Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dragging your shutter

Over the Holidays (which are still happening) I photographed a 50th wedding anniversary, and while I really like to do live events like that, there is inevitably some down time. During that down time where there are no pictures to take (I've photographed everyone in the room, the food, the decorations, even the building) my brain starts to think of different things I can do with my camera. This night I was thinking of Picasso's light paintings. So looking around I saw several Christmas trees that were just sitting there with tons of Christmas lights on them and I thought, What the heck. So I set my exposure to 5 seconds, focused, and then moved my camera in fluid motions, thus creating light paths from the Christmas lights. Here is the result.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Frozen Macro Landscape Photography

Yep you read right. FROZEN. This took a few days of prep work to get everything set, plus a quick run to the grocery store to get some dry ice. First I had to get a bowl (I know real scientific) and fill it with some sand so that my "Trees" would stand up while they froze. I "planted" the trees and then filled the rest of the bowl with water and set it in the freezer to, well freeze. After it had solidified a little bit I went back with a spray bottle and misted more water on the trees and on top of the already frozen water to create some texture.

After that I used some dry ice to create the blowing snow effect. I think it turned out pretty good, and it feels good to get back to doing more macro landscapes. I usually have to block out a whole night to do these things, but this one didn't take me too long, probably because I have done them so much before I've got it down to a science on how to set it up and get the desired experience.


I ran out of dry ice for this last one, but I still think it works. especially the piling up of the snow in the bottom right corner.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Food Photography

This last week I had a great opportunity to work with Leslie Smith at Carmela's Cottage (carmelascottage.net) and Simply Sweet by Leslie (SimplysweetbyLeslie.com) to photograph some of their delicious cupcakes. Food photography is a lot different than Portraiture, number one because the subject doesn't talk back to you. There are lots of tips and tricks that you can try to make the food look appetizing. One that I learned about recently was to use WD40 to make the food look shiny (I haven't tried it yet, maybe I'll give it a go on a non-client project first just to make sure that it works). Other things are using wax to make a bottle look icy and cold, using a food stylist, etc. I was lucky to have the entire staff of Carmela's Cottage helping me with the food styling. Let me tell you, these girls could make ANYTHING look appetizing. Everything was absolutely amazing and well taken care of. I brought a few tools with me, like tweezers and picks (which came in handy more than I thought they would) but it was great having these experienced Pastry Chefs there to help make their food look AMAZING! So here are a few of the cupcakes and other treats that we photographed.

www.SimplysweetbyLeslie.com
www.carmelascottage.net
I think this one is Rocky Road

I can't remember but I think this one is Hazelnut, but don't quote me on it.
Coconut with an Almond? I think they called it an Almond Joy!




Yes that is Bacon on top. It's a Belgium Waffle Cupcake with Maple Syrup!











Quick shot of my set-up in Carmela's Cottage.







Monday, November 5, 2012

Studio Lighting Equipment

Sorry I have been so busy lately. It was my birthday and for that special day my wife and I headed down to Las Vegas for the Pumpkinman triathlon (sans kids). We had a complete blast. Except for the burned Chicken Alfredo afterwards, it was a pretty great race. Before that I shot a wedding video for my old boss at JayLynn Studios, and I got some new studio lighting equipment. You see, I try to only spend what I earn with my photography on photography equipment. So obviously, the more jobs that I get, the more that I can spend. The only exception to this rule for me is gallery work, because submitting to galleries is such a great thing for a teaching resume' that I just find the money somewhere. Anyway, I digress. This post is all about some studio lighting equipment that I just purchased from adorama.com. Now I don't know if you have noticed, but throughout this blog I try and talk about how to do things frugally, because let's face it, the average photographer does not have $10k to spend on lighting equipment. So here is a run down of my set up.
First a picture.
So, there are a few problems that I ran into. First, my posing table is not big enough, and that is being rectified. It just was not wide enough. I was using our card table and it needed to be about double as wide to prevent creasing of the background.  This particular background is a vinyl background by Savage that is 5 feet by 7 feet. Normally one would purchase a role of background paper for a set up like this, but I went for this vinyl background because I read the reviews that it was a very durable substance, and it proved to be true. A link for this product is below.
http://www.adorama.com/SAIV57W.html

The other problem was the light stand that the boom was attached to. I purchased a medium boom, again from adorama. The brand name is Smith Victor. Now I know that Smith Victor's are considered by some to be the low end of lights, but I have had a set of Smith Victor 300 WS strobes and I have not had a reason to complain, with the exception that they are not as strong as their more expensive counterparts. But hey, they're only 300ws and I knew that, It's not like I'm trying to light a cathedral with them. Back to the boom. The boom was very sturdy and seems like it will go a long way. Not much in the way of control, but it's a medium boom, and any light direction adjustments can be done relatively easy from the ground. I just wish that my light stands were a little more heavy duty to help support this heavy boom.
http://www.adorama.com/SVMB150.html 

Next I wanted to get a softbox. Now, the kit that I have came with umbrellas, and don't get me wrong, I have loved using those umbrellas, it really spreads the light around, but I feel like I get more control with a softbox. So when I saw a softbox/umbrella from Interfit, I thought that I should give it a try. I must admit, there could have been a little more control, but I was pleasantly surprised by this little baby. The light was soft and it didn't go everywhere (much better than a traditional umbrella). The results are as follows.

I must say, none too shabby. I got the results I was looking for, and what I expected. Please excuse the poor glass. I just picked it up at the local dollar tree, and after looking at it closely, there is definitely some warping in the upper left hand corner, and down lower towards the neck, but I thought it looked nice. Glass Photography 101. I think I might do a little webisode on how to set this one up. Anyway, the link for the softbox/umbrella is below.
http://www.adorama.com/PAINT383.html

Lastly, I picked up a background stand. This is something I am so glad that I picked up. I like it, nice and sturdy, perfect for an individual or small group portrait shot. I wouldn't put anything really big on it, but it works for what I am doing. Plus, if I am not using the background stand, I can use it to support the boom. It's made by Flashpoint, which I believe is owned by Adorama. They have some great deals on some entry level equipment and beyond. I would check them out. Link it below.
http://www.adorama.com/FPBS13B.html

Well there you have it. The only other thing I used was some illustration board that I picked up at, you guessed it, the dollar store. I spray painted one of them black to get that nice outline on the glass, and then I used home depot clips to hold them up. If I had more stands, I would have used those to hold em up, or an assistant, but my wife was busy making my daughter's Halloween costume.

Hope this helps for anyone who is looking at setting up a home studio. My advice, don't just put up a wrinkly sheet and a desk lamp and call it good. The key is control, and the more control you have, the better your images will be. The hard thing is, that control usually costs some money. But it doesn't have to be a lot, and that is why I am writing this blog, I want to help show you ways to create great photography, and not spend a fortune.
Good Luck.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Getting a Degree in Photography!


For most professions today it is a requirement to do some kind of academic study. For example, if you are going to be an accountant, you need to go and get a degree in accounting from a college or university. If you want to be an attorney you have to go to Law school. If you want to be a photographer, you have to… wait what do you have to do? There is a lot of debate out there as to whether or not it is necessary to get a degree in order to be a photographer.  I mean you have to be licensed to be a cosmetologist, why not photography? I put a couple posts out on Facebook asking people to share their reasons why they went to school. Here are some of the responses:

“I loved photography even as a little girl. My mom was kind enough to supply me with rolls and rolls of film and pay for them to be developed. They always said I had a good eye for it, so when I had the option of photography classes in high school, it was an obvious choice. I loved it. I ended up working for (a professional photographer) for 5 years which developed my appreciation for portraiture. Then through the support of other photographers, IPPA seminars, and my husband's financial support, I started my own business in 2005. I'm now a member of PPA and want to work towards my Masters. Having a portrait business here in Utah's over saturated market is difficult for sure, and I'm still learning on how to successfully promote myself, but I wouldn't want any other job.”        -Emily

“Studying with other people can make learning faster than on your own. Peer feedback is invaluable. Diploma on wall may impress a client (or not). It's more fun than studying math.”      -Scott

“In school you get the opportunity to work with professors willing to teach… Being able to work with others, bounce ideas with your peers is in valuable. Having your peers and professors challenge you in a way you wouldn't have thought yourself and while we all hate those core classes they really do help you train your eye with composition and design elements.”     -Lindy

“I don’t think that I would be as good as I am without my peers! Thanks guys!! I have never learned so much info that I can actually apply into my profession…Most jobs require you to have more than just pictures to show you know how to take pictures. The skills that I am learning in my digital, and heck all that I have learned in my film classes, have helped me become a better photographer. The skills that I am learning now in digital are going to get me a job with a really good company. They are going to see the pictures in my portfolio and see that what I learned in my classes are skills that I will be able to contribute to their company. I thank Christopher Gauthiér for all he teaches us in class.”  -Addie

On the opposite side of the spectrum there are people who have the opinion that schooling is not important when pursuing a career in photography, as illustrated by the quote below:

“I'm not. At least not in school. I'm working towards a PhD in Biology. Photography is an on-the-side hobby (and very part-time business) for me. But, I do take photography seriously, and don't let my schooling get in the way of my education. I think photography is one field that's relatively easy to pursue professionally WITHOUT the formal education. For most photographic jobs, the only 'piece of paper' that matters are the ones in your portfolio. A diploma is largely irrelevant. And skills can be obtained (and, I think, are often better obtained) outside the classroom setting.-“     -Jesse

So, who is right? If you are planning on being a professional photographer, should you pursue a degree in photography? Or is it an unnecessary expense of time and money? Let me give you my two cents.

First off, I received not only one, but two degrees in photography (BFA and MFA) as well as an additional degree in Education. Whenever I meet with clients, especially when I am meeting them for the first time, they like to know my background. They ask about my professional experience, how often I shoot weddings, families, etc., and all the usual questions that wedding websites tell them to ask. Usually I bring up the fact that I have two degrees in photography from recognized Universities (the University of Utah and Utah State University) and they are instantly put at ease and they are confident that I am not some guy who just picked up a camera from the local Big Box Mart. The degree means that I not only KNOW about photography, but I have PROVED that I know about photography.  In fact, with my MFA, I can legally to teach classes at the University level (you can’t do that unless you have an MFA degree). So that’s nice on the customer side of it, but what about the actual image.

Edward Weston, Robert Mapplethorpe, Lazlo Maholy Nagy, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Richard Avedon. If you went to college and studied photography, chances are you will not only recognize these names, but also recognize their images and realize how they contributed to the photography medium. In school, you not only study photography but image making as a whole. We learn composition, color, design, presentation, as well as alternative methods for image making. We learn from photographers who have contributed significantly to the art, from inventors to people whose photographs changed the way people look at imagery.

Each time we photograph something, we critique it. When I say critique, I don’t mean putting something up on Facebook and wait for comments. I am talking about a legitimate and HARSH critique of your work. Think of your photography as an exercise. The harder you exercise, the better you are going to get. You NEED critique to improve as an artist, and being critiqued by your peers and by your professors (professionals who have proven themselves through professional experience, critique, and exhibition) WILL improve your work.

My overall advice is this, if you want to be a photographer, you need to look specifically to your end goal. If your plan is to be a part time baby photographer out of your house, then you probably don’t need to get a Masters degree in photography to do it. I would however recommend taking some classes and getting your work critiqued every once in a while. There are some great groups that meet often to do just that on a regular basis. Join these groups and continually improve yourself.

If your end-goal were to make a full-time living at being a photographer, such as a commercial, product, food or fashion, then I would recommend going to a reputable school for your training. If you are applying for jobs such as these and you aren’t getting even so much as a phone call in return, then chances are you should probably go get some schooling.

In essence, I am saying to look at your end goal and what you want to get out of photography. There are different paths to any destination. There are some amazing professional photographers who never went to college, whereas there are some “photographers” from acclaimed Universities who don’t know the difference between their aperture and a hole in the ground. Look at your own work and look at other people’s work and see where you want to improve. If there is one thing that I have learned from my college days is that there is so much more out there to learn. I could spend several lifetimes just learning more and more about photography and still not know it all. I am continually learning. That’s why I am always reading photography and art books, magazines, blogs, etc. I love this medium so much that I can’t get enough of it. That’s why I went to photography school.

I’d love to hear your opinion on the matter. Comment or message me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Enjoying the moment, instead of capturing it.

So since fall is among us, I get to do one of my favorite things, and that is go hiking with my wife and kids. We can't really go too far because they are still pretty little but it also gives me an opportunity to bring my camera along and snap some fun photos. Over the years I have found that it can sometimes be a burden to be "On" all the time, meaning I am always looking for photo opps, or if I see something picturesque I have to capture it. Well, after ruining several family outings trying to frame landscape, or almost driving my car off the road looking at the sunset, I have kind of settled down. I take the time now to actually enjoy the moment. One of my photography professors, Carsten Meier, described a scene in Norway when a group of tourists showed up at the Fjords (I think I spelled that right). They got off the bus with their cameras pretty much glued to their eyes and didn't actually look at the scenery once with their actual eyes. The entire experience was recorded to be viewed later. I can relate to these tourists. Whenever we go anywhere, I always have to bring my camera, because I have this internal fear that if I don't photograph it, I will miss it. I don't realize that I can enjoy it as a real, first person experience. Photographs are wonderful and I love them, but every  once in a while, I need to sit back and enjoy the real world, instead of what is recorded on my CMOS chip.

With that caveat, here are some of the images.



 This first one is taken in Hyde Park, UT, just after a nice rainstorm.  If you are nutty about landscapes, some of the best times to take them are right after a storm, with a very active sky.


 This one is along the Mountain Bike trail in Green Canyon, UT. As you can see my wife is ahead of me, and not by me, because I am taking the photograph and not enjoying the moment with her. She's a wonderful woman who accepts my crazy photography habits and still loves me.
 This is my son Lukas, after he lost his shoe in the soft sand. it has been so dry this year that there is a ton of dust and sand along the trails that hasn't been packed in. The dust trails caused by my daughter and her friends created an interesting light trail.

Here's Lukas again running along the bike trail. He lost his shoe again, and then informed me that he had to go potty right after we took this. I think he just likes going in the woods, because he keeps asking me if we can do it again.

Just as the sun was about to set I snapped this little beauty with all the colors of fall. I've never been back east for the fall, but I can't think of anything that can be like Autumn in the Mountains of Utah.

I was waiting for a family to show up for their sitting and so I snapped the next few just to pass the time.

I know some people use the term "Bokeh" for this type of effect, but I do not. It's called Shallow Depth of Field, or just depth of field (Where did Bokeh come from?)

Just another short depth of field shot. You can achieve this be shooting at a very wide aperture (such as F4 or better yet, F2.8). Other things that can affect your depth of field are your focal length (length of your lens) and distance to your subject.







All Images Copyright Andrew Klc photography.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Please don't end up on Youarenotaphotographer.com

I don't know if you have ever heard of the website www.youarenotaphotographer.com but if not please take a look. When I first saw this site, I LOVED IT, I thought it was hilarious. For those of you who have never been there, it's basically a blog that calls out "faux"tographers and the piss poor work that they put out and try to call it professional, or better yet, art. It was funny at first, but then after a while I started to remember what it was like to just be starting out in photo.
I was enamored with the clone tool, bevel and emboss, Papyrus, and of course, spot coloring (black and white photo with a colored point). I committed several (hundred) Photoshop atrocities. It hit me one day when spot coloring the lips, eyes and flowers of a bride that what I was doing was not only wrong, but embarassing. After I pretty much made her look like a clown, I called her up and told her that I would recommend we go for the "Timeless" look of simple black and white. I haven't touched spot coloring since, I would say I have been clean for about 8 years now.
Cut to today. I saw the site of yourarenotaphotographer.com and was instantly humbled, realizing that I came from these same roots, made many of the same mistakes that these less experienced camera holders made. It made me also think "What about now? Please tell me I have improved somewhat in my photo making abilities!" In my mind, I believe I have gotten past it, and I hope I am, and that all the time spent studying photography has paid off, but I sincerely hope that I never end up on the pages of youarenotaphotographer.com.
BUT, if that does happen I would hope that I would take it as a learning experience. You see, that is the whole purpose of this blog, is to help the camera holder who does struggle, and can admit that they struggle, and wants to improve. A lot of pros (when I say pro, I am talking about someone who uses photography to contribute to their income more than 50%) are angry at the "faux"tographers for taking legitimate business at a fraction of the cost (like charging $50 for a wedding) and doing a piss poor job to boot. What I would like this blog to be about is a resource for the fledgling photographer, who needs some guidance, who wants to make a go of it. Even if you only shoot a few sessions a year, I want to help. Here's my reasoning. It's because if the entire photographic industry has enough education (not necessarily formal, but basic smarts) then it can change the industry. If I can get a photographer off of using "auto" or P, and on to M on their cameras (if you don't understand what I just said, e-mail me) then the overall product will improve. If I can convince this same photographer to set up a real business with a license and pay taxes, legitimately, and charge decent rates, then that's one step up for the business.
From now on, the only crappy photographs I want to see are the ones from instagram (who came up with that anyway, seriosuly let's make a picture look like crap and people will love it!). Actually I don't even want to see the instagram ones. What I mean is, if you are a photographer, then your work should reflect at least some basic understanding of photographic principles, and your pricing should build up your business, not send you on a road of destruction (more on that later).
 So Let's all say the pledge:

The beginning photographer's pledge:
I (State Your Name) Solemnly swear that I will not abuse the effects palette, spot color and/or instagram and try and pass them off as fine art. I further swear that I will shoot all my images in Manual mode, not use my pop-up flash, and if I plan to sell any photographic work that I do, that I will do so legitimately and within the law. If I do not adhere to the above said pledge, I do hereby give my friends, co-workers, family, and random strangers on the street, permission to seize my camera equipment, and slap me in the face with a grey card, until above said pledge is fulfilled.

"Never, never, never, do this to a photograph."
                                                    -Any sane photographer

P.S. I do not, and will never say that I know absolutely everything there is to know about photography.That's why I would love to hear from you if you have some tips, suggestions, or heck, if I did something completely wrong, let me know. 
                                                                                      -Andrew

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Workflow (3) The Photoshoot to Archival

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The last post about workflow...... I hope.

Ok, so in the last two posts we talked about setting up the appointment, and we discussed the purpose of some type of management software. In this next post I am going to outline how to finish the workflow, ending in archiving.

1.     Call the day before to confirm the appointment. This will increase your sitting show rate.
2.     The client arrives, greet them and have them fill out a model release form that includes all their contact info (you can double check it with the info you have in the computer). If there are any unpaid sitting fees at this time, collect them.
3.     Talk to your client, give them a run-down of how you plan to do the session, and then ask if there is anything that you left out.
4.     Shoot the session. (Simple enough)
5.     After the session and you have said goodbye to the client and set up a return appointment to view the photos, this is where the workflow begins. Begin by downloading your images to your computer, in a folder designated (and make sure that folder is annotated in your management software).
6.     Burn 2 disks of the session and LABEL them.  Store one copy with your customer’s information in your studio/workspace and the other in an offsite location. (If your studio is at home, you can rent a small storage unit).
7.     At this point, I like to pull my images into a raw file manipulation software. Right now I use lightroom, but you can use Aperture, Capture One Pro, or heck, even Adobe Bridge with Photoshop can work (it’s just a little clunkier).  This is where I make any minor adjustments to my images to make them show worthy, such as cropping, quick color correction, deleting unwanted images, etc. It’s easy in these software programs because you literally adjust one and then synchronize all the others. More on that later.
8.     Export your basic retouched photos as Jpegs for ease of viewing (It’s faster viewing this way).
9.     Meet with the client and create a sales order, outlining the entire order and all retouching requested (very important, if you don’t write it down, it won’t happen.) Make three copies, one goes to the lab, the other stays with you, the last goes to the customer along with their receipt (make sure all orders are paid in full)
10.  After the client leaves, you have a few choices. It all depends on how much control you want over the next process. For me, I do all my own retouching and then send the files off via FTP site to be printed at a PROFESSIONAL LAB!!!
(Walmart, Walgreens, Target, etc are NOT professional labs.) There are a lot of different options for labs, and if you don’t live close to any, there are quite a few nice ones online. Locally I use Masterlab at www.Masterlabdigital.com and have had great results. Some of my friends from grad school have had amazing success with www.bayphoto.com . They are located out of San Francisco and do a great job as well. Whatever you choose to do, I suggest getting to know the lab pretty well so that they get to know your expectations and so that you can understand their work ethic. There are some labs that really do not care about your work, and if they don’t care, they don’t deserve your business. So I retouch my photos and then let Masterlab do all my printing. Other options are to send it all directly to the lab and let them handle the retouching, printing, mounting, and even fulfillment of your order (packaging, mailing, etc). Just remember, when you do this, every bit of retouching they do costs money, so you better have billed your client for it as well, because if not, it’s coming out of your pocket. And as stated before, if it’s not written down, it won’t get done. This is where the more notes there are, the better. If you don’t write it down and the lab prints it as you specified, but not how the client wanted it, guess who is paying for a re-print?
11.  Your order comes back from the lab (if it’s a local lab and you do enough work with them, some labs will put your business on a pick-up drop off route as a courtesy and incentive to use them).
12.  Double check to make sure everything is there and the way you want it to be. Cross check with the order slip that you retained and if all is set, include that order slip with the order
13.  Think about presentation of the final images. Your customer just paid hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for these images, and they need to be presented in such a way that shows that off. My wedding photographer (when I got married) gave us all of our wedding photos in a beautiful decorative cardboard box. It was nice and showed that the photographer cared about his work, and cared about making us happy. (Note, if there are any large portraits, present them in a frame that you have for sale. The chances of you selling a frame go up incredibly at this point)
14.  Call the client to come and pick up their pictures.
15.  The client leaves with their photographs, and are happy. At this point you take the finished order slip and place it in a queue to be archived. I typically wait about a month after the client has picked up their order to archive their session.
16.  Write the client a thank you card. Include an incentive (coupon, gift card, etc) for them to come back again soon.
17.  It’s time to archive the session. You can do this by simply burning a disc, or to make the most out of your time and space, multiple hard drives are ideal. You already have two copies of the session, now it’s time to make at least two more, this time including all the artwork that you did for the client. There is several software options for archiving your images, but if you have a studio management software, it should be built it. Here’s how I would set it up. Two hard drives (three is better, but sometimes it’s overkill, especially if you still have the original disks). Copy the client’s session (it’s easiest if they just have a numbered session instead of just their name). Name the hard drives with a date. Write that date directly on the hard drive with a pen or permanent marker. Once you have copied the session over to the hard drives, make an annotation in your studio software as to which hard drive they have been archived to. It is now safe to delete the session off of your computer’s hard drive.

So that’s it. Now this is just one way of setting up a workflow, obviously there are may different twists and turns to this entire set up. Some people may want to simply upload their images to an online proofing, ordering, retouching and printing site and just make a commission off their photos. That’s cool. Others may want to create their entire lab in the studio and take out the middle-man. That’s cool too. Whatever you decide to do, the point is to keep it organized, and a workflow helps a photographer do just that.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Workflow 2: Studio Management Software



When I first started in the portrait business we had a great system called Portrait One Manager. It was made by Phase One (awesome camera backs and capture software) and was relatively easy to use and had a ton of options attached to it. Unfortunately it looks like it wasn’t a very successful piece of software because Phase One doesn’t offer it anymore. What was really great about the software was the fact that you could pull any bit of information out of it that you wanted. The only catch was that the person scheduling the appointment had to put in all the information. Another awesome aspect was that it linked directly with Capture One (Phase One’s premiere digital tethered capture software) and it was integrated with sales and accounting software as well, with an export option to QuickBooks. I really liked this software and appreciate it more now than when I was actually using it. You see when I first started, I was just a dumb 22 year old in college without any real experience, so when a problem came up I just naturally blamed the software instead of my own inexperience.
Besides the point that I wish I could still use Portrait One Manager, that software is now defunct and from what I have seen online, so are most of the studio management software out there. Here are a few that I have seen recently.

There are several different pieces of software out there, but there are a couple of things to look for when purchasing. Here are some things that I would find to be a great asset in software.

            -Attaching sessions with Clients: It’s really nice to look back and see what you have done for a client has done in the past and be able to keep that all in one simple file, instead of multiple mini files. Maybe it’s just me, but I hate it when I go to look up a client’s pictures and there are 19 different contacts that match the same name, and I have to go look up each and every one of them just to find the right photo session (that explanation might not have been to clear, but if you need some clarification, just comment)

            -Generate Lists. Invaluable for marketing. Say for example I want to send out a postcard to all my clients whose anniversary is in the month of June. This feature allows me to set the parameters, and generate an easy list that can be turned into a mail merge for easily printable address labels.

            -Invoicing. If you are going to do photography and make money at it, then somewhere down the line, you need to have financial records, whether it is for tax purposes, or if you want to get a loan, etc. Financial records are very important to a healthy business, and it’s nice to have some software to keep track of it for you. It’s also nice if this software can export all the data to QuickBooks as well.

            -Calendar. Do you really need me to explain a Calendar?

            -Workflow tracking. At some point you will need to access where an order of photos has gone. If you are doing one shoot a week/month/year then this is probably not a big priority. But if you are trying to manager 60 shoots a week, and then this can be nice. This feature is basically a checks and balances system to make sure everything goes as planned. As a photo goes through each part of the workflow, that part get’s checked off, and so on. It ends with archiving the image with a way to access it in the future (simply erasing it off your hard drive is not archiving).

            -Back ups. Whether it is via the cloud or to a USB jump drive, you NEED to back up this type of a system. If your studio becomes very successful and you start to thrive off of this system, then when that system goes down, you’re dead in the water. Did you see how people panicked when Wikipedia went down for a day (out of protest)? Imagine you are a college student who has been using Wikipedia to write all of your papers and then suddenly it’s gone the night before the paper is due, and you haven’t even started on it. Yeah, that’s a little bit of panic. Point of the matter is, back up your data.

            -Create appointments while mobile. It’s really nice to just pull out the smartphone, make the appointment, and then have it sync up with your software at home.

There are some other bells and whistles that really make life easier, but the list above is pretty much the essentials. Now technically, with a little bit of organization, you could probably handle all of this using Microsoft Outlook, and it would probably work great, except for the fact that it is not written specifically for the photography industry. But do with it, as you will. Below are a few samples of studio software that you might like to try.

1.     Studiocloud     Basic Version is Free, updates are pretty cheap (Studiocloud.com)
2.     Studioplus       Basic version is Free, after that you can pay monthly. (studioplussoftware.com)

There used to be a lot more, but most of the ones that I had used before were picked up by studio plus. I like Studio Cloud because it does a cloud back up (the non-free version).

Good Luck Folks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Workflow for a Family Portrait Session (part 1)

Workflow. We hear it all the time. What is it, and why is it important? Workflow in the photography world is literally the life cycle of an image, from pre-conception, to birth, to death, with the possibility of resurrection. It’s important to establish a workflow no matter what level of photographer you are. If you are a photographer that deals with a large quantity of customers, then an extensive and detailed workflow is essential. The point of a workflow is to stay organized and to make sure that nothing falls between the cracks. A Basic workflow looks like this.

Take Picture- Download Picture- Print Picture- Burn Picture to CD and put in Storage box.

Ya see, basic. I told you not to expect anything really crazy. Workflow is something that should be flexible enough to accommodate changes, but reliable enough that if it is interrupted, it is very easy to re-start.  For some of you brave enough to take on the task of the entire workflow, including retouching, printing, and fulfillment then I applaud you. There are some easier ways to go about it as well, and personally I would rather be shooting photographs than troubleshooting a printer, but that’s just me. Here is how I set up a workflow. Feel free to comment and add in any nuggets of information you think might be of value. Whether you are working with a client, or your own personal family photos, you need to have something to shoot. I am going to take the majority of this workflow from a Family Portrait perspective. The rest of this post will deal with Step 1, because it is a pretty big step and can lead you to success, or disaster.

Step 1: The Phone Call- You have done some type of advertising and a client has contacted you and wants to pay you money to photograph them. This is a good thing.  Right from that first phone call you need to collect as much info as possible. You need contact info, which includes phone numbers, address, e-mail, and of course their name.
You also need to determine what type of sitting this will be. Since this is a family sitting, you also need to find out how many people will be in the photograph. Other good questions to ask is if this is a special occasion, are there different group breakdowns that need to be done, and what they are wearing. It’s good to ask these types of questions because people in general don’t think about this type of stuff until the day of. This also gets them mentally prepared for the length of the session and what prints they are planning on purchasing.  The largest group that I every photographed at one time was around 120ish, and that included about 60 kids under the age of 10.  During that shoot there were 3 assistants, and 1 photographer just for the shoot and we were all exhausted afterwards. Imagine what would have happened if we hadn’t gotten that information and had planned on a family of 6. (Shudder).
What also needs to be discussed is the location. Are they photographing in-Studio or is this an “On-Location” shoot? If the family is expecting a studio, you better make sure your studio is free and large enough, or you might have to rent out a studio. Have your calendar on hand at ALL TIMES. If you are a solo- one- person show you need to get some type of a smart phone that syncs with your computer back home and that has your calendar, contacts, and an internet connection (necessary). If they are expecting an outdoor On-Location shoot, then the address and distance is also a factor.
One more thing to establish is the point of contact. Who is the Client? Who is making the decisions? In most cases, this is the matriarch of the family.  It’s just good to know who will make the decisions and who will look at you and say “I dunno”.

Put ALL this information in your calendar on the date of their sitting. Also set a little alarm to call and remind them about their session, usually the day before.
There are some specific programs out there to help you with scheduling, and I will talk about that more in my next post.

Finally, get some type of a Fee. It is a fact that if there is not a sitting fee paid, then the chances of them showing up decreases significantly. You don’t necessarily have to charge an arm and a leg, heck you could even call it a down payment on their order, but get some type of payment if you want them to show up. Now, what do you do if you are a one-person solo act, or if you are out and your credit card machine is back at the studio? This is why you need a smartphone with an internet connection. There are several great little credit card swipers that you just plug into the audio jack of your smartphone, and for a very small percentage (which is normal with credit cards) it will deposit the money into your account. Awesomeness. And here’s the thing, the card swipers are FREE, and the account is FREE!  I put a link below if anyone wants to get one and set it up.

Next Post: Session Organization Software!!!! (You’re all thrilled, I can tell)


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Family Photographs at the Temple Quarry in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Well that's quite the long title. As I am writing this I sure hope it fits. Well, yesterday Fall was out in all it's glorious splendor. There's nothing better than fall. It's my absolute favorite season. It's great for photography, it's not blazing hot, it's nice to go cycling outside, and of course Football. But I digress. I took a great family up to the Temple Quarry trail up Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake. This is a little gem that is not too well known among the general public (I am assuming this because everyone that I have taken there have never been there before). It is somewhat difficult to find if you have never been there before. So here are some directions.

Take I-215 until you come to the ski resort exits and head towards the mouth of the canyon (There are signs to guide you).
Instead of going up big cottonwood canyon, continue south on the road to head to little cottonwood canyon.
The road will fork twice. Keep left for the first fork (there is a big sign for La Caille at the first fork).
At the second "Fork" you will head right and then immediately make a left (it's not really a fork from this direction, more like a divergence).
There is a sign that says "Temple Quarry Trail Head". You pretty much park there and head down into the quarry.

Not only is this place great for photography, but also quite interesting just to walk around. Here is where all the granite for the Salt Lake Temple was quarried and then hauled to Temple Square to be finished. There are still a lot of remnants left over from this historical time period, if you know what to look for. It's also a great place to spot mountain goats, because on the south side of the canyon are amazing granite cliffs that are usually teaming with mountain goats. Unfortunately, we didn't see any yesterday, but I always look, and now that I have a 400 mm lens, I can hopefully get some great shoots.
 This is the Marsing Family, some good friends of mine. A lot of this post is so they can see some of their portraits before I mail them their disk of images. I live in Cache Valley, and they are a little bit farther south. So Salt Lake was a good place to meet up for pics. I hope you guys like em. The kids were awesome and it was the best weather we could ask for. It wasn't cold at all and the leaves had already begun to turn colors. Like I said before, I love Fall and I can't wait to take more photos.







Friday, September 21, 2012

White-Board Animation

 
So this little video is a project done by one of my students (Travis Gonzalez) at Stevens-Henager College in Logan Utah.  This was in our Advertising Design Class and we had to do some type of creative advertising for the Graphic Design Program. We had already done quite a few fliers and brochures and I think that if I had assigned another brochure, my students would have mutinied. So we came up with this idea. We had done something similar in another class, and Travis wanted to give it a go. So here is how we did it.

We got a regular tripod and reversed the head so that it was pointing down between the legs of the tripod (That sounds weird). It's essentially a copy stand, like in the olden days when we would photograph art work as slides. We attached the camera to the tripod and pointed it directly down (It helps if you get a level at this point. A level is a great tool to keep in your camera bag). Once everything is squared away to eliminate distortion, you place your white-board under the camera. For this project, we couldn't find a white board that would be the right size, so we used a picture frame with a piece of white matte board underneath it and cover in anti-glare glass. It worked great, but was a little harder to clean than a white board. It's also a good idea to tape down both the "white board" and the tripod to avoid movement. We did not do this, because, well I forgot the tape.
After everything is secure, the next step is to determine your exposure. You can do this using the in-camera meter or a handheld incident meter. Also set your white balance. In this video, we had some nice soft window light that worked well for this project. I would recommend getting several continuous light sources (Flourescent because you will have them on for a while and you want to stay cool) and positioning them equally on each side of the white board to allow even illumination.
Next you need to decided whether you will shoot using a card or shoot tethered to a laptop. I recommend shooting tethered because you get immediate feedback and can see if there are any issues. My favorite program for shooting tethered is Capture One Pro, by PhaseOne. It is somewhat expensive, but there are other options out there. Both Nikon and Canon have their own capture software, and even Adobe Lightroom has an option. There is a great FREE option though (for Mac Users). It's called Sofortbild. It's a German word that means Instant Picture. It's free and easy to use, and it gives you all the controls on the computer, so that you don't have to touch the camera. This is nice just because you can fire, change the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, WB, all that great stuff, from the computer.
I will do a post later on how to set up a tethered shoot and some great tips, but for right now, let's focus on the animation.
What we are trying to do here is create the illusion of motion. Have you ever flipped back and forth between two photos and it seems like there is some movement between them (the images have to be similar to do this. It won't work with a pic of the Eiffel tower and the White Cliffs of Dover). Your brain automatically puts in the missing pieces and creates the illusion of motion. What you are seeing in any film or animation are thousands of still images in sequence and they give the illusion of motion. Eadweard Muybrige was the first one to create this illusion by photographing a horse at interval using multiple cameras. What he created was the world's first animation. There's a great installation of this on the Freeway outside of Vienna on the way to Bratislava, just if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

Anyway, the more drawings you do, the smoother the animation. Here we just took a photograph every few seconds during the drawings, and with the hand motions, we would move our hands about a half inch for each frame. We kept all the images in sequence and then compiled them all in Adobe Premiere CS6 to create the final film. Hope you all enjoy.

Andrew