December 8, 2011

Pancake Session: Questions from the LIVE Chat

Good Morning!

And Happy Pancake day! After the LIVE chat, we got so many awesome emails & fb comments (thank you guys SO much for that!) and a few follow up questions. So we thought we’d make today’s Pancake Session a hodge podge of those so that everyone can benefit. We hope you enjoy!

Mallory asked: First of all…the live chat was FREAKING GREAT! I am curious still about one thing that stood out to me and that’s how you guys are incorporating the use of inspiration boards for engagement shoots…can you elaborate on the process? I know you said you have them tell you how they met, etc. to get a basis for ‘their story’. So, then you put together the inspiration board based on that, and they are responsible for getting the outfits/props to fit in with the theme?

Hey Mallory! Exactly! I’ll look at all their answers to how they met, how they got engaged, what they like to do together and where they shop to see if there’s a common theme running throughout. Or just something that jumps out at me that both feels like them and would make a good concept for the shoot. From there, either myself or Julia will put together a board around that theme with ideas both on what to wear and some props they can bring. One thing I would say, is that it doesn’t need to be too heavy on the props. We did a recent shoot in NYC where the main prop was just a bunch of roses, and that was awesome! It’s just something to add a vibe to the shoot, and to give them something to interact with/do with their hands. In the email with the design board, I’ll briefly explain the overall vibe and then I’ll get specific. I’ll say, “So we would love it if you were wearing something like this, this and this. And if you can pick up this prop and that prop to bring with you that would be great! We already have x and y, so we’ll be sure to bring those.” And using the board, I can tell them where they can find those things. “That dress in the top corner is from J.Crew and the cardigan below it is from Target.” They of course don’t have to buy those exact ones, but this way they can if they want. And if there’s something that I really want to make sure makes it into the shoot, I’ll just add an “If for some reason you can’t find one of those, just let me know & I’ll see if we can pick one up. Because I feel like that one definitely needs to happen! :)” So that way, the boards are getting us all on the same page with the vibe and also creating a shopping list of sorts to make sure the theme comes together.

Cydney asked: What is the best way to go about becoming a second shooter at a wedding? Did you go around asking different photographers or did someone ask you? Thank you so much for your time and that live chat. It helped me out a bunch!

Well, for me (M) I had my own second shooting opportunity built right in, in that I just started second shooting for Justin. He got his first second shooting job when he filled in for a friend from school who couldn’t make it one day. And from there people just started recommending him. If it were me, I would start going to a photographer’s group like PUG every month. And just put it out there that you’re looking to second shoot/assist. I feel like photographers are ALWAYS looking for someone to help out, so that would definitely get the ball rolling. And then I would make sure from that very first job, that I was doing everything to exceed all of their expectations to be the best second shooter/assistant possible. Because then they’ll recommend me to other people. Julia wrote a great post on thinking like a second shooter HERE, and I think it’s definitely worth a read before you second shoot for the first time! You can also check out her second shooter’s survival kit HERE!! :)

Irina asked: I know you two mentioned that when you first started out, you rented a lot of stuff. But what kind of cameras and lenses did you begin with? Did you [both] have pro equipment from the beginning? Or did you begin with pro-sumer equipment and then as you got more and more clients you invested in pro stuff? I only have a couple semi-pro lenses and at this point, I feel like they are holding me back. I’ve lost so many decent shots because the lenses, though it looked like they focused on my tiny LCD screen, weren’t focused at all when I looked at the image on my computer. The lens I use for the zoom shots is a 55-200 f4, which is okay in terms of the bokeh it produces, but doesn’t perform well indoors and in low-light situations.

So when Justin first started shooting weddings he was using the D100, which at the time was a pretty good camera and would probably be considered a pro camera. Four years later when I shot my first wedding, I inherited the D100 and Justin was on to the D2x, which was definitely the professional model. But the D100 by that time was pretty sad. :) It was a GREAT camera to learn on, but it’s buffering was really slow so I couldn’t fire too quickly. And it really struggled in low light. But I started with what I had and built from there. Once I reached a point where the camera was holding me back & not the other way around, that’s when I upgraded to the D700. In general, I believe the lenses are more important than the camera body, so that’s where I would start upgrading first. Like, I would love to see you replace that f4 lens with either the 85 1.4 (preferably) or the 70-200 2.8. Like you said, that will get you a lot more light in and much more professional looking images shooting at a 1.4 or 2.8 rather than f4 (a lot of point & shoots are f4, so shooting at a lower aperture automatically starts to make your images look different from what people are used to seeing). But on the flip side, once you have them make sure you’re working what you got. So making sure you’re practicing, practicing, practicing to be able to nail the focus at 1.4 every time. We talk to a lot of photographers who have spent a lot of money on a 1.4 lens but are shooting it at 2.8 or 3.5 or higher all the time because they’re afraid they won’t nail the focus. Which basically negates the value of that investment. Either way definitely rent a few lenses first and see which ones you like before you drop money on them!

Jessica asked: I have been told that I need a photo release that I sign for the couple to print the pics and then they need to sign one for me so I have the right to use their pics on my website, Facebook, etc. Can you recommend anything?

Hey Jessica! Definitely. So we have our model release built right into our contract, that basically says we retain the copyright and reserve the right to use the images on our site, advertising, marketing or for any other purpose we deem fit without further consent. And they have to initial that and sign at the bottom. On the flip side, when we ship them a disc we just had some square disc-sized cards pre-printed through WHCC (White House Custom Color) with our logo & studio number on them that basically say we are granting them “unlimited personal usage” to make as many prints as they want. Note though, that we’re not giving them the “general copyrights” to the image. We retain that forever as the creators of the image.

Abby asked: I’m really interested in using a simple lighting set-up like yours! When you shoot with your off-camera set-up, do you also have a flash on-camera? I know you’re using two Pocket Wizards, and that one attaches to the off-camera light with a sync cord, but what about the other PW? Is that plugged directly onto the shoe on your camera?

Great questions! For the most part we are not shooting with a flash on camera in addition to our off-camera set up. We really embrace the dynamic shadows and directional light that just the one light set up creates. However, later in the night at the receptions we will pop a flash on top of our cameras for two main purposes: 1) to create some fill as more people are on the dance floor, and casting shadows on each other and 2) to use the auto-focus assist once the lights are turned down. But with that flash on camera we are never bouncing straight up into the ceiling. Because what goes straight up comes straight back down and it creates flat unflattering light. Instead we are first turning our flash to the side and then angling the flash 45 degree. So the light bounces off at a side angle to the corner and comes back in the same way, which creates a really pretty dimensional secondary light source. And finally, to answer your second question, the pocket wizards do just go right onto our hot shoe. But we actually have the mini TT1 version which has a hot shoe on top of it as well with a TTL/pass through communication to the camera. So we can mount the mini TT1 to our cameras, the flash to the TT1 and have both on camera and off camera flash at the same time. The latest thing for us is that we have now added in two Profoto set ups that we control with the Profoto air remote, which mounts to the top of the TT1. So we can now fire multiple strobes (3-4 depending on how we set it up) at once. But that’s a whole other discussion altogether, which brings me to my next point…..

You guys spoke, and we listened! And I am SO excited to announce that our next J&M LIVE Chat, this time specifically focused on all things lighting, will be taking place on January 18th in the new year! So mark your calendars for a “brilliant” time! Har, har, har. :)

Also, we want to make sure we are covering the things you really need help with as we’re putting the material together, so do us a HUGE favor and leave your questions on anything lighting in the comment box below. Also, we are going to be bringing in a few people to be with us live in the studio who will actually get to take part in the demonstrations and practice their lighting skills (or skillz depending on how you roll). If you would be interested in coming into town to be one of those people, leave that in your comment too! Woo to the hoo.


  1. Jessica Fike

    Just ordered the mini TTi system and super pumped about using that at my next wedding. But you guys use umbrellas, too. Would love to hear a little more explanation behind why you use it during the next live chat! THANKS!!! :)

  2. Abby Grace

    Ahh! Thank you so much for answering my question on lighting. This is why I love you all. I can’t wait to learn how to enter to BE at the next one- I’m woefully ignorant when it comes to lighting! Thank you again!

  3. michelle

    I seem to always struggle getting my of camera lighting to give me that directional yet natural look you guys always are able to achieve. I know you go over it every time, so I’ll be looking forward to watching you guys in action! Also, I won’t be raking leaves or sewing pillows on Jan. 18th ;), so I’d love to come down and be a part of the live chat this time!! :)

  4. Sascha Reinking

    Hallelujah! It’s like you heard my prayers. :) I think I’m a pretty good photographer but have still issues with lighting, seeing light, directing light…light in general. Everything that is not ‘natural’ light throws me off and I’m dying to learn about it. My request would be to show us ‘simple’ set ups that work. I would like to ‘master’ my SB-900 first before I try to fire 4 strobes at the same time. It just seems like I can get the manual mode on the flash and the manual mode on my camera right. It’s always over or under exposed and the entire thing becomes a huge guessing game every time I use the flash. A simple set-up with an umbrella or softbox would be much appreciated. Also maybe explaining the difference in light between a softbox, shooting trough an umbrella and into an umbrella. How to use flash and fill light outside to enhance photos. That’s what I would be interested in. Too much? :) You guys rock! Can’t for the WTAW. Sascha

  5. Sarajane Case

    I have way too many questions to ask to pick one. But, I would LOVE to be one of those studio members! Do we get to meet Cooper? Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so giving! I soaked up as much information as I could stand from your live chat and I’m forever thankful!

  6. Alicia Candelora

    Awesome post! And I’d be interested in "coming into town" on the 18th ;) And I can promise to bring cupcakes or some sort of yummy goodies with me as a bribe.

  7. Anna Sawin

    Finally got to watch some of the chat, and I’m inspired all over again, as usual! What is it that you two put out there into the world? It’s magical! Would love to participate in January if I can be useful! Thank you! Do

  8. Heather colt

    Hey Guys! Bravo again! and I would LOVEEEEEE to be part of your live studio audience again!!! Either way though I will be right there oohhhing and ahhhing along with everyone else!

  9. Mallory

    Wow, that was fast!! Thanks for answering!!!

  10. Tiffany

    Sounds FABulous! Im still wrapping my head around the first one! What a great 9 hours of awesomeness. Cant wait! :)

  11. Sasha Norgaard

    J&M officially rock my socks every single day!!! My question would be what are the best times in the day to get the most flattering outdoor lighting with your couples. I’m talking golden flares, creamy bokeh brights and overall even fill of light that makes for those fantastic shots. And most importantly, how do you guys adjust your camera to meet those changing light conditions. Always appreciative of all your hardwork so thankyou thankyou!! : )

  12. Joe Don Richardson

    Thanks again for the workshop it was amazing. I would love to come in and be part of your studio guest panel or help out in any way that you need it.
    And congrats on the Style Me Pretty shout out. So happy for you’ll.

  13. Sandra Fazzino Photography

    I’m blown away by your generosity and admire your lighting skills more than anyone else’s work that I’ve seen. And because I’m a hands on learner, the idea of being in the studio with you to get a better handle on lighting would be priceless. Plus, I can make a surprise visit to my nonna for her 95th birthday. One of my questions would be, are the strobes being moved and adjusted throughout the night? How do you determine where to place them? I always feel bad having equipment amidst the beautiful environment.

  14. Alison

    You are reading my mind! I am stuck when it comes to lighting- like rock and a hard place stuck! So one of 9 million questions: Do you rely on the ETTL system for settings or chose your own when using your speedlight on camera?
    I would LOVE to come down for this chat!!!!

  15. katie s

    you guys are so wonderful

  16. Danielle

    I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to come be in the ‘studio audience’ for so many reasons! Obviously to learn about lighting, but more importantly to give you guys a hug in person for inspiring, motivating, challenging and encouraging me! You’ve literally rocked! I’d be proud to come represent the state PA up in your crowd!

  17. Christa Hann

    Soooo excited for January :)

  18. Heather Holleger

    J & M you guys rock for real!!! :) I LOVE reading your blog posts, and ever since hearing you guys speak at Hallmark Institute of Photography this past year, I have been "obssesed" with you guys! :) (Not to sound creepy or anything! :) ) But THANK YOU for all that you do, and for providing all of this helpful information. And I would ALWAYS love to be able to learn more lighting, so of course I would LOVE to come be apart of the action, and represent little ol’ Delaware! :)

  19. Faye Bernoulli

    <333 you guys!! My main question is what the difference is between shooting with a bare flash, with an umbrella, and with a softbox, and why you chose the umbrella. Also, how do you handle traveling with the lighting equipment (I don’t like checking stuff in, but the stronger light stands are too big to carry on). Thanks so much!

  20. rich

    wow – i don’t know where to start with the questions but it would definitely be amazing to be a part of the audience! thank you SO much for doing these live chats!

  21. Mary

    Hollar! I’m taking the day off to watch your lighting live chat in January. Can’t wait!

  22. ashley barnett

    I would LOVE to be there eek! Something I really need help with is the technical side of HOW the Pocketwizards work. I get the general idea, but I don’t know how they attach, how you set them up, and basically what exactly I would need to have an on camera flash fire at the same time as one off camera flash… I understand how everything works in theory, but I don’t know what pieces of equipment I need to buy in order to have the correct setup :)

  23. Brian

    Definitely looking forward to the Lighting Live Chat on the 18th!

  24. Karen Bonar

    Printing photo @ reception for gift: do you do this when you fly elsewhere for wedding? i.e. in Florida or the like?

  25. Spring

    Am I aloud to come again?? I’ll run the video camera again if no one got sea sick thr first time ;)

  26. Susan

    So excited for the lighting chat!!

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