Mars & Venus Project

I created two thought-provoking images that challenge gender stereotypes in media and society in the form of product (for Mars) and portrait (for Venus).

I think it so important to teach children about gender equality at a young age so that they grow up to be accepting and compassionate. Not only would they be sensitive to gender stereotypes, but they might also have a little fire burning inside them to help challenge the status quo.

There are two young people in my life that are rocking the challenge of gender stereotypes. I know it comes from their wonderful parents who make an effort to teach their kids to be accepting and that there’s no right or wrong, or that we don’t all have to fit into these boxes that society has created for us.

The first portrait is of a brother and his little sister. Big brother is nurturing and caring toward his sister. Boys and men are often told not to show emotion and to act strong. I see so much strength in this image of a young boy who is confident and encouraged to be helpful, stereotypes aside. Being in the kitchen which has long been though of as a “women’s place” is another aspect of challenging gender stereotypes.

The second image is of a young girl who enjoys hunting and target practice. Hunting has long been thought of as a man’s sport, but this girl loves shooting her bow and being just like her big brother. She plays with dolls and bows. She is allowed to play with any toys that she wants, they don’t have to be dressed in pink and girly. I think this type of open play teaches her to be strong and confident in anything she does. There’s no ‘his’ or ‘hers’ when it comes to entertaining herself, just the enjoyment of playing.

 

Outtakes

Video Killed the Radio Star Project

Another awesome school project! I had to create new album artwork for an assigned album by my instructor. I had to reflect on the genre of music, the decade it was made and the tone of the album.

I had to include: album name, artist name, track list, label, applicable logos, any credits, musician list and copyrights.

The album is completely instrumental so I really had to listen to the music to come up with an idea for new album artwork. There were moments during some of the tracks where the off notes of the music made me cringe a little, and that’s where I came up with the idea of nail scratching on a chalkboard. There are also a lot of instruments on the album and with the intensity of the music, I really wanted my images to show a lot of noise, so I shot them at ISO 6400 and brought up the detail and noise when editing.

Outtakes

 

‘What’s on the Cover?’ Photography Project

Another fun school project! I had to create my own magazine cover including all necessary text including:

  • Masthead
  • Selling line
  • Dateline
  • Main image
  • Main cover line
  • Cover lines (3)
  • Left third
  • Bar code

The theme for my magazine is ‘The Canadian Outdoors’, which is also the title. What is more Canadian than having a winter campfire at night surrounded by cedar trees? Shooting at night can be tricky if you aren’t using a flash and have moving subjects, so I had to make sure my models kept still for the duration of my exposure. I love the effect of the sparks from the fire going up the middle of the magazine cover, and the glow from the fire adds warmth to a cold season.

I have a few outtakes from the photo shoot as well. There’s some blurred motion and fire blocking heads, by the time I figured out how to position everyone, I got the shot on the cover.

Monochromatic Photography Project

This was such a fun project! When I found out that I had to put together a monochromatic image, I knew exactly what I was going to do. Isn’t there a saying about a dog and it’s owner looking alike?

I have taken photographs of my husband and dog, Banjo, before and knew that the tones of brown would work really well for both of them. It was so fun to have Banjo in the studio as well. She was super well behaved and has had her photograph taken many times, so she’s good at posing.

Here are some outtakes from the session which I like the most!

Star Trail Photography

Shooting star trails has been high on my list of photography-related things to try. I could never really wrap my head around setting my camera to bulb and leaving my shutter open for a length of time (long enough to record star trails). I tried the intervalometer method and did most of the work in Photoshop.

The first composition I tried, I set my intervalometer so there was a slight delay between photographs which created a really neat dotted effect across the sky.

Once I uploaded all of the images as layers in Photoshop, I changed the blend mode to Screen on each layer. I went layer by layer so that I could use a layer mask to conceal the airplane lines in the sky (there were lots).

I only shot each composition for about 15-20 minutes and used a 50mm prime lens. Next time I’d love to try a wide angle lens and allow myself plenty of time to record longer trails in the sky.

Not bad for my first try.

First Snowfall in Bracebridge

I went to a friend’s house in Muskoka last night for dinner and by the time I left the snow was coming down pretty good. It was so beautiful last night. I could have taken many pictures but the snow was blowing and it would have been hard to get a good one because a long exposure was needed.

When I got up in the wee hours of the morning to go to the loo, I glanced outside and the snow had stopped and we received a substantial amount for what I consider, the first snowfall of the season. Back into my warm bed I tossed and turned for an hour or so knowing that I should be out making photographs.

You know when you’re laying in bed and you’re struggling to get up and there’s a point where you all of a sudden jump out? That’s what I did. I got dressed, grabbed my camera and tripod and explained to my husband what I was doing at that time in the morning (a Sunday morning at that).

There really was only one spot I wanted to go because it wasn’t even 6:00am when I left the house and I just wanted to snap a few, not make a morning of it. The Bracebridge falls are lit up right now, and with the reflection of the fresh fallen snow it was beautiful!

The dam building and the falls were constantly changing colour because of the lights, so I’d wait to try and get a few of the different colours.

So beautiful! I tried to get a shot without the weir, but I didn’t want to back up any further because I’d fall in. Sorry for the water spots. The water is rushing through here like crazy and the mist is unavoidable.

It’s hard to step away from this shot of the falls, but I looked around and saw a few other cool pictures.

See the line of blue and red light on the road? The snowplows were everywhere!

I had to take a few more of the building because covered in snow, it was stunning!

And… my favourite shot of the morning.

It’s so hard to get up this early and go from a warm, cozy bed out into the cold, but most times it’s totally worth it!

 

What is Your Picture Worth?

As a Photographer getting ready to start my own business, I’m constantly plagued by the non-standardization of pricing for photography services. There is no real list of costs that a photographer should adhere to. So it’s nearly impossible to figure out how much a picture is worth in addition to my time.

Many of us just starting out will take on any gig to gain experience and we most likely wouldn’t charge anything for it because we don’t feel like we’re good enough to charge a fee for our photography services. Or we may have felt timid at asking $400 or something absurd like that, which we thought no one would pay for because it was too expensive.

The first time I was asked to photograph a wedding I told them I had never shot a wedding before and if they find someone else in the meantime, they should go ahead and confirm another photographer. Nope, they didn’t want to. They wanted me to photograph their wedding. I took the gig so seriously that I signed up for a 6-week photography workshop. This workshop changed my life and I was offered a job as a wedding photographer assistant for the workshop facilitator. It was after that when I decided to take photography more seriously. The first wedding I shot was for close and dear family friends. I felt completely honoured to give them my one-time only, free service for such a special day, and still can’t believe that they thought I was good enough to capture their wedding. It was a great learning opportunity for me, and it’s almost like volunteering. Just to gain experience, I volunteered. The pressure I felt was immense to make sure I didn’t miss any important and special moments. I did ask the couple to buy me a few things that I would need in order to get the job done correctly. They had no problem in doing that.

Okay, so we’re all going to photograph a wedding for free. But how much are those pictures really worth? Anyone with a camera can take pictures, right?

** While I’m here I’m going to tell you my biggest pet peeve. Over-the-shoulder shooters. As a photographer, I have set up a portrait shot of the newlyweds and Uncle Joe is behind me taking a picture with his iPhone and then posts it to Facebook. That could technically be copyright infringement. He just stole my shot! Not only did he steal my shot, but he’s devaluing my service. The bride and groom would have paid a hefty amount for a photographer, and Uncle Joe is snapping away. Very inconsiderate and it should be noted in the contract that no over-the-shoulder shooters are allowed.**

© Cobi Sharpe

I had a great opportunity to work for a wedding photographer as her assistant and I learned so much! First of all, she had to pay me to assist. If you want all your important moments captured and then some, you’re going to need a photographer and an assistant. The amount of gear involved making photographs is insane and for a smooth photo shoot, it’s helpful to have someone else get that gear ready as needed. For weddings, the bride and groom are so busy that they don’t need to be wasting any extra time while you’re fumbling around trying to do everything yourself. What about different angles and capturing other moments of guests and happenings while the main photographer is doing portrait sessions?

Okay, so you have to pay for an assistant.

In many cases, photographers are hired anywhere from 10:00am – 11:00pm to photograph the bride and groom getting ready, portrait sessions, ceremony, mingling, reception and cake cutting. That’s over 12 hours! Most people are paid extra for over time hours. You have 2 people working 10 + hours.

And then there’s the editing! If you’re good, you can get your editing done in fairly good time, but this too takes time to go through each photograph taken by the photographer and assistant, plus there will definitely be Photoshop work that needs to be done (if the client pays for it). I took a beautiful photograph of my family friend at the first wedding I shot with her grandson. Beautiful shot, but there was a rope growing out of the side of her head! It bothered me so much that when I learned how to use Photoshop, I fixed the image and told her to please replace it over a year later.

Then there’s compiling all the best photographs and meeting with the clients to choose which photographs they’d like and whether they’re prints, a book or digital, and if they’re digital, let me tell you that you’ll be paying a lot more.

When a photographer charges $1300+ to shoot a wedding (and that’s the very basic, folks. The photographer I assisted charged $1300 for a pre-wedding consolation, 3+ hours of consecutive wedding photo coverage, an assistant, and USB with all high resolution digital files – edited, but not retouched with Photoshop). You now understand what photography services you’re paying for. That number will easily go up based on the work of the photographer, what services the client wants, years of professional experience, etc.

The real problem is when a “photographer” is charging less than $1000-1300 to shoot a wedding. When breaking down costs above, is this person making any money at all? Nope. Probably losing. This type of pricing really burns my a$$ because it’s devaluing photography services. If people who don’t understand pricing or what their services are worth keep charging lowballing amounts, it brings down the value of photography. And what will happen is that people will now have iPhone images of their wedding because photographers will disappear because they would be losing money. Try making beautiful prints with those iPhone images. Go ahead.

Now what if you’re someone who has been lucky enough to get that one-time only free wedding photographer? Well, I hope that you did your very best to promote that photographer so that she/he can potentially get more clients. After all, they gave you a free service in the ball park of about $500-800+ to shoot your wedding for free.

Even first timers should consider charging at least $600-800 without an assistant. Think of all the time, resources, hours spent editing, the cost of your gear, etc.

What if you’re the client and you don’t have $1000+ to spend on a wedding photographer? I know how much weddings can cost, and there are definitely areas where some of us aren’t able to spend as much. If you only have a budget of $400 for a wedding photographer that’s completely fine. Just don’t expect them to give you a full photography package for that price. Maybe for that budget you can pay a wedding photographer to take amazing wedding portraits of the bride and groom and family. Or maybe you just want them to shoot the ceremony. The thing is, as photographers, we’re willing (and totally want to) work with you with the budget you have.

What about the actual cost of photography gear? I photographed a low-key portrait session using 5 speed lights. The cost of the speed lights alone when purchased would have been over $5,000. Then there’s the seamless background, your computer and monitor, monthly software fees, umbrellas, soft boxes, light stands, extension cords, file storage costs, studio space and the cost of your camera and lenses. We’re talking about thousands of dollars worth of gear.

© Cobi Sharpe. Low key photo shoot using a thousands-of-dollars setup.

What about portraits? What if you just want to have your family portraits done? Well, you’re paying for the professional services of a photographer, their mileage to the location, wear and tear/admin fees for their gear and editing images. Does the client want prints, a photo book or digital files? If they want digital files, they’re going to be paying a lot more.

If they want prints, I’m not sending the files to Walmart to have them printed. No way! I’ve spent far too much of my time and money buying a monitor calibrator and working with a printing business specializing in photography to make sure that what I see on my screen is what comes out of their printer (until I can purchase my own). Printing and then comparing to my screen and making adjustments, printing and then comparing.. it never ends. I’m constantly calibrating my monitor to ensure that what is printed is exactly what I’ve edited. Making a print just became much more important than sending them off to the local Kodak printer.

When a photographer charges $150+ for a 1-hour portrait session, you know now what services you’re paying for. That fee wouldn’t even include the cost of each digital image. A professional photographer will probably be using a speed light that costs at least $1000. Think of the cost of gear.

I have mentioned a couple of times about paying more for digital images. You have to understand that these are now the photograph negatives and we shouldn’t be giving them away lightly. In the past before digital cameras came out, people were paying for prints. Now that we have digital, the same value should be charged for digital files. So please photographers, stop giving away your digital images for free. That is devaluing photography services.

I know of some professional photographers who charge a base fee of $200 + for a consultation, low-res images posted for viewing for 3 months on a private web gallery, post-shoot creative editing in the studio and $50 credit toward printed art or digital files. On top of that you’ll pay $10/digital file (no Photoshop), $20 per image for Level 2 Photoshop (Small blemishes removed, wrinkles softened, teeth whitened), or $35 per image for Level 3 Photoshop (All blemishes removed, “crinkles” diminished, lines softened, hair de-frizzed, glass glare removed, head swaps).

What about education costs? I’m paying thousands of dollars for a 2-year photography program that needs to be considered when I’m pricing out my worth to clients.

So there you have it. I’ve given you a few scenarios of how much your picture could be worth. If you’re a photographer and aren’t charging enough, please understand our value as photographers and start charging what you/we’re worth. It is us that can maintain a meaningful standardized fee for our creative and professional services. If you’re a potential client, please understand that there’s more to making your picture than just hitting a shutter button. Not only do we love to make you look your best, but we also have a lot of time and resources to cover that goes into making your picture.

 

Portraits for My Parents

I have thought about photographing my parents ever since I went back to school to become a professional photographer. I know I have the skills and ability now to make quality photographs.

When my husband and I were on a 3-week canoe trip in Quetico Provincial Park, they agreed to look after our dog, Banjo. In exchange for babysitting our dog, I wanted to offer them my services. An hour photo shoot on location with an assistant isn’t an easy task along with thousands of dollars worth of photography gear, which meant that I couldn’t just do it for free. My parents are super supportive of my new career path know how incredibly important it is to create value for photography services so they expected to pay me for a full session. I was happy to trade because I know looking after Banjo wouldn’t have been an easy task.

I’m so pleased with how they turned out and I know I will always have these beautiful images of my parents forever.

 

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The Night Portrait

I had to apply everything I know about lighting, mixing ambient light and flash units on location. This photo shoot was challenging at first until I figured out how to bring in the ambient light. It was 8:00 pm so it was very dark outside.

I was really excited about this assignment because I knew I could do something cool. My idea was to do it near a train bridge in town, but then I thought about the waterfall. When I arrived on location I had no idea that it would be lit up! I knew there were coloured strands of lights on the bridge, but the colourful waterfall was an added bonus.

My intention was to photograph only my husband for this assignment and I dressed him accordingly. I had thought about the pose I wanted him to do, and knew it would work perfectly with the weir. What I find amazing about this photo shoot is the amount of colour. It’s like a rainbow but it’s completely dark out! I absolutely love colour!

My husband is a perfect model.

Having my parents up for a visit was an added bonus. My mother is such a beautiful woman, that I was really excited to make an amazing portrait of her. I’m really proud of it because it’s a unique and special portrait all for my mother.

My beautiful mother.

I had to wait a few times until the waterfall was just right colour and when it finally turned orange I took the portrait of my parents because I think it matches my dad’s sweater. Again, I’m so proud of these images because I know they are unique. Makes me happy to have these special portraits for my parents and of my parents.

The Bearded Woodsman | Nature Portrait

I was so excited when my first assignment for Creative Lighting was a nature portrait. I knew my husband and dog would be excellent subjects!
I had this idea of portraying a bearded woodsman in the forest, but when I found this location I loved the texture and colour of the rocks. It had rained all day, and the cloud broke just long enough for this photo shoot. I loved using a Profoto B1 speed light and umbrella to balance with the ambient light.

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