The extra hours of light you get during the summer and the extra time of beautiful skylight you get to work with are by far the best time to practice your photography if you’re just starting out. Skylight is the time of day when the sun dips below the horizon and gives you flat even light, allowing you to set your exposure once and focus whole heartily on your models. This type of light allows for complete creative freedom because you can move 360° around your models allowing for perfect exposures every time, granted you metered correctly to begin with. However, this perfect light only lasts between ten to fifteen minutes under ideal conditions. You might be lucky, and be working in a mountainous region like Tujunga or Glendale, in which the time of skylight increases to a couple of hours at best. If you live in Southern California, from around 6pm to 8pm during the summer and from 3:30pm to 5pm during the winter, are in my opinion, the best times to photograph under the skylight conditions. Of course you can photograph at anytime you heart desires, but if you prefer soft photos like the ones here, schedule your models during this time.

I strongly recommend investing in a handheld light meter. I know new cameras have very good light meters built in, but I’m old school and my old film camera meters don’t work as well. Either way, if you’re shooting film or digital, get a light meter, you’ll thank me later. Especially if you’re gonna be working with models, because the last thing you need is to break your interaction with them. I feel you must always have eye contact with your models and if you spend time chimping, you’ll make your models feel they may not be doing good and miss key beautiful moments in the process as well. I found this article regarding the matter: 10 Reasons You Should Never Chimp While Shooting. Don’t have a handheld meter? No problem, this video shows how you can meter for the shadow with out a handheld meter: Shooting Into The Sun!

Photographing models? Keep it simple, with everything! Keep your gear simple, keep your location simple, keep your poses simple, less is more. On the topic of gear, I prefer to shoot with the same camera and the same lens and the same film stock. By doing that, if you’re just starting out, you’ll be able to correct your work next time around if you’re completely happy with it the first time around. Stick to a camera body and lens combination you’re comfortable with and learn it, inside and out. Learn how they react under different lighting. Learn how the lens focuses your models. I prefer to use a standard 50mm lens for everything! You read right, for everything. I do use a 180mm lens for my weddings but it’s used probably an hour during the ceremony and that’s pretty much, back in the bag it goes. There’s no right or wrong lens to use, it’s what ever you feel comfortable dragging around with you. I love the soft background blur the 50mm at f/2.0 give me, so I stick to those settings.

Photographing children? Again, keep it simple. Bring a prop or two, like their favorite toy or something like that. Make sure you kneel down to their eye level when shooting. But before you take a single photo, talk with them, ask about their favorite t.v. show, ask about their favorite food and least favorite food as you guys walk towards your shooting location. I find using your prop early is best, since they’ll more comfortable taking pictures with the prop. And lastly, let them run and make sure you don’t crash as you follow them around snapping photos left and right. It’s far easier if you’re shooting digital since you’ll be able to take far more photos per session.

New to film photography? Find a lab that you trust and is willing to work with you. Don’t just send your film over to your local drug store and expect good results. The same goes for pro labs; just because Pro Photographer A sends their film to Lab B, doesn’t mean your work will look the same as theirs. It’s very much like cooking, I can give you every single ingredient I use to make enchiladas de mole and also give you step by step instructions on how to make them. And in the end, your enchiladas more than likely will not taste the same as mine or someone else’s. We call this ‘sazón’ in Spanish. Everyone’s sazón is different, which makes everyone’s food taste different from one person to the next. The same goes for photography. Different film stock, different camera and lens combination, different ways of metering for the same lighting conditions, different ways of editing, different ways your lab sees colors, you get the picture. Take the time to find a lab that’s willing to work with you. Send a few rolls to different labs to see how your work looks with them. You can find a list of labs I personally have worked with and highly recommend at the bottom of this post.

David Cruz Synthetic Color Children Film Photographer Photography San Fernando California
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PHOTO LABS I RECOMMEND

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The FIND Lab | Utah

Indie Film Lab | Alabama

Photo Vision Prints | Oregon

Samy's Camera | Pasadena

Color Services | Santa Barbara

Richard Photo Lab | West Hollywood

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