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Archive for April, 2010

Album Detail Grids

April 28th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

We all shoot photos of details at weddings, but what do you do with them?

My albums open with a page of details in a grid near the start of the album. These nifty visual souvenirs tell a story of the day without using people. It is a great way to get many of those detail shots into the album on one page where they can be lingered over by the couple, triggering memories of the day.

My album designer, Tim Gormley of Gormley Design, lays these pages down into a grid of squares, so they are graphically set apart from the rest of the album. The page stands out visually and indicates that this page is different from the rest of the album and won’t be following a chronological progression.

These grids can tell you so much about the feel of the day and the personality of the couple, often without the presence of any people.

My Sunday River bride, Sue, sums it up succinctly:

“The detail grid gives a personal touch to each couple . . . it captures the mood of the day.”

Many of the details at a wedding are intricate hand crafted items, which have been painstakingly agonized over. These grids give you a chance to honor the time and expense of these details.

Kim and Mike, a couple who got married at the Glen House in Newry, Maine last fall, said, “We spent a lot of time selecting a venue and creating handmade accents to set the atmosphere of our wedding. In the celebratory blur of our wedding day, we didn’t get a chance to notice how all the individual details combined.  (The) detail grid provides a concise, artfully presented, memory-inducing, quiet record of an often-overlooked portion of the wedding.”

I try and shoot an entire scene when I shoot details. I position the meaningful object in the front of the scene and then pick up other information about the day in the background to give more texture to the photo.

Jill says about her Bethel Inn wedding album: “(The detail grid) shows the impressions of the wedding that I’ll want to remember, plus, Colby’s nose is pictured right in the middle and that’s something I always love!”

I asked Tim Gormley what he looks for in the detail shots for the albums he designs:

“The perfect detail shot is something that shows part of the location, a personal possession and the weather. It sounds like a lot, but it can be seamless if you see the right thing. In Heather and Tyler’s album, there was a shot that looked through the wrought iron gate, and showed the empty chairs all set up for the ceremony. You see the beautiful day.”

This particular detail is used as the entire page preceding the detail grid. My second photographer at this wedding, and fellow ShootStyler Earl Christie, shot this image and many of the detail photos in the facing grid.

To see the entire album design of each wedding, click on each bride’s name in the above article.


Beginnings! Assignment winners!!

April 22nd, 2010  |  by  |  published in Mingle

In this installment of our assignment series, we asked participants to illustrate what “Beginnings!” meant to them.

The approach could have been anything from a photojournalistic exercise to an artistic construction. We left it up to the photographers to define the phrase and how they interpreted it.

The most creative entries won (see below) Actually, everyone did!!

Our assignment series is open to all photographers, professional, semi-pro and rank amateur.

What a fun collection of Beginnings images, from the cute babies (and almost babies) to the beautiful flowers and the unique & quirky interpretations.

Thank you for playing and now …. The Winners!!!

1st Place is Michele Stapleton‘s Graduation image:


2nd Place is Rachel Worrall‘s Toilet Paper Roll:


3rd place is Renee Thompson‘s Basketball image:


Congrats and thank you to everyone that played along!!!


Granite State of Mind

April 16th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Play

This fantastic parody of Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind is the best four and a half minute tour of New Hampshire you’ll ever see.


Blending Fun

April 15th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot


I know. I wish this article were about margarita recipes too – ohhh for the research I’d have been able to do. But the blenders I’m talking about today are Photoshop’s Blending Modes. Please folks, try to contain your excitement.

There are a lot of ‘ah-ha!’ moments that come with learning Photoshop. A couple of the big ah-ha’s for me were how working in layers allows you make changes to your image without committing to them permanently, and how working with layer masks lets you selectively hide or show just the parts of a layer that you are interested in. These two concepts really hit home with me because they appeal to both my inner laziness (I don’t like to have to do things twice) and inner control freak (I like to make my images as perfect as possible).

If you’ve experienced the thrill of the layer and layer mask ah-ha’s, it’s time to strap in and get ready for using blending modes to really do some useful wild things to your images.

But before we go there, you might be wondering what in the Sam Hill blending modes are. The simple answer is that when you have one layer on top of another, Photoshop uses blending modes to determine how a layer visually affects the layers underneath it. You can find list of blending modes on top of the Layer Palette:


The default blending mode is called Normal and it just shows you every pixel in the top layer, effectively hiding all the layers below it. Not very exciting.

But what about some of those others, like say Multiply? What do they do?

You probably know that digital images are made up of pixels and that each pixel is a color represented by three numbers, usually in RGB (red, green and blue) format, and that each of those numbers can be anything from 0 to 255. The purest red is represented as 255,0,0, the purest blue is 0,0,255, and so on. Everything that Photoshop does is basically just fancy math applied to those RGB numbers.

When you choose Multiply as a blend mode, Photoshop takes the numerical value of each pixel in the top layer, and multiplies it by the value of the pixel below it. It then divides the result by 255 so that the final value falls between 0 and 255.

I’m going to guess that you don’t read blogs to learn about math so let me just show you what it looks like. Here is an image in which the background has just been duplicated to a new layer. The blend mode is still at the default setting of Normal.


But when you switch the blend mode to Multiply, look what happens.


The image gets markedly darker since each pixel has been multiplied by the pixel directly underneath it. This technique might not seem incredibly useful at first, but what if we were starting with an over-exposed image? (Which I never take of course.) Below is an over-exposed image on the left and that same image copied to a new layer and set to Multiply on the right.


You can see that Multiply brought life back to the picture, recovering some of the lost detail in the trees, and making the gray dress black as it should be.

If you only need to darken your image a little, you can adjust the opacity of the top layer to dial in the amount of effect that suits your taste. If you need to darken it more, you can duplicate the layer again and have two or more layers set to multiply.

The opposite blending mode to Multiply is called Screen. The math is funkier, but the effect is that pixels in the top layer make pixels in the bottom layer lighter. Here’s that first photo again and then a version in which background has been duplicated to a new layer and set to Screen.



Again, maybe not super useful on a well-exposed image, but it can really help an image that was underexposed when it was shot.


In all honesty, I’d never use blending modes to adjust my exposures these days. There are much better tools like Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw for that part of my workflow. But I do use techniques like this all the time on almost every finished image I produce. What for? Nondestructive dodging and burning.

The real beauty of this technique comes by combining a Multiply layer and a Screen layer with a layer mask, so that you can selectively control which areas of the image to lighten or darken. Here’s how I set it up:

1) Duplicate the background (command-J on Mac/control-J on PC).

2) Name the new layer Darken or something similar.

3) Option-click the Add Layer Mask button addlayermask on the bottom of the Layers palette (On the PC it’s Alt-click)

4) Set the blending mode of the layer to Multiply.

5) Duplicate the Darken layer (command-J on Mac/control-J on PC).

6) Name the new layer Lighten or something similar.

7) Set the blending mode of the layer to Screen.

At this point my layers palette will look something like this:


8) Choose the brush tool. (Set the brush color to white, the opacity to 20% and the brush size to whatever feels right).

9) In the Layers palette, click on the black layer mask’s thumbnail of the Darken layer to select it.

10) Now in the image, burn in areas by painting with the brush anywhere you want to darken the photo.

In my image, I want the model to stand out more, so I’m going to burn in the areas of the truck, the road, the sky, and the construction machinery in the background.



Looking at the white areas of the layer mask’s thumbnail, you can see the parts of the photo that I burned in.

11) In the Layers palette, click on the black layer mask’s thumbnail of the Lighten layer to select it.

12) Now in the image, dodge areas by painting with the brush anywhere you want to lighten the photo.

In my image, I just wanted to make the shadow side of the model’s face a touch lighter.


You can see the areas that I dodged as the white parts of the Screen (Lighten) layer mask’s thumbnail.

The best part of dodging and burning this way is that I can change my mind about what I did later. Let’s say I was up all night editing images. (Again, not something I ever do.) The next day I’m reviewing my files and I notice that I went waaay overboard on some of the dodging and burning. No problemo! I saved the images as Photoshop files thus preserving all the layers, so all I have to do is open the offending images and paint in black on the layer mask where I want less of a dodging or burning effect.

So, Normal, Multiply and Screen are only three of the twenty-five blend modes available in Photoshop, you’re probably wondering what all the others do.

Well, I’m not going to tell you.

Kidding. Well, I’m sort of kidding. This article would be crazy long and cause your eyes to bleed if I tried to discuss and give examples of every blend mode.

The best way to understand what all the different blend modes do is to play around with them. Experiment, have fun, and just explore the effects of each different mode. You’ll find that you have some favorite ones that you go to again and again. Here are some of the ones I use over and over.

Overlay is a cool blend mode because it takes the dark parts of your image and makes them darker while at the same time making the light parts of your image even lighter. The effect is that it adds contrast and increases saturation giving the image a definite pop. In fact, it’s usually too much pop, so I invariably have to reduce the opacity of the overlay layer to lessen the effect.


The Soft Light blend mode is Overlay’s suburban cousin. It also adds contrast and increases saturation, but not as dramatically as Overlay. Because it’s not as strong an effect Soft Light can be run at 100%. I’ll often jump back and forth between Soft Light and Overlay to see which works best with the image I’m editing.


In all of the examples I’ve demonstrated so far, the top layer has been the same as the bottom layer. This doesn’t have to be the case. You can create interesting effects with blending modes when the top layer is different than the bottom layer. A common example of this is adding texture to an image.

Let’s use this texture to grunge up the image of the model in front of the truck.


When working with textures you will find that you have to tweak and experiment with every image. For this image I put the texture in a layer on top of the photo. I set the texture layer to the Hard Light blending mode. Hard Light is similar to Overlay, but it adds even more contrast.


I had to play with the opacity of the texture layer to get the amount of texture I wanted. In this case it turned out to work well at 50% opacity. I also had to add a layer mask and paint the effect off of the model. People just don’t look good with textured skin.

When working with textures, I will often use the Soft Light, Overlay, Hard Light or Multiply blending modes.

And finally, here’s an effect that reminds me of an image that’s been reproduced on a bad photocopier. (Don’t ask me why I’d want an image that looks like it was reproduced on a bad photocopier… this is art!) This technique uses the Hard Light blend mode as well, but in this case I’ve desaturated the top layer. This gives the image a lot of contrast, but plays with the colors in peculiar ways. Again the top layer needs to have it’s opacity reduced. I might finish an image like this by adding some noise for grain or even by adding a texture added on top.


Do you have unique effects that you’ve created using blend modes? Bust them out in the comments section.


HOME, Eye and Ear Candy.

April 10th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Play

I just LOVE this video by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. So much visual inspiration!



Location, Location, Location! My secret for finding GREAT ones!

April 7th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

One of the most fun parts of being a wedding photographer is not knowing where you will be shooting from week to week. One week you could be photographing a wedding in a lovely shaded garden, with diffused golden light filtering in through the trees and stone benches perched perfectly between the trunks of beauty trees, and the next week you could end up in a dark hotel with dark walls and dark windows covered in dark curtains. Here’s a quick tip for finding great portrait backdrops no matter what your location looks like.

Put on your pith helmet and EXPLORE!

I’ve photographed weddings at a LOT of country clubs. You know the kind with a pretty little gazebo out back that they have designated as the photo area. If I can share a little secret with the hundreds of millions of people on the internet…I don’t like gazebos very much. So I always try to arrive at a location a little early and explore. When I get to the bride’s parent’s house where she and the girls are getting ready, the first thing I ask is if I can look around the house, and I look into every room. When I arrive at a new hotel, I do the same thing. Since I am not a gazebo photographer, I am looking for locations ha are unique to the venue, and different from what other photographers are capturing there. Spots with great light, but more importantly with a great story to tell about the location…or just an interesting background to make the photo look cool. I look for interesting geometric shapes, or interesting colors. Most of all, I look for places that I’m pretty sure no other photographer has ever used!

I took this photo at College Ave United Methodist Church in Somerville MA. This church was probably built around the 1920′s and was definitely in need of a little updating. When I arrived, however, I put on my pith helmet, and discovered several very cool locations, my favorite of which was an 80 year old gym on the third floor.


This wedding was at a conference center with a pretty little garden area that was just a little plain. After doing all of the family photos in the garden area, I asked the bridesmaids to bustle the bride’s dress, and followed a little path to the back of the building, where I found…a dumpster!


This wedding was at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem MA during a blizzard. I had just finished up with the family photos and was about to head on to the ceremony when nature called. Answering the call, I noticed this cool opaque window and asked the bride in to the Men’s room.


Another weather snafu on this wedding day, this time it was rainy and we were stuck inside the country club. Adjacent to the bridal suite was the ladies locker room, and, after sending a bridesmaid inside to make sure the coast was clear, I found this cool little ottoman in front of the antique looking wooden lockers.


This wedding took place at a resort on the Cape. I convinced them to wander across to the little cluster of shops across the street from the resort where they were married. The shop outsides provided great backgrounds, but it was this little ice cream shop that caught my eye. I poked my head in and was instantly invited in by the owner.


This wedding took place at a reception venue that was lovely, but a little plain. As I was exploring, however, I found a hall that led to a dance club at the back of the building. The staff was just setting up for the night, and were gracious enough to let us in!


This reception took place at the Ballroom Veronique, which has no shortage of wonderful locations. I wanted to create a contrast to the elegance of the location, though, and decided to look around a bit. In the staff hallway behind the ballroom, I found the Laundromat.


As you can see, if you are looking to create memorable and unique portraits on a couple’s wedding day, it pays to explore. And here’s another little secret: you have an all access pass in a white dress following behind you. People can’t say no to a bride on her wedding day! So get out there and explore. You’ll be surprised what you find.

PS – those of you joining us for the next shoot, I will be discussing the details of what I look for in a great indoor location, and what I do when my exploration is fruitless! Can’t wait to see you all.

~ Jamison Wexler


ShootStyle Workshop: Rainy Days and Mondays with Jamison Wexler

April 6th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Mingle

Rainy Days and Mondays


We are excited to announce that the next ShootStyle workshop will take place on Sunday, May 16, 2009, from 1pm to 7pm at the Hampton Inn in Worcester, MA.

There’s an old saying in New England.  “Don’t like the weather? Wait 5 minutes.”  So what do you do when Hurricane Destructosaurus blows into town on your couple’s beautiful wedding day?  Or what do you do when your bride, planning her October wedding in June, decides that picture time should happen at 7:00pm?

In this workshop, Jamie Wexler will show you some tips and tricks for creating great photos indoors and after dark.  With a practical, hands-on approach, he’ll show you what to look for in a great indoor location and quick and easy ways to use indoor lighting in a way that adds interest.  Finally, he’ll show you where to look for really cool locations and interesting lighting in the most boring of venues.

The workshop will begin with an hour-long presentation by Jamie.  Participants will then have a chance to work with models and ShootStyle members at a suitably difficult location to put the tips and tricks to work.  Then we’ll all regroup to review our photos together and talk about out the shoot.

The cost is $45 and is limited to the first 16 people who sign up.  Click here to secure your place: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/635067504

Want to come to the workshop for free?  We are offering 4 slots to photographers who are willing to participant in the model shoot in front of the camera!  You would get to participate in all of the other aspects of the workshop, slipping into your model shoes just for the model shoot portion.  Since this workshop is focused on creating bridal portraits we’re looking for female models.  Shoot us an email at jamie@jamisonwexler.com if interested.


Michelle Turner posing workshop in Ogunquit, Maine

April 2nd, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Mingle

ShootStyle has just finished up our largest model shoot ever in Ogunquit, Maine. The workshop, led by Michelle Turner, gave participants an opportunity to brush up on posing, photograph some beautiful models, and enjoy a day spent with other photographers.  The workshop was held at Stone Crop Gallery, an amazing seasonal fine art photography gallery in Ogunquit, Maine.  A big thanks to Dana Berenson for allowing us to hold the workshop at her beautiful gallery.

The workshop was fantastically well attended- photographers from all over New England signed up for this seven hour workshop . The weather got a bit chilly, but the models and participants were tough cookies and endured the fickle spring weather in Maine!  Our next workshop will be on May 16 in Massachusetts- stay tuned to the blog for details!

Here are some images from the ShootStylers:

A big thank-you to all the participants! Erin Chapman, Allana Taranto, Carol Savage, Lyana Votey , Emily Carter Delamater, Audra Medunitza-Welton, Margaret BelangerMichelle Gordon McDougalSierra Kristen JacksonErik PattonJocelyn Mathewes, Jenifer Dean HartmanDavid ButlerJamie Cinq-Mars, B Corey, and Mark Andrew Higgins.  Here are some of our favorite participant images:


Assignment series: Beginnings

April 2nd, 2010  |  by  |  published in Mingle


In this installment of our assignment series, we bring you the phrase “Beginnings!”

Our assignment series is open to all photographers, professional, semi-pro and rank amateur. We’re hoping you’ll wanna play along.

Your assignment is to illustrate the concept “Beginnings”. This might be a photojournalistic exercise or an artistic construction. We leave it up to you to define the phrase and how you will interpret it. The most creative entry wins! Actually, everyone wins. We will post all of the entries on our facebook page, and post a few of our favorites on our blog, complete with a link back to your blog or website.

Images should be sized to 590 pixels on the long side. If you need help figuring that out, ask your favorite Shootstyler! And by all means, slap that logo on there if you have one! Email your entry to:


We have an album on our Facebook fan page. When the entries start coming in, we’ll post them there first. Check in with us at Facebook if you are looking for some inspiration.


The deadline is April 15, a Thursday, TAX DAY!!. If you’d like to think about “Beginnings” at events you are already shooting, we think that would be pretty keen. If you want to go do something wacky and outside of your usual style of photography, even better!

Let’s have fun doing this together!!Assignment series: “Beginnings!”


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