Photography Insights: BraidsbyJordan

When Jordan asked me to be a guest blogger on Braids Without Borders, I thought that it would be easy to put something together….300 words…no problem.  I’m never short on words.  I have a new respect for the effort that both she and Clarice put into this blog because I’ve come to understand that coming up with something that is interesting and meaningful is not nearly as easy at it seems.

One question that Jordan and I have been asked constantly over the past few years is “What camera do you use?”.  For this reason, I thought I would write this blog post to share some of the things that we have learned about hair photography – mostly by trial and error.  I will start off by saying that we are both amateurs.  We have never taken a photography course and the photography books that I have purchased with the intent to read someday…..well, that someday has not yet arrived.   I’m sure that if a qualified photographer was to read this post, they would find all sorts of technical errors with the information I am sharing, but oh well – our techniques work for us and they might just work for you too😀
While the camera is an important part of the picture taking process, I will say that what is in the picture is even more important.  It doesn’t matter if you have the best camera and best lens in the world, if you are taking a picture of something that is not photo worthy, the pictures will not be good.  I can’t tell you how many times we have gone out to take pictures, only to return home with nothing that was worthy of a “BraidsbyJordan” post.  Most often, the issue with the photo shoot was the hair itself.  It didn’t turn out the way Jordan had expected and there was nothing that a great camera or lens can do to make it something it is not.   So, my first bit of advice – don’t try to take pictures of something you aren’t happy with.  You will waste an incredible amount of time and energy and still end up with nothing.
Outdoor pictures are what we have always worked with.  It is very important to think about the weather before starting a hairstyle.  Wind, rain,snow, and bright sunshine will all have a significant impact on the final product.  Sometimes, it is just not worth the effort to go out into whatever mother nature has thrown at us on any given day, but there have been plenty of times when Jordan has picked a style that should hold up to whatever weather we are facing and we have gone out and embraced the storm or the extreme heat and ended up with some of our favourite photos ever.  Be prepared, choose the right hairstyle for the weather conditions and know what you are going to be working with before you head out.
Light is either your friend or your enemy.  After years of hair pictures, we both agree that the early morning hours and the late evening hours create the best picture taking light.  While I can’t explain the technical reasons behind why the early and late day light is best, trust me – it is.  Trying to take photos when the sun is high in the sky is incredibly challenging.  Making adjustments to compensate for the bright sun only makes it impossible to see the actual hairstyle.  Standing in full shade to avoid the bright sun makes for boring pictures.  So that is my next piece of advice, go early or go late and you will save yourself a lot of frustration.
The background is an important part of a great hair photo.  We have found that there are a couple of options that work well for us.  Being far enough away from the background to allow for definition but not clarity, or being immersed in the surroundings completely both seem to create the best results.  Standing directly in front of a bush or a tree does not create the kind of dimension that makes a photo look interesting and captivating.  Being 10-20 feet away from the same bush or tree has a completely different effect.  If there are tree branches or tall grasses, it can also be very effective to stand/sit a few feet deep into the foliage – this can also create some interesting dimension for the photo.  So, stand far away, or immerse yourself completely and you will have a photo with great depth of field and composition.
Finally, I will talk about the camera and lens that we choose to use.  We have a Nikon D7200 and our favourite lens is a Nikon 85mm.  This lens works incredibly well for our hair photography because it allows us to shoot with with an F-stop setting as low as 1.8.  Most of the photos you see on Braidsbyjordan’s Instagram page have been shot within the 1.8-2.2 range. The ISO and shutter speed we use is greatly dependent on the light we are working with, the hairstyle and the background composition.  Those of you who have learned to shoot using the manual settings on your camera will know what I’m talking about.  My last piece of advice is, take your camera off of Auto, and play with your aperture (f-stop), shutter speed and ISO until you have learned how they work together to create the photo effects you are happy with.  Do some online research if you want to because there is lots of useful information out there, or just go with trial and error like we have😀
I hope this information has been helpful and interesting. Remember, Jordan and I are a couple of amateurs who have spent what must be hundreds of hours outdoors learning about our passion for taking photos that capture our incredible Canadian landscape with great composition, beautiful light and of course, incredible hairstyles!

– Andrée (braidsbyjordansmom)

Jordan MacKenzie

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