Shooting Weddings: Hardware, Software, etc. (BONUS)

So, I was thinking to myself after writing the last five entries over the weeks, I didn’t really cover what I use within my studio. Therefore, this is going to be an extra special bonus post about all things I use within my studio to keep my files in order, backed up, and safe, as well as software and other things I have as a part of my business to keep productive and everything running smoothly.

HARDWARE

13-inch MacBook Pro / “The travel companion”

The 13″ MacBook Pro is a great workhorse for its size and allowing a lot for a little. I also prefer to carry 2 external G-Drive slims (500GB model) to act as backup for the photos. While I do have CrashPlan to be a cloud system, I know storing photos on two drives is going to help ensure I have my work backed up appropriately from a client’s event before I get back home and can properly drop the files onto the other G-Tech drives. Other than travelling, the MacBook Pro isn’t really touched beyond being a personal laptop at home. All my photo editing, etc. is done on the Mac mini.

Mac mini with 23″ Cinema Display / “Basecamp”

While an iMac is a great alternative, I chose to invest in the Mac mini because I already owned the Cinema display for linking to my MacBook Pro. While the hard drive is small (only 300GB), it gets the job done. I don’t store photos on the computer itself. All my photos are on external hard drives. I do have my personal “current year” library for Aperture on the mini, but all the images are referenced, so if I loose the library or it becomes corrupt, I won’t have fear of loosing any images from the year. I don’t really see a need to have a Mac Pro (the tower system) as photo editing* is not requiring a lot of “power” compared to an everyday workhorse that might jump between multiple programs requiring a lot of RAM and speed.

*If you’re offering video as part of your package or have a space to use studio lighting and an office, a Mac Pro might be a good investment so you can tackle the 1080p editing, capturing the photos wirelessly, and appreciate that extra boost when you need it.

1TB and 2TB G-Tech Drives / “Security”

As I follow Chase Jarvis and have been inspired by him for years, he has introduced me to a lot of great products for my business. G-Technology is one of them. I have used multiple brands of external hard drives over the years (LaCie and Western Digital), and have found that G-Tech has been the most consistent and reliable over all of them. I currently use the G-Drive (up to 3TB of storage) to back up my photos.

I will write another post regarding my thoughts on how best to network your backup routine, etc. but if you want to learn more about how Chase does it, read about it on his blog here.

Wacom Intous4 Tablet / “The fine tuning”

I love having this at an easy reach if I ever need it. I am an illustrator and artist first and foremost, so the tablet is really used when I am illustrating or creating something that is more artistic in nature. I have found that it has it’s benefits for fine tuning the cloning and/or masking out parts of a photo that might be hard to remove otherwise, but it’s definitely an “as needed” tool in my book.

SanDisk Card Reader /

I never download my cards directly from the camera. Two reasons for this. First, I am usually swapping my cards during a shoot. So, the first card I shot is never the last card in the camera. The other reason is for security. I ALWAYS keep my cards on me. The camera body, the lenses, other accessories—they are the least of my worries for a client. I have two Pelican cases that store eight (8) Compact Flash cards. When I am done with a shoot, I take my final card out of the camera, flip it upside down, and put it in the Pelican case. (There’s a great side story to my approach to storing the cards they way I do… that might come later.)

SOFTWARE

CrashPlan

I have used the service for the last four years now. I love it. While the initial backup may take months (or years in some cases), I have found a few tricks that help improve the speed at which your files are backed up. For example, if you’re using your computer only between the hours of 8-5, you can set up CrashPlan to back up during that time, but once 5pm hits, you can have it increase the backup performance while your computer is not being used by other programs. While the initial backup is not going to be quick, the daily syncs will greatly increase in speed by doing this after the fact.

Aperture

I have used this since day one of launch. And I think because Apple was first out of the gate with their professional photo software, I have found to stay with Aperture over Lightroom. While Adobe has done some great things with their application, I haven’t seen that feature that is going to make me jump ship yet. I guess it’s a lot like debating to leave Nikon and go with Canon.

Nik Software

While I own the full plug-in suite, I really only dabble with the software when I am looking to work on a select piece for printing and framing, or if I generate an album for a client. Like I noted above with the Wacom tablet, I have found that a lot of the mass editing can be handled by Aperture. Each of the applications has a great use of pin-point control on color adjustments and can help make some minor adjustments that Aperture or Lightroom might not be able to focus on.

Photoshop*

While a lot of photographers might recommend investing in Photoshop if you’re a beginner, I am one who wouldn’t recommend it. The reason I say this is because it’s really what I refer to as a “refining” tool. Like I mentioned with Aperture, it can handle A LOT. Including a great approach to batch processing, and if I was just starting out, I would prefer to invest in a non-distructive PIE-based (Parametric Image Editing) software application over a tool like Photoshop.

*I really only use this application when I need to stitch together panoramas.

TRAVEL SETUP

My wife and I love to travel. And when we do so, I make sure I have certain things with me to collect and back up photos. Especially when we’re on assignment with a destination wedding. The camera gear is one thing to note when traveling, and it really depends on the shoot for what will be in your bag as far as the “glass” goes. In regards to what I would pack for photo management, I really only see the following being the best.

MacBook Pro – Great, compact, and powerful. With the 500GB drive, I can easily store the shoot on the drive temporarily if needed. And it can run Aperture without any issues.

G-Tech slim drives (2) – I carry two because I try and follow the old addage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”.

SanDisk Card Reader – The reader I have is VERY compact and easily travels with us.

Pelican Cases – Not only are they great for storing the cards in one location and keeping them on me. They are tough, durable, and are waterproof.

AA Batteries (8) – As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I do have the battery grip attached to my D300. While it does house a lith-ion battery, the grip comes with a AA battery drawer to swap out if needed. I always bring this along with me on the chance that a lith-ion battery fails or I am unable to charge them after they’ve been drained.

So, beyond the camera gear, make sure you define you’re needs when travelling and don’t assume that you’ll be able to get X, Y, or Z where you’re going.  I hope this helps you with your decisions towards hardware and software for your studio.

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