Archive for '• Technique':

Anatomy of an Editorial Shoot :: Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent

I was hired by Harvard Business Review to photograph Muhtar Kent who is the CEO of The Coca-Cola company . I thought I’d post about the process of an editorial shoot from start to finish instead of just showing the photos.

The art direction for the shoot was to photograph Mr. Kent at the headquarters building in Atlanta. The editor asked for two portraits. One was to show some architectural details of the building. “Maybe with a bank of windows or something in the background.” The other shot was to incorporate something with Coca-Cola branding. The name, the Coca-Cola red, a bottle, etc. After that I was free to grab anything else I had time to which, on a job like this, means anything I can grab with the extra thirty seconds I have to work with. An editorial shoot is usually a few hours of standing around and a few minutes of taking pictures. You’ll regularly spend more time emailing with the editor then you will clicking the shutter release of your camera. I was also instructed that while they wanted a mix of vertical and horizontal images, they used a lot of square crops as well so the images needed to work well 1:1. The full process after the jump.

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Anatomy of a Shootout :: GPP 2011 with Joey L

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.

Cheers, Zack

OneLight Field Guide Launch ::

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.

Cheers, Zack

White Seamless Link For Photoshop World ::

September 3, 2010 | • Technique

Thanks to everyone who came to the white seamless session yesterday at Photoshop World. I thought I would give you all a quick link to the tutorial here on the blog so you don’t have to dig through the archives.

>> It starts here. <<

If you have any questions about the technique just drop them in the comments.

Cheers, Zack

Buckhead Bottle Bar for The Atlantan Magazine :: + Lighting Diagrams

The great thing about shooting more editorial work is getting to shoot more editorial work. The problem with shooting more editorial work is there are times I have to sit on the images for 30, 60, 90, or more days before I can share them.

This is an assignment I shot for The Atlantan. The subjects are Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia and ATL restaurant veteran A.D. Allushi. They just opened a new restaurant/bar in Atlanta called the Buckhead Bottle Bar. I shot this assignment while construction was still going on inside their new restaurant & bar. I had one little corner to work in that wasn’t covered in dust and was “nearly” completed. The rest of the place was in a state of chaos as they were trying to bring it all together for an opening a week away. There were a few issues on the shoot. There was only one working power outlet we could use and the lights in the onyx table top were not installed yet. Below is a portrait of the two of them and the table I’m talking about.

Here is where being comfortable with your lights comes in very handy. The lighting and design of this place is as much of the story as the menu is. It was important to show this table lit up so Dan and I spent about 20 minutes testing out several options for lighting the table with flashes. We ended up gaff taping three hot shoe flashes underneath the table and put them on a really low power. These were older Nikon SB flashes that have built in optical slaves in them. We set them to slave so they would fire when the main light fired.

I had everyone take a look at the photos to make sure it wasn’t straying too far visually from what the tables would look like once the lights were installed. We made some changes to the direction of the small flashes until it matched what it would look like once the tables were complete. Again, knowing how to use your lights is crucial to being a working photographer. Everyone was worried what these portraits would look like without light coming through the table. When you can solve that kind of problem you are the hero of the day. Especially when you can do it in camera. If you can impress your client like this then they trust you. If they trust you… they call you again. All that’s left is making the deadline. :)

I’m currently finishing up the OneLight companion book that’s going out to all of this year’s OneLight alum. It’s going to have images like this along with lighting diagrams and the thought process behind the shot. For the sake of this blog post I’m including the lighting diagrams and camera settings for the two shots here. The diptych above is what I call the grid spot with soft chaser sort of look. The two flashes used for this type of light are on the same axis. You put the umbrella or softbox or octa up and then fly a grid spotted flash right in the center of it pointing in the same direction as the soft light source. You’re looking to get the soft light to be 3 or so stops under the gridded light. It’s the same thing I did when shooting the Fences for the creativeLIVE studio class.

Click on the images below to see them larger.

This shoot is a good example of why having some big lights and some small lights are good way to go when you have to walk into unknown situations on a regular basis. A few Alien Bees and a few old hotshoe flashes will take care of just about anything that comes your way.

As for the Bottle Bar? Come this fall when I’m not traveling as much, I’m going to be hanging out there. It’s a very cool place. You need to check it out if you’re in the ATL. The bottles behind the bar are cool. I wish they were done when I was shooting this so I can show you how cool they are.

Cheers, Zack

Modifiers :: From Day 03 of My creativeLIVE Class

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…

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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. :)

Sometimes.

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….

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My creativeLIVE Studio Lighting Schedule & Material :: ‘ish

I really did start my studio on the streets. As seen in the photo above.

Update – Thank you one and all for those who worked so hard behind the scenes and those thousands and thousands of you who tuned into the live event! More to come!

As we get closer to this weekend’s creativeLIVE studio class I wanted to go ahead and share the rough time frame and course material for the weekend.

There are a lot of things I want to cover in this class and I know I’m going to run out of time at some point. That’s why we have spread this out over a weekend. As far as subjects we will be photographing go we are going to be working with emerging models, musicians, and regular folks off the street.

Keep a few things in mind… This is live Internet we are dealing with so all sorts of things can go astray but rest assured there is a full pro crew behind the scenes ready for anything the internet can throw at them. The times listed below are approximate aside from start times. Keep an eye on my Twitter account as the weekend goes on. We will be updating events there. IE : “Going to start shooting the band in 30 minutes.” “Almost done with lunch. Going live in 10.” “Talking about grip right now.” You get the idea. I have a basic outline in my head of what I want to do but I’ll be working in a new space and may change things here and there as I go but always teaching why I’m changing things and what’s going through my head as I try something different.

All start times are PDT (or -8 GMT)

Friday June 11th – 1:30pm – 4:30pm’ish / 5:30pm’ish • My personal philosophy of having a studio space • Considerations for getting a space of your own or turning a space you have into a studio space. • The basics of exposure when using flash in studio. We will be using hotshoe flashes and strobes. • Working with multiple lights and working with different lighting ratios • Using a light meter and how to figure it out on the fly without a meter • Overview of the modifiers we will be using over the weekend. Those include… ••• Straight flash ••• Umbrellas ••• Softboxes ••• Octabanks ••• Beauty dish ••• Ring flash ••• Grids ••• Flags/Silks/Reflectors ••• DIY modifiers • Q&A

Saturday June 12th :: 10am – 1pm’ish • The many uses of white seamless. I’ll be walking you through the entire process of shooting on a white seamless and getting the most out of one simple background • Post production on the white seamless • Q&A • (lunch break somewhere between 1pm and 2pm.) • Building a set. It will already be in place. I’ll just talk about the basic modular set pieces that went into making it. • Grip equipment. How to put stuff together and do stuff with that stuff. • Slowly moving away from the seamless and onto other background choices. IE: Fabric/Walls/Sets • Working with subjects. Interaction and Posing. (I’ve had a lot of questions about this so I’m spending a lot of time on it.) • Musicians. Duo and Trio. Group shots plus individuals. White seamless and other backgrounds + a simple set. • Q&A • In order to conclude in time to rebroadcast over night we can only teach for 10 hours a day. So the latest this day will run is 8pm. Don’t know if it will go that long or not.

Sunday June 13th :: 10am • Quick recap of previous day and previous information about exposure. Not going to spend a lot of time on this but just a quick recap for those just joining. • If I don’t cover the grip equipment on Saturday I’ll most likely do that Sunday morning. • Art Direction! I will be pulling people from the live audience and giving them assignments to see what problems they run into and guide them through the process. • More shooting. Different modifiers. Improv. • Q&A • (lunch break somewhere between 1pm and 2pm.) • Working with a four piece band.  Individuals and group shot. • More shooting. Whatever we decide to do making sure I’ve used all the modifiers from the list above. • Q&A

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I will be online live with Chase Jarvis tomorrow, June 9th, from 1:30pm till 3pm for a live Q&A leading up to the weekend. If I haven’t covered something in the notes above then hit me here in the comment section or tune in here tomorrow and ask while we are online.

You can sign up for the class here and see all the swag we have to give away during the weekend! We have stuff from B&H, x•rite, Pocket Wizard, Westcott, and Sekonic in addition to several copies of the OneLight DVD. Big thanks to B&H, The MAC Group, and Westcott for really bringing the goods. No t-shirts or ball caps in this prize closet. Also a big thank you goes to Affix Music for providing us with some licensed and cleared tunes to listen to while we work this weekend.

Questions about the class or something you might want to see covered? Drop them in the comments.

Cheers, Zack

Workflow :: Photo Mechanic to Lightroom to Photoshop to Delivery

(for a higher quality version of this screencast view the source file here.)

I. Love. Photo Mechanic. End of story. This one program has saved hours and hours of my post production time in the last six months that I’ve been using it. How do I use it? Well, as I state in the screencast above, I only scratch the surface of what it can do but just watch how fast this program is. I can not say enough great things about it. It is available for Mac and PC.

Read below for a $10 discount code on Photo Mechanic!

In this screencast I walk you through my process from start to finish. I have recorded, encoded, uploaded, and ditched this project three times this weekend with the third attempt being my final. Workflow and post production is far from being the funnest and coolest part of our jobs. There is only so much you can say or do to make it the least bit interesting yet it is crucial to our day to day jobs. The more efficient we can be in post production the more time is added to our lives.

Please note that I am not the end all be all workflow guru. Far from it. I do what I do and it works for me. I’m sure many of you are going to leave some comments here teaching me a thing or three about workflow and how I might skim a few more minutes here or there off of my time working with my images. I welcome that. Let this be a conversation about workflow instead of a teaching lesson coming from me.

I want to mention that the Lexar UDMA FW800 card reader I refer to in the video is currently on sale at B&H for $53.99.  That sale ends March 6th. That is more than $20 off the retail price! Do yourself a favor and pick up a few of these. You can daisy chain up to four of them per firewire port. I avoided these for a long time due to the price point but now that I’m using them I don’t know how I lived without them. I wish I would have bought them a long, long, time ago.

I also mention my tutorial on shooting on white seamless on this blog post. You can find the begining of that tutorial here if you have not already seen that.

Many of you asked on Twitter about my thoughts on LR 3, Aperture, and archiving. I can answer that quickly here. I have not really looked at LR 3 yet. I’ve read Kelby’s ongoing posts about new features and I’m excited to see it once it goes public … and … a few months after that since there are always bugs to figure out once a large update is released. I’m too busy to test new software, deal with glitches, and throw up my hands to only go back to what I know and wait for the glitches to disappear. I am interested in the new Aperture 3.0 since it can sync libraries between multiple computers. Aperture has always been a resource hog though. Not that LR is anything but 100% efficient but I only have one editing machine I feel could make the most of Aperture and I’m not convinced that I need to convert from LR to Aperture just yet. I know plenty of you use it and love it with a capital LOVE. I get that. Their brushes look far more intuitive than LR’s brushes. I typically can not afford to jump from application to application when I’m not convinced it is what I need. I was happy in bridge until I sat in a two hour workshop covering LR. Once I saw what it was capable of I switched from Bridge to LR. Maybe the same would happen if I attended an Aperture workshop.

As for archiving, I have decided that should be a post of its own.

For more information about the deeper features of Photo Mechanic, check out the great tutorials on PhotoMetaData.org.

I hope you enjoy this screencast more than I did making it. :) Actually, it was a fun process until I watched the final, uploaded, ready to go versions before this and decided they were far, far, far too boring. I decided it needed 100% more hip hop and down tempo.  Side note – I’m now using Affix Music for my soundtrack needs. They are a new music licensing company who specialize in urban and electronic music. Their catalouge is growing and growing. Check them out. Would you all be interested in a discount code with them? Let me know and I’ll see if I can swing one. They are an amazing service!

BTW – Caleb sat next to me on this one and he wants you to tell me in the comment section if it was boring or not. :)

Photo Mechanic Discount Code ::

All you have to do is ask…. I called the good folks at Camera Bits, makers of Photo Mechanic, and told them I was doing a screencast based on PM and asked if there was some sort of discount they could offer all of you. They were more than willing to give me a code that is good for $10 off the price. You get to pay less than I did! In the name of full disclosure… I’m not getting anything from Camera Bits. This is not an advertisement. I pay for my software.

Call 1 503 547 2800 or email (sales @ camerabits [dot] com) to order and use the code PMzarias. This code is only good for emailed and phoned in orders. They currently do not have a promo code box when simply ordering online. This code is good until March 15th, 2010. (EXPIRED)

Cheers, Zack

PS – I know curves are a great way of dealing with exposure issues but at times, brightness and fill does the job for me. As with all things post production, there are 10 different ways to do the same thing. :)

Street Portraits :: NYC 09/2009 :: Video + Stills

I’ve been talking with some folks and the topic of street portraits came up. Some are scared to death to approach strangers on the street. I understand the feeling completely but there are times you have to get over your anxiety about talking to strangers and pursue what it is you want to do. While I was in NYC a few weeks ago I decided to practice what I preach. I gave myself the assignment of shooting 10 portraits of 10 strangers in 10 hours. I had to sandwich these in between other shoots I had on the books while I was there. I approached 15 people and 9 accepted my request.

For those of you who have expressed your concerns about approaching strangers lemme give you some advice.

1) Read David duChemin’s book Within The Frame. David talks in depth about pursuing and expressing your vision where people, places, and culture are concerned. It’s a fantastic book with lots of technical and philosophical meat to dig your teeth into.

2) Get over talking to strangers. I know your mom told you not to but seriously, it’s ok. You will be amazed at how many people open themselves up to you. It’s a great experience for them and for you.

3) Don’t try to approach people who are on their way somewhere. Find someone just hanging out. You won’t be interrupting their schedule.

4) Guys, know your limit with approaching females. Some of you are suave and can do it with style. Dorks like me look like we are just trying a bad pick-up line. Know your limit. Ladies, well, y’all have it easy. Talk to anyone you want. :)

4) As David writes in his book, be kind, smile, and extend warmth and friendship to the folks you meet.

5) Many will tell you “no”. Many will say yes. Listen to what Janet said in the video above. She had not had a portrait made of her in 35 years! She wouldn’t have one getting shipped to her if someone had not simply asked to take a portrait of her.Anyway, here are my portraits. They aren’t the most amazing portraits I’ve ever shot but I’m glad I put myself out there. I met some great people I would have otherwise never talked to.

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PDN Virtual Trade Show Q&A :: Bring Your Questions Here!

May 21, 2009 | • Resources • Technique

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Just finished my presentation for the PDN virtual trade show. That was the fastest I’ve ever had to talk! Thanks to PDN and B&H for making it happen!

This post is to answer questions that we didn’t have time to cover during the presentation. Go ahead and post questions here in the comment section. I’ll be working through your questions here on the blog through the weekend.

From what I’m being told… starting today all of the virtual PDN presentations from yesterday will be archived here. You have to register (it’s free!) and Mac users you need to use the latest version of Firefox. If you would like a copy of the PDF I used for my presentation, you can download it here. The PDF link is a link to the actual file. You PC users probably need to right click on that link and “save target as”. If that doesn’t work just his cntrl+alt+del and that should take care of it. ;p

Thank you all for being a part of this! I’m sure I wont be able to get to every single question but I already know that these questions will bring on other blog posts.

Let’s get started on some questions. Check back as I’ll be adding more to this post. I’m adding new replies to the top of the post so you don’t have to keep scrolling down and down and down.

Q :: I wanted to know, how do you deal with over-powering a sun on a clear sky day. If all you’ve brought is a strobe and your 50” Softbox, what would you do?

A :: A small hotshoe flash and the 50″ softbox isn’t going to overpower the sun on a clear day unless the face of the softbox is about three inches from your subject or you are shooting with a D70 or similar camera that has a faster sync speed than 250th of a second. Even then faster sync speeds might not cut it since the softbox sucks so much light to start with. If I am heading out into mid afternoon sun AND I want to overpower a very bright ambient light source like a bright sky then I’m going out with my Alien Bee 1600 and the Vagabond battery pack.

Now then, I’ve been shooting full time for 5 and a half years and I’ve only had the AB 1600 and Vagabond for about the last year. So what did I do?

• I didn’t book shoots that would have me out in the sun at a time that I couldn’t control it.

• If I just had to had to had to shoot in bright sun light then I used straight flash, backed up, and made the shot more environmental in nature since straight flash isn’t the most flattering quality of light most of the time. See the last image of my presentation to see what I’m talking about.

• If shooting straight flash doesn’t cut it, then I shoot available light. Typically backlighting my subject with the sun.

Hotshoe flashes are awesome. They can do SO much but they can’t do everything. You will quickly find their limitations when shooting in bright ambient environments. When I spend money on lighting it isn’t for features, it’s for POWER! Don’t give me TTL and digital this and that. Give me raw stinking horsepower. I buy lights to get the most light per dollar instead of “cool” features.

Also remember that YOU are the pro. You are in charge of making the decisions that will yield the best results for your clients. They are paying you to know what you are doing. If they want portraits on the beach and want to book the job at noon but you know the better images are going to be at 6pm then it is up to you to educate your clients and book that job at 6pm instead of noon. Clients want great images but they also want connivence. If you know the limits of your gear and the images you are wanting to create just can’t be created at noon then it is up to you to drive that boat and get that noon shoot booked at 6pm instead.

Q :: Did you say to DO talk to the model about things like a TV show etc. or just talk to her in the sense of what you’re doing and how many more shots are left and how well she’s doing.

A :: I talk to my subjects about anything and everything! If I’m doing a corporate shoot then I make sure to glance at the business and sports sections of my local paper before the shoot. I’m not a sports fan of any kind but I find talking sports in the corporate arena will keep a subject’s attention off the camera and lights for a little while. I’ll talk about my kids, my dog, a new album I am listening to, etc. I ask a lot of questions as I’m starting a shoot as well. “Married? Kids? Pets? What kind of music do you like? Did you see that movie 7 Pounds? Wasn’t it dark yet beautiful? I’m going to adjust this light. Just sit tight for a second. Are you keeping up with Idol this season?”

I will talk through my thought process as well during the shoot. Things like “I’m going to change this angle, I need you to rotate just a bit this way so I can keep that light pole from growing out of your head.”

The key to all of this is to make sure I’m not worried about the technical aspect of what I’m doing. If I start tweaking out in my head about my gear or about camera settings then I can’t stay focused on keeping a conversation going with my client. I get quiet. I start sweating. I get all up in my head about some technical thing and the flow of the client to subject relationship stops. I avoid that at all costs.

Q :: what would be the essential lighting that you would bring to a wedding? Assuming you are doing both indoor and outdoor photos.

A :: I take 3 Nikon speedlites . 2 SB-25′s and 1 SB-800. I only own the SB-800 because I HAD to have a flash for a job the day after my SB-80dx fried. I had to suck it up and pay $320 for a flash that I don’t use half the features of. I’ve shot entire weddings from formals to receptions with just a handful of these small flashes. I now take an Alien Bee 1600 and a Vagabond just in case I need more power. I rarely do though and it sits unused much of the time but I have it just in case. I have a blog post about what’s in my bag. Just add another bag with the AB head and battery, 3 stands, a 60″ umbrella, a 28″ Westcott softbox, and that is my wedding gear.

Q :: How do you come up with the effect you hope to achieve? Is it all trial and error or do you have an idea when you come into the shoot?

Answer after the jump! ——> (more…)


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