Sometimes I feel like a dinosaur

Maybe  it’s a matter of taste or maybe it’s experience but I’ve started a list of things “not to do” while editing photos. Most of this comes from looking at the work of others, as does being inspired to try new things, in my own way of course. I can’t stress enough how strongly I feel about composition but that’s been something I felt compelled to take seriously long before I took a photography class of any kind. If you compose the photo well as you take it there will be far less you need to do in post processing. You shouldn’t really ever have to crop a photo. And if you’re spending a significant amount of time having to polish up a photo after the fact, there’s probably an issue at hand.

It bugs me that people often give the camera credit for a photo being bad, or good for that matter. The camera only does what we tell it to. Some of my best work was taken on film in manual camera settings. Digital is making me a little lazy and I’m well aware of that which is why I still have a camera on the side loaded with film, eventually I’ll use up that roll. Anyway, the list I’ve started:

1.) Do not color splash (aka spot color). I’ve been guilty of this in the past, only once or twice and the colors were muted, not super bright. It still doesn’t excuse it. This has become overdone and well, all the samples I’ve seen has made me decide to not ever do it again.  I’ve seen lots and lots of bad spot color.

2.) White vignette. It usually does nothing to improve a photo.

3.) Too much dark vignette. Although a little dark vignette can enhance mood imo, too much will ruin it.

4.) Super-imposing ultrasound pictures on a baby bump. It’s just creepy. And should not happen. Example:

5.) People in HDR. Why? Old rustic barns and vintage cars maybe but people?

6.) Going overboard with the faux sun-flares. I wish I could post a sample here but I’ll be nice. Plus, I refuse to do it to one of my own pictures. People actually buy actions that add lots of fake sun-flare to their photos. And it’s A LOT of flare. Oftentimes it blows out the faces of the people in the photos. You can get this same effect for free using the sun but I prefer to be able to see people in my photos unless I’m going for silhouettes.

7.) Crazy eyes. Over-brightening the whites of the eyes makes people look pretty crazed.

8.) Over-smoothing the skin results in a pretty obvious plastic effect. I do agree with softening up a bit but moderation is key.

Exhibit A: An instance where the smoothing is a bit on the heavy side and then a second example where it is much more subtle and natural.

 

I’ll add to the list but that’s enough for now.

Ok, so aside fr…

Ok, so aside from my rant about how easy and common it is for people to instantly declare themselves professional photographers and contribute to devaluing the services and products photographers provide (so that people expect or even demand photography for free or deeply discounted)…

2.) I’d also like to make a point to address the issue of selling prints. The aforementioned issue makes things difficult enough but then there’s the issue of prints being “stolen”. It makes sense that you’d make proofs available in an online gallery or even post previews on Facebook and allow people to tag themselves and show off their images to friends and family. The problem is that many abuse this and save these proofs or images to their various devices and attempt to make their own prints, redistribute the images and maybe even crop out or remove the photography logo. Not giving a photographer credit where it is due is one thing but then paying a third party company for prints or products using those prints instead of the person who took them, well that’s just downright rude. The exception is if you have arranged to purchase the digital files from the photographer for this purpose. It honestly makes me cringe to think of the photos I take such care in creating being printed at a low quality lab, and worse without my permission. People may not realize this but unless you have a written release from the photographer that took the photos, it is illegal to copy or print them. It is not ok to make your own prints from proofs.

As professionals, we want you to have the best quality photos printed by a top lab in the industry. We spend time seeking out a professional lab to form a partnership with. I know I have taken this very seriously. I’ve gotten sample prints from every lab I’ve found in order to ensure I am happy with the paper and color quality, as well as pricing, shipping and processing times, and availability of other print products offered. These are the kind of prints that will not fade over time and will look crisper and brighter than standard printing labs at say, local department stores. I want people to have these higher quality prints because I care about what the end product is.

Next topic: Editing.

Are we there yet?

It seems we have finally arrived in 2012. Last year was a painfully long year for me. I was going to play catch up and post separate posts for all the months I missed. But in all honesty, I’m exhausted. I’ve been that way for a while. So I’m just going to tackle it little by little until everything is up to speed. If there’s one thing I’ve had to learn to deal with, it’s learning to take things on little by little. The progress I’ve made didn’t happen overnight, or in a week, or even a single month. These things take time. Since the workshops I attended in California over the summer, I have begun to successfully sell my fine art photography to individuals as well as businesses. I’ve also become more active in shoots. 

I’ve also been spending countless hours self-training on new techniques. I’m putting a lot of myself into this. There are a few things I’ve felt I want to address.

1.) Photography to me is an art, not a quick buck. It is an industry that has become flooded however with people who buy a nice camera and instantly become “photographers” looking to make a quick buck. They sell themselves cheaply and others eat it up. They give all of the images they take away on disc, leading the general population to expect this as the norm while also lending to the idea that these images have no value. People begin to appreciate less the time involved in setting up and planning a shoot, getting the lighting and time of day for that light just right, the careful composition of the scenery or props involved. The effort in which you make to ensure your clients and models are comfortable, having fun, getting the shots they want and will love. All the time involved in post processing. All the thought and expense involved in backdrops, programs, template design, print and product quality, and of course your equipment. 

A photograph is capturing a moment in time. It is a memory, not just paper and ink. A good photo will become an heirloom. It will have so much more value and will outlast most material things we buy and yet people get to a point where they don’t want to pay for photos. I have to believe a good portion of this is because they have a neighbor Sally who just got a camera for christmas and will give them 100 pictures on disc for next to nothing, or something similar. It’s not until later they’ll realize these aren’t the great photographs that become heirlooms but then little Timmy isn’t a baby anymore. As much as we’ve heard Cher sing about it, we can’t turn back time. 

When I first started taking pictures, it was all on film. In those days, you had to compose a nice shot right then and there and be mindful of your 24-36 exposures. You’d never hand over all the negatives free of charge or even at all, or even be expected to. I never intended to go fully digital but as more and more labs closed and film became more sparse, it only made sense. Being able to process your photos immediately was also a huge perk. It just seems like we’ve lost so much since the film days. Technology has made it harder in so many ways and yet so easy. 

Eventually, I feel like things will work out. All the Sallies will lose interest (I hope). I enjoyed photography before it was “cool” and I don’t think I’ll change my mind any time soon. For those whose hearts aren’t actually in it, I feel they’ll go on to the next big fad at some point. Until then, it’s competitive. Me vs. Sally, and Sally has a better deal because I cannot give myself away for free and I can’t keep devaluing what my time is worth to try to match a bargain. 

Some great advice to someone wanting to start out: Don’t rush out and buy a new camera. Learn all you can with your existing camera first, (or better yet, start with an older film camera). Your creative eye is the most important tool you have. A better camera will not make you a better photographer. Learn to see first. 

 

Stay tuned for the next post!

Much ado indeed

The sun was setting and a nice, cool breeze lightly wafted the scent of garden blooms. We had arrived just in time to get settled in before the Shakespearian comedy began. An elegantly scrolled larger-than-life black metal gate stood in the center of the stage against a twilight backdrop of sky. A magnificent prop that turned out to be one of only a couple. I’m not sure I’d ever been to an outdoor play before and almost immediately wished I had brought along a light blanket. Well-costumed ladies took stage and began the opening scene in song, a pleasant blend of altos and sopranos in almost perfect harmony. Several hours later, having survived an intermission and continuously fast-paced witty banter, the show had concluded. It was not the best modern delivery of an Elizabethan play that I’ve experienced. In fact, it was a bit dry at times and seemingly more serious than it needed to be. It was supposed to be one of Shakespeare’s funniest plays. My favorite parts were the dance scenes. I will definitely praise their choreography; it was detailed and authentic to the time period. I’ve watched instructional dance videos and tried to learn baroque, renaissance, and medieval dance. It’s not as easy as you’d think. Some of those dances require very fancy footwork.

At any rate, the show was over. We had abided by an announcement right before the show began to refrain from taking photos. I always assume this is to prevent distracting and annoying flashes while the actors are trying to work on stage and even though I don’t use a flash in those types of settings I complied. So, imagine my surprise when we attempt to take a photo AFTER the show had ended, the man sitting behind us tells us to delete our photos. And then goes to get another employee of the theatre who comes over and gives us a hard time. The man sitting behind us knew we had not attempted taking photos during the show and must’ve been aware the show had ended because half of the outdoor theatre had already emptied. To make matters worse, I had forgotten to put a memory card in the camera in the first place. Before we left the house I had been trying to clear up the memory cards to make space. I honestly thought the guy might try to take my camera, citing how illegal it is to take photos and the play is copyrighted. I was honestly humiliated, made to feel like a criminal. This is definitely not the first time I’ve been asked to stop taking photos (Miami, Ireland, Italy, etc.) but never ever has someone tried to stand over me and force me to delete photographs. My favorite was the Sistine Chapel. How on earth are you supposed to visit the Sistine Chapel and not take photos. Well, it was because they wanted you to buy their own photos when you exited through the gift shop.

This has bothered me all day so I’ve been doing some research. Considering Shakespeare never published his plays for fear of the works being copied without his permission and copyright laws did not exist in his time… how is this play copyrighted? I could find nothing showing that it is. What seems more likely is that the theatre may want copyright of any photos taken of their performance of the show and in that case it may be illegal to try to publish or sell any photos you take of the actors but not actually illegal to take the photos. In fact I saw no signs posted that indicated photography was not allowed, and there was nothing mentioned on the tickets. If these men had actually forced me to delete my photos they were likely intruding on my photographer rights according to everything I have read. The exception is military and government facilities and installations and private residences or property in cases where you are trespassing. If you are in a public facility, especially in a public park, more than likely photography is NOT ILLEGAL. Some zoos including the San Diego Zoo make it clear that taking photos is ok but it is illegal to profit from any photos taken there.

Here’s a handy outline I found describing Photographer’s Rights:

http://www.andrewkantor.com/legalrights/Legal_Rights_of_Photographers.pdf

And this is what the big ado was about:

Photo by Henry DiRocco

A photograph. One of many in the online gallery of the theatre’s website, available for free public download in web or full resolution, your choice. Photo credit goes to: Henry DiRocco. I had mostly enjoyed this mediocre rendition of a play until we were harassed for unsuccessfully trying to take a photo after it had ended. I’m going to continue to arm myself with the knowledge of a photographer’s legal rights, you should too.

California girls

You’ve heard the songs but I’ve got to say, there are some very lovely ladies here along the Pacific. I’m not certain how many of them are actually from here as there’s a huge military influence but regardless, Katy Perry and the Beach Boys come to mind. The day after we arrived from Florida, I got to participate in a photography workshop in Oceanside, CA hosted by Southern California Photography School. The particular workshop I attended was led by hugely successful local photographer Michele Parsley, specializing in portraits and boudoir photography. (link: http://micheleparsley.com/index2.php)  It’s hard to pick out my favorite shots but here a few that I got:


 

Following the shooting at the workshop I got to tag along for a fast-paced photo shoot along the beach. These girls are going to be appearing in a calendar to support the wounded warriors fund. I will post a link as soon as I know it’s available.

Here are a few shots I got during that photo walk:

Models pictured from top: Kim Le, Amanda Marie, Whitney, Makendra, Kristi, Evelyn, Deidra, Kristen, Brandie,  and Sarah.

Charlie’s first trip to Balboa Park

It was a beautiful Sunday though a bit warmer than we probably would’ve liked. It is July though so I guess we couldn’t complain too much, just part of Summer’s territory. It had been a year since I had last walked around Balboa and I can’t say much has changed. There are the same street vendors and sidewalk performers, the same amazing architecture, and still a flourish of glimpses of wedding parties.

But this was Charlie’s first time and though she may have been a little overexcited at times, trying to take whomever holding the leash for a ride, she did very well for an introduction to the bustling park. Overall, I think she is very content with California. She hasn’t had the anxiety she had right before we left Florida whether it was the storms or her sense of us leaving, possibly without her. She’s actually been very well behaved.


We did get to explore a couple places we hadn’t previously, paths and gardens.

Of course, the humans enjoyed the outing also.  We hope to go back this weekend for a little Shakespeare in the garden. I guess I forgot to mention they have a sort of replica of the old globe theatre where a variety of plays are performed, including Shakespeare’s. I was pretty excited to find this. We concluded the evening with a drive to Coronado where we caught dinner and a very tuckered out Charlie napped on the way home. More to come of our adventures. Stay happy, stay healthy.

A look back at the Emerald Isle

In less time than it took to fill up 24 exposures I felt like I had found my home at long last.  
The grass really does seem to be greener on the other side. Perhaps it’s all the rain? The emerald contrasted nicely against the gray skies while the fresh scent of moss rode on the sea breeze. There seemed to be ample opportunity for the sun to sneak out from behind the clouds. As I walked along the shore cliffs gazing at land’s end, I imagined this land long ago when castles were alive and ships prepared for long voyages. It was easy to forget the hustle and bustle of the real world when entrances to forest paths reminded you to watch for fairies. I quickly decided this was one of my favorite places and I wished upon the quartz found buried on the beach that I’d see Ireland again.

the meaning of life, a photographic story

Like a lost bird I winged carelessly with no particular direction in mind, enjoying the breeze and taking time to take in the view. Something had to slow me down, keep me still for a while so I could figure it out. I couldn’t just keep floating along with no clear path. It’s hard to get somewhere when you don’t know how to get there. This bird could think of flying all he wanted but he wasn’t sure where to go. So he just sat there and thought about it.

And so did I.

Enjoying the view.

Dreaming dreams, hoping for things, and soaking in moonbeams.

Pondering, wondering, wandering while the moon listened.

Like, why some leaves turn orange, and others yellow or red. And why red seemed to be my favorite. But why not purple or blue?  So much time spent trying to figure out the meaning of all that is life.

But then the leaves have fallen, winter drifts in and lingers a while. Another year fares us well. The sun rises with promise of renewal.

With fresh memories of fields of butterflies that new love sent fluttering.

There are prickly parts every now and then. It does us well to also remember them.

Last summer we walked through a desert garden, while the bird thought of flying, thinking but going nowhere. It seems like a lifetime ago but yet not that long ago now. We’ve come quite a long way since then.

The tree let the bird rest a while. It was a tree that stopped us… that told me to slow down long enough to realize

that a change needed to be made. To understand the things that are truly important. And to know that I have not fully done all I need to in this life.

Now a countdown til the day I can fly again. Til we can fly again. This time knowing, and an idea of direction. I will still dream dreams and hope for things but I will not wing wildly, carelessly.

new postcard

This is the first design that I’ve really liked. Will likely come up with a couple more.

The hardest part is deciding which photos to use, that part can easily take a couple hours if you’re really putting thought into it. The layout is much easier once the pictures are chosen.

I have to admit, this is kind of fun.

I’ve been working on some new business card designs. I may have gotten a little carried away with it really, but the possibilities seem to be endless. I’m going to have to decide on a few designs and stick with them. While I’m in the process I figured I’d post what I have so far.

These two are my favorite. Whimsical and Spring-like.

I may make changes to the text, or text color.

And here are the others: