Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jamaal's Camera Pics of Me in Action: This is a HOOT!

I didn't realize it at the time, but Jamaal was busy conducting a little photo shoot of his own while I was creating Caprice's portfolio images last Saturday.  It turns out he was sweet enough to capture a few of me in action, so I thought I'd post a few of them here for you to "enjoy"!

This first pic isn't a very high resolution image, but at least it gives you a pretty good idea what a session in Deep Ellum is like.  You can't be shy! That's for sure. Getting dressed in the back of the Tahoe is all part of the game! 

Of course, I'm on hand to tuck in all the straps, help apply the makeup, assist in wardrobe selections, and even divert the attention of passersby, if need be.  (Did I mention exposed bra straps are a HUGE pet peeve of mine?  Call me old-fashioned.  I'm a prude that way.)

If you've ever wondered what I wear on a typical photo session, this will be a good eye opener for you.  Now, IF I were shooting for a high profile commercial client, I'd be much more dressed up than what you see below.  BUT, since I knew going into this session in Deep Ellum that I'd be spending quite a bit of time flat on my back on the cement (and quite possibly sitting neck-to-neck with rubble), I chose a much more casual "I don't care if this gets ruined" get-up.  

I know I'm supposed to look professional and all (and I do make an effort), but I've ruined one too many pair of nice pants while on a session.  In fact, the jeans I'm wearing in these images had already gotten stained from a previous session on an elevated train track.  What I won't do to capture that perfect shot, huh!

Also, take a good look at my shoes.  I don't EVER wear heels on a session.  The more flat-footed I can be, the crisper and sharper my images will turn out.  It's all about keeping a steady hand and nothing beats a comfy pair of tennis shoes for getting that job done.  I'm the worst at walking in heels anyway, so why play with fire?  Besides, with tennis shoes on I'm ready to BOLT in case I have to run for my life!  Try doing that in stilettos!

What's in my camera bag?  On this shoot I started out with my 24-70 mm f/2.8.  Since it was slightly overcast, I opted for this lighter lens so I could shoot at lower shutter speeds if needed.  I quickly changed to my 70-200 mm f/2.8; however, as I found it allowed me to stay in one place to get both the close-ups and the full length shots from a safer distance. I was also able to work much more efficiently - which was important, because many times I was lying in the middle of the street.  I also keep my 50 mm f/1.4 in my bag in case I come across low light situations where the extra f-stop is crucial.  Especially around sunset, that larger f-stop buys me a little extra time.

You'll also see that each lens I use has a lens hood (or lens shade) attached to it.  This helps to prevent sun glare.  You should have one of these for each lens you own - without exception.  (Just remember to remove it if you are using your flash.)  You'll also see my white-balance card hanging around my neck.  That allows me to ensure perfect color during post-processing.  (Click on the link to learn more about this essential tool.)  

Well, that's about it (other than extra batteries, extra memory cards, and lens cleaning cloths).  Easy Peasy!

Below are two sequence collages to show you the progression of how I set up a couple of my shots last week.  Remember these two gorgeous shots of Caprice that I posted last Saturday?  Thanks to Jamaal and his trusty camera phone, you can see what these shots looked like from behind the lens and from what perspective they were created.  (Now, be honest.  Would you have EVER guessed this first image of Caprice was shot by a dumpster?)

You'll notice in both of these series of shots that I am either leaning against the fence, or leaning against the wall to steady myself.  Both hands are always on the camera and lens.  Good form is everything, right Dina?

There you have it.  Me in action!  I hope you enjoyed your sneak peak into the life of Tammy Labuda - Dallas Urban Photographer (for a day, anyway).

Enjoy your weekend, everyone.  I hope this post inspires you to see outside the box.  And, I'm pretty sure you'll never look at a trash dumpster quite the same :)

Dina's Interview and the Matilda Jane Trunk Show

I'm going to have to post part two of Dina's interview next week, folks. A friend from out of town is coming tomorrow.  Oh, the cleaning that still needs to be done...

She and I will be getting out with our cameras this weekend, so I hope to post a few "personal" pics later next week as well.

Don't forget to RSVP for the Matilda Jane trunk show at my house on Tuesday evening if you are planning on coming.  Anyone making a purchase at the trunk show will receive a free mini session.  I've also decided to do a door prize drawing.  One lucky trunk show guest will receive a free full session and an 11x14.  Check the February 9th post below for additional information.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Caprice and Jamaal (Dallas Texas Urban Photography}

I was going to post Jamaal and Caprice's session in three installments to spread them out during the course of next week.  BUT...I just couldn't make this adorable couple wait any longer.  (Be sure to scroll down to see all three posts from their session.  You might want to start at Caprice's post to get to the beginning of their "story".)

SO...instead of posting their pics in stages like I had planned, you get to see them ALL now.  AND, better yet, that frees me up later this week to post the second installment of my interview with Dina Marie instead. Whoohoo!


Without further ado, here's Jamaal and Caprice!

Jamaal: Model {Dallas Urban Photography, Model Headshots}

Jamaal is Caprice's boyfriend.  He is represented by Exxcel Modeling and Talent Agency here in Dallas.  If you or someone you know is interested in getting into this creative line of work, I would be happy to work on building your portfolio and creating your head-shots for you. As you can see by Caprice and Jamaal's sneak-peaks, we have GREAT fun during these sessions!

You may have seen Jamaal recently on the Fox network show, Prison Break.  He's been on the show a couple times already, so if you are a regular viewer of that show keep your eye out for him.  

Originally, Jamaal was just along for the ride, but I begged him to let me take some pics of him as well.  Wouldn't you?  He wasn't sure if that would breach his contract or not, so he made sure to check with his agent first.  His agent agreed and is even allowing me to post a few on my website in my permanent portfolio.  It was so responsible and honorable of Jamaal to check with her first.  Thanks for making the phone call, Jamaal.

All during the shoot, Jamaal was our eyes and ears - especially after Lawrence left.  He was our night in shining armour - even blocking the wind for me while I photographed Caprice.  Such a gentleman!  Thanks, Jamaal!  I sure hope you like these photos of you as well as I do.  I'll post the pics of you and Caprice together later in the week.  

Best wishes to you in your new career.  Enjoy!  

And, Jamaal, 

Caprice's Head-Shots: Deep Ellum {Dallas Urban Photography, Model Headshots}

One last thing before I post your pictures.  I have to give a HUGE thank you to my buddy Lawrence who met us down town and showed us around.  I can't wait to see what you got, Lawrence.  Not that Deep Ellum is super dangerous (especially at 8:00 in the morning), but it never hurts to have a big burly guy by your side - especially when you are in unfamiliar territory.  Sure, we photographers have to have an adventurous spirit, but that doesn't mean we should be stupid either.

Here's some of my favorites, Caprice!  You are GORGEOUS!  BTW, these are totally unretouched - she's that stinking beautiful!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Welcome, Dina Marie! {Dina Marie Photography}

I can't tell you how excited I am to introduce you to Dina Marie this morning.  If I was asked to name the person who most inspired and encouraged me in my photography career, it would be Dina - hands down.

I met Dina through my cousin's wife, Stephanie, who sent me a link to Dina's website.  I was so moved by her work that I felt compelled to contact her.  I can't remember exactly what message I left in her comment box, but what I do remember is that she cared enough to take the time to respond.  And she didn't stop there!  She's spent hours on the phone answering my questions.  Her input sparked my passion for photography and gave me the courage to pursue my dreams. 

More than that, the way I conduct myself on this blog is largely due to what Dina has poured into my life.  Because she, and others like her, have given of themselves so unselfishly to me, it is my passion that my blog do the same for you.  My hope is that you learn something new, that you grow (both personally and creatively), and that you are inspired each time you visit.  I may not have all the answers to your questions, but at least I know where to find them!  

Which brings me to today's interview with Dina.

As I mentioned earlier, this past week I polled several of my photographer friends to see what questions they had for Dina.  There were so many questions that Dina and I decided to break the interview up into "bits and pieces".  Today's post will focus on getting to know Dina better.  We'll throw in one or two technical questions today, but will save the bulk of them for later posts.

Please join me in welcoming (from the sunny state of California) Dina Marie from Dina Marie Originals.

(The following interview will be in Question an Answer format.)

Tammy Labuda: When did you first know you wanted to be a professional photographer? How did you get started?  Tell us your story.

Dina Marie: My story...I was working for my father and felt unfulfilled. I got my first camera (sony mavica - lol) about 8 years ago and after having my daughter the "itch" became apparent to me.  It had everything to do with photographing my daughter and feeling in touch with my childhood through her.  I started to really "feel" for the first time in my life.  I mean, I felt this passion and it was undeniable. 

I started out having a friend in Balboa Beach do a photo party for me where I offered sessions for $25 ($25 for 25 shots -- something like that).  I told her if she booked 8 people, she would get a free session and prints.  To this day, she is one of my biggest referrers.  

I have a strong marketing/advertising background so I ran a couple ads knowing that it would take at least 6 months before name recognition. Too many times people get frustrated advertising and not getting calls right away.  If the ad is good and you run it in a good magazine, a 6 month run is really necessary.  

I had postcards made and a small website built.  I look back now and think they looked terrible but then it seemed good and it was a natural start to progress.  Every address collected went into a data base that my husband managed.  I gave cards out everywhere and offered up a lot of free shooting. 

I used every session to learn a new technique. I printed photos out and wrote settings down on them.  I joined forums and looked carefully at techniques of others.  I knew my style had to be my own so I tried mostly to concentrate on how certain looks (depth of field, etc) were achieved. 

A really important part to my "story" is my husband.  He was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 15 years ago and his progression was not looking good.  This career choice was the biggest blessing for our family.  I was able to be home to care for him and work more at my own pace. This really allowed me to "express" emotionally too. Photography became an emotional outpouring for me.

Tammy Labuda:  That emotion really shows in your work, Dina.  It's what draws me back to your site so often.  I think we can get so busy in this industry that we often forget to take the time to dig deep into ourselves and allow that to show through in our work.  Thank you for the reminder.

I want to talk to you more next time about your husband and the various charities you support.  It is inspiring to see how you create something beautiful out of some very challenging situations.  The image below is a perfect example.  Why does this image speak so deeply to you?

Dina Marie: This is my current favorite image.  It is of a girl close to me.  She is my neighbor and is going through so much with parents that are divorcing and a family of 6.  She has opened up to me so many times and we have become really close to the kids through it all.  I feel like I went through so many of the same emotions as a child. Between the chosen perspective, shooting in black and white mode and low light, the photograph makes me identify with a time in my childhood.  I never expressed some of those emotions out loud so just shooting it was like therapy.

Tammy Labuda: That's what I love about you and your work.  The honesty.  The lighting in this image is perhaps my favorite.  It really adds to the emotion - very powerful!

Speaking of family, How do you work to protect yours?  I find that this business demands so much of my time.  How do you balance being a mom, a homemaker, a wife, and a business woman?

Dina Marie: I don't do it well to be honest.  It is one of my many flaws. But I will say this: It took awhile to recognize when to STOP WORKING because I work from home.  I try to schedule my days and calendar very carefully.  I merge both calendars so when I am committing to a client, my family does not get slighted. Just keep a good calendar and don't lose sight of the people who really truly matter.  I don't feel like I can say much more here because I always feel like I am not doing it right!

Tammy Labuda:  Those are good tips, Dina.  I think the hardest part about setting up a calendar is sticking to it.  We could all stand to improve in that area.  I'm pretty certain you are not alone.  You are right though, work comes and goes, but our family is what brings the greatest joy.

And, speaking of one captures it quite like you, Dina!  Talk about identifying with your inner child!  These are fabulous.

You have to admit, these two images show how perfectly Dina connects with her inner child during her photo sessions, don't they?  Wouldn't you just love to spend a day with Dina watching her in action - during and after the session?  I know I would.

While that may not be possible, Dina did offer some great advice in her answers to a few technical questions from my fellow photographer friends.  I'll post a few of those today.  We'll save the rest for another post.

Margaret asks: Where do you find your inspiration, for your portraits and for your original artwork?

Dina Marie: Although I love to study other photographer's work, I find my biggest inspiration comes from way down deep inside and is usually based on my inner child.  I find my favorite shots are thought provoking and on the darker side at times.  Reaching deep is what it's all about.  I believe much of our photography should be in a sense, "self portraits".

Courtney asks:  How do you finance your business?  I get this question alot and it seems to really shed light on how people can get started, especially in today's economy.

Dina Marie: Hmm.... This question is so individual.  In the beginning, it was just taking risks and for the most part, spending money we didn't have!!  Now it generates an amazing income so long as it stays steady. There are a lot of factors here.  I am not sure I can properly answer the question.  I purchased equipment slowly and have never had a business line of credit.

Kelly Asks: My biggest frustration is that my pictures never come out as clear, crisp, and with as much dimension as (good) photographers I follow.  They are in focus, but not as crisp.  What tips can you provide for taking sharper pictures?

Dina Marie: There are several factors involved.  I was told long ago to use a depth of field calculator to determine the proper hyperfocal distance. We should all be aware that the optics of lenses have never changed.  Have your eyes glazed over yet? $$@!!*%

Listen, the main causes for lack of sharpness are:

poor focus
camera shake
subject movement
dirty equipment.

Here are some rules to use as guides:
1. Hold your camera well - if you need to, support yourself up against a wall, tree or anything.  If not, just try not to drink too much coffee and grip it with both hands! (i know, i know -- basic!)

2. Shutter speed:  try to select a shutter speed with a denominator that is larger that the focal length of the lens. For example, a lens that is 50 mm in length, don't shoot any slower than 1/60th of a second. For a 100mm lens shoot at 1/125th of a second or faster.

3. Aperture: I love shooting at 2.8 for single subjects but must realize that for groups, unless you are trying to get "artsy", shoot at f/4 and higher.  The larger the number, the more area in focus.

4. iso: 400 is a standard commonly used iso. If you choose a larger iso, you'll be able to use a faster shutter speed and a smaller aperture.  My suggestion here would be to take the same subject (even in your backyard) and shoot it at all different settings to experiment.

5. Focus: the most obvious of all -- watch your focus points in your camera.

6. Using good lenses:  
I can not emphasize this one enough.  If you know the basics above, you will notice a massive difference when you have good quality lenses. You must not compromise when you lens shop.  I bought only brand name lenses (for my Canon) with the exception of one Sigma wide angle.  I noticed a huge jump in the clarity for me when I started investing in better glass.

Thank you, Dina!  It was such a pleasure to share you with my readers! I'll leave you all with one final image - a Dina Marie Original.

Isn't this image gorgeous?  If only I could capture light the way she does!  

Here's just a taste of the topics to be covered in my next installment of Dina's interview:

What's in your camera bag?
How do you deal with harsh mid-day sun?
Do you have any tips for getting toddlers and young children to cooperate for the camera?
What's your favorite lens?  Why?
How do you affectively market a client/referral base?
Do you have any tips on pricing structures?
What's the average length of time you spend on a session?

If you have enjoyed today's interview with Dina Marie, be sure to leave her a comment at the end of this post.  

To see more of Dina's work and to read her inspirational blog, stop by and visit her website.  While you're there, be sure to explore her other site within her website,  It contains special collections and personal work that Dina is currently working on for various galleries.  

Thank you for visiting with us today!  I will be posting more of my interview with Dina in weeks to come, so stop by often and spread the word.

Dina's Interview: One day delay

So many of you had such great questions for Dina.  She's asked for an additional day to work on her answers.  Please check back Tuesday!
Thanks for your patience.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Monday Mentor Series: Interview #1 - Dina Marie

Several months ago I posted about wanting to interview various accomplished photographers on my blog to share their experience and advice with you, my readers.  I'm excited to announce that the wait is finally over!  This coming Monday I will be interviewing my mentor, inspiring photographer and artist, Dina Marie from Dina Marie Originals.  

Over the past week I've been gathering questions from various photographer friends of mine.  Dina Marie will be on hand to answer some of those questions and offer her advice and inspiration.  The interview will be in Q&A format.  You won't want to miss it!  

In the meantime, I encourage you to view Dina's portfolio and blog at to familiarize yourself with her work, accomplishments, and passions.

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day everyone!!!!

Monday, February 9, 2009

You Are Invited to a Matilda Jane Trunk Show and A Free Mini Session Offer

Date:    March 3, 2009
Time:    7-9 p.m.
Place:   My Home (Please email for directions.) 
RSVP:  214-547-9820 or

Remember my recent post where I mentioned I'd been spending quite a bit of time thinking of ways I can earn money to purchase a new camera?  (drumroll please...) THIS is idea #1.

I'd like to personally invite you to attend my Matilda Jane Trunk Show. In appreciation for your Matilda Jane purchase, you will receive a FREE MINI SESSION with me.  

Mini sessions will be held on April 11 and April 25.  
Please email for more information.

What can I say, I absolutely LOVE Matilda Jane clothing.  It's fun, fresh, and creatively hand-crafted.  It's definitely a one-of-a-kind clothing line!  While Matilda Jane is typically thought to outfit only little girls, they do have select preteen, women's, and even boy's clothing available.  These adorable clothes are only available through trunk shows, though, so I'm super excited to be hosting one of my own!!!

If you are not familiar with Matilda Jane, you can check out their website at  Jennifer (my trunk show keeper) gave me permission to post a few more pictures on my blog to give you an idea of what to expect.  

The outfits you see below are from past catalogs.  Their new Spring line comes out March 1st, so we will be among the first to see the new Spring samples.  Prices are comparable to Baby Gap with dresses starting in the $30-$40 range.


So, COME...Join me for a glass of wine, some light refreshments, and a night of dress-up!  Feel free to bring a friend - and don't forget to bring your adorable little girls as samples will be available to try on.  

Don't live nearby?  You can still get in on the action.  I'd be happy to send you a catalog if you are interested.

***Free Mini Sessions are limited to those attending the trunk show at my home.  Special print and CD packages are available.  Please feel free to contact me for additional information.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Session Prep: Caprice

Caprice and I have her photo session scheduled a couple weeks from now.  To get ready for the big day, we spent some time at the make-up counter at Kohls for a make-over.  Caprice is one of those natural beauties who really doesn't need to wear make-up, but I suggested she do so for her session - especially since she'll be using several of the images as head-shots to send in to modeling and talent agencies.  

Even if you have great skin, wearing a light foundation during your photo session can really help to even out your skin tones and cover up blemishes - which is particularly helpful for keeping your retouching fees to a minimum.  

In researching head-shots online, I discovered that most models in this area tend to go with a more natural look when submitting their pictures to modeling agencies.  So, my goal in helping Caprice select a foundation was to find one that accentuated her dewy skin and allowed her natural beauty to shine through.  

This meant that powder foundations were out.  We know because the lady above tried to make it work, and it flat-out didn't!  We chose a liquid based foundation instead that really suited Caprice quite well.  

When selecting a foundation choose one that best matches your skin tone.  Always blend well when applying - especially around your hair and neck lines - to keep your look as natural as possible.
We chose a plum liner and a more neutral shadow to help bring out the green in her eyes.  I also encouraged Caprice to avoid sparkly blushes and moisturizers (especially under the eyes) as those can appear pixelated in a digital image - not the look we're after.  FYI: digital cameras especially dislike glitter on the face. 

After finding a make-up scheme we were both happy with, we headed to the mall.  Together we perused the racks for wardrobe ideas.  Caprice was sweet enough to include me in on these decisions as she knew I was working on building my teen portfolio as well.  We hit the jack-pot at Forever 21.

All of this is a huge deal for Caprice.  Her life long dream (since she was 5 years old) is to have a career in modeling and acting.  She loves theatre and will attend college in the fall to complete her degree in theatre and arts.  I'm really excited about being able to provide her with head-shots that will help her pursue those dreams.  We'll share a few of those images after her session in a couple weeks.

Random pic: Here's me documenting "me" on a styling session.  I was outside the dressing room waiting for Caprice to come out when I saw my reflection in the mirror.  Thought you might all get a kick out it.

Before I move on to a few more make-up tips, I have to mention how proud of Caprice I was.  She came in with a very specific budget and was so great about sticking to it.  How's that for maturity beyond her years? She's my kind of gal!

Now, back to make-up...An inexpensive place to send your clients for a makeover is the nearest cosmetics counter at your local department store. Most offer free make-overs.  Be sure to ask ahead of time if they are trained in make-up selection and application though.  Our lady at Kohls was NOT, and we ended up wasting much of our morning taking off and reapplying makeup that should never have been selected in the first place.  

Now for a HUGE top-secret scoop:  

Kohls carries the American Beauty and Flirt lines of cosmetics. American Beauty is the lower priced version of Estee Lauder.  Flirt is the lower priced version of MAC.  The formulations of both of these lines are identical to the higher priced counterparts.  The only difference (other than the packaging and the names of the colors) is the price tag.  Why throw money away if you don't have to, right?

With that said, like I alluded to before, Kohls may not have the most experienced make-over personnel - just be sure to ask about their experience before hand.  Remember, if you want a more professional makeover (with someone who can actually guide you to the correct color choices for your skin type), you might consider going to the MAC or Estee Lauder cosmetic counters first.  Once you've settled on your colors, head over to Kohls for the less hefty price tags.  Do so and you'll even have money left over to spend on your wardrobe!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Open Fields

Alden and I had THE BEST day together today.  After running errands and shopping for dresses, we went to the park to play for a little while. She actually asked me to take her picture today!  Of course, I grabbed the opportunity wholeheartedly.

I love these...and I LOVE my little girl!