Hether Miles Blog

Everyone has a beautiful angle and a good photographer will find it!

5 Personal Things This Photographer Learned From Being Photographed

Jul 132015


I found myself on the “wrong” end of the camera lens this past week. Not the photographer end, but the photographed end.

And suddenly, a lot of things made sense.

I found myself doing some of the very things that have always bewildered me about clients.

I found myself realizing that some of those things have a good reason behind them, and some do not.

We should talk about that.
But first, a story:

Back when I worked in neuroscience labs, I participated in creating and executing brain imaging research. One head researcher had a specific rule that had to be met before you could start running participants through your study.

The rule was simple: If you’re going to stick someone in an MRI machine (which is basically a narrow tube with jackhammer-like noises thumping all around), you’d better know how it feels yourself. You have to do a full MRI test run and actually participate in your own study.

Because pushing buttons with your hands strapped to boxes at your sides feels different than hitting buttons at your desk. Because words on your office computer screen look very different than words projected through a mirror. And because everything, in general, is weird and different when you’re lying in a tube.

All of those differences can affect your data, so you’d better put yourself through your own protocol to know how your participants feel.

You might be asking them to do something that’s hard or scary, but you wouldn’t know until you were lying down in their place.

This past week, Spencer Lum (of 5 West Studios and the industry blog Ground Glass) and I traded portrait shoots. This was just for fun, more playdate than project. I did need some images (because photographers are always the last ones to get their photo taken!), and he was gracious enough to agree to a swap. I didn’t anticipate how much I’d learn about my own clients in the process.
Having your own photos taken is the equivalent of a full MRI test run.

Being behind the camera is completely different than being in front of the camera. And being in front of the camera for two seconds at your friend’s birthday party is completely different than being the subject of a 90 minute photoshoot.

Here are five unexpected (yet predictable!) things that happened when I was photographed:

1) Upon scheduling the session, I was seized with the ridiculous urge to lose ten pounds.

Which was inconvenient, because the shoot was less than two weeks away.

And here was the surprise – it wasn’t garden-variety insecurity. It wasn’t even about being “fat.” It was far simpler than that. I realized that my physical shape was going to be transfixed in images forever, and I wanted to look my best. Mostly, though, I wanted to reduce the number of potentially unflattering angles. To not have to constantly worry about my chin or stomach throughout the shoot. That’s it.
And it occurred to me: Me worrying about weight was me trying to do the photographer’s job for him.

In a normal point-and-shoot situation, it’s every man for himself. You’ve got to pose yourself, so when your cousin hits the shutter, you’re happy with the result. It’s YOUR job to look the way you want to be photographed, otherwise you might get caught off guard in a bad way.

But it’s not like this when you hire a photographer.

It’s the photographer’s job to find flattering angles. It’s the photographer’s job to redirect if you’re in an awkward pose. It’s the photographer’s job to not publicly post a shot where you are not looking your best.

(This is tempting for photographers, sometimes we get shots with a killer composition but the subject looks slightly off. We fall in love with the image overall and kinda forget that the whole thing is about the subject. It’s the photographer’s job not to put their ego above the subject’s feelings).

The photographer, not you, is responsible for how you look. This is entirely new territory.
Frantically trying to lose weight (or cut your hair or whatever) is really about not wanting to relinquish control over how you look to someone else.

It’s about trying to manage everything you possibly can because you’re not so sure the other person will catch you when you leap. Because in past experience, when you relinquished control to unpracticed hands, you disliked the results. Frantic obsession with appearance is, at least in part, your “insurance” that even if this person sucks at their job, you still come out okay.

I didn’t want to get caught up in this.
Instead, I took a deep breath and decided to trust Spencer.

I didn’t change anything about my eating or exercise habits. I trusted. It doesn’t mean I’m immune from cultural conditioning or the pernicious idealized beauty standards that warp how women see themselves (after all, shouldn’t “looking your best” mean looking content, not looking 10 pounds thinner? Yes, but that wasn’t my culturally-ingrained first instinct before a photoshoot, unfortunately). I just decided to leap and let Spencer do his job.

In the past, I’ve told particularly frantic clients “It’s my job to think about how everything looks. It’s your job to have fun.” I recommitted to communicating that message.
2) Then, I felt like I didn’t have anything to wear.

It used to drive me crazy when someone would schedule a shoot, then immediately say “I don’t have anything to wear.”

I always thought, “Um, so you’ve been walking around naked?”

The lesson from last week: Yes, I own clothes that I like. But I wanted to dress up a little for my photos, without being too formal. And in that particular niche – dressier than casual, but not quite cocktail wear – I really don’t own much. What I do own was kind of worn out, or I already had photos of myself in because I’d worn it on previous photographable occasions.

So actually, in that target range – nice without being overly dressy that wasn’t worn out or already present in photographs? That’s the golden snitch of photo-wear. And I hadn’t caught it yet.

I guess I’ll stop thinking clients are overly fussy now. Sometimes, you really don’t have what you want. 😉

3) I was late to the shoot.

GASP. Guys – I was LATE to the SHOOT. I was THAT person!

I told him I thought my makeup would be done around 4:45 and I’d head over after that. My makeup wasn’t done until about 5:10. And then I had to make it from Manhattan to Brooklyn and change my clothes.

Spencer was completely unfazed. Bless him.

But I realized something else: I truly hadn’t meant to be late. In fact, I’d scheduled my appointments that day to leave plenty of buffer room. But I’m not an expert here – I never have my makeup done. And even though I’d researched online for estimates, I still didn’t have an accurate concept of how long it could take. So my lateness wasn’t lazy or intentional, it was merely uneducated.

All the more reason to keep a two-hundred dollar attitude around with our clients. They usually aren’t purposely trying to screw up.

I typically tell people they have to be at the location 15-30 minutes before they actually do, and I’ll keep doing it. Because they’re used to hurrying, but they’re not used to rushing out the door while simultaneously checking their hair, makeup, and kids’ hair and shirts and making sure they have the right lip gloss in their bag. No amount of warning from me can truly prepare them for that. So I’ll just give myself some slack time and keep a sweet smile.

4) On the shoot, I didn’t know what to do with my hands.

I basically became Jack Donaghy in that GE Product Integration video. “It’s weird, what do I do with my arms? I’ve never thought about that before.”

My clients are always asking me what to do with their hands. I always thought it was an oddly specific question – you don’t hear people asking “what do I do with my knees?” for example. But it’s true – in real life, your hands usually have a task. But when your task is to stand there, it’s hard to know what to do that won’t look weird.

Happily, Spencer gave me a lot of direction. Note to self: follow suit.
5) I carried my purse when it wasn’t needed for the images.

It’s usually a hassle when clients bring bags and purses along for the photoshoot when they’re not needed for the photos. You constantly have to pick it up and take it with you, you set it down and realize it’s in your images and have to run move it – it’s more hassle than it’s worth.

And then. I did it too.

I used a couple props during our shoot, which is my excuse for bringing a purse, but I would have been tempted either way. It felt like a security blanket – if my lip color suddenly wore off, if a huge gust of wind messed up my hair, the purse meant I would have something nearby to fix it. I think ultimately this goes along with realization #1 – I wanted to have control over how I looked, and it felt unnatural to relinquish that to chance or to the photographer.

I may not be able to part people with their security blankets, but I can perhaps explain better why they don’t need them. Or at least empathize when someone brings one.
Take-home message: Want to feel less annoyed with clients? Participate in your own “study.”

I became the very hand-wringing, late-to-the-session, wardrobe-less, purse-carrying client that I’m always scratching my head at. Well, I’m scratching my head no more. I’m already rethinking how to prep clients for sessions based on what I learned.

What makes no sense on your side of the camera might make total sense on the client’s end. But you have to put yourself there.

Try it. Let me know how it goes!

The Emotions of Black and White Photography

Jul 132015


Black and white photography has had a long, illustrious history. Of course, the first photographs had to be black and white, but it continues to be a great way to make evocative images, even though color photographs have become so realistic. Black and white images seem somehow more moody, as if the starkness of the black contrasting with the white highlights the importance of the image. Of course, the subject of the photograph has an immense impact on the emotional feel of the image.

Black and white photography is ideal for portraits; the shadows and highlights make the textures of people’s skin – the pores, the lines, the imperfections – tell their own stories. You can almost read a person’s life in their face. They can look hardworking and wise, their self-conscious coolness can be palpable or they can seem all the more awkward and naïve during their teenage years.

A moment in time

Because the oldest photographs are in black and white, we have come to associate black and white photographs with the sense of a moment in time captured and given a timeless quality. This moment will last as long as the paper does, being both the past and eternity. The legitimately old images look just as timeless and antique as newer photographs. The images below are no more than three years old, but they all look like they could have been taken decades ago. They still have all the sense of history and the passage of time that older photographs have.


As alluded to in the section on portraits, the contrast of the shadows and highlights in black and white photography makes the details of an image pop off the paper. Despite the dynamism of the contrast, black and white photographs of details have a quiet, intimate feel. The viewer has their attention called to the minute things they normally overlook, and they are invited to take the time to really examine those details. This allows the viewer the chance to really get to know the subject, which can lend significance to mundane things.

Moments of wonder and mystery

Black and white photography can also capture the awesomeness and glory of this world in a way that color photography often cannot. The majesty of rays of sunshine bursting from behind a large cloud seems all the more impressive in black and white – not least because the cloud looks a bit menacing. Waves crashing on the shore look dramatic and tumultuous, whilst the sea mist gives the image an eerie quality. A wood-paneled room draped with nets looks haunted. The nets take the shape of cobwebs or ghosts, and the viewer can almost hear the walls groan. The empty chair only emphasizes the lonely morbidity of the image.

These emotions and associations just don’t seem to be called up by color photography. In color, an empty room might look like a shabby chic cabin, and rays of sunshine will leap from behind a big, friendly cloud. As we’ve shown, that’s not the case with black and white photography. It leaves a lot more to the imagination, which allows us to inject a lot more emotion and meaning to the image.

How Boudoir Photography Can Help with Self-Confidence

Jun 292015


Have you ever wanted to do something but let nervousness or fear of the unknown stop you? We all have experiences like that. Some we give up on, some we push through with perseverance, determined to finish no matter what. How empowered do you feel when you push forward?

You want to trumpet to the world: “I did it, I did it, I overcame my fear!”

Women want to be sexy and beautiful. The media inundates us with unrealistic expectations of body size and shape. Nobody has the ideal body, flawless skin or perfect face.

Repeat. No one is perfect, not even supermodels.

In our Boudoir Photography sessions, we achieve beautiful images of women using flattering lighting, props, clothing and lingerie; posing to accent the positive and diminish the negative. We talk you through the session so you feel comfortable and relaxed. You will leave your session exhilarated and excited to see your images.

Post-session, your images will show how sexy and beautiful you are. Your self-confidence will grow exponentially and the love-of-your-life will be blown away. We photograph multiple boudoir sessions with the same women and through the years, each has expressed the positive feeling and high of overcoming their fears.

Each accomplishment is a growth in who we are and gives us self-confidence and a sense of self-worth.

Cheaper than a psychologist? Absolutely!


What the Colour of Your Tie Says About You

Jun 162015


When Joshua Blue, a vice principal at the Kennedy School in Hong Kong, hosts an assembly for his students, he wears a light violet-coloured pastel tie to give him an edge.

The bluish-purple tie is “colourful yet muted”, he said, which Blue believes keeps students from being as bored when listening. On the other hand, he avoids brighter purples and pinks when standing up in front of students.

“You don’t want so many bright colours that the kids will get distracted,” said Blue, 35.

It might sound a bit like hocus pocus, but experts say that no matter the audience — clients, staff or even children — picking the right tie colour can help get your message across.

“Colours give off very specific signals,” said David Zyla, New York-based author of Color Your Style. “The same suit can be transformed with different tie colours, each with a very different impact and message.”

Wondering what colour tie to wear to your next meeting? Here’s how to choose the perfect tie colour for every occasion:

All powerful reds

It’s not a coincidence that many politicians wear red-coloured ties with light shirts and darker suits.

“Red is the power tie,” said Mark Woodman, a trend analyst who studies colour in Laurel, Maryland, in the US. “There’s something about red that always comes back to strength and passion.”

But the tone of your reds matters, too. Darker reds, such as a burgundy, can help build trust, while lighter red and pink ties can be more of a statement about your personal style and be associated with creativity. In the last decade, a pink tie can sometimes signal “solidarity with women,” added Woodman.

When you are taking the lead on a project or want to convey a sense of ambition, consider a bold shiny red. A matte or printed red tie can be a more subtle way to convey power.

Royal purples

Ross Znavor, an executive in financial services in New York, wears purple ties rather than red to business meetings because the colour shows a bit of self-confidence and helps him create lasting first impressions.

Wearing a tie in a hue that’s less traditional shows clients, he is “comfortable in my own skin and someone with whom you want to build a relationship”, he said.

Lindsay said purple, traditionally a sign of royalty and wealth, is becoming more acceptable in the workplace.

“Men are wearing shades of lighter purple shirts and darker purple ties,” she said. Wear one of these shades if you want to stand out from the crowd with a slightly bolder look that’s not distracting.

Black affair

While you might not wear them to executive meetings on a regular basis, wearing black ties to a cocktail party or even an upscale dinner gives off a sophisticated vibe, said Zyla.

But beware: the formal black colour can feel arrogant or overdressed in many situations. “Avoid it if being one of the ‘boys’ at work is necessary as you climb up the ladder,” Zyla said.

It’s often smarter to stick to grey shades, added Woodman. A grey tie can help give you a more sophisticated look without seeming pretentious, said Woodman.

“Grey is kind of edgy and it can look very modern,” he said. To pull it off, pair it with a lighter, pastel-coluored shirt. Look for lighter grey shades and shiny finish for a more polished look.

Shades of the garden

Green can signal several things, from rebirth to the colour of money in some countries. But, surprisingly, it can be too loud for the workplace.

“Do you want to be remembered for the tie or who you are as an individual?,” Woodman asked. Choosing the right green can be tough. A bright green is often too distracting, and it can also be difficult to find matching suits or shirts, he added. Still, a light green tie with a subtle print can pair well with a neutral-coloured shirt.

Yellow is a traditional tie colour in countries, including England, which can signal assuredness, along with radiance and vitality, he said.

Yellow ties can make you more approachable to colleagues because it’s a vibrant colour that’s symbolic of the sun. For many, wearing a yellow tie, “can show optimism and a positive outlook on life,” added Eve Roth Lindsay, an image consultant in Hong Kong.

Be careful of committing cultural faux pas when it comes to colour. For example, a yellow tie in India can signal that someone is a merchant, said Zyla. Wearing a white tie in China signals a period of mourning.

Fifty shades of… blue

Afraid of sending the wrong message with your tie colour? Consider blue as the all-purpose tie hue.

Blue ties are a good investment because the colour reminds people of the sky and ocean, which has a calming effect, said Lindsay.

“Blue is the safest colour to wear,” she said.

Patterned blue ties tend to give off a classic professional feel and can be worn in a global business environment without sending the wrong message. A subtle blue can be “soft and introspective” while a cobalt or royal blue can help you stand out just the right amount, she said. “Dark blues are often reminiscent of well-respected pilot uniforms. Navy blue is a trusted colour and gives us confidence,” Lindsay said.

Be one with nature

“A more relaxed wardrobe of friendlier colours such as tan, brown, earthy colours, salmon and yellow works for people dealing with other people such as sales, teachers and the service industry,” said Lindsay.

Make sure the brown tie does not look too plain, because it can signal a dull personality. A beige tie can sometimes come across as too relaxed, she said. Avoid pairing earth tone hues with similarly coloured shirts. And if you are eager for a promotion and want to stand out in the workplace, skip these colours altogether.


Senior Picture Ideas for Girls….What Actually Sells

Jun 042015

Orig Post - Josh Fisher - Seniorportraitsecrets.com | Re-post June 4, 2015

Have you ever actually stopped and thought about which poses your clients are actually buying? And which ones you’re totally wasting time on? Specifically senior picture ideas for girls. And what poses are making you the most money? Which ones are they completely skipping over?

When I first started shooting senior portraits, my mind was all over the place with posing. I even had little cheat sheet cards to look at while at shooting, but I had no sense of direction as far as the bigger picture.

I wasn’t actually shooting for a purpose, but instead just randomly choosing poses in different locations hoping blindly that the girls and their parents would like and ultimately buy the images. I knew I wanted my clients to buy big prints, which meant big money for me, but I wasn’t giving them that opportunity because I wasn’t shooting images that worked as big prints in their homes.


So about two years ago I got a little more focused, and instead of reinventing the wheel and trying to find unique poses for each individual senior, I started taking each client through the exact same set of poses, with just a little variation for each person. I also started keeping track of which were their favorites and which ones they actually purchased.

As it turns out, my idea of what my best-selling images were was totally wrong. I hadn’t considered what high school girls and their parents would buy. In fact, to this day, some of my best-sellers are images I would have never thought would sell. Could have something to do with the fact that I’m not, nor have I ever been a senior girl!

Using a little trial and error, I now have a fine-tuned posing system for girls, and I’m confident knowing which poses sell and which ones don’t. No more wasting time shooting senior picture ideas for girls I know won’t sell anyway.

I finally realized that the sales process starts so much earlier than the actual sales appointment. If you don’t shoot for a goal – purchases – you’ll be shooting with no direction, and will most likely end up with no sales…or only small sales if you’re lucky. Now, SO many seniors later, I am excited to share my findings with you and help lead you to be a more profitable shooter.

1 Waist-Up

When I first started shooting senior portraits – I knew I wanted my clients to purchase something large for their homes. So naturally I assumed that a close-in crop would not sell for a large portrait. I was dead wrong on this. These types of poses are some of my biggest money makers for girls. And they are consistently selling in sizes 16×24, 20×30 and sometimes much larger.


2 Full-length poses do not sell

Well, that’s not always true… But for a full-length pose to sell, my senior needs be in the lower half of the frame if vertical or take up one-third of the frame if horizontal. Any images where my senior is taking up too much of the frame while standing has never actually sold for me. When I first started, I thought this shot was the money-maker. Nope. Stop shooting it. Most girls are super critical of themselves, so they really don’t want a super close-up, full-body shot.

3 Sitting Down / Shooting Down

Time and time again this pose has proven to be my number one seller. Shooting down (or at least slightly down) on my seniors while they are sitting turns out to be an ultra-flattering pose, and moms and senior girls absolutely love these. It’s important that you start shooting this type of pose with each outfit and each location.


4 Sitting Down

Sitting down and shooting on the same plane (eye level) has also turned out to be a great seller for girls. Even if you’re not the same height as your client, this type of shot is easily accomplished by shooting on a set of stairs or on a bench of some sort. Try it out! And of course, try it with a full-body shoot, as well as a waist-up shot. See what works for you.

5 Shooting Up

I was always told that shooting up would be unflattering to subjects and to avoid shots like this. In some cases, that’s true. But, in doing this research, I decided to break that rule, and it turns out… senior girls absolutely love this pose. Obviously, you need to make sure you aren’t so far below them that their chin smashes into their neck, but try just being a few feet out and shooting at 135mm while squatting down. This type of shot never fails.

So, while it is important to remember that each individual is just that – individual – it’s also important to remember that your clients have more in common than they have differences. They’re all senior girls. They want flattering poses that make them look the best version of themselves. And for posing, don’t reinvent the wheel for every shoot. They don’t all know each other, and even if they do, it’s really okay if they have the exact same picture as someone else. The lighting will be different, the trees or the landscape will look a little different, and most importantly, it will have their own personality and style.

Book Your Senior Photo Session Now

Jun 042015

Seniors don’t always fit into one specific style. A lot of times they are both edgy and classic; glamorous and boho. Bring to your shoot all the wardrobe personality you possess as a senior Classman! Dress up, dress down, and dress all around… You'll want to show several different sides of yourself! Sometimes combining two popular styles is the perfect way to create a unique session. You can even combine boho with prom. Of course, the best thing to bring is your smile and a sense of fun and adventure. Photo shoots are fun when you have an engaged photographer who is interested in making it easy and carefree! You can completely be yourself when in front of the camera. Not only will seniors be more happy with their images, but so will I!

Indoor and outdoor shooting is also a great way to add a different feeling for each outfit you choose. This doesn’t mean you have to go to a studio, it can include being creative and using spaces that provide both!

Be sure to book your session now so that you'll get the month and weekday/weekend you want and one that easily fits into your hectic schedule!