Costa Vida Life – Coastal Life Photography – Serving the Florida Keys and Worldwide » Serving the Florida Keys - Key Largo, Marathon, Islamorada, To Key West

Island Love Stories -Couples Needed

Ahhh the Summer of Love! A very hot and steamy one at that down here in the Keys, and I’m looking for COUPLES!



Hey everyone I have a project that has been a “baby” of mine for a very long time. I think that it is about time to bring it into fruition. Actually this project is the first of a few that Ive been wanting to start for awhile but I think it only appropriate to start with this. This project, in particular, is extremely dear to my heart because as long as Ive loved photography (which has been Forever)… Ive had this “idea of love” in my head. It started when I was in 6th grade and I met this elderly couple who were just hands down, head over heels, madly in love with each other. The way they spoke to one another, looked at each other, took care of each other…mesmerized me. I know I wasn’t sure of what LOVE was at that moment…and it took me this long to actually find it myself.. but I believe I know now, what it meant and how important they were to one another. I think now that I have my own love story, I can begin to really understand what it means to share a life of love with someone, to understand what it means to have a true, unconditional, love & respect of them and to treasure and nurture a relationship,  like the one I witnessed so long ago.

How special and amazing and rare, true love can be.

So with that being said… anyone who would like to be a part of it please contact me. I’m looking for COUPLES. Couples with a story. Ok,  yes everyone has a story… BUT I want a TRUE, AMAZING, REAL, “I’d Die for You”  LOVE STORY. The couples I’m looking for have these qualities-ANYTHING GOES! You could be Older or Younger, Wise or  Innocent, Straight or Gay, Tall or Short, Skinny or Thin, Black or White, Purple or Red,  Athletic or Couch Potatoes….WHATEVER OR WHOMEVER….. I just want YOU BOTH and your STORY!

This is an open ended project at this time, so if you know of anyone with a Fantastic, Timeless, Whirlwind, Romantic-Like-A-Movie Love Story ( ie: The Notebook – ok maybe not THAT dramatic or maybe it is) … Email me! If you have grandparents here on the island that you just can’t wait to tell me their story…or your a newly engaged bride with a story of your own and would like to participate in my project please let me know. Even if you are a couple that doesn’t have a super long history together… or you have been together forever… I want to know what it was that brought you together, what keeps you together…and WHAT it is,  that THING, that made or led you two to fall in love with each other.  When was it, that precise moment, that you knew they where THE ONE. Oh and of course…. why can’t you live without them!

Send me an email… write out your story.. or a story of someone that you know.  I’m recruiting you, my friends to find these people for me. 😉 I can’t wait to hear what everyone has to say and get started!

*This is a photo journalistic/writing project that  I’m hoping will be published.  For the couples that participate, you will get a complimentary photo shoot together with a favorite photo, your choice, for a keepsake or memento, if you will.

For those of you who are in love with TRUE love, as much as I am

… I think you will enjoy the end result.

I can’t wait to get started!




* Basically what I am needing from you is your story. How you met, what attracted you to one another, how long you have been together, date of anniversary, etc.(his/her version)

*Then,  I want you separately to write something that you love about each other. Something simple. First thing that pops in your mind. (his/her version)

*What is your  most favorite thing to do together. ( your version/his version)

*Also one thing from both of you that you think is the SINGLE most important ” thing” to keep your relationship going strong. How you make each other laugh when sad, mad … etc. Basically anything that you would like to share with others.

*Then we will set up a one hour photo shoot and we will go from there.

As you can tell I’m doing a his & her / she said.. he said.. type story book. So its important that you think about it separately. I want your honest feelings of what you feel for that person, what first comes to mind.  What you may say, maybe something they never even knew. Its all in good fun and hopefully you two will enjoy sharing yourselves with one another. I’m very excited to get started.. so start writing. 😉


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Engagement Session Wardrobe & Makeup Guide

1. Wardrobe Guide

We will have specific recommendations depending on the location you choose. However, we want you to wear clothing that showcases your personality. It’s all about styling and planning. The more time you invest in choosing a wardrobe for your photo shoot, the happier you will be with the results. Leaving the details to the last minute creates stress and takes the fun out of the day. Don’t hesitate to consult with us on options for colors and accessories.

  1. Dress: As a general rule, wear solid colors, as stripes and patterns draw attention away from your face. Avoid wearing turtlenecks and large loose clothing, as these often make the neck seem nonexistent and the body seem wider than it is. Shorts or capris have a tendency to make legs appear shorter than they are.
  2. Colors: Solid monochromatic colors are easiest to coordinate but primary or complementary colors also look great and bring energy to the photograph. Darker colors will cause the subject(s) to appear thinner while lighter colors will cause the subject(s) to appear larger. Dark pants or jeans with dark shoes give texture and visually anchor a portrait. When choosing color schemes, consider not only what looks best on you, but also what colors will look best in wall portraits and complement your home’s décor.
  3. Accessories: Keep it to a minimum. Avoid hats, hair ornaments, and sparkly or costume jewelry unless it does not distract from the main subject, you.
  4. Footwear: Avoid running shoes, white socks and heavy footwear. Also, consider fashionable boots, sandals or bare feet for casual photos.
  5. Props: Props help showcase your personality. Some examples of props could be musical instruments and sports equipment.
  6. In general, you should bring at least two to three different outfits to the shoot and we can help you decide what would be most appropriate.

2. Makeup Guide

Looking good on camera doesn’t require a makeup artist, but professional makeup tips help. Even if you prefer a natural look, the camera tends to exaggerate flaws and create artificial ones. Who needs that? These camera-friendly makeup tips focus on makeup application that enhances rather than detracts from your looks.

Makeup tips for camera include an array of corrective and dramatic effects as well as simply enhancing one’s natural appearance. The key is to consider that images are two dimensional, so shadows and highlighted areas may need to be emphasized, de-emphasized or even simulated, for the best overall effect.

  1. Skin, The Canvas: Before you apply makeup, start with smooth, toned and moisturized skin. If necessary, give yourself a facial or scrub treatment. This minimizes uneven or artificial looking makeup application and promotes a healthy, glowing look.
  2. Minimize Shadows: As photos are two-dimensional, the camera ages subjects by enhancing dark, fine lines and wrinkles. To compensate, gently apply a lighter shade of concealer makeup to darker areas: around the eyes, crevices and expression lines. Using upward strokes, next apply a light layer of foundation makeup over the face including lips. Blend makeup at the edges. Except for corrective work, use foundation makeup colors closely matching the natural skin color.
  3. Bronze or Blush: Various makeup effects can be achieved with blush. Bronzer makeup powder is widely successful and produces a natural or lightly sculpted look, depending on its application.
  4. To apply powder blush: blow off excess from the brush and apply lightly to cheekbones and above the outer corners of eyes to the temple. For a makeup application guide, make a wide peace sign with a hand. Rotate 90 degrees towards your nose. Palms out, place the point of the “V” at your hairline and align with the corner of your eye and the bottom finger resting on the cheekbone. Focus color at or one finger below this area on the cheek, and at or above this area around the eyes. Apply a second thin layer on checks and blend lightly at edges as needed.
    • **Additional makeup tip: Bronzer makeup can also be applied along the sides of the nose to minimize width. And, a darker shade of blush applied under the cheekbones produces more definition.
  5. Eyes and Lines: Unless you like the look, or have the eyes for it, avoid harsh lines, or the raccoon look, it makes the eyes look smaller and deeper set. Try a smoky-colored eyeliner pencil, and smudge a bit if necessary. With liquid eyeliner, an option is to dot the eyeliner next to the eyelash base rather than create a solid line. For a different look, limit liquid eyeliner application to the top eyelid and/or the outer corners of the eyes. Smoky eye shadow applied above the eyelids and blended with the outer corners of the eyes also creates a desirable effect; a highlighted brow area enhances this effect.
    • **Additional makeup tip: To soften lines, lightly swipe the lid and brow area once or twice with a powder makeup brush dipped in light pink blush.
  6. Lips: Most lips benefit from definition, even when lipstick is not generally used. For a natural but polished look, try a shade or two darker than your lip color, apply lip pencil, smudge lips a bit and apply a little gloss, or lipstick.
    • **Additional makeup tip: Apply a lighter lip color or gloss only to the center of lips to enhance a pouty look.
  7. Powder: When Not to Shine: Apply a light dusting of translucent powder over your face to avoid shine and set makeup. Concentrate on the T-zone as necessary, and apply sparingly to lined or dry areas.
  8. Eyebrows: Before applying makeup ensure that the eyebrows are properly shaped as they affect facial expression. For a guide, align a pencil vertically along the edge of nostril and inner corner of the eye. Do the same for the outer corner of the eye. This makes a good start and endpoint for the eyebrow. If the eyebrow arch needs help, align the pencil with the edge of the nostril and the outer edge of the iris to determine the highest point of the arch. Tweeze stray brows outside these areas and use an eyebrow pencil for even more definition. However, it is best to avoid significant tweezing just prior to applying makeup.
  9. Red Eyes: To brighten the whites of the eyes and minimize redness line the inner lower eyelid with a light blue eye pencil.

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Common Photography and Equipment Misconceptions

1. A Brief Overview

There are many misconceptions regarding photography and photography equipment. We often hear questions like, “How many megapixels do I need?”, “Which is better, Canon or Nikon”, “Should I (or my photographer) use a crop frame or full frame camera?”, “Is digital or film better?”

We wrote this article to help explain and correct some of these common photography misconceptions.

2. Megapixels Megashmixels – Don’t Get Caught up in Megapixel Marketing

For years, camera companies have marketed their products to consumers by primarily touting the number of megapixels. However, megapixels are not a measurement of the quality of the images; the number simply determines the printable size.

For example, a 3 megapixel camera can print a 5×7, while an 8 megapixel camera can go up to an 8×11 without any post production sharpening. However, any sharp image above 8 megapixels can be enlarged to any size with a little bit of post production preparation.

However, the quality of your print is determined by the quality of the image sensor, not the megapixels. Thus you can have a lovely 8×10 print come out of an 8 megapixel camera, while you might have a terrible looking 8×10 print come out of a 15 megapixel camera. So, be sure to look at the quality and type of camera rather than just the megapixels.

3. Large Raw Vs. Small Raw

Contrary to common belief, shooting LRAW (Large RAW) vs SRAW (Small RAW) does not provide you higher quality images. The megapixel count simply determine the largest print size when coming straight from the camera. SRAW can be printed directly from the camera at approximately 9 x 13 while LRAW can be printed up to 12 x 18. However, a SRAW image can always be enlarged to print at any size. In addition, virtually every image printed larger than a 8 x 10 will require enlargement touch ups as there can be many flaws in images that aren’t noticable as a 4 x 6, but are as a 12 x 18 print.

However, there are several downsides to shooting in LRAW. The first and most important being the decreased low light performance. Shooting in SRAW significantly improves noise handling when shooting in low light situations. Typically, 75% of weddings are shot in what is considered low light situations. Preparation, indoor ceremonies, receptions are all low light environments. Thus, shooting in SRAW will actually provide higher quality images in all of these situations.

The other obvious disadvantage to shooting in LRAW is the increased usage of space. This causes the photographer to have to swap out cards twice as much during a shoot, possibly causing him/her to miss moments. In addition, it also slows down post production workflow as well as causes problems when clients try to print from such large file sizes as many common labs such as Costco, will not accept files larger than 10 megabytes.

Thus there are no downsides to shooting in SRAW and because of the improved noise handling and higher quality low light images we shoot in the SRAW format.

4. Canon vs. Nikon – Two Great Camera Systems

While our studio uses Canon cameras and equipment, both Nikon and Canon make great professional camera bodies and lenses. When people ask, which camera is better, there is really no clear cut answer to the question. The fact is, both manufacturers make great cameras overall, with subtle differences. For example, Nikon cameras typically have more autofocus points than Canon. However, the difference is more of a preference than one in quality.

While each camera maker takes turns of being on top, in the long run, they are both equal. Prior to the release of Nikon’s D3, Canon was on top with the 1D series cameras. Since the release of the D3, Canon was behind until the release of the 5D Mark II. It has always been, and will be this type of environment in the professional photography market. When you ask, “which camera is better,” it really simply depends on the month and year you ask. But in general, both camera systems are amazing and professional quality.

5. Full Frame vs. Crop Frame Sensors

Sensor format is often a big question in consumers’ minds. Should professional photographers be using camera bodies with full frame sensors such as in the Canon 5D or Nikon D700, or a crop frame sensor such as in a the Canon 40D or Nikon D300.

While generally, you will get overall higher image quality and better low light performance out of a camera body with a full frame sensor, nice crop frame sensor camera bodies can also produce amazing professional quality results. The truth of the matter is that it depends more on the photographer and their technique than the camera itself.

There are many amazing professional photographers that shoot on Canon 40Ds and Nikon D300s. In fact, a large portion of our shots are taken on Canon 40Ds, as they are our secondary camera. Bottom line, it depends on the photographer and their technical skill.

However, it should be noted that professional photographers should be using AT LEAST a Canon 40D or Nikon D300 (or equivalent) as their primary camera body as those cameras could be considered the first level of professional camera bodies. Currently, Nikon’s top of the line camera models are the D3 and D3x, while Canon’s is the 5D Mark II and the 1D series.

5. Digital vs. Film

A few years ago, we might have been able to make the argument that it makes more sense sticking with film, rather than digital. However, today the professional photography scene is much different. While there are still certain situations where film performs more favorably than digital, the overall quality and advantages of digital over film make the choice relatively straight forward.

Shooting digital allows professional photographers to have virtually unlimited storage capabilities and thus take more shots (though this is not always a good thing – see our article on quality over quantity). Today, professional photographers can shoot 2,000-3,000 images in a single day using digital where as with film, it was unheard of to exceed 1,000.

What does this mean? Well, with more images, you generally will have more choices to select from. Thus the photographer can choose the best of three shots, rather than just having to accept whatever shot he had of the moment.

Digital also allows the professional photographer to “chimp,” or preview, the shot straight in the camera. This allows them to quickly remove any poor shots, as well as to be creative and test their exposures right on the spot.

The digital workflow is similar in theory to the film days. Previously, we were developing film in the dark room; today the dark room has simply moved to our computers. However, the techniques of dodging, burning, brightening, levels, etc are largely the same.

So, because of the overall quality of digital, the ability to create and test on the spot, improved workflow, and much more, our studio now shoots only digital.

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My Camera Bag

I believe, and I will always believe, that there is so much more to wedding photography than just nice equipment. However, that is not to say your wedding photographer shouldn’t have nice equipment. Here is our list of my professional equipment.  Besides the equipment listed below, we have a variety of tripods, filters, and other accessories.

1. Cameras

Starting with camera bodies, our studio uses the most current and high-performing wedding photography camera bodies available to date, the Canon 5D Mark II.

  1. Primary camera body: Canon 5D Mark II
  2. Backup camera body: Canon 50D

3.  Lenses

Our studio purchases only high-end professional L quality lenses in order to get the best sharpness, contrast and saturation straight from our camera. Our lenses consist of multiple:

  1. Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS USM Telephoto
  2. Canon 24-105mm F/4 L USM IS Zoom
  3. Canon 50mm F/1.4 USM Portrait
  4. Canon 17-40mm F/4 L USM Ultra Wide Zoom
  5. Canon 15mm F/2.8 Fisheye
  6. Canon 100mm macro F/2.8 USM

4. Lighting

  1. Canon Speedlite 580EX Flash
  2. Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash
  3. Pocket Wizard Plus II Remote Trigger
  4. Dynalite studio flash head
  5. Dynalite MP500 Powerpack
  6. Portable hand held video lighting

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Hiring “Uncle Joe”

A Fictional Story Based on Real Events

While the names and locations in this story are fictional, it is based on real and unfortunate wedding photography horror stories that we have heard first hand from friends, contacts, wedding guests, clients, etc.

It Always Starts with the Same Line

“My Uncle Joe has an amazing camera, I think I am going to just pay him $500 to shoot my wedding.” While Uncle Joe may be very good, here are a few reasons to go with the professional.

Wedding photography is so much more than just having a nice camera. Uncle Joe may have a nice camera, in fact, let’s say Uncle Joe is a lawyer and photography is his passion. So, not only does he have a nice camera, but he has the best camera money can buy at the moment, the Canon 5D Mark II ($2,700). Even more so, Uncle Joe loves shooting in his spare time so much that he even bought a full set of Canon L Series lenses and accessories ($15,000).

Already, we are assuming that this Uncle Joe is much more prepared than 99% of the Uncle Joe’s out there. Now let’s assume that Uncle Joe frequently goes out, once or twice a month and shoots nature and urban scenes with all of his great equipment. Uncle Joe even had some of his work published.

Wedding time comes, and Uncle Joe is feeling great and confident that he is going to do an awesome job. Uncle Joe starts with some outside shots of the preparation location and everything is looking good. Then Uncle Joe steps inside where the preparation is taking place. Uncle Joe doesn’t like manually exposing his pictures, so he shoots with the cameras help. Unfortunately, the camera is only so smart.

Uncle Joe starts snapping preparation shots and notices that his lens isn’t wide enough. So, he quickly goes out to the car to swap out his lenses since he wasn’t anticipating this problem. When he gets back, the bride’s makeup is done, and now they are working on the hair. Uncle Joe didn’t take any time to check out the lighting prior to the shoot, so he has no off camera lighting, or any additional lighting equipment. So, Uncle Joe figures that he can just raise his ISO settings super high so that he can capture enough light to properly expose the scene. This works, however, little does he know, that every picture shot will be too grainy to blow up beyond a 4×6 print.

Uncle Joe now heads over to shoot the groom. Uncle Joe looks at the scene and adjusts his camera settings based on what the camera reads. Unfortunately, because there was so much black in the scene from the suits, the camera was over exposing all of the shots to compensate. Uncle Joe didn’t realize though, and just kept chugging away.

Let’s say this is a simple wedding and now it’s time for the ceremony. Uncle Joe scopes out a great spot, pops on his zoom lens, and waits. The groom makes his way in, and Joe shoots him like a pro snapping 50 shots as the groom is coming down the aisle. The only problem is that all 50 shots are out of focus because the subject was walking towards Uncle Joe, and his focus settings were not set for moving subjects.

The father and bride begin coming down the aisle, and just the same, Uncle Joe fires away taking 50 more shots. Again, none of which are crisp and in focus.

The wedding ceremony is going great, and Joe grabs several great shots. But Uncle Joe realizes again, that his camera lens isn’t wide enough, so Uncle Joe runs to his bag to grab a different lens. On his way back, he sees the couple just as they kiss for the first time. Uncle Joe missed it. He also didn’t think to shoot any of the bride or grooms family during the ceremony, as he was trying not to miss anything in the ceremony.

After the ceremony, it’s time for formals. Uncle Joe guides everyone to his favorite spot outdoors where he has a beautiful shot of the view. The subjects are facing away from the sun, so that he can capture the grandeur of the scene. Because the formals are being shot in the bright noon-day sun, Uncle Joe doesn’t realize that the camera is under exposing the entire scene since the background is so bright.

Uncle Joe takes only a few family formal shots, and only one shot of each set. Little to Joe’s knowledge, every shot is coming out too dark and completely underexposed (See below)

Reception time has arrived, and Uncle Joe has already worked 10 hours! He figures that he should relax and enjoy the wedding too since he is family. So, he gives his camera to his young son who loves photography and tells him to shoot.

Uncle Joe is so exhausted that he doesn’t shoot for the rest of the night. I mean, he is helping out the bride and groom so much by saving them money, and doing it for so cheap that he figures it shouldn’t matter anyway.

Since Uncle Joe doesn’t have the software, or even know how to post produce images. He simply gives the bride and groom a DVD with all of the images burned to it. The bride and groom sit down, dying with anticipation and pop the DVD into the computer to start looking through their uncles beautiful work!

100 pictures into the 2,000 pictures Uncle Joe shot, the bride is already in tears, as every photo is too dark, too bright, blurry, or just not that good. Furthermore, the bride and groom notice that there is no shot of their first kiss, and the only reception shots were of Uncle Joe’s son shooting all of the kids at the reception.

While this story in particular is fictional, each one of the events and outcomes are from real situations that we wedding photographers hear about all of the time. In fact, so many of our client’s guests have approached us during a shoot to tell us about their “Uncle Joe” experience, and how they wish they had hired us to shoot the wedding. So, why does this happen to Uncle Joe? Because the bottom line is, while Joe had all the professional gear (which is unlikely in the first place), and experience shooting nature and outdoors scenes he doesn’t have the following:

  1. The ability to quickly adjust his camera settings based on different lighting scenes. Most of the time wedding photographers have 2-3 seconds to adjust settings on the fly, any more than that, and the wedding photographer is almost guaranteed to miss something.
  2. The knowledge of how his camera reads and interprets light in order to compensate for under or over exposure. In these situations the wedding photographer must rely on his experience rather than the camera’s readings.
  3. The foresight to be prepared for each situation with a secondary camera prepped with a different type of lens. Professional wedding photographers will always scope out the wedding venue and scenes prior to the wedding and plan ahead.
  4. The carrying cases needed to always have his necessary equipment and accessories on him at all times. Professional wedding photographers will always have their equipment readily available on their person, or nearby.
  5. Experience shooting fleeting moments that you only have one chance to capture. A first kiss typically only lasts 1-2 seconds, and you don’t necessarily know exactly when it is going to happen. The wedding photographer must be staring through his lens, ready and prepared for this moment to happen.
  6. Experience and knowledge required to anticipate angles and approaches to each scene. Knowing where to stand, and what angles to shoot is something that only comes from experience.
  7. The energy to work non-stop for 12-18 hours without breaks. This is a wedding photographer’s job, they don’t rest or take breaks. Our team staggers their breaks during non-crucial moments of the day, and even then there is always one or two additional wedding photographers shooting while one is on break.
  8. The ability to create unique lighting scenes, and supplement natural light with his own lighting. Understanding light and lighting is something that comes from study, training and experience. Being a master of lighting is impossible unless you have tried shooting in every possible lighting situation.
  9. Experience in guiding and directing large group formals. This is where the wedding photographer’s personality and tact are so important. How do they interact with the bride, groom and their family.
  10. The knowledge of advanced focus techniques.
  11. Experience in taking extra shots of crucial pictures such as during formals in case of blinking, awkward expressions, etc.

In addition to all of this, there is so much more that Uncle Joe would need in order to take professional quality wedding photographs from start to finish.

While are there a lot of areas in your wedding budget that you can save money on, wedding photography should not be one of them. If you want to have professional- quality, creative imagery of your wedding day that will be timeless heirlooms to be shown and handed down to your generations to come, you will need a professional wedding photographer.

Often times, wedding photography studios such as our own, will work with clients in customizing their packages in order to fit within their budget. If that is the case, choose quality over products. Choose to have 2 photographers rather than just one, and forgo the album, prints and slideshows for now. We understand that newlyweds are often on a budget, as they are starting their new lives together. So, wait on the products until later in your life. Three, four, even five years from now when you and your family is well established, go ahead and order that album, or those large prints. It might be better to wait to buy gorgeous and real imagery, than to have low quality photography slapped into an album and ready for you when you get back from your honeymoon.

To sum it up, while you can always order products later, you can never order better quality and more creative imagery after your event.

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