People with Cameras (“Millennial Digital Era” has spawned a genre of photos and the people who capture them)

Double exposure from an awesome shoot I did last fall with Greg Sampson.

Double exposure from an awesome shoot I did last fall with Greg Sampson.

“Everybody is a photographer!” In this day and time of digital photography we hear it all the time. I hear many of my photographer friends say the phrase all the time and most times it is in a venomous tone because they’re angry. I too at one time was guilty of this opinion, but have really learned to just let it go because it truly is a “false” statement.

Sure today cameras are everywhere and everyone has a camera… it’s almost as if the younger generations are born with a mobile device in their hand that has a camera lol. But seriously if in fact “you are a photographer” you are a creative person working with a vision and a set of rules. Rules that you learned, concepts that you have crafted and skills you have honed to a razor’s edge. You know when to follow the rules, when to break the rules and at the end of the day you’re a “photographer.”

So what are the labels are there for all the other humans walking around with these soul capturing devices? Of course this is just my opinion, but let’s looks a little closer; I think it’s safe to say the majority of images on social media are “snapshots” or documentary style; they have no creativity attached to them in any way. Selfies, food shots, the dog or cat, the baby smiling, these are just aiming the camera and snapping the shutter. All the pictures of your vacation just document that you stood on that spot in the world on that day at that time. Now of course I know that statement will make a lot of “selfie” shooters angry because they spend hours perfecting their facial and butt selfies. Perfecting a facial selfie or butt shot is not creativity, all it does is say “hey I’m a millennial, I have an iPhone and a lot of time on my hands… oh an I love my own butt and you should too.” I have seen people in restaurants spending 10 minutes on a food shot of their beautiful meal, all the while the meal is getting cold. More “insane” then a photographer if you ask me. “Yes” I love to take a photo of a meal and share it on social media with family and friends; however I fall short of believing I just captured a work of art. So again, I think it is safe to say “most people are taking snapshots” and that is very similar to what people did in the 70’s with their little Kodak 110 Instamatics, but without the facial and butt shots lol. In the film days we had albums and shoe boxes full of senseless photos that nobody ever seen unless we wanted to torture them. With that said; those images are important on a personal level because they are our memories, but most times mean very little to anyone else.

Now we look at the guy/gal with the DSLR and we can’t be too critical here, because if in-fact you are a photographer you had to start somewhere, we all start somewhere. But there is a big difference here because this new “Millennial Digital Era” (as I like to call it) has spawned a genre of photos and the people who capture them to the likes of something we have never seen. I say “people who capture” rather than use the term “photographer” because this species is anything but a “photographer” although they are not taking snapshots. This species utilizes a DSLR or higher end point & shoot along with various software and social media to create (for lack of a better word) “crap” as in shitty garbage. I have heard Scott Kelby (along with many others) say “Instagram is for photographers” and while that may partially be true, I think it would be more appropriate to say “Instagram is for people want to be photographers.” The very nature of Instagram with its “one click” filters offers a feeling that the person uploading the image actually created something special… ok if you say so lol. Vimeo does a similar thing giving the ability to add effects to uploaded videos.

I think it is really fair to say that when people hear the word “photographer” it gives them a sense of someone who knows how to capture a good likeable image. If they hear the term “professional photographer” it most times conjures up the thought of someone who makes money with a camera. So why then are professional photographers venomous about this genre of “people with cameras?” I think it is because “people with cameras” sometimes steal paid work from the professionals. This is where I stand strong on who I am and my confidence as a photographer. Sure professional photography has changed immensely with the coming of the “digital age” and it has made what was not an easy craft a whole lot harder and that is life. A guy gets into a car accident and loses a leg or arm or both. Terrible situation without a doubt and he is now forced to face major decisions; do I give up on life or do I use what I have to keep going? Kind of a harsh metaphor I know, but life does not come with a guarantee, it never did and it never will. Nobody gave a film photographer back in the day a guarantee that “hey learn this craft, learn it well and things will always be ok.” So to be a successful professional photographer today you need to first make a choice of “is this what I want and if I want it, it will never be easy.” Like all businesses you need to keep up with technology, keep learning, learn to diversify as time changes the world around you and somehow keep it fun. Or go sit in the corner and boo hoo lol.

Thanks for reading.

 

Studio Lighting Outdoors ( I fired 174 shots and it worked flawlessly. )

1/100 sec at f/7.1 ISO 160 70mm with flash from PCB Einstein.

1/100 sec at f/7.1 ISO 160 70mm with flash from PCB Einstein.

I just wrapped up an outdoor shoot with male model and motocross racer Greg Sampson. I really had a chance to put the Paul C Buff Einstein strobes and the Vagabond Lithium Extreme battery pack through some testing. Although I used one of the PCB’s yesterday for an outdoor shoot, it was very minimal. But today I fired 174 shots and it worked flawlessly. I didn’t even once think about recharge time. I am not a fast shooter any way so it was not a problem at all. I used one Einstein strobe in a 7 foot Westcott umbrella with no diffusion. The shoot started very late in the day and light was fading as cloud cover came in. I started with some available light shots and they looked good, but I wanted to stay “clean” with the ISO so I brought out the newly acquired PCB system. Because it was late in the day there was no wind at all, zero. So I was able to use a 7 foot umbrella and that too was amazing. Most times it would be virtually impossible to use a large umbrella outside. In fact, I don’t think I have ever used a large umbrella anywhere but in the studio.

I really can’t say enough at this point about the PCB system. I really need to use the lights more before I could give a full review. However I can tell you the one thing I have noticed is that I had no white balance issues. I use an X-Rite Passport color checker for all my shoots, because I make a camera profile/s for each location and I use the X-Rite for setting white balance. Moving up & down through the power range of the PCB I still had very close white balance readings.

The Vagabond Lithium Extreme battery is amazingly light in weight and so easy to work with. Just clamp to a light stand, plug in and turn it on, that’s it.

Mostly I have used Speedlites when shooting on location and I loved my Speedlites, but to be able to take studio lighting on location… It was incredible!

Greg was amazing; he is a great model and so easy to work with. He takes direction so well. Today was a relaxed shoot and we were going for a rather natural look. I wanted to capture Greg in normal clothing as if he were just hanging out with friends. In fact to make the shoot very relaxed Greg chose a location that was very peaceful and it is a place he is very comfortable with. It was the location where he very first learned to ride a dirt bike as a young boy, so not only was it peaceful the location had meaning and a sense of value. In the past I have found that when capturing a person as they truly are, doing it in a place they love really makes it easier.

Motocross is just one side of Greg’s life so we have a shoot planned that will expose another side of Greg. You’ll have to wait and see.

 

Photo of The Day (Greg Sampson)

New Jersey Motocross Racer Greg Sampson

New Jersey Motocross Racer Greg Sampson

The studio shoot with great was awesome… Why? Because the studio was his garage and we had a blast that day.

Photo of The Day (Game Face of Greg Sampson)

Game Face

Motocross Race Greg Sampson

Here we see New Jersey motocross racer Greg Sampson in a dramatic “game face” portrait.

Finding Common Ground (And “no” I never raced a bobsled, so it should be interesting to see how I approach this situation.)

Motocross Racer Greg Sampson

Motocross Racer Greg Sampson

While I love shooting a fashion/beauty look any day, I really have thrown my heart & soul into shooting a more edgy style lately. I will admit to influences from famed photographer Joel Grimes, but at the same time I give a big hand out to Woody Walters for his extreme talent that he shares with the world. Aside from creating interesting images I get to work with really interesting models. And sometimes the models are not really working models in the sense that it could very well be their first time doing a full blown photo shoot. It is a little weird if you have never done a professional shoot before. I think just about everybody has been in the situation of getting a school photo taken or may have had to get a headshot for a passport and then there are many who have been in a studio for family portraits. However the average person doesn’t know what a softbox is or what a “T” mark is for. Then add in creative lighting and posing and for somebody who has never done it… well they could be overwhelmed to say the least.

So this is where “people skills” (as I like to call it) come into play. Nothing to do at all about camera setting here, it is all about interacting.

I’ll run you through my last personal photography project with a motocross racer whom had never done a photo shoot before.

I had briefly met this young man two years earlier at a motocross track while shooting day long coverage. When I say “briefly” I mean as in just maybe two minutes at the very most. But I did start to follow him on social media (Instagram) because he was local to my state of New Jersey. So when I knew I needed a motocross racer he (Greg) was my “go to” man. I contacted him in a private message and clearly stated who I was and what I would like to do. And he gladly accepted the offer and thought it would be a lot of fun. I will tell you that the answer “yes” can be hard to come by sometimes. After all I could be some creep, but that is where I rely on my body of work (portfolio, website, social media) to back up who I am and what I do and the quality of what I do. Most of all I need to build some kind of relationship with this guy and this can be the hard part. This really is the key to a smooth photo shoot, to have something in common, something that you can talk about in a genuine way, some sort of common ground. This common ground will bring comfort and a little relaxation to the overall feel the model is going to have towards me. Lucky for me I had done a lot of dirt bike riding back in the day and had even ran a few motocross races myself at one time. So in planning out this project we were almost a month away from the shooting date and I spent about an hour talking on the phone one evening. During this conversation we both got to know each other a little better and in concluding that conversation I felt very confident that Greg & I were going to have a great time together. So because I was somewhat familiar with motocross I think made a huge difference in the success of the photoshoot. But it is not always that easy. I have a two part shoot in the coming weeks with a bobsled racer. We are going to do a fashion/beauty look and then change up to a hard edge sports warrior look. And “no” I never raced a bobsled, so it should be interesting to see how I approach this situation. One thing I know for sure is that I will find a common ground.

So while shooting Greg the motocross racer, I can tell you we had a great time and fun was plenty. I had the benefit of shooting Greg at his home, meeting his family and seeing their workshop and all the motocross machines. So upon arrival I did not rush things. I arrived on time, but then I just hung out and talked for a few minutes. We talked about his bikes and then I said “give me a half hour to set up and you go get changed.” Certainly easier than doing a fashion shoot, but nonetheless I have to keep the model at ease and the best way is to show your confidence in the fact you know what you’re doing. I finished my set up and Greg was dressed in race gear and we were ready to shoot. We do some test shots and then move to headshots. I like to do some headshots first because basic headshots are easy, I get the bugs worked out of my lighting, it breaks the ice with the model and everybody can use a fresh headshot. Then I give the model my tablet and let them review the shots. I shoot enough headshots that it will keep them busy reviewing just long enough for me to reposition my lights for the creative lighting and then we move into that part of the shoot. I like to shoot a few shots and review, I keep doing this and then I’ll stop and let the model review. I just like to show them how they are doing and if there is a pose or something they don’t understand I can point it out during this time. All the while we are shooting we are having fun, the mood is happy and flowing. If at any time I have a gear problem that is when I start talking about something that would interest them, all the while I’m working out my technical difficulty, whatever it may be. I find that talking or getting the model to talk keeps the “air” alive and there is no dreaded “dead silence.”

So in conclusion the shoot went fine and the edits are coming, I like to take my time with the edits because just as the lighting is creative so are the editing processes. This project went very well and really the “common ground” was rather easy… this time. Now to find common ground with a female bobsled racer might not be so easy. However I know I will do it.

Thanks everybody for reading and have a great day.

 

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New Image Added To The Home Page (motocross drama)

New addition to the website welcome gallery.

New addition to the website welcome gallery.

Just a quick update on this Sunday morning to the “welcome gallery” on my website. I like to keep my welcome gallery fresh and not too many images. Keeping it fresh is hard because I really do love that image of Nicole with the flowers. And then there is Kendall and Cynthia Ann making it so hard to choose what to put up. But either way I like the welcome gallery simple and no annoying background music. Never put that “auto play” song on your website… please! You may love that song, but I can guarantee not everybody likes it and this could be a big turn off to art buyers and the higher level clientele. Seriously if makes you look so Square Space or Zen Folio. Just another run of the mill pay & print site.

Have a great day.