Tips on Photographing Wedding Formals and Group Portraits

Family and Friend Portraits on Weddings

Photographing formals during weddings can be very tiresome and stressful to all parties involved. It’s the part of the day both the guests and the photographer often want to get past as quickly as possible. Friends and family want to enjoy the cocktail with others. Bride and Groom are tired from standing far too long and a looking forward to get some rest before the reception. Could anyone blame them?

Family Portrait

On some occasions, I have been even asked to skip the formals in hopes of avoiding guests from stress and chaos, which sometimes can happen during the formal session. While not everyone might enjoy this experience, it is also understood that taking formal pictures is an essential part of wedding photography. This is how the memories are preserved. This is a precious way for a bride to remember her family for many, many years to come; in her happy state. So, the challenge remains for the photographer to make sure that the time allocated for the formal portraits is spent efficiently and as quickly as possible. In the eyes of the wedding guests, a photographer is a miracle worker, control freak and a very sweet person who can turn a very difficult session into something magical. So, my dear magician friends, let’s get on to it. You are the expert and what do you do next?

There are steps you can take to achieve your goal and have everyone happy on your watch. Your first step would be to make sure that the watch doesn’t go over 30 minutes for any formal session.

Bride with her mom

1. Talk to the bride and groom before the wedding. Do your research and get to know your subjects earlier. Let’s admit that there is no way for you to get to know so many people at once. So, start early and talk it up with the bride and groom during the consultation session. Find out what their expectations are towards the formal portraits and how many people might participate in those. Sometimes it is easier to get a list of the family members who ought to be photographed alongside the bride and the groom. Ask the bride to inform her relatives that there will be a point during the wedding (if the exact timing is known, that would be more helpful) when they will be asked to get photographed. Keeping everyone informed will help you gather people around efficiently. Always make sure to ask the couple if there is anything you need to know about their families and have a strategy worked out to take care of any potential problems.

Usually, close family make it obvious for you to notice them. Walk around them, be a regular guest and interact with them before the formals, so that you are “familiar” to them. Let the guests talk and meet and have fun while you steal a few of them to get photographed. This way, everyone can be engaged all the time by either you or by other guests. It will only help you get those sincere emotions naturally, with much ease.

Also, keep in mind that you do not have to fit every single guest into a formal session. Friends and distant family members can be photographed all along the wedding reception and cocktail hour.

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Introduction to Infrared Photography

Final Version

Infrared, or “IR” photography, offers photographers of all abilities and budgets the opportunity to explore a new world – the world of the unseen. Why “unseen”? Because our eyes literally cannot see IR light, as it lies just beyond what is classified as the “visible” spectrum – that which human eyesight can detect. When we take photographs using infrared-equipped film or cameras, we are exposed to the world that can often look very different from that we are accustomed to seeing. Colors, textures, leaves and plants, human skin, and all other manner of objects can reflect IR light in unique and interesting ways, ones that cannot be mimicked with tools such as Photoshop (yes – there are limits to what Photoshop can do!). Like any form of photography or art however, it is a matter of taste. I would strongly urge people to explore the world of IR. As the number of cameras-equipped devices proliferates and the associated technologies improve, IR photography may offer the opportunity for photographers to expand into new arenas and differentiate their offerings from those of others.

Barboursville Vineyards

1) Terminology

For purposes of this article, I will refer to the infrared light spectrum as “near infrared”, or simply, “IR”. Near infrared refers to the spectrum of light just beyond the range humans can detect with their eyesight. This light range is between 700 – 1200 nm (nanometers). Another aspect of the IR spectrum, above near IR, is associated with thermal imaging. Thermal technology was popularized by movies such as, “Patriot Games” and other thrillers, whereby intelligence agencies or military personnel were able to detect villains by measuring their body heat under nighttime conditions. Today’s common digital camera sensors are not able to detect thermal images. Under the right circumstances however, digital cameras can do an excellent job of recording IR.

2) History Of Infrared Photography

The first forays into IR photography, using special film plates, began in the early part of the 20th century. During WWI, IR photography proved extremely valuable, as images using the IR spectrum were not affected as much by atmospheric haze as normal photos. IR images were also able to show stark distinctions between vegetation and buildings, better identifying potential enemy targets such as camouflaged munitions factories and other key sites. Rivers, streams, lakes, and other waterways were depicted in a very dark hue, making them much more obvious.

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Social Media for Your Photography Business

Social Media for Photography

Yesterday I took the plunge and joined 500px.com and uploaded some of my landscape photos. 500px is a great resource with lots of talented photographers. I have visited the site before and some of the photographs are breathtaking and inspiring (except for all that nudity that seems to dominate the site – had to turn it off from my profile). While uploading images, I realized that I have not updated my Google+ photos either, so I decided to do that as well. Then, somebody contacted me through my long forgotten Flickr account, asking a photography question. All this is happening while I am trying to simultaneously update my Twitter and Facebook accounts. And I won’t even go into talking about all the YouTube, Pinterest, Myspace, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Reddit, StumbleUpon and LiveJournal requests and comments that keep pouring into my email address.

Social Media for Photography

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Taekwondo Photography Tips

Taekwondo (1)

I had an opportunity to photograph a local Taekwondo sparring event last weekend and I decided to share some of the photographs from the event, along with some photography tips and lessons learned. I have been involved in Taekwondo since I was 12 and while I spent many years taking part in this beautiful and highly energetic (and sometimes even brutal) sport, I never had a chance to photograph it. While I have been suffering from pneumonia during the last 2 weeks, I could not skip a Taekwondo sparring with some of the best athletes in Colorado. I got my daily doze of antibiotics, then quickly made a plan and took off.

Taekwondo (1)

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Must-Have Filters for Landscape Photography

With Polarizer

While I was photographing the beautiful scenery of the Glacier National Park at sunrise, I realized that some filters are pretty much required to get good results when photographing landscapes. While many photographers think that some of the built-in tools in Lightroom and Photoshop can simulate filter behavior, making filters redundant in the digital age, some filters in fact can never be simulated in software, while others help in getting even better results in post-processing. If you do not know what filters are and what they are used for, I highly recommend reading my “lens filters explained” article before you continue to read this one.

1) Polarizing Filter

B+W Circular Polarizing Filter

A polarizing filter is a must-have tool for landscape photography. It is typically the first filter landscape photographers buy to instantly improve their pictures and and add vividness and contrast to them. A polarizer can reduce reflections from objects such as water and glass and can be used to darken the sky, bring out the clouds and even reduce atmospheric haze, making the scene look much more vivid. For all normal lenses that have a filter thread in the front, you can get a circular polarizing filter, also known as a “circular polarizer”. A circular polarizer is very easy to use and once you attach it on the front of your lens, all you need to do is rotate it clockwise or counter-clockwise to get a different amount of polarization. Polarizing filters work by blocking certain light waves from entering the lens. Rotating a polarizer allows certain types of light waves to pass through, while blocking other ranges of light waves. Thus, you could turn a sky from light blue to very dark blue or increase/decrease reflections by simply rotating the filter.

The effect of polarization cannot be reproduced or simulated in post-processing, especially when dealing with natural reflections. Take a look at the below image:

Move mouse over to see with and without polarizer

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Photoshop vs Lightroom

Lightroom vs Photoshop

Whenever Lola and I post images on our website and the Facebook fan page, we get plenty of requests on post-processing from our readers. One question that keeps coming back all the time is about Lightroom vs Photoshop – many beginners do not know differences between Lightroom and Photoshop and have a hard time choosing which one to get first. In this article, I will show the main differences between these two software packages from Adobe, what they are used for and what you can do in Photoshop that you cannot in Lightroom. Most of this article will also apply for Aperture vs Photoshop discussion, because Aperture and Lightroom share very similar functionality.

Photoshop vs Lightroom

Photoshop Compared to Lightroom

1) What is Photoshop?

Photoshop was originally created as a tool for simple image editing, which since 1990 has grown into a monster software suite with many functions and capabilities to accommodate graphic designers, architects, animators, publishers, photographers and even 3D artists. Think of it as a Cadillac of image editing with an unlimited potential that can grow not only with software updates and upgrades, but also with special plugins known as “filters” from Adobe and third party software companies. Want to stitch multiple photographs into a single panorama? Or create a High Dynamic Range photograph? Or get rid of skin blemishes? Or perhaps make a person look taller, shorter, thinner or fatter? Yup, Photoshop can do all that; and much much more. It would be pointless to try to list what Photoshop can do, because it would probably be a never-ending list. The term “Photoshopped” is now a part of our daily jargon, because we are constantly exposed to altered images that might look realistic while being fake – that’s the power of Photoshop.

2) What is Lightroom?

The full name for Lightroom is “Adobe Photoshop Lighroom”, which may sound confusing, because it contains the word “Photoshop”. In a way, it makes sense, because Lightroom can be considered a subset of Photoshop with specific functionality that Photoshop does not and probably will never have. It was created for the main purpose of managing a large number of images, keeping them organized in one place. Photoshop is a very advanced image editing tool, but when you edit hundreds of images, keeping them organized becomes a problem over time. Before I started using Lightroom, my photography workflow solely consisted of Adobe Camera RAW (which allows opening, manipulating and converting RAW files) and Photoshop (which I used to fine-tune images before saving them into my hard drive). It was a complex, cumbersome and inefficient process, even after I semi-automated it through a batch process in Photoshop. The biggest challenge was organizing edited images in my hard drive, sorting and cataloging them. I am not even going to talk about finding images, because it was an impossible task that required reviewing thousands of thumbnails and image metadata in order to find what I was looking for. As my file catalog grew, I realized that I had to find a better way to organize my photographs. And that’s when I discovered Lightroom.

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Case Study: Skin Color Problems

Skin Color Problem

Another case study was submitted on Nikon D7000′s handling of colors. Here is what our reader writes:

Hello Nasim, 2 months ago I bought my first Nikon camera – D7000. I’ve read much about it and decided that this is best camera for me, but recently I am noticing that in certain lighting conditions colors are inadequate. There is an awfull yellow-green color, especially noticeable on people’s faces. Skin on pictures is also has strange color. Changing wb temperature is hardly helping. As an owner of the D7000 could you tell me if this is the problem of all D7000 cameras or is it malfunction of mine? What can i do to fix this?

And here is a sample image that was attached to the case study:
Skin Color Problem

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Case Study: Image Spots and Streaks

Spots and Streaks on Image

One of our readers sent me an image with the following question as a Case Study:

I have no idea what this streak is on my pictures could you give me an idea? I bought a new lens, because there was a small scratch on my old one. However, the same streak appears in the exact same place. It is a line about 1 inch on the top right of my pics. Usually seen when shooting skylines, clouds. etc.

Here is the attached image:
Spots and Streaks on Image

So, what are those spots and streaks that are clearly visible in the above image? First, the good news – the above spots and streaks have nothing to do with the lens. In fact, lens problems and even major scratches on the front lens element rarely ever show up in images. Unless the rear lens element is damaged/scratched, you should not see any lens defects show up in your images. Those of you who have seen my articles on cleaning DSLR sensors probably already know what these are. They are dust spots, along with a piece of hair that is sitting right in the middle of the camera sensor (the long dark line streak). Now the bad news – whenever you see something like this consistently show up in your images when shooting at small apertures, you will have to either clean the camera sensor yourself or send your camera for cleaning in order to get rid of all this dirt on the sensor. The latter is a safer method, but will cost you a lot of money to continue sending your camera every time you need it cleaned; plus, you won’t be able to take pictures while it is in service. The cheapest method is to clean your camera sensor yourself. As I have shown in the my cleaning DSLR sensor article, you can clean a sensor very quickly without any hassles, as long as you have the proper tools. Is it risky? Unless you do something stupid, the procedure is very safe (obviously, I take no responsibility for any potential damage to your camera). Just watch the video and then watch the more detailed videos on how to clean DSLR sensor and keep your camera gear clean for more info.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Cloud Storage for Photographers

Hole in Clouds

Everybody is talking about The Cloud – it is on television and radio, in magazines and newspapers, and has been flooding the Internet, presented as a revolutionary technology that will shape up the future. For most people, cloud computing means nothing, since the words “cloud” and “computing” sound very confusing and only make it seem like something overly geeky and out of reach. While the actual technology behind the cloud can be complex, the concept of cloud computing is actually quite simple to understand. In this article, I will explain cloud computing in very simple terms and talk about cloud storage for photographers – what it can offer to us now and in the future, and whether we should be taking advantage of it today.

Hole in Clouds

Whether you backup your photographs to an external hard drive or a storage device, you should regularly back up your photographs to an offsite location as well. There are many cases when photographers foolishly assume that their data is safe just because somebody told them it is. No matter how redundant your storage is, there is always a threat of theft, misuse, various accidents and natural disasters that might cause data loss. Imagine losing everything you have worked on so far – all of your clients photographs, your portfolio images and your photo libraries you spent countless numbers editing and organizing. Are you prepared to lose it all? If you are not, then you should be evaluating a good backup strategy. I frequently get questions from our readers about backing up large photo libraries without breaking the bank. Some are thinking about investing in locally attached storage solutions from companies like QNAP and Drobo, while others are wondering about online backup solutions that seem to be getting more and more affordable every day. “What should I invest in now?” seems to be the question. Large locally attached backup storage solutions can get rather expensive to buy and maintain overtime. Is online storage a good alternative to local storage? I will try to answer this question shortly, but first, let me talk about cloud computing and explain what cloud storage technology is all about.

1) What is Cloud Computing?

Here is an oversimplified explanation of cloud computing. Imagine a large company that employs many contractors, ready and available to work for you any time you want them to. You can hire only one contractor if you are not busy, or you could hire many contractors at once during your peak season, without having to employ them on a permanent basis. Just like your electricity bill, your costs stay low when your business is slow and increase on demand automatically when you get busy, so you only pay for the contractors you actually use. The contractor that you release from work goes to work for somebody else, so his time is not wasted doing nothing. A single contractor could work on several jobs for you and other companies simultaneously and his employer takes care of him, making sure that other contractors help him out if he is overloaded. The company is happy, because it uses their staff efficiently through resource sharing and you as a customer is also happy, because you only pay for what you actually use. You do not know or care about how those contractors are employed, what their shifts and schedules are and how much the company is paying them. All you know is that they are available for you any time you need them at a flat rate. If the demand for contractors grows, the company that employs them can get many more on their payroll to match the demand. So if you are successful and your business expands very rapidly, the company will be able to provide enough resources to match your growth.

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Lens Filters Explained

Wide-angle lens polarization

Camera lens filters can serve different purposes in digital photography. They can be indispensable for capturing scenery in extremely difficult lighting conditions, they can enhance colors and reduce reflections or can simply protect lenses. Filters are widely used in photography and cinematography and while some only use filters in rare situations, others rely on filters for their everyday work. For example, landscape photographers heavily rely on various filters, while street and portrait photographers rarely get to use them. Since digital photography is all about the quality and intensity of light, lens filters are often necessary to modify the light before it enters the lens. Many photographers think that some of the built-in tools in Lightroom and Photoshop can simulate filter behavior, making filters redundant in the digital age. As I will demonstrate below, some filters in fact can never be simulated in software and some actually help in getting even better results during post-processing. In this article, I will talk about the different types of lens filters available, what they do, when and how to use them.

Lee Filter Set

1) What are filters and why should you use them?

Why do you wear sunglasses? Because along with other benefits, they help you see better in intense light, protect your eyes from harmful UV rays/wind/dust and reduce glare. Filters also serve a similar purpose – they can help reduce reflections, protect your lenses from potential damage, fully or partially reduce the amount of light that enters the lens and even enhance colors. At the same time, filters can actually hurt photographs if they are not properly used. A good analogy would be wearing sunglasses in a dark room. Therefore, not only do you need to know what filters to use, but you also need to know how to use them and in which situations. There are many different kinds of filters out there – from cheap UV filters to very expensive filters worth several hundred dollars, which can make the process of choosing the right filter type rather challenging.

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