5 Big Giveaways Start Now! Enter now!

We are super excited to be giving away 5 (you read that right!) Low-Light Flash Kits valued at $550! If you shoot in low-light situations then this giveaway is one you don’t want to miss out on! All you have to do to enter is CLICK HERE! Once you do, you will have a chance to get 3 more entries by sharing about the giveaway to your friends which will increase your chances big time! Good luck! PS. For those of you who want to be able to confidently rock your low-lit shoots, specifically RECEPTIONS, then we have some exciting news headed your way soon, so stay tuned!... Read More

Gear Review – Fuji x100s

 (This is a fairly long review, so get ready)! Jody and I drove a few thousand miles over the last 2 weeks on a trip to visit my side of the family (more on that trip coming!), and our son, Jax would be meeting family he had never seen and because we would have some new memories coming our way, we wanted to be sure we were able to capture those moments. We have a decent little Canon point and shoot that we spent about $400 on a few years back, but the high ISO is bad and the camera is very slow in every way. We also have our iPhones, but as many of you may know, iPhone images are great if you look at them on an iPhone. If you try and print them or blow them up in any way, they tend to look pretty rough. So what is the solution for a photographer to take great images and have control over their personal photos, without having to use our HUGE dSLR cameras and dealing with switching lenses? We have always wanted a camera that was compact (but not too small) that takes awesome quality shots, is fast and can handle varying lighting conditions on manual and auto. The Fuji Hype   Before buying something like this, I ALWAYS rent it to make sure it lives up to the hype, so I rented this bad boy from my good friends over at Lens Rentals who have been awesome to work with! The Fuji x100s has been hyped up a lot since the intro of the x100 in 2011.... 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

Natural Reflectors | Where to find them & How to use them

On Monday, we went through Part 1 of this post on reflectors, so if you missed it and need to get caught up, check it out HERE. Method 3. Using Natural Reflectors One of our favorite reflectors to use are natural ones. As we walk into a shoot or are scouting locations, we try to find places where light is reflecting back to give us a great look on our shots.  It is great to find open shade, but when that open shade has light bouncing into it (like the above graphic) then we know we are going to get some more dynamic lighting. This image above was in the shade of the sun (good start), but then it also had soft light bouncing back into it. Directly behind the camera position and about 30 degrees right (about 80 feet away from us) was a large, white 3 story building that was reflecting the sun back into this area. That gave us not JUST soft light, but directional soft light that gives nice contrast to the image. TIP: Try and find natural reflectors that are at least 2 or 3 stories high (if they are 50 or 100 feet away) so that the center of those light sources is above the eyes of our subjects. That helps the light come down at a flattering angle and makes the images look much... Read More

The most important piece of gear in your bag |Part 1

When out shooting a wedding or a portrait session, you don’t have control on what type of lighting you have to deal with that day. It might be sunny, cloudy or even rainy. Regardless, our clients still expect great images and the best way to set the stage for a great image to happen is with great lighting. Because lighting is not always predictable, we need to be able to manipulate that lighting to do what we need it to do to capture those moments as best we can for our clients.   Over the 7 years we shot weddings and the now 8 years and counting that we have been taking pictures on a professional level, we have realized that one of the most important tools for controlling light is not all of our fancy off-camera lighting, soft-boxes and speedlights. The most important and used piece of gear for us is a simple reflector and diffuser. This tool is a must-have for our gear bag and allows us to add just the right amount of light to many of our portraits that make them sing. In this 2 part series, we will cover how to get the most out of this key piece of equipment. Today we are going to break down the first 2 of our 4  main ways that we use reflectors to our advantage. The Gear We use one 5 in1 reflector from Westcott Lighting and one Diffusion Panel from Westcott. Even though the 5 in 1 reflector has a diffusion panel inside of it, we don’t want to take the time to take the cover on and... Read More

Why Your CF Card MIGHT Fail at Your Next Shoot

If you bought a CF card a few years back and have been shooting away on it over, and over, and over, and over again, then you MIGHT want to re-consider EVER using it again. And here is why.     Having a hard time recognizing this strange looking image thing? It is actually a photo from a portrait shoot from a friend of mine. And no, he was NOT able to recover these images from this CF card.   A few years back, Jody and I were lucky to be able to join the Sandisk Extreme Team and work a little more closely with the company that invented Compact Flash technology. What many photographers (including us, before we joined the team), didn’t understand about CF cards was that essentially, they are a computer. And computers break. CF cards actually have 3 “parts” that help them function. They have a reader (that reads data from your specific camera), a writer (that writes that data from your cameras buffer to the card), and a CPU that processes that information. Each time you shoot images on a CF card, and then “format” it, it actually doesn’t even erase the images (unless you do a low-level format). The images are not erased until you shoot a new image over the old one. So, if you once filled up that CF card to the max, but never did it again, you could potentially have images still on that card from that REALLY old shoot.   Because the cards do these complex data transfers, they of course, eventually ALL go bad. WHEN that happens is... Read More

Friday Finds!! Our favorite Sling-over Camera Bag | UNDFIND

“We are taking time off awaiting baby Gray, but have put together our favorite Friday Finds from the last year for us all to review!”  Welcome to this week’s Friday Find..REVISITED! Happy Friday! Today we want to share one of our latest finds with you that we absolutely LOVE!!!!! If you are looking for a camera bag for yourself or a friend, this may be exactly what you are looking for! A few months ago we got the One Bag and Waist Shooter from UNDFIND and it is by far our favorite new bag to carry our lenses in when we take them out from our Think Tank roller camera bag. What makes UNDFIND’s One Bag the bomb-dot-com: – It’s an all-in-one bag: I (Jody) love the versatility of the bag.  If I don’t want to use it as a camera gear carrier, I can take out the center part (photo insert) and put books, my travel pillow, snacks – whatever I want!  This has become my travel bag whenever we go anywhere!  Once we start shooting it transforms back into a camera bag. – The multiple pockets: I love how there’s a space for my wallet, pens (yes, this gets me very excited ;o), and other nooks and crannies. There is even a netted cover on the flap where I can put MORE stuff.  I love pockets :) – Comfort: The shoulder strap is awesome!  It’s not only padded well but also has give to it when I walk. Love, love, love. – Different Looks: Of course here are swappable DESIGNER covers!! – Different Size Options: You can... 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

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

Traveling With Gear!

Hey all of you amazing blog followers out there! Today we are taking questions again from the audience! We have received a ton of great emails from some of you photographers and we are going to highlight one for you right here on the bliggity blog! The question today is from Jen in Jacksonville, FL. She writes: “Hi guys- thanks as always for sharing your wealth of knowledge! I do have a question about what you do when you travel. I’ve noticed you’ve been flying a lot lately for weddings and would love to know what you bring with and if you trust the airline with checking all of your equipment. Can you fly with a Vagabond? I just booked my first destination wedding (Boston!! So excited!) and am trying to figure out what I’m going to do. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much! keep on rockin!!” Awesome question! So, you are flying, want to protect your gear, and want to be able to bring everything that you need with you so that you can shoot the way you want to shoot. What do you bring and how do you bring it? So, here is our set up that we have right now here in California. We have our Lowe-Pro rolling bag, our Elinchrom Ranger Quadra light rig (the whole 400 watt second kit weighs in at a mere 9 pounds), a 24×32 inch Westcott softbox, two 42 inch Westcott reflectors and a small Westcott light stand. We carry on everything except the reflectors which we check in our luggage bag (those can’t really break) and... Read More
Nashville, TN Wedding Photography

Our Newest Family Member – the 85mm

Today’s blog is about the newest addition to the family here at the Gray house. After lots of nudging from me (Zach) to my lovely but unfortunately penny pinching but financially smart wife ;), we finally broke down and bought this bad boy about a month or so ago. Welcome to the Gray family, my little 85mm sweetie pie. No, I have not let her into bed with us. Pretty! After being a zoom shooter for a long time because of how practical they are, Jody and I have really started seeing how much it can add to your look if you invest in a lens like this. Today we want to show you some of the pluses and minuses of shooting with an 85mmL 1.2. We love this lens a ton and have noticed its strengths, and also want talk about the possible problems one can encounter while using it. The Good: This lens has the most beautiful color and really great looking bokeh (which is how the blur looks that the lens produces). The lens also focuses really well (although the speed of the focusing is fairly slow compared to many other lenses) and is very accurate, especially considering that the lens opens up so big on the inside and is as heavy as it is. Check out some background blur and color on this puppy! All these are shot at f/1.2 The colors are so rich and everything looks so crisp and smooth. Also you notice that the background has a very nice blur that is textured very nicely. This lens is also really great for... Read More
Nashville, TN Wedding Photography

Our Favorite Lenses Part 2! 100mm Macro

Last week we talked about Zach’s favorite lens and why he loves using it. Today, its my turn!! I love using longer lenses and sneaking into moments from a distance so that our brides do not even know I am there. One of my favorite lens is the Canon 100mm Macro 2.8. I like to shoot in really tight. One of the coolest things about this lens is that you can do that easily while still maintaining a nice distance from your subject. A lot of wedding photographer’s go-to lens for makeup shots is maybe the 50mm 1.4 or even better, the 50mm 1.2. The cool thing about the 50mm 1.2 is one can shoot at a really low aperture where everything but what you’re focusing on becomes really soft, but there’s two problems with that – 1) you have to get right up in the bride’s business to get that close up shot, and 2) you have to be at least 1.5 ft away to focus. So it’s hard to get that tight shot because the lens can’t focus that close. Boo. What I love about the 100mm Macro is that if I want, I could get in as close as 5.5 inches away from our bride… not like I would want a shot of literally just her eyeball, but you get the idea :) This lens is also GREAT for ring shots. Because it’s a Macro lens and it can focus as close to 5.5 inches away from any subject, you can literally fill the frame with a ring if you want and get in REALLY close!... Read More

Our Favorite Lenses! 16-35mm

Using the right lens for the right job is critical in not only getting the shot you want or need, but evoking a certain type of feeling when you do. There are many things to consider when it comes to purchasing and using certain lenses, and some of the things to look for in a lens when buying are how it affects the look of your shot, how fast and easily it focuses (without good focus you won’t get the shot), how clear is the image you produce with it and how does it represent the color of the image. Today, I want to talk about one of my favorite lenses and why and how we use it! Let me introduce you to the Canon 16-35mm L 2.8 Oooh! Ahhhh!! This lens is great for the photographer who wants to get everything in the shot from a close distance and create high drama. This lens really distorts reality by stretching everything on the sides and drawing it into the frame. I love it! Check out some example images from a wedding we did last fall to see what this baby can do! In using this lens, composition becomes all the more important because you really can see EVERYTHING in the shot.  What you put in the frame becomes vital and can either add to the shot or actually distract the viewer’s attention from the main subject.  You also want to make sure you avoid putting anything you DON’T want warped near the outer edges.  For example, take this shot I took of Jody awhile back: This shot is not... Read More

The Fitfty is Nifty!

OK, for those who just like to look at photos, scroll down and read the text just above the first shot! But for those who may want to learn some really cool photography jargon and be cool like me (Zach) then read away! We promise that it is not super-geeky even though we went to Wikipedia to get some detailed definitions. :) Jody and I are gearing up for the 2009 season and this is always a fun time because… we get to by new gear!! :) We purchased a few new lenses and are excited to share, and show, what one of them can do! We bought a brand new 50mm 1.4 lens (sounds techy, I know) which is a really great lens and serves a few purposes. With the 50mm, part of its title means that it is fixed at a focal length of 50 millimeters – which basically means that when you look through the camera at something, it is a similar distance away from you, like something you would see with your naked eye. That gives you some perspective as well on lenses that are say, 200mm which would make things appear about 4 times closer to you than they really are, or a 16mm lens that would make things look about 3 times farther away than they really are. The “1.4” part of the name of this lens means that you can let a lot of light into the camera because its “pupil” (if you will) can get very big like an owl’s eye can. This is called the f/stop or the aperture. This... Read More