Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Great Photo Hike!

Okay okay, so it wasn't really a "hike".  We drove a car.  But still, it was a hike of a drive for our little car!

We started our day off with the intention to do a "Border Run" with our daughter.  Let me back up.  In Dubai, children need to be sponsored for a visa by their father.  The process takes 2-3 months on the speedy side.  Unfortunately though, a travel visa for the child (or anyone for that matter) is good for 30 days.  In order to keep our daughter legally in Dubai we needed to leave the country and re-enter to renew her travel visa.  Hence the need for a border run.

After meeting up with some friends to guide us through the experience we ventured out to see the sights of the Al Ain area and ended up at Mt Jebel Hafeet.  It was a beautiful drive to the top... and hot!  To be honest, we got close to the top, saw a line of cars at a stand still that was over a kilometer long and decided to turn around.  But thats okay, because I wanted a shot that had some depth and interest, so half way up the mountain was more ideal than the top as I could place something in the foreground, midground, and background.

It was blazingly hot, so I knew I wasn't going to spend much time outside the car.  Plus my kiddo had fallen asleep, so my wife and I had to trade off to get out and see the view.

I remembered passing this point on the way up, and I had made a note of the way light was falling on the landscape.  I saw the sun behind the rocks on the left, making them fall into shadow, and then I remembered looking at the mountain wall to my right where the sun was blazing them to life.  In my mind I saw a pano where the skies and landscapes would flip flop in terms of exposure from left to right/up/down and got excited to make an image.

There was a bit of haze, so the distance you could see was a bit limited.  It was obvious that I needed to create a panorama, but I wanted that depth that you get from a clear day, so I thought carefully about the gear I would use.  I planned on using a wide angle 18mm lens with a circular polarizer on the front, and my specially converted infrared camera.  (I'll post another article about infrared shooting next)

I knew the polarizer would make any skies turn a nicer deeper blue and also cut down on some reflected light.  I also knew that the infrared camera body (which only creates black and white images) would add to the deepening of the blue skies (resulting in deeper black for the B&W image) and it would also do a good job at cutting through the haze - allowing the camera to pick up more of the background than I could see by just standing there.

To make the image, I first spot metered the darkest and lightest areas that I wanted to shoot by zooming in on aperture priority mode, reeding the suggested shutter speed (stopped to f/11, ISO100), and then did a quick guesstimate on a setting that would retain detail in the highlights and shadows.  I then switched into manual mode at 1/125th and began creating a pano.  I started to the left and used the horizon line as a guide point while I clicked off each frame.  I believe I shot about 12 frames total, but only used 6 to stitch the final image together.  (It is always a good idea to overshoot far more than you believe you need with panoramic creations)

Once I got home I stitched the images together in Photoshop CC, did some minor editing to remove a few distractions, added a touch of dodging/burning to bring forth some detail in the shadows, then finished some minor exposure adjustments in Lightroom CC.  It came out just like I had hoped!  The backlit mountains on the left fell into darkness with the sun blazing the sky into brightness above, while on the right side of the frame the sun created a super bright mountain with dark skies above.

For more stories filled with camera settings and tutorials, check back for our next post!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Nepal Relief Project

Mission: Raise $10,000 to aid in the Nepal relief effort.

Where is the $10,000 going? – We are channeling funds through Plan International USA, a global organization established in 1937 with a mission of ending poverty for children and developing solutions to ensure long-term sustainability.  Plan has had members on the ground in Nepal for many years working in rural areas outside Kathmandu and is in position to effectively deliver help and relief to families in need.

How will we achieve this?  We will sell fine art pieces and accept donations.  Each piece sold is a member of a limited collection, where only 35 prints will ever be made.  Each piece of art is hand signed and comes with a certificate of authenticity.  From each sale, 100% of the net profit will be donated. 

When will the funds be sent?  After each sale or donation, we will immediately transfer funds to Plan.

Where can I view the art available? 

How do I buy an art piece or donate?  Please contact Tim Walck:
(814) 260-0323

You may also visit our studio in downtown Coudersport:  200 North West St. Coudersport, PA 16915

As each piece of art is unique, available sizes are unique to each piece.  The cost of each print is $1/square inch plus PA sales tax.  Each image is printed using a dye sublimation process on specially treated sheets of aluminum.  These art pieces have an image stability rating of 125+ years and are easy to maintain.  Contact Tim for availability and prices.

Images of Nepal - before & after:

Monday, April 27, 2015

The #1 secret to natural smiles:

Photos are fun!

Unless someone is yelling at you to smile.  Or if you don't like having your photo taken.  Or if you are self conscious of yourself.  Or if... Or if... Or if...

There is one secret that I have for getting real smiles out of anyone.  It is so simple, yet many photographers forget about it.  It is so easy to overlook because we get tied up in all the other parts about the portrait session.  It is easy.  BUT - it takes a little time.

You want to know this magical secret right?  Of course.  Why wouldn't you want the person in front of your camera to smile beautifully, as if they were smiling with you instead of for the camera?

Oh gosh.... I just said it!   I let the secret out!

People will smile for real when they are smiling with you.  As the man with the camera, I know there are thousands of things that go into making a good image, but there is one thing that trumps all: expression.  Without expression, the best exposure & lighting techniques matched with world class composition & color harmony mean nothing.  Take away all of those things, add beautiful expression, and now the image has meaning.

So how do I do it?  I get to know the person I am photographing.  We'll spend time chatting, getting to know each other and sharing stories.  Once we are comfortable with one another, then the camera may come out.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Our Advice to Newlyweds

My wife, Meg, wrote this wonderful post featuring some of the best marriage advice we've heard.  Here's the link.  Please check it out.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Photo Booth Fun!

Photo Booth Style
Photo Booth Style Sessions are now here!
I've been toying with the idea of buying a photo booth.  The issues?  Cost.  Storage.  Maintenance.  Storage.  Transportation. Storage.  Cost. Storage.  Maintenance.  Storage.

You get the idea.

So, I got creative.  No storage necessary, just a simple setup with existing studio equipment: a giant 7' parabolic umbrella mounted to an Alien Bees 1600, triggered by Pocket Wizard flex units, and a white seamless backdrop.

Is the giant umbrella necessary?  No.  The powerful Alien Bees 1600? No.  The Pocket Wizard triggering system? No.  The white seamless backdrop? No.  The dog?  Yes.  We all need a cute dog.

You can totally do this on a budget at your studio.  Grab your speed light(s).  Buy a cheap shoot through, or reflective umbrella (our giant one has a silver reflective inside).  You can get a very decent sized Westcott umbrella for under $50 (even bigger if you go used!)  If you are using Nikon - set up the CLS so the camera triggers the strobe(s).  If you are using another brand, consult your manual...or youtube.

Photo Booth, Coudersport, Wedding PhotographyThe setup:  Big umbrella a touch higher than your subject, and slightly to a side (but mostly straight on).  Camera on tripod just a touch in front of the umbrella.  Frame the backdrop area you want and get as close as you can while still allowing for lots of space for sweet activities.  Do a few tests until you like it.

To make the strip on the left, I simply made a new file in Photoshop CC, 6x20'', created rectangular picture holders, and dropped in the images I wanted.  You can do whatever you like here - get creative!

SPEAKING of creative...  The best part of this setup, is that it allows me to interact with the subjects!  I've made a bunch of ludicrous "action" cards for people to act out, and create hilarious scenes!  So, instead of okay looking images from a photo booth where clients did it all on their own - now I am the director of the shoot!  I just set the camera up on the interval timer, or use the pocketwizard system

to remote trigger, and I don't even have to be behind the camera!

Monday, March 16, 2015

2 Tips for a Photogenic Wedding

2 Tips for a Photogenic Wedding

1) For your ceremony:
If possible, remove anything that could be distracting from the ceremony, or that could cause awkward photos (if possible).   For instance, take a look at where you plan to stand.  Will there be anything strange in the background?  Lets say you are having your ceremony outside in a field with a beautiful tree.  The tree is an obvious focal point and you think it would make a great spot for photos.  I agree!  But – don’t put the alter directly in front of the tree, otherwise in your photos, you will have a tree coming out of the tops of your heads! (sure, laugh a little… but it happens all the time!) Instead, place the alter to the side of the tree, centered in between the trunk and some nice branches and walk 20-35 feet forward (away from the tree, towards where the guests will be seated).  Now you will have a beautifully composed image, where the tree is in the background creating a lovely frame and you are in the foreground.  By placing yourself 20-35 feet in front of the tree and off to it’s side, you are allowing for photos that focus on you and don’t have a distracting tree.  Now you will have a beautifully out of focus tree, while you are clearly the reason the image was made.

Each ceremony is unique and all locations are unique too!  So, if you are unsure about setting up your space for the best possible photos, consult your photographer, as they will know best!

2) For your reception:
The cake table….  Put the cake table somewhere that has a pretty backdrop and allows the photographers to get behind it!  If you stick it in a corner, you will have a corner of a wall in your photos.  You will also have less than the most ideal photos of you cutting your cake, because your photographers will be scrunching behind the corner, or trying to stretch into ungodly yoga poses just to get the best shot!

Consider placing your cake table somewhere in the middle of the room!  This may sound totally strange and out of the ordinary, but hey, it is your wedding and you do what you want!  Benefits of a cake table in the middle of the room somewhere – A) easy access.  B) easily viewed by everyone.  C) Best scenario for photos of you cutting the cake! 
With the cake in the middle of the room somewhere, your photographers can get pictures of you cutting the cake, and the guests getting excited about it too!  If the cake is in a corner, they can get you cutting the cake, but the wall isn’t quite as excited about the event…

Good luck planning!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Top 5 Things Meg Learned at Imaging USA 2015

Imaging USA was an awesome and business-changing event for the hubs and me.  We learned so much, and we really wanted to share some of our favorite lessons, in hopes that we could talk some fence-riders into attending next year.  After all, while we love to work with each other, we also love to network and learn from new people too!

***Disclaimer:  Tim is the PPA member.  Meg is totally unaffiliated with Imaging USA, and this post is not sponsored by them in any way.

So here you go, the Top 5 Things Meg Learned at Imaging USA 2015:

  1. The hubs and I are not at the bottom of the barrel like we thought we were.  We're actually off to a good start.  This was super refreshing to find out.  It was also super nice to have validation for what we're trying to do.
  2. If you want to be in it to win it, you have to keep learning.  Even the "masters" were discussing personal/professional development books they had read and classes recently taken.  As a "lifelong learner", I appreciate this.
  3. Dream big!  Some of the biggest names in photography had humble beginnings - just like us!  It's okay to dream big, as long as you develop a game plan to get you there.
  4. Figure out your workflow.  As an entrepreneur (and a human), you should you manage your time efficiently and effectively.  By doing so, you can get your work done and have more time for your family, your non-work-related-passions, and yourself!
If you're thinking about going to Imaging USA or another personal/professional development conference, please give a shout out below.  We'd love to hear from you!

Peace, Love, & Craftiness,


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Truth About Digital Files

The topic of Digital Files in the photography industry is HOT HOT HOT!

To give the files, or to not give the files.... that is the question!

Lets take a few things into consideration.
  1. As a photographer, it is my job to provide clients with products and services that meet and exceed their expectations.  I need to provide clients with images on a medium that respects the art, and shows off each image's best features, as that is how they should expect their images to be displayed in their homes.
  2. Printed media (when done properly) will last a lifetime.  Real, light sensitive photographic paper, such as Silver Halide, has an image stability rating of 100+ years.
  3. Printed media lives in the real world.  You walk by it as it hangs on your walls with no need to push the "on" button and wait for a hard drive and screen to fire up!
  4. Digital Files must be updated every few years in order to keep up with advancing technology.  Do you really think that in 2050 your disc of images will be readable... or that cd/dvd players will even exist?  Unless you stay up to date on your digital file technology, your images will most likely fall behind the times.  Photographers, like myself, have invested thousands and thousands of dollars into data security and longevity, as it is certainly possible to keep up with advancing technologies, and to store images safely in the digital medium.  Unfortunately, a CD, or DVD just isn't the way. So, if the client really wants to drop the cash for a multi-tiered RAID5 hard drive enclosure filled with solid state drives, a dedicated clone drive, a 2nd backup system for all that, off-site data storage, and cloud storage, all at the same time for each single file... then it is just way safer to print their images.
  5. Printed media just looks better.  Images that are viewed on a screen are inherently backlit from the monitor, so they will never look like they do when printed.  When an image is printed on real honest to goodness photographic paper, like Silver Halide, the image quality, detail, and vibrancy is unarguably better than any current technology's ability to present it on a digital screen.  4K has nothing on 100 year old photographic paper technology!  
  6. Clients often aren't really sure why they want digital files.  It somehow became the "standard", so that's what they want.  Wedding planning magazines often give brides a list of questions to ask their photographer with a set of expected answers.  Every smart phone has a camera, which enables everyone to be hands-on with digital files on a daily basis.  Here is the truth:  
  7. What they WANT is the security of all their images, the ability to view them when they want, and the option to share digital files on social media.  It is my job as a photographer to educate clients regarding the fact that printed images are more valuable, have a longer life, and are what they really "want".  Sharing images on social media is great!  But, how long are you going to keep up with curating your digital gallery? 10 years?  25 years? 50 years?  
  8. The safest bet is for a client to have their favorite images printed, even if digital files come with their package.  I'm not saying that as photographers, we should not give out digital files.  What I am saying is that we should be doing our best to give clients the longest lasting, most beautifully represented versions of their precious memories.
  9. Printed images literally gain value over time.  How much would you value your printed wedding album in 10, 25, 50, or even 70 years?  As time marches on, you will love your printed images more and more, and the book soon becomes a priceless piece of family history.  for future generations to enjoy.  Do you really think you will pass down a dvd of your wedding photos to your grandchildren?
  10. Digital files should only be used as backups of the printed originals, just like in the days of film (gasp)!  A digital file is really just a piece of the puzzle which is used to create the real artwork.  They should not be considered the meat and potatoes of imagery products.  Sure, digital files are here to stay and are necessary to create prints.  But do clients really know where to go to get quality prints?  Not to mention, as professional photographers, we have access to labs that cater only to professional photographers - which makes digital files nearly useless to a client.

So there we have it!  Lots and lots to digest.  I could be right, I could be wrong – all I know is that my goal is to give my clients the very best products to display their images on and a computer screen has nothing on real photographic paper, canvas, or metal prints.

3 Tips to Get Kids Smiling for Photos!

I've done many photo sessions and have many many tricks for getting smiles out of kids.  Today I'm going to share with you 3 of my top tips for getting kiddos to show their beautiful beaming smiles!

  1. Pick comfy clothes!  -  If the clothes you picked are new with tags, remove the tags!  Tags are itchy!  If there is anything uncomfortable about the outfit they will be distracted and have a much shorter attention span for the shoot.
  2. Go someplace fun! - Kids are kids.  Let them be kids.  Go somewhere that they are familiar with, and comfortable, like the park!  Then let them have fun!
  3. Keep things positive! - Whatever you do... do not under any circumstances give the kid an ultimatum.  What do you think happens if you threaten a kid with something like, "Smile, or NO McDonalds", or "Smile, or I'll spank your rear end!".  Yep... that will stop smiles for the rest of the session.  Instead, lets re-direct the kids to something else - maybe they just need a breather from the camera - which is totally okay!  Or, you could start a fun activity, or give them something fun to play with.  I'm not saying that if the child is mis-behaving that you should drop any form of structure that you have in place - I'm just saying that an ultimatum of smile or else is going to flatten your chances of success!
There we have it!  I hope these tips can help you take better photos of your kiddos! 


Monday, March 9, 2015

The Perfect Match

Finding the perfect match between you and your photographer is ideal.  It is important to feel a connection with the person you are trusting to create the images of your special day and to value what they are doing for you.

For these reasons we don't list our pricing formula publicly.  We want our customers to shop for us not a price.  Our price could be higher, lower, or the same as other places they are looking, but we don't want them making a decision for their most important day based on a "good deal", or the idea of "if it costs more it must be better", as neither of those mind-sets are geared towards what is really important when choosing a wedding photographer.

We've seen companies charge double our highest rates, then hire low-cost help (aka, amateur photographers), give them a camera and let them go to town... the results?  Not good.  There was no personal connection... no love, nothing to really make the images special.  It was just a business transaction and that's all the bride and groom will ever feel about their wedding images.  We've also seen places that charge rates so low that it seems to good to be true.  If it seems to good to be true... it usually is!  If a wedding price is so low that it hasn't even reached the ball-park, then there is real concern for quality, professionalism and longevity of any (if any) finished products included.

We want our clients to make their photography decision based on trust, value, and love.  The only way to create these three key elements is to meet with the potential client first and let them tell us about their wedding day.  It is important that we get to know each other, share similar values and tastes, and feel comfortable with each other.  By the time that the wedding date arrives, our clients are so familiar and happy to see us, that they have zero concern for how their images will turn out.  They just know the results will be what they dreamed for!  And with a mind-set like that, the likelihood of having the opportunity to photograph a happy glowing bride & comfortable smiling groom becomes very high.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The ONE Thing Brides Often Forget To Plan For

I get to help lots of brides with wedding planning, and it is so much fun!  I've had the opportunity to help organize everything from the flow of timelines, to reception hall lay-outs, to center piece design & build, and everything in between.  The best advice I can give a bride (this is for ANY bride - even if they aren't booking me a as their photographer) is to plan to invest in a wedding album.

An album will gain value over the years.  Think about it...  in a year's time, your album will be worth more to you than when you first got it.  In 5 years time, it will double, or even triple it's value to you.  In 10 years, your album will be right up there with your engagement ring.  Lets take a jump to 75 years!  In 75 years, what would you value your album at?  How could you attach a monetary association to it... by that time it is a priceless piece of your history, a family heirloom, a visual story book of your most valued day - an irreplaceable item.

What other piece from your wedding will literally gain value after your wedding?

So, when you are planning your wedding, talk to your photographer and find out if he/she makes an album.  If so, pick their brain about its quality. Ask questions, like - Is it printed with real light-sensitive photographic paper, or is it a press album from an inkjet?  Is the paper archival/museum quality?  What is the rated image stability for these materials, under what kind of conditions?  Find out what the rated life of the cover materials are, and then ask the photographer why they choose those materials to construct their albums.

The next step is to plan the album a little bit, so that you and your photographer can determine the level of investment you will be making.  A timeless, well-built wedding album has lots of design time, high quality materials, hand-construction, and a team of seasoned professionals working together to build it, so you should expect the album to be a highly valued product.

Thanks, and I hope this article gives you some insight for planning!

Comments, Shares, Likes Welcome!


5 Ways We Make Great Images and Stay in Business

Often, beginning photographers ask us for help.  They want to know the “secrets” of being wedding photographers, and how to use photography to better their own lives.
We have a few core values that we run our business on.  It’s really quite simple.  Now, don’t confuse simple with hard work – this isn’t a get rich quick industry, and it takes time and dedication.

1. Showing Love
Our mission is to show love through imagery.  We strive to improve and deepen relationships by creating images of emotional, loving moments and providing the most beautiful ways to display them as visual reminders of those bonds.
After  It is why you get married.  It is why you are inviting family and friends to your most emotional and intimate day.  It is why you wake up in the morning.  It is why your relationship with each other is so strong.  It is how you get through tough times.  It is why you celebrate the best of times.  It is what you have found with your soulmate that keeps you together.  It is that blessed moment when a new life is born. It is how you remember those who have moved on.  It is why you display images in your home.

2. Showing Love
            We take pride in showing love to our clients, whether it’s a hand-written thank you note, a check-in phone call, or going well beyond their expectations.  We challenge ourselves to show our clients as much love as possible.

3. Showing Love
            We like to give.  We may do simple acts, like give another vendor images of them doing something amazing (so they can showcase their own work), or donate to various charities, or sponsor local events.  We figure, if we did well enough that we have more than we need, then we are in a position to give to someone else in need – it is a very good feeling!

4. Showing Love
            It is important to show love to yourself.  If you forget to do this or you don’t think that taking care of yourself is important, think again.  In order to do step 5, you must do step 4.  Example:  Have you ever been on an airplane?  Take notice that on an airplane, when they go through the safety procedures, the very first step for every individual is to take care of themselves first, and then help someone else.  It is quite simple!  If you haven’t taken care of yourself, then you haven’t put yourself into a position that allows you to help others.
            We show love to ourselves by doing two simple things.  One: we will never work for less than we are worth, as our dedication to expertise deserves compensation, just as our clients deserve our absolute best.  Two: we separate business and home life, as it is necessary for us to recharge our personal batteries as well! 

5. Showing Love
            We show love to our family.  It is vital that we are happy on a personal level.  Otherwise, unhappiness would bleed into the business, which would lead to unhappy customers, which would in turn lead to the demise of our business.  To show love to our family, we follow step two from above: we separate business and home life.  We do this by dedicating time for family, and planning vacation time.  We understand the value of family – it is why we make images! 

Obviously, there are more intricate details involved with running a successful business; however, if you begin with these 5 values at your core, you will be off to a great start.

Thanks for reading, and we hope you can take something away from this!

Comments, shares, and likes appreciated!