diapers in a family living room, I’ve found that the single most important element of creating an excellent portrait is having a rapport with the subject. This rapport or relationship is created by including the subject in the creation of their own image. Even world-famous executives with a private jet waiting to whisk them away can and do enjoy a brief moment to create a photograph in which their likeness features that says something about who they are as a person. All portraits have an element of playfulness about them, even the serious ones, and the best ones happen when you as photographer can encourage that innate sense of play in your subject.

  3. Communicate with your subject: this is really just another aspect of collaboration, but it merits its own point as it is really so important when trying to capture an image of someone as they really are, which is the true call of a portrait artist. Talk to your client/subject throughout the creative process. Explain to them what you are thinking or wanting to do. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen my initial ideas improved upon by sharing them with my clients who gamely take up the challenge and often contribute new ideas and have even better backgrounds in mind than I come up with on my own. While I don’t think it’s important, or at all interesting, to tell the client the technical aspects of what’s happening (I’m not sure how many clients I have had who would care what aperture I am shooting at or what lens I am using) I do think it is critical to engage your subject in a dialogue about what you are doing and give them the space and opportunity to contribute their ideas to how they will be portrayed. At the very least, it gains their confidence, and more often than not leads to a better portrait.
Using features of the landscape for a good portrait
Using features of the landscape for a good portrait

A good portrait, whether of an individual or a group, should aim to capture some of the context of the subject, both physically and conceptually. Using both setting and features of the context of the subject will help to strengthen the portrait. After all, what is a portrait but a window into the heart and soul of a subject. The best ones, particularly photographs like Yousouf Karsh‘s epic shot of Winston Churchill reveal the essence of a person’s character – at least as they are in that moment. Portrait photography is the short story of people-oriented photography and the artistry involved is not something that can be easily reproduced. However, the core concepts connected to creating a great portrait are accessible to anyone who takes the time to learn and implement them. Central to all great portraits is establishing a rapport with your subject by collaborating and communicating during the session. And finally, as always, cultivate a sense of play and playfulness throughout your session so that the experience reveals not just who the subject is, but the best version of themselves.

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

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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.)

 

1-day only headshot profile picture deal $125 makeup & photos November 15, 2012- book today!

Are you looking for a job? Updating your profile on LinkeIn? Thinking of changing careers? Dating online? Whatever your motivation, having a good professionally taken headshot these days is a requirement for any serious professional. Having recently spent several days on location shooting profile pictures of executives and staff throughout Montreal, I would like to offer the same high quality service to a wider audience as I know that not everyone works for a large corporation and there are many people who would like a new set of headshots but haven’t felt it was affordable or easy to do. I’d like to change the perception and make sure that anyone in Montreal (or who can get to Montreal from surrounding regions) that is interested in having a professional headshot taken can do so. So here’s my offer:

The $125 headshot + makeup deal – what you get

  • 1 portrait session take (15 minutes) with as many poses as you can fit in.
  • 3 final images selected by you for final editing and digital delivery
  • All RAW file image proofs included with online delivery
  • Onsite makeup artists to prepare you for your portrait session in advance
  • Complementary glass of wine, beer or beverage of your choice (to help with any “I hate having my photo taken” jitters)
  • Incredibly positive, supportive and enthusiastic conversation with your professional photographer to make the session thoroughly enjoyable

All for an incredible value of $125!

But wait, it gets better! Sign up three of your friends and your session is free!

 

How do I sign up?

To sign up simply send an email to me here with the subject line: HEADSHOT NOV 15

Please indicate in your email your preferred start time for the shoot. We will attempt to accommodate your preferences and will confirm your precise shoot time once all bookings are in.

The session will run from 5pm to 11pm Thursday, November 15th. You will be allocated a 15 minute time slot for your shoot and time in advance for your makeup to be done.

As good as this sounds, please don’t wait too long before you decide as the deadline for locking in this great deal is October 31, 2012. 

 

Want to see a few samples?

Check out these links of recent portraits here:

Corporate portraits 1

Corporate portraits 2

Professional portraits 3

 

*A minimum of 10 bookings is required to ensure this deal goes through so please share and spread the word.

Valentine’s Day Portrait for Two

 (Julian Haber)Valentine’s Day, whether you love it or hate it, is a day earmarked for showy displays of affection. Consider having an annual portrait of the two of you taken to celebrate each other, and start a collection of images that showcase your life together. It’s not too late to book a session or schedule one for a time convenient to you and your partner.

Special Valentine’s Day Promo: Call or email today with the subject line “Valentines” and book a $99 portrait session for two, including a champagne toast and 1, gorgeously edited 8×10 print.

 

Photoshoot at Produlith

Half day shoot today at Produlith on Montreal’s south shore. The scent of ink in the air, machines shushing everywhere. Portraits of staff and president, as well as shots of the operations for new website launch. Going to be a fun day.

 

 

How to organize your photographic life

Many people, photographers and non-photographers alike, are grappling with how to keep their digital (and older printed photos) organized. It is now much, much, much easier to take photos than it is to put those photos to good use. And I’m not talking about selling your photos or trying to get commercial value from them; while there is certainly a market for great photography, the vast majority of photographers these days are using their built-in phone cameras, point-and-shooters and good, pro-sumer level SLRs simply to capture moments in time in their every day life. With the proliferation of digital cameras and the viral spread of social media networks to share on, there are a lot of moments being captured and those images start to add up very quickly.

Given that most people reading this blog have lived through the massive transition from film to digital cameras, I suspect that there are countless photo collections sitting unseen in boxes, unsorted in albums or, as is the case with most digital files, sitting on hard drives in computers, rarely, if ever being looked at, felt and appreciated. There is something incredibly sad in that thought. All those memories, all those moments that mattered so much you wanted to capture it in a photograph – buried in data folders, lost in piles, neglected, forgotten.

Well, I’d like to help you change that.

As of this week my partners and I are launching a brand new service for people interested in doing something fun and real with their personal and family photos, both digital and older printed photographs. Whether you’ve got a boxful of old Polaroids, a shelf of aging photo albums barely ever touched, or just a messy hard drive full of images, we can help you create a beautiful, photo legacy that tells the story of your life or the collective stories of your family and loved ones. And by help you, I mean, do it for you so you don’t have to spend the time.

Let’s be honest, we all have the best of intentions when it comes to one day sorting our photos and producing lovely photo books with them, but how many of us ever find the time to actually do it? It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Life is busy and if yours is so full that you’ve built up a collection of photographic memories, it is no surprise you don’t have time to organize it. You’re too busy living your life –  but wouldn’t it be great to have a complete, full, well-organized, beautiful collection of your photographic life to share with your friends, family and children?

If you’re interested and want to know more, please contact me today to learn more about how you can get your entire life collection of photographs organized into something you will enjoy, appreciate and cherish now and have something to leave behind for your children to enjoy and pass along as well.

Tips on taking portraits of young children

You want me to sit still? Seriously?

Photographers will often be invited to take portraits of families with young children, as this tends to be the time when most people are interested in having a portrait done of their family.  Most of the time, I prefer to shoot family portraits in Montreal in the family’s home, backyard or a nearby park because the natural settings are both more interesting than studio backdrops and allow for more natural interaction with the subjects. However, from time to tome, I am asked to take studio portraits of families with young children and here’s a few shots and tips I can share on the experience.

  1. Keep it quick: while the time you spend setting up your lighting and gear can be unhurried, when your subject(s) have arrived, as quickly as possible you want to start shooting. The younger the child, the shorter the attention span will be and the more difficult it will be to get good shots with the child looking into the camera’s lens.

    Ta da!
  2. Keep parents on cue: that means, while the temptation is incredibly strong and very natural for one or both parents to be looking at the child (who will be invariably not looking where you want he or she to look) you need to be ready for that split second when the child’s flitting gaze crosses your lens so you can get the shot. If the parents are at that instant looking sternly at their misbehaving child, the opportunity is lost. Tell the parents to look at you and keep smiling, and let you worry about the child. Eventually no matter how hyperactive the child, curiosity will get the best of him or her and he or she will want to look at the camera. If the parents are ready, you’ll get the shot.
  3. Take breaks: young children (1.5 yrs to 3 yrs old) will want to move around. A lot. It’s important to give them a little break between poses so they can burn off a little energy. Use a break to shoot just the parents, together (if you have someone else in studio to take care of the child) and then add the child back in. Sometimes seeing the parents get photographed will interest the child in doing the same and he or she will want to be back in the shot. You can also use a break to get some unposed impromptu shots of the child who just may cooperate by playing around right where you want them too (as happened this weekend for my recent photo shoot).

    Happy to be here!

An eventful 2010

It’s been an eventful year working both a full time job running an art startup, ArtAnywhere, and working as a Montreal photographer.  While I don’t know where I found the time, I managed to fit in a total of 73 different photo assignments in events, weddings, portraits and real estate. Here’s a quick run down of the range of photography work I had this past year:

  • Several high-society events at some of Montreal’s finest venues all over downtown and Old Montreal for clients like HSBC, KPMG-MSLP, the Invest in Kids foundation (where I got to meet Dolly Parton – YAY!) and others.
  • I covered five large weddings ranging in style from the truly luxurious in a gorgeous Mont Tremblant condo, to an elegant affair in Montreal restaurant Aix, at the Hotel Place d’Armes; I worked with a promising new photographer, Celia Lavinskas at a sunny outdoor wedding on St. Helen’s Island, as well as travelled to Ontario to cover weddings in both Guelph and Ottawa, at the National Arts Center.
  • I carried on my commitment putting my photography skills to good use with as much pro-bono work I could fit in, providing photography services to Exceptional Family, maintaining an annual tradition covering the Cancer Institute of Montreal‘s annual Concert contre le cancer (I’ll be there again this coming February 4, 2011), and donating family portrait sessions as a prize in the Haiti Tweet up fundraiser organized by Flow Ventures (we raised over $10K); and a major fundraiser portrait session at my child’s daycare (25 young family portraits in a single day!)
  • My portrait practice grew this year as well as I zipped across town to provide onsite, in-office portraits for executives at Rio Tinto Alcan, Purves Redmond, Global Prime Office Network, Financial Research Solutions, professional artists, and real clowns(!) with my brother and fellow photographer, Daniel Francis Haber, from the upcoming production of MöcSplot put on by Geordie Productions in Montreal (show runs from February 4 – 13th)
  • Industrial photography and portraits for one of my favourite Montreal companies, Enerkem (a company that turns garbage into fuel)
  • Several beautiful properties for real estate agents including many for Stacy Bouchard-Burns, whose wide-ranging business had me shooting condos, duplexes, and single-family homes throughout Old Montreal, downtown, Point St Charles, Westmount and NDG.
  • (I even had the good fortune of selling two of my fine art pieces to the CSA Group headquarters in Toronto where my work is now part of their permanent art collection.)

I’m grateful to all my clients and want to thank you for trusting me with your photo work in 2010. I look forward to working with you again this coming year (note to my wedding clients: I love doing baby portraits!). Thank you and I wish you all success in 2011

Hallowe’en 2010

A few snaps from this Hallowe’en’s festivities over at a friend’s place in NDG. Baby’s first time hitting the streets!

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Clowning around: headshots and promotional photography for Montreal theatre company

Clowns give good head shots. Really.

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: julian@julianhaber.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.

What’s in a photographer’s price?

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.

But what does it all mean???

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.