Thursday, October 23, 2014

What do I tell DSLR fledglings? This...

I often am asked gear questions - and often am not up to par with nerdy tech specs and details involved with intricate settings on entry level consumer DSLRs.  The MAIN question I get is usually presented as more of a complaint... "Tim - this camera doesn't do what I want it to do".  So, I am going to add a few pointers in for using that DSLR that you have :)

Tip 1:
If you bought a DSLR because you want great image quality, or a higher preforming camera, take into account that the camera only captures what you put in front of it - starting with the LENS.  If you have a garbage lens on a $40,000 body, you will have a garbage image.  If you put a great lens on an old el-cheap-o DSLR that is possibly a decade old, chances are that you will have the potential to create a great image.

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 (constant aperture) $2,400
When you are looking at lenses the most important part is the f-stop.  Look for lenses that have at least an f/2.8.  They could be prime (non-zooming), or zoom lenses.  With zoom lenses check to see if the f-stop is variable - as in - does the f-stop change (become a higher number) when you zoom?  This is usually dictated something like this: f/3.5-f/4.5.   If your f-stop is variable, then you have less creative control over your image creating, and you have a lens that is going to make the camera work harder in low light situations.  A lens with a constant aperture (f-stop number) is going to give you a higher quality image, more predictability, and more creative freedom.  In a nutshell, the lower the number of the f-stop, the higher quality the lens is.
Nikon 35mm f/1.8 Prime Lens $185ish

For a cheap starter lens that is a tank and work horse, check out a 50mm f/1.8, or a 35mm f/1.8.  All major brands have these lenses at the same, or a similar focal length.  They sell new between $125-$225 and give you the ability to make amazing images (if you learn how to use them).

Tip 2:
If you now realize your lens isn't going to do what you wanted - sell it and buy the right lens.  This hurts, but unless you are doing studio work with big lights while running a constant aperture that is small enough to void out the variability caused by changing the lens's barrel length, then you need the right piece of equipment.
Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Prime Lens $125ish

Unfortunately 98% of the time the "kit" lens that is included with an entry level DSLR is not what you want.  I recommend buying a used DSLR, and a new lens.  DSLRs are tanks - and so are decent lenses.  It is entirely possible to create a fantastic portrait kit for under $500 with a used camera and new lens.

Tip 3:
STOP SHOOTING IN AUTOMATIC MODE.  Here is where all that aperture and f-stop talk comes in handy.  Stop shooting in automatic mode.  Just because you bought a DSLR doesn't mean that it will make the images amazing for you.  In automatic mode you now have a glorified point and shoot.  Start shooting in Aperture Priority Mode.  In this mode, the camera puts the priority on the aperture of your choosing.  This is where that lens info comes into play.  Now that you have a good lens, you can start to figure out what the f-stop does.  Using a smaller f-stop number creates a "blurrier" background, and a higher f-stop creates a sharper background.  I could go into lots of details as to why, but for now thats all you need to know.  Aperture Priority Mode is different than Manual because your camera will still decide on an exposure for you - it just holds the f-stop where you want it.  This is a step in the right direction!

In Aperture Priority Mode, the camera will keep the f-stop at whatever you set it to (unless you have a zoom lens with a variable aperture - then the camera can't hold it at the smallest number when you zoom).  Now when you want to be creative with blurring your foregrounds and backgrounds you can!  By adjusting the f-stop number you will find out how much creative control you now have.
In Automatic mode, the camera decides the f-stop for you - which takes away nearly all of your creative freedom, and certainly stops you from choosing blurriness in the foreground and background!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Day At The Shop

I usually start my morning off at 5:00am, when my alarm goes off.  Scratch that.  I start my morning when my second alarm goes off at 5:30am because I know I'll never get up for that 5am mark.  Between 6:30-7am I'm the daddy taxi service to get my kiddo to daycare.  Then its off to the shop to begin work.   I'll usually start with all the fun things - like balancing checking accounts, sweeping the floor, dusting frames, cleaning the bathroom...  Then I move on to the list of things that need to be done that I left for myself at the end of the previous work day.  My list usually consists of fulfilling print orders, answering client e-mails/Facebook messages/voice mails, editing photo shoots, creating Facebook preview/samples, uploading galleries, prepping gear for a shoot, having a shoot, re-setting the camera room/gear, designing albums, giving guitar lessons, unpacking received orders, filing paperwork, running to the bank, and notifying clients when their print orders are ready for pick up.  On most days, my list gets hijacked by walk-ins, family matters, un-expected hick-ups (like my domain hosting service disconnecting my website because I forgot to update my information once every 5 years and then eating 2 hours of time on the phone with tech support), fixing broken things (gear unfortunately doesn't last forever), re-ordering shop supplies, running to the post office, other vendors trying to sell me things etc...  At the end of each day I make a list of what I need to accomplish the next business day while everything is still fresh in my head - then I step back into my daddy taxi shoes and pick up my kiddo from day care, and its time for dinner and time with the family (as long as I haven't scheduled a shoot or print session...).

Now that I've created one large run-on paragraph, you may be wondering how I have time to update a blog?  Simple.  I need to have little breaks here and there to keep my sanity sometimes, so I add little things to my list - like writing a blog post because I enjoy doing it, or engaging in personal development, such as reading a good photo magazine, or watching a PPA educational video, or taking 20 minutes to run home an let the dog play in the yard for a little bit.  I usually can only add 1-2 things each day, and lunch most likely doubles as my 20 minutes to hang out with the puppy.

I find that by taking these little 20-45 minute personal breaks once or twice a day drastically increases my ability to efficiently and creatively design an album, or crank out a time consuming task - like editing 1,000 images from a wedding in a timely manor.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What I never thought I'd be doing as a Photographer...

When I opened my shutter for business in 2010 I never imagined that I would own a retail studio in the business district of town - that seemed like a silly dream.  In 2013 when I opened that retail studio in the business district of town I never though that I would be so successful that I could more than happily walk away from full time job offers from my previous professions.  In 2014, after a year in the retail space, I'm now planning a full renovation project of the shop's interior, which I never ever would have planned on doing a year ago when I opened.  I never thought that being a photographer would provide opportunities to travel to so many neat places - like the Hartford CT Aviation Museum, or Jamaica (just this summer).


I never imagined that I would make people so happy with their images that they would cry during their image review session, or cry again when they picked up their custom print order, but now it happens every week!  I never imagined that I would become a professional at designing custom art installation pieces for home interiors.  I never thought I would "wow" anyone but my mother (no offense mom!) with my work.  I never thought I would touch peoples lives so deeply through imagery.

I can't wait to find out what I never thought I'd be doing in 2015!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Boutique Photography Shops VS Department Store Photography - The Epic Battle.

Tim, why would I spend so much more money for you to make my family photos when I could go to a department store for so much less?

Great question!

Custom Jewelry, solid .925 silver 
I am a boutique photography service, which means I spend as much time with you as possible, and I see through from start to finish that we create the perfect art piece(s) from your session for your home that "wows" your family and friends.  I offer high quality, unique and beautiful products, often that require hours of design time.  I pour my heart and soul into each piece that I make and pride myself with the end results.  The final products that I create for each client are as much for me as for them.   I care very much about my work, and that shines through to the end results.

A department store photography shop is an assembly line designed to get you in an out as quickly as possible, offering low quality products that require little knowledge and experience to submit an order, and the most minimal in personalization and design. Their big selling point is a low price.  With their low price and high volume of clients also comes a lack of service (because you become a number to them), and a poor selection of low quality products.

Custom Solid Maple Guest Signature Board
I offer custom photo sessions at your location - whether it be at your house, in the forest, or even out of this country (yes, I will travel anywhere for you - we were just in Jamaica last month).  I am an expert in creative lighting, posing, camera technique, composition, and design.  I walk you through the ordering process to help you select the perfect image, on the right art medium - whether that is paper, aluminum, maple, flagstone, an album etc...  I'll spend my time creating a special piece just for you, and I even offer to help install larger items in your home for you.

Of course this level of service with high end products will have a different price tag than a department store photo shop - it will also bring long lasting, customized art pieces to your home.  Would you prefer an image that you LOVE on a wall that you walk past every day, or would you prefer a cheap-o image that you don't really care for?

Aluminum panels hanging from an aluminum bar in a mosaic
tile presentation.  I call these a "Montage Wall" 
As a boutique shop, I take extra steps just to be sure that I am giving you the best experience and providing you with the best products.  For example, I add a spray laminate protection to each paper print that leaves my shop to ensure it lasts.  Each paper print is packaged in it's own gift box with care to be sure that nothing gets bent or damaged on the way home.  I have every lab product come through my shop before it goes to a client just so I can be sure the quality is perfect.  If there is ever an issue I take pride in going above and beyond to fix it, this way customers know that I am committed to brining them the best service possible.

"Image Blocks" - thick photographic paper wrapped
over a wood frame, with smaller wrapped blocks
mounted on the larger piece.   Fully designable piece -
these are a must see!
Perhaps the biggest difference between my shop, and a department store is style and brand.  When people come to my shop, they want my products, created and designed with my style.  They are coming to my store because they have seen my work, and know they want a Tim Walck Photography Metal Print Collage, or Custom Designed Wedding Album.  I have customers walk into my store and they already know what they want just because they saw what a friend has hanging in their living room.  I have worked very hard to develop my own style and brand, and I'm happy to say that I have a steady stream of customers, and repeat customers who are in love with my brand.  Would you rather tell a guest in your house... "this is our department store photo", or "This is our custom Canvas, Tim Walck designed it from scratch just for us!"
Crystal Cover Album with Ridged Pages, and Leather Cover

I guess if we are going with a brand analogy - I am the equivalent of a craft beer brewing company.  I create flavors of photography that you can only get in my shop, in the little town of Coudersport Pennsylvania.  The department store brand would be the equivalent of Coors Light - you can get it anywhere, its cheap, and there is zero "wow" factor.








New Photo Dog!

Photo Dog?

Yep.  I love going on hikes and making photos.  So I got a dog that likes to go on hikes too!

Meet Remi!

:)



We plan on Remi eventually becoming the greeter at the shop!  I think she will be perfect... :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My Favorite Piece Of Gear?

"Tim, what is your favorite piece of gear?"

AHH!

I'm not really sure how to answer that!  Do I go with most useful?  Most used?  Most aesthetically pleasing? The tool that allows me be most creative?  The most durable?

I think I'd have to go with the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VRII lens.  I use it for nearly every shoot (outside, or inside a large hall).  It allows me to be super creative, and is a fantastic tool for making images.  I can certainly attest to it's durability as well...  On July 3rd 2014 I had the D300s with the 70-200mm on my sling strap, and the strap failed.  Yep.  FAILED.  The camera and lens combo hit the asphalt from a 2.5' drop.  No damage whatsoever to the lens - the lens hood was cracked, and the MB-D10 battery grip on the 300s was gouged, but otherwise this tank of a lens stood up like a trooper to some serious abuse.

What I LOVE about the 70-200 f/2.8 VRII is the beautiful way it compresses a background in an image.  I also love the 70-105mm range for portraits as it really produces accurate proportions to people as subjects - and with this lens open wide to f/2.8 the results are gorgeous.  The quality of glass in this lens ensures that your images are tack sharp, and detail is not missed.

You will notice a few missing pieces.  I needed to use
them to make the image above!  I tossed in a production shot
at the bottom with the Ultra 1800 and the PW gear attached :)
I can't help but add my 2nd favorite piece of gear.  And unfortunately its not even a single piece!  It is many pieces...    I LOVE the Pocket Wizard Flex triggering system.  They have phenomenal range, flexibility (via high speed sync), durability, and reliability.  Unfortunately the price is a bit steep if you take into account all the pieces of gear necessary to make this work.... Right now I'm using:

  • 2 Nikon SB900 speed lights  $800
  • 2 Nikon SB600 speed lights  $600
  • 2 Alien bees flash heads  $650
  • 1 White lightning flash head  $400
  • 4x Pocket Wizard TT5 transceivers $840
  • 2x Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 transmitters  $420
  • 2x Pocket Wizard AC3 zone controllers  $220
  • 3x Pocket Wizard AC9 Paul Buff controllers $180
  • 1x Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR light meter $410
  • Light Stands And Grip - $800ish?  There are so many pieces of grip I use for attaching lights to objects I don't even know where to begin with this number.










Posing Your Family for Photos


Posing a family may seem tough, but once you get a few basic ideas down it is super easy!  Here are a few ideas for you:
1) Never tell anyone to smile!
2) Never tell kids to smile!
3) Never tell adults to smile!
4) Never tell dads... especially dads "smile"!
5) Create an "Organic" scenario, and capture what unfolds. 

Wait!  I thought you said this post was about posing!  Well yes.  Yes it is.  With out a good expression, a pose is useless.  So first, it is necessary to make everyone feel comfortable.  How often can you remember as a kid when mom and dad said "Smile for the camera", and then you put on your cheesy smile was nothing short of terrible?  Talk with the family, have fun, don't worry about making 8 million pictures during the session - worry about keeping everyone in a good mood!

I like to create what I call "organic expressions".  My goal is for everyone to interact with each other with simple guidance from me, and then I work to capture the moments that show who is really in front of my lens.  I do this by asking for specific things to happen.  For instance - kids love to give hugs and kisses.  How often will a kid hug their parents or sibling on their own and have a natural, real smile?  By asking for this to happen, often the subjects are more than happy to oblige.  Plus, this is a pose that doesn't feel like a pose, and then an "organic" expression occurs.

The two boys above aren't fully smiling, or even looking completely at the camera for that matter, but it is still a great image!  The touch, and happiness really makes this image work.

Another way I like to pose a family is to do something totally out of the ordinary.  98% of the time a mom will stop in the shop and schedule a portrait session for the family.  When we do the pre-consult I usually get the idea of what she thinks she wants, which is what she has seen before.  And what have most people seen as a family portrait before?  Everyone standing in a line with terribly forced smiles.  I always oblige to the request for that standard, traditional pose, but then we move on to having some real fun with the session.  This is when everyone loosens up and the great expressions come out!  The pose to the right isn't anything completely out of this world, but the kids had fun.  And as a parent, I know first hand that when the kid(s) are having fun, you are having fun.  So the first rule to happy parents?  Happy kids.  To do this?  Fun pose.  Ask them to do something silly!  Hold a kid on their shoulders, get on the ground and give a kid a piggy back ride, just play and have fun, thats what kids like, and that is when kids really smile.
This is a big separation point from a real portrait artist and a department store studio.  How often have you gone to Walmart and had a portrait session in a field, while holding your kids mostly upside down and having a smooch with your spouse?  Never.  Thats why people are mostly trained to stand in a line with hands folded in front of their crotch with a white backdrop and bad lighting.... because that is a beautiful timeless image (note the sarcasm).  The department store studio vs. a boutique studio is a completely different post, so I'll save my fingers for typing that one another day.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Photography: How To Use A Split Tone Neutral Density Filter

First off - What the hey is a split tone neutral density filter?

Simple.  It is a filter that is darker on one half than the other.  There are many versions available, but today we are only going to be talking about the split tone neutral density filter.  Neutral density means that the color pallet stays the same - we are only adjusting brightness.  Split tone means that half of the filter is darker than the other half.  
Good times to use this?  When half of what you want in the frame is of a much brighter exposure than the other half.  The example below is of a beach scene.  The sky was much brighter than the foreground, and I knew that I wanted an exposure that allowed a slower shutter speed so I could show some motion in the water.  I chose to use the split tone neutral density filter to keep the sky darker, and the water a little brighter.
And there we have it!  



Posing Couches

I am the proud new owner of a pair of custom built posing couches!  Yay!  For any lighting geeks, I tossed in a photo to show how I lit these too ;)





I MADE A SELFIE!

Being a photographer, I'm usually not in front of the lens!  In fact, I really dislike being in front of the lens!  Today I sucked it up though, and I made a few self portraits for my music promotion page.





Thursday, October 2, 2014

New Page Open

Good morning!

Last night I created a new Facebook page!  Oooooh Aaaah    

The purpose of the page is to separate another of my creative outlets from my personal life - music.  Often I plug my music endeavors on the photography page, and that just seems like it creates brand confusion, so hopefully this will do the trick.

I will be posting recordings and videos, and overall having fun with the page.  This morning I got the first post up, which is a recording of me sight reading each line in a quintet arrangement of the Mozart K406 on the clarinet.

Hope you get a chance to check it out - https://www.facebook.com/timwalckmusic


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Timing Is Key

Lately I've been so busy at the shop that I've been spending ALL of my time on work.  Last week I logged 84 hours.  On Thursday I started getting sick, and then on Friday I had a temp of 102.7 at the docs office at 5pm.  This made for a rough wedding shoot on Saturday!  Sunday I spent the entire morning with sessions and consults, and then finally spent time with my family.  On Monday I sat down and decided it was time to cut the shop hours to a normal person's 40 hours, and start helping around the house and spending more time with my daughter - she deserves it!

I've only been on this routine for 3 days, but already I feel much better!  I feel like I am more productive with my time at the shop because I know I'm forcing myself to go home earlier than I'm use to (not that I wasn't productive before - I was just borderline workaholic).

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Loving Fall & Family

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year!  I love the fully saturated colors of the leaves, the cool breeze, and the smells of the fall festivals!  This is also one of the busiest times of the year too!  I always have a plethora of kids and adults stopping in the shop looking for donations to their organizations for fundraising, then I have the shoots that I give away for the fundraisers, plus the shoots that I already have booked so I can have an income... and on top of that - the increased yard work from those pretty leafs falling all over the lawn!

I've decided this year that I'm going to stick to 8 hour days at the studio, because I love spending time with my daughter.  I want to watch her play in the yard, take her to the park, and go for autumn bike rides.  Sometimes I tend to get too caught up in my own work, and I know I don't spend enough time with her or my beautiful wife.  So - even though I absolutely love what I do at the shop, and making images for people is the best job I could possibly have, I plan on putting my time where it counts the most.  Family.



Monday, September 29, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fall Colors

As a photographer I have learned how to make the best use out of the fall colors.  I'd like to share a little of that with you, to help you plan your photo session timing!

1) Your photos are about you, not the background.  Remember that!  If you love the outdoors, and want a giant scenic vista, do you really want a photo of YOU, or a photo of the vista?  I'm not saying that the background is not important, as it really really is.  I'm saying that you are the focus in your photo session, and we use the background to compliment the look you are going for.  That means that the background is not the main attraction of the image.

2) You want the "Fall Look".  Great!  I love it!  To get the "Fall Look" - I only need 1 tree that has changed colors.  Just 1.  This means that we can shoot fall photos from early september straight through the beginning of November.  Of course, there are scenes that will look fantastic with lots and lots of turned trees, but - it isn't fully necessary to have an entire forest of full colored earth tones in order to have the best photo shoot you have ever had :)

3) Tim!  What do I wear!?!?   Easy - Earth tones.  Keep it simple.  Blue jeans, forest green, wine, navy blue.  Jeans and a white shirt are always a winner!  (Plus that portrait can move to any room in your house because jeans and a white shirt go with every thing).  At the same time though, you can use a single color that really pops from the landscape, like teal, mint, yellow, or pink.  To make a color that pops really work, you must be cautious to keep the outfit as simple as possible.   Steer clear of big logos on cloths, or fancy flat brimmed hats if you want fall photos in a fall setting.  I know... it may be your style to wear those cloths.  But, if that is the case, lets find a setting that will really show off your style :)


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Save The Dress

What is a "Trash The Dress" session?

Often, ladies wear a beautiful dress one time and put it in the closet... never to be seen again.  Trash The Dress photo sessions are designed to show off the dress in artistic ways after it has been used.  Though the title implies that the dress will be destroyed, this is optional.  Popular dresses to use for these photo sessions are wedding, prom, or semi-formal dresses.

How about a"Save The Dress" session!

Our "Save the Dress" shoot is designed just like the description above.  Then I take it a few steps further.  First we do the photo session, which includes hair and makeup at the shop, and 3 hours of shooting.  Then I send your dress away to be professionally preserved and packaged in a beautiful wooden shadow box.  Depending on the size of the dress we may only use parts of it, but that is fully up to the bride.  Finally, we have the print session, where I put all the images from the session up on the big screen, and we find the perfect image to put onto a large (20x30) gallery wrap to match the preserved dress in the shadowbox.

This does three things: 1) - Puts your dress on display, otherwise what happens to it?  You put it away, never to be seen again!  2) - Creates a custom art installation for your home - matching a gorgeous image of you in your dress to the shadowbox of your actual dress.  3)  Preserves the memory of your special day with a timeless presentation.










    Add caption










    Thursday, August 14, 2014

    The Making of a Model

    Our studio decided to do something a little different this year and offer senior modeling sessions.
    The first model, Cassie, is a sweet, country girl.  She participates in National Honor Society, band, chorus, and spanish club.  In addition, she is a volunteer for her local fire department.  She wants to go to college and major in something with creative writing.

    If you are interested in a modeling session, please call me at 814-260-0323.  Thanks!

    Tuesday, August 5, 2014

    Guest Writer's Post

    My lovely wife asked if she could be a guest writer today.  I've graciously allowed her to share our photo-prop process.  You can follow her blog at http://walckthisway.blogspot.com/.

    The Hubster wanted to redo some chairs as photo props.  Being the loving, diligent, and crafty wife that I am, I agreed to help :)  So, here are our DIY chair make-overs:

    Step 1:  Purchase cool, but rickety, old chairs off local yard sale site.
    Step 2:  Paint them fun colors...or rather, have the Hubster paint them fun colors.
    Step 3:  While paint is drying, cover seats with batting.  I did a double layer, because I like a soft seat for my tush.


    Step 3:  Make sure the Hubster has purchased the correct size staples for the gun.  Otherwise, you have to do what I did and make a second trip, dig through your car for the correct change (because you forgot your wallet), and generally make a fool of yourself for the local hardware store cashiers.

    Step 4:   Staple batting and then fabric to the chair seats.  Make sure to pull tight, and that you have rounded the corners nicely. 
    Step 5:  Put them in the photo studio.  Doesn't the blue one remind you of the Tardis?

    To see the chairs in action, you'll have to visit Tim's website at www.timwalckphotography.com.