So, we’ve been kicking around this idea of asking an intern to join the team for a few months now, and after sitting on the email for the last 6 weeks that was supposed to go out, I decided to publish this blog post. First…
Who We Are
Name: Zachary Long
Profession: Wedding Photographer, Creative Director
Favorite Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
Favorite Movie: God of Cookery
Favorite TV Show: Lost or The IT Crowd
Favorite Music Genre: House
Random Interesting Fact: Finished two full Ironman (Ironman Florida 2007 & 2009) races, then promptly fell out of shape once the baby was born.
Name: Betty Feng
Age: 3_ =)
Profession: Assistant Photographer, Small Business Wrangler, Student
Favorite Lens: 50mm f/1.2L
Favorite Movie: Crash
Favorite TV Show: Lost
Favorite Music Genre: Flamenco
Random Interesting Fact: PhD student in Marketing & International Business at Georgia State University
If you’ve read our website biography, you know we initially met online on Match.com while living in Orlando, FL, got married on Clearwater Beach in 2009, moved to Atlanta in 2010, and our son was born one year ago in February, 2011. Upon moving to Atlanta we photographed 6 weddings in 2010, 31 weddings in 2011, and have 20 confirmed weddings so far for 2012 as of February (and one for 2013!). By no means do we have everything figured out, but we can certainly speak from our own experience and what we have done right (and wrong) along the way to build our brand and to attract the amazing brides and grooms that we love, and who entrust us with their wedding day.
Why Sign Up?
To gain first hand experience shooting at real weddings as a second or third shooter, build your experience in various lighting techniques, learn advanced Lightroom and Photohsop, and even get exposed to wedding videography both in capture and editing. While we would never send you out to photograph a wedding for us, nor use your photos in our own portfolio (because hey, YOU shot them, not us), you would be able to build your own business in a market where their is plenty of room for amazing photographers with their own styles that may not be the best for for every bride, but for your ideal customer.
First of all, a passion for wedding photography.
A desire to learn and a willingness to try and fail, while ultimately becoming a stronger photographer in the process.
Own a DSLR with at least one lens, Canon or Nikon preferred.
Be okay with children, we have a one year old and he goes with us everywhere.
Saturday availability from end of March through November, when wedding season kicks into high gear. Some weekend travel would be available to join us on out of town weddings based on your availability.
This is an unpaid internship, but will provide a wealth of knowledge and experience, plus meals and coffee during shoots, with other compensation here and there.
To apply just send an email to us at our gmail address at FengLongPhoto@gmail.com letting us know who you are, why you would like to join the team, and what your one year plan is for yourself. We are not necessarily looking for one quality to differentiate one candidate over the other, just that special something that makes a connection and would be a good fit for us. Include a link to your photography portfolio if you have one, or attach a picture from a recent shoot.
Thank you for reading! -Zac
What a post title, eh? So yes, we are Atlanta wedding photographers, and usually the bachelor party is something you do NOT want to have pictures of (think: The Hangover and Hangover Part 2, lol!). But, it just so happens that I am sort of planning a “bachelor party” for our close friend John next weekend before we head down to photograph their Playa del Carmen, Mexico destination wedding and I was really struggling with finding ideas that do not involve strip clubs…
While Betty, Jess and the girls are out getting pedicures and Chinese dim sum (yes we’re a pretty wild bunch…), I wanted to find something for more of a “guy’s day out” for us to do on that same day. So aside from going to Atlanta’s fashionable Cheetah and Pink Pony (total sarcasm there), here are some ideas that I’ve come across for a guy’s (stripper-less) non-traditional bachelor party day. The specific names are local venues here in the greater Atlanta, Georgia area but the concepts can easily be translated to your city/state of choice! In no particular order…
Sweetwater Brewing. Red Brick Brewing. Terrapin Beer Company. Atlanta has it’s fair share of very respectable micro breweries and just because the bachelor party is without ladies doesn’t mean it has to be dry. We love to support our local breweries so check the times and dates when they open their doors to brewery tours, and find a designated driver depending on how much sampling happens afterwards.
Highland Cigar Co. Buckhead Cigar at Dantannas. After dinner why not hit up the local cigar lounge to relax and smoke a stogie? Nothing says “bachelor party” like a good cigar and upscale places like Highland allow you relax with some fine spirits and fine cigars. Or just have the Best Man buy a round of the finest ahead of time and take with you on another adventure from this list.
Sandy Springs Gun Club & Range. Quickshot Shooting Range. Chattahoochee River. Gulf Coast. For the more outdoorsy groomsman, how about a hunting trip with the boys? Barring a guy’s weekend, find a local shooting range to be manly and fire some live ammunition. Which leads to another idea… Fishing! I’m originally from Florida so fishing is near and dear, the only problem is that Atlanta is relatively land locked. Hit up one of the many lakes around Georgia or make the trek down to the Gulf Coast.
Weekend Hiking/Camping Trip
Georgia State Parks. You don’t have to go hunting to enjoy the great outdoors. Close to Atlanta you have the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which isn’t too much of a stretch of a weekend getaway, or choose something not so outdoorsy. Did you know that you can rent a lodge in places like Amicalola Falls and Unicoi State Park in the North Georgia Mountains? Speaking of renting, you can also rent camping gear from your local REI, how cool is that?
Dave & Buster’s. Battle & Brew. It’s true, boys love their games. If getting out is your thing, places like Dave & Busters combine a bar and an arcade into one, it’s a guy’s dream come true! Battle and Brew has a similar concept but geared more towards an organization of modern competitive console games, and I think the name says it all, right?. Of course, what might be more appealing to the boys and the bride-to-be, is letting the guys just get together and have a weekend house-party fueled by Papa John’s and Xbox/Playstation 3 with all the Halo and Call of Duty they can handle.
Fogo de Chao. Fire of Brazil. The boys need to eat, right? Steak is a very manly option and what’s better than a steak? All the steak you can eat! If you’ve never been to a Churrascaria then you’re in for a treat, and if you have you’re probably dying to go back. Plan a nearby bar to walk to afterwards (like Meehan’s Public House in Downtown next to Fire of Brazil) so you can loosen up the waistline after you devour 5 pounds of cow.
Those are some great ideas to get you started, but of course let your imagination run wild! Anything from a round of golf to yes, the fabled Las Vegas bachelor party. Midtown and Buckhead both provide active nightlife scenes for the dedicated bar hopper, or try a good old fashioned pub crawl (with a designated driver of course) through Atlanta’s lively neighborhoods like Edgewood and Little 5 Points. Last but not least, check the local listings for sporting events at the Georgia Dome or concerts at The Tabernacle for a group atmosphere if you don’t mind not hear each other over the frenzied fans. Good luck planning your own bachelor party! I’ll report on John’s and how it all went down before his destination wedding in early February which we’ll be photographing in Playa del Carmen, Mexico!
This old post from 2011 was updated with new albums in 2013 HERE. Click to go on over to: http://www.fenglongphoto.com/blog/2013/03/new-wedding-albums-for-2013/
I was debating on whether to talk briefly about the technical side of photo editing or a bit about wedding videography, as those are the two things I am occupied with the most at the moment (besides baby Miles of course!). I’m in a “nose-to-the-grindstone” mode right now wrapping up the wedding video for Amir and Nasrine’s Indian wedding, and when it’s a three-day wedding it makes the wedding video three times as long and three times as tough to edit! This is my world right now whenever Miles is napping/sleeping/eating:
Trust me when I say that isn’t fun at all, ok I’m just being melodramatic it’s fun creating movies
What is infinitely more interesting is the fact that I met up with our fabulous bride Brandi this morning in Norcross to deliver her completed wedding album!! With Miles by my side (Betty has class all day today) we met up at a Dunkin’ Donuts that coincidentally Bryan had worked on to remodel, small world!
While finishing up the album design I asked Brandi what style of cover she preferred and when she mentioned that her other albums were currently brown I knew the plush brown leather cover would be perfect! I debate between the black leather and brown leather, and the brown is definitely a nice touch when it seems everything is black these days. Not that I don’t love the look of black leather, but maybe brown is the new black this year?
The album design process is a relatively quick process even when creating a custom album for each wedding ourselves. We have finished the photo editing by this point and already created a “best of” selection of around 200-300 images from the 1000+ that would have been shot on the wedding day. From that smaller pool I pull my favorites that tell the story of the wedding day, occasionally dipping back into the larger pool if I need an alternate angle or perspective to fit the page flow if the selected “best of” image doesn’t quite work.
Once the first draft of the album is complete, those pages are sent to the bride and groom for their review. From here on out it’s usually small edits of choosing one image over the other based on their preferences versus photos that I liked for their artistic look rather than who was in the photo. After this process is complete the final spreads are sent off to a professional photo printing press and the album returns bound and sealed in a few short days. I loved meeting up with Brandi today just to catch up with her and see what was new in her life after the wedding. We had a lovely chat and I grabbed a quick mocha latte on the way out to fuel up for the rest of Tuesday watching Miles all day by myself while Betty is in class. Today was a good day
This past weekend was another crazy three days full of fun, food, and friends! Betty and I wrapped up Shamz and Sana’s wedding at 3:00 AM on Saturday night (Sunday morning) at Zyka in Decatur after a full two days prior to that with a mehndi/henna party on Thursday and a pithi and temple ceremony on Friday before! One of the really cool “challenges” to this wedding was a request from the groom, Sam, to figure out a way to stream the wedding to Sana’s family. Sana is from Pakistan and her entire family still lives overseas and of course they REALLY wanted to see their daughter get married!
During the planning phase for their Southeast Asian wedding they brought up this challenge and I confidently told them, I’m 99% sure I can make that work before your wedding in August! After a bit of research and trial-and-error, I eventually came to a solution. Since Betty and I would be their videographers as well as photographers for this Indian wedding, we would already have plenty of camera equipment up and running throughout the days. And with baby Miles, we have done live broadcasting of him just being a cute baby via Ustream and Skype to the grandparents so that they could see Miles live on video.
I would be using the Canon XF100 HD Professional Camcorder as my “steady” shot throughout the events, getting a fairly wide angle view while I danced around using a pair of Canon EOS 5D Mark II’s or Canon EOS 7D’s to get other angles of the ceremonies. Using an interface device, some extra long audio/video extension cables, and the camcorder’s output video signal I was able to hook into the video feed from the XF100 and have a laptop think that was another webcam to be used by Ustream or Skype.
We fired up the laptop and the entire Frankenstein video rig, had Sam login to his Skype account, and we were on our way to broadcasting their wedding to the other side of the world! After some testing before the wedding we found that Pakistan received better signal through Skype’s interface than Ustream, with the trade-off being that only one person would be able to be “called” at once whereas Ustream we could basically create a TV station that hundreds or thousands or people could log in to view.
The end result was that this was a HUGE success for Sam, Sana, and their family! Sana’s family in Pakistan was able to feel like they were almost there in the same room with us, viewing a live video feed of the day’s events. Even if your family just happens to be in another state consider this option to create a custom-branded Ustream channel where dozens of family members could log in to their computer from anywhere in the world to view your wedding day live! Inquire with us on any wedding package where we are the videographers about this great option for both Indian/Southeast Asian weddings and traditional Western weddings!
If you are just DYING to read another dorky technical blog post, I wrote a quick one about equipment for a time lapse or fine art project for my upcoming trip this weekend to Big Sur in California. Head on over to the ZacharyLong.com blog by clicking this link: ZAC X BIG SUR PART 2 – EQUIPMENT PACK LIST
Zachary Long is a wedding photographer and videographer based in Atlanta, Georgia. Together with his wife Betty they form the Super Star team of FengLong Photography and are ready to capture your wedding from beginning to end. View our wedding portfolio at http://www.FengLongPhoto.com/ and use the Contact page to inquire about wedding photography or wedding videography availability.
Sorry for the brief delay as this post actually gets published on Wednesday instead of Tuesday! We are getting ready around here for Sam & Sana’s Indian wedding over the weekend at ZYKA and since they are in town we were supposed to shoot an engagement session for them but they had a last minute cancellation. Trying to plan a wedding when you live in two separate cities (Connecticut and Virginia – their family is in Atlanta), I can only imagine the flurry of details they are trying to wrap up this wedding before the ceremonies on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. So with a cancelled shoot, luckily Joanna was able to find a quick model for us to still go out and get behind the camera last night!
Earlier on Tuesday we met up with Joanna and her kids at Inman Park Pool to take Miles for his first swimming lesson. I think the water was a bit too cold for him compared to the nice warm baths he is accustomed to. Either way it was nice to be at a pool for the first time in over a year. Joanna, who is a children and family photographer, was originally going to help me with the engagement session but the tables were turned as she rounded up a very pregnant neighbor and I was her assistant for an impromptu maternity session at Freedom Park.
That got me thinking about the perfect topic for today’s blog post! Last weekend was another CreativeLive weekend this time with instructors I was *really* looking forward to seeing, Mikey and Andy from LightenUpAndShoot! I have been a long-time reader of their blog because these guys are just top-notch in their approach to photography because it aligns so well with my own philosophy – lighten up with all of the gear and other things you could be worrying about and just start shooting! For anyone reading this blog who is an aspiring photographer I highly recommend taking a look at their blog, their style may not be for everyone but since it’s so similar to mine I love reading it. They seem like guys I could just hang out with all day, lol. Ok, on to the reason for this blog post and tying this all together… the FengLong Backpacker’s Studio!
Mikey and Andy do a lot of street photography where they live in Colombia, South America. As such they developed a “philosophy” if you can call it that of the Backpacker’s Studio, how they travel light doing street photography and still get images that look like they could have been made in a studio. Hey, that’s pretty much what we do with wedding photography too! Weddings are NEVER in a studio, so as professional wedding photographers we need to have the skills and techniques to make masterpieces wherever we end up – which is one of the reasons I love wedding photography so much, the creative challenge!! Head over to the LightenUpAndShoot blog to see the post on their version of the Backpacker’s Studio, and as I was packing for tonight’s engagement/maternity shoot I realized we had a pretty similar setup of our own. For weddings we’re wheeling 2 bags full of cameras and lights but for engagement shoots I’m traveling pretty light since we shoot in a more “lifestyle” mode to capture the true essence of our wedding clients, which also means carrying just the essential equipment and letting the gear get out of the way.
The bag I use is the LowePro Flipside 300, (but I secretly want a Flipside 400 so if you are reading this and work for LowePro or B&H and want to sponsor me with a new bag, send me an email! I want a Flipside 400 AW really bad!). I have tried the sling bag but when you start adding equipment you need the second strap! Inside I can fit 2 SpeedLites (or in my case, Speedlights, the Nikon version), 2 lenses, PocketWizards, and a few other small accessories. The other thing I love about the backpack is the tripod mount on the back of the backpack, which here I am using for a light stand and umbrella. If I am doing landscape work then an actual tripod goes there, but for this shoot with people I needed lights! Also with the flexibility of the inside inserts, I can rearrange the padding to fit everything from a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens with flashes and still cram another small prime lens!
Let’s take a quick look at the FengLong Backpacker’s Studio for an engagement session! Here is a typical setup for me, however the two lenses usually switch based on the location we are shooting at:
Canon EOS 5D Mark II + BG-E6 Battery Grip
I love the Mark II of course and prefer working with the battery grip so my hands have a bit more to hold on to and I can easily shoot in portrait orientation as well. I know it’s added weight so it may not be for everyone but for me you won’t see me at a wedding or portrait session without it! Not shown here is that 7D or spare 5D Mark II that usually sits in the car as a backup camera just in case something goes wrong.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II
Attached to the camera is one of my favorite lenses, Canon’s widest “L” glass the venerable 16-35! Yes I know the 17-40 is MUCH cheaper but that lens is an f/4 lens and when you’re shooting a wedding or engagement session in the evening, the extra stop of light to go down to f/2.8 is worth it for me.
Canon EF 135mm f/2L
I always have a portrait length prime lens with me as my primary lens, yes I know it wasn’t attached to the camera in this photo. Some days it’s the 85mm f/1.2L – other days it’s this 135mm f/2L, and if I know we are going to be in close quarters it’s the 50mm f/1.2L. Since I knew we were headed over to Freedom Park, which is a HUGE open area, I chose the 135mm.
Nikon Speedlight SB-900
You may have heard this before but, I’m an available light photographer – if the light is available to me, I’ll use it! When I shoot Canon, why do I use a Nikon flash? That won’t fit on top of your camera? You are correct! The Nikon flash won’t fire when plugged on top of the camera, but I don’t want my flash on top of the camera, especially outdoors. The Nikon speedlights just seem to work better with the next piece of gear, radio triggers. I’ve tried and tried with the Canon 580 EX II but they are just too inconsistent in triggering due to a well-known interference issue with the radio signal.
PocketWizard PLUS II Transcievers
These are what I use to trigger my off camera flash when I decide to use them. Reliable, consistent, the industry standard. Radio triggers are superior over the built-in systems inside your camera because those systems work off of Infrared technology and require line-of-sight between the flashes. With a PocketWizard I can place my lights anywhere I want and however far away I want (within reason) and know they will always trigger. Granted you need to be a bit more knowledgeable about flash because you will be setting the power manually as opposed to the ETTL/iTTL systems, but once you study and learn you are in complete control over your light.
Sanyo Eneloop Rechargeable AA Batteries
Another “industry standard,” Eneloops are one of the most reliable rechargeable batteries out there since they are “slow discharge” meaning they don’t lose their power as quickly as other brands. So, even if I charge them and don’t use them for a month they will still have almost their entire power left inside whereas your typical cheap rechargeable may only have 75% of it’s power left. You may notice some batteries in my baggie are black, those are the new Eneloop XX batteries which are a higher-capacity premium version – I haven’t seen enough performance improvement to justify the cost yet (twice of normal Eneloops).
Manfrotto 5001B Nano Light Stand
I like these stands for their portability, they are super small and light, but that comes with a tradeoff of course as does everything in photography- they aren’t super sturdy if it’s windy. I would like to upgrade to the next level up in Manfrotto stands, the 1052BAC Air Cushion version, so again anyone out there that wants to sponsor me let me know! For now, these work great as long as you understand the limitations and don’t put a huge modifier on it if it’s windy outside.
Photoflex 30″ Umbrella & 20″ Umbrella
For the traveling photoshoot I prefer using translucent shoot-through umbrellas for their small size and portability. We do have (and love) the 28″ Westcott Apollo softbox that is gorgeous but without an assistant it can be a little difficult to manage when you are out in the field running and gunning during a lifestyle engagement session in Atlanta. I would like to get an even *larger* umbrella next but I need to wait for Betty to approve that purchase as the CFO .
So that’s what’s in our bag, usually, when we’re on an engagement shoot. Of course this is a fluid list, maybe I’ll write another full list like this for an upcoming wedding. This weekend is a three day Indian wedding in Decatur at ZYKA and by the Atlanta Airport at the Hyatt Place South, and since we are both the photographers and videographers we will be brining *a lot* of gear! That’s the only tough thing about video, you need a lot of stuff to make the video come out professional. Sorry for the delay in the post, now I need to finish the Wednesday post as well, ack!!
Zachary Long is a wedding photographer based in Atlanta, Georgia that subscribes to the philosophy that less is more and let the gear get out of the way of taking great pictures of his amazing wedding clients. You can view our full portfolio at http://www.FengLongPhoto.com/ and use the Contact Us page to inquire about wedding date availability or send us an email directly to FengLongPhoto@gmail.com
I was thinking about writing another blog post about time lapse photography because I had a great experience over the weekend filming at the National Black Arts Festival and got a couple of cool sequences that I put together into a full movie. Here is the link to the video on Vimeo if you want to view it early http://vimeo.com/26574234 , full blog post coming later. Also with my great Summer adventure to Big Sur coming up in a little under a month, I will have time-lapse on the brain as I film non-stop for a few days.
Here is another quick tip for Technical Tuesday for the new photographer: have fun with filters! Shooting weddings, it’s not really a place where you use filters on your lenses. The situations are hectic with all of the events and the focus is on the bride, the groom, and the light. How about when you are just out with the family exploring nature and you have a bit of time to experiment and move a little slower? Have you ever tried a Neutral Density Filter or a Circular Polarizer?
Betty, Miles and I headed over to check out Sope Creek to see if it was a good location for a portrait session. While we ultimately concluded that it is indeed awesome but the 10-15 minute hike might be a bit much, we had fun hanging out by the water while I experimented with some filters I brought along. A neutral density or polarizer are the only two types of filters I really recommend, everything else you can achieve in Photoshop. I threw these filters onto my Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II lens to get a wide angle shot of the landscape and use the filters to extend my shots down at the creek.
A neutral density filter will cut down the light entering the lens, allowing you to shoot at a slower shutter speed even during the day time. Now you will only want to do this if you are on a tripod, shooting images like water flowing or car moving so that you are able to show a motion blur like in the above image. For a wedding when you are hand holding the camera that will mean a blurry shot, so a tripod is a must if the shutter drops lower than you can reasonably hand hold the camera and lens. It’s also fun to play with something like a Polarizing filter which will cut down the reflections in glass or water. The photo above was an HDR image from 3 photos with both a neutral density and circular polarizer on the lens at the same time.
This is another long exposure image that was captured only with the help of filters. It was about 5pm but here in Atlanta, that still means full sun, so even at f/22 at ISO 100 my shutter speed needed to be higher than I wanted to give the water a nice motion blur. After adding the two filters I was able to go down to 1/4 of a second and get some nice blur from the quick moving water.
That’s it for today, don’t just shoot one type of photography, have fun experimenting with everything! Besides wedding photography I shoot time-lapse, but I still have fun experimenting with landscape photography when I’m not photographing people. The things you learn from each aspect of photography can easily overlap into the other, nature and fine art composition techniques can easily translate to placing your bride and groom. Conversely, seeing the light on your portrait subjects will help you see the light in the natural world around you. Have fun, photography is meant to be fun!
Zachary Long is a wedding photographer in Atlanta who shoots various other side projects including time lapse photography and nature photography in his spare time. View our wedding photography portfolio at http://www.FengLongPhoto.com/.
I was debating whether I should review my new tripod like I spoke about last Tuesday, but I figured no bride really wants to read that stuff that is geared more towards photographers. So instead, here is a quick tip that is not just good for brides nor “just” for photographers, anyone with a camera and I think that must be 99.9% of the population if you consider that almost every phone has a camera built in these days (helloooo iPhonography!). So what’s the tip? It’s in the title of course, GET LOW! Just writing that I think of the Lil’ Jon song, maybe it’s because we’re here in Atlanta in the South, but anyway it’s a great tip for any kind of photography and specifically for children and babies!
Ok we may be a bit biased that these are the cutest pictures ever, since they are of our son Miles, but besides that fact I love the angle! I’m shooting from literally the ground, my camera is almost resting on the ground and pointing upward at Miles using a wide angle lens. What do you think the photograph would look like from our “normal” shooting level of about 5 feet? Straight down on Miles and not showing his cute expression as he lifts his head up. What makes these photos work are the unique angle and perspective on a baby.
Not every photo is going to come out when you can barely see what the camera is seeing, and with children this is doubly true. I think with a young subject you need to multiply the number of photos that need to be taken by at least a factor of two because it’s rare that they will actually pause and pose for very long. So that’s my other tip of the day for photographing babies and children: don’t be afraid to shoot lots of photos! Digital “film” is cheap, and yes it will take a little bit longer to delete all of those bad photos before uploading them to Facebook or Flickr, but getting that one amazing photo that captures the fleeting moment is well worth the cost. That’s what wedding photojournalism is all about and that should also be your goal when taking any portrait, even of a child. Take as many pictures as you need to capture the expression and reveal the truth of the moment.
So that’s it for a short Technical Tuesday post this week, just a quick tip to get low and change you angle when photographing children. By changing your perspective and bringing your camera to their level you will bring a whole new dimension to the photos you are taking of your children or your friend’s children =)
Equipment Used in This Shoot (B&H Affiliate Links)
Zachary Long is an Atlanta wedding photographer and proud father to Miles Winston Long, who is rolling over every chance he gets but can’t quite get the coordination to start crawling… YET! Contact us on our recently revamped website at http://www.FengLongPhoto.com/ or by sending an email to FengLongPhoto@gmail.com
While thinking of good topics for a Technical Tuesday post, one thing that immediately came to mind was tripod for two reasons. First, I was shopping for a tripod and just placed my order from B&H Photo Video. Secondly, yesterday was the Fourth of July so I was shooting the fireworks using our current tripods. So, why and when should you use a tripod and do you even REALLY need one? Let’s take a look…
If you are going to be photographing things like HDR images, time-lapse movies, night photography… a tripod is essential. A general rule of thumb when using your camera is the shortest you can handhold the camera is a reciprocal of your focal length. In other words, if I am using my 200mm zoom lens then my shutter speed should be at a minimum 1/200. If I have my 50mm lens which is a wider shot than a telephoto lens, I can reasonably handhold the lens at 1/50 of a second. Of course, your individual mileage may vary. If I just had a large Starbucks Latte with an extra espresso shot I may be a little shaky and need an even faster shutter speed! Using a tripod ensures that your body’s movement is not a factor in a photo coming out blurry due to the camera itself moving while the photo was taken. Everyone has probably tried to shoot a dark scene at night and noticed a blurry image with their camera at least once, this was due to the camera needing to open the shutter for a longer duration to let in enough light to capture the scene, and if the camera moves even a little bit you will notice blurriness.
So if you primarily find yourself shooting things like landscape photos at sunset, you probably want a tripod to ensure the shot is steady since the light will be lower than if you were shooting in midday and you won’t be using techniques like flash to freeze your subject.
Another area where you will definitely need a tripod is when you are trying to record multiple photos of the same scene such as with HDR or High Dynamic Range photography where you are capturing three versions of the same scene and then blending them together when you get home in Photoshop or Photomatix. If the camera moves in between the frames then the final image will not line up correctly.
The same is true of Time-Lapse, since you are recording essentially a movie you want your camera rock solid while the movement in front of the lens is what is recorded, not the camera moving (unless of course you are using a slider or dolly but then you already knew that).
This photo of the fireworks at Centennial Park in Downtown Atlanta was shot last night using the following settings: 4 second exposure at f/11, ISO 100. No way could I hold my body steady for a full three seconds! But by allowing the camera to do a long exposure I am able to show the trails of the fireworks as they sail through the sky in front of me.
Now if you are primarily shooting people, then you may not ever need a tripod. During a wedding, I almost never use a tripod… we’re talking 1% of my wedding photos are on a tripod. Now, some photographers use a tripod during things like family formals but in decent lighting and the ISO technology of cameras like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II I can easily shoot a group formal at 1/100 of a second with flash and have everyone looking great. I also don’t like working with tripods with people because it allows me to be more dynamic and move around during the shoot, getting more creative angles and trying out multiple looks.
With that being said, if you decide you need a tripod, which one should you get???
The tripod I just ordered this morning was the Benro A-2691 Travel Angel Alum. Tripod (Trans-Functional) W/B1 Ballhead. This will be my second Benro Travel Angel so even though I haven’t received this one yet I can easily recommend this tripod “family” of Travel Angels. The great features about this tripod and the entire Travel Angel line from Benro are that they are A) relatively inexpensive B) relatively light, and C) fold up to a relatively small size! Our previous tripod from Benro was the Benro A-1690 Travel Angel Alum. Tripod W/BH-0 Ballhead, so why the switch? I absolutely loved the small size, these tripods fold down to about 17 inches on the largest versions and 15 inches on the smaller ones, that’s crazy! You can literally carry these tripods inside your suitcase with no problem whatsoever, heck I was able to stash our old Travel Angel INSIDE my backpack! Also, the newest version of these tripods are “Trans-Functional” meaning they also convert into a monopod if needed. Even though I hardly use monopods that’s just cool.
When looking for a tripod, check how much weight the tripod is rated for, and then choose one that is rated for a bit more than your heaviest combination of camera + lens + accessories.
The smaller version we had before was rated to 8.8 pounds which was fine for a smaller DSLR like say the Nikon D90, but could not hold the larger Canon 5D Mark II or Nikon D700. While I will still carry my Induro (see below) for most photo shoots, I wanted the convenience of a stronger tripod if I bought it along on vacation with a larger camera, and the A-2691 which is rated to a whopping 26 pounds but still folds down to a 17.7″ size and 4.6 pound weight!
Spend the money and invest in a nice tripod or you will buy a second one pretty quickly.
Backpedaling a bit our veeeery first tripod was a cheap Sunpak tripod that maybe cost all of $75, and that lasted about two months before I upgraded to a “real tripod” and got a Manfrotto. I should have just saved that money and bought the Manfrotto to start with! Here is a quick comparison with our Manfrotto:
We also have the Manfrotto 055XPROB Aluminum Tripod Legs (Black) which was our first real tripod and still a great tripod for using indoors or even video. This tripod is a bit sturdier than the Travel Angel with it’s larger leg sections, however of course the tradeoff is a heavier tripod (5.3 pounds for the legs alone or almost 7 pounds with the head attached) and also a larger tripod, folded up it’s 29.8 inches long. Again, some people will love the larger size and ruggedness of the Manfrotto, I surely did. However hiking with this one is not as much fun, the extra weight and size becomes noticeable. Around the home or traveling by car, great. Exploring the city, traveling or hiking? Go for either the Benro Travel Angel or my second favorite tripod: my Induro!
Lastly, my personal favorite tripod is our Induro Carbon 8X CT214 Tripod and Induro BHD2 Ballhead. Of course since this is a carbon fiber tripod, it’s the most expensive of the bunch but also really nice! With carbon fiber versus aluminum, you get all of the strength of the metal but none of the weight. The tripod legs weigh 3.3 pounds by comparison to the Manfrotto above, and yes those two pounds are noticeable when hiking! You need to decide for yourself though if 2 pounds is worth the $200 premium in price though. Also, mentioning the strength of Carbon Fiber, these legs are rated to 26.4 pounds whereas the heavier Manfrotto aluminum legs are only rated to a little over 17 pounds. I also went with the matching ballhead which give you a bit more freedom to position the camera for photos since you can basically point the camera anywhere along the circular head versus a traditional pan and tilt system.
In summary and in my opinion the Benro Travel Angel system is the best bang for the buck for most amateur/advance amateur photographers who are running around on photowalks or traveling. The newer Trans-Functional line like the one I ordered today converts to a monopod should you ever need it too such as when traveling to a place where tripods aren’t allowed. Manfrottos are great choices too and many professionals love them, I personally gave Induro a shot and am pleasantly surprised as a great alternative to an ultra-professional tripod like a Gitzo or Really Right Stuff.
Have a great week and sorry for the rather geeky photo review post, more beautiful brides and grooms coming soon I promise!
Gear Mentioned in this Post (B&H Affiliate Links):
Benro A-2691 Travel Angel Alum. Tripod (Trans-Functional) W/B1 Ballhead
Benro A-1690 Travel Angel Alum. Tripod W/BH-0 Ballhead
Manfrotto 055XPROB Aluminum Tripod Legs (Black)
Induro Carbon 8X CT214 Tripod
Induro BHD2 Ballhead
Zachary Long is an Atlanta-based fine art wedding photographer who loves to shoot without a tripod for maximum creative control, but still lugs his tripod around everywhere just in case!
It’s getting late on Tuesday and I really did not have much of an idea of what to write about today for a “Technical” blog post. I recently touched on post processing over on this post and while I feel I could easily keep writing about random Photoshop tips and tricks, an email this evening to Joanna talking about flash got me thinking in the right direction. Now, this is yet another topic (like Photoshop) that we could easily talk FOREVER about, so let’s focus on one teensy tiny little aspect: High Speed Sync.
Ok, now on to a real world application. Suppose I want to take a picture of Betty and Miles here on the corner. I want to show off the buildings behind them but of course still see my subjects. I also want to draw the attention to Betty & Miles and not the background so I want to choose a low aperture like f/2.8 to make the background out of focus and blurry. I set my aperture to f/2.8 on my EF 16-35mm f/2.8L lens, ISO as low as it will go to 100, and now the only thing I can control is thus my shutter speed. If I set my shutter speed low enough to see Betty & Miles (1/200 or so) then the background is too overexposed and I can’t see the buildings. I changed my shutter to a very fast setting of 1/1600 to cut the light down on the buildings and at f/2.8 here is the shot we get:
Ouch, a bit too dark, I can’t see my subjects! I could put my flash on top of my camera and fire away, but my subjects would look a bit “blasted” with the light coming straight on from the camera. If I really want to start adding some interest I need to move my flash off the camera in order to make the light more DIRECTIONAL so that I can create interesting shadows and add depth to the image. Now, using something like Pocket Wizards allows me to move the flash off the camera, which is a GOOD THING! The only limit is that the Pocket Wizards can only sync at shutter speeds of up to 1/160 of a second. So… if my shutter is *stuck* at 1/160, and my ISO is as low as it can go already at 100, the only other aspect of the Exposure Triangle I have control over is aperture. In order to balance the background and bring down the overall exposure from having a shutter speed of 1/160 I need to bring my Aperture to f/11. I change my power settings on my flash to become stronger to compensate (Aperture controls Flash exposure) and I get the following image:
Now, I could just end here as the photo isn’t bad technically (exposure-wise, ok I know the composition isn’t the best, this was done to show flash!). I’m happy with the photo, I can see my subjects and at the same time see the buildings in the background. Let’s try one more thing: High Speed Sync. What is High Speed Sync? This allows you two cheat the flash sync barrier and raise your shutter speed above 1/200 on a Canon camera. By turning this option on I can now bring my shutter speed to my original setting of 1/1600, which allows me to drop my aperture back down to f/2.8. Note, for this to work you need two Canon flashes for a Canon Transmitter or a camera that has a built-in transmitter (like the EOS 7D). Here I took a second Speedlite 580 EXII and that on top of my camera, set it to be the “Master” and then set my second flash that is still sitting on a flash stand to be the “Slave.” I turn both of the flashes to High Speed Sync mode, aim, and fire! Here is the final shot for this post:
You can see the difference between the two photos easily. This photo has a blurrier background because it was shot at f/2.8, but I can still see the city. Also, for those of you photo enthusiasts, you can see where the flash was coming from by looking at how the shadows fall on the subjects.
And that wraps up today’s quick Technical Tuesday post! Sorry if this was a bit boring for brides, we’ve got tons more of weddings and engagement sessions coming up! I had an absolute blast this past weekend with our wedding in Athens on Friday and then Midtown on Saturday! Head on over to our Facebook Fan Page for some previews.
Equipment Used in this Shoot (B&H Affiliate Links):
Zachary Long is an Atlanta wedding photographer and loves taking the flash off the camera to get dramatic portraits of his brides and grooms. Check availability on our portfolio website at http://www.FengLongPhoto/ or send us an email at FengLongPhoto@gmail.com.
I’m sort of liking this new “post almost every day” sort of thing. While I never studied Journalism in college, I did start my college career off as an English Literature major. Wait, does that mean I just like to read books or does that mean I can write books? Hmm, not really sure on that one! Regardless, this brings me to another post in my new series of “Technical Tuesday” posts with a peek behind the scenes at what makes our wedding photography special and something that we have spent countless hours studying and learning to perfect our craft from both the creative and technical side.
At the end of May I was contacted by Yechiel, an online marketing analyst at B&H Photo Video, asking if we had an interest in joining their affiliate program. When I saw this email the first thing I thought was, “You want me? Of course, are you kidding me!” We do order our equipment both for our wedding photography and our camera rental business through three main places: Adorama Camera, Amazon.com, and B&H Photo Video. I am always the first to recommend these places to anyone looking for advice on where to purchase from a reputable dealer as we have used them many times and had nothing but positive experiences and excellent customer service – and also great prices! If you have read any of the recent stories exposing the Bait & Switch tactics of certain shady New York camera dealers, rest assured that B&H Photo Video and Adorama are the two giant names in the industry and ones that you can trust.
We have been using B&H Photo Video more than Adorama lately for one main reason: the shipping to Atlanta is just cheaper! Prices and selection is generally identical between the two stores but for some reason B&H always has a better deal on shipping.
A quick check shows that the shipping cost for a Canon EOS 5D Mark II from Adorama is $22.50 for 4-6 day shipping or $26.45 for UPS 3 Day Select. Ordering the same Canon EOS 5D Mark II from B&H Photo Video? FREE ground shipping (2 days to Atlanta) or even FedEx Saver for $7.50 which is 3-5 business days delivery!
By joining B&H Photo Video‘s affiliate program, if anyone clicks and buys through one of our affiliate links we make a small (tiny) commission. So we will be posting a listing at the bottom of some of our blog posts to describe what gear we used in a particular shoot because I know other wedding photographers will be interested in those details. I know I am myself when I read other wedding photographer’s blogs! While the links will point to B&H Photo Video, if you can find a cheaper price from somewhere else (Adorama or Amazon) then certainly head over there. As I mentioned before we have consistently found a cheaper total cost with shipping from B&H Photo while not sacrificing quality or service.
We still love our Amazon Prime subscription and order just about everything from the site from diapers to paper towels to coffee, but if want to talk to a knowledgeable person about photography and get expert opinions at the same great price – check out B&H Photo Video.
Have a great week, more to come with tomorrow’s standard “Anything Goes Wednesday” post and then a busy weekend ahead with a wedding on Friday and another on Saturday!
Zachary Long is an Atlanta wedding photographer who loves B&H Photo Video and wishes he lived closer to New York City so that he could visit the store in person. View our portfolio website at http://www.FengLongPhoto.com/ or send us an email to FengLongPhoto@gmail.com to check availability in 2011 and 2012.