Category Archives: For Photographers

Austin Wedding Photographer Essentials :: What’s In My Bag?

Let me go ahead and start by saying THIS IS NOT A GEAR POST. I am a firm believer that the quality of your images is a result of the skill and experience of the photographer, not how much money they spent on the latest gear and gadgets. So instead, I’m here to talk about what’s in camera my bag… that is not gear… and what I would consider wedding photographer essentials!

Based on the contents of my purse, my husband loves to joke that I am the most prepared person that he knows. And that preparedness also trickles down to my camera bag on the wedding day, to make the day better for myself and my clients. Thankfully the Think Tank Retrospective 30 is a somewhat large bag to hold all of my wedding day essentials. Plus I have my hard case wheelie Porter Case Trolley with Camera/Laptop Dividers as well. This case is so dang handy, because it also can easily turn into a dolly on wheels for carrying larger loads. So let’s start diving in, shall we?

what is in a wedding photographer's camera bag?

Blotting Papers: These are for both myself and the bride. If you start to get a little dewey and feel the sweat kicking in, I’ve got some blotting papers in my bag to help you tackle the shine! I prefer the kind with powder on one side to help mattifying, but the oil-absorbing ones work great too.

Sunscreen: Being a photographer in Texas means I have to wear sunscreen every time I leave the house. Naked Zinc Sunscreen by Naked Bee is great because it’s a natural zinc based product with UVA & UVB protection, not one of those crazy chemical filled versions. The zinc in this formula works to create a physical layer of protection over your skin, rather than being absorbed like other, chemical-based sunscreens. I love that it is fragance free (your clients really don’t want to smell you) and absorbs well. The small 3 oz size fits perfectly in a side pocket of my bag!

Bug Spray: As a nursing mom, I’m ultra careful about what I put on my skin and in my body these days. Hyalogic Bug Armour from Hyalogic perfectly fits the bill, with non-chemical ingredients like citronella, eucalyptus & lemongrass oils. This version dries pretty quickly, so I don’t have to worry about getting oily residue on my gear. And it works, so I will continue to use it beyond nursing as well! (Because this does have a stronger smell, I do wait to spray myself on an “as needed” basis.)

Benadryl Stick: I’ve lost count of how many fire ant piles I’ve stepped in over the years while shooting. A little dab of this cream on the bite makes it stop itching, and allows me to get back to concentrating on my photography. The tube is shown here, but I actually prefer the roll-on stick.

Hair bands & Bobby Pins: Again, these are for both myself and the bride. Although your hair shouldn’t start to fall, occasionally an unwanted wisp will escape here and there. I pretty much have come to realize that most of the time it’s just too dang hot here in Texas to shoot with my hair down, and my hair ends up in a bun anyway.

Safety Pins: I had to learn this one the hard way! My black wedding pants were a little too tight post-baby and wouldn’t you know it… I popped a button at a wedding! Thankfully, the ladies at Pearl Events were prepared and hooked me up. But I learned my lesson and carry my own now, just in case.

Kind Bars: Kind bars have always been a favorite photographer fuel, and I always have at least one ready for eating in my camera bag. I am most recently addicted to the Chocolate Mint flavor – it’s like a healthier version of the Thin Mint girl scout cookie, and keeps me full until dinner time. :) And the truth is, at particularly hectic weddings, sometimes it can be 10pm before we get to eat. In those cases, I have 2 Kind bars for dinner and call it done.

Chapstick: I have my own lip balms for marketing collateral, and it is *the best*. I am a major lip balm snob, and I have ordered from many different companies over the years. These are hands down my favorites because of how smoothly they glide on, how moisturizing they are, and of course the yummy flavors (Vanilla Tangerine is kind of like a Push-Up pop, the Tropical is like a Pina Colada, and the Peppermint is like a candy cane on steroids!) One of my past brides actually ordered these for her guests’ wedding welcome bags, because she loved them so much too!

Ear plugs: To get those awesome dance floor shots, I’m often running back and forth in front of the band and DJ speakers during the wedding reception. Ear plugs help to dampen the decibels so I’m able to get awesome photos without damaging my eardrums.

Ibuprofen: Have you ever held 2 professional photographer’s cameras at the same time, loaded down with 2 flashes and 2 giant lenses? I swear it can be over 50 extra pounds on my shoulders, body & feet that I carry around all day. Not to mention all my back up gear and all the other stuff listed above. I’ve learned to go ahead and take 2 ibuprofen on my dinner break to make load-out hurt a little less. (Hot tip: One secret I’ve learned over the years is to bring a 2nd pair of shoes. Half way through the wedding, I change shoes and it’s a huge help in preventing sore feet at the end of the night)

Extra contacts: Just in case one falls out! These are the things I obsess about late at night before a wedding when I can’t fall asleep!

Clear Umbrellas: If there is even the slightest hint of rain in the forecast, you can bet I’ll also be packing our two clear umbrellas for our couple.

Sweat-Proof Water Bottle: The Hydraflask is my favorite closed-top water bottle of all time because it is sweat and leak proof, and goes directly into my camera bag side by side with my gear.

Personalized Yeti: This beverage container company hails from my hometown of Austin, TX, so I always love showing my support for them! I chose to get mine personalized through (you don’t have to be a guy to order from them, but I do agree that these would make awesome bridal party gifts). At the end of a 10+ hour weddings, it is waiting in my car filled to the brim with icy coconut water for hydration for the drive  home. I can usually drink the whole 30 oz in about 15 minutes, and after the innumerable 100 degree days in Texas, it’s unbelievable that this thing can still keep your ice cubes solid!

(Source notes: You can get pretty much everything on Amazon these days. I do occasionally like to use smaller specialty sites for more organic/natural products and shopping. Natural Healthy Concepts is a vitamin and supplement website with a blog that features articles by a certified nutritionist on the most important topics in the natural health industry, such as essential oils, blessed thistle, turmeric root, collagen and chyawanpraph.)

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Austin Wedding Photographer Podcast Interview with Cory Ryan!

This is more for my wedding photography colleagues than my couples, but feel free to listen in for a taste of what it’s like to run a wedding photography business! I’m proud to say that I am going on 13 years now, so tune in to listen to TWO Austin wedding photographer podcast interviews with Cory Ryan and get to know me a little better!

Austin wedding photographer Cory Ryan interview1) On this episode of Small Town Camera Podcast, listen in on iTunes for our conversation about “How to Have Longevity and Grow Your Camera Business”. I have A LOT to say, apparently, because this is a long one chocked full of great information for wedding photographers who are looking to make their business stand the test of time. (1 hr 30 min)

2) Then look who’s also featured on Skip Cohen University! Listen to this episode of the podcast for my input on building your photography business! (16 min)








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For Photographers :: ArcSoft Portrait+ Review

I get a ton of emails from wedding companies asking me to blog about their product, shoot with their wedding dresses, feature their rings, etc. And I usually say no because it’s hard enough to keep up with blogging my OWN work, but when ArcSoft emailed me to review their product Portrait+, I couldn’t resist. It’s one of those programs I’ve been hearing about for years, and my post production retouching time can be a very time consuming process. With a background in commercial photography as well, I know the insane amount of hours that fashion and beauty retouchers can spend, and was hoping there was an easier way than doing every single step by hand. Typically, I do the following when editing portraits: remove blemishes, soften skin, remove under-eye circles, lighten eye whites,  lighten teeth, and remove fly away hairs (if possible). So if there’s something out there that can make my life easier when it comes up this multi-step process, then why not check it out? So alas, my dear photographer friends and photo enthusiasts, here’s my person ArcSoft Portait+ review!

The first thing to note is that there are 2 versions of this program. One version is a Photshop plug-in, and the other version is a stand-alone program. The stand-alone program will allow you to batch process a whole folder with the same settings or tweak individually each photo in a folder, which is best for something like processing a whole wedding folder. I would highly recommend using an uncompressed format when you export after your initial color correction in Lightroom, as you will definitely lose quality exporting your images twice (first from Lightroom, then from Portrait+). Since I do 85% of my editing in Lightroom, I am examining the Photoshop plug-in (since Photoshop is so seamlessly integrated with the Adobe product line), as it allows you to keep the images in an uncompressed format the whole time (RAW to PSD). You can read more about the comparisons between the 2 versions here.

So how do you make it work? What is handy about the Photoshop plug-in version is that you can simply “right click > Edit in Photoshop” on any image in Lightroom to seamlessly open an image directly from your Lightroom catalog directly into Photoshop. The first issue that becomes apparent really fast is that 16-bit images will CRASH Photoshop CC 2014 in the plug-in version (I have the monthly subscription program that is constantly being updated, which I’m sure causes unexpected bugs), or cause crazy image distortion. No bueno! So to fix this issue, you have to FIRST convert the image to 8-bit before applying the filter. That step is very annoying and the only way to work around it is to use the stand-alone program, which does apparently support 16-bit. However, I don’t want to run the program on my RAWs or exported images via the stand-along program right now, so this is the best way to deal with that issue until it is resolved.


Go to “Image > Mode > 8-bit” to convert from 16-bit ot 8-bit, then go to “Filter > ArcSoft > Portrait+” to apply the plug in.


You will notice this bride has beautiful make-up and skin already, but the side lighting from the natural window light causes any skin issues to become more noticeable for the camera. What I do love about ArcSoft off the bat is that EVERYTHING is customizable with a slider. What it does is map the human face via dots and lines, which it then used to base all it’s adjustments on. The catch here is that it has trouble when using any portraits in profile, or when the person isn’t looking directly into the camera. For a lot of fashion photos, and candid portraits, this can be a bummer. So you also have to accept the fact that the program may not be able to work with photos without clearly identifiable eyes, nose & mouth.


The plug-in will then take you to the basic interface, where it will default to the “Presets” tab. The built-in presets are a great place to start if you are using the program for the first time. My retouching tastes lean towards tasteful and natural looking skin. There’s nothing worse than a model or bride’s skin looking so plastic-y that you can TELL. Try clicking on all the options to see what they do (slight smooth & medium smooth are good places to start). Once you’ve got a handle on what the options do, try going to the edit panel for more advanced options. Once you have found basic options you like, and would want to use time and time again, click on the “Save as Presets” button at the bottom so that combination of options will now appear on your Presets panel. Very handy! You can check out my general pre-set preferences below, but remember to cater your settings to your taste and your branding!


Once you have your settings the way you like then, press OK in the lower right hand corner. You can then save the .psd which automatically stacks a layer back into your Lightroom catalog. This also ensures that your photos stay in an uncompressed format (.psd) until your final export, which retains as much image quality as possible.

I grabbed this image from the ArcSfot website just to show you that the software can also identify multiple faces, and you can choose to apply or not apply the enhancements to specific faces in a group. So at the end of the day, if you are willing to put up with the one little hiccup (converting to 8-bit), I think this software is highly worth the investment! Even if you don’t use this as part of your regular workflow, I would highly recommend it for larger portrait or canvas orders (think 11×14″ and bigger, where pixels are big and bold).

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 10.49.57 AM

SOOOOO, if you like what you see and are interested in getting a copy for yourself, the kind folks at ArcSoft have provided me with a coupon code for 45% off Portrait+. Use Portrait45 at checkout. ENJOY!

ArcSoft Portrait+ Photography Retouching Program

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