studio photography » You Can Sleep When You're Dead: Blog by Colleen Miniuk

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May 082014

Photo copyright Ryan Gelb

I wanted to create an image with lots of emotion using dramatic lighting, shape and balance. My sole goal was to try and capture an image that expresses the passion for what the subject is doing or where the subject is, in this case the subject being someone who is working out at a gym. I really wanted to get a picture that communicates very well visually. On top of the original image I added a few graduated neutral density filters and small tweaks to the highlights and shadows. I wanted the image to have a very dramatic feel to it.

A little back-story on this picture is that the idea originally came from a quote I heard. The quote said, “Success shines not only in the light, but in the dark as well.” I wanted to try and create an image that brings that quote to life. I decided to put my passion of photography and my new found passion of living a healthy life together. The person in the image is in fact myself. I wanted to show people where I stand in life and what it means to me in one picture. I have never been healthy throughout my entire life up until 8 months ago when I decided it was time to make a change. It meant and still means the world to me in such a way that I cannot explain. I have accomplished more than anyone including myself would’ve ever thought. I have worked very hard, keeping to myself in the dark doing what I have to do everyday to get to where I want to be. It has been a lovely road of success that has not been easy for me, and that is what I am trying to capture with this image. On the technical side I used a Cannon Rebel T3i, 18-55mm lens, a simple Dynex tripod, a YONGNUO Speedlight YN560-II flash, and a remote trigger. The aperture was at 5.6, ISO set to 400, and the shutter speed was at 1/100.

About the Photographer:
I have always enjoyed making art that forces people to feel a certain way. I want people to see an image of mine and say that image created some sort of feeling for them. I prefer landscapes, nature, and architecture shots. My work is different from others because I try and capture a subject in ways that people wouldn’t expect. Passion, serenity, precision and love for the moment all exist in my artwork. My main goal as an artist is to be different than others, to have people see one of my images and say, “I haven’t seen that before.” My dedication, passion, and love for photography is what keeps me motivated to provide people with the best possible images I can. I will not settle for anything less than my best.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at

May 062014

Photo copyright Olivia Franco

In Northern Arizona University’s 2014 spring semester Amy Horn gave her Photography 285 class an assignment: to turn in: a portrait photograph. Spring break was the week before the assignment was due. I have always made the best attempt to be a diligent student and made plans to shoot the image at the beginning of the break. However, this was far from what had actually happened. I planned to return the Sunday before classes started up again and, of course, took the photo the Saturday before. Panic struck me at the thought of lacking someone at school that fit my very high, photogenic requirements. Originally, my mind was set on my mother, who has a very photogenic face. One argument later and we agreed that my mother would not be my subject. It was quite rude of her, something about how much she hates a camera in her face.  Out of options, I chose my father as my target instead.

Normally I considered my father to have a rather plain face, but I quickly learned that with the right amount of adjustment anyone could look nice for the camera. The photo’s set up was also interesting. Instead of an elegant studio, I had to make do with my parent’s home. 6:30pm light filled the room from approximately four windows. The background was a black, fleece blanket and his choice of seat was a common living room chair. The photo shoot began only after fidgeting with my flash and wireless triggers, which I placed to the right and above the subject, for a good twenty minutes. It was unprofessional at the time but I consider it a live and learn situation. My dad wore glasses and a dark grey graphic t-shirt at the time and after the first shot was taken I knew that wasn’t going to make for a dramatic photo. I took the glasses from him and choose a nice shirt out of his closet. I chose blue with the thought in mind that it would be nice with the black background. As he returned to his chair he grabbed a hat which hung by the front door. I considered it, assumed it would not harm the photo, and agreed to let him wear it.

I took many good shots and was overall pleased with them. We then experimented with the placement of the chair, brought in our family dog, and with the hat on and off. It was an enjoyable experience and my father started to have fun too. He struck a few poses and referred to them as his glamour shots. It wasn’t until I took the images into Lightroom that I decided that the joke photos were some of the best ones. My roommate had made the final decision of which photo to turn in for our portrait assignment. She referred to it as the “stoic” pose and was one of the ones I hadn’t considered due to its very “glamor shot feel”. When I received my grade from Amy, I was excited to see that I had received full points. From the experience, I learned that every photo you take is important, whether as a joke or in the spur of the moment, you never know which photo might be the money shot.

Shot with Canon Rebel T3. ISO: 200, 24mm, f/4.5, 1/160 seconds. Watermark added. I lowered the background’s exposure to take out any distractions.

About the Photographer:
My name is Olivia Franco and I am a third-year student at Northern Arizona University majoring in Electronic Media and Film with Theatre and Photography minors.  I have been fascinated with technology ever since I was a child, especially with cameras. My uncle is a professional photographer and I never failed to ask him to play with his camera at every family gathering. On the day of my high school graduation, he gave me my first camera: a Canon Rebel T3 DSLR. I currently shoot with that camera and plan to continue with it for a long time. I enjoy shooting macro and exposing the smaller things in life but have just now begun to understand the charm of portrait photography and hope to continue pursuing this other style.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at