A New Video Show!

One of my goals for 2017 is to build out my YouTube channel a little bit, and I started the process about 5 weeks ago with a new video show. In it I plan to talk about tips, tricks, reviews and more, all related to photography and painting. I've posted a quick little synopsis of each episode over on the fine art website blog here. But if you'd like to go to a particular episode, here's a graphic/link below for each one of the first 6 shows. If you like the content, I'd really appreciate a share, like and/or a subscribe to the channel. I hope the information is helpful - thank you!







Introduction To Compositing With Peachpit Press

Introduction To Compositing Book Image 1

I am very excited to announce the launch of my first collaboration with Peachpit Press. We've been talking off and on over the last year or two about doing a project together. We'd hash out ideas, and then we'd decide to wait a little while and revisit the possibilities later. When they called recently saying that they were releasing a brand-new series of e-books, I thought it was a great opportunity to put something together.

We'd decided on an introduction-to-compositing book. To me, compositing is the last, ultimate expression of a still image. Photographers today are very good at natural light shooting, using flash, etc. But how many do you know that design a shoot in their mind, photograph all the elements, and then bring it together in Photoshop later? That's what this e-book teaches.

You'll learn how I created the above image, step-by-step. You'll get all of the files I used, and I'll walk you through such topics as:

  • Why I specifically shot in open shade for this image.
  • The pitfalls to watch out for when photographing elements.
  • The importance of matching angles.
  • Which background paper to use, and why.
  • How to mask hair and the insides of water bottles.
  • How to match colors in your scene so the elements look right.

Plus a lot more. In fact, over 50 pages of more:

Introduction To Compositing Book Image 2
Introduction To Compositing Book Image 3

And the best part? The e-book is available for just $5. I know that I could easily trick out a mocha and spend $5 on it (especially if I'm in a state that starts with CA). It's also $2 cheaper than Minecraft.

If you are interested in compositing, but don't know where to start, give this book a try. You can find it here. And if you have any questions along the way, feel free to reach out to me!

*** As part of the launch, I'm giving away 2 free download codes. Just leave a comment on my Facebook page here in the next 24 hours (ending 8/20/13). I'll pick two people at random. ***

can you still be creative in today's world?

photo sketchI'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'm going to focus this specifically on photography, although there are aspects that apply to other creative disciplines. The first thing to recognize is that we as photographers MUST push our creativity in order to survive. Technical knowledge isn't enough. It probably hasn't been for almost 10 years.

Let's say that you've got your technical stuff down, and you're looking for ways to explore what's inside your head. Here are some things that I've tried, all with varying levels of success.

1. Sketching/Drawing. First off, stop right now with the "I can't draw" comments. Have you seen Joe McNally's sketches? Just get a pencil and draw what you are thinking. And then draw it again with something different (the angle, the light, etc). My sketches, as crappy as they can be, are the basis for many of my shoots. If you want to go further and learn about composition, lighting and drama in sketches, check out Feng Zhu's videos where he breaks down his concept art for games.

2. Using Current Events As a Springboard. This is an approach that can give you new ideas almost every day. Check the news. What stories are people drawn to? Why are they drawn to them? Is it the emotion? The characters? The setting? Is there a feeling or idea from a story that could translate into your work?

3. What Would Happen If. This is a fun one. It comes into play a lot when I draw out new humor shoot ideas. For example, what would happen if a woman was in the delivery room giving birth, and yet she was so tied up in her iPad that she wasn't even paying attention? Maybe something like this. This technique is great for bringing together disparate ideas and concepts. The most obvious would be the standard 'fish out of water' idea. But you can go further than that by refining your ideas to be closer together/more feasible. Don't go for the obvious setting or situation, but rather start there and then put your spin on it.

4. Bedside Ideas. Chase Jarvis interviewed a photographer who wrote his dreams down and then turned them into photo shoots. How creative! Try keeping a paper and pen by the bed in case you wake up at 2am with a crazy idea. I really need to do this more - I know I've missed some good ones that I didn't remember the next day. I also laugh sometimes when the ideas seemed so perfect in the middle of the night, but are utter crap in the morning.

5. Test. Take the lighting and modifiers you have and spend several hours testing combinations. How does relative flash power affect the look? What about mixing ambient and flash? What modifiers work good with certain body/face types? Zack Arias did this and posted the results a while back.

6. Recreate & Move On. If you find an image/technique that you are really drawn to, try to recreate it. I know that we often get caught up in 'it's that other photographer's image, so Ill never post something similar because I don't want to be copying their style.' That very well may be true. But that's not the point. The point is to get the technique down, so that you can mix those skills with your own for your own unique vision. Keith Richards once said something along the lines of 'there is no unique music. It's just a player's interpretations of other musicians they've heard before'. That wasn't the actual quote, but it's the general idea. Recreate what you like, and then move on.

7. Keep track. Store images that you like in a place that you can reference easily. I use Evernote for this. So does Jeremy Cowart. My collection is tagged in various ways, like men, women, group, standing, seated, etc. I also have a "photos I want to shoot" category where I store some of my favorite images.

So there you go - 7 ways to help stay creative in today's digital world. If you have your own technique, I'd love to hear it in the comments. I'm always looking for new ideas :)

A Live Studio Audience

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!!