Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Kissing Games

Wedding Games. They help people mix. They make your guests smile. They are fun!

Clinking glasses isn't always allowed - caterers don't want chipped or broken glasses. Sometimes, clinking the glasses is a little too easy and the Bride and Groom are looking for something that will mean they can eat between kisses.

As brides and grooms get more creative, kissing games get more creative too. Here are some ones you might want to try:

Bean Bag Toss
Before the wedding, make a board by cutting at least one hole big enough for a bean bag to pass through. If you want, you can label each hole with those you want to have kiss: "Bride and Groom", "You and Your Date", "Bride's Parents", "Groom's Parents". Guests toss a bean bag at the board from a marked distance. If the bean bag goes through one of the holes, the couple named must kiss. 

Another variation of the game is to label each hole with a number of points 1, 2 and 3. The bride and groom only kiss when you reach a score of 21.

Mini Golf
Set up a one hole practice putting green at the reception.Set the hole up in front of the head table and invite guests to come and play, one at a time. When a guest gets a hole in one, the Bride and Groom must kiss.

Spell a word
You can use scrabble letters for this one, or simply print them out on small cards and place them on the tables in a random order. Guests are invited to mingle around the room, getting to know the other guests and discovering what other letters are in the reception hall. 

When they can make a word of five letters or more, they take the word to the head table and the Bride and Groom must kiss. The same words cannot be used twice and swear words are not allowed.

Origami Cranes
Place instructions and Origami paper on each table (Look here for instructions: http://dnself.info/origami-crane-instructions/). Guests must fold an origami crane for the bride and groom to kiss. Folding 1000 cranes is considered lucky in Japanese culture and a special prize could be given for the 1000th crane. Of course, kissing 1000 times could be very distracting for the bride and groom, so you may want to only kiss every time you receive 10 cranes, or 100.

Kiss or Consequence
Start by creating a wheel on a stand. Some spaces say "Kiss" and others say "Consequences". Guests are invited to spin the wheel and if it stops on "Kiss", the Bride and Groom will kiss. If it stops on a "Consequence" space, the guest must perform some action drawn from a series of cards - like "Cluck like a chicken" or speak in "whale" and ask the bride and groom to kiss. 

If you think you might kiss too often, include parents and other couples in some of the "kiss" spaces. 

Show them how
This one can be a lot of fun. Guests are invited to show the bride and groom how to kiss. They can do it any way they like, but they must demonstrate. Then the bride and groom must duplicate the kiss as best they can. The crazier the kiss, the more fun for everyone.

Hula Hoops
This is easier for some guests than for others. The kids love it, and it's simple to set up. Supply several hula hoops at the reception and invite guests to twirl them. They must keep the hoop spinning for at least 30 seconds for the bride and groom to kiss. If they can do more than one hoop for more than 30 seconds, the entire bridal party must kiss someone.

Kiss for Charity
Have a box by the head table where guests can make a donation to the bride and groom's favorite charity. Each donation of more than $20 is rewarded with a kiss from the bride and groom.

Kiss Bingo
Guests are given bingo cards at their tables. Through the evening, balls are drawn from a bingo drum and the letters are called out. When someone gets "Bingo", the bride and groom kiss. 

Make the game more interesting by using the names of the bride and groom or another word that has meaning to them instead of "Bingo".

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Know of other kissing games? Share them in the comments below!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

My wedding is too expensive!

You know, I don't like to think of myself as cheap, but sometimes I think I would use a tea bag twice if I thought there was flavour still left in it. I don't like to pay more than I have to and if I can get something for free, I will!

I won't necessarily purchase the cheapest product, but I do like to receive good value for my money and that sometimes means getting the best quality I can for the least amount of money. There's nothing wrong with that.

When it comes to weddings, things can get expensive very quickly. Take a deep breath and sit down - surveys have indicated that the average cost of a wedding in Canada (including ring and honeymoon) is just north of $30,000!

From a BMO survey, here’s how it breaks down…

$9,500 - Venue
$6,000 - Honeymoon
$2,500 - Rings and bands
$2,200 - Photographer
$2,000 - Wedding Gown
$1,500 - Decorations and flowers
$1,500 - Live Entertainment
$   800 - Limo and transportation
$   500 - Cake
$   500 - Jewelry
$   500 - Hair and Makeup
$   450 - Party Favours
$   450 - Bridesmaids' gowns
$   400 - Invitations and other stationary

Grand Total: $28,800

Before you drop to the floor or run out to rob a bank, let's take a look at some ways you can save some money and bring those costs down.

VENUE

Consider booking your wedding on an off day. Week days and Sundays tend to be less expensive than booking on a Saturday as business is slower. Booking on a week day may also reduce your guest list as only those who really want to be there will take the time off to attend - unless they just want an excuse to get out of work for the day.

HONEYMOON

Plan your wedding around the vacation seasons. Picking a low season for travel will not only save you costs on your honeymoon, but the crowds will be thinner when you are there and you can enjoy some quiet time together as you start your new life.

RINGS AND BANDS

This is something you will wear forever, right? Not necessarily. If your engagement ring is too expensive, will you be comfortable wearing it all the time? Talk with your fiance about the ring - maybe something very nice but less expensive will mean more. Perhaps a gem other than a diamond will hold more meaning to you - the birth stone of a favorite grandparent for example.

Bands can be simple and plain. The meaning is just the same - binding for eternity. At a date in the future, when finances allow, you could consider replacing them with something nicer and use the opportunity to renew your commitment to each other. (The wedding band I wear is not the one that was placed on my finger at our wedding - that is stored away safely. This one is a little nicer and the meaning is still the same).

PHOTOGRAPHER

The photographer costs less than 10% of the wedding cost. That might sound like a lot, but consider that your photographs may be all you have to show for the wedding 20 years from now. Many photographers will charge less to provide you with the digital files. Add on books and prints are nice, but don't have to be purchased right away. You can take time to put together your own wedding album at a later date.

A word of caution: It is very easy to let those digital files get lost in all of your other photos. Either take some time to print the ones you love, and display them, or have your photographer do it for you. You will value those prints more and they will be much more meaningful to you as the years pass.

If you receive digital files, make sure your photographer keeps a backup that will be around in a dozen years so that you can retrieve them again if you need to.

WEDDING GOWN

Choose a wedding dress that is you - don't be caught up in the latest style. Styles change and what looks like the hottest thing today will severely date your wedding by being out of style in just a year or two. A dress that expresses who you are will not only be more meaningful, but will likely be less costly as well. When people look back on it, they will be less likely to say it is dated and more likely to say that is all you!

FLOWERS AND DECORATIONS

Look for flowers that are in season at the time of your wedding. They will be less expensive and will match the season much better. If the flowers you like are out of season, consider using artificial which - depending on the cost of live flowers in their off season - might be less expensive.

Find some family that is willing to help out - to come early and stay late to decorate your reception hall. This can reduce the cost of having a decorating company do it. In a lot of cases they can rent you the decorations and you can set them up. Just be sure you trust the family members so that nothing gets broken or the damage fee might be more than your savings.

LIVE ENTERTAINMENT

Consider what kind of entertainment you like. Are you a party person? Hire a DJ. If you prefer "praise and worship", perhaps your church praise and worship band would be your best choice. Perhaps you have a friend who's band would love the opportunity to perform live at your wedding. You can provide them an opportunity to perform and support some local talent. 

If you choose to use an iPad though, be aware that there are copyright laws that prohibit your use of music in a context such as a wedding.

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Share some of your own tips. I'd love to hear how you saved some money on your wedding without loosing the value!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Sleeklens "Portrait Perfection" Photoshop Actions

Photoshop is a powerful tool for manipulating and improving images. There are hundreds of built in tools you can use to modify and create images in a virtually limitless way. Learning all of those tools can be a challenge. Once they are mastered, tools are often used in a prescribed pattern to repeat a process on an image and achieve a desired effect.

To make the process of repeating these tasks easier, Photoshop allows you to create "Actions".

Actions are simply a way to program a series of tasks in a sequence so that a designer does not have to remember each of them and perform them by hand. They can be created by anyone as easily as pushing a record and stop button and once built they can be used over and over again or even packaged and transferred to other users of Photoshop.

Many photographers and companies create actions and share or sell them to other photographers and designers to save them the time of creating them themselves.

Sleeklens is one of these companies. This Denmark based company founded in 2015 has created sets of actions for Photoshop and Lightroom to be used on landscapes, urban scenes, and fashion to name a few. They recently asked me to review their portrait actions for Photoshop they call "Portrait Perfection". These tools are useful for, you guessed it, portraits. What follows is a review of those actions.

PORTRAIT PERFECTION FOR PHOTOSHOP

Of course you must have Photoshop or Lightroom before you can use these tools which are add-ons to the Adobe program. Once purchased, you receive a download link for a compressed zip file that contains an ".atn" file which contains the actions. It is very easy to install them as you simply click on the file and it opens in Photoshop.

The Portrait Perfection collection includes many subsets of actions useful for creating different effects. Some may appear to make very subtle changes, while others require "painting" selected areas of your image where you want an effect applied. Some are quite useful while others feel more like Instagram filters. Most actions perform as advertised and some of the simpler ones like brighten or darken improve upon a built in tool like "Brightness". All will save you time obtaining an effect that would take several steps to create.

"Portrait Perfection" effects applied to an image.

The names of the actions help you know what an action is for, however there are names that are not so clear. It may take some experimenting to decide which action is best for your needs. Sleeklens has a YouTube Channel that provides help in understanding how to use these actions in your workflow. Once you get to know them you will likely find ones you like and will use frequently. You will also discover in many cases you will need to combine or "stack" different actions to create a final look you are working toward.

Some actions are destructive to your original image - they change the image you have loaded into Photoshop. So be sure you have another copy before using these actions and do not save an altered image over your original when you are done.

Other actions are non-destructive, allowing you to adjust the changes made or even remove them entirely, leaving you with your original image in tact.

It is possible to edit the actions and in some cases simply removing a "flatten" task at the end of an action will make it non-destructive. Why Sleeklens decided to make these actions destructive I cannot say, as it seems to me it would have been better not to. They do include comments which warn you of this and provide tips on how to use the actions.

There are also some actions which have a number of redundant steps which waste processing time. For example, hiding and then showing a layer. I can only imagine that the person creating the action was experimenting as they created it and never removed the redundant or useless steps once they were done. The end result is the same either way, but these steps are not necessary and take extra time as they process.

If you edit and make changes to these actions, be sure to save them as it is possibly for them to disappear from Photoshop. I have had this experience and it was not fun to have to recreate my actions over again! Of course if you do not modify them, then it is a simple matter of going back to the download and reloading them.

Editing choices, like photography itself, can be very subjective and what one person loves another might detest. You will need to experiment with different actions you will work with and combine them to give you the results you think are best.

Some of my favorite actions in this set are:

  • Temperature: while it seems to be a relatively simple task, adjusting color temperature in Photoshop can be a relatively difficult task. These two actions make it somewhat easier.
  • Fast Retouch: This action provides a set of simple tools to do common tasks when retouching portraits - softening skin, whitening teeth and eyes and giving color to the cheeks.
  • Light Glow: While the built in lighting effect does an interesting job of lighting an area of the image and the rendered lens flare can provide a light source and resulting lens effect, this light glow can give a nice soft added light flare.
  • Candy Store: Some very common effects are included in this set such as dodge and burn, a non-destructive and selectable sharpen and a more advanced portrait retouch.
  • Web Preparation: So often photos are being prepared for the web and these tools help to resize the images quickly and keep them sharp.

While it is possible to create all of these actions yourself once you understand the tools within Photoshop, you need to consider how much time it will take you. For the low fee charged by Sleeklens, you might just consider it worth paying to have them already created for you.


You can find the Portrait Perfection set here:
https://sleeklens.com/product/portrait-perfection-photoshop-actions/

Sleeklens also offers a professional photo editing service:
https://sleeklens.com/product/professional-photo-editing-service/

For a complete catalogue of Photoshop actions, check here:
https://sleeklens.com/product-category/photoshop-actions/


Monday, 15 August 2016

Oh no! I didn't take a photo of it, all I have is video!


Recently I was invited to shoot a wedding, but instead of shooting photos, I was asked to shoot video. Taking photos and taking video are actually very similar. In both you try to tell a story through the images - in video you just get to do that with motion and sound. But I digress...

I found myself at a peculiar spot, shooting a beautiful scene (above) and found myself wishing that I had a DSLR to take that image instead of just the video camera.

Well with high definition video cameras, it is actually possible to get a reasonable image by snipping it from the Video! (Literally)

There are several ways to do this - the easiest being to use video software that will let you pause and export a frame of video. This will provide you with a full resolution image. However, if you do not have software that will do this, then a simple screen shot will also do the trick.

Windows comes with a handy little program called "Snipping Tool". Simply click start and type in "Snipping" and you should see it come up. When the program starts, (I'm told you can use Command-Shift-4 on a Mac).

Play the video in your video player. Expand the video to full screen if possible so you will capture the highest resolution possible, then pause the video where you want to capture the image.

Try not to stop the video in the middle of a blurred frame unless that is the desired effect. Sliding forward or backward a few frames will help you to find that perfect image.

Bring the Snipping tool to the front by using alt-tab or selecting it on your task bar - don't worry if it covers the video; it will disappear when you take the snip.

Snapped from a video of a screen at Universal Studios Florida
Select "New" and "Rectangular Snip", then simply drag your mouse over the video frame to snap the portion of the image you want. You can then mark up the image with a pen if you wish, email it, copy it to the clipboard, or save it for other purposes.

Of course it should go without saying that you should only snip a frame from your own video - you should not snip frames from copyrighted works.

If you have a photo editor (windows does a nice job of correcting minor issues in photos as well), you can tweak the image to enhance it further and save it again.

As other screens will show the image perfectly well, you're now ready to post your image to social media. If you snapped the image for a full HD video (1920x1080), the resolution is almost 2Mpx, which is better than most first generation digital cameras. You can easily print a 4x6 print from this image - though I wouldn't go blowing it up to full poster size.

If you like to create photo books, you can even use these snipped images in your books to display sans-computer or TV.

Enjoy!

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Family Photos - I have nothing to wear!

What should we all wear for our family photo session? It sounds like a tough question - here are a few simple tips to help you out.

Should we all wear something similar? 

That depends. Sometimes this can be unifying for a family, but when overdone, it can look cheesy. If you’re looking for something more natural, you might want to stick with “casual dress” and wear what you are comfortable in. 

Everyone wearing something similar (but not the same) is a good idea though – for instance, all jeans, all dress clothes or all bike shorts and bicycles. Imagine if you had each person wearing one of those - the photo would not look so good! Too many different styles and colors can be confusing in an image.

These are digital memories and what you are wearing should represent who you are at this time.

What colors should my kids wear? 

You will probably want your kids to look smart, but try and put them in clothes that have muted colors and they feel comfortable in.  If the clothes are itchy they will get tired of the session quickly and it will be much harder to capture smiles. 

If you have more than one child – think about whether their clothes will complement each other.

What kind of clothing should adults wear? 

Long pants are best and if a lady wears a skirt, below the knee may be best as you will likely be sitting for at least part of the session. Keep clothing relatively simple – muted colors, similar  but not the same top and bottom (either dark, or light). 

Definitely Avoid bright colors, busy patterns and logos as these will distract from the main subject – you!

Here are some suggestions for different situations:

  • Studio backdrop / White set - white t-shirts and blue jeans, light colors with beige pants - each family member in same color hue example: light blues to darker blues, browns to beige.
  • Studio backdrop / Tuscan Wall or Beige backdrop - medium to darker colors, khakis and creams or fall colors work well for these sets
  • On Location - earth tones (just look at nature), greens, browns, burgundy, any fall colors look fantastic!

Bare feet are OK for the white set and medium to dark shoes for the other sets, (make sure to wear dark socks with your shoes - unless you want your socks to be the focus of the images). Keep jewelry simple and to a minimum.

Wear your hair as you would normally with the clothes you choose. If you’re getting haircuts, do so at least 2 weeks prior to your portrait session – it will look more natural.

Will you figure out how to pose us or should we suggest what we would like?

The simple answer to this is “yes”.

Most photographers are very happy to accommodate and work on poses you prefer if you have something in mind. Putting our minds together to come up with the best places and poses always works better than just one person coming up with an idea, and I really enjoy this collaborative process.

However, if you have no idea what you would like, your photographer will have lots of poses and places in mind. Don’t worry. They will work with you on the spot to create great images depending on your family, the available light and the surroundings.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Family Photos - I don't have time!

Taking a family portrait is not like it used to be. You don't have to spend hours getting dressed up and have to sit all stiff in the studio with huge flashes going on around you.

These days it is a lot of fun.

Dress as you normally do (maybe a little bit nicer if you like) and pick your favorite location and let's go!

A session can be anywhere from half an hour to about an hour and in that time you can get quite a few different poses and views. Sessions can last longer if you have a lot of people you want involved, but remember that kids get tired in an hour session and that means they are less likely to smile, so keep your group to your family, or schedule different parts of your family to come at different times.

If you choose to have your photos taken in a studio, the session itself is usually shorter as the location of the photos is fixed (though it can be a little flexible if not using backdrops). Setup and teardown can reduce the actual session time by about ½ hour, but that's usually lots of time for a regular family group.

What is the best time for a session?

Depending on the kind of session you are looking for, and the demeanor of your kids, timing can be very important.  Sessions should be timed when kids are most likely to be relaxed and “calmly energetic”.  We can work, as far as possible, around feeding times/school pick-ups etc., and I can stay for as long as it takes to get the pictures you are looking for. Depending on the kids, they may get tired after 15 minutes, or may go on forever like the energizer bunny - you know your kids so we can plan accordingly.

If your photos are to be taken outside, in natural light, the best time of day is an hour or two before sunset, or an hour or two after sunrise – the light is soft and atmospheric, and you are less likely to get big shadows on faces like you would if we met on a sunny midday. That being said, however, if your schedule works better during the middle of the day, we can accommodate that and work with the available light.

Of course if you are looking for a studio portrait session, any time works as we control the lighting. Sessions can be scheduled almost any time you are available.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Family Photos - But the weather is bad!

The weather is our natural nemesis when shooting outdoor photos – oh to be one of those lucky photographers who live in California and rarely have to deal with rain and never heavy snow!  But a little rain, or a light snowfall does not need to cancel a photo session.

Too much snow? Nah, unless it's a blizzard out, those little white flakes can make a very nice photo. Remember, when you're viewing the image later, you will enjoy it in the warmth of your own home and you won't be thinking about the chill. It's also a great time to snuggle up when you take the photos!

Not a big bright blue sky and lots of sun? Don’t worry! When it's cloudy out, we avoid the really harsh sun and high contrasting shadows and the camera will love it. The diffused light softens and flatters faces and makes it much easier to find good locations to photograph.

Unbearable heat? Not something we worry about too much in Southern Ontario, but it does happen. There are lots of shady spots and a gentle breeze makes all the difference.

What about rain then? Well, a downpour could be a problem for outside shots, but rain can also make for some interesting possibilities and there are always places that will shelter you - a gazebo or overhang make dry spots to stand under and umbrellas can also add to a photo.

Should the weather become unbearable, I am happy to reschedule your shoot, or move them indoors for a studio type session, but it may not be necessary.

As for a studio shoot, that's always another option. With a variety of backdrops to choose from, a studio can be set up at my studio, or in your home. Or we can do some wonderful photos in your home using strobe lighting setups.

There's really no excuse for not taking great photos - you can't blame it on the weather at least.