Adding impact and drama to your images by layering shots

Today’s post is about something that is actually very simple to do, and adds lots of depth to our compositions and is also fun to experiment with! Layering compositions. Any time that you can take an image from having 2 layers (which is common in most images) and add another layer, the composition becomes much more 3 dimensional and adds impact. Many images are simply a subject and a background like this shot. But if we can find a way to add another layer to the composition, then we can add impact and drama to the shot and many times further pull ourselves out of the shot and make it more about the client.   The next image below is a nice moment of the groom smiling after seeing the bride for the first time. Simple shot with the couple in the foreground and a simple background.   But this below images is sooo much more dramatic! When Jody captured this, she saw these tree branches and quickly jumped behind them and framed the couple in-between a clearing. The images seems much more emotional and it appears as though we are peering in on the moment. This last example is an image we shot WAY back in 2008 after shooting for just about a year. We were shooting the groomsmen with some cool blue skies doing our off-camera lighting. We lined them up, stuck them in the frame and shot it. But it seemed to not have the impact I was going for, so we re-framed the image to what you see below… In the final shot, we simply... Read More

8 Ways to Master Tack-Sharp Group Portraits | Amy & Jordan

Do you ever take a photo of a large group of people that you love, only to get home, zoom in, and realize that it’s not in focus or discover that not every face is tack sharp? It’s the WORST FEELING! We’re here to help with that! Here are eight quick tips to ensure your group photos will be sharp! 1. ONE SHOOTER, ONE ORGANIZER We always divide and conquer family & group portraits to expedite the process. Amy stays near the group, reads off combinations, poses and positions each person, and looks for anything that’s out of order. This gives Jordan the chance to worry about one thing: getting the pictures in focus. Splitting up the roles has really helped us execute this well, because trying to do both is just too much for one person (in our opinion), and can lead to mistakes with the camera. 2. LINE UP THEIR FEET Groups have a tendency to curl in on the ends to make a U-shape without even realizing it! We all do it — even photographers! — but it’s a problem when trying to get everyone in focus, because as the people on the ends curl up, they’re leaving the focal plane of the people in the middle. So, if you focus on the person in the middle, then the people on the outsides will be out of focus, and vice versa. Amy uses the direction, “Let’s line up your toes,” to help them get straightened out and back on the same plane. 3.TRY TO AVOID MULTIPLE ROWS WHEN POSSIBLE If you’re able to get everyone lined... Read More

Contrast & Curves | Jared Platt

Happy Tuesday! This week we are featuring a guest post from Lightroom Master, Jared Platt. Jared is a photographer and educator based out of Arizona. We hope you enjoy! Contrast & Curves It’s time to get your contrast under control with tone curves. A large part of photography is judging the various tones that make up an image and deciding where they should be placed in the final presentation of the print. Both in the image display of our cameras and in Adobe Lightroom, we see this tonal distribution visually represented in the histogram. The simple name for this tonal distribution is “contrast” and as photographers, we are constantly trying to control it. Reading the histogram and controlling the placement of tones within the image is one of the most important skills a photographer can master. We actively adjust image contrast both when we shoot and in post processing. When we shoot, we do this by judging and manipulating the quantity, quality and direction of light. A softer, more diffuse, less directional light creates less contrast. Conversely, harder, more directional light creates brighter highlights and leaves darker shadows which equals more contrast. This is then shown to use on the camera and in Lightroom by way of the histogram. I constantly hear people say that a good exposure is described on the histogram when there is an even distribution of tones all the way across the graph (like in the image below), and while this statement is true for the image above and the histogram below, the advice is actually very poor advice. In reality, a good exposure on... Read More

Where to find stunning natural light | 2014 Nashville Photography Workshops

When a photographer decides that they are tired of having to over-edit their images to get the “look” they want and are REALLY tired of how much time they spend in editing, that is when they are open to finding a new way to do things. Do you ever feel that way? Maybe you love editing the few shots that are your favorites, but then when you look at the daunting task of editing your entire shoot, you feel a bit overwhelmed. All the while your kids are asking you to play with them (or, you wait until they go to bed and then get to work), and then you start wondering if this is really worth the effort. What you really want is the below. Images you are proud of, that are finished and ready to send off to your client, and you want it to be easier! Well, it can happen and the real key is finding the natural light and using it really well. When we do that, the images almost edit themselves and your business starts to get a lot more fun! Here is a re-cap of some of the images I shot while teaching our Natural Light Workshop last weekend! We started off the day teaching how to find that amazing natural light and where to look for it, and then had an amazing lunch right at our home with our 20 students. We had a great time getting to know each other, hearing about people’s struggles and joys in their businesses, and made some great new friends. All of our students that attended... Read More

4 Simple Steps to great Wedding Day Portraits + Video

Have you ever been on a shoot, and just KNOW that your client is feeling uncomfortable? Then you start to feel uncomfortable and things just go downhill from there? We have felt that way before and it is not a fun experience for anyone! (image from Daniel & Stacia’s super fun non-awkward wedding!) Because we know that clients are not always sure what might happen at a shoot, and there is a chance that they might feel awkward and not know what to do, a number of years ago we decided to create a system that gave us a great chance to combat the very beginning of the shoot and get our clients feeling calm and comfortable in no time! Making your client feel calm and relaxed is SUPER important.  The more calm and comfortable they are feeling the better chance you have to get amazing, natural shots of them (and of course, they then feel better their whole experience with you because they felt so comfortable!).   Now we want to share with you our 4 steps to awesome wedding day portraits! 1. Encourage Clients always have a fear going into their portrait sessions that they won’t look as good as what they saw in your portfolio. We realize that our number one job is to make our clients FEEL good about the shoot, and when we they feel good, they loosen up and we get great pics every time! Most of what we do and say to our clients is for the sole purpose of encouraging them in everything that they are doing. If a client moves in a way that does not work for a shot, we... Read More

7 Steps for Getting Great Camera Flare

Today we are going to talk about how to get lens flare! Lens flare is my (Jody) FAVORITE to shoot! Getting great flare can be a little tricky and take a bit of practice and tweaking, so we will share some tips that will give you the best opportunities for success to get awesome flarey goodness :) Flare is created when direct light shoots into your lens, creating a sunburst effect. This can be done with natural light or even strobe, but for today’s tips, we’ll talk about flare in relation to using the sun, which can be the most tricky. Here are some tips to getting lens flare:1. Position your subject with his/her back to the light source.2. For getting the most flare, remove your lens hood.3. It can be really hard to focus on your subject with the light shooting into your lens, so you’ll need to block the light to enable you to focus. You can either use your subject, something in the scene of your frame (tree, building, etc), or my preference – my hand. I hold my hand out over my lens, blocking the light shooting into the lens, focus on my subject, remove my hand & recompose the shot to how I want, then I shoot. (*The camera can magnify the power of the sun through your camera’s eye piece, so it should go without saying, never look directly at the sun.) 4. Depending on the time of day and the harshness of the sun, the flare can totally wash out your image. You can prevent this (or tone the flare down) by... Read More

Tuesday Tips & Tricks | Creating the Image

“We are taking time off awaiting baby Gray, but have put together our favorite Tips and Tricks from the last two years for us all to review!” Welcome to Tuesday Tips and Tricks REVISITED and the newest installment in a series we call “Creating the Image!” Today we are breaking down a series of images taken at a recent wedding in Franklin, TN of the amazing Amy and Brian. We shot images of them in a number of different places from out in a beautiful field, in a garden and in front of the historic Carnton Plantation home where they were married. As we walked by this little dirt road between locations, we noticed a great line of trees and some nice light and decided to set up a quick series of shots here. There are always a few elements that we look for when shooting the portraits of the bride and groom, and one of those is some real interaction between our couple. So we go through 4 simple steps to make sure that we get some great candid shots of them. Ready? Here we go! Step 1. Light The first thing we need, especially for candid shots, is great natural light that we can put our couple in so that we have a photo friendly environment. This location had some soft, directional light coming towards our clients, so we decided that this was an ideal location for some candid-style shots.     Step 2. Guidance Over years of shooting countless couple’s we realize that most great images are created, not just captured naturally. So we set up... Read More

How to get the bride in a better lighting situation

When photographing weddings, everything happens very fast and it is critical as the person in charge of capturing memories, that we anticipate what is GOING to happen next. When we are out shooting a wedding we try and think ahead about what will soon happen (like the bride getting into the dress), and start thinking about where the best place for that to happen might be so we can shoot it really well. We rarely have ideal conditions for capturing moments and when we were out shooting Bret & Jillian’s wedding in AL a few weeks back, it was no exception. We want to talk about two situations where the bride was not in an ideal location, and how we moved her to better lighting or a better place for moments to happen organically.   Scene One: Make-Up The bride was getting her make-up done in this chair near the only decent light source in the room. As I walked over to chat with the bride and asses the lighting and composition situation, I noticed that the make-up artist was standing in the light and blocking it from hitting the bride in a flattering way. I also noticed that the center of the light source (the window) was not above the center of the eyes which means the shadows on her face would be pushed off to one side too heavily. The first thing I did, was simply ASK. I said hi to the make-up artist and told her her work was looking amazing! Then I asked her if she minded scooting over to the side so we could... Read More

The Perfect Ring Shot | Guest Post by Photographer Katelyn James

We are super delighted to bring to you a Tuesday Tips & Tricks post from a fellow photographer and friend Katelyn James! We met Katelyn a few years ago when she was new to the industry and now, four years later, her business is rocking and has been super blessed. Let us brag on her for a moment – she’s not only one of the nicest people you’ll meet, but this lady has killer branding that you need to check out and her work has been featured everywhere! From Professional Photographer Magazine to The Knot, Southern Living Weddings, Virginia Bride, to big, high profile blogs from Grey Likes Weddings to Style Me Pretty to Green Wedding Shoes, Wedding Chicks – the list goes on and on! Without any further ado, we bring you Katelyn! Well HELLO to all the wonderful Zach and Jody fans out there!!! It’s such a huge honor to be over here on their amazing blog today!! I’m Katelyn James and I’m a wedding photographer based out of Richmond, VA. I share life with my sweet husband Michael and our little Bichpoo puppy, Bokeh! …. Yes, I named my dog “Bokeh”… NERD ALERT! So when Zach and Jody asked me to do a little guest post sharing some tips and tricks, I was so excited… until I realized I had to decide WHAT the post was going to be on! This was QUITE the decision! Thinking back to my first year or two in business, I had numerous problem areas (don’t we all?!) but one area that always drove me crazy were the RING SHOTS! I... Read More

Studio Lighting | Perfect Separation on white seamless

So, if you have ever shot in the studio, you may have shot images on a seamless backdrop which is a simple way to get great looking images without much distraction from you client. You can also easily cut clients out from a seamless if you need to do a composite. Sometimes though, you need a classy, simple shot on a pure white or gray seamless, and although it may seem straight-forward, it can be very tricky to nail it.   There are tons of blogs, ideas and systems out there for shooting on a white seamless and getting the background blown out so it turns pure white or grey, but not blasting so much light back into the camera that it hazes out the images, or loses the contrast between your client and the background. Today I will show you the easiest way to get that perfect separation.   Some photographers say that you need to have your main light at f/11, then your background light at f/16 to blow out that background just right. Some say that you need to have them a certain amount of feet away from the background. Some say that you need to get your blinkies on the back of your camera flashing on the background and not your client, then it will be right. Zack Arias, on his Tumblr Blog, suggested using the blinkies, then adding 1/3 more or less and learning your system then checking them to see what needs to be adjusted. So which method is correct?   All of that can work with lots of guessing, but there is... Read More

Behind the Image, Salt Barn

Jody and I just got back from Toronto where we were guest Keynote Speakers for the Exposure Show and now we are back and rockin out today’s tips! Today, we are going back to a series we started last fall where we take images from weddings and workshops, and break them down for you guys so that you can do them as well! Ready? Here we go!!   So this image above, although it can seem crazy looking, is actually not that difficult to pull off and the entire look was done all in-camera with zero Photoshop! Images like this are something that we do for workshops, for engagement sessions and for bridal shoots (or if we shot senior sessions, this would be something we would rock out) because we have a little bit more time to set them up and light them. The above shot was taken later in the afternoon (about 45 minutes before sunset) in front of this cool salt barn that is just near our house in Franklin. Here is how we did it.   Exposure Settings on the 5D Mark 3 with 24-70L 2.8 lens ISO 100, 2.8, 1/100th of a second Here is an image that we took of the barn with a down the middle exposure trying to capture a little detail in the sky and a small amount of detail in the salt barn itself. As you can see, it is MUCH brighter in the sky (the sun was setting behind the salt barn so it is back lit) and much darker in the foreground of the composition. We wanted to... Read More

Composition Part 2

Welcome to part 2 composition posts! Composition, we believe, is one of the hardest things to master in photography in general, especially in wedding photography because everything is moving so fast and sometimes you literally have seconds to nail a shot. Plus, you are not just shooting people, but products like the shoes and rings, architecture like the reception locations, and you are shooting candid and posed shots all in the same day. Oh, and the lighting is all over the place with all kinds of varying other conditions. Not an easy job to begin with and definitely not easy to think about the perfect composition in the midst of all that! So, today is one more simple technique that you can easily use and remember to help add that extra wow factor to your wedding shots. Today, we are going to be talking about Leading Lines.   Any time that we can grab our couple, the shoes, the bridesmaids and bride and so on and create some dramatic lines that lead us into the shot we are doing, we do it! Finding lines that point to our subject and lining them up to do so is a great technique that really makes our images much more interesting and dynamic. So, less talk and more pics! Let’s break down a few different styled shots and see how the lines made the images that much better.   The below image was shot at the Montaluce Winery north of Atlanta back in 2009. It rained the entire day and Jody went out onto the balcony of the estate room the bride was... Read More

Composition Part 1

What up everyone?! We are super excited to be talking about an awesome topic today that we just love! Composition! What you choose to include (and sometimes more importantly, not include) in your images will result in you not only being able to tell the story of what is happening in a much better way, but it also makes your images much more interesting to look at! We are going to go over multiple composition techniques in this series, and today we are going to start with some portrait composition ideas that you can use right away to help give your images a unique edge.   Today’s tip, Layered Composition:   Layering is a great way to add depth and dimension to an otherwise average looking portrait of your subject. Using more than one layer can take an image from looking very flat and boring, to looking like it has tons of depth and can even give it a “Photoshop” effect, since many times this is done in post-production by blending different images together. Let’s take a look at two different images and show you what we mean.   In this first images which Jody and I shot back in July of 2008 (we had been shooting for about 1 year pro at this point) and although the image has some cool elements to it with the lighting and the blue sky, it can be taken to the next level by layering the image.   Once we had shot this image, we decided to try and layer the image more by adding some foreground elements to give the image... Read More

Rockin The Ceremony!

We often get asked what our game plan is for ceremonies and how we shoot them together, so today we will dive into our mentality when shooting the ceremony and where we position ourselves to capture the important images from this all important portion of the day!   When it comes to shooting the ceremony, our overall goal is to stay out of the way, not distract from the events, and of course, get great images. The Game Plan: When the processional begins, I (Jody) am staked out in the aisle way, about halfway down, depending on how long the isle is. Usually I have the 24-70mm on, (or a longer lens depending on how far away the bride is going to be) which allows me to shoot the story and the faces of those in the audience as well as zoom in a bit, if I want a tighter shot.I am always looking to get a great expression on the brides face, because we know that our clients are looking for content in their images first and foremost. Zach is usually out in the atrium (wherever the bride is coming into the ceremony from) area capturing the final moments before the bride walks in and will also stand at the back of the church once the processional begins. Usually he has the 70-200L 2.8 or the 85L 1.2 on his camera. Zach’s focus is to shoot the shot of the groom’s face as the bride walks in. He will also capture images of the bride from behind as she and her dad walk down the aisle and will... Read More

Getting Awesome Preparation Shots!

We are out on the Pass Premier Tour bringing this to you LIVE from the good ‘ol state of Mississippi en route to Atlanta! We are having a blast getting to meet so many cool photographers and sharing stories of how we are all navigating this business together! For this week’s tips and tricks blog, we wanted to focus on a key area of shooting the wedding day – nailing great candid getting-ready images. So, on to the post! First things first: When we show up to shoot the final preparations, the first thing we do is start looking for where the good light is in the space we have to work with. If we can get our clients into the good light, then we are guaranteed to get great images of them doing their thing. We usually look for indirect window light and try and place our clients around 4 to 6 feet away from that light facing toward the window. We also try and make sure that the center of the window is around the height of their heads so that we get more light on the face and less light on the body and legs. This helps the dress of the bride to not get blown out and also helps the focus be on their cute little mugs as that becomes the brightest part of our shots. Second: We try and turn off all the lights in the room. This helps avoid mixed lighting where there is one color of light coming through the window, and another color light coming from a lamp or overhead light.... Read More

Guest Blogger Evan Baines!

We are starting a new thing today where every now and then we will be bringing in guest bloggers to share their expertise who we respect and admire! Our first guest blogger is none other than the oh, so talented, Evan Baines. Evan is a great friend of ours and in our opinion, one of the best photojournalistic wedding photographers alive today. Evan is a rare talent that we have both learned from personally and professionally. We are beyond excited to bring you his post, Noun/Adjective, that he wrote exclusively for our blog! Check it out and leave some love! Noun/Adjective by Evan Baines There are lots of techniques out there for portrait photography, where photographers can light or manipulate the scene to create their artistic vision. However, there is a common misperception that documentary photography (AKA “photojournalism”) is simply a matter of snapping away at whatever happens to show up in front of the lens. Nothing could be further from the truth, but the challenge is that the tools and techniques of the documentary photographer are intellectual rather than physical. One example of a technique that I focus on in my own work and discuss with my associates is something I call noun/adjective. Arguably the most important tool of the photojournalist (and perhaps photographers in general) is the basic decision of what to include and what to exclude from the frame. Few pieces of great photojournalism function with only a single piece of content, and the best photojournalists typically achieve remarkable effects through symbolism, parallelism, contrasting subject matter, and various other techniques that might sound more at home in... Read More
Nashville, TN Wedding Photography

Nailing the Correct Focus – Servo Mode vs. One Shot

We hope that everyone is having an amazing day and that all your photography dreams are coming true as we type! ;) Today we are going to do a simple post on a cool little topic – FOCUS! Have you ever been shooting your client and they start moving or running and all of a sudden all your images start coming out blurry? Or, on the other hand, have you ever been shooting your client and you press the shutter half-way to focus on their face, and when you recompose the shot the camera then changes focus on something else? Well, there are tons of little factors that play into how your camera focuses, but one thing we need to understand is the focus MODE that our camera is set to and how that effects the way it handles focusing. One Shot: When you have your camera set to one shot (check your specific owner’s manual for how to do this), the camera will focus when you press the shutter button half-way down and lock it in, and then you finish pressing the shutter button all the way down to take the shot. This MODE is great for shooting stationary subjects that are not moving around. It is cool because you can focus on one thing (like their eyes) then recompose your shot (while keeping their eyes in focus) and then take the image. This helps you be more creative in framing your shots, especially if your camera only has a handful of focus points inside the view finder. The Canon 5D mark II only has 9 focus points... Read More

Eliminating the Middle Ground

Today’s blog is about a simple, yet effective way to get a big impact out of your portrait shoots. Every photographer wants to have images where the subject of our shots seems to be larger than life and jump off the page (or in most cases these days with photography, the computer screen :). So today we are talking about “eliminating the middle ground” as my friend Mike Larson dubbed it. What does it mean to “eliminate the middle ground?” It is simply to take your subject, either a person or a detail shot, and place them in an area where there is space between them, the foreground and the background. When we do this, our subject immediately pops out of the image much better because they are the only thing in sharp focus. Example image from our recent engagement shoot with the amazing Sarah & Ryan! Notice how they seem to jump off the screen and have some much dimension, even though the lighting is not very contrasty at all. Now, if you want to ramp up the effect, you can do this by implementing a few other techniques at the same time. If you don’t have your subject near something like a wall that you can use to lead into your shot (which would increase the effect) then you can get low to the ground like in the shot above to bring more of the foreground into the frame. This helps blur everything in the shot except our subject which makes them that much more 3D looking. If you were to shoot from high above, then more... Read More

Practical Off-Camera Lighting at Weddings

  This shot is very different than what you see with most modern wedding photography and we are going to talk about why. Now the pose and composition are obviously not something new, but the lighting and depth of the shot are and that is why it is not something you see a lot of at weddings. Lit shots like this one usually are not done because they take too long to set up, require lots of powerful lights which are heavy, and can be too in-your-face for some clients. So how do you solve all of those problems at a wedding so that you can get this kind of a shot that is really different and really cool? First, we will talk about how we captured the shot, then we will talk about how we made it practical at the wedding. The first thing you notice with a shot like this (and what many shooters ask us a lot) is that the background must be “photoshopped” in and how did you do it? The answer is honestly, I have no idea how to do something like that in Photoshop and it is all real and all done in the camera. Promise!  There is no retouching done on this shot either with the clients skin, no dodging and burning in Lightroom or Photoshop, and no color enhancements of any type. How we did it: Light – The lighting rig is a 500 watt mono light with a 24×32 inch Westcott soft box. Many shooters will use small light sources like 580 ex speedlights and so on, which are awesome,... Read More