Saturday, December 28, 2013

Still not convinced you need video for your business or website, here's the skinny !

  • Visitors who view sales videos are 85% more likely to buy than visitors who do not.
  • The effectiveness of video on a website surpasses text and audio by a ratio of 5:1.
  • Industry studies have shown that video expedites buying decisions by 72% versus print.
  • Online video is the fastest growing ad format with nearly 55% growth this year.
  • 52% of consumers report that they are less likely to return a product after viewing a video.
  • Retail site visitors who view video stay two minutes longer on average.
  • More than three out of five consumers will spend at least two minutes watching a video that educates them about a product they plan to purchase, and 37% will watch three or more minutes..
  • With proper optimization, video increases the chance of a front-page Google result by 53x.
  • Over 90% of shoppers find video useful in making purchase decisions.
  • Evidence shows that the mere presence of video can improve conversion, whether the video is actually viewed or not.
  • Video will increase from 30% of Internet traffic to 90% of Internet traffic by 2013.
  • Video and other multi-media product viewing options were rated more effective than any other site initiatives in a survey of almost 2,000 interactive marketers.
  • A minute of video is worth 1.8 million words.   

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Kelly Broome-Plumley to annouce she's in the running for Newmarket's Ward 6 Councillor for 2014- Visibility, Accessibility, Reliability and Accountability

BIG NEWS…  As we approach the end of a truly amazing year I am so proud to be a resident of the town of Newmarket.   Proud to live in one of the Top Place’s in Canada Proud to be the #1 Google E-Town, Proud of our Beautiful Main Street and amazing parks.  So many great things that my family and I have enjoyed since we moved to Newmarket in 1997 and will continue to enjoy for many years to come.      
After being very inspired by so many residents, neighbours, business owners, friends and ,family I would like to announce my intention to run for Ward 6 Councillor in the town of #Newmarket.  My application will go in on January 2nd at which time I will start to prepare for the upcoming Municipal election on October 27th, 2014.
My motto  “Working together building a stronger, safer, healthier community.”
Together We Can!
I have created Facebook fan page to highlight 2013 as an incredible year and I look forward to hearing your thoughts, feelings and ideas in the New Year.  Be sure to head over and like it , sign up for my e-news and check out my events calendar!

Kelly Broome-Plumley Facebook Fan Page
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Have a great Holiday, a Happy New Year and I look forward to a fantastic 2014! 


Kelly Broome-Plumley

Sunday, December 22, 2013

An Inspiring Company lead by an Inspiring Person

The making of Inspire Cosmetics.

We set out to change the face of cosmetics, making selection and application an enjoyable experience instead of a daunting task. We are driven to motivate and Inspire women to see the true beauty they possess. A woman’s natural beauty is the foundation to this inspirational line.
We customized the perfect line of cosmetics, with quality and comfort being our top priority. Not only do our products protect your skin from the environment, you will have touchable breathable skin.
Our techniques make application a breeze. Simple selection of products gives you the ability to create endless looks!
Desire to Inspire!!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Random Act of Kindness happened to Me

Today i popped over to Macs Milk for a few quick supplies after getting the kids. Speed shopped then went to pay and realized I didn't have my debit card, went back out to the truck, looked high and low-No card. As i I went back inside to tell the clerk I would be back, a customer walked past on her way out and wished me a merry Xmas which I replied the same. I smart phoned my banking info when the clerk said, your bill has been taken care of, i didn't think he was talking to me and then he said it again. I said by who and he replied the women that just left-I had a $27 bill paid fully by a complete stranger out of no where, I ran outside as she was about to drive off, she rolled down her window I said you didn't have to do that, she said, I know. I proceeded to shake her hand and wished her another merry xmas. Went back in the store and said I Love Newmarket because we have the best people living here. Talk about a random act of kindness.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Help-Portrait Newmarket 2013 with Dance Media

A collaboration of photographers, hair/makeup artists, and other volunteers that come together. Help-Portrait is about 'giving' rather than 'taking' photo. Follow some great work from Dance Media on our page  

Dance Media Link

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Help-Portrait 2013, Giving a Photo, Not Taking a Photo

Hey, everyone! 
Just wanted to check in and say hello to all of you! My team and I are SO excited about this year’s 5th anniversary of Help-Portrait. It’s insane that 5 years have already passed. I never had any idea of what this would become. But you guys have taken a very simple idea and made it a reality all over the world. My favorite thing to do is to browse all your photos and stories on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The photos and videos are just mind-blowing.
Isn’t it crazy how such a simple thing can change lives? We take our cameras for granted but so many people in need don’t have that luxury to have their photos taken. But that’s why we’re here.This is about them, not us. The portraits you give to them are priceless. They will remain treasures for the rest of their lives. Please remember that as you grind through the details and logistics of planning your HP event and as you fix that annoying printer that never seems to work. In the end, it’s all worth it.
We’ve heard time and time again from photographers that this is the greatest thing they’ve ever done with their cameras and equipment and we agree.
It’s an honor to get to serve, and by doing so, we receive way more than we ever attempt to give.
- Jeremy Cowart
Founder/ CEO
Help-Portrait, Inc.

Google Canada honours Newmarket businesses

The Internet has changed the business landscape dramatically and Newmarket businesses are adapting and thriving, according to Google Canada.
Google presented the town with an eTown award today at CDA Dance Academy in recognition of community members leveraging opportunities on the Internet and investing in online resources to grow their businesses and connect with customers.
Cassidy’s Flowers & Gift Shoppe owner Henry Startek was among the crowd at the presentation.
No longer are people limited to dropping by his store on Main Street to make a purchase, as the Internet provides the option to order online, he said.
He embraced the web 15 years ago and the business has grown to serve not only the local community, but customers in the United States and as far away as Germany, Mr. Startek said.
The Internet has only yielded positive results for his shop, which has been around since 1905, he said.
Newmarket is one of five communities across the country recognized by Google. The others are Halifax, Saint-Sauveur, Que., Canmore, Alta. and Whistler, B.C.
Newmarket was chosen based on research Google did with independent firm Ipsos to analyze the online strength of local small businesses in Canada, Google Canada spokesperson Andrew Swartz said.
Examining a variety of factors, including how businesses have adapted web-based technologies and engaged customers in social media, he said Newmarket stood out with the best.
The town is proud and honoured to accept the award on behalf of its residents and businesses, Mayor Tony Van Bynen said.
As the third most densely populated municipality in Ontario next to Toronto and Mississauga, Mr. Bynen noted the town recognized the need to explore technology to sustain Newmarket’s future in its economic development plan.
He credits the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce for the work it has done over the years in helping prepare its 850 members for the change and opportunity of the digital age.
It is a unique source of pride for the chamber to have Newmarket recognized as one of the strongest online business communities in Canada, chamber chairperson Steve Hinder said.
“The chamber’s focus is on leading business, leading communities. We believe strong communities and partnerships can drive economic development and community transformation,” he said, adding the award validates what the chamber has been doing since 2009 to accelerate the adoption of digital technologies through its programs and services.
It’s important to grow and change with the times, CDA Dance Academy owner Chantal Chretien said.
Her studio has used the Internet to highlight what it does and communicate with current and potential clients.
“We have online registration for parents, so its easier for them to register and look up all of the classes on the website,” Ms Chretien said, noting parents are reading their email more and seeking information through a variety of digital sources.
The dance studio also uses social media, YouTube and online newsletters to engage with its clients, she said.
Following the award ceremony, Google Canada led a workshop at the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce office to teach interested businesses how to use online tools and develop strategies to promote their businesses on the Internet.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The One Stop Shopping in Support of Easter Seals Ontario

Dance Media Aurora Newmarket was privileged to be the media event coverage company to handle this amazing event for Easter Seals Ontario for the One Stop Shopping Event in support of Easter Seals Ontario at the Newmarket Community Centre Lions Hall on November 9th, 2013. Watch our quick presentation we also provided to organizer Judy Brunton. Get involved with Easter Seals and show your support to this great non profit organization.
One of this years Ambassadors was present and we had the honor of capturing him

This spirited nine-year-old has enthusiasm and energy to spare. With a passion for music and performing, Tai loves to sing, dance and play the guitar and the recorder. As an outgoing and friendly grade-three student in Markham, Tai has lots of friends at school and cites music and gym as his favourite subjects. He also loves to be active and is eager to participate in just about any activity, particularly basketball, sledge hockey, Glee Club, swimming and sit skiing.
Tai was born with an incomplete spinal cord injury, also known as Transverse Myelopathy, causing partial paralysis in his legs. As a result, he is unable to walk and uses a manual wheelchair for mobility. He also uses a walker for short distances and is just learning to use forearm crutches. At home, a stair glide gives Tai access to the upper level and a porch lift helps him get in and out of the house.

Helping Kids with Physical Disabilities Succeed !

Dance Media Aurora Newmarket

Monday, November 4, 2013

Instagram for Small Biz
follow us on Instagram as well at www.instagram/stephenplumley
For our last Instagram-themed Small Biz Social Friday post, we’re giving up tips for getting more followers and Likes on Instagram. We’ve got a lot of advice for you — it’s the motherlode of Instagram tips!! — so let’s get straight into it:
1. Post at the right time. Before you post your photo to Instagram, there are two things to keep in mind: your audience’s time zone and what time they’re most often checking Instagram. Most Instagram users login in the morning, and in the evening, on their way home from work or school. In fact, according to analytics company Simply Measured, the best time to post on Instagram is on Wednesdays between 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm.
For brands, the least favorable time to post is in the middle of the night because an Instagram photo typically has a life of only around 4 hours before it gets buried in followers’ feeds.
Post at times throughout the day that you can assume your audience has down time and is checking their accounts. For example, if you’re a company whose target audience is high school students, post your photo in the afternoon during the time high schoolers are on their lunch break. Or, if you’re a business with lots of New York City- or London-based followers, think about posting during rush hour when you know folks are stuck on trains or busses and have nothing else to do but check their phones.
2. Use popular hashtags. Depending on the industry you’re in, there are popular Instagram hashtags that can be used to get more visibility on your photos. The best way to discover popular hashtags for your industry is to use Google, of course! A simple Google search will tell you all you need to know.
Some of the most trendy Instagram hashtags you’ll find include: #tbt (throwback Thursday), #instadaily, #photooftheday, #instagood.
Keep in mind: Don’t go nuts with your hashtags! A hashtag paragraph, as I like to call it, at the bottom of your photo is not savvy. It can look a little overzealous and cluttered. Instead, stick to using 1-3 relevant hashtags per photo.
14 Tips For Getting More Followers and Likes On Instagram
3. Use your photo captions to ask questions: One of the best ways to get more likes on your Instagram photos is to use your photo’s caption to ask a question. This is a great way to drive not only photo likes, but comments, too.
4. Host a contest on Instagram: Hosting a contest is often the most effective way to boost engagement and get new followers fast on any social network. Since Instagram has grown in popularity, it makes it one of the best social platforms to run a contest! Test using a tool like Statigram to create ad run a challenge on Instagram.
For best practices and tips on how to host a successful Instagram photo contest, click here.
5. Share teasers: For product-based businesses, upload photos to Instagram that feature teasers of a soon-to-be-released product or an exciting event that’s around the corner. Teaser photos are great for catching users’ interest and for driving photo likes! Check out a great example of an Instagram teaser photo from the California-based clothing company The Hundreds.

Don't forget to add shadow to your portrait with "Loop Lighting"

We began our study of lighting patterns for portrait photography with broad lighting, short lighting, and split lighting. Now let’s move on to loop lighting. In portrait photography, this lighting pattern tends to be one of the most popular. It is easy to set up and is flattering to most subjects’ facial types.
Remember that it is shadow that defines form in a photograph. This is such a key concept, we even name all of the various lighting patterns by the shadows they create!
While we always have to think about the light in photography–never forget the shadows!
In a “loop lighting” pattern, we adjust our light so that the shadow of the nose shows up on–and forms a little loop upon–the subject’s cheek, traveling down as far as the corner of the subject’s mouth.

We’ve been discussing the lights and shadows as if the light source was even with the face–the eyes to be more specific. This creates a shadow with no upward or downward slope.
In loop lighting, we want a slightly downward angled shadow (not too much) so we raise the light slightly above eye level. We want the end of the nose to cast a rounded–looped–shadow down from the nose to around the corner of the mouth or even a bit shorter.
The shadow goes off to the side; it is not directly under the nose. The area between the upper lip and the nose remains unshadowed.
Of course, shadows are cast directly opposite from the light, so to get a shadow going to the side and down, we need a light positioned on the opposite side and up.
Start with the light off to the side at approximately 45 degrees from the camera. Then tweak and adjust from there. Depending on the subject’s face, the best angle may be a bit more or less than 45 degrees.
Pose your model. Set your light a bit above eye level, move it to about 45 degrees to the camera, and see where the shadow from the nose falls.
If needed, move the light up and down and side to side until you get the desired shadow shape. Depending on the shape of your model’s face and nose, this adjustment could go from 45 degrees to as little as 30 degrees. Or in some cases it could even go past 45 degrees.
Keep in mind that you want to keep this shadow small. The light should travel down the nose (with the opposing shadow between the nose and cheek) and continue from the bottom of the nose creating a loop-shaped shadow running toward the corner of the mouth.
This lighting pattern is good for people with oval-shaped faces. Because of the downward sloping angle of the “loop” it will visually lengthen the face a bit. And, to a lesser extent, it can give the appearance of slightly higher cheekbones.
Grab a flashlight and your favorite subject. Have them sit on a chair, and start experimenting with light and shadow. Figure out how they have to angle their face for short and broad lighting. Determine where the light has to be for split lighting, and then adjust it to create loop lighting.
Which do you think is better for their face? Why?
The concept of “loop lighting” may seem so basic and easy to understand that you will most likely want to skip the exercise, but don’t. Get comfortable with not only understanding these portrait photography photo tips, but actually doing them. That’s when the learning starts.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Ever finish shooting video, convinced you recorded great footage only to later discover that your whites weren't crispy clean? Your colors weren't vibrant and healthy? That the whole look of your video looked, well, wrong?
It's likely your videos are suffering from bad white balance -- the video equivalent of throwing a bright red sock in with a load of white linen. In this article, we'll explore how your video can go awry because of improper white balance, and you'll learn how to use your camcorder's white balance function to keep your whites white and your hues healthy.

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Video Bleach 
It may come as a surprise to you that there's really no such thing as white light. What you perceive as white is simply light of all different colors that's blended together in roughly equal proportions. Stir together paints of all colors and you get a dark mess; mix light of all colors and you get white.
What happens when there's a predominance of one color over the others--say green or yellow or blue? Your eyes automatically adjust to see it as white light, in spite of the fact that it has a slight color cast to it.
Every source of white light emits a different mix of colors. Normal household (tungsten) bulbs are strongest in red, while mid-day sunlight tends to be bluer. Quartz lamps are nearly as ruddy as tungsten bulbs, while fluorescent lamps tend to cast greens.
The now-immortalized physicist Lord Kelvin (who was known as William Thomson before he was given a title) devised a way to quantify this difference in color. He theorized (and later proved) that a "black body" of metal would emit different colors of light as it was heated up to higher and higher temperatures. The object would start glowing a dull red, then turn yellow, then a yellow-green and so on. Eventually it would pass blue and violet in the color spectrum as it moved toward true white-hot.
Lord Kelvin measured these temperatures and attached actual numbers to the colors, establishing a color-measurement scale that still bears his name--degrees Kelvin. Light sources with higher color temperatures put off a more bluish light, while sources with lower color temperatures are more reddish. Those ruddy tungsten bulbs, for example, burn at around 2800 degrees Kelvin, while quartz bulbs usually measure near 3200 degrees Kelvin. Sunlight can climb well up the scale, exceeding 10,000 degrees Kelvin on a clear summer day. (See Figure 1 for a graphic representation of the Kelvin color scale.)
Fluorescent lamps defy the Kelvin scale because they actually emit a strange mix of colors with certain hues lacking. Most fluorescents have a strong spike of color in the green range of the spectrum, giving them, you guessed it, a greenish cast.
Balanced Whites 
You've probably never noticed these different colors of white light because your brain quickly compensates for the color shift. Left to its own devices, the camcorder would dutifully record the different colors of "white" light. The result would be video that had a definite color tint to it, as if it had been shot through a piece of lightly colored glass. So to avoid this, manufacturers equip camcorders with something called a white balance circuit -- an electronic color equalizer that isn't nearly as foolproof as the one between your ears.
Inside the camcorder, electronic components divide the light spectrum into three parts--either red, green and blue or cyan, yellow and magenta (see "The Eye of the Camcorder: Understanding the CCD" in the October 1998 issue of Videomaker for more information on this). By varying the relative strength of these signals, the camcorder can make subtle or dramatic shifts in the color. It can compensate for white light that leans toward the red side, light that leans toward the blue side or anything in between.
It turns out that making the corrections for not-so-white light is easy--figuring out exactly what those corrections should be is the tricky part. This is the area where white balance schemes differ, and it's also where they succeed or fail.
The simplest scheme, at least where operator input is concerned, is continuous automatic. Continuous auto looks at the light coming through the lens and tries to guess what sort of light is hitting the subject. As a rule, the auto setting does a remarkably good job of delivering accurate color. It can be fooled, however, by large areas of solid color, multiple light sources of different types and other devious lighting situations. When you can see colors shifting on the screen as you play back your tape, you know your auto white balance circuit was struggling.
A better way for your camcorder to sense the color of white light is to not do it at all. This is how preset white balance works. Before you start recording, you simply tell your camcorder what kind of light illuminates your subject--tungsten bulbs, daylight, fluorescent--and it does the work. If you're shooting outdoors, you set your camcorder's white balance to the sunlight or outdoor setting. Back in your living room, you select the indoor or tungsten preset. The camcorder has a stock correction it applies for each of the most common light sources, usually resulting in spot-on colors.
Even better is white balance hold, also called manual white balance. With this white balance scheme, you fill your camcorder's viewfinder with a white object bathed in the same light as your subject. You press the appropriate button (which depends on your camcorder) and the camcorder begins analyzing the light coming into the lens. If the light is reddish, for example, the camcorder will reduce the red signal until it achieves an equal color balance. The whole process takes just a few seconds and it delivers the most accurate color of any of the white balance methods.
Why is this method the best? Because it accounts for the specific lighting conditions you're shooting in (something a preset doesn't do), and it can't be fooled the way a continuous auto setting can be. A preset, for example, won't know that your tungsten bulb light source is even ruddier than usual because you turned it down slightly with a dimmer. Nor will it know that your subject is sitting in a mix of tungsten light and daylight from an outside window (which have dramatically different color temperatures).
Colorful Fun 
Sometimes, having your white balance set incorrectly can make for a desirable effect. The result is video with a definite color cast, which may enhance the mood you're after. Shoot indoors with an outdoor preset, for example, and your video will take on a warm, yellow/red tint. Shoot outdoors with an indoor preset, and you'll get a cold, bluish look to your video. Couple this look with too small an iris setting (to underexpose the video), and you can make the video you shot during the day look much like nighttime footage.
A manual white balance circuit gives you even more creative options. Set your white balance on a colored object, and your video will pick up the opposite tint. Set your white balance on a light blue piece of paper, for example, and the camcorder will make the video you shoot with that setting more red to compensate. Note that manual white balance settings will only swing the color so far and will fail to lock in if you set your white balance on a very saturated object.
In most shooting situations, though, you want your camcorder's white balance system to record the most accurate color possible. Which is after all, what it is designed to do.

DOF "Depth of Field" Shots

“depth of field” is the portion of an image that is in sharp focus. To illustrate: in landscape photography, generally you’re working to achieve a very large depth of field. You want EVERYTHING in the scene to be in sharp focus. With portraits, photographers are often shooting for (lame pun intended) a more shallow depth of field, focusing in on their subjects and working towards fall off or blur in the background. Why do you think this is the case? Clearly to draw focus to the story being told. Well what if you want to tell a different story OR what if you want to tell the same story in a different way? Today let’s talk about depth of field and some ways you can use foreground in a different way to draw a different kind of attention to the story you’re trying to tell. Here are 3 ways to create “story telling images” using foreground to achieve creative depth of field.

1. Framing with foreground:

I wanted to find the most straight forward illustration I could to get the point across clearly. This shot (left) is from a recent senior portrait session. I wanted to draw attention to the senior, particularly I wanted him to seem strong and capable: READY to take on the world.
The frame of the foliage around him draws attention right to him… it focuses the story of the image. I recognize that foreground used in this way can also be distracting, this image is borderline distracting, I recognize that. You need to be aware of that and be sure to make foreground work for you, not against you.
How to get a shot like this: well I was shooting with a 50mm lens. I got right up close to the foliage that separated Melvin and I. First I tried with auto focus, but because of my proximity to the leaves, I had to switch over and focus manually.

foreground-depth of field.jpg

2. Don’t be afraid to throw your subject out of focus:

When you’re doing portraiture, you’re generally trying to establish some kind of mood through imagery: happy, solemn, lovesick, sexy. . . Generally the mood is created through posing etc. For the next shots I let the foreground tell a few different kinds of love stories for me.
Back in March, I was shooting on Balboa Island in California. We were out on this dock shooting the typical, fun, happy, “we can’t wait to get married” stuff and I was getting bored. I had them take their shoes off and put their feet in the water. Better, but still pretty typical. So I waded out into the water, hitched my skirt up around my waist, nearly dropped my camera into the ocean, and created these. First I focused on the couple and threw the water out of focus. It’s a nice shot. It looks like they’re sitting on the dock watching the sun set. Nice. Then I focused on the water throwing my subject out of focus. A little sexier huh? Like, we’re sneaking up on some steamy make-out sesh. . . ha ha! But really, both images are good, while neither image is going up for any awards any time soon, they’re both good images. The second just speaks to you a little differently, tells their sexy love story a little more clearly.
Here’s another image where I decided NOT to focus on my subject, again to tell his story better. Back to Melvin’s senior session. Here he is walking into his future. I wanted to show where he was going, but also to illustrate that he’s on his way there because of where he’s been. . . I think this image is a powerful one that illustrates hope for the future and grounding in the past.
Don’t be afraid to throw your subject out of focus!

3. Same shot+different focus=different story:

This next series is a favorite of mine. Essentially the same shot, but different focus makes it tell a different tale. Both images were taken within seconds of each other. But they each tell a different person’s love story. First, the love of a father for his daughter and the second the love of a little girl for her daddy. Framed side by side. . . ahh. I get all warm and cozy just thinking about it.
Get out and your DOF shooting talents---Dance Media Aurora Newmarket

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Choose great portrait photography locations. Put your subject at ease, capture their personality, and guarantee stunning photos.

One of the most important aspects of portrait photography is picking a suitable location. Your choice will drive all other decisions about the shoot, including what lighting and props to take, which clothes the subject should wear, and the most suitable poses to use.
Shooting in a studio with a plain background is a popular choice, but it can be expensive, and these types of shots have been done a million times. You can usually get much more interesting, engaging pictures by using your imagination and choosing a more unusual portrait location.

Choose a Meaningful Place

It's easy to choose a portrait location based on convenience. For example, if you live near a leafy park, it's tempting to use that as your default shooting location. But while this may look attractive, it's not always the best option.
Two musicians on the street
Remember that every subject is a unique individual, with their own personality. This is what makes them so interesting, and it's something you should try to capture in every portrait you take. Choosing a suitable location is an important part of this.
Take the time to get to know your subject. Find out about their hobbies and favourite places and incorporate them into your photography. If they're an avid horse rider, shoot them at their stables; if they love to surf, go to their local beach.
By using a location that means something to your subject, you'll get much more personal, meaningful photos. As an added bonus, they're likely to feel more relaxed, helping you capture more natural-looking shots.

Use Natural Lighting

Most professional portrait photographers swear by natural lighting, and some refuse to shoot in anything else. If possible, choose a brightly lit location which offers plenty of diffused, natural light.
Woman in field
When shooting outdoors it's important to avoid the direct midday sun as this produces very harsh shadows. Look for some light shade such as an overhanging tree or covered seating area, where the sunlight is softer and more flattering. Alternatively, shoot in the morning or early evening when the sun isn't as strong.
If you're shooting indoors, try to position your subject near a large window so that you can make the most of any available natural light. Depending on your budget and the equipment you have available you can compliment this with some artificial lighting if necessary.

Set Up Near Shelter

If you choose an outdoor portrait location, there's always a chance that the weather will spoil the party. Sometimes you'll just have to take a chance and hope it stays dry, but try to have a backup in case the weather turns bad.
Woman behind glass with rain running down it
Look for a location which has some sort of shelter nearby, such as a bridge, bandstand, or cafe. These can be life-savers during a quick shower, helping you keep yourself, your equipment, and your subject dry - particularly important if they're paying!
If the weather gets really bad you may even be able to move your whole photoshoot under cover. With open-sided shelter you can often recompose to keep a natural background behind your subject, and as long as the lighting is good enough nobody will ever tell you weren't fully outdoors.

Choose Somewhere Quiet

Crowded places, like cities or busy public parks, are among the worst locations for a portrait shoot. You'll be constantly waiting for people to move out of frame and dealing with questions from passers-by, plus your subject will probably feel very self-conscious and struggle to relax.
Man standing on a beach
Finding a quiet, secluded location is not as difficult as it might seem. If you must shoot in a city, get off the beaten track - by moving just a few hundred yards away you can usually find a spot where you and your subject can set up undisturbed.
Better still, avoid cities altogether and head for remote beaches, grassy fields, and woodland. These all provide great backdrops to a portrait photo, and are often completely deserted, giving you free-reign to move around and experiment with different poses and angles.

Don't Let the Location Distract

A suitable location is crucial in portrait photography, but always remember that it's not the main subject, so don't let it overpower your scene. From time to time during your shoot, check the photos you've taken - if your eye is drawn more to the scenery than the subject, you're putting too much emphasis on the wrong thing.
Girl photographed against blurred background
A simple and effective technique is to open your lens's aperture up nice and wide. This puts the background out of focus, preventing it from being too distracting, creating a sense of depth in the scene, and drawing the viewer's eye to the main subject.
Choosing an effective portrait location takes time and thought, but it's something that you should always aim to get right. By doing so you'll be able to tell a story with your pictures, and capture the essence of your subject's personality, resulting in much more engaging, personal photos.

8 Ways to Shoot Video

Nothing brings out the camcorders or DSLR video shooters like the holidays, which is why this is the perfect time to admit an ugly truth: You suck at making home movies.P
No, really. I'm sure you're a nice person and all, but there's more to videography than just taking the camera out of the box and pressing Record.P
As with photography, good videography requires a bit of know-how. Luckily, I know how, so here's my list of ways you can improve your home movies. You won't come out Soderbergh on the other side, nor even Singer, but your Uncle-Henry-dropped-the-turkey-on-Aunt-Edna's-head submission to America's Funniest Home Videos will look a lot better.P
A good fisherman knows what's in his tackle box, and a good videographer knows his camera. The moment Junior takes his first steps or a spaceship lands in the backyard, you should be able to adjust the shutter speed, turn off the autofocus, or do whatever else is necessary to capture the best images. In other words, learn your camcorder inside and out. Read the manual—twice. Know how to access the menus, which menus contain which settings, and so on. Keep a crib sheet handy if necessary (laminate a 3x5 card, hole-punch it, and attach it to the neck strap). A little bit of study and preparation can go a long way toward helping you shoot better video. Now, onto the advice you might actually follow.P
2. Be preparedP
Anytime you go somewhere with your camcorder or dslr, here's what you should be packing:P
  • At least one spare battery, fully charged.P
  • At least two more blank tapes than you think you'll need.P
  • A lens-cleaning cloth. No matter how careful you are, the lens is going to get smudged. There's no post-production software filter in the world that can correct for that.P
  • A tripod. Throw it in the trunk, even if you don't think you'll need it.P
  • The battery charger/power supply.P
  • An extension cord for the power supply, which you'll invariably need.P
  • Duct tape, for taping down the extension cord so people don't trip over it.P
  • Lighting gear, lens filters, microphones, and any other accessories you own. You bought them for a reason, right? Bring 'em!P

3. Use a tripod
It's a lot harder than it looks to pull off that cool shaky-camera look. Most home video just ends up looking shaky, which is absolutely no fun to watch. By mounting your camcorder on a $20 tripod, you'll get rock-steady footage. At the same time, you'll free yourself to perform pans and zooms, or even to get in front of the lens. If you're planning to rely on your camera's digital image-stabilization feature, don't. All that does is lower the video resolution by cropping to the center of the frame. Optical image stabilization is better, but it still can't beat a tripod.P
No tripod? Lean against a wall. That'll help keep the shakiness to a minimum. No wall? Put your butt on the ground, bend your knees, and prop your elbows on them. Presto: instant tripod.P
4. Raise the lightsP
To paraphrase the old real estate maxim, good videography is all about lighting, lighting, lighting. Most of the camcorders I've reviewed over the years do a really crummy job under poor lighting, producing grainy, washed-out video that can't be improved in post-production. (Hey, there's only so much your video-editing software can do.) The easiest way to overcome lighting issues is to shoot outdoors, where even a cloudy day produces enough ambient light to keep your video crisp and colorful. If it's sunny, try to shoot in the morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky. When it's directly overhead, it casts unflattering shadows on subjects' faces.P
When shooting outdoors isn't an option, bring as much light into the room as you can. Turn on lamps and open blinds to let outside light in. If your camcorder has a built-in light, use it. At the very least, it will help bring out faces in close-up shots. A shoe-mounted external light can be helpful as well. Many camcorders allow you to adjust aperture, white balance, shutter speed, and other light-oriented settings, but these will get you only so far unless it's a really high-end model. My advice for when the lights are low is to disable the autofocus, otherwise you risk getting that annoying pulsing effect from the lens trying to lock onto a subject.P
5. Ace the audioP
If lighting is the most important element in quality video, audio runs a close second. Unfortunately, this is one area where it can be difficult to achieve professional results. The microphones built into most camcorders are fairly basic, recording audio from any direction. If you're trying to film someone talking near a busy street, the traffic may drown out the person's voice. Your best bet is to get your subject(s) as close to the microphone as possible (without sabotaging the shot, of course).P
Ideally, your camcorder should have a jack for plugging in an external microphone. There are many varieties to choose from, including: shotgun mikes for capturing audio directly in front of the lens; lavaliere (a.k.a. tie-clip) mikes for sit-down interviews and stand-up reporting; and pzm-type mikes, which are omni-directional and therefore suitable for auditoriums, large conference rooms, and the like. Hopefully, any camcorder outfitted with a microphone jack will also have one for headphones, which is essential for monitoring audio levels as you record.P
6. Set up your shotsP
Smart photographers obey the "rule of thirds," and you should do the same. Imagine a tic-tac-toe board over your viewfinder. The lines intersect in four spots. Your goal should be to frame the action using one or more of those spots. Or, to put it another way, keep the birthday girl out of the center square.P
Of course, if you're feeling creative, you can always throw this rule out the window. But don't go overboard: Many amateurs fall in love with their camcorders' built-in special effects, then later regret filming an entire birthday party in "old movie" mode. Although these effects can be fun, use them sparingly—or not at all. Better you should start with pristine color video, then apply special effects using your editing software. Likewise, skip the camcorder's auto-fade features; your editing software will give you far greater control over transitions, and greater variety as well.P
7. No digital zoom!P

8. Shoot B-roll
POptical zoom, good. Digital zoom, bad. Very bad. Sorry if you were suckered into buying a particular camcorder because it touted some astronomical digital-zoom number (240X! 300X! 800X!), you should never use it—unless you like grainy, pixilated video. Digital zoom is actually a big fake: As you increase the zoom level, the camcorder crops further and further into the center of the image, enlarging that cropped portion so it fills the screen. As a result, your video looks, well, awful. Stick with your camcorder's optical zoom (usually you can turn off digital zoom from within the camera's menu system), which relies solely on the lens for magnification. If you need to get closer to your subject, follow the old photographer's maxim: zoom with your feet.P
B-roll is secondary footage that you splice into your primary video to flesh out the story. For instance, if you're filming a wedding, you might take shots of the church, the invitation, and the little bride and groom atop the cake. When the time comes to assemble your final movie, you can mix in this footage to add variety.P
Anything can be B-roll. During the warm-up before the soccer game, for instance, get some footage of just the kids' feet. Grab a close-up shot of the ball hitting the net. Get there early and record the empty field; then record from the same position during the game and you can do a neat fade-in. This is where planning comes into play: You should not only allow extra time to shoot B-roll, but also determine in advance what shots will make the best additions.

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