Heading in the right direction?


TPF Noob!
Jan 28, 2008
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Southwest PA
Can others edit my Photos
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Hello all! I am primarily a railroad photographer. Yes, I take pictures of trains ;-) . So I guess you could say I am a landscape photographer. Before trains when I picked up the viewfinder for the first time, I was into abstract a lot. I have come a long way from a Kodak point and shoot years ago to where I am now. I'm a firm believer of it's not the equipment that counts, it's how the artist (the photographer) uses the equipment. Although I will say, going from that little pocket point and shoot almost 10 years ago, to a XTi to a 50D to now a 5D mkII, the equipment makes it much easier. I've fine tuned my skills with the landscape photography, my processing has improved vastly over the years, and in the past couple years a buddy of mine and I have dabbled into flash photography.

Evening out | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Push Away | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Foreigner on the street | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Just some examples

The whole point in this thread is, I would like to move on. The transportation photography is more like a hobby, it doesn't bring in any cash. In fact, you lose money haha. The price of fun I suppose! Yea, there's always a few that just LOVE that photo you took and would like a copy, and you make a few pennies. But that's rare, because anyone can replicate a train photo. So, I've been knocking around the idea of.....portraiture. Now, before I move on, I have a full time job during the week. So I don't expect to raking in hundreds by the fistful if I continue on with this quest. I am planning CODB and such as if I were to do this to bring home dinner for the family, but it's nothing MAJOR. But, a few extra bucks for some weekend work would be nice. For the past few weeks, I've been practicing on my family members. I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters who are willing to be photographed, so they're easy practice. I'm very well self trained into light, sun angles, how to operate my camera (no, not just figuring out how to turn it on either :D), shooting into the sun, high sun, pretty much all the technical aspects of photography. Like I said, I've been doing flash stuff for a year or two, but learning a whole new experience with portraiture. With trains, you set up at least 8-10 lights, set them along the tracks, a few for back fill, fire. Soft vs hard light, TTL metering, 1/32 power to 1/1 power, diffusers, all that really doesn't apply. Just 1/1 power, point, wait for train, shoot.

Sorry for this long versed thread, I just want everyone to know, I am very well aware of how to take a decent photo. But as said, people are different, and it's a whole new learning experience. I need some opinions though. Am I heading in the right direction? Am I doing it right for a very green portrait amateur? I had a buddy come over today to help me do my sister and her son's quick little session and he told me from what he sees, I'm very well off. Here's some flickr sets, you tell me. Thanks for looking, and hoping to get some good, honest feedback.

Portrait of Scott - a set on Flickr

Abby and Sean - a set on Flickr

Nick Seniors - a set on Flickr (haven't quite finished this session yet of my brother's senior photos, schedules don't line up)

Sara and Trevor - a set on Flickr

And here's my flickr link if anyone is interested to see my work

Flickr: benpsut's Photostream

Ben Sutton
You really should just post some of the images here... there are way too many on Flickr to give anything but a very general C&C... no one is going to get detailed on that many photos.

You really need to get some large modifiers and learn to use them... all your flash stuff is very harsh light. Learn to use fill when outdoors. Skin tone on a lot of the images border or cross into overexposed, and skin color is all over the place. Most of time, the odd angles seldom work.
Interesting railroad shots; are you deliberating working in the style of Link or is that just a personal preference? It's important to remember that what works for railroads DOES NOT work for people. As Charlie mentioned, you need some serious diffusion on the people shots. As far as the 'making it pay', I'm going to be blunt. You're a LONG way from taking on paid work. Most portrait work is done with manual flash and the modifiers are far more important than the lights. Now, you can certainly learn how to take a decent portrait, it's really not hard, but I'd do some practicing before I hung out a shingle.
Thanks guys. The flash work is done with manual flashes. I was just messing with some hard light, as it IS a personal preference of mine when I'm dabbling in the portraiture. Am I safe to assume it's generally not working? I do have shoot through umbrellas that came with my light stands that I use for the railroad (The stands, not the umbrellas).

As for working in the style of Link. To be honest with you, as long as I have been in the hobby, I haven't paid much attention to his work. It's pretty shameful to say if there's any other rail buffs here ;-). I don't know, we just kinda put our heads together and think of shots that we regularly do in the daytime and go and see what it would be like to light it up at night. We get a lot of attention from passerby's, aka cops, I'll tell you that. Sometimes it's unwanted attention. It's fun though.

I think my biggest hurdle is going to be transitioning from shooting a huge, powerful, sharp edged contrasty machine (with strong light to be able to light it up at night) to a delicate human being in soft inviting light. I'll try the umbrellas next time.

Thanks again

With respect to your portraiture, hard light can work, but it's not going to be for everyone. Unless you plan on limiting yourself to a very select clientele you should probably become a little more versatile in your approach. That said, far more important than that however is consistency. People choose (or should choose) a photographer because they like the look of the work he produces. When I look at yours, let's take the Scott gallery for instance, I can see five very different looks. Buy some inexpensive modifiers; (they're are tons of cheap speedlight softboxes available on eBay) and work out the basics of conventional portraiture. Then, once you've got that sorted, move on to more esoteric styles. It's not just a matter of trying things, but actually understanding how they work and how light behaves. YouTube is your friend!
Roger that. Sloppy work, such as mine, won't get anyone far. I actually do have small softboxes for my lights, but the mini kind....which I guess really won't work will they, since the larger surface area makes softer light, correct? See, I know a few things ;-) I'll try out the umbrellas that came with my light stands next time I'm out. Appreciate the criticism, exactly what I want so I can improve and figure out what I'm doing wrong, which apparently is everything haha!

That said, far more important than that however is consistency. People choose (or should choose) a photographer because they like the look of the work he produces.

This is wisdom.

There's a market for practically everything, it just might be kind of small. If you want to make money doing something, you have to in the first place be able to do that something (reproduce a consistent photographic style or styles on demand) and you have to connect up to a market of sufficient size to generate the revenue you're looking for.

You've got some looks going on. Refine 'em, make them clean and distinct, and make darn sure you can bang them out over and over and over and over and over. You might want to spend some time thinking about what style is flattering to whom. Does this one work for guys but not girls? Does this one look better than that one if you're a bit chubby?

Then go see if you can sell 'em.
Lots to take in! Thanks for the replies and insight!


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