Category Archives Photography

The phone rings on Thursday and it’s my buddy, and sports photography legend Dave Black, asking me if I want to fly up to Allentown, Pennsylvania to meet him and shoot the start of something new in Gymnastics, called “Evolution.” It’s an all-tricks competition staged like a rock concert—featuring a group of gymnastic world champions and Olympic athletes many of which competed at the Beijing Olympics and some are part will be part of the US team for the 2012 Olympics. (Just for the record, he had me at “This is Dave Black…”)

This was my first time shooting a gymnastics event, and I have to tell you—it was very challenging. Luckily, Dave was a HUGE help the entire night, and I learned just a ton from him and that made all the difference in the world. I don’t think I got a single decent shot for the first 30-minutes—it took me that long to get the hang of shooting under that lighting, and getting the pacing and focus down. Again, Dave was a big help with both (he’s been shooting gymnastics for 30 years, and was a former gymnast and teach coach himself).

As challenging as it was—I absolutely loved shooting it!!! Of course, now I want to go back and shoot it all over again, because now I can see all the things I’d like to do differently next time (i. e. shots where I should have been in tight, and others where I should have gone really wide. I can see different angles, and different types of composition, and so on).

An Evolution for Gymnastics
The Evolution event itself was pretty groundbreaking for a gymnastics event (link), because it just focused on the tricks (which was why it was so cool to shoot from a photography stand point), and it kind of reminded me (in a good way) of how medal-winning ice skating Olympians wind up touring with Ice Skating show, which mix music and stage lighting, and effects—-and it’s more of a show than a competition. However, Evolution kept the competition aspect, but just focused on the fun stuff (tricks), and added the lights, music, and effects, and the crowd on hand seemed to totally eat it up. They were cheering and chanting, and they were totally into it from the very start.

Photographic advantages over a regular competition
At regular gymnastic competitions, including the Olympics, there are multiple events going on simultaneously, all within just feet of each others, and Dave talked about the challenges of busy backgrounds, filled with judges, referees, other athletes, and other apparatuses as well. Here, it was just one event at time, and just one gymnast on stage at one time, so it was an event just about made for photography.

Camera Specs
Dave did a lot of the leg work for me (he was literally texting me settings, including white balance Kelvin) from the dress rehearsal on Friday). I shot in Manual Mode the entire time (I started shooting wide open in Aperture Priority, but the camera was over-exposing the arena, so shooting in Manual with a high shutter speed let the arena pretty much fall to black).

I shot at 4,000 ISO all night long. Had to in that light. I also shot wide open all night, at f/2.8 on my 24-70mm and f/4 on my 200-400mm f/4 lens (I used two bodies: A Nikon D3, and D3s). My shutter speed was between 1,600 and 2,000 all night, depending on the light. Again, you needed to shoot at such high shutter speeds to keep the arena going dark, and to freeze motion, but that was a higher shutter than needed just to freeze motion.

The white balance was a nightmare, because the lights were constantly changing color, so while I’d normally shoot in JPEG for a sporting event like this, I shot in Raw instead, so I could fix the white balance later. I went with 3,200k for the night (on Dave’s advice), and as it turned it, it was pretty good most of the time (that Dave guy is either really good, or really lucky). ;-)

I’m Waiting Here In Allentown
Hurricane Irene was in town, too so my 6:00 am flight on Sunday got cancelled. So did my 12:30pm flight, and my 5:30 pm flight. So, today I’m driving to NYC to fly out of JFK direct home to Tampa. At least, that’s the plan. Hope I’m home by the time you read this (and I’m hoping you’re reading this on Monday). ;-)

Dave is…well…Dave is amazing!
I’ve always wanted to shoot gymnastics, and it was even better than I thought it would be. The athletes are just truly spectacular, and what they do is superhuman. However, the reason I went all the way to Allentown during a hurricane, knowing I would probably get stuck there for a few days, is because of Dave Black. I probably learned more in that one night, that I would have learned on my own in years of shooting competitions like that. Dave was a wealth of information, and really had me thinking about angles, about composition, about timing, and even about things like focus, camera settings, and the nuts and bolts of it all.

Besides what he taught me about shooting, Dave is just a joy to be around. Not just to me. To everyone he meets. He has a beaming smile. A spring in his step. And a love of life that he passes on to everyone he meets. Everybody there loved him. He’s been there for days, working with the athletes doing portrait shoots, marketing shots, and all sorts of things surrounding the event. The AV crew knew him. They loved him. The athletes knew him. They loved him. He has a smile for everybody he meets. He’s about much more than photography.

I’m indebted to him for the opportunity. For the help. For even thinking of me in the first place. I have a lot to learn about shooting gymnastics. It’s hard work, and like anything in photography the only way to get good at it is to practice, and that’s exactly what I intend to do (Between football games, of course). :)

Thanks to the great folks at Evolution for allowing me to shoot their event. Everyone I met from their organization was incredibly friendly and very accommodating. My thanks to Dave Black, for a night I’ll never forget, and thanks to my readers for letting me share a few shots from my first time shooting gymnastics.

At every seminar we do, at the end of the day we ask the participants to fill out an evaluation form, to let us know how we did, but most importantly what we can do to make the day even better. I know those eval forms are a pain in the butt to fill out, but after the seminar I personally read every single one of them. I want to find out what’s resonating with the participants, what they want more of, what they want less of, and what I can add or take away that would make the day better.

I take this stuff really seriously
In fact, there are four things I changed, tweaked and added in Orlando, Cologne, and Amsterdam that came directly from the eval forms from my seminars in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. In fact, I shot a special on location video for my seminar just to be able to add more about shooting with off-camera hot-shoe flash. I also added a product shoot to the day, and I adjusted the amount of time, and type of retouching I’m doing in the sessions—all based on their feedback.

What I learned in Germany and Holland
As I mentioned yesterday, I know people are struggling with light meters, and I’m going to try to find a way to incorporate enough about using a flash meter in the day to at least clear some of the fog and confusion—even just a bit (including a great tip from Frank Doorhof’s presentation in Amsterdam). I’m also going to post a short demo-video they can watch afterward to help them get up and running from scratch. Hey, it’s a start.

The Whole “Lightroom vs Bridge” thing
Matt Kloskowski and I wound up doing something earlier this year to help our seminar participants with the confusion a lot of them are experiencing because they have the Bridge and Camera Raw, so they figure they don’t need Lightroom. We did this in response to question after question about this at our seminars, and so we create one hundred 60-second or less short video clips called “100 ways Lightroom kicks the Bridge’s A$$!” Even though it was made for our seminar attendees, you can watch it right here.

Overthinking and Making the Hidden Stuff More Discoverable
Yesterday, in Part One, I mentioned how a lot of folks seemed to be overthinking all this lighting and Photoshop stuff, and some stuff they want to do is already there—-in Photoshop and Lightroom—it’s just hidden beneath the surface. To that end, I’m going to step-up my crusade to make all this stuff more accessible, more fun and just plain easier. I want to be the guy that lifts the veil from some of this hidden stuff, and I really want to make learning Photoshop and Lightroom less of a mystery and more of pleasure.

I wasn’t judging—I was just reporting
Yesterday I mentioned that nobody ever asks about Creativity, or Composition, or Art, or any of those types of things at the seminars—it’s all pretty much questions about watt power, sync speeds, Photoshop techniques, and stuff like that. More technical stuff. I wasn’t judging—I was just reporting on that fact.

That being said, I’m working on a new project about Photo Composition
Although I don’t get asked a lot about composition in my live seminars, I know from emails and comments that a lot of photographers out there are struggling with it, and recently I had kind of an epiphany about teaching the art of photographic composition (and why every book on the topic teaches it pretty much the same way it has always been taught—-rule of thirds, leading lines, and so on). However, I think I’ve come up with a brand new way of teaching photo composition that I’ve never seen anyone teach ever, and I think has a chance to help photographers in a really impactful and groundbreaking way.

I’m going to start this project by inviting about 150 photographers to join me one evening, in a beautiful outdoor amphitheater in Tampa, Florida, as I present this one-hour class on composition (which will also be taped for Kelby Training Online). More on this as we lock down a date, but it’s the very next class I want to produce, and I’m really excited about it.

I need your feedback
I’m heading down to Miami with my tour next Monday, and then to Denver, Portland, Los Angeles, and Philly—-all in September. If you come out to join me for any of those days, you’ll benefit from all the people who filled out evaluation forms at all the seminars prior to that. But that’s the great part of doing an on-going tour—you get to tweak and improve it as you go. If you do come out, take an extra minute and let me know what’s working and what you want added, so the tour can continue to evolve and grow.

I don’t have all the answers
I don’t have half of them. But I really want to help, and I’ll do everything I can to help you get the most out of your photography, out of lighting, Photoshop, Lightroom, and just enjoying all of these awesome tools we get to use today. Thanks everybody. Your comments on those eval forms, and here on the blog, truly do make a difference.

When I was in San Francisco a few weeks back teaching during the grand opening of Adobe’s “Photoshop & You” pop-up store (link), I did something I hadn’t done before— an in-depth interview in front of a live studio audience (that surely took the pressure up a big notch).

The interview was for Ibarionex Perello’s “The Candid Frame” podcast (that Ibarionex above right), and I have to say, he asked me some of the most intriguing, thought-provoking questions I’ve ever been asked. I’ve already seen comments where some people are calling it my best interview ever, and if it is, it’s because Ibarionex asked some really compelling questions—ones that really made me reflect and my photography and my career.

He was incredibly engaging and thoughtful in his questions, and it was one of the most enjoyable, and never-wracking interviews I’ve even been in. If you’ve got a chance, I hope you can give it a listen. http://bit.ly/qd2UJO

…and In Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto..and last year in London….and two weeks ago in Orlando…is that: photographers and Photoshop users everywhere are struggling with the exact same things. The same issues. The same hurdles. The same things that stump photographers in San Francisco, are stumping photographers in Germany.

(Above: Brad took this shot of my seminar in Amsterdam, just hours before his 27th birthday. Happy Birthday Braddo!)

So what is it?
It’s not just one thing—it’s lots of things. Here’s five common themes:

(1) Power They Didn’t Know They Had
A lot of people don’t realize that the things they want to do are actually in Photoshop or already in Lightroom, but since they’re kind of “hidden beneath the surface” (maybe it takes a hidden three-key shortcut, or its buried under a menu they never go under), they think they need to buy some other piece of software to get them where they want to go. I love to be able to show them that shortcut or hidden place. You can see them light up when they realize it’s already there. It’s one of the best parts of my job.

(2) Light Meters Terrify Them
Frank Doorhof (my guest speaker) did a fantastic demo about using light meters during my seminar in Amsterdam, and that’s probably why I’ve never had more comments about them. Apparently a lot of people already have them, but very few are actually using them, and they told me they’re very confused about using meters in general.

(3) Off Camera, Hot-shoe Flash.
A lot of people at my seminars already have an off-camera hot-shoe flash or two, but they are really struggling with getting the results they want. A lot are complaining about triggering problems (with line of sight triggering and TTL), and that their images look too “flashy” and obvious that flash is being used.

(4) Over Thinking Everything
When it comes to lighting, I talked with so many people who are over-thinking everything and they’re just plain overwhelmed. I blame the Internet. They read one person saying one thing, and then at the next site, somebody says something entirely different, and they have no idea which one is right (usually, they both are—because in all of this—there’s not just one way to get to the end result), so basically they’re paralyzed. I think these folks are making a lot of the process of lighting and correcting photos more complicated in their minds than it really is. They’re all tied up in Watt seconds, and the Inverse Square Law, and the physics of lighting, and it has their head already spinning before they even walk thru the door.

(5) They’re Not Sure What To Use
Because so many pros are using so many different tools, they just want some guidance. They don’t want to buy the wrong thing (the wrong softbox, the wrong lights), and they don’t know if they want to continue down the path of hot-shoe flash, or studio strobes, or continuous lights, or a mixture of both or whatever. They want to be smart with their time and their money, and I don’t blame them.

(6) They have business concerns
They’re struggling with either (a) making a living as a photographer, or (b) they’re planing on quitting their current job to become a full-time photographer (I hear that a lot), or (c) they just came out of school trained as a photographer, but they don’t have a job and they’re all looking for some tips to help them make it.

Here’s what nobody ever asks about:

(1) Composition

(2) Creativity

(3) Art

It’s all about sync speeds and settings. I also hear a lot about “Rules” as in “I read your never supposed to do [insert anything about lighting here].”

Oh yeah, more one thing. Most everybody, in every city is already using Lightroom (at least at my seminars). The few that are still on the Bridge/Camera Raw don’t know why they should be using Lightroom at all. They think it’s just another version of the Bridge and Camera Raw, and they already have those, so why switch? Sigh.

What I’m doing about it
I’ll pick up with that right here tomorrow. :)

Hi gang: We had an absolutely fantastic seminar in Cologne, Germany on Wednesday. We had nearly 300 photographers there with me for the day, and I met some of the nicest, most gracious folks anywhere. What a warm welcome for my first tour in Europe—thanks to everyone who came out!!!

Here’s a few shots from the day, including one of my special guest retoucher, the amazing Calvin Hollywood (if you haven’t caught his classes on Kelby Training Online yet, this guy is insane!!!). Of course, the crowd loved Calvin, and I loved having him there (that’s Calvin above hanging out in the back before his retouching session—photos by Brad Moore).

(That’s Calvin above during his session where he shared his latest high contrast “freaky stuff.” Very cool techniques–I took notes the whole time he was on stage).

By the time you read this, I’m already teaching my seminar in Amsterdam, and my special guest instructor is none other than Frank Doorhof, and I cannot wait to see what Frank has up his sleeve!!!

My wife and son flew over here to spend a few days with me here in Amsterdam, so I am just totally psyched for the weekend, and I might even have a shot or two to share next week. :)

Have a great weekend everybody, and we’ll talk again soon.

At my seminar in Orlando on Friday, we were talking about adding high contrast effects to portraits, and how sometimes the effect is too harsh to apply to your subject’s skin (it almost makes their skin look bruised) so when I apply the effect to men, I do some masking so reduce the effect where it doesn’t work, and I pretty much avoid it on women’s skin altogether.

So, someone asked if I ever use it on a portrait of woman, and I said—absolutely—I used it on the cover shot for my “Portrait Retouching” book (the shot is shown above), but not on her skin—–I used it to make her necklace and ring really stand out. I also used a little on her eyes and hair (I lowered the opacity of the brush).

When it comes to accessories, I really want them to stand out, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past year, it’s how important accessories are to making “the look” for a fashion shoot.

On The Job Training
I know women already know this, but the important of accessories really hit me last year when I was doing a fashion shoot in New York City. I hired a wonderful fashion stylist (Sophia Batson, shown below left) and right after she put all the outfits we’d be using on hangers, she laid out an entire work table with nothing but fashion accessories (it looked like a mini-store right on the set).

Once the model was in her outfit (that’s our model Gemmy behind us on the set), Sophia picks the prefect accessory for the look we were going for. For the look at the top of the page (A beauty-style headshot), Sophia choose that one because she knew it was “the one!” and I realized, even before I took the first shot, that it took the image to the next level. In fact, I liked it so much, I wound up using for the cover of the book (seen below).

Where do you find stuff like that?

Since this book came out, I’ve had a number of people ask me where I got that necklace she’s wearing. Of course, since it was Sophia’s, I had no idea, but one of the designers that created the necklace must use Photoshop because they dropped me a line and loved how the cover looked with it (how cool is that!). The designer is Gabriele Frantzen, and you can find her work at http://gabrielefrantzen.com and there are links where to buy her designed online.

The particular necklace I used here is the “Sense & Sensibility” necklace in Smoke.  (Note: Gabriele’s creations must be crazy popular with fashion designers, because when you go to her site, she shows the covers of all these major fashion magazines featuring her work).

Post Processing
The post processing was actually very simple because I used a plug-in to do most of the work. I simply opened the image and then in Photoshop I applied the “Tonal Contrast” preset of Nik Software’s “Color Efex Pro 3.0” to the entire image. When you do this, it creates a separate layer with the effect applied to it.

Then, so I could apply the high-contrast effect just where I wanted it, I Option-clicked the Layer Mask button (PC: Alt-click) at the bottom of the Layers panel to put a black mask over the entire high-contrast layer (so now it’s hidden from view).

Then, I set my foreground color to white, got a small soft-edged brush, and starting painting over the necklace at 100% Opacity, and man did it make it just pop! I went to her eyes and hair and painted over those at well, but only at about 25% Brush Opacity, just to give those a little “zing” as well.

Above: here you can see the mask after I painted over it revealing the necklace (at 100% strength in white) and her eyes and hair (at 25% strength).

One for Orlando
I’m glad I got the chance to do this for the folks who attended my Orlando seminar (they were an awesome crowd—-one of my most fun, engaged, and gracious groups of the entire year), and for you guys here on the blog.

Off to Germany and Holland
Brad and I are off to Cologne and Amsterdam, and we’re looking forward to meeting all the great folks over there, and sharing my Light it, Shoot it, Retouch It Tour with our first European audience. I’ll be in Cologne when we broadcast “The Grid” this week, so make sure you tune in tomorrow at 4:00 pm to catch Matt Kloskowski and friends live! Have a great Tuesday everybody—–Germany….here I come!!! :-)

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