Home Forums Am I a Fauxtog? Wife and I Photography Business Just Starting Out

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  • #18814
    muzzman
    Member

    My wife and I have a photography business in Australia called Simple Snaps.  We just started out a couple of months ago on our own.  My wife has worked for Walmart and Pixi Fotos but not for a couple of years so she admits she’s a bit rusty.  She does the photography, I do the editing.

    Our aim is to make photography affordable for our customers, so while we still want our photos to look great we will compromise on things sometimes.

    I think our photos are better than most (all?) on the main YANAP page however I would like your opinions.  Please be honest and critical!

    Newborns

    Families and children

    Outdoors

    My wife thinks I put too much contrast and exposure on some of them when I’m editing, do you agree?  Any other thoughts?  The outdoor ones were our first ones (before we set up the studio) so they are probably the worst…

    Thanks in advance 🙂

    #18825

    I’d like to see them on a better platform.  FB is not an ideal platform for quality images.

    First quick impression:  Your lighting looks very flat.  I’m thinking two lights 45° up, and 45° on either side of the camera at about the same distance and power.  Shadows are your friend, they give depth, …  Unless you are trying to hide wrinkles, but that should not be a concern with most children.

    I only had a minute.  I will check back later, probably tomorrow.

    #18826
    muzzman
    Member

    Thanks cameraclicker, you are dead right in terms of lighting position, except we have two at the back as well when we use the white backdrop, mainly to get rid of shadows… may have to rethink this and do some experimentation.

    We use Facebook because that’s where our clients (and potential clients) are – don’t really see a need for any other gallery platform (open to advice on this front though)?  We also have a web page: http://www.simplesnaps.com.au which has a series of galleria galleries connected to the same Facebook albums.

    #18828
    Bill
    Member

    I have to side with CC, the split 45° lighting is a go to lighting method for most and suits well for a lot of situations but does not offer much for depth and varying skin tones like CC stated. Children have such smooth skin that you have to create lighting situations to create that depth and varying tones to bring more life to the images creating that “Pop”
    But it can be tricky to get kids to sit still long enough for you to get that shot.

    I wouldn’t say that the photos are faux, but better than average and certainly not bad for the prices you offer them at.
    Hate to say but at your prices, there is not much room for editing, besides the basics.

    I think you probably should edit your photos a bit more, attention to detail and sharpness. I see several of the kid photos under Families and Children that are not very sharp. The little girl in the chair reading the book, ditch the selective color and bring in some sort of background for contrast. IMO there is just not enough contrast for that image to make sense, and the selective color draws your attention to the book and not the little girl, unless that is what you are going for.

    I have to ask, not criticizing but just curious. For your infant photos, are you using a heater to warm the babies during shooting? I see some speckled skin tones as if they were cold? I don’t do newborns or infants but I know some photographers that do use some sort of heating system.

    I also agree with CC on the platform, facebook has a strange algorithm for compressing even High quality images. There is a guide out there Here is the Link for better sizing for more popular social media sites.

    It’s late for me and I have had a long day.  I apologize in advance if I come off too harsh or incoherent

    Hope that helps.

    #18830
    nesgran
    Member

    I’ll agree your photos are better than most of the fauxes we see here but they are a bit boring with the flat light. I’m sure the older clientele appreciates this but it looks a bit primary school class photos with someone that can’t really be bothered. For the most part there is nothing technically wrong with them but they could be much better with just a touch more effort. A few of the photos are very soft though which I don’t think can be attributed to facebook.

    As for pricing, I’d probably bump the 30 minute session up in price to $30 or $35 to get people to buy the hour long one instead as that then seems much better value. If you want short quick things why not offer passport photos for $10 or $15 whichever is the going rate around there? Make sure you delete old posts apologising for this or that once they are out of date and make sure you keep adding content.

    If you want some better critiques you could upload 10 or 15 photos to flickr and we could then see them in full resolution and see your exif to look at your settings as well.

    Experiment a little and work out some nice looks with the stuff you have available to you as it sounds like you are pretty well set up.

    #18831
    EyeDocPhotog
    Member

    You’re giving your clients WAY more and MUCH better than JC Penney, Sears and all the other ‘budget photo stores’ here in NYC.

    You’re also GIVING AWAY the store for the amount of work you are doing! But I also understand the competitive market for this kind of photography and that it is always safer to whisper advice from cover than to risk it’s merit at the point of attack.

    If you’re shooting RAW and using Lightroom, be aware that you can spend quality time fine-tuning a few user presets for application to your imports. For example, I have 10 or 11 user-defined presets for Harsh Noonday Sun, Magic Hour, More Exposure, Less Exposure, +/- Saturation – you get the idea. This way, when done with a shoot, I can import the CR2 files with the a preset applied which usually takes care of 80% of the shots. Another 10% is usually 1 more preset, and the last 10% usually require more personal attention. For your studio work, it’s even simpler – your lighting is constant and requires only 3 or 4 presents depending upon your needs. (I don’t have a studio).

    Aside from this, I’d echo Bill’s and Nesgram’s comments. Best of luck to you! Really good start… 🙂

    #18832

    A few thoughts:

    Looking at the photos last night, I thought some looked pretty soft.  Looking today, I still think that.  In the photo of two girls in white dresses running away, I am still not sure anything is in focus.  That leads to the question for that photo, is the depth of field extremely shallow, or did the girls run out of the in-focus area?  In what Canon calls Single Shot auto-focus mode, even relatively slow moving subjects can move from sharp focus if you hold focus too long while recomposing.  Servo mode can deal with that, but recomposing is harder because your subject has to be on a focus point.

    Some words about sharpening.  There are a few cameras like the Leica M and Nikon D800e that do not have a low pass filter.  Low pass filters are usually employed in cameras with a Bayer filter to reduce moire (the pattern you sometimes see on television when the host’s tie jumps around while the host is almost perfectly still, or a bunch of strange banding over a fence, for instances).  The low pass filter reduces sharpness, which is just contrast at the edges.  Resizing an image also affects sharpness, so sharpening should be the last post process performed, except for converting to 8 bits and creating a JPEG for output to a monitor.  Sharpening for printing and web display will be different amounts, and printing requires a different work flow with different steps and even a different colour space, depending on where printing is done, the ink, and the paper.  Anyway, some of your photos might look much better with proper sharpening.

    A little more attention to detail might help too.  Have a look at your photo here:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/54048679@N07/14103883338/

    Click the image, it will open in one of my Flickr accounts.  Let me know you have seen it, and the next time I am by I will delete it.  Editing information is in the description at upper right on Flickr.  There is no EXIF data because FB strips it.  Scroll to other photos and you will be able to see how Flickr displays EXIF data.  Flickr has started advertising, and they do it by dropping the ad photos into your photostream, which confuses the viewer the first time it happens because the photo does not match the rest in quality or content.  None the less, if you put a good image on Flickr, it will display well.

    Based on editing one photo, it may be you are displaying photos too bright.  In addition to what I said about sharpening being different for printing, brightness should also be different.  Monitors are back lit and paper is reflective.  You will never get print and monitor to be identical.  You can get reasonable results from both, but you have to process the image differently to achieve best results with both mediums.  One of the managers at Epson was talking to us the other day.  He said monitors have contrast ratios of 10,000:1 or greater (my monitor says 50,000:1), most prints have a ratio around 1,000:1.  He spoke for 45 minutes, showing various settings for Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture, while discussing the ins and outs of colour space, and software drivers.  I digress.  The point is, processing needs to be done for the desired output medium, and what you do, and by how much, varies dramatically.

    Looking at your photos, I think you are using square/rectangular softboxes driven by strobes, at least for key and fill.  With 4 lights, you can use one or two to light your subject from the front, and one to light your subject from the rear, leaving two or one for the background.  There are lots of light placement options as well as varying power settings.  If you have studio strobes, they probably have modelling lamps so you can see where the shadows fall.  Better studio strobes have a modelling lamp setting that gives relative light so you can see how much each lamp is contributing.  If you are using small flash as your lights, you are better off taking test shots and building lighting one light at a time.  Sometimes a flash light meter can be a blessing, and sometimes a curse.  If you have one, use it.  If not, you can take test shots and examine them by looking at the histogram.  There are lots of lighting videos on YouTube.  I can provide some links if you want, but Google is your friend, as is the search box in YouTube.

    One last thing for now.  When I saw your image appear in the thread, it looked like the background is pink!  Checking in Photoshop, the upper left corner is neutral, but the right side and lower left tend to be slightly red.  She may be too close to your background and her shirt is affecting the background.  Distance from background is important.  If you want to burn out a white background, light it about a stop above your subject.

    #18839
    muzzman
    Member

    Can I just say, wow, I was not expecting such detailed feedback, thank you so much to everyone.  I will try and respond to each of you in turn.

    Overall with the editing, I was going for a particular style – the kind of almost overexposed, high contrast you see in some of these http://verveportraits.com.au/portfolio/baby-and-newborn and these http://www.youstudios.com.au/gallery/5601/Families_/_Children.html

    Which when we first started I thought was the ‘professional’ look…

    Now though, looking at it all again – and other studios – and from your feedback – I can see that we’ve probably gone too far in that direction (to the point of being almost paranoid about shadows) and we do need to incorporate some more depth/light and shade.  Thanks again, good to know at least they’re not horrible and we are wasting our time…

    #18840
    muzzman
    Member

    Bill:

    I think I may have pushed the noise reduction slider a bit far – these were done before I knew about the masking brushes in LightRoom/Camera Raw – so it was done to the whole photo.  I will have to have a look at the unedited version to see if it’s the shot or my editing :-/

    The particular image you are referring to with the selectively coloured book was for a pregnancy announcement – so they wanted the focus to be on the book, I do get your point though.

    Our studio is in the garage at home with no airconditioning, and being in sub-tropical Queensland with unseasonably warm Summer and Autumn (Fall), most if not all the baby photos have been taken with the adults sweating without any heaters being on 🙂  So I don’t think that the temperature is an issue?

    Thanks for the link, you haven’t been too harsh at all.

    #18841
    muzzman
    Member

    Nesgran:

    Thanks for the advice.  I will try and find time to upload some to Flickr on the weekend.

    In terms of gear:

    – 4 x Elinchrom D-Lite RX2

    – 6m x 3m white and black vinyl backdrops (permanently mounted)

    – Nikon D90 with a 50mm 1.8d lens or the old faithful good at everything, excellent at nothing 18-200mm VR2.  (I know the D90 is getting a bit old now, thinking of eventually upgrading to a D7100 or D800 if we can afford to get it with some new lenses)

    – And my wife went a bit crazy with buying props 🙂

    #18842
    muzzman
    Member

    EyedocPhotog:

    Thanks for the nice comments.  As I said we are trying to make photography affordable.  I am blessed enough to have a well-paying full time stable job, so we are playing the long game – not looking to make much money out of it for a couple of years but more focused on building up on our techniques and experience (both photography wise and in business management) and obviously hoping to get a good customer base as well before we tweak our prices.

    I do have some presets in LightRoom already set up.  Up until now it has taken me on average 2 minutes to edit a photo – now with the feedback I am getting on here it will likely start taking me longer than that – at least for the next few sessions 🙂 So we may need to look at our pricing structure again.

    Thanks again.

    #18843
    muzzman
    Member

    CC:

    You have been incredibly helpful, thank you so much.  I have seen the photo on Flickr, you may remove it.

    You are correct in that a lot of the photos are softer than the need to be – likely because they were done before I knew about the masking/adjustment brushes in Lightroom/Camera Raw.  That particular photo of the girls running is out of focus but I thought it had artistic merit (maybe not…).  It was also from our very first session we did as a business and the very first one either of us have ever done outdoors so the experience was/is definitely lacking (and I guess it shows).

    Thanks for the sharpening comments.  From the prints we have already done I knew that screen vs print were different to some extent but never realised how much.  Most of the images we are selling to customers are electronic copies on disc.  With digital photo frames/displays becoming more and more common I honestly don’t know whether they will eventually be printed or kept in electronic format.  I know when we print out the images ourselves (and ‘by ourselves’ I mean sending it to the pro lab) we can process it as such – and for when we do the client viewing we want them to be processed for the monitor – but what about the ones we put on disc?

    Also, when you say “might look better with proper sharpening”, how do I do this?  Is it a case of setting the overall sharpness slider in Lightroom appropriately, or doing selective sharpening by using an adjustment brush (like you have with the eyes on the Flickr photo), or is there another technique that I need to research?

    Looking at your other Flickr photos, I see what you mean about EXIF data.  She is about 1.5-2 metres away from the rear backdrop but close to the ground so you’re right the dress is probably affecting the backdrop colour.

    With regards to lighting – you are dead right again about using the rectangular softboxes 🙂  We were originally going to just use three – two pointing to the front of the subject and one mounted on the ceiling pointing more or less to the top and back of their head.  I guess we’d need to experiment where to put the fourth one.  We have 4 x Elinchrom D-Lite RX2’s, they have some really good features (such as variability in the modelling light).  I have tried to do some research into lighting techniques and setups – but could only really find ones on either doing it really simply, or an all-out fashion shoot, nothing really in between.  I have youtube blocked here at work but I will do some searching there tonight.  In the mean time if you can provide some links I would be forever grateful.

    Thanks again…

     

    #18845

    What people will do with your photos is a bit of a mystery.  My sisters-in-law drive me crazy by downloading family photos from Flickr and printing them.  It is particularly endearing when they provide us with a copy they have printed from a file with a third of the pixels I would use to print the same image at the same size.  That brightness, sharpening and mid-tone contrast would all be adjusted differently for printing makes the result even further from what my printer will deliver.  I have come to realize that those who are not photographers just want a picture with a recognizable image of someone, quality does not matter as much as it does to me.

    From various forums I have also come to realize many people don’t understand that print sizes are different shapes.  This shows up at the local store that offers prints, too.  People take in photos from a 4:3 format P&S camera then order 4 X 6 prints (3:2 shape), and are surprised when half of everyone’s head, and their feet, have been cut off so the wide dimension can be covered with ink.

    All of this leaves me wondering what happens if you just turn over a disk or thumbdrive full of JPEG files.  I think the average print kiosk wants a JPEG with sRGB colour space, so it is hoping for a small colour space instead of a larger space like RGB or an even larger one like ProPhoto.

    I use DXO and Photoshop rather than Lightroom so for me, sharpening can be done in DXO, Adobe Camera Raw, or Photoshop.  Since sharpening should be done at the end of the process I use Photoshop.  Sometimes I use Unsharp Mask, sometimes I use a sharpening tool, sometimes both, sometimes neither.  It depends on the image, the intended output device, and my mood.  There are dozens of ways to sharpen, some are simple and some are quite complex.  I don’t see a huge difference in the result, so I use relatively simple methods that work for me.

    This link has nothing to do with strobes, but you may find it to be a useful exercise

    This link talks about posing and lighting, plus backdrop colour

    Strobist is mainly a small flash site, but that which works for small flash also works for large flash

    http://strobist.blogspot.ca/2006/03/lighting-101.html

    I have bookmarked lots of others, but they are on my other computer.  If you like these, I can get you some more in the morning.

    #18891
    cassie
    Member

    I didn’t look at them too much, but my first impression is that the contrast on a few IS overdone. However I’m not really on the right monitor to see colors.

    BUT if you are exporting in LR it is really easy to export specifically for facebook. Now that I know better, I export what goes to facebook into it’s own facebook folder, and in the fields where you select all your export options find the resize field and set it so the long edge is resized to 960 pixels, this is the size that FB resizes everything to so you won’t run into the compression problem that blurs a lot of the bigger photos.

    #19661
    kmomto10
    Member

    Howdy!

    I just took a look at your newborns as that is my area of specialty. You would benefit from some education on posing, lighting and processing newborns.

    One of the foremost newborn photographers in the world is in Australia. Her name is Kelly Brown. She is extraordinarily generous in sharing her talent. I would suggest looking into purchasing her Creative Live workshop “Newborn Posing”

    https://www.creativelive.com/courses/newborn-posing-kelly-brown

     

    it is the best $129 you will spend when it comes to learning newborn photography. There are other workshops online and in person but I would recommend this as a place to start. Her editing assumes a level of familiarity with Photoshop that you may or may not have but her posing, styling and lighting instruction alone are worth the money alone.

    I have spent a year intensively learning my camera, starting from the basics…the exposure triangle, basic composition, flat light vs. feathered light and on and on spent a good amount of money on good education and CC. I have progressed a lot but have a long way to go. Never turn down an opportunity to learn, keep shooting, shooting, shooting. I’ve posted here on YANAP a couple times and while the CC can be harsh sometimes it is rarely wrong.  I have been pretty well torn apart here but I just put on my big girl pants and keep plugging along.

    This was my second newborn.

     

    https://www.flickr.com/gp/10210363@N02/8552oH

     

    this was my most recent:

     

    https://www.flickr.com/gp/10210363@N02/mo3cE5

     

    Both were taken with no more than natural window light in a person’s home with a nakey baby on a blanket and beanbag. Although the first was a Rebel and the second a 6D. A Rebel could achieve the quality of the second photo if I had known what I was doing.

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