Pushing your environment to the limits: How we shot it

May 25th, 2016


Pushing your environment to the limits:  How we shot it with Michael Anthony


Early in my career as a wedding photographer I felt imprisoned by my surroundings.   Being stuck in a room with 4 walls, garbage everywhere, and a beautiful bride that expects me to make magic happen for her was one of the most stressful things about going into a wedding day.


In fact it took many different times of being placed into this scenario before I realized that magic can actually be made in any environment, and the bride was right to expect me to be able to make it for her.  That is why she was hiring a professional to photograph her wedding.


I often get asked why I like wedding photography.  The reason I do is a direct result of being placed in these situations.  When you have a tube full of toothpaste, you tend to use more than you need, even if you are wasteful.  However when that tube of toothpaste is empty, now you are going to be resourceful, squeezing the tube, or cutting it open to get the toothpaste you need out of it.   When you are placed in a situation that is challenging on the wedding day, you can either not brush your teeth, or cut open the tube and make something happen.


My best images always come from being placed in a situation where my back is against the wall, and I think that comes as a result of me forcing myself to remove distractions, and just perform.  I was an athlete when I was younger, and sports psychologists had always told me that when the pressure is mounting, the best competitors are able to ignore the circumstances and place themselves back in the practice room.  The saying that you are your own worst enemy is absolutely true when dealing with hard circumstances on a wedding day.
There is a crazy New Yorker that most of you know who uses the phrase “Make #$@% Happen.”  It’s obvious he has adopted a competitor’s mindset when dealing with challenges.


We were faced with this exact scenario at a wedding just last weekend.  It was raining outside, and guests were starting to arrive.  The bride was placed into an area that was littered with clutter, with the buzz of green tinted 30 year old florescent lighting above, 4 bridesmaids, the mothers of the bride and groom, and a church lady all crammed into the small 8 x 10’ room.




The church lady came to me and said, you can’t take photos right now, because the bride is going to walk in five minutes.


I needed an image for the lead-in to the ceremony for the wedding album, and this was another situation where we needed to make something happen.
In a room full of distractions, your best option is to start with nothing, and add light where you need it.  That being said I quickly changed my settings to remove all of the ambient light in the room.  I then noticed a closet, which was lined with white walls, the closet did not touch the end of the wall, which allowed me to use it to create a directional light source without spill.  I placed a bare Canon 600EX-RT in the closet and bounced the light off the wall to create a soft light source.



Without moving any of the distractions in the room, I chose a composition that allowed for a reflection, and asked my wife Jennifer to give the veil some motion to create a leading line into the bride.


Here was the final image that we created.  This took 25 seconds from the moment I was told that I was not allowed to take photos of the bride before the ceremony.




Is this an award-winning image?  No, but it is an example that with quick thinking, and relying on your practice and instincts, you are able to create amazing images in any situation that you are placed in.  I look forward to sharing more examples as the wedding season progresses of how we are able to use our environment and given circumstances to produce amazing imagery for our clients and justify the pricing that we charge.


ShootProof and Bay Photo Integration

May 22nd, 2016

ShootProof and Bay Photo Integration

Time is money! As an entrepreneur and like so many of us, a sole-proprietor, we know how true this is. My mindset has been to look for ways to streamline my workflow and save time wherever and however I can.

If you are using ShootProof like I am, they have a created an integration with Bay Photo that will surely save you time. If you are not using ShootProof, snap out of it! They have been making huge investments in the product and their support team is second to none. Recently, they have made several integrations which make your job that much easier. These integrations are at no additional cost to you.

DON’T HAVE SHOOTPROOF?? Don’t worry, we have an incredible offer for you below to get you started with them. Read to the bottom. 

Check this out.

After an event, your images get posted online for your clients to see and share with their friends and family. Now, we practice IPS – In-Person Sales. Here, we show our clients their images for the first time and walk them through the sales process. Once that is over, we post the images online for any additional orders from their friends or family members. This strategy would also work if you have out of town clients as well. We use ShootProof combined with a Skype call to walk them through it all.

Step 1 Share your ShootProof Gallery with your client

Step 2 They place an order and you receive your notification

Step 3 Log into your ShootProof Account >> Go to the Commerce Tab >> Select Orders You will notice that the order shows a Status of “Awaiting Studio” this is because I will still review the order before sending it to the lab. You could also opt to send directly to the lab, but I still want the chance to review and alter this order if needed.

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This is where you would normally waste your time printing the invoice, then logging into your ROES system to place your order. This is now an unnecessary step in your workflow. Even if its only 10min – that time adds up over the course of a year.

Step 4 Click on the order. Here you will see some of the details for the order, have the ability to adjust the images their cropping and start the final approval process.

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Step 5 Click on the “Start Approval” button to begin the process of sending the order to the lab for fulfillment.

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Step 6 Adjust final order details and submit final approvals. You have the option for color correction from the lab, you can ship the order to your studio or to directly to your client via white label packaging and to control shipping options.

It doesn’t get much easier to that. When it comes to fulfillment ShootProof and Bay Photo have truly made the process simple and will be guaranteed to save you time.

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DONT HAVE SHOOTPROOF? Don’t worry. We have an incredible offer for you. 20% OFF yearly plan for new users. Use code SHUTTER2016. Click Here.

Building your brand by giving back

May 21st, 2016


Building your brand by giving back

We’re just starting to come out of winter, so the “slow season” is almost over. It’s also the slow season for support to a lot of charities, which makes a perfect time to step up and get involved. There’s nothing better to build brand awareness than community involvement.


Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of Guerilla Marketing, who also coined the word talked about the importance of community involvement in a presentation I attended many years ago.  It’s in the top one hundred things guerilla marketers should do. People like buying products from companies they perceive as giving back to the community.

While many of you get involved in little things here and there, most of the time you procrastinate. This is so easy and it costs you nothing but time. I know “time” is one of those elements we never have enough of, but that simply means you have to use it wisely. Every non-profit association and project need help and there’s so much you can bring to the party as a photographer/artist.

Some of the points I’ve made about marketing and expanding your reach into the community have been said over and over again, but so many of you still aren’t making the change.  Think about how you feel as a consumer yourself?  You like supporting companies you perceive as giving something back to the community.

Get involved with a local fund-raiser.  Whether it involves your camera or not doesn’t matter.  You need to be involved and your community needs to know you’re out there and not just another retailer or service provider.

Look for local events all year long, not just at holiday time.  For example, what’s coming up in your community that’s a fund-raising event? Keep in touch with the Chamber of Commerce, the various service organizations and the schools.

Get to know the president of the PTA for any of the schools. How about portraits instead of a bake sale to raise money this year? What events are they sponsoring that might need to be documented?

Every high school football team, band, yearbook and chorus are looking for new ways to raise money – you’ve got the gear and the know-how – so how about working with them to create a new idea for fund-raising beyond hot dog sales at Friday night games?

Visit your local Chamber of Commerce and find out what’s going on in the community.  In the fall there’s always a United Way Campaign, but what events take place during the winter months? Using your camera to create new ways to raise funds is a great way to show you’re involved.

Sometimes it’s not about raising money directly at all, but using your skill set as a photojournalist, documenting various events in the community and then providing the management of those events and the local paper and websites with your images.  Remember, nobody can do it better than you!

You’re looking for the community to be good to you – Well, you have to be good to your community!

*I first read this quote on the NILMDTS site, but no matter where it might be shared it’s so accurate!

Photoshop Banding and How to fix it

May 16th, 2016


Photoshop Banding and How to fix it by Payton Hediger

Why am I seeing banding and what can I do?


The first and most important thing to understand is why banding is showing up in the image in the first place. Banding is showing up because of the bit depth of the image or lack of. In most cases your not going to see banding in 16 bit. However, most images are processed in 8 bit. This is the default setting for images inside of Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and Lightroom. When shooting in a Raw format your camera probably isn’t capable of capturing your images in actual 16 bit but more than likely it’s between 10 and 14 bits.


Just to give a little perspective on what that means… When using a camera that can capture in 12 bit you expand your tonal range from 256 tones in 8 bit to just over 4000 and over 16000 for 14 bit. Ultimately your seeing over 65,000 tones with 16 bit!


When importing your images into Photoshop with ACR or Lightroom if you change your settings from the default 8 bit to 16 bit you’re not going to gain extra bits of information. The image will still only contain the original bit depth that your camera was able to capture. But the important thing to understand is that you’re not losing any information.


One thing that I should mention. Most displays can only output in 8 bit. This might sway you from utilizing 16 bit but consider this example. Say you’re working with a 10 bit image out of camera and you want to use a clear blue slight gradient sky. You export from ACR this image as 16 bit. Now the image itself won’t increase in bit depth because that information isn’t there and subsequently you may see banding already appearing in the image. However, if you replace the current sky with a gradient adjustment layer, for example, it will be in 16 bit (not exactly because Photoshop doesn’t actually utilize a true 16 bit depth but that’s a story for another time). Now you have a 16 bit sky in a 10 bit image and since this new sky can utilize the 16 bit tonal spectrum you’re less likely to see banding.


Well, you convinced me to switch, how do I export my files in 16 bit?


To change the export settings from Lightroom find your preferences (Edit for PC or Lightroom for Mac) then choose External Editing and you can change the Bit Depth from 8 bits to 16. In ACR The settings are at the bottom of the window in blue. Click on the blue text which opens the Workflow Options where you can change the Depth from 8 to 16 bits.

Lightroom Settings


ACR Settings



But how does this translate to why I’m seeing banding in my images?


In an 8 bit image there are only 256 tones to represent the entire image. This means that when you’re seeing banding in the gradients of your image each band is representative of one of those tones. Keep in mind that if the gradient was actually representative of all 256 tones from 0-255 in a small area that you’re probably not going to see banding. However, Banding does become apparent when there are say only 10 tones represented over a large area like a gradient sky. The bit depth of the image doesn’t contain enough information to bridge the tones that need to be there to represent a smooth transition between each band or tone.


So how do I get rid of it?


Banding is aptly named for the bands or stripes of color representative of the tone jumps from lack of bit depth. So to get rid of the banding you just have to break up the bands of color. Here are a couple easy ways to do this.


One of the oldest tricks in the book is to use noise to help reduce the banding issue. However, just using straight noise in my opinion looks terrible. Even in the noisiest images you never see sharp noise in natural photo. So what I like to do is add about .3 – .5 pts of Gaussian blur after I’ve applied noise. I feel like that helps bring back a little of the realism while still being able to break up the banding. As for how much noise to add to the image, that’s going to be a cross between what’s effective and personal taste. (Filter > Noise > Add Noise… > Enter amount, Gaussian, Monochromatic) (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur… > Enter .3 – .5 pixel radius)


Another way to help deal with banding is to use the splatter technique. This technique is limited to only 8 bit images since it utilizes “Filter Gallery”. This works by breaking up the bands with a spatter texture. Like the noise technique, how much you use will depend on effectiveness and personal taste. (Filter > Filter Gallery… > Brush Strokes > Spatter)


The last technique and the one I use in the majority of my images is texture. Concrete and metal textures work great for breaking up banding. Apply the texture over the whole image, set it to the “Soft Light” blending mode and reduce the opacity as necessary.


Alrighty then, 16 bit EVERYTHING!


16 bit isn’t always the answer. The files are roughly double the size and they are going to run slower on your computer. There are also many other factors that could be affecting your images from the display, to color space or how the images is being edited. So, even in 16 bit you may still find banding and posterization issues periodically. But as someone despises destructive editing, utilizing a higher bit depth means having a much greater palette to work with.

Profoto B1 and Profoto B2 Gels and Portable Beauty Dish

May 13th, 2016

Profoto B1 and Profoto B2 Gels and Portable Beauty Dish

Recently, I had an incredible opportunity to photograph in LA, working on a Helipad. What made the shoot so successful? Access to incredible lighting. Make no mistake, as a photographer, you understand this need for light. We need it for everything we do. Some jobs call for continuous lighting like an Ice Light, while others call for Speedlites. Having the light you need when you need it is key. For this job, we used the Profoto B1 and Profoto B2 Gels and Portable Beauty Dish. The portable beauty dish and lighting gels are new additions to the Profoto lineup and a welcomed one at that.

Beauty dishes are typically made from metal and are extremely bulky and difficult to travel with. The new portable beauty dish is incredibly portable and versatile. In addition, the gels are easy to use and allow you to add that extra pop of color to your shots for a more unique look.

For the first scene, we were locked in a hotel room and wanted to do more of a beauty shot. We were limited in space and the overall look of the room was less than optimal. Using the B1 and B2s in conjunction with one another allowed us to create this unqiue look. The B2s were used to light the wall with a red gel and a kicker light for her hair with a blue gel. The B1 was used with the Beauty Dish for the main light.

For the Helipad, we had to move quickly and efficiently. We wanted to darken down the background to take advantage of the setting sun and the dark blue of the sky for a more dramatic look. So, we used B1 as the main light with the beauty dish and one B2 head bare-bulb as the kicker light.

At the end of the day, the right equipment gives you the opportunity to make some amazing images. As always, get out there and make something incredible!

Gear Used

Canon 1Dx
Canon 11-24mm 4.0
Profoto B1
Profoto B2
Profoto Portable Beauty Dish
Profoto Lighting Gels


6787_01_TP_PRO PHOTO_31P0458_V2 6787_02_TP_PRO PHOTO_31P0489_V2_31P0560 _31P0704 _31P0732

Building for Success

May 8th, 2016

successBuilding for Success

Catching up to friends during the convention season, the conversation at some point, at least with photographers who have been shooting for ten years or more, turns to how much things have changed in the last few years.

The more I think about it, the less I think things have really changed that much. Yes, technology is always changing and new gear and software are pushing us to expand our skill set. However, a new photographer
starting out today has the same challenges as if they started twenty years ago.

The biggest challenges are still the same… How do I close the sale? Should I advertise my prices?  How do I get people to know I’m here?  Then there are questions on insurance, promotions and the importance of never compromising on quality.  Every challenge has been there for years and in fact, are NOT unique to photography, but any business.

Just to help you establish your priorities try these ideas to help secure a solid reputation for your business:

·       You still need to produce a quality product! Every time I hear a photographer say something about consumers not knowing the difference, I can trace back his/her actions to missing something in customer service.  Consumers do want quality, but you have to take the time to show them the difference.

·       Providing great Customer Service is still vital! You’ve got respond quickly to customer requests. Learn to empathize and exceed client expectations.

·       You have to listen to your clients and anticipate their needs. That old line of my grandmother’s is still valid. “You’ve got two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk!”

·       You have to market yourself to get through all the noise. I’ll admit it’s harder than ever to build brand awareness, but the necessity to do it is still there. All that’s changed is the vehicles you use to get your message out there.
Your work still requires a passionate eye, a great heart and a quest to always look for that decisive moment. Ansel Adams once said,

“Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”

And that’s one more thing that hasn’t changed – as a professional photographer you’re still part of an incredible legacy of creative spirits like Ansel, Avedon, Scavullo, Karsh, Eddie Adams, Arnold Newman, Dean Collins, Don Blair and Monte Zucker, just to name a few.  They gave us a foundation and a legacy that belongs to every professional photographer.  While it might sometimes be challenged by technology and the economy, it remains a powerful tribute to pride, quality, creativity and art.

So, that old quote still applies…as much as things change, some things never change.

Photo Credit: © aaabbc

How to Book More Weddings with Brian Marcus

May 1st, 2016


How to Book More Weddings with Brian Marcus


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


When I started in the photography business, there was a ton of pressure not only to refine my craft and master the skills needed to excel as a photographer, but also to translate that into income. That meant booking as many weddings and events as possible. I believe there are three key factors in becoming a successful (not just talented) photographer.

You have to treat this like a business, not just a creative pursuit. Many people have the skill to aim, focus and take an incredible photograph, but professional reputation and reliable customer service are not as common. I quickly recognized this would be something that would have people referring me to their friends and rehiring me for years to come.

I often speak with brides who didn’t hire our studio who say that although they loved their first-look, getting-ready or editorial portraits, they were extremely unhappy with their overall experience and deeply regretted not using my studio. The complaints range from lack of coverage or missing shots of important family members to unprofessional follow-up and late delivery of images and albums.

How do I avoid this? Although my photography is an art, it is also a profession that needs to be treated seriously and with the same attention and detail as if I were running an accounting firm. The key to this is preparation. Nothing should be left to whim or chance or the last minute. Before the wedding, we meet with our brides and grooms or party hosts, and get a full rundown of each and every important family member and friend. We take notes so we can focus on any special or unique scenarios that each wedding undoubtedly has. We record these notes in a detailed outline, and then the photographer who is covering the event is given a printout to review before the event. The photographer uses it as a checklist at the event.

We take our business very seriously, and know that when clients hire us to shoot these once-in-a-lifetime events that they are trusting us with their hearts and memories. This isn’t something to take lightly. Nothing frustrates me more than to hear a bride tell me she regrets her choice of photographer because she doesn’t have a picture with her grandparents on her wedding day. That should never happen. A wedding is a rare and special moment that needs to be properly documented so the client can preserve the memory of the day forever. That’s our job, to take incredible pictures and make sure we get everything the client wants.

I also like to familiarize myself with the venue and scout the best locations to shoot prior to the actual event. It’s important to map the schedule out in your head so you’re organized on the big day. If it’s a venue that I shoot at regularly, I keep the locations fresh. We don’t want all of our clients to have the same wedding album. I mix it up with backgrounds both in the hotel or venue, and in the surrounding area.

Living in New York City, we are fortunate to have a diverse canvas to shoot against, and sometimes the most unexpected backgrounds make for amazing pictures. Anything from a subway station to a hot dog stand can add some color and excitement to a traditional wedding shoot. If I’m shooting in a new location, I give myself enough time to explore before my start time. When traveling, I try to get there the day before to get to know the area.

The second factor in building a solid and lucrative business is to be personable—not just so people like you (which is obviously very important). Being personable helps you manage the stresses and chaos that will inevitably occur. It is so important to keep a cool vibe running throughout the event so you can keep your subjects stress-free and happy and get the shots you want. Weddings involve large groups and heightened emotions, so you need to be a therapist, buddy and class clown. You want to make sure that everyone is happy and having fun so that you can get your job done. It is important for you to help everyone get through the day with ease. Your energy is the key to keeping everyone in line.

Another reason to make sure that you are Mr. or Mrs. Congeniality is so you can maintain positive and lasting relationships with everyone in the industry. It is essential to know (and get along with) every party planner, florist, caterer, musician, DJ, bathroom attendant . . . you name it. These people are your colleagues and your allies. When you all work together as a team, the night will be flawless. Beyond that, having a solid group of wedding professionals around you is really helpful for growing your business. We all refer each other continuously, which creates a great synergy within your network.

The third step is your post-production process. You need to be organized, professional, talented and charming, but you also have to be responsive and reliable following the event in delivering the client the final product. We have a dedicated team that works with the client after the event.

Our retouching and album design services are unparalleled, and we protect our images and craftsmanship by making sure nothing leaves our studio unless it’s perfect. This is a time-consuming but essential process.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

5 Second-Shooter Musts with Vanessa Joy

May 1st, 2016


5 Second-Shooter Musts with Vanessa Joy


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.
Every year I make it a point to be a second shooter for other photographers’ weddings. Seeing how other photographers run a wedding helps me improve my skills. It gives me a chance to be more creative since I don’t have to worry about the staple wedding photos. I love the opportunity to not direct anything and simply be a fly on the wall, free to roam around, find different angles, play with composition and just shoot.

I could go on about the different types of pictures to take (like I do in my e-book, at www.breatheyourpassion.com), but a lot of that comes with experience and varies with every photographer. What we’re going to talk about here are the things you must know and do so you don’t tarnish your reputation as a second shooter. Some of these things people learn only after making an irreversible mistake, so let’s get these straight before that happens.

1. Know the Rules

Know what the photographer you’re working with allows you to do with the photos afterward. There are 100 schools of thought on this, and I’m sure you’ll work with photographers from many of them. Some believe that if they’re paying you to take the pictures, you shouldn’t be able to use them for your purposes. Others, like me, are okay with you using them, but not just anywhere you feel like. Some will trade off and let you come shoot to build your portfolio, but won’t pay you for the day (I do this when I bring third shooters along who I’m training for second-shooter positions). Whatever the conditions are, make sure you’re clear on them with each photographer you work with so you don’t end up with an embarrassing and potentially reputation-ruining debacle in the end.

Here’s what I tell my second shooters: “Pictures may not be used anywhere except up to five images on your website portfolio or up to 20 images on your blog with proper credit given that the wedding was shot by ‘Vanessa Joy Photography,’ with a link back to my website. You may not use or tag any names of B&G, venue or vendors. This includes putting them on Facebook or Instagram, and tagging or hashtagging my bride/groom in it; that should not be done at any time.”
It may seem harsh, but believe it or not, I recently had a venue find one of my second photographers’ photos on their blog via a Google search because the venue information was there in her blog. Because so many people steal images without permission or even the common courtesy of a notification, this venue did just that and used it on their social media. The kicker was that they credited and tagged my second shooter and her company as the main photographer. No bueno. I don’t think my second shooters should gain SEO juice from one of my jobs, and definitely not referrals or social media tags from my clients or networked venues either.


2. Dress the Part

Whenever you are working for another photographer, you are representing their business. How a photographer dresses feeds into the brand image they’re working very hard to maintain. Represent it not just well, but in line with the brand you’re portraying.

I ask my shooters and assistants to dress professionally and in dark colors. No jeans or sneakers are a given, and I don’t need all black, but dark is good for blending in. On the other hand, I’ve worked with rustic-style photographers capturing more casual weddings where, if I wore all black, I’d stick out like a sore thumb. Talk to the primary photographer about what you should wear. Always represent your photographer well—and always, always wear a smile.
3. Know Your Role

I remind my shooters that I will be happy to answer any questions they have, but to wait until the reception to ask them or when we are not in front of the clients. A second photographer pestering the main photographer with questions in front of the bride and groom looks unprofessional and ill-prepared. It’s a creative distraction to the main photographer. I also actually encourage them to make suggestions during the shoot, but to me only, not announced for all to hear. I’m always willing to hear ideas and explore possibilities that didn’t come to me initially, but it should never look like the second photographer is the director.
4. Shooting Format

This may be a no-brainer for most, but it’s a good idea to ask what format you should shoot in. I like my shooters to shoot in RAW with a large JPG backup on a separate card if they can. I know photographers who only want images in JPG format and some who only want RAW. Whatever it is, make sure you know ahead of time since there’s no converting JPG to RAW. If they do want you to shoot in JPG, ask them to clarify what picture profile and settings to use since in a JPG image, that makes a difference in the amount of information that’s recorded to the card and how they’ll edit them later.
5. It’s Not Your Wedding

If you hope to get asked to second-shoot again and build a good reputation within the photography industry in your area, remember this one. It’s not your wedding. Don’t make yourself known to the clients or any of the guests as anything other than the photographer working for XYZ Photography. Introduce yourself by your first name only. Don’t hand out your business card (but do hand out the primary’s business card). Don’t connect with the clients or bridal party in or outside of the wedding day.

If you typically take a primary photographer role on jobs, I can’t recommend second shooting any more highly. In addition to the creative angle and getting a break from being in control, it’s a great to build relationships with other photographers. There’s no measuring how valuable it is to convert your competition into colleagues, trusted photographers you can call to help you out in a pinch.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

May 1st, 2016



How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


Drone photography is here to stay. If you see drones as merely for playtime, you are missing out. But with this bold new frontier comes unique challenges. There are all sorts of rules and regulations we are going to have to learn about and adhere to, and they seem to change daily. If you ask someone to explain them to you, well, it’s clear as mud.

Don’t let this discourage you. Drones can give you a different perspective on life and photography. When people think drone, they think video. But recently, we have been using drones to enhance our photography coverage.

This article isn’t about how to use drones. The Internet is filled with that content. Instead, I want to talk about what was going on in my mind to produce the recent shots you see here.



I use the DJI Phantom 3 Professional with 4K camera. Are there better drones? Yep. Are there better optics? Yep. Are there better . . . yep. I am not about to have the age-old Canon versus Nikon debate here. Find what works for you. There are countless online reviews to slog through.

The Phantom 3 is perfect for us for a number of reasons. Ease of use and portability are the main two reasons. We travel a lot, and portability is key. Everything fits in a nice Pelican case or backpack that is carry-on size, so we don’t have to check it. And when it comes to ease of use, I can have this bird in the sky in less than four minutes—that’s out of the box, blades assembled, GPS calibrated. I know because it took some work for me to nail down the process in record time.

We love the 4K video. Would I love better optics for better still imagery? Without a doubt. But for now, that’s a tradeoff I can live with.

These things are getting better and better and cheaper and cheaper every year. As I write this, I am getting ready to leave for a National Association of Broadcasters event in Las Vegas, where they reveal the latest and greatest in video tools, so I expect to be blown away by cool new drone tech.



When working with drones, the concept of off-camera light is not going to happen. It’s all about available light or possibly constant light sources, like an Ice Light from Westcott. We’re talking WYSIWYG: With these optics, you are not going to get the same quality of imagery you would from your DSLR, but that’s not the goal. With that in mind, lighting as best you can will save you lots of frustration in post-production.



The focusing system is complete shit. It’s a video camera. I use it with a spray-and-pray mentality. You have to overshoot. If you are shooting landscape or architecture, you need to shoot more frames than you usually would to ensure you end up with a sharp image.

The differences between the Phantom 2 and 3 is huge. There are massive differences in the camera and software. Pay attention to your settings, and don’t let your settings get to 1/30th of a second. While the drone uses GPS to hover somewhat smoothly, taking a still image from a drone at 1/30th of a second will almost certainly result in a blurry image.


Setting up the shot.

Using a drone for your portrait photography requires that you see the world a little differently. You have to start thinking top-down. Posing and composition are way different. Drones also aren’t meant for close-ups. Use your normal camera for that. When I am using the drone, I am thinking big and dramatic, with my subject smaller in the frame. It’s a bird’s-eye view of the scene. Your clients will be blown away when they see an image from this perspective. They’ll tell you they’ve never seen anything like it before. Be the hero.


Printing the results.

Here is where things get a little tricky. This is not a DSLR with 8-bagillion megapixels. This is a 4K camera with 12-megapixel images coming off it. Using software like ON1’s Resize 10, you can blow up images with no issues. Recently, I printed an image as a 15×30 for one of our bridal shows, and it looked incredible. It was a showstopper for our brides, which is totally the point. Do something different, something with impact. Clients don’t pay big money to get something that every photographer is doing. They want something different. Show them that difference by thinking outside the box.

With Resize 10, we were able to resize a nighttime drone shot that was used on both the client’s website and on a huge banner on the side of their building.



Drones will only become more pervasive with time, and what you do with them will help you stand out from the crowd. Start embracing these tools as an add-on service. The options are endless, and your clients will love what they see. Sometimes the smallest addition to your arsenal can make the biggest difference to your bottom line.


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