Drone Message Internet Message Boards (it is like taking a stroll in to the local pub or bar.)

Let’s talk about internet message boards in regards to drone ownership. Message boards can be a wealth of information right at your fingertips. You can quickly find answers that will help you solve problems and just all around they can help you with general knowledge of all things drones. Many people are already familiar with message boards from other aspects of our lives. Things such as finding answers to the noise your car is making or solving a problem with an error message on our computers and so much more.

However you are now dealing with the “internet” and you have no idea who is providing the information you are seeking. In my opinion I would say a good amount of all the info we seek on the internet is accurate, but you would be a fool to think everything you read and see is correct information. So when it comes to message boards… it is like taking a stroll in to the local pub or bar. You may meet a really nice bunch of people who are willing to be your friends and help you out or you may meet a bunch of know-it-all snobs. However, the one thing I can assure you is that, you will meet a few (maybe a lot) assholes and people who you will wonder “how they tie their shoes in the morning.”

I get an email once a week from one of the drone forums I follow and it will have links to the most popular topics from the past week. Guaranteed the “my drone flew away on my first flight” topic is always listed. Please don’t be one of those people. If you are reading this post and haven’t purchased a drone yet please take the time to read the proper setup and safety features for your drone. Most all drones have a beginner mode and my advice is “use it.” I set my Mavic Pro 2 to “beginner mode” even though I had been flying my first Mavic over 1 year. Understand your RTH (return to home) feature and how it works before you even turn the drone on for the first time.

Other popular topics are usually about laws, rules & regulations. This is just as important as any other aspect of flying your drone. You want to understand Return to Home because you don’t want to lose your drone. You also need to understand laws rules and regulations because this is another way you can lose your drone. While I will admit some laws are downright stupid, other laws need to be obeyed for safety & security. One of the most violated laws is flying too close to major airports. This absolutely perplexes me and just goes to show how many assholes our society has. And again this topic is a popular one on most all drone message boards. At first reading these threads is quite comical but is soon loses its luster because it is the same rhetoric, post after post. One guy claims to know the law and says another person is wrong. The guy, who says he’s right, knows he is right because the kid who lives next door told him so. And other times both people are right because they live in different locations and the laws are different. As you can see this all becomes very confusing and mind boggling to someone who “just wants to go fly their drone.”

My way around all this confusion was to seek out people who knew more than me and that had credible knowledge, if you look hard enough you will find them. All message boards have a few members who are just a wealth of correct information. They may be a person who flies drones for a living or may have previously/currently works in drone design & manufacturing or they could just be that good ole geeky guy/gal who understands all thing drones that the rest of us need a little help figuring out. Become friends with these people, appreciate them and respect them for their knowledge that you don’t have. This has worked for me and I made some pretty cool friends around the world and there’s nothing wrong with that.

So as you see my thoughts and opinion of internet message boards is “be careful” whose advice and info you decide to use. Happy flying and thanks for reading.

I’m Sorry Doesn’t Make It Right (How can they stop people from posting other people’s photos? A lawsuit!)

You are a photographer and one of your photos is stolen and used in public for monetary gain; so what do you do? What is the proper course of action? And really the bigger question here is; what is the proper course of action to keep it from a happening again?

Recently (September 21, 2018) I came across a post in my Instagram feed from a photographer whom I follow and he had posted about someone using his photo without permission. I might add that he is a very well-known headshot photographer in NYC. As in, maybe the “best” headshot photographer in NYC. I will not use his name, but he does a lot of work for the entertainment industry and for everyday people as well. He is the “go-to” guy for getting a headshot that will make you look the best you can look. He also shoots other styles of photography as well, but I think it’s fair to say he is most noted for his headshot business.

So here’s the scoop as I know it and in my opinion what he did wrong, very wrong.

(These are the facts as I know them from reading the photographers posts on his IG)

Someone used his photo as their profile photo on the website https://www.airbnb.com they used his photo but used a different name. Most likely not their real name, however that doesn’t really matter. It was brought to the photographer’s attention and he, like most people was very upset and contacted @airbnb to have the photo removed. On the first contact @airbnb would not remove the photo. He was told they really have no control over profile photos (not a quote, but that’s the gist of it). His second contact with @arbnb he was told the photo had been removed and that the first employee he spoke with did not know the company’s copyright policy. After @airbnb removed the photo the photographer was pleased and for the most part all is good. The photographer had said in his post that he liked @airbnb and had used their service in the past.

I had left a rather light hearted comment on his first post saying “you should sic Ed Greenberg on them” (infamous intellectual properties attorney). Although a light hearted comment I fully meant it.

I also left another comment on his second post about this situation and rather than quoting the comment that I posted I will give my more detailed opinion here (because it is my blog).

He was wrong! The photographer is wrong for accepting that @airbnb can do nothing about it and he is wrong for accepting their moronic statement that their employee did not know about @airbnb’s copyright policy.

As a headshot photographer this man (the photographer who had the image stolen) has spent years of his life honing his craft. He is as well known in NYC and around the world for what he does and how does it. He teaches the art of creating headshots… I have sat through his classes. I look up this this guy and I full believe without a doubt he is a master of his craft. The equipment he uses, the staff he employs in not cheap by any means and to have someone steal his image and use it as their own is absurd at best. But then to have a company who is benefiting from it and flip-idly claims an employee didn’t know the copyright policy is just as or even more absurd.

So I know at this point you are most likely thinking a few different things like; well, yeah how can @airbnb stop someone from posting a profile photo that is not theirs? And; well if @airbnb took the photo down all is good, so why complain?

Why complain; because they’ll let it happen again and again and again. And if not @airbnb other sites will do it and think it is ok.

Now first let’s understand there are many frivolous lawsuits filed every day. However the purpose of a lawsuit is not so much for the plaintiff to just get a windfall of money, but rather it is a means of correcting a wrong and making damn sure it does not happen again. The biggest way to correct a wrong and make sure the offender or future offenders do not do it again is a lawsuit. Simply put if you punch the bully hard enough to cause him pain he stops. The best way in the business world to cause pain is take a person’s or company’s money. Yeah they scream like a little baby that has had the nipple plucked from their mouth.

Any good intellectual properties attorney will have a good story or two… or ten to tell you about the cases they have won where the offender “didn’t really think it was a big deal to use a photo and there is no harm done because we removed the photo.” And then much to their surprise when the court delivers that devastating blow to their wallet they scream and scream they should.

Let me step back for those who may not know and refresh your memory about the fact that copyright is laid out in the body of the US constitution. Not an amendment… but a right given to us by our founding fathers and it can be found in section 8 “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

This is why copyright infringement is a serious offense.

 

 

So I know you (the reader) may still be saying “but how can @airbnb control what photo a person uses for a profile?” Easy… if the lawsuit is big enough to make them scream they’ll find away very quickly. We live in a world where companies like Twitter and Instagram can grant people verified accounts, so I know there is a way it can be done. With the coming of AI (artificial intelligence) I’m sure it will be very easy to verify people’s online identity with the greatest of ease.

Now for the scary part… This whole post has been about someone using another person’s photo “online.” What about when a photo is stolen and used in “printed material?” It happens all the time, companies making money from someone else’s hard work.

When a photographer is well known for his/her work it is not something that just happened one day. You just wake up and bam you can take a great photo and the world loves you and lavishes you with money. Sure it would be nice if it worked that way, but it doesn’t. All too often (and it happens more than you know) images are ripped off for monetary gain. In this case @airbnb is letting a customer use a photo of a very good looking man for a profile photo. I might add that the photographer was a model for many years before he became a photographer. “Good looking” sells… there is no other way to look at it. Good looks will take you a long way in this world. We never see every day looking people in advertisements and in my opinion if someone had a really great looking profile photo it would most likely stand out and get noticed more than others.

I urge all serious photographers to educate themselves about copyright and registering their images. It really is not all that hard of a process. I register my images four times a year. The biggest problem with copyright is there are so many myths out there. Again… there are so many myths and I think the biggest and most confusing myth that I hear all the times is “if I have the original RAW file I can prove it is mine” or “I have the copyright as soon as I snapped the shutter and created the photo.” While both of these statements are 100% true, you still need to register your images with the library of congress. Look at it this way… you bought a car from me and I gave you a recite for the purchase of the car. Now you own the car, but to make it complete you have to register the car with the state government so that it is documented that “you own the car.” Same thing applies to intellectual property. You created it, but you need to register it.

Take the time to read the Copyright Zone. The book is very easy to read and as I have said in previous posts “it will actually be the most important photography book you’ll own.” There is so much great and accurate information coming straight from the infamous intellectual properties attorney Ed Greenberg and commercial photographer Jack Reznicki.

Thanks for reading.

She’s Got It (So in the beginning it is all about building confidence and creating your persona.)

1/250 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 168mm
Model Jade Gleason

Some photos just resonate and stand out, however like beauty it is all subjective. I’m drawn into this photo for visual reasons as well as emotional reasons.

The visual; is the angle of the face, the eyes are closed; the arms frame the face and the textures of the sweater and the headband all come together to make a visually appealing image. Then there is her youthful & natural beauty with minimal makeup.

The emotional; is the fact that this was Jade’s second shoot with me in two weeks. Her first shoot with me she was “like a deer in the headlights,” very nervous, rigid and just trying to understand the direction I was giving her. She took it all in stride and came back for the next shoot a few weeks later. Now she was eager, prepared and had been practicing her posing. When I look at this shot I see her potential, I see her trying and I see her ‘wanting.” Wanting to grasp it, hold it and run with it.

Remember for a new model modeling is not always about making it to the top and becoming a high dollar fashion or runway model. Most important it is not always about how you look per say. Although when we think of models we think of beauty and often models define what the public thinks beauty should be. However we all know beauty is subjective and because we are bombarded with images of models everywhere we turn we tend to accept certain styles and looks as the norm. When in reality fashion & runway modeling is not about the models looks as much as it is about how the model can pose creating a visually appealing image that will show off wardrobe or design. I really do not think the fashion designer wants you to look at the model as much as they want you to be drawn to their artistic creation. The model is merely the vehicle to carry and represent the designer’s artistic work.

So in the beginning it is all about building confidence and creating your persona. You are creating that person or character who gets in front of the camera and performs. When you step in front of the camera you need to pose, but you also need to convey emotion and energy. It is not always “high energy” but rather a feeling, a mood and a look all rolled into one. I sit here writing about it and I myself cannot do it. However I am a photographer and I know it when I see it. Amazingly enough I seen this moment of Jade as I captured it and what I mean by that is; She was facing me straight on and I was shooting, she for a moment turned to her right for just a second and I caught a change of light on her face. Then she turned back facing me straight on, but I called out to her “wait, turn back just like you were and hold it.” She did. There was this even and soft light on her face and with her eyes closed it gave a peaceful & blissful look. I could see it in the viewfinder and I didn’t dwell on it, but I knew it was special. Not too often do I see it as I’m capturing it. Most times I’m paying too much attention to other things like “is there hairs across her face,” or looking for some other “aesthetic distractions” as I call them. But this time I seen it in real-time and it was such a beautiful moment for me.

If you know me and have read previous blog post you know I really loth photography clichés and the “capturing a moment in time” is one that just kills me to the core. Yes I did capture the magic moment in time with Jade, but it is not the moment in time that makes it all that magical. It is the fact that she improved so much in two weeks, it is the fact she is getting comfortable in front of the lens and most of all she has a drive to learn what it is all about. I am no famous photographer, however I am a very good photographer and I have for the past several years worked with many models just starting out. I have been the “first” photographer for several amateur models. Some get it and some do not get it. Some are under the misconception that they stand there and the camera clicks and “bam” there are awesome images are created. And when this doesn’t happen they don’t understand why not. I explain to all new models that it is about posing, that it is about emotion ect. I explain to them that I understand they are new, but “I am here to work with you and help you.” I explain “I am a photographer, I know how this camera works inside & out, I know Photoshop and I can edit the images to look good, but I first have to start with a good image and that means having a model that can bring a good pose and some emotion.” And with emotion it could also be the lack of emotion that makes the image great. I will offer advice about what makes for good posing like triangles, negative space, lines, and curves and so on. None of this information is a secret, however many will choose to ignore it because now it starts to make modeling sound like work. And it is work, and like anything in this world it takes practice and knowledge of the craft to get better and advance. Even someone who has a natural talent needs to nurture the talent to bring it to the surface. This all leads us to the age-old conclusion that “nothing in life comes easy.”

So who gets it? Who gets it is the model that walks away from the first shoot and listens to my advice, but doesn’t just stop there. They dig deeper and deeper, searching on their own. They are the one who learns to pose for the camera and not for the photographer, the one who realizes right up front that this is going to be work and starts working at it. They are the one who realizes they need to give up some free time to get something in return. That’s who gets it.

Jade https://www.instagram.com/p/BgAahCUg_UP/?taken-by=writingawayy_

 

Overuse of Color Grading (…look I clicked on a filter now I’m an artist.)

1/40 sec at f/4.0 ISO 800 80 mm color graded using split tones in Lightroom. Location Eastern States Penitentiary.

Everybody wants to be an artist, but sadly enough not everybody can be an artist. Actually pretty much anybody can be an artist if they were to actually take the time and put forth the effort to create something. Today we have a lot of “one click” artist wanna-bees. I love Instagram so much for several reasons; one reason for sure is it has helped me so much with my photography business. People find me, they contact me and I have a client to do business with. I like Instagram because I can build a network and I can reach a lot of people all around the world.

So many times I have heard it said “Instagram is for photographers” and that statement could be truer. Myself I rarely partake in using any of Instagram’s filters although I don’t begrudge anybody for using them. I edit most of my images in Adobe Photoshop and put finishing touches on in Adobe Lightroom so I really have no need for IG’s filters. However I do realize the vast amount of people using IG there is only a small percentage that would edit and do what I do. So for sure they want to use a filter to take their images to that “next level” and give it a “look and a feel” and again I have no gripes. Now with all that said we all no trends rise up and most often recede and some trends are so horrible we can’t wait for them to recede and fade away… hopefully!

I remember when I first got into learning how to edit skin in Photoshop, it was a time when the trend was to make the female skin look like plastic or porcelain, with no texture at all. It was horrible and I too was guilty of this horrible atrocity. For one it was a very easy effect to create and for two, all the magazine covers were doing it, so it seemed like it was ok to do it..

Then came along the overdone “HDR” with all the halos and graininess. I have to admit I still like to use the over-done HDR effect as an illustrative tool to this day, but not for photographic edits. Same goes for the smoothed out skin, as an illustrative edit it can be used, as a portrait… no way. But… I still see people using it.

So this brings us up to our current state of “what is being over used today?” I’ll tell you what it is… LUTs and color grading, these are being so over used it is pitiful. 2 years ago I barely knew what a LUT was, I did know what color grading was and for still images I performed most of my color grading by using “split tone” controls. Or I had other methods, some I learned from other photographers and some I just created through trial and error. Some of my color grading was and still is as simple as making a solid color layer and lowering the opacity. Does it work? You may ask… works good enough the clients love it and complements on social media are plenty.

But in both video and photos the color grading at present day can be atrocious if not done correctly. And when I say “correctly” I know editing is very subjective. It goes straight back to the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” quote. Photography, videography are all very subjective because they are creative and artistic, but with all that said I am so sick of the teal to orange color grading that is done incorrectly. And to be flat out honest I am no expert at color grading, but I am an expert at knowing what is distracting when you look at a photo or video that has poor color grading. It seems some of the worst videos are vloggers on Youtube. Some vlogs I can clearly see have had some high end color grading done and I envy it because I have not yet reached that level. While other vlogs are just… I want to say “horrible” but again it is subjective, so I will say “not to my liking.”

I wrote a post a while back about color grading and where it came from, it has been around a very long time. I what to point the finger at IG for the current dilemma, after all Instagram’s filters are just like color grading, but it is done with “one click” and using a given filter with the right image produces a great result. However this takes no real talent or effort and while one could make the claim it is creative, it is merely clicking presets till you find one that looks good. Either way it is kind of a moot point at this time… the fire has started all we need to do is wait for it to burn itself out and hopefully go the way of selective color and bad HDR. I remember the grossly overdone colored cinematic lighting that popped up in some of the 80’s movies and carried over into the 90’s. Using blue lighting to illustrate night time is ok by me, but making alleyways appear deep purple was just flat-out bizarre.

While I am learning more & more about creating and using LUT’s I still love my split toning, gradient mapping and other little tricks for my photo color grading.

Photo Notes: So this particular image I get a lot of compliments on. Many times the comments come from people who do not know about color grading, but they do know about Instagram filters. They ask what filter I used. Or have heard many times “this photo looks so cool I love the color, how did you do that.” The color grading was actually done in Adboe lightroom 4 using the split tone sliders and the saturation & luminance sliders in the HSL panel.

1/40 sec at f/4.0 ISO 800 80 mm

Why I Blog & Vlog (…Quite a novel thing those directions are.)

1/640 sec at f/3.2 ISO 100 115mm (see photo notes below)

There is more to blogging & vlogging than some may think. Often when I am questioned about why I blog or vlog it is usually a non-millennial or to be frank “an older person.”

As a photographer and Photoshop creator/editor blogging & vlogging helps me on many levels. Now first I have to say that I do not aspire at this time to making blogging & vlogging a sole means of income as is often the case. So when asked about my B&V it is usually followed by; does it make you money? And the answer is “yes & no” (a little confusing).

Ok so here is the break down as to what blogging does for me as a photographer. In short it makes me relevant in the realm of what I do and the long answer would best be explained by giving an example.

So here is Rich Smith Jr out doing something with his camera. It could be a paid client shoot, it could be a project shoot with a model or I could be out and about shooting street photography. Either way at some point there is always a chance that someone is going to approach me and start asking questions. The questions could range from a photo enthusiast who is asking questions, to a potential client or even a police officer wanting to know what the hell I’m doing. So of course the first action is to give a business card, nothing fancy, but a card with my name, phone number, email and website is all that is needed. Now of course in this day and age anybody can have a business card printed and anybody can make a website in a matter of minutes. So having a blog and or a vlog present and easy to find lets people see exactly what you do.

For example a park ranger I ran into a few weeks back seen me with my drone. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, he was merely asking me technical questions about the drone. I gave him my card and while we were talking his partner using a smart phone was on my YouTube channel in a matter of minutes and they were looking at my videos. (my stupid little short videos) The ranger than stated “you’re the first person I have actually talked to that could show me they actually know how to create a video with a drone. He said most people get nervous and they just want to get away as soon as possible. I laughed, I have nothing to hide, I know the laws and I try my best to abide by them. Same goes for my photography, I try to abide by the law… well except that railroad track thing but… So soon the ranger noticed I had a video about how to copyright images with the library of congress and he was somewhat impressed. He asked me how I learned how to do that? My answer; reading, I read how to do it and I did go to a few seminars but mostly just reading. Kind of like when you buy something and you read that little book that come with it called “directions.” Quite a novel thing those directions are.

Another example of being relevant in what I do would be the time I was out shooting with a client at a park. This was last year; a lady had contacted me by way of a friend and asked if I would meet her at the mill in Stockton for a “mother daughter” shoot. Her daughter had just finished college and was heading off to Europe for two years. Although she would visit her daughter in Europe she wanted some nice photos of her and her daughter before she left the states. It’s a “mom thing” she said. So we met up at the mill and we really hit it off right away. The daughter was a few minutes late and mom was teasing her. Soon into the shoot they were really having fun, laughing and joking. I noticed another lady watching us and soon she approached me and asked “if I was a real photographer?” I said “no but don’t tell these two because they’re paying me money today.” We all got a good laugh and I handed her my business card. She went on her way.

As I was packing up my gear at the parking lot and getting ready to leave, when the lady whom I had given the business card to appeared with her husband and started asking me about family portraits, that they wanted to do at this same location. They liked the old mill and wanted to have some family photos taken there. At one point she exclaimed at how much fun the mother & daughter were having and said I would be “the perfect photographer” because I make people happy. This was a huge compliment although I had to come clean and tell her “it was all them” they were just happy people.  Anyway I did do the portrait shoot and it led to 5 more jobs with her recommendations. What I did not know until much later was that after handing her my card her and her husband sat in their car with their iPad checking out my website, my blog and my vlog. And that coupled with seeing me actually working with a client sealed the deal.

So while I may not make actual money advertising products on my blog, it still gets me work. It shows I am relevant and sets me apart from “guy with a camera.” Another benefit that blogging does for me is helps me with my writing skills, spelling and grammar. I wish I could say I write a blog post every day, but sadly time is the culprit.

Times have changes as we all know and we have so many resources available to us that if we do not utilize some of the resources we appear obsolete in what we do. I remember when fax machines were all the rage and I heard someone say “if you do not stay current with technology life will run you over in a heartbeat.” And it is so true (to a certain extent). So I say “ignore technology and you age quicker than you ever though possible.

Thank so much for reading and have a great day.

Photo notes: While I absolutely love this wedding day image of Kyle & Nicole, I cannot take full credit for the creation. The idea for this image was actually Nicole’s idea. I provided the umbrella, camera and lens. Nicole provided the sheer look of “a bride in love” and that wasn’t hard for her to do at all lol.

Dancing On An Island (…“it is about decisive moments and interactions” )

These are the moments in life that really turn me on as a photographer. When you look in on a wedding reception and there is all of this chaotic interaction. People are eating, talking, some are outside smoking, there are people drinking and then… you see two people lost in their selves on a dance floor. Nobody else is dancing but just them and nobody is even paying any attention. These are the special moments that some wedding photographers will overlook because they want to stay pinned to the bride and groom for the whole day/night.

Wedding photography in my opinion is so much more than just capturing the beautiful images of a bride and groom on their special day. I once heard New Jersey based photographer Cliff Mautner  say “it is about decisive moments and interactions” and not all about getting technically accurate photos. Essentially at the end of the day you (the photographer) should have all the classic images of things like the bride walking down the aisle, ring exchange, the first kiss ect… Then of course you will have your formals of the family, the wedding party ect… Quite honestly these are very easy images to capture because most wedding flow the same. I say “most”, but not all. Think about it; you’re at a venue the guests are seated, the groom is waiting, the bride is entering and so on. Sure dealing with the iPhone people can be a challenge; weather (if it is outdoors) can be challenging, but after you do enough wedding these challenges become easier to deal with and overcome. This then of course make your job a lot easier and you can go slam out a wedding. But are you capturing the moments?

When we look at some wedding photographers portfolios or look at the couple’s photo books or albums we sometimes see all these great images, but are we seeing the special interactions or those special moments? Seeing the classic shots are nice, however like I said they are relatively easy to obtain. As long as you know and I do mean “know” your entire camera technical you should be looking for the special moments. Think about it; how much more you can do when you never really have to think about camera technical. You walk into a scene and you are the “auto mode” for the camera. You know what ISO, shutter speed, aperture, hell you even know if you should “spot weight metering” for a special shot. I mostly work with two bodies; one will have a 24-70mm f/2.8 and the other a 70-200mm f/2.8. I’ll have an 85mm prime for some special work that I can throw on real quick. And that is it for cameras & lenses, then there is a speedlight on a stick or a continuous light such as a wand light either hand-held or on a stick.

Some special moments take time to evolve and what I mean by this is; the image you captured today might not mean a whole lot today. However we all know time changes everything and what looks like an ordinary image today could mean the world to someone tomorrow. Weddings are the most likely place to find these kinds of shots. But if you’re just there to get photos of a bride coming down the aisle, rings, kissing and hugs you may not be living up to the potential of your job.

 

 

Somebody’s Angel

Angels come in all shapes and sizes.

Angels come in all shapes and sizes. They can often appear in your darkest hours when hope feels like a meaningless word. Keeping faith in all things you do, stay strong and lead others. Faith in your god, your country and most of all yourself is what strong people are made of. You too could be an angel someone and never know it.