Monthly Archives March 2017

Photo by Emerson Chen

You Know You’re Learning If You’re Falling Down

I have no clue why these thoughts cross my mind, but they do. When the shooting gets slow and I’m with some friends and we just start talking to kill the time, my mind wanders to the bad side. Someone leaves their camera sitting on a tripod unattended, I slip over, remove the battery and then go back innocently to my own shooting. There’s the time I slip my CF memory card wallet vertically in the shade of a fellow photographer’s big lens. They can’t see it through the viewfinder but the AF can’t function at all. And of course, there’s the always-immature move of taking photos with another’s camera when they aren’t looking. A photo they definitely would not have taken themselves. My favorite comes from the days of film when someone would ask, “Got any good photos?” I had a dummy roll of film in my vest pocket that I would take out, grasp the leader, pull out all the film and look through it at the sun, then simply shrug. Oh the look on their faces when I did that! My only excuse for all of this is, photography has gotta be FUN!

I’m very blessed with two great sons who had to suffer through dad’s teaching as well as bad jokes. When the opportunity arose though for the shoe to be on the other foot, they made good use of it. Both are great cross-country skiers, something I will never be able to do despite all the help they provided and the fun we had together. Brent said something once though that I will never forget, because it so pertains to photography. I had all the right gear on, had read all I should do, and watched the videos. But falling I did with absolutely no grace. We were up on the mountain and I was soaking wet from falling so many times in my attempt to XC ski. Brent simply looked down at me as he helped me up and said, “You know you’re learning if you’re falling down.”

While simply said and blatantly true, it’s pretty darn deep if you ponder it at all. In order to learn how to ski, you gotta fall down, and a lot until you master staying up. This directly applies to photography. Your photography will only grow if you fall down, fail. The thing is, you have to learn from your failures or you’ll either just keep failing, or worse, give up. Just how can we learn from photographic failures so we can keep growing? Having been falling for four decades and still being able to laugh at myself, I think I might have a suggestion or two to pass along.

It’s Only A Photograph!

The first is to understand this very important principle. It’s only a photograph! The right photograph taken of a powerful subject in a powerful way at a time when its clarity is needed by the world can have a huge impact. And I always remind folks their photographs can change the world. But at the same time, I also realize that if I totally toast a photograph, the sun will still rise tomorrow and life will go on. It is just a photograph. We put so much pressure on ourselves when we’re shooting that really shouldn’t be put there. Ever go back and look at photos you took a year ago, really look at them and think back at your thoughts when taking them? It’s those times if I were standing next to you, I might pull one of my bad photographic jokes on you just to remind you that it’s just a photograph.

KISS

The second is to remind you of the KISS theorem…Keep It Simple Stupid (the last word being key). We tend to not only take our photography too seriously but also make it too complicated. While there are times for fun, we go complicated. But making that part of our regular photographic ritual is suicidal for so many reasons. The main reason relates to, it’s just a photograph. When we make things complicated, they become a task, a chore. And how do we mentally treat chores? We tend to put them off. But more importantly in taking advantage of the best teacher we all have for our photography, ourselves, complicated makes learning really hard.

When we KISS, when we are successful, it’s really easy to figure out what we did right so we can repeat it again and again. But when we make it complicated, determining what went wrong is difficult so we run the risk of repeating that mistake. Failure is so important to our learning only when we learn from that failure. There is the practical side of KISS that you might like even more it – costs less! It takes a whole lot less gear and time to KISS than make it complicated. And when you take all you’ve learned, working with KISS and removing the stress of the importance of a photograph, you know what happens in time? You become a better photographer and that’s the whole goal (perhaps why my mind wanders and I cause trouble…hmmmm).

Wanna prove my point to yourself? Next time you’re working in the digital darkroom with a friend and they leave to take a break, take a screen shot of what’s on their computer. Then open that screen shot in Photoshop, make it full screen, and just leave it. They will come back and click on it like a madman to make it work, but nothing will happen because it’s just a screen shot. KISS! Take a deep breath, enjoy the amazing rewards photography brings to us every time we venture into it and remember to not take it too seriously. KISS and the most important thing, you know you’re learning if you’re falling down.

You can see more of Moose’s work at MoosePeterson.com and WarbirdImages.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Come see him live at Photoshop World in Orlando April 19-22!

Hi gang, and welcome to “Copyright your photos, Tuesday” where we stop for a moment from all the other stuff we’re doing, and make sure our photos are protected by registering them with the U.S. Copyright Office (of course, this is for folks in the US — if you’re in another country, this is when you look up what the process is in your country to make sure your images are protected).

It’s never been easier to copyright and protect your images than it is today — you just go to the US Copyright Website; create an account; upload your images (yes, you can upload thousands at a time); pay the $55 registration fee, and in a few weeks they’ll get back to you and say, ‘Yup, We got ’em. You’re set,” or something along those lines (it sounds a bit more formal than that when they say it).

Here’s where you go to start the simple process: https://www.copyright.gov/registration/photographs/index.html

Also, check out this article from PDN magazine about a plug-in that lets you send your images for copyright directly from Lightroom (thanks to our friend and Lightroom guru Rob Sylvan for that one).

If you’re not sure why you should copyright your images, or what the benefits are (and how it protects you), check out our online course called “Copyright Essentials for Today’s Photographers” from attorney Ed Greenberg and photographer’s rights advocate Jack Reznicki (hosted by Mia McCormick). Not only will you learn a lot in a short amount of time, you’ll be thoroughly entertained along the way (Jack and Ed are so much fun). Here’s the official trailer:

This is something you know you’ve been putting off, but today’s the day — now let’s get to it!

Hope you have a kick-butt Tuesday!

-Scott

P.S. We are about 24-days from the big Photoshop World Conference in Orlando, Florida – if you want to come and totally immerse yourself in getting better at Lightroom, Photoshop, Photography and Flash, this is the place to do it. It’s not too late to get your ticket. You’ve always wanted to go — now’s your chance. :)

Happy Monday everybody. Today we’re doing five tips for making your Photoshop look and act the way you want it by customizing a few key things (including a couple of hidden things that are pretty cool. Check out the short video below.

Hope you found that helpful.

Here’s wishing you the best Monday this year so far!

Best,

-Scott

 

Scott Kelby’s 7-Point System for Lightroom
Scott Kelby’s Seven Point System book revolutionized how photographers edit their images, and in this new course you’re going to learn his latest updates and refinements to the system (including his own post processing “secret sauce”) for Lightroom (or Camera Raw) users. Once you learn these Seven Points, you’ll know exactly what to do, in what order, and why for every JPEG, Raw, and TIFF photo you edit. It will transform the way you edit your photos from this moment on.

In Case You Missed It
Streamline your mobile photography workflow with Lightroom Mobile! Join Josh Haftel, senior product manager at Adobe, as he teaches you how to use Lightroom Mobile to import, organize, edit, and share your mobile photography, as well as how you can synchronize it all with Lightroom on your desktop and Lightroom Web.

Well, actually it’s at least 3-photo tips for this Friday (we do these every week – have been for a long time — if you follow KelbyOne on Facebook, you’ll see them every Friday, even when I don’t blog about ’em). In fact, there’s a new tip there today that I’m not featuring here, so when you’re done with these, head over to catch today’s new tip. Here we go:

We’ll start with a very clever tip from KelbyOne Instructor Dave Cross:

Dave’s new KelbyOne course on Photoshop selections is right here (ya know, in case you’re so inclined).

OK, here’s a nice one for Wacom tablet users from KelbyOne Instructor Erik Valind:

If you’re digging that, check out Erik’s class on Active Lifestyle portaits. Ready for another one? This one’s from KelbyOne Instructor Gabriel Biderman:

 

Thanks, Gabe! By the way (ahem…) Gabe’s awesome class on nighttime photography is right here. 

Well, folks — there ya have it. Some Friday Photo Tip love.

Here’s wishing you an awesome weekend! :)

Best,

-Scott

P.S. If you’re looking for a new class to watch this weekend, Today we’re releasing my new class: “Scott Kelby’s ‘Seven Point System’ for Lightroom” — an expanded version of what I taught on my live “Shoot Like a Pro Tour” and if you’re a KelbyOne member, you can go watch it right now (or, at the very least, I hope you’ll check it out this weekend). If you’re not a KelbyOne member yet, take the 10-day free trial and you can start watching it immediately. 

My name is Joe Glyda and I am a commercial photographer specializing in food photography.

I would like to thank Scott for inviting me to be a guest on his blog. This year marks my 40th year as a commercial food photographer. Yes, I am one of those photographers that worked my way through the darkroom and started my career using 4×5, 8×10, and 11×14 Deardorf view cameras that used film.

The one thing I loved about shooting film was, ‘the set’ had to be ready and complete before the film was loaded into the camera. There wasn’t “I’ll just fix it in Photoshop.” Getting it all put together in one shot and looking at the subject upside down and backwards taught me to see the food ‘as a subject’ very differently. Painstaking details went into every shot, as Polaroids were used to get the test shot done, before exposing the film. But seeing that transparency on the light box was extremely rewarding.

I thought I would talk a little about my favorite subject, Food Photography. The unique aspect about commercial/food photography is that it’s ALL about the product. It’s NOT about you the photographer and your style, or your vision. It’s about the client’s vision, who in turn, hires an art director to come up with an approved layout and make the product be the hero. It then becomes the photographer’s responsibility to engage in a conversation with the art director and concur on a plan of action.

In other words, ask questions, LISTEN, then solve the problem.

Engage in a conversation prior to the photo session. Do not wait until the art director shows up to start setting up. Be prepared and ready to go. Do some testing to get yourself familiar with the product that’s about to be photographed ahead of time.

One of the key elements in food photography is finding the products with the right elements of detail that work with all the other elements in the photo. So, in the case of this print ad, what seemed to be an easy shot ended up taking a dozen cheese wedges and twice as many Polaroids to create the cut marks on the cheese wedge so they fell exactly under where the package artwork was to be placed. The client wanted the package to represent the natural look and flavor of real Cheddar cheese. Knowing what the client wants is so very important before the camera is even set-up.

That doesn’t mean photographers can’t have their own ideas or be able to contribute an idea regarding the images. At first, it’s important to leave your personal vision at the door. What I mean is, waiting for the right opportunity to share your ideas with the art director or client, after learning what the vision of the product is. Don’t be afraid to talk to the art director. Take an AD to lunch. Share ideas with them.

This image was part of a year-long campaign which stemmed from a lunch appointment with an AD who just finished meeting the client from Cracker Barrel Cheese. We talked about the client’s needs to make their snacking product look different and more trendy. Polaroid transfers were very popular at the time, so I suggested to shoot the real food on a Polaroid of an empty plate. The art director drew up layouts and our collaboration was a success.

When shooting multiple dishes, it is crucial to work with a prop stylist. They have resources beyond the photographers’ prop room. They tend to watch trends and have a pulse on what’s hot and what’s not. It’s also important to know what foods will last on the set longer than others, especially with multiple dishes. In this case, it was the spaghetti sauce that was put in place last so the sauce wouldn’t run through the tortellini.

In 1986, I witnessed my first retouching job on a Scitex Response-300 computer and knew right then that I had to get into digital technology. By 1993, I was using a Kodak DCS 460 digital camera and stopped using film by 1995. I helped convert the Kraft Foods in-house photography department from film completely over to digital by 1999. I wanted to have more control over the quality of the final image using the digital process. With the art director on set, we could see instantaneously together what we were getting, and make sure the color and direction was correct. Color management in food photography is so important. Food products have a certain color and their companies pay extra to make sure their products are not falsely advertised.

I use an X-rite color checker before every shot series to ensure the color is correct. Changing the color checker every time the light source changes is very important. This will ensure that the color of the food is right on.

Even though Photoshop 2 was a big part of the digital process, at the time, I continued to have the mind set of getting things done on set, prior to engaging the camera. I used the digital technology to my advantage whenever possible. It helped me create these images using digital fire in a campfire scene, and digital water from a pool on the deck while still having full control in the studio. Then creating outdoor lighting effects on the food to match the digital images made them look like they were photographed on-location.

Working with a food stylist is a must when working with food products. The job of a food photographer is lighting, composition, and the technical aspect of the photo session. The food stylist’s responsibility is to make sure the food looks good for the camera. They get the camera position in relationship to the plate from the photographer, and then position the food on the plate to make the food look its best. Dummy food is usually used during the set-up. Dummy food is a representation of the hero food but not yet styled. This helps the photographer light the food and create the composition needed to make the food look great. In this case, the soup was replaced by a salad and the sandwich direction was changed once the client saw the dummy food shot.

Dummy Food
Hero Food

My favorite foods to photograph are desserts, for the obvious reason, they taste the best. They tend to be difficult to maneuver around the set during the set-up, but once the hero food is placed on the set, the shot is taken quickly before the food dies. My lens of choice is a Nikkor 100mm macro lens, and in some cases I love to use a bellows attached to my Nikon D800. It brings the texture and details of the food to the forefront. And the clients are thrilled because it shows off their product.

Another kind of food photography that I enjoy doing is packaging photography. It takes more patience because the image needs to FIT in between words, logos, or call-out flags. If there are multiple products, they all have to fit together like a family! Usually in this situation the camera angle is locked down so the position of the image stays the same throughout the series of shots. Notice the color under the plates on these packages change but the plate position does not.

Styles and trends, like in fashion, come and go in food photography. It’s important to watch how these trends influence the images across all media. Over the past year, straight down shots have been the angle of choice. Panera, Qdoba, and Starbucks are a few companies changing their look to this elevated level. I just had a client this month that wanted to see their cake recipe from this angle, and they loved it!

Even some of the car companies are now using this look and some say that it’s because of the increase of drone photography that has inspired the look. But I guarantee you, this trend is not new. It was very popular in the late 80’s, and here is one of my shots of asparagus I did in 1988. I remember an art director back then, saying after meeting with a client, “Do they really want to shoot from above again? I’m tired of this angle” Watch for the new trend to take over, and believe me, it will.

Finally, the secret to good food photography is backlight. The food looks best when the shadow falls under the front of the food to act as a base for the food to sit on. The light from behind the food creates a highlight effect along the top and back edge of the food to give the food a heroic effect. Fill cards are used to bounce the backlight back into the front of the food, creating a soft and pleasing appetizing appearance.

In summary, remember these five steps when working with food:

  1. Listen to the client, It’s ALL about the product, not you!
  2. Talk to the art director, engage in discussion about the project prior to the session, don’t wait till the day of the shoot.
  3. Use a color management system to get accurate color.
  4. Hire a professional food stylist. (and a prop stylist when necessary)
  5. Backlight most food subjects for ultimate results.

Using these simple ideas will make your food images more appetizing and give the illusion that they are jumping off the page.

You can see more of Joe’s work at JGlyda.com, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Check out his courses on KelbyOne, and come see him at Photoshop World Orlando where he’ll be teaching a food photography workshop on April 19 and a class on creativity on April 21.

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