The Artist’s Responsibility

I wanted to offer an encouragement to all of you artists out there who may be thinking to yourself, “Is any of this worth it?” Because that’s a thought that I struggle with constantly.

As humans, we were created in order to create. When God told Adam and Eve in the garden that He expected them to fill the earth and subdue it, I believe that one implication from that command was that God expected us to become mini-creators after His image. There’s a reason why He endowed certain individuals with specific skills in specific enterprises. God could have made a simple, utilitarian world that just worked, but He didn’t. He created a world with sights, sounds, smells, beautiful colors, breathtaking vistas, etc.

Because God is a God of beauty. It’s His very nature.

As artists, we have the unique opportunity to reflect God’s nature by taking a piece of His creation – for me, it would be my camera and my “photographer’s eye” (if that’s a thing) – and beautifying it. Turning it into something unique. As a photographer, I want to create beautiful things.

If you’re like me, and you have that drive to create things that cause people to stop and ponder, then get out there today and do it.

And do it well.

A Seminarian Tries Storytelling

You may not know this about me, but I really enjoy writing. I can sit at the dining-room table, a pour-over coffee steaming in front of me, with a notebook open and a fountain pen in hand, allowing my thoughts to flow onto the page. I use these times as opportunities to work on my penmanship, I try to become better at providing evidence for arguments and proving any theories that I may hold, and sometimes I just use it as a way to work through my thoughts. Some will say that my cursive is atrocious – I will not try to argue the point that it isn’t – but that’s okay, because usually these writings are just for me. People don’t have to try to distinguish between my  lowercase “n” and “r,” because I can tell them apart just fine. (As an aside, it’s when I accidentally dot the wrong letters in my haste that I have trouble reading my own handwriting). I really like sitting down and writing.

As a seminary graduate and a current PhD student, I’m used to writing papers. I have had to write about some difficult subjects, including the reality of death. I have had to write arguments against theologians that I really admire and feel that I have no place writing. I have had to review some dry books that I cannot believe a loving author would ever dare to place upon his readers. I have spent countless hours in libraries, reading random pages in encyclopedias and searching for words in dictionaries that I have never seen before. I have written sermons, trying my best to do justice to the most important set of words in the history of man: the Bible. The vast majority of my “literary” experience has been in the realm of theological writing – and mostly because I’ve had to for classes and seminars.

Writing theologically is fabulous. It has proved extremely rewarding, and I believe that the Lord has used it to hone my writing skills. If you spend your college years at Boyce College and then a few more at Southern Seminary, it simply is not an option to come out of either of those places a worse writer than when you entered. Their emphasis on paper formatting and sculpting arguments are such that even those who struggle at writing have the tools necessary to become worlds better at it. And it is extremely rewarding, besides. There is nothing quite like reading the writings of Paul, thinking them through, and then writing about what the implications are for the everyday Christian. And there is certainly nothing like studying through the Gospels and then systematically painting a portrait of the risen Christ. Theological writing has as its subject the Highest and the Greatest that man could ever attempt.

While I really love theological writing, there was something intriguing about trying my hand at writing some fiction. The other day, I told myself, “Self, why don’t you try your hand at writing a short story or two?” Because I was laying in bed and my computer was downstairs, I decided to use the Notes app on my iPhone 6+ to work through an idea for a story that could be read in a matter of minutes. In trying to figure out what I wanted to write about, I landed on a subject with which I have a long history and for which I have a particular interest. I devised a small set of characters that I really liked, and I picked my favorite and tried to get to know him in my imagination as I wrote about him. I just wrote without having a specific plot in mind, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing where the story itself wanted to go. In writing fiction, I have discovered the joy of creation.

In writing fiction, I found that I could create whatever I wanted. I created a small town in the wild West of America’s yesteryears. I created characters, and I enjoyed watching the plot grow as I wrote. I consulted my inner Louis L’Amour, tried to think like Zane Grey, and asked myself, “What would Ben Cartwright or Matt Dillon do about this?” I had a lot of fun creating, and I wanted to share with you what I created!

Yep. I wrote a short story based in the wild West. It is short, and it can be read in one sitting. And for the first time in my life, I published something on the Amazon Kindle Store. I had no cover for the book, so the cover is blank. As of this writing, it has been downloaded twelve times, including by two readers in England. It only has one review, but it’s a five-star one! If you would like to, I would love your read and your support. Even if you have never read a Western in your life, that’s okay. It IS different than your typical Western. It certainly isn’t L’Amour, but, man, I tried.

From now until January 4th, it is under a promotional giveaway period and can be downloaded for free. After that, it will be available for $2.99. If you would like to get your copy, you can get it here: https://www.amazon.com/Cruel-Justice-Timothy-Marsee-ebook/dp/B01MZ4R8LK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483319453&sr=8-1&keywords=timothy+marsee. I would love your read and your opinion! Feel free to let me know what you think here in the comments and on Amazon.

Thanks for reading and putting up with my tendency toward whim.

What Is It About Eyes?

I love shooting portraits. I love all forms of photography, including landscapes, still life, etc., but there is something about photographing people that I love.

I’m not sure I can provide an answer for you as to why. I just really like it.

I love the way light plays in people’s eyes. If you light your subject just right, you can get an incredibly glistening gleam in their eyes that you cannot help but be moved by. There is something about the eyes that are beautiful, that reveal something that seems to be hidden in there.

I don’t believe that thinkers of the past were wrong when they made claims about being able to see into people’s souls through their eyes. Although I can’t, again, give reasons for it, there is definitely something meaningful there. Ask the young couple who simply can’t help but stare into each others’ eyes. We all know it’s true.

So I pose the question to you, the reader: What is it about eyes? Let’s have this discussion in the comments. I want to know what you think?

Little Cowboy!

Whenever you have a client who tells you that their little one is really into cowboys and horses, you do a little jump for a joy inside! When Anna and Joel arrived for Anna’s maternity session, we had to do a little set of Joel (the little one!) with his rocking-horse! These are two of my favorites.

I placed Joel just inside the shadow from the barn to the right in order to get as much as I possibly could from the sun while still keeping the background and subject as evenly lit as possible. With a shot like this, the trouble is making sure you have enough light on the face while still trying to minimize the highlights in the background — in this case, the columns winding their way behind him. I had to do some Photoshop and Lightroom work in order to make sure that I didn’t lose any detail in those columns. You may not be able to tell, but I had to do some Selective Leveling, for sure! The image straight out of my camera had those columns all hot and bothered!

Something else that I did was add a couple different tones into the Shadows. If you look at that column in the extreme right of the shot that’s engulfed in shadow, you can see what I mean: there are definitely blues added in there, and that was to cool down the shot. The grass was EXTREMELY green once I uploaded this into Photoshop, so I toned down the highlights in the greens as well as added in some cyan into the shadows of the greens, so that they wouldn’t pop quite so much.

All in all, I’m very pleased with this one! The other side of the barn was COMPLETELY shaded, so from a technical perspective, that would have been the most logical place to shoot. But I REALLY wanted those rustic columns that you see in this shot. So I sacrificed a little bit, knowing I was going to have to do a little more editing on it, and I’m really pleased with the result.

Let me know what you think in the comments!
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First Editing Video

Facebook Live has taken the world by storm (or so it seems), and the possibilities of what can be accomplished with it are undoubtedly still in the freshest stages. Such an awesome new medium tends to get us all excited and bouncy about what it can do — sort of like the latest gadget.

In the spirit of Facebook Live’s ingenuity, I created a [very not-ingenuous] video of my photo-editing process in which I put on full display exactly how I edit a typical portrait. Below is the finished image from that editing video._MG_9705 copy
If you would like to check out the video in full, you can take a peek at it here: http://facebook.com/timothymarseephotography. Make sure you like my Facebook page as well as click the “Turn On Notifications” button so that you can keep up-to-date with my goings-on!

Happy shooting (and editing)!

I LOVE Returning Clients!

I absolutely LOVE it when I get clients coming back over and over again. It gives a sort of confirmation that what I’m doing is pretty ok! Why would someone come back to a photographer that they didn’t like?

Unless they were the only one available, and in our iPhone-inundated world, we know THAT’S not the case!

So, thank you, Heather, for continuing to allow me to create and capture memories of your baby girl! She’s amazing, and I’m humbled that you continue to trust me to work with your family 🙂

I hope that we get to work together far, far into the future!

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Mommy + Me Mini Sessions

Mother’s Day is upon us once again! Before you frantically run out to buy some roses — notice I said “after,” not “don’t buy her roses;” by all means, buy her roses — consider booking her a Mommy + Me Mini Session!

She gets 30 minutes of shooting time with her little one and five fully edited high-resolution image downloads, all for $100!

To take advantage of this offer, visit http://timmyphoto.com/bookme, and in the “How did you hear about us?” dialog box, type the code MOMMYANDME. And while you’re there, check that box at the bottom to subscribe to my email newsletters. You’ll get exclusive offers, and you’ll hear about these sorts of opportunities before anyone else!

There are a limited number of slots for this offer, so take advantage of it soon! It will end this Sunday, May 8th.
Happy shooting!

Timmy

To Wear or Not to Wear?

When it comes to clothes for toddlers, I sort of regret our past. Those of us who were born in the ’80s and grew up in the ’90s all have some things in common in most professional photos taken of us (I’ll only talk about dudes here, since that’s my experience!):

  1. Knee Socks. No need to go crazy here, but for all those ’80s moms out there — WHY? Didn’t you like our cushy leg rolls? Why cover them with two feet of thin, itchy lengths of the thinnest material known to mankind? It’s not like my legs are already super short. Why emphasize it? Sheesh.
  2. Giant Collars. Ok, this one was kind of cool as far as it went. But I’m not talking about those ’70s collars with the bright purple paisley print. I’m talking about those neck-wrapping deals that looked like they came right out of a painting of Henry VIII. Were those in style?
  3. Shorty Shorts. No need. Just no need.

KneeSocksNasty

See what I’m saying? I have some questions to ask my mother…

Little boys today have it MADE! Just walk into any Janie & Jack store to see how awesome little dude clothes have become. I admit, I’m a little jealous.

And I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to photograph a couple outfits for one of these awesome-outfit stores! Lucy & Leo is based out of New York, and they make wonderful outfits for kiddos out of recycled materials! Here’s a blurb straight from their website:

“Lucy & Leo organic clothing is known for its soft color palate and classic design with a modern twist. As our brand grows, we stay true to our vision of creating unique, adorable and comfortable outfits for your child in an eco-friendly fashion. We are proud to be one of the first organic and USA-made clothing brands in the children’s industry.

Our mission is simple: to provide your child with the finest, highest quality clothing on the market. Our garments move and breathe, are durable and very comfortable.

Lucy & Leo garments are designed and manufactured in New York. We are committed,  to bettering the world. We do that in three basic ways. We manufacture in the USA to support our local economy. We use only environmentally sensitive and organic materials, and for every garment purchased, we plant a tree with Trees For the Future.”

So there ya go! It was my pleasure to photograph Amos, who was adorably representing Lucy & Leo in this styled shoot:

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The Pose You Can’t Do Without

 

When I shoot maternity, I have one pose that I always do. I’m not sure if it’s my absolute favorite — “absolute” is a very strong, absolute word — but it’s certainly up there.

I call it: (*drum roll*) The Heart of Warmliness.

I know, it’s a cheesy name. But I’m a cheesy guy. But that pose is timeless!

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See how the outlines of Mom’s arm, their heads together, and then Dad’s arm makes a heart shape?

I love it. And I always shoot it.

I’ve even told myself, Nah, I’m not going to shoot it this time. I always do it. But then, I do it. And I love it. Every time.

I don’t even need to explain to you how to pose it. It’s so simple, elegant, and easy to do.

So go ahead. Get out there. Put that Baby Bump in the middle, surround it with Mom and Dad, and rock that Heart of Warmliness! In fact, I would LOVE to see your interpretations of it! Please post them to my Facebook page (http://facebook.com/timothymarseephotography).

And below, I’ve included a slideshow of some more of my favorites from this session with Noel, Andrew, and Hattie.

Don’t forget, subscribe to my email updates to get exclusive features, news, and offers! There’s free stuff in it for you. Sign up here: http://timmyphoto.com/bookme

Happy shooting!

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Just Sit Still!

Today, I’m going to deal with something that most of us deal with. I say “most” because if you don’t photograph kiddos, then this may not apply to you.

This difficulty in photography can be summed up in one word:

TODDLERS.

Did you just shudder? I actually had to stop and take a deep breath before typing it. But why is it that some photographers — particularly newer ones — struggle and stress over photographing these tiny humans? Here are some of my reasons:

  1. They’re Emotional. Look at things from their perspective: this world is HUGE! Why does it have to be so big? And what’s even worse, toddlers are so SMALL! And to add to their troubles, everything is so NEW. I’m not saying that these aspects of the world around us are to blame for all of their little explosions of emotion, but knowing them beforehand can help us to have empathy toward these little subjects of ours.
  2. They Just Can’t. Have you every tried to tell a toddler to sit with their legs crossed, their head turned to the left with their chin slightly toward the horizon line, only to have them get up immediately and start chasing that cat that keeps coming around during your shoot? Here’s some relief for you: that’s SUPPOSED to happen. Some toddlers can sit well, but many, MANY, many can’t do it. And that’s ok. It’s ok, because they’re normal and you can chill out a bit. And it also helps us with our creativity…

With brings me to the HOW-TO of this post!

  1. Just Let Them Be, with Limits. That toddler is most likely going to get bored with that pose pretty quick. So you need to have all your settings on point so that you can get their giggle, release that shutter, and move on after three or four shots. Then, follow them for a little bit (unless, of course, they’re heading toward danger. PLEASE stop them!). What are they interested in? What’s captured their attention? The image that I’ve featured in this post was one of those shots where I had to be patient. I posed him next to a fence, and don’t get me wrong: those fence shots were cute. But then, he became mesmerized by these dandelions! And he DESTROYED THEM! And it was ADORABLE! If I had not have had my camera settings ready and my eyes up, I would have missed it. So follow their interests. Watch their eyes dart around and become interested in what has captured their interest.
  2. Be Patient. Your best shots will most likely come when you don’t expect them. Pose them, but don’t be a slave to that pose. If they aren’t going to sit, then let them stand a bit. Just make sure you don’t take a ton of shots of their backside. Get to where their eyes are. This will require some hustle and sweat on your part, but it’ll be totally worth it!
  3. Shoot with a Telephoto Lens. This is simply my opinion, but when I have a good distance between my subject, myself, and the background, the images are a THOUSAND times more lovely. When I photograph toddlers, I put them roughly where I want them — which is usually a field of grass or flowers, if I’m being honest — and then back off and photograph them with my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L lens. This separation allows them to be more natural, in my opinion. Big smiles aren’t always what we want. Let them be a little, with limits (remember: DO NOT ALLOW DANGEROUS SITUATIONS!). Those sweet moments happen better that way.
  4. Your Settings Should Be Ready Beforehand. I can’t emphasize this enough, no matter what type of photography you do. If you’re sitting there fiddling with your settings in the middle of the shoot, your clients will eventually get annoyed. You need to have those settings ready to go before you start to shoot! And make sure to do plenty of variety in each location. When you move into a new lighting situation, you’ll need to adjust your white balance, shutter speed, etc., accordingly. In a future post, I’ll explain how I meter on my camera before I even take a single shot. But if you’d like to know before I get that one published, send me a message or comment! I’ll be glad to divest some wisdom! 🙂

Please be patient with these sweet little ones. Clients who see how you care for their children will be all the more impressed with you and super thankful. Think about what those parents went through to get that toddler up from bed, fed, dressed, entertained, and then transported to that location for their portrait shoot. Have a large dose of empathy, and above all:

BE A SERVANT.

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