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Posted on Apr 12, 2013
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This Charlotte photographer (and his wife) just had his first child!

My son is the greatest thing on earth! With that said, I have prepared for a few photos for a long time. Obviously, I wanted to share the photos! But, I also wanted to share the process and how I shot them.

For the first scene, I wanted to do the classic newborn photos. For that scene, I was thinking about a soft, creamy blanket. We hung the blanket with a stand and draped it over a bean bag for newborn photography. With these shots, we wanted to provide soft lighting. So, we used a couple of large lights with softboxes that produced somewhat flat lighting with minimal shadows. Most of the time, I am not a fan of “flat” lighting (I usually like something more dramatic, more shadows, etc.), but this lighting looks good for newborns. Also, the thought is to shoot with low apertures that produce a lot of “bokeh” or blurred backgrounds. Here is a shot of the setup with a doll in position as the subject.

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During the actual shoot, we ran into some obstacles.  I have read about newborn photography, and different techniques to calm the baby.  I read all about keeping the room warm, performing the shoot right after a feeding, etc.  Also, I was trying to perform the “taco pose”.  Evidently, the “taco pose” starts with the infant sitting (Indian style) and then you gently roll the newborn on his/her side with his/her arms underneath his/her chin.  Well, we tried that and let’s just say our son had a “moment” right when we put him on the blanket.  I didn’t get anything close to the “taco pose”.  Also, it was hard to focus on photography concepts, improving the shot, etc.  We basically had to put our son in place and “fire away”.  Ultimately, I got a decent shot and I finished it off with a soft, hazy edit.  In retrospect, I wish we would have done the shoot earlier.  Evidently, it’s a well known fact that babies sleep heaviest early in the morning.  Our son did not exhibit that “milk drunk” state where you can maneuver him, etc.  Also, I would probably let the room get a little warmer.  I have read where the warmer the room, the more likely the baby will sleep throughout the photo shoot.  I would have liked a shot without a pacifier.  We also had some more props to try (hats, etc).  In the end, I was satisfied with the photo below:

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For the next scene, we wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to produce a little more drama with the lighting.  The scene incorporated a wooden bowl, wood textures, etc.  I had a wood backdrop that had deep, dark brown colors. I thought that would be perfect with a wooden bowl prop. With the wood textures, I wanted to produce a few shadows with the lighting.   So, we used a single flash gun with a softbox and we pointed it up at a 45-degree angle coming from camera upper-left. This simple lighting setup produced a few shadows on the sides of our son’s face. Here is the setup below:

DSC_9039During the actual shoot, our son was more receptive to positioning on his back. So, it made it easier to position him in the bowl. This scene came out the way I wanted it. In retrospect, I do wish I would have used a little more “negative space” on the left of the photo. Also, I probably would not fill the frame as much with the subject and try to capture more of the wood texture. But in the end, I was pleased with the result.  I like the peaceful facial expression from our son.

webberIn thinking about this shoot as a Charlotte photographer, I am so glad I got to photograph my own son! It was a true treat (all of the trials and tribulations, too)!  I came away with a great respect for newborn photographers. I honestly do not have the patience for it! I learned that preparation is the ultimate key in newborn photography. I prepare before photo shoots, but I needed to prepare even more (in hindsight) for this newborn shoot.  I learned a lot and had fun!  This quick shoot made me realize that we have plenty more photo sessions in the future to get it right!

As always, this Charlotte photographer will take the lessons and learn from the failures.

Charlotte Photographer

Posted on Mar 29, 2013
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Being a photographer, I just had to post the very first photo of our baby boy, Davis Benjamin Holt.

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Posted on Mar 20, 2013
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Admittedly, I know nothing about newborn photography.

Since my wife and I are having a baby boy, I figured I wanted to try my hand at a few newborn photos (in the near future). I researched it a little bit and I think I have the basics covered. One of the main props used for newborn photos is a “newborn nest”. I have seen different names for it, but it’s basically a bean bag specially made for newborns. How hard can it be to assemble one????

Well, I was not prepared for what happened next. I read up on this bean bag for newborn photography. Basically, you are supposed to order the bean bag and the filling material separately. Then, you fill the bean bag with the filling. The filling for the bag looks like some type of styrofoam bead. It takes a very large amount of filling to “fill” the bean bag. I ordered 4 huge bags of this filling! WTH?

The other point is that the bean bag only has a small opening that zips up (for the filling). So, you have to get this huge amount of filling in this bean bag through a very small hole. Already, my intelligence is challenged by the situation. I have a feeling I am being “outsmarted”……

Well, I formed a funnel with a piece of construction paper. Then, I started dumping the filling into the funnel. That worked, but I had a huge amount of excess falling out. To compound my problems, the styrofoam bead was very sticky (it seems to have a lot of static electricity and stuck to everything!). The bottom line is that I was dumping half of the filling into the bean bag and half of it ended up on the floor (see below).

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After hours and hours of dumping filling into the bean bag, I had to clean up the excess off the floor I grabbed our Dyson vacuum and “went to town”. Bad idea………the filling stuck to the vacuum and I ended up breaking the vacuum (it’s in the shop as I am writing this post). But in the end, I got the bean bag full of filling.

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Who knew newborn photography would be so challenging? And, I haven’t even taken the photos yet…….

In the end, the preparation for a little one is very challenging. This little newborn photography tale is somewhat of a microcosm of our preparation as a whole. I am excited about Newborn Picture Ideas, Newborn Hospital Photos, etc. Also, I am excited to meet the little guy!

Charlotte Portrait Photographer

Posted on Feb 16, 2013
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I am admittedly an average photographer and I don’t know that I am qualified to offer any advice to photographers.

But, I began thinking about the 2 years that I have practiced photography seriously. In that context, I thought about advice or lessons that I could share with beginning photographers. In other words, what would “Uncle Tommy” (see what I did there) say to Tommy (the beginning photographer) two years ago?

Learn Your Camera and Settings, Then Learn Them Again and Again……

Cameras are highly complex pieces of equipment. The technical aspects of operating a camera, lighting equipment, etc. can be daunting. But, learning your camera is essential. I am always revisiting technical aspects of my camera. For example, I am currently varying my techniques with white balance and exposure bracketing. As a photographer, you can always learn something new or interesting (technically speaking) about your camera.

Discover What Makes a Good Photograph (To You)

Some Professional Photographers talk about developing your own style. I tend to think that photographers do not really consciously set out to develop a certain style. I think it happens over time. I like to think about it in terms of discovering the key elements necessary for a good photograph. Let’s face it, that’s an individual thing. We all will be different in this element. Once you figure that out for yourself, I think your “style” will follow over time.

Embrace the Bad Photographs

This is hard to do at first, but do not beat yourself up over bad photographs. As a photographer, you learn fairly quickly that you will only be satisfied with a small percentage of your work. The key is to accept that fact! After you accept that, you can look at your bad photographs with an objective eye with the mindset of improving them. I always keep a folder of “throwaway” photos from a session. In fact, I analyze them more than the good photographs. I want to figure out what went wrong, what could I improve, etc. Over time, that strategy will reduce the number of bad photographs.

Appreciate the Work of Others, But Do Not Envy It

I realized quickly that there is a key to critiquing your work. You gotta keep the blinders on! What do I mean by that? When I critique my work, I do not let the work of other photographers influence me. I try not to compare my work to anyone else’s. I love following other photographers and I appreciate good photography. But, I leave it at that. You have to realize that all photographers are at different stages of learning and that is probably evidenced by their portfolios.

Learn About Off-Camera Lighting

This may be the one thing that has improved my photography the most. It is somewhat daunting at first, but moving a flash off-camera can dramatically increase the quality of your photography. It was also surprising to realize that you do not have to spend a tremendous amount (relatively) on a couple of extra flash guns, a couple of light stands, a few light modifiers, etc.

Don’t Forget About Snapshots, Carry Your Camera

A lot of photographers recommend carrying your camera everywhere. I think that may be a little excessive. But, it is a good practice to carry your camera often. I love taking my camera to tailgating before football games, holiday parties, etc. I noticed that the urge to carry my camera diminished a little when I got into off-camera lighting. But, snapshots can be fun and they reinforce some of the important training and techniques for keeping sharp as a photographer.

Have Fun, Enjoy the Journey

Lastly, I would advise the beginning photographer to have fun!

We all got into photography because it’s fun! Don’t let anything damper that fun spirit over time. Especially when you are a professional photographer and it is the main source of your income, photography can become something different. Even so, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy photography.

There you have it! Those are the words of Uncle Tommy. If you enjoyed reading this blog post, check out some of my photos  in my portfolio, too.

Charlotte Portrait Photographer

Charlotte Portrait Photographer

Posted on Jan 20, 2013
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Being a photographer, you often get opportunities to photograph something near and dear to your heart.

With my most recent project, I got a chance to photograph my own wife in a maternity shoot.

We have a field at the entrance of our neighborhood. In coming up with a concept, I wanted to use that field and create a “meadow” scene. The thought was to have my wife center stage as the focal point and the “meadow” in the background so it would not overpower the subject. In thinking about editing, I wanted warm colors, sun and lens flare, etc.

So, we went out close to the “golden hour”. For the most part, we used some flash units (off-camera flash) and reflectors. I generally do not like using the gold side of a reflector, but we used it in this case because I really wanted to play up the warm, gold tones. First, I was trying to create a silhouette shot. We put the sun directly behind my wife and came up with the photo below. It’s not a “true” silhouette. I (intentionally) wanted to partially show her face, etc. I like the vintage, black and white edit.

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Next, I wanted a photo of my wife looking down at her belly, contemplating, in deep thought, etc. I generally like to use the sun as a “backlight”, so we put the sun behind my wife again. In doing that, you have to be careful about shooting directly into the sun. You usually get a lot of sun flare and lens flare. I actually wanted that look in my photos, so I didn’t mind it. We put a flash unit on the ground pointing towards the little baby and one flash unit pointing towards my wife’s face. The resulting photo is fairly dramatic and turned out great!

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This next photo may be my favorite of my wife! We used a gold reflector to bounce the sunlight into her face. I love the warm, hair light from the sun and I really like how my wife is leaning back and sticking her belly out. She is proud of it!

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In the end, I was very pleased with the results. I don’t want to be too dramatic, but this experience was surreal! It was great photographing my wife and my baby boy! Looking through the lens, I felt comfortable and relaxed.

In looking at my wife, I was searching for a word to describe my emotions. More than anything, I was proud!

Carrying a baby must be a difficult thing and we are nearing the end of that journey. I am proud of my wife for making it this far. I am going to be sappy for one second (I am a typical man who usually doesn’t like to show my emotions, etc)!

At that very moment looking through the lens of a camera as a photographer, my wife was the most beautiful woman on Earth!

Wow…..What just happened here? I need to recover from that moment. I am off to watch football and enjoy some beverages! Lastly, here’s my favorite photo of all. Thanks to Kim Holt, I’m actually in this one!

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Charlotte Portrait Photographer

Posted on Jan 18, 2013
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Recently, I randomly carried my camera into a restaurant. I just finished taking some photos and needed a bite to eat. Our server at the restaurant struck up a conversation about my camera. She said, “I like your camera. What kind is it?”. I told her that I have a Nikon D700. She told me

she recently got a Nikon

(I cannot remember the model) over the holidays. Our server’s next statement struck me and grabbed my attention right away.

She said, “I am still learning!”. In response, I merely said “Me, too!”.

My response caught the server off guard. She looked surprised that I said that. She looked at me almost questioning my response! How could you say that when you have a “top of the line” camera? Don’t you know how to use it? I briefly explained to our server that photography is a form of lifelong learning. I take an inordinate amount of horrible photos every time out! The bottom line is that I try to learn from each bad photo. Also, I am always learning and tinkering with my camera settings, learning new things about my camera, etc.

In the end, I don’t know if our server realized that we were “one and the same”. Photographers may be on different levels in their journey, but we all share the same qualities of lifelong learning.

Just when you think you have something figured out in photography, it has a way of knocking you back down to earth. That’s true for distinguished professionals and weekend warriors!

That’s the essence of photography and that’s why I enjoy it. I am always learning! I hope that server (and new camera owner) takes comfort in knowing that I am just like her!

Charlotte Portrait Photographer

Posted on Jan 10, 2013
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Being a photographer, I think it’s fun to post some “before” and “after” photos. It gives readers a glimpse inside the editing process for a photo.

I must admit that my editing skills are probably elementary at best, but a good edit can enhance any photo! While a good edit helps a photographer, it is always key to get the lighting, composition, focus, etc right in-camera. The best recipe for a good photo is good in-camera work and touch up with post-production editing.

I thought it would be fun to look at a recent photo I took at a rock band shoot. The photo below is SOOC (straight out of camera). I am fairly pleased with this photo SOOC. I had a flash unit (off-camera) top-right of camera pointing down and about 45 degrees to the singer. I like the warm tones and “grungy” look of the background. Overall, I think it’s a fairly strong photo of the lead singer. But, I really want to “play up” the warm (red) tones in the background and “grunge” the background up. As a photographer, I sometimes like taking chances in editing.

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Like most photographers, I usually start with a simple color/exposure edit. Mainly, I am looking to enhance the exposure of the photo. If the exposure is nailed SOOC, then this is a minor edit. In this photo, this edit “spotlighted” the subject a little more and made him “pop” from the background. It also slightly increased the red saturation of the background.

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In order to “grunge” the background up a little, I used a Photoshop plugin called Topaz Adjust 5 from Topaz Labs. Specifically, I used the “Detail Medium” filter. I like the extra detail it gives to the background! I thought this effect was too strong for the lead singer, so I brushed the effect out of him at about 50-65%.

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For my taste, the photo was lacking a little something. So, I ran the “Photo Pop” action in Topaz Adjust from Topaz Labs. Finally, I sharpened the photo for the web and cropped a little to my taste. The final product is shown below.

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And there you have it! That’s my before and after.

The beauty of photography is that it is subjective. Other photographers may have done it differently. What do you think?

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If you like this image of the lead singer in a rock band, please visit my portfolio where I show more images from previous photo shoots.

Charlotte Photographer

Posted on Jan 10, 2013
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As a Charlotte photographer, I jumped at the chance of taking some photos of a local rock band!

One of my good friends is the drummer for Putney’s End, a local rock band here in Charlotte NC. They mainly play at NoDa Brewing Company and are branching out to include other venues.

Now I must admit, I always thought it would be cool to be in a band! You have to remember that I grew up in the 1990’s. So, I am a sucker for rock music! When I met the members of Putney’s End, (Cam, Justin, and AJ), I played it cool.

I mean……I didn’t want them to know that I secretly want to be part of a band or that I was envious of them.


I didn’t want them to know that I may or may not have been that guy who plays Rock Band for the Nintendo Wii (in Best Buy for hours upon hours).  

As a Charlotte photographer, I just acted like I photograph rock bands all of the time, “nothing to see here”, etc.

In regards to a group shot (without instruments), I wanted to produce some dramatic lighting and include some harsh shadows. We (AJ recommended it) found a cool, textured surface for the background and took some shots against it.

For the rest of the shoot, I tried to capture candid shots of each band member. In regards to post-production, I took some chances and tried to be creative with it. In the end, I was pleased with the results. “In all seriousness”, I was impressed with Cam, Justin, and AJ (the members of Putney’s End).

Spending the day with them, I realized the talent and hard work it takes to perform good music!

In the end, it was a “win-win” situation. They got some photos and I felt like I was part of a rock band (for one day)! Maybe I can catch on as their “official photographer” or something……

Anyway, I have to run! It’s my turn to play Rock Band (posted from a secret Best Buy location near Charlotte, NC).

Thanks to Putney’s End (Cam, Justin, and AJ)
Check them out at NoDa Brewing Company

If you like these images of Putney’s End, please visit my Facebook page for more photos.

Charlotte Photographer

Posted on Jan 04, 2013
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In my journey as a photographer, I recently conducted a fun photo shoot that quite frankly came about by surprise! My wife’s salon, Attitudes A Salon, needed a photographer for a themed shoot. So, the hair stylists asked my wife If we could take a few photos. Without any preparation, we jumped at the chance!

As a photographer, you sometimes have to roll with the punches and improvise!

When we got to the location, the stylists at Attitudes A Salon provided all of the props and concepts for the photos.

The vision was to create an interesting, edgy shoot that captured the hair and makeup of high school students in preparation for the upcoming prom season. They thought outside of the box and came up with a Disney inspired theme.

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We incorporated different characters from “Alice in Wonderland”, “Snow White and the Huntsman”, “Cinderella”, “The Little Mermaid”, etc. For the finished product, the goal was to create mostly edgy photos with high drama.

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When we got to the location, I was impressed with these high school students. For the young ladies, the makeup was flawless! In addition, they all had unique, sometimes edgy and funky hairstyles!
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Lastly, they were “dressed to impress”!

Let’s just say they impressed the heck out of this photographer! I was blown away!

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The staff at Attitudes A Salon worked the entire day on the hair and makeup and it really paid off! As for the photo shoot, it went according to plan!
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In retrospect, I came away with a few thoughts. First of all, I am humbled at the creativity and talent of these stylists from Attitudes A Salon. As a photographer, it’s refreshing to collaborate with such creative people. I envy their creativity! Also, I was impressed with the high school students. This entire group seemed to be “good kids”! They took direction well, helped with lighting in different scenes, etc. When you hear mostly about negativity and the worst of young kids, it was refreshing to interact with this solid group of students.
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Lastly, I am convinced that working with professionals who do exceptional hair, makeup, etc makes my pursuit of better photos easier.

That day, this photographer just got out of the way and let the work of the stylists from Attitudes A Salon shine!

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If you enjoyed some of these photos, please take a look at more photos in my portfolio

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Posted on Dec 27, 2012
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As a Charlotte photographer, I want to do more “edgy” photo shoots.

So, I had an opportunity to do a photo session with a competitive swimmer. I thoroughly enjoyed myself! I wanted to share my thoughts after the fact.

In regards to the shooting conditions, it was very tough! The pool area was huge and it was very dark!

In order to stop the action of the swimmer, I had to increase my shutter speed. Needless to say, it was very difficult to get enough light into the photographs. Out of 100 or so photographs, I was only satisfied with a a few action shots (as a Charlotte photographer).

Before I share a few photos, I was impressed with this competitive swimmer! This guy has some kind of physique!

He walked in and I got two words for you…..”physical specimen”!

He’s built like a swimming machine. When this guy got into the water, I was intrigued by the fluid motion and the smoothness. It’s interesting how “smooth” combined with technique is the ticket. The swimming motion is more controlled (versus flailing limbs) in person than I imagined.

I wanted to do one portrait shot and I wanted to primarily backlight the subject. I like the result! In retrospect, I would consider reducing the amount of fill flash to produce a few more shadows on the swimmer’s face (left side).

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This next photo was done last. I nailed the concept! I wanted a very “punchy” light on the swimmer’s face with dark shadows in the background. I wanted him looking like he is contemplating while waiting for the next race. I wish I would have varied the flash output and positioned his face differently so the shadows weren’t so apparent (on his face). To be honest, that pool area gets hot and I was burning up by the end of the shoot (this Charlotte photographer had to get out of there)!

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Now, there is always one “money shot” you are trying to capture as a Charlotte photographer! I have to say that this last photo speaks for itself!

The swimmer did a few passes of the butterfly stroke and we got lucky with this shot!

I still cannot believe this muscle shot!

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In the end, I really enjoyed my experience with this subject! I enjoyed talking to him and trying to pick his brain about competitive swimming. I truly have an appreciation for athletes. In regards to swimmers, I have even more respect for them. Being a competitor in an individual sport is even tougher than competing in team sports. The stakes are high and you cannot lean on anyone but yourself! In an individual sport, you have to be disciplined, create a tremendous work ethic, etc.

But more than anything, you need a burning desire to be great!

I know this swimmer has the physical and mental tools to become great. He has my support from here on out. I am truly a fan!

If you like this these images from the swimming session, please check out more of my portfolio as a Charlotte photographer