Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park Wedding

One of my brides was gifted half of a lovely wedding package for RMNP and Estes Park. The only downside to it was that the package was for an early afternoon ceremony. The couple was driven to and from the ceremony in a 1938 Rolls Royce. Since the groom wanted to go the more traditional route, he opted to be blind folded for the ride to the ceremony. It was perfect!

1938 Rolls Royce Wedding Car Ride

Blindfolded!

Jeracha and Chance on their way to the ceremony in RMNP

While it's warmer out at that time of day, the sun is directly overhead and the shadows can be very harsh. You also have to watch out for where the key people in the wedding stand, especially when there's trees around. In this case, the officiant placed the bride in the shade (which is great) but unfortunately put the groom in the direct sun. 

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Poor couple placement

Notice the mostly even lighting on the bride's face as opposed to the groom's face who is standing in the direct sunlight.

The good news is that we were able to catch some clouds during the portrait session which really helped capture some lovely wedding photos in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). I can't wait to shoot there again, so please reach out if you're thinking of getting married in the mountains!

as always, follow me on Instagram @ColorCO_Photography

or click here: https://www.instagram.com/colorco_photography/

Tips for nailing your Headshots

Do you feel awkward in front of a camera?

Take a deep breath. Everybody gets this feeling, models included.

Before I share my tips and tricks, I believe it's helpful to start by trying to understand why we all feel like this when the camera is pointed our direction. Here are my unscientific thoughts on the topic:

  • Paying Attention - During the course of our normal everyday lives, we put little to no thought into our body language. Am I slouching? Is my smile coming off as fake? What's my breathing pattern supposed to be?
    • Because you're now sitting or standing directly in front of my camera, you have no choice to think (and sometimes over-think) what your face and body is doing. These thoughts are unnatural, therefore they make you look uncomfortable and slightly awkward.

 

  • Focus - When you normally appear in photos, you're probably standing next to a friend or family member. Headshots don't typically allow for your friends to make a guest appearance, especially if they are for professional use.
    • Now you're stuck with all of the attention and focus on you, what you're wearing and how you look. That's enough for anyone to feel intimidated, so you're not alone.

 

  • Howdy Stranger - Chances are that this is our first time meeting. I don't know much about you and you probably don't know much about me. Essentially, we're strangers, with little to no distractions, who are now focusing our attention on you. This is a pretty uncommon situation so why wouldn't you feel awkward?
    • Take solace in knowing that I'm not judging you, your clothing, your smile, etc.  While it may appear that all of my attention is on you, I'm thinking a lot about the background, the lighting, camera settings and trying to articulate what I want/need you to do. Judgement doesn't even have room to fit on my radar during your session.

Feel better yet? Probably only a little, but now let's talk about what we can do during your session to better help you capture the best headshot we can create together. 

First off, don't worry about your posture or what to do with your hands. That's my job and I'll be sure to assist you along the way. However, the best posture can be created by taking a deep breath in and letting 20% of it out. That will generally force your shoulders back and straighten your upper body. The 20% exhale will keep you from looking too stiff and posed. As far as your hands, keep them connected to your body. The position of your hands will largely depend on the look and feel that you want your Headshot to convey to your audience. I'll help you with that part.

The biggest complaint that I hear about why people disliked their previous headshot is generally because they feel that their facial expressions looked fake. If you're feeling uncomfortable and awkward, then a fake smile is pretty much guaranteed. To help combat that, we'll get to know each other the best we can while I'm setting up and testing our our lighting. Tell me about the things in your life that you care about. Dog person or cat? Where is your favorite travel destination? Have you ever ran a marathon? Talking about things that you like and are passionate about will help you feel more comfortable when I start taking pictures. Mainly because it puts you in a good mental space by talking about the things that are important to you. It also helps to make us less of strangers to each other. Plus, I really enjoy learning about people and their passions. If it feels too strange to tell me about yourself, feel free to ask me about my favorite places I've traveled or people I've met along the way. 

I really hope this post helps you nail the headshot that you've been wanting. While keeping some of these things in mind when we start your headshot session, just remember that you're hiring a photographer to help you through this process as well. We do more than just set up lights and click a button. 

Above all else...... 

Headshot tips and tricks

Conquering Kili Sponsorship Request

As a photographer, I've been asked to document the 3rd annual #conqueringkili mission via the Waterboys.org. In short, my sponsorship fell through due to a timing issue leaving me 1 month to find a new sponsor or I won't be able to attend and photograph the event.

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WHAT is it?

Conquering Kili (Kilimanjaro) is an awareness and fundraising campaign for the clean water crisis in East Africa. Last year we raised over $170k for solar powered clean water wells in Africa via this event/mission. The event is a symbolic hike/walk that resembles the distance walked each week by many East Africans in search of Clean Water. It is also an event that pairs retired NFL players with Military Veterans.

The organization's mission can be found here: https://waterboys.org/mission/

How Much?

Looking for 1-4 sponsors to donate (501c3) a total of $11k to support the documentation of the 2018 event. We leave the US on Feb 16, 2018. This pays for the RT flights, Lodging, Tour Guided Trip and 1 piece of video equipment (unless I can get one donated or borrowed - 3-way nimble camera similar to the DJI Osmo).

ROD (Return on Donation)

Since it's a charitable donation, your company can use it as a tax write off (disclaimer: I'm not a tax professional). I will also have a flag/banner made with my sponsor logo(s) and will take photos with it at the well sites in Africa as well as the top of Kili. I will also give you social media credit on all photos from the trip this year (disclaimer: I don't have a HUGE social following....yet). You will also receive digital copies of the photos for use on your sites and platforms. Lastly, you'll be added to the sponsorship page on Waterboys.org.

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Flag/Banner 

2017's banner from individual sponsors (blue flag)

WHO?

Each year, Waterboys invites both retired NFL Players and US Military Veterans to climb Kili for the event. The goal is to get both groups involved in finding a purpose and a way to continue serving after their respective retirements. The 2018 Roster thus far is: 

  • Chris Long - Current NFL - Philadelphia Eagles (2017 Super Bowl Champ, NE Patriots)
  • Nate Boyer - Retired Green Baret, College Football Player at Texas, NFL retired - Seattle Seahawks
  • Tom Santi - Retired NFL - Indianapolis Colts
  • Steven Jackson - Retired NFL Rams, Falcons and Patriots 
  • Jon Arnold - Medically Retired Army - Amputee and Climate Change Activist
  • Kerry Rock - Retired Army - PTSD survivor and current Sexual Assault Advocate
  • Elliot Ruiz - Medically Retired Marine - Severe back and leg injuries
  • Doc Jacobs - Medically Retired Navy - Amputee

Portable Headshot Studio

Have you always wanted to get your company's headshots updated and current but struggle to find a good time to schedule the entire staff to travel to an off-site studio? Doesn't matter if it's 3 people in the office or 400, I can travel to your office location and set up a portable studio (see below). 

All I need is a conference room or a 10' x 15' area to set up the studio backdrop and lighting. 

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Behind the Scenes

While the setup looks a little small, the results speak for themselves. See below to view the edited version.

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Edited Final

Thanks to a long lens that provides great compression, the backdrop fits the entire frame.

Pricing:

There is quite a bit that goes into owning, transporting, setting up and breaking down the portable studio. Due to the nature of that, I charge a $60 setup fee to bring the studio to you/your office.

After that, it costs $125/hr for the headshots. 2 hour minimum. Per hour price includes the online delivery and storage for 10 years as well as the time spent editing and retouching outside of the shooting time. Generally I can get 6-10 people in per hour, however I prefer to favor the 5-6 per hour in order to get the best shots of each person. 

Backdrop colors are white, gray and black. Custom backdrops can be ordered, additional charges for these custom backdrops. Email me for more info at sowa.cody@gmail.com

Headshots: What to Wear and What to Avoid

Disclaimer:

You have the right and freedom to wear whatever you want for your headshots. The info below strictly opinion based. At the very least, it can help you ask yourself the proper questions in order to make apparel decisions.

Clothing:

Solid colors work best. If your favorite shirt that gives you an added layer of confidence happens to be a pattern, stick to bigger and/or non-busy patterns. Any tight pattern will be very distracting and take the attention off of your face. Secondly, consider what you want your end-user (client, recruiter, hiring manager, etc.) to see and feel when they look at your headshot. If you're an actor who specializes in rom-cons, then a bright color shirt can give your headshot a boost of energy. If your a lawyer who wants your headshot to give a "no monkey business" type feel, then stick to traditional white, light blue or gray solid colors.

Jewlery:

Again, think of your end user. If you're a social media manger for an "edgy" company/client, then big earings and facial piercings may be the feel that you're going for. If you're applying for jobs in the coorperate world, even in the tech strartup realm, I'd suggest to keep it simple. No facial jewlrey (small studs if you can't take them out) and keep the earlings and necklaces on the smaller and elegant side. They should be an accessory, not an attention grabber.

Jacket/Sport Coat: For either Men or Women, think about the job or clients that will see your photo. If you feel your customers or hiring manager would feel more comfortable with someone who acts with 100% professionalism (straight to business, no small talk) then a suit or sport coat may be the best bet. Since headshots are generally elbows or shoulders and higher, no need to wear the full suit. Just bring the jacket to the session and put it on right before we shoot. Don't wear it while driving, it will wrinkle! If you want to appear more friendly and approachable, then I'd skid the jacket. A nice and professional top (longsleeve button down for men) looks great in headshots and gives the end-user the feeling that you're easy to talk to.

Tattoos: There's a theme to all of these categories and tattoos are no different. Just ask yourself, "would my future client or manager care if I had visable tattoos?" If your tattoos are unable to be covered (mainly neck and facial tattoos), I can photoshop them out. However, keep in mind that this can be percieved as misleading to your client or hiring manager when they end up meeting you in person and see said tattoo. Sometimes people are in the process of having them removed and it would be gone by the time they met anyone. It's a $25 additional charge for this service as it is a difficult process to remove them and make it look natural.

Unplug Your Wedding Day

Up-Plugged - Many couples know that technology plays a huge role in their BIG day, but as cell phone cameras (and the like) keep getting resolution upgrades the guests will begin to become cell phone photography experts. This becomes an issue for not only your very expensive wedding photographer, but for the happy couple as well. When you begin to receive your pictures post-wedding, you may start to notice an increase of glowing devices, arms and bodies blocking some of the great ceremony environment that you worked so hard on. While "photo-shopping" is an option, most wedding photographers charge extra for that service as it is incredibly time-consuming if you want any kind of quality results. So, my advice is to have an "Un-plugged" ceremony where your guests are forced to sit back, be present and experience your beautiful wedding without viewing the entire thing on a 3.5" screen. Being present and in the moment.... sounds terrible, right?

Honey, did we hire 3 photographers?

Why didn't the photographer dress up?

Don't worry, he wasn't with me. That was the owner of the photo booth who said he needed content for his website. He was not a guest nor invited.....

Will My Guests be Upset?

As many of your guests would text, email and call you with their concerns about missing out on the instant social media uploading capabilities if they're not informed prior to the ceremony, addressing the expectations and having a plan that will solve a few concerns ahead of time will go a long way. Including it on the Invitations and/or a separate info/guest-request card are great ways to handle the situation. You can also add it to your wedding site for your tech-savvy guests. Please don't forget to include a paper/mailed version as well though. Memaw (aka- your Grandma) may not frequent the interwebs as much as you'd like. Plus, the more goal/expectation setting you can do prior to the big day, the better. I've also seen little cards that the ushers hand out to guests as they arrive.

Keep Your Guests Happy

Your guests generally have the best intentions when they unknowingly ruin a photo like this group did. The guests were not trying to keep the Groom from seeing his Bride-to-be as she appeared for the first time in her beautiful wedding dress. No, they were also excited to see her and mainly wanted to capture the moment so that they could relive the experience themselves as well as share it with friends and family who couldn't make the wedding. These are all good reasons, so how can you keep your guests happy too? The answer: Make the professional photos you paid for easily accessible and shared with them as soon as possible. I've even agreed to share 3 main pictures from the ceremony before the reception started. However, I don't recommend that you write this into your contract with your photographer or even make the request unless you are ok with an additional 30 minutes added to the break between the ceremony and reception.

What I would recommend is that you work something out with your photographer that gets you a half-dozen pictures sent to you or posted on your FB wall by a certain time and date. Maybe even right after the reception ends. Don't expect this to be a free service, but it would be well worth it if you can keep people from ruining your pictures.

Have Fun With It!

Be creative, not rude. Let your creativity run wild and find fun and beautiful ways to include the message in your mailings as well as on site. Contact your photographer as well, they may have some other ideas not mentioned here. I have my own-bag-o' tricks that I keep for myself and my clients.

Guests ruin wedding picture

No guests in the aisle please!

While teared stadium seating isn't a great option, neither is your guests leaning into the aisle blocking a potentially great photo opportunity

Always Remember:

Keeping technology out of your guests' hands during the ceremony is in the happy couple's BEST interest. There are no re-dos on a first kiss or the beautiful Bride walking down the aisle for the first time. If "Uncle Bob" decides to jump out into the aisle during the first kiss in order to capture the special moment on his flip phone, you (as a client/couple) may be pretty upset that there isn't a high-res professional shot of this magical moment. It's what you paid a lot of money for, so be sure to get the most out of your time, effort and money.

Side note: Photographers strongly dislike people ruining their pictures too. They just want to make their clients as happy as possible and ruined photos make that pretty tough on everyone involved.

Click here for more ideas of how to communicate the "unplugged" message to your guests.

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Has anyone seen the Groom?

Photo Credit: Thomas Stewart http://www.thomasstewart.com.au/