I met this couple for the first time on Friday to discuss photographing their upcoming wedding. While they were in the area we decided to do some last minute engagement pictures on Monday at the state park in Myrtle Beach. I’ve said it a lot of times before, but doing engagement pictures is really the best way to get to know a couple, and for them to get to know you as the photographer. If they like what you do during the engagement portraits, they are going to like you at the wedding as well. Pictures of the couple after the wedding is pretty much the same thing, just a little more rushed and with a little more stress.
We are finally getting some good weather, it was a beautiful evening with a great sunset. I notice it seems to be a really popular thing to get some flare from the setting sun in the lens. You certainly wouldn’t want it in every picture because it washes it out, but it can be a cool look. The really expensive Nikon lenses have a special Nano Crystal coating on them to reduce flare because it’s not normally something you would want. If you get the sun over to the side but in the frame enough where it’s hitting the lens you will definitely still get it.
One other thing I thought of. Because of constantly looking into the sun I know I need to always wear sunglasses. However my current ones completely make the screen on the back of my camera not visible. I realized you have to get sunglasses that are not polarized. I ordered some nice Ray-Bans that should be really good without being polarized. I’m hoping that will make it so I don’t have to keep taking them off to see my screen. I hope you enjoy the pictures below, please comment if you do.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, I purchased a new lens, the Sigma 85mm EX DG HSM f1.4. This quick review is from using a full frame Nikon D700 camera with this lens. I typically only buy Nikon lenses, so I have some top of the line lenses to compare the Sigma too, such as the latest Nikon 24-70 f2.8. Nikon’s high end lenses have incredible optics and lens coatings that really control typical problems like chromatic aberration and lens flare. My main concern is taking the highest quality pictures possible, currently Nikon’s 85mm f1.4 lens is $1700 vs $1000 for the Sigma which is a nice difference, but the big problem is you just can’t buy Nikon’s version. I checked all of Nikon’s authorized dealers and I just can’t find it in stock. I had read really good reviews of the Sigma lens from photographers such as Ryan Brenizer that I really respect, so I decided I would give it a try.
First of all, the lens has beautiful Bokeh, or the nice smooth out of focus areas in the background and foreground. At f1.4, you are going to get a very shallow depth of field, a very small area of the picture that is in focus. However, different lenses even at the same aperture, can vary a lot in the quality of the out of focus area or Bokeh. The out of focus areas of a picture can be as important as the in focus areas. I included the first shot below, not as an example of a really good picture, but because I wanted to show the quality of the Bokeh. If you notice there is very little flare from the sun, even in the harsh lighting conditions. The spots of light coming through the trees have turned into beautiful rounded discs, this means there is a high quality rounded aperture. Of course I knew the Bokeh would be nice from the reviews I had read.
Focus and handling of the lens is really something you need hands on time with to know if it works for you. My Nikon lenses such as the 24-70 and 70-200 focus extremely fast on the Nikon D700 body. I knew the Sigma would not be that fast, but I’m pleasantly surprised with how quickly and spot on it locks the focus. I occasionally miss focus on a shot, but it always seems to be my fault. When you are shooting wide open at f1.4 you have to be really careful to keep your subject in focus, it’s almost impossible if they are moving. I actually was more afraid of shooting at f1.4 than I should have been, almost all my shots had almost perfect focus, or at least close enough it looked good.
To sum up my quick review, so far I’ve found the Sigma to have excellent focus, beautiful Bokeh, and fast performance. I haven’t tried it in low light yet such as at a wedding reception, so I will see how it goes. But so far I’m more than happy with the results I’ve been getting. I hope you enjoy some of the shots below, they were all shot with the Sigma 85mm wide open at f1.4. I’ll update this after using the lens more this summer, so far it seems like an excellent addition to my always growing bag of gear.
Note: If the things I talked about in the post sound confusing, there are lots of links that explain everything. You will learn a lot if you check them out.
Update to this article: A few days after I wrote this I actually found the Nikon version of this lens in stock at the Nikon store for $1699. I ordered this and will likely be returning the Sigma. Everything I said about the Sigma is true, it’s a fantastic lens. So why did I get the Nikon? It’s all about build quality. I was getting frustrated at my recent wedding because it was raining and I knew the Sigma is not weather sealed. While the picture quality is fantastic, I use my lenses so much and in such harsh conditions I decided I should go with the Nikon. Nikon builds their high end lenses like a tank, and while the build quality of the Sigma is fine, I decided I would prefer the weather sealing of the Nikon. But if you aren’t a pro, get the Sigma. It’s great for normal use.
It’s getting hard to find some pictures to blog about this time of the year, I did have some brave families do pictures even in the cold over the holidays. I had one family that wanted to do pictures indoors as well as down on the beach in the cold, which turned out nice. Of course I could tell the guys were not too happy about it. It’s really not that bad though, I try to work quickly and just snap a lot of different shots and things really move along fast.
Now about the pictures in this post, this was a really nice couple I did engagement pictures for over the holidays at the Myrtle Beach State Park. Their wedding is going to be in another area, so sadly I won’t be doing a wedding for this couple. It was quite cold, but at least the weather was clear and there was a nice sunset. The guy liked goofing around and I got a lot of funny shots, they seemed to stay smiling most of the time which is what is really important. I hope you enjoy some of the pictures below.
I had a fun time doing engagement pictures for a recent couple. At first when they said they wanted to do them at the Ripley’s Aquarium I was a little hesitant. From being there before for a wedding, I knew that the lighting in the aquarium can be really difficult. I was also worried about the crowds of people around, so I wasn’t sure how good the pictures would come out. Everything ended working out better than I expected. First of all the staff was very nice and let us in 15 minutes early so we could have some time in the Aquarium with no one around. In fact they didn’t even charge us to go in. Just to make sure we had plenty of good shots we went to the Myrtle Beach State Park first, then drove over to the Ripley’s Aquarium. Also, I realized the lighting in the Aquarium is much better during the day then it is after dark because they have natural light that comes in through some of the tanks. I’ve also just really gotten pretty good at using flash in difficult situations. I will post a few of the shots from the Aquarium part of the session below, the beach part was nice, but you’ve seen plenty of those already. If anyone has anything different and interesting they want to try for pictures such as this, please let me know.
My wife and I are both terrible at smiling at the camera, most people really don’t look very natural when they try to smile, so I really feel for clients trying to get their pictures taken. I always try to shoot fast and joke about things to keep it relaxed, the worst type of picture is when someone makes you wait for the shot. Don’t you hate it when people pull out their point and shoot camera, count to three, then still wait a few second for the shot. That is a good recipe for getting the worst possible shot. Still, even with a fast DSLR, most of the time my favorite shots are when the couples are looking at each other or just catching natural smiles when they happen. This couple though just seemed to have naturally great smiles, that is why I picked to post below a number of pictures where they are looking at the camera. They were up for anything and seemed to really enjoy the pictures, I’m looking forward to doing their wedding next year. I hope you enjoy some of the shots below.
I haven’t posted anything on the blog in a while, so I just decided to quickly put up a few of my favorite pictures from the past few weeks. It seems like I’ve had a number of engagement sessions recently, more than usual. It’s especially nice if I’m also doing the couple’s wedding, it gives them a bit of practice. It’s always easier when things are rushed and stressful at a wedding if the couple basically knows what getting their pictures taken is going to be like. From what I’ve noticed it seems like everyone always has a lot better time than they think they will going into the session. I hope you enjoy some of the pictures below.