Ask Me Anything... {10/6/15}

2015-10-06_0003 This week I answer your questions about shooting in overcast weather, my workflow after a wedding day, and shooting backlit images. Have photography related questions? I take questions on Instagram and Facebook every Monday and answer them on the blog every Tuesday. Check back next week!

Can you still capture good lighting on a cloudy day? Is it harder to shoot in overcast weather?

Absolutely! Shooting in overcast weather is actually a bit easier, in my opinion, since I don't have to be as concerned about harsh shadows on my subject's face. The cloud coverage acts like a natural diffuser of light, casting even light over skin. I've been grateful for overcast weather on a few wedding days when portraits were scheduled in the afternoon with no available shade...this is when the sun is usually the highest and shadows are the harshest. Unfortunately, if the sun isn't out, it does make it difficult for me to capture those glowing, backlit images I love so much. However, cloudy days can make for some very dramatic shots as well.

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How do you retain the sharpness in your backlit photos? I often lose focus because of the sun.

Backlighting can be kind of tricky when it comes to shooting directly into sunlight and maintaining the sharpness of your images. There's a couple of techniques I use when backlighting my subject. First of all, I'm going to place my subject directly in front of the sun's rays. I know I've found the "sweet spot" of light when my subject has a beautiful halo of light around their hair. I use the subject as a human shield to literally block the sun from my lens. I then expose for the shadows on my subject's face (typically focusing by pressing the shutter release button halfway and placing my focal point over the eye), then I overexpose by about 1 stop, recompose my image, and push the shutter release button again to capture. The main trick here is to meter the exposure of your subject and then overexpose a bit so the subject isn't in silhouette. You're basically overexposing to compensate for the overpowering light behind the subject.

You may also want to try using a lens hood or a scrim over the subject's head to shield the excess light entering your lens. Angles are also important here. It can be helpful to angle just slightly to the left or right of the sun so your lens doesn't have trouble focusing and there isn't too much light flooding the exposure. I usually increase the sharpness in Lightroom (using the "sharpness" slider) to give the image the final touch.

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When it comes to your workflow after shooting a wedding, how many images do you deliver to your clients for a full day wedding on average? How long does it take you to complete post processing and how do you improve this time?

Post Wedding workflow can vary a lot based on the personal preferences of the photographer. This is what works for ME. What works for you may be entirely different. Here is what my workflow is after a wedding day:

The first thing I do when I get home from a wedding is import the images into Lightroom and BACK UP the images onto two separate external hard drives. Backing up a wedding to multiple sources is crucial! I then "cull" through the images marking what I feel are the best images from the day. "Culling" is simply a term used for going through your shots and picking the ones you like the best. Culling can be difficult and time consuming because, as photographers, we grow an emotional attachment to photos and tend to want to keep too many. In my opinion, quality is always better than quantity. Choose the images that tell the story in a beautiful, yet concise way. Your client doesn't need 20 images of the same exact pose or moment.

As I'm culling through images I filter them by color. For example, all images with a "red" filter could be "Getting Ready" shots I chose to deliver to the client. All images with a "blue" filter might be "Details." Once all the filters have been applied to the all the images I decided to keep, I'll go back in and start editing the wedding by filter. Once an image has been edited and is ready for delivery I will flag it as well. This process enables me to organize images from the day in a way that makes sense to the client for final delivery.

Editing a full wedding can take me anywhere from 15-20 hours. A lot of photographers use "batch" editing techniques to improve this time but I haven't found that this works for me. Batch editing is a technique of applying certain edits (presets, color corrections, etc) to every single image all at once. I physically go through each and every individual image and edit it until it looks exactly right. I'm a bit anal when it comes to my edits. Another way to cut down your editing and culling time is by shooting tight. This means you carefully think about each image you take (composing and waiting for moments) rather than "machine gun shooting" which is taking photos of anything that moves....mindlessly clicking. Sometimes this works if you're trying to capture a candid moment, but, for me, it just makes more work later. Getting exposures and compositions right "in camera" is also helpful in cutting down editing time.

Lastly, I will import images to Pixieset to deliver an online viewing gallery of web sized, watermarked images to the client. They can share this gallery with friends and family, giving them the option to order prints if they'd like. I love Pixieset because my clients and their guests can view the images in a clean and beautiful platform that is easy to use and share. I also send the client a custom, keepsake USB drive of their high resolution digital image files. I typically tell clients to expect about 75-100 images per hour of coverage. This amount can vary greatly depending on the number of guests, details, formalities, etc. Ultimately, you should deliver enough images to accurately and completely tell the story of their day. I don't believe in trying to meet a quota of images. Delivery is promised within 6 weeks of the wedding day.

Oh! I also drink a lot of red wine when I'm finished. :)