Friday, December 31, 2010

Year End Review - Looking Back At 2010 And Forward To 2011

When I look back at 2010, I'm amazed at how much has happened in the past year. I've met so many wonderful people, had so many fun shoots and learned so much, it's hard to believe that less than a year ago I'd never even been in a photography studio before (at least not as a photographer).

It's funny how the more you learn about something, the more you realize you don't know. This is certainly true with photography. I had an excellent learning experience in 2010 with the Meeting of the Masters and hope to attend some more training in 2011. I also learned a great deal about myself and my skills with my 365 project. Both of these experiences taught me so many little details that I have been able to use at every shoot, I'm not sure where I'd be today without them.

Of course, gaining knowledge isn't much good if you don't get to use it once in a while. In addition to all of my paying shoots, I did a number of personal shoots as well. Some were personal projects and some were just for fun. They were all a great way to not only use my camera but also to meet new people.

One of the things that surprised me the most in 2010 was how fun it is to network. I'm not normally a social guy, but for some reason diving into a room of people and seeing how we can help each other is something I truly enjoy. I have met so many wonderful people in such a short amount of time, I can't wait to see what next year holds.

Speaking of next year, what's the plan for next year? Is it going to be the same as 2010? Is there going to be anything new? Well, if I've learned anything from this year, it's that you never know what's going to happen, but if I can be so bold as to put something in writing, here's what I'm thinking for 2011...

One of my big focuses is going to be on high school senior photos. In 2010, I kind of decided at the last minute to dip my toe in and see what happened. It turns out I love working with seniors! I'm planning on spending most of my summer photographing seniors, but I'll leave a little room for weddings. That's right, I'm going to try to book a few weddings in 2011. I was fortunate enough to shoot a few weddings in 2010 and I'm looking forward to shooting a few more in 2011.

Also up in 2011 is a new website. I'm putting the finishing touches on it, so look for it very early in 2011. A website doesn't do much good if no one looks at it, so that's why I'm also planning on not slowing down with the networking. I'm loving it too much to stop, so hopefully I'll meet plenty of new people who I can send to my new website!

Finally, I'm planning on 2011 being a better year for business. Don't get me wrong, 2010 was a great year, but I have a feeling that when it's time to sit down and crunch the numbers for the year, I'll be pretty shocked at what I find. It's time to get more serious on the business side of things and start thinking about things like profit. Yes, I know... crazy idea, right? Well, maybe 2011 is the year things get a little crazy around here. I can't wait!

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year End Review - 2010 Favorite Photos

After a year of photographing everything from newborns to politicians, models to caramels, you'd think that the shoots would start to blend together.  That's actually not the case.  I still look back through the different shoots that I've done in 2010 and remember particular moments from each one.  There are also photos from each session that are my favorites.

The photos that I've collected here are just a few of my favorite photos that I've taken in 2010.  Some are my favorite because of a particular memory that they invoke while others are my favorite just because I love the photo.  Without further ado, here are my personal favorite photos of 2010:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Year End Review - 2010 Outtakes and Other Fun Photos - Part II: Models

Although some people aren't comfortable in front of a camera and require an extra loose environment for a relaxed photo session, models are usually very comfortable in front of a camera.  Of course, this can lead to more goofiness than normal.  Contrary to what many people may believe, most of the models I have worked with are very bright people with lots of personality.  They also like to have a good time...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Year End Review - 2010 Outtakes and Other Fun Photos - Part I: Families and Events

This is what happens when you photograph people you know.
Over the course of a year, after photographing so many families and individuals, it's always fun to look back and remember how much fun we had at each shoot.  Lots of people are intimidated when a camera is pointing at them, so I always try to make sure photo shoots are fun events, not serious affairs.  As evidence, I'd like to present the following photos:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Year End Review - CRAVE Denver Shoots

It all started with a post I saw on the Mile High Photographers' forum that said CRAVE Denver was looking for photographers to photograph local, women-owned businesses. After a bit of quick research, I liked what I had to read about CRAVE and sent off an email saying that I was interested in helping with the photography. Three months and 16 shoots later, I've worked with some amazing women, visited some awesome businesses that I never knew existed and expanded my network by leaps and bounds. Here are the wonderful women whom I've had the opportunity to work with and the Denver-area businesses that they own:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Year End Review - Fundraisers and Donations

If you're a reader of comic books (or have at least seen the movie Spider-Man), you're familiar with the quote: "With great power comes great responsibility."  I'm not sure if I'd say I have great power, but I do feel that, as someone who is able to help, I have a responsibility to help.

In the last year, I have donated my services to a variety of organizations in the Denver area.  From volunteering to photograph events to participating in fundraisers, giving back to the community has been a big part of 2010 for me.  Here are a few different ways that I've tried to give a little help this year:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Year End Review - 2010 Denver Event Photography

I don't typically post about the various events I photograph throughout the year, so I figured I'd give you quick summaries of a few of the more high profile events I've had the opportunity to shoot this year.

The White House Project event with Marie Wilson
The White House Project is an amazing, non-partisan organization who's goal is to create a pipeline of female leaders who participate in politics, from the local levels up to The White House. It was founded by Marie Wilson. Marie came to Denver earlier this year for an event in Cherry Creek. I was asked to photograph the event and had a great time hanging out with so many young, passionate people.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Year End Review - 2010 Weddings

Photographing a wedding has got to be one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as a photographer.  I’m not going to lie.  It’s a long, hard day of work.  You’ve got to be alert so that you don’t miss any special moments.  You’re on your feet, constantly moving, for 10 hours or more.  At the end of the day you’ve got thousands of photos to sort and process.  But when you get to sit back and look at those photos, it makes it all worthwhile.

Some of you might recall that I shot my first wedding this summer.  It was done, with some hesitation, for a friend.  After that first time, though, there is really no going back.  When I was done working on their photos, it felt so good to sit back and see all of the beautiful images that they would be able to enjoy for the rest of their lives.  Judging by their reaction (and that of their family and friends), they felt the same way.

Because I felt that I still needed some more experience before I took the plunge and started photographing weddings on my own, I got in touch with a local wedding photographer, Ken Miller, who has been photographing weddings for over 30 years  He graciously allowed me to shoot a few weddings with him.  This opportunity, combined with his experience, has been invaluable.

Thanks to Ken, I had the opportunity to shoot a Catholic wedding in a large church, a small, non-secular ceremony in a clubhouse and a Jewish wedding at sunset.  What a variety of weddings!  These experiences have given me so much experience and really made me realize what I didn’t know (and wasn’t prepared for) about shooting weddings.

Some of my favorite parts of shooting a wedding with Ken were the times when things slowed down a bit and we had a few minutes to talk.  Having been in the industry for over 30 years and shooting over 40 weddings a year, you can imagine that he’d have some pretty good stories to tell, which he does.  I could sit and talk to him all day and he’d wouldn’t run out of stories to tell.

Although I still have a long way to go before I have as much experience (or as many stories) as Ken does, I am feeling much more confident and passionate about shooting weddings.  I’m excited to start offering wedding photography packages for 2011.  I’m also excited for all of the people I’ve yet to meet and the moments I’ve yet to capture.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned with my very limited experience of photographing weddings, it’s that you never know when that special moment is going to unfold before your eyes.  Here are a few images from weddings that I was fortunate enough to photograph this year…

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Year End Review - 2010 Photographers

During the past year, I've had the opportunity and the pleasure to work with and learn from a variety of photographers. It's always nice to spend time with other photographers, not only because of all the tips and tricks that you pick up, but also because they're always ready to talk about cameras and photography.  They're usually a pretty good bunch of people, too! This outlet for geeking out about cameras saves Belinda from countless conversations like this one.

I want to publicly thank a handfull of photographers who I spent time with this past year. Whether it was in a classroom environment, at a photo shoot or over a beer, I've enjoyed the time I've spent with these colleagues:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Randomness - Conversation


Sometimes I try to have a conversation with Belinda that, before I ever open my mouth, I know will end up with Belinda thinking I am just a little bit crazier than she did before the conversation started. Take the other night for example. We were driving along and my mind started to wander to something that I had been thinking about the other day. I won't bore you with the details (like I did Belinda), but let's just say it involved apertures, shutter speeds, f-stops and math. Yeah, sounds like a great conversation, doesn't it?

They usually start out like this: "So, the other day I was thinking... wait, you remember the last time we talked about the relationship between apertures and shutter speeds, right? Kind of? OK, well..."

So, why do I start these conversations in the first place? I think I just want to get them out of my head. You know how when you say something out loud, like a person's name who you've just met, it's supposed to help you remember it? I think it's the same with these crazy conversations, but instead of helping me to remember, it helps me to think through any little details that I'm still not sure about. It also helps to run things by Belinda since she's super smart and isn't afraid to challenge my ideas (or just flat out tell me I'm wrong).

I think she's come to expect these kinds of things from me, because she actually gets into the conversations once in a while. While it would be really easy for her to just nod her head and say "Uh huh. Yeah. Sounds good to me. Good job figuring that out.", she doesn't! She asks questions, she gets clarification and she remembers what we talk about! Does this mean that she cares? Not necessarily. Does it mean she cares about me? Yes it does!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Adjust Your ISO - Better Photos... Now!

If you're shooting handheld in a low light situation and need more light, there are three things that you can do to get a proper exposure. First, drop your shutter speed as low as possible while still getting sharp photos. Second, open your aperture to let in more light. Finally, boost your ISO!

Raising the ISO on your camera makes the sensor more sensitive to light. Most cameras start at either ISO 100 or ISO 200 as their default. By increasing the ISO to 400, 800, 1600 and beyond, you increase your camera's ability to take photos in low-light conditions. This comes at a cost, though, as you'll also introduce more noise into your photos.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Year End Review

You might have noticed with yesterday's post, I'm moving into end-of-year mode. That means I'll be doing some posts focused on 2010 as a whole, not necessarily one particular shoot. Here's what's in store for the rest of December:

- Looking Back at 2010 and Forward to 2011
- 2010 Favorite Photos
- 2010 Fundraisers and Donations
- 2010 Photographers
- CRAVE Denver Shoots
- 2010 Event Photography
- 2010 Outtakes and Other Fun Photos
- 2011 Resolutions

If time permits, I might come up with a few more posts, but this should keep me pretty busy until the end of the year. Check back often!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - 2011 Sneak Preview

So, it looks like 2010 is about to wrap up and it sure is keeping me busy! I'm not sure I'll have time to write up any more gear reviews for Tech Tuesday until 2011, but that doesn't mean I can't tease you with a few of the items you'll get to read about. So, although you'll have to wait a few weeks, here's what you'll be reading about next year:

Lens Reviews - I plan on reviewing all of my lenses and doing some side-by-side comparisons to give you an idea of field of view and bokeh. A few lenses that will get reviewed are my Nikon 50mm f/1.4D, Nikon 12-24mm f/4 and Nikon 135mm f/2 AF-DC (DC stands for defocusing control).

Light Modifier Reviews - Ever wonder what the difference is between a softbox, a beauty dish and a plain reflector? I'll show you the difference, using as many different shapes and sizes as possible.

Nikon D7000 - I posted a sneak preview a few weeks ago, but I'm going to dive in and do a full review of this sweet little camera. Now that I've used it in a variety of shooting conditions, including the studio, I've got a lot more to say about it.

Sekonic L-358 Light Meter - I'm not sure how I haven't reviewed this yet, but I've come to love this light meter. I'll tell you why.

Rode VideoMic - I plan on getting very familiar with this microphone in the near future. I'll let your read, and hear, how it sounds and works with a DSLR recording video.

Yashica-D TLR - Uhhhh, wait a minute. Isn't this supposed to be about technology? About lust-worthy gear that just hit the stores? This camera is almost 50 years old. It shoots film. It's not auto-focus. It doesn't even meter light. Maybe, but it's pretty awesome. I'll tell you why.

There you go! I hope that gets you excited for Tech Tuesday in 2011. Sounds like I'd better get busy!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Manual Mode - Better Photos... Now!

Have you ever taken a photo, looked at it and wondered, "What was my camera thinking?" Instead of a photo that captures the glorious light that's falling on your subject, you get a photo in which everything is underexposed, except for the windshield of the car in the background, which is perfectly exposed. Contrary to popular belief, DSLRs are not that smart and can easily be fooled by a variety of lighting conditions. Fortunately, with a little practice and common sense, you can take great photos without relying on your camera to figure out the exposure.

When you set your camera to aperture priority or shutter priority mode, your camera is still calling the shots when it comes to deciding the proper exposure. By setting your camera to manual mode, you take complete control over the exposure of your photos. Be forewarned: With great power comes great responsibility. If you're not careful, you'll have lots of under or over-exposed photos. If you change lighting conditions, like walking from indoors to outdoors, you need to change your settings. Be aware of your surroundings, though, and you'll be rewarded with consistent exposures and more creative control than you ever imagined possible!

To get started shooting in manual mode, set your camera to that big, intimidating M. Now you're in control of the aperture and shutter speed. Remember, your aperture controls the amount of light that enters your camera while shutter speed controls how long your sensor is exposed to that light. If your photo is under-exposed, you can either decrease your shutter speed or use a larger aperture (smaller f/number). If your photo is over-exposed, you can either increase your shutter speed or use a smaller aperture (larger f/number).

Now that you're in manual mode, how are you going to take better photos than your camera? Let's say you're standing on the street and your subject is standing on the sidewalk in some beautiful light. Unfortunately, that light is also glaring off of a car windshield behind your subject and is tricking your camera's meter. You take a photo and notice that it is under-exposed. No problem! Just decrease the shutter speed to let in more light. Sure, the windshield is going to blown out and over-exposed, but now your subject will be properly exposed. If you were using aperture or shutter-priority mode, changing the aperture or shutter speed would still give you an under-exposed image, because as far as the camera is concerned the scene hasn't changed. Using manual mode, you override the camera's judgement and get the exposure you want!

Here are a few examples of shooting in manual mode versus shooting in aperture priority mode.  These are for demonstration purposes only, as they were test shots while I was setting my exposure.

The photo on the left was taken in aperture priority mode at f/4.  Because of the bright background, the camera thought it should be exposed for 1/800 of a second, which produces an underexposed image.  I switched to manual mode, set my camera to f/3.2 and 1/200 of a second, which gives the image on the right.  The background is blown out (the camera tried to tell me!), but I'm not shooting the background, I'm shooting the boy!

Although the photo on the right is nothing to write home about, with a little curves adjustment, we get something like you see below, which was taken at the exact same settings just a few seconds after the above photo on the right!

Now, go forth with your cameras set to M!

Read all of my DSLR tips here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lindsay and Bob - Senior and Practice Engagement Photos

Shortly after doing a photo shoot in October of 2009, I received a message on Facebook. It read something like "I got your name from some friends and wanted to know if you could photograph my wedding in July 2011?". After explaining that I'd never shot a wedding before, the response was "I don't really mind that you haven't done a wedding before... I feel it's one of those "pay it forward" things. If I don't take a chance on someone, who knows if or when someone will."

I want to thank Lindsay for taking a chance on me. It's been over a year since that first message and we have developed quite a relationship. Although we've only met twice (once to discuss the wedding and once for this photo shoot), I feel like we've known each other a lot longer. That level of comfort helped to make this shoot a whole lot of fun and a lot easier, since I was just meeting Lindsay's fiancée, Bob, for the first time.

Lindsay and Bob are high school sweethearts. I got to hear some great stories about sledding, bears and broken noses (all different stories, if you can believe it), as well as getting to see how perfect they are for each other. Although we're planning an official engagement shoot sometime in early 2011, we thought we'd get in a little practice while we had the chance, so after a relaxing lunch we headed out to CSU's campus for some photos.

When two people have known each other for quite a while, it's kind of magical. Their hands and their bodies know how they best fit together. Their conversations calm and relax each other. Their subtle glances between shots bring true smiles and a twinkle to the eye. Just don't ask them to gaze at each other.

Apparently, Lindsay and Bob don't spend much time "gazing" at each other, because when I asked them to gaze into each others eyes, it lasted a whole 2 seconds before they started cracking up with laughter! I told them to practice their gazing before their engagement session, but when I talked to Lindsay the next week and jokingly asked her how their gazing practice was going, she said they tried it in a restaurant and caused a scene. Maybe we'll nix the gazing photos.

Lindsay will be graduating from CSU this December, at which point I'm pretty sure she will be diving into wedding planning mode until July. While she's still a college student, though, we wanted to get some photos of her on campus. Bob took off and left us to capture Lindsay the College Student. We strolled around campus, ducking into buildings to get warm and snapping photos between snow flurries. When the weather really started to take a turn for the worse, we decided to call it a day.

After spending an afternoon with Lindsay and Bob, I can honestly say that I can't wait for their engagement photo session. Even more, I can't wait for their wedding day! What started as a quick message on Facebook has turned into a wonderful relationship. Lindsay and Bob, I'm so happy for you and am looking forward to many more lunches, conversations and photo shoots with the two of you!