Category Archives Guest Blogger

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Photo by Nathan Rocky

Group Shots: A-List Country Artists for People Magazine

The Job
I was recently asked to shoot a group portrait for People Magazine showcasing the performers, presenters and executives of the ACM Honors broadcast at Ryman Auditorium. When I got the list of talent we’d be photographing I got quite excited; several artists I had worked with in the past, and it would be great seeing them again! But overall, just an A-List group of country music talent together in one room would be a thrill for any Nashvillian!

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Bottom Row (L to R): Miranda Lambert, Cam, Chris Young, Dierks Bentley, Cole Swindell, Luke Bryan, Dan + Shay Top Row: Thomas Rhett, The Band Perry, Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town

We would have 2.5hrs to pre-light and 30minutes to shoot. We had 3 phases of the groupings to get through, the Performers, the Performers and Presenters, and finally the Performers, Presenters and the ACM executives. A lofty task right out the gates, but I oddly enjoy shoots that have a time challenge aspect to them, it’s a bit of a rush.

I would be working with set designer Britt Johnson, who I had worked with on prior photo shoots, to start planning on how we would stage so many people. The room we were given to shoot in was a great size for just about anything you want to shoot, outside of a 40 person group shot! We spent a lot of time working out that specific issue over coffee and emails.

The Shoot
Doing a photo shoot alongside a television production means that things can be a bit chaotic. It isn’t normally anyones fault, more that there are multiple companies (venue, magazine, network, production company, etc..) all working their own agendas that at the end of the day end in the same place, but communication can get mixed up and difficult fairly easily.

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That being said, we were about a half hour late getting the grip truck unloaded and multiple loads of gear up the elevator. A great thing to keep in mind when working alongside productions like these is that you need to make bumper time for delays. It’s almost inevitable, and if you don’t consider them a possibility while scheduling your shoots setup, you may easily find yourself running behind.

I had my A-Team on set that day so the delays were no problem. To add to that, the talent was going to be late getting to set (supposed to be 6:15pm, ended up being 6:35pm).

Because we were the last stop before they went in for the show, we were on a VERY strict time frame and from first shot to last, we had talent and shot all 3 groups in 8min. Quiet the rush!

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The Set
As I said before, I was working with rockstar set designer and decorator Britt Johnson on this shoot, and the room we were working with was a bit smaller than we would have preferred. So, how do we give each of these large personalities the proper amount of space when space is one of our main issues? We decided to go the layering route with 2 different heights of risers from our rental house and chairs from the prop house.

We knew the main image People Mag was going to run would be the 1st grouping, 28 people, but that by the end of the shoot we would have about 40 people, so the set had to be a bit versatile. Can’t feel empty with 28, but needs to fit 40.

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The Lighting
I personally love the challenges that come with lighting people and groups. I can inch light stands around all day long till it’s perfect if you let me!

Large groups can be tricky when you’re trying to do a lot of light shaping in-camera. We had four key lights for this shot, and we viewed it as lighting in quarters. The difficult part is that every time you move a single key light, it affects the sections to the left and right to some degree. So we might have the first 2 sections lit well, but when we move the light for the 3rd section you’ll now have to got back to section 2 for tweaks. Quite a bit of small changes in light direction, a lot of back and forth.

For me, the important part was getting a good highlight on the face with a nice shadow to help shape facial features.
We did this by using medium Photek umbrellas as the key lights positioned well above the talent, up to the ceiling. We went with Photek because the ceiling height was an issue and, when horizontal, the umbrellas are fairly shallow. Once we started to position lights we gave most a strong angle and it still worked with the ceiling height.

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The Key lights were on mega booms which we launched from the fill lights. We needed to keep all stands and grip as far back from the set as possible:

1) Because when the talent poured in, the room was about 150 people deep and we needed room
2) With the angle and focal length we were working with, we had about 2 inches on either side of the frame of negative space before we saw grip. It was a very tight set so having those mega booms to keep stands away from the set was absolutely crucial.

In addition to our key lights we had three 74-inch Elinchrom Octas for fill light, positioned to the right and left of camera. I love a good fill light, really helps with large groups to pull out a lot of otherwise missed details.

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The Camera
Possibly my favorite part of this shoot, well at least for the inner detail nerd in me, was using the new Phase One XF 100MP system!

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The beefy files this bad boy puts out are truly amazing and fun to work on. For a shoot where head swapping in post was almost inevitable, being able to work with that type of resolution is a dream for compositing. We shot at 1/800s at f/12, ISO 200. That aperture gave us the ability to focus toward the center row of artists and have the ones in front and behind still fall into focus. Shooting at 1/800s made sure all those wiggling artists were nice and frozen in the frame.

If you aren’t familiar with medium format systems you might be asking how we can flash sync at 1/800th of a sec when your DSLR can only sync at 1/160-1/250. The Phase One cameras are made with leaf shutters that allow them to sync at speeds up to 1/1600th of a second. A lot of medium format cameras can’t shoot at high shutter speeds like 1/8000th the way DSLRs can, but for what I shoot I’d take that sync speed over shutter speed any day!

What makes the final image even more exciting is that it is made up of 2 separate images. A left frame and a right frame. All artists were present at the time of the shoot, but we would pan left and right to fit everyone in. The decision to shoot two frames goes back to dealing with the size of our room. We could have used a 24mm lens, but didn’t feel that it would give us the look we wanted. A 120mm lens would have been great, but I would have needed another 20ft of space to backup and shoot from, just not possible. So we shot at 80mm and doubled the image, which makes for some incredible detail when you stitch together two 100mp images into one.

Below is an example of the resolution power of the XF 100MP! Notice Charles Kelley’s face on the left side of the screen grab from Capture One; that’s at 100%. And at 100% there is every bit of detail you’d want to find and work with!
Bravo Phase One! This is one fantastic system!

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As wild as this shoot was, the controlled chaos of it all is why I love working with big names in high pressure situations. It puts you in a place where you have minutes, or sometimes less, to perform and get the job done or fail. It’s both a rush and a unique time of being extra focused and a grade A problem solver.

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One thing I feel like I relearn every time I have a shoot like this, and something you should always remember, is that when chaos is in the air and you have 100 people asking questions, keep your cool. As the photographer, it’s your set, you’re the captain and everyone is looking to you for direction. As long as in the chaos, or at least perceived chaos that those not in the know of things may see, you remain calm and un-flustered, giving strong direction (and maybe even with a smile), people will calm down, talent will trust you and a successful shoot will follow.

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You can see more of Robby’s work at RobbyKlein.com, and follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

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Photo by Branden Harvey

When There’s More Than Photography
In 2005, I made the cold-turkey switch from graphic designer to photographer. I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t even know what an f-stop was. But I was all-in and had found my identity.

I was off to the races. Within three months, I landed a photography agent in LA. Within four months I was meeting with the biggest TV and movie studios in Hollywood. And within six months I was hanging out on set, photographing the likes of Sting and TV shows like FOX’s Prison Break.

The past 10 years has been a continued blur of album cover shoots, editorial shoots, a few weddings, a couple three month tours (one with Britney Spears), six-figure advertising shoots, three-figure shoots for friends and everything in between. I even became a photo industry leader. I’ve spoken at every major photography conference. I became a KelbyOne instructor. And I’ve built a good following among photographers over the years.

I had found my identity as a “photographer” and was convinced that would forever be my thing.

But something funny happened along the way.

I had other ideas. Ideas for things that didn’t even involve photography. Books, apps, TV shows, education ideas, speaking ideas, invention ideas, the list goes on and on.

What I realized was that if I’m creative as a photographer, then I’m creative period.

And so are you.

We tend to latch on to one identity don’t we? “He’s a photographer.” Or, “She’s a graphic designer.”

But what if we can still be anything we want? I’m almost 40 years old and I’m dreaming bigger and harder than ever.

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Four years ago, I had a dream to build a hotel. What?? Yeah. That was my thought too. It just came out of nowhere and it’s haunted me for the last four years. “But I thought I was just a photographer?”

What I ultimately realized was that photography was a bit self-serving for me. I’m only building my name, my brand and making myself “famous.” Not that there’s anything wrong with becoming famous as a photographer (as far as fame within photography goes). But what if I could build something that was bigger than myself?

I don’t want to be an old man, bragging to my kids that I once photographed the Kardashians. I want to be an old man, telling my kids about the bold risks I took… That I stared fear in the face and overcame it time and time again. I want to tell them about all the times I failed. About all the shoots that sucked. About the ambitious crowd-funding campaign that failed and how we immediately stood back up and tried again. I want them to learn more from my attempts at success more than the success itself, just as I have.

What are you learning as a photographer today?
What have you failed at?
What other dreams are you pursuing?
What have you been too afraid to try?

I love thinking about these things. I simply refer to it as curiosity. I’m always curious. I love walking into the dark and exploring the unknown.

I’ve never been more in the dark than I am right now, pursuing this dream to build a hotel. I mean, I’m in meetings and conference calls right now with people who are using words that I don’t even understand! I’ve never been stretched more than right now, and I’m loving every minute of it.

Are you growing right now? Stretching yourself?

The biggest thing I learned two years ago when I lost my brother is just how short life is.

Good grief it’s short.

Pursue your curiosity today. Those little whispers of ideas you have? Those are your most valuable assets. Listen. Document them. Pursue them. That’s all I’m doing these days.

And while you’re at it, help me navigate the dark today. I can’t do this on my own.

We need your help reaching our “Step 2 Goal” on our Kickstarter campaign for The Purpose Hotel. Here’s the full vision for the hotel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVyjXBV4VhM

Let’s do something bigger than ourselves.

P.S. If you want to check out my full life story, see below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC-rpAkfE2I

Keep up with Jeremy and The Purpose Hotel at ThePurposeHotel.com and JeremyCowart.com, and follow him on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Vimeo, and YouTube.

First, I would like to thank Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk for again supporting Springs of Hope Kenya (SOHK) in giving hope to children who have no one—children that have been abandoned and abused or orphaned.

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This event has become crucial for SOHK and our children. Those that participate and donate help us provide the necessities that every child deserves: food, shelter, and an education. But, most importantly, the Photo Walk gives us the means to move forward in our endeavors to grow and care for the children of Kenya. The Photo Walk also provides children with security, self-esteem, and a place to call home—a place to love and be loved; a place where they don’t have to worry about where they will sleep at night, or if they will eat, or if they will survive this life at all. Through you, they now have a place where dreams don’t have to die, but where they are nurtured; a place where these children won’t be a statistic, but where they will know a future and most of all, hope.

I moved to Kenya in 2008 to start this adventure. Our dream of starting a children’s home in Kenya had finally come to fruition. But, I soon learned that this dream would bring with it many heartaches and difficulties, and it was not going to be easy. These demands took a toll on me, and forced me to rethink my vision of doing this with my husband and family. I eventually realized I was going to be doing this on my own.

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I wasn’t aware of the depths of the issues I would be dealing with — I guess I naively thought we would have all these sweet children who no one wanted, and that we could make it all the better for them. Little did I know that I would be dealing with not only orphans, but also children who had been abandoned and brutalized — physically, emotionally, and sexually. Some issues I had only read about in the newspapers; problems that happen to “other people,” not to people I know and not to children. I didn’t know that these issues would become commonplace for me. I did not think about all the death I would see and experience, or that I would see children that I’d grown to care for and love die before my eyes—something you can never get accustomed to.

I realized these children come with emotional and psychological scars
 that need to be addressed, and they would need healing. I have found out that cute little street boys grow up and can turn into angry young men, and they need counseling and healing. I know now that these children have been hurt deeply — some have been tossed away like rubbish their entire lives. They have had no love or guidance by a parental figure, man or woman. These children have been failed in every way imaginable. These are young people who have been fending for themselves and looking for someone or something to hold on to all of their lives. I did not know that that person would be me.

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I am happy to say that we have worked hard, and through experience SOHK has become a place that with love, care, professional counseling, and encouragement we are turning the tides for these children. We diligently work hard to reunite children with extended family members within healthy home situations, so that these children can have real family experiences to thrive and grow. Some of our children have found forever families through adoption, but in many situations, this is not an option.

Many cannot be reunited or adopted, and that is when we step in and be the family they so desperately need. We have so many success stories, like Dennis and Anthony, who had no future but the streets or death. Maliaka Faith came to us malnourished and we later found out needed two major heart surgeries. Grace and Alex, whose mother died tragically, had nowhere to go. Sometimes I fear to think of where these children would be, or if they would even be alive, if it were not for SOHK and people like you supporting us through the Photo Walk.

Springs of Hope Kenya is not only a home to all of these beautiful children, it is a beacon of hope and opportunity in our community. We employ more than 50 people, which helps the people in our community support themselves and their families, and enables them to educate their children. Our sewing center, Bagamoyo, trains women and men living with HIV, and once they are trained we provide jobs for them. They can then support themselves, go to their clinics, and support their children (see Lillian and Terry’s story).

Our goal is to help keep them healthy and prevent their children from being the future orphans of Kenya. We are working with Professor Tiffany Chenneville Ph.D., from the University of South Florida, to create a program called SEERS (Stigma Reduction Through Education, Empowerment, and Research) in our community, along with youth in schools and colleges. The goal is to educate them on HIV/AIDS to reduce the stigma among the youth in our community.

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We also help many people living in poverty in our community. We provide education for locals who cannot afford to go to school. We work with the Lions Club to facilitate eye clinics for children in our local schools. We provide local education and training for caregivers and teachers dealing with children who come from traumatic backgrounds. These are just a few of the ways you are helping SOHK to make an impact in the world.

Our goals are big and, again, we are so grateful to Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk for helping us attain them. We are determined to be self-sustaining, and we know that we need a viable plan for the future of SOHK and our children. We are currently working on these three projects:

  • Bagamoyo: Again, this program creates jobs and training through making beautiful bags from African materials. We are working on selling them in the U.S. online and locally in Kenya. While we’re also helping the people making the bags, the goal is to use the funds made from selling them to support our children.

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  • Farming: We have started to grow our own crops—agriculture is the number one business in Kenya. Our goal is to cut food costs and sell food to our community, which will help with the cost of our children’s home. We have a vision of milking cows and raising chickens, along with maintaining two greenhouses. We also plan to use this program as an educational opportunity for our children.

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  • Kambi Amani (Camp Peace) Eco-Camp: This project has been in the works for a few years. It is a beautiful camp built to sustain, train, and provide hope for our children. While we have been able to open the camp, we have had to work in stages to complete it. This program creates jobs for our former street children and orphans through training and through tourism and hospitality. It also serves the local community through employment opportunities, and revenue from this project goes to the future education of our children. By building basic camping and luxury camping experiences for tourists and missionaries, this will, in turn, bring awareness to SOHK, and the orphans of Kenya, along with the beautiful natural environment of Kenya. SOHK plans to make the camp available during downtime for locals to rent for weddings, company retreats, and other events. This will enable us to raise funds year-round and not just in high season. Kambi Amani (Peace Camp) is a labor of love for our children.

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Looking to the future, we want to make sure we can continue serving children who have no one in this world. We want to be able to support them and their education without asking for donations in the future. But, we have found the old saying to be true, “It takes money to make money.” To Complete Kambi Amani Eco-Camp we have to raise $100,000 USD. This is a lot!!! I know. But, we really wanted everyone who has diligently donated through the Photo Walk to understand and be fully aware of what we are all about, and to also let you know that you are making a difference!

So, despite all the suffering, the heartache, and the questions of “why?” 
because of you, we get to see children who have no one being loved daily! 
Babies that come to us malnourished and near death become healthy and full-of-life and hope. Boys who once had no hope of education are now looking forward to attending college and having a future. Women and men who lived with the stigma of HIV/AIDS and no self-worth are building their self-esteem and getting a new lease on life.

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We get to witness God’s miracles everyday. You are making a difference! Large or small it all matters in the end!

Love and Peace,

Molly Waits
Springs of Hope Kenya

Editor’s Note:

Check out the #WWPW2016 Springs of Hope Fundraiser Here

The Fundraiser is hosted with IndieGoGo’s Generosity.com, which allows 100% of the donations to go directly to the Springs of Hope. All your donations are secure and protected via IndieGoGo’s Security and Safety.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umfLabd40Po

DONATE TODAY

ITSDAVECLAYTON

For as long as I can remember I have always loved anything in print, whether it be books, comics, magazines, brochures or pretty much any kind of printed ephemera. A life in design was always in the cards (I collected them too!) for me and I am glad it’s a path I chose. I didn’t go to college or university. Everything I learned in the formative years of my working life was self taught. In latter years the internet came along and I subsequently discovered NAPP and KelbyOne as it is today. I love design and specifically, what we used to call, Desk Top Publishing and also typography and fonts.

Photography was never my speciality, it’s an art form I love and that I follow, it’s those great photos which provide the imagery I need to make great printed content. They go hand in hand but it’s graphic design for me all the way. This passion led to me being asked by Scott to teach my first ever class at Photoshop World this past July called “Introduction to InDesign” on the Expo floor. It truly was an honour to represent as an instructor alongside the very people I had learned from over the past 10 or so years.

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Not many people had realised either that, at the age of 50, my presentation was my first ever public speaking ‘gig.’ I decided that if you are going to start somewhere, start big!!

Initially I was going to present a ‘How To…’ class but actually, the thing I found myself talking about the most when it comes to design and InDesign was explaining what InDesign actually was. So in this blog I would like to use the basis of my presentation “Introducing InDesign” to talk about why I love what I do and how I try to encourage others to indulge in InDesign and a little graphic design.

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On a personal note, It’s fair to say that I am a very lucky man. I have achieved some awesome personal goals over the past 7 years, most notably the experiences, opportunities and friendships I have developed. Meeting Glyn Dewis was a huge turning point. Scott introduced us almost 6 years ago and a lot of people think we’ve known each other a lot longer, but that’s just how well Scott got that introduction right! Anyway, cutting a very fulfilled and action packed story short that includes a bit of modeling, designing my favourite logo, and appearing on the cover of magazines, I have also been privileged enough to design the covers for his two books, The Photoshop Workbook (Peachpit) and the upcoming “Photograph Like A Thief” (Rocky Nook), both covers laid out and designed in InDesign (as are both books). The cover design to PLAT I designed in Illustrator but it’s all laid out in InDesign. That’s because this is what InDesign is for. It’s pretty much the best layout tool and I think the best tool in the CC arsenal!

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So, the main question I get when I’m talking about this is “What’s InDesign for?”, not “how do I use it?”

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My answer is pretty much “Everything, everywhere!”

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At least, to me, is what it feels like. Just arriving in Las Vegas for Photoshop World, I had to fill in a TSA entry card, designed in InDesign. The magazines, brochures, attraction flyers, menus, newspapers, books I saw in the airport, the huge advertisements on the walls of the airport – all InDesign (maybe Quark but you get my point). The imagery may have been created in Photoshop or Illustrator but I can bet you at least 90% was laid out in InDesign. That’s because it is THE tool for the job.

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The reason I am so passionate about talking to photographers about this is because there is money to be made for you (if you are a photographer). I had a conversation at the Photography Show in the UK last March with a photographer who asked what I did, assuming I was also a photographer, and I surprised them when I said I was just a graphic designer. And interestingly (a common response when I had many conversations like this) I generally get, “Ah, I need a graphic designer to make some stuff for me.”

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I am a firm believer in the old adage, “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever…”

Of course I would love to take on lots and lots of work from photographers who need my services, but do you know what? I would rather teach or encourage a photographer to understand InDesign, what it can do and what they could make themselves with some basic skills. I love you guys, it’s hard enough trying to be a working photographer without having to spend out on collateral for yourself. The conversation pretty much went like this…

He said he’d done a shoot for a local business that was selling a specific product. They’d spent most of the day there shooting the owner and staff, products, and the shop. They only made about £50 ($75) because they really wanted to get some work and hoped that they’d get referrals for more work. He admitted he has a lot of time spent waiting for the emails or phone calls for more work but they don’t come that often. We both know that’s a dangerous path. So I asked what the photos were for. “Probably some flyers or a brochure and the website.” So I explained that, as a designer, I could and probably would make at least five times what they got paid for doing that work. I can’t do that without those images and yet I’ll get a better pay day sat at my desk.

So we talked about using that ‘down time’ to learn some InDesign basics, there are classes on Kelby One and Terry White has some great content on YouTube. They did exactly that and I got an email a couple of months later telling me that they’d watched my classes and some others, got a book and the next time they got a photography gig for a client they were also able to secure the design work and successfully created some flyers, a reward card, a couple of shop window posters and a simple price list. Nothing super high end, BUT good enough for the client who had a modest budget. A relationship now developed with the customer and future work to follow because the photographer can offer a more complete package. I am talking starting off with small, local businesses though because using an application and understanding design are two very big differences, much like owning a great camera and understanding how to make great images. It takes time, but we all have an eye for design and there’s enough content to be inspired by (just read Glyn Dewis’ recent post here on Scott’s blog!)

I actually made a fake Photoshop World poster to make a point in my class (see below) – we’ve all seen these awful creations made in Word with Clipart and Wordart – in fact this took me longer to do in Word than if I had done a proper version in InDesign!! You know this is awful and you don’t have to be a designer to know that. And the fact you realise this means you know in your mind you can come up with something better. Practice, practice, practice!

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As I mentioned previously, InDesign is my creative hub. Everything else feeds it. No matter what I create, if it’s going to print, it’s going in InDesign. Because of this, my local printer loves me!

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The other strength of InDesign is typography. In my experience I have always had better control of type in InDesign over Photoshop and Illustrator. Understanding a bit of typography helps and Scott Kelby has a great class on this on KelbyOne, Corey Barker also has a great one on Typekit – if you have the Creative Cloud then you’ll know about Typekit but I won’t go into that now. Look at typography and text in magazines and books, look how certain styles work, how they look on the page and how easy content is to read. Look at composition and white space. You know what your eye likes to see so use that as inspiration.

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And where else can you get fonts other than Typekit or what’s on your PC and Mac already installed? Back in the day we all used to download the usual 1001 fonts off the internet and use them in everything. Something a lot of people don’t realise is that you can’t just use any font for any commercial project. Much like taking images from Google to use in your work, fonts are licenced in the same way images are. You can very easily get excellent commercial fonts very cheaply and free. For the past two years I have been buying commercial font bundles from DesignCuts.com– a mix of stylish, decorative and corporate style fonts and a bunch of amazing design resources, mostly only $29 per bundle. Seriously, check them out.

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If you want some free commercial fonts then try FontSquirrel.com or MyFonts.com, both offer some cool fonts, all licensed for commercial use (but always please read the licensing when using for client work). If you are brave enough to make your own then get hold of FontSelf.com – you can make fonts in Illustrator and easily convert to usable fonts for all your programs. A Photoshop version is imminent! There’s no excuse to not be able to use great fonts for great projects and you won’t break the bank doing so!

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Speaking of typography my next slide in my presentation raised a few eyebrows… “When I was growing up I wanted to be a kidnapper…”

Seems like a dangerous and unethical career choice! But all I was interested in was being the guy who made the ransom notes. That took more skill than anything in my book. You can’t send a ransom note using comic sans, you shouldn’t use the same font twice in a word, you had to mix the colours, the cases, the serifs and the non serifs. This was serious stuff to me! I used to cut out letters from my parent’s magazines and newspapers and make my own; I used them to make posters and signs for our bedrooms. I’m generation X – born before the days of computers – the equivalent of shooting film!! Yeah, that old :-)

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Another thing I touched on was being a versatile designer. For every eye catching poster there’s an “admin” type job that also needs doing. What do I mean by this? I went to a fast food restaurant (don’t judge me) after the movies one day with my family and on the tray of food was an A3 sized piece of paper with an advert for an Angry Birds promotion, someone designed that and everyone who ate in that restaurant saw this artwork.

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Awesome for them. However, I turned this sheet over and on the back was a HUGE spreadsheet type layout of all the nutritional facts for all the food.

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This was also laid out in InDesign and equally important. If you can do this kind of unexciting work, you’ll still be working! Do the bread and butter stuff and you’ll be in demand. There’s an abundance of work out there that needs doing, and whilst it’s nice to get the glamorous posters, there’s way more layout based work going. It still pays the same bills!

As I said before, I’ve got two classes on KelbyOne to help you learn InDesign and type projects. Please give them a look and apologies for the accent!

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Photoshop User Magazine also has a two page InDesign tips page that I write every month and instructors like Terry White have some great content on YouTube. There is no excuse!

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If you want to find out more about me, I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter as @itsdaveclayton and I have a new blog at ItsDaveClayton.com where I will be posting more InDesign and graphic design content over the coming months. If I am really lucky, I’ll maybe be back at Photoshop World again real soon teaching more of what I love….yep, InDesign.

So let’s get out there, make some stuff, learn it, love it and share it!

Thank you for sticking me if you made it this far. Have a great Wednesday!

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“I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work. Had I worked fifty or ten or even five years before, I would have failed. So it is with every new thing.” – Sir Henry Ford

From what felt like day one being involved in this industry I remember reading in books, magazines and hearing people saying…

1) You MUST specialise.

And

2) You MUST have a unique and recognisable style.

… but, like most I guess, when I first started out I didn’t have a clue what it was I wanted to specialize in, and I certainly didn’t have a recognisable style; geez when I look back at my earlier work, there’s definitely no consistency as every photo shoot looks like it could have been from a completely different photographer.

Now both made complete sense but how on earth do you get to this point of knowing what you want to specialise in and also having your own unique and recognisable style?

Well with the specialising, if I’m honest I just went out and tried everything. If you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘spinning too many plates’ well, this was me. I tried Weddings, Family Portraits, Baby Photos, Food Photography, Architectural and so it goes on but by doing so I very quickly realised what I didn’t like to do which by default left me with what I did like to do … Portraits; the Style thing though was a completely different ball game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FK4nh5I0jpE

One thing I did when I first started out was to set up a blog; not with the intention of gaining masses of followers or anything like that but rather as something to motivate me and get me out to produce content. You see by committing myself to writing one post a week I was ‘hung by the tongue’ to get out with my camera to create a new picture each and every week that I could then write about. As the blog grew and gained more followers than just my wife, I introduced a Monthly Interview section where each month I would interview another Photographer who’s work I liked and/or was well known in the Industry and ask them a set list of questions; one of which was about style and in particular, how to develop your own.

99% of the responses I got back basically said that you can’t force your own style; it just happens after a period of time and lots and lots of time behind the camera and in front of the computer screen. One Photographer in particular said that he believed your own style is heavily influenced by your life experiences from a child to adulthood, your likes and dislikes and this definitely rang true with me as in my own portfolio you’ll never see pictures of white backgrounds, balloons and people jumping in the air clapping their hands. Not to say there’s anything wrong with that but it’s just not for me and that’s not a conscious decision I made but just a style I was never drawn to.

So if style comes from your life experiences, likes, and dislikes where do you start? Surely you have to have a starting point that you can move on from and this would likely mean copying?

It’s at this moment when you mention copying that there’s a sharp intake of breath across the Photography World…”Copy? You can’t copy! You MUST have your own unique and identifiable style.” Well that’s all well and good and I get the whole unique thing but what I’m talking about here is using copying as a way to develop yourself, not plagiarism.

The best way I can explain this is by going off topic for a moment so let’s choose the Music Industry as a perfect example…

Copying is widely accepted within the music industry. Every day you can listen to the radio and almost every other track you listen to will be either a cover version or have parts of one song mixed in to create a completely different track, and this is just the norm. You mention copying in Photography though and lightning bolts will fall from the sky.

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Design by Ivor Arbiter

Back when they started out, The Beatles would tour all the Working Men’s Clubs, play at the Cavern in Liverpool and such places. But the music they played would be cover versions of artists such as Elvis, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis. In fact it was Paul McCartney who said they only started writing their own music so they could perform their own unique sounding gigs, and you see that’s the point here…they would copy other artists’ work until eventually their own style developed and became a sound instantly recognisable as them.

One of my favourite tracks of all time is “Every Breath You Take” by The Police with its famous guitar riff; you hear just a few seconds of it and instantly you know the track.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMOGaugKpzs

Now, American Rapper, Puff Daddy in one of his own tracks, used the same guitar riff in his song ‘I’ll Be Missing You’ released following the death of his friend and fellow rapper The Notorious B.I.G. So, same guitar riff, completely different song, and this goes on all the time and again is widely accepted. Now granted this may not be the very best example as this lead to a law suit due to no permission being granted to use the guitar riff, but you get my point right?!?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc2K10CrThw

Moving away from the Music Industry but still on the subject of copying, let’s take a quick look at the Movie Industry and in particular, Movie Posters and art work.

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Here’s an example where copying has been used to create a multitude of different movie posters. I was first aware of this pose with the Man and Woman leaning against each other, when the film Pretty Woman was released, but just take a look at all the similar examples here. Now I don’t know which one was used first, nor do I suggest the pose is copyrighted in any particular way, but here is a prime example of how something from one piece of work can be used in another to create something new.

To reinforce the point check out these many examples here where we see a similar concept of ‘Person Running’ being used.

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Occasionally I run training days where I’ll teach attendees an area of Photography and Retouching. The interesting thing here is, let’s say each of the attendees has with them their own computer to work on and I give each of them the same RAW file to work with. I then start working through the retouching step by step for them to follow and from time to time I’ll stop what I’m doing and wander around the attendees to see how they are getting on. Now you know what…without fail, even though I’ve shown them the exact steps to do, every one of the attendees will produce something that looks a little different. And this isn’t because they’ve done something wrong, but because they may have altered some of the settings I suggested to suit their own taste…does that make sense?

“We want you to take from us. We want you, at first to steal from us, because you can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that’s how you will find your voice. And that’s how you begin. And then one day someone will steal from you.”– Francis Ford Coppola (Screenwriter, Film Director & Producer)

A great place for getting ideas and inspiration to ‘copy’ from is the Internet; I’m forever trawling around and coming across pictures that I like the look of and look to see how I can use an element of it such as the lighting style in my own work.

One such example is this picture that I saw by American Photographer, Joey Lawrence (Joey L) that he made for a National Geographic Channel program called ‘Killing Lincoln.’

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Photo by Joey L

I was initially drawn to the pose, which for two people was certainly different with them being back to back in such a way, but also the lighting which I thought worked wonderfully. Straight away I thought the pose and lighting style would work great in a picture I was due to be taking of World Campion Kick Boxer Steven ‘Pocket Rocket’ Cook and his Coach, Michael Graham.

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One of my all time favourite photographers is Annie Leibovitz. I just love everything about her pictures, in particular the portraits and group photographs of celebrities for publications such as Vanity Fair. The lighting is just so incredibly natural as are the poses and expressions she draws out of her subjects.

Scouring the internet one day I came across this picture of Actors, Sir Ian McEllen and Patrick Stewart photographed by Annie, and as is my usual practice I took a screen grab and stored it in my ‘Inspiration and Ideas’ folder on my computer.

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Photo by Annie Leibovitz

This is something I do all the time and did from day 1, only then it meant tearing pages out of magazines and sticking them in a scrap book; now things are so much easier with screen grabs and taking pictures with your mobile phone.

It just so happened that a while later I was photographing a couple of guys from a group called The Bearded Villains; very stylish with flat caps, waist coats and fob watches, and the picture I’d saved earlier came to mind. Similar lighting, pose and the textured background would work a treat on these guys so that’s exactly what we did; again…taking something from one and using it in another to create something new and different.

beards_bts beards

So when I say copying I say that in the loosest term. We’re not talking plagiarism here trying to recreate an exact copy of another piece of work but instead being inspired; yes inspired is probably a better word for it.

“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”– Salvadore Dali

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m an animal lover and that going on a safari is high on my bucket list. I’ll do it one day for sure, but in the mean time one on-going project I have running and am constantly adding to is my Animals Project.

This is a Photography and Retouching project where I go to places like Wildlife Parks and Zoos to photograph animals in captivity. I’m there for as little time as possible because I find them quite depressing, but what I then do with these photographs is use Photoshop to cut them out of their captive scene and place them into a new scene that I’ve created and has the look and feel of their natural habitat. For me, doing this feels like setting them free and was actually the first time I think I ever felt emotionally moved by photography.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to turn all heavy and deep on you but it just was. It was incredible to me how impactive it was to separate an animal from its environment and see how it changed the mood and overall feel.

Shortly after starting on this project I became aware of Photographer, Nick Brandt and his wildlife photographs from Africa. NEVER had photography stopped me in my tracks before such as his work; incredibly powerful, emotive, beautiful imagery.

Lioness with Cub Feeding, 2007
Photos by Nick Brandt

So could I ‘take’ something from Nick Brandt’s work that would add to and enhance my own?

Maybe it would be just to go with Black & White as opposed to colour?

Now, I’m no Nick Brandt, but by trying to copy the look of one of his pictures and see how it would turn out, helped me to produce my own piece because no matter how hard we try to copy, we never will! The result? … pieces of work that I’m actually really quite proud to have hanging on the office wall.

animals_1 animals_2

So copying IS a good thing. It gives you a starting point, a beginning that you can move on from and with time, after copying over and over again your own style will show itself.

“You can’t shortcut the shortcut because Copying IS the shortcut.” – Glyn Dewis

As an artist you’ll force yourself to overcome challenges, develop your skills and so develop your portfolio. As someone in business, by going through the process of planning and preparing your own work, it will help you to hone those skills when working with clients.

In the end my ultimate goal was to have a style and to be hired for the kind of work I wanted to do as opposed to take on whatever came my way. But, in the process of developing that style and those skills as I copied, if someone ever posted online ‘that looks like a Joel Grimes picture or an Annie Leibovitz picture’ do you think I was concerned? Heck no! That’s a compliment and shows you’re on your way to developing your own style.

Copy lighting styles, copy poses, copy book covers, movie posters; just get out there and copy, become inspired and watch your own unique and recognizable style and portfolio grow.

Photography is a whole lot of fun and for those of us who never excelled or were encouraged in art at school, now armed with a camera, some great software and lots of practice, the sky really is the limit.

“Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.”Austin Kleon

So from this day on you have my blessing to get out there and become a Thief.

plat
My upcoming book, to be published early 2017. Pre-order here!

You can see more of Glyn’s work at GlynDewis.com, check out his tutorials on YouTube and classes on KelbyOne, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

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Exploring the City with Hasselblad X1D
Hello everyone, My name is Ali Rajabi, I am Hasselblad Master and Photoshop Expert based in New York. Let me start my blog with the name of God, and a very special thanks to Scott who let me to write again as his guest blogger. Oh, It was 6 years ago that I wrote my first blog here and you know, Time flies !!!

Every person who is close to me, they know that I am a photographer who believes in a combination of tools and ideas. When you know more about the tools, it can help you to expand your projects and will reveal the creativity that is inside you. As you might know, the Hasselblad company introduced the first mirrorless medium format camera X1D (it is not yet fully developed) in the world some weeks ago. So, they asked me to take some shots with it and I was delighted to have this opportunity to work with this brand new camera that only a few people in the world have had a chance to test.

It was a 3-day project and I decided to take some photographs in the streets of New York based on the theme,”Freedom.” Although I had a very short period of time to work with the X1D, I did my best to explore the features of it. Honestly, I don’t want to have a deep dive into technical sides and compare it with other brands because you can find very useful articles about the technical features on the internet. But I am going to share my photos, impressions and experiences as a photographer. Although we know, none of us can run from the technical side, ever.

So lets start with some Q&A, and after that I invite you to see some behind the scenes pictures:

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I really liked the shades of light and working with colors, specially when I edited them in Camera Raw.

1) The company said X1D is a Game Changer, Is it ?
If I want to answer this question, we need to know more about the definition of the word “Game Changer.” To me, a game changer is a person or thing that will help and save you in a moment that nothing else can. They do magic in an appropriate time. So, I think Hasselblad X1D is a game changer between the cameras that produce high quality images. Moreover it is handy, light weight, and with its mirrorless feature it captures the exact moment of your scene. It keeps you in the dark in the situations that you don’t want to have the attention of your subjects, especially in the streets when you are taking picture of people. Imagine that you have a 50 megapixel sensor that is a mirrorless medium format and will produce a photo with 14 stops of dynamic range. It rocks.

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I took this shot at Bryant Park, There were lots of people who didn’t feel that I am taking their pictures. Anyway, I showed them the final Image.

2) Is it a camera for professionals or everyone?
If I want to be honest, even if you have a budget to buy it, it is not a camera for everybody, although I believe Hasselblad expanded their audience from the moment that they announced the X1D and it was some of the most positive feedback that I felt. I think it is a camera for a person who knows and wants to do a specific project. I can imagine this camera in the hands of fine art, landscape, fashion, portrait, street and wedding photographers. What I am saying is you should be a person who is completely aware of your skills and abilities as a photographer or as an artist. It is not the kind of camera that you pick up and it shoots as much as you can. Like tegh tegh tegh tegh….

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I was standing in the middle of 6th Ave, Manhattan with my tripod to capture the pedestrians.

3) Is it worth to pay $9000 to buy this camera?
This is a question that everybody asks. I know there are lots of different aspects to answer this question, but I want to keep it simple and answer it very short even if you have your own reasons to reject mine. When you want to go to the next level of your career, you need to pay for it and invest in it. It can be an investment on education, tools, or moving to a different location for the next chapter of your life. I believe the most important question is, is it the right moment for you to move to the NEXT LEVEL ? This is the question that you need to answer for yourself based on the situation that you are. When you find out, I am pretty sure you will decide what is best for you.

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Everything in this world can be Freedom for everybody, It depends that how do you define it.

4) Can you share some of your experiences about the specs of the X1D?
As a photographer I want to have a camera that fits in my hand perfectly, and the X1D is a well designed camera for this part of my taste. It is very handy and portable. The sensor that is located in the viewfinder is very useful for switching between the LCD panel and viewfinder itself. The camera startup is kind of slow right now but the people at Hasselblad told me, they will upgrade the firmware for this issue. The touch functionality on display is very fast, user friendly and the quality of LCD is perfect compared to previous Hasselblad products except the H6D. You only have one focus point and it works based on the contrast detection. There is no True Focus system on it.

The XCD lenses with integral lens shutter are 30mm, 45mm and 90mm with the speed of 60 minutes to 1/2000, but you will be able to use an adapter for using the H-system lenses. I can not talk about the battery life because it was a prototype camera. I really liked the way of changing white balance and ISO on the viewfinder. One of my main concerns was using the high ISO in low light situations, and when I compare it one on one with my Canon 5D Mark III it surprised me with the result. As you can see in the photo below in their 1:1 compare, the color and the quality on X1D is much better than Canon 5D Mark III. You can see the details in the shadows and the texts on the labels are clear. It should be.

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(X1D Left), (5D Mark III, Right) – ISO: 6400 , Focal Length: 36mm, F:8, 1/100,
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Even at the Low ISO:100, X1D (left) produces more accurate light & color with clear details. Although the focal length, shutter speed and ISO are the same, pay attention to the sparkle on the word “Radio” and street lamp.
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Always keep moving forward, you will never know what will happen.
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There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.

Anyway, these are just the result of my 3 days experiences with the prototype X1D. I am pretty sure Hasselblad will resolve every issue in the final release at the end of August or early September. You can find more details about it on the Hasselblad website. The only thing that I can emphasize is, continuity is the key of every success. You need to work hard to achieve the goals that you want in the world of photography and art. Tools are always necessary and you can not ignore this fact. But what is more important than the tools is the person who is using them. Be creative, be a hard worker and always update your knowledge in every aspect of your life.

 

The photos below are some behind the scenes from when I was shooting on the streets. Special thanks to Maryam Moradi who captured them.

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Best Wishes
-Ali Rajabi

You can see more of Ali’s work at Ali-Rajabi.com, and follow him on Instagram @nightblueman and @rajabiphotography, Twitter, and Facebook.

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