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Archive for October, 2010

New England Backyard Wedding Style

October 26th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

Nothing expresses the individual style of a wedding couple like a backyard wedding!  All you need is a backyard big enough to contain all of your friends, an internet ordained Uncle, and a membership to a BJ’s with an attached liquor store, and you are in business!

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Backyard weddings are particularly fun to photograph because folks tend to be completely relaxed in the back yard where they played as kids.  Also, they are usually a family affair from planning to execution, with homemade touches aplenty.  They usually have a more casual dress code.  And who doesn’t love lawn games at a wedding!

comp2

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Breck Sargent Inspires us at the Wedding of Jill and Tim

October 20th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Inspire

Breck Sargent may be a recent transplant to New England, but he sure knows how to rock the mountain scenery.  In addition to his awesome sense of style and composition throughout, how cool is the lightning shot over the tent!  Check out the entire wedding here: http://sargentphotoworks.com/blog/2010/07/jill-tim-wedding-in-the-berkshires-massachusetts/

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Edit A Wedding In Three Hours Or Less

October 13th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

theedit

October is crunch time for my wedding photography so this week’s ShootStyle post is going to be short and sweet. In fact, brevity is really the underlying theme of what I’m going to discuss – editing a wedding.

So what is an edit? In my workflow, editing a wedding is the process of getting from the thousands of images I captured on the wedding day down to the few hundred images that I’m going to process and present to the client. In some respects this is can be the most overwhelming part of the post production process because I’m trigger happy and have it’s not unusual for me to shoot 7000-8000 images at a wedding. Add in images from a second photographer and I could be looking at 10,000+ images to review. (Thank goodness I don’t shoot film as that would be 278 rolls!)

Over the years, I’ve used a number of tools to edit my weddings including Adobe Bridge, Phase One Expression Media (formerly iView Multimedia) and Adobe Lightroom. Each of these tools had plusses and minuses, and every time I switched tools it was because I found the newer tool was faster. Before talking about what I currently use, here are the reasons the tools I’ve mentioned have fallen by the wayside.

Adobe Bridge shows you the contents of a folder of images in a thumbnail form. It’s totally possible to edit a wedding using Bridge and the fact that it comes free with Photoshop is a bonus. Unfortunately, when you open a folder using bridge, it scans the images and caches their thumbnails to use in it’s display. This happens pretty quick when you dealing with few dozen images, but once you get up to a few thousand images, the process of building all the thumbnails takes forever. Well, not forever, but more time than I want to spend sitting watching my computer churn.

Both Expression Media and Adobe Lightroom operate by creating a catalogs of the images you want to work with. The process of building these catalogs and creating the preview images they use can take a long time. On the other hand, once a catalog is built, moving from image to image can be quite speedy. So really, all of your suffering is done up front. But do I really want to take the time to build previews for thousands of images I know I’m going to be throwing out eventually? No ma’am, I do not.

I’d still be using Lightroom to edit my images today if some of my friends hadn’t turned me on to the Mack Daddy of all photo editing software, Photo Mechanic. This amazing little piece of software has a number of really useful capabilities targeted at professional photographers. Some of it best features are the ability to:

  • ingest your flash cards while simultaneously renaming the files and backing the images up into two locations
  • embed copyright and other metadata into your photos
  • adjust capture dates and times for when you forget to time sync your cameras before a shoot
  • tag each photo a 0-5 star rating and/or a color class
  • sort your images according to capture time
  • flexibly rename your images

But more than anything else, Photo Mechanic’s main feature is speed. It’s can open and display a folder full of images faster than anything else on the market. Way faster. And then it lets you view a large preview of each image and going back and forth between these previews is also super fast.

Here’s how I approach my edit using Photo Mechanic. I’m kind of old school and I don’t trust any intermediary software to transfer my images from my card to my computer, so I don’t use Photo Mechanic’s slick automatic card ingesting feature. For each wedding I create a folder called “Raw Downloads” and within that another folder for each card I shot. I then drag the files from the card to it’s corresponding folder using the Macintosh finder. This gives me the security of knowing that if something goes wrong during the transfer, I’ll quickly be able to determine which card gave me the error.

On the left side of the Photo Mechanic window, there is a navigation area that lists of all your hard drives and common folders on your computer.

navigation

If a drive or folder has a triangle next to it, that means it is not empty and it’s contents can be displayed by clicking on the triangle. In this way I drill down to that Raw Downloads folder for my wedding. I tell Photo Mechanic to show me all of the images in each of the card folders by right-clicking on the Raw Downloads folder and choosing to open all the subfolders.

open-folders

Blammo! In mere seconds every image I shot that day opens up into a slide-sorter style interface.

rawdls

Before I get down to the business of editing, I like to have all of my photos in a single folder in chronological order. I shoot with multiple cameras, so before the wedding I sync the time on my cameras. At the top of the Photo Mechanic window I simply change the sorting from Filename to Capture Time. This operation does take a little time, but it’s well worth it for me.

capturetime

I like to “bake in” the capture time sorting by renaming the files. This way they retain their chronological order even outside of Photo Mechanic. I select all the images and choose Rename Files form the File menu to open the renaming dialog.

rename

I set the name to a sequence number followed by the couples names and the word “unedited”. Setting the sequence {seqn} variable lets me choose the starting number (usually 1) and indicate how many zeros I want Photo Mechanic to add.

I’m going to take a short time out to mention a couple of preference settings that help me work efficiently with Photo Mechanic. the Accessibility Tab in the programs preferences allows you to choose how to set the single key short cut for tagging images. I have it set to use the number keys for star ratings:

This IPTC/XMP Preference screen shows how I have set up Photo Mechanic so that it’s tags are read correctly by lightroom. I won’t go into what all the obscure details, but if you set your preference like this, Lightroom should automatically read your Photo Mechanic tags when it imports your photos.

OK, Back to the edit.

Now that all the images are renamed in time order, I move them to a folder called “Unedited Originals” where I perform the actual edit. I open that folder in Photo Mechanic and double click on either the very first or very last image. (Sometimes it’s nice to work backwards as often I shoot a series of images of the same thing and my best shot is likely the last one I took before moving on to the next scene.) Double clicking on that first or last image opens it large in the preview window. I usually resize the window to fill the entire screen.

preview

This is were things get really fast. In this preview window, the left and right arrow keys instantly display the previous or next photo and the numbers 1 through 5 assign star ratings to the images. I can pretty much edit the whole wedding using just three keys on my keyboard: Left arrow, right arrow and the number 1. I use the number 1 that’s on my key pad as it sits right next the arrow keys allowing me to do all of the editing with one hand.

If I open the preview to last image of the wedding, my process will be:

(crap photo) press right arrow…
(crap photo) press right arrow…
(crap photo) press right arrow…
(crap photo) press right arrow…
(crap photo) press right arrow…
(sweet photo) press 1 then right arrow…
(crap photo) press right arrow…
(crap photo) press right arrow…
(crap photo) press right arrow…
(sweet photo) press 1 then right arrow…

Every time I hit the 1 key, that photo gets tagged with one star which is displayed under both the large preview image and the thumbnail.

1starb 1stara

I’m essentially going through and finding all the “keepers”. This approach is known as “editing in”. To some people it’s a little counter intuitive as they instinctively want to get rid of the bad photos, so they go through their images deleting or labeling the bad images in some way. I used to do that too. But with my style of shooting, I’ll could take 5000 images and only 500 are keepers. If I were to use the edit out approach, I’d have to hit a key to tag or delete an image 4500 times, vs just 500 times for the editing in approach. Say NO to carpel tunnel and edit in! Interestingly, a side benefit to editing in is that I get tighter edits. I guess in my mind it’s harder to explicitly decide to ditch a photo than it is to simple not tag it as being good.

By the way, I don’t promise a specific number of images to my clients so I’m not editing down to a target amount. I just deliver every good shot which could be 400 or 900.

(crap photo) press right arrow…
(sweet photo) press 1 then right arrow…
(crap photo) press right arrow…
(crap photo) press right arrow…
(sweet photo) press 1 then right arrow…
(sweet photo) press 1 then right arrow…
(crap photo) press right arrow…
(crap photo) press right arrow…
(sweet photo) press 1 then right arrow…

If I change my mind and find a better image, no problem, I just tag it with 1 star and hit the left arrow to go back to my original choice and hit the 0 key. If I see that I’m approaching a series of similar images I’ll sometimes just arrow key through them all before going back and tagging one with a star.

As I’m going through my images I’ll inevitably come across ones that I consider blog worthy. Instead of trying to remember which ones they were when I do my blog post, I’ll tag them with 2 stars instead of one. If I see an images that I think is totally awesome I might even tag it with 3 stars. Later on when I’m processing the images in Lightroom, I can easily filter out images with less then two stars giving me quick access to my absolute favorite shots from the wedding.

(crap photo) press right arrow…
(sweet photo) press 1 then right arrow…
(crap photo) press right arrow…
(blog worthy photo) press 2 then right arrow…
(crap photo) press right arrow…
(sweet photo) press 1 then right arrow…

Once I’ve finished my edit, I go to the bottom of the main Photo Mechanic window and click on the “0″ in the rating filter.

nostars

This hides every image that still has less than one star, leaving only my keepers. I select all the keepers and drag them into a folder named “Edited Originals” and I rename them one more time using just a three digit sequence number and the couples names.

Ironically, writing this blog post describing my process actually took longer than doing the actual edit will. Using this workflow, I can usually edit an entire wedding in 2-3 hours, depending on my caffeine level. I still have to do the raw processing and color correction, which I’ll tackle in Lightroom, but at least not I don’t have to import thousands of images into Lightroom that I’ll never use.

I can’t claim to have any special insight on the editing process, what I know I’ve learned from other talented photographers and through the experience of editing my work. I’m sure there are other refinements that can make this part of the job even more efficient. I’d love to hear about your editing techniques in the comments section.

Thanks for reading. Now I’m off to actually edit this wedding for real!

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Be Kind to your Future Self : surviving the triple-header

October 6th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

This is the time of year when we wedding photographers are as busy as we are ever going to be, shooting weddings back to back to back, fielding inquiries, designing wedding albums and figuring out Christmas deadlines. The more organized you can be before you head out to double headers or even triple headers the better off you will be, right? These are some of the things I have done:

When packing for the wedding weekend, I make outfit packets. I wear all black when I work, which is a pragmatic decision, easy mix and match. Pants, shirt, underwear and socks in a plastic bag and I make as many of these bags up as I need. My brain gets fried easily and I don’t want to be left with any decisions that I don’t need in the middle of a triple. I just rip open a bag and put the clothes on. I always bring two pairs of shoes. Shoes need to dry out between wearings to keep foot pain to a minimum.

Most of my weddings are a couple of hours away from home, so a double or triple-header involves hotel stays. I print out my hotel reservation information, printed (Mapquest) directions (in case my GPS dies) and staple the whole thing together chronologically. As each day passes, I fold back the sheets to reveal that day.

I also print out my wedding questionnaires with addresses for the venues, emergency phone numbers, names and special requests for the day. I write the day of the week on this with a magic marker. When I am bleary-eyed, a big handwritten day of the week is easier for me to locate than tiny type.

All of the papers, including copies of the contracts, go in a sturdy plastic zippered envelope that lives between my emergency brake and the passenger’s seat.

I gas up the car, check the washer fluid, the spare key. I take the non-wedding junk out of it. I like to vacuum my car to give myself a physiological edge, but you may not be as gross with your car as I am with mine. J

“Holy crap” cards live in the glove box of my car. These are the one and two gig cards that are too small to bother with at a wedding anymore. These have saved my ass when I’ve shot news stories, never yet (knock on wood) at a wedding. I may have to send someone out to WalMart or switch to jpgs, but it’s cheap (free) insurance.

I pack my camera bags by habit. I keep my “grab it” bag packed with the exact same set of lenses and flashes and cords and cards. Each item occupies a specific place in my bags, at the end of the night, as I am packing up, I will quickly see if there are any “holes” in my bags. Then I can track back mentally: “Where did I leave my macro lens?” and I can go find it.

I pack the car the same way. My laptop bag, camera bag, back up camera bag, light bags all go in the same places in the car, every time.

I have an old camera bag specifically for battery chargers. I keep my cell phone charger in a different spot since I regularly travel without camera gear. I leave the cell phone charger in my laptop bag where I am used to finding it. The trick isn’t to adopt my system, it’s to adopt a system for everything and then don’t switch it up every week.

My best tip: at the end of the night, before I leave the venue, I harvest the batteries out of my gear. The spent batteries go into a little bag, which goes into the charger bag. The minute I walk into that hotel room, I set up my charger station. I carry a power strip with me and plug it in and get my very first round of batteries charging immediately, no hunting for batteries. When I only had one charger, I’d set the alarm for the middle of the night to switch over batteries. That sucked, but before I bought a second charger, it was the solution.

Then I grab the remote, find a rerun of Law and Order and start downloading camera cards. I keep a small portable drive (with a card reader and all the cords I need) in my laptop bag. I download that day’s wedding onto the portable drive and put the used cards in a plastic baggie and store them in a never used (during weddings) pocket of my camera bag. The portable drive sits in my glove box. This way, I can release worrying about the wedding files; I have the cards safe with me, and the portable drive, separate, in the car.

Last thing, but most importantly: Hydrate. Days before the weekend, I start drinking water like no tomorrow. If I can get good and juicy before I even start on the weekend, then I will be way ahead of the game. I keep water in the car, drink when I can at the wedding and drink big glasses at the end of the night. Gatorade is my choice to recover with in the morning on the way to the next wedding. Proper hydration prevents sore muscles and makes it possible, even fun, to jump out of bed to do it all over again for another wedding the next day.

Anyway, that’s it. I would absolutely love to know what you do to prepare for weddings.

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