Thursday
May
2008
08

My “Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques” Online Class Goes Live on Friday!

by Scott Kelby  |  4 Comments

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The most eagerly awaited (OK, even I couldn’t do that one with a straight face, so let me start again). The most overdue online class of the year, my “Professional Portrait Retouching Online Class” for KelbyTraining.com finally goes live tomorrow. After incorporating your ideas and input for other techniques that should be added to the class, it turned out to be a retouching love-fest that was nearly four and half hours long, so I wound up breaking it into two separate classes; a part 1 and part 2, and both parts go live Friday.

Check out the video below to learn more about the class, what it covers, and how it all works, then tomorrow afternoon check out the class itself on KelbyTraining.com.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/YOpoMS6YT54" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Thursday
May
2008
08

Review Update: The Hoodman RAW Memory Cards; Hoodman Responds

by Scott Kelby  |  6 Comments

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Last week I posted a field report review of Hoodman’s RAW UDMA high-speed memory cards, and in my report I mentioned that while the cards performed flawlessly for me, and were fast as blazes, I couldn’t find a reason to justify their higher cost vs. similar size and speed Lexar and SanDisk cards (the Hoodman RAW cards run $70 to $80 more per card).

Yesterday, I heard from Lou Schmidt, VP of Marketing over at Hoodman Corporation, who sent this response to my review. I’m publishing his comments in their entirety below, but to cut to the chase, I called out in red why they’re more expensive, which told me exactly why they’re worth every extra penny. Here’s what Lou had to say:

“Thanks for the fine review of our Hoodman RAW CF cards… Thanks too for giving us the opportunity to explain why our customers are willing to pay more for Hoodman RAW memory cards. The RAW line has been in the marketplace for 18 months world wide and we have had ZERO in-field failures. Hoodman RAW is manufactured in Silicon Valley and is the only CF card built in the USA.

Both Sandisk and Lexar memory cards are built in ASIA in huge quantities to support the mass merchant market… Huge production will give you economies of scale which will allow you to lower your price, but there is a significant draw back to huge production runs… FAILURE RATES …which are tracking between 3 to 5% for mass merchant card makers. .

Professional photographers will not see mass merchant card makers supporting educational functions like Photoshop World or regional or national PPA shows because they are mass merchant card makers who can live with a 3 to 5 % failure rate. Which Pro will want to be the 3 -5% failure guy??? Hoodman has just completed exhibiting at 10 shows since January. Hoodman is pleased to give back by supporting educational programs in photography at the national, regional and dealer levels.

… Mass merchant card makers have always played the price game and continue to dump their cards in the marketplace because they are no longer selling well in the Photo Dealer Channel.

Hoodman customer service is manned from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday with live, helpful people… our competitors service systems will send you into endless voicemail loupes and make you wait 2 to 5 days for an offshore call center to get back to you; which is not much help when a customer needs answers now.

Yes, Hoodman RAW does cost more… Pros who can afford US built reliability and do not see memory as a commodity will continue to buy Hoodman RAW because they know us and see us doing our best to make the products that make their jobs easier.

Thanks for your time and efforts to understand the value a RAW memory card offers to the purchaser” –Lou Schmidt, Hoodman Corporation

Thursday
May
2008
08

Joe McNally Reminds Me What a Small World It Is

by Scott Kelby  |  1 Comments

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Last week, on my way to work, I returned a call from my buddy Joe McNally. Joe answers and we BS for just a minute, and then he tells me that he can’t really talk long because he’s in the middle of doing a book signing at Borders Bookstore. Of course, I apologize for interrputing his signing, but he says, “Hold on a for a sec” and then I hear the sound of shutter buttons. He tells me he just had a photo taken of him during the signing, because he wanted me to see that right behind him was a display with both my and Matt Kloskowski’s books (you can see the orange corner of my Lightroom book behind Joe’s shoulder, in the shots above by Stephen Hindley).

Anyway, I told him I’d let him go, but before I hung up, I asked him, “Which Borders are you in?” thinking he’d say he was in Connecticut or New York, but he says, “I’m in the Mall of the Emirates, in Dubai.” I was floored, especially since I had just been in that same exact store, in that same exact mall, just two weeks earlier. What a small world, eh?

Then, after I hung up and continued on my way to work, it hit me. “Hey, how come I didn’t get to do a book signing when I was in Dubai?” (I know. I know. It’s because I’m not Joe McNally. I totally understand). :-)

Anyway, I thought it was such a cool thing that Joe got to do this (he was teaching over there at the Gulf Photo Plus Conference at the time), and that the people of Dubai think as highly of Joe’s work over there as we do here in the States.

Tuesday
May
2008
06

The “Tripod Police” Take Things Up a Notch (You’re not going to believe this one!)

by Scott Kelby  |  6 Comments

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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!

Tuesday
May
2008
06

Digital Food Photography Workshop Field Report

by Scott Kelby  |  2 Comments

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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, well…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.

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

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

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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).

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