Finding Your Creative Spark

by Guest Contributor Amy Cannon

“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”~ Kurt Vonnegut.

If someone were to ask you right now what you’re passionate about what would you say? What do you draw inspiration from when it comes to your photography? WHAT inspires you to shoot and HOW you focus on that inspiration is so important, regardless of what it pays you or IF it even pays you at all. I think we can all agree that we didn’t start taking photographs to become rich.

For me, photography is a passion, a unique art form, not a platform to become wealthy.  I’ve always believed that if you do something because you believe in it and feel passionate about it, the rest will find its way to you. But every now and then, that passion gets put aside and you suddenly find yourself in a creative rut. This recently happened to me. I was burnt out and feeling incredibly uninspired. Does this ever happen to you? Maybe you’re feeling this exact same way and you don’t know how to fix it? If so, then it’s time to do something about it.  It’s time to think outside of the box, push your creativity and regain your passion. So what inspires you? What do you feel passionate about? You have to ask yourself those questions first.

For me, this was a no-brainer. The one thing that I have been passionate about in my life besides my photography is dance. I’ve danced my whole life, both as a student and as a professional. Dance is such a wonderful way to express yourself. It offers an outlet to be creative, teaches discipline, inspires confidence and awakens the inner spirit of people, no matter what their age or talent level may be. I knew if I could find a way to photograph something about dance I would feel that creative spark again.  That’s when I decided to do a series of photos inspired by Swan Lake. Rather than renting an elaborate studio or traveling to a school I challenged myself by photographing the entire thing in my small studio space, with one light and not spending a dime. I wanted to force myself to be creative and think outside of the box.

CREATIVE TIP #1: You don’t need elaborate props, a huge space, or couture clothing to create art. You need a VISION.

You also need a subject that can bring your vision to life and I knew the perfect girl.

Lolly is only 10 years old and one of the most poised and professional young ladies I have ever encountered, not to mention exceptionally beautiful.  Her dream is to dance for the NYC Ballet and she recently got her first pair of pointe shoes. Her mother also shares a true appreciation for art and photography so I knew teaming up with her would be exciting.

CREATIVE TIP #2- If you want to do a shoot that is just for you it is imperative that you collaborate with someone who shares the same passion, appreciation and style that you do.

So I have my concept, my subject and a space to make it happen. Now what? Well, that’s where a vision board should come into play. I created mine on Pinterest. I used my train ride to and from work to explore thousands of dance images and quotes that spoke to me and made me feel something. Because isn’t that what art is supposed to do?  Make you feel something. Make you feel inspired to create something beautiful.

CREATIVE TIP #3 – Use imagery to find inspiration.  Don’t copy it. Draw from it. Use it as a jumping off point in which you build your own unique ideas.

Then I had to ask myself what my Ballerina was going to wear. I needed two different and contrasting looks. And remember, I didn’t allow myself to spend any money so I needed to get creative. I started looking very closely at what I had in my studio closet already, what my model had in hers, and what resources I had that may be able to help me out. It’s amazing what you can piece together with a little creativity and imagination.

CREATIVE TIP #4- Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for wardrobe help.  Borrowing and trading is a great way to keep looks fresh and inexpensive.  You can also layer different pieces together to create an even more unique look. For example: The white swan look is a Tutu Du Monde dress with a large white tulle skirt layered over top of it for added drama and the headpiece is two different headbands but worn one in front of the other.

Every princess needs a fabulous crown right? I studied the black swan crown and decided to put my up-cycling skills to the test.  I went shopping in my daughter’s bedroom for one of her old plastic tiara’s. (being that she has about ten of them I figured she wouldn’t miss one).  I painted it black using some latex paint that I had in my garage and applied a generous amount of black feathers from an old headpiece I had. The stones are nothing but old rhinestone buttons and earrings. The end result… a crown that is one of a kind. Download a free DIY Flower Crown tutorial here!

CREATIVE TIP #5- You can pretty much up-cycle ANYTHING! If you don’t know where to start, try Pinterest!

Now I was ready to shoot. Remember that I am shooting in a small space with one light in the dead of winter in NYC. My backdrop is a piece of seamless paper and I have no props.  This is when you can really push your creativity.  Yes, I was doing a ‘dance’ session but that doesn’t mean I had to have my subject in a bunch of difficult dance poses.  I needed to focus on my concept; THE SWAN- A story about passion and perseverance, not about fancy positions and complicated tricks. I made my main focal point her eyes.  For it’s in the EYES where we tell the story, not the props or background or the clothes.

CREATIVE TIP #6- “Photography is about capturing souls, not smiles.”― Dragan Tapshanov

Post Processing- my FAVORITE part. Growing up I wasn’t exactly a math or science wiz, but I did excel in art class. Being the daughter of an artist, I always enjoyed painting, coloring, sculpting and drawing. I loved to take a plain piece of paper and create something colorful. I consider post processing an art form. Sure you can run a filter or an action on a photograph or make a few quick enhancements in Light Room and call it a day…OR you can use a photograph as your canvas and paint it like an artist. Playing with textures, overlays, gradient fills, I could go on and on…the choices are endless and so much fun. I could spend HOURS playing with one image!  So if you always thought that studio photography was boring or lacked artistry, think again.

CREATIVE TIP #7- Think of your post processing like having an entire box of brand new crayons in front of you and your photo is your canvas. Play, create, imagine. The choices are endless.

Now it’s your turn.  Sit down and make a list of things that inspire you.  Then choose one of those and create a story for yourself, a concept that you want to bring to life. Create a vision board, jot down ideas in a notebook, and re-visit them over and over. Take a moment to remember why you love photography. Make it a goal to shoot for YOURSELF every now and then.  I guarantee you’ll find the reward to be so much more fulfilling than a paycheck.

CREATIVE TIP #8- “You don’t take a photograph. You make it.” ~ Ansel Adams

Did this article inspire you?  I would LOVE to hear about it! Please share your stories and/or images on my FaceBook page.  Let’s inspire each other!

About the Artist: Amy Cannon is a member of the National Association of Professional Children’s Photographers and currently resides in Long Island, NY with her Broadway husband Mike and their two kids- Cooper and Camryn. Amy Cannon specializes in creative portraiture both in studio and on-location. She’s a Nikon Girl (Nikon D3s and D700) and her favorite lens for studio is her 85mm, 1.4g and for outdoor sessions she prefers the 70-200mm.

Visit Amy at her WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | PINTEREST pages

New “Members Only” FREEBIE Packet {V48}

HUZZAH!!!  The newest “Members Only” FREEBIE Packet {Volume #48} is now available for download in the forum!!  This month’s packet is filled with the most FABULOUS goodies from our amazing vendors!  We want to extend a HUGE thank you for their generosity and support. Special thanks to Charlie Lou Designs; Lucky Star Templates; and Sweet Sawyer Photo Co. for this month’s contributions to Rock the Shot Forum members!

You can find the download link in [the Forum] under “Freebie Packets”. New members, don’t forget to download the other available issues of our “Members Only” Subscriber Packets as well! You’ll get HUNDREDS of dollars in FREE photography products.  Hurry, these packets are only available for a limited time!

Not a member of our forum yet?? JOIN TODAYand get exclusive access to all our FANTASTIC FREEBIES!  Plus… for a limited time, save 35% off any level membership using code MYFB35 (new/inactive members only: expires on May 24, 2015).

And now….on to the goodies! You will receive the following freebies:

Modern Diamond Pricing Template from Charlie Lou Designs {$15 Value}

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK

Senior Template Bundle from Lucky Star Templates {$32 Value}

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK

Hey Togs – After you “rock the shot,” it’s time to maximize your sales! That’s where Lucky Star Templates comes in – we offer trendy, timesaving PSD templates for photographers.  Our templates are designed to be user-friendly and come with detailed instructions to guide your every move.  With an ever-expanding offering of cards, Facebook timelines, marketing boards and backgrounds/textures, we give you many ways to dazzle your clients and add-on sales.  Check us out on our website and stop by our Facebook page for access to exclusive freebies and coupons.

The Big Day Wedding Magazine Template from Sweet Sawyer Designs {$24 Value}

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK

Sweet Sawyer Photo Co. offers high quality Photoshop marketing tools and photo cards for professional photographers. Our templates are easy to use and designed with a clean, fresh layout to provide a professional branding experience.

Not a member of Rock the Shot Photography Forum yet? Come on over and JOIN our fun and friendly community TODAY! Plus… for a limited time, save 30% off any level membership using code MYFB35 (new/inactive members only: expires on May 24, 2015).

And… don’t forget to stop by these wonderful vendors websites and Facebook pages and check out all the FANTASTIC products they have to offer. Remember to download all of our currently available packets in the forum. Here is a list of all the fantastic freebies available for download.  Hurry, these packets are only available for a limited time!!

Volume 47:

  • Set of Basic Photography Forms from Click Chicks Design {$15 Value}
  • Summer Mini Session Marketing Set from Fotovella {$32 Value}
  • Lovely Studio Marketing Set from Laurie Cosgrove Designs {$55 Value}

Volume 46:

  • Set of FOUR Birth Announcement Cards from Lovely Days Creative {$20 Value}
  • Photography Marketing Brochure from Posy Prints Design {$74.99 Value}
  • Six Blog Board Templates from Tiramisu Design {$15.99 Value}

Volume 45:

  • Love Notes Marketing Templates from Galler.ee {$35 Value}
  • Modern Baby Birth Announcement Collection (4 Templates) from Hazy Skies Designs {$30 Value}
  • Senior Facebook Timeline Bundle (5 Templates) from Paper Lark Designs {$19.95 Value}

Photographer Spotlight: Erin Neace of Lux Senior Photography

We are so excited to welcome the amazingly talented Erin Neace to the Rock the Shot Blog! Take a moment to learn more about her beautiful photography, and be sure to visit her website at Lux Senior Photography. Thank you so much Erin for taking the time to share your work with us today!

Where did your inspiration for photography begin?
My inspiration for photography began as a child in the 80s. My parents bought me a little 110 film camera and I took pictures of pretty much everything in my little world! My father was a photography enthusiast, and my favorite things were old family pictures. As I became an adult, that love for capturing the world as I saw it expanded to my children… I loved taking pictures of them, but I wanted to make more beautiful pictures. So I read books, and through trial and error and following good techniques I learned, I grew as a portrait photographer.

How would you describe your photography style?
I would describe my style as light, bright, airy, and natural. Although I guide my Senior girls to pose well for good photographs, I never put them in the stiff looking poses you sometimes see.

Did you study photography in school or are you self taught?
I am completely self taught – with only the help of the internet, books, and a few helpful hints from other photographers I know.

What brand/model camera do you shoot, and what is your favorite lens?
I shoot digital (95% of my client work) with a Canon 5D mark iii. I shoot film (mostly for personal work and styled shoots – but hopefully more in the future) with mainly my Pentax 645N. I also have 4 other film cameras. My favorite lens would have to be the Canon 85L for backlit shots and the Canon 135L for any other type of lighting situation.

Do you have any tips for photographers on how to find the light?
Open your eyes and study the world around you at all times of day. Whenever you see light that makes you want to sing – take note of it, shoot in it, experiment with it, play with it. Always use a model of some sort to practice in different lighting scenarios.

What is the most challenging thing about photographing seniors?
The most challenging thing about photographing seniors is making them feel comfortable and be themselves in front of the camera. Some of them are very natural with this, but most are not. I frequently show girls poses, how to move in front of the camera etc. by doing it first myself. If I can do it in front of them, then they will have less fear of looking awkward.

What is a good lesson you have learned this year in photography or in your business?
Set clear business hours and stick to them. Take time for yourself and know that you don’t always have to squeeze jobs in if it is running you ragged. If you have to take fewer sessions to make your life less hectic, don’t be afraid to raise your prices and give each client a more hands-on experience.

If you could encourage a new photographer in one area, what would it be?
Learning how to shoot manual so you actually understand the nitty gritty of how and why settings work or don’t work. Know what depth of field is and the many ways to control it. Basically – the basics. Keep it simple and stop thinking that the next new set of actions will make your images look the way you want them to, just be a master of your craft and add those extra touches in AFTER you understand the basics.

What do you love most about being a photographer?
That moment when you take THE shot and gasp at the exact moment the shutter clicks; knowing you’ve just made magic happen.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself teaching more and shooting less. Taking even MORE time to set up the perfect session for each Senior – something that inspires us both.

About the Artist: Erin Neace is a natural light only senior portrait photographer based in Centerville, Ohio. Her work has been featured in various photography blogs and publications, including Senior Style Guide, Seniorologie, Pretty is Everywhere, Beyond the Wanderlust, Lemonade & Lenses Magazine, Chic Magazine, Denim + Grace and Belle Lumière (film).

Erin is married to her tall, dark, and handsome husband Jeff; and lives a fast-paced lifestyle with their three children and two dogs. A few of her favorite things are coffee, flip-flops in Summer, riding boots in Fall, white Christmases and lilac bushes in Spring…

Visit Erin at her WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM pages

Planning a Styled Shoot with Vendors

by Guest Contributor Amie Pendle

Isn’t it the dream to have vendors throwing their products at you left and right, begging you to use them for your amazing styled sessions? Well maybe someday we’ll all reach that point! But for now we can find ourselves competing with other photographers, for the attention and help of many vendors. I’m going to walk you through a few steps that should help you get that “YES!!” that you’re looking for!

Have a Game Plan
Take the time to visualize your session. Pinterest is an amazing tool when it comes to this step! You can pin images that inspire you, or that have that look you are going for. It also helps when you do approach vendors to convey what you have in mind.  Now that you have a clear idea of what you want your images to look like, what do you already have, and what do you still need? For example. Let’s say you’re planning a simple bridal shoot out in the fields somewhere. You have a gorgeous model but no dress, no flowers and no décor.

So you must start making a list. It should look something like this:

Have

  • Model
  • Gold Shimmer Pillow
  • Pearl Earrings
  • Vintage Cake Stand

Need

  • Bouquet
  • Rustic Chair
  • Hair & Make Up
  • Small Cake

With the list being made you now have a clear path to your next steps! You can list vendors for each item you need. I’d recommend listing at least two businesses for each item. Chances are not everyone will be free or willing to donate their time, services or items.

Asking for Help
Walking through that door, or sending that email can be the most nerve racking moments of your life! I know because I’ve been there. And I’ve had vendors tell me no. You can’t take it personal. I say this, but it’s broken my heart a time or too! When you do approach a vendor. Try to keep their business in mind too! Tell them how this will be beneficial for them and what they will get out of the process.  Don’t expect them to give you top of the line either if this is your first time working together. A florist might be able to throw together a small bouquet with left over flowers, and a baker may have something simple that they can whip up in their spare few minutes. Take these as baby steps to building a vendor/photographer relationship!

You can’t go in with a “Do you know who I am?!” attitude or be too unsure of yourself either. Be yourself. Explain how excited you are and be sure that you give them plenty of notice to prepare their inventory for you shoot as well! Also, be willing to pick up and drop off any items – make it as easy on your vendors as possible!
They Said Yes!!

Sooner or later, you will line up some vendors. They may have offered you a discounted price or simply loaned you what you needed in exchange for use of the images, but you’re finally ready to shoot that session!

When you’ve finished, it’s important to remain professional. Return items promptly along with a heartfelt thank you note. Let them know that because of them, you were able to create the session you had envisioned! It’s so very important to not take your vendors for granted. There will be times in the future that you may need them again. Building that reliable and friendly relationship is just as important as creating stunning images!

I hope these steps help you! Remember to be sincere, appreciative and hold up your end and you should have no problem planning styled shoots in the future!

About Amie: I’m a wife and mommy. A natural light photographer based in Southern Utah. Specializing in Boudoir and Portraits. I love Southern California and Coffee, a good joke and my camera!

Visit Amie at her WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK pages

Photographer Spotlight: Michelle Coppini of Remnant Boudoir

We are so excited to welcome the wonderfully talented Michelle Coppini of Remnant Boudoir to the Rock the Shot Blog! Take a moment to learn more about her beautiful boudoir photography, and be sure to visit her website Remnant Boudoir. Thank you so much Michelle for taking the time to share your work with us today!

Where did your inspiration for photography begin?
My deep inspiration began when I read an article about the power of boudoir photography. This particular article spoke on how boudoir and beauty sessions were being prescribed to women with eating disorders. The distorted way these women saw themselves was challenged and often the women found inner healing from the images. This was remarkable to me. That an image, or a session, could have such a healing affect.  I wanted to be a part of this, and boudoir was the perfect avenue.

Boudoir is my passion because bringing healing and wholeness to women is my passion. I long for all women to know a depth and wholeness. For women to know, and believe with every inch of their heart and mind that they are beautiful and full of worth. Enough- just as they are. I want women I don’t know as well as women I call sisters to walk in the freedom that comes from comfort in their own skin. And for my sisters who know this already I want to celebrate that freedom with them. I want to rejoice in who they are and capture their best. Capture that best so they will leave with a permanent reminder. I long to be a catalyst of change and an artist who delivers a little bit of freedom in every image she delivers.

How would you describe your photography style?
My style is me. Haha. I struggled with this for what seems like forever. I wanted my images to look as “pretty as…” as “emotional as..” (insert big name photographer).  Then I realized that I was doing the very thing I was trying to heal with my art. Comparing. Comparing to find value and only finding if it it “added up”. Once I stopped trying to “be” someone I started shooting for me I found my images became more and more like my heart.

They are fresh, fun, full of laughter, depth, and passion. Sometimes they’re moody and other times playful. They are an extension of my heart and often times reflect the unique connections I have with each individual client.

Did you study photography in school or are you self taught?
I took classes in high school but for the most part am self taught. I do try to go to at least one workshop a year for inspiration that only workshops can provide. I found I learn best in person and I never want to stop growing as an artist.

What brand/model camera do you shoot, and what is your favorite lens?
I shoot with a Nikon D810. But started my business with a Nikon D70.  The best advice I was given in these early years (the years where my excitement was in equal proportion to my insecurities) was to master the camera you have.   My favorite lens is my “ol faithful”: my 50mm 1.4. This is the lens I started my business with and because I went through my growing pains with this lens it has become a favorite. I know every finicky detail about this lens and it is always on one of my cameras during a shoot.

Do you have any tips for photographers on how to find the light?
Look for it! No, but really. This is something I am still honing. I personally get so excited about my client that sometimes I forget to pay attention to, or better yet, make the most of the light. The more I shoot, the more natural this process becomes.  What has been most helpful for me has been shooting in as many different light scenarios as possible. Practice. Always practice. Then when you come across a scenario that is less than ideal you won’t have to have an inner “freak out” session.

What is most challenging thing about photographing boudoir?
Every women brings with them an idea of beauty. What they think is sexy, pretty, appealing..etc. They also bring their own insecurities, fears, nervousness and anticipation. I would say the more challenging part is cracking my clients shell where they can truly be themselves, staying true to my vision of capturing that true self, and in the end showing them images that read only beautiful to their eyes.

What is a good lesson you have learned this year in photography or in your business?
Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”  This year I have been learning to build this type of courage. When I have a bad shoot thats just what it was: a not so good shoot. It does not mean that I am a bad photographer. A few years ago it was hard for me to separate the two. This year I am finally shortening the time between my shoots that are not up to my standard or ability and my bounce back time. Have courage dear artists! Give of yourself and give it fully and when you have a bad session brush the dirt off and carry on.

If you could encourage a new photographer in one area, what would it be?
Shoot what you love and give only the images you love. A fellow photographer gave this advice to me when I started and I didn’t fully understand the wisdom of it until a few years into my business. When we start shooting there’s this joy at just being asked to shoot anything. “You want me to shoot your kids and you’ll pay me? GREAT!”. “You want photos of a dinner party? Sure!” As you grow you will find you love shooting certain things more than others. And then comes the day when you can fearfully, yet wonderfully, say “No, sorry I don’t shoot that.” It is a scary but oh-so-freeing moment. Don’t be afraid to say “No” and only say “Yes” to what you love.

What do you love most about being a photographer?
For me, it’s the relationships I make.  Connecting with my clients is a complete joy. It’s the “getting to know them” before their Journey, the sessions itself, and the moment they see their images. This connection is what drives me. My art is my tool but my heartbeat is the relationship. Boudoir allows me to combine my desire to create and my heart for freedom and intimacy in a way I never knew possible. I love boudoir photography specifically because of the way it combines fun playful social interaction with incredible depth and healing.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope that my craft continues to grow and evolve through the years. In five years I hope I can say that my skill is better, that I am able to capture women more beautifully, and all my images are growing with me. I never want to stop growing the way I capture beauty, and how that beauty is different to every woman.

About the Artist: I am a boudoir and portrait photographer located in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. I love captureing authentic traces of people and strive to make each session deep, meaningful and unforgettable. I am a hunter of beauty and a champion of freedom. A big part of what drives me is to know and love people; deeply, authentically and honestly. Photographing you is just an added bonus. Beauty is present if you look. So I look. I see. I long to use my camera to show and I often have to pinch myself to remind me I’m not in a dream.

Visit Michele at her WEBSITE | BLOGFACEBOOK pages

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