Pancake Session: How to Deal With Bad Light (Part I)
We recently had the honor of writing an article for Click Magazine that was aimed at people who prefer to use natural light, explaining how even the most die-hard natural light shooters still need to have a working knowledge of their flash & one light set up. Like I wrote in the article, "Show me the wedding where the photographer planned to use all natural light, and I'll show you the wedding where it all went wrong." And whether it's happened yet or not, sooner or later we all find ourselves in those situations- whether it be a tungsten getting ready room, a church with mixed light, or completely dark reception room- where being able to rely on your flash can really save the day.
In this two-part Pancake Session, I want to talk about how we can use our camera settings to cut out really bad (tungsten, fluorescent, mixed) light and then add in our flash to illuminate the image with just one clean color temperature. Today for Part I, we're going to talk about those camera settings and getting the "black box." And then next week in Part II, we'll talk about adding in the flash. Let's get started!
So first, let's imagine a really tungsten (color temperature orange) getting ready room. There are lamps everywhere, the overheads are tungsten bulbs, and everything is just getting a really orange cast to it. If you try to bring the details over to window light to shoot them or if the makeup artist puts your bride by the window (which we all always hope that they do!), you're going to get really pretty clean daylight on the highlight side where the light is hitting. But the shadows are always going to pick up what's happening with the ambient light. So in our case, the shadow side of our bride's face would start to look really oompa loompa-ish. :)
Our first go-to solution, is always to see if we can just turn off those tungsten lights and use only window light. That would solve the problem right away. But, that's not always an option. Maybe there isn't enough window light to light up the room and the girls would feel like they're getting ready in the dark. Or maybe you're in a situation, like a church getting ready room, where you don't have access to the switches. And you need a Plan B. In our case, that plan is to cut out the ambient light with our camera settings and light up the image with flash. Let's take a look at that step by step:
**Aperture, ISO, Shutter Speed. The first thing you need to know to be able to cut out that bad ambient light, is that there are three settings on your camera that affect how it reads light-Aperture, ISO, Shutter Speed- and of the three shutter speed is the only one that affects ambient light ONLY. Aperture is the amount of opening in your lens that allows more light to pass through to your sensor, both ambient light AND light from a flash. ISO tells your camera sensor how sensitive to be to light, both ambient light AND light from a flash. Shutter speed is the only one where even if you have a super long shutter speed, it won't affect the light from the flash because the flash is always that same blink of an eye duration. So if we did a 30 second exposure, for an extreme example, the flash would still only fire for that one instant while the ambient light continued to pour in the whole time. So what we take from that, is that if we need to cut out ambient light (or on the flip side, if we want to make sure we're including it like in a candle light reception)....shutter speed is our go to tool.
**But to sync your flash, shutter speed needs to be 1/250 of a second or slower We're going to get into this in much more depth in Part II, but for now suffice it to say that in order for your flash to sync up with your camera when we add that in later, the shutter speed can't be faster than 1/250th (and even slower for some flashes, depending on model). So what that means for us, is that we are limited in how fast we can make that shutter speed to cut out ambient light. If this weren't a problem, we could just go right to 1/5000 of a second and be done with it. But because we need to add that flash in, once we hit our max shutter speed then we have to go to either Aperture or ISO to get us the rest of the way there. Because we really love the aesthetic of a wide open aperture and don't want to stop that down, we always go to ISO. When we lower that ISO it makes the camera less sensitive to all kinds of light (both ambient & flash) and can get us the rest of the way towards that "black box" we're going for.
**Go for the "black box" Our goal when we're at the camera settings stage if we truly want to cut out all of the (bad, awful, tungsten or mixed) ambient light in the room is to be able to take a picture with our settings and get a "black box" or almost completely black screen on the back of the camera when we take a picture in the room. If I take a picture in the room and have no exposure at all, then I know that my ambient light isn't affecting the image anymore and now I can add in my flash for one clean, white balance.
Ok, that's it for now! We'll be back next week for Part II, talking about how we add in that flash, what we need to do to get it to sync up, and what our favorite transmitters are. But in the mean time, if you have any questions at all about what we've covered so far feel free to leave them in the comment box below & we'll do our best to answer them!
Happy Pancake Day!
**If you found this post helpful at all, we just ask that you help spread the love and tell somebody else about it! We're all better together!
***If you're looking to get more help with not being afraid of your flash anymore, our next J&M Lighting Intensive is May 14th in Rochester, NY and we only have FOUR spots left!
The Best Things We've Done for Balance in our Business
This past weekend, we were lucky enough to be part of the Amazing Life Together webinar , and what an awesome time it was! Our particular section was on "Building Time Together" in the midst of chasing crazy big dreams. And it really got me thinking about what were some of the best things we've done to build that balance back into our lives when the business started to take over. I wrote down a few of my favorites & I thought I'd share them here with you guys too!
Y'know, just in case anyone out there is looking for a little more balance in their lives! :) (Who isn't??) Here they are!
1. Shut off by 7pm. Hands down one of the best things we've done for getting some balance back in our lives from the business, is shutting down for the night at 7pm. At around 5:30, we'll both start winding down what we need to do for the day. For me that might be email & creating my "Win the Day' list for the following day, and for Justin that is probably getting to a good stopping point on culling images. But we both start preparing to end the day around that time so that come 7pm, we can close down the computers. put away the phones, and get into "home" mode. One of our favorite ways to start switching into "us" time is to cook dinner together. We're usually still feeling like we're in work mode, so all that chopping, boiling, and grilling helps refocus us on being home.
2. Set an email hour. Like I mentioned above, around 5:30 I'll start tackling my emails for the day. I try to do one focused hour of email each day, and I've found for me that works best if I do it towards the end of my day. Most people are also winding down their days or making their way home, so I don't get a ton of immediate replies back right away. And I can also end the day with a zeroed out inbox, which helps me go into that "home" time without a ton of things hanging over my head. In the morning & throughout the day, if I see something come in that needs a faster response I will go ahead and get back to them. But for the most part, I like to do that one focused hour of email so that I'm not wasting the whole day in my inbox. And the flip side of my hour of email, is that this is the latest that I ever want to be sending out emails. I used to be on email til all hours, replying back at 10 or 11pm. But then I realized that people weren't respecting our home life & boundaries because I wasn't. It also didn't make me look like a very organized business woman if someone got an email from me in the middle of the night. So now, even if for some reason like we're traveling I do have to write my emails later than 7pm, I will save them as a draft and send them out the next morning. And I typically don't respond to emails on Sunday at all.
3. Walk it off. I've found that I'm most productive when I have a chunk of a task that I can complete from beginning to end in about 1-2 hours. And then that always needs to be followed by a mini-break of some kind. So when I have a big task to complete like a wedding blog post, I'll break it up into the culling, the editing, and the blog prep. At the end of each section, I walk away for a little while and do something fun. Which for us, is usually taking a walk on the sea wall with Cooper. We're really lucky that we have such an awesome place to walk right out our front door & we make a ton of use of it. I always find that when I come back from even a 15 minute walk, I'm refocused, recharged, and ready to tackle the next thing. When I just try to work straight through the day without stopping, I get really stressed out, cranky, and I find it really hard to wind down that night.
4. Create a work space. Another great trick that we've learned is to create some sort of space just for working that also has some sort of "off" signal. So for example, we each have our own offices and at the end of the day we can turn off the lights and close the doors. And just flipping that switch, also helps us mentally switch into home time. But if you don't have your own office (we didn't for years!) it can be as simple as having a lamp that you switch off or putting your laptop into its case. Just something that says, work is over for the day!
5. Find some brain occupying hobbies. If you're anything like me, even if you've wrapped up everything for the day and turned off work....your brain still keeps on running. And it can be really hard to get your mind to stop racing about all the things you still need to do. One of the only things I've found that works for me when I get like this is to either read a good book you can't put down or watch a show that really pulls you in (like Nashville or Revenge!) Basically, I just need something to distract my brain from work and sometimes the only way I can do that is by giving it something else to do until it calms down.
6. Realize that rest is a "to do" too. I've started to come to a realization these past couple years: rest is not a luxury, it's a necessity. It's as crucial to our business as workflow and marketing. And if we don't want to burn out then we have to have that balance. Given that we realize how important rest is, we need to make sure it's on our to do list right alongside the editing and the ordering. If we put priority on those things, we need to do at least the same for the rest that keeps us going.
7. Remember why you wanted to be a small business owner in the first place. And this is the biggest one for us. We got in to having our own business so that we could work from home and be our own bosses. So we could set the rules. Write our own story. And live Life Un-ordinary. And we need to remember that. So when things are getting a little too hectic or we've been working too much, we'll take off for a movie matinee. Or take a long lunch. Or start the day with brunch. We'll work from our backyard or the beach, or go off on an adventure somewhere not knowing where we'll end up. We'll enjoy being home. The fireplace and the couch and silver "M" that hangs on our wall. Because that's why we started this in the first place.
And it makes everything else that goes into running a business worth it.
What Does Success Look Like: A Guest Blog w/ Skip Cohen
****Today we are so incredibly honored to have the amazing Skip Cohen on to guest blog for us! We first met Skip a couple of WPPI's back when we asked to grab coffee with him and ended up sitting together for a couple of hours over breakfast. Since then, he & his incredible wife Sheila have become such great friends to us, and I feel so lucky to have them as advisors and trusted sounding boards for whatever we're working on. After several years of knowing Skip now I can tell you this, in an industry that can often get caught up chasing the things that don't really matter or leaders who might not really stand for what they say they stand for.....Skip Cohen is the real deal. Honest, straightforward, incredibly smart....and with just a real heart for helping photographers get better. This industry is better with him in it. And now, so is this blog! We are so excited to be joining Skip this summer at his Skip Cohen University in Chicago....if you're looking for something to really help you kick it up a notch, we'd love to see you there!
1) As someone who has been around this industry a long time now, you have seen a lot of trends come and go and a lot of photographers come and go. You have been able to see first hand what works and what doesn't, and how the most successful photographers conduct themselves and their businesses. What is the best advice you have gleaned from that experience, that you wish every photographer out there knew?
Right off the bat, you've got to get to know your gear and the craft of photography itself. I know there are a few icons out there who have built a reputation on marketing, but most of them became one-hit wonders and didn't last. If you know your gear and understand lighting, exposure, depth of field etc. you're going to be able to focus on the client more, because how to capture great images will become secondary. Next on the list, this business is about relationships - you've got to make every client feel like they're the most important subject you've ever photographed. Your goal is to always exceed expectations and make yourself habit-forming in going above and beyond.
I could write about this stuff all day long...but last on the list is remember your priorities. Don't look for success, it'll find you. Stay focused on being the best and don't lose sight of your goals, your family and your friends. You need to share your dreams with your family, but they don't always have to agree.
Those would be the top three...but here a few more on the business side...
Build a strong network of people who share your passion, but also compliment your weaknesses.
Don't be afraid to outsource. You can't do it all and your most important asset is your personality. Nobody can sell you as good as you can. Outsourcing gives you a chance to focus on your marketing while more talented people handle the operational aspects of the business.
Last - make your handshake your sacred bond. Take responsibility for your promises and deliver. When there is a challenge, OWN IT! Then fix it and remember your most important resource is your team. If you don't have a staff, you always have team of people who help you...maybe it's the rep you work with at your lab, somebody at your album company, even the UPS guy - they're all part of the team you're building.
2) What do you think success in this industry looks like (or should look like)?
Success in the true definition is very personal.
Watch the video with Tom Shadyac. He was the multi-million dollar producer who did a lot of the Jim Carey movies. He had a bicycle accident and almost died. He realized the boats, cars, houses just weren't making him happy. He's still a millionaire, but focused on things he loves doing.
My definition of success today is waking up every morning excited about what I'm going to work on. I've seen so many photographers dig a hole for themselves, thinking that it's all about building a big client base, hitting huge annual revenue etc. I'm not saying financial success isn't important, but I know some of the wealthiest photographers in the industry and they're not even close to happy.
So it all comes down to balance and establishing your priorities. If you can wake up every morning smiling and go to bed every night knowing you did the best you could all day, that covers it...but it goes back to recognizing your goals and not losing sight of what's truly important to you. Yeah, it's easy for me to say at my age, but success has to be based on your definition, NOT anybody else's.
3) What are the top 3 must-have pieces that every photographer who wants to be successful must have in place?
1) Understanding your gear and the craft....A never-ending passion for the craft. 2) Great photographs tug at people's heartstrings. You can't create those kind of images if your heart isn't in it. 3) A strong network of support to help you build a business with a solid foundation. And there's really a fourth that's so important...respect. Respect for your clients, respect for the photographic process, respect for all the people who have skills you don't have, but you need to build your business and respect for yourself and your dreams. You've got to believe in yourself.
**And now we have some winners to announce!! The winner of our Lush gift card giveaway is....Miss Sarah Harper!! And the winner of our Amazing Life Together webinar is....Faith Cherisse!! Congrats ladies!!
***And you know what, let's keep the fun going with a new contest! Just help us out by leaving a note in the comment box a) thanking Skip for being here & b) telling us which kinds of posts you're really loving/would love to see more of. And we'll pick one winner to receive a $25 Starbucks card. That's worth it, right?? And....GO!!
Love isn't Always Pretty, But it IS Always Beautiful
Yesterday our amazing past bride-turned-friend Malika sent us this email. It was short. To the point.
And it rocked me to my core.
I was familiar with the Dove commercials that show a real person and then all of the hair, makeup, lighting and photoshop manipulation that go into making an ad. So when I saw the "I think you do this for people" part I was intrigued....and a little worried. :) The number one word that Justin & I have settled on to strive for in our work is "authentic," so I really hoped we weren't coming across like those ads. Then I clicked on the link, and everything changed.
I sat crying happy tears. Big, fat, mush up your face, let the water roll down happy tears.
Both for this incredibly powerful commercial and what it stands for....and because it's true. We as photographers, all of us, have the power to do this for people. And because I was SO grateful to have someone as wonderful as Malika in my life to remind me of that.
I think sometimes in the wedding industry, we get really caught up with pretty. And perfect. The pretty dress, the pretty light, the pretty location. The perfect flower head wreath, the perfect table in a field, the perfect model with not a hair out of place. And don't get me wrong, pretty has its place. I love looking at these sorts of things on Pinterest too. And they can be really visually inspiring. But I think the problem is, sometimes we're so busy looking for pretty...that we miss beautiful when it's standing right in front of us.
I've been thinking a lot lately about this phrase that keeps coming to me: love isn't always pretty, but it IS always beautiful. Sometimes it's the dishes stacked up for four days in the sink because you're just that busy rather than the cuteness of "you wash, i'll dry." Sometimes it's the hard times and the hard conversations rather than the soft pillows and soft places to land. Sometimes it's swallowing your pride rather than the chocolate cake & orange juice you really wish you were eating. But you know what? It's ALL beautiful. And that's what makes it worth it.
And as photographers, we have the chance to show that. To show that a wedding isn't just about the pretty dress in the pretty field, or the perfect invitation suite. And it isn't about not having a hair out of place or looking really skinny either. It's about the bittersweet tears that were shed that morning when the bride was missing her dad so much. It's about the wrinkles on a grandmother's face and the 70 years of life and laughter it took to put them there. It's about laughing in the storms. And holding on to each other just a little longer. It's a father's face three seconds before he loses it because it feels like he's losing everything. And three generations gathered in one room. It's sixty-two years in, holding a picture from day one. And it's knowing that this life sometimes may break you... but there will still always be Joy.
Lean into that. Let that light your way as a photographer and the body of work you stand for.
Because the way I see it, beautiful beats pretty any day.
This past week when we were traveling to the Dominican, the trip was made about a million times better when our airline, Delta, surprised us with an upgrade to first class both ways. Now this may totally out me as the country bumpkin that I really am, but I had never flown first class before. So yea, you could say that I was a little excited. Ok, ok...Fergie songs may or may not have been sung (but definitely were). We flying FIRST claaaaass, up in the sky. Pop the champagne, living the life.
And you know what, first class really is as great as they say it is. Nevermind the champagne, which they totally did serve us before take off. Did you know that you get real cloth placemats when they serve your full hot meal, while coach gets a sandwich wrapped in plastic? And the glasses they serve you in....real glass. Real silverware. Real bowls. Hot towels. If you stand up when the seatbelt light is on....they don't yell at you. Because like Billy Idol said in the Wedding Singer...they pretty much let their first class passengers do whatever they want. :) Seriously though, it was pretty much amazing. And I think it ruined me on flying coach, even though that's exactly where we'll probably be the next time we fly. Please don't read this post and think we're super fancy & fly First Class wearing our diamond tiaras every time we go somewhere.
So how did we get upgraded both ways this time? By finally taking our good friends, the Youngrens, advice.
It used to be that when we had to fly somewhere, we would just go online and look for the cheapest flight and that often ended up being Southwest. And don't get me wrong, I actually really like Southwest. Their crew is super funny and their drink stirrers have hearts on them. Plus we were able to earn several free flights with them by traveling so much. But there were some things we didn't like too, like how if security was backed up and we got to the gate late we might not be able to sit together even if we had tickets A1 & A2. Speaking of which, the other thing I was never crazy about was their line up system that always made me feel vaguely like a barnyard animal. But then, most of the airport experience is like that so I didn't hold it against them too strongly.
But it wasn't until we were hanging out with our good friends Jeff & Erin Youngren a few years ago, that they really started to open our eyes to the benefits of picking one airline and being loyal to it. They are loyal Delta devotees & encouraged us to check them out. Well after doing our extensive research (ok, who am I kidding...after Justin did the research for us), we found out that we agreed Delta had the best combination of service, experience & rewards program for what we were looking for. And we've been loyal to them ever since, starting with our flight to Sydney last May. So how does it all work?
The first goal is to get Silver Medallion status You reach this when you fly 25,000 miles with Delta within a calendar year. We pretty much got this right off the bat with our trip to Sydney when we first started with them. So if you have a long trip coming up somewhere, that's a great way to get started. Once you reach medallion status, that puts you on the list for the upgrades. They go through their Diamond, Platinum & Gold medallion members first, and then to Silver. Justin & I are Silver again for this year already and we're getting really close to Gold. On our flights to the Dominican, it just so happened that we were the highest ranking medallion holders, so we were 1&2 on the upgrade list. But as you can imagine, that rarely happens for us right now. So the goal is to keep getting higher in the medallions.
The real goal is to get to Gold Medallion status or higher Once you get to Gold Medallion status then you become "Sky Priority" and you get to go through the fast check in lines and the fast security, which we got to do this time because of our upgrade (first & business class seats are also Sky Priority). And it saved a TON of time & stress. The other major benefit to Gold is that once you reach that status, every mile you earn also gets a 100% bonus mile. So you can get to the higher levels a lot faster. At Silver, you only get a 25% bonus.
The point is to pick an airline & start making all that travel go to work for you It doesn't have to be Delta (although that would definitely be our recommendation!). The point is to just pick an airline that you already love & start racking up loyalty benefits with them to make all that travel you have to do work for you. When I think about the years we spent just flying whichever airline came up, it makes me a little sick. Because I'm pretty sure we could have George Clooney status by now if we'd just picked one & stuck with it! :) But you live & you learn. And then you pay it forward so hopefully someone else can learn from your mistakes. That's what it's all about, right?
Anyway, that's the story behind our Fergalicious life! I'll save the one about my Humps for another day.
So let's all get better together! Tell us, what are some of your favorite travel savvy tips?