Crystal - Stylized Shoot

Two looks from a shoot we did back in November 2016.  It was unexpectedly warm(ish) for a November day in Chicago so we went out and shot around the downtown area.  

Jessica - Fall Colors

I always love shooting with the fall colors, wish they would stick around longer.  Here's some photos of Jessica from October 2016.  

 

 

Kirsten - Stylized Shoot

I did a couple shoots with Kirsten back in 2016.  We also drank a ridiculous amount of coffee, shout out to the Wormhole Cafe in Wicker Park.

  

Yulia- Cafe Shoot

We originally planned to shoot at this old bookstore in Wicker Park but as soon as I walked into the store, the employees told me no photography was allowed and they also held on to my camera bag while I was inside.  

We decided to just walk around the neighborhood and shoot wherever.  We ended up in a cafe and in some alleyways - here are some of the photos from that shoot:

 

Desiree - Fashion Lingual

I've got a love/hate relationships with blog posts.  One of my new year's resolutions is to post more frequently.  I'm probably 15-20 blog posts behind.  So here goes...

This shoot was from the fall of 2016.  (Yes, 2016, I'm that far behind on blog posts).  At this point, I wasn't really sure on what direction I wanted to take my photography business.  One of the ideas was to do fashion photography so I reached out to Desiree of Fashion Lingual to collaborate on a stylized shoot.  She was kind of enough to meet with me on a cold, rainy morning.  Here are some photos from that shoot.  Enjoy.  

 

3 methods to get people in front of your camera

One of the biggest challenges I had as a new (&broke) photographer was trying to find people to shoot with.  I could have easily paid for models but I just didn't have the budget to do that.  I was kind of stuck, I needed to add to my portfolio but I didn't know where to reach out to people.  

One day I came across an article showing different methods to network yourself and to find people to shoot with.  There were several different methods but here are the three best methods that worked for me:

1.  Sign up for model/photographer networking sites. 

I created an account on modelmayhem.com, searched for models in my area and sent messages to probably 40 or 50 models.  I think I got a response from two or three.  I ended up only shooting with one.  Obviously, this method doesn't give you a lot of results.  BUT, it only took me a short amount of time to send those messages and even though I only ended up shooting with one model, I still got a person in front of my camera for free.  I really haven't logged in to model mayhem in a while.  I've talked to models that have accounts and they said that most of the photographers that send them messages are just looking to shoot nudes/budoir, so they don't spend too much time there anymore.  There is a new networking site called Nubko that is really great, not many users right now, but I have a feeling this site is going to take off pretty soon.  

2.  Join model/photographer networking sites on Facebook.

This one is really easy and I connected with A LOT of awesome people (models, makeup artists, fashion stylists).  Just search facebook for: 'your city' model photographer networking group.  Some of these groups are private groups so you may need to ask to be allowed access but I never had any issues.  After joining, I just wrote a post basically saying that I'm a new photographer and I'm looking for models to shoot with.  There are tons of aspiring models in these groups looking for photographers.  

3.  Search through Instagram hashtags

I really thought this wasn't going to work, but this method gave me the most results.  For this, you log into Instagram and search for hashtags.  I searched for #chicagomodel then I DM'd 40 or 50 people(I know this seems kind of creepy, but whatever, it's part of the hustle I guess).   I received messages from about 10 people that were willing to do a shoot.  Below are some photos with a model I connected with on Instagram.  Her name is Yulia - definitely one of my most favorite people to work with.  

Elizabeth - High School Senior

I really don't think I would be taking photos right now if it wasn't for Elizabeth and her family.  When I was in x-ray school around 5 years ago Elizabeth's mom, Deb aka Debbie Jo, was one of my classmates.  She knew photography was a hobby of mine, but I never really did photos for other people.  One day Deb asked me to take photos of her kids, just some basic portraits.  I told her that it wasn't really something that I did, so I declined.  If you read my first blog post, you would know why I said no (fear of failure, lack of confidence, etc.).  Anyways, after saying no I thought that would be the end of it.  I was wrong.  Debbie Jo was persistent, I think she asked me at least 2 more times before I hesitantly agreed.  The shoot went well, overall I was happy that I agreed to do it.   

A year or two passes and I still haven't done much with photography.  I started to get that 'itch' to take photography a little more seriously.  I knew I needed to build a portfolio but I didn't know where to start.  Then, out of the blue, Deb contacts me to take some photos of her kids again.  Talk about perfect timing.  

A few more years pass.  I'm shooting a lot more now but don't have much direction on what I want to do with the photography business.  I always wanted to shoot high school seniors but I had a hard time finding students to work with.  Then, once again, perfect timing - Deb texts me asking me to take Elizabeth's high school senior photos.  

I don't know what the equivalent to writer's block is for photographers but I definitely had that several times over the past 5 years.  I'm so thankful that I met Deb and her wonderful family because they kept me inspired when I needed it the most.  

Here's some photos from Elizabeth's high school senior session.  

 

 

Harry + Laura - Wedding

For the longest time I said that I would never shoot a wedding, it wasn't my 'thing', and it's just not something that I was interested in.  Well, so far I did a good job at avoiding wedding photography and then Harry & Laura came a long and messed that up (just kidding, kind of).  They were kind of in a pinch, they needed a wedding photographer and I was basically their last resort.  I hesitantly agreed to shoot their wedding.  I was definitely nervous about it, although the wedding was ~2 months away, it was constantly in the back of my mind.  I definitely did not want to mess this up, especially because I was friends with a lot of people that were going to be in attendance.  If I didn't deliver, everyone would know me as that guy that ruined their wedding day.  <insert 'you had one job' meme here>

The day of the wedding came, I spent all morning going back and forth between Laura/bridesmaids & Harry/groomsmen taking photos of them getting ready before the ceremony.  So far so good, morning flies by and we're on to the ceremony.  

Rule #1 in wedding photography: make sure you have a backup camera body.  (I really don't know if that really is rule #1, but it probably should be).  Before the wedding I was going back and forth on whether or not I should get a 2nd camera body.  I kept thinking, seriously, what are the odds that my camera will fail on the wedding day, right?!  

So I get to the ceremony location a little early to check out the lighting.  I pull out my camera, take a shot and NOTHING shows up on the LCD.  I hear the shutter open & close, but the LCD shows nothing, just a black, empty frame.  Hm, that's odd.  I take a few more shots, and I keep getting nothing but blank frames.  

Well, I'm sure as hell happy that I decided to get that 2nd camera body.  Whew.  Thankfully, the rest of the wedding day went smoothly.  Harry & Laura were so laid back it really made my job super easy.  They also picked an awesome ceremony location and venue, it was almost impossible to take a bad photo.  I think the hardest part of the day was trying not to dance while taking photos during the reception, for real the DJ was on point. 

 

 

 

Lidia Fitasova

Here's the full set of photos from a shoot I did with Livia Fitasova over the summer.  Lidia was a blast to work with, she had a ton of energy and was really easy going.  Made the whole shoot super relaxed.   Anyways, hope you enjoy the photos.

Cat Aldana

This was one of my favorite shoots I've done so far.  I really don't remember how I came across Cat's blog, but I'm glad I did.  She's got some really great content on yoga, travel, and all kinds of other lifestyle stuff.  My favorite blog post of hers is when she described her experience in participating in a 10 day meditation retreat.  

Here's an excerpt from that post:

"The daily schedule was intense: Wake up at 4am. Meditate for 10 hours (with appropriate breaks). Bed by 9:30p. Repeat."

I suggest you go and read the rest of this post, it's pretty inspiring.  Also, she inserts some hilarious, yet very appropriate GIFs to describe each day.  

Anyways, here are the some photos that we made in one of my favorite places in Chicago.  

Faith - Fitness Lifestyle

Before this shoot I seriously contemplated on whether or not I should continue working on the photography business.  The shoot before this one was really tough on me.  I think I overplanned/over thought everything and it stressed out to the point that I was getting physically sick.  I even spent some time in an emergency room and saw a GI doctor because I was literally getting sick to my stomach.  

I decided to take some time off of anything photography related.  I didn't decide how much time to take off, I just knew that I needed to do some soul searching.  

Time passed, I hadn't taken a single photo in two months.  Then, a 90 second video showed up on my Facebook newsfeed.  It was a clip of a vlog that Gary Vaynerchuk creates.  He was on stage doing a speech, he was talking about failing.  During the last 10 seconds of the video, this is what he says:

A) I don't give a **** what everyone thinks.

B) I'm gonna learn from my failures.

C) BATTLE SCARS ARE ATTRACTIVE

After watching that video, I decided to start shooting again.  I realized that I was overplanning/over-stressing for shoots because I didn't have faith in my abilities as a photographer.  The only way to build my confidence was to keep shooting.  So I reached out on a networking site to see if anybody wanted to do a shoot.  I quickly got a response and we set up a day to shoot.  Her name - Faith.

IG: @faith_hastings

FB: Faith Hastings

Acacia - Fitness Lifestyle

I connected with Acacia through a photographer/model networking group on Facebook.  This was one of my first shoots, I remember being extremely nervous for this.  I did a TON of planning for this shoot, I was kind of intimidated to work with Acacia because at this point she was the most experienced model that I've worked with.  I definitely wanted to prepare as much as I could so I didn't look lost while shooting.  I spent hours (not exaggerating) on Google Maps trying to find a location.  After an exhaustive search, we decided to shoot at Lincoln Park.  

The day of the shoot came, I remember feeling nervous, but I did so much prep work that I felt pretty confident that everything  was going to go smoothly.  

Well...

I'm walking toward the pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive to meet Acacia.  I have my camera strap hanging off my shoulder and as I go to extend my arm to shake hands I hear the most horrific noise.  Somehow, my camera strap slipped off my shoulder and my camera crashed into the concrete below, the lens cap flies off a few feet away.  Great, what an excellent way to start a photo shoot.  All that prep work I did to not look like an idiot was basically a waste of time because I made a fool of myself before even exchanging a single word.  

Luckily, the camera wasn't damaged and the shoot went on as scheduled.  Everything went pretty smoothly until towards the end of the shoot when I went to pick my camera bag off the ground and all the contents of it (lenses, flash, batteries) fell out.  I must've forgotten to close the zipper.  UGH.  Fortunately, nothing was damaged.  

What I learned from this shoot:  

Remember to breath

Bare Feet Power Yoga

One of my goals as a photographer is to shoot commercial work for athletic companies.  The majority of my shoots this past year, especially during the beginning, have been fitness related.  I've always wanted to shoot with a yoga studio so I googled all the studios nearby my house and cold called/e-mailed almost all of them.  I didn't get any responses so I expanded my search into the city.  I e-mailed a few yoga studios in Chicago, I really didn't expect to hear back from them.  These studios in the city seemed like the 'big leagues' - they were popular & busy so surely they wouldn't have time to work with me.  To my surprise, Ali from  Bare Feet Power Yoga quickly e-mailed me back and we set up  a day to shoot.  

I remember being extremely nervous and stressed over this shoot.  I really wanted to crush this shoot, so I did a lot of prep work.  I went and visited the studio and met Ali about a week before the shoot - they were in between classes so I did a few test shots inside to test the lighting.  I knew it was going to be a challenge, the studio was just one room with one door at the front letting in light from the outside.  The studio was very simple, wood floors & yellow pain on the walls.

The day of the shoot came, I shot with three of their instructors.  They were so great to work with. So laid back, friendly, and most importantly they were patient with me while I set up my lights/modifiers.  

Here are some of the photos from that shoot:

 

Crossfit Arioch

Got a second chance at shooting with a Crossfit gym.  A few of my friends worked out at Crossfit Arioch, one of them mentioned to the co-owner that I was looking for gyms to shoot with.  Greg (co-owner) emailed me, invited me to come in and take some shots of some of their coaches and athletes.  I was anxious to shoot again, I really wasn't happy with the photos I took with the first Crossfit gym so I was excited to have another chance.  

I started the shoot with one of their athletes doing box jumps, and my camera wasn't really focusing correctly.  Wasn't really sure why it was acting up, never had an issue with it before.  Only thing I can think of was that the camera/lens were cold, I was outside all morning shooting on North Avenue Beach.  Anyways, as the shoot continued my camera started to work properly again.  I basically took pictures here exactly the opposite of how I took pictures at the first Crossfit gym.  I changed the lighting, changed the lens, changed composition and changed the post processing techniques.  

Here are some of the final photos.

 

 

Maribel - Fitness Lifestyle

These are some photos from one of my first shoots.  These were shot in February at North Avenue beach.  You can imagine how cold it was.  I was really surprised that Maribel agreed to shoot at this location, especially at 6am.  She was so great to work with.