Category Archives Guest Blogger

DanielGregoryHeadshot

Two Things Photographers Can Do to Make Their Work Better
If you have an iPhone, the start of this story should sound familiar… I was having an argument with Siri. It was about trying to get Siri to play some music on my phone. After I asked Siri to play a certain artist/album combination, first without, then with, profanity, for a moment I imagined that I might never hear music again.

That got me thinking about my desert island disc (or I guess, download, these days). The one or two albums that you would want to have if you were stranded on a desert island. On the surface, it seems like a pretty easy thing to do. Just think of your favorite music/artist/album and pick. Of course, it is never that easy. Too many choices. Jazz, Blues, Rock, Indie, Hip-hop… Not to mention which artist or album.

As I sat pondering what my selections would be (at least what they would be today), I began to think about how this relates to photography. I’m lucky to be able to not only be a full-time photographer but to also have the privilege of getting to teach and mentor other photographers. In almost every workshop or class I teach, I’m asked questions that I think of as desert island photography questions. If you could only have one, which camera would it be? Other than palm trees, what would you want to photograph? What software program would you want to have? What light modifier would you want? And the list goes on.

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At one point I posed the question: “If you could only do one thing to improve your photography what would it be?” The responses are as varied as people’s taste in music. Get a new camera. Take a particular class or workshop. Get a new lens. Make more time to shoot. And the list goes on.

I’ve found that my own answer to this question hasn’t changed much over the years. It doesn’t matter if I’m teaching a Lightroom workshop or about to create images with alternative processing. These are the two things that I think every photographer can do to make their work better.

#1 Learn and Apply Lessons from Photographic History (and not just the textbook version)
I got my initial interest in photographic history researching how to print old alternative processes (wet-plate, platinum, salt, etc.). I was looking into how to combine modern digital technologies with processes that were there at the very beginning of photography.

Some of the earliest indicators of people working with a camera date back as far as 400 BC. Mozi in China and the Greek philosopher Aristotle both made references to the concept of a camera obscura. In case you aren’t familiar with such old technology, a camera obscura is the precursor to the modern camera. It is a box with a hole on one side, and as light passes through the hole, an inverted image is projected onto the back of the box. You find this same technology being used in pinhole cameras today, and this same principle is used in modern day digital cameras too.

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Photography, as most of us know, it also has its roots in France. In 1816, Nicephore Niepce successfully coated a piece of paper with silver chloride and created one of the first latent images that we would consider a photograph. Over the decades that followed, Daguerre, Fox-Talbot, and others pushed the chemistry of photography forward ushering in the age of photography. From my perspective, the biggest change was created by John Herschel. He not only coined the term photograph in 1839 and created a number of advances in photography, such as cyanotypes and the foundation of platinum printing, but he figured out how to stabilize those latent images so that they would last. By “fixing” Talbot’s and Daguerre’s processes, he made it possible to create lasting images. This process of fixing, by using hyposulfite, is why we still use the term fixer when working in the traditional darkroom to stabilize film and prints.

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From the beginning, photography has been used to tell amazing stories and record the history of everyday life. Even before George Eastman released his Brownie camera in 1900 making it easy for anyone with a spare $1 to have access to create a picture, photography was changing the way we saw the world. With an ever-increasing number of photographers with access to cameras, film, and printing supplies, the moments, objects, and people of everyday life were put in front of a lens.

We became able to capture and share amazing things and amazing moments in everyday life. Not only could we record them, but we could infinitely reproduce the captured image, which in many ways separated it from painting. Photography was really something special.

Beyond capturing the everyday, photography was, and still is, used to explore areas of culture, race, gender, and social status in ways that weren’t possible before. From the essays written by Frederick Douglass in the 1800s―who was the most photographed person of his time―on the equalizing power of photography to deal with racism and civil rights to Lewis Hines’ work with child labor issues in the 1920s to Diane Arbus’ willingness to examine the issue of mental health in the 1960s to Florian Schultz’ work on environmental issues of today, photography has allowed us to see, share, understand, and experience the world in ways we didn’t, or couldn’t have, before.

Although photography is a relatively new art, it has had immeasurable impact. When you broadly study photographic history, you learn about more than just one way of seeing. You can learn so much how photographs have been able to shape our understanding of who we are as a society. As you look at photographers from current and past times, you can see how aesthetic, social issues, storytelling, and passion all come together.

You also have a chance to expand your own understanding of how events from the past have been seen through the eyes of all the photographers of that period. Much like the rest of history, you won’t necessarily find the best of photography in popular history books. Recorded history has often glossed over or entirely ignored people because of race, culture, social status/class, gender, and so on. However, because photography as a tool is so accessible, if you take the time to look, you can find amazing photographers who have/are making a difference in all aspects of life.

Several years ago I had the privilege of getting to meet the amazing photographer Matika Wilbur. If you’ve met her, you know that she is 100 percent high octane. Matika is a Pacific Northwest photographer and member of the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes. She is working on project called 562. Matika has taken on a project of huge scale. She is photographing the people and cultures of all 562 registered Native American tribes. Her work is important for so many reasons, but in the context of history and photography, the work is even more significant. Most of the images that you have seen in history books and stories of Native Americans are images taken by Edward Curtis in the early 20th century.

Those images have—for good and for bad—shaped the stereotypes, identity, and cultural awareness of Native Americans for the past 100 years. At the core of Matika’s work are wonderful stories about Native cultures, traditions, and opportunity. Through the use of photography to educate the world with new Native-created images that aren’t 120 years old, she is able to help redefine and reshape Native cultures and the broader social culture in ways that are more relevant today. If you understand the history of the portrayal of Native American cultures in photography beyond even just Curtis’s work, you can better understand her work and its context in the broader photographic community.

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She is just one example of the thousands of photographers who have looked at the history of photography and used what they have learned to shape and direct their own work. Beyond the technical information, by digging into history we learn how photography shapes ideas and values. The history of photography re-teaches us the power of the photograph and its ability to shape how we think, what we know, and how we respond to the world around us. It always expands us when we look at those who have found a passion, and through research, dedication, and hard work are making photographs that will last long into the future.

We have to break out of looking at the same things over and over to find how all the voices of photography have shaped who we are. Look at the work of Magnum photographer Eli Reed and see who influenced him. Who did he influence? Same goes for Alec Soth, Lorna Simpson, Matika, Helen Levitt, Berenice Abbott, Stacy Pearsall, and countless others. You likely already know the work of Ansel Adams, Cartier-Bresson, Weston, Frank, and the other well-known photographers in history, but I challenge you to find the amazing photographers whose work you don’t know. Study their work. You will be surprised by what you learn.

#2 Print Print Print (Did I mention print?)
A few years ago, I was watching a movie with one of my roommates, and she said that she was going to make cookies and asked if I wanted some. I love fresh-baked cookies, so I was like “Oh HELL yeah!” Ten minutes later she walked into the living room, handed me a spoon with cookie dough on it, and said “Here’s your cookie.” With a blank look and totally confused, I said “Uh, this is cookie dough. Not a cookie.” She said “Same thing!” and proceeded to eat a bowl of cookie dough. In my world, cookies are like photographs: if they aren’t baked, they aren’t done.

For me, the print is the photograph. It is the final stake in the ground that says “This image is done. I am finished editing, changing, and adjusting.” I am willing to say that I am confident enough in the work to make an artistic commitment. Part of photography is about your commitment to sharing your way of seeing the world. Only after you capture an image, make all the edits (from none to full-on compositing), and are willing to say that the image is done does your way of seeing the world or being in the world become realized.

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In the old days (forever ago, like before Game of Thrones, Facebook, and fancy Greek yogurt), if you weren’t shooting slide film, you had to print. It was the only way to see the positive version of the negative. However, as digital became the norm, we moved to images being on the screen. In that transition, amazing tools have come along that allow us to make never-ending changes to the negatives. Some of those changes might be small and others huge but this transition also allows us to experience our work without having to ever be done with it. We never have to put a stake in the ground. It never requires that we commit to being done enough to create a physical object.

Now you might be thinking “Daniel, I don’t print because my work IS digital. It is my way of being in the world.” That’s great, and I would still postulate that printing on occasion will help you see behind the camera better, understand color better, understand composition better, and help you understand how others might see your work. It is a big piece of the feedback loop that tells you how you are doing behind the camera.

Another reason to print is that when we work with tangible arts, we respond differently than we do photons and electrons. The brain relates to the information in the print differently than on the screen. We see differently. This is no different from any other art form. It is always a different experience to stand in front of a Monet or Van Gough than to look at a reproduction. Photographs are no different. As photographers, we are all about seeing, and seeing differently can help push you forward.

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When you print an image, you can look at it up close and from far away. You can see how it looks under different light. You will start to see things that you didn’t see in the digital file. Relationships between objects and subjects. How color shifts across hues and tones. When you are not worried about hi-pass filters, noise reduction, and masking, what do you actually look at first in an image? How does your eye move around the frame?

When you have to look at an image that you can’t immediately edit, it requires you to really think about what is working and not working rather than just reacting. Having a print allows you to see the same image over and over again over time. The image isn’t lost with the closing of a window. The more time you spend with the image, the more it will teach you. In this way photographs are superior to cookies because they never last.

Getting to look at your images at the actual size you imagine is another advantage of printing. I work on 27-inch monitors (13×23-inch screen size). I am limited to seeing my images at that size. Printing allows me to experience the images at the size that I imagine. I can’t fit that 24×26-inch image on the screen.

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Printing also forces you to think about how you want your images to be seen and experienced. Do you like a matte paper or luster paper? What does the paper do to the saturation of the colors? How are gradients shown? What does the texture of the paper do to your feelings about the image? What if you print the image big? What about small? How big should the border be? How white should the paper base be? All of these issues matter in how your audience will ultimately experience your image.

Printing also ensures that the image looks exactly how you want it to look. If you have ever sent an image off and looked at it on another computer screen, you know what I’m talking about. You do not get to control the brightness, contrast, or calibration of someone else’s monitor. Things can go wrong in a hurry. Think about how much your monitor shifts when you calibrate your own monitor, and imagine monitors that have never been calibrated. After you get your final print, you don’t ever have to worry about the print going out of calibration.

You might be thinking that it costs too much to print. I can tell you that at a place like Mpix, Bay Photo, or Costco, an 8×10 print is about $3. That means that for the price of that new $1500 camera you can get something like 500 prints. I can promise you that you will become a 1000% better photographer by looking at and learning from what you see in those 500 prints than you will working with a new camera and creating the same errors over and over again.

So there you have it. My two desert island tips for photographers. Print your work. Commit to finishing the work. Learn your history. Not just the textbooks, but really learn everything about the photography you love. If you love street work, find every street photographer and learn from them. It doesn’t matter what type of photography you love: if you study beyond textbooks, you will fall more deeply in love with it.

Thanks to Scott and Brad for allowing me to come back and do another guest blog post. It’s always fun to get to be a part of such a great community. If you are heading out to Photoshop World (and why wouldn’t you?), I’d love to see you in one of my classes. Or just stop and say Hi. Hope to see you in July.

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Oh, and assuming that Siri and I ever get our differences worked out, the music will be some Miles Davis and the Beatles.

Editor’s Note:  there are still a few spots available in Daniel’s Photoshop World workshop: Hands-On Portfolio Prep.  In this workshop, you’ll have one-on-one time with Daniel where he’ll help guide you in discovering your own motivations for selecting what you photograph and why. You’ll also learn how to sequence your photos for the best possible presentation of your images.

Daniel j Gregory is a Whidbey Island, Wa based fine-art photographer and educator who often creates images using modern digital tools and historical processes. You can see more of his work at DanielJGregory.com, listen to his podcast The Perceptive Photographer on iTunes, his KelbyOne class Visual Literacy, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram. You can also see him live in person at Photoshop World in Las Vegas from July 18-21!

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That’s A Photoshopped Photo, No?
When I started photography in 2005 and was proudly starting to share my work with the world – that was a common reaction to my photos.

Most of the people enjoyed my work, but I would get this comment:

“This must have been Photoshopped.”

Indeed it was, for example:

The Carrousel in Louvre Paris

This is a photo of the Carrousel at the Louvre. I added some clouds and a sepia look, but kept some of reds as natural colors.

I went under the Eiffel tower and we had a very nice sky, with a wide angle lens, I got this shot. Loved the sky that end of afternoon

This is an HDR shot of the Eiffel Tower where I added some magenta in the sky to make it more dramatic.

This is the Pont Neuf Bridge in Paris with a nice sky.

Here is a photo of the Pont Neuf in Paris. I changed the sky and did a lot of dodge and burn on it, love the photo. I’m selling this photo to one of the biggest network galleries in the world – it has 85 physical galleries. The gallery really liked it despite the “Photoshop effect.”

I always felt a little guilty changing skies, or adding too much dodge and burn. I felt like I violated some kind of sacred oath that photographers had signed to not use any of these tricks on their photos.

When somebody tells me, “You used Photoshop!” I hear, “You are just good with software, but you are not actually a real photographer.”

Then one day I started using an ND filter and doing long exposure which lead to this kind of photo:

Notre Dame Paris longue Pause

The magenta came mostly from the use of the filter. The stretchy clouds and the silky water came from the long exposure. So this time the drama did not come from software but from a dark piece of glass that you screw onto the camera.

I wondered, “Is using an accessory to create an effect more legitimate than using software?

Then I started using an 85mm f/1.4 lens that gave a very shallow depth of field and a superb bokeh to my photos.

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This is a portrait of me taken by a friend. Do you notice how the bokeh in the background is a special effect which was created by a lens? This is not something natural that you can observe with your eyes.

I came to the conclusion then, that no matter what you use to create your image, whether it is in-camera, in-software, or with the use of a filter or a lens, what matters is the emotional impact that the photo creates. Do my photos tell a story? Do people like it? Would they like to have it in their homes or offices?

In the end, for me, these are the questions that matter.

I also realize that sometimes people react to saturation, like some people used to react in the early 80’s when color television came out. I remember at home the brand new color TV seemed fake to me, I was only used to black and white.

Sometimes nature gives you very strong sunsets with amazing colors. When you manage to match them using Lightroom or Photoshop to the feeling you experienced at the time, they might feel fake, but to me they are a representation of what I was seeing.

For example:

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This is a beautiful sunset in Clearwater, Florida. I spent quite some time in Lightroom tweaking this photo until I felt like it was as saturated as my eyes remembered.

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A horse close to Chantilly France, looking straight into the sun, my eyes were almost blind, I corrected the color until I got the same impression.

What confused me even more – is black and white photography. I remember talking to the owners of Yellow Korner and they seemed to have a lot of admiration for black and white as being a noble photographic art.

So I started studying Ansel Adams’ workflow from his book, the camera, the negatives and the prints and realize how much he really controlled and retouched his photos using the zone system with a very complex printing process. I also saw some old black and whites from famous photographers who spent dozens of hours retouching them, much more then what we do today. This was mainly due to tools that were hard to use at the time. Try taking out a negative and skin spot with a needle!

Here are a few photos I took recently in Yosemite as homage to the work of Ansel Adams. I’m a big fan of his work.

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Then one day it hit me: When you do black and white, you are participating in an art form that has been here for decades and has been established as a form of fine art.

Even though I felt satisfied that the emotional impact was all I cared about, and that I would be creative with my photos, whether or not people enjoyed them, I still felt guilty when someone asked me if I used Photoshop or not.

One photographer fascinates me for his image and his success and that is Peter Lik.

He does beautiful photos that are very saturated, beautifully printed and, per what I have read, he is the biggest seller of fine art on the planet in recent years. I know some people love him and some people hate him (they are probably jealous.☺)

I get a lot of inspiration looking at his photos and I like to listen to what people say when they see his photos at his galleries. He has galleries all over the place New York, Vegas and I have spent quite some time there for inspiration and eavesdropping.

The public at his galleries usually don’t say “These are Photoshopped!” but more like “What a beautiful tree, or island or beach.” etc…

I’m sure Peter’s work takes a lot of Photoshop work, but that is not the response that he is getting.

I realized then, that as long as you retouch your photos to what people are used to seeing, you can get away with a lot. But when your skies start having a blue that the public is not used to seeing or too much magenta in my case, they react as if your photos are computer generated. But, if you managed to make fabulous color correction, within what the general public is capable of believing, you have created a whole different impact.

So that’s my game these days, to retouch my photos in such a way that they look dramatic (and hopefully nice), but the color has to remain within the realm of experience of the human race ☺

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This photo has quite a bit of dodge and burn, but I tried to keep it to an “acceptable to the human experience” range.

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I shot this from a helicopter at 8000 ISO.

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A sunrise in Paris just a few days ago.

All of this being said, next month I might go back to some super HDR like this:

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I just completed a full course on Landscape Photography that you can find right here.

I’m giving a super discount, for a limited time, to all of Scott’s readers by using the code: KelbySR at check out.

This is by far the training course I’m the proudest of, 48 videos with lots of live and examples from start to finish.

How do you like to retouch your photos? Leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading!
– Serge

You can see more of Serge’s work at SergeRamelliPhotos.com, learn from him at PhotoSerge.com, and follow him on Instagram, 500pxYouTube, Facebook, Twitter. You can also see Serge live in person at Photoshop World in Las Vegas July 19-21!

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Creative Studio Lighting: Constant, Strobe Mix “Dress on Fire’
Light gives you such control in the studio. You have the control to flatter your subject, set the mood, and even create ‘special effects’. When I first began photography I spent years trying to master traditional lighting including my desire to really understand the direction of light, quality of light, and how to flatter my subject. Eventually, however, I wanted to get a bit  more creative and advanced.

Seeking to take my lighting up a notch, I start to research advanced tutorials or creative lighting and I really didn’t find very much.

This is why I’ve spent the last several months to create my brand new ebook, The Creative Studio Lighting Guide with 30 creative studio setups. Whether you have one light, 4 lights, or unusual modifiers, it is going to help introduce you to entirely new worlds in the studio.

For this article I’d like to share one of the lighting setups you can find in this guide, and how mixing constant light and studio strobes can create stunning results. This setup is in the sample section of the guide that has 5 completely free creative lighting tutorials to get you started on your path to creativity in the studio!

Lighting Gear Used:

  • 2 Profoto D1 Air 500 Watt
  • Light 1 –  Profoto Softlight Reflector (beauty dish) + Grid
  • Light 2 –  Profoto zoom reflector with barn doors + gels (modeling light only)

Other Gear Used:

  • Rosco gel kit
  • Avenger D600 mini boom arm

Distance of Subject to Background:

  • Not Applicable

 

SETUP

Light 1:

  • Distance from subject: 32 inches
  • Distance off center: 9 inches
  • Height above eye level: 12 inches
  • Power (Fstops): F/9

Light 2:

  • Distance from subject: 52 inches
  • Distance off center: 20 inches
  • Height above floor: 24 inches
  • Power (Fstops): F/3.5

Camera Gear & Settings:

  • Camera: Canon 5D III
  • Lens: Canon 24-70mm 2.8 II at 24mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter Speed: 1/4 sec
  • Aperture: F/9
  • WB: Flash

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The goal of this studio lighting setup is to infuse energy and motion into the frame by mixing one constant light, one studio strobe and a long exposure. The end result will help this dress and the scene to come to life, making the dress appear as if on fire!

Let’s take a look step-by-step at considerations for building this two-light setup filled with movement and drama!

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Step 1:
You’ll want to begin by completely removing all ambient light in the shooting space. Be sure no light is coming through the windows and that overhead lights are turned off. This will affect the look of the final photograph.

Step 2:
Next, you’ll start with your main light. Place a strobe with a beauty dish with a grid as the main light illuminating your subject’s face. The beauty dish will create crisp but glowing light on the face. The grid will focus the light primarily around the subject’s face and torso.

As you can see in this image, by adding the grid the entire lower half of her body is completely in shadow. Since grids focus light and create more rapid fall-off of light, this is going to be perfect for adding the next element of the scene.

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Step 3:
Next, you need to add a second light pointed at the lower half of the subject’s body. For this light you will turn OFF the strobe capabilities and only use the modeling light. Here I have used a zoom reflector with barn doors and a red gel for creative effects. This light will be used to illuminate the dress, and I use the barn doors to make sure this light does not hit the subject’s face. This is one of the benefits of placing gels on barn doors: you can control the spill of light more precisely.

Now that the strobe capabilities are turned off and the ambient light in the room is eliminated, be sure the modeling light of this second light is turned up to its fullest power.

If you take a photograph while shooting at a ‘normal’ studio shutter speed (around 1/200 sec) you will see almost no light added to the bottom of the dress. This is because your exposure does not let in enough ambient light to record the color of the dress. In the next step, we will change this.

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Step 4:
In order to achieve see color/detail on the bottom of the dress, you will need to use a long shutter speed (aka ‘dragging the shutter’) to allow the background light to register in your exposure.

By using a longer shutter speed, in this case 1/4sec or 1/8sec, you leave the shutter open long enough to pick up the light from the modeling light.

With the longer exposure in this image you can see the red illumination registering on the bottom of the dress.

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Step 5:
Now is the time to get creative in this shot. Because of the long exposure, you now have the opportunity to add movement to your scene. In these examples I have thrown the dress in the air to create movement in the frame that registers through the long exposure. The moving fabric combined with the red gel results in a fiery appearance for the dress. Also try zooming your lens in or out, moving your camera left and right, or physically moving your body in and out during the long exposure. Each will produce different creative results.

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Tip:
Once you get all your settings right, you may want to turn off the modeling light on the beauty dish. During the long exposure the constant light from the modeling light may register on the subject’s face and create unwanted motion blur.

One thing to keep in mind for this shoot is that the subject’s wardrobe choice will make an impact on the final image. The subject will need to be wearing a clothing/items to pick up the light from the constant light (modeling light). In this case a shimmery dress is perfect for the effect. You’ll want to avoid dark colors or matte fabrics. Sequins, light colored clothing, or anything that shimmers will best showcase this effect.

Takeaways:

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By combining the constant light of a modeling light, a studio strobe, and a long exposure you can create truly striking and creative studio results. By dragging your shutter you are able to move your camera and/or subject to create interesting blurs and shimmers to your images that open up endless creative opportunities with just two light sources.

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If you’d like to see more from my Creative Studio Lighting Guide, definitely check out the link to download 5 FREE setups or check out the full guide of 30 creative studio setups available at http://learn.lindsayadlerphotography.com/creative-studio-lighting-guide.

You can see more of Lindsay’s work at LindsayAdlerPhotography.com, and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also see her live in Las Vegas at Photoshop World from July 18-21!

Raymond Osborne E-4 Military Police 1985 - 1992 Veterans Portrait Project Pleasanton, California

Mentorship is Invaluable
I’ve known photographers who hold their cards very close to their chest for fear of showing their proverbial hand. I’m not sure why they’re fearful. After all, you can teach someone a technique and they will not produce the exact same picture implementing those techniques. You see the technique may be replicated, the art and vision cannot. That’s solely distinct from one individual photographer to another.

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On the other hand, I’ve met photographers who pass it on freely without any expectation of return. In fact, I’ve been the recipient of such mentorship. That’s why I’d say I fall into the latter group. In my mind, there’s no harm in it. Some may argue that I’m grooming competition that could take food from my table. That’s a valid point, but I’m unafraid. I’m secure enough in my abilities to share with others without fear they’ll overtake me. I am who I am. They are who they are. Besides, I’d be very proud if they became uber-successful. That’s just another form of accomplishment – to have impacted someone’s life so greatly would be an honor. There’s also the old adage that healthy competition brings out the best work in all of us!Pearsall_Image-004 Pearsall_Image-005

To that end, I don’t view it as creating competition. Rather, I’m giving back to my profession. That’s why mentoring others is so important to me, and I do it in many ways. I’m listed as a mentor with the National Press Photographers Association, and I’ve written books and blogs, and I do podcasts, webcasts and public speaking. I talk to middle school, high school and college level students and teach professional photography workshops. Any way I can help, I try.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve developed many fun, unique ways to mentor and teach. I’ve had middle and high school photography student internships, college internships, first assistant opportunities for newly graduated photographers and more. There’s something to be said about improving yourself by cultivating others.

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Most recently I’ve used my program, the Veterans Portrait Project, as a learning tool. With the support of Nikon Professional Services, we provided Nikon DSLR cameras to 66 Raritan High School digital photography students so they could learn how to take studio portraits. For two days, we taught the art of portrait photography, how to communicate with strangers, types of lighting techniques, posing and exposure fundamentals. On the third day, the class culminated with a Veterans Portrait Project event where the students stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me and took portraits of local-area veterans. It was amazing to see how much the young students flourished behind the camera, and in front of our eyes. It was a huge success. Check out some of students’ work. I think you’ll be equally impressed.


At this point, you may be asking what’s the purpose of this post. This is my attempt at inspiring you to take someone under your wing, and be a mentor too. It’s also my round-a-bout way of saying we’re all responsible for the future of photography and we should all be contributing to its success. Whether photography is old-hat to you or you’re new to the game, you’ve got something to offer someone. Let’s be open, ready to share and inspire each other. Let’s flourish in this art together. See you at Photoshop World 2016!

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You can see more of Stacy’s work at StacyPearsall.com, and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also see her live at Photoshop World where she’ll be teaching her class Combat From Behind The Camera!

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I always advocate experimenting in Photoshop to see what happens. Sometimes the results are not at all what you might have expected – in either a good way or a bad way. If you don’t like the results you can always undo, delete or start over. But you may love the results – or at least see some potential that encourages you to keep going down that path of experimentation.

One example of experimentation is using a common technique in an “uncommon” way. Here’s a technique that I’ll be teaching in my Photoshop World class called Photoshop Textures, Borders, Edges and More. It involves using Refine Edge, but to make an unusual edge rather than a perfect selection.

First we need to find an image that will create a cool edge effect, so look for an image with lots of detail like stone texture, branches etc. – a photo with a plain blue sky would not work as well.

NOTE: You could use this technique to create a mask on the same photo, but I’m going to use it to create a mask for a different photo.

In this example I’ve chosen a photo and rotated it 90 degrees since I’ll be using it in landscape orientation.

STEP ONE: Use the Marquee selection tool to make a selection that leaves a small area not selected. (This is one of the factors that you can experiment with as you try this method).

edge1

STEP TWO: Click the Refine Edge button, and in the dialog move the radius slider quite high, and experiment with turning on the Smart Radius option. Take advantage of the preview to see the results you’ll get from different settings.
Change the Output to Layer Mask.

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STEP THREE: Drag the layer and mask into the second document. Unlock the Background layer, and then drag the Layer Mask onto the unlocked layer. Finally, delete the copied layer.

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Here’s the final result with a white layer added below to simulate what the edge would look like when printed.

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VARIATION: After the mask has been created, you have one more opportunity to edit the effect: double-click on the mask and in the Properties panel click on Refine Mask. Then you can experiment further with different settings.

In this example, I used a small radius and increased the Contrast to change the look of the edge.

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Remember, once a mask has been created, it’s easy to copy it into another document and resize or tweak as you need.

Of course a key part of this ability to experiment is to work as non-destructively as possible. This means using layers, layer masks, smart filters etc. to give you as much opportunity as possible to try multiple operations, knowing that you’ll be able to go back if you’re not completely happy with the results.

Remember, by nature Photoshop works in a very linear way – you have to choose to work in a non-destructive manner to give yourself the greatest ability possible to experiment.

Dave Cross shares his favorite non-destructive Photoshop techniques – and much more – on his online training site: online.davecrossworkshops.com. He adds new content each week, often in direct response to member questions. You can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

At Photoshop World Dave will be teaching 3 classes: Photoshop Textures, Borders, Edges and More, The Power of Using Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign Together, and Smart Objects, Layer Comps and Libraries — Oh My!

Frank-15-Mei-2011-28

A while ago I posted the following online:
When you look at carpenters, you will not see them laughing at each other because of the brand of hammer they use. They know it’s all about the work they create, the end result.

Still in almost every workshop I teach, I will have attendees who think they can’t do something because of the camera (or even the brand) they use. In essence it’s all about the work you do, it’s just a tool.

Much to my surprise, some carpenters responded and told me that this was not true and that there are indeed (just like with photography) people that talk down to carpenters using a certain kind of hammer. To say my dream was destroyed goes a bit far but… Well I was actually a bit surprised.

Of course there are fields where gear is incredibly important like biking, racing, etc. that are highly depending on the gear. Fine tuning the car a bit more can be the difference between placing pole position and all the way at the back. The driver is also vital, but sometimes I wonder what the combination is; I think it’s mostly machine “helped” by the human driving it.

Now, with photography I won’t tell you that the gear isn’t important at all. I wish that were the case because that would make our passion a lot lot cheaper! But what I do want to tell you is that the human factor is incredibly important.

Our History
When my wife Annewiek and I were still living in our caves and I came home from the hunt with my dinosaur and could relax while Annewiek was preparing our meat on the BBQ, I couldn’t watch TV so I started drawing on the caves walls. I didn’t draw beautiful women in tiger skins (realize the women back then were also carrying weapons). What I drew were literally stories about my heroic adventures and how I discovered fire and later the wheel. Fast forward to our pyramids and we also used drawing/imaging for story telling.

For me photography is not only story telling, but I do like it if most of my images (if not all) have an element of story telling.

What Is Story Telling?
When you talk about story telling, for a lot of people this means letting the model/sitter do something. Add a REAL element of a story and this is 100% true. I would rather call this a concept shoot, meaning you really tell a story.

Nadine Juli 9 2015 0091

For me story telling is more adding some elements in a shot that make the viewer go, “Mmmm I wonder what he/she is thinking?” or, “What is going on?” It can be done with a simple element like a camera, but it can also be done with something like an expression.

Sometimes people ask me why most of my models look away from the camera. I think this is actually part of that story telling element. If a model looks straight into the camera, this can be incredibly powerful (don’t get me wrong). However it can be even more powerful when the model isn’t. Then the immediate question becomes, “Where is she looking, what’s going on over there?” Hence your story telling element.

You don’t have to write a book with your one image (or more), but just try to give your model something to work with. You can give her a camera in her hand, but you can also make her work that camera like she is taking selfies etc.

Nadine Professional Imaging - 41 March 12, 2016

Backgrounds
The story telling can also be with your backgrounds. We all know seamless backgrounds right?

For me they were awesome when I started with my model photography. Then slowly (but surely) they lost a lot of their appeal for the simple reason… There was nothing going on. BUT…. You can use your backgrounds in a totally new way and combine some ideas, and you have a totally different image.

Whenever I teach a workshop where I “have” to use seamless I always ask them if the seamless can be destroyed after the shoot, and luckily they always say yes. I see it as my “trash the dress” shoot. You can actually start very easy.

Karina Feb 13 2016 Phase One workshop NY 0064

Combining different options really creates something cool in my opinion. For example combine this with the camera.

Karina Feb 13 2016 Phase One workshop NY 0099

Or let the model do something more….

Karina Feb 13 2016 Phase One workshop NY 0067

In the end it’s all about your creativity and your mind.

I don’t always work on concept shots because most of the work you see me posting online or find in my portfolio is shot during workshops or during trade shows where I often don’t have the options to do elaborate shoots with big sets. I literally have to work with what I get.

But even then just working with a little bit of styling and proper coaching of your models goes a LONG way.

As you can see in this example, it’s a shot that isn’t hard to create, it’s just in our studio. But I’ve added some smoke to blend everything together and I mixed light sources to create a more surreal look. The whole idea of them looking somewhere and the male model holding a “device” makes it a bit more mysterious (story telling). Your mind will fill in the blanks, and the fun thing is… Everyone will do it differently. That’s also why I hardly ever name my images or add stories to them. I think it’s more powerful when the viewer does that. Because your imagination is much stronger than what I can write down.

Nadine Februari 27 2016 0044

As you see in the example above, although it was just shot during a workshop with the concept of mixing light sources, a BIG part of the image is that you as the photographer determine the outcome. I could have just mixed light sources and explained the effect and technique. But by also pushing myself for a cool shot I also inspire the group to start doing this at home, because they see how “easily” it can be done. Don’t get me wrong… creativity is NOT easy, but it CAN be done.

And sometimes you are just incredibly lucky and everything falls together.

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As you can see in the shot above I was very lucky. I shot this just before Photoshop World in Vegas during a trip to Nelson. We brought a model to film a scene for an instructional video. I asked her to bring a red dress, however by happenstance she also brought these angle wings. Lucky me there was a plane, so my mind immediately created… well fill in your own story there (see how easy it is? :D)

Do You Plan?
This is probably the most asked question… And my answer is… Well, yes and no.

Sometimes we plan a shoot and we will plan it from A-Z (and during the shoot it will be different). But we will have an idea for the clothing, location etc. and sometimes… It just happens. Remember that shot we opened with, Nadine sitting on a pumpkin with the sign pointing down? Believe it or not, NOTHING in that shot was planned. It was shot during a workshop I taught in the UK last year and we happened to stumble on this cute little shop creating props for kids attractions. We asked if we could use it for a shot and they said, “Sure but what do you see in this junk?” We just said, “Trust us.” Nadine combined the clothing and literally built the set herself in mere minutes. The only thing I had to do was to “blend” everything together, pose and lighting wise. You don’t want to know how many people ask us how much preparation that shoot took and I think half of them don’t believe the story I just told you, but it’s 100% true.

At one point you develop a sense for story telling.

During the workshops at Photoshop World you will see the same thing, I ALWAYS go in blank, I have a theme and things I want to teach, but everything else is 100% blank. This is also why my workshops and demos are always different, even if I teach two or three in a row.

During the workshop/demo, I guide my group exactly through my thought process and show them what I see/think/feel about a setup and what would work or wouldn’t. The fun/interesting thing to see is how everything is build up and how often we do change things during the shoot.

Now this is during workshops/free work where it’s all about the learning process. If we work for clients this is often too “risky” and I will actually create a moodboard for the team and client and try to stick to that moodboard. What I do always build in is options to change things. If you promise smoke to a client and the smoke machines don’t work or are not allowed you’re…. well…. you know what I mean :D If you however promise the idea/suggestion of smoke you can always solve this by for example using lensflare, breathing on the lens etc. So never pin yourself down too much.

Conclusion
The human mind is a crazy thing. It’s incredibly flexible and creative if triggered, so learn to play with that. But don’t go in like a blind horse, make 100% sure you also have the knowledge to pull things off. Although I’m a very creative shooter I know all my techniques, I know how to meter, how to make sure my color and exposures are correct, I know how to create the effects I need. I hate to rely on the “pffff we pulled that off but I don’t know how.”

During workshops I always tell people to bring everything when they ask me what to bring. It often happens I’m only shooting with a 24-70 the whole workshop and one light source. But it also often happens I’m using a 12-24 and several lights. With creative people you never know. Look at the set and let your imagination go wild, but most of all… If you know something works, use that as a backup and start with something new, something exciting. You can also go back to safe, but if you only shoot what you know will work, you will always end up with the same images.

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You can see more of Frank’s work at FrankDoorhof.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also see Frank live July 19-21 at Photoshop World in Las Vegas, and July 15 in Santa Cruz for his Mastering The Model Shoot Workshop!

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