Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Canon PowerShot SD790IS Review!

So, like I said on Monday, I made the leap and got a point and shoot. One of the things that made this a practically agonizing decision is that I wanted everything that I got from my big camera in mini size. Well, that ain't gonna happen. If you want a 1.8 aperture and coverage from wide angle to telephoto with a complete range of settings - get a DSLR. So, what I had to decide was what my biggest priorities were. In this case I needed something small enough that I would actually carry it around with me. I know me, if it is almost the same size as my DSLR I will just carry my DSLR and this doesn't solve any problems. Second was it had to offer some flexibility but be easy to use.

Let's start with what I like:
You can adjust ISO from 80-1600 (though I warn you that 800 and 1600 are REALLY grainy) This does allow you to take natural light pictures in most indoor settings. This camera is much better suited to bright scenes than low light though.
You may not be able to focus manually (and it does not have focus points) but you can pick your focal plane from macro, regular, and infinity.
You have the option of turning the flash off.
Several shutter options including continuous and timers. This camera, however, is not great for candid photography due to some significant shutter lag.
You can adjust the exposure to an extent. I would have rather had Shutter and Aperture priority modes, but small size trumped that requirement.
You can set custom white balance (and it does a pretty good job) above is auto and below is custom. Another bonus, setting the custom white balance is SUPER easy as long as you have a grey cloth or card.
What I don't like so much:
FINGER PRINTS! The entire camera shows them like crazy. It doesn't affect the performance I realize but it makes me a little crazy. The plus of the screen is though that it is pretty large and you get live view that you don't get from most DSLR cameras.
This last thing is not something that happened to this camera, but my husband had a similar camera with this lens cover and it would get stuck half open or closed or just generally not work right. he also can destroy about anything on the planet though so I don't know if that is a fair to the camera...
There you have it. The newest addition to my camera family!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Picture Monday!

This is going to seem like a motley array of pictures today, but there is a theme...I finally made the leap and got a point-and-shoot camera. All of my friends thought it was really funny that I was the only one who did not have a "regular" camera and I had been wanting one for everyday sort of things. So, here is a taste of what it can do and I will have a review of it on Wednesday.
This is exactly the sort of thing that I wanted a carry camera for. Sometimes things like this show up and how can you not take a picture? But carrying around 30 pounds of camera gear is not so conveinient, low-key, or good for the back. I have had the most fun with the digital macro mode...
My most photogenic pet. I was having some fun with lens flare and the wide angle lens...
Check back on Wednesday for the details!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Site of the Week!

Since I am on a vendor theme this week, I thought that I would point you to the blog of one of my vendors You really get a good look at the products and they also feature photographers as well.

Fun stuff if you've got a few minutes.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Why's and How's of Vendor Relationships

There are certain vendors that you will work with again and again, either the vendors that you use for your products and services (album companies, print labs, etc.) or vendors that are hired by your clients (florists, cake designers, dress shops, and venues). Though you will probably have different types of relationships with the two types of vendors, they can all potentially be part of your "team". I emphasize the word "relationship" here, because that is what everyone is trying to achieve. You and your vendors all want to build quality relationships with each other that can be beneficial to all parties involved. The best way to do that, in my opinion, is to focus less on "what can they do for me?", and more on "how can we help each other?"

Let's break down the two groups and detail the relationships a bit more. The first group is your vendors that you use for products and services. The great thing about these folks is that they really want to help you succeed. Their job is to get you all of the help and information that you need to create an awesome product for your client. The better that they do, the better you do (which makes you look good) and the better that you do the more people who are exposed to their products. Win-Win. These vendors also do things like promotional tours. They come to your area to let you touch and feel and learn hands-on. A lot of times the vendors (particularly album vendors) will do this in conjunction with a workshop or speaking engagement with a photographer. If you can get in good with the vendors, you have an open audience to hear you speak, come to your workshops, and you have a much bigger budget than your own doing the advertising for you. Now, not just anyone can walk up to the vendor and have this happen overnight, but it never hurts to have a strategic plan and goals in place to move you in that direction.

The next group of vendors are your peers who also provide services for the bride and groom on their big day. While you are at a wedding (whether as the official photog or as a guest - and especially the ones in your local area) be sure to spend some time getting shots of the vendors products such as flowers, cake, and of course the venue. One of the first things that couples book is their venue and the coordinators at the venue are a great source of referrals. After you shoot a wedding be sure to get the information of the vendors and then keyword all corresponding photographs for easy retrieval. Edit them up, make them look pretty and perfect, and then you can contact the vendor and use your photographs as a way to introduce yourself to them. My conversation would be something along the lines of "Hello. My name is Mollie Tobias, I am starting a wedding photography business in the area and I recently attended the wedding of (bride and groom). The (flowers, cake, etc.) were amazing. I really liked..... While I was there I took some photos of your product and I would like to set up a time to come and show them to you as well as introduce myself. What time is convenient for you?" When you are there you can either give them prints or a cd of the digital files for display at their place of business or use in their promotional materials. These are not something that I would ever charge the vendor for (you were already paid by the bride and groom after all). During the meeting you can show them a portfolio of your work, and if possible see samples of their work as well. Once again, you are building relationships, not bribing them to give you referrals. If they like your work they will tell people about it. If you like their work, return the favor and tell people about it.

Here's the deal, you can negotiate and say that if they can guarantee you with x number of referrals per month that you will give them y in return (a sample album for instance). I find that the people I refer the most are the ones that I like. Not because we have an arrangement, but because they have always been good to me and are nice to work with. People like to work with people that they like. So, I try to always be nice to people even if they may not be as nice back. I always try to deliver what I promise and if possible, more. I think that matters to people a lot more. That's just how I feel about it, I'm not a marketing guru, but that is what makes sense to me.

Hope that you all have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Classic. Elegant. Perfect.

I had the good fortune to be invited to the wedding of a friend of mine yesterday evening and I have to say that I have a wedding crush. If I do ever have an real wedding, I would want it to be just like this one. Well, perhaps not the Episcopalian ceremony (nothing against them, I was just raised Methodist and a sudden switch for the sake of a wedding would be somewhat odd).

Since I was a guest, however, and not official, and therefor do not have a contract or a model release I can not post any people pictures until after the happy couple return from their honeymoon and I can ask permission. I am hopeful that they will be happy to share, so look forward to more in a few weeks...fingers crossed.

But, what I can post is pictures of products from the vendors...which gave me the idea to give this weeks posts a vendor-scentric theme. So, today I have some photographs of the flowers and cake and on Wednesday I will give some thoughts about cultivating vendor relationships.

So, without further ado, here we go...

The cake

The bride's bouquet
Each table had similar arrangements, but they were also each unique in some way. Normally I find weddings that are all black and white to be boring, but the flowers here had touches of blue (to match the bridesmaid's dresses), green, and pink and against the wooden interior of the fair barn and the twinkling white lights it was absolutely LOVELY. The whole wedding was simple and classy, but with touches of the bride and groom's personalities clearly shown.
There was a great jazz band playing, shrimp and pulled pork on the buffet along side potatoes and caviar, and (love this) a white guitar was their guest book. I have yet to see a wedding absolutely more perfect for the couple.
Enjoy the pictures and come back on Wednesday for more on vendors...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Site of the Day!

This week's site of the day is one that I just became aware of that I think is pretty cool it is Here is a quote from their website that tells you what they are all about:

"The concept behind is simple. We are a news site. But unlike other news sites, we provide a forum for citizen photojournalists to showcase their work. Your photos will be displayed with the same exposure professional photographers receive.

Consider the five WeSay categories: news, environment, sports, celebs and far-out (which just about covers any cool-looking photo). The events you witness, no matter what category they fall in, are relevant and worthy."

So, if you have ever spent time day dreaming about being a photojournalist, get out there, shoot some news, and post your pics.

Have a good Weekend!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Introducing Some NEW Material and a how-to

Today's tutorial is kind of two fold, tutorial slash show and tell. I have been working on developing some new marketing materials that can be included in my welcome packets as well as be something small that could be used as mailers and handouts that gives the flavor of what my style of photography is all about. For the format I picked a small booklet that is printed double sided on 8.5x11 paper and then stapled together at the spine. Here is a preview of what the un-assembled book looks like...(in case you were wondering the thick black borders on some of the pages are not there in the printed materials. I only included them here for visual clarity)

Front Cover
Introduction reads:

"You are pretty cool. You’ve got a great life and now you want to capture it and share it with your whole world. Lucky for you, you’re in the right place.
Mollie Tobias Photography brings you lifestyle photography that’s all about you. Through the use of suggested situations and candid photography we provide you with photos that capture your personality at its best.
The best news is that with sitting fees starting at $100 and totally custom wedding packages beginning at about $2,100, there are lots of great reasons to let Mollie Tobias Photography document your life. What’s yours?



Family Portraits

Individual Portraits

Back Cover
When attempting to lay out something like this you don't just lay the pages out like you see them above. You have to lay them out on the paper so that when the print the correct one lines up with the correct one. See below for what the actual front and the back of the sheet looks like when ready for printing.

I like the press printing products at Bay Photo because the samples that I have received are very high quality printing and they have a pretty decent selection of finishes available to choose from. I could just print them on my home printer, naturally. The reason that I have chosen not to do that (I will print proofs on it first of course, but not the final product) is because your marketing materials set people's expectations of what level of service and product that they will be receiving from you. These are your first impression and you need it to say that you are serious, professional, and concerned about quality.
Please let me know what you think of the new stuff and have a great Wednesday!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Picture Monday!

If I could have any job in the whole world, I would want to be the official photographer at the San Diego Zoo. Seriously, how do you get any cooler than hanging out and taking pictures of amazing animals every single day? And, they pay you! Can't get much better than that. But, since the job is taken, I have to content myself with just doing it on my vacations. Lucky for me, my sister-in-law works there and we always get to play with really cool stuff. Like these guys...
I used a moderately small apeture (around 4.5) on my 70-300 lens to get the nice blurring of the background, and carefull cropping to cut out any signs of captivity in the pictures. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Site of the Week!

I am actually giving you two sites today (2 for the price of 1!) They are sister sites so I thought that it made sense to link to both in one post. The two sites that I am talking about are the websites for the Wedding Photojournalist Association and the Artistic Guild of the Wedding Photojournalist Association.

Every quarter they announce their contest winners and publish the photos on their website. So every quarter you can go to the website and spend hours (literally) looking at tons of amazing photos from working professionals in the industry. It is great place to go for ideas and inspiration. Each site also has articles specifically pertaining to wedding photography under the photographer's section.

The difference between the two sites is that wpja is strictly photojournalistic. There are strict rules and regulations put on all entrants as to the level of manipulation that can happen to the images between capture and submission. The agwpja is a little more leinant on their restrictions. Both sites are cool places to spend some time so check it out over the weekend and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

White Balance Example

When I first starting flirting with manual camera settings I was very intimidated by setting the custom white balance on my camera. Not sure why, it just seemed daunting. The truth was anything but. Turns out that you just take a photo with a grey card or cloth (I like the Spudz cloths) filling most of the frame and then browse through your menu until you find the "custom white balance" menu - my Canon has it on camera menu 2 - and then select the photo of the grey cloth (in the light you plan to shoot in of course) and that's it. You're done.

You may say to yourself, I am shooting in raw, I'll just fix it in post. You can do that, but isn't it easier to just do it right the first time? Or you're a JPEG shooter and you just put it on auto and shoot. Auto does a good job most of the time, but I have found that it never really nails it as well as the custom setting does. I put together a little montage to illustrate just how much of a difference the white balance setting can make. Below you see - from top left to bottom right - Auto, Daylight (5200K), Shade (7000K), Cloudy (6000K), Tungsten (3200K), White Fluorescent (4000K), Flash, and Custom white balance. As you can see, it does really make a difference. While the light temperature in my house is close to Tungsten, it is not a perfect match.

White balance is measured in Kelvin degrees and just like regular temps, the higher the number the warmer it is. It makes no sense to me that they do not order them by temp in the camera menu, but I don't design cameras so...

Anyway, food for thought. Have a good Wednesday!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Picture Monday!

Well, here we go the bginning of another week. I managed to make it through the weekend all in one piece. That actually makes me sound quite a bit more exciting than I really am. I spent the weekend doing work around the house and hanging out with the dogs....

This Monday I have some pictures to share with you that are very special to me. This coming Easter Sunday is my Grandfather's 93rd birthday. Growing up I lived in a small town in middle America and my whole family and pretty much everyone that I had ever known lived in that one town, including my paternal grandparents. Now, our family was not the type of family that was open and emotional and hugged everyone. They were farmers who raised Angus cattle, corn, and pigs. They had been through hard times and I don't think to this day I have ever seen either my granfather or my father ever cry. That was just their way, but you knew that they loved you. Well, you figured it out eventually.

Growing up in a family like mine if you want to know something about someone you have to ask because they sure aren't volunteering it. All through my highschool and college days I was too busy, or cool, or angry to ask. Now that I have gotten a little older and I have come to realize that they are who they are and that is all that they will ever be, I started to realize just how much I may never know about them. That is something that I wish I would have learned sooner in life, that absolutely everyone has a story worth hearing.

So, in an effort to try to get to spend some time with them and get to know them better, I decided to do some portraits of them when I was home for Christmas last year. I began to realize that even though time is rushing by unchecked for me, they won't always be around. Now let me just say, that they are a couple of charachters and sometimes they make me crazy, but I love them. Lately, a lot of my memories of them have been the making me crazy kind of stuff (like how grandma is diabetic but refuses to check her blood sugar and will go all day eating only a Little Debbie apple fritter and orange juice then gets sick and we have to take her to the emergency room - again). I did not want those memories to be the ones I would be carrying around, so I set out to photograph them in a way that reminded me of the best of them - a best that they are sure is in the past for them but isn't.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Site of the Week:

The Small Business Association website, while not increbibly visually stimulating, is the one site that I wish that I would have found sooner. There is such a wealth of information on tis website. You can learn pretty much everything that you need to know about starting your own small business here, get free online training, even get counseling from a SCORE counselor.

If you are even thinking about starting your own business, set aside some time over the weekend and browse around the site. It will really help you get an idea of what all is involved with starting a business.

While I am on the subject, when you are planning to start a photography business (either part or full time) I really recommend that you give yourself at least a year to do all of your planning and research. That may sound like a really long time to you, but especially if you plan to keep your full time job in the mean time, it will probably take you that long or longer. You need to do market research, determine your niche, develope your product lines, design your marketing materials, set up your businesses legal structure, get permits and licenses, put together your portfolio, design and produce studio samples, find capital....get the idea? That's not even a full list.

Another thing to keep in mind, the first few jobs that you get are really exciting. You come home from your day job and sit at your computer until you go to sleep at night. That feeling will not last. Trust me. You need to plan some "you" time in your weeks and weekends otherwise you will burn out big time. You will also be spending a lot of time NOT taking pictures while you are getting everything set up. You want to start a photography business to take pictures, I know, and you will - just not at first. You need to send the time planning so that your business will have a strong foundation. The better you do at planning and organizing now, the less time you will have to devote to it later when you are out taking pictures. It is a lot of work up front, but if it is what you want to do, it will all be worth it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Everybody's Favorite Obsession - Gear!

Photography (either as a hobby or a profession) can be pretty gear-centric. There are so many cameras, lenses, lights, filters, software programs, and accessories out there ro choose from that it can either be overwhelming or get completely out of hand financially. This topic is also HUGE, so I am not even attemtping to cover it all today in one blog post (im-poss-ible).

What I did want to talk about today are the two BIGGEST decisions that you will make regarding gear that will have profound impact on the whole rest of your shooting experience. You may have already made these choices without even realizing the impact of them. I am talking Canon vs. Nikon and Mac vs. PC.

Why are these choices such a big deal? Because once you make them you are probably going to be stuck with them for a really long time. The camera bodies and the computers are expensive, yes, but not nearly as expensive as the lenses, flashes, cords, misc. accessories and software that go along with them. Once you start collecting gear (and you will at an alarming rate) it gets really expensive to make the switch.

So, what do I use? I am a Canon shooter and I use a PC. What was my compelling reason for these choices? There absolutely was none. My husband bought me my first DSLR as a gift and I have been a Canon shooter ever since. Honestly, and this may anger a lot of people but here we go, I don't think that there is a big difference in quality between Nikon and Canon. They are both such large companies with such big budgets that even if one does something first, you can rest assured that before long the other will match or exceed it and on and on it will go ping ponging back and forth. My feeling is as long as you are picking a major, reliable brand you are probably getting a good quality product.

I am not completely a brand snob. I actually like the way that the Tamron lenses switch from auto to manual focus a lot better than my Canon lenses. No matter how much I try I never can seem to find the stupid switch on my Canon lenses without looking for it. This brings me to probably the most important point. Before you buy anything - DO YOUR RESEARCH.

Go to your local camera store and hold the cameras. Scroll through the menus, work the controls. If you live in the Sandhills area I recommend Peace Camera in Raleigh. The guys there are always very nice and helpful. A better idea yet is to do your research on the internet ( is a good resource) and then rent the camera that you are looking at and take it out for a test drive. You can rent about anything you want (EVEN the famed white lenses) and the pricse are pretty reasonable considering what you are getting. When I checked internet rental drices in January you could rent a Canon 5D MarkII for about $125/day. Not too bad considering it retails at over two grand. The best way to know what you like and what you don't it to go and find out.

Another good investment is to actually READ your manual (you can download most online at the camera manufacturer's website), or if the manual sucks (as is the case with the 450EX flash unit) buy an aftermarket book and read it. You can't expect to to get the most out of your camera and equipment if you don't know how to use them.