Providing photography equipment and expertise to amateur and professional photographers alike

Creating a Printed Portfolio

A small printed portfolio to show clients is critical. Many potential clients will talk to several photographers. Having a face to face meeting is important. It gives you a chance to get to know your client and a chance to show them your portfolio.

You are probably thinking why? They have seen it online. Photographers for many years now have gotten used to the online portfolio. The entire time we were getting used to it we knew prints looked better than anything online.

A print does something to a person. It sets it above what we seen on the computer because it can be held. That same client who sees your well done portfolio might just want one for their wedding too. Prints are prints are prints, until we prove they are something more.

A professionally done portfolio is selling point that will set you apart. It shows you care enough to print your work. It shows you stand behind your work. It is the extra step. I choose to keep all of mine in boxes as I feel they look more modern. It also makes it easier to hold the picture, a vital part of my portfolio process.

Successful portfolios have several factors. Each portfolio must have all necessary releases. I keep my releases right in the bottom of the box. They are size appropriate to fit right in the box without folding. No staples or paperclips are allowed. I print these out on high quality paper.

Next up, I have a portfolio for each type of client I may encounter. Weddings, portraiture, commercial and any other types of clients you may have. I have no more than 7-10 pictures of any style in each portfolio. Choose your pictures carefully. I do try and get a mix of clients when possible.  I look for the prints that standout in my archive. I look for diversity in the prints that I place in my portfolio.

If you want to go the extra step an embossed or embalmed insignia on the top is a nice touch with the studio name and type of portfolio. This adds to the look of quality. This will also do two other things. It will ensure you always grab the right portfolio. It may also encourage clients to ask if you have other portfolios. That allows you to talk about your business without ever having to sell yourself. Alternatively in this day and age you can order different colors for each portfolio. Let your personality shine with the trendy things done to update these boxes and folios.

Part of this process is right from the beginning I want to meet face to face with my potential client. I want to discuss what they are looking for. If they can’t meet then I try and arrange to at least stop by and leave the portfolio for a day. Most take me up on meeting face to face, the ones that don’t meet with me have not turned down the portfolio being left with them. I follow up a day later to pick up the pictures.

There are so many photographers these days that it is about the personal touch. It is about standing above. Portfolios are a wonderful way to do this.

Google Vice President Vint Cerf and the Digital Dark Age

What does this really mean? Digital dark age, how is that possible? This is a topic that is gaining momentum in recent weeks. In order to truly understand this topic we need to look first to the past.

That past that allows you to see and hold your grandparents wedding pictures. The past that allows you to see and hold pictures and documents that were produced prior to the digital era.

Now let’s jump ahead a bit. The digital era brought us floppy drives and tape drives for backup purposes. How many pictures live on that style of media still? The more important question is how difficult is it to get those pictures off that media? This is the easiest illustration of how these pictures and in some cases documents (i.e. letters, proposals etc.) can be lost.

Society got aggressive about storing things digitally. You can’t argue with saving trees and space. You also have to love having everything in one place.  Technology though is designed to always advance. It is designed to get better, faster and more intuitive. As technology advances mediums advance and before you know it the old way is obsolete.

What you are left with is the digital Dark Age. Will you be able to save those pictures and documents? Will your great-great grandchildren be able to look at wedding pictures of their great grandparents like you did?

There are more problems associated with this than you think. The number of suppliers that are making the supplies to hold and store prints is on a downward spiral. The quality that is being offered on things like albums and portfolio boxes is lessoning. This is a direct result of the lower demand. The options are getting harder to find in a quality that Pro Studio Supply can stand behind.

The funny thing about this is that it is a technology giant warning us. Vint Cerf, V.P. Of Google might just be foreshadowing another leap forward in technology.  That leap ahead is inevitable as it keeps companies in business.

Photographers can’t be all knowing and see the future of technology. However, we can learn from the past. The past as shown us technology will evolve. It would be nice if the digital era did something for photographers that helped us to provide prints once again, even if in a more limited amount than in past years.

Five Things Digital Photography Took Away from the Photographer.

Many things can be said about the pros and cons of digital photography. Those pros and cons have been re-hashed over and over. It might just be time to live with the fact of these pros and cons and then adjust accordingly. Being in the business of studio supplies for over 25 years I can tell you some subtle things photographers need to adjust for.

1.     The loss of presentation. The “wow” factor is lost. The final reveal of the photo presented in a professionally manner with the professional on site is mostly gone. Now we have online proofing sites.

Photographers loses the ability to impress upon the client their professionalism with a thoughtful final presentation; that picture they can hold and run their hands over. This presentation is the final chance for the photographer to show their commitment to the quality of the service they offer in a tangible way. It is that something extra.

2.     Photographers no longer see the initial reaction. Photographers no longer have the ability, with those same online proofing sights, to see and hear the initial reaction.

This causes several problems. You no longer area able to refer back to how others have reacted to our photos in that first initial gut reaction. Instead we get the secondary “We love the pictures”. This is not nearly as effective as the client who excitedly screams out “Oh My!” or “Awe” when speaking on how other clients reacted to you pictures.

3.     Controlling how your work looks. Your work is found through word of mouth or through the internet. The pictures speak for themselves. You are at the mercy of how those pictures look on someone else computer screen.

The print simply looks better than a monitor. This could hurt the photographer. Let’s face it we have all been there looking at our photos on a monitor that is improperly calibrated or worse yet dirty. Photographers have an eye for that. The common client does not.

4.     A print to hand to your client. Pictures are meant to be held. They are meant to be printed. Some are meant to be special. Yet in the digital age we treat them all the same. They go into the digital wasteland. Now instead of one place in the house to look for them we have hard drives, Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and who knows how many other sites. 

This means no more sitting around albums looking at family pictures. It means passing around phones and looking at cold websites. It also means that the pictures of the family pets are treated the same as that cherished wedding day.

5.     In part the core service is lost. Photographers should be reminding clients about this part of our service. Many photographers stopped doing just that. Instead of getting innovative many conformed. Worse yet many of the “new generation” does not even understand paper. Paper is the basis of the print. The consumer might understand archival or they may just go to Walgreen’s. Now the prints you do have floating around are not truly reflective of your work.

Who Cares if You're a Skilled Professional Photographer?

The state of portrait photography today is a free-for-all. The traditional highly experienced photographer has relied on a known variety of techniques in lighting and posing to achieve successful portraits. The newer photographer can design their portraits based on the newest trends or something they saw by someone else, but only if they have the skills or patience to learn it. Every photographer must use a combination of personal style and well thought out lighting to design a portrait the customer will like.

Customers select a portrait photographer based on a referral, an ad, social media or they've always used the same photographer. Photographers need to know what particular style the customer is looking for and what is the reason for the portrait. We all agree the goal of the photographer is to please their customer and do what they're looking for without sacrificing something.

Years ago I attended a few lectures by the master photographer Joyce Tenneson. Ms. Tenneson will take a limited amount of portraits based on getting to know her subject intimately before proceeding. Upon completion of the session, she will select and present her client with her final choice. Period. Few of us have the luxury of selecting the final portrait without the customers say, but Ms. Tenneson has the ability to create and interpret a portrait through her understanding and commitment to the craft.

There's more to being a portrait photographer than just taking a picture. And it should be more than just placing your subject or subjects in front of backdrop and shooting. For you to succeed and prosper you must study today's trends and understand past photographers to become a skilled practitioner. Every successful photographer before 2005 made some major effort to study photography. Starting out, they attended as many workshops as they could and practiced with whatever equipment they could afford to accomplish the job. Passion isn't enough today to please your customers. We must give this field everything we got to remain a respected profession and only the most skilled will succeed.


V-Drapes for High School, Colleges and Debutante Cotillions.


Pro Studio Supply is the main sources for Black V-Drapes in the USA. It's like a poncho style wrap made from quality velvet that appears like a formal gown from the front. A graceful V is created in the front and falls gently off the girls shoulders. To many, this may seem very ''Old-Fashion'' and it is. But what it accomplishes is an equalizing of every girl by breaking down the portrait to a beautiful face, a supple neck and her shoulders. Many schools have been creating framed composite mats for the graduating class with our drapes. Class composite frames are a clean impressive way to feature their classes.

The Classic V-Drape is a simple wrap specially designed for ease and speed. It slips right on and uses a basic velcro closure on back to keep it in place. Black tube tops are available to help the girls feel more secure. Each drape is simply adjusted to a proper placement for the neck and shoulders and every girl is done the identical way. Several drapes are required for large groups of girls to avoid spending too much time adjusting each one during the photograph. This way, while the current girl is being photographed the one on board is being prepared and ready for her photo. Our Misses or Medium style was designed to fit at least 90% of all girls. An extra large is available for plus-sizes.

We also carry the Double V-Drape which is a true poncho and features a V in front and in back. It's placed on over the head and you can do over the shoulder shots with it. There is a need for colors other than standard black. We created a selection of custom colors for those requests that include Royal Indigo, Burgundy, Hunter Green, Navy, Red and White. The custom color drapes may require a week to ship but have been filling the need of many high schools, colleges and debutante cotillions.

Throughout the United States, many high school seniors and college graduate photography is still done with a formal Classic V-Drape. But today, due to the influx of people doing photography the trend has clearly changed. Senior photography has almost become a modeling session for both girls and boys. It's a time for the photographer and student to become creative with many change of clothes and props. But for many schools still requiring a black wrap, Pro Studio Supply will be ready to meet your demands.


Soft-Focus Background Effect


There's so many styles and new ways of composing portraits these days. Everybody has a special place or background they like to use, but the soft-focus or ''blurry'' background still offers the most interesting look. Whether your background consists of three dimensional trees in a park or a beautiful old master painted background, it will consistently keep the attention concentrated on your subject by reducing the details behind them.

The simplest way is to position the subject as far in front of your background, while keeping in control and not running out material or subject matter around them. Whether it be a wonderful growth of shrubs, a unique brick bldg. or that new X-Drop style cloth background, allowing it to go soft will truly improve and keep the concentration on the portrait.

With most of the DSLR's on the market today, you can go to aperture priority ''A'' on your camera. You can select a wider opening like f2.8, f3.5, f4 which gives  shallow depth-of-field. Most cameras will automatically set the shutter speed to make a proper exposure. Some cameras have an icon with a head on it for ''portrait'' mode. This will also assist in a wider aperture with less depth-of-field, if you're at all hesitant to use your DSLR in ''manual mode.'' To get a bit acquainted with these settings, make some test shots at different apertures to see how it changes your background.

Make sure you keep accurate focus on your subjects eyes when doing a tight focus and see exactly how this simple technique will change your look. This is usually a natural occurrence when using a small aperture and a long focal length. Working a soft background effect into some of your portrait sessions can help you develop a new look for the brand you're trying to create.

If you've captured some interesting portraits with the soft background effect, please share them. We love to share examples of your photos & other tips and ideas! Image provided by Southern Exposure Photography, GA.


Rembrandt Lighting Techniques

Whether you like it or not, your knowledge of portrait lighting is essential to improving your skills as a pro photographer. Rembrandt lighting is one of several techniques that portrait studio photographers should learn and use. It's really very simple with one light source at about 45 degrees from the subject and a little above eye level. This lights the side of the face that's farthest from the camera. Most pros like this style and can be done with 1 or 2 lights which ensures one side of the face is illuminated well from the main light source. The other side of the face has a nose shadow and a triangle of light underneath the eye, as the light fades to shadow on the side of the cheek. Having your subject turn their head away or into the light is the key to Rembrandt lighting. This technique create an illusion of a third dimension by utilizing lights and darks. It's not that the shadows are hard or soft, just evident, no matter how subtle or prominent the appearance. I urge everyone to continue learning and experimenting with the five basic lighting set-ups and we'll keep presenting more idea, tips & techniques. We'd love to share some of your examples of Rembrandt lighting. Please add your favorite image and add a comment about your experience with Rembrandt lighting.

Family Portraits

Family photos can be a challenge but not if you know a set of techniques to follow. Here's some tips that can simply your work if you practice them.

1. Young children can be a hand full if they aren't well rested. If they've had a good nights sleep or a nap, they'll be in a better mood. This in itself can assure a smoother shoot and help keep everyone at ease.

2. As discussed before, outdoor portraits offer the simplest light to work with. Mornings and dusk providing the purest most diffuse light of the day. But you must remain FLEXIBLE and pre-plan it.

3. We offer a great variety of photo reflectors and photo diffusers that will help sculpt your portraits. They come in many sizes and styles and can be mounted on stands or held by assistants.  When used properly, they will prevent over contrast areas or fill-in dark shadows under eyes, chins and other areas in the frame.

4. Like any other portrait session you do, design a series of photo packages with albums or frames for customers to choose from. Family portraits is one area that can generate large wall framed work. There are so many options but I recommend you use items that best fits your brand and style. Consider pricing your packages so the ones in the middle will be your best profit margin packages! This is a very effective practice that works.

5. Unless you're portraits are at a formal event, when it comes to what to wear, casual dress is usually best. Make sure your groups are not all dressed the same. That style has come and gone. Suggest everyone wear clothes that work together but not all identical. And stress to your clients to wear little to no PATTERNS!

6. I'm sure you know lots of places to make outdoor portraits. Choose them wisely, and become aware of your background at different times of the day and the year. Only you know how your favorite spots will look for a particular group or portrait! Make sure there's no surprises the day of the shoot with the sun or stray groups during your session. This could prevent a successful shoot that day and require an alternate date that can inconvenience everybody!

Together with a better understanding of your DSLR camera functions and photo techniques, you will create cherished work for every family session. Please share any ideas or techniques you use and share your photo examples for a free Stylus Pen!

Outdoor Portraits, Continued

More about outdoor shooting. Most newer photogs feel more comfortable lighting outdoor due to the less need for equipment to buy & not having to pay for studio space. It's a different story when winter season comes along in a lot of places in the USA, but you can have a studio anywhere outdoor as long as you follow some basic pointers.

With your subject directly in front, you have them turn left or right to change their position for you. You can simply move toward or away from them to change your framing. Because left or right commands can be confusing to both of you, ask them to move either clockwise or counter-clockwise. It's the same for you and your subject. ALWAYS focus on your subjects eyes! Shallow depth of field is in vogue today and makes an interesting look. Focusing on their eyes will always be the most important part to get sharp.

A custom white balance is not that hard to do and all cameras offer it! If you don't know where it is on your camera, you need to! Being a professional photographer means having a complete understanding of your equipment and most importantly, the functions of your camera. You don't have to know 100% of it, but you must understand at least 75% of your cameras operations! Do a white balance before each session for the most accurate color and to minimize post production time. And don't forget to white very time your lighting changes or you make a major location move.

Strive to shoot your portraits at your subjects eye level for the most accurate perspective. Most portraits can be made with just one light and changing the angle in relation to your subject. Once you get more comfortable, Pro Studio sells a huge variety of photo reflectors and diffusers that can compensate for having one or no extra lights. A more simple lighting set-up with modifiers can create dramatic shadows and interesting portraits.
And as always, practice with your friends and family to improve these skills. Please share some photos and hints. We'll reward all that do!
Posted with permission and taken by Southern Exposure Photography, GA

Shooting Outdoor Portraits

Many of you who are new to photography probably haven't perfected your studio lighting yet. So a simpler option is to work outdoors in the natural light. But you really must avoid doing so during the middle of the day! The harsh sunlight will cause unattractive shadows in your portraits especially in eye sockets and under their nose. A portable flash or fill-flash will lighten the face and shadows but must be used correctly. Remember to be aware of your background and be sure to expose it properly.

Your best light comes early or late in the day for long shadows and warm tones. Experienced photogs know this as the ''Sweet Light.'' The quality of this light is diffuse and bright and makes flattering portraits like on a cloudy day. Again, the use of a portable fill-flash will add some details to the darker areas on your clients face. Use the sunset and shadows to enhance your portraits. Most of you have some favorite location spots to photograph seniors and families. Find out the best times of the day to use them. Leave a specific question about outdoor portraits and we'll answer you directly or on this blog!

Good luck this fall and please share examples of your work on our twitter page @ProStudioSupplyFacebook. Mark ProStudioUSA

Images by Echo Smithville, TX