This was one of my favorite wedding shoots ever in Moab, Utah with Caleb and Logan. Their passion was so deep and wild. Every photo of them was a real love story.
I had the privilege of creating engagement photos for Jenny and Armando following their surprise engagement at the Angus Barn in Raleigh. They chose the beautifully diverse campus on Duke University in Durham, NC for this engagement session.
I was so excited when Cody and Allison of Cody & Allison Photography, asked me to shoot couples photos of them for their new wedding photography site launch!
For this shoot we ventured around Nashville, Tn.
Angela and Angela were so connected during this shoot in downtown Durham. This was the first couples session that they've had in their in their 18 years together. What a privilege and honor.
For this shoot we chose the Highway 147 overpass just near the American Tobacco Campus and then wandered down the American Tobacco Trail to chase some light and vibes.
Nick and Summer's wedding was such a unique, adventurous day. We started at Sundance Mountain Resort for a beautiful chairlift ride to the top of the mountain where we hiked to the ceremony destination.
After the ceremony, we had a few hours until the reception at Deer Valley Resort so we took advantage of the gorgeous scenery which allowed for some wonderfully meaningful experiences with Nick and Summer.
The reception ended the night with dinner, drinks and dancing while the sun set and the stars came out.
Ever feel like us photographers talk too much about gear and too little about perfectionism, how to use our creative resources like time, environment, consistency, patience, and critical thinking skills?
In this video I'll throw the nerdy "gear talk" out the window and discuss 3 reasons why gear means nothing.
Canon 5D Mark 4: http://amzn.to/2BUf2Ph
Canon 5D Mark 3: http://amzn.to/2BXQGEl
Canon 7D: http://amzn.to/2BZrop4
Fujifilm XPro2: http://amzn.to/2iXtY7T
Fujifilm X100: http://amzn.to/2nTof8q
Fujifilm Instax Mini 90: http://amzn.to/2BWepEO
Sony A7r: http://amzn.to/2BaQ29e
Olympus PEN E-PL1: http://amzn.to/2iXIWum
Polaroid Land Camera: http://amzn.to/2z43k66
Canon 35L ll: http://amzn.to/2z4quJt
Canon 50L: http://amzn.to/2l3mdl0
Canon 85L ll: http://amzn.to/2krY2cb
Canon 45 Tiltshift: http://amzn.to/2nTTjVh
Canon 24-105: http://amzn.to/2BFTMR0
Sigma 35 Art: http://amzn.to/2BbjVX1
Sigma Lens Adaptor for Sony: http://amzn.to/2l5cwm9
Sony Vario-Tessar E 16-70: http://amzn.to/2BXmlG1
Fujinon XF35mmF1.4 R: http://amzn.to/2ktM15E
Fujinon XF56mmF1.2 R: http://amzn.to/2l8AGMI
Olympus M ED 9-18mm: http://amzn.to/2BdoTmD
Manfrotto Manfrotto LED Panels: http://amzn.to/2AOfsan
Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite Flash: http://amzn.to/2kr5TX8
ProMaster 3 in 1 Lighting System: http://amzn.to/2AOdp6w
Rode RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker System: http://amzn.to/2kqKzRz
Rode Video Mic Pro: http://amzn.to/2AOe9Zm
Zoom H4n Zoom Recorder: http://amzn.to/2kr7QTs
Tripods & Stabilizers
Manfrotto Xpro Aluminum Video Monopod w/ 500 Series Video Head: http://amzn.to/2kqPrpP
Manfrotto BeFree Travel Tripod: http://amzn.to/2kqvv6I
DJI Ronin-M 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer: http://amzn.to/2C9FpSn
Bescor Video Tripod w/ Fluid Head: http://amzn.to/2Bbv9uD
Glide Gear DEV 235 Video Camera Track Slider: http://amzn.to/2BHgo3N
Benro Adventure 3 Series Aluminum Monopod: http://amzn.to/2krzrUH
Let me start off by saying that I’ve been making slideshows with photos and music in some capacity for about ten years.
I’ve been frustrated with the products that have been designed for many reasons such as ease of use, ability to professionally present, how much behind-the-scenes preparation time is needed and the basic support of said software.
As a wedding photographer, I’m always looking for ways to save time and give my clients a professional product to easily consume their photos on multiple platforms. Pixellu’s SmartSlides does that. It’s minimized the options to meet all the important necessities, gives the photographer an easy way to make a professional slideshow for clients and doesn’t bog us down with “bells and whistles”.
SmartSlides Slideshow Software
I think many times online photo products forget just how much multitasking we do in our profession and that we’ll take any help we can get.
As soon as I opened up Smartslides and was ready to create my first slideshow I was reminded that I had to do some prep work first.
It was recommended to have images that were at least 2200 px high. This seemed like a lot of pixels for a web video so I clicked the “Learn more” button. I was greeted with “minimum requirements”, “recommendations” and a very helpful screenshot of the what the “export window” should look like in Lightroom.
I found out that slideshows will display in 4K and that’s why each image needed to be at least 2200 pixels high. That seemed fair.
I went ahead and pressed export. I was exporting about 120 images so I had to wait about 3-4 minutes.
I added my images by pressing the big red plus sign. This took a few minutes for SmartSlides to process but you could “continue” on to the “music” section as your photos uploaded. I really appreciated that consideration of my time.
I was greeted by 7 music “categories” to add to my slideshow with 5 licensed songs per category. I could listen to the song and add it instantly to my slideshow.
I also was able to tell if the song was of “low”, “medium” or “high” energy and the exact length. This was important to me because I didn’t want to have to listen to a song all the through just to see if it fit the mood or number of my photos.
I was able to choose multiple tracks, delete them and see how long each image will show up on the screen during the slideshow.
The “duration of each image” was such a thoughtful piece of information added in Smartslides. It helps me make quick music choices based off of how many photos I have. With many of the other slideshow softwares I have used, I had to figure how long each photo was shown by trial and error.
The next section is what Pixellu refers to as “Wrap Up”. Once you get to this section you can’t go back to the “Music” or “Images” section that you were previously in but you can still do those same functions as if you were in those sections.
I didn’t understand why that was but I was fine with it when I realized that I could still add/delete/rearrange images as well as add/delete/trim any music track that I had previously chosen.
In the “Wrap Up” section you have the ability to create “segments” based off of how many music tracks you chose (i.e. 2 music tracks = 2 segments). Each segment is customizable by clicking on the icons on top of the segment.
You can rearrange, delete, and move images to other segments and change, add or trim music. You can also easily click the “play” icon or “preview” button to see the slideshow and any changes made.
The information that was most important to me was still how many seconds each image showed up. The difference in the “Wrap Up” section was that it showed how many seconds each image showed up in a specific “segment” comparatively to the whole slideshow in the previous screen.
I found that helpful when I started moving images out of one segment and into another.
The ability to move images to specific segments was valuable in cases where I might want to have a slower, romantic song for getting ready and the ceremony versus having a fast-paced, party song for the reception.
I also found the ability to shorten any music track very helpful because many times I didn’t have enough images to display for an entire song.
The other option you have in a segment is how each image “transitions”. I can choose from 3 options plus choose how long the transition takes place.
If you wanted to create continuity between multiple segments then just click “apply to all segments”.
During import, SmartSlides distributes your images throughout each segment and displays them at different lengths for some reason. Luckily, it has a “one click” solution that would “spread images evenly across segments”. This displayed all of my images throughout the whole slideshow for the same duration.
The thing to keep in mind here is that if you move images to another segment after pushing this button then your images will not be displayed evenly across segments.
Once you’re done editing your slideshow, you can press the red “preview” button. Here you choose one of the four themes to display the slideshow in as well as choose the “featured image” to display before the slideshow is played.
Once you’re ready to publish you’ll have two options to share. The first is the direct URL to the slideshow. Pixellu actually creates a stand-alone page for your slideshow that is professional and beautiful.
The other option is to embed the video into your own site using the “embed code”.
SmartSlides Slideshow Software – Pricing
There are two types of pricing plans for SmartSlides. Annual and Monthly. The “monthly” plan is very similar to the Adobe CC plan in that you can pay month-by-month and cancel at anytime. This would be ideal for photographers who may just want to use it temporarily or just don’t have it in their budget to purchase the “annual” plan.
Monthly is a bit more expensive than the “annual” plan but for those of us who may only use it for a limited amount of time this may make the most sense because you can purchase it temporarily. The “annual” plan is better value even though in both plans, the payments are made monthly.
There are 3 different levels that you can purchase with a Smartslides account: Starter, Pro and Studio. This is simply based off of how many slideshows that you would like stored using SmartSlides‘ web platform.
The only thing that I think could be improved here is the “studio” storage. Although 1,000 slideshows is a lot of content to create and it would likely take a while to produce that, I am curious why there is limit on the slideshows that you can create considering it’s the highest plan that you can purchase.
Pound-for-pound I think the pricing is reasonable and has been customized with the modern photographer in mind. When you compare the pricing to their competitors, the ease of use, and professionalism, then you’ll see that SmartSlides is packing in a ton of value.
There’s also a special 25% discount if you head over to the SmartSlides website today – click here to find out more.
SmartSlides Slideshow Software – Conclusion
One of the highlights of SmartSlides is the well-thought-out customizations that seem to tailor towards the most important elements of a professional photography slideshow. Elements like music, theme, segments, transitions and a custom domain are all notable.
Another valuable highlight is the learning curve. Comparing to other slideshow software, the amount of time it took me become proficient in SmartSlides was was around 50% less. I found the interface intuitive and easy to use because of the minimal, simple design.
Because SmartSlides uses HTML5 rather than Flash, the speed during upload, designing and publishing was easy and fast. I was under the impression that because my files were so large that SmartSlides would struggle to quickly change and manipulate the slideshow but I made changes without any lagging or loading.
The simple, minimal design of SmartSlides is another highlight that stands out to me although I do think there is room for improvement here. It’s evident that Pixellu put so much time into the features and options. They’re functional and I actually enjoyed designing my slideshow.
The specific areas that need improvement are with the images after they’re uploaded. When rearranging images to tell a story in a visual order I found it difficult to make changes. I had to “zoom out” in order to see the “rows” of images so I could rearrange the order. I also could only move images up one row at a time which was inconvenient in segments with more than a dozen images.
The professionalism alone, stands out from all other slideshow software that I’ve experienced. The final product helps my clients focus on the images themselves and allows them to experience the photos without the usual distractions of videos such as ads, pop-ups or promos.
The ability to customize a client tailored URL as well as embedding the video into my website was extremely easy, quick and I didn’t have to make any tweaks!
This review was written in collaboration with ShotKit.com
I have Amazon Prime and almost only use it when purchasing things online now. Every year around Thanksgiving I find myself searching all over Amazon searching for the best photography gear deals for Black Friday week. I thought I’d save you some time so I made a list of My Top 10 Best Photography Black Friday Deals on Amazon in 2017. I listed them in order of the discount percentage and a link to purchase them:
1. 4K Action Camera Ultra HD. With Deal: $50.81. You Save: $109.18 (68%). Features: Wifi, 4K, Waterproof.
2. Retro Photography Background. With Deal: $25.08. You Save: $27.19 (52%). Features: Polyester, 5x7, Color Fidelity.
3. Nikon D3400 DSLR Camera with NIKKOR 18-55mm and NIKKOR 70-300mm. With Deal: $596.95. You Save: 400.00 (40%). Features: Bluetooth, 24.2MP Sensor, Native ISO 100-25600.
4. Panasonic Lumix G7 4K Mirrorless Camera, with 14-42mm. With Deal: $497.99. You Save: $302.00 (38%). Features: 4K, Wifi, 16 Megapixels, 3 Inch Touch LCD Screen.
5. DSLR Camera Case. With Deal: $15.99. You Save: $9.00 (36%). Features: Water Resistant Nylon, Adjustable Inner Divide.
6. Canon EOS 80D Video Creator Kit With 18-135mm. With Deal: $1,399.00. You Save: $650.00 (32%). Features: 24.2MP APS-C Sensor, 3.0" Vari-Angle Touchscreen, Full HD 1080p Video, 60 fps, 45-Point All Cross-Type AF System, Dual Pixel AF, Built-In Wi-Fi, Expanded ISO 25600, Rode Video Mic, 32GB SD Card. INCLUDES: Pawa Dual LP-E6 Lithium-Ion Battery Pack Kit with Charger.
7. Canon Powershot G9 Point and Shoot. With Deal: $399.00. You Save: $130.00 (25%). Features: Wifi, 3 Inch LCD Touchscreen, 1080p Full HD video (60p/30p/24p, Low Light Performance, Pocket Size).
8. Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera w/ 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens. With Deal: $498.00. You Save: $150.00 (23%). Features: 24.3MP, 3.0-Inch LCD Screen, ISO 100-25600 (expandable to 51200), Hybrid AF with 179-point, 11 FPS Continuous Shooting.
9. Sony a7 Full-Frame Mirrorless Digital Camera with 28-70mm Lens. With Deal: $998.00. You Save: $200.00 (17%). Features: 24.3 MP full frame CMOS sensor, Up to 4 FPS in Speed Priority, ISO 100-25600 (AUTO ISO 100-6400), 1080/60p/24p HD video (AVCHD/MP4), 3" Tiltable LCD with 921,600 dots, 1/2-inch Color Electronic Viewfinder with 2.4M dots, Raw and Raw + JPEG shooting.
10. Fujifilm X-T20 Mirrorless Digital Camera w/ 18-55mm R Lens. With Deal: $1,099. You Save: $100.95 (8%). Features: 24.3MP X-Trans Sensor with no low-pass filter and X-Processor Pro, 5.0 FPS Live-view Shooting, 3.0" Tilting Touchscreen, 4K, AF-c custom settings for moving subjects.
Fuji X-T20 Review | Introduction
Since the release of the Fujifilm X100 back in 2011, I’ve been a Fujifilm fan. That camera changed how I looked at my gear, where I took photos and increased my willingness to “play”.
I see the X100 as a “hobbyist” camera. Since then Fujifilm has released an incredible line up of hobbyist and professional “X-Series” cameras including 3 more versions of the X100, X-T2, X-Pro2 and the GFX 50S respectively.
As Fujifilm has entered into the “professional photography” world with this lineup I feel that they might have initially created a large gap between the hobbyist and the pro.
In my opinion, the Fuji X-T20 closes that gap by delivering the functionality and quality that the pros need while providing an affordable price, creative options and mobility that hobbyists want.
Here are the most relevant new features of the Fuji X-T20 when compared to the previous X-T10:
- Touchscreen control
- 325-point autofocus system
- Higher-resolution 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor (up from 16.2MP in X-T10)
- 4K video
I’ve shot in Live View for a couple of years using the 5D Mark lll and the Fujifilm X100. One of the key factors that was missing for me was the touchscreen.
The Fuji X-T20 comes with an up and down tilting LCD screen that allows you to touch focus, touch shoot, swipe through photos and magnify. This helps with quick changes of perspective and angles during shoots and allows me to ensure focus and exposure are correct, and to see playback significantly quicker than the above mentioned cameras.
The Fuji X-T20 comes with the same auto-focus system as the Fuji X-T2, providing a wickedly fast 325-point auto-focus system for photos and video. I found this to be one of the big factors that set it apart from the X100.
The auto-focus speed has been improved greatly on the Fuji X100F, but it’s still faster on the Fuji X-T20.
The new 24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor paired with the improved image processor gives the user the ability to shoot at 2x the speed of its predecessor.
This was also a massive shift towards the “professional” camera because after years of talking to other photographers about the “mirrorless revolution”, the most common hesitancy was that they were simply too slow.
Finally, the Fuji X-T20 offers a bump in resolution over its predecessor, and can also shoot 4K and 1080p video. This can easily be chosen in the dial on the top of the camera.
Other notable features include:
- Electronic viewfinder with 62x magnification
- 4K video shoots at up to 30fps and HD video at up to 60 fps – both are usable with the in-camera film simulation
- 8 fps continuous shooting with AF, 5 fps with live view
- 5mm jack for external microphone
- Multiple Exposure mode in the dial options
Fuji X-T20 Image Quality
Image quality in the Fuji X-T20 is truly something. During my first shoot with it I honestly had low expectations as I had been slightly disappointed in the X100’s “professional quality” 16MP files which I purchased for a few hundred dollars less around 4 years ago.
I shot the session just before the sun went down for a friend and just wanted to see how the Fuji X-T20 performed. On the back of the camera the photos looked beautiful but I knew the true test was when I edited them.
Once I started editing the files I quickly realized that this wasn’t the same as the X100. Not even close.
It turns out that the Fuji X-T20 has the exact same 24MP X-Trans III sensor and image processor as the Fuji X-T2 and Fuji X-Pro2, so in essence I was editing the same quality of files as the more expensive and professional cameras that Fujifilm had previously released.
Every RAW file is 6000 x 4000 pixels and packed with just as much sharpness, dynamic range and color as I’d expect from any professional camera.
In post-production, I spent less time culling and editing the files from the Fuji X-T20 than I did from my Canon 5D Mark lll, because of the accuracy of the auto-focus and the electronic viewfinder.
The SOOC files (straight out of camera) already had many of the tones and colors that I normally edited with because I was able to add +1 sharpening, -1 shadow tones and -1 highlight tones along with Fuji’s unique in-camera “Provia” film simulation.
This made editing simpler and a lot more fun during post-processing in Lightroom and Alien Skin Exposure as I generally do.
Above you can see the SOOC image alongside my final image with my post processing a slight crop applied.
Fuji X-T20 Design
I was pleasantly surprised when I first held the Fuji X-T20 . At 13.5 ounces with the dimensions 118 x 83 x 41mm, I felt like I was holding the X100 or another point and shoot camera. The only difference was I could choose from the awesome selection of Fuji lenses now.
Somehow Fujifilm packed in professional quality to a cool, minimal and lightweight design. The functionality of the design stays true to Fujifilm’s “retro” feel utilizing the usual dials on top and incorporating the toggle buttons on the back.
Besides the simple size of the camera, the buttons and dials, LCD screen mobility and the ability to manually adjust the exposure triangle makes shooting with the X-T20 less about shooting and more about the creative process and photos.
In fact, the combination of its small size, light weight, excellent image quality and fast auto-focus makes the Fuji X-T20 one of the best travel cameras I’ve ever come across.
The Fuji X-T20 has 3 “auto focus” modes. “Single AF”, “Continuous AF” and “MF” (manual focus). I found myself going back and forth between the “Single AF” and the “Continuous AF”, testing out the capabilities of each and how the camera responded to each.
In the end I found the “Single AF” to be the best for me when shooting portraits with more still subjects while the “Continuous AF” was best for events, shooting kids and moving subjects.
The “Continuous AF” mode has a tracking feature that worked generally well. The “Single AF” speed was very fast and accurate.
Generally comparing to my experience with the 5D Mark lll, I was able to shoot less and keep more photos because of the accuracy of the the autofocus system in the X-T20.
Viewfinder and Touchscreen
I found the electronic viewfinder (EVF) on the Fuji X-T20 to be more functional comparatively to the X100 due to the refresh speed, and definitely more useful than the Canon 5D Mark lll (or any dSLR camera) in that it gave me the “live view” in the viewfinder.
This was helpful during my shoots in the middle of the day where it’s normally difficult to see the LCD screen on the back of the camera because of glare.
As someone who uses “live view” often, I found this to be a great addition to evaluate exposure, focus and composition at a faster speed than I’m used to. Indeed, the EVF is a huge advantage of all mirrorless cameras.
As I previously mentioned, the tilting touchscreen was a feature that gave me mobility, creative flexibility, and gave me options to change angles with a higher “keep rate” percentage than usual. It allowed me to compose, focus and increased my visibility during shooting at twice the speed.
The simple “tilting” feature was the game-changer for me because it took away my need to lay on the ground or stand on a stool to get well focused, exposed and composed photos.
Value for Money
When you compare the Fujifilm X-T20 to its more professional older brother, the X-T2 (and similar cameras), then you’ll easily see that it’s one of best bargains on the market.
Sure you’re giving up a few bells and whistles like weather resistance, battery grip option, higher EVF magnification, lower ceiling shutter speed of 1/4000 (compared to 1/8000 in the X-T2) but with the exact same sensor, smaller size and weight, the ability to use the best Fuji lenses and coming in at almost half the price of the X-T2, the X-T20 is “pound-for-pound” one of best value mirrorless cameras out there.
I think this is especially true if you’re wanting to create “professional” looking images but aren’t that concerned with the extras that tend to jack the price up!
Areas of Improvement
One of the first issues I had with the Fuji X-T20 was how SD card slot was strangely crowded. I have average size fingers but as I started inserting and taking out the card I started to wonder if someone with larger fingers would get frustrated with this.
Video is becoming more and more popular in the photography community so I was excited to see a jack for an external microphone hoping that I would be able to use my Rode microphones with the X-T20. After further inspection I was disappointed to learn that the jack size was only 2.5mm. This is the increasingly uncommon smaller size jack than our usual 3.5mm size.
As an artist I find this to be a huge flaw and hindrance for photographers who also shoot video. Another area of improvement regarding “jacks” is the lack of the “headphone jack” where you can monitor audio while shooting video but this is less important than the standard jack size for the actual microphone.
I’m 5’9 and have always struggle to get those higher angles during shoots without a step ladder or stool. This was one of the reasons that I started shooting in live view so much. Although the X-T20 has a tilting screen that tilts up 90 degrees and down 45 degrees, I found that the downward tilting angle was where I was using it most and couldn’t quite get the visual accessibility to the screen that I truly wanted.
I think the screen could be able to tilt down to 90 degrees rather than 45 and possibly a “flip out” and “swivel” the screen to take the X-T20 to the next level of versatility.
I like that my RAW photos have the film simulation options inside of the X-T20 but when I try to add the “advanced filters” like “miniature”, “toy camera”, “pop color”, etc. then my files are automatically shot in the JPEG format. As a result, I will not using these filters but would love to see RAW capabilities paired with them in the future.
One feature of the X-T2 that professional photographers loved was the “weather resistant” body. Fujifilm omitted this feature in X-T20 possible due to it’s minimal, compact design. For the pro this might be one of the deciding factors when choosing whether the X-T20 is a good fit for them or not.
Battery life in mirrorless cameras has been a huge issue since their birth many a few years ago. They just simply don’t last as long as the DSLRs do. The X-T20 is no exception coming at a battery life of around 350 frames when using the XF35mmF1.4 R with the LCD monitor ON.
Connecting to battery issues, the Fuji X-T20 lacks the ability to use a battery grip so the photographer can simply shoot longer without having to change out batteries. This is another big difference in the X-T2 and the X-T20 when pros are comparing the two.
Fuji X-T20 Review | Conclusion
The Fujifilm X-T20 has all the features that a hobbyist or pro would need at a price that both will love. I’ve yet to see another camera that has this many professional features packed into such a versatile, functional and well-designed camera.
With a minimal amount of design flaws and the inclusion of the professional sensors, the Fujifilm X-T20 will be giving others cameras in it’s field a run for their money and challenge the industry to provide professional quality at an affordable price.
This was review was originally published in collaboration with Shotkit.
Gear Mentioned In This Review
I had so much fun shooting and celebrating Melora and Conor during their downtown Durham wedding!
Please check out all the amazing vendors that were involved:
During my recent workshop on the west coast I randomly ran into Kya Shae. I was sitting in my buddies studio in Salt Lake City, Utah watching The Daily Show and eating breakfast.
Kya walked into to the room and I instantly knew we had to make art together. I ended up DMing her through Instagram the night before she left for LA and asked her to come in the next morning for a quick shoot before her flight out.
She walked in with her sweet grandmother and we made this shoot together.
If you'd like to see ALL of the photos that I gave Kya then you can head over to my Patreon page and check out my behind-the-scenes work.
I've built my business on calculated risks. I cold message so many people weekly. Most of them ignore me but there's always one or two that respond and out of those I end up working with maybe 1 person a month.
I'm not scared to ask for collaborations, trading services or simply a conversation. I'm not scared of someone's accomplishments.
For this shoot, I direct messaged Lindsay Carver through Instagram after discovering her in the #nashvillephotographer feed. We shared our thoughts, concerns, portfolios and it turns out she's one of those people willing to put themselves out there and take risks to do what she loves similar to me. She's been a musician most of her life and recently discovered that she's a talented model.
This set with her is probably one of the most solid that I've ever shot. I'm really thankful.
Feel free to enjoy Lindsay's single "Beauty Queen" while you check out the photos!