The First Dry Run

As I discussed in my last post, I had the privilege of shooting a newly-engaged couple in and around Hickory, North Carolina. I put together a playbook of potential shots and do my best to help facilitate their needs as well as my artistic ideas. I’m happy to say, they were very accommodating.

I learned a lot about what I would need to do to start taking money for photographs. I also found a few dozen things I would do differently. In general, the shots I tried which I thought I would like didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped and the shots I didn’t put any planning in to turned out the best. The shot below was actually a white balance calibration shot.


SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm HS APOG @ f/4, ISO 100, 1/320s.

My first lesson was to either tell my subjects to use hair gel or hair spray, or I could put them in a situation where their hair wasn’t blowing in the wind and getting messy. I found out after I got home, there were a ton of great shots needing post-processing where the only issue was a stray hair (or ten). Some of them I was willing to live with. The shot below, I simply wasn’t. Here is a before/after comparison.




SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/5.6, ISO 250, 1/250s

As you can see, I had to do considerable work to clear the stray hair from Matt’s forehead. I also had to smear out some of the graffiti from the pole and do some shot straightening. I could have done more, and I decided to move on. Had I accounted for wind and paid better attention to stray hair, I would have saved myself a ton of time post-processing.

There were 1-2 places I thought I would get fancy and try to get a shot no one else has tried to get. In general I probably should practice more or plan better. One of the shots I wanted to try was a blend of two shots, where the first was a portrait with a blurred calendar in the background and the second was the same shot with the calendar was in focus, and I would merge the two shots, but only have the “important” date visible on the calendar.

SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/5.6, ISO 400, 1/3s.

The first problem was the space. There wasn’t much space on the wall to put a calendar up. Second of all, the date is in 2014 and there isn’t a good 2014 calendar available so I had to wing it. Third of all, the calendar blurred out too much, even at f/5.6. Finally, the light in their house was terrible but I didn’t want to have an inconsistent flash experience so I went with a longer exposure.

It was a good idea in principal. The shot that was my backup plan, my wife actually gave me the idea, she saw it somewhere else and provided me the prop.

SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2, ISO 100, 1/250s

I also wanted to do something with long exposure and the weather, however cooperative for outdoor lighting, didn’t cooperate with long exposure ideas, even stacking a polarizer and a neutral density filter. I had to go back inside to try and we just didn’t have a good area to shoot in.

SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/5.6, ISO 320, 15s

My original intent was to have one of the two stay still for 10-15 seconds, and the other duck away after about 5 seconds. It just didn’t work with the space we had, and frankly it turned out a tad creepy.

SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/5.6, ISO 100, 15s

Andúril is a neat sword, but not a cool background for this shot.

A couple of the shots I liked may not be great traditional engagement shots, but they were fun to take and Matt and Ashley were happy with them, so I am happy with them. This is an example.

SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 ZA @ f/5, ISO 100, 1/1500s (HDR+ 6EV mode)

My A77 even found some action. I forget how fast that thing is.

SLT-A77V, Minolta 200mm HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 100, 1/250s

I got a whole host of shots, many of which I need to go through and edit. If I find some time I’ll post some more.


Portfolio shoot tomorrow + Addicted

Tomorrow I am going to attempt to do some engagement photos for a couple in graduate school as a mutual favor. They understand I am trying to go into doing this whole photography business as a side-job and I need to bolster my portfolio to help obtain business. As a result, they are getting free engagement photos.

I did a lot of research online and saw a ton of engagement photo ideas, which I have harvested to a certain degree and I plan to put a unique touch to some of the standard shots and I have one or two unique ideas of my own which I am hopeful will be executed successfully and ideally, the couple will like their results. They’re not getting married until October 2014, so if I screw this up, they will have plenty of time to hire someone better. Hopefully I won’t screw it up.

In other news, I think I may be addicted. When I went to college, I studied Mathematics. I once heard a quote which has stuck with me ever since I heard it. “Lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math”. I bought my first and only lottery ticket on my 18th birthday, and won 40 dollars. I quit while I was ahead. I have gambled since, but typically I try to gamble in situations where the odds are stacked a little more in my favor. My problem is I am rarely in a place where this type of gambling is legal and usually when I am I don’t have disposable capital to risk it. Somewhere in the middle is my new addiction of submitting to I can’t say it is much better than the lottery as the first contest I entered, “Cat Photo Competition 1 2013” had 521 entries. But I do control my own destiny to a certain degree. If I don’t submit my best work, I have no chance. I guess at the end of the day I am paying a tax for being bad at taking pictures if I don’t win. And I can always dream. I paid 3 dollars and I may win $600+ and a $800 point and shoot camera. My entry into the “Black and White Photo Competition 1 2013” cost me $20 and right now the prize is close to $5000 and a $8000 camera. I definitely can dream.

My online friend Christian in Austria, who entered a competition and won a pretty good chunk of change and some nice binoculars on his first try!

So I guess no one’s perfect, except for Christian. Hopefully he quit while he was ahead. I spent another $6 on the “Child Photo Competition 1 2013”. I love this shot. It really violates a ton of the “rules” and I frankly don’t care.


SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, ISO 100, 1/800s.

According to depth of field calculation, I had about four centimeters to work with at f/1.4 or less. I doubt I was a full two meters away. Kyle’s eye is slightly soft, but sharp enough. the true sharp parts of the photo are his shoulder leading into the trains, specifically what he is focused on. Everything else is a blur, which I imagine is how he is playing with his trains.