Monday, 23 December 2013

The 12 Tips of Christmas - Part 2

This past Christmas, I posting 12 tips to improve your photography on my Facebook page ( As Facebook has limited room to post, I'm expanding those tips in this blog. Stay tuned for all twelve tips (some by themselves and some combined), and if you want even more, join me for one of my photo courses!

The Twelve Tips of Christmas

Tip # 11 - Use your Camera Tools

"Understand how shutter speed affects motion in your image - to freeze it or to blur it. Understand how aperture affects depth of field, and how ISO affects how light is captured. These might sound complicated, but they are foundational to understanding how your camera works. Taking some time to understand these concepts and learn how to adjust these settings will help you understand why your camera is producing the image it is, or why it didn't come out the way you wanted it to."

Note: these first couple of tips are technical, and take a little longer to explain, but bear with me... they are necessary to learn if you really want to get to the fun stuff - like learning music before playing the piano, you need to know the basics before you can be a virtuoso.

In my last post I covered the three legs of the photography "stool" that affect exposure. Every camera may adjust these three "tools" in different ways, but they all are adjusting the same three methods of balancing exposure. Understanding how they affect your image will allow you to be creative as you compose your photograph. 

Changing these settings is important to keep your exposure correct, but they are also used to make your image more interesting. Getting to know these tools will help you obtain a good clear image - they also let you be creative in your composition. In this post, I want to delve a little further into how you use those tools to create the image you are looking for.


I'm going to start from the other end of the three legs - the ISO. Remember ISO defines how sensitive the sensor (or film) is to light. A higher ISO number, or faster film, will capture the same image exposure in a much shorter time.

Changing the ISO does not affect your image from the perspective of blur or crispness directly (although it can affect the graininess of your image), but it does give you the opportunity to play with the other two "legs" (Shutter and aperture) in ways you could not if the sensitivity of your film were fixed.

For instance, say you want a fast shutter speed and small aperture (higher f-stop), but you are taking the image in a dark room. You probably won't be able to if you are taking the image at 100 ISO. To get a correct exposure, you need to increase the aperture size (lower f-stop) which will shorten the depth of field, or slow the shutter speed, which could create motion blur.

The solution: Increase your ISO to a point where you can pick the shutter speed and aperture you want. Of course you have to be careful not to go too far, or you image might be so grainy you will destroy it's quality.

ISO doesn't directly allow you creativity in your composition, but it does allows you to use the other two tools more effectively and enables their ability to allow for creativity.


As was discussed in the previous post, changing the aperture will change the depth-of-field of your image. A shorter depth-of-field will blur the background while a larger depth-of-field will keep everything crisp. 

This is where the fun begins. Changing aperture allow you to be more creative in your photography and improve your images. Note that I am not going to include images with these examples intentionally. Imagine the image in your head as you would when you are taking the photo. Imagine changing the settings and take that photo. Practice it with your camera.

Let's say you are taking a portrait of your child opening a Christmas present. The subject is the child and the joy on their face. Perhaps It is important to have some context and the tree in the background shows it is Christmas, but the tree is not really the subject. So you position yourself so the tree is behind your daughter and focus clearly on their eyes. You increase your aperture as wide as possible for your camera and take the photo. The resulting image shows the joy on their face. You see lights blurred around her and green behind them. You are immediately drawn to her angelic face and are not distracted by the Christmas balls and tinsel!

On the other hand, perhaps you are taking a photo of the ice covered fields from the recent ice storm across Ontario. You want to capture the crisp reflections of sunlight in the rippling ice sheets which look like glowing oceans of frozen waves. If you open your aperture wide, you will only capture a small portion in focus and the rest will become a blur. In this case, you want to stop down your aperture to a larger value (smaller aperture) so that you get the maximum depth-of-field and keep as much of your image as possible in focus.

There is no right or wrong way to do this - it is about using your tools to be more creative. 

It's all about your subject and creating an image that best captures them. Using aperture simplifies your image and draws your viewers attention to your subject. Always remember, though, as you adjust your aperture, you will need to adjust your ISO and/or shutter speed to compensate for the change in light entering the camera.

If you are interested, you can find depth-of-field calculator apps and web pages to help you get just the right depth-of-field for your particular camera and aperture setting such as this one (which also has a good explanation of depth-of-field). This might help you learn the tools as well, but in the end they should become second nature.

Shutter Speed

As previously discussed, changing the shutter speed can affect blur in your image and give you sense of motion in your image. This again can allow you a great deal of creativity in capturing your subject.

Let's say your kids like to tear off the Christmas wrapping paper in a mad frenzy with paper flying every which way. You have a choice here, where you set your shutter speed. Either one can produce a really cool image.

If you make your shutter speed faster, all motion in the image will be stopped. As your son throws pieces of wrapping paper in the air and they float down gently back to the ground, a fast shutter speed will instantly freeze the paper pieces in mid air, giving them a snowflake like feeling as they gently drifting down over his head.

On the other hand, if you slow your shutter speed, his hands and the paper pieces will be come a blur of motion indicating the frenzied action.

Neither way is "right" or "wrong". Each gives you a different way to portray the scene and each produces a different mood or feeling. How you set your shutter speed will affect how your viewer feels when they look at the image, so the decision of which shutter speed to use is both a technical one, and an emotional one. 

How are you feeling when the image presents itself to you? What do you see? Do you see the frenzied motion, or are you captured by the little pieces of paper floating down? How can you best adjust your settings to portray that feeling in your image?

Using the "tools"

Using these settings, or "tools" to create the image the way you want it to look is the real fun of photography. Learning to control the tools allows you to capture not just an image, but a glimpse, a fleeting feeling connected to that moment.

It might also be important to note that the person viewing your image may have an entirely different feeling when looking at the motion or blur than you do having been there at the moment. Working to produce a similar feeling can be a challenge, but then the variety of perspectives can be interesting too.

If your images are not grabbing you when you view them, consider how you are using your tools. how can you improve the image so that the subject jumps off the page at you and makes you feel what you did when you took the image. Get to know those tools so you don't have to think too long about them when you see an opportunity. Get to know how to quickly adjust them on your camera so that you are ready when the opportunity presents itself.

Now you are ready to not only capture a photograph, but you are beginning to capture a moment.

Read more on any of the other Tips:

Part 1 - Get to know your gear
Part 2 - Use your camera tools
Part 3 - Use Composition Rules
Part 4 - Tell a Story, and Keep it Simple
Part 5 - Put yourself in a good spot, Be creative
Part 6 - Change it up, Make it Unique
Part 7 - Get the shot quick, be brutal and show your best work

(c) 2013 Gary Scott - Gary's Lens Photography

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The 12 Tips of Christmas - Part 1

Most of my posts so far have been geared to the bride or family who's photos are being taken. I am going to shift gears for a little bit now. This year, in the twelve days leading up to Christmas, I have been posting on my Facebook page ( 12 tips to improve your photography. As Facebook has limited room to post, I'm going to expand on those tips in the blog. Stay tuned for all twelve tips (some by themselves and some combined), and if you want even more, join me for one of my photo courses!

The Twelve Tips of Christmas

Tip # 12 - Get to know your gear (Know your camera)

"Before taking any photos, get to know your camera. Read the manual (yeah I know, what's a manual, right?) Find out how to change settings and work on mastering them so when it comes time to take the photo, you are not fiddling with the dials trying to remember how to pick the best setting for your image. Better cameras do not make better photos - the photographer does. Get to know your equipment and your photos will improve!"

Note: these first couple of tips are technical, and take a little longer to explain, but bear with me... they are necessary to learn if you really want to get to the fun stuff - like learning music before playing the piano, you need to know the basics before you can be a virtuoso.

A camera can seem like a complicated device, and manufacturers have both made them more complicated and tried to simplify them at the same time. When all is said and done, though, every camera is basically the same. It is simply a light proof box with an opening to let light in and a light sensitive "recording media" on the other end. Not that long ago that media was film.Today it is a digital sensor.

There have, of course, been a lot of improvements on the design, automation, tricks and tweaks, that have made the camera take better, faster, clearer photos, but in the end, every camera fits into that definition.

With a TTL (through the lens) Camera, light enters through the lens and the diaphragm (which can be changed to adjust aperture), reflects off a mirror, through a penta-prism and onto a piece of ground glass to reach your eye. When you snap the shutter the mirror flips up, the shutter opens briefly and the image is captured on the media. 

While that might sound complicated, it is just the mechanism used to compose your image and control the amount of light that reaches the sensitive material - to control the exposure.

Exposure in every camera is controlled in one of three ways - how much time the media is exposed for (the shutter speed), how much light is allowed in the camera (the aperture) and how sensitive the media is to light (the ISO). No matter how complicated the camera may seem, or how many different dials and settings the camera may have, they are all about balancing those three legs on the exposure "stool". If you adjust one, you have to adjust the other two to balance the exposure of the image.


The aperture is the size of the hole through which light can enter the camera. The larger the hole, the lower the "f-stop" number, so an F-1.8 aperture lets in much more light than an F-4 or F11 aperture.

The interesting thing about aperture is that it controls the depth-of-field (not to be confused with focal length, which is a function of the zoom of the lens). The depth-of-field is the distance in front of and behind the point at which your camera lens is focused the most clearly. It can be said to be the two distances between which the image is "in-focus".
The trees behind this couple are blurred by using a shallow
depth-of-field. The focus point point is on the bride and groom.

Practically, what this means is that a smaller depth of field will blur objects in the image behind the focal point and in front of it - such as when photographing a portrait of a face with the background blurred - and a larger depth of field will keep as much as possible in focus - such as when you are photographing a mountain landscape and everything from the rocks in the foreground to the mountain behind is in crisp focus.

Adjusting the aperture to a larger value (and thereby making the hole smaller), will increase the depth-of-field, but will also decrease the amount of light entering the camera. This must be compensated for by adjusting the Shutter Speed and ISO.

Shutter Speed

The shutter is the mechanism in the camera that opens and closes in some fashion to begin and end allowing the light to enter the camera. The speed is usually expressed as a fraction of a second, so a shutter speed of 60 usually represents 1/60th of a second, and a shutter speed of 125 represents 1/125th of a second. Camera shutters are getting faster and faster, and better cameras can open and close their shutter in 1/8000th or even smaller fractions of a second.

A slower shutter speed and panning
the camera gives the impression of motion.
Shutter speed will affect motion blur in your image. In some cases this can be a good thing - a slower shutter will let you see the blur in an arm in motion as it throws a ball, or in water as it travels over a waterfall. But in other cases, it is not so desirable - a slower shutter speed can show the motion of your hand while holding the camera, making the image much less crisp and sometimes unusable.

On the other end of the spectrum, a fast shutter speed can freeze motion; for instance, the ball leaving the pitcher's hand can appear crisp and frozen in mid air with a fast shutter speed. Keeping the shutter speed at a higher value can help to eliminate the shake from an unsteady hand holding the camera.

Adjusting the shutter speed to a higher (faster) value also limits the amount of light that is entering the camera and aperture and ISO must be adjusted to balance the exposure properly.


ISO (which simply stands for International Standards Association) is a rating of how sensitive the film or sensor is to light.

The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive the material is to light. Double the number is 2 times as sensitive to light, so an ISO of 200 is twice as sensitive to light as ISO 100, and ISO 400 twice as sensitive as 200 and so on.

As the recording material becomes more sensitive to light, it also becomes more sensitive to "noise" or graininess, so extending your ISO too high can leave your images looking mottled and "noisy". You may have noticed this when you take a picture in a dark room. As sensors are improving, the amount of noise in the higher ISO's is being reduced and good cameras (at writing) can get as high as 12,000 ISO without significantly reducing the quality of the image (depending on the use case).

Adjusting the ISO higher means that the material is more sensitive to light and the camera can take the image "faster", so the shutter speed needs to be increased, or the aperture needs to be stopped down.

Changing the ISO can be very useful, then so that you can achieve the right shutter speed and aperture you are looking for, allowing you to be more creative given different amounts of light. 


How you combine these three "legs" of the stool is where you can get creative. 

Read more on any of the other Tips:

Part 1 - Get to know your gear
Part 2 - Use your camera tools
Part 3 - Use Composition Rules
Part 4 - Tell a Story, and Keep it Simple
Part 5 - Put yourself in a good spot, Be creative
Part 6 - Change it up, Make it Unique
Part 7 - Get the shot quick, be brutal and show your best work

(c) 2013 Gary Scott - Gary's Lens Photography

Monday, 9 December 2013

What if the weather is bad for my wedding?

What is the best weather for a wedding? Sunshine, clouds, rain? Planning the date of your event well ahead of time, you never know what the weather is going to be like, and you can't really change it, so what is a bride to do? And from a photography perspective, how will it affect your images?

Unless you are having your wedding entirely outdoors (for which I hope you have prepared a backup plan), there is really nothing to fear. Different kinds of weather only require different photography techniques and can all produce wonderful photos.

Sunny Days

Most brides think that a bright sunny day is what they should hope for, but with bright harsh sunlight comes stark shadows and high contrast which can be very difficult to work with. 

The same bright light and dark shadows, however, can also produce some very dramatic images. Photos taken on these days can be very striking and although it's not always desired, the lighting can be used to enhance lines and details in surfaces, blow out highlights, or create striking silhouettes. 

Of course it is possible to use shade to reduce the stark effects of the sun and blue skies make an awesome background to any photo. 

Some shade can be used not only to keep the party cool, but to mute the shadows. 

Light modifiers - reflectors, scrims or perhaps even some flash can be used to decrease the sharpness of the shadows and make the images more pleasing.

Rainy Days

Rainy days bring out the colours in greens and flowers. Even while under a shelter, the vivid colours can light up the background of a scene. Moisture hangs onto plants in a way that gives a slight sheen and brightens colour. Add a slightly muted sunlight and less dramatic contrast and the colours can pop right off the page (or screen). 

Although it was raining outside on this wedding
day, the colours on the leaves and the deck
were vibrant and the light balanced
nicely with inside the house.
If it rains all day, shaded or sheltered areas can be used to keep the wedding party dry, while the rain itself can add to the atmosphere in the background of your photograph. 

It doesn't usually rain all day long either; There are often breaks when a wedding party can sneak out from under the shelter to capture some amazing images. 

If you're not afraid to get a little bit wet, photographs under umbrellas or even right out in the rain can be a lot of fun and provide an expression of who the couple are - timidly hiding under an umbrella, or boldly stepping in the puddles.

Dull Days

Dull, overcast days might seem drab and undesirable, but they can also provide some awesome lighting for photos. 

Diffused lighting can be much less harsh and more even on faces. Photographers pay big money for large softboxes to distribute light across their subjects - on a dull day, the sky becomes one very large (and free) softbox.

On a dull day, the sky itself might not be very attractive - bland and gray - but the subject of your wedding photos is not the sky - it's you! So getting closer to you and leaving out the sky, or putting a wall or other texture behind you, can create a pleasing, lower contrast photo with plenty of appeal.

Where shadows are desired on a dull day, off-camera flash can be used to add drama and contrast back into the image.

Torrential Downpours

Although the weather was fine on the wedding day,
this bride chose to have her photos taken in a more
formal studio setting.
Torential downpours? Blinding snowstorms?

Perhaps you don't want to go outside in that kind of weather. I wouldn't blame you! I don't think I do either.

Well, for those situations, there is always studio lighting with backdrops, the inside of the church itself, or the location of your reception. 

It's not the worst situation, honest. Having formal photos taken in the sanctuary of the church you were married in can be a great way to capture the location and your wedding party together. The decorations in some older churches can be very romantic and full of romance.

Even if the weather is great, you might still want to consider some of your formal bride and groom images in the building.

Studio lighting can also be used to bring out textures and highlights that are very difficult to control when outside, and a plain background can be less distracting, highlighting the bride and groom more clearly. 

Some brides will consider using a studio setup even when the weather is great outside!

Don't Worry

Above all, I hope you see by now that no matter what the weather is, you don't need to worry about your photos. If you have a professional photographer who knows how to deal with each situation, they will work with what God provides you on your wedding day and create some splendid images!

All you need to think about is enjoying your wedding day and celebrating your marriage! 

Leave the task of getting great photos to your photographer.

(c) 2013 Gary Scott - Gary's Lens Photography

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Does it make a difference if your photographer is a man or a woman?

OK, I'm not trying to start a debate on the merits of the sexes. But the question does come up. As a wedding photographer, I remain very professional when it comes to the bride getting in her dress. I stay out until the bride is comfortable with me being there, and I still get great shots of the bridesmaids getting her ready. After all, if she's not comfortable with the photographer being there, she probably isn't comfortable with the pictures that would be taken either.

Really the question is, what style of photography do  you prefer, and yes, it can make a difference if you hire a man or a woman to do your photography. It can make a difference between two women, or two men as well. Everyone has a different style. Of course, to generalize too much would be wrong, and if a photographer is good, they can likely imitate any style they choose, but every photographer tends to lean more to one style or another.

What do I mean by style?

One way to look at a style is as the "type" of photography - Landscape, Sports, Fashion, Journalism. Each of these forms of photography has it's own "style". But each can have styles within their form - for example, you can choose to shoot black and white or colour in any of these "types".

The "style" I am referring to here is the treatment of the subject and the composition, rather than the type of photography; being formal, or edgy, or modern, or artistic, relaxed or strictly posed.

Style can be used to enhance any image and "feeling". Often styles can be produced in post processing, though they can also be created with photographic techniques in camera. Some photographers rely on photo processing to give their images a certain pastel colour, or a vintage look. Others prefer a clean, crisp look to their images with lots of detail. The end goal in all cases is to have the viewer engage in an image and evoke an emotion.

I could be going out on a limb here, but when I at images produced by women (particularly in the wedding and family photography fields), they tend towards pastel, soft focus, dreamy, or vintage colour. When I look at photos produced by men, they tend to be more detailed, crisp, and "real" looking. Of course, neither is "wrong", and certainly a good photographer of either gender can produce images of either variety, but there does appear to be this tendency.

Personally, (perhaps because I am a guy) I prefer a crisp, clean image in camera. Post processing can be done on a clean image to produce almost any effect after the image is taken, whereas an image shot with soft focus cannot be made more crisp. Sometimes, a softened effect is even used to hide some poor photography.

On the other hand, if a photographer is working towards a certain style, why should they spend hours of post processing when they can do it in-camera? Again, there is no right and wrong, only choices.

What style are you looking for?

I realise all that may sound a little confusing. As the person hiring the photographer, you should consider what kind of style you are looking for. If you hire a good photographer, they should be able to work with that style, but they will appreciate that you have something in mind, and if they don't like working in that style, they can let you know.

Working with a style is something a professional photographer can bring to the table that a big box store portrait studio cannot. The pro can work with you to create a style that goes beyond changing backgrounds and a half dozen canned poses. It can reflect the character of the subject (you, your kids, or your wedding).

When you are choosing a photographer, find one who's images resonate with you. Imagine their pictures hanging on your walls - does the style fit with who you are and what you are looking for? Do the images speak to you or are they simply pictures?

My style...

So, after all that, what is my style? Well, I am a guy. My style tends towards the "real" look. Blurred background (bokeh) is fine and useful, but the subject must be sharp, drawing your eye to the key location in the image and happen naturally. Most of my "effects" are done in post processing, and I'm willing to experiment a little with you to achieve a look and feel you may have in mind.

As to composition, I'm willing to be adventurous and try new things. The basic rules are there to guide us, but often rules are made to be broken and in a creative space are usually broken for good reasons.

I love the romance of a wedding and the spontaneity of it. My images try to capture that without too much interference and are usually adjusted by my own vantage point more than by direction of the subjects.

The photo session is a different matter, and in that space, we work collaboratively to create some awesome images, most likely with some posing involved.

I have been known to use softening effects or colours to enhance an image, but I do use them sparingly as I think they can sometimes take away from the quality of an image, even though they can improve the mood.

So does it make a difference if your photographer is a man or a woman? Not really - if they are good, they can provide you with whatever images you need - and if they are not good, why are you hiring them? But do take some time to discuss style with your photographer. It will be as important to them as it is to you and the images you receive.

(c) 2013 Gary Scott - Gary's Lens Photography

Monday, 25 November 2013

What about shooting "studio" portraits at home?

Family portraits are a wonderful way to create memories to last a lifetime - or longer. And there are many ways to create those portraits. 

In good weather, going outside can be a great way to have some fun and make some great images as well. But when the weather is drab, or cold, what can you do? Move inside, of course!

Studio portraiture has the advantage of controlled lighting which means your images can be sculpted more clearly and in ways that can be more difficult in an outdoor setting. It is different - in some ways better and in some ways not as good, but overall, you can obtain some wonderfully dramatic images.

Home studios give you the opportunity of taking it up a notch. Kind of like a doctor - when you visit them at their office, they do the same things as at a house call, but somehow their office always feels colder - more sterile - less friendly. When they visit  you at home, you can be more relaxed. Some even say it helps you to heal faster. 

Unfortunately economics and logistics have made the doctors house call a thing of the past, but it doesn't have to be that way for photography thank goodness!

Familiar surroundings...

One of the biggest advantages of the home studio is the familiar surroundings. Even when a simple studio backdrop is set up, a family knows they are at home and feels at ease. When not in the makeshift "studio", they can sit on their own couch, even eat their own snacks, and wait for the next time they need to be in front of the camera.

When not using the "studio" setup, they can be photographed in their own home's decor, making for a natural "environmental" photo that not only portrays the family, but how they live as well. Photographing the family doing something they all enjoy - cooking in the kitchen, or playing a board game - can make the images more than a portrait; it can create a little bit of family history - something to bring back fond memories for decades to come. Something for generations to look back on and learn a little bit about their family.

In our fast paced - moment to moment - society, we don't think about looking back 30 years from now at how we were. But it is a little like stopping and smelling the roses - taking those moments now to capture them will bring a lot of joy down the road. 

The Weather...

Having your portraits done in your own home means that you won't have to worry about the weather! Good old Canadian Fall, winter and sometimes even spring can be very unpredictable and relying on a good weekend to take photos can mean sometimes rescheduling several times. 

Inside, the light can be controlled, and everyone can stay dry, so the photo session can go ahead just like the postman - in rain, sleet or hail.

Rambunctious kids...

Kids are kids! They are full of fun and energy. They simply ooze life! But tying them down for photographs can be a real challenge sometimes. That's another reason home portraits can be so great. Kids can play the way they would any time they are home. They can run around (assuming that's allowed in their house) while Mom and Dad are getting their portraits taken, or as each of the kids is having their individual portrait taken. Their own toys are available and they can play with them while they wait, or even bring them into the portraits. 

It is their space and naturally they are going to feel more "at home" because they are. When it comes time to move into the make shift "studio", it is not something that feels odd or contrived.

Whether photographing families outdoors or indoors, kids are usually excited and run around and play - and that helps them to smile lots! Perhaps the energy doesn't seem like it to us as adults, but It helps them relax in the process! Capturing them at just the right moment can be a challenge, but thank goodness the camera is fast!


At home, opportunities arise that would be difficult to recreate in a normal studio. Moments can be created in an instant - and be over just as quickly.

In the photo to the left, Mom was sitting on the floor and we called the boys over to give her a kiss. They ran in, kissed her quickly and ran away again... it was over just that quickly! In that instant, a wonderful memory was created that will be cherished for a very long time. 

Indoor portraits...

So why not set up a portrait session at your home. You won't have to worry about the weather, and you might just find it a lot more relaxed. Whether indoors or outdoors, you will have some wonderful memories to share with your kids and grand-kids for lifetimes to come.

(c) 2013 Gary Scott - Gary's Lens Photography

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

What camera should I get for Christmas?

Christmas is coming and you want to get some really great pictures of the family this year. Or maybe a camera is on someone in your family's wish list. But what should you buy?

This question comes up a lot, and the answer of course is "it depends". There many different cameras on the market for a reason, and diving into the details will make your head spin. So rather than covering everything, I want to outline a few considerations for you that might make the choice a little easier, or at least get you started. 

One other thing; before I begin, although I shoot Canon, the tips below apply to any brand of camera, whether it be Nikon, Panasonic, Olympus, Canon or any of a hundred other brands.

How much do I want to learn?

The first question you should ask yourself is "how much do I want to learn about photography"? 

If you don't know what shutter speed and aperture are, don't care, and really never want to know, but you still want to take great pictures, you still can! Turn to a good point-and-shoot camera and avoid the DSLR's. Point and shoot cameras really do take great pictures, have some easy settings to help you and can be very simple to operate. And just because the camera is big doesn't mean it's going to make you a better photographer. You have to know how to use it to really improve your images, and that takes time and effort. So if you just want "good" pictures, then purchase a "good" camera and avoid the complications.

When purchasing a "point-and-shoot", I highly recommend you purchase one that encloses the lens when it is turned off (like the Canon Powershot pictured here for example). This will help you avoid fingerprints, dirt and scratches on the lens that will ruin your photographs. Even a lens cap (which you should also use on your DSLR) will be better than a bare lens. 

If you're purchasing an underwater camera, it may not cover the lens when it is turned off, so be sure to get a case that will protect the lens when not in use.

One frustrating thing you should check when buying a point and shoot camera is how fast it actually takes the picture. A digital camera is really a small computer, and if the computer is slow, it can take time to process the image. The time between when you push the shutter button and when the picture is actually captured can sometimes be a few seconds. That can be very frustrating when you are constantly missing the moment.

On the other hand, if you are eager to spend time learning the art of photography, you will want to consider spending more money and buying a camera you can change lenses on. These cameras are much more flexible, allow for more manual control, are usually faster and provide many more creative options.

Although DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras technically are TTL (Through the Lens) and mirrored, mirror-less cameras are becoming popular (like the Canon EOS M pictured here), come in smaller packages and take awesome photos much like their older more mechanically oriented cousins. You can still change the lenses on these cameras and they are much more portable (the reasons for changing lenses are another topic and would take too long to explain in this blog entry). Keep in mind, however, that the mounts for these cameras may be quite different from the full DSLR's and you may end up having to purchase lenses all over again if you move up to a larger camera.

What is it for?

Next you should ask "What do I want to use it for"?

If you plan on travelling with your camera, and are not working for National Geographic, then a smaller package is likely better - it will be easier to transport, carry, and be less obtrusive when you pull it out in public. On the other hand, a larger format (bigger sensor) camera may be better for grabbing detail in objects, or landscapes. Mirror-less cameras are great in this regard as they come in smaller bodies with smaller lenses that stow more easily.

Lens choice can provide some creative opportunities, but you may not want to carry too many lenses. A good zoom lens can be very versatile, but may not give you the crispness of image you are looking for.

Everything is a trade off and a balancing act. If you are buying a camera that you can change the lenses on, though, be sure to buy a body with a good selection available. You may want to add to your arsenal in the future and limiting the types and sizes of lenses you can acquire might cause you to have to purchase a different body in the future. Also on that note, purchasing a body with a healthy eco-system of lenses means that you will likely be able to change out the camera body in the future and still use those lenses - something that can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Are you looking to shoot friends and family? A good portrait lens (covering 85-100mm) is important, but you should also consider if you will be in tighter spaces over the holidays and need something wider. 

Check what the sensor size is on your camera and match the lenses to the sensor (or at least understand how the lens will work with the sensor). A smaller sensor has a different "crop factor" and a 60mm lens on a cropped sensor will take pictures more like a 100mm lens on a 35mm frame camera... purchasing a lens that fits the cropped sensors may not work on your full frame camera either, though a full frame lens may fit your cropped sensor... sorry, too much detail - if your salesperson can't explain that to you, find another sales person! Again, if you have to buy just one lens, a good zoom lens will help you cover the range.

If  you are looking to get more creative, then you should definitely consider a DSLR, or at least a camera with interchangeable lenses. That will give you the most options as other attributes of a camera are largely similar between makes and models of inter-changeable lens cameras. 

By the numbers...

Here are a couple of other considerations you should make, and they involve numbers:

Megapixels: This used to be the big deciding factor, but no longer is. Any camera with 10 or more megapixels will be high enough for almost every use. In fact, if you're just posting on social media, 2 Mpx may be all you really need. Many cell phone cameras now have cameras more than 10 megapixels. The opposite consideration is important though; If you have too high a megapixel count, your file sizes will be much higher requiring more storage for your pictures, which in turn can cost you in storage and backup space (you do make backups, don't you?).

ISO: This is the new megapixels race as camera sensors improve their ISO ratings. What ISO can the camera go to without too much grain in the image? The higher this number, the less light is required to take a nice steady image. It's something worth asking about. When you bought film (did you ever buy film?), it was usually 100, 200, 400 ISO with some going up to 1200. Now the sensors are reaching 12,800 and much higher without significant noise (grain) in the image.

$: Yeah, I'm including this here, because you can spend anywhere from $50 to $50,000 on a camera that in essence is a lightproof box with a shutter and a sensor. Sometimes it's best just to set yourself a budget and stick within it!

Just the tip of the iceberg...

Of course, all of this is just the beginning when considering what camera to buy. We could talk about digital vs optical zoom, off camera flash, wireless transfer, sync speed and any of a hundred other topics, but at least remember that first question. 

I know people who have bought a DSLR thinking they want to take better pictures, only to find it too complicated and that they can take just as good pictures with their point and shoot camera. On the other hand, I have seen people frustrated that they can't do what they want to with their point and shoot.

It's a personal decision, but whatever you purchase, have fun with it this Christmas! And if you forget to get out your new camera, that's OK - don't forget, you always have that one on your cell phone! 

(c) 2013 Gary Scott - Gary's Lens Photography

Friday, 8 November 2013

The Wedding Ring Review

What follows is a review published on and has been copied here verbatim. Note that pricing has changed over the years - please refer to the website for current pricing.

Enjoy the review!

This Review was written by Staff @ The Ring and is based on Interviews with this vendor & Interviews with past bridesstarted our research on Gary Scott, Owner and Principal Photographer of Gary's Lens Photography in Elmira, it was his past couples who really confirmed that this was a photographer who needed to be reviewed in The Ring. His past couples love him. Early into our interviews, we heard that Gary is "THE only photographer to consider...”, that he offers “quality and value is unlike any other” and that hiring him was "the best wedding decision I made!"
And so with unlimited hours of shooting, budget friendly pricing, a loud, loving fan base, and a relaxed approach that had even the shyest brides feeling comfortable on camera, we knew we had to find out more about this Southwestern Ontario photographer...

Personally Speaking

Gary's Lens Photography has been an evolution. He actually started out shooting stock photography and says that this was his first line of income from photography.
Gary explains, "Technology and photography have been key loves in my life since I was very young. Photography is a way for me to get out from behind the desk and become involved with people. It is a way for me to be creative and express that creativity in a way that brings joy to others."
"Back in 2006, some friends and I who had worked on the video crew at our church decided to try doing video for weddings. While we did those videos, I found myself taking photos along the side and eventually we offered photos along with the video and I started branching out on my own with the photography."
Gary started a small photography group in Cambridge, which continued to encourage and inspire him in his work. He also enrolled in the New York Institute of Photography's Pro course to further hone his skills and also became a member of the Professional Photographers of America. All the while, he was shooting weddings.
And in 2010, Gary felt ready to pursue photography on his own, officially opening Gary's Lens Photography. Over the past few years, Gary has steadily grown his client list and continues to develop his craft through workshops, courses and real wedding experience.
After so many weddings, what keeps Gary inspired? He told The Ring, "Photography for me is more than a job. It's a way to meet people, to express my creativity, to find new places and try new things. It's a lifestyle, and even though it can be exhausting at times, it is also very satisfying. I am inspired by brides themselves, by their creativity in arranging their weddings, by the people around me, by the venues and by the work of other photographers."
Amanda Fraser says she would, without a doubt, hire Gary all over again to shoot her wedding day. "I like the fact that Gary can do candid, fun shots, but also the typical wedding and engagement poses. Gary is able to catch some amazing moments; ones that you barely remember happening because the day flies by. I loved that he made us feel totally comfortable with each other and him – it’s always awkward to get in front of a camera, but Gary really helped us to relax and enjoy the moments instead of wondering how we looked or if we were smiling the right way!"

Working with Gary

While Gary has several second shooters available for weddings, he generally works alone and handles your photos from start to finish - from your initial meeting and booking, to shooting the photos, edits and delivery.
"As the lead photographer, I ensure that I am the one taking the main photos. I stick with the bride for the day, and do my level best to be exactly where I need to be at any given moment." When Gary works with an assistant, they are usually there to help with gear such as studio lights, chairs and camera gear. The second shooter will usually capture the "big picture" - the broader context of the wedding, some creative background shots (Gary covers this as well), and they usually spend time shooting the groom as he gets ready.
Paul and Brenda Taylor say Gary's Lens Photography played a huge role in the success of their wedding day, "Gary puts you at ease the moment you meet him. He's quiet and unassuming, but takes a mean photograph. He keeps you smiling and laughing and makes the entire process fun. Gary made it easy.  He had lots of ideas but listened to our ideas as well... he never gives up until he has the perfect shot."

Experience and Expertise

Gary's life experience has taken him many places, including spending twelve years as a pastor for The Salvation Army. He has taught marriage counseling and performed several weddings, all of which has played a huge role in his passion for capturing the best of each wedding he is a part of, "I respect the wedding ceremony and the deeper meaning behind it, and I try to remember this throughout the day as I'm capturing images. It's not just an event, it's a solemn and happy occasion where two people are beginning a journey that both of them hope will last their lifetimes... and I am privileged to be a part of it."
Having always enjoyed sketching and other forms of art, and also, always working with technology, the recent convergence in digital photography has become a compelling draw for Gary as it gives expression to his own creativity with tools that he understands and can work with easily.
"There is always opportunity to continually improve, and just when you think you have it down, there's something new to explore and a new way to approach imagery. It's something that lends well, not only to the one creating, but to the subjects of the images and to all those who view them. It truly is a "win-win-win" media."
All of this experience has led Gary toward putting his focus on wedding photography. "Everything seems to unite... And who could hope for a brighter, more beautiful subject than a bride and her groom on their wedding day?!"

Brides Love...

Gary says photography is much more than a job and he is truly committed to giving his couples the best possible experience on their wedding day (and in turn, through their wedding photos). Gary explains, "I am there for you and engaged in what is happening at your wedding. I am there from the moment you want me there and will stay until you have wrapped things up so that your whole day is covered."
Jeremiah and Rebecca Burnhauser have fond memories of Gary's Lens Photography, "He understood our style. If you are not used to being the center of attention and having millions of photos taken of you, Gary is amazing in the fact that he helps you relax, keeps you upbeat and encourages you along the way. He has some amazing photos and the book we received at the end blew our minds! You get so much value with Gary... and he captured every precious moment."
Gary adds that he has immense respect for the wedding ceremony and has had the opportunity to play many different roles on many wedding days. "I appreciate what the ceremony represents and do my best to capture every moment without being an annoyance or an interruption to the occasion."
A casual and flexible approach lends itself to a stress-free, fun and memorable wedding day. Therefore, Gary says he is open to ideas from his couples and constantly works to make sure that each couple he works with gets exactly what they want. "I am not stuck in a particular pattern or even style of photography. While I come with a tool kit of ideas ready to go, I am always open to suggestions from the bride and groom - they are your images after all, and you want to remember the wedding the way you made it, not just the way I see it as the photographer."
Past bride Karen Chavarria told The Ring about her favourite memory of working with Gary, "There were some fun pictures that we took after the ceremony with a basketball and the bridal party... we all love basketball. Gary brought a basketball for some pictures. It was really fun, personal and different. He was also open to hearing our ideas... he was willing to let us try things and took different shots."

Pricing and Packages

Gary's Lens Photography offers a variety of packages ranging from $1350 to $2750 for couples to choose from and all of Gary's products and services can be purchased à la carte as well.
The Covering Package ($1350) includes an initial consultation, no-obligation engagement session, full day coverage, unlimited locations, online viewing (of proofing galleries) and purchasing (of prints) for minimum six months, and a DVD including all of your images, rights-free.
The Caring Package ($1725) includes everything above plus an 11" x 8" Personalized hard cover wedding album, two 8" x10" framed prints and fifty 4.5" x 5.5" thank you post cards.
The Sharing Package ($2745) includes everything in the Covering Package and Caring Package plus two 8" x 6" parents Brag Books, a second photography to cover getting ready, the ceremony and photo session, plus a photo booth at your reception.
Past bride and groom Jeremiah and Rebecca Burnhauser say Gary's expertise was well worth the price and would recommend him to any other couple looking for a wedding photographer, "He took the time to get great poses but was still able to get a lot of photos in a small amount of time. He was able to work well with my large wedding party. There was great value for the dollar...he exceeded my expectations."
We love that Gary offers a no obligation engagement session where both the couple and the photographer have an opportunity to get to know each other before making the decision to work together - and the images from the session are the couple's to keep!
Packages can include photography only (photos can be purchased from the online proofing site), or on disk for a minimal additional fee that includes all images in high resolution. They can be printed wherever and however the couple wishes.
Gary also offers coffee table style photo albums, scrap book photo albums, custom thank-you postcards, prints and framed prints. Photo booths are also a great idea and Gary is happy to include one if requested. "They add some fun to the reception and not only provide the couple with some hilarious photos of the people they have invited, but give the family and friends an opportunity to get creative and send the couple a fun message."
Among Gary's list of products and packages, he says his coffee table album is a popular pick with brides. This album tells your story in images from beginning to end (usually including 200 plus images on thirty plus pages). Gary told The Ring, "It's beautifully arranged and bound in a personalized hard cover book. You could do this yourself, but you will save yourself a great deal of time having Gary's Lens produce it for you, and it will become a treasured heirloom just weeks after your wedding."
The hours you have Gary for are only limited by the day itself (we LOVE this) and the arrangement of images and time allocated for each portion of your images is totally up to you! If want to spend the whole afternoon taking posed shots, you'll get a ton of posed shots. If you prefer candid shots at the reception, candids will take up a larger percentage of the shots.

A casual approach

Couples that book Gary's Lens Photography are usually very easy going, outgoing and friendly. Gary has shot couples with a wide range of budgets, styles and personalities. Says Gary, "They want their wedding to look great, but not extravagant, and usually put a lot of personal touches into the day. They are serious about the commitment they are making, but have a lot of fun with their partner as well."
This fits perfectly with Gary's own style, which his describes as casual yet flexible. "I am not 'off-the-wall', but enjoy participating and capturing the fun of those who sometimes are! I am open to just about any bride. I am equipped to deal with most situations and locations and can bring assistants and second photographers in as needed."
Paul and Brenda Taylor say Gary handled every obstacle that came along on their wedding day seamlessly, "The fire alarm went off in the middle of our dinner.  It was horrible at the time, but makes quite the memory now.  Gary just kept doing his thing, and now we have a bunch of candid shots of how everyone grouped together during a frustrating moment, and who could forget the picture of the fire alarm he included to make us laugh. Honestly, you had to be there... but that's ‘the tell’ of a great photographer… nothing phased him, he just kept going."

Walking you through your booking

Email is the easiest way to get in touch with Gary. From here you'll meet (usually at a coffee shop) so you can get to know Gary and take a look at his portfolio and get to know his work. Gary will also take some time to get to know you- who you are, your interests, how you met, your wedding day vision and what you're looking for in a wedding photographer.
During your initial meeting, Gary aims to give you all of the information you need in order to book him for your wedding day. While many couples book right on the spot, Gary says there is no pressure to book until you feel comfortable and ready!
Your initial meeting will also give you the chance to book a no-obligation engagement session! This session can take place either before or after you've booked Gary's Lens Photography and the images from the shoot are yours to keep, free of charge!
Karen Chavarria remembers her first meeting with Gary, "From our very first meeting, he was very easy going, easy to talk to and spoke with a passion for the work he does. My meeting with Gary was very natural, conversation was easy flowing, and he was very nice."
Amanda and Jon Fraser agree, adding, "Meeting and working with Gary was fantastic. We had an engagement shoot with him before the wedding, so we had broken the ice a little bit. It was great to be able to have someone that you trust taking the pictures of your big day, because it is one less thing you need to worry about. We completely trusted Gary to get the shots we wanted and he went above and beyond!"
Once you've decided to hire Gary's Lens Photography for your wedding day, he will confirm your booking via email or phone. From here, the contract is drawn up and the terms and invoice is sent to you.
After you've signed your contract, Gary keeps in contact and is ready to answer any questions you many have along the way (usually by email). Subsequent meetings can also be arranged if requested and Gary is happy to meet as many times as needed.
A couple of months before your wedding, Gary will send you a questionnaire requesting information such as venue location(s), your timeline and other important information that will help Gary prepare for the big day. Gary will also take the opportunity to scout out any locations that he is unfamiliar with prior to the wedding day.
Whenever possible, Gary also likes to attend the rehearsal to ensure that everything is covered for the ceremony, that he has an idea of the flow of the ceremony, and so that he has a chance to see the venue and meet the officiant ahead of time.

Capturing the big day

On the day of, Gary will be there as early as you like. He'll usually travel between the bride and groom as they get ready (distance permitting). After prep shots, he'll arrive at the ceremony site prior to the limo to capture the venue and the bride as she arrives.
During the ceremony, Gary is busy shooting everywhere (keeping a low profile so that he's rarely seen!). Following the ceremony, Gary captures candids of the attendees and the receiving line (if applicable).
Family and formal pictures usually follow. If possible, after the photo shoot, Gary likes to arrive at the reception venue in time to take some decor shots before guests arrive. At the reception, Gary captures everything from the entrance to speeches to special moments, dances, garter and bouquet toss, and anything else you'd like images of. If requested, Gary will even take photos of the guests at their tables.
If a photo booth is ordered, it's usually set up at the reception and an assistant photographer will man the booth.
If you've requested a second photographer, they usually attend the groom's prep, the ceremony and the formal photos.

Receiving your photos

One unique process that brides will like is that after your wedding, your photos are processed for colour and exposure and are sorted into three main categories: “frame” (best images suitable to be hung on their wall), “album” (best images suitable to be put in the wedding album) and “other”. This can make choosing images easier. Sometimes there are others such as venue shots, family and friends, and photo booth images.
The photos in the "frame" folder are given particular care (distraction removal, effects and other edits are performed). From here the "frame" and "album" folders are posted on Gary's proofing site and the bride and groom are invited to view them and share them with their family.
Gary then creates your photo book and/or other products that you've ordered.
Photos are posted on the proofing site within one to two weeks and images are ready within two to four weeks. Some items, such as personalized photo books may take longer.
Next the whole package is delivered to you and the remaining fifty percent balance is collected.

Details, details, details

•    The average bride spends between $1350 and $3000 with Gary's Lens Photography. There are plenty of à la carte options to choose from to create a custom package.
•    Although Gary retains copyright of images for ownership and promotional purposes, the bride and groom are given full usage rights to the photos.
•    A 50% deposit books your date with Gary’s Lens Photography, with the remaining half due on delivery after the wedding.
•    Months to book ahead is dependent on availability only. You can book up to two weeks before the wedding date if available.
•    Gary's Lens Photography has yet to have a wedding cancellation, however, couples may cancel up to two months prior to the wedding and will receive 80% of the deposit back (10% of total wedding is retained). For cancellations within those two months, 50% of the deposit is returned (25% of total wedding cost is retained).

Good Karma

Gary loves to lend his skills to the community, working with and photographing several non-profit organizations such as the Canadian Blood Services Southern Ontario (Honouring Our Lifeblood event), Junior Achievement, Robin in the Hood medieval festival in Elmira (fun photos on his blog here), and events at several area churches.

Contacting Gary's Lens Photography

Gary Scott at Gary's Lens Photography can be reached by email at or by phone at 519-575-3282. You can also visit Gary's Lens Photography online at