Category Archives Photography

On Friday I did a series of promo shots for Performance Compound, a training facility where a lot of pro athletes train, everyone from NFL players to Major League Baseball, and did about 14 portraits that day assisted by Brad Moore and crew (that’s Third Baseman Sean Buckley above) and I thought I’d share a couple of finals here, along with the behind-the-scenes photos and the post-processed and unprocessed images.

This entire process is the same as what I showed on my Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it tour, with the addition of one extra back light on the subject (as you’ll see in a moment). Here goes:

1. Above: here’s the shot as it came out of the camera. I used a Grid on the beauty dish above his head to get a quick fall-off on the light. My main concern here is the side lighting from the back, and that part looks good. His face is supposed to be darker.

2. Above: Here’s the shot with some simple, quick adjustments in Lightroom’s Basic Panel (if you don’t have Lightroom, it would be exactly the same settings in Photoshop’s Camera Raw). The settings are below.

3. Above: I wasn’t kidding about simple adjustments: Just increased the Whites a bit, plus lots of Clarity and I lowered the Vibrance a bit to desaturate his skin. I also took the Adjustment Brush, increased the Exposure slider a little bit (dragging to the right) and painted over his face to brighten it (It’s supposed to be a lot darker than the sides, but I thought it was a bit too dark). The white balance was set to Auto in my camera and look fine in this case.

4. Above: Here’s a behind-the-scenes shot of the lighting set-up: 17″ beauty dish with a grid: two strip banks in back on the sides with fabric grids. We have a tiny bit of light on the white background to make it a very light gray (if we turned the power up, it would turn solid white). Production photo by Brad Moore.

5. Above: Here’s a composite from the exact shot you see in #4. The two backgrounds (here and at the top) are from an awesome company called “Photo Art Streetscapes” (link). Their stuff costs a bit more, but it’s totally worth it.

As for matching him to his surroundings: I showed the techniques of how to match the overall color and tone of the composited image on my live “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch It” tour, and in my “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it “ book as well (Amazon or Barnes & Noble), and Matt covers all of this in his Compositing Secrets book, too! (Amazon or Barnes & Noble).

Well, there ya have it —- short and sweet. Hope you all have a fantastic Tuesday! :-)

Today I’m mostly just going to just share some shots from the game (thankfully I did a lot, lot better this week than last), but for me the game was awesome for three reasons:

(1) I tweaked my sports photography workflow (thanks to suggestions from people here on the blog and in particular, a bunch of tweaks from sports photographer, and my new hero, Rob Foldy — more on this very soon). I uploaded nearly 60 photos to the wire service, in about 1/2 the time.

(2) I bought the right lens. For day games, that 24-120mm f/4 is definitely what I was looking for as a go-to lens for my 2nd body and I’m really happy with it. Shooting at f/4 is a bit more challenging in a dome (haven’t tried it at night yet), but so far, I think it’s the 2nd body lens for me.

(3) I learned from last week’s mistakes and double-checked everything from the get-go. It helped — one of my shots (above and below) made the sports “Pictures of the Day” (below).

Oh yeah, and the Bucs won (Whoo Hooo!). As I write this though, I’ve got the Bears game on (GO BEARS!). Hated to see that the Falcons lost (especially to the Saints, in our same division and they’re coming on strong), but now it’s up to the Bears to beat Houston (fingers crossed).

OK, here’s some images (with the occasional caption):

Above: I like this one because you can see Bucs QB Josh Freeman in the background as his pass goes into the hands of Dallas Clack, who is two yards from the goal line. He turns, takes to steps and scores!

Above: It’s not what you think: Bucs punter Michael Koenen is actually celebrating — his kick was good, and it sealed the win for the Bucs and when he turned around to head for the bench he kicked an imaginary ball into the stands to celebrate.

That’s it for this week! I’m off to Washington DC soon for my seminar this Thursday (this is the re-scheduled one from the one we had to postpone due to Hurricane Sandy). If you haven’t signed up to spend the day with me learning a ton of cool Photoshop techniques for photographers, it’s not too late. Here’s the link. 

Hope you all have a awesome Monday (I know, that’s an oxymoron). LOL! Cheers. -Scott


I love shooting the Atlanta Falcons. First, I get to shoot with the awesome Falcons Photo Crew — Jimmy Cribbs, Matt Lange, Lynn Bass and Michael Benford are just some of the most fun, most gracious, and most talented guys around and I have so much fun shooting with them. I always wind up learning new stuff from these guys.

Secondly, because I’m shooting for the team, they let me do stuff like set up remote cameras in insane places to get shots like the one you see above, taken during the team introductions before kickoff.

Above: Here’s where I set up the remote camera. You have to get permission from the Pyrotechnics crew to place your gear in this area, but just like everybody I’ve met that has anything to do with the Falcons, the guy was incredibly friendly and helpful. In the third quarter he even found me on the sidelines and said, “Next time you’re up here, get with me early and we’ll find a really cool place to put it!” and I about fell over (and I’m going to take him up on his offer, because I’ve got an idea where I’d like to try next time and it will definitely need approval and help from him).

Above: Here’s a close-up (these two are a little blurry — shot with my iPhone). I tried out a new mounting rig this time and I love it. It’s called an fplate from and compared to other remote mounts it’s a steal at just $55. It’s very well made, and it’s designed to have you mount a bullhead on it (it comes with different size tripod screws). I had a small challenge with my “Really Right Stuff” ballhead because the knob is so large that it hits the bottom of the plate when you try and tighten it, so next time I’m going to use a Gitzo ballhead I have that has a round tightening knob and that should do the trick.

Above: Here’s a screen cap from their Website so you can see the plate a bit better. Lightweight but solid as anything. I might have to pick up their plate that lets you mount 2 remotes on one plate. Mmmmm. Two remotes. :)

Above: Once I set the remote in place, I stand in the spot where I think the players will pause when they come out, and I fire a few shots so the Auto Focus kicks in, and then I walk back to the remote; check the focus on the LCD, and then I switch the focus to Manual mode so it doesn’t change again. I also got photographer Phil Williams (very nice guy) to help me out by acting as my “focus model” for a few frames, too! You can see me holding the Pocket Wizard remote in my hand which triggers the remote camera. Over my shoulder is my other camera, with a 15mm Sigma Fisheye lens, mounted on the end of my monopod so I can shoot up high farther down the field as the players come out. When I fire the Pocket Wizard in my hand, it fires both cameras simultaneously.

By the way: The bright green vest means tells the security guards that you’re with the team so you get extra access, like being on field during the warm-ups and stuff like that. Green means GO!

Setting up a Remote Camera
If you want to see how easy it is to set up a wireless remote camera, watch the video above from our new photography tips weekly show, “Photography Tips & Tricks” (Photo TNT for short), and my remote tutorial starts at around 7:49 seconds into the show.

One problem that burned me at another game was when I think either the camera or the remote went into “Sleep” mode on me, so I was careful to test the camera and fire a burst of shots every couple of minutes to make sure everything. Right before the introduced the players, Lynn was kind enough to lean down and listen to see if he could hear my remote camera burst off a round of shots in High-Speed Continuous mode. He gave me a thumbs up after hearing it go off (and seeing the little red light on the remote) and we were good to go.

I’ve got a number of solid shots from them coming out, but they all look pretty much like the one you see at the top (which is my favorite of the bunch).

Above: I got to take my fisheye/monopod rig out for the coin toss at center field to start the game. This is the ref announcing who won the toss (Cowboys) and you can still see the coin on the field behind him. I shot the actual toss but since I was shooting kind of blind (remember, the camera is out at the end of my monopod) in those shots I cut the head off the refs (which should only be reserved for replacement refs), so I (ahem) won’t be showing off those (cough).

Why all the focus on the remote shots?
For every game I shoot, well after the game I look at my images and do an honest assessment on how I did, what I did right, what I did wrong, and how I can improve next time. The most important word there is “honest.” I’m especially hard on myself when it comes to my photography, but I think it’s helped me to improve. Going in to this game, I felt like I was really getting in the groove so I was excited to be shooting such a dynamic team in such an important game, but as I looked at my images, I confirmed what I had felt during the game. I had an off night. It happens.

It was one of those games where I was in the wrong position at the wrong time; I missed some key plays, my timing and focus was less than stellar, and I had a setting wrong that had a lot of my fisheye shots looking kind of soft, so overall I was disappointed with everything but my remote work above, but I’ll share a few that came out OK below.

I also made a rookie mistake — I didn’t double-check my settings before the game and I shot nearly half of the first quarter with the settings Brad had used the night before at a concert. I figured he changed them back to my sports settings, and he hadn’t. It’s not Brad’s fault — it’s mine. I should have checked. It wasn’t until I saw some blurry shots I realized I was shooting at 1/320 of a second in Auto ISO. I can tell you — if it’s below 1/1000 of a second (even 1/800th), the shots aren’t going to be tack sharp. Totally 100% my fault. That won’t happen again.

Above: This one makes me laugh ’cause it kind of tells the story of how the Cowboy’s played that night.

Camera Settings
My settings are pretty much the same for most games in a dome — high ISO because of the low lighting (I know what you’re thinking, “Low lighting!!!???” I had to shoot at 5,000 ISO on my 2nd body because my 24-120mm lens is an f/4 and at f/4 with the Georgia Dome’s lighting, I have to shoot at least 4,000 if not 5,000 ISO to reach 1/1000 of a second. This is why I love day games. :)

Above: Michael Turner scores the only touchdown of the entire game to set up the Falcon’s big win. 

On my main body, with the 400mm f/2.8, I leave it at f/2.8 all night (I shoot in Aperture Priority mode) and I’m usually between 1,600 and 2,000 ISO in a dome or at night like this. My focus is set to Continuous at 9 points.

Above: A totally spontaneous, non-posed, completely natural shot of my buddy Matt Lange, a totally spontaneous, non-posed kind of guy showing off with his 600mm lens. 

The Falcons are now 8 – 0, but…
…the Falcon’s crew of photographers (led by the amazing Jimmy Cribbs) are always #1!!! It’s a real honor to get to shoot for them and alongside Mike, Matt and Lynn, and I’m thrilled for the year their team is having. OK guys, now go beat the Saints — I’ll be shooting the Bucs/Chargers game on Sunday (in glorious 100 ISO daylight shooting conditions). Whoo Hoo!!!

Trying Something New
On Sunday’s game I’m going to be trying out my new modified sports post-processing workflow with tweaks suggested by  my buddy Rob Foldy after I outlined my bottleneck a few weeks ago (link), and I’m very psyched to give it a try. If I pull it off, I’ll have more details next week. :)

And make sure you check out my other post for today for a killer “This Weekend Only Deal” from Image Wizards!

I’ve had a lot of people asking me in the past few weeks about whether they should get a Nikon D600 or Nikon D800.  In fact just this week a buddy of mine sent me an email asking that very question and I thought I would share with you pretty much what I told him.

Now before I do this I just want let you know that this is strictly my own opinion. I’m not DP Review and this is not a lab report. I’m certainly not speaking for Nikon here (in fact they would probably prefer I wasn’t speaking about this topic at all) but just know that this is a strictly how I see these two cameras after having shot with both of them (I actually own a D800) so at least I can share from using both in different shooting situations.

Is the D800 the D700’s replacement?
I think one of the big things that people thought when it first came out was that the D800 was the successor to the D700 and that makes sense because the number 800 comes after 700, and that’s pretty much the way Nikon has done product intros up to this point (the D200’s replacement was the D300. The D3’s replacement was the D4 and so on). However in my opinion I don’t think the D800 is a replacement for the D700 at allâ”it is completely different camera with a completely different customer in mind and here’s how to determine if you’re a potential D800 customer (again just from my experience and point of view):

The D800 is for you if you would be a medium format customer, but don’t want to pay $25,000 (or more) to enter that rarified air (in other words you need a very, very high resolution image file and that’s the most important thing but you’re not a full-time commercial photographer or a rich surgeon). So, who really needs a very very high resolution image file? Well, first off people who are shooting things where they need to capture a tremendous amount of detail, like commercial photographers shooting products. Though the D800 is also attractive if you are a landscape photographer or you primarily shoot cityscapes where keeping every little last bit of detail is of the utmost importance, then the D800 certainly fits that part of the bill.

But there more to it than just image file size
I don’t think that’s the main determining factor on whether you should get a D800. I think the main determining factor is actually “how large do you need to make your final images.” If you only show your images on the web, you’re pretty much wasting your money because the D800 hundred’s biggest feature is the ability to make very large prints which look very, very sharp. I’m not talking 16″ x 20″ prints â” I’m talking about where 30″ x 40″ prints would be a small size print for you â” I’m talking huge posters, backlit signs in the airport, billboards, and large output of that nature, and if that’s really what you’re doing, the D800 may be perfect for you because it has that 36-megapixel resolution that you really need to make sharp prints at huge sizes.

So, is it a Medium format camera in a DSLR body?
Now, while the D800 has a resolution that is similar to some medium format cameras, I don’t want you to think the D800 is a complete replacement for a medium format digital camera (or a digital back), because while it has a similar resolution, medium format cameras definitely have their own trademark look. There’s something special about the look of a medium format image that it unique to it. So while the D800 has incredible crispness, sharpness and all the stuff that is indicative of a medium format camera, the medium format cameras still have their own trademark look and feel. Some D800s would argue this point and say that their D800 files look better than a medium format. I’m not saying the Medium Format’s look is better. I’m just saying it has its own look (and some folks might like that look better).

So what’s the downside of a D800?
While for some folks the resolution is the best feature, for others it’s the biggest drawback. For example â” I don’t think it makes a really great camera for travel photography.  For example if you shoot a simple five-frame HDR photo and you open that image in Photoshop â”  those five images open on screen at one time is about six hundred megabytes. That’s 6/10 of a gig for one single HDR image (whew!).  Now imagine you’re stitching a pano with 14 frames. Something like that just really clogs up your pipeline in huge way (you’ll be stitching that pano for an hour). I know from first-hand experience because I took a D800 to Cuba and to Paris and while the images were sharp and crisp, the file sizes were just tremendous, and storage space really becomes an issue. You eat up memory cards like nobody’s business and you eat up your hard drive space like it going out of style, and your entire workflow is much slower because working with such huge files. Again, if you need files this bigâ”no problemâ”perfectly understandable and you’re cool with all the extra headaches those file sizes bring, it’s great, but for most of usâ”working with those super high-resolution files will really be more trouble than they’re worth.

Contrast this with the old D700
I wouldn’t use the D800 for sports â” the resolution is just too high to make it practical, and the frames per second rate is just too slow, and I’m sure Nikon would be the first ones to tell you it was never designed as a sports camera. In contrast, the D700 actually was pretty decent for sports, especially if you added the battery grip which pumped it up to eight frames per second, and I used it as my 2nd body on a number of occasions and it rocked.  Both cameras are great for portraits (though you might have to do some extra retouching with the D800 files because they pick up everything, and I mean everything), but again â” if most of your images will be seen mostly on the web, I would have a hard time recommending that you by a D800.

The Nikon D600 is an entirely different story
I do see this camera as the upgraded replacement for the D700 (even though the model number is lower). Its file size is still pretty high (24 megapixels) but lower than the D800s 36-megapixels; it’s easier to work with its smaller files, it’s faster all around, and it’s got great video features.  That’s really how I see the D600 â” a better D700. Take that great D700, then add great video features, and a few extra tweaks and updates and you’ve got the D600.

You can use it for travel and it works wonderfully well. You can shoot landscapes and it’s great for that too (and the images are still sharp and crisp), and you can shoot sports with it (I actually shot an NFL game with the D600 as my second body it while was a little slow, it took beautiful shots overall and I’d use it again).  I think this is a camera that will work for almost anything that you wanted to shoot and while it’s just an evolutionary step (where many would argue that the D800 was a revolutionary step because of its high resolution and sharpness at that price point) it’s a very good step in its evolution and an improvement over the D700, which is all we ever wanted, right â” a better version of what we had. So, if you wanted to replace your D700 with something newer and better along the same lines (but with HD video), I think the D600 is that camera (and it’s about $1,000 cheaper than the D800).

So, which one takes better pictures?
Well, here’s the thing and its the big tiebreaker: where will you images be seen? If your images are seen on the web, I don’t think anyone will really be able to tell you, at web resolution, which shot was taken with the D800 or the D600 â” even large sized images on the Web will look pretty much about the same (if not identical). However the one place where these two images will really hit that fork in the road is when you print really large images. At 13″ x 19″,  I think they would probably look very close to the naked eye if not identical.  At 30 x 40 , you’ll probably see a visible difference. As you get larger in size, the D800 images will really pull away from the D600s (or the D4’s for that matter), but you’ll have to go fairly big to start to see a real difference. So, honestly, unless you’re printing really large files, I’d have a hard time telling you to choose anything other than the D600 â” it’s just that right camera at the right price with the right features for most of us.

Now, I know that since I’ve written this I will immediately hear from some photographers who’ll say “Scott, I have the D800 and it’s a wonderful travel photography camera” and then from someone else who uses it for sports and it’s perfect for them, and that’s fineâ” if you’re happy with your camera choice that’s great. Just remember this: loads of folks bought the D800 when it first came out, and I talked to a number of folks who bought it thinking it was the upgraded D700. That being said, it’s very, very, very rare to read anyone ever admit “I bought the wrong camera.” In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that sentence written online ever. As photographers, our job is to defend our purchase, and never admit we might have jumped the gun a bit, and I’m fully aware of that (and I hope you are, too). So, if you bought the D800 just to shoot Facebook profile photos for your clients, I fully expect you to tell my why you made the right choice. It’s OK. If you’re happy, that’s really all that matters.

They both have their Strengths and Differences
I shot with both cameras and they both have their strengths and weaknesses.  I think the reason why there are two separate cameras â” the  D600 and D800 is because they were created for two very different customers and that’s a good thing because instead of just having just a D700 and D3 (like we used to have â” just those two choices), now we’ve got this other camera in between (the D800) that I think actually replaces the very expensive D3x but at a fraction of the price, and I think that’s a great thing. The D3x was aimed at commercial photographers, and that’s who I think the D800 probably works best for, though those high res files may also appeal to some of us landscape and portrait photographers, too.

The bottom-line
There is nothing I hate more than reading a shootout review or article in a magazine comparing two or more cameras and at the end, the writer really doesn’t choose one or the other, they just kind of leave you with “Well, it depends on what you’re needs are, they’re both great cameras.” Well, duh. Every purchase we make depends on what our needs are. Well, I don’t want to leave you with that either, so I’m going to tell you what I told my friend. Get the D600.
I hope that helps you somewhat if you’re in that same “on the fence” situation between these two great cameras, and I hope it helps you make your decision that much easier. Cheers.

(Above: iPhone shot of Nikon’s huge booth right at the front door of the expo hall).

This was a quick trip: up one day and right back home the next, but it was totally worth it (plus I got to do a session on “Photoshop for Travel Photographers” at B&H Photo the night before, and it went really great — thanks to everyone who came out, and to the awesome team at B&H Photo for the honor of letting me teach there. I had a wonderful crowd and met some really nice folks.

(Above: This was taken right before my class at B&H Photo started — photo by my buddy Dave with his iPhone).

I didn’t have any sessions at the show itself, (just a few meetings) so I got to do my two favorite things: (1) Check out all the latest gear from the vendors, and (2) watch some demos and presentations at some of the booths (that totally rocked — more on that in a minute).

I was loving the Nikon Theater
Right when you walked in the door, Nikon had a theater where they featured presentations from a number of Nikon shooters and it was fantastic (by the way: Canon had a presentation stage as well, but their stage was more set up for training with live shoots, whereas Nikon’s was more for inspirational talks and teaching. Both were packed. Both were awesome).

I spent a lot of the day at the Nikon theater, first watching the adventure photography of Corey Rich. He chronicled his 14-day project in Mexico creating promo stills and a DSLR movie for Nikon’s launch of the D4. His presentation was really great in that his point was, “Look at this amazing video, just a few regular guys made, you can do this, too!” Of course, I wouldn’t repel down a waterfall to shoot a pro-kayaker going over waterfalls” but outside of that, he showed that it was just some guys with the D4 (and a lot of talent) can make something special (and his video and still both were awesome). Very good presentation all around (and his movie is below — you’ll dig it).

Later in the day I sat in on a Beauty/Fashion presentation from award-winning photographer Dixie Dixon and she was just terrific. She’s got really beautiful images, very cool behind-the-scenes videos (really well produced), and a very genuine, fun presentation style. She’s doing big work for big agencies and corporate clients, and creating some really wonderful images, and she’s just 22 years old. I picked up a few great ideas and tricks from her presentation, too! The crowd was totally with her the whole time (I already asked her to do a guest blog here, so you’ll hear more from her here soon). In the meantime, here’s one of her behind-the-scenes videos:

After that, two Nikon DSLR movie makers took the stage and brought up a slide showing that they created their movie using a crew of 120 people, and they had to close off like 8-blocks of a big city (and just how hard that was to do), and they listed all their expensive gear, and on and on. They basically took the opposite approach of Corey. Instead of saying, “Hey, you guys can do this!” they basically said “You’ll never be able to do this, so just sit back and soak in our awesomeness.” I’m sure their movie was amazing, but I left right then (Since I’ll never be able to do any of what they’re about to show, anyway).

(Above: Another iPhone shot — that’s Robert Beck in the Nikon Theater).

Lastly, I made it a point to come back and catch Sports Illustrated’s staff photographer Robert Beck and his presentation and it was terrific. He has some absolutely iconic sports images (it’s wild to see the image full screen first, and then in the next slide you see it on the cover of Sports Illustrated) and his stories and insights were awesome. Lots of great learning moments there, too (he said a few things that really resonated with me). Really glad I got to see him present.

All-in-all, I learned a ton in just those presentations and it was totally worth the trip up just for those.

The Gear
Ahhhh, the gear. I wish I had had more time to visit booths and check out stuff, but I spent too time learning (LOL!!!). Here’s some cool stuff I did see:

(Above: It’s really exciting to come around a corner at the trade show and see one of your shots really big on the wall. This is the Elinchrom booth — iPhone photo by Matt Kloskowski). 

Manfrotto (Elinchrom and Lastolite)
I went by Elinchrom’s booth and they had the new updated strobes that are replacing my beloved BXRI 500’s (the new ones are just BXR 500) and they have a few nice new features and will be shipping next month if I remember right. Lastolite had some very clever new flash modifiers (snoots, brackets and stuff), and a very interesting gobo rig with drop-in patterns for creating interesting backgrounds. They also had some cool resizable softboxes (they convert from strip banks to rectangles, and octas and stuff). I’m continually impressed at Lastolite’s innovation in modifiers — they are really kind of leading the way these days.

Broncolor Lighting
Broncolor and Hasselblad had an off-site exhibit (about a 10-minute walk from Photo Plus) called “Shoot NYC” and it was in this hip location where they set up all these different lighting set-ups (all based around a Ducati motorcycle, so they had the cycle lit, a cool helmet  for a product shoot, and a racing boot at another shoot, and it was just a really cool theme and layout). I got to see the new Broncolor packs they intro’d at the show and I was really impressed.

F.J. Westcott
They had introduced a 1000-watt LED-powered continuous light (it was small and round, more like a regular studio light) that looked really interesting. They’re going to send me one to review and I’ll let you guys know how it works but it was really incredibly bright and I’m looking forward to giving it a whirl.

Sony DSLRs
They had a big presence again (though it didn’t seem nearly as big as last year’s), but they had a couple of presentation stages and I watched part of a session on shooting babies and they had an adorable, very well behaved little cutie there and the woman doing the shoot for Sony (Sorry, I wish I had her name), was very good and made some wonderful images live in the front of the crowd. Almost made me want to shoot babies. Almost. ;-)

(Above: You can see Canon’s Live Learning Stage on the left, with Wedding Photographer Denis Reggie giving a presentation. Great presenter and of course, fantastic wedding photographer). 

Canon’s booth was jammed, and they had lots of levels of depth, and a very cool “Car crash” scene you could film with their DSLRs. I only did a brief walk-through, but they had the type of booth you felt like you could really spend some time in just exploring. I can’t imagine what it cost.

(Above: A quick snap of Nikon’s Mad Science Lab set and actor. This guy would go non-stop for hours. Don’t know how it did it. Maybe he is “mad”). 

Nikon was jammed as well, and they had a Nikon 1 stage with Salsa dancers, and a Fosse-like tap dancer (among others) and over at the DSLR side they an elaborate “Mad scientist’s” lab with an actor playing the part to a “T.” RC did an HDR of it, but here’s a quick snap from my iPhone in the meantime. They also had a tall platform where you could look through some really long glass, of course they had that awesome theater up front when you walked in the door.

Other booths
Epson’s booth was big and hopin’; Peachpit Press had a booth and they were so busy I could only get one of them to even look my way. We had a NAPP booth there and I heard from our crew it was doing really well, so that was cool (stop by and see my brother Jeff — coolest brother ever — plus they have some show specials). Olympus had a fairly good size booth, but it was kind of buried behind the massive Nikon booth so unless you were standing in just the right place, you couldn’t see them. I saw the Sigma booth and they had a good crowd and a shooting theater too. Tried to get to see it, but got swept into an impromptu meeting and never got back over there.

Maddening Inspiration
One thing that always strikes me about Photo Plus Expo — there are a LOT of fabulous images everywhere you look (they’re literally lining the walls of the Epson booth, and at MPIX Pro, and at every paper company, and on every flat-panel display in about every booth). It’s really inspiring to see so much great work, but at the same time, so much of it is so good that it makes me want to take all my gear and toss it in a dumpster. Weirder yet, simultaneous to feeling all that, I want to just run out and shoot (which is probably why my gear went with me on the plane instead of in a dumpster at 28th and 8th, which I briefly comtimplated). I would have like to spend another day or two there wrapped up in this “inspirational self-loathing” (hey, I coined a new phrase — I have a reason to live!) just to catch some more sessions and looking more to learn more.

Wrap Up
Overall show seemed crowded everywhere I went, and everybody seemed to be having a great time (I sure did). I wish I’d had a chance to see more of the booths, but before I knew it, it was time to head for the airport (Matt and RC are still there tomorrow though, so keep an eye out for them, and trip them if you get a chance. They’re young. They can take it). By the way: Peter Hurley took an incredible headshot of Matt while he was up there. Matt actually didn’t look horribly grotesque, which I think says volumes about Peter’s work. ;-)   By the way; we have a class coming out on Kelby Training Online from Peter that will totally rock!!!

I’m off Washington DC on Monday
I’m already back home now (I told you it was a quick trip), and I’m off to Washington DC on Sunday (no football game — the Redskins on are the road)  for my “Photoshop for Photographers” seminar on Monday (hopefully, I see some of you there: here’s the link if you want to come join me for the day), and I hope you all have an awesome weekend!!!

I’ve had so many people ask me for so long to share my Sports Photography workflow, but honestly I’ve been so incredibly unhappy with my workflow, that I wouldn’t curse it on anyone. Of all the photographers in the photo work room, I was usually literally the last man to be able to leave at the end of the game (after uploading images to the wire service).

Luckily, it’s now finally (finally!) starting to come together to the point that I thought I’d at least share it, but I want to give you this important disclaimer up front: this workflow is a work in progress. It’s not “fully there” yet, but I was the third photographer to go home this week, and I’ve literally cut my processing/tagging time in half, but again — it’s far from perfect. My sincere hope is:

(a) This will help someone who was struggling along, like me,…

(b) Someone who really has their sports workflow down to a science will show me how to improve what I’m doing, which is very likely since I know mine isn’t fully baked yet.

So, with that said, here what I’m doing now:

Working on Assignment:
I’m shooting for a sports wire service, and the faster you get your images uploaded to them, the better (so they can get them out to potential news outlets for distribution). At hafltime, (actually, usually a minute or two of gametime beforehand) I  head into the photo work room, download two memory cards; quickly pick six to eight good sharp images, add all the required metadata (there’s plenty), tweak the photos a bit (sharpen, contrast) and upload them live from the stadium and get back out before the third quarter starts. That has never actually happened. Halftime is only 15 minutes, and I’ve never finished the process in just 15 minutes, so I usually miss some of the start of the third quarter. Sometimes as much as half of the third quarter. Hey, it happens.

Speed is the main issue
I learned the hard way — you need very fast memory cards (I use Lexar 1000X cards), and a fast Lexar USB 3 card reader to get my images on to my computer as quickly as possible. I actually use two card readers so both cards can be downloading at once.

I don’t use Lightroom. Or the Bridge. Ever.
I’ve tried both. It’s a death-trap for pro sports photography. Every pro sports shooter at an NFL game (or otherwise) uses a program called Photo Mechanic (by a company called Camera Bits). If there are 40 photographers in the photo work room, you see 40 copies of Photo Mechanic open on their laptops.

It was created for photo journalists and it has some features that you absolutely positively need for this type of work. They are:

(1) Absolutely insanely fast drawing of full screen previews.
As soon as the thumbnails appear (which is really quick), you can instantly view the images at full-screen size. I’m talking lightning fast. I’m talking so fast that you had no idea any program could possibly load full-screen images at this speed, but somehow it just does. I know what you’re thinking: “Does Adobe know about this technology?” Absolutely. “Have you talked to them about adding this to Lightroom?” Many times. “Do you think we’ll ever have fast-loading thumbnails like that?” Nope.

(2) A very well-thought out and designed system for adding metadata to your images
Every photo you submit needs a full description of what’s happening in the photo, where the photo was taken and when, including each player fully identified by team name, player name, position on the team, and jersey number. You need this for every player in the shot. Three players, three full IDs.

(3) An automated process, using keyboard shortcuts, that lets you do all the stuff you have to do in #2 above really, really fast (with the help of a website I’ll mention in a moment).
Plus, you can FTP right from the program straight to the server of your local wire service.

So, step one is Buy Photo Mechanic
The program costs $150, and once I saw it in action, it was the fastest $150 I ever spent. Worth every penny. I’d have paid $250. Maybe more. But Photo Mechanic is just an image sorting and metadata application, albeit a great one, but  it’s not Photoshop and doesn’t do Photoshop-like stuff, so you still need Photoshop.

But before you start importing photos, you need to set up a Metadata template (they call it an “IPTC Stationary Pad”) like the one you see above. This includes a bit about the game and where it’s being played and such. (I do this before I even leave for the stadium).

Then, when I walk in from the first half, I open this Stationary Pad, add the score as it stands “The Bucs lead the Saints 21-14 at the half” to the end, and now when I import my photos, it automatically applies this metadata, including the date, stadium location, copyright info and such to every photo.

The greatest thing to happen to Metadata since….whenever the last good thing happened
There is a website called “” and you pay a small subscription fee and it generates a current roster of both teams for any pro sporting event, which itself is handy, but that’s not what makes it totally rock. You import this roster into Photo Mechanic (it’s then called a “Code Replacement”) and now all you have to do is look at the number on the player’s jersey, type a shortcut and that number, and it automatically fills in all the team info, player’s name, position, and number. For example, if the player plays for Tampa Bay, I just type a backslash, “t” for Tampa Bay, his jersey number, and another backslash, and it instantly types in this for me:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Ronde Barber (20)

Then I type in “breaks up a screen pass intended for” and I type the other guy’s jersey number like this \n16\ and it writes

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore (16)

and then the rest of the metadata about what week it is, and what kind of game it is and where it’s played is already there because I added that to the IPTC Stationary Pad before the game (mentioned above). So, the whole thing reads like this is all of 20-seconds:

“Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Ronde Barber (20) breaks up a screen pass intended for New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore during week seven of the 2012 NFL season in a game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints. The Bucs lead the Saints 21-14 at the half.”

Those code replacements rock, and my hats off the guy who came up with the service. May he earn a millions bucks!

Now, you’re ready to download your cards when you come in off the field at halftime
Photo Mechanic calls this process “Ingesting” and it’s pretty quick (and you can ingest multiple cards at once, and I do). It automatically names and numbers them, similar to what you’d do in Lightroom’s Import Window (ya know, if you had all freakin’ day to import your images — don’t get me started).

Once they’re in Photo Mechanic, you can either scan your thumbnails really quickly looking for key shots, or just go to full-screen size and zip through them lickity split using the right-arrow key on your keyboard. When you see a photo you might want to upload, you press the letter “T” to “Tag” it. When you’ve gone thru all your photos, you turn on a filter that only shows your Tagged images, which is seen above (I usually have about 10 to 15 tagged images at this point. Occasionally more, but I’m only going to have to time to process six or eight at best, so I have to whittle it down to the best six or eight of those).

Here’s where my first hurdle comes in
At this point, I look at the, say…15 tagged images at full screen size and when I see one I want to make my cut of just six or eight for uploading, I press the number 6 to label it with a blue label. In just a few seconds, I have six or blue-labeled shots. I select those images (we’ll say I chose six) and jump into the Metadata editing window, where I add the player info using those automated Code Replacements. This is a little tedious, especially if you can’t clearly read a player’s number of their jersey or helmet. Then you have to go back to your full shoot and figure it out by looking at shots before or after the one you want to upload. This kind of drives me nuts, but you’ve got to have the right number or the player’s name will be wrong.

Metadata Done Right
Camera Bits did a kick-butt job on this part, as you can click on the thumbnail in the metadata entry window and see a huge-preview (helpful in reading jersey numbers), and you can copy and paste metadata from one similar image to another (big time-saver), and you can use code replacements for everything the ref’s to special codes that have to be added on a per-player basis (in another field, I have to enter a bracket, the player’s last name, first name, and a closed bracket (like this: [Barber, Ronde]) for each player, but there’s a Code Replacement shortcut that does that, too (thankfully —- another big time-saver in an already tedious process). This whole part is very well designed on Photo Mechanic’s part.

Now over to Adobe Camera Raw
Once I click OK after adding all the metadata to those six photos, I press Command-E and open those six all up in a Camera Raw at once (they appear in a filmstrip along the left side of Camera Raw, as seen above). Now I take a quick moment to crop each photo tight (if necessary, and it often is), then I check the White Balance, add Contrast if necessary and any other very minor tweaks (This is reportage so you can do very little editing whatsoever to these images)


Sharpening and Saving as JPEGs
This is another place I’m not certain I’m totally nailing this workflow thing, but I then export the images out of Camera Raw as JPEGs and have Camera Raw apply sharpening (set to “For Screen” and amount “High” in Camera Raw’s Output Preferences) as they’re exported. This leaves them with a folder with six images in it, with all the metadata embedded, cropped, edited and sharpened ready for uploading, which takes all of 30-seconds (if that). I know some guys are running sharpening and resizing actions that do all that stuff in Photoshop, but I actually don’t go into Photoshop at all — just Camera Raw and save out to JPEGs with the sharpening applied at export, but again, I’m not sure that’s the best time-saving route (but that’s what I’m doing thus far).

The problem is: that takes longer than 15 minutes.
I think I probably spent too much time looking through my images trying to find the best ones to upload, and I may be over-thinking that part, but I haven’t found a way to speed the process. I have a hard time searching through tiny thumbnails — I like to see them big, and that definitely impacts my speed —- not because of Photo Mechanic — just because if you can judge by thumbnails you can breeze through hundreds really fast. I’ve tried it, and I feel like I miss too much that way, but maybe again I’m over-thinking it.

After the game, I do it all again…
But now I’m looking for 20 or so images to upload, and I’ve got the process down to about 45 minutes, but I’d like to see it down to 30 minutes, and if you see an area here where I’m doing double-the-work, or I’m making extra work for myself (I’m not an expert at Photo Mechanic) let me know because my goal is to cut time off this workflow, and anything that save time is a big win for me.

Quick Recap: 

(1) Set-up IPTC Stationary Pad, and download file at home before game
(2) Import two cards at once (one from each camera); Apply Stationary Pad on import and rename
(3) Quickly go through images and Tag 10 to 15 of the best ones
(4) Narrow that down to just six or eight (label those blue)
(5) Add detailed Metadata for those six or eight keepers
(6) Open all those images at once in Camera Raw for cropping & editing
(7) Export those as JPEGs with Sharpening Applied on Export
(8) Upload those to the wire service

So, there you have it
As you can tell from my comments, I’m not fully satisfied with this workflow, but at least it’s at the point that I feel like I can share it and hopefully some part of it will help you with your workflow. Just for the record: I’ve tried using Lightroom, and/or the Bridge and Camera Raw combo, but neither can come close to the Photo Mechanic workflow (ask any pro sports photographer), but I think if I have an achilles heel in my workflow, it’s what happens after I leave Photo Mechanic.

Hope that all makes sense, and I hope it helps. I’ll be in Washington DC this weekend for my seminar there next week, so I don’t think I’ll be shooting any games this weekend (rats!), but just know I do, when I pick up a timesaver, I’ll be sure to share it with you guys here. Cheers, -Scott