Weddings

5 Tips for Gaining Wedding Photography Experience

wedding experienceStarting out in the world of wedding photography is a tough game. You definitely can’t just jump into weddings unprepared, but sometimes it happens whether you like it or not. This blog post is all about how to get wedding photography experience if you are newer to the wedding photography industry. One of the things I see is newer photographers looking to get into the wedding photography industry and asking how. Lots of times other photographers answer with, “second shoot for someone to get practice.” However, I think many photographers have experienced how hard it is to end up with second shooting positions when you’re just starting out. As a photographer who started the business from the ground up and didn’t second shoot until many years into photography I can speak to how tough it is to start out. On the other side I can also speak as an experienced wedding photographer and what I look for in a second shooter. So…onward to the tips!

1. Be Realistic – Here’s the thing. A lot of hopefuls want to dive right into second shooting, but don’t have a lot of experience. A lot of main photographers want the benefit of having an experienced second shooter by their side, one who they could trust to take over the entire day in an emergency and deliver the same quality of photography and customer service you would have to your clients. This means sometimes it can be tough to get a second shooting gig when you’re just starting out. Experienced photographers want someone who has some experience under their belt and gear that meshes well and matches their own. If you’re just starting out with weddings and you were told to be a second shooter before really going out on your own into the wedding world you’ll probably experience this little jumble of oddness. It’s that you don’t have a lot of experience, you want to get some, but when you email photographers to ask for second shooting gigs you’re turned down. If you’re wanting to gain experience try offering to intern instead. Be realistic about what the main photographer might look for and actually need in a second shooter. Offer to carry bags, set up lights, and do whatever else with them in exchange for the opportunity to learn. While not all photographers are willing teachers, there are plenty that would love to have someone along to help them with the other stuff so they (and even their second) can focus on shooting.

2. Personalize Your Communications – Like any job, if you’re brave enough to email photographers in your area and ask for second shooting or intern opportunities you need to present yourself like a professional. They’re considering having you along with them at a wedding, which is a once-in-a-lifetime event (hopefully) for the clients. That means you want to show off your ability to be a professional right from the very start, especially if you’re emailing photographers out of the blue. Take the time to really look at their work and see if you would be a good match for them  before emailing. When you do finally email or call to discuss possible opportunities to be a part of their business make sure you address them by name and personalize your email. You might be surprised at the amount of people that send template emails addressed to “Hello” and not to me personally in my inbox on a regular basis. You’ll stand out from the crowd if you personalize your communications. Grammar and spelling are helpful too! 😉

3. Don’t Troll Bridal Shows Looking for Jobs – Maybe this is a personal peeve, but I’m adding it to the list anyway. If you’re new to an area or looking to network with other photographers who might want to hire you to be a second shooter, please don’t go to bridal shows to hand out your business card. Here’s why: it’s completely unprofessional. Keep in mind that the photographers who have booths there also paid to be there, and they usually pay a LOT of money to be there. I’ve paid anywhere from $650-1000 just for the cost of the booth. Not to mention all the product samples inside. Those photographers are there to meet potential clients, so when you wander up to their booth asking for a job you’re taking time away from their opportunities to meet clients. If they’re seen as busy being chatted up by you, who knows, an awesome client who would have booked may have just walked by because they looked busy. They could be losing money. Being a business owner is hard and it means that there’s a lot of hustle involved in keeping your business alive and thriving. Getting clients is key to survival and paying to keep a roof overhead – so don’t take those opportunities away from them. The way I would recommend is to Google search and email photographers you are interested in working with. Offer to take them to coffee!

4. Join Local Photography Groups on Facebook – There are tons of local photography groups for almost every large area on Facebook. Some are just general groups and some are specific to photographers who need second shooters and they may post ads on there regularly searching for help. These would be a great place to join and put out a call that you’re looking for experience.

5. Take Every Education Opportunity You Can – Weddings are a crazy thing so in order to be the most prepared as possible, you should take every opportunity to learn as much as you can. Mentor with a photographer you love, you may have to pay for their services, take classes online, go to workshops in your area, or pay to travel to one you really love. The more you learn the more experienced you will be when you’re out there doing the hustle for yourself and trying to get more wedding experience!

How to Use Off Camera Flash to Photograph a Reception Room

JamieIvinsPhotography_OffCameraFlash_largeFor years I struggled to make a reception room look as good in photos as it did in person. I would crank up my ISO and try to use the ambient light to make a dynamic image. As I walked around the room I held my head high, knowing that I was killing it! But at the end of the day when I loaded my cards up to the computer and looked through my detail shots of the room I would sit there, wind taken from my sails, wondering where I went wrong. Everything looked flat, every table looked the same, and there was nothing interesting about my photos. And while I never had any complaints from my clients I always felt that I was failing them. They were spending tens of thousands of dollars on their wedding and were receiving sub par photos when it came to showing off the room they paid all of that money for. That needed to change. But how?

To answer that question I decided to dive in headfirst to find out how I could give those photos some punch. I googled my heart out and found a bunch of amazing photographers who were achieving what I wanted but struggled when it came to finding out the techniques it took to take such cool photos. One thing I noticed seeing over and over was that flash was being used in one way or another. And then it dawned on me. I could just pop a little flash from the top of my camera to highlight a table or cake and I would instantly be a rockstar photographer, right? So off I went to my next wedding, anxious to try something new in the room. I walked in with a flash on top of my camera, ready to take the world by storm with my new found “knowledge” and started shooting…and instantly ran into problems. Sure, the sweetheart table was bright…but it was still flat. And the rest of the room behind it? Absolute garbage. So I went back to my original method of shooting with only ambient light and felt completely defeated. In that single moment I became very aware of my short comings and the thoughts of “I’m a shitty photographer” that entered my head made me begin to rethink my choice to do this for a living. It wasn’t enough to make me want to pack it in but it definitely made me not want to ever feel that way again about something I was so passionate about so I set back out to find the solution and a short time later the answer was revealed to me.

While talking with a photographer friend of mine I began to tell him about my issues and how badly I wanted to bring my reception shots to the next level. He gave me a few simple pointers to take with me to the next wedding and what I found changed my life and the way I approach room shots. So now I’m here to pay it forward and help save you from the hours of research and frustration I experienced.

The solution in three words: Off Camera Flash (OCF)

My big mistake was not taking the flash off of my camera. For years I’ve been using OCF to help create interesting light during dancing, cake cutting, and speeches but the thought of using it to enhance my reception room photos escaped me for some reason.

So let’s get into it!

Step 1: Set your flash and transmitter on a stand.
Step 2: Use the zoom feature – To create a more focused light most flashes have the ability to zoom between 24-105mm. Whenever I am not using any modifiers for room shots I tend to have my flash(es) zoom set to 80mm.
Step 3: Set your flash to a low power, usually around 1/32 for me.
Step 4: Place your light stand roughly 4-6 ft. away from the table pointed at what you plan on shooting.
Step 5: Find your exposure. I like to underexpose my room shots a bit to help highlight whatever I am lighting up with flash.
Step 6: Rock that shit out!

Easy enough?

Just in case you’re still a little lost I’ll give you some real examples and the camera settings I used to achieve each shot.

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Example 1: When shooting a room like the one below I tend to underexpose by 1/3 to one full stop to draw attention to individual tables. In this shot, I set my flash about 7ft high just out of frame to the right, aimed at the flowers. I then hid a a second flash behind a beam to help highlight another table in the background.
Camera settings: ISO 2000, 35mm, 1/30sec @ f/2.8

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Example 2: Camera settings: ISO 640, 24mm, 1/30sec @ f/4
Photo by hired gun Easton Reynolds for Jamie Ivins Photography

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CAKE SHOTS
Example 1: Camera settings: ISO 1250, 35mm, 1/160sec @f/2.5

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Example 2: For this cake shot I used two flashes with gridded Magmods, both placed about 5 ft. away and slightly behind the cake to create the shadow on the shadow on the front of the cake.
Camera settings: ISO 640, 35mm, 1/50sec @ f/2.5

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And there you have it! The simple steps to taking radical room shots! Once you’ve practiced and gotten it down your options are endless in terms of how you can use your flash to create different looks and feels to each photo.

Keep calm and shred on!

How to Use Off Camera Flash at a Wedding Reception

OCF_COVER_largeWhen I started shooting weddings the hardest part of the day for me to get great photos was during the reception when the lights would turn down low. All day I would be outside using natural light and I’d be getting gorgeous images I couldn’t wait to share with my clients but when it came to the reception I felt like my photos were lackluster and only a step away from being compared to Uncle Bob and his point and shoot. And then I discovered off camera flash…

For those of you who don’t know, off camera flash gives you the ability to take complete control of your light. By literally taking your flash off of your camera and putting it on a light stand you’re able to direct the light wherever you want it at any given moment. In order to make this work you’ll need a couple of speed lights, a light stand, transmitter, and a receiver. And because there are a bunch of ways to set up off camera lighting for receptions I’ve decided to start by sharing a simple setup to get you started.

But before we get in to the setup let’s break down the gear you’ll need. All of the equipment below is what I am currently using. NOTE: I recently picked up some Yongnuo flashes and can’t recommend them enough. They are extremely reliable and are available at a fraction of the price of Canon/Nikon name brand flashes. I’ve had issues with guests knocking over my light stands in the past and replacing a $500+ flash sucks. With the Yongnuo’s I’m a little less worried because they cost less than $75 a pop so if it gets knocked over and broken it’s not as big a hit to my wallet.

Flashes:
Canon 580 EXII (Discontinued)
Yongnuo YN560-III ($70 on Amazon)

Transmitter/Receiver:
Yongnuo RF-603C’s ($30/pair on Amazon)
**Please note that these receivers do not lock in to your camera. To keep it the receiver from falling off your camera you may need to use a piece of gaffers tape to hold it in place.**

Light Stands:
Bowens Portable 11.5’ Light Stand ($70 on B&H)

Two Light Setup
With a basic two light setup you’ll be placing one flash on a light stand in the corner of the room or dance floor, connected to a receiver. Then, connect your other flash to a transmitter and place it on top of your camera. To help keep things consistent throughout the night I recommend setting both flashes to manual mode and typically between 1/32nd and 1/16th power. The flash that is on the light stand will act as your rim light to help separate your subject from the background while the on camera flash acts as a fill light to ensure you still have light on your subject.

If you don’t quite understand what I’m talking about, not to worry! I drew up a little diagram to help explain things. 🙂

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When I use the setup diagramed above I like to place the light stand away from the DJ. I do this so that I can use the flash on the stand as a rim light on the dance floor and still shoot from angles that show the room in the background. As much as possible I try to shoot from an angle that hides unsightly elements like the DJ, speakers, equipment, etc. Bonus: This single light setup is not only good for dancing shots but works well during all aspects of the reception. Time to shoot cake cutting or bouquet toss? No problem! Simply move the flash that is on the stand and place it behind and off to the side of the subject to keep that beautiful rim light consistent.

The following are some examples of images I’ve taken using this two light setup.

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In the photo above I have placed my flash out of frame to camera right to help light the line of people dancing through the tables

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In this one I also have a flash set up behind the couple (right of camera) set to low power and aimed at the table to add rim light.

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In this photo I have placed my flash stand behind the girls and off to the left side to help illuminate not only the girls in the background, but also the bouquet in the air. The flash on camera helps to keep the bright bright in the foreground.

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Again, flash stand is behind the couple and outside the frame to the left. Notice the subtle rim light around the bride and groom that helps separate them from the twinkling lights in the background while the flash on camera keeps them bright and in focus.

So there we have it! A Simple OCF technique to help bring those reception shots to the next level. I’d love to see some photos from you showing how you’ve used OCF to enhance your reception images. And be sure to tune in next month as we dig deeper into off camera flash techniques for receptions and portraits!

What to do if You Have an Emergency as a Wedding Photographer

2014-09-08_0001_large“Would you be my emergency coverage if I ever needed it for a wedding?” I asked a fellow photographer friend a couple years ago. “Of course!” she said and that was that. I had all my ducks in a row and would just call her if anything ever happened where I couldn’t make it to a wedding. At the time I felt relieved knowing I had someone I could trust to handle my business for me in one of those worst-case-scenarios. I felt confident that I was planning for the future and wouldn’t ever need to worry.

I was wrong. It wasn’t until last weekend where I was in the situation of being the emergency wedding coverage that I realized a simple “of course” needed to be so much more! At about midnight last Friday night my awesome photographer friend messaged me on Facebook saying, “Hey, are you awake?” I was about ready to go to bed, but I was curious so I answered. Turned out it wasn’t her at all, but her boyfriend. To make a long story short she was in the hospital and had two weddings this weekend that she wasn’t going to make it to.

PANIC!!!!!!!
Okay, after the initial panic knowing how I would feel if I was in her shoes her boyfriend and I took to making a plan for at least Saturday’s wedding (less than 12 hours away). Luckily it was one of the rare weekends during wedding season where I wasn’t booked. I knew I could take the Saturday wedding easily, but the Sunday wedding would require some rescheduling and generous flexibility on the part of my other clients.

It was a bit of an insane weekend for me. I worked the wedding on Saturday meanwhile trying to find someone good who could cover Sunday’s wedding. Everyone was booked, out of town, unavailable or otherwise engaged so that left me and another photographer friend who was getting over a cold. Together we decided to tag-team Sunday’s wedding since it was such a long day with 400 guests.

My weekend basically got turned upside-down by taking over her two weddings, but I’m so glad I did. I’m also incredibly thankful that my portrait session on Sunday night was flexible enough to reschedule for the sake of ensuring a couple had wedding photography!

The entire weekend really made me think about how I should really be more prepared for such an emergency if it were to happen to me. I can’t imagine my husband digging through my computer, emails and everything trying to find the right information and connecting to my other photographer friends. So, here’s a few tips and things I’ll be implementing into my own wedding photography business just to ensure things are always going to go as smoothly as possible!

1. Print out wedding day schedules and client contact information in advance. I’m going to start printing and leaving out a paper copy with all of my client’s contact information, payments due, and wedding day schedule so it’s easy to find in case of an emergency.

2. Make an emergency wedding photographer phone tree. Keep a list of contact information for all your second shooters and other wedding photographers you know so your spouse can quickly access them and know who to call. Keep this info on PAPER! Don’t hide it in your computer where it might not be easily accessed.

3. Find an emergency wedding buddy. Pick a photographer in your network who you are especially close to. Maybe someone who second shoots for you often or you for them. I know a lot of my friends and I trade off second shooting for each other so we have someone equally as skilled with us at our wedding days. Pick one of those people who knows your business as well as you do take them out to lunch and ask them to be your emergency wedding buddy. That person can be at the top of your phone tree and the first person your spouse calls in an emergency. That person you can pay to take care of your business. Even if they’re not available to cover your wedding, they’ll call everyone in your network and find someone to be there, pass along client information, notify your clients, and do all the behind the scenes work that comes with coordinating emergency coverage (and believe me there’s surprisingly a lot). Make a plan with your friend for what you’d want done in your absence and put it in writing, so it’s somewhere you can find. It’d be good to keep all this information in a folder somewhere that’s easily accessible so it’s all in one place.

4. What about the final payments due? If the photographer you are filling in for is in the hospital leave the final payments between their clients and the original photographer. This past weekend I just let them all know that any other payments need to be settled up with the original photographer. That takes the pressure off you for accepting payment in their stead.

5. How much should you pay? Decide with your emergency wedding buddy how much you will pay for someone to take your place and add this into your written paper copy of emergency plans. That way when your buddy gets the word out to find a photographer for you, they already know how much to expect to be paid. I would say that typically you should pay more than you would pay a second because that person is coming in your place as a primary photographer. It’s hard to provide a specific amount, but agree on something in advance with your buddy that seems fair.

6. Don’t worry about the editing, unless you have to. As long as the original photographer will get better in the near future plan on not taking over the editing process. Other situations may require editing, but typically with a wedding you just want someone to go there in your place, take photos, and if you can edit them later in a timely fashion then at least you can still put your stamp and style on the editing and provide the clients with a more consistent experience.

7. What should I expect from the clients? The clients are most likely going to be incredibly thankful that a replacement is at their wedding. As long as there is a replacement, they are going to be the hero of the day. Obviously the clients will feel torn with concern over their photographer’s well being in an emergency, but also worried about their wedding too. If you are going to be the replacement just remind them that you are experienced with weddings, you’ll have everything taken care of and to enjoy the day. Give them a call as soon as you can to let them know about the situation so they have as much notice as possible.

Knowing that an emergency could happen at any time and your clients could be stranded without a wedding photographer is a reality. If you can’t find coverage you’re risking losing business, being sued and all kinds of ugly nasty stuff that nobody wants to happen. One of the reasons we shouldn’t be so competitive with our neighbors is because we need to network and rely on each other for help, emergencies, and support in many situations. Hopefully everyone will be going out for coffee now and finding their emergency wedding buddy!

The Best Macro Lens Ever

2014-05-31_0004As many of you know I’m always on a search for ways to spend less and have MORE. If you are part of our Facebook Community then you probably have seen these photos and me posting about this macro lens a million times. For that, I do apologize, but no photographer should miss out on a good deal!

When I first started working with macro photography it was just for ring shots at weddings. I used to think it was so important to have the absolute best gear out there possible, and often times it is. However, macros weren’t the case. I started out by purchasing Canon’s 100mm f2.8 (non L) macro lens. This was great, but a little clunky. It didn’t seem to focus well and I wasn’t overly impressed with the sharpness of the photos. After awhile and a little bit of reading I finally decided to upgrade to the L version of the lens. This lens averages around $1000. So there, I had the best there was for macros right? Well I found taking it out of my camera bag for 25-30 times a year for one ring photo at a wedding seemed like a bit of a waste. It’s like walking around with $1000 burning a hole in your camera bag. I sold the lens (to Chad ironically). After that I tried a series of filters, macro attachments, extension tubes, etc. I was a bit disappointed. I didn’t want to spend big money on a macro that I would barely use, but I still wanted to rock my wedding ring shots.

It wasn’t until this past winter when I started thinking back to my early days as a photographer. I remember when I was so poor I couldn’t even buy a Canon 50mm 1.8 for $100. Instead I opted to go with the old film manual focus lenses just to save a little bit of money. I began to wonder if this would apply with macros and low and behold…it did. I asked around and nobody seemed to know much about Canon’s older film and manual focus lenses. These are generally categorized as FD lenses because the older Canon bodies had an FD attachment, where our new ones have the EOS attachment.

One day I was searching around on keh.com for used FD macro lenses and I stumbled across the Canon 100mm f4 macro FD lens. It was $80 used. It couldn’t hurt, right? So I bought it. That was only a couple months ago and let me tell you – that was the best $80 I have ever spent on my business, ever!

Since we’ve discussed this in our Facebook group several times here are a few common questions people ask related to my experience with this lens:

1. Average price?
If you buy it used you can find it for between $80-150. Both price points are great deals on a macro lens. Comparibly the Canon 100mm non-L lens averages about $500 and the L version $1000.

2. What about the aperture?
Yep, it only goes as low as f4. Many of you know I like to shoot wide open. The one big exception to shooting wide open has always been with macro ring shots, you can lose so much with such a shallow depth of field when you’re that close to the object you’re photographing. I often have my macro aperture set much higher than f4.

3. What about the manual focus?
What about it? If you’re mainly using a macro to capture wedding rings and newborn toes you don’t need to worry about auto focus. The auto focus on even the newer EOS lenses is still difficult to use and not recommended when shooting macro. If you’re mainly using this for only occasional use this lens will be perfect for you. Some photographers like to use the 100mm/105mm macro lenses to shoot portraits. If you do that you’ll probably want to invest in an auto-focus version.

4. Is there a Nikon equivalent?
Of course! This is also a discontinued old film lens you will want to buy used and goes for a similar price point. You can find the Nikon 105mm f/4 macro >here<

5. Will this fit on my camera (full frame, cropped, etc.)?
Yep! If you’re using a newer Canon EOS body (which is most likely you are) you just need to buy an EOS to FD adapter. I bought a very cheap one on Amazon, brand doesn’t matter.

6. Where can I buy it?
Well after all my posts about it a lot my usual haunts for used gear are currently out. Keep an eye out for it on Ebay, Amazon, and at Keh.com or other used camera gear retailers.

7. How did you get that awesome bokeh in your photos?
Well….by getting myself a ring kit together. A friend of mine, Ashley Fisher, is an amazing photographer in St. Louis and put together a ring kit she brings to each wedding with glitter paper, beads and other props. I’ve been taking this to all my recent weddings and it’s amazing! You can find out more about her ring kit >here<

Here’s a few sample photos to show you what it’s capable of. I don’t fancy myself the best photographer, but I think these are pretty sweet.

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