Category Archives Guest Blogger

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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Victoria Pavlov will be teaching at Photoshop World Las Vegas, taking place August 21-23, so register now to come see her in person!

Five Best Practices You Need To Have In Your Pocket When Working With Models

I have been working very closely with models for the past 15 years. During these years I had a lot of bumps in the road. I implemented these five best practices in my studio, which made my model photography workflow much easier. I respect my time, so I don’t like wasting it on something that needs to be fixed if I can easily avoid it before or during my session.

1. Tell A Story

Always work with a model who can tell a story. We are not shooting just because we have nothing else to do. We are shooting because this is a job or we love shooting in our free time. Our shooting time is our “intellectual investment.” Like with any other investment, we expect a positive return from our “intellectual investment.” Choosing the right model for your sessions is a critical decision you need to make. If you take your photography seriously, this is what you should do.

When I first started in my studio and opened my first casting call, 9 out of 10 models who responded to my casting call had the same attitude. “I am beautiful. I think this is all photographers are looking for, so I am good for your casting call.” I was very frustrated because this is not what I was looking for. I am always looking for a model who can tell a story with her eyes, facial expression, and pose. I am looking for a model who can give me different expressions in every single frame or two.

It took about 4-5 months for me to find the circle of models who were on the same page of what photography was about. It’s about storytelling. That’s it. I don’t care how beautiful my “subject” is. I care about storytelling.

Right now, in the 21st century, we are not impressed by anyone with good lighting. If you are a professional photographer, people expect you to have it. People are also expecting you to tell a story with the image. Every single image you capture should tell a story because only this will connect you to your audience. Only this will make your audience wait in anticipation for your next post, exhibit, or update.

2. Invest In Your Session

Trust professionals. I am not talking about photography equipment when I say “invest” here.

Even if you shoot with a model for TF (Trade For), always hire a makeup and hair stylist. Some makeup and hair stylists are building or updating their portfolios, and they are looking for photographers for TF sessions as well.

Never try to do makeup or hair by yourself or trust your model to do it. Why? Models usually are not professional makeup or hairstylists. If they do it by themselves, you will end up with the wrong makeup. I can assure you that your model will apply the makeup that she likes the most and the worst part is, you will spend a lot of time trying to fix it in post-production later because this is not what you were looking for.

Remember that makeup and hair are part of the storytelling.

3. Always Keep Someone Next To You During Your Photo Session

When we shoot, usually we are paying attention to model’s poses, or expression and we are not paying attention to the all the “small” details such as flying hair, wrinkles on their outfit, or the part of the makeup that needs to be refreshed. If someone is next to you during your photo session, they will be paying attention to all these details. You will significantly bring down your post-production time because you will not be retouching all the things which could easily be fixed during the session.

NEVER say, “I can fix it in Photoshop later, right?” Never fix in Photoshop anything that could be fixed during the session in camera. You can fix flying hair in a second during the session, but you will spend a lot of time fixing the same flying hair in Photoshop later because you will need to fix the same flying hair over and over in every single image you need to deliver. 

4: Get Everything Ready Before Your Session

If you have a model in your studio, that means you have some ideas you want to bring to life. A storytelling session includes hair, makeup, and wardrobe as well. We talked about makeup and hair above. Now it’s time to talk about wardrobe.

Trust your vision. Before the session, put together the outfit you want to shoot with. You can rent a unique outfit (this is something that is not always inexpensive, but sometimes it’s necessary), or you can buy the entire outfit. From where? Goodwill, eBay, Amazon. Sometimes you can put together a very impressive outfit for as little as $15. The best part is you can build your own wardrobe collection month by month. Never trust your model to bring the wardrobe. The chances are you’ll get random looks that may not represent your vision.

5. Build Your Circle

Build a circle of artistic people who love creating art and telling stories. Stay connected with all the people you worked with and who share the same “storytelling” vision. Finding people who share the same vision as yours is not too easy. So if you find them, stay connected, create “storytelling” images all the time. For fun, for work, for training, for discovering something new. It doesn’t matter, just create.

One More Thing: Never Get Stuck In A Box

Taking pictures using your camera is a form of “creating art.” So you don’t have to be stuck in a box only with your photography. Did you capture an image you love? That’s great! After that, try to paint it (even if you have never painted before, you can create a very unique and beautiful painting in Photoshop using my “Painting for Photographers” technique.

Try compositing images together to create something different. Be creative. Transform your photography art into a painting or compositing art.

You can see more of Victoria’s work at PavlovPhotography.com, and keep up with her on Instagram, Twitter, Behance, Facebook, and YouTube.

Victoria will be teaching at Photoshop World Las Vegas, taking place August 21-23, so register now to see her in person!

Bryan O’Neil Hughes will be teaching at Photoshop World Las Vegas, taking place August 21-23, so register now to come see him in person!

Drawing Upon Past Experience

Getting to post on Scott’s blog is always a treat, thanks for having me back!

This month marks twenty years at Adobe for me! Looking back, it still feels like a dream. I first got into photography when I was seven (largely because I couldn’t draw); and when I say I got into it, I mean, I went DEEP. My passion for cameras had me doing anything and everything related to the medium – eventually processing and printing photos; repairing and selling cameras; even freelancing as a motorsports photographer.

Then, in 1996, photography introduced me to Photoshop at a Seybold seminar. I must’ve watched Adobe’s Photoshop 4.0 demo 5X over that day – it was immediately obvious to me that my future had something to do with the magic happening at Adobe.

“Obsession” is way too weak a word…within months, I’d packed-up and moved to Silicon Valley with the single-minded intent of working at Adobe.  That sounds ridiculous and it absolutely was; I didn’t even own a computer! With the naivety of youth, I never accepted any other path; an interim job handling digital retouching orders for two dozen camera stores solved my computer & Photoshop problems.

I joined Adobe in the Summer of 1999 as a Quality Engineer on the Photoshop team, the job was essentially: test and break the app – I was completely in heaven! Stepping into product management nearly 15 years ago was another impossible dream come true; the opportunity to help guide Photoshop for so many years taught me a lot about the many ways that people use the application & how software is made. While I’ve spent most of my career looking forward, it’s interesting to look back at my years on the Photoshop team and to see how much the product and the workflows have changed.

I’m often asked, “How has Photoshop endured the test of time?” Sure, there’s the fact that the Photoshop team has always charted their own course; constantly innovated; expanded platforms & services – all while maintaining a very high bar for quality & performance…but there’s more to it than that. I think that much of Photoshop’s success can be attributed to the product’s ability to adapt.

Photoshop’s plug-in architecture has always allowed developers to communicate directly with the product – whether that’s bringing in unique file formats; exporting to specialized devices, or just adding missing functionality. That same flexibility exists within the fabric of the team, whether pivoting Photoshop to the growing needs of web designers with version 5.5; welcoming the digital camera boom with version 7.0.1, or exploring entirely new verticals; there are hundreds of examples of the team addressing the needs of a new or expanding segment.

The other thing about the Photoshop team, is that they know when the solution lies beyond Photoshop itself. The example of Camera Raw is a good one; at the time, we were seeing the mass proliferation of digital cameras; suddenly photographers expected Photoshop to deal with thousands of images, not the one-at-time workflow that it was originally built for. Photoshop answered that call with the File Browser (which would later become Bridge) and Camera Raw.

While this acknowledged a massive shift in I/O, the world was changing dramatically, digital photography wasn’t just for tech-savvy, early adopters, but for everyone and new devices required a streamlined, focused, editing solution and a digital asset manager in one…that solution would of course become Lightroom, a product I continue to be very closely involved with, both as a user and a spokesperson.

Lightroom allows me to use Photoshop for what Photoshop does best – while moving faster and shooting more. Because of Lightroom, I’m both more creative and more efficient. Lightroom and Photoshop have never been more closely integrated than they are today, thanks to Creative Cloud. Creative Cloud allows Photoshop to integrate deeply across application, surfaces and platforms – keeping Photoshop as the hub of hundreds of creative workflows. Clearly, sometimes the best solution to the problem is a brand-new product.

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Photo by Kandice Lynn

Terry White will be teaching at Photoshop World Las Vegas, taking place August 21-23, so register now to come see him in person!

Shoot Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

When people ask me what I shoot, I respond with, “I’m a portrait and travel photographer. That pretty much sums it up, and I get the corresponding head nod. I have spent years practicing my lighting setups, model direction, getting my camera settings down, and investing in gear. I’m happy. However, if I stopped here, it would be such a waste.

My 1st shoot with Gina yielded one of my favorite shots of all time.

Professionals will tell you that you should pick a genre and master it. Shoot what you like and concentrate on it. I agree. You should figure out what it is that you want to do the most and do that. It’s impossible to become great at everything. With that said, there is no reason whatsoever not to try something different and new from time to time. While I started out shooting portraits, I realized that it would be a missed opportunity not to shoot travel as well. I travel for a living and have been to some of the most beautiful places on earth.

If you look to the right you can see a camel going by :)

Stepping outside of your comfort zone means that you’re going to take the chance of shooting something that you’ve never shot before. You’re willing to accept that your first attempt is probably not going to be great. However, you’re going to learn! Just getting the settings right means that you’ve mastered doing manually what the camera would have probably done had you set it to AUTO. That may seem harsh, but it’s true. It’s not enough just to take a technically correct photo anymore. It’s expected!

If you’re a “photographer,” then, of course, we expect you to get a shot that’s in focus with the correct exposure. Are you surprised when you go into a restaurant, order a dish and it comes out exactly how you expected? No. You expect the chef to be able to prepare the meal you ordered. That’s why you went to a professional in the first place. Now, if you take a bite and it’s better than anything you’ve ever tasted before, then you’re surprised and pleased. That’s how photography works.

I’m not a morning person by any means. However, I got the opportunity to attend a landscape workshop led by Joe McNally and Moose Peterson. Who says no to that opportunity? Next thing you know, I was in my car headed up to Traverse City, Michigan.

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