stan, karissa, and matt junior [maternity photos]

good friends of ours stan and karissa are expecting their first baby in just mere weeks. you may remember them from such blog fame as the dinner with friends video. you may also remember that stan and karissa are the duo behind klm photography. karissa was at our birth taking photos for us during that crazy time, which you can see here. stan was also my roommate in college for two years. ok, so we’re friends, we get it.

anywho, we switched roles of who was behind and in front of the lens this time. they’re expecting a baby boy. the name is a secret (definitely the way to do it, take it from someone who learned the hard way), but i’m pushing really hard for ‘matt’. i just think it has a nice ring to it. i feel like they’re almost convinced but i won’t know for sure until he’s born.

the day we shot was miserable weather. clouds stretched from one horizon to the other and they were extremely dense, making it dark and grey everywhere. on top of that, the rain was drizzling down at a steady rate. karissa had the idea to go to some mill buildings in pawtucket, namely the one housing the winter farmer’s market – hope artiste village. i didn’t typo artiste, there really is an ‘e’ on the end.

the building is like a labyrinth. you can walk for a long time and end up in the same place you started. it doesn’t help that the buildings all connect somehow so there’s trillions of square feet of floor space. there were some good photo spots to use, though the dark day made it a little difficult. we made it happen though. look, the classic window shot.

karissa told me she didn’t want ‘edgy’. i thought a barbed wire fence would make the perfect maternity shot backdrop, but alas i honored my subject’s wishes. to take the edge off we found some elephants to take some pictures in front of. what’s got less edge than an elephant?

here’s stan and karissa trying a hat on the baby. looks like it fits ok.

the happy soon-to-be birthing a baby mom:

stan is a coffee maniac. karissa likes it, too. there happened to be a little coffee shop in the building so i snuck a shot during the order. i got lucky enough to get a little belly in it. i think this one might be my favorite from the day, just because i think of the future little guy seeing the photos and this one shows what his mom and dad are into, what they do, and a little of their personality.

this shot is a little departure from my norm. it’s very soft and muted. the space is perfect for it, with the overhead fluorescents providing a hangar-type feel. people kept walking through the background of the photo so it took a few tries. i mean, c’mon, can’t they see that i’m using the building right now?

it ended up working out at the mill. later on that night we went over to stan and karissa’s for dinner and hung out… just in case you were wondering.

home studio for $3 [lightbox tutorial]

my wife writes a blog of her own called the tiny hummingbird. it’s a pretty good blog, though i can’t relate to most of the posts since they usually contain a lot of words like ‘cute’, ‘fabric’, and ‘delicious’. one part of her blog is a weekly menu post, which contains photos of some of the meals. with her humble point-and-shoot camera, the dim overhead light in the dining room wasn’t making for the most flattering pictures. my initial thought was to buy one of those setups that are used for product photography, like this one, until i saw the $310 price tag. $310?? to take a picture of lasagna? there’s got to be a better (read: cheaper) way. there is, and this is it:

ok, well that’s the start of it. you can make one of these things yourself in less than a half hour and for less than three bucks, assuming you’re resourceful enough to score a free box from somewhere and you already have a roll of duct tape laying around. here’s the goals:
– you want to be able to get light into the box
– you want the light to be as soft as possible so it is flattering for your subject
– you want a clean white background that also extends to the ‘floor’ of the photo so that the attention focuses on your subject
– you don’t want to spend $310

buy some white tissue paper and a piece of white posterboard. the box size is up to you, depending on your intended use. on the two sides and the top of the box, cut out windows as seen in the above photo. do not gash yourself with the utility knife in the process because big red blood splotches are distracting in pictures. tape up one layer of tissue paper to each window. cut the posterboard to the width of the box and slide it in so it covers the entire back of the box and entire ‘floor’ of the box. you can hold it in place with a couple pieces of rolled up tape near the bottom, though it mostly should stay in place on its own.

that’s it. all you need is a light source. i was eager to try it out and all i had on hand at that moment was a flashlight that came with a power tool set. here’s my setup for the following shots:

where you ‘inject’ the light is up to you and depends on the look you want. i chose to side light the subject, as that tends to beat overhead lighting in terms of depth and detail. here’s what raphael looks like while hanging out in the box:

not bad for three bucks, right? here’s my son’s shoe. as you can see i was hurting for things to shoot. it was late and i just grabbed whatever was near me.

here’s what the same turtle shot looks like if you shine the light directly on it without going through the tissue paper (i.e. no lightbox). here you can notice the giant difference the quality of your light makes in a photograph.

it’s not necessarily a bad picture. the hard light makes for some extra drama and the shadow ended up looking kind of cool. if this were a plate of food it wouldn’t look quite as nice. ok, go make your own. then you don’t have to hire a photographer and you can save tons of money! that is, of course, if you want to try to squeeze all your wedding guests into a cardboard box.

some additional notes for those interested:
– light has color. depending on the light source, you will have different color spectrums. this needs to be taken into consideration when adjusting your white balance, otherwise things might look a little funny. this is not specific to the lightbox, but photos in general. there are bulbs available that mimic daylight that would work well for this but they’re not necessary if you set your white balance correctly.
– turn off your flash! it will defeat the purpose of this thing if you’re flash is firing.

– i shot the photos with my D90 and did minimal post-processing. the photo comes out of the camera pretty much ready to use. here’s a shot with my wife’s canon powershot elph, which is just your basic point-and-shoot camera. you’re iphone or whatever phone camera can be used to take the shots if you want. you’ll be surprised at the quality – light is a huge factor in photography.

– a stronger light source is usually better. you’re not going to have much luck lighting with a 40W bulb.
– the flaps on the box are left on so you can block ambient light if you want to. i’d recommend having the ambient light be low while taking the shot, so as to not mix light colors and mess up the white balance.
– i will be selling these on an as-ordered basis for $8,438.99 each if you want one but don’t feel like making it yourself. order now while supplies last.

the following are shots from my wife’s actual point-and-shoot. the only post processing was just some contrast enhancements and brightness; stuff you can do with any basic free image editing program (i.e. picasa). the content of the photos is nothing to submit to a photo contest, but you get the point that it’s better than using the dining room overhead light.

everyone should bake cookies for me [engagement photos]

you may remember awhile back that i posted a song on the blog that i had written and recorded. it was about a friend of mine in college named cecilia who is quite possibly the coolest girl i’ve known. just a few weeks ago i had gotten an email from her twin sister jess whom i hadn’t yet met. jess got engaged to shawn a few months prior and were looking for a photographer for their wedding. i happened to know one so we hit it off pretty quick.

their wedding is out in october of this year, but they wanted to get together earlier for the engagement shoot so that they could use some photos for the save the dates. jess had her heart set in having the session at lime rock preserve in lincoln, ri. it’s basically a little hiking trail that winds through the woods, goes over a dam, and passes by a lake.

It just so happens that right on the dam is where shawn asked jess to marry him. cool. here’s them standing in the spot where it took place.

after going back and forth with jess a few times in email, it came to my attention that she is a graphic designer. perfect, thought i, who was in the midst of a website redesign. she ended up helping me out big time with transforming my logo and giving me lots of good advice and guidance on what to change and how to change it. i am very grateful for her help. if you haven’t seen the new site, go check it out after you finish reading this post.

jess brought some cool props along which was very helpful. one of the things they wanted to get out of the shoot was photos to use for their save the dates. she had some cross-stitch frames that had the words ‘save the date 10 17 2012’. their plan was to make them into a photo-strip look with four of the pictures. here’s one that ended up getting chosen for it.

another cool prop was a tin can phone, much like the ones you might’ve made as a kid: two metal cans with a string between them. although they might not be the best communication vehicle, i thought they made for some good photos.

lastly, in my opinion, the best prop of the day was a plate of homemade cookies and brownies. part of my sway toward this prop could very well be that they were kind enough to impart bags of the extras to me when the shoot was over. umm, it only took two hours to kill them all off. i’m toying with the idea of making homemade cookies part of the required payment for photoshoots now that i’ve experienced that. i may have to update the pricing page.

I had a good time hiking through the woods even though my hands lost feeling halfway through the shoot. I think they’re going to have a great wedding and I’m really looking forward to it. it’ll be at the pavilion at rocky neck state park in east lyme, connecticut.

head over to the blueflash page to see more pictures of this cool couple in the new album. remember to click ‘like’ while you’re there.

be a fan, be an air conditioner

the time has come to separate blueflash from my personal ‘matthew celeste’ facebook page. i’ve been resisting setting up a business page on facebook for two main reasons.

reason 1 – businesses can’t have friends, they can only be ‘liked’. i like to think blueflash is a friendly business. just being liked seems so selfish. it’s like asking someone to profess their feelings for you and then in return impersonally giving them an update on your life every few days.  visibility initially takes a hit, too. in the current setup, anyone who is friends with me is forced to see my albums of photos pop up in their feed. hopefully it’s at just the right time when their sister’s friend’s teacher’s brother’s officemate’s daughter has just gotten engaged and needs a photographer for the wedding. now that that will only happen if that person ‘likes’ the blueflash page. also, asking someone to ‘like’ your page seems so desperate and needy, but i will shamelessly be doing just that.

reason 2 – have you ever dealt with facebook’s photo uploader in mass quantities? it is horrendous. it crashes more often than windows 98 (sorry for the nerd joke). there’s no way to transfer albums from one facebook account to another, so i was forced to re-upload about 45 albums. 45! it’s really my fault. i should’ve done a business page from the very beginning and i would’ve never run into that problem.

i’ll be quite honest, my biggest concern is starting this page and having the left column read “3 people like this”, one being me, the other my wife, and the other my dad. that’s why i need you. i’m not asking you to join the army, just to ‘like’ the blueflash page on facebook. i know, ask not what you can do for blueflash, but what liking the blueflash page on facebook will do for you. well, let me tell you what’s in store for you, my potential page liker…
in addition to hearing the latest cutting-edge news about your favorite photography outfit, catching glimpses of brand new photos before the ~push my nose up into the air just a bit more than normal~ general public, and being alerted that the blog contains a new update that you must rush over to read, there will be a prize to be had.
when the blueflash page hits 500 likes, one of those first 500 loyal fans will win a free blueflash session. it can be an engagement shoot, trash the dress, a kid shoot, family, model shoot if you’re an aspiring model, or if you really want i can come over and take pictures of your stamp collection. that’s a $250 prize, peeps. if you want to up your chances, you can do any (or all) of the following:
– share the blueflash page on your wall
– have a blog? blog about it and post the link to it on the wall
– tweet the heck out of it, using the #blueflash hash tag
– post on the wall what kind of shoot you would use the prize for if you won

check back regularly, all blueflash related updates will be there instead of on my personal facebook page. tell your friends, especially the ones with a wedding coming up.

now i can officially say – like us on facebook.


the first day was awesome, ending with about 130 likes and a bunch of re-shares, tweets, and buzz. thanks so much to everyone for your support!

the ugly stick

sometimes you know something but don’t want to admit it to yourself. it can be something you see every day but you conveniently stash it away in the ‘voluntary ignorance’ portion of your brain. maybe you ignore it because if you acknowledge it, you’ll have to deal with it. maybe you ignore it because if you acknowledge it, you would basically be admitting that you had failed at something in the past.

after numerous therapy sessions and sorting through the various psychological aspects of the situation, i recently made the admission i’ve been avoiding for almost two years: my blueflash website has been hit really hard with the ugly stick. have you seen it? it was bad. it looked like it was geared toward videogame playing teenage boys. it was dark (black, to be specific), with blueflash written out in blue graffiti chalk letters at the top. check out the landing page below (there was a slideshow in the big blank spot below the header).
the about page had a picture of my reflection inside of my friend allyssa’s sunglasses, the contact page had a picture of an empty phone booth, and the pricing page was a mess of plain text next to irrelevant photos of random stuff. did i mention it was dark and claustrophobia-inducing? it was.

with prodding from my wife and some help from a future blueflash bride who happens to be a graphic designer, i’ve overhauled the website and am very happy with the look and feel of it compared to its previous state.

my favorite new part of the website is the revamped ‘about’ page. i shot the photo of myself in the basement with my studio lights, tripod, and a white bed sheet for a background. i then brought myself into photoshop and cut away the background, leaving just yours truly. the next step is a very advanced graphic design technique – to create the notebook paper background, i executed the following procedure:
1) got a piece of notebook paper
2) wrote on the piece of notebook paper
3) crumpled up the piece of notebook paper
4) un-crumpled the piece of notebook paper
5) scanned the piece of notebook paper

i then dropped me onto the scanned image in photoshop and looked at the final product with a satisfied feeling. there were some detours along the way, like first creating this picture of me, me, me, me, me, me, and me.

i added a form on the ‘contact’ page so people can directly send a message. now people don’t have to go ALL the way to their webmail to contact blueflash. if laziness was a deterrent in contacting blueflash in the past, let it be no more. the portfolio landing page got a facelift, each category getting a sporty little photo to represent it.

i also did some not so obvious things, like overhauled all three portfolios and getting them totally updated. i kicked out some old pictures that didn’t belong in there anymore while i was at it. i updated the clientspace section to get that totally up to date, too.

i’d love it if you could spend a little bit of time and poke around the new site. feedback is awesome, good or bad. it’d be super helpful to hear your opinion(s) so i can improve it even more. leave a comment on the blog or use the handy dandy new contact form on the website to let me know what you’re thinking. thanks!

grammy award winner blueflash

2011 is over and the votes are in. blueflash has, for the second year in a row, won the “bride’s choice awards” for 2012 from the fine folks at weddingwire/martha stewart weddings/project wedding/best city weddings/bridal buds/wedding aces. why all the slashes and company names? because they’re really all one company under the martha stewart empire.

for you skeptics out there, here’s the badge to prove it:

Weddings, Wedding Venues
2012 Bride's Choice Awards | Best Wedding Photographers, Wedding Dresses, Wedding Cakes, Wedding Florists, Wedding Planners

what the heck is the bride’s choice award and who cares if blueflash won it two years in a row? well, i can answer the first part of that question for you. this award is given to the top 5% wedding vendors in the country. ok, here’s the truth: nobody actually votes. well, people do, but indirectly. the opening line of this blog entry was for dramatization purposes, kind of like when the photo of the cereal on the box is ‘enlarged to show detail’. as a side note, how great would it be if cocoa puffs really were that big?

anywho, the way they decide who gets this award is based solely on reviews from previous clients. who better to decide if a company is any good or not? the ratings are a star system, from 0 to 5 for multiple categories including professionalism, quality, value, etc… it also allows for a little write-up where the client can put down some of their thoughts about their experience.

i am proud to say that blueflash currently has 38 reviews on record and every one of them is a perfect 5 out of 5 stars. i’m not bragging, it’s just nice that when you put your guts into something and try to do the best job you can do for the people that hire you and they respond positively, it’s cool.

i want to thank all the good people that have used blueflash over the past few years and given me the opportunity to record some images for you. i am especially appreciative of liz and dale, the couple who had enough confidence in my (at the time) meager portfolio to sign me for my first wedding. that took guts.

here’s to 2012. i hope people keep saying nice things about blueflash.

steph and bryan are expecting [ri maternity]

steph emailed me one day asking if i could do her maternity photos for her. she then proceeded to tell me that she is a photographer herself, which caused me to immediately search for her website and look at her stuff. after that, i felt a bit intimidated to shoot for someone else who knows what they’re doing.

although intimidating, i also thought it was cool that a fellow photographer deemed me worthy to shoot her personal photos. after talking a little bit we realized we are both cranstonites and actually went to the same high school, although different years.

we started to talk about ideas for the shoot and where it would take place. initially she wanted to search around the city for cool christmas light displays and use those as backdrops. that idea was scrapped when she found out bryan, her husband, was getting them a room at the nylo in warwick for her birthday which was right around the shoot date. we decided to use the cool architecture and unique rooms at the hotel for the location.

the nylo is  a modern hotel with a rough feel from the exposed cement and ductwork everywhere you turn. the lobby has furniture like nowhere else – most notably hanging spherical seats with a blue and white striped pattern on them. they’re pretty cool over there about letting you roam around and use their facility for a photoshoot. sprawling out on their couches and seats in the restaurant area didn’t even make them blink. it probably helped that it was nine or ten in the morning, not quite rush hour for dinner.

the bookshelves in the lobby were useful to us since steph is a librarian at a public school in cranston. we used whatever we could find inside the building and in the room they had rented and then ventured out to the deck off the back of the building that juts out onto the pawtuxet river. it looks out at the old industrial mill buildings that are mostly no longer in use. the nylo itself is a renovated mill building. it got washed out and shut down a couple years ago pretty badly in ‘the flood’ due its proximity to the overflowing river.

steph and bryan, enjoy the ride with a new baby, it’s crazy and awesome. thanks for choosing me to do your photos. (to see some cool HDR shots of the nylo that i did awhile ago, check out this facebook album . also, make sure to check out steph’s photography at her website!)

a hot air balloon ride for babies [ri baby]

our friends pasha and olga asked if i would take some shots of their daughter fiona. i said yes, on one condition – i shoot ezra’s pictures at the same time. not unlike the contractor whose home is never really finished or the mechanic with a junker for a car, i am the photographer with not that many ‘professional’ photos of my own kid.

sure i have a ton of pictures of him, probably more than i could look at in an entire day, but they’re mostly snapshots. they may be snapped with a nice camera, but they’re not deliberate photos that get edited, cleaned up, and processed afterwards. shooting ez with fiona was a good way to make sure i took some good pictures of my son.

we (tara, ezra, and i) met up at the smith appleby house in smithfield which is actually where me and tara got married three and a half years ago. it was a couple hours before dusk so the sun was getting pretty low and making some cool light at severe angles.

pasha and olga had picked up a bunch of balloons, a big basket, a frame, and some other miscellaneous props to use. as you can see from the pictures, we used them all. i think we got some good shots of the two of them. it’s crazy how fast sub-one year olds grow up. no matter how many pictures i take, i feel like it’s not enough.

john and rachel at the casino [ri wedding]

a couple weekends ago i had the privilege to shoot a wedding of friends of mine, john and rachel. they got married at the roger williams casino on a saturday in february. following suit with the rest of this weird, near snowless, oddly warm winter in new england, the temperature and sun made the day feel more like april.

the day started at two o’clock in the guts of the casino, down by the kitchen area where there is a room for brides and their bridesmaids to get ready. it’s a little weird to send the soon-to-be bride through the hallways of the basement to dodge the silver trays being whisked around by the catering company, but it’s the only way to get to and from the ‘getting ready’ room.

then plan was to do the formal shots before the ceremony to take advantage of the fleeting february daylight. part of the photos included a ‘reveal’ since john was going to see rachel before the ceremony. we took a three minute ride from the casino over to the botanical gardens and felt like we had transported to the rain forest. it was so hot and humid i was surprised it didn’t start raining in that building. i scoped out a spot to use for rachel to come around and for john to see her wearing the dress. i shot over her shoulder as john turned around, hoping to capture his love-stricken face when he saw his almost-wife. hopefully he noticed her before he noticed me. i was, after all, wearing a very nice tie.

the bridal party were very gracious to accommodate me in the short amount of time we had to do photos. we did a speed session at the gardens and then piled back into our caravan and headed to the temple to music, which is a giant stone structure right near the water. an employee at the casino advised me not to go there for pictures, saying they wouldn’t come out good and referencing a photo on the wall from a past wedding. that made me want to go there so much more. they should replace the picture on their wall with this one:

the reception was upstairs in the casino, complete with live jazz band which supplied the perfect soundtrack for the environment. stand-up bass, saxophone, electric guitar, and drums carried the night with some occasional female vocals. this was my second wedding at the casino and both of them had live bands. i don’t think it would be right to have a wedding there without one.

for you dessert lovers and rhode islanders, you would have swooned at the (very) long table saturated with every kind of cake imaginable from federal hill’s pastiche. in addition to that was a bunch of candy, biscotti, and, although not edible, an old typewriter that served as a cool guest book.

best of luck to john and rachel in their new married life, and thanks for having me be a part of your wedding…

riley – year two

i took riley’s one year photos last year and met up with bob and jen in a remote field someplace that i can’t even remember the city it was in. that blog post is here if you’d like to brush up on your riley history.

this year riley was on her feet walking around. she shy at first, not really being able to recall in her long-term memory at two years old and remember who i am. i brought a greeting gift of a few balloons, hoping that would break the ice between the two of us that’s formed over the last twelve months of no communication. i think it helped a little.

although riley was bigger than last time, she was still small as far as human beings go. observe in the photo below.

we ran around the streets of providence using whatever showed up that looked good. jen and bob has prepped riley for the photoshoot and had been referring to me as “mr. flash” to riley, so that’s what she knows me by. mister flash. i might put that on my new business cards.

as a dad myself, i’m really partial to this shot.

we spent a good deal of time shooting and riley was a good sport until the very end. not sure if she was really feeling the moment right at this point in time though…

riley picked up a few part time hours as a security guard for whatever’s behind this big door while we were in providence. she’s pretty intimidating with the yellow balloon.

once in awhile riley would decide to just let loose on the sidewalk and break out in dance.

i leave you with a few of my favorites, looking forward to next year…

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