Learning to Lead as a Second Shooter

For the past 10 years of shooting weddings I’ve been the lead photographer with Andre as the second shooter. Being the main photography at an event is a great responsibility. Most of the time, you find yourself setting up the bridal party and on call for the bride or groom whenever they need a photo. It’s a position where you spend a lot of time directing both the Second shooter & wedding guests. However a few years ago I shot 2 weddings as the second shooter and it was an experience that showed me how important it is to follow.

Shooting with Shakai Coumarbatch

The first wedding I helped a photographer by the name of Shakai who was actually someone I had never worked with before, yet I was determined to listen and get the shots he wanted. See I knew from my own weddings how vital it is to communicate and make sure the other person is capturing the parts of the wedding you aren’t. As a result I spent most of my day capturing the groom & groomsmen  and Shakai spent his time capturing the bride and the bridesmaids.

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To Lead, First You Must Follow.

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Shooting with Semeka

My Photographer friend Michael Olisemeka over at Semeka Pro asked if I could assist him with an upcoming wedding, I agreed after I considered how well we work together. What I discovered from this experience was how to follow and learn  new things about photography even after many years of experience.

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The interesting thing about being the second shooter is the fact that your free to roam and be a bit more expressive with your work. The focus of the second shooter is to pick up where the main photographer leaves off. The freedom to just walk around and create shots is something most photographers don’t have time for at weddings. This is simply because their attention is on the actual bridal party & family. I truly enjoy the freedom I had to grab more of the fine details at the wedding.

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Taking Risks at the Reception
This shot was taken with the Canon 85mm 1.2 II at F2.0 and ISO 2500 using only available light
This shot above is was one of the sharpest, cleanest, captures of the day and it was captured during the reception. Normally I would insist on using flash at any reception but I pushed the 85mm to give me the results I wanted and it did very well.

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Overall I’d would say that being the second shooter at a wedding made me a better listener. I had to ask Michael at different moments what he wanted, which gave me the opportunity to appreciate a different perspective & style other than my own. It also allowed me to capture more of the moments I would have missed as well as to approach the photo session as a candid shooter vs. the traditional style.

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Semeka with Bride & Groom
Mike O with the bride and groom at the reception.

The act of helping someone else takes time and patience. It helps you understand some of the areas where communication can be very ambiguous, such as when describing the type of shot you want. Instead of only verbalizing it you should show it, you can either use your own camera or display a shot from another photographers work (such as on pintrest or 500px). The key to growing is to recognize your not done developing, as an artist or even as a person. With that mindset you allow yourself to see things with a different set of eyes. That happened to me during those two opportunities where I became the second shooter.

5 Photography Steps to Take After a Live Event

As I spent sometime tonight emptying my camera bag a Think Tank Shape Shifter I felt compelled to write this post. It’s always a great feeling when you get a phone call or when an email comes in from a potential client. Just about every photography jumps at the opportunity for new work. The day after the wedding or live event very few are interested in reviewing the photos, let alone checking their gear for damage or for missing items.

The Next Day

It’s critical to do a few things just after you’ve taken pictures because just as important as capturing the day, is preserving what was captured. After an event you should take these 5 steps:

  1. Check your bag to make sure all your gear is there & isn’t damaged
  2. Empty & backup your memory cards
  3. Sort through your pictures (good, bad, in-between)
  4. Clean your gear & Charge batteries (being prepared for another gig that might arrive)
  5. Go over the event and see how you could improve

I’ll go over a few of the items on the list so you can have a better idea why these are so important. Number 1 Inventory, is something most people cringe at and that’s because the process is far from fun. Inventory for me isn’t simply checking what items I have or making sure everything is working it’s so much more.

Inventory is a time to clean and care for your equipment to help preserve it and inspect it.

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You’d think after spending thousands on equipment you couldn’t possibly leave any of it behind but something small yet crucial as a battery charger can be lost inside a dark reception hall, so it’s always good to check. While looking over my equipment I take this time to clean my equipment. Number 2 Backing up your pictures is as important as taking them. There are times when card readers have issues & memory cards get corrupt. No should have to experience those failures and then consider starting a backup plan because by then it’s too late.

Here are a list of places you can backup for free (some support raw files others don’t)

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After a live event, is usually my best to work on photos. The moment is still fresh in my mind and I more motivated to get them done. However I also notice that when I leave a project alone for a while and return to it I get new ideas for editing, so it then comes down to getting it done vs. being more creative. The day after your shoot should be a day of preparation, that day helps prepare for you next job. Preparation doesn’t  mean your out looking for work but that you get yourself ready for when the opportunity arrives.

3 Ways to Take Better Pictures

Practice First

As a photographer I’m constantly asked how do you improve the quality of your pictures? If I had to choose one single method that improves my work, it would have to be practice.  It was Jim Rohn that said:

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”

Does Equipment Matter?

I have spent weeks on end trying to choose the perfect lens, only to find out it’s not long enough or bright enough. In fact I have spent twice as much time choosing the right camera and in the end realized that it’s not as good as the next. The right equipment simply makes the job easier but hard work makes your results shine consistently. For example a camera from 2004 such as the Canon 20D (my 1st camera), can still take excellent pictures despite it’s age. Below are a few samples taken by the 20D:

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The iPhone can also be used for photoshoots & even a blog. The follow 3 images were all taken with an iphone:

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Be Prepared

When taking pics in an impromptu situation I do my best to be prepared. As I’m getting my camera out or walking to the location I gauge the settings I believe would be necessary to take the picture and then I goto work. By looking at the lighting conditions I can set my shutter speed, exposure and f-stop ahead of time. Then once the moment arrives I am at least partially ready, I say partially because camera settings are only part of the process.
snowy-smileFor instance the above image was taken with only a few seconds of preparation. I was actually upstairs in a 2 story building and saw these large snow flakes falling outside my window. In a parking lot, adjacent to the building was a group of women enjoying the snow fall and snapping pics with their phones. I immediately grabbed my camera adjusted my settings (while inside) for the environment and I was off to capture the moment. Then in about 5 mins the snow was gone and out came the sun. Capturing that moment really came down to:

  1. Having my Camera with me
  2. Not being hesitant to seize the moment
  3. Thinking ahead and setting the camera for outdoor lighting
  4. Actually capturing the photo and not waiting for the perfect moment

To take better pictures you have to desire better results and go get them.

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Had I stayed indoors thinking there wasn’t any chance of a good photo I would have missed those images for sure.  Don’t ever be afraid to capture that key moment because in a second it can be gone forever. There is this wonderful Wayne Gretzky quotes that states:

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

In photography that statement holds true because how will we ever know if we can capture an image if we never try.

Stay Inspired

Inspiration is essential when it comes to creating your pictures. Photography is not just how you set your camera or the type of glass you use, it starts with the image in your head. You have to visualize what you want, then goto work to achieve it. Keep in mind the visual you have won’t always be crystal clear but having something is the key. I will go over the process of  crystalizing your mental image in another post but for now here are a few places I go for inspiration:

  1. Nature (take a walk find locations and concepts)
  2. 500px.com
  3. instagram.com

Let’s recap the 3 ways to take better pictures

  1. Practice spend time with your camera even if your just hanging out with a few friends take it with you.
  2. Prepare think about where you’re taking the pictures and set your camera. You might not always have the time but take advantage when you do.
  3. Stay inspired find a community to keep you motivated or a place that’s full of beauty and just imagine the images you can create.

These 3 methods have helped me over the years and I continue to use them every time I shoot. Photography after all is about developing: not pictures but the skills it takes to get those pictures.

iPhone 6 on AT&T Prepaid

The iPhone is far from perfect. Even though Apple releases a new iPhone every year, I still experience the same autocorrect issues that have plagued it for years. Then there is the endless debate from Android users who claim, the iphone has been largely unchanged since its inception. However I use it as part of my photography kit and it works just fine. I do Everything from capturing behind the scenes videos, to taking pictures and editing them right in my hands, for me it is a very capable device despite the short comings. There are other smartphones just as great such as the Samsung Galaxy Series, The Nokia Lumia and Let’s not forget the trusty Black Berry. These smart phones work well on average, until we receive the bill. In 2013 the average cell phone bill was $148 that’s almost $1800 per year and almost $10,000 every 5 years.

AT&T Gophone

I’ve been using At&t prepaid service for little over 2 years and I must say I don’t regret it. I was skeptical at 1st thinking I’d notice a drastic difference in speed and signal but that wasn’t the case. I’m currently on their $60 plan and I get great LTE speeds and great signals. How can prepaid benefit you well for one the savings are enormous, it cost me just $720 per year as oppose to the ridiculous pricing of post paid service. At&t prepaid service also known as Gophone, isn’t just for the iPhone but anyone with a phone that works with their GSM network. Check out my review below to learn more and see if At&t Gophone service is right for you.

3 Reasons I use Affinity Photo

I don’t remember exactly how I found out about Serif’s Affinity Photo but I suspect it has something to do with Pixelmator, which is another affordable image editor. The first version of affinity photo I used was a beta  yet it ran without any hiccups. When I started to use Affinity Photo I realize that it was very much like photoshop but still had it’s own uniqueness.

The 3 Reasons I use Affinity Photo all have to do with replacing Adobe Photoshop.  Adobe has been considered the gold standard for the majority of professionals for decades, however I believe that their methods of business are making them lose customers by the hundreds when you read my reasons you’ll understand.

  1. Affinity Photo is a one time payment of just $49.99 whereas photoshop will cost you at least
    $9.99 per month which can quickly add up over time. For the average person $50 is a small price to pay for a application that can generate thousands.
  2. It supports Photoshop files With Affinity I can open all my Photoshop psd files without any problems that means I don’t have to recreate any of the files I can easily gain access to my layers &  effects.
  3. Affinity photo is fast I haven’t had any issue running photoshop on my Macbook Retina over the last 2 years but usually as new applications come out you’ll find yourself needing to upgrade in order to keep up, not the case with Affinity Photo.

Different app but Familiar

Keep in mind this is not a full review of the Affinity Photo but just a quick introduction. I expect to go over a bit more of the app and list the ins and outs of it in another post later this month. What I will say is that there were a number of things that are different but still familiar for those acquainted with photoshop, for example the new document window:affinity-document

is very simple to photoshop’s but there are more options available. Also when we look at the the export tab we still see the sizing options but with more formats at your fingertips

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Is Affinity for you?

Should you go pick up Affinity Photo? About the only thing I can think of that would hinder most folks from buying Affinity, is the simple fact that it’s only for mac. I am sure they have plans to release a Windows version but from the looks of things that won’t happen anytime soon. The company is currently working on their desktop publishing app, other than that I haven’t heard any talk of a windows option. So if your a mac user, who wants an alternative to photoshop and can spare $50 I highly recommend Affinity Photo because it sure hasn’t given me a reason to return to photoshop.

Why I use Canon Professional Services

There are many reasons I shoot with Canon but the main reason I chose Canon was my teacher Ryan Johnson recommended and shoots Canon. I’m not here to talk about the benefits of choosing Canon over Nikon but to go over their warranty and support services. Currently all canon gear comes with 1 year support and within recent years Canon has started a service known as Canon Professional Services. Recently I had a experience with Canon repair service which will explain why I use Canon Professional services. Whenever something is broken or doesn’t work as intended, many of us are hesitant to take it in for repair. This I’m sure has a great deal to do with the fact that we just don’t know what will happen. Below you can find a list of  services provide by Canon Professional services along with my experience.

My Top 5 CPS Benefits

  1. Faster turn around times on repairs (3 days to as low as 2 days)
  2. 24 Hours of operation (call them anytime)
  3. Free Equipment trial (means you can choose an item and test without cost)
  4. Complimentary Canon Maintenance Service
  5. Repair Coverage Loans (get a loaner camera while they repair yours)

Those are just a few of the services offered you can get the full details from the official site by going here Canon Professional Services The pricing starts at $100 and goes all the way up to $1000 at each level you are required to own more equipment in order to qualify.

My Experience

I recently had a repair on my 5D Mark II and I sent it next day to Canon service center I then started taking a 2nd look CPS (short for Canon Professional Services) and it seemed like the best option and here why. Although I mentioned that the pricing starts at $100 there is also a free option and with it I was able to check the status of my repair (even when the service center was closed).

“Jim Rohn said: Find a way to serve the many, for service to many leads to greatness…”

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My camera was repaired and Canon even replaced my Shutter for free. The Canon 5d Mark II has a maximum shutter count of 150,000, my camera had a count of 175,000. Now the fact that Canon replaced my shutter and fixed a crack I had in my LCD isn’t connected to the fact that I had a CPS account, but that has more to do with their quality of service. It is actually a great example of how we should serve our clients. I recommend any canon user to sign up for Canon Professional Service because the options and quality of service it provides greatly outweigh the cost.

Tell Stories Through Pictures

In 2005 my teacher and friend Ryan Johnson introduced me to a book called Story By Robert Mckee. I began reading and realized that there is more to filming and photography than I thought I knew. The book covered a very interesting point that everywhere we go we are faced with stories. From day to day we find ourselves surrounded with stories; from news papers, to gossip at work and even when we sleep we dream.

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City Life
I really wanted to capture the calm and distant look on this woman's face but I didn't take the time to ask her to turn around instead I got her walking away. This image was taken on Madison ave in NYC.
Story is a process we encounter everyday of our lives and even in the most mundane lives we find pages of content that will captivate us.

As photographers it’s our job to identify what others may not even consider worth while.

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It’s our job as photographers to capture not only the intensity of life but the frailty. It is our job as photographers to tell stories through pictures. Whether it’s a photo of a child’s laughter or a tear drop on the cheek of a happy bride, all these moments are elements that make up life’s story.

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Winter's Ride
While taking pictures underneath the train tracks, I turned and saw in the down pour of snow this cyclist.
Part of the process for me is to not to capture random shots that make no sense, but to visualize what is happening and then capture it from the right perspective.

Father plays with his boys using a hose.

Family Fun
This was a concept for my friend and his family that they pulled off very well.

Many times I’m in a car, or the subject is moving but with the right lens and the right timing an image gets captured.

 

All Alone
This image was taken while driving through New York City with a friend.

So I’d like to challenge anyone with a camera (iPhone or DSLR) to push a bit harder to tell your story, or even the story of another because you can never tell who’s life you’ll change.