Portrait Spotlight With Jourdan Ferguson

I get the opportunity to photograph some of New York’s most interesting individuals and though I get to share a bit of them with my portraiture, I think they deserve a bit more. With that said, I want to start sharing our sessions with a mini briefing of how we get to the final result. Today’s feature being the multi-talented sculptor, interior and set designer, Jourdan Ferguson.

The beauty of working with other creatives is that there is no judgment about what you’re aiming to create. Working alongside Jourdan, we bounce ideas off of each other, speak of our personal hopes, goals and aspirations, and in such, I always manage to capture a new piece of her every time we come together.

We didn’t come to the studio with a specific goal. I often like to work with the natural ebbs and flow of the energy my subject and I are manifesting when we get together. In this moment, I told Jourdan I’ve been looking to experiment with a different look from my previous works and in response she also explained that she was feeling a new level of confidence and we wanted to bring that confidence to the forefront of our images. We pulled a canvas tarp that was laying around as our “canvas” to work with, we let the set become a part of the shoot instead of trying to control it, and we fed off of one another. Added a little “Beyonce” fan, took leaps, created natural movement, and in the end came together with these images that I couldn’t be prouder of.  Thank you Jourdan, for helping me to find a new look that I love.

How To: Get Comfortable in Front the Camera

One of the most common things I hear from people is that it’s hard for them to get comfortable in front of the camera and I totally agree, being in front of the camera is pretty nerve-racking. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be! I decided to put together a little “how-to” giving a couple of pointers to both photographers and subjects alike, that should make life just a wee-bit easier once you get in front that camera:

1. Familiarize Yourself with the Camera

Take photos OFTEN. We aren’t in the film age anymore (if you even know what film is…millennial) so it’s not like you’ll have to pay for every photo you take.

Don’t shy away from photo opportunities. If you’re one of those people who cover their face every time someone pulls out their camera, stop it. Now. Embrace the opportunities so it’s less weird to see yourself in a photo.

2. The Mirror is Your Best Friend

I repeat, the mirror is your best friend! You already own one (I hope), practice posing in front of it. Familiarize yourself with how you look. Act out scenes, check your facial expressions, see what works and doesn’t work for you. When camera time comes, you’ll be prepared knowing you don’t look “weird” (don’t worry, you won’t ever look weird).

3. Be Wholly You

Have fun when you’re having your photo taken. Personality shows and as long as you aren’t a complete and utter prude, that beautiful character of yours will reflect in pictures. Of course, your photographer is responsible for making sure you feel comfortable enough to be yourself so if you feel a little self conscious, tell him/her. That little bit of communication can be the difference maker.

4. Communication is key!

I always say this but it’s important for me to get to know my subjects before taking their photograph. Any and every one who has had their photograph taken by me will tell you, I break the ice by allowing us to talk before I stick a camera in their face and then I talk even more while I take their photograph. It’s a practice in multitasking but there’s nothing more awkward than the silent, staring photographer who doesn’t get to know anything beyond your subject’s name. If you are this photographer, consider taking time to engage in casual conversations with people you’re unfamiliar with to shake off those nerves. It will take your portrait work to a whole new space.

These little tips can open a world of comfort and shake off those pesky nerves when shooting but if you need more help getting comfortable try booking a simple session with me to take your portraits from good to amazing. 

4 Easy Tricks to a Better Portrait Retouch

I often get questions about retouching, specifically about what’s my workflow like, when do I know enough is enough, and how do I decide what and what not to retouch. A lot of those questions are only answered with time and experience, however, there are a few things that I do that has made those questions a WHOLE lot easier to come to an answer to and of course I’d like to share that with you all:

1. Mark Your Areas of Focus - All this means is to look over your image in its entirety and choose what needs to be “fixed” as well as recognize what’s perfect as is. Now this is a recommendation for portrait or fashion photography, it may not apply the same for beauty photography that has an even deeper attention to detail. Create a blank layer, pull out your brush and get to circling! Sometimes those visual cues can really help in guiding you through your retouch.

2. Eliminate Those Blemishes and Unwanted Scars - On a new layer (remember NON-DESTRUCTIVE RETOUCHING), you should be doing most of your blemish masking, i.e spot healing & clone stamping. Anything that isn’t naturally there, adjust it: pimples, blackheads, scratches, fly away hairs. Most everything else can be adjusted with your dodge and burn layers.

3. Recognize Tonal Differences - uneven skin tones can be unpleasant on the eyes and recognizing them is even harder when color is involved (things just get complex for your brain trying to figure that out), because of that, I often Dodge & Burn with a black & white layer mask on. It’s a lot easier to distinguish those awkward or unflattering shadows and highlights and to appropriately dodge or burn them. Here’s a download link to a simple action just incase you’re a little confused:

Dodge-Burn-B&W Action

4. Don’t Go Overboard! - Now this tip is the hardest one to abide by. There’s this sense of perfection we all have in the back of our minds. What starts out as little adjustments become hundreds of macro adjustments. If you find yourself zoomed in at 200%+, slap your own hand and zoom out now! The majority of your images probably aren’t going on billboards (and if they are, you’re probably able to hire a retoucher that can take care of that and you should). Look at your image from a size that you and most people will see it in, if those retouches you were aiming for can’t be seen, it’s probably not necessary. A lot of detail can be lost in macro adjustments and a photo that looks airbrushed is just as bad as a photo that is over sharpened. The less “natural” it feels, the more you know you need to scale back.

With these simple steps, you’re already on your way to a better retouch! If you have any questions, drop me a comment or shoot me an email: neriah@neriahmc.com

I’m always happy to help!

5 Ways to Be A Better Model (Even For Your Selfies!)

I’m big on consulting with my clients before actually shooting with them. It’s important to know whom you are dealing with and allowing them to get to know whom they will be working with. I also make it a practice to converse with other photo professionals about their photo shoots and experiences with their subjects.  All too often I hear people talk about how they wish they could do a shoot over (both models and photographers) and a common complaint is that they don’t look flattering, or they don’t look like themselves, or that they just outright hate the picture! Now, sometimes (quite possibly most of the time) that may be the photographer’s fault. However, there is a way to get something GOOD even if you’re dealing with someone not so skilled at giving good direction (another common complaint), and that’s being a better model. Now I’m not saying you aren’t a good model, but what I am saying is if you run into a situation where someone isn’t able to guide you to a photo that you’ll both be happy with, there’s a couple of things that you can do to guarantee yourself at least something you can go home happy with:

1.  Communication – now this may seem OBVIOUS, however, most people assume that they’re dealing with a professional and in such, that person should know what they are doing, which is more than valid. The problem in that assumption is that your photographer may be amazing with a camera, but he/she still doesn’t know what you may or may not like and with that, they can’t know if the pictures they may like will be mutually pleasing to you. As I mentioned early, I consult with my clients/subjects. I ask about what it is they are looking for, if there’s anything they feel insecure about, how comfortable they are in front of the camera, what is it that they like about MY work, what they may or may not like about pictures they’ve taken before. This gives me a guideline and makes collaborating a dual effort thing. You go in with confidence knowing that your photographer is on the same page as you, and confidence shows in photos.

2.  Know Your Angle(s) – You own a cell phone, you have an Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook and every other life invading social media outlet, and more than likely you’ve taken thousands of selfies, so you’re probably a selfie professional by now. You’ve probably have noticed that you generally take photos in a particular way because it’s most flattering to your face. With that said, you have a pretty good idea which angle you prefer your face to be seen in. Well my friend, that there is your angle! Your photographer typically has an eye for catching an angle that he/she finds flattering, if you pay attention to where they are capturing you from, you can position yourself to make sure that they catch similar angles to what you enjoy seeing the most. Works for you and works for them.

3.  Learn a Little About Lighting – This may seem complicated, but it’s a little simpler than you think. Ask your photographer “which light is the key light?” (he/she will be thoroughly impressed you even know what that is) but most importantly, when they direct you to it, you generally want your face to be facing the key light (unless otherwise directed). The key light is the main light, it molds your face, it is typically the most flattering light on the set and if the goal is to get something you will like, well this will probably guarantee it. Don’t believe me? Look at this video and randomly pause it at any point in time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sgpeoWpO9w

4.  Get Out of Your Mind – I can’t tell you how often this little tidbit changes a photo from WTF to OMG <3  . Sometimes we worry so much about what we are doing, that we forget to actually just do it. If you find yourself focusing on trying to “look good”, stop, take a breath, shake it out and chat a bit. Talk to your photographer, ask him/her what direction it is that they’re going in, act it out a bit and then let it flow. That little bit of chat can go a long way in allowing yourself to just be.

5.  BE YOURSELF – I know you watched a marathon of Top Model and Tyra is amazing, that’s because Tyra is being Tyra. Your personality shows in your photos and when you aren’t being authentically you, well that shows as well. Don’t be afraid to be a little goofy, don’t think you need to act like something you’re not, the more fun you have on set the more fun the shoot will be. And as I said before, confidence shows, so you being YOU is as confident as it gets!

Cardio NYC. A Sidewalk Project

Because photography is both a career and hobby for me, I have to find ways to separate the two while still enjoying them both in their own right. You’ll see I have a ”personal” section and this usually consist of the work I do as a hobby, which tends to be more therapeutic in nature for me and that I enjoy just as much as I do my other work. Cardio NYC is a sidewalk project that I started one day while sitting outside of a bar (you can read the whole story on the page). It’s pretty different from my other work in which my control of the “variables” is little to none, which is the exciting part for me. Here’s a couple images from the series of images and be sure to check the actual link out to see more of CardioNYC

26 of 365. A Portrait A Day with Roxanne

Roxanne and I have one of those friendships that stem from pure hatred for one another and that’s why I love her! But seriously, Roxanne is a good friend, painter, and all around creative. We’ve worked on a fine art series before (check my other links if you haven’t by now, and if you haven’t by now you’re slacking. Shame on you.) and we continue to support one another in our endeavors. She has somehow made her way into my 365 day portrait and I decided to do things a little differently for this one but I think it’s pretty cool. Enjoy!

25 of 365. A Portrait A Day with Hannah

My 25th portrait is of a new friend I made named Hannah (we met like 20 minutes prior to this image). Hannah is new in  New York, she’s 18, from North Carolina and just signed with One1Management (congrats to her!). She is definitely one of those natural beauties. But I’ve said enough, check her out.

24 of 365. A Portrait A Day with AlexMc

Alex doesn’t really go by “AlexMc” but since he’s my brother, I’m giving him that name anyway! Alex is in school for the summer but for whatever reason he keeps coming up every other weekend so I made him pose for one of my portraits. One thing you should know about Alex is that he’s addicted to running but I don’t think he knows it. Most athletes don’t. When he sees this post, he’s probably going to text me a very pleasant “ef you”.

23 of 365. A Portrait A Day with Random Old Guy by Epsteins

I did things a little more “guerrilla style” for this portrait. As I sat outside of Epsteins, drinking a house ale and chatting it up with some friends, I saw this old dude and thought that he’d make for a great subject. I whipped out my camera as he was talking, he looked over, smiled and voila, portrait number 23!

22 of 365. A Portrait A Day with Devon

So I met Devon for the very first time the day I took this picture and it was actually pretty cool to get someone who wasn’t already a friend, but I made a new friend in the process. Devon is a pastry chef, which to me is the coolest thing ever (mainly because I’m obsessed with the Food Network and all things food). She refuses to take the train so she bikes everywhere and she has the most gorgeous Siberian husky. I love meeting new people!

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