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Just when you think the intense fear of tripod’s has gone as far as it can go, this happens: Matt, RC, and I went for an early morning shoot at Grand Central Station yesterday, and each of us carried that most-hated of photographic accessory; the dreaded tripod. We had a special shooting permit to use tripods in the station (more on this later this week), but it was what happened after the shoot that took things to a new level.

After the shoot, we came back to our hotel, the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, to put up our gear so I could head over to B&H Photo for my class at 10:00 am. As we headed into the elevator to go up to our rooms, a uniformed security guard came rushing over and stopped us. He wanted to know where we were going, because after all, we were carrying (wait for it….wait for it) TRIPODS! I shook my head in disbelief and said, “We’re going to our rooms.”

I reached into my pocket to take out my room key to prove we were hotel guests, but I guess we had that really annoyed look that only real hotel guests get when they’re denied access to their rooms, because he said, “Oh, OK” and let us go.

The elevator doors closed, and we’re just standing there looking at each other dumbfounded.

Now, believe me, because this is New York, I understand and respect the need for vigilant security, but was there a tri-pod related terrorist attack that I’m not aware of, that has created this “they’ve got a tripod—they must be up to no good” air that surrounds the city?

Seriously, how have tripods gone from simple stands that hold your camera steady, to terrorist-related devices that raise suspicion and get you stopped by hotel security while simply returning to your room? And we weren’t carrying huge industrial tripods; I had my tiny Gitzo traveler. It’s not as big as an umbrella, yet it draws security like I’m hoisting a grenade launcher.

Is there anything we can do, or is this just the way it’s going to be? Arrrrggghhhh!


If you’re a regular here, you know I’ve been shooting food lately in preparation for my wife’s upcoming cookbook, and after looking at many of the leading food photographers, my wife and I both decided that the one guy whose work really stood out was New-York based photographer Lou Manna.

I was thinking how much I’d love to get a chance to learn from this guy, and so I took a chance; went to Google and typed in “Lou Manna” + Workshop. 10 seconds later I’m looking at a description of his next Digital Food Photography workshop, and about five minutes after that, I had signed up for his upcoming May 4th class, and was making flight arrangements to New York.

Well, yesterday I took his workshop and I was just blown away at what I learned. So much so, that after about the first 90-minutes I sent a text message to my wife that I had already gotten more than my money’s worth. Shooting food is just plain tough; making that food look really appetizing is even tougher, and lighting for food is just, wellâ¦it’s WAY harder than it looks, and that was what I was most interested in.

Luckily, the focus of the day was on lighting, and the insights he gave in just the first hour or so more than covered the class tuition. In fact, I’ve rarely been to a workshop that was such a value that I thought it was actually under-priced, but this truly was an $800 workshop for only $250.


(Above: Chef Dennis styling the dessert I’m going to shoot).


(Above: You don’t have to go out for lunch when you’re shooting food!)


When you take a shot, it immediately displays on the HDTV so the class, and Lou, can see the work in process.

Here’s some brief highlights:

  • The workshop was held in his 5th Ave studio, and it was very warm and inviting, with a large kitchen right in the studio.
  • He had a wonderful chef and food stylist on hand, Chef Dennis Williford, who’s also a kick butt food photographer in his own right.
  • At lunchtime, Chef Dennis made the whole class just a wonderful meal, and it was great to sit down with the other students (10 altogether) and Lou and get to know each other and share stories
  • Lou had each student show some of their photography portfolio, and then their food photography, and his critiques really helped you to understand what makes a successful food shot, and included invaluable insights on both lighting and composition. This was a really worthwhile and eye-opening segment, and Lou really handled these portfolio reviews with grace, courtesy, humor, and wonderful insights.
  • The morning was spent going over the basics, looking at some of Lou’s own amazing work, and he showed us a number of tricks, behind the scene’s photos of his main lighting set-up (amazingly simple, but I would have never figured it out on my own), and lots on backgrounds, props, styling, and more.
  • After lunch we dug in deeper, and saw how complex some really tricky shoots can get, and he gave us ideas how to handle the shooting tough objects like liquids (beer, cocktails, liquor bottles, etc.).
  • We ended the day by either styling our own food, or having Chef Dennis style it for us (I used Chef Dennis—I’m not a food stylist by any means), and then Lou left it up to take the techniques we learned in the class and put them to work (which is where my shot posted yesterday came from).

Lou was such a gracious host, Chef Dennis was just amazing, the students were just ecstatic, and we all left wanting more (which is the sign of a truly great workshop). Lou is such a giving teacher, who doesn’t hold anything back, and you really felt like he wanted to see you be a success in shooting food, and his energy and enthusiasm kept everybody excited and engaged the entire day.
If you’re into food photography, you’ve got to take Lou’s workshop. It’s an insane value, and you’ll learn things, gain insights, and pick up tricks that you just can’t learn anywhere else. If you can’t get to one of his workshops (they sell out in advance, and his next one is Sunday, June 22nd—here’s the link to his blog for more info), then at very least, get his great top-rated book on digital food photography (link).

Even if you’re not into shooting food, and you just appreciate great photography, take a moment to check out some of Lou’s wonderful work (click right here).

Greetings from 37,000 feet, seat 14C, aboard jetBlue flight 23 (by the way; the legroom on jetBlue flights is really fantastic).

This week I wanted to post a quick installment of NAPP News, the video update that NAPP’s Executive Director Larry Becker posts each week on the NAPP member home page. Larry launched this weekly video update to let NAPP members know about new member discounts and special deals, along with any breaking industry news, news about the site; the forums, and basically anything to help members get the most from their membership. Take a quick minute or two and check out this week’s installment (below), and then catch “Larry TV” each week on the member home page.

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My trip to New York this weekend was definitely a “Top Five” experience for me.

First, I spent all day on Sunday in a “Food Shooting” workshop from one of the industry’s top food photographers, and an amazing instructor Lou Manna (author of the book, “Digital Food Photography”). I have a full field report (with photos) to share tomorrow, but in the meantime, here’s one of the shots I took in class (click for a larger version).

On Saturday, I spent one of those life-changing days that come along every rare once in a while, as I got to spend the afternoon wandering the streets of New York shooting with a real honest-to-goodness living legend; Jay Maisel. More on this, later this week (along with photos), but it was a humbling, hilarious, educational, insightful, touching, and thought provoking day I’ll never forget.

There were some location shoots snuck in-between, and I’ve got some wild stories, and yet another of my now famous “Scott’s Photography School of Hard Knocks” moments that I’ll share later this week, as well.

Also, I had dinner tonight with Matt and RC at my favorite restaurant in the whole wide world; Carmine’s on West 44th (though RC took me to a Spanish restaurant in Spanish Harlem last night that is already inching it’s way into my top five list).

So, why aren’t I going into detail now? Because it’s nearly 1:00 am; I’ve got a shoot in five hours, then my workshop at B&H Photo at 10:00 am, and I’m a cross between glowing and absolutely whipped. I’ve got a lot of cool things to share, and that’s what I’ll be doing on my flight back home tomorrow night.

Hope I see you at B&H Photo in New York tomorrow. Have a “top-five” Monday. :)


Corey Barker turned me onto this amazing flash video (it’s only about 90 seconds long), at the MGM Grand web site and I have to tell you; it is absolutely just about the most amazing Flash-based promo I’ve ever seen. This should have been a SuperBowl ad (it blows most of the others away).

Take 90 seconds, follow this link, then click the ENTER MAXIMUM VEGAS link on the right side of the photo; sit back, and just watch. Incredibly creative, seamlessly edited, and flawlessly executed. My hats off the designers/video editors who dreamed this up.

lr2icon.jpgSince I released my “7-point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3” book, I’ve had a lot of questions from Lightroom users about how to open an image processed in Lightroom as Smart Object in Photoshop. Unfortunately, that feature wasn’t available in Lightroom 1.4, so while there was a clunky workaround (which I covered earlier this year on the blog), it wasn’t the real integration we wanted.

Luckily, one of the features Adobe added in the public beta of Lightroom 2.0 made part of my Seven Point System for Photoshop CS3 work that much better with Lightroom because of its direct support of Smart Objects.

Just go under Lightroom 2.0’s Photo menu, under Edit in Adobe Photoshop CS3, and choose Open as Smart Object in Photoshop. Once the image is opened as a Smart Object, to reedit the image just double-click on it and it opens in Camera Raw (which is similar to opening it in the Develop Module of Lightroom). You can make your changes there, click the Done button, and it updates the Smart Object automatically. When you’re done editing the Photoshop file, and you save and close it, the image then returns to Lightroom for output.

Anyway, I know a lot of people have been hoping for this support in Lightroom 2.0 (it was on my Lightroom 2.0 wishlist), and I’m happy to see it made it’s way there. :)