Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Photography FAQ & A

It was my very first time shooting a wedding. Ever.
It was my very first time using a DSLR Camera. EVER. Aperture WHAT? Shutter Speed... WHAT?!

I woke up at 6am that morning (yes, the morning of the wedding) to read the user manual that came with my Canon Rebel Xt. I only had 2 batteries, 2 4GB CF Cards... and worst of all, only the lens that CAME WITH the camera... (known as the "kit lens"); A terribly slow, soft, grainy, vignetting, hunk of junk! OK, OK, maybe I'm being a little harsh. It's fine for shooting outdoors in perfect light if you don't really need the image to be TOTALLY in focus! (Internet, I'm not kidding you)

To those of you who are NOT professional photographers, this may sound fabulous. But in the reality of a professional photographer, this is pretty much a recipe for disaster!

Fortunately, I made it through the day. I had to alternate uploading my RAW images from my CF card to my laptop while shooting with the other. Again, I'm NOT kidding you.

MIRACULOUSLY the photos turned out pretty good! Needless to say, as much as the bride still loves those photos today... my style, "quality" and methods have changed drastically! If you looked at the set of wedding images from that day... to the look I achieve as of today, you may not believe the same person took those photos :)

And I don't plan in being at the same level two years from now as I am today! I'm always a student learning, being teachable and looking for excellence in all that I do. I don't claim to be the best photographer.. or know everything... or anything of the sort! I just do what I do and love to share with others what I've learned works for me in the process. So if I help someone today with what I have to share, GREAT. If you totally think I'm a dumb dumb and that what I have to say is ancient history and totally unhelpful to you... GREAT...At least one of us has it all figured out (not me)! LOL!

Believe it or not, I get tons of emails from photographers all over the country asking for help, advice, what shoes to wear to a wedding... you name it! It's crazy. My inbox just keeps piling up with them! I've been super good about responding back, but I think maybe it's time to start my very own archive of FAQ's and A's!

(I know, did it really take me like 7 paragraphs to get to this part?! YES, just be glad I'm TYPING and not talking. I would only be about 30% of the way there!) Tina wrote in with a question similar to many that I get asked!

FAQ 1:

Hi Claire,

I know this may seem really random, but I am an amateur photographer from southern Indiana and I stumbled across your website. I love your work; it is so creative and inspiring and I just read your bio to find that we are the same age! I also decided that I wanted to do professional photography a year ago in May, but no matter how much I practice my work looks nothing like the quality of yours. So I was wondering how you do it?? Do you do a lot of editing or solely rely on your camera? I appreciate any advice you may have!

Tina W.

First of all... THANK YOU for the complements!!!! Second of all. I felt the same way when I was just "starting out" too. Every photography blog I looked at had AMAZING photos that I could BARELY dream about at night! I wanted my work to look like and be like... so many other photographer's images. The first step is to find out what YOU LOVE to shoot. And shoot it. Do it for free or super cheap.. offer them a disc of the images and just keep practicing... raise the rates as demand for your work increases.

To answer some technical questions, investing in PRIME lenses was the best thing that ever happened to me! This website was also one of my best friends for helping me understand the difference too:The Digital Picture. I currently use and am the most familiar with Canon, but I've used Nikon before too... and I love BOTH for many reasons! Prime lenses have a fixed focal length (you can't zoom) but can stop down (make the aperture number go down / more open to let more light in) to as low as 1.2, which is GREAT for low light and when you want that buttery/ blurry background! You can even just start with the 50 mm 1.8 II for as low as $90. Try amazon! The 50mm 1.4 is less than $400 now and it has been sooo good to me!

Prime lenses are TACK SHARP, great for low light, and have nice fall off/blur/bokeh/buttery background. Hope that helps! I have a couple different lengths of Prime lenses and I LOVE THEM! The difference between prime lenses and even a decent zoom lens is NIGHT AND DAY! And as much as the camera body is important, the LENS is MORE important. INVEST IN GOOD QUALITY LENSES. Canon's 85mm and 50mm prime lenses are AMAZING and it totally changed the way I shoot and interact with my clients. Since you can't zoom in and out, it gets you moving around and interacting so much more! So that's my #1 piece of "quality" advice.

#2, focus, focus, focus! Always focus on the eyes. Make sure there aren't shadows! NAIL exposure on people's faces and force yourself to shoot in MANUAL mode so you're the one in control of the final image. If you shoot in RAW, (which I do) you'll be able to tweak the exposure and other elements in post processing (which I do... more so in the beginning!!!) but try your best to nail the exposure IN CAMERA, this eliminates tons of "post processing"

#3. In post processing, I edit all images on my blog, website, album images, final print images and any other type of product. The only images I don't retouch a bit are proofs in the gallery and on proof discs. I use Kevin Kubota's production tools, and Total Rad Actions, both sets. I don't over do it and I keep actions to a minimum. It's just what I do, but you may want to add more or less depending on YOUR style! Every photo on my blog is sharpened with "Magic Sharp" from the Kevin Kubota Production Set OR "A Better Web Sharpen" from TRA's Revenge. I like crisp photos, but you may not :) Up to you! I also use various tools such as the patch tool, dodge and burn in Adobe Photoshop. I haven't had time to make my own tutorial video... but why reinvent the wheel!? The [B] School has many great tutorials... Here's one on using the patch tool! I use the patch tool when editing 99% of my images!

Here's a quick example of a before and after image using the patch tool and other actions:

Before: Mallory is beautiful and really NEEDS no retouching! This image is straight out of the camera using a Canon 30D and the 50mm 1.4 lens at ISO 200, Shutter 200, Fstop 1.8:
M Before

M After
For the edit that I've shown you,

TRA (Revenge) actions: "Punch Out" at 9%, Claireify at 6%, Lux Soft at 25%
TRA actions: Antique Tone at 42%, Yin/Yang (I USE THIS IN MOST IMAGES to darken out parts of the background and brighten up what I want attention to go to.. such as face, eyes etc.)
KK's production actions: Lighten via Screen 1/3 Stop, Magic Sharp (Last step before saving!)

I used the dodge and burn tool to brighten her eyes a little and also the patch tool under the eyes etc.
This is the edited image (I will usually tone down the actions a bit more than this and often don't use near as many, but I left them a teeny bit more evident than usual so you could see more of a difference.. you can of course use them how YOU want!)

I hope this helps! Thanks Tina for writing in!!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Katie & Marcus: Engaged! YAY!

She loves life... And Marcus.
And Marcus lives to love her back.

Katie sipped her glass of Pina Colada in one hand and held up necklace options with the other as she flipped through outfits laid out on the bed. I LOVE bright colors! As she held up a hot pink option... She's my kind of girl :) She had already organized Marcus's outfits and had everything in order and ready to go for our shoot! She's a detail girl... That's just how she rolls! Love it!

Marcus is calm, cool and collected to a fault! I think I caught him silently laughing at us as Katie and I discussed details at a mile-per-minute. He was so sweet and was up for ANYTHING!

I drove through storms and tornadic activity to get to these two and to also see the fabulous location for their August wedding at a winery! (it was quite an evening, but that's totally another story!)

Anyways, Katie and Marcus are awesome... I had so much fun with you guys and I KNOW your wedding is going to be AMAZING!

Here are just a few of my favorites from our session!

Her smile is to die for! And look how much he loves her... love it!
KM 8

Katie, you are so beautiful! And I loved Marcus's expression in this one too :)
KM 1

*sigh* love:
KM 3

They are adorable!
KM 5

Katie had this big red barn in mind for some of her photos! I'm so like, "Yes, red barn, you can sooo be in our engagement pictures! You are big and red! Work it out, red barn!" (OK, I'm totally a nerd!, but I love how these photos turned out!)
KM 6

Oh Em Gee, are they super cute or WHAT??? One of my faves!
KM 7

Beautiful! They look good together :)
KM 2

GORGEOUS KATIE. You will have to give me this look again when you're in your wedding dress too, ok?! "Hi, I'm Katie, and I'm hottt!" Fierce. Love it!
KM 4

You're wedding is going to ROCK! Can't wait!!!! Thanks for being so sweet and for taking care good of this city girl while I was out in the country! It was definitely an experience I will love and remember forever! You are both AMAZING and I love your love for each other!