Wednesday
Mar
2014
19

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Todd Sipes!

by Brad Moore  |  9 Comments

After recently wrapping up my eBook on urban exploration photography, I’ve taken a step back to examine why I go to abandoned places, risking legal repercussions and personal injury only to walk away with a few shots that I truly love. The obvious reasons are that it’s incredibly fun, it’s adventurous, it’s exhilarating, it’s challenging, and I love historical places. But most importantly, I have the rare opportunity to photograph places that very few photographers can. The skills I’ve gained over the years to find abandoned places, to figure out how to get inside of them (without getting arrested), and to photograph them in extremely unforgiving lighting circumstances are all factors that I shouldn’t take for granted. With that said, it hasn’t always been a cake walk. I’ve had close calls with authority figures, I’ve partially fallen through floors, and I’ve walked away with a plethora of terrible photos. The latter of those three things has been the most difficult to overcome. By sharing the following lessons, my hope is to save other photographers some of the frustrations of learning the hard way.

Lesson #1: Shoot less!
One of the tough lessons I had to learn in my first year of shooting is that I was simply taking too many shots. When I first started sneaking into abandoned places, I was under the impression that I needed to capture every inch of the building. I think the fear of the building being demolished left me with the possibility that I may be the last person to ever photograph it. After realizing how ridiculous that notion was, coupled with the fact that most of my photos were terrible, I had to ask myself “what is my goal?” I knew that I wanted to create artistic photos that tell the stories of the abandoned buildings that I explore. Once I accepted that I didn’t need to serve as a documentarian by capturing every mundane detail, my workflow sped up (because I didn’t need to review hundreds of photos) and I was much happier with the shots I walked away with.

Lesson #2: Focus on composition
Not only was I wasting a ton of time trying to shoot too many photos, I was more focused on post-processing rather than composition. I’m happy that I’ve spent so much time immersed in Lightroom, Photoshop, OnOne, Nik, and other post-processing tools, but I don’t like looking at photos from my first year of shooting because they’re just horribly composed. I had this twisted mindset that I could just run my photos through Photomatix, crank up the saturation, and call it a day. I’ve actually gone back to re-shoot a lot of the abandoned places that I shot in my first year because the pictures were THAT bad. You can usually salvage a photo that has mediocre color or lighting in post-processing, but you can’t fix composition (without cropping and sacrificing image quality).

Quick tip: Submit your photos to online forums and message boards for critique. 99% of the time, your friends won’t tell you if your image sucks.

Lesson #3: Don’t shoot mid-day
Fast forward a year. I began to see how lighting was playing a much larger role in my photography. I would typically wake up around 10am on a Saturday and go shoot during the day. This makes it very difficult to get evenly lit photos. Abandoned places are notoriously difficult to shoot because they are often very dark. When you’re shooting in a dark place with harsh afternoon sun blaring in through windows or roof, it creates photos with extreme contrast (even with HDR). With that said, landscape photographers swear by blue hour and golden hour…for very good reason. I began to realize that my shots were turning out better if I shot early in the morning or around sunset. If I’m going to be shooting in a dark space, I’d rather have the lighting characteristics of the soft morning sun instead of the harsh afternoon light, no matter how little light is actually coming through. It’s also easier to sneak in and out of abandoned buildings when it’s dark, so set those alarms for 5 AM and hit the road!

Lesson #4: The 2 lens rule
Everyone wants to be properly equipped for any photographic situation; there’s nothing wrong with that for the everyday photographer. But for urban explorers, carrying every lens you own can be a huge pain (especially if you’re hopping fences or running away from “threats”). After lugging around too much gear for far too long, I realized I only used about half of what I was carrying for 90% of my exploring. My advice is to pick your 2 favorite lenses and leave the rest at home. You can always swap out glass and go back to a certain location if you feel like you truly missed some shots without a particular lens.

Lesson #5: Stop using Photomatix for your HDR needs
This one might earn me some hate mail, but it needs to be said. While on a trip to Nicaragua with The Giving Lens, photographer Colby Brown turned me onto LR/Enfuse as an alternative to Photomatix and I haven’t looked back. Don’t get me wrong, Photomatix can yield some great results… but rarely in the hands of beginners. One of the problems that I see time and time again is that urban explorers want to get that gritty detail in their images, so they crank up the Photomatix Strength slider to 100 and hope for the best. This isn’t the right way to do it and I was guilty of the same thing for a long time. Using LR/Enfuse or 32-bit HDR’s gives me great dynamic range without the pitfalls of Photomatix sliders. If you’re looking to get some gritty texture in your images, try Nik Color Efex Pro’s Tonal Contrast filter (used in moderation) instead.

Lesson #6: Don’t stop experimenting
It’s easy to fall into the routine of “what works” in order to generate a solid image, whether it’s using the same camera settings, light painting technique, or Photoshop actions. We’re all just looking for the fastest route to great results, right? That’s logical and perfectly fine if you’re happy with what you’re creating. Personally, I get bored. I like to try new methods to capture a scene or post process an image. Forcing myself to experiment has broken many of the creative plateaus I’ve experience over the years. Don’t just read articles on the web of what you “should be doing” (like this one). Get out there and try things simply because you haven’t tried them before. A couple great exercises that I still practice to this day are:

1. Explore with only one lens, preferably a prime lens. This will force you to move around and try different angles because you’re locked into one focal length.

2. Don’t do any bracketing. In my book, I tell my readers to “always bracket.” That advice is for making sure you get a usable exposure, either through HDR or by having different exposures to choose from. If you go exploring and DON’T bracket for a day, you’ll learn to rely on your histogram to ensure that you’ve got a proper exposure.

Lesson #7: Look at your old work
I sometimes get frustrated or burned out by the creative process. In order to write this article, I went into the archives and analyzed some of my worst photos so that I could map out some of the things I’ve learned along the way. As much as I hate it and it makes me cringe, seeing how far I’ve come motivates me to get better and to never stop learning. A good practice is to take a look at some of your old shots and ask yourself, “Why did I shoot it this way?” and, “How would I shoot it today?” Those two questions alone have encouraged me to get out there and keep shooting so that I can improve my technique and workflow. I employ the sage wisdom of “work smarter, not harder” to my photography; if you don’t step back and examine why you do things a certain way, you’ll never come up with a better way to do them. I certainly didn’t get into this hobby to settle for mediocrity and neither should you.

If you’d like to learn more about urban exploration photography, feel free to check out my book over at Peachpit.

You can see more of Todd’s work at Abandoned.Photography and ToddSipes.net, and follow him on Facebook and Google+.

Tuesday
Mar
2014
18

My Book “It’s a Jesus Thing” Is Now Available On Kindle

by Scott Kelby  |  Comments Off Comments

First, if you’re reading that headline and thinking, “Scott wrote a book about Jesus?” then I hope you’ll take a moment and watch the short video above about why I wrote it and who it’s for (since it certainly is different than the books I usually write).

It’s been available as a print book for a while now (link), and on Apple’s iBook Store as an eBook, and I know a number of you have been waiting for its Kindle release, and I’m happy to announce today that now it’s finally here for the Kindle for just $7.99 – Here’s the link in case you’re so inclined.

Also, if you order (or download) a copy, know that 100% of the profits from the book go to the Springs of Hope Orphanage in Kenya. 

One more thing: I left the commenting turned off for this post, which is unusual for me, but this book is unusual for me too, and this way I can actually go to the office instead of just sitting around all day with my finger on the “Delete comment and block user button.” LOL!  :)

Cheers, and here’s wishing you your best Tuesday yet!

All my best,

-Scott

Monday
Mar
2014
17

Shooting Cars in Phoenix (and a Behind-the-Scenes Video)

by Scott Kelby  |  12 Comments

I had a really fun studio car-shoot in Phoenix after my seminar there last week, and I shared my favorite images from the shoot over at the photo story-telling site, Exposure.so (here’s the link to my images).

I wound up getting to shoot both a new 2014 Corvette Stingray and a Classic Shelby Cobra (I give all the details and stuff over at that link above), including behind the scenes photos, but I thought I’d share a simple iPhone video behind the scenes (taken by Brad). I’m not wearing a mic or anything (after all, it’s a phone video), so the audio isn’t killer, but at least you get a look at the set-up and simply it was lit.

The studio we did the shoot in is owned by Paul Markow — super-nice guy with a killer studio (met him in Vegas at WPPI on the way to another car shoot), and his assistant Robert Humanski (who helped us out like you cannot believe), gave us the run of the place for three hours and we had a total blast!

If you’ve got a minute, I hope you’ll check it out over at Exposure.so

Have a great Monday (I know, groan), and we’ll catch you here tomorrow.

Best,

-Scott

 

 

Friday
Mar
2014
14

Are You Up For a Three-day Lightroom Love Fest?

by Scott Kelby  |  7 Comments

A lot of people are surprised when they find out how much Lightroom Training there is at the Photoshop World Conference (which kicks off in just 24 days in Atlanta). It’s a straight-up three-day Lightroom love-fest (so much so, that you can come to Photoshop World, and take nothing but Lightroom classes each day—all day—and never take a Photoshop or photography class at all.

We even have an optional full-day Lightroom Crash Course pre-conference workshop (taught by Matt Kloskowski himself), the day before the conference starts (so, it would be on April 7th, and the regular 3-day conference starts on April 8th).

Here’s who teaching our Lightroom sessions at Photoshop World in Atlanta:

  • Matt Kloskowski
  • Zack Arias
  • Julieanne Kost
  • Eddie Tapp
  • Jeremy Cowart
  • Terry White
  • Frank Doorfof
  • Brian Hughes
  • Erik Valind
  • RC Concepcion
  • and Me

Take a look at the details of these daily Lightroom sessions, (click right here, and look each day at the dedicated Lightroom track).

By the way, you can save $100 off the price of a full conference pass (which includes access to all these conference sessions) if you sign up by MONDAY the 17th  just three from now), which brings the price of the full conference pass down to just $595 (plus, it’s even less if you’re a KelbyOne member, or you’ve been to Photoshop World before, because you get special discounts on top of that).

Any questions about any of this, talk to a real live, really helpful person (yay!) by calling toll-free 1-800-201-7323

Hope I’ll see you in won of my classes in Atlanta later this month. :-)

Gotta run — I’ve got four location portrait shoots today for a project I’m doing for CocaCola.com, and I’m still editing the images from a studio car shoot I did in Phoenix after my seminar there on Wednesday (here’s a behind-the-scenes shot from my iPhone — I got to shoot this new 2014 Corvette Stingray and a really cool Shelby Cobra. Can’t wait to share the shots as soon as they’re done).

Also, I should have some really fun news for KelbyOne subscribers on Monday or Tuesday (it will make a lot of folks happy). Hope you all have a fantastic weekend and we’ll see you back here next week.

Best,

-Scott

Thursday
Mar
2014
13

It’s Free Stuff Thursday!

by Brad Moore  |  48 Comments

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Photoshop World Early Bird Special Ends March 18
Photoshop World Atlanta is just around the corner, and if you sign up before March 18 (just a few days away), you can save $100 on registration! Not only that, but if you’re a KelbyOne member, you can save an extra $50. Why not sign up to come spend three great days learning from the best instructors on the planet, including Joe McNally, Jeremy Cowart, Zack Arias, Moose Peterson, Dave Black, Peter Hurley, and lots of other amazing teachers? And when you’re not learning from them, you can be meeting other photographers and designers, having a blast at Midnight Madness, or checking out the fun toys useful tools of the trade on the expo floor!

Leave a comment for your chance to win a Photoshop Guys book set!

Food Photography: A Recipe for Savory Success
Join Nicole S. Young as she takes you step-by-step through her food photography workflow in her latest KelbyOne course. There’s a lot more to photographing food than you might think. You’ll learn everything you need to know to get started, from the gear and camera settings she uses to the importance of choosing the right props for your scene, from what to look for when selecting your ingredients to essential food styling tips and tricks used by the pros. Nicole even dishes out a number of techniques for dealing with challenging food situations that might arise. Whether you shoot with natural light or in the studio this class has you covered.

Leave a comment for your chance to check this class out for free!

KelbyOne Live
Want to spend a day with Scott KelbyMatt Kloskowski, RC Concepcion, or Ben Willmore? Check out these seminar tours!

Shoot Like A Pro with Scott Kelby
Mar 28 – Minneapolis, MN
Apr 14 – Salt Lake City, UT
May 13 – Portland, OR

Lightroom 5 Live with Matt Kloskowski
Mar 31 – Indianapolis, IN
Apr 2 – Columbus, OH

Photoshop for Photographers with RC Concepcion
Mar 26 – Arlington, TX
Apr 11 – Washington, DC
May 20 – Hartford, CT

Photoshop Creativity with Ben Willmore
Apr 16 – Chicago, IL
May 7 – Philadelphia, PA
May 9 – South San Francisco, CA
May 28 – Sacramento, CA

You can check out the full schedule for seminars through March! And leave a comment for your chance to win a ticket to one of these events!

Cliff Mautner Receives WPPI Lifetime Achievement Award
Congratulations to KelbyOne instructor and Nikon Ambassador Cliff Mautner on receiving the WPPI Lifetime Achievement Award during the recent 2014 WPPI Conference! This award is given for outstanding contributions in photography over one’s career, and Cliff has definitely done what it takes to deserve this award. Cliff will be filming more KelbyOne classes soon, and we can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us!

Last Week’s Winners
Photoshop Guys Book Set
- Chris Fischer

KelbyOne Live Ticket
- Cody Ash

If you’re one of the lucky winners, we’ll be in touch soon. Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday
Mar
2014
12

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Jerod Foster!

by Brad Moore  |  7 Comments

First off, let me thank Brad Moore for the invitation to be part of Guest Blog Wednesday, as well as Scott Kelby for sharing this popular platform with many great shooters and storytellers across the world. You are both a tremendous service to the industry and the art of photography.

A few years ago, I had an all-day conversation with several other photographers. We talked photography from morning until dinner. It was nice, but also personally revealing of some feelings about my work as a photographer. You see, I left that conversation thinking to myself, “I’m not a photographer for photography’s sake.”

That was it? That was the sum total of the entire day for me?

Don’t get me wrong. I love photography. I loved photography before it was my job, and I feel I have the best one in the world. It is, simply, what I do. I am a photography professor at Texas Tech University’s College of Media and Communication, where I not only get to think and muse on photography and photographic technique all day, I also get to teach it to a diverse group of students. On top of that, I have a thriving editorial (and more recently, commercial) freelance photography business. Within the past three years, I’ve even joined the ranks of a number of this site’s contributors and authored several books on the subject of photography. Needless to say, I’m a strong advocate for photography. It’s the best job, and in my eyes, it has been the ultimate form of visual communication since hieroglyphics. So, for me to dismiss photography as something in which my life is steeped would be a lie.

However, that day-long conversation I had years ago taught be a bit about myself as a shooter, and that bit is also the most powerful message I give to my students:

Be more than just a photographer.

I tell them this for a few reasons. First, to let them know that, professionally, they are expected to be more than an image-maker. Fill in the blank with whatever job/role one might play in running a photography business or being part of a publication/agency, and you know what I mean. Second, to emphasize that knowledge of photography—of the button pushing, of seeing, creating and exposing great light, of finding attractive composition, etc.—is but one piece of the formula that makes up great imagery, albeit a large one. Third, and most importantly, I say this to encourage them to use their other passions as vehicles for their photography.

Of course, I contextualize this last statement with practical examples. My mentor, Wyman Meinzer, state photographer of Texas, is, in essence, a cultural historian. His work comes in many different published forms, and the majority of it speaks to his expansive knowledge of the state and its inhabitants. Wyman eats up the history of the Plains, of Texas explorers, and you can see its influence on his photography and his writing. The same could be said of National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson and his native state of Kansas, or his home away from home, Scotland.

Michael Clark, one of my favorite adventure sports photographers, started out as an adventure athlete himself. His knowledge of and experience in rock climbing is a good deal of why his images stand out among the growing competition. Likewise, many of the best music and live performance photographers I know are musicians and singer-songwriters themselves, and if they aren’t, they have a deep love of “the scene,” and can not only shoot like crazy, but also talk about what or who they’re shooting until the cows come home.

For the past few years, my own passions for conservation issues, agriculture, and travel have informed my photography work and how I conduct that work. Much of what I have shot for folks like the Texas Tribune and the New York Times has been energy and environmental journalism, and I’m more able to not only find shots that tell stories on pressing issues, but also how to communicate with those I’m photographing, whether they be lobbyists, waste water treatment plant managers, or water line construction crews. My strong interest in conservation helps me work with clients like The Nature Conservancy and Texas Parks and Wildlife. Growing up on a cattle ranch and later working as an intern in the cotton industry helps me “speak the language” when I photograph farmers and ranchers for any number of stories that my clients might have. Over the years, my portfolio has come to reflect my passions—and expertise—and interesting, relevant assignments come as a result.

Ultimately, my message to my students—be more than just a photographer—evolved from, “I’m not a photographer for photography’s sake,” as a means to give the latter statement purpose. I’m a photographer because photography is the most powerful means through which I can showcase those stories and issues in which I’m most interested. This goes beyond how we talk about gear, beyond how we talk about the image itself, and gets into why we do it in the first place. Telling stories relies on us being great at our craft, and just as much our ability to visually articulate something that is most definitely non-photographic. Having an expertise (or just a temporary expertise) in something that you want to cover visually, simply put, makes for better, engaging images.

I encourage everyone reading to look beyond themselves as photographers and ask, “What else do I feel passionate about?” Is it climate change? Politics? Football? Family? Pizza? Only you know the end of your interests (and I hope they always continue to grow)! Let your passions lead you and your work!

You can see more of Jerod’s work at JerodFoster.com, and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and his blog.

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