Sunday, September 28, 2008

John Hersey High School - Homecoming Game

John Hersey High School's "Huskies" had their homecoming game on Friday against Elk Grove High School's "Grens." Hersey won 37 to 14! Like last year, I was way up at the top of the bleachers so that I could stand up and take these images. Click on each image to see a larger version.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Photography At Night

From last Saturday's wedding... Which do you prefer? Click on each image to get a closer look.

The first image was taken the way most people would do... shot with a flash outside. The second image was taken with a flash as well... but why is the background so much brighter? Well, it takes a little "know-how" to create the quality of the second image. (Like I always tell my clients, "That's what you pay me for!")

The lighter background wasn't "faked" in Photoshop. It was done with the camera at the time the image was taken. Which image would you consider the "pro" shot? By the way, the real light outside was really about a cross between the two images. With a standard flash technique, you can expect the results you see in the first image. But with a little camera manipulation, the second image was made possible. The bride and groom was still exposed the same though! Cool, huh?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Good Reason To Get Photos Done BEFORE The Ceremony

"You have until 3:30 PM to get your photos done before we kick you out of the church. It's now 3:20 PM."

You wouldn't believe how often I've heard this from various ministers and priests over the years.

Even with the best laid plans, sometimes wedding ceremonies start late and finish late as well. What does that mean to your formal photos? Well, it means you may not get them done, at least not at the church.

Ten minutes is not enough time to do formal photos of the bride, the groom, the wedding party and of the family members. But that's exactly the amount of time I had to work with this past Saturday. The church had a service right after the wedding and they had allowed only 1/2 hour for the formals before people were scheduled to come in for Mass. One half hour should be enough time, right? Maybe. But when the ceremony starts late and the ceremony runs past the estimated time... plus having the traditional limo ride around the block... time can easily run out.

This is why some brides decide to get some of the formal photos done BEFORE the ceremony instead. Taking as many photos without family members before the ceremony really does ease the potential problems. But many brides want to follow the tradition of not having the groom see her before the ceremony... or at least not having him see her with the wedding dress!

Who made up this "tradition" anyway? Perhaps it was made up BEFORE the invention of photography!

My advice for those who want the absolute best photography and also do not want to be rushed during their wedding is to get the formal photos of the bride, groom and bridal party done before the ceremony. While this is not a popular thing for a wedding photographer to write on his blog, I want to at least let you all know that this really does make a huge difference.

Another thing that you may not know is that many churches and ministers really don't like photographers! While many photographers follow the rules set forth by the church regarding photography (like no flash during the ceremony, or shooting only allowed from the back of the church) some photographers don't follow the rules and so they have set a bad impression with the church and the ministers and priests. So all photographers suffer admonishments going forward at that church. Rules are laid out in advance and sometimes a document is forced upon the photographer to sign stating that he will follow the rules or risk being kicked out of the church during the wedding ceremony! Hard as that is to believe, it happens!

The point is, working around the time restraints given by the church sometimes is the best way to avoid potential problems with running out of time. So I'd like to urge brides to at least consider getting some photos done before the ceremony. If your photography is important to you, check with your photographer and your church before following the tradition of not seeing each other before the ceremony.

Oh, in case you are wondering... I did finish the vast majority of the formal photos for my clients in ten minutes! That has to be some kind of record. But when everyone realized we had only ten minutes to do it, it was amazing to see how cooperative everyone was! And yes, I was giving a countdown as we approached the final minutes!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wicked - The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz

Go see Wicked before you lose the opportunity!

Wicked has been playing in Chicago for a long time, but it closes soon. I FINALLY went to see this amazing production last night and I was really impressed! I won't give away any details about the show other than to say that if you loved the original "Wizard of Oz," you'll love Wicked.

The Chicago production was superb. The acting, the singing, the band, the sets... everything about the show was terrific. I can't believe I waited this long to see the show. But at least I can say I finally saw it.

Don't wait until it's too late! Rumor has it that they close sometime in January 2009, but don't quote me on that. Check it out yourself. And for those who want a "sneak preview" of what to expect when you go to this show, check out this video featuring Idina Menzel (Elphaba, The Wicked Witch of the West) and Kristen Chenoweth (Glinda, The Good Witch) from the original New York cast of Wicked performing the song, "Defying Gravity." Click Here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"All-In-One" Lenses - Is It Worth It?

18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED

Pictured above is Nikon's latest camera lens which covers a focal length zoom range from 18mm to 200mm. It is designed for DX-cropped digital cameras like the Nikon D60, D90, D300, etc. With such a huge range covered within a single lens, why would anyone want to buy multiple lenses to cover the entire focal range?

For instance, you can buy a 17-55mm lens and a 70-200mm lens to cover the range. But these two lenses will cost you a lot more than the single lens. And, these lenses are a lot bulkier and heavier. So why do it?

The all-in-one lens' attraction is:

1. Lower cost than buying two lenses to cover the entire focal length
2. Smaller lens
3. Less weight
4. Carry one lens instead of two
5. VR (Vibration Reduction) Lens - stabilizes camera shake

The pitfalls of the lens?

1. Slow speed (doesn't have very large apertures)
2. Cannot perform low depth of field images as well as other lenses
3. Variable aperture at different focal lengths (not a constant aperture)

At the widest focal length of 18mm on the all-in-one lens, the largest aperture is f 3.5. And as you zoom towards the telephoto range of 200mm, the aperture becomes f 5.6. On the other lenses, regardless of the focal length, the largest aperture is f 2.8. What does this mean? Well, it means that the all-in-one lens is 1/2 stop slower at 18mm and 2 stops slower at 200mm than the other lenses. Because of this, to get the same amount of light to the camera's image sensor, you would have to shoot at higher ISO settings (sensitivity of the image sensor.) While this does not appear to be a big deal for outside photos where the sunlight is bright, it does become a factor in low light situations like shooting with ambient light in a dark church. For instance a shot that would normally require ISO 1600 would now require ISO 6400 at 200mm on the all-in-one lens. At ISO 6400, there is going to be a certain amount of digital "noise" that will be noticable in the image. Not good.

Also while a focal length of 200mm will have a lower depth of field, it won't be as low at f 5.6 compared to f2.8. So trying to get "creative" images that totally blur out the background and foreground in a photograph will not be as easy to do on the all-in-one lens.

Will the VR function of the lens help? It only helps stabilize the shot from camera shake. It does not help in getting you a lower depth of field. Plus to get a similar exposure of the f 2.8 lenses, the shutter speed will have to be 2 times slower than when using an f 2.8 lens at 200mm. For instance if it takes 1/125 second to take a good exposure for one image, that shutter speed would have to be reduced to 1/30 second to get the same exposure at 200mm at f 5.6. Now while VR will help stabilize the camera shake of handholding a lens at 200mm at 1/30 sec, if people move while you are taking the photo, the VR will do nothing to help that. The people will blur. But for the fast f2.8 lens, people could move around if they want because the camera will be shooting at 1/125 second and that's plenty fast of a shutter speed to stop most (if not all) of the small movement of the people. Of course if the people are running and you are taking the photo, they will blur! But in general, with small movement of people, that image is still going to look SHARP, not blurred. VR only helps with your own movement while taking the photo. While it's claimed that with this version of VR, the "system minimizes image blur caused by camera shake, and offers the equivalent of shooting at a shutter speed 4 stops faster," that is only true for shake caused by you when holding the camera. It does nothing for movement blur caused by your subject. But Nikon does not make this clear as it minimizes the potential for sales when presenting the VR function.

So is it worth buying the all-in-one lens? Maybe. If you plan to shoot a lot of images outside where there is plenty of light, and you don't want to keep changing lenses to cover a wide range of focal lengths, and you don't want to carry a lot of heavy lenses, the all-in-one solution is perfect. Often, these lenses are considered "vacation lenses" because it's a LOT EASIER to carry one lightweight lens than two or three heavier lens.

While I would never consider using a lens like the 18-200mm lens for a wedding, I would think twice when it comes to having a single lens for the convenience on vacation. Who wants to travel with all that weight and bulk while on vacation? The 18-200mm is a better choice for its compact size and low weight. It's a compromise...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How Competitive Is YOUR Job?

Recently, I attended a family wedding in which I was not the official photographer. I was a guest. It felt good to be at a wedding and not have to work it. I didn't even bring my huge Nikon camera with me. A small "point and shoot" camera is all that accompanied me that day.

While I was there, several people came up to me to ask why I wasn't photographing the wedding. "I wasn't asked to," was my answer. Plain and simple... I wasn't asked, so I didn't shoot.

There were three photographers who were there in an official capacity, however. With about 700 people in attendance at the wedding, it was a HUGE wedding. Not surprisingly, people kept asking me what I thought about the other photographers. What was I supposed to say in response to that? Everyone does things differently. So all I could say was, "It's different than how I would approach it." Good or bad, it was just different.

Interestingly, while speaking with one of my friends at the wedding, he mentioned that his son was considering a possible career as a wedding photographer. So I asked my friend, "What do you think of that?" He replied, "I don't know. Can you make a living at it?" I thought that was an interesting response, so I said, "Well, I'm still alive, aren't I?"

Really, what he meant was that wedding photography is SO COMPETITIVE that it has got to be a difficult thing to try to make a living as a wedding photographer. He's right on that one. If you go to any wedding website and look at how many photographers are listed in the Chicago area, you'd be amazed. There are literally hundreds of people who consider themselves a wedding photographer. And they are all separate companies too! It's not like some industries where hundreds of people work in the same company. We're talking individual entrepreneurs... all of them!

Granted, most of these people are part-time photographers. Many don't book more than perhaps a couple of weddings a year. Some are lucky to get one a year. Still, they are listed as a professional wedding photographer. It seems everyone who buys a new digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR) is listing themselves as a professional wedding photographer or at least thinking of becoming one.

My friend said, "There's got to be more to making it in photography than just photography." He's right. To make it in this business, you need to know about marketing, sales, advertising and everything else that other businesses need to know in order to succeed. Just believing you can take a good photograph doesn't make you a successful wedding photographer. Oh, and "people skills" are super important in this business too. You'd better be a "people-person" if you want to be a wedding photographer. Nobody wants a "grouch" at their wedding!

So is wedding photography competitive? You better believe it! Only the best survive. Many people come and go in this industry. For me, I started shooting weddings since 1990. I've been a professional photographer for a long time. It's been tough, but it's also been rewarding. Not many people can truly say they like the industry they are in. But I can say that about weddings and photography... even when I'm not shooting it!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Biker Chick

I don't see many women riding motorcycles, do you?

I was driving down the road and saw this "biker chick" and had to take a shot. Although the best I could get was a photo of her from behind (my vehicle wasn't positioned well enough to get anything better) I still thought it was worth taking a picture. Ride on!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Interesting Piercing

At one of my weddings, I couldn't help but notice this gentleman. (Click on the image for a larger version.)

My immediate thought was, "Wow, that HAD to hurt!" Then my next thought was, "Why would anyone want to do that?!" Which was then followed by, "I wonder if this guy is dangerous?"

Turns out, he was a really nice guy! We had a great time at the wedding. Goes to show you that you can't judge a guy by his choice of piercings!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Free Open Forum: What To Look For When Buying A Digital Camera

Similar to the "Roundtable Discussions" I've held for professional photographers, I have added a free open discussion forum for the general public:

"What To Look For When Buying A Digital Camera"

This open forum is for anyone looking to purchase a new digital camera. We'll discuss what to consider when purchasing a new Point & Shoot Camera or Digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex).

Pros and Cons will be discussed. Be prepared to participate in an open discussion. Bring your questions. Bring your cameras too! Looking to upgrade your current camera? Great time to talk to other buyers to see what they think!

This is a single session, 2 hour discussion to be held on Thursday, October 9 from 7 PM to 9 PM at my Schaumburg office. We will start promptly at 7 PM (late-comers will NOT be admitted!)

Cost: FREE!!

Call 847-840-4082 to sign up! Limited to 9 participants. First 9 people to sign up gets in!

Know someone looking to buy a new camera? Tell them about this free opportunity!