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Sometimes you get lucky. During the rehearsal, I was concerned because the couple was standing beneath a bank of lights shining directly down on the tops of their heads. I wasn't sure how I was going to capture flattering shots of them. To make matters worse, the wedding coordinator had specifically requested that I didn't use flash during the ceremony.

Here's where I got lucky. The next day, I'm in position during the ceremony, and it's the priest is standing in the glaring light, not the couple. This time, they were standing back a few feet basking in the glow of light bouncing off the white robe of the priest. He was a human reflector.

I composed the shot on a Canon 5D Mark ll with the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens set wide open. The shutter speed was 1/60th of a second and the ISO was set to 1600. I had enough light, and more importantly, the right kind of light, so I never considered turning on the flash. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

In the next installment I'll talk a bit about the post production of four, full, 8 GB cards.

Photo of wedding ceremony by Derrick Story.

Other Installments of the Wedding Photographer Chronicles

Wedding Photographer Chronicles: Chapter 1, the Rehearsal

Wedding Photographer Chronicles: Chapter 2, Analyzing the Church

Wedding Photographer Chronicles: Chapter 4, Delivering the Goods

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When we arrived at the church for the rehearsal, I was very impressed. It's absolutely beautiful. And if we didn't have to actually photograph people in there, life would be terrific.

The problem is that all of the lighting is designed to show off the architecture. So, for example, when the wedding couple was standing at the altar during the rehearsal, the only lighting on them was coming straight down from the ceiling, nothing from an angle. This is what I call Halloween lighting: the forehead is bright, the eyes go hollow, and the nose radiates to the point where there's no detail.

Typically, the solution is to use fill light. Great! Except that the wedding coordinator doesn't like flash during the ceremony. So I had to negotiate "some flash" and the rest existing light shots. So I think our plan will be to make sure we have at least a couple shots via flash of every major activity during the ceremony, then go for existing light artistic for the rest.

We're shooting with Canon EOS 5D Mark II bodies, so we can push the ISO up to 1600 for the artistic stuff. I'll probably use ISO 400 for the flash photography to keep the intensity at a minimum and for faster recycling times.

In the next report, I'll let you know how this plan worked out.

Other Installments of the Wedding Photographer Chronicles

Wedding Photographer Chronicles: Chapter 1, the Rehearsal

Wedding Photographer Chronicles: Chapter 3, During the Ceremony

Wedding Photographer Chronicles: Chapter 4, Delivering the Goods

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It's true, every wedding is different. But oddly enough, I prepare for each one the same way. So I thought it would be fun to walk you through a wedding weekend where my assistant and I are the photographers.

We've already completed the planning for the event. I have a detailed shot list that the clients and I have agreed to. So the next step is rehearsal night. Yes, I go to the rehearsal.

I believe this is one of the keys to my success. Both my assistant and I show up with shot list in hand. We make notes about the environment. We meet the family members and note their names. The rules of the road are explained to us by the wedding coordinator. And we have a chance to scout out locations for the various group shots on our list. After the rehearsal is over, we compare notes and prepare for the big shoot the next day.

Tonight, we'll also make an appearance at the rehearsal dinner. I'll have a bite to eat and snap a few candids. This gives me the opportunity to see if I have any "blinkers" in the wedding party and discover any other quirks that I should know about.

Once I have my plan in place, I go to bed. No late night partying, no goofing off. I need to be fresh and on top of my game for the upcoming event.

I'll probably post the next installment in this series tomorrow morning. Until then, wish me luck.

Other Installments of the Wedding Photographer Chronicles

Wedding Photographer Chronicles: Chapter 2, Analyzing the Church

Wedding Photographer Chronicles: Chapter 3, During the Ceremony

Wedding Photographer Chronicles: Chapter 4, Delivering the Goods

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Editor's note -- Virtual camera club member Steve Cooper has been wrestling with a problem in iPhoto '09. He identified that there's an apparent loss of sharpness when using the crop or straighten tool. He has some good information here on the issue, so I thought I'd share it with you. The following text was written by Steve and sent to me via email.

I was delighted to learn that a new version of iPhoto ('09) was released just as I was starting work on a large number of travel vacation photos. I was not so delighted to find out that a significant problem I had observed in iPhoto ‘08 was not fixed in the new version, and that the workaround I had previously used was no longer effective.

If you have an image containing a lot of fine detail and are working with it in iPhoto’s Edit mode, you’ll find that if you crop or straighten it, it will lose some of its original sharpness. Further, if you then use the Sharpness slider to try to remedy the situation, it may appear to have no effect unless you apply a very large amount of sharpening. (It turns out that printing results in a sharp image — it's the on-screen display that's deficient here.)

I have recently found that moving the Picture Size slider just a tiny bit to the right restores the screen image sharpness, but this is true only if you keep the slider away from its normal leftmost position. While a reasonable (if annoying) workaround when viewing a single image, this is not a practical solution in many situations.

My workaround in iPhoto '08 was to open the image in Photoshop (using it in External Editor mode from within iPhoto) and apply some insignificant change just to ensure that the JPEG was rewritten when saved back into iPhoto. This worked well, but unfortunately no longer does so in iPhoto '09.

The only way to fix an affected image in iPhoto '09 appears to be to export the image from iPhoto and reimport it. While this doesn’t result in the loss of any EXIF data (except of course for the "Imported" date), you will lose your ratings and keywords. If you’ve imported the image back into the library from which it came, it's easy enough to copy the ratings and keywords from the neighbouring original image, which you can then delete entirely by Command-Option-Deleting its thumbnail. This could be tiresome if dealing with a large number of images, but at least it works.

One thing I have learned while exploring this problem is never to discard an image from iPhoto just because it seems to be "out of focus" and not responsive to the Sharpness slider. Always nudge the Picture Size slider fractionally to the right and see what happens. If sharpness improves by a useful amount, use the workaround above to "rescue" the shot.

Finally, I can report that Aperture 2 seems to be free of any problem of this kind.

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In a recent podcast on setting goals, I mentioned that 2009 might be the year you finally publish that great photography web site you've always wanted to have. Or if you have a site, but it's long in the tooth and not what you want, then this could be the year to give it a major face lift. I think web sites are important for photographers of all levels. They serve as your showcase so people can find and enjoy your work.

Designing a beautiful site can be much easier than you think. And it doesn't have to be based on some template that thousands of other photographers are using. Today I'm going to introduce to SiteGrinder. It's a Photoshop plug-in that takes your ideas and builds the site for you. I've been exploring the product for a few weeks now, and I think you're going to like what you discover. In a nutshell:

"Media Lab’s SiteGrinder 2 plug-in converts Adobe Photoshop into a powerful, intuitive website development system that makes it easy. SiteGrinder 2 and Photoshop are everything you need to create gorgeous websites that look exactly like your Photoshop designs. With the click of a button, SiteGrinder 2 effortlessly transforms Photoshop files into professional quality, CSS-rich webpages. SiteGrinder 2 gives complete control over every aspect of your website’s design and functionality ... all without leaving Photoshop. SiteGrinder 2 writes the HTML, CSS and other web programming code so you don't have to."

Over the course of the next few months, I'm going to show you the ins and outs of SiteGrinder. But first, I want you to have a solid introduction. So here are a few things to look at now.

  • The SiteGrinder Tour walks you through a series of captioned screenshots that introduce you to the plug-in's basic concepts and operation. It only takes a few minutes to click through the slides, and I found them very helpful.
  • The Big Idea page is quite informative. And hanging off of it, you can drill down into a number of features that are explained in detail.
  • You can also watch screencasts that demonstrate in realtime how to use SiteGrinder. They don't use the current version, but I still found them helpful.
  • You can download a trial version and test it for yourself. SiteGrinder will watermark graphics until you unlock the trial.

SiteGrinder works with Photoshop 7 and newer on both Mac OS X and Windows. And if you're not a Photoshop user, but have Photoshop Elements 3 or newer, SiteGrinder works with those host applications too. You can buy either the Basic ($129) or Pro ($349) version. Here's a Comparison Chart that shows you the feature differences.

And finally, if you'd like to see some sample sites created with SiteGrinder, peruse the links on this page, there's some fun stuff to look at.

In the next installment, I'll talk more about how to set up your Photoshop document for SiteGrinder conversion.

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iPhoto '09 as Your Geotagging Tool?


It's quite possible that iPhoto '09 may turn out to be the easiest way to geotag images for most hobbyist photographers. You don't have to worry about having a camera that tags at capture. Instead, it's very easy to add the information once your images are in iPhoto using the new Places functionality. (And I mean very easy.)

The key to success for me was: once you tag the image in iPhoto, could you export it with that location data? Since geodata is stored in the EXIF, you can't just write to those fields like you can with IPTC metadata (such as your copyright). I had been frustrated with tools such as Maperture, which do a good enough job of tagging while working in Aperture, but when you export the images, the geodata doesn't travel with them.


iPhoto '09 fixes that. When you export a geotagged image, be sure to check the box labeled "Include Location information." iPhoto then writes the geodata to the EXIF during export. You end up with a nicely geotagged image that you can share anywhere. I've tested this, and so far, I'm very pleased. I'll follow up with more on this in future posts.

See My Other Posts on Geotagging

First Look at Jobo photoGPS Device and Software

Update to Geotagging Workflow, Including Jobo photoGPS

Finding a Reasonable Geotagging Workflow

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In my film days, I loved fine art B&W prints. I didn't necessarily like the process of producing the prints, particularly working with chemicals, but I did enjoy the final product. I'm in love again, this time making B&W prints via inkjets. The final product looks beautiful, but now I get to bypass the noxious chemicals and work at my desk. It really does feel like the best of both worlds.

This is the first installment of a series on B&W inkjet printing. Today, I have some great starter information to point you to, including recommendations for paper stock. Then, in upcoming installments, I put some of these practices to work on standard inkjet printers such as the Epson R2400.

B&W Printing Primer

As I mentioned in my podcasts, I've been working with Red River Paper, a faithful sponsor of The Digital Story. They recently published an excellent Primer on B&W Printing that covers printers, papers, software, ink, and lots of resources. It's perfect for getting started in this endeavor.

Paper Options

The type of paper you put your image on has a big influence on how it will look. Here's a good paper selection overview for B&W printing that will help you make the right choice for the effect you want to achieve.

A Word About Software

I always start with a color image, usually one that was captured in Raw, then convert a version of it to B&W. This allows me to record all of the information the camera has to offer, and have complete control over the grayscale conversion.

I prefer to work with software that allows me to make virtual copies of the color image. This enables me to try different techniques without cluttering up my hard drive with multiple copies of an image. Aperture and Lightroom both have this ability, plus they both have terrific tools for converting to monochrome and fine tuning the image.

Get Your Tools Together

If you're interested in B&W printing, then read the primer, get your printing supplies together, and decide which software you want to use to manage the project. Then stay tuned for more information here on producing great B&W images from your inkjet. If you have immediate questions or comments, feel free to post them at the end of this article.

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Sponsor Note

Red River Paper -- Try the $7.99 Sample Kit.

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The Olympus E-30 12.3 MP DSLR has brought back a feature I haven't worked with since the film days: true multiple exposure capability. And unlike the film days, with the E-30's Live View functionality, it's much easier to compose your multiple exposure compositions because the previous exposure serves as an overlay while you compose the next. You can combine up to 4 exposures into a Jpeg or Raw file. That's right, the E-30 will build a Raw file for you based on multiple exposure information. After testing this feature, I found this to be a huge asset.

Let's start with a simple 2-shot multiple exposure I captured at Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, CA. I super imposed my favorite Schulz character, Woodstock (he was a writer after all!) on to a sign with the Schulz logo and museum information. Using Live View, it was simple to make the two-image composition.


The challenge I had with multiple exposures in the past, was there was always an element in the shot that I wanted to change. But since the image was already committed to film, there wasn't much I could do about it. Now, thanks to the ability to capture Raw, I have much more flexibility once I return to the computer. The main thing I wanted to do with this image, other than bump the contrast and saturation, was to tone down the top feathers on Woodstock's head because I found them distracting against the logo as shot. (See above image.)


I first made my global adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw 5.2 (using the workflow I recommend in my book, The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers.) Then I opened the image in Photoshop CS4, and created a new layer for cloning. I completely cloned out the feathers that were on top of the logo, then decreased the opacity for that layer until the image looked the way I wanted. The entire post production process was less than 15 minutes. In part, because the hard work of combining the images was taken care of at capture. All I had to do was a little touch up work.

You can also keep a catalog of images on the xD card in the camera (yes the E-30 has xD and CF card slots) and use them as a stock library for overlays. So you don't even have to create the multiple exposure on the spot. You can sit in the comfort of your home and play with the images you have on the E-30 to create entirely new works of art.

There are many features on the Olympus E-30 that I like, but the ability to combine images -- either at capture or in Play mode -- helps make the E-30 one of the most creative capture tools I own.

Woodstock multiple exposure captured with an Olympus E-30 DSLR with a 12mm-60mm f/2.8-4.0 Olympus zoom, 1/125th at f/5.6.

Also see my article on the SoftFocus Art Filter function in the Olympus E-30.

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After learning that the Mac software wasn't ready yet for the Jobo photoGPS Geo Tagging Flash Shoe, I decided to upload VMware Fusion on my MacBook and set up a Windows Vista "guest." I then downloaded the latest version of the photoGPS software and connected the device via the bundled USB cord.

The first thing that I learned is that you have to configure the photoGPS device with the software before you can actually use it. So the shoot that I did last week wasn't on the device. I clicked on the "Configure Device" button, waited a few seconds, and was informed that the device was ready to go.

I went outside and snapped a few pictures (in Jpeg format) with the photoGPS mounted in the hotshoe of my Canon 5D Mark II. This time, when I hooked up the photoGPS to the computer, there was data available. I downloaded the data from the device, copied the pictures from my camera to the computer hard drive, then clicked the "Match Photos" button. The photoGPS software had no problem matching the geodata to the images. Each picture was tagged with "Lat/Long/Alt" plus street address (no number, but street, city, state, country), and nearby Points of Interest, which I thought was pretty cool.

I then opened the Jpegs in Apple Preview and Apple Aperture. All of the data was there, including the POIs added to the caption field for each shot. I thought this was pretty cool. In either application, I could look at a map view to see exactly how accurate the data was. For two of the three images, the geodata was very accurate, within 3 meters. The third image was less so, about 10 meters off the mark.

I judge the performance to be reasonable for a $175 hardware/software solution. I like how the photoGPS mounts in the hot shoe and stays out of my way. And even though the Windows version of the software isn't handsome, it does work well. This is not a device for pinpoint accuracy. But if you can live with a 5-10 meter range, then it does provide you with lots of information.

In my next test, I'll shoot Raw only, and we'll see what happens.

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If Shooting an Event, Use a Shot List


I've been working with clients on an upcoming wedding in February, and once again I'm amazed at how many issues have surfaced while collaborating on the shot list. After two weeks of back and forth, it's a different event than had originally been portrayed.

This is why I am such a proponent of shot lists for event photography. It is the best tool for discovering client expectations and seeing what is actually going on in their head. Many shooters have asked me, "Can't you simply discuss the wedding with the client?" You can, and you should. But don't let those conversations be your blueprint for the event.

First, there is no record of what you agreed upon. After the wedding is over, and they are complaining about a shot you missed, it's your word against theirs, and that's not a situation you want with a client. People sometimes "think" they told you something, but don't actually verbalize it.

A shot list is also your opportunity to fine tune the timing of the shoot. If the client, for example, lines up 20 group shots after the ceremony, but only provides 15 minutes between the end of the ceremony and the start of the reception, you need to intervene and suggest alternatives. I usually go three rounds of working out the shot list with clients, and most of that time is spent smoothing out the flow of the day.

Once everyone is satisfied with the contents and timing of the shot list, make sure the clients get a final copy and approve it. Also make sure that all of your assistants (and you) have it in your pocket during the event. I have one assistant assigned to checking off items during the course of the event. In the end, this leads to a less nerve-racking shoot for you and more satisfied clients.

If you need a starting point for a wedding shot list, you can download a sample shot list here. I highly advise you use a shot list for every event.

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