Holy smokes, September and October were busy months, and November is panning out to follow in-suit. A lot of catchup to play here on the blog. Why not start with a wedding post. I had a wedding gig up in Whidbey Island last September. Whidbey is a beautiful place, great wooded and beach areas. As you drive along the winding roads (aching for a motorcycle), you never know when the next scenic visual delight will be around the corner to surprise you, going from dense woods to wide beach vistas.
I've been working with London Couture, a vintage fashion clothing business, for a few months now. So far it's been a great experience, and owner, Tina London, is largely responsible for the enjoyable experience. She's a lady who doesn't mess around, knows what she wants, and wants every aspect of her business done right. Our very similar work ethics makes us a good match for working professionals. I love her business for a number of reasons, but probably the most exciting is the fact that our opportunities in working together to create awesome imagery and marketing materials for London Couture are pretty much endless. The business has a lot of things going for it, and has a lot to offer as far as merchandise in the store. Over the last couple months I've been getting aquatinted with the business, and the style which they represent. It's a tricky thing, being in-charge of the creative design for a business, their visual marketing person, but only knowing a business for a short period of time. Much like a tiny snowball starting at the top of the hill (where I started with LC), and gaining size and speed on it's way down the hill, our relationship will grow and speed up giving us the ability to produce more and better work at time goes on. With a more intimate working knowledge of the business, my ideas for photo concepts are coming much more freely and often, not having to worry if the idea would be a good or bad fit for their style.
It's that time of year to start pushing bridal marketing. All those brides looking to secure the biggest and best of everything to ensure their wedding is a great experience. LC has been attending bridal expos to help get the word out that they too provide bridal garb, but not just any kind of attire, really cool vintage dresses. A large part of Tina's time is invested in literally traveling around to fashion hot spots in the world and hand-picking all of the one-of-a-kind designer clothing you see in the store. No steps are skipped through the entire process, as stylists are at the store to help you navigate, select, and fit clothing to best work with your particular shape. It's definitely not an experience you get in many places, and it's a completely unexpected surprise in downtown Tacoma. New found customers are often delighted to come across the store, always saying they can't wait to get back into the store and shop more. Now that's a business I want to work for. In my mind, the hard part is done, Tina has established and invested into a great store and business, now all I have to do is make sure that the photography can keep up with level of professionalism Tina has set. I'm not having to make anything look better than it really is, fib here or there, cause London Couture doesn't need it.
Round two of the mini sessions, as I continue to knockout all of the LivingSocial deals. This time around, I selected the studio and the Ruston Way waterfront area for my locations. If you missed the first round of mini session photos, and a more in-depth explanation of what these are all about, click here for that post. A lot of variety here with some senior photos, family shots, and a couple headshots. In efforts to not repeating myself, I'll let you read the aforementioned post if you need to catchup, otherwise, I'm going to let the photos do the rest one the talking on this post. Lots coming, per usual.
It was a solid start to the LivingSocial mini sessions. For those who are unaware, I was featured on LivingSocial last month, and it was a scary week. I was left wondering how many photo deals I'd be selling. My goal was to get my name out there via marketing by LivingSocial. The cost - having to practically give away my photo services to anyone who bought the deal. The cap for the deal was 1,000 purchases... ouch. I kept my fingers crossed that I'd be able to get my name out while only selling a reasonable amount of deals, so in the end everyone is happy. Thankfully, I sold almost he exact amount of deals I wanted to sell, and that was 50. Still... 50 deals are a LOT of deals to have to toss in the mix of my work load, especially considering the small return on them (all evident if you've noticed my absence from the blog lately). I eventually made this economically feasible for myself by structuring them into mini sessions. That way I can just set aside a couple days a month, dedicate them to the LivingSoical deals, and knock them out an orderly fashion.
My work is starting to ramp-up with London Couture, one of my large commercial clients. One of the first photo shoots we had was for marketing a fundraising event they are hosting, Strutt For A Mutt (yes, it's intentionally spelled wrong). The owner, a giant dog lover and overall kind person, is holding this event with 100% of proceeds going to the metro animal shelter. This is the second annual for this event, which I was not around for the first one. When the event was brought up in a meeting, we mentioned how ads and marketing were going to made. Prior to my being a part of the team, London Couture was left with scavenging the internet for passable images to use for their graphic design. With me around now, we can take idea from concept, to photo shoot, to graphic design without depending on any other resources. This is the real fun part for me. They showed me last year's logo, which like I said, had a random image off of the internet. The key part of the imagery, a fashionably savvy woman carrying a shopping bad with dog leading her on a leashed (all silhouetted). Bad habits had them going to the internet once again, looking for a "better" image to use for this year's design, and that is where I grabbed the wheel on the operation. "Why not just grab a model, some clothes out of the store, a couple of your dogs, and head down to my studio and do this right," were the words out of my mouth. Not only should we use our photographic resources for the big things, but everything, big or small. All of the suggested items were very easy to reach and doing the shoot ourselves would ensure it's done right, and most importantly, the image is OURS, and we can continue to use it or other work we produce marketing material.
I have the pleasure of working with a brand-new restaurant, even before it's open the doors for business. It goes without saying that there is a lot of time, effort, and money that goes into getting a business like this launched, but it's critical it is done right, and thankfully this owner understands that. It's always going to be way harder to just slap something together real quick for the sake of speeding up processes, and then coming back around and tackling things all over again once the dust settles. Aside from this being a super unprofessional approach, it's a killer on the business' branding momentum. Right out of the gates, the day a business opens up, people will associate things with that place. The food, the menus, the music playing, the signage, the customer service, and even the color of the paint on the walls. You start changing all that stuff up a couple months after opening for business, changing your own consistency and branding, I think that you'll loose a lot of consistency in your customers, especially your recognizability. Besides, you wanna blow the socks off of your customers from day one, give them a true reason to keep coming back. You don't cut corners to quickly open your doors only to tell your customers things will get better here soon, so hang tight.
In meeting with Darrin, the owner of Amerawcan Bistro, I knew right away that he wanted to make his place truly unique. Aside from him already offering a rare style of food and a great menu, he wanted the entire customer experience to be something people talk about after they eat there. We sat down and mapped out a branding style and message we wanted to send, in a visual sense, to accomplish this goal. I LOVE working with businesses in creating a branding image. Whether I am helping them with more than just photography or not, it's important that I fully understand what the end product needs to look like, as it's critical for properly executed photography. Photography produced with the final branding goal in-mind is clutch. Understanding what styles and colors menus, logos, and websites use will influence how the photography is executed. When done right, the photos are dropped right into the marketing material seamlessly, and looks flat-out impressive. You look like you got your shit together, and the truth is, when it looks like that, you probably do. It speaks volumes from the rest of your business, "come eat here, we care, we are professionals, what can we do to make this a better place for you." Honestly, I was super excited about being a part of this project from the beginning, and not having to worry about transitioning the business out of an old marketing image. A clean slate.
Another round of punch card photo shoots for Smokin' Hot Espresso, one of my regular clients. Bikini baristas have been around for a while now, kinda almost old news, right? Everyone went the extra mile to dress up and keep their customers guessing with fun outfits when the bikini barista stands hit and were all the talk. As the controversy over the coffee stands slowly fades to a mild "eh, whatever," the girls themselves who work the stands slip into lack luster effort with their themed "costumes," giving away to simple swim suits most of the time. This is not the case any longer with Smokin' Hot Espresso. They are bringing themes back AND sexy back (take that Justin Timberlake). This means your nurses, maids, cowgirls, cops... the list goes on of sexed-up outfits, you'll see them all at Smokin' Hot. This is one thing that there is not a lack of at this business, they really like to keep there customers happy with the themes, the punch cards, the calendars. They understand it's more than just an eye candy experience for a lot of their customers, and they want to make it fun by doing the little things for everyone who stops by. I'd imagine it is quite the expense for a business to keep a team of baristas in coordinated costumes so that they have copies of every costume and are in unison.
During my stay in Arizona, I spent time in both Flagstaff and Phoenix. I spent the first couple days catching-up with some distant family who live in Flagstaff. The McKone family were a big help for me, as I wanted to photograph some of the surrounding area, but aside from the Grand Canyon, I didn't have a clue on what was around, so I didn't know where to start. Luckily, Rod and Ann Marie, along with their two sons, Richie and Mike, knew plenty of locations to take me.
First thing was first, we wanted to make a new family portrait for the troupe. So, after shortly after pulling into flagstaff after a 21-hour drive, we were back in the car headed for Sedona. I travel a quite a bit for my work, but the bulk is done all in Washington, so my environmental equilibrium never gets too rattled. Extreme environment, weather, temperature, altitude changes, and even sunrise and sunset times were all way off from the norm for me. Predictability of the photographic outcome was kinda non-existent, and it being my first day in the place, taking a family portrait, I had no idea what kind of photos we were going to walk away with. I didn't even know what the final location for the photos would be, what the background was going to be composed of, if the sun was going to be in front or behind the subjects. We packed the car up with people and gear and hit the road
Portraiture, it's a pretty simple idea... taking photos of people. Wait... it's not so easy... dang it. As simple as a portrait concept may be, anyone who has consciously gone out and attempted to take photos with a purpose finds out real quick it is not such a simple job. The translation from idea to materialization is not so simple and quite hard to make these two matchup well. We are talking nearly infinite avenues in which to photograph a person when factors like location of subject, style of lighting, actions of subject, etc. come into play. It's telling a visual story, no words need be spoken. What kind of story do you want to tell for viewing eyes? The idea drives the photographic work, sculpts the final product. On the topic of bringing mental visions to live, it goes beyond, "hey, I want to photograph _____," and loosely photographing a subject matter for a few hours in a location that roughly works and produces the basic idea. No, this rough/loose approach won't work 90% of the time for those who want that image in their mind. It's really drilling down, not compromising, nailing that exact image in your head. Is the image in your head the image that you want to produce, or simply an inspiring idea to branch-out to some other visual? How do you make this all come together in the concept and planning stages so that you setup for success at the actual shoot? These are things I ask myself, being realistic, and not expecting magic to happen without giving a major contribution on my behalf before I even walk in to the shoot.
A few months ago, I began a relationship with Talk It Up TV, a video production business in Bellingham. I produce on-location photography for the team, capturing behind the scenes stuff, fun things that catch my eye, etc. They'll use the photography both on their website as well as some stills in the shows themselves. It's been fun, it always brings something fresh for me to capture. My favorite shoot to-date was with Jesse Brand, a talented country artist who is steadily making his claim to fame in the music industry. Better yet, he is from the small town of Ferndale (if you don't know the place, it's one of those you swear you could toss a rock from one side and hit the other end of town). Talk TV got whiff that he was going to be in the area and snagged an interview with him.
The Talk TV productions are swift, always around two hours for a shoot, from arriving and scoping out the environment, to shooting and packing back up. They are quick and dirty productions, but they always amazingly piece together an entertaining segment. This leaves my shooting fairly light, I kinda play the fly on the wall for most of the shoots, taking a snap when I can. It's a challenge to capture a good chunk of visually engaging materials since I can't be popping off flashes, heck, even taking pictures in general when they are filming (the shutter on my camera is pretty loud, and it's not a good practice to have a camera shutter competing with the voices of our interview). The photos are hit and miss, and I'm ok with that, it's what I have to work with.
A pop, a flash, a split second later, a photograph is made. But this photograph... it's got some spice to it, something you can't see with your eyes, and there is a lot more going on than you might think in order to make that photograph. Spoiler alert... it's off-camera flash lighting. Most of us know about flash, and how it "helps" us take photos, but most don't know what you can do with it when you know enough to control flash and manipulate your environment (photographically). I'll spare you non-photographers the details, but this is the method I use 85% of the time I have a camera in front of my face. A literal carload of lighting equipment follows me to every shoot. It's a giant pain in the ass, a couple hundred pounds of equipment, cords, battery packs, etc. to lug around from shoot to shoot, but in the end, all of it is worth it, well worth it. Photos with or without lighting is a night-and-day difference. To light, or not to light, it's not really a question in my book, as I'm lighting my compositions every chance I get. After the first shoot I ever did with off-camera lighting a few years back, I was hooked, and I haven't looked back since. These are the photos that make people stop and look, appreciate the uniqueness that otherwise couldn't have been achieved without some kind of lighting intervention/manipulation.
Last month, one of my regular clients, Tiare Floral Design, was chosen to accent the Gala Fundraiser at the Northwest African American Museum with his floral designs. Owner, Tomasi Boselawa, asked me to attend so that I could photograph his work that would be spread throughout the museum. I have captured Tomasi's work many times, but this was the first at a live event, as all the other occasions were in a staged setting and lighting. This time around I'd be capturing it with the existing lighting. The assignment was just that - capture the flowers in an event setting, to showcase this in a realistic event environment. It's funny how you have to present things to people like this, as if seeing well-photographed floral designs in a studio doesn't translate to the possibility of it sitting on a table at an event. But I get it, and I was happy to attend and photograph the designs in such an environment.
This has to be my favorite family portrait shoot to date. It also happened to be the largest yet, with 14 (if you count the bulldog). Where do you effectively prop this many people without it looking boring? You have to find the right location which is a good compromise of lighting everyone well, everyone looking naturally posed, and make a fun looking photograph. After all, if we wanted everyone standing uniform, lacking any kind of creativity, they may as well get their portrait at Sears. To ensure I accomplished all of the above, I went scouting the day prior to the shoot, making sure the location would foster the right kind of fun, natural shots I was after for such a large group.
I picked a location in the North end of Tacoma. Within a small area we had lots of options, lots of different props to stand, lean, and sit on. This made my job easier, allowed the family members to situate themselves without much direction from me, and that lead to more natural looking photos. If people sit themselves you get a picture of "them." It made things move much quicker and we got a lot more photos take. Was the posing "picture perfect?" Absolutely not, and that, in my opinion, is what makes them work that much better. It's a half posed, half candid style.
They are hectic, exciting, sexy, exhausting, exhilarating, and chaotic all at once. I'm talking about fashion shows. Sure, sitting out by the catwalk waiting for the show to start, everything seems normal, maybe even down-right boring, peeking to see when the models will start to strut their stuff. Well, the pre-show catwalk is the ying to the backstage's yang. Ironically, the backstage is where I wanted to be to capture the Fashion Night Out event that London Couture was hosting. It was the busyness, the prep, the inside look into what goes into a fashion show, but at the same time, snag some seemingly calm images of the models before they hit the runway. I spoke with the owner of London Couture, Tina London, a couple days before the event, and was able to snag the backstage access. I knew there was going to be a herd of photographers there to click away on the catwalk, but if you know me, you know I'm always out to get the shots and the look no one else is getting or thinking of.
Mother's Day, it's just around the corner, and what better way to tell your mother you love her than surprising her with a photo she can enjoy for years to come. I ventured down to the Rochester elementary school and photographed three 3rd grade classrooms.
Kids are funny, flat-out. It was kind of a harmonious occasion, as I was once on a path to becoming a teacher. As far as college credit goes, I'm about three quarters of classes short of my education degree. I even went through some student teaching experience. I was interested in teaching elementary school, third grade to be more specific. I found that age to be the most fun. You can still have a lot of fun with that age group, they are smart enough to have interesting conversations, maintain wild imaginations, but have not yet hit that "too cool" stage. The questions and topics that pop up with these kids are hilarious. It's the sweet spot if you ask me.
Lots of things in the making here at the base of operations for Matty Photography. It's gonna be a really busy next week, so I'm posting a little goodie for you guys while I know I have a chance. Speaking of not getting a chance, I never posted up on the last Upfront shoot that I did a month or two back. Love working with these guys, all I have to do is setup my lights and pull my camera up to my face, the Upfront crew takes care of the rest. I'd really love to actually take the time and setup a concept with them, as we've only shot in and around the theater. The shot above literally taken of Galen (doing the 'thinker') and Morgan (doing the serious face, patent pending) in the recycling dumpster out back. All of the photography with them so far has all been shot from the hip (pardon the pun), and somehow we come out with something that works. I guess that's cause of the sheer amount of character they can stir up from thin air at the word "go." Need one of them to make a face? How about 30 different faces, a new one after each pop of the flash? They can pretty much all do it, and do it well. Over 700 photos, yes, that's right 700 photos, which of that all have the cast expressing something different, whether that be a face or body expression. The variety of our shoots only limited by the amount of time I have to capture it all. The tough part comes down to having to pick your favorites out of 700 photos, all which truly are good. Hence this post's photos are just a blind pick of the bunch, and in no particular order. Enjoy, and be on the lookout for more photos and video productions waiting in the hopper to be presented...
Variety, it's a huge perk to a few lucky photographers out there. I'm happy to say that I feel like one of them. It's really fun looking back to see where my camera has taken me. A few places my camera has seen this last year - Alaska, Maui, all over the PNW, and coming this late June, Arizona. But sometimes the fun stuff is right around the corner, or in this case, right down the tracks.
Good friend and P-51 Pictures video director, Andy Lahmann, is always helping out my photo biz when he is available and within a reasonable proximity to my photo shoots. So when he asked me if I'd take some photos for his movie poster design, I was happy to answer the call.
This has been a photo concept that has been floating around in my head for over six months. Seeing it finally come to life was a lot of fun. Whatcom Sound, a DJ services business, is one of my commercial clients in the Bellingham area. They are armed to the teeth with an army of sound equipment. A while back, while visiting Paxton, the owner, I took notice of all of the speakers lining the main office walls. At that moment, the lightbulb popped on, an idea already brewing in my noggin'. The shear number and size of speakers lead to Guitar Hero-like visions in my head, a rocker performing windmill strums along their electric guitar, surrounded by an wall of speakers, colored backlighting striking the scene, and a splash of fog to give just the right recipe for our drama/color smoothie. I got home and drew out the concept, and to my delight, the photograph that followed that drawing months after was identical (I can draw one mean stick figure holding a guitar, I'll tell you that much). Aside from the crudeness of my quick doodle, making it's way to paper simply to prevent forgetting the idea all together, it ended up being exactly what I sought when it came to attempting to bring it to life with a camera months later. Really fun when that happens.
There is on-location work and then there is on-location work. The bigger the challenge the more I love it, whether that is challenges with the composition, lighting, or time allotted for the shoot. Walking into a never-before-seen situation on top of a very limited time window, all while conducting the shoot in front of a crowd is... fun! This was the situation last week for a packed MMA event in Tacoma.
Smokin' Hot Espresso, one of my regular business clients, were one of the sponsors, and some of the baristas were the ring girls. I'll usually attend their events to document the occasion, however, this time I wanted to do something a little more fun. There is an octagon in the middle of this place, and how often to do you get the chance to hold your own personal photo shoot in one of them? This was my thinking anyway, so I had the girls show up an hour early to do a quick shoot.
I had the pleasure of working with Sam, a Smokin Hot Espresso barista, completing a photo shoot for her punch card design. Up until just recently, I've had the opportunity of meeting most of the baristas prior to doing a shoot with them, but the business had just brought a few girls on and I hadn't covered any events for the business where I had the opportunity to meet the new girls prior to my first shoot with them. Hence this occasion for Sam, her arrival to my studio being our first formal introduction, so you never know how it's going to go. I like to always meet the girls ahead of time so that they get to know me, to see that I'm down-to-earth, I like to joke around, and I'm not a "creepy guy with a camera" (the photo industry has become so littered with guys who buy cameras just to have an excuse to photograph women in skimpy clothing, that they have an abbreviation for them, CGWC - creepy guy with camera. They are easy to pick out cause their photos are crap, go figure). I am a photo professional, unlike a lot of those jokers out there, and the girls see that upon our first conversation, and it puts them at ease. Most of the girls have never done any professional shoots before, so it can compound the photo anxiety, meeting a person for the first time, while also having to be photographed in... revealing apparel.