Sunday, 21 December 2014

10 Questions to ask your Wedding Photographer

I came across a post the other day by a wedding photographer named Kay English. Her post, entitled "10 Real Questions to ask Your Wedding Photographer - Written by a Real Wedding Photographer" asked some great questions you should consider asking your wedding photographer! Unlike the usual questions you find on wedding websites, they are the kinds of questions your photographer knows you should be asking.

So, thanks Kay! Here are my answers...

1) Why are you worth the amount you charge?

Actually, I think when you break it down, you realize you are getting great value. Consider the expenses and time, not to mention the quality of equipment, training and practice that goes into your wedding photographer and you begin to see why it costs, but I won't get into those administrative details. Rather, Let me explain why it is some of the best money you will spend on your wedding. As an individual working independently (what is termed a "Boutique Studio" by others including Kay) and directly with you as my client, I am focussed on one thing - getting you the images you want and need. My sole purpose at your wedding is to get you your best images, recording every moment of the day.

I am not focused on mass production of a product. I take time to understand your needs and your style and at your wedding I capture an expression of who you are. This not only applies to taking the photos, but the entire process of providing your images from beginning to end. Years later, when you look back at the photographs, I want you to see your story - your wedding - your way - beautifully portrayed; not just stock wedding photos that could have been any bride and groom.

2) Do you shoot natural light or artificial light? Or both?

If you understand photography at all, you know there are two important things: the subject (you) and the light. Knowing when and where to use artificial light is not as simple as putting the flash on when you are inside and taking it off when you are outside. Sometimes you use natural light inside a building and sometimes you use artificial light outside. "Seeing" the light is important as it's direction and intensity can drastically change the appearance of the image. The way you handle the light makes the difference between a snapshot and a photograph.

When I'm shooting your wedding, I use both, depending on the circumstances and what is needed to provide the best image.

3) Do you back up your files online just in case of a fire? Do you have backup equipment?

Having a background in technology, I am very aware of the need to back up files. While at your wedding, my primary camera has two card slots and each image is written to each of those cards simultaneously meaning if I have a card failure, there is already a backup. I typically carry a laptop with me and before the night is over, your images are copied, not moved, from the memory cards to that laptop, They are then copied to the main editing computer which backs up nightly to an external hard drive. Before the night is over, there are four copies of your images. That drive weekly gets copied to a third computer with an external hard drive. Your edited images are posted on my proofing site which is cloud based and has indefinite (as long as the site exists) storage.

So were you keeping track? That's seven different backups through the process, and never less than 2 at a time. You can trust that your images are safe.

I carry two cameras at your wedding and have at least one more ready to go if needed. If something fails, there is always another at the ready.

4) Will I get a HIGH resolution DVD?

Yes! While some photographers only provide a low resolution thumbnail image on DVD, when you order the DVD from me, you get FULL resolution images with rights to print them wherever and whenever you wish. Of course, you can still order prints instead of the DVD, but I have not met a bride yet that prefers to order prints. It's like getting copies of the negatives. Of course I hope you love the "photography", refer me to your friends and invite me to future life events, not just come to me for more "prints".

5) How do you make us feel relaxed in front of the camera?

Such a good question Kay! Remember when I said photography is about two things - the subject and the light? If you look like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car, you are not going to enjoy your photographs at all.

The engagement session is so important as it helps you relax. It is often our first opportunity to work together. You learn a little bit about my style, I learn a lot about how you react to certain poses and ideas. And together we become a lot more relaxed with each other. When the wedding day comes, we are like old friends and it is much easier to work together.

Through the day, we keep the dialog open. They are your images and you are the boss, so what you say goes. I am there for creative input and to operate the camera. I tell jokes, take care of what I can to make your day seem easier, and allow you to either let me work away or take control if you feel the need. At the consultations we talk about some of the things you should keep in mind at your photography session, including time and planning. And I obtain a completed questionaire with places, times, names and any special requests ahead of time so that we don't have to arrange those details at the wedding. I will also check out the venues ahead of time and often attend the rehearsal so that you are more at ease with the camera present.

I'm always open to your thoughts, creative suggestions and to your vision. You can relax and enjoy the day without worry.

6) How do you describe your shooting style? Are you laid back or aggressive? Do you tell the whole story of the day?

The day is your day. It's not about the photographer. As the photographer, I am there to capture all the details, all the events, all the moments. When the ceremony is going on, I respect the solemnity and seriousness of the event. I stay out of the way as much as possible without losing the key shots. 

When you are getting ready, I am tastefully shooting details and family as you share those moments and the butterflies that preceed the day. When the photo session is on, I'm working along with you, posing as necessary to capture great photos of your groups. And at the reception, I'm capturing candid moments of people conversing, of speeches, of the dance, and other events. You see me only when you need to, but I'm always there, laid back, in the background striving to capture all the little details you work hard to put together. I am very laid back and only aggressive when I need to be to ensure you get the best shots.

7) Will you help me with my time line for the wedding day?

There are several points at which I can provide help by making suggestions to your timeline. At our consultations we can discuss how much time is required for events at your wedding, including the photo session, and events between activities. Most brides have an idea how and when they want their wedding to occur, but many also find these suggestions helpful. I also supply a "tips sheet" for those who are interested. Finally, when I receive the completed questionnaire which I provide, I may make a suggestion or two regarding points that might make things run more smoothly.

8) What happens if you get sick on my day?

I haven't been sick yet (knock on wood). Even when I'm not feeling the best, I pull myself together and do the best possible job. We have a partnership and I want you to get the best images I can provide! Still, sometimes things happen. In the unlikely event that I cannot make it, if you have purchased a package that includes a second photographer, that photographer will become your primary photographer. Either way, another photographer will be found within my network to fill the gap. If there is advance notice, you will be notified immediately, and you will not have to worry about any arrangements to make this happen. You can continue with your wedding day without any added stress. 

9) What will you do if it rains or snows?

In the last couple of weeks, we have had green grass, then a foot of snow, raging winds and pouring rain. It's early winter here in Ontario and the weather is very unpredictable. 

Being prepared for circumstances and working with what we are given is the key here. I come equipped with studio lights, strobe lights, and backdrops if needed. We can set up in the church basement, or an empty room at the reception hall and take your formal photos in a full studio setup. Or, if you prefer to be a little creative, use the weather conditions to produce some great photos. 

It's all about being flexible. It's your wedding day and the weather is what it is - it's a happy day. 

Enjoy it, embrace the weather and make it part of your day. In the process, we can get some great, unique, photos.

10) What would you like for dinner?

Yep, another great question Kay. I have been with brides from 8:00 in the morning when they are getting ready, through all the prep, raced to the guys to get some photos, back to the bride for the final dress preparations, then to the church to get ahead of the limo and shots of the guests, shot the wedding (having missed lunch now), then headed to the photo session and out to the reception. At that point, I'm hungry and a little bit tired. It is so nice to be offered something to eat.

I'm not looking for a big meal, and often don't eat a lot if it is a buffet, but a little nourishment goes a long way to improving those final photos of the night, so: thank you!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Phoshing trip to Watkins Glen

A lot of guys go hunting, or fishing. Sometimes we go with other guys, and sometimes we travel alone. We men like our solitude at times, and getting back to nature a little bit reminds us of our roots and can be very refreshing.

But I don't fish... and I don't hunt.

So I've had to find another way to get away, find some solitude and enjoy a hobby. I do take pictures, so I've come up with another way: I call it "Pho-shing". Perhaps you are smart enough to see the combination of Photography and Fishing there - clever eh?

A couple of weeks back, I did just that. I put a cot in the back of my mini van, loaded up the cooler and my camera bag and headed east through New York state to the tip of Seneca lake and a place called Watkins Glen. I had seen a picture of the place on the internet and I was intrigued. Was it as beautiful as it seemed in the pictures?

Since it was the end of September, the colors were just starting to come out on the trees. That wasn't the target of my interest, but it made for a beautiful trip. I sometimes stop on the way to where I want to "phosh" but I've found it's usually better to just get there and then take the time to get some really good photos.

The state park is a great place to camp. The grounds are kept well and the facilities are very clean. Getting there later on the second day, I grabbed my little mirror-less camera and headed for the Glen. And I wasn't disappointed. I spent hours walking and took hundreds of pictures. It was like walking through Rivendale in Lord of the Rings. I half expected to run into elves, rather than the few dozen people who were also making the trek. 

Afternoons I usually try to find some WiFi - the sun is high and pictures aren't always the greatest at that time of day, so it's a good time to kick back, review photos and possibly even post a few.

The next day, I took along my Canon 5D to grab some nice shots in the early morning light of spots I liked the day before. I took a flash too, with a remote trigger because I was hoping to back light some of the waterfalls. Unfortunately the batteries were dead and I didn't check the flash before leaving! I had batteries back in the van, but it was too far to walk back. Lesson learned: always check your gear before trekking! 

Watkins Glen isn't only known for it's beautiful canyon. It's also known for racing. On an off day, you might catch a race happening and be able to go into the grandstand for free. It's not a great view for photography, but it's pretty cool watching - and listening - to the powerful cars speeding by you on the track. A good opportunity to see how quick you are with the shutter release and catch those cars in the frame as they fly by.

It seems like the light from cities and towns flood the night sky almost everywhere these days, and the Watkins Glen area was no exception, but up by the race track was not too bad a spot. The night sky was very clear the few days I was there and I was able to clearly see the Milky Way Galaxy. The light from nearby towns bled into the bottom of my photographs, but I as still able to get some reasonable astral photography and make out the dense clusters of stars in the night sky.

Atlantica by Sidney Waugh
Also nearby is the town of Corning where there is a wonderfully odd shaped museum: the Corning Museum Of Glass. Contained in the buildings is an amazing collection of all kinds of glass. There are also very informative demonstrations from molding glass, to fiber optics, to glass breaking - all done by the same talented person! They even have the glass slippers (shoes) and a glass dress - though I'm not sure how anyone would get into it...

With plenty of other attractions in the area, including the wine region, there are lots of things to do and see and of course plenty of things to photograph.

So, if you are looking for a great place to take some pictures or just a trip out with the family, consider Watkins Glen. It is beautiful enough that I think it should be on the list of wonders of the world, or at least on your bucket list - and it's a great phoshing location.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Choosing a dress - a photographer's perspective

OK, I'm not a dress maker, or seller. I'm not even a woman and have never been a bride. So you may wonder why I would ever consider even talking about wedding dresses. Well, as a wedding photographer, and photo editor, I do have a unique perspective on the wedding dress - the view through the camera lens. 

I have seen quite a few wedding dresses - all of which look gorgeous of course, and all on stunning brides... but... how can I put this delicately?...  when certain dresses are worn by certain brides... well, I have to wonder what they were thinking. 

And before I rant, please understand that I would never ever say this directly to any of my brides - and certainly none of them deserved it, but you know, we have all seen some bride with this problem. That's why there are no pictures in this post - I won't point out any brides who fit this description, but you know who you are...

Did they really look at themselves in the wedding dress, or did they just like the look of the dress on the manikin? Yes, it certainly is a gorgeous dress, but does it look good on you?

You don't want parts of you "busting out" of the dress, or a dress that hangs on you like it's draped on a hanger... Your dress should compliment your body type and enhance the beauty that all brides have. After all, it is not the dress that makes a bride beautiful - it is the joy and hope of a future with the wonderful man they are marrying that gives them a glow. The dress is not to convince people you are someone different than who you are every other day, but rather to enhance that beauty and show you off. 

Paying more for the dress is also not the answer. Just because a dress is expensive does not mean it is better for you. So be true to yourself and wear the dress that says "She is a beautiful bride!", not the one that says "She must have spent a lot on that dress!". 

Sure, Photoshop can fix certain problems, but why use a tool to fake who you are? You're a beautiful bride (your fiance thinks so!), so pick a dress that shows how beautiful you are, not one that says I'd rather be someone else.

So, maybe I can't advise you on the best dress to wear, but I can encourage you to find the right dress for you. There are plenty of seamstresses and tailors out there who can clothe you better than I ever could, so listen carefully to what they say. Google some help - there are also plenty of places to find information on what kind of dress is best for your body type.

Here is one that I found that you might find helpful:

It gives you some simple tips depending on your body type (Check the site for pictures and more):

Pear shaped: wear a skirt that naturally flows from the waste outward - follow the natural shape of your lower body and use it to enhance the shape of the dress.

Busty: V-line dress that scoops into the breast rather than straight across. This will allow the breasts to appear natural and not "stuffed".

Plus sized: cover and follow the shape of areas that tend to be larger - shoulders and arms. Use an A-line skirt from the waste down to allow your shape to enhance the dress - avoid pleats and styles that look like maternity wear.

Apple shaped: Find a dress that cinches at the smallest point on the waistline then flares to a gradual A shape. A deep V neckline will draw eyes towards the vertical not the horizontal.

There are lots more body types, so check the site.

Here's an infographic that might be very helpful:


So, bottom line: Stick to your budget, stick to your dress size, stick to your style and most of all, be true to yourself!

You will look stunning!!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Getting a great profile picture.

Are you on LinkedIn? Facebook? Google+? Not to mention Tumblr, Twitter, Youtube, Second Life, Yelp, Pinterest, FourSquare or dozens of other social media sites? 

Social media is everywhere these days, and it is often the first place people look when they want to find out more about you. The internet has made it very easy to find out a great deal about you before someone even meets you.

Employers, for instance, don't just look you up on LinkedIn, they also look for your Facebook account and maybe even search Twitter to decide your likes and dislikes and whether you are a "good fit" for their organization. It can affect your chances of being hired even before you have had an interview. 

While you should, and probably do, set your permissions so that few people can see all of your information, there are pieces that are always visible to everyone. One of the first things they see is your profile photo. 

So you need to ask yourself, do I want that first impression to be a picture of me having a beer with my friends? Is that how I want my prospective employer (or date) to see me? Consider your audience; If all you care about is your beer drinking buddies, they may love that photo, but if it's your prospective employer? Maybe not.

Being Noticed - in a good way.

Recently I received an email from LinkedIn suggesting I check out what has been going on in the lives of some of my connected friends. It had a series of photos from their profiles. 

Some of the photos drew me in much more than the others - and for different reasons.

Audience - Who your audience is will make a difference which image is picked. A girl looking for a date will likely be attracted to a much different image than a casting director looking for an actress.

Relationship - If you have an existing relationship with a person you are more likely to be drawn to their image than to others.

Size - Bigger is usually better and the size of the image does make a difference. This is not usually an issue with a profile as there is only one image, but in a collage like the one shown here, it can make a big difference. A bad photo can be promoted over a better one.

Crop - For the purposes of a profile picture, a tighter crop around the face will usually draw more attention to a person. You feel closer to them. If, however, the image as a whole is larger, this is less of a problem and may actually seem invasive with larger images, so consider where the cropped image is being used.

Pose - Your photo should express what it is you want your audience to see. It should be confident and inviting, without being overbearing. It should express some of your personality without being overly casual.

Clarity - The clearer the image is, the less the person in it fades into the background. A higher contrast image will make the person stand out more - but a high contrast image with too much going on in it may not be any better. The subject (you) can still get lost in the background.

Lighting - Lighting plays a big part in the contrast in the image - well placed shadows can help to accentuate features and make the image of the person more attractive.

Have a look at the images again and think about each of the criteria above. Decide what it is you are attracted to in each of the faces, or what it is that makes you pass them by. Then decide which image you would click first and consider your reasons for doing so.

Ironically, it was not the image of the professional photographer that drew me first in the set above. It was the one with the high contrast background, the great lighting and the look that said come check this out! Of course it helped that I had taken the picture, but I think it still would have drawn me to that photo first.

It was the head-shot of Lindsay Palmateer who I had worked with for a head-shot session and who was using that head-shot as her profile picture. The crop was not tight which might have been better in the smaller image thumbnail, but in this case she had no control over the size. But her pose, the clarity and the lighting were all factors in drawing me to that particular image.

A professional photographer will work with you to make an image that is clear, attractive and expresses confidence and approach-ability. The kind of image that will draw people to it. And from there have them begin to listen to the message you want them to hear, whether that be that you are worth hiring, or that you would make a great date. 

Whether you are looking for a job, promoting your business - from full time real estate, to selling Tupperware on the side - or trying to get hired as a professional actor a great head-shot leads the way. Even if you are just one person representing your company in some small way, you need to present an image that encourages others to trust you and from there have a desire to get to know who you are and what you have to offer. That leads to successes. In other words, it pays to have a professional head-shot.

Using Uncle Jim's snapshot of you at the beach might be a fun picture and one you would love to share with your friends, but is it really how you want to represent yourself to first time viewers of your page? Maybe it's best saved for your timeline with permissions set to friends only.

The Difference

As a further comparison, have a look at these photos... 

These are both photos of the same person used on social media and are public facing - one is used on facebook (left) and one on Linked-In (Right). They both make a statement and tell a different story. Ask yourself, if I were looking at both of these photos for the first time (which many of you likely are), which one would you hire to be a nurse? Which one would you hire to be an actress?

Consider each of the criteria above and how it changes your view of the person when looking at each of the images.

Having the right photo on social media makes a difference. Doing it right means hiring a professional to help you create an image that not only captures who you are, but presents you in a way that others will want to learn more about you.

If you are in the Kitchener/Waterloo area, I can help. Feel free to contact me today to find out how affordable a professional head-shot that suits your needs can be. Or check out more on my "head-shots" page here:

Whatever you do, check your selection against the criteria above and be sure your image is one that is going to send the right message and tell your story in a way you know others are going to want to listen to.

(c) 2014 by Gary Scott, all rights reserved.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

To Grad Photo or not to Grad Photo?

There are milestones in every life we want to remember more others. 

Our wedding day, our baby's first days, celebrations of special birthdays, events of significance.

And we want to remember them in images we can look back on.

Graduation is one of those times, whether it be from preschool, middle school, high school, college or university, it is a moment of triumph in our life when we celebrate the completion of years of work and the accomplishments we have made. 

Students from Elmira in the play "Sleepy Hollow" - Memories for
those for whom drama was a big part of their high school career.
Sometimes the significance of the moment is lost on the one actually graduating, and is more profound to those who have watched the individual grow and develop through their educational experience. It is easy for the graduate to let it slip by as they look to the future and the next step, especially in these days when we find it harder to "stop and smell the roses". The time can just slip by and before you know it you hardly remember those days when they first graduated.

Photos of a Grad remind us of who they were and what they looked at. That is why many people purchase "Grad" photo packages, or even annual pictures of their children so that they can show the progress they have made, see how things have changed and remember. But those images may not capture the struggles and hard work it took to reach the milestone. 

Cap and Gown images are cool, and for some may be the only portrait package they ever have. And that may be the only way you think of Grad photos - studio lights, cap, gown, flowers, scroll and a smile full of braces. But there are other options.

Imagine your grad photo taken in a park, or on the school grounds. Imagine "contextualization" of the grad and who they are at that moment - an environmental photograph. Are they an anthlete? How about in uniform, or with their basketball, or even shooting hoops on the court or running a play on the football field. Are they an academic? Going into the field of medicine? How about in a lab, or in a lab coat? Musician? How about with their instrument? Were they into cars? How about in the garage, working on that beater they got running?

Are any of these things captured in a traditional grad package? Not really.

A Professional Photographer can work with you to stage a natural looking photo that can express who your Grad really is. You may still want some basic cap and gown type images, but why not take it up a notch and create an image that will truly reflect who your Grad is, not just what they look like.

And it's not all that expensive either! By the time you pay for prints of  your Grad from a traditional school photographer, you will pay as much, or sometimes even more than you would for a professional photo session. A basic package can cost you easily $100-$500 before you are done. For comparison, my sessions are $135/hr if you want a disk of images you can print yourself and less if you want to purchase prints individually.

In the end, the question is, what kind of image do you want to remember what your Grad was like?... Does it show how far they have come... Does it show where they are going.

Do you need the cap and gown? Maybe. but why not consider an environmental or location session and take it up a notch?

(c) 2014 by Gary Scott,

Saturday, 24 May 2014

If you don't take a photo, did it still happen?

Remember that old philosophical question, “if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?” Well, if you don’t take a photo, did that moment really happen? 

Of course, taking a photo of something doesn't mean you weren't there, but a recent study is suggesting you might not remember it as well as if you had put the camera down and simply “been present”.

The study by Linda Henkel of Fairfield University studies something called the “photo-taking impairment effect” which seems to indicate if you take a photo, you may not remember it as well as if you had put the camera down and been present in the moment.

Henkel’s experiment consisted of taking students to an art museum where they were asked to photograph some objects and observe others. The next day, the students’ memories were tested and they appeared able to recall details and locations of objects they had simply observed more often than those they had photographed.

“When people rely on technology to remember for them – counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend it fully themselves – it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences,” Henkel says.

Basically, when we are more interested in getting the image than being present in the moment, we miss the opportunity to engage in that moment and form memories. The study also found when the students “zoomed in” on a part of the object, they did remember it better, suggesting they were less engaged when they simply snapped the shutter than when they actually thought about what they were taking a photo of.

In our modern times, we all carry a camera with us everywhere we go – maybe even more than one. Our cell phone is always present and instantly accessible to snap a photo.

While it may be great to share that moment with others, if we are not really present in the moment ourselves, we may be missing real memories.

At weddings and other events, it seems everyone has their camera out, often distractedly so. And the hundreds of pictures they take will be filed away on their computer and likely never looked at again – ever – because they will be buried deep on a hard drive among thousands of other images. Many of them are not even “good” photos – perhaps “good enough”, but not as good as they could be, and likely not worth losing the memory of the event.

This is such a good reason for 1) hiring a professional photographer for your wedding or event and 2) printing the best images either for hanging in frames, or in a book that can be left out and shared with guests. A professional photographer is there simply to take the photos, leaving the guests and the family free to engage their senses and record their own personal memories. From those professional photos, the best ones can be printed in a form that will be viewed more frequently and solidify those memories even further – especially when attention is paid to the details. If the photographer should forget his or her “experience” at the wedding, no problem – they are an important part of the wedding, but they are not there for their own memories, but rather to aid yours.

As a photographer myself, I find I am taking less photos of my family and spending more time with them. On a recent trip to Florida, I enjoyed my times with the camera, but gladly set it aside to spend time in the pool or the ocean waves with my teenage kids. My wife plans on taking those photos and creating a book from them as she has in the past. 

We had a lot of fun before this trip going through the album from the last time we went to Florida years ago. We remembered the fun we had but you can bet we didn’t go back through the hard drive with the hundreds of others. (The photo inset is one of those fun moments from our last trip back in 2007).

Just like the tree that still makes a sound when it falls in the forest even if you are not here to hear it; important moments still happen even if you don’t take a photo. Stop and cherish those moments. Be present with your family and your friends. And if you really have an important event that you simply must have photos of, hire a professional photographer to do the job and allow yourself to make your own memories that those photos will enhance rather than rob you of the experience - and the memories.

(c) 2014 by Gary Scott,

Thursday, 1 May 2014

HDR - what is it?

So maybe you have seen HDR  on your camera or cell phone and wondered what that was. This is going to be another one of my little side trips into the technical side of photography, but along the way, I hope to answer some questions about HDR and why you might use it. If you don't care too much about the technical parts of the explanation, then skip over the parts written in yellow, they will be more of a technical deep dive which you may or may not find interesting.

What is HDR?
This image was taken HDR in camera to obtain
better detail in the shadows which would have
been very underexposed due to the backlight
of the sun.

HDR, or "High Dynamic Range" is a feature you may find on a newer camera or even your cell phone. It is not something you would have found in a film camera and would have been difficult to recreate in post processing in the film world.

It was adapted to the camera from software created on a computer to produce an image that provides more detail in the darker and lighter blown out highlight areas of your image where in a normal photo, the details would be lost.

The effect is accomplished by actually taking three digital exposures and combining the data by "squishing" them into the available data range of one image.

What is Dynamic Range?

The "dynamic" part of the name comes from how dark or light a part of an image is and the "range" part comes from how far into the dark or light the image reaches. So dynamic range is how much detail you can see before an image becomes too under or over exposed to see.

Dynamic range is the difference between the maximum and minimum ability of a sensor to capture light, or a display to render it. While cameras have come a long way in being able to interpret the dark and light areas within an image, they are still limited by the fact that they capture an instantaneous image (as opposed to multiple images as our eye does), and by the media on which they are output.  

Exposure in the camera world is typically measured in f-stops, which is based on a number to the power of 2, so 2 f-stops are 2 to the power of 2 brighter, or 4 times brighter, 3 f-stops are 2 to the power of 3 brighter, or 8 times brighter and so on.

Some say the eye's dynamic range is as much as 24 f-stops, or 17,000,000:1, though it is disputed because your eyes sees continually and in effect your brain is constantly using an HDR kind of process to see the darker or lighter areas at the same time.

Digital cameras typically have a dynamic range of up to 10 f-stops, or 1000:1

My current monitor boasts a 5000:1 contrast ratio, or just over 12 f-stops and there are newer monitors with contrast ratios much higher (I have seen a 5,000,000:1 monitor or 22 f-stops, but this is usually achieved by lowering the black point, which can be negated by ambient light)

Printed media typically can only show up to 7 f-stops, or 128:1 ratio, which means that as soon as you commit your image to paper, you loose a lot of detail.

Basically, different kinds of displays (and sensors) can show different amounts of information - paper being the least detailed. The difference can be huge, and none of them display the image as well as your eye can capture it.

While a camera may have an excellent dynamic range, the monitor it is displayed on, or the printer it is printed on may not, and the image will loose some of that dynamic range as it moves through the production chain.

The type of file capture of the image can also affect the dynamic range of your image. JPG files are typically 16 bit images or 2^16 colours, while RAW image files are typically 24 bits deep, so you can capture a lot more dynamic range in a RAW file than you can in a JPG - another good reason to shoot RAW, and the reason why you can often rescue an image taken in RAW that would be impossible to recover when shot in JPG.

How does my camera take an HDR image?

When your camera "takes" an HDR image, it is actually taking three images, either as three separate photos, or as one with a larger bit depth than the final image. Typically, it will take a normal photo with an averaged exposure value, then take one under-exposed (sometimes by 2 or more f/stops) and one over-exposed by the same value. 

Software in the camera then combines the three images into one by using the light data from the underexposed image to fill in detail in the overexposed areas of the "normal" image, and data from the overexposed image to fill in detail in the underexposed areas.
To add greater detail to the blacks and whites in this image, the photo was
taken in RAW, then saved as three seperate JPG's with 2 stops of under
and over exposure, then recombined using an HDR process in software.

The resulting image can sometimes look a little odd depending on how much extra data you are squeezing into the image and how well the software works, though software in your camera usually does a great job of making the image look more natural. Depending on the software you use, it may also look like a very high contrast image.

If your current camera doesn't do HDR, don't dispair, all you have to do is take the three images mentioned above - one normal exposure, one at 2 stops down and one at 2 stops up. Load the three images into an HDR program in your computer (you can find these for free or in some cases use your editing software). I have also managed to create decent HDR images by saving three files from the same RAW image with the exposures adjusted up and down for the latter two. The same software is then used to put that detail into the final image with good result.

So should I use HDR?

In a lot of cases, you may not even want to use HDR as the normal range of darkness to light can be used to your advantage to isolate a subject and increase the impact of your photography, but in some cases you may find that you just don't have enough dynamic range on your camera and you need to extend it some to get the image the way you want it. In those cases you should experiment with HDR.

If you do choose to use HDR though, be sure to sure to use a tripod. Since the camera is taking three images and one of those images may have a slow shutter speed, you will want the camera to be stable and take the same image each time.

Have you tried HDR? Did you appreciate the images that it produced?

(c) 2014 by Gary Scott, 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Taking the "Wedding" cake.

Wedding photography is about a lot more than getting a great shot of the bride and groom. Of course there are plenty of family shots and special moments that need to be captured, but there are also a lot of details that you don't want to forget. And a lot of time goes into those details - the wedding favours, the bows, the decorations, and even the lighting.

One of the relative constants is the cake. Although it often comes in smaller bite sized pieces (cupcakes) these days, there is always some kind of sweet confection to be had, and the style of that tasty shared experience is just as much an expression of the bride's taste (pun intended) as the dress or the venue she picked.

Just for fun, I am posting a few of the cakes from weddings I have been privileged to photograph. I hope you enjoy them, whether they inspire you, or just make you hungry.

Some cakes may appear plain at first sight, like this simple box type triple layered cake. But they still express the bride's likes - this one was sprinkled with coconut.

Often the flowers on a cake will match the bride's bouquet - except on the cake, the flowers are usually edible... I think I prefer those kind, although it would get very sticky to carry those down the aisle.

Some cakes are elaborately decorated and express an old-world style, perhaps expressing the bride or groom's heritage as well as their own personality. Sometimes the family member paying for the cake may decide what it should look like. This very nice two tiered cake on pillars appeared to be styled like a gazebo with the bride and groom on the top and the wedding party around the base.

Like the flowers, the colours are, of course, also a big part of the wedding and the cake reflects the pallet chosen by the bride. Details usually match those found elsewhere. 

This cake also brings us to the topic of cake toppers - in this case the bride and groom getting ready to leave on their honeymoon. A nice twist on the usually simple bride and groom.

And of course, the cake topper can also express who the bride and groom really are. I'm not certain whether this one spoke to how the groom came to be at the wedding, or what the relationship was going to be like in the years to come, but either way it was a fun addition to the celebration.

These days, many brides opt for the cupcake - cake. Cupcakes are much easier to distribute, or guests can simply come and take one with them. In this case, the top layer was a fully decorated cake so it could be cut during the reception. What a great idea!

If there are a lot of guests, however, the cupcakes can seem to go on forever. Imagine taking the time to bake all of those cupcakes. It almost makes those big fancy cakes look like an easy task.

And if you really have lots of time, or lots of help, you can even package each one up in it's own box for each guest. This mound of cupcakes looked very pretty all tied up in blue bows and stacked in a pyramid on the table. Just don't take one from the bottom please.

Another trend in cakes at weddings seems to be that the bride's mother takes a course on making wedding cakes and bakes the cake for the bride. Sometimes these cakes turn out absolutely fantastic, and they have all the more meaning because of the personal touch creating them. In this case, even the bride and groom were made from fondant by the mother of the bride.

Maybe the cake is a little too cliche for your wedding, but you definitely like your deserts. In the photo above, the bride and groom chose to have a desert table instead of a wedding cake (though they had at least one cake that they could "cut"). It was really hard to choose which one to have a taste of though - I imagine many people had more than one.

Getting a little more thematic is also a fun thing to do. The groom and groomsmen each had a T-shirt on under their tux with a different superhero - the groom of course was superman. The table favours were also themed after comics and superheros. So it was only natural that the cake would also express this theme... pretty awesome.

And of course, why should the bride have all the fun? What self-respecting groom would pick big pink flowers if they had a choice - it looks great, but it's a little girly... so why not a Nascar cake? Yep, this couple had both a bride and a groom cake - take a guess which one is the groom's cake.

Details, details. Just another thing to capture in your wedding photographs. Doesn't it just make your mouth water and your sugar receptors crave the sweet stuff? 

I wonder if there is still some Easter chocolate left in the house somewhere...

(c) 2014 by Gary Scott,

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Photoshop - is that really how she looked?

You've heard it before, I know you have.

That photo on the front of that magazine is Photo-shopped!

And you are probably right.

There has been a huge groundswell against photo-shopping photos used in marketing and promotional material, not to mention just about any other place that a photo might be used, shown or viewed in any way. 

Recently there was a huge Photoshop blunder made by Target when they placed ads that were horribly cropped - obviously cut out - and with exaggerated limb lengths. Ellen had some fun with this when she invited the model on her show (Watch video here)... apparently her arms really are that long (tongue in cheek). 

But what about your Wedding Photographs? Is it OK to Photoshop the bride?

Photoshop Wedding or Family Photos?

This family portrait was distracted by
the garbage at Dad's feet.
As a wedding and family photographer, I will admit that I use Photoshop to adjust photos. First of all for the basics of colour correction, enhancing contrast and possibly even to add some special effects to give the image an extra emotional tug. But I do also Photoshop an image for some of the more controversial reasons.

Sometimes you may get a great shot in a perfect location, but you missed a piece of garbage on the ground... no problem. Who wants to pick up those disgusting cigarette butts that have been lying, soaking in the rain for days? (See the inset image - I definitely didn't want to pick up those butts!) I'd rather get rid of them in post. 

Those kind of changes could have easily been made at the scene without Photoshop, but you don't always have time in the moment to catch those details or a desire to touch the mess. Is that OK?

Perhaps you got a great image in a park, but there's a car in the background that's just too distracting. You couldn't get quite the right angle at the time to get it out of frame, and you knew it would be an awesome photo otherwise - Is it going too far to remove the car from the image?

A little bit of clean up in post processing and the
garbage is gone. If only it were that easy in real life.
Maybe you got a great photo of Mom and Dad, but his hand is just peaking over her shoulder in a way that looks a bit creepy... easy enough to remove. But should you?

And what about the bride who is overflowing her dress a little too much. She's totally in the moment and enjoying her day and it would be impolite, not to mention emotionally upsetting when she's enjoying the most important day of her life, to ask her to tuck back in ... is it OK to Photoshop away a little bit of cellulose after the fact?

Maybe a bride or groom has some bad blemishes - the result of too much chocolate at the stag and doe party - that she/he tried their best to conceal. Would it be OK to make them disappear in the photos by using a little digital magic?

Yeah, there is probably a line you don't want to cross, but where exactly do you draw it?

Is there a line?

As a rule of thumb, I want the photos I work on to look real. That is, that it is an image of the person being photographed. That means, if a bride can't recognize herself I have definitely gone too far. That includes features that are distinguishing - such as birth marks or natural features such as moles, etc. On the other hand, if a blemish won't be there next week, why should it be in the wedding photo?

If something in the edit stands out and says "that's not right" then it's a bad edit and should never have been done.

When I do have to remove a few pounds here and there, I prefer it when the bride (or groom) views the photos that they never even notices they have been 'shopped. It should not be obvious even to the person themselves.

There is definitely a line you shouldn't cross. What do you think? Is it OK to Photoshop a Wedding Photo or a Family Photo? and if so, how far is too far?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Boudoir: Boorish, Bourgeois or Beautiful?

One of the hottest (no pun intended) new things in wedding photography is Boudoir.

Some brides, for a number of reasons, are asking photographers to produce glamour portraits that go much deeper than your basic posed photo. The resulting images may be for their husbands, for posterity, or possibly even as an exercise in exploring who they are before taking the step of commitment in marriage.

The best photographers willing to venture into this arena draw upon their interpersonal skills to create an image that can be a very sensual expression of the person being photographed.  It takes a special photographer to be able to handle this kind of request, and those asking should be very careful, ensuring they are working with someone reputable. 

It can also be a very touchy subject. Some people are offended by the images and find them boorish. Others consider them just ordinary photographs with a particular flavour to them - they are bourgeois in their minds. Still others find them a beautiful expression not only of artistic form, but of the inner beauty of the individual being photographed.

How the images come out depends a great deal on the photographer taking the photos, the one being imaged, the purpose for which the photographs are intended, and indeed the mindset of the viewer of the images. 


Boudoir photography is, at it's worst, boorish. It brings to mind Playboy magazine or the pin-up girl, or the fireman's calendar - images that can and often do reduce both men and women viewing them to their base instincts, drooling knuckle-dragging beasts hungry for the satisfaction of a little "meat". But just because something is often received the wrong way does not make it bad in and of itself. It does, however, mean it needs to be treated with a great deal more care.
Photo by: Simona Dumitru

Does the fact that boudoir photographs provoke strong base urges in some men make it less artful?  Does it mean these images are snapped without care? That they are easy to create, and have no value? Is there a way to treat the subject, avoiding these urges to some extent and accentuate the art?

Just for a moment, take a look at classical art; do we look at the Venus DeMilo or the statue of David as erotic and therefore write them off as pornographic? Apart from the titters of old ladies and school children (and maybe a few of us as well), who aren't quite sure how to process the provocative nature of the statues, most would say these pieces of art are an expression of the human condition - a faithful study and reproduction of the human form.


To write it off too quickly is to reduce the images to the bourgeois; that is to say, common place and irrelevant - middle class and not of high value. Tolerable, but somehow, not really of value good or bad.

This view demonstrates a kind of deadening of the spirit, where something becomes so commonplace that it becomes irrelevant. In our western culture, we have become so accustomed to sexual innuendo and indeed blatant sexual representation in the images we view that we largely ignore them and their message; they become bourgeois.

Similarly, when surrounded by incredible art, we can become so accustomed to it that it can appear commonplace. Imagine living in a roman palace with statues everywhere - they become part of the furniture and you hardly notice them any more.

But to take this view seems to simply ignore it for good or bad. That is simply avoiding the issues.


At it's best, Boudoir can be beautiful. A well composed, well lit study of the human form in all it's created beauty. And not just a reflection of the outer beauty of the subject, but of their inner beauty as well and of the artistic representation of the image itself.

Many of my friends would probably argue the images are too revealing, or are provocative, but when done properly, that is certainly not the intent. But where does that come from? Adam and Eve were created naked in the garden and it was only after they had "sinned" that this became a problem. Is the problem of beauty not an issue of the images in themselves, but rather of the base feelings of the viewer? 

Boudoir images are studies in shape and form, of light and how light plays on the human body. The same kind of study that can be done with much less controversial subjects such as waves crashing against rocks at an ocean shore, or snow covered mountains gleaming in the evening sun. But because the subject is controversial, does that make the art less beautiful?

It takes a special talent to be able to create Boudoir images without being entangled in the baseness or the controversy. (Because of that entanglement and controversy, I personally avoid doing this kind of photography). Perhaps it takes a special talent to view them as well. Done with excellence, these images can be quite beautiful, not just in the form of the subject, but in the creative art of the photographer.

A friend of mine does some wonderful Boudoir photography - Shannon of Discover Photography. When you speak with her, you realize she is not creating Playboy centerfolds. Far from it! Her message is about empowerment and helping women (and men) find in themselves a strength and character they never knew was there. It is a wonderful complement to the art that she produces. She manages to bring out and capture the outer beauty of her subjects and also the inner beauty. Yet somehow, some viewers still only see the skin.

In the end, if you find boudoir images boorish, or bourgeois, perhaps it is not the subject, or even the photographer that is the issue (though there are definitely some commercial ventures who continue to tarnish the art by using it for baser purposes). Perhaps it is how the images are viewed that creates the problem. Perhaps it is the viewer themselves. 

Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.

So, is there value in Boudoir? Is it Boorish, Bourgeois or extraordinarily beautiful? Is there a place for it? Can we appreciate it? Can we even learn from it?

What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments.

(c) 2014 by Gary Scott,