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Harnessing the Power of Natural Light Portraiture

I’m teaching a San Francisco photography class on natural light portraiture at the Teahouse Studios in Berkeley on April 21st. I always like to start my classes with a little slideshow of relevant work to get my student’s minds moving, and encourage them to visualize the lessons we’ll be learning. Natural light is free, and it is everywhere. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, properly utilizing natural light for portraiture requires a huge amount of awareness, preparedness, and creativity. All my work is done with natural light on a manual camera, so I tend to be quite a purist when it comes to portraiture. Here’s an example of a well balanced portrait with even light, a nice open exposure, and thoughtful composition.

best pet photographer

It is never enough to simply get the correct exposure. Or, get the right composition. Or, get the right light quality. Or, the exact right moment. You must accomplish all these things simultaneously. How!?!, you ask. Well, it’s simply a matter of having a strong grasp of camera basics. Once you become truly united with your tools, you will not have to think twice before creating an image. And this is especially important when creating a portrait. When your camera gets in the way of you and your subject, you’ve created a harmful distance. A portrait subject needs to feel comforted and trusting, and the photographer must be present fully. By fumbling with your camera settings or trying to find your aperture ring, you are putting an unnecessary technical wall amidst that crucial portrait moment.

Be present and be confident in those moments. Know exactly what kind of natural light you are looking for, and guide your subjects into that lighting situation. That is when your portraits will sing with even tones and an intimacy that can only be present when both photographer and subject are open to the moment.

best dog photography

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK//BAY AREA'S BEST DOG PHOTOGRAPHER JESSE FREIDIN

Though I sometimes try to deny it, I love New York. I love a good Bergen Bagel with olive cream cheese, strong east coast coffee, the New York Times Sunday paper spread out in a tiny New York apartment, the smell of the subway, getting tossed around by terrible cab driving. I can really only tolerate New York for a few days at a time, but when I'm there I'm always reminded of my East Coast roots, and get a little nostalgic for New England. There is a special colonial kind of edge to New York, a special city light, and when you find those magical pockets of silence and calm you know you're in the middle of something great.

My recent session with Dixie (the New York chocolate lab) was a great example of finding that perfect margin of diffused light, city texture, wonderful companionship, and just pure magic. I brought along my beloved Nikon F3 35mm, and really love the grain and softness of these images:

New York dog photographer

New York dog photographer

New York pet photography

I'm looking forward to travelling to New York a handful of times this coming year for more exciting clients and events. This whole 'bi-coastal' thing is going to suit me well...

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How do we cope with pet loss?

Tomorrow is going to be a tough day. I'm doing a presentation for a woman who won my photography session via one of the Doc's Clock fundraisers. Carey, who runs Doc's Clock (one of my favorite local dog-friendly bars), puts on a silent auction and fundraiser the first Saturday of every month, with proceeds going to a new animal rescue group each time. It's a really fun event, you can bring your dog while you drink, and meet the faces behind some great local organizations. When we first spoke, I knew that this was going to be an emotional session. Bellami, a 10 yr old black lab, had been battling various health issues for a few years, and her mom knew that she did not have much time left. Because of this, I rearranged my busy schedule just to make sure we could photograph while Bellami was on one of her 'up days.' Though she tired easily, Bellami was truly full of life, and surrounded by love, throughout our session. She was sweet, mature, and very emotive. I almost felt like she knew why we were photographing that day- like she was calm and demure and focused on my camera because she wanted to give her mom the perfect portrait, which would survive long after she had passed. We all knew it was imminent, and we quietly celebrated her spirit and honored her company. When I got the call that she had passed on (a few weeks later), I felt that familiar ache in my chest combined with relief that we had photographed when we did, and honor to have been part of her last days.

Dear Bellami- I hope there are lots of soft dog beds and down blankets and tons of warm sunlight where ever you are. Thank you for opening up to me. These photographs are going to make your mom smile for years and years to come.

In the past few months I've seen a number of clients' dogs pass on. It's terribly sad, but as dog owners we all know that this is just part of living with a canine companion. They give us their all, and then their time comes. The best thing we can do is show them the emotional and physical support that they have shown us over the years, and celebrate them and their connection to us. I always offer Dr. Betty Carmack's wonderful Pet Loss Support Group Sessions at the SFSPCA. You can find out more here: SFSPCA Pet Loss Support.

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