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Sharing experience, advice, and photos to all with the shutterbug.

Posts tagged “Tutorial

Set your standards

Last week I was talking on the phone with my mother and she mentioned that the most recent photo she had of me is over 6 years old. As photographers we never think much about going in front of the camera. It’s not that I don’t like getting my picture taken or have some kind of phobia about it… I’ve helped out a lot of friends with shoots and have been a model in some cases. So I asked a few close friends if they would be willing to set aside a small amount of time to take a portrait of me. I offered a trade of services, a portrait for a portrait but I understood that they were working professionals and may not be able to make the time. So to keep my options open, I decided to place an ad on Craigslist to see what the local area had to offer. I knew I would have to pay for quality and I said that I would pay “Market rates.”

What happened next sincerely horrified me.

I promptly received 30+ emails from people claiming to be “Professional Photographers” and offering me their services for as low as $55.00 for a 2 hour session with 5 poses and all images on a CD. NO career can be sustained on one off 55.00 jobs and that doesn’t even begin to cover your operating expenses let alone pay you a living wage. Not only that, the people that are offering such rock-bottom rates are hurting the local market by lowering people’s expectations and standards of photography.

Not all of the photographers were bad or anything, some of them were pretty good but were charging far too little. Turning the tables like that has opened my eyes on what it’s like to be one of my own clients. Not all but most of the websites were terrible, a flickr page or completely unusable. The emails were extremely unprofessional and poorly written. Some of them didn’t even contain links to portfolios, they just had attached photos. Photography is a service industry – first impressions, even via email are EXTREMELY important.

If you are unsure what to charge for your photography services PLEASE go here and figure out your operating expenses and then ask around about what other photographers charge in your area. You are doing no favors to anyone by being “The cheapest” and you certainly don’t want that to be your reputation. You get what you pay for and this venn diagram sums it up nicely:


Now pick two.

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Before that big shoot…

When you’re getting ready for a shoot it’s very important to stay very organized. You probably have a lot of equipment that needs to be looked after and kept in one place, and it can be difficult to keep track of everything.
Before any shoot I make up a check-list in word or office that itemizes every piece of equipment that I will be bringing along on the shoot. It lists everything from cameras and lenses to clamps and gaffers tape. Then I have at least 4 other columns where I go through the check list and each point it travels. A check for loading up before the shoot, a check for arriving on location, a check for the end of the day and a check for unloading back at my studio. This will save your little pieces of equipment and save you some money in replacing those little pieces in case you leave them at your shoot location.
The following example is a check list for a video I’m shooting this month for a local healthcare organization:

This is just the first page, as the second page lists all of my cables that are required as well as flags and other misc grip gear. Your check list will probably go through a few drafts, so don’t make it the night before the shoot. Carry around a little notebook with you not only to write down ideas but to remind yourself of items that need to be added to your list. It will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.


Survival tips for new Digital Photography Pros – Part II

This article continues from “Survival tips for new digital photography pros – Part I” so if you haven’t read that yet go and check it out!
If you are an emerging digital photography pro the following tips and advice will help you to survive in the rapidly evolving world of digital media. Read on and take notes!

7. Think outside of the box

Since digital photography is so widely accessible people have been saying that “Anyone can be a photographer.” They say that anyone can take the amazing photo that you just took, and that they can do everything you can do. Here’s the thing: They can’t. You not only have the training to use your equipment and tools such as cameras and lighting, but you also have the mental ability to visualize a concept and execute an idea. You have to make yourself stand out more than ever right now, so show everyone that you’re not just another guy with a digital camera.

8. Video

Most DSLRs can shoot HD video now. Learn it and master it. It’s great when you can offer a client a video service as well as still images. The market seems to be shifting towards video, especially with tools like the RED camera available now.

9. Use social media

Twitter and Facebook are wonderful marketing tools. These days clients want to get to know you, because nobody wants to work with a jerk. Make yourself a professional twitter or facebook account, you typically want to keep your personal life seperate from your professional life. Not saying that you should only use these outlets to market your work – there’s a fine line, nobody likes spam. Give it all your personality, but keep it business.

10. Shoot for you

Come up with projects and portfolio work that interests you. If you shoot something you love, that love will come through in spades when people look at it. You will go crazy very quickly if you only shoot head-shots for months in a row when you really love shooting still life. Make some time, get some ideas, and mix things up.

11. Know when to walk away

If a client is way too difficult to work with or is taking advantage of you, or if you are offered a job that you know you would hate shooting or pays way below your established minimum, walk away. It can be tough at first, especially when you’re just getting started, but you have to learn when something is just not worth your time.

12. Take breaks

Photography can be amazingly stressful. Marketing yourself for 60 hours a week and shooting for 20 can drain your physical and creative juices very quickly, so take a break once in awhile. Set your camera bag down and pursue other interests. People know when they are working with a burnt-out creative type, and you need to keep your mind and eye sharp.


Survival tips for new digital photography pros – Part I

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.

Adobe Camera RAW

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.

Exibition, Northern Waters Gallery

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!


Printing 101 – On the Epson 3800

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.

perfecthistogram

A nearly perfect histogram.

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.

clipped-highlights

A clipped histogram - loss of highlight details.

clipped-shadows

A clipped histogram - a loss of shadow 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.

Picture 2

What your workflow should look like.

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.

Picture 3

Your Basic Adjustment options.

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.

Sharpening

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.


An Introduction to lighting: Source sizes

Studio lighting or lighting you control can be a beast. Some of you may already know this visually, but are unaware of the technical way of things. So this will serve as a basic introduction to the qualities of light. Todays topic: Light Source sizes.

Small

A small light source, such as a single light bulb or a high lamp post will give you very harsh and contrasty shadows. This may sound familiar to some, and they may be thinking of the noon sun. The sun is billions of miles across, so how could it be a small source?? The answer is because it’s a million miles away. You can setup any light source at a great distance to give it a “Small” light source effect.

A photo lit with a single light bulb.

A photo lit with a single light bulb.

Notice the sharp shadow that her nose makes, and how the shadow is very distinct and has hard lines.

Medium

If you are using a single light bulb, you can simply move your light source closer to your model, effectively increasing it’s size and softening the shadows… but I wouldn’t recommend this. You would have to have a lightbulb only about two to three feet away from your model, and it might make them hot or uncomfortable. If you are using a clamp lamp, the kind you can purchase at a hardware store, you can simply put the reflector dish on it, which increases it’s size.

A photo lit with a medium size light source.

A photo lit with a medium size light source.

Notice that the shadows on her nose and arms get softer at the edges. It’s very important to not simply write off what I said about moving your light source. While moving your single bulb two feet from your model is inappropriate in this situation, the distance of your light source to your subject is *ALWAYS* the key, and should be first in your checklist when you are trouble shooting.

Large

A large light source will give you shadows that are very soft on all the edges, and barely noticeable all together. A large source can be a small light source that is very far away, or a strobe with a soft box attached or a clamp lamp reflecting light off of a large flat surface.

A photo lit with bounced light from a large flat surface.

A photo lit with bounced light from a large flat surface.

If you are reflecting light, your light source will effectively take on the size of the surface you are reflecting it from, which will give you soft gorgeous light complete with soft shadows.

Painting

Something that’s a lot of fun to do is to “Paint” with a light source. Turn off your lights, set your camera to a long exposure (at least 10 seconds) and “Paint” your subject with a flashlight or other source.

A photo lit with a Cell Phone

A photo lit with a Cell Phone

Doing this will not only give you a cool looking photograph, but it actually gives you complete control over your light and shadows. While it is difficult to master, you can sculpt some very interesting light using this technique.

In closing

The important things to remember are this: A small or far away light source will give you sharp shadows and brilliant highlights. A large light source will give you soft, soft, soft everything. A medium size source is in between. Distance from your light source to your subject is always a solution. Keep your models happy.


How to start a Photoblog

So you have a few photoblogs that you regularly visit (Hopefully Some Photographer is one of them) for a variety of reasons. Maybe one has a great “Photo of the week” post or maybe another one is a great news source. You say to yourself “I take pictures! I write! I can do this too!” Running a photoblog can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work. If you start to gather a following, there’s more pressure to write and you’d be surprised how easy it is to get writer’s block. So before you jump in and starting snapping pics and writing tutorials here are a few things to consider.

Who

What kind of audience do you want to appeal to? Beginners? Enthusiasts? Pros? It’s important to carve out your niche but to do so carefully – you don’t want to get in over your head. Most of the people that write blogs are pros, enthusiasts or beginners themselves and you can tell by what they write. This can also be reflected in the title of your blog. Take A Photo Editor for example – the titles says it all. Lou Lesko is allowed to use his own name as a title, because he’s well known enough in the industry. One day maybe you can name your blog after yourself too!

What

What sort of photoblog will you be doing? Whats the theme? The idea? Are you going to do daily posts like a 365 photos project? Are you going to post other people’s work as a way of showing the world great artists? Are you going to focus on industry news? Write tutorials? Or will it be all about you? Find out what would suite you best and stick with it. A combination of these themes can make your blog versatile and appeal to a wider audience, but it’s more difficult to keep up.

Where

There are a myriad of blog hosting services and websites you can use to set up your blog. You can buy your own domain name and have it that much more professional – or you can start out with a free service and see where it all goes. Most blog services have a free program that allows you to do all of the basics post-dating your posts, themes and looks for your blog, etc. Then they usually offer a premium service as well that allows more customization or storage space.

Picture 1

There’s a lot of things to consider when joing a blog service. Besides everything I mentioned above, you want a good community of bloggers, and bloggers who stick with it. WordPress is definitely the most popular blogging service, and you will find thousands of bloggers blogging about everything you can imagine. It might make your site a bit difficult to find, but if you tag and categorize properly you shouldn’t have a problem.

Picture 2

While I don’t believe that Blogger’s community is as dedicated as WordPress’, It is quite user-friendly and there are lots of ways to customize, even without a premium service. It’s affiliated with google, so you go straight to a search directory without any steps or registrations.
Make sure that whatever service you use has a lot of storage space for photos. Most places have at least 1 gig of storage, but you’d be surprised at how fast you can fill that up. You can always host your images through a different service like Flickr or Photobucket.

Flickr is easily the largest photo-sharing community and is aimed at photographers.

Flickr is easily the largest photo-sharing community and is aimed at photographers.

Photobucket is designed for mass photo-storage and sharing

Photobucket is designed for mass photo-storage and sharing

When

So you have the theme, the host and the pictures – how often should you update? The answer is as much as you want – within reason. If your new at this and not sure what you want out of it yet, Once a week is a good place to start. Unless you’re doing a photo-a-day type blog, you won’t need to post every day – this gets tiresome for some readers. I would say even 3 times a week is a bit excessive. Twice a week is nice and comfortable, if you have a lot to write about. Spread out your posts don’t update two days in a row, get a schedule going so your readers know when to come back. And be consistent, don’t post 3 times in one week and then one time again a month later. No one will take you seriously.

Why

You’re probably doing this for one of the following reasons: (1) You have an opinion to share. (2) You have a lot of photos to share. (3) You have the inside scoop of the industry. (4) You like photo gear.
All of these reasons are fine – if you’re passionate about it, you will write well about it. A lot of up and coming professionals (like myself) get a blog to show potential clients that they can do more besides photography, and that they are diverse. Understand why you are writing and have a goal. When you reach that goal, make another one.

Etc.

Proper spelling and grammar is important. Readers will not take u srsly if u pst lik ths. Have a minimum/maximum wordcount. No one like s a rambler, but you should not have 50 word posts. I have a minimum of 250 words and a max of 1000. Use social networking like Facebook and Twitter or LinkedIn and Friendfeed to tie into your blog or advertise it. Don’t be excessive – nobody likes spam. Services like BlogExplosion work ok to get traffic initially – but if you want quality traffic you should stick with forums and websites for photographers to promote it on.  Engage your readers – have polls and ask questions to encourage participation – it will stick in their minds and they will come back. Have links, lots of links. Links to other blogs, websites, etc.
So there you have it, the foundations to starting a photoblog. Have fun and experiment. Take risks – I am dangerously close to my word limit – and be consistent. Good luck and happy photoblogging!