My Equipment (Nikon vs Canon, a brief history)

I get asked a lot what equipment I use and why I chose what I did. The answer to both questions lies in a fun and exciting back story, so buckle your seat belts while I take a trip down memory lane.

Sometime around the turn of the century I started getting interested in photography and in short order landed a job at Blacksburg Camera Repair. As the name implied, BCR was a camera repair shop, but they also had a large selection of refurbished old equipment. And that is where I found the finest piece of camera magic I have ever held in my hands, a Canon F1. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the F1 was an all metal all manual pro level camera produced in the early ’70s. To this day I still love that camera and lament selling it, but here is why I did. Flash forward a year (and a couple weddings) and I got bitten by the technology bug. I wanted an auto focus, auto exposure camera so I could pay more attention to whatever I was getting paid to photograph and less to fidgeting with dials and buttons. I still wanted the old manual workhorse for the more artistic “fun” side of things, but I needed something quicker to keep pace with me at a wedding. This is where Canon lost me. In the transition from manual focus to auto, Canon changed their lens mount. This meant that my bag full of manual lenses wouldn’t work on a new auto focus body and I would have to buy a second set of lenses for the new camera. Meanwhile, Nikon, bless their hearts, had not changed their mount and everything was backwards and forwards compatible. So I made the switch, trading in my beloved F1 for a Nikon F2 manual and an N80 auto everything and lenses that would work on both cameras. That is the sole reason I shoot Nikon over Canon. They both make some fantastic cameras, but I still use some of my manual lenses when the need arises. I love having that option. As the saying goes, they don’t make em like they used to.

Since then I have had quite a few cameras pass through my hands, but that is a story for another day. Now that you know my story (not as exciting as promised, I know) here is what I have in my main camera bag currently, with their long and proper name in case anyone cares to look it up:

Nikon D3s

Nikon D3

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8G ED Lens

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f.28G ED VR II Lens

Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f1.4D

Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8D

Nikon SB900 Flash

I carry it all in a Manfrotto Pro 30 backpack (a top loading backpack on the beach is the only way to go)

I use a SpiderPro holster system when on the job to keep the cameras ready to go without having to fool with straps.

Other than the usual odds and ends that fill every photographers bag but never actually get used, that’s about it. I hope that answers everything I set out to answer, and maybe a little more. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions. Thanks for reading!


Editing vs Retouching

Throughout the year we see the same question pop up in many different forms, and that is what do we do with the images between taking them and delivering to you a final product.

“Do you edit the pictures?”

“Do you retouch the photos?”

“Will you Photoshop them?”

“Are they enhanced?”

And so on. To a lot of people these all mean the same thing, so I think it is important to differentiate between the nuances so that you, the client, know exactly what to expect. Every CD we give you comes with edited images, so hopefully this will clear up what that entails.

Edited vs Retouched vs Enhanced vs Photoshopped vs …

To us edited and enhanced are the same thing. Every image we give a client has been edited, which means we make sure the color, brightness, exposure, contrast and saturation are all correct and match as best as possible our overall style of photography. These edits also ensure the best overall print quality and consistency.

Retouching on the other hand is where we go in and make specific changes to one part of an image. Photoshop is the program most photographers use for retouching tasks and has become a household term, like when you ask for a Kleenex when you need a facial tissue. The most common basic retouching tasks are things like removing zits or generally smoothing your skin, taking out fly away hair or rogue bra straps, whitening teeth or putting a twinkle in your eye. A more involved retouch would include swapping heads, removing wrinkles or taking off those last 10 pounds. Retouching is very time intensive and not something we include standard in our family packages. For our HS seniors we do include some basic retouching due to the nature of the shoot and the more glamorous look we are going for.

We have included some examples below since, as they saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions.


Help! What should we wear?

The most commonly asked question we get is “what should we wear?”. Ultimately it is up to you and your family to decide the overall look and feel of your portrait. If you wear what you feel comfortable in, it will show in the photos. Still want some help? Here’s a few simple guidelines for you:

Do you have a very traditional family? Try the classic white shirt and khaki pant. It’s classic for a reason, it looks good. It’s comfortable. It’s easy to match everyone. You cannot go wrong with this option and the results will be excellent.


But lets say you are the type of family who likes to step outside the traditional box (you know who you are, don’t be shy) and introduce a little color into your lives. Pastels and light colored jeans are your friend. If you are a large group you can have each family dress in a different color, or your family can pick one color and have each person wear a different shade of that color. But don’t think you all have to match in order for the pictures to turn out well. Maybe everyone wants to wear whichever color they feel flatters them the best and you end up with every color of the rainbow. As long as everyone sticks to the same “niceness” level (everyone in polos or the guys in button downs and ladies in blouses) then you all will match and look great as a group.



Since I just mentioned niceness level I will elaborate before moving on. Ladies, you usually have no issue dressing up and looking nice, but if you are in your fancy new sun dress and your man is wearing a skater t-shirt and ratty jeans it looks pretty mismatched. You can go as nice or as casual as you would like, and as long as its uniform across the group you will all look great in the photo.


What about your feet? Most of the time I say leave the shoes at home and get that sand between your toes! There are a few times, specifically the middle of the day shoots, when the sand can be REALLY hot and painful to step on. For those times flip flops or sandals are great. I would advise against tennis shoes as they aren’t beach attire and can look out of place. And lastly, as with the rest of your clothing, as long as you are all doing the same thing it’ll look great.


Things to avoid: Dark colors. The darker the color you are wearing the paler you look in comparison. Everyone at the beach wants to look like they have a tan, so try and stay away from black and navy and the like. Another one to avoid is really bright or neon colors on a reflective fabric. If you have a neon orange shiny shirt, the sun will reflect a not-so-lovely orange glow across your face. We want to keep the focus on you guys having fun, not have the first reaction to looking at the picture be “Wow, so-and-so looks like an oompa loompa!”

A couple more things to keep in mind and possibly avoid: Overly loose fitting clothing and short skirts or dresses. There’s no such thing as no wind on the beach. And while you may be picturing your skirt or blouse beautifully flowing in the breeze, you might end up with a very unflattering “billowing” effect. Also, keep in mind that for some of the poses you will be sitting in the sand, jumping, building a human pyramid, or even just walking down a windy beach. We want you to make sure everything that needs to be covered stays that way so you don’t end up flashing the beach or the camera. I’m not that type of photographer =)

Speaking of a windy beach, hairspray is your friend. You really cannot use enough. Another option would be headbands or hair ties, really anything to avoid having a tangled mess flying in all different directions. Your face is the most important part of the photo, after all.

My last little peice of advice for you: I would highly recommend linen if you can find it in your color scheme. Its a light and breathable material that you will thank me for when its 100 degrees on the beach. As a matter of fact its all I wear all summer long.

I hope this little guide is useful, informative, and a little whimsical. But as always, if you have any questions or ideas please do not hesitate to ask. And when picking your outfits, remember the three simple rules: be comfortable, have fun, and relax!


Life in the OBX during the winter

Some call it boring, I prefer to call it tranquil. Despite the fact that a fair amount of people do live here year round and life does continue from day to day, it just seems to slow down. Relax, if you will. And while this winter has brought more snow and cold than I can remember it has also had it’s share of temperate days and crisp evenings. There is nothing in the world more relaxing that kicking back on a porch swing and reading a good book not having to worry about getting eaten alive by mosquitoes or slathering on the sunscreen. A couple weeks ago Kayla and I went for a lovely drive down to Rodanthe and spent a late afternoon out on the beach watching the sunset and no other forms of life except a rogue seagull here and there.

For the business side of things we really enjoy getting to branch out a bit photographically. We like to keep our skills sharp by busting out the studio equipment and doing a couple small family shoots with the backdrop, lights and the whole nine yards, or going to some of the local sporting events at the schools for some action shots. Mostly though, we do spend the majority of time indoors tweaking the website or updating Facebook or any of the hundred other things that occur behind the scenes that we just don’t have time to do in the hectic summer months.

All in all, I wouldn’t trade any of it for all the tea in England. We run around like lunatics for 6 months, but when we can curl up on the couch and watch a movie while the snow falls on the water outside our window it all seems worth it.




Lions and tigers and bears! Or just tigers…

Recently Kayla and I went on a random road trip to the beautiful town of Greensboro and discovered they have a very nice zoo/aquarium. We braved the snow and went in search of the tiger exhibit, and it did not disappoint! Such beautiful and magnificent creatures who didnt mind the cold weather one bit. It was really cool (pun intended) being the only ones out in the snow and less than a foot from the tigers. Among the other more adorable critters was a red panda, along with a whole bunch of penguins, rooms full of reptiles and a selection of pretty much everything else you can think of. Definitely worth stopping if you are traveling though the area!