My 5 Essentials For An Outdoor Location Shoot Spring is officially underway and with it, a flurry of photoshoots among the beautiful flowering nature. It’s that time of year when shooting outside is comfortable, and the evening light has the last of winter’s lingering softness. A vast majority of my shoots take place on location, and over the years I’ve learned to bring along a few things that make shooting outdoors that little bit less stressful.
1) Scissors I have a pair of strong scissors I bring to “tidy” up a scene (i.e. get rid of leaves, small branches, brambles, etc). They also come in very useful if labels are left on clothes, and any of the multitude of reasons you’d need scissors for!
2) Rose Clippers On the subject of “tidying” up a location, some foliage is a little too thick and this is when my rose clippers would come out. They’ve saved me lots of Photoshop time across many a shoot.
3) Fabric (thick or thin) Sometimes it’s not so easy to predict whether an outdoor location would be muddy or not. I always bring fabric along to protect the garments from getting dirty. If the dress the model is wearing is full length I would make sure to always have fabric tucked underneath so as to protect it from dirt. Ideally using a fabric that’s a similar colour to the dress makes life easier.
4) Reflector If you’re a natural light shooter then bringing a reflector along is always a good idea. It’s a great tool to manipulate light as well as doubling up as a scrim, providing some shade where there isn’t any available. It’s also super versatile as it comes in handy on occasions where I forget to bring fabric and needed to protect the garments.
5) Safety Pins and Hair Grips Two things that are a staple in my camera bag! If you’re working with an experienced hair or makeup artist they would bring these along with them. I, however, can always count on something going wrong on location shoots such as, zips breaking, hairstyle needing tweaking, pinning the dress so it fits better, etc!
We all know that the more you can capture in camera the better, and that’s why it’s worth going the extra step in preparation.
Here are a few more suggestions for a comfortable location shoot!
– Water: Hydration is always a good idea!
– Hand warmers, hot water bottles and heaters: Great if you’re shooting in the winter.
– Umbrella: Have one for the model if you’re shooting in the summer.
– Food and snacks: Because food puts everyone in a good mood!
– Music and a bluetooth speaker: To help set the mood and vibe
– Ladder: Useful as a prop or to capture a new perspective/angle.
– Battery bank: You never know when people’s phones or other things need to be charged. It’s always good to have something in this situation to keep you covered.
– Shower Cap: If it were to rain, you can protect your camera with it and it also allows you to still work with it.
I would love to know, what are your location shoot essentials? It’s always interesting to see what other photographers bring along to shoots!
Wet Plate A Hundred And Sixty Six Year Old Photo Process
Number one question I get on a weekly basis.. What goes into a typical wet plate shoot? Well, I’m about to walk you through what wet plate collodion is, and what I do when I setup to shoot on location.
To create an image, I hand pour the emulsion (collodion) into a pool on a glass or black aluminum plate, then carefully move it around until its evenly coated. The excess is drained back into the bottle. Next, I lower the plate into a silver nitrate tank and let it sit in there for three minutes while the chemical reaction takes place. Once it is time to take the plate out of the tank, it has essentially turned into a sheet of extremely slow film.. In my mobile darkroom I place the plate into a custom holder so that it can then be loaded into a view camera and exposed.
After the plate is exposed, it is taken back to my darkroom where it is immediately developed and stopped with water. Once developed and stopped the image is no longer light sensitive and can be taken out of the darkroom into white light. The image now looks like a blue negative. The final chemical step is fixing the plate. This turns the image from a negative into the final positive form. Later on the plate is washed with water, dried, and varnished with shellac.
Okay, so now that I have filled you in on some of the technical aspects of how each plate is made, I will go through my setup for an on location shoot.
My most recent project, called “Stillwater,” is a documentary project that explores the heavy rock community through wet plate portraiture. Most of the time bands have very limited time when it comes to their schedule. So to create work for this project I meet bands at the venue to make their portraits. My car is loaded to the brim with strobes, stands, power packs, 11×14 view camera, beauty dishes, and some other miscellaneous equipment. I unload all of my equipment, and set it up in the venue.
Once it is set up I will go out to my car and then set up my mobile darkroom in the trunk of my car. This whole process usually takes me an hour and a half to two hours… After both of these are set up I can start to shoot. Each portrait takes me about 20 minutes per shot which includes the plate prep time. So there is no room for error… I only have time for one shot per person, so I have to be very mindful in each aspect of the process.
The number one issue that I ran into when I started this project was trying to figure out how to make these images without available light. I learned how to shoot wet plate with using the sun as my light source. However, most bands arrive later in the day and by the time I get set up, it’s dark outside. So, I implemented the use of strobes to make my exposure.
Wet plate is not that light sensitive; the working ISO is around .5 to 1, therefore you need A LOT of light. About 12,000ws for 11×14 plates, and 7,200ws For 8×10 plates. So my favorite tool to increase my output is the Profoto twin tube heads. This allows me to combine my 2,400ws Acute packs into one head with an output of 4,800ws. I am constantly changing my lighting setup. However, my most recent setup has been implementing two Profoto soft light silver beauty dishes for my key light, above and below my subject. As for the rim light I use a Profoto magnum reflector. These tools help me achieve the maximum power output that I need for my images.
It has been a long journey from when I first started working in this medium to where I am now. I encourage people to try out wet plate for themselves. However, it is a long learning curve that requires patience… Just be prepared to make a lot of bummer plates before you make any good ones. That’s part of the fun of the process, and it’s that much more rewarding once you make a plate that you are proud of.
How many times in a day are you faced with having to make a choice? What time do I need to wake up? What should I wear? What should I eat for breakfast, etc…. That’s within the first hour of the day. Everyday we have to make hundreds if not thousands of decisions. How do we know what to do, which path to take?
As an Artist, the decision making process is amplified. As we walk through the creative process we often second guess ourselves. What lens should I use? What background do I put my subjects in? White or black dress, hat or no hat, etc… The list of creative options goes on and on. Do you ever feel a bit overwhelmed?
On one hand the creative process can be the most exhausting, nerve racking experience an Artist has to go through. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could make a creative decision knowing that you are 100% right every time? I’m going to let you in on a secret that will revolutionize your photography.
First, have you ever watched American Idol, the X Factor, or one of those types of shows where the judges give advice? What do they say over and over. “Take a risk and be yourself.” “Do what feels right, and let it all hang out.” You see, originality will always trump those who copy. When you copy someone’s artistic vision, you will always blend with the masses because there is a line out the door of copiers. If you be yourself, you will stand out from the crowd.
So, how does the creative process work in the real world? For starters, there is this annoying voice that seems to chatter over our shoulder as we come to a crossroad and have to make a creative decision. It goes something like this, ”Are you sure you doing it right? Someone’s not going to like what you’re doing,” and it goes on and on. You start to think about your photography teacher and what he or she would say. And of course there are your friends, colleagues, not to mention the social media crowd. All this chatter is playing inside your head as you are trying to figure out which modifier you should put on your strobe.
Since you were born you have been practicing one thing over and over. From what shoes to wear to what music you listen to, you have been formulating what you like and dislike. It turns out, you are pretty good at it. You have a personality, temperament, history of years on this planet, that all play a factor in your decision making process. It all feeds into your intuition and is the culmination of who you are. It’s your uniqueness.
I have a quote that I repeat over and over to my workshop attendees, “You are unique, one of a kind, there is no one on the planet just like you.” This thing called your intuition is the ticket to you being a creative force. If you are in sync with your intuition, it will never lead you astray. NEVER! How do I know that? Because Art is the manifestation of self-expression. The creative process should be driven by the very core of who you are. No one should be able to tell you you’re off track.
The problem with most Artist/Photographers, is we never really trust our intuition and are constantly being swayed by other’s opinions. Often our creative process lacks the skill-set to compete in the marketplace. If you want to be a world class violinist you have to practice your craft six to eight hours a day. Just ask one. It’s no different in photography. The best photographers in the world out practice 99.9 percent of all other photographers on the planet. They take a risk by following what comes natural, their intuition.
When I set up my lights and build a portrait, how do I know I am on the right track? When it feels right! That’s right, when my intuition, my feeling and my emotions tell me it is right, I can’t go wrong. Because I end up with something that is unique that fits me to a T. A flash meter will never tell you where to put your lights, or what modifier to use, or how far you place it from your subject. This is reserved for the creative mind and falls on the shoulders of your intuition. Stop listening to the chatter of other’s opinions and follow the single greatest asset you posses as an Artist, your very own intuition.
Three Years of Shotkit | Photographers & Their Camera Gear
Hey guys, this is Mark here from a site you may have heard of called Shotkit. Thanks for having me here on ScottKelby.com – it’s truly an honour.
I started Shotkit back in 2014 to scratch my own itch of wanting to know what my favourite photographers carried in their camera bags.
Everyone knows that a good camera does not a good photographer make, but most of us in the industry are still very passionate about the photography equipment we use… and whilst few like to admit it, we’re all a little curious about the camera gear used by others!
Since 2014, Shotkit has morphed into a popular blog for all things photography and gear related, but the raison d’être of the site is still a place for nosey photographers to have a snoop at the gear of their peers.
To celebrate Shotkit’s third birthday, I put together a one-minute slide show of the hundreds of successful submissions I’ve received over the years. Keep your eyes peeled for Scott Kelby’s own gear load-out… or I should say, one of his many!
After receiving so many submissions from photographers from around the world, I’ve been given a unique insight into the most popular photography equipment in use by professionals today.
As perhaps no surprise to many of you, wedding photographers outnumber all other genres of submission to Shotkit. It’s also unsurprising that the wedding photography gear in use around the world is by and large, very similar across the board.
Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see how other camera formats continue to disrupt the industry, with photographers of all genres slowly switching to the best mirrorless cameras available, mostly from the likes of Sony, Fuji and Panasonic.
Whatever your stance is on the great mirrorless cameras vs dSLR debate, the future of cameras which rely on cumbersome mirrors to capture images is looking admittedly bleak.
Personally, I’ll be sticking with my trusty dSLR for a few more years though, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one…
Whilst I continue to publish a new photographer and their gear every other day of the year on Shotkit, I spend the majority of my time writing content for the Shotkit Blog, the newsletter, a range of ebooks, and most recently, development of an interactive tool for Lightroom & Photoshop Shortcuts.
The topic of photographer workflows is one that I’m passionate about (I’m an avid follower of Scott’s excellent Lightroom Killer Tips), and I intend to explore the subject more in 2017.
Using keyboard shortcuts in the software we use for post production every day as professional photographers is an important step in spending less time behind a desk and more time behind a camera. I hope this shortcuts tool will be a step in the right direction in helping us all achieve this.
As for the Shotkit blog, posts such as the best cameras under $500 and the best camera bags may seem like an Amazon affiliate link carnival to some (!), but they’re actually very popular posts, especially for beginner photographers who need some advice about their first purchases… not to mention of course those of us with a dose of the dreaded G.A.S.!
I’ve tried to include a selection of links to some of the most popular blog posts published on Shotkit in this article, but the truth is, I’ve really only scratched the surface.
From photographers showing off their best work and favourite photography gadgets and gizmos, to gear reviews, business advice and creative inspiration, there’s something on Shotkit for everyone. I hope you enjoy reading Shotkit as much as I do putting it together!
I’ll close this guest post off by thanking Scott, Brad and the team behind ScottKelby.com and Lightroom Killer Tips for producing such incredibly useful content for photographers like us. Sites like these are a constant inspiration for both my own photography work and my work with Shotkit.
I’m looking forward to seeing you part of the Shotkit Community and I encourage you to submit your kit!
Now, which photographers’ camera bags would you most like to take a peek into? Leave their names in the comments below…
I’ve always been fascinated by the nature of creativity. There are all the usual questions, of course… What is creativity? Where does it come from? How close do I have to stand to a creative person for some of it to rub off on me?
The last question comes with certain social restrictions (also possibly certain restraining orders), but the first two we can sit and discuss over coffee. Even better, we can put the results of that discussion to use, make the answers work for us. Ready? Go!
If I had to nail down a working definition, I’d say creativity is seeing and thinking about and exploring new connections. We tend to view creativity as having some element of surprise – when we see something we would call ‘creative,’ it’s almost always because there is something we didn’t expect, and it usually is built from pieces we know that are put together in new ways. It shows us a connection we had not previously considered.
In the world of digital photography, this shows up in works of photographers like Erik Johansson, Kirsty Mitchell, and Cheryl Walsh, among many others. Connections, however, are not just between conceptual elements. They are also between tools, interactions with media, and technical pieces. Check out the beautiful work of Bonny Lhotka who uses unique transfer process to create amazing physical pieces, or the sculpture of Andrey Droszdov.
How can we make use of this notion that creativity is seeing connections? Well, we can give ourselves more opportunity to see connections, for one thing. And we give ourselves opportunity by setting up situations where we’re likely to be exposed to new things, especially new thoughts. Like most things, it takes practice, and practice is something we generally know how to do. But for practice to be useful, we have to want to do it, and we have to do it with intent. One technique I’ve had success with is directed experimentation. The basic idea is to do what you already know how to do, but change one thing.
That by itself is not enough, though. You have to be receptive to the previously unseen, and you have to let it get into your head so you can hang on to it for future use.
The secret sauce is to pay attention when the connection is made, and that’s what loses some people. It’s not necessary to go in looking for any specific revelation – in fact, that can be counterproductive. What you are aiming for is to provide the raw materials and set up the situation where your mind can wander a bit, but then condition your reflex to store that connection when you are triggered by surprise. Going through your normal routine lets your mind work more subconsciously, and that one change is what seeds the possibility of a new connection.
A great way to get yourself to plant this seed is to ask yourself “What if?”
Let’s say you’re a portrait photographer. You know your craft and get great results, but you want to spice things up. “What if” you say to yourself with a devilish grin, “my model was facing the other way?” You’ve changed one thing. Without any other action or thought, you look through the viewfinder. Hopefully at this point, you start asking yourself some other questions. Should the lights be adjusted? How will you show emotion or character? Are other things in the scene jumping out that you previously missed? If you think this is a weird concept, check out Tony Gale’s personal project of women’s backs(link contains artistic nudity).
Not only are you seeing something new, you’re engaging and thinking. You’re paying attention. More importantly, you’re present in the moment. And you’re unconsciously making new connections. The next step is to save those connections actively. Let the seed germinate.
For the human mind to really hang on to things in a meaningful way, it generally uses language to describe the things. Feelings and memories can be incredibly powerful, but they’re difficult to act on or share without putting words to them. This is especially true for new concepts, and every time you get creative, you’re working with new concepts. When you discover something, when you’re surprised, delighted, thrilled, annoyed, or bored, use words. They can be in your head, you can write them down, you can talk with someone, but use words. The seed sends out roots.
By describing what you’re thinking, feeling, or seeing, you’re better able to retain memory, but you’re also able to build on it. In the portrait example above, you might suddenly notice the angle of your model’s shoulders, so think about how you’d explain that. Maybe you go into Photoshop and start drawing gesture lines like an animator over the pose and that gives you an idea about movement or relationships. As a side benefit, you might discover a career in stick-figure cartooning. It’s been known to happen.
The other thing about using words, especially when you’re trying to describe something to another person, is that you’re forced to find common ground if you truly want to communicate. And that frequently means finding simpler and clearer concepts that you can stick together. Which brings up deconstruction. Sometimes before you can build up, you have to tear down.
Deconstruction is frequently just another thought process. Look at something and allow yourself to wonder. Start with, “why?” Why did I get this effect when I twiddled this knob? Throw in some “how?” to the mix: how do these things relate? Move into the future with a few “what if?” questions and you’re just primed for success. What if I put this one weird rule in place for my next photoshoot? You don’t have to answer completely, let alone correctly; you just have to create the space for the answer to eventually reside. In our seed metaphor, deconstruction is the process of providing basic nutrients. It’s fertilizer. You can laugh if you feel like it.
Deconstruction isn’t just for language, though. You can use it with your tools. This brushed ink portrait was the result of limiting myself to the Threshold adjustment layer in Photoshop as a starting point, then using the Smudge tool with the Bristle Brush to refine it. I didn’t have a solid plan going in except to start exploring the Threshold tool. I call this a Limited Challenge because I set a rule for myself going in, limited to and requiring only one tool as a starting point. Where deconstruction is the fertilizer, practice is the light and water. And this is the end of the plant analogy.
Let’s pause a moment to see what we’ve got…
If creativity is being able to see new connections between things, we can use experiences in order to have more things to connect and thus increase our chances of being creative. But experience isn’t just going out to see new things, it’s also seeing old things in new ways. We can do this with simple changes, and we take advantage of the results of those changes by thinking about and describing them. Describing them allows us to find more common elements to put together, and helps us see the basic components that make things fit. We can begin describing things by asking ourselves questions about what we’ve experienced, thus making connections.
See what I did there?
And here’s the point of that little diversion: don’t build up expectations of your own creativity. Either it happens now or it doesn’t until later; it generally takes its own time; and it’s frequently unexpected. But you’ll have a much better chance if you set yourself up for success. Here are some of my favorite exercises for inviting creativity to come in and have coffee.
Set yourself up for surprise and seeing connections by experiencing new things
Describe what you’re seeing, thinking, or feeling about the connections
Change One Single Variable – Directed Experimentation
As I noted earlier, directed experimentation is awesome, easy, and it’s what I do most often. For me, this usually involves Photoshop or lighting, but it can really be anything, including rules. Take a process that you know really well and pick one thing to tinker with. Change the horizon line in a landscape, add a colored gel somewhere, swap layers around or change blending modes, whatever. Don’t get too hung up on sticking to the one thing, but do try to limit what you do so there’s some way to control it. Remember to pay attention!
Change Everything Except One – Limited Challenge
Think of this as related to the last exercise, but instead of picking a variable, you’re picking a rule. Give yourself just one rule to explore, and beat it up. Years ago, I was part of a huge Photoshop forum that devised some really amazing challenges. We would choose one tool in Photoshop that absolutely must be used, then we’d give some other guidelines or goals. For example, we might have asked you to create a landscape using only Lens Flares. You could warp, liquify, mask and blend, but all pixels had to start from the Lens Flare tool.
Ask Questions – Why & What If
This is the most common thing I do, but it takes a lot of energy and honesty with yourself. Pause a moment with whatever strikes you and engage, right then and there. Make a mental (or real) list of elements that grab your attention and ask yourself why they interest you. Be as specific as possible in your analysis, but don’t seek truth beyond what’s true for you. This is part of paying attention and being active in your viewing. What if another artist had tackled the same concept – how would it be different? This is mostly for viewing art, but can be applied to anything that catches your eye. Allow your mind to wander, but don’t try to capture everything – keep the connections you discover and toss the rest.
Some seriously creative folks genuinely do all of the stuff above automatically. It just happens internally and organically for them. Some have to nudge it along, and some pour blood, sweat, and tears into the process before anything useful happens. Can you imagine cleaning up after that? Anyway, the most usual thing I’ve discovered is there’s a mix. To be sure, some people just seem to do all of this better than others. But some of us just don’t feel creative at all, or at least not as often as we’d like. We don’t get it, we are flabbergasted at just how creative some people are. Well, here’s a dirty little secret about all those so-called “creative geniuses” out there: they are indeed creative geniuses. That does not mean all of them do it naturally, nor that all of them just work their keisters off to maintain their creativity. Some do, some don’t. But I don’t believe that creativity is an inherent characteristic that you can never achieve if you don’t start with it at birth.
Bonus! Make mash-up lists
This one can lead to some really wacky ideas. I use a spreadsheet with a randomizer function to pull words from different lists and put them together. I’ve got one that describes scene elements, one for Photoshop tools and functions, and another with just random dictionary words. There are several online generators for free, too. The point is to give yourself a project framework, then use a mashed-up combination to challenge yourself.
I have no clue why these thoughts cross my mind, but they do. When the shooting gets slow and I’m with some friends and we just start talking to kill the time, my mind wanders to the bad side. Someone leaves their camera sitting on a tripod unattended, I slip over, remove the battery and then go back innocently to my own shooting. There’s the time I slip my CF memory card wallet vertically in the shade of a fellow photographer’s big lens. They can’t see it through the viewfinder but the AF can’t function at all. And of course, there’s the always-immature move of taking photos with another’s camera when they aren’t looking. A photo they definitely would not have taken themselves. My favorite comes from the days of film when someone would ask, “Got any good photos?” I had a dummy roll of film in my vest pocket that I would take out, grasp the leader, pull out all the film and look through it at the sun, then simply shrug. Oh the look on their faces when I did that! My only excuse for all of this is, photography has gotta be FUN!
I’m very blessed with two great sons who had to suffer through dad’s teaching as well as bad jokes. When the opportunity arose though for the shoe to be on the other foot, they made good use of it. Both are great cross-country skiers, something I will never be able to do despite all the help they provided and the fun we had together. Brent said something once though that I will never forget, because it so pertains to photography. I had all the right gear on, had read all I should do, and watched the videos. But falling I did with absolutely no grace. We were up on the mountain and I was soaking wet from falling so many times in my attempt to XC ski. Brent simply looked down at me as he helped me up and said, “You know you’re learning if you’re falling down.”
While simply said and blatantly true, it’s pretty darn deep if you ponder it at all. In order to learn how to ski, you gotta fall down, and a lot until you master staying up. This directly applies to photography. Your photography will only grow if you fall down, fail. The thing is, you have to learn from your failures or you’ll either just keep failing, or worse, give up. Just how can we learn from photographic failures so we can keep growing? Having been falling for four decades and still being able to laugh at myself, I think I might have a suggestion or two to pass along.
It’s Only A Photograph!
The first is to understand this very important principle. It’s only a photograph! The right photograph taken of a powerful subject in a powerful way at a time when its clarity is needed by the world can have a huge impact. And I always remind folks their photographs can change the world. But at the same time, I also realize that if I totally toast a photograph, the sun will still rise tomorrow and life will go on. It is just a photograph. We put so much pressure on ourselves when we’re shooting that really shouldn’t be put there. Ever go back and look at photos you took a year ago, really look at them and think back at your thoughts when taking them? It’s those times if I were standing next to you, I might pull one of my bad photographic jokes on you just to remind you that it’s just a photograph.
The second is to remind you of the KISS theorem…Keep It Simple Stupid (the last word being key). We tend to not only take our photography too seriously but also make it too complicated. While there are times for fun, we go complicated. But making that part of our regular photographic ritual is suicidal for so many reasons. The main reason relates to, it’s just a photograph. When we make things complicated, they become a task, a chore. And how do we mentally treat chores? We tend to put them off. But more importantly in taking advantage of the best teacher we all have for our photography, ourselves, complicated makes learning really hard.
When we KISS, when we are successful, it’s really easy to figure out what we did right so we can repeat it again and again. But when we make it complicated, determining what went wrong is difficult so we run the risk of repeating that mistake. Failure is so important to our learning only when we learn from that failure. There is the practical side of KISS that you might like even more it – costs less! It takes a whole lot less gear and time to KISS than make it complicated. And when you take all you’ve learned, working with KISS and removing the stress of the importance of a photograph, you know what happens in time? You become a better photographer and that’s the whole goal (perhaps why my mind wanders and I cause trouble…hmmmm).
Wanna prove my point to yourself? Next time you’re working in the digital darkroom with a friend and they leave to take a break, take a screen shot of what’s on their computer. Then open that screen shot in Photoshop, make it full screen, and just leave it. They will come back and click on it like a madman to make it work, but nothing will happen because it’s just a screen shot. KISS! Take a deep breath, enjoy the amazing rewards photography brings to us every time we venture into it and remember to not take it too seriously. KISS and the most important thing, you know you’re learning if you’re falling down.