Friday, February 27, 2009

I actually had another site picked out this week for the Site of the Week, but when I found out that one of my absolute fav blogs just won the PPA Fresh blog contest (link)I had to change my mind. The blog that I am refering to is Jasmine Star. I love her. Everything about her actually. She has a beautiful blog, an awesome personality, Oh and she takes some pretty great pictures to. She is, in short, my photographic Idol and I can't wait to be able to hopefully meet her someday. You can check out her blog here and please go ahead and take some time to look around at her archives. Great, great stuff.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

As promised, here is a link to Stacy Reeves blog where she has put together a great guide to pricing your wedding photography. You can go and download it here. While you are there check out the rest of her blog. She does a great job of really letting you get a feel for what she is like and has some amazing content to share.

If you are a client and not a photographer go ahead and take a look too so that you can understand a little bit about how we arrive at the numbers that we charge you.

The thing that people sometimes don't realize is that the price of your package not only covers the actual products themselves, but also the photographer's time (if I spend 8 hours at a wedding I will spend approximately 10-12 hours at the computer editing the photos and even more time on top of that to format for printing, calibrate, order, and design albums).

The prices also have to cover overhead like rent, equipment, and software (of which a lot of costly stuff is required). It may seem like a lot, but there is so much attention going into your final product and everything you are getting is top notch, high quality product as opposed to printing it at Wal-mart or snapfish. You get pro quality materials, editing, design, and customer service. What you are really paying for is the overall experience and you just can't get that from a discount retailer.

Be sure to check back on Friday for our site of the week!

Monday, February 23, 2009

So, in honor of Jackie Tohn (from last week's American Idol if you watched it - I am kinda sad she got voted off) I have decided that the theme for today's post will be "A little less conversation a little more action" and I am wrapping up Jessica and Bryant's wedding with a bunch of pictures. You are probably a bit tired of seeing pictures of them by now, but the bride is actually my husband step-sister so I hope that you'll grant me the indulgence. Anyway, here we go!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Here it is! Our first site of the week feature. Since this is the first edition, I selected a website that I have on my google homepage and that I read everyday (well, 5 days a week anyway) It is David Ziser's Digital Pro Talk blog and you can link to it here.

This is a blurb straight from his website that tells you a bit about him:

"David Ziser, an internationally renowned portrait and wedding photographer, has shared his knowledge with ten’s-of-thousands of photographers, in 5 languages, and in 14 countries worldwide. Studio Photograph magazine has extolled..."Award winning photographer, David Ziser, is showing the world how to take wedding pictures." His "Digital WakeUp Call tour was acclaimed as one of the "best ever" seminars on digital photography. "

His blog has new content every week day and is packed with tons of tips on digital photography, lightroom, lighting, ans business. He is a great source of both knowledge and information so check him out!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

After picking who you are going to get married to, picking your photographer is your next big decision. Your wedding photographer will be capturing the memories from your day and immortalizing all of the other little details that you are going to spend so much time obsessing over. It can be intimidating, so where do you start?

My advise would be first to find some photographers in your area and take a look at their portfolios. If they have a website or blog this can be a great resource and it allows you to check them out without any pressure. When you are looking at the photos ask yourself if this is the kind of photos that you would like to show your friends, family, and kids in twenty years. If it doesn't give you that special "feeling", keep looking. If they do not have a website you will need to contact them to see their portfolio which brings us to our second step...

Once you find someone whose style you like, arrange to meet them in person. Be sure that you are meeting with the actual photographer who will be shooting your wedding and not a studio manager or assistant. Your relationship with the photographer can make or break your wedding day experience. You need someone who you get along with, trust, and feel comfortable with. If you hire someone because you like their style, but feel that as a person they are a jerk your pictures will show it. Personality is so important!

Once you have found someone whose style you admire and who has a good personality that you feel a connection to you should ask some questions to gauge how prepared and organized they will be. Do they have backup equipment? Insurance? A plan if they are hit by a car and can't shoot your wedding? Can they provide you with a shot list to help you figure out what pictures you want? Can they recommend other resources in the community for your venue, flowers, etc.?

Once you have gone through all of those qualifications. Look at their prices. What? Are you surprised that I left this until almost last? That is because if you shop on price first it is way too easy to talk yourself into going with someone whose style isn't exactly what you want, who you don't really get along with that well, and who you may not have total confidence in. There are no do-overs for your wedding day. If you do your research and pick someone that you really feel is the perfect choice for you, the money will resolve itself. Maybe you shift a little from your flowers, or cut back on the open bar. You can find a way to make it work for you. That said, before you start shopping for anything you should decide what your priorities are. I may be a little biased, but I am hoping that you agree that photography should be pretty high on the list...

Hope that this has been helpful and given you some things to think about. Check back again on Friday for our site of the week!

Monday, February 16, 2009

This is a photo that I took several years back while attending a friends wedding as a guest. The ceremony was held outside on a lake at a local golf course and as everyone was leaving there was a swing set. So, the bride decided she wanted to swing for a minute and it turned into a great impromptu photo op. The sun was just going down and there was great color reflecting off of the water. It was such a great setting and then the photo turned out to be a great memory for the couple as well.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Okay, so I have decided that the randomness of my posting has to go. It is killing me. If you don't know me well (yet) I happen to be a mild (moderate) OCD list making sort of person. I love schedules. I love structure. That is why I will be setting out a post schedule for the blog. This is good for you because you know what to expect and when to check back to get new content and it's good for me because now that I have a plan we can have order once again. *sigh*

So, Right now I am planning on having three blog posts a week, to run on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. My plan is to draft them all on the weekends and have them post about 7 a.m. Eastern time on the appropriate day.

The topic for each day might change (and comments are welcome!) but right now I am thinking that Monday will be photos and things about me - ranging from what I am doing or planning to observations, stories, and thoughts. Wednesday will be something technical - a tutorial, book review, newsworthy article from another source. Friday I am thinking about having a feature called blog of the week where I point readers to a blog that I really like and tell them why it is go great.

I would love to hear everyone's thoughts and suggestions!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Your wedding is supposed to be a big deal. You only get married once (hopefully!) to the love of your life and these are memories that you want to cherish for a lifetime. You look your best, you've probably had your hair, make-up, and nails professionally done. Everyone is in nice clothes and in a great mood ready to share your big day.

There are a lot of people out there today (especially with digital cameras being better and better quality for lower and lower prices) who are going out and taking pictures and then burning them onto a disk and handing them over to the client for a few hundred bucks (shoot-n-burners). In ecomomic times like these this can seem like a great idea. If you are a do-it-yourselfer and you know photoshop, maybe it's a good way for you to stretch your budget.

I have been known to be cheap (ask my husband if you have a few hours to spare hearing about it) And every time I have given in to the urge to buy the cheap one instead of the one I really wanted, I have regretted it. Usually all that this means is that I end up buying two instead of one and ultimately spending more money (not a good move). Here's the thing. This isn't a toaster. It's the physical evidence of one of the most important days of your life and if you go cheap and don't get the results that you want, there's no do over.

I put together a quick little tutorial to show an easy retouching method that I like to use for circles and deep wrinkles. This is the type of basic retouching that I do in all my portraits, not as an extra, but as a given. I don't want my client to see anything in which they are not looking their best. Not every photo gets this level of attention (though all photos go through basic adjustments for color balance and exposure, etc.) But any of the important portraits and client favorites do.

Here is the picture out of the camera after being imported into lightroom. It's a great portrait of a beautiful bride but what strikes me first is a little uneveness in her skin at the cheeks and a little bit of extra color under her eyes (she did just spend a year planning a wedding for crying out loud...) There are a lot of methods for retouching, a lot of which include using a blur filter to soften imperfections. While that application is good for some things, you tend to loose the texture of the skin which can make the person look overly airbrushed and fake.

I started out here by adding a new blank layer (you can do this in the layer panel or by pressing ctrl+shift+N for PC or command+shift+N for Mac - I am a PC user so if I screw up the Mac lingo feel free to correct me). On the new blank layer I use the eyedropper tool to select a color that is adjacent to, but slightly lighter than the area that I wish to camoflage. I then select the brush tool and pick a small round brush with the softness set to 100% and lower to opacity to somewhere between 30 - 50% (you can always lower the layer opacity later as well, but I like to get it as close as possible first). Now with those brush settings I use small brush strokes to layer color over the dark or uneven areas until I am happy with the results. I try to limit the area that I am brushing over to retain as much texture as possible. This step is all about the blending...the result is what you see above.

After I had evened out the skin tone and lightened the dark circles there were a few wrinkles on her neck from how she was posed that were really grabbing my attention. To deal with these I make another new layer and follow the same procedure as before, sampling near the area with a lighter color and then "filing in" the lines. I try to keep my brush as small as possible and only go over the darkest parts of the lines to keep the end result looking natural. After the initial filing is done I like to pick a slightly darker adjacent color and then drop my brush opacity to around 15%. I then increase my brush size quite a bit and swipe it over the whole area to blend it all together a bit. That's it! The picture above is the end result. It still looks like her only a little more glamorous.

Monday, February 9, 2009

"The Guys"

Here are a selection of some of the formal shots from a recent wedding. While I like to follow a more candid approach to my photography in general I just can't imagine NOT having formal portraits from your wedding. Maybe not thirty with everyone there included, but I am not going to be one of those prima donna photographers who only "allows" you five or six formal shots in your coverage. It is your day! If you want to spend the entire hour on formals with the family and not have any more casual shots with just you and your new husband / wife then that's what we will do because it is your wedding and today is your day to be the rock star calling the shots.

I have even set up a "photo receiving line" for one couple so that they could get portraits of all of their guests as they were leaving the reception. I'll be honest with you, not a lot of photographers like doing things like that. The chance of a sale is low, the photos are not going to be portfolio material when you are running them assembly style, and it makes more work since they all still need to be edited. Doesn't matter to me. If the client wants it, that's what they get. Period.

We were shooting the formals right around noon (which is death for pictures) on the middle of a golf course (No shade!) but luckily it clouded over just enough to make the light soft and flattering and so I did not use any additional lighting. This picture will be the focus of an upcoming tutorial on a technique that I like to use for retouching so stay tuned for that...

"Happily Ever After"

The funny thing about this shot is that most of the time that I spent in photoshop was spent on the grass. Sure, we may have been on a golf course in California, but I'll let you in on a little secret, even the "green" courses - ones that water all year long and plant several varieties of grass to keep it looking lush year long- aren't really that green in the winter. It's a small thing that they might not even have noticed, but I couldn't stand all the little brown patches in the background.

I love the way that the Groom is looking at her in this photo and this may be one of the few shots with a natural looking smile the whole day from him! Guys are so funny about smiling in photos. You just got married! You're happy! Smile like you mean it!

Friday, February 6, 2009

I have a couple stories to share just to show you why weddings rock. They are so interesting! For some reason weddings give people the feeling that for a short period of time, the rules do not apply and it is time to party. I love these great little stories.

The first one I did not get to witness first hand. There was a lot of drama involved with the wedding in the first place (the bride was marrying her cousin and ex-best friends' ex-boyfriend - who everyone in her family hates) Evidentially, at some point in the evening ( I am assuming this was a little while after the open bar started up) someone noticed that the basket with the gift envelopes had significantly fewer envelopes than it had at the beginning of the reception. An investigation was launched, and it turned out that one of the bridesmaid's dates was stealing the money and tossing the envelopes on the grounds. The police were called, the young man was taken to jail, then the bridesmaid's father had to go bail him out. All of this happened in a very small town, I think that people are still talking about it.

The next story happened at a wedding that I shot a couple of weeks ago. It was a daytime wedding which wrapped around 4. Many of the guests and the bridal party decided to then move the party over to a restaurant/bar near the hotel. There was drinking and eating and celebrating and towards the end of the night I happened to be standing in a small group with the Groom's mother when one of the Groomsmen walked up, quite drunk. He started in on something with "God $#@& F*&@&%!" and the Groom's mom fixes him with a look to kill and says "Now what did Mommy Rhonda* (not her real name) tell you about the deer. Everyone looked around puzzled, having no idea what she was referring to. She told the guy to come sit down next to her and held his hand. She starts again in a soft, calm momma voice, "I told you that if you said that F-word again tonight I was going to gut you like a deer, didn't I?" She said it with such seriousness that everyone watching was a little torn between hilarity and fear. Then she follows it up with "I love you like a son, so I'll do it." That might have been the only part of the evening that managed to penetrate that particular gentleman's booze soaked brain because he did stop using that word, shortly before getting the entire wedding party cut off from the bar.

What great stuff! You can't just make things like that up!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The answer is probably obvious, and I will bet that you will get this answer a lot if you ask around in wedding photography circles, but I love weddings. Weddings represent all of the great things in life. They are a celebration of love. They bring together everyone that the Bride and Groom care about into one new family. Weddings are primarily, at their core, a statement of hope and optimism for the future. They are a destination and a departure at the same time. With so many great things and feelings all coming together, how can anyone not love a wedding?

Aside from how great weddings are in general, there is also the fact that I didn't have a "real" wedding myself. Now, I don't say this to garner sympathy. At the time I did not want a wedding. I actually tried to convince my husband to elope in Las Vegas, but he said no. He wanted to just go to the courthouse and get married, then tell everyone that we were engaged and have an actual wedding at some point in the future. I balked at this idea because of logistics. I planned to take his last name and I was pretty sure that my family would notice when all of my official paperwork had a different last name on it. So, we compromised and got married two weeks later in our backyard. My family and friends still haven't forgiven me for not giving any of them enough time to make travel arrangements and attend. They may actually never forgive me. I had just graduated from college then, we were in the process of relocating to another state, and the last thing that I wanted to do was go through a planning process that lasts a year and is mainly governed - let's be honest - by the wants of others (usually those footing the bill).

I loved our wedding. My mom gave me away, we gave my friends (all 5 of them) disposable cameras, and after we had hamburgers and cupcakes. But, at the same time, part of me really still wants the elegant white dress with the train and the church and all of my friends and family to share it with.

So, I love the fact that as a wedding photographer your job is to be a part of one of the most special events in a couple's life. A wedding is an event that really showcases the personalities of those involved, and you get to capture all those little details that make them and their day special. You also get to see and capture moments that may have been missed in the hustle and bustle of the day that the couple can then discover later.

Most people, when asked what one thing they would save if they had to flee their homes, choose photographs and I think that alone should tell you what an important investment that they really are. I love that I can provide that to my clients. The photographs, albums, and portraits that we as photographers capture are all moments in time that will never be again. You are not just giving someone a picture, you are giving them a little piece of their life to hold onto forever. That is why I chose wedding and portrait photography.