Instagram Lives (IG has no adds that chase you around like an evil stepmother)

"Reaching" Model Kendall Strampel, hair & makeup Aryn Wilson

“Reaching” Model Kendall Strampel, hair & makeup Aryn Wilson “Dreams can be so elusive like a whisper on the wind. Like the moon above seen yet never touched. Through perseverance, hard work and a long road traveled… One day the moon is replaced by the earth in the sky.” -Richie Smith Jr-

My experience as a photographer with Facebook is dead. I have two active Facebook pages; my personal page is where I interact with people I know, most of whom I have met in person. However there are a few very interesting people on my friends list that I have never had the pleasure of meeting in person, but I have found them very interesting and I like to follow and read their postings.

My Recklesspixel Facebook page was created as a way to get my photography and illustrations out to the rest of the world. Sure I have a website, a blog site and media content site that are all integrated, but social media is for the most part free and as the name implies it is social. But Facebook has gotten greedy when it comes to getting your message (mine is photography) out to the masses. They want you to pay to “boost” your postings and it really is a bunch of BS.

Here is my personal experience with Instagram vs Facebook. Ok so I have paid to boost a post on Facebook and all it ever got me was a few “Likes” and that was it. I received very few comments and I received absolutely no business, no business interactions what-so-ever, zero.

The short of how I started with Instagram was a friend in China asked me if I would use Instagram to share photos with her and this dates back to 2009. I downloaded the Instagram app to my phone and I had one follower and I followed just one person, my friend Grace. We originally started out on Skype and as Grace’s career changed and she was on the go Skype was no longer functional to connect with a quick real-time photo or comment and given the fact the Chinese government does not allow Facebook we found a work-around solution.

So I had IG for a few years and soon I started to get followers from my Facebook friends list, just a few here and there. Then I noticed in 2012 that when I would meet a younger person say 15 to 24 years old they would ask what my IG name is and they would all but puke at the thought of Facebook. “Facebook” that is where grandma goes to play Farmville or they would say things like “Facebook sucks because it only shows you what Facebook wants you to see.” That statement came from a fifteen year old five years ago.

So I plodded along and every so often I would open the IG app and check it out, but not too much would happen. Then in 2014 I set some goals to take my photography to newer and higher levels, I knew I needed to be more active on social media. Now let me explain that this is not the typical social media activity many are guilty of where they just sit and push a “Like” button or view mindless videos of cats only to get to the end of the climax-less video to wish you had those two minutes of your life back. Or worse to sit and rant and comment about a Photoshoped image of an abused animal, child or whatever… to me that is all pointless stuff one does when they have nothing better to do. No, my social media activity on IG became calculated, but first I had to educate myself a little bit with everything IG, such as etiquette and what people are really using IG for. So for the most part there are really two groups of people on IG; there are people who what to post content for others to see and there are selfie queens who must post a selfie every few minutes because their fragile mindless ego dictates they have to do that. Don’t get me wrong I think everybody has posted a selfie, but if it becomes an obsession than as far as media content is concerned it is pointless.

So I started actively following people or businesses that I thought would help my photography, I also would interact with them. And as time pressed on I would post content that was 99% about my photography and 1% about other stuff such as a cool and interesting location or activity. Then one day I got a DM or direct message and it wasn’t from Grace, it was from a fellow photographer asking advice. What? From me? Then more DMs started to appear in the coming days/weeks from models wanting to shoot with me, photographers who wanted to shadow me at a shoot and people asking Photoshop questions. Although I had interacted with IG users by nothing more than leaving comments on posts I had never sent a DM to anybody, well other than Grace. Then the phone calls started coming, I have my Google Voice number in my profile. I had people asking about portrait pricing and dates. I was like OMG it really can happen, social media can really work for you if you work for it and I have never given Instagram a dime, FUCK YOU FACEBOOK!

So with the good comes a little bad I guess. I have had some images stolen from IG and amazingly enough one moron edited the photo and posted back to his IG and credited me as the photographer and he even credited the model, but his edit was horrible and …yeah his IG account went down in flames like Russian jet over Syria lol.

Now as I said my posts on IG are calculated to get the most impact. Timing is everything; using software to know the best time to post has really helped me. But I think the most powerful tool was learning how to use hashtags. Hashtags are more powerful than older people realize because they travel across social platforms. I say “older” people because I find the younger crowd knows fully how to use them and their power.

Instagram really has taken a good swing at Facebook and as far as I’m concerned it landed a critical blow. Almost like when you’re hit and it doesn’t show till the bruises appear later. I’m sure Instagram will evolve even further, but I just hope they stay as organic as possible. IG has no adds that chase you around like an evil stepmother nor is there a sidebar showing you aunt Martha just liked her 800th cat photo of the day, no game requests and best of all if you get sucked into a video they are only 15 seconds long, that’s the limit and they’re sticking to it… so far.

Love my IG.

 

Know Your Self Worth (Most of all you need to have the guts to just walk away…)

"They laugh at me because I'm different; I laugh at them because they're all the same." --Curt Cobain--

“They laugh at me because I’m different; I laugh at them because they’re all the same.” –Kurt Cobain–

One of the hardest things for any artist to do is to figure self-worth. And when I say “artist” I mean anyone who creates something and sells it. I would even go as far as to say “even a person who has a personal service that they provide for money” is also in this same group because the service is personal and therefore in my opinion falls in to the “creative” category.

I’m writing this post to hopefully inspire young creators to dig in their heels and find there self-worth. Your self-worth is how much you need to charge for what you do. Are you a photographer, a model, sculptor, painter, clothing designer, makeup artist. Maybe you are a chef or a cook, an interior designer… or maybe you make little bird houses. Either way you are a creator, you create using the medium of your craft.

All too often creators are never paid enough for what they do and it is their own damn fault. Why? Because they do not know what their self-worth (as I call it) is. Or if they know, they are not demanding it. A very wise attorney once told me he had many clients who were creators of some variety or another and he went on to say that they are they’re own worst enemy when it comes to making money. Let me give you a personal example.

Almost 20 years ago I started a BBQ catering business out of necessity. Laid-off from a job, zero income and no wealthy family members or friends to turn to for help… well I felt like a foot soldier detached from his unit 50 miles behind enemy lines. I guess the word “bleak” would be appropriate and things looked grim. No money soon equates to no roof and you’re down by the river… with no van. First thing “don’t stay in the house” even if you have no gas or transit money, go find a bicycle or use your feet, but get the hell out of the house every day and get around people and network. So I knew how to cook… hell I always knew how to cook, so while working a landscaping job I managed to get enough money to start-up a catering business. From the beginning I was a hit and never really had a problem finding customers. But I had a huge problem charging what I was worth. I came across another caterer who said my price for an on-site pig roast was affordable enough the he could use my service from time to time. Well he knew that I knew he was making money on top of what he was paying me. I didn’t seem to care as long as I made my money. Then one day he told me “you’re doing it too cheap, you need to charge more.” But I was afraid if I raised the price no one would call me. The next call that he got for an “on-site pig roast” he quoted the customer $300 on top of what I would have charged. The customer said I’ll call back after I confer with my spouse. I said “yeah… good luck.” The next day Craig called and said “they booked the job.” After that he always referred the customer to me and it was up to me to sink or swim.

So I sat back and did some real soul-searching and analyzed the situation. My friend had good “phone and people” skills so I practiced that and I got real good… and fast because it meant money. Now cut to today I have a photography business, I create using a camera. Unlike my BBQ business where I have little competition, the photography is very competitive, so to solve that problem, I try to create in a way that leaves the average photographer behind. How? Be different and be better, but don’t be cheaper. With my BBQ business I have cooked tons (not pounds) of meat in 18+ years. We cook it the old fashion way with just wood, no electric, propane or gas… just wood. Everything we make is homemade… there is not a caterer in my area that can compete with what I do because everybody wants to take a short-cut. When I talk to other BBQ guys and they ask me about my process… well I encourage them to take short-cuts. Why? Because I don’t, and never will. Kind of sneaky but it don’t matter… because every loser want to take a short-cut.

So back to my photography, I know I am not the best photographer/Photoshop artist out there, I also know I am not the worst and I know I am different. The opening statement on this blog site I say “there are photographers and then there is me.” Now let me say this; after all I have just written what you really need to do, no matter what your game is “you need to put a price on what you do” that price needs to reflect back to how good you are. If you’re good you will get the price you’re asking for. If you cannot get that price you need to get better at what you do. “Nothing and I mean nothing worth having comes easy in this world.” Let someone else negotiate your price for you, after all that is what happened to me. Most of all you need to have the guts to just walk away if the price is too low. And I know this is a hard thing to do… real hard when times are tough. But I’ll do it, I will just say “no” and walk away or hang up the phone or whatever the case maybe. Sometimes they call back the next day, week or month and I get my price. Other times… it’s like standing in the desert alone.

So don’t expect people think “oh my gosh he/she is an artist and they’re worth every penny.” That isn’t ever gonna happen. But if you work hard at your craft, know your craft, know it inside and out. Live it, breathe it, become it… this is what will make people believe in you. And if they believe in you then price becomes irrelevant. If you’re a model you need to learn your craft from every angle. If your making bird houses then make them the best damn bird houses ever made. Remember… never sell anything, it’s too hard to sell. I couldn’t sell cake to a fat man. It is so much easier to get people to “buy” something than it is to “sell” it to them. If they want it they’ll buy it. So on that note “don’t be a sellout” and have a great day.

 

Graveyard Photoshoot. (The Bethlehem Church was a perfect choice… )

1/160 sec at f/10 ISO 50 70mm

1/160 sec at f/10 ISO 50 70mm Model Kendall Strampel

It is not often I shoot with the same model two weeks in a row, but that is what happened this weekend. Last week’s shoot was very nice and the images of Kendall in a field on a mountain gave me a light beauty feel so the edits were exactly that; bright & light with lots of back lit sunlight.

So for this week’s shoot it was just the opposite. We were shooting in a church graveyard, ironically located just 1/2 mile from the field we shot in last week. So the concept for this shoot was Kendall’s idea and she presented it to me and when I heard it I knew the exact location. The Bethlehem Church was a perfect choice because the actual church building is burned out from a lightning strike that occurred many years ago, leaving an abandoned stone shell. Now the building is off limits but their is a graveyard with a wrought iron fence and all the graves date back to the early 1800s. Because it is abandoned there are no people, well other than the occasional passer-by and we had a just a two people walk through the background of the shoot.

I shot both natural light and studio flash. Natural light is a true love of mine, but having the Paul C Buff Einsteins on location really does open up the ability to be more creative and give different feeling to a shoot.  Before the photoshoot started I already knew I would go for higher contrast images, I knew I would be shooting around f/8 to f/16 and I also knew I would be “shooting for Photoshop.” While my Photoshop skills are very good I, like most people do not want to spend a lot of time in Photoshop fixing things, but I love to use Photoshop to create images. Difference is fixings an image in PS is something that is done to save an image or help it out a little… or sometimes a lot. However when I open PS to create something that is a different story because I am doing something that most times could never be replicated in camera. So when I “shoot for Photoshop” I am actually creating a RAW image with a camera and using it as an ingredient or a seed that will be grow something from PS. With all that said I still want to create my image and be done, so I have many actions recorded in PS that move the process along a little quicker. Two things I recommend to anyone working with Adobe Photoshop and they are “learn keyboard shortcuts and learn how to create actions and use them.” Same goes for Adobe Lightroom “learn the keyboard shortcuts” they really do make life a lot easier.

I’m not a big fan of light meters however they do make life very easy when working with studio strobes. For today’s shoot I used only one light and that was a PCB Einstein 640 with either a beauty dish or a 8 inch reflector and a 30 degree grid. In the end I can say we came away with some nice images, both natural light and studio light.

Photo of The Day (my wife one year ago yesterday)

Naruemol (Munn) Smith

Naruemol (Munn) Smith

One year ago yesterday I produced a photo shoot at the Iron Factory Studios in Philadelphia. My wife was our stand in while the lighting was being tested. Also being a Thai chef she was responsible for all the wonderful food that was catered for all the people involved.

Kendall’s Dream (Throw the light meter away because it is of no use at all… )

Three Element Composite

Three Element Composite

I call it “Kendall’s Dream” and I am very happy with it. Is it perfect? “No!” But I have worked hard to achieve this look and feel. Some might call it a “High Key” style but I’m not too keen on labels when it comes to creating composite images. If it were a straight forward photograph then “yes” I would call it “high key”. But given the fact it is a three element composite created in Photoshop I think of it more as an illustration and this is my style, also my favorite kind of work. I start with the camera and a model in a studio, and then there is me and the camera outdoors alone. Then I come to my workspace in Adobe Photoshop and create something. The feeling of seeing the end result is something one really cannot put to words… or at least I can’t put it to words without sounding like a moron. If you are a creative person of any sort you know what I mean. It doesn’t matter whether you are a writer, a poet, musician, painter, performer, dancer or you make bird houses you are a creative person with a creative soul and the energy ebbs & flows. Some days the flow is unstoppable and overflowing and other days it’s (as my father would say) “as scarce as hen’s teeth” (yeah just let that one sink in a few minutes lol). Some day’s creativity is like a distant ship that is a blip on the horizon and you hope it is coming back. So again, if you’re a creative person you know what I mean. You also know that when you really hit a high point… I mean you really “know” it. When I was done with this image I knew I had achieved the look I was going for. I walked away from the monitor for about an hour and when I returned I knew.

Kendall’s Dream is not the end-all to my style; I would say it is just another facet, another tool to have. Although I have been influenced by many, it is Joel Grimes that I would like to thank for leading me to work with composites in this manner. After seeing Mr. Grimes’ workflow and understanding the do’s & don’ts of composites I have started to create my own techniques. As much as this image is reminiscent of Joel’s “high key” images I took a much different approach and I know with time this “different” approach will lead me to an altered style that I can call my own. I can’t wait to see where it goes.

This bright & white style is not just a total Photoshop fabrication; the main element must be lit in studio in a particular way. Throw the light meter away because it is of no use at all… don’t look at the histogram on the back of the camera, like the light meter it is of no use. Histograms and light meters are not creative tools for this type of work. Histograms and light meters are very god for creating a portrait, but this is not a portrait and that (to me) is why I love this kind of work. The freedom to put the model anywhere in the world that I feel like putting her is what adds to the creativity. I mean; sure I could copy & paste Kendall and put her on the moon, but it is not about just sticking the main element anywhere. But rather making her (the main element) looking as if it was there or at least making the overall image appear to be believable. Although Kendall was shot in a studio in Philadelphia under special lighting and the walkway is 10,000 miles away in a remote part of Southeast Asia… well for me that is the fun and the joy of it all. Why even the scenery out the windows of the walkway is part of the whole composite. But when all three elements are brought together it seems believable. Then creating a dream like feel with the white takes the image to that “somewhere between a photo and…” well you get the idea.

Thanks for reading.

 

Three Element Composite Image (from the chipped paint, exposed bricks, open wood beams and beautiful hardwood floors, how could you not get a vibe to create.)

Three Element Composite (model Kendall Strampel-Hair & Makeup by Aryn Wilson)

In today’s edit we find Kendall on a dream like walkway. The edit of this image leans towards a “High Key” style although it is not a true black & white. I wanted a dreamy feel, but not that normal blurry or fuzzy look that most would use for a dreamy effect. Recently I have been working with creating fog although I did not use any of those techniques in this edit.

The image is a three element composite and if you have followed my posts since last September you will most likely know the main element of Kendall was shot in studio at the Iron Factory in Philadelphia. The “Iron Factory session” as I like to call it was an all-day studio shoot and Kendall put in a stellar performance with many great poses and facial expressions. We had a lot of fun and it was a very creative day that took place in a studio that puts off a very creative energy. Just to walk into that old factory gives a creative vibe, from the chipped paint, exposed bricks, open wood beams and beautiful hardwood floors, how could you not get a vibe to create.

The second element in this image is actually very dear to me. It is a covered walkway that leads up a mountain to Phra Maha Chedi Chai Mongkol (a Buddhist temple) on a mountain in the countryside near Roi Et, Thailand. I had been to this temple before and rather than ride the shuttle bus to the top of the mountain I like to hike to the top. The first time I visited this temple I entered from a different direction and I never knew there was this beautiful walk way that lead up the mountain. My wife and I started to walk up the road when I noticed this walkway. It is covered to protect from the sun or rain or you can walk on the top for a very scenic view and you can see for miles out across the Thai farmland. There were no people on the walk way at all and my wife and I walked slowly to the top. I stopped a few times along the way to capture some HDR sets of the walkway. After visiting the beautiful temple it was late in the day and we walked on the top of the walkway for our return down the mountain. As we walked down the sun was blood-red and setting quickly, the scene was very peaceful and serene as other family members caught up to us we all walked together and this made for a very memorable part of that day.

The third element is the scenery seen through the windows of the walkway. The walkway was shrouded with brush and trees, but while walking on the top of the walkway I captured images of the view looking out across the farmland and this is what is now seen when looking out the windows in this image.

After putting the elements together I finished with a high key dreamy feel.

Thanks so much for reading and have a great day.