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Beginner Photography: Best of 2016

Happy holidays! This post is going to be a look back on my photography journey so far this year, as we’ll be reviewing your best of 2016 photos for the live show this week.¬†

So, this might not be much of a dramatic transformation as I only started this series 4 months ago, but I can certainly say I’ve tackled new projects and stretched myself. I mean, I was second shooter on a wedding! That’s crazy. I found out which genres I’m not great at (landscapes, still life) and some that I was surprisingly good at (spooky, wedding, street). I started shooting with a borrowed Olympus E-M10¬†with a Lumix 14-42mm lens,¬†which felt like a revelation after using my Samsung smart phone for so long, but now I am feeling limited by my gear again.

I found that I need to work on mastering my camera settings. I still rely on automatic mode a bit too much, I don’t nail focus as often as I’d like. I’m better at finding my shots rather than creating them, I could use to plan more.

So I’m going to post my favorite images from these past few months below,¬†in chronological order:


This shot was taken with my phone, so the settings were out of my control. But the sun was high, so the shutter speed was fast and the ISO was low. I love the mood, the action, and the colors. I feel I successfully captured the joy of children in summer. 



Another phone shot! I could not have planned something like this. Just a beautiful moment I happened upon in the Muir Woods. The light filtering through the trees, the backlighting of that lone stump.


I loved this bright turquoise wall, and I only had to sit for a few minutes to catch someone walking by it. I shot at 1/400th of a second at f/8 and ISO 200.



This is one of my most successful shoots to date, and one that I actually planned out instead of winging. I dressed up my daughter in a vintage dress and applied some makeup to appear dead. I shot behind an old school and an abandoned church at sundown for the mood. The leading lines bring you to her and then off into the darkness. 1/60th, f/4, ISO 800.



This shot is one of my favorites, and it may only be because I know the people in it. I cut off feet, but I love the mixed eye contact, the anxious energy and mood. I was second shooter for a friend who lent me her Canon 5D Mark III and 24-70 f/2.8. It was shot at 1/1000th, f/2.8, and ISO 1250 which is insane. I could have certainly shot at a lower ISO and shutter speed.



Another example of the right gear making the shot. I was shooting with the D500 and a 200-500 f/5.6. This was shot at 1/800th, f/5.6 and ISO 100.



My first attempt at night photography was my most successful. Shot with the Olympus at a 6 second exposure, f/5 and ISO 200.


So those are my favorite shots I took this year. I got to play with cameras I will never own and shoot with really talented photographers. I got to do some travelling and force my family into modeling. I got to practice making art in a way I haven’t in years. I am really enjoying this, and I hope you are having fun watching me try and fail and try and sometimes succeed. You can see all my past posts here.

What do you think I could use to work on this year? What would you like to see me try? What have you learned shooting this year?

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Live Show Recap: Wedding


Hey folks! This show was a blast. We reviewed your¬†wedding photos¬†and there were some lovely ones. ATTN: next week due to Thanksgiving, we’re doing our live show a day early. We’ll be doing the show on Wednesday at our regular time and looking at your wildlife photos.

We start right off with some chit-chat! Our favorite segment of the show where you say mean or funny or dumb things to us and we respond.

  • “your talking crap.” Get your “you’re”s right, Philip.
  • Tony did¬†donuts, and he’ll never stop
  • indoor drone flying? Never.
  • Skip, no. Photoshop doesn’t make a photographer bad.
  • oops, there’s my handsome husband in a tub.
  • One circle only, Tony.

Ok, let’s get into your¬†photos, but also talk about Westworld:

  • stunning¬†shot
  • classic¬†head shot
  • a well done¬†kiss¬†shot
  • “you just realize how dirty and banged up your whole life is”
  • expression
  • sassy lassies
  • “I get kissed all the time, you think I give a damn?”
  • “nooo, I’m not uncomfortable, I’m an adult”
  • so sweet
  • magazine worthy

Alright, let’s pop over to me for some Q&A:

  • what is your Hogwarts house? We’re adults. “You think they made a Disney theme park because it’s a crappy book?”
  • can you be a wedding photographer if you don’t agree with the institution of marriage? Probably not.
  • my child showed up behind me
  • what is with all the questions about Fuji raw files?
  • what’s the most reckless thing you’ve done in the name of photography? Chelsea married Tony. Trespassing, getting close to dangerous animals. Tony almost drowned with dolphins. “It turns out dolphins are like, really good swimmers.” “Very nearly drowned all the way to death.” Chelsea’s whole response to Tony’s story is amazing.

Okay, over to a portfolio. Beautiful photos. Be one of those Instagram people who makes lots of money by being cool. 


  • Nikon 70-200E f/2.8, Tony would pick the D810 with this lens over the 5DSR!
  • Phantom 4 Pro Batteries can be used for the original Phantom 4. “I just want to live my life as a drone.” #DroneLife

Okay, back to your photos:

  • “this photo’s nice because this man is like, handsome.”
  • perfect backlighting
  • is there anything Kyle can’t do? “This is like when your Furbys start talking.”
  • “I like this guy’s stance because he’s in it to win it.” This whole conversation is perfect.
  • Caleb!
  • I got a pick!
  • “look at you, you’re beautiful!”
  • a real ridiculous Captain Planet moment starts¬†here
  • “maybe he’s gonna punch us, that’s the gag”

Back over to me:

  • Chelsea grills me about Captain Planet and then we sing a duet
  • what do you want the future to say about you? “Tony was helpful, but Chelsea made me feel bad about myself.” Tony wants to be remembered for his educational techniques. Chelsea wants to be accessible. “I just hope that they point out that one car circle would have been enough.”
  • this question was hella confusing, so we just run with it. Emotion, emotion, what?
  • Sigma 35 or 50mm Art lens?

Back to your photos:

Back to meeee:

  • tech q’s
  • iPhone 7+ portrait mode?
  • high price point of the 70-200? Not sharp enough to justify.
  • I got nothing. Your tech questions bore me.
  • what would you use to shoot protests? Street photography gear, 24-70, 70-200. Nothing special.

And that’s our show! Join us next WEDNESDAY at 5pm EST for your wildlife photos.¬†


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Beginner Photography: Wedding

You guys! This is a big one. A few months ago I got the honor of being a second shooter for my friend’s wedding, assisting my¬†very talented friend and wedding photographer, Carina of Love Me Do Photography. Our friends, Rick and Nicole, got married in the backyard of their huge community house in Germantown, Philadelphia. The wedding was quirky and fun and I wanted to do my best to capture their unique personalities.¬†

So the second shooter for a wedding has different responsibilities from the primary shooter. If you have Stunning Digital Photography, there’s a whole chapter on wedding photography which includes a very helpful checklist for what you need to prepare for before shooting a wedding. I used it and I highly recommend it. As the secondary shooter I was responsible for shooting details of the space, the groom and groomsmen preparing for the ceremony, candid shots of the wedding party and guests, and the all-important reaction shots of the groom, family and guests. I’ll show you examples of all of these below.

I can’t speak too much on the preparation before the shoot as I was not part of that, but it is integral to meet with your couple before hand and make a list of what shots they need, posed and otherwise, and what events will happen throughout the day that you need to be prepared for.

For this shoot, Carina lent me her¬†Canon 5D Mark III¬†with a 24-70 lens and a Canon 600 external flash. After the wedding, she¬†gave me .jpgs of the best shots I took, so I did some editing on them, but they aren’t as intricate edits as I would have attempted with raw files.


It is important to capture parts of the wedding that make it special. Keep your eye out for the little details and decorations that the family put so much effort into.

The bride’s bouquet


These adorable pins of the bride and groom were the wedding favors

A glimpse of the groom’s socks

Getting Ready:

The primary shooter will most likely shoot the bride getting ready. She’ll get shots of the wedding dress, shoes, rings, etc.¬†

Requisite tie-in-the-mirror shot


Waiting for photos

Posed Photos/Candids of Posed Photos

The primary will do the majority of posed shots, but you can get the moments in between where you can catch some great moments of joy and nervousness.



Fun family photo

Goofy groom


The ceremony is the time to get shots of as many of the guests and family members as possible. It is important to capture the important people in the couple’s life and their moments of shared joy. Make sure to be present for the important reaction shots like the guests seeing the bride for the first time, the wedding kiss, and the reactions of the guests to those moments.¬†

Waiting to enter the ceremony

Here comes the bride

Guest reactions to the bride

Husband and wife



The reactions of the parents of the couple are very important to capture, as well as the dance of the mother of the groom and the father of the bride. Not all weddings will follow these traditions, but find out in advance which of these will appear so you can be prepared to shoot them.

Surprise guest

Reaction shots to the toast

Bride and groom dance

Father of the bride dance

Mother of the groom dance

This was such a great experience. I would highly recommend offering your services to a professional photographer if you aren’t one yet yourself. I took thousands of photos and got a handful that I am really proud of. It was a long and physically strenuous day (I didn’t consider how much I’d be crouching and running around!) and the experience was invaluable.¬†