Thursday, 19 May 2016

From the other side of the lens - the 7 steps for good photos

I've long wanted to give B more of a voice on this blog - he's so involved behind the scenes, but you'd barely even know it from what I say. Without his input, this blog's photography would probably still be dark shots in my bedroom! Neither of us are trained photographers and what we do here is definitely teamwork. Which is why I'm always surprised when people compliment my photos - we really don't feel like we know what we're doing! But maybe how we do things might be interesting/useful to others, so today, I thought I'd do something a bit different and have B tell you in his own words what he does for this blog and how he goes about it... A lot of work goes into producing the images you see here!

B, from CiCi Marie

Some time ago, CiCi asked me to write a post for her blog. At first I was a bit stumped - what do I know about vintage fashion? But then she explained that this would be more about the process of creating one of her outfit posts and the behind-the-scenes work that goes into it.

That didn’t necessarily fill me with inspiration, as essentially I’m just the guy who drives the car and takes the pictures. But as I had more time to think it over, I began to realise that there is perhaps a little more to it than I had first thought - and as CiCi often reminds me - my involvement in her blogging has helped her to keep it growing.

The best way to talk through the process behind one of our shoots is to break it up into pieces - so without further ado here’s my 7 step guide to a CiCi-Marie photoshoot:

1. Location
Usually this will begin with me asking CiCi if she wants nature or buildings for the shoot location. Sometimes the outfit will have more specific requirements - like being near water (the recent nautical dress was photographed at a marina) or including a specific prop (like the red telephone box we used back in January).

Having grown up in the Cambridge area I know the city and the surrounding area pretty well. So it’s never too tricky to find a good spot that we’ve not used before (I feel it’s best to keep all the shoot locations different) [CiCi: Although we do revisit some of our favourites - just maybe from a slightly different angle].

If we’re away on holiday we always make sure to get a shoot or two in - just to make use of the different/more glamorous surroundings. This isn't always easy, as being in unfamiliar territory can make it difficult to to find a good spot [CiCi: Like the time we walked to a part of Valencia to find a location without realising it was the dodgy end of town, resulting in walking all the way back and taking the shots 5 feet from the hotel!].

2. Weather
Living in Britain and trying to take outdoor photos all year round carries an extra challenge that people in warmer climates might not appreciate - wind and rain. These are the two worst enemies of our photoshoots [CiCi: You'd never know this would you? It's not like I ever mention it. Ever.].

We usually have to fit our shoots around what the weather is doing. This means we have several weather apps installed on our phones which can sometimes show conflicting weather info. Once a break in the weather presents itself, we go out and get the photos done but can still be caught out by unforecast wind.

3. Parking
We live in Cambridge - a city notorious for its congested traffic and expensive parking fees. Sometimes we will use the city and its historic architecture but only if it’s somewhere we can park relatively close to and without paying a fortune in parking fees.

We’re often more likely to drive to the outskirts of the city or into the surrounding countryside/villages - which (with a bit of local knowledge) means we can still find picturesque locations without getting fleeced for parking charges or spend most of our time stuck in traffic jams [CiCi: It's worth mentioning we make good use of Google Maps to see what traffic is doing and which roads to avoid, as it's a waste of precious minutes of daylight to get stuck in a jam!]

4. Lighting
I’m certainly no professional photographer but I do enjoy taking photos - which helps and I like to think I have a reasonable sense of composition. But the single most important thing for making our photos look their best is lighting. We learned the hard way that a bright sunny day is actually far from ideal and produces lots of overexposed photos with CiCi blinking constantly [CiCi: To be fair, I'm bad enough on a gloomy day/indoors/in the dark]! Instead, our best photos are taken on overcast days (of which we have plenty).

Solid, consistent cloud coverage creates a giant lightbox effect - which diffuses a warm soft light that seems to make skin tones look their best. If we are stuck out in bright sunshine, we’ll often try and find some sort of shade (like a tree).

Photography in action for CiCi Marie

5. Focus
To get the nice looking portrait photos we use on the blog, CiCi’s camera is fitted with a portrait lens. Without going into lots of detail these are lenses specially designed for taking photos of people close up. They have a shallow depth-of-field which simply means that objects in the foreground are in focus and the backgrounds are blurred.

This is something we’re used to seeing in things like movies and fashion photography - it emphasises the subject and distinguishes photos shot in this way from the photos you’d get from a point & click camera or a camera phone.

However, this sort of lens is at its best when shooting portraits of of people from the waist up or closer. When you move out further to get the whole subject in, it can struggle as this isn't really what it was designed for. This means we can often get quite a few out of focus full length (i.e. whole body) shots which need to be sifted out at the end (once we get home) and also means that we probably end up shooting 2-3 times as many full lengths as we do for the other types of shots.

6. People, children and animals!
Apart from finding a location that fits the outfit we also try and find somewhere that’s not too busy. CiCi is by her very nature quite a shy girl, which is ironic considering her hobby involves standing around in public being photographed... [CiCi: A fashion blogger's got to do what a fashion blogger's got to do...]

But a little privacy does more than just placate CiCi’s modesty - it can be a little awkward and sometimes annoying when people either wander into the shot or children stop and stare as if they’ve never seen anyone having their picture taken before [CiCi: And sometimes the little darlings deliberately ride their bicycles in and out of shot on repeat the whole shoot, while their mother's watch like it's totally ok behaviour]

As for animals - I’m sure CiCi would love a dog to wander into the shot but (based on experience) insects and swans are most definitely not welcome!

7. Finishing touches 
When we get home from a shoot, CiCi has the task of sifting through 150+ photos to find the ones she wants to use. This is where she’ll discard all the unusable shots - for example, blinking, funny faces, out of focus or hair being blown by the wind [CiCi: I'd like to add laughing - I am not an attractive laugher in 2D].

She does this all by herself and though I initially showed her a few Photoshop tricks for things like removing creases and folds in clothing [CiCi: I really hate ironing], she’s quite a pro at it now.

So there you have it - that’s pretty much how we put together an outfit photoshoot. Somehow we manage to do them pretty much every available weekend, all year round - regardless of what the British weather or life in general may throw at us! [CiCi: And sometimes, like last week, we do two in a row which involves me changing in the car. Very glamorous.] And best of all we’ve never really fallen out or argued about it - this is part of our lives and I wouldn't change it for the world :)

B and CiCi Marie

I have to admit, I felt touched when I read that last sentence, as I had kinda assumed there was low level resentment from those days I drag us out in the depths of winter! This blog really is a team effort, and I couldn't do it without B - so a huge thank you to him, which I really don't say enough.

So while we're here, if there's anything else you want to know about how we go about getting pictures, do feel free to ask!


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22 comments:

  1. This was great! I do so wish I could get my husband interested in taking photos of me but we are the polar opposite. He truly dislikes taking photos of me for the blog and thus why I went out and bought a tripod and now do it on my own. I am always very envious of those bloggers that have help with their partners. It makes it much more of a couples project and something to enjoy together.

    Lucky you!


    bisous
    Suzanne

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    1. Glad you liked it :) I really thought B would hate taking photos for me too, so imagine my surprise and joy when he turned out to quite enjoy it! We're lucky because it really is something we like doing together - but boy, it has to be. You spend most of your free time planning for it or actually doing it. There's no point in working together if one of you isn't game!! x

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  2. I LOVED this!! My boyfriend, Cody, is the opposite of B! He makes a big deal out of being my photographer when we travel (he's mostly just being a pain in the butt and will do it though) and doesn't really know much about photography. But it's so fun that B has fun with it! I loved the parts about climate - Cody also doesn't understand why I get mad when a day is bright and sunny without any clouds. It just makes it harder! Overcast is definitely ideal!! Not a lot of people know this! =D

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    1. Ha I get so cross when the sun deigns to come out on a day I've pegged for pictures - but that's more because the entire rest of the week it's probably been cloudy and/or totally miserable, so it makes it particularly irritating. Overcast is my fave - if I ever had to move to a sunnier climate, I genuinely think I'd really struggle with pics!

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  3. Yes, we always see "pictures of you" (again the song of "The Cure" here) without realizing there is a lot of effort behind the scenes (as you point out). Well done to B for supporting your hobby and passion and for sharing in your blog its experiences a photographer.
    Eva (from Luxembourg/Germany)
    P.S.: I hate to poss for pics because I'm always bliking ;-)

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    1. sorry for my English!
      Well done to B for supporting your hobby and passion and for sharing in your blog his experiences as photographer.

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    2. I always blink too - it's a long-running joke between us when we look over the pics. There's seriously more blinking ones than non-blinking - add a sunny day in and it's about 80% blinking, 15% squinting and 5% usable pics!!

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  4. This is such a great post and what an adorable boyfriend you have! My boyfriend is really into photography so he kind of tells me how to pose and makes me look nicer than I would. It's a nice partnership!

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    1. Aw, thank you! B is not so good with the directing side, so I envy you that. I often look back and pics and we have conversations like 'why didn't you tell me my leg looked weird/my label was hanging out/I had love handles etc etc'!

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  5. Deeply cool post! I so adore it when we get to here from the significant others of bloggers. Thank you both very much for this fun, informative post and "behind the scenes" look at some of the elements that go into creating the beautiful snaps you share here with us each week.

    xoxo ♥ Jessica

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    1. It was your post that Tony wrote that gave me the idea a long time ago, so thank you! x

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  6. Such a lovely - and really helpful - post. Even though I don't blog, the photo tips are really useful. Thank You! Kx

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    1. Ah, I'm so glad if it's useful - but even more so if it helps beyond the blogging world. I know not all of my readers make themselves pose in public at every given opportunity like I do ;) x

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  7. Such a lovely post, it's nice to hear his insight and thoughts about blogging and photography - he takes amazing photos too! So nice that he enjoys it, you make a great team x

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    1. He does very well considering he's not remotely trained, I think! But he is quite creative, so I think he really can get something out of it which is so much better for me :) x

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  8. Aww this is so sweet, what a lovly man you have, it's a great team effort. Your pics always look great so it's fab finding out how!

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    1. Happy to help! I'd love to hear from more bloggers how they actually do the practical stuff like this, I find it so interesting to read myself :)

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  9. I love that B is so involved and passionate about your blog, and that I think makes all the difference when it comes to getting great photos which you two always do! You are probably the first to mention the issue of parking when taking blog photos, that is an annoying little expense that after a while really does add up. I usually try to get around this by seeing what day of the week is the cheapest day to park and then plan around taking photos on that specific day if I want to take the photos somewhere in the city for example! I'm also glad that I'm not the only one that obsessively checks the weather - such an important thing to do if you are driving out of the way (sometimes we will drive up to an hour to get photos in a location) and the last thing I want is getting there and for it to rain all day.... Anyway I really enjoyed this post, I'm a little nosy and enjoy hearing about the photo process other bloggers and their photographers go to - it's a bit therapeutic to know that we all have the same concerns and hoops to jump through to get photos we're happy with.

    http://www.harlowdarling.com

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    1. I know, I'm a very lucky girl :) I find it amazing that I'm the first to mention parking, but now that you say it I don't recall anyone ever talking about it either! It really adds up - we live in such an expensive city to try to take shots anywhere central. And that's before you try to find a space...! I'm a weather obsessive - love all my apps ;) I'm glad we all struggle with the same things too! x

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  10. Great post! Love reading these tips and hearing about all that goes into your photo shoots! Also, it's a sweet glimpse into your lives together and the team that puts this blog together!

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  11. If you want a blurred background on a full-length shot, use a telephoto lens and put plenty of distance between model, photographer and backdrop :-) That should cut down on wasted images.

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  12. What an incredible insight. So interesting to get a cheeky peek in to the workings of another blogger.

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