Saturday, January 31, 2009

Foto Friday...errrr Saturday #9- Be Inspired


Once again, my apologies for my tardiness in the Foto Friday post!

I started to write this post but then decided to change it up a bit, so here it is.

The above image was taken out in Palm Springs where Cory and I took our vacation in December. There was a golf course at the hotel where we were staying (I'm pretty sure that ALL hotels in Palm Springs have golf courses attached. I think the Motel 6 is next to the miniature golf course). We took a late afternoon stroll alongside the course and strolled out to take a few photos when there was nobody coming and it was really quite enjoyable.

I was perusing back through these images while thinking of this post (I just got my camera back from the shop yesterday so I haven't had anything fresh to post) and it made me think of golf. Golf has been a big part of my life, even from the time when I was six and was kicked off the golf-course for making divots in the green with my five iron. Golfing has been a Blakey family tradition (at least for the boys) for many years and as I was editing this image (just for fun) I was thinking of my dad.

My folks were out for dinner this evening (Wood Ranch es muy bueno) and I guess that's why I thought of him. But I think I also thought of him because in the area of golf I have been continually inspired by my Dad. My dad is, as members of the football team in college would say, "Just a guy," but if you've been with him for 18 holes, you'd know he's anything but "just a guy" at golf.

When my dad steps up to the tee, he has to radio air traffic control because when he hits a drive, the ball literally takes off. Many a time in recent years have I stepped up to the tee and felt like I absolutely crushed one, only to see my dad, with a nice, smooth, swing outdrive me by a good 30 yards. Playing a round of golf with my dad is usually downright inspirational.

I can remember many times as a younger lad watching my dad on the practice range and trying to swing like him. While I never was quite able to swing exactly like him, I think it really helped me develop a rhythm to my swing and improved my game.

Photography is very similar to golf in this respect. Seeing the work of the other photographers who are more experienced or in some cases- more talented than you, can really help your photography to improve. Seeing great photographs, studying them, and in some ways trying to emulate them is one of the best ways to develop your "eye" as a photographer. Some say that it is wrong to try to "copy" other photographers work, but I say that it is actually kind of impossible to do so. You may try and try to swing like another photographer, but you'll never quite be able to duplicate their swing. However, in the process of trying to swing like them, you'll develop your own swing.

THIS WEEK'S TIP- BE INSPIRED. I have photographers whose work inspires me and whose handle on the business of photography I aspire to. Someday I might share the list, but I don't think that's the point of this evening's post. The point is to encourage you to find other photographers whose work you really enjoy and be inspired by them.

Thanks for those of you who have written in with other questions to be answered by future Foto Fridays. I'm looking forward to tackling them soon!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Foto Friday #8- The need to Succeed


Welcome to Friday. I am excited today as I am leaving in a little over an hour to spend a weekend up on the mountain at a Winter Camp with the Junior High Students I work with at my church. I am really hoping that this weekend will be a weekend of change and growth for the students and that we will have a great time.

But on to FOTO FRIDAY! This weeks tip is related to questions that I have received from a few different photographers, and it relates to weddings (I love weddings.)

Weddings are awesome things to photograph. Everyone is looking their best, the details have been planned for month and people are, well, happy. I never get tired of photographing weddings because every one is unique and the interactions between each couple and their family and friends are genuine and special.

However, Weddings are also intense to photograph. There are no-reshoots. Moments only happen once and you can't always control them like you could on a produced shoot.

So, from one photographer who is continually honing his craft to others, here's todays tip- BE SUCCESSFUL AT YOUR WEDDINGS!!!

Just remember your S's (pronounced essssessss) to photograph a wedding successfully.

#1- Settings. There's just no way around it. If you haven't mastered your camera and made it your slave to do your will, weddings will be very difficult. You can't recreate a moment because you were shooting in Aperture mode and didn't get your light reading correctly (Kristin- jk, some are pros at shooting in Aperture mode). When you have your time with the Bride and Groom, you can't be wasting it while they are away from their guests for you to putz around with your settings.

This takes practice. I recommend that any photographers wanting to get into weddings volunteer to second shoot for an established photographer to practice. Nothing like snapping 1500 frames in one day to help your speed and use of your camera improve. Keep shooting.

#2- Scheduling. Weddings run on a schedule, and often run behind it. Giving yourself time to be creative so neither you or the couple or the bridal party are feeling rushed will go a long way to helping you grab the awesome shots you want to get. Work with the Bride and the wedding planner before the wedding to make sure that you have enough time to get great photos. I usually like 45 minutes at least with just the bride and groom and additional time for Bridal party photos/family photos. Try to build in some cushion if you are planning photos beforehand as people (even the guys) tend to be late.

#3- Scouting, of a few different kinds.

First- the location. You need to find areas around your venue that have got great light and pleasing backgrounds to shoot. For the photos in this post, the wedding was held in Pasadena and so I arrived about a half an hour before we started shooting to be able to walk around the neighberhood and we ended up finding some pretty cool places to shoot within a block from the church when the area around the church wasn't the most pleasing to work with. I think we got some great shots!

Second-the people. As a photographer, you must be a student of your couple and their family. Learn to anticipate moments, and you'll be there to capture them. Pay attention to what is happening even around the couple and it will help you to anticipate what will happen next. With the cake cutting, for example, see where the couple is choosing to stand and get yourself in postion at the right angle to take the photos. Anticipate interaction between the couple and be ready for it.

Third- the shots you want to get. Have ideas. Not necessarily of specific poses you want them to use (although it is handy to have a few of those in the bag for each wedding to work from). But scout the interactions you want to photograph, the emotions you want to capture and the feel you want your photography to convey.

That's it for this Foto Friday. I've got to run! Have a great weekend and I'll return e-mails on Monday! Bill





Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Seggmans

I am very excited to share this family session with all of you! Over the past year or two we have been blessed to get closer to a really cool family that we have fast become friends with. We rent a house from them and they are wonderful people. A week and a half ago we got to hang with them for some family pictures.

We met up at Dos Lagos and you could tell that some of the Seggman family were a bit apprehensive at the thought of "family pictures." Not to worry, we got them having fun and relaxed and I am pretty excited about the photographs we ended up with! Probably the thing that I was most excited about, however, was the whole family telling me afterwards- that actually was fun!

One of my favorite jumping pictures. Ever.


They're classy...


And rockstars...



The parental units- John and Stephanie...


They're a family that doesn't mess around....



The whole family doing the "levitator." Check out Jordan on the far left. Nailed it!


Let's just say that the older brothers are pretty protective of their younger sister.








Thanks again Seggmans! Let's hang out again soon! Oh, and if the plethora of pictures above were not enough, check out a slideshow I made of their session below!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


WELCOME!!! You've found Bill Blakey Photography and we're glad you're here. Bill Blakey Photography specializes in shooting weddings and senior portraits all over Southern California and is available for travel (especially if you're planning a destination wedding in Hawaii!).

We'd love to get together with you and discuss your wedding or senior portrait experience, so please always feel free to e-mail us at

Look forward to talking with you soon!

Bill Blakey Photography. Classy. Fun.

P.S. The website is currently getting a bit of a revamp, but feel free to visit it by using the link below during update process.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Robert + Jolinda


A week ago today, Cory and I met up with Rob and Jolinda for an engagement session near the Santa Monica pier. Rob's a great friend of mine from the college days and it was great to see him again and meet his Fiance Jolinda.

Rob and Jolinda flew out from there home city of Tyler, Texas. Jolinda thought they were coming out to meet some of Rob's friends and have fun. Rob knew otherwise. The day before our engagement session, Rob took Jolinda to Malibu and popped the question. She said yes! Rob also had to tell us the funny story that apparently Pierce Brosnan was the first one to congratulate them on the beach.

We had such a great time hanging out with you guys! Excited for your wedding!

Enjoy the photos!
















Tags: Southern California Wedding, Southern California Engagement Photography, Los Angeles Engagement Photography, Santa Monica Engagement Photography, Orange County Wedding, Orange County Wedding Photography, Orange County Engagement Photography

Friday, January 16, 2009

Foto Friday #7- Great Photographs, For Rent


Yes. This Foto Friday post is actually posted on Friday. I apologize for the bitter disappointment that many of you must felt when you visited last Friday.

A great photograph is kind of like a stew. All the ingredients have to cook just right or else it's just soup.

One of the main ingredients to a great photograph is the choice and use of lens. Given the situation, the lighting, the background and the effect and feel of the photo that you are trying to achieve, the right lens can make all the difference.

One of the ways a new photographer can take their photos to the next level is to use great lenses. Now, while these lenses don't always have to be expensive (see my blog post about a few that aren't here), it's no question that the more expensive lenses are better than the cheaper ones. That poses a problem for new photographers, because the lenses are a substantial investment.

THIS WEEK's TIP- RENT Lenses. That's right, rent. Of course, work to purchase your own lenses and have a base of a few choice ones that you can work off of so you aren't always having to deal with renting, but renting lenses is a great option to add the feel of a certain lens to your repertoire for a shoot.

For those of you located in SoCal, a great option is Samy's Camera. Just this past weekend, I rented the Canon 85mm 1.2L lens for a couple of shoots I did this past weekend. It's a lens that would cost me nearly $1900 to purchase and I rented it for the weekend for $40! While I would love to have it, someday, for now, renting it is a good option.

Another option that I have not personally used but hear great things about is the website You can reserve lenses and they are shipped out to you and you ship them back. A little bit more expensive than Samy's, but if you factor that in to your costs, you can definitely make it work.

I'll leave you for now with one of my photos from the engagement session of Rob + Jolinda this past weekend. Shot with the 85 1.2. Look forward to the full post coming soon, real soon.

Have a great Friday!!!


Friday, January 9, 2009

Foto Friday #6- Give your images some luvin...

Well, I posted it pretty close to Friday...
I am hoping all of you are enjoying a blessed and joyous New Year and I thought that I would take this evening as an opportunity to get this year's installments of Foto Friday up and running.
And to do that, I mean using post processing to give your image a little something extra. Sure, you've worked hard, you've taken some great shots, shot wide open, had fun, mastered manual mode on your camera, and you've come away with a pretty good image. Now what?

Take that image, that image that you've carefully cultivated like a good tan, and give it some more luvin. Photoshop luvin.

Photographers have misconceptions a' plenty regarding photoshop, here are just a few.
PHOTOSHOP FALSENESS #1- Photoshop can take a bad photo and make it good- after all, it's photo magic. FALSE. While seasoned photoshop users may be able to take a bad image and make it palatable to the viewer, it will forever remain a slight improvement on a poor photograph. You can't take photographs that are of poor quality, not properly exposed or composed and expect to push the magic photoshop button and, presto- a "put it on the fridge" quality image results.
Photoshop, or post-processing in general should only be used to take good photographs and to give them that something extra, that pop, that cherry on top of a Neopolitan milk shake. Don't expect photoshop to give you good photos, expect it to take your already good photos and make them better.

PHOTOSHOP FALSENESS #2- Photoshop is hard. It's not. Really. Many may think photoshop is too difficult for them or that it is too complex in a similar way that many people think accounting to be too complex or difficult.
Yeah, I'm a nerd. But serious lee, Accounting is difficult to most people only for the reason that they haven't had a context for interacting with it before. The math used in accounting is incredibly easy. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, perhaps even some division, but not long division. If you were to study accounting, once you grasped some of the fundamental concepts (i.e. debits on the left, credits on the right) you would actually be able to do quite a lot with accounting.
It's the same with photoshop. Once you understand some basic concepts (layers, layer opacity) there is actually quite a lot you can do with it. Of course, becoming a photoshop master will take effort, but you don't have to become a photoshop guru to use it effectively.

PHOTOSHOP FALSENESS #3- to get great looks from my photos, I need to have all of the latest and most expensive programs- such as Adobe Lightroom, Apple's Aperture and CS4 of Adobe Photoshop as well as all of the latest sets of actions for photoshop. (For those of you unaware, Actions are buttons photoshop buttons that you can either purchase or make yourself that shrink what can be a long series of photoshop steps into pressing a single button).
The truth is, you can use a very simple version of photoshop (photoshop elements) to be able to do basic enhancements to your photos and to take them from good to great. Programs like Lightroom and the use of Actions can greatly reduce the amount of time used to process your images, but more on that later.

Whether you have CS4 or Photoshop Elements, you will be using layers. Photoshop is all about the layers, baby. Once you understand how to use layers effectively, you can go very far by adding layers to your image that will make it pop. If you don't know how to create a new layer, it is as simple as right-clicking on the background layer in your layer palette on the right and selecting "make background copy." Once you have done that, you're in the ballgame.

Once you have a copy, simply adjust the layer style of the copy layer. "Soft light" and "Overlay" are two of my favorites. Upon switching the layer style, you may find it a bit too extreme, a bit too "photoshopped." Don't worry, simply adjust the opacity of the copy layer downward to your liking (I typically adjust downward to the range of 30% opacity). And then your done. Below are a few edits from a family shoot I did a few weeks ago. Meet Madison Burns.

This first image is SOTC (straight out of the camera). Not too bad. But let's make it better.


Watch it pop.


Put it on the Fridge.


Anthropologie. Just a little different and it gives the image a different feel...

Simply having this basic knowledge of how to use layers effectively can greatly help in moving your photos from being good to photos that are great. I'll be posting more photoshop tips in the future, including how to use some sweet actions effectively, but even if you already use actions, take some time to learn and play around with layers yourself.
I think you'll like what you see.