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Evolution of Susan's Style

Lesson 2 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

Evolution of Susan's Style

Lesson 2 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

2. Evolution of Susan's Style


Class Trailer

Day 1




Evolution of Susan's Style


Branding and Identity


Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned


Day 2


Introduction to Gear & Equipment


Lenses Part 1


Lenses Part 2




Day 3


Seeing the Scene


Seeing the Scene Q&A


Rhythm and Repetition


Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds


Rule of Odds and Double Exposures


Day 4


Intro to Business


Day 5


Financing Your Business


Day 6


Q&A Days 1-4


Day 7


Pricing Calculator


Day 8


Package Pricing


Day 9




Day 10


Vendor Relationships & Referrals


Day 11


Marketing w Social Media


Day 12


Booking the Client


Day 13


The Pricing Conversation


Day 14


Turn A Call Into a Meeting


Day 15


In Person Meeting


Day 16


Wedding Planning


Day 17


Actual Client Pre Wedding Sit Down


Day 18


Engagement Session Details


Day 19


Engagement Session On Location


Day 20


Wedding Details & Tips


Day 21


Detail Photos Reviewed


Day 22


Bridal Preparation


Day 23


Bridal Preparation Photo Review


Day 24


Bridal Prep - What If Scenarios


Day 25


Q&A Days 5-11


Day 26


First Look Demo


Day 27


First Look Examples


Day 28


Portraits of the Bride


Day 29


Portraits of the Bride and Groom


Family Portraits Demo


Family Formal Examples


Wedding Ceremony Demo


Day 30


Wedding Ceremony Examples


Different Traditions and Faiths


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples


Wedding Introductions


First Dance


Wedding Toasts


Parent Dances


Wedding Party


Reception Events


Nighttime Portraits


Nighttime Portraits with Found Light


Post Wedding Session Demo


Post Wedding Session Critique


Wedding Day Difficulties


Post Workflow - Backing Up Folder Structure


Post Workflow - Culling Shots


Post Workflow - Outsourcing


Q&A Days 12-23


Post Workflow - Gear


Post Workflow - Lightroom Editing


Managing Your Studio


Post Wedding Marketing


Client Care


Pricing for Add-Ons


The Album Process


Balancing Your Business with Life


Post Wedding Problems


Parent Complaints


Unhappy Customers


Working with an Assistant


Assistant Q&A


Lighting with an Assistant


Q&A Days 24-30


Lesson Info

Evolution of Susan's Style

I'm not style for my favorite things to talk about, so when we're talking about style, obviously one thing that contributes to the style that you have in the work that you're producing is the tools that you bring to the table so way back ino one and that one whole wedding, I shot a no one I shot film, there weren't a lot of good digital options back then, like digital was a rumble, like in the distance, but I didn't. Your digital camera was just awful like it was you push the shutter and then, like twenty minutes later, it would take the picture like we're talking old school point in shoot style. But when the d sixty came out, anybody ever? I'm just going to ask you if he used it does not have used it. We all used it for, like two minutes the d sixty came out and it was really the first real major player like in the in the digital photography, you know, dslr world. So it got my d sixty and I thought I was awesome, and then I upgraded I was a cannon shooter, I went to, you know, all of ...

their progression of fantastic equipment, working my way up and beyond and through, and I actually forgot all of this information and to pull, except data from the weddings that I'd shot through all of the years to see what the cameras that I wish, because when you do this for a long time, you forget, like, and looking through all of this, seeing how everything has evolved is really kind of given me a push creatively to get going this year and to keep moving and also to remind myself that the tools help you. But it's, not about the gear, and we're going to talk about that ad nauseum, you're gonna get sick of me saying that in late two thousand seven, early two thousand eight, I switched a nikon and it was a very deliberate decision again. My husband at the time, it has been a oh my god, my actual husband right now, who is my boyfriend at the time? Sorry, we're shooting the d three when it very first came out and he was going to shoot it at a wedding and I was visiting. I was in the philly area and I went to a show case like were bands will get like a wedding event company will have, like all of their bands, perform in one night so potential clients come in here, all of the bands. Under that one like entertainment company thing, so, you know, is friends with cliff and we went, I went to hang out with him and some other people, and I went to this showcase with them and he's like, oh, yeah, I just shoot the d three if you want, and it was and I'm not saying it's better like, I'm not gonna ever get up here and tell you one camera system is better than another, but when you find your thing, why do I have an iphone? The samsung's air grate? The iphone feels right in my hand, it's intuitive! Why mac instead of pc? It just works better for me, it's, that intuitive thing that you can't describe. The second I held that d three I was like, and this is what I've been waiting for my whole life like, huh? Finally, a camera that felt intuitive to me, I was I wasn't struggling with it, and I'm not saying anything bad about the other camera company out there, but I was having a lot of problems. I felt like I was having to get around my gear to make the pictures that I wanted to make, and the second I picked up this d three and started working with it, I wasn't thinking about okay, maybe it's gonna back focus and I don't know I'm not really the color is not really going to do what I want and it's probably gonna struggle to focus it just worked so everything that I knew technically it took away that fighting that I was having to do with my gear on I was just able to just shoot and I'm not saying that the camera was shooting for me or that it was so good that I wasn't going to make these technical decisions. It just removed that final obstacle between myself and what I felt like was like total shooting freedom, so I switched over to nikon I literally did so my entire bag of year and buy an entire bag of new gear that was a financially fantastic year for me, especially when the market crashed and then I moved, but I slowly built up a bag of nikon gear that I was able to go out and shoot a wedding with with backups. Now that I am ah grownup photographer I know that you don't go out there without backups and I eventually just sold off my entire canon bag my assistant at the time took it the whole bag and everything in it andi I still miss it because I missed my favorite lines of all time anybody here shoot cannon two hundred millimeter to eight anybody, anybody huh? It's light it's, sharp, it's. Gorgeous. I miss it. I'm not going to switch back for it, but there are wonderful things about whatever system you decide to work with. It's just nikon resonated with me. It continues to resonate with me. Nobody that I talk about any of these thirty days has given me any money to say nice things about their products. I shoot an icon because I want teo. I own every single piece of my own gear. My husband owns all of his own gear. We shoot because we actually believe in it. It's kind of important. So had the d three had the d three s. I now have a d for I only have one before in gear, in pricing. And a lot of the days that we talk about finances I talk about not meeting. Don't buy something unless you really need it I only have one. The forks. I only need one before I shoot with two cameras, but my d three s is doing just fine. I don't need to get rid of that and spend all that money on a new body if I don't need it so good with what I got so this is some of my old wedding work, right isn't awesome. And what's really funny is that like I said before looking at it, is it great? Technically not really is it in focus and perfectly competent? It is and I'm not showing any of my old work to make fun of it I am I'm putting these images up there because I'm still proud to stand behind everything that I used to shoot, but I can see things that I used to be trying but that I wasn't that great at like in the top left image I see that I'm shooting the light the way I shoot the light now I just lacked the technical wherewithal to really make that exposure perfect and I wasn't using the right lens for the situation her face isn't correctly exposed, but I was finding the light on I've been shooting details from day one I just wasn't doing it that great, so let's talk about influence right back in the day and I'm not saying that they're not important anymore. There was a massive wave of explosion of talent coming out of southern california and your dollar nodding you know exactly what I'm talking about the incredible like legendary iconic southern california and you got jessica claire she and I started our business is at about the same time there were a bunch of us that started about the same time I remember the very first photography website I ever saw was becker's I mean he's been doing websites since like the eighties I don't know. I mean, he was like technologically on top of everything from the very beginning and a big influence to me from the very start but they were having this great like heyday of popularity because they were shooting in a very bright style the colors were very poppy it was very oversaturated it was a little over exposed and it was really dynamic in a way that wedding photography just hadn't been it was coming out of the era of photojournalism where everything was black and white everything was kind of gritty dennis reggie bambi control all of the people that pioneered wedding photography. I remember buying bambi controls book the art of wedding photo journalism I actually have a signed copy of it when I was a brand new newbie photographer she signed it for me on dh she still remains like a massive influence on my work because she's a genius but it was coming out of that the days of photojournalism where p j was the buzzword it was the thing to do and then we were all of a sudden saying this bright poppy effervescent style coming out of southern california that everyone else was attempting to emulate, so obviously because that was going on out there it was trickling out to the rest of the world I really jumped onto that style all the way back then because it was full of life and it was full of life in a way that I hadn't seen wedding photography b ever it didn't take itself so seriously it wasn't it wasn't serious photojournalism it was lively and so this was the work that I was doing back at that time it was very bright was very light the rule of getting exposure on the face was like take your exposure and then raise it up half a stop for three quarters of a stop to get that creamy kind of overexposed look to the skin and this was the work that I was doing back then it was very in line with the style of the day and there's two ways that you can take the trends is that are happening nowadays like nowadays we're all puke ng yellow all over our images and it's vintage mason jars and fields full of whatever you can either go with it and embrace the trend and make it your own or you can bucket and do something else but I was still such a little like doe eyed newbie wedding photography girl but this did resonate with me and it resonated with me in a way that still resonates with me now even though my colors don't look the same and I'm not approaching exposure to images the same and I'm not handling light really in the same way at all that effervescent life that was in all of those images and back then, I'm not saying that hits still, southern california still has extraordinary shooters that air doing beautiful work now, but it was this was such a popular thing then, and it sparked something in me of the life in wedding photography and putting the joy that you feel when you're working in the images that you're making was a very large, influential turning point for me. So while it was following a trend, it was more following the emotion behind the trend that kind of pushed me ahead in those years, and I thought I had to follow the trend, right? Like I just said, but I was trying to make it my own. I was trying to find some way to put my own stamp on something that was very, very, very popular. And this I love those people. I still love those people, they did that like, I didn't tell them to do that. That was my very first competition image that I ever entered it w p p I it did so badly, it's not even funny, the print was terrible, that was just was just terrible, but it started my desire of getting feedback through competition, right like going out there and just mass aqueous tickly hurting myself one year after another in print competition. And hearing people tell me, because your mom tells you your work is great and your husband tells you your work is great in your clients think that your work is great. I needed someone to tell me what was not good with what I was doing and how to improve it. So if you ever have a chance to sit in on the judging of a print competition, it's tremendous it's, my favorite two days at w p, p ay every single year is print judging it is a subject very near and dear to my heart, but I was taking these images the southern california influence, and I was working with my current work, and I was trying to make it my own, and I look at these images all of these images from, oh five and six, and it still has my stamp on it, like you can still tell it's my work, like over here, I'm tryingto work with the backlight, I'm missing it by, like, fifteen solid feet, but I can kind of see it's there, and my my love of color and my love of brightness. You know, all of this was very influential to me back in the day, so I've had some permission from some incredible photographer friends of mine to share their images, and I want to show these because there's there's a little bit of a witch hunt in the industry right now of people copying other people's work I'm not talking about the idiots that go steal pictures online and pretend they're theirs it's a direct emulation and it's part of it is the penta rest effect you see it online clients want it they want you to re create it they don't want you to make something new they want you to make what they've seen online but I want to show you that a picture that you see from another photographer while it might spark something in you that might at first seem like emulation how it will affect your work for years to come and job you think if none of you know who he is you are so missing out he is a legend his work is gentle it has heart and if you ever meet the man he is a gentle man and he has an enormous heart and he is ah kind soul and he's a very strong example of once you see the work and once you meet the person you understand how the work in the person go hand in hand but I saw this image of w p p ay it one I believe a grand award and pretty sure but I've never seen a bridal portrait that looked like that before that wass gentle that wass luminous and the look in her eyes was honest not only was the photography beautiful, not only is the lighting beautiful, but there was a very clear connection between photographer and subject that I had never really seen in such a stark bridal portrait like that. So within a couple of months of seeing that image, I started working on my lighting and my bridal portrait. I started working on my lens selections. I started working on some of the gentleness in my own work instead of being full force out there all the time, reining it in just a little bit. And I started trying really hard to connect with my clients so that when they made eye contact with my camera, it was genuine. So seeing that image of jos, the work that followed in added a little heart into it, added a little gentleness into it, culminating in some of my favorite images from the last year. Now, do these look like joe's picture? No. Can you see the influence on it? Yeah, but are these unequivocably mine? Can you see my work? They're like, can you look at these and say, susan shot these? This isn't a copy of what she saw from joe this is taking from what she saw there and putting the essence of that in her own work, so, again, thank you to joe broken alicia todd to any of you know them, if you don't know that we need to google them right now, they are gloriously talented shooters, the nicest people ever in the entire world. Funny is khun b and obscenely talented, and I thought this image just an image of a bride going down the stairs. It's beautiful, but what I was really I was intrigued by the motion in it, the light in it and how many times you get a bride who says I really want a picture on the stairs. One picture on the stairs, whether the picture on the stairs is a picture or not. If their venue has a staircase in it anywhere, they're gonna want to take a picture in front of the stairs. I don't know why. So again, just something as simple as a really beautiful, well executed picture of a bride on the stairs. I realized that I shot this all the time in the weddings that I'm doing, going up and down stairs were taking pictures up in downstairs, and I started refining it. I started looking for the light, you know, when the image on the left that came chronologically in my career before the image on the right. Trying to find the light coming through the windows trying to find the light coming from round the corners trying to choose the right lens to tell the story of the scene trying to get the motion just right and it just kept kind of improving and improving over the years until I actually shot this image over here on the right which was one of my first trophies at w p p I influenced by what I saw from them the motion the lynn selection the light the movement of the image and then culminating in my single favorite image that I made last year it's a combination of everything that's influenced me and all of my technical skill but in the back of my head was that one picture that I saw all those years ago that was so influential and it carried through nine years of shooting and continued to inspire me now let's talk about marcus bell who is I mean not only is he a legend in our industry he's a very nice man I danced with him at my very own wedding like he is my friend in real life not just on the internet and he is the most giving photographer that you will ever meet he is a visionary and I'm not just saying that he's my buddy he really is and I could listen to him talk all day long because he has the sweetest accent ever in the world but the very first time I saw this image it was like lightning bolts in my head because this was the first time I had ever really seen a photographer explore the subject landscape relationship and at that point in time in my work when I was shooting there was one subject and it was the bride the groom and it was bridegroom bride and bridegroom tight end on bridegroom nonstop all the time but when I saw this image and I just thought hanging at w p p I and I was like oh my god like like bulls are lighting up angels are singing in the sky and I literally stopped in front of it and I stared at it and I was like so that's how you do that he is a master of making the subject and the scene go hand in hand the bride and groom enhance the landscape the landscape enhances the bride and groom linds selection lighting composition movement it is all right there and he I mean this looks just like new jersey, right? Like obviously I'm skidding and while I can't go to bali every single weekend to shoot a wedding or I literally don't know where there's a vineyard anywhere near where I am that doesn't mean that that can't influence the work that I'm doing so in the years following after seeing his work being exposed to his work I started trying to show the scene right? And these air, these aren't even in focus there kind of glory, but as the work steps through, I realize that because of his influence, I was opening my eyes more. I was looking at the scene around me more. I was wondering, what can I put into the scene to enhance the story that I'm telling? And these are images? I mean, we're stepping way back here. This is, oh seven, two thousand seven, two thousand eight I mean, yeah, I got to go to france like that was awesome, but I wasn't like I'm in france look at the it was, you know, what kind of wolf would marcus bell do? Open your eyes and seeing more than what's just right in front of you? And he continues to influence me as you step through the years as you look at the work as it evolves, seeing that image and seeing what it sparked and me creatively just continue to help me throughout the years continued to help me tell the story better of where I was at because I was opening my eyes and I was seeing the scene around me, obviously the technical sides coming together, obviously I'm understanding mei lin selection, I'm becoming a better technical shooter, but the heart of seeing more than what you're seeing. Is because of him is because of that image so nothing is new and wedding photography right? Like you can stand up here and you can listen to me talk and you could be like I've heard that from so and so and so and so has said that before we all tell you the same thing the technical stuff stays constant like this is all we just put our own spin on it so you know marcus is influence throughout the years culminated in my second favorite picture from last year which humorously enough is also hanging on the wall in here but what I have stepped back what I have looked at that art of shrubbery in the exact same way if I hadn't had that light bulb go off in my head back in the you know, oh five maybe not so we all influence each other and what I'm trying to tell you here is not to steal from other photographers it is by all means to be inspired by them. Rocco if you don't know his work, look his work up he is a gene. Yes, he taught me to see not on ly subject and surroundings, but to see a scene within a sane. If you look closely at his image over here it's not just a dress on a hanger, you can see the bride in the mirror getting ready and he does it in camera. None of this is fake. So in the years following after seeing his work, not only am I taking marcus is influence and the influence of everyone who has come before that, I'm not only looking at this, the subject and the entire scene, I'm been looking for a scene within a scene, which is a maddening puzzle, and I love it, so I'm looking for things like this I'm looking for when I'm standing on one side of the car and the bride opens the door on the other side of the car to come in in the light goes through. I've got the reflection of the city behind me, but then I have the bride getting in the car it's not a composite, I don't do composites, nothing that you're going to see in any of these thirty days, there are two things nothing's a composite and nothing is cropped. This is how it goes on my camera, I have nothing against cropping, I just don't do it like I just see it. I know a lot of people who get really immersed in the work, like the workflow stage of thing, cropping their images, I just shoot it like that again, seeing a scene within a scene, this is shooting into one of those horrible, tacky angel portrait you know the live your life feel free you know follow your dreams I looked into the portrait on the wall and I saw the bride reflected in it behind me seen within a saint culminating in my third favorite image from two thousand thirteen the bride's grandfather had alzheimer's and he didn't really know what was going on he was confused but he loved his granddaughter and they loved him and the relationship was extraordinary so you see all of those influences coming together working compositionally telling multiple stories all of it from a picture I saw hanging at w p p I that sparked something in me yes sir. Go back we could go back how did you do that? I find it how did I do that? Yeah the reflection on the right should be and it should be but it's one of those crappy cheap like catering hall dressing tables where it has the mirror that devils in on either side like that you khun binned in and out and I'm shooting into the mirror so you have this is the mirror you can see the frame of the mirror that's the main facet of the mirror this is bent so that I'm seeing the exact same thing and I'm facing this way and the actions actually happened behind me sir really struck me with your work is it seems like especially now looking back that earlier that the retrospective well you were talking about the style or the california style where everything was high key really bright saturated colors and it seems like it's some point you transition to almost a low key lighting on the australians yeah like a low key lighting but then the focus is on the emotion and it just really just is over the top and that's why I feel like looking at where you've come from looking at the influences that have influenced you like yes I started seeing the work coming out of australia and we're going to talk about my husband's influence on my own work in a few minutes all of this all of it together but it still hasn't lost that southern california joy in the images so it's all been compiling over years and years and years so it's funny you might not think like something you see today you might be like that's nice but then it continues to influence your work for years the comets just really fascinating so do you know how I did it now? Yeah I did it inflate a shop with two layers no I'm just kidding I don't know how to do composites in photo shop I'm not brooke shading this is not my wheelhouse I don't know how to do it so when w p p I entered they had now have a new category in print competition which is straight out of camera I pulled every single print that had ever been, you know, I think that's a composite from years prior here's my raw file, none of this is fake. So ben and erin phenomenal photographers before they were married, now that they're married, I just it's really unfair because they work together. They're both extraordinary extraordinary there an example of a husband and wife team where both of them are extraordinarily gifted on their own, but together there super, super strong as well, where I remember seeing this image, I remember seeing this is just a new way to see this is this is clever, like there is a wit, and there is a humor, and there is an intelligence in their work and there's fun in their work and that what they're really great at is there really great at framing their subjects, putting their subjects in a way that tells the story of what's going on? But it takes your eye right to them, but it boggles your brain a little bit. So I made started making these kind of stabs at it, like introducing elements into each frame that start drawing your eye into the subject, and these are kind of my early attempts at it, starting to find a new way to see what's going on. But looking through the years after being introduced to their work and the years after seeing their influence how all of a sudden I was starting to see scenes within a scene from the influences that I had before but also a sense of wit and cleverness to the images from their influence I know these this picture isn't happy those people make me happy in general tryingto again my overarching theme is to try to show a scene in a way that it's never been shown before but being influenced by the other work that I'm seeing around me and it's not just wedding photographers I'm citing wedding photographers as examples because this is thirty days of wedding photography but it's things that you see in bridal magazines it's movies that you watch it's the lime obsessed for any of you following me on twitter I'm obsessed with sherlock on the bbc right now the lighting is so good the lighting is so good six feet under which I watched for eight million years the lighting was extraordinary that horrible boring film that I fell asleep in lincoln um it was it was really long but the lighting wass there was not a single frame in that movie that was not perfect so it's just the continuing influences and ben and erin that's just the sharp wit and the intelligence of the way that they see their scenes culminating in david this will be familiar to you this image right here it's christmas tree lights it's an eighty five one eight originated by one four at one eight with christmas tree lights and then this image which everyone thought was fake it is not fake that is what the raw file looks like seeing a scene within a scene letting your environment help tell your story but also finding the wit in it I would be absolutely remiss to not talk about the single biggest influence on my work and now listen it happened to be very fortuitous that I ended up marrying the single biggest influence on my work but cliff and I have been friends for years we've been friends for a very, very, very long time and before he was anything more than my buddy he was a massive influence on the work that I was doing I've taken his workshops I have heard him speak back in the days when I was still introducing myself to him at the end of hiss workshops he was the first time I ever saw anyone be the entire package the emotion and the sensitivity the fact that he was a guy and he was shooting with such kindness the gentleness in his work the fact that he nailed the lighting he understands the scene the first time I saw his work in the first time I saw this image I was like I want to know more about how that guy does what he does and in looking at my work through the years I've been stumbling around with finding the light for a really long time it was never a problem to find the light I could always find it I have no idea what to do with it once I found it, I didn't know how to expose I was making a horrendous lind selections and I would see it and every once in a while I would have a happy accident like this image over here on the left, the light on the girl who is helping the bride get ready I was like how did I do that that's beautiful that's what I want to do what did I do there? And then the image on the right I was like, oh my gosh, you're finding these gyms in your work at the end of a wedding and it was kind of ah, I know I saw that I kind of tried and I didn't really get it and I didn't understand it when I saw it. What am I doing wrong? Like I don't understand what I'm doing wrong I saw cliff speak for the very first time in two thousand five and you talk about his principles of lighting he talks about when you find the light, how you use the light and the very first wedding that I shot after hearing him for the first time I made this is it the greatest bridal portrait I've ever made? No, but it is and I started to use the light that I've been seeing the entire time in a different way in a more refined way yes, and then you start looking as the years go by I'm seeing the light in the same way I'd always seen it I'm just now able to understand what it means and how to accurately document it so as the year step by as it keeps going on the end of course he continues to influence me now we're married like we influence each other non stop but that master class that I took from him in two thousand five and I was at his very first workshop and it was just like light bulbs blowing up in my head of oh my gosh like this that light I was seeing now I can use it and ever since then and because he continues to influence me his influence still is in my work ask any husband and wife team obviously you influence each other, but once I was able to harness what he was teaching me then I was able to take it out and start making it my own then I was able to put my own dramatic spin on it than I was able to see it with my own eye so the work just continued to improve throughout the years he also taught me something incredibly important, and this is his image will be very clear. This is his and not mine. He taught me about linds compression, and that might be a photo one o one thing for people who went to photography school or people who took actual lessons, but I thought that that the seventy two, two hundred was the thing that you brought when you were shooting a wedding and you had to be in the balcony and you couldn't get up close understanding the correlation between your focal length and how it makes your entire scene look different with something I had not really spent a lot of time thinking about that you're foreground background relationship changes based on the lens that use I didn't know that I just I mean, I just didn't. So after seeing, you know, the work that he was doing in and having him show, this is what a twenty for is this is what fifty is this is what, eighty five these air, not just what the linds doesn't, how far you can stand from your subject, but your foreground background relationship, the flattering aspects of the people that you're shooting. All of a sudden I realized that when I shot this with the twenty four I could flip around and immediately shoot that with the two hundred it's, the same people in the same scene at the same time of day, just with a different lens, you're telling a completely different story, and then the door's just opened up to me because now my lenses warren, just tools that I brought with me. There were actual tools that I was using to make these images that I wanted to make, and that was a defining moment for me was the stuff that's in my bag. It is now another storytelling tool that I have with me, so learning how to use that seventy two, two hundred at two hundred millimeters and why now I'm making images that looked like this, and now I'm making images that looked like that, and then I started improving on my own. Then I started using my own work to influence myself, which is a really interesting thing. So back in two thousand four, right saw these blinds there, making a really great pattern on the ground, I decided to work with it, trying to make a kind of unique bridal portrait. Four years later, I had the same opportunity to try it again, continuing to refine it now the exposure's better now my limbs selection is better, and then it got even better. So something that I saw in my own work continuing to influence myself year after a year that's a pretty major thing don't discount your own work as inspiration to yourself shooting dress details, which I've done from ye oldie day one, and I really hope that you can tell when I'm showing old work versus new work. That would be really depressing if I show you something and you're like that's awful, and I'm like, I got that last week. Um, but looking at my old dress images, I was trying to hang them somewhere interesting. I was trying to do something kind of interesting with them. I'm missing the mark one hundred percent on the lighting, the composition is a total joke, but I'm trying and then I'm refining this's work, then I'm refining my lighting. Then the next thing you know, I'm taking taking the tresses under these balconies now I'm working with silhouettes now I'm turning all the lights off and only working with windows. Now I'm being clever and pulling in reflections. I'm inspiring my own self, which is kind of a powerful thing culminating and I guess we're just going to hit every single image it's hanging on the wall and hear this. Everything every all my years come together ten I'm not saying now I have made it with dress details I am done like drop the mic and walk out I'm only thirty six years old I got a lot more weddings to shoot how can I improve on this I don't know what I'm thinking trying talking about bridal portrait how I used to shoot my bridal portrait and we're going to go you're going to see this image over and over and over again we hit this on multiple different days and that's what I like about the thirty days it's not just today you're gonna learn something today that's gonna be touched on again and then it's gonna be touched on again it's gonna be touched on again so these same principles will keep revolving in different scenes hopefully to just bring them all home after you spent forty seven hours with me at the end of the day but I used to shoot my bridal portrait with a fifty millimeter at four point five and then I met backer who was like your coming on it from the wrong angle why are you shooting like from this angle you need to get your clients down and shoot down on them and I was like huh that's a nice thought and then someone was like why are you using your fifty you should be using a different lens cliff told me to use the eighty five okay I'll try and eighty five and then I'm like oh my gosh why was I using a fifty all that time that was really unflattering huh yes so there's a lot of beautiful locations as your work involved in the more years of experience did you in the beginning ever do any produce style shoots to kind of get what you want okay and humorously enough hold that thought until right after the break we're gonna address exactly that about location and I didn't I I am weirdly staunchly violently against styled shoots just for the point of doing them I'm not I'm not opposed to them as a portfolio builder from for the start of your business as long as you're up front with the fact that that's what it is it's passing a styled shoot off is like a real wedding that really just rubs me the wrong lots of things from me the wrong way but I'm just a simple thing as usual eighty five not you're fifty shoot one for not for five get above them and shoot down did people tell me to do this they did cliff helped me becker helped me but then you take it you make it your own I'm not copying what people have told me how to do do these images of mine look a lot like my husband's oh they dio but I've been shooting shooting down on a bride since before I even knew him have I helped his macro work? I like to think so has he helped my portrait's? Of course he has are we mirrored duplicates of each other? Of course we're not. Of course not. David yeah was gonna say I learned this from you your last course and the next wedding that I went teo I did exactly what you said I stood on a chair a henderson on the floor I made everybody leave the room you could come all out for you. Yeah it's the first shot on my website now it's a beautiful shot it's different than yours. Yeah, exactly. And it has a a lot of emotional connection with a lot of people at the bridal affairs I went to everybody said that that was a favorite image it's published now in a couple places too, so thank you works so I'm gonna give you all of the know how that you need to go make these images just like I make them and maybe the first time you do it it's gonna look just like this but then as you keep going you're gonna make it your own like it's going to be yours because it's gonna and I don't mean to sound like all law law spiritual about it but it's gonna have your heart behind it and it's gonna have your eyes behind the lens like your it's going to be yours and then ten years down the road when you're teaching for creative live hopefully you'll tell people that I thought you had it do it but hopefully what you're going to be doing ten years from now it's gonna be ten times better than what I'm showing you today so again just those simple things just a few photographer is giving me a tip giving me a tweak and then taking my own personality and putting it in it these clients are looking at me like they're not looking at their husbands they're not looking at their moms they're giving me this look and for them to open up and be honest with me and to look directly at me and a lot of times I've met them for the first time on that day nobody can teach you that yes sir so you cited all of these inspirations who did you choose to shoot your wedding oh oh that's a tough one way actually way had twenty two photographers at our wedding they were not all okay they were all shooting but we didn't ask himto all shoot I made the fatal mistake don't ever tell a group of photographers don't bring your iphones for the weddings I was like listen I just don't want to come down the aisle I just don't want to see of iphones like other and that I don't care normal people would take that to mean just leave your phone at home us idiots take that to mean bring her d foreign the seventy two, two hundred and go to town. I'm coming down the aisle been christmas, got gun light like marcus is like goddess fuji's like crouched down in the corner like like, what do you people doing? You really can't dial it down for a day, can you? But as far as our official photographer is mary beth tyson out of tallahassee, florida was one of our shooters and daniel of davina and daniel just daniel, not davina, she was partying was our other shooter, so we had to people shoot, but we also have we were very fortunate. We've made some really extraordinary friends in the industry, but if you've never seen mary bets work, if you've never seen daniel's work, there are very different, but they're both very, very, very talented, so they're worth looking up and they both brought something completely different to the table. I was just curious because you said you had danced with marcus bell. Yes, I did that, which was awesome, but he did. I mean, he couldn't help himself. He still shot on the wedding day, too, as did everybody else. Um and the one guy climbing all over the place with his iphone is a photographer by the name of eric um, ensure if you're on instagram e m e n c h e r he's one of the best photo journalist I've ever seen so if anyone gets a pass on shooting with the iphone, you can shoot with his iphone all day long so yes that's kind of how that went down but I'll actually show you some of the stuff I shot at my own wedding because I had to shoot my own detail right doesn't everybody don't and I show up at the at the wedding and they were like, oh yeah cliff was here shooting the room and I was like of course he waas course iwas of course we were but taking those influences you know, learning how to refine my bridal portrait ce we just keep looking at the work as it goes throughout the year everything from everyone who inspired me continuing to make the work better on my end. So it's how I used to shoot toasts, right? Looking at how I used to shoot toasts, taking all of the influences from everybody else and then taking my own aesthetic that developed throughout the year now shooting toast looks like this and it looks like this is it in authentic to what I was doing before no it's just refined it's just evolutionary of the work shooting a scene we looked at thes two already those early days when I was kind of struggling with shooting the scene now it looks like this and now it looks like this and my own work aside from the inspiration that other people have given me my own work has inspired myself looking at it and saying how can I get better looking at it and saying what a different lens selection of help me tell the story better would lighting it have help me tell the story better and just improving myself throughout the years and when I show you an image and I start stepping through the images after it they actually are going chronologically throughout the years following so you can see that I've helped my own self improve by understand better knowledge of gear better knowledge of technical things better refining my own eye opening up my own eye to the creative things around me that can inspire me movies tv other photographers so on and so forth it's better getting ready back in the day nothing wrong with that I like this image I still like this image I shot this in like two thousand four but it refined over the years I became more versatile with my lighting and I'm not even saying better I had more tools in my bag and I'm not talking about gear I had a better understanding of light I had better understanding of exposure I had better understanding of what tools I was choosing suddenly I'm making good images in church nurseries which is exactly what this is getting married. You're getting ready in the basement of the church, I could still make that look good as the years go by, just using myself to push myself to get better. This is just again some of the work as it goes through the years, and I know that a lot of you at home are looking at this and you're like, but you're not telling us anything, technical you not telling me how you did this? You're not, uh, what was your f stop and where is your light coming from and what lens where your you were using like, rest, easy little grasshoppers, you will see all of these images again in every single one of the sections were going to break down everything about how it's done technically, the lenses that are brought to it. What I'm thinking about what I'm seeing, I'm just showing these things to you to hopefully inspire you, hopefully give myself a little credibility as someone who should be here talking to you for thirty for thirty days, we're all going to be great friends at the end of it, but showing you that hopefully somewhere along here you see some of the work that you're doing now, maybe it's in these images, which are the beginning of my career. Or maybe they're in the work that I'm doing down now, or maybe there's somewhere in the middle, but to show you that no matter where you are, you can always be going somewhere else with it. So shooting a bridegroom together, struggling with the light, struggling with mei lin selection. Is there anything wrong with these images now? Course not these air fine, I liked them. This is exactly what the client knew they were getting when they hired me back in two thousand five, but then I was able to improve upon it in all manners of speaking lin selection, lighting, learning how to interact with my clients to get natural reactions from them, learning how to break my own rules, and I talk about I don't like dappled light, but how I used dappled light to push my you're I directly to the subjects very, very, very simple things like putting work from, oh five next to work from two years ago and looking at how you can. Still, it still feels like the same work from the same photographer, but it's more refined. So that's, what I'm hopefully going to get you guys in these thirty days is how to take the things you're doing such a cz, your old reception shots from the oldie back in the day, maybe add in some more lights to make it different not better just different and maybe you'll learn how to play with your shutter speeds to get some really interesting effects in your light and you get better about understanding the moment when it's about to hit and nailing it so you're not just frantically shooting hoping you get something you're shooting four and with a purpose and then finding available light in the space and working with that we're going to talk about how sometimes at a reception you don't need a flash not because your camera can shoot it I s o twelve million but because the quality of light that's there we'll let you make something interesting this is the light from the band on the bride and groom talking about how I used to shoot dances with a god knows what lens that is an on camera flash sometimes all you need's an off camera flash and maybe a better lin's selection maybe sometimes you see something completely different you end up in a balcony and and magic starts to happen it's just amazing what learning new things technically, what learning a new way to see evolving becoming stronger as a shooter it's not about the gear you have and it's not about how many workshops you've been too and it's not about you know aiken, how many of you know the guy that can literally read you the flash manual but can't shoot it right, like, are the people who can review all of the gear but don't know how to make a picture and it's one thing that my husband preaches, I hate to keep bringing him up, but if we're talking about influences today, I mean, he's he's kind of a big one is he teaches these lighting and skill set boot camps out of his studio in haddonfield, new jersey, and it's it's hands on. I mean, every day you're you're working with the gear you're working in the field and the whole point behind it is so that you don't have to think about your gear anymore. Thirteen years into this, when I go to a wedding and I walk into a wedding, I'm not thinking about what would marcus do? What would cliff do? What would been an errand? Do you know, what would daniel and davina do? Probably something I'd never seen before, ever? Because there they're so good. I'm not thinking about what would these people be doing? And I'm not thinking about the manual that I read last night, and I'm not thinking about this image that I saw broken alicia's all those years ago, I'm seeing my clients in front of me, and I'm seeing what's happening to them, and I'm bringing my own experience to the table, and I'm bringing how I feel. To the table and all that technical stuff I'm not even thinking about it. What settings where you want? I don't know because I'm just doing it and are you gonna be able to do that tomorrow? Of course you're not. You know, at the end of these thirty days are you going to be the best wedding photographer ever with the best business ever? And you're just gonna hit the ground running? Of course you're not, and if I were here telling you that you could do this in thirty days, I would be lying to you and I would be a snake oil salesman of the worst kind, which is something that I'm not going to do. I'm never gonna lie to you at all. I'm out there shooting fifty something weddings a year so that I am so unser credible to you as an instructor cousin still doing it right now and shoot a wedding this weekend when I get home. So, you know, hopefully this might maybe make me somebody that you want to listen to for thirty days a question related, teo, all of this energy and kind of new experimentation that year doing lisa p s how much of each wedding do you spend on experimentation of new techniques and how much I'm getting the shots that brides expect from your previous? I'm not experimenting at wedding you're not no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Um well, there's two ways of looking at that there's experimenting with your I like just creative seeing which you can do anywhere and everywhere, like you're going to obviously be doing that a little bit on the job as you see new and interesting things, you're incorporating that at your work in your work as your doing it. If we're talking about new technical things, I'm never doing that for the first time at a wedding, there is no experimentation because I respect the investment that my clients have made in myself in my work too much to try something new at their wedding so great and from nikon, shooter says scared, scared friend scared to ask about a very scary question, but could you tell us a percentage wise? How much you using natural light and flash strobe blood on like a on an average? Whether you're winning, yeah, fifty, fifty, fifty, fifty and if they and again I I am here to slightly be a commercial for the thirty days, but if you're with us for the thirty days, we will talk about wendy's flash when you use natural life, why parts of the day that I almost never use a flash part of the day that I almost always use a flash they will learn way more than they would ever want to know about how I feel about flash. We're going, teo move onward! I have always shot details from the very beginning from the very first wedding that I ever went, teo I like shooting these things, they they're beautiful, right? Who doesn't like to shoot things that are beautiful, but they used to look like this? I mean, I'm not doing a great job with my lighting here, and my lens selection isn't all that awesome, and there isn't really any style to this image. It doesn't tell you anything about what it's like to be there, and when I'm looking at detailed portrait throughout the day, we'll talk about this and I called him detail portrait's because I really do believe that their environmental portrait of a detail I've seen the work that I've been doing and we talk about this a bit before the break, how it's not necessarily being inspired by somebody else or being taught by somebody else. You can inspire your own self so over the years, working on my own skills to make my detail work better and better involving the lenses that I'm taking, realizing that I can't shoot a ring with a twenty four to seventy realizing that I need a macro to shoot a ring. But then realizing that I don't always need a macro to shoot detailed pictures like and shoot a detail within eighty five millimeter one four now not a ring I can't shoot a ring with an eighty five one four and have it look like that I need a macro for that we're going to talk in great great great detail not only in the day that we talk about gear, but when we talk about vision and creativity we're going to talk about details again and when we actually go into the actual shooting of the wedding day, you're going to see a video of me sitting in a bathtub don't get too excited shooting details because the best light in the entire space was in the bard's bathtub so me and her ring and my gear and everything just hopped right on in the tub and shot details there so you will be detailed it out by the end of these thirty days above and beyond anything you will ever want to know about shooting details, we will talk about it. We'll talk about finding places to shoot details how do you find the light that you're looking for? And we're gonna talk about how that evolved with me as well how you found simple light and then you find more complex light and then you find light in unusual places I will help you with all of that so we were you were asking me a question before the break that basically was just like, well, what if you're not shooting in good locations? You know what if the locations that you're shooting in stink, I mean it's, not about the location after after a certain point, I'm going to show you images that were shot in all manners of horrible spots next to dumpsters in catering halls, in church nurseries, in parking lots. You can make beauty anywhere. So did I start shooting fancier weddings? I mean, kind of I guess maybe not really my market is not the high end wedding that's that's not actually what I'm going for, I don't want to shoot those weddings that's I'm not I don't want to shoot celebrity weddings, I don't want to shoot winnings of multi millionaires, I I don't like the pageant that said, I've shot them and have worked with incredible people, but I've also shot weddings where I worked in someone's backyard and I loved that too, and I still go to catering halls and I'm go to weddings where I am half the budget and I go to weddings where the cake is more expensive than I am so it's a little bit of everything and honestly, the only thing of fancy our wedding brings me is maybe fancy or tables at the reception but it doesn't help me in any way in the rest of the day so just because I started shooting weddings with maybe a higher price tag on them meant literally nothing to the work that I'm doing it all yeah but you just started using better cameras and lenses I mean okay did does the evolution of technology help you? It does does do the lindsays get better every single year? I mean they do the eighty five one for that I'm shooting now from nikon with the nano coded glasses it better than the eighty five that I was shooting in o seven yeah, I mean it's worth the higher price tag there was a reason why I bought it by kidding better gear and buying fancy or lindsay's didn't make me a better photographer switching an icon helped me it was like switching from actor from pc to mac my god not the other way from pc to mac let's be clear but yeah, I mean did I get gear in my hands that was more intuitive to me, of course, but that didn't help me it's buying all of the best and latest and greatest and everything is not going to make you a better photographer it's just not because if you can't see and you don't understand the technical things and you can't see the light and you don't feel the emotion gear is just a big bag of expensive gear this is my personal personal favorite thing that most people will say to me, yeah, but aren't you just a knock off of your husband and you're like, yeah, I know people said that to me, I know you're snarky in the chat rooms every once in a while. Oh, well, I mean, of course you can handle light and of course you can shoot a reception room because you're married to cliff mountain and he taught you how to do it. He did? Of course he did and the things that I'm up here talking about well, you learn these things if you go to his boot camp, you will how did I learn them has boot camp, but I'm not up here pretending that I'm the first person to ever teach about wedding photography, and I'm not giving you his words word for word, and if you look at my work, if you look at it back in, oh seven and oh, wait, were there heavy undertones of what he was teaching me? There were, but if you look at my work back in, oh six and oh five, there were heavy overtones of southern california photographers in my work as well, so if all you think is that I'm a knock off of my husband, you obviously haven't looked at it either of our work all that well because especially in the last couple of years I was able to really harness those technical abilities and make them my own our work doesn't look the same at all oh do we approach it the same way? Yes if you think I'm a knock off of him I'm flattered he's a genius, but no, I'm not doing well in wedding photography today because I married another wedding photographer that's just goofy and as I've been mentioning several times over it has absolutely nothing to do with the wedding that you're shooting does a big fancy wedding in a big fancy place with big fancy lighting help? Of course it does absolutely it does I'd be lying if I said that shooting pretty things isn't fun, but can you make amazing images in places that you might just kind of go when you first walk in? Oh yeah, you can this image here I love this image I think this is really pretty other than the enormous exit sign over her head, which I really couldn't do anything about except remove it in post, but I didn't that's in a hallway of a church synagogue in long island it's in like the hallway the classroom where the kids are but that's where the light waas so you confined beautiful light in basically a strip mall synagogue it's pretty where it's pretty this picture could be anywhere this is actually in the foyer of the hotel I'm literally laying on my stomach in the foyer of the hotel with people walking around me this could be the plaza could be a hampton inn it could be anywhere the light is good where the light is good doesn't matter where this is I mean it doesn't this could be in a parking lot this could be in hawaii this could be anywhere could be central park it's the back yard of the country club that they were married in but it's the light it's still in selection it's the composition it doesn't matter where you are so if you're sitting at home and you're thinking like I live in the middle of nowhere I should all these weddings and they're really boring and amid the v f w hall every weekend and I can't make my work look like this why can't you? This was shot in a catering hall catering hall one of those places with five weddings going on in exactly the same time it's on a table in one of those crummy white covered tables in the cocktail hour area and the reception's going on and there's food all over the tables and it's a mess and this is from they built a champagne fountain and then they pour the champagne and kind of goes down over and then people drink it I literally took seven half drunk cups of champagne from other people got a fresh money so it didn't touch one that other people have been drinking the ones around them are just stuff that I picked up off the tables the one in the middle I ask the bartender if he could pour me one so that I could use it for a picture and I put their rings in it this could be anywhere I mean it could be anywhere this is gorgeous backyard she didn't backyard backyard I mean am I in cape cod? Yeah, but it's just somebody's little cottage backyard by the water it's nothing fancy this isn't a catering hall this is the park savagely in new jersey is it fancy? No was it lovely? Yeah, it was fine there's nothing wrong with that. This image right here is on the side of the road in richland center, wisconsin side of the road middle of the summer driving around iphone picture showing exactly what I was doing I'm not joking we're on the side of the road the nats were eating our faces off. It was like one hundred five degrees and the bride and groom were up for anything and I had seen a while before when I was kind of driving around the location cause I've never been there before I kind of took a spin around town the night before I realized that there were really pretty kind of fields and kind of rolling spaces in between the church and where the bride's parents house wass so in between church and going back to the parent's house where the reception was I pulled over on the side of the road bridegroom pulled over to we got out two pictures on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and it's still pretty so if what you're doing is you're saying you know my locations aren't good enough r I don't know I mean I just kind of shooting these boring places if you open your eyes the places that your inner not that boring after all this right here looks like a cottage maybe martha's vineyard maybe you know nantucket no, this is the driving club the piedmont driving club in atlanta, georgia and that beautiful cottage behind them is the portico under which they're parking the cars and behind us is the pool where people are swimming until the left of us is a highway into the right of us is a bagel nondescript building but its composition it's linds choice it's looking at the scene it's seeing the area that you're in and making something beautiful in an area that's it's pretty it didn't look like this, but I wanted to make something gorgeous for my client so I found something gorgeous that's a bush behind his head just a bush we're on the high line in new york but this could be in their backyard it's just trouble re like it's not even pretty shrubbery it's just a shrub that is a wine glass turned upside down with water on it and I'm sitting I don't know where I am but I remember I'm in the ballroom and were smashed up against the window next to where the deejay was sitting up setting up and I'm sitting on the ground it's a window in a wine glass and water and that's it that is on the back deck of the reception than you on my back deck I literally mean wouldn't back deck and it's eighty lights and a glass of champagne I can do that anywhere I could do that right here that's the four seasons that's a hilton garden inn doesn't matter doesn't matter doesn't matter I'm in a steak house I'm in dull frisco steakhouse in philadelphia, pennsylvania and I'm standing just inside the front doors that's it the steakhouse you can find it anywhere this is an alley in princeton new jersey it's an alleyway but the light is beautiful this is hawaii pretty right that's tampa that's also pretty the image before isn't a beautiful four star phenomenal resort in hawaii waves crashing it's idyllic if the images are right in front of you it is beautiful this is a golf course twenty minutes outside of tampa, florida that's also beautiful so if you're relying on your surroundings to give you the photograph, you should be relying on your own ability to find beauty in your surroundings. So which I realize that got a little luxury there at the end, but before we move on and talk about branding or identity, any questions e, m d images, how do you get people to interact when they're not really bringing interaction to the table? If they're not bringing interaction to the table? I'm not forcing interaction out of them, okay? The worst thing in the world that I think that you could do is take a couple that's reserved in front of the camera or that's shy about their public displays of affection and tried to push something out of them that they wouldn't normally do, and generally what will time again? I don't need to make excuses by saying we'll talk about this and other days, but we will, but if I have clients that are having a hard time loosening up my general party trick for that is to give them more things and they can possibly remember to do and expect them to do them all. So what, you guys are gonna d'oh, you gonna walk out there to that lamppost, like, see the one out there, you're gonna walk out there to the lamppost, you're gonna stop, give our kiss like spin around a couple of times, like, maybe give her a dip, give her another kiss and then walked back and just look at each other the entire time. And they're like, great. Somewhere out there, they're going to forget what I've told them to dio. I don't care what I told them. You don't get told me to do anything. I want the natural moment of interaction when they don't remember the nine hundred things that you've told them to dio, and if they're very, very shy and they're very reserved, walk out there and talk to each other and then come back. They're not going to expect a jury. Dione is like picture of them sweeping through the fields and in this romantic, beautiful clinch, the way that he does so beautifully, if that's, not who they are. So, if they're reserved, I'm goingto work off of that reserve.

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Misty Angel

oh Susan, you are AWESOME!! I am not a wedding photographer (despite dipping my toe in this intimidating pool for one of my dearest friends), I shoot all forms of portraits and love sports too! Your '30-Days' has been the single most influential and educational moments since I started my venture into photography in 2009! THANK YOU! Your honesty, directness, bluntness, humor and vulnerability makes these 30-Days the most worthwhile time spent away from actual shooting; while simultaneously is the most inspirational motivator to push you out there to practice these ideas/techniques! #SShostestwiththemostest You raise the bar in this industry, not just with wedding photographers, but with all genres of photography! I wanted this course to learn about shooting and thought, great... I'll get a little bit of the business side too... OMG! I got it ALL! I'm dying! What an awesome investment in myself, my business and in YOU! PLEASE keep doing what you are doing! I love your new Dynamic Range, I feel that it is a wonderful extension of the work you do with Creative Live! I watch you EVERY DAY, every morning... I know that I continue absorbing your wisdom through repetition! I don't want to be you, I want to rise to your level! So thank you for the inspiration, motivation and aspiration! Keep on being REAL, its what we love about you! We embrace your Chanel meets Alexander McQueen-ness! :) Thank you for stepping into this educational space and providing us with your lessons learned so we can avoid the negative-time investment making mistakes... we are drinking your virtual lemonade!! HA! Like the others, whatever wisdom you offer in this medium, I will be jumping at the opportunity to learn from you! THANK YOU!


All the positive reviews say it all. When Susan took on the challenge of teaching this course it must of looked like attempting to climb Mount Everest...and she accomplished just that. Susan is a detailed, well-organized photographer and this clearly comes out in her teaching. Using repetition, clear instructions, a logical and well laid out presentation, she answers most any question you might have when it comes to wedding photography. I felt like I was having a private consultation when watching the course. She is real, honest, tactful, funny, and a gift to the photography community. Finally, her photography is professional and inspiring. Thank you Susan for the tremendous amount of work that you put into making this an outstanding Creative Live course for us all.


Wow. What a super, comprehensive, entertaining, informative course. Well done. I've taking a lot of photography classes and this one is definitely top of the list. Susan Stripling was very well prepared (and great job by the CreativeLive Team too). Terrific course. Susan shared so much. Thank you! P.S. Love the CL boot camp courses.

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