What’s in our bag-Wedding Lighting Edition!

Expanding on our blog from last week about what we carry to photograph a wedding we are going to highlight what we bring for lighting!

Beautiful moment of one of our bride’s and her mom after they walked down the aisle. Utilizing camera settings only, we were able to properly expose this photo while not being too intrusive during the ceremony.

Beautiful moment of one of our bride’s and her mom after they walked down the aisle. Utilizing camera settings only, we were able to properly expose this photo while not being too intrusive during the ceremony.

We have talked a bit in previous blogs that we really try to limit our use of lighting when possible because we really try to be as unobtrusive as possible when photographing a wedding. It would make me very sad to hear that my light stand blocked grandma’s perfect view of the first dance. We really pull out lighting when we go into the evening/reception period. Until then we try to utilize our camera settings (can’t recommend enough a full frame camera so that you have the ability to up your ISO if need be during ceremony etc.) We do this because if at all possible we don’t want to take away from the magic of the ceremony by having a flash go off constantly. Now onto the lighting we use!

Using speed lights  on our cameras and a globe-we bounced the light off the ceiling to capture this sweet moment of a mother and father of the bride dancing the night away!

Using speed lights on our cameras and a globe-we bounced the light off the ceiling to capture this sweet moment of a mother and father of the bride dancing the night away!

Our first lighting option that we go for is always our speed lights. Alan and I both use a TTL speed light and typically add a globe on top to soften and disburse the flash. We try to bounce our flash, if possible, off a ceiling or other bright area because it acts like a big softbox and will give a softer better light than if you had to point the flash right at the subject. We use the TTL because during a wedding you are photographing a lot and are constantly moving around between fluctuating lighting i.e. in and out of a tent (so from shade to sun) which requires changes to your settings or as the night continues from a tent with lighting to very little to no lighting outside of the tent. TTL is beneficial here because it automatically sets how strong of a flash you need by reading the surroundings. 60% of the time we will then make an adjustment to that such as telling the speedlight we want it a little brighter by +1.0 than it is sensing etc. but we love that it’s one less thing to adjust while running around because it helps us make sure we catch that candid moment rather than having to pause to adjust settings as you are running from one area to another.

If these flashes just aren’t cutting it we then go to off camera flash. There are tiers of adjustments you can make with these off camera flashes. We start with just a speed light on a light stand (smallest and quickest to setup) and we look to bounce this off of a white surface like a tent ceiling. If that isn’t working or isn’t an option (such as in a barn with really dark wood) we then fold in something to help disperse the light such as umbrellas or a softbox on light stands. One minor midstep here is there is something you can put on top of a speed light called CTO gel. Prior to going to an umbrella or soft box we try to add the CTO gel because what it does is it adds an orange tent to the flash which in almost a double negative type situation helps mitigate a more orange look that can happen when bouncing off of dark wood. Back to the umbrella or softbox addition, this is great at lighting up a whole dance floor or you could put two up and really change a room from a difficult lighting setup to a beautiful one. We always bring this equipment because we want to make sure we can get good photos for our brides and are prepared for any setting. The reason why we try not to jump to this solution is because it does require setting up light stands and if need be an umbrella which means more “things” that could be in a guests way or that we would have to move around. We like to be very mobile and we really like to capture candid moments. It kind of kills the candid moment if you have to tell everyone to pause in this awesome moment for you to move a light stand to properly light the shot. 

Being able to document that sunset over the mountains and properly expose the bride and groom was very important to us. We grabbed a strobe and captured the bride and groom sitting down and having a moment together after cutting the cake.

Being able to document that sunset over the mountains and properly expose the bride and groom was very important to us. We grabbed a strobe and captured the bride and groom sitting down and having a moment together after cutting the cake.

A version of off camera flash that we also use but typically only if the above options aren’t working, because it is a more powerful version, is our strobe. A strobe is stronger and can allow you to expose for something like a sunset with your camera which would typically make the bride and groom (or whatever subject you are photographing) pretty dark. We then add in the strobe which will light up the subject. This makes it so you can get the beautiful colors of the sunset and properly expose a bride and groom all in one awesome shot. We typically use the strobe for a quick sunset photo but we could also use it if we were really having issues with the lighting in a room or area. 

Alan and I are big planners so we often bring lots of gear (and back ups to that gear-don’t forget batteries GALORE). Even though we bring lots of gear we really try not to use all of it unless it’s necessary because it helps us stay mobile and helps us meet our “blend in with the crowd” style. 

If you are a photographer looking for the brands we use send us a message and we are always happy to talk shop with you! Any brides or grooms reading-we recommend you ask your photographer what sorts of lighting options they have/are competent in using to make sure that you will be  able to get beautiful pictures all day long!

Happy Shootin’!

-Meg








What’s in our bag-Wedding Lens Edition!

We get lots of questions about what gear we use, what we like best and what we find ourselves using the most while photographing a wedding! So here is our “What’s in our bag-Wedding Lens Edition!”....we plan to do some other blogs with other goodies we think are necessities for the wedding day so stay tuned!

The short answer is we have a lot of lenses that we bounce between and use for different reasons or bring as backups to our main lenses but I will try to highlight them all for their own special reasons here. Without buying lots of lenses that are just pure duplicates of lenses we try to buy lenses that could fill the gap of other lenses, extra bonus if it adds something that lens did not like a lower aperture etc. For example, if our 70-200mm f/2.8 lens died mid shoot our replacement lens most likely wouldn’t be another 70-200mm lens. **as a note you will see me reference f/2.8 and lower for aperture. We only shoot with f/2.8 and lower because we are often photographing in low light (lower the aperture the more light in) and because we really love the bokeh that lower aperture lenses offer. 

 Before we get too far along, one small caveat is that Alan shoots with a Sony mirrorless camera and I shoot with a Canon. 99% of the time we are using the same type of lens just the version made for our specific camera so I will try to highlight the general lens information so that you can apply it to Sony, Nikon, Canon etc. I do suggest that you research each lens for that brand first just in case the Canon “x” lens is amazing and for some reason that version on another brand you are looking at didn’t perform as well. 

A great example of being able to zoom in and catch more emotions with the 70-200mm lens while still remaining rather far away from the bride and groom.

A great example of being able to zoom in and catch more emotions with the 70-200mm lens while still remaining rather far away from the bride and groom.

75% of the time we are using our 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. This lens is our workhorse lens that we rely on day in and day out! We have the sony version, cannon, and a sigma version as a backup. All are excellent and we recommend them all whole heartedly! The sigma version is a great starter for this lens (because it can be pricey) but it is not weather sealed like the Canon and Sony lenses are if that is a concern of yours. This lens allows us to really zoom in and get a lot of those intimate special moments we love to capture without being all up in someone’s personal space! It also has the versatility to zoom out a bit and get that full body shot of the bride walking in then return right away to get the emotions of her with a loved one that is escorting her down. This focal length also is great for portraits because it compresses the face which is often very flattering!

24-70mm f/2.8….so this one I honestly didn’t think I would use as much as I do but for the past year I have begun shooting for a wedding roughly 50/50 between this lens and the 70-200mm listed above. This has the versatility of the 70-200mm so that you can adjust and zoom in and capture some more emotions but also step out wider if need be. I love this lens because during the ceremony I can easily get my “group shots” where I am photographing the ceremony from the back row and getting everyone in but it will also perform great if you find yourself on a cramped dance floor in capturing the group shot then zooming in and catching a sweet moment with a couple. 

This is a sparkler sendoff that we photographed with the 34mm at f/1.4. It was SOOO dark out. Until the sparklers were lit, I couldn’t even see well enough to pull focus with my camera. We just used our camera (at f/1.4) and no flash. Thank goodness for low aperture and a full frame camera!

This is a sparkler sendoff that we photographed with the 34mm at f/1.4. It was SOOO dark out. Until the sparklers were lit, I couldn’t even see well enough to pull focus with my camera. We just used our camera (at f/1.4) and no flash. Thank goodness for low aperture and a full frame camera!

35mm f/1.4 is an awesome lens! We use this lens primarily when it’s dark or when Alan needs a wider lens. This lens is a life saver when it comes to a sparkler sendoff! It has a low enough aperture to still have a good picture in those dark sparkler exits and the 35mm is wonderful at capturing the group around celebrating with their firey sendoff! This lens, because of the low aperture, also does great at that blown out background/shallow depth of field look that can be so beautiful with portraits. We love this for weddings because as we all know there are two stars of the show-the bride and the groom-and that natural separation that a low aperture lens brings to the table is just perfect! The 35mm is also great for environmental shots if you have a beautiful setting as well because you can get pretty close to the subject (like a bride) and still be able to catch a great mountain scene behind her.

85mm f/1.8 is much like the 35mm f/1.4….it has a lower aperture so it will give that blown out look and will take great portraits. It is more zoomed in though than the 35mm so capturing emotions and closer images that we really enjoy is great with this lens. Extra bonus with this lens-it is a great value so if you are looking for a lower aperture lens to get you going this can be a great one! This lens also falls within that focal length that compresses the face and makes this a more flattering portrait lens like the 70-200mm I mentioned before.

This is an example of one of our photos with a macro lens. Macro lenses are amazing at catching the details of something small like rings but you will see that quickly other items begin to fall out of focus i.e. the flower that these are sitting on. This is a great look for something like an engagement ring because it helps your eye focus on the ring.

This is an example of one of our photos with a macro lens. Macro lenses are amazing at catching the details of something small like rings but you will see that quickly other items begin to fall out of focus i.e. the flower that these are sitting on. This is a great look for something like an engagement ring because it helps your eye focus on the ring.

A macro lens. We always bring a macro lens for those close up detail shots like the rings! The macro lens is great and we actually have a pretty inexpensive one since it is so little of our days portfolio that we deliver but it is helpful when you need it. A good alternative if you did not have a macro would be to get something like the F1.8 85mm lens we talked about above. Photographing the rings at 85mm and then blowing out the background around it would also really draw your eyes to the rings and make a beautiful picture!

After the macro we do have one other specialty lens that we don’t use that often but when you need it, you need it! That lens is our wide angle lens. Our wide angle lens is a 16-24mm f/2.8 lens. This one we used this past weekend because the bride and groom wanted one picture with everyone that was at their wedding. This is a really cool and special idea but 1. You only have limited space that you can fit that many people and 2. We were outside so trying to fit all of those people into the same lighting i.e. all shade or all sun so that we could properly expose the picture was challenging. We ended up smushing everyone up against a tree line and making a flatter wider picture because we had the ability thanks to this lens! 

Obviously you do not need ALL of these lenses especially if you are just starting out. A little tip…. LensRentals.com is an amazing website where you can rent different lenses i.e. that macro that you don’t need allllll the time. You can also try it before you buy it, so if you think you want a new Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 (or maybe a newer model of something you already own)? Try it and see if you are as obsessed as I think you will be :) They rent LOTS of things lenses, camera bodies etc. Serious game changer especially if you are just starting out and don’t have a huge breath of lenses and cameras. 

We have the added benefit of being a married photography unit and we often swap gear in and out depending on what we need (Sony has an adapter that can use many of the Canon lenses I typically shoot with). With that being said, I do not think I would ever photograph a wedding without a 70-200mm lens so if I had to pick one to recommend, that is it! For the rest, we recommend just thinking about what sort of pictures you may need to take and making sure you have an option (and preferably a backup) if that option fails. I heard a photographer say one time that they brought primes of commonly used lenses just in case something happens. We don’t tie ourselves to saying we need a 70mm prime (just as an example not a real standard size) but we do try things like if our 70-200mm died mid shoot we could switch to the 85mm and get all the same shots just by moving our feet more rather than zooming in and out. Or in the instance of the 24-70mm lens the 35mm could take very similar pictures-you just may have to move a bit more! 

Our overall advice is, think about what you need and prepare as best you can for all possible scenarios. Talking with your bride and groom ahead of time on the various aspects of their wedding and if certain pictures really matter to them over others will really help guide you! And our last advice, if at all possible have a backup because technology can and will fail! 

-Happy shootin’ :) Meg

What to ask your wedding photographer that you might not think of

Do you not know what to ask your wedding photographer? There are lots of things you should ask them such as are they available on your wedding day, do they have a contract, can you see their portfolio, and a bunch of other questions that you will think of! This blog is to help point out questions you may not be thinking of. Here are some of our suggested questions and why we think they are so important!

A great candid photo we caught of the mother of the groom getting a loving embrace at the reception! Can’t you feel the joy in this photo?

A great candid photo we caught of the mother of the groom getting a loving embrace at the reception! Can’t you feel the joy in this photo?

What’s your photography style?

What sort of photos matter the most to you? Do you like mainly posed photos, do you like the candid photos, do you like photos up close, or environmental shots? All of these are things that can fall into different photographers photo style and you want to understand what their particular style is to make sure that matches up with your likes. We specialize in candid shots so we often tailor to couples who really enjoy that style. All styles are great and have a place and like us many photographers can do many styles (i.e. we will still take your posed family pictures and they will be great but that isn’t our main style) All of this to say, communicate with your photographer and make sure they fit what you are looking for!

Do  you use lighting, natural light, or both?

What does this even mean? It means does your photographer use lighting equipment to take photos or do they only use the light (and camera setting under their control) to take your photos. Why does this even matter?  We use natural lighting as much as possible mainly because we do not want to setup equipment that will distract from your day. Do we use lighting equipment? Absolutely!!! On the other end, you want a photographer who is competent and comfortable using lighting because there will be moments when lighting is necessary or will greatly enhance a photo opportunity. Natural light photos and lighting equipment can have different looks as well, if you like one look over the other make sure you communicate that to your photographer so they can do the best to match your wishes!

What hours will you be there?

You want to know when your photographer is going to arrive and when they will for sure be there until. If you want them to be there to photograph you getting ready, make sure you all discuss that. Do you want to do a first look, make sure they are there early enough to do that before the wedding! Do you plan on doing a send off at a certain time-if you want them there for it make sure you discuss this with them. We like to cover the entire day so you do not have to worry about counting the hours you want us there. Thinking about how much of your day you want a photographer to document will help you decide between a photographer who offers you one flat rate for the whole day regardless of hours or a photographer whose business model is booking by hour allotments (ie 4 hours, 6 hours, 10 hours of photography). 

Do you have a second shooter?

Do you care about having a second shooter? If so, make sure you ask if they will be bringing one! Another important secondary question is-do you work with the same second shooter regularly that you will be using for our wedding? This is important because you want to make sure that the second shooter is also a great photographer. When the photographer you booked has to go to the restroom or trips and breaks their arm (gosh I hope that doesn’t happen) the second shooter is the person who is going to be taking the photos now! You can also ask for examples of the second shooters work. We are very lucky to be a husband and wife team so we always get to work with the same second shooter!

What is your editing style?

There are a million editing styles (light and airy, heavy contrast, etc). Looking at a photographers portfolio is important and you want to make sure that their editing style matches what you like! Photographers style can also evolve so make sure to ask if the examples they show you are a good example of their current work or if they have changed anything lately. You don’t want to love a style they show you and then when they deliver your photos realize that was their editing style back in 2015 and they refuse to do that any longer! Communication is key!

Do you photoshop the photos you take?

The topic of photoshop can be a touchy one and you want to make sure you understand where your photographer falls and do some soul searching on what you want. Our policy is to remove things that are not permanent (i.e. a pimple that popped up day of, a fly away hair, etc.) If a client says they are self-conscious about something we are always happy to address something you want us to because we do want you to look back on these photos and love them. Communicating with your photographer about your wishes will help you ensure when you receive your photos that you love them!

How many events will you work that weekend?

We recommend asking this question because timelines and schedules ALWAYS change. Reread that, they ALWAYS change. We will only book one wedding a day. This is because our style is to document your entire event.  If timelines/schedules change we want the flexibility to be able and stay longer to make sure we catch that sparkler sendoff or Grandma dancing with a groomsman! 

Do you have insurance?

Things happen. Asking your photographer what insurance coverage they have only prepares you for those what if scenarios that we all hope never happen :) 

Do you have backups to your equipment?

Y’all. THINGS HAPPEN. Have I said that enough? You want a photographer who thinks about those worst case scenarios and tries to mitigate them as much as possible. We bring extra camera bodies, lenses, more batteries than you need to power a small country and much much more. We know we can never guarantee we won’t have an issue but when something goes wrong, I never want to be the photographer who tells you I missed your first kiss! AHH, I would cry. 

What attire will you/your team wear?

Ok, this one is personal for us. When we got married, our photographer showed up 2 hours after the agreed upon time in a wife beater tank top and crocs. To say I was horrified was the understatement of the century. Your photographer should blend in as much as possible to the wedding. They don’t need to be in a tux but when they walk in you don’t want to say, “Oh, My.” We try to wear neutral colors and look very professional while also fitting the formalness of the wedding. 

If my event runs long, will you stay? Will it cost me?

Your schedule will change. Things will run long, others will go faster than you expected. You don’t want to spend all of this money on a photographer and then they aren’t there when you want them to be. We charge a flat rate and agree to be there through it all with you. Want us there at 8 am, I’ll bring the coffee! Want us to stay until midnight for an awesome dance party, please someone do the sprinkler or lawn mower! If you do need to ask your photographer to stay later, make sure you understand the cost associated if your photographers business model is charging by an hourly rate (i.e. you have booked them for 6 hours starting at 1:00 pm and now need them to stay an extra hour.

What is your data retention policy?

If you are hiring a photographer you want to make sure that they have a procedure in place if issues happen they can still deliver your photos. Most cameras use SD cards. These are great, but just like most technology they can fail. Some cameras have dual cards meaning that for every photo your photographer takes that photo is written to two SD cards. This creates a redundancy if one card fails that you do not lose all of those photos. Things can happen and obviously no plan is foolproof but knowing your photographer has plans in place and has actually thought about potential issues and what to do if those issues arise is important!

What is your data backup policy?

Once the event is over issues can STILL HAPPEN!!! Fires, computer crashes, hard drive crashes and many other things. You want to make sure that your photographer has ways to mitigate against issues. We backup all of the photos on to our computer the night of an event. We also keep the SD cards in our fire safe until we have the photos backed up from our computer to our cloud storage so that at all times we have two forms of saving and backing up our data (all Alan BTW)! He’s the best! 

How long will you keep photos after the delivery date?

This is important because life happens. Your photographer will deliver your photos to you in one of many different ways such as via a website where you can download your photos, on a flash drive, CD or many other forms. What if you lose the flash drive, what if it doesn’t work, what if your niece or nephew dunks it into a cup of coffee? You want to know how long your photographer will keep your pictures so you can get your photos back! Much like our data backup policy, after we deliver photos to a client we also have a storage system where we store archived photos on mirrored hard drives so if one fails we still have them! Again, all Alan, he’s amazing! 

Do you have other great questions you asked? Let us know, we would love to update the list to help out other bride’s and groom’s going through the photographer search!


What got us into photography?...and how you too can organically grow your photography business.

For one of our dating anniversaries I gave Alan an entry level DSLR Cannon camera. I honestly can’t remember what led me to do this but I am sure he wanted it :) Alan started with taking landscape pictures, fell in love with long exposure photos (look them up if you have never seen one), and enjoyed snapping some good pictures of our pups. Alan being the technology lover he is, he slowly began researching other gear and stair stepping up equipment as he got more and more into photography. 

Alan trains Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and we began going to tournaments to photograph our friends competing and doing family shoots of close friends and family. As we did more, Alan started to teach me how to take photos in manual mode and I slowly got more and more into photography as well. Many tournaments and family photoshoots later someone asked to book us for a photoshoot. Our response was along the lines of, ”You want to give us money? Like real money?” After the shock wore off we decided to set up an LLC and give this photography business a real shot. 

We started with mainly sports photography and family shoots. One day we were at our friends wedding and their photographer left very early. We grabbed a camera out of the car and snapped some photos of their reception. We fell in love with documenting the joy and excitement of the day-especially the candid shots! A short time later we dove into photographing weddings and even more family, newborn, senior portraits and more. 

How did we get into photography? Slow and organically. We added equipment as we needed to and leveraged rental equipment as we could (seriously LensRentals.com is a game changer). We branched out into new areas of photography like newborn and senior portraits to grow our skills. 

What do I recommend for growing your photography business? Volunteering for a photoshoot is perfectly fine if it benefits the growth of your skills and ultimately your business! Build your confidence and your portfolio as best you can. If someone becomes a fan and wants to hire you, don’t let fear stop you from taking that step. It can be hard to begin believing in yourself and think you can compare to all the other amazing photographers out there. I am here to tell you that you are great and you’ve got this! 

Let us know if you have other encouraging advice for someone just starting out their photography business!

What does CAM stand for?

CAM stands for “Chester”, “Alan”, “Meg”. Alan & Meg are our first names and Chester is our last name. So many photographers use their first and last name as their business name such as “Alan Chester Photography”. Now that sounds great, but the problem is, Alan and I both switch off being our primary photographer so we didn’t want to use just one of our names. I think we can all also agree that “Meg & Alan Chester Photography” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. Chester Photography also just did not resonate with us for some reason. 

We pronounce it as one word, CAM much like can. Before you say it, yes we really did want MAC Photography but there was another person using that close to us :(. 

Why the “Photos & Design” portion? We really feel we are much more than just photos. We try to be a one stop shop where we will take photos, help you design a save the date incorporating those photos, we will help you print them via our print lab, and many other things. We wanted a name that told you we could do more. 

Do you have other burning questions about us or our business? Let us know, we love to be able to connect with our clients and those who follow us!

What do you wear to an engagement shoot?

Great example of what to wear! A mixture of stripes, solids, and colors that go but aren’t so matchy matchy!

Great example of what to wear! A mixture of stripes, solids, and colors that go but aren’t so matchy matchy!

We get asked all the time what you should wear to an engagement shoot. The short answer, whatever makes you feel comfortable and like your best self. The reason is because if you feel your best, that will come across in the pictures!

Still want more info, okkk, if you say so. 

Do you feel beautiful in dresses or skirts but also have a dream of doing a super acrobatic photoshoot? If so, those can work together but it’s worth thinking through. Maybe a pair of bike shorts underneath could be a good solution! Do you want to do your photos in the woods, that can be beautiful but maybe you want to wear comfortable shoes as you walk in.

Did you know that you can change clothes if you can’t decide on an outfit or want a mixture of fancy and casual clothes or just more variety? You can also add small layers to change up a look (vests, scarves, jackets, etc are all good options to switch up your look).

What colors should you wear? We once had a photographer tell us not white because it’s “hard to photograph.” WHAT?!?!? You do realize that is what 99% of brides wear on their wedding day, right? You better figure out how to photograph white! What we recommend is thinking about you and your spouses outfits and how they look together. You don’t have to pick the same color for your outfits but complementary colors are nice or one person wearing solids while the other has a nice pattern in similar colors is also good. 

Not sure what colors go together? Have you ever heard of the color wheel? Colors directly across from each other are complimentary. Examples are purple and yellow, blue and orange, red and green. Other options are analogous colors. These are colors that are right next to each other. For an example, you could put you and your spouse in warm colors such as burgundy and orange for a fall shoot which would be really pretty. Or Blues and Greens are also great!

There is no perfect outfit but the most important thing is that you feel comfortable and good in what you pick! Also, when in doubt ask your photographer...I am always happy to get pictures of potential outfit selections :)

If you have other great tips for putting together outfits for engagement or even family pictures let us know! 


Get to know the Photographers

Thanks for stopping by our page! We are Meg & Alan Chester, a married couple based in Raleigh, NC. We were married 4 years ago in the mountains of Asheville, NC where Meg was born and raised. We have 3 adorable dogs (a black lab, a chocolate lab, and a yellow lab) that we love to spoil and photograph! 

Alan is a software engineer during the day and an awesome photographer by night. His background in software engineering and overall love of gadgets keeps CAM running smoothly and keeps all of our bits safe ;). Have you ever thought about how to backup and protect lots of data (like your important photos you love so much)....yeah, we are thankful Alan does that for us! 

*Go read our blog about what to ask your photographer for some good insight

Meg works in finance and has a background in graphic design, marketing, and loves anything artsy in addition to photographing weddings, pups, and adorable kiddos. Meg has folded her love of graphic design and art into photography by making save the dates, holiday cards, invitations, programs, and many other things for our awesome clients. 

Meg and Alan’s photography style is focused on more candids and documenting the day, event, of even family shoot in as enjoyable and authentic way as possible. Our “catch the moment style” is rooted in our strong desire to make the most wonderful experience for our clients and to us that means being as unobtrusive as possible. We use lighting and other equipment but if we are able to document your day beautifully without setting up items to distract then we will do that every time! We have found that blending into the background allows us to catch lots of emotion and really document the true joy of an event (especially a wedding day). 

We have a real passion for photography but even more we have a passion for our clients and making them happy. We would love to get to know you and learn what special moments we can help you capture! 

Love, Meg & Alan