Monthly Archives August 2020

What the Flash?

I am not a newcomer to photography or photographic education, but I am new to the KelbyOne family. I’m honored to be among many of my photographic heroes. My goal is that after you read this blog post, you will be motivated to join me on the journey and exploration of lighting.

Light is at the core of our creative practice; without light, it would be impossible to create photographs. Although with the advanced technology of today’s cutting edge cameras, you can make a picture by moonlight, not all light is good light. I photograph people, and I strive to capture them in their best light, both figuratively and literally.

Off-camera flash, in particular, Speedlites, is my tool of choice. The power and possibilities of off-camera flash allow me to overcome many of the challenging “What the Flash” situations I often find myself in. I never want to be a victim of poor available light!

Let us begin with a little background; I started my career as a photojournalist way back in high school while working on the school newspaper. I freelanced for a string of weekly community newspapers selling photographs of our football team, which happened to be in the running for the state championship. Once I learned, I could make a living as a photojournalist. I set my sights on the Chicago Sun-Times.

I reached my goal in 1983, and I’ve been a working photographer ever since.  My cameras have been a passport to the world. I have been fortunate enough to photograph every President since Ronald Reagan. I have been fired by President Trump and captured the pinnacle moments of  Michael Jordan’s basketball career with The Chicago Bulls.  

I left the news industry in 2004. Burned out on bad news, I embarked on the second act of my photographic career starting our wedding, portrait, and event studio. After a large commissioned project for Oprah, The Legends Event, my wife and partner Dawn Davis joined me in this creative endeavor forming Bob and Dawn Davis Photography and Design.

Dawn is not a photographer, but she is the glue that keeps everything together, and I would not enjoy the success I have without her. She has that rare ability of the left brain, right brain. Dawn was an accountant with a passion for graphic design and postproduction.

I think of us like Elton John and Bernie Taupin. They create their music in two rooms, Bernie writes the lyrics and Elton writes the music. I can see the photograph before I press the shutter, in my mind, I see all the elements coming together, composition the moments unfolding, and the light. I am a seeker of light. Dawn sees how the image can reach its full potential with a timeless classic look, and knows Lightroom and Photoshop the same way I know lighting. Together we have created our brand and style. To this day, we pinch ourselves and do the happy dance each time we receive a request to photograph someone’s most special day. We are blessed to work with A-list celebrities, athletes, and people who love photography.

Let us explore the power and possibilities of off-camera flash. The photographs I’m going to share are from the engagement session of Lauren and Ryan.

Time: 5:48:46 PM
Model: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
Lens (mm): 142
ISO: 200
Aperture: 5.6
Shutter: 1/200

The couple envisioned a romantic scene as the sunset over this lily pond in Chicago. I don’t always have the luxury of shooting during golden-hour, I have to work around my client’s schedule. On this particular day, the skies were gray, and the rain was coming.

One of my core beliefs is always to be prepared. I packed the Think Tank Photo FirstLight 40L backpack with the following:

(more…)

Instagram is the main social media platform exclusively centred around imagery, but things have changed and video is becoming as important as still photography. What else do we need to know about the ever-changing Instagram in 2020? Well, it’s #TravelTuesday, I’m Dave Williams, and I’m about to share what I’ve learned so far this year. Let’s go!

Instagram remains a huge means of exposure and if we want to progress our photography, be it as a hobbyist or a pro, we need to be seen. It can be said that to be seen we need to take risks, and it can also be said that putting our images on Instagram is becoming a risk, owing to the recent judgments that Instagram posts may be shared without credit. That’s not what it’s all about, though. It’s not just a case of getting our images shared and “stolen” because of these judgments, but also about the potential rewards. When we have our images shared without credit it’s annoying, it’s an irritation, but it’s usually not benefitting the person sharing it. The difference is that it can benefit us. To get that exposure we need to “work” on Instagram. Here’s how: –

First, it’s not as easy as it used to be. There are algorithms in place which dictate our exposure, our audience, our limits, and if we work to the algorithm, we can take advantage of it rather than dwelling on the negative aspects. The “work” we need to put in involves one thing and one thing alone: engagement.

If we engage with others, it encourages and attracts reciprocated engagement. That engagement is noticed by the algorithm and offers us more exposure because the algorithm “sees” that we are doing well and are, therefore, worth showing to more accounts—more people.

The “post and forget” strategy simply doesn’t work. If we post a photo and just close the app, we aren’t going to get engagement and exposure. We need to genuinely and sincerely interact with other accounts, particularly those similar to ours. The reason is twofold: first, we’re interacting with the person who posted the photo we’re leaving a nice comment on, and second, we’re exposing ourselves to their followers who see our comment.

There are bots, automations, engines, whatever you want to call them, and we can pay for services to do this for us…BUT DON’T DO THIS! It simply doesn’t work. The comments are not real, the likes are spam, everything the bot does stands out to people, and, perhaps more importantly, to Instagram (who will suspend your account because of a breach of terms.) There are entire studies on this and it’s nothing more than a way for someone else to make some money—it will not grow your account.

When we post images (or videos) we need some kind of strategy. The account needs to have a focus so that people who follow us do so because they know what to expect. It could be that they see a certain editing style or a certain subject matter that attracts them to hit the Follow button, so we need to deliver this attractive element to an audience and encourage them to hit that button in the first place. A grid that looks cool is just as important as an image that looks cool.

Stepping it up, there’s a location field and a description field that we need to make the most of. Tagging a location is another way for our image to be found—people search locations and if our image doesn’t have a location, we negate this method for being discovered. The description also pulls people’s attention—if they are drawn to read our description (or caption) and like it, they are more likely to also hit the heart to like the photo or even drop a comment in. If this happens within the first hour or so of our image being posted, we’re far more likely to attract further attention or even end up in the Explore tab.

Hashtags are a hot topic, but there’s the potential that we can go very wrong with them, as well, so check this out: –

Instagram allows 30 hashtags per post, either in the caption or in the comments. Many, many people have noticed that rather than using all 30, a post performs better when 10–20 are used. When selecting hashtags we need to ensure they’re applicable to the image, and that our image will not get lost among a plethora of posts. If we use a popular hashtag, such as #landscape, we’ll have people post the same hashtag soon after us and our post will be pushed down the list very quickly, whereas if we use a less popular hashtag, such as #landscapephotographer, we’ll retain a position close to the top for longer, offering more exposure before our post is lost down the list.

Finally, take note of what else performs well on Instagram. Bear in mind that the most “liked” image is simply a stock photo of an egg! What we find to be technically and artistically the best images are not the ones that perform well. The truth is it’s the vivid, vibrant colours, scenes packed with action, adventure, and things people can relate to that actually do the best and attract the most attention. Also, cats!

PS: You should totally follow me!

Much love
Dave

…and if you think it’s because I stayed up way too late last night playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare with my friend Terry, man are you off base. ;-)

Anyway, sorry I whiffed on today’s post, but if you’re a Lightroom user, I did (earlier in the day yesterday) get a post together for my other blog (yes, one blog is clearly not enough, though I obviously have a hard time keeping up with even one), and it’s on how to create multi-photo layouts in Lightroom’s print module (and no you don’t have to print the layouts —  you can save them as JPEGs and share them on social, email them, post them on Instagram, etc.).

Here’s a link to the post and the short video where I show you how easy it is (you’ll be surprised). :)

Here’s to a great week; one where you are more productive than I was last night. :)

-Scott

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