Tag Archive for 'photographer'

Why So Many “Professional” Photos Look So Bad!

by Gavin Seim (rev 03/14): I’m seeing so many bad photos posted as professional these days. People are trusting us with their time, dignity and money as they are photographed looking awkward, uncomfortable and often downright foolish. I am genuinely embarrassed. Not only for my industry, but for people and their families. They look ridiculous.

I’ve realized why these poor images are often even worse than snapshots: A snapshot is not pretending to be something artistic, creative, or edgy. It’s role is simply to be a memory, and it fulfills that role quite well.

I post this to remind those with experience to make sure we’re offering quality to our our clients. We are supposed to produce art they will want to keep, but I see and endless stream of bad images. Sometimes so-called professional images are so bad that a child could do better. People are pointing cameras and thinking they will do the work for them.

We cannot simply pull ideas for posing, lighting and composition out of thin air, with no aesthetic understanding of our subject. That is like builders throwing hammers at a pile of wood and expecting a mansion to appear. I see mothers who look fat, babies who look like Oompa Loompas, kids who look angry and dads who look like slobs because someone who was poor at their craft propped them up like badly drawn cartoon characters.

I love helping people learn. I’m not posting this to be hurtful, just to be real. It’s important that we’re honest with ourselves and clients. A doctor does not open their practice until they’re trained. A carpenter that opens a home improvement business without knowing how to improve homes is doomed to failure. Digital has not made great photography easier. It’s only made taking pictures easier.

These days it’s not easy, no matter how much experience you have. But some the best advice I can give to people starting out is don’t become a professional photographer until you are professional level. Having that camera means nothing. I’m not defining exactly when you become experienced enough. For most of us, it takes years, just like it does to become a doctor, a carpenter or just about anything else. You learn the basics first. Then it becomes your job and you keep learning.

This applies to all fields. A person should not be in business until they can make the product they claim they can. They should not have a website with prices offering services they are not qualified to give. They should not claim the title of those who spend years and decades mastering a craft, when they have no experience in that craft. There are different levels of professionalism and we don’t need to be perfect to go pro. But we do need to actually be photographers before we call ourselves photographers. We need to know the fundamentals of how to make quality images of whatever our subject might be.

If you don’t know the difference between f16, ISO800 or 1/160th, if have no idea how to light a 3:1 ratio or how to key strobes for a blue sky at noon, if you don’t know how to make your subject sharp enough for a thirty inch print, how to pose a woman so she feels beautiful and a man so he feels strong, if you don’t know what to do with the clutter in the background or how to compensate your exposure value, chances are you’re not ready to be a photographer professionally – There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with snapshots. There’s nothing wrong with being an amateur. You’re learning and that’s just fine. Keep at it. If you want to call yourself a photographer, take the time to learn how first.

You don’t start as a photographer. You start learning to become one – Gavin Seim

Further Reading…


3 Things You Must Master to be a Great Photographer.

by Gavin Seim: We all see differently and that’s good. We should never stop working to improve. One might even contend that you can never really “master” photography. But perhaps you can get pretty close, if you really nail down these and perhaps a few other essentials, taking control of the way you plan and capture images.


1 – Your Tools – A camera does not a photographer make and neither does fancy software. But don’t underestimate how important the tools are. Some sluff off knowing their gear, settings, apertures, shutter speeds, lights, software another tech stuff. That’s usually a fatal mistake. Don’t fall into the crowd that says “I’m an artist, so I just don’t get into that technical stuff.” Photography, like most arts, is both art and a science. And if you don’t master both, you’ll never be a master of the art.

2 – Storytelling – A great image has to have a subject and a story that can reach out and grab people. Uninteresting subject matter, too much clutter, messy composition, bad details, distracting lighting, the list goes on. Fail at any of these and you’ll never be great at photography. It’s hard to nail all these elements down with anything but years and years of practice and experience. But then, no one said this was easy. Until you can start clearing out distractions and really convey feeling. You’re just making snapshots. Those are fine, but remember. Everyone else it making them too.

3 – Tone Control – This may be the biggest of all. And yet it’s finer points are the most ignored. It’s the one most will never truly master. Everything needs to lead to the subject. And mastering tone gives you that power. Tone control is about seeing light in your head, understating how to manipulate it, and understanding how to control tones to make your subject and your story, sing like the sound of music. Even most professionals have not nailed down tone control, but until you do, you’ll never be fully able to control your light or the impact of your photographs. For more on controlling tone check out this article.


If you’ve mastered all these things, then you should be writing this instead of me, because I’m still working on them. But working I am and getting closer each day. Just remember that a camera is no more an artistic tool than a typewriter. It’s knowing how to tell a story with light, tone and line that matters. Like nearly all arts, there’s an aspect of science and an aspect of art you must master. Otherwise you’re just another person with a tub of paint or a ream of paper. For more

So lets get to work. Science + Knowledge + Vision = Art


15 Tips for Wedding Photographers:


Get the essentials: Thinking outside the box works, Just remember to get the MUST have's. Walking down the isle, standing at the alter, the first dance and many more. What's important to each couple can vary, so communication is important.

Where to start, how to get there, how to stay there. Secrets for professional and aspiring wedding photographers from Gavin & others.

by Gavin Seim: How do I handle my first wedding? How do I become a pro? I get these type of questions fairly often. Weddings aren’t for everyone but most aspiring and pro photographers will photograph a wedding sometime in their career. There’s much to be learned from what’s demanded of us at a wedding. While this article is aimed at those getting started, seasoned pro’s will get ideas too.

Today I’ll give some I’ll talk the basics of how I see and think when I photograph a wedding. Tips 1-6 will focus on getting great images. Then we’ll talk a bit about a  post production and business (which is every bit as important). As we go thru them I’ll post some favorite images and share some thoughts.

The first wedding is daunting. Let me say that I won’t be talking about extreme photography basics in this article. If you’re at that stage there’s no shame in it, but you should gain some experience before tacking a wedding on your own. It’s a one time event and if you get it wrong you will be, at best, a sore spot in the eyes of your client. That’s not good for getting new clients and both you and your client deserve better.

If you can, second shoot aside an experienced photographer it’s a great way to learn, gain better portfolio and get more confidence. In my case that never happened. Though got serious about photography at age 12, my first wedding was cold turkey. I photographed for fun at a wedding and the couple loved them. That pushed me forward and my first paid wedding came awhile after. The rest is… Well the rest is below.


Try new things: This shot is the result of the first time I used off camera wireless flash (with Radio Poppers) at a wedding. I was just learning them, but made the choice to push myself to get great light in this scene. It paid off and my final image has a neat cinematic feel that fits my style.

Before my first wedding I absorbed the information in at least three wedding photography books. That helped me get a feel for what should happen. Without that study I would have missed a lot of important things. Resources like this are great (I wish I had had them) but a book can help you get perspective and have a reference to review. I’ll list few good books to get you rolling at the bottom of this post.

My first paid gig was back in the film days. I was about eighteen. Armed with my Canon EOS3, a cheap flash, a cheap zoom lens and an old monolight strobe handed down from Doug Miller, a real local pro, I became a wedding photographer. Was I good? No, but I was enthusiastic.

Continue reading ’15 Tips for Wedding Photographers:’

The Bridal Show:

by Gavin Seim: This weekend I had a booth at the Wenatchee Bridal Show. The confession I have to make is this. While I was happy with my setup and received great feedback, I ran into my typical problem. I was not a good enough salesman.

Now those of you that listen to Pro Photo Show know that I’m not a shy person. It’s as if like I sit in my booth making weird sounds as I flick my lip with an index finger making that interesting “buh buh buh” sound. Nope, I do fine interacting with people and being professional. Until it’s time to seal the sale that is.

Continue reading ‘The Bridal Show:’

6 Tips to Becoming a Professional Wedding Photographer

how to be a wedidng photographerSo, you’re going shoot your first wedding. Maybe you’ve been hired, or maybe your doing it for a friend on a budget. Either way you want to get great results, have good referrals for the future, and make the clients super happy!

So what do you look for? What about wedding photography is so intimidating, and how should you take on this challenging but rewarding type of photography?

1. Don’t Oversell Yourself.
If your just getting started with weddings don’t pretend to be something your not. Chances are the reason your shooting their day, is because it’s not in the budget to hire someone who’s experienced with weddings! That’s OK, and an opportunity for you. If you feel it’s too much, then let them know and maybe get someone else to help. Chances are however that your thinking “I can handle it fine” That’s cool, but be realistic, and remember you can’t do a retake of a wedding.

2. Do your Homework
If you lack experience with weddings do some research. Take the time to read a few books and get a feel for what is expected of you at the wedding. A couple books you might check out are Digital Wedding Photography, The Complete Guide to Professional Wedding Photography, and The Wedding Photographers Handbook. There’s many more, just search around on Amazon.

If it makes you more comfortable, have the bride give you a list of shots she really wants, but don’t expect the couple to know everything you need to shoot. Once you know your way around you’ll probably outgrow lists for the most part, since you’ll already know what to shoot and when. Also take the time to look at great wedding pictures from other photographers and note what you like and dislike about their images. Continue reading ‘6 Tips to Becoming a Professional Wedding Photographer’