Monthly Archives

September 2009

Haley and Christopher | Wedding Preview by LeahAndMark

Word of Advice: If you’ve never shot a wedding before – if you’ve never even been the second shooter assisting the main wedding photographer – don’t sign up to shoot a wedding. Nevermind the difficulty level. Nevermind that it’s not like any other event you’ve shot. The fact is that it’s just too important for you to think that you’re that good of an amateur photographer and you can shoot anything.

Especially if you want to do anything close to a reasonably decent job – and by decent I mean that all of your shots need to look like something that no one else at the wedding could’ve gotten. There is a reason you’re being paid, and that reason is because YOU are supposed to get the shots that NO ONE ELSE can get. Your shots need to look 100% better than anything anyone else with their point and shoot cameras could possibly shoot. I mean it. This isn’t the time to be a notch above the crowd. You’re competing with 50 other amateur photographers and if even a single one of them out does you – then you should hand over all of your sorry prints, and tear up the check that the bride’s father handed you just before the wedding.

Soon after I booked my first wedding for November, I was hired to shoot Haley and Christopher’s wedding – the week before the actual event. Me, being that amateur photographer who thinks he can shoot anything – agreed and accepted their money.

Sure I can shoot your wedding! I’m freaking awesome! I’ve shot lots of events. What’s a wedding? Another event with a photoshoot in the middle – I can handle that – no problem.

Except there’s a lot of pressure to not screw this up – and once I arrived on site I really, really felt it. The Highland Ballroom is a great hipster lounge and small concert space – which means that it’s DARK and not exactly a photographers dream as far as lighting goes. It’s essentially the basement of the Highland Inn – a historic inn here in the Virginia-Highlands neighborhood of Atlanta. After my test shots with my light setup – I walked around the hotel trying to get ideas for interesting shots in these narrow hallways.

Since this was my first wedding – I had no real idea of timing – but at least I showed up early. However I didn’t know exactly when to push to start shooting. Somehow, I ended up alone in the room with Haley as she sat there all ready to go. Everyone else was downstairs going over everything – so I started taking shots. Haley was really awesome – much calmer than I was at that point and she started posing like a pro. Thank God because all I had to do was frame the shot, hold my camera steady and squeeze the shutter button. Clear? No? A few more times please.

Fortunately – my friend Craft came along as my second shooter. He’s shot a few weddings before – but only ever as the second shooter. Ha. And there he was again taking the role as second shooter to my no experience. Luckily, I’m much more stubborn than what’s good for me – and although I was experiencing some creative and technical difficulties – I jedi-mind-tricked myself into staying positive.

Because even at the worst moment when none of my shots were coming out – I knew that no one else there was going to get better photographs than what I was getting – it was really all on me to get this job done, and not only get clear photos, but creative ones that aren’t boring, that don’t have flat lighting and that stand out – so that Haley and Christopher can look back at their wedding and remember it the way I shot it – and be more than happy.

Honestly? I couldn’t have asked for a better 1st wedding to shoot. I couldn’t have asked for a better 1st wedding experience. Among all of the difficulties I was having – there were moments where I clearly wavered. Moments where I knew I was about to lose my audience – those bridesmaids are tough! I’m just glad that I didn’t do more than waver – otherwise things would have just gone downhill.

My second shooter? Craft was a BIG help, especially with the formal shots. Other than at my own wedding I have no experience and didn’t study enough wedding photos to have a good foundation of formal photos – Craft stepped up and helped with the people arranging and also got the wide shots since I kept my 35mm prime lens on (I’m shooting with a Nikon D40 so it’s a DX body and 35mm = ~50mm).


Eventually the shots did start flowing. I found a rhythm and solved any light problems I was having. Once that was taken care of I started trying to get the shots that Haley hired me to get – ones that weren’t obvious shots. Because remember – I’m the wedding photographer and my shots must not be anything like what the guests can get for themselves with their own cameras – and once all tech barriers are brought down – the only thing you have left is to hope that you find some small amount of creativity… and luck. Hopefully you’ll finish the night with some really great shots.

Sandy Springs Festival


Taking a break from any photo shoots or fashion shows or even weddings (!) – we went down to the Sandy Springs Festival. We stopped by the Indigo Bath and Body booth and hung out for a bit with Jenn, one of the owners – and she is also the soap maker (do they have technical titles?) – So while Leah was distracting her with witty conversation, I hung around and started practicing some shots. Jenn makes all of the soaps and they’re… well, really awesome (see, Leah should’ve been the one to write the soap descriptions – otherwise you end up with ‘the soaps are awesome.’)


Jenn does spend a lot of time on her booth setup – all the little signs and the wooden boxes and… there are lot of other soap makers that sell at these festivals and lots of them kind of just make ‘interesting’ piles of soap blocks. Um. I like the textures in these soaps? No really, ha, without sounding too flowery – look at them, they’re… nice. 🙂

On our way out we stopped by the Kenari booth – where three kids coaxed Leah into trying a sample of their herb juice (herbs!) We were talking with the owner, Jonathan, and he mentioned that they have a farm not too far away in Roswell. It’s actually an 11 acre track of land that was set to be another subdivision until they saved it! Check out their blog and website – photos of their farm and such, plus Jonathan is a really nice guy. Oh – and among other things, the blog chronicles the life of the farm – each field being made and crops grown.

Fortunately for us we had already left the festival when it started raining really hard. Unfortunately for the vendors at the festival – it started raining really hard.

We bought a half gallon of the Kenari herb juice.


The rest of the day? I’m making more DIY photo gear. I’m shooting a wedding tomorrow.


Lolita Fashion Show


NOTE: Any MODELS from the Lolita Fashion Show – Please SEND US your email address at Email(at) – Or LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS in the comments section below so that I can deliver your photos to you. THANK YOU.

CLICK for Gallery ONE

CLICK for Gallery TWO

(Note: These are not all of the photos – but they give you an idea of how the shoot went.)

CLICK for the RUNWAY Photos – Part One

CLICK for the RUNWAY Photos – Part Two

I had a really great time yesterday at Anime Weekend Atlanta 2009/ The Lolita Fashion Show. For those who don’t know, this is derived from Japanese Lolita fashion and not anything generally associated with the term ‘Lolita’ – a more generic and acceptable term would be Modern Victorian – and even then that’s not completely accurate.

One of the designers, Megan Maude had invited me to come shoot the fashion show – and then I asked if I could also set up and do a photo session with some of the models – since I can control the lighting a lot more that way. Out of the photographers that she had lined up for the show – I was the only one to show up. I’m really fortunate that the other photogs didn’t show – because then I was able to have a photo session with ALL of the models.

Since I’m apparently generally over Anime Conventions and found the hall Cosplay a little boring – I didn’t take photos of anyone else there. And there were some pretty great costumes – along with people cosplaying things that were cosplayed 10 years ago… not just from old shows – but characters that were overdone 6 years ago.

Something I’ve been working into my photo shoots lately is putting the models on a different level – usually up – and then of course sometimes I’ll get up on a ladder or chair. Once I entered the long hallway conference room where the models were getting hair, makeup, and wardrobe together – I saw the lit ceiling, and it’s two big chandeliers. Okay Look – when I arrived at the convention there were photographers everywhere – and a gabillion point and shoots. Some even had their backdrops and softboxes out. I also saw several Canon 5Ds and Pocket Wizards and some near $200 beauty dishes. There was a lot of serious gear there and the only thing I can do right now is look at my $80 ebay light kit, $30 flash triggers, my Nikon D40, and think to myself I would light that shot differently (the shots that I saw other people taking – not mine).

So at that point my main goal was to get some shots that were VERY DIFFERENT from anything anyone else was getting.


Once I saw the long lit ceiling with the chandeliers – I knew I had something. But I needed to get the models up higher so that I could have everything in the shot and at a good angle. Fortunately – the back of the room led right into the service hallway where they also housed all of their tables and chairs. I grabbed two tables and set them side by side as you can see in the photo above. Instant runway platform. Awesome. Now all I had to do was get the right settings to darken out the backgrounds and the rest of the room. If you look at the photos you can see the people in the back getting their hair and makeup done, and just standing around waiting. It wasn’t a perfect photo shoot setup – but it more than worked – and I could always fix it in post if I really wanted. The most important thing was that I was getting shots that no one else would have from the convention. Anyone can throw up an ugly muslin backdrop and start taking decent photos – but in my head I’m aiming for the shot that they’re not getting – just always trying to be different. Always.

I’m not going for anything revolutionary – just something that the other photogs at the same event, won’t have.

Now that I was getting really nice full body shots that captured the whole outfit – I went all out and decided to do headshot type stuff so I could capture the hair and makeup. Without a backdrop or a clean white wall – I had to use the convention room walls – which are foldable and usually an odd fabric texture. Whatever – it’s what I had to work with so we don’t run, we FLY with it.






This photo here was one of the first that I shot – after I got this one my pre-shoot nerves were immediately calmed down. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get any detail out of their HIGHLY detailed outfits. The black kind of blends too much in the middle of the dress here – but the bonnet and face and hair and white are all there – I have others where the dress is exposed more correctly. But you know – after I get those first few shots that ‘work’ – all of a sudden something in my head clicks and aw, It’s On Like Donkey Kong. Because anyone can shoot with enough flat light so you can see the detail in the dress – but can they light it in away that actually makes it look good or even interesting?

Something else I did was move the lighting for EVERY model. Sure they’re all in the same ball park – but the light moves from side to side and changes height. I’m not Olan Mills and this isn’t your year book photo.


The back of this dress is… well just look at it!

Right now until my order for more radio triggers arrives – I’m just working with two off camera flashes. Although I think I would light this shot slightly differently now – what I have set up is my 285hv with a shoot-through umbrella – and then I have my even older Quantaray flash on a light stand aimed right at her face. I told her to close her eyes. But it’s kind of cool? Ha. Well – at least I got the back of the dress really well.

The last shot here is Megan Maude herself. She’s a designer based here in Atlanta and you can find her and her beautiful clothes at – she’s super nice and really easy to work with – I am very fortunate to have been given the chance to work with her and all of the other people that worked on this fashion show. Below are the links for the other designers.


CLICK for Gallery ONE

CLICK for Gallery TWO

CLICK for the RUNWAY Photos – Part One

CLICK for the RUNWAY Photos – Part Two