Monday, 5 November 2018

I've lost my photos!

You could hear the panic through the words of the email "I've lost my photos, help!"

It had been a year since their wedding and like many brides my client had received all digital images as a download. Now the download was lost and the bride was in a panic thinking all her wedding photos were gone!

It can happen far too easily when everything is digital - but there is no reason why it should.

Of course, having hired a professional full time photographer, this bride was able to call and I was able to simply provide her a new download - none of her images were lost.

"THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!" she said, "Seriously I was on the verge of tears when I couldn’t find the pictures!"

When looking for a wedding photographer, brides think about what their images will look like and grooms check out the price, but they don't often think about whether they will be able to reaquire their images if they happen to misplace them.

There are lots of ways you can make sure you always have your photos from your wedding. Digital does make it easier to loose your images, but it also makes it much easier to make sure that will never happen. Be sure to take advantage of the fact that you have digital images so that you never have to be without them.

And be sure to hire a professional who knows how to take care of your files, just in case!

Here are three things you can do to make sure you never loose your wedding images:


Hiring a "good" photographer doesn't mean their business will still be around in a year. It's a tough job and a tougher market. Many people want to be photographers but not all know how to run their business, including how to store the images properly once they have been taken. Many of them aren't around in a year or two and neither are your photos. It is expensive to store your images in archive, and even if you are paying your photographer good money, they still may not spend it on the infrastructure to keep your images safe.

As well as the download or USB key you get from Gary's Lens, your images are backed up to an on-line gallery where they remain as long as I continue to pay the company. You can view them and download them whenever you need to. They are also stored on an archive storage unit filled and sorted with Terabytes of photos. Your images can always be found somewhere even if you happen to loose your copy.


With the advent of digital it is too easy not to print your images, but be sure to print some of them, especially the ones you like the best. It is much harder to misplace prints, a photo book or a canvas than it is to misplace the digital files or the USB key.

As a side note, at Gary's Lens, even the original images used to create your photo book are kept on the storage unit. Even if you spill coffee on your book and need to replace it, we can have a new one to you in a couple of weeks.


You should be able to copy the images you download or find on your USB key. Be sure to do that! Copy them onto your computer, onto your family members' computers and even into your own cloud storage. That way you will always have quick and easy access to a copy should something happen.


In the end, if you hire the right photographer, there is really no reason why you should ever loose your wedding photos. Barring a massive nuclear attack, you can rest assured that they will always be somewhere if you take some of these simple precautions.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Travel Photography Tips

The church in Assisi - St Francis' churchAh summer... Warm weather, sunshine - and travel.

Perhaps you are planning a trip this summer, and of course you are going to take your camera with you. Apart from simply being fun to shoot everything in sight, photos have a way of taking us back to those places long after we are home, reminding us of the good times we had and somehow making the whole experience more "real".

But carrying a lot of gear with you when you travel is simply not an option, and if you are like me, selecting which equipment gets taken along can be difficult.

Recently I had the joy of travelling to Italy for a week and although it rained every day, I still enjoyed creating images. I also made some notes to share with you for your own travels - tips on what to bring and what to do.

1. Make a list: and make sure that EVERYTHING is on it. Don't forget the little pieces that can easily get left behind. It can be expensive to pick something up when travelling. For instance, do you have the little clip that attaches your camera to the tripod? Did you remember your camera strap?

Tourists with their Cell Phones at St Peter's Basilica
2. Pack light: These days, cameras are not as heavy or cumbersome as they used to be, though we can be tempted to take more gear. Selecting the right equipment is important, but selecting a lighter alternative may help you last longer through the days of travelling.

3. Small Cameras: You will be carrying the gear a lot, so small is good. Consider a GoPro instead of a HandyCam, or a Mirrorless Rangefinder style camera instead of a heavier DSLR. Your back will thank you.

4. Don't forget your Cell Phone: Cell phones are important, of course, if you want to stay in touch, but these days they are so much more - use maps for finding places, use the web for information on places, use translation software to communicate. It is also a lot lighter than carrying around a heavy notebook to take notes on places you have been and things you have photographed. You can even dictate notes via voice!. Of course you can also use it as a decent camera. Cell phone cameras are pretty good for landscapes and vistas, and many have automatic stitching for panoramas and 360's that look fantastic on sites like Facebook - making it feel like you are standing back in that spot again.

360 Panoramic View at Assisi

5. Shoot Video Too: Most cameras now allow you to shoot video as well as photos. Don't forget to film some pieces of your vacation. Shoot yourself talking about the places you are in, telling interesting stories of what happened or talking to some of the interesting people you meet.

6. Pick a Flexible Lens: In most cases you will be photographing scenes where a wider angle lens is what you will need, but there may be some instances where you wish to zoom in on something further away. Taking one flexible lens with a good range will save you from carrying many, and if you must choose one end of the spectrum, err on the wider side.

Ah, Venice
7. Smaller Apertures: Again, you are likely to be shooting outside scenes that are wide and bright, so larger apertures are typically not required. That means you can take less expensive lenses which also tend to be lighter. Of course, for that really crisp image you will still need to carry some good glass. If you do want to use a large aperture or are shooting indoors, consider a "nifty-fifty" fixed lens that will be lighter in your bag and take up less space.

8. Sit on the right side: You are going to miss half of the view no matter which side of the vehicle you sit on. So when you are travelling and want to shoot some photos out the windows, sit on the right hand side - or the left side in countries such as England where they drive on the left. That way you won't get the other side of the highway in those pictures.

9. Wear a hat: Not only to give you shade from the sun to keep you from getting exhausted, but with a big enough brim it will shield your camera from the rain without you having to hold an umbrella. It can also help you to shade the view screen on your camera when you want to take a peak at what you have captured.

10. Attach your lens cap: Get a handy strap to attach your lens cap to the camera. It is easy to drop a loose lens cap when changing lenses or simply uncovering it. If you are unlucky enough (as I was) to drop that cap in a place where you cannot retrieve it, you will have to buy another one to protect your lens. If you have a spare, it's a light piece of equipment that can be tucked in the side of the bag, just in case.

11. Stay Organized: Remember, you will get tired on your trip. When you are fatigued, you will start to forget things - not to mention you are probably on vacation and don't want to be worrying too much about anything anyway. So stay organized. Keep things in a certain place and always put them back there - that way you will know right away if something is missing.

Room with a view.
12. Capture the details: You will point the camera in a lot of directions, but there are still things you might miss. Take photos of the front of your hotel, of the bus, of your tickets, and lots of other details. You may find those interesting references when you go through the photos later. When you visit monuments, they usually have plaques or brochures explaining the history or some interesting information - take a photo of these as well. That way you don't have to keep all that paper but you will still have the information recorded digitally. Oh, and you did take a photo of your passport to keep on your cell phone, right?

When you get back, you may be overwhelmed at the number of photos you have taken. Relax, take a break from those for a while and when you've recovered, take your time sorting them and culling them down into the ones you really want to keep - it will be like going on vacation again.

And when you've got them organized, why not create a book? There are lots of sites where you can put together a book showing off your trip. That will be something you will treasure and might even be something you would like to pass on to your family some day.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Getting Sappy in Elmira

Elmira Maple Syrup FestivalGary's Lens Photography is based in Elmira; a cozy little town just minutes north of the city of Waterloo. Among the many interesting things about Elmira is the annual celebration of Maple Syrup now running for over 50 years - since 1965.

Maple Syrup FestivalIn 2000, the Maple Syrup Festival was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest single day Maple Syrup Festival with over 66,000 people attending - almost 10 times the population of the town itself.

This year (2018), there were over 2000 volunteers, including entertainers and vendors of all kinds. The scouts set up a log sawing display and brand the piece you have cut from the log with a maple leaf. You can visit the toy display, attend the pancake flipping contest, meet the Mayor, watch a magic show, pet some animals, and of course take a tour of the sugar bush to learn how maple syrup is made.

The Mayor in the Pancake Flipping Contest

Maple Syrup Festival And what festival would be complete without lots of food. There are fajitas, turkey legs, sausages, deep fried mars bars, apple fritters and of course pancakes - most of which you can douse in maple syrup. If you prefer to be more traditional you can have maple taffy - fresh maple syrup poured out on snow.

If you haven't had the pleasure of attending the festival, be sure to look up our little town and come visit. If you aren't able to make it to Elmira, Ontario in April each year, have a look at some of the photos of the festival; 20122014, 2015, 2017, and 2018,

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Do this for the Bride and Groom at the next wedding you attend.

Every once in a while you come across a brilliant idea that you haven't seen before. This one can be used by the Bride and Groom, but it could also be used by their parents, a friend or someone in the wedding party.

It doesn't cost a lot of money and it will likely last much further into the marriage than most gifts.

If there are a large number of tables, this is a fantastic idea, but it will also work for individuals to do it at a very small wedding or if you are in between, you can simply double up or triple up per table. 

The idea is simple. On each table (or several per table, or each person), provide an anniversary card with the anniversary number on it. Attached to the card, place this note:

"Please take a moment to sign this anniversary card and write a message, share a memory, give some advice, offer a "date night" suggestion or send well wishes to the Bride and Groom. They will open a card on the anniversary that corresponds to the anniversary year. It will be fun for them to read what you wrote in the years to come and a great reminder of who all celebrated their special day. After you have signed the card, please drop it in the box labelled `Signed Anniversary Cards Here Please', which is located at the guest signing table."

Nice and simple, but with a lot of meaning. Each year, the Bride and Groom will open one card with the anniversary corresponding to the number on the table. The advice, tips, ideas and memories will make them laugh, smile, cry and maybe even remember their wedding day all over again.

Want to go the extra mile? Or perhaps you you think the couple will cheat and look at them all early... If you're the one arranging the cards, why not also take them with you after the wedding. Each year, remember to mail the anniversary card to the couple - that way they won't peak early at the advice and ruin the surprise, and they don't have to be the one staring at the box full of cards all year long. If you're the one mailing the card, mail it a little early. The groom might thank you for the reminder each year that their anniversary is coming up!

Either way the couple will anticipate the opening of their anniversary card from the wedding each year, with excitement and expectation!

Close friends and family who typically continue to send anniversary cards throughout the marriage are usually at low number tables, so their advice usually comes early in the marriage. That is great because their advice is probably most needed. Extended family and friends who sit at higher number tables don't have to feel left out though - they get to say congratulations on making it that far, and can share wisdom that is needed as they grow older together.

Make every anniversary a special one!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Some Kissing Game Suggestions for when you are the Master of Ceremony

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.

Shooting Gallery
No, don't shoot the bride and groom! Similar to the Mini Golf, set up a Nerf Gun and some targets. Anyone who can hit the target gets the prize of a kiss from the Bride and Groom.

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: 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".


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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:

Sleeklens also offers a professional photo editing service:

For a complete catalogue of Photoshop actions, check here: