Common Wedding Oversights

Here comes your long planned destination wedding in NW Montana. Weddings can run a lot smoother with your eye on a few common oversights.  We can’t all afford or have access to a top-notch wedding planner. It would help, but, the good ones are quite pricey. Here’s a little rundown of a few things that over the years I’ve seen couples have not fully thought out. Number one tip; If you don’t have a wedding planner, mistake number one is not having at least one person in charge of having the events of the wedding and reception run close to the planned times that are on the itinerary.  It should go without saying that an itinerary is a must. Not having one means the likely possibility of added costs because things ran long, and losing guests early before all the evenings events have all transpired. Sometimes a person given that duty can make a big difference and help everything run smoothly. Number two tip; I often see that wedding ceremony guests are not able to hear the couple recite their vows. Someone needs to address this issue. This could be the responsibility of the sound man, or DJ in charge of the PA, or caretaker at the venue. Ask about it and find out who’s going to take care of it. Sometimes I run microphones on the grooms for my video editing, but, this is done only because the sound was not covered at the planning stages. Everyone wants to hear the words the couple say. It is sometimes the most special and touching things heard at the entire wedding. Were the couple to be miked for the PA, the video man would not have to mic for his editing later on.  If the crowd can hear it, then the cameras can too.  Number three tip; Couples do not go over the events for the reception as well as the ceremony. Most couples for example do not know how to cut the cake, order of the toasts, or any number of reception details. These little things can cause confusion and can all be avoided. It only takes a few minutes. Think about it, you’ll be glad you did.

My Michael Jackson photo shoot ghost story.

My idea for this blog was always to be diversified and cover equipment, instruction, and occasionally even this photographer’s philosophy and stories. Since Halloween isn’t far away I thought I would share a ghost story from the Michael Jackson shoot with you. I was hired to be the set photographer on the Dome Project, at the time a secret shoot at Culver City Studios, the first two weeks of June 2009, just a week before Michael passed away. Michael was redoing 3 classic songs of his including Thriller, updated and in 3D. They were to be part of the planned final London shows. I was staying at an old, but, well preserved landmark hotel very close to the studio. This hotel which I will not mention the actual name of had been around since the days of Chaplin and was the home to many a movie star of eras yesterday and today.  I told the front desk I needed a wake up call at 6am Monday since there was 7am call at the studio. Rumor had it I was in a room on an upper floor that had once been the favorite of the film siren, Greta Garbo. Considering the next day on the set and first day of the job, I was excited and not just a little anxious, but, I managed to fall asleep. Before I knew it the phone was ringing… my wake-up call. At the moment I thought it was quaint that the ring was so old fashioned. I showered quick and grabbed my photo gear and headed out. Once downstairs the lobby was dark … it was obviously still dark out and that didn’t compute with the wake-up call. I asked the front desk what time it was and they told me 3:30. What?  I inquired why they called me at the wrong time.  They checked their list and said I was on schedule to be called at 6. I said they already called me. They said it was all automated, and they had never had that complaint before.  So, I went back to me room bummed that I might not get back to sleep and would be dragging the first day. Once I got to my room and opened the door there was a distinct smell of women’s perfume. Odd, since I wear no scents at all. And the water from the toilet was recycling like someone had just flushed the toilet. I was definitly a little spooked. I was able to get back to sleep. Then when the 6 am wake-up call happened it was a completely different modern ring. Hmm  I always kid with people that I have shared a bed with Greta Garbo.

What’s the best used camera to buy?

I have had so many requests from beginning photographers on what camera they should buy. Their basic criteria is; what’s the best one for the money? First off, I wouldn’t buy any other brands than either Canon or Nikon, period. The reason is if you ever want to rent something your chances go way up with these two manufacturers. Since I am and always have been a Canon buyer; that is the only one I really know much about. Take the date of this article into consideration in your decision, things change so fast. If you are a budding pro who is going to shoot live events or have people in a studio setting you positively must have two cameras. One is your back-up. Nothing spells amateur more than just having one camera. You do not want to have a camera go south on you in the middle of a shoot. Not only is that client toast, but he or she will talk. So here’s the big finale folks; my choice, if I had limited funds and needed the best for the money, is a Canon Rebel T2i. And of course, all the lenses you can afford, but, you need to cover a wide angle to telephoto from like 17 – 300.  You can do that in just 2 lenses if that’s all you can afford. But, I would suggest a fast 24 fixed lens to use for video. Actually, as of today’s date the T3i is available. The reason I choose the T2i is if you buy it on eBay for example, it’s fairly cheap. Plus, I actually own one and it’s quite a camera.

Fix minor photo flaws with photoshop #1

Do you have a scratch or dust spot on a photo you want removed? If you have photoshop follow these steps to restore the photograph. Keep in mind these directions are for fixes on a Macintosh. They are very close to this on a PC, you can figure it out. I believe in you.  1) Scan the damaged photo and have it sit ready for you on the desktop (you could have put it anywhere) 2) You are going to use the rubber stamp (also called clone) tool in the toolbox.  It looks like a rubber stamp. Find it. Make sure you have not chosen the Pattern tool which is part of the same tool. 3) Open the scanned photo through Photoshop and use the Magnifying tool to click closer on the problem area to get a better look at it. Let’s say you have a dust spot just below an eye. Zoom in on it. 4) With the Rubber stamp tool chosen look for the brush size in the upper left of the program. Resize so it would cover the size of the dust spot and then some. Mode should be set to normal  / Flow 100% / Opacity lets say 70% (you can play with this to see the different feathering effects you can get with it.  5) Hold down the Option Key and sample click a spot right next to the dust spot. This spot must be a normal, meaning since you are going to clone it; it should not have any irregularities with it. 6) Click right on the the dust spot. Ta-Da the dust spot is gone. Or maybe you have to click it again to be completely gone.  Experiment with how you set your Opacity and Brush size. You will soon see how easy it is to fix blemishes, and take out imperfections. The only thing I didn’t tell you yet is whether the Aligned box is checked or not. Aligned means if checked it will always follow the same relationship in distance from where you chose the sample from (holding down the option key). If unchecked it will also chose that exact spot when you click to clone somewhere.  Check back for more quick fixes.

Ellingson Photography and Video Makes Touching Funeral Tribute Videos

There is an art to making a good tribute video. The first step is to gather as much as possible about your subject. This includes, but, is not limited to; photos, video clips, voice recordings, and a few of their favorite songs. Perhaps new snapshots of people and things that were important to him or her would be nice if included. This is a video document for future generations and a reflection of a person’s life to be played at their funeral. It requires a tremendous amount of respect. The editor might take the approach of using music to a particular time period to display the photos elements of the video reflecting that time period. Our editors know you stay longer on a photo with more people in them than just one subject. Also, certain special photographs earn the right to a longer display and the editor may choose to move the camera around on the photo, ‘a la Burns’ History Channel documentary if different aspects of the photo can be illustrated from that. Also, it can be very moving to get a particular piece of footage to match the lyrics or instrumental mood from a particular song being used. The funeral video is also very helpful if surviving family members can say a few words about the deceased and do it on camera, where they can comfortably, as opposed to getting up in front of a congregation when their emotions could get in the way of a good presentation, and cause them more stress. A last word I’ll say about the funeral video presentation is it is a good idea to do at least some of it ahead of time, while the subject is still alive. It can be the difference between a average video and a great one when one has more time to work on it. A week to work on it when you can- sure trumps the ‘we must have it in 48 hours’ variety.

How Digital Has Affected the Wedding Market Adversely, a photographers perspective

Digital technology is a welcomed addition to photography and video. The ease, added functionality, and instant feedback of digital is unquestionably a wonderful asset. The negative part for the established photographer is that it has flooded the market with a glut of beginning photographers who are getting into something that they think is easy. It’s not as easy as it looks. Still, they flood the market with low fees and their limited knowledge. I am given many projects a year to ‘repair’ or rescue as much as is possible from these ‘two year’ photographer’s; which is usually about as long as they last. True, nowadays, it is easier to take a good metered photo. The information one learns from instant feedback without developing alone is fantastic. Unlike the past, all this comes without spending any money at all. However, areas I often see that are in dire need of attention is the composition, smart depth of field usage, backlight issues, and an overlooked, but, very necessary ingredient, effective social interaction. That seldom comes without a healthy dose of experience. Keep these things in mind when you chose a photographer for your wedding. Events suffer most from this new ‘malady’, because you only get one chance. My advice is to pay for experience, it pays.

How to Create Pictures

If you’re around a camera, whether it’s a point and shoot, digital SLR, or a professional full frame sensor like the Canon 5d Mark ii, you’ve heard the phrase, “I’m going to take a picture.”  You then use your iphone, or whatever is handy and take your picture.  You quiver with excitement as you transfer it to your computer, thoughts of pulitzers and future shoots with celebrities on your mind, only to find that the picture you saw when you released the shutter looks nothing like that mess on your computer screen. 

Which brings me to my point: if you want to take a picture you’ll get a picture.  But if you want to CREATE a picture, then you might end up with something incredible.  Taking a picture implies just that, a snapshot of whatever you see.  Creating a picture is entirely different.  If you’ve wondered why professional photographers have amazing photos it’s because they’ve created a picture. 

Creating a picture is not easy. It requires time to find a location, determine the lighting that will be most beneficial for your subject, adjusting the lighting by either adding a source from a flash or more powerful spotlight of some sort, prepping the subject whether it’s a person or inanimate object, and then using your knowledge of exposure (ISO, shutter speed, and aperture), to accurately capture what you see in your mind.  Then there’s the post processing, which involves an intimate knowledge of photoshop and/or lightroom (if you’re a PC user). 

Some photographers are incredibly knowledgeable about the technology they wield and use it to their advantage, others have a natural gift and their camera is an extension of that.  Either way, the point is, GREAT pictures are not TAKEN, they are CREATED.