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Between the unusually cold weather and the craziness of Easter, my wife and I finally found time and a warm evening to take a few more maternity shots before baby Grayson arrives. And for those of you who haven’t heard, our boy’s name is Grayson Charles Toporski. We are very excited to meet him!

So this is my a natural light setup during the late afternoon hours when the sun is low enough to provide some beautiful back lighting or easy to find shadows to retreat to if the light is too harsh. The only light modifier I brought with me was a 5-in-1 fold-able reflector and I used both the silver and white sides to create a bit of depth to the images.

Lehigh Valley Maternity Portraits

I really loved the jewelry and the pattern on Ashley’s dress, so I thought a shot of her holding her belly would look nice here.

Lehigh Valley Maternity Portraits

One of the things I knew that I wanted was to have the recently bloomed forsythia in the background. I thought the bright yellow blooms would really brighten the image and remind the viewer of Springtime.

Lehigh Valley Maternity Portraits

One of the things that make maternity shots difficult is that shooting from anything other than the profile doesn’t do a great job of showing off the pregnancy. That is why I use a variety of poses and compositions for my shots – so that I can provide a decent amount of variety. Don’t forget about the maternity shoot I did with my wife inside a few weeks ago posted here.

Lehigh Valley Maternity Portraits

I really love using the setting sun as back lighting for any portrait shoot. With a little wind and the sun, my wife’s hair looks amazing.

Lehigh Valley Maternity Portraits

So, the other difficult thing to incorporate in a photo shoot is other kids. Specifically, my daughter loves to have her photo taken, but only under her terms. Trying to pose her and have her sit still for more than 30 seconds is like asking for a miracle. Luckily, I was still able to get a few good shots in with her.

Lehigh Valley Maternity Portraits

I really like this one. She wasn’t in the mood to smile and forcing her to smile doesn’t work unless you like overly dramatic cheesy smiles. Asking her to look up at her mom worked out really well in this instance.

Lehigh Valley Maternity Portraits

One of the joys of my yard are my two willow trees. Here they are just starting to bloom and provide some really pretty ambiance to the photos.

Lehigh Valley Maternity Portraits

They also happen to look great in black and white as well.

Lehigh Valley Maternity Portraits

I love shooting portraits with the idea of a mother reflecting on her love for her unborn baby and thinking about how much they can’t wait to meet their little miracle.

Lehigh Valley Maternity Portraits

As I bring this to a close, I want to point out how ridiculously difficult it is to try and take a group shot and be in the photo. I have no idea what I look like when I pose myself. Luckily, I think these last two shots turned out well.

Lehigh Valley Maternity Portraits

So overall, I think Ashley and I are really happy with the final images. There are a few more, but I don’t want to bore you with all of them. The other thing I want to point out is that I used my recently acquired Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Micro lens for most of these images, and I absolutely love the results. If anyone is interested in maternity images, please feel free to contact me.

UPDATE: Good Morning America has removed its post and video.

I’m normally not one to rant about the supposed woes of the professional photographer. Yes, I feel the industry is over saturated. Yes, I feel like it is difficult to make a name for yourself; and yes, I do feel that many photographers are being priced out of the market. However, as a general believer in liassez-faire capitalism, I feel that the cream will rise to the top and there will always be a place for those that truly run their business well to stand out and make the money they deserve. What I don’t believe is that you should hire amateurs for free to do something that could have a disastrous outcome, such as hiring a high school student to shoot your wedding photography.

Yes, perhaps you didn’t hear me right, but I disagree that hiring a high school student to shoot your wedding photography is a good idea. I bet you probably agree. However, Good Morning America recently suggested that this is a good idea. (Facepalm)

Wedding Photographer Facepalm

I think this might be one of the worst ideas you could consider on what may be one of the most important and expensive days of your life.

First, let’s consider the basics:

A photography student may have a (as in one) camera, a kit lens that came with the camera and maybe a flash. No insurance. No backups. No lighting equipment. No experience. Nope, just a camera, a lens and a dream. Is it worth saving a couple thousand dollars by risking your wedding photography to a student with no backups, minimal equipment and no experience? I think most people would agree that it is a terrible idea.

As an aside, I also don’t understand why Good Morning America would suggest that “you’ll save $8,000 just paying for the cost of their camera, their developing and their time.” First, only the most high end photographers are charging $8,000 for a wedding. Let’s get a grip here. Second, I don’t know if he is referring to developing film, but I don’t know a single photographer that shoots film anymore. Last, if you aren’t paying someone for their time, don’t expect their time to be worth a whole lot. I think Good Morning America may be a little out of touch with reality here…

Back on subject. Let me just go ahead and list the equipment I use, which isn’t really a considerable amount by some photographer’s standards:

Nikon D610…..$1,900

Nikon D7000…..$1,200

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8…..$1,900

Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8…..$1,100

Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Micro…..$900

Nikon 85mm f/1.8…..$500

Nikon 50mm f/1.8…..$200

3 x Nikon SB600 Flash…..$750

1 x Nikon SB700 Flash…..$350

2 x Elinchrom RX4 Portable Monolights…..$1,000

That’s over $9,800 worth of equipment and I didn’t even mention the cost for the multitude of accessories like batteries, memory cards, light modifiers, remote flash triggers or even my business liability insurance.

Now, you want to know why I have all that equipment? It’s not because I love collecting a bunch of expensive photography equipment. It’s because I want to have everything I need to take great photographs at your wedding.

Here is the first thing that you should know about wedding photography: churches and reception venues are generally dark and a pop up flash makes pictures look flat and, frankly, terrible. That is why I shoot with professional digital Nikon cameras and lenses; because they are the best at taking photographs in low light. You simply can’t take a normal $399 student camera and lens kit and shoot weddings, because those photographs will be blurry and grainy, unless that student has extensive knowledge of artificial light and equipment to create it.

Of course, I could go on and on about specific little details, but I think the lovely people at fstoppers.com summed it up best:

While I do believe that there are lots of options available for people who are looking to hire a photographer on a budget – I’d hope that brides were better informed about what actually goes into taking wedding photos. We could make a long list of reasons why you should pass on hiring someone untrained to photograph your wedding. Here are just a few reasons.
1. This person most likely has never shot a wedding and doesn’t understand the timeline or flow of the day.
2. This person doesn’t have backup equipment.
3. This person doesn’t have experience using lighting – probably doesn’t even own a flash.
4. This person has no experiencing posing couples.
5. This person is most likely too busy to edit your photos anytime soon. Can you wait 6 months till school finals are over?

So, Good Morning America, shame on you. Shame on you for suggesting to a bride that they hire someone totally unprepared, unequipped and inexperienced to shoot something as important as a wedding. Furthermore, to use a potential savings of $8,000 to scare brides about the cost of wedding photography is just incorrect and probably unethical. I long for the day when journalism actually becomes journalism again, and not sensationalist garbage used to sell advertising.

Google Auto Awesome

When I first uploaded the image below of a snow covered corn field near my home on Google+, I never expected to get an update soon after that my image had been transformed by some automatic awesomeness feature. I took it in stride, thought it was a fun feature, and ultimately forgot about it. I didn’t realize how deep this rabbit hole went. After using Google Drive to backup about 100 Gigabytes of images on my computer, I soon realized this “auto awesome” feature went much further than just adding snowflakes to my photographs.

Google Auto Awesome

I was bombarded over the next few days of uploading with over 135 auto-awesome images added to . It was sort of an epiphany of how cool Google+ really is – and how much they are out to revolutionize social media with the use of their platform. In fact, I find myself more and more impressed with Google+ over places like Facebook or Twitter. However, that is not the point of this post. It is to go over some of the really cool features that Google+ Auto Awesome has for you.

Google Auto Awesome

One of the cool features that is really inconspicuous is featured in the image above. I had uploaded few different images that I took all similar to the picture above. Google+ decided that it would take the best picture and find the best smiles from all of the pictures and add them altogether. Here is how Google describes their “Smile” feature: “Merges photos of a group of people to show everyone at their best.” What a great idea. Simple and brilliant.

Google Auto AwesomeAnother feature I love is what Google calls “mix”. I know my wife has downloaded (and probably paid) for a mobile app that creates photobooth style grids like the one featured above. Well, Google has decided that it will provide that same feature seamlessly and flawlessly simply by uploading a 3 or more images of a person with the same background.

I am honestly blown away by the way Google+ makes sharing photography and content so much easier by adding these awesome and easy ways to make our images better and more interesting. Meanwhile, while I am still waiting for Facebook to allow us to upload and share animated GIFs, Google+ is making their own (like the image featured at the top of the post) by stringing together a series of similar images together in an animation. Why are we still hanging out on Facebook when we have all these cool toys waiting for us on Google+? And, I haven’t even mentioned communities, hangouts and everything else Google+ offers.

So, for anyone that is interested in the auto awesome features, here is a list from Google’s Help Pages of all the photo effects that they have added to date.

Effect What it does Example What to do to get this effect
Snow Adds falling snow Take a photo that has snow in it
Eraser Removes moving objects Take 4+ successive photos of something with movement in the background (like passersby)
Action One photo showing full range of movement Take 4+ photos of the same scene (with something moving)
HDR Combines best lighting from each photo Take 3+ photos of the same scene (with no movement)
Motion Short animation Take 5+ successive photos of something moving (while holding the camera still)
Smile Merges photos of a group of people to show everyone at their best Take 2+ successive photos of a group of people smiling
Pano Combines partly overlapping photos into one wide view Move the camera right or left to capture 3+ photos of partly overlapping areas
Mix Photobooth style grid Take 3+ successive photos of someone with the same background (works best with faces)

Although, this list doesn’t mention a certain recent April Fool’s Joke that included the auto-awesome feature.

Spring Magnolia Bloom


I am hoping to make this the first part in a series of images that I am going to take and use to hang in my house. The idea is that I will take a picture of this magnolia bud working from it’s humble beginning and in to full bloom. My magnolia tree is one of two prized trees that I adore in my backyard. The second is my Japanese Cherry Blossom that I am still waiting on to bloom. I love how the magnolia tree heralds in the return of Spring with it’s beautiful blossoms.

Just a quick shout out and thanks to Adam Waldron, Bethlehem City Councilman. I photographed his wedding a little over a year ago and he was recently elected to the Bethlehem City Council and came back to me for a head shots to be hung in the Town Hall. I am deeply honored to have had the privilege to take the photographs. I wish Adam the best of luck. I know he will help guide Bethlehem in the right direction.

One of the things that I have learned about photography over the years is that composition is the most important underlying aspect that differentiates great photography from good photography. As I continue to push my photography to the next level, I am always looking for ways to incorporate the rules of good composition in to my photography. What’s funny, is that sometimes, these things just happen without thinking about it. Actually, the goal for me would be to understand great composition to the point where I just see it. But, that is getting off topic. What I want to point out is that the image I am featuring just happened to be an image that I shot and liked enough to include in the final delivered images, but it never occurred to me until recently, how great a photo I think it really is. The best part of this photo, is not only that the composition turned out well, but that it tells a story, which is the ultimate goal of the photojournalism style photographer.

The first thing that I notice when looking at this photograph, is that there is a clear front, middle and background. There are many layers to this photograph and each layer has it’s own element to the story and to the composition. In the foreground, the two bridesmaids are preparing for the day. I love big room divider providing a background for the bridesmaids with the giant squares that add a wonderful compositional element to the image. In the background, wonderfully framed by the same room divider, is the bride having her makeup applied with the light beaming in from the window behind her. It clearly tells us what is happening with the picture and gives us a sense of the “getting ready” portion of her wedding day, which is often one of my favorite parts of the wedding day. Finally, to the right, we have the bride’s dress hanging from the television which adds a lovely balance to the whole image.

As I continue along this path of wedding photojournalist, these are the kinds of images, compositions and stories I look to tell. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions about the image and my post. Please feel free to comment below.

I wanted to share with everyone my new business cards! I decided to go with Luxe by Moo. It is one of the highest quality business cards you can purchase and worth every penny.

Moo Luxe Photographer Business Cards

Before even seeing the cards, I was impressed with the packaging it arrived in. A beautiful white canvas box wrapped in purple ribbon with a was purple seal protecting my awesome new cards!

Moo Luxe Photographer Business Cards

I noticed the Moo logo stamped on the canvas box once I removed the paper ribbon and seal.

Moo Luxe Photographer Business Cards

The cards themselves are layered with Mohawk Superfine paper with a beautiful red, blue, black or vanilla seam. As you can see I chose the red seam. I think it really stands out nicely.

Moo Luxe Photographer Business Cards

Another example of the red seam and the back of my cards.

Moo Luxe Photographer Business Cards

Here is a shot of the printing on the back of my cards.

Moo Luxe Photographer Business Cards

Notice the texture of the Mohawk Superfine Paper. It is top of its class!

Moo Luxe Photographer Business Cards

Here is a shot of the front of my cards and my logo. Simply awesome!

If you are looking for more information about Moo’s cards, check out the link to their site here: http://us.moo.com/products/luxe/business-cards.html

Also, here is a great video of the background and history of the card and its design.

© Copyright 2014 Clay Toporski Photography | 3016 Blossom Hill Rd | Nazareth PA 18064 | (610)334-8661 | clay@claytoporskiphotography.com
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