Two Bright Lights intern Andee McKenzie is a rising junior at Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga, California. She has always been interested in the arts, specifically photography, and decided to pursue it for herself two years ago. She is a Communications Major with a Minor in Creative Writing and is now a self-taught photographer. Her speciality is portraiture and her portfolio includes fashion, lifestyle, senior and engagement shoots. Below, she shares an intimate look into her first engagement portrait session.
As an aspiring photographer, I can speak to the fact that there is a lot of pressure on those working with the medium. Not only is photography an art, but it is also an industry – an incredibly competitive industry at that. One of the first challenges I had during my developing career in photography was deciding whether or not I had what it takes; specifically, whether or not I was good enough to charge for my sessions. My first steady client was a friend of mine who started her own fashion and lifestyle blog, Bottled Creativity. Since she was a friend and I was an amateur, I offered my services for free. As I slowly started to pick up more clients, I kept the same policy of not charging for the same reasons – they were my friends and I still had a lot to learn about photography. It wasn’t until a friend of mine gave me a $20 tip after their session that I realized I was good enough to begin charging, and that I had reached a point where I was cheating myself by not charging for my hard work. Charging a small fee did not limit my projects. In fact, my client base picked up significantly towards the end of this past school year. In May I was asked to photograph my first big gig: an engagement shoot.
The engagement shoot was for Patrick and his fiancee, Melody. Patrick, one of my supervisors at my campus job, knew that I was an aspiring photographer. He gave me the amazing opportunity to boost my portfolio and my credibility by asking me to do his engagement shoot in gorgeous Sausalito, California. I knew that this shoot would be an important learning experience for me in many ways, such as technically, logistically and stylistically developing my skills as a photographer. Here are a few things I learned from my day with them:
Avoiding overexposure proved to be a challenge in the Sausalito summer sun. Since Melody was pregnant and they had their five year-old son with them, I decided to have the shoot from 4-6pm instead of 7-9pm hoping that the golden hour of photography would start closer to 6. Unfortunately, this was not the case. In addition to the sun, both the water and the white colored boats made the light leaks in my lens more apparent. In order to help compensate for the harsh natural lighting, I had to move my subjects around a lot. I positioned the couple in this photo so that the sunlight was to the side and behind them, instead of in front of them. This decreased the intensity of the light which allowed me to capture the bay backdrop behind them without it being lost due to highlights. The lighting in this photo also complimented the blue and white tones of Patrick’s attire, the fence and the water.
One thing I learned about photography is that contrast is just as important as compliment. While the blue waters of the bay complimented the couple’s nautical theme, the rock wall featured below contrasted well with the tones in the couple’s attire. The wall was also shaded by trees which filtered the sunlight through small pockets in the branches, causing it to be soft and delicate on their faces.
Patrick and Melody’s five year-old son, Aeden, made a great addition to the engagement shoot. Color tones are very important when it comes to photography. When I saw this charming beige-colored building lined with pine green window panes, I had to place Aeden in front of it! Aeden’s bright Ralph Lauren shirt with multi-colored stripes popped in front of the neutral tones of the building.
A selection of both black and white and color photos provides a good balance in some shoots. In certain instances, I have noticed that my photographs look equally stunning both in color and not in color. The simplicity of the photo below allows for its beauty to shine through as a color photograph and as a black and white.
Overall, the shoot was a great experience for me. It taught me more about the technical elements of photography. It also taught me more about myself. Going into the shoot, I was nervous and let my self-doubt get the best of me. In order to take remarkable photographs, the first thing you need to understand is that you have the potential to take remarkable photographs. I also learned another valuable lesson through this shoot. I learned that photography is less about the photographer, as it is about the subject. It is about capturing moments that will turn into lifelong memories for someone else.
Thank you to Patrick and Melody for an amazing shoot!