Category Archives: Creativity

Westchester NY Family Photographer: Cultivating Creativity 4

Creativity: Week 4

Last week, in our ongoing discussion about overcoming creative slumps, we discussed experimenting with new techniques. So, once you have those tried and tested, what next? Well, next, it’s time to talk about perspective.

Tarrytown, Pierson Park

One of the easiest ways to alter your normal photographic routine is to change your point of view. So, if I’m generally a straight shooter who most often sees my subjects from the front & at eye level, I need to think of ways that I can make that same image feel different.

Nyack, newborn photographer, black and white newborn photography

I need to consider where I am in relation to my subjects and how that position (my point of view) impacts the overall outcome. Shooting straight on at eye level is beautiful for true portraiture, and (I would argue) necessary for documentary photography. But, when it comes to adding personality to an image? Not so much. This is where I think lifestyle photographers truly excel. Because they are constantly trying to find new perspectives from which to view their subject and frame the scene. So, let’s examine some of the ways we can try to view a scene differently.

Nyack, black and white child photography, rainy day, bubble umbrella

Viewing from Above or Below

Look, one of these easiest ways to convey our subject’s size in relationship to his surroundings is by shooting from above or below. Think about it. If I’m viewing my small son from the top of his treehouse, looking down at him on the ground, I’m emphasizing his littleness with respect to his immediate environment. This also has the added impact of highlighting any sort of vulnerability or innocence. It heightens our awareness that even though this little person is getting bigger, the need for a cuddle still exists.

Garner Arts Center, Garnerville Art Center, Sisters

Similarly, shooting from below can emphasize a sense of power or strength, or importance with respect to the space.

This, however, is not limited to childhood. Think of urban architectural images. Shooting from below puts the viewer in the photographer’s place and emphasizes the sheer immensity of the building. Anytime you want to heighten a size differential to give more weight to a particular element within your frame, shooting from above or below is a perfect way to play up that significance.

New York City, NYC, Rockefeller Center, Christmas in New York

Viewing from Within or Without

There is a certain voyeuristic quality attached to images wherein the photographer is viewing from within or without. It has a bit of a secretive feel, which sets a different tone. I love using this perspective to enhance the feeling of quiet, loving moments.

Nyack, newborn photographer, family of three

Viewing Through

Admittedly, I don’t find myself employing this particular perspective often. Usually because I don’t find myself in environments with the space to do so. But, being able to shoot through allows us to isolate our subject while also conveying the sense of space. More often than not, I utilize this technique when photographing flowers…it helps to add some visual interest to the foreground while also beautifully isolating my subject in the background.

Tarrytown, Pierson Park, brothers and sisters
Lensbaby, Lensbaby Edge 80, spring flowers

Viewing from the Side

Now, this might seem a little strange that I’m including this particular “angle” in the mix, but hear me out. When shooting from the side, the photographer is a part of whatever is taking place…as opposed to simply observing it. This particular perspective also lends itself nicely to incorporating leading lines in the frame.

Disneyland, Pinnochio ride, Mouse Ears

Disneyland, Thunder Mountain, First Roller Coaster Ride

Honest & Joyful Westchester NY Family Photographer

Gina specializes in colorful & modern storytelling images. Using carefully chosen outdoor locations to provide a backdrop for each family’s story, she is able to create an adventurous and fun-filled session atmosphere. Visit the Session Info page for more details.

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Nyack Family Photographer: Cultivating Creativity 3

Creativity: Week 3

We continue our series about overcoming creative slumps this week by discussing experimentation with new or different photographic techniques. Trying out something new can be extremely frustrating, as there is almost always a learning curve. But who ever said that greatness doesn’t demand a little failure every now and again?

There are few things that have sparked a new interest or point of view when I’m in a slump quite like trying a different technique. Just by definition, it forces me to observe the world differently. Even if it ends up being something that I use rarely, or never again, I enjoy the fact that i just know how to do it…and that I could use it if I wanted to. Jack of all trades or master of one, right? In this case, sometimes it’s fun to know a little bit of everything.

Showing Motion
Admittedly, this is one of those things that I put in my “rarely used” box. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the artistry that motion can contribute to an image, it’s just not something that necessarily complements my style as well as others. That being said, I’m glad that I have played with it because I like having the option of utilizing new ideas. Kind of like hedging my bets. Most, if not all of us, know that anything faster than 1/125th will stop motion. Easy enough. But what about showing motion? So, we need to slow our shutter speeds down, but how slow exactly?
If the camera is still handheld, a shutter speed of 1/30 to 1/40 is sufficient to blur human motion slightly. To show movement of clouds, a much longer exposure (20-30 seconds) is required. This also necessitates a strong ND filter to allow you to slow your shutter speed down so drastically. To capture movement of water, exposures of 1/15th of a second or longer are necessary. And, again, an ND filter is almost always necessary during the day. Just remember that for any image shot with a longer exposure, a tripod is usually necessary to minimize hand shake.

El Matador State Beach, Malibu, black and white nature photos, beach photos

Stopping Motion
Okay, this is one of those tools that I use constantly. And, I mean constantly in my professional and personal work. I love freezing the movement of hair as a little girl spins. Or as a dad throws his son in the air. Or, as a little boy comes zooming down a slide at the park. Stopping the motion preserves that tiny, infinitesimal moment of time when it would otherwise be forgotten. The key to stopping motion, and doing it effectively, is that the high energy needs to be conveyed to the viewer even though you’ve “stilled” your subjects. So, while we can always quite easily freeze someone slowly walking down the street or an adult going through their morning routine, those scenes don’t necessarily show energy. As a result, they don’t necessarily have the same impact as, say, a three year old child jumping on the bed. When shooting to freeze motion with children, I’m almost always shooting between 1/500th and 1/1000th. I also NEVER go under 1/250th with small people. It just usually results in an image being OOF.

Haverstraw Marina, swimming, cannon ball

Garner Arts Center, mother daughter photos

Santa Monica, roller coaster, Santa Monica Pier

Confession. I avoided panning like the plague. I don’t have steady hands and the one time I tried two years ago was a failure of epic proportions. (Side note: I don’t like to fail). Tracking a subject at the speed of its/his/her movement to keep the subject in focus while blurring the background is tough. But, this past spring, my son was harassing me to spin him around in the backyard. Why me, and not my muscle-bound husband, is still a mystery. So I did it. And, then I thought it could make a really fun mother-son portrait. He was game and I was willing to attempt panning one. more. time. Not going to lie, this was hard. But, you know what they say about falling off bicycles. I don’t recommend doing this if it’s your first go-round with this particular technique. I might be a sadist for having done that. But, long story short, in the image below, I set my SS to 1/160th…fast enough to freeze him but slow enough to blur the background a bit. Using a lightweight lens is also really helpful. So, I strapped that baby around my neck. Sandwiched the camera body between my elbows, and around and around we went.
If you want to try panning without the hassle of a kid hanging from your limbs, I highly recommend it. It adds a really fun edge to street and child photography.

Nyack outdoor child portraits, backyard fun, Nyack

Light Painting
Last, but certainly not least, is light painting. I save this for that time of year when the sun and warmth have traveled around the globe, and my craving for something new and different is at its height. If you’re looking for an in-depth tutorial, check out this POST. But, the basic nuts and bolts are these. You need to be in an area with as little light leakage as possible. Pitch black if you can get it (think basement or rural area, or dark corner of the backyard farthest from the house). You’ll be working with extremely long exposures (anything from 5 seconds to a few minutes), so a tripod and remote or cable release really are important. Additionally, you need to find something with which you can ground your scene: an old car, tree silhouettes, an interesting building, a statue. Something to act as the backdrop for your painting. When first setting your exposure, try to keep your ISO as low as possible to limit the potential noise. Using a flashlight to illuminate your focal point is extremely helpful to set up the shot. Once the shutter is released, use your light source to illuminate your scene. You will need to be close to the focal point to paint with more direct light, but as long as you keep moving (and keep the light pointed away from you), you won’t be visible in the final image. Dark clothing is always helpful as well. And, in the interest of supporting younger artists, below is an image courtesy of my student Andrew Levine. This kid is one badass photographer…and one really nice human being. I like his beautiful image so much more than my own attempts at light painting, which is also why it’s hanging in my kitchen 🙂


So, pick your poison, kids. There are so many different ways to extend our creativity. Push boundaries. Explore something new. But, above all, enjoy it. Catch ya next week!

Honest & Natural Nyack Family Photographer

Gina specializes in natural & emotive storytelling images. Using carefully chosen locations to provide a backdrop for each family’s story, she is able to create an adventurous and fun-filled session atmosphere. Visit the Session Info page for more details.

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Rockland County Photographer: Cultivating Creativity 2

Creativity: Week 2

Last week, we began a new series about how to overcome creative slumps. We discussed small spaces and ways in which we can work with them rather than constantly fight them. This week, as we continue to think about concrete ways to overcome those ruts, let’s think about the ways in which we use light.

Many of us have a distinct comfort zone that can be sometimes difficult to step out of. But, if overcoming a creative rut is about anything; it’s about intentionally making ourselves a little uncomfortable. Hard, directional light is my personal favorite. There’s just such natural drama and emotion that it brings to an image (cue the music crescendo). But, this was not always the case. When I first started shooting in manual, nice flat light was my comfort zone (like many others). Now, I avoid it at all costs, except when I’m moved by a particularly emotion-filled moment or subject.

Jones Beach, beach, girl in polka dot bikini

The name of the game, when working to get ourselves out of a funk is to experiment. To try something new. So, let’s think about some types of light that might be harder to work with (or with which you might not be as comfortable).

Low Light
Much like when working in small spaces, which are also usually dark (see Week One’s discussion of space), low light necessitates a fast lens. Something that can open up to at least 1.8 is extremely helpful. Typically, we’re metering for highlights so that much of the rest of the frame is thrown into shadow. This works really well to convey a sense of mystery or fatigue or even fear.
One thing to consider in low light is that your lens might have trouble autofocusing, so focusing manually may be necessary. Additionally, if you must slow your shutter down below 1/125, you *may* need a tripod. I personally don’t use one when I’m shooting off the cuff (ex. kid bed time) but if it’s something important, as the image below was, I break that baby out!

Nyack Family Photographer

Shooting into the sun and including it in the frame adds such a sense of lightness and fun to an image. But, all that light bouncing around in there can wreak havoc on your ability to focus. If you run into this, try shading the lens with your hand while you focus, and then remove it for the shot. With respect to sunflare vs. sunburst, the former occurs when shooting at wider apertures while the latter happens when you close down your app. Both require the sun to be at least partially present within the frame, and to also be clipped by an object or the edge of the lens. In order for the flare or burst to be visible, you also need a darker background.

Haverstraw Marina Pool, swimming pool

black and white photography, rainy night

Full Sun
Are you running away? I can hear it, “Full sun! Nooooo!” While it is arguably the most difficult type of lighting to work with because of the harsh shadows, easily blown highlights, and the squinty eyes of a contorted face; it doesn’t have to be frightening. There is such a joy and ease to images shot in full sun…all the saturated colors and lovely contrast. As a result, lifestyle and documentary images tend to lend themselves most successfully to this type of light. This is due to the fact that there is more movement in the images compared to a true portrait or landscape. There are some easy ways to work in the bright light of midday. One option is to put yourself in between your subject(s) and the sun. Or have your subjects facing at a 90-degree angle to the sun. And, when all else fails, embrace accessories. Hats, sunglasses, etc. can all add a fun element to an image and help you to minimize some of the difficulties associated with it.

Haverstraw Marina, photograph of twins, brother sister photographs

Delafield Pond, West Point, kids swimming in summer

Directional/Hard Light
Last, but certainly not least in my book, is directional light. This particular type of light is created when your light source is coming from one direction and one direction only. A window, a door, a lightbulb, flash. If you have one light, you’ve got directional. It is often characterized by a small but brightly lit area, surrounded by increasing shadows. I ADORE the moodiness that directional lighting can add to an image. And, if you read last week’s post, you know my house is a tiny cave, so directional light is pretty much all I’ve got. I always meter for my subject’s midtones when shooting with directional light, to ensure that the increase or decrease in shadow is more gradual. This gives me much more wiggle room on the back end when editing.

pouting kids, nyack

Nyack, black and white child photograph

Whichever type of light you push yourself to experiment with this week, embrace its possibilities and limitations. Don’t fight it. And, by all means, share some of your favorites on the Joy Alexander Photography Facebook page! We’d love to see them and feature them!

Joyful & Honest Rockland County Photographer

Gina specializes in modern & emotive family imagery. By focusing on the relationships of parents and their children, she is able to go beyond the standard pose and capture the true emotion of her clients’ relationships. Visit the Session Info page for more details.

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Westchester NY Family Photographer: Cultivating Creativity

Creativity: Week 1

As a Westchester NY family photographer, with the busyness of photographing clients and my own family, it happens that sometimes I find myself in a creative rut. It can be frustrating, and humbling, and damaging to our self-confidence as artists. However, those same periods of exasperation can also be the proving ground for creative experimentation.

Ruts. We’ve all gone through them…usually more than once. And, if you’re anything like me, they suspiciously tend to coincide with the absence of sun and warm weather. So, if you are like me and aren’t content to simply sit back and wait it out (seasonally or not), we’re going to spend the next few weeks taking a look at some ways to break through a slump.

nyack, candid childhood photographs, in home photographs, brother sister photographs, rockland county

So let’s begin with our surroundings. Raise your hand if your house is a cave? No, I mean really a cave. Let me put this in perspective. Our house is a little 1300 square foot Cape Cod, surrounded by 7 extremely large evergreens. Oh, and did I mention that we’re on the western side of a mountain? Yeah, cave. Not a lot of windows and chopped up little rooms make it worse. So, that being said, the first several Autumns and Winters here were frustrating and uninspiring and, well, defeating. I couldn’t get outside. I couldn’t find space. Cue the sad face. But, after beating my head against a wall and fighting what is, I have learned to embrace it.

nyack, rockland county, brother sister photographs, sibling photographs

I used to drool over the windows and open-concept houses that many of my friends have. Don’t get me wrong, from an architectural & daily living standpoint, I still do. But, now, I really love the hard, directional light that can be found in the tiny corners of my house…in different places, at different times of the day.

nyack, in home photographs, boyhood photographs, sunflare

So, what to do when you’re faced with small and/or dark spaces? Don’t fight it; embrace it. Plunk that wide angle prime lens on your camera (there is no room for a 2.8 zoom in this scenario), and watch the light. I know that from 7:45-9:00 in the morning, sun streams through our tiny western kitchen and downstairs bathroom windows. This goes for my son’s downstairs bedroom as well. My daughter’s bedroom is in the upstairs southwestern corner of the house. Her bed area gets the best light at sunrise, but her reading nook gets the best light in the mid-afternoon. Our master bedroom and the downstairs dining room get the best light in the mid to late afternoon. Our living room offers a fine sliver of light through one of its two small eastern windows about three hours before sunset.

nyack, black and white child photographs

I have spent days and weeks and months paying attention to the way the light falls in each area of my house. This is so necessary when you’re working with a small space. Why? There is less room to move, but more room for error. If you’re able to find the places where light falls naturally, you can then utilize those small spaces to their best advantage.

candid child photography, in home photographs, honest child portraiture

The above image was shot in Molly’s reading nook. It’s a 5×5 space dominated by a glider and one south-facing window. So, that particular day that she was having a temper tantrum, I told her to park her butt in her chair until she could calm down. I quickly dropped myself into the tiny cramped corner with my 35 ART and shot up. It’s a tiny space, with no room for me to move, but I knew where the light was falling and I knew that it would correspond nicely to her not-so-nice mood that afternoon. Squeeze yourself into the smallest section of the space and shoot up to capture more of the frame.

nyack, black and white child photography, brother sister photographs

This image was taken from the doorway looking toward our small kitchen, which is a 14×10 foot space with very little open floor space and was also was dominated by a play kitchen at the time. Again, I had nowhere to go, but I knew the light streamed thru the tiny window beautifully that early in the morning. I directed the shot along the length of the room to give the illusion of more space and dropped myself down to their eye level.

nyack, batman, black and white child photography

Our “entryway” (and I use that term very loosely) is a 4×4 area on the northern side of our house. It gets no light whatsoever unless the door is wide open. Because this space is so tight, I always shoot vertically when I want to capture an image there. The vertical composition allows me to capture most, if not all, of my subject in the frame and tell more of a story with the surroundings than I would otherwise be able to.

candid childhood photographs, kids baking

NYC, new york city, subway, sibling photography

So, this week, I challenge to work with the small spaces in your homes. Find those corners or tiny rooms that you usually avoid. Pay attention to the light and use it purposefully. Small spaces don’t have to be stifling if we adjust our expectations and work within those limitations to tell the story. Don’t fight it; embrace it. And, have fun! See you next week.

Honest & Joyful Westchester NY Family Photographer

Gina specializes in colorful & modern storytelling images. Using carefully chosen outdoor locations to provide a backdrop for each family’s story, she is able to create an adventurous and fun-filled session atmosphere. Visit the Session Info page for more details.

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