Category Archives Photography

Hi Gang: Once a month on “The Grid” RC and I do our “Blind Photo Critiques” episode where we ask our viewers to submit images for a live critique on the air. When the submitted images are portraits, we often see the same type of problems again and again, so I thought today I’d share a few hopefully helpful things to ask yourself about a portrait image to see if you’re on the right track â” kind of a checklist to mentally take your image through to see if it’s working.

This checklist is short and simple, and certainly not complete, but at least if you’ve asked yourself these things about it, you’ll be ahead of the game. Here we go:

(a) Does your subject look engaged, either with the camera or someone in the frame (or just off frame)?
Peter Hurley has a great staying for this, he says “Are they giving you anything?” This “engagement” from the subject is incredibly important, and without it, the rest of the stuff below, even if you have them all, probably won’t make it without this (unless “e” below works well enough).

(b) Is the light either really flattering or really appropriate to the subject?
That doesn’t necessarily mean soft â” it might mean hard light, depending on who your subject is, whether they’re male or female, and the mood you’re trying to create, but generally the flattering light part is pretty important.

(c) Is the background clean and simple?
If your background is simple for a straight up portrait, your chances for success go way up. This is bigger than it sounds. If the background is distracting, or has very bright areas that draw the viewers eye, your viewer won’t be looking where they’re supposed to be looking, and that’s not a good thing.

(d) Is the subject separated from the background?
In an outdoor portrait, creating some separation between your subject and the background usually helps put the focus on your subject. Try the lowest-numbered f/stop your lens will allow (f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6 â” the lower the number the better), and zoom in on your subject to help create that separation.

(e) Is the subject doing anything interesting?
They don’t always need to be engaged with you (at the camera) or someone in the scene if your subject is doing something interesting to the viewer. Seeing someone doing something interesting is justâ¦wellâ¦interesting!

Again, this isn’t the be-all, end-all list, but the next time you’re sitting in front of a portrait and you’re wondering if it “works,” run it through this checklist and see how it holds up (an ideal time to do this, is when you’re reviewing images during the shoot, while you can still do something about it â” if not, it’s still something to strive for on the next shoot).

Hope you find that helpful, and here’s wishing you an usually awesome, Tuesday! :)

Best,

-Scott

P.S. If you live in the UK, I hope you’ll catch my monthly column in Digital Camera World magazine (link). I’ve been writing it now for about 7-months and having a lot of fun with it. 

Pete Collins here filling in for Scott…

I don’t know about you, but when another photographer says to me… “You have to go there!” I tend to nod politely while internally I am thinking… yeah right, it can’t be that good. So for a couple of years now I have heard about Old Car City outside of Atlanta, and how great it was, but I was secretly like “it can’t be as good as they say.” Well, I am here to admit that Old Car City is definitely worth putting on your bucket list. According to the Internet, which only tells the truth, this place is ranked as the third best junkyard in the world behind the Russian space junkyard, and the Airplane boneyard out in Arizona. (of course I don’t know who rates these things or what is the criteria, but at the end of the day this place is pretty darn impressive.)

Fancy sign Fancy spelling. Photo by Clint Brownlee
The inner lair of Dean Lewis... Photo by Clint Brownlee

Located about 50 miles outside of Atlanta in White, Ga. (Yep, way too easy to make inappropriate jokes so let’s move on.) This dixieland automotive museum spans 34 acres with over 4000 American cars covering over six miles of trails. The thing that makes it so unique is that the cars are becoming one with the environment… some of them have been around since 1931 and have been reclaimed by trees, grass and bushes. I could give you a lot of facts, etc… about the place, but I am going to write this from my perspective as a photographer and first time visitor and hopefully you will enjoy the images and the insight with the end result being that you having a new place added to your bucket list. Be sure to check out their website, OldCarCityUSA.com.

The Journey
I drove down from Chattanooga with my buddy and fellow camera junky Mike Daniels; he did the navigating. I tend to get distracted and miss places, so I was glad he was there to guide us. I was then extra glad that he came along since Dean Lewis (the owner) only takes cash and I conveniently forgot my wallet. :D The cost of entry is $25, and Dean is happy to direct you down the road to an ATM if you forget. Dean was busy doodling on one of his cups and talking to a gentleman named Clint Brownlee when we arrived. Dean is what I like to call “a mess.” Now for those of you not from the south the term “a mess” can be used in a variety of ways depending on the tone/inflection and twinkle in the eye of the one speaking. This particular use of the term means “someone who is unique and inspiring, and yet maybe a bit strange.” Sort of like that uncle that you hope will come for Christmas and bring his amazing set of fireworks, but then you spend the whole time trying to not let him drink too much eggnog before he goes out to light them so he doesn’t lose yet another finger. :D (I hope that makes sense… someone you want to watch, just to see what he will do next.)

Clint Brownlee is another one of use crippled with the photography bug and is responsible for putting together the Old Car City blog, and he happens to follow Scott and our crew, so he was able to vouch for me with Dean. Actually, Dean knew of our group because last year at Photoshop World in Atlanta we had a workshop come out, and then Bill Fortney has done a class out there. I told Dean that I was Scott’s boss… but I don’t think he bought it since he then tried to charge me double. :D Make sure to check out Clint’s blog. Clint volunteered to show me around the place… which is a huge undertaking… only 34 acres… meh, we should be done in no time. As we started out, he shared with me that he and a friend of his had been coming out here multiple times a week when they first discovered the place and I now understand whey.

To get a true feel of the place, you need to appreciate this new installment that Dean has placed near the entrance to the cars. Yep, that is pretty creepy. Larry Becker titled it “Youth Springs Eternal!”

Dean says welcome! Don't mind the dolls!

Once past the baby dolls, it became sensory overload… It wasn’t a matter of trying to find something to shoot, it was trying to narrow your focus so that you could actually not spend the entire day just at the front of the place. You know that feeling when you come across something so neat and cool that giggles sneak out spontaneously? It was at that point that I felt like Roy Scheider in Jaws… “We are going to need a bigger boat!” We were going to need a longer day and more energy to be able to take it all in.

Clint was doing his best to be a tour guide, but at a certain point I just needed to play, and so I asked if I could take off on my own to wander around with my camera. It was early morning, hot, humid, wet and I didn’t care… I was in heaven. How good a place is it? I don’t know about you, but I hold my breath when I take a picture, and at one point I realized I was really out of breath from taking too many pictures back to back… it was such a target rich environment. Think of it like a giant easter egg hunt with 4,000 golden eggs.

The old Old Car City office
Just past the baby dolls, the fun begins
A photographers playground awaits
Wonderful mixture of man vs. nature

Let’s talk about my gear and my approach for the day.

(more…)

One of the great things about always working on another book or another online class is â” you get to shoot a lot for these projects, and I just wrapped up a location fashion shoot a few weeks ago at an incredible location â” the Howey Mansion in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida (about 2-hours from the KelbyOne Headquarters). I learned about the location from RC, and our friend Kathy Porupski had a contact there and so we put an all-day shoot together with a very ambitious schedule.

First, some of the final images:

 

Planning Stages
Once we got close to locking down the location, I asked my wife Kalebra to do all the art direction on the shoot â” everything from picking our models (Adriana and Sara) to the styling (we brought the dresses in from Lindsay Adler’s awesome Dream Shoot Rentals, which is the coolest resource to get access to New York dresses, outfits, and accessories without actually have to be in New York, and at a fraction of the price if you were). She also picked and worked with our awesome Hair and Makeup Team ( Kalebra (art direction & styling); Hendrickje Makeup FX (makeup) and Lauren Edwards (hair).

We had three assistants working with us on the set, Brad, Rob Foldy, and Lynn Miller. The ironic thing was â” we brought so much Lighting Gear and grip equipment that it wouldn’t all fit in Brad’s SUV so we had to go rent a U-Hual van to move it all. As it turned out, we didn’t actually even use any lighting to the very last shoot of the day, which was pretty much a disaster (as you’ll see at the end of this post).

Behind The Scenes Shots
All the shots you saw above were all taken in natural light, with either a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 or a Canon 16-35mm super wide angle. Here (below) are some behind-the-scenes shot (bts photos by Brad Moore).

 

(Above: Here’s the behind-the-scene shot for the first one, with me set-up wwwwwwaaaaayyyyy back!). That’s a mini boombox on the apple crate in front of me. Having music on the set is an absolute must! Also, this is a natural light shoot, but we softened the light coming in the window by putting a frosted shower curtain liner over the window, a tip I learned from Joe McNally years ago). 

 

(Above: I’m shooting down low with a Canon 16-35mm, shooting tethered into Lightroom. So, how did we get her dress up in the air like that? See the next shot.).

(Above: On the count of three, either Rob or Lynn would toss the dress in the air and then duck out of the scene, as seen here. Click for a larger view).

 

(Above: Look how far back I’m shooting here. I’m not even in the same room â” I’m out in the foyer shooting into the room. Again, all natural light). 

(Above: I’m down low, shooting on a tripod with a Canon 16-35mm super wide-angle lens; shooting tethered in Lightroom. All natural light). 

(Above: outside on the balcony, natural light on a rainy overcast day. I shot tight-in shots with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, and the wide shot you see above this one once again with the Canon 16-35mm). 

(Above: Hey, Scott - this is the behind-the-scenes shot. Where’s the final shot? There is no final shot. I had this idea that we’d put a little bit of smoke up into the top of an umbrella but as soon as we connected the smoke machine, we realized there’s no such thing as a ‘little bit of smoke’ and we spent most of the time just standing there in a huge cloud of smoke just laughing. Nice time â” no smoke machine. Dry ice instead). 

Thanks for letting me share this shoot (the good and theâ¦ahemâ¦bad), and I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

Best,

-Scott

P.S. Hey, next Friday I’m in Hartford with my full-day seminar. Hope you can come out and join me for the day. Tickets here. 

Hi Gang: Today I thought I’d share five trailers for some new classes you might want to check out this Memorial Day weekend over on KelbyOne.com.

If you’re not already a member, you can join for $19.99 and watch the full-length versions of ALL of these classes today, (and while you’re there, you can watch any of the about 500+ more online classes on Lighting, Photoshop, Lightroom, Video Editing, and Photography unlimited for the next 30-days!) Here’s the link (but check out these trailers first!):

1. Peter Hurley shows you how to edit down an entire shoot to get you to that “one” special image

http://youtu.be/AAoBuSE4QwI

2. Joe McNally takes you underwater for aâ¦umâ¦Mermaid shoot? ( You’ll love it!)

http://youtu.be/ObtUJj0nUaU

3. Cliff Mautner teaches you how to shoot a wedding, during a real wedding! (live and uncensored)

http://youtu.be/wQMaNJuRHOs

4. Learn to shoot a Safari, on an actual Safari in Africa with Moose Peterson

http://youtu.be/JTgK4xmaIvM

5. Jeremy Cowart shows you how to light and shoot awesome portraits just about anywhere!

http://youtu.be/W9GBh6OIWTU

Lots of fun stuff to learn this weekend – make the most of it, and for those of you who are joining KelbyOne for the first time, welcome aboard â” we’re really glad to have you with us. :)

Here’s wishing you and yours a safe, happy, and fun Memorial Day Weekend.

Best,

-Scott

P.S. I posted #6 of my series on “What I’d love to see next in Lightroom” over at LightroomKillerTips.com

 

 

Go Back Up Your Photos. Right Now!
When I was on the road in LA a few weeks ago I heard yet another heartbreaking story from a photographer who didn't have a back-up of his photos, and he lost every photo he had taken in the last few years, including family shots â” everything â” gone forever.

Stop whatever you're doing and right this very minute, and take a few minutes to protect the visual history of your life, and back up your images. Just drag them onto another hard drive. If you don't have one; here’s a link to one of the portable drives I keep with me â” it’s a WD 1-terabyte drive for just $58 at B&H Photo. It works like a champ!). It takes so much less effort than you'd think.

My Backup and Organization Strategy
I’m working on an online class right now that not only shares some real world backup strategies (I use Synology NAS drives, which are awesome but it works with any drives), but more importantly I reveal a method for organizing your images (even before you get into Lightroom or whatever), that will make your life so much easier and less stressful (plus you’ll sleep better at night). I might do it as a live Webinar, and then record it for KelbyOne members to watch anytime â” not sure yet, but I’m working on the outline now. More when I have all the details.

Anyway, this is just your friendly reminder that this is, officially, “Back Up Your Photos Tuesday.” :)

Hope yours is a productive one.

Best,

-Scott

P.S. If you haven’t yet seen my stirring, emotional, personal message to the photographers in the Hartford, Connecticut area, you’ve got to take a moment and watch this short 1-minute, 30-second video. It will change you in a very dramatic way (Note: if you don’t live near Hartford, don’t watch it because then it will just freak you out). bit.ly/1AcrE2p 

Hi gang â” I just posted a few shots from my trip this past week to Valencia. We (my big brother Jeff and me) were only in Valencia one and a half days, and we got just over 5-hours in Madrid. Why so short? We totally messed up our planning â” we were supposed to be there three days â” the images, and the story, are over at Exposure.

Here’s the link

If you get a sec, I hope you can check them out. Have a great Monday, and we’ll catch ya tomorrow.

Best,

-Scott

P.S. I’m doing a series on “Features I’d love to see added to Lightroom” and today is “#4” of 10. If you get a sec, pop on over to LightroomKillerTips.com and join in the discussion â” lots of great feature ideas in the comments section. 

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