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Jeff Tisman: Evocative Wedding Photos with Nikon, Godox, Glow

Speedliter's Blog is excited to feature evocative wedding photos from New Jersey based photographer Jeff Tisman. Jeff's origin story begins shooting rock bands over 20 years ago which is perhaps why his photos have a subtle energy and vibrance. His portfolio is creative and inspiring and we strongly recommend scrolling through his instagram feed if you need a spark.

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What gear did you bring to this photo shoot?

I have a lot of gear I bring with me. And I use most of it. Gear does not make the photographer. But they are tools I use every time I shoot.

CAMERA I have been a Nikon guy my entire career. Currently my workhorse is a Nikon D5. Absolutely love it. I love the feel and the way it fits my hands. I have never been a mirrorless guy, but I did recently purchase a Nikon Z 6II. I haven't used it yet but I am looking forward to it. I travel with 5 bodies and they all have their uses: Nikon D5, Nikon D750, Nikon D810, Nikon D800, Nikon Z 6II

I use Nikon because that's what I learned on. My 2 mentors whom I assisted, Danny Sanchez and Mark Weiss, were both Nikon guys. So I became one also. If I had gear questions or needed help with problems, they were both available for answers or to lend me gear if I needed it. These two literally changed my life. If you're just starting out, I can't emphasize this enough: Learn the craft. If you can get things right in camera and learn light and composition, it will take your photos to another level. Find someone's work you love and work with them. Do it for free if you have to. I still do. Seeing how experienced photographers work in the field is something that will help you grow so much.

LENSES I always try to buy the fastest glass I can. Mostly prime lenses.

Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 I Love this lens. It's my #1 go to getting ready lens.

Nikon Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 Great for portraits and toasts in the reception.

Nikon Fisheye-Nikkor 16mm f/2.8 Yes it still has its uses.

Nikon Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 I don't use it much.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4 Uh, look at that. I have one of those. I can't remember the last time I used it. Cheap enough to have if a lens breaks.

Nikon Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 Do I have to say anything? One of my favorite portrait lenses.

Nikon Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Great portrait lens but I use it mostly for details.

Nikon Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 Absolutely my favorite for the dance floor. Pre-COVID it would stay on my camera 95% of the night.

LIGHTS This topic can go on forever. Light is light, to a degree. I often feel we all put so much emphasis and pressure to get the latest and greatest. If you learn how to use it correctly a simple speedlight can do the trick.

My light of choice right now is the new Godox AD300. I hated their speedlights. I also had their 360. From my experience, they didn't work. They overheated and put out inconsistent light. They were very frustrating. But these new AD300's are incredible. They're lightweight and compact. I can't say enough good things about them.

MODIFIERS My friend and peer Michael Ramos is brilliant in his lighting. He introduced me to Glow modifiers. They are incredible. They create beautiful, even light. They are durable, lightweight, and break down easily. Glow modifiers are some of the best modifiers you will get for your money. I love them.

STANDS I don't use stands often so I had to look. They are Manfrotto boom arm stands. They're built incredibly strong. I've had two of them for years. I also use a lightweight stand for my assistant to carry the OCF with. It is a small lightweight Westcott.

TRIPOD My tripod is a Manfrotto 055XB with a quick release head Manfrotto 322RC2

A safety note: Whenever I place tripods down they get a 20lb weight that is in a bright orange hunter casing so people see it. I can not stress this enough. Safety first!!! I have worked with so many videographers and other photogs who place their stand wherever they please with no weights on it. It is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Think ahead. You don't need that in your business. These sandbags will hold your stand even if someone trips directly over the leg. I always keep two of them in my car.

How did you plan for this shoot?

I don't approach any shoot the same way. It is more about discovering who my clients are. Of course there are some venues you have to get the 'classic' shots. But other than that I capture my couple, not the venue. In all three shots below from Drew and Sheri's wedding I had never shot in these spots ever. I've been to this venue numerous times and maybe shot near it or close to it. But all three just 'came to me' as I observed the light and events around us. That's how most of my ideas happen. I feed off my couple and the moment.

PHOTO ONE Drew has three dogs but there was a 'best dog' named Tucker. I loved the suit Drew was wearing and wanted to create an epic looking 'groom and best dog' photo. When using off camera flash, I dial in my ambient and then gradually add off-camera flash. I wanted a dramatic look to this photo so I asked my assistant hold the AD300 with a Glow Octabox up high and pointing down.

CAMERA SETTINGS: 1/640 - f/5.6 - ISO 160

PHOTO TWO We had passed this tree many times and shot with it in the background. As we were standing waiting for a bridesmaid or groomsman I noticed the light and all the branches and thought it would add great dimension and depth for a photo. This was one of those times when you take a moment to breathe and just stop and look around and you never know what you'll see. That's one of the disadvantages to weddings in that most of the time they are just a living, breathing dragon and you are hanging on for dear life as the day unfolds. I got a low angle and shot up at Drew and Sheri. Remember to have the couple lean towards the camera to fix perspective when you shoot from a low angle. It can be a very unflattering position for a woman or a man.

CAMERA SETTINGS: 1/1000 - f/1.4 - ISO 50

PHOTO THREE Prospective clients often say "Your photos look so natural - They don't look like they are posing". This is because I've simply given them prompts or the "ok" to be themselves. Too often photographers pose and give too much direction. But sometimes it's ok to just say "freestyle" or "Do what you guys like." I may say "Pick her up Drew" or "Now spin her." If your couple has that personality you need to uncover that. Discover who they are. This makes the photos unique to them rather than staged poses we are all guilty of using. Too many times we shoot for the eye candy and not the couple. Capture the couple first and the eye candy second. That's what is happening here. We are in a beautiful field with a gorgeous sunset. I love this photo. I gave the prompts and Drew & Sheri did the rest. This may not work for every couple but that's why you have discovery calls or meetings and take the time to get to know your couples.

CAMERA SETTINGS: 1/2500 - f/2.5 - ISO 250

What software do you use for importing and editing?

All my editing is done in Adobe Lightroom Classic. I like to start with presets from Two Mann Mystical Potions. I then tweak to my desire and liking. Never is it a one button push. There's always some tweaking involved.

What do you like most about the final images? Is there anything you would do differently next time?

One of my biggest problems is I always feel l can do better. I'll love a shot for a day. The next day I dissect it and figure out how I could have created it better. Whether it is light, posing, composition, off-camera flash. One of my favorite quotes ever comes from Jerry Ghionis: "You don't have to be the best. Just better than last week." And that's what I strive for each and every week. I have photographed weddings for over 26 years and have documented nearly 1000 at this point. And still absolutely love doing it.

What I love most of these images is they captured Drew & Sheri and their relationship perfectly. I have known Drew for years and remember the day he rescued Tucker. So I love that capture of Drew and Tucker. Whenever I create photos at a wedding or for a family I think of what that photo will mean in 5, 10, 15, 20 years. Tucker is getting older. Who wouldn't want that photo with their dog after their best friend passes? Or shot in the field? How great of a photo to show their kids some day and share how fun and crazy mom and dad are. That is what I try to do every single time. This is why I love photographing weddings. I am truly honored to capture and document every wedding and family I am lucky enough to photograph. Every weekend we go to a party that tells the story of two families and what they have been through. And we get to tell that story through our images. Discover who your couple is. And then go out and tell that story. If you do this, you may even surprise the couple with the images you capture. Yes. It's a wedding. They have traditions. But it is so much more that. And you've been chosen for that. Now go write their story with your eye!

Where can we see more of your work?

Instagram: @tismanphoto


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