It’s “Guest Blog Wednesday” featuring Jim DiVitale
Greetings from Atlanta‐Barbara.
Splitting my time between our Atlanta commercial photography studio, my wife Helene Glassman’s portrait/fine art studio in Santa Barbara, and teaching digital photography programs means I spend a lot of time in the air. Today as I start to write the beginning of my guest Blog entry, I am flying to do a program in Chicago.
As I was shooting snapshots of clouds out of the window and thinking of what I would like to write about, I took notice of the date. I realized that in two weeks it will be exactly 30 years since graduating from the Art Institute of Atlanta and official start of my professional career in photography. In those thirty years I then realized that exactly 15 of those years have been in a film‐based work environment and the other 15 years have been in a totally digital capture environment. A very interesting moment in time to reflect on….
A lot has changed in those 30 years. Although the tools we work with have changed and the final product is somewhat different, we are still doing the same job that we have always done. What was important then is even more important now. Where quality counts, doing just an OK job is not going to be good enough. For me as a photo-illustrator, I now have the tools to make things as perfect as possible which makes the clients very happy.
As I have been giving programs at photography schools around the country, I am meeting some incredibly talented art students educated in the latest digital imaging workflow techniques and software. It’s exciting to think about their futures ahead of them as they get ready to start their new careers. For those of us who are not currently in school, staying a head of the learning curve by being active members in your specific trade associations (like NAPP) and attending seminars isn’t even a choice any more. It’s a necessary part of your continuing education you must put yourself through to be competitive.
We must all constantly be working hard to improve our portfolios. That’s where the self‐assignment comes in. I have several different types of self‐assignments going on at once. One on-going assignment I have been doing for a long time is creating a multi‐image montage or digital panting that represents my feelings of each of the places I visit as I travel. These images are not for clients. Even though they are just for me, working on them makes me better prepared for the illustrative assignments that I do get from clients.
Over the last few years, I have had the honor of hosting the “Art Of Photography” panel at Photoshop World. Several of the PSW photography instructors each get 15 minutes to show off their latest imaging with most of the entire conference in attendance. I am always amazed of what each artist has been doing it the 6 months between each show and I get even more inspired to create new portfolio images. For me, the trick is to now pick subjects for these self‐assignments that I have little or no experience photographing.
I decided I wanted to photograph whales…. That’s a lot different that photographing golf clubs… While on my first whale‐watching trip in Hawaii a few years ago, and while waiting for a humpback whale to appear, I started up a conversation with another photographer on the boat. He was a sports photographer for a San Francisco newspaper equipped with the hi‐speed Canon digital camera. As a whale jumped out of the water, he fired of a dozen frames in a couple of seconds and showed them to me on the back of the camera. He had several progressive images of the entire jumping sequence. I looked at the back my camera and all I had was a single image of a big splash of water…. and no whale…. I showed the disappointing image to my wife Helene and she then reminded me that I shoot still life products all day that don’t move. She then suggested that I would have to practice shooting fast moving objects, if I expect to get good at it. That’s where it started. If I am going to learn anything, shoot things that are hard to photograph.
For the next year I shot whales. I went on whale watching trips in California, Alaska, and Hawaii until I felt I had gotten the hang of it. The next year we spent a week with PSW instructor Taz Tally in Homer, Alaska trying to master photographing bald eagles… (They move a lot faster than the whales)…
I was actually getting better with more practice. This year, I am taking on a new subject, architecture and interiors. I have a new assignment illustrating a book of historic homes in Marietta Georgia. I have never been much of an architecture or interior photographer, so this is way out of my daily world of shooting in the studio. If this assignment came around ten years ago, I might have said “No way…. It’s not what I do”. Now with Photoshop’s Merge to HDR and the addition of Photomatix Pro, photographing interiors are a lot easer and I only need one light. That’s right!…. You heard me…. I am shooting the entire project of room interiors with only one light. And half of the time (like this sample) I am not even using any extra light at all….
In the days when we shot transparency film, and laid out a bracket of exposures on a light box to view, we picked the best image from the group as the final. It was always a little bit of a compromise. To balance out this harsh lighting ratio, we would need a van full of lights to selectively light each area of a room and balance out the extreme contrast. Some of these interiors have a 10 to 15 f‐stop range from the light coming in at he window, to the darkest corner of the room. Now with Merge to HDR techniques, we can have the best features from of the entire bracket of exposures as one final image.
When setting up a Merge to HDR shot. Always use a tripod to get the best possible sharpness. When deciding on the exposure, bracket the exposure with at least 1 to 2 f‐stop intervals by changing the shutter speed only. Changing the F‐stops can lead to different depth of field focus in the subject and cause final focus and registration issues. After setting my custom white balance for the scene, I usually do a 3 to 5 frame bracket of the scene. I process the RAW files in Lightroom 2, or Photoshop’s ACR panel and save the enhancements. From there I can build the 32‐bit HDR right out of Bridge or Lightroom 2.
For even more control of the highlights and shadows, I can build the image right from the Photomatix Pro software. This software allows you to crate either a very surrealistic version of the scene, or what I prefer, a very realistic blending of the brightest highlights blasting in from the window, to the darkest shadows. The image might have a tendency to flatten out some, so a little curves adjustment might be needed to finish off the image. It sure is a lot more fun than dragging lights all over the place. I ask all of you to find subjects that interest you and always continue expanding your portfolios.
This past year I have traveled more often than any years in the past. I did a nationwide Photoshop/Lightroom tour of Canada sponsored by Adobe and Professional Photographers of Canada. I got to visit every major airport in Canada in two weeks…. Crazy schedule… This past May, I was inducted into Camera Craftsmen of America, a big honor for me. Currently, I am visiting many of the ASMP and APA chapters around the USA on Adobe’s behalf doing a “What’s new in PS CS4 and LR 2” program. I started my own Blog about 4 months ago to let clients and friends know what’s going on in my world. I have decided to expand the Blog and change the title starting this week to “Jimmy D’s Digital Imaging Tune‐Up Clinic” I will be sharing weekly tips and techniques on imaging software and digital capture that I hope will help others with the day to day digital imaging workflow… The goal is to work smarter, not harder… You can access my new Blog from the splash page of my web site.
This coming Saturday I am starting a once a month Digital photography class at my local Atlanta photography store Professional Photo Resources (www.PPRatlanta.com) to help fill in the gaps on staying a head of the learning curve in digital imaging. Each month will be a new topic like practical Color Management, Photo Illustration and Compositing, and working with Photoshop Plug‐ins.
Helene and I have planed another one of our Atlanta studio three-day hands‐on digital photography workshops on April 20th‐22nd. Information can be found at www.Software‐Cinema.com and on my web site.
These classes have been a great success in the past, and lots of fun for us to teach. They are limited to 15 attendees per workshop.
I do have two new digital imaging training DVDs. “Creative Photo Illustration and Workflow” and my new lighting DVD “In The Studio” also found on the Software‐Cinema website.
I would like to thank Scott, and the entire NAPP staff for doing such a great job of keeping all of us informed on the latest improvements in Photoshop, Lightroom, and digital photography.
Please visit and my website and Blog at www.DiVitalePhotography.com. Comments are always welcome and I hope to see you in Boston at the next Photoshopworld!….
– Jimmy D.