Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Interview With Tracy Joy Photography

If I could time travel and go back and interview myself when I was a photographer I would answer the "who influences you" question with "Tracy Joy Photography"

I was so excited when Tracy agreed to answer my questions - I had a bit of a fangirl moment!

Do you have a favourite colour you look for when choosing props? 

Colors... geesh, I LOVE colors.... in fact, so much that I don't have a favorite color.  As long as it is bold and vibrant, I am thrilled to be using it! 

Are there any colours you tend to avoid in your sessions? 
Not a single one.  Even muted colors I will work in on occasion.  The more colors I can combine, the happier I am.

Do you prefer one kind of prop over another? (eg, tiebacks over hairbands, rompers over trousers)
For newborns, I love tiebacks & headbands for little girls... especially if they have tons of hair!  I also love newborn pant sets and knit (or crochet) hats.  My favorite hats are bonnets that I can tie under the chin, I just adore them! 

How many times would you use the same prop before consigning it to the back of your prop stash? 
I am pretty good at using and reusing props, I just like to rotate them so I dont use them in back to back sessions. About once per year, I will do a destash.... many times I give away little baggies of my "loved props" for FREE on my Facebook page.  If I can help another photographer in their prop insanity, I am happy to. 

How important is the price of a prop to you?
Not at all.  I have props that were free, ones for $10, and I have props that I paid $100's for. I care more for quality, and customer service... so that is what I look for first... price is the least of my concern. And I dont say that out of a money aspect, I will save my dollars to buy a prop I really want... because 1) I need quality, and 2) I would rather support a great prop shop that I love, vs a cheaper version.  

How important is it to you that a prop is one of a kind and unique to you?

Not at all.  I think we all love OOAK things, makes us feel special... but I also love using a prop I saw in another image, and making it my own in a pose or style that is different. 

What do you look for when sourcing props? 
For newborns, I look for uniqueness & quality... for my Stylized Sessions with older kids, I have a stylist that I work with,  Jeanna Gatusso Couture Styling.  I give her my initial idea, and she pulls all of the props together.  In fact, we just did a "Where the Wild Things are" stylized session, and she did just a magnificent job... blew me away! 

What has been your best bargain? 
Best bargain.... hmmmmmmm I'd say not a bargain in pricing, but a bargain in friendship!  I network with a great group of local photographers, and we will trade & share our props.  This has been most valuable to me, in all aspects. 

And what has been your most extravagent purchase?
My stylist! But, working with a professional like her, it's worth every dollar.  I also include her cost in to my sessions, so that transfers back to the clients.  These are such special sessions, and really are unlike anything else... so to me, and my client base, it's more than worth it. Seeing a vision come to life... I can't explain it, its DREAMY!  

Do you have a favourite age to use props on?  
I love, LOVE newborns.  Next, I'd say 6-9m "sitting" babies, because they can't run from me! lol Aside from that I love working with young kids, ages 4-10 is so much fun. Letting children be children, it's magical. 

Describe your prop storage area and studio for us... 

My studio area is for newborns only... so it's small and cozy.  I line my baskets and props up against the wall. Blankets are all stored in clear containers (so I can see colors & choices),and headbands are organized in a smaller container... as are hats & such.  I like my newborn area small, so it contains heat well during my sessions.  Sweaty photographer = happy & warm newborn! 

Do you have any tips on using props in photography? 
Use what makes you happy!  But safety first.  I do not use babies in buckets or any sort of bin unless I have a spotter on hand.  Aside from that. I love LOVE using baskets or bins that I can shoot "down into", with baby belly up. It's safe, cute and a good option.   With my stylized sessions, ANYTHING GOES! 

How do you decide what props you are going to use in each session? 
Newborns are all based on the options of the parents.  However, I have my 3 favorite baskets picked out and pre-filled (I ask prior to sessions about colors), and rarely (like 1/10) I have to change it out. 

Do you have setups already in place or do you chat with your clients beforehand? 
With my 3 favorite baskets picked out, it keeps it fairly simple.  I dont have any elaborate props anymore, but sometimes I get special requests.. so those are all set up after parents arrive.  My bean bag shots are done first, so that is always set up and ready to go as well. 

What is your absolute most favourite image in your portfolio and why? 
Geesh!  NOT EASY.  From recent images, I would say I love this image of my daughter, Joy (my namesake!).  She was going to preschool for the first time, and I captured this image... my little girl, growing up and flourishing like a beautiful butterfly! 

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the area of newborn photography?
WRAPS!  I love my wraps and literally have them in (almost) every color on the pallette.  Aside from that... EDUCATION.  It's key.   Take a workshop, this will help you decide what props you love using.  Some require more work into using them, and some are easier.  Workshops are so important, and many times over looked... we need them at ANY AGE & STATE OF OUR CAREER.  I believe education is never over, and can always be gained. 

Which photographers influence you? Whose work do you love? 

Through the years, I have met so many.  Some who's work I admire so much, and they inspire me day in and day out.  The ones that matter most to me though, are those who are amazing artists, but also inspiring people in their day to day lives.  I prefer kindness, and mutual respect, before anything else. The most influential to me and my newborn career has been my colleague and friend, Keri Meyers.  We met many years ago through a mutual project... she was also the first newborn workshop that I ever attended, and I can say she is a TRUE PROFESSIONAL at what she does, and an amazing human being.  In addition, I have gained knowledge and friendship thru these outstanding women: Nicole Everson, Lisa DiGeso of Milk & Honey, Stacy Hayward of Stacy's Creations, Gina Neary of Peahead Prints Photography .... and there are so many more I am grateful to befriend and learn from. This industry is amazing, and it can be brutal as well.  Surround yourselves with people who are kind, and respectful of you and others... no matter your status or what you can offer them.  MOST IMPORTANT, be that and do that for others as well... choose kindness over competition, always. 

Aside from all of that.... I am also the wacko behind the amazingly silly photography site Prop Insanity 

Since 2009, I have benn blogging about photography props and the photographers who love them... and the vendors who make them! 

We offer online EDITING classes and the occasional SHOOT OUT.   
Check out our shop for our online resources.

Speaking of shopping & props... is also one of my endeavors... where I work hand in hand with photography vendors, bringing the more unique and sweetly handmade props out there.  RTS sales can be hard... so we created this site for a 24/7 prop site!  Enjoy it... we have vendors WORLDWIDE! 

Oh yeah... ... that's on my plate too!  Along side my fellow Illinois photographer, Jessica Weinstock, we created a SAFE HAVEN for photographers worldwide.  Trying to connect and network photographers, vs competition and arguing. Happy Togs is my heart... and it brings me so much delight to see the friendships that are made via the site and our Facebook page.  In an industry so swamped and overwhelmed, it's so important to remember the GOLDEN RULE, and being kind to others. 

I'm a busy girl, I know..... I also have 3 children under the age of 10 (4 kids if you count my darling husband! lol).  This is my CRAZY INSANE LIFE, but I love every second of it (especially if there is wine involved! ha!).

Tracy, your life sounds just as chaotic and hectic as mine, so I'll raise a glass of wine and say in a very British fashion "Cheers" to being busy!!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

How To Make A Lidded Box From Card

I often see photographers asking for nice ways to present their client's USB sticks after their sessions.

There are lots of gorgeous wooden and personalised boxes available, but what if you are running lots of mini-sessions and don't necessarily want to include the expense of your regular presentation boxes into these kinds of sessions?

In this tutorial, I show you how to make a lidded box from cardstock.

These are a low-expense item to make and you could easily use your brand colours, or have stickers printed, use ribbon, or even glue a small square print from the session on the lid - the possibilities are endless!

You will need

1. 2 sheets of cardstock in A4 size per box - approx 240gsm in weight
2. Double sided tape, or craft dots
3. Scissors to cut card
4. Ruler or flat edge

Watch my video for instructions

I hope you enjoy this tutorial and perhaps have a go at making some for your photography studio - if I can do it, you definitely can!  Please show me any images you take!

With thanks to Frances Stephenson Photography for the loan of her personalised USB

Sunday, 20 September 2015

How To Run A Giveaway On Facebook Without Breaking The Rules

How many times do you see a Facebook business page running some kind of competition and asking people to like and share their status or image?

Did you know that (at the time of writing) it is against Facebook rules to ask people to share competition details?

Let's have a look at ways to stay within Facebook guidelines to run your giveaway successfully

1. Collecting Entries

To qualify for an entry, you may ask people to:

* Like your page if they don't already
* Post a photo or make a comment directly to your page
* Post a photo or make a comment in the comments of a post
* Send a message to your page
* Like a post
* Answer a question and win by being the first person to answer correctly, or get chosen as a winner from all the correct entries received

You cannot ask people to:

* Share a photo or post
* Tag themselves or any of their friends in a photo or post
* Ask people to post the link on their own or their friends' timelines

2. Release Facebook From Liability

You must state somewhere that your promotion is not being run by Facebook. 
Either draft your own release, or copy and paste the following

** This contest does not have a connection with Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported or organised by Facebook.  The recipient of any information provided by entrants is YOUR BUSINESS NAME and not Facebook **

You can state this in your post itself, or within your terms and conditions link (see below)

3. Make Your Terms of Entry and T&Cs Available

If your competition is only available to people over the age of 18, or can only be won by people within a certain geographical location, or any other qualifying factor, you need to make this information clear and readily available.

To avoid cluttering up your post with endless text, make your terms and conditions available to read at another online location, such as a dedicated page on your website or blog for instance.

If you do not have your own website or blog where you could upload this information to and provide a link for people to view, make a Word document or a PDF file and save to somewhere like Dropbox or Google Docs

When I was writing this article, I struggled to find examples of promotions being run correctly on Facebook - even some big name companies were asking people to share the post to their personal timelines as part of the entry process.  So much so, I did some research to see if the guidelines had changed and I simply hadn't realised, but this is what I found in Facebook's own Help Centre

(screen shot from this page here)

They also have this to say on a downloadable PDF (here)

Q: Why can’t I ask people to take part in a promotion by liking, sharing, or posting something on their personal Timeline?

We want to make sure that people continue to post authentic, high quality content to their Facebook Timelines to stay better connected with the people they care about. There are technical reasons for confining the administration of the promotion to either a Page or in an app. For example, because people can choose to limit the visibility of the content they put on Facebook to only themselves, friends, or to a custom group of people, Pages won’t have the ability to access all of the entries that people post on their own Timelines unless these entries are public. We may explore enabling this in the future, but to ensure a good experience for administrators of promotions and prospective entrants to a promotion, we are limiting the administration of promotions on Facebook to Pages and within apps at this time

Here are some great examples of contests being run correctly

StickyAlbum forced people to click to an external website to enter to win - no doubt to collect data

When this page ran their giveaway, they asked people to like their page, like the post and comment on the post as well as having a link to their terms and conditions.

Joules run a #winitwednesday contest each week

with a link to their terms and conditions:

Another thing to consider when running a giveaway is what does your business want to gain from it?  If it's just to increase the engagement to your page, then following the advice outlined above should go someway to seeing a boost in views to your page.

However, if you want to collect data such as emails or addresses, you will need to host your giveaway through a third-party app that will collect this information on your behalf.

One of the best apps to use for this is Woobox or Rafflecopter and using third party apps such as these to host your giveaway or contest, will guarantee that you run your promotion safely within the guidelines of Facebook - whatever they may be at the time.

And finally, just because you see lots and lots of business pages asking people to share their promotion to enter, it doesn't mean they are not at risk of having their page closed down by Facebook without notice.  I have known two business pages to be shut down overnight with no explanation or warning given.

Don't let this happen to you!

Details correct at time of going to press - 20th September 2015

Suggested further reading :

How To Make A Lace Crown Photography Prop

Lace crowns look great perched on a newborn baby's head, on top of a toddler's head as well as worn by an older child.

Choose some really elaborate lace, or stick to plain and simple, and follow my tutorial to make your photography studio some new props!

You will need

1. Fabric Stiffener
2. Foil or a surface you don't mind getting messy
3. Lace
4. Tape Measure
5. Paint Brush
6. Scissors
7. Hot Glue Gun or fabric glue

Step 1

Decide the circumference you want your crown to be and cut your lace with an extra inch to spare.

Step 2 

Place your cut lace onto your foil or other working surface and liberally coat with the fabric stiffener.  Use your brush to work it right into all the holes.  Turn over and make sure both sides are completely covered.

Wash your brush out thoroughly when finished if you want to use it again!  

Step 3

Leave to dry for several hours - ideally overnight on top of a radiator or in your airing cupboard, keeping it as flat as possible

Step 4

Once your lace is completely dry and stiff, overlap at the back using the excess you left.
Matching up any pattern, glue in place

Step 5

Place on your model's head!

With thanks to Twirly Girl Photography for these fantastic photographs showing the crown in use!

I hope you enjoy this tutorial and perhaps have a go at making some for your photography studio - if I can do it, you definitely can!  Please show me any images you take!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Interview With Mariola Hart Photography

Mariola's work always makes me smile when any of her images pop into my newsfeed on Facebook - I love her use of colours and the richness to her editing.

I recently asked her about her use of props in her work

Do you have a favourite colour you look for when choosing props?
When I look for props the colours which always catch my eye are warm rustic colours, dusky pinks, greys and neutrals. But every now and then I happen to also buy some accessories in soft mint,  rustic greens,  soft lavender or light blue. 

Are there any colours you tend to avoid in your sessions? 
I can't stand bright intensive colours. I much more prefer something softer that helps me to create those dreamy images. 

Do you prefer one kind of prop over another? 
It is a hard questions to answer as in my prop collection you can find everything that I like using. 

On the other hand what I think determines  which prop I prefer during the session is the baby. For example, if I have a little one who is a very light sleeper I tend to avoid rompers and only focus on hats, tie back and wraps. 

How many times would you use the same prop before consigning it to the back of your prop stash?
If I like something I don't mind using it over and over again. Last time I destashed was over 1.5 year ago, and there were props which I bought right at the beginning of my journey with newborn photography. This was when I was still trying to find my own style and most of the props I bought back then  I wouldn't choose now :)

How important is the price of a prop to you? 
If I really, really like something  and I think it would benefit my images, I am not that bothered about the price tag. Of course I don't go crazy!

What do you look for when buying props?
When searching for props I look for quality first and price second. I absolutely love knitted hats, bonnets  and rompers, so when buying such props my priority is to make sure that they are made of the best quality yarn so they are soft for newborn skin. 

What has been your best bargain?
Light brown large flokati rug which I only paid £25 for :)! 

Do you have a favourite age to use props on?
I use props on babies up to 6 months old. After this age I photograph outdoors and only bring crates and bowls with me but advise parents on what to avoid when dressing for a photo shoot. 

Can we see some photos of your prop storage area and studio?
I work from home and set up before each session. 
My props are neatly put away in storage boxes, blankets hung in my very own prop wardrobe. Bowls, baskets etc  are being stored in the garage where I have a special bookshelf for them. 

It is hard work but it has also got many benefits. Parents often comment that they loved it as they felt like they came from home to another home and it was so easy for them to relax. I believe that when you are passionate about something you can make it work, but on the other hand I dream that one day when all my children go to school I will be able to move to my very own studio. 

Do you have any tips on using props in photography?
In my opinion the main focus should be on the baby. Knowing where to stop with props is essential to avoid drowning out the image. Props are there to help you create a timeless image that will be appreciated for it artistic qualities. Try to avoid anything that could be to too overwhelming or simply too big. When you look at the image the first thing that you should focus your eyes on is the beautiful baby that you photographed not the props. 

How do you decide what props you are going to use in each session?
Before each session I sit down and think of one colour that I would like to focus on. Then the vision comes and I follow what I see in my head.

Do you have setups already in place or do you chat with your clients beforehand? 
Before each session I ask clients to let me know if there are any colours they would like me to avoid or any props that they wouldn't like me to use. For example some parent's don't like headbands or hats. Apart from that they trust my creativity :) 

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the area of newborn photography?
Don't go crazy on props. Firstly invest in a posing beanbag , 3-4 fabric backdrops, a few tiebacks, hats and a few wraps. Then once you start you will see what you love and find your very own style. Doing it this way will help you choose props wisely and will save you some time and money. 

Which photographers influence you?
At the very beginning of my journey with newborn photography I was fascinated by Rachel Vanoven. I loved how she made every image look so cosy and dreamy and the way she worked with nautral light. I remember how much I wanted my images to look that cosy and heartwarming. I think she probably influenced me the most when I was looking for my very own style. 

Whose work do you love?
I adore Anya Maria, her newborn images are completely different and so natural. What also made me fall in love with her work is that it is mostly in black and white which is a type of photography that I hold close to my heart.  One day I would absolutely love to try photographing newborns in a similar way. 

Thank you so much for your time Mariola, and keep those images coming that make me smile!