Caring for your Equipment in the Cold

Currently I have been sequestered to my room. I have a box of tissues, a quart of oj and have digested almost an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy. Tis the season for colds and with the change in weather also comes a change in how you should handle your camera equipment in cold conditions.

Keep Your Batteries Close If you are going to be outside for a long period of time between shoots or if you are in below freezing temperatures be sure to keep your camera batteries close to your body by placing them in an interior pocket. This will keep them from losing their charge.

Treat Your Camera Like a Baby You would not leave your baby in a car overnight but I have seen countless people put their camera or other technologies in the car overnight. Think of your camera as a living thing that is sensitive to extreme temperatures. If you leave it in the cold your battery will no doubt be dead but in extreme temperatures your screen could also crack as well.

Changing Lenses If it is snowing, avoid changing your lenses outdoors. The moisture could get inside of your lens or camera body. You also want to be careful changing your lenses indoors where it is warm when coming in from the extreme cold. I tend to leave my camera and lenses in their bag put them in the coldest part of the house until they regulate again. 

Fogging Up Fog could occur on your lens if you take your camera from a warm house or car into the cold. And moisture could develop when you take it back into a warm place from the cold. To avoid this, you may wish to put the camera and lens in a sealed ziplock bag until the equipment has regulated to the new environment.

What to Wear Depending on the conditions, I would wear hiking boots with wool socks and layer, layer, layer. Try to avoid bulky coats and scarves that could catch on your equipment. Instead, tuck your scarf into your jacket or sweater and employ the use of fingerless gloves.

Owning It

Owning a small business is like starting a family but often I feel like a single parent with quintuplets.

When I first began my business in 2012 I filed out all of the correct paperwork. As it would seem, I did so in the most backwards order I could imagine. This was not by my poor planning as much as it was my overall lack of knowledge about the entire process, which between you and I is not incredibly obvious even after having gone through it. I do have to give credit where it is due and I owe a lot to the Small Business Development Center as I may not be where I am today without their guidance.

As a small business owner I have had to wear many hats and to keep my costs low I have had to wear all of those hats on my own.

Sam Dingley Photo - Meghan Headshot-2-S.jpg

The Photographer As a lead photographer I have enjoyed the ability to be as structured or organic as I like and have been able to be creative with on the spot changes due to weather, venue and wardrobe mishaps. I feel that this is my strongest role and one that I am constantly improving and honing. A big thanks to friend and fellow photographer Sam Dingley for my stunning headshots. That comes off like I am bragging about me, but I promise I am bragging about his photography skills.

The Website Designer In all fairness the bare bones of my website was originally created by a friend Kendall Totten Design who is an incredible developer but is now ran almost entirely by me. I try to check in with her once or twice a year to do an overall update to my site when I need assistance with code or say, I accidentally delete a section of content. Oops. But other then that, all content, now comes from me in all of my glorious grammatical errors.

The Ad Executive I do my best to funnel all social media traffic back to my website but at this time do not use any paid advertisements to gain clients. My social media presence is crucial to my image so I do my best to keep my brand consistent. My logo was again created by a dear friend Mindy McPeak Illustration and my business cards and header by another Graphic Designer friend Danielle Webb who I think I traded the designs of for wine and cheese. Overall my business is driven by word of mouth. My clients return year after year and tell their friends about their experience with me and in turn become new clients.

The Attorney I cannot afford one at this time and so I am my own legal counsel. I have done my best to be upstanding and have tried to protect myself by using contracts and holding a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). I even keep my business bank account separate from my personal account. I figure there is no excuse for being careless so I might as well be prepared.

The Salesman I like to pride myself on my ability to sell. I used to sell for J.Crew and could sell corduroys and chino’s like it was my job. And at Cheesetique I used to sell cheese and wine like it was my job, because at one time it was my job. But now, I am in the business of selling myself. Gasp. And this is not easy for me. I believe I am an incredible artist and yet it takes everything in me, to sell me. It is not like I bathe in confidence but I do have to overcome myself sometimes and sell my experience, skill and artistry.

The Accountant I file my own taxes. I create my own budget. I try to keep my advertising costs and business expenses low. I pay sales tax in three states and currently for an LLC in one. I file everything on my own that I need to keep my business running and upstanding with the law.

The Balance I am a full time wife and mother and so it is essential that I maintain a balance with my work. I tend to work nights (editing) and weekends (photographing) when my partner can be with our little one. The lifestyle of a Wedding and Portrait Photographer lends itself well to my available schedule.

Starting Your Own Business? Ask for Help The Small Business Development Center of Alexandria was an excellent resource for me when I began my business and they helped to point me in the right direction and showed me where to file my LLC, Business License, Trade Name and Sales Tax. I also had to set up an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS and I would not have known this had it not been for their assistance. I also took advantage of their social media counseling which has proven to be priceless.

Timing: Maternity and Infant Photography

Having a baby for the first time is such a special and monumental event in couples lives. Carrying a child is life changing and holding that little one for the first time is breathtaking.

Being able to photograph these changes and developments for my clients is something I take great joy in and I wanted to give you some advice for photographing expecting mothers and little ones.

Timing with Maternity Photography I like to schedule clients between 30-35 weeks pre term. Before that, they may be showing their bump but it may not be incredibly pronounced. And after 35 weeks they may be too pregnant to pose comfortably and entertain you in their home. That said, I have photographed a woman who was due the next day and she looked ready to run a triathlon.

Timing with Infant Photography Ideally you want to let the parents settle into a routine with the new baby before you photograph them all together. Basically, anytime in the first month is a good marker but I try to shoot for 1-3 weeks old.

Meet and Greet A Maternity Session can serve as a meet and greet in the same way that the engagement session can before the wedding. It is a chance for you to determine if you wish to work with the clients again and likewise, for them to determine if your style and personality fits with theirs.

Baby has Arrived Check in around their due date and do not be surprised if you do not hear from them right away. Although an infant does not do much, they also cannot do much for themselves and therefore their parents have to feed and change them every few hours at first-- which really takes some getting used to.Make Yourself Comfortable Be prepared to stay a while. When it comes to infants you are on their time. If you usually book 60-90 minute sessions, be prepared to be available for 120 min or more. The baby may need to eat and be changed, eat and be changed again in between your taking magical photos of the baby miraculously not crying. Have patience.

The Set Up Natural light is best and so using a bobby to prop up the baby and a blanket as a backdrop and base near a window may be all you need. Babies are not a huge fan of being changed so if you want a photo of the baby in nothing but their diaper, have mom change them and then feed them. After that the baby may be sleepy enough for you to photograph. A space heater can be a life saver. Make sure that the baby is kept warm in the environment that you are working in. This will assist in keeping a happy subject.

So have fun, be creative and plan your time accordingly.


Food Photography 101

I have seen you unconsciously pulling out your camera phone at dinner. Yeah you. You know who you are. I know this, because you also saw me from across the dining room. I too had my phone out, and poised to capture that decadent photo of my voluptuous cheesecake. I would say that I cannot stand you for flaunting off your flan or bathing in your bread pudding on Pinterest. But I stand with you, guilty as charged.

In the age of camera cell phones we are able to easily snap photos of just about anything we are doing, including broadcasting to the nation what we are about to eat for dinner. However, for the sake of this blog I will be showing off some delicious dishes from Cheesetique that I shot (with my Nikon) when creating the photography for their website.

Hot off the Press Be sure to photograph the food as soon as it has been prepared. You want to capture the steam off of the soup and the crisp arugula on the salad. Nothing says, “I’ve lost my appetite.” like wilted lettuce and soggy bread.

Natural Light I cannot say it enough that natural light is going to give you the best hue on your spread. Fluorescent and Tungsten bulbs are going to no doubt make your food look unappetizing. If you do not have access to natural light when you are shooting professionally. I highly recommend a mini portable studio like this one.

Dress it up!  Add in a spoon or fork. Use textures and fabrics or be creative with corks for example. Complement with color accents to tie the foreground into the background. Like the red in the cheesecake and the red on the wall. If the dish has basil add in a fresh basil leaf or sprinkle on some coarse salt for effect.

Have Culture And by that I mean read Culture. To research for my photography shoot at Cheesetique I studied up on what the other professionals were doing right. I loved the angles and accoutrements and began to get a feel for how to dress a dish up.Try a New Angle Shoot straight down on the spread. Prop up the plate. Shoot level with the table. Most of all have fun, and be sure to not let that food go to waste. After all, eating the beautiful dishes and enjoying them is the best part!


Introducing the Del Ray Wedding Venders

Earlier this year I met with Katie Wannen, fellow Small Business Owner and Wedding Planner at The Plannery and we decided to start a group for wedding vendors in Del Ray. Over the Summer we collaborated on the logistics of the group and then after some interest from quite a few folks, a website was born. It’s a one stop shop Del Ray For Your Wedding Day!

I am so excited to open up this group to all of you who may be looking to tie the knot and who may also have an interest in supporting predominately Small (Local) Businesses.

If you are looking for specialty wear for flower girls look no further than Darling Betty who offers handmade 1950’s fashions for little girls. For gifts, we feature truly life  who not only make their own skin care products but grow the ingredients and loofahs in their own backyard. It does not get much more local than that! And for invitations, the unique and truly talented duo at Sediment Press. See our other blog about their printing process.

If you are looking for local vendors look no further. If you are a local vender and you want to join the group please contact us here.

A special thanks to Katie, the brainchild of this group and the creator of our beautiful new Del Ray Wedding Vendors website. And to graphic designer Maud Bentley of Maud Bentley Design for the creation of the stellar DRWV logo.


Sometimes We Need a Little Space

The other day I was at the park with a friend taking our little people on a hike. We got to chatting about photography and eventually about printing. My friend mentioned how frustrating it was that when she had a digital photo printed as an 8x10” that her printed image came back cropped. I then explained to her what I will now share with you, as it inevitably will affect the way that you shoot.

Playing it Safe Take this first photo of a portrait of a family. You can see the original image, the image if it were to be printed as a 5x7” print as well as if it were printed as an 8x10”. You can see that I left enough space around the family so that I did not crop into their faces or bodies.

Consequences of Tight Framing However, if you look at these three photos that I took during the beginning of my photography career you will see that although the original images look well spaced, that when I went to print them, that I would lose a significant portion of the photo-- thus cropping into the subject. The grayed out area shows what would be cropped from the image.

Aspect Ratios The reason that you lose your a portion of your image when you print it comes down to ratios. Most DSLR have a sensor with an aspect ratio of 3:2 which is great if you wish to print say, 4x6” which are also at a ratio of 3:2. On the contrary, an 8x10” print will be at a 4:5 ratio, which is why some of your image will be cropped.

Choose Custom Cropping When you go to print your photo most kiosks or online printers will allow you to crop your image to the size you want, and if they are good at what they do, they will inform you if your resolution is adequate for the size you wish to print. Always choose to custom crop your image. Otherwise the default will be to center crop your image automatically cropping the same amount from each side of your image and taking the control away from you.

Native Print Sizes Some sizes that will be native to your Dslr are 4x6”, 8x12” and 12x18”. Some print sizes that are not native are 5x7”, 8x10”, 12x16”.

Work Arounds But what if you have already composed your subject in a tight shot?

1) Add a Digital Border to Your Image. Although the border will not be even, it will allow you to keep the space around your image and could create an artistic look. One time I took an image into Photoshop, created a new layer, added a gaussian blur to the bottom layer and thus had all of the colors from the image in the background layer to create a nice border. If you find this is too busy, solid white or solid black are great options as well.

2) Clone Your Image. Although tedious, cloning your image can add that extra space that you may need. In Photoshop use the Clone Stamp Tool and click “alt” to select the area you wish to clone. For faces you will want to set your opacity to around 11. For a wall or grass you could use an opacity of around 60. I almost always use a soft brush. It will take some finessing but with some practice you’ll get the hang of it.

3) Change Your Print Size. Say you want to frame your image in a 12x16” frame. Take your image and print it as an 8x12” instead of an 8x10”. Although you will have to order a custom matte for your frame you will not lose any of your image.

4) Allow Three Inches. If you are planning to print your image on canvas, try to wrap the sides of the canvas in black or white. If you would like to wrap the image around the canvas then allow yourself up to 3” around to ensure you do not lose any of you image. Assuming you wish to print a 12x18” canvas, be sure to crop your image from its RAW state into a 15x21”. The convert your file to a high resolution JPEG at 300 dpi.

Lasting Tip Give yourself more space around your subject when you take your photos. Then, when you go to print you will not have to worry about aspect ratios.

Hannah + Colin | Whittemore House | DC Wedding

We had the joy of photographing Hannah and Colin's wedding at the beautiful Whittemore House in DC. They had a touching ceremony and a sensational reception. Their incredible families and friends made us feel right at home. In lieu of a cake cutting they scooped ice cream, and as you can see there was a lot of dancing. Their party favor of glow sticks was a big hit! Thank you to Hannah and Colin for choosing us to commemorate their special day.

Dog Days of Summer - Pet Photography

Photographing pets comes with challenges but can also be very fun. I recently had the opportunity to photograph some of my favorite Del Ray dogs and they posed beautifully!

Treat Your Subject Well With people you shower them with complements. You tell them they look great and pose beautifully and they do. But with pets, they may require a little more coaxing to get them to “sit” or “stay” where you want them. Reward with positive reinforcement and you will find your subjects will be eager to please you.

Photographing Families with Pets First get the humans into position and take a test shot with everyone. Then add in the pet and get their attention. However, be sure to tell the owners to look at you or they will look at the dog to try and get the dog to look at you. Although a nice variation is to have the entire family pet the dog.

Capture their Breed The Rhodesian Ridgeback looks stately in his backyard or stretched out on his chair. Where as the Australian Shepherd would look great in an action shot as she is a herder. Most of the above poses show off her calmer cuddlier side. Overall, if you watch the subjects they will place themselves into positions that will lend themselves to your craft. You may just need to encourage them to relax in an area with the most natural light or with the nicest background.


Principles for Success in Engagement Photography

I have had a lot of engagement shoots in the past few weeks and I got to thinking about some things that to me were obvious markers for success, as well as some things I learned along my journey. I have shared some suggestions below to ensure you have a fluid session and leave your clients wowed.

Arrive Early & Stay Late When you are late to your own scheduled photoshoot that says a lot. Your client may think, “Will he/she also be late for our wedding?” This gesture may send the message to your clients that you may be irresponsible or disinterested in their needs. Instead, you should send the message to your clients that they are your number one priority by showing up not only on time, but staying late as well.

Backup Equipment I currently shoot with one body and 2-3 lenses. But I always keep a backup set of equipment in my trunk or at the venue in case something malfunctions. If you find your camera malfunctions during a shoot and you were unprepared with a backup, maybe it was you who malfunctioned. But really...be prepared for anything.

Have a Rain Date When I schedule my Engagement Sessions I create a backup date right away. It is easier than having to go through the whole process of finding out when everyone is available all over again. The weather can be unpredictable but you do not have to be. Afterall, you cannot have a rain date for the wedding so you might as well take control of what you can.

Research the Lighting I always try to go to a new location with my camera first before the actual session. I also pay attention to the sun during my research shoot and if possible, time it around the same time of my upcoming scheduled portrait session. This way I can test for the lighting. You never want to take someone to this really cool spot you found the week before only to find that the shot you had imagined is now unable to be captured due to a change in the light.

Location, Location, Location Don’t be afraid to try a new spot, if anything, it will diversify your portfolio, get you out of a rut and may teach you something new. Some of my best photographs were taken on a whim. I often will walk by a side street downtown and think, what a great place for photos or what a cool backdrop. So return with your subjects and make that great spot a reality.

Meet Sediment Press

Sediment Press is an illustration and screen printing company. They create pieces mainly in the form of posters and cards, including wedding invitations, business cards, and postcards.

When I entered Tim’s apartment I was greeted by Epson the cat curled up lazily in front of a screen printing nearly six feet tall. It was of a strangely human-like dinosaur skeleton staring into a futuristic star it held in it’s hand. Epson seemed like a conquering general lying at the base of a statue among the ruins of his overthrown city. The image, though on a flat surface, developed a 3D quality from multiple screen printings.Once in the studio which is a closet-sized room creatively set up with lights, a press, a drying rack and more paint that I have ever seen, I asked Charles how Sediment Press came to be. He explained that he and Tim had first met in a screen printing class at the Art League in Alexandria. After the class had ended they decided to set up their own shop in Tim’s apartment and continue to print on their own time.A little press from Charles and Tim...
 
How Sediment Press got its Name
We settled on the name Sediment Press because the name seemed an apt metaphor for screen printing. Screen prints are built up by layers of ink much in the way that layers of sediment accumulate over time. I also have a thing for dinosaurs and wanted a dinosaur skull in the logo.

Screen Printing 101
Tim and Charles invited me to watch the screen printing process and they explained how screen printing is done from start to finish.
1) Most pieces begin with a series of sketches
2) Then the piece is illustrated either by hand or on the computer
3) The design then is separated into different layers of color that are needed for screen printing
4) The layers are printed separately onto transparent sheets
5) The designs on the transparent sheets are burned into the screens using a photographic process
6) The water soluble stencil is rinsed out of the screen
7)  We then print the screens one color at a time resulting in a multicolored image
 

The Medium of Screen Printing
Screen printing is an extremely versatile process. One of the reasons we chose it as a medium is that it allows you to source images from anywhere. Hand drawn art, photographs, computer generated imagery, and even found objects can be combined into one cohesive piece. Because you can produce so many at one time you can to create hand crafted art pieces that are affordable to the average person.  We also like how the process is scalable. We started making posters and cards but have gone on to print pieces taller than us.After Tim and Charles showed me the printing process they let me see a sample of their work that they had created for clients. I was intrigued by the versatility of the artwork and left feeling inspired.
Want to see the finished product? Or if you have an inquiry please reach out to Tim and Charles below.
 
Sediment Press
Charles Robertson - Creative - 504-330-0556 - charles@sedimentpress.com
Tim Lovelace - Operations - 571-291-5813 - tim@sedimentpress.com
General Inquires - contact@sedimentpress.com
sedimentpress.com
 
Sediment Press walks a line between a contemporary art studio and a commercial illustration company. We are highly experimental, always looking for new ways to make compelling images and to convey ideas. One way we have tried to set ourselves apart is by attempting to master both the creative and technical aspects of screen printing.  Charles has a lifelong background in art ranging from large scale metal sculpture to traditional drawing and painting. Tim has a degree in graphic communications which focused on modern printing techniques and methods of production.
 
This article was written by Meghan Stewart, Tim Lovelace and Charles Robertson. If you would like your business featured please contact Meghan Stewart.
 

Janice's Banana Nut Muffins

I will begin with telling you that these are the best muffins ever!

I grew up on this recipe as a kid. I would eat them fresh out of the oven warm and gooey with butter and a cool glass of milk. Snowy days of sledding and soggy snow pants coming in to sit by the wood stove. And rainy days filled with crafts, glue still sticky on our fingers. Even sunny Summer days when we would build forts and play in the pond until mud speckled our faces and clung to our clothes-- these muffins would be waiting for us.The recipe is that of one of my closest friends moms who has always been like a mom to me. She is a lovely woman and an incredible cook. She quilts the most beautiful memory pillows and personal hot pads and even made me the some hot pads (featured in the attached photo) when I moved out of my parents house.
 
I make these muffins a lot, and much to my husbands dismay am forever storing away overly ripe bananas in the freezer.
This time around I omitted the nuts and added quinoa and gluten free flour. If using quinoa you will want to cook it first. I used 1 ½ c. flour and ½ cup quinoa. I cooked the quinoa in the microwave one part quinoa to two parts water. You could also cook it on the stove.
 
First cream together:
1 stick butter or margarine
1 c. sugar
Add and blend together:
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas

Combine and then add to above:
2 c. flour (option to add quinoa here)
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda

Add:
½-¾ c. coconut and or ½ c. chopped walnuts or pecans.
Spoon into muffin pan ⅔ full (a little more full if using gluten free flour)
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. (Around 25 for gluten-free flour)
Makes 14-16 muffins.

If making bread, pour batter into (2) 9”x5” loaf pans. Cook at 350° for 50-60 minutes.
 As you can see Sam approves of the muffins. Every time I make these,  I am taken back to that old house on the dirt rode with the pond and the winding creek. And the women that first shared these delicious muffins with a little girl still reeling from the chill.

Organizing and Backing Up Your Photos

Maybe it is because my husband is in the disaster response industry or possibly it is because I fall somewhere on the spectrum of having O.C.D., but when it comes to my photo files, I did not want to keep all of my eggs in one basket - or files on one hard drive. For this entry, we will refer to the metaphor of laundry in one hamper. Take your laundry for example: Do you keep your dirty clothes and clean clothes together or in separate places? Assuming the answer is no, why would you keep your files in one location? Today, I wanted to share with you my file organization and backup philosophy.

Organize Chronically First, when I organize my files I do so chronologically. It all began when I was in college watching High Fidelity for the umpteenth time starring John Cusack and in one scene his character Rob Gordon is describing to Dick, played by Todd Louiso, how he organized his record collection and I had this revelation that I need to do the same with my files. High Fidelity Clip You see, many people do what Rob did and organize their files autobiographically, I know I did. I was naming files: “Eastern Market” or “Detroit Waterfront” and there is a lot of room for error there. I had been to the Detroit Eastern Market on numerous occasions with many different people during all seasons, and if I had not dated that particular time as 08_23_09_Eastern Market I would end up wasting time sifting through each folder looking for that specific event.

Dirty Socks

Dirty Socks

Dirty Socks For me it came down to order by date and within that, event type. For my business photography if you look at the attached screen shots you will see Dirty Socks-->2014-->Date of Photography_Name of Client_Type of Photography. So the whole philosophy here is: You have “Dirty Socks” (RAW Files) “Clean Socks” (Edited RAW Files) and “Laundered Files” (Edited Files that have been converted to JPEG’s) And for me one additional file that is web resolution with my watermark. Those are the images that I upload to my website. So there is an entire process that goes on here but it lends itself to efficiency. And, the naming conventions can help facilitate that process.

Clean Socks

Clean Socks

Back, Back, Back it Up So I have essentially backed up by files (3) times on one external hard drive, but that is all for naught if something happens to that external hard drive. So I have an additional hard drive that I keep a copy of all of my “Laundered Files” on. I also have a copy of the most recent “Laundered Files” on my desktop for easy access. As well as one additional external hard drive “Off Site Backup” that I not only copy my laundered files to but I also keep it at an offsite location. Then I have an additional “Disaster Backup” that I keep a copy of every file through every stage on from Dirty Socks-->Clean Socks-->Laundered Socks.

Laundered Socks

Laundered Socks

I hope that this helps you in categorizing and backing up your files. I am not saying you should backup your files in (5) different places, but if you are serious about archiving you may want to consider at least having a disaster backup. If you take away anything from this it is that if you take a lot of pictures do not solely keep them on your desktop and assume they will be safe there. If a baboon ran off with your computer tomorrow would you have any regrets about not having backed up your photos today? So organize your laundry and happy sorting!