Impromptu Headshots

What do you do when you were hired to do pretty generic coverage of a short daytime event and they ask you to throw in some headshots for their website?  After hiding the fact that you don't have the ideal equipment on hand, you discuss usage and payment, and then find the cleanest solid background available near a window.   I won't win an award for technical perfection, but for a single light source and one minute of notice, everybody ended up happy.


What to wear for your engagement session

Congratulations, you're engaged! Now you get to go out and take some beautiful pictures to commemorate the occasion. When we talk about engagement sessions the one question that comes up about 95% of the time is "What should we wear?"  Well, it all depends.  My whole philosophy is that I want to capture who YOU are as a couple, so I don't want to pose every joint in your bodies and I certainly don't want to rifle through your closets to dress you.  If you want the short answer - Take what you'd normally wear, and find a nice version of that.

Simple enough, right?  For most people that's not very helpful at all...  I'd give a few basic directions but even those are open to a lot of different interpretations.   So, Jenny and I took the liberty of taking my basic recommendations about what to wear and made a few example photos for you.  I'm warning you ahead of time, we're not fashion experts, we're not going to tell you what's right and wrong, and we're rather serious about not being serious.  You asked, so here are some examples of what to wear and what to avoid.

My basic directions:

Bring two outfits - one casual and one dressy.  Wear your favorite one first; we might not get to both.

Dressy Outfits:

There's good dressy and bad "dressy."

Casual Outfits:

There's "We're relaxed" casual and then there's "I just pulled this from the bottom of my gym bag" casual.


Colors are good!  Unless you're part of a theater's stage crew, I don't encourage wearing all black.

Coordinate, don't match:

Would you wear the exact same color or outfit as your fiance any other time?  And no, Halloween doesn't count.


If the pattern could be confused with a Magic Eye poster, please don't wear it.  Most patterns are ok but my rule of thumb is to leave tie-dye at music festivals, Hawaiian shirts on cruise ships, and animal prints on animals.   This picture exemplifies a big "don't" for patterns, but notice the color coordination with my pants and her shirt, her pants and my shirt, and the flower in her hair with the flowers on my shirt.  It takes conscious effort to make bad look this good.

Closing thoughts:

Pick something you like, try not to fret over it, and have some fun.  We'll take great pictures regardless of what you're wearing.  I actually encourage you to be creative and different with your session.  If you want to dress like hipsters and take pictures with cats, I'm more than happy to oblige.


Steve & Jenny

You Shall Not Pass (unless you want to because it's public property and they can't legally stop you)

Carrying a camera around can be both a blessing and a curse at times.  I've found that if you have a big, important looking camera and lens and then you take on an attitude to match, you can talk your way into some areas that might normally be restricted. Conversely, sometimes if you're taking pictures in perfectly acceptable areas of perfectly acceptable things, people will try to hassle you.  I'm a law abiding citizen and I'm not one to get belligerent to prove any points about photographers' rights, but a recent encounter did strengthen a few beliefs of mine. The situation - I had scouted areas to take a wedding party for pictures like I always do.  One good spot was around a state owned building that is open to the public.  There should be no issues in bringing a wedding party here - public property, legal gathering, legal activity.  Surely enough, when I show up with the gang on wedding day and start positioning and posing, a security guard comes out to inform us that the director of the facility said we had to leave since this was state property and we hadn't cleared the "event" with.... some unnamed/untitled person there.  Disappointed sighs flow from the group as they make their way toward the exit.  I was about to walk out the gate when I did one of those head shakes, like "no, this isn't right."

I dropped my gear and told the group to hang tight for a second as I went inside the building to look for the director.  The security guard took me right to him so I introduced myself and explained the situation.  He tried to make the argument that it was state property, we didn't have prior clearance, and somebody could get hurt.  Without sounding like a complete smartass I made a couple of simple points - (1) You said yourself it is public property, (2) All the other tourists walking around the property did have prior clearance?  (3) You want us to leave the grounds and walk onto the sidewalk, which is also state property carries equal if not greater risk of injury (these New Orleans sidewalks...)

The people in this case tried to pull a "I don't want to deal with them so kick them out."  Fortunately, I have a good general understanding of what I can and can't do and I'm pretty reasonable about arguing my case.  I got to walk back outside with my head held high and tell my wedding clients that we could do as we planned.  We got a couple of my favorite pictures of the day by staying and shooting there.

A few points to take home from this -

(1) You owe it to yourself and to your clients to study and know your rights.  If I had walked out that gate, it would've ruined a good portion of my planned shoot, affecting the quality of product my client received.  Why?   Because some guy didn't want to deal with us.  Sorry, not an acceptable reason to attempt to limit our rights.  There are plenty of resources out there to educate people, and knowing your position is the first step to arguing for what's rights.

(2) Don't be afraid to challenge "authority."  The authority figure in this case ran the joint, but power doesn't mean you're correct.  If there's value in arguing a point, go after it.  Even authority figures are human and can be wrong.  The caveat, though, is that some things just aren't worth arguing.  If I had spent 45 minutes battling my point, I would've just looked like an ass to my clients.  I'm probably as stubborn as they come when arguing "principles," but even I recall the concept of the Pyhrric victory.

(3) Don't be a dick.  Make it a point to smile when confronting people you disagree with.  Extend a hand.  Be courteous. Win them over with unrelenting reasonableness.  I've seen plenty of encounters with police or similar figures that were unnecessarily escalated to dramatic proportions because one side knew they were right and was intent on proving it despite the cost.  I'm no civil rights leader, nor do I want to be.  I just want to get my way the easiest way possible.


Oddities in America - Longwood Plantation, Natchez, MS

I got to visit Longwood in Natchez, MS, a massive octagonal mansion on which the construction was halted with the outbreak of the Civil War. With only the lower level finished, the upper floors remain in the same state they were in over 150 years ago.  Apparently the deal between the current and past owners required that it remain unfinished, giving visitors a rare glimpse into the past.  The workmen's tools are still laying around.  A few of the shipping crates, including a massive one for the house's piano, serve as the only furnishings on the first level.  In it's unfinished state, you can stand in the center of the house and make yourself dizzy looking straight up through the next six stories worth or lumber and rafters.  I can't think of a better setting for a ghost story; something where you can hear workers' saws and civil war gunfire after the sun goes down.  I'd stay there overnight... I swear.



Shoot 2 Studios' Second Shooter's Guide

You're probably reading this because you either have questions about second shooting or have already talked to us about working for Shoot 2 Studios.   Every photographer does things differently so the goal here is to answer the majority of the basic questions and give you the essential directions for second shooting with us.  If you've got more questions, just ask! Second shooting = Assisting +

You'll be carrying light stands, raising and lowering light stands, being a voice activated human light stand, and so on.  If I'm not shooting it means I'm either chatting briefly with a guest, in the bathroom, or doing something that you can help with.  Being a wedding photographer means running your ass off for ten hours every Saturday and I take that to heart.  I'm normally sweaty with at least one piece of torn clothing by the end of the night... so just run with me.

You're representing Shoot 2 Studios

This should go without saying, but be nice, smile, laugh, cry with them if you must, but keep working.  I'll give you business and event cards to carry and hand out if asked.

This is not for your portfolio

In the past I've hired people in the "I'm just starting/learning" stage and let them use their images for their portfolio with few restrictions.  Unfortunately, that doesn't give me the consistent, high quality images that I aim to deliver to my clients.  That, and a few bad apples would do things like post their pictures on social media before mine, or give their images to other vendors instead of mine as if it's their wedding.  So I don't do that anymore... At the start of the wedding day, I'll give you memory cards to use and you'll return them at the end of the shoot.  You've already got a good portfolio, otherwise I wouldn't hire you.


If the clients have specified a time for us to eat, then great!  We get a break.  If it's a buffet, then grab a plate after all the guests have eaten and have a bite, but keep an eye on the action.  If it's a sit down dinner and we haven't been given a meal, then I hope you brought snacks.  We'll usually get something, but always bring something just in case.  Also, I have a one drink rule.  If offered, we can have one drink with the bride/groom/bridal party (some people get downright offended if you turn down a drink).  After that it's polite jokes about how more alcohol will make you forget to take the lens cap off.

Dress Code

The general rule is dress pants, long sleeved button up dress shirt, and dress shoes for guys.  Ladies can wear either pants or dresses so long as they can comfortably crouch and bend, and whatever shoes you can move around in all day without killing your feet.  Both guys and girls should wear black or dark colors.   If there's something else that would be more appropriate for a particular wedding (a suit, Converse, etc.) I'll let you know in advance.


If you've got questions during the day, just ask.  There are times when we might be across the room from one another and can't communicate verbally so try to interpret my hand signals as best you can.  They basically include pointing at something (i.e. photograph what I'm pointing at), and the finger across the throat sign (i.e. stop what you're doing because it's ruining my shot or something).

Before we get started on wedding day

We'll either meet before shooting begins the day of, or if you're showing up after the event has started we'll talk at some point before you arrive.  We'll go over the schedule and specific plans for the day.  There are also a few camera setting details to get straight.  Doing this up front makes my life a lot easier when I process your images.

-Synch our camera times

-Shoot large RAW

-No Auto WB.  I don't like getting pictures where every WB is different and none of them are right... it doesn't tend to work well with my post processing workflow.

-Format memory cards

-Check radio trigger channels (if we're using the same type of triggers).

After all that's done, we're ready to go to greet our clients.

What do I want you to shoot?

My focus is about 80% on the bride and groom, 20% on everything else.  Your focus should be more like 50/50.  This obviously isn't an exact science, but I want more crowd reaction shots, detail shots, friends and family pictures, table pictures, etc. from you while I'm working with the B&G.  The overall rule is don't shoot the same thing from the same place at the same time.  Other than that, be creative and have fun.

Where do I want you?  

I'll give specific directions if/when I have them, but the general rules include - (1) stay out of my shots, and (2) don't stand right next to me and shoot the exact same thing.

I'm usually all over the place at weddings, so keep an eye on where I am and move if necessary.  I.e. If I come stand right next to you and start shooting it means I want that spot and you should move.  Sorry. Feel happy that you picked a good vantage point.  :)


I aim to have my second's pictures styled consistently with mine so they blend in and are a seamless part of the final wedding day story.  I use off camera and bounced flashes, so we'll set yours up to be consistent.

Questions and ideas

Definitely feel free to ask any questions you have come  to mind during the wedding, but try to do so when we're not directly working with the clients.  I also like to hear other's ideas about what they would have done differently, but not when I'm actively working on my idea.

After we're done

Hand over the cards, get paid, and that's it!

Questions?  Things I should add?  Let me know; this is a living document that I'll change from time to time.  Hopefully you'll have had a great experience and gotten some fantastic pictures.

As always - Shoot 2 be awesome,



A little bit about albums

For those of you interested in getting albums but haven't been able to meet with me in person, I've uploaded a few pictures to show you a little bit about them. First, there are two basic cover types - Photographic and Leather.  You should be able to figure out which is which in the pictures!  The photographic cover albums are great because we can design custom covers using your images.

Bindings - These albums have a lay-flat design with a very small center seam, so they can sit fully open without damaging the book.

Page counts - Base albums have 20 pages for images, which equates to roughly 50-60 pictures.  Additional pages can be added two at a time if you'd like to include more pictures.

Pages - The pictures are printed onto thick board mount pages so they don't bend (unless you force them) and won't tear (unless you really go after them).  The albums pictured have been to multiple wedding shows, have had cake and champagne spilled on them, and had thousands of people flip through them and still look like new.

Spines - The photographic cover can have custom text added.  The leather albums can only have text added to the front cover.

The leather albums can have custom text embossed onto the front cover.

New Orleans Sculpture Class

Jenny, the designer half of Shoot 2, likes to exercise her creative muscles by taking figure sculpture classes in New Orleans at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts.  I got asked to take some pictures of the class in action.  Having witnessed a few years worth of these classes, I can appreciate Michelangelo's feelings on sculpture (recognizing he was working with stone).  I think I'd cry if I spent three months working on a sculpture only to have parts of it explode in the kiln.  Most of Jenny's have survived so now we've got at least five little naked figures hanging out in our house.


Can I get a DVD?

I recently photographed an event for an entrepreneurship organization, at which Mike DeLazzer, founder of Redbox, gave a talk.  Being a small business owner myself, it's always fantastic to hear stories from people that were able to turn ideas into successful businesses.  Inspiration can come from anywhere.  Grab it and run with it when you see it.


Simple life lessons from Jazzfest pictures

Jazzfest in New Orleans is known for its great musical lineup every year, but even if you're not into music, it provides for some amazing people watching opportunities.  Here are a few little lessons that are pretty applicable toward every day life.  Enjoy.

Turn around once in a while.  What you need might be right behind you.

Some days will be longer than others.  Pace yourself accordingly.

You won't please everybody.  Just keep dancing.

There's a lot of competition out there.  Know where you're going and get going early for the best results.

No explanation needed.