Wednesday
Jun
2008
18

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday Featuring: David Ziser

by Scott Kelby  |  1 Comments

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What It Takes to be a Complete Wedding Photographer

It’s Friday and a quick check of the calendar reminds you of what you already knew – you have a big wedding on Saturday. How do you react to the calendar reminder – is it just another darn wedding, or is it news that fires you up with the photographic possibilities of the day. Many photographers I meet are pretty excited about being involved in wedding photography. But too many other photographers I have met over the years answer with a negative attitude, and that is just too bad. Too bad for them and too bad for the client who has hired someone who may not put their heart and soul into the job.

What makes a good wedding photographer, or better yet, what makes a complete wedding photographer? What do I mean by complete wedding photographer? I mean a photographer who is involved enthusiastically from the first consultation till final delivery of the product with his/her client. I mean a photographer that’s on top of their form both artistically and creatively. I mean a photographer who understands the craft of the profession as much as the art. I mean a photographer who brings their heartfelt passion to the profession, to the event and to the client – they love what they do.

I watched on TV as Tiger Woods played in the U.S. Open this past Saturday, Sunday, and Monday – yes, finally winning on Monday. From one stroke back he tied the leader with a very long birdie putt on the 18th hole Sunday evening – his last opportunity to remain in the competition. After 18 holes they were still tied after Monday’s play-off round and went into the “sudden death” playoff. Tiger won on the 1st hole, but the reality is that Tiger didn’t win on that one hole of “sudden death.” It took him 91 holes to emerge the winner of the US Open. Anybody who watches Tiger play golf can easily see his focus, concentration, skill, talent, and creativity he brings to the sport. Tiger studies the sport and practices the fine points relentlessly. The payoff is that he has become the most complete golfer of all time. The complete wedding photographer must think the same way and do the same things if he/she wants to be at the top of their profession.

It’s not just about shooting a wedding that makes us a complete photographer. It’s how we are constantly preparing ourselves for that role. Do we just run through a rote series of images each wedding that we could do in our sleep, or are we constantly refining and enhancing our style. That’s a BIG problem with a lot of the seasoned pros these days. Many of them have seen their business erode from under them because they were late to the digital game, and even more than that, resistant to the changing styles and trends the new digital world introduced to our profession.

We also need to be a different kind of wedding photographer these days. We can’t be a “I know it all” photographer. We need to be a “I want to know it all” photographer. We constantly need to be exposing ourselves to the broad range of styles and creativity we are now seeing by photographers from around the country and the world. We need to see what might fit with our own style and how we may incorporate it into our own routine. Being a complete wedding photographer demands that we are always learning, always trying new things, always trying to raise the bar on ourselves.

More specifically, the complete wedding photographer needs to be quick on their feet, stalking the action, always with their sixth sense and that extra set of eyes behind their heads, ever ready to anticipate and capture the quick reactions. Capturing both, the actions and the reactions, is essential when capturing the moments, and folks, that’s our job as wedding photographers – to capture the moments and as many of them as possible for our clients.

How well do we know our gear? Too many of us have never even read the manual and only have a superficial understanding of all the capabilities of these modern marvels of Harry Potter digital magic we hold in our hands. But that’s the point, our gear should not only be in our hands, it should truly be an extension of ourselves, all it’s functions almost directly wired into our brains, ready to perform effortlessly on the job for us. If we spend some time reading the manual and understanding all those new functions, we really do make that magic our own.

How much time do we practice the art and the craft of our profession? Is it only on weekends during the actual wedding? Think Tiger!! There are so many resources available on line that make it easy for us to enhance and fine tune our style. Just tune in to any number of them easily available at your fingertips. It’s so easy, skip an episode of Law and Order or CSI and tune into some online training. Set the alarm for an hour earlier in the morning and just enjoy a quick web cruise for wedding inspiration. Here is a quick 7 inspirational wedding sites you can check out right here over at my blog DigitalProTalk. Want another quick hit of inspiration – check out this Flickr link to the Inspirational Wedding Photography pool right here – many of these images are simply gorgeous.

Staying inspired as a wedding photographer is part of the work you need to do to be a complete wedding photographer. Here are 10 ways you might try right here.

It amazes me when I hear photographers say, “I’m doing the best I can.” I always thought that was a cop-out remark. It is kind of an excuse for doing exactly the opposite. Most of us have no clue what our best really is until we are under the gun to do better. And, most of the time we do succeed at stretching ourselves a bit more. At each wedding, we should want to do a better job for our clients than we did for the previous client. Don’t rest on your laurels. It’s the only way we grow and in turn broaden the boundaries for others to grow too.

After reading an article in Time magazine a few months ago, I decided to do a post on what it takes to be great. I applied what I gleaned for the article to photography and listed some ideas for all of us to be great. You know, it’s really easy to be the best – you just work a lot harder than the competition and most of the competition doesn’t want to work that hard. It’s all about being a complete wedding photographer. It’s more than just shooting. It’s pro-actively staying passionate about what you do; it’s your willingness to learn; it’s your sharing of your knowledge with others, it’s your desire to constantly improve; it’s pro-actively juicing your creativity from time to time; it’s practicing your skills and your talents; it’s your wanting it bad enough; it’s you’re reaching for the stars and knowing you can get there!

P.S. I want to thank Scott for the invitation to be “Guest Blogger” this Wednesday. It was truly an honor and a privilege. Hey, maybe you can sneak over the DigitalProTalk some day ;~) Thanks again, Scott.

Tuesday
Jun
2008
17

Tomorrow’s Special Guest Blogger Is….

by webeditor  |  0 Comments

……one of the most prolific photography bloggers out there, one of
the finest instructors in our industry, and one of the most celebrated
wedding photographers anywhere–the amazing David Ziser.

If you haven’t already, jump over to David’s “Digital ProTalk” blog
(here’s the link) to learn a little more about his work, then be sure
to come back here tomorrow to catch his post (I read it today and it’s
excellent–and while it is about wedding photography, any working pro
in any photography field will get something out of it).

Tuesday
Jun
2008
17

Special Deal Exclusively for NAPP members on Epson’s Stylus Photo R1900 Color Photo Printer

by Scott Kelby  |  1 Comments

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We just worked out a special deal with Epson, where NAPP members can get $75 off Epson’s Stylus Photo R1900 13″x19″ wide color photo printer (which is pretty sweet, considering a one-year membership to NAPP membership itself is only $99).

The details (and the special discount code), are found on the NAPP member Website, in the Discounts section (the direct links are on the member home page), but beyond that, Matt Kloskowski did three videos for members on how to use the printer, and so you can see if it’s right for you.

The big thing about the R1900 is the quality of its glossy prints (which some claim gives the best quality glossy prints of any printer, thanks to its Ultrachrome High Gloss 2 Ink set), but it prints on virtually any paper, and you can use roll sheets, you can print borderless, and you can even print on CDs.

The R1900 is also the fastest printer in its class, even when using the high-quality settings (in fact, and this is weird; it’s best performance is actually achieved when you use the highest quality settings).

So, is this printer for you? It’s for three types of users: (1) Pros that love glossy prints (2) Small graphic design shops and graphic designers, and (3) Advanced amateur photographers.

One last thing: this limited time offer is available from either B&H Photo (if you have the member Promo Code), or directly from the Epson Online Store (again, you’ll need to use the direct link on the member Web site), which has all the details, and Matt’s videos. Thanks to Epson for making this deal available to our members!

Monday
Jun
2008
16

Some Q&As From Last Week

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments

So sorry for the late post today; more on why next week: I had a number of questions from the past week or so (on the Ring Flash review and other stuff as well) that I thought I’d address to get this week rolling. Here we go:

Q. I think the Ring Flash looks kind of harsh. Do you really like this look?
A. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the Ring Flash look. In fact, my buddy Matt Kloskowski and I were just talking about how we weren’t crazy about the flat look it gives. and that it is kind of hot and harsh. Now, that being said; please don’t judge the effect of Ring Flash by the first time I really gave it a go—it takes practice (and I probably wouldn’t use it as my only light, as I did in the shots you saw last week–I use it as more of a fill). So, why am I buying one? Because despite the fact that I personally don’t like the look, it is the “hot” look in fashion right now, so I figured I’d better get up to speed on it so I can answer questions about it from my readers, and the only way to get good at any of this is to practice, practice, practice. So, hopefully I’ll be able to post some shots I like much better once I get to do just that.

Q. Do you get red eye from using a flash so close to the lens like this?
A. I sure did. Not on every shot mind you, but there were a handful of shots that had red eye.

Q. Isn’t $299 a lot to pay for a plastic adapter?
A. Yup. I thought the same thing when I paid $400+ for a 1-inch by 1-inch memory card made of plastic. It’s not the material it’s made out of that matters; it’s what it does that really matters. If it gives you a ring flash look, in a lightweight, easy-to-use solution; then it works. I think it’s probably ideal for anyone shooting ring-flash here-and-there, but of course, if you think ring-flash is your future, you might want to spend the money and get a higher-end unit.

Q. Do you think it costs too much for what it is?
A. Do I think $299 is the “right” price for the unit? No. I think it’s a bit over-priced, but the market will determine if their price is really “right”. If you see them drop the price, or start to offer rebates, etc. you’ll know the original price was too high. Personally, I think the “right” price would be between $149 and $199, and at that price I think they’d sell three times as many, but that’s easy for me to say—I have no idea what their arrangement with the UK manufacturer is; or how they’re selling, etc. If they’re selling like hotcakes at $299, expect the price to stay the same or go up. Again, the market will decide if the price is right, but if you’re asking me; $199 would be the sweet spot for starters.

Q. Is there any problem mounting the Ray Flash to a Canon flash?
A. None whatsoever. In fact, David (the Ray Flash Demo Guy), used a Canon 580 EX II for his demo, and it didn’t even need the little wedge thingy, like the Nikon’s do.

Now–on to other “Non-Ring Flash” Topics:

Q. What software do you use for your Blog?
A. I use WordPress, which seems to work just great, but I’m no WordPress expert. I am very thankful to have an excellent Web team behind me, in particular the wonderful Fred Maya, who customized the original template for me, and adds the plug-ins I need. I don’t know much “under the hood” stuff about WordPress, so I’m not going to be much more help than that, but you can learn more at the WordPress site (click here).
Q. What do you use for your picture header. Is that some sort of Plugin for WP?

A. It’s a plug-in Fred found for me. I really like it, but I run into people all the time and didn’t realize you can click on the little arrow in the lower right corner to expand the image downward. That kind of drives me nuts, but other that that—I think it’s pretty cool.

Q. I subscribe to many of the Photoshop World instructor blogs and I noticed that everyone “mattes” their photos differently. By “digital matting” I mean adding the extra space around the photo itself and usually includes adding a stroke to the photo to separate it from that space. I have experimented with many different kinds of digital mattes most of which I learned from your or Matt’s classes at Photoshop World in Orlando but not sure how to determine if a specific matte is appropriate for a specific photo. Is there a rhyme or reason behind the different formats of the matte and colors or is it all personal preference?
A. For me; it’s personal preference, and I usually go with a white matte, but then again, it always depends on the photo. If I add the matte in white, and it doesn’t look right, then I switch to black, and that’ll usually do the trick.

Q. If you add a digital signature to your “digital matte” does that make it a “signed print”?
A. If I sell a print, I always sign it by hand, and I think you should, but that’s just me—there are probably arguments on both sides. If I output the print myself, then I add an “A/P” on the bottom, on the opposite side of my signature, indicating that it’s an “Artist Print.”

Q. Scott, now that Lightroom 2.0 Beta has been out for a bit. How about an assessment against your wish list. As a participant in the forum, it would be nice to see your assessment of what they got right.
A. I’ve been kind of holding out for the final shipping version to be released. If Lightroom 1.0 was any indication; remember how they added additional features in the full release that weren’t there in the final public beta? I’m waiting until they ship the final version to see if that happens again, then I’ll give a blow-by-blow of how the features stack up with my very long wish list.

Q. Scott. If it won’t get you into too much trouble with sponsors, what do you think is the best digital camera under $2,500, body only? I want to take up photography for the first time. So far, from what I’ve seen, the D300 looks best.
A. My opinion is, of course, going to be biased because I’m a Nikon shooter, and I bought the D300 (no, Nikon didn’t give me one), so I think that pretty much tells you where I’m at. I think the D300 smokes, especially for the money, and (Nikon will hate me for saying this), I think it’s FAR superior to the Nikon D2Xs which was selling for around $5,000, body only, at the time the D300 came out (in fact, I sold my Nikon D2Xs after having my D300 for about two weeks). So, D300—that’s what I’d recommend to a friend (and have in many instances, and have gotten nothing but love in return).

Q. As long as I’m making long shot requests, the best indoor people lens that’s still fairly versatile for under $1,000.
A. If you want to shoot people indoors; I’m assuming you mean in natural light, in which case you’ll want a “fast” lens (meaning one that can shoot in lower light situations, like an f/2.8 lens), this is tougher, because there’s so many ways to go. I like the compression of a longer lens, so I shoot a lot of people with my 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, but if I want a wider portrait (like more of an editorial look), I use my 17-55mm f/2.8 VR lens. I also have the new 24-70mm f/2.8 lens that came out when the D3 came out, but I haven’t had a chance to try it with the D300, because one of my friends dropped it (accidentally of course) and it killed the lens; four days after I got it (the friend shall remain nameless, because you would know who it is, and I will spare him the shame—-oh the shame—-etc., blah, blah, blah). So, I guess it’s up to what kind of portraits you like to take, but I can tell you for the most part; if I was walking out the door and could only take one lens, it would probably be the 70-200mm f/2.8 (it’s not cheap, and it’s not lightweight, and it’s not small either. In fact, everything about it is bad; expect for the wonderfully crisp images it delivers). Hope that helps.

Well, that’s it for now. Sorry for the late posting. I’ve been struggling with Internet issues (more on this next week), but for now, have a great day (or what’s left of it anyway).

-Scott

Friday
Jun
2008
13

Review: Ray Flash (Turns Your Hot Shoe Flash Into a “Ring Flash”)

by Scott Kelby  |  3 Comments

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I don’t know if you’ll remember back a few months, when I asked for any feedback from my readers on a ring flash adapter made in UK, that connects to your existing hot-shoe flash to give you a ring flash look without buying a heavy/expensive ring flash?

At the time it wasn’t available in the US, and I was asking if anybody had any experience with it, because I was interesting in playing around with ring flash, as it become very popular with fashion photographers, and now you see that broad flat lighting look popping up everywhere (and it’s especially good for Macro photography).

Anyway, one day I’m sitting in our conference room after a meeting had just wrapped up and I look over in Larry Becker’s office, and I see Larry taking a shot with a ring flash. I shot right in there with the usual, “Hey, man! Where’d you get that?” and as it turns out, it’s that UK ring flash adapter I had seen months earlier, but now it’s available in the US from ExpoImaging (the people that make Expo Disc), and the US version is called the Ray Flash (I know, the name kinda…well..you know).

Well, last week Larry told me a local photographer named David Maynard (a really good photographer, by the way) who has become something of an evangelist of this ring flash adapter, and offered to stop by and give us a live demo (he even brought a professional model along with him), so we finally got an hour to play with it, and I have to tell you—I was very impressed.

I took the shots you see above (totally un-retouched—just an exposure balance in Lightroom), during that demo session with David (click on it for a larger view) using a Nikon D300 with an SB-800 on top, mounted on the hot shoe, with the Ray Flash ring flash adapter attached (it actually just slides right over the top of your flash head, and around your lens).

I’m no expert at ring flash at this point, but you can see the flat, broad light it puts out, along with that classic “ring flash” halo that you see so often.

Three things I really liked about it:

  1. It’s very light (considerably lighter than any ring flash I’ve never held, by a long shot).
  2. It’s very easy to use; you pretty much just glide it over your lens, snap your flash head into place, and it’s ready to go (it has no on/off switch, and it’s just redistributing the light from your flash head.
  3. Of course the big thing is; the price. It’s only $299, which is pretty darn cheap for the ring flash effect it creates.

Three minor things I didn’t like:

  1. If you’re using a Nikon flash, it comes with a little wedge you have to insert to keep the ring flash level.
  2. It’s so lightweight, it feels a little flimsy, but not nearly as flimsy as some of the cheaper ring flashes I’ve held, so it’s only a minor gripe, but it is something you’ll notice.
  3. You do lose about a full stop of light from your flash, so you have to run it a little hotter (use more flash power) than normal, so your batteries won’t last quite as long, but again; not a big deal, but just so you know; you’re going to lose a stop.

The Bottomline:
Would I recommend the Ray Flash? Well, I’m buying one myself. The minor things are too minor to be deal-killers, and the advantages (great price, lightweight, small size) make it pretty much a no-brainer for anyone who wants to get a ring flash look, without the ring flash price and weight.

Dave Cross
was with me during the demo shoot that day, and he did a short video showing the flash itself and how it attaches to the camera (including the wedge issue for Nikon users), and you can watch it right on Dave’s site, right here.

For more info on the Ray Flash direct from ExpoImaging, click here.

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