30 August 2013

Why Engagement Sessions Rock + Why You Should Do One With Your Photographer

I have 3 weddings coming up in September so this post seems fitting. I want to take a minute and talk about engagement sessions and why I feel like every couple should get them taken with the photographer they book for their big day. I have been asked numerous times to just do the engagement session only.... and I do them, but honestly I really feel like that couple should go with the photographer that hired them. For so many reasons. Not to be snobby and just not up for doing business with them. But simply for their own benefit. All 3 of my couples getting married in September had their engagement sessions with me. I offer complimentary e-sessions for all my couples who book a wedding with me. It's just something I personally do for my business. The reason I believe in this so strongly are for 2 reasons.

1. The engagement session allows me (or your photographer) to have time alone with the couple before their BIG day where you can get to know each other better and they can get comfortable in front of the camera. The first 20 minutes or so are a little awkward (because who is used to posing for the camera) but then the session gets fun. With my couples, we talk about the wedding day and how they met, even how the proposal happened. It's always such a great bonding experience for me and my couples and it leads into a friendship that carries to the wedding day.

2. Which is the next reason. Think about it. If you have already met your photographer and did your engagement pictures with that photographer, then your wedding day is going to be such a comfortable experience because your "friend" is there to take your pictures instead of someone you hired and just showed up for the job. Now don't get me wrong, that scenario is just fine. I personally just choose to run my business a tad differently. I like my couples to feel comfortable in front of the camera. After all, your wedding pictures are going to be all that you have from that day and you want to look in love and happy, not uncomfortable. It's my job to make you feel comfortable and having that time with you at your engagement session is definitely the key.

Whether you're one of my brides or you've booked someone else, I strongly suggest doing the engagement session. It's so much fun. I've had grooms tell me that the engagement session was so much fun that they were looking forward to the wedding day!

Happy Friday everyone. Have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend.

29 August 2013

What's In My Camera Bag | Photography

I get the same question asked over and over again during my sessions and wedding days. Everyone wants to know what's in my camera bag. Meaning, what gear do I use. Some brides ask me because they want to know if it's professional grade or not and the others who ask are either photographers themselves or a family member at a wedding who has a "nice camera" themselves and they just want to compare gear. Below I'll tell you what I carry, why I use it, how I use it and what I carry it in. Now I didn't buy all this brand new. Some of it was purchased from another photographer who was going out of business but lenses never change. So they're always be an investment. Camera bodies will change over time and flashes, etc.

First up, the bag that I have on my at all times. Whether it be a senior or family session, even a wedding, this is the bag that holds what I'm currently using. It's the B-Hobo bag by Kelly Moore. It's purple (go figure) and it's absolutely perfect. It holds my camera body with my 50mm lens on it and 2 other lenses. I usually keep my macro lens and wide angle lens in there as well. You'll notice that the strap is grey, not purple. That's because the strap broke and I am using the strap from my other Kelly Moore bag.

The next bag is my Libby bag by Kelly Moore. This is what keeps ALL of my gear and what I take with me on a wedding day. It holds my iPad mini (for showing same day edits), my laptop for editing and backing up photos, my back up camera body, both of my flashes, my 70-200mm lens, batteries, etc. It basically just holds everything that won't fit into the other bag. The purple bag is what is on my body while shooting, where this bag is just to carry gear around. I absolutely love it!!! It's great for vacations too. I have used it as a carry on bag and it's perfect and fits right under the plane seats or train seats.

I have 2 Canon 5D Mark II camera bodies. I can remember my first camera. A camera that I originally bought to take better family pictures with, not start a business. I bought a Canon Rebel XSi. It was a kit off of Ebay with all these kit lenses and stuff and I thought it was the best thing ever. It was all I could afford LOL. When my business really took off and I kept researching other photographers and reading blogs, everyone seemed to have the 5D Mark II. I knew I didn't have the quality of photos that they had but I also knew I needed to gain experience and save my money. Now that I have 2, I feel blessed beyond words. I never dreamed I could have 1, let alone 2. It's such a great camera and I love it.

My favorite lens is the Canon 50mm 1.8 II. It's the lens that stays on my camera at all times. I use it for all my portrait sessions (unless I need a wide angle shot or ring shots during engagement sessions). Now, ideally I'd love to have the 50mm 1.2  but it's doing fine for now and I'm trying to save money. I might upgrade to the 50mm 1.4 soon though. Such a great lens and since it only cost $125 I tell all my mommy friends and friends that have a "nice camera" that they NEED to buy this lens. Kit lenses are just awful LOL.

Next up, the Canon 100mm 2.8L IS. It's what you need to get up close for detail shots, especially ring shots on a wedding day and engagement sessions. I used to try to use my 50mm before and just wasn't getting the shots I wanted. But this makes all the difference. If you're a wedding photographer... you need this lens. Plain and simple.

For wedding day "getting ready" shots in a small room, or just a cool scenic shot with a family or senior, sometimes you just need a wide angle lens. That's why I use the Canon 24-70mm 2.8L II. It wasn't exactly what I was wanting. I'd rather shoot prime with a Canon 24mm or 35mm but this was a lens that was thrown in with a huge kit from another photographer. It suits the need that I need it for just fine but I like the way prime lenses look better. Prime lenses are sharper than zoom lenses and it's just the style that I prefer. I'm saving my money to purchase the 35mm next year :-)

The "beast" is next. The Canon 70-200mm 2.8L IS. I call this lens the "beast" because it weighs a ton. It's not something I would ever shoot with for a portrait session (some photographers do and I don't know how they do it.) It's so heavy but it's needed for a wedding day. Processional, recessional and just close up shots during the ceremony are only captured with this thing. It allows me to get close without literally standing on the alter with the bride and groom. I can be sneaky (spy if you will) without people knowing and I love it.

Last, but not least, are my flashes. I used to use the Canon 580EX II flashes but I never bought the Pocketwizards or triggers to do off-camera lighting for my receptions. They always seemed so confusing and I never wanted to try it. Luckily Canon is amazing and they invented flashes with a built in triggering system. They are the 600 EX-RT flashes and they are amazing. They can sync up to each other by the touch of a button (like 1 button people) and I can have off-camera lighting now. My reception pictures have been so much better since I bought them. Definitely one of the best purchases I've made for my business.

I hope this helps other photographers out there. I know I always like reading blogs to see what others have in their bag so I figured this would be a fun post.

I'm off to the foot doctor now and hopefully leaving WITHOUT the medical boot on. Wish me all luck.

27 August 2013

Austin - Class of 2014 | St. Louis Senior Session

Everyone, I want to introduce you to a senior boy named Austin. He'll be graduating this coming spring and so naturally senior pictures would need to be scheduled. The past year or so I've became really great friends with Austin's family. Last year I took his brother's senior pictures and in the fall I took their family pictures. I always have a blast when hanging out with this family so I knew that Austin's session would be the same.

He wanted to go to St. Louis for his pictures. I'll never complain about a trip to the city because there are so many places to shoot at. I took Austin to one of my new favorite spots too, so I was pumped about that. All and all it was an amazing session and I'm so excited to show you my favorites.

Austin, I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I do. I wish you all the best in your future. Enjoy your senior year... it goes by FAST!

Seriously, Austin rocked the "model pose." Love this shot.

The shot on the right was a quick idea I came up with and it's probably one of my top 3 favorite pics of his session.

26 August 2013

Sweet Home Alabama - 2013 Vacation

About 2 months ago, my mother and step father moved to Alabama. I'm still not too crazy on their decision, because what girl wants to be 10 hours away from her momma!!!! But it is an amazing vacation spot. I asked my BFF, Becky, if she wanted to take a road trip with me to go visit my mom and she said YES! I'm not a huge fan of driving so having someone to go with me was going to help. We were only going to have 3 full days down there and 2 days for driving so we needed to make the most of our time. My mom lives in Mobile, AL at the moment and it's super close to New Orleans, LA, Gulf Shores, AL and Pensacola, FL. That means LOTS of beaches. Little did we know that Mother Nature would have other plans and have it rain the 2 days we planned for beach days. Oh well, we still had an amazing time. I'll walk you through our vacation below.....

We drove all day last Wednesday and met up with my mom and step dad at the school that they are working for in Spanish Fort, AL. We arrived a tad bit early so Becky and I thought we would drive around and try to find a beach or pier. We did and this was the first view we had on our trip (taken on my iPhone.)

We changed our clothes and freshened up a bit to head out for dinner. They took us to a place called Tacky Jacks and it's this really cool restaurant on the bay near Spanish Fort (outside of Mobile, AL).  The view was amazing!

On Thursday, we drove over to New Orleans, LA. It's a sight to see. If you've never been there, put it on your "to do" list. Bourbon Street is so cool and the architecture of the city is so beautiful.

After walking around for a bit (it was so hot and muggy) we were kind of tired and bored. Bourbon Street wasn't exactly "happening" at noon yet, so we ended up deciding to go on a SWAMP TOUR!!!! That's right, a swamp tour. The company was called Cajun Encounters Tour Co. It was totally worth every bit of $50 for this 2 hour tour. Alligators and beautiful swamp trees. Most of these pictures look fake to me because they're so beautiful. And being that close to gators was really surreal. Captain Troy said that gators don't care for people much, so we would be safe. Gators and Crocs are way different. They only come up to the boats because they're used to getting treats from those tours. The 2 treats being thrown out... guess???? Hot dogs and marshmallows!!!!

Below you'll see a couple marshmallows being thrown to Bacon. Yes, that's the gators' name.

Look how big Bacon is!!! You can tell the size of a gator by the distance from the eyes to the nose. Whatever that distance is in inches, change it to feet and that's how long the gator is.

There's one of the other tour boats.

It takes a LOT of energy for a gator to jump out of the water... but they still showed off for us.

Seriously, so close!!!!

There's our captain, Troy.

Moving towards the "swamp" portion of the tour. Below, the picture on the right, is a picture of some water hemlock, a poisonous plant. You do not want to eat that thing LOL.

Look at those bald cypress trees!!!! The state tree of Louisana. It's illegal to cut them down but if they fall down they can be used for many things.

The little knobs sticking out of the water is the root system for the bald cypress trees. It makes them super strong. Katrina went through that swamp and none of them uprooted! That's intense!

The picture below is of a famous tree. Apparently it's the tree that is used in the Disney movie "The Princess and the Frog." And it's the tree that is used on Louisiana postcards, etc. Couples have even wanted to get married under that tree.

Friday was our day to visit Gulf Shores, AL. It rained the whole day but it cleared up a bit for Becky and I to make it to the beach for a few pics. Honestly, my skin isn't too fond of the sun so I was really okay with not sun bathing. The stormy weather made for some really great shots.

There's Becky walking towards the water.... she'll probably hate me for posting this pic but I love it.

I'm technically suppose to be in a medical boot, but we won't tell my doc about that LOL. One day on the beach in the sand hopefully is okay.

Friday nights in the south when school starts only means one thing.... FOOTBALL! Well, in Spanish Fort, AL it's a big deal. They won the state title last year in 5A and Friday night we attended a preseason game against a 6A team. My mom and step dad work there at the school so they wanted to see what it was all about. Let me tell ya.... it's huge. It reminded me of college football around this area. I couldn't believe the amount of people there for a high school football game. There had to be at least 6,000 people there and they were parked all over the place. The school even has buses that shuttle people back and forth from the parking lot to the field. I'm happy to say that Spanish Fort won the game Friday night and I'm expecting to hear more wins in the upcoming season. Here are a few pics from the game.

The opposing team (can't think of their name).

Spanish Fort team about to take the field.

The photo below was taken on my iPhone. Can't believe I didn't get this with my camera! UGH. I didn't even put a filter on it or anything. The sunsets in Alabama are out of this world. Seriously, how beautiful.

Saturday, our last day in Alabama, my mom and step dad drove Becky and I around to see the area a bit more. I kept telling my mom I wanted to see piers and marinas, etc. Well that's exactly what I got.

First stop was Bayou La Batre, AL.

Those are piles of oyster shells.

Next stop was Dauphin Island, AL. Naturally, we got rained out and couldn't go to the beach to tan, but we still went regardless. This was my favorite stop out of the whole trip. It's beautiful. In the pic below you can see the waves crashing up against the house. This is the house on the very tip of the west end of Dauphin Island.

This picture below is currently my iPhone lock screen picture and background LOL.

Look at those waves!

Some pretty cool houses on the island.

Okay, funny story about the 2 pictures below. Now, they would have turned out way better if it hadn't been stormy and raining. You can't really see the land and water too well. It looks like the road just ends and all you see is water on a sunny day. I tried to capture it though... in the rain, standing up through the sunroof going at about 50mph. Not the money shot I was quite hoping for but they turned out pretty good. Great story to tell I guess LOL.

The last stop on our amazing trip was Fairhope, AL. Now, if I was wanting to move and start fresh this would be the town I would live in. After seeing other towns, this town is by far the best one I saw. So charming and quiet and family friendly. UGH, it's so cute. I only got pics of the pier though and not downtown in the city.

If you're still reading this... YOU'RE AWESOME! I realize it's a super long blog post but I couldn't split it up. I just couldn't wait to share with you all my amazing vacation and trip to visit my mother.

Happy Monday!