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Stacey and I absolutely LOVE talking photography with people! I’ll jump at any chance I get to sit down and talk with other folks in our industry about shooting, selling, editing, or any other topic they can come up with. That said, Stacey and I have noticed a rather large increase in the number of photography related questions we’ve been asked over the past few years. We love sharing our passion with others who are interested in photography, so we figured it was time to try and answer some of the more common questions we’ve received over the past year or so!

Here’s a few for starters …

What’s your favorite camera and lens to shoot with?

We’re currently in a transition phase with our gear to start shooting solely with prime lenses. (Except for the 70-200 when we need the reach.) Nikon has always been our camera choice. And since the release of the D3 and its subsequent siblings, we’re as loyal to them now as we’ll ever be.

If we had to pick a favorite lens, both Stacey and I would have to go with the 50mm 1.4. Love, love, love everything that this lens does for us. It’s a pretty common thing for one or both of us to shoot entire sessions with our 50mm. Call us boring, but it gets the job done better than any other lens we have.

What kind of noise reduction do you run on your photos?

Not much of any. We use Adobe Camera Raw for all of our raw processing outside of Photoshop, and run a hint of ACR’s noise reduction setting on our nighttime and reception images. In my opinion, noise reduction makes images look “plasticy” when it’s used too much. And in our industry, it’s used WAY too much.

What actions do you use on your photos?

We use Photoshop actions almost entirely from a workflow speed perspective. It’s not so much about creating a “look” or “style”, but rather about decreasing the amount of time we spend editing. I’d say 95 percent of our actions involve cropping, sizing, saving, and exporting images. We use a grand total of three “creative actions” on our images. Our black and white tone, our antique tone, and our color bump. Photoshop actions are an amazing tool for helping streamline your workflow. But they’re also a quick route to muddying up an image. If you go back and look at some of our early work, it’s easy to tell that we learned that lesson the hard way!

How big of a part do you play in the schedule on a wedding day?

As much of a part as the client will let us play. Seriously, we’ve been to the rodeo a couple of times now, and we we’re well aware of what it takes to get quality images on a wedding day. One of the first things we try and talk with our clients about (At their initial consultation), is the schedule for photos on the wedding day. Our clients are investing a lot in our images, so the least we can do is be an advocate for pictures on the day of the wedding. Thankfully, we’ve been blessed with a large number of brides and grooms who are willing to trust our judgment, timing, and abilities, and let us loose on the big day. We’re at our absolute best when our clients take the time to plan out an effective photo schedule with us for their wedding. I think the same can be said for any photographer out there. In my mind, you’re doing clients a disservice if you don’t push hard to get the time that you need.

How much direction do you give your clients during a shoot?

This is totally dependent on the situation. During our prep time, ceremony, and reception, we’re 99.9% hands off. We’re a fly on the wall. (Or, at least, a big fat guy in the corner trying to avoid sticking out.) Those times of the wedding day are entirely NOT about us. They’re about the client spending time with their family and friends, and enjoying one of the biggest moments in their life.

That said, we’re not against a little tweaking, when it comes to our hand-off time. If the bride is going to be in better light for putting her dress on over by the window, we’re putting her by the window. But that’s it. Maximizing the situation you have to work with, while at the same time, minimizing how much your images affect key moments and interactions on a wedding day.

Engagement sessions, bridals, and the portrait session on a wedding day, are ENTIRELY different situations. During those times, we’re not afraid to be very hands on with our clients. Oftentimes, we’re working on a tight window of time for getting the images we need, so we can waste a second trying to coach from a distance. Nine times out of ten, our couples are more than happy to take the shoot and run with it. If they’re into each other and making out like crazy, we’re gonna let them be.

But every once in awhile we need to step in and show them exactly what to do. The key here is … posing doesn’t have to be your best skill set as a photographer. No really. More than anything, COMMUNICATING has to be your number one priority. If you can communicate well with your clients about what you’re looking for in shot, your chances of actually getting said shot just went up immensely.

With all the film you’ve been blogging lately, are you guys looking to make a transition to film?

This has been a HUGE topic of discussion in the Gresham household for the past few years. Stacey learned to shoot on film, in the darkroom, developing her images one-by-one. I learned to shoot the exact opposite way. I started into photography using digital cameras, downloading them to a server, and rarely seeing them in a print form. Both formats have WAY too many pros and cons to list here.

Film is something that Stacey has always loved. And even with the current film “revolution” going on in our industry, we’re trying to be very careful about how we integrate film photographs into our product.

We have no plans to “convert” back to film. Digital is the medium that created and advanced Gresham Photography to where it is today, and we’re not about to go fiddling with a good thing. But we DO believe film can have a place in our business, and where that place will ultimately be is one of the biggest projects we’re tinkering with right now.

Do you ever need second shooters?

Sadly, the answer is “no.” Stacey and I shoot all of our weddings together, and it would take a severe illness or injury to keep one of us from going to one of our weddings. We invest a lot of time in getting to know our clients, so by the time their big day comes around, we’re pretty darn excited. Neither one of us are looking to give up that excitement anytime soon, so a second shooter quickly becomes overkill for us on a wedding day.

Are you guys planning to have a workshop?

Touchy subject. :-)

Stacey and I are both big proponents of the “pay it forward” mentality. If you’ve ever asked us a question, then you know that we do our best to answer it honestly. There’s some places we won’t go, primarily when it’s in regards to our shooting and editing styles. Those are what make “us”, us.

But there’s not a whole lot about what we do that is groundbreaking, or can’t be discovered without nearly five years of mistakes, mixups, and tough lessons. We do, however, believe that workshops can play an AMAZING role in how you develop as a photographer. And don’t get us wrong … we’ve attended our fair share. From New Orleans to Orange County, from Las Vegas to right in our hometown of Birmingham … there are a ton of quality workshops for budding photographers to attend.

The problem is, there are also a ton of not-so-good workshops out there too. That’s where the danger for new photographers looking to move up the creative food change gets real. Anyone who has access to an online photography forum, or attends one of our industries many conventions, can turn around regurgitate that information at $1000 a pop.

But we’re firm believers in the ideal that being an effective lifestyle photographer is not JUST about taking good pictures. In this day in age, it’s too easy to get good at taking a solid portrait. What’s not so easy is learning the tough lessons that come from real world experiences. When it comes to first-hand experiences, you can’t teach people something you haven’t gone through yourself.

Stacey and I have been getting paid to shoot weddings for over five years. Even now, we make mistakes and encounter bumps in the road on a daily basis. So while we’re not ruling out the possibility of someday hosting a workshop, we’ll promise you this … only when we feel like we’ve learned what it takes to run a successful wedding photography business, on a daily basis, while delivering for our clients every time, will we feel open to sharing our experiences with others.

We haven’t made it there yet. But if you’re looking to learn from some people that we feel HAVE made it there … check out these folks’ workshops:

A Bryan Photo
Jonathan Canlas
Zac Arias

These are just a few of the good ones out there!

2 Responses

  1. Jelani Newton Thanks for the earnest comments and the insight, this is me and my wife's second year running a wedding photography business and we look to you for inspiration on a weekly (or daily) basis. You site and Cliff Mautner's are the main to sites we frequent to get ideas, and just get a sense of what wedding photography is supposed to be like. We've got a long way to go learning our craft but posts like this one help out, probably more than you can imagine. Thanks again!

  2. mariana I enjoyed reading this very much! thanks for taking the time to write that down and the honesty. It's always appreciated :)