Category Archives: wedding photography

The Great Gatsby Photog Shootout at the Tangled Vine

Our SoCal Photog Shootout group had an amazing time in San Juan Capistrano at the Tangled Vine Florist for a Great Gatsby themed shootout. Why a florist? Because The Tangled Vine has a way cool shop which used to be an old home. The Tangled Vine is on a quiet street behind the train station and has all kinds of fun areas to shoot in. They had some of their wares on display to use as props for the models and to be used to help decorate the sets.

tangled Vine Flower Arrangements

I was asked to be a leader for the first time,  so I decided to cover image composition and using things around you as “frames” for the subject. Also, I went over some fun things like using alternative crops, using negative space and more.

We had pretty models and gorgeous vintage clothing plus jewelry to really set things off. And as it happened, we had a classic car of the correct vintage crash our party and the owner let us use it briefly as a prop. How cool is that?

The models had some amazing hair and makeup done by some of our favorite make up artists. And they pulled out the stops for this shoot. Everybody really got into the theme and had alot of fun with it.

This would be an amazing idea for an different kind of wedding session and would be relatively easy to pull together.   Themed weddings are so much fun for both the bride and groom plus the guests. They make for awesome memories that are very unique and everybody likes to see even years later.

 

STYLIST:

Hope Stanley

MAKE UP

Amanda McDaniel
Joyce Luck

Hair

Diego Ortega

Assisted by:

Heather Renee
Jenny Sims
Brissa Watson

FLOWERS:

The Tangled Vine

LEADERS:

Matthew Saville
Kaylee Sizemore
Brett Hickman
Michael Sweeney
Brian Hamilton


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Portrait Photography Session Tips and Tricks

Here are a few tips for any portrait or wedding photography session. These are simple tips but can make a huge difference on the outcome of the session. Having the proper rest and hydration will reduce the dark rings under your eyes. Having some extra make up handy will take care of the smudge or smear that can take place when you are changing your outfits or trying to brush back that stubborn fly away hair. A little bit of bling and accessories can really add some sparkle to your outfits and give you a chance to show of that new necklace, pearls or bauble.

Portrait Photography Session Tips

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What is old is new again

Kodak Starflex Camera with inserted babty portrait

So I picked up some old vintage cameras this past week to use as props and “frames” for images. They add a really cool look and feel for a fun portrait.  I’m putting together a set of these new “frames” to be options for your portraits. I have some samples here to look at and enjoy. If you have special colors you want to match or even a special camera, let me know and we can work it out. This particular camera is a Kodak Starflex which was a very popular camera in the late 50’s and was considered to  be a ten dollar “point and shoot” at that time. Now it works as a pretty cool vintage  frame for a baby’s portrait.

Here is a different camera with a retro style of portrait.

Kodak Duaflex Camera with vintage hollywood portrait

These cameras live again in photographer by providing a unique and very interesting way to show off your images. And it’s not just portraits, I can also add a bit of flair to a favorite set of wedding pictures like this one with a 1957 Yashica camera with the bride and groom.

If you like what you see, call us up and talk about it. Even if you have existing pictures, we can certainly clean them up and add them to a very unique frame like this.

DSC9893 1957 yashica with bride and groom

 

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Our New Studio in Brea

We have a new (to us) studio to shoot at for clients of Michael Sweeney Photography. I have partnered with a Co-op in Brea that leverages the power of having several photographers splitting the costs of running a full service studio. What do I mean by full service? I mean, we have a front desk, a frame shop, waiting area, a private viewing room, make up area, three shooting sets and plenty of safe parking. And there is as killer cafe a few doors down from us 🙂

You can find the our new co-op studio at OC Photography Center in Brea, California. This location is very close to the Brea Mall off the 57 Freeway and Imperial.

590 West Central Ave.

Suite A

Brea, CA 92821

Directions

studio-2011-12-16-09-13.jpg

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Cynthia and Annasel Wedding at Mission Inn, Riverside

I did a favor for a wedding shooter friend of mine, Angela Stanton and worked as a last minute second shooter for a same sex civil union (wedding) in Riverside at the First Congregational Church. Cynthia and Annasel were married at the church and then the reception was held at the Mission Inn which is  just down the street from the church. As a second shoot, I take my lead from the primary shooter but I was still able to get some nice shots.  I put together a short slide show of the wedding and the reception using just my shots. The couple obviously cared deeply for each other and the family was very supportive and happy for the couple. It was nice change of pace to be involved in this wedding and meet everyone involved. I hope you enjoy the slide show and congratulations to Cynthia and Annasel, I wish wish you the very best in the coming years.


The music is is “Crazy” from Stars Go Dim (SGD) and is licensed from TheMusicBed.com

The Mission Inn is an awesome venue to shoot at with great architecture and spectacular lighting in the evening. It was wonderful grounds to shoot at, passageways, arches, stonework and more.

 

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Retouching a bride for a vintage look

Brides are beautiful and because of that, the bride puts a temendous amount of effort and money into this one day. One of the jobs of the wedding photographer is to see that beauty in the bride regardless of circumstances or environment. It also means that at times you need to shoot knowing full well you will be doing something specific in post to make the vision a reality.  This bridal shot which I took at Serra Plaza was one of those moments that I knew I had to shoot with postprocessing in mind and adjust accordingly.

When I reviewed the image in Lightroom, the raw  image had some basic qualities that I thought would make a really good solid image in Black and White. At the time, the key issue to me was that the quality of light was shall we say, less than optimal. It was very late in the day and we were in the shadow side on top of everything else. There was a mix of daylight on her face and some type of sodium light behind her and over her head.  There also was the same fact that  hall lead to a bank ATM and it had a massive concrete trash can off to one side. But I knew with some cropping, I could clean it up quite a bit.  And I also felt that I could clean up the image best in Black and White and dump the mixed colors.

Basic Bridal Color Portrait

Basic Bridal Color Portrait

In the image below, you can see the results of the cropping and the initial Black and White conversion. At this point, I had not removed the trash can or done any major retouching. But you can already see how the black and white treatment really brought the image to life in spite of the lousy lighting. I used Nik’s SilverEfex Pro 2.0 for the conversion and as always, it just works really well to get a clean black and white image.

First pass of bridal conversion to B/W
In the final image here, I used the content aware fill tool in CS5 to remove the trashcan on the left side. Back in Lightroom 3, I also applied a sepia like tone preset called “Silver Dust Hue” from Gavin Seim’s workflow presets. to the image to give a very light vintage look to it. And I darkened the corners a touch. I paid very close attention to my bride to make sure I did not ruin the skin tones or the details on the dress. Remember, along with the look of the bride, its ALL about the dress.  Ruining the details on the dress will ruin the image for the bride, she paid a lot of money for the dress so you had better show it off to the best of your ability.
Final Bridal Portrait with all Retouching

Now we have a keeper of an image and it took about 40 minutes start to finish. I put one version into a digital frame and it looks spectacular.

 

 

 

 

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Serra Plaza Wedding Wedding Venue

I just finished up a wedding shootout at Serra Plaza in San Juan Capistrano CA yesterday with over 30 photographers and several models. We had details to shoot in the form of sweets tables by Pegy Rizzuto and French buckets by Sussanna Davidson, vintage wedding dresses, tuxedos on the guys and a beautiful venue with awesome light to work with. The women had professional make up by Jeanette Pulecio and Lisa O’Conner with hairstyling by Diego Ortega which just look amazing. Our stylist who did a super job of mixing and matching all the various pieces with a cool cinematic feel was Hope Stanley.

Here is a collage of some of the wedding sweets and treats that we had available at Serra Plaza. And yes, they tasted as good as they looked !!  Any wedding party would be pleased to have these goodies on the tables available for their munching.

Collage of wedding treats at Serra Plaza

For this shootout, we had several leaders covering such diverse topics as shooting in bad light (read as direct sun), shooting in shadows, making use of architecture as visual elements, posing and tricks to have the subject showing emotion.

It was a small group, about thirty or so and we spent the entire day at Serra Plaza upstairs, downstairs and in the courtyard making use of the wedding benches and the fountain.

The plaza has a very interesting organic Spanish feel to it with lots of passageways, arches, courtyard and earth tone colors. Even in the middle of the day, there is shade around and by the afternoon, the sunlight really turns to a warm yellow glow from bouncing off the earth toned walls and tile walkways.

There are other businesses in the plaza but they are down in the hallways and not part of the wedding area. There is plenty of parking around Serra Plaza and the entry points are controlled so to avoid crowds wandering through your wedding in the courtyard.

If you use Serra Plaza for your wedding, make sure your photographer knows about the overhead walkway in the afternoon. The sun comes through the openings and gives the passage way some of the best light for taking timeless images of a bride in a very warm and organic setting.

Serra Plaza Bride in Late afternoon in overhead walkway

 

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How to prepare for your portrait session

A tanning bed in use.

Image via Wikipedia

Your  best portrait will occur when you collaborate with me on your objectives for the portrait. This way if you have specific interests or goals for your portrait, I can work towards achieving them. We can meet in person which is best or we can discuss on the phone. I find that email is not an effective way to work out the collaboration. Ultimately, you need to be comfortable that I understand what you need and desire from the portrait session. I will do my level best as your photographer to meet your goals.

Here in Southern California, we are in the capital of sunshine and tans. But these things do not always work out well for your portrait. Please, please, please (did I say please?)  avoid the “spray tans” or “self tanning” products as they will not go on evenly and they will leave an uneven build up on unusual areas. Many of the spray tans will actually turn an orange in the pictures. Please do not use a tanning bed or lay out in the sun three days or so before the portrait. Sunburn is virtually impossible to remove well in post and makes the skin dried out and unsightly in the photographs even with good makeup.

Please avoid drugs, alcohol, excessive salt or too much partying the night before (24 hours). All of these will show in the portraits with issues ranging from bloated skin to droopy eyes, blood shot eyes and lines in the face not to mention the odd hangover. Keeping yourself well hydrated a day before the shoot will help your skin look it’s best.

Plenty of rest the night before is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your portrait. Your eyes and temperament will thank you by the end of the day.

Lets touch on marks in the skin. If you want to shoot something off the shoulder, strapless or the like, please do not wear a normal bra for several hours before the shoot. Either go without or go strapless and give the skin a chance to smooth out from the normal strap line over the shoulder. This also holds true for tight sleeves and other tight clothing. Lines in the skin require extra retouching and it’s best to avoid them as much as possible.

Please come to the shoot after you have eaten a small meal. Hunger pains makes it hard for you to concentrate on your shoot and eating too much leaves you ready for a nap instead of being awake for the shoot.

make up artist preparing model for her photo session at Redgum

If a make up artist/stylist is to be used for your portrait, then please arrive with a clean and fresh face. When the make up artist has to scrub down your face, it takes away from the time available for the shoot.

Make sure you allow plenty of time to pack and to arrive a bit early to the shoot. This will help you be calm when it comes time to actually shoot your portraits. Unless you do this often, a check list will go far to help you from forgetting key items your outfits.

And talking about outfits, use outfits that fit well, not the favorite outfit that is two sizes too small or the oversized but comfortable clothes. Do not forget nice shoes, even if they dont show, they help you feel your best while posing for the camera. A favorite piece of jewelry can help set off an outfit and scarfs, headbands and ear rings can really dress up an outfit. If you want a more “Classic” look, bring some pearls, they always add a touch of elegance to a portrait. But too many rings or too gaudy of a piece of jewelry will detract from your portrait.

If you are having a group portrait, pay attention to what your partners or family members are wearing in both color and texture. Paisley and plaid really do not go together and no amount of photoshop will help. Keep in mind the type of pictures you want, if you like the dark background, wearing dark clothes will just make it harder to get a clean shot.  White on white is the same problem. While I can shoot either well, why make it hard? And if you tell me you want a more formal portrait, please do not think that a pressed T-Shirt is formal (really happened once).

 

 

Christmas Card from Belmont Park photo shoot

Christmas Card from Belmont shoot

Kids are a bit different and we all need to accept that up front. Their favorite clothes are probably not yours so the trick is to bring both sets. We can shoot their favorite first in exchange for changing into something you would prefer to see. For the smaller family members, a favorite toy or soft friend can go a long ways to comforting the child in a strange place with really bright lights in their face. I find that a few books with mom or dad reading stories can have a wonderful calming effect, besides, it can make a fantastic image.

 

 

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How to be a better photographer? Just Shoot more!

In the last few years, I have been investing quite a bit of effort into upping my game as far as photography as the craft. And with watching my friends and colleages going to dozens of shooting events and all the seminars, one thing has really started to stand out. You can train as much as you want, you can study as much as you want and you can spend a boatload of money on workshops but NOTHING works as well in helping you be a better photographer than getting out and shooting FOR REAL. Thats right, for real…  dealing with weather, clients, stray people, schedules, crying children, bad traffic, balky equipment while in front of a paying client and trying not to sweat in front of them.

Book learning (or DVD, streaming boards etc) all help but you will learn the most just by getting out and shooting. And not just shooting your favorite stuff, you need to be put into an uncomfortable zone with demands put on you to produce. When you stretch out your skills and wing it, you learn alot more than by sitting in your favorite chair or goofing with some friends in a studio somewhere without any pressures on you. And the funny thing is when you are done, what you used to think was hard and uncomfortable is really not any more.

Case in point, I used to hate taking portraits. I mean, I would photograph buildings, cars, landscapes with a vengeance but not people. I didnt want to interact with people, I didnt know how to capture the emotion in people. When I decided to go pro, I knew I would have to learn to shoot people so I grudgingly started to learn how to shoot weddings.  At least I didn’t think I needed to interact too much, I mean, it’s not like a up close and personal portrait session is it? My first mistake was to spend all my time “learning” about shooting weddings. I read books, I watched videos, I watched streaming classes, I was on the boards. I did everything BUT shoot weddings. Then I got drop kicked into actually shooting a wedding as a favor. Now I had to perform so I gathered up everything I had and shot the wedding. It was different than all the “learning” I had done up to that point. Between the chaos, the pressure and the demands of the various groups, it was quite the learning experience. And now after photographing more weddings, I do not view weddings with nearly the angst I had before. In fact, I really enjoy shooting weddings now, there is so much going on, so many opportunities to make art while making families very happy by capturing one of their most important days.

Colorado Bride

Family and single portraits were another “interactive” path that I initially rebelled against. But again, after being put into the position of shooting Christmas portraits for 30 families and shooting Operation Love Reunited deployment mini-sessions of military families where you really want to do your best, I find that portraits are probably what I enjoy photographing the most. It is very satisfying to shoot a deployment portrait for a family with a service member and be told that they never knew they had such a beautiful little family. This comment came from the young wife of a Marine being deployed in a few days and they had never had any kind of formal portraits taken of the family.  It’s the kind of thing that makes it all worth while when you see the wife go “OMG, I cant believe thats MY family”

Daddy's Little Girl

Daddy's Little Girl

This image is a classic “real” world shoot. High noon on the beach with a small child and lots of distractions. Big difference than shooting in a closed studio with a model being paid to tolerate the wannabe photographer. I had to find a good place to shoot, arrange the shot, work out the settings for some pretty adverse conditions, work with mom and child to get the needed smile and move on to the next one.

I’m still learning every time I go out to photograph someone or something. But I learn more when working against a deadline and a high level of  expectations  from my paying clients. If you want to improve your craft, you never stop learning from any circumstances. And the more you shoot, the better you will become at adjusting to those circumstances and be able to step back and catch the lesson being offered.

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Review of Knoll Light Factory for Photoshop

I was given the opportunity to try a new plugin for Photoshop by Red Giant Software called “Knoll Light Facotry for Photoshop”. It’s a pretty nifty plugin that gives you access to over 100 preset types of flare and lens reflections. These open up a new creative angle for your images. They can add a whole new dimension or they can enhance flare already there. You can even build up your own presets using custom elements and settings. The claim is that the effects are based on real physics and I have to say that as a non-physics major, I think they look really good. You judge for yourself.

Some of the product highlights are:

Here is a screen shot of the user interface in CS5 Photoshop. You can see that it’s very clean and easy to understand. One of the best features for me is the real time preview of the effect as I dial in different adjustments or add/delete elements of an effect.

Knoll Light Factory Plugin UI

Knoll Light Factory Plugin UI

The system requirements are pretty easily met by any recent OS and hardware. For my demo, I used a MacPro dual quad workstation with 14 gig of RAM. I did run LR3 and Cs5 in 32 bit mode to get a better handle on how the software would perform under memory constraints. The performance was very good, no slowing that I could detect and no stability issues of any kind.

Apple Macintosh

Mac OSX 10.5.8 and later
Intel Mac
1 GB of RAM
30 MB of Hard Drive space

PC / Windows

Windows XP 32-bit/64-bit
Windows Vista 32-bit/64-bit
Windows 7 32-bit/64-bit
Intel or AMD processor 1.6 GHz or higher
1 GB of RAM
30 MB of Hard Drive sp

For this demo, I used and image I shot at Disney’s California Adventure of a Dobro player. The lighting was good and bad, good that it was shade but bad in that the shade did not do justice to the chrome resonator of the Dobro. Enter Knoll Light Factory. I used Lightroom 3 to dial in my basic adjusts which were a preset called “Heritage” from Power Work FLow 3 , fill light, contrast and dialing down the red channel a bit. Nikons run a bit hot on the red channel and I almost always bring it down a touch. If you have not seen PWF3 from Seim Effects, you should check out Gavin’s work. Also, his podcast is pretty cool so check them both out.

Once I had the basic edits in place, I opened CS5 Photoshop and loaded up KLF. What I wanted was a starburst flare on the chrome, it would be a low key effect but very effective at drawing attention to the metalwork.

Here is the basic image before I applied the KLF effect.

Prior to Knoll effects added

Prior to Knoll effects added

And here is the image after the effect as been applied. The effect took less than 2 minutes to decide on, place, adjust and save out. Now you would be very hard pressed to know that I was in total shade shooting this.

After Knoll flare applied to metalwork

After Knoll flare applied to metalwork

After working with the plugin for a few weeks now, I have to say that I’m pretty happy with how easily I can add/enhance flare in my images. One must like flare in images to really enjoy this plugin so it’s not for everyone, I mean, after all, major camera makes spend alot of money to PREVENT lens flare but there are those of us artists who really like it and will use it with abandon given a chance 🙂 So whether you are an artist of flare or curious, I would suggest to get the demo and try it out.

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