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Spotlight: JR Pena Photography // Sligo Ireland

From April 18th to the 20th, I traveled to Sligo, Ireland with good friend JR Pena to highlight his engagement shoot with the to-be-married couple Karen and John.

When JR first approached me with the offer, my immediate reaction was nervousness. This was because this shoot presented too many “first time”s. It would be my first time traveling to a foreign country for a shoot; first time traveling to Europe – period; first time shooting for three days in a row… So many questions began racing through my head. What are the logistics on working overseas? What equipment should I bring/how will I bring my equipment to Ireland? I’ll be working by myself – how many bodies should I bring? What happens if my stuff gets stolen/will insurance still cover it? So on, so forth…

It was the calming words of my wife Julie that encouraged me to ultimately make the leap of faith and accept the offer. I was soon borrowing Dublin and Sligo travel guides from the library and reading them cover to cover. I double-checked my insurance to make sure all was good. I visited Unique Photo to get some extra batteries and ended up buying a camera poncho on a whim. (More on that later.) Finally the day came, and on AerLingus JR Pena and I flew across the Atlantic to the island known as Ireland.

Karen flew in as well but on a different flight, and John picked us up at the Airport. From there we drove another three hours bound to John’s hometown of Sligo, Ireland.

The first thing I noticed in Ireland was the weather – during our three hour drive to Sligo it must have gone back and forth from downpour of rain to sunny skies about ten times. Even during our shoots JR and I kept one eye on the sky and dashed for cover at the smallest sign of a rain cloud. That camera poncho from Unique Photo came in handy on one occasion, though I refrained from using it because I looked a bit silly with it. JR was very smart, and often used the changing weather to his advantage in getting a vast range of creative shots. We spent the days going from going to the local park, to Lough Gill, and to a beautiful local pub Shoot the Crows. With each location I was able to witness how much Karen and John loved each other, and how talented JR really was. Karen and John continued to carry on adorable conversations, and JR continued to engagingly interact with and direct the couples throughout our trip. The result was a series of amazing and timeless photos for Karen and John.

Ultimately it was a joy having the opportunity to travel to Ireland and shoot and edit this piece. Please check out JR’s work at www.jrpena.com, and if you have a wedding coming up, I suggest you give him a ring. :D

How important is it to be provided with all the RAW footage with my wedding video?

How important is it to be provided with all the RAW footage with my wedding video?
This is an important question that brides face when trying to choose someone for wedding videography. There are some wedding videographers that will provide all your RAW, unedited footage to you on the DVD, while many others would not.

There are two main schools of thought on whether you should be given unedited footage or not. They stem mainly from the wedding videographer themself, and the style that they like to film.

A wedding videographer filming ‘documentary’ style may provide you with all their unedited footage. Their style of filming is based on filming everything from Point A in time to the end, Point B. They may not do much editing for your video and instead choose to provide you with the many hours of footage as their final product.

The videographer who films cinematic style wedding films (‘wedding cinematography’) may choose not to give you the unedited RAW footage. They opt to take a creative, story-telling approach when filming your wedding day. The main goal is to produce a fully-edited, short film that will show off your wedding day to the viewer and evoke powerful emotions such as joy and happiness. Much like a Hollywood producer filming a drama movie, in wedding cinematography there are certain details throughout the day that are captured onto film to help tell your story and to build up the ‘plot’.

Wedding Cinematography
In cinematic wedding videography, the little moments are thoughtfully filmed with an intent to be edited at certain points in your wedding video to tell the story to the viewer. These moments may include scenes such as all the workers diligently setting up your reception hall, or a close up scene of the groom nervously tapping his feet while he awaits his bride, or your mother taking a second to adjust your veil before you walk the aisle.

Without any editing, these scenes, which could be up to over 10 hours of ‘unedited’ footage, would just appear to be an assortment of random events that carry very little meaning. If you were to see the unedited footage without seeing the final, edited wedding video, you may even be disappointed and think you wasted your money on a wedding videographer that spent so much time on seemingly unimportant footage!

But the beauty truly lies after the editing process, when the collection of the scenes are interwoven with each other to become your final wedding video. The wedding cinematographer often will spend up to 40 hours carefully choosing the scenes and fitting them, like pieces of a puzzle, into your wedding video.   In the end, the assortment of footage becomes connected to tell a beautiful story — one that you would watch not just once, but over and over — much like your favorite movie.

‘Actual’ vs ‘Perceived’ Value
There are a few questions you should ask yourself when you are trying to pick out wedding videography and if you really need the RAW, unedited footage. They pertain mostly to ‘actual’ and ‘perceived’ value and which is more important to you.

If you favor the ‘documentary’ style of wedding videography, and absolutely need 10 hours of continuous, unedited video of your wedding day, then you should ask for the RAW footage so you can maximize the ‘perceived’ value of your investment — the perception here that the value is getting the most number of bottom-line  hours of footage you end up with.

If the thought of sitting through and watching 10 hours of your wedding video, more than just on one occasion, makes you cringe, then you may not need the RAW footage and opt to hire a wedding cinematographer.  This is where you would favor the ‘actual” value. You’ll end up with less hours of wedding video footage but the final wedding video, whether 5 minutes, or 25 minutes long, of edited footage may show off your wedding day in a much more polished, creative, emotion-provoking, and beautiful way than the 10 hours of unedited footage.

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Food for thought: After the wedding is done, who does the footage belong to? The cinematographer, who owns the camera, card, equipment; operates it to capture the footage; and edits to complete a final creative piece? Or the client, who pays for it? (Is the client paying for ownership of the footage, or just the service the wedding videographer provides?)



James Lee

Nostalgia Strikes

Someone asked me recently who my inspirations were. In fact, whenever people who wedding film fanatics like myself (as in are addicted to wedding films on Vimeo) see my work, I get asked if I got that idea from this wedding filmmaker, or that filmmaker, etc. etc.

The truth is, wedding cinematography with the use of DSLRs is pretty old news. Ever since Vincent Laforet got his hands on the 5D Mark II in 2008 and showed the world what kind of beast Canon had just created, independent filmmakers jumped on the bandwagon, and wedding filmmakers were a part of this transition.

With the growing popularity of the Canon DSLRs, although completely poor and unable to afford any of the cameras or gears, I began to learn about DSLRs, see videos produced using them, and watch tutorials and rig setup videos. I soaked in as much as humanly possible without actually handling a DSLR camera. At the time my sole interest was in narrative short film (which I still very much enjoy), and didn’t know of professionally-made wedding films. The first wedding film that I saw was inadvertently through a rig setup video done by JJ Kim of Orange Wedding Films:


(Nostalgia strikes…)
I was studying his comparison of the 7D and T2i, and through surfing his vimeo page, for the first time in my life I was introduced to the world of wedding films. It was love at first sight. It was not too long after this that I got hired by Wonton Creations, LLC as a cinematographer/primary editor for wedding films. I used a DSLR for the first time through this company, and honed my skills exponentially, perhaps because the hunger to do so was so great. I never forgot JJ’s wedding films, and after I went through all of his films public on vimeo several times over, I began to search for more. This is how I found Michael Y. Wong, David Robin, and Konrad of Freshsox; I began to follow In[FOCUS] and discovered Jet Kaiser Films, Matt Davis of Life Stage Films, Joe Simon, Lord Calomay, and so on so forth…

Perhaps one of the first wedding filmmakers to use solely Canon DSLRs, and one of my greatest inspirations, is none other than Stillmotion. At the time, Stillmotion had been using 35mm Brevis Adapters to produce the cinematic look; the DSLR replaced that easily with its low light performance and greater dynamic range. I began this nostalgia trip because recently Stillmotion posted a video on vimeo on wedding steadicam operation, and after watching it suddenly remembered the long, long ago moment when it all started…

To all of you wannabe-wedding-filmmakers, this is word of advice from someone still young in the industry. Never stop learning. Don’t ever settle for “good enough.” Always look at someone better than you and challenge yourself to reach his/her level.

- James

A Letter On My Doorstep

This letter has been passed around among our industry peers this week and I thought I’d like to share it with our blog followers. Although it speaks of photography, I believe the principle can be applied to filmworks as well. The original article can be found here on the Fototails Photography’s blog,  www.fototails.com.
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A letter on my door step. portraits are more than paper.
There will be no portrait photos in this post. This letter wasn’t mailed – it was at my doorstep when I got home a couple months ago. I read it, I cried, and read it again – probably a hundred times by now. It wasn’t easy to read – and honestly, as much as it validates what I do for a living – I wasn’t sure I was going to share it either – Until today, when a past client said that my print prices were too expensive. If you choose to read through the letter, you will know why I’ve finally chosen to share it.

July 2nd, 2011

Jeanine –
Today I am writing for a couple of reasons. I have some quiet time at the moment and need to get a couple of things off my mind. I will leave this for my husband to deliver to you when he is ready.
You photographed my wedding, you photographed my first pregnancy and my first baby. I contacted you awhile back to photograph my 2nd child and family. After getting prices and realizing I would want all of the pictures as we love your work – I decided against spending $500+ – which is what I normally spend for portraits and prints with you.. Please know it is not because I don’t value your amazing eye, or how much we love the experience.
That week that I decided to NOT do a session with you, this is how I spent some money.
On Sunday I called and cancelled our session. Monday I went out and got my hair cut ($39+tip), and colored ($65), Thursday I had my nails done ($24), my family went out to dinner at a somewhat expensive restaurant for no particular reason costing us $79 + tip. This was just 4 days since canceling our session, already totaling over $200 for un necessary things. My nails only lasted about 2 weeks, my hair is gone, and seven weeks passed when I got the phone call from our doctor. It was not something I expected and the cancer has spread very quickly. I will be leaving my husband, my 6 year old girl and my now 2 year old – not by choice. It is very hard for me to talk about it which is why I need to write you.
I watch your Facebook page and your posts about the value of a photo and if I could give back all of those things that I purchased this few weeks after I cancelled my session with you, knowing what I know now, and have that session, well… I would do it in a heartbeat.
Now my time is done and there are no more chances for me. The next time someone cancels a session – my wish is that you forward this letter to them. Time is fragile, it is gone before you know you had it. If you charged $200 for one print it wouldn’t be enough for what it is actually worth. I cringe to think that my priorities were a manicure over a memory to pass onto my babies and husband.
My love and thanks for what you have given us from past photos. I am so sorry that I did not see it as more than paper until now.

Karen L.

Shooting Our “Save The Date” Video

Jennifer and Jihoon received their wedding photos the other day, and it seems they were very happy with the results. Another congratulations to them! If you haven’t seen the wedding photos yet, you can click here.

Last week, my fiance Julie and I shot our “save the date” video with the help of my friend since high school, Youmin Woo! We were on a tight schedule so all the shooting had to be done within a 4 hour window. The concept behind the video is very simple and the final product planned at under 1 minute; still, we were barely able to fit in the shooting in just under 4 hours. Two cameras were used on set, one Canon 7D and one Canon T2i, although the T2i served more as a prop than for its video function. Youmin brought all the glass used for the shoot as well, which consisted of the Canon 24-70mm f2.8L (for some action shots), the Canon 16-35mm f2.8L (for establishing shots and as a prop), and the Canon 50mm f1.4 (most prominently used). The video is currently in post production, but I thought I’d share with you all some of the production stills while I finish cutting up the video:










Big shout out again to my good friend Youmin Woo for shooting our video for us! She’s a graphic designer currently finishing her studies at the School of Visual Arts. Please check our her other awesome work at her webpage at designtowoo.com!

10.25.11 Jennifer & Jihoon’s Wedding – Adorama Rentals and Lightroom

My fiance’s colleague at Teachers College and dear friend Jennifer Lee got married to her boyfriend of two years 2 Tuesdays ago on October 25th in Manhattan. The wedding was done in court with very few close friends, and I had the honor of taking photos for their wedding and reception. Big shout out to Scott Tsai (who will also be the photographer to our wedding) for lending me some of his equipment! I also tried out for the first time Adorama Rentals to get my hands on a monopod. Now, I had my eyes on Adorama for quite a while, but three reasons have kept me away:

1) Adorama keeps a deposit for the full price of the equipment rented on your credit card,
2) Although pick ups have a daily option, if you want the equipment shipped there is a minimum rental of one week, and
3) there are no insurance options, meaning if anything were to break, you’re screwed.

In the past working for Wonton Creations, Adorama Rentals came up as an option when BorrowLenses start getting too expensive (on paper, Adorama is much cheaper), and I even considered driving into the city to pick it up, but the other two reasons kept us from choosing Adorama Rentals and we ended up sticking to BorrowLenses, which does not require a full price deposit, can be shipped for a three-day option, and have insurance options, even though the final rental price is more expensive. Now for this wedding:

1) I was only getting a monopod so the replacement deposit was under $300,
2) The wedding was in the city, so I could pick up and drop it off myself, and
3) because of #1, insurance wasn’t a big worry.

Other than the fact that the store is located in downtown NYC so getting there is a bit hectic, the renting process was very easy. The equipment itself had a lot of ugly marks of use, but other than that, its functionality was excellent for $13.Overall, I did have a decent experience with Adorama Rentals, but because of the chaos of traveling in Manhattan, I doubt I’ll be taking on weddings in NYC anytime soon, which also means I personally won’t be using Adorama Rentals anytime soon either. If the three reasons above don’t bother you, Adorama Rentals is worth a try.

Scott always told me to shoot in RAW than in JPEG, and being an amateur in photography I didn’t understand why. So for this wedding, I decided to go for it anyways. Afterwards, I downloaded the 30-day trial version to Lightroom 3.5 to try and use it for the first time, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how powerful Lightroom was and how versatile CR2 (RAW) files were. I’ll include a few samples for your viewing pleasure:

Congratulations again, Jennifer and Jihoon! :)