Creating Fabric Backdrops

The perfect picture depends on the subject and backdrop. If you are outdoors in a scenic environment, it is easy to get fantastic photos. If you are taking photographs indoors, it requires a bit of creativity to get the right backdrop. You have the option of buying one. The other alternative is to bring out your sewing machine, some fabric, and create your own.

In my post, I will guide you on how to create the perfect backdrop. It is fun, cost-effective, and, most importantly, gives you flexibility with the final designs.

Creating Backdrops for Your Photo Shoot Using Fabric

You have several options available regarding the type of fabric you can use for your backdrop. Muslin and canvas are the most popular. They are portable, and you can be as creative as you wish due to the varieties available. Fabric is durable and easy to keep clean with a simple wash.

You will especially love the color and depth, which you can get from canvas backgrounds. They are, however, a bit heavier than muslin, which mainly consists of cotton. Muslin is durable and easy to drape in the case that you do not have a frame.

Considerations to have in mind when choosing your fabric include:

  • The color will set the mood for the pictures. You can go bright, subtle, or consider complementary colors.
  • Texture to add some dimension. Be careful though, too much texture may distract. Cleaner backdrops work better.
  • Size depending on what you are photographing. The smaller the subject matter, the less material you will need. You should, however, create a backdrop that does not limit you in any way.
  • Design – small designs end up looking cluttered. Go for larger patterns or plain.
  • Thicker fabrics let less light through, making them more ideal. Be careful about materials that reflect light, because they will affect the quality of the picture.
  • The budget will determine the kind of fabric you get. You are better off investing in high-quality material so that you can use it for a longer time.

Steps to Sewing the Backdrop

What you will need:

  • Sewing machine. Don’t have one? I like shelikestosew.com for their reviews.
  • Material – you can use a king-sized sheet
  • Matching thread
  • Iron – to remove any wrinkles
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors
  • Sewing pins
  • A frame on which to hang the backdrop

Steps to Follow

  • If you are using a sheet, the edges will already be in place.
  • Create a fold that you will feed into the frame.
  • Fold one side, taking into consideration the size of the rod you will fit it into.
  • Use the pins to hold the fold in place.
  • Alternatively, iron the fold into place.
  • Now, using the sewing machine, make the fold permanent.
  • You can now feed it onto the frame.

If you do not have a frame, use hooks to put up the backdrop against the wall.

Final Thoughts

Cut down on your photography budget by creating your backdrop. With the right fabric, sewing machine, and a little time, you can create your backdrop. Best of all, you can have as many as you wish, allowing you to vary your background to your heart’s content.

Portrait Photography Basics

It’s been a while since I’ve written about portrait photography. Probably because my friend was getting married and I was all about wedding photography tips and tricks. But the other day I was taking some photos of my kids, and we had so much fun in their grandparents’ backyard, I thought why not share some nuggets of wisdom on the net, pieces of the things I’ve learned over the years of being a photographer.

One of the most important things for taking stunning photos is your subject’s background. It has to be visually alluring, and paying attention to the colors can really help you with this. For example, green and red are complementary colors, so if your subject is wearing something red, you could place them before a background that has a lot of green in it, and it’ll help your subject to stand out.

If, on the other hand, you shoot in black and white, then you should pay close attention to the shapes in the photo. You don’t want your background to be too crowded or seem disorganized. Even if it’s full of objects, make sure you get the angle where the background doesn’t take the attention away from the subject.

For example, one time I was shooting in black and white for a pocket watch commercial, and I was supposed to take some photos of the model holding the watch near his face. They picked a bar for the shooting location and the background was really crowded with chairs and tables. I told him to stand in front of the shelves behind the counter where the bottles were very neatly and symmetrically arranged. It was a great contrast to the rounded shape of the watch.

Next, pay attention to the lighting. Shooting in the early morning, or at golden hour is best. The shadows aren’t too harsh and the colors have a nice tint. If you want to shoot during high noon, I’d recommend capturing those harsh shadows in black and white. It turns out great.

And always make sure the light either hits the model from the front or the side. Rarely from behind – this makes a nice effect only if you’re going for a more experimental approach. But, if you’re trying to take a clear portrait of someone, then try to avoid it.

And lastly, get some props and have some fun with your subject! Communication is important during shooting, and props are great for breaking the ice.

Good luck!

Hot One Today

I love being a photographer in the great state of Massachusetts. Every subject is exciting and affords a new thrill. I look for unusual angles and a way to enhance the lighting for drama and mood. It is a true art requiring a great eye, the best new technology and a willingness to take risks. You never know what the client will think so doing work on my own is more relaxing and rewarding. However, even an ordinary wedding can be fun and challenging. No one wants the same old thing any more with obvious poses. You have to be creative and insightful.

I have been at it for over fifteen years! Now that my own family has gotten bigger and I am busier, I am stepping away from the business a bit and have started this blog to offer the internet at large some tips on photography and portraits, and so I can write about something I love. If you have questions, feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll answer it as soon as I can!

Let’s take another look at wedding photography. A recent ceremony called all of my experience and expertise into play and it was an eventful process. I had to work quickly before the bride looked wilted and sweaty. It was a hot summer day and I went home absolutely drained. The heat took its toll on my energy and I couldn’t wait to get home to jump in the shower. As I reveled in the cool spray of the showerhead, I ran through the results of the day. I love a really long shower and my trusty electric Tankless Center system was up to the task. It gives me time to reflect on my work.

I used the modern approach of casual candids except for a few formal wedding party portraits. I think the bride and groom will be very pleased. Getting good photos from people on the sly so that they look natural is the job of a wedding photography. You want to capture happy expressions and moments of connection between the happy couple throughout the event. This should give them ample choices for the final wedding album. I like to offer them a portrait on the first page followed by a family shot. You don’t need thousands of the wedding party since the key is to create the mood of the event in a less static manner.

Conventional photographers do the usual routine but the results are stiff and lifeless. Sure, everyone is there with a phony smile, but the wedding reception is usually neglected. Especially, if no video is taken, the couple will not have good memories to savor forever. You have to discard your old-fashioned notions and get with the contemporary taste for a natural and relaxed vibe. Times have changed and weddings are often in unusual locations with unique rituals. Take your cue from what is happening and capture the real mood of the event rather than using a preset process of yesteryear. It may take some time for beginners, but you will notice the good results if you let go of tradition.

Choosing the Right Vendors for Your Wedding

Once you start planning your wedding, you realize there is a lot that you need to delegate. Whether you hire a wedding planner, do everything yourself, or find something in between, there will be vendors you have to work with. Choosing these vendors can be stressful and difficult. As a wedding photographer, I’ve been in lots of venues and seen a lot of vendors. There are some good vendors, some shady vendors, and some people who don’t work well with everybody. How do you know who to choose?

The most obvious thing is to ask around. If you have friends who are newlyweds, ask who they used. You might find a great photographer or a perfect baker, possibly someone who was not on your radar before. Think back to the weddings you have been to. Was there a location you thought was lovely or a DJ that kept you on the dance floor all night having a great time? Talk to the bride and groom to get that contact information – and ask about their experiences with the vendor. Sometimes people can be difficult to work with but give great results, and that’s something you might want to know in advance. If you haven’t found any good vendors yet, check bridal magazines for ads and look around on the internet. If you’ve got a location or one vendor, ask who we use or are familiar with. Sometimes locations will have a list of approved vendors, and sometimes we have relationships with others and can get you a discount!

Your job once you’ve got a list is to narrow it down. First, look around online and see if you can find reviews from clients. Check with the BBB and see if there have been any complaints. Get rid of those people right away. Next, call and confirm if they are available on your date. That might cross off a few more and save you some time. While you’re making your inquiry about availability, set up a meeting. You want to talk to these people and get a feel for them. This is your wedding day, one where you might be stressed out beyond belief, so trust your instincts. If someone seems flakey, bristles at your requests, or clashes with your or your partner’s personality, you should keep looking. Now is not the time to ignore your gut! Even if the meeting goes well, ask for references. Then actually contact those references! Ask questions. Make sure that they used the vendor’s services and were happy with it. Ask if anything came up during their relationship with the vendor that might also come up with yours.

Finally, lock them down! Book the people you want to use as soon as you can. This is as much for them as it is for you. Please protect yourself. Make sure you get everything in writing. Be sure that you have a signed contract that clearly states every single thing you expect from your vendor. While I hope that everything will go smoothly, taking basic precautions to be sure that you’re covered in case there are any issues is just smart!

I wish you the best of luck with your search!

Make Your Big Day Go A Little Smoother

There is probably nothing more nerve-wracking than the day of your wedding. Even as a photographer, I get jittery! But I’ve been though it so many times that I’ve found a few things that people can do to make their wedding day easier.

First of all, the best advice I can give you is to take care of yourself. If you’ve got to have a bachelor or bachelorette party, try not to do it the night before. Don’t consume lots of alcohol the night before or that day. It may sound like I’m telling you not to have fun, but you’ll get a better night sleep if you’re not drunk the evening before, and you’ll be more present in the moment if you’re not drinking at your wedding. Besides, ladies, wedding dresses are difficult to maneuver in. You have any idea how hard it would be to constantly have to go in the bathroom stall and try to deal with that dress? Come on! Also, remember to eat. Something starchy and filling like a bagel in the morning, then just take a break every once in a while to get something in your stomach. Staying hydrated will also keep you more comfortable.

Second, things are going to go wrong, so have contingencies in place. Trust me, even the best-thought out plans will have a couple of bumps. One wedding I photographed, the dry cleaners lost the groom’s tux. Another wedding had the caterer’s employees go on strike and there was nobody to serve or deliver the food. There really isn’t any way to plan for these things, but you have to be adaptable and be willing to compromise to get a solution. Appoint one of your attendants to run interference for you if necessary, or you can have them deal with anything you can’t or don’t want to. Have at least one ally who knows what the plan is and can help when things go off course.

Third, remember that it is only one day. All of the effort and energy you put into the wedding is not going to ensure that you have a great marriage. Try to keep that in mind. Work with your partner with the planning so that you are both happy with the results – practice being a team! Don’t blow all of your money on a 10 piece orchestra or an oversized diamond wedding band. Plan for all the rest of your life, too. After all of the celebrating is done and the party is over, you will have your regular life to go back to. Make sure you’re not in debt up to your ears or fighting about every little thing that didn’t meet your expectations on your wedding day.

Finally, once the wedding starts, you have to let go. Stop trying to control every moment of it and just enjoy what you’ve created: this life that you are going to have with the person you love, your friends, and your family. The best wedding photos I’ve taken are because the couple is happy and participating in the actual wedding, enjoying their guests, dancing with their family and friends, and actually feeling those joyous moments. Keep these things in mind and hopefully your day will go smoothly!

Get Outdoors!

People spend a lot of time on what to wear when taking their portraits. That is important, absolutely! However, people don’t always put nearly as much thought into where they’ll be photographed. Instead, they default to taking their pictures indoors at a studio, with fake backdrops behind them. Often the background is flat and boring, typically black or gray. That’s fine, and the pictures come out fine. But the big question is, why do that when you don’t have to? Backdrops are fine for school photographs, but you do have other options! There are so many great places that will provide a better background and utilize natural light. Keep reading and I’ll explain.

First, ask your photographer if he or she has any ideas. They have probably done this before, so they may have locations in mind that would be great for your photo shoot. They may have relationships with business owners and have access to shoot in places that you would never think of. If you have a place in mind, share that as well. There might be permits required or lighting issues that will need to be resolved. You can also check your photographer’s portfolio to see if there are any locations they have used previously that you like and might be available for use again.

Second, keep an open mind. I once had a couple who insisted on taking their pictures in the parking lot where they had their first date. That seemed like a bad idea, but they were so sweet and insistent that I decided to check it out. I went in the early evening and the lighting was just incredible. There was a beautiful old lamppost there as well. I had them pose underneath it and you don’t see the parking lot at all! They look like they are in an old musical, so happy and in love in their photos. I’ve actually even brought other clients there!

Third, everybody looks better in natural light. It’s just true. I can diffuse the light in the studio and make it softer, but the lights are hot and people start to feel it right away. And if you can get your pictures done at the “golden hour” of the evening, your photos will naturally look soft, golden, and beautiful. There’s no way to recreate that, no matter how many tricks I try. So that’s something else to keep in mind.

Of course, if there is bad weather or too hot or too cold, you might be better off indoors. A skilled photographer will make just about any location work for photographs. It’s about you, after all. What you want and what will make you proud to hang on your wall for years to come. Keep your mind, and eyes, open when thinking of places to shoot and you will have some beautiful results.

Wedding Shoot for an Old Friend

I still do some wedding photography, but not nearly as much as I had been. I miss it, but I would rather be at my daughter’s soccer game or the opening night at my son’s play than be anywhere else in the world. There are so many things I would miss out on in my own life if I was too busy catching the moments of other people. I do love photography and it would be great to continue to run my business as well as I used to, but I like my family even more, and I’m fortunate enough that only working sometimes is manageable with my family’s finances. Every once in a while, however, the planets align: my kids aren’t doing anything that they want me to be part of and I’m able to do a booking or two. Everybody’s happy, and I put away some money toward a family vacation, even more soccer equipment, or summer camp.

This weekend was one of those times. The kids both had nothing going on, so they wanted to spend time with friends. My husband decided to go golfing all day Saturday, which he rarely gets to do. I could manage being the chauffer and be there for a friend who was walking down the aisle with her high school sweetheart – twelve years later! They had found each other, lost each other, and then found each other again. It has been a long and winding road for them, and I’ve known her long enough to appreciate the journey. I really wanted to be there, so I was truly excited that I got to go. If I’d still been working steadily, I probably would have had an assistant with me so that I could relax and enjoy the wedding a little, or even brought one of the kids with me to do some of the equipment lugging or something, but it wasn’t meant to be.

When I first got to my friend’s, we ran through the different photos she had asked for – of the dress before she put it on, some of the wedding preparations with her bridal party, that sort of thing. We got those shots out of the way. Then she and her dad got into one car while the rest of her attendants got into another (I got to go with them and take some candid shots of them along the way – the pictures got even funnier after the limo stopped to get the groomsmen!) All in all, it was a great time getting there. We were hustled into the church and the ceremony started almost on time! The rest of the day passed by in a blur from behind my viewfinder. But my favorite moments were watching how happy the bride and groom were.

It was a great day that I got to share with a good friend, and I am glad that I was chosen as her photographer. I truly hope she loves the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Making the Most of Your Photo Shoot

Have you ever had professional photos taken of you or your family? When those pictures came back, were you happy with them or did you look at them and wonder who those people are? It happens, believe me. As a photographer, I certainly try to avoid it, but sometimes it can be difficult to really capture what people are really like. Don’t let it happen to you. You want a couple of tips on how to avoid it? Here’s what I have found.

The best way to be sure you get great photographs is to be clear with the photographer. If you want silly photographs, serious portraits, or candid shots, it is always better if you talk about that before we start shooting. There are plenty of ways we can go about your photo shoot, and we can do any combination of styles to get the most out of your shoot. As long as you talk to us honestly about what you want, we will do our best to get it for you. If you are unsure of the different types of photo styles your photographer has experience with, ask to see a portfolio and point out the shots you like. It helps, trust me!

Something else to think about: if you are a fan of props, bring them! They can be a fun way to really capture your personality, so unless you’re getting a passport photo or something, consider it. As a photographer, I have some tried-and-true props, but they may not really be your thing. I don’t really mind it if you bring along some stuff of your own. A special blanket, blocks or balloons, a meaningful object – if you can move it and/or it can fit in the shot, most photographers will be totally willing to work with you on that. If you want your baby to smash a cake, I might recommend doing the shoot at your house and not my studio, but I’ll find a way to make it work if it is important to you.

If you want extended family in group portraits, that’s a great idea! Know that the more people involved, the more difficult the shoot might be (just think how hard it is to get everyone to look at the camera, smile, and not have their eyes closed the second the shutter clicks). Also, kids don’t usually want to sit still for extended periods, so the pace might have to be faster than you’d like. Here is a pro tip: if your kids are dressed nicely, get full-body pictures out of the way first – that way, if there are any accidents or mishaps, we can crop it out of the shots. If you want to add animals to the mix, that’s something else you need to check with the photographer first. For one, they can be difficult to wrangle even under the best of circumstances. When you add a lot of expensive equipment to the equation, things can be even more challenging. Also, the photographer might be allergic, so you should really be honest if you’re even considering bringing the family pet along.

Finally, when you get the proofs, be honest. If you don’t like them for whatever reason, let the photographer know. There are things we can do editorially that might make the pictures more appealing, or we can offer to do a reshoot. Give photographers the chance to make it right before going online and complaining about our work – remember, we’re just people too, and we’re trying to make a living!