Tag Archives: equipment

Controlling your light

They say that shooing portraits in broad daylight such as high noon is nuts, that it cant be done and that anyone with sense will avoid it like the plague. Most times these experts are correct but one of the things that a professional photographer has to learn is to adapt and make things work out the way they need to. So with that in mind, let me tell you about my weekend of shooting Santa Claus.

I got an email from a acquaintance asking if I would possibly be able to shoot a session involving Santa Claus, families and a public park with four days notice. I had to juggle things but I replied yes, for a small fee and the list of names of the families with their email addresses. Now shooting this event was going to be a royal b**ch since it was going to be a  public park and starting at 11AM then running till 1PM. No tent, no cover of any kind. The last four years showed snapshots taken with on camera flash blasting the families to overpower the sun. Last years was pretty underexposed since it had been a grey day and the camera didnt get the settings right.

I decided to raise the bar and execute this event better than anyone there had seen before. I have a very cool Christmas themed muslin backdrop that is pretty decent quality and I have several 20lb sand bags. I also have reflectors but no portable strobes yet. I was bummed but I could not find a battery pack to run my Photogenics or get a small generator on such short notice. So I ended up using my SB800s instead.

I put up the backdrop, doubled it over to keep light from leaking through the back and had the back facing the sun directly to get the most shade I could. I put 25lbs of sand on each leg (ended up with 50lbs before the shoot was over) plus two 10 lb bags clipped to the bottom of the shortened backdrop to keep it from flapping around. I did not care about lighting it separately as there was so much ambient light, I didnt need to. On the SB800, I used a 1/2 cut CTO gell to squash the bluewhite “daylight” look of the flash. I prepped two more flashes with batteries ready to go. I had a spare body prepped and ready to go.

I put Santa in his chair and metered him using my older but reliable Minolta meter, the camera meter gets very confused with this type of shooting so I dont trust the brains of the camera. I then put everything on manual, dialed it in and shot off several images with my 17-55mmF2.8. I ended up going with my 1.4 50mm at F10 and ISO 200. The shadow was just long enough to keep me in shade without too much flare in the lens. The images did need their black points pushed way up as they were flat. I knew that from the first few pictures. I used a gold reflector to throw a dash of golden light on Santa Claus and the clients. The SB800 was dialed down -1/2 exposure compensation to avoid blowing out skin tones knowing that by shooting raw, I can easily dial it in.

You can see here the extreme differences between the sun and shade of the backdrop. I took this with my iPhone to avoid screwing with my numbering sequence on my shooting body.

Park shooting set up

Park shooting set up

So I ended up shooting about 40 families over three hours. Everyone had a lot of fun and everyone was blown away by the backdrop. But when I showed off the images, jaw dropped. The images really looked good and nobody believed that they were shot at noon and in a park. The grass was not a problem because 99% of the shots were “head shots” style.

Santa Claus with vintage treatment

Santa Claus with vintage treatment

Final Santa Claus image in park

Final Santa Claus image in park

Now that we had the shots, I used BayPhoto’s ROES software to make up the Christmas cards. My client was giving away a free Christmas card and we settled on the 4×8 photo card. I used Bay’s templates and treatments to make a simple card with a place for my friend to sign his name.

Christmas Card from Belmont shoot

Christmas Card from Belmont shoot

So in the end, with about 400 dollars in studio stuff that I already had from past shoots and 30 minutes of set up time, I was able to produce killer event shots of Santa Claus in a public park at high noon. I did this by using quality parts, by knowing how my equipment works and most importantly, how to work around problems on the fly. Were the images perfect out of the camera? No, they were not. They were flat and washed out even though they were correctly exposed based on the histogram. Thats partial due to the 50mm lens I shot with it. Partial from having to be very careful shooting into the light even though I had shade, there was still some spillover from the top of the background. But with shooting RAW, a few simple adjustments applied to each image and they all snapped into place.

So dont take the common wisdom as gospel like “you cannot shoot portraits at noon” or you can not use onboard flash effectively and so on. When you know your equipment and you know how light works, you can do amazing things when others say you can’t.  I have a happy client and 50 new possible clients who saw me shoot under difficult circumstances and still nail the shots.

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Posted in event photography, Hardware, photography, portraits, technique, training Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Long Live the Pocket Camera, the Pocket Camera is dead

the top and sides of an iPhone 3G S.
Image via Wikipedia

Yet another single use device has bitten the dust or I should say, is biting the dust even as I type this. The “pocket camera” or “Point and shoot” is dying a fast and unlamented death. The cause of death is the smart phone of which no matter which one you use, iPhone, Droid etc, now have a reasonable camera built in. It’s the old “good enough” syndrome of the consumer. The smart phone hits the mark in convenience and is good enough for most consumers to grab that snapshot.

When I’m scouting for locations, do I pull out my Canon G11? Nooope.. I pull out my iPhone with the GPS and then shoot and tag. I use my G11 about once a month if that. I use my iPhone at least once a day to shoot a picture of something. It could be a reminder of a phone number, a product in the store, something I’m doing that friends would find interesting.

Just the other day, I replaced the seals on my medium format camera. As I did the job, I took the iPhone and shot pictures every  now and then and put them up on Facebook in seconds. Not real time but close and alot of people enjoyed it. Could I do that with my fancy G11? Not a chance. I would have to shoot, upload to the computer, resize and then upload. The phone literally took seconds to complete the entire task. And that included enhancing the images using software on the phone.

Facebook which has the most pictures online, even more than Flickr which is one of the best photo sites, has some interesting statistics.  Facebook at last count has something like 50 BILLION pictures uploaded on it’s site. Flickr shows that it’s most popular camera is the iPhone 3G with the typical Nikon/Canon DSLRs in the 2nd/3rd slots. Not a point and shoot anywhere to be found in the top listing. Personally, I take shots with my iPhone and load them straight to Facebook. I’ve become so used to that feature and the ability to shoot an email on demand, I would not consider any pocket or point and shoot that didn’t do this. Nobody wants to shoot images on their point and shoot and then take it home, transfer to the PC, fix them and then upload to Facebook or Flickr or whatever. They want to shoot and go right then. And so long as the image is good enough, they are happy.

Most popular camera on Flickr

Most popular camera on Flickr

PSExpress, CameraOne and Best Camera are three apps I use all the time on my iPhone. Between the three, I can normally get a “good enough” image out of my iPhone. Would I shoot a wedding with it? Nope.. but as a guest I would be happy to use it to get the occasional snap. I will say that once I used my iPhone 4’s video, I never shot video on my Canon g11 again. The phone was just that much better then my 500 dollar camera.

Does anyone want to buy a slightly used G11?

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Posted in Competition, editing, editing software, equipment, firmware, Hardware, photography, ramblings, technique Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

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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Why spend money on the good stuff?

uploaded to replace :Image:moosa.png as this o...
Image via Wikipedia

We all like to save money dont we? I mean, business is a bit slow with the economy and whatnot so everyone likes to save here or there. There are coupons, deals, specials, closeouts, eBay and Craigslist.  But one place where it’s foolish to try and save too much on are your critical pieces for your business. Take computers for example. I use Macs..  I have twelve of them of various types and ages. My main computer is a MacPro dual quad. This was a three thousand dollar computer new, I bought it used off Craigslist last year from someone who bought it as a “trophy” and now needed cash. I ended up getting a great deal on it too. Why did I spend about double of a home brew clone that could have been hacked to run OSX? Because I tried the clone and after dealing with not working pieces, no support except what I could dig up on Google and spending HOURS getting it finally work right just to have it die on an update, I decided enough was enough. I could not count on it when I needed to work the most. Saving one thousand dollars was costing me more in lost time, productivity and more. It was cheaper over the year to buy the real Mac used then it was to try and save more by a hack job.

I still have my Hackintosh.. actually, I have two of them. I have a Dell netbook and my first tower with a single Quad. As it turns out, the Hackintosh works great as a media center in my office. Or it did until the EFIx card that let it run OSX died. So I ended up wasting a day putting it back together another way that did not need the card. And it reminded me why over a year ago I stopped using the Hackintosh as my main computer.

Sometimes trying to save money will cost you a considerably amount in the future. This lesson is why I buy the best camera bodies I can buy, the best lenses and the best software even though it hurts to write those checks. I get support, I get efficiency and I get peace of mind.  There are some places you can cut a corner or two and get away with it but you need to always think ahead and ask yourself, “what if”. What if your deal dies in the middle of a work day? What if your deal cant be upgraded? What if your deal turns out to be a trojan horse that ends up letting bad things on your computer (think bit torrents and the like). As a hobbiest, one  can get away with alot more than as a business person. Because as a business, there is far too much at stake ranging from your client’s images to your profits.

There are places you can save ALOT with some careful shopping. Take lenses for example, there are many high lenses for sale on eBay that are what I call “trophy glass”. Someone bought them when they were flush with cash and now they need cash. I bought my 17-55mm F2.8 for less than half of what a new lens would cost and I sent it Nikon for refurbishment. Even then, I was at a bit over half price of a new boxed lens and I had a “new” used lens. My 70-200mm F2.8 was the same way but not quite as a good deal but better than buying new by four hundred or so. One D300 was a factory refurb and the other came used from B&H and had a 30 day promise of replacement if needed. Both were several hundred cheaper than a new boxed camera. That right there more than paid for the MacPro.

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Black and Blue

Black and Blue Portrait

Black and Blue
I was in Irvine, CA last night for the Westcott Pro Tour and this was one of the results from shooting at the event. We used the Westcott spider lights with the tri-flector and the new vintage backdrop from Westcott.
Herman Rodriguez was our mentor photographer for this shoot and he had alot of very good information on shooting portraits with a tilt to fashion. The point above everything else was “shape the light”. It was all about lighting and how lighting can make or break an image. It definitely got me thinking more about how I light my own subjects.

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Using your small flash in broad daylight

A flashcube fitted to a Kodak Instamatic camera.
Image via Wikipedia

Shooting flash in the broad daylight always seems to bother people for some reason. I think that people are afraid that it’s complicated or some black art that is impossible to master. Listen, flash is just a self contained light that is run by batteries. Nothing magically about it or really hard to understand. The light from a flash works exactly the same way sunlight works or any other light. It has color, it will drop off in intensity over distance (square inverse law) and you can shape it. Probably the biggest reason people are suspect of flash in the daytime is that most camera can not do it well so you get blown out images or the traditional “hot spot” in the face or it’s still dark even though the flash fired.

To really use flash in the daytime, get manual. Forget that you spent a large sum of money on a camera that can virtually think for it’s self, put the dial on M for manual and learn how to set things up the way YOU want it. When I learned to shoot film, there was a rule pounded in to our collective heads. It’s been somewhat forgotten now by the users of digital but it is called the “Sunny Rule of 16”. For a bright sunny day, set the camera to ISO (ASA) 100, shutter to 1/125 (1/100) and F16 on the lens. That will get you 95% there for a properly lit exposure in bright sunlight. Once you have that, you can adjust each parameter and work out the others pretty easily.

What we need to know is that when shooting flash on a sunny day (or any other time) is that your shutter speed controls the ambient light and that the aperture controls the flash exposure. Why? Because the flash duration can be something like 1/42,000 (1/128 power) of a second which is way faster than your camera’s shutter at it’s best. Even at full power, the typical small flash is about 1/2000 of a second flash duration. And when you are shoot at 1/250-1/320 sync speeds, the flash is still way faster than your shutter speed.  Since aperture controls how MUCH  light comes in, you can adjust the intensity of the flash by either opening or closing the blades. Wide open is more light in and stopped down means alot less light is coming in.

The shutter on the other hand controls how LONG the light will hit the sensor or film. Short shutter speed means less exposure and longer shutter means more exposure. So if the flash is 1/32,000 of second long, when your shutter is at 1/200 second, you will get how ever much flash light there will be in that 1/32,000 of a second. What you CAN adjust with the shutter is the AMBIENT light. Or in this case, how bright the daylight will be. Slow shutter means lots of exposure and a short shutter means less ambient light. In the two images below, I shot both with exactly the same shutter and ISO but I added a Neutral Density Filter X2 which works just like pushing the aperture to F22 ( 1 stop) which my 50mm can not do.

Normal ISO 100 1/125 F16

Normal ISO 100 1/125 F16

Normal ISO 100 1/125 F16 with Neutral Density X2

Normal ISO 100 1/125 F16 with Neutral Density X2

This shows how the aperture adjusts the ambient light while the shutter and ISO stayed the same. What does that mean for us with a flash? Well, all things being equal, you can dial in your exposure with the flash by tweaking on the F stop. Of course, you need to have some range to do this, about F5.6 to start would be nice and thats tough in broad daylight. But not impossible. Lets do some math 🙂

If I start at ISO 100 and 1/125 shutter with F16 and I want to go lower on my F stop, how can I do that? I can drop ISO which I can not right now and I can UP the shutter speed controls my ambient light. So I raise my shutter 1/250, thats one F stop and I can cheat a bit and go to 1/320 shutter, thats two full F stops. So now I’m at ISO 100, 1/320 shutter and F8. With a neutral desity filter X2, I can go down one more F stop to F 5.6 which is right where I want to be. My exposure has not changed from the first set at ISO 100, 1/125 and F16. So now I have less depth of field, I have about 3 stops to work the ambient light to darken skies etc.

So this means that I have the ability to dial down the sky and use my flash to light up my subject even though it’s high noon or if I want a bit more drama at sunset. OK.. ok.. so enough about this ambient light stuff, how do we use a flash?  Pretty easy when you think about it. When you have the ISO at 100, the shutter at 1/125 and F16 for your aperture, the typical small flash like the SB800 needs to be eight feet away and full power to give the proper exposure.

No Flash ISO 100 Shutter 1/250 F16

No Flash ISO 100 Shutter 1/250 F16

SB800 Full Power Flash  8 Ft ISO 100 Shutter 1/250 F16

SB800 Full Power Flash 8 Ft ISO 100 Shutter 1/250 F16

SB800 Full Power Flash  8 Ft ISO 100 Shutter 1/250 F13 NDx2

SB800 Full Power Flash 8 Ft ISO 100 Shutter 1/250 F13 NDx2

You can see that we can easily light up the subject with an SB800 from about 8 feet away. But what if we wanted to use less than full power? Or get depth of field? Easily done by juggling the parameters. Lets bring the flash in to about 4 feet and cut the power to 1/2. Nothing else has changed. ISO, Shutter  and F stop are still the same. I did zoom in a bit tighter so you can see the lighting closely.

SB800 1/2 Power Flash  8 Ft ISO 100 Shutter 1/250 F13 NDx2

SB800 1/2 Power Flash 8 Ft ISO 100 Shutter 1/250 F16

Now what if I wanted to darken the background a bit more. Remember, ambient light is controlled by my shutter so I will raise my shutter one stop to 1/320 which is about the max I can go with my wireless triggers before I start cutting off the image with the shutter shadow.

SB800 1/2 Power Flash  8 Ft ISO 100 Shutter 1/320 F16 NDx2

SB800 1/2 Power Flash 8 Ft ISO 100 Shutter 1/320 F16

You can see the exposure of the subject is the same but the background went a bit darker. So now what happens if I use one of those plastic diffusers? The kind that comes with the SB800 and snaps onto the front? Well, it means I can move my flash way in close and get softer light since the size of the light source relative to the subject has gotten alot bigger than when it was 8 feet away. I’m still at 1/2 power, broad daylight with the same shutter and ISO settings. Just closer and with the diffuser.

SB800 1/2 Power Flash  2 Ft ISO 100 Shutter 1/320 F16 With diffuser

SB800 1/2 Power Flash 2 Ft ISO 100 Shutter 1/320 F16 With diffuser

SB800 1/2 Power Flash  2 Ft ISO 100 Shutter 1/320 F16 Without diffuser

SB800 1/2 Power Flash 2 Ft ISO 100 Shutter 1/320 F16 Without diffuser

You can easily see that the diffuser eats a fair amount of light. But the tradeoff is that you can get much better quality of light when you are so close like this that it’s a pretty good trade off.

I hope you can see from the images that understanding daylight use of the flash is not that hard once you keep some basic rules in your head. It’s not very magically but it is very useful. These images are just simple demonstrations of the ideas but I will be putting up some real portrait work later using these same ideas. So get out there with your flash and light something up.

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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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Photoshopworld 2010

So I survived Vegas with it’s 30 dollar lunches, 25 dollar shots of Scotch and my cheap room at Mandalay bay. I guess it all balances in the end since I did not give a nickel to the slots. The keynote was awesome, the Tweet up was alot of fun, the Expo was crazy good fun and I did sneak out early because of the holiday and trying to fly home on Friday.

I split my time with several class this time. I noticed that in 2007 which was the last time I was there at PSW, I saw 95% software based classes. This time, the tracks were split between real photography classes and software like Painter, Photoshop and such. I ended wishing I could attend them all but settled on a mix of classes

My preconference class was “The Art of the Digital Canvas” with Faye Sirkis and I had high hopes for the class since I really wanted to see how to make CS5 work with the new bristle brushes. But, the class fell short of my expectations between a lack of real meat in the class and technical issues with CS5. The good news is that was the only class that fell short in my opinion. The two classes I took with Joe McNally were awesome to be in and Joe has a very good sense of presentation with humor and solid information.  I took a Fashion Portrait class with David Cuerdon who I found relatively recently on Kelby’s training site and have decided that I really, really like his style and teaching methods.. The fashion class was a wealth of info on how to shoot and more importantly, retouch the shots effectively.

Zack Arias did a couple of classes but the one I went to was “Stuff you need to know to be a photographer” and as always, Zack did a bang up job of getting down to the nuts and bolts of being successful as a photographer and to figure out what is really important to you and and your craft. A hint, passion only gets you so far as a photographer.

I did the concert and event photographer on something of a lark and it was very interesting to hear how it works behind the scenes as it were. Also the choice of gear, how to get the pass and what to expect as a photographer at a concert. Alan Hess did a very good job at showing the class the real world of Concert photography and proving that yes, you can have fun while working for a living 🙂

Here are some random shots from the trip. I split my shooting between my Canon G11 and my D300. Both worked well but the Canon struggled with the low light in the classes. The D300 would work but only but shooting at 2.8 with ISO 3200 or 6400. I was really wishing for a FX camera and ISO 25,000 🙂 The NAPP Keynote was completely shot using the G11 and it did very well considering I had the zoom maxed out and the lighting was so bad. The class shots of Joe McNally were taken with the D300 at ISO 6400.

Zack Arias

Zack Arias

Mac Classic and Photoshop V1

Mac Classic and Photoshop V1

Metal prints were the hot item

Metal prints were the hot item

Scott giving away his Flying V to Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen

Scott giving away his Flying V to Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen

JohnnyL Adobe GM Digital Media

JohnnyL Adobe GM Digital Media

Photoshop Keynote

Photoshop Keynote

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Scott Kelby and NAPP (KISS cover ala Spinal tap)

Home Base

Home Base

Mandalay Bay Lobby Entrance

Mandalay Bay Lobby Entrance

Photoshop TV LIVE

Photoshop TV LIVE

Joe McNally

Joe McNally

Small Flash Class by Joe McNally

Small Flash Class by Joe McNally

Joe McNally in action

Joe McNally in action

My view while blogging at Mandalay Bay

My view while blogging at Mandalay Bay

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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 🙂

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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Posted in Business Aids, commercial photography, editing, editing software, lightroom, photography, portraits, technique, training, workflow Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

iPad, Love it and hate it

iPad 64 GB Wi-Fi with the case.
Image via Wikipedia

So I have my very own iPad with Wifi , 3G and 64 gig of RAM. Yep, I went for the gold when I got it. And now that I’ve had for several days and traveled with it via Southwest airlines, I have a few thoughts on it.

For photographers and that is my viewpoint here, the iPad offers some tantalizing possibilities. Some of these possibilities apply to other folks as well and some of my observations are a more “corporate” viewpoint. The iPad is very well made with some excellent controls and one or two glaring omissions. The slide switch to lock the display is brilliant. The lack of a switch to shutoff the 3G is stupid. Why do I have to drill through several menus to turn of the battery sucking 3G?

The iPad displays pictures really well.. better than alot of other devices I’ve seen and that I can show off pictures even with the screen locked is an excellent idea. The built in photo support is OK.. nothing to really get excited about but there are other apps that really amp up showing off your images.

Speed is life

When the 3G is enabled, it is slow. The app store will barely function and that is within a 20 miles radius of my home off at different locations. Even the WiFi is slower than I expected. I run my Macpro daily off wifi and will get a full 10Mbps download/1Mbps upload. On the same wifi connection, the iPad barely ekks out 3Mbps download and about 900Kbps on the upload side.

Speed Test Results iPad

Speed Test Results - iPad

Casing the joint

Lets talk about cases shall we? I got the Apple case when I ordered up the iPad, I mean, how bad could it be? Turns out it can be pretty bad. The case is junk.  The only thing going for it is that it’s none slip but it literally hurts to hold it since the hot sealed edges are rigid stick out a 1/8 inch and then cut into your hand. You can charge the iPad but not dock it when it’s in the case and the case is a pain in the butt to get on and off so doing this daily is a non-starter. And did I mention the really flimsy “stand” on the back? the one they show int he picture that rocks back and forth with threats of leaving your pretty iPad laying face down on the tabletop? There are two settings, low and high and neither is useful. the low is a about 1″ off the table and the high rocks like it’s ready to fall down at the slightest breath. This was a wasted 20 bucks.

App here, App there

One app that really brings the iPad into the realm of being useful is from Wyse and is called “Pocket CLoud“. This is one of the nicest RDP clients I have used to push a windows desktop out to the iPad. A second really useful app is called “Print Central” and lets you print from the iPad via WiFI. 3G or other. It does require a free piece to be installed on the PC/Mac sharing printers called “WePrint“. You might wonder why I’m suggesting apps that do not look like “Photography” apps? Well, to run a business, it’s more than showing off pictures and listening to music. You have to do WORK and things like remote desk and printing allow you to WORK and be productive with the iPad. Another very useful app is Keynote for the iPad. You can make some amazing slide shows with Keynote and the price in the app store is pretty reasonable. Another slide app is “slide Show Builder Lite” and I found a cool tutorial on it at Granny Joans blog. I will add that it’s nice but you can not share the slide show unlike Keynote.

Alot of apps say they are “iPad” compatible and they are but they are not. What they mean is that they RUN on the iPad but not necessarily take advantage of the large screen etc. Some apps are so useful, that does not really matter but on some it is a pain in the butt so be warned that all iPad apps are not created equal.

You need some kind of cover for the iPad, it’s just too thin and slick to hold on to. Sexy but dangerous to use unprotected. Like I said earlier on, the Apple cover stinks. I have not found a replacement for it but I’m looking.

One thing the iPad excels at is playing back podcasts/videos for training. My lunch times are now “training” sessions where I prop up the iPad and watch it while I eat. I’ve used podcasts, MPEG files and ripped DVDs to play and it’s all good. I have watched movies solid for over four hours and still have over 60% battery life left. That is pretty amazing no matter the rest of my complaints.

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Posted in Business Aids, equipment, photography, reviews, Travel Also tagged , , , , , , , , |