I’ve been thinking about this the last few days. It’s a challenge, to say the least, and it’s not just limited to photography. Think of every creative service industry that’s been affected by a transition to digital: photography, music, art, advertising, etc. They’ve all been inundated with new talent that’s able to learn and produce at a rapid pace. If you can see the results of your work right away, you can progress through those 10,000 hours much quicker. The baseline for what is considered acceptable work changes as well. As an example, look at audio. When the digital revolution started, audio professionals slammed MP3 for it’s crappy compression and frequency response. And where are we now? The pros still slam MP3. And MP3 is the dominant audio format. Not “cd quality” files. Not HD audio. This kind of market ‘attitude’ adjustment has happened in every field affected by digital. And it’s not completely a bad thing. It’s great, for example, to be able to get a beautiful print out of today’s printers without worrying about CMYK or color separations or any of that stuff. So how can you stand out in your field among all this change?
I had the honor last night of taking part in something special. If you are on Google Plus, you probably know that the first-ever Google Plus Photography Conference is going on right now. This conference is being run by the Scott Kelby’s crew (the same one that runs Photoshop World), along with Google.
I wasn’t able to make it to San Francisco, but I was asked and excited to be a part of it (albeit remotely). For a lot of the presentations, the conference team ran live hangouts and displayed the video on a large screen. This brought a unique element to the presentation (which already was in front of a large crowd). For the first time, a presenter could give a talk and also field questions/input from the hangout members.
I was happy to be one of those hangout members for Jeremy Cowart’s presentation last night. During the event I kept thinking “Cheers is filmed before a live, studio audience.” That’s what it felt like. I was an observer, and also a participant. I was far away, but close, because I could ask a question at any point. If I did speak, my face was immediately shown on the huge screen in the conference hall. I’m glad I brushed my hair.
If you’d like to watch Jeremy’s presentation (which is awesome btw), I’ve included it below. It will leave you, like me, feeling both inspired and unproductive! Dang you, Jeremy. I’ve also included some stills that my friend Frederick Van Johnson sent me from ‘behind the curtain’. Literally, behind the giant projection screen.
Congrats to Google and Scott Kelby and his team for pulling off this new conference, and congrats to Jeremy Cowart for a great presentation!
I decided recently that it was time to shake things up a little bit in blog land. I now have a snazzy new design thanks to the folks at StudioPress. I’ve also added some additional content at the top. There’s a page for Photog.TV, as well as my luminosity mask set. At the bottom, you’ll see some of my recent Instagram images (yes, I know, I need to use it more often).
And since a post can always benefit with a picture, here are a few shots of the boys taken while we were visiting some family in Oklahoma. They look so happy to be standing in a field.
Debbie emailed me last November from Atlanta. She’s a wedding photographer and was looking for ways to change things up in her lighting and the post-processing of her work (including her portrait work as well). A “creative bootcamp”, as she put it, in her initial email. She asked if I did any workshops. I didn’t have any plans for one anytime soon. She began suggesting that she be a ‘guinea pig’ for a full-day one-on-one training thing. We emailed back and forth, and it finally worked out this past Friday. She came into town and we spent all day covering lighting and post production. I had no secrets – we opened every image she wanted and I discussed in detail what I was thinking on set and I how I did the work in Photoshop afterwards. We talked about lighting modifiers, how they affect the light, and how to get more efficient use out of her gear.
We also enjoyed an Italian lunch at Mandola’s. I probably would have been there that day anyways because I like fresh mozzarella (being half-Italian and all).
Debbie showed up with images that she wanted to discuss, and she took great notes:
And I made use of a whiteboard to, well, “sketch” things:
It was a great time! I could see doing it again.
It’s been about a month since the last post. In
some many ways, the holiday season is my busiest time. In addition to my commercial/editorial work, I pick up a fair bit of Christmas card work as well. I’m looking forward to wrapping things up over this week so I can get to some Christmas shopping and baked-goods gluttony.
In the meantime, I had the great fortune to do an interview with Frederick Van Johnson of This Week In Photo. It’s my hands-down favorite podcast and, to borrow a phrase from co-host Alex Lindsay, ‘you should definitely check it out’.
You can find the entire interview here. We talk about my work prior to photography (including a stint at the Pentagon, web design, and a little film music scoring too).
I hope your holidays are off to a great start!
Have you ever been interested in pumping up the contrast in your work beyond the standard tone-curve adjustments that all of the books teach? After hanging with my friend Douglas Sonders at Photoshop World in Vegas and mentioning my technique to him, I decided to put together this video tutorial on how I do it.
For me, I enjoy walking a line between real and not real. I tend to use HDR, for example, on certain parts of background images but never the whole image. With this effect it’s the same idea. In the past I would use a plug in called Lucis Art to get a similar effect. It’s a very popular plug in and has a very distinctive look. One of those ‘you know it when you see it‘ looks. Unfortunately, the company that makes it has stopped further development on the Mac platform. This is a shame, really, because Lucis Art was creating a look that no one else could do. Enter Silver Efex Pro 2 by Nik Software.
I picked up Silver Efex Pro 2 on a whim. It was totally an impulse purchase during a conference last year (I think it was Photoshop World Orlando). Silver Efex Pro is designed to do one thing well – make black and white images. It excels at it, to say the the least. After using the plug in for 2 minutes, I completely ditched my older methods for creating black and white conversions. It really is that good. However, while messing around with it I came across a way to use it to give my color images a Lucis feel. Check out the video below to see how I used it for the cover shoot of the first issue of Austin Man Magazine:
So there you have it – pretty straightforward. If you liked this tip, you my want to subscribe to the feed as I’ll be posting more soon. Also, be sure to add me on Google Plus if you are there, as I’m planning on doing a hangout to show this in action.
I recently finished putting together my portfolio book, and I’d like to share a little walkthrough of it.
The process of putting this together was longer than I had originally planned. It all started by going through images from the last few years and figuring out what worked. A lot of this process was with Natalie Ogura, who has a very strong background as a producer as well as a set stylist. I’ve brought her on for commercial shoots before and was excited to to work together again. We culled images for the website, and then I used those images as a starting point for the book.
When it comes to book printing you have a ton of options. While it would have been easy to go to the companies I’ve used before for weddings, the problem with those books is that they are permanent: no changing out pages without sending the books in (and paying a nice change fee.) Ultimately I decided to go with Lost Luggage. While they do high-end custom work for clients, they also produce a series of standard portfolio books that allow you to trade out pages easily. They had just the look I wanted.
I also had to make some decisions when it came to printing. Lost Luggage sells matte paper that is pre-drilled and works perfectly with their books. I did a test run with their paper, but in the end wasn’t happy. I felt that paper with a slight gloss would work better since my images had a more contemporary, commercial look to them. Lost Luggage didn’t sell any paper like that, so I went on a paper hunt.
I was immediately drawn to Hahnemuhle. I just loved how the prints looked with their paper! It had enough of a sheen but wasn’t glossy. My first round with that paper was Photo Rag Pearl. The paper was rated as 320 gsm (which is a measure of its thickness). That paper was incredible, but once I printed the book, I noticed that the paper was too thick. The book couldn’t lay flat, and became unwieldy. Fortunately, Hahnemuhle makes a version of the same paper at 285 gsm, and it was much better.
Here’s a video walkthrough of the book:
Regarding the video, creating it was pretty straight-forward. I put a 5d Mark 2 on a c-stand (held by a Manfrotto magic arm). The camera was running tethered to a laptop. On the laptop, I was using the Live View feature of Canon’s EOS Utility. This allowed me to watch it while recording to make sure the book was straight and the pacing was good. For lighting, I used a single ring flash behind the desk. Here’s a setup shot:
Overall, I am really happy with the book, and the response by those that have seen has been great!