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

3 Quick Tricks for Shooting in Harsh Light During Ceremonies | Amy & Jordan

If you’ve EVER shot an outdoor wedding ceremony before, you know that sometimes the light isn’t ideal! In fact, a lot of times, it can be REALLY harsh! Especially when the bride is first coming down the aisle! We have three quick tips for shooting outdoor ceremonies in harsh light that should hopefully make things a little easier for you! 1. Have Dad Walk the Bride Down the Aisle on the Side that Blocks the Sun Now in an ideal world, we’d have soft, even light from head to toe during every outdoor ceremony, but that’s just rarely the case! And the sun is always the harshest at the beginning of the ceremony, when the sun is still higher in the sky. Even though there is typically a “side” protocol for the bride and the groom during the ceremony, in all our wedding experience, we’ve seen Dad walk on either side of the bride as he escorts her down the aisle. We’ve found that when we put Dad on the same side as the sun, since he’s usually taller, he blocks the light that would be hitting his daughter, putting her in perfect, even, shaded light — which we love! As you can see in the picture below. Now, again, in our perfect world, Dad isn’t getting hit by the sun either, but if we had to choose, we’re always Team Bride first! You’ll also want to note the angle (which we’ll get to in point two!). 2. Be Strategic About Side Angles Even when the ceremony is earlier in the day, there’s typically one side that is softer... 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

Using Diffusers for a direct-sun portrait | 4 Part Series

Diffusing Direct Sunlight The last way we control light in this way is to use our diffuser. Sometimes you are shooting and you have NO where to hide from the sun and you are getting tired of just backlighting every client and adding some light to the front with your reflector. That is why having a large diffuser is critical to wedding and portrait work. If we have a large reflector with us, then we can shoot in direct sun and get great images of our clients. Some of you shooters out there have nothing but tons of sun and no shade for lots of your shoots, so learning to use a diffuser really well is key! Here is the shot of the behind the scenes image from above in direct sun. It is not flattering and tough to shoot in. Once we add the diffusion, we now have this beautiful soft light with manageable contrast that looks great! Nothing But Sun If you find yourself shooting in direct sun almost ALL the time, then we would recommend that you invest in a diffusion panel like the California Sun Bounce. (image from California Sun Bounce Italy) This piece of gear takes the diffuser and puts it in a frame, then allows you to get an accessory mono-pod so your assistant can carry it around and create soft light anywhere. It comes in tons of sizes and we recommend a large one for two or more people. Shooting on the beach, in the desert or anywhere in between, you can create soft light and get great images!   With these 4 Methods... 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

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

Our FREE 5 Week Photography Course is HERE!

Lesson 1: Must-have Gear Essentials You are receiving the FIRST week of this complimentary 5-week course just for being an awesome blog reader! You can SIGN UP for the entire 5 week course HERE! Welcome to the first lesson in the Five Keys to Rockin’ Your Portrait Sessions! Over the next few weeks, we are going to cover must-have gear, finding the light that any client can look great in, how to get the best moments and expressions from your client, how to get free help which allows you to focus on your clients, and how to make more money on your sessions! So, get ready because here we go with week 1! Portrait Session Goals When we are out shooting a portrait session, we have one goal in mind – To make our clients look their absolute best! In order to do that it’s important to have the right tools. Today’s lesson is about the two most important things you can bring out with you to your portrait shoots – the right lens and the right reflector. MUST-HAVE GEAR ESSENTIAL #1: A PORTRAIT LENS You have the power to make your subject look their best or their worst simply by the type of lens you choose to shoot with. This is why, unless we are trying to go for a certain look, we are usually shooting with a portrait lens. What makes a portrait lens a portrait lens? Any lens that is approximately 80mm or longer (depending on what expert you ask) is considered a “portrait lens.” Likewise, any lens that is shorter than approximately 80mm is not a... Read More

3 Keys to a beautiful couple shot

Photography, especially wedding photography, is unique in its own right in that a wedding photographer has to be proficient at many styles of shooting in order to get the job done. We have to know how to do portraits, photojournalism, architectural photography, product photography (for those little rings and details) AND do it all in .5 seconds! It is very difficult to do any of these types of photography well, let alone do them all in one day and shoot 1,200 final images that all rock our clients faces off. Whew!! Not an easy job! Sooooo, today we are going to talk about portraits (I hate that word and if anyone knows a better one, let me know) and a few different techniques in doing them. Our lovely models today are the amazingly hot Blake and Andrea whose wedding we shot in October. These guys are the bomb and we love them to death! :) Image number one! OK. So I dig this shot a ton that my hot wife took and would like to not only talk about why it rocks, but how we did it. We were shooting their session on their wedding day about 2.5 hours before sunset which is not the best time in the world to shoot because the sun is still pretty high in the sky. The best time of day to shoot is 1 hour before sunset, and the first hour of the sun rising because the sun is going through more atmosphere which disperses it wider and makes the light softer. The one and only thing that makes light soft and... 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

Nashville IN-CAMERA: Shooting & Post Recap | October 2012

We just finished up Nashville’s final IN-CAMERA workshops here at our home and we had an absolute blast with our attendees! Many pics were taken, lots of laughs were had and some great friends were made. We have loved doing this particular series of workshops and always enjoy opening our home to photographers. So now that this series of workshops is coming to an end, you may be asking, “what’s next?” We have a few things up our sleeves that are sure to be way different and really exciting! Stay tuned! In the meantime, check out the first day of our workshop Shooting and Post! We started off like we always do doing a Keynote teaching the how’s of what we do, then heading out for 3.5 hours to get the hands-on shooting time that really solidifies what we talked about. We both learn by doing, so we know how critical it is to shoot and sit with someone guiding you through as you encounter problems and work through different scenarios. That is the real benefit of a hands-on workshop that you don’t get by watching a You-Tube video or reading a book shooting. When I (Zach) first started out, I read loads of books and watched tons of videos online about shooting and lighting, but it wasn’t until I met Evan Baines and we shot together, shared and critiqued each others work, that I really started to become a good photographer. Those times of working one on one with Evan were invaluable to my career and that is a big reason why we do small, more personalized workshops... 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

Behind the Scenes on a Bridal Shoot

We know a lot of you out there have questions about how we do our lighting and set up so we wanted to give you a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of one of the set-ups of a bridal session that we shot a few weeks ago. The fab bride that you see below is Mallory, and she and her man, Aaron just got married this past weekend, so we are excited we can start putting up some of her bridal images! We shot this setup with a Westcott 24×32 Softbox, two Photogenic Powerlights (600 watts & 1,000 watts), Pocket Wizards Plus IIs, the Sekonic L-358 light meter, and of course 2 Alien Bee Vagabond II‘s for our power source. I put the main light about 35 degrees off to the side and as close in as possible to give the “painted on” light look. Putting it off to the side creates a “loop” lighting pattern where the light loops off to one side of the brides face and body and helps create more depth and dimension. Then, to help “pop” her out from the background even more, I set our second light to the side of her, hitting the rocks and her back. We shot this BARE BULB with a small 7 inch reflector so the light was a little more harsh and defining. The front light was metered at F/9 which was about 2 stops brighter than the background (to give us a very flash heavy dramatic look) and the back light was metered at F/11 to make it really obvious. This is what the set up looked... Read More