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something new

It has been awhile since I posted in this blog…

I found out earlier this year that most of the links on the studio website were no longer working correctly. In trying to find out how to fix things, I found out that the template it had been built on was no longer supported nad that to actually fix the links would cost far more than I was willing to spend. So was paying someone to build a new site. So I spent a bit of time putting together what you see here. I am hoping to post a bit more and perhaps do some videos.drums1

on a side note, broke a drumstick playing along with Golden Earring’s Twilight Zone.

headshots

24 Jun 2018, Posted by Louise St.Romain in business portraitsstudio photographerstudio photography

While I was surfing the ‘net…

I was reading a post by someone who mentioned that they had never been happy with pictures of themselves and that they always felt self-conscience in front of the camera, but they needed to have a headshot for promotional purposes. Several people mentioned that a cell phone picture was good enough and anything else was a waste of time and money. I would have to beg to differ (and not just because I am a professional photographer) A photographer who creates a lot of quality headshots should be able to help you relax in front of the camera. Many of my business portrait clients do not feel comfortable in front of the camera however they do realize the value of having a professional portrait created. Consider having a professional headshot taken, especially if you are using the image professionally on a website or LinkedIn. It can help you stand out from the crowd.

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the call…

13 Mar 2017, Posted by Louise St.Romain in studio photographerUncategorized

I just got off the phone with a very nice lady from the IRS. The purpose of my calling them was a letter that I received from them, letter 4883C if you were curious; They needed to verify that I was who I said I was. The reason why I had gotten the letter was that a company that I have done part time work for had their HR files hacked. The company in question had sent out a letter about this back in February and after asking a CPA friend about it, I quickly filed my tax forms. I thought not much about it since I had gotten a notice that my tax forms had been accepted by the IRS and the state of NC.

Until I got the letter on Saturday …

I read over it, saw that it said to call them at a certain phone number (which I double checked on IRS.gov) and to have certain documents available when I called. So, I called… at 7am Monday morning. A time where I usually am still drinking my first cup of coffee. I got through to a real person within a few minutes, who was quite pleasant and she asked me several questions to verify I was who I said I was and that my return was actually my return. At the conclusion, she said that everything was good and that my tax forms would be processed. A good end to a phone call to the IRS.

I could tell that my husband was concerned while I was on this phone call even though he didn’t say anything since I found that the bed had been made and rooms have been straightened out … this usually doesn’t happen early Monday morning!

So, what does this have to do with photography you ask? Well, one of the things that I mentioned and most likely why the call went so smoothly is that I was prepared for it, I had all the information that I needed in order to answer questions and so it was relatively stress free for a call to the IRS. In photography, you want to be prepared for whatever may come up in the situation that you are photographing, be it making sure that you have backup equipment to having necessary permits if needed. If you make sure that you or the photographer you hire is prepared for what might happen, everything will go smoothly and stress free, and you will enjoy the experience!

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customer service

30 Dec 2017, Posted by Louise St.Romain in Uncategorized

Great customer service. Its one of those phrases that you here all the time from all kinds of businesses; everyone touts their great customer service. But what is great customer service? Is it fulfilling the “customer is always right” motto or is it something more? Personally, I believe it is doing one’s best to solve whatever problem that the customer has, even if that solution is not what the customer originally asked for or doesn’t mean that they wind up making their purchase from your business. … Sometimes, getting the goodwill of the customer can mean more in the long run than actually getting that one particular purchase.

The other day, I got a phone call from someone looking to have a passport photo taken. Not just an

y passport photo but one for Canada (1) which has different criteria for their passport photos than the United States(2). It was kinda odd getting that particular call, I don’t advertise that I do passport photos, don’t even mention them on my website and being that I work on location, I don’t really have the setup to do them. Turns out the caller had been going down the list of photographers on a Google search and I was the first one who actually picked up the phone. Now what does that say about the priority of customer service of all those photographers he called before getting me? Unfortunately, I did have to turn him down since I don’t have the setup to take and print to the criteria needed, however I did leave the call with the offer that if he was not able to get someone, I would figure out something at the price that I did headshots for. Hopefully, he may think of me in a positive manner, even though I was unable to solve his problem.

As a contrast, the other evening I was running late getting home and decided to order a pizza from one of the pizza chains since it was right on my way home. I used their website to place the order on my phone, figuring that it would be ready by the time I passed by the location in a half hour. Everything was nice and simple except the app wouldn’t take my card but that was ok, I could pay when I got there.
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I get to the store, find a parking spot which did take a little bit being that the lot was packed and walked in. I noticed there were a number of people sitting around and a line at the register. So, I get in the line, pay for my order and wait for it to come up so that I could leave to go home. After about ten minutes, I ask the woman behind the counter what was going on. After all, I had placed the order over 30 minutes ago, that should have been enough time to make and box it, even at busy time. This thought was based on times that I had ordered pizza from other places with no issues. The woman looked flustered, started looking at random boxes and then asked someone about the order. The guy she asked barked back “Its gonna be another 45 minutes!” Not a very professional answer and not really something that you want your customers waiting for their food to hear. Since, my order had not even been started, I asked for my money back. This took about five- ten minutes since they had to find someone who could do the refund, amazing in such a small space. Once I got the voided transaction slip in my hand, I left, grumbling that I would have been better buying a frozen pizza at the grocery and baking it in the oven when I got home. I would have spent less time doing that that waiting at the pizza chain place. What was really sad it that noone working at the store seemed to care that I left unhappy with no pizza.

One of the things that the pizza chain place does is send out emails asking how my experience was. You can be sure that I have replied to those emails! It will be interesting if I get any kind of response. If I do, I’ll post what it is.

(1) https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/canadian-passports/photos.html

(2) https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/photos.html

Trials and Tribulations of Photographing Cats

07 Jul 2016, Posted by Louise St.Romain in Uncategorized  covercat_00001

A little back story here … Jim Marks asked me to photograph my younger cat for the cover of Pet Gazette and it had been a while since there had been a cat on the cover of the magazine. I figured, “Cool, it will be easy, I have the subject right here in my house” Famous last words … kind of goes along a similar vein as “Here, hold my beer!” Coupled with having a very busy schedule, I found myself right up against the deadline … silly me.

A little bit about the subject of the image: His name is McTeague which is the name that Blue Ridge Humane Society gave him which is where we adopted him from in October of 2015. We went there to get a companion for our older cat Morticia who was lonely after her buddy Gomez passed away several months before. My husband decided that the name suited him and it stayed. McTeague is a very affectionate kitty, loves to snuggle and is happiest when he is with us so I thought that he would not be a problem being photographed. After all, Morticia loved having her photo taken and would pose and preen for the camera. What was I thinking?

I took my camera out and carried McTeague down to my camera room where I had a backdrop and cushion set up. I figured it would be cute and an easy image. McTeague took one look and bolted out of the room, giving me a good scratch and almost causing me to drop the camera. Now I have to go find me a cat … I had forgotten to close the door to the room that I usually close when I photograph cats or dogs. I had made the mistake that I warn others about; assuming that my own animal would behave perfectly fine.

After about a half hour search, I found him, squashing himself into a corner under the bed. I drag him out and bring him back to the background setup. I try using toys and treats to get him to stay in place. Here is another mistake; I was trying to do all of this by myself, forgetting that I normally had another person to act as critter wrangler and distraction. Trying to do everything by myself because my other cat behaves perfectly fine for pictures was really stupid and it showed in that I was not able to get anything usable. I had a bunch of shots with him looking away, hunched over, cleaning his butt and generally being indifferent to my attempts. He also kept running off set. I finally went to heck with it and walked out of the room.

Over the next day, I tried everything I could think of to get this one image. He would be fine until I took the camera out, then he would do his best to not be in the same place and time as me and my camera. Eventually, I put the camera down and went to answer some emails and watch a movie on tv. And he came over and sat down next to me, very frustrating. After a while he got up and went to the window to watch the squirrels outside. That is when I had my chance. I slowly grabbed my camera and a speedlight and went towards where McTeague was sitting. I quietly set up the shot and quickly took it before he realized I was there. Of course, as soon as he saw the flash go off, he knew I was there and jumped down and ran off. However, I got the image I needed. And there was much rejoicing!

 

This post was published in the 2016 Summer issue of Pet Gazette magazine. The image did not make the cover; editor Jim thought Teague looked too angry. :)

INFLUENCES …

12 Jun 2016, Posted by Louise St.Romain in Uncategorized

Influences…

How much thought have you given to the people who have influenced your life? Not just photography, but personally and professionally.  I have had many such influences; the Toyota dealership general manager who saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself and made me the Internet manager of the dealership despite having no experience in that area, the photographer in PA that pushed me to get better at my craft and get out of my comfort zone, the business owner in NJ who showed me that there was much more to running a business than selling a product or service. We all can tell about influences that have shaped our lives.

I count among my photography influences people like D. Craig Flory, who contacted me after I ranted about something stupid on the OurPPA forum and told me that I was better than that rant and if I was willing, he could help me. Here was someone who I didn’t know, telling me that my ego was tripping me up. Over the following years, Craig has alternately boosted my confidence and popped my ego balloon (but in a constructive way). I earned my CPP (Certified Professional Photographer accreditation) and became a Certification liaison because of him.

Other influences were not as direct. The first photography speaker I ever saw was Joyce Wilson, D,Craig dragged me to the PPAofPA meeting where she was speaking. I was blown away, I love her work even though it is not my style but one thing that she said that has stuck with me: Whenever you have the camera out photographing a client, always make sure that you shoot something for yourself as well. I try to follow that.

I have picked up lighting techniques from a seminar that was given by Jerry Ghonis at the Guild of Delaware Valley. The Guild is a great resource for the folks up in the NJ/PA/DE area, monthly meetings with great speakers, it is one of the things I miss living down here in NC.

There are a great many resources out there to learn from, from East Coast School (which I am missing this year) to small workshops given in smaller locations. The important thing is to keep learning, one can never learn everything there is to know in this life.

I am writing this on the day before the funeral service for my good friend and radio co-host Tony Hood. He had been a large influence in my life since moving to the western NC area, introducing me to other photographers in the area, encouraging me to start teaching and by being willing to co-host a radio show on a visual medium.  We taught workshops together, including one where he joked about me photographing everything but the waterfall at a waterfall workshop.  Tony brought a sense of humor to what he did … he wanted to show his students that it was important to have good technique but one had to have fun while doing photography as well. On the afternoon he passed away, he and a couple of friends had spotted a bear out behind French Broad Imaging and ran outside to photograph it. It was during this time that he passed out.  It is ironic that he died doing what he enjoyed doing.

I am going to miss Tony, now who is going to make fun of me photographing rocks at waterfalls?

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  • Anita Bryant

    Well said Louise. Tony was a force larger than life to so many of us here in the area. I remember our first meeting at Ritz Camera and have enjoyed all the laughs, constructive criticism, praise and nudging since. I’m going to miss him terribly…I still can’t wrap my head around this, but I, like so many others have agreed, he was doing what he loved when it was his time to go. I have met so many fabulous people because of him that otherwise would not have crossed my path and I learn from them as well. I think all of our lives were richer for having him in it. I can only hope he knew how much he was loved and how much he meant to all of us. Now, I’m hoping those closest to him will rally around Adrienne in the months and years to come as she navigates life’s waters without him and gets her feet back under her. Those of us left behind to miss him all know that Heaven is being shook up constantly now with his wild sense of humor.

10 Tips for Improving Your Photography

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10 Tips for Improving Your Photography
09 Oct 2015, Posted by Louise St.Romain in Uncategorized

Tips for Improving Your Photography Craft

Think of the most inspiring photographer you know. Perhaps this person is one of “the greats,” or maybe they are a local photographer whose work you admire. At one time, they took their very first picture. They picked up a camera and did the only thing they knew how to do at the time – “point and shoot.” Now, their photography toolkit is full of tips and tricks. Yours will be too after you read these 10 great photography tips for improving your craft!

Tip #1: Focus on your craft rather than your camera quality.

Perhaps you are not yet able to afford the “ultimate” camera and lenses you have your eye on. Believe it or not, this is much less critical than you may think. Rather, the great majority of what makes up an amazing photo is up to you. Composition (what to leave out and what to put in), arrangement, shooting mode and editing can take nearly any photo and make it pop.

Tip #2: Scout location AND light.

When it comes to photography tips, use of light is another huge factor in whether your photos turn out just “okay” or fabulous. This tip really comes down to scouting your location in advance. What times of day is the light best? What is the best vantage point to set up and catch the light? How can you keep the sun behind you and still capture the shot you have your eye on?

Tip #3: Shoot in RAW mode whenever possible.

If you have a choice between regular JPG and RAW mode, shoot in RAW. This allows you to change your mind after the fact and adjust lighting, sharpness, anything really!

Tip #4: Learn as much as you can about shutter speed.

No one photographer can master every tip, but out of all the photography tips you have to choose from, you can bet the one tip all the pros have mastered is shutter speed. When you choose the right shutter speed for the shot you want, you sidestep so many common preventable issues, from bleached to blurred images and more.

Tip #5: Aim for one great shot in every batch.

Even Ansel Adams didn’t go for greatness in every shot. Rather, he aimed for just one great shot per month! The wonders of digital photography are many, but perhaps the most wonderful of all the wonders is the ability digital photography gives you to take many photos, review them after your shoot, keep the ones with potential and simply delete the rest. With this photography tip, you can start to hone in on where your strengths and passion lie without burning up film as you do.

Tip #6: Revisit locations again and again.

Each time you shoot at a certain location, you learn new things. Photography tips can only get you so far – the rest you will have to push yourself to do on your own. One way to really push yourself is to return to a location over and over and try new angles, new techniques, new lighting and just see what unfolds. As you become more familiar with the location itself, you can really hone in on aspects you want to strengthen in your photography work.

Tip #7: Before you shoot, examine the background.

As far as photography tips goes, this one is a must for outdoor portrait shoots (for people or pets). One thing you absolutely need is a background that enhances the star of the shoot rather than steals the limelight!

Tip #8: Know what does what on your own equipment.

Whether your camera is simple or fancy, you want to be sure you know which button or lever to push to get a certain result before you arrive at your shoot. This not only gives you lots of confidence, but ensures you never miss the perfect light or the perfect shot because you are fiddling with your gear!

Tip #9: Seek feedback constantly.

This is one of the most fun photography tips to follow, because it takes you out of that oh-so-solitary photographer’s studio and puts you in the company of others who love photography. Seek to build a community of fellow photographers whose work you love and whose insights you trust, and invite their feedback as you hone your craft. This will strengthen your work over time and give you camaraderie with those who share your interests.

Tip #10: Make as many mistakes as you can!

Only by becoming totally willing to make mistakes will you be able to learn and grow as an artist of photography. Playing it safe may give your work consistency, but it won’t lead you to greatness. Rather, try everything, learn the rules before you break them, then break them and see what transpires. It might just be the photo that launches your career!

If you follow just these 10 photography tips over the next year, you can look forward to a year full of growth, discovery, friendship and a continual unfolding of your photography gifts!

LEARN MY STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY PROCESS

16 Jun 2015, Posted by Louise St.Romain in studio photography

Eh? Teach you how to be a studio photographer? I actually get this question or one in a similar vein a lot … it’s kind of the roundabout way of saying “Well, if I learn how to do what you do, then I can do it myself.” Like many things that seem so simple on the outside, being able to create quality images consistently is easier said than done. There is a combination of elements that goes into a quality image; good composition, lighting, knowing how to use the camera to capture the image that you see in your mind’s eye. These studio photography lessons are not learned in a short period of time with just a webinar or two or by reading a book.

How I Got Into Photography

I started out my visual art career as a painter, working in acrylics and using photography as a means to an end, an afterthought so to say. I would show my photographic images but didn’t think of doing studio photography professionally until I noticed that the photographs were getting more consistent feedback than my paintings. So I make the decision to jump into photography, the first step being is finding a way to learn. Again something easier said than done and I had door shut in my face. Until one day, I ranted on an internet forum and lo and behold, a studio photographer from PA (about 90 minutes away from where I lived) sent me an email saying that he would be willing to teach me and I just had to agree to pass on what he taught me when I got the opportunity. Cool!! I thought, not realizing at the time that what I thought was quality work would be torn up and spit out as being inadequate. Eventually I learned and do so well enough to earn my Certified Professional Photographer accreditation which I know that my mentor was justifiable proud of me earning.

Teaching My Techniques

What is interesting is that I do teach a shorten version of some of my studio photography techniques in one of my Blue Ridge Community College classes. First session goes over composition, the next goes into some basic lighting techniques. I do believe that it is easier to learn when someone demonstrates how something is done and this point is borne out when I have a student who makes the comment about they had read about how to do something and they hadn’t quite understood what was meant until they took my class and saw what to do.

So my word of advice to those who are looking to learn about studio photography is find someone or a class to actually teach the techniques, hands on rather than watching videos on YouTube. You will find the feedback invaluable and perhaps make a few friends along the way. :)

This image was created using a studio setup, can you see how?

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Outdoor portrait taken using studio lighting techniques

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Outdoor Portrait Taken using Studio Lighting Techniques

 

 

Why Hire a Professional Photographer?

14 Apr 2015, Posted by Louise St.Romain in studio photographer

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Why Should You Hire a Studio Photographer

The Benefits of Using a Studio Photographer

Well, why should you? After all, a studio photography is expensive and with all the really good cameras being made, anyone can take great pictures. Heck, even a cell phone can take decent shots, so why bother hiring a professional studio photographer? What are you actually getting for spending all that money? Paper, ink, CDs and flash drives are not THAT expensive.

When you hire a professional studio photographer, you are getting MUCH more than pieces of paper and/or plastic, you are getting the years of experience that the studio photographer has, experience that enables that photographer to create images that are going to show how special your family is or how wonderful your product or business is. A quality professional studio photographer is going to have the equipment needed to create your images and know how to use that equipment. Now keep in mind that they may not have a storefront studio, however they will be able to transfer your space into a studio or have access to a studio space.

How Do You Tell?

How to Hire A Quality Professional Studio PhotographerDebraandGloria1

How to Hire A Good question! A quality professional studio photographer will have a portfolio of images that you can puruse but better yet, they will have references that they have done work for that can attest to the quality of photography and how well the photographer worked for them. Unfortunately, it is very easy for someone to buy a camera, set up a Facebook page and call themselves a professional photographer. Asking for references can help weed out the people who may not be a good fit for the photography you are looking for. Another thing to consider is that someone who is doing studio photography professionally is going to have liability insurance (this is important is you are hiring for an event, many locations require that venders have insurance) just in case something goes wrong. Also if they are photographing an event, they will arrive with extra equipment just in case something goes wrong with their main set of gear. The last thing you want to see at your event is the photographer unboxing their camera. That shows that they are not familiar with their equipment and don’t even know if it is going to function correctly. A professional rarely purchases something new on their way to photograph a job; the last thing they want to do is introduce a variable that could not go the way they want it to.

Another way to tell if the person you are talking to is a quality professional studio photographer is if they have this logo: on their website and other marketing materials. What that means is that they have passed a written exam and a portfolio review proving that their work is to a high quality standard and that is it consistently to that standard. This does not mean that if someone doesn’t have this logo, you should pass them by, it is just a professional standard that some photographers have achieved including this writer. If the photographer that you are considering has their website featured on http://stopstealingphotos.com/ , run away, the person is not honest and is using someone else’s work to represent themselves.

You Can Have It Fast, Good Or Cheap …

Generally, these three do not combine when it comes to photography. Good does not go with cheap. Fast can go with good but there is going to be a premium price for the speed. Cheap and fast pretty much equals a mess. Granted, you are not going to hire a studio photographer for every single thing in your life but for those times that matter, be it a once in a lifetime event, a milestone family portrait, your business products, facility or professional portrait, do yourself a favor and hire the professional. You will be glad you did!

See The Difference: