Cai and Johnny’s Wedding at the Dyker Beach Country Club

One of the fantastic things about working out of NYC is that I feel like a specialist in about 18 different cultures. I sometimes know the ins and outs of Jewish and Hindu ceremonies better than the people getting married; I can tell you how to set a table for a Basque wedding, and I absolutely knew that Cai and Johnny were going to have a fantastic day with their East-meets-West wedding at Dyker Beach. I always get a big kick out of the Door Games that traditional Chinese weddings make the groom and his groomsmen go through — whether or not they were fans of having to put on lingerie and drink increasingly disgusting liquids so that Johnny could meet his waiting bride.

The day itself was great — fantastic weather and a very strong sense of family. In most big weddings there are guests who the couple doesn’t know so well, but here I could see their connection with everyone they talked to. There we plenty of Western touches as well, from her gown to their friend officiating the ceremony with his iPad.

March 18-19: Ryan Brenizer Workshops Go to Hollywood (or at least Burbank)

(Not that Hollywood)

I’ve gotten a lot of requests to do workshops outside the NYC area, and I did a test seminar in New Orleans back in 2009, but I wanted to wait until I could be sure I could take this show on the road and do a great job with it.

March 18th and 19th are that time.

This workshop, “What Would MacGyver Do?” will take some of the best things I’ve learned in the shooting and business workshops I led in 2010, as well as all of the preparation work I did for my DWF lecture in January. We’ll be taking the kinds of real-world problems that wedding and portrait photographers deal with all the time — bad light, not enough time, bad locations, awkward subjects, and more — and working through them to get technically and emotionally compelling photographs. Recommended for people-shooters who can at least count upward in f-stops.

This is a night-and–day workshop, with the night of the 18th given to networking and discussions of the hows and whys of shooting professionally. I take great care to make sure that people can get benefits not only from me, but from lasting connections to other photographers with shared skills and interests, and it’s been great to see lasting friendships come out of previous workshops.

Cost is just $500 for registration before March 1, and $600 thereafter. E-mail to sign up or get more information.

Fun fact: This will be the first of my workshops planned by more than one Brenizer.

UPDATE: I should note that with my current schedule I won’t be doing many workshops this year. My current plans are one West Coast workshop, one East Coast workshop, and one in December in Asia. Going to be another busy year with lots of fantastic clients.

Stepping Out

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One thing about being a wedding photographer is that you spend a lot of time in hotel rooms, thinking about how to photograph in them, the lighting of them, the obstacle of overcrowding … but it’s the one part of the wedding day that is always, always at daytime.* So with the modicum of free time I had in my recent trips to Texas, I’ve been playing with shooting in relative darkness, giving me total control over the light I do and do not want.

Lens: 35mm f/1.4
Camera: Nikon D3s
Lighting: Litepanel MicroPro backlighting.

*Assuming you aren’t photographing in the Arctic Circle.

We’ve Finally Met

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They came from a LONG way to find each other. I can’t tell you more, since their family might not know they’re engaged yet.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Lens: 70-200mm VR II
Camera: Nikon D3s


Here’s a little side-project I’ve been working on with photographer Kyle Hepp and the input of lots of other photographers:, a new blog featuring the most tender, most quirky, most hilarious, most joyful, most heartbreaking images we can find from photographers all over the globe!

“Now Ryan,” you say, “You’re extremely busy, is it wise to spend time on a site mostly promoting the work of other photographers?”

I don’t know, from a business sense. But this is important to me. Beyond all the cool portraits and fun techniques and quirky compositional trends, weddings are about people, and the way they relate to each other. They are key points in the histories not just of brides and grooms, but of friends and families. I remember my aunt’s wedding where I first learned my love for the dance floor, where my mother broke my cousin’s foot on said dance foor, where we dinged the glasses so hard we shattered three of them. I remember my mother marrying my step-father where my family did The Wave during the ceremony. And yes, I still remember my own wedding, and I treasure so many of the photos of it even if the relationship was not meant to be, because they showed joyful, tearful, and crazy sides of so many people I hold dear.

Despite what a hundred reality shows will tell you, weddings are about people. The rest is just window dressing. Viva la revolución.

A Warm Moment

It was a cold night for Austin, but Steven saved the day with chivalry.

20-shot Brenizer method, basically no light at all. (ISO 12,800 — panoramas reduce noise)

Lens: Sigma 85mm f/1.4
Camera: Nikon D3s

Mystery and Melancholy

I spend so much of my professional life managing the thinly controlled chaos of weddings that it makes me want to take whatever chances I can get to exercise total control. Of course the problem is that I LOVE the chaos; I find studio portraiture relatively uninteresting. So I figured I could split the difference, bending existing locations to create pre-conceived scenery, even if it means my assistant and I throwing towels over half of the light fixtures in a hotel hallway.

These days, it’s easier and easier to take great shots of people, especially with a subject like Claudia, so I’m increasingly interested in photos that bring up the question “Why is this beautiful person in fabulous clothes here?” And whether the question is overtly answered or not, I want that answer to be something more than “because a photo was being taken.” I have some personal projects in mind that will explore this in-depth, but we’ll see when that happens — 2011 has again blessed me with lots of amazing clients.

The lighting in this one, like in yesterday’s photo, is using a very low-powered Litepanel Micropro as a main (here with a warm gel) and the light from a TV as the kicker/background light. It’s motivational light, making sense with the scene, and gone are the days when you had to fake TV light with bright blue-gelled hot-lights — now I can just use ISO 3200 and f/1.4.

Lens: 35mm f/1.4
Camera: Nikon D3s

Bokeh-Clad Beauty

I have a strong artistic bias toward doing things I haven’t done before, and a stronger ones to trying things I’ve never even seen before.

I’d love to see someone guess the lighting on this one.

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS (freelensed)
Lighting: You tell me.

Michelle and Kunal’s Hyatt Regency Wedding

I call it the quickest renewing of vows I’ve ever seen. After Kunal and Michelle married each other in a beautiful Hindu ceremony at the Hyatt Regency, they changed, gathered their guests, and married each other again in a stunning Catholic church, before heading back to the Hyatt to party the night away.

And so this wedding had everything, from the gorgeous color and raucous energy of an Indian wedding — including Kunal’s processional on a horse — to the couple looking fantastic in Western style in the evening. Horses, Banghra dancers, fireworks … oh my.

As you might imagine, having two weddings back-to-back made for a long day, but people were having way too much fun to slow down, especially with Michelle and Kunal’s epic dance-off. I won’t say here who got served.

Wedding: Stephanie and Rob at TriBeCa RoofTop

It was a no-brainer that Stephanie and Rob’s wedding would be fantastic. We had a memorable engagement shoot, they had fantastic taste in venue, and it’s always a pleasure to work with the great planning team at Private Receptions again. But it was all of the little things throughout the day that kept taking things to the next level — Stephanie’s fantastic retro-modern style, an easygoing nature that kept both of them laughing even through the ceremony, and a great atmosphere.

People ask me how I stay energized through the physically and mentally demanding task of shooting a wedding, but with clients like this, how could I not?

Quick Review: Nikon SB-700

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Specs and purchasing info

sb700_front.jpgI love speedlights. I know I am not alone in my passion, but speedlights and I have a deep relationship, given the idiosyncrasies of my career, especially that:

  1. I shoot a lot of jobs — I recently went back and counted just the wedding-related shoots from 2010 (weddings, engagement shoots, and a few workshops), and came up with 131. Whew.

  2. If the light isn’t what I want it to be in a location, I will very happily make my own, and
  3. I live in central Manhattan, so I don’t own a car. The rental agents know me by name, but if I can, I always want to use just the gear that I can carry around with me.

So these incredibly versatile little guys without external battery packs, separate heads or tiny, exposed, easily breakable parts are often my best friend, and I try not to break out my studio lights unless I have a really good reason.

I currently use SB-900s across the board, and I’m crazy about them except that they’re a bit too large for the power they put out (the SB-800s are smaller and a bit more powerful), so when I heard that Nikon was releasing a new flash that offered most of the SB-900 benefits and a smaller size, I had to get my hands on one.

The SB-700 is the new entry in Nikon’s mid-range, replacing the SB-600. But it’s far better to simply think of this as a baby SB-900, since it has much more in common with Nikon’s flagship flash than with the one it replaces. The SB-600 was meant to be a basic flash, introduced before Nikon had added the truly basic SB-400 to the line, just to get the remarkable accuracy of the i-TTL automatic exposure system into people’s hands as cheaply as possible. It provided great exposures, and worked well as a slave in the Nikon CLS off-camera-flash system, but did little else. It couldn’t function as a master, so if you only had SB-600s they would have no way of talking to each other; it had a rudimentary interface, and was a bit fragile.

In contrast, the SB-700 brings almost all of the advantages of the 900, such as:

  • Knowing the difference between DX and full-frame cameras, and shaping the light beam accordingly

  • A head that swivels in both directions (A big advantage over even the SB-800)
  • Much better ergonomics, both in the menu system, and in the feel of the flash overall (although with my brand-new model, the battery door and head were a bit stiff)

    And the 700 even has a few big advantages over it’s big brother, especially its smaller size and an even better system for switching between flash modes, with a dedicated switch on the side of the monitor:


    There are two big drawbacks, though. The first is that this flash has no PC sync, so if you’re a lover of PocketWizards, this is probably not the flash for you. There seems to be little reason for this omission other than market differentiation. With all of the benefits in inherits from the SB-900 in a smaller size, I’m picturing Nikon execs sitting around and wondering why new photographers would buy the bigger, more expensive SB-900 at all. “I’ve got it! Take out the PC Sync! That will keep the Strobists paying more!”

    Happily, though, the SB-700 DOES have optical slaving, so you can use it in an array of off-camera flash situations without even if you don’t like Nikon CLS. (I love it).

    Finally, the SB-700 is not super-powerful, with even slightly less maximum output than the SB-600. In the photo below, Claudia is being lit by two flashes — an SB-700 is lighting her face, and an SB-900 is lighting her body, both at 1/2 power. You can see that the light on her body is a bit brighter — well within the camera’s latitude, but I’ve kept the hot-spot in for display purposes. Still, the SB-700 is powerful enough to expose her properly at 1/2 power, even though this was shot at f/22, ISO 200.

    I figured Claudia was a bit more interesting than a brick wall.

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    The SB-700 also ships with the same sort of “smart gels” that were introduced with the SB-900 — essentially, if you put a tungsten gel on your flash, your camera’s auto white balance will adjust accordingly. I still like to have control, though, and in the photo at top I set the WB dial down to 2500K to turn the mid-day sky an interesting shade of blue, while still putting a flattering warm light on Claudia.

    If you were going to buy an SB-600, save up and get this instead. It’s much more versatile as a flash, insanely more versatile as part of a system of multiple flashes, and the ergonomics will save you some headaches.

    If you are a PocketWizard-loving manual-flash-only guy, you would probably be better served by either the 900 or even cheap, syncable flashes like this one.

    Will I buy it? Probably not. My kit isn’t portable anyway, and I’m already optimized around the SB-900. But I think that for your average user who wants to get better light without much hassle and wants a flash that gives them the option of building a system later, this will be a fantastic tool.