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Archive for December, 2010

Anything but Digital

December 29th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

…. and your camera phone.

As anyone with a Facebook account can attest to, more and more people are creating interesting images out of everyday mundane happenings with their phones, using such apps as ShakeIt, Hipstamatic, Camera+, etc. Personally, I think it’s great. I love having a pocket sized camera on me everywhere I go. From time to time, and certainly not often enough, I leave my DSLRs at home and travel with only film cameras and my iPhone.

Last year, I started taking photos with my iPhone, in the mornings and evenings, of my daughter getting up from or going to bed. Doing so was much less invasive for her (not that she’s not used to the camera in her face alllllll the time), and it allowed me to get her really natural. I called these photos Morning and Evening Snuggles and posted them on Facebook. I was overwhelmed by how many people said they looked forward to seeing them everyday. A simple series of phone photos, who knew?

On our recent travels, my boyfriend and I brought nothing but film cameras and phones – no digital, otherwise. The black and whites produced on the iPhone with certain apps, are really lovely, I think.

We brought a Diana with a Polaroid back, Holga, Fuji Insta wide camera, Hasselblad, Mamiya 6×7 II, and a Polaroid SX70. For those old timers who started off shooting film, long before the days of megapixels and RAW files, digital may now be the only way you fly. I’ve missed the smell of fixer, the anticipation of getting film developed, finding a random roll and wondering what’s on it. It had been so long since we’d played with film, it was really nice to have that nostalgic feeling back.

I did it for 9 years, but my days of shooting film at weddings is LONG gone, and though busting out my phone during the ceremony just looks a tad bit tacky, I would love to shoot one this way. Somewhere I have a few rolls of black and white 120mm ready to be hand developed, with random photos of wedding couples from the last few years. I kind of like knowing they’re sitting there waiting to be processed.

Next time you leave the house, why not keep the big guns at home and step out of your element? You might be surprised what you come up with.

~Zofia

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Happy Holidays!!

December 22nd, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

What are you doing online!? Get out there and chug down a big glass of holiday cheer! You deserve it. You’ve worked hard this year, so now it’s time to kick off those work shoes, lean back and sigh big happy relaxing sighs.

And if someone says you can’t stop now, tell them ShootStyle said you had the holiday off!

Many thanks from the ShootStyle gang for coming by and reading, sharing, coming out to play and just for being a great you. We <3 you all!!

With that, go forth and be merry!

Speaking of all this merriment & joy, what is your favorite part of the holidays? Feel free to share in the comments a beloved tradition, a fav cookie recipe, even the quirkiest holiday gift you’ve ever received. We’d love to share with you!

Happy happy!!

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Brand Your Emails!

December 14th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

Almost any business guru will talk to you about the importance of branding.  However, while many of us have branded our websites, our blogs, and even our packaging, many of us ignore one of the most traversed avenues of communication with our clients: our emails.  Do HTML emails intimidate you?  Even your smartphone can handle pretty emails these days, so it’s time to catch up with your gadgets!   Fortunately, there are several options if you want to take your email presentation to the next level.  I’m going to start by talking about some full-service email companies and then I will show you how to create your own email templates in Mac Mail.

Email Services. There are a few wonderful email marketing companies that offer a full range of email-related products and services.  Mad Mimi and Constant Contact are two companies that are easy to work with.  Both offer a number of email templates and allow you to manage lists of client emails.  They are both fairly simple to use and have a decent selection of simple drag and drop templates that can be customized with your logo and the colors in your brand.  I actually use Mad Mimi for my Studio Newsletter- it is a perfect solution for me because it helps me manage different email lists and it allows my clients to opt-out of future studio newsletters.  While I wish the templates were a bit more sophisticated, I am happy with the drag and drop functionality for my newsletters and sale notifications.  Here is an example- this is a small piece of my holiday newsletter (sent with Mad Mimi):

Email Marketing for Photographers

Email Templates. I am going to focus on Mac Mail, since that is the program that I use, but you can also create beautiful templates in Windows Mail and Outlook Express as well (as I have heard from my PC colleagues).

Step One.  Take a look at the stationery options that are built into Mac Mail (open Mail, click on New Message and then click “Show Stationery” in the upper right corner).  It is easier to find a template that you can modify rather than starting from scratch.  If you want to put photographs in your theme, the Doodles theme and the Vacation theme can be cleaned up to offer a simple, multi-photograph presentation.  If you are looking for a simple email without photographs, Sand Dollar, Butterfly, and Fun are all easy to manipulate.  I like simple presentations, but your style may call for a more complex layout, so poke around and find what you like.  (There are also several companies that offer email templates that you can buy and install.)

Step Two.  Once you have chosen the theme that you would like to modify, go to your hard drive and navigate to Library>Application Support>Apple>Mail>Stationery>Apple>Contents>Resources.  Find the group where your template resides (for example, Doodles and Vacation both live in “Photos” while Butterfly, Fun, and Sand Dollar live in “Stationery”).   Choose the group, then select Contents>Resources and select the theme you would like to customize.  In the Finder window, select the icon that looks like a wheel/cog on the upper left, and choose “Show Package Contents”.  (I would suggest that you make a copy of the files somewhere so that if you need to go back, you can.)

Step Three.  Pull out the image files in the folder that you have just opened.  For example, in the Butterfly theme you will need to pull out bg_letter.jpg, bg_pattern.jpg, bottom.jpg, and top.jpg.  The next part is the fun part- simply customize the email based on your brand!

Step Four.  Save everything.

Step Five.  Open Mail and find the template you modified (click on Show Stationery and select your template).  We didn’t modify the thumbnail, so don’t worry if the thumbnail looks wrong.

Step Six.  Check your template.  Does it look okay?  I usually have to go back and forth several times before I am satisfied.

Step Seven.  Send it out!

Here is what one of my modified templates looks like- I have configured it to look just like my blog.  I have others that include photographs, but this is my favorite template to use in my email correspondence when I choose to send an HTML email:

Email Template

If someone wants to leave a comment with a good online tutorial for our non-Mac friends, please do so!  We would love to hear from you!

Post by Maine Wedding Photographer Michelle Turner.

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Shootstyle is Inspired by Walter Van Dusen at the wedding of Rachel and David

December 13th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Inspire

Walter Van Dusen is perhaps most well known in the New England photographic community as the founder of the Mystic Seminars…the single greatest educational event for wedding photographers in our part of the country (and maybe even the best in the country).  But it’s for his chops as a photographer that we are blogging about him this month.  His mad skills are on display at the wedding of Rachel and David, showcasing his combination of capturing beautiful moments in creative way, and creating breathtaking environmental portraits.  Check it out here: http://waltervandusenblog.com/2010/11/23/the-chapel-at-princeton-university-wedding-rachel-david/

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Here Comes the Sun (and I say) It’s Alright…

December 8th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

I don’t know about you, but my nightmares tend to be about wedding photography.  I arrive at the wedding, only to discover that I have only brought a fisheye lens, or that I have forgotten all of my batteries, or my memory cards, or my pants!  Or the worse one of all, the bride and groom want to do all of their portraits outside…on the beach…at noon!  Unfortunately,that latter scenario is one we are likely to face on a regular basis.  But with a little old school knowledge and a bit of modern technology open sunlight is not something to be feared.  This post will discuss a few strategies for owning the sun!

First off you will need to use something to fill in those nasty shadows caused by harsh sun.  I work alone, and I prefer to travel light, so my answer to the fill problem is a flash.  Chances are you have a flash that will give you enough light to fill in the shadows for a couple or an individual with the on-camera model that you are using.  The easiest way and quickest way to fill in the shadows is to just aim the flash directly at the couple and blast away.  Direct flash is not your enemy in the daylight.  In fact, when I am working outside, no matter what the light, I shoot about 80-90% of my photos with direct flash for fill.  When it’s time for group formals, however, the on camera flash that we all have just won’t cut it.  They simply don’t have the power to overpower the mid-day sun when you have to stand 10-15 feet back to capture a family grouping.  So one of that tools that should be in every professional wedding photographer’s toolkit is at least one flash with enough juice to light a good size group at f16.  I keep a Sunpak 622 handle mount flash in its own bag in my car full time.  The Sunpak is a beast of a flash, with a ton of juice for those situations when I need to be able to blast a lot of light onto a scene.  When beach formal time comes, I mount it to my camera body with a bracket and use it just like they did in the olden days…pointed right at the group.  I typically mark a spot for me and a spot for the formal groupings, so that I can set the camera and flash to a manual exposure/power level and have a consistent exposure on every group.  It’s not sexy, but it gets the job done.  The light is flat, but it is even, which is far more preferable than dark shadows on the subjects faces.

If flat lighting is not your thing, than use an off camera cord or a radio trigger to move the flash off the camera.  When used effectively, and off camera flash can create dramatic lighting effects.  By controlling the ratio of light between your flash and the background, you can control how much your subject stands out from your background.  Underexposing an otherwise brightly lit background can help you to achieve a saturated, contrasty look, or de-emphasize elements of the background that you don’t want to appear in the photo.

Whether you decide to use an on camera or off camera flash, an easy technique for balancing your flash and ambient exposures is to first set your exposure for the background with the flash disabled, then turn on the flash to determine the flash exposure on the subject.  Since the limiting factor in your exposure equation is the maximum sync speed of your camera, set your camera to shutter priority and set your shutter speed to the maximum sync speed.  If I can get away with it, I like to begin with my background exposure about one stop underexposed at the maximum sync speed.  Once I have the correct aperture, I reduce my shutter speed so that the background is correctly exposed.  This allows me to change the background exposure by simply raising or lowering my shutter speed.  Once I’ve determined the correct aperture and shutter speed, I switch over to Manual and dial them in.

With  the background exposure all set, dialing in the flash is a cinch.  With the big Sunpak in Manual setting, I begin with a “best guess” setting and adjust from there.  The beauty of digital is that the instant feedback allows you to see the effect of your adjustments in real time.  It typically only takes 2-3 test shots to find the correct manual flash exposure.  And once you have it, you don’t have to change it…as long as the distance between the flash and the subject doesn’t change.  Since the size of the groups can change from one photo to the next, I use a zoom lens to “get closer” or “move back”.  That way my light stays consistent from one photo to the next because I’m not changing the distance between the flash and the subject.  When using a flash with an auto zoom head, I also make sure to manually set my zoom head so it doesn’t move when zooming the lens, as this will effect the flash exposure.

The final piece of the puzzle is the positioning of the subjects in relation to the sun.  Since the sun is only directly overhead for a short time, I typically have directional sunlight to deal with.  This means I have to decide where I want the sunlight to fall on my subjects.  When possible, I prefer to place the sunlight directly behind the subjects.  In this way, I use the sun as a “kicker” light while my flash serves as the key light.  If the wind or the scenery prevents my from placing the sun behind them, I’ll turn them 45 degrees or so, until the point just before the sunlight hits their faces.  90 degrees to the sun is my next choice.  In this position, the shadows fall over 1/2 of their faces, but if I have my flash dialed in right it should fill in the shadow.  My least favorite position in relation to the sun is the subjects looking into it on account of all the squinting.

If all of this sounds complicated, it’s really not.  It takes longer to explain it than it does to put it into action.  On an actual shoot, I can set it all up in about a minute or two.  Being able to create professional images even in the harsh mid-day light is well worth the time!

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Walk the Walk

December 2nd, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

One thing I almost invariably do at a wedding is to get a shot of the couple walking. At most weddings there’s a bunch of time spent getting from here to there: from the house to the ceremony, from the ceremony to the reception, from the reception to the spot where we’re going to be taking photos, etc. These could easily be wasted moments photographically. I have this constant desire for just another minute to fiddle with my equipment or set up a shot, so it would be easy for me to focus on getting to the destination ahead of the couple. But I slow down and stay with the couple as they’re walking, because I love the photos I can get from these moments.

Most people aren’t used to having a camera pointed at them but they are used to putting one foot in front of another over and over.  When people are walking, muscle memory takes over and they stop posing. They become more aware of their environment and less aware of me. The couple gets a chance to take a break from their guests and be together for a moment which also helps them act and interact more naturally.

The simple fact that my subjects are in motion makes the photos a little more interesting. These photos also help tell the story of the day by providing transitions from one scene to the next, which can be useful in a slideshow or an album. Taking these photos is a challenge because I have to frame and shoot quickly, then move along and do it again, but the effort pays off in images I love.

Boston Wedding Photographer

Boston Wedding Photographer

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