Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bella, Bella

As I continue my love/hate relationship with my 85mm lens, I'm happy to report this little mini sesh was ALL LOVE.

Let's be honest, Bella makes it pretty easy with that natural beauty that just radiates from within. She's my step-sister, so maybe I'm a bit partial to her awesomeness, and when she got all giddy when I mentioned wanting to play with my 85mm, I jumped at the chance to take her out. Yes, please!

Things I'm learning about my Sigma 85mm 1.4. It's a sensitive little puppy. I have to be super careful with my depth of field. I am a stickler for super sharp eyes and if I'm not careful with my aperture, what I could normally pull off with my 50mm, I cannot pull off with my 85mm. I find myself hovering around f/4 to achieve the results I'm looking for. I think as my comfort level grows with more use, I'll inch that f-stop wider open.

But for now, practice makes perfect and here's the lady of the hour. I pushed the lens to get as intimate and tight as I could, in order to really test the depth of field and develop my sweet spot. After this session, I know I'm one step closer to falling head over heels for this puppy. I can say one thing with certainty, there is nothing about this lens that reeks of off-brand. It works hard and can hold its own like a champ.

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

'Tis the Season!

I don't normally shoot maternity, newborn or kiddo portraits, purely because life doesn't afford me enough time to. BUT...I have a special love for my past brides and clients, now friends, so it's hard to resist when they ask me to capture their special moments with their little ones. And I'm happy to do it, because simply put, it makes my heart burst to see how blissfully happy they are and I feel beyond blessed to share in that.

Spring (Did we have Spring? Is this Summer? What's up, Virginia?!) is in the air, which means 'tis the season. Babies, kiddos, everywhere! Here are a few faves from recent sessions.

You'll remember Nichole and Daniel from their million and one posts (LOVE YOU GUYS!!!), their most recent being Nichole's maternity photos. And now, here we are welcoming Braylen to the world! He is the sweetest, cutest, tiniest little bundle of perfection and I adore him. And he will be my little men's bestest friend. It's a done deal.

And of course you'll remember Carla from her maternity session. Can you believe Jackson is a year old?! Time flies is probably the biggest understatement ever. Probably because it's reminding me right now that if Jackson is one, then holy cow, my boys are almost two years old! We had play time at Hunt Club Farm recently and captured Jackson and Mama lovin' on each other and having fun.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Me and my Besties: 50, 85, D700, LR3

I get asked lots of questions from my Shutterbugs learners, clients, friends and family about how I do what I do. What tools do I use? What do I edit with? The list goes on. I'm flattered by the questions and in truth, I am perfectly comfortable sharing whatever knowledge I have and encouraging others in their journey where I am able. I'm a big believer that my business can only continue to thrive when I continue to serve others and that no business will stand that thwarts other learners and dreamers or succeeds at the expense of other people in general. Ya know?

So here are a few of the most common questions I hear:

"What camera body do you use? What camera should I get?"

I use the Nikon D700. I've been a Nikon gal from the start, but purely out of circumstance, and I don't have a bad word to say about Canon. In truth, I believe both brands are beyond stellar and it's the user that controls the tool to prompt a polished, creative result, not the camera model or brand. I love my D700. I understood the depth of that love most recently when I was forced to rent a body as a backup for a few shoots while my baby was in the shop being cleaned. I figured since I needed to rent, why not try out something new and see what I thought, so I rented the D800 from (Mini tangent and shout out! is a fantastic company that provided great service, quality product and timely attention. They saved my booty!)

I didn't like it. At. All. Which felt weird. I was expecting to be wowed and utterly hateful towards my D700 post-borrow and I wasn't. I won't go all technical on you, but it just wasn't a right fit for me. I felt like I had to work harder to get my usual results and it just didn't give me the warm fuzzies. In fact, it made me consider buying another D700 as my backup and pray that my baby returned home ASAP. And when it did, it felt awesome. I immediately shot with it to remind myself that yes, in fact, I did enjoy shooting and this camera was my happy place. It was like slipping on your favorite pair of jeans after trying on stiff, new ones in the store dressing room. There's no better feeling.

As to what camera others should get, honestly, I have no idea. I started with a Nikon D60 and at the time, I loved it. It did me well. Now, I look at it and think "You are such a twinkie. But I love you." It's still my go-to for when I am dragging the kids to the zoo or other places where I'm not willing to tote my Mama Blevo. I'm not familiar with the consumer levels cameras today and honestly, only know what I'm watching on the pro level. My best answer for this is to go to a store and tell them what you're looking for (My kids play soccer and I want to keep up, I enjoy shooting landscapes, I want to play with portraiture) and see what they suggest. Then read up on that camera model on Amazon. Their reviews are typically super technical in the best way and you'll get a clear picture if you're heading in the right direction.

"What editing software do you use?"

I use Adobe Lightroom 3. And...I love it. I've got my workflow down and I can be in and out fast with stellar results. I aim to spend as little time as possible in front of the computer editing, and this program helps me achieve that (along with working hard to get it right in camera). There is an Adobe Lightroom 4, and I test drove it when I had the D800 (against my will!) because LR3 didn't support the D800 Camera Raw images. And...I did not like it. At. All. Ha. I feel like I'm turning into an old geezer with my refusal to welcome new technology in this post. I swear! I'm all for the new and improved. But man oh man, the difference in workflow for me was ugly and some of my pocket go-to tools just weren't there with the same ease that I feel with LR3.

As an aside, I do use Photoshop CS4 on the rare occasion that an image needs a little more heavy editing than Lightroom can provide. Yes, it's an old version, and I haven't updated purely because I don't use it often enough to warrant the added expense. And now with the release of Adobe CC, more than likely, I'll be taking this version to the grave with me. While I know this new release will wow heavy users of Photoshop and the other design programs, I'm just not in the user group that can justify a monthly fee for something I open up once in a blue moon.

"What's your favorite lens?"

My Primes! It used to just be my Nikon 50mm 1.4, but I recently added a new friend to the mix when I got my 85mm 1.4 at WPPI. I have a feeling I'll be adding one or two more prime lenses to my arsenal in the coming months/years as I continue to find myself drawn to the intimacy that they offer.

What does that mean? Well, for me a prime lens is all about movement. With my zoom lens, before I know it, I sometimes find myself rooted to a spot and only focusing in and out as needed to capture the images I'm looking for. There is entirely nothing wrong with this approach of course and it can be quite convenient and necessary in a variety of circumstances. With my primes, however, I'm forced to make the move. For each and every shot. I have to stay on my toes and purposefully place myself where I need to be to get the results that I want. I find it keeps me engaged and focused, and ultimately, more creative. I can't get lazy with a prime lens on. If I stay in one spot, my images all look the same! I'm forced to consider alternatives and approach new angles and concepts. They push me! And...they're a heck of a lot lighter than my zoom lenses. So, bonus. They work for me.

I adore my "nifty 50." It's my go-to ace. I'm still getting comfortable with the 85 and have definitely found that I need to specifically identify my purpose when determining which one I want to use. They're both portrait lenses, but making the assumption that they both "worked" the same was a huge mistake on my part! They are completely different animals. And since I don't quite have that comfort level and naturally extended relationship with my 85 that I have with my 50, it was time for some practice. Bring on the models! A big thanks to my Shutterbug Ashleys and my Emily for being willing guinea pigs. :)

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