Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Father's Pride

You can see it in his eyes... it's undeniable... he's really proud of his daughter! And he should be... she's beautiful!

Last year, I photographed one of his other daughter's wedding. In fact, an image from her wedding is on my latest business card. Yes, she's just as beautiful too!

I'm really lucky. Not only did I get to photograph two weddings from this wonderful family, but later this year, I'm photographing the wedding of the maid of honor from this wedding too!

I love photographing the father/daughter dance and the mother/son dance at weddings. You can always see the love and pride in the parents' eyes...

Receiving Lines, Bubbles and Bird Seed...

I've never seen a receiving line move quickly. There... I said it.

No matter how quickly you want the guests to move along so you can start doing your formal photography (photos like group family shots after the ceremony) it's next to impossible to start quickly.

I think the number one thing that guests dislike about wedding photography is how long they have to wait for the formals to get shot before they can get to throw rice at the bride and groom. By the way, nobody throws rice any more! It's usually "bubbles" or bird seed now.

Anyway, if you calculate how many people are going to be at your wedding and how long it will take to say "Congratulations," hug and kiss and do all the other things people usually do when they greet you, you can imagine how long a receiving line is going to take.

So, many couples just reserve doing a receiving line until the reception where they have more time to deal with it. In its place, they quickly do their formal photos and then they can get outside to get bubbles or bird seed tossed at them.

By the way, did you know that bubbles often stain dresses? Nobody ever thinks about this, but I've heard that many bridesmaid's dresses (as well as wedding dresses) have been ruined by the bubbles! Unless you get those bubbles off you quickly, it's going to eventually stain the dresses. The bubble solution that is supplied today are a rather "thick" formula and when the bubbles burst on you, it tends to leave a sticky residue. So if you are going to use bubbles, have your bridesmaids stand "up wind" when they line up to blow bubbles. As for the bride... well, there's not much that can be done. It's the colored dresses that show up more of the problems from bubbles anyway...

Bird seed isn't much better. That stuff gets all over the place! Try getting it out of your hair or out of your dress when it's traveled down the inside... I'm sure you can imagine what a pain it is! I think rice was easier to deal with when it was used years ago. Oh well...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Great Host!

Here are a couple of pictures of our guitar get-together host, Jim.

I was surprised to learn that Jim did not play guitar because the guy knows a LOT about guitars! You see, Alicia is the guitarist in the family, but Jim just has a huge interest in guitars!

Alicia has a great selection of very desirable guitars because Jim keeps buying them for her! Talk about a marriage made in guitar-heaven! And don't forget the amplifiers either... I counted no less than 12 different guitar amps of which three were huge stacks from Marshall, HiWatt and Ampeg!

Not only is Jim into guitars, but he's also into cooking! Man, that guy can whip up a storm on the grill. Alicia's lasagna was equally fabulous!

I'm glad to add Jim and Alicia to my group of friends. They are one of a kind!

Gibson Byrdland - Lefty Version!

Alicia, our host from Saturday's guitar forum get-together, had this magnificent custom Gibson Byrdland electric guitar! Her husband Jim, gave us the 411 on how he and Alicia were treated like royalty when they went to pick up this guitar at the Gibson Custom Shop factory. They had sent a bunch of candy there as a "thank you" gift and I guess it's true that you win more hearts with sweets than anything else! Either that, or the guys at Gibson are really just candy freaks!

The really interesting thing about this guitar is that it's a LEFTY version! According to Alicia, for all these years of making the Byrdland model (since 1955), none of the custom Lefty models had truss rod covers that were custom made. This meant that once you placed the truss rod cover on a lefty model, you can't read the name Byrdland right-side up! They were always upside down! But you can clearly see that on Alicia's guitar, the name is written the way it should be read. Well, this could be the only Gibson Byrdland out there that has this, because it was custom made for her.

When Alicia asked why it had never been done before, the only thing the guys at Gibson could come up with was, "We never thought about it before!"


By the way, to get Alicia to fetch the guitar to show it to all of us, Jim asked her to "Flip out the Byrd!" Good thing she didn't flip HIM the bird... lol


Monday, June 26, 2006

Candy By Candlelight

No real point to this post... just thought this was an interesting photo and a catchy title!


Why There Are Very Few Photos of Me!

I've been asked before why there are so few pictures of me.

Well, it's obvious isn't it? I'm often TAKING photos, so I'm never IN the photos!

But check out the photo of the guitar forum group in the backyard... there I am! How did that happen? Well, I borrowed a tripod from our host Jim, and I mounted my Fuji S3 Pro camera on it and put that camera on self-timer mode and rushed over in time to grab my guitar and strike a pose before the shutter clicked!

That was the first time I ever used the self-timer mode on that camera and I wasn't really sure how long I had to run over to the rest of the group to get in the picture before it went off! It was really funny to see me run over, pose and give a sigh of relief that it actually worked!

So if you want to see more pictures of me in the future, I guess you'll just have to shoot me yourself with your own camera. I'm often behind the camera rather than in front of it.

Consulting The Photographer Before Your Wedding

It's been my policy to contact my clients on the Sunday before their wedding. We go over all the details of the wedding again because often things change between the time we first met and the actual wedding date. Plus waiting until the week of the wedding helps me from confusing the details of this wedding from other weddings I may have earlier.

But I also encourage my clients to contact me first to go over how to plan the schedule of events for their weddings. Surprisingly very few clients do this. Why is this important? Well, let's say you want a lot of very unique portraits of yourself but don't plan enough time before the ceremony to do this (or after the ceremony). It then becomes impossible to get those shots simply because of poor planning.

Too often, I've been given only one half hour to shoot all the formals after the wedding and then we must rush to get to the reception which is far away from the church. Well, although I shoot quickly, it's really the groups of people being photographed that slow us down. Gathering them together and moving them into position takes time. Factor in the many groups that must be photographed and you can see how one half hour may be a little tight in time. Then add in all those unique portraits of the bride, the groom, the bridal party, etc. and you can see that a single half hour simply isn't going to be enough.

But, if the photographer is consulted well BEFORE the schedule is fixed, it would be easy to find out how much time should be alloted for in this planning. Then, all of the photos you want can be taken without the fear of rushing.

I encourage everyone to do this before you send out your invitations to let everyone know what time the wedding and reception is to start. Don't rely on a book to give you basic guidelines on how much time to allow for things. Working directly with the actual photographer and other wedding vendors is much better since everyone has their own way of doing things and know from past experience how much time they need to accomplish it.

Give me a call and we can plan out your day!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Guitar Forum Get-Together

I had a GREAT time yesterday hanging out with a group of people from the guitar forum that I am part of! I did not have a wedding to shoot this past weekend which gave me the opportunity to go to this get-together of a bunch of talented guitarists.

Our hosts, Jim and Alicia opened up their home to all of us and we literally played guitar ALL DAY LONG only taking a break long enough to eat all the delicious food that Jim & Alicia had prepared for us.

I've been playing guitar for a long time now (since I was 10 years old) and I still don't get tired of it. I could tell from the enthusiasm of our group that none of them get tired of it either.

It's fun to hang out with people who have a similar interest. We played songs I haven't heard or played in years!

I can't wait for the next time we do this again! Thanks Jim & Alicia!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Photoshop To The Rescue!

Original Image - Courtesy of Chris Gruthusen

Photoshop-Corrected Image

While on a recent trip to the Bermuda Triangle, my neighbor Chris Gruthusen took this amazing photograph of the waves generated within the swimming pool on the deck of their ship during a storm. According to Chris, the waves actually got 2-3 times higher than you see here, but his tiny point & shoot Canon digital camera was not fast enough to capture it. Still, Chris was able to get this image with his camera while everyone else on the ship was still sleeping...

It's an amazing shot, but it needed a little help to maximize its full glory. So I took the image to the computer and worked my Photoshop magic and voila... a better image!

Color correction, increased color saturation, brightness and contrast adjustments as well as burning and dodging of specific areas were some of the techniques applied to get the resulting second image.

Not bad, eh?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Dessert Anyone?

If you have a sweet tooth, you would have wanted to be at Saturday's wedding! What a spread of goodies!

The cake was incredible too...

How much did I eat? None! I was too busy taking photos!

Happy Father's Day!

Wishing those who are fathers, a very Happy Father's Day!


Elvis Photo Found At Bride's Home...

This photo and "cut-out" of Elvis was found at the Bride's home from Friday's wedding. Hmmm.... I should have known it was a hint of what was to come at the reception!

Funny... I didn't see a photo of The Village People anywhere...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Elvis & The Village People - Guest Appearances!

What a reception! We had Elvis and The Village People drop by to help celebrate yesterday's wedding...

This Elvis sighting was proof that he is still alive and doing wedding gigs! After singing, "The Wonder of You," Elvis quickly "left the building."

Later in the evening, The Village People made a guest appearance and performed their hit song, "YMCA."

So now you know what happens to music acts after their prime... they perform at wedding receptions!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Church Restrictions

This is more real than you might imagine.

I had a talk with my pastor recently about the restrictions that some churchs, pastors and priests place on wedding photography and we came to the conclusion that often in regards to professional wedding photographers, it is unnecessary.

When "professional" wedding photographers are hired to photograph the wedding, they usually know how to do their job without being in the way. But unfortunately, there are so many new photographers who do not realize how to do this and are often found running around all over the place and making a nuisance of themselves in order to "get the shot." This behavior can ruin it for other photographers who come to work at that church for future weddings.

I have seen photographers who literally climb on the church pews just to get a shot. And, I've seen photographers who will stand right up in front of the alter and take a flash photo which of course blinds not only the bride and groom but literally everyone else at the church as well.

So over the course of years of dealing with this type of photographer, officiants have come to make "restrictions" on what can be done or not done during the ceremony regarding photography. This is unfortunate for the wedding couple and also for the photographer. The couple won't be able to get the shots of their wedding that they had hoped for and the photographer is often left with a less than perfect photo to offer their clients.

Most professional wedding photographers know to approach the officiant on the day of the wedding to go over any restrictions that he/she might have regarding photography. Most officiants will request "no flash photography" during the ceremony. This is often not a big deal (at least for me) as many professional photographers use very fast lenses and camera which can capture images in low light. But sometimes, photographers are requested to stay in the back of the church throughout the ceremony and that means all the photos will be taken from only one vantage point.

With the long telephoto lenses I often use for weddings, this is not a problem for me. But make sure that there are opportunities where you are turned towards your guests so that they (and your photographer) can see your faces! "Recreations" of events are often done after the wedding is over to get some key photos, but I'm not a fan of this. First, everyone knows it's not the real thing because it just looks "faked" because the guests are no longer in the pews and the church looks empty after the ceremony. Second, you'll know it's faked everytime you look at the picture because you'll remember the photo was taken after the ceremony.

So it is best to get the shot during the ceremony itself. Most professionals know how to do this with the equipment that they bring for covering a wedding. I often shoot with three cameras and a variety of lenses during the ceremony. And even if I am banished to the back of the church, I can often still get the shot.

It's too bad that the actions of some less experienced photographers have made some wedding officiants weary about photographers to the point of where restrictions must be placed on all photographers. But the professional wedding photographer often knows how to deal with these situations and can still get the photos you need for a fantastic wedding album.


Monday, June 12, 2006

"I'm looking for a photographer. How much are your packages?"

I really don't know the best way to answer this question.

Everyone needs to stay within a budget. I understand that. But it really troubles me whenever this is the first question I hear from a bride or groom when I get a phone call.

PLEASE don't choose your wedding photographer strictly on price!

Before even meeting the photographer or seeing sample photographs, by leading with this question, it says that price is the most important aspect in choosing your photographer. Would it guarantee your business if the answer was, "My packages range from $100 to $250 for the entire day?" Or, would it guarantee lost business if the answer was, "My packages range from $5000 to $25,000?"

What if the answer was, "My price is $1500." How do you know if this includes everything you need or want? Can you judge quality and quantity of services based solely on a number without knowing what differentiates this photographer from another? Is experience worth something? Often the most experienced photographers may charge a little more than someone just entering the business. Is that worth something?

There is more to hiring a photographer than just price.

I think it is best to start by meeting the photographer. Regardless of how good his/her photographs are, if you can't stand his/her personality, you might as well pass on this person. Why? Because the photographer is often the person you'll spend most of your time with during your wedding day. The photographer will be with you before the ceremony and often to the very end of your wedding reception. Why be stuck with someone who you can't stand on the most important day of your life?

On the other hand, even if the photographer was the nicest person you've ever met, if his/her photographs just look awful, why hire him/her?

So the best way really to make this judgement call is to simply call to schedule an appointment with the photographer to evaluate both his/her personality and photographic style. If these fit what you are looking for, then ask for the package prices. Often you will find that many photographers have a range of packages to choose from and perhaps something can even be tailored specifically for your needs at a price you can afford.

So take my advice and do yourself a favor and schedule a meeting first before deciding if a photographer is right for you solely on price. You might just find the right photographer this way at a price you will like!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

How To Cut A Wedding Cake

It's not as easy as you might think.

Often, to keep the cake from "crumbling" and falling down, a piece of hard cardboard is actually placed on top of the cake and then the frosting is placed on top of that. So if you cut straight down on the cake, you won't be able to cut it because the cardboard is in the way! Bet you never thought of that, now did you?

So to cut your cake, it's best to put your knife just under the cardboard top layer and then slice.

Check out the first photo. See those light colored purple "flowers" on top of the cake? Just place your knife just about 1/8" below the top layer, push the knife in and then cut the cake. Do that a second time to cut a slice out and then use your spatula and ease out the cake slice.

Put the cake on a plate and from there, it's up to you! Most people are conservative and just feed each other. But some couples get a little... "creative" shall we say... and then it just becomes a big mess!

Fun times!

Friday, June 09, 2006

"Say Cheese!"

Everyone knows I love to take pictures of people taking pictures.

While one of the groomsmen was trying to take a photo of one of the flowergirls, the bestman and the groom were making faces trying to get her to smile.

The best photo here was not getting a photo of the little girl... and neither was it of the groomsman trying to take the picture.

The best photo in this instance was the picture of the bestman and the groom in the background!

Check out these guys! Now you know why I think photographing weddings is fun!


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Too Graphic?

I haven't written about forensics work in a while, so here's an interesting story...

Years ago when I was taking an Evidence Collection class, there were two older women who had taken the class because they loved watching police shows on TV.

These women were in their late forties and were very excited about being in a "CSI" class. The majority of the class were people training to be evidence technicians so we were all wondering why these two women were in our class since they obviously were not taking the class for the same reasons we were.

Well, our instructor happened to be the crime lab supervisor for the San Diego Sheriff's Office at the time and one day he brought in slides of actual crime scenes he had worked on in the past. We were all excited to see photos of actual crime scenes and hear the stories behind how the Sheriff's Office had processed the scene for evidence.

While the rest of us were soaking in all we could about proper evidence collection techniques, the two ladies were getting more than they had bargained for. Apparently, the photos were a little "too much" for them to handle.

The next day, they went to the department head of the Administration of Justice curriculum to complain that the instructor had been showing the class photos that were "too graphic." Seeing photos of actual homicides and autopsies were apparently inappropriate in their opinion. Well, when the rest of the class had found out about the complaint, we all had to wonder what they were expecting to see. Finally, we had a chance to learn from actual crime scene photos and we couldn't believe anyone would complain that the photos were "too graphic!"

The women immediately dropped the class. The rest of us had a good laugh about it because we were all saying, "What did they expect to see in a class about crime scene work?" Apparently TV crime scenes aren't the same as the real thing.

I wonder if they are still watching police shows on TV after having a taste of the real thing...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Cantigny Park

We couldn't ask for better weather for a wedding this past Saturday. Not too hot, not too cold... it helped make our trip to Cantigny Park in Wheaton, IL a real pleasure. The lawns there were perfectly green providing a perfect backdrop for picture-taking.

The guys had a great time climbing the tanks too...

If you are having your wedding in the Western Suburbs, this is the place to go if you want some nice outdoor pictures! And unlike The Chicago Botanic Garden that charges $100 as a shooting fee plus parking fees, Cantigny only charges for parking. It's a great deal!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Another Example of Photoshop Correction

Original Image - No Corrections

Photoshop-Corrected Image - Color & Exposure Corrected

I had a request to see an example of a Photoshop correction of an image taken with a flash. So I decided to use the image from the post about "Taking An Active Role."

If you look closely, you'll see that the corrected image has a lot more detail to it and also the colors are much richer. Just look at the colors of the DJ's lights on the ceiling!

Which do you prefer? The "Proof Print" version or the "Enhanced Version" for your prints?

How Important is Photoshop Correction?

Original Image - No Corrections

Photoshop-Enhanced Image - Color & Exposure Corrected

I recently had a bride decide to hire another photographer instead of me because the other photographer offered on-location printing and I didn't. Budgetary concerns also played a role in her going to the other photographer as well. We never met for an initial consultation since she had cancelled our appointment, but we spoke on the phone several times.

That got me thinking about how important post production work really is for wedding photography.

If you look at the two images above, the top image is "straight out of the camera." This is how most images will look if you don't do any work on the image and print them right away. In the past, this is what would be referred to as a "proof print."

The second image has been corrected in both color and exposure. It takes time to do this, but the results are well worth it in my opinion. Skin tones are richer and the photo just has so much more "snap" to it, don't you agree? In this example, the original image has pretty decent exposure. But many images (especially flash images) can vary quite a lot in exposure range (too dark or too bright.)

In addition, to offer immediate printing would most likely mean that the camera would be shooting in JPG format rather than RAW format. RAW format offers the photographer a lot more control over the image quality in post production, whereas JPG is more limiting... although faster to deal with. Every correction and save done in JPG is a degenerative step to the image. RAW images requires post production work before it can be printed whereas JPG can be printed immediately. However, RAW files can be modified as many times as you like without degenerating the image quality with each pass.

So to offer immediate printing at a wedding, you would end up with prints that look like the first photo or worse. Don't you think it's better to get prints that would look like the second photo? Plus, immediate printing would mean that the prints are made with an inkjet printer. My prints are made on large machines that do chemical processing... just like they did with film prints. They usually look better and they don't fade anywhere as quick.

This is why I post process each and every image I shoot at weddings and have my prints made on a quality printer from a real photo lab. Sure it takes time and it costs a little more to do this. But that's why people hire me. They want the best not only in image capture, but in the final prints too.

I don't offer prints immediately at weddings. It is impossible to offer the same level of quality service by simply going for the convenience of an immediate print sale to the guests at a wedding.

Besides, wouldn't you rather have quality for every image taken at your wedding for your album rather than the convenience of having quick prints to be sold to your guests? Where's the logic in that?

Who actually benefits from this immediate sale? Most likely the photographer since he doesn't have to do post production and gets a reprint sale at the same time. You don't benefit from it at all and neither do your guests because they will end up with an inferior print.

Taking An Active Role

I delivered wedding photos to one of my clients yesterday and I told her how impressed I was that she took an active role in guaranteeing the success of her wedding reception.

She made sure her guests were having a good time and she went to individual persons who were not dancing and invited them to dance with her. It made a WORLD of difference!

Everyone was on that dance floor. It was so infectious that even her father, who is known not to be a dancer, got up and danced!

What I'm saying here is, "Take an active role in making your reception a success." If you see it's slowing down or if you need to get it going, just ask people to dance with you! Afterall, who's going to say no to the bride or to the groom? Take them by the hand and drag them up onto that dance floor!

The next thing you'll know is everyone will be getting up and dancing. Just check out the fun the guests were having at this reception!