A Wedding Photographer Reviews the Leica Monochrom by Chris Williams

“Be quick, but don’t hurry.” – John Wooden, former UCLA basketball coach

I love this quote and I think it fits perfectly with photography.

I started out with Rangefinders in wedding photography. Partly because those are the tools I had but also because I loved the intimacy I could achieve with a Leica due to it’s small size.

I’ll probably get some flack for this from film lovers (hey, I’m one too) but with their new Monochrom  - black and white 18mp digital Rangefinder, Leica has put the “Tri-X” back into digital photography. Perhaps they’ve even put the tried-and-true love of black-and-white back into wedding photography.

I think there’s a different thought process with black-and-white photography versus color photography. With the Monochrom, I don’t have the mindset, “I’ll just convert to black-and-white during post processing,” which can sometimes be lazy. I find myself taking time to think about the image before creating it, just …

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The Pro Photographer’s Guide to WPPI by Jason Aten

Headed to WPPI this week and next? Like 15,000 wedding and portrait photographers, you are headed to one of the biggest gatherings of people from our industry, that you’re ever likely to encounter. Whether you’ve been a dozen times, or are headed out for your first time, the entire experience can be a bit overwhelming (to say the least). Between the platform classes, master classes, impromptu classes, shooting experiences, mentoring, and of course – the parties – there’s a lot happening. Want to come back in one piece?

Here are my WPPI Survival Tips:

1. Don’t try to do everything. You’ll hear this a lot from many people who have been there, but seriously – DON’T try to see everything. You can’t. It’s too big, and you’ll end up robbing yourself of the benefit of what you DO take in. Be picky about where you spend your time. You’ll get the most …

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Shooting for Story: How to Make Your Portrait Sessions Tell a Complete Story by Katie Botel

I love shooting for, designing and selling albums to my family portrait clients (and then visiting their homes and seeing them proudly displayed on their coffee tables.)  In my third year in business, over half of my clients opted for an album and many ordered “bundles” – multiple copies to gift relatives and/or leave at the office – and I anticipate those numbers growing.

I’ve been told that what made my albums such a hit is that they tell a story. As a former television writer, my scripts had a clear structure, bookended by “Fade In” and “Fade Out.” When I transitioned into portrait photography and found myself producing album after album, I realized that I needed to shoot like I wrote, and approach each session like a day on a television set to ensure that a clear, beautiful and loving story would be told.

I constantly hear from clients how much their children love their albums and how proud they are to show them off (with clean hands). Being able to look back on their session in story form not only gives my little subjects ownership of the session, but it makes them excited for our “next time” and the fun surprises it may bring and even allows us to start that next session where the previous one left off.

We all learn at a young age that stories start with “Once Upon a Time” and end with “The End” – but it’s the in between that makes a story unique, and makes it sing. The same holds true for session albums.

The Set Up: “Once upon a time, in a far away place, there was a princess who…” Most successful stories start with that sentiment and I start each album with a cover image and first page that establishes and introduces the family, all together in a big group shot, in their setting.

The Characters:  Next, I go deeper into each subject, with each child getting his or her own two page spread, showcasing their individual personalities. Kids love this and take pride in “their pages.”

The Story:  Once the characters have been established, their story “takes off.” We dive right into the fun of the session with images upon images (and pages upon pages) of play, laughter, loving and doting.

The Dramatic Midpoint: In a script, this is the high point that drives the rest of the story. With session albums, I have found that a single image spread over two pages has that “wow” factor and is a great midpoint. I always try to build to at least one into each album.

The Third Act: After that “point of no return,” I typically wind down with photographs representing the heart of the family. Loving moments of siblings together and/or Mom and Dad that leave the “reader” perhaps a little teary eyed, and definitely yearning for more, which leads us into…

The Conclusion: Whether it’s that final jump, swing or the family walking off into the proverbial sunset, I aim for “The Ends” to also imply “To be Continued…” I have built my business on repeat clients, so this sentiment rings true with clients who turned their session albums into a yearly tradition…

Lessons Learned and Additional Tips for Successful Album Design:

Shoot the Details: While parents may never purchase a 16×24 print of their child’s finger, toe, bow, curl, tear or drip of drool, these details are perfect for an album and define their children in the exact moment in time you have captured then. Go Wide: I love wide establishing shots and including negative space in a group shot that I know can be turned into a kick-ass two page spread in an album. Count Before they Do: I learned very quickly in my script writing days that actors count lines, and the same holds true with kids and pages.  I always take that burden off my clients and make sure that each child is equally represented in the album. Date It:  With the first “second” album I did for a family, I started putting the year on the back cover. When the latest album takes over the coffee table, last year’s hits the bookcase and before you know it, you’ll have an entire shelf dedicated to your albums!

The Reviews are In:

I love hearing from families and gift recipients of albums. Here’s a selection of emails I’ve gotten from families enjoying these heirlooms:

“We’ve had several opportunities to sit down with people and go through the album you made, and it’s a home run! I’m finding new things I love about it every time I go through it.  Thank you for so thoughtfully and artfully putting together such wonderful pictures.”

“Tears are falling as I look at these beautiful children that you were able to photograph so exquisitely. I wish I could see them more than once or twice a year but I pull out my photo book and revisit each image, nearly every day. Thanks so much for utilizing your talents and sharing with Grammies everywhere.”

“The book is AMAZING! My parents and husband have no idea what they are  getting.  I can’t wait to see their faces ”

About the Author

Katie Botel moved to Los Angeles from Philadelphia to pursue a dream of writing for television.  She did that, for many years, and then transitioned to telling more personal stories through still photographs.  Going on her fourth year of Katie B. Photography, Katie celebrates her growing cast of characters’ everyday joys (and sometimes pitiful sorrows). Instead of ending her stories with her previously celebrated “Fade Out,” Katie prefers “To Be Continued” –as she looks forward to seeing her little “stars” for next year’s photos and capturing their ever-evolving stories.

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What ONE THING Would You Change? by Katelyn James

Now that 2012 has come to a close, hopefully you had some much needed  reflection and R&R and are ready to dive headfirst into 2013. When you think about your successes and mistakes over the past year, are there things you wish you’d done differently? Probably. But that’s the beauty of a new year – it’s a fresh start!

To get you started, we asked YOU to share ONE THING you’ll do differently in 2013. Every week, we’ll be spotlighting one photographer and the ONE THING that they’re doing differently this coming year.

What will you change? Here’s what wedding photographer Katelyn James said:


About Katelyn James Katelyn James is a Wedding Photographer & Blogger based out of Richmond, VA. She started her business as a sophomore in college and has been shooting for over 4 years. She’s married to her high school sweetheart and is slightly obsessed with their new puppy, Bokeh. Yes, …

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6 Ways to Affect SEO: Part 1 by Joel & Amber

Flickr User SuperBoreen http://www.flickr.com/photos/superboreen/

Photo by Flickr User SuperBoreen

For many of us, getting viewers to our site from a search engine is one of the best ways of finding new clients. Here are six ways that you can affect the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of your site in order to get a little bit closer to that coveted first page on a Google search.

But before we start, let me make a note about keywords. There is much talk about keywording, but in simple terms, this is all you need to know: what searches do you want to be at the top of?

In other words, what will people be looking for when your site shows up at the top?

For example, Amber and I want to be at the top of a Google search when people search for “Huntsville Wedding Photographers.” So those are our three main keywords; Huntsville, Wedding, Photographers. I don’t want to show …

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How to Make One Kid’s Year by Just Taking a Picture by Jeff Inglis

Jane Goodrich has a simple question: “Can I actually make one kid’s year just by taking a picture?”

Turns out she can – and you can help too, by supporting her work and sick children who need us.

Jane loves photographing children so much, she’s made a career of it. She specializes in portraiture of newborns and children. And as an identical twin herself, she particularly enjoys making images of twins. (Turns out parents of twins are often reluctant to have a photo session, fearing it’ll be twice as crazy as regular studio appointments; Jane makes house calls to help simplify things for families.)

Lately, though, she’s engaged in a project that has become almost as dear to her heart as her DNA-matching sister.

Jane had known for years that her grandmother (and namesake) died of lymphoma in the 1950s. (It’s a type of blood cancer.) In the late 1990s, the daughter of a …

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How Photographers Can Take Their Sites from Functional to Unforgettable by Spencer Lum

The problem with most websites isn’t that they don’t look good. It’s that they don’t work well. Sure, you can see the portfolio, you can find the information – that’s all there. But being professional and fulfilling the basic functions of a site are the worst standards imaginable. These things should be the bare minimum a site needs to work, not the measure of success. The real question is how photographers can take their sites from functional to unforgettable. The most important question is, “How well you are connecting with your potential clients.

When it comes down to it, if you’re going to run a business, you’ve gotta do the legwork. Period. It’s all about going beyond where others have gone. In a competitive marketplace, where everyone is gunning for the same, good enough isn’t going to be good enough. Mind you, that’s not to say you have to blow through …

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Meeting Client Expectations You Didn’t Know Existed: Part 1 by Peter Carlson

Most small businesses realize the importance of meeting and exceeding client expectations. But when we strive to do this, it’s based on the expectation that we, as a business, have established. 

How do you react to clients who have expectations that you weren’t aware of, or expectations that seem unreasonable? Where do clients get these expectations?

In my experience, these types of client expectations come from four sources:

The market norm The client’s first exposure to the type of product or service you offer Confusion caused by your business’ complicated structures Poor communication between you and the client During my next series of blog posts, I will share these sources with you, show you how to contend with unknown expectations, and outline how you can stop perceiving your clients as difficult, irrational, or crazy. Win-win! Today, we start with the first source of potential client confusion – the market norm.

Part 1: Contending with the Market Norm:

When enough businesses in a similar market perform and offer similar services or products (in a similar way), it becomes the norm and clients establish expectations based on this norm.

Example: A bride-to-be is meeting and comparing four different photographers. Three of the photographers include the digital image files (digital negatives) with their standard coverage fee. You charge an additional fee for digital image files. Now, you have not met the client’s expectation and she is disappointed in your business.

How can you contend with the  market norm?

First, know what other businesses in your market are doing and consider evolving. If you find that the majority of businesses similar to yours are doing something a certain way, or offering something you don’t offer, you should consider offering that product or service as well.

The bride-to-be in the example here would probably be happy purchasing the digital images separately from the coverage, if you were the only photographer she met with. Since she thinks receiving digital files as part of her photography package is the norm, your ability to book her as a client is compromised. It’s still possible to book this bride, but it’s going to be more challenging since you unintentionally disappointed her.

I don’t believe all businesses in a market should be identical or commoditized, but you need to understand what clients consider “norms.” Set yourself apart by focusing on parts of your business that do not need to fit into a norm. And accept items that are the norm, rather than investing your energy in resisting them.

Your other option, to escape market norms, is to be completely abnormal. Create your own market, so clients can’t compare you to anyone else. Then, the only expectations they’ll have are the ones that you set for them.

About the Author

Peter Carlson’s outgoing, laid back, quirky personality is the main reason both brides and photographers love working with him. Through photography, he and his wife Whitney focus on the unique personalities of every couple as well as the joy and happy emotions that are felt on each wedding day. Photographers find their classes fun, inspirational, and easy to implement. Peter & Whitney run their own studio, Dove Wedding Photography, as well as The Collection and The Nashville Photography Class.

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Big Lights: One Solution to a Midday Wedding by Doug Levy

It’s the middle of the summer, you get your questionnaire back from your couple and it reads, “Ceremony 11:30-12, cocktail hour and group photos of our 16-person bridal party from 12-1.” Panic. Or at least that’s how I felt when I first saw this message a few years ago. Then, I started praying for clouds and shade.

Obviously, clouds and shade would make this an easier task, opening up infinite possibilities. Obviously the weather gods don’t always cooperate though, and as professionals we must be prepared to deal with the light we’re given. The excuse, “It was too sunny, that’s why your photos are ugly,” doesn’t make sense to non-photographer clients. And it’s just unacceptable.

This summer, though, when confronted with this exact situation, I had a solution. Big lights. Lots of power.

Let me preface this next paragraph with the following – this is what works for me, and it’s a look my clients expect from my work. The gear (and it’s expense) won’t work for everyone, but there are lower-cost alternatives available as well.

My solution is to turn to my Elinchrom Ranger RX AS Speed Pack and a 60” umbrella from Westcott. At full power, the 1100 watt Second Ranger Pack puts out approximately the power of eleven full-power speedlights. When you consider that eleven top-of-the-line small strobes from Canon or Nikon will run you around $5,500, the $2,400 price of the Ranger seems more palatable. There’s also the Paul C Buff option, the 640 watt second Einstein ($500) coupled with their Vagabond Mini Lithium battery ($240). When I first started shooting, I owned a set of Alien Bees and while inexpensive, I got tired of the color shifts that occur as you change the flash power – a problem they’ve solved in the Einstein’s.

Okay, enough on the technical, now onto the photos!

The beauty of working with a high-powered flash is that I can choose whatever background I want for my images. I’m not limited by sun or shade, because I know I’m going to be overpowering the ambient light with my flash. As a result, I strictly look for the best background I can find in a spot where my subjects won’t be facing the sun.

Because I’m looking to minimize the ambient light, I’ll typically start at my camera’s lowest ISO when setting my exposure, even dipping into the camera’s “Lo” mode. For this wedding, that meant “Lo-1” on my D4, with a shutter speed of 1/160.

Once I’ve established the ambient contribution to my exposure (remember, flash cares about aperture, ambient light cares about shutter speed, ISO cares about both), I’ll start setting my flash power.

This first photo (left) is ambient light only, without flash.

In the other two images, you can see that any remnant of splotchy daylight disappears as the gorgeous soft light from the 60” umbrella takes over and lights the frame.

While I bring the Ranger to every wedding, this technique is one that I only use a few times a year, as lugging around the large Elinchrom setup does slow me down a bit. In fact, for most weddings it never leaves the car, but with it I have peace of mind knowing that if this type of situation presents itself, I’ll be prepared.

About the Author A wedding and portrait photographer living outside of Boston, Doug Levy spent six years pursuing a career as a professional baseball umpire before deciding a lifetime of road trips and 7:05 starts wasn’t for him. A professional photographer since 2007, Doug’s clients have included Harper Collins Publishers, Starwood Hotels and the Golf Course Superintendents of America. He’ll be teaching “Killer Reception Light” at the upcoming Inspire Photo Seminar in Boston, and offers customized lighting workshops for professional photographers as well. For more on Doug, visit his website, or follow him on Twitter or Facebook. For more from Doug check out his workshops.

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Wedding Day Problems: How to Troubleshoot Them! by Debra Kapustin

When I started second shooting at weddings, one thing became incredibly apparent. The well thought-out, fine-tuned, photography timeline often went south. The shooting environments, which could have been ideal, were often impossible to utilize for a variety of reasons. And I discovered that detailed consultations with the bride prior to the wedding were often not enough. Although my mentor handled these situations with grace and professionalism, I vowed to address these problems with my brides before their wedding day and develop a plan of action in case it not only went south, but blew out the window with hurricane force.

1. The Hotel Suite: I Can’t Find the Bed

Have you ever walked into a bridal suite to find beds covered in clothing, suitcases, shoes, you name it? The chairs, tables, and other furniture are also adorned with everything from cell phones to keys? I let my bride know that we often …

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