Powerful portraits workshop experience

Sometimes it’s good to step out of the box and do something different. Which I did recently when I attended a powerful portraits workshop with Fine Art photographer Kelly Schneider This was so outside my comfort zone - there wasn’t a single dog, cat, puppy or kitten there! But it was a great day and I learned so much that I can’t wait to put into practice.

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As my knowledge of lighting grows, I’m finding myself drawn to a certain style more and more. I’ve been studying images by photographers who are utilizing strobes to create incredible drama and almost a 3D feel to their work. I had some idea of how they did this, but so far in my attempts to replicate it, I had failed. Little did I know that when I signed up for Kelly’s workshop, that I was about to finally get the answers to all my questions.

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The amazing thing to me was that I believed the way to create the look I wanted was through post processing. Or maybe a special light modifier. Instead, it was much more simple than I expected. Just a couple of tweaks in the way I set up my studio, and I would be able to create the style I have been pondering for months now.

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One of the things I read about from previous attendees to Kelly’s workshops is not only does he teach, but he gives everyone the opportunity to practice with our own cameras. No more going home with pages of notes, but no experience on how to create what we just learned. While it was hard to have a lot of control over our setups with the number of photographers there, it was just enough for me to come home with images that I can study and refer back to as I begin to practice on my own. Kelly had 2 models for us to work with, which was awesome! Often, at workshops, the attendees act as models - many of us who are uncomfortable in front of the camera. But the 2 young women clearly knew how to pose and take direction as we moved our lighting allowing us, to concentrate on mastering our techniques.

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We used a variety of lighting setups, some of which I had never photographed with before, like constant light. It was nice to experiment with different equipment and see the results without having to borrow, rent or invest in before deciding if it was right for me. There were pros and cons to the options, but for now, I’m going to stick with the strobe that I currently own. I did, however, order some new accessories that will allow me to better create the lighting style that I learned. I’m pretty excited about that!

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So while there were no furry creatures at this workshop to photograph, one thing I want to do more of is photograph people with their pets. Everything I learned will help me create even better portraits for my clients. Are you ready for your fine art portrait featuring the furry members of your family? Drop me a message and let’s start planning your session today!

Earning my CPP

Certified Professional Photographer

Twenty eighteen ended with a bang when I earned my Certified Professional Photographer designation from Professional Photographers of America. I received the news via an email but wouldn’t believe it until Christmas Eve morning when I opened the front door of my house and found a tube with my certificate inside. This was truly the best gift I received this holiday season!

So what does it mean to be a CPP? Photographers must complete an intensive program that measures her artistic and technical competence. This includes passing a 100 question written exam and submitting a 15 image portfolio to be judged by a panel of judges on technical proficiency . Of these images, 6 are compulsory and 9 are from client work photographed within the last 2 years. Professional Photographers of America currently recognizes fewer than 2,500 CPPs. I am honored to join a prestigious group of photographers.

For me, earning my CPP was more than just the opportunity to add 3 letters to my name. I’m always striving to to learn and grow as a photographer. Going through this process helped me understand what I needed to do to take my work to a new and higher level. Not only has my work improved, but it also boosted confidence in myself as an artist. I began this journey almost 2 years ago when I signed up to take a CPP prep class. And I’m so grateful I did.

Why I Entered Print Competition

One of my goals this year was to enter a print competition. You can find photography competitions at all kinds of levels…from local camera clubs, to magazines such as Smithsonian Magazine and organizations like National Geographic and The Sierra Club. But the competition I wanted to enter was one offered by the Professional Photographers of America or PPA for short which I am a member of.

With over 29,000 members worldwide, and like most trade associations, PPA offers many benefits for photographers. From education, to resources, a community of like minded individuals and of course, print competition. Photographers can enter print comp, as it more commonly called, in local chapter competitions, state competitions, districts and international. All but the last level of competition are considered warm ups for the biggest one of all - International Print Competition or IPC for short. Most of us refer to it as the super bowl of print competitions!

All photographers, whether they are amateur or long time professionals, know that the art of a great image consists of a multitude of elements. These include composition, impact, story telling, and technical skills such as proper exposure and lighting. In IPC competitions, photographers can earn a merit based on the score that image received by the judges. To earn a merit, the artist (or maker) must successfully meet the criteria of 12 elements, some of which I've already mentioned. Merits earned during this competition are also applied toward a degree offered by PPA. 

I began my journey entering the Northeast district competition, which took place back in April. I had no expectations other than just to enter and get my feet wet. One of my images did very well and would earn a merit if I entered it at IPC. While I had no intention of entering IPC this year, I wasn’t going to pass this opportunity up! So I re-worked a second image I submitted at Districts and choose two new photos to round out my case of four (the maximum number of entries allowed in each category) and hit the send button. Judging took place earlier this week. 

Images are given a score anywhere from 67 – 100, with 100 being perfect. Any image scoring 80 or higher is awarded a merit. Images that score 85 and above move on to a second round of judging where they can earn a second merit, otherwise referred to as a loan image by PPA. If an image scores a 95 or higher, it is automatically awarded a loan - the best of the best. In 2016, almost 5700 photos were entered. Just under 2500 earned a merit and 1000 of these were awarded the loan distinction. That’s a lot of judging, don’t you think?

I’m proud to share that 3 of my 4 images merited. One of them was up for judging in the loan category, but did not make it. For my first time entering, I am beyond thrilled! I had no expectations and only entered because of how well I did at districts. But if I hadn't tried, I wouldn't have had this experience. 

While the merits are the icing on the cake, print competition for me was about pushing myself to grow as an artist. Photographers who enter competitions can choose to get a critique for an additional fee. This is an invaluable service especially for newbies like myself. It's an opportunity to learn what I did well, what mistakes I made and how I could have created a better image. Watching the judging take place is also a wonderful opportunity to learn from other photographers who entered. As judges challenge scores, there is always a discussion amongst them as they reach an agreement on what the final score should be. So not only do I learn from my own entries, I learn from my peers. Many photographers who have been competing in print comp will share that the fastest way to grow is by entering print comp. 

Already, I've learned so much and more than I ever imagined I would. I'm looking forward to getting my critiques and applying what I advice the judges have for me to my future work. Much like agility, once you go down this rabbit hole, there’s no turning back! I am now addicted and am looking forward to next year’s competitions. 

Here are the images I submitted for 2017's International Print Competition...

Kita.Big.Sky

Terra Firma

This is the image that did well in Districts and is the reason I entered IPC. Scoring an 86, it was my highest score of the competition.

chocolate.lab.puppy

Sweeter Than A Hershey's Kiss - scored an 81

labrador.puppy.chair

The Timeout Chair - scored a 79

black.lab.fall

My Hunting Buddy - scored an 81