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Dec 3 2014 Nikon D750-Philadelphia Wedding Photographer-My First Impressions

I'd like to be VERY clear about this post. This is NOT a review of the Nikon D750. As a Nikon Ambassador, I don't really think it would be fair, nor would it really be ethical for me to "review" the camera. I do believe, however, that it's my job to give my honest impressions from my first real world experiences using the newest body in the Nikon DSLR lineup, and how I plan on incorporating it into my workflow. If you want to read an excellent review of the camera, my much more beautiful and talented wife, Susan Stripling, has reviewed the D750 on her blog- The Dynamic Range. It's an excellent, honest, informative review. It's good reading.  
I've been a Nikon Shooter since 1978. Stop doing the math. Yes, I've been shooting that long. I began with the Nikon FE, then the FE2- then the F3, which was a killer camera in it's day. It was built like a tank. You could literally hammer nails with that thing and it kept on going.  
Below, you'll see an image with nearly every pro body Nikon has made over the last 26 years. I dug up a few from my storage area, and I had to blow a bit of dust off of them. From L-R front row is the F4, F5, F6, D3, then L-R top are the D3S, D4, D800, D4S and the D810. I sold my old D2X and D2XS years ago. Why show all of these bodies, other than for the sake of nostalgia? Um, no reason. Just nostalgia, and the fact that each and every one of these bodies represented incremental improvements in photographic technology.

The question to ask, when looking at this photo, is "what camera did you shoot that with?" The answer- The Nikon D750. I used an AF-S Nikkor 28mm F1.8G @ ISO 10,000(not a typo).  
Now, my impressions. To be honest, my very first impression was during the filming of my Nikon Behind the Scenes videos in September. I held it in my hands for a moment and thought it was a nice little camera, but I instantly wrote it off as something I wouldn't have use for. It didn't seem robust enough for me. I'm a flagship kinda guy- See the photo above! I figured I was all set. I use my 2- D4S bodies for the bulk of the wedding day, I'll mix in some portraits with the D810 when I'm seeking a file with a little more meat to it, and I'll have a D4, and a D3S as emergency back up cameras. 5 bodies to a wedding, 10 lenses or so, an assortment of speedlights, a few other lighting essentials, and I'm good to go. My VERY first impression was simply wrong. I realize It didn't have the "pro" dials. It didn't have the "pro" ergonomics that were consistent for the past 30 years or so. But, I only HELD it for about 10 minutes, and I never fired a frame or downloaded one file.  
Jump to a few weeks ago. I'd NEVER just dive in and begin using a new camera on a wedding before testing it. I played with it in my studio, put a few different lenses on it, and downloaded a few files. I must admit that it took a little getting used to the mode dial on the left. It also took me a minute to learn a different method of changing my ISO and white balance. However, these are such minute issues, it was pretty simple, and it wasn't as if I needed to hit up the manual. I mean, who the hell reads manuals, anyway? 
After viewing the files, which looked killer sharp, I was ready to SLOWLY try it at a wedding. My few frames were during the very late stages of a wedding, and I put an SB910 on the hot shoe, a Nikkor 16-35mm on the camera, and I shot some dancing late in the evening. The most impressive thing to me was it's ability to nail focus. The responsive nature of the camera was exactly what I was looking for. I only shot 20-30 frames and put it away.  
The following week, I had a little more confidence in the camera. I gave it a little taste by putting a AF-S Nikkor 35mm F1.4G on it, and I just kept it on my shoulder. All I can say now is "holy crap". I honestly never dreamed that this camera would earn any significant "playing time" during the course of something so important as a wedding day. I have my D4S's and why would I shoot with anything else???? The answers? Read below.  
The Nikon D750 weight is incredibly refreshing. At 29.5 ounces WITH the battery, it's incredibly easy to wear for hours on end 
The autofocus capability is absolutely astounding 
The low light autofocus capability is also astounding.  
The files are killer sharp, dynamic range is excellent, and at 24.3 mp, they're large enough for nearly anything 
The high ISO performance is stellar. ISO 10,000 is a walk in the park 
Did I mention the weight?  
The ergonomics took a little getting used to..... now I'm used to it. No worries there.  
It's got group area AF, just like the D4S. I really like the group area AF at times.  
Built in WIFI- haven't use it much, but it's pretty darn cool 
Did I mention that it's light as hell? 
I find the battery life to be quite good, and it's the same as the battery for my D800 and my D810 
Sorry pixel peepers, I'm not going to put the pixels under a microscope and talk about all of the technical stuff that makes for great internet fodder. It focus great, it focuses great in low light, it produces beautiful, sharp files, renders excellent color, AND it has a back up slot. There's not much more I need in a camera body. Oh, did I mention how light it is?  
There are a few things I'd like to stress. This camera is NOT replacing my D4S's. However, it's absolutely going to supplement them, and it's going to be my go to body with a short, fast prime- usually my AF-S Nikkor 35mm F1.4G. I'll use the D4S/D750 combination for nearly all elements of the day. For the bridal prep, I'll use the larger AF-S Nikkor 85mm F1.4G on one D4S, and I'll use the D750 with the 35mm on it. I'll generally keep a short lens on the 750, and I'll use the longer glass on the D4S for the purposes of balance. The D750 does seem a bit out of balance with a long, heavy lens on it. The biggest difference for me is that I'll be using the D750 for ALL of the compulsory dance floor photos with either a 24-70 or a 16-35 on it. This camera, for me, is a game changer. My arthritis in my neck and shoulders are already less painful after just a few weeks of shooting the D750. Wearing 2- D4S camera bodies for 8-12 hours at a time has never been good for anyone with a healthy body- let alone arthritis.  
To sum it up, this camera was a complete surprise. I NEVER expected to like it as much as I do. Anyone who knows me, anyone who has taken my workshops, or has heard me speak at a seminar, knows I'm all about being open and honest. This camera is the real deal. There is nothing "prosumer" about it. What it lacks in frames per second, it makes up in so many other areas. I'm still getting used to this camera. I'm not sure how I'll use it in the weeks and months to come. However, I can only see myself using it more, not less. Again, it's not replacing my D4S, but it's already carved out a nice place in my bag, and my Sandisk SD cards will be getting plenty of use. Just like my D4S's, I'll fire raws into the primary slot, and backup fine JPGS into the secondary slot.  
For those of you considering purchasing a Nikon D750, I will make a bold statement. This camera, pound for pound, for the money, might be the very best value of any DSLR to date. Did I mention the weight? 
NIkon D750 AF-S Nikkor 35mm F1.4G shot at 1/200th @F2.2 ISO 1600 

NIkon D750 AF-S Nikkor 35mm F1.4G shot at 1/125th @F2.0 ISO 10,000

NIkon D750 AF-S Nikkor 35mm F1.4G shot at 1/125th @F1.8 ISO 10,000


Nov 6 2014 What's important to YOU?-Philadelphia Wedding Photographer

I'm incredibly fortunate to shoot a ton of weddings. 45 so far this year, and another 7 to go. My students, and even some of my brides ask me "how do you stay motivated... what drives you to keep going?" it's a valid question given the fact that I've surpassed 900 weddings, and counting.... The truth is, I still get moved, and I'm still caught up emotionally in the events that unfold before me. I'm completely invested in finding those "hidden" moments for my clients to look back upon. It's these moments that help them recall something incredibly special that took place on their wedding day. I still get goosebumps on occasion, and it reminds me of why I do what I do.  
I spent 17 years as a photojournalist before I began shooting weddings. While I'm no longer really a photojournalist, the instincts to anticipate and react to moments are still in me, and I place it at the top of my priority list when photographing just about anything. My transition from photojournalist to wedding photographer wasn't as easy as some think. I had to learn SO many other facets of the craft besides just capturing moments and making things look visually interesting. I needed to learn how to make people look their best, how to make women and my couples look beautiful, how to solve problems, and also deal with adversity during a day that can be full of surprises. I shot, I learned, and I'm still learning, frankly. But, as my mother used to say, "you can take the boy out of the Bronx, but you can't take the Bronx out of the boy". You can take me out of photojournalism, but you can't take the photojournalist out of me.  
Here, below, is the lovely Ashley Cook and her father, Harry, at the Four Seasons in Philadelphia this past Saturday. There are only a few moments before she'll walk down the aisle with her dad. Ashley is a warm soul, and a beautifully emotive person. It was a privilege to work with her, Mark- her husband, and their families. For me, this is what I'll remember from this particular wedding, and I hope it's something her family will cherish.  
For you photographers out there, what is it that motivates YOU? Just curious. Feel free to leave comments, and I'll chime in as well.  
Nikon D4S, Nikkor 24-70 2.8 1/320th @ F2.8 ISO 5000


Nov 5 2014 Nikon Behind the Scenes Video #1-Philadelphia Wedding Photographer

I've been a professional photographer now for 33 years. Yeah, it's a long time. Insert age joke here(I'm still kickin it out week after week). One of the things I'm most proud of in my career is my relationship with the Nikon corporation and my involvement with the Nikon Ambassador program. Recently, I had the honor of being featured by Nikon USA in their latest Nikon Behind the Scenes video series. This particular video deals with what ALL wedding photographers deal with.... shooting in harsh light. We can't choose the time of day, we often can't choose our locations. It's a very common thing for the portrait session to take place at 2 or 3pm in the summertime when the light is extremely unforgiving, and unflattering. I'm often asked by brides and photographers alike "how do you deal with this". 
This video will demonstrate a very simple way to turn "bad" light into "good" light. A HUGE thanks to fellow Nikon Ambassador Corey Rich and his team for the production of the series, and to my buddy, Mike Corrado for his levity and advice. I'd also like to give a shout to our models, Dean Gravinese, Sara LaPrincesa Viteri, and especially Veronica Lane who worked their butts off on these videos. Also, a huge thank you to B├ęke Beau for making the models look great, and for making me look, well, as good as I can look! I hope this video helps some people deal with this common issue!  
To future brides viewing this, it's important to understand what challenges your photographer will face, and then how those challenges will be overcome. There will be 4 more videos dealing with some common issues we face as wedding photographers released in the coming months. I hope they give you an idea of how I'd deal with them.  

Oct 20 2014 Alien Skin's Exposure 6 software Discount Code

Many people know that I have a tendency to shy away from heavily photoshopped, over processed images. This is completely true. I'm not a fan of going beyond what the image actually looked like. Sure, we'll tweak it here and there, retouch a few things, and even add a vignette to an image to bring the eye to the subject. Every once in a while, my studio manager, or I, will take a bit of creative license and enhance a portrait when it makes sense to do so.  
We've been using Alien Skin's Exposure 6 software for a while now, and we find it to be a tremendous complement to our workflow. It doesn't promise to "save" an image. I've been quoted as saying "there is no un-suck filter in photoshop". The same holds true or Alien Skin's exposure 6. It will empower you with the ability to creatively tweak an already good photograph by implementing your customized enhancement through a simple to use- STAND ALONE- interface. It's also one of the very best pieces of software for Black and White conversions as well.  
Through midnight on Halloween, you can receive 30% off on ANY of Alien Skin's products. Just click on the Alient Skin Software Link use promotion code CMP1410 to apply the discount.  
Below, you'll see an image I created a few weeks ago. It was a rather rainy day, and for a few moments, the sun broke through. Streaks of light gave the image a dreamy feel, and I was really pleased with what we were able to produce in such weather. With Exposure 6, we bumped up the contrast, and enhanced the streaks of light- but not in a way that looks un-natural.  
This image is BEFORE Exposure 6. A little contrast tweak, a slight clarity adjustment, and we enhanced the streaks of light slightly.

After applying Exposure 6-A little contrast tweak, a slight clarity adjustment, and we enhanced the streaks of light slightly.