Photos of the Day: Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work @ Fordham U

I got my start in photojournalism and spent years working for Columbia University as a photographer, doing mostly documentary work, so I’m glad to intersperse my wedding work with institutional clients, and particularly my undergraduate alma mater and frequent client Fordham University. And there’s nothing more fun in the corporate photography world than being handed a broad assignment with “tell a good story.” So I had a great time covering the recent “Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day.” Fordham did their best to make this a great experience for the kids while keeping the cogs of the university turning, with tours and events all over campus to show them different facets of Fordham professional life. Here is a sample of the day:

Students wander the halls of WFUV, Fordham’s acclaimed radio station

Students, with new t-shirts, watch a chemistry demonstration

Goggles upon glasses.

A student makes sure his work is right as they test acids versus bases.

Rapt attention.

Students make their own races during the roll call.

Doing their best to put themselves in sugar shock at a “Make Your Own Cupcake” station

Students race at the ROTC demonstration

Reporting for duty

Wedding: Sameepa and Beeren. 4.3.10

I always love getting calls from Preeti, the head coordinator at Spotlight Style, because I know it will be an over-the-top gorgeous, meticulously planned South Asian wedding, with all the colors and fun and detailed ceremonies that entails. But this time, the bride Preeti’s own sister, so I knew it would be as gorgeous and wild a wedding as I had ever seen. And boy was it.

Like so many great love stories, Sameepa and Beeren’s begins in the dentist’s office. She was his patient, and apparently he did a great job, because Sameepa has a killer smile.

Believe it or not, all of the photos below are from only one day of three. It was wonderful to get to know the family during the sangeet and the mehndi, as well as the first birthday of Sameepa’s nephew, all in the course of a week. By the time the wedding started, it felt like I was among friends as well as clients. The ceremony and reception were at espace, a fantastic event space that made a perfect canvas for Spotlight Style’s design skills and incredible floral arrangements. The ceremony was a traditional Hindu ceremony, which I always love to shoot because so many of the tiniest gestures have incredible meaning, from light touches to the materials used to a sharing of the first meal.

And then it was time to party. From the moment the music started to the end of the night, the huge dance floor was packed to capacity, and it got just a *bit* wild, as you’ll see below. Congratulations, you two, and thank you!

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HD Slideshow: Sameepa and Beeren

From some perspectives, I am a terrible businessman. I always approach my client offerings with “What would I want from a wedding photographer?” and often throw things in because I think they’re cool, for free. Photos want to be seen large. They want room to breathe, they want to run around on mountaintops and sing. So I decided to make my life a bit more interesting and design my post-wedding slideshows to be not just bigger, but HDTV compliant. And what a wedding to start with — the bigger-than-life multi-day Indian wedding of Sameepa and Beeren! See it here in 720p HD or see it smaller if it’s just too much of their awesomeness for your screen.

Touché, Time Warner

If anyone out there was placing an over/under on what it would take to get me to break my stream of daily content, here is your answer: Time-Warner Cable. Having no Internet in the office makes it awfully hard to run a business over the Internet.

On the plus side, when I return, I’ll be returning with a gorgeous Indian wedding. And as always previews from recent shoots are featured at my Facebook page, including a fun engagement shoot in Park Slope from Friday.


Workshop recap!

Immediately after February’s “Creativity on the Fly” workshop, I got lots of messages from people wishing they could have made it. Free weekends are a rare commodity for me, but luckily I had one more before the season exploded and got a bunch of great photographers together for a day of discussing advanced techniques to make the most out of bad situations. I figure any workshop can take you to a fabulous beachfront estate, but what happens when you come back to real life, and all you have to work with is five minutes and a parking lot? I am lucky to work with Philip Stark in his studio, which is a great place to meet, but it’s almost TOO fantastic, so we spent the day looking for the least photogenic parts of the building and discussing what we could do with them.

Again, I want to say what an honor it is to have people come from across the country and the world to hear me prattle on for a day or two. Some people have asked me why I’ve started to do workshops when I have some rather well-documented gripes with the photography workshop industrial complex. First, it’s really, really fun. Second, it lets me try to address those problems by simply doing things the way I want. But lastly, the more I teach the more I realize that it is going to make me a much better photographer. I do so much client work that sometimes I don’t get the chance to step back and look at what I do from a different perspective. Teaching forces me to do that, to break down what I do and why I do it instead of just, you know, doing it. And by making me put this in some sort of sensible framework so people can reliably see whether a given workshop will be helpful for them or not, it has made me think about exactly the message I want to put out in the world, what things are valuable for me to teach.

Few things break my heart more than hearing people say “I wish you’d taken my wedding photos. We hate ours.” I think that wedding photography is important, and I want as many people as possible to love their photos, whether or not I took them. And I want as many people as possible to stay in love with the process of photography. And so, whenever I can find time within my packed photography schedule, I teach.

Here some of the workshoppers gather for the day. None of them seemed to need nearly as much coffee as I did to start at 9 a.m. Hmmm…

I always want to do these with people I’m comfortable with, so the day was filled with people who have been featured on this blog before, such as my friend Rochelle, who made a fabulous model. On the left she is looking cheeky for a Brenizer Method demonstration (I took the class through the whole process, from visualizing to stitching and output) and on the right we are mixing ambient and off-camera flash.

It was brisk, but much warmer than February, so we headed outside for some flash composites. This is three frames used for stark contrast with the ambient light.

And here is our “wedding party.” Flash composites are great for group shots, and here it wasn’t used as starkly, just to provide attractive light and better contrast. Again, I took the class through everything from pre-visualizing to the (very fast and easy) photoshop output.

Here I was doing a quick demonstration of Auto-FP flash, using 1/8000th of a second to bring the room ambient to blackness.

Then we moved on to couples, including my intern Isla and her husband Dan. I put them in the only part of the studio you would never want to photograph in — the kitchen we had just made dirty. To bring down the background, I stuck three flashes outside the window, mimicking bright daylight and getting interesting textures from the bars on the window.

Our next couple was the amazing Kindiya and Thomas, otherwise known as “The Couple on the Rocks.” Now we went to the ugliest part of the whole building, a nasty stairway where, Thomas noted, it looked like they were about to conduct a drug deal. Although, I said, it also looked like a place where a couple might actually make out. I don’t know anybody who spends a lot of time making out in front of gazebos. Off-camera flash and some movement to blur the shadows brought the effect here.

Here we used a very warm tungsten video light to cool the puke-green ambient into a nice turquoise. And you can see all the voyeurs in the class.

The sun came out and I showed the class how to kill it dead. f/22 wasn’t nearly dark enough for the effect I want, so we used the Sledgehammer of Light and Auto-FP to shoot at 1/8000th, f/6.3. That sky is straight out-of-camera. No HDR here.

Then we used the dramatic effect with flash compositing to light the couple from the left.

Then I wanted to show how to work when you had very, very little time, such as when you are holding an elevator. Yes, the “shaft of light” from the last post is an elevator shaft. The important thing here is pre-visualizing and then working quickly. We tossed three flashes in the reflective elevator at half power to turn it into a glowing room of white and positioned them right in the doorway. We also had a second, safer shot using video light inside the elevator.

We had a session of free shooting so everyone could work through some of the things they saw, and I took another Brenizer Method shot of Kindiya and Thomas, as well as showing the effects of studio lights (not shown).

Group shot! One of these days I’ll remember to do a group shot at the beginning, before many of the workshoppers leave.

Thanks so much everyone! This is probably the last weekend workshop I can host for a long time, but I’ll put together a weekday one aimed squarely at wedding photographers, covering business as well as wedding-specific issues, in the mid to late summer.

Photo of the Day: Greetings from the Workshop!

The workshop is going really well, and, being the technophile I am, I’m using the lunch break to post a quick picture. Here we used flash composites to create a quick “wedding party” photo. If only more brides wore leopard print dresses like Rochelle.

Photo of the Day: Great Things Ahead

I am extremely excited to a) have my workshop coming up this weekend and b) have Sameepa and Beeren’s wedding in the pipeline. This is going to be fun.

Photography tip: Fun with t-stops

Here’s a quick descent into geekdom. I’ve seen hundreds of new macro lens owners run to me with the same question: "When I focus closely, my maximum aperture closes a LOT! Is my lens broken? Was it made cheaply?"

Nope. In fact, your aperture isn’t really changing at all. All that happens is that to come up with a good, general-purpose macro design, there is a trade-off that at super-close distances, a "bellows effect" means that the lens is less effective at transmitting light. (Something that’s measured in t-stops) Note, though, that the aperture of the lens isn’t closing down (measured in f-stops). But new lenses and cameras are smart, so they let you know "Hey! You’re not getting as much light as you might think, and you’ll want to adjust for that!"

Confused yet? Maybe this video will help. We start out with a way-out-of-focus image of a nickel, and there’s a big ol’ blown highlight. Note that as I use the Nikon 60mm AF-S macro to focus all the way in, the exposure gets darker, and the blown highlight goes away. But the *aperture* doesn’t change — you don’t all of a sudden see more depth-of-field.

So don’t freak out when you buy a new macro, but adjust your ISO or flash power accordingly when shooting close-up.

Photo of the Day: Playing in Traffic

Remember Dora and Josh? We couldn’t get enough of each other, so we went for another round!

A few questions for you: Would you take a photo of a bride and groom in the middle of an active street? Would you take NINETEEN photos of them in the street, to stich them together in a panorama? Well I would.

One more, for those with a good sense of perspective: Dora and Josh are standing in a safe zone called the cross-walk. Where was I standing when I took the nineteen photos? Right, the intersection.

Kids, don’t try this at home.

(Phillip Stark’s) Photos of the Day: Workshop Review

Studio picture by Phillip Stark

Given that this is a blog devoted to my photography, generally I’m going to feature … my photography. But today I have a good excuse. Phillip Stark, owner of 2 Stop Brighter Studios where I conduct my NYC workshops, sent over some great shots of last time. He has a great space over there, and I thank him for all his help!

I am extremely excited for the workshop on Friday and Saturday. We were full to the level I wanted, but there are a couple spaces open now due to two last-minute personal emergencies, so contact me if you’re interested! We’ll be spending a lot of time talking about advanced techniques that can pull off good shots no matter the ambient lighting you have to work with. In addition to all the great things that we did in the February workshop, it will be a bit more intimate, and I promise the weather will be warmer this time. The reviews show happy attendees despite the freezing weather.

There’s a huge hoopla going on right now in the wedding industry about which workshops are rip-offs — 95 percent of you will have never heard of this debate, and you are lucky, as it’s pretty ugly. I don’t have anything to say of consequence, since the alleged scammers are people I’ve never heard of before. But someone exclaimed I was “giving it away!” by offering workshops at $350. Maybe. But I also know how much 10-week courses at the International Center for Photography cost, and they aren’t $30,000. I simply bring the same philosophy to my workshops that I do for my weddings: Price as low as supply and demand will allow me*, and hustle like crazy to do good work. As a long-term strategy of someone who wants to stay in this business for the next 40 or 50 years, and who wants to make sure as many people as possible have great wedding photos, it’s working pretty well.

I’m not alone in this idea. I don’t know any wedding photographer who knows lighting as well as Joe McNally — I mean, really, the guy has evenly lit up coliseum-sized telescopes while standing in a crane — and you might be amazed at the low prices of his workshops. I’m not a rock star, I just know some neat tricks and like to share them. Information wants to be free, I just don’t have quite that much time.

There is also some extremely exciting news to come on the workshop and lecture front, but I can’t tell you yet.

Onto the pictures:

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*I should probably point out that this only works well if, by working hard, you are continually raising demand.