It’s a good morning for breaking off relationships. Not with people of course, but with photos. Because it’s portfolio update wednesday and I love all of you images, but it’s time to update my book with new work. It’s not you, it’s me. This is the song that best embodies the event of updating a portfolio.
Ever since its invention, the camera has been a tool for making love immortal. From the pocket tintype portraits of soldiers during The American Civil War, to the digital engagement pictures that come across facebook every .023 seconds. It’s the human condition to want to immortalize and share that special person in our lives.
Here’s some tips on getting portrait photos of your one and only, without the drama:
- 1. Photograph them doing something they love. It’s easy to capture the fun loving essence of your soul-mate, when they are comfortable and having a good time. The smiles are natural, the joy is genuine.
- 2. Know their insecurities and work around them. This sounds like a no brainer but it’s literally the key to the photo kingdom. If your special someone hates their left/right ear proportions, can’t stand that 1 mm childhood scar above their eyebrow, the left side of their face, etc. Then avoid the problem areas. Take it from their “favorite side.” Selectively use angles and the distance between you and the subject to get the shot. Avoid the insecurities and you won’t get caught before you even get out of the gate.
- 3. They always think they look fat, learn to work with it. Whether it’s the size of their arms, their chin, the body in general, it’s always a touchy issue. Even some celebrities I work with are insecure on levels the likes of which have never been seen. Do me a favor and learn this, always shoot from a higher angle. Find a step stool, safely stand on a chair (not a swiveling chair, I have stitches that proves it isn’t a good idea), even have the subject sit down and photograph them while standing up. This is magic for solving body perception issues. It will make someone look better almost every time.
- 4. Take pictures of different expressions. Have them smile at the camera, smile looking away from the camera, looking pensively at the camera with curious eyes, or even try a candid. Love is complex, expressions should reflect it. Fake personality on the wrong person creates an awkward photo. Some people just don’t look good smiling from tooth to tooth. Find that essence that makes your heart flutter.
- 5. Don’t retouch. Photographers are always falling on this double edge sword, when it comes to taking photos of their love . Personally, I won’t retouch photos of my signifigant others. Why? It’s the worst feeling ever, having someone you love, begging you to retouch their photo. They look over your shoulder as you take away the wrinkles, the bags under the eyes, the blemishes. It’s the ultimate “I love you, but here’s how you should look in a perfect world” trap. You can’t win, seriously, i’ve tried. Remember…people like to be retouched, they don’t like to watch you retouch them.
Love is easy to feel, it’s harder to capture in a photo. The point of these tips isn’t to hide who someone is or what they really look like. Rather, it’s about positioning yourself to create something real, lasting, and overall makes someone feel loved.
Because life is hard, I am not special. Inside my brain there is no seal of approval, on my arm no mark of greatness. I’m only ordinary. But being ordinary is what makes me extraordinary.
Don’t be confused when you become wary. Or let your heart ache over your troubles. If life wasn’t hard we wouldn’t have a word for desicion. In a world free of burden there are no such things as sacrifice or regret. Beauty only exists in an imperfect world.
It’s loss that inspires an artist to create something of seeming permanence. Struggle that strengthens the resolve to improve. Hatred that poisons the blood, so that we can see what is truly pure.
Don’t wish for a life of ease, or extravagant wealth, or endless sun and blue skies. I’ve seen the true face of happiness, and it’s not in the reflection of a priceless sports car. Or next door, hidden between the marble pillars of a mansion overlooking the ocean. Sometimes the most extravagant things are just extravagant masks, hiding the emptiest and loneliest spaces and faces.
Be grateful your life isn’t easy, or perfect. I’m glad my life is hard. Grateful for painful decisions, the haunting feeling of not knowing whether or not the right choice was made. It’s just life. No amount of pretending will ever alter the truth that we are human. The greatest gift is what you’ve had all along. The time you’ve been given on this earth. Everything else is just an illusion. The only reality is what we choose to do with our time.
I am not ordinary. Inside my brain there is something extraordinary, on my arm a mark of greatness. But being extraordinary isn’t greatness. Greatness is born out of the struggle. Because life is hard.
My work is featured on the cover of “Illinois Meetings + Events Magazine” for Winter 2012. I’m also a featured photographer in the issue. Here’s the cover, interview page, and transcript.
CLICK ARTICLE TO ENLARGE AND READ TEXT FULL SIZE!
Here’s the interview transcript:
Jeff Schear / Jeff Schear Visuals
Just hearing the word portrait can conjure up visions of a formal, sit-down photography session. Yet, when it comes to event portraiture, it’s a photographer’s job to be ready at a moment’s notice to catch an amazing shot, whether it’s a celebrity walking the red carpet or the arrival of the mayor and his seldom photographed wife.
“Time is never a luxury when shooting portraiture,” explains Jeff Schear of Chicago-based Jeff Schear Visuals; he specializes in event photography for high-profile celebrities, agencies, luxury brands and international publications. “I try to imagine the situation I’m going to be in prior to the event and make sure I am completely prepared to use any tools available to pull off the shot. Often when working with celebrities, I have a maximum 30 seconds to capture an amazing image. Especially in those situations, you have to show confidence and professionalism. They can read insecurity and it will be a guaranteed disaster.”
So when it comes to capturing portraiture during events, knowledge of manual camera settings is integral. “Make sure to pay attention to color balance, the direction and quality (hardness or softness) of the light source, and know what you are trying to convey through the subject’s expression and pose,” explains Schear. “I see a lot of flat imagery that’s not dynamic these days simply as the result of having cameras on automatic settings.”
When dealing with a slew of unpredictable lighting situations within the span of an event, it’s important to know how to use the light you have to your best advantage. “It doesn’t matter if you have the most amazing pose or location, bad lighting will always be noticed in a portrait,” says Schear. “Always bounce the light off something-the ceiling, a wall, a diffuser, the side of an ice cream truck. Anything you can find. It will make your subject’s skin look more flattering and create a more professional image” (Article by Tricia Despres).
If you’re here, because you thought I was going to write about illicit drugs, that’s awesome. My scheme to get you here worked. But seriously, here’s how to create an experimental image using the zoom effect.
In essence, the idea is to get the subject to look like it’s moving, either towards or away from you, depending on what your intention is. To do this you’re going to need a zoom lens, and to execute a few things.
1. Adjust your camera settings, so that the shutter speed is slow enough to zoom in, or zoom out, of the subject, while the photo is being taken. In this photo I used 1/80th of a second at F 2.8. That can be a little fast, i’d recommend starting at 1/30th of a second, or even up to two seconds.. The reason I used 1/80th, was because I was doing the effect handheld, which is extremely difficult to execute without a lot of practice. Also don’t forget to compensate for the slow shutter speed, by stopping down your aperture (using a bigger number), or adjusting the ISO to a smaller number. Otherwise the photo will be blown out and over-exposed.
2. Keep the camera still! If your camera moves too much, then everything will be blurry. Sometimes that effect is cool, but you’ll lose the zoom effect and the only person who’ll think your photo rocks, is your college roommate reppin’ the tie dye tee, with dilated pupils, and The Grateful Dead looped on his/her i-Pod. Soooo…i’d recommend using a tripod, or setting your camera on a steady surface. The point is to get smooth lines, to make the photo look like it’s moving.
3. Zoom at a steady pace. If you’re zooming in on the subject, you’ll want the pace of your zoom to be consistent and at a steady pace. Essentially, don’t zoom with an inconsistent speed, you’ll lose the smooth zoom line. Sometimes it’s cool to experiment with firing the flash during the zoom, stopping the zoom midway, etc. But first, master the steady zoom.
4. Execute the ninja-esque zoom effect. Your shutter speed is slow, your camera is steady, you’re zoomed all the way in or out, depending on your intended effect, and you’re calm and collected. Press the camera-photo-taking-button (commonly known as the shutter release). Simultaneously while the photo is being taken, zoom in (or out) in a smooth manner. Stop and repeat, it takes a lot of practice. Enjoy results.
Is Digital Photography Making Our Kids Insecure Faster Than Ever? The Advent Of Insecurity In Children.
For the most part, we all begin as happy kids. We love to swing on monkey bars, play tag, and run in circles like little puppies chasing our tails. We don’t notice or care if we are wearing gucci shoes, or hand me downs from a charity bin. That’s pretty awesome if you ask me. But at some point, we lose that innocence, and all hell breaks loose. Self identity and comparative analysis infects our mind like a virus. They say we have a lot to learn from children. For they know how to be happy. The older we get, the more we lose their precious insight on life. I believe it. But inevitably, we all grow old.
Above: A young Jeff Schear, just happy to be alive, no insecurity whatsoever.
I remember the first time I had an insecure thought about my body. It was in 3rd grade, I was wearing jeans, and I looked down at my thighs, spread against my little red school chair. Immediately I felt bad, really really bad. As cliche as it sounds, I thought they looked fat. In fact, I remember trying to cover my thighs, by pulling my t-shirt over them. It’s as if there was this click in my mind and the entire classroom could hear the sound of my brain making the connection. It sounds insane doesn’t it? As a kid I was active everyday, I wasn’t overweight, but the perception of my thighs led into my first negative thoughts about my body. INSECURITY had reared its ugly head.
Mine is a shallow story, probably borderline offensive to most. How dare I talk about such a small perception, when there are so many more serious things to be insecure about as a child? However, my point is at what age do kids think, hey I don’t like how I look, etc? When does a kid feel the first heart pangs of insecurity? And is access to digital photography making this happen faster?
Back then, during my own experience, in the earlier part of the 90’s, we still used film. All we had were school pictures and photos our parents snapped of us. Sure there were mirrors, but nothing permanent to capture our worst fears and insecurities, as often and conveniently as kids can today. Now they have access to digital cameras on phones, point and shoots, even handheld gaming devices with a camera. Is this making children develop insecurities faster than ever in the course of human history? Combine that with social networking and it’s like an insecurity cocktail of epic proportions. Is this where the onslaught of cyber bullying is coming from?
Honestly, I have no idea. I’m not qualified to speak on the matter, nor am I a psychologist/psychiatrist/social worker/nutritionist. What I can speak of, however, is what cameras do. It would blow your mind, if you knew how many people despise having their photo taken. I’ve had people walk up to me after being in the background of a picture and demand to delete it. I’ve had people dressed in $5,000 gowns refuse a photo because they hate every picture ever taken of them. Cameras are like mirrors, the only difference is when you hate how you look in the mirror, it doesn’t capture that perception forever. A camera does.
So I guess the main question lingers. Are digital cameras making kids more insecure at a younger age than ever? Or am I just babbling on?
There’s a little guy, with a big attitude. I’ll call him Napoleon. You’ll see him stalking around with his camera, working for a paparazzi agency.
Recently an old classic threat scenario occurred at a function. A guest accidentally stepped on Napoleon’s shoe. This is when all hell broke loose. Napoleon’s paparazzi eyes lit up with fire and malice, salivating, as if an Angelina Jolie exclusive shot were within distance of his telephoto lens. The feisty little paparazzo screamed “back off man, you step on my shoe one more time and it’s over!” Over, I thought to myself? Buddy listen, don’t make a scene. Are you going to lay the smack down for getting your pumped up kicks stepped on?
I calmly walked over, ready to mediate the situation. You know, the kind of situation that could only rationally occur at a 5 a.m. bar, when a drunk guy, 12 shots deep in a Jameson whiskey haze, tries to fight another guy for changing “Free Bird” on the electric jukebox.
The next thing you know it, Napoleon takes it to the next level, accusing the guy of pushing him. “You pushed me, i’m calling the cops and you’re going to jail!” The man quickly responded “I am a cop.” Oh the sweet irony. At this point I had to step in. “Hey, let it go Napoleon, i’m sure no one meant to step on your shoe. Everyone is good, let’s not make a scene. Let it go buddy. Be an adult, be a professional. Think about what you’re doing.”
At this point, paparazzi guy was livid. He got in my face, giving me a shove, “you know what, your an F’ing A’hole!” I looked curiously, shocked and rather amused. Napoleon’s revenge? Walking right up to the celebrity guest who was doing an interview and popping 10 full power flashes directly into their eyes. I don’t know if you know what that’s like…but it’s kind of like looking into the sun for 10-12 seconds. Blinding is an understatement. It was at this point I went into photographer security guard mode, stepped in front of him and made sure he didn’t harass the celebrity guest anymore.
Let’s be honest here and reflect…Napoleon’s twice my age and acting like a kid who just spilled his chocolate milk on his ghostbusters t-shirt. And if you’re reading this in disbelief, it certainly is unbelievable. I haven’t witnessed an incident so ridiculous, since grade school when a kid accidentally hit himself in the face with a pole, while playing tetherball, being a little over aggressive on the finishing move. Let me continue…
There was three fundamental mistakes this guy made in dealing with me:
- He assumed I don’t protect my clients and their guests in a professional and dignified manner.
- He thought by egging me on, he could make me lose my cool. A frivolous attempt, since I have ice running thru my veins when i’m working. I don’t throw elbows over getting a foot stepped on. I’m like a lethal mental weapon. The best defense against people like that is to just observe the madness and keep calm. I’ve got a PhD in crazy situations.
- He didn’t know I was a photo ninja, and any frivolous attempt to outsmart me or take better pictures than me was impossible (yes i’m being sarcastic, but not really).
Later in the night, Napoleon approached me and apologized, saying he can be a hot head and lose his cool. “No problem” I said, “just make sure you think before you act next time.” Game, Set, Match. Always keep your cool.
Listen, i’m not going to lie, it was incredibly annoying and rather shocking. But now you understand my famous comparison, “calling a photographer a paparazzi is like calling a ballerina a stripper.”
Change is one of the most difficult things, in life, to accept. We try to hold onto things, people, and our beliefs. There’s a great quote from one of my favorite authors, Dan Millman, who says:
“If you don’t get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don’t want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is a law, and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.”
Everyday new technologies emerge, allowing the average consumer to take better photographs, with greater ease, using automated advanced techniques. The smart phone has literally shaken the world of photography and video. I constantly hear moans and groans from photographers who talk about the “old days.” How much better things used to be, how stronger the industry was, how the art of the craft turned into some joke. A newspaper photographer recently looked at me, frustrated and angry and said “It didn’t used to be this way.”
I’m tempted to join this pity party, but it’s pointless. Every industry, like life, changes. It’s inevitable. I refuse to buy into these glory day stories. I’ve grown a business in the day of automated dslr photography. But I think that’s not a bad thing. Photography brings so much joy to so many people. It allows them to express themselves, to see the world differently. I think it’s a narcissistic thing to deny anyone the joy of photography.
It’s really no different than our perspective on life itself. Relationships come and go, heartbreak puts us in an unrelenting fog, loved one’s pass away, and people move on. I wish I could hold onto those people forever. I want so badly for life to be perfect, for it to be easy. But it’s never going to be. It’s never going to change. Change is a law.
Basically, my message to photographers, who fantasize about the days sitting outside the film labs, and drinking espresso, working on looser deadlines, and fining their art over others heads is: get out of the negative and do something about it. No matter how much technology evolves, the most valuable asset no one can take away is “the photographer’s eye.” It’s something you can’t teach and you can’t buy. Our industry is not dying, it’s evolving, and it’s changing. Don’t lie in bed scared and depressed. Get out there and change the industry, offer more, do more, be unique. Being anxious, complaining, and having negative thinking has never changed anything in my entire life and it never will.
Photography is like an ex and they just found someone new. Don’t try to get them back, they are gone forever. Move on and find your path. Seriously. Get with it. The industry isn’t dying, you are. And with every breath, with every beating of your heart, you are slowing turning into dust.
I won’t let you down, I will never quit, I will be the best, and I won’t fear change.
I’ve been fielding a lot of questions lately, about breaking into the creative industry, after the traditional college route. So I wrote down a few notes, to help you get started:
Before we begin, you need to accept something: You are going to make mistakes, lots of them. You are going to screw something up, and have to face the music. You are going to have to face more adversity and fear, than any college final in your deepest darkest of nightmares. This is “The Industry” and they play for keeps, with or without you.
Ready? Here we go.
You’re fresh out of college with a slick new portfolio and a (photography, design, fashion, journalism, or film) degree. Suddenly it dawns on you…what the hell did I just do with my life?
Chances are, at least 2 of these things have happened to you in the past 3 months since graduation:
1. You’ve been forced to, or feel like you, have to move to a bigger city, to make your career happen.
2. An intimate relationship you’ve had in college has begun to, or has fallen apart.
3. You’ve come to the realization you are now in massive debt, pursuing a passion, a dream. The dice are dancing on the table.
4. You can’t even find an unpaid internship and the only work you see are sketchy jobs on craigslist.
5. You’ve cried heavy tears, they themselves not knowing where to fall.
Oh the dilemmas you will face and the misconceptions you will shatter!
1. You’ll have to walk a path alone. Until you’ve established yourself as a financially viable creative, I personally don’t believe you can love in the right capacity, until you’ve made it 2-3 years in the industry. Maybe…just maybe…put love and marriage on the back burner? The nights are too late, the business too exhausting, the anxiety too overwhelming, the uncertainty of a passion you’ve worked your whole life for too bone crushing. All these things will tear apart the fabric of your own self-confidence. When you lose your confidence, you lose your capacity to love another with all your heart. Again, we are talking about the creative industry. It will spur jealousy, malice, and make you question every fiber of your being. Even with the best mentors and friends in the world, the creative world is a cold and lonely one. So buy a parka and get ready to become great. If you can find someone willing to weather the storm with you, by all means live and let love. But it’s not going to be easy.
2. You suck, get used to it. Take every college critique you’ve ever had and set them ablaze. You could be the most talented student that ever lived, but you’ve just entered a business. To this day, not a client has asked me what aperture I used. For every one person that loves one particular creative work of yours, there’s two that despise it. Sorry it is what it is. Something inside a creative changes, once they become business focused.
3. Internships. Since you’ve graduated, this isn’t for college credit anymore. Only do an internship for someone or some company that can teach you something/and or you respect. If they are still asking you to go pick up their dry-cleaning three months in, and still haven’t taught you a single thing, walk. You’re working for free to learn a craft, not to be a barista or a courier. Which leads me into my next point…
4. Act fast. Throw yourself into the deepest water you can find and swim for your life. The deeper you go down another career path, the harder it is to come back. But it’s never to late. She took a non-creative career and wanted more than anything to be a sculptor, a performance artist, but feels the dream has died. Too much time has passed; life is slowly beginning to become a desperate struggle for relevancy, something permanent. But it’s never too late. If you’ve found yourself in that position, pick up those tools and get back to work.
5. Assist what? The best advice anyone has given me on the topic was while I was assisting on a shoot, for an iconic cereal box of wheat flakes. The photographer told me, if you want to make it, just go out and shoot your own work. You can assist someone for 10 years, but in the end, all that matters is your ability to create while dealing directly with clients. This advice has proven itself invaluable. Assisting is a great way to learn the business, a great way to get some money here and there, but it’s a slippery slope. Don’t wake up as a 40-year-old assistant and wonder what your life would have been like, if you would have went out on your own and did your own work. It’s called “the assistant trap.”
Solutions for challenges:
1. Network. The most terrifying & successful people in the world are the best networkers. They always have someone they can call on for help. Mark Zuckerberg made it easier, now you can network sitting down. But get out there, show your face, let people get a feel for your personality. Develop relationships, stay in touch, and follow up.
2. Make your work accessible. If you don’t have a website with your work up, at this second, please stop reading. What are you thinking?
3. Get rejected. Learn to embrace rejection. Pretend your career is like dating. For every 100 people who reject you, 10 will say yes. It’s a numbers game.
4. *Don’t work for free. We are all anxious to get out there and build up our portfolios, but don’t let a person, you don’t know or trust, get you to work for free. Especially as an assistant! Let the good old saying guide you, “if you’re giving the milk away for free, nobody’s going to want to buy the whole cow.” Here’s the spin on this point. If you do know someone you trust in the industry, ask if you can shadow him or her. I would say this is a good opportunity to work for free, while creating your own work at the same time.
5. Don’t you quit on me! Whenever life is at it’s worst, when the challenges have blocked out the sun, it’s a sign good things are going to come. This is something I’ve learned to live by, seriously. When things aren’t going in your favor, keep plugging away. You are so close dammit! Think about every person who told you this industry was impossible. One of my own professors, pretty much, thought I didn’t have what it took. He fell asleep during my portfolio presentation. He verbally tore my final portfolio to shreds. Let their criticisms and doubts stoke a fire inside you that engulfs the world around you in a blaze of ambition. Contrary to popular belief, the most successful people you see out there, have been thru the wringer. They’ve been kicked down and criticized to tears. But their dreams convinced them not to quit. Make it your goal to be so ambitious; people wonder why it is, you just won’t give up already.
Honestly, what’s the worst thing that could happen? You fail? If you put your heart and soul into something, your dreams will never fail on you; only you can fail your dreams. If you really want to do this, just put something into motion. You will never know where your life is going to take you; maybe the end game is not the same destination you expected. But that’s life I guess. I don’t know every in and out of this industry, nor do I claim to. But I’m here to start a dialogue. If you disagree with me, please shoot me an email. There’s no set path to success, it’s the most rewarding and terrifying part about running a business as a creative.
Best of luck, now go forth and be amazing!
I never wanted to be a photographer.
At 6 years old, I wanted to be a fireman. This dream was only reinforced, after I discovered the song “I Want To Be A Fireman,” on a classic Kid’s Songs VHS. My mom would take my younger brother Daniel and I, to The Fire House Museum in Cincinnati, OH. Two little boys, dreaming to be heroes. Not because it was admirable and cute, but because it’s what kids did.
Many childhood dreams, under the pressures of life’s realities, shatter into thin air like a bullet thru porcelain. I didn’t become a fireman, but I found something else.
My foray into photography and video production was a labor of love, but also an existential self defense mechanism. I was more scared of waking up one day and realizing I’ve wasted my life, doing something I hate, rather than failure.
I never wanted to be a photographer. I just I wanted to love my job.