Photographer Spotlight: Olivia Leigh Photography

We are so excited to welcome the insanely talented Olivia Sweeney of Olivia Leigh Photography to the Rock the Shot Blog! Take a moment to learn more about her beautiful wedding and portrait photography, and be sure to visit her website. Thank you so much Olivia 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 little girl.  I have always been infatuated with photographs and documenting moments in our lives. I loved looking through photos to remember special times from my childhood and cherished photos so much.  This passion for photos just grew with time.   As a young adult I finally bought a DSLR and taught myself everything I know now.   I began to just photograph personal events such as traveling family and then I decided to photograph my friends and it just grew from there.

How would you describe your photography style?

Since I am a wedding and portrait photographer my style is very much romantic and airy.  I love to use natural light and love to capture moments that are genuine, real and “in the moment.”  I love color and black and white but would say most of my images are color and black and white for a real story teller or a candid moment from a wedding or session.  I love the look of film and the ease of digital, so I shoot both.  I love shooting film because it forces you to slow down and really think about each shot.  I love film because of the authentic colors and feel it creates that digital doesn’t always emulate.

Did you study photography in school or are you self taught?

I am self taught…going backwards from digital and now self teaching myself film.  Often times I think it would have been nice to have learned photography in school but I think being self-taught allows you to make more mistakes and learn from them which is great.  I love learning for myself and it only makes me want to continue to progress as an artist.  I have also read a lot of books and find inspiration from many great photographers that I believe help to shape the industry trends.

Do you shoot Canon or Nikon, and what is your favorite lens?

I shoot Canon.  My favorite lens is the 50mm 1.4  Its a dream!  I love all Prime lenses because I shoot at a very wide aperture 99% of the time.

Do you have any tips for photographers on how to find the light?

Every scene, every location and every time of day is different.  If you are wanting to shoot at a certain location I always suggest walking around the time you plan to shoot ahead of time.  See how different backgrounds effect lighting, use back-light to wrap your subject nicely but also keep in mind of finding natural reflectors on location to bring out the light in their face.  Try side-lighting and just play around with it to figure out your style and what you like.  Lighting is something photographers are constantly learning because its never exactly the same for any situation.  Also don’t be afraid to shoot during the day, you can create some beautiful images at any time of day its all about finding open nice shade.  For film avoid shooting directly into the sun to avoid haze.

What is the most challenging thing about photographing maternity?

My biggest challenge shooting maternity is creating a good angle for my clients and creating natural poses with their spouses.  Unlike a couple or engagement session posing can be tricky with a bump.  You want your subjects to feel comfortable and beautiful.  I always suggest shooting them at  45 degree angle and don’t be afraid to ask them what their “good side” is.  Women always appreciate when I ask this because they will hate photos of themselves in which they don’t feel that is their “good side.”  Make sure to ask in a nice way of course you don’t want to offend her!  Also posing the husband is tricky so just make sure to remember you are shooting a couple but their are really 3 subjects, don’t focus too much on the belly because its also about the couple and their relationship.  I always like to have  a variety of close-up, detail and farther away shots.

What is a good lesson you have learned this year in photography or in your business?

One good lesson I have learned this year is to stop overshooting during my sessions.  Before I would try and come up with every single pose and idea and scenario for a session.  Now I focus on what type of session it is and plan in my head before what kind of shots I want and what sort of feeling I am trying to portray from my subjects.  I also try to minimize my locations to just a variety within a session so that I can really tell a story with my images rather then try and have different poses in different locations.  Its all about the details and the different perspectives of our subjects that really helps to evoke emotion and tell a true story.
If you could encourage a new photographer in one area, what would it be?

Try Film and use natural light and try something new at every session.  Also practice on your family and friends shoot more personal and fun and creative projects and it will help you in your work.

What do you love most about being a photographer?

What I love most about being a photographer is creating something tangible that my clients and myself can cherish for a lifetime.  I love that I am creating something unique every time my shutter clicks that isn’t an iphone photo or something someone else can create.  No matter what you are always being authentic and creating something true and real that literally stamps a time, place and moment in time that will never happen again.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In 5 Years I dream of still being a digital and film wedding and portrait photographer.  I dream that I will be traveling near and far for weddings and amazing projects, that I will have met some amazing and talented vendors and photographers in my industry that I have learned from and really built a community of people I feel I can learn from and teach as well.  I think that a solid community within your industry is so important for the progression of art, photography, trends and styles as well as business and photography education.  I would love to some day have the opportunity to teach aspiring photographers what I know as well and pass along my experiences….but I really think that would be like 10 years down the road.

About the Artist: Olivia is an Oregon and Destination Wedding and Portrait photographer.  She lives in Jacksonville, Oregon with her husband and they are expecting their first baby this fall.  She enjoys capturing true and genuine moments shooting film and digital formats.  She loves her family, traveling and enjoying the outdoors.  Her work has been publishes on Style Me Pretty, Wedding Chicks, Green Wedding Shoes and many other great publications.

Visit Olivia at her WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER pages

Lifestyle Photography in Any Location

by Guest Contributor Jean Smith

Typically, lifestyle photography is described as a style of photography where daily events or happenings are captured. So, that means capturing a family in their home doing the things they love or do on a daily basis is lifestyle photography, right? Right. And wrong. Lifestyle photography doesn’t HAVE to be confined to your subject’s home or other familiar places they frequent on a daily basis. You can tell a story with the same feelings of love, playfulness, relationships, and “everyday” in any location.

 In order to do that, there are a few things to consider to help you steer more toward lifestyle and candid captures.

  1. Lens – Typically, a wider angle lens (24-35mm) is considered to be more of a storytelling lens. And for good reason. It shows the entire story and scene. No matter how wide your aperture is, most everything will be in focus and your viewer will feel like they are “in the scene.”
  2. Motion – Capturing motion is a sure fire way to take your photos from posed and traditional, to candid and lifestyle. You can create motion either through giving your subject movement direction (running, walking, throwing hair, twirling, laughing, etc), or YOU can create the look of movement within an image with a lower shutter speed, choice of lens (Lensbaby or Tilt shift which create blur), or by physically moving the camera while shooting (ex: dragging the shutter).
  3. Emotion. Showing emotion is one of the easiest ways to capture the “everyday” in any location. Show the laughter between a son and mother. A quiet, intimate moment between mother and father. A playful interaction between siblings. Showing emotion within the relationships of a couple or family will give the viewer a sense of looking in at a certain special moment in those people’s lives.
  4. Distance. Think about moving away, toward, and around your subject. Again, you are trying to tell a story, so the same angle, focal length, or distance from your subject throughout an entire shoot becomes static and non-storytelling.

Lifestyle photography isn’t for everyone, but if you are attracted to relationships, emotion, and capturing the “every day,” practice these different suggestions, and you’ll find yourself thinking differently and capturing more moments rather than poses.

About Jean:
 I am a photographer living in New Hudson, Michigan, with my husband and four little boys. I adore my family more than anything, and also love exercise, reading, travel, travel, travel, and delicious food.

Visit Jean at her WEBSITEFACEBOOK, and BLOG today!

Photographer Spotlight: Pasha Belman Photography

We are so thrilled to welcome the wonderful Pasha Belman of Pasha Belman Photography to the Rock the Shot Blog.  Take a moment to learn more about Pasha and visit his website.  Thanks so much Pasha for sharing your work with us today!

Where did your inspiration for photography begin?
It all began during freshman year in college when I travelled with a group of friends to Middle East and Europe. Before the trip, I bought my first film camera to document our adventure, and have not put it down ever since. Of course my equipment has been updated since those early years, but the love for film has always been infusing my photography style.

How would you describe your photography style?
Timeless. Romantic. Organic. Emotional.

Did you study photography in school or are you self taught?

Everything that I know about photography is self-taught. I have been reading books, watching YouTube videos, attending photography workshops, analyzing work of other artists and continuously shooting. It has been a tremendous journey which can never end for a lifelong learner like me.

Do you shoot Canon or Nikon, and what is your favorite lens?

Nikon FM10 was the very first camera that I ever purchased, and have been shooting Nikon ever since. At this time I use Nikon D800, and my favorite lens is Nikon 85mm f1.4G. It’s a phenomenal lens for my portraits. For my film work, I use Contax 645.

Do you have any tips for photographers on how to find the light?

I am a natural light photographer and work primarily with available light. The light is everywhere, and it’s not about how to find the light, it’s about how to position your subject in relation to the light source to achieve the best colors and details. I prefer backlighting or side lighting my subjects with soft sun light. I also take advantage of natural reflectors to avoid any harsh shadows. When I take a close-up portrait, I ask the person I photograph slowly turn as I look for the best light on their face and sometimes use reflector to make their eyes sparkle.

What is the most challenging thing about photographing weddings?

Weddings are uncontrollable events and they are go-go-go-go. It’s a fast pace environment and I have to make sure I take an artistic picture of every important detail, each important person and every single special moment. I realize it is not always possible, but I still set my bar very high every time.

What is a good lesson you have learned this year in photography or in your business?

Be yourself. Develop your own style. Inspiration is everywhere.

If you could encourage a new photographer in one area, what would it be?

Confidence. When you are confident, the people you photograph (in my case couples, families and high school seniors) are a lot more relaxed when they know you take charge. Also, learn how to appreciate your own work, value your time and everyone else will do the same.

What do you love most about being a photographer?

As a portrait and wedding photographer, I have a privilege of working with happy people, share their important milestones with them, and put more smiles on their faces during the shoot and many years after. I love creating everlasting moments that people will have in their homes for the rest of their lives and pass on to the next generations. It’s nice to know that one day, when I’m no longer in this world, my work will stay around for a long time.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In Murrells Inlet, SC with my family. Doing what I love – photography. Learning, teaching, inspiring others, and being inspired by the world.

About the Artist:  Pasha Belman Photography has been featured in Style Me Pretty,  Southern Weddings, 100 Layer Cake, Grey Likes Weddings and Elizabeth Anne Designs. Pasha Belman is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer based in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, who specializes in wedding photography, family portraits and high school senior pictures.


2014 Client Types

by Guest Contributor Nichole Van

With the crazy fall family photography season upon us, I find myself in full-on client management mode.

You know how it goes. You show up to a family session and everything that can go wrong, does. Mom is upset because she made a poor wardrobe choice and feels she looks fat in her outfit (which, sadly, she does). Dad doesn’t want to be there and so he keeps snipping at the kids, his wife, you. Child A didn’t get his much-needed nap (because Mom was having her hair done) and is in full melt-down mode. Child B won’t stop sit still long enough for you to even get a sense if it’s a boy or girl. You get the idea. And, surprise, the session is a total disaster.

For me, I find that a little preparation goes a long way when helping a client through a photo session. Obviously, this is a large topic, but for me, the best starting point is to understand that photography clients generally fall into one of four categories:

  • The Laid Back
  • The Pusher
  • The Control Freak
  • The BFF

Once you understand the type of client that you’re dealing with, you can adjust to best meet their needs, ensuring that you have a successful session. So here’s what to expect from each type of client and how to best manage them.

The Laid Back Client

The Laid Back client is generally super chill and spacey

Will have a hard time paying attention or remembering anything you say

You will despair of getting a pre-session consult scheduled with them

Will arrive late to the session (assuming they remember at all) and won’t be prepared. They will also ignore their kids during the session, letting them run wild and will constantly say things like, Oh they’re never like this at home. Right.

Will drag their feet and be slow to order

Positive Points: The Laid Back client will usually love their images, love you, love what you do. They are far too laid back to complain and will go with the flow.

How do you deal with them? Repeat yourself, over and over and over again. Call, send email reminders, hold their hand through the process. The beauty of the Laid Back client is that you can be quite blunt and honest with them and they won’t be offended. Just hand-hold them through the process, constantly reminding them about things. With a little help from you, the Laid Back client can become one of your best friends.

The Pusher

The Pusher client generally has a more confrontational personality. They like to argue and haggle over everything and always want to feel like they are getting a deal.

Assumes that every decision you make is up for debate, always challenging your authority

Most likely to bring their own camera to the session and will pester you with questions about everything photography related

They will have seen your pricing, but will push back on it, either feigning ignorance or assuming that they could negotiate it

Will always ask for deals and will push and push you until you push back

Positives: The Pusher client will usually order on time and will generally be prepared for the shoot. Most importantly, once you push back and establish your ground, they usually settle down.

How do you deal with them? Push back. Stand your ground, politely but firmly, and they will respect you for it. Also, don’t engage if they start to get ugly. Just state your policies and move on. Generally once you stand your ground, things will go much more smoothly. The Pusher can be a fabulous return client who respects and values your opinion.

The Control Freak

As the name implies, these clients are hyper controlling, of you, of their kids, husbands, the session and most of all, themselves.

They are most likely to dislike themselves in photos and the photos in general.

They will look for ANY reason to complain and have issues with you and your products, no matter how small the error.

They are most likely to break down during a session, yell at their kids and make everything miserable.

They will have the hardest time relaxing into the session and will be stiff and nervous.

Positives: They will usually be on time, prepared and ready for the session. Too prepared, really. They will order promptly and will have read anything and everything you have sent them (three times and highlighted important parts). They will also usually not plead ignorance about pricing.

How do you deal with them? Have everything in writing. Build confidence in them of your abilities, usually by showing them a nice photo off the back of your camera. This will help them relax and relinquish control of the session to you. Once you gain their trust, the Control Freak is a delight to work with.


The BFF is a client who could be your new best friend. They are fun and prepared, but also respectful, order on time, love what you do and are generally a delight to work with.

This is client that keeps us going in photography, the client that we live to have.

As you look through this list of clients, realize that how you interact with your clients can many times determine the client type that you see. If you are an extremely laid back person yourself, a more organized BFF client might feel they need to be a little controlling in order to understand your ordering policies, pricing, etc. You get the idea. The good news is that most people are BFF’s if you deal with the situation properly. Just make sure that you yourself are organized and communicate clearly with your clients.

In the end, good communication is the key and solves most problems, I have found. Communicating all along the way will help clients know what to expect, relax and trust you. When they show up to your session together, they understand how the session will go and what they need to do, ensuring a smooth session for everyone.

 About the Artist: Based in Utah, USA, Nichole Van specializes in turning everyday life into art. Nichole loves expressing the unique beauty of every client, creating artistic images that make people gasp when they see them. Nichole has won numerous international awards, including portrait of the year from WPPI, as well as being a finalist for Grand Imaging Awards from PPA. She has also been featured in Rangefinder and Professional Photographer magazine, as well as numerous local and online publications. Nichole provides instruction to other professional photographers and has presented classes at WPPI’s international convention, as well as IPPA. Nichole currently holds an Accolade of Photographic Mastery from WPPI.

Visit Nichole on her GALLERY | WEBSITE | FACEBOOK


Photographer Spotlight: Angie Ochoa

We are so thrilled to welcome the amazingly talented Angie Ochoa to the Rock the Shot Blog.  One of Angie’s specialties is pet photography, and if you own a pet you know just how important they are to your family!  Take a moment to learn more about Angie and visit her website Ochoa Photography.  Thanks so much Angie for sharing your work with us today!

Where did your inspiration for photography begin?
When I was young, my father was a hobby photographer. He would photograph all the events at our church, so I would ALWAYS want to “click the button”. He didnt teach me anything I know, but he did teach me the passion for it.

How would you describe your photography style?
FUN! I really don’t have a really specific editing style, but I know I love to keep my clients happy. I love to have fun with all of them, no matter how “old” or “furry” they are. I love all my clients (especially my furry ones)

Did you study photography in school or are you self taught?
“Self taught” aka spent lots and lots of money on Mentoring & workshops with amazing wold renown photographers & photoshop artist.  While I didn’t pay a school for my classes, I paid amazing teachers to teach me what I know now. I do believe I still have lots to learn. Learning makes me happy and inspires me to try new things and get out of my comfort zone. I think we always can learn from someone, we just need to have a student heart.

Do you shoot Canon or Nikon, and what is your favorite lens?
I shoot Nikon, and I am totally a Prime lens type of girl. I love the shallow depth of field so much. I mostly use a 50mm 1.4, but I LOVE the 85mm when I can get my hands on it. Animals move so fast, I usually can’t have my lens wide open, but I try test my boundaries sometimes and go the widest I can :).

What is your favorite subject to photograph?
It used to be kids. While I still LOVE kids, after I got my cute little Pommies Chloe & Ted Banda, its defiantly animals, especially dogs. I feel like I never have gotten a grumpy dog. They always great me with the most love, and lets face it, they are too cute!

We just LOVE your pet photography!  Can you share what inspires you to create such unique and beautiful images?
So about 2 years ago my husband and I got our first dog, she is a pomeranian, and we named her Chloe Banda. 1 year ago we rescued pom #2, and we named him Ted Banda. Honestly, I have never ever ever EVER loved any animals (or most humans) the way I love my poms. They inspire me to get my camera out and just photograph their everyday life, like playing fetch, sleeping, and cuddling with daddy. Now my “newborn” photography was inspired after I lost most of “patience” with newborn photography. I was having a conversation with my mentor Rachel Vanoven, and I was telling her that I love newborns, but I get frustrated bc I am not as good as I would like to be, I told her I really want to photograph dogs as newborns, even if they aren’t newborns (because if you are a dog owner, you know your dog will always be your baby). So she said “do it, do what you LOVE to do” So I did, and here I am. Every week I have been photographing dogs & cats, and some have been wrapped like a newborn, some have been fetching for a ball. And while I am still photographing families and kids, I am doing more and more of what I really love… Animals! Plus I truly feel like a dog whisperer sometimes, especially when I hear awesome comments like “How did you get them all to look at the same time?” or “How did you get them to sit still”.

What is a good lesson you have learned this year in photography or in your business?
Actually since I got married, and fast forward to now my husband and I learned to build our business without debt. I know it has nothing to do with photography, but everything to do with business. Like our favorite financial guru  Dave Ramsey says “Live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else”. There are times I want to “upgrade” my camera so bad, or get a new lens. But I always sit down with my hubs and evaluate if I really “NEED” the new camera or new lens, and if we do end up buying it we budget it or save up for it. Being debt free in my business has truly been a blessing. I can do my job and not worry about any financial problems, I get to focus more on being creative, than trying to figure out how many more sessions I need to do to pay the credit card bill.

If you could encourage a new photographer in one area, what would it be?
Do what you LOVE. If you love newborns shoot newborns. If you love pets shoot pets. Trust me the once you perfect your craft, and even though there might be no market for it, become extremely good at it that people will go out and adopt a dog just so you can photograph it… speaking from experience!

What do you love most about being a photographer?
I love meeting new people. Aside from my doggie and kitty love I get weekly (since my hubs said no more pets in our house) Meeting their owners have become a blessing in my life. Some have not only become great friends, but they are the reason why my business keeps growing. They refer me like crazy, and I am so blessed to be their pet photographer.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I would LOVE to have some kids of my own to see the beautiful bond they will have with my pets. Just seeing my clients babies and doggies bond melts my heart. I long for that feeling. Soon.. very soon! Also I would LOVE to publish my first book of Rescue’d dogs in Dallas… #dallaspaws project is underway

About the Artist: I am a Pet & Family photographer based out of Dallas, Texas. I am married to an extremely handsome & talented man who just graduated from Architecture school, & 2 furry babies named Chloe & Ted. I love chasing the sun, and if I could do a photo shoot every sunset I would. I love capturing animals in their most tender moments. If a shot takes me 5 hours to get, but I get it, those 5 hours were all worth it and I would do it all over again if I had to. I love animals more than most humans, but I think most animals love me more than most humans do too lol!

Visit Angie at her WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM today!

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