For Photographers

The Rad Photographers Retreat 2018

 
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My second year attending the rad retreat

After attending the 2017 Rad Retreat, I COULD NOT WAIT to go back in 2018, and I couldn't have been happier I did! First, let's talk details... 

WHAT IS THE RAD PHOTOGRAPHERS RETREAT? 

The Rad Photographers Retreat is a ladies only retreat for super kickass photographers, organized by the lovely Christine Dopp from Natural Intuition Photography. Christine, along with some rad co-conspirators, puts together a retreat (now 3 years running) that includes opportunities to connect and relax with other creatives, guest speakers and mentors from the photography (and related) industries, morning yoga, chair massages, professional hair & makeup (which this year we used for some fun bathtub boudoir photos!), a personal chef cooking us A-M-A-Z-I-N-G meals every day, and to top it all off, the most gorgeous styled shoot anyone ever did see! Plus a comfort package giveaway, some bubbly (or a Montana Mule or two), and the best company a girl could ask for! 

So how was attending the rad retreat for the second year in a row? 

Before I dive in, if you'd like to check out my post on last year's retreat, here it is! 

Okay, so last year when I attended the retreat for the first time, I was in a place of deep, DEEP stress and a crippling lack of self-care. I was working myself to death (nearly literally), wasn't appropriately balancing my time with family, and was honestly pretty freaking depressed (can't imagine why). I really credit last year's retreat with helping to snap me out of that pattern of behavior, and for being the first step towards taking better care of myself emotionally, scheduling in valuable rest time, and for making it abundantly clear how much I need a community of creative women in my life. Nothing wrong with dudes, I'm pretty fond of them in fact, but I firmly believe that no one lifts women up like other women or makes you feel sane and supported like other women. 

I was in a much different (better!) place for this year's retreat, and it worked out well that there were so many lady photographers there who are also moms, and many who also have full-time jobs, because it really felt great to be with a group of people who just GET IT. Like really get it. They get the struggle to balance conflicting priorities. They get the desire to continue to show commitment to your full-time job (if you have one) and the desire to continue to be World's Best Mom (even though none of us really can be). And it was also lovely to get the perspective of so many photographers who are doing photography full-time, and to have that reminder that every full-time job, whether you work for yourself or someone else, comes with unique challenges and opportunities, and that even being a full-time photographer does not suddenly make working for a living this magical, easy thing to do. (Capitalism, man... The struggle is real.)

It was also really awesome to see the contrast between last year and this year. For one, I was in a much different mental space between the two years, but for two, the group dynamics were different, in ways that just made me so appreciative of both groups of ladies! The first year, I felt like the group opened up to each other pretty much immediately. We cracked jokes, we laughed until we cried, we legit actually cried (whew, some of those 'face your fears' Q&A sessions are TOUGH you guys, but in the best of ways) and we played Cards Against Humanity until midnight on our last night. Now, this year, it took the group a little longer to open up, we were all feeling pretty shy to begin with, but as we got to know each other, there were so many opportunities for truly deep connection, reflection, and conversation. The group dynamic was a little quieter this year, but I felt like we really connected, and the trust and camaraderie that was established over just a few days was so amazing! Our last day there, after we finished headshots, we even ended up doing boudoir bathtub photo shoots for each other (because when there is a bathtub that amazing, you MUST find a good photo op - oh, and I'll be posting most of those photos in a separate blog post, since I'm having a hard time narrowing down my favorites!) 

The most amazing thing about both years is the open sharing of ideas, techniques, and best practices between everyone, and how that helps each attendee learn, grow, and evolve in their business, and with their passion for photography (which you really see come to life during the styled shoot, which I will post in more detail in a separate blog entry!). That and all of the time for self-care, reflection, and joy that is hard to come by back in the 'real world'. 

I am so thankful to have been able to attend this awesome retreat two years running, and am really looking forward to returning next year!  

WHAT freaking awesome PEOPLE WERE INVOLVED IN making THE RAD RETREAT 2018 so MAGICal? 

OMG, so many! 

First, hats off to Christine Dopp, of Natural Intuition Photography, for birthing this idea and bringing it into being 3 years running! She did such an amazing job on this! 

Second, here is a list of the vendors involved that all pitched in to rock this retreat like no one's business! 

Guest Speakers: 

  • Laura from Laura Zastrow Photography discussed the client experience, as well as finding the light in any situation and off-camera flash techniques 
  • Ren from Studio 29 Photography discussed Instagram strategy and getting published 
  • Angela Scheffer-Mondloch from Saffron Avenue Design discussed brand style, defining your brand style, and how to keep your style on-brand to attract your ideal clients 
  • Ashley from Midwestern Bride discussed planning styled shoots, and what collaborating vendors look for when working with a photographer on a styled shoot, as well as how to approach vendors to collaborate

Breakfast & Lunch: 

Dinners: 

Styled Shoot: 

Goodie Boxes: 

AND IT WOULDN'T BE A BLOG POST WITHOUT SHARING SOME PICS... 

So here you are; Enjoy! And if you're a lady photographer, definitely go to this retreat next year!  

--Sam 

 

Photography 101: 4 Tips to Get You Started

 
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So you want to get into photography, but aren't sure where to start... 

We've been there, believe me! It can be intimidating to love something a ton, but not be 100% sure (or even 50% sure) how to get started! We've put together some tips for beginners that will give you a great jumping off point! 

Tip # 1: Getting Started with Equipment 

Our philosophy on photography equipment for beginners is largely that you should focus on practicing with what you have, rather than falling into the trap of thinking better equipment will automatically make you a better photographer (spoiler alert: it won't). That being said, there are some things to think about when it comes to what equipment you might need, and some questions to ask yourself. 

Are you a Nikon or a Canon person? 

Not sure? That's okay! They're both wonderful! We happen to use Canon, so this post will largely feature Canon recommendations, but both have great starter options! B&H Photo, Amazon, and Best Buy all have periodic sales and specials to look out for when it comes to getting started with a DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera! B&H Photo is also a reputable source for used camera equipment, including DSLRs. 

Starter DSLRs for Canon Users: The Canon T6 and up (also known as the Canon Digital Rebel)

Starter DLSRs for Nikon Users: The Nikon D3400 and up

Will you be photographing people, landscapes, or close-up macros (flowers, bugs, tiny things, etc.) or a mix of things? 

The answer to this question will determine which type of lens could be right for you. 

For People and Portrait Photography: A 50mm 1.8f lens is a GREAT portrait lens, does well in lower light, and is an affordable prime lens (prime lenses do not zoom, except the old-fashioned way, which involves you moving closer or further away from your subject).

For Landscape Photography: A wide angle lens is going to work best, generally anything 28mm or wider, with a 2.8f or lower capability.

For Macro/Close-Up Photography: A 60mm or 65mm 2.8f macro lens is a great introduction to macro/close-up photography! I would definitely recommend going used on this one, from a reputable source, such as B&H Photo, and if you're purchasing the Canon 60mm 2.8f macro lens, please note that this lens is only compatible with Canon's crop-sensor camera bodies, and is not compatible with full-frame canon cameras (such as the 1D, 5D, or 6D). 

For Mixed-Use Photography: Just can't decide between what type of photography you like? Something like a prime lens 35mm or a zoom lens that can maintain a consistent fstop (aperture) throughout the zoom are great 'all-around' options! We would generally recommend avoiding zoom lenses where the aperture changes depending on how far in or out you are zoomed. 

Will you be primarily photographing indoors or outdoors? 

This will determine if you might need to invest in something like a simple speed-lite or can go without. If you're primarily photographing outdoors, don't worry about off-camera flash for now! If you're primarily photographing indoors, a small speed-lite flash that you can use to bounce flash off of ceilings, and maybe a diffuser could be a good investment. The Canon 430EX Speed-lite is a great place to start! 

What is your equipment budget? 

If you're a beginner, it may be on the smaller side, and that's okay. What that means is you'll want the best lens for your intended use that fits within your budget. We do not recommend going into debt for your photography equipment. A great way to save is to purchase used equipment from reputable sources. It's a win/win! You can potentially afford "nicer" gear for less money by buying used. A great source for used equipment is the used section at B&H Photo! Check it out here. 

Once you know the answers to these questions, you'll be well on your way to determining what gear you need to get started, and how to budget accordingly. Just remember, just like buying a guitar doesn't make you a great musician, buying all the great gear in the world doesn't make you a photographer if you don't put in the hours and work necessary to hone your craft. There are no shortcuts with art, just passion. 

Tip # 2: Getting Started with Editing

Hey, we get it, editing software is not cheap, and a lot of it, even the professional stuff, isn't all that user-friendly. But editing is a great way to really make your images stand out, and to take your photography to the next level. Our first tip for editing greatness? Shoot in RAW! Then, if you can swing it, Adobe's Creative Cloud offers a subscription that includes Photoshop (not particularly user-friendly if I'm being honest) and Lightroom (freaking amazing, super biased) for under $11 a month. This is a great deal, but it is a subscription model, so if you aren't ready to commit to another monthly bill, then check out free RAW editing software, such as Darktable, which is a great, and free opensource alternative. Last editing-related tip; Try not to go too nuts on filters (But if you do, it's okay. We've all done it). 

Tip # 3: Getting Started with Community

Since we recently did a post on how to connect with other creatives (check it out here), I won't reinvent the wheel here, but suffice it to say that it's easier to stay engaged and enthusiastic about your craft if you've got a good creative community around you! Word of caution though, comparison is the thief of joy, so definitely do surround yourself with an awesome creative community and definitely don't do too much comparison, lest you accidentally discourage yourself. 

Tip # 4: Getting Started with PRACTICE! 

Okay, so, this isn't a sexy tip. I get it. I, too, want to be an awesome rock star without practicing. BUT... That's not how reality works. Or dreams, that's also not how dreams work. And the truth is that you don't get better at something without practicing, and as I mentioned above, having the best gear in the world doesn't mean anything at all if you're not using it. Having the best editing software in the world doesn't matter if you're not figuring out how to use it and experimenting with it, and having a love of photography without actually taking photos makes you a fan (which is also cool), not a photographer. If you want to be a photographer, go photograph stuff. Seriously, it's that simple. Photograph things every day. Find beauty in the overlooked. Figure out what you most love to take photos of, and take more of those kinds of photos. Figure out what scares  you to take photos of, and then take more of those kinds of photos. Take photos of EVERYTHING, and then take some more. You got this! 

 

Hopefully that gives you a good place to start! These tips are (obviously) not all-inclusive, but stay tuned because we are working on a 'leveling up' version of this post to talk through next steps once you've worked on the items above, and if there is anything at all that you'd love to see us write a future post about, please email us at robandsamphoto@gmail.com and let us know! 

--Sam 

 

 

How to Connect with Other Creatives

 
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Where to get started

When you're a creative and a small business owner, or looking to move into one or more of those categories, it can feel a little isolating. Doubly so if you're in a season of your entrepreneurial journey where you're struggling or unsure of the next stage in your business. 

Reaching out to other creative entrepreneurs can help you to feel less alone, and like there are folks out there who understand the unique struggles you're going through, and who can celebrate successes with you! 

Here are a few ideas on how to get started: 

The Rising Tide Society

The Rising Tide Society provides affordable small business education opportunities, support for small business owners, and a sense of community the size of an ocean! The mantra of The Rising Tide Society is #CommunityOverCompetition based on the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats. If that weren't enough, their organization facilitates hundreds of Tuesdays Together meetings across the country, which is a chance for you to meet up with local entrepreneurs, talk shop, network, and most importantly, be around other folks who really get what you're going through. Check out both The Rising Tide Society and your local Tuesdays Together meeting, and start connecting with a supportive community of creatives! 

Workshops and Retreats

Having only been to one, I certainly can't speak to all workshops and retreats out there (and I'm willing to bet they're not all as amazing as the one I went to), but I can say that the experience was such an amazing way for me to connect with a group of like-minded badass ladies, and I think making a commitment to dedicating time to your craft, and to connection, can do wonders for your business (and mental) outlook! 

Co-Working Spaces and DIY Clubs

While this might be harder to come by in rural areas, most mid to large sized cities have co-working spaces where you can rent a desk or office space, even as a solo entrepreneur or at-home worker, and get some valuable human interaction time with similarly situated individuals! Or there are also places that are geared towards the maker-scene. In Madison, we've got Sector 67 and the Bodgery as two amazing places for makers looking to connect, and have access to awesome tools and work spaces! 

Online Communities 

Online communities are an amazingly effective and easy way to seek connection with other creative folks, but become crucial for those in more rural areas, or for those that are just dipping their toe in, and aren't quite sure about in-person meet ups. Though to that I say "Come on in! The water is fine!" Still, online communities, including Facebook groups, etc., allow you to connect easily, and on the go, in whatever way you feel most comfortable, with as little or as much commitment as you are able to do, which is nice for those that might make a habit of telling themselves they don't have the time. 

 

In summary, connecting with other humans is important. And if you're a creative person, and/or a small business owner, it's going to be doubly important for you to connect with folks who really get what you're going through, and the unique challenges that come along with owning a small business or working in a creative field. Do yourself a favor and get out there, even if it's a little out of your comfort zone. I promise it will help you feel more connected not only to a community, but to yourself and your craft. And that's worth leaving the house for! 

 

The Rad Photographers Retreat 2017

 

3 Days of Community, Connection, and Creativity

Where can I even begin to describe such a wonderful and inspiring experience? Well, first, just the facts, ma'am... 

What is the Rad photographers Retreat? 

The Rad Photographers Retreat is a ladies only retreat for super kickass photographers, organized by the lovely Christine Dopp from Natural Intuition Photography. Christine, along with some rad co-conspirators, put together a retreat that included opportunities to connect and relax with other creatives, guest speakers and mentors from the photography (and related) industries, morning yoga, chair massages, professional hair & makeup (to get ready for some amazing headshot shenanigans), a personal chef cooking us amazing meals every day, and to top it all off, the most gorgeous styled shoot anyone ever did see! Plus some giveaways, some bubbly (or a Montana Mule or two), and the best company a girl could ask for! 

What did I really get out of it? 

You know, to be honest, it can be really easy to get stuck in the day to day. Stuck in the feeling of 'not good enough' and the over-glorification of busy-ness and hustle. I think as women in particular (and especially Moms), it can be really easy to put literally everyone else's needs ahead of ours, to minimize our own need for quiet, reflection, sanity, understanding, community, empathy, etc., and to work harder on building everyone else around us up than we work on building ourselves up. It can be easy to see nothing but our own flaws, to see only where we're falling down, only where we've failed or only what we have not yet achieved. And so to go from that all too common mindset, to a setting where women are there, creating and building community and connection, building each other up, finding common ground and inspiring one another, and actively encouraging things like rest, reflection, balance, self-care, is a breath of fresh air. 

If we're getting real here (and why not, right?) I'm in a tough place currently, stress-wise. Working too much, not appropriately balancing time with my family, and basically not scheduling in any personal reflection/self-care time. Let me just set the record straight for anyone who isn't already aware... It is not possible to do all the things perfectly. Maybe 70% if you're really really lucky and really really good. If you're like most of us then you've got 50% max of the shit you do that you're going to be really good at, and the rest of it you'll fumble through like everyone else. So, when I feel down on myself for not being the World's Best Mom, Best Wife, Best Small Business Owner, Best Photographer, Best Operations Supervisor of a Benefits Administration Company, Best at Exercise, Best at Eating Healthy, Best at Work-Life Balance, I try to remind myself that humans seriously weren't meant to do this much stuff. And I'm doing amazingly well by the standards to which we're evolved to cope with. 

Why do I bring this up? To reiterate a few things...

  1. How hard it was for me to take time off and make my own growth and learning and unplugging a priority 
  2. How easy it is to get down on myself for not basically being a perfect human (an oxymoron if one ever existed)
  3. How much I realize I'm not alone in those #1 and #2

So when I arrive at the retreat, nervous, stressed, feeling guilty, and like I shouldn't be there because I'm not good enough, and the first thing that happens is that I run into other, nervous retreat-goer arriving at the same time (love you, Kellie!) , and we're both handed glasses of sparkling wine and presents as we walk in the door, and told that no, we can't help with anything, and no, we don't need to offer our assistance, and go sit down for goodness sake and open your presents and drink this wine, it's like something clicked, and clicked hard. I spend my entire life taking care of other people (admittedly, sometimes not well) and putting others needs before my own. To be forced, even for 3 days, to put my own needs first, and indeed, to be encouraged to do so, was a novel experience. A very much needed experience that I wish more women had. 

I needed someone to pamper me for a bit, because lord knows it's the one thing I don't make time for. I needed a group of women to lift me up, and allow me to lift them up, and to smile and encourage and cheer each other on. I needed that because no one lifts women up like other women. No one makes women feel sane and supported and heard like other women. We're really freaking good at that (with everyone but ourselves). I desperately needed this, in a way I didn't even know, as is evidenced by what a hard time I'm having adjusting to 'real life' again, now that I'm home. 

I am so thankful for the experience I had, and for Christine and her team of talented friends, who put together this magical retreat, that gave me permission to slow down, breathe, reflect, grow, and connect. If you're on the fence about something like this next year, get off the fence and RUN to the nearest sign-up sheet because it is life-changing. I cannot wait to dive in next year, and I hope to see some of the friends I made this year come back again as well! 

What amazing people were involved in the rad retreat magic? 

OMG, so many! 

First, hats off to Christine Dopp, of Natural Intuition Photography, for birthing this idea and bringing it into being! She is a golden goddess, and I appreciate her so much! 

Second, here is a list of the vendors involved that all pitched in to rock this retreat like no one's business! 

Guest Speakers: 

Documenters: 

Breakfast & Lunch: 

Dinners: 

  • Personal Chef Services by Eric Vestegaard (we're trying to talk him into setting up an Instagram account, so hopefully more details to come!) 
  • Farewell Dinner Styling by Elevate Events
  • Adult Beverages Sponsored by Essential Edit

Styled Shoot: 

Goodie Boxes: 

And it wouldn't be a blog post without sharing some pics... 

So here you are, and here I am, daydreaming about next year's retreat! Hope to see you there! 

--Sam 

 

 

 

 

Equipment Review: Canon 24-70 mm 2.8 Lens

 

Equipment Introductions with Rob

Today I'm introducing the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L.  We call it a Walk Around Lens; Walk Around Lenses being our favorite lenses for multiple conditions.  At a little over two pounds, the 24-70 is not our lightest lens, but its versatility makes it worth the haul for weddings.  It syncs well with our Speedlite 600EX-RT flashes (look for a future review), but as a f/2.8 it does well in lower light situations as well, and also has some macro capabilities when at full zoom.

Great For The Following:  

  • Wedding Photography
  • Portraits
  • Family Formals or Large Group Photography
  • Macro Photography (if you can't yet invest in a Macro lens) 

Would Not Recommend For:

  • Street Photography (too bulky) 
  • Sharp Wide Angle Shots
  • Super Low Light 

Outside of the convenience and quality afforded by this zoom lens, it's worth noting that the focus is sharpest when zoomed all the way in.

I took this picture of a dried flower on my Field Notes, zoomed all the way out to 24mm:

 
 

 

However, as shown in the picture below, the sharpness does not lend itself to cropping during editing:

 
 

Keeping all other things the same, I zoomed to 70mm:

 
 

The refinement gained really pays off in editing:

 
 

There's no definition to those hairs at 28mm.  Are tiny hairs on a dried flower often important during a wedding?  No, not really, but you can only edit what you record.  If the subject of photograph is the details, you are better off if you keep in mind to shoot at 70mm with this lens.  Rarely when moving within crowds am I looking for that level of detail; the ability to pull back to 28mm allows me to capture more of the spirit of things without being obtrusive.  The ability to slide back and forth between these strengths is what makes this such a fantastic lens for weddings.

Stay tuned for more equipment reviews from me in the coming weeks, and check out the album below, all taken with the 24-70. 

--Rob 

 

What's In Our Camera Bag?

 
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A Look At The Photography Equipment We couldn't do Without 

If you're like me, you probably love looking at what equipment other photographers use! I find it endlessly fascinating (although admittedly, I'm a photography nerd). So, since I totally dig it when other photographers share what equipment they're using, I wanted to do the same! I also wanted to let everyone know that we're super excited to start doing camera gear reviews in the near future! This post right here will be the first step, laying it all out on the table, and then we'll do a deeper dive into some of our equipment, the pros and cons, and what you can expect when using it! 

Camera Bodies

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
    • This is a badass camera body, and it's the one I use day to day. Both the 5D Mark IV and the 7D Mark II have excellent low light performance, and redundant memory card slots, so are great for the photographer on the go! 
  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II
    • If you don't need a full frame sensor, the 7D Mark II is the way to go! It's a workhorse camera with excellent low light performance and so is perfect for wedding photography! 

    Lenses

    • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L Lens
      • This is such a versatile lens, particularly for wedding photographers, and my go-to for formal portraits in particular, or tight spaces where you need a little more wiggle room on focal length 
    • Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Canon
      • I have barely taken this lens off my camera since I got it! It's sharp, fast and accurate auto-focus, and has the dreamiest bokeh imaginable (seriously gorgeous) and the focal length also makes this a very versatile lens as well
    • Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Canon
      • Okay, this is also an amazing lens, and I just love both of my Sigma lenses so much it's not even funny - this and the 35mm are my go-to when I'm shooting on the 5D 
    • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L Lens
      • We call this lens The Beast, and with good reason! It's not for the faint of heart, or weak of arm! It's a heavy but magnificent lens that's sharp, great for getting that close up feel I love during moments where perhaps we can't get that close (wedding ceremonies anyone?) Be prepared to have sore arms the next day! 
    • Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens
      • While this is a lovely macro lens, I actually love it for all sorts of things, but especially portraits! This is also my go-to ring shot lens *heart eyes* Word to the wise though, it's only for crop sensor cameras! 
    • Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 Lens
      • This is a great portrait lens as well, though the auto-focus is a little slower than I would like. It's a great prime lens to use during wedding ceremonies! 
    • Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 Pro FX Lens for Canon
      • Admittedly, I don't show wide angle very often, as I tend to like to get up close and personal, but this lens is really fun to play with, and in particular, I love it for wide outdoor shots. The auto-focus is very slow though, just an FYI

    Lighting

    • Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT
      • I cannot say enough wonderful things about this flash. We have 4 of them, and coupled with a wireless transmitter, they create the easiest and quickest to use wireless lighting setup for off-camera flash imaginable! 
    • Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter
      • See above - this coupled with the Canon 600 Speedlite flash is a miracle-worker in tough lighting conditions and super easy and quick to setup and carry! 
    • Two 32" Convertible Umbrellas with Stands
      • While not every occasion calls for umbrellas, the ones that do really do, so I keep this kit (that goes with our 600 Speedlite flashes and Wireless Transmitter) at the ready at all times, just in case. No need to plug anything in, and can be set up in under 5 minutes

    Accessories

    • Watson AA NiMH Rechargeable Batteries (about a million of them) and Charger
      • You can never have too many rechargeable batteries, and unlike when we first starting shooting, rechargeable batteries have come a long way and are now a very viable option for powering all manner of gadgets, such as those handy speedlite flashes mentioned above. The charger even has a car plug-in option, for charging on the go
    • SanDisk 64GB Extreme PRO Memory Card
      • You can also never have too many memory cards, and these are our favorites 
    • Peak Design Camera Bag and Straps
      • I just ADORE this brand! It's stylish, unisex, and sturdy. <3 

    Photo Editing Software

    • Adobe Lightroom 
      • Lightroom for LIFE! I've been hooked ever since the Beta came out back in 2006, and although I've shopped around, nothing beats it for intuitive workflow

    In Closing... 

    I am so excited to share our camera bag info with you, and if there is anything in particular you'd like to see a review on, leave us a comment and let us know!