Category Archives Guest Blogger

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.

Introducing InDesign

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!

Glyn Dewis-1000

“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.

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.

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?!?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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For those who may not know me, allow me to share a bit about myself. I’m the Executive Director of American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), this country’s leading trade association representing independent photographers working across commercial and editorial genres. I’m also an internationally known visual journalist with extensive print, broadcast, and online journalism experience, including positions as Managing Editor for Multimedia at The Washington Post, and Director of Photography at the National Geographic Society. Along the way, I have created, directed, and edited visual journalism projects that have earned Pulitzer Prizes, as well as EMMY, Peabody, and Edward R. Murrow awards.

Today I want to discuss an important topic that photographers deal with every day… copyright infringements. We at ASMP have been working together with other organizations to come up with a viable solution to help photographers with this issue.

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Why A Small Claims Solution Must Become Law
To effectively address copyright infringements in the digital age, we must start by acknowledging the realities of our economy and legal system, as they exist today. It is not a stretch to say under current copyright law, professional photographers all too often have rights, but no remedies, when it comes to dealing with copyright infringements.

While the digital age has provided us with amazing tools and new opportunities to create, market, produce and distribute imagery to a global marketplace, it has also opened up a Pandora’s box when it comes to the challenge of enforcing copyright holder protections for photographers and other visual creators, as small business owners.

Professional photographers are finding it very difficult to maintain control of their work in a world when images travel across the globe in an instant upon release into the digital marketplace. The ability to earn a living depends on the ability to license work and maintain the integrity of that process through the life of an image. Today, an image may “go viral” after initial publication and licensing, immediately being downloaded and re-posted repeatedly, but traveling instantaneously and globally without accompanying metadata that details appropriate credit and licensing terms. Because this information is disassociated after first publication, those web publishers seeking to license images legitimately may not be able to locate the rights holder or ascertain the appropriate licensing terms. Further, compounding the problem, we live in a world when more than one generation has been raised with the idea that access to Internet content, including images, should be free and completely unfettered. All undermines the idea of licensing as a means to securing a livelihood from originally created images.

Infringements have proliferated and it is now possible for a single popular image to generate hundreds, if not thousands, of infringements on websites all across the Internet. Responding with takedown requests under terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act translates into a giant game of “Whack a Mole” that photographers cannot possibly play successfully. Many of our ASMP members experience the futility of takedown notices as an enforcement vehicle when infringements resurface on the same websites within minutes of a takedown order being carried out.

Currently, the only other recourse is to pursue infringement resolutions in Federal Court but that too is a highly problematic solution. For starters, most attorneys will not bring such a case forward unless the initial value of the infringements is at least $30,000.00 according to a recent ABA study. Secondly, the cost of litigating such cases can be prohibitive for visual creators, in terms of both time and money. A recent estimate put the average cost to pursue an infringement case in Federal Court at about $350,000.00 in legal fees. That is a cost few can bear, particularly when available statutory damage resolutions may not even rise to that level.

Since most visual creators are individual small business owners, they lack the time and resources to face off against deep-pocketed infringers who may hope to exhaust time, money, and resolve by extending cases through complication and delay in Federal Court.

These factors all make the current system untenable for photographers, graphic artists, and other individual visual creators seeking the protections promised under the Constitution to copyright holders for their intellectual property.

To address this issue head-on, American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) has been working for several years with other organizations representing visual creators to get Congress to create a small claims tribunal as alternative to Federal Court to resolve infringements. Earlier this year, Michael Klipper, ASMP’s outside counsel for advocacy, authored a white paper making the case for this solution, working in conjunction with American Photographic Artists (APA), Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA), Graphic Artists Guild (GAG), Nature Photographers of North America (NANPA), National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and Professional Photographers of America (PPA). Together, we have pursued conversations with the U.S. Copyright Office to support their report issued in 2013 that made a persuasive argument for the idea, and we have been talking with House Judiciary Committee Members who have legislative jurisdiction over intellectual property matters.

The years of persistence engagement have now borne fruit with the introduction of H.R. 5757 “Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2016”, a bill introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) to authorize establishment of a small claims board within the U.S. Copyright Office to resolve infringement disputes.

We are also anticipating introduction of another version by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) after the August recess, and we welcome these developments as an important next step in process we hope leads to much needed relief for photographers, videographers, graphic designers, illustrators, other visual artists, and their licensing representatives.

We are certainly grateful for these Members’ interest, and their willingness to push for legislation that would provide fair remedies for visual creators while also ensuring that the copyright system continues to strike a fair balance between the interests of consumers and creators, an idea embodied in U.S. copyright law from the founding of our republic.

From ASMP’s perspective, the key provisions of the H.R. 5757 are these:

  • Creates a Board within the Copyright Office to hear claims that do not exceed $30,000, with adjudicators with experience in copyright law and alternative dispute resolution.
  • Provides a less formal, streamlined process where legal representation is optional, where proceedings are conducted via video and the parties need not appear in person at the Copyright Office.
  • In order to satisfy constitutional norms, allows defendants upon receiving notice, to opt out within a certain time frame and choose federal court instead.
  • Enables the court to not only decide copyright infringement cases, but contractual issues related to the infringement.
  • Empowers the Board to award actual damages, profits, or limited statutory damages.
  • Allows defendants to raise all defenses available in federal court, including fair use.

During the forthcoming legislative process, ASMP will urge Congress to adopt additional provisions that ASMP believes are necessary to the overall success of any small claims process. For example, under H.R. 5757, a photographer or other claimant who is confronted with an uncooperative defendant who refuses to abide by a decision of the Small Claims Board must go the federal court in the District of Columbia to enforce that decision. This is a major problem for small copyright claimants who live outside the District of Columbia and would be forced to appear and/or retain local counsel to seek enforcement of such a decision. We believe it is imperative that any forthcoming bill must provide that such enforcement actions must not be so limited and should be able to be brought in federal courts more convenient to the claimants.

ASMP looks forward to working with Representatives Jeffries, Marino, and Chu as Congress goes about the critical task of ensuring that the creative works of photographers, illustrators, graphic designers and other visual artists are appropriately protected so that they are incentivized to continue producing works that change how people see their world.

If you’d like more information about this topic and would like to find out what you can do to help, please take a minute to read through this Open Letter To 2016 Political Candidates.

To find out more about ASMP, please visit ASMP.org, and you can follow Tom on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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Hey everyone, we’re Oxen Made, a small production company based in Tampa, FL. We wanted to start by saying that it’s a privilege to be asked to be a part of Scott’s blog as we’ve been a follower and admirer of his for probably 10 years or so.

Oxen is a small company that focuses on commercial and branded content with a few corporate films thrown in from time to time. We choose to be small intentionally and put a focus on growing and supporting the local filmmaking community by using the tremendous freelancers available in the area. Everyone has different levels of experience or specialties and we love the challenge of finding fresh talent specific to each job; it helps keep us on our toes. Finding a new crew can sometimes mean we aren’t the most affordable option, but by finding exactly the right crew for each job we always offer the best final product.

We tend to handle projects from creative conception all the way through to the final edit. Although we work the full spectrum, we can also work in anonymity along with other video partners assisting as a standalone production or post-production collaborator. Tampa is a small market and we’ve been fortunate to meet some of the most creative individuals in the industry. Those connections help us get the job done right while allowing us to help others as well; It’s all about collaboration not competition. We’re only about a year old but are very proud of what we’ve put together in that time.

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One of our favorite parts of the job is experimenting with new equipment. Since camera technology is changing so fast we have yet to commit big money to a camera system, mostly because it’ll be obsolete in a couple years. When we started the company we purchased a Sony FS7 as a basic in house 4K camera to have for internal and lower budget projects but find ourselves renting for the majority of our projects. Renting is especially rewarding because it allows us to test cameras without sinking a small fortune into them. Recently we’ve used the Canon C300 MKll, the new Panasonic VariCam LT and we just got back from a week long shoot in Colorado where we tested out the Sony FS5 recording 12-bit RAW to Convergent Design’s Odyssey 7Q+.

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We also make an effort to use new technologies to make the filmmaking process easier for both ourselves and our clients. Two of our favorite things we’re currently using are for the pre and post production processes are StudioBinder and Frame IO. StudioBinder is our go to resource for creating and managing our call sheets. If you’ve has ever made a call sheet and used any kind of cringe worthy excel spreadsheet then stop reading this (right now) and go sign up for StudioBinder (right now), trust us you won’t be disappointed. Our second essential resource is Frame IO; it’s used to collaborate with our clients during the edit process, which cuts out a lot of time. Think of it as a cross between Dropbox and Basecamp, it allows for a streamlined method for the client to provide their feedback. One of the most notable features is that they can make frame accurate comments as well as make annotations, download, share and invite other collaborators. Recently the awesome people at Frame IO made it possible to integrate feedback and comments directly inside of Premiere (our NLE [Non-Linear Editing software] of choice) which is HUGE (they do have something for Final Cut Pro X also). They also just released a standalone iOS version of Frame IO which took home a 2016 Apple Design Award.

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Providing value in addition to the content we create is what we go out of our way to do with all of our clients. Since we know all of the in’s and outs of multiple camera platforms, NLE’s and more, we can offer incredible value by implementing our knowledge to specifically meet the unique needs of every client.

Thanks for reading and be sure to keep an eye on our blog where our next post will be discussing our experience shooting RAW with the FS5. Feel free to reach out with any questions and give us a follow on Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, Twitter, and LinkedIn!

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Photo by Justin Bettman

surviving as a freelancer

I’ve been working surviving as a freelance artist since 2010.

I attended Kutztown University and was enrolled in their Electronic Media program. Going into my final semester at Kutztown, with 12.5 credits remaining to graduate, I had (what I thought was) my ‘golden ticket’ to becoming a true freelancer.

I can remember the night like it was yesterday. I was in upstate New York filming a live concert for a singer-rapper duet on my winter break. I got a phone call from one of the artist’s managers who was also a film director/producer in Texas. He offered me an opportunity to direct/film a behind-the-scenes documentary that was going into production that April, which happened to overlap with finals at school. After returning from New York, I approached my professors about the opportunity and they insisted that I should take a leave of absence from the university to pursue my dreams.

At 21, getting my professors approval to just leave school and being offered $15,000 to shoot a documentary without a degree, gave me this overwhelming sense of entitlement. Not good, considering my work at the time didn’t show that kind of value.

That was the death of my life as a college student.

After filling out the paperwork to take my leave of absence, it became a waiting game. The waiting game then became a game of cold calls and being ghosted by the producer that was offering me this once in a lifetime opportunity.

This was single handedly the best lesson I learned as a freelance artist. Sometimes, the only person you can trust is yourself.

The film never ended up going into production.

I spent the following year refusing to go back to school, but instead trying to make a way for myself, and ‘survive as a freelancer’ without a typical day job. I did a lot of free work that year, slept in my car and on a lot of my friend’s couches. It was not glamorous.

SWADE – Highway 27 // Music Video (contains strong language)

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Behind the scenes of SWADE “Highway 27” video

When you’re first getting started, sometimes you need to do free work just to get your name out there and let people know that you exist. There is a time and place for everything. It would be foolish to expect $15,000 without a single completed project to your name. Do you see where I’m going with this? I played the fool. I played the fool and learned a lot from it. So instead, I made it a point to get as much work under my belt as possible to a point where I could put a demo reel together and give people a reason to pay me to do work for them.

During that time, with the evolution of DSLR cameras, I was able to shoot both videos and photos. So I thought it would be wise to really attack both fields with full force. I would offer to shoot wedding videos, wedding photos, music videos, band promotional photos, concerts, senior portraits, commercials, and just about anything and everything that could be done with a camera. I didn’t consider myself a specialist in one particular field or another, in actuality; I was quite mediocre at all of them.

Exactly one year after I left school, I was approached by an agency that wanted to hire me for a freelance job in Indonesia. That opportunity is what truly got me started as a “freelancer.” The company I was hired to do work for was Mars Chocolate (M&M’s – Snickers – Twix – Skittles), and this gig in particular was a 9-day job; with 6 days of flying, 3 days on the ground filming.

Regardless how qualified or unqualified you think you may be, if people are approaching you to do work for them, you’re qualified.

After a successful trip to Indonesia, I continued to do freelance work for Mars for another year and a half, and I learned so many invaluable lessons during my time with them.

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Stills from upcoming BROTHER CEPHUS “New York” music video

A common belief in freelancing is that there are rainy seasons and dry seasons. I don’t believe in the latter, in fact, as a freelance artist, the second there is a “dry season” – I think you’ve given up on yourself. There is and always will be opportunities out there for you, and they can be paid or unpaid. Unpaid doesn’t mean you’re not getting anything out of it. Those unpaid jobs will likely give you opportunities to show your value, open other doors, and give you the chance to network. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Give value. Give value. Give value. And then ask for business.”

The work with Mars slowed down, but I refused to let that slow me down. If there is one piece of advice that I could give to any aspiring freelancer/freelancer, it would be to have some stability in your life. By stability, I mean financial stability.

It is extremely uncommon for someone that’s just breaking into the freelance market to be able to make a living and survive as a freelancer, myself included. What I’ve seen work best is to have and maintain a stable 9 to 5 job in a field that you love and that you’re passionate about, and pick up freelance jobs outside of that. The goal, if things go well, is that you will be able to transition into being a full-time freelancer. One thing you have to understand is that it won’t happen overnight.

Sacrilege right? Working a full-time desk job in order to do freelance work? Well, that’s exactly what I did, and it’s one of the best career decisions I’ve made.

LIMBS – Behind The Scenes // Photo & Video

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Behind the scenes on set of upcoming LIMBS music video

I moved from Pennsylvania to Michigan and started working full time at the University of Michigan as a videographer, photographer, and editor. That job afforded me the stability I needed to pay for my everyday expenses, like rent, electric, phone bills, and groceries. Consequently, I was able to be selective with the clients I was choosing to work with and it also gave me the headspace to be a little more creative with the projects I was working on.

I was no longer stressed about getting a gig, finding new clients, or even surviving. Without the life or death pressure, it allowed my freelance business to grow more organically. Client’s were finding me and approaching me, instead of me searching for jobs in desperation. You can stop chasing the money, but instead focus on following your heart and the things you WANT to create.

After years of freelancing, I’m still working a 9 to 5, but now in Tampa, Florida. I moved here blindly, not knowing much about the area or the people here. I did everything I could to dive into the community and into the culture here in hopes that I could create a name for myself, and my work.

It may sound silly, but one thing I chose to do was to challenge myself to post at least 1 photo a day to my Instagram account for 365 days starting December 23, 2015. This was one way I was hoping to get connected with the community and start networking. By taking and posting photos each day, I was able to curate a lot of photos from the St. Pete/Tampa area and turn around and sell them at a local market in Tampa. By selling prints and canvases at the market, it allowed me to network and create relationships with a lot of makers and doers in the area.

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Stills from upcoming commercial “UNDER” for an eyewear company

As a freelancer, networking is everything.­­­ So many doors opened from that single action of putting my work out there. Challenge yourself, take some risks, and let people know you exist.

You can see more of Dan’s stills and motion work on his website and YouTube channel, and follow him on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

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