Wedding Photography Workshop Online Today

Joe Buissink, the wedding photographer to the “stars” shot a wedding live yesterday on Starting today and going through tomorrow at noon EDT Creativelive is going to be broadcasting a free wedding photography workshop featuring Joe and the shots he took on Sunday.picture-217940

I’ve been in a real live workshop with Joe when he was here in Toronto and not only is he one of the best wedding photographers working today, he’s also a generous and passionate teacher of photography. I loved the workshop.

If you’ve got the time, this two-day workshop is likely going to be terrific.

BTW the workshop is free for the viewing and the download videos can be purchased for $99 ($149 after Tuesday) from Creativelive. I’ve bought several workshops from Creativelive and can highly recommend them.


How Not To Ask For Help

I subscribe to a bunch of photo-related online groups including one on boudoir  photography and one for wedding and portrait photographers.

Some of these sites have thousands of contributors so if you ask a question about photography you are likely going to get hundreds of answers. Unfortunately most of the “answers” are bunk.

Case in point is a young woman (30ish)who is fairly new to shooting weddings. She’s got a good online website for her business where she’s displaying some pretty wedding photography. Now she’s not in the class of the Joe Buissink or Sal Cincotta but she’s way better than Uncle Fred who brought along his D-3000 and kit lens to the wedding.

Having said that Miss New Wedding Photographer got an email back from her client expressing some dismay that her wedding shots didn’t look like the wedding shots on the website.

So Miss New, apparently deeply offended, went to the 9,000+-member reflector asking if the client was nuts!

Inside of 24 hours she’s received almost 100 replies and most of them are useless or at least unappreciated including my own submission where I gently suggest Miss New might want to reconsider asking the great unwashed their opinion of her photography and not focus on her client’s sanity but on her own work.

And that’s my point. Most “photographers” in these online lists are clueless when it comes to critiquing photography.

Now that’s not to say there isn’t some gold buried in the avalanche of suggestions but there’s so much crap being offered, that to offer the old joke, there must be a pony under there somewhere. Unfortunately by the time Miss New wades through all the critical comments her creative spirit has got to be beaten right out of her. She might never shoot another wedding after reading all the bad advice that has been posted.

So what was so bad?

Since the reflector is by invite only I am not going to post a link but let me offer some suggestions based on what I saw.

First the wedding couple were black. Now all photographers know this isn’t a racial comment but black skin is a big problem when it comes to photography and mix race weddings are a nightmare (I know I shot one where the girl was Scandinavian white and the groom was Jamaican black. If the photographer exposed for the groom the bride’s dress and skin blew right off the grey scale. When exposing for the bride the groom and his family either blended into the dark background in the reception hall or when shot outside caused the sky to blow out to white. There are things you can do but it’s tough shooting.)

Another issue with black skin is it’s prone to showing specular highlights (bright spots and shine) when exposed during a flash shot regardless of whether shot inside or outside. This means the photographer must use extra care when shooting flash (which most wedding photographers use inside and out to help fill in shadows) and the black skin will require more work in post process (Photoshop or Lightroom).

Miss New also posted over 1200 frames of generally unprocessed snaps. A lot of them would be terrific after cropping and running through post and that’s what Miss New should have done to maybe 50 images and no more than 100.

IMHO the bride and her family were overwhelmed by so many unprocessed images that they didn’t know how to react.

Most of the online commentators focused on issues with white balance, cropping, horizons that were off kilter, and other post issues including using more clarity and noise reduction. All of these are post processing issues and Miss New, based on her website, knows how to use her software but didn’t do so in this case. All of these suggestions were valid to a point but generally useless when it comes to helping Miss New figure out what went wrong. (Some of the commentators were unkind in tone and comment.)

And why?

Because, and I’m guessing, Miss New is shooting like crazy and then burning images to a DVD and charging accordingly. This is a recipe for failure. She also focused her website on herself and not on her client and thus the narcissistic need ask 9,000+ people for their opinion.

Miss New needs to watch some of the wedding photography business videos offered at and this would open her eyes to what’s wrong and what she needs to do if she wants to be successful as a wedding photographer.

Wedding photography is not rocket science but it does require some skill and insight into what clients want and will buy.



Valentine’s Day

It’s estimated that as many as 10 per cent of all couples pick Valentine’s Day to get engaged.

So if you’re one of those lucky couples perhaps you’re thinking of engagement photos?

There’s a couple of ways of going about this.

You can hire a professional photographer (and maybe make it part of the wedding photography package). You can ask a friend. You can do it yourself!

So if you were looking for a professional, where should you start? Always look at portfolios and seek out personal recommendations.

Remember you get what you pay for. If your “pro” says he or she will shoot the wedding for $1000 (and only provides a DVD of the best images) and will throw in the engagement shots for free I’d be worried. If you’re not expecting the marriage to last then go for the shoot-and-burn DVD sales guy.

If the pro says they’ll shoot the wedding for a total investment of let’s say $1,800 and for that you get a wedding album, a slide show at the reception and perhaps on 11″X17″ framed image and they offer extras such as the mom’s photo books and perhaps small framed images for the wedding party at a reasonable extra cost (You’re going to end up paying somewhere around $2500 for all this but these images and the album are going to be family heirlooms and treasurers that last 100 years or more and worth the investment.) and then say the engagement photos will be an additional $500 I’d be feeling like I was dealing with an honest business person who understands the value of their services and will care for you at this important time of your life. Yes it’s not cheap but you’re worth it.

Remember next to the cost of the hall, the photographer is likely to be your next most expensive decision. Make it wisely.

Okay but you’re friend is pretty good with a camera and owns a real DSLR with a couple of lenses and flash.

Here’s what I’d do.

I create a shooting list of perhaps 10-12 photos. I’d pick a place or two where you don’t need permits or have to deal with crowds.

If your friend doesn’t know how to use flash (I’m an available light photographer. They all say that and it means they don’t know how to use flash.) you might want to hire a pro. Your images will thank you. So will your children and grandchildren and their children.

And you can do it yourself.

That is if you can get over being self-conscious in front of the camera. This is tough to do. Plus you need a decent DSLR and a tripod and a remote shutter release. Yes you can use your self-timer but it’s hard to get into the mood for a photo after doing the 15 yard dash before the self-timer fires the camera. Then if you understand white balance and exposure you and upload your images to Lightroom ($299) or Photoshop ($800) and take a day creating your perfect pictures.

Next you’re going to need to know how to pose. It’s way harder than it looks and some really great pros actually take courses on posing people.

I have 🙂 and so has my partner in photography Mike Cauterman.

Congratulations on this special occasion in your life.




Wedding Photography by Jasmine Star

This is going to get me into a lot of trouble but I’ve never been a big fan of Jasmine Star, the uber wedding photographer of the moment. (That’s more than a bit harsh.)

Anyway check her website to see why but then again aging 60-year-old white grumpy males are not her target audience. Hip new brides with big budgets for their photo needs are and she hits her target market right on.

Ms Star is the guest blogger at Scott Kelby’s Photoshop Insider (which you should all be subscribing to whether or not you use Photoshop) and she has graciously written out her typical shooting schedule for her wedding photography business.

If you’re an up-and-coming wedding photographer or maybe you’re Uncle Joe and you’ve been asked to shoot your niece’s wedding, then there is a world of good information here. Ms Star is also a much better photographer than I’ll ever be when it comes to weddings so despite my uncalled for comments, read what she has to say and critique her photos as you’ll learn a lot about what it takes to be a great wedding photographer by doing so.

Okay so why am I not a member of the Jasmine Star fan club. Jealousy would come to mind.

Even though I don’t appreciate the “glamour girl with a camera” approach (BTW same goes for Metrosexual Man with a Camera or Macho Male with a Camera and there are more than a few of these folks out there on the Internet….I’m more inclined to love human being with a heart and a camera approach…but that’s just my opinion).

For example, I’ve kinda have a crush on Mostly Lisa when it comes to shooters. Lisa Bettany lives in British Columbia and is drop-dead gorgeous (she was a model and probably still is) and a really talented photographer. Her big claim to fame IMHO is she doesn’t take herself too seriously. With Lisa, what you see is what you get which is tons of talent and a young woman who I hope is enjoying life to the fullest.

Lisa had a video of herself doing a bungy jump (she was a commenator for a BC TV channel and leapt off a bridge with a camera attached to herself) but for some reasons it was taken down. This young woman is fearless. Take an hour or so and read her blog postings. Again, you’ll be a much better photographer as a result.

Continuous Lighting

Did a Top Pro Tour workshop last week that was sponsored by the lighting folks at Westcott here in Toronto. I wanted to attend as the tour features some of the top commercial photographers as instructors. Some of these workshops down in the states draw huge crowds. The Toronto workshop had a lot of unsold seats and this was really unfortunate as the small crowd didn’t inspire the instructors to bring on their A game. Having said that, I learned a lot during the workshop.

Our first instructor David Piazza is a technical rep (sales guy) for Westcott who despite not shooting professionally anymore and who was using a pedestrian middle-of-the-road Canon DSLR really knew his stuff when it came to light.

I’ve taught photography for years and my night school classes weren’t much smaller than this group. It’s too bad the workshop wasn’t marketed better in Toronto (and next time if Westcott is interested I could be available to help) to working professionals and advanced amateurs. David explained lighting better than I could. He had colour temperature down pat as well as colour balance and specularity (highlights like the kind you get from a flash on a cheek bone). One of the best parts of David’s presentation was his understanding of how a softbox works.

Now if David was using standard flash (speedlights or monoblocks), we’d have look at the projected display from his tethered camera to see the results. BUT David was using Westcott’s daylight fluorescents which put out a continuous light on the subject. This meant we could actually see the lighting as it struck the model’s face. And, since this was such as small group we got a chance to actually come up and photograph the model while adjusting the lights ourselves.

This is exactly the way I used to teach lighting but I was using my SB-900 which, while a whole lot more powerful and infinitely adjustable than the Westcott continous lights, aren’t as predictable or consistent. Also you can use the Westcott continuous lights for video productions too. Try that with a speedlight.

If there is a downside, it’s that the continuos lights aren’t as bright as monoblocks or even speedlights. This means you need to open up the lens more when using the florescents but that’s not a deal breaker in a studio setting. All in all I really liked the Spiderlite TDS Perfect Portrait Kit ($1700) that has a shallow softbox (36″X48″) and a stripbank (12″X36″) with an egg crate grid. The softbox is the main light and the stripbank is the hair light. David used a Westcott 6-in-1 reflector kit to throw a little light on the shadow side of the model’s face. (See photo for setup. The softbox is on the left and just skimming across the model’s face and the stripbank is above her. The reflector is down to the right.

Our second instructor for the evening was Jim Schmelzer who knows more about portrait photography than just about anyone out there. He’s famous for his photos of “seniors.” In the US there’s a huge market shooting portfolios of young people who are in their late teens who are called seniors because these photos are used in their high school yearbooks. In Canada I’ve only heard of one photographer out east who makes a living shoot teens. Jim also has a Facebook page.

Jim shoots in a very different manner than I do and his interaction with the model is different from how I do it so it was great to watch a master at work with a young model and a crowd of enthusiasts standing at his shoulder. Jim doesn’t use a lightmeter, which I found interesting, but his results speak for themselves. He does great work.

As I said even I learned a couple of new things and I’d highly recommend the workshop if it comes back to Toronto again. And if it does at $89 it’s a bargain. As I said the only unfortunate part of the light is the small crowd didn’t get anybody fired up and after the break there wasn’t much said and we all went home. The night should have ended with a bigger bang.