Forget about the camera, it is all about the light.

The first thing I want to tell people about taking photographs is “Get Out of The House” I don’t care if you have a Kodak Easy Share, a cell phone camera or a $5,000 camera, light in homes can just plain suck for the beginner and you will get frustrated.

The sun is a great, FREE light source to take photos. Now, the first thing some people want to do is have their family and friends turn toward the sun so it lights their faces. The problem? Everyone is SQUINTY. Try this next time you are outside. Have your subject stand with the sun at their back, Yes the sun will be pointing at you. Notice that it makes a nice glow around their hair.

OK, good. BUT their face is in shadow!. That is where your flash comes in. Yes it is sunny but that is no reason not to use the flash. Let that flash fill in all those nasty shadows. Now you have a nice sunny background and nice bright faces.

But OH NO, Sun Spots! Those annoying green dots in your pictures. This is lens flare and it happens to everyone from time to time. If you are using a DSLR you can minimize this with a lens hood. For people with a point and shoot, you can use your hand or even your hat. All you need to do is shade your lens.

When it’s cloudy, grab the camera! Overcast days are PERFECT for pictures of your family. It is like the sun has a giant soft box on it.  With an overcast day you can shoot morning, noon and night without harsh shadows. Here is a shot on a lawn at noon on an overcast day.


Ah, which brings me to the time of day. There is what we call “The Golden Hour” Actually it should be Hours because there is 2 times during the day it is the best time to take photos. One hour after sunrise and One hour before sunset. The sun is in the perfect position these times of the day.  Avoid those harsh rays at Noon. The sun is really high in the sky and the light is just so harsh and unflattering.

On that note, if you are interviewing a professional for, lets say a family reunion photo, and the Photographer says, “Hey we can shoot anytime you want!” BEWARE. There is only so much equipment can do for outdoor group shots to manipulate the light. A true professional will warn you about harsh light and the best times to shoot. Just a little test you can do when you interview someone. Oh, interviewing professional photographers!

Maybe that will be my next blog!

What to look for in a Portrait Photographer

What to look for in a Portrait Photographer.

  • Don’t be afraid to interview the photographer. And interview more than one. Email is convenient but a phone call is even better. You want to hire someone you click with personality wise. But personality isn’t everything.
  • Make sure they have samples. Ask to see some of the photographer’s work. This will give you an idea of both the style and quality of each photographer.
  • Communicate. Make sure the photographer has a clear understanding of your expectations. Take the time to discuss the services and fees involved. This helps avoid any future misunderstandings.
  • Check their references. A friend’s recommendation or the Better Business Bureau is a great resource. In the case of a wedding photographer, they should also have a list of at least two people you can contact via e-mail.
  • Do they have insurance? This is an easy tell to see if a photographer is really a registered business or not. Liability insurance. We get it to protect us from lawsuit, from damage to our equipment. In fact, some wedding venues won’t let you hire a photographer that cannot show proof of liability insurance.


Red Flags.


There are few things “professional” photographers say that should cause you to proceed with caution. I want to be honest that not all of these red flags are necessarily bad but…Oh who am I kidding. They are always bad.


I’m a natural light photographer! This usually means they either don’t know how to use professional equipment properly or they do not have a good business plan to pay for professional equipment. This doesn’t necessarily mean external lighting like flashes or large studio lights. Light modifiers such as reflectors are used to manipulate the light. We can’t always count on Mother Nature putting clouds on the right places for us. There are some very talented photographers that just use the sun as their light source but they also use tools to direct it.


I don’t pose, I just let my clients be natural. This means they have no idea about posing, how to accentuate the human body or know what looks best for different body types.


No need for contracts, I trust you! This means if anything goes wrong you are out of luck getting a refund, discount, or even your final product. There should always be a contract and don’t be afraid to ask for changes in the contract. Most contracts come with a built in model release. If you don’t want your pictures on the internet then ask to opt out of internet posting.


I can always fix things in Photoshop. This can be bad or good. If it is a matter of some snotty noses or a stray hair then OK. But if the photographer won’t let you see at least a few images on the back of the camera during or after the shoot then you know that they are not doing things right and they are relying on the computer to fix it. A bad photo cannot be made good photo in Photoshop. Period. End of story.


I will probably think of more things as soon as I publish this blog. Feel free to leave comments with your tips and experiences!