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!

Travels In Europe

It's February which means I'm officially back in New York City (at least for now). I've always wanted to travel in January and February but husband and I historically have rarely been able to get our act together to do it. This time, I was traveling for work so everything was booked and mostly organized before 2016 was over. Of course, there's a saying about the best laid plans…in short, they don't always go as planned.

I happened to be flying to London the day of the first major snowfall of 2017 in New York City. Of course it would be a snowy day! Why wouldn't it be? Throughout the day, I kept checking on the status of my flight and it continued to say it was "on time." Meanwhile, the cost of my Uber to the airport was double the cost of a regular taxi (hello, surge pricing!) and the fact that I even took an Uber tells you a lot as I never take Uber (for personal reasons I'll discuss at another time).

To make a long story short, my flight did not depart until FOUR HOURS after its scheduled time. I think I learned my lesson about flying during peak New York snow season! However, I did get to fly Premium Economy on a Delta flight operated by Virgin Atlantic. In this class, I was greeted with a welcome sparkling wine. Delays and all, I could definitely get used to flying like this.

Pre Flight Drink
I can get used to welcome champagne and a cute little overnight bag.

Continue reading "Travels In Europe"

New Year and New Camera

Happy New Year!

Champagne I enjoyed at midnight in New Orleans (photo taken by Fuji X100T camera I rented)
Champagne I enjoyed at midnight in New Orleans (photo taken by Fuji X100T camera I rented – click on any photo to see full size version on Flickr)

After many days off from work and some fun travels, I'm now back in New York City and ready to resume my normal routines again — well, somewhat. The new year is all about resolutions but I didn't make any specific ones. Instead, I'm striving to have a majority of happy and healthy days in 2017. In keeping with that, there are a lot of things I will continue to do, or simply do more often, but I'm not aiming for some sort of dramatic change.

I think, despite what we say every January 1st, we are all creatures of habit. I'm going to focus on all my good habits like investing in my body with exercise and eating well and hobbies like reading (now with my new kindle paperwhite – thanks, Santa!), writing and taking photos.

And, speaking of photos, I took a bunch over the past week or so. I've been meaning to try out a mirrorless camera for a WHILE and I just haven't gotten around to it. I think this also ties into my being a creature of habit; I love my old Canon SLR and it, in return, has been very good to me over many many years. I'm typically pretty good with my electronics so they last a while – this camera is no different. That said, it's a little big for traveling and doesn't have any of the bells and whistles that newer cameras have.

So when Adorama (one of my favorite places for camera equipment in the city) was having a Christmas rental deal, I decided to go all out and rent a Leica Q. But that was taken because I didn't act fast enough, so I ended up with the Fuji X100T instead. In truth, I'm glad I ended up with the Fuji because it is way less expensive and therefore something I could consider buying in the future. Though, honestly, I still think I need to do a little more digging before I settle on a mirrorless camera. While the X100T is a really nice camera, there are some things about it that quickly became deal breakers for me. Continue reading "New Year and New Camera"

Whatever happened to digital photo albums?

Anthony and I were in Montreal over the weekend. We had a blast and, unsurprisingly, spent a lot of time eating. During one of those moments, we happened to be in the Old Montreal area at a restaurant called Le Robin Square enjoying a leisurely lunch. We had VERY leisurely lunches. While the service at all the restaurants we visited was great, we noticed there's a bit of a slower pace of life in Montreal — especially when it comes to dining — that is pretty much unheard of in New York. Not a bad thing but just different!

This poutine did not stand a chance!
This poutine did not stand a chance!

While we were there for lunch, we happened to notice the restaurant had a TV screen with some digital ambiance playing on it. This consisted of a stock video of a vineyard and you could see the leaves gently swaying in the wind. This got me thinking about the idea of the "digital picture frame."

Remember when that was a thing? Continue reading "Whatever happened to digital photo albums?"

Captured: One Light Portraits of Anthony

My boyfriend Anthony is probably my greatest model. He is always ready and willing to stand by and let me take his portrait. Secretly, I think he enjoys being in front of the camera a tiny bit (even though he will never admit this). Below are some photos I captured of Anthony with a one light set up. The one light, besides ambient lighting, was a Canon flash unit that I shot through a softbox.

Anthony Test Portrait #1 by Jen Gallardo
Anthony Test Portrait #2 by Jen Gallardo
Anthony Test Portrait #3 by Jen Gallardo

Captured: Hazy Shade of Winter

Ice Shards

I was born in the summertime.  My ancestors lived in warm weather nearly year round.  This leads me to believe that I am not built for cold weather.  However, being born and raised in New York City, I've adapted to some cold.  I have learned how to layer up and prepare for most temperature ranges.  That said, the winter always takes me by surprise.  I always find myself saying "This winter MUST be colder than last year!" even though that's probably not at all true.

Instead of spending too much time complaining about the weather, I've decided to celebrate the beauty in the cold.  With my camera in tow, I've been wandering around the snowy city (and surrounding parts) ready to capture what fills some folks with joy, but just makes me wear tights under my jeans and long-sleeve tees under my dresses.

I found I do best when the weather is cold, the winds are still, and the scene is drenched in sunlight.  But I still desperately long for spring.  I'd love to wear a jacket and not a coat.  I would also very much enjoy not wearing double socks and being able to walk out of the house with wet hair without the fear of icicles developing at the ends of my curls.

So with baseball's spring training just around the corner, I've decided to share a set of photos dedicated to celebrating winter.  I'd like to think of this as a indefinite moratorium on winter, at least until this time next year.

Just the Geese and Me
Thawing in Chunks
No Time for a Picnic
Mounds of Snow
Snow Flurries

Captured: Farewell to Summer

I'll preface this post by saying that I'll try to post stuff somewhat more regularly. Well, I could post way more regularly, but then it would be a bunch of stream-of-consciousness-type gibberish that wouldn't really be worth reading anyway. So yeah, that's my excuse for taking FOREVER to post this.

Back on topic — this year, bidding summer adieu was a lot more difficult.  The summer of 2010 was full of beach days, music, movies, good food and great friends.  And while I had a great time, there are still things I didn't get a chance to do this summer (Visit Coney Island or Atlantic City — for outlet shopping, obviously! Drink copious amounts of homemade iced peppermint tea! Take swimming lessons!). However, I'll gladly take what I can get: roadtrip + rock climbing in Kentucky; pig roast + bioluminescent algae in Maryland; baseball, concerts and just truly awesome, terrific people in New York City.

The following is a photographic recap (in no particular order) of many of the things that made my summer pretty memorable this year!