Wow. You people asked me some thought provoking doozies. That being the case, I’ll be answering all your questions in a few parts. Let’s begin!
Mai: What is your go to lens for wedding portrait session?
Depends on the camera:
Contax 645 and 80mm 2.0
Canon 5D Mark II and 50mm 1.2
For portrait sessions, and details, I’m almost always reaching for the Contax. There is something about the way the quality of film conveys emotion. I love it’s lightness and it’s intensity. The 80mm is so lovely because the shallow depth of feel is so buttery and saturated. I like to shoot film when the lighting is right, and I have total control. Even when I’m somewhere where I have to work to get inspired, looking through my Contax helps me see things more clearly. It feels like taking the paint to canvas. When I get the images back from the lab, they are finished. I almost never have to do anything else to them.
Sometimes though, the situation calls for digital, because I need to use external lighting, to back up what I’m shooting with film, or just because I am trying to save some money on processing film (or just because I feel like it!). I shoot with the 5D Mark II, and I love my 50mm 1.2. It’s SO sharp, and so buttery, and so saturated and clear. I shoot in JPG, and all the images taken with that lens feel finished when I upload them. I barely have to touch these images before posting them on my blog, either.
Kim: Any tips for photography beginners who feel like they don’t know what they are doing? I think I read on an old post that you are self-taught. Could you please share some of your learning process?
Oh the Internet is a an amazing thing. I’ve never done very well in school, and it made me feel like I just couldn’t learn anything really fluently. But the Internet serves a few purposes in the search for knowledge, I’ve found. First off, it facilitates obsessions, because if you are really really into something, no matter what it is, you can find other people who are just as into it as you are on the Internet. And once you find that community, you can immerse yourself, and the thing you are really into can easily become an obsession. Photography was always a twinkle in my eye, but it was never anything more than that because I never had a community in which to encourage that twinkle to flourish. And second, there is such a wealth of information available if you know where to look, and if you know the right questions to ask. So the first thing I did, was find a community, and at the time there was no better place than Flickr. It was perfect, because most photographers on Flickr are not shooting professionally. Many photographers there make work just to post it on Flickr and get feedback. So many young artists seem to be learning the craft of photography at a lighting pace, and I think it’s because everyone is always sharing their methods, because a lot of people are all learning things together. As helpful as Flickr was is my photography, there is a resource that I recently stumbled upon which is so much more amazing, and accessible. Here’s the link:
It’s amazing! You can participate on the forums read the blog and be inspired. You can take part in the different photo projects and get feedback. There are posts about shooting nature photos, weddings, journalism, equipment reviews and recommendations, post production tutorials, lighting tutorials – you name it! And the examples are actually relevant to the way people are shooting now. There are so many tutorials out there, and I have to say, most of the ones I came across were pretty dated and well… ahem… just not quite my style. Good luck!
Stephanie: Why did you start using a tilt shift lens for portraiture?
Hmm… I’m actually not sure. I think I saw a tilt shift portrait out there on the Internet somewhere, and new to the novelty I was like, WOW!!! But after using it for a while, the effect faded on me, though I do enjoy seeing it in other people’s work. Also, with as much as I travel for weddings, I don’t like to bring a lot of equipment, and I like to shoot simply. And now that I have a film set up too, the 45mm 2.8 TS had to go. Now it sits in a cupboard. Now that you mention it, I’m selling it. Email me if you are interested!
Amanda: What has been your most eye opening (good, bad, shocking!) experience when traveling abroad?
Hmm.. That is a really tough one. It’s tough because I could think of something on almost every trip. Here’s a rundown:
1. Getting trapped in an elevator in Jamaica for 2 hours. My first destination wedding. Luckily it wasn’t the day of the wedding, but it was a small elevator, there was no air conditioning, and they had to use some sort of jack to pry it up out of the shaft. I crawled out as the floor was at my chest by the time I had my first opportunity to escape. Terrifying.
2. Second time in Jamaica, a hurricaine that was going through Cuba unleashed it’s anger to the ocean, which proceeded to hammer away at the shore so terribly, every room in the hotel was flooded. Then a tidal wave came through our terrace, busted the wooden shingles to toothpicks, and overtook my camera bag. I came back to my room after breakfast to find the doors busted off the wall, having broke the canopy bed, and about 1 inch of saltwater in my closed camera bag. And everything turned out ok, and my equipment worked fine! Canon Equipment is the best!
3. In Nigeria, people were fascinated by my white husband. We drove with the bride an hour out of Lagos to the Yoruba ceremony, and we were stopped on the highway by men with machine guns. They just wanted to touch his hands. They had never seen a white man before. At the wedding, people who were just passing by, and also guests at the wedding proceeded to organize themselves in a line to be photographed with my husband. It was pretty awesome.
4. Shooting a wedding on a Glacier in Alaska. We landed on the glacier and could see nothing else for miles. It went off without a hitch, but it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Kids were fishing in the river at the reception. The sun didn’t set until 11:30 at night. You can bet I shot film all day long!
5. Our wedding at a private Chateau in France. The Mayor of the town donated all the flowers!
6. Many many stories in India. I’ll tell them over the next few weeks – with pictures! A small sample: I almost got attacked by a monkey and I walked barefoot in a temple full of holy rats.
Tara: How do you edit/retouch your photos?
When it’s film, not at all. I just resize and post it up. When it’s a JPG, as minimally as possible. I remember when I was in Junior High, and one of the moms came by to teach a class on how to wear makeup. She said, as have many TV moms said, that the trick is to make it look like your not wearing any makeup at all. That’s how I like to approach editing. My handiest tools are TRA 1 and 2 and Kubota Production Pack 1. These Photoshop action packs are so diverse and flexible, you can really hone your editing style with them through experimentation. These days though, in keeping things to a minimum, I use: Ying Yang to even out lighting and subtly bring the focus of my image to where I want it, Select-O-Pop to selectively enhance or sharpen, Slice like a Ninja to sharpen the whole image (I don’t usually use this action at full power – I find it to be pretty strong!), and A Better Web Sharpen to sharpen my images for the blog after I resize them with Kubota’s resizing actions. And of course, I have no trustier action for any of my images than just opening up Curves and bending the line, just a tiny smudge. Here’s an example of the editing that goes into a typical image (and a preview of Madhu and Devaraj’s wedding!!)
Here is the image, straight out of camera, unsharpened, not saved or or sharpened for web: (just so you know, once your image makes it to the Internet, without ANY editing at all, it’ll look kind of crappy. But this image straight out of the camera at full resolution is still printable, saturated and sharp. But the image was not meant to be so small with out taking care in re-sharpening.)
After a bump in curves:
And a few actions – here is what my layers palette looks like:
Slice like a Ninja: 34%
Yin/Yang: 100% but painted with a large 500px brush with 0% hardness and 50% opacity
Resized to 900px high
A better web sharpen
Saved for web
Bam! No makeup!
side by side (click to enlarge!):
And that concludes our session for today. Check back tomorrow for Monkey Attack! and again on Monday for more answers! Yay!