My New Lens | Canon 50mm 1.2

The 50 f/1.2… ahhhh!!!

There are only a few phrases available in the English language that convey how much I love my new camera lens. I find myself saying things like, “Are you kidding me?”, “Duuuuuddddeee, that’s amazing!”, “It’s a beautiful thing… simply beautiful” & “Wicky, wicky, uh!” (sorry… when I get really excited I have a habit of saying ‘wicky, wicky, uh!’ as if I were a white rapper & scratching a vinyl record on my turntable resulting in the ‘wicky, wicky, uh’ sound). Back to the lecture at hand, all I’m saying is that as a photographer, the quality of light at 1.2 is gorgeous. I’ve yet to shoot at any other aperture since putting the lens on. It’s quickly becoming my favorite lens. If you want a great post on the 50 1.2, check out my friend Melissa Jill’s post here.

Although I haven’t shot a session with it yet, I’m looking forward to doing so tomorrow. I’m super stoked. But, in the meantime, I had to play around with it around the house. Here are some shots from last week:

Here’s Brennan in our ’89 Wagoneer.

My little man, Knox, with his crazy baby giggle.

Brennan is looking like a little model; I wish I had some yellow pants like that.

My dad with Knox & Capri, our friends Don & Alison Nation’s little girl.

Next thing I know, Brennan is running around pantless in the back yard. Knox was busy swinging when I caught his attention.

My lovely bride with our Knox, aka Little Ben.

Saturday night we went to see our friends Gil & Melanie Balch & their little girls, Isabelle & Ava. We grilled burgers & played our guitars on the front porch… good times indeed! Gil has instruments all over the house; Brennan knows what to do with a guitar.

Gosh… I love these kids.

Melanie & Isabelle; I love that look she’s giving me.

The newest little Balch girl, Ava.

Look at those eyes… wow!

Gil is one the most talented guys I know. Aside from his ability to grow the perfect beard, he can play practically every instrument out there… incredible.

Here is a great example of shooting in fairly low lighting conditions, yet at 1.2, it’s no problem.

Knox, our little dinosaur.

Hudson & Harrison

I met up with Hudson Hilton the other day & he wanted to find a special way to introduce everyone to his new little brother, or “brudder,” Harrison Cooper Hilton… so come on in…

Here’s the little guy… Harrison Cooper. He is the latest arrival for Ben & Jennifer Hilton. He was such a great baby; so easy to shoot. When they arrived, I picked him up & bounced him in my arms & within minutes he was asleep.

This pic really shows his red hair… just like his momma! I’ve known Jennifer (their momma) as far as I can remember; she’s always a pleasure to be around! Her & her husband, Ben, live in the Atlanta (Buckhead) area.

This cracked me up… when I laid him down, he immediately turned his face down.

Here are the two boys together.

The Hilton’s are huge Georgia fans; apparently it runs deep on both sides of the family.

Thanks so much Hilton & Wear crew. I had a great time photographing these two boys.

Caleb Seth McIntosh Smith | 1 yr pics

Primed up for his 1-year pics was the little man, Caleb Seth McIntosh Smith. You may remember his little grin from back in November at Isaac & Ashley’s wedding.

Isaac & Ashley were celebrating Caleb’s first birthday & wanted to make sure to capture images from this stage of life. I met up with Ashley & Caleb on Friday at their home. I always prefer going to someone’s home when doing newborn/toddler/children photography.  The kids are much more free & their personality is always reflected in the images. Here are some of my favorite pics from the shoot. As Ashley was getting Caleb ready, he was loving on his momma!

I always enjoy capturing images like this when they aren’t expecting it. Caleb was crawling around under the kitchen table; I thought it was a great opportunity to play peek-a-boo!

Caleb wears a hat better than anyone I know… he’s looking quite studly. And, check out those big beautiful eyes!

I love Caleb’s clothes. I asked him if I could borrow that tie.

I love that look on his face!

Isn’t it amazing the difference one year can make!

Thanks Isaac, Ashley & Caleb! I always enjoy spending time with you guys!

How did I end up here?

How did I end up here? Wow, that’s a loaded question. Recently, I’ve had many inquire about how I ended up doing photography & design. This question has come from those who’ve known me in other occupational roles as well as those who’ve come across my blog & are simply curious.

So… for those who are interested, I wanted to let you in on my life to this point. This picture kind of symbolizes my life up to this point (plus, every post is better with a pic!), I call it, “A Choice to Make, ” [taken inside an old crusader’s castle dating back to the 1200’s, Nimrod’s Fortress, in the northern Golan Heights in Israel].

I was born in Huntsville, AL in ’80 to the wonderful Ralph & Carol Finch, 3 years behind my unbelievably responsible & supportive big sister Amy. We lived in Guntersville, AL until around ’84 when my dad followed his job with TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) to the hills of East TN. I was always drawn to creative things… when I learned to write, I began developing handwritten fonts (btw, I’m such a typography nerd… if I see a business whose logo or promotional material I don’t like, I can’t convince myself to shop there. I once canceled my reservations at a hotel once I saw that they used a certain font I didn’t like… I think I have a problem!). And, I remember as a kid when we’d travel to my grandparents, I would look out of the window & imagine myself taking pictures of the landscapes… I wanted to “save” those images forever. Being artsy & creative wasn’t always very cool, so I suppressed it for years. Opting instead for sports. I grew up with a soccer ball next to my side at all times, resulting in many broken windows, broken lamps, several broken noses, & a few heart to hearts with mom & dad. Good times indeed!

My dream was to play soccer at a Div 1 college, be invited to play for the US National Team, then following my soccer career, be a Veterinarian, Navy Seal, or Astronaut (??? random, I know). All was headed in that direction until my Junior year at McMinn CountyHigh School when I decided to try out for the football team. Before I knew it I was given a nickname, Boomer. I’m totally not kidding. Apparently I excelled above my peers as a kicker & punter. Many looks from big universities came rather quickly & I was forced with a decision to make. Play football & go to a “big” school or pursue soccer & “settle” for a smaller school. Influencing my college decision was a dramatic shift in my life resulting from God graciously showing me my need for Him & showing His kindness toward me in Jesus’ work on the cross. I thus decided to go to the University of Mobile & “settle” to play soccer (but don’t pity the fool, UM was ranked in the top 10). And what a wonderful decision it would prove.

I began as a Marine Science major at UM (still wondering what in the world I was thinking). My Marine Science stint was brief & I soon transferred my studies to the Dept. of Religion & Communications. I was learning a ton about who I was, who I wasn’t (marine scientist) & who I would grow to be. My freshman year I was heavily influence by music & was given my first guitar. My roomies joked with me as I showed off my new song, “Ben, that sounded exactly like the last song you played” (what are roomies for but to humble you!). But, God hooked me up by allowing me to be around  or under the ministry of many gifted musicians & worship leaders: my brothers from other mothers, Nathan Smith & Matt Howard, the ever popular Mike, Jay, Jeremy, Joe, & Jeff (Big Daddy Weave), Darrell Evans (he’s written just about every modern song you’ve ever sang in church), Chris Lockwood (33 Miles) the list goes on & on… Brian Argo, Brad Hill, Joe Langley, Taylor White, Taylor McCall, & more.

Long story short, one day I walking to class & the campus ministry director ran up to me, “Ben, you play the guitar right?”

“Uh, yeah, kind of. I know like 6 chords.”

“Great. Here’s my guitar. Go lead the music for chapel.” Next thing I knew, I was literally standing in front of half of my university singing & playing the guitar (I’m still surprised I wasn’t kicked off the stage). Little did I know at the time that I would be doing that the rest of my college career.

The next few years I spent serving as a worship leader & Bible teacher/speaker for churches, events, conferences, etc. My senior year I met Joy Baldwin (that story is a whole post in itself) & we began to pursue a relationship. I spent several months trying to win over her heart & upon doing so, I was hired by a church in Germantown, TN (7 hours away) who offered to pay for my graduate school. I went on staff at the church & began working on my Master’s degree at MABTS. The next few years were so difficult as Joy & I dated 2+ years long distance & I, at some points, worked 3 jobs in addition to school trying to save for the future. Hence, by the time Joy & I were married, I was practically exhausted.

Fast forward a bit… in 2005, I graduated with a Master of Divinity Degree in Biblical Studies & immediately went into doctoral studies in Organization/Strategic Leadership at Regent University. At this time I really began questioning my vocation but didn’t know what to do.  I served at two churches in Memphis before moving back to East TN to serve at a church. There was so much of this that I really loved but had a strong desire to pursue several hobbies, namely photography & design. I started two part-time businesses, Ben Finch Photography & The Visible Group. People began taking note of my photography & design work by purchasing fine art prints, buying prints from my travels, asking me to photograph family members, & hiring me to design logos/brochures, etc.

In 2008, I stepped down from occupational ministry & worked for a year as a leadership consultant. I traveled often consulting & training leadership/management in medical practices across the United States. During this time I was approached by my employer to develop a leadership curriculum for our accounts. We had such a positive response, we decided to publish it in book form, “A Remarkable Practice.” I still travel on occasion doing motivational seminars & leadership training based upon the book’s content.

In March 2009, I made the plunge. I decided that what most fulfilled me occupationally was being able to be creative even if it meant a drastic sacrifice in salary. Hence, I went full-time with my photography business, Ben Finch Photography, & my marketing & design business, The Visible Group. Since, I have worked like crazy furthering my trade & thanking God for every client that has come my way. Along with that, I have such a strong desire to help others pursue excellence & fulfillment in their lives & jobs. This decision has drastically changed my life, freeing up much time to invest in the things most important, my family, neighbors, relationships… the things that last forever.

So… I’ve learned that it isn’t as important what you do vocationally as it is who you are becoming. I’m so thankful for the journey I’m on & cheers to what’s next!

What’s your story? I’d love to hear; consider this an invitation to connect!

Choosing the Right Photographer

Yesterday I did something for the first time… I attended a bridal fair.

In the past, I’ve avoided such environments. In general, I’m not the biggest fan of the atmosphere that sometimes exists at expos, conferences, etc. There is this unspoken competition between vendors that makes me feel icky… can’t we all just get along? I feel like so many vendors bombard people as they walk through as if to say… “want to sample chicken?” much like the Asian food chain in the mall. Plus… they can be so darn expensive. It blows my mind at how much money is spent on registration, backdrops, promotional material, door prizes, etc. It’s really got me thinking…

Maybe it’s just me, but I am looking for a certain kind of client. I don’t ever try to “close the deal” with a client… in most cases, I say, “Please take some time to think about this… there is absolutely no pressure. If you decide that you love my work & want to work with me, then I would be honored to photograph for you. If not, I have many friends who may be better suited for your preferences.” I learned that I’m not the right photographer for everyone; one size does not fit all. Some clients prefer a really formal, traditional photographer. Some simply want the cheapest rates. Some are looking for a more artistic photographer. And etc. It’s important to know what you are looking for. Photographers have styles & play to their strengths… choose the one whose style is best suited for your personality.

Yesterday, I was approached by a couple who asked, “There are many photographers at this show… how do we know what photographer is best for us?” I replied, “There are many wonderful photographers here. I think it is important to find a photographer whose style & quality you really love & who you personally connect with. Your photographs are going to potentially last well beyond your lifetime… make sure you use someone you trust & enjoy.” I thought it may be helpful to expound on those thoughts.

If you’re considering hiring a photographer, consider thinking through the following:

  • What would you consider your style? Are you drawn to fashion photography? Do you like incorporating nature/landscapes? Do you prefer candid or posed photos? Do you love detail shots?
  • What kind of product are you looking for following your event? Does the photographer make those products available? Album? Coffee table book? Disc of images? Canvas prints? Proof Book?
  • Consider asking the photographer for a list of references. Are they professional? How did they deliver on their services? Are they highly recommended?
  • Does the photographer have a good portfolio? How is their website? Does it portray a lack of cohesion & organization?
  • What is your budget? Can you spread out your payments?
  • Is your event a destination event? Does the photographer travel? What kind of expenses must you provide for?
  • Is the photographer available on your event date? What kind of deposit must he/she have in order to lock in the date? If they are unavailable, do they have someone they’d recommended?

These are the types of questions I love being asked. When a client does their homework, they are much better equipped & informed to make a wise decision.

Fortunately I have experienced success in building my photography business through relationships. Almost all of my clients have come because of referrals. I still want to pursue advertising & fairs/shows when appropriate but I realized that I would rather invest in my relationship with clients than spend extra money on traditional marketing & advertising tools. The greatest compliment I receive is when brides refer my services to others.

I will conclude by saying this, yesterday’s bridal fair at Whitestone Inn was exceptional… the value was well worth it! I would recommend this place to anyone. Whitestone is an incredible wedding, event & special occasion, getaway venue. It is situated on a scenic stretch of land located on Watts Bar Lake & leaves little to be desired when choosing a perfect wedding location.

The outdoor wedding space at Whitestone (taken with my phone… not bad eh?)

Hope this helps! Is there anything else I should’ve included? What are your thoughts?