“Oh I wish I could take pictures like you!”

“Oh I wish I could take pictures like you!”

When ever I have shows or teach one of my workshops someone will always say “Oh I wish I could take pictures like you!” this of course triggers my inside voice which states, “yes you can”. As photographers we all have other photographers, artists, and designers that we look to for inspiration. I myself am always online or in bookshops looking at what’s out there currently and being pitched as all new, plus what has been done in the past. I’m a firm believer that there is really not much out there as truly original art but there is always a fresh twist or a new take.

So what do I do? Well, I look around to see pleases my eye, what teases my mood, and does it make me happy. When my marriage fell apart you could definitely see a difference in my work, at least to me looking back at it. What is very simple to me at least but so many people struggle with is that they get lost in the planning stage and then the work never happens. One of my biggest inspirations is the era of the sixties. You had so much going on and here we are almost sixty years later and its still reflected in todays trends. There was Mary Quandt with the mini skirt, you had Rock N’ Roll gaining traction as a popular form of music this also brought pirate radio stations, also there was the Profumo Affair. The Profumo affair being that John Profumo was the Secretary of State for War in England and his then girlfriend 19 year model Kristine Keeler was also having an affair with Yevgeni Ivanov, the senior naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy. This was the height of the Cold War folks and such things were considered treason. Post scandal, Christine Keeler posed for a shoot with a chair and it’s why you see chairs in my shoots to this day.

So inspiration can come from anywhere and really what you should be doing is just take pictures for you and only you. There is no need to worry about what everyone else is doing or what they really feel about what you’ve done. I’ve always been a brown pair of shoes in a world of black tux’s and will continue to be so.




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Mixing a vision of high fashion with adaptability

Mixing a Vision of High Fashion with Adaptability

Mixing a vision of high fashion with adaptability. The job of a fashion photographer is to show the world a design the way the designed intended it to be viewed. They need to place the design in real-world settings to be able to mix the vision of the designer with the laws of reality or create a new reality that would allow customers to see that design fitting into their lives. Creative yet adaptive, how does a fashion photographer apply this to fashion photography?

One of the main applications of a fashion photographer is to accept the visualization of a client and apply a personal level of creativity that is signature for that photographer. As a fashion designer you are looking for someone who has taken the time to develop their own signature and style to apply to the photos that they take but will not get in the way of the vision you have for your designs.

Alister Oliver has a no-rules-need-to-apply style that would add the unexpected to any fashion photography shoot. As a photographer that is 100 percent self taught he able to apply his creativity to fashion shoots that would make the finished product stand away from the crowd and have fashion pieces stick to the customers minds. Alister has a love a black and white film photography medium that he develops the film, personally. Working with this love in film has taught Alister that there is no substitute for carefully planning in photography and to pay attention to the minuscule details of every shot. He said, “The reason I like film is, it absolutely teaches you to get it right the first time.”

When asked if he regrets not being classically trained in photography, Alister Oliver responded, “Some things would have happened differently if I had studied photography. On the other hand, having not been schooled, I didn’t learn the rules. I would never have tried a lot of things because someone would have said, ‘You’re not suppose to do it that way; you’re not getting an A’. I like what pops out because I broke the rules.” When looking at Alister’s gallery, you realize that he see the world in a unique way, whether it is finding that tender moment between mom and baby from across a crowded room or a cityscape of blurred traffic around a construction zone. Alister can use his distinctive vision to add to the development of a brand and look for you designs.

One of Alister Photography’s business proficiencies is portrait photography where Alister looks for ways to bring out a subject’s artistic flair or unusual personality twists. Over the time that Alister has been a photographer it is clear that he has discovered that every model and scene has two sides, one that is seen by the everyday world and one that is hidden that takes time to uncover. Alister applies the search for artistic emphasis and hidden side by drawing out a fashion designer’s vision. He is able to appropriately place the subject to best fit the needs of correct marketing and memorable commercial or product photos.

In a recent fashion photography shoot, Alister applied the designer’s vision of free-flowing eco-friendly gowns to have a fairytale theme that seems to be something that jumped off of the pages of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’. Shown on location, with desert backgrounds, the photos stress that the softness of the gowns is out of place from the landscape. Alister also shows the gowns in a more traditional forest location that down plays the backdrop and allows the lace in the model’s outstretched arm to become the defining character of the photo. Daniel Laukat, the designer of the gowns specializes in handmade dresses that are lightweight and extremely soft. Laukat’s gowns have been up-cycled from heirloom fabrics and crochet pieces. From his Etsy store, SofterSoftest, Laukat concentrates his dress and gown lines that look like they are from the 1960s and 70s.

With Alister’s photography, he showcases Laukat’s gowns as being versatile and adaptable for any occasion or even as a bridal gown. Each gown features a train and lace sheer panels, Alister Photography uses the natural light to highlight the details of the lace and stress the geometric shapes placed into each of the gowns. The natural light helps set the scene of the models being connected with nature with is a perfect compliment to the sheer lace panels. He also uses appropriate shading that shows the model’s face and depicts emotion however, draws the eye to the garment. Alister focuses on photos that allows the casual viewer to see the subject of focus, but upon further inspection teases the tiny the details to the front. Which is part of his defining style.

In some of Alister’s other fashion photography portfolio, he expresses his love of cars as being part of his shadowy backdrop. The models show a sense of being strong willed and edgy with heavy makeup and extreme high heels which matches the fashions and hairstyles. Set in locations of abandon buildings, stripped down bathrooms, and old warehouses, Alister provides a high contrast for the ultra modern, chic clothing. One model even dons a gas mask and is photographed in both panoramic and close-up to increase the effect of the darker side of human nature.

Throughout Alister’s portfolio, he applies unique angles and suitable subject placement that makes the photos interesting. Alister also plays with shadow and the unexpected that make the viewer take a second glance to catch the details that he places within the shot. Within Alister’s fashion photography work he employs the use of the finding lines that moves the viewer’s eyes across the shot.

Alister shows in his work that he isn’t afraid of applying new skills, abilities, visions, and tastes. He finds a way to work creatively while still adapting to needs and wants of a fashion designer who has specific ideas in mind when portraying personal designs. The willingness to escape the ordinary allows Alister Photography accentuate a brand image or look.


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Sacramento is under construction

As we all know Sacramento is under construction. The struggle to keep the Kings here is over, their new home is steadily coming along and soon the masses will come. In the mean time I thought I’d go out for a couple of hours down town and shoot a vary brief glimpse of the  gentrification our city is experiencing.

Now my home and studio is all of a few blocks away from what is the largest construction site this city has seen in many a decade so I to shall become gentrified as it were. I’m a big fan of exploring ones neighborhood I actually like the way my neighborhood is today, the smells, the sounds the way it breaths so I’m curious what change will come.

Walking around the down town area on a Thursday evening there was quite a bit going on. There were school children finishing up band practice and walking back to their school bus. The local church was having its evening mass with the lead up to Easter. You have folks valet parking their pride and joy and of course the homeless taking up shelter for the evening where ever they can and alley ways going quiet for the evening with their dumpsters containing that days trash.

As for the change all of the gentrification will bring? All I can do; like everyone else is wait and see while enjoying what I currently have. Time, as they say, will only tell.

Alister Photography











Seven Qualities of a Fashion Model.

Being a fashion photographer I do get to work with some very amazing people. Now some of those people are assistants, make up artists, show curators, art directors, agents and last but not least models. If I had a nickel for every time someone said, “they’re a natural I wish I could model like that?” I’d be fat and happy sitting on a beach somewhere. Well let me tell you this there is no such thing as a natural born model!! They do however have seven qualities of a fashion model that make them very successful.

Have you heard of the natural born doctor or lawyer? I thought not. They spend years studying and then many more years honing their craft before coming experts and respected in their chosen field. Modeling is no different and those that study their craft certainly make a difference when viewed through the viewfinder of my camera.

When I’m looking for models it all starts on a look and what is that look I’m going for with the finished product. Next it’s the interview and do they have what I’m looking for, obviously you can’t change a look but you can change an attitude. Over the years I’ve yet to not click with a model I’m working with and attitude is everything.

So what is this attitude? An experienced model will typically have these 7 qualities.

-The ability to learn and strive to never stop learning.

-Self confidence.

-Traveling and a hunger to discover new things.

-Good organizational skills.

-A healthy body.

-They set goals and have zero fear of going after them.

-Resist peer pressure and walk to the beat of your own drum.


If you’re reading this and are aspiring to be a model then write them down, study them, and make them a part of who you are. If you don’t currently have these traits pretend that you do. Over time they’ll be part of the very fabric that makes up you, repetition eventually becomes routine and routine turns into second nature.

I’m currently working on a project now and I’m working with two models that have all of the above seven traits. Although the one they have the most of is number seven. Number seven is the one quality I look for the most as I find that’s the trait I work best with. So walk to the beat of your own drum and happy shooting.

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Photography tips: Shooting Square

Photography tips: Shooting square

As a photographer that shoots for a living I’m a big fan of always going back to why I started this in the first place and that’s because it’s something that I enjoy doing. Practice not only makes you better but more importantly it keeps the passion alive and with that work never feels like work. My favorite form to practice is with my Polaroid camera or pulling out my iPhone and using Instagram.

Shooting square is nothing new and has been around since 1929 with Rollei. As for the purpose of it, there isn’t one really its just different. Strong composition happens by making things simple and a square image places your subject dead center usually and thus fills in that negative space and makes everything simple.

So why shoot square? Essentially you’re taking cropping one third of your image and leaving the strongest two thirds. This is something you’d do when shooting in a rectangle anyway but now you’re taking that strong image and really bumping it up a few notches. Now keep in mind an image with poor composition will not suddenly be great because you went back and shot it square, a poor image will always remain a poor image.

When shooting square look for shapes that are consistent and line them up so that the viewers eye follows through the image.  Also if you’re shooting a flower place the flower dead center and now the stem becomes a line for the viewer’s eye to follow to the flower itself.

Another thing to consider is keeping the colors in your image to a minimum. To keep things really simple try shooting square in black and white. Now you’ll really start looking for strong lines and shapes and you’ll really start looking for shadows.

Finally there are also toy cameras such as Holga and Diana that also shoot square but now you’ll be shooting exclusively on film. Not entirely bad and my favorite medium but if you’re raised on digital just keep in keep mind there is no photo shop and getting it right the first time is key.

As for me I like to shoot portraits square and still life objects that I find when I’m out. Below are some images posted to my Instagram account that just caught my eye. So try going square and see what you to can come up with. Happy shooting.

You can find me on Instagram here


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Ten items to always take on a shoot

Ten items to always take on a shoot.

First let me clarify these are not exactly on my person at all times but they are packed in the car and not that far away if I need them. Over the years I’ve come up with a list of ten items to always take on a shoot. There is nothing worse than having to suffer and stop everything to go run to a store to get something or worse yet not get the shot you had hoped for. The following is what I need to get by and fix the unexpected.


You just never know when you’ll need one. Yes they are bulky and heavy but when it gets you out of a jam their bulk was worth the effort to carry. I’ve even used them to hold a flash for me so it’s not always your camera that is mounted on them.

When it comes to which tripod to purchase? Buy the very best you can afford. Yes, Manfrotto are spendy but I’ve had mine for seven years and it’ll be around long after I’ve gone to.

Lens Cleaning Cloth

You’d be amazed how many photographers I run into that do not carry one of these. When ever I shoot a fashion show I at least get two or three photographers come up to me and ask if they can borrow mine. My favorite is the spray and lens cleaning paper by Tiffen.

Memory Card Wallet

I was always that photographer that just threw his memory cards in his bag with the logic it’ll be there when I need it. This also made me the photographer who was forever buying new memory cards to replace ones that I’d lost.


As a child I was a boy scout and have never forgotten how to use a compass. Smart phones are great but they do not always have a signal and batteries do die. With a compass in your bag you have a way to find when and where the sun is setting and also a way home if you happen to be shooting in the back of beyond. I say this as fashion shoots have taken me to some pretty remote areas.


You’d think this was pretty obvious but always bring water. Now not just a bottle but a whole gallon jug if not two gallons. You just never know and its better to be safe than sorry.


There should always be a pocketknife or some sort of multi tool in your bag. You just never know what you’ll need to cut, trim, or shave off when out there on a shoot. I even go the extra mile and bring a pair of heavy duty scissors to.


I’ve held back tree branches, propped up flashes and even pulled dresses tight in the back on shoots. You can never have enough A-clamps and its good to have some small ones and large ones.


You cant always use a flash and sometimes you need a massive amount of concentrated light so always bring a couple of reflectors. Once again these are not cheap and its been my experience to always buy the best you can afford.

Step Ladder

Although not exactly easy to carry you should always throw at least one in the trunk of your car. In my studio I have a three foot, six foot and 20 foot ladder. I’ve used all three on shoots and always bring my three foot step ladder.

Duct Tape Duct Tape Duct Tape

I can not stress enough how important this stuff is. It’ll fix anything but world peace so NEVER leave for a shoot with out it. I believe in the stuff that much that I carry three colors of it (silver, black and white) if you’re asking. I’ve even hemmed a brides dress with it, hence why I carry white duct tape, and photo shop takes care of the rest.

Now this is not a hard ten and you may find other items you’d like to carry or wish you’d have packed. I could easily add a flashlight but I always have one in my car anyway. Happy shooting.


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Photography tips:

Photography tips: These are 8 things that I do every time I’m out shooting.


What camera do you shoot with? Oh I wish I had a better camera! I’ve only got this cheap beginner camera, what one should I get?

The above questions I get on a weekly basis and in reality it’s not down to what type of camera I use but how I how use what ever camera I’m shooting with. These photography tips are the 8 things that I do every time I’m out shooting. You can be a full on professional, amateur, or just want better photos in a frame on your book case at home of family and friends.

Being Prepared.

This is a huge advantage to taking better images. Always have your gear ready to go, have back ups for your back ups, extra memory cards, extra film, batteries charged, and my personal favorite duct tape…… A good way to organize your equipment is to have a camera bag. I myself have two, one is very large and the other is a tiny little thing that holds one camera body, a flash, and an extra lens. For jobs large or small I can pretty much be ready in just under 10 minutes if I need to be. Does this happen often? Not really but there have been a couple of times when I needed to be though. So being prepared paid off.

For you professionals don’t forget a rain poncho and always have an umbrella in the trunk of your car….

How to hold your camera.

Holding your camera steady is key to a sharp picture. Place your camera in the palm of your hand and then hold the side of the camera body with the other where the shutter release/button is. If you do not have a tripod brace yourself against a tree, car, or building, I’ve used chairs, tables, cars or any solid object for that matter. Also place the camera up against your forehead and frame your images through the viewfinder and not the screen. You’ll get a much stronger image this way.

Also practice pressing that shutter, breathe in, exhale and then press at the top of your exhale just before you breathe in again.

Getting up close.

When it comes to portraiture get up close and get to know your subject don’t be afraid as you may make a new friend to. Fill up your cameras frame and fill it with your subject.

Now of course if you’re on safari I’d advise against this as becoming a meal is not making a new friend.

 Shoot Shoot Shoot.

Nothing makes you a better photographer than practicing constantly. Get out there and shoot, be known for always having a camera on your person. Also get your worked critiqued, there are plenty of camera/photography clubs out there that offer a bring your work in event where a group will give feed back on your progress.

I myself offer a work shop for beginners and more advanced students and I always encourage my students to keep in touch and stop by if they’d like me to look at their work. I’m always game to sit in a coffee shop and to look at images and offer feedback on a fellow photographers work. I only have one condition and that’s bring your thick skin.

Change Your Lighting.

Another question and concern I get is “how do I use my flash?”. If you’re afraid of flash then get rid of it. Use natural light to your advantage, place your subject close to a window or move them away from the window while doing this watch how the shadows fall on their face and how they increase and decrease in intensity.

As for out door light play with the sun and angle at which it falls on your subject also shoot out doors on a cloudy day and see the differences you can create. Once you’ve mastered this then move on to using a flash.


We’ve all seen that family album with that family member who always has red-eye. The reason for red-eye is because the flash passes through your subjects eye and then reflects back straight into the camera.

The easy fix is to just not use a flash but then when was life easy? So what to do instead is to bounce your flash off of the ceiling or go with a off camera flash and place your flash off to the side. Now I agree this is more than some people are willing to do just for simple family pictures so just bounce your flash off of the ceiling and you’ll never see red eyes again.

Go for Candid

 This is my favorite shot to get when shooting a wedding. Just blend into the crowd and shoot away. You’ll capture interactions between your subjects and take your photography to a whole other level.

When you go back and look at your images your subject should have no idea you even took the picture. To practice this go out on the street and take random images, street photography is my favorite but it can also be very challenging so patience is key here.

Create Your Scene

 I tell students in my photography class that photography is about telling a story sometimes that story is fiction and sometimes non-fiction. As your work progresses start to create scenes with your subjects, use random props and most of all create images that you want to create.


Finally, anybody can do the above with any camera and every budget level. So keep shooting and practice everyday. –Alister Photography






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Cars and Coffee Irvine

If you know me personally I’m a huge fan of the automobile. Cars them selves present many challenges to a photographer. These images are from last month when I took a quick trip to L.A. and as always I stopped in at Cars and Coffee Irvine. This event happens every Saturday morning and is always just brilliant. -Alister Photography


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Brides, tell your photographer about the details

So it’s pretty much a given that there is a bride, groom, bridal party, guests etc. and that they will all need a picture taken. This is easier said than done and then there are the details….. cake, rings, custom wine bottle labels, the location itself.

When I book a wedding it’s my time to take a deep breath, shut up and listen oh and brides this is your turn to speak up. The only question I ask is “what are the details?” It always returns a blank look at first but it’s the most important question and can make or break your shoot when its time to deliver the job.

The last wedding I shot was full of little details and asking the bride really pays off. The groom had made all the yard games himself, the pizzas were hand tossed, the cake was made up of cup cakes, drinks were served in mason jars, there were eccentric guests, the list was endless but asking the above question and taking that deep breath always pays off.

So the next time you shoot a wedding just ask “what are the details?”


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Five reasons to do an engagement or “trash the dress” shoot.

Trash the Dress

One. Time, it can be your friend or enemy. On the wedding day, time is more your enemy than a friend as you may have some grand idea planned for pictures and your client does to although they also have a party to host and guests waiting to chat and catch up with them and not to see them smile and pose for your grand idea of wedding pictures. A separate shoot allows you to take your time and come up with a concept that’s out of the box and sets a standard that makes your current client extremely happy and something future clients of yours can expect.

Two. Diversity, with time on your side and very much your friend you can now play and experiment. Take your time prior to the shoot to shop for props, scout out locations, and suggest some ideas to your client and see what they have in mind to. Also experiment with mediums to, who said because its 2014 that it has to be shot in digital? Try film and even bring along a Polaroid. When it comes to these types of shoots nothing is off the table for me. The accompanying images I shot on 35mm Kodachrome.

Three. Location, now this can be fun and a nightmare so pick your locations wisely and always run them by your client first. I had a fellow photographer scout out a wheat field but when he arrived the following week with his client the wheat had been harvested. Lesson learned here is check with the farmer and even offer said farmer a print when you’re done. A simple gift and a thank you note will always go a long way.

Four. Family, blood is thicker than water and do not forget this. There is nothing wrong with family but they can get a little emotional and also in the way on wedding day. By having a separate shoot its just you the bride and her groom. You’ll have all the time in the world to relax, talk, and put together a brilliant shoot. I remember my own wedding and that my grandmother got really upset with the photographer as she felt he took up to much of our time to spend with family. It took me six months to calm her down…….. Now being a wedding photographer myself I really respect the time and concerns of the guests when at a wedding.

Five. The Experience, it should be just that for your client. When all is said and done you want them to walk away feeling that their time with you was an experience that they do not do every day. Not every one gets to be a model in a photo shoot so when they are it should feel special and like nothing else.


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