Tag Archives: professional photographers

Wedding Photography: Five Tips For Second Shooters

back stage with a wedding photograher

Karl Leopold sets up a bride and groom shot as video pro Bruce Reynolds works a separate angle

One of the most common ways to build up your portfolio as a wedding photographer is to start out as a second shooter for someone else. While you won’t make a lot of money, you will learn a lot about taking wedding photos.

If you want to work as a second shooter for the primary photographer there are a few things to remember both in terms of preparation and the actual shoot. Since it’s been a while since I shot a wedding, I decided to hook up again with Karl Leopold and tag along as the second shooter at a beach wedding in Cocoa Beach.

I’m going to be honest here and admit I made some mistakes, mostly because I haven’t done it in a while and because I use my DSLR a lot for video. My mistakes will help you avoid doing the same thing.

On this shoot Karl was using a Canon 5D MK II with a Canon 580 EX ii while I was shooting a Canon 7D and an off-brand speedlite.  One of the mistakes I made early on was trying to lock my ISO at what Karl was using for consistency.  A crop sensor camera with a long lens simply can’t shoot at the same ISO as a full frame sensor, which has much better response in mixed light.  That was one of those moments you ask yourself later what you were thinking.

What To Wear

Unless otherwise specified, you’ll almost always be okay wearing black slacks and a black button-down shirt. For an outdoor or beach wedding you can usually get away with khakis and lighter colors.

We were at a beach wedding and while the guests were barefoot, I don’t recommend that when you’re working. One stray metal scrap will put you on the sidelines. Wear shoes, but not dress shoes which don’t do well in sand.

Arrive Early

arrive early

Get there early and shoot some background if you've never shot that venue before

Arrive early, particularly if you’ve never shot at that venue before. Use the time to get your angles and exposure settings.

If you’re working with a top-notch wedding planner, the venue will be ready well in advance. Introduce yourself to the venue, support staff and other vendors but don’t take them off task. Everyone there has a job to do besides you.

In the off chance the primary photographer is late, be prepared to step in and shoot some of the preliminary shots. Traffic happens, accidents happen, so even as the second shooter you have to be prepared to do the entire job. If something happens to the primary, it’s all you. Hope that never happens, but approach every job like it could.

Focus On Your Assigned Coverage Area

Mine was crowd shots, candids of the wedding party and guests, and to shoot the diagonals on the ceremony because I had a longer lens.

candid photo

My assignment was guest shots and candids of the wedding party

There’s no point in having two good photographers shooting the same shots. I did a couple times on this shoot, only so I could show you the setups and resulting shots. Otherwise, as second shooter, be out looking around for other shots. If the primary is busy with the bride and groom, grab some shots of the family and kids. Take pictures of little details that can get lost in the rush, those shots can add a lot to the memories of the day.

You’re Not The Only Person Working That Day

There are a lot of people working at weddings, including other vendors. At this wedding we had a video guy besides the wedding coordinator. Give others room to work and try not to be banging away with a flash when the video people are trying to get their set shots.

Also be aware that the video shooter will likely have a wide covering shot running somewhere, try to walk behind that camera whenever possible. Give other professionals room to work and they’ll give you room to get your shots. It will all get done.

video guy

Try to avoid firing your flash when the video people are trying to get set shots, work cooperatively with other vendors

Remember Who You Represent

Keep in mind as the second shooter you are representing the primary photographer. Your shots are going out under their name and they’re responsible for you. This is not the time for showboating or self-promotion. I always carry one or two business cards of the primary photographer and if one of the guests asks for a card, that’s the one I hand out.

If other vendors ask for your card, that’s a little different. Then it’s okay as they usually already know the primary photographer.

Who Owns The Shots?

When you’re shooting second camera normally the photos belong to the primary and go out under their name. Don’t expect any residuals on the prints or reorders. If you need the photos for your portfolio or other uses, clear that in advance with the primary. After the shoot is not the time to try and negotiate ownership and usage rights!

The idea here is not to undercut the person you’re working for. In most areas the vendors all know one another and treating someone poorly will get around in a hurry. No person is an island in a small business and you may find yourself someday needing the people you treated badly.

On the other hand, shoot well, conduct yourself like a professional and be responsible and you may find a lot of photographers appreciate what a good second shooter can bring to the table. All the while you’ll be learning from the best and building a portfolio you can be proud to show off.

comparison shot

One of the mistakes I made was framing too tight in the camera. My shot is on the left. Karl's version has room for a decorative picture frame and recognizes that prints come out darker.

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Nikon Raises The Resolution Bar With D800

Nikon raises the resolution to 36.3-megapixels in the D800 and D800E

Nikon is raising the bar on resolution and video by fielding two new cameras the D800 and D800E, both boasting an unusually large 36-megapixel image. That would make the D800 the first in the Nikon DSLR line to challenge resolution formerly only available in medium format cameras.

That will mean 7360 x 4912 resolution RAW images that are over 70MB in size, while processed TIFF files will be over 212 MB. The files are so big Nikon decided to add USB 3.0 support to the camera.

At the core the D800 and D800E both start with a full frame, FX-format, 35.9 x 24 mm CMOS 36.3-megapixel sensor backed by Nikon’s Expeed 3 image processor. The imaging system incorporates the latest 91,000-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering III and Advanced Scene Recognition System, coupled with an improved 51-point AF system that promises lightning fast response.

The D800 also promises minimal noise under variable lighting conditions, with a native ISO range of 100-6400, expandable to 25,600 and will output 16-bit images. Coupled with the image processing is a 91,000-pixel RGB sensor for its Advanced Scene Recognition system, which can accurately detect human faces, and recognize scene colors and brightness, according to Nikon.

Back of the D800 shows a clean layout and full size LCD screen

While recent camera models have included upgraded video specs to make them competitive with Canon cameras, the D800 is the first that aggressively attacks the video market. The D800 boasts manual exposure and audio controls in video mode and 1080p recording at 30, 25 and 24 fps, coupled with a built-in optical filter with anti-aliasing properties. Nikon also claims users can also send full uncompressed video out via HDMI as the video is being captured. It remains to be seen whether that promise delivers on the set, but could be a huge upgrade for filmmakers.

The D800E model is basically the same camera without the anti-aliasing filter and is aimed at studio and commercial photographers who may be less concerned about moire and more concerned with maximum detail.

The D800 will be priced more competitively with the Canon 5D MK II with the D800 being offered at $2,999.95 and the D800E at $3,299.95.

For a long time Nikon seemed reluctant to battle for the DSLR video market, but with the introduction of the D800, it’s on now as Nikon fields a camera worthy of both studio photographers and professional videographers.

The upgraded video specs in the D800 will certainly appeal to filmmakers

More Info At:

Nikon USA

Compare To:

Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D MK II

Nikon D800 vs Canon EOS 7D

Nikon D800 vs Nikon D4

Nikon D800 vs D700

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Do We Really Need $6,000 Cameras?

canon 1dx

Canon and Nikon think we need $6,000 cameras but do we really? - by Canon

Apparently Canon and Nikon think the photography world is ready to trade in their car for a new camera and set of lenses. That’s just about what a Nikon D4 or Canon 1-DX and a set of lenses will set you back. A camera or a car? Not a tough choice for most people.

It’s not at all certain these two particular cameras were aimed specifically at still photographers anyway. Both cameras boast impressive video specs and perhaps the real targets are filmmakers, to whom a $6,000 camera body is a relative bargain. Still, when you start with a $6K body and add lenses, rails, flags, follow focus, and a monitor it starts getting the price up near real digital film cameras like the Sony PMW-F3L.

“While you would still have to add the lenses, the price difference on a budget film production is not that significant compared to what you gain with features like Genlock, Timecode, and 10 bit 4:2:2 HD-SDI output,” says Bill Pryor, a Kansas City commercial video producer who shoots most of his footage on the Canon 5D MK II.

captain america frame

Footage from Canon 5D MK IIs integrates seamlessly with 35mm film in Captain America - via Canon

When shots from Canon 5D MK IIs can be seamlessly integrated with 35mm film in movies like Captain America, it begs the question of just how much more quality do filmmakers really require?

For years photographers were spoiled as technology and competition drove prices down and to see the trend reversed so abruptly on the flagship products of both lines will be an interesting trend to watch. The question it begs for photographers centers around the compelling value proposition that would make the EOS-1DX the definitive choice over a Canon 5D MK II?

Certainly the flagship cameras have better low light performance. If you’re a full-time professional sports photographer shooting in highly variable lighting conditions inside sports arenas, perhaps the price tag is worth it. I might argue the Nikon D700 and Canon 5D MK II are fairly capable low light shooters themselves, but the D4 and 1DX push low light performance to new levels.

I could also see a National Geographic photographer on assignment someplace near the end of the world needing both the superior weather sealing and low light performance, which cuts down on the amount of lighting gear they have to carry. In places where every slot in an equipment bag is a precious commodity, then the extra $4,000 for a camera body is outweighed by other factors.

nikon D4 skeleton

Is what's inside a Nikon D4 really justify the price tag?

Overall, I’m really working to find justification for the added expense and just can’t see it. You can buy two D700’s for the price of a D4 and carry a spare body. Instead of a 1DX tricked out for filmmaking, get two 5D MK IIs and use one for covering shots.

It’ll be interesting to see if the photography world proves me wrong and demonstrates there’s a serious market for $6,000 cameras, but I’m not holding my breath.

Compare:

Nikon D700 vs D4

Nikon D700 vs Canon 5D MK II

Nikon D700 vs Canon 1DX

Canon 5D MK II vs 1D x

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Brand New Camera? Take a hike

Photo by Loic Dupasquier

Thousands of people around the world are beginning to understand that getting a new camera does nothing to make their pictures any better. Many are being struck with the realization that even with a brand new camera they’re still stuck with the same old bad pictures.

It’s really not all that hard to understand. The number of features and selection options on new cameras is bewildering. Over the holidays my mom asked me to help get her Canon point-and-shoot menu settings back to normal and it took me 10 minutes of fiddling with the controls and scrolling the menus to figure it out.

Reading the cameras manual, which I highly recommend, will tell you where the menu options can be located and what they do, but that won’t help you take better pictures because it doesn’t tell you when to apply the settings. It won’t help you figure out when it’s okay to shoot with the camera on auto and when to seize control and how much control to exercise in a given shooting situation.

A monkey takes self-portraits

Anyone can point a camera and push the button, even a monkey can get decent photos. Owning a camera doesn’t make you a photographer any more than owning car makes you Mario Andretti. It take practice and a lot of bad photos in order to learn the ropes. The late French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who is considered to be the father of modern photojournalism once said “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst”.

Step one toward being a better photographer will be learning the basics about composition and framing. Then brush up on exposure and color.

One of the best thing you’ll be able to do to improve your photography is as simple as taking a walk. Find a local photowalk in your area and sign up. Photowalks are sponsored by photo clubs, local professionals, professional photography associations, art schools, nature clubs and photography institutes. Most of them are free, a few charge a small fee depending on the venue. There are also guided photowalks where you pay a local photographer to take you around.

Photo taken during a recent photo walk by Snapsort employee Phil Davis

Don’t scoff at shelling out a few bucks to take you on a guided photowalk.  If you’re in an unfamiliar area, they can be a great resource for finding the most photogenic spots.

It’s really not anything fancy, just a group of photographers getting together and walking around taking pictures. Really, that’s it. Most are fairly loosely organized. You might start out as a big group, but most end up with photographers filtering back in small groups or on their own. Some walks have models that volunteer in return for portfolio images, most are just wandering around taking pictures on a lazy afternoon.

Photo by Brian Yap from flickr

And yet you’ll find many local professionals go on photowalks themselves. I use them to network with local pros and advanced hobbyists on a regular basis. The last one I went on had about 20 shooters, maybe half of them pros, I came back with cards full of shots and a handful of business cards. I’ve worked with some of the pros I met there on other projects.

So when it comes to learning how to get the most from your new camera, if someone tells you to take a hike, that’s probably good advice.

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Food Photography A Growth Industry

food photo

Food photography is one of the few growth industries in photography - by Sidious Sid via Flickr

One of the challenges in photography is to make enough to keep eating. In that light it may be somewhat ironic that one of the fastest growing specialty fields is food photography.

The field of food photography has undergone changes since the introduction of the cell phone camera. The rise of sites like GrubStreet and Tastespotting where users are posting their culinary adventures, complete with photos.

The rise of food blogs has in turn put pressure on restaurateurs to raise their visual game on both the food they serve and the visual environment on their menus and web sites. That creates a growth environment for food photographers.

Just like any other field of photography, it’s a tough slog to get established. You can’t expect to post a food portfolio online and have work rolling in. Even if you did, you run the risk of pitching a big time client when you lack depth in the industry.

Use a reflector to bring some more light to your subject - Photo by Emily Hill from flickr

Lighting, Lighting, Lighting

You’ve heard the old saying in real estate that a home’s value is related to location, location, location. In food photography the corollary would be lighting. The best food photographers are lighting freaks and happened to find a home in food photography because their passion for lighting combined with a field of photography that requires a slavish dedication to detail.

Many food photographers work alone, but some bigger shoots might have an assistant, a food stylist, an assistant food stylist, and prop stylist. Most prefer to work in their own studio due to the difficulty of hauling all their gear to locations, though sometimes that can’t be avoided.

The food photography studios I’ve visited look more like industrial machine shops and the really good ones are booked for weeks in advance.

While there is a lot of lighting, none of it is particularly big. Surprisingly, I saw one big floor flash and the rest were smaller, point source lights and a lot of articulated arms holding mirrors, scrims, and reflectors. There were none of the big softboxes, umbrellas and lighting kits you’d find in a portrait studio. It’s a different kind of lighting, more directional, more sharp shadows than you find in portrait photography.

Photo by Benjie Ordonez from flickr

While the market for many types of photography is changing and for most that change is toward fewer opportunities and less income, food photography is showing surprising growth. One of those reasons is stock photography is not terribly useful in this application. Most food shots are of unique creations specific to the client, a work of art you can eat.

Some large customers, like restaurant chains and some hotels, are creating master image libraries for their food pictures, but other than that there are few ways to cut corners. The market for food photography is likely to stay healthy for quite some time.

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