The Tension Between Creating Art and Getting the Job Done
My name is Mike Hagen, and I am a professional photographer working out of Gig Harbor, Washington. A big thank you to Scott and Brad for inviting me to write for this week’s guest blog.

City skyline at dusk. Seattle, Washington.

I love photography. Like others who have chosen photography as an avocation, I eat, sleep and drink photography. As a working shooter, I don’t specialize in any one photographic genre; rather I point my lenses in quite a few directions. In the last 12 months, I’ve photographed commercial jobs, wildlife, portraits, events, architectural jobs, written two books, operated photo trips around the world, and have taught numerous classes and workshops.

Leopard on the Serengeti.
Icelandic puffins

Nature and outdoor photography got me into the world of professional photography, but over the course of two decades in the business, I’ve added a number of skillsets to my photographic repertoire. In this day and age, I feel strongly that you have to keep learning in order to keep earning a living. This blog article details a different aspect of professional photography that you might not have considered in the past. I hope it gives you a neat behind the scenes look and that it challenges you to consider a new perspective.

Portrait of young boxer. Havana, Cuba.

Getting The Shot
I really enjoy exercising my creativity. However when I’m shooting for a paying client, I struggle with the tension between creating art and simply getting the job done to meet the client’s expectations.

This image on Lake Washington shows my client’s moisture barrier materials during the construction phase. On the right side of the photo is the building where Boeing manufacturers the 737 airliner.

One of the subjects I regularly shoot in my business is commercial construction for building product manufacturers. For these jobs, I contract with a manufacturer to photograph their materials on high profile construction projects. For example, a deck & railing manufacturer will hire me to photograph their products on high-rise buildings in big cities. Or, a moisture barrier wrap company will hire me to photograph their materials on buildings during the construction phases of the project.

Decks and railings on a high-rise in Seattle, WA.

My client’s photographic needs are never as simple as, “photograph the building.” Rather, they hire me to demonstrate their product on a building as it is being used in the real world.

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Oh yeah, Calculations — buried indeed, but in the spirit of the latest installment of Pirates of the Caribbean, we’ve hoisted it up from its briny grave so you can make better-than-average black and white conversions without even using a plug-in.

Before we “dive in” just want to remind you about my FREE webinar tomorrow at 2-pm EDT for beginner photographers. It’s called “Beginner’s Breakthrough” and if you know somebody new to photography and they want to kick their images up a big notch, I think I have some things that will really help.

If you could share this link with them, I would much appreciate it. Tell them they won’t be alone – thousands of photographers from all over have already signed-up to be there tomorrow – it’s going to a lot of fun (and hopefully lots of “ah-ha” moments). Now, shiver me timbers (sorry, couldn’t resist), there be buried treasure below!

There ya have it, mateys! (again, couldn’t resist. Can’t wait for “Talk like a pirate day.“).

Here’s wishing you a great Tuesday, and hope to see you tomorrow for my Beginner’s Breakthrough free webinar.

Best,

-Scott

 

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, and our offices are closed as we honor and remember those who gave their lives in service to our country.

This post is dedicated each year to the memory of David Leimbach, (shown above; the brother of our dear friend and colleague Jeff Leimbach), who died nine years ago in combat in Afghanistan.

Just a humble word of thanks to the dedicated men and women of our armed services and to all those who came before them who laid down their lives to protect the freedoms we enjoy each day.

Here’s wishing you all a safe, happy and healthy Memorial Day.

All my best,

-Scott

Just One More Flash with Scott Kelby
Learn how to add one more flash to your portrait lighting with Scott Kelby! Building on the foundation you gained in Just One Flash, Scott teaches you the why, when, and how of adding a second flash to your Speedlight setup. Whether you want to create separation between your subject and the background, add a fill light to your subject, or change the look of the background itself, you’ll be amazed at all the great things you can do with a second flash. Be sure to re-watch the Just One Flash class first, then you’ll be ready to take it to the next level with the skills you’ll learn here.

In Case You Missed It
Capturing great portraits is all about understanding how to manipulate the quality, quantity, and direction of light. In Simple Lighting Techniques for Photographers with Tony Corbell, learn how the pros use a variety of light shaping tools to create fantastic portraits every time, and in any kind of situation.

If you have a friend, co-worker, or family member that is new to photography, and you want to see them make a real leap to where they’re making much better images right away, have them watch this one minute video below – I think I can help (and it’s 100% free).

I’m going to share some things I believe can really make a difference in their photography right away. It’s free and open to everyone, so I encourage you to invite your friends (just send them a link to this post).

Here’s the link to register for the Webinar.

Thanks for sharing this with your new photography friends. :)

Here’s wishing you a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend, and we’ll see you back here on Tuesday. :)

Best,

-Scott

Small Studio, Big Potential
Around 10 years ago I invested in a wooden cabin at the end of my garden. Finally I got every portrait photographers dream, my own permanent studio and it was HUGE… then I started adding lights, props, an office and I realised it was small, very small!

Thanks to YouTube, I’ve invited millions of photographers into my studio and have been asked countless questions about my small home studio set up, so here are some answers.

How Small Is Small?
Don’t let the photos fool you, my studio is just 13 feet wide by 24 feet long. That sounds like plenty of space until you realise 6 feet of length is my office and shelving takes up 3 feet of width in places.

The ceiling is 8 feet high at the centre but drops to 6.5 feet at the edges. On paper, floor space might sound like the big limiting factor but I’ve found the lack of height is an even greater restriction on the lighting styles I can use.

What Are The Limitations?
There are obvious ones, like full length portraits are very tricky with anything other then a wide lens and there’s never enough space to store stuff. But there’s also the unexpected compromises, such as the need to use smaller softboxes; my go-to size is between 50 – 100cm (20 – 40in) diameter. I also shoot a surprisingly large number of images with people sitting down just so I can get my lights up high. I’ve become very adept cloning out stray light stand legs. Shift clicking with the Spot Healing Brush Tool is my secret weapon there.

Does The Limited Space Limit Your Style?
I may only have one wall to shoot against, but that doesn’t mean I only have the choice of one background. I’ve found working in the same space has made me very good at being creative, especially with backgrounds. When I change my background I’m in a whole new studio and ideas flow from there. Fabric, paper, smoke and coloured gels; I’ve used all sorts of things to create new backgrounds in my small home studio.

Where Did You Get That Textured Background From?
After years of working with a smooth white vinyl background, I needed to do something very different to save my sanity. Building a permanent grungy, textured background was the best thing I ever did in my studio. You can read the write up on the build on my blog. My D.I.Y. skills are basic at best, can’t even saw in a straight line. So if I can build this, almost anyone can!

Does A Small Studio Mean Small Lights Are Best?
It’s not the size of the space that dictates the power of the light, it’s the size of the modifier and how close it is to your subject. But in theory yes, I could shoot almost everything I do with speedlights. But having a slightly more powerful light means I can run it at a lower power for quick recycle times and super fast flash durations. Whatever flash you choose, get one that’s battery powered. With less room to run cables and often a forest of light stands filling the space, small studios can be a big trip hazard!

What’s The One Thing You’d Change About Your Studio Space?
My photography studio has evolved over time, but one thing has remained a constant pain: the heating and ventilation (or rather the lack of).

Do you like to use smoke in your shots? Me too. A lack of ventilation makes clearing the smoke a slow process, and as a result it’s ALWAYS held back for the last shots of the day.

In the winter my studio is freezing. Insulation in the walls would help, but that would make my small studio even smaller. Ever wondered why my models often wear coats and jumpers? Now you know!

You can see more of Gavin’s work at GavTrain.com, and follow him on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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