We had another really inspiring meeting this month with Lynette Johnson. She really has a gift for speaking- one minute I would find myself laughing at one of her stories about her daughters and then choked up five minutes later about her amazing work with Soulumination.
**Quick question to those who were present: did anyone catch a good picture of Lynette speaking to our group? Please email it to me if you did, she’d like to post on her blog. Ok now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.**
Lynette is a photographer, who, like many of us, came to fall in love with photography when her daughters were born. Raising them in the age where film cameras were the norm, she told us stories of how she would walk her daughters home from school and stop daily at the store where she would develop her film. Her business grew organically as her children grew up. She moved gradually from shooting pictures of her daughters and their friends, to shooting professionally. When she began her business, she was largely a pioneer of the natural portrait styles that are prevailing today. (At the time, it was all of those “Sears” portraits with the ghosted silhouettes. I have one of those from when I was nine come to think of it!) In fact, she shot the weddings of many of our previous speakers, including Me Ra! Among her other wedding clients were Bill and Melinda Gates. How fun would that have been to be a second shooter at that wedding?
Lynette passed out many books, including some from Christie’s auction house that showcased the images of portrait photographers whose photos sell for thousands of dollars (e.g. Sally Mann). She always looks at amazing photos for inspiration, looking for the type of photos that move her. She recommended the following You Tube video of Louse Dahl-Wolfe: Painting with Light for inspiration. Other photographers she noted were Imogen Cunningham and Nell Dorr. She emphasized looking for inspiration and also your own experimentation, shooting constantly to refine your own style, and discouraged the popular trends of overly cropping, selective focus and over photo-shopping of images.
The most poignant moment in her talk was her discussion of how she was called to photograph critically ill children at Children’s Hospital through her first experience of photographing her niece, who was stillborn. After that experience, she began to offer her services as a photographer for free to families at Children’s who were facing the loss of a child. When a story about her incredible work was featured in People Magazine in 2005, the requests from the hospitals became overwhelming. Lynette enlisted other local volunteer photographers, as well as a coordinator to fulfill on the mission of Soulumination. You could tell when she talked about the families, and showed us the gifts that each family receives, how much she deeply cared about each person.
They are now expanding their work to include portraits for families that are facing the loss of a parent. All the work is by referral, so she encouraged us if we know anyone who is in need of a photographic legacy to contact them via the Soulumination website. There are also volunteer work parties where people assemble handmade albums and rag books for the Soulumination families, I will keep everyone posted about when the next one is happening (late Winter/early spring).
So now, on to the TIPS I collected from her talk (feel free to add any I missed in the comments section)!
-Lynette likes to shoot in shutter priority mode (Tv, on a Canon, S on a Nikon). She recommends the slowest setting at 1/60 th of a second if the subject is still and you don’t have a tripod, 1/125 if there is some motion, and 1/500 to capture kids. With the viewfinder, after snapping a shot, check to see if the image is too dark or too bright. If it’s too dark, slow down the shutter speed. If it’s too bright, speed it up. [The way that I personally remember this is by looking at the denominator and thinking: Low numbers= low light, high number= high light.]
-She shoots with a Canon 5D. She doesn’t want the next model up, she likes the 5D just fine! The camera is not what makes the photo in her opinion. How you frame the image is more important. She has friends who can shoot amazing images on a point & shoot!
-Don’t always put the subject of the image in the center, move them off center.
-Shoot a ludicrous amount of pictures. Don’t stop. Find your own style. When you take that one amazing picture, keep remembering how you did it. Experiment with lots of settings, don’t get too fixed on one mode. [Luckily for us Mamas With Cameras, we haven’t met two photographers with the same shooting style yet, so it’s hard to get too comfy!]
-Always focus over the eyes, especially when shooting portraits with a low aperture (F 1.4-1.8). If the eyes are in focus, the image will always look in focus. If the eyes are not in focus, the image will always look blurry. If you are shooting “wide open” (low aperture) then you can only have one subject, raise the aperture for multiple subjects.
-Lynette’s favorite lens is the 24-105mm lens.
-She created her own diffuser for her flash that was really interesting (and affordable!). She velcroed a small light reflector (looked about 12″) to the top of her flash, and pointed the flash up to the ceiling. Very cool!
Ok, now on to the OCTOBER ASSIGNMENT, given to us by Lynette!
LEGACY PHOTOS. Take a portrait of your child with a person who is influential right now in shaping his/her life. It could be a grandparent, a coach, a favorite teacher, father etc. It will be a gift to your child to be able to look back and see those people surrounding him/her with love, and to record their connection at this time. (Interesting side note, check out this series of photos on Lynette’s website. Two babies that grew up as neighbors- she has been photographing them each year and now they are both in their 20s! I LOVE this idea!!)
You can bring prints of your legacy photos to our November meeting, which will be our last meeting of the year. The third monday in December will be too close to the holidays so we’ll resume in January.
And speaking of the holidays….
Holiday Family Photo Party! One of our Mamas proposed a “holiday photo party” where we can all show up with our families, have some potluck, and shoot some fun christmas card pictures for one another. If you are interested in this idea, email me and I will pass all the interested families along to her to coordinate.
So at this late stage of the post, I’d like to give a warm shout out to Anju, because I know you’re still reading ;-).
LAST NOTE: Volunteer Models Needed
A bunch of us will be at Me Ra’s workshop in Tacoma the weekend of November 14-15 (yippee!!!!), and the workshop is in need of families to model. Saturday is “Mom & Baby”, Sunday is “all family”. Many of the participants are professional/semi-pros already so if someone really would like some kick a$$ photos of your family and are willing to be models for an hour or so (and drive to Tacoma), then let me know and I’ll pass contact info along.