Monday, October 15, 2007

Collage and the American Hero

It turns out that I have an American Hero and a heck of a great guy living across the street from me, and since I was asked to shoot a Veteran's Day cover for a local magazine, I decided that John Mogan would be the perfect candidate. He came over and we did a photo shoot with very hard light, which I always use on people that have great faces...People who don't have very even features and high cheekbones and widely spaced eyes aren't candidates for hard light, but hard lighting on people who do have great faces really brings out their best features. John has really blue eyes, so I shot him from above to let his eyes get really wide. I painted in even more blue and took the edge off his suit with a blending brush, and he looked great, but something was still missing. My art director, Jonathan, said that I could do what I wanted, so I asked John if I could borrow some of his scrapbooks. He had pictures from when he was young, letters from his relatives about how awesome he is, tons of war shots and a framed shadowbox his awards and medals and his Colonel's bars, which was really cool. I brought about 64 pictures and leters into Photoshop, because I was so entranced by the story of John's life, but then I realized that this had to fit on an 8 1/2 x11 sheet of paper with cover writing on it, so after a lot of angsting, I pared down to things that I couldn't live without, that I felt showed the life of a hero. There was one particularly touching letter from a cousin, Margaret, I believe, whose letter said "I always knew that John was my mother's favorite, but it was all right, becaue he was everyone's " I don't know why, but I had to keep it, because it just spoke legions about the kind of guy that would spend 30 years defending his country and remembering stories about every soldier that had been lost during his duty. I took the blue from John's eyes and made that the background, then I layered the shadowbox of medals on top and took them down to about 25% opacity. Then I took every medal and bar, and placed them individually so that they could make triangles, which I'll talk about later. John didn't feel right about wearing his uniform for the shot, and I felt that it needed a little more that said "Veteran's Day". I remembered a picture of a flag that I had taken in Telluride last July 4th, (photograph everything!) and painted it with a blending tool to make it look like it was blowing in the wind. I lowered the opacity to 33%, and then I basically moved all of the other shots around until I felt good about them. I know all about the rules of photography and line, and anyone can learn them, rule of thirds, s curve, there's a million of them, and I can talk about them another time if you want me to, but I have always felt that FEEL is more important then rules. I adjusted opacity from 5% to 79%, and adjusted sizes with the opacity to show what I felt should feel more important to Veteran's day. The rule of triangles is a huge one for me, I adore triangles, they're what keep the viewer's eyes bouncing around the picture, and so keep viewers viewing longer, so I tried to make sure that there were a lot of them color wise and shape wise. If it's hard for you to see, look at the letter in the middle left and the red stripe to the upper right of his eyes. They both lead to his eyes, as do the red stripe on out left of his face, the red medal to the right of his face, and his face under the soldiers hat on the bottom right. The idea is to never let a line lead the viewer out of the picture, and I can not say enough about this rule. It totally rocks. There are at least 20 more triangles in the shot. Drop me a line if you need help seeing them.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Makes Ya Want to have Another

Meet Baby Noah, whose parents drove TWO hours to come to have this tiny ANGEL photographed. Ooh, I just love all of his little folds and his sweet little arm reaching out like that! He just embodies the most cuddly little sweet baby EVER. I wish my dried out little skinny girls looked like this when they were babies. I just want to SQUEEZE him, and that's what I wanted to try to show when I took this photo. An interesting thing about babies...when you turn them on their sides, they always scrunch up their legs. Ooh, trade secret. I have to admit, until people know me, I know I seem like a total freak. I mean, I have my daughter Zoe's mo-ped pillow and body pillow under there, and we're in my living room shooting using window light...I hate using flash on babies...I think it hurts their eyes, and I'm telling them to put their precious angel in all of these awkward's a good thing I get results, I tell ya. I have always been one of those people where if you give me fishing wire and an eyelash curler, I can take on the world, but all of my "official stuff" stays buried in the garage. I mean, I had a 4000 square foot studio in North Dakota, 50 lights, backgrounds to die for sitting in my garage, and I'm using wall, floors and window light ? I don't get it. But with the painting, I thingk having set looks stifles creativity to make it the way I want it. Anyway, he was an absolute joy to shoot, and I feel totally honored that those guys came all the way up just to hang out with me.

Help Me Help Team Wish!

So, my friend across the street, Dyanne, is doing the three day walk for Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research, and I am helping her by accepting donations of $100 and up made out to Team W.I.S.H. I will take peoples photographs, (and pets, too!) and you will get a photo session and painted 8x10, which is a $500 gift for giving $100 to Team W.I.S.H! That's a pretty great deal, I think, and for a GREAT cause. Check out the press release below...and then give me a call!
October 3, 2007
Award Winning photographer Barbara Stitzer wants to Make a Difference in the Fight Against Breast Cancer
Anthem, AZ October 1, 2007: Award winning photographer Barbara Stitzer wants to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer by offering Anthem based Team W.I.S.H.(Walking In Spirit and Hope), four time participant in the Arizona Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk, a unique photo fundraising opportunity. Stitzer is committed to aid in the Team’s effort to raise funds in their pledge to finding a cure for this deadly disease. Stitzer and Team W.IS.H.’s partnership is designed to benefit the community at large and will serve as a way to allow individuals to make tax-deductible contributions to Team W.I.S.H. for which they will receive a memorable reminder of their generosity. As her thank you for donating $100.00 or more to Team W.I.S.H.
and supporting this wonderful cause, Stitzer will photograph an individual, family, or a pet and turn it into a one of a kind 8 X 10 digital painting (a $500.00 value) and give it to the donator. For those securing their bookings with a donation to Team W.I.S.H. by November 30, 2007 can take up to six months to have their photo taken.

Barbara’s 25 twenty-five-year career includes modeling, acting, writing, editing, photography, and most recently as speaker for Millers Professional Imaging lab. Stitzer, part of a Pulitzer Prize winning team for disaster coverage at the Los Angeles Times, has won over 400 local, regional and national Addy awards for excellence in advertising photography, and won the 2002-2003 YWCA’s Woman of Distinction award for excellence in her field. In addition to claiming the grand prize in more than 100 photo contests, in 2006, Stitzer was the First Place Winner of Digital Imagemaker’s prestigious Painter IX Award.

For the last four years, Team W.I.S.H. has participated in the Arizona 3-Day 60 Mile Breast Cancer Walk, which is for women and men who want to make a personal difference in the fight against breast cancer. During that time, with the support and donations of family members, neighbors, friends, and local businesses, Team W.I.S.H. Arizona has raised over $550,000.00 for breast cancer awareness, education, and research.

Nancy G. Brinker pledged to her sister, Susan G. Komen, dying from breast cancer, that she would commit herself to finding a cure for this lethal disease. In 1982, Brinker’s promise was realized in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, by launching a global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen for the Cure is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all, and energize science to find a cure. Because of events such as the Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk and the Komen Race for The Cure, the organization has invested nearly $1 billion in its endeavor to eradicate breast cancer, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to fighting this fatal disease.

Approximately 200,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and nearly 40,000 will die from the disease. According to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, every 3 minutes a new case of breast cancer is diagnosed, and surprisingly, of those diagnosed more than 1,500 will be men and 400 will die. One woman will die every 13 minutes. One in seven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. As members of Team W.I.S.H., we walk in spirit and hope because we cannot walk away!

With the Christmas season rapidly approaching, Barbara’s offer provides a unique gift-giving opportunity. Imagine donating $100.00 in the name of each family so they can create a life-long memory by having a family photo taken. In addition, each donation is one step closer to saving a life.

Any one wishing to make a team donation should mail their check made payable to Team W.I.S.H to 3434 W. Anthem Way, PMB #232, Anthem, Arizona, 85086, Attention: DRM account.

For further information, contact Barbara Stitzer Photography at 623.455.9444, e-mail: or visit
~ END ~

Monday, September 3, 2007

Never Let a Photographer do This to You

I know that it sounds silly to bring it up, but skill, talent and experience really are key when it comes to having your pictures taken. Every single person, no matter how disappointed you might have been in your past with the photos that you have had taken of you, has at least one spot on your face, or one "sweet spot", as I like to call it, where you really look great. Lucky people have many, and model types seem to never take a bad picture. It's all in the angle. Consider these shots of one of my very favorite clients, who came to me wanting headshots for a play she wanted to try out for. This is a very beautiful girl, inside and out, but look what happens if I'm lower than her: This is the first shot that we took, so she's feeling a little weird, and for purposes of this article, I purposely got lower than she. This girl is a size zero, and I am here to tell you (and you can see from the next shot), that she doesn't have even the faintest semblance of a double chin, but from underneath, everyone looks like they have a double chin. Don't let anyone shoot from underneath you...EVER! That's just as given as don't stand straight to the camera, don't say "cheese", don't talk while your pictures are being have control over your pictures, and you have to make sure that your photographer sees your sweet spots: Look what happens if I have her bend, tilt, and put some beautiful light on her, in the jeans jacket and yellow shirt: and now as I find another sweet spot as I
shoot down a little on her: There are a couple of other weird tricks that
shooting from beneath... Beautiful light...Always a Yes! Sweet! Fabulous light and a
A BIG NO NO! Shoot late afternoon or early Great angle make this shot
morning if shooting outdoors a winner.
ask to see a test shot to check
the shadows.
photographers try that I totally don't get, like not knowing their light, casting funny shadows, shooting with a really wide (short) lens ( makes your nose look big and your body look wide) and letting you keep your body straight toward the camera, so that every single bulge shows and looks bigger.I think that the biggest sin, though, is working the model so much and so long that they just suck the life out of them. I am so weird when I shoot, I tell big fish stories to make people laugh, I yell and jump around a lot, I ask my models to do outrageous things, just to see what they'll do. And more than anything else, I SHOOT. Heavily. After the fakey smile, after the stock pose, when you let down your guard and have a real moment. It's what makes my pictures win awards...that, and I am lucky enough to have amazingly fabulous clients come to me.

Monday, August 13, 2007

How to Look Fabulous in Pictures

Do you hate the way you look in pictures? Well this series is for you. I'm going to tell you how to look fabulous in pictures, and I'll also provide you with a little bit of insight as to why you like the pictures that you like.

Everyone knows that in order to look great in photos, you just have to be yourself and say Mozzarella, right? Wrong. In fact, as a former model, I'm here to tell you that I've been in your shoes and they hurt. A lot.

Go look at yourself in the mirror. Go on, go. I'll wait. As you're looking at yourselves in the mirror, look in your own eyes without moving your face. Is your head straight or turned? I'll bet that your head is at an angle. Most of the time, when we look in the mirror, we look from the side, with one eye or the other forward. We are making a triangle for ourselves, so that we look more interesting to ourselves.

In pictures, as in life, any part of you that makes a horizontal line looks less interesting, even something as small as your head being straight up, causing your eyes to lead the viewer straight across the page and off, enables the viewer to turn the page, which leads me to the most important part of a photograph: The Triangle.

In order to look great in a picture, in addition to the right clothes, makeup, lighting, framing, and body positioning, all of which I'll talk about at another time, it's a good idea to make as many triangles as possible. Check out this shot, which has pretty much won every award in the civilized world: It's a nice shot, at the height of
the action, I think it was my first assignment for the LA Times, and I just turned around and it was there, so I shot it, and my mentor, the incomparable Rick Corrales, looked at me and said, "Oh my gosh, you just took a great shot!" Well that was in the days before digital, so I couldn't believe that he would know that, but he was right, and I didn't know why, so he drew me a picture:

Tons of triangles. They lead your eye around and around and simply don't allow your eye to leave the picture. How does this apply to you? Tilt, bend, twist, cross, dip, pretty much anything that keeps you from being in a straight line. Consider a picture of my beautiful friend JB,
Now this shot is, of course, before makeup... Even if you are "nature girl," do not allow yourselves to be photographed without makeup, preferably a professional makeup artist, as regular "day makeup" doesn't transfer to makeup for photography. JB is posing like most people do, face straight forward, shoulders straight, a kind of half smile because having your picture taken makes you uncomfortable. Now here's a shot after makeup and making triangles with her head and shoulders:
She turned her shoulders to the side, and dipped her head to the side, and as an extra, added bonus, there's a twinkle in her eyes and a kind of Mona Lisa smile on her face that shows the viewer that she knows exactly how hot she is. Even her neckline and collar form little triangles that point back to her face, so if your eye accidentally slips off of her face, the neckline and collar point you right back into the action. Even taking it farther, if you add an elbow to make the triangle that keeps swirling around and around, encircling her face, and a super confident smile, make it into a painting:
Her eyes are at different levels, and the tilt from our left to right angles up to her shoulder, her back is making a triangle with her shoulder, the couch that she's leaning on is a triangle, which moves around to her arm, forming a triangle with her elbow, shoulder and face that's hard to leave. And she loved the shot! Of Course!

Monday, August 6, 2007

How to Make Something That Looks Great in Person Look Great When You take the Picture

My photo project today involved making a collage. Diving is a beautiful sport, but it's sooooooo hard to make a diving picture look good. I adore taking ordinary things and making them look cool, so I thought that this would be a good project. My daughter, Zoe dives, and her diving teacher is absolutely amazing, and we wanted to give him an end of summer gift for being so great, so I photographed him diving. Gosh darn it, it was super early in the morning, but the light still looks hideous, and there are distracting elements to say the least...ALL OVER! So I slowed down the shutter speed to show the motion, which I part of his arm is in focus, or not moving, there are some amazing strings of water splash from the bounce of the board and some killer sunspots, but no face on the guy, and the ugly brown building, those fabulous orange cones really don't work at all, so I decided to try to make something special out of it. I added two more shots, one of him diving, one of him getting out of the pool, because, after all, he is a good looking guy and also, there was some cool water pouring from his shoulders that I really liked. I saturated them a lot to be able to see them better, and softened the background to a kind of blurry neutral. I would have just made sky but I wanted to keep a sense of place for him, because he might be leaving and I thought it would be nice for him to remember the Anthem Community Center. I kept the people in the background to show him that he has fans, but for another design element: triangles. Yes, the omnipotent triangle. There are lots of reasons that people like pictures, but the triangle and rule of thirds are probably the most prevalent. They literally force your eye to bounce around the picture, keeping you on the photo for longer than normal. I use triangles a LOT, and I win awards a lot, so I'm guessing that they work. The people and the in-focus elbow of the blur shot make a little triangle that spreads out to Jeff's face. He's looking up and to our left, right at his left hand of the top picture. That hand makes a perfect triangle with his other hand and head, pointing to the next shot, which points with his head and hands to the blur, and the in-focus elbow, which leads to the close-up shot in the lower middle again. Even if you fall out of all of those triangles, the diving board, the line of flags, the roof on the top left and the roof at the right are all there to shove you back in to the main picture. So what if all of those triangles just pass you by and you're ready to turn the page? You may have noticed that I removed the orange cones from above the water, but there is still a red reflection. I changed the hue of the orange reflection to the same as his swim trunks, and formed a myriad of color triangles with the reflection, the blur, the other two diving shots, and his skin tone in the closeup so that you'll never, ever want to leave the shot. But I exaggerate. A lot.

The sun was too high in the sky and I was on the wrong side of my subject to get any good sky color, so I tried silhouetting Jeff:

It wasn't a perfectly black silhouette...remember, I can make miracles happen with an eyelash curler, fishing wire and a sheet of aluminum foil, but as far as solid, tried and true "there's only one way to do this" technique, I'm totally allergic. Anyway, I played around and came up with this: I kind of like it, what do you think?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Barbara Stitzer Photography First Blog

So, Hi, here, I am, Barbara Stitzer, technophobe, starting my first blog. I have owned Barbara Stitzer Photography for 14 years. I live in Anthem, Arizona, which is near Phoenix and Scottsdale, with my husband and two children, Zoe and TT. My husband took that picture of us over there. He was so proud that it came out that I put it up, but that will be the only photo on my site and blog that isn't mine. The things you do for love.

I have to tell you that, despite having won more than 400 local, regional, and national awards, including a piece of the Pulitzer Prize, I don't have any photography training, with the exception of Marilyn Sholin, Painter Goddess, who taught me everything I know about painting. I am too mortified about looking like a dork to ask for help, so I have learned everything through good, old fashioned trial and error, and I have always maintained that if you give me an eyelash curler, fishing wire and a piece of aluminum foil, I can pretty much take on any photo assignment, because I have done it and the first one that I used those tools for ended up in Vogue, so I guess I know what I'm talking about in a very non-knowing what I'm talking about kind of way. Good God, I'm articulate.

I do commercial photography of all kinds, from fashion to lifestlye, advertising and products to food. I love shooting models and senior pictures/graduation pictures, because teens are just so totally cool and have a unique way of looking at life.

Anyway, I'm going to be talking about what I do, how I do it, how you can learn to take better pictures, how to have a successful photo shoot, and more, and I'll have links to examples of what I'm working on, what works and what doesn't if you would like to see them. .. Here's a bunch for you to get started. See you soon!