A big thanks and shout-out to Flipboard for including my Flipboard 2.0 magazine “Cool Photography Stuff” on their Inside Flipboard blog last week in a post about Flipboard magazines for photography.
If you’re not familiar with Flipboard, it’s a killer App for the iPad and Android tablets that transforms your Twitter, Facebook, G+ and other social media feeds into a beautifully laid-out magazine, and it changes your social media experience to a much richer, more visual experience (perfect for photographers and designers).
Two years ago, Apple named Flipboard their “App of the Year” (yes, it’s that good), but this year Flipboard took things up a notch by allowing anyone to create and curate their own custom Flipboard magazine, using content shared on the Web and social media, so I launched my own (they’re free to create, and free to subscribe to. In fact, even the Flipboard 2.0 App is free. It’s all free, free, free!). :)
I was really tickled to see this, cause I really enjoy curating my little daily magazine (see above). Each day I “flip” any cool stuff I see on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and a dozen other sources around the Web into this free daily Flipboard mag, including news, tutorials, beautiful images, and interesting articles. So, if you want to know what’s happening out there in photography every day, it’s kind of a one-stop-shop.
Above:Here’s the link to my mag (it shows it’s by skelby — that’s me). The cover story photo is by one of the hottest up-and-coming sports portrait photographers out there today, Matt Hernandez. I’m a big fan Matt’s work. You can choose a new cover (from things you’ve flipped) each day if you like (and I usually do).
Here’s the link to Flipboard’s blog post (with a number of great Flipboard magazines listed as well), and if you click on the cover of mine, it takes you to my “Cool photography stuff” mag: http://bit.ly/13jeFIS — Thanks again Flipboard for the shoutout, and for making such a cool App. Also, thanks to the 6,000+ photographers who have already subscribed for free and get my magazine in their Flipboard daily feed.
P.S.Hey, don’t forget, on Thursday we have our free “Photoshop World-a-thon Sneek Peek” where me and the “Photoshop Guys” are sharing some of our favorite tips from the upcoming conference in September in Vegas. Everyone’s invited this Thursday at 7:00 pm. RSVP at this link (it’s free, and of course, we’ll have lots of cool giveaways and loads of tips). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss an hour goodbye! LOL! See you then!
(Above:a 2014 Mercedes Benz CLS 550, in a dark grey with a hint of blue. Thanks to Tony Pinero for the car).
Ever since I started shooting cars, I’ve wanted to shoot one in a studio, but there have been a couple of obstacles. One being finding a studio with a really large white cove that’s big enough to drive a car into, but the really big obstacle is to find one that has a giant car-sized softbox overhead (like the 10-foot x 30-foot F2X from Chimera, but the price is……the price is…well….see below).
That gives you some idea of why, outside of Detroit, finding a studio with one of these with an affordable rental rate is pretty challenging. Well, it would be for a regular guy, but not for the amazing Brad Moore, who found Studio 75, a commercial rental studio set up for automotive photography, that’s only about 25-minutes from our offices. It’s affordable, the guy seemed really easy to work with, and although they didn’t have the Chimera, they did have a home-made rig that works, so we booked it.
Above: In this behind-the-scenes shot, you can see the cost-effective lighting rig Dan created himself. It’s five 1,000 watt White Lightning strobe heads (bare bulbs), mounted on two long poles, hoisted up with a pulley-system, and then firing through a large 20’x20′ Matthews overhead silk diffusion panel (around $700) mounted to aluminum fence top-rail (you can buy a Matthews 20’x20′ collapsable frame for around $975, but the fence top-rail DIY route would be much cheaper at around $88 for the tubing (Eight 10′ x- 1-3/8″ round inter-connecting rails at Lowes for around $11 each. Then you’d need four 1-3/8″ corner connectors at around $4 or so each).
OK, back to the production still above: To get the right look, I’m nearly at the back of the studio. To get the perspective right, I’m laying down on the floor (not a big fan of that part), and I’m tethered directly into Lightroom so I can see the shots at a very large size as I’m taking them.
Once the lights are in place, you set them to full-power and adjust the f/stop until it looks right, so it’s a pretty straight ahead set-up from above.
Welcome to my World While you could get a car in the studio without any trouble, maneuvering once inside is quite tricky, but luckily this particular car had a backup camera, which made things easier. However, having Brad Moore giving you directions in that back-up camera…well…just watch the video below (shot by Dan as I was backing the car) and you’ll see what I mean. Welcome to my world.
Above: For shots where the front of the car is visible (like the one you just saw), we used a large softbox to fill-in the shadows. We also used a large black bounce card to help create some shadow areas on the car (more on this in a moment). You can see my low shooting position here (production shots by Brad Moore). It was a bit more comfortable here — sitting on the floor and laying back on the first step of the stairs leading to the studio’s loft.
Above: Sony had loaned me some of their DSLR gear to try out, and I thought this would be a great opportunity since the Sony A99 had a swivel-out LCD monitor, so I could place the camera on the floor (for the lowest possible perspective —- one where the photo would clearly show the rear tire on the far side) and then I could just angle it up a bit and do all the composition using the tilt-up display. This sounds easy, but try it with a sneaker coming out of the front of your head (see above)
It worked even better than I thought (though the electronic viewfinder is kind of…well…kinda weird when you work in a studio environment. It has a special mode for it, and perhaps you would eventually get used to it, but seeing something on screen that looks so different from what you’re going to create really threw me. Maybe it’s just my inexperience with the Sony, so I don’t want to totally trash it, because I know a lot of folks love it, but it would definitely take some getting used to (for me, anyway). So, I shot both my Nikon D4 and the Sony A99 during the four-hour shoot in the studio.
Above: Here’s a two-thirds view, where you can see the side the front. It was the first shot we tried that day. You can really see the black bounce card in the bottom half of the doors. That really made a huge difference.
Above: Here’s the production shot. I’m lying on the floor again, but I did mount the Nikon on my Gitzo tripod but we splayed the legs way out so I could get it just a few inches above the ground. I kind of leaned on my elbow to compose the shot, then I’d lock down the ballhead.
Above: When we were all done, I thought I’d take a shot from up above, from the loft (where the studio’s office is), and I kinda like the angle. Plus, it was a LOT easier because at this high angle, we didn’t have to deal with many reflections that appear on the car (which is what turned out to be the challenge of the day for the rest of the shots).
The Tip of the Day Before we left the studio, the studio owner, commercial photographer Dan Gaye, told Brad to bring a circular polarizer, and man did that thing absolutely work wonders!!! The lighting part of this is actually pretty straightforward — it’s a bunch of lights aiming straight down from directly above through some material that softens and diffuses them. If you need a fill for one part or another, just add one more strobe with a soft box. That part was surprisingly easy. The real challenge is eliminating reflections in the car.
First, the Polarizer helps darken scene, but more importantly it helps you nearly eliminate the hot-spots and reflections from the strobes above in the windshield and side windows. Without that polarizer, you’d have a serious retouching nightmare. You just rotate the circular polarizer and you can literally see the reflections in the windows disappear. I told Brad — learning that was worth the studio rental right there!
Above: Of course, since I had the car there, I couldn’t help but do a few detail shots, using the standard set-up: a single large strip-bank (we turned the overhead lights off), and shooting at f/22 (hat tip to Tim Wallace), just like always.
It’s not the Lighting that’s hard. It’s managing the reflections Dan said something that really stuck with me. He said “Cars are like giant mirrors. You see anything in front of it like you’re aiming at a mirror” and he wasn’t just-a-kiddin’. It was amazing to see this in person, because you could see everything from the kitchen in the studio, to Brad’s head, to a blue Kayak mounted up near the ceiling, to beams in the ceiling, light stands, me, paintings on the wall, cables on the floor — EVERYTHING!
I have to give Dan big credit and major love here, because he is a master of hiding all these things using black drop clothes, black seamless paper (we had to bring out a 15-foot wide roll), black 8-foot ball bounce cards, and more. You had to take a shot — zoom in tight and you can’t believe all the stuff you’d see — just like you were looking at a big mirror aiming back at the studio. It took 5 minutes to get the lighting right for the very first shot I posted at the top of the page, and about 50 minutes to minimize the reflections.
Now that I’ve seen the process of dealing with all these reflections, it really is just a trial-and-error case of being a “Reflection Detective” but I could not have pulled this off without Dan’s experience and help (and he was incredibly helpful throughout. Since it’s his studio, he knows every trick in the book).
Above: Here’s another detail shot; this one of the rear of the car, with the name plate and tail light sections.
Above: Here’s the emblem on the trunk, lit with that same single strip bank, held diligently by Mr. Moore.
Above: Thought I’d give you one more look at the overall full-car lighting set-up (and the blue kayak which had to be cloned out of just aobut every shot). This one gives you a great view of the White Lighting strobes and the diffusion silk.
Above: I wanted to include a shot of studio owner and photographer Dan Gaye because he was just an incredible help all day. He designed this inexpensive overhead lighting rig back in 1995 and it still works really well to this day. His system of ropes and pulleys lets him raise/lower/angle the lights and diffusion panel pretty much however you want it.
He was super-helpful and really made me understand the challenges of minimizing reflections and the techniques to hide distracting stuff, which is somewhat of an art unto itself. Needless to say, I learned a lot. So, a big thanks and high-five to Dan, but also thanks to Brad for finding Dan and his studio, and for all his hard work that day, and for all the production stills. Way to go Braddo!
Of course, me being me, I see all sorts of stuff I’d do differently next time That next time will hopefully be in just a few weeks from now, because I’ve already found another cool car that needs shootin’ and I surely need the practice, but I’m totally OK with that. It was just my first studio automative shoot, but hopefully it’s just the first of many, and you know what they say about practice. :)
Last week on my Facebook and Twitter pages, I posted a link to a Great article on Annie Leibovitz on “Getting the Shot, and the Future of Photography” over at FastCompany (shown below).
I have to say, her new campaign for Disney has made me a Leibovitz fan. Really brilliantly done, and the article has some great insights about shooting portraits. Worth a read (and the Disney photos are seriously very special).
Well, after I posted the link to the article (here’s the link by the way —- definitely worth the read: http://bit.ly/1aJjik5), a conversation started where some we’re trying to give anyone but Annie the credit for the amazing shots. They wanted it to go to anyone from the set designer to the post production people to the hair and make-up — anyone but her (and yes, it does take all of those folks and more to do something on the scale of what Disney hired her to do).
Anyway, it was our topic this week on “The Grid” and there were lots of great comments from the live audience, and of course, plenty of debate because we took it a lot further than that. The episode is at the top of the page if you’ve got a few minutes to check it out.
Also, the previous week, our in-studio guest was the amazing Peter Hurley, and he was there for our monthly “Blind Photo Critiques” episode and we featured nothing but critiques on portraits. There’s a LOT to learn from him in this episode. Here’ s that episode (below):
Shooting cars! OK, today I’m in a local photo studio doing my first in-studio automotive shoot with a giant overhead softbox longer than the car. Wish me luck, and while we’re wishing, here’s wishing you a fantastic weekend. See you Monday! :)
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Like many people today, I love photography and photo editing. I also enjoy sharing my experiences with friends, so blogging about my passion has been a labor of love. However, I've been on a rollercoaster journey filled with great successes as well as moments of doubt. My reason for sharing this story is because I know that I am not alone in the quest for that creative outlet that allows you to do what you love the most. The path that I have taken and the pitfalls that I have faced will be familiar to many of you, so I hope you might get a chuckle out of my challenges. I also hope to inspire you to find your creative outlet so that you may continue your journey wherever it may lead you.
This is my story.
Ever since I was a young boy, I've loved mastering electronics gadgets. I enjoyed doing things with them that made my family and friends say "wow." This led me to become a computer programmer where the challenge of making mundane or complex tasks easy for everyone was a big thrill. The work I did was run on computers around the world, yet the thrill I got from programming waned. Depressed, and ultimately divorced after a long marriage, I longed for something to occupy my mind. I decided to return to my boyhood passion of photography and do something completely outrageous - I broke the bank moving to the world of DSLR photography!
The year was 2007, and despite a long history with film photography dating back to the early 1980s, I had never really mastered the mechanics of the camera. To address this problem, the geek in me began consuming photography books like they were potato chips. In fact, some of my favorite photographers have admitted that I was mastering photography gear better than they ever will. However, like most geeks, my pictures were horrible. It was not because I didn't know how to use a camera, but because I was only looking at the camera as an electronics device that I could master. I had mastered the machine, but I had not exercised one artistic bone in my body.
Simple shots can still be extremely successful
At first the harsh reality was okay because I had a great-paying day job with benefits. Like many, my only objective was to have fun with photography. If I took a picture of my dirty keyboard that made me say, "wow," I was happy. I also would come to learn from my pro photography mentors that the greatest photography job in the world is one where you only shoot for yourself to please yourself. However, something bad happened - people started telling me my photos sucked.
I was crushed but I also became defensive. I insisted that I meant to put the subject in the center of the frame, and that those "distractions" in the background were there because I thought they made the photo interesting. Seeking the validation I had enjoyed from my friends and family, I turned to photography forums where I'd show my work with pride only to have rude members tell me hateful things that made me want to give up on photography. I didn't quit, but I did get mad - really mad.
Beautiful subjects are always a great place to start
My frustration motivated me to wonder why my photos were "wrong" if they pleased me? At first, I took the geek approach of learning more about photography as an art form and the rules of composition. I also started to carefully study the works of my favorite photographers. It worked because I became so finely attuned to what a great photo was supposed to be that I could see "the wrong" in photos. In fact, every photo I looked at had something wrong with it! Even my favorite photographers' work began to look less impressive and everything I had ever done was unacceptable. Now I was the one telling myself that my photos sucked and that I should give up on photography.
As time has taught me, if I take something that I believe is perfect and I ask a room full of people for their opinion, I'll get a few people who agree with me, a few who won't say what they think, and a few who attack me and the things I hold dear. It's human nature, but it's up to me to filter the noise into something more constructive. This life lesson eventually taught me to listen to the rude people who had offended me to see if there was a valuable suggestion masked by their venom. Sometimes there was something useful. Sometimes they were just being rude. I then realized that this phenomenon in photography was really no different than my world as a programmer where magazine reviewers would do the same thing. As a programmer, I had learned to take the feedback and used it to make great software. This made me wonder, why couldn't I do that as a photographer?
Shots that make you day dream are often appreciated by others too
In the last five years I've tried to adopt this philosophy to improve my skills. While I've had great success around the world as a professional photographer, I still look at every shot of my own like I would a computer program. I always see room for improvement. However, I also matured and now accept that it is okay if my work is not perfect as long as I have pleased my client and/or myself. While I may never please the web trolls, it's okay because my client that pays the bills is me. I have a great job, and I've experienced first-hand that greatness in the court of public opinion doesn't always pay the mortgage.
Successfully mimicking your idols work helps to build confidence
With this in mind, I began to accept my good fortune of having a job with a consistent paycheck and benefits. Many famous photographers made me aware of the not-so glamorous side of the business where a slow month could mean big debt and missed mortgage payments. I began to appreciate being able to take photos of things that interested me, and editing them at my leisure, instead of having to photograph things that didn't interest me and editing rushes to meet unrealistic deadlines. However, I need a goal and an outlet for my work. I needed something to motivate me to shoot and improve, and a place where I could interact with those who had passions similar to mine. This led me to the realization that I could have all the things I wanted, yet still keep my steady day job, by becoming a photography blogger.
I have enjoyed great success in my photography career, but nothing has been more rewarding than sharing what I have learned with my blog readers. It has allowed me to apply my goal-oriented nature to do things that I hope will help others, but it also helps me to exercise my creative energy towards photography topics that excite me.
I've worked hard to provide reviews that readers can trust at a time when some writers seem afraid to say anything negative for fear of the consequences. As a programmer, honest feedback from reviewers helped me improve my products, so I hope to extend that same courtesy to product makers who read my reviews. By providing honest feedback, I hope to help to provide suggestions that lead to product improvements, as well as help my readers make more informed decisions. It's the technology circle of life, and I'm happy that people like you let me be a part of it.
Always photograph those things that make you say "wow"
As I talk to so many friends and readers, I frequently hear of people who are quitting their stable jobs to pursue their dream of what it means to be a photographer. Unfortunately many people who try this discover the reality of inconsistent income and losing jobs to part-time photographers who will work for free. I can relate with this dream to throw it all away and live a fantasy. However, I'd like to encourage people in this situation to stop for a moment and focus on what it is they really seek. The thing many of us are looking to do is apply our creative energy and receive the satisfaction of being acknowledged for something we take pride in.
It is my wish for all of my fellow photography friends who have made it this far that you won't give up your passion. I encourage you to find ways to do it where you do not become a slave to your work. It saddens me to see friends who had so much excitement about being their own boss and living a life as a photographer hating their life as a high volume photographer because that's what is required to pay the bills. A better way is to maintain the job security that many of my readers enjoy, yet find a niche that allows you to use your creative side as purely a labor of love.
Never be afraid to experiment outside of your comfort zone
Your niche is out there and your path will be different from mine and the others before you. For some it will be the challenge of printing, for others it will be as a part-time freelancer, yet others will seek excitement out of sharing their passion with friends on weekend or travel adventures. The important part is to keep the fun in photography. This will let you photograph what you love in a way that sparks your emotions and your best photos are inevitable.
I have included images in this article with common tips that I share with my students. I chose these images because of the defining moment that many of them had on my career
Thanks for reading and for your support! I welcome you all to join me on RonMartBlog.com as my photographic journey continues. I hope my articles, discounts, books and tutorials will help you keep you as excited during your photography journey as I am with mine.
Gary Parker - My mentor who inspired me to keep going when the going got tough