Category Archives: Business Aids

Skips Summer School Las Vegas

I always like summer school as a kid. The classes were smaller, more informal and alot more fun than the rest of the year. Not to mention they helped get me out of school earlier. Now that I’m a working stiff, I find that instead of summer school, I take short breaks for various seminars and classes to stay on top of my game as a photographer and to network with old and new friends. ¬†One such “break” that I recently took is called “Skips Summer School” and it was held in the boring city called Las Vegas ūüôā

I had managed to score a free ticket ( THANK YOU PHOTODEX!! )to the 3 day event from Photodex on Facebook but I had to look up what I had won. It seems that Skip Cohen’s summer school is a well kept secret by those “in the know”. ¬†Fine, now I too know about it and I went ahead and booked a room at the Mirage and also booked a Dodge Charger as a rental to drive there. I mean, if I have to go to Vegas, I want to have some fun along the way and what better fun is a muscle car. My five year old daughter decided though that it was HER car and I could borrow it for the trip ūüôā ¬†Just as an FYI – the image below was taken with my iPhone using the Apple HDR setting and then run through Photoshop on the iPhone.

Skips summer school rental charger
Of course, being California, it rained from the time I left to the minute I arrived at the Mirage. So much for stopping along the way and taking some fun shots of the car with the various abandoned buildings on the highway.No matter, what counted was I had gotten there and it was time to go meet people. There as a small expo of vendors there and it is always fun to go chat with the vendors and see what kind of deals that they have and maybe meet someone whom I have been talking to on the phone or by email

Then it was time for dinner and a drink and to bed. After all, an eight hour drive is bit much. Why eight hours? Because there was four crashes on the way there, one was a rolled car and one was a  head on. Either way, it made for a very, very slow drive in the rain.

The next morning, Summer School kicked off in ernest with Jerry Ghionis speaking. If you have not had the chance to listen/watch/learn from Jerry, find the time, make the time or beg the time to do so. Jerry is an amazing presenter.

The video quality is not the best due to my using a dinky Flip camera. There were people there shooting with the full blown HD DSLR and yes, I was a bit green with envy.

We had Bambi Cantrell and Roberto Valenzuela who both are very inspirational and motivating speakers. Roberto in particular really “spoke” to me about shooting in shadows and how to use them. I find myself shooting a lot in the middle of the day or on really bright locations. One take away from Roberto is that you need to shoot, you need to practice and you don’t need alot of to practice with. His case in point is shooting with his trademark melons and bananas. You practice shooting to get the lighting with them and then when it’s for real, you already know how to do it and you don’t waste time.

The one thing from Bambi that I took away was instead of saying “I can not do that” is to say instead “I really wish I could but”. I’ve started to use that and not just in my photographer and it makes a difference.

Tamara Lackey showed grace under pressure when her Mac decided it didn’t want to talk to the projector and so she got to “wing” it for several minutes while they got everything back on track. As always, she was poised, excited and enthusiastic about being there at SSS.

One the treats of the best treats was an open forum with the presenters after the formal ones and after dinner. Anyone could ask any question and the panel would answer as a group. it was a lot of fun and very informative.
Open Forum at Skips Summer School

Other presenters were the ever popular Vincent LaForet, Kevin Kubota and Bobbi Lane. It was an amazing three days and you could not help but get excited again.

The demos were really good. I attended Clay Blackmore’s workshop and his show and tell about posing was worth all the effort of getting there.

Here is a gallery of images from Skips Summer School

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Behind the scenes of a photoshoot

Photographers love to show of images from their last photoshoot. Everyone likes to “ohhhh and ahhhh” over the images that are retouched, mashed up and worked over in a good way we hope. But, personally, I love to shoot the behind the¬†curtain¬†shots. You know, the things that make a photoshoot what it really is and can have you really¬†appreciate¬†all the more the very cool image when the¬†environment¬†is anything but cool.

I attend a monthly workshop that is a mix of a social hour, some food, shop talk, instruction and shooting over at Redgum Creative Studios. A friend of mine, Richard Radstone is the instructor and mentor for those of us who regularly attend these socials and it’s always fun to be there and be involved in the day’s shoot. We have a model or two with a MUA (make up artist) present plus the crew at Redgum to help pull it all together.

So in the spirit of sharing, I’m posting some of the set up and during the shoot shots of mine of the last social/training/breakout Redgum Studio shoot. It really will give you a sense of the afternoon and what a real photoshoot is like. I’m not talking about a “shoot” where the softbox is made from a empty box of corn flakes and the light stand will blow over with a single breath. I’m talking about a real photo shoot, with real models, make up artists, real grip equipment and a real studio setting. The only thing missing is the stress of ¬†having the client on set breathing down your back.

I’ve already mentioned the MUA and I would like to point out the use of C Stands (century stands) instead of the more common tripod stands. These are portable only in the sense that you can carry them from one side of the stage to the other or roll them if they have casters. They are very stable and with the sand bags, they will not be falling over unless you really go out of your way to try to knock it over. The same goes for the big gun strobes, the hot lights, various bit of grip equipment holding it all together and the rest. Things are taped down, locked down and safe. Many photographers would do well to take some notes of the set up of the gear, I know I did when I first started and I have invested more than a bit of “extra” equipment that just makes putting a shoot together a bit more enjoyable and safe for all concerned.

In the other images you can see some of the students from Brooks Institute that were visiting, the cameras of choice for the day and of course, the model getting prepped and having some shots taken.

To myself one of the most interesting things are how the lighting is set up. You can see the lights used, the scrims and/or diffusion used and how the stage is configured overall. There is alot to learn from these types of events. And when you understand that the four hours of social mixing, shooting and listening only costs 25 dollars, you can see how it is a real bargin.

I hope you enjoy this short visit to the backside of a photoshoot and I hope you enjoy the detail shots. So here are two of the final images from the day. So now you know both sides of the shoot, the prep and set up of the shoot and the final outcome.

Final Portrait

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Playing director on a shoot

One skill that any photographer of people needs to work on and constantly improve, is the ability to direct clients/models/subjects to be where you want them, how they need to look and generally for them to feel comfortable with you. After all, you are shoving a camera in their face and most normally people are not used to that sort of thing. Professional models are more used to it but even they only give you what you ask of them.

A few years ago I would have never put myself down as a “people person” or a photographer that enjoyed shooting portraits. My how things have changed over the years. I used to shoot anything except people and now I tend to shoot just people with other things on occasion. I just had a client give me what I consider to be one of the best compliments in a long time when she said I was “a very relaxed photographer and a great people person”. On this one shoot I had adults and a child to work with and I had a ball with them.

High Key Child

High Key Child

The relaxed photographer comment showed in the images. My clients were happy and really having fun with each other and part of this was I was gently directing them where and how to be. To really get good images, you need to connect with your client. Standing behind your camera and just shooting without any direction or encouragement is a recipe for a disaster of a shoot. This is true even for a professional model. They need to know what is expected just as much as a average joe client. Sometimes even more so.
In the case of my little client here, I had connected with her about her stuffed bunny and I had let her rummage through my collection of AA batteries. I took a few fast shots of her goofing and let her see the preview screen and after a bit of time, she was used to be me being there and taking pictures. When I goofed around with her, I got very natural smiles and great expressions. When the parent were sent the proofs, they were thrilled as you can imagine.

 

Along with the personal connection, you need to tell your subject how to move, pose or look. They WANT your direction, you are the EXPERT and if you have made the personal connection, they TRUST you. Along with direction, running feedback for the subject is most of the time a good thing. Especially for non-professionals who are not sure of themselves or if they are doing what you asked. This “patter” is one of the most important skills a photographer can have.

Another “skill” you must have is the¬†ability¬†to make it look like “you meant to do that”. Very few things unsettle a client more than the photographer wandering around mumbling to themselves, looking lost, fumbling with¬†equipment¬†or looking at the camera view screen and going “oh sh*t”. You really need to know what you are doing, how you are going to do it and when you are going to do it. Or at least act like you. There isa quote from a set of commercials with¬†celebrities¬† saying “never let them see you sweat” and that is so true in photography. You need to, no, must project¬†confidence in yourself and how you make images in order for the client to be comfortable and to trust you. Dont mistake¬†arrogance¬†for¬†confidence, there is a difference. If you are arrogant, you come off as a jerk and with confidence, you are someone that they can trust.
Happy Family

So after an hour or so, I was able to shoot this image of my clients and have everybody relaxed and interaction at a very natural level. It shows in the image with the body language and how everyone is comfortable with each other in this moment.

These types of directing and interaction people skills are something you need to learn and to practice. Salesmen know this and use it all the time. Watch a good salesman at work with a customer, they make the customer comfortable and feel relaxed around them. As a photographer, having good people skills is just or even more important than having that new hot shot 200mm F.28 super portrait lens. If you clients can not relax around you, it will show in every single picture you take.

So relax a bit, loosen up and enjoy the time with your clients instead of viewing it as drudgery.

PS – a friend of mine had some really good thoughts on this also:

Thomas Churchwell “Do not let the escort take control of the shoot. The first 15 minutes will always be your worse pictures even if they are great. The Tension and anxiety will take about 15 minutes before the models stops her posing that she knows are winners and relax enough to be herself. If you act as though your not there to be impressed but to have a good time then you will get a more pliable model who will stop trying to impress you and start being your muse.”

Thomas makes a very good point that when you are the director, YOU are the director, not the escort, not the model, not the friend, YOU are. Your images will sink or swim by how well you do your job not just as a photographer but as a director.

 

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A Scanners Tale

Fujitsu Logo
Image via Wikipedia

Paper is the bane of my office. I have magazines that I want to keep articles from, torn sheets from magazines that have ideas for shoots, bills, reference paperwork  such as maps from travels and more. All this information, no way to search it, no way to catalog it and no up to now, no way to digitize it quickly or easily.

Change is upon me in the form of a new scanner from Fujitsu called the Snapscan S1500M. This scanner comes in two flavors, Windows or Mac. And unlike many shops that claim Mac compatibility, this really IS compatible with the Mac. The software installs easily and has been absolutely reliable, not a single crash or hicup. The scanner is not cheap compared to others but 400 dollars for a scanner that does double sided scanning of 100 pages in less than five minutes is pretty cheap. The processing that takes the scan and makes it a searchable PDF only adds another five minutes to the time of scanning 100 pages.

So I have this PDf now on my computer, ¬†just what can I do with it? Well, what I do is what I had told to me by XXX. I got a premium membership with Evernote and I sync this folder and files up with Evernote so now everything is in the “cloud” and available to all my devices. This includes:

  • iPhone/iPad/iTouch
  • Windows
  • OSX
  • Windows Mobil
  • Palm Pre
  • Blackberry
  • Android

It’s searchable so I can run a search on a topic and get just those matches. I do not have to thumb through old magazines guessing where I saw that article at. Or look for the sticky hanging off the outside with a scribble on it.

Here is the user interface for the OSX application. Clean and to the point.

Evernote OSX Application

Evernote OSX Application

And Evernote is not just for scanners, you can clip from the web or use your webcam to snap a picture. I love SOHO Notes but this might just replace it for me. You owe it to yourself to check it out even if you dont want to scan anything.

Now I can either chop the spine of the magazine off and scan it all then clean it up with Acrobat or I can just razor out the pages I want and scan those. In the past day, I’ve cleaned out one year of Photoshop User magazines and a pile of razored clippings. I clean up my scans by deleting all the ads and stuff I dont want since there is a monthly limit to the uploading at Evernote of 500 meg. This sounds small but the typical razored article is about 3 pages cleaned and under a meg in size or a tad over if I keep the color images.

I just put the scanned files into one directory and I have that sync automatically with Evernote’s website and I’m good to go.

So in short:

  1. Razor articles
  2. Toss remains
  3. Scan articles
  4. Clean up ads
  5. Sync

So far so good, I can access my new files on my iPhone or iPad without any issues at all no matter where I am. I have copies locally on my MacPro and I have them in the cloud. I have pulled about 50lbs of magazines out of my office and more on the way. I can even find things now with Spotlight. This is a win all the way around as far as I’m concerned even more so at the modest cost involved.

  • Scanner = 450.00 from Amazon
  • Evernote = 50 dollars a year for the premium account, the entry level account is free
  • Supply of razors = 10 dollars

Optional cost would be a real nice guillotine cutter that can handle 200 pages at a whack to take care of the magazines but so far, the razor works fine.

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Lights, Camera and Action!!

Back of a Blu-ray Disc. I took this.
Image via Wikipedia

Oh yeah.. baby loves video ūüôā ¬†So I finally bite the bullet and bought ProShow Producer by Photodex. I used some images from the Westcott photoshoot at Photoshopworld as a test for a quick and dirty slide show. I tossed this together without reading ANY docs, just ran the wizard, clicked around a bite and off we go. In less than an hour I had pretty much made this show which included finding music on the internet.

Now I need to really dig into the software. It can do so much like layers and masking on the slides. ¬†It’s a lot easier than Premier and I like the end results more than Animoto. A cool part is that it has a kick butt “create” menu panel. Anything you would like to export the show into is there. BlueRay, DVD, self contained EXE, Flash, Youtube, Facebook and more. ¬†Way cool and one of the best export panels I’ve seen for video like this. Right now I have it running in Fusion on my MacPro in a Windows XP image and it works just fine. It would be nice to have an OSX version but this is very workable for now.

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Atlas, Pocket Wizard Clones by Phottix

One of the signs of “making it” for a budding professional photographer is the purchase of some PocketWizard wireless triggers. When you trade in the ebay specials that you learned on to the pro gear, it’s a really nice feeling. But, that feeling can be costly with a PW costing about 170.00 USD each. The company called Phottix has developed and released a new wireless trigger that looks and feel alot like a PW trigger. Same shape, same size, mostly the same controls but some differences. The biggest is the price, the Atlas costs about 90.00 USD and includes cables plus a set of brand name AA batteries. The unit itself also has some differences for the better and I will detail them in a few moments. One difference to point out right away is the metal hotshoe!! ¬†No more cheap plastic hotshoes which are the bane of the Pocket Wizard.

Atlas Wireless Triggers

Atlas Wireless Triggers

The picture above shows the unboxing of the new trigger. You can see they are well packages with Duracell batteries, cables, lanyard and a decent set of directions. The buttons are well labeled and easy to read. The build quality is excellent, in some ways, I think it’s better than the real Pocket Wizard. Two¬†additions¬†are very welcomed for photographers. The first is a metal tripod mount and the second is the metal hot shoe mount. Both are incredible useful in the field and even in the studio. The radio runs on cheap AA cells and work very well on a diet of PowerX Imedion AA 2400 low discharge cells.

There are two plugs in the top, one for controlling the flash OUT and a second for flash IN/OUT. These in and out ports will let you daisy chain strobes to be triggered by one Atlas.

The units support WRS mode or Wireless Remote Sync which lets you shoot the flash off AND trigger the camera remotely. You can lock the unit down as a transmitter only to  help avoid interference simple by pressing the test/shutter button while you turn on the Atlas. When you have a red light on status, release the button and the status LED should now go to green and blink green once a second. When in transmit and receive mode, it will blink once every two seconds.

The Atlas has four channels to choose from and WRS uses two at a time. For normal use, you just need to put them all on the same channel. The Atlas is compatible with two Sekonic light meters, the L-358 and the L-758R so long as both are using the RT-32 transmitter. While the Atlas trigger frequency is compatible with PocketWizard‚Äôs MiniTT1, FlexTT5, MultiMax, Plus II (& probably the original/old PocketWizards) for both sending and receiving, I was not able to get the Atlas to trigger the PW PlusII in a fast test. I plan to get a few PWs to test further with and see what happens, I’m told the Atlas will work with PWs. I am thinking that the PW can trigger the Atlas but not the other way around.

The range I’ve tested to so far is a bit over 100 feet line of sight without any misfires. I did a test where the flash was inside the house about 10 feet and behind double pane low E glass. The low E glass tends to attenuate my radios and I imagine it does the same thing to the Atlas triggers but I went 75 feet outside and still had solid triggering without any misfires. I plan to wander over one of the parks in the next week or so and really stretch out the range. But in truth, 100 feet is about the furtherest I have been from my flashes when shooting remote. My ebay clones used to start to miss about then even more so with a low battery.

So in the past month I’ve used these triggers on my D300 bodies, my G11, my Photogenics and my SB800s without any issues at all. They have worked every time and have been very reliable. Not bad for a 100 bucks a unit. Given that the eBay triggers were 40 plus shipping and required mods to really work well, these are a deal. What I can not tell is how well they will hold up under abuse like being dropped and kicked around.

Here are some individual shots of the Atlas. These were taken with Atlas triggers on my Canon G11 triggering a Photogenic 1250 flash with a 48 inch octabank. The white background is just white construction paper propped up in the back

Phottix Atlas Complete Kit

Phottix Atlas Complete Kit

Phottix Atlas Side and Top View

Phottix Atlas Side and Top View

Phottix Atlas Top View

Phottix Atlas Top View

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The art of selling

A few years ago I decided to go from being an “Amateur” to being a “Pro” with my photography. ¬†Alot has changed from when I took my first photography classes in the early 80’s but some things have stayed the same. I learned about David Hobby and the whole “strobist” movement. I learned about flash, ¬†overpowering daylight, composition, posing, the business of photography ¬†and more recently, selling.

Selling? selling what you ask? Isn’t that the same as the photography business? Not so much as it turns out. To be a professional photographer is as much or more about selling than it is your images. Sounds a bit off doesn’t it? I mean images are my stock in trade, it’s how people judge me, right? Not exactly as it turns out. When you are trying to sell a wedding for example, you are selling something of a dream to the bride. She wants her day captured in the best possibly light and in a style that she likes. But what she does not understand or at least most dont, is that she is also judging you, the photographer. How well you relate to her, how well you two can talk and laugh and most importantly, how much she trusts you in order to pay a fair amount of money for something she wont see till after the wedding is over and the guests have gone home.

Yes, you are selling yourself to her and to every other customer you meet. How you present yourself and your craft will have more of an impact on your¬†business¬†than how much cool equipment you have or even how your pictures look. This selling of yourself is not just your clothes or how you talk either, it is where you meet and how the overall package of “you” is presented.

Let me share a story about something I saw just the other day. I’m in a Starbucks on my way to an OpLove shoot and I see a young woman looking at wedding pictures by herself at the next table over. The whole situation caught my eye and I placed a bet with myself if she was meeting someone there. About 10 minutes later, here comes the photographer who apologized right off the bat for being late as he pulls out sample albums and they start talking.

So what is wrong with this? I mean there are alot of photographers who use Starbucks as a cheap office space. They have coffee, wireless and tables. It’s also not your home with the kids, the dog, the cat and so on, sounds perfect right?

Not so much for really getting that sale or even the best type of sale. Let me explain a few things here.

  • First the photographer was late, that is one of the worst things to do with a potential client. It will leave a lasting impression that says you are somewhat unreliable.
  • Meeting at Starbucks with loud music playing so you have to yell over the sound is not professional at all, not even in the slightest. In this story, the added joke for me was the song that was playing, Mr Mojo Rising was playing as the bride ¬†started to look at albums. What kind of comfort level does she have looking at your albums? Remember, your photographs push emotional buttons and that emotion is what will sell your images. If the emotion is overwhelmed by a desire to get the hell out of the Starbucks, then you are not going to sell nearly what you could.
  • What is this client going to tell her friends about you, the photographer? that you are not really a professional because she had to meet you in a Starbucks? I know of people that can make their business work this way but I really wonder if they are having to work even harder than they should be to overcome the presentation of meeting in a noisy, crowded public store front to conduct your business?
  • I know of several high end wedding photographers that meet in their house or they own/rent a house that they use for a studio. Why? because it works people!! Selling a 10,000 dollar wedding is not going to happen in Starbucks or Dennys but it will happen in the studio with good light, quiet music, someone being attentive to the customer and the customer feeling very comfortable. Ever wonder why the Mercedes dealer is more like walking into a fine house than the Chevy dealer with the tile floor and the tasteless¬†cubicles? Now if you like booking 800 dollar weddings, do what you like but if you want to really book the good stuff, start raising the bar for yourself and really think about how you want to present yourself and your craft. I know of another photographer who can not afford a studio yet but rents one that has a very nice area to present the albums, videos and slide shows. Why? because it makes his upselling alot easier. He rents for a block of time and runs one or two clients through it during the rental time. It’s a lot of work but it pays off for him.
  • Read!!! ¬†Read about selling and marketing. I’m doing this now and I really feel that I should have done it three years ago before I upgraded any equipment I had. Get a copy or the audio book by Seth Godin called Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable. Another really good book on marketing is by Robert Provencher ¬†and called Exposed: The Naked Uncensored Truth to Running A Successful Photography Business. There are more, many more but these two I have found to be very helpful.

With all this said, do ¬†I have studio space? Not yet, I’m looking around at commercial sites right now and ¬†have been for a month or so now. I do rent space when I need it and Robert Provencher made a point about leveraging what you DO have and not whining about about what you DONT have, in this case, professional space. I do have a house and I do have toys everywhere but he had some interesting things to say about marketing something I thought of as a¬†liability¬†and flipping it to be an¬†asset. When I need to sell right now, I try to meet at the clients house where they are the most comfortable and so far it works. What I will not do is to meet a client at Starbucks and try to sell high quality¬†photography in that type of¬†environment. It’s not the way I want to sell, it is not how I want to be known and I do not want¬†my art presented in that fashion.

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Call of the iPad

iPad with on display keyboard
Image via Wikipedia

Well, I’ve had my iPad for a few months now and my impressions are pretty much the same as they have been when I first got it. I still view it as a toy because of some limitations.¬† It has some outstanding features but the issues are important too.¬† I should preface this with the fact that I have about a dozen Macs around here and everyone in the family (the adults at least) all use iPhones and I have and love my AppleTV. So you might consider me something of a “fanboy” of Apple products. So when I complain about the iPad, it’s not a non-apple person whining, it’s a strong supporter of Apple products who feels that Apple seriously dropped the ball.

Good points of the iPad

  • It’s sexy.. oh so sexy. It has a nice feel and heft to it that has become the trademark of all things Apple of late.
  • Really nice screen (we will address a fault in a minute)
  • Long battery life
  • Stable IOS running it
  • Super easy user interface
  • Awesome way to show off pictures
  • Reasonably good e-reader
  • Works very well on WiFi
  • Snappy response to finger input
  • Never a crash of the IOS in the past three months

Now, the downside of the iPad

  • Zero expandability – no USB port (camera readers does NOT count) – no microSD – nothing
  • The screen shows every stinking fingerprint known to man. So showing pictures requires a cleaning each and every time
  • Useless is bright sunlight
  • Can not take decent notes on it with a finger tip and no provisions for a stylus. I dont know about you, but trying to write using my¬† finger tips is just about impossible.
  • Cost – The fully decked out 3G and Wifi with 64 Gig of memory is over 900 bucks. And since you can not expand it in any way, the 64 Gig is almost a requirement
  • Lack of native way to print (even the new wireless printing is going to be limited to the newest version of leopard)
  • Lack of any corporate account (according to AT/T)
  • A big fault to me is having to use iTunes to move things around and that the iPad is tied to a given copy of iTunes. So I sync at home but on the road, I can not sync something without wiping out everything already on the iPad or I can not given it to someone else to take on the road and they can not put anything on it unless a real computer where people can have their own accounts.

I know there are apps and hacks to get around some of these and I have used them but my point is that you should not have to hack your PDA to get what is considered to be basic functionality. I am serious considering moving to an Android based tablet with real hardware options such using a thumb drive and using microSD cards to shuffle files around. I’m thinking about some kind of screen protector that might still let me show off images but keep the finger prints to a minimum. The iTunes only management is a real pain in the butt. Since I’m allowed five computers on a given iTunes account, why can I not sync from ANY of the five systems without having to wipe the iPad?

Note: There is a HACK to get around this but we are back to my original point, you should NOT have to HACK your system just to do something as basic as syncing between the five authorized computers.

I have found a few very useful apps for the iPad to help get around some of the issues. Dropbox is one of the biggies. I can move things around from all my computers and get PDFs and images onto the iPad without too much difficulty. Along with Dropbox, is a cool note app called “Elements” where as you write notes, they are put into Dropbox automatically. Since I’m on Facebook, the app called “Social” is perfect for me and lets me manage my Facebook presence very nicely. I use Wyse PocketCloud to remote desktop into a Windows server I have. My display app of choice is called “Foliobook” and does that job very well. For the printing, I use ACTprinter successfully.

So will I give up my iPad?, not yet. But, I see some serious competition on the near horizon that begs a close look. And when I find a tablet that offers real choice, I’ll drop the iPad faster than a hot match. For now, the iPad is the only real game in town but that certainly does not make it perfect by a long stretch.

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Westcott Model Shoot

The vendor, Westcott, sell various lighting and light modifiers to photographers and studios. They are a constant vendor at Photoshopworld and other Photography related shows. One of the most popular features of their booth has been the model shoot where a rep will demo product using a live model and then allow photographers to try their hand at a fast shoot using the same setup and equipment.

I think they just raised the bar in a big way by having four “sets” set up where they had live models and at times a still life available to shoot using the Westcott equipment. There were simple rules, you could not touch the model or the lights but you could direct the model on how you think a pose might work. This time you can submit your final images to be a possible catalog cover.

Popular? You bet!!!¬† They had photographers coming out of the woodwork with everything from the high end Canon/Nikons to the cell phone with any number of camera in between. it was amazing to shoot and even more so just to watch. It was pretty clever in a way since you can only really make the photograph yours by model position and post work. Since the lights were fixed, you had to move the model to change the mood and you had to use some solid techniques in post to “fix” things like lights being in the image, fashion model fixing, getting rid of backdrop seams and so on.

Here are some of my shots along with a description of what I had to do in post to get to the finished or close to the finished image. Most of what I did to these images is not much different than what I do in my wedding shoots or portrait sessions here in my studio in Orange. When I shoot, many times I know when I take the shot, that I will need to do something in post like removing something or enhancing the bride and so on. Sometimes I make a mental note that a certain picture will need something specific because I know it’s a cool shot but needs editing to make it cool.

Here is my Catwoman shot in the raw. No retouching, no post of any kind except to convert it from camera RAW to JPEG to post here on my blog.

Catwoman in Gotham City RAW

Catwoman in Gotham City RAW

You can see from the above shot that there is quite a bit of work needed in post to make a usable image. There is a light in the upper left, the bike is on carpet, the background is too short and does not touch the carpet just to name a few things. Here is the final version or very close to my final version of Catwoman

Catwoman in Gotham Final

Catwoman in Gotham Final

I edited out all the extra stuff like the lights and reflector panel. I used content aware fill and free transform to stretch and edit the background. I used the Lightroom Graduated Filter with a blue tint to darken and add mood to the background. I added a concrete texture to the carpet to make it look more like asphalt. I did a fair amount of selective burning in like the front rim of the bike which was too bright. I tweaked the intensity to get the deep reds and dark blacks. I added a dark vignette around the image to help blend in the transition between backdrop and carpet. I think it turned out pretty well ūüôā

In the next shot, we have a retro looking “Pin Up Queen” but we need some work here too. There is a red fabric that is competing for attention, we have tattoos on the model and we have some unsightly bulges on the bustline and arm.

Pin Up Queen RAW

Pin Up Queen RAW

And here is my final image after using several tools and some hand work.

Pin Up Queen Final

Pin Up Queen Final

I used liquidify to smooth out the bustline and arm. I used Portraiture to smoothout the skin and give a glamor look to the over all image. I removed the red sash hanging down in the background and I removed the tats showing on each arm.

Here are some of the rest of my shots from the Westcott model shoot. Westcott even had a couple of still lifes for those who do not like shooting people. As you can see, many times you need good post processing to really bring out the best of a picture whether it be a still life, a fashion shoot or even a wedding. I’ve seen good images with bad post processing and they just do not work well. I’ve seen marginal images but with excellent post processing and they work pretty well.¬† Taking the shot is just one step to having a killer image as the final result. Ansel Adams was a master of this and understood clearly that the raw image was only the first step to showing the world your vision.

Thank to Westcott for putting all of this together and letting the photographers have alot of fun over the past three days shooting gorgeous models on fun sets.

Queen of Hearts RAW

Queen of Hearts RAW

Queen of Hearts FINAL

Queen of Hearts FINAL

Steam Punk RAW

Steam Punk RAW

Steam Punk FINAL

Steam Punk FINAL

Natural Pair RAW

Natural Pair RAW

Natural Pair FINAL

Natural Pair FINAL

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