MT: So what lit up the photography bug inside of you?
I owned a graphic design firm for 10 years. I'd been doing both - photography and graphics, but mainly graphics. About five years ago I was vacationing with my wife and kids, we were on the beach, and I was standing there having an epiphany on a beautiful day. I was so sick and tired of sitting behind a computer for eight hours a day, forty hours a week. I love being outside and around people - it's socially interactive and different. I was doing a lot of photography - so I decided I needed to do photography - I'd just burnt out on design.
Within a month, I was doing photography full time - but I've always been a person of faith who takes giant leaps of faith. I still have all the trappings of business, which drives me carzy - but I really enjoy the lifestyle of photography rather than sitting behind a desk all day.
MT: What was your approach to lighting when your first began? Many of our moms use natural light - but we have a few daring souls who go beyond with strobes and even continuous lighting.
I'm completely self-taught. I just assumed I needed lighting right away, and so I went out and bought lights immediately thinking that I had to. I tried so hard to follow all of these rules, I thought there were only one or two ways to do things. I realized that by trying to follow the rules so much it hindered me from being creative. Now I don't have techniques or setups I run to. I approach every shoot from scratch - I look at it and light it however I feel. If it doesn't work, I change it. I've been doing it long enough to know!
Leann Rimes - ©David Bean Click on photo for a walkthrough on how this image was captured!
But it's really easy to get tripped up on lighting when you're first starting. Lighting takes a good solid year or two - at least a year of constantly studying and watching how it works until it finally clicks. The important thing about lighting - for me - it was learning about the properties of light itself - shadows, the sun, just light in general. Just study how the God-made properties work - how the sun works, how a lamp works, just when you turn on the lights in a room - you can learn so much more about how lighting works by just paying attention. Take a flashlight and a Fisher-Price doll and see how it works, close, far, different angles and shadows.
Also, the larger the lightsource - like octobanks or large softboxes - and the closer you get to a person with them, the more even and diffused the lighting will be. The smaller the source and the farther away the harder the shadows. I usually place my huge lights as close as I can get them to the subject and just use a 4-stop nd filter if it's too much light - or diffuse it a lot.
MT: Are there any bad habits early on either in your photography or that you witness with new photogs that you wish you could break?
One of the most common mistakes that I see is people that shoot too wide of a lens with portraits… like two feet away because they're using a 24mm. It makes your subject's face look like a horse when you shoot!
A lot of people use 50mm lenses for portraits because they're dirt cheap. Pros use 85mm and up for most portraits. I use a focal length of about 70mm for full-length portraits and about 150-200 for close-ups.
It's a personal preference but here's a comparison I do in my workshops to show lens choice as well as how distance effects a shot. These 4 photos were taken with the EXACT same settings except for the focal length. She was standing in the exact same spot and didn't move. I just zoomed in an backed up.
Notice how a wider lens makes someone look like a horse, even my beautiful wife in this case. For good portraits it's best to back up and zoom for a much more flattering face. Also, notice how as you get a longer focal length the background goes narrower and more out of focus. That's another beef of mine is when people think they need to use 1.4 lenses to achieve a nice depth of field. These are all f/8 and look at the nice DOF/Bokeh in the 200mm shot.
In my opinion, 24-70 is only good for environmental portraits where you're backed up and getting the whole environment.
MT: What about post processing?
Your job as a photographer is to make the person look good - it's your only job. If you're doing these crazy things in Photoshop - wow that person sure knows photoshop or lighting looks great - but if the person looks bad, the photo may look cool, but if the person looks horrible, you failed your job.
So to get an interesting looking photo - the most important thing is flattering the person - putting the attention on the person and not the photographer. You can spend 20 hours or so on getting amazing results in Photoshop - but if you wanna get crazy artsy, there's a price to pay with your time. Most casual photographers run quick filters or spend about 10 minutes on a photo, whereas a lot of pros spend hours on each photo that you see on their site. I tend to be somewhere in the middle of those.
MT: Okay, one arm tied around your back - you're going to a desert island and you can only bring on camera, one lens. What do you bring?
I use the 1ds Mark III and the 5D Mark II… but the 1ds Mark III is the camera I'd bring. I like the 1d bodies because they're moisture resistant, dust resistant and have more features… I love it because it fits me like a glove.
As far as lenses - Canon 24-70 2.8. A lot of young photographers starting out - I could find dozens - use the 50mm 1.8 or 1.4 - probably 75% of your moms use that lens. You can pretty much get a shot anywhere with no lighting. But there needs to come a point when you can move to other lenses and try other focal lengths.
My two go-to lenses are my 24-70 2.8 and the 70-200 2.8. Every once in a while a 50 1.4. They say that non-zooms are sharper and a little better, but I used to worry so much about sharpness and clarity and everything being "tack sharp" - but half of the stuff I shoot outside and it's never going to be tack sharp outside. I always go for mood or emotion over technical brilliance. Prime lenses might be better or sharper, but the emotion of the moment trumps technical ability anyway. When you look at the photo, it's all about the moment - not that it's perfectly sharp. A prime lens may be better, but not if it keeps me from getting the moment to begin with.
MT: Do you shoot your family?
I love my kids to death - they're eleven and nine - but my wife shoots most of our family stuff. She's a visual artist and a photographer - she shoots pregnant women and family - she's quite good in her own right. You should check out her site - www.samanthabean.com.
MT: If you could give our Momtographers one piece of advice?
It helps to know who you are as a person - and that's not always easy wen you have a full house of kids. If you can get in touch with who you are in your gifts and talents - know yourself - you can catch a vision for your style of photography. Be true to yourself - don't try to copy. Accept criticism, of course, but at the end of the day, you've got to do what you've got to do creatively.
Another thing - I never went into debt over equipment. And in the hard times, that's kept me afloat. If you decide this is a career for you, take the money you make and reinvest it, especially if you have a spouse with an income.
Also, try to find more established photographers and offer to assist. Not everyone's gonna let you - or have room to let you. But hang out on shoots - help out - as a mom, you're not a teenage girl, so, from a photographer's viewpoint, it's kind of cool to have a more mature person around. Watching someone else actually do what you want to do for a living is very helpful.
Finally - take risks. I'm a born-again Christian and I have a huge amount of faith in my God - but whether you're religious or not - the only way you're going to go from point a to point b is by taking risks.
Wow - four pieces! That's great!!! Our huge thanks to David for being such a generous fountain of information! Check out his site www.visualreserve.com, his new wedding venture www.taborjean.com and his wife's gorgeous work at www.samanthabean.com Be on the lookout on his blog for workshop and mentoring announcements http://blog.visualreserve.com