Monday, October 28, 2013

Backing Up With Carbonite

I have come up to my 18th post, and my 1st product review! The product I am going to review ties in with my previous blog about backing up your computer. There are already tons of reviews on how to backup with Windows Backup or the Mac Time machine, so I will just cover the software I use. My choice of cloud storage and online backup; Carbonite. 

I spent many months researching online storage, doing a trial if they allowed me. Anything that didn't offer a trial I simply skipped over. These days, the best products normally have a free trial time and online storage and backups are no different. After months of comparing prices, storage size, and backup capability I ended up with Carbonite.

Overall, this is a very simple set-up and forget backup solution. To use Carbonite you must install the software used to do their backups. The program that is installed is Carbonite InfoCenter, and is the main way you will interact with it (yes there are others, which will be covered later). The installation and initial setup took under 5 minutes, and you then get to the main screen:

As you can see from the main screen, it is currently backed up 85k+ files totaling in 567GB (0.5TB) in size. It also shows that it is currently backing up 873 files that are 157 GB of total size. There is also an easy switch to turn on or off the backups. You are also constantly able to see how long your subscription lasts in the top right corner of the program.

The next screen I am going to cover is the settings screen:

Here is where you are able to control, as a "master" setting, what is being backed up and how how often. On the right of the screen you can see what it automatically backs up; Desktop, Documents, Music, Pictures, and other files that you have created.  You are also able to right-click on any file, or folder, and tell Carbonite to back it up. 

The next screen is the bread and butter of the program, the Restore. 

This is going to be the overall window that you will be using with the program as this is the section you are able to restore your files. You have three options; search, browse, and full system restore. 

Search and Restore:

This is the main screen of the search and restore section. You can simply type in the name of the file you wish to restore, explore recently deleted files, or explore previous version of files. Overall, this is very simple of running a search on your computer. For example, If i wanted to recover one of my panorama photos I could simply search for Pano:

There are many results as I have had many different versions, and for this demo I actually deleted some of the files prior to the screenshots. The files in red are those, and it shows that I have a few months to restore them if I want before Carbonite deletes it from their servers. 

Browse Your Backup:

As you can see, this view is very similar to you navigating through your computer. You would navigate to where the file was located, and you will then be able to right-click on it and either choose to restore it (puts it back to the same location) or restore it to a different location.

The last screen is exactly what it sounds, it restores all your files. 

You are also able to access your files on your phone via a free app as well as from a web browser. This allows you to download files to your phone or share images via a private link you control. This didn't sway for or against the product, but it is a nice plus to have.

Lastly, they do have some pretty good videos and how to's on their site. This software is very simple, does exactly what it says. It did take about a week and a half to backup my whole computer initially, but only took 3 minutes to restore a 5GB folder of files.  I also have an unlimited storage limit and the price is very low for this.

Make sure you look at the difference between the plans and think about what it offers. Is the extra 40-60 dollars worth the courier service? If your computer goes down, can you wait days without your computer or do you want them to ship you the recovery?  

Want to check it out, here is a link that will benefit you as well as me (refer a friend link, and we both get something out of it). 

Check out Carbonite

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Backing It Up....Your Files

**Warning, Long Blog Ahead**

Photographs, accounting files, other documents, bookmarks, favorites, and saved game files. What would happen if you lost everything right this very moment? What would it do to you personally and financially if your computer was stolen, or if the hard drive failed?

These were the questions I was asking myself when I took my first wedding gig. What would happen if my computer would crash while I was editing the photos? Could I financially handle this type of a loss? What is the cost of getting a backup? Should I have multiple back-ups, onsite and offsite? How do I get started?

Well this blog is going to help you understand the importance of backing up your computer and/or your personal files.

Step 1:

Understanding what a backup is. Generally, backups have only two purposes. Recover data from accidental happenings (example: deleting the wrong file), or if your hard drive becomes corrupt, and the other is to recover data from a point earlier in time (example: if you made changes to a document and you clicked save, you could go back before the change).  Another thing to understand, backups generally (some can) do not restore your complete computer (such as the Operating system and program files) functionality.

Be sure you understand the language of your backup software. Backups that can fully restore your computer tend to reference this backup as a "Drive Image Backup". If the software only states it does file backups, assume it will only save your files and not the Operating System or programs on the computer. This also affect how much storage is needed for backups; Drive Image backups will result in much larger storage needs.

Step Two:

Understand the storage needs. The most important thing about a backup, is making sure you have the room to store them. If you plan on just doing file backups, not a Drive Image Backup, you can simply right click on the folder where the files are located and add up all of the file sizes. You can also select multiple folders by using pressing ctrl prior to each click, then right click on any of the folders and go to properties. It will give you the total amount of memory it is using.

Step Three:

Decide on storage location(s). This is almost as important as step two, as you can have all the space in the world but if you can't access the backups what good are they? You also need to decide are you going to have multiple locations of your backups and if you are going to have them offsite (different location than your computer, such as not being at your home or office). Generally, I support having both onsite and offsite backups. Online backup solutions are so inexpensive and so are onsite. Also, for onsite storage do you want to use an external hard drive? **Please note, backing up to a different partition is not the same as backing up to a different drive. If you partition a drive into four partitions (think of cutting a pie into 4 pieces), and your hard drive fails (think of your pie being thrown against the wall) all of the partitions will most likely fail with it. So you will want to save your backups to a different hard drive.  You can buy cheap internal hard drives that are easy to install in majority of your computers, use an external hard drive (though the writing speeds are normally slower) that connects directly to the computer, or use a Network Access Storage Device (NAS) that connects to your switch. Then there is also the cloud storage.

Internal Hard drive - You can normally take an old hard drive from one of your older computers and put it into your current computer. You can then use that specifically for backup purposes. Or you can purchase them new for around $65 for 1TB of storage.

External Hard Drives - For simplicity of this, you can purchase external drives for around $85 for 1TB of storage. If you have USB 3 ports on your computer, be sure to get a external drive that supports it. It will reduce your backup/restore time dramatically.

NAS- This is a bit more advanced than the other, and another huge area. For simplicity, they are generally the same as an External hard drive that connect to your switch via an ethernet cable. These generally cost $100 for 1TB of storage

Cloud (internet storage) - There are hundreds of companies that offer online storage, search around or read my blog about Carbonite (which is what I currently recommend for cloud storage).

Step Four:

Decide on your software(s). There are literally millions of titles out on the market to backup your files and computer as a whole. The price ranges can go from free-hundreds (some thousands) of dollars, depending on what you want to do.

In both operating systems, Mac and Windows, have built in back-up software. These are very basic, but very effective backup options. In Windows 7 it is called, "Back Up and Restore" and in Mac (Snow Leopard and up) it is called "Time Machine".

I personally use the Back Up and Restore along with Carbonite.

Step Five:

Put your backup plan into action.

Now that you have your files backed up, don't assume everything is good. Test your backups before trusting them. Understand how to use them before you actually need them. To do this, simply move one of your folders to another location and attempt to restore it. This way if the backups aren't working correctly, you didn't actually lose anything since you can just move the folder back.

My Current Backup set-up:

Currently, My computer is set to run backups every Tuesday and Friday with the windows backup utility. These backups are then saved on my second internal hard drive. Then on Saturday, windows backup utility backs up my second internal hard drive and saves that backup to a third internal hard drive. So, within my finger tips I have 3 locations of where the file can be found; My main hard drive, backups on the second hard drive, and a backup of the backup on my third drive.

I then use Carbonite as my off-site backups. Because the drives are all located in my apartment, you have to think of the worse. If my apartment would catch on fire, most likely all three drives are going to be worthless. To resolve that, I currently have Carbonite backing up all of my files, ALONG WITH doing a Drive Image Backup (or a mirror backup). Because of the way Carbonite works, with my Window Backups, I have 100% certainty that for over 1 month all of my files are safe and fully recoverable. I will be writing a review on Carbonite shortly.

The amount of data that I am backing up; 370 GB or .3TB of information. This does not include my operating system or program files.

Use this this link to Carbonite.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Photographs - Why Do I Always Have to Crop?!

In the last few weeks I have done a few senior portrait sessions. One thing that I had to explain, or will probably end up needing to explain why my photographs aren't the same as you taking in your photos to Wal-mart or Walgreens. This may end up confusing you more, but I hope this answers a few questions.

In school you always here "You're going to use this in every day life, you should learn how to do it!". I am finally finding out that depending on your field this may, or may not, be true. In photography, math is becoming a huge factor once I started getting into the mechanics of photography. While math is important on determining the print... Printing a photo, actually starts with the camera.

To explain why the photos I take are recommended to print in the 2:3 aspect (8"x12"), we need to actually look at my camera and more specifically the sensor of the camera. The camera actually takes the image in the 2:3 ratio, so when I am lining up the shot I am using all the space. If I know the image is going to be used for an 8x10, I actually have to picture the squares in my head when I take the pictures and then crop the image to that format.

Cropped 4:5 Ratio (8x10)
Not Cropped 2:3 ratio (8x12)
Cropped 4:3 Ratio (9x12)

As you can see from the two images, you lose a lot of the picture in the cropped 4:5 Ratio compared to what was being shot in the camera. I personally do not like to crop my images unless it is absolutely required, meaning my lens wasn't long enough and need to crop into the subject. I try to do all of my work in the camera so I don't have to spend so long cropping and editing later. My goal in the above shot was to show how alert the bird was, in the cropped version it just isn't seen. It looses my goal of the image. Yes, I will agree I like how the eye looks better in the cropped version but It doesn't tell the story that I wanted to tell.

This is the same to the other photographs that I sell on my site, portraits, and other images that I have printed. To me cropping an image changes the story that I was telling, in reality you are changing the art. 

So what really comes down to is that the cameras are really built to take images in the 2:3 ration, but the print that majority everyone wants is a 4:5 ratio (8"x10") or a 4.25:5.5 ratio (8.5"x11").

If you ever come across this, I would recommend printing it in the true ratio and get your print with a border. You can hide this border with a frame or mounting it. This way you get the full image and story, instead of just a piece of it. When you take them into Wal-Mart or Walgreens, they are actually cropping the image for you. I'm betting if you look at the negatives, or the actual image on your memory card, the print isn't the full image you took.

The drawback of getting 3:2 ratio prints? Hard to find frames for them. Luckily, the internet can help that out these days and can be remedied by browsing for frames for a few minutes.

Actually printing photos have more math in them beyond just the ratios that I did not cover, such as pixels per inch and/or dots per inch (there is a war between those PPI and DPI). What resolution the photo needs to be in order to get a 'good print'. And the information keeps going on an on for when you want to determine if that image can be printed at a 20"x30" size.

If you have any questions about printing, please feel free to send me a message over facebook:
Twitter: @SteveSFoto
or the comments below and I will be sure to answer them in the next blog or over the FB page. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Explaining the Cost of a Photograph

Recently, I have been asked why I can offer my prints for so much less than many other photographers but my limited edition print costs so much more. I'm hoping this blog can iron out some those questions and help you understand the price of a picture or photograph.

In photography, the photograph is a product of the photographer. This product came to be with the cost of equipment, travel expenses, licenses, permits, time, and the actual cost of printing it. Not all photographers use the same equipment, travel around the world or print their photos themselves. Because of that, their price reflect what they invest in their photos.

Starting off with equipment this is the biggest investments a photographer will spend their profits and their own money in. Prior to starting to charge for my photos, I had already spent over $3,000...that's right over $3,000 in equipment. I started with a basic camera body, but I learned that buy the best glass you can afford. You can take the most expensive camera body and put on cheap glass (camera lens) and your photos wont be as good as if you reverse the scenario; cheap body with high quality glass you will actually get better photos. Over time I learned why tripods costs so much after the cheaper ones wouldn't even hold my camera because of the weight. I'm not saying that photos are only as good as your equipment, but you can't sell a picture if it's not sharp. Some wedding photographers charge $4k or more, but they can offer so many more options than what I can. For example, if the church doesn't allow flash photography I wouldn't have any options but to not use flash. Those who charge more may have options such as setting up equipment to increase the lighting in the church which would get around the no flash rule and therefor resulting in better photos.

I don't plan on doing portrait and event photography forever, my main goal is to become a nature and landscape photographer. For me to get these landscape and nature shots, I need to travel. Hotels, gas, oil changes costs add up quickly. My trip to South Carolina would have been pretty expensive if I went there just to get a few shots. I was lucky enough that my lifestyle already had traveling in it to help reduce these costs. Wisconsin also has great locations for what I like to take pictures of, so that also works out. However, I also want to be able to go on a cruise to Alaska and get less common photographs than what someone would normally see.

Permits and licenses are another factor when taking photographs. This includes a permit to shoot on private land such as in a Zoo or private establishment (example: Some cities require you to purchase a photographer's license just to be able to professional shoot within their city limits (Milwaukee for example is $100, We aren't able to just walk in, set-up our equipment, snap some shots, and sell them. Like us with photo rights, private establishments have their own rights on who can come in and use their property for commercial use. Mainly, if you disrupt the flow of traffic on a sidewalk or walkway you will most likely need a permit.

Time. Like any job a photographer is paid just for using his time for the photo. With me, I don't live off of my photography. I actually use any and all profits to purchase and upgrade my photography equipment and website. How does a photographer figure out how much to charge? I go off of a few variables: Are you going to order prints from me, is the photo session/event only for a few hours, is it an all day event, is it on a Sunday? I also want everyone to be able to have at least one photo taken of them that they can be happy about. If you can only afford 35 dollars for a photo session, you can only expect me to give you so much time, use so much of my equipment, and offer you limited options. If you can afford 800 dollars for me to shoot an event, you can expect me to work my ass off the whole time. You can expect I will take time on photos to ensure they have the perfect color settings, exposure, crop, and other edits. You can expect me to offer you a discount on photo orders.

Cost of Printing. I don't print my photos at home, I don't have the cash to purchase a professional printer (those are about 800 now). I don't want to be in charge of printing, packaging, and shipping. Because of this, I use my website to do all of that for me. Because of that, they take a % out of the sale and I have a yearly fee for them to host my site. So when I came up with my pricing I had to figure out how much did I want to make on each photo I sold, how much it costs the photo to make, and how much of that I was going to pay to my web host. I believe I have found myself a great price for me and for you.

Limited Edition. So why is my limited edition print so expensive? First lets define what a limited edition photo is; A limited edition is normally hand signed and numbered by the artist, here is also a specified amount of prints that will be available, and once these specified amount of prints are exhausted it will no longer be printed.

So I will use my "Layers of Love" as an example. I first decided what I wanted it printed on. I found out that aluminium printing is a bit expensive, but the prints are waterproof. It is also done with recycled material and offers more detail than traditional printing mediums (canvas or paper). Because of these factors, I decided to go with this medium. I then decided on print sizes. I though this photo would look great down a hallway, so I picked 8x12. I also thought it would look good in a larger room so I decided to go with 16” x 24”. I also felt that there may be a few people out there that would want it larger than life, so I also chose 24” x 36”. Now to make this limited edition, I have to choose how many prints I want to offer. I figured a small number would be best so I decided on 25 and 25 for the first two sizes. On the last one, after finding how much it costs just to have it printed I decided to keep that at a very low number of 3. Now, the pricing of these photos. First is the cost of the printing was taken, added to the half day of shooting I did to get this shot, and then the profit estimate. I needed to determine a number that was fair to me, but worthwhile to still purchase. Once these 53 prints are sold, I can no longer print this photo which then makes it worthless to me. So I put a price on the photo; If someone asked me how much for me to buy the copyright of that photo, how much would that be. After I researched online on what a shot could go for, I divided that by 53 and added the total of the Cost and Time.

A picture of "Layers of Love" being displayed still wrapped from shipping
I've been asked, what if I print beyond the 53 photos? I technically can be sued. I am actually lowering the value of your print because it is no longer as limited as it previously was believed to be. So there is many reasons why I would not want to print beyond the specified amount of prints. By giving certificates, which I actually do print myself, it has very specific information about the print and print series to ensure that this is in fact a limited edition print.

Future limited editions. I also plan on keeping my limited editions to a very few. I decided that at the very most I will have one new limited edition each year. I want these photos to be my very top photos, so those who own the photos have even a higher appreciation of the photograph beyond just looking at it. I want them to be happy with their investment. By doing this, I am hoping that this will only increase the value in my limited edition prints.

So I hope this helps you understand why a photographer charges what they charge.

Also check out my website for photographs you can order:

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Wedding: Photographers' Aftermath

First, congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Dave Nelson! Again, thank you for allowing me (and talking me into) photographing your wedding. This has opened my eyes to event photography and what I thought was simple to a field of high respect.

So what I hope to cover in this blog is what my thought process was, how I was feeling, and what I did to get shots that I got. I just wrapped up my first edit through of all the photos (a bit over 500 total) and will be looking through them one more time before uploading them for them to see.

My equipment list:

  • Nikon D7000 + Grip
  • Tamron 20-70mm 2.8
  • Nikon 55mm 2.8 Macro
  • Tamron 70-300mm 
  • Battery charger for the car/wall
  • SB-700
  • 20 AA battries (for flash)
  • Two batteries for camera (one in camera one in grip)
  • Lens Pen
  • Lens Air Blower
  • Lint free cloths
  • Four 32gb Scandisk SD cards
  • Business cards
  • Body Strap (quick purchase from Best Buy on the way out to the church)
  • Large shoulder bag to carry this all

1/200 sec at f / 2.8, ISO 800, 36mm

I started out at the Brides parent's house (about 15 mins from the church), and at the same time my friend that I hired to be the 2nd photographer went to a hotel where the guys where getting ready (which I just got the photos he took late 7/28 evening). All of the girls had their make-up and hair done, and where just finishing up what looked to be lunch. So right away I started to shoot detail shots instead of getting shots of them putting food in their mouths. I started out with the dress, the flowers, and jewelry. While doing this I would keep a close eye on the bride, and her parents, hoping to catch those candid shots. This hour and a half went by very fast and I ended up taking just over 100 pictures in that time. I wanted to use natural light and not a flash because I wanted them to look at the photos and it spark a memory of this is what it looked like in the room they where in, instead of seeing a fake light or an unnatural bright room that doesn't exist in the house. All of the shots at the house were taken with the 20-70mm lens. Some of the detail shots were taken with the macro lens.

One of the things I was concerned is giving the ladies the privacy while they where getting ready, while at the same time catching candid photos. I knew this was one drawback of being a male photographer photographing the ladies getting ready. I started getting better pictures when I started to talk with everyone, instead of hiding against the wall. Everyone seemed to shake of their nerves about the camera following them around.

They started to load up the truck to head to the church, I felt this was the best time to pack up myself and get to the church and meet-up with the other photographer to get some empty church shots and get photos of people walking in. I felt these shots were important as both the bride and groom would be tucked away in a room and wont get to see much of these events. I also coordinated how I would like the wedding shot with the other photographer; I would shoot the party walking down from the floor and he would catch candid's throughout the wedding and covering a few shots in case I miss focus or exposure, or in case his angle would better since he would be on the balcony. I found this part of the day the most strenuous and it wasn't because of the precise moments that needed to be recorded, but the amount of squatting and moving that I had to do. Even though I was comfortable walking in front of someone else to get the shot I was looking for, I didn't want to ruin their own experience by standing in front of them. I took my shot and moved out of the way, I tried not to spend more than a few seconds when I was in front of people sitting.
1/10 sec at f / 3.2, ISO 400, 24 mm

The above picture I asked if they could scoot in so I could set next to them. They smiled and slid down so I could sit and after the shot I said thanks and continued to crouch and walk through the church. With the wedding kiss coming up, I took a spot in the middle aisle so I could be directly in line with them. To make the angle interesting, I lined just right of the cross on the back wall and put the couple to the left of it. Once I got the shot I wanted, I moved out of the way so others could have a clear shot with their cameras.

At this point, I thought the hard part was over. I was pleased with the shots I got so far and I was relieved that the important shots were done.....I was wrong. The hardest part was the posed shots after the wedding with family and the bridal party.

One of the photos was a group shots of all of the members that were married in the same church as the newly weds. This was when I first got hit by a wow factor of the history this family has. I was in a slight rush to get this shot done so I could clear out the church a bit for other photos. This was the moment I realized that these photos were more important than any of the shots taken during the wedding. These were photographs that recorded not only this moment during their wedding day, but as a recording of history for them to have and to share down with future members. This also made me realize that these photos needed to be perfect and that these photos are what everyone are going to be looking for. I also started to use flash at this time to help me get a quicker shutter speed as the first few shots were blurry do to movement for those that were standing. Primary reason for the slower shutter speed as I had to increase my aperture to make sure everyone was in focus.

Once this was done I then took a few more shots of just of the newly weds, which I had ideas when I visit the previous week. These shots went quick and got them out of the church and let them have time alone before they had to go to the reception. This was a perfect time for me to stretch out and take a look around the reception area as I haven't been there yet. This was only 15 minutes from the church and was a nice ride. The reception was at a museum which they rented out for the evening. Visitors had free reign of it and as long as I didn't use flash I had permission to take pictures for the wedding in it.  I also was able to get some detail shots of the set-up while nobody was in the area.

At this point I've been standing for about 4 hours (only 30 minutes were sitting, while driving from and to locations). I was super thirsty because of the heat of the church and my legs were cramping, so I quickly got some shots and started to slowly hydrate with the water fountain inside the museum. I also had to watch the time as I wanted to get a picture of the couple driving up to the museum (I told them to call me or text me when they were about to pull up). I was also able to introduce myself to the DJ and the dinner coordinator during this time and give them my business card. When I got the text, I went up to the front and was able to get 5 minutes of sit time on the bench and once they pulled up there was no more sitting until dinner was served (2 hours from then). From this point, it was very fun for me. This was my favorite part of the evening was capturing the candid moments. Moments the couple wouldn't see, moments of family and friends laughing and smiling, moments of tears over the happy moments, and of just everyone dancing and having fun.

I didn't realize this until he sun started to go down that I was actually very lucky! The canvas that was used, that everyone sat under for the reception, was white. I was able to use it as one huge reflector umbrella and was able to fill up the whole area with my SB-700. This was perfect as I was able to shoot well into the night. One of the other things, that I was hoping they wouldn't get with another photographer, is I was able to talk to the ranger to do some photos in the back of the car. Was some of my last shots of the night and they are really neat. While walking back inside from the car, they instantly held hands while walking down back to the museum. I instantly saw the last photo of the night, and to me represented them ending the night together walking away together.

1/80 sec at f / 2.8, ISO 3200, 48mm

I left shortly after and got home. I right away got the images copied over to the computer and ran a backup. I also then took the other memory card (I had my camera set to shoot duplicates on the second memory card) and put it into a fireproof safe. I also edited three images for the Bride right away so she could share them right away and use them for Facebook. I didn't only do this for her, but for her to post images of what I took so everyone can see what type of photos I will have compared to those who uploaded via their phones. I wanted them to be eager to see my photos before printing their own photos, hoping they would order mine instead. I did realize, however, that I forgot to put my watermark on those images since I was in a rush. However, I did get a few messages through FB asking when they would be up ready to see. I told them my goal is to have them up by August 3rd or shortly after.

At this point it looks like I should be delivering over 500 photos, and because of some of the things that happened (certain stains on clothes) I actually touched each photo to make sure things were perfect. This was something I didn't expect to do but since I love editing photos was fun to do. It added a good chunk of time I didn't expect to do, so make sure you take that into consideration if you decide to photograph a wedding. It took me about a total of 24 hours to edit these photos and since I just got another 100+ from the other photographer I expect to spend another 6 hours. that would be a total of 40 hours spent for this wedding. So when you are attempting to price out a wedding, this one took me a work week of time. When you put this on top of another full time job, it was very wake, work, sleep type of week. So for those who are reading this that wonder why a photographer charges what they do, I hope this helps you understand their prices. For those that read this to that are looking into wedding photography, I hope this helps you to pick a worthwhile price for you.

Overall, I'm 99% happy with the results of this event. There's a few shots that I thought I had, that ended up being blurry when I looked on the computer. Once of them was a request photo from the Bride's parents of them standing in front of a section in the museum that has history with their family. Beyond that one photo and a few candid's that didn't turn out that I thought they did, I think they will enjoy the photos greatly.

Photo taken by: Curtis Gibeaut Jr. 

At the end of the day, I only ended up using one battery and one bar out of the second. I used half of the battery power in the SB-700 and had about 400 shots left on the first set of memory cards. I didn't drive any shot, though I did shoot it a drive setting which I changed the FPS to 3 instead of the full 6. The only time I drove my shots was during the cutting of the cake in which she stuffed cake into his face. All other shots I waited for the shot and took it, and I don't think I missed anything because of this. A few shots where blurry because I didn't watch my shutter speed but I think this is why my first wedding turned out so well. I pictured the shot in my head, composed my shot, and waited for the moment to happen. If it didn't I moved to the next shot.

Feel free to visit my website at: to view my gallery (not of the wedding photos as the rest are being kept private for the families to share). Also, please visit and like my facebook page:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Event Photography: Jumping Right Into a Wedding

So I am now, eleven months (almost to the day), of when I started to look into selling my photos and services to pay for my photography addiction. With a lot of research, lots of pricing comparison, and getting a feel to my style of photography, I have finally reached a comfortable zone to start doing events! I was hoping to get a few other events in before I did a wedding, but a friend decided to come to me to do record her wedding.

When she messaged me I was actually pretty excited, I mean someone actually reached out for me and asking me to do something as important as recording one of her most important days in her life; her wedding. I actually ended up saying no to her a few times and explained that I really only did landscape and nature photography. She said she understood that this would be something new for me but she really did like my photography and would really like me to shoot her wedding. After clarifying this, and understanding I would also do this as an official business transaction, I finally agreed to do it!

She actually had asked me back in February, and it gave me a lot of time to hone my indoor photography as well as research wedding photography. I was amazed on how much was out there for free! Youtube became a great learning pool of video after video, actually able to see how other photographers prepped and shot for a wedding. I then realized it wasn't much different than nature photography! When I shoot nature, I actually setup my composition for a landscape. I then wait for an animal to jump into it making a great story out of the picture. Otherwise, they were just candid photos of the birds flying or the animal running around. That isn't to different than a wedding if you look at it closely. The only difference: light, time, and space.

Light in the church, or at high hours of the day, or weather can all affect how you can shoot. How fast your shutter speed is and location become the biggest puzzle of this event. How fast can your shutter get in this low light while keeping your ISO low enough to get the best quality photo? How do you fit everyone into the photo? Where can you fit everyone into the photo? How much time do you have in the church after the wedding happens?

I only saw a few photographers recommend checking out the location before the wedding day if possible. This allows you to feel the area, take your time, and work with those in charger of the church prior to the wedding. This actually worked for me, as I went a week before the wedding and took a look around with the couple (which happened to already be there when I went). We were able to point out a few spots to take photos after the wedding, point out where people where going to be, and I was able to get some sample shots to determine what the light would be.
Exposure +.5 (ISO 800, 1/80, f / 2.8)
No other edits were done. Lens correction would fix the "everything falling away" feeling

I set up in the back of the church, put it into aperture priority and set my camera to be wide open at 2.8 (didn't worry about composition). From this point I adjusted my ISO (I do not use auto-ISO) until I got to a shutters peed of 1/80.  I then took a look at the histogram and saw it was a tad bit underexposed and put it up a half step and it was spot on. As you can see in this picture, the lights were not on so if it is cloudy the day of the wedding it should be close to this with the lights on and no light coming in from the windows. One challenge I have: available light only. Meaning, I cannot use flash inside the church. This was important me to find out before the wedding in case I needed to rent a different camera body than what I already own. I do not as I have a Nikon D7000 and I can take great photos up to 1600 and grain/noise just starts to appear here. If I go black and white photos I can bump the ISO up to 3200 with no problem. So I am very comfortable with my equipment at this point. 

Beyond the posed shots after the wedding the rest of the event are candid and detail shots which I love to do. I have already set up their online gallery on my Smugmug site, password protected it, and I printed off 50 business cards that have their URL to their gallery and password for them to hand out at their wedding/reception. One other thing I did to prep for this event, is I made a photo checklist to help me get all desired photos. They are not promises, but I will be looking at this checklist to make sure I can get as many as possible. So when we are doing posed shots, I can get a few shots off and if we are wondering what is next I can pop the list out and keep the flow rolling. I also had the bride and groom enter in some of their own items to the list as well. Such as key names and shots they would like that I wouldn't have normally done. Example: They would like all couples in one photo that have been married at this church. I would have never of thought of recommending that one!

One of the last things I did, is I looked at photography insurance. This is something I would recommend anyone who could not afford replacing their camera if it was damaged. Mine is about 500 a year, and covers just about everything with a 500 deductible. No matter what of my camera equipment is broke, it's cheaper for the deductible than to buy the equipment again.

Keep an eye on my blog as I will follow up with this Sunday if I have time, or early next week. The wedding is this Saturday (only two days!). Let me know if you have any questions. Comment here or on my FB page:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Because of my father

I wasn't going to blog about today's photos I did when I visit Frame Park in Waukesha, however, I realized today that my nature photos are because of him. Not in the traditional sense of him showing me how to use a camera, but he showed me how to hunt.

Today I realized that taking my nature photos wasn't something that naturally came to me, but was passed down from my father. He taught me the fundamentals of hunting and patients which allowed me to get my shots today. I realized this when I saw a family of ducks swimming around the edge of the water, and when I tried to walk up on them I scared them away. I then thought, when we go hunting we scare all the animals when we walk out to our spot. What if I just set my stuff up here and just wait. My reward was some great shots, and something I can show my father I am grateful for because of what he taught me.

My first shot is what I was rewarded with after waiting in one spot for over an hour. I was hoping their nest was near by and that I simply just scared them away, and with their nest near by they would come back. As you can see from this shot, they did.

I was able to shoot these ducklings from only 15 yards (about 13.5 meters), and was able to do so for about 30 minutes! As long as I only moved my camera on my tripod they didn't seem to care I was there. Whenever someone would walk up to me to see what I was taking pictures of, they would swim away quickly. They would then apologize for scaring the birds away and would walk away, and no more than a minute later they would come back.

The ducklings got even closer when their mom swam around the bushes and was out of site.  I couldn't believe how close they got. They where less than 10 yards (9 meters) away! I checked my exposure when I took this picture as the sun popped out of the clouds and I was very pleased with this picture. I did wish I zoomed out slightly more to get his tail in foot in the picture, but I still love this shot.

My last shot was when they started to swim away, and I felt I had enough duck pictures. I made sure in this picture that I would have full body and feet in the shot. It almost seemed he was looking back to make sure I got the shot (the rest of the family was eagerly swimming away).

Because of my father, I had the patience to sit in the bushes like a weirdo and get these great shots of the ducklings.

Happy Father's Day to my dad, all the other dads, and to all the moms who also need to play dad. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Photowalks: What are they, who are they for, and what do you bring?

I have been attempting to get into a photowalk for a few months now, but they always ended up to be on a day I couldn't make it (sick, out of town, vacation). Finally, I was able to make one yesterday in downtown Milwaukee.

So what you may be asking yourself, what is a photowalk? It is exactly what it sounds like,  you walk around and take photos. However, the fun of this is you are walking around with a group. If you are lucky, you wont know anyone there and you get to network with other photo hobbyist or even professional photographers. The next thing you are asking yourself; how do I know I can join the photowalk? Majority of the time, EVERYONE is invited. You don't even need to take pictures, you can walk around the group and just learn things. Look how they set-up their equipment, how they handle their camera, or how they get the angles in their photos.

Another great aspect of a photowalk is that you never know what is going to happen or what you are going to see. The walk that happened yesterday was a prime example! So what do you bring to a photowalk? Well, photowalks can have a predefined goal. Such as landscapes, so you probably wouldn't want to pack a 500mm telephoto lens. These walks are to help you grow in your photography, so bring what you would like. Yesterday, it was only stated to bring a tripod since it was a night photography walk.

I didn't know how long this photowalk was going to be, so I left my camera grip with extra battery attached, I knew I could shoot for well over 3 hours with that on. I also brought two 16gb memory cards, as I wasn't sure how many shots I wanted to take (also is great in case one card goes bad). I decided prior to the walk, that I primarily only wanted to shoot with my 20-70mm 2.8 tamron lens. I also brought my 70-300mm with macro capibility in case there was a macro opportunity or I absolutely needed the zoom. I also brought some lens cleaning cloths, my air blower, and some granola bars (in case I got hungry). I will also put an exact list at the end of this blog of items that I brought.

1/20 sec at f / 2.8, ISO 3200, 50mm
1/15 sec at f /2.8, ISO 3200, 58mm
So how did this photowalk start? We all met at the 42 Lounge, which has some amazing drinks and drink specials, and decided where we where going to walk. As the group walked some would stop and start shooting things around them, some would lay on the ground to take pictures of puddles, and some would take pictures of people taking pictures. Right away, we had a huge random opportunity jump in front of us. As we were walking in front of the fire department they opened the doors, we thought we were going to get ran over. They were just actually opening the door to see what was going on, and they invited us in to shoot some things in the station. I ended up with two great shots from this. At this time, I was not using my tripod and was shooting everything hand held. We got a small tour of the place, many took the opportunity to snap some shots of the hose drying room (I was one that did not). I believe we may have spent about a half an hour just in the fire department before people started migrating back to the streets.
1/250 sec at f / 2.8, ISO 1600, 34mm

10.0 sec at f / 13, ISO 100, 55mm
We continued to walk down towards the river and it was just before sunset, and just before the golden time for photos. I was still able to pop off some shots before a tripod was needed, and I saw people shooting up in the sky. Looking around I saw the bright clocks were making a great effect with the sky.

We took a long stop at an intersection so people could try to get light trails. However, I was not interested in this so I continued to walk down to the river. It was now after sunset and everything was dark. Tripods were now needed as well as my wireless trigger. For some reason, I was have vibration issues when using my tripod as majority of my shots were coming up blurry. I'm not sure if it was because of the cars passing on the bridge, or what it was. However, this is one of my long exposed shots.

My last photo from this set (I shot about 90 pictures total, ended up with about a dozen I really liked) is another black and white. I was frustrated with the blurry images on the tripod, but I wanted to give it one last attempt.
1.6 sec at f / 10, ISO 2000, 24mm

Equipment list:
  • Nikon D7000 Camera
  • Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC
  • Tamron 70-300mm (didn't use)
  • 2 lens cloths
  • 1 cleaning pen (brush and a cleaning end)
  • 1 air buffer
  • Lowpro 102AW
  • Business Cards
  • 2 - 16gb memory cards
  • 1 - 4gb memory card
  • color checker passport (didn't use)
  • Nikon Wireless trigger (ML-L3)
  • Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod
  • Manfrotto 498RC2 Ball Head
I hope this helps you figure out what a photowalk is and helps you prepare for one.  If you have any questions feel free to leave a commend on here or on my Facebook Page. You can also check out what other people took at the Google Community: Milwaukee Underground Photography.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Adventures in South Carolina

(Please note that you can click on any image and see a larger image of it)

This trip to South Carolina was decided as I was going to be in North Carolina for a wedding, and since I was close why not visit South Carolina too?

I had a few pictures in my head on what I wanted to get, and I had a full week to do it. The first photo I was going for was a sunrise photo, second photo was a shoreline of Myrtle Beach, and a bunch of wildlife shots.

Upon arrival, I look up the weather and it turns out it was scheduled to rain all week with possibility of storms each day (the whole week I'm there). I looked up sunrise/sunset times and set my alarm on my phone for each day of the week (I was only 10 minutes from the beach), with plenty of time to get ready and get to a spot.

So I started out with some wildlife photos as I walked on the beach. Majority of the life are a few types of gulls, sandpipers, and if you look closely you can see the the sand comes to life with moving shells. The first bird reminded me of a typewriter; it would start at the water's edge and race on foot to the land to not get hit by an incoming wave, it would then follow the wave back out. I believe it was an Western Sandpiper.

Looking up, the shoreline continued all the way to the horizon. On one side is the blue ocean with white capping waves, and on the other side are the hotels, people lounging on the beach, and houses. This was actually one of my disappointing moments as I took a picture of this and the picture did not turn out so well. To my eye, I couldn't see it but this is one of the things the camera could. The salty haze in the air washed out my image.

I couldn't get much color from the photo, everything was washed out, and I couldn't save the image no mater what I tried. This is when I realized, I should have done my homework on ocean photography. I haven't look on how to correct this issue, but I did learn that you can't just set-up and shoot near the ocean like I do near fresh water. I did manage to pick up, either a black headed gull or a laughing gull (don't know which one), flying over head. 

1/640 sec at f /11, ISO 100
This shot was able to capture the blue sky and a few clouds in the sky (10 minutes before this shot it was pouring rain). I was able to capture him as he was gliding so I don't have any up and down wing motion, so I was able to get a very crisp shot at a lower shutter speed and didn't need to pump my ISO up.

A bit further up the beach I saw a different type of gull and a pair of sandpipers. The gulls seemed very use to humans walking near them as I was about 35 yards away when I took the following picture.

1/400 sec at f / 9.0, ISO 100
My second day, my mom wanted to show me the Boardwalk and some of the stores around the area and then after swim at the beach. Because of the swimming part I didn't want to bring my camera and leave it in the jeep to overheat and ruin the sensor, so I left it behind. Of course, this day was one of the sunny days with large fluffy clouds. I was able to get this picture with my phone.

1/250 sec at f / 5.6, ISO 320
Fast forwarding a few days, there was still no sunrise photo to be had as solid grey clouds littered the sky each morning. So I used this day to visit some of the parks in the area and use the clouds as a large diffuser. I was able to capture two great flower shots

1/320 sec at f / 14, ISO 1600
One thing I forgot to do was take note on the types of flowers these were, and I can't seem to locate anything on the internet. These two shots were taken at the Brookgreen Botanical Garden. I was listening to a couple talk about how in the back of the area is a large trail that takes you beyond "the wall" of the garden and has a small trail you can see some of the wild animals. I was very excited when I heard this, so I headed straight there. Upon coming to this trail there was a sign that was a bit discerning as I had shorts and sandals on; "Please Stay On Trail. There Are Stinging Insects, Snakes, and Alligators".  One of my favorite moments came up, as I walked onto one of the docks on the trails I happened to look down into the water. I had to do a double take as I saw two alligators swim by, I almost dropped my camera into the water. I raised my camera up but the swirls of mud clouded the water shortly after. But something amazing happened, one decided to come on shore and what seemed to go right to sleep.

1/2000 sec at f / 5.6, ISO 1600

1/1600 sec at f / 5.6, ISO 1600
Leaving the garden, I walked around a park right down the road from the garden. I was able to snag some close-ups of some birds (sadly, I do not know the names of the birds).
1/1000 sec at f / 5.6, ISO 1600

My longest lens I shoot with is a 70-300mm Tamron Lens. I sat in one spot a little over 45 minutes until these guys got close enough for me to take shots of. The one with the blue crown, landed about 10 yards away from where I was sitting. It was almost as if he wanted me to take a picture of him as he hardly moved as I slowly raised my camera. On my way back in, I saw something that amazed me. As I was walking back I happened to have looked up, and as I did I saw some fur in the tree. I slowly stepped forward and saw a fox in the tree! I quickly snapped a shot:

1/250 sec at f / 4.5, ISO 1600
 I looked quickly at the shot and realized there was a branch in the way, and when I went to take another one he had already jumped down and was running off.

My father also took me out to some spots in the marsh where I saw a lot of fiddler crabs, and some of the local guys fishing for crabs. This is when I got to witness low tide turning into high tide, and you can actually see the current change before your eyes. He also took me to a few docks, and I was able to get one of my favorite landscape shots and few boat shots.

1/2000 sec at f / 4.0, ISO 320 
1/2000 sec at f / 4.0, ISO 320

These two photos I was very excited about and put them on my gallery right away, and made them available to print ( So overall, the problem I ran into was no sun when I wanted it. It was very frustrating not getting a chance to take a photo I had in my head, and not realizing the effects of the ocean has on your photos. I also had to end my picture taking early the first day because as I was walking through the water a wave crashed on my legs and a few drops got onto my lens. Luckily, this was towards the end of the walk as when I attempted to clean the lens it actually left behind a layer of film on the lens. Even with my lens cloth, it still wouldn't come off. I had to use my cleaning pen (which was back at the house) to get the film off of the lens.

Hopefully, you enjoyed the stories behind each of the photos. And if you know what some of the birds and plants are please leave me a comment so I can update the photo caption! Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Band Promo Photoshoot: Behind the Scenes

This last weekend, I photographed a local cover band, "In Harm's Way". The photo shoot's goal was to supply an image they can use to create a promotional poster for their upcoming event. The goal of this blog entry is to give you an inside feel on what I did, why I did it, and will try to explain how I did it.

A day before the shoot, I did some scouting of the location we were going to be at. I wanted to keep the photo shoot to an hour, if possible, and this allowed me to find some locations that I knew I wanted them to model at. To do this, I took my camera and took pictures as I walked around (even got a great landscape panorama from it). I then looked at the photos when I got home and was able to study the area to find spots I wanted them to model at.

The following morning I was contacted that they would like to move the time because the weather radar was predicting that there was only a 10% chance of rain between 1-3pm. So I moved up the time to accommodate this as with the fog the shots I have prior thought of were no longer possible as everything was hidden. As I pulled up to the location, I was actually excited to see how the fog was laying around in the trees. I had them do a quick shoot over the lake which ended up just being a neutral color background (Raw Shot and then Editing).

For this photo I shot at 1/125 sec at f / 2.8, ISO 100, at 70mm. As you can see from the before and after, the shot results are very different from the original. I used Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.3 for this. For this shot I increased the highlights by 100 which changed the background to a nice white. I then increased the shadows to give their shirts back their color and also increased the vibrance by 71 to bring the color back in the reds. I then put some clarity in there and then brushed out the tree.

This was the first shot of the day, and if the fog was not there there would have been lines created by the waves with the lake behind them. I thought this would create great contrast but with the fog, I was able to supply them with a nice clean white background easy for them to put on a poster.

Walking back to the car the fog caught my eye looking down the hill with the road. The lines of the side of the street, the center line, and the split of the center line made great leading lines for a photo. This ended up being a personal favorite from the shoot.

I was able to get the guys a bit more loose and smiling at this point, everyone was already cold. They looked puzzled at first when I told them to "walk towards me" but I was able to get this photo and to me almost feels like a candid photo of them walking down the road. I centered the tallest in the middle so I could keep the shot tight on the sides (there were a lot of signs) then split them up so they would add depth to the photo. Photo settings on this are: 1/125 sec at f / 2.8, ISO 100, at 30mm. I was told they where going to dress up in their colors and when I was editing this photo it actually looked really great in just Black and White. I'm actually not a huge fan of selective color within photos, however, when I decided to play with this one and just add the red back into the photo it created something that I enjoyed. It just made the picture in my eyes. I then cropped it, again something I don't like to do, and remove the negative space to create something great for a poster. I also then went through and removed the signs from the photo.

The rain really started to come down and I noticed that their shirts were getting noticeable dots on their shirts and wanted to take them to the roofed area down by the pier. While driving down there, I passed an open amplitheater and saw a few shots within that. It set up for my second favorite photo of them.

Same settings as before, the light hasn't changed. I also was having flash issues, the external flash didn't always want to fire. Again, 1/125 sec at f / 2.8, ISO 100, at 36mm. This photo required a bit of clean up as the floor was messy due to all of the dead leaves and I removed the snow from their shoes. Also while looking for rain drops in the photo, I noticed that there was an electric outlet between the legs on the model on the far left and that was also removed. I liked the lines from the background and thought it made them pop out of what would probably have looked to be flat otherwise. So I increased the highlights just enough to see them but also making the image to bright. Increased the clarity and removed some of the shadows from under them and behind them. If my flash was working correctly the highlights and shadows would have been much easier to clean up. I also popped the vibrance a bit to bring out the reds.

I ended up with 8 great photos that I thought would work great for a poster, and when I was leaving the shoot, I thought I only had 2. The photo shoot lasted for an hour and I offered to take some shots of them practicing as I only thought I had 2 and wanted to offer them more choices. However, they felt comfortable with what I had and called it the night.

Some tips; one of the biggest reason why I shoot in RAW format is because the amount of information the picture has in it when comparing it to a JPEG. Information in the darks may not be able to be recovered (without large amount of noise, if at all) and light temperature is much easier to change. This makes Black and White photos actually better if you can manipulate the temperature of the photo.

Take a look at the band's Facebook page as they already have on up as their banner with their logo: In Harm's Way  and feel free to check out the photos in higher res as they requested to open up the gallery for everyone to see: and don't forget to check out all my available landscape prints that are available for purchase: .

If you have any questions for me, feel free to ask in the comments here, on my Facebook page, or email me:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Band Promo Photoshoot

Starting a new adventure this weekend as I have been asked to shoot some photos for a local Rock/Cover Band. The band's name is "In Harm's Way", and is part of a statewide music competition for high school students formed outside of the traditional music classroom. They have been selected to rock out in the Regional Competition on April 5th (I believe it is in Green Bay, WI). I was asked if I could do a shoot for them so they can create promo posters for the event. Even though this is out of my realm of landscape photography, I thought this would be a fun gig and accepted to do it.

For this shoot, we plan on this being held at the lake front and try some shots there. Depending on time I may then tag along with them and snap a few shots of them as they practice. One thing I do enjoy, is to capture candid photos more then the posed shots as it seems to tell more of a story and the pictures tend to draw the eye better.

Tomorrow, I will driving out to scope out the site of where the shoot is going to happen. I was told that there will be a lighthouse and a lot of rocks. I'm hoping that I can some how get this into the photo that matches their band name, or adds to the picture and not take away from the band. One issue that may be happening is that there is rain in the forecast.I'm hoping if it does rain, it is light enough to where it wont affect the band members' looks but may give it an edge in the photos.

My equipment for this shoot will be:
  • Nikon D7000
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8
  • Tamron  24-70 f/2.8 Di
  • Tripod
  • SB-700 external flash (plan on putting this on the tripod)

I will be posting some photos on a follow up blog, explaining how I took the photo (settings, composure, and other details) and why. I will also be sharing a few photos on my Facebook page so please check that out and "Like" my page and also check out the Band's, "In Harm's Way", Facebook page as well.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Why did I start selling my photographs?

Selling my photography was actually something that came up in a conversation with one of my friends. Prior to that, I simply enjoyed going out and getting photographs and sharing them on either Facebook or Flickr. I enjoyed reading peoples' feedback on what they liked and didn't like, and I enjoyed seeing my pictures getting "likes" or "favorites". If you have have read my past blogs you would know that I only did Landscapes, Nature, and Close-Up (they aren't true macro shots) photographs and my friend asked me if I would do some portraits for him for holiday cards. I said sure, not even expecting to get anything out of it but just some practice in taking photos of people. He ended up giving me a few things that I was not expecting and that is when it hit me.

Why not sell my best photos and offer discount portrait photos to help pay for my hobby?

That is when I started looking into going more professional with my photography. I learned there are numerous ways to make money selling your photos, but majority of them required you to do to it full time and this is not what I currently want to do. My current goal is for the sales to be able to pay for my current equipment and future equipment, not for me to live off of. This may change in the future (I'm hoping that it does as photography would be a really neat career), but it is not something I want to rely on to survive. Once I was able to define my career goal with photos, I was able to lay out a pretty good plan. I added up everything I spent in equipment, registration fee's to be able to do legitimate sales of photography in Wisconsin, and other expenses that was only specific to my photography. That is how much I would like to make in profits in a year. I estimated how much I would like to sell my photos for and also if I decided to go into portrait shooting how much an hour I would charge, how much for a photo, and all the other license costs (example giving someone unrestricted license to a photo). When I got through all of this, I was very please to see how many photos I needed to sell, how many portrait shots I would need to do, and how many prints of those photos I would need to print. I then compared those numbers to companies around my location and found that I came up much less than what the current pros offer and I was glad with that as I do not count myself as a Pro yet. A professional photographer to me is someone who actually lives off of their photography, or a majority of their income is from their photography. I count myself as a semi-professional photography or an extreme hobbyist.

I really thought this was a great idea when I actually ordered one of my own photos on a 20x30 print, and actually saw that my photos would make great wall decor and that this could actually work. If it doesn't, it wont bother me in the slightest as it's not my goal to make a living off it but to help with the cost that goes with this hobby. I mean, 1300 dollars for a lens hurts the wallet a bit. Why not offer others the ability to use this lens in a way and have them pay for a bit of it? :D

Spring is coming around and I do have some traveling plans scheduled this year that will allow me to capture some great landscapes. So far this year, I have planned on going to North and South Carolina which will offer great mountain and ocean landscapes not to mention some fun street photography.

Don't forget to check out my Online Gallery  which will have my best shots. If you would like to see other photographs that didn't make the cut you can check out my Flickr page. If there is something on there you like, and is not found on my Online Gallery please email me and I'll post it up there for you to order!

One of my newest photos:

Eye of the Gerbera
Eye of the Gerbera