To the Moon and Back

It has been a really busy couple of months with some huge developments for TS Gallant Photography. You can see several of our photos in the most recent few issues of Cape Style Magazine, I've been teaching other photographers how to hone their portrait skills, I sold my first Adobe Stock photo, successfully pulled off several personal photographic projects, agreed to become the official photographer for the Rebel Riders Charities and Events and have designed and had built a few custom sets for the studio.

As of June 9th, I am super excited to unveil our adorable new custom newborn moon and galaxy set for the studio! In conjunction with the launch of this new set, TS Gallant Photography is also running a special Facebook and Instagram contest promotion for one lucky winner to have their little one be the lucky one to break it in, being the 1st to be photographed in it, with no sitting fee (savings of $199); plus, the winner will receive a credit toward print purchase. Winner will be drawn at random on June 23 at 12:00pm, EST during a Facebook live video, then contacted via Facebook Messenger. More details available HERE.

A huge thanks goes out to my multi-talented friend and fellow local business owner, Anson E, for designing and creating the moon based on my feeble description. He's truly brilliant in all that he does and I'm lucky to call him my friend. Be on the lookout for the next set that's already in the works...an adorable Little Red Riding Hood set! I do love photographing newborns, babies and children of all ages. I have a true passion for newborn photography and want to be as creative as space, time and money allow, to create beautiful, tender, innocent, magical, mystical and fantasy images for you to treasure for the next 100 years.

 

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A Cinderella Story...Er, Sort Of

I'm sure you are all familiar with the story of Cinderella. Well, this is sort of along that same line, just minus the prince, the fairy godmother, the castle, the step-sisters...ok, maybe it's not at all like the actual Cinderella story. However, the theme that is similar is the underdog, shy young girl who gets her day to feel like the star of the show.

There are two things that are near and dear to my heart; photographing children ages 0-18 and a cessation to bullying or, at the very least, the empowerment of those who are oppressed, afflicted and otherwise traumatized by the bully mentality. Having seen firsthand the often life-long effects that bullying can have on young victims, it's something that will light me up like a bottle rocket on the Fourth of July. So, at 9:30pm on a recent Saturday night, when I got the notification from a very special grandmother, I knew what I had to do.

I got a message from a referral service that a woman I'll call Monica was looking for a local photographer. There was a miscommunication in the original information I was given, so I was told she was seeking a certain type of photography session when, in fact, it was something completely different. When we finally clarified everything and I had all the correct info, I literally broke out with goosebumps from head to toe. When I recounted the tale to my husband (the greatest assistant to ever hold a reflector), I not only got goosebumps, again, but I also got a little misty-eyed. Just wait until you hear why!

This loving grandmother had one simple request. She wanted a photographer who would make her granddaughter feel very special for her 16th birthday. She went on to say that she wanted someone to take beautiful pictures that "show her being as beautiful as I see her through my eyes". She explained that her granddaughter (I'll call her Lily) didn't really feel very pretty and was shy, suffering with self-esteem issues. Before she even finished her tale, I already knew that I was taking this girl on and making her queen for a day.

We agreed to all the details and set the appointment for the next afternoon. Since this was her 16th birthday weekend and the photo session experience was to be part of her birthday celebration, we had no time to waste. As this was also to be a surprise for Lily, I asked Monica what formal dresses were in her closet that could be sneaked out for the session. Monica said she had none. I mentioned that it could be any kind of formal dress, like perhaps something from a homecoming dance or birthday party or wedding she attended. The answer was still none. She just didn't go to those things. I asked what size dress Lily wears, as I have a lot of prop clothing for my clients to use for their photo sessions,if desired. She said "well, she's kind of a big girl and that's the problem. She wears about a 16 or 18". My heart sank. The largest size I had was a 12 and I know from experience, nothing makes a person more depressed about their weight than trying on something pretty and finding out it doesn't fit. That was NOT gonna happen to Lily on my watch!

Determined to head to the mall, early the next morning, I discussed my plan with my husband. He suggested taking to social media. So, just after 9:30pm on a Saturday night, I put out a clothing SOS to all of my Facebook friends. I am so blessed to have such wonderful, kind, generous and helpful friends! The call was answered en mass.  By the time of her 3pm arrival, she had an entire rack of clothing to choose from. It really did look like a supermodel set. I had the wardrobe area set up, the props, background and lighting all setup, there were contracts laid out to sign, jewelry and accessories. I was determined to give her a super model experience and create some beautiful images.

They arrived with Lily having just been told where they were going. I could tell that she was nervous but Ray and I went into full model mode. I called her my lovely little diva and pointed to the rack of clothing, telling her to just  pick whatever she wanted to try and we could do as many as she wanted. She was foofed off to wardrobe with an armful of dresses while Monica and I sat and talked. She filled me in, a little more, as to why this was so important and I again welled up and got goosebumps. I was so happy to be a part of making this little lady feel amazing.

When we started working with the actual camera, Lily was so nervous. We could all tell how tense she was. She had no confidence. She put great effort into not smiling, clamping her lips together so that her teeth wouldn't show. Her shoulders were hunched forward, she was holding herself and her hands were clenched. I instantly knew what her grandmother was saying and why it was so important and was bound and determined to reverse it all, even for just a day.

It actually didn't take too long before she was laughing and more at ease (it never does). She quickly started exuding confidence instead of being shut down. In that three hours of my reinforcing how great she was doing and how beautiful she looked, I got to watch her blossom from a tightly closed bud into a beautiful rose that brightened up the whole room.

When it came time to sit down together and look through the images, they were both shocked. After about the third photo and third time of Lily saying "oh my God, that's me", her grandmother explained to her why she had done it and that she is beautiful and is special and should always feel that way. At that, Lily got teary, as did Monica (and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't on the teary list). We continued through and it brought me such joy to see her face light up on image after image, then struggle to narrow it down to only the 10 that she would get (5 was the job but I was matching that, as a gift). She was so proud to see herself on the screen and that was wonderful for me, as an artist, to be a part of.

There was time, after all was said and done, for the three of us girls to sit down for some chit-chat and go through a few questions that I had. Here's what they had to say:

ME: Monica, how long have you been planning this day for Lily?

M: It was completely spur-of-the-moment but I'm so glad you said yes, with such short notice.

L: I was completely surprised. I really didn't know until we were almost here.

ME: Question for both of you. How did you feel , knowing this was going to happen?

M: I was excited. My granddaughter deserves to feel like this. She is so sweet and hard-working and special. She's suffered so much loss in the last year. She lost two people who were very close to her, her grandfather and her uncle. I wanted her to see herself as I see her, the real Lily. (this is where we all got a little wet in the eye area).

L: Don't make me cry. I was just so nervous. I don't take pictures. I don't take good pictures, anyway. I didn't even think that I could. I didn't think there could be a really good picture of me.

ME: Ok, another question to you both. How did I make you feel during your experience, today?

M: This was wonderful.

L: You made me feel comfortable and, yes. I felt very special with all this and how we worked.

ME: For both of you, how did you feel when you first saw the images, both on the back of the camera and especially on the bigger screen?

M: You captured her. You captured the true essence of my granddaughter.

L: Honestly, I just kept thinking "Wow! That's me! I actually look good"!

ME: Lily, do you feel this boosted your confidence at all? I see a change from the you that walked in to the you that is sitting here right now so do you think you could carry some of that out of here and into the rest of your life?

L: It definitely boosted my confidence. I still can't believe it. Yes, maybe I could. I don't know. It's hard.

ME: Ok, fair enough, but you should. Monica, would you feel confident in recommending TS Gallant Photography to a friend who might want to gift the same experience or have it for herself?

M: Most definitely. You gave her a chance to really shine and everyone should have that.

I did leave Lily with a final thought. See, I didn't actually do anything but take a picture with a tool. Those photos she saw that made her feel so proud and pretty and good about herself ARE photos of her. I can only photograph what's there. So, if she could feel good about herself and pretty and confident after looking at a few pictures on a screen, she can carry that with her at all times because that's all inside her. She should remember that, always, and never let anyone steal her shine. I wish Lily nothing but the best that life has to offer. The gift from her grandmother was as much mine as hers. It was such an honor to be a part of showing a young woman who she really is. Lily, the world is your oyster!

If you enjoyed this story, or would like to leave words of encouragement for Lily, please leave a comment below.

And the "Best Husband in the World" Award Goes To...

Yes, I do realize that there probably isn't really a "Best Husband in the World" award (there should be) but, if there was, the winner would be my husband.

Oh, sure, I realize that pretty much every wife would say that of their husband but I must insist, biased or not, I really think mine would win. Not only is he a great provider, a great dad, full of love and support, caring, thoughtful, hard-working and more, outside of being the "amazing guy behind the scenes" here at TS Gallant Photography but he will go so far above and beyond to help me out, including cheering me up (or cooling my jets) that it can't even be measured. Thankfully, it CAN be photographed. Read on to see how he win's the Best Husband in the World award.

Recently, we had a photo shoot scheduled with a local model for bright and early on a Sunday morning. It was to be a fashion style session featuring an antique love seat placed in the middle of a tennis court. The model would be showcasing a pair of Jimmy Choo sandals while wearing a cocktail dress. That means my husband and already the best assistant, ever, had to arrange for a truck (a huge thank you goes out to two of the best friends a person could have, for letting us borrow yours so we didn't have to rent a Uhaul), get up really early on this Sunday, before the sun was even up, then load the lighting equipment, camera gear and couch, all before 7:30am. He then drives the truck to the park, unloads it all and carries all of it halfway across the park into the tennis court and sets up. ALL OF THIS he did on his own, without help from me, including carrying and placing the antique love seat. Now, before you start throwing "And the Worst Wife of the Year Award Goes To Me" verbiage, be aware of the fact that I'm still recovering from recent surgeries on both a broken leg and beat up shoulder. I'm still wearing the plastic cast, unable to put weight on it yet, and barely out of the shoulder sling so using crutches was both awkward and painful and even walking was unsteady.

Anyway, you are probably thinking that is where this award-deserving story ends but, no, there's more. As I said, the shoot was scheduled for 8am. It had been scheduled for several weeks. The model was chosen mostly because she stated she had a lot of experience and was very professional (which, by the way, is ALWAYS more important than being the most beautiful face on the list of possibilities). The model was immediately given the name and address of the park and directions to get there, via message and she responded in writing that she knew right where it was. I touched base with her, several times over the next weeks, including the day before when I specifically asked if there were any questions about the location or time and wanted to verify that we were still on for in the morning. Her response was that all was well, she didn't need more directions and that she would be tired from a long shift but would absolutely be there, ready to go.

When she was 15 minutes late, I called but got no answer. I then texted asking for an update. She replied, a few minutes later, that she had no idea the park was in Cape Coral and that "I swear the GPS said it was only 25 min from my house when I looked it up, then this morning said it's over an hour" (never mind the "if you are saying you didn't know it was in Cape and didn't have the address, how did you look it up" question, which is it's own blog suject). Anyway, moving on, she was just leaving her house and would be at least an hour late.

That left us in a heck of a bind because, here were are, blocking a tennis court on a Sunday morning. Do you know who wants to play tennis on an early Sunday morning? Evidently a heck of a lot of people, that's who! So, here we are, blocking one of the two tennis courts with a bunch of lighting equipment and a couch, getting all kinds of looks from people playing on the other court, walking their dogs on the path around the tennis area or jogging around the park. One elderly couple actually stopped dead in their tracks, laughing and pointing at us for several minutes. That was fun.

The later it became and the more looks we got and the more I worried that we would be asked to leave, the more upset I got. Here's where that "Best Husband" award comes in. Without missing a beat, my big, bad, biker husband says "let's at least test the lighting" and starts posing. I don't mean the usual tough-guy pose you'd expect, I mean the "♪♫♬I'm too sexy for my shirt...on the catwalk, yeah, on the catwalk...♪♫♬" type of posing. In the middle of it, he picks up the dress and the shoes and really plays it up for me and for the camera. I could end it right there, of course, as he's already proven to be the best husband, up to this point, but he also agreed to let me post the photos, on the condition that "it will make you cheer up and smile" (sadly, he did put his foot down on a video recording for YouTube, though).

Anyway, it was really tough to narrow it down to only 7 photos but, to me, these images of him were the win for the day! I hope you agree.

Top 5 Tips For Getting Great Photos of Your dog

We've all seen those adorable dog photos. They are on billboards, in magazine ads, on store products, in funny internet memes? Let's face it. Who doesn't love pet photos? Of course, many people are inspired by their own little fur baby and want to get great photo for themselves. However, what they often get are pictures of butts and tails because their dog turned around at the last second, or stopped doing that cute pose as soon as the camera was up and ready. Sometimes the photo just plain falls flat of expectation. Getting great photos of our four-legged, tail-wagging family members has been a problem plaguing mankind, pretty much since the invention of the camera. Below are a few helpful hints to help you get better results with your own dog.

1. Get help and don't do it, alone. I have to say, this is probably legitimately the number one helpful hint to successful pet photography. Yes, of course many people can and do get great photos while working alone (like all of my examples below) but I have done it both ways and speak from years of experience when I say it is definitely better for the photographer and the dog, if there is help. The best way for a second person to help is to stand directly behind the camera, placing their face on an even plane with the camera lens and talking with the pup or making noises. This generally keeps the dog's eyes looking close to the lens and creates an illusion of the eyes looking at the camera and making a connection with the viewer.

2. Pick a time when the animal is sleepy, especially young ones. Most types of puppies do one thing more than anything else...sleep. After they wake up from a nap, they are usually feeling frisky and wanting to play. That's a tough time to try and keep them in one spot long enough to get even one photo, much less a few options. However, after running around and burning off some of that energy, they start to wind down. They get more and more calm as time goes on and they move toward needing another nap. This is generally a great time to try to get a few shots. They are less likely to try to run off and more likely to sit or lay in one spot.

3. Get down on their level. I think the single biggest mistake that people make is standing above animals to get a photo. This isn't a complimentary angle for humans and it's the same for dogs. Sometimes, you just have to lay down in the grass to get the best presentation.

4. Use a clutter-free background. This can usually be accomplished with a very shallow depth of field, using a wide open aperture on a good lens, and/or moving in very close to your subject but it can also be as simple as moving to a de-cluttered area. Distracting backgrounds can be things inside a house, like furniture, toys or people. Outside it can be cars and trucks, telephone poles, signs and more. Like with people, there's nothing flattering about a picture of Spot where it looks like there is a telephone pole growing out of the top of his head. Just move off to the side, a few feet, and try again.

5. The most important thing is to be patient. When you present yourself in a calm, relaxed, patient manner, that translates to the animal you are working with. Dogs, especially, are very sensitive to human emotion. That's why they are used for companion animals (and earned the title "man's best friend"). All your dog wants to do is please you and make you happy. If you are trying to get a photo and are getting upset, frustrated or angry because things aren't going smoothly (and they usually don't), your dog will immediately pick up on that and will become uncomfortable because he won't understand why you're upset with him. It's better to walk away and try at another time, than to find yourself in that situation. Dogs also have a great memory and if that "big, dark eye" coming out of your head causes you to get upset, your dog will quickly learn to avoid it.

I hope that you found these tips to be helpful to you. Feel free to post your own pet photos on our Facebook page or tag us on Instagram @TSGallantPhotography.

Family Fun in the Sun

It was a beautiful day on Saturday. The sun was out, it wasn't windy, no rain in sight. Those are the perfect ingredients for wonderful outdoor family portraits.

I actually met Bill and Kim, several years ago, through our mutual love of motorcycles. We run into each other from time to time, at various events once or twice per year, but are separated by hundreds of miles and several hours in travel.

Imagine my surprise when I got a call saying they wanted to do family pictures...with me! I was doubly blessed when they said it would be the first time they have ever had formal family portraits of any kind. We made an appointment for 12:30pm but in their excitement, they arrived almost two hours early (which, of course, gave us plenty of time to sit down and catch up over coffee).

After a relaxing early morning, we got the ball rolling. The session started in the studio, then moved outdoors. Afterward, we drove to the beach to finish the family session and get a few impromptu engagement photos, as well. After all was said and done, I got the opportunity to ask them a few questions about their experience.

ME: So, first things first. Why would you choose me for your first family photos when you have so many to choose from, close to where you are?

B&K: A big part is because we consider you a friend. Aside from that, we both really like your style. Your photos are different than any other photos we see from other photographers. Very original.

ME: Now that we are done, what was your favorite part of our session?

Kim: My favorite part was seeing the photos and seeing that you got pictures of who we are, naturally. Sebastian loved the balloon photo and Augustus' favorite was the "Help" image on the beach. Our least favorite part was seeing the pain you were going through, walking around on your broken leg (I had surgery on an open frature, 9 weeks ago, so was still in a boot and a knee scooter but used crutches for the beach...which wasn't easy since I also had major shoulder surgery 9 weeks ago, too). Bill says he doesn't have a favorite part. He liked everything (except maybe for being asked if he was ok with sitting down on the ground, which he found amusing).

ME: What was it that you loved so much about working with me?

B&K:  A lot. You are fun. I love the way you made us laugh and got us in a happy mood to take great pictures. I also love the poses you came up with. I loved your attitude during the whole thing. You weren't grumpy and didn't get mad at the boys when they didn't do exactly what you asked them. I love that you went with the flow, adapting when things didn't go exactly as planned.

ME: Would you come back for photos with me in the future?

B&K: Definitely! I want you do photograph our wedding! We will always be repeat customers!

Interview with Sommer

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview my young model and client, Sommer. I'm sure you love the images of her as much as I do. She is not only the epitome of beauty on the outside but she's also got such a warm and beautiful soul, as well. Her personality is amazing and I just love working with her (we all laugh, a LOT). I had the pleasure of sitting down with her, recently, for some conversation so I asked her a few questions. Here's what she had to say.

ME: What were your expectations, at the beginning of our first photo session (which was her first-ever photoshoot with a professional photographer)?

SOMMER: Well, I was definitely curious as to whether or not the photos would even turn out and what they would look like. I was also wondering how well we would work together and what it would be like.

ME: What did you think when you first came in and saw my camera and all the studio equipment we had set up for you?

SOMMER: My first thought was "cool". I was very impressed. In instantly knew you took this seriously and weren't an amateur. It all looked so professional.

ME: On a scale of 1-10, how nervous were you before we got started?

SOMMER: Definitely at least an 8!

ME: In my opinion, that nervous didn't last very long. Would you agree?

SOMMER: Yes. Like not even 5 minutes.

ME: What helped you overcome your nervousness?

SOMMER: Mostly that you didn't act all serious with me. You guys were comfortable and that made me comfortable. You're so easy-going so that definitely made me relax.

ME: What is the best part of the experience of being photographed by TS Gallant Photography?

SOMMER: Definitely the fun. The way you guys banter with each other makes me laugh and that comforts and relaxes me.

ME: How did seeing the photos make you feel?

SOMMER: Weird, honestly. Your pictures looked so nice compared to the cell phone pictures I'm used to. I just looked so different than what I normally see.

ME: Do you feel the photos we took boosted your confidence or self-esteem?

SOMMER: Yes, because they looked way better than I expected them to. I looked like I was in a magazine or should be in a magazine. They were just so picture perfect.

ME: Overall, what do you think about TS Gallant Photography?

SOMMER: I think you're really creative and a lot of fun. Not at all overwhelming like I thought it would be. Now, when I know you'll be photographing me, I'm very excited and start getting ready really early because I know I'm about to have fun and get excited to see the pictures. It's very interesting to see what all you can do, creatively.

(we just love working with this girl)

 

Things to look for in a professional photographer

Ok, so you have decided that you want some photos taken. You've made the decision that you want a professional photographer instead of just using your cell phone camera. Both are great decisions but now what? Well, I'd like to offer some advice to anyone wanting to hire a professional photographer. The information in this blog are only my opinion but I do believe I have enough education to stand by the contents. Here are some tips.

First and foremost, does the photographer have a website? Not just a Facebook page or a free website that reads something like www.ImAGreatPhotographer/freewebs/getyourownsite/showcase.com or something along those lines. A professional photographer takes him-or-herself and photography as a craft very seriously and will do whatever it takes to present a professional face, and that includes making an investment in a legitimate website. Along these lines is their email. Is it "ImAGreatPhotographer@yahoo.com"? If so, they don't take their business seriously and neither should you! You want to look for someone with a real website, that has something like their business name.com and an Info@theirbusinessname.com or Contact@theirbusinessname.com. Same principle applies to their business cards.

Does the photographer you are considering have professional gear? If he has a little Canon Rebel or other inexpensive, entry-level crop sensor camera, it might be a good idea to go elsewhere. Part of being a professional is having professional gear. This is at least, if not more important, than having a professional website. Another thing about professional gear is that it (generally) takes professional photos. Why, you may ask? Well, usually, by the time someone is confident enough to make the kind of financial investment that pro gear entails (often several thousand dollars just for the camera body with no lenses), they have mastered their craft and understand what they are doing and need to do to consistently capture great images. Now, is that to say that a person HAS to spend $6,000 on a camera body to take great photos? No, not at all. I am saying, however, that someone who is truly a professional, dedicated to his craft, will likely invest in top-of-the-line equipment.

Yes, there is a difference between professional and non-professional photos. You as consumers need to educate yourselves, as well. Pick up any magazine. Do you see the cover? The advertisements? The photos for the main stories? Those are professional photos. Photographers who can produce images like that, images with "WOW factor", images that you want to hang on your walls don't charge $50 for a session. If you want the best, as I'm sure you do, it will cost a little more. It's the same as in all other areas of life. Do you shop for your daughter's prom dress at Target? Do you buy furniture from WalMart? Do you get your hair done at the salon where you buy your groceries or do you go to the mall salon? Do you buy your makeup at the dollar store or at a Sephora counter? When shopping for a bra, do you go to a thrift store or Victoria's Secret? When you look for a new car, do you drive down Fowler St or do you go to a huge dealership? Same principal. Quality costs but with that price one can be fairly confident in the assumption that there is the assurance you will get quality and that's definitely what you want! Looking for a professional photographer is no different than searching for any other professional. You wouldn't choose your mechanic, tattoo artist, family doctor or veterinarian solely because they are the cheapest and advertised on Craigslist, would you? No, of course not.

Does the photographer you are considering have an up-to-date portfolio that changes, frequently. If your potential photographer has the same old images, month after month and year after year, or only has photos of one or two people in their portfolio, what does that say? You want to hire a photographer who updates images. You also want one that has a Facebook Page (in addition to their real website) and Instagram. This shows they like to stay current and up-to-date. You also want to find one who engages with you. If you send any sort of comment or question, do they respond quickly or does it take a few days? It's important to find a professional who values you, as much as they want you to value them. Compare local websites, too. It will help you see different styles and what stands out to you as great images versus "meh".

We already briefly touched base on professional photos, a few paragraphs above, but how can you compare? Aside from the magazine analogy that I provided, there are some things to look for. First, is everything in their portfolio in total focus where it should be. For example, if it's a head shot, are the eyes in focus like they should be or are the eyebrows or cheeks in crisp focus, instead? If it's a portrait of your son and daughter, are both in focus or just one and are the trees in the background where the focus is instead of them (or in equal focus with them)? In a photo, is the background free of distraction and softly focused or are the bushes clearly visible and in as much focus as the subject? Do they offer physical prints, albums, and other tangible items or do they just offer digital files on a disk that you will stick in a drawer and forget about?

Here are some questions to ask any photographer you interview (and then look up their answers, to educate yourself):

  1. What camera do you use?
  2. What is your go-to portrait lens (if they say they only have a lens that is attached to the camera, it's not a professional camera at all)?
  3. Can your photos print a quality 30x40?
  4. How much ongoing training do you invest in, per year?
  5. What is your website (if you don't already know it)?
  6. Can you provide references?

These are just a few tidbits that will get you headed down the road to satisfaction. I included  few examples, below, for comparison. As always, we wish you happiness and great photos! Start your search by clicking here.

Being in the Spotlight

If you've followed my work at all, in the last two years or so, you've seen the lovely young woman I'm about to talk about.

Morgan has been a client of mine, on several occasions. She's also been kind enough to say yes, the times I've come up with some new idea I'd like to explore or a piece of new equipment that I wanted to try out. She's never complained and has gleefully come to my aid and rescue.

While there's no denying I love working with Morgan, with her beautiful skin, infectious smile and bubbly personality, I recently sat down with her to ask what she thinks about working with TS Gallant Photography. Here's that interview.

ME: How did you feel in those first moments in front of the camera?

MORGAN: I was VERY nervous. I didn't know what to expect and had no idea what to do.

ME: How long did that nervousness last?

MORGAN: Hmm, I'd have to say just a few minutes, like less than 5 minutes of being petrified.

ME: Why the change? What made the nervousness go away so quickly?

MORGAN: Honestly, I'd have to say it was you. You just kept talking to me, encouraging me, giving advice and direction, telling me what to do to look my best. The sneak peeks also helped. It was extremely empowering to see the images come alive and transform from an idea that we talked about to being seen in real life on the back of your camera. Amazing!

ME: What were your thoughts when you first saw the images of you?

MORGAN: "WOW"! That's what I just kept thinking; "WOW"!

ME: (laughing) Well, that's pretty descriptive but could you tell me a little more. Why "wow"?

MORGAN: Well, it's because you were able to capture what I didn't even know was there. I just looked so beautiful and kept thinking "Wait, that's me".

ME: What would you say is the best part of being photographed by TS Gallant Photography?

MORGAN: It was just working with the two of you. You guys are hilarious! You're really fun and funny when it's just you but when it's both of you, together, you just have this energy and play off each other in such a way that you put me right at ease and give me confidence; confidence both in myself and also in that I know you'll get awesome images and make me look great!

ME: What would you say to someone looking for a local portrait photographer?

MORGAN: Oh, I'd definitely send them to TS Gallant Photography. You have great, original ideas and always make me look phenomenal but you are also easily inspired and explore and expand in ways to make the idea yours and even better. I love working with you and would tell anyone they just have to do it!

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Things are not always as they seem

I know that if you're old enough to be reading a blog, you've probably long-ago been made aware of concepts like "not all is as it appears" and "not everyone is your friend", "wolf in sheep's clothing", "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is" and things along that line?

You get the idea. These little gems come down to us from generations of "live and learn". They warn us for a reason. The lesson is to beware of who you trust because not everyone is trustworthy. It's sad but true and an inescapable fact of life.

This also refers to business practices. The world of "professional photography" is not exempt from shysters. I, too, have fallen prey, in my past, to fly-by-night photography schemes. My oldest daughter, who just happens to be very tall, lean, and drop-dead gorgeous (I know, I may be biased, but it's what I believe) wanted to become a model. Me, being the mom I am, wanted to give my little girl what she wanted. I was a sheep with a "Come eat me" sign around my neck and fell for a few scheming "modeling agencies" who "just happened to be traveling through our remote area, looking for talent". So, for a "give me $750 and sign here for a photoshoot and some comp cards" day, I was out $750.

I guess, if current news buzz is to be believed (and I do believe it because I have also seen and heard way too many horror stories), the bad photographer who is untrained and has literally no concept of photography or even how to use their camera, dupes people into giving them money.

So, my advise to minimize this happening is to look for a current and up-to-date website. Any true photographic professional will have one. Look over their work. Does it look like something you would want hanging in your own living room? If not, or if they have no real website, I say RUN, don't just walk.

Here is a link that's now and quickly become famous. Don't let this happen to you! Click the following link to view possibly the worse "professional photoshoot" since the invention of the camera, courtesy of IMagery by Lesa Hall: http://mashable.com/2018/01/12/funny-photoshop-fail-family-photos/

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Making the Most of a Small Space

Of course, working in my studio is awesome. I love the open space, the versatility of being able to use various lighting scenarios and different backdrops and props. Truthfully, I also don't mind working where the light is at and, sometimes, it's NOT in my studio.

I don't do it very often but, on this day, I was spontaneously inspired to move a carefully planned studio session, outside of the studio. At the end of our actual studio session, my client was sitting at the table and I was astounded by the quality of light washing over her and it was "game on". She was willing to spend some more time with us to get  creative so we set off to the challenge of shooting in a very small area. Literally, it was about 3' wide and 4' long. I had my assistant hold a portable/collapsible backdrop behind her and just kept her sitting right on her chair at the table in my breakfast nook area next to my home studio.

As with any other photo session, I wanted to get a few different looks. In keeping the composition tight, basically able to just do head shots, it could have limited what we would be able to accomplish but we quickly discovered that really wasn't the case. We were able to get some great images, and we all had a lot of fun, as well.

Natural light is still, by far, my favorite form of light. Hopefully you can see why I love it, in these image examples from that impromptu session.

The Gift

Of course, it's pretty much a given that photographers and Photoshop go hand-in-hand. These days, the word Photoshop is a household name. It instantly conjures images of skinny, porcelain-skinned young ladies selling purses, jewelry or clothing in magazines or silly memes in our social media feeds.

What a lot of people don't realize is that it's actually an incredibly versatile (and seemingly infinite) tool. It really does allow you to do so much, relatively quickly, right at you fingertips. Aside from polishing skin to editorial perfection, removing braces and changing backgrounds, it does have many other practical applications. Among those is photo restoration.

That brings me to a wonderful Christmas story. Just before Christmas, I  was approached by a client who asked if I had any suggestions on where she could go to get a photo restored. They also wanted it printed and delivered before Christmas (a mere 6 days away). She and her husband wanted to get his mother a larger print of an old 5x7 they had recently stumbled upon. It was a photo of his mom and dad on their wedding day. The father had already passed away and they just knew that such a gift would be precious. The problem was that the picture was extremely faded and discolored. It was also completely covered, from top to bottom and side to side, with thousands of little white dots. They also didn't have the negative.

What she didn't realize was that I actually do photo restoration, myself. She didn't have to risk sending this irreplaceable print through the mail to some random stranger. Not only was I able to tell her that I could do it right then and there, but I could also have it finished in just a few hours. Of course, being a photography studio, I would also be able to order whatever size print they wanted. She was ecstatic and confided that they hoped to make her mother-in-law be so overcome with emotion with their gift that she would cry.

I immediately scanned the faded 5x7 into my system and started working on it. I was able to fix the reddish color-cast, boost the overall contrast and do the other minor fixes. I was even able to address the blanket of little white dots. As a bonus, I even adjusted the image perspective, slightly, as the original photographer had taken the photo from a low angle, creating an unflattering distortion in their bodies with the pose he chose for them. The real difficulty was that they were both wearing glasses. That means that since the original photographer didn't adjust their head position, there was lens glare reflecting off both pairs. The man's eyes were pretty much invisible. I definitely had my work cut out for me but I was determined to make sure this would be the powerfully emotional gift they hoped for.

I was on cloud 9 when they saw the final proof and loved it. I had been so worried about the eyes in the photo but my fears were laid to rest the moment he said "Boy, I didn't realize how much I look like my dad". He was right, he certainly did! They ordered a large canvas print and I was able to tell them it would arrive by Christmas. I was so happy to hear how much she loved the canvas and immensely proud to have been a part of something so wonderful.

I have been doing photo restoration for almost 15 years. TS Gallant Photography is proudly offering this service in Cape Coral/Fort Myers, Florida. Digital files and actual prints can also be mailed for restoration. Contact me for more information.

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For the Sake of Your Children

This sentiment equally applies to both men and women but is more geared toward us women. We are the hardest on ourselves. We are our own worst critics. Often, we judge ourselves unfairly and are overly harsh in our self-criticism.

This is not only unfair to us, as humans, as mothers, as grandmothers, as sisters or whatever, it's unfair to us as woman. Most importantly, this can be unfair to our children, our grandchildren and all the generations to follow. We are robbing our future progeny and why? What is the reason?

For the majority of human history, only the rich could afford to preserve their memory on a formal medium. It used to be only in oil; painting on a canvas. When photography first came into existence, the same was true, that only the "upper crust" of society could afford the services of a photographer. Today, this is simply not true. Even if it were truth, we owe it to the generations that follow, to preserve ourselves for them, as a part of their history.

On a more personal level, just speaking of the now or the "short term", if you are a mother, you likely are or will be a grandmother. Your children and grandchildren deserve to remember you with more than just a daydream. Photographs make us "real", in a more tangible and physical sense than just fond memories.

Why do we say no? I hear, so many times, things like "oh, I'm not pretty enough" or "I don't look good in pictures" or "maybe if I could lose 20#"...the list goes on and on. Do you want to know the real truth? THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE YOU DON'T CARE! They don't care if you have gray hair. They don't care if you have wrinkles or don't fit into a size 4 skirt. One of the saddest things that I ever hear, from friends and online comments, is "My mother is gone and I don't have any pictures to remember her by". This is heartbreaking!

Ladies, your children love you! Your grandchildren adore you. You are their world and the very reason they exist and are who they are or will be. We, as women, do a great disservice to our loved ones when we think so little of ourselves that we feel we shouldn't be photographed. Well our family, our friends, our loved ones DESERVE to have those photographs. It's a difficult thing to face, but the truth of the matter is, we will not be here, forever. There is no guarantee of tomorrow. Once we are gone, there are no more opportunities for the "if only" sentiment.

ALL women are beautiful, especially to the ones who love them! Beauty is not found on a scale readout or the tag of a dress. Beauty, to our family, is the way you smile. it's the way you put your head back and laugh. It's the way you furrow your brows when you are thinking. It's the way you look at your grandchild when you brush the unruly curl from her face or wipe the mud off his cheek. Beauty is INSIDE of you!

EVERY woman...let me say that again so that it sinks in...EVERY WOMAN is beautiful! Every woman deserves to be portrayed in a photograph the way she is, RIGHT NOW! We DESERVE to feel beautiful, to see ourselves as beautiful and to be photographed, beautifully! A professional photographer can make that happen.

 None of the little things you allow to stop you, really matter. They just don't. You are vibrant! You are wonderful! Your smile brings happiness to those who love you! You have the power to allow the happy memories of you, JUST AS YOU ARE, to be carried down your family line for generations. You have the power to allow your husband or child to look at you, sitting on a desk or hanging on a wall, long after you are gone. You have the ability to allow your granddaughter to sit on the couch with her child, open a book and introduce her tow her great-grandmother, who will not care that you have wrinkles around your eyes or that your hair has turned to silver.

Please, I implore you, even if it's not with me, don't put it off. Don't wait for the tomorrow that may never come, to allow your children and their children and their children after them to see the woman they love. In this day and age, there is no legitimate reason for you not to be around, in a photogaph, for the next 100 years. I hope that you will allow me, as a photographer, the PRIVILEGE of being a part of that.

Experimenting with My Fantastic New Photography Toy: The Lensball

This was one of those spontaneous purchases (yes, I'm a terribly impulse shopper). There I was, just scrolling down my Instagram feed and there, luring me from screen, was an ad for this new gadget called a Lensball.

I was intrigued, enough, to open it up and see some of the comments, then do a little research. I can't even put my finger on what I got so excited about but, I just knew that I had to have one. So, 5 minutes later and $40 poorer, my new Lensball was on its way. Now, I will warn you, it doesn't arrive very quickly. I will admit that, toward the end, I was really starting to worry that I'd been ripped off by one of those internet scams that everyone hears about. With more and more photos popping up of people using their Lensball, I just told myself to be patient (which, as anyone who knows me will attest, that is NOT an easy thing for me to do).

Eventually, it did arrive, in a very well-packaged box. I was so excited to try it out but it was dark, by this time, and I had to work the next day, so I planned to take it with me for a boudouir session that I was doing at a resort on the beach. Of course, the day my crew and I arrived, there was too much work to get done. Plans of getting a nice beach sunset photo with the Lensball (and some other experimental photography ideas I had planned) went right out the window when one shoot ran an hour over and the last client arrived 4 hours late.

As my main assistant (and love of my life) finished up the packing and headed for checkout, I made my way down to the beach. I was only allotted 20 minutes so time was of the essence. I first tried to get a shot on the wooden walkway to the beach. However, I felt the beach was too far in the distance and the overgrowth of vegetation just didn't make it a great spot. It also quickly came to my attention that the Lensball needs times to acclimate to changes in temperature. It fogged up (and stayed that way) for about the first five minutes, no matter how many times I wiped it down. So, off I hiked across the sand with my still-healing broken leg, to get down closer to the water (and with a broken leg, it feels like ever 10' is a mile). I thought it would be a cute idea to get a seagull in the Lensball but I was not able to talk any of the loitering gulls into standing still long enough for me to do it.

With time running out, I found a good spot and pulled out my now fog-free Lensball out and starting looking through it, finding a good composition. After I found the angle with least distractions and no glare,  put it carefully on the sand. Another note-to-self moment hit me, right then, that it might have been a darned good idea to bring a beach towel, garbage bag or at least something to keep me from being covered from chest to toe in wet sand but, alas, it hadn't even dawned on me. True to my motto, "whatever it takes", I just laid right down in the sticky sand to get the shot.

My next time using the ball was on my dining room table, late at night, because I was bored. I played around with various light sources and had a blast. After that, I used it for a sunset photo at the remnant of an unused, old bridge, not far from my house. I wanted to get some of the distant lightning, in the Lensball, but that just wasn't meant to be (at least not THAT time...bucket list). A few weeks later, I tried to get a rainbow shot with it. I did get the composition right, with a vibrant, full rainbow in the Lensball. Sadly, as I was by myself and standing in 3' tall grass, handholding both the ball and my heavy Canon 1D X with the Canon 100mm prime on it, I gave up after only getting a few shots that I saw weren't really working due to motion blur. I kept one that was slightly better than "meh", just because I'm not sure if I'll ever get another change to try capturing a rainbow in a Lensball. My most recent outdoors attempt at using it was to capture a sunrise photo. Lastly, just this morning, I thought I'd try to capture a pattern so printed two sheets of checkerboard.

All in, the Lensball has been a blast to use! I still have so many ideas that I can't wait to try. Yes, it may be a fad but I can't call anything that gives me this much pleasure and is so fun to play with a failure. This was one of my best $40 investments, so far!

 

Why I prefer ditching the studio

I'm sure we all remember the stereotypical "photography studio" of yesteryear. Families enter into a smallish room in front of a roll of various backdrops, a camera set up on a tripod at the other side of the room and a photographer standing at the camera telling you all to say "cheese"? My philosophy on "say cheese" is you get cheesy results. If you want cheese, go to your local deli. If you want amazing photographic images that showcase who you are, hire a professional photographer who is willing to step out of the studio.

Thankfully, if you're in the market for some individual or family photography, you are no longer forced to choose only which studio you will go to. Professional photographers like myself, have come to realize that people don't want "cookie cutter images"; photos that look like every other person's photos. No. People want versatility, dynamics, emotion, drama, fun! In a studio-only setting, you get stuffy, cold, uncomfortable.

Think about it. Most people don't actually like being photographed. Why is that? Two reasons, in my opinion. One, it's because they often believe they aren't photogenic. Two, they don't believe another person is actually interested enough in making them look good that they just won't look good. Let's address both of those and how they relate to the topic of working outside of a studio for portraiture.

I think that absolutely everyone can be photogenic, meaning "look great in a picture". What do I mean? Well, a great portrait is something your family will treasure; your parents, your children and grandchildren. It says "this is me". It is emotive, showcases a part of you (like are you artistic, musical, athletic, etc), conveys a mood or is dramatic in some way. Images, specifically portraits, are a legacy that preserves who we are, in a manner of speaking, for oncoming generations to know a little bit about us.

This transcends "what do I look like". Sure, maybe not everyone looks like Brad Pitt or Halle Berry but, do you know what? You don't have to look like a glamorous movie star to create a wonderful portrait. A professional photographer worth her or his salt will be able to showcase anyone in the best possible way; posing to flatter, helping guide with clothing selection, props or locations to make you look your best. We can guide you with something as simple as a hand or head position to make you look amazing. This leads right into the second point...not everyone does have the ability to make you look your best and capture a flattering image. However, that's where a professional photographer steps in. If you don't look good, we don't look good! Literally, our entire motivation is the drive to make you look amazing.

So, for people who aren't comfortable with the idea of being in front of a camera, where do you think they will be the most relaxed and comfortable? Will it be in a room with studio lights and props and rolls of backdrops or is it more likely that they will be at ease someplace like at the beach or in a cafe or walking down the street or sitting in their living room? The same goes for children (of all ages). Is it more productive to try and make a toddler sit still on a stool on a posing table in a studio or will a better image be captured while they are running across the grass at a park while daddy chases?

Yes, studio images can still be high quality and I don't, personally, believe that studio photography is completely dead. It does have a place and I do love using my studio. However, I also say that the more relaxed a person is, no matter the age, the better their portraits will be. That's why I like working on location, so much and think that a lot of photographers have also moved that direction and said goodbye to the studio.

Feel free to share your own thoughts on this.