Location FTW! by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

Location, location, location...
and weather, and light, and gear, and subject, and talent....

It's true, location is extremely important when it comes to being successful sometimes, but there are a lot of factors that photographers need to be sensitive to. But yes, your photo shoot can't happen if you don't have a place to take the photos.  A location may seem simple, but there are some big factors that you need to consider.  

our on location to do list: 

  1. Mother, may I? Even if you have a favorite spot that you've shot a hundred times, always-always make sure to clear that place with the necessary officials as rules can change, there might be an event, or there could even be construction going on that would interfere with your shoot.
  2. Know your client! Make sure to accommodate for any special needs that your client might have. If you're taking a family photo, grandma may not be able to walk to that great spot you have in mind.  Baby photos? Unless the parents want a photo of their kid sleeping, make sure that you don't schedule the photos to be taken during the kid's nap time.
  3. Mother of nature... After you've got everything cleared, grab your favorite cup-o-caffeine and take a walk through to verify there aren't any other environmental factors. This morning I went to the UOP to find a very lovely "Caution, Bee Swarm" sign at one of the places on campus. This could have posed a slight problem for asking people to hold still and smile when there's a swarm of bees on the move.
  4. Type of client. Are you taking commercial photos with models or is it a family portrait?  
    1. If you're taking family photos, you need to be more concern about everyone's comfort. Weather can play a huge factor in a client's comfort level and even can pose possible health risks. My scheduled time for my photo shoot was originally for the late afternoon, however we got hit with unseasonably early hot weather this weekend (104 in the shade! *gasp*) I decided it would be best to reschedule (1 day in advanced) because I had serious concerns that the great-great grandma could have a heat stroke. Perfect lighting is not worth your subjects getting sick.  
    2. If you're working with models, they are use to dealing with being cold and hot a lot more than the average person.  Looking good despite environmental factors is kinda part of their job, although you should try to be as accommodating as possible.  Your makeup artist should always be watching to jump in to take care of the model when needed as well.
  5. Roll with the punches!  After you've taken the above factors into consideration, your original idea/plan may have changed. Don't let that discourage you. As a photographer, you need to be able to have solutions for all lighting conditions.  Make sure you have enough gear with you to be able to adjust to whatever challenges that may arise.  When my photo shoot got moved to 11am, I needed to take the steps needed to work with the horrible mid-day sun.  I stuck the group under the trees, blew out the background, and pointed a flash at a gold reflector to kick some warmth into the photo.  Simple, quick, and effective.

Happy Scouting!

Food Photography by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

Although I shoot a wide variety of things for San Joaquin Magazine, I was primarily a food photographer for 2 years while working with them.

Early in my career, it was a highly respected field in photography because there was a lot of buzz at the time about how food photography isn't necessarily what you want to eat (i.e. that beautifully browned turkey might be rubbed with motor oil for the photo.)  Given, all the trickery in food photography I did for the magazine was through lighting only, as the photos were for editorials.  For everyone's integrity in editorial food photography, you have to shoot the plate that a guest of the restaurant is able to order.  Even though I didn't work with a stylist, people were still respectful of my profession.  

About a year ago, I thought about going back into food photography.  Food is something everyone is passionate about.  Many of our social interactions, no matter what culture, revolves around sharing a meal.  I was thirsting to be around passionate people again.  However, in recent years this field has lost its reverence.  People are no longer awed by the idea of food photography.  Any idea why? Yep, you guessed it: Instagram. There has been an explosion of photos of food thanks to people blogging about their every meal.  I still love food photography, but I have a hard time dedicating any time for it when it is a fad among amateurs.  While trying to break back into this field, I was met with a shocking number of rude people with a lack of respect for the field altogether.  There was an immediate chuckle after people learned I shot food, followed by an, "Oh, are you on Instagram?"  To which my usual response was, "ummm, no.  I've been making my living as a photographer for over 5 years."  Food photography is not the field to be in right now, I could be wrong- but I wouldn't recommend it.  Maybe in another 10 years when the fad has not only died, but has long been cold, stiff, and buried in the ground never to be exhumed again.

Right now, I'm a Research Photographer at Google, which I absolutely love.  I really couldn't ask for anything more: great team, totally awesome environment, and I love the work.  At Brooks, I concentrated in industrial/scientific photography and with my years of working professionally, it has finally led me to exactly where I wanted to be.

Photography is one of the rare professions where people can more easily jump fields to remake themselves.  I think most professions would require you to go back to school for years to get a different degree.  If you find yourself stagnating as a photographer, you do have the freedom to make a change.  I've moved from food and lifestyle, to studio portraits and weddings, to product and fashion, and now to research.  Wherever photography takes me, I hope that it continues to be around passionate people.

Wedding Photography by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

This weekend I helped out a fellow photographer shoot a wedding by taking on the roll as the 2nd photographer. I've shot about 5 on my own in addition to the ones I helped with while at Element Studios; and I can say with confidence that I very much enjoy the role as a 2nd photographer much more for weddings.  The 2nd photographer gets to focus on doing the fun creative images of the venue and capture all of the awesome little quiet moments that people often miss.  I prefer to take an editorial approach to wedding photography than traditional portraiture.

The wedding on Saturday was by far the best I've had the pleasure of photographing.  It wasn't the most expensive venue, there wasn't a 5 course meal, and there weren't all kinds of crazy decorations. It stood out as being different because this couple was genuinely happy and in love. It wasn't head-over-heels-make-you-want-to-vomit love.  This was steadfast real love.  A love that was mature, honored, and respected.  A love rooted from the understanding that this was their partner, and all the other good times were secondary to that one truth.  It was an honor to witness that.

The pastor read the whole passage of some scripture that is often scrutinized as fundamentally wrong, but in truth it is taken out of context. Many have heard that the Bible says that women are to submit to their husband and obey him, but those who are offended by this obviously do not know the rest of the passage:

"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself."  -Ephesians 5: 24-28

The passage demands that husbands must put his wife first.  With this full grasp of the passage, we can appreciate that the advice given to men is not for them to be ordering women around, but to honor, love, and protect them.  It's really quite beautiful.

The best advice I can give for wedding photography would be the following:

  1. Make sure the bride is happy.  Even if you have a great idea for a photo that the couple would love in the future, you need to keep in mind that the wedding is happening now.  
    If the bride is too cold or too hot, it's time to call the session and head back indoors. You're booked for several hours and even if there's a schedule, t
    here will be other opportunities for photos later.
  2. Scout the location thoroughly before hand.  Even if you find the perfect place to do your couple shots, have a backup plan for 2nd and 3rd locations.  Weather can change, the light may not be where you thought it would be, and let's face it: geese can happen. 
  3. Always bring more batteries than you think you need. I'm always surprised how quickly I burn through batteries at a wedding in comparison to shooting corporate events.
  4. For the love of God, do not use direct on camera flash. Bounce your speedlite off a wall or a ceiling. I shouldn't even need I mention this, but I've seen it done far too often.
  5. Don't feel bad about bringing more equipment than you need. Wedding have the tendency to go wrong- so backups are a must.
  6. Know the wedding party.  Make sure you know who is attending the wedding so you don't ask the awkward question of "Where's grandma?" and people have to tell you she had passed away.
  7. Always deliver more than is expected.  This motivate the couple to refer you to their friends and family.
  8. If a guest wants you to go out of your way to take a particular photo, do it!
    The bride and groom is your current client, but the guests could be your next.
  9. Make friends with the venue managers and/or event planner.  They can help make your life much easier to help make sure things run smoothly, get you the information that you need, or get the right people to help you.
  10. Don't book a bride under 30. I wish I was 100% joking about this, but I'm not. A large percentage of younger brides are going to be emotional- and you better have some counseling skills to help calm her down.  Ever wonder why wedding photographers make so much money? It isn't a walk in the park.. despite the venue being booked in one.