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Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I had the good fortune of going to London recently for a honeymoon shoot as part of Carrie and Jake’s wedding photography. We call it a honeymoon session, or a day after session, and we offer worldwide travel for these kinds of shoots, but this post is not about that. As usual, no matter where I go or why I am there, I always like to make personal photos along the way. I made these one night when my wife and I were at Picadilly Circus, scouting some nighttime locations for the upcoming shoot. I really enjoy shooting at night and searching out light to work with. I noticed these new ads for Rihanna’s Puma campaign and thought they would make a nice soft light for a night time portrait if the opportunity should arise. As I was looking around at all of the lighting options, soaking in this busy corner at night, I made a few frames of people passing by this Rihanna ad. Looking at the photos later found it striking that three different women all had similar hairstyles and were each carrying a purse on their shoulder in the same way. I think they go well together! And of course I’m a huge Rihanna fan.

Tips for photographers: Keep your camera with you all the time. Countless photographers have given me this advice, countless times, but it never fails to amaze me that the second I don’t have my camera something catches my eye to photograph. I have recently started switching from Canon to Sony for this very reason: my Canon is too big of a beast to carry around casually and I found myself shooting on my iphone more than anything. When I saw these new smaller mirrorless camera bodies for the first time I knew it was the answer to my problem of leaving my camera behind, and I quickly settled in on Sony as the brand of choice, specifically the A7 series of full frame cameras and Zeiss lenses. Now I have a very small kit with the Sony A7ii and a few Zeiss lenses that can go anywhere with me, and it’s the only camera I carry when I’m travelling overseas. Often I will simply grab my A7ii with a 35mm on it and go. I’m not saying you should switch cameras, but just do whatever it takes to keep a camera with you and be ready for pictures when they happen in front of you.

I am Paul Bellinger, one of Montana’s much sought after wedding photographers. My studio is located in downtown Billings Montana, and I am available for any wedding destination around the world. I put everything I have into making the wedding pictures of your dreams, and I’ll go anywhere and do anything to make those dreams come true. From the mountains to the islands, there is no wedding destination too far or too difficult for me and my team of wedding photographers. Get in touch with us at www.paulbellinger.com

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Wow, this was an awesome wedding from top to bottom. It was beautiful, unique, and so much fun for everyone in attendance. Alysse and Daniel definitely know how to throw a party in style. This is just one of the many jaw-dropping views at the Big Yellow Barn outside of Bozeman MT. Consider this a sneak peek of things to come. Special thanks to the bride and groom and all of their family and friends for being so cool, Meredith Curtin and her team for coordinating the day so wonderfully, and my army of one, Zak Jokela for shooting along side of me.

Tips for brides: This one is straight from Alysse and she coined this phrase. Instead of being "bride-zilla" just relax and be "bride-chilla"! Ha! I love that!

Paul Bellinger Photography is based in Billings Montana and specializes in epic, fine art, wedding photography. We are dedicated to making beautiful pictures and will go anywhere and do anything to make the wedding artwork of your dreams. Contact us for your destination wedding here: www.paulbellinger.com

Friday, September 25, 2015


This was a fun headshot to make for model/dancer/photographer Keoni, who is also a new assistant at Paul Bellinger Photography. Keoni has been helping out in the studio and frequently sits in to model for lighting tests so that everything is ready when clients arrive and they can be in and out quickly. Usually the night before a client shoot I will have Keoni come in to the studio and help me plan the shoot and set up the various lighting arrangements that I will use the next day. But sometimes we just like to experiment with new looks, such as this one, which was inspired from an actor headshot in Vanity Fair by photographer Cyrill Matter. This is a wonderful headshot look for people in creative professions, or anyone who wants a very soft and approachable look, and it works well with formal or informal clothing options. The lighting is crisp, yet the focus is soft, so it’s a very unique look that will stand out from the rest of the crowd. Visit www.portraits.paulbellinger.com to book a sitting in our downtown Billings Montana portrait studio.

Tips for photographers: The setup for this photo is inspired by a portrait of Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis by Cyrill Matter in the September 2015 issue of Vanity Fair. Cyrill’s image is a crisp black and white with very shallow depth of field, big soft front lighting with quick falloff and a little bit of back lighting to highlight the edges of the actor’s face. I found the look to be very striking, and it was the most remarkable image in the issue to me, and so I bought a copy pretty much just for that one photo (the rest of the issue wasn’t that great in my opinion). The Day-Lewis portrait is the first image you see on Cyrill’s website here: www.cyrillmatter.com. The photo reminds me of a quote from David Bailey: “I just want very sophisticated passport pictures really - which are quite hard to do!" Mission accomplished Cyrill.

To replicate the look, my first thought was to use window light so that I could shoot at a wide aperture for shallow depth of field, and the catchlight in Cyrill’s portrait kind of looks like a window or a big soft box directly behind the photographer, slightly to the camera right to give just a touch of shadow on one side for added dimension. To create the edge light I used two silver reflectors behind Keoni out of frame on each side (I use the metallic side of the insulation Styrofoam you can get at a hardware store or lumber yard). The background is a 4x8 foot white reflector about two feet behind Keoni. I’ll post a bts setup selfie on instagram @PJBellinger if you’re curious to see. This photo was made with a Sony A7ii, Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens at f/2, 1/160th of a second and ISO 200.

Overall I like the look, it’s very clean and crisp, yet soft and unusual with the shallow depth of field that will certainly stand out of the corporate headshot crowd. It’s easy to setup and the shallow depth of field makes retouching a breeze. The one drawback is that shooting with such shallow depth of field makes getting the eyes sharp a little tricky, so you have to know how to focus your camera very accurately. For studio work I always use manual focus with the focus peeking feature and manual focus assist on the Sony A7ii, which essentially zooms in on the image in the electronic viewfinder so you can check focus very accurately, especially when the eyes light up with focus peeking. I really like this feature and it’s fun to shoot in manual and it’s also fun to nail the focus every time. These features are some of the main perks of having an electronic viewfinder.

Monday, September 21, 2015


I love to travel and I love to make portraits of the people I meet along the way. It’s always special, but these portraits are extra special because this is my grand Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Ken. Aunt Bonnie is my grandpa’s sister, the aunt of my dad and his siblings. She’s always lived in Alaska since I’ve known her and we don’t see her very often as a result, even though she’s always been special because she’s the much younger and better looking only sister of my grandpa and their brother. Bonnie and Ken graciously hosted my cousin and I on our great Alaskan roadtrip when we were in Fairbanks for a day and a half, showing us some warm Alaskan hospitality. They gave us the family treatment, complete with hot breakfasts for two mornings and two hot showers each. It was a relief after driving relentlessly for just over 4 days. They shared some fantastic stories about my grandpa and my dad’s generation, and they made time to sit for me briefly before taking us out to dinner. I’m very happy to have been able to make these portraits of my family and these portraits will always remind me of the importance of having beautiful photos of the people you love, and I’ll never take it for granted. Thank you for sitting for me Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Ken, and thanks for the hospitality you showed us!

Tips for photographers: These photos are lit using window light with no modifiers of any kind. The room was basically white, but we closed all of the other windows and doors and there was enough distance behind the subject for the light to falloff into black. This was only possible because I made the falloff extremely fast by placing the subject as close to the light source as possible, which was basically in my lap. Yes these were intimate portraits in more ways than one. Looking back at these photos I noticed they looked a little different, with Ken’s having more contrast and detail and Bonnie’s being a little softer. The apertures are 2.8 for Ken and 2.2 for Bonnie, so I thought that was it. But then I noticed that I actually changed lenses between these two portraits (which seems crazy remembering how fast these were made), using the Zeiss 55mm 1.8 for Ken and the Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2 for Bonnie. The differences are pretty obvious so I’ll just leave it up to you to decide which look you prefer. www.portraits.paulbellinger.com

Sunday, September 20, 2015


If you’re going to drive to Alaska there is pretty much only one way in and one way out, and that’s the Alaska Highway from the Yukon Territories of Canada. After passing the huge St. Elias Mountains of Kluane National Park in the Yukon, you’re greeted by the Nutzotin Mountains just across the border in Alaska (pictured here). If it’s a clear day you can also see the massive Wrangell Mountains further in the distance behind the Nutzotin, but they weren’t visible when we arrived. Be warned, the Alaska highway is pretty rough for the last few hours in the Yukon and flat tires are common. We managed to make it just across the border into Alaska before getting our only flat tire of the 14 day trip. It was sprinkling and there was a beautiful sunset on the horizon, so naturally I photographed the sunset while my esteemed colleague, driver and cousin Chris (aka C-Unit) changed the tire. We were in need of a break from the road anyway and I ended up making a few of my favorite photos from the entire trip, so thank you tire gods! And thanks to Chris for being the craziest and best driver a photographer could ever hope to have.

Tips for photographers: This is a three image panorama that I photographed handheld from the road. I know that sounds bad right?! How lazy! But I’ve increasingly turned into a roadside landscape photographer, using a long lens to pick out landscapes from the road like a poacher dropping big game from a truck. Wow that doesn’t sound like a good comparison! We were on the road for two weeks during this trip, and we did a lot of run and gun, pull over and shoot stops. I know this is not a recipe for success. To make a great landscape photo usually requires hard work to get to an epic location, and then patience to wait for the light, two things that take a lot of time that we did not have. So what was the end result? Well I made at least one good photo this way, and I’m sure I’ll find a few others, but those are far and few between. Chances are, if you’re shooting from the road, with no tripod, you’re not going to make anything very special unless you get lucky.

I am Montana based wedding and portrait photographer Paul Bellinger. I love to travel and our motto at Paul Bellinger Photography is that we will go anywhere and do anything for our clients. There is no wedding too big, too small, or too far for us to travel for, and we’ll gladly make your portrait on top of a mountain as well. Please visit www.paulbellinger.com for destination weddings in Montana or anywhere in the world, and www.portraits.paulbellinger.com for our portrait studio in Billings Montana.