Monthly Archives: August 2009

I pretty much knew right off the bat that I was going to have fun with these two! Gabby and James are so flippin’ cute together, not to mention a little silly too! I also knew rather quickly that this was going to be a great e-session photographically as well. It was my can’t miss recipe for great photos again…all together now class, “fun/expressive couple madly in love + great location + good light + lots of TIME + me = great photos!” Check and mark!!!! My only problem with today’s shoot, was deciding what photos to post because I liked so many of them! We met up at Princeton University where these two alums graduated from a few years ago. After cruising the streets of Princeton for a bit, we then headed over to the University grounds, which is also where they will be getting married next year. I can’t wait to photograph your wedding next year guys! Thanks for a fun afternoon!

Notice the use of the Princeton colors, black and orange…

…and again, but this time using Gabby and James’ hair for the black. Damn I’m clever!

When I saw this poster I knew I could do something with it. Notice the modern twist with Gabby holding her iPhone instead of a stack of books.

Ok, so, James graduated Princeton in 2004, and Gabby in 2003, do you notice something missing in this photo? hmmm, why doesn’t Gabby’s class have a plaque??? What’s up with that?

While I was editing this photo, I did a double take after looking at James’ right (viewer’s left) shoe…

… do you see a face too? WEIRD!

  • Todd Laffler photographs Gabrielle and James’ engagement | - […] friend Gabrielle Leong just sent me a link to her engagement photo session with photographer Todd Laffler and the images are stunning as usual! Gabby will be getting married next year to her fiance James […]

  • nadya - I see the face! great photos as always!, sincerly blog stalker 🙂

  • Nathan - Love the photos, as always! I think my favorite of the bunch is the shadows on the tree, well executed and a beautiful picture!

  • Shannon Stuno - Great session! I love how you captured fun, intimacy, & creativeness! I am a big fan of sunflares & shadows! So this was right up my alley! Great job! 🙂

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I woke up this morning to the sound of pitter-patter on my roof in the form of rain drops. By the time I got ready for the day, threw my gear in the car, it was still raining. In my head though, I imagined writing this blog post and typing how the clouds suddenly parted, and the sun made this miraculous appearance for the rest of the day and it all ended happily ever after etc.! Well, maybe it wasn’t so clear cut and miraculous, but nonetheless, the rain did in fact stop and held out for the rest of the day! The happily ever after was a no brainer after watching Afia and Dan together too! What an emotional day! There were tears shed at every stage of the day; prep, the reveal, ceremony, and the reception. I love weddings like this! Afia and Dan were amazing to work with and made my job very easy, thanks guys. I also wanted to make sure I gave props to their bridal party, so props to Afia and Dan’s bridal party! Why? Well, it was rather hot and humid today I must admit, but while working with the bridal party, not once, did one person complain about the heat. Usually it’s the groomsmen who will complain first because they have to wear pants AND a jacket, but not these guys. True professionals! The ceremony and reception were held at one of my favorite places, the Liberty House in Jersey City. Congratulations Afia and Dan, enjoy that honeymoon to Turkey and Greece!

I love this shot because the chef on the TV is facing the same way as Afia and is also all dressed in white.

I love the look on Afia’s face as she sees Dan waiting at the end of the aisle.

Sometimes the best seats are in the grass!

I snapped this one during cocktail hour.

Yes, that’s a Michael Jackson glove!

Bell Biv Devoe has to take some responsibility for this shot!

  • Walter van Dusen - Great wedding and photographic coverage…

  • Elaine - Hey Todd,

    Love it,as always.Todd what is your favorite wide angle lens that you shoot with such as on the bride and groom toasting over the table with guests shot? And are you standing on a chair or are you really tall?


  • Todd - Hey Walter, thank you sir! 🙂
    Hi Elaine. Thank you. The shot you are referring to was shot with my 16-35mm (Canon). Probably zoomed all the way out at 16mm. I used to shoot wide angle dance shots with my 15mm fisheye, but invariably someone would ask for a casual photo with their friend or something, so at that point you have to either get a few inches from their face and give them a “Characture” shot, or go back to your bag for the right lens, or carry it on you at all times etc. So, I got this lens so I can do wide angle (at 16mm) shots of dancing, but if someone asks for a photo I can zoom in to 35mm. Not ideal but it does the job. You just have to be careful about not putting anyones face in the corners because it will distort them pretty badly. I was not standing on a chair, nor am I very tall. Actually probably considered on the short side. 🙂 I don’t like standing on the venues chairs if I can help it. So, this is just me up on my tippy toes and extending my “shutter” hand all the way up, not looking through the view finder when I took the shot. It takes some practice to frame things like this blindly, but it can be done.

  • Rosemarie Harris - Phenomenal wedding celebration. I danced soooo much that one of my knees is still sore. 😎
    Auntie Rose

I had just photographed Kerry and Dan a few months ago in Central Park for their engagement session, so I knew this was going to be a great wedding with a great couple! I started out at the Ritz Carlton in Battery Park to cover Kerry getting ready, and then it was on over to Saint Anthony’s Church for their beautiful ceremony. I was running a little behind, so I had to park illegally. I pretty much knew I was going to get at least a ticket, but I must say, my heart was beating a little faster when I got back to the car, because I was afraid the car might have been towed! Phew, just a ticket! Some of the really cool parts of Kerry and Dan’s day were because of Kerry’s father. Kerry’s dad is a retired LT. from the F.D.N.Y. and is also the founder of the Fire Family Transport Foundation, which provides transportation to the families of injured, ill or deceased New York City Firefighters. Well, of course he also provided the transportation (in the form of a 1951 Fire Truck) for the groomsmen to travel in. What style! He also brought in the FDNY Pipes and Drums during the cocktail hour, who were awesome by the way! I can’t remember another wedding where so many people were not just out on the dance floor but tearing that thing up! Very entertaining. The reception took place at the über cool Tribeca Rooftop. Thanks for a great day guys, congratulations! Au revoir, enjoy France!

As a photographer, sometimes mirrors are your worst enemy, and sometimes they are your best friend! Today was a friendly day.

It happens!


Kerry and Dan enthusiastically making their grand entrance into the main room.


Leaving it all out on the dance floor!

I’ve had a few photographers ask me lately if I did any workshops or seminars. I said no, but it did get me thinking about perhaps traveling down that road. So, I have decided to post a glimpse into my thought process while creating a particular photograph. If some of you silent photographer blog stalkers come out from the shadows and show some interest in this, even if it’s a “hey, that was helpful” or even a, “dude, don’t quit your day job” that’s great. If you guys like this sort of thing, I will try to continue with it, and perhaps it will help build the foundation of my future workshops, who knows! And if you have questions about anything regarding the blog post, go ahead and comment, I will try my best to answer them and create a dialogue here on the blog.

While I was out shooting a client’s engagement session the other day I came across a perfect example of how you can turn a less than desirable location into something MUCH better. It’s all about visualizing beyond what’s actually in front of you and figuring out how to accentuate your advantages and down play or even eliminate your disadvantages. I hope to illustrate that here.

So, here is the scene that we walked by. We actually walked by it in the beginning of our session, about 2 hours earlier when the sun was quite a bit higher. This was where the seed was planted in my head. I thought, I bet I could do something with this location later when the sun gets lower. So, I asked my clients if we would be walking back the same way on our return. (I’m not usually a big fan of this as you pretty much see the same stuff you did on the walk out, but I didn’t mind this time, mostly because of this particular location). Anyway, they said yes and I made a mental note to make this the last location of our shoot.

Keep in mind that when I originally walked by this location, the sun was not nearly this low. One of the first things you will notice about this location is that parking lot full of cars. This is a big pet peeve of mine, and I try to avoid ugly parked cars in photos at all times. So, this is certainly one of the negative aspects to overcome. Secondly, there is the nondescript cement walkway here, and then the patch of weeds. When we arrived here the second time in the late afternoon, I quickly noticed one of the biggest positives here, which is the lower sun, just over the ridge there. I love this, as it creates a nice warm light and that cool “halo” effect of rim lighting around the subjects. I also noticed that dark ridge in the background which I knew would act as a nice uncluttered backdrop behind my subjects heads, and would really accentuate that rim lighting. I know I said the patch of weeds was a negative, but it was also a positive too. This enabled me to crop out the cement walk way, after asking my clients to politely jump in the weeds, and I also used them to help me mask out the cars in the background by using a lower camera angle.

Here are 4 quick “bullet points” to my thought process:
1. Yummy warm low sun just above the ridge giving me that rim lighting.
2. Dark ridge in the background which will give a clean backdrop for my subjects heads to pop from, especially with the halo lighting.
3. Patch of weeds to help create some interest and allowing me to get rid of the distracting cars in the background by using a low camera angle. I also found this exact location where the weeds naturally split into a “V” shape, to help create a “frame” around my subjects as well.
4. This is all camera stuff/decisions; Shoot low from this spot to mask out cars, take off the lens hood to help with desired sun flaring, use a shallow depth of field on my 70-200mm to also isolate my subjects, take some test shots and chimping to find a good exposure and setting that in manual mode.

Here are the final photos:

This one (top photo) is a looser crop and I think it really shows the potential of a location when you start maximizing your advantages, while minimizing your disadvantages, and can hopefully help you to start seeing beyond just what’s in front of you.

This one (lower photo) is a tighter crop and more emphasizes the use of the dark background/lighting and “framing” using the weeds.

So, hopefully that was somewhat helpful to you photographers out there. Don’t be shy now, chime in with comments or questions. Also, if you think this might be useful for someone else you know, please send them a link to it:


  • Claude Masselot - Hi Todd, this is an extraordinary lesson. Thank you so much for sharing ! I’m a big fan of your work, and you just did realise one of my biggest wishes : seing you at work ! Can’t wait to read more ! From France, a silent photographer blog stalker, Claude.

  • Brian - Awesome! This speaks directly to my biggest weakness as a photographer – having the ability to transform something absolutely mundane into a stellar picture. As someone who’s never tried shooting into the sun, seeing your camera settings would help too. Keep the tips coming!

  • Nadya - Yes you should do workshops!! I love your blog i check it daily 🙂 . I have a question what would you recommend is a good digital slr for a beginner, not too expensive but reasonable? I have a limited knowledge of SLR when i use to use my film camera but times have changed so i need to learn again! I have been trying to find photography classes but apprently it’s not that easy to find @_@ …. Keep up the GREAT work!

  • Kat Forsyth - Wow, thanks so much for posting this! I never would have thought those weeds were big enough to block out the yucky cars and so on, but you angled it beautifully! Thanks for sharing.

  • Todd - Hi Claude. Thanks so much, glad you got something out of that!
    Hey Brian. Great, that’s what it’s all about. Sometimes (actually most times) we aren’t handed good photographs on a silver platter, so we have to see beyond! 🙂 My settings were :ISO 250, f/3.2 1/640 sec. (loose crop was shot at 78mm, tighter crop at 200mm).
    Hi Nadya. Thanks for the words or encouragement! I don’t think I am any help on camera recommendations I’m afraid. I’m actually not that big of a techie/gear head. In fact the only time I look at that stuff is if I am in the market for something. BUT here is a great place to do your research on cameras: Good luck!
    Hey Kat. You’re quite welcome, glad you found it useful!

  • christine - You make me want to be a photographer too! If only I could capture moments the way you do… I’m not so sure the world would thank me the way they thank you though….

    Love seeing the “before” and “after”shots. Who woulda thought???!

  • Rachel - Thanks for the lesson! Keep it up – I’m a big fan.

  • melissa - hey Todd…. i love hearing about other people’s thought processes. this is a great example! i would most likely join in on a seminar too. 🙂 thanks for posting

  • Brandi - Awesome. This is such a great response to the need for locations.. I always tell people that it is a great exercise to find what looks like awesome/unique locations in unexpected places.

  • jill - I am also a silent blog stalker. I love your most recent post and would love to see more of them. Your blog is my inspiration to be a better photographer and you should definitely consider doing workshops! Can’t wait to see you in action in December. (I am a cousin-in-law to Patrick & Gemma)

  • knot - Thx todd, this is an extraordinary lesson. i really admire your work. keep it up!!!

  • beth - always adore your work and any insider tips are always helpful and encouraging. Thanks for taking the time to post this. I’m always curious about your settings, so anytime you can post those (for any picture) I’d love it! One thing that I cannot seem to nail is white balance while indoors while using flash or ambient light. It’s always just a little off. Can you offer any help there? Do you use custom WB? What kind of lighting at receptions, etc. do you use? I’m getting there, just not all the way yet! Thanks!!!

  • Quelyn - That’s awesome. Tips like that are things that I might not think of when I’m walking around taking pictures. So just putting that in my head is a good thing to know!! Keep up things like this, I would be interested in this or any workshops in the future 🙂

  • matt wilson - Excellent! Keep these coming. Great advise. Sometimes this happens for me sometimes not. But to think of it as “what can I do with this” versus “find the perfect spot” is definitely a good mindset to have. Thanks! I would definitely be down for a workshop. There’s a possibility that we might be living in NJ come May of next year.

  • Todd - Christine, every time you pick up a camera you ARE a photographer! 🙂 Thanks
    Thanks Rachel
    Hey Melissa, your wedding is next in line in the editing queue! :)Thanks for the feedback as well!
    Brandi, Thank you. Yes indeed, sometimes it’s better to see like one of your lenses and not like our eyes do! Kind of actually put some blinders on if that makes sense. 😉
    Hi Jill. You’re a silent blog stalker too? Maybe this will turn into like a 12 step program, “Hi, my name is Jill…and I’m a silent blog stalker” 🙂 Just take it one post at a time! I’m glad you find some inspiration here and found this post helpful.
    Thanks knot, much appreciated.
    Hey Beth. My guess is that the photos where you can’t seem to nail the white balance may be because of too many different light temperatures going on, i.e. flash mixing with incandescent perhaps even some daylight from windows too, not sure. It sounds like that may be your problem and when you have mixed light temperatures, white balance can be a real pain, and those photos can be very easily fixed by simply converting them to black & white. 😉 Barring that you can always start playing around with adding the right gels over your flash to come up with a “common” light temperature in the scene. 🙂 In a nutshell though, I will usually process any image so that the flesh tones look good, and let the chips fall where they may. Or you can always go into Photoshop and start fixing it there too. Receptions, I mainly foof with my on camera flash and will sometimes use a secondary flash triggered via pocket wizards.
    Hey Quelyn, glad it made you think just a little differently about taking photos!
    Thanks Sutejo.
    Hey Matt. Yeah sometimes you just don’t have time or the location to find that perfect spot and you have to think on your feet to come away with some great images. Thanks for the positive feedback.

  • Todd - This is GREAT! It’s really cool having you guys comment, now I don’t feel like I am blogging inside a vacuum! And it sounds as though there is some interest in attending a workshop of some kind as well. I don’t know how long it would take me to put something together, but in the meantime I will try to do more posts like this one when I can.

    Thanks everyone!

  • simon jefferson - Hi, love checking up on the wedding and e-sessions you have been doing. Great lesson here about making the most of the environment you have at your disposal and also about waiting for your moment. I too am a great fan and a bit of a stalker too. I take a lot of inspiration from your images. Keep up the lessons. Simon

  • corey civetta - Beautiful final images! Love your work!

  • Angie Mckaig - Todd, longtime fan/blog stalker – thank you for sharing your tips! Just one question: I’ve been trying to get the knack of shooting backlit like this and always admire your backlit shots. Do you usually use anything for fill flash, or is the great light on the subjects’ faces just from overexposing the shot in camera?

  • Elaine - Todd,
    I am a huge blog stalker of yours! I love your different perspectives that you capture that turn a so so picture into a woooow picture.
    I would love to see more info post like this from you. I will be here!
    Thank you so much for sharing your amazing talent!!!


  • ChristopherDavid - Hey there Todd, I told you so! There are plenty of photogs that would enjoy a TODD workshop! Awesome tutorial and very generous of you to give to the photographic community in this way.

  • Nathan - Thanks for the behind the scenes, I am still shocked that your final images came from that location!

  • Todd - Hey Simon. Thanks for the positive feedback.
    Thanks Corey!
    You’re welcome Angie, glad you found this useful. No fill flash. In general I’m not a big fan of fill flash most of the time, but that’s another blog entry. 🙂 So, to answer your question, yes it’s from “overexposing” the faces. Basically shooting for a good flesh tone “brightness” and letting the chips fall where they may so to speak. This is where that dark background comes in handy. Because it’s so dark to begin with, it can “take” being overexposed and still give a decent tone for the background, hence the “pop”. Just think if the background was very lightly colored, the second you “overexposed” it, it would blow out to pure white, not always a bad thing in my opinion, but, the “halo” of light around their heads wouldn’t stand out as much. Make sense?
    Hi Elaine. Thanks so much, and you’re quite welcome!
    Yep, you were right Christopher! 😉
    Hi Nathan. You’re welcome. Truth be told, I was a little shocked when it all came together as well! 🙂 I love it when a plan comes together! 😉

  • Bernie - You have so much to offer and share.. Do a workshop…… I’ll babysit… LOL, USA MUM

  • bartzi - Thank you so much!
    I admire your work!!!

  • onada - This is awesome Todd!! Thanks for sharing! Definately gives a different perspective on things!

  • meg - another long time stalker here coming out of lurkdom to say what a great post! I have shared it with friends too…

  • Stephanie Arnold - Was linked here =) Loooove this & reading your thought process… will definitely be back for more!

  • Shannon Stuno - Great information! Love the outcome too!

  • Anonymous - awesome tips!! stalker reader as well, but know some of your clients (past and future). keep ’em coming! the tips are super valuable and a workshop would be fantastic.

  • Ashley - Wow! Those final images are amazing and I can’t believe what the actual setting looked like. Great job! I really enjoy tips such as these, so PLEASE keep them coming!!! I’m always trying to learn more!

  • kaity - I loved this tutorial. I am an aspiring photographer trying to learn as much as I can. I stumbled across your blog and I love everything you do. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Jason Davis - Todd, It’s been a while since I’ve dropped by and just discovered these “Inside the Head of Todd” posts, and love them. I’ve know since I first saw your work that you have an incredible gift and I think you would do great with seminar. I know I would love to see you at work and how you are able to make the images you make. Thanks for being such an inspiration. And congrats again on the little bundle of boy joy you, Susan and Zoie are expecting!

  • Anastasia Chase - Found your post through your mention on DWF – great great stuff. Thank you so much for sharing this technique. Time to turn on my creative thinking cap!


  • Jay Razonable - Thank you so much Todd, you truly are an inspiration!

  • Jessica Burdge - so beautiful! I would love a post on ideas for making couples relax and in turn capturing their personalities! Keep up the great work:)

On the way over to meet Casey and Dejan at their apartment in Western New York (which is actually in New Jersey), I looked down at the thermometer reading from my car and it read 100 degrees! Youch! But you would never know the elevated mercury readings by looking at these photos of Casey and Dejan! They were real troopers, and I had fun walking along the water front with them, trying desperately to find some shade! We found a small oasis of shade and also worked with the sun instead of against it too! Thanks for the fun afternoon guys, I am really looking forward to photographing your wedding next year!

I’m fairly certain that I laid in some toxic material while getting this shot, but it was well worth it. Who knows, maybe I will turn into the next Toxic Avenger from NJ!

I was really happy with the way these next two photos came out, especially considering they are standing in a bunch of weeds with a parking lot full of cars behind them! In my next blog post I will show you a little more of how I made them and my thought process involved.

  • Anonymous - Beautiful pictures of 2 beautiful people……….Thanks for sharing.


  • mum - I felt hot just looking at the pictures, like a heat haze. Glad to know you are alive and well and still shooting in nj. I also felt like sneezing for the happy couple in those weeds!

  • Ricki - Incredible shots! Thanks for sending them.

  • Walter van Dusen - Great job… Can’t wait..

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