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.


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.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Family Photos vs School Photos

My kids have been through almost every public school grade and every year we wonder if we should purchase the school pictures, or take the kids somewhere else to have their photos taken. Sometimes we have decided that we should do both.

As a photographer, I have worked on both sides. I have been a school photographer with a company taking the school portraits and I have been an independent photographer doing location photos with kids. There are certainly advantages to both. Perhaps some of the tips below will help you decide which is best for you.

School Portraits

The biggest advantage to school portraits is their biggest disadvantage. Because the school photographer is taking hundreds (even thousands) of kids, they are very well practiced at posing them quickly in a way that puts your children at ease as much as is possible in just a few minutes. The photographs are consistently the same - which assures that they will be good every time. And in post processing they can be enhanced with a variety of inserted backgrounds. 

On the other hand, the photos can appear very "Cookie cutter" as they are all posed the same way for every child. In reality what can appear to be half a dozen poses are really different crops of just one or two images. Of course this is an advantage if you want to put each year side by side for comparison.

Price is not bad either considering what you receive, and the variety in the products you can purchase is usually very good even if the poses are limited. 

If your child is the kind that likes to get messy, be sure to send instructions. The photographer will take care to groom the child properly with the assistance of the teachers, but they may not know that you wanted the sweatshirt off for the photo - and your child really wants it on. 

Of course the school photographer will provide you with a group photo of the student's classmates. That is something your independent photographer will not be able to do - unless you are willing to host a party for all their friends and their teacher.

Independent Photographer

While the price for a hired photographer may at first seem more than a school portrait company, when you begin to add the cost of prints, you may be receiving a much better value with an independent photographer. 

The reality is that the number of good images you will receive by far outnumbers the number of poses of a school portrait session. The independent photographer will take much more time with your child and will probably work closely with you if you wish to create an image that depicts their personality in a setting that matches who they are. They will usually take the photos at a location you choose - or even your own home.

With the advent of digital, many independent photographers will provide you with the digital files that you can print wherever, however, and in whatever quantities you wish. When this is weighed against the cost of prints, you may find the independent photographer is actually cheaper.

A session with an independent photographer may also include family and siblings at the same time - something the school photographs do not.

Grad Photos

Certain years, there is always the fun of cap and gown photos. An independent photographer can provide these for you along with other studio or location photographs. If your grad was into music, or drama, or chemistry or physics, you could even have some fun creating an environment that portrays them where they feel most comfortable. Were they into football or basketball? They could wear their uniform for some of the shots as a special memory. 

Your choice

Is there a better choice? The School Photographer, or the Independent Photographer? Each has it's advantages. But before you simply choose the school photographer by default, have a look around (or contact me) to talk about your options. Here are the advantages and disadvantages in chart form.

School Photos Independant Photographer
Advantages - Easy to obtain
- Consistent quality
- Class Photo available
- Provides a variety of images
- Parents can assist with grooming
- Parents can suggest poses
- Family members can be included in photos
- Digital files are available to print from
- Print options are available for photos
Disadvantages - Only one or two choices of pose
- Photographer has very little time with the child
- Parents have no control over grooming
- Prints are expensive
- Parents must coordinate time and possibly place
- Unless offered, green screen is unavailable.
- No photo with Class (Though it can be obtained from the school

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Virtual vs Real Presence

Skeena River, British Columbia 1996
When I lived in Northern British Columbia, I was amazed at the mountain-scapes all around me. They were majestic and beautiful. The pictures I had seen were also majestic and beautiful, but somehow they didn't really capture something. In many ways the photos captured the mountain-scapes well, but they could never represent the awesomeness of their presence.

There is something vastly different about actually being there in the presence of those ominous, overwhelmingly massive monoliths of natural raw power. It is more than any photo could ever hope to capture.

My Great Grandmother, Grandmother
and Great Aunt in 1925
Of course, photos can take us places we have never been, or to times we never lived in. I have never been to China, but a quick google search and I can know what the forbidden city looks like. I have never met my great grandparents, but a rummage through some old boxes reveals their likeness. Yet somehow it is just not the same as having met them.

We forget this in today's media driven world. We are more interested in seeing things on the small screen than participating in the real life spectacle that is around us. Do we think it is better? Or somehow more exciting? And now that we all have quick and easy access to a camera on our cell phone that is always with us, it is too easy to look at that little screen rather than look around us and take it all in.

Virtual reality is becoming our reality. Take the Microsoft Hololens for example; an amazing piece of tech that allows us to see things in the room that aren't really there. And the things that are there seem to fade as they become backgrounds on which to build our virtual world.

Studies have proven we don't remember as well when we are taking pictures as we do when we are actually present in the moment. If you are constantly taking photos, it begs the question, did you really see it, or did you just watch it on a little TV?

And what are you going to do with all those pictures you take anyway? You will probably store them on a hard drive never to look at them and only to loose them when you buy your next computer, or the computer crashes. Even if you store them in the cloud in Facebook, or some other service, you rarely look back at them. Unlike the days of the photo album, when the number of images we took was limited and somehow seemed more meaningful and tangible; when we took them off the shelf once in a while to reminisce. Now we take thousands of photos and store them virtually only making them all of lesser value.

There is a place for photography, and even a need to take photos. But taking photos should not become the purpose of our presence at any place or event (unless you are being paid to do so). So the next time you are at a wedding, or your family is gathered for Christmas, or a birthday party; put the camera down. Talk to some people, look around you and appreciate where you are. Sure, take a few photos to remember the occasion - or leave that to the professional hired for the occasion - you don't want to be known as that person who always has their camera up standing in front blocking everyone else's view when you aren't even looking at reality anyway. Instead be known as the person who was enjoying themselves and participate in the experience.

Your life will be all the richer for it. Maybe you will even have a life.

But then that's just my view - from Gary's Lens.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Where to go to Store and Show your Photos.

Just about every Pro Photographer has their own gallery website - a place to showcase (and sell) their images. But you don't have to be a pro to want to show you photos, protect them, and control who can view them.

There are a lot of options out there: Flickr, Pixiset, ZenFolio and Smugmug just to name a few, but the one that I have chosen to use is SmugMug and there are some important reasons why.

Paid Service

Yep, you heard that right - I like it because it's a paid service. That means this independent company is not reliant on advertising to keep it going. Individuals are paying for the great service that is provided. Starting at only about $40 (US) per year, this is a great deal for those who want to share and protect their images.

And because you're paying them, the site is more likely to stick around - unlike other services that have come and gone at the whim of the corporation. That means you won't have to worry so much (though it's still possible) about getting all your images off the site and sending them somewhere else if they close.

Unlimited Storage

With SmugMug, there is no limit on the amount of photos you can upload to the site - they will take them all - so upload away with all your vacation shots knowing that you won't have to go back and remove some just so you have space again.

Great Presentation

The SmugMug system is very flexible and allows you a great deal of latitude to create pages just the way you want them. You can display your photos in many ways, arrange the pages the way you want to, select various themes, connect (link) to other sites and places you use.

This is the main reason why I decided against my second choice (Zenfolio). Although Zenfolio is easy to use and has many of the same features, it was a little lacking in flexibility.

My Clients can find their photos easily, they stay there FOREVER, and they can share them with their friends and family directly from the site.


And that brings me to access control. You can password protect galleries and folders so that only those with passwords, or only those you allow access to, can see the images. That's great if you are a pro photographer, but it is also fantastic if you just want to be able to share your kids photos with their grand-parents. Posting them to sites like Facebook is handy and quick, but certainly not as safe.

On Facebook, if someone you allow to see the photo shares that photo, the photo goes to a wider audience. With SmugMug, you have complete control over who sees it.


This is a great way to keep a backup copy of ALL your photos. Once you have them uploaded and organized, they are available for you to view and download again any time on any number of devices. Their service itself is backed up and protected so that your images are safer in the cloud than on your own hard drive. 


Yeah, I could probably list some other reasons too (printing directly, selling, etc), but you get the idea: I'm sold. I've shopped around and I still prefer SmugMug. If you agree, and want your own site, then let SmugMug know I sent you, and receive a 20% discount for signing up!

If you prefer other sites, be sure to comment below and let us all know what you would choose and why.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Protecting Your Camera Gear from Theft

So you're into photography, awesome! Then you know how expensive all that gear can get right? And what happens if you accidentally leave your camera sitting somewhere? Or worse yet, what if it is stolen?

There's a great solution out there in a site created by Trevor Sehrer called LensTag.

LensTag let's you register all of your equipment so that if it is ever stolen or lost, someone who finds it (or the pawn shop that someone tries to pawn it at) can find out where it came from and return it to you. Or maybe you just want to keep track of it all and brag to your friends with a gear list.

Trevor has created a great website, but for even greater convenience you can use your smartphone to take an image of your equipment serial number for verification.

And it doesn't stop there. If you install the Chrome plug-in (LensTag Rescue), then when you view images the plug in will look for serial numbers embedded in the images and will report back to the owner of the images where they were found and if they were used without permission allows you to contact the website and have them taken down. This is good for copyright, but also when you have private images you don't want used for other purposes.

Want to know the value of your gear collection? Your gear list comes with an estimated dollar value so you can tell what it's worth if you want to buy sell or trade used equipment.

And the best news of all? It's free! Thanks Trevor for such a great resource that keeps all of our equipment safe!

Be sure to check out LensTag, sign up and register your gear to start keeping it safe now!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is about sharing love for each other. And I don't mean sex (though that may be the icing on an otherwise delicious day), I mean true love - the kind that burns in your heart for someone, that would make you do anything for them and that is willing to sacrifice for their happiness and fulfillment.

As a couple, it is important to take time together. Sharing time helps build your relationship by practically showing your partner that you value them, and by helping each of you understand the other better - why you do the things you do. 

And it doesn't have to be expensive. Love is not about how much you can spend on each other, but rather the investment of time, of listening and of truly caring.

The first step is to take care of the distractions, Send the kids somewhere to be babysat, or make sure you have somewhere you can go yourself to get away. Family day is coming soon, so you will have time to spend with them later. Leave your cell phones somewhere so you won't be interrupted by your friends (or your boss). Go somewhere you don't know anyone to avoid running into someone by chance, or stay in and turn the front porch light off so no one knows you are home.

Finding things to do, especially on cold Canadian winter nights, can be a real challenge, so here are 10 ideas to help you get started:
  1. Share in making cookies together. It's simple and easy and baking together is a great way to enjoy each other and get to know one another.
  2. Take each other ice skating, make snow angels and then cuddle up at the coffee shop with a hot chocolate and a big brownie (things always go better with chocolate).
  3. Play video games together - ok, I know it doesn't sound romantic, but it can be a lot of fun and you really do get to know each other. (My wife and I bought a Super Nintendo on our honeymoon and we are married almost 25 years!) Or find a retro arcade and cheer each other on as you play the games.
  4. Enjoy some quiet moments dancing together to your favorite slow song. Don't know how to dance? Take a private dance class together.
  5. Prepare a treasure hunt. Make each stop a romantic one - something that has meaning for your relationship. Whether they be places in your house, or around town, relate why you chose that spot and what makes it special to your relationship.
  6. Set up a romantic picnic in front of the fireplace. Order in Chinese food, or from your favorite restaurant, Share the warmth and stories of memories of your happiest times together.
  7. Write each other a poem about why you love your partner and read it by candle light with a glass of wine.
  8. Rent a romantic movie and cuddle up under a warm blanket together to watch it. Or, if you are both feeling creative, make your own short film using your phone camera and watch each other's flick.
  9. Do a first date do-over. Maybe your first date was a little awkward, but you grew to love each other anyway. Take the opportunity to do the date right this time. Even if it turns out awkward again, it doesn't matter. You have shown how much you want to make it work.
  10. Go for a walk together. Even if you can't think of or do anything else together, taking a walk together, holding hands and talking might be the best thing you ever do for your relationship.
And here's a bonus one:

Get dressed up and schedule a couples photo session. The photographer can capture some special moments between the two of you, and you can enjoy each other's company for the duration of the session. The photos you receive from the session will be a reminder of how much you love each other and will look great at home, at work and just about anywhere.

Whatever you do, make time for each other this Valentine's day. There is a reason we have an entire day devoted to love; when it's done right, it's the greatest feeling in the world!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

A few tips for your Wedding Photography

Your wedding day is exciting and packed full of wonderful memories – but it can be exhausting too, so spending a little time pre-planning your photos will help reduce the hectic pace of the day.

Below are a few tips from things I have learned taking photos of many weddings. I hope you find them helpful.

Your Photos

Remember, it is your day and the photos should be captured the way you want the day to be remembered. Be yourself, relax and enjoy your time. If you get stressed out, it will show in the photos – and to your guests. When the day arrives, the best thing you can do is roll with it – everything is planned so just enjoy the ride!

Details, Details

As your photographer, I strive to capture as much of the day as possible. That includes details like the dress, the shoes, the rings, the flowers, and other decorations you have worked so hard to select to make things perfect.

While these form part of every photo, you may want to consider making them available for some photos at the beginning of the day. Photos of the rings and flowers can be a great addition to your album both as backgrounds and as stand alone images. When I arrive, consider having them available to be photographed while you are working on makeup, hair and ultimately getting dressed.

These shots make great screen backgrounds, backgrounds for your photo album, and in some cases make very nice framed photos as well.

Reception Dinner

Thank you for considering it important to feed your photographer! Just as you consider where you seat your guests, it is important to consider where you seat your photographer. Of course you are not going to seat me at the head table! But having a seat where I can quickly move to a position and capture events as they happen will improve the quality of your photos.

Group Shots

Almost everyone wants pictures of the family – the bride with her parents, the groom with his parents, the bride and groom with both parents, the nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts… all the people who come together once in a lifetime for your special occasion.

While these pictures are important now and historically, keep in mind that setting up each group can take 3 to 5 minutes depending on the size of the group: getting organized, posing, smiling and being ready for the shutter to click.

Setting up just one person can take 1-3 minutes for each pose depending on how cooperative they are. Multiply those minutes by the number of groups or poses you are looking for and the time quickly runs away.

These tips may be useful to you for arranging the time for photos – they are not requirements, just suggestions to make your day go easier:

  1. Create a list of the MOST important images you want. Provide this as feedback and I will work on those images as a priority. We will, of course, be taking a variety of images and can always add others as time permits.

  1. As a guideline when planning your time, consider: 2 minutes for groups of 1 or 2 people, 4 minutes for groups of 3 to 5 people and 6 minutes for much larger groups. Allow enough time to cover the groups you most want.

  1. Plan a little extra time to add in some photos you decide you want on the day of the wedding.

  1. Find someone who knows your family and friends, who is organized and who is willing to be bossy with them for the day. They can be provided with your list of priority groups and can be a great help in rounding up people and keeping things flowing. They do not have to be part of the wedding party and it is sometimes a great way to include someone who is not otherwise participating.

  1. Consider separate time for family groups, for your wedding party and for you as bride and groom. When time is up for the family shots, move on to the bridal party, and then move on to the couple shots. Alternately, to keep yourself fresh, you may want to spend some time as just the bride and groom, then meet at a location for the family and wedding party sessions.
Bride and Groom

It is easy to forget, after all of the photos of the family, that you still want photos of just the bride and groom. These are often the most cherished photos of the day, so don’t let them get squeezed out!

  1. Leave at least 15-30 minutes just for the bride and groom – more time makes the session more relaxed.

  1. Ensure this time is not interrupted by family. It should be a time when everyone else can either have left for the reception, or not have arrived at the photo location yet.

  1. Depending on whether you are energized by your family, or they reduce your energy, decide whether you would prefer to take these photos before or after the group photos – and let your photographer know.

  1. Relax! This will be one of the few times the two of you will be alone that day (apart from the photographer and his camera). It is time to relax and enjoy each other’s company as husband and wife and make some wonderful photos.

  1. The best time of day for photographs is in the early morning and early evening when the light is not directly overhead and takes on a nice warm colour. Of course, it is not always possible to schedule your session at those times, so we work with the light we have. You may want to plan a short session just before sunset – particularly if the reception is in a very nice setting or if the sunset is particularly spectacular that day – and slip out with the photographer part way through the reception.
The Shot List

I always do my best to capture all of the important images for you. Be sure to tell me the ones you must have.

Be creative – if you have an idea for something special you want to create in an image, just let me know! I love being creative with couples and can usually recreate almost any image. (Keep in mind that some images you see in catalogues are multi-hour setups. That being said, we can usually come close in a much shorter time). Of course it will work a lot better if we do a little pre-planning, but if you have a whim on the wedding day, I am usually game to try that too!

Remember, if getting your unique images is just too much to accomplish in one day, there is always the option of scheduling an alternate session when we can take more time, find the right lighting and location, have some fun dressing up again and have a special session together (sometimes called the “refresh the dress” session). Sometimes the images you see where the bride and groom are most relaxed – for instance standing barefoot in a river – are shot on an alternate day. The bride and groom are just having fun, dressed up and taking pictures, not caring if they get a little grungy or are late for the reception.

As always, if you have any questions, please contact me!