Ask Me Anything

ASK ME ANYTHING | 10.14.19

Natural-light-photographer

HOW DID YOU COME TO FIND YOUR EDITING STYLE?

  • Finding your editing style is a really difficult process when you’re first starting out. I think it’s important to realize that your editing style will more than likely change through out the years as your artistry evolves. Part of your art is knowing who you are as an artist and expressing how you see the world. I’ve always wanted my images to express how I see light and shadows.

    For me, editing style comes from a culmination of the artists that inspire me most. I love films with light focused cinematography and photographers who focus on use of light. One of my most influential books is “The Luminous Portrait” by Elizabeth Messina while some of my favorite movies are films by Terrence Malick. Films like “Days of Heaven” and “Tree of Life” changed the way I see light forever.

    Once you’ve come to terms with HOW you see the world and how that will come through in your images, it’s important to find the tools to create it. The biggest game changer for me as far as finding my “style” and maintaining consistency with my edits has been using Mastin Labs presets. I am not paid by them to say that either…their presets have just really worked for me and I always find myself coming back to them.

    After many years of editing, I can now confidently say my style is crisp, timeless, and ethereal. Clients can count on me to deliver a consistent product that reflects what they see in my portfolio. As I grow as an artist, it’s very possible my work will change too…and that’s okay! That’s part of the magic of being an artist!


This photo inspires me because she looks like she is wrapped in light. Her pose is ethereal and angelic as the window light pours in around her. You can see the subtle textures in her veil which evokes an “oil painting” quality. The edit is intentionally bright to maintain consistency with my style, however, this edit could easily have been edited to intensify the shadows. Edited with Mastin Labs Presets.

This photo inspires me because she looks like she is wrapped in light. Her pose is ethereal and angelic as the window light pours in around her. You can see the subtle textures in her veil which evokes an “oil painting” quality. The edit is intentionally bright to maintain consistency with my style, however, this edit could easily have been edited to intensify the shadows. Edited with Mastin Labs Presets.

Here is one of my beautiful brides from a recent Hummingbird Nest Ranch wedding. I posed her by a window to find light that would illuminate her face. I turned her ever so slightly to create a small triangle of light on the apple of her right cheek. This is called “Rembrandt Lighting”. The shadows around her are soft and, again, creates the look of a painting. Edited with Mastin Labs Presets.

Here is one of my beautiful brides from a recent Hummingbird Nest Ranch wedding. I posed her by a window to find light that would illuminate her face. I turned her ever so slightly to create a small triangle of light on the apple of her right cheek. This is called “Rembrandt Lighting”. The shadows around her are soft and, again, creates the look of a painting. Edited with Mastin Labs Presets.


HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE PERFECT FOCUS EVERY TIME?

  • HA! I don’t! I tend to take a large sequence of the same image and 9 times out of 10…one or more of them is sharp. I shoot very wide open ( at an aperture of 2.8 or wider) so nailing focus at f1.4 can be incredibly difficult…especially when you’re shooting a moving subject.

    The most important thing to remember when you’re looking for sharp focus in your images is to remember to place your focal point on the subject’s eye. If the intention of the image is to have the viewer look at the subject’s face and the eye is not sharp, that picture usually isn’t useable for me. I want to be able to see the “catch light” in the subject’s eye to draw the viewer in more.

    It’s also important to know your settings! If you’re shooting at a slower shutter speed 1/250s or slower, it’s going to be difficult to nail focus/sharpness on a moving subject. If you’re shooting a movie subject, your shutter speed should be 1/250s or faster depending on how fast they’re moving. You can adjust your ISO and Aperture from there.

    Making sure your lenses are working properly, and even calibrated to your camera, can also help nail focus.

This image from a recent Estancia La Jolla Wedding was probably taken at f1.6. The couple is not moving and they are standing on the same focal plane, making it easier to get sharp focus on both. I placed my focal point on the bride’s eyes when I took this shot.

This image from a recent Estancia La Jolla Wedding was probably taken at f1.6. The couple is not moving and they are standing on the same focal plane, making it easier to get sharp focus on both. I placed my focal point on the bride’s eyes when I took this shot.

In this image from a recent France wedding, you can see that the subjects are moving. This was taken at a shutter speed of 1/320s or higher to freeze the movement. I placed my focal point on the subject’s heads and walked toward them as they ran away from me to try to maintain the same focal length. If I had wanted to capture a bit of “blur” in their movement for artistic purposes, I would have set my shutter speed to 1/100s or slower.

In this image from a recent France wedding, you can see that the subjects are moving. This was taken at a shutter speed of 1/320s or higher to freeze the movement. I placed my focal point on the subject’s heads and walked toward them as they ran away from me to try to maintain the same focal length. If I had wanted to capture a bit of “blur” in their movement for artistic purposes, I would have set my shutter speed to 1/100s or slower.

"Ask Me Anything..." {5/17/16}

Los Angeles Wedding Photographer_0117 Ask Me Anything..." is a weekly blog segment where I answer your questions about photography, me, or...anything. Check back next Monday on my Instagram and Facebook pages where I'll be taking all of your questions.

1-What's your greatest memory from high school?

High school feels like forever ago and, then again, like it was just yesterday. I have so many great memories with friends that I am still close with today. From school dances, to getting my driver's license, to first kisses...they all seem to blur into one big memory of adolescent bliss. If I had to choose one memory that I valued the most it would have to be the time I spent on my high school dance team.

I started dancing when I was eight years old. I'll never forget the first time I got to see the Saugus Dance Team perform. They were so amazing and, from that point forward, my life goal was to eventually become a Saugus dancer. I'll never forget how nervous I was going into try outs. I was sick for weeks beforehand from the nerves! Walking up to the list of dancers who had made the team to see if my name was on it was probably one of the longest walks of my life. When I saw my name, I knew I had accomplished a goal 7 years in the making and it felt pretty great.

We performed at football games, basketball games, and pep rallies. We also traveled to various cities to compete against other teams around the country. Not only did I learn how to work really, really hard (we worked our asses off at early morning practices, literally), but I also learned how to work as a team while forming close bonds with my teammates. I LOVED performing in front of an audience so being able to dance gave me the outlet and confidence I needed to eventually pursue other goals in the performing arts.

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2-What does photography mean to you?

This is such a huge question that I'm not sure I can answer in just one little post. Obviously, discovering my love for photography changed my life. Apart from dancing, I've never done anything that makes me feel like I can escape my mind so completely. When you get into the flow of things while you're taking pictures, it's a high I can't really explain. Without trying to sound dramatic, it's like this heightened sense of self. Tapping into your creative being can be a very spiritual experience.

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I'd have to say though, that the reason I love taking pictures is actually very selfish. I strive to capture these moments in people's lives because I hope that, when they look at their photos years from now, they'll see a little piece of me in them. I guess I hope that by showing the world my perspective, by capturing the way I see things on paper, a little piece of me will continue on through my art. Maybe it's an ego thing, or maybe it's just my way of wanting to be remembered when I go.

3-I feel like the quality of my work is poor quality, bland lighting, and dull highlights. What are your top tips for getting photos that are crisp and sharp while still looking natural?

It definitely takes time to get to a point with your editing style that feels like a reflection of how you imagine it will look in your head. Finding your style and your voice as an artist takes time! When I was first starting out, I found a few photographers whose style I really admired and tried to emulate it. I think it's important to really study the work of those you admire to perfect your own eye when it comes to editing. This is not to say you are "copying" their work. Your work will never look exactly like someone else's because you have your own unique vision as an artist. What I'm saying is, really look at the images you love and think about why you are drawn to them. Do you love the dark shadows? Do you love the soft skin tones? What about the vibrant colors? I currently have images of Jose Villa's work hanging above my desk as a constant reminder of what I'm striving for in my editing and career.

Feeling like your images are poor could be a result of a lot of things. Perhaps you are comparing your work to those you admire and don't feel it measures up? Perhaps you are still in the stage of your career as a photographer where you need to work on honing your eye when you edit? Here are a few tips that work really well for me when I'm shooting/ editing:

  • I usually shoot at f1.6 or f2.o on my 50mm 1.2L lens. I'm drawn to that dreamy depth of field and shooting at this setting helps me to emulate the film look I love so much. This takes practice though as it can be really difficult to get sharp images at this aperture. I still struggle with it!
  • Your focal point should always be on the eye. If the eyes in my images aren't sharp, I usually don't use the photo. For me, the eyes are the most important part.
  • In Lightroom, the very first thing I do is slide the "Sharpness" and "Noise" bars in the "Detail" module to the right a little. Be careful not to overdue this though, as you can make your images look too soft which gives a fake look that I don't love. Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.55.23 AM
  • I typically overexpose in camera by about 1-stop. I do this because I'm usually backlighting my subject when I shoot. You have to expose for shadows and then overexpose a bit to compete with the strong light from the sun. This way your subject isn't in silhouette.
  • I almost always lift my exposure and bring down highlights and shadows in Lightroom when I'm editing. I edit with Mastin Presets so I usually just apply the preset and make a few tweaks until I'm happy with the way it looks.
  • Maintain sharpness in camera by making sure you're at an appropriate shutter speed. Anything below 1/250s is probably going to be a bit blurry if you're photographing a moving subject.
  • I hate to say this because I'm a firm believer that the camera doesn't make the artist, but the lack of crispness in your images could be a result of the camera you're using or your lenses. You can have the best camera and lenses in the world and still take crappy pictures, but if you know what you're doing, having quality gear can really make a difference. When investing in lenses, it's important that you choose one that can shoot at wide apertures. I'd say it's best to strive for a lens that can get at least as wide as 2.8. Having quality glass can help you to create images with vivid colors and sharpness straight out of camera.About me photo

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. :)