Rebekah and Jonah:8.30.09

I’ve seen a lot of crazy horahs. In fact, if you do a Flickr search for the most interesting photos ever taken tagged “horah,” the top five are all mine! But I have never, ever seen one like Rebekah and Jonah’s. I think it was 20 minutes long. There were fireworks. There were costumes. There were skits. There was enough confetti for a tickertape parade. People were taking rehydrating breaks in the middle just so they could make it through! For more, you’re really going to want to watch the slideshow

In fact, with the coming together of their Jewish religion and Rebekah’s Korean heritage, the entire day was filled with beautiful ritual. They had already been legally married (I shot that ceremony, and was their witness! Full-service photography!) but not an ounce of emotion was held back for first the Jewish ceremonies and then, with a costume change, the Korean ceremonies. At the end of the night, all of the guests gathered around the couple for a Talmudic reading.

Jonah’s father said to me at the end, “I bet you don’t do a lot of weddings like this … or you have a really strange life!”

I can only say, no … no I haven’t, and yes … yes I do.

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A brief bit of gear-geekery

First, I will be at PhotoPlus Expo on Thursday morning, trying out all the new gear for Amazon’s End User blog. I’m sure I’ll want to grab lunch somewhere away from the $8 hot dogs, so let me know if you’ll be there!

Secondly, I finally got around to digging out the credit card, and my studio will have a new team member for the very end of the season (I expect, with my luck, it will arrive right after my last big wedding for the year)

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Yup, I’m moving to an all-massive camera line-up for 2010, and the usable 12,800 ISO of the Nikon D3s is calling to me. I was planning on buying another D3 anyway to supplement by badly beaten and scarred one, and I will be selling my (surprisingly in-good-shape) D700. I got the D700 so that I would have a more portable camera to take around with me, but these days my pocket camera is the Panasonic LX3, and the camera I actually take with me everywhere is the iPhone. My dSLRs are for workin’ these days, and so the esoteric advanced features of the D3 come in handy — the dual CF card slots alone are worth it to me, since I can back up every image I take, as I take them.

Oh, and you can definitely expect me to geek out over the movie mode, too, meaning lots more video content to come.

Untwisting your Lightroom RAW profiles

I loves me some Adobe Lightroom. When you take 200,000+ shots a year, you go for the program with the best ability to take on a massive workflow, and for me, Lightroom is it. But it has a giant problem. In order to get the best color from each camera, Adobe cobbled together color profiles matching what you would get out of the manufacturer’s own profiles, and the color was great. Finally, my reds were red again! But it came at the expense of a few oddities. Highlight clipping became the ugliest rendition I’ve ever seen, and if you wanted to fix that with your handy dandy “highlight recovery” slider? All of your colors would change, and people would go from skin tone to Muppet-land.

Apparently, Adobe has done this on purpose, because it’s easy to fix. Thomas Lester showed me that Adobe was deliberately “twisting” hues as you moved exposure sliders, and that there was a way to untwist them. That way, however, involved a lot of UNIX commands. Now I’m a geek, but I’m what you’d call a middle-range geek. I know some UNIX commands, but it’s not what I consider a good way to spend an evening. So I asked, pretty please, if he could compile “Untwisted” profiles for the D3 and D700 cameras I use.

And what did he do? He compiled them for every camera out there! So if you use Lightroom, and especially if you’re puzzled by color shifts when you use the highlight recovery slider, check out his blog for more information and to download the profiles!

No remember not to throw away your old profiles — Adobe probably has reasons to do the things you do, and you may not be used to the new colors. What I’ve done is start out with everything on the untwisted profiles but keep a normal camera profile option as a quick pre-set, so just one click means I can have both options.

Freyda and Brian: 8.29.09

Few people truly beam like Freyda on her wedding day. Half the time I would look over and she would just be sitting there, wearing a wide smile. And why not? With one of the rare beautiful summer days, and a great wedding at their temple near Princeton, NJ, there were lots of reasons to smile.

Among the many highlights, Brian returned to his former life as a musician, and played a song for the guests with friends and former band-mates. He was excellent, his bandmates were excellent, and his brother, who performed his own song for his best man speech was … hilarious.

As a Saturday wedding in a temple, this was a wedding for night owls like myself. When editing the images, I thought for a second that I’d accidentally set my camera clocks to Newfoundland time. Did the cake-cutting really happen after 1 a.m.? Oh yes, yes it did. And it was delicious.

Congratulations, you two!

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Barbara and Michael: 8.28.09

Talk about turning adversity into a wonderful, amazing wedding! I thought to myself as the day approached: “You know, if there’s one wedding this year where I really don’t want it to rain, it’s this one.” Outdoor ceremony in Central Park followed by a two-hour double-decker bus tour for all of the guests, who except for one person had come from Canada.

So it rained.

But that didn’t get Barbara and Mike down. Was it the Canadian spirit? The can-do attitude of the two architects? Or maybe it was that Plan B was The Plaza! I was picturing the reactions of Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway’s characters in Bride Wars when they found out that the Plaza was Plan B.

With lots and lots of ponchos, the tour still happened, followed by a great dinner and reception near the High Line. Even better, we had already scheduled a day-after shoot, and the rain had already given way.

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Ryan Brenizer Photography

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Let’s get ready for CONTENT!

I used to stare at blank newspaper layouts every day, wondering what the heck I was going to put in them. Blogging as a constantly working photographer is a different story: there is SO MUCH to share that not only is there not enough time, it’s easy to intimidate yourself: “Out of the thousands of shots I’m proud of, is *this* what I should post in expense of others? Is it weird to post at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday?”

Next week, I’m running a marathon. Not a real one, but it’s my last three-wedding weekend of the year, with the last sure to be one of my longest-ever working days. Before that, I will be plying you with all sorts of gear geekery from New York’s Photoplus Expo.

But I want to tell some stories about the great weddings I’ve had the pleasure to shoot! So I’m vowing here and now to blog at least four weddings between now and PhotoPlus on Thursday. Even if, to get there, I will have to start drinking coffee that was made out of grinding coffee beans in existing coffee.

As a reward, I will pre-order a new Nikon D3s for next season. Ok, I would do that anyway, but let me incentivize!

Jessica and Matthew: 8.22.09

Jessica and Matthew’s wedding, in the very cool Smack Mellon gallery in Brooklyn was hot in every conceivable way. Hot couple, hot wedding part, and weather hot enough to make me sweat just thinking back to it. Luckily, though, everyone kept their cool. Doubtless the tiny ice-cream cones used as after-dinner snacks helped.

For the photo-geeks out there, I mixed it up a little bit for this wedding, and shot with both Nikon and Canon cameras. See if you can tell the difference.

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Ryan Brenizer Photography

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Belhurst Castle

Ryan Brenizer Photography

I was thrilled* to shoot a wedding at the gorgeous Belhurst Castle in the Finger Lakes region on Sunday. I couldn’t resist sneaking out during the reception and getting a good long-exposure shot. I love how a bright enough exposure gets you the stars there — unlike, say, anywhere within an hour of New York City’s light pollution.

*and chilled — outdoor ceremony plus 48 degrees and windy keeps you on your toes!

Night’s Spectrum

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Posted a little bigger than normal. Sometimes images have so much going on that they need room to breathe.

Dinah and Ludlow: 8.20.09

Dinah and Ludlow had a great, low-key wedding at Long Island’s Fox Hollow resort. Religion is central to their lives, so the church ceremony was a big part of the evening, featuring unbelievably good singing from several members of the wedding party. I’ll probably pester the videographer to give me a copy of the recordings, because man they were good.

On a hot summer night, the reception was mostly focused on sharing good food and conversation with loved ones, and we ended the night with a quick but really fun portrait session. Congratulations!

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Love in the Time of Composites

Ryan Brenizer Photography

I suppose my style is to hold as light a touch as possible on post-processing … but if I do, do it like I mean it, which is to set up shots with the post-processing already in mind. The “Brenizer Method,” of course, relies on Photoshop. I actually am coming up with ideas now to use specific compositions and techniques to breathe some new life into a Photoshop technique that photographers tend to revile, but more on that later. In this case, I shot this as a composite of four frames, using just one little speedlight to light the couple.

I like to travel light, especially on engagement shoots. In New York, there are plenty of places where if you set up a light stand and a tripod, you will be swarmed by police, park officials, and in one case a National Guardsman with a machine gun. Yikes. But I love the light-canceling effects of big lights. The way to get there with a small light is to get in really close. The way to do that with freedom while not getting in the frame? Composite.

Of course, composites require tripods, and you remembered what I said about the guys with machine guns, right? In this case, I stood the camera on my rolling camera bag and propped up the lens with a lens hood. Wedding photographers are McGuyver at heart.

FYI: Not HDR. All of the frames were at the same exposure settings.

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Ryan Brenizer Photography

It was a good thing we got in one last wedding photo before the sun went supernova.

Lit by two SB-900s held my assistant on left and aimed to get all the faces (no easy task), each at half power.

Studio Grand Opening!

Last night, I had a Grand Opening of my new studio on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It’s so convenient to be closer to the action, right down the street from many of my clients. I was really proud of how we put the night together, mostly due to the efforts of food writer and culinary student Rochelle Bilow (who has a great new blog, by the way). I mean, let’s face it, left up to my own devices I probably would have served chips and dip. Instead we had a home-made spread of curry, za’atar and lavendar-brown sugar puff pastry straws, foie gras mousse and jam sandwiches on white bread, and honey-baked figs stuffed with pancetta! Now that’s a party.

It was such a great feeling to see everyone who came, including a number of couples whose weddings I’ve shot! I’ve always felt that my couples, being awesome people, would get along well together, and that proved to be true. I figured people would come, mill around a bit, enjoy the food and leave, since it was a Sunday night, but we all stayed around talking and laughing until almost midnight!

One really fun revelation that came up in conversation: I am apparently so unobtrusive on the wedding day that people get worried. A few of my clients have had people come up to them and say “I think your photographer is missing shots! His flash isn’t going off!” (I was either using ambient or bouncing it so it wasn’t in their eyes.) And one couple said “We knew to trust you, especially after the engagement shoot, but talked afterward that we really hadn’t noticed you around much. But then our friends posted photos of the wedding on facebook, and you were like three feet from us in each one!” There is a reason that ninjas and wedding photographers both wear black.

I’ve been so blessed to get to spend important days with so many wonderful people. It’s crazy to think how fast things have taken off. I wasn’t someone who picked up a camera for the first time and said “OK, how do I turn this thing on? Found it! Now … let’s shoot some weddings!” It was only two and a half years ago, after having already covered two U.S. presidents and a few Nobel prize-winners, that I said to myself, “You know, I think I could photograph a wedding and not ruin the most important day of someone’s life.” Careers in this business usually start slowly because of the long booking cycle and importance of word-of-mouth, so it astounds me to think that in the time since, I have photographed more than 100 weddings.

And now, finally, I am dipping my toes into some new areas. After shooting hundreds of thousands of wedding photos a year, after inventing and popularizing a new photography techique, I think maybe … maybe … I could teach some photographers some new tricks, ideas, or even just help them maintain that sense of fun and passion that is so important to me. I’ve already done one casual workshop in New Orleans, with a second get-together in Chicago next month, but watch this space for more systematic workshops come January. Shooting weddings is my greatest passion, and I’m not going to slow down my booking cycle to teach but, as they say … winter happens.

I was spending my time as a host, but I took a few quick snapshots:



View from the entrance



The viewing wall



Rochelle’s puff-pastries



Rochelle tastes her creations



Thomas opens the wine



Assorted appetizers



Thomas with Kindiya and … Thomas



Jasmine with Emilie and Noel



Brendan, Thomas, and John



Brendan likes to get his Halloween on early

Getting excited…

The Grand Opening soirée of my new Upper East Side studio is in 90 minutes! More to come…