Pandemic Possibilities – Macro Adventure: Homebound with a Flower or Two
Everything as we knew it has changed. We lost spring and summer due to Covid-19, maybe most of 2020… And, for many, not just time. We’ve all experienced a whirl of contradictions in a blur that warps time, making it move fast and slow simultaneously. We’ve had a chance to focus on our work while staying as healthy as we can in mind, body, and spirit.
As photographers (business owners and enthusiasts alike), we possess a heightened awareness of the impact on our work. Weddings, events, and adventure travel have been postponed. Many photographers have reinvented, refined, or caught up on the administrative side of things. It has also been an ideal time to explore… to deepen our skills; to enrich our understanding of ourselves, to slow down, to build new pathways of connecting with others, and to learn new ways of “visioning,” shooting, processing, and sharing our photographic art.
So, is it possible to escape from reality without leaving home? I believe it is. I have completely overhauled my business of leading in-person garden workshops and have harnessed the power of the internet to reach people who were never able to travel to a workshop. Everything about my business revolves around my Facebook group, Phlorography – Artistic Floral Photography.
We have weekly themes which keep things fresh and, with everyone homebound now, I’ve been leading classes online in artistic floral photography, consisting of techniques which can be applied to a wide range of subjects. In this blog, I’m going to share some ideas that are fun and accessible to just about everyone from the comfort of your home and/or yard. Let’s head outside and enter the world of artistic macro floral photography.
CHANGE IT UP WITH A SINGLE SUBJECT
Variables: Lenses, vantage point, Lensbaby Omni filters, post-processing, high and low key imagery.
Since it’s not easy getting to any gardens now, I purchased a bunch of yellow tulips with beautiful red patterns on the petals at the local grocery store. For this exercise, I selected a single tulip and set about to achieve a variety of “looks.”
I used five different lenses (Canon 100mm macro, Canon 180mm macro, Lensbaby Sol 45 and Lensbaby Sweet 50 with macro filters and converters) on my Canon 5D MarkIV. I restricted my space to my driveway, using the natural environment as my background. In addition to the tulip and vase, I used a Manfrotto Lumie Play (3 light LED) held in place by a Wimberly Plamp II which was attached to a small stand. In lieu of a diffuser, I positioned my subject in the shade, although in doing so had to be very mindful of distracting elements and bright light in the background. All shots outdoors were handheld, however, a tripod is advisable if needed for support.
Canon 180mm Macro Lens
I’m starting with the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM Lens. I love this lens for the way it renders backgrounds when shot fairly wide. Be forewarned though that it is hefty and makes handholding a challenge. It also struggles when focusing in dim light or on hard to distinguish edges.
Canon 100mm Macro Lens
The most noticeable difference between the 100mm and the 180mm in this scenario, was the wider angle bringing in too much background. Since I didn’t want the driveway & other distractions visible, I compensated by moving closer to my subject. This exercise wasn’t intended to be an analytical side by side comparison of the optics; just to produce a myriad of looks and styles.
Photography can be vague in terms of subjects and styles, but it’s fair to say that those who stand out are very specific with what they do. When it comes to hobbyist photographers the same is also true—people find their niche and tend to stick to it. Whether it be portraits, automotive, landscapes, macro, or any other subject, here’s how to find your specialty.
The beginning for a photographer is exciting. You’re taking pictures of everything and everyone, honing your new skills and working on techniques. This might be accompanied by a distant notion of wanting to turn it into a career or a side hustle, or it may remain a hobby, but you’re still at the diagnosis stage. There’s no need to rush into narrowing down your focus—stick with the exploratory surgery of your photography for as long as it takes. When you’re ready, ask yourself these questions: –
1) What Are You Drawn To?
In my opinion and for the sake of your own well-being, your niche should not be decided by demand first, but rather that which you are naturally attracted to. For me, there were a few. I had and still have a love affair with aircraft, and despite not being very good at it, I like to shoot photos of people. What got me into photography in the first place was the realisation that photography was an expensive hobby and if I were to be able to afford the new gear, I needed to find a way to fund it. I started to shoot weddings and quickly developed interests elsewhere, moving on to shoot yoga and portraits. My interest developed further still and I moved to my passion in photography: travel. I was fascinated and wanted to learn how to photograph things and create my own style.
Try not to pigeonhole yourself too much at this stage. If you like portraiture and photographing animals, don’t immediately decide on only one. Make this decision when you’re really ready.
2) What Variations of This Genre Are There?
Firstly, there are more than you think. Secondly, there are more than you are even aware of. Sit down and write a list of every different way your favourite genres can be applied. If it’s portraiture, there are headshots, fine art, fashion, editorial, photojournalistic, and so on. Narrow down your niche within your niche.
3) How Can You Offer Value to This Genre?
So many of us—and I used to be terrible for it—look at the working world to see what they can get out of it. Instead, you need to look at what value you can add to any area you choose to enter. Why would anyone pay you to shoot this niche you’re discovering? What is it about you that makes someone want to book you rather than the next photographer? If you can’t immediately answer this question, don’t despair. Sometimes, even a niche requires further honing to find your angle, particularly if it’s a competitive field.
4) How Difficult is Entry to This Field?
Even if you instantly knew the genre you loved, found the right variation, and are confident you have a valuable service to offer, you are some way off of being set. The next step is finding someone to pay you to work within your niche, and this step varies in difficulty wildly due to a number of factors. How competitive an area is, and where the income can actually come from, are two big factors.
If the market is overpopulated and there are photographers left, right, and centre trying to dominate the niche, you might find it hard to outshine people or get any recognition. At the same time, it indicates that there is a good amount of demand and you just need to get your foot in a few doors. If there are very few photographers working in your desired niche, there’s a chance with the right work that you can be the leader in the field. However, you need to seriously investigate why there are so few? Perhaps I’m naive, but I believe you can make most areas work for you if you’re clever about it.
5) How Can You Secure Your First Job?
Now comes the step where there are as many pieces of advice as there are cameras. Some will tell you to do work for free, some will tell you to “fake it until you make it,” some will tell you to build a portfolio and get your name out there. Truth be told, no answer is demonstrably wrong or right. I took a path that weaves between and partially through all of these, and it’s one that seemed the most pragmatic to me. It went like this:
Create some images of your own volition so you have example work to show. This means creating your own shoots, booking your own locations and models if necessary.
Collect the details of small and start-up companies you’d like to work with, then reach out and build a connection so you can work together to help one another grow.
Work out a rate that doesn’t preclude people from taking a risk on you, but isn’t a waste of your time. It should work out that you make enough money and the client feels value.
Having secured the first job, use it as leverage to approach other companies, and add the killer shots to your portfolio.
Let’s unpack these points a little more. Creating a small portfolio of high-quality images to show companies is crucial. There’s taking a risk on a new photographer, and then there’s blind risk. Prove you can create work of a desirable standard on your own dime, and it will pay you back.
Searching for companies and small brands to approach couldn’t be simpler in the modern age. Use Google, use hashtags and location tags on social media, too. Instagram is a fantastically powerful tool for this sort of thing, and DMs aren’t unprofessional so feel free to use them too. Some may advise to “aim high” and approach the big companies. You’re welcome to do this, and I did, but to get past their gatekeepers took industry connections, persistence, and social proof, which all take time.
Working out a rate isn’t as difficult as people make out. Do your best to work out how much time it would take you to complete your desired job, and fly close to it to begin. If you’re charging more than even you think your work is worth, you’ll be found out sooner or later. You might pull in a good job or two, but it’s unlikely you’ll build a successful career.
The contact part is seemingly easy, but crucial to get right. If you ignore everything else I say, just heed the advice of this small paragraph. Tailor every single email, DM, or phone call to the company you’re approaching. Research their story, their products, their market, their aesthetic and discuss it. If you can’t be bothered to do this and you instead just copy and paste a message to every email address you can find, you won’t get anywhere and frankly you don’t deserve to. Be open and honest about being new to the area and wanting to establish yourself in the industry, and why you chose them. And address it to a specific person – find out the name of the person in charge of marketing, for example. FYI – pretending you’re an influencer is transparent and easily disproved by anybody.
It really does only take one. Someone will give you a shot sooner or later. I got very lucky and the first brand I spoke to hired me, and then so did many others. However, this won’t always be the case and you have to have patience. Because I spend the time to write personal messages that are well-informed to my prospect’s image and goals, few people ignore it. In fact, I very rarely get outright “no” to my contact. In fact, it’s only happened once – every other contact leads to communication that may eventually go to a “yes” or “no,” but that communication is the start.
Finding a niche can not only make all the difference to your business revenue, but to how fulfilling your career is. It’s great to be an expert in an area and for me and many other photographers I’ve discussed it with, the deeper in your niche you go, the more diversified you become. Counter-intuitive, but true.
I wish you the best of luck and if you have any questions, I’ll make sure to answer them on my social media – Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If, however, you’ve developed your own niche, perhaps share your words of wisdom too!
Here are seven Photoshop shortcuts to help speed your workflow — these are ones I use every day in my own work and I hope you find them useful in yours. Here goes:
Quickly change the value in most any field (like the Opacity field in the Layers Panel, or any of the fields up in the Options Bar) using the ‘Scrubber Slider” shortcut. You do this by clicking and holding directly on the field’s name, then drag to the right to increase the amount, or to the left to decrease it. This is a super fast way to set the value to 0% or 100%, or anything in-between. Start using this one and you’ll never go back to using a slider or typing in numbers.
To move the location of your Type layer while you’re editing it, just move your cursor away from the text and it temporarily changes into the Move tool so you can drag your text where you want it. When you move your cursor back near the text, it changes back into the Text cursor so you can continue editing your type.
If you copy and paste (or drag) an image from one document to another and it doesn’t fit on screen, but when you go to Free Transform you can’t reach the Transform handles, press Command-0 [zero](PC: Ctrl-0] and the window will resize just enough so you can reach all the handles.
When you’re ready to flatten your image, Press Shift-Command-E (PC: Shift-Ctrl-E). As long as you don’t have any layers turned off or hidden, it acts like a “Flatten All Layers” shortcut, but the name of the shortcut is “Merge Layers” and it takes all your visible layers and combines them into one.
When you’ve zoomed in tight and you’re working on an image, hold the Space Bar and your cursor changes into the Grabber Hand, and now you can click and drag your image to navigate your way around, rather than trying to use the scrollbars. Super handy.
Move a Selection while you’re still drawing it by holding the Spacebar. If you’ve ever to select something circular, you already know how many times it takes you to get that circle size just right. With this trick, it only takes once. Start drawing your selection (works with all the selection tools like the Rectangular Marquee, Lasso, etc.), then hold the Spacebar and drag it where you want it. I love this one!
Repeat your last transformation. Let’s say you’re copying and pasting some images into your main image, and you’re going to resize them all to the same smaller size. Once you’ve used Free Transform once to do this, you can have Photoshop automatically resize the next one to the exact same size by pressing Option-Command-T on Mac, or Alt-Ctrl-T on Windows.
Hope you found that helpful. 🙂
How ‘Bout Some Lightroom Stuff?
I’ve got a another post today on “Why Apple’s iPad Pro is Perfect for a DSLR or Mirrorless Photographer’s Mobile Lightroom Workflow.” You can read it over on my daily Lightroom blog, LightroomKillerTips.com. Here’s the link if you’ve got a sec. 🙂
Heads up to KelbyOne Members
If you’re a KelbyOne member, the August 2020 issue is here — 120 pages of the latest Photoshop stuff (tutorials, articles, news, reviews, features, and even a few ads). ;-) – go download it now in the KelbyOne Mags app, or on the member’s site. :)
Have a great Monday, everybody. Stay safe, and stop back by tomorrow for “Travel Tuesdays with Dave” (celebrating its third year here on the blog).
Learn how to speed up your Photoshop workflow through automation! Join Terry White as he shares some of his favorite tips and techniques for dealing with those repetitive tasks we all face. No matter how you use Photoshop, there are a number ways you could incorporate automation techniques to work more quickly and efficiently.
In this class you’ll learn how to leverage Creative Cloud Libraries, Generator to save out assets, Actions for all kinds of cases, droplets, PDF presentations, and more. Stop clicking those same buttons over and over again and automate!
In Case You Missed It… Photoshop For Business: Pro Techniques
Think differently about your business! Join Mark Heaps as shares tips and tricks for efficiency in Photoshop, while at the same time teaching you how to set yourself and your collaborators up for success. This class has two parts, and in the first half Mark demonstrates a number of Photoshop techniques to help you work smarter.
In the second half he delves into more strategic concerns designed to help you grow your business, help you define who your customers are, learn key phrases and terms, and so much more. By the end of the class you’ll have a strong foundation for working as a great collaborator whether you are part of a team or an independent freelancer.
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.
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.