Workshop for everyone

Are you thinking about buying new camera but not sure which model to choose?

Or maybe you simply want to try how does professional camera feel in your hands?

Or maybe you have a camera already but have never used it in any other modes but AUTO and would like to explore...

Whatever the cause is, I have good news! I want to share my passion for #photography with you! People often come with questions about their cameras, style and quite a lot of "how to's" :) That would be the right place to talk about it all! Bring any of your questions to this one-on-one hands-on workshop! The best part (after learning a bunch, of course!), the price for this workshop is Pay What You Can. Yes, it is truly about sharing and learning! Send me a message through the contact form on the web site to reserve your spot! 

My personal story or why so many brilliant projects fail

A few days ago I attended a meeting where we discussed a big upcoming event.  To promote it, we needed to print 200 flyers. Some people suggested to print them in black ๐Ÿ”ฒ and ๐Ÿ”ณ white instead of color to save some money. At that moment I suddenly realized why so many beautiful and brilliant ideas and projects fail. In order to save a few bucks here and there, we miss the big picture view. We have been working on this project for a few months already and have invested a lot of time and materials. But it all doesn't matter in the end if the attendance is low.

The other day I was looking at some real estate listings  It might be hard to believe (for me at least) but there were still some listings with low quality cell phone photos. People are selling their homes for close to million dollars but they are not willing to invest $100 in professional photos. (Did you notice I said "invest" and not "spend"? )

But the most interesting part for me is that I am completely guilty of the same thing!  I still don't have an editor for my posts and promotional materials.  It is time to change that! Are there people who is interested in this 5-15 mins/week job?

Pictured above: real estate photos that I did 5 years ago 

Would you like some sneak peek behind the scenes?

Would you like some sneak peek behind the scene?  What do photographers do when they are not taking pictures?
I cannot talk about all photographers but for me the "active" part of capturing images takes only about 5%-10% of my total time that I spend with each client. 
Can you imagine? If your photo session was about 2-3 hours, I would spend about 30 hours (!) on things that are related to your photo session but not necessary a part of it.

These things include

1. Our communication  (phone calls, emails and meetings in person)

2. Finding and/or setting up a location  that is right for your particular needs (setting up a studio and looking for right color/texture of backdrops, chairs, setting up the light; or, like for this photo, finding a natural location that  would not be muddy in March, would be within a few minutes from the office, would have even shade to avoid harsh lighting, and would have some ever green trees to create spring/summer look to seamlessly blend these photos with other ones on company's website.

3. Travel time  to our meetings and photo session

4. Photos selection (there are a lot of photos even for a simple head-shot session like this one. If the contract assumes delivery of 10+ photos, I select them myself but if there is only one photo per person, I prefer to choose together to make sure that the client really likes it).

5. Post processing/retouching usually usually takes more time than anything. It includes removing extra things that are not meant to be part of the photo, doing minor touch ups (for example, removing a few hairs crossing your face or that acne that you got this morning, right before the photo session), light and shadows correction, etc.

6. Photos resizing and delivery  (so, you would have appropriate size (means it wouldn't take you 30 mins to upload a single photo) to share with your friends on Facebook and another folder with high resolution images that you can print on a huge canvas (for family photos usually) and hang in your living room.

7. There are also things like tea  (for cold days) and water (for hot days) that I take for my clients but I always forget to track this time, so it is not part of this calculation 

Is it what you expected?  Did you know about all this "behind the scenesโ€ work? Is it similar to what you do in your industry/work? Share in comments below, so, all of us can learn about each other's field! 

Spring is (almost) here!

(But it doesnโ€™t really matter for photos ;) )

A lot of people are waiting for spring flowers๐ŸŒธ, green leaves ๐ŸŒฟ and warm weather โ˜€ to have their photo session ๐Ÿ“ท because they don't know that they can have beautiful pictures all year round. Look how much spring we have in photos we captured 3 weeks ago. There are always evergreens that can add a bit of color if you need it but deep brown looks wonderful too!


What is the difference between business portrait and more artistic portrait?

Compare this photo with the previous post. It is the same person, the same outfit but the feel is very different. What is a big no-no in business portrait (for example, no eye contact) might be totally ok in casual photo session. Your body position is not that critical anymore. You still send a certain message to a viewer but the message doesn't have to be restrained to a particular character. In short, in casual photos you can play any role, be anybody you want to be (without putting too much thoughts into it). 
How do you usually take photos? What is your process? Do you pay attention to any of those things at all or do you go with a flow? Do you like the result?

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What is right?

Ok, now we know what was wrong with the previous photo :) Letโ€™s talk about RIGHT things :) As some of you mentioned, you liked that photo and it felt good to you regardless of my criticism :) I was very picky on purpose because I wanted to illustrate what could be done better. Letโ€™s see what made that photo strong.

1.      A lot of natural light. We all know that sunshine makes us feel good. When we see the same color spectrum in the photo, reinforced by light spots on the wall, it give us that feeling of beautiful sunny day and we mentally want to get closer to the person in the photo to experience that warmth.

2.      Direct eye contact and soft smile shows openness to communication, invites us to start a conversation.

3.      White shirt gives a sense of formality. At the same time, unbuttoned collar, rolled up sleeves and blue jeans help to avoid excessive primness. Rolled up sleeves are also a sign of hardworking.

4.      Colors: white โ€“ honesty, blue โ€“ strength, light grey โ€“ balance, logic. Combined together they present us a strong, trustworthy person with calm and logical mind. Who wouldnโ€™t want to work with him?

5.      Brick/stone background gives our subconscious feeling of stability and strong foundation. We can almost physically feel that support we can rely on.

How do you feel about this photo now? Do these points reflect the positive feeling you had originally?


What is WRONG with this photo?

I took this photo some time ago before I learned to pay attention to small details that make a big difference.  From art perspective, there is no wrong or right photo and it all comes down to one question "What are we trying to make people feel when they look at it?".  The model is absolutely handsome and looks fantastic here  This photo would be great for personal social media but I would not use it for business profile. Why? There are three reasons for it:

1. Leaning against the wall is ok in casual photos as it creates impression of easy going person with relaxed attitude.  However, I would not recommend to use this pose in your business photos, especially if you are promoting your leadership skills, as it demonstrate that you cannot stand independently and need extra support.  

2. Hands. Inside. The pockets. I see this mistake in professional photos all the time (ex. realtors, coaches and many others). We communicate with people by speech, eyes eyes, hands and body language  in general. Photos don't have audio in them, hence, your main instruments are eyes and hands. Hiding hands in the pockets is like staring at the floor instead of looking into person's eyes. Crossing arms on your chest is not a good idea either. Your body conveys the message that you want to close from or to put a a barrier between yourself and someone or something you don't like or don't feel comfortable with. Your hands must be visible and relaxed.

3. Keeping hands in tight jeans pockets elevates your arms and shoulders a bit. Elevated shoulders look like you are trying to pull your head inside/towards your torso. That is what turtles do in case of danger and it is called "turtle effect". Try to keep your hands relaxed, shake them, move your shoulders... 

If it doesn't help and you still feel very uncomfortable during your photo session, read my previous post. 

For those who were asking what to do with their hands, use them as they are meant to be used for now  I am thinking about writing another post about this topic soon! Stay tuned. 

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How to get natural looking photos?

How to feel comfortable during your photo sessions? 

Many of us feel very uneasy in front of the camera (big secret: photographers do too!). Our body translates what we feel into unnatural smile and stiff muscles resulting in somewhat weird photos. 

If you are not a professional model, natural and beautiful photos usually require 2 elements: 

โ˜‘ Being comfortable with the person/photographer

โ˜‘ Being comfortable in front of the camera

To trust and to feel comfortable with photographer is not always the same type of "comfortable" feeling we experience with our friends.  People often feel that they are not photogenic because they don't see some parts of their personalities in the photos that they would like to see. Photographer-model team becomes successful when photographer understands what exactly the person is looking for. If the photo session is for your business page, we need to deliver confident look. If it is a family photo, we want to show kindness and connection between people. Do you feel the difference? Sometimes clients don't know exactly what they want. They want "cool photos" but it is hard for them to expand on "cool" element. That is when it is essential to have a photographer who is willing to put as much time and effort into your work as needed to understand those nuances. It would be also helpful if you could think about it ahead of time and come up with a few messages that you would like to be told through the photos (for example "I want to appear as leader. I want people feel like they can trust me.")  

The second part is how to be comfortable in front of the camera. First of all, it is about your experience. You need to establish similar relationship with this part of technology as you have with its owner :) The best way is to just start taking pictures. Initially it feels awkward but, as time passes by, it would feel more and more natural. It is great if photographer can speak casually with you during the photo session, make jokes and give you some unobtrusive suggestions. I usually do it by first mimicking model's current pose (without stopping our casual conversation) and then slowly move into a different, desired pose. Our brain is amazing and often a person changes his/her pose without even realizing that they have done so.

Another technique I recommend for my clients as homework prep.  First you need to find a few photos of other people that you like. Then pay close attention to their pose and copy it entirely: hands and arms position, head tilt, distance between feet. The secret to understand how another person feels is not just about getting into her/his shoes but into his/her body. When you copy the pose exactly, you feel similar to what that person was feeling and translating through the photo. Do this exercise at least 5-10 times before the photo session. Pay attention to your feelings, how you just got a bit taller, a bit stronger and a bit more confident. When you get to photo session, you will be able to repeat not just the pose itself but the feelings as well! 

Does it help a bit? Do you feel more confident that photo session can be a pleasure time?


What is common between your grade 6 MATH CLASS and PHOTOGRAPHY?

Wait! Don't get scarred by "M" word! ๐Ÿ˜†
Do you remember that number line with zero in the middle, negative numbers on your left and positive numbers on your right? ๐Ÿ“
That is how our subconscious sees it: left as our past and right as our future. In this photo I positioned Melissa in the future (the place she will lead her clients to) with acknowledgement of the past (her body direction). In this case, the message is "I have succeeded already and I can help you as well". How would the message change if we have mirrored this photo?

You can use this knowledge in your family photos too but remember to play a โ€œbalance trickโ€: ๐Ÿ‘ถ place the youngest person in the past (left) and ๐Ÿ‘ต the oldest person in the future (right). Why? Because there is enough energy in babies to make the past feel like the present and placing grandma on the right will โ€œchargeโ€ her with a lot of live energy and bring her to your future. Get the idea? ๐Ÿ‘

PS I still think about the "chicken and egg" question here: did humans come up with this type of number line because of our subconscious or does our subconscious see it this way because of our prior knowledge about number line and coordinate system? ๐Ÿ˜



How often do you notice your reaction to a particular photo you see in a magazine or on Instagram? ๐Ÿ˜  Why some profile pictures look trustworthy ๐Ÿ‘ฉand win your business while others turn you away? ๐Ÿ™‰ Why you scroll impatiently through some Instagram photos, while others make you stop, look, like them โค๏ธand look again?
Read how our subconscious  sees left โฌ… or right โžก, how we feel about particular colour ๐ŸŒˆ and how our body language tells a story in my new SUBCONTOGRAPHY page! 



Did you have some family unique traditions when you were a child? What are these sweet little moments that you dive back into when you feel sad? Now, when you are not a child anymore, do you keep these traditions alive in your own family?
In winter when it is cold outside, we tend to look for warmth in our hearts and souls. And all family traditions become just so much more appreciated and needed. What is your favorite family activity when there is so much snow outside? Does your entire family go build a snowman or get into snowball fight (hopefully, the only type of fight you ever get into :) ) in a park? Or maybe children get a magic wand and turn mommy into a horse (temporary) to get a sleigh ride? Or maybe you love ski/skate/hockey? The winter is absolutely beautiful and fun but if you don't like cold weather, there is no better time to stay inside, drink hot chocolate/tea and make cookies, draw hearts in flour powder on the table and wait patiently at the oven for cookies to turn golden brown (then sprinkle them with cinnamon and nutmeg ;) ). Whatever it is, capture these moments. They last a lifetime! 


Why I don't do Christmas mini sessions anymore? ๐Ÿ“ท

Simply because I believe in quality over quantity. ๐ŸŒŸ
Once I decided to participate in one of those mini sessions (as a customer). The photographer was good but all photos turned out so soulless that I haven't use a single photo from that session for anything. Have not even posted on my FB page. ๐Ÿ™ˆ
One year I thought that I should still try mini sessions format as a photographer. I remembered my own experience and how we were "done" after 15 minutes. So, even though I claimed that photo session would be 15mins, I left 1.5 hour for each family just in case. Well, for 5 out of 6 families the "mini" session did turn out to be 1.5 hours ๐Ÿ˜„ It is just takes time for people to open up, to feel completely comfortable and to be themselves; for family dynamic to show up and to creates funny moments and to capture them and not those "cheese" smiles. 
So, I see mini sessions as fast food ๐Ÿ˜† There is time and situations when that is what people need. And there are places that offer it. I choose to treat my customers as they would be treated in high-end restaurant. It is not better or worse. It is a different experience. That is it. ๐ŸŽ„


Do NOT say "cheese"!

Do you know why your kids hate been photographed or make that silly face as soon as you pull your phone out to take a picture? Because it is terribly boring! ๐Ÿ˜† (To tell you the truth, a lot of adults have a spasm in their chest when they hear "let's take a picture"...) Because indeed, there is nothing fun in staying still waiting for mom to figure out her phone camera and capture that shot... Especially, when she asks you to smile but you are not happy anymore because your fun time was interrupted by...well, by this exact action that you are asked to look happy for :) This "say-cheese" habit is hard to break but very possible :) Do you have a recipe for a good shot or would you like me to share mine?๐ŸŒพ