Q & A with Isaac.

Here are some questions that people have been asking, and the answers I’ve come up with. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for the next Q&A session 🙂

Starting off with the gear ones… I’ve grouped a few together that address similar topics.

Q: I am just wondering what lenses you shoot your weddings with and why your prefer them over others? – Kate.

Q: What brand and make of camera do you recommend for photographing people? – Rachael

Q: What type of lens would you recommend for a budding photographer? I.e. which lens is good for general all-round use (i.e. can give a variety of shots, macro, wide, etc.), or would you recommend two separate lenses to help capture some good photographs? – Catherine

Q: What editing do you guys do – like what processes or adjustments? And what gear do you guys use – cameras, fav lenses etc 🙂 – Janelle


OK. I’ll start off by listing what we currently use.

We have four Canon 5DmkII bodies, and also a Canon 30D and Canon 40D – which are the backups of the backups! On weddings, Amber & I each shoot with 2 of the 5DmkII’s – one hanging off each shoulder. This is so that we can use different focal lengths without needing to physically change lenses. Also, it means if *touch wood* there was ever a problem with one camera, we’ve got coverage of the day split between 4 cameras.

Then come the lenses. We tend to prefer prime lenses (eg – they don’t zoom) over zooms, as they are sharper, more contrasty, and most importantly, go down to really low apertures like f1.4 or 1.2 – which is good for getting a beautiful background blur & using in low light.

The lenses in our kit bag are: Canon 35mm f1.4L, Canon 85mm f1.2L, Canon 135mm f2.0L, Canon 17-40mm f4L, Canon 70-200mm 2.8 ISL, Canon 100mm f2.8 macro, Sigma 15mm f2.8 fisheye, and Sigma 50mm f1.4

So to answer Kate’s question – these are what we use. We use them mainly because of the low aperture & sharpness. And Rachel’s question – obviously we recommend Canon, but Nikon are equally as good. You can’t really go wrong with either of those two brands.

Catherine’s question – in terms of a good “all around” lens, I’m going to recommend a 50mm prime. Canon make a 50mm f1.8 version which is only about $200 – about as cheap as you’ll ever get! And the Sigma 50mm f1.4 – for either Canon or Nikon, is around $800 and a fantastic lens. 50mm (although it can’t zoom) is a good lens to learn the ins & outs of composition, depth of field, etc. It forces you to think about your shot, and actually move with your feet to get a better composition, rather than being lazy & zooming in or out. Holly (our assistant) shoots almost exclusively with a 50mm lens, and loves it.

Finally – Janelle’s question, most of our editing is in Lightroom, where we do all the colour correction of RAW files. Then the ones that get picked for the blog, or go into albums, also get the Photoshop treatment, where we do the more advanced stuff – dodging & burning areas, skin retouching, tucking in any bits that need tucking in, etc.

Right – now onto the lighting questions!

Q. I’m a big fan, I always check out your blog and portfolio as it is so inspiring to me. 🙂
My question is – For school balls etc what do you use as a backdrop? Is it portable?
I have a backdrop but it isn’t very portable as it’s on a very long roll and was wondering is there a place that you go to to get a really nice portable backdrop. – Laura.

Usually, the school organizes the backdrop (although, we do require some input into this to ensure that the students, the creative designer, and ourselves are all on the same page. Then we just rock up with our lights & set up. If you’re after a backdrop, check out Progear in Newmarket – they have (or can source) pretty much anything photographic.

Q. What is the best way to achieve great lighting in a picture without the use of studio lights?
What would your top tips be in regards to photographing people/portraits? – Rachel

Q. Everyone wants to take good self portraits or portraits of family or friends, even if its just snap shots.
What are the major do’s and Don’ts for this? Particular positions? Backgrounds? – Liz

The key to getting great lighting in an image is to learn to “see” the light – ie, experiment in all sorts of different lighting situations, and work out what situation yields which result.
Generally, a few tips are:
Try and shoot in the late afternoon – rather than at midday. The sun is much lower in the sky, and doesn’t create ugly shadows on people’s faces.
Look for “open shade” – eg the side of a building, thick tree cover, etc. Even in the shade, the light will be coming from a ‘direction’. You can determine the direction by holding your hand out in front of your face & turning your body throughout 360 degrees. You’ll see the shadows become more or less apparent between your fingers. Where the shadows are least, the light is hitting them from that direction. Usually, you’d face your subject towards where the light is coming from – which will light up their eyes nicely.

A good basic pose for a person is to turn their feet 45 degrees away from the camera, and then twist their shoulders & hips towards the camera. This naturally appears to slim their waistline, and gives a nice angle to the camera. You should still be able to see their far shoulder, but on an angle. Experiment with asking them to tilt their head, or lift their chin, until it looks great.

If you look out for areas where light fades from bright > dark – it’s an easy way to achieve an effective look. A good example is at the back of a window, where the light falls off. Position your subject in this area, with the window providing the light. The background will expose darker than the subject, making them really ‘pop’.

Perhaps the most important aspect of photographing people is getting your subject relaxed & comfortable in front of the camera. If they don’t feel comfortable, the images will look stiff & un-natural. Everyone has their own way of relaxing subjects. I joke a little, show them some good shots on the back of the LCD to show them how good they’re looking, and basically just reassure them that they’re looking great.

Q. I am just starting out in photography doing portraits.I would really appreciate any tips on how to get the backdrops to look their true colour in the photos.The people are the correct colour and exposure but the black backdrops are coming out lighter and the white darker. Do you have any in camera tips/editing tips? – Kelsi.

To get the white backdrop whiter, you need to turn up the lights on the backdrop. Usually 1 1/2 to 2 stops brighter does the trick for white high key – so if your light is exposing the subject at f5.6, then put the background light up to about f9 – f10 and you should get that real separation & white background. If you’re shooting natural light, you need to shade the subject more so that you can open up the aperture / shutter speed while still keeping them properly exposed.

For black backgrounds – move the subject further away from the background. This will stop light falling off & hitting the backdrop. Also, having the subject close to the lights means they’re closer to the area where the contrast is greatest. So there needs to be space between subject & black backdrop, and also the subject needs to be close to the light source.

Q. Are there wedding videographers that you prefer to/frequently work with, and does a request for videography impede logistics/your creative flair? (ie prefer not to deal with one) – Sheryl.

I love working with videographers (when they’re not annoying). There is one company who we’ve had a pretty bad experience with (ie – their videographer set up at the very front of the aisle (next to the parents) in the center, and then stood behind the camera the entire ceremony & didn’t move. Not only could we not get any wide shots looking right up the aisle, but the guests sitting 3-6 rows back couldn’t see the B&G at all. Not cool.

I’ve never quite understood why photographers get so up in arms about videographers though. In my opinion, each discipline is an equally artistic, challenging, and creative field.
They’re also very, very different. I’ve yet to come across a NZ company that can REALLY rock both video and photography.

Probably my fav company to work with is SODE The first time we worked with them, it was a bit of a shock – there were 3 videographers, all full on with gear, shooting quite close in, etc. Add to that 2 makeup artists, 2 photographers, and you’ve got a really busy kitchen! But their work is top notch. I also really like handing over to the video guys & asking what they’d like to do. This way, I’m getting setups & shots that I might otherwise have not thought of. Often, video needs the movement factor to look really cool – and that’s something that conversely, photography is often lacking – so they compliment each other nicely. Basically – I view photography & videography as two equally creative disciplines, and there’s no reason we both can’t work harmoniously together to produce something really awesome.

Q. Are you potentially God’s gift to women? – Isaac.
Undoubtedly. Amber wouldn’t disagree…. (well, she can’t anyway, coz she’s not here.)

Thanks so much everyone – great questions!
Will do this again soon 🙂



  1. david woody says:

    Hi, thanks for the info. Very interesting. We are looking for one of these cameras to go with more traditional ‘video’ cameras for professional film work. I like the possibility of getting better depth of field, control of light and image, etc, as well as lesser costs. my concerns are quality of moving image and amount of content we could ‘film’ on one of the mega expensive 64G ScanDisk Extreme® Pro™ CompactFlash® cards for around $1000.
    DO you know much about using them for small scale but quality film work or anyone who does?
    Many thanks,
    David 🙂