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Archive for September, 2011

There’s a Baby in that Bathwater

September 28th, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

When I photographed my first wedding in 2004, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Well, OK, I did know which button to press on my camera to make it take a picture, and was OK at getting the exposure and composition I wanted, but when it came to the point in the day that the couple turned to me for advice, I had none to give. Luckily a friend of mine knew someone who had been shooting weddings for a big studio, using old fashioned medium format cameras and old fashioned methods for capturing a wedding. She had lunch with me a couple weeks after my first wedding, to give me critique and advice. Throughout the years we have become great friends, but there were two tips that she gave me on our very first meeting that I still use every wedding: How to line up a group of people, and how to set up the cake cutting.

Let’s start with the advice she gave me for lining up a group of people. You’d think that this would be pretty self explanatory, but there are a few things that you can tell the group that will help them look their best. To begin with, I anchor the line with a couple – usually the bride and groom. If it’s the wedding party, I line the groomsmen up on the grooms side, and the bridesmaids up on the bride’s side. I then ask them to turn the shoulders that are closer to me, towards me. Guys, when left to their own, want to either put their hands in front of their crotches, or hold them behind their backs. So to prevent this, I ask the guys to put their hands in their pants pockets. The girls, on the other hand, tend to want to hold their flowers up a little too high, so I ask them to hold them right at belly button level. Finally I tell the ladies to turn the foot that is closest to me out so that it points at me. For women, this pose has a slimming effect, and for the guys it looks sophisticated. Plus it’s quick and easy to set up.

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Let it Bleed

September 21st, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

In the good ol’ days, wedding albums were usually made by taking individual photographic prints and slipping them into album pages that had standard size mat openings. That had a couple of implications – every photo needed to be cropped to a standard dimension like 8×10 or 5×7 and every photo appeared with a border around it. As a way to present photos that approach was clean and traditional but somewhat hum drum. And if you shot in 35mm (which has a 2×3 ratio) you ended up cropping out much of your composition.

Today it’s much more common for a wedding album to created as a flush mount book, where one or more images can be placed on the page without restrictions about size or placement. Yet it’s common for contemporary wedding albums to echo their ancestral counterparts by placing images on the page surrounded by large borders. It’s as if these album designs are haunted by the papery ghosts of forgotten album mats that lie mouldering next to dusty enlargers in the basements of photographers who long ago traded film for digital.

If such traditional album designs sound eerily familiar to you, I appeal to you to let your images bleed!
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Product Review- RPG keys

September 15th, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

Consumed by image processing? You are not alone. If you live in New England, the time between Labor Day and your last wedding of the year is crazy-time… weddings double up, albums are being ordered, and you are fielding inquires for next year. If you are ever in the weeds in New England, this is the time.

I beta-tested the new software for the RPG keys this summer and unequivocally love it. It’s the size of a fat TV remote or an old school calculator, and comfortable to use with one hand. You program the keys to trigger commands in a variety of photo processing programs. I use it exclusively for Lightroom, but it can be can used with Bridge, PhotoShop, Photo Mechanic, In Design, Aperture and Fundy Album Builder. The software for programming the keys is Romper-Room easy-to-use.

I have been using RPG keys on and off for the past couple of years, but it always seemed a little wonky. Some of the keys were in the wrong place for me. I know Chris and Tim Reilly personally and in a fit of frustration, I dashed off a whiney email to them telling them that their product was almost perfect (too bad). Feeding into my squeaky wheel behavior, I was invited to test the new version of the product. The guys thought I would find it a bit closer to perfect.

Ha! An understatement; by far! I adore the keys now and they are capable of even more than I had imagined. They are now completely customizable; any command or preset that you use in Lightroom can be programmed to use with the keys. I put in the commands that I use most frequently, sixteen in all, on the keys so I can hit each of them without using the option keys. The keys are now perfect FOR ME.

I have become a photo-processing super-hero.

First, I had to decide where I wanted each key, and which presets and functions were most important to me. After a wedding or two of practice, I rearranged the key positioning, and committed to memorizing the positions of all of the keys. Each key pops on and off and you get a whole array of common commands and presets as well as blank ones for your own presets. I took a jackknife and carved the surface of one of the middle keys. With a single key abraded, my keypad is now “braille”. Using the one key as an anchor, I can focus on the image on the screen and not the keypad.

I am now so familiar with the keypad that I’ve stopped thinking about the device in my hand. Just like typing or driving a car, I no longer go through the following thought process: “This photo is too dark and too green, I must bump up the exposure by two-thirds of a stop and add a little magenta.” Instead, I see the image and my fingers tap the increase exposure button twice and the increase tint button once. I tap the “next” button and I am on to my next image. Tap. Tap. Tap

My fingers are developing muscle memory; I have been FLYING through my processing, and can feel myself getting faster.

I can assign any key on the keypad to any preset I have selected. For example, I have an exact adjustment brush that I use for burning (very big, very feathered and very dark) and an exact brush I use for dodging (big, feathered and light). A quick tap on the keypad brings each brush up, ready to use. Release the key and it deselects. No need to move the slider, select the brush, deselect and grab another brush. Just tap: A brush for burning. Another tap: a brush for dodging.

With cropping, burning and dodging, I do need to use my mouse to define the crop or paint the mask. These are the only times that I need to use the mouse. And instead of a mouse I use a trackball. I sit way back from my desk, trackball in one hand, key pad in the other and process an entire wedding while watching a legal thriller or two. (so sue me)

The icing on the cake is that I can change the keypad at any point to do something different. I can rearrange it on a whim. And if I use the keyboard differently at different times in my process (I do) then I can export the key layout, to recall at a moments notice.

If you do a ton of processing, this is a fantastic product.

p.s. nerd alert: while writing this review, I found out that the keys can be programmed to use with any application on your computer. And by “program” I mean: you drag an application over to the RPG software and drop it. Drag and Drop – ta-da!


In case of emergency

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

Every couple planning a wedding has visions of how they would like their day to look & feel. And most every couple knows that things aren’t always going to play out perfectly. Something is bound to come up, yet, for most it’s going to be pretty minor blips that won’t derail the course of the day.

However, this past week, I was in the Adirondacks area of NY, in Keene and Keene Valley, when Hurricane Irene hit. On Saturday these two towns were full of folks enjoying the high peaks region: camping, hiking, climbing, taking advantage of the shops & dining. By Sunday evening, both of these towns (as well as so many others in the New England area) experienced some horrible flooding. Houses filled with water, businesses saturated, foundations of buildings shifted, power outages, even whole roads eaten away by the powerful force of the flood waters.

Not only did this break my heart to see first hand, it also got me to thinking of anyone who had a wedding planned for this coming weekend, and the weekend after that and after that and so on. What, if anything, can you do when the main road to your venue is gone? What happens when you think you’ve planned for everything and then something dramatically unexpected comes along and wipes away your plans? How does one even Plan B something like this?

Below I have some ideas on how you might be able to weather the storm if the unexpected does crash your wedding. Mind you, these are not rules from an expert. These are just brainstormed thoughts I had, some may be feasible, some not so.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what you might do or what you did do when the unexpected came knocking. Please feel free to add your idea to the comments section!

* consider adding a downloadable map of the area where you are having your event to your wedding website, so guests can find alternative routes to your venue, in case you find the main roads to your venue are unuseable.

* if you know your chosen wedding area doesn’t have the best cell or internet reception, make a list on your wedding website of all the local wi-fi hot spots and best cell reception spots. you can place pins on a google map and upload that to your site for guests.

* consider changing the time of your event. most weddings are planned for midday so the reception can go into the evening. however, if a storm is approaching for that time frame, if possible, think about moving your event to the beginning of the day so both you and your guests will have time to take shelter if need be.

* what happens if your venue isn’t useable for your event due to the unexpected? think outside the box! ask local churches if they will allow you to use their space. most churches have halls available. maybe someone locally has land available where you can set up a tent. consider contacting a realty office and asking if any of their vacant properties might be available for an event. while some of these suggestions may not be ideal for you aesthetically, it’s far better than trying to force an event to happen at an unsafe location.

* what happens if a vendor can’t make it due to road closures or airports being shut down? use the power of the internet! put a call out on twitter and facebook and ask your followers/friends to retweet/repost. let the locals in your area know what you’re looking for, especially in smaller towns, most people know someone who knows someone that probably does what you need. again, it may not be ideal, but we’re talking if the ultimately crazy happens, and you need to make due.

* planning a post-wedding brunch in an area that looks like a disaster zone? consider nixing the brunch and you & your guests volunteer that time instead to help those in the area that are in need.

First and foremost, be safe and make sure your guests are safe. That’s #1. After that, don’t panic. You’ll figure it out. Freaking out will only add to the stress you are feeling, don’t waste your energy. Relax, breathe easy knowing your loved ones are all safe and sound.

If the wedding is going to go on, you’ll just need to set aside those visions you had and go with the flow. Caterer can’t make it to the event? So then maybe the local pizzeria can cater. I personally think a pizza party wedding reception would be the best! The floor of your tented wedding look more like a mud wrestling pit? Well, ditch the Manolos and pull on some wellies. Have all the attendants and guests wear them, too!

Just remember the important thing is you are with the person you love, surrounded by your loved ones. You will weather this, and while your day may not be the perfect vision you were hoping for, it most certainly will still be genuine and memorable.

ps. Please consider, instead of handing out favors at your wedding, donating to the Red Cross or to one of charities being set up for so many of the areas that were devastated by the hurricane. Plenty of these towns are going to need volunteers to help with clean up & getting back on their feet again, so consider investing some of your time to help, too!


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