Vision, Art & Style

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“The Bride of Zeus” was inspired by Francie’s love of clouds.

by Francie Baltazar Stonestreet

Creating Images which are Soulful & Thought Provoking

Wedding photography is my primary business. However, I photograph a variety of subjects from landscapes and macro, to stylized portraits and to statements on social issues. I have found that having variety in my artistic endeavors has assisted me in becoming a more competent photographer and more fulfilled as an artist.

Art has always been in my life. I cannot remember a time when I was not either looking at art or creating it. My world changed at 15 years old when my mother gave me my first 35mm camera. Later, I studied art and photography in college but didn’t think I could ever make a living as a female photographic artist in the 80’s, so I opened a corporate training and consulting firm and lived the corporate life. Yet, my camera was never far as I created landscape and macro art.

In 2004 I took a leap-of-faith and came back to photography, first on the commercial side, and then transitioned into portraits and weddings. Wanting to create more than a pretty picture, I immersed myself into learning and that path brought me to the Professional Photographers of America photographic competition. Seeing some of the most creative, innovative and mind-blowing works of art has driven me to want to create images which evoke emotion and tell a story for not only myself, but also for my clients. In my 30 years as a photographic artist, here are some important lessons I have learned…

HAVE A VISION – Having a vision for yourself is more than setting goals.  It is about the “why” you do what you do. It is what drives you personally and the framework from which your business is based. A vision statement also becomes your “elevator speech.”  When someone asks you what you do for a living, do you say, “I’m a photographer?” Because everyone is a photographer nowadays, it’s important to grab them with who you are and why you make imagery. My vision statement is, “I leave a lasting legacy of moments in time for generations to come with unique, soulful and thought-provoking images.”  When your vision is crystal clear, there is no fear and purpose becomes your motivator.

CREATE YOUR STYLE – What is your style? Can you recognize it? Can you replicate it? In today’s very competitive world of photography, having a style that you can replicate is important. Why? The internet is how a  majority of clients look for photographers. Decisions are made in a split second as to what you offer or if you are the right photographer for them. Evolving your style into what you love is the key to success. If you love it, you can sell it. Discovering what makes your soul sing takes patience and sometimes a quiet space.  Look to art outside of photography as well as your past for clues as to what you are drawn to visually. Then ask yourself what about this art do I love? What is the artist saying to the viewer? How can I incorporate this into my work?

VISUALIZE – By getting to know your clients, you can better understand their dreams, desires and passions. Ask them descriptive (or specific) questions so you can better learn about who they are, and then you can better visualize the kind of images you want to create for them. Think about what you want the image to look like in its final state. What do you need to capture with your camera to manifest your vision? Do you need to visit your location to plan and have time to visualize your image?  Having a well thought vision also gives room for creativity to emerge. Write it down. Keep an inspiration book, and then plan what you want to create.

“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” – Ansel Adams

FEED YOUR CREATIVITY – Creativity begets creativity. Some people are born with the gift of being creative, but the rest of us must work at it. It’s always amazing when I hear a photographer say, “I’m just not creative.” The question becomes what have you done today to feed your creativity?  Art museums are at your finger tips through the internet. Movies are just a click away through Amazon and Netflix. Books can be downloaded instantly and read on your phone. Inspiration is all around us – you just have to go looking for it.

“The Count’s Bride” was inspired by the book series “Twilight.”

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY – With the onset of the digital age, the quantity of photographs became a big deal. Photographers were so thrilled with the limitless capture opportunities, some even used the number of images provided as a selling point to clients. It didn’t take long to realize that 25 images of the same thing wasn’t necessary. A well visualized, stunning image was more valuable than thousands of basic images. What is the story you want to tell? How does this image support the story? With wedding photography, each image should fall into one of the following categories: documentation, photojournalism, portrait, romantic portraits, family portraits, special moments, or story-telling.  Creating quality images should become a habit and obsession.

When a client asks, “How many images will I get?” the answer should be, “How many would you like?” They typically will say they do not know. Responding with approximate number of images per hour is the most effective way to combat this question. You can say something like this: “We strive to provide you with the highest quality of images and typically deliver between X and Y per hour of photography.”  Your goal should be to create beautiful work, not a massive amount of work. There is more value perceived in a one-of-a-kind piece of art, something which is completely unique to your client.

“From Here To Eternity” was inspired by the black and white photo of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr from the movie with the same title.

NAIL IT IN CAMERA – The beauty of digital and the curse of digital is we can see instantly what we have captured. The biggest lie that photographers tell themselves is, “I can fix that later.”  Do it now! Fix it in camera! What you have control over during the photography session is what you should control.  The computer is for digital enhancement, creating art and only fixing things which could not be done in camera. Soften some of those wrinkles with more flat light. Use clips to fix that over-sized jacket. Use the correct angle of view and posing of your clients to slim them down. Choose the correct lens for the situation. Do it in camera. Picasso was famously known for saying, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

ALBUMS AND WALL ART – We live in a digital world. High school textbooks are now online. Snap-chat is the fasting growing app. People want images they can share. In this ever-growing digital world, printing images is more important than ever. Ten years ago, the “last forever” method of storing and sharing images was the CD/DVD. Computers today are not shipped with CD/DVD readers, so these images cannot be easily viewed. The digital world is fleeting and is not reliable for ten years from now, much less 100 years.  Creating heirloom albums and wall art which can be passed from this generation to the next is the only way you can ensure your work will last over a lifetime. Providing digital images is the future, but printing ensures the future is still viewable.

PERSONAL PROJECTS – Step outside of your norm and create just for the sake of creating. Personal projects are images you create for yourself. As an artist, you must be willing to take time to dream, rejuvenate, and replenish your well of creativity. Doing personal projects which have no deadline, no client and no financial value associated with them gives you the world. Commit to doing at least one personal project every year.

NEVER STOP LEARNING – Photography is a world where technology meets creativity, and there is always something new to learn. Texas Professional Photographers Association provides many learning opportunities throughout the year that include Summerfest, iHeart Photo Conference, Texas 10 Workshops, and theTexas School of Professional Photography. I am thrilled to be teaching with Chris Smith in 2019 at Texas School. Our five days will be filled with inspiration, hands-on shooting, solid practical information, and loads of fun!

LEAVE YOUR LEGACY – Life is too short not to find your passion and pursue your dreams. Create your art, love your clients, chase excellence and leave your legacy for the future. Be BOLD enough to use your voice. Be BRAVE enough to listen to your heart. Be STRONG enough to live the life you always imagined.

Francie Baltazar Stonestreet is an award-winning portrait artist and wedding photographer from Kingwood, Texas. She is a PPA Master-Craftsman and Certified Professional Photographer with numerous photographic awards including Kodak Elite and Canon Par Excellence. She will also be teaching a class at the 2019 Texas School of Professional Photography. For more information on her class, go to www.TexasSchool.org and learn more
about her from her website at
www.fireheartphotography.com.