Canon 85mm 1.2L II USM + 42”x72” Silver/White reflector by Westcott REVIEW

This last weekend we had two weddings, Kira shot Jessica and Kevin at the Sawyer House and we were both back together for Whitney and Kyle at the Cascade Gardens. Both these weddings were at beautiful venues with beautiful couples. We had a chance to play with a couple of new toys and we would like to share our reviews of them to you.

Canon 85mm 1.2L II USM

We have had our eye on this lens for some time since it has quite a reputation for image quality. Given our gradual migration towards prime lenses, (this purchase coincided with the sale of our 24-70mm zoom lens) it wasn’t a question of if we would buy it, but when. Our initial observation is, this lens rocks!

Obviously, this lens is perfect for portraits. With its 1.2 minimum aperture and long focal length it produces sharp images with beautiful background bokeh. We were pleased to find it also useful outside of portraits, cake pictures, etc. Though not fast by relative measures, its autofocus system is sufficient for ceremonies, dancing, etc.

The build quality is superb and it’s clear Canon used their best components for this lens. We recently purchased the 100mm Macro which feels cheap and plastically in comparison to the 85. This build quality comes at a price as the 85mm is quite hefty. No bother, we’re just glad our investment looks and feels as though it were built to last.

The bottom line: The 85 is hands down the best portrait lens under 6K

42”x72” Silver/White reflector by Westcott 

At Kyle and Whitney’s wedding we had a chance to play with our big reflector. It pretty well replaced flash for the bride and groom shoot as well as the bridal party pictures. The reflector has two sides, a white side and a silver side. The silver side is intense, to say the least. Kira described it as like standing in a microwave. Needless to say we didn’t use that side. The white side on the other hand produced a nice, soft and even light without blinding our subjects.  

The best thing about using a reflector instead of flash is that with the reflector you don’t have sync speed limitations. This is particularly useful when shooting in direct sunlight. We can use flash to fill in shadows but are limited to 1/200th of a second exposure and that means in most cases we get f/10 or f/11. At those apertures there’s little or no depth of field. With the reflector we can shoot at whatever shutter speed suits us. There is also the added benefit of not having to worry about recycle times like you would with flash, which is handy for any action/movement scenes where you might be taking several exposures in a short time period.

(Picture above: full sun using a white reflector, 85mm lens, F2.5, 1/1000 sec. ISO: 100)

The reflector also got in work as a giant gobo as we used it to block out sun spots that were falling on our subjects. In the picture below you can see how this worked. 

This particular Westcott reflector is sort of flimsy and vulnerable to anything more robust than a light breeze. In windy conditions is when it would probably be mostly useless. When the conditions are right, however, it does its job rather well.

Drobo FS | Our Photography Backup Solution

Few things cause more sleepless nights for a photographer than the possibility of losing precious photos due to the failure of a hard drive. The reason it is the source for consternation is simple: hard drives are widely known as one of the most unreliable parts of the computer. Due to their moving parts and the strenuous demands place upon them failure is not a matter of if, but when. Fortunately there are a lot of ways photographers can reliably back up their data.
The unassuming device you see below is our newest solution to the problem described above. It is called the Drobo. The Drobo is a file server that connects to our main computer through the network router. Within the Drobo we have (4) 2 terabyte hard drives. The file server utilizes a technology known as RAID (redundant array of independent drives). Normal computer hard drives store data independently from other drives, but in a raid configuration the hard drives work together. What this means is if one of the hard drives in our Drobo fails we can replace the bad drive with a new one and the RAID will be rebuilt using the data from the good, existing drives. In this scenario no photos would be lost forever because of a single drive failure.
In addition to storing our photo jobs on the Drobo we also keep a copy of every photo shoot on our computer. This level of redundancy should be of comfort to our clients – current, past and future.
Frankly the only thing that’s not great about the Drobo is the transfer speeds, which are a bit slow. The Drobo took maybe a half hour to set up and required little working knowledge of networks to do so. What we were looking for was a reliable, convenient, and simple way to redundantly store our photos, and in the Drobo, we’ve found that.
The Drobo FS retails on for $499. The drives (2 TB Western Digital Green Caviar drives) retail for around $129 each.

New Toy Alert: 100mm f/2.8L Macro

Today we became the proud owners of Canon’s 100mm Macro lens (f/2.8L). Having added the 50mm back in December we now have two Prime lenses in our arsenal.
The 100mm is often used for taking close-up shots with stunning clarity and detail. This is an excelent lens to use when photographing the bride & grooms wedding rings & also useful in capturing details on the wedding cake. I’ve included a couple of pictures shown below, one of Kira’s eye and the other our wedding rings. This camera is no one trick pony, however, as it also makes a great portrait camera and will also be useful during ceremonies, receptions, etc.
– Cameron Baron



Creating Rim Light | #20

Rim light, back light, hair light… whatever you want to call it, can add that extra sparkle to your photography. I don’t use it all the time, but sometimes it really makes my subject pop.
Creating a rim light can be achieved by using natural light, like the sun, or an off camera flash. Below I’ve posted an example of a rim light that I created using a 580EX II flash(strobe). I mounted the strobe to a light stand and placed it directly behind the subjects head. It’s easiest if you have your strobe on manual mode so you can control the brightness. You don’t want it to be too bright, so adjust it to a medium brightness that will draw attention to your subject and not to the flash behind them.
If you don’t have access to off camera flash then you can use the sun. The bottom picture was taken in the evening, I used on camera flash to light up her face and the sun served as the rim light.
Good luck and practice with this a bit. It might take you a few tries to get it just right.
(left) No rim light | (right) Rim light added with strobe
(below) Natural rim light provided by the sun
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Pre/Post Wedding Day Shoot | #18

What is a pre/post wedding day shoot?
I offer a pre or post wedding day shoot consisting of 2 hours at the location(s) of your choice. I also include a disc with the digital images.

There are many reasons to do a pre or post wedding day shoot but just to name a few:

– You want to wait to see the groom until you walk down the aisle. So by scheduling a post wedding shoot you can get a lot more pictures of just the two of you.
– You want to make the wedding day a little less hectic. By doing all your bride and groom pictures before hand you’ll have a lot more time on your wedding day to just relax.
– You want to go somewhere different than your wedding ceremony and reception to utilize beautiful or unique backgrounds for your bride and groom shots.
– The photographer you wanted to hire for your wedding was already booked 🙁 You can still book that photographer for a pre/post wedding shoot and be able to have some shots with the “look” you fell in love with.
– You cannot afford to hire a professional for your wedding. Sadly, not everyone can, so a pre/post shoot is a great alternative. You can still have some professional pictures of the two of you to hang on the wall.
– Just for fun. Hey, why not! Maybe you want to get dressed up in your wedding gear again and go out for another shoot because you had so much fun the first time. You can also plan it for the season of your choice (winter, summer, fall, spring).
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Zoom vs. Prime Lenses | #15

Which one should I buy?
This is something every professional photographer has to debate at some point. And for me, It’s right now. I’ve gone back and fourth over the last few months trying to decide which lens to buy next, which ones are needs and which ones are wants, and it can be kind of tough to make a decision.
“The major advantage a zoom lens has is its versatility. A photographer using a zoom lens can quickly and properly frame and capture a fleeting opportunity. They can also capture many different framings of the same subject within seconds. The fixed focal length lens user may still be sneaker-zooming (which also changes perspective) to the right distance when the subject disappears – or is no longer in that cute pose. A subject with a rapidly changing distance also favors a zoom lens. ” – The
Now, I think the advantage of having a zoom lens in the wedding photography field is significant. Often times during the ceremony & reception things are moving and changing so fast it’s nice to be able to zoom in and out to get the perfect shot without running all over.
“A fast fixed focal length lens allows action-stopping shutter speeds to be used in low-lightsituations. Fixed focal length lenses are sometimes the only solution for dark indoor sports photography. I should mention that the ever-improving high ISO performance of new DSLRs is making fixed focal length lenses less important in these situations. ” The
The ISO on my 5D Mark II can do some pretty amazing stuff, however it’s really nice to be able have the apature open larger and a lower ISO. I’ve noticed some photographers like the grain caused by a high ISO in their pictures, it gives it a kind of vintage artistic feel, but I’m not always a huge fan of grain. I might like it on a few photographs, but not all of them. I also feel like a prime lens is going to produce a picture that is more crisp than then zoom lens can achieve and I’m a big fan of crisp, sharp images.
So, with that said, I’m pretty sure I just need to have both. I would especially love to use a prime lens with my bride and groom shoots & seniors. Currently I only own zoom lenses but who knows what will happen before the start of this next wedding season:)
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Photo Editing | #13

While the pictures straight out of camera are great to begin with, I still love to give them that extra sparkle. Below I’ve posted an example of a picture straight out of camera and a picture that has been finished and retouched. All my pictures undergo this process and I delight myself in making people look their best.
There’s a subtle but significant difference. 🙂
Here’s what I do to achieve this look:
-I always shoot in camera RAW. RAW files contain the most information and allow you manipulate nearly every aspect of the photo.
-I open the RAW file in a program called Lightroom and work on the color balance, brightness & saturation.
-Once I’ve achieved my desired look, I export the file as a Jpeg and open it in Photoshop.
-I use the healing brush tool and paint brush to smooth out the skin. Then I use an action I got from The Pioneer Woman to bring out the eyes. Yes, that’s what the action is called, bring out the eyes. I also like to use the sharpen this action on the eyes and make them really pop.
Thats pretty much all I do, it really makes a huge difference though.
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What to wear to photo shoots | #7

People often ask me “what should I wear“?
I tell my clients to wear something nice that looks like YOU. I’ve heard a lot of other photographers say to only wear solid colors. While solid colors do look nice, I’m also a believer that stripes and plaids can look great too. It really comes down to your style and what you like.
Now, where color is concerned, there are some specific ideas & suggestions I can give you, however there are infinite possibilities when it comes to color combinations.
Some things to keep in mind:
Do: Make sure everyone in your family to looks cohesive, ie, you don’t want everyone wearing muted neutral tones while one person is wearing florescent pink. Try to select different colors that compliment each other.
Exception: Maybe there was a new baby born into your family and you want to highlight him/her. In that case your family could wear the same color scheme and the baby can be dressed in the eye popping complimentary color.
I’ve created some color schemes below, Typically using three colors will do the trick.
Some of these color pallet choices are super bold while others are calm and muted. It’s best to choose something that matches your personality and style.
This of course is just my opinion on the matter. It seems to me that every photographer varies on this subject so it’s best to work with your photographer to find out what will work best.
Here are a couple examples of what some of my clients have been wearing.
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Photo shoots | Dos & Don’ts | #3

Ok, so this one is for photographers 🙂

I can’t remember the last time I did a photo shoot for two hours and I was the one IN FRONT of the camera instead of behind it. Doing photo shoots is easy for us (photographers) because we do them all the time. It’s important to remember though that your clients might have never had their pictures taken by a professional and they often times are very nervous. So what can you do to make sure your clients are relaxed and have a great time?

Do Get to know your clients a little before you shoot them. Don’t have your first real interaction when the shoot starts.

There are a couple ways to do this, you can friend them on Facebook, meet them for coffee, or send them an e-mail questionare. It will all depend on the client. This is really important. It will take so much longer for your clients to open up and relax if they’ve never met you or talked to you. You will get so much more natural relaxed interaction with the couple if you do this beforehand. As an example, if you book someone who lives in another state and they’re only going to be in town the weekend of the photo shoot then you’re not going to be able to meet them for coffee.

Do include the clients in the whole process. Don’t assume they will know what to do.

If it’s an engagement shoot, let them know what to expect along the way. Remember they are probably nervous and have been thinking about the shoot all week. So the first thing I do when I get to the location is to tell my clients we are here to have fun and that’s all. I do a lot of photo shoots at the local arboretum so my clients can just pretend it’s a day in the park.

I’ll also talk about what I’m doing a little. I might say something like “lets stop here and take a few shots and then we can go just around the corner where there’s a really cool bridge”. This gives them something to think about and will also relieve some of the nerves of not knowing what is going on.

Do start your shoot from farther away. Don’t get so close to them they can reach out and touch you.

If you want your clients to relax, standing right in their face is not the way to do it. It makes things really awkward. I like to start out shooting at least 8-10 feet away, that way they won’t feel encroached on. Now as the shoot goes along your clients will get use to you following them and their butterflies will fly away. This is when you can get a little closer and get some more intimate shots. It’s different for everyone but most of my clients loosen up after about 30 min or so.

Do offer your clients encouragement. Don’t say anything negative!

This is really important. The more positive things you say to your clients the more their confidence will go up and the more comfortable they will become. Comfortable confident clients= Awesome natural pictures! If you say negative things to your clients it will burst their confidence bubble and they will want to hide from you behind the nearest bush. Here is an example scenario.

Wrong: Um… can you make your smile look less cheesy?

Right: Ok, take a deep breath and just relax. (sometimes people are nervous and don’t realize they are holding their breath, so this will make a huge difference). Another thing you can do is ask your clients to talk amongst themselves for a minute and not to worry about the photographer. People often loosen up when they are not expected to “perform”.

Do show them what you would like them to do. Don’t mold them into a position.

There’s nothing more uncomfortable then having someone man handle you. Your clients feel a lot more comfortable if you give them clear detailed instructions and maybe even model an example for them. With a senior I might say something like “Ok, Sit down with your back against the column, arch your legs and put the tip of your heal on the side walk with your toes point up. Now, place your hands on your knees and relax them, turn your face toward me”. That’s a lot of instruction, so I might want to demonstrate. Here is an example of the pose I just described.


Do act confident. Don’t act unsure.

If you are constantly putting yourself down your clients are going to feel uneasy that they hired you and will lose their confidence. Also, if you are more worried about the settings on your camera and keep looking at the back of the screen, your clients are going to become worried that they are doing something wrong. It’s important to talk to them and keep the dialog flowing. If you’re new to photography you might want to start by shooting family and friends. Practice keeping a conversation going and not saying anything about what’s happening with the camera.

Example: If you take a picture and it’s way to blown out, don’t tell your clients that the picture didn’t turn out. Simply adjust your setting and say “ok, now let’s do that one more time.”

Last but not least,

Do get to know your clients likes and dislikes. Don’t shoot them in a way that they will not like.

Find out what your client likes when they look at your portfolio. If they say that the kissing pictures make them feel awkward or that they don’t like the “serious” face poses, then don’t put them in that situation on the shoot. Some clients may be comfortable climbing a tree or lying on the ground, while others will not like that. It’s important to find these things out. And if you ask your clients to climb a tree and they give you an uncomfortable pleading look, quickly offer a different suggestion. 🙂

Alright, I hope this helps. Good luck on your next photo shoot!

– Kira Baron

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