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Friday, November 2, 2012

Save money by editing your own images?

Bear with me, this may get a little long winded...

A fellow photographer brought my attention to a Facebook page that encourages wedding couples to save money on their photography by editing the photos themselves, even offering them tutorials on how to do it. To the uninitiated, it sounds like a good idea, right? I'm sorry, but no. I will occasionally get inquiries where couples ask if they can have my RAW files to edit themselves, and that's something I simply will not do. Why? Because I'm looking out for you, here's how:

First (Story Time): My wife and I were married 7 years ago this past September, and like so may others, we saved money on photography by having my Aunt shoot the wedding for us. We did have a big advantage over your "Uncle Bobs" who have "nice cameras" here because my Aunt is a photographer, so she had the equipment and experience to get great shots. But here's the rub: those great shots are still sitting in a shoebox. I know, crazy, right? Here I am a photographer specializing in weddings, and I have only a single print of my own on the wall. (How's that for a dark secret, eh?) The lesson here is that life ALWAYS gets in the way, one way or another. Kids, jobs, fixing up a house... With everything that goes on in a day, what isn't a necessity gets put in a shoebox to save for when we have free time, right? That's how my house works, anyway, and guess what? I have lots of shoeboxes.

Second: I live with my cameras, I know them inside and out. I know that when I'm shooting in sunlight, it shoots a touch green, so I correct for that. I know that when I I'm shooting with an off camera flash, I need to warm the color temperature by 200 Kelvin to get nice skin tones. I know that in certain situations I can get a great exposure on the sky and rely on some dynamic range compression to bring my subjects out in the shot. Those all change from camera to camera, and if you don't have a ton of experience with working with them, you aren't going to know how to edit the files properly to get the best image.

Third: I have been editing photos for longer than I can remember, and believe me, downloading Photoshop actions is not the end all in photo editing. You can get some neat effects, but they are just that, effects. That is hardly editing a photo. Removing distracting elements, correcting for lens aberrations, removing blemishes, making detail on a wedding dress pop... The list goes on and on, and it takes experience to do the job properly.

Forth: Color correction is something that your average computer is going not to handle. If you are going to edit photos on your laptop, you're in trouble. The color quality and accuracy of a consumer grade monitor is, let's be honest, horrible. If you want proof, just go to BestBuy and look at all the laptops of the same brand, because they will usually have the same background. Take a good look at each of them and notice how the color on every laptop changes from yellow to blue, the brightness from bright to dim. Which one is right? The answer is none of them. Want more proof? Edit a photo on your laptop, then go print it at Wal-Mart. Compare the two and you'll likely be astounded at how different they are.

I edit your photos on a monitor designed for professional photo editing that has been calibrated to match the color reproduction of the professional lab that I print through, and I recalibrate it on a regular basis because my monitor's color will change over time. I take out all the variables by making sure that I am matched with my lab, and the quality of my prints is exactly what I see on my screen.

Fifth: Albums! So you have your images, what are you going to put them in? Most people would head off to places like Shutterfly to build a photo book, but again, quality here is the matter. A professional photographer not only has access to world class album makers, but they also have the experience to create an album that tells your story. The quality of a real album compared to a flimsy photo book is really night and day. Honestly, there is just no comparison.

I could go on all afternoon on this subject (and I think I almost did), but please understand this: When I show up for a wedding, I am bringing experience with me that goes beyond just clicking a picture, and a vision that takes a hand-on approach from shutter click to photo printing. Both proper experience and proper equipment are required to make the most of the images captured on your wedding day, so please, let us take care of you. It's what we do best.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What my dog taught me in 5 seconds about failure

My youngest dog, Apollo, is an American Eskimo. He is a beautiful dog, and according to the AKC, is supposed to be the most intelligent of all dog breeds, being very popular with circus trainers for their ability to learn complex tricks. Now those of you who know me well enough to have met Apollo would generously describe him as “not exactly the brightest crayon in the box.” I’m convinced that whatever intelligence the poor thing had was converted directly into energy shortly after he was born.
Apollo is no stranger to failure. There is scarcely a day that goes by that he doesn’t jump up on his back legs only to find his head under the table, or spin around at light speed with a toy in his mouth and discover that his face was closer to a wall than he thought. Really, the dog could fill an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos, but it’s that reckless abandon that leads me to my 5 second life lesson.

Every morning one of the first things I do is take the dogs out. When it comes to Apollo’s turn, he jumps. And jumps. And jumps. He gets so excited to go outside that I’m sure his brain just shuts down so his muscles can take over, and once the door is open, he pulls on the leash with every ounce of power he has. A few days ago, that power caught me off guard as he was going down the back steps and I lost his leash. As soon as that tension was gone, his chest smacked the ground, his face pushed sideways through the mud, and his front legs spread out flat flailing as fast as they could to catch up. That didn’t faze him. His back legs had a job to do, and they were firing on all cylinders. Those back legs propelled his face through rocks, grass, and mud puddles like they weren’t even there, until his front legs has a chance to catch up.

After laughing at his expense for probably 10 minutes, I realized there’s a lesson in it all. He had his eyes on a goal, and even though he faltered on his approach, he not only recovered, but attained it. I’m sure our goals in life are a little more complex than finding the nearest bush to relieve ourselves on (most of the time, anyway), but how many times do we miss the mark, and let the discouragement dissuade us from going all the way? Set your goal, and go after it with your whole being. Even if it means picking yourself up out of some mud along the way.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What to ask a wedding photographer

I have to give some kudos to a happy couple I had a wedding consult with recently on a few questions they asked me about my business. Curious? Here they are:

  1. Do you have backup equipment and extra batteries?
  2. What will you wear to the wedding?

They seem like simple questions, and they are details that I usually go over anyway, yet I have never actually had anyone ask me directly. There are a lot of questions you should ask a potential wedding photographer, and these are certainly among them. If you do some googling for questions to ask a wedding photographer, you will find all kinds of irrelevant questions about things like the photographer's dark room. Now if you want your wedding shot on film, that's awesome, but is the average person really going to know enough about film to understand what I mean if I said that I use Ilford XP-2 and that I prefer the look of underexposing then push processing? Not likely. Can you find a wedding photographer that still shoots film? Probably not, unless you ask ME to, but even then I'm not going to use it much. What I want you to get from that random rambling is that if you don't understand the question, you are not going to understand the answer. Take some time to read through the questions you find, and if you don't understand them, do a little research. By the way, I don't actually prefer to underexpose then push process my film. Just in case you are wondering. ;-)

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are some good questions to ask your wedding photographer.

  • What do you love about photography?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • How many weddings have you shot?
  • Do you offer a second photographer?
    Tip: Having a second photographer can not only save you time while getting ready, but they will add a second eye and a second angle to your wedding, and catch moments that otherwise would not have been possible.
  • How do you describe your photography style?
    Tip: Most photographers fall into these categories: Traditional (posed), photojournalistic.
  • Do you have backup equipment and extra batteries?
  • Do you make backup copies of my photos?
  • How long will you keep my photos on file?
  • What will you wear to the wedding?
  • Is it okay if others take photos while you are taking photos?
    Tip: Informing your wedding party about this decision is important. While many wedding photographers will tell you to your face that it's OK for your guests to take photos also, the vast majority really don't like it. It can not only make our job more difficult, but we can even lose shots because we get crowded out by hundreds of iPhones.
  • Are you the photographer who will be shooting my wedding?
  • Do you have any other events scheduled on the same day as mine?
  • Do you come to the rehearsal?
  • Will you customize a package for me?
  • Do your packages include an engagement session?
    Tip: Having an engagement session is a great idea. It gives you a chance to get even more comfortable with the photographer, and it's the photographer's chance to educate you on their methods of controlling a shoot. It also gives you a chance to run screaming before your wedding should you feel the need to...
  • Can I give you a list of shots we want?
  • How long after the wedding will I see proofs?
  • How do I order prints?
  • Have you photographed my venue before? If not, will you check it out in advance?
  • How much is your deposit? When is the balance due? Do you offer a payment plan?
  • Are you insured?
  • Do you charge a travel fee?

These are all good questions, but as long as none of them have thrown up any red flags in your mind, it really comes down to these 3 major questions: 1) Do you like their portfolio, 2) Do they have the equipment to cover your wedding adequately, and 3) Are you comfortable around them and are they comfortable around you? If you are not comfortable with the photographer as a person, you won't be comfortable in from of their lens, and you will be able to see that in your photos.

So are you curios about my answers to their two questions?

  1. Do you have backup equipment and extra batteries? Yes! I bring 4 camera bodies and enough gear to make my car really dislike me. For batteries, I have enough power to shoot about 4 weddings straight without recharging, and about the same with memory cards. I was guilty of not being prepared for the very first wedding I ever photographed. It was way back before I even considered taking "people" pictures, and I did it as a gift for a friend. I had never done a full day of shooting so I really didn't realize how fast my battery was being depleted, and half way through the reception, my battery died. I have not stopped investing in my gear since.
  2. What will you wear to the wedding? I'm sorry, but I will not show up to your wedding wearing Armani. I will typically wear khaki cargo pants with a nice button-up shirt. I don't go all-out on my work uniform because at almost every wedding I find myself crawling through some kind of muddy ick to get the shot I'm looking for. The extra pockets in cargo pants allow me to carry extra memory cards and batteries, a white-balance card, and sometimes even an extra lens everywhere I go, so I can be well prepared.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Customer Feedback!

In today's installment of shameless self promotion, I would like to point out that I have some of the most awesome clients on the planet, and below is why. I received this letter in the mail from Nick and Angela after them having only seeing their sneak peek! How awesome is that?


Please excuse the informality of this letter, but Angela and I wanted to take the time to thank you for all you've done to date to help our wedding day go smoothly. One would think a photographer would be in the center of all the action at all times and in the way. Rather, you have a unique skill for being everywhere at once, but never be intrusive. You handle everything in a friendly, professional manner and still manage to be on the same level as us, as a friend would be. Your ideas were terrific and you were also open to suggestion and critique, which is also a very good quality. Lastly, even though we have really only seen 10 or so photos in your sneak-peek, your work is astounding! Everything looks so great and of such high-quality. We are very excited to dig in to all the photos! You did what we consider to be a job that was above and beyond what we expected.

In short, of all the transactions and people we dealt with, you were by far the most enjoyable to work with!

When we signed up with Mohican Gardens back in January, they gave us a list of suggested vendors. We plan to write Mohican Gardens and urge them to add you to that list in hopes it will bring you more business because you deserve it.

With many thanks,

Nick and Angela

If you would like to see more of their sneak peek, you can check it out here on the Facebook page. You may also get to see even more when I highlight their wedding on the new wedding page that's coming soon. You read that right, a site dedicated to weddings is coming!