April 2009 Archives

Recent shoots and lessons learned

Well, Saguaro Shadows Photography has been busy recently. In the last few weeks, I've shot a wedding, and a family reunion.

The wedding was an informal backyard affair, but provided plenty of good shooting opportunities and challenges. My wife assisted me on this shoot, and that assistance came in handy. She worked the opposite side of the ceremony from me, and was able to capture some angles I could not. She was also able to be my grip and runner, when I needed something.

This past weekend, I was very busy. I investigated the site for a wedding I'm shooting in July, and shot a family reunion. The family reunion was at a community pool. A mix of informal candid shots and more formal posed shots.

After every shoot, I like to review what happened during the shoot and find some lessons learned. After these two sessions, one of my lessons learned is I'm going to start keeping a lessons learned checklist that I keep with me and review before each shoot!

My other lessons learned from these sessions include:

  • Pay more attention to the background in outdoor shots. In a couple shots recently, I have had a good foreground and near background, but the far background had items like trash cans and cars I didn't notice when I took the picture. Paying attention to these upfront can eliminate Photoshop cloning later!
  • In family gatherings, sit the grandparents down, and shot them each with each grandchild individually. I had this thought in my mind when I started the shoot this weekend, but got lost trying to meet the customer's requests. Taking these images provides more options to customers for the final product, and provides good memories for all.
  • A good wedding/location shoot camera bag. I learned this during the wedding shoot and solved it before the family reunion by getting a Think Tank Photo Urban Disguise 60. This bags served my needs perfectly and held everything I needed for a day's shoot. Lesson learned!
  • An assistant at all times. Having an assistant at the wedding helped a lot. Not having an assistant at the family reunion made things hard. From now on, I'll always try to bring an assistant with me on location shoots.

This next weekend I have another location family shoot, and in a few weeks, a big formal wedding. I'll be reviewing all my notes and lessons learned before those shoots, and keep adding to my list following each shoot.

Making your own SB-900 Filters

In case you own a Nikon SB-900 Speedlight, you might want to read this thread I started on making your own color correction filters for the SB-900 Speedlight.

It turns out to pretty easy to make your own "smart" filters for the SB-900, that the SB-900 will recognize correctly and automatically adjusts the white balance. You can make your own filters for pennies apiece.

Upcoming Work

In the coming months, I have several jobs coming up. Between now and July, I have 3 weddings and 1 family portrait session.

During this busy period, I'll try to document my preparations, experiences, and lessons learned from each shoot. At this time, I'm reviewing my equipment list, making sure I have everything I'll need. Two of the weddings are out of state, so I'll need to plan carefully for the equipment I choose to bring.

I'm also constantly studying and experimenting to improve my knowledge of lighting and portrait techniques. I've paid a monthly subscription fee to join Kelby Training. Kelby training offers many excellent training videos on lighting, portraits, and wedding photographer from pro's like Joe McNally and David Ziser. The training videos have given me very good ideas for improving my location lighting techniques.

Be Prepared

In talking to people about my photography business recently, I've heard stories from people who have recently had bad experiences with professional photographers. I won't relate the exact stories here. We'll just leave it that the experience was less than professional for the clients.

This made me ponder, what makes a Professional Photographer? Besides knowing your craft and creating exciting images for the client, it also means behaving, well, professional! There is definitely a difference between a professional photographer, and a photographer who conducts themselves in a professional manner.

I recalled an early code of conduct I learned when I was young from the Boy Scouts of America. As an Eagle Scout, I learned the expected behavior as a boy scout, and the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared! Could there be a better motto for a professional photographer?! Be prepared to meet your client's needs: Carry an extra body, batteries, speedlights. Carry what you need to get the job done!

Another pillar of the Boy Scouts is the Boy Scout Law: A Scout is: A Scout is:

  • Trustworthy
  • Loyal
  • Helpful
  • Friendly
  • Courteous
  • Kind
  • Obedient
  • Cheerful
  • Thrifty
  • Brave
  • Clean
  • Reverent

I won't go through each point of the law, I can't imagine any one of these that shouldn't be representative of the behavior of a professional photographer. I will definitely be keeping these points in mind the next time I meet a new client.

Voice Activated Lightstand

When shooting on location, such as at a wedding, carrying complex lightstands and setups can be difficult and time consuming. But this doesn't mean we have to sacrifice quality, portable lighting!

A simple, inexpensive solution is the "Voice Activated Lightstand" or VAL. The VAL is a joke term for an assistant holding an off-camera light. Here is one example of a small, easy to carry, VAL kit:

This kit consists of 4 pieces:

An inexpensive Monopod ($63)

Lastolite shoot-thru umbrella ($24).

Umbrella/Flash bracket ($14).

Upgraded cold shoe to accomodate an SB-900($8).

And of course a Nikon Speedlight. In this example, I'm using an SB-800.

This kit assembles in seconds, and provides a small, portable lightsource:

And it produces a nice, soft light that is easily movable, assuming you have a cooperative assistant!

You could also use a small lightbox with the flash in much the same manner. But the shoot through umbrella provides a nice, broad lightsource that is pretty quick to setup.

And you get a monopod to use with your camera as a bonus!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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