Wednesday, December 28, 2011


So it is not all that often that I post advertisements. In fact, I don't think I have ever done so. But this isn't really an advertisement. It is more of an opportunity. There is a giveaway going on for a Nikon/Canon 50mm 1.4 lens. Now, I currently use a Canon 50mm 1.8 lens and it is absolutely amazing! I adore it. I take it with me everywhere. The 1.4 is supposed to be a world apart. So, you know that I am going to be entering this contest. I thought you might want to as well :) So pop over to if you'd like to participate!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

What are you worth?

I discovered a clever little site a few years ago. At the time, I used it for my writing while Grant used it to further his Photoshop skills. But over the past few months, I have also found it incredibly useful for photography. That site is Worth1000.

Worth1000 is a site filled with contests. The contests are arranged into different categories, such as Effects, Photography, Writing and more. Every few days a new contest is posted and everyone has the opportunity to enter. There are levels and rules, of course, but you can always find a contest aimed at your skill level and providing some interesting ideas. I have found it particularly useful when it comes to photography, since it gives me the incentive to try new things. Once the contests close for entry, everyone has the chance to rate the photos that were entered to decide on a winner. There are no prizes, but it is still a great feeling to know that people thought your photo was the tops, and you will find that the site randomly picks winning photographs to display as photos of the day, which (I imagine) is also a great feeling!

Worth1000 is also a great place to enter into discussions and ask questions. There are forums for each section which allow people to ask questions and get answers from those with more experience than yourself. Because there are different categories, you will find that the people entering the contests will range from beginners to experts, and you know that there is always the opportunity to learn. During the contests themselves you can also ask for constructive criticism of your photographs, which means that you can learn what it is that people don't like about your photographs and what it is that they do like. You also have the option of closing your photos to comments, which means that you will only get feedback if that is what you want.

Another thing that I love about Worth1000 is their mentoring programme. I was involved in this during the month of November where I got paired with an expert from the States and we had weekly Skype sessions to discuss photographs and to learn more about photography. It was an awesome experience, since I learned quite a lot about placement, using Photoshop and more.

Entering Worth1000 contests is a great way to challenge yourself and to move beyond what you know and into areas that you are still uncertain about. It is a great way to put yourself out there and receive positive feedback and constructive criticism for your photographs, writing, Photoshop work and more. I would highly recommend that any beginner, or photographer of any level for that matter, enter a competition or two and see how you do. You never know what may come of it!

Monday, December 12, 2011

2012 Photography Goals

Good morning Ladies and Gents :)

It is that time of year again where holidays are around the corner, work is winding down and you start reminiscing of the year that has past and dreaming of the year that is ahead. A lot of the photography blogs that I have been reading have been listing their photography goals for 2012, and it took me about 3 minutes to write up my own, purely because they have been on my mind a lot recently. So here they are:


1. Get my website up and running.
This is something that is already in the pipeline. Watch this space within the next week or two for more details, but I am expecting to have my website up (not quite complete, but at least up) before the end of the month. Maybe even before Christmas. *Holding thumbs*

2. Build my photography studio.
For those of you who are not aware (i.e. those of you who do not follow my other blog about what goes on in my life rather than my photography) I recently moved to a new house. This house is still in Grahamstown, not far from where we used to stay, but is a lot bigger. It also has a double garage, and Grant and I have decided that we are going to make full use of this extra space - Grant by buying a table tennis table, and me by building a small and mobile photography studio. Mobile because, of course, I need to park my car in there at night. But imminently doable. The move, of course, has been quite harrowing on our budgets and so Project Studio will need to wait until next month to get its feet off the ground.

3. Create at least one printed portfolio.
I have been thinking about doing this for awhile now. I know that I intend to have more than one portfolio since I enjoy so many different types of photography - portrait, nature, events, etc. - but by the end of 2012 I hope to have cut down and printed at least one portfolio to show to prospective clients.

4. Be paid for at least one job.
This is one of the biggest tests for 2012. So far, out of all of the photography shoots that I have done, I have only been paid for one, and even that was a special deal for a friend where I charged her a third of my intended price. Don't get me wrong though - the photo shoots that I did were intentionally free of charge because I needed to get experience, needed to get a working portfolio before I felt that I could start charging. However, now that I have got some experience, I feel that charging clients for shoots is the next logical step. The rates are still likely to be lower than other photographers, because I am still an amateur, and negotiable for the same reason. But I am hoping to gain a meagre income from my photography, and by 2013 I hope to make a decision as to whether this is a viable business opportunity or nothing more than a hobby.

5. Have at least two clients who are not direct friends or relatives.
This is another of the big tests. I am never going to be able to make a business or a career out of photography if I am only photographing friends and family. It will especially be the case if I am not charging friends and family for sessions. I need to see if others find my services good or worthwhile, and the only way that I am going to find that out is if I put myself out there and see if anyone is interested in the services that I can offer. Here's hoping that I get the opportunity to have sessions with people in and around Grahamstown.

6. Purchase at least one new piece of equipment.
This is something that I am going to have to save up for and there are going to definitely be decisions to make. There are so many bits and bobs that I want to add to my camera bag (not to mention a new camera bag itself)! Most of all, I want a wide angle lens, but as that is the most expensive lens available, it will take some searching to find a good second hand one for a reasonable price. If I can't manage the lens itself, I am considering getting a wide-angle attachment for my lenses, and then I will look into getting other things like an off-camera flash, a new camera bag, a Lensbaby Composer (so cool!), lens filters and more.

7. Rebrand/Revise/Redo my Facebook page.
Every time I look at my Facebook page compared to those of other photographers, I feel way behind. This is partly because I am way behind on followers and partly because they all have uber-cool designs and logos and are constantly updating their posts, sites, photography, etc. This is something that I intend to do more of next year and I am hoping that it will lead to more popularity and more followers.

8. Gain at least one follower on this blog.
Speaking of followers, I have no idea how many people are following this blog, but the stats aren't looking too good. Most of my posts get between 5 and 17 views in their lifetimes, with photo shoots with friends (who pass the link on to others) getting far higher viewing stats. So I am hoping that this number will rise with more photo shoots and with the website. Speaking of which, there is going to be a little redecorating and renaming of the website going on. Keep an eye out.

9. Write at least one new photography blog post every two weeks.
Part of the problem with people not visiting the site, I feel, is that I don't post often enough on interesting subjects. Well, I tend to post on subjects that are interesting to me, but I definitely don't post often enough. So, one of my goals for next year will be to post a lot more regularly. I feel that once every two weeks will be enough to keep people interested, but not drown them in information that they don't necessarily want to read.

10. Do a new photography challenge every week.
And finally, I have set a goal to do a photography challenge every week. Some weeks I am sure will coincide with the challenges from the photography sites that I follow - sites like Digital Photography School and Photofocus. But there is also a book that I am going to be using as a tool for deciding on challenges. I am going to occasionally run my own challenges, and I am hoping that some people will participate in these challenges. You don't need to have a fancy camera, you could just use your phone. But I will be posting different ideas each week for photographs, and I am hoping that people will participate together with me. Consider it a 52-week challenge rather than a 365 day challenge. 52 awesome photos in a year? Totally doable.

And so there they are. My own photography goals for 2012. What are your goals, photographic or otherwise?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Headshots and Thunderstorms

Deborah Robertson

Grahamstown weather is completely atrocious. One minute it will be boiling, the next it will be thundering, pouring and freezing. This is why you need to take the good weather when it comes and roll with it.

Unfortunately, you cannot always control what weather you are going to get and when you have a chance to take advantage of it. Take yesterday for example. I knew that I had a photo shoot to do. I knew that I was going to want to get the best light possible, and I knew that it was going to be just before sunset, so I arranged the shoot for 4pm. When I looked out the window at 12, it was a perfect, beautiful, blue-skied day. When I looked again at 3, it was cloudy and drizzling. By 4 it was storming.

So what was I supposed to do? Postponing was out of the question. My month is looking disastrously busy with a move around the corner, and it wasn’t just me with a busy schedule. Debbie might be leaving town as early as next week or as late as the first week of December. I work during the week and get back too late to arrange an evening shoot. It was going to be now or never. I packed up my camera gear and drove to pick her up.

We needed to find somewhere undercover with enough light to allow for a great portrait session. The point of the shoot was for Debbie to get some head and full body shots to send out for potential acting gigs, and that meant that the photos needed to be clear and bright, preferably on a plain background. Of course, if I had a studio this would not be a problem at all. But, alas, I do not (right now…) Instead, I had to make do with what I could find.

Our first attempt was the Drama department. It was a Sunday, so I figured that it would not be too busy and where better to take headshots of an actress than on her stage. Only, the stages, to our dismay, were all locked. We did manage to find an open rehearsal space, but it was not ideal. So much for the blank background – instead there were wooden beams, practice bars and mirrors, mirrors, mirrors. Which were great for some shots, but not quite the kind that we were looking for.

Next we decided to try the Monument, but alack, it too was closed. We considered the Botanical Gardens, but with the rain coming down, it certainly wasn’t my first choice. And so we drove around town looking for something, anything that would work. And then, while we were driving, we saw a white wall. It was plain, it was slightly undercover and it belonged to a shop that was closed, meaning that we wouldn’t get into too much trouble for using it. We jumped at the opportunity. I parked my car and we ran through the rain, up some stairs to the covered area. And, it turned out to be kind of perfect. The floor was not ideal for the full-length shots, what with it being bright purple and all, but the headshots and the upper-body shots worked out better than I could have asked for, and the full-length shots, even with the bright floor, were not bad at all.

We didn’t want to give up, however. The rain was relenting ever so slightly, and Debbie convinced me that she knew of a place in the Botanical gardens that was slightly undercover. We made our way there, and it was great! There wasn’t quite enough cover for the two of us to be under it, but I could keep my camera dry while Debbie got wet (which she was happy to do) and pose for some shots with a background of bushes and trees. These ended up being the fun shots, as she let down her hair (so to speak) and starting playing around, laughing, jumping and generally having fun in the rain until she was soaked and I had a good number of photos to work with.

It usually takes me awhile to get through editing my photos, even when it is just quick touch-ups. There are usually other things to do, and Sunday was no exception. I had 5500 words to write to catch up with my Nanowrimo aims, I had sleep to catch up on and, I won’t lie, I was still not feeling 100% after drinks from the night before. But I was also excited about the shoot that I had come from. I wanted to see what I had to work with, and it turned out that there wasn’t too much work to be done. An hour and a half later, editing was finished and I was mailing the client a link to get her photographs downloaded. 

So what is the moral of this story? Where there is a will, there is a way. Or something like that. Even when circumstances aren’t quite right, don’t give up. You can always find a way to get the shots that you need, even if it isn’t a way that you would normally have thought of. Get inventive and get shooting!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Flickr: Pros and Cons for Photographers

In my last post, I wrote about the pros and cons of using Facebook for photo sharing. Today, I am going to look at the pros and cons of another very popular photo sharing site – Flickr.

Flickr is aimed specifically at photographers, which means that the sole purpose of the site is for photo sharing. What is awesome about this is that it provides you with a network of photographers, all sharing their own work. This means that you have a website filled with photographers of varying levels with different amounts of experience and worldly knowledge. You will find beginners, amateurs, pros and everything in between. You will have the opportunity to have your work perused by the best and receive compliments and constructive criticism on your work. What an awesome opportunity as a photographer! In addition, Flickr tends to maintain the quality of photographs better than Facebook does. With Flickr, you have always been able to choose what quality you want to upload your photographs with, even if it means that it will take longer and use more bandwidth.

Though Flickr does not provide pages as Facebook does, it provides other benefits that Facebook doesn’t offer. One can create sets, galleries and can share their photos in other groups’ sets and galleries. You can also choose to add more information about the photograph than Facebook offers. If you keep your EXIF data intact, you can choose to share it, which will share information about how and where the photograph was taken – which camera, shutter speed, aperture and ISO were used for example.

But now to the negatives, and there are always one or two of those. A big reason why Facebook is so popular is because it is a social networking site – you connect with friends, friends of friends, friends who used to be friends, people who like to think of themselves as friends, etc. With Flickr, it is difficult to find those friends. Because it is a photo sharing site, those joining in tend to be limited to photographers, and if you do not have a wide net of photographer friends already, it makes finding friends and people to comment and critique a little more difficult. You can, of course, still add photographs to groups and get critiques in that way, but it certainly leads to less exposure than you would have available to you with Facebook and some other social media sites.

The quality of the photographs may be better than Facebook, but the layout of the page is still very much social media-like, which tends to turn away a number of the professionals and also makes it a very informal setting for photographs. While this can benefit a photographer, particularly when starting out and looking for advice, it can also deter people from adding their photographs because the quality of the site seems to bring down the quality of your own photographs.

Another aspect that makes Flickr not so great are the pure number of photographs that come up. Every photographer must have their photographs up for the world to see, every photographer thinks they are the best, and a lot of photographers may try to put other people down to prove this. This has a number of repercussions. First of all, it can lead to your photographs being lost in the stream of things. Your photographs may be amazing, but they will be lost in amidst the okay, mediocre and downright bad. In addition, you may find that the criticism that your photographs receive amount to no more than trolling on the part of a photographer who thinks they are better than everyone else. You may find that the comments lack the constructive and just focus on the negative. You should be prepared for brutality. You are likely to find it at some point.

There are benefits of course to using a photo sharing site like Flickr, which is aimed at a specific photographic audience. But you should expect there to be downfalls too. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. It just means that you should be prepared.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Slutwalk Grahamstown

29 October 2011 

Slutwalk. It sounds crude and offensive and harsh. But sometimes you have to be harsh and crude and offensive to get people to take notice, and that is exactly what the point of a Slutwalk is.

The idea of Slutwalks started in Toronto in April this year and have since spread throughout the globe. Every major city is having their own Slutwalk where women arrive dressed however they please and saying for once and all: "What I wear is no excuse to rape me." Legs, cleavage and navels abound as women dress in short skirts, skimpy tops and even, in some cases lingerie. But this is exactly the point. Dressing in what someone might think is an inappropriate manner is no excuse for rape. Using it as an excuse for rape is unacceptable and society needs to realise this.

Grahamstown's very own Slutwalk might not have had the attendance of ones in bigger cities (like Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban as well as the international alternatives), but the spirit was certainly there. The turn-out was around 100 people all dressed to kill and shouts of "Wathint' abafazi wathint'imbokodo" (translated as You strike a woman, you strike a rock) filled the streets. Signs were passed out and pink ribbons were attached around wrists, necks and used as headbands.

Photographers may not have been the most popular people around - no one particularly wants to have photographs of themselves splattered on Facebook even at the best of times - but there were tons of them around regardless. Faces were hidden, comments of: "If this gets into the newspaper, I'm going to sue" could be heard and I snuck around in between protesters to try and get the necessary shots without being too obtrusive.

At the end of the day, Slutwalks are entirely necessary in societies where it is still acceptable for the excuse of clothing to be used as an excuse for rape. Hopefully, in the years to come, this will no longer be the case, and I am fairly sure that Slutwalks would have played a part in the revolution. At least they show that there is still hope.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Facebook: Pros & Cons for Photographers

All photographers want to get their photographs out there, to get exposure and gain popularity. One of the best ways to do this is through a photo sharing site. But there are so many sites out there! Which one should you pick? Every photo sharing site has their own benefits and downfalls, and it’s good to know about these before choosing which site to upload your photographs to. You don’t want to be caught off-guard by privacy settings, low quality images or copyrighting. So I am going to look at just a few of the benefits and downfalls of uploading images to specific photo sharing sites.

First and foremost, let’s have a look at Facebook. As a photographer, Facebook can be a great tool for displaying your images and getting exposure. As the most popular social networking site out there (at the moment), Facebook will provide you with a wide audience to show your work to and it is easy to get feedback on that work. In addition, you can divide your private and professional self by creating a photography page for yourself. This means that, while you can post hundreds of photographs on your personal account for people to see, you can also post your most professional photographs to your photography page and have the best separated from the rest. It is a form of advertising yourself which works out well, particularly if you decide to spend some cash and invest in photography adverts on Facebook as well. This can lead to a lot of business that you would not have received otherwise and can certainly be worthwhile.

On the other hand, Facebook does have its downfalls. Many of you may have heard about the mass of people leaving Facebook due to their privacy settings. Some of you may even be those people who left in the mass exodus. The privacy settings that affect your profile also affect your photographs. While Facebook providing others with access to your personal details may sound far more significant than hundreds and thousands of people having access to your photographs (hell, that almost sounds good!) it also means that your photographs are being exposed to people who may use them for their own personal use. This brings the issue of copyright into question, and you will quickly find that Facebook’s copyright protocols leave a lot to be desired. And then, let’s look at the photographs themselves. Though Facebook has recently introduced a new function, allowing you to upload high resolution photographs, for a long while the photographs that you were uploading were compressed to be very low quality. While this is fine for showing off photos from the party last night, for professional photographers it is not ideal. A lot of detail is lost in the process, and your photographs will not come out the way that you pictured them. There are ways around this, but most people do not know these methods. Hell, even though I know that they are out there, I hardly know about these methods!

Facebook may be the most popular photo sharing site at the moment, but that certainly does not mean that it is the best. Personally, I still upload my photographs using Facebook for the exposure, but it is not my only method of uploading pictures. At least I know and understand the risks and problems, and even use them in some cases! Part of the reason why I continue to use Facebook is that it can provide low-res and low-quality versions of my photographs, giving me the exposure that I want, and I can then provide links to better quality versions or, if requested, provide better quality prints of the photographs. If someone wants to steal an image, it then means that they are taking a low-quality image, one that I would not be too concerned about. It is the high-res and good quality ones that I truly cherish.

Check back soon for the pros and cons of using other photo sharing sites such as Flickr, Twitter and Google Plus.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


There is nothing that annoys me more in terms of photography than people taking the photographer for granted.

I was at a dinner party last night and it was a wonderful party and a wonderful reason for me to bring my camera out. I haven't been taking too many random photos recently, and I felt like doing a bit of photography. In any case, we were sitting around the dinner table and my camera was beside me, and my friend decided to say to the rest of the guests: "Please excuse Lara. She loves taking photos of everything." Which was absolutely fine, and very true and one of the guests responded by saying that she didn't mind as long as the photos were good. To which my friend replied, "They will be. She has a very nice camera."

It is a common misconception that a number of people have that the camera is everything. While my camera is good, it's not what makes the photographs that I take good. I like to think that I have an eye for a good photo and wait for good moments to take photos. I also have a steady hand and know which apertures and shutter speeds to use for which situations. This means that it is more than just the camera that is good. It's the photographer as well and people have a tendency to forget this fact.

Another thing that annoyed me was that one of the friends of this friend that was having the dinner party then asked to play around with my camera. I agreed rather reluctantly, but without showing any reluctance, and the girl then complained that she had to stand back because my lens didn't have a zoom and what a stupid lens it was because she couldn't zoom out. Nevermind that it is one of my favourite lenses and the best for the light that was provided in the room, nevermind that I offered to let her use the kit lens that was in my bag. No, this girl didn't want to change anything, but wanted to complain because the lens wasn't to her satisfaction.

I should now mention that while there are people who annoy me when it comes to my photography, there are also those who astound me (in a good way). There are people like my friend Jestine, who has been encouraging me to start standing up for myself when it comes to photography and charging when I should and refusing to take jobs that don't come with pay unless they are jobs that I actually want to take. There are also people like Mike and Vicky, who try to insist on paying me for the wedding shots that I did even though I have already informed them that I will not be charging them, since they were my first wedding shoot and since the camera died halfway through their wedding. No matter, they still pester me occasionally to give them my banking details, which I will refuse to do because I think that there are times when charging is appropriate and there are times when it is not, and my first wedding shoot is not something that I want to charge for.

In any case, these were just a couple of things that I wanted to get off my chest and I am rather glad that I have now. Rant over.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Flash can be a pain, but with the right one, it can also be a hell of a lot of fun!

When my camera battery died at the wedding (a mistake that I am hitting myself over the head for, even now), the first thing that the groom did was to whip out his camera and tell me to start taking photos with that. I took one look at it and my expression must have shown my disappointment. "I know it's a piece of junk compared to yours..." I tried to stop him right there. His camera is no piece of junk. It is a pretty decent Fujifilm, a lot better than the camera I was using before I got my Canon, and certainly more than your average point and shoot. It wasn't the camera that I was upset about. It was the flash.

The bride and groom cutting the wedding cake with a dark backdrop.
I hate my own on-camera flash, and there is a good reason for this! You know those photos where the faces of the people in the front are completely over-exposed and the background is pitch black? What about those ones where just about every person has there eyes shut from the shock? Yeah, those are the kinds of photos that you get with an on-camera flash. It doesn't matter if you are using a Fujifilm point and shoot or a Canon 550D, the results are going to be fairly similar. Until recently, I thought this meant that I hated flash photography. And then I played around with the Canon Speedlite 580EX.

The exposure is just right with the Speedlite 580EX.
I managed to get my hands on one of these babies specifically for the wedding, My boss at work just happened to have one lying around and said that I could borrow it for awhile. And I was dubious. I did not like flash, I did not want to use flash, I knew that it was just going to be disastrous. For a good day or two I just sulked about the matter not wanting to try. And then I pulled myself together and got shooting and practicing... and found that flash photography is actually a lot of fun when you have a decent flash!

 It does take awhile to get used to bouncing the light and positioning the flash for the best effects. I blinded more than one person by capturing a shot when the flash wasn't at the right angle. I also got more than a couple of blank photos when I tried to take pictures with the flash too quickly after one another. And yet, the photos that I did get came out so well that I was really happy. No more over-exposed foreground and under-exposed background!

Of course, getting the background right also took a lot of practice. It is about more than just pointing the flash in the right direction. You also need to have your shutter speed and aperture settings down to a tee. Why? What ends up happening, especially in manual mode, is that the flash ends up only providing fill light for the picture. What this means is that the flash will only try to illuminate at a short distance, as most on-camera flashes do. But the difference is that it will also allow you to adjust your own settings to ensure that the background is equally well lit. This means that if there is little light, you will still need to shoot at a low shutter speed and with a wide aperture to ensure that the background is well lit. It also means that you will often need to bring your tripod along even when you are doing flash photography.

So what is the benefit of having a flash if you are still going to have to lower your settings? Well, the ISO will certainly be lower, and even if your background is slightly under-exposed, it is still a lot better than having a well exposed, completely blurry photograph or having an over-exposed, completely clear photograph with a black background.

So, what kind of flash do you want? To be honest, that's going to depend entirely on you. You can get some of the lower end flashes which just attach to your camera and acts as a stronger flash, but with the ability to add bits and bobs that will adjust the light the way you want it to be. You can get a mid-range flash which you can connect to your camera or can be held away from your camera and pointed in a specific direction that way (attached via a cable of some sort).  Or you can get one of the high-range flashes (like the Speedlite 580EX) which can swivel in any direction as well as doing all of the above. I have decided that after playing with the 580EX, it is the only way for me to go. It was far too much fun to ignore!

And so, I have a list of gear that I am scouring Bid or Buy for. First of all it's going to be a spare battery so that there won't be any more stupid mistakes. Second is going to be my Speedlite 580EX flash. Third is going to be a nice wide angle or fish-eye lens, and for the last two I am going to have to save up a ton.

Let me know what is on your photography wishlist!

Monday, October 3, 2011

My First Wedding Shoot (What To Do and What Not To Do)

"In the art of marriage... it is not only marrying the right partner. It is being the right partner."
So, as many of you may know by now, I spent last week Friday doing the photography for the wedding of two friends. It was the first wedding shoot that I'd done, and there were bound to be mistakes. In fact, there was one very big one, but I will get back to that later. Let me tell you first how I prepared for the day.

Preparing is one of the most important parts of the big day. Go there unprepared and your photos will show it.

First things first, I wrote down a list of shots that I wanted to take. I knew the bride and groom already and knew some things that they might want to do and some things that they might not want to. They were not available at the time to ask, so I wrote up my own list and prepared myself to ask them for specifics when they came back from their honeymoon (which they took before the wedding).

One of the shots that I had on my list. Mike throwing Vicky into the river.

Once I had the preliminary list, I started searching through the photography blogs that I follow for more ideas and advice. I added more photographs to the list that was steadily getting  longer and longer, and decided to visit the venue for the wedding a week early to get a feel for the place.

The main stage for the ceremony. It was a good idea for me to go there first otherwise I wouldn't have known that the area was badly lit with nothing to bounce light off of. I knew that I would need to bring a lens which could get wide open and that I would be dealing with higher ISO images.
Seeing the venue was a great plan, since I found out that I would need equipment that I didn't have and wasn't familiar with using, namely a flash. Luckily, I managed to find one, and that part of the day was saved. I quickly learned to use it and learned to love it, and you can expect a post on that at some point within the next few weeks.

One of the shots that I took with the super-awesome amazing flash that I borrowed for the evening, showing how well the light bounced in the reception venue.

On the day itself, before leaving the house, I made a checklist of all the photography gear that I was going to need - lenses, tripod, flash, batteries, charger, bag, etc. and made sure that they were the first things packed into the car since I didn't want to forget anything. We then made the half hour trip to Port Alfred and relaxed for an hour or two in our accommodation before meeting the bride and groom and getting the day started.

Leaving your gear behind would be like an artist leaving his/her brushes at home. Thankfully, this was one thing that I made sure to include.
So that was the prep that I did. And at the time, it felt like the right kind of prep to be doing. I arrived in Port Alfred feeling nervous, but pretty much ready for anything. I had met with the bride and groom and had removed some of the photographs from my list simply due to lack of numbers, since there was only one bridesmaid and one groomsman, which took away a lot of the photographs that I had planned for the bridal party. I had printed out the list of photographs that I had in mind and kept it in the camera bag that I was going to be using. So where did I go wrong then?

First of all, I would recommend insisting that the bride and groom make their own list of photographs in addition to your own. They will want to have specific photos taken, as will their families, and if you do not know what those are, you will be thrown off guard when they ask for them. In this case particularly, the bride and groom told me that they had no specific requests and that they just wanted "everything". That is great and all, but your everything may not be their idea of everything and can lead to slight chaos.

Even though the bride and groom told me that they wanted "everything" they did have some great ideas for "romantic" shots that ended up working out really well and being some of my favourites for the shoot. This is another reason why you should ask your bride and groom what kind of shots they want. I guarantee that not all brides would be impressed with their hubby trying to hit them over the head with an oar. This particular couple were completely into it, which meant that we could have a lot of fun playing around instead of only having serious shots.

Next, I had everything planned down to a tee, and that is never a good idea. What happens then is that when someone comes along suggesting something different, you get thrown off. I had tons of ideas for great shots, but I suddenly found myself forgetting all of them when the bridesmaid refused to pose with the bride's brother (family drama) and when the groom's family (aside from his parents) got stranded in Cape Town and were not able to make it. It is great to be prepared, but try to leave some room for error. Do not freak out when things don't go exactly as planned.

I had planned the family shots very carefully, wanting to bring in first parents, then siblings, then extended family, etc. When Mike's family missed their flight in Cape Town it messed with the order of things and I was left utterly stumped while Mike and Vicky took over and told who to come forward when. This is not ideal. As the photographer, you should be in charge. But since this was a first for me, I think I was forgiven.

Make sure that you have your tripod everywhere, and that you know it inside out. I had hardly used my tripod before the wedding, and while I used it for the family shots, which was great, I found that the dial used for turning the camera on its side was stuck, and not wanting to fiddle around with it, I elected to leave it instead and only took landscape oriented pictures of the family, which I later regretted. I also regretted not having the camera with me at the ceremony, as the area was dark and there was nothing to bounce the flash off of, which meant that I needed to use low shutter speeds with wide apertures and try to hold the camera as still as possible. I managed to get some good shots by leaning on a tree, and I am still not sure that I would have found a place for my tripod due to the angle that the venue was placed at (I'm not sure I would have found somewhere steady enough), but I know that I would have appreciated it.

Knowing your gear well is a definite must! I was kind of lucky with this photo as the little girl was the only one who didn't jump and was therefore the only one in focus, since I forgot to set the shutter speed correctly prior to the jump.

Don't loiter. I very nearly missed the bride and groom leaving on their quick boat trip to the reception simply because I stood around chatting when I should have been off and away as soon as they had left. I missed them climbing into the boat, but thankfully managed to catch them before they rowed off and managed to get a good number of shots in.

Loitering around during the wedding means missing the important shots of the bride and groom when they are alone after the deed has been done. You can get photos of the guests before and at the reception, but the time after the ceremony is time best spent following the bride and groom and catching their glances, their excitement and their special moment.

And now for the big one. The biggest mistake that I made that night was not being sure how many photographs my camera's battery could handle. It turns out, that number is around 715. I didn't know this and wasted a lot of shots on the bride getting ready (another mistake, unless you have a spare battery lying around and a lot of time to do processing of the photos later) which I could have saved for things like the cake being cut and the couple's first dance. I had also left my charger in my bag in the accommodation (yet another mistake) which meant that I really was just completely out of luck. I missed a  large part of the ceremony, but thankfully got the necessary photographs of the family and the friends, the speeches and some of the food, the romantic pics, the ceremony and the preparation, which meant that the bride and groom were not too upset, but that didn't stop me from being furious with myself and vowing that the next item I buy will be a second battery.

Because I left my camera at home, this was the last photo I was able to take, which was thankfully the last of the speeches. However, it also meant limiting my photographs to try and get this much life out of the camera and there were special moment missed in between, such a Mike's father tearing up during his speech.

So, what did I do right? Preparing, making lists of photographs, making checklists of items to bring (and bringing them), getting to know any new equipment that I may have needed to use, checking out the venue before hand, checking with the bride and groom what the bridal party was going to be like and being there nice and early to get all of the necessary shots.

Showing a little courtesy is always the right thing to do. Being married doesn't mean that courting should go out of the window after all ;)

What did I do wrong? I over-prepared, didn't know my own equipment well enough, let last minute changes stress me, loitered (a little), didn't insist on the bride and groom's input on my photography list and didn't bring a second Canon battery or my charger along.

Abandoning your bride on a narrow pier in high heels is the wrong thing to do on your wedding day, much like the things that I did wrong!

At least now I know for the next time, and will learn from my mistakes. The next wedding that I do will hopefully go more according to plan, and less according to plan at the same time, since next time I hopefully won't plan as much and will be calmer now that I have some experience in my belt. No more stressing and more relaxing and having fun! Is there any advice that you would add?