Category Archives: personal flavor

personal flavor

Putting the “AQ” in “FAQ”

A couple weeks ago, I got hooked up in the “Ask me a question” Formspring meme that was going around, and you can see all my answers (and ask me more) here. While I didn’t get as obsessed with it as some photographers … *cough* Jonas Peterson *cough* … it was a lot of fun and a great way to answer some of the burning questions people had. But the list is long and filled with questions that are either technical or sometimes silly, so I thought I would put some of my answers that readers might be interested in right on the blog. These aren’t exactly frequently asked questions, since most were just asked once, but close enough.

Is there a point at which you will think “I’ve arrived” in the photography world, a goal to reach “before you can rest”?
Photography isn’t a destination. It’s a journey. I don’t want to rest, I want to take pictures.

What do you remember about yourself when you were a child?
I was definitely shorter. And precocious.

Been a fan of yours since your early days on flickr. How do you stay healthy? And what do you do if you’re sick on a clients wedding day?
It’s important to me to stay healthy. In more than 100 weddings, I’ve never had to miss one for any reason (there are very good emergency plans, but it is very important to me not to have to use them). I try to get a decent amount of sleep. For me that means at least six hours. In college I was always sick because I slept about three hours a night.

Also, I get a good deal of exercise.

Are you a “stuff junkie” or an “experience junkie”?
Experience junkie. If I were a stuff junkie, I wouldn’t keep breaking it.

How do you get people to so such cool stuff on the dance floor?
They’ll do it. All you have to do is be unobtrusive enough to be in front of them without them noticing or caring.

What happens at your client meetings? Spill some tricks!
It’s mostly just pleasant conversation and watching slideshows, and when they ask a question I answer the seven they haven’t thought of yet.

Do you dance at all your weddings?
Only if my friends are getting married … then it’s ON.

I read that you said you deliver 100 images per hour, do you feel that delivering hundreds of photos detracts from the end users satisfaction when going through so many photos?
No. I deliver a front page of my 75-100 favorites, so people don’t have to view the full set unless they have a reason to. I like to photograph as many guests as possible, because they were important enough for the bride and groom to invite and pay for.

Could you describe the post-processing you usually do on your images in a sentence or two?
I do way less than most shooters, because I don’t want my post-processing to be trendy. Quite often it just looks OK right from the start. But sometimes I really love a picture and just like to finesse it a little. I also have a default tone curve that I shoot in or apply afterward.

Thoughts on diffusers? I’ve noticed some great photogs use them and others just bounce.
I don’t use them much, but really it’s all just about understanding light, and using the tools that make it looks how you want. Lots of diffusers turn flashes into bare bulbs, which can be useful but I’d rather not have it on-camera.


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Thank you for the #haitirelief comments!

I still have to do the final tally, but thanks to the attention of so many I will be donation hundreds of dollars to Water Missions International, a charity with good presence in Haiti that focuses on the crucial issues of clean water and sanitation. If you’re interested in taking more action, Charity Navigator lists them as a very well-run charity with low overhead.

I will keep looking for ways to help and I hope you do the same. Also, as my friend Charlotte Geary pointed out, at times like these unrelated charities tend to suffer, so remember to keep supporting yor favorites.

Thank you!


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On being a “green” wedding photographer.

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I’m a pretty bad marketer. I know it. That’s why it took me years of sitting around, seeing other people successfully brand themselves as “green” wedding photographers without thinking about it until, about five minutes ago, I realized I’m pretty much the greenest wedding photographer I know. How many other wedding photographers choose not to own cars? (It actually makes more sense in Manhattan to rent every time I need one for a shoot, but that means I don’t drive unless I have to).

My office generates a staggeringly little amount of paper. All of my contracts are online. I only give DVDs on request, because DVDs go bad eventually and litter landfills. I give flash drives, with instructions on how to back up photos forever on one’s own hard drives — or, if clients are into it, I provide the online servers for full digital delivery. No mail planes, no torn envelopes, ta-da.

Even my staff, including my brand-new intern (more on her later), comes into the office via mass transit. Albums are made with recycled materials when possible, and my studio requires minimal energy to heat and cool.

We’re pretty darned green here. Who knew?


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I will give $1 to Haiti relief for every blog comment this week

Like many of you, I have been sending money to give some help to the devastated country of Haiti this week, but I thought I could do a lot more, and I figure it’s always nice for people to be able to help out with a little bit of time and no cost to themselves.

So, for this week, until the end of the day Friday, for each person who comments on my blog I will add $1 to my charitable donations to Haiti. While the exact type of donations needed my be different a week from now, I will send it to one of the four-star charities listed here by Charity Navigator. One comment per unique reader will be counted.

So that I can easily tally the comments with a search, all you have to do is this. Find something you like on this blog, maybe in the archives link above, leave a quick note, and then follow it with “#haitirelief”

For example:
Ryan Brenizer — Hey, that is a photo! #haitirelief

The Internet is a crazy thing, and you never know if something goes viral, so for now I’ll have to limit it to $2,500. If for for some reason it comes to it, I will increase that cap if my accountant doesn’t shoot me over it.

For sake of tracking, this only applies to comments on this blog, not the Flickr or Facebook pages. Those comments are MUCH harder to track properly.

I hope you don’t take this as a play for attention. I get plenty, and there are far cheaper ways I could get more. I just want to see what a community of readers can do.


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At What Cost, Beauty?

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I knew, heading to Puerto Rico, that I would be shooting some fashion for a friend of mine. I knew that I’d be shooting in bright sun, which means counteracting with powerful lights, but that I’d rather not bring my White Lightnings through airport security, so I brought three speedlights and PocketWizards to trigger them, as well as a buncha gear. All of the lights were turned on to full juice in this shot, so I could evenly light two (really great) models through an umbrella at f/18, to keep the skies blue and make the sun an interesting starburst.

Well kids, remember this: Never challenge the ocean to a fight. It will win. As we moved a bit closer to the surf, one of my friends says — “Hey, look at that big wave!” Always a bad sign.

What was shore is no longer. What were speedlights, pocketwizards, batteries, etc. are now really fascinating paperweights.

But this tale is not a tragedy — remember, MacGyver can bounce back from anything. You’re just going to have to wait for part 2.

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Notes from Puerto Rico

It’s my last full day in Puerto Rico, ending the first dedicated-to-relaxation vacatiom I’ve ever taken. That definitely has to change, since now I feel ready to shoot a billion or so weddings back to back with energy, vigor, and a bit more of normal-human flesh tone.

Thanks again to my assistant Thomas for taking care of the shop even while I’m away. I know the first week of January is slow in the Northern US, but it’s important to me to have my clients be able to be connected to us at all times.

As those who follow my Twitter or Facebook know, the trip has not been without mishap. Like Odysseus, I clearly got on the wrong side of the god of the sea, and he sent a freakishly large wave to swamp all of my shorebound equipment with a destructive mix of water, salt, and mud, so my friends at Adorama can expect a visit when I get back!

On the plus side, I spent the day taking some of my favorite fashion images I’ve ever taken, including one that may be my favorite I’ve ever seen! That one to come as soon as I get real Internet service.

(Since I’m generally my harshest critic, you can probably guess it’s a little … off.)

For quick snaps, I’ve been loving the TrueHDR and ProHDR apps for the iPhone. HDR is so often gaudy in photography, but it’s perfect to counteract the limited dynamic range of a camera phone to take pictures more like what you actually see. ProHDR has more features, but I like the simple functionality of TrueHDR better for snapshots. Here’s one of where I’m sitting now.

This is why I’ve been getting increasingly angry texts from all my frozen New York friends. Well, I’ll be sharing your misery soon!


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Photo(s) of the Day: New Year’s Eve at War? (Point&Shoot photos)

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I had such a fantastic New Year’s Eve, thanks to being around some great people. I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico with some new friends. One of them was originally from the area, and had an invitation to a party for friends and family at one of his mother’s friends’ houses. It sounded like such a change from the normal club scene that we had to take up the offer.

I’m glad we did. Everyone was so warm and inviting, celebrating first the San Juan-time New Year’s and then the New York-time New Year’s with dancing and an amount of fireworks that would get you thrown into a federal penitentiary in New York. Since I decided against bringing my expensive Nikon D3s out on New Year’s, I captured the scene with my friend’s automatic point and shoot, the Canon 780. I embraced the limitations, switching to black and white mode, pushing it to ISO 1600, and pre-focusing and metering so I could get the shutter speeds and exposures I wanted. Whereas the D3s can capture pretty much any scene with more literalism and detail than your eyes can, here I embraced the expressionistic quality of a limited camera. And I had a great time — as my friend said, “These look like you spent New Year’s in Beiruit!”

A few more:

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Scenes from a Blizzard

If you’re on the Eastern seaboard, you’re probably having an interesting night. I decided to take the D3s out for a little walk, before common sense got the better of me. But here’s a snippet of what the blizzard is doing in NYC now. How is it where you are?

Click on the photo for the HD video.

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On Facebook, nomenclature, and getting bloggy

I think about twenty minutes after declaring on one of my two favorite wedding photography forums that I would never, ever start a Facebook Business Page, I started a Facebook Business Page. You can find it here.

Why? Technical issues. When I post preview photos after each wedding (and, for the 2010 season, I will also post previews after each engagement or portrait shoot), having a Page makes it much easier for people to see all the photos, even if they don’t have a Facebook account, and I don’t have to approve anyone to comment. All they have to do is “become a fan” of my page in one click.

Which was the my problem in the first place. I network with a lot of other professional photographers, and the last thing I want to ever have to do is suggest that they should “become fans” of mine. I’ve been using a personal Facebook account all along, because I’d much rather have people call themselves friends. I love the work of so many photographers — every day my RSS feed is filled with stunning new work — but these are my colleagues, not my idols, and I don’t consider myself to be of any different class of person than any other working photographer. In other words, it’s about the work, not about me.

I’ll make an exception for Joe McNally. Not only is his body of work simply ludicrous, but the way he thinks about photography, the art and the work, that skills and artistry need to go hand in hand, resonates deeply with me, and, well, the guy is really, really funny. Still, though, I know I’ve gotten a couple commissions he would have gone nuts over. It’s the photos, not the photographer.

So click “become a fan” if you feel like commenting, but I’ll still consider you a friend. Plus you can always “become a friend” at my sometimes wacky personal Facebook profile.


I’m planning to make my online presence more blog-centric, to intersperse the photos on here with a bit more of myself. I love it when I can feel close to clients on a personal level, and they feel like they understand me a bit. Relationships and comfort are so important in this business, and they make photos better. So I will (probably) not bother you with what I had for lunch, but I will likely write mose philosophically about issues in photography, seeing, and feeling in general.

(I had quiche for lunch).


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The “No-Input Internet” experiment

The 24-inch iAltar

It’s probably no surprise that a guy with a Web column and almost 10,000 pending Flickr friend requests is kind of into the Internet. (I’ll get around to re-adding you guys someday, I promise!) But I don’t know if it’s simple age, life experience, or brain chemicals that finally made me realize that I don’t actually enjoy random Internet browsing. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Internet — it’s amazing. The potential for discovery of new and awesome photography is revolutionary. The WSJ’s Photo of the Day site alone is one of the most well-curated and amazing collections of photography I’ve ever seen, and it’s just stuff that happened yesterday!

But oh, you tempting hyperlinks. You start off at one really useful page, and it links to another, and then another, and before you know it you’re reading a Wikipedia link about the mating habits of the three-toed sloth.

The problem is, what do you do with extra time, a concept I am barely familiar with in the first place? Let’s face it — before Westerners wasted time on the Internet we weren’t all reading Sarte and doing one-handed push-ups. We were wasting time in front of the TV. So I’m taking a week to experiment. I’ll publish any interesting discoveries or photos I happen to take that I wouldn’t have taken otherwise here. Right now this is coinciding with a workout kick, so I find myself of being in the strange position of getting an urge to go to the gym right after I’ve left the gym. If you see me at a wedding and my arms accidentally rip through my shirt, blame this experiment.

Of course, what does it mean for someone with a Web column and a blog to go off-Internet? Not only do I genuinely enjoy posting, it’s my job. There are couples who can’t wait to see themselves here! So I will treat the Internet only as an output device for a week. I’ll blog, Tweet, update Facebook, check e-mail, but I won’t read the Internet other than basic New York Times headlines.

Experiences begin below:

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