01/29/15

Miami Portrait Photographer | Musical Artist Thiago de Melo

On January 20, I had the opportunity to shoot Brazilian singer/songwriter Thiago de Melo while he was in town from New York. He was looking for some natural photos that would convey his fun, relaxed personality and also needed short video clips of him discussing his new album (in both English and Brazilian). Both the photos and the video were to be used on his new website.

It was a lot of fun to work with Thiago, as his individualism and charisma came out easily while in front of the camera. Being both silly and serious for the shoot was no problem at all for him, as you can see in the following photos:

Kate_Benson_Photography_Miami_Portrait_Photographer_Thiago4

Kate_Benson_Photography_Miami_Portrait_Photographer_Thiago2jpg

Kate_Benson_Photography_Miami_Portrait_Photographer_Thiago1fun

Thiago’s music is a wonderful mix of soothing and vibrant tones, combined with his gentle yet spirited voice. If you follow him on Twitter or “like” him Facebook, you can download a copy of his latest album, “Home, Family & Roots” for free.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThiagoDeMeloMusic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thiagomusic

Thiago’s website: http://thiagodemelo.bandcamp.com/releases

Reviewing images from the shoot with Thiago. Photo: Kristin Stickels

Reviewing images from the shoot with Thiago.
Photo: Kristin Stickels

01/27/15

E-commerce Photographer Miami | How to Produce a Professional Photo shoot, aka “What the heck do I do now?”

Everyone has to start somewhere. Chances are good that if you are reading this blog, you are wondering what the heck do I need to do to produce a photo shoot? It’s OK! No one will tell! In fact you can message me with any questions you might have. My goal is to help my clients or anyone who finds themselves needing to produce a photo shoot. Ready? Here goes!

When planning a shoot, there are a multitude of things to consider in order to make your shoot successful. As the saying goes, “The devil is in the details.” Here are ways to plan out those details to make for a successful shoot. While this is a list of important items to keep in mind, the descriptions are purposely broad with some specific examples given; your distinct needs for your shoot will require you to refine, add and/or subtract items as necessary.

Some of the very first things to take into account are your budget, due dates, the shot list, and usage. Identify the budget for the shoot, and determine how rigid it is. This will help shape the decisions you make regarding the entire production. How much flexibility do you have if unexpected costs come up? Due dates are crucial to keep in mind. When are the images needed? Understanding your time frame will allow you to work backwards in creating a schedule. A shot list is also imperative. Brainstorm what photos you will need. Does your product need to be shot on-model and/or still life? Do you need various angles of each item? How many total images do you need of your product(s)? And don’t forget to keep in mind the usage. How will your photos be used? For advertising? Internally? On the web?

The next thing to plan is the art direction. This is something that can be done in-house or outsourced, but is a significant aspect of your production. Art direction involves sourcing inspiration for your photos (I suggest collecting visual examples for this), making sure the photos line up with your company’s image, and ensuring that the photos convey the mood and environment that you want your product(s) to have. And, of course, this all dictates the type of photographer that you will use. You wouldn’t choose a nature photographer for an action shot of a model, for example. Which leads us to the casting…

Your next step involves casting and determining the details of the actual shoot. Your casting may include hiring models, stylists, hairstylists, makeup artists, and, of course, the photographer (to name a few). You may also need to hire a professional retoucher for post-production. Some photographers can do their own retouching, but it is important to determine whether they can do it well. You then need to ascertain whether you will be using a studio or a location for the shoot. If you plan to shoot on location, you will need to obtain permits or permission to use the site, and you should have a back-up plan in case of weather issues. You also need to consider your set. What inanimate objects will you need to complete the shot? What wardrobe or accessories might you need for the models? Is a manicure necessary due to close-up shots of a model’s hands?

Within the location details (whether on location or in studio) it is essential to plan food and beverages for everyone at the shoot and possibly transportation to and from the site. You may even need to provide lodging for the clients, models and/or the crew, depending on the location.

Image selection is an important part of the process. This can occur either on set or after the shoot. If the photographer shoots tethered to a computer, you can see the images immediately as they are shot. This gives you the opportunity to select your images while on set, and it also allows you to confirm that you have everything you need before the shoot is done.

After the shoot has taken place, there is still work to be done. The post-production work includes file management (naming, re-sizing, and delivering the images as digital files), as well as any retouching that may be required. When budgeting for your shoot, it is important to determine whether these costs are built into the photographer’s fee or will be charged additionally.

After taking all of this into account, the big question is can this all fit into your budget? If the answer is no, it is time to re-evaluate some aspects of your plan. Can you get a higher budget? Can you be more specific in your usage? Can you reduce your shot list? What can be done in-house?

And lastly, don’t forget about payment. When are people expecting to be paid? How long will it take your company to pay?

So, here is a quick checklist to help you plan your shoot:

budget
due dates
shot list
usage
art direction
casting
shoot details
location details
image selection
post-production work
payment

Just remember, this is a list of important items to keep in mind, but the descriptions are broad. You will need to tweak the list depending on your own needs for your shoot.

01/22/15

Social Media Secrets Revealed | South Florida Blogging Seminar

On February 5, I will be speaking at an ASMP event at Barry University titled “Social Media Secrets Revealed.” The seminar will demonstrate the importance of social media in gaining new clients. I will be speaking about my personal experience in how blogging has helped my photography business. Photographer Rosh Sillars and social media agency owner Scott Coventry are guest speakers as well.

For more information about the event or to register go to: www.Switch2Social.com

12/10/14

E-Commerce Photographer South Florida | Website Product Photographer

Last week, the on-model images that I shot for Cosabella’s Fall 2014 debuted on their website. This shoot is a great example of the synthesis of product photography in still life e-commerce and on-model photos. In this photo you can see both types of images.

e-commerce_Photographer_Kate_Benson_Miami_Cosabella_Fall2014029

 

Pajamas are certainly not easy to shoot due to their “comfortable” nature. There is a lot of material to work with and the structure is often boxy, which doesn’t give much shape to the garment. Here you can see the difference between the still life photos of the pajamas and the on-model shots. The still life images show the important details of the garment and the on-model shots convey a lifestyle image to the consumer.

e-commerce_Photographer_Kate_Benson_Miami_Cosabella_Fall2014027

Still life photos show details of the garment.

e-commerce_Photographer_Kate_Benson_Miami_Cosabella_Fall2014026

On-model shots convey a lifestyle image to the consumer.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 10.33.55 AM

 

In addition, two of my still life shots were used in email blasts. For these particular still life images, you can see how there had to be some foresight as to the placement of graphic design or text which might be inserted into the frame, so I purposely left space in the photo to allow for this.

e-commerce_Photographer_Kate_Benson_Miami_Cosabella_Fall2014030

e-commerce_Photographer_Kate_Benson_Miami_Cosabella_Fall2014032

 

As you can see, by elevating the photography for your website, you’ve elevated your brand.

11/24/14

E-Commerce Photographer South Florida | Photography Studio South Florida

Last week I moved into a fabulous new studio space. Although my old studio is extremely functional, I was quickly outgrowing it and was quite happy to find this new, larger space. It is an industrial-style studio in Fort Lauderdale’s Art District so the neighborhood is fun and funky and the space has a “New York” feel to it.

Kate_Benson_Photography_Miami_Studio_Photographer_Space039

Photo Credit: Gary James

Kate_Benson_Photography_Miami_Studio_Photographer_Space040

Photo Credit: Gary James

Kate_Benson_Photography_Miami_Studio_Photographer_Space041

Photo Credit: Gary James

Our first shoot took place last Saturday and was quite successful. In fact, all the little details of the studio space helped contribute to the shoot. From the rustic wood tables to the vintage 1913 letterpress to the old fashioned tools decorating the place, all the charm of the studio ended up being perfect as additional features we used in the shoot.

The client was Crown & Buckle, a watch band manufacturer with products made from gorgeous leather and nylon. We had an ambitious list with 35 shots on it which included on-model shots as well as still-life photos. Our mission was to shoot their online marketing imagery that would be used as intro shots, banner shots, e-commerce shots and product shots, as well as for social media and email blasts, so we had a variety of tasks for the day.

The studio has an east-facing glass door that brings in the most spectacular golden morning light. We took advantage of the light as much as possible, shooting the watch bands on the letterpress and the conference table, which were near the east wall. We also did some of the on-model shots there as well.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 5.58.31 PM

As shown on Crown & Buckle’s Instagram page, the morning sun gave us incredible lighting.                          Photo credit: Taffney Lathrop

image (9)

The natural wood conference table made an excellent background for our shots. Photo credit: Kristin Stickels

image (17)

The natural lighting was useful for the on-model shots as well. Photo credit: Kristin Stickels

image (12)

Making decisions with the clients and stylist. Photo credit: Kristin Stickels

The owners of the company had brought quite a few props for us to use for the shoot. Old-style American flags, Christmas lights, their tools, a papier maché mounted deer head, a mounted deer head made of cardboard, scraps of leather, and they even had snippets of evergreen trees Fed Exed down from Wisconsin (because we don’t really have pine trees in South Florida). One of the best lines of the day came from Taffney as she opened the Fed Ex package and got a whiff of the contents. “It’s like Christmas in a box!” she exclaimed.

image (11)

Using the evergreens as a festive prop. Photo credit: Kristin Stickels

Motto is the branding agency based in South Carolina that had recommended me to the client. While they were not physically present at the shoot, we were able to send them batches of photos from the shoot for their instant feedback. The studio also had two flat screen televisions with Apple TV, so I was able to immediately show the client the shots I took on my camera from my computer.

All in all it was a great day at the new studio and we loved getting to know the people at Crown & Buckle and Motto.

For the moment, I am testing out the new studio space for a month to see if it is going to fit my needs, but so far so good. I will be sharing the space with The Guild 5 Forty Five members Gary James, photographer, and Kim Grijalva, creative director.

 

 

11/14/14

E-Commerce Photographer South Florida | My “Purse”-pective

Back in September I spent some time shooting for one of my clients who purchases vintage Chanel handbags and resells them on her website. This is yet another type of e-commerce shoot. As you have seen with my previous blogs about e-commerce photos, the product is obviously the focus, and quite often the only object in the photo. With clothing, there is typically an on-model shot as well, where the clothing is still the focus of the shoot and the model is simply a live hanger for the garment.

For this shoot, the client wanted on-model shots. The focus still needed to be the handbags, however, the models needed to be dressed. So, this involved some choices in clothing and styling that did not detract from the handbags. As you can see in the following photos, the garments chosen were in basic colors which complimented the purse, typically without large patterns or textures.  Blacks, reds, and whites all helped to serve as a live background for the handbags.

e-commerce_Photographer_product_photographer_Luxury_chanel-01 e-commerce_Photographer_product_photographer_Luxury_chanel-02  e-commerce_Photographer_product_photographer_Luxury_chanel-03 e-commerce_Photographer_product_photographer_Luxury_chanel-04

Another consideration is the framing of the photo. Again, it is imperative that the purse be the focal point of the photo. By using a model but not including her entire face, you are drawn to the item instead of the eyes of the model. The model is simply a prop for the handbag instead of the other way around. In each photo above, if the photo had included the model’s entire body, the purse would not have been in the center of the photo. Instead, it would have been in the bottom 1/4 of the photo (in the case of the plaid handbag), or the top 1/3 of the photo (in the case of the black handbag).

Clearly there are many different types of e-commerce shoots and countless things to consider when shooting e-commerce photos. A few main points to remember: keep your product in mind, maintain clarity in the image, and take into account the structure of the photo.

11/12/14

E-Commerce Photographer| Intro and Banner Shots

I recently shot marketing and lifestyle images for Frank Morgan’s American Swimwear, a startup company based in New York, whose brand focuses on the young, twenty-something crowd.

As you can guess, a company’s website needs more than its e-commerce shots to sell the product. Having lifestyle photos which project the image that the company is targeting can really enhance the website. A strong intro shot draws customers to the site, where the e-commerce shots will then provide the necessary product information.

Swimwear_e-commerce-photographer

For our shoot, we first shot the e-commerce images in the studio, and then ventured out to the beach to shoot the lifestyle images. It was a typical gorgeous day on the beach in Miami: blue skies, turquoise water, white sand. Clearly we had a lot of beauty to work with, including the designer’s sister who flew down from New York to be our model.

The images we shot outside were to be used for banners and intro on the company’s website, so they needed to have ample room for cropping, placement of text, the company’s logo, etc. Here are four of my favorite photos from the shoot.

 

The following photos were shot to be used as intro photos on the company’s webpage. With the brand’s focus on a youthful crowd, these images are intended to be young, playful, and flirtatious.

Product-Photographer-Miami-Kate_Benson-Swimwear-Marketing-Photographer024

 

Product-Photographer-Miami-Kate_Benson-Swimwear-Marketing-Photographer022

 

 

Product-Photographer-Miami-Kate_Benson-Swimwear-Marketing-Photographer021

 

This photo was shot with the purpose of being used for a banner on the company’s website. It allows room for cropping into a narrow, horizontal image without eliminating any of the crucial components of the photo.

Product-Photographer-Miami-Kate_Benson-Swimwear-Marketing-Photographer020

 

Here are two examples of how photos can be used as intro shots on a website. Space was purposely left on one side of the photo to have a generous amount of room for the necessary text.

 

   Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 12.53.37 PMScreen Shot 2014-11-04 at 12.49.42 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are two examples of how photos can be used as banners on a website.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 12.56.49 PM

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 1.00.07 PM

 

 

 

11/4/14

E-commerce Photographer South Florida | The Picture Sells the Product

Sometimes it’s hard to justify the cost of e-commerce photography, especially when the product will be photographed on a model. Instead of just paying for the photography, the client will need a whole team to produce photography that will sell products. That means (in some cases): photographer, model, hair & makeup (not always one person for both), stylist, assistants, location, catering (if the shoot is going to be a full day), etc., etc., etc. It’s hard to imagine getting all that on the budget that most startups have.

So, how can you make the photo shoot worth it? Considering that a startup has a smaller budget, the goal would be to shoot less product perfectly, rather than shooting all of your product in a mediocre fashion. Think quality, not quantity. It certainly isn’t worth wasting the budget on sub-par shots. In the world of e-commerce photography, if you can’t do it right, don’t do it.

Recently, I came across a photograph of a swimsuit I liked. The still life shot looked really good and it was selling to me.

Super cute swimsuit photograph, still life.

I even don’t mind the wrinkled fabric in this photo.

So I decided to follow the link to the website where I could buy it. Once there, I saw more shots of the swimsuit, including some that were on model and I really, really liked the swimsuit!

e-commerce-photographer-miami-kate-benson-examples-of-good-and-bad015

Here we see how nice the back detail of the swimsuit is…

e-commerce-photographer-miami-kate-benson-examples-of-good-and-bad014

Another photo to show that the swimsuit is reversible.

e-commerce-photographer-miami-kate-benson-examples-of-good-and-bad012

An additional still life shot of the bottom shows the details a little better.

e-commerce-photographer-miami-kate-benson-examples-of-good-and-bad013

This was the main (first displayed) on model shot of the swimsuit

But, unfortunately, it was sold out. Lucky for me the company had put the designer’s name on the swimsuit so I did a quick search to see if I could buy the swimsuit directly from the designer’s website. And that, my readers, is when I did a double-take. I could not believe it was the same swimsuit. The designer had different colors but I had NO desire to buy this product in any color. It looked terrible in the still life; all the various colored swimsuits were shot differently. On model it was unflattering as well.

e-commerce-photographer-miami-kate-benson-examples-of-good-and-bad011

I don’t like these wrinkles.

e-commerce-photographer-miami-kate-benson-examples-of-good-and-bad009

A different front and back still life shot than the others.

e-commerce-photographer-miami-kate-benson-examples-of-good-and-bad007

Another very non-symmetrical shot of the swimsuit.

e-commerce-photographer-miami-kate-benson-examples-of-good-and-bad008

Another version of the laydown still life.

e-commerce-photographer-miami-kate-benson-examples-of-good-and-bad010

As you can imagine based on these photos, I’m not sold for a lot of reasons. Let’s look at this on model first. The suit isn’t showing me the side details at all, her pose is awkward and not relaxed which makes me wonder if that is because the swimsuit isn’t comfortable. This isn’t clear to me that the swimsuit is reversible here. I can’t figure out why I’m not seeing the back of the light blue swimsuit (it takes me a while to figure out that the dark blue is the outside of the light blue swimsuit and that is what I’m seeing).

The still life images vary quite a bit. One shot makes the bottom look uncomfortably small. The straps are all different on the tops and it just looks messy. The description on the image tells us the color of one side and the bungee but not the reversible side which makes me wonder if they are all reversible , especially for those whose color is closer to skin color. Or, in the case of the palm print suit, I have no idea if it is even reversible.

I can only imagene the return on investment (ROI) for the first images was astronomically higher than the ROI of the second set of images. I’m sure the budget for the first set of images was also much higher. So to be fair, this is a “you-get-what-you-can-pay-for” situation.

Now, here’s what I would have done. If the client didn’t have the budget for great shots in all colors, I would have recommended that we shoot one swimsuit perfectly, then shoot color swatches of the details for each alternative colored swimsuit. If the budget allowed for it, I would say shoot that swimsuit on a model because the ROI will be bigger. If the budget didn’t allow for it then shoot one perfect still life and, if possible, one group shot with each swimsuit stacked showing the detail of each swimsuit displaying the bungee, the color inside and the color outside.

e-commerce-photographer-miami-kate-benson-examples-of-good-and-bad012crop

Not exactly the crop I would use, but you get the idea.

This would save time (and hence, money) by not having to style the whole swimsuit.

So there you have it. My two cents, from an e-commerce photographer’s perspective on what to do to optimize your e-commerce photography ROI.

10/23/14

Still Life Photographer Miami | but before I give these back, let me just shoot one more thing…

One of my clients is the fan-freaking-tastic eyewear designer Christian Roth. I adove (adore + love = adove) the stylish sunglasses and eyewear they create and the team, Christian Roth and Eric Domége, as well. I’ve enjoyed photographing their product and even been able to capture Christian and Eric in front of my camera for Miami Modern Luxury Magazine.

Miami_Photographer_Kate_Benson_Portrait_Photographer_Roth

 

They have flattered me using the images I shot for them on their blog and Instagram:

Product_Photographer_Miami_Kate_Benson Product_Photographer_Miami_Kate_Benson_For_Christian_Roth_Instagram

Used my other portraits of them in other publications and blog:

Kate_Benson_Photographer_Miami_Product_Photographer_Designer_Portraits

And of course, their catalog and product shots on their website:

Miami_E-comerce_photographer_Kate_Benson

So I’ve had my hands on their product to photograph quite a few times now and I fall more and more in love with it each time. Yesterday, I found myself with a few free moments. October has been my busiest month to date. ever. So I was shocked I had a minute. Naturally, I used this moment to shoot! I am returning product to the boys tomorrow so if I didn’t get these beauties in front of my lens one more time I would cry.

Here are some of my shots where I just enjoyed my freedoms to shoot what I saw, how I styled and lit. Completely sans art direction. Enjoy…. (and please forgive that I haven’t retouched these at all, there wasn’t THAT much extra time!)

E-commerce-Photographer-miami-katebenson-christian-roth-eyewear-study004 E-commerce-Photographer-miami-katebenson-christian-roth-eyewear-study005 E-commerce-Photographer-miami-katebenson-christian-roth-eyewear-study002 E-commerce-Photographer-miami-katebenson-christian-roth-eyewear-study001 E-commerce-Photographer-miami-katebenson-christian-roth-eyewear-study003 E-commerce-Photographer-miami-katebenson-christian-roth-eyewear-study006 10_22 Christian Roth Groups-5005

08/11/14

Miami Portrait Photographer | Optimize your headshot!

Many of you already know me on a personal basis, but for those who don’t, my husband Sam is an internet guru. I really don’t know how else to describe him. He works in hospitality helping hotels make the most of their online presence. This week he will be speaking at a conference in Tennessee and so he came to me because he needed a new headshot.

Okay, so why is this interesting? Photographer takes picture of her husband… big deal. Actually it was what he taught me that was so cool I wanted to share it with everyone. On one of the blogs he follows Cyrus Shepard created a post called “How Optimizing My Ugly Google+ Pic Increased Free Traffic”. To sum it up, by placing a color behind the subject people were statistically more likely to click on that person or their link/article. Google likes to put our bio pictures all over everything it can now, and the internet has become overrun with black and white head shots, or head shots against a black, white, or grey background. So when I photographed him we did it against, you guessed it, grey (and I included a black and white of the shot for him too, aren’t I nice!?). He shared the article with me after our photo shoot.

Sam_Trotter_E-commerce_Consultant Sam_Trotter_E-commerce-Blogger

He took it upon himself to add orange to the background (this is what we would call an artists rendering of what he did, I can’t find the actual file anywhere now)…

SunnySammy

Orange. Bright orange. Now, no offense to my beloved or anything here, but after some convincing he let me have a go at changing the grey background to a color for him. I went with a techie blue (he also has blue eyes so that was inspiring me).

Miami_Portrait_Photographer_Corporate_Kate_Benson

 

When I saw his new headshot with this color pop up in my text messages I the post hit home. My eyes immediately rush to his shot over all the other photos next to text messages in my phone (everyone has a little photo next to their message on my phone). The effectiveness of this in a larger setting (aka, the web) was not lost on me.

Since then, I’ve shot two more portraits one for a writer, one for a jewelry designer, both asked for blue as the color behind them.

Kate_Benson_Miami_Portrait_Photographer  Miami_Portrait_Photographer_Kate_Benson_Romi_Lola_James  Miami_Portrait_Photographer_Corporate_Headshots

At this point, I’m feeling rather out dated with my black background behind me in my bio pictures. Guess it’s time to update myself! What do you think??? Out with the old….

Kate_Benson_Photographer_Portrait

In with the Warhol?

Kate_Benson_Photographer_Portrait_Warhal