Here's a little picture of what life for us looks like right now...
*Last night we sat out on our front porch with a good friend for the first time this year. Spring has finally settled in to stay here in New England, and we've had a week of nearly all warm, sunny days. Last night, the weather could not have been more perfect. We had the warm setting sun with a soft, salty breeze. And everyone was out walking, biking, running just taking it all in. We sat together and shared our now signature cheese board (Robusto cheese, honey covered almonds, dried cranberries, and three types of jam....it's pretty much the closest I ever get to cooking!) and a bottle of one of my favorite red wines: Mirassou. I really love that time of day where we live because the water goes all baby blue, and the sky is splashed in shades of pink, orange and purple. It looks like they're going to be putting the sailboats in this weekend, and I'm already imagining a summer full of days on the front porch & good bottles of wine just like last night.
*If you've been following along on our Facebook page or Twitter, you know that we've started going to a chiropractor. Being a wedding photographer is HARD on the body, and my favorite quote from our first visit was: "You guys are WAY too young to have this much wear & tear!" Awesome. But we sort of knew it was true because we've basically been in pain for-ohhh- five years or so. Headaches, shoulder pain, lower back. And it was getting worse. Three visits in to the chiropractor and I've already seen dramatic improvement to all three. Of course, it requires having moves done on us that I was pretty sure killed people....at least that's what every spy movie I've ever seen tells me. But so far, so good! Still alive! My favorite part of this whole process has been finding out that one of my legs-the right one- is shorter than the other. And here all this time, I thought I just had swagger.
*A couple months ago we took Cooper to the vet for his annual check up and he weighed in at a whopping 90lbs. He is just a pretty BIG dog, so this isn't too over for him, but the vet did want him to lose 5-10 lbs. So we've had him on a strict diet since then. Yesterday we went in for a follow up and the scale hadn't budged at all. Which leads me to believe that he is sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night for pints of Ben & Jerry's. It's the only thing that makes sense!
*Justin is really in to doing yard work. Like REALLY into it. The other day, as he was weed wacking, he stopped for a second, looked up and said, "You know, I must smile the whole time I'm doing yard work. Because every time it's over, my teeth are always dirty." LOL, boys!
* This week was amazing because it officially ushered in May, which is of course my BIRTHDAY MONTH! Justin always likes to tell me, "you get a day, not a month." But I think he secretly likes it too. Because he's helping me put together a pretty crazy scheme for my BIRTHDAY WEEK. Let's just say it involves my version of preppy heaven. Speaking of which, we've started a series on our Instagrams called #jmnewenglandlife that involves all things preppy & new englandy from our day to day life. "Right down to our toes & a pair of topsiders!" If you aren't following along yet, get on it. "And we'll send a thank you note....in cursive!"
Happy Friday y'all!
**And speaking of preppy awesomeness, how amazing are these socks? Can't wait to share Shannon & Luke's NYC engagement shoot on Monday!
Pancake Session: How to Deal With Bad Light (Part I)
We recently had the honor of writing an article for Click Magazine that was aimed at people who prefer to use natural light, explaining how even the most die-hard natural light shooters still need to have a working knowledge of their flash & one light set up. Like I wrote in the article, "Show me the wedding where the photographer planned to use all natural light, and I'll show you the wedding where it all went wrong." And whether it's happened yet or not, sooner or later we all find ourselves in those situations- whether it be a tungsten getting ready room, a church with mixed light, or completely dark reception room- where being able to rely on your flash can really save the day.
In this two-part Pancake Session, I want to talk about how we can use our camera settings to cut out really bad (tungsten, fluorescent, mixed) light and then add in our flash to illuminate the image with just one clean color temperature. Today for Part I, we're going to talk about those camera settings and getting the "black box." And then next week in Part II, we'll talk about adding in the flash. Let's get started!
So first, let's imagine a really tungsten (color temperature orange) getting ready room. There are lamps everywhere, the overheads are tungsten bulbs, and everything is just getting a really orange cast to it. If you try to bring the details over to window light to shoot them or if the makeup artist puts your bride by the window (which we all always hope that they do!), you're going to get really pretty clean daylight on the highlight side where the light is hitting. But the shadows are always going to pick up what's happening with the ambient light. So in our case, the shadow side of our bride's face would start to look really oompa loompa-ish. :)
Our first go-to solution, is always to see if we can just turn off those tungsten lights and use only window light. That would solve the problem right away. But, that's not always an option. Maybe there isn't enough window light to light up the room and the girls would feel like they're getting ready in the dark. Or maybe you're in a situation, like a church getting ready room, where you don't have access to the switches. And you need a Plan B. In our case, that plan is to cut out the ambient light with our camera settings and light up the image with flash. Let's take a look at that step by step:
**Aperture, ISO, Shutter Speed. The first thing you need to know to be able to cut out that bad ambient light, is that there are three settings on your camera that affect how it reads light-Aperture, ISO, Shutter Speed- and of the three shutter speed is the only one that affects ambient light ONLY. Aperture is the amount of opening in your lens that allows more light to pass through to your sensor, both ambient light AND light from a flash. ISO tells your camera sensor how sensitive to be to light, both ambient light AND light from a flash. Shutter speed is the only one where even if you have a super long shutter speed, it won't affect the light from the flash because the flash is always that same blink of an eye duration. So if we did a 30 second exposure, for an extreme example, the flash would still only fire for that one instant while the ambient light continued to pour in the whole time. So what we take from that, is that if we need to cut out ambient light (or on the flip side, if we want to make sure we're including it like in a candle light reception)....shutter speed is our go to tool.
**But to sync your flash, shutter speed needs to be 1/250 of a second or slower We're going to get into this in much more depth in Part II, but for now suffice it to say that in order for your flash to sync up with your camera when we add that in later, the shutter speed can't be faster than 1/250th (and even slower for some flashes, depending on model). So what that means for us, is that we are limited in how fast we can make that shutter speed to cut out ambient light. If this weren't a problem, we could just go right to 1/5000 of a second and be done with it. But because we need to add that flash in, once we hit our max shutter speed then we have to go to either Aperture or ISO to get us the rest of the way there. Because we really love the aesthetic of a wide open aperture and don't want to stop that down, we always go to ISO. When we lower that ISO it makes the camera less sensitive to all kinds of light (both ambient & flash) and can get us the rest of the way towards that "black box" we're going for.
**Go for the "black box" Our goal when we're at the camera settings stage if we truly want to cut out all of the (bad, awful, tungsten or mixed) ambient light in the room is to be able to take a picture with our settings and get a "black box" or almost completely black screen on the back of the camera when we take a picture in the room. If I take a picture in the room and have no exposure at all, then I know that my ambient light isn't affecting the image anymore and now I can add in my flash for one clean, white balance.
Ok, that's it for now! We'll be back next week for Part II, talking about how we add in that flash, what we need to do to get it to sync up, and what our favorite transmitters are. But in the mean time, if you have any questions at all about what we've covered so far feel free to leave them in the comment box below & we'll do our best to answer them!
Happy Pancake Day!
**If you found this post helpful at all, we just ask that you help spread the love and tell somebody else about it! We're all better together!
***If you're looking to get more help with not being afraid of your flash anymore, our next J&M Lighting Intensive is May 14th in Rochester, NY and we only have FOUR spots left!
The "Huh..." still hung in the air between us as it filled every inch of space in the car and tempted me to put my window down. So that it could roll on out into the world and reverberate the very passing hillsides with its benign rebuke.
But instead it just sat there. Between us. The pink elephant in the room of monosyllabic sentences that said whole weeks of conversations worth. It had said everything, and yet nothing. And I needed to know more. So...I pushed.
I was in the car with my good friend Tiffany, when she asked the inevitable questions that now comes up after the tour..."So....What's Next for Mary?"
I blinked. Squinted my eyes the way you do when you're really thinking hard about something....or buying time. Started and stopped a few times. And then ultimately rattled off a list of seemingly rather worthy goals & accolades compiled from my notes on watching this industry for the past few years.
And that's when the "Huh..." came.
"What?" I asked, already afraid to know the answer.
"Oh it's nothing," she said, " I just, I dunno, those just don't seem like Mary goals to me. When I think of you guys, I think of you going out and doing the big things in this world that will actually help people. Those just seem like prizes. Like wedding photography industry prizes, and they just seem like somebody else's goals. I guess I just see you guys doing something bigger with your work. Something with more impact in other people's live and not just yours. It feels like you might be playing small."
And then it was my turn to say "Huh..."
I sat and let her words sink in, the way that a concrete building settles into the ground beneath it. With a lot of weight and the force of gravity. And the funny thing is, I wasn't mad at all. I was grateful. If there is one thing that has made all the difference for us, it has been surrounding ourselves with friends who aren't afraid to give it to us straight. To tell it like it is. And...I knew she was right.
A few years ago, when Justin & I went to our first conference and saw all the speakers walking around and sitting at the same table together, I made a promise to myself that one day I would sit where they were sitting. And that we would have what they had. So I made a mental list of what I thought it was to be successful in this industry. It went something like this:
Speak at WPPI, host a sold out workshop, get featured in Rangefinder, teach internationally, book a $10k package, have 10,000 likes on Facebook.
And being the good, Rachel Berry-on-crack, type A, over-achiever that I am, I set my sights on each goal, went after it with a gazelle like intensity, and saw myself check-mark each one off along the way. Accompanied as always, of course, with a gold star.
Over time, as things got marked off and new definitions of success emerged in this industry, I added to that list. And what I realized, staring into the "objects may be closer than they might appear" mirror of the passenger side, was that what I had just rattled off at 65mph on the southbound lane of Interstate 91 were the remnants and broken remains of the six-year journey... of chasing someone else's dreams.
Had we been successful? Sure. But by whose definition of success?
Were these accomplishments impressive? Maybe. But would I rather leave an impression....or an impact?
And wasn't the real problem with more....that it's never enough?
What I realized that day sitting in Tiffany's car, was that I was holding on to that list of old goals that I'd written for myself like a lifeline. Stitched together from the patch-work pattern of what an industry had said it is to be successful, rather than the voice in my own head. And the truth is, I was terrified that if I walked away from that list before every last one of them was completed, then it all would have been for nothing. And I would have ultimately failed.
And what I'm continuing to realize even now, is that when I hold on so tightly to those small, "supposed to" dreams penned by somebody else's hands....it's only blocking the way to those really BIG things that I've been called to. And that each one of us has been called to. Because how could we possibly see the bigger picture, when we're so blinded by the checklist that we keep right in front of our eyes. We have to learn to let go. Let go of what is important to somebody else. Let go of selfish pursuits. Let go of what is so fleetingly rewarded in a broken world. Let go of following so carefully, step by step, in the footprints of somebody else.
And for once, ONCE, in our one wild & precious lives...be willing to be brave enough to step out ahead, alone, and on our own two feet. And to feel what it's like to be the one blazing the trail.
Whatever you do today, I hope you set fire to it.
I realized the other day that Justin & I have been doing mentoring sessions for other photographers and small business owners for about six years now. It's crazy to think it's been that long, but I think we did our first session as part of the Thirst Relief charity auction in 2007 out at WPPI. And then a couple of years ago, we started offering them monthly as part of our education side of the business along with the Walk Through a Wedding workshop & The J&M Lighting Intensive.
For the longest time on mentoring session day, we would open up 2-3 spots and each person would come in for their 2 hour session and then head back home to get to work on all that we had talked about. But not too long ago we were talking to our good friend, Katelyn James, about the way that she runs her coaching sessions and I just really fell in love with the format that she came up with. What she does is a session in the morning, then grabs lunch & a few headshots with both attendees together, and then the second session in the afternoon. What I loved about that, was that it gave the attendees a chance to meet each other and go home with an ally/sounding board/accountability partner who was also working on some big goals and could really relate. And I also loved that the lunch & head shots both added value to the day and made for a full day experience for everyone who signed up!
So we decided to take that model and adapt it a bit for our purposes! So now the way our mentoring sessions will work is this: Each mentoring session day will have two spots- a 10am & a 2:30pm. We will do the morning session, meet up with the person who signed up for the afternoon session and the four of us will grab lunch, go back & do the afternoon session, and then the morning person will meet back up with us in the evening so we can do a mini-headshot session for each of them when the light is getting really good. We just did our first day based on this new model with our new mentees Tricia McCormack & Josh Guiles, and I have to say...I LOVED it! We really got to take our time with the sessions, we had an awesome lunch where we did more talking with the four of us, at the end of the sessions the four of us just sat out and had a glass of wine while we waited on the light to get really good, and then we headed out for the head shots. It was a full, amazing day and by the end of it, I really felt like we had two new friends.
It's always so cool to see how different the sessions can be & still have a lot in common. Tricia's was more about talking about branding & advanced lighting. While Josh was there more for marketing & posing. But it was so awesome to see how they were pushing each other & helping each other over lunch. Also, one of the things I was a little worried about was that break for the morning person while we did the afternoon session, but Tricia was able to use that time to go do a bit of shopping and grab this killer Kate Spade dress that really fit the brand we had just talked about for her, so she had it in her head shots. It really worked out great!
I am SO excited about both of these guys & what they have planned for their businesses and their markets now!! I'm expecting big, BIG things out of both of them!
So without further ado...Meet Tricia & Josh!
Our next May mentoring sessions day will be on May 29th! The spots are $850 each and include a 2.5 hour mentoring session on whatever you want to talk about, lunch, and a mini-headshot shoot with us!! If you want to grab one of the two May spots, email email@example.com as soon as possible! And if you want to check out more on Katelyn's coaching which we highly recommend, just click HERE!
The Best Things We've Done for Balance in our Business
This past weekend, we were lucky enough to be part of the Amazing Life Together webinar , and what an awesome time it was! Our particular section was on "Building Time Together" in the midst of chasing crazy big dreams. And it really got me thinking about what were some of the best things we've done to build that balance back into our lives when the business started to take over. I wrote down a few of my favorites & I thought I'd share them here with you guys too!
Y'know, just in case anyone out there is looking for a little more balance in their lives! :) (Who isn't??) Here they are!
1. Shut off by 7pm. Hands down one of the best things we've done for getting some balance back in our lives from the business, is shutting down for the night at 7pm. At around 5:30, we'll both start winding down what we need to do for the day. For me that might be email & creating my "Win the Day' list for the following day, and for Justin that is probably getting to a good stopping point on culling images. But we both start preparing to end the day around that time so that come 7pm, we can close down the computers. put away the phones, and get into "home" mode. One of our favorite ways to start switching into "us" time is to cook dinner together. We're usually still feeling like we're in work mode, so all that chopping, boiling, and grilling helps refocus us on being home.
2. Set an email hour. Like I mentioned above, around 5:30 I'll start tackling my emails for the day. I try to do one focused hour of email each day, and I've found for me that works best if I do it towards the end of my day. Most people are also winding down their days or making their way home, so I don't get a ton of immediate replies back right away. And I can also end the day with a zeroed out inbox, which helps me go into that "home" time without a ton of things hanging over my head. In the morning & throughout the day, if I see something come in that needs a faster response I will go ahead and get back to them. But for the most part, I like to do that one focused hour of email so that I'm not wasting the whole day in my inbox. And the flip side of my hour of email, is that this is the latest that I ever want to be sending out emails. I used to be on email til all hours, replying back at 10 or 11pm. But then I realized that people weren't respecting our home life & boundaries because I wasn't. It also didn't make me look like a very organized business woman if someone got an email from me in the middle of the night. So now, even if for some reason like we're traveling I do have to write my emails later than 7pm, I will save them as a draft and send them out the next morning. And I typically don't respond to emails on Sunday at all.
3. Walk it off. I've found that I'm most productive when I have a chunk of a task that I can complete from beginning to end in about 1-2 hours. And then that always needs to be followed by a mini-break of some kind. So when I have a big task to complete like a wedding blog post, I'll break it up into the culling, the editing, and the blog prep. At the end of each section, I walk away for a little while and do something fun. Which for us, is usually taking a walk on the sea wall with Cooper. We're really lucky that we have such an awesome place to walk right out our front door & we make a ton of use of it. I always find that when I come back from even a 15 minute walk, I'm refocused, recharged, and ready to tackle the next thing. When I just try to work straight through the day without stopping, I get really stressed out, cranky, and I find it really hard to wind down that night.
4. Create a work space. Another great trick that we've learned is to create some sort of space just for working that also has some sort of "off" signal. So for example, we each have our own offices and at the end of the day we can turn off the lights and close the doors. And just flipping that switch, also helps us mentally switch into home time. But if you don't have your own office (we didn't for years!) it can be as simple as having a lamp that you switch off or putting your laptop into its case. Just something that says, work is over for the day!
5. Find some brain occupying hobbies. If you're anything like me, even if you've wrapped up everything for the day and turned off work....your brain still keeps on running. And it can be really hard to get your mind to stop racing about all the things you still need to do. One of the only things I've found that works for me when I get like this is to either read a good book you can't put down or watch a show that really pulls you in (like Nashville or Revenge!) Basically, I just need something to distract my brain from work and sometimes the only way I can do that is by giving it something else to do until it calms down.
6. Realize that rest is a "to do" too. I've started to come to a realization these past couple years: rest is not a luxury, it's a necessity. It's as crucial to our business as workflow and marketing. And if we don't want to burn out then we have to have that balance. Given that we realize how important rest is, we need to make sure it's on our to do list right alongside the editing and the ordering. If we put priority on those things, we need to do at least the same for the rest that keeps us going.
7. Remember why you wanted to be a small business owner in the first place. And this is the biggest one for us. We got in to having our own business so that we could work from home and be our own bosses. So we could set the rules. Write our own story. And live Life Un-ordinary. And we need to remember that. So when things are getting a little too hectic or we've been working too much, we'll take off for a movie matinee. Or take a long lunch. Or start the day with brunch. We'll work from our backyard or the beach, or go off on an adventure somewhere not knowing where we'll end up. We'll enjoy being home. The fireplace and the couch and silver "M" that hangs on our wall. Because that's why we started this in the first place.
And it makes everything else that goes into running a business worth it.