Q&A - Personal & Photography Related

It's now nearing the end of April 2020, and as everyone will say, it's been a rough few months. Hopefully things will start to get better soon and businesses will open up again. With my photography business, things have also slowed down, but this is giving me the opportunity to share knowledgeable information to help you grow your business with me.


This has also made me think, how "necessary" and how "relevant" is photography or art? With global business shutdowns, why would anyone care about businesses that focus on the arts? I may talk about this in greater detail in another blog.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WHEN COVID-19 IS OVER?

I don't think this will end as suddenly as it began. It will take months and months before things get better, and possibly a year or so before life gets back to normal. But, when things have finally settled, I want to keep pursuing my dreams. I have been living just West of Toronto my whole life but have been aching to move out of the province. I want to purchase a van and convert it into a campervan. It may take some time to build, but once its ready, I want to hit the road and start exploring the world bit by bit.

YOUR FAVORITE PLACE YOU TRAVELED TO & WANT TO GO?

I feel lucky to have travelled to many places in my life, for personal and business. But, I also feel like it has not been enough and now travelling has become an addiction. Choosing my favorite place isn't easy. I love nature side, so I'm a bit biased. The top three places I really loved and always talk about is Norway, Morocco, and Cuba.


If money were no concern, the number one place I'd love to travel to would be Antarctica. I've always wanted to go there as its not your typical "destination" most would choose, or even can go.

Id also love to explore more of Iceland, the Faeroe Islands, Scotland, but also across the Western Coast of the United States.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE TO SHOOT THE MOST?

Whatever I shoot, I have to be outdoors. I enjoy shooting brands and products for commercial work, along with destinations and featured attractions. Mainly anything that is travel related or products intended for on-the-go, as I refer to it. This can mean anything from cars, clothing, apparel, sporting equipment, outdoor hiking/travel equipment, electronics (cameras, laptops, etc), you name it. A lot relates to the subject, but if I can shoot lifestyle photos outdoors in the "wild" that's my thing. My style is shooting lifestyle photography that doesn't look staged or posed, as if it were a candid photo.


If I could shoot anything else from apart what I typically do, I would love to shoot astrophotography. I have a deep fascination and obsession with space and astronomy. Id love to have a telescope and capture deep space objects. Maybe one day :)

DO YOU SELL PRINTS?

At this time, no, not yet. I am already planning and opening an online store through Etsy. It should be up and running shortly. Just have to run print tests to make sure everything looks perfect. Are you interested in purchasing a print? Stay tuned and check back here, or my website for more details in the weeks to come!

WHAT PICTURE PROFILE SETTINGS DO YOU USE?

Short answer, I don't. I shoot all my photos in RAW. With RAW, even if you enable an picture profile (standard, neutral, landscape, etc.) it is pointless because that is only for jpeg images. RAW images will not add on any "looks" to your images that picture profiles do.

WHAT GEAR DO YOU USE?

Depending on what type of shoot I am going on, or what I'm shooting, I'll bring different gear with me. I'll be sure to write a blog about this. Gear isn't as important as you think, but yet it is. In short, I shoot on a Sony a6500.

YOUR FAVORITE LENS?

I currently only use two lenses with my crop sensor camera (Sony a6500). I use the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 with an MC-11 adapter, and the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8. The 24-70 (35-105mm Full Frame equivalent) is my main go-to lens that stays primarily on my camera. The 70-200 (105-300mm Full Frame equivalent) is a telephoto lens, so its considered a specialty lens, but a lens I use as often but for different types of photos and framing.

HOW LONG DO YOU TAKE TO EDIT PHOTOS?

It's not as fast or as easy as slapping on a preset in Lightroom. I actually do not use presets at all. Every photo is unique and it requires a different approach to editing. Some photos take me as little as 30 minutes, while other photos can take me a couple hours to complete, or even days.


When editing photos I take many breaks. Our eyes adjust to the screens very quickly and as a result, when you finish your work it may look great, but when you come back to the same photo after doing something else for 20 minutes you will start to see flaws you didn't before. Colours may look way off, brightness may be too bright or dark, the contrast too strong, and it may not match your other photos as well as it should. Taking breaks is critical to getting the best looking images. Which is why it can take hours to finish one photo. Sometimes I'm just not happy with certain colours or orange, or green, or blue, and I have to constantly be making fine adjustments.

LIGHTROOM VS PHOTOSHOP

For editing photos (brightness, contrast, colours, etc.) I use Lightroom exclusively. The only times I used Photoshop, which is about 20% of the time, is when I need to do minor manipulations to the photos, such as removing or fixing objects. I do not alter images to look fake, so I use Photoshop editing lightly. But both tools are unique and offer different tools. Both are equally as important in photo editing.


And no, Photoshop is not for editing videos. Why do people still keep saying this video is Photoshopped (altered)? You cant do that for videos. smh 😂. That's what After Effects is for.

SHOULD I GO TO FILM SCHOOL OR FOR PHOTOGRAPHY?

In my honest opinion I would have to say no, but it depends. Then again, when I first started my career I did go to film school. So, why did I go and why am I saying not to?


Firstly, a degree in photography or filmmaking is not essential in getting a job today. It's about experience. Going to film school was a good way to learn things first hand when YouTube videos and tutorials were not as readily available as they are now. You can learn about 75% or more of what you need know about photography or filmmaking just by watching YouTube.


If you are brand new to the art. Meaning, you barely know anything about the simple camera settings like aperture, ISO, shutter, etc. knowing how to frame your shots and how to come up with stories, then school would be a good choice. But, if you are already knowledgeable in the subject, it may not be worth it. BUT, the reason why school may still be worth attending are for two reasons:


1) Hands-on experience: You don't learn by just watching YouTube videos, you learn by physically doing work - which is how you need to be learning any craft. If you try to get jobs by going on Kijiji, Craigslist, or anywhere online, it will be harder for you to get started, even if you just go and volunteer your time. The hands on experience will be much faster and easier in school than on your own.


2) Build connections: Everyone in school is there for the same reason. They love the subject and want to learn the craft. These people are now your main connections. They are great people to work with on projects and help build your career. But, unfortunately, they are also just as new to the craft as you are.

SHOULD I SHOOT FOR FREE?

I rarely - if ever shoot for free. The only time I may consider doing so is if I am working with a very well known and established client and I have not had such experience before. But, even if my work isn't paid, I would expect my travel and living expenses on the trip to be covered.


If you are brand new, know little-to-nothing and don't have a solid portfolio. Shoot for free! Shoot content that is relative to your work or niche. Do anything you can to build a portfolio. No one will know if you were paid or not paid on those shoots. All they will care about is whether you know what you're doing and can be trusted. So, ask yourself if your portfolio is strong enough to justify working for free.

HOW DO YOU FIND YOUR NICHE?

This is not an easy one to figure out. You don't know what you are good at or enjoy doing until you start doing it. For me, my niche revolves around travel and the outdoors. Anything that can be shot on location rather than in a studio.


There are many different fields to go into; weddings, engagements, portraits, product photography, real estate, sports, food, street, wildlife, etc. Simply, do what you love most interesting, and not necessarily what is the most readily available and easiest. You will quickly fall out of the love and passion for the craft if you shoot content that you do not like, trust me. I've been there, shooting tons and tons of real estate and generic corporate interview videos. The lack of creativity and doing it for the money isn't what it's about. Don't make your job feel like a job.

HOW DO I REACH OUT TO BRANDS?

It's not necessarily just knowing how, but knowing when. I'm not just referring to the time of year, but when you are ready.


You need to make sure you are set and look like a professional.

  • Make sure you have a paid website and not a free site.

  • Have your portfolio easily accessible on your website.

  • Make sure your portfolio is clean and beautiful to attract.

  • Instagram is not a main portfolio you should be sending out.

  • Have a professional email signature.

  • Have a custom email and not a @hotmail.com or @gmail.com email.

  • Have a media kit ready, even if you don't have much of a following.

  • Make sure you have the proper gear needed to successfully shoot for the client


When you have all that, then you should be reaching out to brands. But now, how?

  • The best way is to meet them in person. You may often find me at various conventions because that's where you can meet individuals who work with brands directly. They can be your source of contact, or they can refer you to the right person.

  • If you can't meet them in person beforehand, you will need to do research. Look on the brands website, Instagram, LinkedIn and see who the best person would be to contact directly. Sending an email to the general contact email will not work. You will most likely be ignored and discarded.

  • Know the brand. Before sending out the email to the right individual, know enough about the brand to show that you care about them and have interest in partnering with them and not just for getting their money. Talk about their product(s), their services, or anything that will get them to build your trust.

  • Clearly state who you are and what you do in the email.

  • Most importantly, tell the potential client your vision. Tell them what your idea is and how you can help benefit them. This email is about THEM and not about you. You are emailing the client to help them and not for you to just make a few extra bucks (even though it technically is). But your goal and intentions should be the client first. Determine what they need, what they need to improve on, and what you could offer to them.

  • Provide and attach all information, links, portfolio, media kits, etc. to the email. Make it as easy to access as possible. But make sure to keep the files sizes as small as possible.


BONUS TIP: If you want to know how to effectively sell your idea and get the client of your dreams, read the book Selling with a Story. This has helped tremendously in knowing how to talk to clients. Knowing how to tell a story and use that as a tactic to set yourself apart from competition is KEY.


It's not about convincing a client that you are good, have experience, or professional gear.

It's about being able to provide for the clients needs by telling them what they need it

and how you help them.

WHY ARE MY PHOTOS NOT PROFESSIONAL LOOKING

There could be many possible reasons without seeing your images.


A big one could be your framing/composition. What is the subject in your image? What am I looking at? If your eye goes all over the place and is not focused on one thing, or anything for that matter, what's the point?


Is it in focus? It's pretty obvious that the main subject(s) should be in focus but what about the unimportant things in your frame, are they in focus too? If they are, why? If they are not the main focal points of your image, why are they distracting from the rest of image.


You need to learn how to edit. Yes, every photo to look professional to be edited. Its very rare to take a photo and it be perfect. Knowing how to adjust your contrast, brightness, increasing or decreasing shadow detail, etc. is vital to getting a photo to look good. Shoot in RAW and manipulate your photo to make it look good. Cameras can't capture images as good as how your eye sees it. You need to tweak things to make it look proper, even if you like the natural look of photos.


Be consistent. Shoot at the same times of day, shoot the same subjects, the same colour tones, etc. Having a consistent, whether its what you're shooting, or how you're editing your photos makes a big difference.


Less is more. I personally dislike wide angle lenses. Anything wider than 24mm or 35mm on a Full Frame is too wide for me. There is too much in the frame and it gets too distracting. I prefer to shoot tighter and closer. There are less distractions in your image and you focus on the subject. The only times where I use wide angle lenses is when I am shooting interiors. Many people still think and assume that for landscapes you need wide angle lenses too, which is not true. Sure the whole scene may look nice, but as mentioned in the points above, what is the focus point? Zoom in and focus on the subject (even in landscapes) and show off the particular details and not the whole thing.


Don't shoot at eye level. Get low to the ground. Go up high. Shoot straight up, or down. Get different and unique vantage points. This is KEY! Especially when you are shooting subjects like people or animals. Get low to their eye level and don't look down on them. Show off a new perspective that we normally don't see.


What's the story behind your image? Sure, this may not pertain to why your photos don't look good, but every photo needs to have some sort of back story. If you simply take a photo of something, why did you take it? How did you take it? A photo with a solid story becomes a thousand times more interesting and better than just a photo itself.

WHAT WHITE BALANCE SETTINGS DO I HAVE?

Firstly, white balance is setting your colour so that white is white, and not yellow-ish or blue-ish. This varies on the time of day and location.


I honestly don't care much about getting the proper white balance in camera. I shoot RAW, so I am able to change my white balance in Lightroom. Even if you get it right in camera, you will probably end up tweaking it in post anyways. I use set mine to Auto White Balance in camera.


NOTE: You do not always want your whites to be white. Depending on your scene, you may want/need your whites to look blue (cold), or yellow (warm).

DO YOU / CAN YOU CRITIQUE MY WORK?

I don't offer this service at this time, but that's something I may consider doing. I personally love to teach, inspire, and help others be better at their craft. If you'd love to have 1-on-1 sessions with me, where I look over your work, and see what you can do to improve your photography or video, let me know!! I may start offering this service.