At a recent portfolio showing an image I shot about a week and a half ago became quite popular among the attendants, due to both the content and the technical details of it.
I’ve been really into surrealism lately and I’ve begun to create images that I have seen in dreams and from deep within my imagination. I’m not a huge photoshop and composite kind of guy, but this image obviously called for it.
It’s quite difficult to find someone who’s actually willing to let you put a fist-full of sand in their mouth, especially when it would take multiple times. Check out these behind the scenes photos and a video on the photoshop process:
For those of you who live in San Francisco who haven’t yet been to Adobe‘s Photoshop & you event at 550 Sutter St: Shame on you. Even if you’re not big into photoshop, or still shoot film – you should go. The event takes place over the course of 2 weeks from July 23rd to August 6th. They offer classes, lectures, demonstrations and raffles – all for free. You can view the full calender of Events at their website.
I’m really busy over the next week because I’m working on 2 films that are being submitted to Sundance, but I was able to make it to some of the weekend events – WOW.
Scott Kelby, if you don’t know who he is, is an educator, photoshopper, founder of NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) and an excellent photographer as well. He also tours the world giving his famous “Light it, shoot it, retouch it” seminar which he normally charges hundreds of dollars for. At the Photoshop & you event, he gave it to a room full of people for free.
It was an amazing talk, he worked with 2 models and did exactly what the name of the seminar says: He lit it, shot it and retouched it, all live. What was different about this session was he was working with continuous lighting so he let the crowd photograph the models as well. Personally, this is not something I did because I like to create my own things rather than work on something that has been done for me but it was still a blast.
After each shoot he demonstrated some retouching techniques in both Photoshop and Lightroom, and in the end did an amazing composite with the above model by placing her into a grungy alley and making it seem like she was really there, all in a matter of minutes. It was very educational and entertaining, Scott is a great presenter and a pretty nice guy as well.
After his seminar he agreed to do an interview with The Candid Frame’s Ibarionex Perello, which should be coming out next month.
Like I said, even if you’re not a photoshop junkie you should go. Go check out the calender of events, there are some great things happening there until August 6th. There’s some great people there who are happy to meet other photographers or retouchers and the chance to see and experience all of this for free is a really great opportunity.
If you’re new to the world of professional photography, you probably have a lot of questions. If you’ve been in the game for some time now, you’ve probably noticed that things are changing.
So what follows is the first of 2 parts on my advice on how to survive in these times of 65 megapixel cameras, VDSLRs and social media.
1. Know how to use your camera
When we get a new camera, we’re excited. We run outside or to the studio with it and shoot great pictures. The thing is, there’s a lot your camera can do that will not only make your pictures better, but there’s a lot your camera can do besides taking pictures. Open the manual. Read it from cover to cover. Know what to do when you get that “ERROR34” code. You will feel much more confident in your ability to shoot, problem solve, and you will generally handle yourself in a more professional manner.
2. Shoot constantly
With your manual all worn out and dog-eared, you can now begin to shoot. Shoot everything, take your camera everywhere. If your camera’s too big or too heavy, invest in a point shoot with a manual mode so you can keep your eye and skills sharp. Camera phones work fine for this as well, as long as you shoot constantly.
3. Shoot RAW
RAW is the most powerful file format for digital cameras. The editing possibilities are endless. There are plenty of free RAW converters out there, and Adobe’s Camera RAW is second to none. Learn it, use it, feel the power.
4. Know what you’re good at
In the beginning, you shoot everything. Portraits, still life, landscape. You need to specialize and develop a look for that specialty, or you won’t get hired. You can’t be good at everything, so you should focus on one area and master it.
5. Multiple Revenue streams
So you shoot portraits, what else can you do to make more money? You could try and teach a class on it, you could look into stock photography or you could have a gallery show. Find other ways to make money on your talent and ability. Teaching and seminars or lectures can be very rewarding, and a lot of schools and organizations need speakers on digital media because it’s changing so much and becoming so big. Stock photography, if you can get into it, can make you money on your photos while you focus on other things. It’s not guaranteed to pay your mortgage but it’s a good way to get your images in the public eye. Another thing is galleries, look into exhibition space in your area and what you have to do to get involved. There are many other ways to make money on your photography, sit back and brainstorm.
6. Never sell yourself short.
Set your rates and stay firm about them. You should never be ashamed of what you charge, you should come out and say them right away. You offer a great service at a great rate. NEVER give a “ballpark estimate.” You will miss something and end up under-cutting yourself. In these times you may need to be a bit flexible for yourself. Set a minimum and work for no less. If you’re not sure what to charge do some research on your competition. Don’t be a jerk and undercut everyone else. Be fair to yourself. As soon as you start shooting portraits for 50.00 you not only hurt yourself, but you hurt the market.
On friday I will post Part II. Stay tuned!
Digital Photography has come a long ways since it’s creation. There are a lot of things both the professionals and consumers looked at carefully before deciding to buy that shiny new toy that plugged into their computers, each had it’s own purpose. First it was megapixels. The first digital cameras were around 1 megapixel, some were even less than that. Competition picked up and soon 3 or 4 megapixel cameras were popping up. At this point, digital’s image quality was vastly inferior to film – so the pro’s stuck with their 35mm and 120mm cameras to get much cleaner images. When 6 megapixels rolled around, the pros became interested. With megapixels climbing and resolution improving, it wouldn’t be long before they could go to a camera store and buy one of these fancy things and not get laughed at. At 8-10 megapixels some pros started to convert – Digital was far less expensive and far more practical than film was for commercial applications. Some photographers stayed behind but now there was no doubt that a digital age was upon us. Resolution and megapixels grew almost weekly – 10, 12, 14, 24! It happened so fast, and us pros started to feel comfortable with digital’s image quality, finally.
Video was introduced next, with both 720p and 1080p HD video recording capabilities that is allowing photographers to put “Video” on their list of services to their clients, and currently there are several films being shot with Digital SLR cameras. The RED Camera shocked the world with it’s still photo and video capabilities wrapped into one.
Next up, came ISO. It used to be that if you went anywhere beyond 400 ISO you would get crazy noise and artifacts in your images. Then that was pushed to 800. 1600. Now with the Nikon D3S and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV ISO ranges are going into the hundred-thousands with virtually no noise or artifacts. It’s changing the way we photograph everything, and it’s revolutionizing Photojournalism.
The last frontier for digital photography was dynamic range. It was said that the human eye is capable of seeing detail in both high-lights and shadows, where a typical DSLR could only see detail in either one or the other. HDR photography has changed that significantly, but would require to use 2 or more images to gather enough information and then combine the images in photoshop. Astronomical ISO ranges and HD video was not going to solve this.
Old Technology, new application
Bear with me for a moment. I have a very active imagination, having grown up on Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
I am imagining a camera, tool or device that uses very old technology for something very new. Not necessarily just for taking photographs – it could potentially be used for making 3D models and it already has a military use – but the possibilities are endless.
Imagine a device that uses digital imaging with sonar technology. Of course, it would have to be more advanced than the blips you see on the sonars in The Hunt for Red October, I imagine that it could use some sort of low-frequency laser that could scan and recreate a scene rather than the sound waves produced by a typical Sonar. Think about it. It would solve the Dynamic range issues that have been the bane of some photographers existence, and it would make 3D modeling a breeze, at least for gathering information on textures and shapes. Photoshop would no longer be a 2D application, but would be an entire rendering program used for both photographic and 3D purposes. Digital media would truly come together in the same way that video and still photography came together, and it would be a good thing.
Of course, it would also bring bad things – I imagine that still photography would no longer be used in a court of law as evidence (Frankly, I’m surprised it’s still being used today) due to the amount of tampering that could be done with such a vast amount of data. It would be an age of 64 TeraByte compact flash cards, and Fire Wire would be up to version 25.2.
What I’m trying to say here is that the chances of this actually happening is very slim to none. But wouldn’t it be cool? And to be honest, I don’t think the idea is too far fetched with all of the 3D movie technology that is popping up or how we all gasped when it was first revealed that we could shoot images at ISO 2500. So maybe this won’t happen real soon, but the reason we are creative professionals in the first place is because we have active imaginations, and I’d like to keep it that way. Leave your thoughts and comments on the future of our profession!
As a photographer, there is a lot of expensive equipment that you do not need to own – Strobe kits cost anywhere from 1,000.00 to 5,000.00, and since you probably won’t need strobes all the time you can easily rent them for about 100.00 for a day. Isn’t it expensive enough just to own a quality digital camera, a few lenses and other picture-taking essentials? As a professional, you cannot skip out on quality equipment that you will be using every day – I recently learned this the hard way. I own 2 Nikons, 4 quality lenses, a light meter, an off-camera flash and a backdrop kit – things I use every day.
Something else I didn’t think of, for whatever reason, was what I look at my photos on. I own a 13″ MacBook and have been doing work on it for about a year and a half now – I thought that everyone had to squint at the screen while working on RAW conversions. Boy was I wrong. Due to some recent financial circumstances I was able to purchase the new 21.5″ iMac.
I almost fell off my chair when I opened Adobe Camera Raw. I was actually able to see my layers – not have them minimized! With the wide-screen format, I was able to edit 2 photos side-by-side – a near impossible feat on my MacBook.
The images looked so crisp and clear, and I was able to sit back comfortably on my chair and work on photos.
Now I want you to know that while I use a Mac, this is NOT an advertisement for Apple – I guess I just had to learn that you need a monitor setup of a decent size to be able to edit photos to your best ability and a 13″ laptop just does not cut it.
Since you already own your own camera and lenses, a computer is just as important in this digital age. Save your pennies and buy something with at least a 17″ screen – you won’t regret it.
Even in this digital age photography is still primarily used as a print medium. Sure we have websites to send potential clients to to get a taste of our work and style, but if they want to hire you, they are going to ask to see your “book.”
The Epson Stylus Pro 3800 is the best printer I have ever used, it’s fast it creates beautiful prints and it’s easy to use. It’s expensive, but you can go to printing labs that have them and specify what you need.
Prepping photos for web use and print use are two totally different beasts. Your photos on the web are seen on monitors, all of which are calibrated differently for color and contrast. So in order to make the best prints possible, you need to get details in your shadows while controlling your highlights. This of course, starts with your exposure.
Expose for the print
When you’re shooting RAW you have always been taught to “expose to the right” which is getting as much information to the right side of the histogram as possible. This is very important when it comes to making prints.
You don’t want the histogram to clip on either the left or right side, this results in a loss of data or in print terms, a loss of detail.
If you lose detail in the shadows, your print will come out with pure black areas. This looks strange, but not nearly as strange as loss of highlight detail – the printer will actually not print on a highlight area of 255, it will simply leave it as whatever paper surface you used. This will look very strange.
Adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW
The first thing you will want to do with your RAW file is change your workflow options which is the blue line of text on the ACR screen. I use ProPhoto as a color space because it gives me the most color options even though printers can’t print the color range of ProPhoto yet. You want your bit-depth to be 16-bit, and you do NOT want it set to sharpen anything.
Now adjusting your highlights and shadows really depends on what kinf of paper you will use. I prefer Epson’s 5-star premium luster photo paper. So to print for that, your shadows should be no lower that 12-15 in RGB. You can adjust your blacks by adjusting the “Blacks” slider. Camera RAW’s default is 5, and if you shot at a low ISO you can safely reduce this with minimal noise. You can also adjust the “Brightness” slider which isn’t as effective but it works if your at 0 in your “Blacks” slider and still need to get detail back. Be wary of your highlights though. The “Fill Light” slider works well, but you will get crazy noise in your shadows if you go beyond 20. If your printing on Matte paper, your shadows will need to be higher, no lower than 20. Matte paper absorbs more ink, so you will lose that detail fast.
As far as highlights go, if you want to retain detail and not got that weird not-quite-blown-out look, you should keep your highlights around 240, 245. You can use the “Recovery” slider, but it won’t really bring your detail back – it simply adds magenta to the overall image, which will also gray it out the rest of your colors if you get carried away. It’s a good rule of thumb to not use the slider beyond 25. All of this adjusting is done to get as much information to the right side of the histogram as possible, without clipping anything.
All digital images need sharpening. You can do this in Adobe Camera RAW by using the “Clarity” slider, but if you plan to make any local adjustments it’s probably best to do the sharpening in Photoshop. There are a variety of sharpening methods in Photoshop such as the “unsharp mask” and my personal favorite, “smart sharpen.” These work well for different things, but they can both be masked out to sharpen certain areas a certain amount. DO NOT use the “Sharpen” button or the “Sharpen edges” button. They give you absolutely no control. Sharpening can be tricky, you need to watch the fine details such as the hair or eye-lashes when you’re working. A good rule of thumb is sharpen it to the point where it looks a little strange on the screen – the image will print slightly softer.
The rest is all trial and error. Learning by doing. Try different papers, different printers. These are just basic rules, and rules were meant to be broken. Learn these rules well before you explore outside of these boundries. Then, you can clip your blacks. Clip your highlights. Get the right look for you.