Category Archives Guest Blogger

portrait_francescahughes

A massive hello from the UK and thank you to both Scott & Brad for allowing me to write this week’s guest blog.

When thinking about the topic to write for this blog, I instantly wanted to write about the retouching industry. Having been working as a retoucher for nearly 5 years I’ve noticed that it isn’t talked about enough. Retouching is a very specialist field within the photography industry. Unless you are lucky enough to live in major cities like London or New York, the jobs are very few and far between. That’s why it’s important to understand and be absolutely committed to your decision to be a retoucher.

So what does it take to be a retoucher?

Know Your Software

This may be pretty obvious, but you must know Photoshop. 90% of major studios use Photoshop, and the other 10% use Lightroom. These may be smaller outlets or perhaps working for a freelance photographer. It’s good to know Lightroom, but the majority of the time you will be using Photoshop. Photoshop gives you more control and allows you to do a lot more to your images.

You may think, “Well I use Lightroom so I’ll be fine with that.” For your own photography that might be fine, but working in a studio environment may be a lot different. It also depends on what retouching industry you’re going into. If you want to work for a powerhouse who creates editorial and fashion content for a major brand, Photoshop is essential. If you work for a photographer who shoots weddings or family portraiture, they may only need minor tweaks made, which could be done in Lightroom.

If you’re thinking about going into retouching, it’s good practise to do your research and find what styles of images you enjoy, to determine what software is essential for you. However, I would always say learn Photoshop as much as you can.

Which follows on to my next quick point, learn Photoshop every single day. Be a sponge and take in as many courses, tips and tutorials as you can.  [I would highly recommend KelbyOne for classes, and a cheeky plug to my own tutorials for quick Photoshop tips].

It’s always important to continually develop yourself and learn new things which can help your workflow and make things easier and more efficient for you. Learn from books, videos, magazines and even learn from your favourite Photographers and Retouchers. Be smart.

Be Proactive

Don’t let the work come to you. If you’re just starting out in your retouching journey, the best thing you can do is retouch your own images. Take photographs of everything; portraits, landscapes, architecture, food, products,  sports, pets, anything. You’ll learn very quickly that some genres of photography require a lot more retouch but it will help you gain the experience and knowledge of what each images requires in terms of retouching. Portraits of models will take a lot longer than a shot of a pet for example. This not only will allow you to understand the tools but will help you figure out how long it’s taking you. I elaborate on time management further into this post.

If you don’t own a camera or you feel you don’t have the experience to take your own images, why not ask a fellow Photographer if you can borrow their images to retouch for your own personal use. You could even use forums like Model Mayhem where Photographers upload their own images for creatives to practice on for their own personal portfolio. It’s a great way of getting experience on professional images. Being proactive is an essential trait to have for a Retoucher.

Network and collaborate on creative projects. Find a Photographer to bounce ideas off and produce a project; something fun for the Photographer, something fun for you. They’ll be able to shoot the product or portrait and you can retouch the image. It’s a great way of building a portfolio with a set of images that involve your own ideas. Get yourself out there.

1_francescahughes

Patience is Essential

Using Photoshop can be super frustrating; you’ll run into issues you may not be able to figure out, or come across an image that’s going to need hours of work. So my next tip is have patience. Retouching can be a very long winded process, but, you’ll find that once you finish the image, you’ll feel very proud and happy with the end result. This is something that most retouchers love about retouching. Seeing the process from start to finish and knowing that they’ll have a wonderful piece of work at the end of it.

Patience is key when working with Photoshop. It may take several hours to complete one image, so it’s about getting through it and enjoying the journey. You may run into technical issues along the way, whether it’s something you can’t achieve or don’t know how to do. Retouching will give you problems that you have to solve.

You may ask yourself, “How am I going to achieve this?” Use your problem solving skills to figure out the easiest and most efficient way of resolving the issue. If you’re not sure, ask. There are plenty of people around the world who’ll be able to help you with your problem. Once you know how to solve it, you can use that same technique in the future. Eventually you’ll build up a toolbox of knowledge and be able to solve similar issues in the future.

Another great tip is to walk away. If you’re getting stuck with an image or you’ve spent too long on it, come away from it and return to it the following day. You’ll be surprised how much this can help. You’ll have a fresh look on the image and spot things you may have missed or figure out how to solve an issue. If you’re up against the clock, ask someone for feedback. With a fresh pair of eyes, they’ll be able to see any issues and you’ll be able to fix anything within enough time of your deadline.

2_francescahughes

Be Committed

Dedication is definitely needed when going into the retouching industry. Depending on the kinds of images you’ll be retouching, the industry can get quite monotonous. Especially if you’re working on the same shots day in day out. You have to be committed to the craft and really want it.

Be prepared for images that could potentially consume your time, especially if they take 2-3 hours. Being committed and persistent with the images will be very rewarding, especially when you see your finished pieces on the web or in print. Having the passion for retouching is essential if you want to succeed in the industry. If you get more and more retouching experience under your belt, the commitment will soon show.

3_francescahughes

Manage your Time

When you start in the retouching industry, you’ll soon figure out that managing your time is essential. You’ll find that some clients’ work will require a 10-minute clean up whilst others may require 2 hours retouch. It’s all about good time keeping and constantly watching the clock; especially when deadlines need to be met. Products and ecommerce, for example, can require anything from 2 to 10 mins per shot (depending on the specification and brief of the job). Portraits and high end fashion may require hours of attention, especially if they are being shot on high end cameras or they have been shot for print. Attention to detail is key here but it’s important to always remember your timings. Most studios are very fast paced, but you’ll pick up speed as you get used to their processes and practises.

4_francescahughes

Have fun.

By all means, this isn’t an extensive list of the skills and traits that a retoucher must have, but perhaps some of the most important to succeed in the industry. Don’t feel put off by these either; most traits can be learnt, especially the most important trait – learning Photoshop.

My last point, is to simply have fun. Whether you’re just starting out or are thinking of joining the retouching industry, always enjoy what you do. Whether it’s retouching a product shot for web or retouching a billboard for a major fashion label; do your best and enjoy every second.

5_francescahughes

Get creative, educate yourself, pick up your speed, solve problems, be patient, manage your time, collaborate, have fun.

Thank you for reading!
– Fran Hughes

You can see more of Fran’s work at FrancescaHughes.com and follow her on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.

14425434_713235415482_5224224803385050092_o
Photo by Angelea Presti

This is my story, and I’m grateful and excited to be sharing with you all. It isn’t the prettiest tale… but it’s real. So, my name is John Brown, and I’m a photographer in Nashville, Tennessee.

I was born in Würzburg, Germany, and mostly grew up in Mons, Belgium until I was 8 years old. My father served 25 years in the US Army, so my brother and I were fortunate to have such a unique experience growing up. After my dad retired we moved to Shelbyville, Tennessee. Shelbyville is pretty small, and, at least when I was in high school, there wasn’t much art or music around, which is what I’ve always gravitated towards. I didn’t do very well in high school; I believe my GPA was 2.75 or somewhere close. Looking back it makes sense. There wasn’t any creativity, but when there was I thrived and put forth effort.

jfbp5426

After I graduated high school (barely), I went to a small community college called Motlow State, located within a short drive of the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. I believe I first majored in Mechanical Engineering because I wanted to build things, but I realized math was not one of my strengths. So I changed to Business Administration the next semester, and I realized math was not one of my strengths… again. My third semester I took a math class, and a guitar theory class, for a whopping total of 4 credit hours. I’m sure my parents were just stuck in a never ending eye roll at the point. But thankfully the next semester I finally took an art class… which completely changed my life.

jfbp6005

The art professor was this incredibly talented, quirky, and underpaid genius. I remember him stressing the importance of composition over almost anything else. That really stuck with me. I finished out my 2 year associate degree in art, and transferred to MTSU nearby as an art/music double major, with no idea what I wanted to do afterward. I loved to draw, and play guitar, drums, and sing. But there still wasn’t really a niche standing out to me yet. At the same time, I was a 21 year old college kid that didn’t know anything about anything. Life was really good. I had just moved out on my own for the first time, and I was going to a big college with interesting classes and lots of new people (and girls) to interact with. Life was good. And then… it wasn’t.

Half way through my first semester at MTSU, in fall of 2007, my mom attempted suicide. At the time I thought it was my fault, because I was the youngest son and I had moved out. I wouldn’t learn till later that the truth was something much different. Basically my mom had a migraine for about a year straight, and was actively going to a couple of doctors about it. After some months of not figuring out the cause, they gradually put my mom on a dozen or so prescriptions. And all these drugs literally drove my mom crazy to the point that she tried to take her own life. I thank God every day for having parents that love each other like mine. My dad is the the reason my mom is still around. And just so you know, she’s doing very well now.

img_3157-5

I flunked out of school and ended up moving back home. I got a job at a sweet woman’s gift shop down the street, who I’m certain took pity on me. I felt like a failure. I had no direction, no goals in mind, no idea what to do with my life. So of all things, my escape from this small town was truck driving. I became a full blown truck driver.

253919_506774010792_1387778_n 254323_505533606572_7914188_n

I traveled the country driving an 18-wheeler, hauling HAZMAT (hazardous material), steel, brake calipers, dry foods… basically anything you could imagine. I was only 22. It was super weird… but it was a much needed adventure, time to think, and a confidence boost. I saw a lot of things good and bad. I witnessed terrible accidents, drugs, sex trafficking, violence… it was an eye opening experience.

I drove full time for about 15 months and finally decided it wasn’t for me. I moved to Nashville two days later, and I was hired as a valet at a high end hotel downtown. Because, hey, “If I can drive a semi, I can park your damn Mercedes.” (Literally the cockiest thing I’ve ever said in my life… to the guy that hired me.) A few months after I’d started working there, luck brought me a camera from the lost and found. I had never used one before, but I just thought it was the coolest thing ever to play with. This was six years ago, and the camera was a Nikon D80.

jfbp0828-5

So this is the part where I feel like most people would maybe gloss over things, or just skip parts because it’s not flattering, or that it’s career suicide to be this open… because what I’m about to share isn’t at all something I’m proud of… but I’m just going to be completely honest with you, because I think it’s important, so here we go. (I used way too many commas and I don’t care.)

I worked at this hotel for nearly 3 years, and I worked my a** off. And you know where it got me? Nowhere. I worked 60+ hours a week valeting, working third shift on Saturday nights, and also at one point shooting the photography and managing social media for this place. I was paying rent, but not making enough to save much. I also wasn’t feeling appreciated. At the same time I felt lots of pressure from family to start figuring out my future by either finding a career or going back to school. I needed to be responsible, and have a savings account, health insurance, 401k, a retirement plan, because I want to have a home and a family one day right?

0a7a9994-edit

I’m not quite sure when this started, but I developed an anger problem. I would lash out at people I was close to. Including my own brother, who’s the nicest guy I know. My boss. And at my worst, my own girlfriends. This went on for a few years. The height of which was when during an argument about something I don’t even remember… let’s just say it was something as dumb and trivial as the weather. Yes, during an argument about “the weather,” I shoved my girlfriend of one year, who I loved, on the floor in her own bedroom. I’d never done anything like that before. I instantly realized that this wasn’t because I was “hangry.” We had just had dinner together. This was something real. I stepped towards her to help her off the ground, and she jumped back with this expression of terror. She was literally afraid for her life, because of me. It’s something I will never forget. And as I write this all these years later, it still makes me feel emotional.

The next day I called my pastor and had coffee with him. He chewed me out in the most loving way possible, if that makes any sense at all. And he looked me in the eye and asked me if I’d consider counseling. I instantly remembered back to the time my mom was sick, and I thought it was my fault, and I wasn’t doing well. I’d lost weight, I couldn’t focus on anything, and I wasn’t taking care of myself. At the time I was covered under my parents’ with health insurance, but I didn’t want to bother my dad. I didn’t want to add to his problems. MTSU probably had a free clinic or some sort of resources available as well, but I was too embarrassed to speak about it to anyone on campus. So I got online and tried to find other resources. I remember calling this number and speaking with a very kind woman who had no options available without insurance, or an amount of money I couldn’t pay. She got emotional on the phone with me. I’ll never forget it. So when I heard the word, “counseling,” I just said “yes.” Because I realized I had needed counseling since 2007.

jfbp9041

The next week I went to anger counseling with this awesome guy. One of the first things he said to me was that even though he was 50 something years old, he’d been thinking about taking a break from his current work and going to art school. Just because he wanted to. So needless to say we got along well. Over the next few weeks I learned a lot about myself. I realized how miserable I was, how unhealthy I was, how my anger was stemming from things that had nothing to do with anyone except myself. One big reason being that I’m this people loving, extroverted, creative person, but my life was not that at all. So gradually over the next few months, anger left my life for good.

(By the way if you’ve made it this far… I commend you and thank you for your patience. So now… I’ll just cut to the part that matters most.)

jfbp1651

Photography grew into something more than a hobby. I quit the hotel and had a variety of jobs afterward, from selling cars to serving tables. Along the way I started pursuing photography more seriously, and ended up with a job at a documentary company. One amazing perk of working there was that I was able to shoot with their secondary camera, which was a 5D Mark II. I worked there for 10 months, and over that time I was able to make my first website, build up a portfolio, and start charging for my work. In August of 2014, I was at the office, and I found out that a very dear friend of mine had been murdered. She was 25 years old. And she had just hired me to make gesture drawings at her sister’s wedding.

A week after that a friend from high school died of cancer.

A month or so later, a family friend died of cancer.

By the end of 2015 I’d lost 10 people, friends and family, that I loved and cared about. Including my first cousin who was in her early 30’s, and my grandmother who was 85.

Around the time my cousin passed, I was no longer working at the documentary company. Which meant no more access to a 5D Mark II. Which meant no more camera because I’d given mine away. At my cousin’s funeral of all places, I was having a conversation with a family friend, whose brother was one of the 10 people I’d lost, asking him for business advice. He then offered me an opportunity I never would have imagined… a business loan.

0a7a2628-5

I came to the realization that I could literally die any day. It could be tomorrow, or when I’m 85. I had just witnessed over the last year and a half how fragile life really was. So I accepted. With no client work ahead of me. No business plan. Fully accepting that I may very well have to sleep in my pickup truck with my camera, and I was completely okay with it. After two weeks of getting my gear, I went to Chicago for 22 days. I took the above photo while I was there, and it ended up going viral in the millions of shares and likes. You can find it on Alicia Keys’, Amy Schumer’s, and even Adriana Lima’s Instagram pages. Which is awesome and super random. (Alicia… let’s do lunch.)

It’s been a year and a half… and I’ve had three nights since May 27th, 2015 where I’ve nearly had to sleep in my truck. Even with such little financial stability at times, something always pops up, and I keep moving forward.

I have a personal project in the works. I’m learning and growing as an artist, and a person. And I’ve never been as happy as I am now. I work 80 hours a week so I don’t have to work 40. And honestly it’s the best decision I ever made. This has been quite the adventure, and it’s incredible to be doing something that makes my friends, family, and parents feel proud. It’s the best feeling in the world.

I’m sorry this has been long, and crazy, and not necessarily fun or flattering… but this is my life. If there’s anything I’d love to pass to you, it’s that life is fragile, short, and way too valuable to live miserably. I encourage you all to seek out things bigger than yourselves, to think of others when the opportunity arises, and not to wait for loved ones to pass before you realize what’s truly important. No matter who you are, no matter your religion, political views, identity, race, or nationality, we can grow every day, we can learn every day, and above all we can love every day. I hope you all are well, and I wish you the very best. Cheers.

-John Brown

You can see more of John’s work at JohnBrown.photography, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

20161013-philandbradmakevideosheadshots-0040-2000px
That’s Phil Barnes on the left and Brad Moore on the right. We’re Phil and Brad. We make videos.

A Look Into The Making Of Matt Wertz’s SnowGlobe Shop Videos

Most of you here know me, Brad Moore, and that I moved to Nashville earlier this year. Since coming here, one of my new ventures has taken me into the world of video. I met Phil Barnes, seen above, when we both arrived at a mutual friend’s concert with the idea of making a video for him. Rather than make two videos, I asked Phil if he wanted to work together on one, and he said yes. Through the experience of working together on this one video, we decided to team up and keep making videos together. Thus was born Phil and Brad Make Videos!

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when we were approached by Matt Wertz, asking if we’d be interested in making some videos to help him launch his annual online holiday store, The SnowGlobe Shop. Each year, Matt launches this shop to sell some of his own merchandise, but also some other items that are made locally in Nashville. He wanted Phil and I to help tell the story behind each of the locally made products… Why he’s working with each company, the care that goes into making each product, etc.

The introduction video to The SnowGlobe Shop. This was actually the last video we made as it’s mostly made up of clips from the other six videos we created.

For each shoot, I filmed with a 70-200mm f/2.8L lens on the Canon 1DX, shooting at 60fps for slow-motion footage. Since I was shooting at 60fps, my shutter speed was at 1/125 and my f-stop and ISO varied depending on the shooting location. Phil filmed with a 24-70mm f/2.8L lens on the Canon 5D Mark III, shooting at 24fps for a cinematic feel. His shutter was at 1/50, and his f-stop and ISO also varied from on location to the next. We both shot handheld and only used available light since we had to move quickly and had limited time at each location.

Our first shoot was at ThreadCo, a startup fashion company that focuses on creating high quality closet staples at an affordable price. This was where we found our groove and dynamic for this project. I started off shooting wide, then quickly switched to shooting tight once we got into the space and realized what exactly we needed to focus on. As long as I was shooting tight and Phil was shooting wide and we stayed out of each other’s shots as much as possible, we knew we had wiggle room in the edit.

The next day of shooting was when we filmed the vast majority of the footage we used in the videos. We started the day filming with High Fancy Paper, owned by Matt’s sister Bekah, then visited Consider The Wldflwrs, Humphreys Street Coffee and Soap, and ended the day at Ranger Station Candles.

The last bit of filming was spent getting vanity shots, both video and stills, of each product. Throughout the process, Matt was also recording voiceovers for the videos, either spoken by him or one of the people involved in making each product. Once we had all of these pieces captured and created, it was time to put them together. To the edit!

Phil and I have a pretty great dynamic figured out, which allows us each to play to our strengths. I tend to be the primary shooter, then he drives the edit once we have all the footage. Once he has a pretty decent cut ready, I’ll take a look and give notes and we’ll discuss what fine-tune tweaks we need to make.

So, once we have all of our footage downloaded and backed up, we start making our way through it to find the best shots that are both visually attractive and help tell the story of how each item is created. We bring it all into Adobe Premiere Pro CC and delete the clips that are garbage, and cut and trim down the clips that aren’t.

We put the clips together in the order that made sense for the story of each item and slowed down the 60fps footage to 40% for the slow-motion effect, and also scaled it to fit the frame (the 1DX shoots 60fps at 720p, but it looks fine when scaled to 1080p). We also added in the graphics and credits at the end of each video.

Since we were working with a musician on these videos, we knew we would be using his music as the underlying track. He gave us the instrumental title track from his Snow Globe album, and we trimmed it to fit the length of each video. Once we had the voiceover for each video, we did some minor editing to take out the distracting elements (ums, breathing between sentences, etc), then added those to each project. Even once they were in Premiere, we were able to cut them and space them out to be better timed with the pace of each video.

After we got everything just right, Phil mixed and mastered the audio to make sure levels were good and, honestly… I’m not sure what all he did so I could just make up a bunch of technical stuff to sound smart, but just trust me when I say that he made everything sound great ;-)

All that was left from there was to export each one, send it to Matt, get his notes, and adjust each one accordingly! The final edits for each one are here, and I hope you enjoy them. Matt, Phil, and I all put a LOT of time and effort into making these, and I for one am pretty happy with how they turned out. I honestly can’t wait until our next project, whatever it may be.

You can see more of Phil and Brad’s work at PhilAndBradMakeVideos.com, find more of Phil’s music at PhilBarnesMusic.com, and find more of Brad’s work at BMOOREVISUALS.com.

mikemez
Photo by Conrad Meyer

Capturing the Shot of a Lifetime

On July 26, 2016, after several weeks of slowly progressing miles down from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent on the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, lava entered the Pacific Ocean creating the world’s newest land. This was the first time in nearly three years that lava had returned to the ocean. It was a moment that I had waited oh so patiently for years on, and when it happened, the frantic search for flights began. Photographing an active volcano was the number two item on my bucket list, right under photographing the aurora borealis.

Unfortunately, money was a bit tighter than I had hoped for at the time, and with a few previously planned trips to teach, it looked like my excursion wouldn’t be able to happen for at least a month. It was an extremely hard pill to swallow. Would the lava still be flowing in a month? Would I miss capturing the shot I waited years for? Who knew, but I have always believed that everything happens for a reason and patience pays off.

In early September, I was finally able to catch a flight out to the Big Island in hopes of seeing the lava ocean entry up close and personal. During that painstaking month of waiting, I did an ample amount of research on how to safely approach the ocean entry from both land and sea. Needless to say, both were dangerous, and to be honest, I was never very good at the game “the floor is lava,” when I was a kid. There was definitely a bit of anxiety and fear on my behalf when the time came to actually head out to the lava flow.

With only three days to be able to visit the 61G lava flow, I put together a shot list of what I hoped on capturing. It was quite simple, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing like what I captured on one of my last frames out in the field. I honestly just wanted a nice long exposure of the ocean entry, a close up shot from the boat, and some sort of surface flow with a nice sunset. I wasn’t asking for much in my opinion.

On the first two days, I was able to document the lava entering the ocean from the cliffs near Kalapana, as well as from the ocean thanks to a ride from Ocean Lava Tours and Captain Shane. During those days out though, surface flows were non-existent except for a distant flow just coming down the Pulama Pali, a good couple of miles away from the ocean entry. That area was my only chance of being able to get close on foot to the lava, as any chance to get close to the surface flows going over the cliffs was impossible due to the area being closed off for safety reasons. The hike was going to be long and included crossing some areas that may still be hot from recent flows, vents with volcanic gases, and collapsed lava tubes. Needless to say, it had its risks. After consulting with some local photographers and national park rangers about the trip out there, I felt I had enough of an understanding on how to safely make the trip.

On the evening of the last day of the trip, it was go time. The trek began with a four-mile bike ride down the emergency access road from Kalapana to the ocean entry point. After that, it was another two-and-a-half mile hike across the old lava flows where with every few steps, you risked twisting an ankle or falling and getting cut (which happened several times). Once the bottom of the Pali was reached, almost all hope was lost as the lava that was seen coming down that morning, was nowhere to be found. I used a pair of binoculars to scope out the area in hopes of seeing even the smallest of red glow coming from somewhere accessible.

About fifteen minutes into searching, it happened, a small breakout about 300 yards away grabbed my eye. It wasn’t the river of lava that I was hoping for but dang it, it was lava. I quickly made my way across the terrain and when I turned the corner around an area of uplifted lava rock, I was greeted with the crackling sound and scorching heat of a slow moving surface flow. The lava, at nearly 2300ºF, was so hot that I could only stand within a few feet of it for about five seconds before the hairs on my legs would begin to singe. It was an amazing moment to see something so beautiful and powerful, right there in front of me. I began to shoot away and as daylight faded, the fiery sunset I was hoping for was nowhere to be found, as the sky was cloudless from horizon to horizon. I was left longing for a more interesting shot than just a surface flow with a blank sky.

In the world of a landscape photographer, many of us know that it is a love/hate relationship with clouds. We want clouds for that stunning sunset, but then we want clear skies for our astrophotography images. With the clear skies available for the taking, I decided that it would be nice to try and create an image with some stars above the lava. After analyzing the sky, I noticed that there was a small crescent moon off to the southwest and it was still Milky Way season, so the celestial center should be off to the south somewhere. The question on my mind though was, would the crescent moon be too close to the Milky Way and wash it out, or would it be the perfect amount of light to add a nice element to the sky while being able to retain detail in the Milky Way core?

As twilight faded, I began to set up my composition and quickly realized another issue. The surface flow in front of me was way too bright and I wouldn’t be able to properly expose for both the Milky Way and lava in one frame. As easy as it would be to shoot the image in two parts, one for the Milky Way and one for the lava, I didn’t want a blended image if I could avoid it. I decided to move away from the larger surface flow breakout and towards the area of the lava that was cooling but still had a glow from just beneath the crust. This worked out perfectly.

The lava was bright enough to show through the cracks in a vibrant red color, all the while allowing the night sky to come through beautifully. I rattled off my first frame and then encountered another problem. The glow from the larger surface flow area was too bright and was flaring my frame so badly that the image wouldn’t be useable. I was shooting on a Nikon 14-24mm lens, so there was no lens hood, which meant I had to create one myself. All I did was simply stand a few feet to the left of my lens and positioned myself until my shadow covered the front element of my lens, and boom…human lens hood.

I rattled off my second image and noticed that I needed to move just a tad further back to be completely out of my frame, but besides that, everything was technically exactly where I wanted it to be. I took note of where I should stand, triggered my timer on my camera, and then stepped into position. The shutter opened and I took in the moment. Listening to the lava crackle like Rice Krispies, the moon and Milky Way shining above, and then in the blink of an eye, I saw a meteor streak across the sky. It was too good to be true and I almost ran to my camera to see if I captured it all before the shutter closed. Thankfully, I caught myself before I moved, which would have resulted in the whole image being lost due to that evil lava flare.

When I heard the shutter close, I quickly ran over and waited for the noise reduction to render out. After what seemed to be the longest 25 seconds ever, the LCD lit up with the image and had all the elements there, perfectly tack sharp. An active lava flow glowing up from the surface, the moon shining above, the Milky Way glowing brightly, and a meteor streaking through starry night sky. I couldn’t believe my eyes and I knew I couldn’t top that shot, no matter how long I stayed out that night. So with that said, I packed up my gear and began the long seven-mile trek back.

61gspaceng

After posting the image online, the shot went viral. It was published all around the world, including National Geographic – Russia. With the image getting so much attention, comments and messages began rolling in questioning the reality of the image and claiming that even if it were real, there would be no way possible to capture all those elements and differences in light in one shot. Well, as the guy who melted part of his shoes off while standing as a human lens hood near 2300ºF lava, I can attest…it is 100% real and 100% possible. It simply took an understanding of light and how to work with it. Oh yeah, and a little bit of luck and dedication.

The image you see here was shot at f/2.8, ISO 2500, and 25” shutter. Basically the settings that were needed to properly expose for the night sky. For post processing, minimal adjustments were made. I corrected the white balance, added a bit of clarity and contrast, and did a bit of dodging and burning. I hope this article enlightens you all to how this image came to life with so much planning before the shutter was even clicked.

You can see more of Mike’s work at MikeMezPhotography.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

lm-headshot

The Value Of Your Image Has Nothing To Do With These Three Things
Karen said she needed to call me with some exciting news, but what she told me broke my heart.

She had an exciting opportunity — a request from a national news publication to use her photo — and she planned to give her image away. Karen decided that her photo wasn’t worth any money because of her lack of experience and because she shot it with an entry-level camera.

I know the feeling because I have thought that myself. This photo can’t be worth much because I didn’t really work that hard to get it. I don’t deserve payment. Fill in your own reasons.

If you have ever nursed one of these seeming innocent untruths, I have three messages for you.

1) The value of your image has nothing to do with the length of time you have been a photographer.

Have you ever walked into a gallery and saw a great photo? There’s usually a card under it with relevant information. You will find the photographer’s name, the title of the piece, and the price.

There is nothing about how long you have been a photographer. Why? It’s not relevant to the buyer.

I don’t know of anyone who has proudly described art hanging on her walls by bragging that the photographer has been shooting for 20 years.

street-portrait-calvin

2) The value of your image has nothing to do with your skill level as a photographer.

Magazines and news organization charge their clients advertising based on an established rate. Nothing on that rate sheet identifies the skill level of the photographer. You pay for how many people see, read, or click.

When an editor decides to take up a page of valuable real estate in the magazine with your photo, the editor has already assigned it value. By selecting and placing it in the layout, she has decided that it has value in illustrating the story.

If your image leads more people into the article, that is the value. Nothing in the equation factors your experience level.

3) The value of your image has nothing to do with the camera you use.

When Time Magazine wanted to cover the destruction of Hurricane Sandy in New York City and New Jersey, they outfitted their reporters with iPhones.

Did that hamper them? Not at all. In fact, one photo was good enough to make the cover of the magazine. The value of the images was in educating 3 million readers not that it was shot on an iPhone.

How do you determine the value of your image? There are two ways I might measure its worth — one is intrinsic value and the other is market value.

street-portrait-gamerholic

Intrinsic value – Because you created the image, you can assign your own value – to you.

Take the late Prince as an example. One of Prince’s legacies is, even after his death, you couldn’t play his music without paying for it. You couldn’t rock out to Prince on YouTube or Spotify. You couldn’t satisfy your nostalgia without paying his price.

In an environment that says you have to give away your music to be heard, Prince placed an intrinsic value on his music that wouldn’t allow him to do that.

Hip Hop artist Sir Mix-a-Lot shared some insight on why it might be harder to place intrinsic value on your art.

“You have a generation of fans who have grown up never paying for music, and you have a generation of artists who have never been paid for their work,” he said. “Everybody has been subconsciously taught music has no value.”

You can say the same thing for photography. Pictures have become so plentiful, we are being conditioned to believe that they have no value.

It’s up to us to assert that our images have value, if only because we created them.

Market Value – Just because you think your photos have value doesn’t mean you can extract any sum of money for them.

The market will tell you the monetary value based on a variety of factors.

Exclusivity – Let’s say you are at a wedding and notice the bride and her mother in a tight embrace. You see a single tear trickling down the bride’s face.

You are the only photographer who rushes over and captures that photo. When the bride and mom see that photo, will they demand to know what kind of camera you used before they purchase? Not likely. The value to them is in the moment you captured.

Supply And Demand – If you are at a news event and capture the one-millionth view of an evolving story, most editors will not care. If you have the only photograph of the news story of the day, you can begin negotiating.

Technical Expertise – If you have perfected a technique that looks interesting and few people can duplicate it, you can charge for that.

Marketing – Don’t underestimate your marketing’s impact on the value of your images. Your ability to tell your story in a way that is compelling can also create the perception of value.

If you want to know what your photo is worth, ask what is valuable to the recipient? How is your photo being used? What impact will your image have for the purchaser? Those are your key metrics.

macro-flower

Money isn’t the only way to measure the worth of your image, but it doesn’t mean you have to devalue your photography.

Have you ever have someone ask for your image and offer you exposure in lieu of money?

Sometimes it might be worth it, but remember exposure can be quantified. How many people will see your image? Are the people seeing it the ones who you care about? Will they see your byline? Will you get a link? Is there an equivalent ad rate?

Relationships have a value that can be leveraged appropriately.

My mom asked me to photograph her event. Naturally, I’ll do it for free. The guy I just met at a networking function gets an invoice. My old college buddy? It depends.

Here’s an easy test. Would you lend them something you value? If you aren’t close enough to lend them something you value, why would you give them your images, something else you value?

Generally, friends who value your talent won’t feel entitled to your work.

Are you volunteering for a cause you feel strongly about? Give them the gift of your images and send an invoice showing the value of your donation. They’ll appreciate your gift and understand what it is worth.

There are so many ways to decide how to value your images, but none of them have anything to do with how long you have been a photographer, your skill level, or the type of camera you use. Don’t let anyone else use those reasons to devalue your work.

Lynford Morton is a photography coach and founder of the Shutterbug Life podcast community. He teaches beginner and enthusiast photographers how to create great photos, build an audience, and make an impact with their images. Follow him at ShutterbugLife.com, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

1836589_679579325421813_4483720862706522595_o

Hey there everyone! Big thanks to Scott for sharing the blog with me today, and for Brad for putting up with my constant delays in turning this in.

I’m not sure if you knew or not, but I’ve recently set out on my own. It’s the first time in my 43 years that I’ve been self-employed, and it’s been a wild ride so far. I can only imagine what the future holds. If you want to read more about it, I did a whole post over on my blog.

But today, I wanted to share with you a new series of stories I’ve been writing. It’s called “Photography Lessons for My Mom.” Basically, my mom has taken up photography over the last couple of years, and helping her along the way has been really enlightening for me.

By the way, these lessons aren’t in a specific order. I’m just writing them as they happened while I was helping my mom. Here goes:

Lesson 1 – How To Learn Your Camera

My mom had mentioned she wasn’t comfortable shooting because she didn’t know what she should have her camera set to and was getting confused by all of the settings. So we sat down and I taught her the camera, the same way I’d teach someone Photoshop. Just as I’d never teach someone just starting out in Photoshop about Curves or Calculations, I’d never tell my mom to worry about rear-curtain flash sync, or focus-peaking. Rather, I just spent that time showing her the basic things I thought she’d need to get out there and shoot.

mjk_6231-copy

But here’s the catch, and this was my advice for her. She mentioned that it’d be hard to remember all of those settings, and that every time she goes out and shoots, she forgets them and where they’re at. My advice was this…

“Mom…You bought a professional piece of camera equipment. You purposely did not buy a simple point-and-shoot, and you want something with more creative control than your iPhone. But you can’t expect to master that complicated piece of equipment by going out and shooting once or twice a month.”

As we talked, I let her know there were two ways she could get better at moving around in the menus, and knowing her camera:

  1. Get out and shoot more. There’s no substitute for practice.
  2. However… shooting more really isn’t an option for her because she’s busy. So, I offered another tip. Sit down with your camera every day for 2-3 weeks for a few minutes. Go through the menus and settings that you use a lot. I promise you, that at the end of those two weeks, you’ll feel so comfortable with your camera that you won’t think twice about changing settings the next time you go shoot.

Lesson 2 – Just Shoot!

Next lesson… So, a few weeks later when I asked my mom if she had gone out shooting she said “Well, not lately… I’m going to try to practice these settings more, and maybe in a month or so I should be ready”.

That response really hit home to me because I hear it from a lot of people. It seems a lot of people own really good photography gear, but are almost afraid to use it. They think they’re missing something, and that studying more will help.

sony-horizontal

Obviously I disagree. I don’t care where she focusses, I don’t care what ISO she has the camera set to, I don’t care if she shoots it at f/4 or f/22, or what metering mode she has, or if she’s shooting HDR brackets and all of that crap. All of that stuff is nice-to-know extras, that we all let get in the way of the most important thing – shooting. Get your camera to a good place, and shoot!

Why My Mom’s Situation Really Impacted Me?

Here’s a little back story to why this really impacted me, and I’d never even told my mom this story before that day on the phone. When I was a teenager, I played the guitar. I started when I was about 10-11 or so, and fell in love with it. I took lessons every week for years. I had 2 of the best guitar teachers in the state of NJ at the time. They’d literally spend hours with me each week. I sucked up information as fast as they’d give it out.

Like many photographers I meet, I became obsessed with the “technical” details of music. When most of my friends who picked up the guitar were just jamming away to Van Halen, Motley Crue, and Ozzy Osbourne (I was a kid in the 70s and early 80’s), I was studying music theory. I knew every scale, every chord, up down, left and right. I became an expert at the “technical” part of playing the guitar.

But one thing I never did was to create. I never created anything. I was afraid. I always thought I wasn’t ready to make music, so I just played other people’s music, and read/practiced the technical stuff (scales, chords, etc.). My friends would take their tape recorders and just play rock rhythm chords to them for 5 minutes. And then they’d play it back and just jam over it. Eventually they got really good at “creating.” I was jealous. I always felt that I “knew” more than them about music, and theory and all that techie stuff. But they were better than me.

_dsc2463-21x15

So why didn’t I do the same thing as them? I always thought I didn’t have the right equipment to lay one audio track on top of the other. I always thought I didn’t have the right amp, or effects pedal. I always thought I didn’t know enough about the song, or what scale to play in, or the music theory behind the song to really make anything that was my own.

Friends would ask me (much like other photographers may ask you to go shooting), to bring my guitar over and just jam out and play. I never did. Even though I knew I was good, I never felt good enough to actually go and “create” with them.

As a result, I eventually stopped playing. I lost interest because I got tired of not knowing enough to get good (or at least what I thought “good” was). I never created anything, and eventually I wasn’t interested in just playing other people’s songs so I dropped out of playing the guitar.

Lesson 3 – Stop Having GAS

I haven’t written about this one yet, so I’m debuting it here. My next lesson for my mom is to stop having GAS. I know, it’s not an easy thing for a 43 year-old son to say to his slightly-older-than-him mother. Oh, and in case you’re wondering what GAS is, it’s an acronym for Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Basically, it’s the feeling (and action) of a constant need for more gear. That some how, gear is what’s holding you back.

For a while, my mom was texting me all the time with questions of whether she needs this lens, or this filter, or this something-or-other. Where’d she get it from? Most likely her friends. She belongs to a camera club, where you have all different levels of experience and budgets. I can totally see how it happens, right? I mean, if you’re like me and you get a piece of gear the you love, what do you do? I know I go around telling people, “OMG! I love this new lens!” But I’m not necessarily thinking that they may not shoot what I shoot, or have a need for it. And so the cycle begins.

As an example, my mom came to me and asked me if she should buy a macro lens. First off, I have one and I told her she could use it anytime (for $100 that is) ;-)

macro2_1_-jpg-full

What I explained to her was that before going out and buying something new, borrow it if you can. Or make do with what you have for a little while longer. But don’t buy anything new until it becomes prohibitive not to own it. Until you get to the point where you know your photo was held back by not having that macro lens.

I also explained to her that many of the photos she was looking at were close ups, and could have been taken with her 24-240mm zoom lens with the right settings and composition. But the most important part about it, was to show her that the gear was not holding her back. In just about every situation she asks me about, I can almost guarantee you that she already has the gear she needs.

Thanks Mom!

I mentioned in the beginning that it has really been an eye opening experience for me. It’s changed the way I teach because I realize so many other people have the same questions that my mom does. So… thanks mom!

And thanks to all of you for stopping by to read my post today. If you like this article and want to follow up on the series, head on over to my website. While I post all the time, the best thing to do is just sign up for email updates, and I usually send them out every couple of weeks so you don’t have to keep checking back.

See ya!
– Matt Kloskowski

You can see more of Matt’s work at MattK.com, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Close