Jasmine Star notes

Vegas WPPI 2012: Jasmine Star Notes

This week will be a week of notes (and photos) I took in Vegas.  We'll start with...

... cause, you know, notes are always prettier with pictures :)  Vegas is so glamorous isn't it?  Hope you enjoyed the notes!  I'll try and share more Vegas photos via my notes.  I think I have about 2-3 more speakers to share -- the most fascinating for me being Sue Bryce.

p.s. Talk about a Jasmine Star day!  She is in Phoenix today for "The Fix" tour and I get to see her tonight!

Posing & Lighting: Creative Live Notes With Jasmine Star

As we were finishing the last run through of our dance, I felt a sharp pain near my ankle. I limped off stage and found a perfectly round bruise later that night on that same spot. Apparently at some point I kicked my self with my heel during practice. Ha! So much is going on with dance, Christmas decorating, and my trip to Texas this weekend!!! My first Christmas as a newlywed is something I just have to share with y'all. That's for later! Today is note time!

Hopefully you've read A Wedding Walk Through and Roles of a Second Shooter before we move on to the next set of notes!

But guess what you get to see? I realized I've never shared this video because I didn't actually know about it until I came back from Spain. When I was in Atlanta I worked with Mohka Life in my first experience as a fashion photographer. That was SO difficult to leave because I was working with some really creative people who shared my obsession passion with photography.

Nagib, the creative director, filmed every shoot. What I didn't know is that he was going to actually edit the last shoot I did and create a video. Someone should have warned me! I looked a mess. It was rainy and yucky outside, I was in the middle of moving, and suuuurely -- I wouldn't be in pictures. I wasn't -- but the video actually surfaced publicly!! But it is SO cool that I am overwhelmed with joy to share it with y'all!!

Now let's talk about it.

How do I get my clients to relax?
Jasmine Star- "I don’t have a secret. Like I said yesterday, I make a fool of myself. Just get over it and deal with it because I’m not here to think about how cool I look. I need to think about my clients. I will do whatever I have to. It depends on the couple too though. If you are not confident, you will never get confidence from your clients. If you’re not willing to take a risk, your clients will NOT. If you want your bride to look hot – Can you show her? We are working with people who don’t do this – ever. SHOW THEM. Build their confidence. Tell her 'I’m going to ask you to give me a myriad of looks and I will only choose a few of them. I’m going to show you and you can copy me or personalize it. Can you do this?' People need permission to be honest. To feel beautiful. Remind your clients to let their guard down and build their confidence. It will go a long way."

Actually, I have to include this piece from her blog because it's something that I definitely do and have always done since I first started photographing people I didn't know on a personal level:

"If I want my clients to give me X, I'll set up the story leading to the moment/emotion I want them to give to me. For instance...
...You've just run out of the church, away from everyone throwing rice at you, and you're turning the corner for your first moment alone together...
...It's a hot summer day and you don't care you're hiking up your wedding dress while onlookers stare at you kissing...
...Hold him in a way you might if his momma said she didn't like you... "

I mean, wouldn't that last comment make you want to hold your man tightly?! It's about giving your client a purpose to hold him instead of saying "Okay, now hug him." If it's fashion, that's different because you're pulling partially from emotion and partially from body movement. I always bring a word document with my favorite fashion photos for inspiration. Actually, I send it to the people I'm photographing before the big day so they can get in the "zone" too. And possibly an ANTM episode ;)

Jasmine Star- "Depends on environment and how I can utilize it. How can I push myself? Pre-visualization. Think in advance! Some of the best come organically."

Completely agree! Let's look at an example from my session with Tony & Octavia. Here I asked Tony to lightly lean his face towards Octavia's forehead. I had this "visualization" which I loved (and was encouraging by saying "awww" because really -- how cute do they look?!).

Then Octavia looked up at Tony and THAT moment -- the expression in her eyes is not something I could have created. Guided? Yes.

Or check out this looovely one:

First of all, this didn't happen the first 10 minutes. You have to warm them up -- even if you know them. What you might not know is that seconds right before this picture, I had asked Octavia to give Tony a SMOOCH.

Haha. Notice that I said "smooch" and not "gently kiss him." Big difference! That resulted into the laugh. But realize that these photos came one after the other. You have to... ANTICIPATE! Oh, and using words like "gently" and "lightly" is very important. Sets the mood when you don't have, say... Al Green around ;)

Have you ever been in front of a camera when someone said "Okay! Here we go! Smiiiiiile" -- you smile excitedly-- no picture -- 5 seconds pass --- my smile is starting to hurt --- "almost! just a sec! keep smiling!" --- now my smile is looking like a dentist appointment - few more seconds pass- CLICK! I can guess that smile is going to look a bit forced.

I am no expert and this is strictly my opinion. As a photographer with a journalism approach, I DO care about the technicality of my settings, but if that moment is there you better believe I'm going to click away. That's why I adjust my settings first, pop a test shot, THEN start working the 'magic.' This way when I'm getting the emotion and poses I'm looking for, I don't have to make them hold it or suddenly interrupt the flow. Sometimes this results in a shot with one person out of focus or slightly blurred -- but I LOOOOVE those shots too! As long as I didn't miss the moment and have a reasonable amount of sharp ones, I embrace the messy. And that's just part of my style -- not necessarily everyone's.

Styling & Ideas:
Jasmine Star- "What can we do to make an otherwise static environment, come to life? My planning consists of ideas. Of the magazine clippings I’ve saved from the past. Innovative. DON’T tell them “that doesn’t work” because automatically the subject feels it’s their work. Keep going and don’t stop the flow." **YES! Don't ever look at your LCD screen after you've taken some photos and say "woooaaah, no -- not a good one!" Talk about feeling awkward/ugly reeeeal quick.

Putting people at ease in front of camera:
Jasmine Star- “I have seen myself on camera shooting people and I’m absolutely ridiculous. I do whatever I possibly can to make people comfortable. A lot of times it’s at the cost of my dignity. I’m okay with that. I LOVE challenges. Make people work and feel like models. So if I have 2 people who are a little bit uncomfortable, empower them to make them feel beautiful. A lot of the time I SHOW people what I want. Show them. By you showing them, you’re giving them permission to look beautiful.”

And I will end it there. You have the power as a photographer to make people feel beautiful AND capture memories they trust you with. Hopefully one day you can see more "behind the scenes" with me. In the mean time -- I'll just tell you about it ;) We all know how good I am at talking, haha.

Ripped Me a New One

One year ago...

As much as I was internally pushing myself to just open my mouth and say something, intimidation locked its legs and arms fiercely around my tongue. Not only was I the youngest in age, but I was also the newest photographer in this workshop (led by Joe Dallas). While most had at least a year's experience, I had just launched my website 3 months ago.

The workshop started and we met our first speaker: Bambi Cantrell. If the name doesn't say enough, picture a fiery, short, blonde woman whose words should have been followed by a *snap snap* "Got it?!" Yes, including hip movement.

I looked down at my kit lens and my 50mm, begging them to not let me down today. We pull up to a gorgeous Victorian home with our models and our workshop leaders. Since it's only 10 of us, they divide the group into 2 and decide to have Bambi with one group, then rotate her later on. My heart rate begins to increase when I realize I'm in the group that is starting with Bambi.

After picking a room, Bambi simply crosses her arms across her chest and smiles. You all do whatever you need to do and I will just simply watch. Breathing. You could hear everyone's breathing and feel everyone's fear at the idea of going first. Then I remembered. You know how you can tell a good photographer from a bad one? Pay attention to how long it takes for them to take the first shot. Bambi had told us this less than an hour ago at her lesson.

And I did it. I LOST MY MIND.

My tongue managed to slap some words together and before I realized what I was even saying, my words betrayed me. I'll go first. Everyone's eyes turned to me and Bambi simply raised a brow. I gripped my camera and asked the model to sit on the bench in front of the camera.

What are you doing? Where is your light?
You realize it's behind her?
Yes, I'm trying to... (
THINK!!!) get a silhouette shot of her.
But -- never mind, just KEEP GOING.

I start to pose my model, trying to remember everything Bambi just taught us.
Sit on the edge of the chair ... bring your chest towards me... move your left ar-

DON'T USE LEFT OR RIGHT!! If this were a wedding day, she would be emotional and she shouldn't have to think rationally.

Don't cry
-I think to myself.

I focus on my model. B-b-bring the arm near the bed towards your other shoulder.

What is your purpose in moving her like that? Look how awkward she looks! Can you tell me what's wrong with her legs?!

No, but I can tell you what's wrong with mine -- they're about to buckle UNDER ME!! Holding back tears (why do I feel so emotional?!) -- I look to my peers for help. They look at me with sympathy. I'm literally being ripped a new one by Bambi.

After a few more lecturing moments from Bambi, I decide to just take the photo and find a crack where the earth could swallow me up. Ceasing to find one, I step back and focus my eyes on my camera LCD screen fighting back tears of embarrassment and intimidation.

The first shot out of my camera

At least she had the guts to go first. I know that takes a lot. I didn't see any of you jumping to take the first photo.
Who's next?

I drifted towards the back of the group to regain my composure and watched the others step up to Bambi's challenge. Bambi took over and I marveled at her ability to communicate poses without touching the model or ever using "left" and "right." It is then that I realized how Bambi creates her shots around light. She finds the light FIRST, then moves on to posing.

Our session ends with one last challenge. You will all go into a room, individually, that you have not seen at all, with your model. Bambi and I (Joe Dallas) will stand there to observe and you will be given 5 minutes to pose your model and take your photos. Apply what you've learned and we'll share the images tomorrow.

This was it!! There was nobody to hide behind -- just you and the model and observation.

I walked into the room and both Joe and Bambi greeted me. The first thing I looked for was the light. In the corner of the room there was a window with white blinds. I moved the model against the wall. The shutters were closed so I opened them to let in a lot more light. As I moved one of the shutters, I saw that it was reflecting light on her face.

I heard a "MHM!" from Bambi. Phew! I was doing something RIGHT, finally!

Suddenly Joe said: Alejandra, take a few steps back and take a look at what you see.

I did. I couldn't see anything. Look on your left, motioned Joe. A MIRROR! Her body was curving into her reflection, with light coming in beautifully through the window. My heart sang. I asked her to shift her hips and... snapped the photo...

It would have been so easy to focus on needing a wider lens with better aperture, but in that moment, I learned to focus on something bigger. Natural reflectors, utilizing the room, curves of a body, COMMUNICATION. The lack of a lens is a lack of money. However, creativity and confidence can't be bought and hardly taught. We have to take risks (even at the cost of failure), to understand the value of what we do.

Joe Dallas guided me and showed me that sometimes you're only (and literally) steps away from an amazing shot. Stop focusing on your lens! Bambi -- she clearly ripped me a new one. But guess what? I will NEVER forget that experience. She taught me that direction and confidence is something YOU must do for yourself and will not be given to you by a client or friend.

So why am I bringing this experience up that happened a year ago? Because we're covering the Jasmine Star Posing & Lighting notes next and there's a message of empowerment there that I don't want you to miss.

I had to make a fool of myself to get to where I am today. I'll never be ready enough. Never. I'll always have moments of doubt and hesitation and WILL still fail. But I have finally discovered my brand. My style. And by knowing this, I have the power to pose my clients and give THEM the confidence to feel amazing. I just hope next time it doesn't involve being yelled at in a room full of photographers. But Lord knows this journey is just beginning...

Jasmine Star on regrets:
First: I wish someone would have told me to have fun. I worry. That’s part of the journey. Second: take bigger risks. The rewards will be bigger. Take a step back and give yourself room to fail.

Roles of a Second Shooter: Creative Live Notes with Jasmine Star

Do you see the difference in this photo:

and this one?

The same moment, but different angle. The first set of images of "the first look" is done by the head photographer of My Creative Vision, and the second photo is captured by the second shooter.

Before we go into details, let's cover the 10 basic roles/rules of a second shooter according to Jasmine Star during the Creative Live workshop. Oh! In case you hadn't read part I, I'm sharing my Creative Live workshop notes and this is part II :)

10-Dress Appropriately: Work-style uniform. "I wear dresses when I shoot. I prefer black."
9-During same day slide show, do table-round shots!
8-Gather the family during formals. Help propel the first shooter. Main photographer is getting head-on, classic photo. Second shooter takes in-between moments (flower girl picking nose, couple looking at each other, etc.).
7-Take care of vendors. Say hello to DJ, band, florist, etc. Spark conversation. Make sure everyone has water.
6-Offer to carry bags.
5-Get water.
3-Find NEW angles. Think like the first photographer, shooting from a different angle.
2-NEVER pass out your business cards. Ever.
1.-Leave your ego at the door.

-Clarification BEFORE ceremony. “What is it that you want to get out of the day?” Do they pay? If they don't, can you use the images (you took) for your portfolio or just online studio? Can you reproduce/edit images? CLARIFY TERMS with main photographer!
-Become involved with online forums. Involvement with the community. "When my name came up, I was part of the community."

So back to the angles. The best photos you can provide a photographer as a second shooter is an angle THEY cannot be at.

Here is another example from Sarah Postma:

This is literally giving the bride the opportunity to see what HER MOM is seeing and how she's reacting. You see these often with the father giving the bride away. The action and reaction. I refer to this as the "money" shot. Ok, not really, but if I had captured that I would've sang "moooneeeyy" in my head.

And what was my first second-shooting experience like last year? Besides being a slightly nervous mess -- I was... a slightly nervous mess. I remember that the bridal party shots were pretty challenging to get creative. I kept telling myself "don't get in HIS shot! New angles... new angles..." I didn't want to distract the bridal party, but I also didn't want all of them to be at this angle:

However, sometimes it worked out nicely...

And in the end, though the open field during the bridal portrait shots was challenging in finding "new angles"... I walked away with some very valuable photos. As the main photographer positioned himself near the groom at the end of the isle before the bride arrived with her father, I captured this...

It might not seem like such a special photo, but to my photographer it was. I don't remember the reasons he was so relieved to see this photo -- but the point is that I provided him with a moment he wasn't situated for and I was. Thank you LORD it was exposed correctly! I mean, this was my FIRST wedding and I'm probably taking 30 million photos. The grass, the chair, the splinter in the chair, the ants having a rally.

There's so much I have yet to learn when second shooting-- especially during formal portraits, both as a second and main shooter. Those are probably the most challenging to be really creative on since they are what they are -- formal. Blegh.

But then, if you are able to push your creativity through those stiff moments, could you imagine what you would get during the moments outside of that? And that is what Jasmine Star inspires us to do. Prepare yourself for those "in between" moments that your clients really want to see. Anticipate them. Because in the end, you are the one who is telling their story and the moment doesn't wait for better exposure.

We'll cover Posing & Lighting notes next!

Creative Live Notes with Jasmine Star - Part I

***PART II is up now****

Would you freak out if you were given the chance to follow Jasmine Star around on a wedding shoot? Clearly we would. And that is pretty much what we got to do at the Creative Live workshop! Minus thousands of creepers literally following Jasmine in person.

Consider this one of those moments that you can copy my notes. No awkward-tricky elbow hiding. These goodies are for me to share with YOU. Forgive my grammar!! They're notes people. Starting with....

A Jasmine Star Wedding Walk-Through:

Here, Jasmine covered shooting a typical wedding day. Regardless of how many times you have done this, these reminders are incredibly valuable. I feel like Jasmine emphasizes how important it is to personalize the day. It goes like this....

-Photographer arrival: Arrive 15 minutes early. Need extra time to greet bride, meet mom, etc.

-Bride preparation: If your bride doesn’t have make-up on, DON’T photograph. "I never ask the bride for things I need to photograph. Ask the maid-of-honor and request things from her: 'I need dress, shoes, jewelry, garter, & purse.' I shoot a tight shot of dress, pull away, horizontal, and vertical. I shoot shoes however long until I get the shot. STYLIZE the jewelry. Work it into her purse or garter. Combine elements to help tell the story. STYLIZE veil. Get shots of bouquets –both bride & bridesmaids. Shoot hair designer & make-up artist = marketing. Photograph gifts or notes because it helps personalize the day. If I transition from details to make-up, a good transition shot is a photo of the make-up table. Helps bridge the gap to tell a story. Photograph the bridesmaids -- then bride when make-up is done. Sense comfort when she is getting dressed. Ask if she’ll mind getting photographed. Explain she is in safe zone. Shoot candids of people dressing her. Candids putting on garter and shoes. TELL THE STORY. Capture the moment after the final dressing. The 'deep breath' moment.”

-Groom preparation: 2nd shooter. Get candids of guys hanging out. Photo of tux in hanger. Shoes, cuff links, gift from bride -- any other details that stand out. Guys want to look cool, girls want to look beautiful.

-Photos of Bride & Groom: 10x10 – 10 photos in a 10x10 space. What can you make of it? Will these photos reflect your style? This applies to engagement sessions as well.

-Shooting first look:
Schedule a time and establish first look in advanced. Have the groom stationed and set up. "Example of what I might say: 'Laura, Billy is standing out there and waiting for you. Hold on just a minute and I’ll be right back.' When I talk to Billy, I set up my camera shots. Go back to Laura, tell her how excited Billy is to see her and tell her to come out in one minute. I run back to my spot and I’m ready to photograph. When they see each other, LEAVE THEM ALONE. Give them some minutes. When they turn to us, that means they’re ready. Then I bring the bridal party."

-Bridal party:
"I try to be creative, but depends on how much time I have. I’m only choosing ONE photo. I introduce myself. Bride and groom in middle, girls by bride side, boys on groom side, ask them to “squeeze, squeeze, squeeze” –they laugh, I capture that. Then I try a creative photo. Then bride with individual girl photos, and vice versa with groom.”

-Detail mode:
Immediately go to ceremony and take photos of OVERALL,untouched location. Isle flowers, guest book, communion, any signage. Photograph EVERYTHING else before it’s touched. "I’m looking for LIGHT. Before I even assess the photo, I shift my body in relation to it. Light first and everything else will follow."

"I stand towards the front. I like to stand behind preacher where Billy (or groom) will stand. Second shooter at the back. Make sure to get the photo from BEHIND when bride is walked by escort/father."

Let's all say it together– ANTICIPATE emotions!

-Family Formals:
Couple, front and center – add EVERYONE on both sides. Start peeling people away. Extended family, immediate family, bride’s family, groom’s family. IF time, individual photos of mom + bride, etc.

If time left, individual portraits of bride + groom. Second shooter gets cocktail shots.

-Reception details:
Overall room shot with everyone cleared out (so must get BEFORE reception starts), overall tablescape, REMOVE salt shakers & sugar packets & butter. Stylize your shoots. DON’T leave sparse. Need menu cards, settings, specialty glassware, are centerpieces the same? Cake –tight vertical and wide vertical. Cake topper. Horizontal shot. Photos of band playing. Shots of sweetheart table – brides NEW name. "Grand entrance – I shoot with 50mm. Use off camera flash, bounce on wall. Know what doors parties are coming from. I rotate around the dance floor. Find good light. I only shoot first dance with 50 or 85mm. Same with parents’ dance. Ambient lighting for dance floor with 24mm."

-Formal shots:
Cake –50mm. Bouquet & garter toss –shoot wide. And make sure to get departure shots!

"KNOW about your bride! You need to know your designers. Vera Wang? You better know she spent money. Melissa Sweet? Shoot it vintage. RESEARCH!! Be educated about what you’re doing because your client cares."

Main idea? These notes and this entire workshop weren't for you to shoot just like Jasmine Star. She is making everyone realize that we photograph PEOPLE. People care about the details, about their story, about every emotion that has gone into planning and having a wedding. About LOVE. When I photographed my first wedding, the first thing I asked my bride was if there were any handmade or heirloom items incorporated in her wedding. From that question alone people will tell you ALL of the important items in their wedding -- even if they're not handmade.

I chose my wedding photographer because of how much care she put into every detail. If I poured hours into making paper flowers, I want a photographer who is excited about me being crafty and making sure those moments will not be forgotten. Take care of your clients and they will take care of you.

Hopefully you can take away something bigger in these notes than just what lenses and poses work best because I believe that's what Jasmine would want too. Next set of notes: Role of Second Shooter. Feel free to share your thoughts and own suggestions! :)