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My Photography Q&A book is here! Well, it has been “here” for about a month now but regular readers of my blog know how I roll.
This book is built off of my Photography Q&A Tumblr blog that I started last summer. I set a goal to answer 1,000 questions on that blog and I’ve exceeded that goal. To date I’ve answered more than 1,200 questions. I did not start the Q & A blog to make a book. Somewhere around question 700 or 800 I sat back and thought, “I think I just wrote a book.” Last November I sent an email to Ted Waitt, an editor with Peachpit and New Riders, to see if they had interest in this project — they did. In January of this year the editing began for the book.
A lot of folks ask if this is just a straight blog-to-book sort of deal. Not really. While the content of this book was pulled from the blog, I spent a few months editing the material and adding a lot of visual components to it. I initially pulled 150 questions from the book and Ted and I culled and combined that information down to 106 that made the cut.
Ted and I spent a full day trying to categorize the answers into sections like gear, technical, lighting, business, life, clients, etc. but we could never find a flow that worked. The Q&A blog on Tumblr is a chaotic brain dump that has never followed a rhyme or reason in the order of how I answer questions. There are times someone asks about gear but the answer turns into a discussion about business. How do you categorize that? At the end of the day, however, we did find an order. The book sort of follows the progression you find in this craft and in this business.
Essentially I wrote a photography bathroom reader. It’s designed to be picked up and read anywhere you open the book. You can go from beginning to end or jump around. There are questions dealing with gear, shooting techniques, lighting, business, marketing, work/life balance, dealing with clients, traveling with equipment, and so on and so forth.
There’s plenty of gear porn…
There are ten sections that I call Visual Intermissions. Here I showcase images that have had importance to me during my career. They aren’t necessarily trophy images, or the best images I’ve ever shot, but they illustrate certain junctures of my life as a photographer. What I learned, how it changed how I think, etc. These are the types of events that will happen to you as a photographer and you need to be on the lookout for them.
The book begins with me asking a question to Rolling Stone Magazine senior photo editor, Sacha Lecca. The book ends with a few worksheets that are designed for you to cut out, photocopy, and fill in. These type of worksheets are helpful to organize thoughts and information as you try to build your business.
There are a lot of books about photography out there. Many deal with specific topics like lighting, marketing, posing, etc. I see many of those books as the bricks or tiles of your photography education. I wrote this book to be the mortar or grout that fills in the gaps and holds it all together and connects dots.
So far the book is being well received. I was nervous as hell producing this because it’s new territory for me. There are some reviews of it hitting the web right now. You can read Totally Rad’s review here. The Phoblographer review here. The Photo Brigade review here. There’s also an interview with me on the Photo Brigade review as well as on episode 50 of the Musea Podcast.
I would greatly appreciate your review of the book on the Amazon page.
The Q&A book is available at most brick and mortar book resellers like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Amazon UK, the Kindle Store, iBooks (in certain countries), and directly through the Peachpit store. In fact, Peachpit has a bundle that get’s you the hardcopy and ebook version. If the book does well then there will be translations. That sort of thing (in addition to where the book is distributed) is sort of out of my hands so I can’t speak with authority about those kind of things. Even though I make a whole 50 cents or something more on the eBook, I highly suggest picking up the hardcopy if you can. I prefer this book in print than I do on an eReader.
Also note… That as I am on my travels for work I stop by Barnes & Noble stores and sign the copies that they have on hand. I tweet and IG the location when I do that.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the Q&A blog. I’m still there and still answering questions as I have time to do so. That blog isn’t going anywhere!
For those who have read the book… if there was a Volume 2 in the future… what would you like to see more or less of covered in that?
PS – Did I mention I’d greatly appreciate your review of the book on Amazon? I really would. Thank you.
PPS – I will be giving away some signed copies of the book soon and talking about someone who needs our help. It will be on the blog here once that’s ready to go.
Well everyone… I’m going on break until 2013! From Tumblr. From Twitter. From Facebook. From IG. From every social media site except this blog. For the past four months I’ve been hammering away to reach a goal of 1,000 questions answered on my tumblr Q&A blog. I wanted to build something with pure signal. No banner ads. No affiliate links. No bias to one thing, person, retailer, or whatever. Just as much information as I could provide. And at 1,000 answers… it isn’t finished. There are more than 1,600 unanswered questions sitting in the inbox. I have not been paid, massaged, or cajoled into “endorsing” a product, a person, or a company.
There are a ton of topics covered. Things like
- What softbox to buy?
- How to ask a photographer to assist them.
- What lens should I get?
- How do you archive images?
- Best thing to own less than $100.
- My top 5 favorite books on photography.
- Dealing with social media.
- Dealing with difficult clients.
- Personal projects.
- Growing as a photographer.
- Lack of confidence.
- Moving to full time.
- DNG vs. RAW.
- X x X = X
- Etc. Etc. Etc. x 1,000
The search box on the site will do a site specific search via google. It’s a little buggy but it is FAR better than using Tumblr’s search engine which was developed in 1937, I think. I am working on compiling a list… to become… well. The average time spent on this site is about five minutes. I figure… Hey! Bathroom reader! So yeah… That’s happening! I’ll be going through the blog and expanding on some things, adding photos, samples, forms, worksheets, etc. More to come on this book project later.
Some answers are a few lines. Some are a few pages. Some are silly. Some are deep. Some get my feathers ruffled.
I want to thank all of you for hanging out here with me for the past four months and bringing a lot of great questions to the table. You all built this as much as I did. Thanks for that. I’m sorry if your question did not get answered yet. I have about 1,600 unanswered questions right now and I’m not getting back into that inbox until the beginning of next year. You can ask now… But I won’t see it for awhile. Just sayin’.
What should you do this winter?
One thing. Can you help me with something? Help me as I cull a list of the most useful posts there. If you have any specifically book marked please give me the link in the comments below. I have my favorites. You might have some others.
PS – I will be jumping back on social media for our annual Black Friday / Cyber Monday sale for charity. Other than that though… Meg will be changing the passwords to my social media accounts and that will be that! I have a ton of work to do this winter. I want to cut out as many distractions as possible, put my head down, my hand to the till, and get it done.
I’m currently in the process of updating and printing a new portfolio and I thought I would take a
moment half day to talk about the process.
My dear friend, Marc, has said of editing, “It’s like lining up your children and deciding which ones you’re going to shoot.” That quote isn’t going to end up on the front of a greeting card anytime soon but it does get to the heart of the matter. Andy Lee rephrased it to, “…deciding which ones you love more.” Either way, the process can suck but it is a process you need to go through on a regular basis. At least twice a year. Minimum.
I know many of you are wondering why I’m working on a print portfolio. What about web sites, PDFs, iPhones, thumb drives, laptops, etc, etc? Are printed portfolios still relevant? In my opinion they are. That opinion also is held by many in the editorial and advertising world. I know of two leading Ad agencies that won’t meet with you if you walk in with only an electronic portfolio. They want to see your book. The printed output of your work. Anything can look good on an iPad. Can it print? Can it run larger? The devil, and the jobs, are in the details. Wedding photographers know this all too well. Do you want to deliver a disk of zeros and ones or would you rather deliver a beautifully printed album? What is going to live in plain sight? A thumb drive or a book? Which one will be cherished? Which one has lasting value? Which one makes you more excited to deliver? Which one is instant? The book. That’s which one.
A printed book is a thing to take pride in. There’s something tangible about it that holding an iPad doesn’t compare to. Note that I’m a big believer in electronic forms of showing your work. I walk into every meeting with a print book AND an iPad. The book is the best representation I have of the work I do. The iPad holds expanded galleries of work that support the book and hold other galleries of work that don’t find their way into the main book. Things like personal projects, travel photography, video, etc. Eventually I want to have a series of print books that show a range of the work I do.
I’ve lived as a photographer for some time without a book. I wanted a book but didn’t have the time, money, discipline, etc to get it done. Going from having no book to having a book you’re ready to show is a pretty large mountain to climb. Choosing the physical book and making the prints are the easier parts. It’s editing the book that will make you cry and leave you feeling completely inadequate as a photographer. You’ll pray for your strengths while constantly focusing on your weakness through the process but I can’t stress enough how invaluable the process is. For me it’s more about the process of building a book than actually having a physical book to show. Let’s talk through the physical process.
The full discussion can be found after the jump…
I can never speak highly enough about Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai. It is a week long photography education event filled with some of the greatest teachers I’ve met. It’s small. It’s intimate. It’s in Dubai. It’s a pain to get there from here (US) but it’s so worth it. I’ve had the honor of teaching there for the past three years and I swear, at some point, I hope I can just go and attend as a student.
We had another shootout to end the week this year and it was a showdown between myself and photographer extraordinaire Joey L. I had no idea what the subject would be but I had an idea for a shot when I was walking into the auditorium. I had Dan pre-stage some gear in the back that would be ready when I called for it but I forgot all about that when Hakam walked on stage. I’ve never seen Tanoura dancing and I was in shock. He was so smiley and intense. The voice of Borat was ringing in my ears. Suddenly the whole plan I had was thrown out the window and I had to come up with something else.
To see what this post is all about you can watch a video of the event here…
My first thought was “slow shutter speed = motion blur”. I was going to go there first but then I thought that would be expected. Joey was the first to shoot and that was the route he went so I was glad I changed my mind. Eventually it is where Heisler went as well. I was down the hall in a separate room while he was shooting so when I walked in the door I had no idea who the subject was or what Joey had shot.
Always the one who is thinking about logistics I figured this guy was lured into doing this with the promise of some free photos so I damn well better get a portrait of him. If we both went for “art” shots he would never have gotten anything he would be happy with most likely.
I figured I would somehow work a portrait + detail shot into a diptych and call it a day. Thanks to the language barrier, my stress level, the fact I just walked in from teaching a location shooting class, the time limit, following Joey, and world effing class photographer, Gregory Heisler, busting my chop every step of the way, I ditched the diptych idea because I wasn’t really getting the portrait part of him that I wanted and I was already losing a lot of time. My mind was melting down pretty quickly on this one.
Then I thought that maybe I would get a “performance portrait.”
When I got the shot above I felt that at least I had gotten enough for him but I still needed my shot.
When I had Hakam start dancing I still had no clue where I was going to go with this. I was running out of time and had to do something. I had talked so much smack to Joey leading up to it I had to find something interesting so my mind went to “detail shot”. As he started dancing and I put a lens on him I saw his hands and I saw a horizontal frame and I focused in on that. I went vertical a few times but those images looked pretty boring. As that dress, or whatever it is, started to fly out I really saw a horizontal image and worked that till I got it. Finding his timing was the hardest part. Spraying and praying was not going to get the job done. It rarely does.
While I was editing I like this image…
I just about went with that one as my shot but I also liked seeing both hands in this one…
I like the hands and his neck so I picked that. Being Heisler was now stealing the show with his shot and I was having to deal with editing on Joey’s POS Macbook Air, I had a few extra minutes to get online, find a Polaroid frame in a google image search and present my shot on the screen in a Polaroid frame as a dig to Joey’s performance the year before as can be seen in this video…
Greg ended the evening really well. I loved his shot the most. Actually, I was looking over his shoulder while he was editing and there were a few other frames I liked even more.
The moral of the story is this…
A) You have to be ready to drop an idea and find a new one. Then drop that one too.
B) The real winner of these shootouts is always the audience even though I’m clearly the winner in any such event. ;p
C) Gregory Heisler is the man.
D) Joey L can eat sand.
E) Forgo buying that 85mm 1.2, buy a used 85mm 1.8 instead, and spend the money to go to Dubai next year and hang out for a week at an amazing conference. Seriously. That’s what I would do.
The OneLight Field Guide is finally out! It only took 11 months and that many redesigns but it was worth it. Looking at the state of the guide now compared to where it started I’m glad that it’s late. It’s better than the first few editions.
The guide showcases more than 50 images ranging from bands to models to brides. Mostly bands and models. For the first half of the guide I explain the gear and the settings used to create the image. For the second half I showcase images using the same gear and approximate settings. You’ll find tips and tricks throughout the guide that go beyond the scope of apertures, shutter speeds, and modifiers. I walk you through single light sources and then introduce you to multiple lights and how to deal with that. It’s made for folks who would like to keep a cookbook of scenarios on hand while out shooting.
Everything is straightforward and easy to grasp. It is made to complement the OneLight DVD and/or workshop so it isn’t supposed to be a step by step by step guide on how to use flash. That’s covered at length in the DVD and workshop. If you are comfortable with the basic principles of off camera lighting, but you have not been to a OneLight workshop or have not seen the OneLight DVD, then you will still enjoy this guide.
I developed this guide for people who came to the 2010 OneLight workshops. Enough folks heard about it and asked if I would release it for sale. I went back and forth on that for awhile and was not going to do it because I felt the cost of doing so wasn’t worth it. Then I started reworking it through MagCloud and I was able to get the cost of the guide under $30. If you were a participant at a OneLight this year then you should have gotten an email from Meg already. If you did not, check the email address that you signed up for the workshop with or check your spam filter. You have to reply to her through that email address to get this shipped to you at no charge. For those that have replied, your order has been placed and will be shipped to the address you provided.
I know what many of you are going to ask… Why in print? Why not a PDF download for $5 or something? I’ve gone back and forth about that a number of times and I will most likely revisit my thoughts on this at some point… but for now… it is in print and print only.
We shoot with digital cameras. We look at our images on a computer. We read blogs. We look at more digital photos than we can count. For this project, and the next, I wanted it to be in print. Something you can hold on to that doesn’t also check email. To be very honest with you, it would be MUCH easier to just release this as a PDF. It would also be more profitable to sell. It costs me more and makes me less to make it available in print but it has more value in print so I’m going with that right now.
Plus… This is a dry run for a new project that has been kicking around in my head for over a year. I’ve been wanting to launch a photography magazine for awhile now and this is the “first issue” of that magazine. Now, the magazine in my head looks completely different than this field guide. The field guide is just a taste. A scratch on the surface of what I’m planning. DEDPXL is the name and it will be a semi-annual to quarterly magazine launching in January. It will be print on demand like this guide and it will be an organic publication that starts with people I know who have a lot to offer.
It will be independent as f#*%. Meaning, we will not be accepting advertising or sponsorships for this magazine. You can not buy advertising space. You just can’t. There won’t be gear reviews so don’t send your stuff. It will be a showcase of emerging work, insights into the running of a business and the photo industry as a whole, how to’s on the technical, and a sounding board for a number of voices in the industry… both positive and negative. Business & Craft.
I will not be taking submissions for articles right now. It is a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” kind of a thing and my list is already full for 2 or 3 issues. (Not that I’ve gotten in touch with all of you on that list.) There will be a call for certain things here and there. You’ll see. I think it’s going to be pretty awesome and there isn’t anything quite like it on the shelves today.
Lastly, I’m not doing this as a new business venture. It’s a personal project. I can’t wait to get it off the ground. Since I can’t find a hobby, I’m going to start a photography magazine.
Until then, have a look at the OneLight Field Guide. I hope you enjoy it. It is available on MagCloud for $28 + shipping.
First, thanks for all of your input on the first blog post of this series. As usual, your comments are far more interesting, entertaining, and thought provoking than anything I write here. If you haven’t read through those yet, you should. What’s interesting to note in the comments there is how the tone of comments changes through the 100+ of them. They start off friendly enough and then somewhere in the middle a few feathers begin to get ruffled. That’s fine. That’s welcomed. It’s a very interesting time in our industry right now and it’s good to have passionate discussion about it. The smart photographers will sit with open minds and get a bit introspective and take a look at their own business practices. The stupid photographers will sit from on high and just point fingers OR sit at the bottom and think, “I’m banking an extra $1,000 a month that I don’t claim with my $800 camera!”
Anyway. Check out that photo above. It’s some stop light advertising for a wedding photographer advertising weddings starting at $350. Man… that’s cheap. Is this person part of the problem in our industry? Absolutely not. I admire the hustle. I admire the fact that they are trying. Now – if you are the type of pro photographer that looks at that and says, “This is everything that is wrong with this damn industry! You can’t be a pro charging $350 for a wedding! What an A-hole!” Yeah, if you’re that photographer let me challenge you.
Think of the brides out there who don’t have a budget but want some photos of their weddings. Maybe there are young couples getting married who don’t have the parents to pay for a big event or they don’t want to start their young family in debt but they would like someone to come take some pictures. Are you saying that if they can’t afford a $3,000+ photographer then they don’t deserve photos? Are you saying that if they can’t afford a Mercedes then they shouldn’t be allowed to drive? Shame on you. Not everyone can afford pro level prices. That doesn’t mean they can’t have some level of photographic services available to them.
Let me tell you a little something about my journey being the cheap photographer after the jump…
Friend and colleague, David E Jackson, has recently published this video on his blog about his thought process behind a recent conceptual shoot.
As you are starting on your photographic journey many of your questions will be dealing with cameras and lenses and their settings. What lights were used and with what modifiers. What photoshop actions were used. Etc. Then the day will come when cameras, lenses, lights and all of their settings don’t mean a damn thing to you any more. What you want to know from other photographers is what was the thought process behind a certain photo or series of photos. Dave does a good job breaking that down. Watch the video to hear how he thinks… not which aperture he used.
I’ve been saying for a long time that Dave is “one to watch” and this recent shoot of his only confirms that. Check out his blog for photos and more BTS action for this shoot. Great jorb homestar!
Ok. Are you ready to get your nerd on? Calling all pixel peepers! Here are the images for the modifier run down we went through on Day 03 of the creativeLIVE studio lighting class. I’m not sure which took me longer… Shooting all of these images during the class or prepping them for the web.
Before we get started with the images there are some things I want to go ahead and cover with you before you check these out.
This isn’t the most comprehensive light modifier test in the world. It isn’t even half way scientific in approach. There are real issues with comparing modifiers like this. I’m telling you right now that this isn’t the true proper nerded out way of doing this kind of thing. While we strove for consistency and Dan and I spent some time in the morning before the broadcast testing things out, remember there can be variations 1/3 of a stop from pop to pop with those Alien Bees. That’s why they are affordable. With all that said let me now say… if you run through some modifiers in this way you’ll learn a lot. I do this kind of stuff when I’m checking out a new modifier.
Why do I feel the need to give this big disclaimer? To ward off the measurebators that are about to descend on this post. The guys who look at photos on the photon level and lose all the soul of this craft. I like to nerd out from time to time and discuss CMOS vs. CCD but never at the cost of losing the soul of the craft. So… enjoy this comparison. There are things to learn.
Things to look for ::
• Take a look at how the modifier effects the exposure on the subject and the background. • Watch the transition from highlight to shadow. How hard is that line? • Take a look at the catchlights in the eyes. • How effecient is the modifier in terms of lost light from the standard? • Look at the difference in the quality of light when some of them are moved closer than the standard shooting point. • Moving the light closer to the subject changes exposure so I didn’t list the change in aperture for those images since they deviated from standard position.
I’ve highlighted a few areas here to watch in the photos below… Look at this crop between the 7′ and 4′ Octabanks…
Notice how the transition from highlight to shadow is much more gradual with the larger 7′ Octa. Notice how the shadows are more open with the 7′ as compared to the 4′. Notice the 4′ Octa has a brighter catchlight. Notice they have about the same effect on the exposure of the background. The background is important to watch with these. There are times I pick a modifier based on how it is going to throw light on or flag light off of the background. Here is the same image without the circles. From modifier to modifier some areas will change dramatically and some will barely be noticeable.
The following image is the “standard” for this test. It is an Alien Bee with its standard 7″ silver reflector in place. The standard exposure for this at this distance is f13. We then paraded different modifiers off of the same light stand position. At times I moved the stand to demonstrate a distance I would more likely be using that particular modifer.
Here is a crop of the 7′ Octa (our largest modifier) in comparison to the standard 7″ reflector. Notice how light from the Octa wraps all the way around to her ear.
Want to pixel peep? Here you go!
If you look at a few of these and say “I can’t really tell any difference between the $30 modifier and the $800 modifier!” then note the disclaimers above. There are ways of shooting a shoot through umbrella in this kind of situation and make it look a whole lot like the Octabank. Then there are times that one will absolutely run circles around the other and the difference is night and day. To walk through each of these drastic and subtle usage changes would have taken the entire three days of teaching. Your goal is to get to know YOUR modifiers and be educated about the basic differences between different kinds so you can make educated choices the next time you go buy one of these.
As Bill, one of the creativeLIVE crew members, said so well… “There’s no morality in choosing a light modifier.” Let that sink in. Sometimes I pick a modifier based on… “Ummmm. How about…. Uh. This one.” Other times I walk in a room and I know that I want my 28″ Westcott Apollo and there is no other modifier in the world that will do the job. Sometimes I pick a modifier because it is more efficient with light than another that is similar to it in look. Note how the reflective umbrella lost 2 stops of light as opposed to the 4′ Octa. Sometimes that stop is a make or break situation on a job.
At times there’s “just something” about one modifier over another. You can’t quite put your finger on it but you just like “that thing” about that modifier. That’s how I feel about the 22″ beauty dish. I could get a very similar look from the 28″ Apollo or a small silver umbrella but there is just “something” about how the light feathers and falls off with the beauty dish that makes me pull that out over a small softbox. Sometimes I just like the catchlight more.
I like circles.
Other times I like rectangles.
There’s not a moral issue on the table here.
Another issue with this test is we aren’t shooting full length. You’d see a BIG difference between a 60″ umbrella and a 7′ Octa when shooting full length. I tested that out and went back and forth on it. The reason I decided against it was our awesome subject, Lou, would have been standing in one spot for a long time. That little stool she was on was bad enough. I felt standing for as long as we needed to run through this would have been too much to ask. Remember, we are in the service industry. Serve your clients. Make them as comfortable as possible. I guess I could have had her lean on something. That would have been a light stand or a broom handle. Neither make for the best props.
My last caveat to all of this… Go shoot your own lighting tests! Seriously. You’ll learn so much doing this. Change the distance, the angle, the height, etc. Watch what your modifiers do full length vs. head and shoulders. LEARN YOUR GEAR!!!
All the images and download links after the jump….
I can’t tell you how overwhelming this past weekend has been for me on all fronts. Hundreds and hundreds of man and woman hours went in to pulling this three day live event off. It was frantic. It was stressful. It was exhausting. It was one of the greatest things I’ve ever been a part of. Thank you one and all. Here are a few selects from the weekend.
Interested in seeing the 16 hours of studio training? Check it out here.
More images after the jump…
The shot above and the shot below were using the same background.
There are some other images on this blog post from the weekend.
Want to find out about the class I taught? Check it out here.
Many thanks to ::
Affix Music (provided the bumper music on Friday and Saturday)
And the entire crew who made this thing happen.
And you know what? I would not be able to do this had Marc Climie not put a camera back in my hands 6.5 years ago.
We have more material, videos, and stuff coming to the blog from this event.
Here is the Home Depot tag for the shiny tile board stuff I’ll be using on the white seamless. I typically can find this stuff at Home Depot and Lowes in the paneling or bath section.
Find the list of gear I’m using via this link.
See more images after the jump…
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