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.

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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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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.

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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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The Privilege of Christian Artistry

Blog posts are so much easier to write when there are emotions flowing through the writer at the moment of writing. Which is funny, because I also just wrote a Discussion Board post for my Biblical Counseling class at Southern Seminary.

So this all goes hand in hand, which is typical of how the Lord works, isn’t it?

Today, I’m dealing with discouragement.

It happens a lot of the time this time of year, and if you’re a photographer in the middle of winter (albeit a very mild one), you can probably attest to it:

..PEOPLE AREN’T BOOKING YOU.

And with that come specific emotions: discouragement, sadness, a dissatisfaction with your work, a questioning of whether or not you’re in the right field, etc., etc.

So how are we to deal with this as artists?

And why in the world did I title this post “THE PRIVILEGE OF CHRISTIAN ARTISTRY?”

I’ve read so many articles about what to do when clients aren’t booking photo sessions, and all of them say just about the same thing: you need to reconfigure your marketing; you haven’t updated your website in two weeks; perhaps you should spend some time portfolio building; your prices are too cheap or too expensive.

I’m not going to give you any of that (mostly because I have no idea what to do from a business standpoint).

But we live in a spiritual world, and there’s a spiritual aspect to this problem of discouragement.

We’re living in a time when people are peddling a lot of feel-good mantras as a remedy for dealing with sadness and despondency. I have a couple musical artists in my mind right now whose songs revolve around just forgetting about what others think about you and “doing you.” I can think of a handful of photographers on Instagram whose message to the world is to “just be yourself. Everyone else will get over it. Just let go. Follow your dreams. ‘Wanderlust’ is the key to happiness.”

So what happens when you devote all your time and efforts into building an artistic identity, and yet you still fall far short of what you had in mind? Forgetting everybody and saying “haters gonna hate” while following your dreams does not guarantee that those dreams are going to come true.

And that’s a good thing.

All too often, we create idols out of our dreams and desires. In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah (by the way, if you want to complain about discouragement, just spend some time with Jeremiah. You may come away with different eyes) declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

This passage comes in the midst of a passage about trusting in the Lord. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,” Jeremiah writes. “He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

The person — for my purposes, I’m going to substitute the word “artist” — who trusts in the Lord is like a tree planted by water. This is an object lesson! A tree planted by water is a very happy tree! In fact, it “sends out its roots by the stream.” This tree is growing, just like a tree is designed to do.

But this is my favorite part when I think about my discouragement: “[he] does not fear when heat comes.” Why not? I’m dealing with discouragement, aren’t I? Here’s why: because “its leaves remain green, and [he] is not anxious in the year of drought…”

This where being a Christian artist has its eternal perks.

In seasons of discouragement, we are called to rest in the Lord. As one who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ and has turned from and is continually turning from sin, you have an amazing promise straight from the mind of God: your leaves will remain green.

Now, please don’t misplace my words.

I’m not saying that God is promising that things will get better. In fact, if I’m being truthful, it’s quite possible that this could be the end for your artistic career. I’m not pulling any punches, because Scripture doesn’t pull any. There’s no sugar that I can put on this, so here it is again: nowhere in the Bible does God promise that your life will go as you plan. In fact, here’s another passage that buttresses it from Proverbs: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Prov. 19:21).

But here is what God DOES promise:

“The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied…” (Prov. 19:23).

There are many, many times when God does not allow your plans to succeed. And at those times, Christian artists need to rest in Him when He promises, “Your leaves will remain green.” That is not a promise that your plans will finally succeed at some point. That’s a promise that God’s plans will ultimately succeed and are succeeding. And that’s FAR better for you.

So the answer to my initial question, “What do I do when I’m experiencing discouragement,” is to look at your priorities. It’s quite possible that you’ve made an idol of success. Far more important is to fear the Lord, for it leads to life, whether your art is noticed or not.

But what if you’re an artist but NOT a Christian?

God has promises for you, as well, but they begin with this truth: your lack of photography clients and artistic noticeability are the least of your problems.

In Malachi, God promises that “I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and DO NOT FEAR ME, says the LORD of hosts” (Mal. 3:5 — emphasis mine).

Your ultimate problem isn’t that fashion houses and magazine editors aren’t noticing you. It’s that you do not fear the Lord, and that’s a far, FAR worse offense.

But the Lord is so, SO kind.

As sinners, none of us deserve life. And yet YOU’RE ALIVE. You have so many things in your life for which you can be thankful, and none of us deserve any of them. If you’re reading this, you have an electronic device that allows you to. You’re living, you’re breathing, you’ve probably drunk something today, etc. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

You have so many things in your life for which you can be thankful and can consider as the Lord’s kindness to you. Here’s what Paul says about that: “…do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4). All these kindnesses are meant to lead you to repentance for sin and to place your trust in Christ. Don’t assume that things will simply go on as they always have. That’s called “presumption,” and the passage deals with that, as well. Don’t presume on God’s kindness. Don’t take advantage of all the good things that you have in your life and forget that each of them comes directly from the Lord as a gift to you. And ultimately, don’t neglect that final portion of Romans 2:4: “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” Every time you go on a shoot, remember that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” Every time you touch your brush to the canvas, remember that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” Whenever you buy a coffee or eat something delicious, remember that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” When a loved one gives you a kiss on the cheek or shows you ANY sort of love, remember that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” You’re surrounded by it, and that’s by design. God has surrounded you with kindness, in order to lead you to repentance. Don’t presume that you have years and years ahead of you. You may not. Because: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Prov. 19:21).

I repeated that phrase a lot in the previous paragraph: “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” And that’s on purpose. Whenever you experience good things, I want that to come into your mind. I want you to remember that, because it’s TRUE. And you need to act on it, because there are eternal consequences for not doing so.

For Christians, I find that when I’m dissatisfied with where I am in life, I discover that I have been putting expectations on God’s plans for me. I forget that promise in Proverbs, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” God’s plans WILL succeed. Yours may not.

Take this season of discouragement as an opportunity to renew your trust in the Lord. He hasn’t given you the desires of your heart in your artistic endeavors. And that’s for the best. Because His plans are constantly succeeding. If it were for your good that your business would boom and thrive, then it would. But for now, you’re called to trust in the Lord and continue in what He has called you to, whatever that may be. Rest in Him. Rest in His kindness.

Remember that to fear the LORD is far more important than to book more February sessions.

Why Photography, Anyway?

When I was first trained on a Canon 20D ten years ago, I had no idea that I would still be in the photography game a decade later. Originally, I applied at the studio where I got my first experience simply to be a salesperson. I was in my first semesters of college and needed a job. My next-door neighbor in the dorm where we lived on campus was applying, and he invited me to join him. I got the job. We had some down time one afternoon, so an elder employee trained us both on the cameras. And we started shooting… and shooting… and shooting…

And a monster was created.

Yep, I’m talking about myself. Of course, “monster” is simply a hyperbolic term that I intend to mean that someone was created that day who obsesses over photography.

“Geeking out” would be another way to describe it.

And I reflect today on why I do it at all. Why not something else? Why is it that putting this metal box to my face really gets my motor running in the heat of the moment during a session?

And I’ve come to a conclusion…

I don’t think it has anything to do with cameras. I like them, don’t get me wrong. I’m fascinated by both digital and film, and I’ve toyed with the rather expensive idea of buying a box camera and experimenting with silver nitrate, glass plates, and all that fun stuff.

But that’s not really it. I mean, if it were, then I would just hoard as many cameras of as many varieties as I possibly could, much like I do with books (all those who know me well will be nodding heavily in assent at this point).

While studying photography seminar videos, which I do from time to time (especially if they’re free on YouTube), one of my favorite photographers said something profound with which I can relate, and therein lies the secret of my obsession with photography — why I keep returning to it over and over again.

In describing why he loves it so much, Australian wedding photography guru Jerry Ghionis said, “I’m absolutely obsessed with light.”

And it clicked.

I’m obsessed with light! Now, you may be wondering what that means, so let me allow you into my reflective brain for a few quick moments, and I’ll try to explain as best I can, with the hope that you’ll be coming away from this blog post being absolutely amazed by the world that God has created.

Our eyes — and all our senses, really — are drawn to beauty. I’m not going to go into the details of what beauty is or whether it’s objective or relative to the viewer, etc., etc. But what I will do is explain how God has not only created the sun, moon, stars, and fire in order to create a lit world, but He has also created the manner in which these lights illumine their subjects. There are perfect angles for creating moods, and there different qualities of light that change almost in an infinite number of ways to create different aspects of someone’s appearance. You can use harsher light close to the subject and just above the brow line in order to create an old-fashioned, “noir” look. You can use a plethora of candles on a table below someone’s face and get a yellow-ish orange glow that electric light simply can’t mimic. And despite what many photographers say about shooting outside, you absolutely can point someone’s face into direct sunlight, have them avert their eyes, and get a quality of light that you find produced in fashion magazines everywhere.

The possibilities are limitless, and I love exploring those!

But what amazes me even more is that even in our fallen state, God allows culture to thrive. And He has inspired individuals to use these tools — these qualities of light, these different types, different times, different angles, etc., etc. — to mold and fashion them into beautiful, artistic wonders. Michelangelo created sculptures that change their mood when the light around them changes. A simple iPhone portrait can be just another “selfie” (jeez, I hate that word) or a beautiful piece of art, depending on the skill of the person “sculpting” with the light. Ansel Adams would camp out and wait for that PERFECT moment to occur when the shadows fell in just the right places so that he could shoot just one amazing landscape that put the glories of God’s creation on full display.

Sure, you can take a subject outside and just shoot around to see what you can get. Or you can learn about how light works, and you can begin to take incredible photographs that you never knew were possible.

I consider photographers and artists to be explorers, in a sense. God has given us tools. We think, we feel, and we mold our surroundings with these tools. We explore the possibilities. And every time we do it, we put a little chunk of ourselves into what we make.

And for the visual arts, the secret lies in “light:” what it is, why it does what it does, and why it’s amazing.

It’s my desire to instill this passion for light in others. I want to teach you to use light to its fullest in order to transform a normal photo into something that you wouldn’t have believed you could create.

I’m exploring the possibility of teaching some seminars and classes on this, specifically. If you have a basic understanding of cameras, you can shoot. But if you have an understanding of light, you can really begin to take your shooting to a new level and create some beautiful pieces of art.

But I’m not sure how many would be interested in such an undertaking, which is why I’m exploring at the moment.

If you’re interested in learning about light and how to use it, shoot me an email at tmarsee530@me.com…

Comment on this post…

…or send me a message on my photography page on Facebook (http://facebook.com/timothymarseephotography).

I’m really excited to share this with you. I’ve been experimenting with it and trying to perfect it for a number of years, and I think I finally have something worth sharing!

The Cahills

I thought I would use this snowy day indoors to continue updating all of you on some of my sessions from 2015! It’s my goal to blog about each one that I haven’t written about before, so if I miss anyone, feel free to send me a message.

These are the Cahills, and they called me to photograph their newborn baby boy, Frankie. I fell in love with their session, and I hope you enjoy these highlights! If you’re interested in having your family’s memories captured, send me a message on Facebook (http://facebook.com/timothymarseephotography).

Have a great snow day, everyone!

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