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Xmas Party!

On December 8, 2013
By Connie
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studio

Another year, another great Christmas party!  This year’s theme was a masquerade ball.  I actually had enough foresight to do my mask shopping right after the theme was announced.  All the Halloween costumes were still on sale in stores and I nabbed my lace bunny ears for a bargain.

The ladies and I had a blast getting ready for our big night right at the studio.  One of the perks of working at a big studio is that there are plenty of mirrors for all of us ladies to do our make-up and hair at the same time!  We turned up the tunes, laid out some nibbles, and had some great laughs doing our own private photo shoot.

The Christmas party was held at Cala Luna in Mosman overlooking Middle Harbour.  Being that it was the third year running that we’ve booked this restaurant, we were expecting the same amazing food and service as previous years.  Sad to say that both have fallen in quality.  I actually left the dinner table still hungry since my chicken was so dry I could no longer swallow it once the sauce was all eaten up.  They also denied us tea or coffee claiming that the barista had gone home.  Since when do you need a barista to make you a cup of tea?!  Needless to say, we won’t be returning.

Still, all you need is good friends and a maybe a little bubbly to have a wonderful time.  We danced till our heels had to be kicked off.  Then we kept dancing some more.
What a lovely way to ring in the holidays.  I’ll be taking off soon to spend Christmas and New Years back with my family in Canada so it was really nice to have a big night out with the team.

Diesel Photo Shoot

On December 1, 2013
By Connie
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Diesel_Apparel

Just a quick entry this week from us folks at Studio 8.  We’ve been super busy these last few weeks with all the sales and promos coming up to Christmas.  Between all the photo shoots, retouching classes, and updating my portfolio, I’ve hardly had a chance to slow down!  Can’t wait for the holidays to finally arrive.

Here’s a taster of what we’ve been up to lately.  We’ve had the pleasure of recently welcoming back Jordan Coulter from his many months wowing the masses in London.  We paired him with a current favourite of ours, Kristina Agioski, for our latest Diesel photo shoot.

Below are some shots from the shoot.  Effortlessly cool, comfy yet stylish, Diesel apparel is always an easy sell.  The clothing speaks for itself.

Diesel_shoot_strip

Beauty Retouching Class

On November 24, 2013
By Connie
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I’ve enrolled in the Beauty Retouching class with the Australian Centre of Photography here in Sydney.  I started using Adobe Photoshop about 15 years ago, and although my retouching skills are decent, they have definitely been in need of a refresher for quite some time.

Anyone who uses Photoshop on a regular basis can probably relate to falling into a personally refined pattern of methods used to enhance any image one might be retouching.  It’s familiar and comforting.  The ease and speed of using your overly practised methods makes you feel like a pro.  A stagnant pro.

I haven’t learned many new Photoshop skills in the last several years and it was time for me to jump start my learning once again.  For anyone who has never really explored using Photoshop, it is a truly brilliant program.  It never ceases to amaze me how extraordinarily powerful that one program can be.  In the right hands that is.

So far I’ve attended two of the five classes of this coarse.  My mind has been sufficiently blown multiple times.  I don’t know if that was due to my Photoshop ignorance or if my years of previous knowledge helped me really appreciate just how amazing some of these new techniques are.  I have spent countless hours struggling with smoothing out skin tones and blemishes while keeping textures intact.  I have a high admiration for flawless gradations from highlights to shadows.  Don’t get me started on cleaning up wrinkles in clothing.

My instructor made those problems look like child’s play.

Basically we learned a technique called Frequency Separation where it’s possible to separate the texture of a surface from the colours and tones of that same surface.  What does that mean?  It means I can now remove blemishes from skin with ease and without messing up the colours and tones.  It also means that I can smooth out colours and tones without obliterating texture.  It means awesomeness.

Below is a sample of my progress so far.  The image on the left is the “before” and the image on the right is the “after”.

 Beauty_Progress

The technique is completely new to me so I have a lot of practising to do.  It takes some mucking around in order to refine my brush strokes and settings.  But I’ve lucky to have lots of material to practice on.  I’m really excited to use these new techniques for the new portfolio I’ll be adding to my website.  I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me so I better get cracking.

Making Folio 2

On November 17, 2013
By Connie
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Aperture

This is my digital work space.  Well, part of it.  The light table spreads out quite a bit.  There are heaps of photos scattered all over this screen.

I’m using a program called Aperture to lay out my images so I can sort them into my next portfolio section on my newly launched website.  Several weeks ago I had to halt this process in order to focus on finishing the new site.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the pursuit of the perfect portfolio is never ending so I had to draw the line somewhere or I’d have never published the new site.

Years ago, I used to make small 4×6 prints of my work and spread those out on a large table.  It really helps the thought process to be able to move photos around each other and sort them into different groups when you can see them all at once.  It’s how I can get a better feel for the body of my work.  I’ve since moved this process into Aperture so I don’t have to waste all that money on ink and paper.  The bonus is that I can easily make duplicates of images if they need to belong to several groupings, or make quick variations with cropping or orientation.  Better still, I don’t have to clean up my mess once dinner time rolls around.

Using Aperture is not as nicely tactile as the prints method, but it works well for me.

There’s always a really fun aspect to portfolio building.  It’s essentially walking down memory lane.  So many photo shoots with some really talented, creative people.  Going back to shoots done months ago can also bring fresh eyes to the final results.  I’m sometimes rather surprised at how pairing one image with another image from a completely different shoot can breathe new life into both.  Take a look at the example below:

 

Checkers

Both of these photos were taken in the last few months, but for different clients.  Black & white styling using geometric shapes has been really trendy lately so I’ve done a number of shoots with those themes.  With a few tweaks to the saturation levels and colour tones, these two images really compliment each other when paired together.  Making time to rework and play around with my images is just another element in exploring my creative style as a shooter.

The combinations, directions, alternatives are all endless.  And every time I do a new shoot, I’m adding more photos to the mix.  Hence, the process that never ends.

Icon Sunglasses Shoot

On November 10, 2013
By Connie
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Icon_Sunnies

Summer is fast approaching this year.  The recent 30 plus days have been a foreboding glimpse into what could be the hottest summer I’ve had to survive here in Australia.  I’m a born and bred Canadian.  I may love the sunny skies and endless beaches, but my ability to function drastically slows in those searing 35 plus days.  We pray to the air-conditioning gods that the air-con units will be installed in the studio before one of those days occurs.

In the last few weeks we’ve been churning out the summer season shoots.  Swim suits, short dresses, and sun glasses galore.  Check out the behind the scenes shots of our Icon Sunnies photo shoot.  I know the models make it look easy, lying around smiling for the camera, but that’s why they’re pros.  Poor Felix had a fresh sun burn on his back and that turf is in no way soft and comfortable.  More like scratchy and prickly.  Like needles.  Every time I asked our models to shift left or right, I was met with a few silent faces of anguish accompanying every move.  But in the end our clients were really happy with the results. Thanks for your great work guys!

Icon_Shoot

Icon_outtake

Pin-Up Girl Calendar

On November 3, 2013
By Connie
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Blackies_Beauties_2014

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of collaborating on a pin-up calendar project with Seattle based artist, Chad “Blacky” Shepherd for Blacky’s Beauties 2014 Pin-Up Calendar.  The idea was to create a fun, Vargas-style pin-up calendar with a modern Cosplay/punk rock twist.

Blacky brought together a cast of strong, intelligent, real women to be photographed and then re-drawn in the old pin-up girl method of the 40s.  Most of the models were shot in the USA, but I was tasked with photographing Ms. January here in Sydney.  We had a lot of fun researching the poses, styling, and history of pin-up girls.  The before and afters that compared the photos to the finished illustrations were quite interesting, and sometimes really funny.  There is definitely a theatrical element to this genre and there was plenty of giggling on set.  Here’s our before and after comparison:

PinUp_BeforeAfter

Be sure to buy a Blacky’s Beauties 2014 Pin-Up Calendar before they all sell out.  Original sketches and prints are also available, and just in time for Christmas!

Shoot the Chef!

On October 17, 2013
By Connie
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Michael Shafran of Brooklyn Boy Bagels

Seedy Business – our entry and a finalist in Shoot the Chef 2013

 

Michael Shafran is everything bagel.  Founder of Brooklyn Boy Bagels, Michael and I teamed up for this year’s Shoot the Chef competition for the Good Food Month festival.  Neither of us had entered this popular photo contest before.  I’d seen galleries of finalists over the years and I’ve always been impressed by the calibre of work being entered.  It was time to give it a go.

We tossed around several ideas before eventually settling on the final concept.  Often, when the contest guidelines are wide open for interpretation and creativity, deciding on just one idea to execute can be a real challenge.  The sky is literally the limit.  Which is what makes these projects so much fun.

However, our plan didn’t really go according to plan.  We enlisted the help of a make-up artist who seemed really keen to tackle the project, but on the day of the shoot she didn’t show up.  No call, no text, no email, nothing.  I was really surprised.  This was the first time I had ever been stood up by a team member on a photo shoot.  Not without a call and a really good reason, usually of the emergency variety.  I actually didn’t believe it at first.  I had faith that she was just stuck in traffic, with a dead phone.  And got lost.  At the other end of town.

But we were on our own.  With only two days to the deadline, we were getting this portrait done.  After a mad dash to pick up supplies and a 10 minute lesson on liquid latex, I entered my first foray into make-up artistry.

It was not an easy process.  Or a short one.  I gingerly began plying liquid latex and poppy seeds to Michael’s face as he patiently lay on the floor.  It took some playing around, but I eventually worked out a crude, though effective, technique of getting those little buggers to stay put.  Michael was an amazing sport always cracking jokes despite all the poppy seeds rolling into his eyes, ears, nose and mouth.  I did not envy his role, that’s for sure.

It was an exhausting 4 hours.  But we were proud (and amazed!) of our hard work.  Thankfully, the lights were already set up that morning.  It was only a matter of plopping Michael on the stool and we could start the shoot.  After we applied his cream cheese mustache, of course.  Again, I am not a make-up artist.  We did not think of how temporary the cream cheese would stay on Michael face.  It was a crazy cycle of getting that cream cheese on and then getting some shots before it awkwardly drooped off his upper lip, and then starting over again.  It was a giggley affair.  Definitely a shoot to remember.

And our hard work did indeed pay off.  I am very pleased to write that we are a finalist in this year’s Shoot the Chef in the People’s Choice category.  There was some hefty competition so to be counted among the top picks is always a wonderful feeling.  A print of our entry Seedy Business will be on exhibition from 1-29 November at the Rialto Towers in Melbourne as part of the Good Food Month festival.  Hope you can stop by and enjoy the show.

The Art of Writing Your Own Bio

On October 12, 2013
By Connie
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It’s hard writing your own bio.  The first few drafts always make you sound like a wanker.  How do you make yourself sound awesome without sounding pompous, or worse, boring.

I flicked through a lot of photographer bios and I learned that most bios are boring and forgettable.  I started to wonder, do I even need one?  It’s one of those things where if you write one that is average, no one remembers it.  But if you write one that’s great, you become a bit more memorable.  I wanted a bio on my website that makes people think “Hey! I want to meet her!  Connie sounds like an awesome person to work with.”

I found that my favourite bios included some humour or heart, or something that showed little glimpses of that person’s personality.  I wanted to meet the photographer who ran that marathon over mountain tops – with his camera.  I wanted to meet the photographer who was sent to Afghanistan “on holiday”.

Then there’s the question of whether to include a photo of yourself.  Photographers are notorious for hating getting their photos taken – that’s why we grabbed a camera in the first place.  We know only too well that just one photo can say a whole heap about a person.  So what do I do?  Below are a few options:
Portrait_web                      Eclipse_Connie

The first is the photo on my LinkedIn profile.  The second photo is a snap while on location somewhere in Queensland shooting the total solar eclipse back in 2012.  (Check out my slick homemade solar filter on my lens. Duct tape and tissue box.  Just call me MacGyver!)  I also have a number of images that range between the two.  Am I the professional in the formal portrait or the goof functioning on 4 hours of sleep in the snap shot?  Clearly I’m both, but I can only choose one photo.  See my conundrum?

It took me a week of going back and forth before I settled on the final version of my bio, sans portrait.  I have a hard enough time choosing a Facebook profile photo.  If I waited for the right image, I’d have never launched my new website.

It’s funny to think that your life can be summed up in just a few lines.  I wanted to jam in lots of snippets about myself, but I didn’t want it to drag on either.  I didn’t want to sound too stuffy, but I needed to be professional.  Fun, but not immature.  How will people judge me?  What do I want them to think of me?  And then it turned into… is this how I judge myself?

I was, perhaps, over-thinking this a bit too much.  The problem was that I had too much to say.  That might be one of the reasons why I started this blog.

I’ve started a blog

On October 5, 2013
By Connie
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Hello World.  I’ve started a blog.  Because I’m awesome and therefore people want to know what I’m up to.

At least, I hope so.

I’ve magically timed the beginning of this blog with the launch of my new website.  I invite you take a look around and view my latest work.  This new site has been several months in the making and I am pleased that all that hard work has finally paid off.  I’m really stoked about the fresh new look and the fancy arrow key functions for viewing my portfolio.  I’m a photographer, not a web developer, so all these new functions have got me pretty excited.  Simple minds, I know.  Look!  I’ve just learned how to upload photos to my blog posts:

Behind the scenes shot of me on a recent Macadamia Oil product shoot.

 

As I’m learning, there is an art to creating your own website, and I’m not talking about the art of web design.  I’m talking about the difficulty of choosing what to display and what to hold back.  I spent countless hours pouring over my photographs trying to decipher the puzzle of that perfect portfolio.  And I mean ‘perfect’ for me.  What are my strongest photos?  What images best represent my style?  What does this portfolio say about me as a photographer?  It can cause a bit of an existential crisis.

How does one answer these questions objectively?  There’s never a right answer, which is both liberating and infuriating at the same time.  There are many different methods of pulling together your portfolio.  You can take classes and workshops on the subject.  There are even consultants you can hire to guide you through the process.  And no matter what method you use, the process is never really over.  No portfolio is ever perfect, at least, not in the mind of its creator.  There is always that constant drive to capture a more breath-taking image.  The making of a portfolio, the hours of reflecting over your life’s work, is just a part of a journey with no clear destination.

I’ll keep you posted on my journey and we’ll see where I end up.

 

 

About Connie

I was that geeky camera chick who spent her high school lunch breaks in the darkroom.  I still miss the smell of those stinky developer chemicals.  Sort of.

Born in Canada, I graduated with top honours in Applied Photography at Sheridan College before spending several years assisting and producing for  some of the best commercial shooters in Toronto.  After gathering a wealth of valuable skills and getting my first DSLR, I bought a plane ticket to Asia.

It was my first backpacking adventure, but I managed to survive nine months from Seoul to Singapore with only some shoddy mandarin and a lot of luck.  I had the time of my life. So I did it again.  Seven months of zig-zagging around India and Nepal taught me ingenuity with limited resources, clarity when surrounded in chaos, and how to eat with just my right hand.

Sydney became my new home in 2008, and I’ve been enjoying the sunny weather and great coffee ever since.

Today, I’m a fashion and product photographer extraordinaire.  Based at Studio 8 in the northern beaches of Sydney, I relish the challenge and precision of studio lighting.  My clients are drawn to my clean, stripped back approach to every project.  My simplistic yet direct style is refreshing and elegant in a market full of heavily Photoshopped images.

When I’m not in the studio you can find me hand folding dumplings or scaling walls at the rock climbing gym.  I’m also really good at winning board games (or my friends are just really good at losing).

 

Accolades

Finalist – Shoot The Chef 2013
Top 5 – Australia’s Emerging Travel Photographers of 2010 – Capture Magazine
Winner – Best Marketing Imagery Award 2010 – New Mardi Gras
Semi-finalist – Shutterbug Awards 2010 – Shutterbug
Short-listed – Travel Photographer of the Year 2009 – TPOTY
Finalist – Cultural Explorers 2009 – STA Travel
Winner – World in Focus 2007 – Photo District News
Top Emerging Photographers of 2007 – Photo Life Magazine

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