Miss Greater San Diego – Swimsuit Poster

With the Miss Greater San Diego Pageant USA  coming up quickly (tomorrow) I thought it would be appropriate to blog the swimsuit poster we came up with. I really had a lot of fun, and working with my new strobe really took this shoot to the next level (and also helped fuel my gear addiction).

Well, without further ado, the photographs.

After the poster shot, a few girls asked to have their photo taken individually. Here are just 2 of the individual photos I did.

And a few options for the cover of the pageant book.

Thanks for looking!


Required Gear for Professional Wedding Photographers

I have a lot of information in this post about various cameras, lenses, etc. but I thought I would give a small, easy to see breakdown of the minimum equipment I would feel comfortable going to a wedding with.

  • 2 capable camera bodies
  • Lenses that range from 16mm-200mm f2.8 (on full frame)
  • Tokina 11-16mm f2.8, Canon 24-70mm f2.8L, Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS II are the zooms I have.
  • Backup lenses that you can use if your other lens breaks (should cover a strong section of your primary lenses. You should be able to shoot a wedding on the backup kit alone
  • Canon 28mm f1.8, Canon 34mm f1.4L, Canon 50mm f1.2L, Canon 85mm f1.8, Canon 135mm f2L are the primes I use to supplement/backup the zoom range
  • At least 2 flashes.
  • Canon 580ex2 (x2), Quantum Qflash Trio, YN-560 (x3) are what I have. If one goes down, I have plenty to choose from.
  • Batteries and memory – enough to photograph 2 weddings on.
  • As far as other specialty lenses go (fisheye, macro, etc), they can be fun to have, but not 100% necessary to shoot your first wedding. If you are doing this professionally, I do think it is important to have some sort of macro capability.

Recently I received an email from a friend who informed me that his camera was stolen and asked for my advice. He was looking at getting a new camera (Canon) and wanted to know what I recommended. Although I am sure he was only expecting a few lines saying – “get this camera, its a good one” I proceeded to break things down for him, giving him quite a few options, something I am sure he did not expect.

I have a confession to make – I love having new camera equipment. The gear does not make the photographer, and I completely agree, but I sure do love buying it and being able to give different looks to my images. In this blog post, I will be giving my opinion on equipment to use for weddings, which I feel would be a great read for those just starting out or looking for their new toy tool. Then I will talk about my camera bag, what is in it and why, and what is on my wishlist. I will also talk about some of my gear that I feel every photographer should have. So buckle your seatbelt (click it or ticket), because this is going to be a long one.

Wedding Photographers and the necessary equipment.

A few disclaimers before I get too detailed. First, this is just my opinion. There are photographers out there that can do amazing work with less, and those that can do poor work with more, but this I feel is a good “rule of thumb” so to speak. Second, I am a Canon shooter. I think Nikon makes great imaging equipment, and has some things that are better than Canon, but I will be talking about my experience and my knowledge base comes from Canon equipment.

I truly believe that something more important than the top of the line gear is knowledge of how to use that equipment. It is IMPERATIVE that the photographer knows the basics of the camera; this includes everything from shutter speed, ISO, aperture, AI Servo and One Shot focusing, the difference between spot, evaluative, and center weighted modes, how to use flash and manipulate your camera, knowledge of post processing and editing your images, the difference between Av, Tv and Manual mode, etc. You dont have to use everything listed here, but you should know how to use it all. Failing to do that will leave you ill-prepared for the challenges and diversity of shooting a wedding. Now that I have said my piece, here is the equipment which I will break down into categories.

Camera bodies: It is obviously important to have something to take photos with, and in my opinion (as all of this article is) is needs to be something with interchangeable lenses. I prefer the semi-pro/pro bodies, but even a couple of rebels can suffice when you are just starting out. Some things to keep in mind when buying a camera.

  1. Know your budget. Figure out your entire budget, including all of the extras. This includes lenses, batteries, memory cards, bags, etc. Make sure you leave enough left for those items.
  2. Don’t buy it because of the marketing buzz. For most of us, video is not a big deal, and megapixels are not fully utilized 90% of the time I shoot. Basically, everything on the card in front of the camera at Best Buy or Frys isn’t as important as what isn’t placed there. Things like focusing, sensor size, usable ISO range, etc. How will you know this? Research, ask professional photographers, and really understand the differences before you buy. Buying the most expensive camera is not always the best decision.
  3. Plan for at least 2 cameras. If you are doing weddings, you HAVE to have at least 2 cameras. If you don’t, rent or borrow an extra. If one fails, saying “Sorry, but my camera broke. I am going to go home now” will not cut it. I have 3 camera bodies, and hire assistants/second shooters that have at least 2. Will I ever use all 5 cameras? Hopefully not. Do I need them? Absolutely.
  4. Should you buy the kit lens? That is up to you. On 2 of my cameras (40d and 7d) I did buy them, with the intention of either reselling them for a larger profit or using it as an extreme back up. That being said, almost no kit lens (with possibly the exception of the 24-105L that you can usually buy with the 5d2) should be used as a primary lens for weddings.
  5. Buy used or new? All depends on what your budget is, what you are buying and how much cheaper you are getting it used. Canon 40d’s can be had for $400-$500 on craigslist pretty easy (I got mine there for a third camera) and are great cameras. Cheaper than a rebel and can do many things better is a good option in my book.

So what camera options are you looking at?

Canon Rebel: This is the cheapest option, and best if you are looking to add some nice glass to it. While this will get you started, it isn’t something I would consider using full time for too long. The smaller, cheaper made bodies are not nearly as rugged as the larger ones, and many of the features are somewhat crippled.  They are much smaller and do not balance nearly as well as some of the larger cameras, but getting them with a vertical battery grip would be beneficial.

Canon 60d: In my opinion (and many others) this has turned into a “super rebel”. Basically everything I said above applies, with a slightly larger price tag and a few added features.

Canon 7d: I just bought a 7d to compliment my 5d2, and absolutely love it. It has a super fast auto focusing system, and quite advanced. The way the camera feels is great, and with a nearly 100% viewfinder, it makes it much easier to see your subject. It also has a wireless flash command unit built into the popup flash which is great if you need it in a pinch, and of course video mode. It has a burst rate of 8fps (which is really fast) and can put out some great images. It also uses the same battery as the 5d2, which works great for me.

Canon 5d Mark II (5d2): What a beast of a camera, and I absolutely love mine. 21 megapixels, video mode, full frame censor which allows better color, more shallow depth of field, and great high ISO noise rendition (I often use 6400 without thinking twice), this is one of the best wedding cameras out there. Of course, it does have its flaws. Using a nearly archaic focusing system (especially compared to the 7d), achieving focus can be difficult. Also, using those large file sizes will fill up your hard drive, fast! And of course the price tag that comes with it, and the fact that you can no longer buy/use EF-S lenses with it somewhat limit your options, and is a big step when upgrading to buy all new lenses. If you are planning on buying this camera, plan so from the beginning so you do not have to re-buy all of your lenses.


Now that we have your camera body figured out, lets look into some necessary lenses. This obviously can change, but I feel it is the duty of the photographer to cover as big of a range they can, preferably covering from 16mm-200mm (full frame equivalent). Personally, I cover 15mm (fisheye, and then 16mm with my Tokina 11-16) to 320mm (with my 70-200mm on my 7d). I think it is my duty as a wedding photographer to be able to shoot when the lights are low, which is why I do not recommend variable aperture lenses (ones that change your f stop when you zoom) or anything slower than a f/2.8 lens as your main lenses. I will go over the gear I use in the next section and why I use that gear in particular.

So which lenses/ranges are a must? In order of importance: (I am only listing a few Canon lenses. There are third party lenses that are more affordable, but lack things like image quality and focusing speed/accuracy. I will mainly be posting Canon lenses

Normal Zoom lens: This will be your bread and butter lens. It can get you things from wide shots, formal shots, dancing, etc. A full time pro could most certainly shoot an entire wedding on this lens (not that they would absolutely want to, but it is doable). I prefer to use lenses at least f2.8, but you can do it with f4 and some good flash technique.

Canon 24-70mm f2.8L
Canon 24-105 f4L IS
Canon 17-55mm f2.8L IS (Crop sensor only – great focal length to match up similarly to the 24-70mm)

Telephoto Zoom lens: This will get you places your feet cannot. Close up shots at the ceremony, great candid expressions and wonderful background separation.

Canon 70-200mm – there are many versions with different price tags, but as I have been saying all along I prefer f2.8, IS is a plus.

Edit: I just bought a the 70-200mm f2.8 IS II and it is AMAZING. Before when I said IS is a plus was right, but after using it more, I find the lens is severely crippled without IS. Not to mention how sharp this lens is, wow! If you can afford it, go for it!


Still to come

Wide Angle Lens: Sometime the group is too big to get everyone in with 24mm. These are some popular options.
Canon 17-40mm f4L
Canon 16-35mm f2.8L
Canon 10-22mm
Tokina 11-16mm f2.8


Still to come

Primes: Primes go from wide to telephoto, and of course there will be more than I list here, but these are some popular ones, most I have had experience with.

Canon 24mm f1.4L I’ve heard great things, but 24 is a bit too wide for my shooting style.
Canon 28mm f1.8 I own it, and its a good lens, but it now sits in my backup bag, waiting to be sold.
Canon 35mm f1.4L Amazing lens. 99% of my dancing shots come from this lens, and it does great for getting ready too.
Canon 50mm f1.8 This is an affordable prime that will be the first prime for many people. I do not find it reliable enough for wedding work, seeing that at my first wedding, it broke and would not even allow me to manual focus.
Canon 50mm f1.4 Good lens, but I was worried about the build quality. So I bought the L
Canon 50mm f1.2L Great lens, and I could probably shoot an entire wedding with it if I had to. If I had the choice of 2 lenses though, they would be the 35mm and my new 70-200mm
Canon 85mm f1.8 Great little lens – sharp, focuses quick, light and doesnt take a lot of room in the bag.
Canon 85mm f1.2L I dont own this, but it is a great lens. That being said, I dont feel the need to sell my 1.8 to buy this.
Canon 135 f2L Great lens, and is my go-to for dark ceremonies and speeches throughout the night. It can create some magical images,
Canon 200mm f2.8 A lower priced option for a longer lens. Although I havent used it, I have heard good things about it.

Obviously I am still in the process of writing this blog, and will update it as soon as I can.

Not your normal “Grip and Grin”

While having breakfast Friday morning with my girlfriend Victoria, her aunt and cousin, I get a call from a photographer I work with, Kristen Peelle asking if I was available to do a shoot that day. I agreed, and quickly found out when the job was scheduled for – now. We get the check, head back home, while I frantically change and pack. I had very little information about what the shoot entailed, and was only told that they wanted “some action shots and some still shots at Gilespie Field”. I grabbed my bag, ran out the door, and headed out not knowing what was ahead of me.

When I got there, I was told I was basically going to be doing some grip and grin photos (smiling while looking at the camera, publicity shot kind of things).


I was then approached and asked if I had another camera that I could lend to one of the crew at the field so they can take some photos, when I responded, “Can’t I just take the photos?” Little did I know what I was volunteering for.

He responded, let me check, and asked the pilot if he minded if I went up with him to take some photos – up in the air! Although I didn’t know that I was asking to do that, I was all for it, and jumped at the chance to fly.

Here was the plane I got to fly in, a T-6.

And my flying quarters

My previous job site – a little different view, with a little different job description

And finally, some of the good stuff!

Thanks for looking!

My friend can do it…

Why do we need to hire a photographer when my friend can do it?

I have heard this time and time again, and with the mass abundance quality dSLRs which raise the quality ten fold from point and shoot cameras, I do not see this phrase going away. I do not want to speak for other professionals, but from my experience in the wedding industry this is heard quite a bit – DJ, florist, coordinator, etc. When I would hear this, I would proceed to explain to the couple about my experience creating consistent results, owning top quality gear, knowing how to handle situations when they go wrong, and everything else that I have learned while being a photographer for these past few years.

This phrase has become a pet peeve of mine for awhile, until I really thought about it. I have been trying to convince them they needed me, basically a stranger, to come document their wedding. I have been using the same technique that everyone else is, but I offer a uniquely different service – me. I am missing an opportunity, and when I hear the phrase, “my friend can do it” I should answer, “Absolutely” because, in all honesty, I like to consider myself a friend to my couples. I provide my services as a photographer, but I also like to think that over the course of planning the engagement shoot, consultations, the wedding, album design, and all of the other times I work with my couple, often times over the course of a year +, I become friends with them. I meet them at Disneyland, or go to the Zoo (coming soon), or just shoot the shit, I consider each of my clients friends.I now embrace this saying, knowing full well that I have a tendency to make friends fairly easily (just follow Victoria and I to any restaurant we frequent).

To break it down, when I am asked “Cant my friend do it”, the answer will be yes. You should make friends with all of your wedding vendors, seeing as they will be doing everything they can to make one of the most important days of your life memorable.

My essential – non-photography equipment related – wedding equipment

Since there are so many posts out there about what camera and lenses are needed for wedding photography, some of them my own, I thought it would be good to point out a few other pieces of equipment that I find extremely important to bring to each wedding, that is, unless I run out.

One thing that I aspire to when working a wedding is to always be prepared (it’s the Eagle Scout in me). I cannot tell you the joy I get when the bride turns to her maid of honor, asking, “Do you have _____” and I can tell her that I do. I have built my kit up over the past two years, and have used almost every piece in it at least once. Many times wedding coordinators will have similar packs, but there has been more than one time where the wedding coordinator was not available, or at the venue getting things read, or the couple just did not hire a coordinator. These are the times things like this really come in handy.

First, we will start with what I like to call my wedding purse. My mom gave me a clear plastic bag with a zipper t be able to close it, and I use this for a good portion of my “bridal necessities”. In the purse, I have as follows:

  • Sewing Kit: I can’t tell you how many times I have used this, from a tear in the dress or putting on buttons on the groom’s tux, it has been a life saver.
  • Hair Gel: Good for when the boys forget about their hair and make up time.
  • Tissues: If you or some one has a runny nose, or teary eye, I am prepared.
  • Wet wipes: Ever been to a wedding where Phill’s BBQ catered? If you have, you know exactly why these are useful.
  • First aid kit: the newest addition to my kit, with just a few band aids and a little bit of gauze. It wont fix a broken arm, but will help with blisters on the brides feet when she wore her shoes for the first time.
  • Hair spray: I haven’t had to use this yet, but it is nice to keep around.

Other important items that I keep in my camera bag. These are not all for the client, but I find it fits well into the “non-photographic equipment” that I listed above.

  • Tide To Go pen: Children – or groomsmen – are not always the tidiest when it comes to eating in their nice clothes. It works like they say it does, and taken out some pretty nasty stains.
  • Pain reliever: Take your pick, aspirin, ibuprofen, advil. Its great to have when you, or anyone else needs it.
  • Flashlight: Never know when you need to use it. I use it all the time while packing up my bag, finding car keys, using to help focus (sometimes).
  • Pens: People always ask me for pens, and its nice to have around.
  • Breath-freshener: I have a small tin of mini Altoids, they cost a buck and take up no room in the bag. I try to make it a point to go around after dinner to the vendors so they stay fresh as well.
  • Business cards: Its one of my pet peeves when I ask someone for a business card and they fail to produce one. It has happened to me once and was quite embarrassing, so I make it a point to put them everywhere – in the car, my bag, wallet, anywhere.
  • Extra batteries: AA, AAA’s what ever you need. Its nice to have not only for you, but if anyone needs a few.
  • Battery charger: I bought one that I can use in the car or using an AC outlet, and it is a great backup, just in case.
  • Sun screen: Sometimes I think we are going to be doing an all indoor wedding, and turns out we spend the entire day on the beach. I prefer to stay tender, not crispy.
  • Gaffers tape: Its kinda like painters tape because it doesn’t leave a greasy residue, but stronger and easier to rip. Its saved my butt a few times

I would like to add photos to this post as I go on, but this is the gist of what I carry. I will continuously add to it, but I highly recommend that if you shoot weddings, you get yourself a kit like this.

Cameron and Katie – Engaged

We had so much fun at this engagement session last week, and even though there was a little miscommunication about exactly where we were meeting which made us race against the sun, we all feel like we got some great photos.

Cameron and Katie are old friends of my girlfriend Victoria, and from the start I can see why. They were so much fun, and with Katie being a cheerleader for years, when I told them to give me dramatic poses, they knew exactly what to do. As you will see in the photos, nothing was too wild for them to do which made for some very unique images.

Please enjoy.

Audrey and Brian – Engaged

Audrey and Brian were referred to me by a fellow photographer, and I am sure glad they decided to book me. We had a lot of fun at their engagement shoot at Torrey Pines reserve. The scenery really fit their personalities, and it was a perfect day for photos.

Please enjoy the Torrey Pines Reserve Engagement Shoot.

Thank you for looking. Stay tuned for my next wedding to be posted soon.