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Lens Hoods: Why, When, and How to Use Them (Video)

You can also watch this video on YouTube: Lens Hoods (aka Lens Shades)

Don’t Give It Away

We all get these requests, some of us many times per week:

“We don’t have a budget for photography, but we’d like to use your photos. We will offer you credit.”

Before I go on, check out writer Harlan Ellison’s video rant below (caution: strong language). It applies to writers, photographers, or any creative person being asked to deliver their goods for free:

Early in your photography career it can be tempting to accept these freebie requests in order to get “exposure.” After all, you want to get seen, build a reputation, get links to your site.

But each time you deliver free photos to a for-profit business, you are actually destroying the photography marketplace that you one day hope to succeed in. You are helping to spread this pernicious idea that photography, and other creative work, should be free. (more…)

Rooftop Model Shoot – Minus Sunset

For the full gallery click here.  (Requires Flash, sorry iPad users.)

This was supposed to be a sunset shoot on a gorgeous rooftop of a high-rise downtown.  We had the perfect angle to place the setting sun behind the models for dazzling backlight effect.

Everybody ready? Lights, camera, action…


Oh well. I’m on a roof with several beautiful models, so we’re going to make the most of it.  Switch to plan B.

Since we had a gray day I tried to create dramatic lighting and dramatic effects in post-processing to make the best of the situation.  Underexpose the sky (oops, missed that in some shots when my camera got bumped into Av mode instead of Manual. How did that happen?).  Add some vignette in processing and punch up the blacks, etc.

I’m not sure I really succeeded, in getting exactly what I wanted, but do I like some of the shots.  And more importantly, I learned some things from my mistakes.  Sometimes that is more useful than getting exactly what you planned for.

This was all lit with Speedlites. The techniques I’m experimenting with here are all part of the preparation for an upcoming course on “Advanced Off-Camera Flash.”

I’ll keep you posted on that.

Before and After: Photo Post-Production

Sculpture after editing

CLICK TO ENLARGE --- Bliss Dance, sculpture by Lloyd Taylor

Some people think of photographic post-production (especially if the word “Photoshop” is used) as synonymous with trickery—as an underhanded way of creating something fake, of “doctoring” a photo, like some supermarket tabloid cover featuring Gary Coleman partying in a hot tub with an extra-terrestrial. Sure, you can do that with Photoshop.

But for most of us photographers, post-production is not some diabolical plot to create something fake, but a useful tool to help us re-create what we saw in reality but were unable to capture in the camera.  Or sometimes what we saw in our mind’s eye as the potential shot, if not for the unfortunate accidents of poor weather, bad lighting, or fat tourists.

It’s a tool to help re-create the shot that should have been. (more…)

How to Sell Photos to a Book Publisher

Burning Man PhotoSince I so often kick myself for doing things wrong, today I’m going to celebrate doing it right.

Today I turned a publisher’s request for a single photo—with no offer of payment—into a 5-photo sale for hundreds of dollars.  It’s a lesson for me, and maybe for you, in what to do right.

I was contacted by a Japanese travel book publisher, who wanted to use the image at left from my Burning Man Festival photos (caution, some nudity) in their “Dream Trips” guidebook, which will include a chapter on Burning Man as a tourist destination.  (Of course, the notion of busloads of Japanese tourists arriving at Burning Man is pretty damn funny. If you’re not familiar with Burning Man, it’s the annual festival of “radical self-expression” held in the Nevada desert — a photographer’s dreamland of fantastic characters, art, and spectacle — but definitely not for the faint of heart.)

Anyway, this publisher offered no payment, only credit. (more…)

Book Review: The Photographer’s Legal Guide by Carolyn E. Wright

Photographer's Legal Guide - CoverTo be honest, reading any kind of book about the legal aspects of photography—from taxes, to corporate structures, to copyright laws, to government regulations—not only makes me want to never shoot another image, it also brings out a seething, anarchic, vigilante side of me.  I suddenly feel like hurling bombs at government buildings and torturing IRS agents with a cattle prod.  This is probably wrong, but I suspect I’m not alone in this reaction.

After all, most of us take up photography because we are artists at heart.  If we were interested in tax laws or the differences between S-Corporations and C-Corporations we would have gone to business school or law school.  You might even say that we incline toward photography precisely to the degree that we hate that kind of stuff.

So I suppose we ought to be grateful that there are people like Carolyn Wright, who is both a practicing attorney and a professional photographer, and who has written a guide to help the rest of us navigate the legal swamps that surround the business of photography. (more…)

New Year’s Eve Party Challenge: How to Shoot an Event in a Dark Warehouse

New Years Eve Party - Painted GirlIf you’d like to view the photos before reading about it, see New Year’s Eve Party. (Warning: Some are slightly NSFW, no nudity, but there are some, um, colorful people here).

It’s the worst possible conditions for photography: a vast, crowded warehouse, minimal light, and no ceiling to bounce a flash from.  But somehow we’ve gotta light this scene!  We know that on-camera flash sucks and will make everything look flat and washed out like a DMV driver’s license photo. So my first inclination is to carry a wireless-triggered speedlite in my outstretched left hand while shooting with the camera in my right.  That would get a nice angle on the light and make everyone pretty.

But this is New Year’s Eve.  I’m wearing a tux, and a speedlite won’t fit in my pocket, and besides, I want to keep one hand free to embrace friends or carry a cocktail.

The solution? (more…)

Book Review: The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman

The Photographer's Eye by Michael FreemanMichael Freeman has created a gorgeous, well-illustrated book that takes one of the most subtle and abstract elements of photography—composition—and makes it concrete and understandable.

This may be the most concisely written photography book I’ve ever seen.  Freeman is the anti-Kelby.  Every word is carefully chosen, every sentence terse and tight.   Freeman writes with the precision of a philosopher or a surgeon, as if lives depended on accurate understanding.

That doesn’t mean Freeman’s analysis is always simple.  Composition is a complex topic, and Freeman doesn’t hesitate to delve into formal theories of perception, such as “The Gestalt Law of Perceptual Organization” — topics that, in the hands of a lesser writer, would fill mind-numbing chapters with bloated verbiage. Freeman covers it succinctly in one bullet-point sidebar. Done. Next.

The illustrative photos are mostly drawn from Freeman’s Asian travels, and the subject matter can sometimes become a bit monotonous if you’re not a big fan of travel photography.  I would have liked to see him mix it up a bit more and include some other styles, but you can hardly fault a photographer for sticking to his own area of interest.

Accompanying many of the photos are sketches illustrating the vectors of movement, or the balance of forces, within an image.  I found these diagrams immensely useful, and after looking at a book’s worth of them, I find my eye now spontaneously recognizing these vectors in other photos, and even in my own viewfinder.  This is what education is all about—Freeman has imparted his wisdom at a visceral level that is apparently now ingrained in my view of the world. What more could one ask from a book?

Buy it from Amazon

Free Hawaii Wallpapers

Hawaii WallpapersWhy not kick off the new blog with something free for the readers?  I just returnd from Oahu, where the winter storms created epic surf (really, that’s the word the local newspaper used—epic) and some great photo opportunities.

So I created a few scenic shots at various wallpaper sizes for you to use on your desktop or screensaver.  Check ’em out here:

Free Hawaii Wallpapers


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