Category Archives Guest Blogger

The Importance of Play

Being a creative in 2019 can be tough sometimes. There is this expectation of perfection everywhere you look. There is the need to outdo your last piece of work. There is the race for more follows and likes. There is a constant fight for attention and affirmation that didn’t exist before.

Technology has changed the way we view and present work: We post our work online to social media instead of as prints in homes or galleries. It has changed the way people respond to work: A constant barrage of imagery and content online has desensitized viewers and has made them less likely to react to anything in a meaningful way. Technology has changed the way our work receives attention and praise: We get double taps, tags, and “likes” instead of clients and gallery print sales.

I actually recently found an Instagram account called @insta_repeat, that displays this idea all too well. Everyone is so busy fighting for attention, that they’re more willing to recycle and blatantly imitate something they’ve already seen get a good reaction, rather than try to invent compelling imagery for themselves. Why bother putting in the effort to make something that might not get as many likes as a “behind the model, holding hat, staring at beautiful landscape shot?”

The pressure to be consistently great is exhausting, at best, and crippling at worst. It makes us (at least me), not want to create anything that isn’t meticulously thought out. I found myself not wanting to shoot anything unless I had the session completely mapped out in my brain, from what hair and makeup was going to look like, what every piece of our wardrobe was going to be, to exact lighting, and what the set was going to look like. Don’t get me wrong, these things are important to keep in mind and plan for, but there was a certain, unyielding rigidity to the way I went about doing it.

I didn’t like having to be flexible if there was a change in plans for a certain look or shot. I didn’t push myself to venture outside of the box of static images I had already pre-planned in my head. And the worse part is, if I didn’t nail something exactly the way I saw it in my head, I felt like the entire shoot was ruined and like I was the worst photographer in the world.

Then, something happened a few months ago: It was my birthday and my plan was to spend a quiet day in my pajamas playing video games and drinking wine. However, instead of doing that, I ended up spending 13 hours in front of my computer racing to meet a retouching deadline.

By the time I was done with that work, the LAST thing I wanted to do was spend MORE time in front of the computer, home alone, on my birthday. So instead, I got dressed, grabbed my camera, and went downtown to the venue where my husband’s band was playing.

My only motivation that night was to go out and have some fun. I people watched, I took some photos of the band, of new friends I had made, of the dancing crowd, and around downtown at night. There were zero expectations of me from clients or otherwise. I was shooting because I wanted to, not because I had to.

That night I had the most genuine fun with my camera that I have had in a long time.

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First, I’d like to thank Scott and Brad for having me back on Photoshop Insider. It’s always an honor – and a lot of fun to be here!  Second, I’d like to thank YOU for stopping by today. Third, whew! I feel much better getting 40 books out of my head!!

So here’s the deal: A new filter, camera, lens, tripod and speedlite can surely help you make better photographs – but they can’t necessarily make you a better photographer.

That’s where my 40th book, Photo Therapy Motivation and Wisdom – Discovering the power of pictures, comes in. Understanding why and how we are motivated to make pictures – and what your photography means to you – is of the utmost importance. So is learning about emotional intelligence for photographers, how to steal like an artist, realizing that it’s never to late to be who you might have been, and understanding the difference between looking at seeing. Exploring light and color therapy also helps.

All those topics and much more – including my 40 quick-tip “Sammonisms” and 20 “missions” (self assignments) – are covered in my latest book.

Click here to order the Kindle version ($9.95).
Click here to order the paperback version ($15.99).

Unlike my other 39 photo-rich books, Photo Therapy Motivation and Wisdom – Discovering the power of pictures has no photographs between the covers. Yet, I feel as though it is my most important work. I trust this book will make you think – hard – about your photography, and about how using your brain, the best photo “accessory,” will help you become a better photographer. Or as stated by black-and-white landscape photographer Ansel Adams, “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” 

Famed photographer Lewis Hien said, “If I could say in words what I say with my pictures, I would not have to lug around a camera.”

It’s not that I am tired of lugging around a camera. It’s just that I think the motivational and inspirational message of this book is better expressed without showing my own pictures. Rather, in reading the 35,000-word text, I’d like you to imagine your own pictures – and potential pictures – while I am describing a situation, process, technique, feeling or emotion.

Well-known photo educators, who also believe in the power photo therapy, contributed to my latest work. They include: Art Wolfe, Trey Ratcliff, Scott Bourne, Skip Cohen, Richard Bernabe, Randy Hanna, Ron Clifford, Denise Ippolito, Derrick Story, Jonathan Scott (The Big Cat Man), and Steve Brazill.

Before I get going here, this is how I looked while writing 35K words… and after!

Here are a few chapter excerpts from the text-only book. Enjoy!

Chapter 3: Photography Can Improve Your Health and Sense of Wellbeing

If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angles whisper to a man who goes for a walk.

Raymond Inmon

Photography, for the most part, involves exercise – walking around a bustling city, hiking a wooded trail, hiking up a mountain path, making footprints on a sandy beach and so on. 

Those activities can help us burn calories and build muscles – if we walk as if we are going somewhere, as opposed to just strolling along. Add a camera backpack filled with gear, a tripod and a bottle of water, and that extra weight causes us to exercise a bit more strenuously which can be a good thing if we want to keep in shape.

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Simplify Your Process To Become A More Efficient Filmmaker

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great subject matters in the field lately. As a filmmaker, my goal is to capture engaging moments and edit them for viewers to enjoy. That seems quite simple, but the road to making a video from top to bottom can be quite daunting.

My goal with this article is to share some recent work, discuss how I approached making them, and the gear I used along the way. I hope that by sharing my experiences, you can learn a new trick, tip or technique for your next video project. It doesn’t matter if you’re dabbling in video or a full-time filmmaker, I believe there is always something more to learn and grow into from sharing and swapping stories from production experiences.

Recently I’ve turned my attention to documentary and commercial work. Much of the time, the demand for certain types of film work will trend toward wanting a certain look or style. You see this by the requests you get and may notice you’re being asked to do similar work more often. These demands usually come from the different sources or platforms viewers commonly watch content.

For YouTube hosted videos, requests are typically aimed for edited content between 3-5 minutes. Viewers are also using platforms that are a bit more limited for video, such as Instagram, and the request for 1-minute or 30-second edited clips are what many clients commonly request.

The final product or edited video times may have changed, but the time it takes to capture the event or moment are typically the same. I find myself feeling very conflicted on set, filming loads of footage for a clip I know is going to be cut to 3-minutes. As a documentarian, I have to keep my final edit in mind when shooting, but I can’t cut the camera when action is happening on day full of magical moments. 

I never really know what clips will make it into the final cut, but I try to give myself or the editor enough footage to put together a proper piece, while trying not to overshoot as well. I do several things to be an efficient filmmaker without gear getting in the way of capturing the perfect moment that’s impossible to recreate. 

Typically I travel with three Mirrorless Nikon Z 6 camera bodies. I dedicate each one to play a different role and to capture a totally different type of look that helps give my edit a wide variety of looks.

Camera “A,” as I like to call it, is set up in a traditional 24fps setting with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens with a variable neutral density filter to be able to quickly capture any moment indoors or outside. This camera is on a shoulder rig that is also capturing two sources of audio. One channel is running a wireless lavaliere microphone attached to the main subject. I run a second source of audio on the same camera which is a shotgun mic to capture any ambient or group of people talking. Both mics record simultaneously so that I can use either or both sources of audio depending on what’s needed for the edit.

In order to capture two sources of audio, I run one mic to the Nikon camera body and the other mic to a Atomos Ninja V recorder. This recorder also allows me to record in time lengths longer than the limit in my Mirrorless body, which is typically around 30 continuous minutes. This monitor / recorder will record as long as you have available storage, so I load it with a 500GB hard drive and can film for hours at a time if need be.

The reason for running the audio this way is so that all the captured audio gets attached to the singular video file. This Atomos recorder will record the audio coming from the camera body and also has a mic input on the record, which then all records to the video file, allowing me to have all my necessary audio on one file vs one video file and two separate audio files that need to be sync’d in post. You want to give yourself as many options as possible all while keeping your editing process as quick and efficient as possible. In the past, if I didn’t use this process it would take me the whole first day of my editing process to sync audio to my video. Just by capturing audio straight to my video I can save myself an entire day of sitting in front of the computer.

Once I made this change, I sought out other ways to save myself time in post and on shooting days. Battery life was another challenge for me. If I’m using the Atomos recorder/monitor, that’s two different devices on my rig that require batteries, and they’re not the same. So to free myself from swapping batteries and missing important moments, I use a V-Mount Battery. This is a big brick of power that allows me to film all day and power multiple devices at a time. This sufficiently powers my Nikon camera, my recorder and I have the option to power a third device if need be. A common 3rd device would be a Wireless Video Transmitter. If I need to send my cameras video signal to a client monitor, then I can power all three devices and remain 100% wireless. Moving to V-mount power has been a game changer.

The video below shows this main camera in action for a commercial I produced for Nikon’s announcement to debut a new firmware update that allows the camera to auto-focus on the subject’s eyes. 

Camera “B,” as I’ve labeled it, is dedicated just to slow motion. Since the Nikon Z 6 has beautiful slow motion, I set it to capture 120fps. I make sure to double my shutter speed so it’s set at 1/250sec. This usually darkens my image quite a bit so I tend to use a prime lens such as the 50mm f/1.8 or a 35mm f/1.8. This captures details and beauty shots, giving my final edit a variety of looks to help tell the story and change the mood.

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What Does A Food Shoot Cost?

Do you ever get questions like that? How do you answer, “What does a food shoot cost?” When I have a potential client ask me this, I jokingly tell them “It costs about the same amount as a car.”

You can see their wheels turning as they calculate their ideas of what a car might cost. We then engage in some conversation about if they want a $30,000 luxury car or a $1,200 beater like my 17-year-old drives. Maybe it’s somewhere in between.

Out Of Pocket

The real question, and more important for us to understand is, what does a food shoot cost me? Before I can give the client a number, I need to know what my costs are. Most of the out-of-pocket costs associated with a shoot are easy to calculate (generally)…

  • First assistant: $500/day
  • Digital tech: $500/day
  • Food stylist: $950/day
  • Food stylist assistant: $450/day
  • Groceries: $250
  • Production assistant: $350/day
  • Prop stylist: $650/day
  • Catering and craft services: $500/day
  • Retouching: $150/image
  • etc, etc…

But what about my time? What about my value? (More on “value” in a future post.) What about my utilities? My insurance? My marketing and advertising, business license and taxes…the list of expenses goes on and on. Needless to say, there are many expenses/costs I need to be aware of, and then calculate into my estimates. But how?

I think we photographers have conveniently forgotten about all these other costs in an effort to try and compete on price. (More on “competing on price” in a future post.) These costs of doing business are substantial and are definitely part of the cost of a shoot. So, how do we account for these costs in our estimates?

Overhead

Consider overhead. These are our monthly expenses we incur regardless of how many days we’re shooting (or not shooting). Overhead is monthly bills and expenses. Rent, utilities, insurance, etc.

To help me figure out how much to calculate (and charge) for these expenses, I look at the annual total and divide by the number of shoot days—either actual from previous years or a goal for the current year. Let’s say my annual overhead is $100,000 (using round numbers to avoid long division). If I figure I’m going to shoot 100 days this year, then each shoot needs to clear $1,000 to cover my overhead.

Notice I said “clear”, as in, it’s above or more than the other costs of the shoot. This is income that stays in my bank account after I pay my crew and other out-of-pocket expenses in the list above. 

Salary

What about our salary? Did I say “salary?” Why yes, I did. We need to be paid. (More on paying ourself a salary in a future post.) Do we need to make $75,000 this year? Then we better make sure we’re adding $750 per day of shooting into our estimates. (I don’t have time or space to talk about “make” vs “take home” salary. We can discuss in greater detail in a future post.)

Equipment

But wait, we’re not done yet. Yes, there’s more. More for us to consider. Have you thought about your investment in all your equipment? That’s a lot of money. This is not overhead. Equipment purchases are capital expenditures. You know all too well.

$3,000 for a camera body. $1,900 for a lens. $2,400 for a computer. $4,500 for lighting. You might end up with $30,000 or $55,000 invested in equipment. Then a year or two goes by and it’s time to upgrade a few things here and there. These costs are big and they come at us at different intervals, sometimes without warning. 

Where does the money for all our equipment come from? These big capital expenditures need to be covered by our business’s cash reserves. But how? Imagine for a moment that we didn’t own any equipment, how would we get by?

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David Ziser is teaching at Photoshop World Las Vegas, taking place this week, August 21-23. Register now to come see him in person!

My Top 5 Tips for Safari Photography

Good Morning Everybody,

I have to say, I was thrilled when I received a note from Brad inviting me to do a Guest Blog Post for Scott’s blog as a run-up to Photoshop World Las Vegas just a few days from now. It’s been a while and I’m happy to be back in the “blogging” saddle again.

As many of you know, my wife LaDawn and I have ramped up our world travels these last several years. To put that in perspective, we now travel worldwide about 7 months of the year – last year we crossed the Atlantic Ocean 8 times, the Equator twice, and the Arctic Circle twice covering about 65,000 miles in the process, whew!!!

That’s a lot of time in the air but the adventures are worth every minute!

Now all that travel does not mean I’m slowing things down photography-wise, not at all! Each year, I’m shooting about 60,000 – 70,000 images. In fact, Canon’s Service Department just told me I wore out the shutter on my Canon 7D Mark II. Happily, I just received it back from their repair department. But now the subject matter isn’t brides and grooms. Up until last year most of my images have been travel and landscape related – I’m still inspired by the culture, history, beauty, and people of all the countries we visit. It’s just a thrill to photograph everything we encounter in our travels. 

Then last year, I co-hosted two photo safaris in South Africa shooting over 45,000 images in just five weeks. You’re right, that was quite an edit job. And just recently, we returned from nearly 6 weeks in South America climbing up to Machu Picchu and dancing with the Blue Footed Boobies in the Galapagos Islands shooting a grand total of 31,000 images. The Africa and Galapagos experiences have really energized my wildlife photography aspirations.

Watching the Blue Footed Boobies almost gives you “Dancin’ Feet.”

That being said, I hope you’ll join me at Photoshop World where I will be presenting two completely new programs: Landscape Photography Between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Because I’m too darn lazy to wake up earlier than that and I usually have an adult beverage in my hand after 5 p.m.) and my second program – How I Became a World Famous (OK, reasonably decent) Wildlife Photographer in Only Three Weeks. 

Ok, I know my program titles are a little “tongue-in-cheek,” but the cool thing is that I really did learn a lot of new photography techniques and tips from all our world travels and experiences these last several years. I want to share some of that info, particularly Safari info, in this blog post and then more thoroughly in my two programs I’ll be presenting at Photoshop World in the next few days. 

BTW, I’m leading two safaris again to Africa next year and a third to India to photograph Bengal tigers, but more on that at the end of this post.

In this post I’m going to hit on a few tips and tricks that I think could really help any aspiring wildlife photographers out there. So, let’s get to it…

We drove nearly 3 hours in the drizzling rain to get this photo. The cheetah brothers where still hiding when the first safari vehicle passed. We were in the second vehicle passing about 5 minutes later – perfect timing!

Tip #1: Gear Considerations:

Just like anyone going on their first Safari, I was worried about want kind of gear to pack. I wanted to pack lean and mean but still be adequately equipped to capture great images. Here was my first pass at the gear list:

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Greetings! I’s been about two years since my last guest blog post on 10 years of Lightroom Help Desk Advice, and I thought it would be a good chance to follow up with 10 more tips to help you get the most out of Lightroom Classic. 

1. Dig Into Smart Collections

Smart collections allow you to harness the power of the database inside of Lightroom Classic by leveraging the information contained in your photo’s metadata. Plus, any additional data you may have added (like keywords, titles, captions, etc.), to automate the process of finding, grouping, and organizing your photos in meaningful ways. You can think of smart collections simply as saved searches that run automatically.

Smart collections are just one of three types of collections you can find in the Collections panel. If you click the plus sign (+) in the header of the Collections panel, you can access the menu for creating each type of collection. In addition to the Smart Collection, there is the regular Collection type, which is useful for manually grouping photos together based on a common theme or purpose, and the Collection Set, which are essentially containers for other collections and enable the creation of an organizing structure for your various collections.

For example, you might have a Collection Set named for a trip or event, and then within that set, you could have a combination of regular collections and smart collections that contain relevant photos. These can be grouped together based on any criteria that suit your needs, such as dates, names of people, locations, and so on.

I typically use regular collections when I am manually going through photos and picking and choosing specific photos that I want to group together for some reason, and I use smart collections when I want to automatically gather up a group of photos that all meet the same criteria. I organize those various collections inside of relevant collection sets.

To create a new smart collection, you can use the Create Smart Collection menu in the panel header, the New Smart Collection command in the Library menu, or simply right-click anywhere inside the Collections panel to access the same Create Smart Collection menu. This opens the Smart Collection dialog box.

When it comes to creating the rules for the Smart Collection, you first need to decide if you want the photos added to this collection to match any, all, or none of the rules you go on to define by choosing an option from the drop-down menu next to Match. Leaving match set to all is the most straightforward way to get started. You can see all the possible rules at your disposal by clicking the rules drop-down menu and scrolling through the list.

Remember, the only way photos can be added to a smart collection is if they meet the defined criteria, and the only way they can be removed from a smart collection is when a particular photo no longer matches the defined criteria. There are so many ways Smart Collections can leverage the power of the Lightroom catalog and make your life simpler. Experiment and have fun!

2. Designate A Target Collection

Speaking of collections, have you discovered the ability to set one regular collection to be the “Target” collection? The Target collection has a super power, which is that you can add selected photos to the Target collection simply by pressing the B key.

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