Monday, March 9, 2015

Where Are Your Photographs?

Where Are Your Photographs?

            If a tree falls in the woods, is it still a tree?  Yes, I suppose it is, but if no one is there to see it, what’s the point?  That’s kind of the way it is with photographs these days.  Many, many people snap photos every day.  Many are shared digitally on social networks, emailed, texted or otherwise seen briefly on a computer screen. Many, however, never even leave the digital device on which they were created.  We see them briefly, and then they are gone.  To me, this begs the obvious question – where are your photographs?

            In the days before digital (BD, a new abbreviation?), a print was the only way to experience a    photograph.  A photograph was just that – a photographic print.  It was something real and tangible – something you could not only see, but touch, feel, and even smell (yep, ask an old-timer…photos had a certain smell to them that added to the sensory experience).  By and large, we kept the photographs we printed.  We hung them in frames or placed them in albums, or even in shoeboxes, but we had them.  And we kept them.  We knew where they were, and we pulled them out and looked at them on special occasions.  And we handed them down.  Our photographs were heirlooms.  But what about photographs today? 

      This is the most-photographed generation in the history of mankind…a little dramatic, but, yes, there are probably more photographs taken in a single day now than during the entire 150-year history of photography, BD (there’s that term, BD, Before Digital…see how I worked it in there?).  We take pictures of our selfies, our besties, our kids, our dogs, our cats (especially cats) and even our food.  But where do they go?  Will Facebook archive our photos forever?  Will Facebook even be around when our kids’ kids are surfing the web?  Will there be space in the “cloud” somewhere set aside for all my family photos?  Perhaps the digital camera or mobile phone I shot them on will hold on to them for me?  How will my photographs survive? 

     It’s becoming apparent that the most-photographed generation ever will have nothing tangible to show for all its shutter snapping in a short fifty years.  Think about it.  The world’s first digital photograph was made just forty years ago.  An engineer at Kodak snapped a photograph of a boy with his pet dog.  The image was saved onto a digital cassette tape.  Do you have any idea what it would take to view that image today?  Oh, you can see a copy of it because it was important enough to be archived again and again, but to see the original you’d need a cassette tape player, a Fairchild charge-coupled device and a cathode-ray tube television monitor.  Sure.  Let me go grab mine out of the closet. 

     Ok, since those early days of digital, the technology has improved and become widespread, and the output formats have become standardized, but the point is – technology changes.  Quickly.  And our access to technology comes and goes as well.   What we have today, we may not have tomorrow.  Do you have a copy of the first digital images you took five years ago? Ten years ago? I think I remember taking my first digital photographs in the late 1990s.  I couldn’t tell you where those images are.  I got my first digital SLR camera in 2006.  The first few years of those images?  Gone.  I think they wound up on a laptop computer that died some years later.  Even if the electrons of my first digital images still existed, I have no way of accessing them.  And that brings me to my point – the printed image is still important. 

     The printed photograph is a tangible, real, physical manifestation of a moment we felt was important enough to immortalize in time.  You can see it, touch it, feel it, and, yes, even smell it.  It exists.  A print can be accessed without the aid of an electronic device making it independent of rapidly changing technology.  You won’t need a certain type of computer or media device to view it twenty or fifty years from now.  Printed on archival paper, a print stored under the right conditions will likely last hundreds of years.  Tests by photo labs have shown that modern inks and paper will maintain an image an estimated 150 years even under average conditions.  That’s far longer than the lifespan of the digital images I let slip through my fingers over the past decade or so.

     If you love an image, print it.  It will stand the test of time.  Hang it on a wall, put it in an album or even in an old shoebox.  It may not always be at your fingertips, but at least you’ll always know where it is.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Imaging USA - Jan 2014 - Phoenix, AZ

What does it take to be a professional photographer?  I've written on this topic before.  As we've well established, it's much, much more than charging money for your services.  By that definition, the kid who snaps your picture when you walk into an amusement park qualifies as a professional photographer.  I won't wax on about all the requirements for being a professional, but suffice it to say one of the requirements is to belong to and participate in professional organizations.

We belong to several professional organizations, one of which is the Professional Photographers of America (PPA).  The annual meeting of PPA occurs at a conference that has been held annually dating back to 1880 (that's 1880, not 1980).  This thing has been around almost since the beginning of photography itself.

The conference, Imaging USA, is being held in Phoenix, Arizona, this year and promises to be one of the best ever.  In addition to the 3-day conference, classes, workshops and seminars are held for three days prior to the event.  It is an amazing educational opportunity.

Strictly Art Photography is attending the conference this year and will be participating in multiple classes and seminars.  As we have time, we plan to blog and post about our experiences there.

Stay tuned to this blog and to our Facebook page for live updates and reviews.

Friday, December 6, 2013

What is a Tablescape?

Well, even though I've been thoroughly convinced for some time now that the last of the new words that should be allowed in Webster's Dictionary were created during the Carter Administration, I have to admit I've stumbled on to a new one that actually makes sense - tablescape.

The dictionary entry would probably look something like:

ta-ble-scape [tey-buhl-skāp] - noun, verb
1. a collection of dining and drinking implements, including plates, platters, silverware, cutlery, glasses or goblets displayed on a table with linens and floral arrangements in a decorative fashion so as to demonstrate a particular theme or motif.
2. such a piece of furniture with implements and decorations used for serving food to those seated at it. verb
1. to enhance the ambiance of an event or meal, as by adding decorative items, implements, linens or floral arrangements to a table.

Used in a sentence - The wedding and event vendors in San Antonio can tablescape their asses off.

Such was the set up for the Second Annual International Special Events Society, San Antonio Chapter, Holiday Tablescape Contest held December 4th at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio.  ISES SA hosted the event which was attended by members and event professionals from across south Texas.  The theme for the evening was Hollywood.

The participants selected their motifs and decorated their tables accordingly.  The detail that went into the tables was amazing.  The movies represented a wide genre of films - from classics to westerns, serious to whimsical.

The center table in the McNay Museum's banquet hall was a gorgeous piece representing the movie, Avatar, put together by Bisli Vasquez of Bisli Event Services.  The centerpiece was fashioned after the Tree of Souls from the movie.  Stunning in the spotlight, gold braids hung from arching wires creating a canopy over the roots of the tree which spread across the positions at the table.  Strategically placed trays held dry ice which emitted its signature "fog" over the scene.  Green and blue linens completed the other-worldly, yet earthy, look.

The entry from Lambermont Events represented the elegance of the stars from Malibu.  A canvas-colored canopy hung over the square table which was adorned with driftwood, seashells and starfish.  Candles and lanterns added understated lighting while a fisherman's net cast character across the scene. Lush, white cotton beach towels adorned the backs of each chair.

Dominating the corner of the hall was the impressive entry from Capers DMC of San Antonio.  The classic movie, Shanghai Express, provided the inspiration.  With red and gold linens from BBJ Linens of Austin, the table literally glistened in the spotlight.  Asian-themed tableware accented the scene, and classic movie posters made it clear to even the uninitiated what movie was represented.

Western heroes made an appearance in the form of the tablescape put together by Barriba Cantina.  The table's theme, The Alamo, was perfect for this San Antonio crowd.  Rustic crates and barrels set the centerpiece high above the table with flowers contained in, what else but, a cowboy boot.  Place cards were set out with the names of the heroes of the Alamo.  Horseshoes and mason jars gave the table an authentic western look.

Not only did the McNay Art Museum provide the venue for the event, but they also entered a table into the competition.  Dark and mysterious, their Nightmare Before Christmas themed table stood in stark contrast to the other bright, festive tables surrounding it.  Jack Skellington, Oogie Boogie and even a skeletal Santa Clause adorned the table.  The pinnacle of the centerpiece was a black crow who kept a watchful eye on the evening's events.

One of the most amazing experiences of the evening, for me, was watching the Wizard of Oz tablescape come together.  Event experts from The San Antonio Wedding Guide and Bridal Extravaganza designed a very creative homage to Oz with their towering round vases filled with emerald-colored water, flanked by smaller square vases filled with yellow-tinted water representing the famed yellow-brick-road.  Ruby slippers marked each spot at the table, and the small flower baskets across the table would make Dorothy feel very welcome.  A well-placed cardboard cut-out with signature characters from the movie gave the table a well-put together look.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…the table from Occasions by Karen used white china and matching accoutrements to set a winter scene.  The shimmering silver table cloth gave the entire scene a look of new-fallen snow, while the white branches of the leafless trees brought the outdoors in.

Walt Disney himself would be proud of the design from Signature Catering of San Antonio.  A Donald Duck themed entry helped keep the evening fun and light.  Donald and his girl Daisy made multiple appearances across the table, while the centerpiece Donald glared with one of his signature scowls.  Laid out with deep red and blue linens, the whole piece had a very Disney feel.

And last, but certainly not least, was the whimsical entry from Panache Event Group - A Griswold Family Christmas - straight from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  Place cards included Clark and Ellen Griswold, and each spot at the table had its own "jelly-of-the-month" entry.  I fully expected a squirrel to jump out of the greenery on the centerpiece.

At the end of the evening, after a delicious meal served by Heavenly Gourmet and drinks by Haute Cocktails, ISES SA awarded three trophies.  Best design on a budget went to Barriba Cantina and their Alamo-themed table.  The most creative design trophy was garnered by Bisli Vazquez for her Avatar-themed table, and the overall best design trophy went to Capers DMC for their Shanghai Express tablescape.

All-in-all, it was a spectacle which lived up to its Hollywood theme.  And I learned a new word, worthy of inclusion in Webster's.  

See more photos of the evening from Strictly Art Photography on our Facebook page.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Wedding Photography Shootout at Hofmann Ranch

Imagine yourself in an episode of Survivor.  You're hot and sweaty and fighting to stay alive in the competition. Now, put yourself in an episode of The Amazing Race. You're working with your partner to find items you need to get you to your destination.  And then, picture yourself in the season finale of Ink Master, having outlasted the competition to make it to the final panel of judges, all eyeing your work to deem it worthy or not.  With a camera.  That was the experience Strictly Art Photography had recently at the Wedding Photography Shootout at Hofmann Ranch.

Sponsored by San Antonio Weddings magazine, the competition was open to wedding photographers throughout south Texas.  Many entered, then the editors of the magazine whittled the field down to the top 25 entries.  One image from each of the top photographers was sent to 100 brides who culled the list down to the top eight wedding photographers.  These eight were the contestants in the Shootout.

On the day of the event, the photographers and their assistants gathered at the beautiful Hofmann Ranch wedding venue in Castroville, Texas.  The magazine and the venue owners welcomed the photographers at a pre-competition briefing.  The rules were laid out; then the competition was on.

Our model races to our first shooting location

The eight photographers and their assistants were divided into two groups of four.  Each group rotated through four pre-determined shooting locations, with each photographer allotted six minutes to scout his or her location, find the right props, furniture and flowers and set the model or models into place and shoot.  It was a daunting task in the south Texas heat, to say the least.

Shooting locations showcased the beautiful venue

After the photographers each shot at the four pre-determined locations, a secret, fifth location was revealed. At this secret location, only the photographer could enter (no assistants on this one), and only one minute was allotted to select a model, pick the exact spot, pose the model and dial in the shot.  Sixty seconds went by really, really quickly.

Sixty seconds to shoot this image

After the contest, each photographer submitted his or her favorite images of the day to the editors once more for another round of judging.  The prize for the winning photographer was a cover of an upcoming issue of San Antonio Weddings magazine.

Strictly Art's submission for the cover image photo

In the end, our studio did not win the cover shot (a worthy competitor came out on top), but the experience was one we'll never forget.  It was an honor to be selected by brides of San Antonio as one of their top eight wedding photographers.  And it was a whole lot of fun running around Hofmann Ranch like an episode of Survivor meets The Amazing Race meets Ink Master.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall...the perfect time of the year for photography

I love the Fall. It is definitely my favorite time of the year. The weather is cooler (a thankful reprieve from the heat of the South Texas summer); the sports are awesome (football in Texas anyone?); and the colors are amazing. It is the perfect time of the year for photography. With the cooler days and warmer colors, our fall photographs are always our most memorable. The engagement photo, above, was taken in one of our favorite spots to shoot - in Gruene, Texas - a quaint little town whose motto is "gently resisting change since 1876." We are shooting a wedding nearby at the Landmark Hotel this coming weekend and can't wait to see the beautiful fall colors. While the temps are cooler, it's also a great time to get out to see new places. We stopped off in Comfort, Texas, after a recent engagement photography session and encountered a wonderful little pizza shop with bicycles to rent. Check out the colors in this photo.
Whether it's the cooler weather, warmer colors or just the appeal of seeing new places, get out this Fall. And let Strictly Art Photography capture the moment for you with event, portrait, wedding or engagement photography.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Game Plan for An Extravaganza

Are you attending the upcoming San Antonio Bridal Extravaganza? If you are planning a wedding, you should definitely consider going. No other source can provide you as much information about the wedding industry in one place as you can gather from one trip through the Extravaganza. The event offers you access to over 200 vendors across 28 different categories of products and services. Everything from venues and caterers to wedding singers and porta-potties will be represented. In addition to the collection of vendors, there will be thousands of brides and family members trying to make their way through the event floor. The event is fun and very useful, but the sheer volume of information and the large crowd can turn the event into a bit of a zoo. Here are three tips to help you make the most of your time at the Extravaganza.

To maximize your time at the event, get a game plan together before you arrive. The first step should be to assess where you are in the wedding planning process. Some brides are just starting the adventure when they attend their first Extravaganza; others are well along the way in their planning and are just looking for another vendor or two to complete their dream wedding. Your position in the planning process should dictate how you move about the show floor. If you need everything, you could start at the entrance and just take it all in by moving through the rows; however, I don’t recommend this approach. You’ll likely just get jostled around, bouncing from one vendor to another (the event floor is not laid out in any order at all) and easily get overwhelmed. If you need everything, I recommend you first make a list. Start with the biggest items first…venue and caterer; then, work your way through the rest of the items, filling in to meet your needs as you go to stay organized. If you’re the bride who only needs one or two vendors to complete your plan, make a direct path to only those vendors you need. Browsing items you've already contracted for will only confuse things. So, to maximize your time, get a game plan together before you go.

Another tip to maximize your time at the Extravaganza is to talk face-to-face to the vendors with whom a personal relationship is important. The Extravaganza offers a unique opportunity for you to meet the actual people you will be working with during your wedding day. These vendors include primarily your planners, photographers and DJs. Some vendors will be important to you during the preparation, like your venue reps, your caterer, or the florist. Some vendors will be important to you afterwards, like the vacation specialists or the real estate agents, but there is a very short list of vendors who will be in your inner circle during the wedding day itself. Not even your officiant (minister, pastor, priest, etc.) will be with you more closely on the big day than your planner, your photographer or your DJ. The formal-wear reps will be at the Extravaganza; the vacation reps will be there; even the mortgage specialists will be represented; but, ask yourself – “which vendor will be in my inner circle on my biggest day?” Based on our years of experience, it’s your planner, your photographer and your DJ. Visit with the limousine guy and the honeymoon trip planner during the Extravaganza, but spend your time testing out the personalities of your planners, your photographer and your DJ. You’ll be glad you did.

Come to the event ready to book. Do your homework in advance – check out the list of vendors on the Extravaganza website and check them out BEFORE you attend. This technique will give you the best shot of getting your preferred vendors before they are booked, and it will likely net you a very good deal on the contract. Vendors love to book at these shows and are very likely to offer big discounts to potential clients to “seal the deal.” Not only are the vendors making good deals, but the event itself offers incentives for brides to book during the show. The Extravaganza offers “Bridal Bucks” coupons which can be redeemed with vendors during the show to get valuable discounts and add-ons. Also, this year, the Extravaganza is giving away $250 discounts to eight lucky brides who book with vendors during the show – a nice little incentive to come ready to book.

The Bridal Extravaganza is a lot of fun, but it can also be a zoo. If you follow my tips (get a game plan together before you come, talk face-to-face with the vendors with whom you’ll need a personal relationship, and come ready to book), you can tame the zoo and maximize your time at the event.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Do I Need to Hire a Professional Photographer?

In the old days (and, yes, I can say that now since my frame of reference goes back to shooting film cameras in the 1970s and 80s), cameras were pretty specialized equipment. Not everyone had one. Most were expensive and challenging to learn to use. They required technical knowledge of exposure settings, film speeds and processing techniques. They required training and practice to produce even the most basic images. But now, fast forward a few decades, and the camera techniques that once required study and practice are now available to everyone at the touch of a button. Snapping pictures has become easy – so photography is easy, right? Nope. There’s a difference.

While it’s true the cameras of today can do much of the work of the photographer, there’s a big difference between snapping a picture and creating an image. Friends and family members with point-and-shoot cameras and smart phones are snapping pictures. I went to school to learn to use my camera, and I put it to use 30+ years ago as an aspiring young journalist. The techniques I learned in school and the experience I gained over time helped me hone my craft and become a full-time professional photographer. I create images. I don’t snap photos.

Wedding photography is the combination of a wide range of skills. The images I create combine elements of portrait and studio photography, event photography and photojournalism. I am there during crisis and triumph – when things go according to plan, and when they don’t. I am a technician, a story teller, an artist and sometimes counselor and confidant. I am a member of the inner circle around you on the biggest day of your life. An amateur photographer, family friend or relative with a camera simply doesn’t have the experience or expertise to make the images you, the bride, have in your head come to life.

Let me put it another way. You hire a professional DJ instead of plugging in your iPod because you want to make sure the entertainment goes according to plan. You hire a caterer instead of ordering in pizza because you want a memorable meal, not just food. It’s why you order a custom wedding cake instead of picking up cupcakes from Sam’s. Don’t get me wrong…the generic cupcakes are fun, but they’re no substitute for a custom wedding cake. Similarly, the snapshots from friends are fun, but you hire a professional photographer because you want artful images created of the day you’ve dreamed of all your life. There’s no substitute for professional images of your wedding.

With the advent of the point-and-shoot camera and the smart phone, cameras are everywhere today. Almost every cell phone has a camera, and almost everyone has a cell phone. Point-and-shoot cameras have become so lightweight and small, they’re almost unnoticeable. They’re in your pockets and your purses. They are with you in the car, at work and play, in your home and with you wherever you go. They’re inescapable. You very well may have been holding one in your hand while you read this article. But as I’ve said many times before – just because you’ve got a wrench, that doesn’t mean you’re a mechanic. Hire a professional photographer. The images you have of your wedding years from now will be worth it.