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Avoid Data Loss and Corruption with Good Card Hygiene

As a professional photographer, doing everything in your power to avoid data loss or corruption is part of your job. Many years ago, I sent my film to the lab and waited a day or two on pins and needles while it was being processed, hoping nothing bad would happen to that film. In many local photo labs, complex chemical processes were often overseen by pimply faced kids with little to no experience and shipping film to a extreme pro lab was just as scary because of the transit. Occasionally, the ball got dropped and film got destroyed.  I once had a lab rip a roll of film from end to end, leaving one usable frame out of 36 (I have no idea how). More frequently though, photographers would set their cameras incorrectly, with no way to tell for sure what they had done, until the film came back with  nothing on it. Solution? Reshoot.

If you shoot weddings like I do, you know that is just not an option.

Avoid Data Loss with Good Card Hygiene

Of course, some photographers still shoot film, or have gone back to it (don’t get me started). While more reputable labs, have a professional overseeing the chemistry with very few mistakes, photographers are still waiting on pins and needles for FedEx or UPS to safely deliver their film to those reputable professional labs (and no, there isn’t a reputable lab in every large city, despite their claims). It is hard to argue that we haven’t taken a major step forward with digital technology. Today you can fire the shutter once, get two duplicate images on two separate cards, look at the image on the back of your camera to make sure it’s right, download it to a RAID 1 hard drive (I use the CRU Tough Tech Duo) which makes a fourth duplicate instantaneously, then upload a backup to a cloud service which makes a series of backups across its servers throughout the world.  And all of this can be done before your assistant can drive to the nearest FedEx, or local Film Lab.

Even with these advances, things can go horribly wrong. Only now, instead of losing a roll of film with 36 exposures, there’s the potential to lose hundreds and hundreds on one card. And when you capture tens of thousands of images in a month, it’s only a matter of time before fate catches up with you!  Fortunately there are a few simple steps you can follow to protect yourself from digital catastrophe.

Ten Tips to Avoid Data Loss

  1. MORE CARDS: Always carry more than enough cards for the entire shoot. Downloading and reusing cards at a shoot is just begging for trouble. This is so basic that it is hardly worth mentioning, but if you are guilty of it, you need to stop and seriously re-evaluate your professional practices.
  2. FORMAT UP FRONT: Another simple way to avoid data loss is to format all your cards before you start shooting. I format all of the cards I am using before I leave the studio. That way, if I find a card with no capacity, I know I shot it that day.
  3. INSTITUTE A SHOT SYSTEM: Create and adhere to a system for designating full cards. I use a plastic, hard sided weather resistant card case. When I load it, I put the blank cards in face up and after they are shot, I put them in face down.  And it goes without saying that everyone on your team must follow the same practices, so there are no accidents.
  4. KEEP YOUR CARDS CLOSE: To avoid lost or stolen cards, I keep my case for the day in my front pocket or in a sling bag.  Under no circumstances is it professional to set your cards down, place them loosely in a coat pocket, or leave them in a “safe place” off your your immediate person. Think of that case of cards as being worth – like – your whole professional career.
  5. DO NOT DELETE IN CAMERA: Never delete images in the camera. This is just begging for data corruption. A freshly formatted card makes all of it’s capacity available to the camera for storage. Once you delete a file, the camera starts breaking images up and writing them to the disk in unpredictable ways — a little here, a little there. This can have a negative effect on disk indexes and data trees.
  6. USE QUALITY CARDS: Use quality CF and SD cards. I use Sandisk Extreme Pro 120MBS UDMAZ 16 or 32 GB cards, depending on which camera I am shooting. I like to limit the number of files a card can store to around 250. Sandisk cards have never failed me yet, but if you have a trusted brand, stick with it! Cheep is not worth it.  Don’t go looking for random deals on cheep cards.
  7. SHOOT MULTIPLE COPIES: If you shoot with a camera body that allows for simultaneous SD and CF capture, take advantage and shoot full-size RAW files to both cards. This is probably the best overall system to avoid data loss (I use the Canon EOS 5D Mark III). It takes only an extra few seconds to switch cards, but the first time you lose a card, you will bless the extra time you took for added security.
  8. SEPARATE THE COPIES: Once the shoot is over separate your primary and backup cards and store your backup cards in a different location. When I am traveling, I keep one copy in the card case on my person and the duplicate cards in the hotel safe. When working from my studio, I take my backups home until the shoot is in the can. In the can means, I have copied the files to my workstation, backed them up and confirmed they are free from corruption by reviewing them in Lightroom.
  9. WAIT TO REUSE THE CARDS: Don’t ever reuse cards until you know your data is secure.
  10. NO SECOND CHANCES: My final step to avoid data loss is to immediately dispose of any card that you suspect as unreliable. The minute I suspect a card is having any issues whatsoever, I download backup and confirm the data and put the card out of commission.  This is done by drawing a large black X with a sharpie marker and once the job is completely confirmed, the card is broken in half and thrown away.  If I become suspicious of a card while I am shooting, I pull it out or commission on the shoot, mark it and start fresh with a new card.  Do not continue shooting on or working with a card that even hints at having an problem.

By maintaining complete control over my cards and by following these steps to Good Card Hygiene, I am able to say that I have never lost or misplaced a single client image in my entire career.  This is because I am fanatical about my adherence to these basic rules and my card hygene.  Those who do not follow them are doomed to suffer the consequences of loosing their data and the disappointment that is sure to follow.

If you have additional techniques to avoid data loss to add to this list, or card brand recommendations, post them below for everyone’s benefit. Please post your comments to Facebook as well.

Look out for my next post on how to reduce your image selection time by more than half through the simple technique I call Positive Selection. Additionally, look out for my coming info graphic on The Ultimate Image File Security Workflow — never lose data again!

-Jared

Profoto B2 on Location in Arizona

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The Profoto B2 is the most versatile compact lighting solution in my arsenal. When you are in the studio, there are a lot of great choices for lighting systems, but for quality, durability and ease of use, Profoto lights are unbeatable. They have a well earned reputation as world-class lights. Not too long ago, Profoto came out with a powerful, portable, battery powered monohead called the Profoto B1. These lights are fantastic for any size photo shoot. They are radio controlled from your hotshoe, using the Profoto – Air Remote TTL-C — syncing and changing power settings from your camera is a snap. These lights have been well thought out on every level and till now have been my first choice for location lights.

This year, the light shaping geniuses introduced the Profoto B2 lighting system.

Not as powerful as the B1 these little dynamos still pack plenty of punch for most portrait applications, and they accept the full range of Profoto light shaping tools. What makes these lights very attractive is that by moving away from the monohead model to a small strobe head with a battery-pack, Profoto has made an incredibly light and versatile little unit.

The Profoto B2 is small enough that you can even mount it on camera if you don’t want to bring an assistant or use a stand. My favorite setups include a small softbox or a large silver umbrella, wielded by an assistant. Which I use depends on how much light I require. The Silver umbrella is great if I need to overpower the sun whereas the softbox works best when the light is even and I want to create direction for added drama, but still maintain a soft feel. Two heads with white umbrellas on stands is another easy setup for large groups and can really make a dim situation bearable.

The Duce on Location with the Profoto B2

 

Finally the Profoto B2 lights work seamlessly with my B1 lights and all of my Profoto lights are controlled through my Profoto – Air Remote TTL-C which sits on the hotshoe of my camera. With my Profoto B2 lights as my first go-to choice for many situations and my B1 lights in backup for when I require more power, I truly have enough lights to shoot for a day on location and never plug in. And, I can do so with a rapidity and efficiency that makes shooting a joy.

While this is an unsolicited review, I am sponsored by Profoto and Profoto will be providing complete lighting kits for my Photography and Workflow Workshop attendees to use on location. I am excited for my students to get to use this equipment to make some amazing images.

Meet Your Bonus Instructor with a Lesson on Film

I’d like to introduce you to a very special photo instructor who will be making a regular appearance on my blog and Youtube and Vimeo channels as well as making several appearances at my workshop this February in Arizona.  For all of you film and film look lovers out there, she has put together a little lesson on making pictures with a HOLGA camera!

Introducing Indiana!

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Join Indiana and me at my workshop this February 17-20, 2016 in beautiful Arizona for a life changing photographic experience with four full days of photography and workflow education.  This is where you will learn to get better images, and deliver them faster so you can focus on what really matters in your life: family, God, you, marketing, more photos… you pick!

LEARN MORE and REGISTER

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Classic Black and White Presets

Classic Black and White Preset:

My first experience in photography, probably the moment I fell in love with it, was when my sister taught me how to develop a black and white print in the glow of the red lamps.  I watched a blank piece of paper slowly drop below the developer and waited, not knowing what to expect.  Suddenly, splotches of black began to grow across the face of the paper, like someone had spilled ink and it was running slowly across the face of the print.  But the inky spill gave way in areas to a relief of white where the lamp of the enlarger had not exposed the paper and I began to see an image appear.  Honestly, I don’t recall what the first image was that I saw printed.  I am sure it was a meaningless high-school yearbook photo, but the experience is forever burned (exposed and fixed) in my memory.  In honor of those experiences in the black and white darkroom, I have created three Adobe Lightroom classic black and white presets for you to enjoy.  They won’t give you the magical experience I had in the darkroom, but they will give you the beautiful tones I was able to create after years of study and practice.

Of course, unlike in the darkroom, with digital images, we start with a color image.  The images I am using here is the original color RAW image directly from Lightroom.  What you will see in each subsequent image is a one click application of one of the three black and white lightroom.

Black and White Curves Lightroom presets example image - original color version

 

Classic Black and White Preset:

One thing that was lost in the digital world of high contrast, smooth, textureless images and poppy colors and has only been brought back by digital nostalgia, was the beauty of seeing all the zones in a black and white print on fiber paper.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, Ansel Adams (I sure hope the name rings a bell) developed a method for seeing and printing identifiable zones from pure black to pure white (Zones 0-10).  High contrast prints on glossy or pearl paper could never really exhibit all of those zones because they would invariably skip a zone here or there and head directly from black to light grey or white.  This was something my film students would get a bad grade for doing, and now almost every photographer on the planet does daily because they are in love with the contrast knob in Lightroom and they print only to glossy or pearl papers.  Well, I have created a Black and White Lightroom Preset for you that will take you back to the Classic Black and White era, and if you have a proper exposure, you will feel the the beauty of a full tonal range black and white print on beautiful fiber paper, even if you are using a pearl surface paper.

Black and White Curves Lightroom presets example image - classic black and white

 

 

Ultra Contrast Black and White Preset:

And for those of you who still want your contrast, you can get your fix with a truly high contrast black and white preset that comes from a place of subtlety and beauty rather than the brutish, blunt force of the contrast slider.  That’s right, there are other places that provide much better contrast than the slider that bares the name!  The tone curve is where contrast was born, the contrast knob is just a cheap imitation!  Well, give it a whirl and see what you think.  I’ve also added some rich and toothy grain to complete the look that you might get when you push your B&W film (which is where you would see such contrast emerging).  I like to think of it as a bit of a TMAX grain.  It always felt a bit like sandpaper.  Very beautiful sandpaper.

Black and White Curves Lightroom presets example image - ultra contrast black and white

Toned Black and White Preset:

Finally a bit of warm toned black and white for those who can’t stay away from color.  Now in the olden days of film, we bought warm tone paper, or cool tone paper.  Or we dropped our silver prints in a bath of sepia, or selenium toner.  This was very different then adding a wash of color over the top of our prints.  True print toning doesn’t stain the paper, it stains the silver (the dark parts of the print), which means that the paper stays white while the shadows change colors and do so a rate somewhat proportional to the amount of silver that is congregating together to make a deeper shadow.  The easiest way to accomplish a toned print in Lightroom is to add color to the shadows in the Tone Panel.  But I have taken you into a deeper, more robust realm… the tone curve.  Oh, yes, it seems I am in there a lot.  It is a very powerful tool.  Here I can change the response of each color channel to respond to the tone curve independently.  This give me complete control over the colors and allows me to create subtle toners that create depth and contrast in my toned black and white prints.  And I give you a taste of a warm toned preset from my upcoming collection of toned black and whites.  Don’t just use it.  Study it and play with it.  Get to know the Tone Curve panel in Lightroom.

Black and White Curves Lightroom presets example image - classic sepia toned black and white

Learn More About Lightroom Tone Curves:

Each of these presets are heavily based in the Tone Curve pane in the Lightroom Develop module.  To learn more about using the Tone Curve, make sure to watch this free video about using Lightroom’s Tone Curve pane.

Cover image for free classic black and white lightroom presets

Sign up now for three free Classic Black and White Presets

Custom Camera Settings – Don’t Miss a Shot

Using custom camera settings can mean the difference between getting the shot at just the right moment, or missing it entirely. One important distinction between a skilled photographer and a person taking snapshots is the ability to rapidly adjust to changing lighting conditions. Pros also develop a second-nature ability to properly adjust their camera. Being prepared to shoot in all sorts of lighting conditions takes planning and practice. One of the ways to ensure that you are ready to shoot when the action is happening is to make use of custom camera settings.

Weddings are especially challenging because of all of the different environments you shoot in. Take for example a church. Inside the church, you may or may not be allowed to use a flash. The stage might be brightly lit where the audience is only dimly lit. There may be windows or not. Certain events happen very quickly and depending on which direction you are facing to get the action, you might need a different exposure mode ie shutter, or aperture priority or manual; you might need flash compensation, or a different iso. Making all of these changes in the heat of shooting, every time you turn around is distracting and time consuming. the distraction might be enough to cause you to miss the first kiss or the bride and groom coming down the aisle.

Custom Camera Settings Prevent Errors

Custom Camera Settings Make setting your camera a snap

Imagine you are shooting a wedding in a church. One great use of custom camera settings in this scenario is to come to the church early and scout your shots. Turned toward the podium, set your camera to the settings that work best for that environment. Using your camera’s menu, set that as custom setting one. On my camera, a Canon 5D Mark III I choose that custom setting using the c1 position on the top left dial. Now, turn back toward where the audience will be seated and set your camera exposure settings for that direction — set this as custom setting two. For setting three you may choose to set your camera for when the bride and groom exit the church with the dark church entrance behind them.

Custom Camera Settings mean fast accurate exposures

Custom Camera Settings Include Pretty Much Every Setting in your Camera

You can set pretty much anything you want including file size, raw or jpeg, focus mode, drive and silent or high-speed shutter mode. Make sure everything is exactly the way you want it when you set your custom setting. Especially the manual, aperture or shutter speed priority modes. These three modes are really the only thing you can’t change within the custom setting after it has been created. Once you have created a custom setting in one of these modes it remains in that mode. That is a manual custom setting an aperture priority custom setting, or a shutter priority custom setting. Once you switch to a custom setting, however, you can change anything else that you want to, like focus point or exposure compensation. The custom setting acts as a starting point and you can adjust for environmental conditions from there.

As with any camera technique practice brings mastery. Spend time creating custom settings and working with them. You will find that you are better prepared to capture those rapidly changing situations. I like to be ready and never miss a shot so custom settings are an important part of my professional tool bag.

Equipment List:

  1. Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Linking Speed-lights for Dramatic Photography

Linking Speed-lights together is a fantastic way to increase the volume of your shot, dramatically emphasise your subject and tell a better story. When shooting events, frequently you are in a place with poor lighting. It’s your job as a photographer to make your subject look amazing no matter what the available light is like. This video will show you the basics of linking your speedlights to all fire in sync with your camera and how they can be controlled from your master speedlight.

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Shooting receptions and parties can be a lot of fun. There is usually a ton of action not to mention poignant emotions like love, and humor. Lot’s of shots from these events look like snapshots – overly contrasty and lit from a single source. Bouncing light off a wall or ceiling helps, but can only take you so far toward your ultimate goal of rich vibrant images. By placing speedlights at various points around the room you can greatly enhance the drama  of your shots.

Try linking speedlights to create different effects.

Hair-lights separate the subject from the background, cross-lights bring out detail by building contrast; background-lights fill in the background adding it to the story — especially in large open environments; and fill-lights soften the light on subjects, adding to their beauty. You can use a number of tools to place the lights where you want them, including a variety of stands and wall mounts. A photograph taken while linking speedlights properly will emphasize the natural drama of, say, a bride and groom’s first dance.

Link Speedlights for great reception lighting

Start with a master speedlight on your camera rather than a transmitter only. This will provide syncing capability, a backup light in case you have to grab a quick shot away from your setup and equally important the focus assist beam on your speedlight makes it possible for you to focus in very dark environments.

Using the link button, you can slave your disconnected speedlights to your master flash and once you have them linked, from your master flash you can set up your groups, change their mode, or turn them on and off. When shooting an actual event like a wedding reception, plan ahead for your most important moments such as cutting the cake or tossing the  bouquet. Discuss with the bride or DJ where these events will happen and plan your vantage and lighting accordingly.

Link Speedlights for amazing drama in dark locations

The best way to become skilled at linking speedlights is to get ahold of a few speedlights and go out and practice with them. This video shows you how to set up your speedlights to be in sync with each other, but being ready to shoot requires rapid deployment and changes to the settings. So, once your lights are set up, familiarize yourself with rapidly changing the settings on multiple lights. Learn to turn them up or down and on or off light – that way you can adjust or disable any lights that are causing you problems, or turn up lights that are making an effect you want to emphasise. Practice, practice, practice is the key to success with this technique. Pretty soon, making adjustments becomes natural, and you will see a significant increase in the drama and beauty of your photographs. Your audience will ask you again and again “how did you do that?” and “how come my shots don’t look like that?” and that, my friend is what makes you a pro.

Equipment List:

      1. Canon 600RT Speedlite
      2. Yongnuo Wireless Radio Trigger for Speedlights
      3. Tether Tools Rapid Mount SLX Speedlight Wall Mount System
      4. Tether Tools RapidMount Cold Shoe Elbow Mount
      5. Think Tank Urban Disguise 10 Bag

If you would like to be among the first to be notified of new videos and free downloads as they are released, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

Ben and Alli’s Wedding in Gilbert, Arizona

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Ben and Alli were married in Gilbert, Arizona.  It was a perfect wedding!  So perfect, that I had a very hard time choosing the images for the slideshow.  Enjoy my favorites… and check back again for more of my favorites posted as stills in the blog post.

Slideshow music by Kevin Burdick, courtesy of Triple Scoop Music.

Lighting a Senior Portrait with the Sun and the Profoto B2

A quick lighting lesson for outdoor portrait sessions.

Devin is an amazing young woman and full of life. Her senior portrait session was a blast for us all. At one point, we were walking from one spot to another (shade to shade – we are in Arizona, after all) and I fell in love with the idea of Devin with her ukulele in this corn field. Cute right? Also very difficult to light naturally, because we are in direct sunlight.

So, I am going to give you the quick recipe for a bright sunlit scenario:

1. Turn your subject away from the sun. This give you a nice rim light to separate her from the background and it keeps her from squinting into the sun. And it keeps her face in her own shadow.

2. Light her with a powerful flash, but NOT from the camera. Our flash is coming from off the left side of the frame, as close to the frame as possible. Lighting her from the side keeps the subject full of volume, rather than flattening her out and looking like an obvious flash. On camera flash is the worst kind of flash.

3. To match the power of the sun, you will need a lot of light from your flash. Whatever flash you have (mine was a Profoto B2) you can increase its power and size by using a deep silver umbrella (on any flash) which will magnify the light by nearly double. So, even if you have a speedlight… you can double its power by using a Profoto Deep Silver Umbrella. Make sure to push the flash all the way into the umbrella.

4. Play with the power of your flash until you have the right mix of ambient light from the sun and flash light from the flash. Notice that we did not lover the ambient light so that everything was dark and rich blue, because it was a bright sunny day. We let it feel that way in the shot and then simply added light on her face to fill in the shadows under the hat and on the entire camera side of her body. But not so bright that we lost the feel of he being in her own shadow.

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Lighting with one light is simple, if you pay attention to and use the light you already have and just use your one additional light to augment the light that already exists.  Don’t fight the light, work with it.  Let God do 90% of the work and you just do the other 10%.

P.S.  Contrary to her look in the behind the scenes photo, Devin was having a good time.  But I think there may have been a bee flying around.

Album Design Software: Smart Albums vs Fundy

Album Design is Intense

Designing albums and books is a intense chore for photographers and requires time, love and skill… and great tools. Well, you can do it without great tools, but then it takes more time, tests your love and tries your skills. With that in mind, I thought I would share my thoughts with you on the latest releases of what I think are the two best album design programs out today.

Fundy v Smart Albums

 

Keep in mind, there are plenty of album companies (like KISS, Leather Craftsmen and Queensbury) who will design your albums for you, and a few independent designers (Align Album Design), who will take this task off your plate for you, if you are willing to let go of it. For those of you who are not, take a few minutes to watch the following set of videos to get my take on the chief differences between Fundy Designer and Smart Albums. Both album design programs are excellent programs, I have decided on a winner, and if you don’t already know which one I choose to use, you will at the end of this blog post.

FULL DISCLOSURE

I am not being paid or compensated by either of the companies for this review, but I have spoken at Smart Albums booth at trade shows. I am also using my own purchased copy of both programs… no freebies. I wanted to run them through their paces, so I bought both of them. I only plan on using one of them for my production. So this is just my honest and independent take on two impressive album design tools.

Starting with Lightroom

Building Album Spreads

Manipulating Album Spreads

Organizing Spreads

Adding Text

Image Editing

Exporting Spreads

Client Proofing

Ordering the Album

Conclusion

This blog post is meant to provide you with a few things to think about before you start comparing album software for yourself.  You may want to add other album production software in the mix, like several online designers that are available.  Hopefully, the items I have discussed here will get you thinking critically about the programs your are considering.  It really does matter what software you choose!  It needs to work with you and not against you.  Whether you enjoy the process will depend on your choice.  So choose well…

Find and Test the Software

Now here is your assignment: go make an album with both pieces of software, think about the items I have discussed and watch for even more differences. Prioritize the good and bad and decide which tool makes you faster, which gives you the most artistic freedom and which lets you enjoy the process. The one you choose should have a good score on all three of those requirements. Then buy the winner and start making albums and books!

Smart Albums

Fundy Designer

 

Madison’s Senior Portraits in Gilbert, Arizona

We spent the morning with Madison in Gilbert, Arizona, photographing her senior portraits. Here are my favorites from the shoot.
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