Photography Questions and Answers, and Some Learning Opportunities

I often receive emails and messages from other photographers, asking how I do what I do or what equipment I use in my photography work.  So, I decided that today would be a tell-all day.  Pull up a chair.  :) - - - - -

What camera and lenses do you use?

For clients, I shoot with a full-frame Nikon D700 with a D200 backup.  For photos of my family, I use the D700 as well, or more frequently... my iPhone + Instagram.  Truth.

My favorite lenses are the Nikkor 85 mm f/1.8, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 macro, and a Lensbaby Composer Pro.  I shoot in RAW + manual mode 100% of the time.  Yep, even for personal photos.

My personal goal for a long time has been to spread my wings and shoot more film.  My favorite film cameras are my Nikon F100, a beautiful Polaroid SX-70, and my dad's old Minolta Hi-Matic G.  (It captured all of my childhood memories and still works beautifully.)  I dream and long for a medium format Contax 645.  Someday.  Until I get an extra $2,500 (and really, who has an "extra" couple of grand when you have three kids?!), then I will be perfectly delighted with the lovely array of cameras I do have.

 

What camera bag do you recommend?

I have a Crumpler 7-Million-Dollar-Home that I use basically for storage here at home.  When I'm at a client session and think I'll need to change lenses often or quickly, or if I'm shooting at the beach and think my bag may get wet (it's a common occurrence!), then I'll use my faithful Shootsac + a favorite cover.  When I'm out and about with my kids and I want to bring the camera along, I use my beautiful Ketti handbag.  It keeps my camera safely padded and separate from my phone and keys, Charlotte's baby things, etc., and it assures me that I'll be able to grab my camera easily to capture their sweet faces.

 

Do you only shoot in black and white?  How do you edit your photos?

I actually shoot all my client work in color, and digitally convert it to black and white in Adobe Camera Raw.  I do all of my basic post-processing in ACR and then finish up with minor retouching in Photoshop CS5.  When I edit an image in color, I want it to be warm and natural, not too trendy with the possibility of becoming dated and out of style on my client's wall any time soon.  I personally feel that most of my work looks better in black and white.  I guess it's mostly because of my perspective, and the way I prefer to photograph real emotions and interaction.  I also find that black and white helps to bring attention to a particular detail of the photo, rather than the entire scene.  Sometimes black and white images feel more peaceful to me, or more dramatic, or more classic... but I always feel that black and white processing gives my images a more timeless feel.  You can read my thoughts on what makes a good black and white photograph if you'd like to.

 

How long have you been a professional photographer?  Did you attend college for it or hold a degree in photography?

I have no "formal" training.  I learned everything I could by eating, sleeping and breathing photography for years.  I read, I shot, I asked questions, I practiced, I took workshops and local classes, I bought books, I practiced, I searched and researched online, I tried different techniques, I practiced, I read some more, I experimented, I practiced, I practiced, and I practiced.  (Notice a theme here?) I made wonderful friends in the industry, I joined several amazing photography forums, and I photographed the still and the moving at every opportunity I had.  And my heart still adores it all. I officially opened Stacey Woods Photography in the Fall of 2007.  Prior to that, I photographed friends, family and clients for free until I knew that I could consistently create quality images that I would be proud to have my name on. It took me two years to be confident enough to say "I'm a professional photographer," without cracking a smile, and I continue to find ways to improve every week.  I hope I never stop learning.  It's addicting. And rewarding. And so much fun!

 

Can you help me use my new dSLR?

I sure can.  Sign up for The Creative E-Courses: Photography Chapter One below and let's get to it!

 

Which camera should I buy?

Well, that's a tough question for me to answer.  It all depends on what you intend on photographing and how.  I personally use a full-frame digital SLR camera because I often need to shoot at high ISOs, and fast prime lenses to allow more light into my camera.  I'm a Nikon girl, but Canon makes fine cameras and lenses too.  For portrait photography, I would suggest skipping the largely-useless-indoors kit lens that comes boxed with your camera, and opting for the camera body only.  Grab yourself a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens (either Canon or Nikon) for around $100 and start shooting.  With your pop-up flash turned OFF.  :)

Have any tips and tricks for shooting indoors with natural light, backlight, location-scouting, etc.?

I have been a contributor and co-editor at The Creative Mama for almost three years now.  I've written several informative photography tutorials there, so grab yourself a glass of iced tea and read away the afternoon.

Hazy summer light, backlighting and flare Using window light indoors In-camera metering: Parts One and Two Changing your camera's settings to maximize light How to get beautiful bokeh Making the most of your location My thoughts on what makes a good black and white photograph How I edit a black and white photograph in ACR Arranging your photos in an artful way at home 

 

Could you take a look at my portfolio and let me know where my strengths are and how I might improve?

Absolutely!  I accept limited mentoring appointments, as my time and schedule allows.  Email me with what you'd like to learn, and we can create a custom mentoring program to suit your budget.

 

Do you offer workshops or classes to other photographers?

I do!  And two of them are open for registration TODAY if you'd like to sign up!

the creative ecourses photography class

THE CREATIVE E-COURSES  |  PHOTOGRAPHY: CHAPTER ONE

Bree Hester and I are collaborating on our second presentation of Photography: Chapter One.  It's hosted at The Creative E-Courses, an online learning experience at The Creative Mama.  Photography: Chapter One is first in a series of photography courses that will teach you how to take that fancy DSLR and use it to its fullest potential... and yours.  If you're currently shooting in full-automatic mode (commonly known as "the green square"), and if you're a visual, hands-on learner.... then this course is perfect for you.  We provide simply-written instruction, email prompts, video segments, hands-on assignments, a weekly Q&A, and even a private Facebook group so that you can mingle with and get feedback from the other students.

This course was designed to be taken at your own pace, however the content will be given to you over a span of three weeks.  We want you to be able to digest it easily and to ask questions as they occur to you. Each weekend, Bree or I will answer your most common questions in video format, and leave you with an engaging assignment for the weekend.  By the end of the course, you'll receive the entire program wrapped up in a beautiful e-book that you can take with you on your iPad or other mobile reader.  You're welcome to print it as well, if you're a paper-kind-of-girl (like me).

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stacey woods lifestyle photography workshop

BLOOM FORUM MINI-WORKSHOP  |  LIFESTYLE: YOUR STYLE

This is my fourth time offering this mini-workshop with the girls at Bloom*, and I'm so honored that they have asked me back again.  Lifestyle: Your Style is a two-week online program that will give you an overview of what I love most about lifestyle photography, and help you incorporate it into your own style of shooting.  I teach it from the vantage point of an on-location photographer, where my backgrounds, locations and lighting situations change at every new session.  I continually try to find ways to connect with my clients, get them to relax and be themselves, and connect to one another.  I wholly believe that I am there to document their love for one another, and my goal is to create images that flood them with emotion.  Even years later.

In this mini-workshop, you'll get a ton of information: daily-ish email prompts to get you thinking differently about your approach to photography, two assignments with feedback from me, interaction each weekday within The Bloom Forum, a video showing you how to find and make the most of natural light when on-location, and the whole course laid out in a pretty little e-book at the end of our time together.  This online course is also meant for you to take at your own pace, but if you'd like my feedback on your assignment results, then you'll need to post those within the time constraints of the mini-workshop.  There is also a wonderful little private After-the-Workshop section within Bloom for us to continue the conversation.

Click HERE for a lovely interview with one of my favorite past attendees, and see how her perspective has changed since taking the course.  I love hearing stories like these and feel blessed to do what I do.

If you're convinced that this mini-workshop is for you, then we'd love to have you!  You must be a member of The Bloom Forum first.  To join, go here*, then go to the "Mini-Workshop Information" section and choose the appropriate Paypal button.  I'm accepting only 25 Active Members this time.  If you're not interested in group participation or personal feedback from me, then you can sign up as a Silent Member and simply read along with us!

 

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If you have any more questions for me, ask away in the comments below or send me an email, and I'll be happy to answer them in a future Q&A post.  I hope you're having a wonderful start to your week!

 

*affiliate link

 

A Featured Article, a Webinar, a Chubby Baby, and Catching You Up

I am one busy girl this week.  Wanna take a peek at what's on my plate? We are on our last week of portfolio reviews over on the Chic Critique Forum.  Trying to get caught up on those!  They're a lot of fun, and I love being able to help other photographers take a fresh look at their work!

Today I'm sharing a bit of my black and white processing tips over on The Creative Mama.  If you would like a little bit of a peek at my before and after, processing a backlit near-silhouette photo from color to black and white, then check it out.  And yes, I do show you blown highlights and all.  On purpose, but still... it's pretty intimidating.  If you choose to comment, please be kind.  ;)

Last night, we had the dress rehearsal for Chic Critique's Celebrity Secrets Revealed Live Webinar, and it promises to be pretty amazing.  I'm honored to be considered for the lineup of photographers presenting!  On Monday, May 5, I'll be talking about shooting in low light, and giving you pointers and tips for doing it in your own clients'  homes.  You can sign up HERE and be a part of it!

I'm working on some improvements and additions to my Bloom Forum Mini-Workshop, Lifestyle: Your Style.  I hope to have that ready to roll out soon.  And I'm working on some updates and facelifts for the blog as well.  In all my spare time. ;)

And I'm shipping out a small truckload of client orders and prints this week.  I'm so behind!  A huge thank you to my ever-patient clients who have been so kind and gracious recently.  I can never thank you enough for all of your support and understanding.  You're so wonderful, and I'm lucky to know you.

I realized that I haven't shared a photo of Charlotte lately.  She turned six months last week!  Would you like to see how chunky she's gotten?

Loves nibbling her feet, having conversations with the ceiling fan, and laughs and smiles constantly.  And most recently, she loves avocados.  That's my girl.  Thankfully, our littlest love is sleeping through the night fairly regularly now.  She slept 10 hours last night and I think she barely moved the entire night.  She usually flip-flops around and ends up on her tummy by morning.  If we could only get the rest of the occupants in our house to stay in their beds, we would be all set!  Sadly, it seems that Lila cannot sleep separately from Parker.  When he sleeps in his own bed, she tiptoes into our room before dawn, without fail.  When he does sleep in her room, she has a bad dream or hears a noise and ends up in our bed anyway.  Which in turn wakes up the puppy, who is asleep in his crate in our living room.  And so the howling begins.  Our poor neighbors.  I can't tell you the last time either Chris or I got a solid eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.  No wonder I need anti-depressants, right?  ;)

Alright, so you're all caught up!  I have to go catch up now, myself.  I have a lot of matting, wrapping, shipping and writing to do before Parker gets home from school.  I've made him my official after-school running partner!