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KOONTZ PHOTOGRAPHY Top 5 Photography Guidelines

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My work has been displayed in Musée de l’Élysée in Switzerland, as well as locally in art events such as Nude Night Orlando, Nude Nite Tampa, and RAW Artists Orlando. My work has hung in galleries such as Art Affair, Abbey, Funky Trunk Treasures and others. I have been published internationally in Illusion Magazine, Thrust Magazine, IST Magazine, Smithsonian Blog, Future Art Magazine, West Volusia Magazine as well as in newspapers. I have had the privilege of working closely with several bands and singers such as Nova Rex and The Cog Is Dead. My photos have been used in their album art, DVD covers, and in promotional materials, websites, blogs, and in magazines. My stock photography has been used on records such as “Come As You Are - A 20th Anniversary Tribute to Nirvana” as well as on book covers, brochures and posters.

A little bit about me: My name is Daniella Koontz and I am the owner/operator of Koontz Photography & Design. I opened my company in 2006 when I found out that I was pregnant with our first daughter. I wanted a flexible schedule that I could set, and the ability to be able to work from home.

When we first started our company we were a husband and wife team. Since that time I have taken over the company, and do most of the work myself.

I enjoy collaborating with other artists and I hire other photographers when I have large weddings. I have preferred photographers in Florida as well as in Photography wasn’t anything new to me. My parseveral states up the Eastern seaboard, since I travel ents were professional wedding photographers for a for weddings as well. stint in the 80’s and so I had grown up with professional camera equipment at my disposal. When digI make sure to stay current and relevant to my marital photography first started coming into the market by always reading, browsing other photograket, my father was quick to get me a digital camera pher’s work, and communicating with fellow artists. so that he could stop spending so much money on I currently sub contract out my services to other film and developing. photographers, as well as photographing events for I already had friends and family asking me to pho- corporations and bands for local radio stations. tograph their weddings and senior portraits before I had a professional set up of my own. At first I Needless to say, my passion turned from a hobby shot a mixture of film and digital, and finally in into a full fledged business, and so can you! 2004 made the full switch to a digital DSLR after marrying my husband who was also a professional photographer. Page: 2

“When asked to be the first speaker for The Clique, I wondered how to condense over a decade of knowledge and experience that I had stored up in my head. Instead of approaching it from a completely technical point of view, I chose to make a list of the five things I feel are the most important to think about when pursuing photography as a hobby or as a career.� 1. Be one with your camera 2. Look at things from a different PERSPECTIVE 3. Organize smart 4. Share, share, share 5. Never stop experimenting

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BE ONE WITH YOUR CAMERA The first thing is simple: Read your manuals. But is it really that easy? Some of you may not fully comprehend all of the terms and all the settings associated with photography. Honestly, after years of learning you still won’t know everything that there is to know about photography. I am a tactile learner, and so have always grown more from people showing me something, than from reading it in a manual or in a book.


When I say, “Be one with your camera” I am talking about a relationship. I am so familiar with my camera that I can control it without even looking at any of the buttons or dials. I feel what needs to be changed to get the image I want, I don’t always have to stop and look.

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Even though I have been shooting professionally for such a long time, if you hand me a different camera it will take me a little while to warm up to it and get the image that I want. It isn’t all about the numbers and the settings, because all equipment isn’t created equally, certain settings on my camera won’t get the same results as those same settings on your camera. So, you really have to come to know your camera and be familiar with how it handles in all situations and lighting conditions. That comes with time and practice, but it is a good goal to have. They say it takes 2,000 hours to master something. So you need to spent a lot of time experimenting with your equipment and getting used to it.



A photography class I took said that you should address photography like a sumo wrestler. Get down into the ground and constantly move around. At the end

of a photography session, it’s not just your feet that hurt. It is also your calves and your thighs from climbing, squatting, and bending. A different perspective can make or break an image. While there are no set of rules for what makes a good composition, there are certain things to consider and keep in mind when taking a photo, as they can help add impact to your composition.


A different angle will completely change the dimensions of a photo. This is why, as a portrait photographer, I hate using a tripod. I need to be free to move, and even crawl around on the floor if need be.

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COMPOSITION TIPS • Identify your purpose. What is the feeling you wish to convey with the image? • Identify the key elements. Figure out exactly what it is that you wish to capture. Every good photograph needs a strong focal point. A lack of a strong focal point forces the viewer to keep wandering through the photograph looking for something to rest their eyes on. This may mean changing your depth of field, your angle, or moving things around before you take the photo.


• Identify your light source. Really photography is like painting but with light. The position of your light source is VITAL to the strength of your image. Make sure the shadows complement a shot instead of being overbearing and ruining it.

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• Fill the frame. You’ve identified your key element, you’ve simplified the amount of details in the frame, now you can simplify the image even more by filling the frame with your subject matter. This works especially well with portraits.

“Your artistic eye is worth more than all the technical information and guidelines that you can learn - so the goal is to TRAIN your eye to see the beauty and edit accordingly”

• Don’t amputate. If working with people or pets, pay attention to your edges. Your photograph will work better if you don’t cut off part of your subjects head or cut a limb at a joint. Also when paying attention to your edges, make sure you don’t have a tree or light pole growing out of your subjects head. And check that your horizon is cutting through their face. If you are shooting for a client, leave room around the edges for different aspect ratio in prints. A 4x6 will not print the same as an 8x10



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“You can teach a monkey how to use a camera, but it takes an artists eye to create a photograph”


Divide your image into three equal horizontal and vertical zones and try to use these as a guideline for composing your image when possible. Try filling each zone with a different element, or try placing subjects of interest at the intersection of the lines.

The Rule of Thirds With the image on the right you will see the top zone if filled with background The middle zone is filled with the door and subject’s faces The bottom zone is filled with foreground grass The left zone is filled with the female The middle zone is filled with the male The right zone is filled with background The couple’s hands intersect at the bottom left “The key to these guidelines is to use them (and even mix them) whenever possible to enhance your composition, but not to let them DICTATE your shot.” Page: 8

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Lines can be used to lead the eye into the shot and to the focal point, directing your viewers attention as well as adding dimension, motion, and intrigue to your image.

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Curves are pleasing to the eye and helps guide your eyes in a relaxed manner through the image or towards the subject. Your eye is naturally drawn to things that have an C or an S shape, thus the pleasing motion in a woman’s body or the edge of the sea as it washes up onto the beach.


Patterns can be found in nature as well as in man made objects. Patterns bring a sense of rhythm and harmony. The key to emphasizing patterns is to isolate them from their surroundings. Patterns take an object that can evoke emotion and multiply it when repeated in a pattern. Page: 12


Different textures can add an interesting background to a subject, or be the subject themselves!

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Photo by Ma


If you are shooting a far away subject, like a mountain, include something in the foreground to help add a sense of depth and scale to your subject. Framing refers to the technique of composing your subject so that it is “framed” by other elements in the scene. The “frame” doesn’t have to go all the way around your subject to be effective, but giving that added foreground will add more depth to your final image.

Photo by: Mark Dickinson Photography

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ORGANIZE SMART! Two of the foundational principles of a successful business are efficiency and effectiveness. You need to accomplish a lot of tasks in a day, and do them well. For photographers, the way to achieve those two things is with a great workflow. A good workflow is key to knowing where everything is on your computer, and speeding up the time it takes to process your photo sessions at the end of the day. There is no such thing as a perfect workflow as every photographer has their own. I encourage you to keep working and reading tutorials on how to improve

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on it or them. I say them because I use multiple different work flows at home, and when sub contracting out to other photographers. I have my workflow for getting ready for a shoot, a workflow during the shoot, a workflow when I get home and download my images, a workflow for post processing those image, and a workflow for communicating with clients and getting them the products that they need.

If you’d like to see a quick rundown of my entire workflow here we go: • Email/Phone call to book the consultation with the client • Consultation with client • Signing the contract/retainer fee • Scanning signed contract and emailing it • Confirming dates and times closer to shoot date • Shoot session • Downloading files into Lightroom and backing them up onto external hard drive • Post processing all images • Uploading images to Smugmug for viewing • Emailing clients with link/password and information about purchasing their prints - giving them their print credit code to place an order and any further instructions to select their photos for further retouching • Selecting my favorite images for blogging / Facebook teasers • Collecting any vendor information I may need • Submitting orders • Delivering products There are a lot more details to all of those steps, but this is my workflow in a nutshell. Page: 17



Share your work online. If you take photos and nobody sees them but you, you are robbing people of the fruit of your labor. So SHARE SHARE SHARE! Post them on Facebook, Tumblr, blogs, photography websites, art websites, your personal webpage, art shows, local stores and craft fairs.... the lists are endless!

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Share your knowledge and love for photography with fellow people. No matter how good you are, or how well your business is doing or how much competition you have out there... there will always be someone better than you, and there will always be someone who can learn something from you. The old saying holds true in photography as well, “It is better to give than it is to receive” ... because think about it.... where would

you be if people weren’t willing to share what they have learned with you. So pass it down, and help cultivate future photographers! Share constructive criticism! We live in a society that is so transient and disposable. If you are familiar with social media, I’m sure you realize how often people will just “like” and image on Facebook but leave you absolutely NO feedback. And those that do leave feedback generally leave things like, “this is gorgeous!” or “great work!” While getting compliments such as these are great, and help keep your confidence level up, how much more so does a meaningful, well thought out, constructive critique? So HOW does one go about leaving a constructive critique?

“The whole point of commenting is to express both your positive and negative thoughts on whatever piece; the positive will act as compliments on the artist, while the negative will help them realize their mistakes. When we point out mistakes, we often do not know how to say it constructively, and in the end we tend to skip the negative all together, which is a big no-no. Speaking of which, if you have received the ultimate critique, do not fret; it is not directed to you as a person. Do not take them as personal attacks, and feel all mad and confused. This should be a helpful learning tool.” -Zir Tuan


1. Interpretation

How this image makes you feel, what it says to you, how you relate to the image.

2. Compliments

Build the artist’s confidence by telling them exactly what you like about the photograph. Why do you love it? What caught your eye?

3. Critique

Find something that might help the artist with future work. It is ok to point out things that you may have done differently even if you don’t know the technical term for it. Just remember to be polite!

4. Questions

Learn from other artists. Is there something about the image that you don’t know how it was achieved? Ask about it! This expresses genuine interest.

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The parts of photography include the technical aspect, the composition, and also the emotion behind a photo. What moved a person to take this photo? Is there a hidden or double meaning? Most artists love to hear your interpretation, so make sure to take the time to really look at the image and think about it.

Questions to ask yourself: • How does this image make me feel? • What message is conveyed in the image? • How do I connect with or relate to the image? • Is there an emotion or story attached to the photo, and does the photographer do a good job conveying it?

2. CREATIVITY A creative image is one that stimulates the mind and eye by being both imaginative and original. If you are about to comment on a photo, it must have caught your attention. Make sure to note why it caught your attention. Questions to ask yourself: • Is it a different view of a commonly photographed subject? • Is it a macro shot of an everyday item? • Does it make light of a serious subject? • Is the photo taken from a unique angle, creating a greater impact? • Does the photo leave any elements to the imagination? • What makes this image different from the rest?

3. TECHNICAL ASPECTS • COMPOSITION Composition is simply defined as the organization of space. Take a good look at the photograph and try to note the center of interest. Also note any distractions that you might find that you might offer up as some constructive criticism. Here is a good link to understanding parts of composition

• Has the artist used the Rule of Thirds to draw your eye to the subject? • How does the subject relate to the other parts of the image? • Does the placement of the objects tell a story?

• COLORS AND LIGHTING The light that falls on objects constantly changes, and thus the color. Daylight is warmer and has more reds at the beginning and the end of the day. An overcast day produces cooler bluer images than bright sunshine. Hazy sunlight gives muted colors. The work you do in post-processing can help these colors and contrast to make certain parts of an image stand out more. Questions to ask yourself: • Do these colors help convey an emotional response? • Do these colors hurt the art rather than help it? • Does the lighting create any weird shadows? •

How does the lighting harden or soften the photograph?


Questions to ask yourself:

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Depth of field is described as the range in a photograph, from near to far, that appears to be in focus. Basically A smaller depth of field would mean that the subject is in focus, and the background is not, whereas a larger depth of field would mean that the foreground and the background are in focus. Depth of field can be a great help to get rid of a confusing background, thus drawing all of your attention to the main subject. The three ways to control your DOF is by changing the aperture, changing the focus distance, and changing the focal length.

Questions to ask yourself: • Does the depth of field draw my attention to the main subject, or does it detract from the photo by making me wonder what is in the background? Find this free cheat sheet at:



TECHNICAL ASPECTS Perspective in photography can be defined as the sense of depth or spatial relationships between objects in the photo, along with their dimensions with respect to the viewpoint (camera lens or the viewer).This is one of the tricky areas of photography which if a photographer is not consciously aware of, can produce unwanted “distortions” or “flat” uninteresting images. The human eye judges distance by the way lines and planes converge at an angle. This is known as linear perspective. Lines that are parallel to each other when seen at a great distance gives us the sensation of meeting (at vanishing points) for example in rail tracks. This “converging parallel lines” illusion can be used to show “distance” or depth in the photo.

Questions to ask yourself: • Does the perspective make the objects in the photograph look bunched together, or far apart? • Are there objects overlapping to give the viewer a sense of depth among various objects? • Do the lines from the linear perspective converge at a central point, giving a strong feeling of depth? • If the photo is of a building does the building look like it’s leaning, or does it give a powerful feeling?

“Critiques are a two way street. If you want people to critique your work you have to appear receptive to it. In other words, even if you don’t agree with the suggestions/opinion expressed, respect it and respond accordingly. Whatever you do, don’t be blindly defensive. Try to be objective about the opinion received.” -Saq



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NEVER STOP LEARNING The moment that you think that you’ve learned everything that there is to be taught, then you become stale. You get stuck in a rut. Your work becomes cookie cutter. You may have a profitable business, and you may be making lots of money.... but if you aren’t growing as an artist, you lose the ART in your photography and you end up just taking pictures.


So join a photography group :) Join photography websites. Read tutorials and attempt to recreate them. Get subscriptions to magazines. Network with other photographers and other artists. Put your work in an art show and get feedback. Ask to tag along on another photographer’s shoot. Get out there and try new things!

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RAW artists Orlando Photo by Emily Jourdan

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Koontz Photography Guidelines  
Koontz Photography Guidelines  

My top 5 guidelines to photography and critiquing