We’ve Moved! New Photography Blog

In an effort to streamline my photography website, my new photography blog (and all its archival goodness!) is moving over to to blog.jessicahammond.me

You can follow the new blog on Bloglovin! Please also note my Instagram is now jessicahammondme, and thus far all other social media remains the same!

See you on the other side, folks!

How to Hire for an Engagement Shoot

How to Hire a Photographer for Your Engagement Shoot

Engagement sessions are a popular appointment for many newly-weds. Typically we think of engagement photo shoots as prior to the wedding date, but some couples opt for a wedding portraiture after the nuptials. Your engagement shoot is a chance to express and experience moments of unbridled love and reserved time together. Even more importantly, it gives you both a chance to work with your wedding photographer before the big day. You may not be sure how to hire a photographer for your engagement shoot, so here are some tips.

The Process

1. View Their Work: It doesn’t really matter what a photographer is charging if you don’t like their style. Regardless of the type of photography created, each photographer has their own aesthetic. If you aren’t a fan of their use of flashes outdoors, or the colour palette they seem to adopt in their post-processing (is it all black and white, is it all a new take on sepia?) then it’s time to move on.

2. Request Pricing Information: Most photographers will post their price range. Personally I identify what packages are available, and what the pricing starts at. This is because, often enough, clients wish to add items (a hard-cover photo book, another canvas) and some may have a request for more hours. For instance, my full-day rate covers eight hours; after that I charge my hourly rate. While it’s difficult to negotiate a photographer down to your price range (we’re real people with real bills too!) a common thread amongst wedding photographers’ packages is mixing: often if you hire a photographer for your wedding, the engagement shoot will be included at a discounted price.

3. Sign on the Dotted Line: Make sure your photographer has a contract to sign. It doesn’t have to be super snazzy; in fact, for us folks without law degrees, the simpler the better! The contract is not meant to be scary, it’s simply used to manage expectations. You want to make sure what you spoke or emailed back and forth about (in terms of pricing, products, timing, the date of the wedding) is crystal-freaking-clear for all parties.

But Why Does This Matter? 

Especially if you don’t feel particularly photogenic, or have a tendency to be camera shy, engagement shoots are the perfect opportunity to get to know one another: you, the photographer, and your fears. Some couples use engagement shoots as a backdrop (or centrepiece) for their guest book at their wedding, or their save the date cards. If you want to go down this route, be sure to let your photographer know, as they will have to process the images in time for the printing! It is ultimately a great chance for the three of you to interact. You can figure out your insecurities, your best side, and this will make the photos taken on the day of the wedding smoother, relaxed, and most importantly, natural.

Jessica is currently accepting engagement and wedding clients for 2014. Contact hello [at] jessicahammond.me to find out more!

The Surprising Connection Between Crystals and Corporate Freedom.

The Surprising Connection Between Crystals and Corporate FreedomI haven’t been sharing too much of my personal life lately. There are no shortage of changes here at Foolish Oats HQ. It has been so amazing to spend January revving up for my big career change: I’m a full-time photographer now, guys! I hired a business coach back in November because I knew that, at some point, I wanted to take my part-time photography business full-time. I hired Ashley because I wanted to learn, I wanted to be prepared, and I wanted to invest in myself. Even as I hired her (which in itself was an unexpected, just-go-for-it move) I figured there was no way I was ready to make any sort of big life change. With a wedding on the horizon, I figured my plate was already full of new and exciting adventures. One of her first questions was, When do you want to make this change? My jaw dropped as I realized I actually needed to plan to make my dreams come true. There is still such a tendency in our culture to cling to this notion that success is just stumbled upon, by chance and happenstance. Yes, I was willing to work hard, but picking a date on a calendar? Way too tangible. Way too, uh, terrifying. Nope, good old fashioned daydreaming worked for me! Two minutes with Ashley and I was able to see just how straight-forward the dream machine could be.

The Surprising Connection Between Crystals and Corporate FreedomFast forward a few months, and in January 2014 I’m handing in my resignation to my acting manager. I got to spend the entire day telling co-workers out loud, “Not only am I a photographer, I am a full-time photographer pursuing my own business.” I’m all for self affirmation and reciting mantras out loud, but nothing could have topped that experience. It was like pulling off a mask and revealing this creative alter-ego people had never seen before; specifically because I wasn’t ready to show them yet. Having a side business is difficult: when you can’t invest the time, it’s not just you who is suffering, it’s your potential clients (and in some cases, your current clients) who have to wait double the amount of time for proofs, or wait until the third weekend of July to work with you. It means that your free time is your work time. It’s not impossible, so many creative and wonderful people are living their dream through side business! But that’s not to say it isn’t taxing.

The Surprising Connection Between Crystals and Corporate FreedomNow that I’ve made this leap, and stood in front of the world declaring my decisions, I am finding it easier to take my own needs seriously. Previously, I thought that giving in to my wishes was “whimsical” and not at all what Serious People do. I thought that allowing myself to invest in my own interests was selfish and somehow hurting someone. I don’t really have that problem anymore. And maybe that’s the surprising connection between crystals and corporate freedom. It didn’t all dissolve when I made the choice to go solopreneur, but rather the other way around. I get that healing crystals and gemstones and chakras aren’t for everybody. To many people, they are beautiful trinkets that could fill the bottom of a vase just as effectively as they could heal someone’s ailments. Much like the tarot (another purchase I made at the tail-end of 2013) I look at stones and crystals as an exercise of intention. Where is your subconscious taking you? What sort of murky rabbit holes is your mind burrowing through, without you ever really knowing about it? While tarot cards is much more connected to the mind, crystals are heavily associated with the body, mind, and soul. While I type this, I’ve got four stones often associated with the throat chakra. (Get it? Communication, guys!) Philosophers, like Plato and his crew, used stones like Lapis Lazuli. It’s a royal blue stone with golden flecks. I keep picking it up and running it through my hands during breaks between hammering on the keys and replaying awful pop songs on YouTube. I’m using it to communicate, sure, but also to speak without fear. There’s an energy of sincerity and ferocity of authenticity infused in this stone. I get that it’s a stone, but how many stones come charged with these kinds of stories, this level of mythology?

The Surprising Connection Between Crystals and Corporate FreedomI ordered this chakra set, along with three other chakra sets, from a Canadian Etsy shop called zaraluna. Having never before bought any sort of stone or crystal (not even for decoration!) I contacted the shop owner, Amanda. I had a few shops on my radar, though all the others were in the US. I had to contact each one to see if shipping to Canada was an option, and while they replied promptly and professionally that they would figure something out for me, it was Amanda who I felt like I had a connection with. I was willing and ready to part with my money, to put forth an investment in something I am interested in learning more about. I come from frugal Scottish stock, and it was Amanda who was able to gently loosen my clutches. She was prompt, and professional, just as the other shops had been. But she was personable. I felt like there was someone there, behind the scenes, who had experienced loss and joy and gratitude, just as I had.  As I move forward in my own business, I know that I want to incorporate all the things that I value. I am so grateful for all of the interest that I have had so far in my bridal packages, but I need to remember to talk to these brides as people, not just clients. I’m getting married in August, I know what they are going through. I went through the process of hiring a photographer in the fall, so I can understand their concerns and their hangups and their excitement entirely. Amanda gave me not only a great product and the urge to run back for more, but without even knowing it, she gave me a gentle reminder to be a person first.

Mentioning Amanda’s shop is in no way an affiliate post, folks, I really just loved working with her. Ordering through her shop, zaraluna, was an amazing customer service experience. I admire her work and dedication immensely!

And just a friendly reminder, if you’re a bride-to-be in Ontario, I’d love to work with you! Drop me a line at hello [at] jessicahammond.me

5 Free Photography eBooks You Need

5 Photography eBooks You Need

While reading some highlights of the 99u 2013 Conference, I stumbled upon Heidi Grant Halvorson‘s concept of “Be Good” versus “Get Better” mentality. Halvorson defines the former as the goal of proving one’s worth and positioning one’s superiority over those around us. The latter, instead, focuses on constant improvement. With each study, Halvorson found that approaching each situation with the attitude of improving upon previous experiences, subjects were happier and more successful people.

I’m in the process of writing my first photography eBook for equestrians. Photographers shooting the wedding or engagement portraits of an equestrian, wildlife and animal photographers, and even equestrians with a nice camera, will learn about basic composition and equine body language in my forthcoming book. Stay tuned for more hints about this resource, perfect for the animal lover in all of us.

In the mean time, photographers and photography enthusiasts of all genres can peruse several fantastically free eBooks. All of these books are available online in .PDF format from various sources. Each of us, no matter what level of experience or skill, can benefit from the Get Better mentality by learning from the top 5 free photography eBooks you need in your collection of resources.

5 Photography eBooks You Need: National Geographic

1. National Geographic’s Ultimate Field Guide 

The National Geographic Ultimate Field Guide eBook is a 23-page document written by Jodi Cobb. This one covers all the basics of digital photography in a crisp and professional layout. Every other page has an advertisement for some sort of paid offering from the fine folks at National Geographic, which is a small price to pay for the comprehensive list of photography basics. The book covers the spectrum from equipment and lenses, to composition and colour balance, to the weather. The text is littered with helpful asides, such as this “virtual viewfinder” tip:

“Your virtual viewfinder: A very good way of comprehending composition is to form a rectangular frame (your very own virtual viewfinder) with your hands by linking your index fingers to your thumbs. Hold your frame at arm’s length for that telephoto look, or close to your face for the wide-angle effect. You will find that by eliminating the superfluous information from your view, you will see it more the way your camera will photograph it. This may sound absurd—after all, you can always look through your viewfinder—but just try it.”

5 Photography eBooks You Need: Black and White

2. Photo Answers’s Shooting in Black and White

Photo Answers provides a stunning 22-page book on mastering black and white photography. Sponsored by Jessops, there is an entire section dedicated to printing and presentation. While these items may not be of particular interest to some digital photographers, the reality of the industry often forces photographers to be intimately familiar with the printing process, quality, and choices available for our clients. The more burning sections include tonality, camera settings, filters, and black and white photography in post-production. The entire book is beautifully composed, with heavy reliance on visual aids to illustrate the lessons.

“The key to taking great black & white pictures is being able to visualize how the colours in the scene will convert to the different tones in the final image … you can influence this by the way that you process or convert your digital files, but there are still some simple principles that will help you produce the most successful black & white photographs.”

5 Photography eBooks You Need: Photo Extremist

3. Photo Extremist’s Introduction to External Flash

Evan Sharboneau wrote this succinct 9-page book as an introduction to external flash. He makes use of the selfie to illustrate basic advantages to using an off-camera flash, rather than the pop-up strobe that creates often horrific shadows on even the most beautiful of visages. Evan advocates the use of off-camera flashes in outdoor photography, and provides a bare-bones list of required equipment to achieve the desired looks of professional photographers.

“See the little bit of light on the left (his right) side of his forehead? That little bit of light was caused by a reflector that was located to the left (his right) side. All it did was bounce back the light coming from the flash back onto the left (his right) side of his head. Boom! Instant fill light.”

5 Photography eBooks You Need: Stunning Food Photos

4. Learn Food Photography’s How to Take Stunning Food Photography

On the subject of lighting and photography, the Learn Food Photography’s 22-page book divulges the difficulties behind taking impeccable food photography.

“A landscape photographer is happy to take a tripod and a good lens and in most cases that is good enough. Food photography on the other hand, is not only about a good lens and a tripod but also light bouncers and reflectors. Food photography needs more props to set up the scene too. Plates, silverware, napkins, background sheets/boards to name a few. As a result of this, photographer needs to take into account how do these small and big props impact and interact with the main subject in a photo.”

Food photography, as any Instagram user can attest, is riddled with far more roadblocks than foodie bloggers would have us believe. This book begins to tear away some of the layers of impossibility for those of us unfamiliar with this unique branch of product photography.

5 Photography eBooks You Need: Chris Weeks

5. Chris Weeks’ Street Photography for the Purist

This 160-page book was written predominantly by Chris Weeks in 2006. There are a number of guest authors, and it packed with stunning photographs of the intricacies of the human condition we often pass over in favour of categorizing it as “the mundane.”

“Street Photographers work differently. Their photo has been created in their mind – long (seconds or milliseconds) before they release the shutter. Street Photography is – we have all read this on dA, when submitting photos to this category – “about seeing and reacting”. Quite close to the core of the matter. “Seeing” is the important part. Light, lines, fore- and background, movement, things and people that happen to interact for a second. If you don’t see these moments, feel them, live in them, all the time, with or without camera, then Street Photography is probably not for you. The “reacting” part is craft mainly.”

The book is predominantly a collection of essays, provided by street photographers from around the world. The words and images contained in this book are a beautiful illustration of the global scale to which our everyday lives connect.


What are some eBooks you found invaluable to your photography career, experience, or craft?

When Jessica’s not busy writing photography eBooks, she’s filling her calendar with weddings and portraiture shoots for the rest of 2014. Contact hello [at] jessicahammond.me to book your event!

3 iPhone Apps Every Photographer Should Have

3 iPhone Apps Every Photographer Should Have

I recently wrote about 3 iPhone apps to have more fun on Instagram. Whether you’re a professional, a part-timer, or simply a photography enthusiast, these apps are a necessity for anyone hoping to capture and share images through their phone.

iPhone Apps Every Photographer Should HaveGorillacam

Gorillacam is developed by the fine folks at JOBY GorillaPod’s. While the camera app does pretty much anything you’d want a camera app to do, the Gorillacam has a self timer (with varying seconds) as well as a burst mode, for taking photos in quick succession.

Clever marketing here, because it can be tricky to hoist your iPhone (no matter what model) to a proper position for self timers. Perhaps using a Tripod, oh, I don’t know, maybe a GorillaPod Camera Tripod?


iPhone Apps Every Photographer Should HavePicFrame

For those interested in collage (does it ever go out of style?) PicFrame is a robust app. You can take photos within the app, or insert files from your camera role. PicFrame is not free, however by buying the application there are no watermarks. There are all sorts of whacky patterns and colour features for the bubbly high-schooler buried away in all of us. But for those of us following the Instagram trend of providing our carefully composed images with outstanding borders, this application is just as perfect for us.


iPhone Apps Every Photographer Should HavePS Express

Not only is it free, PS Express is a robust application with its own set of filters (for those who enjoy [such frivolous things]!) as well as an extensive collection of post-processing features. Some features are part of the pro version, and require a nominal fee to upgrade.


Thankfully, unlike many of the apps mentioned in my previous iPhone app post, the free versions of these programs do not implant any watermarks on the photos rendered using their products. Unlike the previous applications mentioned, these programs do not require any in-app upgrades.

What applications could you absolutely not live without during your travels?