Friday, March 11, 2016

Camera Technology is Changing at the Speed of Light!

Back in the early days of photography, the Polaroid land camera made its debut taking over the lead spot from the Brownie film camera. How do I know? Well I was just a kid back in 1969 with the worlds first "Selfie", Here is a portrait of me using my first polaroid camera.  Back then the camera revolution was taking over, everyone had their own personal camera, and we all were excited to shoot up our 12 pack of film. I figured out that if I took my moms giant mirror off of the wall from the dining room, drag it outside in some nice daylight, that I could lean the mirror against the fence in our backyard and then position myself in just the right spot to snag a selfie with my land camera.

Fast forward to my next generation of photography, working with 35mm film with my first Canon EOS-1 and the sky was the limit. Back then I was shooting a 36 roll of slide film, wow that was a big step from a 12 pack of film. Shooting slide film was a requirement of the magazine editors at the time, they would take our film submissions, then convert the slides to a medium format positive film for printing. I would spend anywhere from $500 to $800 for a typical photo shoot ending up with 100 slides, duplicates, conversions and prints. The days of film shooting was hard work, and expensive. Imagine shooting all day long, and having to wait until the film lab processed the slides to see how my exposures turned out! Most of the time I nailed the exposure, but there was always that suspense of wondering if all the hard work of an all day long photo shoot would actually turn out. Here's a scan of slides of my lovely model (aka my wife Janice) to give you an idea of my old workflow.

Then there was this giant leap of digital technology. Gone were the days of $800 processing fees, now I can instantly see my exposures, adjust sharpness and color schemes right in the camera. The world of professional digital photography completely changed the world of photography. Magazine submissions went from weeks to minutes, and the ability to process and edit images in desktop computers made my role as a photographer become more of an artist. It was like being untangled from all the rolls of film, being released to experiment with creativity, color grading, reframing, it was life changing for me as a photographer. 

As the digital revolution continued, cameras got better and better, lenses got sharper, and the ability to upgrade to better gear  each year was an adventure. Camera companies competing to made cameras better and easier to use made my life much easier. Digital cameras evolved from the early days of shutter lag to shooting 8 frames per second. ISO ranges increased dramatically, which in turn made shooting in low light a joy. Emulating the look of film with software gives my images just the right look for my goals as a professional photographer. The world of digital photography is simply amazing. 

A typical photo shoot for me today yields anywhere from 1000 to 5000 images, my workflow takes those images into culling and editing to deliver 500 to 1000 images to my editors. I can shoot tethered with Wifi to a computer screen to help my clients see real time what is being accomplished in the studio. Now instead of waiting on the lab to develop my film, and waiting weeks to send in submissions, its like flying on a lear jet to reach my destination in a matter of hours. Speaking of jets, the fashion images below just happened to be shot on the tarmac, and narrowing down my favorites in my computer was a breeze.

Whats next in the world of photography? Cameras are becoming more and more evolved each day, the early days of 12 megapixel images has soared to 20 - 30 megapixels and beyond. The sensitivity of the image sensor has surpassed the days of film cameras. The latest evolution comes from a new camera technology called Light. They have created a small lightweight camera with multiple lenses, advanced low light abilities, and its so compact you can slide it in your pocket.  It's turning heads in the professional photography world. I can't wait to try one out and take in on location to one of our fashion shoots. Its a perfect tool for social media and press. Welcome to a new world of digital cameras. I can't wait to see what happens over the next few years!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Feature On Southern Bride Magazine - Grove Park Inn - Ashville North Carolina

In the recent issue of Southern Bride, we traveled with our team to North Carolina on a week long photoshoot at the famous Grove Park Inn. We photographed some amazing wedding designs / Anne-Barge Designs from some of the top designers in the world. Read more about it on their blog feature and let us know what you think! We photographed about 50 dresses on the fashion shoot, and I'll have to say that this dress was one of my favs.

We've been shooting exclusively for Southern Bride for about 9 years, and it just keeps getting better with each location. When we travel with this large of a team, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. For this shoot we had about 20 people on the team. The first team sorts the dresses, steams them, and organizes all of the fashion accessories. My team goes in and picks our favs, and scouts the locations that we think will work for that dress. The hair and makeup team jumps in with the models the minute that they arrive on location and begin talking about the hair styles and looks that we want. About 6 am on the first day, the models and hairstylists get started while eating breakfast, and the fashion team then gets the first dresses ready to wear. This team will do wardrobe changes, hairstyle and makeup changes about 10 times in one day. About 7 am my photo assistants and I head out the the first location and begin lighting the sets that we are shooting for the first segment. (We go to extremes to light each shot, so if you look at these and wonder how we do it, well you may just have to sign up for one of our photography workshops to find out our secrets.) For this series of shots we found this great location, and we pushed in some extra light to give us a nice natural look. This segment was running right on schedule when we found out that the building  right behind us that was built in the 1900's as a caretakers cottage began swarming with bees - we ran as fast as we could to get out of harms way. See, there is always a fun backstory! After shooting a 10 hour day and about 25 dresses, the entire team took a quick break, then we all headed to the Grove Park Inns overlook restaurant to watch the final sunset, and enjoy fine dining at one of the best restaurants in the south, The Sunset Terrace. Then we get to sleep and do it all over again early the next morning. It's an amazing job, and after 3 longs days we are all pretty tired, but the results make all the pain go away! Check back on our blog soon for the next segment of our incredible shoot at The Grove Park Inn, or pick up your copy of Southern Bride Magazine on newsstands across the South! (Photos by : Michael Allen)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Key West Fashion Shoot - Southern Bride and Romantic Destinations Magazines

Key West Fashion Shoot - Southern Bride and Romantic Destinations Magazines! We kicked off the new year with one of our biggest photo shoots ever! The team at Southern Bride flew the entire crew down to Key West to shoot the next issue of the Romantic Destinations issue of Southern Bride Magazine. Since the magazine has exclusives on the shoot, we can't show you any of the images just yet, but here's where we shot for the first 3 days. And yes, it looked just like the photo - simply amazing!

When we travel to destination locations for weddings and our exclusive photo shoots, you never know what the weather will be like, Our first morning of the shoot was scheduled at 7 am, and it was pouring harder than I've seen it before. We actually began shooting in the rain, and by the time we got going the rain cleared and the day went on schedule.

We've shot in Key West before, about 5 years ago for a beautiful wedding, and we were not disappointed with this shoot either. We shot our models with Dolphins, on the beach, riding mopeds, bicycles, and on a 3 million dollar Yacht that happened to be in port. The magazine flew in two of our models from NewYork and Birmingham. We have just about 50 bridal gowns and dozens of bridal accessories flown in from all over the world. We had a team of 10 that flew into Miami, then we all drove on to key west where we teamed up with our hosts on Duck Key. They had spent about 6 weeks prepping for the shoot with over a dozen crew members, so our shoot ran like clockwork. I can't wait to show you what we shot, but it will have to wait until the issue hits the newsstands. Meanwhile, check back to see our next post sometime this spring. After the shoot we spent a few days of R&R in Key West dining in some of the Keys most exclusive restaurants. We are writing a travel story about our adventure that will come out in the next issue of the magazine, so be looking that that!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Featured on Southern Bride Magazines Blog - December 2015

Southern Bride Magazine often features our professional wedding photography, not only because we the lead fashion photographer for the magazine, but because they love our work! Michael's style is romantic, modern, and beautiful. Michael shoots hundreds of weddings and loves every couple. Some photographers have just started their careers, and tend to practice on new clients. Michael's vast professional experience offers his clients the best photography in the business, giving the client  confidence that Michael has the best eye for whatever conditions he is shooting in. Michael's eye of fashion gives him an edge, shooting both weddings and commercial catalogs. Next time you pick up a copy of Southern Bride Magazine, look at Michaels work, it's art that everyone loves. For this couple shoot I wanted to get them having fun, embracing and unaware of the camera, the last two shots I asked them to do some silly things that they would not normally do, and I loved the results! Some of these are in the Magazine on newsstands this month!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Professional Headshots Memphis - Nashville

Professional Headshots Memphis - Nashville - New Orleans

One of my passions in photography is capturing people at the their best! Photographing professional headshots is an art. Most don't realize that for some photographers shooting people is frightening. Photographing someone up close and personal is a rush, exciting and it takes self confidence, I'm talking about the photographer in this sentence. I've meet hundreds of photographers over the years, there are a handful that I'd recommend to shoot headshot, all the others would be scared to death to take on this challenge.

Capturing people is an masterful art. Getting them comfortable in front of the camera takes a special skill. It's almost like being a therapist. How do you get your client to let go and show who they are? Most clients are scared to death of being photographed, unless they have done it a few times, it can be a little intimidating. 

If you are a photographer that enjoys people, that's half the battle. You as a photographer have to have total self confidence in your photography skills, lighting skills, and posing skills. If you let them see you sweat, then you've lost them. Trying to win them back over may not happen. You also have to be interesting enough that the client will take instruction from you, and you have to tell them what you want out of the session.  For me it's capturing their emotions. Sometimes I tell my clients during the shoot, "think happy thoughts" or "think of a moment when you were sad" or "a moment when you were very serious". Most of the time they laugh at me, and that's when I get something real from them, even if it's not what I suggested for them. There's definitely power of words that can make a session go well.

When I worked with country music superstar Dierks Bentley at The Ryman, he only had about 15 minutes to shoot, his rehearsal ran behind, and that ate into my already short half hour schedule. I was on the hot seat to pick the locations, and have my gear ready to shoot. When I first shook his hand, I immediately went into professional mode, I positioned him in the spot that I wanted, and gave him cues for every pose. Now he'd been in lots of photo sessions, but I wanted to make sure I got what I wanted out of him, so here I am telling Dierks Bentley how to look, how to pose and get him in the zone to think positive thoughts. After the first segment, I was confident that I had nailed the shots. Especially when his wife and kids crossed the auditorium and his face lit up with joy. Now I was ready to take him to my second location, and it was pretty much me and him. The entourage had moved on, so we got some one on one time. And once again, I knew what I wanted to do, got him into the light, and nailed the second segment. Later on that night he walks up to me randomly and says, which shirt should I wear for the video shoot? So I bonded with him somewhere during the day and he took them time to ask me what I thought. That made my day! Some of my favorite shots of him made the cut, and now the images reside on the Walmart Soundcheck website today.

I pretty much have the same mindset no matter if I'm shooting Dierks Bentley, or the Doctor at the local clinic that wants good headshots. I know my clients want to look their best, and they are counting on me to do just that with the camera. They are in business and want their clients to like them just from their photos. The same goes for a new actor or model starting out, they want to get just the right photo in front of an agent and get hired for the job. I've had dozens of new actors and models make it to the big screen, and it makes me very happy to have played a role in getting them the job!

Most of the people that hire me are willing to pay good money to get great headshot, if it's just a quick hour session in my studio, or a day rate on location. I do run into some that don't want to spend a much on their headshots, and I have to send them away. I hate to do that, because I've seen what rookie photographers deliver, and it's usually pretty weak. I know that when I shoot someone, they will walk away with some headshots that will win them a great job. I've become a master of light from all my studies with the best photographers in the world. I've learned from the best photographers in the country and know what it takes to get the shot. I bend the rules just enough to give my shots something unique. I also use the correct lights, not every flash will do the job, so having the right studio lights is a key to successful headshots. The days of stiff, over posed portraits are gone, I capture a real look that's believable. I also know what format is needed for the web, not every headshot is vertical. Web banners need horizontal, so I always include a mix of both formats.

A rookie doesn't have the experience to know how to handle different lighting situations, and there is a art to painting with light with a camera. A lot of clients don't get that concept, they think that if a photographer has a camera, then they must know what they are doing. The other thing that I run into with clients is that they want to dictate where you shoot their photo.  Let me tell you, if you want to look your best, let your photographer chose the location. It may not be at your desk at your office, unless you are the CEO of a mega-corporation and have a million dollar office suite with a sky rise view of Manhattan. Great locations require great light. That's why magazines spend tens of thousands shooting their magazine covers. Now you may not have a budget like that, but keep that in mind when you decide to get headshots, think big, and find a creative photographer that can make you look like a million bucks. You may want to keep it simple with a white or grey background, or let us find just the right spot for a great lifestyle shot.

What are some of my techniques? First, I get my clients to laugh. They have to be comfortable and unaware of the camera. I want their happy face, the one that they show their best friends. Next I want them to look comfortable, sitting in a position that they may be in when they are sitting around on their couch at home. Even if they are standing for the shot, I'll have them shift their weight and change their stance until I see that they have settled in. I want their body language to come across in the shot, so they have to look confident, and at ease at the same time. I've learned from Peter Hurley how to get them to "squench" their eyes, and get their chin out in just the right position so that their neck has that power pose that makes them look their best. For lifestyle shots, I use natural light, with a little kicker over their shoulder to add just a little rim light to their hair. For studio shots, I use a huge 60" moon light softbox. I want their key light to look as soft as butter, and I do want some shadows to add drama, so I play with my lighting angle from my key light to highlight my clients best side. Headshots to me don't always mean just the head, I may want the entire body. Maybe not head to toe shots, but if they are sitting, then why not have them criss cross their legs and look relaxed. And my final tip, I run all my images through some of my favorite toning presets. I like my images to have depth, sharp eyes, and nice skin tones. I study catchlight in my subjects eyes and want that sharp, crisp look that makes their eyes sparkle. When my clients send in their headshots for a potential job or casting call, I want their headshots to stand out from the others on the table. I've gotten great feedback from agencies on my headshots, so I know that my clients are going to get attention. If the headshot is for a CEO of a big corporation, I know that they will love what I do for them. I want them to have a powerful, confident look that will attract customers to their door. I also stay away from traditional "master of photography" poses that are highly technical. Todays headshots are natural, realistic and are designed to show the public who you are in a personal way.

Here are a few of my favorites shots from the past several years. I want to show you some pretty amazing people that have graced my camera lens. Here's a collection of studio and lifestyle headshot portraits from my clients from all walks of life. If you would like to book an individual professional headshot session, our prices range from $250 to $500 to $750. We have openings weekly in our studio or we can travel to your location. We also offer corporate sessions.