selfie

My “Company Party” Christmas Card

Merry Christmas, everyone! This year I re-used my previous card because it took so much work to create it originally. It’s a group portrait of me, taken at my company Christmas party.

Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-2-finalChildren especially have told me that they like my cards and can’t figure out how I can be in so many places at once. To see how it was made, check out my original post that explains all of the time-consuming details.

I love that this holiday is about people taking the time to go out and specifically shop for others. It’s a great time for selflessness, and a time to remember the reason for the Savior. I hope all of you have a joyous season with family and loved ones. Merry Christmas!!

And until next time, America.

The Story Behind My Birthday Portrait, And Our Love/Hate Relationship With Photos

I just had a birthday and like all of us, it reminds me that I’m getting older, I look different – and that’s usually reason enough for people to not get new portraits. In fact photographers don’t like being in front of the camera any more than anyone else. Everyone has the same excuses to put off professional photos: it feels vain, I’ll do it later, I’m getting older, I don’t have time…

No One Likes Being In Front of the Camera

Being a photographer for so many years, I’ve found that actually no one likes being in front of the camera. My clients constantly tell me how much they worry about their upcoming shoots, moms put off family shoots because they worry about how they look, high school seniors fear their shyness or other weaknesses might show, beautiful models are more critical of themselves that you can even imagine, and even famous VIP clients confide in me about their various concerns.

BryCox_2015_Birthday_Selfie2-900p

My biggest job as a photographer is to help my clients feel comfortable and to bring out their real emotion in a portrait. I don’t want fake looks, I want real expression that I can light in an exquisite way. That’s why I say my specialty is exquisite lighting and emotion – you need both for a fantastic portrait. And because I believe that my clients should get regular portraits, I too try to create regular professional portraits of myself. I personally use these for my website, for magazine articles I write, and for when I go speak at conventions to train photographers. Sure I could do what a lot of people do and send a 10-year-old photo, but I really dislike when I see others do that. It looks unprofessional and is says that you’re embarrassed with yourself now and that you deep down really wished that you looked like you did back then.

That’s unhealthy. We should be happy with ourselves right now. But we’re bombarded with ads, creams, and magic serums telling us that we shouldn’t be happy with ourselves. The old hippie mantra was, “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” as if to say that our elders are stupid, life experience made you wrong, and that youth was the answer. And decades later the media is full of pop musicians, models, tv shows, and movies all staking a claim on “youth.”

So what’s wrong with being the age we are? What’s wrong with lines and wrinkles that we earned? What’s with Hollywood actors always pretending to be characters 15 years younger than they are, like 40 year olds saying they’re 25, or 30 year olds pretending to be high school teens with silly haircuts?

The truth is that in a few years we’ll look back to how we look now and think how great we looked, meaning we should enjoy how we look now.

BryCox_2015_Birthday_Selfie-900p

Our Ancestors Valued Portraits

It wasn’t too long ago when our ancestors would scrimp and save to get one or two great professional portraits in a lifetime. These would be professionally printed physical heirlooms that would be passed down through generations and people would fight over who got to inherit great-grandpa’s portrait. Even today we run into burning buildings to save important photos and family archives.

But lately we’ve moved into an era of digital-snapshot-proliferation, where every device is a camera, no image is very good, few images are printed well if even printed at all, and we’re overwhelmed online with bad, egocentric selfies – often from the exact same angle and with the same annoying cocked-head and unattractive pouty duck-face. All this makes people worry that a professional portrait means that “we’re in love with ourselves,” which isn’t true at all.

Plus add all the new untrained photographers flooding our feeds with sub-par, over-retouched, washed out, puffy-eyed, “natural-light” photos that are to some young people becoming the new norm – just like the awful sound of Auto-Tune in trendy pop music which is indicative of bad signing.

I care about this industry. And despite the devaluation of photos is some areas, I still believe in the actual importance of a good, well-made professional portrait, and that it’s good for the soul.

A Good Professional Portrait IS Good for the Soul

What Are We Passing on to Our Children? How many times do we wish we had a better portrait of someone that we loved but lost? Maybe it was a relative that passed away or maybe it was someone we cared about that is no longer in our lives. When we get portraits done, it’s often for our closest loved ones.

But a great portrait isn’t just valuable later and to other people, it’s good for us right now. A good portrait that is well lit and masterfully retouched and void of all the artificial rubbery-skin looks, is good for the soul. It’s good for your own self-worth.

Testimonials From Mothers and Single Women

I could share countless stories from mothers who’ve told me that the portraits I did for their high school senior child changed how they felt about themselves. Girls walked taller and boys found more confidence because I portrayed them in ways they couldn’t see before in themselves. I can tell you stories of older women that have gotten married and thanked me for the attention they got on Facebook and dating sites.

I’ve photographed children in foster care who avoided eye contact and smiling, kids sometimes with severe issues of self-worth that have never had a good portrait of themselves, that later get soggy eyes when they see their finished, framed image on display. You can see the gears turning in their head as they come to terms with the fact that they are perceived differently than they see themselves internally, and they’ll say, “That’s me?! …….That’s Me!!”

And moms have given me big hugs after I hung their family wall portraits in their home, because they are so stunned at how great they look surrounded by their closest loved ones. It’s a big change from before the shoot when they are stressed about their hips, their clothes and countless other things.

A well-made portrait is good for the soul. Why? Think of the all-to-common alternative. How do you feel about yourself when your so-called “professional” picture is only deemed viewable by the public after your “photographer” has over-retouched you until you have a plastic, pore-less, rubber face? Or when they whiten your eyes so that you look like a weird alien that is going to shoot lasers out of your eyes and start fires, or when they “liquify” and bend your body to change your boobs or arm shape? What does that say about you? How do you feel when you look at it, knowing that it isn’t you at all?

Come in to my studio and get a real professional portrait that you absolutely love. I’m a Master Photographer and use specific lighting techniques that will accentuate the right things and hide the things you worry about. You’ll be amazed at how great you look before I do any retouching. I want you to have regular portraits from throughout your life that you love, and that your future children and grandchildren will fight over when we’re all dead and gone.

My 2015 Birthday Portrait

And because I believe so strongly in portraits, I make myself get portraits regularly. It’s not always fun at first, but I’m always grateful afterwards.

So this last week I set up my studio for the lighting I envisioned. Being an older guy I wanted an aggressive angle that would accentuate wrinkles and skin texture, not hide it. And being fall outside, I shot myself in the clothes I happen to be wearing, including my Black Rapid snow cap (a gift from the owner of Black Rapid from earlier in the year). I was wearing the cap just prior and opted to just leave it on because I thought it was different than my past photos, and I was also being lazy, knowing that I didn’t want to comb my hair or overthink the shoot too much.

BryCox_2015_Birthday_Selfie3-900p

I shot about a dozen images because I can’t see exactly how the light is working when I’m not behind the camera, I have to imagine it. So I shot a few more than I thought I’d need and from those I narrowed it down to these two as my favorites. I think they’ll work well with my new website that I’m working on, but more than that I’m really happy with the photos and am excited to use them, as we all should be with professional photos.

So if you’re in need of some great new portraits (and I know you are) either of yourself or your family, let’s get them done now for Christmas, and beat the Christmas rush. Call me at 801-728-3317.

And until next time, America.

How I Created My Christmas Card, A Group Portrait of Me

For many years I’ve done group portraits as my company Christmas card, always a group of just me as if it’s taken at my own company’s Christmas party. And because I personally see each job through from beginning to end, I wear a few different hats and the card has become a growing joke, getting better each year. Well here is my card and how I created it.

Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-2-final

Clients, especially children that come in are always asking me how I shoot my group photos of myself, so I decided to share with you my process.

First I mapped out the entire shot, and decided on which images I’d need, where the various people would be positioned throughout the image. I needed depth, but didn’t want anyone in front of anyone else. I even have three people tied together with garland, all handing each other the same strand. It all has to look real and work. Each person had to be working together naturally, and that meant thinking about how the angles and lighting should be.

Once it was mapped out, I began photographing the pieces. I started with my studio/home. I needed to use open area of the front and didn’t want it covered with the cedar fence and line of trees in front. So I used a wide angle up close to get the entire home in the shot without the fence and trees you’d see from the street. This gives me the best angle on the place but causes bending on the vertical lines, that I will fix later.

Cox_Christmas2013-104

Next I photographed my folks’s tree in their home. My mom always puts together the best tree.Cox_Christmas2013-114

Then back at the studio I photographed each remaining part on my fashion gray background so that they could be extracted easier. Extractions are not easy nor fast, but a solid gray background makes it easier at least.

To fit a large ladder in the studio on gray, I chose my smallest ladder, and doubled the size of the legs digitally, adjusting too for the perspective of the steps. I then photographed each version of myself, imagining where each would be positioned in the final image, but used the same step on the ladder to stand so that I’d fit in the studio shot.Cox_Christmas2013-groupEach photograph was fired with a remote that I am hiding in one of my hands. For instance, in the shovel image, I’m holding the remote up against the shovel’s handle. Once I’m in position, I fire the shot. After each shot, I change clothes, set up the next image, and shoot again.

Cox_Christmas2013-198-2

After all the camera work, the digital work begins. I started with the individual versions of me, each extracted off the gray background and placed in the shot where they were mapped out. The ladder was also extended taller, being key to making sure all the other people were in the right spots and in proper perspective.

Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1b

Slowly the group began to grow, and the star was added in the hand on top.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1c

Then I extracted the tree off the living room background and prepped it.

Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1a

The tree was brought in and more details were brought together.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1d

 

Then to the background. I corrected the vertical lines, and the image was cropped to fit the final piece.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1e

I then created snow from scratch and added it throughout, fading out the home as well for a misty look and to keep the background from being too busy and competing visually with the foreground.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1f

The background was added to the crowd, and more details were added like sparkles on the Christmas tree’s lights.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1g

Once the background was in, people needed to be moved slightly on the right side to work better with the background. Once they were in place, shadows were drawn in so that each person and object cast a shadow that matched the lighting from the sun behind. Each point of contact with the snow was then painted up close so as to “drop” everyone into the snow so they didn’t look like they were on top. That, along with creating custom shadows, help give the final piece a more 3D look and not a flat, fake look. There’s much more I could do to make it look real, but a little of that fake look will help with the comedy effect.

The star was also given a nice sparkle. More snow was added around the edges to create a natural white vignette to keep the focus inside the image, and the tree’s trunk was finished as well.

Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-2h

Finally, I used one of my custom edges to finish the piece, added the text, and the legend of who everyone is at the bottom. And the finishing touch as always, is adding my signature, in this case in the bottom left.

Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-2-final

So what’s your guess on how long it took to complete this project? All in all, it took about 23 hours including both the camera and digital designing time, and that doesn’t count working with the printer and mailing company to get it all out to each of you. Hopefully when it comes, it brings a smile to your face. If your address has changed, let me know so that I can update it for the next mailing I send out.

I hope all of you have a joyous season with family and loved ones. Merry Christmas!!

And until next time, America.

Creating An Iconic Image, Artist of Light

This week I realized that I needed a really cool and iconic portrait that screamed, lighting is my specialty. It needed to be an image that could be used in a magazine, used for promoting speaking events, and used on my studio’s opening web page for all my clients to see. It had to be colorful and catch the eye and be completely different from anything else out there.

As I thought about it, the idea came. Being a specialist of light, I needed an image that said, “artist of light.”

I could envision the complete image, the location, the time of day and exposure I’d need for the right kind of blue sky, where the lights would be in the frame, and how I’d mix different lights with different color temperatures to create the right depth and mood. It would be a vertical image ready for a magazine, and I’d be holding the main light with one hand and firing off the camera with a remote in the other hand. And the kicker would be that the main light would be my flash-on-a-stick idea that I’ve been speaking about for the last few years (which is ideal for quick, manual, and very controllable custom lighting, and can be used a number of ways).

That was my idea; very detailed. So the next night I packed up my truck with all the gear I’d need and I headed out to my location. The end result not only matched exactly my idea, but turned out even better than I imagined.

Cox_Bry_PPALighting1-1000p

The key to any great image is lighting. I’m a PPA Master photographer and I speak all over training photographers on how to problem solve and create exquisite lighting using whatever gear you may have with you. It’s not about brand, or auto-settings, but about know-how.

There is a philosophy out there with photographers that lighting is just about exposure, making sure an image isn’t too dark or too light. People with this mindset think of adding a reflector or a flash only when someone’s face is dark or backlit, and even then no care is taken in terms of using light to flatter or sculpt people. Angles of light, choice of modifiers, and color temperature are not even thought of.

I want to be different. I want to create images that stand out from the crowd. I want images that pop with vibrance and emotion and that flatter people and look amazing, that feel three-dimensional, and are created on purpose with repeatable, controllable, manual settings.

I’m sure you need a really cool iconic image to promote you or your business. Let’s talk and create that for you. Or maybe your a bride or a mom and need something beautiful and timeless of your family or upcoming wedding. In either case, give me a call, 801-728-3317.

And until next time, America.

How I Created My New Christmas Card, A Self Group Portrait

My Christmas Card is out and in the mail. If you haven’t seen my past Christmas cards, for the last few years they’ve all been group portraits of me, but in the studio. My idea is that it’s a funny company group photo from my own Christmas party. My clients know that because of the custom work that I do, I personally see each job through from beginning to end, which also means that I wear a few different hats. The card is a growing joke, and each time I’ve done it a little better. But this time I really wanted to out-do myself!

Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-2-final

Clients, especially children that come in are always asking me how I shoot my group photos of myself, so I decided to share with you my process.

First I mapped out the entire shot, and decided on which images I’d need, where the various people would be positioned throughout the image. I needed depth, but didn’t want anyone in front of anyone else. I even have three people tied together with garland, all handing each other the same strand. It all has to look real and work. Each person had to be working together naturally, and that meant thinking about how the angles and lighting should be.

Once it was mapped out, I began photographing the pieces. I started with my studio/home. I needed to use open area of the front and didn’t want it covered with the cedar fence and line of trees in front. So I used a wide angle up close to get the entire home in the shot without the fence and trees you’d see from the street. This gives me the best angle on the place but causes bending on the vertical lines, that I will fix later.

Cox_Christmas2013-104

Next I photographed my folks’s tree in their home. My mom always puts together the best tree.Cox_Christmas2013-114

Then back at the studio I photographed each remaining part on my fashion gray background so that they could be extracted off the background easier. Extractions are not easy nor fast, but a solid gray background makes it easier at least.

To fit a large ladder in the studio on gray, I chose my smallest ladder, and doubled the size of the legs digitally, adjusting too for the perspective of the steps. I then photographed each version of myself, imagining where each would be positioned in the final image, but used the same step on the ladder to stand so that I’d fit in the studio shot.Cox_Christmas2013-groupEach photograph was fired with a remote that I am holding with one of my hands. For instance, in the shovel image, I’m holding the remote up against the shovel’s handle. Once I’m in position, I fire the shot. After each shot, I change clothes, set up the next image, and shoot again.

Cox_Christmas2013-198-2

After all the camera work, the digital work begins. I started with the individual versions of me, each extracted off the gray background and placed in the shot where they were mapped out. The ladder was also extended taller, being key to making sure all the other people were in the right spots and in proper perspective.

Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1b

Slowly the group began to grow, and the star was added in the hand on top.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1c

Then I extracted the tree off the living room background and prepped it.

Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1a

The tree was brought in and more details were brought together.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1d

 

Then to the background. I corrected the vertical lines, and the image was cropped to fit the final piece.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1e

I then created snow from scratch and added it throughout, fading out the home as well for a misty look and to keep the background from being too busy and competing visually with the foreground.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1f

The background was added to the crowd, and more details were added like sparkles on the Christmas tree’s lights.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1g

Once the background was in, people needed to be moved slightly on the right side to work better with the background. Once they were in place, shadows were drawn in so that each person and object cast a shadow that matched the lighting from the sun behind. Each point of contact with the snow was then painted up close so as to “drop” everyone into the snow so they didn’t look like they were on top. That, along with the shadows, help give the final piece a more 3D look and not a flat, fake look. There’s much more I could do to make it look real, but a little of that fake look will help with the comedy effect.

The star was also given a nice sparkle. More snow was added around the edges to create a natural white vignette to keep the focus inside the image, and the tree’s trunk was finished as well.

Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-2h

Finally, I used one of my custom edges to finish the piece, added the text, and the legend of who everyone is at the bottom. And the finishing touch as always, is adding my signature, in this case in the bottom left.

Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-2-final

So what’s your guess on how long it took to complete this project? All in all, it took about 23 hours including both the camera and digital designing time, and that doesn’t count working with the printer and mailing company to get it all out to each of you. Hopefully when it comes, it brings a smile to your face. If your address has changed, let me know so that I can update it for the next mailing I send out.

I hope all of you have a joyous season with family and loved ones. Merry Christmas!!

And until next time, America.

The Value of a Portrait, My Birthday Self Portrait

I just had a birthday and because it was a big monumental birthday, I thought it was a good time to create a new updated portrait.

As a photographer I believe strongly in portraits, particularly of the value they give us in years to come. Of everything we can spend money on, very few things have as much value in the future as well-made professional portraits.

I have made a living my entire life, creating and selling portraits to people, which is kind of an odd way to make a living considering that no one likes getting their picture taken, including me.

However I feel strongly that everyone should have a great portrait of themselves that they like, and it shouldn’t be one from 10 years ago either. But sometimes we as photographers put off getting our own portraits done for the same reasons our clients put it off: it feels vain, I’ll do it later, I’m getting older, I don’t have time, etc.

It wasn’t too long ago when our relatives would scrimp and save to get one or two great portraits in a lifetime. These would be heirlooms that would be passed down through generations. Now we live in an age of digital snapshot proliferation, where every device is a camera, and no image is very good – but at least we have a lot of them. Add to that the fact that everyone and their neighbor decided they too are a photographer because it’s seemingly the easiest job in the world, flooding us with tons of sub-par images shined up with plastic effects. And social media has led to the constant posting of iPhone selfless at the gym, in the mirror, duck-faced-driving selfless, and on and on. All of this devaluing the actual importance of a good, well-made professional portrait. What are we passing on to our children?

How many times do we wish we had a better portrait of someone that we loved but lost? Maybe it was a relative that passed away or maybe it was someone we cared about that is no longer in our lives.

But aside from the value of a portrait that comes later, what about the value right now to us? I think a good portrait, that is well taken and doesn’t have all the artificial retouching, is good for the soul. Why? Think of the all-to-common alternative. How do you feel about yourself when your so-called “professional” photograph is only deemed okay by the photographer after they have over-retouched everyone until they have plastic, rubber faces? What does that say about you? How do you feel when you look at it, knowing that in real life, you don’t look like that?

What’s wrong with being the age we are? What’s wrong with wrinkles that we earned through life experiences? What’s the obsession with youth, where every TV show and movie has 30 and 40 year old actors playing 20-something characters, and 20 and 30 year old actors playing teens?

Why not get a real photograph, that uses Master lighting techniques so that you look great and feel great about yourself right now, as you are, without the amateur, rubber-skin retouching? In 5, 10, and 20 years into the future, what images of yourself are you going to look back on and still love? What images are your children and grandchildren going to want copies of?

This is why, even though I too don’t like getting my picture taken, I set up my studio for a portrait. For my 40th birthday, I wanted a new portrait that said I was happy to be 40, that I own these lines and wrinkles. So I set up my studio for a black & white self portrait, fired with a remote, and used a specific and aggressive lighting style that would create the gritty look that I wanted.

I finished it with some toning and an edge, and here is the result.

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Until next time, America.