Another Perspective on Stuff You Fill Out

I was scrolling through Twitter today when a Tweet by someone I don't follow about a topic I'm privileged not to be intimately familiar with happened to catch my eye:

I say I'm privileged because, while I joke about being blind because I've been wearing glasses since 2nd grade, I'm not actually impaired. I've never had to experience this wild and wonderful thing we call the internet without the gift of sight. And, throughout my career as a web developer, accessibility was often an after-thought.

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2018 Anti-Resolutions

By the time you read this, it will be New Year’s Eve in New York City. If you are in a time zone ahead, it might even be 2018 – and, in that case, Happy New Year!

A new year signals change. Advertisers know this so you probably have already seen tons of ads about how you can start to change your body, mind, diet and just about anything else that you can be persuaded to purchase some kind of product or service to fix. And it’s certainly not a bad thing to capitalize on the fresh start a new year provides to do something positive.

This year, though, I’ve decided I’m anti-resolutions. In fact, turns out I’ve never actually been good at them. Outside of a couple of years where I took a photo a day for 365 days, I have never started doing anything in January that I actually stuck to all year long.

Free by Jen Gallardo

And that’s okay.

Instead, I have an anti-resolution: always be reflecting. What do I mean by that? It’s two fold.
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The Tricky Thing About Portraits

When dear husband and I were planning our wedding, the hardest thing after finding a venue (and getting married on a budget…) was finding a good wedding photographer that we could trust. As people who take lots of photos, we definitely know what we like and don't like. Thankfully, we ended up with more photos we liked than photos we disliked.

That said, having shot weddings and events in the past, I like capturing fun moments and not being in the way (don't get me started on photographers and videographers who block the view for the entire crowd of onlookers during a ceremony). The way I like to take photos is that you shouldn't really know I'm there. But I think that’s kind of easy these days.

The real tricky part lies in taking pictures of folks not doing something special but just being. Here are a few tips I have in case you are trying to make a good picture of another human:

1. Get Lit

And by "lit" I mean pay attention to lighting. Good lighting is imperative. The last thing you want to do is have a whole lot of dark photos that you need to tweak. Unless you are trying to capture someone's dark side, in which case, carry on!

That said, good lighting doesn't have to mean expensive lighting equipment. If you find your camera's flash is too much, try to redirect that light. You can literally put a rectangle mirror under your flash while you take a picture (there's a product that does this for you called the Lightscoop). This helps diffuse the light so that flash is not so harsh. Alternatively, take your portrait on a bright but overcast day and let a cloudy sky be your big softbox in the sky.

2. Make Me Look Pretty

Everyone is beautiful in their own way and when you create a portrait, it’s about figuring out the best way to capture that. Makeup can be your friend; although, more so the kind that keeps you from getting too shiny if you tend to have oilier skin and not the kind that alters what you look like (again, unless that's what you are going for!).

Do keep in mind that even the beautiful people don't always look so great staring straight at a camera. Models are lauded more for creating angles with their bodies versus something inherent about their composition. This is when I think it’s totally ok to have some inspiration photos you like that you will try to capture. I have a Pinterest board of inspiration — whatever floats your boat.

Moreover, once you are inspired, it's important to use the right tool to facilitate the result you are after. If you have a zoom lens or interchangeable lenses, a good rule of thumb is to go higher than 50mm for individuals and go lower than 50mm for large groups of people. A lower number means a wider field of view which can distort lines and people's faces if you aren't careful; a good example of this is in the movie La La Land. As the camera at the audition pans in on Emma Stone's face, you'll notice something's a little off due to the distorting effect of the wide lens:

3. Don't Be So Basic

Every person is different and so every session will be different. What feels right for one may be terrible for another. If something you envisioned for your model doesn't work, realize that as soon as you can and move on. Don't force some photo trends just because it's in.

Similarly some photo trends need to die and you have my permission to let them die. Photo shoots on railroad tracks, for example, need to end; who decided that was safe?! And don't get me started on bad couples poses. I've seen engagement photos bordering on the obscene because of where a hand is placed during a staged kiss. When you are trying to create a portrait of a regular person, you generally want to avoid techniques that will be seen as gimmicky in the future. I generally try to avoid super stylized lighting or poses unless I'm working with an actual model who wants something unique; your average person will want to simply look their best in as many of the photos as possible.

Key takeaway: focus on presenting someone in their best light (literally) and don't be afraid to make changes and adapt in real-time if needed to improve the outcome!

Pitch of the Year: Photo Essay on Covering Major League Soccer

Endings and Beginnings

Above the Fray by Jen Gallardo
Above the Fray by Jen Gallardo

The end of 2016 was rough. Like many other women, the outcome of the November election reflected the reality of the doors that continued to feel very much closed to me. The glass ceiling with the 18 million cracks in it suddenly felt more like solid lead — and it was poisoning me.

To cope, I decided to dive head first into photography in the coming year. Making pretty pictures won't change the world, but, for me, the act of going out to shoot soothes the soul and the post production definitely helps quiet the mind.

Fleur de Lis Gate by Jen Gallardo
Fleur de Lis Gate by Jen Gallardo

I bought a bunch of new equipment to kickstart that warm and fuzzy feeling about the world taking photos again. I submitted a sample of my work to a stock photo company and was accepted as a contributor. And then, like clockwork, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to photograph some Major League Soccer games both in New York and DC. Continue reading "Pitch of the Year: Photo Essay on Covering Major League Soccer"

In Search Of a Good Camera Bag

When I was younger, I learned the hard way not to buy cheap hand bags. I bought a bunch of these (including illegitimate knockoffs sold to me in a backroom somewhere in Chinatown — which I will never again do for so many reasons!) and they would never last.

Lo & Sons The Claremont bag that I'm parting ways with
Lo & Sons "The Claremont" bag that I'm parting ways with

Now that I'm older and (so I hope) somewhat wiser, I invest in handbags that will last me a while and put up with abuse. I take the subway almost every day of the week so bags I wear can't just look pretty but they really have to function, especially under stress. A bag I carry should be able to get bumped into by a hobo and brush it off! Not only that, it should be able to fit all the junk I need in a day (wallet, digital devices, makeup, etc). Continue reading "In Search Of a Good Camera Bag"

Dark Patterns

Sometimes things happen and they are just coincidence and sometimes things happen, especially on the internet, and someone explicitly went out of their way to make that happen. You may find this when you are casually browsing a retail site for a pair of shoes and then, through the magic of something called "retargeting," you keep seeing advertisements for that same pair of shoes. At this point, we all see this coming so it doesn't come as a surprise.

Everyone is tracking us everywhere — and sometimes we willingly let them track us by volunteering information about ourselves (i.e. what we all do on Facebook day in and day out). This is okay as long as everyone's complicit; when the product you are using is free, YOU are the product (the selling of information about you to target selling you stuff, in essence).

What I find far more disturbing is a trend toward dark patterns that I'm seeing in the design of products. I define a dark pattern as a product that takes you somewhere that you as a user don't want to go. It's intentionally leading you to something you may not want — usually the end game is to lead you to something that is profitable for the product but not so great for the consumer.

Dark Bouquet by Jen Gallardo
Dark Bouquet by Jen Gallardo

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Apple Picking

I was within a stone’s throw of Cupertino (by chance on a work trip to Northern California) when Apple had their fall event to announce their new lineup of products. There’s always a ton of excitement on Twitter for these events and, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I do enjoy a good silly tweet or two (the more GIFs the better!). And, as an iPhone 6 owner, I was anxiously awaiting to hear about what options I might have to upgrade to as my phone is starting to show its age.

Camera Roll
Camera Roll
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Detachment

For a little while earlier this year, I was telling people that I needed a vacation from my life. There's work which is always going to be a challenge (they don't call it "work" for nothing!) and then the multitude of personal responsibilities (fitness, friends, family, cleaning the house so we're not living in squalor) we want to balance against that. And, oh yeah, we occasionally want to have fun, too.

Through the Bars
Through the Bars

Now, don't get me wrong, some of the personal things are definitely fun! I love spending time with family; in fact, I'm probably one of few people who really enjoys spending time with her in-laws. And fitness is generally fun for me because I get to focus on a practice (Muay Thai) set to music which appeals to that geeky problem-solving little punk that lives inside my brain. I'm also fortunate that I've made friends at the gym so I can kill 2 birds with one stone there!

However, as you've probably surmised, these things do come at a cost — which ultimately makes them worth doing, but also sometimes hard. Family time can be flippin' impossible to schedule because schedules. And my training time is typically in the early morning which means a dedication to getting my ass out of bed at 5:25 in the morning and then being ready to leave the house exactly 20 minutes later.

I can go on and on about how hard it is sometimes to schedule with friends or even my husband, for that matter! I don't like to be busy for the sake of being busy but I definitely prioritize my workouts and some other activities (like drying my hair because that takes forever…) which means I have to plan my life around them. And I love that. Overall, I enjoy how I spend my time (except for any time spent mopping floors) and who I spend it with. Continue reading "Detachment"

How I Spent My Summer Vacation – A Photo Story

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, I cry in a corner wishing for a do-over of summer think about how I spent my summer and reminisce.

Much of the summer was spent in the city. As is always the case for me, I start to get tired of it and I need a change of pace to remind me why I call this gem of a city home.

First stop, San Diego.

Glittery Beach
Glittery Beach

We took on Coronado Beach which, due to the presence of mica, glitters like someone dropped a glitter bomb across the entire beach. Also notable were the donuts (and donut-like poptarts) at The Donut Bar.

Next stop, Los Angeles. Continue reading "How I Spent My Summer Vacation – A Photo Story"