Stating he usually doesn’t do product reviews, Sean calls the system “my new best friend, seriously.” Looks like this wedding photography team is just beginning to enjoy their entry into the world of PocketWizard. Congrats, and welcome, Catyons!
'Wedding Photography' Category
When Southern California native Jasmine Star married her high school sweetheart in Hawaii, she flew Santa Barbara-based photographer David Jay in to document her wedding. Not only was she starting a new life as a married woman, but this vendor in particular helped influence a change in her career choice. “Seeing what he did, and how passionate he was, and how he had created a living for himself was incredible,” she says. “By seeing him, that’s what actually turned me on to photography.”
Finding a wedding photographer who will not only document the most important day of your life, but inspire you to follow in his footsteps is something brides don’t set out to do consciously. Star did a Google search on “wedding photojournalism.” On page 67 of returned results, she found Jay, who was chosen above island-based photographers. “I just became smitten with who he was, not necessarily who he was as a photographer,” she says. Going with her instinct, she valued the relationship with the photographer as an individual above the samples of photographs he presented. “I felt like that experience has made or set the precedent for the type of experience I want to establish with my brides. I would prefer they would become interested in me as a person and then become interested in me as a photographer. I think that’s become a defining point in my business structure.”
Exclusively a wedding photographer, Star knows her clients are purchasing her services one time only, and much hinges on the relationship she builds with future brides. Being the same age and interested in many of the same things helps establish the bond she seeks with new potential clients. “The more we are alike, the more she’ll value her experience, and therefore her photos,” reasons Star. In October of 2006 she shot her first three weddings. In 2007 Star shot for 38 wedding clients based on word of mouth.
A strong believer in social media, Star has embraced an online persona which has at times threatened to be more visible than her in-demand photography. This started simply by her blogging about the journey she undertook to become a photographer, from learning how to use her new camera to her first solo shoot. “For some reason, people started reading,” she recalls. “Those people started referring their cousins or their friends. It became a source of business and a megaphone for who I was as a person, not as a photographer because back then, I really wasn’t a photographer. I was struggling to become one.”
If Star has hitched her wagon to her brand, social media is the road the pair travels. “I put myself on the Web every single day,” she reveals. “I’m constantly updating my Web site. I blog every single day. I’m updating Twitter a few times a day. I have a Facebook fan page with over 1500 people, and I want to make sure conversations are going on there.” She also dropped her maiden name for her middle name to help her brand. “Jasmine Star is my first and middle name. I think it works very well for the business.”
Star attended Whittier College and got a degree in Business Administration. Dating her future husband J.D. throughout her college years, they started the photography business together. As a gift, he would rent her time in darkroom when he could afford it. J.D. also bought her the first digital camera she owned in 2005. She now shoots entirely digitally. The two travel together and work weddings as a team. “He kind of stands in the background and puts on a 70 to 200mm lens, and he just shoots the day away,” she says. “I love his eye. It’s great. We balance each other.”
Shooting a Canon EOS 5D Mark II as her main body and a series of prime lenses, including a 15mm f/1.2, an EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM, and an EF 85mm f/1.2 II USM. She claims being forced to physically move toward and away from her subjects creates a level of connectivity with her clients which has helped define her style.
Seeing herself as a photographer, and not a Photoshop artist, Star tries to achieve her goals in-camera before post-processing work begins. “Just because you can run an image through Lightroom, then process it through Photoshop, then add textures and add saturation, doesn’t mean you should,” she says. “I’m constantly looking for good light and constantly working on my exposures.” She tries to emulate film as much as possible while shooting.
Always aware of light, Star works with what she’s provided during daytime weddings. “I try to look for what I refer to as natural reflectors: a natural reflector coming from any sort of wall or gravel on the floor—any time I can find a reflective element that has any type of warmth. I’ll prefer to use a not‑so‑great location with amazing reflective light, versus a great location with mediocre light. A brick wall or terracotta walls or that kind of orangey-type of gravel on the floor that can still reflect sunlight and pop light back into my subjects face, I will move my clients to that light to kind of get that feel.”
Despite calling herself “a natural light photographer,” Star is inevitably in situations where she needs to augment the sun. She mounts a Canon Speedlite 550EX on top of her camera, and uses a custom rig at the bottom of the camera for a PocketWizard Plus II. Star positions an off-camera flash to the side of the dance floor near the band or DJ. She’ll use this configuration, rarely moving the latter strobe throughout the night. “Because of our clientele and the price point we have, most of the time there’s uplighting in the room, and they have pin lighting and extensive setups,” she says, “so I don’t want to bring my flash all the way around the room. I just will keep the flash in one location.” Claiming most of her reception photos are shot on the dance floor, she simply works her way around the light source.
Shooting the way she does, Star’s workflow relies on off-camera flash mobility. “The PocketWizard provides the freedom for me to still stay true to my overall aesthetic without feeling shackled to the use of artificial light,” she explains. “I’ve had those little babies since the inception of my business. They’ve been with me since, gosh, 2007.”
Often asked about her custom hardware she uses for her PocketWizards, Star didn’t feel comfortable using Velcro, which was her first thought on how to jury rig what she envisioned. Walking into Samy’s Camera, she explained what she needed. It was built for her there, and she continues to use it faithfully. Asked exactly what kind of configuration they built her, she laughs. “I tell people I have no idea,” she says. “I just say, ‘the guys at Samy’s made it for me!’”
Star cites her ongoing connection with her clients as paramount to her success. “I wrote a post about the permission to be fabulous,” she says. “Sometimes girls don’t feel it’s okay to feel beautiful. Part of my job is to make them look beautiful, but in order for somebody to look beautiful, they have feel beautiful and fabulous. As a photographer, I wanted to make a point it’s so important to what we do to let people know, give them permission. As a female photographing another female, I want her to know that I’m not behind my camera judging her or thinking, ‘why is she doing that,’ or ‘what is she doing?’ I often tell my clients I want to create an arena where it is okay for you to feel beautiful and be fabulous. When they feel like that, all I have to do is simply capture them when they’re uninhibited. That is the mark of a true and beautiful picture.”
Written by Ron Egatz
Kevin Jairaj is a Dallas, Texas photographer who found his groove after a business management degree, some sports photography, and a career in corporate America. Shooting fashion after his day job hours, he shot a wedding as a favor to a friend. He had a great time, loved the diversity, and got referrals from that first wedding alone. Shortly thereafter in 2003, he began shooting weddings full-time.
Jairaj’s wedding work has awarded him with rave reviews and is in demand in the Dallas-area and at destination weddings from Trinidad to London. With the results speaking for themselves, Jairaj has gathered many photography fans after they’ve seen his frequently-uupdated blog and Web site. Almost as impressive as his photos, Jairaj has put that business management degree to work and created multiple revenue streams from his photographic knowledge and experience.
For years he was besieged with questions on how he got his images looking as they did. Finally, he made his own Photoshop Actions available to the public, bringing his visibility to a whole new audience. “I have my own formulas for my black and whites, my sepias, my split-tones, and lots of other things,” he says. “People all over the world have been buying it the past few years. The response amazes me.” We’ve had a chance to work with Jairaj’s action set, and we’ve found you can achieve a wonderful film-like warmth to images, among other effects.
The success of this project ultimately encouraged him to create and market the Dramatic Lighting DVD, which follows him on location shoots with a bride and a high school senior, detailing all aspects of his techniques. Rounding out his post-processing offerings is Unique Textures, a collection of images easily integrated into photos or used as multimedia backdrops.
Lastly, a unique offering from Jairaj is an iPhone app called Wedding Vendor. This app has the potential for saving the sanity of wedding coordinators, florists, photographers, videographers, bands, hair stylists and makeup artists or any other vendor who works in the wedding trade. All details of any wedding can be logged and saved into this app, including photos of the bride and groom, locations, other vendor contact info, and more. It even has customizable fields for notes. Jairaj has been in the business long enough to know what data he needs to have handy. Now all he needs to do is glance at his iPhone to recall any past or pending job he’s shooting.
Partnering with Alycia Alvarez, the two shooters have created Rings to Rattles, a series of seminars on teaching photographers how to cultivate relationships with clients from their wedding through the arrival of children and beyond. Both photographic techniques and business practices are covered.
It’s no surprise a photographer who has his own actions, DVD, and iPhone app is a gearhead. Jairaj is definitely knowledgeable about his equipment, and enjoys speaking about it. “If I’m shooting a bride on the beach during the day and I want to overpower the sun, I use Profoto AcuteB’s,” he says. “Indoors I’ll use PocketWizard MiniTT1′s and FlexTT5′s and Canon Speedlite 580EX II’s. The MiniTT1 is so small I use it to trigger all my other strobes as well as the Flexes. I do the 580′s on TTL-mode. You can be very mobile with this kind of lighting and not have to carry around much at all. You can be agile and very quick. Most of my shooting is on location, and this helps me move around and get the shots.” Jairaj’s main camera bodies are Canon 5D Mark II’s, which he loves for their low noise at high ISOs. His favorite lens is the first one he bought: a Canon 70-200mm.
A fashion-lover at heart, Jairaj pays attention to fashion in his wedding photos, and it shows. “Someone once said to me I shoot brides like they’re fashion models,” he recalls. “Well, that’s exactly what they want to be on their special day. I don’t want them to be all prim and proper and posed, like some 1980′s shot. I want them to feel gorgeous and sexy and love their photos as if they were in a magazine.”
Jairaj sees an engagement photo session as a critical part of the wedding photography business. “For me, engagement sessions are almost a necessary thing I try to make all my couples do. I like to see how they act in public, how they react to each other, if they’re comfortable with the camera, if they blink a hundred times—it’s a long list. If I see them blinking a lot, I know on the wedding day I have to take extra shots. It also helps me determine what kind of style they like after they see the photos. Do they like more sepia? More kissing? More romantic or the fun, silly shots? Sexy? This helps me figure out what to do on the wedding day. It’s all about getting to know them better.”
Fashion is never far from his thoughts, and Jairaj still shoots fashion when given the opportunity. A long-time sports enthusiast, his dream is to shoot for a professional football team. Knowing the drive and inventive nature of this shooter, we’re betting it’ll happen sooner, rather than later.
The old cliche dictates pictures are worth 1000 words. I disagree. Pictures are worth millions of words, and millions more to each different person viewing the same photograph. Legions of stories exist as testament to the power of photographs and our desire to protect them. Otto Bettmann, fleeing Nazi Germany with two steamer trunks loaded with 25,000 photos — the foundation of the Bettmann Archive — and no clothing, is just one example.
The technology of photography allows us to visually document our very existence for both ourselves and future generations. Previously, only paintings could do this, and their accuracy is always subject to question. The data and testament of a snapshot from any given year is invaluable to people interested in the subject matter of any photograph. A picture can say, “this was me when I was your age,” or “here’s our first home,” or “this was your great-grandmother.” Photographs are nothing less than a bet-the-farm hedge against our inevitable deaths. When times are more uncertain than usual, photographs can document “we made it at least this far. Remember us, this period, and what we went through.”
It is one of these photographs which changed a young man’s life. As America’s war in Vietnam spilled into neighboring Laos, chaos followed. Some estimates cite over one million Laotians fled their country as a direct result of that war. Simphoukham’s parents were among them, eventually winding up in a refugee camp in the Philippines after their son was born in a similar camp in Thailand. His parents knew the value of documenting their odyssey to a new homeland for their son and future generations. They saved and traded on the black market for one family photo to be taken. The image survived the family’s landing in San Francisco and has become a vibrant signpost of their old lives and struggle for success until becoming American citizens. One photograph changed their son’s future.
“I started off as an events and senior portraits photographer,” says Ari Simphoukham. While in a fraternity at UC Davis as an International Relations major, Simphoukham was shooting a Nikon D50 all around campus. Soon he was asked to shoot an event by someone who noticed his photography. This led to other organizations asking him to work for them. “Eventually I was approached to shoot senior portaits. I got better and better, and improved my photography while getting paid. It was amazing.”
A cousin’s friend needed a wedding photographer, and Simphoukham was recruited. “I did it and couldn’t believe how fun it was,” he says. “After that, I concentrated on weddings. I tried to meet other wedding photographers to learn techniques and the business end of it. I improved along the way.” He had found his calling and his paycheck, and eventually left school to pursue his career. “I know this is what I want to do,” he states.
Simphoukham took the bold move of dedicating an entire year to learning his craft. “One of the reasons I love doing this is because wedding photographers are awesome,” he declares. “They’re so helpful and so easy to talk to. They’re very helpful, and that kindness made me want to be a wedding photographer even more.” Simphoukham assisted several Bay Area wedding shooters to further hone his skills. Although he still shoots senior portraits, wedding work is where his passion lies. “Weddings are more work, but I feel they appreciate my art more,” he adds.
Currently located in Los Angeles, Simphoukham is shooting weddings and expanding his network of wedding photographers. Eventually he sees himself setting up his studio in the Bay Area. These days Simphoukham is shooting two Nikon D3 bodies, one D300 for backup, “and a lot of lenses,” he says. Originally a film photographer, his workflow is now all-digital. He uses PocketWizard Plus II’s to fire his strobes. “Being a wedding photographer is hard because the lighting changes constantly. You have to be on your toes and aware of the light always. The PocketWizards help me control the light because if it gets too dark, I just dial in what I need from the strobes and it’s okay. I can get a very natural look, as opposed to a deer-in-the-headlights direct flash.”
Regarding post-processing work, Simphoukham says, “I find the best photos are not the ones I do heavy work on. The best photos are the ones that are that way straight out of the camera. I think I heard this quote from someone: you can make a good picture better, but you can’t make a bad picture good.” He uses Lightroom and Photoshop for minimal post work.
“When I first started learning about off-camera flash, PocketWizard was the name in radio remote flash. All the good photographers were using it back then. I’m going to upgrade in the future. It just works. I’ve never had a problem with them. The Plus II is simple and it works. It goes through walls. What more could you want?” he laughs.
Simphoukham is just as passionate about his client photos. “I try to tell a story with my photography. I think nowadays everyone has a camera, but not everyone has the ability to portray a story with a camera. I develop a story behind the photos everyone can read,” he says. “I’ve been very fortunate to have great clients. When they appreciate my work, I feel great.” How great you feel the day you get married is one of the things you never want to forget. Who better to document that day? Connecting emotionally to photographs is something Ari Simphoukham knows quite a bit about.
If you’re not doing anything in January, PocketWizard will be co-sponsoring Scarlett Lillian at Photog Retreat 2010. Hop aboard Carnival Cruise Lines and spend an intensive four days with Scarlett as she shares all her photography secrets with you. The reasons you should join her in the Bahamas are myriad. All attendees get over $500 of free products and services, plus a chance to win one of the grand prizes from multiple sponsors.
Scarlett is a longtime friend of PocketWizard, and a fabulous professional wedding photographer. PocketWizard will be giving away MiniTT1‘s and FlexTT5‘s as door prizes. Don’t miss your chance to win on this exciting educational experience!
Located in Ontario, Canada, Rick Denham likes to break rules. Like many young Canadian men, Rick was once a hockey player. He now finds himself either shooting photos from the other side of the plexiglass, or away from ice rinks altogether as he builds his reputation as a wedding photographer of note.
Although photographing sports of all kinds gives him thrills, working as an in-demand wedding photographer pays the bills. Sample photos from the latter category prove there’s no lack of emotion or technique in his deeply saturated and outstandingly composed shots. Shooting primarily in a photojournalism style, Rick still delivers photos with wedding parties positioned in ways which would’ve made many Renaissance painters weep with envy. Prospective customers intrinsically know this, and are often fooled by the end result.
“When a bride and groom meet with me, I always hear, ‘We want candid photography, we want journalism photography,’” he reports. “The first thing I have to explain to them is ‘most of these shots are set-up.’ It has to be set-up. You can’t get a candid group shot of twenty people and expect it to not be set-up.” A rule-breaker at heart, Rick believes whatever feels natural is the best approach. He encourages wedding parties to behave naturally as he shoots, until it comes time for some informal positioning used in his trademark group shots.
Attracted to low-stress situations, Rick loves the digital revolution and the benefits of shooting more exposures with more cameras, including remotely-fired cameras, which continue to play a growing part in his work.
Along with composition, Rick’s saturation is one of the hallmarks of his photography. “I bump my saturation up in my cameras, especially at weddings. Weddings, to me, are colorful. People like color. They pay to have lots of flowers. Even in classic weddings, that’s what I like to see. Even in my black and whites, I like to see a lot of contrast. I like my blacks black.”
Multiple lights and cameras are part of Rick’s arsenal. He typically carries four Canon 580EX II Speedlites, three MultiMAX units, three PocketWizard Plus IIs, and a 16-35mm wide angle lens, which he always keeps on one of his two Canon Mark III’s. In addition, a softbox, Honl grids and snoots, and two light stands are at the ready on most shoots. He also brings a Magic Arm and Super Clamp. Often these are employed low to the ground, where he says, “no one thinks of using them there.”
There are a few subject areas Rick has plans to branch out into, along with corresponding business plans. Although we’re unable to divulge details at this time, we can be sure Rick will be bringing his sense of composition, rich tones, and PocketWizard gear to these new endeavors.
Rick’s blog: http://rickdenhamphoto.blogspot.com/
Rick Denham Photography: http://www.rickdenham.com/
We got a smile-inducing email today from Altanta photographer Lauren Wright:
Dear PocketWizard Blog,
I have a confession to make: I love to have fun. I can’t help it. It’s just so… well, you know, fun! For me, sometimes having fun means playing pranks on people. Sometimes it means eating lots of candy and watching a Pixar movie or two. And occasionally, as a photographer, having fun means shooting something outside my usual style. A few months ago, I got in contact with a designer whose line of wedding dresses I adore, and she allowed me to borrow a few of her dresses for a fun bridal fashion shoot. Originally, I had planned to just shoot my usual, relaxed, natural light work… and then I remembered I had PocketWizards!
With the help of my PWs, Alien Bees, colored gels and a small fog machine, I was able to create photos that I love, and have OODLES of fun in the process. I had to let you know that I love you, PocketWizard, for helping me keep my job fun
An energized fan and satisfied client,
PS. You can check out the pictures at the end of this blog post: http://laurenwrightphoto.com/blog/?p=436
Well, we did check out your photos, Lauren, and we could tell you’re having fun Great work! Thank you so much for taking time to send us the email. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!
…Hanson Fong and the new PocketWizard Mini/Flex system can handle it all! San Francisco-based wedding and portrait photographer Hanson Fong goes in front of the camera to clearly explain how the new PocketWizard system is perfect for weddings, where one minute you may be using classic portrait lighting but a minute later chasing the bride and groom like a paparazzi. And, of course, you’re not allowed paparazzi on-camera lighting. Hanson’s results are beautiful, of course, and so will yours if you follow his advice.
|One of the great perks of selling a professional photo tool like PocketWizard is that you get to meet photographers from all walks of life, in all aspects of the profession and with different ways of solving lighting and shooting problems. One of our recent encounters (at WPPI) was with Jacksonville, FL-based Scarlett Lillian, wedding photographer extraordinaire. Scarlett works witha Canon 5D and Canon 580EXII flash, getting it off-camera with the help of the ubiquitous PocketWizard Plus II. Take a look at her work on www.scarlettlillian.com and read more on her blog at www.scarlettlillian.net. Beautiful, elegant work, Scarlett!|