52 Week Challenge - 2019

52 Week Challenge - 2019

For a long time, I’ve debated doing a personal photography challenge. Sometimes my personal photography takes a back-seat to the professional work and I forget to shoot for fun. So, this year I’m actually making it happen (or at least starting it, we’ll see if I make it to the end). I’m going to use this challenge to not only document my life and family, but also push my boundaries and try new techniques and styles. So, here goes….

Why I left Nikon for Sony - From a Family Portrait Photographer

I recently made the switch from Nikon camera gear to Sony and purchased a Sony A7iii. That meant selling pretty much all of my gear (camera, lenses, flash equipment) and starting over with gear compatible with Sony. As you can imagine, it was no small decision for me. Below are some of the reasons why I personally decided to make the switch. I’m not necessarily advocating that the switch is right for everyone, but it was right for me.

This is going to be a post mostly for other photographers. I’m going to geek out a bit about camera gear. For those that don’t know me, I’m a family portrait photographer (that’s important to know because it influenced some of the decisions I made in selecting the camera).

Nikon is anti-competitive

Over the years as a Nikon shooter, I’ve seen Nikon do some things that I really didn’t like. Things that purely benefit themselves, at the expense of their customers. For example, Nikon keeps their autofocus algorithm as a secret so that it’s harder for third-party lens manufacturers to create lenses. Presumably, they do this to sell more Nikon lenses. In order to make lenses with autofocus, third-party manufacturers have to reverse engineer the technology. Which I would imagine (and have experienced) is a time-consuming and imperfect science. Additionally, if Nikon releases a firmware update, it sometimes breaks the functionality third party lenses. With Nikon’s latest mirrorless lens mount (Z mount), they have continued this tradition.

Sony, on the other hand, has an open auto-focus architecture. When manufacturers want to create an autofocus lens for the E mount, they can use the Sony autofocus spec to develop their lens precisely to the spec. Sony's strategy is much more consumer friendly. As a consumer, the only vote I have is with my money, and I'd much rather vote for a company with my interests in mind.

Camera Technology

I wanted to make the switch to a mirrorless camera. I personally think it’s the future of photography. If I’m investing in lenses, I might as well invest in lenses I can own for a long time. Mirrorless cameras also offer some features that DSLR cameras aren’t capable of. (Silent shooting, edge to edge focusing, small size, etc…). In comparing comparable Sony and Nikon mirrorless offerings, Sony was the clear winner for me. Before I get into the specific reasons, I think it’s important to note that Nikon is brand new to the mirrorless full-frame market. I’d expect most of my issues to be addressed eventually.

Memory

For starters, for some inexplicable reason, Nikon chose to only include a single memory card slot in their cameras. The Nikon Z line uses XQD memory cards, which are more physically durable than an SD card, but at their core, they both use flash memory, which can become corrupt. I don’t ever want to have to have a discussion with a client to explain that I lost their entire session because of a corrupt memory card. Dual memory cards are the only option for me.

Lenses

Since the Nikon Z mount is so new, there are only a few native lenses (currently 4) out for the mount. That is compared to about 150+ lenses for the Sony E mount. Nikon does offer the FTZ adapter, but I personally don’t love the idea of shooting through an adapter. From the evidence that I’ve seen, the performance just isn’t the same, especially with third party lenses.

Battery

The battery performance of the Sony mirrorless cameras blows the Nikon out of the water. I haven’t used the Nikon mirrorless cameras personally, but from the evidence that I’ve seen, I’m not sure if I could finish a 2 hour family portrait session on a single battery. The performance on the Sony is incredible, especially considering that the viewfinder is electronic.

Eye AF

The eye AF on the latest Sony cameras is just amazing. It locks on almost instantly, tracks the subject, and nails the focus. As a portrait shooter of fast moving subjects (kids), this is a game changer for me. Nikon is supposedly also releasing Eye AF in a future update, but it’s an unknown for me at this point. I’ve been burnt by vaporware before and I can’t count on it coming out and being good.

Innovation

I love the fact that Sony innovates, takes risks, and pushes boundaries. In comparison, Nikon releases solid tried and true technology. Some examples of Sony innovation over the last few years that I’ve been interested in are: integrated wireless transfer, FF mirorrless, a compact pocketable APS-C camera (RX100 line), and eye AF. In all of these areas, it’s taken Nikon a while to catch up.

I’m personally an early adapter and I’m willing to deal with issues here and there if it means that I get to play with the latest technology. So, while both Sony and Nikon have viable strategies in this area, I think the Sony cameras meet my needs better.

Tips for Getting Kids to Smile Naturally in Photos - Secrets from a Children’s Photographer

Tips for Getting Kids to Smile Naturally in Photos - Secrets from a Children’s Photographer

Everyone has been taught from birth how to get a kid to smile.  You just tell them to say "cheese" and they respond with a nice big natural smile, right?  Well, anyone that's actually tried this can testify to how well it works (if you didn't catch my sarcasm... it doesn't).  You end up with a photo of a kid with clenched teeth, a scrunched nose, and raised eyebrows. In this article, I'm going to give away all of my secrets that I’ve picked up as a professional children’s photographer for getting nice, natural smiles out of children.

Taking Family Photos with a Smartphone

As the saying goes, the best camera is the one that you have with you.  And these days, most of us always have a smartphone with us.  Modern smartphones (and also point-and-shoot consumer) cameras can take some amazing photos.  There are some things that smartphones are great at and other things that smartphones aren't so great at.  In this article, I'm going to teach you how to take advantage of the strengths of a smartphone camera when taking photos of your family and kids.  

Crying Newborn Shots

Newborn sessions can be quite stressful.  The newborns don't always cooperate.  Sometimes they are hungry, sometimes they poop, and sometimes they cry.  In my shoots, when a newborn cries, I usually keep snapping away.  I often tell the parents that they may not appreciate these crying photos now, but I promise that they will in the future.  After all, a photo of a clearly miserable kid isn't that appealing right?  However, I don't think the goal of lifestyle newborn photography is to simply make beautiful photos. 

Lifestyle Newborn Photography Tips and Tricks

Right now there are two popular styles of newborn photography.  The first style is that posed look where everything is perfect, the baby is usually wrapped in something fluffy, and propped in a perfectly baby sized basket.  This style is super popular right now.  The other style is more of a lifestyle feel, where the family is naturally interacting with the baby in the family's house.  Families can get great photos either way.  My own personal style is the latter, a more natural lifestyle feel.  Below are some good tips and tricks to get great lifestyle newborn photos.  

My favorite Philadelphia area locations for family portrait photography

Before I get to the locations, I feel like I should mention a few things.  First, I'm located in Conshohocken, so that's the nucleus of where I shoot.  I usually work with each client and pick a location near their house.  Secondly, there are a few major things I look for in a location.  It's not just the scenery.  A few of the major traits that make a good location for me include:

Camera Buying Guide for Non-Photographers

Camera Buying Guide for Non-Photographers

As a professional photographer, I often get asked about the best lens or camera for taking photos.  My usual answer is that it really depends on what kind of photography you're planning on doing.  Like the saying goes, "the right tool for the right job".  You could probably cut a board in half with a hammer, but it wouldn't come out looking very nice.  The same goes for photography gear.  So, the first question I would ask is what is the camera for?  Is it for travel, family, kids, sports, landscapes, etc...

How to Get a Child to Cooperate for Photos

As a parent, getting children to be happy and willing participants in a photo shoot isn't always the easiest thing in the world.  Below are some quick tips that I've picked up along the way to get children to happily participate for a photo session.  The tactics I recommend are different for each age group.  

25 Tips for Taking Amazing Photos of Children

Anyone who has ever tried to take pictures of children knows that it's quite challenging.  They don't have attention spans, they don't listen, and they switch from happy to grumpy within seconds for seemingly no reason.  As a professional family portrait photographer, I've picked up a few tricks over the years to get good photos with uncooperative kids.  Below are all my secrets for working with children and creating a successful photo shoot with children and families.

The most important component to making a good photo

I often get asked by my clients some variant of the following question: "What's the most important component in making a good photo?  Is it the camera, the lens, or the processing?"  I'm not big on suspense, so here's the answer... It's a combination of all three, plus two more very important items: the environment, and skill.  Let's dig in to each component and find out just what makes it special.