How to: create a holiday silhouette

A year or so ago, I typed up a post about silhouettes but because Word Press is sort of the devil, it got eaten and is lost in the pits of internet mystery. So here goes with Take 2: Holiday Silhouette.

Long story short– expose for your tree lights, focus on your people, under exposing the people. Voila! Silhouette.

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ISO 200, f 1.6, 1/40th, 35mm 1.4 lens used

I just asked my daughters to stand in front of the tree and BE TOTALLY 100% STILL FOR PETE’S SAKE JUST STOP MOVING. (proud parenting moment  -_-)

But I had good reason to demand they be totally still. If you know anything about photography you know LIGHT MATTERS. Light is the single most important factor in your photography but when you shoot this, you want NO LIGHT. Why is that, Wendy?

Glad you asked. To create this specific holiday silhouette, your only light source will be your tree. If you have day light, lights on in the room- you will have a harder time getting that soft bokeh from your lights on your tree. But when you have pretty much zero light, you’re going to need to use a super slow shutter speed. When you have a super low shutter speed, any movement will look like a ghosty blur. No bueno.

What you’ll need in addition to a basic understanding of the manual settings of your camera:

  • tripod or something sturdy to set your camera on
  • holiday lights, the more the better. DO NOT wrap your kids in holiday lights.
  • a kid or two who will STAND STILL FOR THE 100TH TIME, I SWEAR TO GOD. (swearing to god optional). Also good for practicing with, stuffed animals because they are the best at being still when people are in the room.
  • a DLSR camera

Handy to have:

  • remote shutter release

First things first, mount your camera on your tripod or Sturdy Thing. You’re going to keep your ISO low, and your shutter speed SLOOOW like I said above. You can up your ISO a little bit, but don’t go to high or you will risk too much light on your people. My ISO was set to 200. My shutter speed was set to 1/20th– if I was trying to hand-hold my camera at that shutter speed the silhouette would be a motion blurry mess.  If you have a remote shutter release, it’ll be nice to use so you don’t risk shaking the camera even on your tripod when you push the shutter release.

Next you’re going to set your f-stop. I was set to 1.6 since my lens is pretty baller and I knew I would be able to get both girls in focus with it. For super beginners it’s sometimes suggested that your f-stop equal the number of people in your picture, so with 2 people, I could have set my f-stop to 2.8. If your lens only goes to 3.5, just remember to move your subjects farther away from the tree (some day, I’ll teach you all about depth of field and why it matters).

You should be good to give it a shot. Set your person or stuffed animal up, and take a test shot! How’d it look? Was your subject in silhouette? Was it a little brighter than you expected? If so, you can speed up your shutter, or close down your f-stop. Were the lights little pin pricks? Slow down that shutter even father! Show me in the comments on wendy b photos what you got!

A really HUGE fall catch-up post

If that isn’t a catchy title, I don’t know what is.

It has been an absolute whirlwind fall. Every year I tell myself I’m not going to take on so much- I’ll spend more time with my family. I’ll actually hire someone else to take photos of us because I won’t be working every minute!

And then this year I took something like 12 more fall sessions than I did last year :*) I took 4-5 mini sessions every weekend and then also took my usual work load during the week. It was nuts and I’m pretty sure my eyes are going to fall out of my face. I’m taking only 2 sessions in December, not just to give my retinas a rest, but also because with the holiday season comes winter break for my daughters and you guys know I’m a mom first.

I wanted to share some of the families I had this year, and since my blogging is pretty much the worst ever, I’m going to pop them into a couple giant posts! We’ve had our first snow here, and looking back at the colors of fall is so nice 😀
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Photography HOW TO: photograph fireworks!

Ah, the Fourth of July. Picnics, parties, beer, and brats (that’s bratwurst, not BRATS, well… hopefully not brats 😉  )
And of course, there are fireworks. I’m sure there’s a long and delightful history about why we Americans light up the skies with fireworks and you’re welcome to Google that information in your spare time 😉

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I have always been particular about fireworks. By particular, I mean terrified. Then, seven years ago I had two little girls and now Mommy has to put on the brave face. What better way to enjoy those loud, blazing balls of fire raining down on you, but by trying to photograph them! Total transparency here- last year was the first year that I ever tried to photograph them. I’m going to try again this year if this Summer of Unending Rain gives me the chance (Ohio friends know what I’m talking about). You can try, too!

HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
1. Remote shutter release like THIS
2. A DLSR and basic understanding of photography
3. A dark place with a clear view of the sky

IT WOULD BE HANDY TO HAVE:
1. tripod
2. wide-ish angle lens that will focus to infinity. Use what you’ve got though, you can make nearly anything work.

I’ll post my photos with my settings to give you an idea about where you can start, but every lighting situation, lens and camera body is different. For what it’s worth, I took these on a Nikon D7000 with a Nikkor 35mm 1.8 lens. I wanted a wide angle lens, and my 35mm is the widest I’ve got.

First things first- get a good spot! Some people like to have cool landmarks in their photos, but I want an unobstructed view. We parked ourselves far across from the field where the fireworks would be shot off. I can fake being cool with fireworks, but only from a safe distance.

Second, turn off your flash. You want the only light your camera sees to be the fireworks themselves. Relatedly, turn your ISO down. Mine was set at 100 for all these photos. Again, we want the only light to be from the fireworks themselves, so we don’t want our cameras to compensate for the dark and make images brighter.

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ISO-100, 35mm, F-16, SS 8.0 seconds

Aperture is next. You’ll want a long focal length. Anywhere from F-11 up will work well. The fireworks will be far away, and we’re going to try to focus to infinity. You’ll want to look up your specific lens if you don’t know how to set it to infinity or even if it does such a thing. A note about my specific 35mm– it is a G lens, meaning “gelded” and does not focus to infinity which made things a little harder. What I did was set my focus to manual and focused on the very farthest thing from me, then crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Set your shutter speed to a reeeeeaaaaaalllllly long exposure. There won’t be a ton of light, we’re using a low ISO and a small aperture (the larger the f-stop number, the smaller the aperture opening). Mine was set anywhere from 8 seconds to 13 seconds. Now you see why you’ll want that wireless remote- there is absolutely no way you can have your hands on your camera when that shutter is released or you’ll get instant camera shake and blurry photos. I would fire off my remote shutter release as soon as I saw the firework shot off- when you see that first streak of light FIRE! If you have a tripod- USE IT. The less motion around your camera the better.

Play around with your shutter speed and see how the speed affects the amount of light let in. The longer you leave your shutter open (hello, 13 whopping seconds) the more light will enter your lens. The cool thing is the light is moving! Since our shutter is super slow, it’s not going to stop that light motion and you’ll get those awesome light streaks.

Get out there, and give it a shot! Share your attempts over on Wendy B Photos on Facebook!

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Fall Flashback: Jenny and Chris {Cleveland Family Photographer}

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The R Family

It’s hard to believe I’m going to be pre-booking fall family mini sessions for my current client list in just about seven weeks! Looking back at these fall photos makes me so excited for what’s to come!

Jenny, Chris, Grey and Wally are four favs. I was lucky enough to photograph them a couple times over the year and it’s always a treat. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of their hugs, their little smiles, or their family cuddles!JCR-11wm

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Oh, Wally :*) I love working with kids- you never *ever* know what you’re going to get!  Grey was all smiles and giggles and little boy energy, and Wally was…two. Haha! As with all my toddlers, a touch of shyness, and even grouchy faces are expected and totally normal. I photograph my families as they are, and sometimes that includes our furrowed (and super precious) brows.

I book family sessions through out the year; and am currently booking for September! If you’d like to squeeze the last drops of summer into a family session, check out the details of what’s included on http://www.wboycephotos.com and then send me an email! wendy@wboycephotos.com

If you’re a current client in good standing, keep your eyes out for my fall family mini session dates. I’ll be emailing them out in early August!

Safety in photography: holiday edition

I saw a really good post over on newbornphotography.com about taking safe photos during the holiday season. To most of us pros, they are common sensical but there are a lot of people who will try to take photos themselves (and hey man, more power to you if you want to give it a shot). One of the first things they talk about is the danger or wrapping your child in Christmas lights. Just– don’t. It’s so unsafe for so many reasons, not the least of which is the lead the wires are coated with. In fact, you should wash your hands after handling the lights yourself!

I love the look of “twinkle lights” in holiday photography- it’s a safe way to incorporate lights without risking anyone’s safety.  I had one of my daughters sit for a minute so I could show you a couple safe twinkle lights. I’ll do a tutorial post on how I shot these twinkle lights shortly ;D ::UPDATE  read how to create this backdrop HERE.
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If you’ve looked back and found that WHOOPS you’ve done this, don’t worry about it. Most people really don’t know better. Before I had any idea what I was doing, I’m about 98% sure I tried something with lights. But I won’t do it ever again. Your safety as my client, or your child’s safety if you’re trying this on your own, is more important than getting a bunch of “ooh that’s so cute!” comments on your Facebook feed (and you betcha I’m going to post to my Facebook).

There is one other big thing I can’t stress enough when talking about safe photography, though not holiday related. Let’s talk about railroad track photos.

Never, ever EVER (for real) take photos on railroad tracks. Nothing ruins a photo session like being hit by a train like happened below:

http://petapixel.com/2014/06/20/photographer-missouri-hit-killed-amtrak-train-photo-shoot/
http://www.diyphotography.net/train-kills-one-photographer-injures-two-taking-photos-train-rails/

Even if you’re preeeeetty sure the tracks are “dead” meaning they haven’t been in use (that you know of) you are still trespassing and breaking the law. Please, don’t ask us to shoot on tracks. I don’t like having to tell my clients no, but I won’t hesitate to do it. I love my clients but there’s no way I’m going to jail for you or anybody! If you read that like Garth Algar from Wayne’s World, award yourself one gold star.

I know there is a ton of info out there and a lot of people feel :so what: when it comes to things like this, but if you’re my client, my friend, I will never ever put you in harms way.

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My feelings about #3 …

So, over on Wendy B Photos I shared an article by the amazingly talented Amy Tripple Photography. It’s a list of things photographers want their beloved clients to understand. It’s one of the few times that I thought YES YES YES. I wish I knew how to say this! But then I don’t have to say it, because Amy did it so well. I wanted to talk about #3 on the list.

It hurts my feelings when you joke about my pricing.

  • When you imply that my prices are getting too high, it feels like you’re saying that my work isn’t worth what you’re paying. I’m quite sensitive about my pricing and it feels incredibly vulnerable to have to put a price on my passion and art. There are so many parts of running a business that I can’t expect you to know about: taxes, a studio, equipment, website fees, a salaried studio manager… these are just a few of the things I’m desperate to tell you about when you make a joke that “this hour had better be amazing because we sure are paying for it…” I can’t, of course, so I try to remember that you probably don’t understand all the costs involved in running a small business and continue on with your session.”

While the above doesn’t happen to me during sessions, it stings when someone inquires about a future shoot and straight away asks, “What do you charge?” or they make comments like “when is your next sale?”; it makes me think that the person doesn’t put any value into the work; they’re only looking for someone who is “cheap” even if that’s not the case at all. I know cost is one of the most important things that potential clients consider, but it should never be the #1 most important. How much do you value your photos? I’m neither the most expensive nor the cheapest person working the block so to speak and I do the best I can to work with families for whom budget is the #1 deal breaker. ** if you are worried that you cannot afford my pricing, TELL ME. If you book out far enough in advance, I can gladly take small payments over time so that you can be paid up in time for your session**

I do *everything* I can to provide professional, affordable portraits be they family, maternity, newborns, etc. I do NOT believe that professional and personal photography should be a luxury only the wealthy can afford. There are a lot of people who could never afford to spend $400, $500, $1000 on photos. Does that make them less deserving? I don’t think so.

Does that mean that other photographers need to lower their pricing? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Each one of us sets our pricing in line to where it should to be for our specific needs. None of us will have the same pricing structure, even if we’re located in the same zip code. What works for one of us will likely NOT work for another.

I am priced as low as I can be, while still being able to cover my costs of doing business and as any other small business owner can attest, it’s not cheap doing business. There are times when I need to increase my price, or my product pricing but I have done and will continue to do everything I can to make professional photos available to as many people as possible.

I can’t thank my clients enough for being understanding of the ways in which I operate my business ❤ ❤

Studio addition!

A long while back, I posted to my Facebook page that I had found a backdrop that I super mega loved. Then, at Christmas time, a large roll showed up at my home!  My mother in law had gotten it for me as a gift (yaay!)  When I got it set up, I begged/asked one of my girls to sit so I could take a couple pictures. She agreed, but only if I let her have her blankie with her. Molly-woodland-drop-8wm Molly-woodland-drop-2wm

 

I can see so many sessions with it. Milestone minis, first birthday cake smashes, newborns, holiday minis... oh so love it. Want to use it in your session? Just ask! Even if you want to shoot in your home, I can bring my drop and stand with me 😀 Send me a line and let’s set it up! I’m booking for March and beyond right now!

wendy@wboycephotos.com

Star burst street lamp

At Christmas time, I showed you how to create a star-burst effect with your tree lights. The neighborhood I live in is lined with street lamps and every night I want to photograph them! If you’re in Northeastern Ohio, you know it’s been *really* cold. Really cold + expensive electronics = OH NOZ!

A few nights ago, I got sick of waiting out winter and decided to set up my tripod, camera and remote shutter right in my foyer and shoot through my storm door. I can see two lamps really well, but this spring/ summer, I’m going to head out on to the sidewalk and get more of the neighborhood 🙂

Look how cool these star-bursts are!

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Super love that. Have you tried to create any star bursts? If you need directions, you can find them HERE 😀

A Valentine’s Mini to share

Oh, Valentine’s Day. Some people love you. Some hate you. I generally find myself in the latter group 😛 I’m a happily married lady, but Valentine’s Day has never been one of my favorites. However, now that I have two little girls who really enjoy passing out Valentine’s and celebrating with their friends, I might be coming around.

Of course, boys as adorable as this help, too. Multiples have a special place in my heart and these three were no exception. JKMini-collage-wm

Brothers ::puffy hearts::  These boys each were sweet and funny in their own ways. We took this at my home-studio space (slash guest room, working with what we have!) we got a couple shots off and took some breaks. We talked about where my basement was (“Under the house!”) and took peeks the playground out back (theirs is bigger, haha) and watched a few minutes of Jack’s Big Music Show to help us settle in again. Our mini was one of a kind, just like J, B, and Z.

Thank you, Jamie for coming out! It was a pleasure meeting you and your special crew ❤

Getting crafty

I knew what I wanted for my little Valentine’s Mini sessions and I set off to Etsy to find it. Aaaaand then I was slapped in the face with price tags of $50+. I’m a budget photographer- not only in that I keep my prices affordable but also I have to watch my bottom line! I decided to give crafting my own heart garlands. I *totally* understand why the Etsy ones are expensive because HOLY CRAP were these time consuming and as any small business owner knows, time is money. So, I spent a few days (seriously) cutting out a little over 100 card stock paper hearts of various sizes and colors. Then, ugh. Sewing. I have a sewing machine because I forgot how much I suck at sewing :/ Shockingly, sewing paper is waaaaaaaay easier than sewing fabric.

Here’s a little peek into how I spent my time 😀

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(yes, that would be my darling husband’s hand threading the machine for me)