Nikon's New Magic Portrait Lens

Announcing a new direction for this blog – I’m going to include talking about photography and gear!

About two weeks ago, I picked up Nikon’s latest lens from Precision Camera & Video here in Austin, Texas. This lens is officially called the AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED Lens – most folks call it the 105 f/1.4 – I call it “magic”. This lens is really special because of its ability to render backgrounds into a dreamy blur. Last week, I had the opportunity to try out this lens with local model, Michelle, aka “Kitten Kaboom” (Facebook:, Instagram:

Michelle and I headed out to a local park and took about 300 photos in an hour and a half. Of course, Michelle looked gorgeous but how did the lens do? In a word, outstanding. This lens has the ability to make an image that is both sharp and soft – nice sharp details where you focus and a super-soft, creamy background (aka “bokeh”) providing a delightful background.

For the tech geeks reading this, I used a Nikon D810 camera body with this lens and the combination of the D810 and 105 f/1.4 certainly showed any mistakes I made as a photographer! I used a Phottix Indra 500 to light these images and camera settings ranged from ISO 64 – ISO 200 with a shutter speed of 1/60 to 1/1600 sec. All images were shot at f/1.4. The only processing done to these images was using Lightroom for RAW conversion including assigning the camera profile and white balance then resizing for web. No retouching has been done to these files. Nikon hit it out of the park with this lens and I predict portrait photographers are going to start saving to get their own copy of this magic lens.

Bronze Medalist - International Print Competition!

Austin Photographer Named Bronze Medalist at International Photographic Competition
Tim Babiak of Exquisite Photography is honored by peers and jurors for high-quality photography.

Austin, TexasTim Babiak of Exquisite Photography in Austin, Texas was named a Bronze Medalist during Professional Photographers of America's 2015 International Photographic Competition. Babiak’s work will be on display at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Jan. 10-12, 2016. This International Photographic Exhibit is held in conjunction with Imaging USA, an annual convention and expo for professional photographers and several photographic associations.

A panel of 43 eminent jurors from across the United States selected the top photographs from nearly 5,200 total submitted entries at Gwinnett Technical College in Georgia. Judged against a standard of excellence, just over 2,100 images were selected for the General Collection and 1,085 (roughly 21 percent) were selected for the esteemed Loan Collection—the best of the best. The Loan Collection images will all be published in the much-anticipated "Loan Collection" book and over 200 selected General Collection images will be published in the "Showcase" book by Marathon Press.

The level of the award is determined by how many of those four images receive the highest possible honor: acceptance into the PPA Loan Collection, which is displayed at photographic exhibitions, conventions and other photography events. Babiak was named a Bronze Medalist by earning a merit—a mark of quality and honor—for each of the four images included in his entry case to the International Photographic Competition. This is the most prestigious competition of its kind, where images are judged based on a standard of artistic excellence, not against each other. In 2015, he was one of only 57 Bronze Medalists.

About PPA:
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the largest international nonprofit association created by professional photographers, for professional photographers. Almost as long-lived as photography itself, PPA's roots date back to 1869. It assists more than 28,000 members through protection, education and resources for their continued success. See how PPA helps photographers be more at

Contact: Tim Babiak

Icy Stare
Model: Josephine McAdam
Styling: Zoraima Pelaez

Just Lounging
Model: Sarah Pruitt
Styling: Allison Lowery

Hey Cowboy!
Model: Jeannie Carter Cruz
Styling: Allison Lowery

Yesteryear Glamour
Model: Sophia May
Styling: Allison Lowery

I'm THAT Guy

Wow! So I've become "that" guy - the photographer with the blog with no entries. Well, I'm back! And it's time for some new stuff! I've been busy on lots of projects so here we go!

Over the last year, I've been spending a fair amount of time exploring available light portraiture. I guess, in a way, I approached photography backwards from the way most people do it. I was so intrigued by gadgetry and especially flash photography that I breezed right past using available light. So, over the past year, I've spent time understanding light dynamics as they exist naturally. It's really different for me because I would prefer to have a plan prior to arriving at a location but purely available light photography forces me to evaluate the situation in the moment and see what I can make of it.

A couple of weeks ago I went to Bull Creek Park with Laura. In fact, I was teaching a class on available light portraiture and Laura said she'd model for it. It's been tough this year finding days that are NOT raining - rain is kind of  new thing her in central Texas! Now, Laura is a great model. I met her a few years ago when she came out for her first photo shoot. At that time she was somewhat nervous but she quickly bloomed into a great model. Well, wouldn't you know it, as soon as they start getting good they move away? Laura is heading out of town for the summer then over to Europe now that she's done with college - so this session/workshop was a bit of a last hurrah for us to work together. Photographically, I figuratively tied my hands behind my back. I limited myself to a single camera body with a single lens - an 85mm f/1.4 lens. This is a lens that I love but I don't shoot with much so it forced me to think differently and compose my images differently. Even as I taught my students, I managed to find some magic spots and got some great images of Laura. Go change the world, lady!

Print Competion Results - Best in Show!

Josephine-42-Edit-2-Edit-3-Edit webIt’s been a few months since I’ve posted to this blog – yesterday was a big day! It was the annual print competition for the Austin Professional Photographers Association. This print competition is different than the monthly print competitions. For this competition, highly-trained judges are brought in to anonymously score prints. Over 70 prints were entered and I entered four of mine. At the end of the day, I received a “Judge’s Choice” award as well as “Best in Show”! I am really ecstatic! After scoring one of my prints, one of the judges, Elena Hernandez, asked to have it brought back out because she felt the other judges were not scoring it high enough. Wow! A Master Photographic Craftsman going to bat for me not knowing it was me! The funny moment was when she said she thought the print was “exquisite”! On top of the awards, two out of three of my other prints were scored high enough to merit if entered in the International Print Competition! I’m definitely on cloud nine right now! Special thanks to the amazing model in this image, Josephine McAdam, and Zoraima Pelaez who did the amazing hair and makeup. For the other prints that scored merit, thanks go to Sarah Pruitt for modeling for then pinup image with the wig, wardrobe and makeup styling by Allison Lowery on this print as well as the amazing model, Keli Jasso, who believed in me enough to allow me to photograph during her maternity. Thank you all!

Photographer of the Year!

Photo by Stephanie - Catchlight Portraits

Last night was a big night for me - the Austin Professional Photographers Association awarded me the 2013 Photographer of the Year! This is such a major milestone for me as a photographer. This award is so meaningful because of the process behind it. First, let me tell you a little about the Professional Photographers Association (PPA). The PPA is a non-profit organization started in 1869 by professional photographers growing to over 25,000 members today. The Austin PPA is the local affiliate that holds monthly meetings with speakers and print competitions. Local photographers bring their best prints to each monthly meeting and members vote anonymously - so there's no opportunity for a popularity contest and evaluation is done by member photographers. It's a great form of peer review. Points are awarded based on the voting and ribbons are awarded to the top point recipients. I entered 8 out of the 10 competitions in 2013 and received six first place ribbons and one third place ribbon. Points are awarded based on the ribbons and a annual tally of the results determines the award for Photographer of the Year. I'm extremely proud of this accomplishment because it is based on a large body of work - and work it was! I could have never done it alone - I received so much encouragement from those around me as well as participation from wonderful stylists like Allison Lowery and Zoraima Pelaez. I've also had the pleasure of working with amazing models like Josephine McAdam, Eleya Mullins, Sarah Pruitt, Keli Jasso, Sabrina Lotfi and my own beautiful daughter, Ashley. I always said, "to be successful, stand on the shoulders of giants" and all of these people are remarkable giants.  Most of all, I have my girlfriend, Francie, to thank for believing in my photography way before I did. Thank you all for your support and encouragement - I could have never achieved this without you!

Why Print?

Wow. It's been almost a year since I've posted to my blog - I've become one of THOSE people!

Well, today I wanted to provide my opinion on a popular topic - prints. It seems that just about every day I get an inquiry asking if I provide a CD of all of the images I shot during a session. I don't. That might sound blunt but it's just that digital images aren't really my thing. It's not that I'm some sort of anachronistic person. To me, digital images just aren't "finished". That's a tough concept to explain in our digital age. Don't get me wrong - I think it's simply amazing how easily digital images are shared - and I think that's the reason people want them. Moreover, most people figure I click the button on my camera and an image is generated - just a like a cell phone. Well, certainly that's true but the image that's created at the click is not the image that's "finished" - there are a whole bunch of steps between the click and the print. And, even if I did process every image from a session - those multiple images were taken for the purpose of getting the best image - and part of my craft is to select that "best" image.

Yet, given the ease of sharing of digital images, why would I prefer prints? First and foremost, it's obvious when I deliver finished prints to a client. For most people, it's been a long time (or never) since they held a well-done print. The print is experienced differently visually than a digital image - light reflects from the print surface instead of emanating from a screen. That sounds simple but it's huge. Second, large prints are interpreted differently visually than little bitty images on a computer screen. Even if you have a 27" computer monitor you're not viewing image the equivalent size of a 30" or 40" print.  Moreover, the colors in a print are locked in. Have you ever noticed how images look different on different computer monitors - even two good computer monitors? If that's the case, then what IS the digital image? If it varies in size and color from monitor to monitor then it never really IS something specific and deliberate. It's just not "finished". Most of all, prints become artifacts. Many of us have prints that have been handed down from previous generations. Not only are these prints "cool" to look at but we also have an amazing revelation while viewing them. These prints were things held by our long-gone ancestors. They're an artifact of our personal history.

Creating prints is much more complex than just having them done at the corner pharmacy. There are many different types of prints and many different print labs with vastly different results. Matching the image to the product to the lab to the size is a bit of an art. It requires producing test prints to understand how color, brightness and sharpness of a digital file are put to paper. In a world of instant gratification, it's a craft that requires time and patience with attention to detail.

In the end, the effort is worth it. The reaction people get when they first view their prints is priceless. It's in this moment they understand the difference between a digital image and a print that is "finished".

Holiday Gift Ideas for Photographers

It's that time of year again - and maybe you're stumped for a gift idea for your favorite photographer.

I'm here to help out. Here's my updated list of relatively inexpensive gift ideas to share.

Gift Ideas for Photographers

- Subscription to Rangefinder magazine (FREE!) - this is the magazine of Wedding & Portrait Photographer's International (WPPI). Visit to subscribe.

- Subscription to Vogue ($15) - Okay, maybe you're wondering about this one. Why subscribe to a fashion magazine? Simple - it's 700+ pages each month of great photography! It's like getting a book every month full of the latest work by the best commercial photographers. Visit and follow the "subscribe" link.

- Gels - this one may come as a surprise. Maybe you've been wanting to get into using more gels or you're just not sure where to start. How about you just get them all for a couple of bucks? That's right, Rosco - THE name in gels - offers two swatchbooks filled samples of their gels in a 1.75" x 2.75" size - perfect for taping to the front of your speedlight. Each swatchbook runs about $2 at B&H.  If you want gels that are a little bigger (3"x5"), spring for Rosco's Roscolux Designer Color Selector Swatchbook for $22.50.

- Softlighter - of all the umbrellas out there, this is one to be sure you have in your collection. The Photek Softlighter is a favorite of many top photographers. You can use is as a shoot through or reflective umbrella, with or without a black cover. It has 10 spokes instead of the usual 8 and the shaft unscrews at its midpoint for positioning close to your subject. It also comes with a removable diffusion panel to create a softbox light quality. Sizes range from 36"-60" with prices from $50-$80. This is a great modifier for studio and location work due to its portability and versatility.

- Giottos Rocket ($8) - do you have little spots on your images because your sensor has gotten dust on it? Maybe you don't need an expensive cleaning, you just need to blow the dust off. The Rocket creates a blast of air that's clean - just squeeze away. A special valve makes it so the rocket doesn't suck dust back into its chamber only to blast it back onto your sensor. Cool, cheap and fits easily in your camera bag. You either have one or need one.

- Photovision calibration targets - I'm always beating the drum about these targets because they're a great way to nail both exposure and white balance. They come with an instructional DVD to walk you through step-by-step on how to use them. Best of all, they're on sale through 10/29 at

-X-Rite Colorchecker Passport - This little device appears simple but does some really cool stuff - it allows you to create custom camera profiles for any shooting situation. That sounds complicated but it's really easy and you'll be amazed at how dialed in your colors will appear. Typically these go for about $99 but you can find 10% discounts if you search.

- Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera by Bryan Peterson. This book is simply a joy to read for every photographer. You'll learn tons about what you can do with just your camera. It's better than any manual that came with your camera. Under $20 at Amazon.

- Manfrotto 3095M Mini Backlight stand - this is a little stand for use with a monolight. I get tons of questions about this stand at workshops. Own your own for $28 from B&H.

- Rosco Slit Drape - ignore this crazy name - this item is usually called a rain curtain. It's a sheet of mylar that has been cut into little streamers for use as a backdrop. Think of a cheesy Las Vegas magician and you'll know the type of backdrop. It's not for everyone but it's an easily-stored backdrop that you can combine with other backdrops and gels for a variety of effects. A single drape is $12.50 at B&H but you'll want to get two or three to get enough width for shooting. A definite "fun factor" item.

- Itoya Art Portfolio Advantage Book - looking for a great binder to show off your prints? This is simple and the pages won't interfere with viewing your prints. Prices range up to $30 for the 11x14 size at B&H.

- Manfrotto Background Paper Counterweight - I have to admit that this item is a little odd for a gift. You'll love it and the giver will wonder why. This item clips onto the bottom of seamless background paper and adds the weight necessary to keep it smooth. A real time saver. About $33 from B&H.

- Studio rental - Waveform Studio ( now rents photography studio space for $20/hour. Imagine your favorite photographer's reaction when you tell them you've rented a fully equipped photography studio for them to use!

- Gizmos galore!  Visit for a wide selection of unusual photography gizmos that cover everything from lens adapters for your iPhone to lenses to turn your DSLR into a Holga (your photographer buddy will know what a Holga is). My favorite - coffee mugs that are exact replicas of popular lenses.

- Go local - Precision Camera is Austin's place for everything photography. Give your photographer a gift certificate and they can use it for equipment, lights and accessories. If they have all the gear they need, they can use it at Precision Camera's photo lab for professional quality prints. Gift certificates can also be redeemed for a wide range of photography classes. Visit

Finally - if you're stuck on what to get your mom this year I'll tell you what she really want - a new photo of you!  Book a session with your best photographer friend, get some big prints, frame them, wrap them up really nice and watch mom cry when she opens it!

Happy holidays!

Austin Texas Photographer Tim Babiak

Image #1

Today is an anniversary for me - it was five years ago I took delivery of my first DSLR.  Like just about everyone, I had taken pictures - snapshots - since I was a kid.  I got the DSLR because I wanted to take better pictures.  Prior to getting this DSLR, I had taken my point-and-shoot camera to my kids soccer game and discovered it didn't do a very good job - the images weren't clear and I couldn't zoom in enough.  Like many people, I figured a better camera would get better photos. 

I didn't know the Nikon D80 I got was a crop sensor or that the 18-200mm lens wasn't very fast.  I had heard that the pop-up flashes on DSLR's weren't very powerful so I got a speedlight with the camera - a Nikon SB-600.  Being a bit of a tech geek, the first question I wanted to answer was whether the camera would really fire the flash if the flash wasn't mounted on the camera.  So I carefully mounted the lens on the body (at the time, this was something I hoped to only need to do once) and tried my experiment.  This was the first frame I shot.

IMG 001

It didn't work - the pop-up flash fired but not my speedlight.  To get everything to work properly took about eight more frames.

And so began my journey into my passion of photography.  Before long, I was seeking information, knowledge and experience everywhere I could find.  And, somewhere along the way, people started to take notice and my photos made their way to magazine covers, a billboard, marketing materials and more.  My biggest joy became sharing the information I'd learned.  I started a photography group and held workshops.  Today, that group has over 750 members and is one of the highest rated groups in the country.  I've been teaching in the largest online photography school, Bryan Peterson's "Perfect Picture School of Photography", as well as locally at Precision Camera, the nation's leading independent camera shop.  I've had the privilege of working with extremely talented and accomplished people like makeup and wig stylist Allison Lowery and Photoshop guru and designer extraordinaire Mark Heaps.  While all of this was happening, I was hoping they wouldn't discover that I was new to all of this. 

Of course, the list of people I've been fortunate enough to work with doesn't end there - I've been privileged to work with many amazing models, stylists and photographers who make me look like I know what I'm doing. 

Most of all, I've had the emotional support of my beautiful girlfriend, Francie.  She's the first person who patiently let me shoot her.  She's the one who's so exceptionally beautiful and photogenic that she fooled me into thinking the beautiful images were a result of my work.  I've since learned that the best photos are due to, in large part, the person in front of the camera as much as anything.

So today I feel like I've completed a first step in this journey.  Today I feel like I understand the basics of photography and I know there is much that I still have to learn.  I wonder where I'll be in five more years.

Austin Texas Portrait Photographer Tim Babiak

Every Women Needs to Know She's Beautiful

I had a headshot session for a realtor today.  The client was a referral from another realtor I had shot.  When we talked on the phone, I stressed the need for professional makeup and hairstyling so she agreed to use Anna Fugate of Anna Lani Makeup.  We discussed wardrobe and the flow of the session to set her expectations.

Then she told me something that really  She told me she wasn't photogenic.  I can't remember her words exactly but she was trying to tell me that she simply wasn't attractive. 

I.  Can't.  Stand.  This.

It's not that I'm annoyed.  It's that my empathy button is pushed to the max.  Being beautiful is at the core of every woman.  It's not just that a woman should hear someone say she's beautiful - every woman needs to know she's beautiful.  When I say "know", I mean "know".  So, when a client tells me she's not beautiful - in whatever roundabout way - I take that as a personal challenge to change. 

So the session was today.  The client was under the weather and running late.  Anna Fugate's work was flawless as always - clean and commercial - the kind of hair and makeup that's transparent.  The client loved her work and we quickly knocked out her business headshot.  She brought a few extra tops so we quickly knocked out a few more looks. 

She then asked about a little white dress she brought.  I knew exactly how I wanted to shoot her wearing it and I knew it was the kind of dress she loved and she'd look great in.  So, I set things up and shot her.  Then, she asked if she could try a few frames not smiling - of course, it was perfect.  Then, we got THE frame.

She was shocked!  There's no doubt she's beautiful - now she knows it!

Austin Texas Portrait Photographer Tim Babiak

Photos CAN Make a Real Difference

With the abundance of digital photography, photos of everything and everybody are just about everywhere. Everyone is a photographer and just about everyone has had their photo taken. It used to be that photos were always printed. Today, digital photography allows us to share photos more easily and in a more timely manner. Photos make the world a smaller place and allow us to maintain relationships.

But sometimes a photo can have a dramatic impact on a person's life.

Let me tell you a story about a recent shoot. As a portrait photographer, it's important to get to know your subjects so you can try to capture more about them in the image. In a recent shoot, my subject was a lovely young woman who had some success in modeling but had not yet reached the level of her goals. She told me about how her mom had, too, been a model and how their relationship had recently become strained. Due to a turn of events that is typical between early 20-something women and their mothers, the two had stopped talking and the young woman I was shooting was devastated by the silence. My subject longed to show her mom she had real potential as a model.

Then, during this shoot somehow, by either luck or skill, I got "the shot". If you're not a photographer, this statement may have no meaning to you. For photographers, we know all of the technical things that we need to do to get a great shot but there's always something beyond the technicalities. Sometimes everything comes together with a little bit of magic and we get "the shot". The amazing thing about this particular shot was it was "done". It didn't need Photoshop or retouching. It was just perfect as it was shot.

I printed this image large and had it framed. I used a top photo lab to do the printing and had it framed in a top-quality frame. The print was absolutely gorgeous. When I presented it to my subject she cried. She knew what I was going for - the print wasn't for my subject; the print was for my subject to give to her mom.

This morning I received a wonderful email from her:

"I gave my mom the picture last night! Wow! She was taken back, speechless. She started crying! She is hanging it up in her room. She was so thankful and loved it! She told me how proud of me she is & we talked for an HOUR! It was great! She was telling me about her plans for the New Year & life!

Thank you so much Tim! You saved my Christmas this year & I am so thankful!"

This is why I'm a photographer.

Austin Texas Portrait Photographer Tim Babiak