It Takes a Team

What makes FotoFly….FotoFly?  It’s not the cool facility.  It’s not the great equipment.  It’s not the price.  It is the team.

Not many people know this – but I interviewed 300+ applicants when hiring the photographers for this first studio.  I had a very specific person that I was looking for.  This person had to have a natural affection for children.  They needed to be smart and learn quickly.  Physical coordination was a must.  They had to be comfortable making silly noises.  I needed to see enthusiasm, excitement, and energy.  They had to laugh at my jokes.  In other words, they had to be the complete package.  I interviewed people for weeks.  Those that were hired were interviewed up to four times.  I wasn’t going to settle.

Before we moved into the studio.  We trained at my house for four weeks.  We set up a studio in my basement and practiced and practiced.  We needed to build our skill – we also need to build a team.

I think the best teams are built around a struggle.  When you are shoulder to shoulder with someone, in a struggle to create something, you grow together.  When the odds are against you (think 2-week-old and a toddler in the same picture) and you’re able to succeed only as a team, you grow together.  When you need help and there’s someone there in that very moment, you grow together.

Working at FotoFly is not always easy.  In fact, it’s almost always difficult.  Every session presents its own challenges.  Sometimes it’s a toddler that won’t stay in place.  Other times, it’s an infant that only wants to cry.  It may be a ten-year-old that has practiced his smile so much that now it’s fake.  Or, it’s ten cousins under seven years old.  Every session requires a lot of effort.  I cannot pay them enough for what it requires to be good at this – they have to voluntarily give it because they want to.  I can safely say that our photographers have given everything they have to every session.  They are not holding anything back.

We’ve each learned a lot since those weeks in the basement.  Our photography is amazing and, amazingly, we keep getting better every month.  We love what we’re doing and who we’re working with.  Daniel, Rachel, Victoria, Danielle, and Sara have become the most skilled children’s photographers that I have ever worked with – and I’ve worked with many.  Also, the unsung heroes of FotoFly are Alisha and Courtney.  They are our Artists and they are the face of FotoFly and we couldn’t do any of it without them.  They are tireless and the studio would screech to a halt without them.

What I’m saying is that I have wonderful people working here at FotoFly.  Each one of them brings something different to our studio.  As individuals, they are impressive.  As a team, they are legendary!  This purpose of this post is to give you some insight into how we work as a team.  So, here’s some ‘behind the scenes’ images that illustrate how we must work together to deliver the portraits we do everyday.  In each image, you’re seeing an example of one photographer helping another to get the shot.  Enjoy!

Friday’s Kids

Weʼve written about this topic once before but we had an experience last week that I want to write about. Weʼve become involved with an organization called Fridayʼs Kids Respite (www.fridayskids.org). This group simply watches kids with special needs on Friday nights so that their parents can have a well-deserved break for a few hours. Itʼs a great concept.

We have joined Fridayʼs Kids in trying to serve these special kids and their families. Every month, we are setting aside times for these families. Our first night was last week. We were expecting it to be a challenge but rewarding experience. However, it was something different. Thereʼs always a good feeling in our studio – but, while those children were in our studio, the feeling here was hard to describe. It felt like, while they were here, the studio was sacred ground.

As we jumped and played and tickled and ran, trying to get a good picture of these special souls, we knew we were in the right place doing the right thing at the right time. All of us were affected by being around those amazing kids and their selfless parents. Each photographer requested that they be scheduled for any future Fridayʼs Kids sessions. Weʼve never worked so hard for a picture – but our work that night was unforgettable.

We heard the same troubling comment from each family. The parents explained that they had been uncomfortable going to photographers in the past. They felt like photographers did not like ʻdealing withʼ their childʼs special needs. Or, they believed that some photographers had the desire but werenʼt really able to handle their situation. They explained that past trips to the photographer usually resulted in frustration and poor photography.

Iʼd like to send a message to any family with a special needs child: we believe every family should have great portraits and parents shouldnʼt ever feel uncomfortable bringing their child to a studio. Every child deserves images that show how beautiful he or she is on the inside and out. We are able to handle any situation and feel honored, not inconvenienced, when we are photographing a special needs child.

After this past Fridayʼs Kids photo night, we received some notes of appreciation from the parents. Iʼm including those notes along with a few of the pictures from each session. Take a look – youʼll see what Iʼve been writing about and suddenly want to work at FotoFly! You may not be able to work here, but you can volunteer at Friday’s Kids. The biggest challenge this charity has is getting volunteers. It sounds like it’s easy to get involved and I can’t think of a more rewarding way to spend a Friday evening! Check out fridayskids.org for details.

“I wanted to let people know that they did a FANTASTIC job with our family and Brinley also. They realized that she loved movement and so they were dancing all over the room to get her to smile and laugh. They totally worked so well with her and our whole family. We were all laughing by about 5 minutes into the shoot. :) He even knew sign language to talk to our daughter with. Not many people know how to photograph special needs children, but they know their stuff! Highly recommend them to anyone!”

“Just wanted to let everyone know that FotoFly did an AMAZING job with our pictures!!! It actually brought tears to my eyes when I saw the expressions they captured on Brayden’s adorable face. I hope everyone else has a wonderful experience, too!”

“We had an amazing experience with Mekhai! They flawlessly captured his smile and buoyant personality! It was definitely the best photo experience we’ve had. I went in stressed because as many of you know, it is a challenge to take the family with our special needs kids to get family pictures. I came out laughing and smiling and danced in the car the whole way home. What wonderful people! I am still glowing from the outcome! They even burned the cd of pictures right there for us, and because of time constraints on our part, we’ll be back tomorrow for prints! I’m so thrilled and can’t wait to hear how it goes for the rest of you! All of my family and friends will know about FotoFly!”

FotoFriday: Paint-tastic

It’s been an eventful week here at FotoFly. Not only did we have tons of appointments but we decided midweek to paint a few of our walls for diversity sake. Because we are pro-painters, Victoria and I were on painting duty Thursday afternoon. After our first coat of paint we all looked at the wall questioning our color decision.

A decision was made and we decided to paint the top part of the wall a different green because it wasn’t a strong enough contrast between the other walls in the room. So we started over with a different green in hopes that it would be a big enough contrast. At this point, painting was getting really messy. Apparently I have slim to no control over where paint flings and the next thing I knew, I was covered in paint. Victoria was only slightly taken over by the paint.

So 5 coats later & 3 different hues of green, we arrived at this…

We have come to love our new green wall. BUT in reality we will probably change it in a month so dont get too attached. ;)

Sara was feeling left out so we assigned her and Victoria to paint our largest wall in the left wing. Unfortunately we were all somewhat confused as to what we were supposed to make it look like. Our instructions were as follows: Make a hot spot, make the edges darker, make it look urban, make it seamlessly match the floor, and finally, make it look good. Hm, ok. The first attempt looked something like this…Awful, right? So with 30 minutes left to finish painting Sara and Victoria started all over. At this point we were all pretty exhausted and ready to have our masterpiece finished. So, 4 coats later with 4 hues of paint we ended up with this…

Black and White? We like it. Color? Yeah, not so much.

Dont worry though, we were informed last Monday at our weekly meeting that we will be changing the wall, AGAIN!

Stay tuned to see the final product. Hopefully it’ll be the last time we will be changing that ginormous wall. Until next time….

FotoFriday: LIGHTS, Camera, Action!!

Lighting is one of the most important elements of a picture…other than the photographer of course :)..jk. It can either destroy or create a photograph (I’m talking about lighting again btw). Lighting develops the mood of the picture, allowing it to be interpreted as Happy, Sad, Angry, Excited, Beautiful, and the list goes on. Here at FotoFly we have to constantly test our lighting, change our lighting, and create new lighting. We don’t have stuck lighting stands and fixed set-ups (like every other studio), every time we take a picture it is unique lighting for a new model. (isn’t that just ssoooo personal!!) This is a collection of us photographers testing out lighting techniques on ourselves.

Sometimes our lighting tests go haywire!! Here are some of our most favorite ‘posses’ and ‘faces’ to our various lighting tests. We are just a bundle of crazies!!

Now even though sometimes we are just plain crazy, our results from one simple test makes all the difference. When testing our lighting it permits the perfect style of picture to be taken. Here are just a few of the ‘Before & After’ shots from our lighting test – to our final product.

Aren’t we just awesome!!! Well sorta, our customers are tons better…just look at ‘em! And amazing lighting allows us to capture their Awesomeness.

Leave a comment of your Favorite ‘How many _______ does it take to screw in a light bulb’ joke.

Here’s one of my fav’s:

Q: How many Real Men does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None. Real Men aren’t afraid of the dark

(I cant wait to hear some more!) :)

FotoU: Tips for More Flattering Posing

Everyone wants to look their best in pictures, right? Did you know there are ways to make people look better in a photograph then they do in person? Here is a list of our top ten tips for more flattering posing.

1. When taking a full length shot, make sure the camera is level with their chest height. You don’t want to be drastically shooting up or down on them unless you’re intentionally doing so.

2. Have them put their weight on their back foot

3. Make sure their hips are turned slightly away from the camera

4. Lean forward slightly at the hips

5. Raise their chin to elongate their neck

6. Stand straight and shoulders back

Just like this:

7. Place their hands and feet. This is especially true for children, otherwise they look out of control.

See how much more posed this second image looks just from simply putting her feet together and placing her hands.

8. If you’re shooting a group, have everyone on the same plane otherwise you will have some people in focus and some out of focus.

9. For closeups, stay at eye level

10. And last but not least, instead of using the wide angle on your lens (24mm) take a few steps back and zoom in (70mm). As you can see with the shot taken at 24mm, there is an obvious distortion of her face and body. The distortion disappeared when I zoomed in and used 70mm.

FotoFriday: A Shout Out to our Blogging Friends

So, we have been open almost two months and it has been a whirlwind to say the least. We’ve taken some remarkable pictures and gotten into some sticky situations (remember the post about the cake.) Along with our friends and devoted fans, the bloggers have been with us documenting our journey.

We have taken family pictures, maternity pictures and glamour pictures for their blog,. We love spending time with them and they love their pictures! They have even said so publicly without any bribery on our part. More than anything else, it has been SUPER GREAT (that’s a “sara-ism”) to hear about their interests and what inspires their blog whether it be scrapbooking, food or just life. I feel like we are one big blogging family now.

Because we have had so much fun with them, we want to share some of their moments and give a shout out to all of our blogging ladies. “HEY”

Check them out. You’ll be just as impressed as we are, and it can’t hurt for you to read how impressed they are with us, too.

BCD 125 A Page 4 All Seasons

FotoU: Understanding Outdoor Lighting

It’s a beautiful day, your kids are outside playing, and you are ready to snap some shots with your camera.  You fire off a few and get something that looks like this…

MISTAKE #1:

The subject is properly exposed but the background is completely white.

Your second attempt looks more like this…

MISTAKE #2:

The background is properly exposed and the subject is black.

For some reason, you cannot get your child AND your background to both have the right exposure.  Why?  Well…cameras can do some pretty cool things, but when it comes to balancing exposure between the subject and the background there are certain things that you must do in order to achieve that perfect balance.  Your camera does not have enough dynamic range for a good exposure when there is a large light difference between the subject and the background.  So…here are some helpful tips for solving the challenge of balancing exposure!

One way is to match your foreground and background lighting.  What I mean by this is if your subject is standing in the shade, make sure the background is also in the shade.  Or, if they are standing in full sunlight, make sure the background is also in the sunlight.  This will give you an even balance of light so there are no areas that are too dark or light.

Another option is to use a reflector to direct the light from the sun onto the subject.  As shown below, the photographer used a reflector to bounce light onto the face of the girl so that she was as bright as the background.

You can also try using a fill flash to balance your exposure.  (BTW, I HATE using a fill flash and only use it as a last resort because it makes the image look flat!)  Here is a shot without a fill flash.  As you can see the background has good exposure, however the subjects are dark.

Here is a shot using a fill flash; the background and the subjects are both evenly exposed.  (Have I mentioned that I hate using a fill-flash??)

The hard part about using available light is creating a correct ‘ratio’ of light on the subject.  A ratio is when one side of the face is lighter than the other.  When you create a ratio, you add dimension to the face and the person looks better!  Creating a ratio is tricky outdoors because light is bouncing everywhere.  The key is to make the light ‘directional.’  In other words, the light is coming from a single direction.  When indoors, this is easy to do by simply placing the person next to a window – as shown below on the left.  When outdoors, there are three important principles:

1.  Place the subject next to a ‘negative space.’  Negative space can be a wall, bushes, fence, etc – anything that will absorb light.  This will ensure that one side of the subject’s face is darker.

2.  On the other side, be sure that the subject can see open sky.  I’m not saying that sunlight should be hitting them on one side, I’m just saying that they should be able to see the sky on one side (away from the negative space).  This will ensure that one side of the subject’s face will be brighter.

3.  If possible, have something over the subject – tree limbs, a balcony, roof, etc.  This is important so that you don’t have open sky ABOVE the subject.  The problem with open sky above is that it will create shadows around the subjects eyes – making their eyes look sunken in.  In fact, we made a mistake with the picture of the girl below – there is open sky above her which is making her eyes look dark.

My preference is to always photograph portraits in the shade.  I feel like direct sunlight is too harsh.

I hope this article helps each of you take better portraits outdoors using available light.  Just realize that available light can be manipulated to create the effect you’re wanting.  Good luck and have fun!

FotoFriday: It’s the Child

Before I photograph a session, I like to go through the notes about the up-coming appointment so I know what to expect- “get my head in the game” so to speak.  One morning, I knew I was going to take the next session, so I looked over the schedule to see what kind of shoot it would be.  The note read, “Special needs child. Wants some pictures of child with parents and lots of individual pictures of the child.” I let out an audible sigh… of relief! I knew this session would be one of the better ones I photographed that day. While other studios shy away from the opportunity to work with children that reportedly have special needs, we welcome the chance with open arms.

“What if they’re difficult to work with?” some people question. I used to teach language arts to junior high aged kids.  Believe me when I say, that one “difficult” child is far easier than ten insecure teenagers.

“What if the child doesn’t look good in the picture?” others ask.  While I do worry about that with every single adult I take a picture of, I don’t worry about that for a special needs child.  For adults I have to hide this, slim down that, eliminate this, enhance that.  Not with a child (special needs or not).  For a child, I simply need to create a situation that allows what makes him or her beautiful to come out and be ready to snap the picture the moment the child shines.  After all, it’s not the photographer that makes the photo beautiful – It’s the child.



FotoFly was lucky enough to be a part of a special moment where, for the first time, a mother had a professional picture of her three sons taken. Her middle son (seated) has special needs that, prior to coming to FotoFly, had prevented this wonderful moment in the past.

If your child has special needs, and you would love to have his or her picture  professionally taken, please do not hesitate to bring your child to FotoFly. Our studio is well equipped to accommodate every child, and I- along with any other FotoFly photographer- would be thrilled at the opportunity to photograph your child.

FotoU: Understanding Shutter Speed

There are a lot of neat effects you can do in photoshop to change the appearance of your images, but did you know there are settings on your camera that can alter the way your subject looks without ever putting it into an editing program? What if you want to stop a runner in their tracks, or better yet, show how much faster they are moving then everyone else? All you have to understand is your shutter speed.

Shutter speed is how quickly the shutter opens and closes on your camera. To better understand what the numbers mean just remember, the higher the number the faster your shutter speed, the lower the number the slower your shutter speed.

This affects two very important aspects in your images, first is the amount of light that is being allowed into the camera. These images were all taken with the same camera settings, the only thing that changed was the shutter speed. We needed to get more light into the camera in order to make the exposure correct, so by lowering our shutter speed more light was let into the camera.

The second thing affected is how much movement is either stopped or shown in your image. For example, if you would like to capture a bird landing on the water you could use a higher shutter speed which would “freeze” the bird in place.

A good rule to remember if you are trying to stop action, whether that is at a soccer game or you just have a very busy kiddo that will not sit still. You need to have your shutter speed set at 1/500 or HIGHER, otherwise you will most likely see some blur in your images from where movement was occurring. If you have lots of daylight to work with 1/1000 is a good number to stay at (especially for sporting events.)

If you would like to make the image a little more dramatic, you could show the bird’s wings were actually moving as it landed. You would do this by lowering your shutter speed.

For those that don’t know, Eric is a pretty awesome photographer and has taken some pretty stellar pictures. While at a restaurant he noticed this waiter that was quickly moving about. Instead of just freezing the action, he wanted to show that this waiter was really moving from table to table. So he slowed his shutter speed which gave the appearance of movement and made the image much more interesting. In order to achieve this look Eric focused on the waiter and moved or “panned” his lens with the waiter. This gives the blurry background and keeps the man in focus.

One last thing to remember, there are limits to how slow you can actually handhold the camera without having unintentional movement show in your images from you breathing, or your hands shaking. Generally the rule of thumb is based on how long your lens is. If you have an 80mm lens a shutter speed lower then 1/80 has a good chance of showing your movement.

FotoFriday: Fashion on the Fly

All of us know that photography takes many shapes and forms, one of which is high-fashion. Typically these are artistic pictures that revolve around Vintage, Glamour, Couture, Urban and other fresh styles. At times we have the opportunity to document a little fashion at FotoFly.

Jessica, a bride to be, arrived at our studio in a gorgeous, designer wedding dress. The shoot started off with some classic posing and then took a turn to the fashion side. Her style and desire to have a more couture look was right up my alley. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do what I love…high-fashion.

The very next day Jessica and her husband-to-be, came in to have engagement pictures taken. The two of them pulled off the urban look so well we decided to take an edgier approach. He looked like a Calvin Klein Model and she could be someone out of the next Urban Outfitters Catalog. The poses started coming and the lights flashing and in the end there were some great shots.

To round out this week of fun, fresh fashion we had two senior girls come in to have pictures taken for ‘the most important year of their lives’ (to them at least). We succeeded in capturing the unique personality and beauty of each in full throttle fashion.

These Fashion shoots are off the hook. All of these pictures could be found in a magazine, so watch out, FotoFly might start its own. I personally like ‘FlyFashion’ for the title. What do you think?

Come in and be our next High Fashion Model!

Here’s a little taste of the action. I’m trying to get a natural Glamour jump
from an awesome model. :) Be warned it might make you laugh.

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