What not to do

One of the first things I tell photographers who are at the beginning of their career is to "Learn from the mistakes of others." Learn from my mistakes, learn from…

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A simple cheat to direct a viewer’s eye

We can’t always control the shoot as much as we’d like. One of my regular gigs is shooting real food prepared by real kitchen staff at real restaurants. The shots are more about the cooks and the restaurants than about my photographic prowess. Many times food comes out of the kitchen looking perfect, other times … not so much.  On these assignments I’m also usually restricted to available light, or minimal supplemental lighting. Immediately I’ve lost control over two key aspects of the shot. It’s on assignments like these that I’ll often employ a trick that’s so simple I’m almost   embarrassed–vignetting.

By artificially darkening the corners and edges of images we can direct the viewer’s eye toward the center. The trick is to not overdo it, but to have it be subtle. If you look at an image and think, ‘Oh, darkened corners,’ you’ve most likely gone too far. There are several points along the way where you can employ this trick, but my preference is in Photoshop, after the image has been cropped and the contrast adjusted.

My personal method involved the Quickmask tool and an Adjustment layer. On you image, enter Quickmask mode (Q key command) and select a round paint brush of appropriate size. Then simply mask the majority of the image. Remember this is a mask, not a selection, so the areas you paint will not be affected by the next step.

Quickmask mode
Quickmask mode

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Product Review: Eye-Fi Pro

When you shoot in the studio as much as I do you learn to hate cords. Power cords, sync cords, extension cords, data cables, all get in the way regularly. It’s not unusual for me to have a sync cord, AC adapter, cable release, USB cable and camera strap all attached to my camera at the same time. I use radio triggers for my strobes regularly, but sometimes a wired sync is necessary. If I’m tethered to the computer, I really need to use an AC adapter to power the camera as it doesn’t shut off automatically. If I use the tethering software I can remotely trigger the camera from the computer but sometimes the cable release is just more efficient. So anytime I’ve got the ability to cut a cord I’m willing to give it a try. (more…)

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Accepting Criticism

One thing I really like about this business is the fact that it’s subjective. There is no one right way to do things. Of course that can be a double-edged sword. An image you’ve poured your heart and soul into can elicit a reaction of, “meh” from a client. That’s ok because it can go the other way too. An image you considered a throw away can get a “wow!”

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Pro Bono Work

Being a photographer is a great way to make a living. Sure it’s challenging, but anything worth doing is. Sure it takes talent and hard work, but anything worth doing does. But c’mon, I’m not saving the world here. (more…)

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Determining Pricing

One process that plagues many photographers is setting pricing. Whether you’re just starting out or re-evaluating your business, having a deliberate process for determining your pricing is key. One of the common complaints among photo buyers, whether they’re professional art buyers or consumers, is that pricing seems to simply be arbitrary. To a certain extent they’re correct, but being able to justify how you’ve arrived at your pricing goes a long way towards blunting some of that criticism. (more…)

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Getting started

I received a question the other day from a fledgling photographer. The question, a variation on one I get pretty regularly, was whether is was necessary to assist other photographers before putting yourself out there as a shooter yourself. Some of the variations on the theme are, “Is is necessary to go to college,” “Do I need to have a degree or will a certificate suffice,” or the classic: “How do I get a job as a photographer?” The answers to these, and similar, questions will be as varied as the individuals who ask them of course. With that said, there are some standard concepts that hold true. Please note that my area of expertise is in the commercial arena, many of the issues here will work across other photographic specialties though. (more…)

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Managing Client Images

My clients come from the full spectrum of business types – everything from one and two person start ups to multi-national corporations. Each of these clients, of course, have unique needs and expectations, but I’ve come across one area that more and more clients are in need of. Digital Asset Management (DAM.) Most of the larger corporations have a system in place already, after all they’ve been dealing with this issue for time immemorial, and if there is anything large groups like to do, it’s set procedures and systems. However, many smaller clients are just beginning to realize that they need to keep better track of their images. And, if you’re working with startups, chances are they have no idea that this will become an issue for them later on. This is an opportunity for you to educate them and set them on a good path now. (more…)

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The art of the callsheet

Imagine a theoretical job where you’ve got to coordinate yourself, two client representatives, three business executives who will be photographed, your assistant, a makeup artist and a homeowner whose home you’ll be shooting in. Oh, and you’ll have five minutes of your subjects’ time, the shoot is outdoors and subject to weather whims, and the subjects and the clients all come from the staid, yet much beat up, financial industry. Sounds like fun. Enter the call sheet.

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