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Photographer
Hocus Focus Studio
Posts: 33
Antioch, Tennessee, US


I am a small town portrait and event photographer.  It started as a hobby at 16 and grew into a passion I'm trying to turn into a career.  I joined model mayhem to get better at working with people.  I don't have a studio.  I don't have equipment.  I am dirt poor and can't afford ANYTHING.  I'm more worried about diapering and feeding my son, not so much about buying expensive equipment.  But what I want to know is this:  is my portfolio decent enough for my lack of fancy lights, or does it all just look like crap?  Some days I feel really good about my work.  Other days I just want to bring every image to life and push them off a tall building.

On a typical outdoor shoot I bring a large piece of white foam board to use as a reflector, an external flash (which I can no longer use because I recently dropped it in a creek during a shoot), and a stepladder for a little extra height since I'm pretty short and almost everyone I shoot is taller than me.  For indoor shoots I have a black cloth I tack up to a wall for a background and three continuous lights, two of which have umbrellas and one with just a beauty dish.  Oh, and my camera is old, too.  Canon Rebel XT.  There are point and shoots now with better quality.

Here is a direct link to my pictures page:
http://www.modelmayhem.com/portfolio/3061542/viewall
And here is a link to my Facebook page (although anything that isn't people posted recently hasn't been updated in at least 2 years.):
http://www.facebook.com/audreyleighphotography

So is it all crap?  Is it salvageable or should I start over?  Should I be asking for photography equipment for my birthday in a couple weeks?

I feel like I am capable of so much more but my lack of proper equipment really shows and drags me down.  I don't have anything remotely close to most of the images I see on here, it makes me wonder if I found the wrong passion....I'm having a bad night. I just need to know if I'm viewed as a total joke or if I can somehow do better with zero equipment.

No hard feelings.  I really want to know.  Just please don't be blatantly rude.  Constructive criticism, sincerity, and politeness please.  I've just gotta figure out how to push past this amateur crap.
Jun 12 13 10:58 pm  Link  Quote 
Model
Marissa St Claire
Posts: 98
Eugene, Oregon, US


My suggestions - get professional models instead of people who just want their picture taken. It's a good way to make money but not a good way to market your portfolio.
I also suggest getting a new camera. Your lack of lighting equipment and the like doesn't seem to affect your port much since you do decent post production work, but the quality of the pictures is pretty low due to your camera.
Jun 13 13 12:10 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Images by MR
Posts: 7,575
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


What is "amateur mode" ?


And stop blaming your gear.   Take control & learn to use what you have.

Audrey Williams wrote:
three continuous lights, two of which have umbrellas and one with just a beauty dish.  Oh, and my camera is old, too.  Canon Rebel XT.

This was shot with a nikon D80 with a kit lens along with a single speedlight fired though a umbrella
http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/100501/00/4bdbd270a0295_m.jpg

Jun 13 13 12:24 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Phil Morrison
Posts: 3
Long Beach, California, US


Audrey, I was once told and believe if you know how to compose a picture you can get great shots with a simple point and shoot camera.  I don't think your shots are bad but I would ask if your shooting in manual or automatic?  You may want to try exploring wide open apertures (2.8) and blowing out the backgrounds to give your portraits more "pop".  Also you'll find that your lenses will have more of an impact than your camera.  Look at investing in a good 2.8 lens.  They are expensive, but you'll go through camera bodies faster than you'll go through an expensive lens.  Good luck.

Phil
Jun 13 13 12:26 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Hocus Focus Studio
Posts: 33
Antioch, Tennessee, US


Marissa St Claire wrote:
My suggestions - get professional models instead of people who just want their picture taken. It's a good way to make money but not a good way to market your portfolio.
I also suggest getting a new camera. Your lack of lighting equipment and the like doesn't seem to affect your port much since you do decent post production work, but the quality of the pictures is pretty low due to your camera.

I don't know how to go about getting professional models, especially since I can't pay them.  I guess that's part of the reason I joined MM.  And trust me, if I had the money for the camera I want, I'd get it in a heartbeat.

Images by MR wrote:
What is "amateur mode" ?


And stop blaming your gear.   Take control & learn to use what you have.

I'm not really blaming my gear, I love my crappy old camera.  But it has been on the fritz lately, giving me errors for no reason.  It performs HORRIBLY in low light, and by low light I mean anything you need less than 1/80th for.  It didn't sync well with the flash I had, the white balance is off on almost every setting no matter what I do, none of the wb settings match to my studio lights, the autofocus doesn't track moving subjects accurately, and a million other things.  I have taken control and learned to use what I have as best I can.  I just want to get more out of the few things I have.  Any suggestions about how to use what I have better than how I have been?

Phil Morrison wrote:
I don't think your shots are bad but I would ask if your shooting in manual or automatic?  You may want to try exploring wide open apertures (2.8) and blowing out the backgrounds to give your portraits more "pop".

Phil

Thanks.  I shoot in Manual.  I don't think I've touched automatic since the first week of getting this camera in 2006.  I've been using wider apertures lately because I like the blurred focus on backgrounds.  My favorite lens won't allow anything below 4 though, even in aperture priority.

Thank you so much everyone for your input.  If anyone has any suggestions about how to better use the few things I have or where to get affordable equipment, I'd love to hear them.

Jun 13 13 02:03 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Jean Renard Photography
Posts: 2,044
Los Angeles, California, US


I'd start over.
A great photographer can shoot with anything that functions and get a shot.
Looking at your stuff, you are not selecting the best angles and if you know something is lacking, then work around it or find a better location or time of day to shoot.
You need to develop your eye. Obviously a camera that is not broken, a lens that focuses are things you need, but a 10,000,000$ lens will not make up for a lack of angle or composition. 

Helmut Newton often used the cheapest disposable cameras to shoot with and got Helmut Newton shots that worked brilliantly.

When I teach folks to shoot, I start them with a basic camera, a 50mm lens and 1 100w lightbulb.  If they can't deliver one amazing shot, they have no future in the biz.
Jun 13 13 02:58 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Hocus Focus Studio
Posts: 33
Antioch, Tennessee, US


If there was a like button on here, I'd use it.  Portraits are not my strong suit and my images are lacking.  That's what my problem is.  It's like I'm stuck in this rut.  Just wondering how I can salvage it and how I'd even go about starting over and building a portfolio of shots I want, not of shots I happen to have.  Thanks for the honest opinion.

Btw, I'm gonna try that.  I just need a 100w lightbulb.
Jun 13 13 10:27 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Marin Photography NYC
Posts: 7,109
New York, New York, US


Keep it as a hobby.  Your kid needs you right now and struggling for diapers and food as you said - is more important than worrying about photography....
Keep practicing, put it on the back burner till your kid gets out of diapers and your finances improve.  Most photographer's don't make lots of money if any at all....Shoot when you have time.  It takes money to start a business and time to educate yourself on business. You can be a shitty photographer and know how to run a business and do just fine. You can be a great photographer and not make a dime....
Jun 13 13 10:32 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Mosttry
Posts: 1,327
Los Angeles, California, US


I don't think you have an equipment problem and I don't think you have a talent problem.  I think your photos are good (the first two in your port, includ your avatar, show that you can take a good photo).

I think you're feeling frustrated b/c there are photos on MM that you want to emulate and you're not sure how to do that.  This just means you don't quite have mastery of the controls at your disposal.  So...

1)  You can totally take great pictures with any camera...and a Canon Rebel XT is more than acceptable.  Start playing around with manual mode.  If you don't have a model, put a vase of flowers, or a loaf of bread, or a watermelon on a table next to a window and spend an afternoon taking photos on different settings.  Take notes on what you are doing and compare how aperture is affecting the photo and the subject.  Then try adding a flash or moving closer and farther away from the subject, etc.  I fyou don't have strobes, try adding a desk lamp and see how that light compares to the light from the window.  Practice, practice, practice...and you'll slowly learn how to deliberately plan for the desired effect (using light, lens and camera settings) you want when you're standing in front of your subject.

2)  I don't think you need professional models to take good photos.  You def don't need prof models to take good portraits.  If you don't have access to models, keep taking photos of anyone willing to sit for you and make the photos look good--I don't mean make the subject look glamorous, I mean make the photo look good.  Your avatar is good.  Keep building a port of solid portraits and eventually you'll begin to have an easier time getting models to sit for you TF.  Slow but steady.  Keep building a port with better and better photos.

3)  If you love photography, of course ask for photo equipment for your birthday!  : )

I think you've got talent, I just think you need to keep practicing and find the patience to enjoy that process of continuing to get better.  Take your time.  You've got a son.  There are lots of great TV shows to watch.  Photography doesn't have to be *everything* all at once. Take it slow.
Jun 13 13 10:48 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Oui Dress You-Brenda G
Posts: 5
Las Vegas, Nevada, US


Hi Aubrey -

Here are my thoughts ... take them for what they're worth ...

Back in the late 1990s I worked as a model.  To get into an agency, I did a ton of TFP shoots.  I was happy with a stack of photos I could pick from and the nice photographers also provided a meal as a thank you.  As the model, I had significant expenditures as well ... wardrobe, makeup, hair, transportation.  It all adds up on both sides. 

For much of the 2000s, I worked as a pro-racing photographer.  I started out with a single 35mm Minolta SLR with 1 lense and did well for 7 years, at which point I chose to exit the industry for more stability.

Now, ironically, all of my photography equipment is sitting in storage in Las Vegas, while I am in NC.  After a 14 year career in the civil engineering industry, I've been without a job for 5 years, maxxed out unemployment 3 years ago, returned to school, etc.  Money is super tight and I am one mis-step away from homelessness.  Things are rough.  I took a risk, bought a decent used point'n'shoot camera on ebay and now have my own 2nd-hand clothing resale business on ebay.  It pays the rent for now ... I'm hoping to expand it to create more jobs locally though.

Where I'm going with this ... all of the shots I have posted on here are done with my little camera, which happens to be the size of a cell phone (though not a cell phone).  I don't get the flexibility I want, but it does what I need right now.  Many models think fancy camera equipment is required.  For some things it is.  For others .... not so much.  This camera is super basic, but it serves a purpose for now.  I'm also not a photoshop guru ... so I do very minimal editing ... meaning that I rely on my ability to get the shot.

My advice ... think about what you want to accomplish.  You're shooting digital, so shooting is cheap.  You don't just need to practice with people.  Take your camera, forget about the flashes & reflectors and find a different angle to look at things from.  There are plenty of things I like about the work you have posted, but you need to work on your confidence.  Personally, I don't like studio shooting and prefer natural light.  When used properly, you can get some stellar photos.  Learn to look at the world differently - use your camera to get closer or further than usual from a subject, be it a flower, car, building, animal ... or whatever.

Making money at photography is very tough.  Most photographers have some sort of other income.  I got lucky with the racing photography opportunity.  I didn't seek it out, it just kind of appeared.  With what I am doing now, I have to combine all sorts of skills ... photography is only one of them.  The photos I shoot for my business are not the types I'd prefer to shoot, but they work to keep a roof over my head and give the models a great tool to work with (as they leave a shoot with me with 140 to 400 shots that they can use any way they want ... and it helps them study their posing and figure out what works & what doesn't).

The bottom line is that everyone sees the world a little differently.  Use the camera to show us what you see.  Don't worry so much about what other people are shooting ... if you're good, it'll show!
Jun 13 13 11:21 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Hocus Focus Studio
Posts: 33
Antioch, Tennessee, US


Marin Photography - I'm in Florence, Alabama and I don't have a college degree (yet).  Most of my life has been lived with next to no money and if I wait on a day that my family isn't struggling financially, I'll never start.

Mosttry - That's exactly it.  I actually haven't taken notes on my shooting habits before, I'll try that.  I guess I should start at square one.  Go back to my basic skills and build myself up again.  That's just so depressing.  Like everything else in my life, it's like I'm going backwards.

Brenda Godfrey -  It's funny you say that, because my avatar pic was taken with my cellphone.  haha  I don't really have any recent self portraits.  Just selfies for fb.  neutral

I don't do well with people.  I never have.  I had real bad social anxiety in high school/college.  I've recently been pushing past that hurdle.  I've gotten a lot more outgoing, but I'm still very awkward and introverted.  So yes, I believe confidence is my problem.

Thank you all for your advice.
Jun 13 13 03:35 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Lee_Photography
Posts: 8,585
Minneapolis, Minnesota, US


“the white balance is off on almost every setting no matter what I do,”

Solution use manual white balance, get some white card stock, place it where your model is going to be, snap a photo so the card fills the frame then in your camera use that as the white balance setting. You will have to read the Canon book on how to set the WB up

You did not say what lights you are using in your studio. If they are tungsten shop lights then use a “Green Glass gel “if they are florescent bulbs then use “CTO – color temperature orange gel” this will bring you closer to white light

Your canon camera is up to the task, you just need to use what you have to the best of your ability.

http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/130605/15/51afbfaa6a01c_m.jpg
Ok, let’s get on your case now.
Going to ding this image because of composition, you have the model centered think rule of thirds, golden triangle few others but that is part of getting you to the next level
Show me the hands, do the pose so the hands can not be seen

http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/130605/15/51afc0e3d8cb5_m.jpg
The model is too centered, you could crop this one
Try making a print, then use some sheets of paper to cover up the image till it looks right
For me I would crop off a bit from photo left
Vignette is over worked, think subtle
Image lacks punch

http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/130605/19/51afed4581251_m.jpg
Give me more light in models eyes [reflector]
Think dynamic, face head and body in different directions, for my taste place body on angle to camera
High sun photos are hard to get right, look at shadow from models nose it is touching her upper lip. You will find your best work in open shade, or shade of a building

http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/130605/15/51afbecc7de1b_m.jpg
Your best image, look at her eyes they are sharp and connect with the camera

Suggestions
Loose the logo
Crop in from photo left
Crop off the bottom just above the “L” in Leigh
Loose the vignette

Next time: With short hair or hair that is pulled back best to show only one ear.

You have talent, the fact you are asking questions is encouraging

As to camera equipment, keep what you have till your business has earned enough to buy better used stuff, why buy new when used will do
Jun 14 13 02:16 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Hocus Focus Studio
Posts: 33
Antioch, Tennessee, US


Thank you! I have been out of practice for a while.  I recently picked up the camera after almost 2 years of not shooting, or at least shooting rarely.  I had a baby and just got busy with life and work.  But since I lost my job a few weeks ago, I have nothing but time and it seems inspiration is pouring in from everywhere, so I figured it was time to get back into it.  I'm obviously rusty.  Thank you though, very much, now I know what to work on.  smile
Jun 14 13 02:56 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
255 West
Posts: 6,468
New York, New York, US


I agree wit the recommendation about not requiring better equipment. Generally, if your camera is "good enough" then you can make spectacular, world class photos with it.

I sometimes shoot with and old Fuji digital ... long shutter delay, slow to focus, slow to write to the card, but I've taken some great photos with it.

Your reflector card is a great idea. Learn to improvise. Position the person near a white wall to mimic a reflector. Shoot the flash (with a cord) through a rippled glass vase to give interesting "reflected pond water" look to a face, and so on.

The creative possibilities are infinite, and infinitely satisfying to know that you can make EXTRAORDINARY photos with crap equipment.

You're doing okay, just keep shooting. It's normal to have doubts about your talent, it forces you to try harder, and get better, so can try harder still.
Jun 14 13 08:14 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
255 West
Posts: 6,468
New York, New York, US


Audrey Williams wrote:
Thank you! I have been out of practice for a while.  I recently picked up the camera after almost 2 years of not shooting, or at least shooting rarely.  I had a baby and just got busy with life and work.

I know a one of THE top photographers here, and when he was expecting a baby (his wife, that is), he pushed his bed next to a large window and adjusted the height to give the bed beautiful light. He always thinks of how to incorporate his photography into everyday life. He doesn't have to make appointments with models, or NEED a studio or fancy lighting equipment -- just a "good enough" camera and a dozen frames a day. He exercises his eye every day. That's all you need to do to get better.

Jun 14 13 08:29 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Hocus Focus Studio
Posts: 33
Antioch, Tennessee, US


Great advice, thanks.  I have some teal damask patterned curtains in my living room I'm quite fond of.  I'll probably set up my lights in there and get some shots of my son, step-son, and fiance for Father's Day.  smile  I just needed a little advice and inspiration.  smile
Jun 14 13 08:50 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Filles de Pin-up
Posts: 1,628
Wichita, Kansas, US


When I took a photography course, the first advice they gave is to not go out and buy a lot of fancy gear. If you have a digital SLR, then you have a good enough camera. It was good advice. Almost all DSLR's can produce stunning images at ISO 100-200. Composition, exposure settings, what direction of light (front, back, side, etc), and what kind of light (shade, sun, incandescent, etc) have little to do with what camera you are using.

The photography market is tough, and getting tougher. I think you have some talent, but need some polishing. Spend some time studying paintings and the lighting the masters used.

When my pictures are not as good as I expect, it is usually because I am working against the light. Study how the different kinds of light can be used for different moods and effects. You can do this with a loaf of bread. Most great photographers started with making a box of soap look good.

The best kind of light is window light (Free). One light (yes a 100 watt bulb) setups are the ones that produce some of the best portraits. One light + a reflector. Main + hair light + reflector. Main + hair + background + fill (four lamps with 100w bulbs at varying distances). Really it is about the kind of bulbs you use. You can get 6500K daylight, but I like the full spectrum 5200K Sunshine bulbs. You can find the 4ft florescent ones at Lowes. You can get spring clamp shop lights for $10 or so at Lowes. They make decent hair lights. Check the color temperature for the light on the package. You can get 2600K, 3500K, 5200K, and 6500K bulbs, just get all the same temperature. In DPP you can specify the color temperature if you shoot in RAW.

You can tell the color temperature of interior lights just by looking at them most times.

Yellow 2600 - 5200 Neutral -  Blue 6500K

The hard situation comes in when you go to a basketball gym, and every light has a different color balance.

Get a gray card. This is a fancy one that goes for $27.95. You can get one for $7 or so. Just always using a gray card for exposure and white balance will improve most people's photography. Take a test shot and look at the histogram. Check for blown highlights, and under exposure for noise. An underexposed ISO 100 image on a 5D is just as much crap as on a Rebel. You will get noise, and have to boost the image which magnifies the noise.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/3 … BRA_1.html

Working with experienced professional models is fun, but you need to be able to make anyone look their best.

These two books are highly recommended.
Light: Science and Magic
Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Exp … pd_sim_b_4

Gear lust is a terrible thing. To be a great photographer is to understand light, and then use it to its fullest.

If you succumb to gear lust, B&H has a used equipment section.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/SLR-D … 4294182649
Jun 17 13 03:48 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Filles de Pin-up
Posts: 1,628
Wichita, Kansas, US


Take some time and look through these contest photos, and notice what kind of camera they are using. You will notice a wide variety of gear and quality. The two don't correlate to each other.

Photo taken with Canon Rebel T3

FujiFilm Fine Pix S8100

Sony NEX7
Jun 18 13 12:32 am  Link  Quote 
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