Blog : Toolbox

Second Shooter // 19 // Running Hare Vineyard Wedding

Running Hare Vineyard Wedding_Anna Reynal for Dani Leigh-2779


A few days ago…no weeks…no maybe it’s been a month? I can’t remember, so many things have gone on lately that days feel like mere hours and it feels like it happened yesterday…I caught part of Susan Stripling’s keynote on Creative Live’s Photo Week (brilliant, btw). I’ve heard so many of my photog friends rave about her work, although I never really felt like our styles meshed well, so I wasn’t a huge follower. (Don’t read that the wrong way – her work is gorgeous…just different stylistically from the path I want to follow. And that’s a beautiful thing because we can’t all be the same, and I have so much respect for what she does).

However, after hearing her talk about how she creatively composes her photos, I was in awe and completely inspired to try some new techniques, particularly while second shooting.


Running Hare Vineyard Wedding_Anna Reynal for Dani Leigh-2719


Finding a different angle to shoot from was the main way I was trying to make my photos different from Dani’s, or whoever I was second shooting with. But by the end of July, I was getting bored, because there’s only so much you can do from a different angle – it starts to all look the same.

But, by using compression you can create something completely different, even if it happens to be from a very similar angle. While I had always heard that longer telephoto lenses (in my bag, that’s my 85mm and my 70-200mm) were more flattering, I don’t know that I really understood the value of the image compression they offered. Without getting all techy, let’s just simplify it down to say that because of the longer focal length, they have a much stronger blurring effect on anything in the image that isn’t on the same plane of focus as the subject. Because of this blurring effect, called bokeh, you can then make your subject stand out in a much more impactful way…and create some really awesome compositions by intentionally using bokeh. It doesn’t have to always be behind the subject either – selecting your lens to create intentional bokeh both in front and behind the subject was a completely new idea to me.

This has changed my world. It’s definitely something I pull out of my creative toolbox whenever I can, because it makes for more interesting compositions, and is actually super useful in tight situations.

I really loved using this technique at this wedding I did with Dani at Running Hare Vineyard. The vines were perfect for creating interesting framing, and I did most of my part of bride and groom portraits with my 85mm lens wide open to get the best effect…and I’m just a little obsessed with how well it worked out.


Running Hare Vineyard Wedding_Anna Reynal for Dani Leigh-2774


Nikon D800, 85mm 1.4mm lens at 2.5 or 1.8 between 1/160 and 1/100.


See more from this wedding

Creative Toolbox // 02

Over the course of the year, the amount of stuff I bring to weddings has doubled. I used to really value minimalism, probably in the same way everyone does when they’re first starting out, but I quickly learned that when you have more stuff, you can do more stuff.

About half of the stuff that I drag around on a wedding day is simply cameras and lenses. But the other half is all of the extra lighting equipment for the dark parts of the day…namely, receptions. By having extra light, in the form of speedlights (aka flashes), and being able to use lights that are not attached to the camera, I can add more dimension to the room and the scene and create a more dynamic, interesting, and exciting picture.

To illustrate, I pulled a few photos from recent weddings. I always use lighting to illuminate the dance floor, since dancing usually takes place after the sun goes down. But sometimes I also have to pull it out for detail photos, when the wedding takes place in a hotel or other venue that doesn’t offer much in the way of natural light. And although the details have a more dramatic effect when photographed with artificial light, it can be just as lovely.

I’m obsessed with the shadows in this photo…I just love how it seems like the shadows are dancing too.

Anna Reynal | Cheerful Photography

It’s lovely when there’s enough natural light from a window to photograph the details of the reception area, but when there’s not, using off-camera flash shows them off in a dramatic way.

Tremont Plaza Wedding-8863Anna Reynal | Cheerful Photography http://annareynal.comAnna Reynal | Cheerful Photography

By using the bride and groom to block the light from the view of the camera, they get a lovely glow that outlines their frames and makes them stand out from the rest of the picture.

Anna Reynal | Cheerful Photography Anna Reynal | Cheerful Photography

And during an indoor ceremony, having a light off to the side to illuminate the couple when the flash on the camera isn’t close enough makes for a much more beautiful photo.

Anna Reynal | Cheerful Photography Anna Reynal | Cheerful Photography Anna Reynal | Cheerful Photographyhttp://annareynal.comAnnapolis Maritime Museum Wedding-3170

In terms of lighting, here’s what comes along to every wedding:

Nikon SB-910 (used on Nikon D700)

Nikon SB-900 (used on Fuji X-Pro1)

Nikon SB-700 (used on lightstand)

Flashpoint 9′ lightstand

PC sync hot shoe adapter

Two Cybersync Radio Transmitters (attached to camera via PC sync cord)

Cybersync Radio Receiver (for firing off-camera flash)

Honl 1/4″ Grid

So there you have it…another little sneak peek inside my creative toolbox!

Creative Toolbox

There are times as a photographer when things all fall into place and the gods smile down and provide amazing subjects, fabulous light, and gorgeous locations. Getting all three of those things to collide in the same place and time is a luxury…and one that comes maybe once or twice a year. Unfortunately, the lack of any one of those three things is not an excuse for making pictures that don’t align with my established values for my images – that they be authentic, imaginative, and delightful. So when conditions are not ideal, I have to pull from my creative toolbox to make photos of which both my clients and I will be proud.

Each photo can have more than one of each of these qualities, but every photo I give to my clients should feel like at least one of those three things. Making this happen requires an intention to create photos this way – they don’t just pop out of the camera being any one of those things when the shutter snaps. It means paying attention to what is happening in front of my lens and knowing what to do to have a picture turn out the way I intend.

Essentially, it boils down to two things – watching for the right moment and using your camera settings to make that moment come to life. And it goes beyond just nailing exposure; sometimes it means breaking the rules.

So I’ve pulled out the items in my creative toolbox, based on each word that I use to describe my images. Some of the items in the toolbox are things that I can control, others are things I look for before making an image.


* Capturing people as they really are, without heavy posing
* Candid moments
* The moments in-between when my clients aren’t thinking about a pose
* Looking for emotions
* Wide(r) angles of view


* Using blur from motion or soft focus (slow shutter speeds and wide apertures)
* Overexposure and washed out light
* Shooting through or into reflective or thin materials
* Creative framing or cropping


* Vibrant colors
* Happy faces
* Exuberant poses
* Bright backlight or soft light

In any given situation, it’s never as simple as just pointing and shooting. Every picture takes thought, knowledge, and intention in the moments before the shutter clicks.

Renaissance Hotel Wedding-2040

What kinds of expressions/moods do you like in photographs? What makes them that way? Feel free to share in the comments!