Tag Archives: training

Shooting a veggie a day

So today was a practice day for me. I have been threatening for weeks and weeks to shoot some food and today was it. Or at least some of it. I used a 50 dollar battery operated LED video light, a mirror and a home made silk that uses Toughspun. I spent about ten dollars for the various veggies and fruits which is cheap for models. I used a c stand to hold my video light attached to my monopod stand which doubled as a boom. The mirror provided some light from the side and underneath the glass. My post processing was done in Lightroom using a preset that emulated Kodachrome 25 since I wanted that very contrasty punchy look. You can see from the set shot that I didnt do anything special other than clean off the end of the dining room table.

I used my D300 with two lenses. My first lens was a favorite of mine, the 17-55 F2.8 and the second was a Lensbaby composer at F4. My ISO was 400 and I shoot from 1/60 to /1/160. No flash was used, just the video light which I got from Amazon for something like 50 dollars plus 30 for a battery and charger.

When you are shooting something like this, it can be trickier than people at times as the still life does not move at all unless you move it. So you are always on the look out for reflections, lines, composition and so on. You need to worry about color and texture plus what props you are using. Lighting becomes critical for shadows and highlights.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in commercial photography, editing, equipment, photography, Shooting Food, studio, technique, training, video Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

New Year, New Site

WordPress

[dropcap_1]I[/dropcap_1]  hate New Year resolutions as a rule. To promise to change something for a new year because you feel guilty about it can not be a good way to effect a change. But, in this case, I decide that this year I would do a few things differently. I started early by joining the studio coop in December. I posted about that a bit ago and so far, it has been a very good arrangement.

A second thing that I really wanted to do was make over my website. I had not been happy with my hosting service for a long while. It’s not that they were “bad” or anything but I had ongoing issues with memory and WordPress plugins not having enough and they could never get it to work quite right. In truth, they sell canned templates and hosting service for those templates. I dumped that two years ago and built my own wordpress site using iBlog. So I was already out of their comfort zone in doing that. I was also paying alot more than I needed to since I was not using their sites or any of their features. I had found them too limiting for what I wanted to do.

So last month. I ordered up a new domain name which will be the umbrella name for my photography, my fusion video efforts and some training work coming down the pipe. Signed a deal with Machighway.com (they host on Macs) and started a new site. After one disaster of a template, I started over, found a cheaper template that worked alot better and you now see the results.

[blockquote]Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.- Henry Ford [/blockquote]

Welcome to my NEW and IMPROVED website and blog for Michael Sweeney Media.. aka Michael Sweeney Photography. I’m able to put up my blog, my galleries, a nice splash page and more without any issues with memory or other troubles. I plan to get back on a regular posting schedule and I plan to put up more images now I can get it all to work better. Please, take a look around and be a bit patient while I get the bits and pieces moved over and working again.

Thanks for visiting!

 

MikeS

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in commercial photography, equipment, photography, studio, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

Class is in session – Beyond the Basics

English: A Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera with K...

Image via Wikipedia

Beyond The Basics

Taught by Professional Photographer and member of OC Photography Center, Michael Sweeney.
Have you ever wondered why the background of pictures are pleasantly blurred? How about that cool image of the child blowing out the candles on the birthday cake but they are not the typical white faced blasted look? Have you ever wanted to make art for your walls but none of your pictures look like those you see for sale? Have you wondered why so many of your snapshots look like everyone elses?

If the answer is yes to any or all of these questions, then this is the class for you.

This class is for those that have either completed our beginning photography class or have been working on their own and would like to take their photography to a new level. This class is where we will review the basics and then take things forward so you can start to be the artist you want to be.

The class will cover the following topics.

  • Basic camera operation refresh
  • Shutter
  • Aperture
  • ISO
  • Light
  • What is light, really?
  • Small lights vs. large lights – your pop up flash vs. the sun for example
  • Why is any of this important?
  • Shoot to the right
  • Sunny Rule of 16
  • Design Principles – How do I get the pictures to just grab you?
  • The rule of thirds
  • The golden ratio
  • Shoot high/shoot low
  • Don’t be a bullseye
  • Why the subject doesnt have to always look at you
  • A bit of blur can be a good thing
  • Flash is your friend at any time of the day or night
  • Why use a flash
  • Shootout at high noon or how I learned to love the sun
  • How to use flash as an accent
  • How to avoid that lovely white blasted vampire look
  • Capturing Pixels
  • What is all this about megapixals and what do I really need?
  • Why are over exposing highlights really bad?
  • The great war, JPEG vs RAW files
  • Does the lens really matter?
  • OK, I have pictures, now what do I do with them?
  • Anyone can print now, using online labs
  • Resolution and what it really means to you
  • Color space and no, it’s not something from Home Depot
  • Editing on the cheap, options for the non-pro but enthusiastic user
  • Putting pictures up on the web
  • How can I make a book or calendar?

Class Time
Evenings: Tuesday evenings
Dates: February 28th & March 6th, 2012
Time: 7:00 pm- 9:00 pm.
Fee: $90
Where: At the OC Photography Center
714-529-3686
Remember to bring your camera, something to take notes and smiles!
Please reserve your spot a least a week before first class. Thank you. Look forward to a great class!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Posted in photography, portraits, studio, training, workflow Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

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 🙂

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 🙂  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

Posted in Business Aids, commercial photography, photography, training, Travel Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Repurposing a light box to be a light table

I saw a very interesting blog posting on how to shoot flowers using a light box. I took a different approach since I did not want to build a cardboard box so anything else. I took my large softbox and flipped it upside down. I could do this because I use C stands with boom arms and it becomes very easy to change the orientation of a modifier. I just made sure that the legs were in the right position to take up the low weight and added a few sand bags for good measure.

I then put a piece of clear plexiglass on top of the softbox or now light table and put my subject on top of that. I have a Photogenics 1250 strobe but now I would pull it and put in the 600 instead. The 1250 is too strong even turned down as low as it can go. I plan to try it with white plexiglass whereas I’m shooting with clear right now. The white should be worth a couple of stops.

White on White Lilly

 

 

I had a second mini softbox using an SB800 in SU mode on a monopod that I held over the subject. I manually set the SB800 to something around 1/8 power and about 3 feet high. I tried straight on, sideways and all kinds of angles. The best results seemed to be feathering the small soft box slightly to pick up some edge shadows.

I used a pair of Atlas pocket wizard clones on this shoot only because they were handy and my real PWs were packed away. I shot with:

 

SB800 flash mounted to small softboxLight table set up shot

Next time I will put the small light box on a second C stand instead of holding it. That was just too much trouble but I was in a real hurry to try this and get back to the family outside. The ladder was the only way I could get enough hight to shoot down on my subject, anywhere else and I was shooting across it and it did not work nearly as well.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in commercial photography, editing, photography, technique, training Also tagged , , , , , , |

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

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Business Aids, commercial photography, equipment, photography, studio, technique Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

More hotlights and vintage portraits

I’m have a ball with my new hot lights. The vintage portrait project is coming together as I work out how to use the lights, get Lightroom and Photoshop to rework color to black and white and get a good workflow down. I’m also relearning how to shoot film as part of this project.

So the last entry on this subject was about shooting with a single light and this week, I’ve taken it to two lights. The idea is to provide some fill and highlights. And lest you think that one needs an expensive studio or alot of room for this style of shooting, that could be further from the truth. The sample shot I have included this week was taken in a 5×5 space right in front of my front door entry way with some white polarplus gaf-taped to the wall. Pretty low tech if you ask me.

So here is the “studio” shot. I have used my Wacom to mark it up a bit. As you can see, not very high tech at all or expensive.

Vintage studio in house marked up

Vintage studio in house marked up

But the results you can get are pretty amazing. I used Lightroom and Seim’s Power Workflow 3.0 Snapped B/W as my basic conversion from color to Black and White. I’m not sure if I’ll stick with this one but it’s a starting point. I then moved it into CS5 and used Focht’s Touchflow Palette to smooth out skin and add a touch of pop. I also used my Wacom to paint in and paint out extreme shadows, hot spots and such.

Blowing a kiss to fans

Blowing a kiss to fans

Not bad for the price of a doorway studio huh? I’ve found a book at Amazon called Hollywood Portraits: Classic Shots and How to Take Them
which goes into quite a bit of detail in how the old school Hollywood shots were created so that has been ordered. I’ve also ordered up Nik’s Silver Efex kit since it’s on sale at Adorama for a killer price. And yes, it soon will be 64 bit which makes those of us running 64 bit Photoshop very happy. You can download a free 15 day trial from Nik and give a workout to see if you like the outcome but I have to say, it makes some really nice B/W conversions.

I’ve mentioned the clone of the Arri lights before but here are the real deal if you are inclined or feel more comfortable with the brand named item. This can be very important if you want to rent out the kit as grip equipment or the like. This is the complete kit with 3 650 watt lights, roller bag, stands, barn doors etc.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in commercial photography, editing, editing software, equipment, lightroom, photography, portraits, technique, workflow Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Where are all the pictures?

I read an interesting comment the other day that continues to dig at me a bit. Over on Flickr, a poster put up a complaint about how he could not shoot because of the weather. It had been pouring rain for several days and his excuse was the weather sucked so he could not shoot.

I countered that with a single image and pointed out that pictures are where you find them, not where you think they are. Here is the image. I used just the light from the window and LR3 was used for the post work.  This is a rainy day image that was not staged or planned, I saw her playing by the window, ran to my camera, ran back setting the camera settings as I went and managed to get about five frames.

Rainy Day Imp

Rainy Day Imp

I’ve shot all kinds of things when other say they cant shoot.  I’ve shot toys on my desk, pull cords on the window blinds and my coffee cup. There is no reason in the world that you can not shoot at any time of the day or night and at any place. The shot below of my window blinds was taken in the afternoon while testing my 70-200mm F2.8 VR lens.

Shade

Shade

I’ve used my pro cameras, my point and shoot, my phone and even my ancient film cameras. It’s all about shooting no matter what or where. Dont get locked into the idea that circumstances have to be perfect to shoot, many times my best work as been shoot on the fly or at the last second. I’ve gone out in the rain knowing full well it’s dismal conditions for shooting but I find a way.

Art is where you make it and sometimes it comes to you but sometimes you need to go to the mountain and find it. Art does not take breaks or vacations. Art is around you all the time if you just take the time and the trouble to see it. So the next time you have plans to go shoot and something interrupts them, take advantage of the interruption and see where it leads you. You very well might be very surprised and pleased at the outcome.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in musings, photography, training Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

How to be a better photographer? Just Shoot more!

In the last few years, I have been investing quite a bit of effort into upping my game as far as photography as the craft. And with watching my friends and colleages going to dozens of shooting events and all the seminars, one thing has really started to stand out. You can train as much as you want, you can study as much as you want and you can spend a boatload of money on workshops but NOTHING works as well in helping you be a better photographer than getting out and shooting FOR REAL. Thats right, for real…  dealing with weather, clients, stray people, schedules, crying children, bad traffic, balky equipment while in front of a paying client and trying not to sweat in front of them.

Book learning (or DVD, streaming boards etc) all help but you will learn the most just by getting out and shooting. And not just shooting your favorite stuff, you need to be put into an uncomfortable zone with demands put on you to produce. When you stretch out your skills and wing it, you learn alot more than by sitting in your favorite chair or goofing with some friends in a studio somewhere without any pressures on you. And the funny thing is when you are done, what you used to think was hard and uncomfortable is really not any more.

Case in point, I used to hate taking portraits. I mean, I would photograph buildings, cars, landscapes with a vengeance but not people. I didnt want to interact with people, I didnt know how to capture the emotion in people. When I decided to go pro, I knew I would have to learn to shoot people so I grudgingly started to learn how to shoot weddings.  At least I didn’t think I needed to interact too much, I mean, it’s not like a up close and personal portrait session is it? My first mistake was to spend all my time “learning” about shooting weddings. I read books, I watched videos, I watched streaming classes, I was on the boards. I did everything BUT shoot weddings. Then I got drop kicked into actually shooting a wedding as a favor. Now I had to perform so I gathered up everything I had and shot the wedding. It was different than all the “learning” I had done up to that point. Between the chaos, the pressure and the demands of the various groups, it was quite the learning experience. And now after photographing more weddings, I do not view weddings with nearly the angst I had before. In fact, I really enjoy shooting weddings now, there is so much going on, so many opportunities to make art while making families very happy by capturing one of their most important days.

Colorado Bride

Family and single portraits were another “interactive” path that I initially rebelled against. But again, after being put into the position of shooting Christmas portraits for 30 families and shooting Operation Love Reunited deployment mini-sessions of military families where you really want to do your best, I find that portraits are probably what I enjoy photographing the most. It is very satisfying to shoot a deployment portrait for a family with a service member and be told that they never knew they had such a beautiful little family. This comment came from the young wife of a Marine being deployed in a few days and they had never had any kind of formal portraits taken of the family.  It’s the kind of thing that makes it all worth while when you see the wife go “OMG, I cant believe thats MY family”

Daddy's Little Girl

Daddy's Little Girl

This image is a classic “real” world shoot. High noon on the beach with a small child and lots of distractions. Big difference than shooting in a closed studio with a model being paid to tolerate the wannabe photographer. I had to find a good place to shoot, arrange the shot, work out the settings for some pretty adverse conditions, work with mom and child to get the needed smile and move on to the next one.

I’m still learning every time I go out to photograph someone or something. But I learn more when working against a deadline and a high level of  expectations  from my paying clients. If you want to improve your craft, you never stop learning from any circumstances. And the more you shoot, the better you will become at adjusting to those circumstances and be able to step back and catch the lesson being offered.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in commercial photography, photography, portraits, technique, training, wedding photography Also tagged , , , , , |

Always give more than expected

One of the tenets of customer service is to always deliver more than what is expected. I’ve been shooting some volunteer work with a group called “Operation Love Reunited” and part of the deal is I send out an “album” to the deploying service member at no cost. While thats nice, the folks left at home  always want to see the images. Sometimes they want to buy a few but the reality is that many of the families are young, on a very limited budget and are not in the position to pay for more than a few prints at a very substantial discount even for that.

The rules say a small album like a slip cover album and that just bugged me. As a professional, I wanted the work even as pro-bono to reflect my standards or at least, better than snapshots. I always shoot the mini-session as well as I would for any paying customer. I use the same gear, I behave the same  and I treat them as a “real” client which in my mind, they are. I touch up the images and apply treatments to some here and there and it offended me to just use a slip cover album. I’ve settled on using MyPublisher.com and their soft side 5×7 books. It’s a nice compromise between the Little Kisses and a slip cover album.

I still wanted something nicer for the family to share other than a gallery. I bought Proshow Producer not long ago for a project but I had really not worked with it much up to now. I decided that a nice slide show would be a nice touch to the shoot and if I did it right, it would not take too much time to set it up. It would be a very nice vehicle to show off my images and skills to someone who might want to hire me for something else. And it would give the family a really nice memento of the shoot.

So with that thought, I used the final images for my last OpLove shoot and spent about 10 minutes setting up fast slide show with some music that Tara and her husband feel is special to them. I paid attention to the lyrics and tweaked the order of images to better reflect the spirit of the images with the lyrics.

In the end, it took about 20 minutes to build the slide show, add the music and send it on it’s way. Thats as much of a testament to the software’s design as it is my skills 🙂 ProShow is very easy to use but very powerful when you need it to be. And the extra book on using it is available on the Kindle so I have it on my iPad now for some light reading. I plan to make alot more use of this app in the near future. Also, since it’s a Windows app, I use VMware’s Fusion to run a virtual XP session on my Mac to run this app. Works like a charm and did not miss a beat.

So without further ado, here is Tara’s new OpLove video.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |