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    I’m not sure what I think.  When I click on your link all I see are two not so great pixelated pictures of kids.  Is that what I am supposed to see?  Are these yours, or another photographers pictures that you hired, or…?  I think we will need more to go on before any advice is given.

    Worst Case Scenario

    Well the watermark on the images says Stoddard and they are posted by a user called Stoddard so I’ll asume they are your pictures and you want the truth?….

    It’s coming up on midnight here so I’ll write some more in the morning if it hasn’t all been said by then.

    They are not good. Not the worst but a lot of room for improvement.


    These are pictures of my children.

    For some reason they show up blurry on my tablet yet high quality on my computer.

    I’m shooting in RAW and converting in photoshop.

    I’m looking for advice on anything really , lighting angles , editing techniques .

    I am just starting out and I have seen much worse work by people who charge an awful amount for their “work”.


    First off–I’m assuming you’re using direct on camera flash.. Stop. Get the flash off the camera

    Secondly–Your subject has no separation from the background; you need a kicker light, otherwise your subject looks as if it’s being dragged into the abyss.

    Thirdly–Never take photos of children from imposing angles.

    fourth–You need to work on flash lighting.


    I’m not sure if your background is black, or if you’ve blacked out ambient light with SS/Fstop..  But for photos like that–You need separation from the background.



    First off : Your assumptions are wrong I used my lighting kit and backdrop. I never use the pop up flash.

    Secondly : that’s the advice I’m looking for , do you have any tips on proper layout of lights vs subject ?

    Third : again advice I’m looking for.

    Fourth:  any tips ?



    My background is black. This is why I’m looking for tips on proper lighting techniques, placement etc

    Worst Case Scenario

    If the metadata down the side of each shot is correct, then you’ve pretty much done EVERYTHING wrong.  It says flash wan’t used  but theres a big highlight in the eyes and the pics are way to bright, so I’ll assume that you used some sort of studio lighting. Yet you have a long exposure and a high ISO?

    You honestly need to learn too much for me to type out here, start by finding out about cropping / composition , and then focal lengths for portraiture.


    Damn you posted while I was typing!

    Worst Case Scenario

    Why the long exposure and high ISO if you were using studio lights?



    1/45th, f/4.5, ISO 1600, 24 mm?  The second one is 1/30th, f/4, ISO 1600, 22 mm?  So we are using the kit 18-55 zoom?

    Let’s back up a bit.  Obviously something provided directional light, but what?

    First off : Your assumptions are wrong I used my lighting kit and backdrop. I never use the pop up flash.

    Why are we left to guess?  And we are still guessing…  There are lighting kits and then there are LIGHTING KITS!  Is this lighting kit a couple of 85 W daylight balanced fluorescents in 24 X 24 softboxes, half a dozen 1000 WS strobes, or somewhere in between?  Based on the photos presented, I’m thinking the former, or perhaps the version with a couple of 120 W incandescent bulbs.

    The first question:  What equipment do you have?

    The second question:  Is Melissa Stoddard Photography a business?

    The third question:  Why did you choose low key for the photos presented?

    The fourth question:  How big is your photography space and what is on the walls, floor and ceiling?

    Why all the questions?  My assumption is the lighting kit is something like Westcott’s kit:  http://www.henrys.com/60039-ERIN-MANNING-HOME-STUDIO-KIT.aspx,  but I could be wrong.  If you got that kit, you received a DVD you can put in your player to watch Erin show you how to use the kit, including placement of the lights.  If we tell you to put the third light behind them at 45 degrees, ten feet up, about six feet back, that won’t fly very well if you only have standard eight foot ceilings, and only two lights on six foot stands!  Knowing what you have and where you are trying to go will be a big aid to helping you get there.


    Experiment with these basic lighting patterns.  It’s best to use a patient adult or inanimate objects rather than children.  Once you can fully under stand and also know how broad vs short lighting effects a photo, go ahead and move on from there.
    If you are dealing with limited space, just stick to headshots to three quarter, until you have the space to do full.

    6 Portrait Lighting Patterns Every Photographer Should Know

    The goal with photographing and using light is to take what is essentially a flat image, and give it dimension.  Study good portraiture notice and learn what works, and make note of where and how the light falls.  Look up Monty  Zucker.  There are lot’s of resources out there on the net, or better yet get ourself a good book on lighting basics.

    But before you delve in deeply, back up and make sure you are understanding the exposure triangle, and how iso, shutter speed, and aperture play together.  You want to try to keep that iso as low as possible to keep the quality of the final product as high as possible.  learn how to optimize/prepare your images for the web vs for print.  As it stands these images dont show well for either.  Start printing, learning file handling, your camera’s maximum iso before quality loss, and learning color management ASAP.  Printing and finishing your photos is a huge learning process, that will help you shoot better, crop/frame better,edit better, etc.  Its skipped by so very many, yet so very important to learn from the very beginning.  Learn how aperture, and focal distance affect DOF.  Sometimes we want a shallow DOF and sometimes a larger DOF is optimal.  Do some googling and camera manual reading.  Get that camera out and shoot some objects at different focal lengths and apertures to get an understanding of the above, before you get people into the mix.  People add new challenges like , expression, movement, posing, directing, and more complicated lighting.  In other words, slow down, baby steps, don’t take on too much at once and overwhelm yourself.  I think just by slowing down you’ll see major improvements a lot more quickly than you will jumping all in head first.  Don’t go into this thinking “I am going to be a portrait pro”.  Not only does this close doors and give you tunnel vision, but it also gives you unessesary pressure.  Step by step, let you and your camera lead the way.  Try to turn off those voices from loved ones pushing you to do otherwise.  Let them know that right now your photography is for you, and that you need time to learn first before ever thinking of taking money for it.  Listen to that gut, work at it, shoot and experiment anytime you have the chance, study, seek critique often, and don’t get caught up in equipment and get yourself in debt.  You already have everything you need to learn.  Seek out the good stuff, and quit looking at the bad stuff and comparing your work to it.  That will get you no where, but better than a hack.  No more complaining about fauxtographer’s, until you yourself aren’t one of them.  You can do this Melissa!

    If you’re in business, stop.  This will only serve to slow down your learning and its not exactly in your best interests.  Have a good basic understanding before you seek out clients, or even shoot for others for free.  Shoot for yourself, this step alone will help you learn faster and more effectively.
    And before the time comes to open up shop, learn the business.  Give yourself every chance you have to succeed in this competitive market.

    JMO but lose the watermark.  Watermarks won’t stop theft, and will only make people think you are in business trying to market and advertise yourself, and cause lots of unwanted inquiries and confusion.  Trust me when I say, absolutely everyone gets told they are fantastic and gets asked “will you take my pictures” when they first let it be known they have an interest in photography, watermark or no watermark and regardless of what their images look like.  Seriously, everyone, its not unique to you.  No need to market that you are learning how to photograph.  Your children, family, friends and objects around the house are all you need to learn the foundations of taking good portraits.


    Oh and something you said kind of bothered me a bit, and I feel I should address it in hopes to helping you understand better.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with someone trying to earn a living from their photography by charging appropriately to cover their costs of doing business and to make a profit. (Of course expenses vary quite a lot from tog to tog but) Most togs just starting out on a full or part time basis need to charge $100 to $200 per gig plus steady product sales, just to pay themselves the equivalent to minimum wage and make it worth their efforts.  Of course prices need to grow from there as their businesses grow, so they can eventually make a modest living from their work, but… I just have a feeling that those “awful” prices you were talking about were most likely a bare minimum.

    I’d much rather see a fauxtographer charging legit profitable fees/prices  than I would a talented photog charging $50 per gig.  The latter does more harm to this industry than moderately/honestly priced bad photography services could ever even think of doing.


    I think you’ve had a good number of people offer some constructive advice.  At this point you need to shoot.  Shoot a ton.  Two images are not nearly sufficient for any real type of judgement to be ascertained… This is just too wide open.

    Where do you want advice?

    Where do you see deficiencies?

    I know said any/all, but let’s get focused on one aspect.  You need to build as you go, if we all offer advice you will drown.


    So disappointing that Melissa didn’t follow up with this.  In her shoes, I would have picked your brains until I had enough to go create something.  It’s always so disappointing when you take your time with someone asking for help, and they go away because most likely the “advice” they were looking for was just praise.

    I really wanted to know her set up.  I bought a westcott kit like linked above with only 2 lights, and I figured after she discussed things here with you, I might actually get something from it myself.  Kind of bummed.  That and I really thought she might ask me some questions too.  I may not be a lighting guru, but I could help with other things she may have a difficult time understanding.


    Please take the time to read this article.  I think it might help you a little, even if you never come back to this forum to follow up.

    5 Things You Should Know About Receiving Photography Critique


    IHF, I really enjoyed that blog post! Thank you so, so much for sharing that!


    Thank you and youre welcome.  It’s a good one.  Especially now that most critique and help is sought online.  No voice = no voice influx, and it makes it much more difficult.  Ive been accused of being well… ill spare you the names, and I know more than 3/4 of the reason is because they can’t hear my voice.  I  know when I ask questions, especially technical  in nature it can be a little overwhelming.  I’ve always been able to read between the lines, and separate myself from it (well not always, my instructor in high school threw me through loops.  Thank God!).  One time I got loads and loads of advice, and what it all boiled down to, was my fill was placed to close.  But meanwhile I got lots of good stuff about ratios, angles, make up, histograms, editing, and even an artistic way of looking at light that made me better understand.  At first I was all “Wow! These guys are like flies on $&?!  What am I supposed to do with all of this?!”.  But, I still refer back to it, every time I light for a studio Portrait.  It helped a ton, and I’m not going into things so blindly anymore.  I couldn’t thank them all enough.  To lose that frustration and lack of understanding, was so huge for me.  Plus,when I posted a follow up shot, no one laughed at the fact that all I accomplished was outstanding flat lighting lol. When I try for perfection, I get flat lol. But seriously even my flat boringly lit picture, I learned a lot from, and I love that thing.  So much so, it’s hanging on my wall (only an 8×10 mind you).  That’s the day, the exsact time the light bulb went on for me and I truly started to learn light.  I’ll still be learning until I’m in the ground.  I seriously love photography, so very glad I finally decided to pursue it, and take it more seriously.  I need and love all the in put, and you know what?  It’s usually the person that makes me roll my eyes the most, that is dead on and the most honest and helpful.  It may take a minute to let it sit in, but… I haven’t yet had the eye roll response have some truth and help squeezed in there.  That’s why it’s always good practice to thank anyone who put their 2 cents in and treat them well, and never get defensive Or make excuses.

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