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Archive for February, 2011

What do diamonds have to do with it?

February 23rd, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

While some traditions seem pretty obvious to me (the kiss after the ceremony, the honeymoon *wink wink*) others have me pondering “Where did they come up with that?”.

The engagement ring, for instance. We’ve all heard the commercials telling you that true love comes in the form of 2 months salary worth of diamonds. For the record, I think that’s a wee bit silly. I’d rather a lens or cowboy boots … but I digress.

When did the engagement ring become the symbol of ‘i love you this much’?

There is theory that the first rings may have been made from leather, plants, or other degradable material that served not only to symbolize a union between two people, but also their connection with the land that sustained them. Those original sustainable wearable pieces eventually morphed into metal rings adding in the sparkle of a gemstone or two.

Word on the street is some of the earliest adopters of the symbolic ring were the Greeks, Romans & Egyptians. These rings were meant to show the world that the lady was part of a pretty sweet business deal. *ahem* Not so romantic.
The swoon inducing Greeks are credited with wearing the ring on the left hand, fourth finger, where the ‘vena amoris’ or vein of love is supposed to connect to the heart.

Even the Popes got into the ring thing! Back in the 19th century, Pope Nicolas I said ‘heck yea’ to the idea of a gold ring as a betrothal requirement, proof that the groom had the ability to bring home the bacon.

Round about 800 B.C. in India, the first diamonds were discovered, along with the deep desire to flaunt them. Many believe the diamond to be magical, and if you’ve ever watched a bunch of ladies walk into a Tiffany’s, that’s not too far fetched. ;)

The first lucky lady to be given a diamond engagement ring was Mary of Burgundy. The Archduke Maximilian of Hamburg got down on one knee (okay, I may be making that part up) in 1477. And, for most others, unless you were royalty, wicked wealthy or a gem thief, the only diamond you’d be wearing is the one in your dreams.
In the 18th century, the mother-load of sparkle was found in Brazil, making the diamond ring much more accessible, and prompted all the ladies to shout ‘Put a ring on it!’.

Somewhere in the 1930s this simple symbolic ring jumped the shark. De Beers was well known as a diamond supplier, yet it’s sales took a tumble in 1919. So, in 1930, when the De Beers Company felt a bit of a pinch, it turned to the N. W. Ayers firm to figure out a way to get the masses excited again. Encouraged by the Ayers firm, fashion designers & Hollywood stars dripped with diamonds, telling everyone the trend was to sparkle & sparkle loud! De Beers sold a whopping 55% more diamonds between 1938 to 1941. When Frances Gerety wrote the line “A diamond is forever”, the De Beers company pretty much did a victory dance & the diamond ring has since been the symbol of ‘i love you thi$ much’.

I suppose what it really comes down to is – what speaks to you & your betrothed. Is it the lure of a sapphire? The tongue-in-cheek of a cracker jack ring (engraved by Tiffany’s, perhaps)? Is it the glitter of a diamond, a ruby, an opal, an emerald?

No matter what symbol you choose to tell the world you love this person THAT much, make sure you choose something that rings true to you both.

[yes, that pun was intended]


Inspiration: Brad Smith’s photo-a-day blog

February 21st, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Inspire

This month we turn to a year long project by Brad Smith, a Rhode Island photographer who recently completed a photo-a-day project. We asked him to talk a bit about the process. In his own words:

I originally started it after seeing others who had completed similar projects before me and I saw how much they enjoyed doing it.

My wife and I had also recently found out that she was pregnant, and though we hadn’t told anyone else yet, I knew it was going to be a big year in our personal lives and to be able to look back on 2010 in the form of a picture a day was something that really sweetened the pot, so to speak. Little did I know that my son would be born three months early in April and my life would be tipped upside down!

Starting April 20, I was spending very long hours in the NICU with my son, and that place is the same, day after day. I had to struggle sometimes to focus on finding something new or different inside the hospital, because I’d often spend entire days inside his 10×10 foot room. I never thought I’d be that guy that posted so many pictures of my kid – but as I look back over the last year’s images as I type, I can see that I have indeed, become ‘that guy’.

So basically the ‘rules’ made for myself were pretty simple. Each image was to be either an image taken at a ‘real’ shoot that day (i.e. e-session, wedding, senior session, etc), or an iPhone image taken and processed w/ the iPhone. In the back end, I made it VERY simple by doing all the set upbeforehand so all I’d have to do would be to email the photo and text to a specific email address, it’d post to the wordpress site, populate to twitter and facebook from there. If it weren’t that automated, it would have been very difficult to keep it up all year.

There were some days where, for whatever reason, an image didn’t get posted until first thing the next day. I’m usually one to stick pretty tightly to my own rules, and because of that, I made a pretty darn good effort to post each day, on that day. I never skipped a day, though.

It helped me keep my eyes open to my world around me each day. Even days when there was NOTHING going on – like an office day – it’d force me to always be looking for ‘that’ shot. I felt like I was being held accountable by the people that followed the blog each day.

I was also really trying to ‘see’ things around me every day. I felt like I was going through day to day not keeping my eyes open to all the things around me. Sometimes I would see them, but more often than not, I felt like I’d miss the light playing on something, or the way a building or object created a cool pattern when taken out of context. I felt like in order to grow and improve I needed to start documenting something each day.

There were days when I’d get to 11:00 pm and I’d be heading to bed and realize that I didn’t post a picture. I’d cycle back through any images I took during the day on my iPhone, or more often try and find something of interest to photograph. I’ll have to admit that there were some days when I feel like I really wimped out on getting a decent image for that day.

It seemed like such a small task each day, but some days, I felt consumed by the project. I’d be driving thinking, ‘ACK – I should have stopped to take a picture of that”, but would be too far by that point to turn around. A little later in the year, I started to be better about doing things like that. As soon as I’d see something, I’d stop and pull out my iPhone (or 5d if I had it on me) and take the shot. I’m sure I was a pain to be around some days when trying to get somewhere and I’m stopping every 6 feet to take pictures.

I do find that I’m seeing those things more now after the project. I may not take the picture – although sometimes I still do – but feel like I’m seeing a little deeper than I once was. I haven’t yet been able to see how this project will affect the way I work during a wedding day, but I think ( and I hope) I’ll see a positive change in the way I photograph throughout the wedding day.

I left the blog open and functional to post pictures in the same vein as last year, only I’m not holding myself to an image per day. It’s far less frequent. I’ve enjoyed scrolling back through my images on the blog and remembering each day. And I CAN remember each day, because the picture that I posted played a role in that day in one way or another. It’s cool to be able to scroll backwards to April and see how my life changed in an instant. It’s cool to go back and see a picture from all of the weddings I shot this year, and it’s neat to be able to see all the otherlittle things that went on in the meantime.

You don’t know how much or how little you’ll get out of it until you start and finish one of your own.

Check it out!!


Getting Published: It’s All In the Details

February 16th, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

Publication can be a wonderful thing for your business on many levels.  It can give you a chance to showcase a particularly beautiful wedding beyond the scope of your blog readership.  It can also put you on the radar of planners and event designers who may love your work enough to contact you and refer you in the future.  It can give your business a degree of credibility and longevity in an industry fraught with nightmare stories of “take the money and run” vendors.  Add to that the fact that it is exciting to open a magazine and see your work smiling up at you, and publication because a win-win for almost everyone.

The secret to publication is an easy one to learn: capture the details, and capture them well.  After all, why do brides, stylists, and planners pick up a wedding magazine or scroll through a style blog?  Most of the time they are looking for inspiration.  You may have the best close-up shot of a bride and groom ever, but unless that shot is of Brad and Angelina or Kate and William you aren’t going to sell that wedding to any blogs or magazines unless you have supporting details.

In this post, I’m going to go through ten steps that can lead to publication.  This is a recipe that has worked well for me, and I’m confident that it can work for you, too!

1) Know Your Details.  The ground work for publication usually starts before you even take out your camera at an event.  Know who your vendors are and what they are providing.  Find out the story behind the details and if there are any details that might not appear at the event itself (gift bags, invitations, save the dates, etc).  Encourage the couple to bring a set of additional details to the wedding with them so that you can capture them.  Also, make sure that you arrive early enough and/or leave yourself enough time to capture absolutely everything. Whether the details are hand-made etsy creations or custom details whipped up by an expensive designer, they all serve to make the wedding unique and publishable.

2) Over-Shoot Your Details.  Shoot your details horizontally AND vertically.  Choose different lenses, focal lengths, and apertures.  Shoot them from different angles and be aware of the background and the light.  Magazines have limited space and options for layouts- make it easy for them to choose your wedding by providing many details from many different angles and in both orientations.

3) Don’t Forget the Venue.  Detail shots of the venue can also sell your wedding.  Don’t forget to show off the venue(s) from several different angles in different light.  I once had a wedding published that included three almost-identical shots of the venue: one in the morning (when I arrived), one during the ceremony that included the ceremony itself, and one in the evening with an inky blue sky and lights blazing from the windows.  Great shots of the venue not only endear you to the publisher, but they also make venue owners very happy.

4) Give a Sense of Place to Your Photographs.  Close-up shots are great, but don’t forget the environmental shots as well.  Show the couple against the mountain backdrop or on the beach in Cabo- include environmental keys that are indicative of and/or specific to the location.

5) Don’t Kill the Ambient Light.  Whether you are adding fill light to a scene or you are lighting a reception, don’t kill the ambient light.  Let the warmth of the candle glow into your photographs or highlight the purple up-lighting during the first dance.  Lighting not only sets the mood of the reception, but it can also be a great selling point for your wedding.  Make sure that your shutter speed is low enough and/or your strobe power is low enough to let the ambient into the shot.  (Do you have trouble with reception lighting?  ShootStyle has a series of workshops to help you learn how to light your receptions.)

6) Remember the Food!  Whether your couple chooses to have cute sliders, fun cocktails, a cappuccino bar or a dessert table, the food and beverages at a wedding can provide you with some fabulous details!

7) Feature the Unique.  If your event has something unique (well, few things are unique at this stage- I should say if it has something that not every wedding has…) like a canine ring-bearer, fireworks, or a pinata, be sure to include several photographs of the event/detail in your submission and also mention it in your description of the event.

8) Don’t Post Your Photographs All Over the Internet.  Many publications (both print and internet) want exclusivity.  That is, they don’t want the photographs unless they are showing up for the first time on their pages.  Many will let you submit if you have posted on your own blog, but some won’t.  Know the rules and follow them.  I know that it is tempting to share images from a favorite wedding on forums, facebook, twitter, etc, but hold back until you know what you are going to do with the images.  Even if a publication tells you that you can post to your own blog, proceed with caution- some style blogs will lift the wedding from your website and “feature it” without your permission, thereby killing your chances with other publications.

9) Choose Your Publication Wisely.  If you are new to the publication game, you will most likely be submitting your images yourself.  As you become known to editors, they will keep an eye on your work and will start asking your for particular weddings.  However, in the beginning most photographers will need to do the grunt work on their own.  What should you look for in a publication?  Make sure that it fits your wedding.  If you photographed a beautiful country wedding on hay bales, then you may not have much luck getting that published in a magazine that features NYC weddings.  Most magazines and style blogs have a niche- make sure you know what it is before you submit your work.  ALSO, you should choose a publication that your brides/planners/stylists are frequenting.  If you work out of the northeast exclusively, having your images published in an Australian magazine might not bring you any more business.

10) Try and Try Again.  Editors will occasionally give you feedback on weddings- not enough details, etc.  Listen to the feedback and learn from it.  Keep perusing the publications that you are targeting- you will learn about their style and the kind of work that they like to feature.

Have fun and enjoy the beauty at every event!    ~Michelle

Post by Maine Wedding Photographer Michelle Turner.


The Running of the Brid(als)

February 9th, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

Five Ls of the Modern Bridal Portrait

In the classic wedding photography of yesteryear, the most important image that a photographer could create was the bridal portrait. You know the one…where your mom was aglow with a halo of softness, sporting the veiled headband and the puffy shoulder pads? In fact, before the photojournalism movement became the norm, brides would typically schedule a photo session that coincided with their last dress fitting and their hair and makeup trial so the bridal portrait could be proudly on display at the wedding itself.

With photojournalism being so highly regarded in today’s wedding photography market, the bridal portrait has fallen from the place that it once held. That kinda stinks for me, because my favorite part of the wedding is creating fun posed images! So I have built my business on creating posed images that make couples feel like supermodels. And a big part of that is creating a killer bridal portrait of every bride I photograph. Gone are the days when photographers would have a whole photo session to photograph the bride, so I have to do it during the hustle and bustle of the wedding day. This blog post is devoted to showing you how I capture the bridal images that my clients love. I call it the Five Ls of the Modern Bridal Portrait: Logistics, Lighting, Location, Lenses, Layer Masks.  All of the images in this article are of actual brides on their actual wedding day.

Let’s face it, in order to create a great bridal portrait, we need a little time during the wedding day devoted to the deed. So the very first step I take to create a great bridal portrait happens at the initial consultation. My website, blog, and physical gallery are devoted to showcasing the posed images I create. So during the initial discussion, I’ll point that out, at which point most clients that make it all the way into my gallery for a meeting, mention that the posed images are what drew them there. That is a perfect opening for me to mention that in order to create imagery like the photos that are displayed, we need to set aside time in the day for it. From the very first meeting, the expectation is set that we will need time to create the portraits.

For the bridal portrait, I like to take it as soon as the bride is dressed, when there are no wrinkles in the dress and her hair is perfectly in place. So when working out the schedule I will tell a bride that I will arrive at the bridal prep location an hour and a half before I have to leave for the church. The first hour is candid photography of the preparation. By the end of the hour, the bride is dressed and ready for bridal portraits. That gives us 20-30 minutes of time devoted to creating great images of the bride alone and with her bridesmaids.

When it comes time to actually take the photos, the first thing I am going to look for is great lighting. The classic old standby is window light, and when I walk into a room, I look for where the window light is most flattering. Since the bride typically gets dressed in a bedroom or a hotel room, one of the easiest and most flattering portraits to create is a photo of the bride on the bed. To make it a bit more playful, I will ask her to lay on her stomach facing the direction of the window light. I then ask her to kick her feet up, and take the photo.

When I’m in a room that isn’t very attractive, or is really small, I still look for the window light first. In this situation, I will move the bride closer to the window, and shoot a tighter portrait. Since the window light is much stronger closer to the window, I will often bounce my flash into the room to fill in the shadow side of a brides face.

After dark, or in a room without natural light, I’ll first look for a source of flattering artificial light. I’ve been known to ask bridesmaids hold desk lamps aimed at brides to get the cool directional light that I am looking for. Yes, I could always bounce my flash, but that tends to give a big, flat, light when I am looking to create a little more drama!


The next thing I look for is a great location. In fact, location often trumps lighting, since I bring the tools to create the lighting that I need quickly and easily. If the bride is getting ready in a family home, I look for items or locations that are unique to the home.

I often end up in bathrooms, as bathrooms tend to have great light and cool color schemes. When you are scouting out a location, don’t forget the WC!

If the time allows, after taking a few photos indoors, I like to venture outdoors to see what is lurking around the neighborhood. Since no one can say “no” to a bride on her wedding day, the possibilities are endless!


This one is probably obvious, but the when shooting flattering portraits the lens matters. Using cameras with a sensor the size of a frame of 35mm film, my favorite lens for portraits is an 85mm. The 85mm gives a flattering perspective, and using a prime lens with a fast aperture allows me to use it in situations where the light is extra low. When shooting a wider scene, I will go to my 35mm lens, but I never use it at head shot distances do to the distortion. When shooting portraits, you typically want a focal length that is greater than 50mm.

Layer Masks :)

Once the wedding day is done, and I have done my part to capture the image with great lighting in great locations, there is one more step that I need to take. I need to make the portrait zing in Photoshop! Now I don’t really like spending a lot of time behind the computer. Luckily there are a few tools that I have found that give portraits pop without hours of work.

My typical portrait recipe is a combination of the “Oh Snap” action from the “Totally Rad” action set and the “Portraiture” plugin from Imagenomic. I find both of these actions are a little strong when run at full strength, so I usually lower the opacity to 50% or so. If a little extra love is needed, I will use the “Totally Rad Pro Retouch” action on the desired areas.

Finally, a little trick I will do to help with the sleepless nights that brides often have before their weddings, is to create a new layer, then use the Healing Brush Tool on the shadows under the eyes. Since the bride would look like an alien without any shadows, I then lower the opacity of the layer to make it look more natural.


With a little planning, and some basic strategies it is possible to get great bridal portraits on the wedding day! But what about the groom? The groom’s portrait is just as important, so don’t forget it! While I ask for 20 minutes with the bride, I usually only take 30 seconds with the groom. One quick image, and I’m out.


Just My Type

February 2nd, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

The winter is here and if you’re like me, this is the time of year when you revisit your marketing materials. I’m currently looking at my brochures, price lists, web site and blog to see I need to update my branding. In these cold months I even start to wonder if my old logo needs updating. One of the most basic decisions I face when creating a new marketing piece or updating an old one is what typeface to use. Now, this is not to say that the font used is more important the the actual words and ideas expressed in the piece, but to me the font is what gives the message character before someone even reads it.

As you can see below, a weathered, beat-up, grungy typeface might communicate that my marketing piece is (trying to be) hip. A elegant calligraphic script might impart a sense of style and class. A traditional, legible, newsy font could help convey that what I’m saying is authoritative.

Are you tired of the fonts that came with your computer? Do you need some new typefaces for project or rebranding effort you’re working on? I’d like to share a few of the sources I use to research, identify, and obtain new fonts.

First, there are couple of tried and true websites that offer thousands of fonts free to download. If you want to easily experiment with a bunch of new typefaces, take a look at the sites DaFont and FontSpace.



Both these sites offer boatloads of fonts and sometimes they can be a lot to wade through. Even though the quality of many free fonts isn’t the best, browse long enough and you’ll be rewarded with some fabulous fonts. To help people circumvent this quality issue the editors over at Smashing Magazine frequently do round-ups of small collections of high quality free fonts.  Here is a link to some font round-ups on their search page. (Smashing Magazine also features free blog themes, backgrounds and textures too, so poke around there when you’ve got some time.)

After a while you’ll probably notice that the best free fonts tend to turn up in a lot of places. I guess that just makes sense, but it can be a bummer to see another photographer or a random banner ad using your favorite font. If you want to create marketing materials that are more distinctive you’ll probably need to buy some fonts.

My favorite place to research and purchase new fonts is the site MyFonts.

There are number of reasons why MyFonts is my favorite place to research and buy fonts. First, you can browse fonts by bestselling status or look at lists of hot or new fonts. There is even a sale section. Tags are probably the most useful feature of MyFonts. Users can tag any font with words they feel describe it, and then you can search on those tags. Interested in a font that is both vintage and feminine? A quick search and bingo! MyFonts hooks you up with 144 possibilities.

If your find a font is close to what you what, but not quite, (perhaps it’s a little pricey) you can click on a link to quickly see other similar fonts.

You can also explore fonts with related tags by clicking in the tag cloud for each font or search result.

To quickly get a feel for the personality of different typefaces, you can customize the sample text that MyFonts uses with text that you might be using in your work.

Imagine that you’re reading a magazine or browsing a website and you come across a beautiful typeface that you know will be perfect for the project you’re working on. Just scan it or take a screen capture of it and MyFonts has a couple of ways to help you figure out what font they used. First, head on over to the WhatTheFont tool. It will try to identify the font used in a jpg file that you upload. It’s actually kind of amazing. For example, here’s a very small version of my logo that I grabbed off my web site:

I upload the image to WhatTheFont and its first guess at the typeface is correct, Bentwood.

In fact, WhatTheFont’s other guesses are pretty good too and can make a great starting point for finding the perfect typeface for your project. If the WhatTheFont tool doesn’t guess the font, you can also post the image to the WhatTheFont forum where some scary smart folks will help you figure out what font it is and what other fonts may be similar.

So if you want to spruce up your branding or just have a bit of fun with your marketing, check out these sites and find some fonts that are just your type..


Assignment Series: In Yo Face!

February 1st, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Mingle

Happy Winter! I hope everyone is enjoying their snow days!!, in this installment of our ever-popular assignment series, we bring you the phrase “In Yo Face!”

Your assignment is to illustrate the phrase “In Yo Face!”. 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.

Our assignment series is open to everyone. We’re hoping you’ll wanna play along.

The most creative entry wins! And we are offering our very best prize ever! A mounted 20×30 inch fine art print from Gamut Prints, delivered** to your doorstep!

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.

How to enter!

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 February 15th, that’s a Wednesday Tuesday! If you have a photo you shot already, that would be awesome. If you want to set up some sort of story or construction, even better!

Let’s have fun doing this together!! Assignment series: “In Yo Face!!”

** Non-US peeps must pay shipping


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