About 2 weeks ago I was asked by Iron Clad Productions out of New York if I would shoot some portraits of the cast and crew of indie film “Petunia” at it’s Debut at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. I happily accepted and upon arriving at the scene, it was packed with reporters. The green room was very small and intimate, with nothing more than a small couch and a coffee table. The director of the film was seated next to Thora Birch (of “American Beauty” and “Ghost World” fame) and was being interviewed by an independent reporter.
When the interview concluded I introduced myself and told them what I was there for, but they of course were very busy talking with other reporters, producers etc. When I had been informed that the theater doors had been opened I was told that I would have one minute with person. That’s it. I had never been in the Castro Theater green room before, was not allowed to bring supplementary lighting and there people and fluorescent lights everywhere. I found a window and plopped everyone down. The director was up first, Ash Christian:
Everyone was very nice, obviously in a hurry but they were sincerely grateful that I had been able to do this for them at such short notice. Thora was cast in her star roles very well – her personality is very similar to her characters, only she seems much nicer.
The whole shoot took less than 10 minutes and the cast was thrilled with their portraits, as was the production company. This just goes to show that you must know your lighting – I was working on very little information and very little time but I still pulled off a successful shoot and the client was very happy. Of course, it’s best to plan as much as possible but sometimes improvisation is the only way to go. So you’ve got to practice improvising, learn what works, know what you like.
Last week I was talking on the phone with my mother and she mentioned that the most recent photo she had of me is over 6 years old. As photographers we never think much about going in front of the camera. It’s not that I don’t like getting my picture taken or have some kind of phobia about it… I’ve helped out a lot of friends with shoots and have been a model in some cases. So I asked a few close friends if they would be willing to set aside a small amount of time to take a portrait of me. I offered a trade of services, a portrait for a portrait but I understood that they were working professionals and may not be able to make the time. So to keep my options open, I decided to place an ad on Craigslist to see what the local area had to offer. I knew I would have to pay for quality and I said that I would pay “Market rates.”
What happened next sincerely horrified me.
I promptly received 30+ emails from people claiming to be “Professional Photographers” and offering me their services for as low as $55.00 for a 2 hour session with 5 poses and all images on a CD. NO career can be sustained on one off 55.00 jobs and that doesn’t even begin to cover your operating expenses let alone pay you a living wage. Not only that, the people that are offering such rock-bottom rates are hurting the local market by lowering people’s expectations and standards of photography.
Not all of the photographers were bad or anything, some of them were pretty good but were charging far too little. Turning the tables like that has opened my eyes on what it’s like to be one of my own clients. Not all but most of the websites were terrible, a flickr page or completely unusable. The emails were extremely unprofessional and poorly written. Some of them didn’t even contain links to portfolios, they just had attached photos. Photography is a service industry – first impressions, even via email are EXTREMELY important.
If you are unsure what to charge for your photography services PLEASE go here and figure out your operating expenses and then ask around about what other photographers charge in your area. You are doing no favors to anyone by being “The cheapest” and you certainly don’t want that to be your reputation. You get what you pay for and this venn diagram sums it up nicely:
After nearly 4 months of traveling the country working on my Occupy Wallstreet project, “Portraits of the 99%” I have finally taken a bit of a break to recharge and get the body of work seen by the world. Upon doing some non-occupy wallstreet work, I’ve noticed something has happened: I’ve become REALLY good at making portraits.
Now, I’ve always considered myself a portrait photographer so of course I MUST be good at making portraits, right? Since working on the “Portraits of the 99%” series I’ve become much more observant of the nuances of the human condition within the confines of my frame. Gesture, facial expressions, body language. When I was on the road I had to work really fast because more often than not I was working on limited time and with people who were on the move so I became very sensitive to all of those things. Now that I’ve got the time to slow down and work with my subject things are much different. It’s hard for me to call my 4 month long and counting occupy project “practice” but I think photographers are always practicing while on the job or off. It’s really worth the effort and has made me much more aware of what I am photographing.
I’m a photographer who’s afraid of taking pictures. There, I said it.
I’m afraid of missing that moment. Of not being able to recreate that light, or that expression.
I’m afraid of failure. Of not being good enough.
But every day, I pick up that camera and shoot. You have to, fear is a part of being an artist, a photographer.
Practice makes perfect, and if you practice enough, maybe you won’t be afraid any more. Or maybe you’ll
simply get used to photographing while you’re afraid.
We’re all afraid of something, and pushing your limits is the only way to over come your fear.
So my new website has recently launched and I was very happy with it. The only thing I needed to do was to get an image for the landing page, it allowed for one horizontal photo to the be the main image. I went into my hard drive to search for a recent image that would work. What I found was rather shocking.
I have almost NO horizontal images. I always knew that I liked shooting things vertically, there’s just something very formal about it. But this came as a huge shock to me and I knew I needed to do something about it. I started to set up shoots that were designed to be shot horizontally. I had to completely change the way I think about design, composition and even lighting. At first it was really hard, and I was very frustrated and even bored with shooting in this format. But after the first portrait sitting (Which was the hardest) I started to get a groove on. It felt good, I was mixing things up, changing how I work. Since there was no pressure from a client or a deadline (Besides one set by myself to have images for the new website done) it was very liberating. Keeping things fresh with yourself and your work is very important, it really opened my eyes.
When you’re getting ready for a shoot it’s very important to stay very organized. You probably have a lot of equipment that needs to be looked after and kept in one place, and it can be difficult to keep track of everything.
Before any shoot I make up a check-list in word or office that itemizes every piece of equipment that I will be bringing along on the shoot. It lists everything from cameras and lenses to clamps and gaffers tape. Then I have at least 4 other columns where I go through the check list and each point it travels. A check for loading up before the shoot, a check for arriving on location, a check for the end of the day and a check for unloading back at my studio. This will save your little pieces of equipment and save you some money in replacing those little pieces in case you leave them at your shoot location.
The following example is a check list for a video I’m shooting this month for a local healthcare organization:
This is just the first page, as the second page lists all of my cables that are required as well as flags and other misc grip gear. Your check list will probably go through a few drafts, so don’t make it the night before the shoot. Carry around a little notebook with you not only to write down ideas but to remind yourself of items that need to be added to your list. It will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
Last weekend I shot a small campaign for Glide, a local non-profit that provides healthcare and other services for the homeless and needy. The campaign was for the Pride Team for an event that will be raising funds for the organization. The event was a Drag show, so the assignment was to take studio portraits of the performers. We took individual portraits, pairs of portraits and a group portrait. The group portrait has become sort of the center of attention for the campaign, but the individual portraits will be used during the event itself.
Anyway I had a blast working in the studio with the client, an art director and a crew of stylists and one thing I decided to do independently was shoot some behind the scenes footage with my trusty SONY NEX3, nothing too crazy but I wanted to document the shoot. I put together a 2 1/2 minute behind the scenes video and posted it to my vimeo, and within hours I got a flurry of emails from the client, the art director and a number of other people at Glide. They wanted to license the video for the event and for their website, and I was more than happy to comply with this.
Even if you don’t have a lot of fancy gear or don’t necessarily have a lot of experience shooting video, do it anyway. It’s a great way to learn, and you might make some money in the process. It’s simple at first, grab a friend and have them film some stuff around the set and then put a few clips together and you just might get a nice source of extra revenue.
If your camera gear isn’t insured, do it now.
No seriously, stop reading this and get on the phone with an insurance agent and get insurance RIGHT. NOW.
If the image above made you cringe or cry a little, then it’s about time we had a good, hard talk.
Being a sole proprietor or freelancer means that if your gear breaks, YOU are responsible for replacing it. If you have all of your gear insured, that is some serious weight off your chest, especially since that $5,000.00 camera could easily put you out of business if it breaks. I’m sure many freelance photographers would like to think that they’re business won’t go down without a fight, that they would ride it to the end, jump ship at the last moment and various other metaphors. If your gear isn’t insured, you’ll be on a quickly sinking ship and you WILL go down with it.
Just because you’ve got the latest gear with all it’s weather-sealed technology doesn’t mean you can EVER be too careful. This is you’re livlihood we’re talking about here, and you need to treat it well.
I had been feeling restless lately, so I decided to head out to baker beach to take some pictures and relax. I took the 29 bus to the Baker beach parking lot and started walking around. It was therapy, and it was research as I had been wanting to add some new locations and looks to my work. Being an avid people watcher, it was interesting to see the nude sections of the beach collide with the “regular” sections of the beach. Fully nude people mingling amongst the people in shorts and vests. It was an interesting interaction to me. As I moved north along the beach, I began getting more adventurous and started climbing over the rocks and bits of land the covered the beach, separating one secluded area from another. Before I knew it, it was almost 5:00pm and the tide was coming in. I was very near to the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point, so I made my way over to avoid being swept away by the rising waves. As I made my way under the bridge to Fort Point there were some fences with barbed wire and signs that read “No Trespassing” but I made my way past them to avoid the tide. I thought I could maybe walk around the side of Fort Point, but the path was blocked by very high fences with barbed wire on top. My hopes of strolling on through the Fort Point parking lot unnoticed were beginning to disappear. I decided then that my only other option was to climb up the hill directly beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.
I began the hike up the hill and as I moved closer to top, near the tourist viewing point and parking lot, I saw a police officer and he saw me. He hopped off his bike and asked me to come over. There was another fence here that I was planning on climbing over but he unlocked it for me. He asked for my ID, what was in my bag and a few other standard questions. I told him exactly what had happened: I took a long walk on the beach, got so far out that I was forced to climb back up to civilization to avoid the destruction of my equipment by the rising tide. The officer was polite, stating that I was guilty of a misdemeanor because I was in a restricted area but he would let it go due to the circumstances. Right when I was feeling like I had really stuck it to the man, he asked me a question I did not expect. He asked to see the photos. I was hesitant but slowly pulled my camera from the bag. Upon viewing all 143 images, he asked me to delete the last 15 or so, which were taken when I was beneath the bridge. My mind raced as I thought of general photography laws and if they applied to my situation. “I can’t do that,” I said. He then ranted that he was giving me a lot of slack for trespassing and by not following his orders and deleting the images he could fine me, arrest me and have me detained. I explained that my photos were protected under intellectual property laws. He began to become more and more agitated.
Nobody wants to have a misdemeanor on their record. He could have easily given me one for trespassing, so I finally agreed to delete the photos but only because I had very reliable data recovery software in my studio. After a lecture about debating the law with a police officer, he dismissed me and I was off.
The photos I took today were for me. I had no real intention of publishing them or making a profit from them. But now the purpose they serve is to be shared. Take these views in, and know that if you see these things from this vantage point and you have a camera, you had better be weary of law enforcement. I feel slightly defeated because I didn’t know the specific laws about photography in California, especially in relation to being on private property. I will be spending the next few days researching photography law, so the next time I run into this situation I will be prepared. I suggest you do the same with your state and county as well. In the meantime, enjoy the restricted photos.
The next time you hear a friend say “They’re paying me 100.00 to shoot their wedding!” show them this picture. It’s more then pressing a button, it’s more than perfect timing, it’s more than knowledge of your camera – it’s all of those things and THEN more. Shooting weddings is hard – that’s why people hire professionals to shoot them, and pay them professional rates. This goes for every type of photography, you get what you pay for. Digital photography is so accessible and inexpensive now, it’s no surprise that some families are opting to have Uncle Bob who just got a DSLR shoot their events.
Focus on making great pictures. It’s slow for everyone, but this business is cyclical. It always comes back around.
I received a few emails from some potential clients this weekend, each of which were both involved the same industry; custom high end tailoring and clothing.
Each client asked me what my day and half day rates were. I explained to them (in as few sentences as possible) that I don’t work by day rates. The services I can offer them are of more value that can be measured on a clock.
My services include (but are not limited to): Photography, (of course!) access and use of Makeup artists, hair stylists, wardrobe specialists and location scouts, a full retouching studio for light or heavy retouching and print services.
I said it would not be fair to throw a price at them if I simply did not know what it was that they needed, and with internet marketing clients’ needs are so specific that it’s only fair that you are compensated for catering to those specific needs.
I also feel that it’s easy to be taken advantage of by using a day rate or half day rate. If something takes far more or far less time than anticipated, you’re stuck either sitting around doing nothing or rushing around trying to finish within the day. Something will always happen that is out of you or your client’s control, and you may not be compensated well enough to handle those situations.
On the other side of the coin, I can totally see why clients like the consistency of day rates. It may help them plan their budget better. Because of this, you must become very skilled at putting together accurate, all encompassing estimates and bids. I can see how a day rate works for studio photographers, or senior portrait photographers. It’s a different type of clientele. But speaking as someone from the advertising and editorial world, I have chosen to eliminate day rates from my vocabulary.
Check out Shakodo for pricing tips and advice, it’s free to join and frankly it’s a really amazing resource.
So for the last few weeks I have been working on my portfolio. Not shooting for it specifically, because you know, you’re ALWAYS working on your portfolio, what I’m talking about is physically ASSEMBLING a series of prints into a book to show to current and potential clients.
Building a portfolio is hard. You have to somehow set aside your pride and ego and look at your work objectively so you can edit, arrange and make it the best presentation of your work. Sometimes a favorite photo of yours has to be edited out, because it doesn’t fit with the rest of them. This alienates you, because you feel such a great attachment to this photo. So you go back and fourth and back and fourth and you question your worth as an artist and pretty soon you don’t even know who you are anymore.
So yesterday I made the mistake of saying “My portfolio is DONE. This is the most comprehensive collection of my work that I have ever put into a book.” Well first of all, of COURSE it is. It SHOULD be, being the newest work. Mixing in some old with the new, it should cover all the things I’m good at and show the new things I’m good at. Second of all, a portfolio is NEVER done.
I was showing this book to a client today, and between the time I had said that and this morning I had a little itch at the back of my neck. I kept going back and going through the portfolio, over and over again. By the time I got to the meeting with the client I was very nervous, and it was all because I declared to myself that it was “Done.”
So here’s a few tips to avoid that stress:
Your portfolio needs to show your absolute BEST work. Even something a little bit weak will bring the rest of the images down. Choice of subject is very important. If you’re a still-life photographer show-still life. If you shoot people show people. Your lighting, techniques and moods should be similar, but not the same for every image. It’s ok for you to take sensitive portraits of someone and later in the book show something with a sense of humor, as long as it still looks like it was taken by the same photographer.
Versatility and Flow
This is going to sound hypocritical, but you must display consistency AND variety in your work, or you won’t be getting any. It doesn’t have to be a huge shift, but just enough to get your client to look a second time. This also creates a flow throughout your book, you need to keep visual interest. The last thing you want the flow of your book to flatline, it’ll be boring. You want it to ebb and flow, rise and fall, over and over again.
Edit, edit, edit
Make little thumbnail prints of all the images you want to include in your book, and lay them out. Remove the ones that don’t work, and then do it again. And again. And again. Then have a few friends over for some drinks and have THEM look at it. Show it to a peer, or graphic designer friend. Your portfolio should contain no less than 10 photos (Any fewer would be too short) and no more than 20. (Any more would be ridiculous) And remember, nothing but your VERY BEST.
Hopefully this will help some of you out there deal with the stress of portfolio building and showing better. My meeting went fine, as long as you believe in your work (And it’s good work) and show confidence throughout your showing you will have a better chance than some of coming through and getting a new client.
When you’re trying to get work as a freelance or professional photographer, you really need to look at how your photographs look.
I don’t mean simply looking at them, I mean looking at them as a whole. Do they all have a similar “feel” to them? Something that will make people think of you when they look at it?
Photographers are hired based on a certain “look” that their work has. It’s what separates you from the other photographers out there (And there are a LOT of other photographers out there) and it makes your work unique and valuable.
I can’t stress this enough; Your work needs to have a consistent look across the board, they have to scream “I took these,” not “Anybody could have taken these.”
It’s all about practice. You won’t get your signature look over night, it’s something that photographers struggle with every day. Now don’t be dragged down by shooting everything “The same way,” it doesn’t really work like that. It’s about how you approach your subject matter. Take a look at these photos:
I took both of these photos, but stylistically they have almost nothing in common. The first image was taken very recently, after I felt established comfortable shooting things a certain way. The second image is from a long time ago when I was shooting senior portraits in small towns. These days, I couldn’t even imagine shooting something the way I shot this second image, it just wouldn’t feel right to me.
So here is a list of things you can do to help you establish a visual style for yourself:
Copy another photographer’s style.
This may seem like cheating to some, but it really helps. Pick a photographer who’s work you admire and make a list similar to the list you made before, of things that give him or her their visual style. Really analyze their images, what’s consistent? Low contrast? Strong side-lighting? After you have spent a good deal of time analyzing, attempt to copy this style.. You can either copy the visual style, or copy the image directly – either way you will be in for a huge challenge. If you really want to challenge yourself, take your favorite photographer’s style and use it to shoot subject matter that they never shot. If they shoot people, shoot still life or landscapes.
Pick 3 or 4 things you like to see in photography.
No more, no less. These things can be “high contrast” or “Low depth of field” or “Very saturated colors.” Make sure they are all based on photography, nothing general like “People” or “Landscapes” etc.
Then go out and shoot everything you can this way. If you feel you need to give yourself an assignment like “5 portraits in this style” then do so. Be a ruthless editor. Stick to your style like it’s a contract, and throw away any images that deviate (even slightly) from your chosen visual style.
Don’t get too comfortable.
After you have shot a lot of things in the visual style you have chosen, take your style write up and write down the exact opposite of what that style is. If it was high contrast, make it low contrast. If it was low depth of field make it high depth of field. Make sure you make the subject matter the exact opposite as well. Then go and shoot it.
I am writing this after coming off of doing a particularly challenging assignment. Over the weekend I was doing landscape photography of sports fields. It was hugely challenging for me – I had to use wide angle lenses instead of normal or telephoto. I had to shoot in low contrast light instead of medium to high – it was crazy! But overall I think it was good for me, and going out of your comfort zone will be good for you as well. I’ll post the “Recreational Landscape” series later this week.
The reason behind the lack of updates around here is because I have been on a bit of a working vacation. I have been in New Zealand for the past 3 weeks, doing work for an orchestra in Auckland and working on my new promos.
What’s that you say? What kind of a vacation is that?? It’s a damn good one if you ask me. Being away from home and only having a little bit of work to do has given me a lot of time to work on things I have been putting off. My new promo for example:
Also what I’ve had time to work on is the list of companies I’m sending them to. And you photographers know how big of a deal that is.
That’s not to say that my work with the orchestra and the time spent on the marketing piece has taken up all of my time – most of my time is spent out in the sun on the beach or in downtown Auckland with Alanna. I’ve even taken some time to do various portraits of friends here for a personal project, which will eventually turn into a new promotional piece. These sort of vacations from your hectic work schedule are healthy – but of course it doesn’t mean you should do nothing the whole time. Just because you take a vacation doesn’t mean your marketing has to as well.
You know what the difference is between a professional career photographer and an enthusiastic hobbyist is? Patience. I learned how to shoot originally with film, and when photography was a multiple-cost process of buying film, shooting and then paying for development you made your shots count. I love digital. I love how it’s finally maturing and how it’s bringing out a lot of talent in a lot of people. But as far as shooting goes, I hate how fast it is. People will shoot hundreds of photos and then dig out “the one” from this pile of what’s otherwise junk. When I shot film, I made each shot count. When doing portraits I would talk to my subject, get to know them and photograph them as they got comfortable. When I did still life I would study what I was shooting carefully and study the light and make it perfect before I even took a single frame. Ask anyone who has shot with a 4×5 camera – when it costs you about $8.00 per picture you slow down and work meticulously to make the image the best it can possibly be before you take that picture.
My advice to you is to put that digital camera away for a day and shoot some film. Pick up a Holga. There’s something very organic about loading, winding, spooling, developing, washing and printing your film by hand. You will learn a lot from this process and it may make you enjoy your digital photography even more so.
If you’re new to the world of professional photography, you probably have a lot of questions. If you’ve been in the game for some time now, you’ve probably noticed that things are changing.
So what follows is the first of 2 parts on my advice on how to survive in these times of 65 megapixel cameras, VDSLRs and social media.
1. Know how to use your camera
When we get a new camera, we’re excited. We run outside or to the studio with it and shoot great pictures. The thing is, there’s a lot your camera can do that will not only make your pictures better, but there’s a lot your camera can do besides taking pictures. Open the manual. Read it from cover to cover. Know what to do when you get that “ERROR34″ code. You will feel much more confident in your ability to shoot, problem solve, and you will generally handle yourself in a more professional manner.
2. Shoot constantly
With your manual all worn out and dog-eared, you can now begin to shoot. Shoot everything, take your camera everywhere. If your camera’s too big or too heavy, invest in a point shoot with a manual mode so you can keep your eye and skills sharp. Camera phones work fine for this as well, as long as you shoot constantly.
3. Shoot RAW
RAW is the most powerful file format for digital cameras. The editing possibilities are endless. There are plenty of free RAW converters out there, and Adobe’s Camera RAW is second to none. Learn it, use it, feel the power.
4. Know what you’re good at
In the beginning, you shoot everything. Portraits, still life, landscape. You need to specialize and develop a look for that specialty, or you won’t get hired. You can’t be good at everything, so you should focus on one area and master it.
5. Multiple Revenue streams
So you shoot portraits, what else can you do to make more money? You could try and teach a class on it, you could look into stock photography or you could have a gallery show. Find other ways to make money on your talent and ability. Teaching and seminars or lectures can be very rewarding, and a lot of schools and organizations need speakers on digital media because it’s changing so much and becoming so big. Stock photography, if you can get into it, can make you money on your photos while you focus on other things. It’s not guaranteed to pay your mortgage but it’s a good way to get your images in the public eye. Another thing is galleries, look into exhibition space in your area and what you have to do to get involved. There are many other ways to make money on your photography, sit back and brainstorm.
6. Never sell yourself short.
Set your rates and stay firm about them. You should never be ashamed of what you charge, you should come out and say them right away. You offer a great service at a great rate. NEVER give a “ballpark estimate.” You will miss something and end up under-cutting yourself. In these times you may need to be a bit flexible for yourself. Set a minimum and work for no less. If you’re not sure what to charge do some research on your competition. Don’t be a jerk and undercut everyone else. Be fair to yourself. As soon as you start shooting portraits for 50.00 you not only hurt yourself, but you hurt the market.
On friday I will post Part II. Stay tuned!
This week I called over a dozen designer clothing stores in preparation for a project I’m working on. I’ve had to arrange for equipment, assistants and a studio, and I’m in the process of getting it catered. I’ve been working on this for almost 3 weeks now, all for a project that will only take about a half a day to shoot.
Over time, I have come to learn that your workload as a photographer comes out to about 75% organization/problem-solving and 25% actual photography/image-making. It takes a lot of work to pull off a successful shoot, and all of this work will show in your images. It will pay off too, clients like it when they don’t have to worry about anything, and when they see that you pulled off a photo-shoot on location with 5 models 2 assistants and wardrobe stylist, they will be impressed, needless to say. You are a professional problem solver who also just so happens to be great at taking pictures. Don’t even get me started on making a bid on a project. That’s an organizational nightmare to say the least, and is a topic for another day.
So for starters, you should organize yourself. Find out how much a makeup artist in your area will cost, or what you have to do to get permission to shoot at that great location. It’s better to know now in advance then having to scramble around while your client waits for an answer.It will give you peace of mind, and it will give your clients confidence that they hired the right person for the job.
Even in this digital age photography is still primarily used as a print medium. Sure we have websites to send potential clients to to get a taste of our work and style, but if they want to hire you, they are going to ask to see your “book.”
The Epson Stylus Pro 3800 is the best printer I have ever used, it’s fast it creates beautiful prints and it’s easy to use. It’s expensive, but you can go to printing labs that have them and specify what you need.
Prepping photos for web use and print use are two totally different beasts. Your photos on the web are seen on monitors, all of which are calibrated differently for color and contrast. So in order to make the best prints possible, you need to get details in your shadows while controlling your highlights. This of course, starts with your exposure.
Expose for the print
When you’re shooting RAW you have always been taught to “expose to the right” which is getting as much information to the right side of the histogram as possible. This is very important when it comes to making prints.
You don’t want the histogram to clip on either the left or right side, this results in a loss of data or in print terms, a loss of detail.
If you lose detail in the shadows, your print will come out with pure black areas. This looks strange, but not nearly as strange as loss of highlight detail – the printer will actually not print on a highlight area of 255, it will simply leave it as whatever paper surface you used. This will look very strange.
Adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW
The first thing you will want to do with your RAW file is change your workflow options which is the blue line of text on the ACR screen. I use ProPhoto as a color space because it gives me the most color options even though printers can’t print the color range of ProPhoto yet. You want your bit-depth to be 16-bit, and you do NOT want it set to sharpen anything.
Now adjusting your highlights and shadows really depends on what kinf of paper you will use. I prefer Epson’s 5-star premium luster photo paper. So to print for that, your shadows should be no lower that 12-15 in RGB. You can adjust your blacks by adjusting the “Blacks” slider. Camera RAW’s default is 5, and if you shot at a low ISO you can safely reduce this with minimal noise. You can also adjust the “Brightness” slider which isn’t as effective but it works if your at 0 in your “Blacks” slider and still need to get detail back. Be wary of your highlights though. The “Fill Light” slider works well, but you will get crazy noise in your shadows if you go beyond 20. If your printing on Matte paper, your shadows will need to be higher, no lower than 20. Matte paper absorbs more ink, so you will lose that detail fast.
As far as highlights go, if you want to retain detail and not got that weird not-quite-blown-out look, you should keep your highlights around 240, 245. You can use the “Recovery” slider, but it won’t really bring your detail back – it simply adds magenta to the overall image, which will also gray it out the rest of your colors if you get carried away. It’s a good rule of thumb to not use the slider beyond 25. All of this adjusting is done to get as much information to the right side of the histogram as possible, without clipping anything.
All digital images need sharpening. You can do this in Adobe Camera RAW by using the “Clarity” slider, but if you plan to make any local adjustments it’s probably best to do the sharpening in Photoshop. There are a variety of sharpening methods in Photoshop such as the “unsharp mask” and my personal favorite, “smart sharpen.” These work well for different things, but they can both be masked out to sharpen certain areas a certain amount. DO NOT use the “Sharpen” button or the “Sharpen edges” button. They give you absolutely no control. Sharpening can be tricky, you need to watch the fine details such as the hair or eye-lashes when you’re working. A good rule of thumb is sharpen it to the point where it looks a little strange on the screen – the image will print slightly softer.
The rest is all trial and error. Learning by doing. Try different papers, different printers. These are just basic rules, and rules were meant to be broken. Learn these rules well before you explore outside of these boundries. Then, you can clip your blacks. Clip your highlights. Get the right look for you.
When I’m working, I get paid to shoot portraiture, editorial and still-life/ads. My clients want to see my best portraits, my best campaigns, and my best still life images. The problem with this is that still life and portraiture is not solely what I do. I dabble in fine art and fashion a lot, but if a client sees a portfolio filled with fine-art work and they need portraiture, they are bound to look elsewhere to someone with a portfolio more catered to what they need.
So what do you do with all of these extra images? Someone somewhere wants to see those photos. This is where “Microsites” come in. A microsite is usually a single page devoted solely to a project that does not fit in with the rest of your portfolio. Of course, your name is attached and a link to your full portfolio should be prominent on the page. One of my favorite microsites is “We are sleeping giants” by Brooks Reynolds.
Think of a microsite as your own personal art gallery – design it exactly how you want it, not how you think a client would want it. This is all about you. They are great marketing tools, they show potential clients that you are diverse without middling up your portfolio. As such the target audience for your microsite is… well, anybody and everybody!
I’m currently working on a microsite for my project “Lost and Familiar”, some of the images you have seen on this site before:
The point here is to get the word out on this series of 12 images. You should have a personal goal with a microsite, not simply to show people what else you can do. My goal here is to shop the series around to art galleries, and maybe catch the eye of some art directors.
Check out some other great microsites HERE.
So this week, I’ve had 3 studio shoots, 1 event shoot, post-production on all 4 shoots, 2 articles to write, (one for Saddle Stitch, one for the ol’ blog) all while trying to have some semblance of a life.
Working for yourself, as most photographers do, can take up a lot more time than some people think. They imagine that you spend a few hours on a set with glamorous models during the day and spend the evening with cocktails, but they are leaving out the book keeping, post-processing and client contact that goes along with that morning shoot.
Many times I will work on a shoot or several for 7 days a week – no time off. I eat, sleep and breathe photography. And I love it.
Sure, you have to make time for your friends or family or significant other. But there are times when you are on a roll, weather it’s your flow of steady work or a firestorm of creativity – those are the times when you have to – need to – work as a photographer. You will push out your best work, because you’re feelin’ it and it feels good.
Photography is all about love, you have to love it for when you have those busy weeks. And like most jobs, the more you love it the better you will be at it. If you love it enough, you may never have to work a day in your career.
As any photographer knows, a simple concept in your mind can explode and turn into something completely different once you get to shooting it. While I was shooting for the last post I was playing around with shadows and after I wrapped up the lighting tutorial I decided to have some fun with an old phantom of the Opera mask I had laying around. I started with this:
Sort of a modern Phantom of the Opera with a pretty girl. She had brought along a few different outfits and before I knew it, the photos turned into this:
Now this particular model has a huge interest in costumes and special effects make-up. Lucky me, right? A collaboration with any creative person can be an amazing thing. My model is no photographer – but her skills with wardrobe and make up and modeling in general helped get these great photos.