photo tips

Inspiration: Berenice Abbott

Today’s post is about inspiration.  We all need it from time to time, especially if we’re in the business of creating art for a living.   One of my favorite places to turn for that inspiration is in the past.  History is a passion of mine.  It’s not about dates or events; it’s about the people who lived at that time and how it must have felt to live through those pivotal events.  They are people like you and I with the same depth of feeling and thought, struggling with different challenges but they struggled just as we do.  They loved and laughed and saw their world changing as we see ours changing.   I love the early 20th century photographers.  This was a renaissance time for photography – there were no camera phones or Instagram.  Cameras were big, bulky and every image had to be developed and printed by hand.  If you wanted your images to be seen you had to hustle, submit your work by hand or mail and develop relationships with publishers.  Honestly, I find inspiration in that kind of work ethic.

So, when I turn to history for inspiration, I tend to gravitate to the women photographers who blazed the trail in the early 1900’s.   Women like Dorothea Lange whose iconic images of the great depression were printed in newspapers and magazines around the country and put a face to the hardship.  Margaret Bourke-White traveled around the world and documented wars and the faces of not only the men who fought them, but also the leaders who shaped and influenced our culture and society.  These were incredibly strong and courageous women who made their mark on a medium that was previously documented by men.  They brought a unique perspective to their work; their sensitivity evoked such wonderful vulnerability and ease in their subjects.  They were a powerful combination of compassion and strength and many of them created their art before they had the right to vote.

Today I want to honor Berenice Abbott.  Berenice’s images documenting the rapid changes in New York in the 1920’s are fascinating!  She was born in 1918 and as a young woman she moved to New York to study sculpture and later Paris and Berlin to continue her studies.  It was in Paris that she discovered and mastered photography, first becoming an assistant at Man Ray Studio.  She moved back to New York in 1929 and was struck by the rapid changes to the city.  On the eve of the great depression she began her series of documentary photographs.  These photos are a living history of that time and until the day she died she advocated for this style of documentary photography.    She was truly one of the more influential photographers of the early 20th century and a huge inspiration to me. 

Who is your inspiration?

Summer iPhone Photo Tips 5

Tip#6 Selfies.  Let’s be honest, we ALL take them.  Selfie-sticks became a huge seller because of them.  We all take them for different reasons so I thought a few quick tips to taking better selfies would be helpful and I’m going to break them down into categories. 

Online dating apps.  –  Your goal with your first profile photo is to get people to linger on your photo long enough to “swipe right” – not left!  If you’ve ever been on one of those apps you know how quickly people review those photos and swipe.  You can’t control whether or not you are someone’s ‘type’ but you can take a great photo to give yourself shot.  Here are a few quick tips:

  • Check the background.  You want people looking at your face, not the background.  If you’re taking that shot indoors then check the background to make sure it’s uncluttered.  For god sakes, pick up your dirty clothes off of the floor!  Make sure there’s nothing in the background that’s sticking out of the top of your head.  In fact, if you have a plane or uncluttered wall behind you.  I fact, try the “portrait mode” feature that will blur that background.
  • Find some good natural light – try taking the shot by a window.
  • If you’re shooting outdoors, stay out of direct sun, find a shady place with light bouncing off of bright surface to light your face.  Again, find an uncluttered background.  For a dating app shot, it isn’t about ‘where you are’ it’s about YOU.
  • Don’t be a super model, be yourself.  Have something interesting going in your eyes.  So many selfies look posed and forced.  Take a second, think of someone that makes you smile or a memory that gives you a good feeling; then look at the camera and take a few shots.  Having something interesting in your eyes draws the view in. 
  • Wardrobe and Hair – take some time to make sure your hair is on-point and if you can keep the wardrobe simple and make sure it doesn’t clash with the background.  Again, you want the viewers eye to be drawn to your face, not your outfit.
  • SMILE.  You can certainly take a bunch of shots but make sure you take a bunch where you’re energy is happy – smile!

Vacation Selfies –  These are shots that show you off  in the location where you’re having a great time.  Here’s a few things to remember:

  • If the most interesting location is below for instance; The Grand Canyon, you’re on top of a tall building, your best friend is passed out on the dance floor after a night of drinking lol – lift the camera up high and shoot down to make sure you highlight those locations.
  • Shooting a landmark like the Eiffel tower or Washington Monument? Take that shot from a distance so the whole landmark is in the shot.  Put yourself to one side and have fun with it.
  • The time of day that you take that shot can make it magical.  Take most of your vacation selfies early morning or sunset when the light is beautiful and golden.
Motorcycle trip

 Group selfies – These are fun and can be a challenge if you have a big group. 

  • Get everyone to bring their faces together
  • Try shooting in “Burst Mode”.   Take a few shots and if you hold that button down your camera will shoot rapid fire shots for as long as your hold it down.  You can get some of the most fun and spontaneous shots that way.
  • Use the 3-second timer if your arm is stretched out so far you can’t reach the shutter button.
My favorite “group selfie” – My amazing Mom.

Just for fun.  I don’t really have many tips about this one. This is the where you get to just experiment as a photographer.  Break all of the above rules or tips and just shoot! 

Happy Shooting!

Summer iPhone Photo Tips

Tip#5 – Moments Pro Camera App.   I’ve been using this app for a few days now and I’m very impressed by it.  Unlike the photo editing Apps on the market the “Moments Pro Camera” app interfaces with your camera and turns it into a fully functioning DSLR.  It allows you to control white balance, shutter speed, aperture, ISO settings, dual focus and exposure points, and like a DSLR, if you press the shutter lightly it will focus and then press harder and it will take the photo.  One of the coolest features is the “long exposure settings”.  If you have a simple iPhone tripod you can increase the shutter speed and play with long exposure shots!  This is the hottest app on the market right now and it’s available for both ISO and Android.

The design of the app is simple, elegant and intuitive. Even if you’re not experienced shooting in manual mode on a DLSR, this app will show you in real time the changes in your photos as you play with the different settings.   It gives you options to shoot in JPG (the default for all camera phones) or for you DSLR buffs out there; it will even shoot in RAW format. 

Separate focus and exposure points.

The app isn’t free; it’s $5.00, which is the price of a large Latte and it’s well worth it. There is educational support if you want to learn more about the functionality in the form of YouTube tutorials or weekly newsletter tips.  This app is a game changer for unlocking the true potential of your camera phone.

Happy shooting!