Saturday, December 18, 2010

Evolution of a shot

I recently completed a shoot for a bank that was opening a new branch in a California location.  It was to be a lifestyle image to appeal to customers looking for a personal banking service to compliment their busy and affluent lifestyles.

The image on the right is the final one as it appears in one of the print advertisements. 

I was happy to be able to deliver a image that was relaxed and easy made all the more achievable with great clients and models on the day. This was just one of 3 locations we covered on the day. I had brought 5 models along to the shoot and an assistant and on this day the weather was also cooperating with our needs. The sunlight was very strong by the time we got this shot and I was using a large diffuser with fill flash to retain all the details in the shadows and also the highlights of the white clothing. The dog wasn't originally part of the concept, but while we were on location one of the clients spotted it and asked if I'd be willing to work with the dog and see if I could add something to the shots by using it. I always carry releases with me, so with a quick bit of negotiating and a couple of signatures, we now had 6 models!

With a selection of models at our disposal we were able to shoot a good set of variations for the concept we were working to. You can see a few of the contact sheets that I made and supplied to the Creative Director at the Bank's ad agency.
In the top image you can see that while the models were waiting for their starring roles we gave them cameo roles in the backgrounds of some of the shots. There were many many shots plus the ones we took at other locations - which will be used for other ads. So the final choice was made and it was time to go back to my raw file and give the client something that was right for print usage.

The image was shot as follows: RAW. Exposure program - Manual. Shutter - 1/3200. f/4.5. focal length - 17mm. ISO 200. With diffuser and off camera flash. Below is an animation showing the basic steps I used to bring the image to it's final state.
Click on the image to view the animation. (Approximately 45 seconds long).


Saturday, December 11, 2010

An Apple today made me see red.

Pictures taken with iPhone 3G 3 megapixel camera
I met a friend to have lunch and catch up today. She had a birthday while I was away on vacation and she had also been away from the city too. The weather was drizzling when I left home to go and meet her so I decided I would just take a point and shoot with me instead of an SLR camera. I've learned from past experiences that a lot of truly great photo moments seem to happen when you don't have a camera handy and so I've got into the habit of always having one with me when I go out.

I've got a great, trusty, Canon point and shoot with a titanium body and it fits easily into a pocket or on some occasions, my man-bag :-)  I also have my iPhone 3 with me all the time with it's miniscule sensor and bare minimum array of pixel depth. Since I have differing avenues for using or monetizing my photography, I try to use my Canon with its 10 megapixels sensor as my minimum choice.

So after lunch we notice the weather is clearing up and we decide to go for a walk over to the Castro to run some errands and window shop. As we walk up the street, the first of many photo opportunities presents itself. As I pull my Canon out of my pocket, point and frame the shot, the display starts flashing as it informs me that the battery is fully discharged. Time for an Apple.

So we were able to carry on snapping. And even though I was seeing a lot of red, it was, in this instance, a very good thing. The point I'm making here is don't let your creativity and artistic expression be stifled because you're waiting until you can afford a "better" camera, a longer lens, or some other item on your wishlist. Just get out there and let it flow!

And most important of all — enjoy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Where did November go?

 I've just got back to the USA after a short trip to the Caribbean & Central America and was preparing to sum up November when it hit me really hard that it's already almost 10 days into December! November was a very busy month and you can see some of the outtakes from my assignments here. I notice, checking through my stats, that my stock image sales are still doing well. And December all round looks like it is also full of promise, even if I've missed the first 10 days of it!

I realized that I was hearing more and more carols being played everywhere, and when I switched on the TV finally,  Whoa!!!  — it's definitely that time of the year!

On my recent trip, most of my time was not spent photographing. No, instead I was doing lots of digging. Digging was interspersed with dragging driftwood up the beach from out of the sea. I spent so much time behind cameras in November that I thought it would be good for me to be more actively involved on the other side of reality. Digging was fun though and was a start to a landscaping project that I hope to continue over the coming months of 2011. I still managed to sneak in a few shots that will hopefully make good stock images, but on the whole this trip was a change that was as good as a rest.
I was out of the USA for Thanksgiving, but I was here on Bonfire Night. Bonfire Night?? Yes, we observe the day that Guy Fawkes plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London England in 1605. It's not celebrated in the States but normally consists of lots of fireworks and big outdoor bonfires. However, this year, with The San Francisco Giants winning the World Series, there were plenty of fireworks to enjoy!

I also had a few Family Holiday portraits to do in November and have a few more to shoot this month too. It's fascinating being able to observe 1st hand how family units interact together and seeing how the often, extremely differing personalities somehow come together to function as a whole entity.

Anyway, since November has whizzed by, I'm going to be back to regular posting and as always, I'm also happy to answer any questions or respond to comments.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Well they don't edit themselves!

Press the shutter button and hear that electronic shutter respond to whatever speed you dialed in for it. Maybe switch to continuous mode so that you don't miss that all important moment. How about some bracketed exposures to cut down on your post production time. Or as it's also known - editing. And if you've been partaking in any of the practices above, you'll know how quickly the number of exposures demanding your attention soon build up. Especially so with digital.

And there, I've said the "E" word. Of course there are some people who will insist that you're not a proper photographer if you have to do any editing apart from choosing which shots to keep and which to discard. Me? Well I mostly shoot RAW so my computer is also my darkroom. And while I'm "processing" my images, I'm not adverse to making adjustments to them if I think it will enhance the final result. Those of you who practice this dark art will know that 1 hour of editing often becomes 2, 2 becomes 4, 4 becomes 8, and so on! And if you've spent all day shooting a wedding - well let's not go there right now.

As I talk about editing here, I'm not including retouching or image manipulation which to me are a separate stage.  For me editing is primarily colour adjustments, levels adjustments, colour conversions, and sharpening. I also include keywording at this stage in my workflow.

There's a plethora of software out there that you can edit with. Some solutions are quite expensive but a few are completely free! (Have a look at GIMP). I use 3 main solutions and the choice of which one to use depends on what type of shoot I'm editing, camera and lens, quantity of frames, and the designated end uses for the images. The three solutions I've chosen are;

Any one of these packages is fine as your only package but bear in mind that Capture NX2 only supports Nikon RAW file formats (NEF). A very large body of photographers also favour Lightroom. I'm not going to recommend any software over the other. If you find something that you like and it works for you, then that's probably the solution you should choose. I try not to follow trends just for the sake of it but rather to find solutions that have the tools that I need and suit the way I work. I'm an "end result" type of person when it comes top photography. I much prefer the image to speak to me than have someone explaining how many layers they had to create etc., etc., to get the end result.

Adobe Camera Raw works seamlessly with Adobe Photoshop and I use it mostly when I've decided I'm only going to edit a small shoot or a few individual images. It's also my tool of choice for mono conversions.

If I've been using a Nikon and working in really tricky situations, I choose Capture NX2. When you open a RAW.nef file in NX2, you are presented with a set of the exposure and adjustment functions of your Nikon camera. So you can continue to tweak the file using camera settings as if you still hadn't pressed the shutter yet. But here you can see the end result in real time based on the file you are working on. Just as with any processing software, bear in mind that if you have completely over or under exposed the shot, dump that frame and move on! Although they can get you out of some tight situations, none of these solutions have a magic ingredient so you do need to be trying to get your shot properly captured in camera. Capture NX2 also lets you work on an image, copy the adjustments you made with one click, and then apply them to another image with one click.

By the way Capture NX2 has a very cool and powerful set of tools for handling colour adjustments. Even if you're not a Nikon user you should follow the link and watch the demo video. It turns operations like adjusting the colour of the sky behind trees, hair, or other complex shapes into something that just takes seconds!

Capture One Pro is sold by Phase One and is my workhorse for large shoots and anything that requires lots of technical control. It's a very powerful tool who's algorithms allow the output of beautifully rendered files with excellent noise control and colour management. It too has the facility to copy and paste adjustments. It goes even further and lets you copy and paste adjustments to thumbnails in the programs own browser windows. You can also rotate images at thumbnail level. It also has a very powerful background engine for outputting processed files, so you never have to wait to move on the the next image if you are not batch processing.

So that's where I've been. Getting up to date with my editing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hold perfectly still...and... Action!

Click (image) For Kicks
Like all things in life, people are demanding much more from a photographer. The last 2 years have seen a gradual blurring between the specialist who shoots and supplies still images, and the other who supplies moving images. This blurring has been aided by the growing numbers of DSLR cameras that are also able to capture Hi-Definition video. "So what," I hear you say, "my point and shoot has been able to record video for years. Some of it isn't quite HD but it looks fine on Youtube and the likes".

When you build video capabilities into a DSLR, suddenly you have access to a lot of high end movie techniques simply from the fact that you can now shoot with interchangeable lenses for differing types of view. Wide angles, zoomed shots, and macro can now all be recorded at will. And you can now control depth of field for more cinematic treatments like focusing on the main subject by knocking the background into a non-intrusive aesthetic blur.

And so it was that recently a client of mine asked me to shoot some of his product for him. He then went on to ask me to shoot the videos that were required to be used along with the product shots on his website. Also by shooting in Hi Definition, we would have the option too output for use in other media without loss of image quality. I have continuous lighting as well as my strobes and I have shot a fair amount of video on other formats in my time, so I said yes.

The models turned up from Japan, I shot the footage that was needed and edited it all down as required. Today I delivered the product shots and the videos. 

More and more photographers are finding that clients want to engage "image makers" who can produce and deliver a package of images, rather than having to deal with multiple vendors. Video production on DSLR's still has some way to go, but for many applications users are finding them to be extremely capable tools in the right hands.

But don't be seduced that because you're a photographer and your holding a DSLR, that all you have to do to great moving images is switch to video mode and shoot away. No, you need to think in terms of viewer angles, scenes, and be able to visualize how a fade or a pan would work best and a host of other considerations. Some photographers may feel resistant to this other side of creating images, and others are doing very well thank you as they are. But for many professional photographers, there will be a market driven encouragement to embrace this additional function that is appearing on more and more of our expense new cameras.

A few DSLR's with video capability are listed below:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mount Diablo's Hairy Inhabitants

A view from the summit of Mount Diablo
I went for a walk around the summit of Mount Diablo in California at the weekend. We can see the peak across the bay on the East side from our apartment, and it had been beckoning for quite a while now. It was a cloudy day in San Francisco. The cloud seemed to be quite low. So it made sense to assume that if we went up to the top of the mountain we could still enjoy the sun over the weekend. And off we went.
A break in the cloud
As we entered the National Parks area we started driving along the five miles of road that would take us up to 3000 feet. It wasn't long before the cloud thinned enough for us to realize that we were approaching the top of the cloud layer. Aah, sunshine!

But what was that! True that up till now the rather nonchalant squirrel population had been mandating that I drive around them as they frolic in the road, but this creature was a totally different shape. It was also a little smaller, though not by much. It was hairy yes, but it was also black and had eight legs - a tarantula!

With a smooth instinctive Jedi movement I was crouched in the road with my camera already raised to my eye focused and on the target. The sun went behind some clouds at the same time and I hadn't taken a flash with me this day. I hung around for a while but we just got more and more engulfed by the cloud that was caressing the mountain. Appearing tarantulas seem to be a regular phenomenon here so I will be going back specifically to take some detailed shots and maybe use some for stock submissions too. 

The sun did burn the cloud of quite quickly so by the time we were at the summit we were bathed in the afternoon sun. By the time we decided to leave, another wave of cloud was coming in but as we drove down the mountain toward the valley we were able to continue to enjoy the sunshine of the late afternoon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Hip Camera Gadget

While shooting an event and carrying 2 cameras, Antonella mentioned to me that she was concerned at how my posture was looking crooked as I tried to shoot multiple angles with one camera while trying to balance another over my shoulder without it slipping off. I'm fortunate that my posture is very good, but Antonella expressed that her concern was I might lose it long term due to the way I was almost permanently contorted while balancing 2 cameras. She was right. I was very aware of what I was doing with my body and promised her on the spot I would find a remedy for this situation. And I have.

Today I went out with my camera to field-test my newly purchased B-Grip. When I'm around town with my camera, I prefer to walk or use public transport since I find it easier to spot, and take advantage of, the many photo opportunities that are endless in San Francisco. 

Camera locked in place on the B-Grip
So I strap my camera onto my B-Grip around my waist and set of to catch the MUNI downtown where I've arranged to meet a friend for coffee. Once I've walked about 3 blocks I can see up to the top of a distant hill and see if a train is approaching my stop, and there was! I'm about 250 yards from the stop at this point, and I know that if I run like I mean it, I'll get to the stop in time to board the train. I've done it so many times before but this time I have my Nikon strapped to my waist, and held in place by a very clever, but insignificant looking, lever and catch device. Well I don't want to keep my friend waiting and the B-Grip videos make a big deal of showing people running and jumping with the product and none of them ended in tears.

And I'm off. Sprinting along the street, my camera feels well balanced and moves with my body. No swinging, flapping, or banging about. It's almost as if my camera is no longer there. It is still there isn't it? I glance down to my side. And there is my Nikon hugging my waist and moving in unison with my body. I jump aboard the train and the doors close. Unlatching my camera from my side, I give it a quick once over. I had the lens locked in place so no worries about that. And after checking all the basic functions, I'm happy to report that my camera had taken the whole episode in it's stride. 

I got off the MUNI at the Embarcadero and ran up the stairs. Both hands completely free while my camera snuggled, nicely weighted into my waist and hip. I had almost reached the coffee shop when I noticed the Raygun Gothic Rocketship by the bay. I reached to my hip and flicked the released and raised the camera viewfinder to my eye in one easy motion. Once I had explored the Rocketship's angles, I guided my camera back to my hip where it clipped instantly back into the B-Grip.

So now I have my posture back, and the freedom to run after buses and trains, have my hands free, and all while I'm carrying a camera. I did look at a few alternatives but based on needing to be active while shooting, this looked like being the best solution for me. I'm really satisfied with my purchase and all I'm going to do now is — enjoy!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sometimes The Future Looks Too Bright

Harsh lighting can be unflattering even for the most beautiful people
How often have you seen someone with a camera outdoors posing another person for a portrait and saying,
"You're in the shade there, move over there into the sunlight so that I can get a good shot."?

Well it sounds logical. The more illuminated something is, the clearer it is to the eye, right? But then you wonder what's wrong with your camera because the pictures suffer from heavy shadows, blown highlights and weird skintones. And what's up with all those squinty-eyed people! Even a basic point and shoot camera is a very sophisticated piece of equipment capable of analyzing all kinds of subjects you might choose to point your camera at and shoot.
The result is that you can invite your family and friends round after a vacation, or your child's acting debut on the school stage, lock the doors and then entertain your hostages with the 400 frames you fired off during the event.

I actually love looking at pictures but rather without the blow by blow commentary and explanations, ("...and this is us sitting at the dining table, oh and this is us when we asked the waiter to take our picture..."). And with the convenience of digital, quantity is king and editing is barely existent in many circumstances.

Anyway, getting back on track. The metering systems on cameras today will generally give you a reasonable rendering of any scene you point them at. But even the most expensive pro-dslr cameras will protest to some degree when you ask it's metering system to make something of a scene that is primarily harsh sunlight.

So do you have to settle with harsh squinty shots from your travels when the thing you want to photograph or be photographed with isn't practical to move? It's 11:00 am and your tour bus has stopped by the Great Pyramid at Giza for a half hour. You realize that the angle that will give the best composition of you with the pyramid in shot means that the already brilliant sunlight is directly in your eyes. You take a quick look at the first shot that is taken and you see that your white linen outfit has become featureless, your skin blotchy, and the area under the brim of your sunhat has became a dark void where your eyes used to be.

Bright sunlight with fill-flash
The quick fix here is not to ask your friendly guide, Ahmed, if he could have the pyramid moved slightly this way or that. No, the trick is to set your camera to under-expose slightly (If you have this function on your camera your manual will tell you how to set it), and then turn on your flash. This time when the shutter is pressed the flash will work as a fill light and keep you more evenly illuminated cutting down on the harsh shadows on your face, while the background will still be well lit from the overall sunlight.

If you're taking photos of your friends outside and want really beautiful, naturally lit results. Get them to step out of the bright sunlight and stand in the shade of a tree, the shadow of a building, or such. You'll see that all the harsh shadows have become softened and you still have the option of being creative by introducing some flash if you want to. By the way, off camera flash is the way to go if you want really great results here.

Which brings me round to the joy of a bright overcast day. When shooting portraits, much of the time photographers are looking for someway of lighting their models to give nice flattering skintones. Although not always the case, you may be after a super edgy look or some other creative experience. But to get the classic look, many people have reverted to shooting in a studio and using softboxes to modify bright lights into an evenly diffused glow.

Well the largest softbox know yo man it actually free to everyone although not always available on demand. It's the bright overcast sky! So next time you're contemplating doing some portrait work, don't put it off if the sun isn't out and you don't have access to a studio. Get outside and play with that glorious, free, soft lighting.

And most important of all — enjoy!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Headless But Not Chicken

I spent some time down at The Ferry Building at the Plaza today watching some guys skateboarding. It was fascinating to watch as they tried increasing complex and daring tricks on their boards. It became very noticeable that "lots of air" was a key component to pulling off their stunts. The higher and longer they could stay airborne, the more numerous the moves they could pull before landing, — hopefully at least — back onto their decks.

As I sat and studied they way they were using their bodies to gain some mastery over gravity, I noticed how they started to look the same way as the seagulls nearby as they spread and flapped their wings to launch themselves to escape velocity. With arched backs and heads tucked, these lads seemed in denial that they too couldn't break free and soar into the air!

It was very bright and sunny so I decided to shoot mainly for black and white and try to capture these boarders at the moment they felt they would break free and fly. I was fascinated with the headless looking forms they struck and tried to time my shots to capture just that.

You can view the images here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Preparing For Committment

I spent the whole of the labor Day weekend in glorious sunshine. I heard that the weather in San Francisco wasn't so summery on Saturday, but I was further south shooting a wedding, as I said, in glorious sunshine. Friday night was the usual check and re-check before a shoot. I created a checklist for all my gear and checked everything off as each item was first loaded into a gear bag and then loaded into my car. When I'm finished at the venue, I'll use my checklist again to make sure I have all my gear heading back home with me. I had been down on Thursday to have a last look at the premises before the actual wedding on Saturday, so I was happy with just using speedlites for the evening jollifications. The main lighting issue was going to be balancing with the direct sunlight that would be bathing the unsheltered area where the ceremony would take place.
My solution for this would be having a reflector facing the bride and groom to feather them with some fill light. This way I can hold the sky sky behind them without the couple and the wedding party turning into silhouettes.

We arrived at the bride's hotel at 10 am signaling the start of a long day. There was also an acute sense of tension in the air. No, not the usual, "oh my god I'm so nervous" tension. It was more "I'm gonna kick someone's ass in a minute" tension.

It didn't take long to see what the cause of the feelings were and once identified it was easy to stay unconnected to the cause. Our bride seemed to really like us so all I had to do know was give her a happy record of her wedding day and also document all that was going on in a way that she and her husband would be proud and excited when sharing the memories with their family and friends.

There are some basic things to bear in mind if you are shooting a wedding and most of these things fit neatly under one heading. Preparation! I've already mentioned a check list for my gear. It's not a good idea to wait till just before you leave to grab your favorite camera and lens only to realize you didn't bring a spare card or your batteries are only half charged because you grabbed the wrong ones as you left home. Make a list and get everything ready the night before. That way you can rest properly and enjoy some calm in the morning before you leave for an assignment.

Always try to get to the venue before the actual day. For this wedding, I actually visited the venue at the same time in the day that the wedding was planned for. This way I was able to see how the light would fall on the day. I was also able to work out some angles and locations for shots that would probably work really well on the day. I remember on one engagement shoot in particular, I was moving the couple from shot to shot and to a few locations that helped to tell the story of their engagement. At one point the guy said to me,
"This is so easy I'm really enjoying this. We know exactly where we need to go and we now what kind of shots we'll be taking when we get there. It's as if you came here before and worked it all out".
"I did" was my answer.
I had also told them it would be a 2 hour shoot and although I hadn't been looking at my watch, when I said, "We're done".
He said, "Wow, 2 hours just like you said. Very professional!"

 If you've done your homework, deciding what gear to take with you will be easier. Weddings can be very physically demanding and you'll be surprised how many miles you can cover from moving quickly to capture those angles around the hotel and the event venue. Especially when the venue is in an acred countryside setting! I've never had a camera fail on me yet, but I still always have at least one backup with me at a wedding. If nothing else, I can have 2 cameras with different lenses always at the ready negating the need to change lens and possibly miss that all important shot. Whether you use SD or CF cards, take more than you think you'll need. I always carry extra cards. I also carry a portable multicard back up drive with me too. As I shoot at a wedding, I'll often swap out a card for a new one and also backup the one I've been using on my portable drive. That way, I'll need to be struck by lightning twice to lose that data!

With the popularity of documentary/journalistic style wedding  shots, grab the fastest glass you can. F 2.8 is good and anything wider is very cool. I try to use reflectors before I introduce flash to a wedding. My reflectors are not just the ones I bring but are also walls of buildings, low white or light coloured ceilings, mirrors, light coloured tablecloths, and anything else I see around me that reflects and affects the light in a way I might light to make use of it. Even though I try to keep it natural, I do always have at least one speedlite in my gearbag when I shoot a wedding.

Batteries and chargers, need I say more?

You also need to be passionate about producing beautiful art that will be a meaningful memory for someone. In all of this, remember that you are also a guest at the weeding and the more unnoticed you can become, the more surprised and delighted the Bride and Groom will be when the see those amazing moments you captured without them even realizing you were right there for them... sharing their the joy!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Totally Exposed

How I cleaned up my act.
Fiddlesticks! (This is a family show people). I've got dirt on one of my camera sensors and I have an important assignment to shoot tomorrow. After poring through some of my photography magazines and doing some research on the web, I'm now convinced that if I try to clean my sensor myself I will totally screw up my camera and void my warranty! I know, I'll just shoot with one camera tomorrow and address sensor cleaning another time.

But what if my shutter jams, or I drop my camera, or any number of catastrophes befalls the camera I take. I could take one of my other cameras as a back up but for the assignment I'm doing I'll be more comfortable with the choice of lens and camera body I had originally planned to use. Also I'm feeling that Murphy's law is just itching to get a look in. Ok Roi, it's your professional responsibility to manage risk on behalf of the client. Rats! (Family show people). I really need to have at least one back up camera with me. But being a high value assignment, my back up needs to be able to complete the job just as well as my primary tool will. Deep Breath. I need this camera body so I need to clean it today - myself.
I've circled the offending dirt particles that were residing on my sensor
 The first company I call in my quest for sensor cleaning materials and tools is Adolph Gasser in San Francisco. I know, what a name. Anyway, Scott answers the phone and asks how he can help. Suddenly my body is taken over by aliens. Instead of asking for the cleaning materials, I hear
"Do you provide a sensor cleaning service?", spill effortlessly out of my mouth as if I had been rehearsing those exact words for the last 2 weeks.
" Yes we do, and if you bring your camera in now, I'll do it while you wait".
"I'll be there in an hour", I answer to Scott, Knowing he has no idea that I have just decided to marry him and have his children!

"Hello, I'm looking for Scott", I say to the man at the counter.
"I'm Scott, who 's looking for him?"
So I tell him who I am and am immediately whisked downstairs to the service department and Scott takes on the role of maestro. The lens cap is off, the loupe is over my naked sensor. (It's ok this is still a family show). The next 10 minutes I am reassured, guided, and educated, as Scott cleans my sensor explaining all that he is doing as it happens. Once the cleaning is all done, I'm invited to go outside and take an exposure of the sky so we can check that there is no debris residing on my sensor. All clean! So if you're in San Francisco and you need your sensor cleaned, don't stress yourself with the worry of screwing it up, get on down to Gassers and ask for Scott.

Scott showed me the proper technique for one method of cleaning my sensors. As long as they don't get too dirty, I can routinely clean them with a Giotto Rocket. But rest assured that anything that can't be shifted by this method will be placed in Scott's capable hands at Adolph Gasser in San Francisco.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Taking Stock

A Nice Little Earner
"You can make $$$ from your camera just by selling pictures you have already taken" We've all see the ads promising the secrets of how to make this happen. You just send them a one time fee for their "in-depth" materials and you sit back and count the moulah as it comes avalanching in. Don't fall for it! You do not need to pay anyone to tell you how to sell your own pictures. They'll get you all whipped up and excited at how your local news editor is gagging for that picture you took of your 8 year old son scoring the winning goal against you and his mom last Saturday in the park. They'll unveil the fact that there are beautiful models just streets away from you who have realized the only thing holding back their career is that they haven't begged you to take portfolio shots for them. Of course you'll charge them a reasonable rate though. Don't want to take advantage do you! And imagine if your local art gallery or greeting cards shop found out that you had some "adorable" photos of your cute little kitty. Could we be talking never having to work again?
No, No, No, No, No!
 Seriously though, it is actually true that "You can make $$$ from your camera just by selling pictures you have already taken". One way is by creating and selling stock photography.

Stock photos are generally images held by a commercial library that anyone can buy and download and use, only being restricted by the kind of license attached to the image. These images are often used by newspapers, magazines, bloggers, websites, the advertising and marketing industry, and so on. If you decide you need a picture of a woman changing the wheel on her car. Instead of finding a photographer, setting up a shoot, and getting models, props and location sorted out, you can just go to an online stock library and enter your keywords. Although I still maintain if you want an absolutely bespoke image, you should call me and I'll set it up and shoot it for you. Oh Oh, there's the plug!

How to get started
Do an online search for stock photo libraries and look at the kind of images they have on their sites. Many of these libraries have a contributor area where you can go and learn about the technical requirements that need to be met, their preferred aesthetic, and in some cases what kind of images they are seeking, and images they definitely do not need. Once you have chosen the library you want to submit to and you feel your pictures meet their technical and aesthetic requirement, go ahead and complete their approvals process. If you're successful, Great! If not, read the feedback and maybe try again.

Let me just state right here. If you can't take criticism and rejections, then stock photography is not for you!

One of the benefits I've enjoyed from shooting stock, is the discipline of making sure the images have commercial value, are properly composed, and are technically well captured. The technical standards of a good stock image will allow for the fact that a designer may take your image and push it even further in post production. An image that has lots of tonal information, no noise, and no JPEG artifacts will allow this. If a stock library feels your image already has all the processing it can take, they may shy away from accepting it, unless it is incredibly compelling just as an image. So if you're a photographer with thick skin and you want practical feedback from a commercial perspective, submit some stock images. You don't even have to become a committed contributor to enjoy this valuable feedback. Many of the libraries have forums where you can submit work to be critiqued for it's commercial viability.

In the main, a stock photo is a product from a photographer which in turn is used to sell a product or concept. So that technically perfect photo you took while on vacation,  of the sun setting over a picturesque cornfield may get rejected for "LCV" — low commercial value.

I was asked to supply a model release for this silhouette.
So what should you shoot? Answer, If you were/are a designer what would you be looking for? Don't you hate it when people answer questions with another question?

People doing things that tell a story or relate a concept are always in demand. But don't forget to get a model release. Even if you shoot yourself, you'll need a signed and witnessed model release. Don't get too arty with your stock images, leave that to the designer. Also most libraries will instantly reject any image with hard shadows, since these start to look like "snapshots". Borders, vignettes, special effects, or gratuitous Photoshop work is in the main frowned on.

Oh yes, the money. Well don't just expect to get rich on stock photography, although there is no reason why some of you won't. But I prefer to think of it as a residual income and if it does better than that, then — Good Times!! Remember, you can't tell the end user what to buy or what size and usage to purchase. But you can create compelling, high quality images that people will want to use and pay good money for :)

This is just a broad introduction to Stock Photography but if you have specific questions I'll do my best to answer them. When shooting stock, I try to understand where markets are trending, influences from politics and popular culture, and lifestyle choices. And don't forget obvious calendar events like, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, Easter, New Years, Diwali, Eid, Christmas, and everything else. So do your research and start submitting!

You can make $$$ by taking stock... Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Spice of Life.

Many people have been encouraging me to write about what I do and finally here I am, writing. Well, typing really, but you know what I mean. I do subscribe to the view that "variety is the spice of life" or at least one of them. So even though I introduce myself as a photographer, the next question might be, what type of photography do I do? Most of it involves a lens and some source of light! But let me give you a respectful answer and you'll see variety is very much embraced in the photography I do;
Portraits, Product, Packs, Stock,  Flat art copying, Events (Dinners, Engagements, Weddings etc), Real Estate, Insurance, Headshots, Families (babies and children too), Street, Sets, I'm also very comfortable with complex retouching and image manipulation, and the list goes on.
With all of this going on, a camera has become a significant part of an outfit when I go out.
One of the things I like about this range of subjects is that, at least for me, it has helped me to think of my photography a little like the way a linguist may function. Each genre is like it's own language with its individual aesthetic and technical requirement. Some people are happy with just mother tongue. Me? I've opted for "the spice of life" — variety.
It's nice to be able to move comfortably in and out of conversations no matter what language is being used and that is how I view my choice to shoot in many styles and for many applications.
By the way, none of what I write here is "the" approach, it's just one approach that works really well for me and the way I like to experience life. And another thing. I whole-heartedly believe that life is for living, otherwise, wouldn't it be called something else?
So 12 months ago, I renamed my business activity "Roijoy Photography" and today I'm starting this blog in an effort to share some of that joy.
From tomorrow, I will begin writing with a specific topic in mind each time. I'm not here to tell you how you must do something, but am more than happy to share my experiences and techniques with you. I approach photography as a creative medium which means there is always room for subjectivity.
I love looking at photography and am in awe of most of the work I see around me. So if you are on Flickr or other such site, I'm probably in awe of you!