Environmental Portraits

     Environmental portraits are so much fun.  Catching an individual in an interesting space, usually full of gadgets and lots of STUFF, is one of my favorite things to do.  Sometimes I get to do some placement (stand here, please) and give a little direction, and sometimes you are just capturing a moment in the world that they occupy.  The next time you shoot a portrait of someone, try including the entire surroundings.  The space AROUND a person can often help define the story that you want to tell or the moment that you are trying to capture…

Kenny Clark opened his barber shop in 1965...

Kenny Clark opened his barber shop in 1965.  He has been in that space ever since.  It looks exactly the way that it did when he cut my hair in the 1970’s…minus the flat screen TV to the left that I didn’t include in the picture!

These fishermen spend their free time fishing off a fifty foot cliff on the south end of Portugal.  I'm not sure how many cigarettes a day the elder man smokes...

These men spend their free time fishing off of a fifty foot cliff on the south end of Portugal. I’m not sure how many cigarettes a day the elder man smokes…

Pete Felten has been carving statues of limestone for decades, and his work is a prominent part of the Kansas State Capitol Building...Pete Felten has been carving statues from limestone for decades, and his work is a prominent part of the Kansas State Capitol Building, among other things. He is a legend in Kansas, creating work that is both iconic and everlasting…

Brian is famous for playing "The Spoon-Killer", and is also the most frightening Norman Bates that Universal Studios has ever seen.  He's also one of the nicest people that you will ever meet.


Brian is famous for playing “The Spoon-Killer”, and is also the most frightening Norman Bates that Universal Studios has ever seen. He’s also one of the nicest people that you will ever meet.

Check out more environmental portraits here:


See you out there!



Jason and Sarah’s Wedding

Hey there!

Jason and Sarah were married on Nov 19 in Asheville, NC and I had the distinct honor of photographing it. The video below is a compilation of DSLR stills, along with HD video and a timelapse shot with two GoPros.

Thanks for checking it out!  See you out there.









To watch the HD video, just follow this link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bb-Qf9zmB_o

To view more of my Weddings work, follow this link to my website:  http://jcharlessmithphoto.photoshelter.com/gallery/Weddings/G0000r2Q8X6sneiA/

Have a great day!

Shoot It Right The First Time

Oh boy.  Talk about learning this lesson the hard way.  How many times will I do this before it finally sinks in?  OK here’s what happened:

I’m on a shoot with my friend Heather Gill (Check out her stuff, it’s amazing at http://heathergillphotography.com/) and we are shooting one of our favorite models, Halley, in a 50’s diner in Missoula, MT.  We have the natural light, the giant reflector, the model looks just right, the clothes work, the setting is perfect.  I snap the shot.  I think, “Man, that’s it!!”  Here’s what I shot:


Love it! So I march away thinking, “Rock on!  Awesome!”  As I download the pictures and start reviewing them, one of my photography Jedi Masters, Ben Reed (http://www.benreedphoto.com/, seriously amazing stuff) points out this one small detail…

_MG_8252 writing

Are you serious???!!!  I left my PHOTO BAG IN THE BACKGROUND?????  This is beyond a rookie mistake.  I just got so caught up in the shoot that I forgot about it.  …Now what?

Two hours later I have managed to photoshop it out, for the most part. Don’t get me started on matching tones with the green leather on the seats or the weird wall colors…

Here’s the final version:

Halley's Diner72ppiwatermarked

Is it perfect?  No.  Would you notice if you didn’t know?  Maybe.

What’s the lesson?  Look at the details and make sure that it’s right!  Don’t take a hit because you had one guy’s head behind somebody else in a group shot or (in my case) you left all of your luggage in the background.  When your assistant says, “Why should I move that power cord?  You can just photoshop it out,”  tell that person that they can spend four hours photoshopping it out themselves, or that they can just move the #$%^&*@ power cord now….

Check the details and shoot it right the first time.

See you out there…



Shooting Think 13

Sometimes the stars just line up.  Literally.  I had the distinct pleasure of shooting the Think 13 conference in Chicago last week.  Think of it as a TED Talks for the credit union industry. The conference is a melting pot of ideas to push forward creative thinking in life and business.  This year’s theme “Disrupt Business as Usual” pushed the idea that to move forward you need to think and act creatively, not to just keep doing things the way you always have.  The power and impact of social media was also a big topic of discussion.

As the official shooter, I was able to sit in the front row and do my best to capture the energy of the moment.  Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ (and possibly future President of the United States) was one of my favorites:


He’s got my vote.

This was a seriously inspirational story about a man with small beginnings, who became a highly influential person through his creatively thinking outside of the box and his deep caring for the people of his city.

Daymond John, Founder of FUBU and star of “Shark Tank” was another speaker who gave us his story (which was amazing), and his five tips on how to be a shark…not sharing those :)…


Daria Musk, a global music superstar who built her worldwide audience on Google+, told her story through music…


Now for the truly amazing part:  Think 13 raised $115,oo for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.  They raised that money in one week.  Wow.


For more information on Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, check out http://childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org/

Follow Cory Booker on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/CoryBooker

They published my pics on Credit Union Times, which was super cool!   http://www.cutimes.com/2013/05/01/think-13-on-wednesday-slide-show

For more images, check out this link http://jcharlessmithphoto.photoshelter.com/gallery/Think-13/G0000PHrw5zKgENw

Stage shots were created with a Canon 5D Mark II and a 70-200mm f2.8 shot at 1/320 at f3.2 ISO 1000 for the most part.

See you out there…



Shooting in Old San Juan

Hey there!

I had the great fortune of shooting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, this week.  One of the big bonuses was being able to finally shoot images of my longtime friend Ivan Melendez in the historical site of Castillo San Felipe Del Morro, in Old San Juan.  It’s always a bonus to be able to shoot pictures in an old historical fort.  “El Morro” took 250 years and 10 generations to complete.  The cracked walls and faded rocks add an element to the pictures that give it a gravitas that you rarely find in a world of 7-11’s and Dollar Stores…


Add to that the blessing of having a very photogenic model who knows how to dress well…


After leaving the fort, there were plenty of opportunities for “documentary style” street shooting, including this young boy who decided to feed the pigeons, and got a little more than he bargained for!


What street walk would be complete without the local musicians, who make up lyrics as they go along addressing the people passing by?  In this case, they sang a song about Ivan and our fellow travelers Sandra and Diane.  They were all wearing orange, so the the musicians sang “Orange, you are so orange” to the sounds of a pair of acoustic guitars.  They also sang “Yes, you can take a picture”…


Life is fun.  Especially when shared with friends…

To see more images from the photoshoot, go to:


For more information on the  ‘El Morro’ fort, check out the link below.  It’s part of the U.S. National Park Service:


See you out there…



New Album “Selfish” by Jelloyd

Hey there!

Atlanta based artist Jelloyd released his new EP “Selfish” last week!  You can listen and download to PC for free here at http://www.datpiff.com/JeLloyd-Selfish-The-Ep-mixtape.469490.html

It’s a great album and I urge you to check it out!

I had the pleasure of shooting Jelloyd’s EP cover last year.  Just to be clear, I shot images of Jelloyd and a digital artist dropped in the background and graphics.  Here’s what I shot:

JeLloyd Project no reflect local high contrast

The trick to this was shooting Jelloyd on a simple, solid background.  This way, anything that he wanted could be dropped into the background.  Normally, blue or green (think “green screen” from the movies) would be ideal, but I had white so that’s what I used.  The light setup was relatively simple:  Two strobes lighting the background and two strobes with umbrellas for light diffusion in front of Jelloyd.  Here’s the setup:


(setups PSD courtesy http://www.kevinkurtz.com)

After a little photoshop work, (removing reflections in the sunglasses, taking out lint, etc), the image was ready to go.  Here’s the final version after Jelloyd’s cover team got finished:

576575_434876286599753_997237805_n (1)

Jelloyd is a supremely talented artist, and it was a pleasure to spend an afternoon on a  photoshoot with him.  For more images from the shoot, check out the link below.

Jelloyd BW


Check out Jelloyd’s YouTube channel here:  http://www.youtube.com/user/JeLloydJMJ

Until next time, see you out there…