Category Archives: Portrait Photography

Studio portrait photography by Jim Crotty Picture Ohio Dayton for print and web publication

Awesomeness : Looking Through the Lens of Kindness | Measured in Moments

2013 Christmas Challenge: Day #13…Looking Through the Lens of Kindness | Measured in Moments.

It was incredibly rewarding to once again participate in Help Portrait Dayton. It was something I missed after moving away in 2011. I am very thankful for the opportunity to jump back into this great event of donating professional portrait photography to those who normally wouldn’t be able to afford it. In December 2010 Help Portrait Dayton provided a full day of portrait photography and prints to families of military personnel based at Wright Patterson AFB. This year the event was held at the Church on Third Street in East Dayton. It’s a blast to come together with other pro photographers and volunteers and to brighten the faces and holiday of many families in our community. Thank you Kelly Maroney @ http://kellymaroney.wordpress.com/ for the great behind-the-scenes shots and blog article.

A Worthy Investment | Building Value Back Into The Family Portrait

Periodically I still receive calls and emails from people planning vacations to Hilton Head Island and are interested in having a family portrait session on the beach. This is due to my web site and Facebook business page still appearing on the first page for Google searches based on “Hilton Head Photography” or “Hilton Head Photographers.”

Even though I no longer reside on Hilton Head I still see these calls and emails as opportunities, either for referrals or to practice a little bit on educating the customer. Like professional photography, it’s a fine art and if it’s not practiced the skill can get rusty.

This morning (June 4 2013) I had a call from a very nice lady who was planning a group trip to Hilton Head from their home state of Kentucky. She found me doing a Google search (my showing-up in first page results still yanks a few chains amongst my previous competitors). She was interested in locating a Hilton Head photographer who would be willing to shoot a beach portrait session for a modest fee and receive all the images “on disk.” That’s fine. That’s understandable, and I admit there was a time not too long ago when I’d be willing to meet such a request with the stipulation that I would edit the selections and be able to use select samples for my portfolio.
Not anymore, and here’s why, and what I hope through the process of educating the customer in a positive manner came across during this morning’s phone conversation. I’m pretty sure it did because the caller voiced her appreciation at the end of the conversation.

Family portrait photography on Hilton Head Island by Jim Crotty Family portrait sample of mom walking with kids by Jim Crotty

What I provide, as a professional portrait photographer, is both the portrait experience AND the resulting product – the once-in-a-lifetime, custom print enlargement that becomes a cherished centerpiece of the customer’s living environment. In providing the professional portrait experience I bring skill, talent and years of experience. There’s something else too. I bring me. Yes, me. I can’t be duplicated. Not with a competitor who hauls furniture out to a field (not that there’s anything wrong with it but just not me) or the soccer mom with the top of the line DSLR (not that there’s anything wrong with it but just not me). I’m not trying to offend anyone in particular. Honestly I just don’t know how else to say it but just simply call it out for what it is. And I’m sorry to report that there will never be an app, camera or lens to replace talent. Ain’t going to happen.

What I do is take the time to truly get to know my subjects. What is it about their family that’s unique ? How do they interact together ? What is the family “personality?” Those are factors that you just can’t ascertain by showing up the evening of the session and say “ok, let’s go out and get some shots.” The interaction between photographer and subject is a significant portion of the investment. And that’s all before the first frame is exposed. What about professional posing of a group ? I’ve learned recently that there is just as much art in posing and arranging a group or family as there is in managing the light for optimal exposure, knowing camera settings, post edit process, etc.

By simply handing over a disk with printable JPEG’s I was not only cheapening the investment in the experience of the portrait session. The customer deserves better. I deserve better.

The full realization of the value of the experience of the portrait session is in the crafting and delivery of the final print – the custom enlargement that is the culmination of all the fine touches that only the experienced professional can provide, from choice of textured, fine art paper to archival quality mounting materials to choice of frame. I am thankful that I have a relationship with one of the best custom print labs in the country, one which only serves established, professional photographers. They know my work. I know their work. The quality is there and then some.

That was something I made mention of during this morning’s phone conversation, to give some consideration to what is hoped for in the final product. One of the downfalls of social media is that the need to “post and share” has cut the ties between portrait customer and fine art portrait print. That’s a bridge that needs to be rebuilt because what we provide as professional photographers deserves a place on the real wall – the one made of brick and mortar. The product of our work should be placed, viewed and valued just as much as the most expensive piece of family furniture, the one that’s passed down through generations.

Is a disk full of image files the best representation of a family memory and gathering that will only happen just once? Is a disk in a desk drawer worthy of the photographer’s time, talent and experience?

Choose your portrait photographer with care and from the perspective of making a long term investment, because that’s exactly what it should be.

(added note) . . . I’m happy to announce that as of June 28 2013 I will once again be doing business as a professional photographer and workshop leader near my home city of Dayton, Ohio. I will be providing portrait photography services and photography education/workshops from an eight acre farm property – with an historic farmhouse circa 1900 – located in Beavercreek Township in Greene County. I am thankful for the opportunity to have experienced life and work as a photographer on Hilton Head Island, and to gain valuable education and training through the Texas School of Professional Photography while in Frisco, Texas, but I am even more thankful to be returning home with a renewed appreciation for friends, family and the natural beauty of home. My new location will offer unparalleled settings of natural and rural beauty for portrait sessions as well as small group workshops on nature and landscape photography.

The Summer Doldrums | July Can Be A Challenge For Photographers

Take me back to June or jump me forward to late August, because July weighs heavy on me. It’s a photography/nature lover thing. Light and energy. This is the month when the light goes overbearing across the landscape, usually under a brutal blanket of relentless humidity. The days go out of balance and wear-on. The hot-blooded twin of dreary January. July. What’s a photographer to do ?

Endure and get through it by looking for the opportunities. It can be tough. Here on Hilton Head Island July is prime visitor season. It is the season of family portraits on the beach. The best light is much more limited to perhaps an hour before sunset, and during sunset, which can stretch the limited patience and dinner time appetites of the kids. But the best portrait photographers make use of what’s available during those sessions by optimizing camera settings, additional light and most important of all, eliciting heartfelt emotion from their subjects (no matter how hungry, hot and/or tired!).

And there are pockets of opportunity for nature and landscape photography as well. I like to watch weather patterns because I’ve learned that even in during the dog days of summer a good storm front can still result in a dynamic sky with pleasing light, particularly here on the coast when a setting sun breaks through on the backside of a passing storm.

Here some of my tips for photography and where to look for good photo ops during July:

* Shoot early. Shoot late. As in pre-sunrise early and post-sunset late. Unfortunately this time of year there’s not much sleep time in between.

* Lenses in air conditioning suddenly exposed to high humidity will immediately have condensation. It’s best to acclimate cameras and lenses gradually so you don’t have to miss the shot while waiting for the “fog filter” to dissipate.

* Less is more when it comes to gear. Struggling with too much camera equipment while trying to take advantage of moving light is frustrating enough, but added weight in high heat and humidity only makes things worse. Stay cool, travel light. One of my favorite walk-around lenses is a 50mm that weights just a few ounces.

* If your subject is hot and uncomfortable it will show in the image. Get them under a tree and in the shade. Spot meter for skin tones when shooting against bright backgrounds outside of the shade. Go ahead and let the background get blown-out but get in close. Squinting eyes are only photogenic with big game predators, not people. Bright sunlight in July can be so harsh that even with it bouncing off off beaches, parking lots and buildings it is still way too much.

* Summer scenes in woodlands photograph horribly on bright, summer days. Green in direct, summer sun goes almost yellow and the range between shadows and bright spots is too far to effectively manage via camera meter and in exposure. Wait for subdued, more even light.

* Early morning visits to the garden with a good macro lens and little to no wind are always worth the effort. Get in close and fill the frame with color, texture and pattern. Always go with what it is that first catches your eye and then edit, edit, edit.

* Visit the mountains.

* Move to the mountains.

There is a reason for July. It’s times like these that help us appreciate spring and fall. For everything there is a season and good light always returns. Patience, a lot of fluids and air conditioning and we will soon be back in those times of the good light.

The Power of the Self-Portrait | Marketing the Photographer and Photography on the Web

I’ve always been more of the introverted, shy type. That’s a big reason why I became so involved with photography and nature at a very early age. I’ve never was known as gregarious and outgoing, preferring instead more “quiet” pursuits. The benefit is that I have an insight to my subject matter and a passion for the art of image making that provides just as much excitement today, at age 47, as it did when I was wandering the woods at age 12 with a Pentax Spotmatic F 35mm camera and a couple rolls of Kodak Tri-X film.

The downfall is that I didn’t develop what I would call “aggressive selling skills.” At least not initially. This is a big reason why most fine art photographers – nature, landscapes, wildlife – are rarely comfortable in the fine art of self-promotion. They put themselves through a bit of a beat-down and withdraw from what may appear to others as self-inflating behavior and bragging. But the truth of the matter is, in this age of the digital, independent artisan, there is still the need to compete in the open market. The photographic artist adapts, overcomes and pushes onward with the realization that half the process of selling art – whether it be prints, services or instruction – is the selling of self.

Human beings are visual and so much is determined within those few seconds of the first impression. With professional photography they want to see the photographer behind the photographs. They want to see the face of who will be teaching the photography workshop. They want to know more about who will be photographing their portrait. Although we go to great lengths to pretend that we don’t judge by appearances the cold, hard fact is that we do, all the time, whether it be through online connections at home or when out and about in our workplaces and neighborhoods.

Case in point – what page on a photographer’s web site or blog is visited the most following the home page and gallery of images ? The “about” or “bio” page. Always. We’re naturally nosy and we want to see the face behind the work.

Recently I had a profile article published in a local tourism magazine here on Hilton Head Island (note – print version included more images). They published almost all of the sample images from my portfolio that I sent to them except one – my own head shot. Even though it was well-written and the sample images looked impressive, the number one response I received from those who saw the article was “where was your picture?” When I kept hearing that question and comment it finally solidified what I had long suspected about how people react to my marketing efforts – for prints, workshops and commercial photography services. A well captured and presented self-portrait can make a big difference.

So, rather than react negatively I saw the omission as an opportunity to reconsider the appearance of the quarter page ad that I had been running in that same publication. I made some adjustments and decided yes, time to stick my neck out and be a bit more “aggressive.” Below is the result –

And then I thought “well, while I’m at it might as well update my Twitter background too –

The photographs. The photographer. What at first looks like a mistake becomes an opportunity – to learn, adapt and move forward. The age of digital is almost entirely visual-based. Welcome to the new “social hour” of business networking and self-promotion. Does this make me look “conceited, self-centered ?” No. For one thing I never considered myself exactly model material (although losing 50+ lbs in 2009 made me more comfortable with my self-portraits). The reality is that in order to successfully market online – whether static site, blog or social media – some confidence is required to “put yourself out there.” This is my work. This is me. I’m happy with my work. I’m happy with me. Sure there’s always going to be a negative judgement or two from the peanut gallery but nine out ten impressions are going to be positive. Those positive impressions may not result in an immediate sale of a print or workshop registration, but if people like what they initially see, they return.

And here’s more good news for professional photographers. The power of a well-captured and presented head shot extends far beyond the online marketing of photographs and photography services. It applies to just about everyone else presenting a business, profession or art online as well. The camera phone capture may be okay for Facebook but  . . . there’s just something about a professionally photographed portrait.

Beach is a Great Place for Family Portrait Photography

I’m grateful for the opportunity to photograph a family portrait session this past weekend here on Hilton Head Island. Brian, Tracy and Anna were wonderful to work with amongst the dunes and sea grass of the beach. From the west a late summer storm was brewing and the dark clouds provided a subtle contrast behind the whites, greens and tans of subject and foreground. We had a lot of fun. It was only about 10 seconds after packing my gear that the sky opened up with a deluge of rain, thunder and lightening. I’m also thankful for the help of my assistants, my daughters Emma and Chloe.

More information about my portrait photography services on Hilton Head Island here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the Light Goes Perfect

Portrait session on the evening of June 27, 2011 on an old crabbing dock @ Hilton Head Island. Outdoor portraits in the summer almost always need to be captured in the beauty of low light at either sunrise or at – and even following – sunset. The added benefit of this time of year in coastal South Carolina is the almost daily arrival of late afternoon thunderheads diffusing the light of the setting sun even more, acting almost like a giant soft box. The two images posted below were captured within a span of perhaps five minutes. You can see the quality of the light in the sky and the effect it has on my young subject for this portrait session, Emma.