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.


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