What are the nuanced techniques that seasoned photographers keep to themselves? What must have gear do they always include in their camera bag? How do I pick a professional photographer for family portraits, weddings, etc?
If you want this kind of insight, you’ll have to make friends with a professional photographer, pay big bucks for photography classes or spend a whole lot of time surfing the web. Either that or simply hang with us here as we catch up with Brian Smith, a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer and one of our Sony “Artisans of Imagery” – our dedicated group of professional photographers who are passionate about Sony gear.
Brian’s gearing up for a few days at one of the biggest photography shows of the year, the Wedding and Portrait Photographer conference and trade show (WPPI), and took a few minutes to answer some questions about his craft.
You obviously want to buy quality gear, but so much really comes down to paying attention to the small details such as where you shoot – picking a background that will enhance your shot and eliminating distracting elements that draw you eye away from what’s important. Try to pay attention to everything. How the subject is posed, if they could turn their hips slightly to make their shape sexier, what they are doing with their hands, if the lighting would look better on their face if they turned just a bit more toward the light. The small things make a huge difference in photographs so pay attention to them.
My favorite lens for portraits is Sony’s CZ 24-70/2.8. At 70mm it’s not quite as long as more traditional portrait lenses like 85, 100 or 135mm lenses which I like since it allows for a more intimate feeling on set when you can almost whisper your directions to your subject instead of SHOUTING from across the room. I use the 45-60mm range for 1/2 body portraits. For a full length portrait I may shoot anywhere between 28-50mm. I’ll shoot at 24mm if I want the shot to be more “in your face” or to include a lot of environment around the subject.
The key in approaching anyone is being sincere. Tell them why you’d like to take their photograph. ” I love the jacket you’re wearing, could I get a photograph of you against this wall?” of “You have a really amazing face, could I take a portrait of you?” And when you don’t speak the language, smile a lot and try to look really friendly and harmless…
I always hand carry my roller bag on the plane – usually with a second laptop bag that holds extra glass, hard drives or accessories. That way even if, god forbid, the lights or stands don’t make it, I always show up with my camera. The one other thing I couldn’t live without when traveling is a great pair of in-ear headphones to I drown out the airplane noise and relax with the movie or my tunes.
Q: Since you’re getting ready for WPPI, how about some tips to make things easier for brides and grooms. What should they look for when trying to finding a wedding photographer and key questions they should ask when interviewing potential wedding photographers?
Look at their website or portfolio to see if their work matches the look and feel you envision for the wedding. If you’re planning a destination wedding, look to see how good is the photographer at capturing the bride and groom in an exotic environment and making you feel like you were there. If you’re planning a big production look for a photographer who has shot big weddings and can navigate the chaos. On the other hand if you’re planning a small ceremony and really want intimate photographs of both families, you don’t want to hire Cecil deMille.
You talk to them. Get a sense of who they are. Not just what they say, but how they say it. A good photographer is essentially a “5-Minute Psychologist”. You have to figure out what makes your subject tick and capture their personality.
Brian Smith’s work can also be seen in his latest book, ART & SOUL done in partnership with The Creative Coalition and Sony. It features his portraits of celebrities paired with their hand-written thoughts about the importance of the arts and arts education: http://amzn.to/saveart. You can find Brian on his blog and on Twitter™ by Following @BrianSmithPhoto.
SONY WEDDING & PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER SWEEPSTAKES
NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT NECESSARY
A PURCHASE OR PAYMENT WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING
1. THE SWEEPSTAKES: The Sony Wedding & Portrait Photographer Sweepstakes (“Sweepstakes”) consists of one (1) prize for a randomly selected entrant.
2. HOW TO ENTER: To enter the Sweepstakes the entrant must post one (1) comment response including a helpful tip for portrait or wedding photography to the Sony Blog post “Tips, Tricks and Techniques from Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer Brian Smith” at blog.sony.com between 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, February 18, 2012 and 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, February 22, 2012 (the “Promotion Period”). Limit one (1) entry per person.
3. WINNERS: One (1) winner will be selected at random from valid entries and will be announced February 27, 2012. Sony’s decisions shall be final in all matters pertaining to this Sweepstakes.
4. PRIZES: There will be one 1st prize. The first prize winner will receive one (1) Sony α NEX-5N camera, approximate value $499.99. All prizes in this Sweepstakes are nontransferable and non-substitutable except that Sony may, at its sole discretion, substitute a Prize or any component thereof with one of equal or greater value. Odds of winning prizes depends on number of eligible entries received.
5. ELIGIBILITY: The Sweepstakes is open only to residents of the United States who are 18 years or older at time of participation. No Sony employees, or friends or family of employees, are eligible to enter or win.
6. RELEASE: By acceptance of a Prize, the winner releases Sony from and against any and all liability and claims or causes of action, including, but not limited to, personal injury, death, or damage to or loss of property with respect to all aspects of this Sweepstakes, including those arising out of participation in this Sweepstakes, any Prize related activity whether sponsored by Sony or third parties, or the acceptance or possession or use/misuse of the Prize or any component of the Prize.
8. DISPUTES: Issues concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Sweepstakes Rules shall be governed by the laws of the State of Delaware. All disputes arising out of or connected with this Sweepstakes will be resolved individually, and without resort to class action. Should there be a conflict between the laws of the State of Delaware and any other laws, the conflict will be resolved in favor of the laws of the State of Delaware. All judgments or awards shall be limited to actual incurred out-of-pocket expenses (excluding attorneys’ fees) associated with participation in this Sweepstakes and shall not include any indirect, punitive, incidental and/or consequential damages.
9. GENERAL: By participating in the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to these Sweepstakes Rules and the decisions of Sony, which are final and binding in all matters and all respects relating to this Sweepstakes. This Sweepstakes is void where prohibited by law. Acceptance of a Prize constitutes the winner’s consent to the use of his/her name, biographical information, photograph, and/or likeness for advertising and publicity purposes as determined by Sony or its designees without further compensation, except where prohibited by law. All federal, state and local laws and regulations apply. Sony is not responsible for any entries that are lost, late, undelivered, or misdelivered.
10. WINNERS LIST: For the names of the winners send your request and a self-addressed stamped envelope to Sony Wedding & Portrait Photographer Sweepstakes at 16530 Via Esprillo, San Diego, CA 92127.
Sponsor: Sony Electronics Inc., 16530 Via Esprillo, San Diego, CA 92127.
These Sweepstakes Rules may not be reprinted or republished in whole or in part without the prior written permission of Sony Electronics Inc.
Copyright 2012 Sony Electronics Inc. All rights reserved.
**UPDATE*** 2/27 The contest is closed and we have contacted the winner! Thank you for the great comments everyone!
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