Photo Shoot Planning

So you’ve reached out to book a session. We’ve set up time to get some looks for your modeling portfolio, environmental portraits, a family session or you’re single and are looking to build up a dating site profile. 9 times out of 10, I get the question…

“So how should I / we dress?”, or “What kind of wardrobe should I wear?”. My stock answer is, what’s the purpose of your photos? Along with that particular question, let me address some other minor points that will ensure we get exactly what you need out of our time together.

If this is for a modeling portfolio, my suggestion is to search the modeling agency’s site for their current lineup of models. Be the model you want, and what would fit their look and feel. This could end up being a fashion look, chic, fitness (if you’re looking to build a fitness portfolio) or a simple wardrobe that’s going to accentuate your figure or put the focus on your features. Are we shooting for brand ambassadorship? Wear that brand and the right accessories. Is this a seasonal / swimsuit session? Don’t forget your tan lines. While most of them can be edited out in post production, you’re going to want to even out your skin tones as lines will still be apparent even with the magic of Adobe.

For the editorial or environmental session, I’m going to suggest a wardrobe or outfit that’s going to represent your day-to-day style. It can range from a dress or skirt to a business formal look; jeans and blazer, or slacks you’re comfortable in. For this purpose, dress as if we’re documenting you on the go. Accessorize appropriately- hand bag, hat, sunglasses, etc.

For a family photo session, you’re going to be looking back on these pictures for years to come. When you look back on candid holiday pictures from days gone by, wardrobes and outfits can appear dated. Unless this is a fashion shoot, I don’t want us to be calling attention to current fashions so much as we’re taking pictures of people- so the focus needs to be on you rather than an outfit. Bottom line, my suggestions are going to be fairly straight-forward: wear timeless clothing. That again could be simple slacks / khakis, jeans or other pants, skirts or dresses that aren’t going to necessarily be a time capsule shot. For tops, again, less focus on flash and more about a complementary look.

Single and looking to build that New Year’s dating profile? Yes, you’ve come to the right place. Bear in mind, you’re going to want to present yourself with desirable recent pictures. Keep your ugly sweater day entry in the dresser drawer, and accentuate your face and skin tones. Dress to show off your body’s features… don’t be overly revealing, but portray yourself appealing and don’t wear a tent. The idea of these photos are to sell yourself. And don’t worry, we’re also taking tasteful shots you can use on more traditional social media for a freshened-up profile picture. I’m a big fan of these sessions, as when done right, they’re going to give you attractive head shots, a dating site portfolio and fun shots you can share with friends and family.

Another important aspect is grooming. If you’re going to use a makeup artist (MUA) or apply your own, it’s going to help out dramatically in setting up your mood and focus for the day. As you’re having your makeup applied before the shoot, take advantage of the time to conceptualize the types of shots you’d like. We’ll go over your ideas and the overall style when it’s time to step in front of the camera. Style your hair so that it’s complementary of your outfit and fits in with the goal of your session. If this is a casual session, beach look, or fitness, your hair could look playful. If we’re building your modeling portfolio or this is a family session, a more finished look is appropriate. If you’re applying gels or hairspray, make sure it’s evenly applied and you don’t have clumps and be careful of flakes from dried gel or spray. I have faced that unnecessary challenge, and I can say it’s not fun to deal with!

Clothing should be clean, pressed, free of lint, pet hair and loose threads / strands. I have been through too many sessions where lint balls and dog hairs have bogged down post production… which can cause a delay in turning the pictures around to you. Shoes should be clean and in good condition, important if we are going to take a full body shot.

Get a good night’s sleep the night before, and take it easy on the alcohol. Showing up exhausted with bloodshot eyes and bags underneath, your energy will be tapped for our time together. Your posture will suffer, facial expressions will be blank and overall it will diminish what we’re trying to accomplish.

These are some pointers and ideas that you can use when we set up our session. As well, if you have any questions leading up to our appointment, I urge you to call or shoot me a message.

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Profile: Elena Guzman, Makeup Artist

Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Elena at work preparing a model for the Exalt New York Fashion Gala

Elena at work preparing a model for the Exalt New York Fashion Gala

If you ever want to achieve quality results as a photographer shooting portraiture or fashion, or as a model either developing your portfolio or for a professional shoot, you'll need to work with a good makeup artist. One who posseses a look and style you can appreciate while having an open mind for collaboration. A trusted professional is extremely important - someone you can go to in a pinch with a concept and can deliver on your idea. I've worked with Elena Guzman both on larger projects as well as more intimate photo sessions; the experience and results were equally impressive. I sat with Elena recently to get an understanding of her past, what's on the immediate horizon and where she's headed in the future.

She is a young, energetic and dynamic fashion professional who came to New York from Russia in 2010. Hired by Macy's in the Lancôme department, she understood makeup was her career path. Taking classes in one of New York's best schools, The Nina Mua Makeup Academy, she is a certified makeup artist. She cites Serdar Kambarov and Mario Dedivanovic as a pair of her influences. Elena's understanding of color concepts and design aesthetics run deep, and are the key to emphasizing the beauty of a woman.

As the fashion and makeup industries are extremely competitive spaces, she places a premium on her professionalism. I had firsthand experience into her focus and expertise, as we worked the Exalt New York Fashion Gala at the Plaza Hotel New York this past February. Shooting behind the scenes during the model's preparation, I took note of her precise attention to details and steady hand. There was never a doubt as to why Exalt had chosen Elena to prep the models who were showcasing Gerda Truubon's elegant designs. Her style perfectly fit the show's design, fashion and the model's appearance.

Her approach for success during a working engagement is to build a comfortable relationship with her clients, taking into consideration their needs, style and big picture for a look. Having witnessed her working with the models, it was easy to see it was a calm experience for everyone before a signature event. An important nuance, as the client needs to be at ease and relaxed while the artist is at work. It also carries forward during a shoot, as the model is relaxed, confident and eager to put her look on display to be captured for her audience.

In Elena's words, "As people say, “You have the talent.” Therefore, I have been invited and selected to attend New York Fashion Week. I just love what I am doing; It makes me feel so happy and proud of myself when I see these positive emotions on my clients faces once makeup done." She is satisfied with her career progression, and her dream is to ascend in the fashion industry. Her immediate goals are to continue on in future fashion shows and Fashion Week, as well as with Red Carpet shows that highlight this prestigious time of year for the industry. Her main career goals are to blossom with her own standalone business, along with a wedding salon and even her own makeup school.


As busy as life gets, and in as many directions you can be pulled there are always moments that quiet down.

After a mad rush over the last week and a half, I've arrived at my desk amid a cold, windy rainstorm this morning. The staff around me have not yet arrived, so all that's audible is the relaxing, understated hum of the cooling system. This is a sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle lately, which is good as far as Photography goes - busy is always good. So it's time to take advantage of this break away from the action for a few days.

In looking over some recent work done lately with the benefit of silence, I can't help but think of my father standing here. What would be his own thoughts and observations as to where I've come from, what I've done and where I am going with this. My personal project work with Street Photography and other portrait work would be thrown in front of him for critique. As well, I'd ask for simple advice from him base on his decades of experience. "WWVD"... What would Vic do? And no doubt, he'd be enlisted to take on some of the post-production as he was an early adopter of all things Adobe... as it was his trade many years ago.

The silence takes me through recent works, dealings with collaborators and clients. How the sum of these experiences will shape how to go about defining my direction, future collaboration, getting involved in local arts and of course, honing photography skills.

At the end of the day, it's important to reflect a little. A small break in the action to help re-focus.


An Artist Collaboration

One way to enjoy yourself, stretch your boundaries and grow in your journey is to take on a personal project, such as a collaboration. It can be with a fellow photographer - or in my case, an artist!

I was lucky enough to be able to photograph a local artist and educator, Melissa Maiello, busy in her studio at The Studio at Suite Pieces. It was a chance to both document an artist intently focused on her work, while observing the skill and vision being executed in their style. This was also a fantastic opportunity to see the effort and time that's spent behind the scenes as they get their idea or concept onto a canvas or paper. During her session, Melissa was working on three projects she's been spending time with in the charcoal medium. Her workflow took her from one piece to the next, so she could keep her mind fresh so as not to obsess (something to try in my own workflow for post-processing images). Melissa currently has a studio full of large-scale charcoal drawings focused on seascapes and a historical seaside fort. Her style is multi-dimensional, with attention paid to fine details and layers that create an emotional, rich depth. While photographing her in action, there were moments I had to pause in order to take mental notes on her creative technique. There are details and nuances in her scenes that are pleasant to study with a critical eye, but don't necessarily convey the intricate level of work to arrive there. It's not a surprise at all to understand her work has been featured in local galleries and recent showcases.

Now having this experience under my belt, I urge anyone looking for fresh ideas, new motivation or a change of pace to reach out and connect with someone you admire who can give you inspiration and act as a muse. Not only will it provide you with a creative shot in the arm, it can also open up new channels to those invaluable networking possibilities. Furthermore, it will give you a chance to try out new techniques or help you get to know any new gear you've picked up. For me, it was getting additional practice with a fairly new lens while also incorporating a flash and umbrella combination in a journalistic, on-the-fly situation. This will only help for location-based work where time is precious and a client's time is valuable.

One of my goals for the year was to take on a personal project. Over the last couple of months, it's taken shape as I've laid the groundwork to collaborate with a number of people in certain creative settings; the theme is capturing artists of many forms. Melissa's session was the first in a series that will be shared here as well as well on Facebook and Instagram. So stay tuned, pay attention and reach out if you have any desire to participate as well!.

The artist fine-tuning with a charcoal stick

The artist fine-tuning with a charcoal stick


Turning of the seasons

If you're living in the north east, it's probably no stretch or shame to say that you're exhausted with this winter. As mentioned in the last blog post when we explored shooting outside during inclement weather, we thought we were on the cusp of the finish line to the winter of '17. That wasn't necessarily the case, as we had one final nor'easter on the first full day of spring.

I'm personally looking forward to warmer temps, sunny skies, a drier climate and lush lawns. Clear roads, birds chirping... you get it. Along with photography, a love of mine is cycling... So I'm looking forward to the mornings and weekends when I can get out for a nice ride to clear my head while working up a sweat, get some skin color and come back home exhausted.

From an outdoor photography perspective, this will mean working with longer days and natural light in different ways than you might during the fall and winter. Utilizing the golden hour for natural light portrait work, getting warmer tones and bringing in the richer, fuller landscape as a background environment. It will mean adding different looks to the portfolio, as urban scenes will be supplemented with beach or forest settings... offering models and clients a fresh look to their photographs. This will also mean lighter wardrobes, different skin tones, perhaps lighter hair colors for those that tend to get darker in the winter.

Style-wise for pictures, it can mean employing lens flare to add a more dramatic touch. Using reflectors instead of off-camera lighting when possible. Overall, the spring and summer months offer up vast possibilities for capturing scenes... from portraits to sports to landscapes. Wilderness and beach scenes. And my favorite, more comfortable sessions where my hands aren't numb and I'm not putting a subject through mental and physical warfare with adverse conditions :)

But first, we have to wait until the thermometer makes its way above freezing so all this snow could melt....

Longing for these views

Longing for these views

This mess isn't getting in my way; Or, street photography in the snow

A favorite genre of mine is street photography. And while I haven't indulged in a good photo walk lately, I'm in the habit of bagging my camera for my commute most every day- exceptions usually being rainy or sloppy snow days. Today, at a moment's notice before heading out the door I decided I'd like to memorialize what hopefully turns out to be the last snow of the winter. So I put my smaller backpack down, packed up a true day pack to load up my work shoes and camera. Fingers crossed as I raise my ISO, lower my shutter speed and reduce my expectations on clear, crisp shots.

Stepping out of the belly of the beast at New York's Penn Station, you're treated to the rush of morning commuters eager to get to the safety and warmth of their cubby holes in the sky. Some walk, others cab it, others take the subway. This morning, everyone was feeling the effects.

The vibrancy of the city includes some ingredients that help validate her nickname, "The city that never sleeps".

While an inconvenience, it's still fun to observe the city at the dawning of a new day complete with the colors, sounds and action.

In the suburbs or the country, the falling snow can silence the landscape. There, you may only hear the soft sound of the flakes crunch as it falls. In the big town, the decibels may be reduced by the weather, but the noises never go away.

It was an enjoyable, brief walk as I made my way to the office. I've done this countless times in good weather and bad, so here's some points to think about if you're going to take on some street photography.... in good weather and bad:

  • Composition Have a purpose in street photography, and have some type of game plan as to how you're photographing a scene. Thinking of the photos above, are you planning on capturing the weather- the snow falling? Or is today's snow just the background of your story. Think about the emphasis of your image, and plan your composition around that as the centerpiece. Adding in the details can be as simple as zooming in and out with your feet, or using other environmental components to help contribute to a more interesting story.
  • Scene Incorporating the composition, as well as location, will give you your scene. You can think about shooting from inside of a building's lobby looking out to provide an element of shelter, comfort or to draw a picture of space- both indoors and out- to convey contrasting environments.
  • Mood Are you looking for an environmental story, the human element or possibly capturing a definitive moment? As with the pedestrians crossing 7th Avenue above, we're intimately observing people rushing through cold weather while they're being mindful of the dangers of traffic. This can be quite different than a relaxed photo of an elderly lady enjoying a Cappuccino on a mid-summer weekend morning.
  • Shoot in manual mode This is more of a technical point, but I can't stress enough the fundamentals of learning to master your gear on the move. You create art "in camera" by learning to manipulate the exposure to your liking. Do you want to capture a dramatic silhouette? How are you metering? What are you exposing for? Is your intention to freeze time, or to show a leave blowing along the ground with a slight blur? How are you adjusting your depth of field to account for the crowd walking toward you- are you going to emphasize the person mid-shot lighting a cigarette, or the young lady closest to the camera walking under her umbrella?

Anyhow, street photography. It's helped me consider my portrait work, environmentally and posed. It will help me tackle a few upcoming projects where capturing outdoor scenes will be rooted in the street genre. Plan a few hours of your own- it can be Main Street, U.S.A, or your nearest city. Or drop me a note, I'd love to get together for a session. 

Further evolution

As you take on more work and projects, you'll evolve and learn as a side benefit. Your networking will lead to inquiries, requests and beneficial conversations that are golden opportunities to get invaluable exposure. Taking on work that sits outside of your norm is fine; as at the end of the day Photography is Photography. It's always a positive experience to deliver a finished product when your customer is happy and you're proud of the end result. Bottom line, you can always take on projects to help build relationships, establish a presence and become a trusted resource and partner.

Take on personal projects when you're testing techniques, working on lighting, or filling in gaps of your portfolio. Recruit those closest to you - it's a way to connect, laugh and have some fun. A huge benefit is that you can document your growth as well as theirs (especially in the case of kids). I like to think of these opportunities as a chance for free marketing and expanding your word-of-mouth network.

The last month has been busy in winding down from New York Fashion Week, curating, sneaking in some outdoor portrait work in between the raindrops, addressing storage needs and something more tangible to you - re-branding this site. Thanks for your patience and thanks for stopping by. As with the hints above, we'll be seeing some business marketing work in the very near future, as local and urban networking will bear its fruit. Stay tuned!

Taking on the tasks

As I start to ramp up my schedule in arranging shoots, networking, contacting models and even landing a pair of credentials for New York Fashion Week, the need for planning is key in executing the game plan while building a process for the behind-the-scenes aspect of photography. As you would learn, the hardest part of getting yourself off the ground isn't the time spent behind the camera. It's when you're acting as your own business manager, secretary and communications coordinator. It goes far beyond camera bodies, lenses and memory cards!

The first step in filling the calendar with shoots and meetups, as well as other photography-related events, takes just that- a proper desk pad calendar. Sure, the calendar app on your phone, Google or other online calendars are essential as you're constantly on the go and need to sync your master schedule. But at the end of the day, it pays to go analog and pick up a desktop calendar to help flesh out your appointments. And don't forget to include your personal obligations, or you'll need to bump, move or worse cancel important engagements. The visual aid (photography, remember?), as well as the repetitive nature of physically jotting down your shoots and meetings feel a little more tangible and gratifying than solely keeping everything in cyberspace or on a phone dependent on a charge. This *major* addition to my arsenal ran me less than an iPhone Lightning Cable!

Now... onto what's on tap! The main highlights take place mid-month, as we're looking at a pair of events that will be a first for me, during New York Fashion Week. The first show, ASC Fashion Week takes place February 10th. The following Friday, I've been granted all-access to the New York Fashion Gala for Exalt Fashion on February 16th.

That said, there's a few model shoots thrown in for good measure- so be sure to check back here, Facebook and Instagram as always. And for some street photography, you can also see my personal IG project page as that is a passion of mine.

Get organized!

Get organized!

On the horizon

Attacking your goals involves stepping outside of your comfort zone. That in turn, enlarges your comfort zone once you see progress and success. I'm not a fan on limiting goals to a calendar year, but there was a fresh approach heading into 2018 by a coincidence of timing and the convenience of the season.

I'm looking at a pair of unbelievable opportunities in February, in addition to taking on clientele and other personal projects during the short month. All it took was jumping outside of the comfort zone, acting while others seem to be resting or waiting out the winter. The tracks laid in January will be traveled in a busy month ahead. Pay attention here, Facebook and Instagram. There are fun projects ahead; new collaboration and further groundwork to lay down.

Getting lost in it

The line between your main profession and your recreational pursuit is marked by a separate energy and focus required for each of them. The same applies to photography. In my personal transition there is going to be the specialty area that I work toward and the personal projects or work that I do to release and have fun with.

In training myself to have a focus on the specialization of portraiture and modeling and the business side of those areas, I'm learning that I need to maintain a balance and keep my documentary style in place as well. As I have a camera on me most every day throughout my travels, it's easy to pop the lens cap off, power up and capture. I can opt to do a photo walk when I have spare time; and during those brief stretches of time I can put my earbuds in, hit either a playlist or run off an album or two of John Coltrane and just tune out the hundreds of people around me in my surrounding area. It just works. I let it happen. I make it happen.

Zoning out and creating your tunnel vision, fueled by an emotion you may be experiencing can be a game-changer. It can be how you start to focus on achieving a look or creating a story. But for me, I need to be passively consumed by this process to the point that people and ambient sounds are white noise. A couple of hours can pass in this mindset, and the only thing I need to make sure I'm paying attention to are crosswalks and cars. The phone may ring and I may have a conversation I won't remember (it's happened! I only hope I didn't commit to something on that call that's now missing from my calendar....). I may get home an hour or so later than I wanted to since I'm pushing my timeline back. But I'm making sure I find the time to keep my side projects alive and I can maintain the balance and enjoyment. It's alright, the other goals are being worked on due to planning and a schedule. This is about getting a little lost, about breaking free for a bit of time.

Down a rabbit hole

Down a rabbit hole