Currently, I’m sitting at the house I grew up in San Jose, CA in preparation for Aly and Kevin’s awesome wedding tomorrow! Here is the latest in the Photographer Q&A series! Happy Friday!
During my time in Manhattan, Kansas, I was extremely fortunate to meet and network with an amazing photographer and an even better person – Rik of Rik Andes Photography. With an articulate eye for composition and very vibrant colors, Rik perpetually wows me with his work!
No kidding–when we had our daughter and both of us graduated college, all basically at the same time, my in-laws got us a digital camcorder that took 640×480 stills. I loved that thing, almost more for the still image capabilities than the video. That was our first digital camera of any sort, and I was captivated by the ability to make an image and immediately see it–I really don’t have the patience for the film photography learning curve of shooting, developing, waiting, and trying to remember what I was doing at the time to produce the final image. My wife, a broadcast journalist by trade, had had some basic classes on composition and taught me the basic rules (rule of thirds, anyone?). We got ourselves a book that taught parents how to photograph their children (see my advice section below) and it really just fueled my interest into a crazy, crazy addiction. I’m sure others can relate.
That, really, is how it all started. The rest, as they say, is bunk, right, Mr. Ford?
Chris: Why should I book you as a photographer?
Rik: I am passionate about you and your portraits. Recently, working with the daughter of a professional photographer, she mentioned how different I was from her father, how I was so passionate and excited about creating great portraits. For her father, making portraits was just how he brought home the bacon–it was his job. To be honest, until that point, I had never really thought I was unique as a photographer. As I’ve thought about it since then, I’ve come to realize how much I really love going out and creating great portraits. I love having fun with my clients at a shoot! I get giddy and giggle when I see the images pop up on the back of the camera. I don’t worry about photography becoming just a job because I already have one of those–photography is how I have fun!
Chris: How would you describe your style?
Rik: Delicious. Nutritious. Good for you.
Chris: If you have to pick your favorite piece of equipment, what would it be and why?
Rik: Lately, I’ve been drooling most often over my newest lens, the Canon 100mm 2.8L IS. Fantastically sharp, incredible bokeh and compression, great contrast, and the IS means I can handhold it at wonderfully low shutter speeds–oh, but you don’t care about that do you? How about this: I don’t have to get in your face quite so much to get the shots I want. =]
Chris: What advice would you give to aspiring photographers?
Rik: With all apologies to Nick Kelsh, author of the book that started everything for me, How to Photography Your Baby, I’m going to completely rip off his ideas and put them here (with my own pithy comments, of course). The basics of his suggestions were these:
- Get closer. Once you think you’re close enough, get a little closer. Fill the frame with that person you love. Go ahead and cut the top of the head off it you want. It’s ok. Don’t fill the frame 90% with background and 10% with loved ones. Strike that–reverse it.
- Keep shooting. You have my permission to spend 30 minutes shooting your baby, friend, parent, sibling, love, etc. without worrying about having to be somewhere else or doing something else. Fill your memory card, if you want. Don’t pull the camera out everyday, shoot one picture, and put it back. Take it out a couple times a week, shoot the same subject for 30 minutes at a time, and then put it away. You’ll find that you make more magic that way.
- Turn off that flash. The flash is a handy invention that brings bright light into dark places. The problem is that the light it produces is the most unflattering kind. Think about anytime you’ve ever been struck by how beautiful an outdoor setting is–chances are, it wasn’t at high noon that you thought this. Directional light (that is, light that is coming from a direction other than where you are) is much more interesting than the nuclear blast that comes from your flash. The flash gives you light, yes, but it is not the right light.
- Find the right light. The right light to start with is directional, soft light. Think of a window or a door that looks out on a scene that is brightly lit, without any direct sunlight actually coming through the opening. The light that does come is soft because it’s been bounced off of a bunch of surfaces and will make your loved ones look oh so nice. Put you loved one next to that window or door so that the light is coming at them mostly from one side and notice all the beautiful shadows that are created. There is drama, life, and beauty in these shadows. You may proceed to take lots of pictures.
Other than that, having a supportive yet critical group to share pictures with is probably another great key to growing your work. I used Flickr for years and got to know some very talented, very helpful people who gently pushed me in the right directions and helped me recognize the directions that weren’t as helpful to my work.
Enjoy some of Rik’s recent work!
This first one is an example of the product all the advice listed above. This was taken with a 3MP point and shoot piece of junk back in 2006, when the camera was already 3 years passed its prime (really). We took our kids of a train ride. Notice that they are by a window, so nice soft light (especially notice how it creates beautiful and interesting shadows on my daughter’s face that fade softly from light to dark). I got my camera out and started taking pictures. Now, this is not a posed picture. All of the pictures before and after it on my memory card are of the kids climbing over each other, looking out of the windows. But for one split second, she put her arm around her brother and looked at me. Because I already had my camera out, I was ready, and magic happened. If you only produced a couple of pictures like this every year, you’d be thrilled, wouldn’t you? Especially when you consider how many frame-worthy pictures you’d produce over the life of the kids.
This one is from a super quick session I did with some friends for their Christmas card. While we were getting the family all set up together, I moved in really close to test the light. While there, I just started shooting a couple close-up portraits of each of the three boys in the family. I knew their mom had a cool print display in their living room with 3 8″x10″ openings that currently held pictures that were at least 3 years old. Three minutes later, I had these three portraits of the boys and their mom had updated pictures of the kids. The whole session lasted about 15 minutes, including their Christmas card image. These are three of my favorite portraits to date (and yes, putting three together in one image is cheating. So?).
Next up, a portrait from an engagement session I did on K-State’s campus. The parking garage was mostly finished at the time we did the session, everything but the top level. We went up there anyways (to be safe from traffic, of course). After Mindy did an amazing wardrobe change behind one of these pillars (which are actually about four feet tall), I had Nathan lift her up on one and get up on the other. We were totally playing around, but ended up with one of my very favorites from the session.
Ok, so this one is not a portrait either, just something I had an absolute ball doing! This was Independence Day, 2009, at Wamego’s (really stellar) fireworks show. I was trying out a new technique for shooting fireworks that I had recently learned about and giggling out loud every time I looked at the previews on the back of my camera. I love this because there’s no way I could’ve planned this–sure, I was using the technique I had learned, and had pointed my camera at that spot in the sky, but it was completely random chance that produced this image. And that make the discovery all the more magical.
This last one is from the session I did with the daughter of the photographer I mentioned earlier. In the ten years of their relationship, other than their wedding, they’d never had any professional portraits made! We had so much fun planning this picnic for her and her husband to enjoy. They ate, I made some images, and after they had finished dinner, we had some real fun!