Heads Up for Personality Portraits

Stefanie Comp copy

It has to be more than a snap shot to get the attention of any casting director.

Head shots are all about connecting with the client in a way that brings out that person’s character and uniqueness.  The above comp was photographed this week in the studio and is a pretty good example of what I’m talking about.  Peter Hurley says it best when he says “Shebang” after seeing that special moment come across his viewfinder.  Jay Maisel calls this Gesture.  The ability to bring out personality comes with loads of practice and lots of trial and error.  Some people like Hurley use funny directions.  Others have their own way of connecting with the real person in front of the camera.

Here are a few tips.   1.  Make the subject feel comfortable.  There is nothing more horrible than having a strange person yell smile at you and expect you to react in a meaningful way.  Bring out real expressions with real  life dialog and direction.  I start off by suggesting the subject make a funny face.  The real expression comes after the person reacts to his or her antics.  2.  Make the subject believe they look amazing in their photos.  Many people have a lousy self image and it is the photographers job to show how great they look.  I try to shoot tethered to a lab top so the subject can get a sensed of what their photo will look like.  3.  Keep changing the pose so that the subject doesn’t get bored.  Nothing worse that firing off a dozen frames and having nothing different to show for it. 4.  Be friendly and honest.  Nothing ruins a personality session like a phony photographer. Be real.  5.  Have fun.  This will be good for you and for your client and will result in some pretty great photography.  6 Above all have your equipment and lighting set and ready to go.  Batteries charged, light readings made and camera set and ready to shoot.  A sure way to ruin a photo session is to have a light malfunction or camera not work properly.

Contact me about my small group and individual photography sessions.  I’d love to share some of the information I’ve gleaned from a 40+ year career in photography


Rear Button Focus and Why you should use it.



Rear button focus was never an issue before auto focus digital cameras came along.  If we wanted to focus a lens it was done by rotating the focusing ring on the lens.  Once the lens was focused it would never change focus until the photographer re-focused the lens on a different area.  Pretty simple.

With the advent of the digital age things became a little more complicated.  Modern digital camera adjust focus by holding the shutter release half way down. Each time you press the shutter release the lens is refocused.  This is no longer the best way to do this. The lens in continually refocusing depending on where the focus spot is aimed. In order maintain sharp focus, the shutter release has to be held halfway down as the subject moves in the viewfinder.  There is a better way.

Modern digital cameras have the built in ability to use another button to exact focus.  On the Nikon brand, this button is called AF On.  Other manufactures use different lanes but they all do the same thing.  Once enacted, the AF On button allows the lens to focus on a particular point and remains there until it is pressed again.

  1. This eliminates the need to ever go to manual focus as the rear button acts as if the lens is being manually focused.  Once pressed the focus point remains the same until pressed again.
  2. Rear button focus allows instant repositioning of the subject in the viewfinder with no loss in focus due to parallax shift. Especially when using wide apertures.
  3. Rear button focus allows for easy use of  continuous focus tracking by allowing that setting to be permanently chosen.  Tracking happens by simply holding down the rear focus button.

With the Nikon System the menu selection for rear button focus is in the Custom Settings area.  Select auto focus and look for autofocus activation.  Select AF On only and  rear button focus is enabled.  See detail photos below.




Questions????? Email me at rjlphoto@comcast.net

Run from the Sun – Inclement weather photography primer.


Another rainy day today.  Rain and cloudy skies have been the norm of late.  Many of us will pack away the camera and wait for the sunshine.  This is a bad mistake  since overcast skies and light rain makes for the best images one can ask for.  The sky turns into a huge soft box creating soft shadows and lovely mid tones.  The photos above were taken as a light rain fell from overcast skies during the last few days.

Take advantage of inclement weather to provide interesting and unusual photographic opportunities.  Go outside and get a little wet. There are multiple rain covers available to protect your gear or you can simply make your own using a plastic bag and rubber band.

Shown below are examples of the commercial items as well as a homemade solution.  They all work the same, allowing you to capture amazing photos during less than ideal weather conditions.  These covers also provide excellent dust protection when shooting in blowing sand.

So – When the sun goes in and the clouds come out – go outside and make amazing photographs.


L-R, OpTech Rainsleeve, AquaTech Cover and Home made rain hood                                   




I’m Back

I’m reinventing myself once again and will be attempting to add to my blog regularly to keep everyone informed about what it is that I’m up to.  The above photos were made this weekend during a photo tutorial I was doing for a photo student.  I found a local Renaissance Fair a perfect classroom to discuss street photography and the use of Aperture Priority.  More to come


Sometimes I get distracted.  Should have been preparing 2013 taxes and organizing my archive photos during a slow time in January but instead, I was staring out the window.  Have a couple of bird feeders outside and watching the various wild birds flock to them has been an unexpected joy.  Placed a 400mm lens on a gorilla pod on my desk and just shoot when I see a picture.  IMG_0323

Click Here to see video of what I have been seeing.


Thankful Every Day


ThanksWebToday is the American holiday Thanksgiving and I wish you all a day of peace and friendship surrounded by friends and family. I would like to think that every day is a day in which we can be thankful and not just today. The photo is one take by me some thirty or more years ago for a cover for a story on traditional Thanksgiving Day celebrations.

Selling the Fake / Right of Wrong ?


Example of substituting one background for another

Example of substituting one background for another


Selling the fake is a term coined by a fantastic photographer named Joel Grimes.  Google that name and see some of his work.  He is a commercial photographer working in the advertising field and is known for his multi layered sports photos. He very often will separate the subject from its background and then place it on another background to complete the image.  Selling the fake is what he calls making the photo look real to the viewer.

This technique brings up the age old discussion of ethics.  Already critics say it is impossible to believe a published photograph is real and that you can no longer be sure that what you are looking at has not be altered in some way.  Photoshop has been blamed for much of this manipulation but there are new techniques and other software and hardware available  which make altering a photo quite simple and available to even the most novice of photographers.

Well, this is what this Moorestown New Jersey Portrait Photographer thinks about all this.  Photos have been manipulated from the beginning of wet plates.  The very act of taking a photo is subjective.  Darkroom techniques were used to crop, and chemically alter images forever.  Digital photography makes all those alterations and many more a very easy reality. It is my feeling that the photographic image must remain true to the subject being photographed.  The end product photo has to depict an honest interpretation of what was seen at the time of exposure.  This is quite subjective and the responsibility remains with the photographer.  When the photographer makes the image he or she must have a pre visualized  concept in mind that will truly represent what is being photographed.  A news photo must tell an accurate story of the event.  Does it matter that the sky was darkened or dodging make the eye more easily see the essence of the photo.  Probably not.  In advertising is it wrong to enhance a product to bring out its best characteristic.  Probably not.  In portraiture is it wrong to now be able to place a subject on a different background.  I think it is probably ok.

What do you think?









Just back from covering a dance class featuring an amazing choreographer and dance instructor Renee Liciaga and new talent Nathan Kassas.  It is alway great working with Renee and seeing her amazing students progress.  Here are a couple of photos from today’s shoot.  Sometimes it is just fun.


“Younger Next Year”

It’s Sunday evening and I’m just finishing up a retouch of six portraits for a new client.  My desk is clear for a change and all my paperwork is completed.  I’m ready for another new week.  I’ve not allowed myself the time lately to be active on my blog or website but hopefully I can spend a little more time on this aspect of my business.  There are a bunch of photo projects on my plate but tonight I’ll be talking about keeping healthy.

If there is one thing I’ve learned during this past few months is that without good health nothing else matters.  As I age, I have come to realize that the loss of a healthy body can be devastating.  Its hard to make great pictures when you are tied to an IV drip.  That is why I wanted to talk a little about the secret of staying young and active long into old age.

I know…You are all too young to worry about learning about this.  But – I have the secret and I will share it with you.  It all boils down to this.

“Stop Eating Crap”  You all know what I’m talking about.  Eat natural foods, stay away from refined sugar and watch the carbs.  Good lean meat, chicken and fish and lots of green veggies. Don’t eat for fun…eat to stay alive.  And eat a little less and a little more often.Younger-Next-Year

“Vigorous Exercise Six Days a Week”  I’m talking about breaking a sweat.  You don’t have to give yourself a heart attack but you have got to move it every day.  Rest one day a week if you must.

And, it goes without saying that you must stop the smoking and excess drinking.  Does anyone really have to tell you that these things are bad for you?

Read:  Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge.

OK – Enough lecturing for the night.  Get your butt to the gym and throw the twinkies in the trash can before it is too late.

MTC – Bob L