Sunday, September 30, 2012

Amateur mistake, professional embarrassment


Mistakes happen. They are unavoidable. Yet there is nothing like that 'duh' feeling when you make a rookie mistake. Take, for instance, this past weekend's photo shoot.

We had a wonderful weekend with two back-to-back events; one in Boston on Saturday and the second in the picturesque Litchfield Hills on Sunday. Wanting to travel light for Sunday's shoot I grabbed my camera and a single lens, a tripod and a monopod (since we were going to be photographing fire) and my flash. What I did forget was my sync cord for my flash (not a problem) and my extra memory cards (big problem).

Yeah, I hear you groaning with understanding. However, when you are an instructor and group moderator who is always telling members to, "don't forget your extra memory cards and batteries!", this mistake can be very embarrassing.

So, in closing, I will let you walk away with this lesson. Make sure you double and triple check your gear before walking out the door. Had this been a paying gig I can just imagine the anger and frustration from the customer.

Now I have to go sit in the corner with my dunce cap.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Understanding the photography pyramid


When I teach workshops I often mention that learning the skills required to be a good photographer is like building a pyramid. Like the pyramid, education requires a strong foundation to build upon. Without that foundation you can not build upwards or the whole structure falls down around your head.

With photography I divide this pyramid into three levels in which each successive level is built upon the one below it. Each level in turn contains many building blocks that help expand and strengthen the structure.

As you can see in the illustration at right, each level is centered around a specific element of photography. The base level is the camera and as it moves up in levels it expands to your subject and then finally your art. Let's take a closer look at each level.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Slow climb to building a solid reputation


I have a great business as a tattoo artist. I have loyal customers, a stellar reputation and solid street cred amongst many of my peers. Thinking back on how I have achieved this I realize it was a slow climb to my success. It did not just happen overnight.

The same is true in the photography business. It's not like one day you hang a sign outside your door and, presto, you have a thriving business. It requires a lot of work, a lot of patience and a lot of time. The key to building a business, however, can be narrowed down to a single word; reputation. No other aspect holds as much value in business as that one word.

Monday, September 17, 2012

BTS - Medicine bottle shoot


I have been slowly building up a collection of medicine bottles for a series of medical stock photo shoots. Looking for props is both challenging and fun. Specially props that have to look like prescription pills but without a brand look. Fortunately there are plenty of supplements and generic brands out there to keep me supplied.

I also wanted to play around with a new DIY shooting table I built a couple of weeks ago, my shooting table 2.0. My first attempt is rather shaky and flimsy but I was working with what I could readily find. Sometimes you have to spend some coin to make a good product, even if it's a do-it-yourself project. But that's for another post.

Lastly, I wanted to play around with some LED continuous lights. I had picked up a few different sizes and strengths to play around with some of my jewelry shots (LED's have a way of making gems sparkle) so I figured since I had them... Well, here is the result of my efforts.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

5 steps to finding your photographic signature


In the previous article, Your photographic language, part 2, I mention several recognizably famous photographers; Ansel Adams, Anne Geddes and Annie Liebovitz. In the article I use these photographers as examples of how an experienced artist uses visual language within the medium of photography. Their creations are more than the sum of the parts that create the scene, they tell a story, instill emotion and take us to a different place spiritually.

The interesting thing is that once you get to know these artists (or your own favorite artist) through their work, their photos become instantly recognizable as being theirs. You see a cute baby wearing a flower or animal costume set in this fantastical setting of flowers, you know it belongs to Anne Geddes. Likewise, if you look at a storm cloud breaking over a majestic valley of Yosemitte rendered in stunning black and white tones you instantly say, "that's an Ansel Adams photo."

These are signature looks that have been created and honed through years of hard work and dedication to a craft. It is also something many artists strive to accomplish in their own art. But there is a process and if you follow that process you will begin developing your own signature.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Your photographic language, part 2


Vis-su-al Lan-guage - noun ( vi-zhe-wel lan-gwij )
  1. something (as a graphic) that appeals to the sight and is used as a system of communication of ideas or concepts
  2. the notion that colors, shapes and forms have intrinsic meaning within a given society that words are not needed in expressing those meanings
Previously we discussed photographic language as a series of industry specific definitions that make communication among peers easier to comprehend (Your photographic language, part 1). Through the use of clearly defined terms we can understand lessons and concepts that deal with photography effectively making conversation easier.

The other side of the coin is what is termed visual language and that is a much tougher language to learn. Visual language does not deal in words that have clearly defined definitions. It deals with impalpable concepts such as mood and feelings and perceptions. It is the mastery over this language that defines the true artist and separates them from the novice. But what is this visual language and how can we learn it?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

BTS - Glass Buffer shoot


In the last article we talked about using an existing product used for one purpose and modifying it for another. In this case, a skin cleaning machine is repurposed as a glass and metal cleaning buffer.

In that post I introduced the product with the image shown at right. In this post we will go behind the scenes in how I created it.

DIY Glass Buffer


Polishing a small mirror with the buffer
As a product photographer I have collected an assortment of props, backgrounds and miscellaneous stuff for use in my shots. One material that shows up a lot is glass. Glass drinkware, glass mirrors, plate glass surfaces, a glass fish tank and now my brand new see-through product shooting table. That doesn't include the countless other shiny surfaces I have to deal with. If you have ever tried photographing reflective surfaces you know how much of a pain they can be. They show off dust and fingerprints with a vengeance.

There is no way of getting around it. If you photograph these items you will be polishing them first. What a pain. If there was only an easier way of doing this. Fortunately, there is. Here's what I came up with.

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