Skip to content

Blog

Black River Imagings Featured Artists

March 22, 2012 /

“What do you want to be known for?”  To me, it’s the most compelling question one can ask themselves.  I often wonder and ask myself that question.  I love photographing my clients, and I also love sharing and collaborating with other photographers.  This industry has brought so much joy to my life in so many ways.

Last year I was honored when Black River Imaging inviting me on speaking team.  I spoke at the PPA conference in New Orleans as well as the WPPI conference in Las Vegas.   I was thrilled to be included on their website as one of their featured artists. They have so many talented photographers on their team and I could not believe they asked me to join as well.  Yay!

Today, my article “Creating A Unique Style and Re-Branding Your Business” was featured on Black River Imagings blog.  I was inspired to write this article after hearing so many questions about style and branding over the last few months.

I hope you have a chance to read it!

Natalie

Time Management for photographers

March 5, 2012 /

Would you like to be more organized?  At the end of the day, would you like to feel as though you accomplished a lot?  As a small business owner, time management is crucial for success.  Over the last few years, I’ve created a system that works well for me.  As all systems evolve over time, I recently discovered a few iphone/ipad applications to help organize me.   Here are a few tips for email management, organizing your calendar, social media and two of my favorite applications.

Email Management:

I try to check emails twice per day.  Once in the morning and once late afternoon unless something needs my urgent attention.  As a blackberry user since 2003, I used to walk around with that thing in my hand waiting for it to buzz. I lost so much precious time responding all day and instantly to messages.  As a new iphone user, (many of you may know how poor my typing is) I try to check and respond to email much less.  My motto is “touch it once”.  If I start to read an email or pick up a folder, I try to complete it immediately.  Think about the time spent skimming your email reading the first few lines.  Don’t wait and reread it, act immediately.  You’ll find your day is optimized if you practice “touch it once”.  When I email my clients and friends I often change the subject line if the subject changes which allows for better tracking down the road.

Daily Calendar:

I have a daily and weekly calendar that I use to manage my life, my tasks – my everything.  This is important information!  Read this section twice if necessary.  What I’ve started to do is split my calendar into two sections: proactive and reactive time.

Proactive Time: From 10:00am until 1:00pm, I focus on proactive tasks. Proactive tasks help me grow my business.  For example: I create  newsletters during this time, prepare/finalize marketing campaigns, network and email with other vendors and photographers and focus on new initiatives like personal photography projects. For me it’s key that I stay in proactive mode.  If a reactive task crosses my path such as a phone call, it takes me out of the inspiration mode of creating new ideas and initiatives to grow my business. It stalls or stunts my inspiration.  I try to avoid reactive tasks during this time unless its very important.

Reactive Time: I plan reactive work from 9:00am to 10:00am to reply to emails.  I also may plan it again late afternoon from 1-4pm. Reactive tasks are questions, tasks, calls that I need to return, client orders, email inquiries, and consultation requests.  These are all things I need to react to. I find putting them all together keeps my brain in reactive mode.

To-Do Lists:

I’m a list person. I have personal and business to-do lists. We all know how quickly we need to rewrite them. It’s a tedious task.  I’ve been using Todo.

Benefits:

Todo by Appigo is a great application because it can sync to your iphone, ipad, desktop and is accessible online.  You can tag items in your list.  I have a personal tag which is great for family related to do items.  I have several business tags.  Some of my popular business tags are:  2012 pending wedding inquiries, calls, deliverables, post-processing, drop off, pick up, schedule photo shoot.   I can quickly look at everything with the tag “Calls” to see who I should call back.  I know when I wake up in the morning, I immediately think of 5 things I need to do.  Quickly adding these in my phone app, is a great way to stay on top of everything.

Where to download:

Found on the web and on itunes: https://appigotodo.appspot.com/.  Look for: appigo Todo  (Note: there’s no space in Todo)  This is great because it can sync to your iphone, ipad, desktop and is accessible online.  The online site can sync with Appigo Todo on your iphone/ipad for $19.99/yr.   The basic cost of this app is $9.99 I believe.  You can get appigo todo lite for free to try it out.

Memos:

How many meetings do you have a week? Whether it’s a client consultation or phone call, we all take notes.  After attending so many workshops and seminars over the years, I found myself losing my notes or struggling with reading my terrible handwriting.  I needed to structure my notebooks and memos better and found Evernote was the best solution for me.

Benefits:

I started using Evernote last month on my ipad.  It syncs to my iphone and can be used online.  You can add attachments, sort the notes into folders with tags.  Its great for mac and pc.  What I enjoy doing is logging into Evernote online after a meeting or seminar and expanding my notes.  I often abbreviate or think of additional comments later on.  This allows me to structure and organize my notes easily. It can record thoughts and ideas.  It acts like a digital assistant.  You can clip webpages, and store pdfs in Evernote.  It’s fantastic.

Where to download:

Found on the web and on itunes: http://www.evernote.com/  Look for: evernote with the gray and green elephant pictured. This is great because it can sync to your iphone, ipad, desktop and is accessible online.   The best part is Evernote is FREE.

Social Media:

Stay off Facebook and popular social media unless your marketing and working on your business.   Don’t read anyone else’s blogs unless it adds value to your business.  Value… as in dinero! Cold hard cash. As you read something, ask yourself “Does this benefit me? Does this benefit my business?”.

I love to share great tools for managing life and business.  I didn’t invent these things, but they’re working well for me.  Personally, I wish there were more hours in the day!

Hope you found my tips helpful.

Natalie

How did you take that photo of the mother & son in bed?

January 9, 2012 /

One of my friends told me that this photo of the mother and son in bed was their absolute favorite photo of 2011.   Of course, it has a special story behind it.

This single mom lived nearby for many years.  In Staten Island of course.  I met her about 12 years ago, but we lost touch.  We were reacquainted in 2010 and became good friends.  Her gorgeous son who is one of the most lovable boys I have ever met, would lightly touch his mothers face and cheek with his hand and say “mamma, mamma” lovingly.  I’ve seen him do it millions of times.  There was something really heart wrenching about how he loved his mamma.

How did you take this picture? This portrait was taken in the morning last April.  I used my Nikon D3s with my 24-70mm using available light and video light.  The first step with all my portraits is determining my camera settings and my composition.  I chose f 2.8 because I wanted the mother and child to be the center of focus and I needed a lot of light in this moderately lit room.  I had my ISO at 1250 and the shutter at 100 gave me the proper exposure.  I’m careful not to slow my shutter too much while photographing children who move often.  I didn’t want any motion blur in this shot.  Using the D3s, I could have easily doubled my ISO, but I chose to add in video light for a bit more directional light and drama.  Diffused sun light was the primary light source.  The window was on the left side of the photo, but it wasn’t strong.  Which is why I used my ledzilla video light.

How did you come up with this concept? My client wanted to make a unique portrait for her son’s second birthday but was unsure what to do so she called me.  It was late winter and we wanted to do something indoors.  I knew her house was for sale and thought it would be nice to take a few pictures to remember her first home where her son was born.  It was very special to her.  Her gorgeous boy, as I mentioned earlier would lightly touch his mothers face and cheek with his hand and say “mamma, mamma” lovingly.  I’ve seen him do it millions of times.  I thought it would be a wonderful memory to capture him doing this.  Since her son sleeps in bed with her often, and wakes her asking for a bottle while caressing her face, I suggested we photograph them first thing in the morning.  At first she thought early in the morning would be too difficult, but early on my clock is 10:00am.  hehe

I want my portraits to be real reflections of who my clients really are.  Of course our concept which seemed so simple wasn’t as easy as we hoped.

How did you execute this concept? After getting my camera settings and composition,  I positioned my client and her son on the bed in pajamas early in the morning (at 10:00am).   Her bedroom had suede painted walls with an embroidered comforter with loads of textures which added interest.  I opened both windows to let in as much light as possible.  This part of the house was dimly light.  I used a bit of video light to execute this and a few lolly pops and wa-la!

How did you compose this portrait and pose the mother and son? For this concept my goal was to capture my clients son caressing his mothers face and cheek with his hand while saying “mamma, mamma” which he does so often.  But on this very morning, he was sleepy and a little shy.  We didn’t exactly capture that moment, but what we did capture was their very special bond.  Being a single mom is never easy, but she really makes it look easy.  I positioned my clients between the sconce on the wall and the portrait at a 45 degree angle from the primary light source (the window).  Careful that neither the sconce nor the portrait intersected their head.  As you can see I had very little room to work with so my camera position had to be perfect.  The quality and direction of light was decent, but not as beautiful as I wanted.  Adding the video light did create a light shadow behind their heads, but I didn’t mind.  The suede painted walls created warmth and dimension.  The diminishing size of the portraits on the wall add to the depth perception in the room.  The crosshatch pattern on the bedspread added even more interest to this portrat.  The pillows were scattered on the bed and they were wearing their pajamas.  Believe it or not this is what the mother looks like first thing in the morning.  She rarely wears makeup because she’s a natural beauty with gorgeous cheek bones.  This was really a moment between mother and son.  I didn’t direct a thing.  I let them interact and talk to one another.  This was my absolute favorite in the series.  I may show a few more. We shall see….

Background: This portrait entitled “Not Alone” was awarded honors by PPA earlier this year.

Why did my clients like it? More importantly, why did I love it? I’ve received so many wonderful emails and comments about this portrait of the mother and son in bed entitled “Not Alone”.   My client has this portrait displayed in her home and a second displayed in the grandmothers home.  This portrait was early in my fine art exploration, where I first discovered my love for pictorialism.  I didn’t even know that phrase and movement existed until recently.  I love this portrait because it tugs at my heart strings as a mother, as an artist and as a friend to the beautiful family pictured.

How many hours of time was investing in this image? My estimation is 8 hours was invested in creating this image.  2 hours during the consultation and preparation, 1 hour on the execution and at least 4-5 hours processing and editing this photo.

STAY TUNED for more articles on “How did you take that picture?”.  If you enjoyed reading this article and are curious how I took any specific pictures, just email me at natalie@natalielicini.com.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year!

Natalie

How did you take that picture of the bride?

January 2, 2012 /

Some of my clients or fellow photographers often ask me “How did you take that picture of the bride in the window?”.  I thought it would be fun to share my journey creating this award winning portrait with all of you.

This mansion gets beautiful light almost all day.  I positioned her beside the window leaving the smaller curtain closed to diffuse the light on her.

How did you take this picture? This portrait was taken late morning in March.  I used my Nikon D3s with my 85mm using only available light.  My first step with all my portraits is determining my camera settings and my composition.  In the last year, I’ve fallen in love with my 85mm for portraits of clients.   There’s no distortion with this lens, which is a common complaint when using a 50mm for a portrait.  There’s something dreamy about it so I use it when I’m not shooting with my 24-70mm.   With this portrait, I selected my f stop first.  I chose f 2.8 because I wanted my client to be the center of focus.  I had my ISO at 400 and the shutter at 1000 gave me the proper exposure.  The sun was streaming through the window on the left side of the photo.  There was also a front window on the right of the photo which illuminated the brides gown ever so subtly.

How did you come up with this concept? This was my first time shooting in the mansion built in the early 1900s.  It has rich history, ornate detail and six fireplaces in the 12,000 square foot space.  The concept for this shoot was simple.  I wanted to take beautiful portraits of my client in this historic mansion.  Her gown, her styling and everything channeled this era and I couldn’t think of a more perfect venue than Casa Belvedere.  On the wedding day, we don’t always have an extra hour or two for bridal portraits.  The timeline is often constrained so having this time, gave me the opportunity for additional portraits of this beautiful girl. One important aspect of my style is to convey the clients accurately.  If I have a serious client, I won’t photograph them jumping in the air.  If I have a youthful client, I won’t photograph them too serious and out of character. I want their portraits to be real reflections of who they are.

How did you execute this concept? After getting my camera settings and composition,  I positioned her beside the window.   There were a few areas in the mansion that I considered for a formal portrait.  I loved this window because of the beautiful light.  I do look at every little detail when executing my concept.  Besides finding beautiful light, my second priority was finding a beautiful background.

How did you compose this portrait and pose the bride? I positioned her beside the window.  Initially, I moved her closer to the right side of the window, but found if she stood along the outside edge of the window it just felt right.  I don’t always nail it on the first shot.  I’m not going to pretend I do. I photographed her closer to the right panel then asked her to step back 2 inches, then back another inch.  Very small movements.  I didn’t want a static image so I asked her to put her hand tightly around her waist and very slowly run her hand across the front of her belly and then back again.  Adding some movement can keep your clients comfortable and less stiff.  When I ask my clients to move for me. I ask them to slow dance and count in their head 1, 2, 3…1, 2, 3.  Go ahead say that in your head 1, 2, 3… 1, 2, 3.  This creates slower more deliberate movements that are rhythmic and not sudden and sharp.  I can’t tell you how often I’ve asked someone to move their hand slightly and they moved it 5 feet out of the frame.  When I composed this portait, I selected this window instead of the other window because of the direction and quality of light.  The suns position added more interest to my portrait by creating beautiful highlights on her gown.   I was careful to move her face out of the direct sun. There’s a strong highlight on her head but it doesn’t bother me much.  I think the diagonal shadows across her chest are interesting.   I asked her to bend her knee closest to me.  This created a nice s-curve in her figure.  The fireplace mantal cuts into the window pane.  I don’t mind it since the line leads into my subject.  Also, the curve in the window leads downward into my subject.  I look at every little detail when executing my concept.

Background:  This portrait entitled “Her Last Single Moment” won 2nd place in an international competition in September 2011 for WPPI.  The feedback given by the judges stated “Great pose and expression.  Style of a Singer Sargent painting @1900’s”.  Also, this image was published in the prestigious PPA’s Loan Collection book this year.  The Loan Collection is a presentation of photographic images judged by the PPA as examples of excellence. It was also published in Octobers editions of Rangefinder Magazine.

There’s one funny comment I’d like to make.  When I read the judges note “Style of a Singer Sargent painting @ 1900’s”, I’ll be honest and admit that I immediately googled “Singer Sargent painting“.  I know some of you may laugh, gasp or google it too.  I don’t have an art history background.  Some days I wish I did, but working in finance with and BA from NYU has served me well in building a solid revenue generating photography business.  I will say that I feel very honored and grateful that comment was noted (except that whole scandal in 1884). The interesting fact about Singer that stood out beyond his acclaim was that he commanded $5,000 per portrait or $130,000 in current dollars.  Holy cow that’s amazing.  Outrageous, maybe? I don’t know.  Talk about revamping my 2012 goals.  Maybe a 2014 goal?

Why did my clients like it? More importantly, why did I love it? My current and prospective clients love this image because it’s elegant and beautiful.  I had a bridal consultation just the other day where the bride mentioned how much she loved this image.   I personally love it because it was taken 8 months ago, but it looks like it could have been taken 80 years ago.  It’s one of my greatest photographic accomplishments, that was 2 years in the making. It represents a culmination of all that I’ve learned from so many master’s of photography, yet its my own unique style (although it may resemble Singer Sargent to some people).

How many hours of time was investing in this image? My estimation is 8 hours was invested in creating this image.  2 hours during the consultation and preparation, 1 hour on the execution and at least 4-5 hours processing and editing this photo.

STAY TUNED for more articles on “How did you take that picture?”.  If you enjoyed reading this article and are curious how I took any specific pictures, just email me at natalie@natalielicini.com.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year!

Natalie

How did you take that picture?

December 29, 2011 /

Some of my clients or fellow photographers often ask me “How did you take that picture?”. This can be answered differently to different people.

This portrait below was taken of one of my favorite clients and featured in my commercial last June in Long Island, New York.  As soon as I pressed that shutter, I felt something magical.  Not only had I fallen in love with this image instantly, but so did his parents and his grandma too.  My clients ordered two 16x20s. Why did my clients like it? More importantly, why did I love it? I’ll answer those questions shortly. To give you a bit more background about this image, in addition to being a special portrait, I discovered that this image won an international award in September 2011.  The feedback given by the judges including comments about the strong composition.

Getting a 3 year old boy to play a harmonica while seated safely on a balustrade overlooking a lily pond was not easy.

How did you take this picture? This portrait was taken one afternoon early in June.  I used my Nikon D3s with my 24-70 at 40mm using only available light.  My first step before setting up the shot and positioning James was determining my camera settings and my composition.  I also took a few test shots of the scene.  Many of us know photographing kids is not an easy task and we don’t have unlimited time at our disposal.  I selected my f stop first.  I chose f 4 because I wanted most of the scene to be in focus, although the focal point was James playing the harmonica.  I had my ISO at 400 from a prior scene and found the shutter at 4000 gave me the proper exposure.  The sun was on the left side of the photo just in front of James.  The suns position added more interest to my portrait by creating beautiful shadows and highlights on the trees and bushes.  I didn’t mind the shadow on the balustrade or on James as it created great depth and dimension.

How did you come up with this concept? Like many of my portrait sessions, I had envisioned this photo of James long before we arrived at the lily pond.  There are a few stages in my photographic process, which can vary slightly for each shoot.  When my client commissions me for a portrait, I begin by asking them what the occasion is for their portrait.  I enjoy speaking with them on the phone to hear more about their family but would welcome an in person meeting in my studio.  For this portrait of James, I asked his mother what some of this favorite activities were.  Since I had photographed James before, I knew this angelic boy was from another era altogether. He’s definitely an old soul, very lovable, very gentile.  He loves to play instruments and has a lot of energy.  What’s important to me and to my clients is capturing James in his element.  His mother often takes him to the park and he’s always throwing a ball or playing instruments.  For this portrait above, we brought his harmonica.  Getting a three year old boy to play a harmonica while seated safely on a balustrade overlooking a lily pond was not easy as I mentioned.

How did you execute this concept? After getting my camera settings and composition,  we positioned his mom just behind the bush near her son.  Safety first! I think her hand was sticking out of one of the versions of this photo.  James loves to play instruments, but lets be real here folks, getting him to play for several minutes on a balustrade made of cement wasn’t exactly easy.  I used his age to my advantage.  Yep – I just wrote that.  At the tender age of 3, we have the ability to play make believe and stretch the truth a little bit.  Just as I was setting up the shot, I started talking to James about the lily pond. I told him that I was really excited to see all the frogs jumping around.  He looked around excited, but didn’t see any frogs. I said to James “just wait… if you play the harmonica over there, you’ll see a few frogs jump out and leap across the lily pads”.  James looked back at me with the biggest smile and I knew he was going to play his harmonica for me.

How did you compose this portrait and pose James? In this portrait, I  followed the rule of thirds keeping the water line on the lower quadrant line.  James was positioned just outside the bottom right quadrant.  The balustrade (cement wall) is just shy of the midpoint in this portrait.  The framing felt balanced to me due to the similar size of the water in the lily pond and the blue sky above. You’ll also notice similar shadows and shapes in the sky and in the water, creating additional balance in the photo.  There is also a very simple and serene color palette here.  I posed James towards the sun for more drama.  I framed and composed the portrait giving plenty of room for James to look ahead. If I had positioned James to the right just where the framing ended it wouldn’t feel right.  The picture would feel cut off.

Why did my clients like it? More importantly, why did I love it? My clients loved this image because it was truly James.   This was a moment in his life at the young age of three.  It was authentic in every way. His family sees this image and wants to embrace him and cherish this memory and this time in his life.  The years go by much to fast as we all know.   I often think if there’s anything I could ask for in this world it would be to have “more time”.  This portrait was taken on a beautiful spring afternoon with blue cloudy skies of one of my favorite clients.  I happen to adore Denise and her son James.  We spent so much time preparing for this portrait of James.  It came out better than I had ever dreamed. I pour my heart and soul into my commissioned portraits which can take weeks or months to prepare and when I took this picture I knew it would hold a special place in my heart.

How many hours of time was investing in this image? My estimation is 10-12 hours was invested in creating this image.  3-4 hours during the consultation and preparation, 1 hour on the execution and at least six hours processing and editing this photo.

STAY TUNED for more articles on “How did you take that picture?”.  If you enjoyed reading this article and are curious how I took any specific pictures, just email me at natalie@natalielicini.com.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year!

Natalie

Call Now Button