Show Your Worst

100 percent out-of-camera (except for border and logo)

I’ve started a new thing this month — posting my day-of slideshows publically to my Facebook.

As a branding idea, photographers are told this is quite possibly the worst thing you can do. You’re supposed to show only your best work, carefully culled and processed to the best of your ability! The very last thing you should show your public are a bunch of pictures you picked out from the thumbnails and are straight out-of-camera, or with less than five seconds of editing. What are you, nuts?

Maybe. Oversharing IS a common photographer’s problem. I certainly remember seeing work of photographers I admire when I was just learning the basics and thinking “Oh my God, they’re human!” if they ever put forth something mediocre.

Everyone takes mediocre photos, of course. I think I took a photo of my foot yesterday, just because it was still there.

But I hope I’m on to something. Wedding photography is Different. It emphasizes consistency in a way no other demanding field does — Good Always will beat Brilliant Sometimes. It’s one of the few fields where it actually really matters how good the 100th best photo was you took that day. These things dovetail into day-of slideshows.

Of course, there are lots of benefits. Clients LOVE seeing photos the next day. You get out of the gate before someone else posts really bad photos to their Facebook and everyone assumes you took them. Everyone loves photos of themselves.

Better, though, doing a good day-of slideshow is HARD. Doing wedding photography right is already really, really hard, and day-of slideshows add a few more “reallys.” Hard is good. Do things that are hard, and you’ll never be shown up by the random guest with the professional gear.

Just this year, I’ve had wedding guests that were professional cinematographers, trained by Ansel Adams, photography teachers at major institutions, and all sorts of other intimidating things. If wedding photography really does flourish under a unique set of skills (I think it does), and if you’re a specialist, you should be aiming to do things they cannot. But those things will be the Hard Things.

I’ve been spending my entire life making things unnecessarily hard on myself. Now I think I’ve finally found a use for it.

Unfortunate Reflection

The cabbie wouldn’t get out of my way in time, so I went with it.

In my twisted mind, this is one of the funniest pictures I’ve ever taken. Good thing the couple has a great sense of humor.

For You Blue

More extreme white balance? Nope — this is exactly what the scene looked like in real life, thanks to the crazy night lights at the High Line.

I’m always looking to do something a little different from the norm with clients, and when it’s warm enough more and more I say "hey, why don’t we do the shoot when it’s pitch black out?" Even popular engagement spots like the High Line take a very different tone at night — during the day, this spot looks like a random airplane hangar.

Thanks, Bill, for holding the Lowel video light on this one!

Some Raw programs are more equal than others

I’ve discussed before the possibilities of using extreme white balance shifts in your photography — it’s a common practice to hit an outdoor subject with amber light on a tungsten setting to make the sky deep blue, like so:

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But why stop there? It’s the digital era. If I’d hit them with a flash gelled deep pink, I could get crazy greens in the background. Or I could make that blue totally saturated.* It’s a way to get that crazy gelled-background look with just one light.

But some raw programs are much better at extreme shifts than others. Adobe Lightroom is great at making things super-warm, going to 50000K, but can only go as cold as to neutralize an old tungsten light bulb — anything lit by red is out of luck.

This isn’t just an issue for your own crazy lighting — if you shoot concerts or anything extremely theatrical, you often have to deal with lighting managers who are clearly on some sort of loosely-controlled substance. That’s where unlimited shifts come into play. RAW Developer is pretty good at this, with an auto setting that will use whatever crazy setting seems right, but is still limited compared to my favorite, Nikon Capture NX. With the “set gray point” option in the white balance, you can set it to essentially anything you want. For example, here’s some crazy lighting from a wedding singer, as it looked in real life:

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Here’s the best that Lightroom could do with it (cropped slightly differently):

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But here’s what a simple adjustment in Capture NX did.

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Look! She has skin tone! See how the open flame went to a crazy green? Non Nikon users may want to try their own maker’s software or RAW Developer.

UPDATE: By popular demand, here is what Apple’s Aperture can do. This actually taught me something I didn’t know — in Aperture, the white balance dropper can get you into extremes that the slider alone can’t do. While the settings for this read 2000K, -150, it was actually far more extremely shifted than if you had just manually moved the slider.

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*(Be careful lighting with greenish tones, it can highlight skin imperfections)

Hello (again)!

I was trying to get this a BIT more finished before the Grand Opening, but I’ve been blessed with an incredibly busy shooting schedule, and wanted to give new readers some content to look at. For now, here are some links to “Brenizer Method” content!

As some of you might have realized, despite the PhotoJojo title, this is all about LESS depth of field than is normally possible, not more.

Here are some images that show off the technique (You can also search Flickr:)

Wedded Bliss

A Bridge Just Right

Blossoming.

The Dreaming Tree

New Life to a Tomb

A New World

While the Iron is Hot

Ceci n'est pas une photographie

REPOST: Jill and David

(Most of my posts from March until August are only on the Amazon blog, but I have a few on local draft:)

I got the rare pleasure of second-shooting a wedding with Dave Robbins, the fantastic union of Jill and David. (And that’s Dav-eed, he’s French). I don’t get to second-shoot much for the best of possible reasons — I have too many of my own weddings to shoot — but it’s always fun when I can to try new things, feel my way through a different pace, and just see things from a different angle. There’s no slideshow this time, so I included slightly more photos than normal.

The wedding itself was a fantastic ceremony overlooking the city from the Hotel on Rivington, after which all of the guests marched through town behind a group of musicians, ending up at the stunning Angel Orensanz Foundation. From there it was a big, unending party, with a fantastic band, a musical interlude where the flower girls sang a song the groom’s father had written, and great speeches. In my favorite moment of the night, as one of the best men was giving a speech, his daughter crawled up the stage, tugged on his pants leg, and wouldn’t let go until she was picked up. I love the natural searching instinct of children, and am probably doomed when I have my own, since I spend so much time silently hoping they never do what they’re told.

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Mystery Must-Have Lens Arrived!

(testing out the post-via-iPhone goodness … it’s good to have a supported blog!)

I just got a package in with a Nikon lens i will review. At first glance, i’d have to say this might be the one lens I recommend to just about every last Nikon DSLR user. Any guesses?

Their Middle Name

Their Middle Name

Not only are they hot, not only are they world-travelers, but they’re getting married today! I can’t wait to spend the day with this fantastic couple.

Living in Art

You know you have a power couple when you take them to the celebrated scultpture on the Metropolitain Museum of Art’s rooftop and they say “Oh, that reminds me! We should invite the artist to the wedding!”

Nicole and John, 7/10/09

View the slideshow of this wedding here!

It POURED during our vendor meeting at New Rochelle’s Beckwith Pointe, like it did through most of June and July here. The skies were opened, the venue’s gorgeous view looked gray and muddy. “Don’t worry,” the manager said. “I promise there will be sun on the wedding day. I will make it so.”

Good job, guy. The wedding day was sunny and bright. Spirits were high, and only got higher as the night went on. Their families were incredibly close-knit — the very manly best man brother was nothing but sincere, open and emotional during his speech, no embarrassing stories in sight.

Congratulations!

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Amy and Mike: 7.25.09

View the slideshow of this wedding here!

Mike and Amy’s wedding was multifaceted. On the one hand you had the consummate planning, the beautiful Prince George Ballroom, the guests and wedding party looking gorgeous and dapper, a touching, deep-felt Catholic mass in a beautiful church … and on the other hand you had a room full of people with such intense energy and joy that there was no point in containing it. When I finally realized that nothing short of an Act of God would tame the wedding party for a group shot, and realized that Mike and Amy weren’t the type of people to want a tame shot anyway … I went with it.

“OK … you two kiss. The rest of you? Without causing injury, be as rowdy as possible.”

The floodgates opened, and from then on the wedding was more thrill ride than work (but they usually are … shhhh, don’t tell anyone I enjoy my job so much).

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Rules for Shooting Group Photos

The Ties that Bind

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Hard-tested lens review: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G

If you’re into photography, you’re probably familiar with the common format of lens reviews: Walk around with it for a few days, subject it to lab tests, shoot some brick walls to test distortion, and pass judgement.

Well, most of us don’t actually shoot brick walls for fun or profit, so I decided to be slightly more thorough with my testing of Nikon’s 24-70mm f/2.8G. Here was my method: Use it for 20 months on countless assignments, take nearly 200,000 photos with it, and grind it down from overuse until it began to fall apart in my hands, the rubber zoom ring falling off, and then the lens breaking entirely. So I know a few things about this lens.

When the 24-70 came out, it was overshadowed by the more shocking announcements of the Nikon D3 and the 14-24mm f/2.8. Whereas the 14-24 seemed to break the laws of physics, 24-70 is a fairly pedestrian range, and it may have seemed like catch-up to Canon’s, which was released in 2002.

This is unfortunate. The 14-24 is amazing, and helped win me a major award, but let’s face it — on a full-frame sensor, it’s a novelty lens with insane perspective distortion, and with a heavy, fragile front element. 24-70mm, though, is a range where the actual work gets done, where you can take photos that are more about the scene and less about wide-angle distortion or extreme telephoto compression. On a DX camera, it acts like a 36mm-105mm. That’s a range that lens-makers deliberately make anymore, but it makes for a fantastic range for portraits, from full-body to head-and-shoulders.

So, if the range is useful, how is the lens itself? Darned well one of the best lenses I have ever used, absolutely astonishing for a zoom. Let’s get into why.

For samples, here are hundreds of images I’ve taken with the 24-70.

The Bad:
(I’m listing this first, because the good list is way too long.)

•It’s a big, heavy beast. Slimmer and longer than the 28-70 it replaced, it’s still something that instantly will cause wrist strain if you hold a camera with one hand. It’s too big to be well-balanced on cameras like the D700 without an integrated vertical grip, so either a big camera or attaching a separate grip is recommended.

•Barrel distortion at 24mm, particularly when close-focusing. It’s not awful, but is definitely noticeable. If you’re shooting architecture or you really are into brick walls, you’ll need some software to straighten out your lines.

Also, I’m not the only person who’s had the rubber zoom-ring problem, though I’ve only heard of it from among seriously heavy users.

The Good:

Focus acquisition: Holy cow. This of course depends on the camera you’re using and your technique, but with the excellent system of the D3 as a baseline, this lens focuses more quickly and accurately than anything else I’ve used except exotic, extremely expensive telephotos like the 200mm f/2. The focus locks immediately and is deadly accurate. The error rate even in challenging conditions for me is well under one percent.

Color: I have never even given a serious thought to lens color transmission before using the 24-70. For me, either a lens was bad and turned your images muddy or yellow or it worked right. But right from the first picture, and across a number of different cameras, the color of photos taken with the 24-70 has been vibrant and accurate.

Build quality: Admittedly, began to stick on me — after I’d banged it into hundreds of walls, tossed it into my bag countless times, shot in the cold, in ludicrous humidity, on the beach, and done everything you’re never supposed to do with expensive gear. It’s a tank.

Sharpness: Very, very sharp, even wide-open. Certainly enough for the D3’s 12-megapixel sensor, and stopped down it should match even the megapixel monster that is the D3X

When you put lens sharpness and focus acquisition together, you get something that you can’t see in lab tests — your images of challenging scenes will tend to be sharper than any other similar lens I’ve used. The Nikon 17-55 is pretty good, but the 24-70 schools it in accuracy. Whether this lens will make your pictures better is up to you and your composition, but it will definitely make them sharper and more colorful.

The final word is this: I don’t like zooms. They’re too big, they’re not light-sensitive enough, and they don’t have the depth-of-field control I crave. But I cannot ever let this lens out of my bag.