As a Charlotte portrait photographer, I thought it would be fun to show the entire process (start to finish) of the “money shot”. Most of the people who read my blog are not Charlotte NC Photographers. I thought it would be interesting to show the life cycle of a portfolio shot! Specifically, I wanted to show that “money shot”. You know……the one shot that photographers try to grasp in a shoot……..
Well, this Charlotte photographer must say that it is tougher than you think! I wanted to describe the process from planning, shooting, all the way down to editing the last detail. I wanted to give some insight into a photographer’s eye and what goes into a photograph! So, here goes……
For reference, I am speaking of my most recent Uptown Charlotte shoot. In planning for the shoot, I knew I wanted to do a close-up shot first. I saw a similar photo of a model framing her face by holding her head in her hands (hands cupped at the chin to frame the face). I knew I wanted to use a variation of this pose! I figured this might be the “money shot”. Let me take a step backwards and describe the process before the shoot. Beforehand, I “scouted” the location. In other words, I went to a parking deck in Uptown Charlotte and looked around. I found this particular parking deck with a beautiful background on the fifth floor (see below).
Now, it might not look like much! But to this Charlotte portrait photographer, this was the perfect setting for a high-fashion photo. The next step is to think about basic camera settings. With this scene, I knew I wanted to have a sharp focus on the model and create a “bokeh” effect with the background (basically means I want to focus on the subject and make the background blurry). In photography speak, that means I use a low aperture which creates a shallow depth of field.
Now that I have my basic camera setting down, I focus next on lighting my subject. Before I talk about lighting my subject, I knew I wanted to underexpose my background (make it a little darker) about a half of a stop (that’s Charlotte portrait photography lingo). That way, the subject is the brightest thing in my photograph and the background is a little darker (in relation to the subject). I knew I wanted to use a beauty setup. So, I used a “clam shell” approach with a beauty dish up above the subject (about 45 degrees) and another light source underneath (I used a silver reflector). This setup creates a “fashion” look and I was comfortable utilizing it. Next, I dialed in the exact amount of power I needed from my flash units.
With the basic camera settings and lighting in place, I can now focus on composition. Now, I start shooting with a purpose of nailing the composition. This is no easy task! It usually involves a process of moving a few inches here and there on each frame until you get the best composition. As seen below, I took at least 25 photos of slight variations (of the same composition).
In the end, I chose a particular photo SOOC (Straight Out of Camera) that fit my vision as a Charlotte portrait photographer. Even SOOC, this photo is stunning!
Now, most Charlotte portrait photographers (or Portrait Photographers Charlotte NC) would not show you an image SOOC. I only did it as the subject of this blog post. The idea is to make this already beautiful image better in Photoshop. I will not bore you with the details, but the main (initial) edits in Photoshop involved fixing white balance, cleaning up the skin “dodging” a little in the model’s right eye socket, removing stray hair at model’s right eye, sharpening the eyes, toning down the highlights of the entire image, darkening the background a little, etc. Whew!…….That entire process takes me approximately 30 minutes to an hour in Photoshop (for one photo).
In the end, I am pleased with the final photo!
I must say that it is one of my best photos as a Charlotte portrait photographer.
My main focus has involved continuing my evolution with lighting and improving my overall composition and editing in Photoshop. Out of all my photos, I think this result represents my continuing philosophy in Photoshop of improving photos, but not overdoing it. In photo editing, the key is to improve the photo without the audience knowing about it! My resulting “money shot” is decent if I must say so myself……
And there you have it! That’s the entire process and evolution of a photograph from my point of view! It’s a lot of work! There’s a lot of work behind the scene that goes unnoticed by the naked eye! But, it makes all the difference in the world! If anything, this blog post reinforces the idea that I have a long way to go to improve my craft! It’s a journey and the trick is to enjoy the improvement journey!
If you liked the images in this blog post, please take a look at my portfolio as a Charlotte portrait photographer!
As a Charlotte photographer, I am always looking for different shoots, different themes for shoots, etc.
I did an Uptown Charlotte shoot (high school senior shoot) with a city/urban vibe a couple of years ago and I really enjoyed myself! I wanted to do another Uptown Charlotte shoot for a high school model and the timing could not be better. Coincidentally, I just took an online class for senior portraits. At the end of the class, I was struck by the one-dimensional aspect of most photo shoots involving high school females. This particular class had an image critique portion and all of the photographers’ work looked the same! It involved one-dimensional, flat lighting with a female in a field somewhere. Then, the post-processing involved some type of “soft”, creamy edits, etc. Don’t get me wrong! I’m not bashing this kind of photography! I do it, too (along with other Charlotte photographers)! But, I wanted to do something completely different that showed some “edginess”. I think you can create some edginess by creating shadows with lighting, etc. The idea was to create an Uptown Charlotte shoot that was a little glamorous! In the end, I wanted to showcase the model as a city girl who was the object of all the guys’ affection. I am gonna show my age, but I was reminded of the Billy Joel song and video, “Uptown Girl”. Ok…..Ok…..That just happened! By the way, I found out (during rigorous research for this blog post) something called “Westlife” remade the song. I checked them out. Not bad, but it ain’t no Billy Joel……
So, I partnered again with Attitudes A Salon. I must take a second to thank Erica, April, Sam, John, etc. for making this shoot happen! As always, they did an outstanding job in regards to hair, makeup, etc. Samantha, the model, is a stunning lady and fun, too! We went to a parking garage in Uptown Charlotte. First of all, I think it’s kinda trespassing to hang out and take photos. So, I was a little nervous at first. But, my nerves calmed down when I realized the only people on these high floors of the garage were skateboarder dudes! The first shot we took was a glamorous closeup.
As a Charlotte photographer, this may be one of my favorite photos (of mine)!
Many times, I get too aggressive with skin retouching in post-production. As a constructive criticism, I have been trying to work on that. Too much skin retouching can give a photo a somewhat “fake” appearance. I was very pleased with the photo below. It looks clean and not overdone!
Next, we tried to focus on some full length shots. In post-production, I wanted to give these photos a city vibe! So, I played around with “gritty” edits that captured the “grittiness” of the concrete walls, city buildings, etc.
Then, we went to the very top of the parking garage. I was bummed because it started raining! But, April (from Attitudes A Salon) found this great spot under an overhang. Once the rain stopped, the sky turned this amazing orange color. The sky produced the perfect backdrop with the buildings in the background! We came up with some amazing shots during dusk.
In the end, we had a blast with this project. It was fulfilling for me as well. I think we accomplished the goal of producing a few shots with a city/urban feel!
This Charlotte photographer was very satisfied.
Being a Charlotte portrait photographer, I often wonder about how to improve my photography!
I must admit that I have not done much “shooting” lately for a good reason! I have a 4-month old son who keeps my wife and me busy! With that said, I still review “how to” videos online, read as much as I can, etc. A common theme in photography improvement is the concept of a portfolio review. Basically, the idea is to submit some of your best work to a more accomplished photographer in hopes that his/her constructive criticism can spark your next improvement endeavors and lead you in the right direction in regards to growing as a Charlotte portrait photographer.
With this portfolio review, the trick is that you have to leave your ego at the door! Sometimes, the reviewers can be brutally honest and you need to swallow your ego and value any criticism as a chance to improve.
So, I submitted about 15 photos to an online reviewer. Before this more accomplished photographer reviewed my portfolio, I offered my own constructive criticism. If I had to describe my biggest weakness as a Charlotte portrait photographer, I think my photo composition is fairly weak (overall). I probably get so focused and consumed with lighting variables (lighting is a key aspect), that I sometimes forget about strong composition. I waited anxiously for my critique and I was not surprised by my review. Overall, my reviewer said some nice, introductory comments. He said that he saw some good things overall. Wouldn’t you guess that the biggest flaw he pointed out was photo composition! He reiterated that composition should help your photos tell a story! It should lead the eye to the most important aspects of a photo and do it seamlessly, effortlessly, simply, etc. It may be coincidental (or maybe not), but he said that my composition in my black and white photos was much stronger than in my color photos. I am left to figure out why that may be…….Out of all of my photos, the reviewer liked this shot the most (see below)! He said that he enjoyed the vintage quality, the composition, etc.
My reviewer also referenced a few other black and white shots and highlighted them for the stronger composition (see below).
Again, he noticed that my composition was not as strong in my color photos. I need to ponder that finding to see if there is a reason why, etc. The only color photo that he said had solid composition was the following photo of my son (see below).
Not coincidentally, I found an online video on composition from Scott Kelby called “Crush the Composition” (see what he did there?). I must say that it was the best teaching tool on composition that I have run across! Most books, videos, etc on composition talk about theory in regards to rule of thirds, use of leading lines, filling the frame, etc. But, they fall short in the practical application. Scott Kelby “crushed” it by not talking about these rules of composition. Instead, he focused on the practical application. The most important idea was “working the shot”. Scott showed several examples of a strong, winning shot where he took 20 photos prior where he referred to those shots as being “crappy”! He would change angles, change focal lengths, change orientation (landscape vs portrait) until he got the shot. And, it wasn’t a mechanical idea! It was totally by feel! He knew the shot was there and the strong composition was there. But, the idea is that you have to “work the shot” to get there. Often times, people assume photographers find that award-winning composition right off the bat. What they don’t realize is that you have to “work the shot” to find it!
Going back to my portfolio review…….Did it help? Only time will tell! But, I do think it reinforced my ideas about my weaknesses. I have to be more concerned about composition! I have to make sure that it doesn’t take a backseat to lighting, etc! Also, I have to be vigilant about “working the shot” and not being satisfied with the first or second composition. In the end, I think this portfolio review could spark my photography to new heights! I wonder if other Charlotte NC Photographers and Charlotte NC Family Photographers struggle with composition……….
As a Charlotte portrait photographer, I enjoy showing (through my blog) how I edit certain photos. I have been thinking about the editing/post-production process and how I can improve in that area.
One photographer that I follow (I follow many photographers in areas of Portraits Charlotte NC, Charlotte NC Photographers, Charlotte NC Family Photographers, etc) suggested that all photographers show their work (in regards to editing/post-production) to fellow photographers. What a great idea! It can be a painful process sometimes, because your ego may take a hit. But, I think constructive criticism from colleagues and clients can be helpful in improving the overall process.
With that said, I wanted to show I edited one of the photos from my recent photo shoot with Attitudes A Salon. If you didn’t see our 60’s vintage photo shoot, make sure you check out my blog post that describes the shoot and the actual images. I always like to give the disclaimer that I am probably not the most skilled photographer in Photoshop and I am trying to improve in that area as a Charlotte portrait photographer.
So, I started with this beehive shot SOOC (straight out of camera). I actually love the simplicity of this photo! I really enjoy the lighting and how it wraps from the viewer’s right to left, showing some gentle shadows on the model’s right-side of face, etc. Right away, I think I can incorporate some of the vintage qualities and add some type of fashion stamp to it. The first thing I did was to add some contrast and vibrance in Camera Raw (Photoshop). Next, I sharpened the eyes, lips, etc. just a little……
For some clients, I would probably consider ending my edit right there! But as a Charlotte portrait photographer, I need to keep the target audience in mind. This photo is for a hair/makeup salon. I felt like I needed that extra “punch”! So, I thought about bringing out some of the highlights in the model’s hair and creating more of that “fashion” stamp…….
So, I really over-saturated some of the highlights in the model’s hair and skin (see below).
Now, I like the resulting photo (a lot)! But, I am thinking it doesn’t have enough “pizaaz”. I found a texture that incorporated more “yellows”. So, I applied that texture (if you look closely at the background, you can see a bit of grainy texture) to the photo to add a bit of yellow and “punch” to the final image (see below).
Again, I would never do this edit for a business head shot, etc. In fact, the final edit is not for the faint of heart! But, you have to keep the target audience in mind. With that said, I think this edit fits the concept that we were incorporating. I am curious about what you think! Do you think this edit is appropriate? Do you like it at all? Is it too much? Which edit do you like best? Or, do you think I am out in left field? Let me know your thoughts……please comment below. I leave you with the final before and after shot!
Like most Charlotte photographers, I always look at my portfolio of images with much scrutiny.
I like to think of my “true” portfolio as 15-20 of my best images. It’s funny! I’ve been practicing for a couple of years and only have 15 photos (or so) that I truly think are representative of my current style and present status in my journey of photography. Think about that! I’ve taken “gazillions” of photos!
In the opinion of this Charlotte photographer, the most worthy photos are “few and far between”.
I’ve noticed that my selection of photos that I would show for constructive criticism is dynamic, too. It’s always changing! I look back at photos I took 6 months to a year ago and I kinda chuckle! I probably see some lighting techniques or post-production edits that I would reconsider. I’ve noticed a pattern of including more work from recent shoots. That’s the great thing about photography. I learn something every time I shoot photos! And, I can see a consistent progression in the quality of my work. That progression is comforting to me! In regards to portfolios, I also learned not to envy or compare the work of others. I follow many photographers (including Portrait Photography Charlotte NC, Professional Photographer Charlotte NC, Wedding Photography Charlotte NC, Charlotte Family Photography, Charlotte Wedding Photographer, etc). I look at others for inspiration and ideas, but I don’t compare my work with their work. That’s a death move! You learn that photography is a journey and every photographer is at different stages in his/her own journey. I try to embrace that philosophical concept!
I also noticed that portfolio building is a lifelong process! At first, I thought you build your portfolio (as a Charlotte photographer) and then you do not have to worry about it. Over time, I realized that I am always thinking about strengthening my selection of images. Actually, I sometimes accept photo shoots based more on strengthening my portfolio and less on financial gains, etc. I might pull the trigger on a shoot if I think I can get some quality portfolio candidates!
In the end, I realize that those 15-20 images are just a tiny representation of where I am at in my photography journey. Hopefully, those 15-20 images will continue to improve (as I will try to improve as a Charlotte photographer).
If you liked this blog post, check out my portfolio where I show images from previous photo shoots.
As a Charlotte photographer, I usually try to keep my blog posts more towards the humorous and lighter side.
But for one post, I wanted to share some deep feelings. Now, this doesn’t relate as much to photography as it does to life in general. But, just follow me on this one. I will try to tie in photography at the end.
Most people know that I am not only a Charlotte photographer, but I am also a cancer survivor.
I try not to bring it up as much. For some reason, I do not really want to be that guy that gets up on his soap box and boasts about something like that only to get a sympathy vote, etc. That’s just not me. But, I bring it up because I feel like I can finally articulate my thoughts on cancer, how it has impacted me, how it changed me, etc. (Yes, it took this long). For a very long time, I just couldn’t wrap my arms around cancer.
I have regularly-scheduled CT scans as part of my cancer follow-up. You know…..they push that dye into your veins, send you through machine, etc. If you do not know, the dye for that scan causes your entire body to become hot, and flushed. It’s a very weird feeling. Why am I telling you this??? Well along with the rush of flushing, and heat all throughout my body, I feel extremely vulnerable lying on that machine. It’s hard to describe, but I have some intense thoughts lying down, waiting for them to push me through for the CT scan. The first year or two, I had weird thoughts and feelings mainly of fear. I would become very emotional! Over time, my thoughts and feelings have changed. Now, the fear is replaced with total humility. I know it is cliché, but I feel so thankful to be alive and to have the ability to work, play, take photographs as a Charlotte photographer, etc. That’s all I can think about before and during my scans.
These intense feelings led me to contemplate how I have changed since cancer. For one thing, I am thankful to be alive. Generally speaking, I wake up every day and I am thankful I am here. With that said, my cancer gave me perspective. It gave me tremendous perspective! I do not even know that you can comprehend it if you have not experienced it. Truthfully, if a circumstance doesn’t kill me or leave me homeless, I generally do not worry about it. It’s like that saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” (multiplied by 10). Also, I find time to laugh and enjoy myself. Beforehand, I was a serious dude who had 10-year plans, etc. I didn’t know how to have fun! Now, I find time to laugh, have fun, goof off, etc. Lastly, I do not plan life. I plan my life about two weeks in advance. Other than that, I have no idea! I have no master plan. Those 5-year and 10-year plans are obsolete! Why bother…….
With all of that, I am so thankful to have the opportunity to pursue photography as a Charlotte photographer!
I do not want to be too dramatic. But, my wife, pets, family, friends, and photography are a second chance in life. Trust me! I do not take them for granted. Due to my cancer in the past, I think it motivates me even more to find things in life that I enjoy! So now, you may understand why I pursue photography as a Charlotte photographer so much!……Ok…..enough of the deep thoughts!
As a Charlotte portrait photographer, I wanted to share my experience in regards to my latest shoot with Attitudes A Salon.
I also wanted to give some insight into the concepts, philosophies, etc that I wanted to introduce from a photography perspective. We (Attitudes Salon staff and me) actually planned this shoot for many months! The stylists at Attitudes wanted to do a themed shoot focused on a 60’s vintage swimsuit concept. They wanted to incorporate some of the high school/college customers (guys and gals). Early on, we visualized the photos evoking a feeling of fashion combined with a post-production that would give a vintage look.
So, the plan was to do the shoot outside at a pool (during the day). The first hurdle I thought about was the harsh sunlight and the effect on photography. Honestly, midday sunlight with no shade may be the toughest lighting condition for photographers! I must admit that I have been fooled by midday sunlight conditions in the past. For me, the harsh sunlight during midday creates a few challenges.
First of all, this lighting creates bright highlights and harsh shadows. Also, it creates different exposures for the subject and background that are difficult to harmonize. So, I thought about using a large diffuser (or scrim) during the shoot. My primary goal was to use the large diffuser overhead (over the subject). This technique would help reduce the bright highlights and harsh shadows. Along with using the diffuser overhead, I wanted to introduce more light into the subjects’ faces, etc. with speedlights (flashes). The combination of the diffuser and flash would hopefully even out the exposures between the subject and background.
The actual shoot went according to plan! The forecast called for rain and thunderstorms, but it didn’t rain one drop all day! Wow……We got lucky on that one! It was extremely hot and humid. I must commend the staff at Attitudes A Salon. They arrived at the salon early in the morning and adjusted the hair and makeup for the models. Then, we shot all day long at the pool! Primarily, we used the diffuser overhead and then bounced flash (speedlights) through an umbrella as a key light. We used various methods of fill flash or fill lighting to compliment the umbrella, key light.
Overall, I was very impressed with the models!
First of all, the guys and gals were very photogenic! Every subject was beautiful or handsome (female or male). That made it easy on this Charlotte portrait photographer!
The staff at Attitudes did an amazing job with the hair and makeup! During a long shoot (like this one), I try to focus on as many details as possible. It’s challenging because a million thoughts are running through my head in regards to posing, lighting, technique, etc. Sometimes, it’s somewhat of a whirlwind……
At the completion of the shoot, my attention turned towards post-production. We wanted to incorporate a vintage look in the processing. Overall, I incorporated that vintage look in some of the photos. Honestly, some of the “closeups” looked better with a fashion, glamorous edit versus a vintage edit. So, the entire collection combines some vintage photos with fashion, glamorous photos.
In the end, I must say that I had a blast with this 60’s vintage swimsuit shoot. I think everyone had a blast! Also, I think the staff at Attitudes A Salon and the subjects involved were pleased with the results! Ultimately, that’s the main objective! It really was a win-win photo shoot! I always enjoy working with the stylists at Attitudes A Salon because they are so passionate and creative about their craft!
Watch out for Attitudes A Salon and Tommy Holt Photography! We are already planning the next photo shoot and hopefully it will be bigger and better than the previous shoot!
If you liked the photos in this blog post, check out my portfolio where I show more images from previous photo shoots.
As a Charlotte photographer, I never thought I would have to worry about someone “stealing” my photographs.
Let’s face it! I am a self-proclaimed hack with a camera! But, I recently found out that a California modeling magazine “stole” the photo below.
Well, it’s a form of stealing. They attached their hashtag to the photograph so it would show up on their website, social media, etc (they are passing it off as their photo and their work). It’s disappointing to hear of this activity!
But as a Charlotte photographer, it gave me an opportunity to reflect on this practice.
Unfortunately, this “stealing” is a common practice in the photography community. It happens all the time! And, this is totally different that implementing a pose you have seen before and trying to make it better, etc. In thinking about “stealing” photographs, it’s just plain wrong! You shouldn’t do it! But, life lessons teach you that there are some very unsavory people out there. The other reason against this practice (and maybe even more importantly)is that photography is a very individualized form of art. Every photographer has his/her own style, and unique qualities to his/her work.
If I pass another Charlotte photographer’s work on as my own, I am really asking for it!
How could I possibly reproduce that style of photograph? That client saw that photograph and would expect the same style. How could I produce that style if I “stole” it in the first place?
I must admit that I acted a little nonchalant (on the surface) when I found out about this incident. Don’t get me wrong! Every photographer is enraged by this practice! To my knowledge, I could contact this company and threaten some type of legal action. I am admittedly ignorant when it comes to laws involving the internet, photos, etc. I guess I am saying that the process of stopping this type of practice is complicated! Also, I could be more vigilant in attached watermarks, my logo, etc to photographs on the internet.
In the end, I try to take the philosophic approach. I am pretty sure these people will run into trouble at some point. I think about that quote, “You will get yours!” And actually, this practice is somewhat flattering in a perverted, twisted way. What do you think?
If you liked the photo in this blog post, check out my portfolio where I show more images from previous photo shoots.
As a photographer, I am always intrigued by photos in general. I really enjoy photos!….. all photos! Ok. That’s understood you moron! One thing I enjoy is the difference between color photos and black and white photos. It’s the moment of truth where you decide to go color or black and white. It’s a big decision for a photographer when you edit a photo.
In that regard, I always wonder about a photographer’s decision to convert a photo to black and white (or edit in color). Where does that come from? How does that happen? How do other photographers do it?
In my universe, I always look for an analytical, explainable answer to a question. I like rules! I like the “I before E except after C” things in life. In talking to other photographers, there is a rational reason for converting to black and white. Generally speaking, a photo with lots of contrast will be a good candidate for a black and white photo. In other words, a photo with a wide range of highlights and shadows really encompasses a black and white photo.
At times in Portrait Photography, I thought I could hang my hat on this general rule. But over time, I realized that the decision to edit in color or black and white is more feel (rather than rules or science). I have spoken to some photographers who say that can just tell the moment they snap a photo. Some photographers say they know right away whether or not a photo will turn out best in color vs black and white. It’s a feel thing! At some level, you just feel it!
This “feel” of photography is something that I always try to grasp. As I said many times in the past, photography is a combination of science and art. But after you grasp the basics, photography is more about art and feel rather than some scientific principle. That’s why I am fascinated by photography! As a pharmacist (by trade), I try to steer photography into some type of scientific principle. But in the end, I am humbled by the fact that photography cannot be encapsulated into science.
One day, this photographer will learn to drop the scientific stuff and embrace my artistic side…….
Every now and then, I like to share an original photo compared to a final product and discuss the editing steps involved. I think it gives readers a lot of insight into a photographer and the editing process. There are two very important takeaway points. First of all, it’s best to get the lighting, exposure, etc. as “correct” as you can SOOC (straight out of camera). Secondly, it takes right much time to edit and “perfect” a photo in post-processing. I must give a disclaimer that my Photoshop skills are very average (if not below average). So, take that into consideration……
For this post, I wanted to share a photo of my newborn son SOOC (straight out of camera). Now, the first thing I notice is the leading lines with the wood panels in the floor. Actually, the wood floor is a vinyl backdrop (it’s not really wood flooring). Most of the time, photographers want these leading lines to be as straight as possible. That’s not the case in the original photo, so I had to rotate and crop to make those leading lines as straight as possible (see below).
The next thing I wanted to tackle is my son’s skin. Usually, a newborn’s complexion is not smooth, etc. For instances like this one, I use a plugin for Photoshop called Portraiture. It helps smooth out the skin. The trick is to smooth the skin while keeping the pores visible, etc. In other words, you want to smooth the skin without making it look fake. My product after running the Portraiture plugin is seen below:
My next thought involved the mood I wanted for the photograph. I wanted my newborn lit as the predominant subject. But, I wanted everything else to be a little under-exposed. In the original photo, the background is somewhat over-exposed for this effect. So, I used the dodge and burn tool in Photoshop to selectively darken the wooden planks in the vinyl backdrop. I also darkened the faux grass in some areas.
The last moves involve changing the color of certain areas. First of all, the skin tones in my son’s face are obviously too orange. That could have been a white balance issue in camera. Anyway, I chose to reduce the amount of “orange” in his face. Lastly, I noticed some reflective color casts in his clothing. If you look closely at the outside edges of his clothing, you can see some green color casts that were reflected from the faux grass. Interestingly enough, you have to watch out for that as a photographer. Some reflective materials in a photo will actually reflect an unwanted color back onto the subject. My last move was to reduce those color casts.
I end this blog post with the before and after. What do you think? I am always fascinated in how other photographers would edit this photo. How would you edit it?