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Announcing the Brrrrr! Assignment Series Winners

February 27th, 2012  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

Thanks to everyone who participated in our winter assignment series Brrrrr! All of the entries really illustrated the theme,and resulted in some of the coldest photos we here at ShootStyle have ever seen. It was a really close vote, and involved copious amounts of hot chocolate, but we finally cam up with our winners.

First place goes to Tennile Sunday’s submission featuring footsteps in the snow.  We liked the strong composition with the footsteps drawing the eye into the person walking away as well as the warm pastel color palate.

In second place (by one vote) is Greg Hinsons entry featuring a frozen house covered with snow.  We loved how stark the scene was with the covering of snow making us all wish we were inside…in front of a warm fire…and the infrared treatment was particularly effective making the sky look dark and menacing.

And our strong runner up is Joe Goldsberry’s image of his street through hanging icicles.  We thought that the icicles framed the street in an interesting way, and the iphone camera was particularly effective in capturing the scene.

Thanks to everyone for sending in your images and sharing the Brrrrr! Stay tuned in a couple of months for our next, warmer, assignment series.


In Love With Food…(photography, that is…)

January 18th, 2012  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

Michelle Turner Photography

I have posted a few times about the importance of capturing the details, but today I wanted to write about an oft-forgotten detail– the delicious, beautiful, oh-so-amazing food.  Take it from me, I can’t even remember what I ate at my wedding.  I do know that it was excellent (we hired a fabulous caterer) and that it made up a big part of our budget, but other than that I draw a total blank.  It’s funny, but for something so expensive and that takes up such a large part of the day/night, food is often ignored.  Sure, we photograph the wedding cake and the cute little whoopie pies served at dessert.  But how often do people say “I would love a photograph of my food”?  I get perhaps three couples out of forty that ask for food shots, and yet every single one of my clients who orders an album wants to include the shot of their food as a supporting detail in their album.
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A Love Letter to My Favorite Lens

January 4th, 2012  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

I am a strong proponent of the idea that it is the craftsman not the tools.  In fact, I’ve been trying for years to find a couple that would let me shoot their wedding with a Canon Digital Rebel and a kit lens, just test that theory.  But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I am completely in love with one piece of equipment in my gear bag.  One lens that I reach for every chance I can.  One wondrous chunk of glass that makes everyone it captures look good….that gives crisp details to the in-focus parts of the image, and makes the out of focus parts of the image buttery and beautiful.  If I haven’t given it away by now, I am speaking of my lovely fat bottomed girl – the Canon 85mm f1.2.

Our love affair began a few years ago, when I found a steal of a deal on a used 85 f1.2 on an online photographers community.  At the time, I had a slightly slower, consumer version of the lens that I was happy enough with.  It worked well enough, and was fast enough, and generally sharp enough.  But I couldn’t resist the allure of the exotic.  I have to admit, it wasn’t love at first shot.  It took me a few shoots to get used to the super slow auto focus, and super thin depth of field, but once I understood her, my attention never wavered.

We soon settled into a happy relationship, and a look at my blog on any given week will tell the story of our affection.  At a wedding she is with me during the bridal preps, all of the couple portraits, and the first dance.  For portrait sessions, however, she is the star of the show.  Many are the portrait sessions where she was the only lens I used.

So on this New Year season, I want to raise my glass to my favorite piece of, well, glass, with the hopes of thousands more beautiful images in the years to come!  Now let’s hear about the piece of equipment that inspires you!  Leave a comment with your own love letter to your favorite piece of gear.


Guest Shot

December 7th, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot


If a wedding were a movie, the bride and groom would be starring in the leading roles. They’ll get most of the closeups and the camera will linger on them throughout the day. We’ll also see other supporting members of the cast as they interact the couple or react to the unfolding events. Then there are some people in the movie we’ll barely see at all, but they play important visual role of populating the universe of the film. Without them, the feature film wedding would merely be an short subject elopement. That’s why I often go out of my way to create photos that include wedding guests as part of the composition.

As wedding photographers, we all shoot the guests. We often try to get a shot of as many guests’ faces as possible for the bride and groom. Those shots are important but they’re not quite what I’m getting at now. And to be clear, I’m not also talking about shots like this:

Boston Wedding Photographer

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Putting Together a Model Shoot

November 28th, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

If you have never worked with models before, you are missing out! It’s a great vehicle for practicing with new lighting gear or exploring new direction in your work. I love working with models to strengthening my boudoir portfolio. I won’t publish client images from boudoir sessions and model shoots give me images with which to market. It’s also super fun and I experiment in every way I can imagine.

Earl Christie and I recently got together for a model shoot up in Maine. We wrangled our models using our tried and true (un)patented model system. We’ve been running models shoots in ShootStyle over the years and I wanted to share what works for us.

We use Model Mayhem, and love it. There’s a great community there and getting to know the models and other photographers has been fun and useful. :) There is a basic free account, which has some restrictions on numbers of images you can post on your portfolio and numbers of conversations you can start in a 24 hour period, but over all, I highly recommend opening an account.

Casting call:

When you are ready to get going, start by creating a casting call. Here is where you can specify who you are looking for and talk about the shoot a little bit. Go big! ShootStyle has managed to score some amazing locations, so we link to the venue. Even if you don’t have links to the space, be descriptive. Include links to your work too. Describe what you are looking for and be very specific about what you will be expecting from the models. You can imagine, some of the situations that have been posted have been sketchy, to say the least. Describing everything in as much detail as possible is going to allay any worries your models will have answering your call.

Throw down some cash if you can. You are much more likely to get models with a little bit of experience. Working with a model who has experience is fantastic when you are just getting going, they will help guide you in common practices in the industry. It also greatly reduces last-minute cancellations. But if you are short on cash, you should be able to find some models who are willing to do TFP (trade for prints, or these days, trade for files).

Some models prefer to bring an escort. Since ShootStyle so often does group shoots, with multiple photographers and models, we designate a room for escorts to hang out so as keep our models as comfortable as possible. If you are willing to have an escort present on the day of the shoot, indicate this in your casting call. Many photographers don’t like the extra person, so if you demonstrate your flexibility, this may win you some points.

Spread the Word:

You might think that once you’ve gotten your casting call up, all you have to do is sit back and answer the flood of emails about to come your way. It’s probably not going to happen that way.

Start searching for models on Model Mayhem that you want to work with, and personally invite them to look at your casting call. I look for models that are older and curvier than the typical model since I am looking to build my boudoir business, and want to find models closer to my clients age and body type. I usually settle for older or curvier. By “older”, I mean pushing thirty. And “curvy”, is anyone over 130 pounds. Being much older and much curvier than that, I have to laugh. But the truth is, this field is full of 98 pound 19 year old aspiring models.

If a model lists another way to get in touch, use it! Facebook, email, form-spring, anything! You are looking to carpet bomb your casting call to get as many eyes on it as possible.

Confirm Confirm Confirm:

Once a model expresses interest, get a cell phone number and an email address. We won’t confirm a spot on the day until we get those. You don’t want to run into a situation where a model has changed her mind about participating, but doesn’t bother to tell you.

Once we confirm with the models, we send them an email with all the information they need. We provide a google map link to the address, a street address, our starting time, what to expect when they arrive, clothing and make-up to bring, and if snacks or drinks will be provided. Include at least one phone number they can reach you at on the day of the shoot, and tell them to expect a phone call the evening before the shoot. If you are doing boudoir work, they must bring a photo ID with proof of age!!

We also ask them to reply to us when they’ve received the email, which also lets us know they’ve read it.

Don’t forget to make the call the day before the shoot! You may have to do some last minute changing around and this gives you a chance to tell the model how excited you are work with them, you can remind them to bring their ID. It also lets you know if you need to scramble to find another model.

On the Day of the Shoot:

While you are shooting, keep checking in with the model to make sure she is comfortable. Avail yourself to collaboration. Often the models get a particular portfolio going in a particular direction, and they may want some variety. If you can do it, it’s great to be able to meet their needs as well as your own.

Make sure you have a release all made up for the models to sign. It shows respect to the models to offer to give them a copy. We take a photo of the models ID and keep it with the files. Keep track of these ID’s. And don’t let them get posted online. The ID has a models personal identification on it and you need to keep them safe by not inadvertently publishing their home address. (This happened to a model-friend of mine. If one is doing boudoir work, you can imagine how terrifying it would be to have your street address out there on the internet!)

Let the models know when you will be delivering their edited images to them. Give yourself double the amount of time you think you’ll need to deliver them, and try like help to deliver earlier. It can be a nightmare for models to get images from photographers. Don’t be that guy.

Above all else:

Show mega-respect for the models. These models are putting themselves out there for you to practice your photography; it is a gift to you, even if you are paying them. The greater respect you can show the models, even in the face of last-minute cancellations, lateness or general dippiness. the easier time you will have with your shoot.

Have a blast out there! And I would LOVE it if you would let me know in the comments section of the blog what tips and tricks you have for working with models!


There Is No Such Thing As A Photo Emergency

November 9th, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

If you’re anything like me, you’re a workaholic, a control freak and a perfectionist. Ok, that might be harsh even on myself, but I think most small business owners can relate to not being able to shut off work when it’s necessary. This is especially hard to do for photographers because even those of us who have an office away from home, still most likely have a computer at home, or at the very least, a smart phone in your hands way way way too often. Not to mention that the tools we use for work – cameras and computers – are also used for play.

And if you’re like me, you’ve had friends, loved ones, family, or (the worst) your own child say “Can’t you just shut it down for the night? Can you just put your phone down? Are you still on the computer?”. And it sucks because you don’t really realize what you’re doing. You think you’re being productive. You think that if you don’t work every waking part of the day, that you will fall behind, that clients will get mad, that inquiries will go elsewhere, or that you’ll miss out on something major.

You check your work emails on your phone, in your bed. Really??

The fact that my husband leaves me little love notes on the computer, because he knows that’s where I’m sure to look? Cute, but really – a little sad.

There is no such thing as a photo emergency. This is what I have to remind myself every time I feel guilty for putting an away message on my email when I (very rarely) get away for a weekend or vaca. But more importantly, this is what I need to remember when my work day is over. Once the baker closes its doors, no more cupcakes for you!

Since most of us shoot weddings on weekends and portraits in the evenings, we need to make a different schedule for ourselves than the average 9-5 M-F. For me, this past season, I would mark off one day a week as my day off. This didn’t mean a day off from everything, to be fair. I simply wouldn’t shoot that day, or I wouldn’t edit, or I wouldn’t go to the office. It was a day off from one or all parts of work. I may still check email, but I wouldn’t respond until the next day. It took a LOT of restraint, trust me.

I recently posted my own, self proclaimed, office hours on my home office door. My studio office downtown is by appointment only, and I often work from home. No clients come to my home office, but this sign is a reminder to me, no – a guideline that I must follow. You know, unless I want to end up a big nerd with no family, no friends, no life, no hobbies, no fresh air, no sun on my skin, a bad back, carpal tunnel, thick glasses, and unwashed hair…

Since wedding season is almost over, and portrait season is drawing to a close all in about a month, I am busting my hump to have evenings and weekends free again. My daughter deserves my full attention. Forcing myself to take a day off in peak season allowed me to manage my workflow a lot better. I would work on one project at a time, finish it, and then start a new one. I pride myself in multi-tasking, but I now see that it wasn’t helping me; it was actually diluting the work that I did do since it wasn’t getting my full attention. A cool little app for Mac OSX that my intern Caroline told me about is SelfControl. Look into it if you have a really hard time closing Facebook, emails, etc while you’re editing.

Now that I’ve caught up on work by managing my time a lot better and writing this article without designing an album at the same time, I’m going to turn over the sign to CLOSED and go enjoy this beautiful Indian Summer day with a bike ride to the beach. The album will wait and no one will die because of it.



Personalize It

October 12th, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

I love weddings with details- ALL kinds of details- from ceremony seating to rings, shoes to favors, cars to flowers.  Personally, I believe that the details can really set the tone of the wedding.  After all, the style of the very first Save the Date card can tell you if the couple is planning a formal event, a vintage event, a unique event, or all of the above!  I could spend hours alone in a room with interesting details,  photographing them on reflective surfaces and then on textured surfaces, in available light and then with an off-camera strobe, and finding all kinds of different angles to show them off.

However, as much as I love having time to play with the details by themselves, I think it is also important to bring your couples into the details and “personalize them”.  At every wedding I try to take a handful of details shots that include the people in them to add variety to the detail shots and to actively incorporate them in the story of the day.

The bridal/bridesmaid details are usually the most obvious and most accessible details to personalize.  After all, most of my brides will have a handful of fabulous details and I can usually find time to photograph her with her details right after she puts on her dress:

Wedding Details

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There’s a Baby in that Bathwater

September 28th, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

When I photographed my first wedding in 2004, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Well, OK, I did know which button to press on my camera to make it take a picture, and was OK at getting the exposure and composition I wanted, but when it came to the point in the day that the couple turned to me for advice, I had none to give. Luckily a friend of mine knew someone who had been shooting weddings for a big studio, using old fashioned medium format cameras and old fashioned methods for capturing a wedding. She had lunch with me a couple weeks after my first wedding, to give me critique and advice. Throughout the years we have become great friends, but there were two tips that she gave me on our very first meeting that I still use every wedding: How to line up a group of people, and how to set up the cake cutting.

Let’s start with the advice she gave me for lining up a group of people. You’d think that this would be pretty self explanatory, but there are a few things that you can tell the group that will help them look their best. To begin with, I anchor the line with a couple – usually the bride and groom. If it’s the wedding party, I line the groomsmen up on the grooms side, and the bridesmaids up on the bride’s side. I then ask them to turn the shoulders that are closer to me, towards me. Guys, when left to their own, want to either put their hands in front of their crotches, or hold them behind their backs. So to prevent this, I ask the guys to put their hands in their pants pockets. The girls, on the other hand, tend to want to hold their flowers up a little too high, so I ask them to hold them right at belly button level. Finally I tell the ladies to turn the foot that is closest to me out so that it points at me. For women, this pose has a slimming effect, and for the guys it looks sophisticated. Plus it’s quick and easy to set up.

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Product Review- RPG keys

September 15th, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

Consumed by image processing? You are not alone. If you live in New England, the time between Labor Day and your last wedding of the year is crazy-time… weddings double up, albums are being ordered, and you are fielding inquires for next year. If you are ever in the weeds in New England, this is the time.

I beta-tested the new software for the RPG keys this summer and unequivocally love it. It’s the size of a fat TV remote or an old school calculator, and comfortable to use with one hand. You program the keys to trigger commands in a variety of photo processing programs. I use it exclusively for Lightroom, but it can be can used with Bridge, PhotoShop, Photo Mechanic, In Design, Aperture and Fundy Album Builder. The software for programming the keys is Romper-Room easy-to-use.

I have been using RPG keys on and off for the past couple of years, but it always seemed a little wonky. Some of the keys were in the wrong place for me. I know Chris and Tim Reilly personally and in a fit of frustration, I dashed off a whiney email to them telling them that their product was almost perfect (too bad). Feeding into my squeaky wheel behavior, I was invited to test the new version of the product. The guys thought I would find it a bit closer to perfect.

Ha! An understatement; by far! I adore the keys now and they are capable of even more than I had imagined. They are now completely customizable; any command or preset that you use in Lightroom can be programmed to use with the keys. I put in the commands that I use most frequently, sixteen in all, on the keys so I can hit each of them without using the option keys. The keys are now perfect FOR ME.

I have become a photo-processing super-hero.

First, I had to decide where I wanted each key, and which presets and functions were most important to me. After a wedding or two of practice, I rearranged the key positioning, and committed to memorizing the positions of all of the keys. Each key pops on and off and you get a whole array of common commands and presets as well as blank ones for your own presets. I took a jackknife and carved the surface of one of the middle keys. With a single key abraded, my keypad is now “braille”. Using the one key as an anchor, I can focus on the image on the screen and not the keypad.

I am now so familiar with the keypad that I’ve stopped thinking about the device in my hand. Just like typing or driving a car, I no longer go through the following thought process: “This photo is too dark and too green, I must bump up the exposure by two-thirds of a stop and add a little magenta.” Instead, I see the image and my fingers tap the increase exposure button twice and the increase tint button once. I tap the “next” button and I am on to my next image. Tap. Tap. Tap

My fingers are developing muscle memory; I have been FLYING through my processing, and can feel myself getting faster.

I can assign any key on the keypad to any preset I have selected. For example, I have an exact adjustment brush that I use for burning (very big, very feathered and very dark) and an exact brush I use for dodging (big, feathered and light). A quick tap on the keypad brings each brush up, ready to use. Release the key and it deselects. No need to move the slider, select the brush, deselect and grab another brush. Just tap: A brush for burning. Another tap: a brush for dodging.

With cropping, burning and dodging, I do need to use my mouse to define the crop or paint the mask. These are the only times that I need to use the mouse. And instead of a mouse I use a trackball. I sit way back from my desk, trackball in one hand, key pad in the other and process an entire wedding while watching a legal thriller or two. (so sue me)

The icing on the cake is that I can change the keypad at any point to do something different. I can rearrange it on a whim. And if I use the keyboard differently at different times in my process (I do) then I can export the key layout, to recall at a moments notice.

If you do a ton of processing, this is a fantastic product.

p.s. nerd alert: while writing this review, I found out that the keys can be programmed to use with any application on your computer. And by “program” I mean: you drag an application over to the RPG software and drop it. Drag and Drop – ta-da!


In case of emergency

September 2nd, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

Every couple planning a wedding has visions of how they would like their day to look & feel. And most every couple knows that things aren’t always going to play out perfectly. Something is bound to come up, yet, for most it’s going to be pretty minor blips that won’t derail the course of the day.

However, this past week, I was in the Adirondacks area of NY, in Keene and Keene Valley, when Hurricane Irene hit. On Saturday these two towns were full of folks enjoying the high peaks region: camping, hiking, climbing, taking advantage of the shops & dining. By Sunday evening, both of these towns (as well as so many others in the New England area) experienced some horrible flooding. Houses filled with water, businesses saturated, foundations of buildings shifted, power outages, even whole roads eaten away by the powerful force of the flood waters.

Not only did this break my heart to see first hand, it also got me to thinking of anyone who had a wedding planned for this coming weekend, and the weekend after that and after that and so on. What, if anything, can you do when the main road to your venue is gone? What happens when you think you’ve planned for everything and then something dramatically unexpected comes along and wipes away your plans? How does one even Plan B something like this?

Below I have some ideas on how you might be able to weather the storm if the unexpected does crash your wedding. Mind you, these are not rules from an expert. These are just brainstormed thoughts I had, some may be feasible, some not so.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what you might do or what you did do when the unexpected came knocking. Please feel free to add your idea to the comments section!

* consider adding a downloadable map of the area where you are having your event to your wedding website, so guests can find alternative routes to your venue, in case you find the main roads to your venue are unuseable.

* if you know your chosen wedding area doesn’t have the best cell or internet reception, make a list on your wedding website of all the local wi-fi hot spots and best cell reception spots. you can place pins on a google map and upload that to your site for guests.

* consider changing the time of your event. most weddings are planned for midday so the reception can go into the evening. however, if a storm is approaching for that time frame, if possible, think about moving your event to the beginning of the day so both you and your guests will have time to take shelter if need be.

* what happens if your venue isn’t useable for your event due to the unexpected? think outside the box! ask local churches if they will allow you to use their space. most churches have halls available. maybe someone locally has land available where you can set up a tent. consider contacting a realty office and asking if any of their vacant properties might be available for an event. while some of these suggestions may not be ideal for you aesthetically, it’s far better than trying to force an event to happen at an unsafe location.

* what happens if a vendor can’t make it due to road closures or airports being shut down? use the power of the internet! put a call out on twitter and facebook and ask your followers/friends to retweet/repost. let the locals in your area know what you’re looking for, especially in smaller towns, most people know someone who knows someone that probably does what you need. again, it may not be ideal, but we’re talking if the ultimately crazy happens, and you need to make due.

* planning a post-wedding brunch in an area that looks like a disaster zone? consider nixing the brunch and you & your guests volunteer that time instead to help those in the area that are in need.

First and foremost, be safe and make sure your guests are safe. That’s #1. After that, don’t panic. You’ll figure it out. Freaking out will only add to the stress you are feeling, don’t waste your energy. Relax, breathe easy knowing your loved ones are all safe and sound.

If the wedding is going to go on, you’ll just need to set aside those visions you had and go with the flow. Caterer can’t make it to the event? So then maybe the local pizzeria can cater. I personally think a pizza party wedding reception would be the best! The floor of your tented wedding look more like a mud wrestling pit? Well, ditch the Manolos and pull on some wellies. Have all the attendants and guests wear them, too!

Just remember the important thing is you are with the person you love, surrounded by your loved ones. You will weather this, and while your day may not be the perfect vision you were hoping for, it most certainly will still be genuine and memorable.

ps. Please consider, instead of handing out favors at your wedding, donating to the Red Cross or to one of charities being set up for so many of the areas that were devastated by the hurricane. Plenty of these towns are going to need volunteers to help with clean up & getting back on their feet again, so consider investing some of your time to help, too!


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