A great quote from Sebastian Marshall:
I don’t differentiate between work and play. I think my time is spent in either excellent, good, okay, or bad fashion. If too much of my time is just “okay” or “bad” – I’m doing something wrong
I think most freelance photographers, painters, writer, and pretty much anyone in a non-”standard” 9-5 job can relate. Kinda reframes the whole “wasting time” thing – instead of trying to stop wasting time, just aim to increase the amount of time spent in excellent fashion!
From the inimitable “Burns Auto Parts Blog”
So here’s my challenge to you: look at your work on your site. Do you love it–all of it? Does it make you smile/get you excited/make you want to do more of it? Be honest–don’t look at it from its technical side and definitely do not ask “Do I think buyers will want this?” If you do, then look at your marketing.
If you don’t, then get off your creative butt and start making the work that you make out of love and that weird compulsion that makes you do this and not be a 9-5 “normal” person.
Words of wisdom indeed. I have been working on a major portfolio overhaul, with just this in mind. You know the saying… Show what you wanna shoot!
I am quickly becoming a big fan of Northern California. I first went out last year for my birthday, had a blast, drank lots of wine. This was my second trip up to SF/Sonoma – Hung out for a day or two in the city, then drove up to the wine country. Only carried my GF1, but it served me well. (although my buddy who isn’t a photographer himself had an old Hasselblad 503cw from his dad, which we took out for some shots!) Early winter seems the perfect time to go as well – the countryside was a rainbow of reds and yellows… the vine covered hillsides were shockingly bright, especially when viewed from afar – the highly maicured vines created an almost solid carpet of color across the rolling hills.
Lots of pictures, lots of wine… what more could you ask for? (slideshow below)
Hey folks, F/1.0 is moving… I’ve restructured my site which necessitated moving the blog address as well. I’m not going to be updating this site anymore – head on over to http://www.edzstudios.com/blog for continuing articles (there’s some new stuff up there already).
Note: F/1.0 will remain up/accessible so any links to existing/old articles will still work.
This Sunday 8/4/2010 at 9pm EST (6pm pacific) Don Giannatti has been kind enough to do a live portfolio review with me on the air. We’ll be talking about making the final cut of images, and finalizing a portfolio. Maybe a bit about design and branding and style as well. Should be fun – tune in at:
see y’all there!
For those not familiar, Lighting Essentials are a series of workshops put on by Don Giannatti (you may know him as “Wizwow” on flickr). I am a big fan of Don, not only is he an excellent photographer, with years of commercial experience under his belt, but he is also a fantastic teacher – which is just as difficult a skill unto itself. He’s also a really down to earth guy with a low tolerance for BS and fools, which I find refreshing, particularly in the online photo community which can often turn into a bit of a hive-mind circle-jerk at times (you know what I’m talking about)…
Anyway, I got to go to his workshop in Philly in ’08 and it was awesome – definitely kicked my work up a couple of notches. At the time I was already somewhat experienced with lighting, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was blown away; it was amazing to watch Don demonstrate things that I already “knew” lighting wise, and still be able to pick up something new – a new way of thinking about it, new ways of analyzing and constructing and deconstructing light.
A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to attend the advanced lighting essentials ‘shop down in Baltimore. Different than the standard workshop, this one assumed a baseline familiarity with lighting to begin with – getting a baseline exposure, balatncing flash/ambient, ratios etc… This was fantastic, as we were able to jump right into working with little “catch up” required. The format was well done. Don split us up into groups, with various assignments/challenges – in the morning we worked “in studio” talking about and working on precision lighting techniques for still life/objects. I gained a whole new respect for product photographers – it’s a lot more difficult than you’d think. One light, and lots of carefully placed white/black cards/diffusers etc… I particularly appreciated this as it really made you focus on analyzing and constructing light carefully rather than the “throw some strobes on it till it looks good” approach which many lighting novices seem to take.
In the afternoons we worked with models, but instead of the standard “how to light/balance” we focused more on creating a mood or complex lighting schemes – sometimes using 4, 5 or more lights – little accents and subtleties to construct a meaningful lighting scheme. Now I tend to be more minimalist in terms of my own lighting (I tend to favor zero, one or two lights – rarely more) but even so it was valuable to concentrate on the subtleties of the lighting scheme as a whole.
One of the things I like the best about Don’s workshops is that it’s all hands-on. There’s no “sit around and listen to the instructor talk about how great he is” for 6 hours, as is the case with many “workshops” – Don has everyone jumping right in and shooting right off the bat. It’s simply “talk about technique -> apply technique”. Good stuff. We also spent quite a bit of time talking business. Don has been a full time photographer as well as designer and creative director for many years, so he has a fantastic amount of the experience in the industry and shares freely. There are few things more valuable for a new photographer than the lessons of experience from someone who has “been there and done that”. It’s like going through the school of hard knocks without having to take the knocks.
To sum up, aka the TL;DR version: if you get a chance to attend one of Don’s workshops, go for it – it’s worth every penny. What boggles my mind is that folks who will drop thousands on a new camera body or lens, are so hesitant to spend money on education or workshops. I can say without reservation that the couple of hundred bucks for the LE workshops improved my work far more than any gear purchase I have made (and yeah, I’m also guilty of chasing the latest and greatest toys when it comes to gear).
finally some shots from the ‘shop:
It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Tons of shooting, Punta Cana for vacation, more shooting, lighting workshop, working on a painting commission… whew…
Had a fantastic time at Don Giannatti’s workshop in Baltimore, we had some great brainstorming on a portfolio revamp. So that’s my next project! (more on the workshop in a separate post)
Now it’s just a matter of wrapping everything up, finishing up some processing and getting ready to start all over again! Oh, and round 2 of my 1×120 project will be starting up as well!
Without further ado, here are a few images from the past couple of weeks (in no particular order)
A student designed a package for ilford 120 rollfilm, that can be folded into a pinhole camera for said film. Supercool, although it wasn’t clear whether this was an actual product or just a design concept. Check the link for more images and info on the project.
Ah, the humble normal lens… in a day and age where all the glory goes to the 70-200/2.8s and the ultrawides, it is easy to overlook the humble elegance of the unassuming normal. Traditionally the 50mm in 35mm terms, but may vary depending on format.
The normal is small, light, fast, sharp and versatile.
It does portraits, it does landscapes, it does street, event, low light…
Need to get in closer? take a step forward. Need to get wider? take a step back. Unlike many other focal lengths the normal is almost chameleon-like in it’s ability to adapt itself to different situations, rendering tightly framed shots as well as “wider” with equal aplomb. (yes I know the actual focal length and field of view don’t change, I refer only to it’s apparent versatility in framing).
In fact, I would estimate probably 75% of my shots overall are taken with a normal lens (50mm on my Nikon, 20mm on my gf1, 75mm on my Mamiya).
The normal lens has a long and influential life in the history of photography. Many of the seminal images of the 20th century were made with the 50mm.
There is a kind of “Zen Like” simplicity to shooting with a normal as well – maybe it has something to do with the fact that it approximates the normal human field of view, but previsualizing the shot becomes almost unconscious. As if one of the barriers between concept and image just falls away…
And then there’s the beautiful, beautiful depth of field. Opening up to f/1.4 (or more!) just creates a whole new world of depth of field effects.
Of course the normal is not a *replacement* for your zoom – especially a telephoto or ultrawide, but if you’re a zoom shooter primarily, give it a shot – spend a couple of weeks with just a normal on your camera. You might just find it addictive…
I’ve always loved hand-colored photos. They have such a great look, very unique, very interesting. For those who don’t know, “hand coloring” refers to any process where a photographer uses pigment, dye or paint of some sort to manually add color to a black and white photo. Historically this was done in the 1800s by photographers using pigment and gum arabic on daguerreotypes! The technique persisted in one form or another throughout the years until it was supplanted by actual color photography. Of course, just because it is no longer necessary to get color in such a way doesn’t mean it can’t be used for asthetic effect.
I shoot a lot of black and white film, which I generally scan and process in lightroom rather than wet printing. Now if you’ve used lightroom, you are probably familiar with the brush tools for things like exposure, clarity or even skin smoothing. However, the oft overlooked “tint” option can be used to easily paint in color to a black and white image for a “hand colored” effect.
let’s take this image.
This was shot on film (with a holga!) during a vintage pin-up shoot. In other words, there is no actual color information in the file etc…
Now I’m going to hand color it to approximate the actual colors of the scene. First we start by going into the lightroom brush tools. Make sure all the adjustment sliders are set to zero (we are just painting on color here, not adjusting the photo itself) Click on the tint box at the bottom right to bring up the color picker.
A little trick with the color picker is that if you hold the mouse button down you can drag the eyedropper out of the little selection window and sample color from *anything* on screen. One useful trick with this is to have a “reference photo” open separately and sample your colors for hand coloring from that.
Since the couch in this shot was a green color, I grab a nice rich green and begin painting my mask. I find it more accurate to paint with the red overlay on (click “O” to toggle the overlay on or off). You’ll want to use a separate mask for each area of color. Here’s the green mask for the couch all done.
yeah, it’s not perfect, but close enough
I then do separate masks for her shirt (pink) and her skin. With hand coloring, I like to leave a portion of the image uncolored which gives it it’s signature b/w+color look, different from “selective coloring”
and the final result:
Now this may be kind of a “niche” technique, and certainly not suited for all photos but it’s quick and easy and yields a very unique effect. Overall it’s a nice trick to have in one’s toolbox.
New look for edzstudios… cleaner and more minimalistic… also galleries changed to a jquery based setup rather than flash (hey gotta be iPad compatible right?) If you are reading this through rss, click on through and check out the new site design. Will be going through a few tweaks in the next few days, but pretty happy with things overall.
Digital cameras have been a great boon to photographers working with off-camera lights. The ability to review an image instantly on an LCD (with histogram!) has obviated the need for tedious polaroiding and exhaustive metering of every inch of a scene to ensure correct light ratios and eliminate unwanted shadows. So much so, in fact, that many photographers have begun to eschew the use of a flash meter entirely – relying on the LCD and histogram via trial and error to set their lights correctly. Now while quick and easy, this method has it’s drawbacks, particularly for young photographers. The question that frequently arises is:
“well, I’m essentially just guessing what power to set my flash on then chimping the exposure and adjusting accordingly but how do I know *where* to start with my flash”
Essentially this comes down to a combination of making an educated guess about the exposure and *knowing how much light your flash will put out*.
The beauty of light is that it is predictable. Whether from the sun, a lightbulb, or a flash, given the same source and conditions, you will always get the same light. We can use this to our advantage!
When working with flash, we have fundamentally 2 variable that we control to determine how much light falls on our subject – power and distance. Power meaning how much actual light our flash is outputting and distance meaning how far away it is from the subject (remember that light falls off predictably according the inverse square law). Since we know that light always behaves the same, we can be certain that at a given power and a given distance from our subject our flash will give the same result every time.
Now also remember that light from a flash behaves linearly – going from 1/4 power to 1/2 power is doubling the amount of light that it puts out and vica versa. Thus if our flash exposes properly at f/8 at 1/8 power, it will give us f/11 at 1/4 power, f/5.6 at 1/16 and so forth (given the same distance to the subject).
Armed with this knowledge, we can quickly and easily estimate a “starting point” for exposure in almost any situation. We do this by establishing a “reference point” at which we *know* the exposure of our flash, and can calculate from there. I like to call this “baselining” the flash. To do this:
- start with the flash on a medium power, which gives room to adjust up or down. 1/8 power is a good starting place
- now we need to ensure that we can replicate a consistent flash->subject distance. You could carry around a tape measure but a fantastic trick I learned from the inimitable Don Giannatti is to measure using your outstretched arms. Given that the average (male) photographer is probably between 5’5″ and 6′something, your outstretched armspan or “wingspan” is somewhere around 6′, which is a comfortable working distance for lights. This also has the advantage of being quickly and easily reproducable “on set” – you simply stretch our your arms from subject and place the light at the end.
- Meter your light at your set power, at “wingspan” – if you don’t have a flash meter, you can approximate by photographing an 18% greycard till the histogram spikes dead center and recording the appropriate aperture.
- adjust your light till you get a “comfortable” baseline. Let’s assume that at “wingspan” we find our flash gives us f/8 at 1/8 power. This is our baseline – we write it down (or just remember it).
Now lets put this info to use!
Let’s say we’re in the studio. We want to do a shot with a key and fill light in a 2:1 ratio. We want to shoot at f/11 to give good depth of field for our subject. What do we do? We place our lights in the desired position, both at “wingspan”. We know that each of them gives f/8 at 1/8 power at that distance. f/11 is one stop up from f/8, so we set our main light to 1/4 power (one stop more power). Our main light is now already double the light of our second, so we have our ratio right there – the second light stays at 1/8. We shoot at f/11, and our main light should be spot on with the second 1 stop under. now if we want to “blow out the background” we simply add another light on the background at 1/2 power, giving us an exposure of f/16 – one stop over main. Of course this is not as “exact” as using a meter, but this gives us our starting place and we can adjust the lights from there based on the histogram.
It’s that easy!
This technique becomes particularly powerful when balancing ambient and flash outside. Combined with the sunny/16 rule, we can use our baseline to roughly estimate the combined exposure of flash and ambient without chimping a single frame!
consider the common situation: We are shooting outside and want to drop the ambient by 1 stop. We see that it is mildly overcast – the sunny/16 rule says that our exposure should be approximately f/11@1/100 sec. Again, we know our flash give f/8 at 1/8 power, so we set it at arms length from our subject. In order to drop our ambient by a stop we increase our shutter speed to 1/200 (still at f/11) and adjust our flash up one stop to 1/4 power to give us f/11. Done and Done. Chimp, and adjust as needed. If we are in situation where we can’t drop the ambient by shutter speed (already at sync limit), we can simply adjust the flash power to compensate. Assume the same situation (ambient is f/11). to keep the shutter speed the same and still drop the ambient by 1 stop, we need to shoot at f/16. Again, knowing our flash gives f/8 at 1/8 we simply bump it up 2 stops to 1/2 power (f/8->f/11->f/16 = 1/8->1/4->1/2)
This may sound complicated, but once you are comfortable estimating these exposure, it becomes almost second nature. by using your baseline you will find yourself able to get exposure dead on within 1 or 2 “chimping” shots.
When I was looking at reviews of the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra, one of the most common complaints people seemed to have was the fact that they couldn’t mount standard umbrellas on it (Elinchrom uses a 7mm umbrella shaft, while most others in the US use an 8mm shaft).
Now this seemed kind of silly to me – first off, the Quadra head is extremely small and lightweight – hanging anything larger than a *tiny* umbrella off it just seems like a recipe for disaster. Secondly I thought to myself “I mount umbrellas on speedlights all the time and they have no umbrella holder whatsoever – why is the quadra any different?” The solution:
The plain ol’ vanilla Umbrella Swivel. Beloved of “Strobists” everywhere, it provides a secure slot/mount for the umbrella, placing the weight & torque on itself rather than the strobe head. Screw in a post on top, plop the Quadra head on that and good to go. You can even still use the angle of the quadra head itself to hit the sweet spot of the umbrella.
Personally this is just fine for me. works great for my umbrellas, Apollo softboxes and Softliters…but let’s say you need the light more “on axis” with the umbrella shaft (maybe to fit the hole in one of the new PLM diffusion screens for instance…) I found the easiest thing is to simply take a second swivel, and use it to “hang” the head off the umbrella shaft itself. The head is light enough that it doesn’t put undue strain on the shaft (or the swivel).
Kinda kludgy but it works. Personally I don’t bother – mounting it on the swivel itself is quick, easy and gets the job done with hardware that I’m already carrying anyway for my speedlights.
So there you have it: Mounting umbrellas on the Quadra made easy!
If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise don’t even start.
This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs, and maybe your mind.
It could mean not eating for three or four days.
It could mean freezing on a park bench.
It could mean jail. It could mean derision.
It could mean mockery, isolation.
Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance.
Of how much you really want to do it.
And you’ll do it, despite rejection in the worst odds.
And it will be better than anything else you can imagine.
If you’re going to try, go all the way.
There is no other feeling like that.
You will be alone with the gods. And the nights will flame with fire.
You will ride life straight to perfect laughter.
It’s the only good fight there is.
Henry Charles Bukowski
1920 – 1994
One of the issues that always comes up for emerging photographers is dealing with contracts and negotiation. Let’s face it – most of us are more “artist” than “businessman”. we just want to make pictures and leave the legalese to someone else.
Of course the reality is that to be a successful *artist* you must be a successful *businessman* as well.
Go to any photography forum on the web and you will invariably find questions such as “how do I make a contract/terms for such and such a job?” or “the client sent me this crazy contract to sign, what do I do?”
In this piece, Bill Cramer of Wonderful Machine, Inc shows an actual contract negotiation he had with an editorial client, including exchanges, contracts and revisions. This is a fantastic read for any photographer and a perfect example of how to do it right. In particular, notice how he responds to the disagreement in contract terms – guiding the exchange to a mutually satisfactory agreement, rather than stonewalling and confronting.
This is great stuff folks!