Friday, May 30, 2008

inviting rings

Camera: Canon 10D 1/20 f/9.5 ISO 800 Lens: Canon 70-300 4.5-5.6 USM
(I don't know exactly what lens was used ... but I think that is it.)

Some of the photos cherished the most from the wedding are the detail shots.  So many time we walk (very quickly most of the time) past detail photos that will WOW clients.  I always try to do something with the rings.  If you have a reflective surface like a piano or polished wood table the rings look great.  In this instance - the piano was not easily accessible and all the tables were more of a matte finish so I opted to place the rings on the order of service.  I thought it came out nicely.  This was from my first digital wedding back on 2006.  I borrowed my wife's Aunt's camera - a Canon 10D with mostly kit glass and a 520EX flash mounted to a stroboframe 360 quickflip.  I want to say I had about 2 GB of Compact Flash cards so of course I was was shooting in JPG.  


Things are a bit crazy today because we have a wedding this weekend - Nothing like the high you get right before your entire life is about to get ramped into overdrive for the next 48 hours!  The bags are packed - the batteries are charged (at least the sets for today ... tomorrow's sets will go on the charger tonight).  My assistant will be here in about an hour to go over the final equipment check with me and to run a few last-minute errands.  

For the bast 2 days I have felt like I was coming down with the flu ... so much fun and the timing is great!  Fortunately, I doubled up on my allergy meds and jumped on some theraflu and agel.  This morning I ran for a bit on the treadmill to try and sweat the bug out - and I have to say I feel about 68% better.  Remind me later to go over the fact that 42.5% of statistics and percentages are made up ;-)  I am still not firing on all thrusters; however, I feel the adrenaline will make up for what I lack in consciousness.  Anyways - I am going to run because I have about a million things to get done before my assistant gets here - hope you all have a great weekend and I will see you all monday for a Video Tutorial!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

doing my part

Everyone like a deal. Many of us scour the internet to find a supplier who will promise free shipping or $15.00 better pricing than the last 20 shops we visited online. Along comes eBay. Do I take the risk? Is the seller going to run with my money? Is the item what they described? Unfortunately the answer is ... sometimes. That's why I feel that when I have a GREAT experience on eBay I should pass it along so that people know someone they can trust out there.

Imagesc is one of those great eBay sellers who does great business. As a photographer I fall into the stereotype of being Cheap. I am all about finding a deal. For a while I had been looking at a pair of Quantum FreeXwire trancievers on B&H. B&H generally sells the pair for approx $370.00 which is perfectly reasonable. Just for kicks I did a quick eBay search and ran across imagesc and was blown away. He is charging $125 per unit. I paid $265 shipping and all for my units that arrived day before yesterday. I have used them on two shoots and they work exactly as they should. The boxes were new with all the proper contents as would be expected from new items. I know a lot of folks who are interested in remote flash are looking for these so go take a look at imagesc's listings on ebay - I think you will be happy with what you find.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Image Maps, FeeXWire, Vivesa Oh MY!!!!

A few days ago my friend Joe asked me if I could snap a few head shots for his resume.  He's a tech guy like me so he tends to be behind the camera and not in front of it very often.  Yesterday Joe and I meet up at the Local Seminary and ran around campus trying to dodge the rain and keep the shoot-through umbrella in one piece (it was so windy ... I think my umbrella is like 75% broken, good thing it is not very expensive!).  This morning I sat down to do a bit of editing on one of the photos to see what I could do while maintaining the integrity of the photo.  Take a look at the spit below

I really flexed my retouching muscles with a "get rid of stubble technique" I learned over at Kelby Training this week.  The first thing I did was create the image map you see at the top of the post.  Then, I whitened the teeth using the technique I covered yesterday in the video tutorial.  I removed some random specs on the skin and his suit with spot healing brush and the clone stamp tool.  The biggest manipulation is on the right side on his Shoulder - I used Liquify to smooth out the kink in the suit (I'll be covering that in depth next week on Monday's tutorial).  Based on several recommendations I gave Nik Software's Vivesa Photoshop plug-in a try and WOW.  I used it to warm up the face and darken the background... in about 2 seconds.  Instant soup.  The final touch was David's Ziser's beauty blur with an image mask to retain the sharpness of the facial features.  Anyways - below are larger versions of the before and after.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

white in 60 seconds

I don't care who you are, I don't care how good looking you are.  Yellow teeth distract from the beauty of a good photograph.  People spend thousands of dollars to go to the dentist and have their teeth whitened ... then they drive down the street to a Starbucks and wonder why they had to have them whitened in the first place.  Fortunately, it is an easy fix in photoshop.  Today we take a look at a quick 60 second retouching technique that will make teeth look naturally white.  Natural is the key word.  The ultimate goal is not to have a supernatural whiteness to your teeth.  Instead, the ultimate goal is to present a realistic representation of your subject.  So sit down, grab your cup of Starbucks and enjoy.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Camera: Olympus E-10 ISO 320 1/60 f/2.2 - fixed zoom lens

This is one of my favorite images I have ever captured. In 2005 my dad retired from the United States Air Force as a Lt. Co. Piloting the C141 and C17 for a majority of his career he served in the first Gulf War under President Bush - whom he had the honor of flying into the Middle East. On Memorial day we focus on those who have sacrificed for our freedom. As a child I can remember my father being gone for months on end while serving in the Middle East. I know that while he missed his family he was proud to serve his country.
Camera: Olympus E-10 ISO 320 1/20 f/2.4 - fixed zoom lens
As we enjoy our hot dogs and hamburgers, fireworks, and time with family. Take some time to reflect on the millions who have made the sacrifice allowing us to richly enjoy the freedom we so greatly under appreciate.

Friday, May 23, 2008

too many cooks

Camera: Canon 20D 1/60 f/4.0 ISO 400 Lens: 14-40 f/4 USM L
This image happened seconds before the photo I posted last week.  It is the perfect example of a perfect moment.  The bride is cracking up at her family trying to figure out how to lace up the dress.  You can't hear them - but there is quite a commentary going on.  I believe I was using the Canon 430 EX flash mounted on the hot-shoe (before I stepped into the world of off camera flash) which accounts for the a-typical shadows in the photo.  You know, before I started studying David Ziser's images I was happy with an image like this ... ah ignorance.

everyone thinking backup!

I got some great responses from yesterday's backup post.  I didn't realize backup would strike a chord with everyone.  First off - please keep the comments coming.  Secondly, I am going to take this week to look over your suggestions and will be back with a follow up post on backup.  If there is something you would like me to look into just drop it in the comments.

This morning I was making my rounds to all my standard blog stops and when I got to Scott Kelby's blog I was blown away (not uncommon).  He is talking about backup today!  Check it out.  Some people would say that great minds think a like ... but my mom always told me sick minds think alike.  I guess I am in good company.  Check out his blog post here:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

backup strategy

Today I am going to go over something that I have been horrible at for years and years.  For a long time, I was no different than thousands ... probably millions of consumers.  I did not have a backup strategy for the files that were important to me.  I was struck by the weight of this issue yesterday.  Two customers - one in the morning and one in the evening - came in needing hard drives to "back up" their data.  Here is the problem.  As I asked a few questions about what they planned on doing with the drive I discovered they had a full drive on their existing system and were simply buying this additional storage device to move the data off their primary hard drive.  For some reason people have this understanding that backing your data up is simply moving it to an external hard drive.

I have a friend - we'll call him Josh because this story is kinda embarrassing.  I became friends with Josh through work.  He came in and purchased several SLRs and a computer and as he came in more often and we got to talking we began hanging out.  We would go shoot stuff and critique each others photos.  He asked me about his ever shrinking free hard drive space so I got him hooked up with an external hard drive to free up his scratch disk for faster speed in photoshop.  Two months later, the external drive Josh purchased was toast.  In an instant he lost more than 2,000 images and hours of time invested in editing and playing with photos.  We went on to try and get the data back - which is another story.  The point here is - Hard Drives FAIL!  Age is somewhat a factor; however, time and time again they will FAIL.  I hear people make statements like "I have this in place if my drive ..."  Folks, there is no "if" - it is "when".  Since we have established that they are volatile storage devices ... how can we use them with any confidence.  Numbers.  There is a rock-solid strength in numbers.  The more places you store your data the more secure it is.  There are several ways one can go about backing up data - so lets take a look at a few solutions.

1) CD/DVD:  Making copies of your images on to CDs or DVDs is a valid solution with very defined pros and cons.  The biggest pro is portability.  Disks can be stored in a remote location.  Also, if your computer gets a virus - the CD/DVD storage is not writable so your files can't be deleted or infected.  The biggest problem comes to organization.  It doesn't take long for the discs to pile up.  If you choose this method you MUST have a system in place for labeling the disks and filling them so they are usable.  This form of backup is not dissimilar to the way we used to store and file negatives.
2) Online Storage:  There are tons of companies out there who offer the ability to store your data on their servers for a monthly or annual fee.  This data is redundantly stored on multiple drives and is very secure.  The limitation here is bandwidth.  Most internet providers only give their subscribers a limited amount of up traffic which is how data is uploaded from your computer to the file servers.  Low bandwidth means you are going to be waiting days or weeks for the first upload to finish.
3) RAID / NAS:  Several companies have put together RAID and NAS solutions for storing data redundantly (just like online storage) in your own home or office.  Multiple drives fit in an enclosure and redundantly back each-other up.  LaCie, Western Digital, D-Link, Drobo, and HP offer storage solutions for this.  They are local (translation = fast).  They offer expandability and flexibility.  They are expensive.  Most of these systems will settle in around $800-$1,000 once you pay for the enclosure and the storage.  If you are dealing with production images and need production grade local backup these are defiantly the way to go.  The biggest downfall of this method is location.  These drives are in your home or studio and if something happens to that studio - fire, theft, ect the drive will suffer the same fate as the rest of your equipment.
4)  Number 4 is the poor-man's version of number three.  It is a good place to start by getting you data reasonably secure with little financial impact.  What do I mean by reasonably secure?  Is it possible that the data could fail?  Yes.  Is it probable ... NO.  This is the system I use so here is a screen shot of my computer's drive system.

My system is made up of 3 320GB drives.  The first drive is partitioned to make up the Main OS partition (where my operating system lives and all my programs are installed) and my recovery partition.  Two notes here:  1.  The first thing I did when bringing this machine home was to make real recovery disks ... so I don't care about backing up the recovery partition because it already is backed up using method one discussed above.  2. I don't care about backing up my programs or OS because I can just re-install - there is no data on the line.  The second drive which I label "archive" is where all my media is stored:  Music, Movies, Designs, Downloaded application install files and yes my images.  Every evening at 3am my computer makes a copy of the Archive drive to a backup drive - a third 320 GB drive using a piece of software called Argentum Backup.  The negative is quite obvious - all my data is in one box.  If something happens to that box my data is toast.  This solution is very difficult to manage on a laptop but it is possible if you are diligent at plugging your laptop into the external drives every evening.

The bottom line is this - back up your data in some way, shape or form.  If you only have one copy on your computer that file could be lost forever.  If you have a copy on another drive and your existing drive fails you simply get a new drive and recover from the backup.  If you have a RAID or other solution like a RAID - when a drive fails pull the old one and replace it with a new one and it will automatically make everything redundant again ... might take it a few hours to get all the data back in place but it can handle it.  The cool thing is that most drives carry a 3-5 year warranty from the manufacturer.  Most won't insure your data - just the drive.  But that's ok because you backed the data up ... didn't you?  Well, assuming that you did you get to have a different conversation with the drive manufacturer.  They should replace the drive (see the links below for instructions per that manufacturer) with a new one under the manufacturers warranty.

Main Manufacturers Warrantee Redemption / Information Sites 

Ignorance is bliss ... until a hard drive crash.  Now that you aren't ignorant go out and back up your date - you will be glad you did.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

a photographers shoes

Anyone who has put in the time into a career that requires one to stand for long hours knows the value in a great pair of shoes.  Hours and hours on your feet are challenging enough - adding aching feet can make it down right unbearable.  In May of 06 I went back to work for Best Buy.  After the first week I had blisters on my feet, my legs ached, and I wasn't sleeping well.  My wife works in the medical field and recommended a pair of shoes called danskos.  Instant transformation.  I consider these shoes to be the most important accessory I take to a wedding.  I have worn these shoes every day 8 hours a day working on a concrete slab, going up and down ladders and getting stepped all over by customers and my own clumsiness.  They look a bit rough; however, I guess it is like a Cowboy and his boots.  These shoes fit so well and at the end of a long day my feet don't hurt ... not sure there is much more to say.

At the end of the day it doesn't matter how much you sell a client before the wedding.  It doesn't matter what kind of product you deliver.  None of that matters if you are rude or short on the day of the wedding.  As a photographer, professionalism and patience are not optional.  No one feels like being civil when their feet hurt.  I am not saying that these shoes are for everyone - instead I want to communicate the unparalleled importance of a great pair of shoes.  Yes, they will cost you a decent amount of money, but look at my shoes.  Two years solid on a pair of shoes that cost me around $110.00!  That's about $50.00 a year and they are still going strong.
I recommend going to a local shoe shop - not a chain or a place that sells sneakers.  Find one of those places that have experienced shoe sales men who have the expertise to get you in the right pair of shoes.  The guys over at Knotts Shoes have always set me up with the right gear for my feet.  Find someone in your hometown who can do the same for you - your feet will thank you and your patience and professionalism will attain new heights.

SHOE PICTURE SIDE NOTE:  This was the first time I got to play around with using my shoot through umbrella setup.  I set it up on a tripod instead of a monopod and tethered it to my camera with a 25' PC cord - still waiting on my freeXwire system.  Canon 20D set to 1/40 @ f/5.6 with the 17-40mm f/4.0 USM L lens and tethered to a Canon 580 EX II at 1/2 power shooting through a translucent 34" shoot through umbrella.  I blurred the background a bit in photoshop and added the signature and logo but that is it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

iSale - only way to eBay

For a long long time I have been a HUGE iSale fan.  I don't sell much on eBay - which means I need all the help I can get.  As soon as the program launches you are prompted to choose an "iLife" style choice of templates and then you are instantly producing listings that will set your auctions miles above the competition.

eBay pushes people to list with bold and added photos - bottom line.  I look at TONS of listings and it is the actual listing that I look at.  If the listing is hard to read I am inclined to move on.  The templates make it SUPER EASY to produce professional looking listings that will get you noticed.

I found the templates very well put together; however, there isn't much customizability (is that really a word ... spell check thinks so) in the templates.  If you have a FTP server or a .Mac server you can save money by hosting the images yourself.  I wasn't able to get this feature to work; however, I am just using the demo so that could be playing a part in those troubles.  I loved the integration of Paypal, eBay's item detail system, shipping information, and photo upload features.  If you are interested in making a few extra bucks on your old equipment and you use an Apple computer user give iSale a shot.  I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.  A €35.95 ($62.61 based on current exchange rate) for a single license it will dent your wallet - that exchange rate is killin' me.  I looked at purchasing iSale last year and I seem to remember it being a lot cheeper.  Anyways - The demo appears to be fully functional.  It's only limitation is an inability to manage more than three listings at a time.  Take a look - I don't think you will be disappointed.

late blog tuesday

Hey folks - I have an early morning appointment with clients today so I will be posting today's full post this evening when I get back to the Studio.  Hope you all have a great morning, I will talk to you in a few hours.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Quick B&W Conversion

This week we take a look at converting a color image into a B&W image.  There are so many ways to do a B&W conversion - today I focus on what I use in my daily workflow.  Because I have to edit a large volume of images after each wedding, I have developed a workflow that focuses on Results without the expense of tons of time.  I begin in Lightroom; however, after establishing the technique I duplicate it in Camera RAW and Photoshop CS3.  The last 3 seconds of the video got cut off - not sure why but it is just me thanking everyone and reminding you that I love comments and email with any question.  I hope you Monday is going well, I have some cleaning to do in the studio for next week's wedding so I am gonna split - take care and I will see ya tomorrow.

Internet Anywhere

For some time now I have been playing around with the idea of using an aircard as my primary source of internet.  Now, before anyone jumps up and offers objection understand the following... I AM NOT A GAMER.  That said - my expectations have been under-fulfilled.  I tried the Verizon card and while I got a connection just about everywhere ... I would compare the speed (or lack there of) to that of a dial-up connection.  Next, I took an AT&T card out for a test drive and found the opposite to be true.  I loved the speed at the store; however, I got no signal at home.  Finally I picked up a Sprint card and got a solid combination of coverage and speed.  Saturday I purchased a Sierra Air Card with service through sprint.  For starters, the thing is about the size of a flash drive - making use on my laptop very enjoyable.  Secondly, the speed is fantastic.  Saturday evening I sat down and watched a full screen episode of LOST on ABC.COM over the card with no dropped frames and no interruption.  I ran around Kelby Training and viewed a few classes online with no problems and I just finished uploading today's video tutorial with no problem.  I can't wait to take this on the road with me.  Never having to hunt for a wifi spot again - is it true?  I have only had it for a few days but so far this little card gets the thumbs up as a great addition to my gear.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Foto Friday

This post will complete two weeks now that I have been posting every day.  I would expect as time goes on other day's of the week will be assigned themes.  I have no clue what those will be - but we shall see.  From here on ... or until I decide to change it, Friday's will be Foto Fridays.  I will share a few images, how I edited them and how they were taken (perhaps it should be the other way around).  Anywho - The first two images we will look at today are images I captured last year at two separate weddings.  The first was ..... well I guess I am getting ahead of myself.  Before we dive in - I want to thank everyone for tuning in and visiting - ok, now lets dive in ...

giddy with anticipation

Camera: Canon 20D 1/60 f/5.0 ISO 400 Lens: 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (yes this is the kit lens)

This is one of my favorites from last year.  I went to High School with the bride so it was so exciting to see someone I have known for so long so excited and in love.  This was captured about 15 min. before the ceremony.  We had just finished the pre-ceremony group photos and everyone headed back to the bridal room.  Laura was fixing the ribbon holding her bouquet of roses when her maid of honor got to the end of a story that had everyone rolling on the floor.  Laura looked up at her friends and just lost it.

I processed this image a year ago - and I do spot color differently now for several reasons.  First, I opened the image in Lightroom and desaturated everything except the red in the photo.  Then I passed off the photo to Photoshop.  I then duplicated the layer totally desaturated the background and then erased (not layer mask - ah the foolishness of my youth) everything but the flowers on the top layer.  I do things a little differently now for a few reasons.  1) This way takes way to long.  2) If you mess up you have to edit undo your way back.  3) There is more than red in the the red roses so they lose some punch due to the loss of secondary color.  So how would I edit this now?  I would take the original image in Lightroom and make a virtual copy.  Convert the original to black and white using the greyscale mixers and my WOW presets.  I would then export both the original and the virtual copy into Photoshop.  Move the greyscale version on top of the color version.  I would then use a layer mask on the top greyscale layer to show the color of the background.  Save and move on.  The end result is a better image and it takes about 1/2 the time.

through the veil

Camera: Canon 20D 1/60 f/4.0 ISO 400  Lens: 17-40mm f/4 USM L

This was taken in one of the upstairs conference rooms at the Marriott of Downtown Louisville.  No group photos had been taken yet.  The bride arrived and was getting in her gown.  You can't see them - but there are 3 or 4 family members trying to figure out how to lace up the back ... yes I got that photo too, perhaps next Friday.  She didn't pull her veil over her face so this was the only time this shot could happen.  The veil was thrown forward over her shoulder so they could see what they were doing so i fluffed it a bit and snapped off a few frames.  All that I did to this was a basic levels adjustment and a greyscale mix in Lightroom with a heavy vignette around the edge.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Spring Cleaning

The setting is 1998.  A man walks into a computer shop to buy a desktop for his High School bound child.  He walks into the computer department and is greeted with "Hello, is there anything I help you find today?"  The two get to talking and end up focusing on an HP desktop running the newest version of windows, Windows 98SE.  Looking down at the tag of specs he sees that the machine has a 40GB hard drive and the sales associate assures him ... "Oh, you will never need anything bigger than that."  So our unnamed consumer takes the computer home, sets it up and all is well in the world.  Two years later his child discovers Napster (back in the good old days).  The father starts to notice the computer is slowing down and when he checks the hard drive it has about 500mb of free storage!

Ok, I made this story up; however, it is a conglomeration of all the customers I talk to on a daily basis at Best Buy.  A few days ago I made the statement that computers are all very standard ... until we as consumers get our hands on them.  We download trial software, new backgrounds, mouse pointer manipulation software (whenever I see one of these I want to scream), custom icons, and the list goes on and on and on!  We load so much junk into our machines it is a wonder they don't implode and burst into flames!  While this is somewhat minimal for the average consumer who simply uses there computer for pleasure - it is quite catastrophic for the professional business owner who's livelihood rests on that box sitting on the floor.  When was the last time you skimmed through your My Documents folder for excess bloat, how long has it been since you pulled up "add remove programs" to see what is installed on your machine (or looked through the applications folder for Mac users).

Every 6 - 8 months I try to force my self to do the following:
  • delete random documents and downloads that I don't use or never used to begin with (the sheer number of these on my computer frightens me)
  • check for current drivers - we deal with mediocre performance on our machines because we are un-willing (or perhaps un-aware) to check a manufacturers website to make sure we are using the most up to date version of their software or drivers.
  • ARCHIVE, ARCHIVE, ARCHIVE!!!!!  If you don't have some kind of automated redundant backup system stop what you are doing right now I MEAN IT STOP!  And go to Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Circuit City, or wherever and buy a spindle of DVD-R disks.  Come home and backup your data.  I have had too many friends and customers lose data because a hard drive crashed or they got a HUGE virus ... it is not a matter of if it will will happen it is a matter of WHEN!  Backing up your files should be automated (I will go over how I do it in a future post next week); however, if you don't have the cash for an extra hard drive and backup software - pick up some blank DVDs and do it the old school way.  You can thank me later.
  • Evaluate your Anti-Virus & Anti-Spyware software (unless you are on a Mac).  Just because your software of choice was the best last year doesn't mean that something new hasn't broken out onto the scene.  Last year I would have recommended Trend Micro and Spysweeper (still great programs) - but now if I were to give you the best (my opinion) I would give you Kaspersky Anti-Virus.
  • How long has it been since you had a fresh OS install?  If it has been more than 2 years you are due.  Take a 3 day weekend and just do it - make sure you backup first :-)
These are the things I look for - I am sure some of you have additional ways to do the same thing - feel free to share them in the comments.  Well, I am off to the rest of my day.  See you guys tomorrow.

A BIG Thank You

I am thanking a lot of people ... perhaps this will become thankful thursday ... I doubt it.  I want to tank everyone who subscribes.  The number of subscribers is growing every day (almost doubling every day) and that is so reaffirming that I am not wasting my time with this Blog.  HUGE Thanks to David Ziser who got the ball rolling by linking to me for my video tutorial and probably got me the quote on Photo News Today (PNT).  PNT quoted my opening statement from the transitions segment earlier this week.  Very cool .... very cool.

thanks to geeks

I want to thank Agent Scott from my Louisville Geek Squad for getting me fixed up on my Vista problem.  I had a corrupt USB driver and he walked me through how to fix it YAY.  I have been going a full day now with no blue screen of death ... what ever will I do with the time not waiting for my computer to re-boot?!?!  Anyways - just wanted to give Scott a shout out because I was seriously frustrated and he smoothed things out!

A Perfect Moment

For the past two years I have been honored by being invited to photograph the annual JOY Prom in Louisville, KY.  HighView Baptist Church partners with Down syndrome of Louisville (DSL) to put on a prom for the kids in within the DSL organization.  They are bright, vibrant, exciting people with such a GREAT outlook on life.  Like a typical prom there is drama, punch, dancing, and a photographer!  I run around the dance hall snapping candid photos (like the one above) and I also take group pictures.  Our studio processes the photos and and puts together a packet with a complimentary 5x7 and information on how to order additional prints.  It is an amazing time and I look forward to the event each year!  

Photo Info:
  • Camera - Canon 20D
  • Lens - 17-40mm f/4 L
  • Shutter Speed - 1/60
  • Aperture - f/4
  • ISO - 400
  • Basic Adjustments in Lightroom, light retouching of skin and face in photoshop cs3

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Etu VISTA!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Alright ... so I have officially joined the ranks of people who want to kill Vista.  Not because of compatibility.  No No No No.  I don't live under a rock, I have current software and hardware.  On the contrary I am getting blue screens all over the place.  I know it has something to do with my USB ports on the front of the computer because it always happens when I plug and
unplug my flash drive or air card.  I work on windows machines all the time at work and never do the "safe eject" thing and no problems ... I guess I have to start doing that.  But here is the problem ... it also happens sometimes when I PLUG IN the devices too!?!?!?  Hopefully I will have this issue figured out by the end of the day cuz it is driving me nuts right now.  Anywho - 
if anyone has any constructive suggestions drop 'em in the comments or shoot me an email. (Just a side note ... constructive comments don't consist of switch back to XP, Goback to the Mac, or buy a computer that works ... thanks for playing - also, the bluescreen above is not the exact one I am seeing ... it is just what I found in google image search.)


Present day computers, programs, and operating systems may start off standardized when they ship from the factory; however, once they are bestowed to a creative individual they are molded and formed into something altogether different. They are shaped into a personalized tool that takes weeks, months, or years to develop. Consumers grasp on to dying technology and software because they have so much deeply invested in the system. We have all experienced it on some level or another. The computer crashes or needs to be restored so we back everything up, or so we think, and re-install our operating system of choice and we are greeted with a sterile and unfamiliar interface with nothing of ourselves looking back. I have met individuals who are still running an installation of windows 98 (running 10 years now) because they know where everything is and don’t want to start over. I have also met people like myself who do some kind of a backup – spring cleaning every year or so to keep the computer clutter at a minimal.

So what does all this have to do with photography? It isn’t so much about cameras – instead it is about digital tools we love to tweak and configure in Photoshop. We spend hours tweaking actions, building brushes, setting up swatches and when we blow our operating system away and pop in the CS3 DVD to get up and running again our familiar tools are no where to be found. WHAT IS A PHOTOGRAPHER TO DO? All this can be avoided with a little bit of planning a preparation on our part.

Backing Up In Photoshop:
All the sections in CS3 use the same basic setup so I have only attached screen shots for the first one – swatches. The same technique should be used in all you areas where you have created a brush that you want to keep (or set of brushes you like), etc.
Step 1: Click on the menu (see photos)
Step 2: Click on save _______ (blank will change based on what you are saving)
Step 3: Save to your desktop or wherever you can get to quickly and easily
Step 4: Exit Photoshop and save created files to a CD, DVD, Flash Drive, Hard Drive, Web
Server, Etc – the key is put it some place you will be able to access when moving to a new compute or rebuilding your existing machine.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stained Glass Lens Flair

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine that I mentor at Church pinned on Eagle Scout and he asked me to take some pictures for his family. First of all Congradulations Mike! Seccondly, the church produced some interesting photos. Namely, some odd lens flair.  
When I was initially editing the photos in Lightroom I almost missed it; however, something caught my eye.  I think it is kinda cool.  Because the light is being forced through the stained glass the lens flair takes on some of the shapes of the glass itself.  I have shot in a lot of churches and been around stained glass - I have never gotten this kind of lens flair before ... just thought it was neat.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lightroom Signatures

Sorry this is being posted so late in the day.  This is the first time for me on so many levels.
  1. I have never done screen recording on a PC (Thanks to David Ziser for the info on the program)
  2. I have never uploaded video to viddler before - my internet connection was giving me problems
All problems aside - I put together a great tutorial.  Today we take a look at making a digital signature that you can add into Lightroom - allowing you to process photos with your signature much faster.  Check it out, I think you will enjoy it!

Friday, May 9, 2008

fonts, preferances, documents, photos, AHHHHHHH

Today will be a short post. I am knee deep in moving all my production data from my Apple laptop to my new HP desktop (no comments ... I am still a mac guy - read the earlier post if you haven't already). I equate the experience to cutting your ring finger on something. You put the band aid on and then as you go about the day you suddenly become very aware of how much you use that finger because the band aid is constantly getting in the way or tugging on your finger ... just not any fun. I am amazed at how many small applications, fonts, preference files, backgrounds, etc that we run on any given day. I have been plugging away at the computer transfer for about two afternoon's now and I am still only about 30-40% done with the ordeal. Yesterday I tackled my Lightroom library. I was a little nervous about moving it from a Mac to a PC because file structures are different; however, I didn't run into any major problems. I grabbed the entire pictures folder off of my mac and put it on an external hard drive. Then I connected it to my HP and moved it into the pictures folder on this computer (I had installed Lightroom on the new computer previous to this) and over-wrote the existing Lightroom folder. Upon opening I had to go and tell Lightroom where to find the photos in my library but after about 4 min of fun it was done. Lightroom on a quad-core system ..... SOOOO FAST. I have about 20 thousand images in my library and it takes it like a champ. Anyways, I have to hit the road... I have a big day ahead and still way too much prep work to get done on the new machine. I have a wedding in two weeks so everything needs to be tested and good to go by then.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Image Maps - Practicality

I am a bit geeky and technical when it comes to my edits.  I like to have my workflow and situations mapped out so that I know exactly how to deal with correction issues in as short a period of time as is possible.  I was chatting with another photographer last week in Florence about some of my experiences with the retouching classes on Kelby Training.  One of the most in-depth retouching classes (at the time - I know Kelby has a new one out today ... but that one didn't exist at that time so....) is Vincent Versace's class.  We both agreed that he is so out there (not in a bad way) that he can be hard to follow at times and therefore the class wasn't as beneficial as some of the other ones on Kelby Training.  Though I feel that a huge portion of his retouching was over my head - there is one piece that I have hung on to and has helped me begin to master (will be a lifelong journey) the art of retouching.  This one thing is Image Maping.  Sounds fancy; however, it is mind-numbingly simple.  Anyone can actually watch the tutorial, you just have to sign up for a free account on Kelby Training, look up coarses by instructor, select Vincent Versace's name and select how to retouch a portrait in 15 min.  Then the second lesson is creating an image map.

Here are the basics.  Before you sit down to edit a photo - take a few minutes to makes some notes on the photo.  I create a new folder in the layer's pallet named image map.  I then create a new layer in the folder and call it something like - stuff to remove.  I grab the pencil tool and start marking all the things I want to remove (see photo at the top of the post).  Once I have made my notes on things to remove I create a new layer, change the color of the pencil (I have my preferred colors saved as swatches).  I then name the new layer teeth, or D&B or whatever the next edit will be.  Then I make notes on what I am going to do to the image.  When you are all done you have a nice roadmap that shows how you got your final image.
You are probably thinking the same thing I was at first - THAT  WILL TAKE FOREVER!!!!  The first few times it does; however, I feel like the image map does a few things for me that are worth the time:
1.  If I ever need to go back to the image and make further adjustment I can see what I did previously
2.  If I ever want to show a client why I charge for retouching I can show them visually what goes into a retouch.
3.  When I train new staff in my studio or teach a technique to a friend I can pull up an image I have worked on and the image map guides me through what I am teaching (a little less shooting from the hip goes a long way)
4.  When I am learning a new technique - making an image map about the technique reinforces the steps in my mind and I am more apt to remember how I did the technique
5.  As time goes on my techniques change and adapt based on what I am learning and some of my older techniques get used less and less until they are forgotten.  If I do image maps - 5 years from now I can look back and go OH YEAH, that's how I did that - I haven't used that edit in a long time.
Anyways, I like the ability to edit and have a plan or a strategy when editing - I have found that it helps me on the big edits (no I do not do an image map for every single photo I edit; however, I do it for the big jobs that have complicated steps ... more than just a levels adjustment).

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

to blog or not to blog

Unfortunately, I am up 2:00am ... I won't bother with why.  Since I was up I hit my normal round of Blogs.  I don't normally like to re-post large volume's things that I find online; however, I read this over on the pixelated image and felt it fit in with a post I made a few days ago around the origin of my blog ... enjoy:

---------------- source ----------------

Compelling Reasons for Blogging.

1. Blogging is relational. Blogging is a higher-touch use of technology than your conventional website. It’s more relational. The more people get to know you and love you, the more they’ll be inclined to hire you. I got my best, and favourite, client through my blog.

2. Blogging is viral and your website probably isn’t. Viral marketing is huge. HUGE, I tell you. The rise of youtube and stumbleupon and the million other sites that enable social marketing are evidence of this. A blog allows people to connect, forming ad-hoc networks of like-minded people. The more people that know you, the greater the base of prospects you have.

3. Blogging will make you famous. Or infamous. Or almost famous. A great blog stands out in a sea of really mediocre ones and even if you’re not getting ten-thousand visits a day a good blog can provide a growing platform from which to launch your fame. Or infame. Or almost fame. You get the point. Consider your blog your in-house PR firm. Blogs are the new fame-makers.

4. Blogging will connect you to other photographers and increase your access to people you can teach and people you can learn from.

5. Your competition is blogging.

6. Blogging forces you to keep current and keep your paint stirred. Like teaching, it can be an excellent way to learn and solidify your photographic thoughts and practice.

7. Blogging makes you a producer, not merely a consumer - it enables you to give back to the community and that’s a karmically cool thing to do.

8. Blogging allows you to use phrases like “karmically cool” with reckless abandon.

9. Because blogging is a form of conversation and all opportunities in life begin with a conversation. The more conversations you have, the more likely you are to encounter new opportunities because opportunities come through other people and our primary connection to other people is conversation. Some of the biggest opportunities of my professional career have come through blogging.

Reasons You Should Absolutely Not Blog. Not Ever. Never.

1. You have nothing to say. Some people just aren’t there yet. I think everyone has an opinion, some of them even informed, but not everyone has the confidence to express them (which in some cases is good) If you don’t have anything to say your blog is dead before it gets off the ground.

2. You can’t write. Let’s face it, some people chose photography as their idiom because they’re better with images than words. If this is the case, don’t force a square peg into a roundy hole. I do suggest, however, that before you jump ship and abandon the idea of blogging entirely, you consider publishing an image a day. We don’t always need words.

3.You’re a shameless self-promoter and insist on only plugging your latest achievements and ego-drivel. People come to your blog to GET something, not to give it. If you insist on sucking the life out of your readers with the All About Me show, you’ll find them dropping like flies. Unless you’re Paris Hilton. Or Angelina Jolie. There is never enough Angelina.

4. You don’t have the time to commit to it. If you publish a personal blog to keep family up-dated with the latest pictures of kittens, then how frequently you publish is not much of an issue, but professionally a blog must publish with reliable frequency. Sure, take a hiatus once in a while, take a no-blog day, or publish only on Mondays. But make it reliable and consistent. If your readers can’t rely on new content they’ll go elsewhere.

5. You don’t want to blog. Fair enough. Don’t blog. If you hate bloggin and do it resentfully it’ll come across in your writing and eventually you’ll be blogging as bitterbloggerwithnoreaders,com

6. You can’t handle the trolls.If you can’t handle the odd jerk showing up uninvited, then blogging may be less appealing to you. Once in a while someone logs on and starts a fight. It’s a little like someone arriving at your home, walking in, and lighting the sofa on fire. You can either ban them, delete them, put up with it, or stop blogging. I don’t think this is a good reason not to blog - but it’s a reality. Fortunately photographers tend to be a civil lot and if you fill your blog with big words, the jerks tend to stay away.

No one is forcing a blog on you. But there are compelling reasons to consider it. It’s good marketing, it’s good to give back to the photographic community, and it’s good for the soul. If you do it right, a blog can be a real assest and a real blessing. More about doing it right tomorrow.
Thanks David for such great insight!  Ya hit the nail on the head.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

comments now open

Just FYI - the comments are now open to everyone.  I didn't realize I had things restricted down - but things are opened up now so anyone can post in the comments ... lets keep it clean kids.

Digital SLR Demo

Every now and then I get the opportunity to do something really cool.  Sunday was one of those days.  At select stores Best Buy holds exclusive sales events for it's Reward Zone customers.  I am sure several of you out there received invitations.  Because I have such a passion for photography they gave me the opportunity to host the digital SLR demo.  We had a Nikon D40 kit with 18-55mm, 55-200mm, SB-600 Speedlight, and Nikon Bag, Battery, Filter Kit.  Normally this setup would set you back around $1,100.00.  For our special event we sold the kit for $799.99!!!!!  Talk about a DEAL on just about everything you need!

I set up a 47" plasma TV to a laptop that was tethered to the camera (see photo at the top of the post).  As I shot images they appeared on the screen a few seconds later.  My Job was to go over proper hand-holding to get sharper photos, demonstrate the advantages of having a zoom lens (grab shots of your kids on the baseball field, blur the background on a portrait, etc), real burst modes for capturing a series of action images to get the one you want.  And finally - I added a flash demo.  After spending a week with David Ziser I had to do something with light!  I grabbed a member of the audience (no photos of her because I did not get her permission to share the photos online) and snapped a photo with the pop-up flash.  YUCK - doesn't it look terrible?!?!  Then I grabbed the SB600 Flash and with it facing forward I snapped the photo again.  YUCK - why in the world would you pay almost $300.00 to get the same light that comes from the popup flash?!?  Because you can do this .... I turned to flash head to the left and up a bit and then snapped the photo without changing any other settings .... NOW doesn't that just look spectacular.  We have a much more flattering picture that appears more natural.  I explained that the lighting we just pulled off is used in Advertising photography, fashion photography, etc.  Now with this kit you will be able to pull off professional looking photos that can be blown up to 13x19.

I am getting excited again just talking about it.  I also took some time to talk about rechargeable batteries for the flash, screen protectors for the LCD on the back and the advantages of high speed memory cards.  It was a blast.  Being able to take the photos and see them HUGE on a 47" TV gave a huge impact to the demo that would have otherwise been kinda underwhelming.

back to zero

I am a bit backwards from many people out there ... in more ways that we will discuss here but that is another post all together. Most people started blogging and then blogging evolved into podcasting which sometimes evolved into video podcasting and so on. About 3 years ago I decided that I wanted to be a podcaster. I started doing some research and discovered that the fastest and easiest way to set that up was to create a blog - pass that blog on to feedburner and then publish the audio to the blog. BAM you have a podcast. I could be all noble and claim that I produced a podcast every week or every two weeks; however, that fib wouldn't fly for long. Truth of the matter - I didn't have much to say so It was a struggle to podcast much of anything at all. I started out with one a week and then dropped to one every two weeks. Then the amazing happened ... iTunes started supporting podcasting and BAM my podcast jumped from 80 subscribers to 300 subscribers over a weekend. Long story short, there were a TON of people listening to me say nothing much at all on a very unreliable schedule ... but at least the audio quality and production value was top notch ;-)

I stopped producing the podcast to start blogging (see backwards). However, I found I was worse at blogging than I was at podcasting. I feel that this is 180 degrees from where I am now. I feel like I have some things to say. I feel that I wan and will be continuing on a consistent basis.

This morning I updated my feedburner account (I was still snagging about 60 subscribers from my old podcast) and now the counter is back down to zero. The Viewfinder now has a fresh start - so here we go! (no this is not today's post ... just wanted to get that rant out of the way)

Monday, May 5, 2008

crossing over

Anyone who has spent a good deal of time with me understands that my position as a mac user is not the stock or standard position one generally finds a mac user in.  It is fairly typical (though is becoming less so every day) to find a mac user who could be described as follows:  die hard, fan boy, arrogant, confident, loyal, evangelical (not in the christian sense - in the mac sense).  I suppose at times I have taken on some of those traits – probably depending on how much time I have spent with the Apple rep in my store; however, I have always been in a unique position.  My grandfathers (on both sides of the family) were both employed by IBM in the height of the IBM PC days.  My father is a HUGE Gateway fan.  A note - neither of the above are negative comments.  My grandfathers were in a great company at pivotal time in history and my dad stands by his Gateways because he has been buying them since around 1995 and has only ever had one major hardware problem in all the machines he has purchased ... no matter how you slice it one major hardware issue in 13 years is not bad!!!  That said, it is not hard to picture how HUGE my choice to slide over to the dark side was.  Purchasing my 12" Powerbook four years ago was a huge leap.  The past 4 years have been smooth sailing with this computer and it still has a TON of life left in it.  The problem I have been running into is that it runs so slow while editing in photoshop or managing photos in Lightroom that I am pulling my hair out - again those of you who know me realize the futility in that statement.  Because of my background I have always told people that I use a mac because that is what I happen to use.  I love the system and it has definite advantages to the windows platform (hence the reason I purchased it in the first place); however, I sell windows systems to people all day long at Best Buy and can look them square in the eyes and tell them that they are getting a solid machine.  One of the first takeaways I got from Dave Ziser's Masters Class was that a computer is just another tool.  It is purchased to do a job and produce a product - so as long as it fits that utility purpose you can use whatever works for you.  David introduced us to an application he uses for ALL his wedding album designs called FotoFusion.  It is a windows only application.  Before the email's start, YES you can run it in Parallels or in Boot Camp on a Mac; however, as I mentioned above I have a PowerPC G4 Macintosh computer ... non intel ... non windows possible.  I started looking at possibilities to run this application (I will blog specifically on the application once I have run on my own machine and have built some sample content with it).

I have said all this to come to this point ... took way to long to do it but we are here now so lets press on.  I own a mac and love it; however, as a utility for my business it is slowing me down - 
not because it is a mac ... because it is old.  I found a sweet deal on an HP m9040n that went clearance and I am picking it up today or tomorrow.  I plan on setting it up as my production machine and stripping most production off my laptop so I can squeeze a few more years out of the unit before purchasing a Macbook or Macbook Pro.  All this means that I will be entering the land of Vista in the next 48 hours.  I'm so excited - not due to an operating system, not due to a brand of computer; instead, I am excited because I will have a fast production machine that will allow me to complete my edits faster and more accurately.  That is the bottom line.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

lighting boot camp

Now that I have gotten all the warm and fuzzy out of the way - lets dive in to some of the technique and photography that I learned.  Before I drop any photos I want to toss this disclaimer.  The room photos that show how things are setup are mine.  The actual photos of the bride that look good ... those are courtisy of David Ziser Photography.

I knew that David was a huge advocate of off camera flash; however, I didn't realize how intense the results would be.  David is a very practical person.  If you asked him ... so why do you use this, or why do you put the flash here?  His answer was always rooted in, "because it works."  Now he would then go into a more technical definition of why it works; however, he was very grounded in using the techniques that get the job done and not messing with the gadgets and off the wall techniques that don't do much (though he does bounce his flash off the wall :-).  The first setup he showed us is below:
This is a good wide shot of how David sets up his shots.  The flash is to his left (opposite the camera side of the nose).  David set this up to show us how to throw a loupe lighting on the subject - see below.

However, though the lighting is great here - there is a awful line bisecting the brides shoulders ... so what is the answer?
GET A LITTLE LOWER!  Lower the perspective and see what you get...

well illuminated subject and well composed image.  This was the first thing we learned.  The first battle you have to win is lighting.  Most photographers never graduate from the on-camera flash.  David very simply and elegantly set up a light through the umbrella.  The next battle is composition - let's not be lazy.  Move to get the shot you are looking for.  More to follow in the days to come...

beyond expectations

Monday morning I got into my car and drove from Louisville, KY to Florence, KY to attend David Ziser's Digital Masters Class.  I was a bit nervous because I didn't know what to expect.  This is an $800.00 week long class so I expected to be intimidated while sitting in the room with these other great photographers who came to learn from David.  I was overjoyed to discover a wonderful variety of people in the class at every stage in their photographic career.  As the week pressed on we all became great friends and I can confidently say that we will keep in touch.  The networking alone was worth the $800.00.  I know that a few of the class read my blog so I want to tell you THANK YOU!  Thank you for being a great friend and making this week one that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Friday, May 2, 2008

name change

over the next week or so you will notice a name change around here.  The past two years I have been operating under the name Rick Mead Designs.  After begining a re-evaluation of my business one of the first things that I want to modify and enhance is my company name.  From here on out Rick Mead Designs will be Rick Mead Photography.  I am sure I will slip up and refer to it as RMD from time to time; however, I feel that most of my brand should be centered around photography and not design.  Early on I did a good bit of design; however, now I have moved into a different chapter of my career and I feel the name change will bring better business my way.

Masters Class Photo

David posted this yesterday - but I just wanted to toss it up here too.  This week was a blast and after I have had a few days to process everything I will post something more substantial - but for now here is a free-bee.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Lighting, Editing and Marketing OH MY!!!!

This week has been so jam-packed with more professional transference of experience through training, lecture, networking, and laughs than I think I have EVER experienced.  For those of you who don't know, my father-in-law paid my way to attend the David Ziser's 2008 Spring Masters Class.  I have had so much fun and I have learned so much.  Still hoping to get a plug on his blog ... but we will see.  Anyways - as I decompress the knowledge I have been soaking up I will pass it along here.  One thing that I have been convicted of is how much I need to blog.  David pointed out that it is important to have something constantly fresh and new up on your site and a blog is the best and easiest way to rearrange the furniture.  It isn't easy though.  On average he spends 2-2 and a half hours researching and blogging each day.  WHAT a commitment to his site.  I'm not sure what it will translate to at; however, I can tell you that I will be thinking it over long and hard as I evaluate every other aspect of my business in retrospect to this training.  I am off to bed now because I have one more day in the masters class and one more drive to Cincinnati in the morning ... MAN I won't miss that drive next week.  We had a great evening at David's home - pictures tomorrow - so I got on the road a bit late but TOTALLY WORTH IT!