Photography Backdrops And How To Select The Best One For You

You've studied all the different camera settings and by now you've learned all about the difference between shutter speed and f-stop. Thanks to your studies of lighting patterns, the difference between butterfly and split lighting is an obvious no brainer … Now, it's time to consider the backdrop.

In my experience, having over 6000 professional sessions under my belt, MOST people prefer to have a natural setting rather than a formal backdrop.

For example …

If you're shooting Indoors – possibilities may include placing your subjects on the floor around the fireplace, (always have a fire burning or it appears as nothing but a black hole in the final print), or they could be posed on and around their furniture in the living room, etc.

Outside portraits could be in their back yard, at the beach, a local park, etc. Anyplace that has meaning for THEM!

Most people just want a beautiful portrait that singles them out as individuals – rather than just another group posed in front of the same old pull down screen that everyone else uses.

Whenever possible, ALWAYS try for a location that has meaning for THEM …

However, if you must use a formal backup, here are a few suggestions …

First – buy a commercially available background stand to hold your backdrops. They do not cost much and for ease of use, stability, transportability etc. it's better than making your own.

For this discussion, I'm assuming you DO NOT own a professional portrait studio and are doing your sessions in your home (or your customer's home).

There are several types of backdrop materials:

Paper- Large rolls of paper come in most any color you can imagine. They can be purchased at many local camera stores and are relatively inexpensive.

Pros – They are readily available – are fairly inexpensive – come in most any color you can imagine. They can be used in a "sweep" so the model (s) can sit or stand on the paper and have it seamlessly up up behind them. Paper rolls come in two basic widths (around 4 feet and around 9 feet as I recall, I do not often use them).

Cons – The smaller size is not wide enough for much more than a head shot while the wider size is very heavy – difficult to transport – and most homes do not have enough "empty" space to sweep it without moving around the furniture. (People really do not like you redecorating for them!) The paper gets dirty, gets creased, tears and has to be constantly replaced. If there are animals in the session, the papery feel and crinkly sounds freak them out.

Painted Canvas – These can provide some truly stunning portraits. Many back suppliers create them and they can be ordered over the internet if you do not happen to be near a supplier.

Pros – Depending on the creator, they can be stunningly beautiful. There are thousands of colors and patterns available and if you have something unique in mind, you can have one created just for you, to match your exact specifications. They are very durable and will last years. They come in many sizes and can be used in a seamless sweep.

Cons – They are EXPENSIVE! EXPENSIVE! EXPENSIVE! Again, like paper, the wider ones are heavy, difficult work with and to transport. Like paper, size vs. living room furniture is a challenge.

Seamless paper and canvas backgrounds tend to be the province of professional studios – where they can be mounted on the walls and just folded down when needed.

They are really difficult to work with in the field.

I recommend that you go to the fabric store and get strips of material. As wide as is available and about 12 feet long. Getting some sort of material that either does not easily wrinkle, or where wrinkles will not matter is best.

Pros – Choose the type and colors you like, you can get any color, style and texture that suits your fancy. It can be hung bunched up (like theater curtains) behind the subject, or stretched flat if only one piece is needed. One piece can also be used as a seamless sweep.

You can use one piece or thirty – no matter how wide your back needs are, you can easily accommodate them.

It's easy to store and transport (just fold up the strips and put them in a box in the back seat of your car!) Material is very inexpensive compared to a painted canvas (which can run into the thousands of dollars) It's reusable so it works out to be cheaper than paper in the long run.

Use another piece of two for the flooring and since it's flexible, it can be flowed around furniture. Animals have no problem walking on it. (It's washable too!).

Cons – If you want multiple strips (and you do!), You may have difficulty finding enough of the same material. If you live near the garment district in a large city, they may have it. Otherwise you may have to have your local fabric store special order it for you.

These are the major background considerations and you should have no trouble finding the perfect backdrops for YOUR creative vision!

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Hip Hop Culture and the Rise of Bling

Hip Hop culture has added a variety of terms, fashion trends, music styles and even personalities to the culture at large. Nothing has captured public interest more than “Bling.” The late 1990′s first saw “Bing” come into the general vocabulary. Bling, originally used in several different rap songs of the time, was coined to describe elaborate jewelry and personal accessories that show that the wearer has taste, talent, and lots of cash.

Hip Hop culture has had a tremendous impact on fashion in general, well beyond the world of Hip Hop. Much of what is “cool” today originally derived from the world of Hip Hop. Jewelry has been particularly impacted by Hip Hop.

Bling is now more commonly used to refer specifically to flashy types of jewelry, including earrings, necklaces, watches, body jewelry, rings and grillz (braces and caps for the teeth). Of course it can also include other accessories such as cell phones or even jeweled glasses or purses. Bling is commonly associated with diamonds and other precious gems, and precious metal such as gold and platinum. This term has become so universally accepted it was actually added to Webster’s Dictionary in 2002.

Hip Hop has made ornate jewelry as prevalent for men as for women. The popularity of Hip Hop culture and bling has drawn a lot more attention to larger pieces of jewelry that are selected to become the center of focus, not to just add to the overall outfit. Hip Hop artists can be seen on music videos sporting huge link chains in gold and platinum with large diamond and gem-encrusted pendants. The designs are specifically designed for men, with heavier weight and larger scale.

Bling is big, bling is flashy, and bling is meant to impress. It is meant to symbolize success. The use of various symbols including dollar signs, ornate crosses and other religious symbols, gambling symbols, and even different breeds of dogs and animals are all popular within the Hip Hop jewelry world.

Bracelets and necklaces tend to be very large link or dog collar-type chains, however solid bracelets are also very popular for both men and women. Rings tend to be chunky, wide, and feature multiple small diamond chips or several larger diamonds, either real diamonds or cubic zirconia, depending on your budget, in elaborate patterns and designs. There is a general sense of more is better with regards to wearing Bling. Rarely will you find any piece being worn alone. More typically, pieces are worn in multiples.

Jewelry designers outside the Hip Hop world have integrated the concepts of large, heavy, and flashy elements into their own jewelry lines. Over the last ten years jewelry styles have definitely been impacted by the Bling style, becoming larger, bulkier, and more ornate. You can now find Bling-style jewelry everywhere from fine jewelry designers to department stores. Available Bling jewelry ranges from the high-end, in gold and platinum with genuine gem,s to the more affordable, in sterling silver with simulated gems. Today, everyone can sport a little Bling.

The Art Of Flattery – Using Flattery To Become More Attractive

Many people completely hate the word "flattery" and to even say there is an art to this makes them shudder with total disgust.

In a culture where everything is either right or wrong with very little room for the "grays" in between, I can understand why the word "flattery" rubs people the wrong way. I can also understand why many are sickened to the stomach because flattery is often associated with compromising one's values ​​and integrity.

But is flattery always a bad thing? And does flattery always have to be insincere? Does flattery make you more attractive and should you use the art of flattery on the men / women you find attractive?

Personally I find that mild flattery does often move things along more pleasantly than outright candidness. While excessive insincere praises intended to put the other person into the position of owed something to the flatterer is cheap and cheesy (and often reveals emotionally "needy" personality out for approval), a little flattery does help to quickly warm up first meetings or bridge relationship gaps.

For example starting off your conversation with a statement like "You look gorgeous" is certainly better than starting with "You forgot to put on your make-up today". By offering positive reinforcement, you are not only making the person feel good about herself but you are taking the small extra effort to actually show the person that you care about how she feels. She may come back with "I do not have my make-up on" to which you can respond with "You still look good". But when you say "I could not even tell you did not have make-up on" or "You look like you have make-up on", you've crossed over to the excess insincere praise.

In terms of bridging relationship gaps, a little flattery goes a long, long way. Say you are the "hottest" woman in your workplace or even at a party, taking the time to shake hands with the office boy or cleaner, or saying "hi" to the "geeky-looking" guy standing all by himself not only makes their day (they will be talking about it for days) but moves them away from feeling like a "nobody" in the eyes of society to "somebody" to those present (and to himself). Just by a simple gesture you show the person that you care about how they feel. Did I mention you'll be ever so "hotter!"

Having said that, I do not advocate using flattery to manipulate another's self-doubt or use their feelings of inferiority against them. Using flattery for personal gain has its own "come back to bite your ass" consequences. You can not get round using flattery to always get what you want without starting to feel empty, phony, lonely and depressed. You can never genuinely and deeply connect with others if you are manipulating their feelings.

Also keep in mind that flattery works for about 95 percent of people. Recognizing situations where flattery is appropriate is the secret of the art of flattery!

Are You Thinking About Investing Internally In Stocks?

One of the big challenges an investor faces on a daily basis is market risk.

Working hard to satisfy your investment goals while at the same time limiting your risk and exposure to volatility takes a solid strategy, reliable information, and a patience like no other.

Sure, we've all heard stories of the home run hiring investor who laid his money down and made a "killing" in a stock.

These are the kinds of tales that grab the headlines and attract the interest of the "fast buck players."

"Steady as she goes" would be a more realistic view of how to invest. It is difficult to just wait for an investment to climb in value, but without patience and the fortitude to keep a long-term mindset, you're probably going to miss out on a solid move.

Using what could be called a butterfly approach and jumping from one hot stock tip to another can be the riskiest investment play of all.

Being patient is not enough though. If what you are investing in is oozing with risk, patience may not be the key to success. You devote your patience to solid investments and those with limited risk.

If you are an investor or contemplating investing in the various financial markets and instruments available, you must get into the flow of information.

Catching a thirty second or two minute report stating a company making an innovative new product that is going to revolutionize the industry should not be considered a call to action.

If you do not understand what you're being told to invest in … do not invest. Not having an understanding of what your money is invested in is comparable to sitting down at a high-stakes poker game without understanding the marks on the cards.

If you do not have basic investment knowledge to guide your decisions, your chances of making the right choices are limited.

It's simple; have a basic knowledge of how the markets work; have an understanding of what it is that you are interested in investing your money in; and most importantly, understand the upside and downside scenarios, in other words, what are the risks and more specifically the risk of losing your entire investment.

If you feel that the risk of putting all your investment dollars in the stock markets in the US is too great, perhaps diversifying into stocks from other countries is worth examining.

The mindset for many is that if the stock markets at home are suffering, there may be markets abroad that offer opportunity, because bad economic news on one front may be great news in another part of the world.

A quick example of such news would be the trade figures. If the US is witnessing a rise in imports month after month, you have to ask yourself; where are we importing from and what are we importing?

This could have the clue to invest in a company that consistently exports to the United States and the amount of its exports (in dollars) keeps rising.

On a more basic level; If a football team is having a terrible season, there is probably a team that is having a great season.

Think of it as; when two teams compete someone wins and in world economies, someone's bad economic news typically translates to someone else's fortune.

When you read a headline or story about some bad economic figures … ask yourself, "Who is on the other side of this?"

Who did well that directed in the US doing poorly? If the US did great, who suffered? Is this a trend? Is the company or industry showing real value in their stock price now?

Could this be just a fluke and there's a buying opportunity?

It pays to look past the headline and the story and into what made the story. Everybody hears news, but going the extra step and finding out what caused the news will give you better market insight.

If you think that you want to diversify in the international markets, you have to take into consideration what you stand to gain versus what you could possibly lose.

Currency fluctuation can boost a return on an investment. If the currency of a country you invest in increases against the dollar, when it comes time to sell, you'll get more dollars.

However, that can also work against you; the dollar increases against the currency of the country of the company you have invested in … and you'll get back fewer dollars.

Obviously, you want your stock to rise and a sweetener is getting a dividend (if it pays one) in the meanime. Keep in mind, markets rise and fall and companies announce separation suspensions, eliminations, or reductions.

This can happen in any of the world markets, not just at home.

Before you get too excited about international investment, you should understand that the US is not the only country where interest rates rise and fall.

The currency issue I mentioned, but worth mentioning again, currency fluctuations can hurt you.

In the US, you are fortunately because companies that list on the exchanges have to reveal a lot of information about themselves before they can be listed.

The rules are not the same all over the world, so investigate on your own, rather than trusting only what is offered to the public.

This would be of particular interest when it comes to the accounting methods of the companies and how they compute corporate and individual investor taxes.

Committing a portion of your investment dollars can be exciting and rewarding, but if you are not a savvy investor with a deep understanding of world markets, currency exchanges, tax laws, accounting, and company reporting practices, your personal investment risk will be very high .

I always suggest seeking professional advice when making any investment, be it; financial instruments, real estate, precious metals, or any of the other opportunities offered.

Take note, if you want to invest internationally there are alternatives to going directly to a foreign market and opening an account.

You may wish to investigate the various international mutual fund offerings, foreign companies that list directly on the US exchanges, or those that are offered through what are called American Depository Receipts.

The foreign markets always look inviting when our markets at home are showing some volatility, but with so many sectors in the US markets to choose from, it's not always smart to jump the fence into the yard with the grass that looks greener.

The more knowledgeable you are about investing, the better investor you will become. Multiple resources will provide varied opinions.

What one analyst loves, another analyst may dislike. Do your own research and do a lot of it, before jumping into the stock market because someone told you it's the thing to do.

"There are only two ways that you make money; you work and your money works … make your money sweat." -Lazz Laszlo