Award Winning Image 2015 | Ernesto Sue

Last year I proclaimed, "this is the first photo competition I have ever entered and wow! I won!”  Well, I must say, this, my second-time winning, has convinced me, I’m a bonafide photo-taker-outer.  Having pushed myself over the course of the year to augment knowledge and skill as a photographer, I’m pleased by the recognition bestowed upon me by my peers.  I have put a great deal of hard work into my craft and I will continue to do so because winning a competition does not mean it's the end of the learning journey, it's just the beginning.  I am determined as an artist to be the best that I can be.  So, while I acknowledge this win and I extend a “thank-you!” to Portrait Palooza for the opportunity to have been a part of this competition, I will not rest on my laurels at this junction in my career; instead I will continue to work toward curating my art-form.

While this year’s competition resulted in a draw, I am fine with that.

The rules for the competition were simple: every photographer had 10 minutes to shoot with a randomly chosen model.  There's no preparation, so when your name is called and you are paired with a model, it's go time and the clock starts ticking.  In the 10 minutes, each photographer had to capture three elements 1) the venue 2) the dress and 3) bouquet.  These three details were very important in this competition as the vendors/suppliers were judging the final images.  After the images were captured, we had 48 hours to submit two images to be judged; I submitted the below two, the first one is the winning image.

I couldn't have done this competition without assistance from Wesley Shang.  He arrived at the venue totally prepared to help me win this competition.  Not only did he come with the hunger to win, he came with suggestions and ideas, which were inspiring.  He so much wanted to be part of the process that I agreed to him editing the second image, albeit not the winning image, still Wesley did a phenomenal job with the re-touch.  If you are photographer, contact Wesley he's a very talented re-toucher.  Thank-you!, Wesley for the support.

Here are the vendors:
Venue - Marbles Kids Museum
Flowers by Floral Dimensions
Make Up by Ashley Bromirski - Radiant Beauty by Ashley
Hair by - Cheri Leathers of Hair by Cheri 
Jewelry  -  Sabika Jewelry Inc.- Sarah Butler, Sabika Director

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The Secret To Creating A Dramatic Image | North Carolina Photographer

"...I really like your work maybe you can give me some tips to make a more dramatic picture".  

So the above question was posted on the video below from one of my YouTube subscribers.

What makes a dramatic picture? Images can be interpreted differently depending on the viewer.  Some would argue that it's the awesome lighting, colors, subject position, composition etc. that gives an image the WOW factor.  Well, for me a dramatic image is simply the emotional connection I get when viewing an image.

Now I did provide what I believe was a practical answer to his question (see comments under the video for the answer), but after a few days of thinking about it, I figured maybe there's a simpler answer.  A great image is not created because you simply point your camera and take a picture, it takes patience, experience and knowledge.  Of course, you also need practice, understand how to manipulate light, and knowing how to use your gear, etc. However, if you don't start the creative process, you will never get that dramatic image.

For each photo shoot I do, I simply pick a location, it may not be the most desirable location, but ultimately the quality of the light guides me to that specific spot and then I start creating images.  I work with my subjects to try and pull out their personality and incorporate that into the image.  Will those be the most dramatic images?  Maybe, but once the creative process begins my percentage of getting that one dramatic image (hopefully more) increases greatly.  

There it is, that's my advise on creating a dramatic image.  Do not be intimidated or overwhelmed by the thoughts behind your creative process, just start!

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Bridal Portraits @ Duke Gardens | Durham, North Carolina Photographer

There was a great deal of preparation associated with this photo shoot.  The goal was to help build the MUA's wedding portfolio.  On the day of the shoot, I had nine people depending on me to produce wonderful images --- before every shoot I experience a small dose of nerves --- I know what images I want to create but how will they actually turn-out always concerns me; simply put, I hope I don't suck :-).  The nervous excitement dissipates after I take the first image and I allow my creative process to take hold and do what it does; produce high-quality, artistic captures resulting in excellent, professional portraits.

When we arrived at Duke Gardens, I wasted no time; I almost immediately started shooting with Kelly Tada.  I captured some amazing images in the parking lot.  It was a small challenge working with three different "brides" back to back and I enjoyed every moment.

I want to thank the team whose hard work produced so many amazing images:

mua: Stephanie Sekhmina
hair sylist: Andrayah Poncè
crystal jewler: Emily French
wardrobe stylist: Tina B KonTroversi
designer: Sonique Stephen
model: Lindsey Carrier
model: Kelly Tada
model: La'Meshia Le
video assistant: Nika Austin
video assistant: Agnes Lichanska
assistant: John Austin

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Harish Wedding Anniversary | North Carolina Photographer

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Award Winning Image 2014 | Ernesto Sue

On the morning of Tuesday March 23rd on my Facebook news feed I notice an event about a wedding photo competition by The Wedding Portrait Society title "Portrait Palooza 2014" in downtown Raleigh, which was happening on the same evening.  Typically I would ignore photo competitions because in my view the deck could be stacked against the competitors, but this particular event peaked my interest.  In most photo competitions one would submit an image that was previously made for a specific category which is fine.  However, if one had enough time, resources and outside help anyone can or should be able to create a great image.  I believe that are artist / photographer should be able to compete in the same fashion as athletes where everyone has the same time, resources and restrictions.  So as I investigated the "Portrait Palooza 2014" competition a little more I found that it was exactly what I thought a photo competition should be.

The rules were simple, every photographer will get 10 mins to shoot a random model.  There's no preparation, so when your name is called and you are paired with a random model it's go time and the clock starts ticking.  In the 10 mins the vendors wanted us to capture 3 things 1) the venue 2) the dress and 3) bouquet.  These 3 peaces of information were very important in this competition as the vendors were judging the images.  After the images were taken, we had 48 hours to submit two images to be judged.

I really didn't have any preparation for this competition, I signed up the morning of the event and in the evening of the event as I sat in the holding area before my name was called I had a few minutes to think about what I wanted to do and all that I keep thinking about was speed.  Thinking about composition and posing was pointless because I had no idea who I was shooting and where I would shoot.  So when my name was called I hit the floor because I wanted to capture the venue's beautiful ceiling as it was the first thing I saw when I entered the venue.  Then I thought about the dress and bouquet.  I used the icelight because using constant light in 10 mins is the best solution to increase speed.  After I had those 3 things lined up, then I thought about posing the model and composition.  When I took my first image I knew had something but I didn't like the expression on the model's face but I really didn't have much time to correct it as I had to keep going just in case I was wrong.

It turned I was wrong and the first image I snapped was the winning image.  This was my first photo competition I ever entered and this was probably a fluke that I won, but I am pretty honored that the judges loved the image enough to vote for it, so thank you very much, it means a great deal to me.  Here's what the judges had to say.

"Wow! What an attention grabbing photo! So many great things going on.. using the lights to frame the composition, great moment, technically well executed. I would like a little more refinement on the light position so you get more light onto the shadow side of her face but well done. "

Location - Babylon Restaraunt
Dresses - Formalwear Outlet
Flowers - Ninth St Flowers
Model - Katie McGhee
MUA & Hair - Brandice Farrar

Award Winning Image 2014

muhammad | brooklyn | north carolina wedding photography

On the morning of Shanika's and Malik’s wedding, Shanika got ready for her big day at her mom’s apartment in Brooklyn; surrounded by her mother, sister and cousin who were also in her wedding party.  The atmosphere in the house was abuzz with lively, good-natured chatter as the bride and her bridal party got their hair styled and make-up done.

Arriving in grand fashion at the church, the bride, groom and wedding party in-tow disembarked from the limo amid a flurry of ooh’s and ahh’s in the sweltering heat of this unusually hot summer day at the end of May.  Shanika was stunning in her sweet-heart neckline, floor length gown and didn’t break a sweat as she hit her stride and entered the church.  After a beautiful albeit brief ceremony, Shanika and Malik were pronounced man and wife and indulged the ceremonious “jumping of the broom” significant in some American cultures of African origin.  At the behest of the pastor, the newlyweds were encouraged to start their new life together with support and well wishes from all in attendance.

Battling Friday evening cross-town traffic; the entire wedding party headed to The DUMBO LOFT in downtown Brooklyn for the wedding reception.  The bride and groom entered the venue after posing for photos outside along with their wedding party and guests.  Shanika and Malik had their first dance together as a married couple, followed by a very heartfelt and emotional dance shared by Shanika and her dad and Malik and his mom.  Guests dined and danced the night away to the Caribbean sounds of soca music and American standards; a good time was had by all.  

Shanika and Malik left New York for their honeymoon which coincidentally fell on Malik’s birthday; a nine day cruise which included a Turks and Caicos stop.  


Behind The Scenes Video of the Wedding


Breakfast at Tiffany’s Themed Engagement Photoshoot

The shoot took place at Hamilton Scot Inn located in Cary, NC.

Inspired by Old Hollywood glamour and aesthetic; Caleb and Avonlea channel Paul Varjak (George Peppard) and Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) respectively in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.  

The strikingly attractive couple was styled using wardrobe pieces reminiscent of 60’s era Hollywood, while still maintaining a contemporary and classic vibe.  The setting added the appropriate amount of vintage, comprising a quiet and potent mix of polished elegance and charm.

MUA:  Dawn Frischmann Losinger created a color palette that straddled the vibrancy of the 60’s and the modern look of today’s make-up application.

Hairstylist:  Shereese Cromartie styled the models hair using as her inspiration images of the leading actors in the movie.

Assistant: Carrie Fleitz did an awesome job with the video and provided much needed assistance.

Stylist:  Polymoniker researched old movie posters on the internet and reviewed the movie for styling ideas.

A themed engagement shoot is a great way to introduce wedding guests to a couple before tying the knot.  The engagement shoot augments the client’s comfort level in front of the camera with the wedding photographer; allowing the client and the photographer an opportunity to gain ideas on what angles work best for them; resulting in better pictures commemorating  the special occasion.  Couples are encouraged to show off their personalities with creatively-themed shoots.  Another popular reason for engagement photos are “save-the-dates” announcements.

Checkout the behind the scenes video below.