My Extra Right Hand (I am looking for an individual who in very energetic, more energetic than me.)

 

Model: Kendall 2015

My Extra Right Hand

To I want to talk about working with an assistant and how much easier life can be.

I think anyone would agree that having an assistant would make life easier; So why then would I post about it? While it seems like a “no brainer” I still see many photographers working without an assistant. I seen wedding photographers hire a second shooter, but no assistant and I cannot understand why.

First let me say that I have another business aside from my photography and I realized a long time ago the power that having an assistant can give you and how much pressure is taken away when I have a really hectic job to do. My other business is catering and we mostly cook on-site. For me it is not high pressure anymore because I have been doing it for over 20 years. However, I didn’t hire an assistant until about 5 years in. Sure, I had people working for me as employees, but one day I realized that “maybe I need an assistant.”

So, you’re most likely thinking “well what’s the difference between the two?” Employees in my opinion are workers who have a more or less defined set of tasks that they perform on a regular basis, whereas an assistant is someone who is by your side working and interacting with you to help you accomplish your set task.

Okay, so I only use a photography assistant when I have a really important job to do. A job that requires me to stay focused (pardon the pun) and keep on a schedule. Jobs like weddings, large project shoots or maybe just a fast-paced event. Aside from these kinds of jobs most times I am a solo act and I do just fine.

Let me describe what it is that I am looking for in an assistant because I think most people are confused as to what they really need an assistant for. First and foremost, my assistant is paid and paid as well as I can they pay them. I work the cost for the assistant into every job. They are not a family member or a friend and most times they know very little about photography. Anything they need to know about photography I will teach them and most times that is just how-to setup and take down gear such as light stands and running power cords. However most of all I am looking for an individual who in very energetic, more energetic than me. I want someone who has their own means of transportation and is also comfortable driving my vehicle too. I want some one who knows how to use a smartphone/device, can do an adequate Google search in seconds, knows how to get to the nearest, store, coffee shop, deli and camera shop. I want someone who is great with people, they can not be shy at all, they must exude common sense thinking. They must be the kind of person I trust enough to hand them my credit card/s to go buy something and they won’t steal my money. I can also hand them cash money to

Tiny & Kendall

hold. Essentially, I want someone who is me, but better, faster and I can trust them with anything.

About now your saying “where the hell do, I find somebody like that.” I’ll agree it is not an easy thing and it doesn’t happen overnight, but once it does you need to find a way to hold on to that person. If they are a college age student it is inevitable that you will not have them forever and they’ll move on sooner or later. At this current time, I have a few different people I use. Because it is on an “as needed basis” if one is not available usually the other one is. One is a big strong guy we appropriately call “Tiny” and the other is a lady named Amy.

Tiny & Cynthia Ann

Tiny works a as a truck driver and appliance installer during the week, he also works for my catering business on the weekends. He meets all the criteria described above and he is an all-around good guy at heart.

Amy is a legal business administrator for a university and she too works for my catering business. I have known Amy for years and she is a very intelligent and motivated person.

Between the two of them they no nothing about camera exposure, aperture or ISO. However, they do know everything that I need them to know, things like how to change out batteries and lenses and help me stay organized. As any photographer knows the life of a photographer is “always forgetting something,” sure it may not be something critically important like a camera body (OMG could you imagine?). It is those other little things that could turn into big things, like running back to the parking lot to get something from my vehicle or maybe finding a cup of coffee on a cold day.

Amy

Each person I work with has their strong points. If it is a wedding Amy is very good at scouting the location for good spots to shoot. While Tiny on the other hand is great with lighting setups and adjusting. Tiny can also fly a drone and have it ready when I want to do an overhead shot.

So, to sum it up into one easy statement; having an assistant is like having an extra right hand or two or three.  To have that extra pair of hands to carry a camera bag, to have someone to bounce ideas off of and basically be there when things are not going as planned.

In conversation with other photographers I have found some who wholeheartedly agree with me about paying an assistant “as good as you can pay them.” However, I have had a few people disagree on the amount an assistant should be paid. Some people are cheap and don’t understand the value a good assistant can bring to your gameday.

One photographer I know who has a studio and does mostly portraiture work, she hires mostly teenagers from the community. She pays them the same as if they worked at the local grocery store. She doesn’t want to pay them more because they lack experience. I feel this is a different situation, this is more of an employee than it is an assistant. And yes, teenagers are very lacking in experience and life skills. Not to rag on teenagers and I know there are good ones and bad ones, however most American teenagers lack life skills that it takes to interact with people of all ages on a personal level. Life skills come with time and experience of dealing with people. Even when I myself was 20 years old I did not have the life skills of dealing with people as I do today.

I really feel there is a distinct difference between an assistant and a general employee or at least in my interpretation of “assistant.” And as stated earlier finding the right person is no easy task. But for me it just kind of happened, I found Amy many years ago when I placed an add on Craigslist looking for general weekend catering help. I found several people that fit the bill for what I needed. Amy however did not fit the bill, she was extremely overqualified, holding a masters degree among others and being an administrator at a university just didn’t jive with doing weekend catering work. She told me she just wanted to stay busy and make some extra money. So, I gave her a chance and she is still with me to this day. As my photography business increased and I needed and assistant to shoot a wedding I asked her if she would like to do it and it was all good.

Tiny came to by way of a friend of my wife. My wife is a Thai lady and she has many Thai lady friends living here in the USA. A few of her friend have worked with us over the years and they were all amazingly motivated people. Tiny who is Thai, moved to the USA as a young boy when his mother married and American man. I met him when he was in his mid-20s, he was looking for extra work on weekends so we brought him on board so to speak. Now he is part of the main fabric of our catering business. One day I needed an assistant to help me with a rather large project shoot. I asked Tiny if he would like to make some money for the day helping to setup lights and tear them down. He jumped at the chance. Little did he know he had to carry all the gear to the third-floor studio with no elevator. And “yes” it was not easy and yes, I paid him good.

Like anything in life and we have all heard it over and over “you only get what you pay for,” however in the realm of good photography assistants you must first find them and that is the hardest part.

Tiny & Francis

The last job Tiny and I did together was covering an event. It was a private premiere showing for a yet unreleased reality TV show about a family who is in the Monster Truck business. They needed a photographer to cover the event and we had a lot of fun, plus I got to meet the producer and director and a lot of other interesting people. Yes, it was a fun time and we both made money.

Now as I draw to a close on this post, I must say I know a few wedding photographers who take a different route when it comes to finding assistants. Some will actually use other photographers. They will use the photographer as both a second shooter and as an assistant. I have actually done this, I have worked as a second shooter/assistant for weddings and really it is not a bad deal at all. I help you and you help me… just as long as we both don’t have jobs the same day. Yeah and just my luck I was on the losing end of that deal a few times and that is why I just use people who are not photographers.

Thanks so much for stopping by and reading.

 

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Dare to Be Different (Apparently when it comes to photography websites, we are supposed to follow a format)

Dare to Be Different

“Dare to be different” we have all heard this statement before. I think the first time I heard it was when I was about 13 years old and there was this weird kid at school. He moved in from another district and he dressed differently, talked differently and was just a little weird until you got to know him. His name was “Taz,” or at least that’s what he wanted to be called. He was a good student, never started trouble, but he would sure end it if it came to him. He was only in our school for about a month and then he left, it was that parents going through divorce thing.

I remember when people troubled him about the way he dressed, talked or music he listened to, he would always smile and say “dare to be different.” He even said it to a teacher once and I think that was the day it really stuck in my head. Of course, since then I have heard the saying many times, but I always remember where I first heard it.

In terms of photography I have heard it over and over to the point it is more or less a giant cliché and I jokingly loathe photography clichés. I loathe them because most often they are coming from a photographer who is trying to sound so prolific. There are thousands of YouTube videos with photographers boasting about photography lighting and say things like “I see light in f/ stops” or I love this one “its all about the light.” And then every so often the “dare to be different” comes flying out (audience gasping and bowing to the higher power of this photographer). Somehow a when a cliché is released it is supposed to be akin to a wizard releasing a ball of fire, he just conjured up out of thin air.

Now with all that said; If we are told as photographers “Dare to Be Different” and the word coming from some great photographer who is greater than us… Why the hell do they want you to have your website look like the next guys website? Apparently when it comes to photography websites, we are supposed to follow a format and this great format will bring you all the fames & fortunes you desire. However, this whole bag of hogwash comes with a discount code followed by “just follow the link below and head on over to” Squarespace or whatever the latest flavor of hosting is that month.

Of course, I am being a little cynical here, but I am also being serious. If an artistic field where “dare to be different” is the mantra and I really whole heartedly think we should try to be different to some degree or another, why should all the websites have this formula-based rule for appearance?

I designed my own website from scratch and I have no formal education in web design. I did however sit down and spend some time reading and watching videos about the do’s & don’ts of creating a website. I also looked at many other photographers websites. I took notes on the things I liked and the things I didn’t like. I decided “I can do this” and the biggest reason I can do this is because I like to create… and it would be cheaper than having someone else design it lol. But the feeling of creating it myself I think is what had me most excited.

I didn’t follow a lot of website building rules, and unlike the rules of photography; website design rules are always changing. However, the very first rule I did follow was, to ask myself “what do I want my website to do or say?” “What is the core purpose of this website?” After thinking about that for a while I decided that my website would be just a simple place for me to convey that “yes I am a photographer and here is what I do.” That is all I really need, although the powers to be say differently.

I think a lot of it is common sense, things like, use a good easy to read font, use colors that are easy on the eye and don’t clutter up the space with unnecessary graphics and other distractions. Put up content that really describes who you are and what you do. Most important is: all the content should be you and nobody else’s unless it was a collaborative project, definitely no stock photography. Also, you should most certainly have your own photo on the site as well as links to your favorite flavors of social media.

I say you should have a photo of yourself and I think this is really only for anyone who wants to be hired as a photographer. If your photography is strictly a hobby then a photo of you is optional. This was one of the things that bothered me when I was looking at photography websites and it still bothers me, that many so called “working photographers” have a website and they have no photo of themselves. You are a photographer and you don’t have a photo of yourself? I think anyone who is a working professional in a service or craft that deals with people up close and personal should always have a headshot or photo that represents them. This advice goes for medical professionals, insurance agents, attorneys and yes, photographers.

Creating my website was a lot of fun because I turned it into a personal photography project. I have posted here in the past that I truly believe in the power of personal unpaid projects. As long as you treat them as if they are a real paying job. Put importance on the project and a deadline. After the layout for the site was completed, I now had to decide on content. Again, all I wanted this website to do was let people know who I am and what I do. But I also wanted decent content. I had some decent content, but I wanted more. So that then became an ongoing never-ending project in and of itself, to come up with new and fresh content.

This image of Nicole was my flagship photo when my site first loaded. I love this image, it is a little over processed, however that is the look I was going for. I started the website in 2014 and kept this image up for almost two years. Then came the day I realized that I cannot keep the photo up forever and I need to create something new. So now I try to create something new every six months or so.

My opening home page has a gallery of about 12-14 of my most favorite images that I feel is a great representation of what I do. For the most part I mostly photograph people and I do a fair amount of compositing in Photoshop, so the opening gallery is just that, people and only people. I also have it set so you can advance to the next photo by using left & right arrow keys and it will default to a slideshow on its own.

Recklesspixel

I have a direct link to my Instagram that is very visible in the upper right of the slideshow and no other social media icons on the home page. I want people to know IG is where I like to hangout. But I do have one whole page of the website dedicated to my all my social media accounts and it is simply titled “Social.”

My “about me” page was very hard to write because I didn’t want it to come off too corny, so I had a good friend write the page and I really feel this was the best way to go for me. Maybe not for everybody, but for me it works. I have a wonderful photo of my wife and I and I am holding my camera. The photo was actually shot by a friend using her mobile phone and I really loved the photo, it works.

I try to keep the site clean and to the point, if you land on the home page and you’re ready to advance, from left to right at the top of the page is “Portfolio.” This page is simple with a gallery that has 42 of my nicest images and just below is a small gallery of the most recent wedding I shot. I update the wedding gallery with every wedding I shoot. I do not advertise to shoot weddings; however, I do shoot three to four wedding every year. Not too bad for somebody who doesn’t advertise to photograph weddings lol.

Next is the “About” page, then the “Contact” page. I feel this would be the most logical order if someone came to my page to hire me or at least contact me.

I land on the home page and I see the gallery of images, it has captured my interest so I will now click on the portfolio. I scroll through the portfolio page and now I think it would be time to see who this guy is and I click on the about page. There is a photo of the photographer and there is a very short statement in my own words. Then there is a more detailed statement about me, but not too long. If I were a viewer of my site and I was still interested then next logical move would be the “contact” page and if I was just browsing and wanted to poke around, well, then I have all the other stuff like a link to this blog, another gallery page, video page ect…

I do have a page dedicated to my copyright policy, here again is something nobody ever really talks about. Posting your copyright policy in not required as far as I know, but it sure can’t hurt. I think it would be extremely helpful if your images are ripped of and you end up in court to recover damages that are certainly due to you. After all I have all my copyright data embedded in the meta data of my images. In that meta data there is a web address that leads to my website.

When I look at my website, I truly feel it has everything I need to convey about what it is I do. I test this every so often by asking a friend or an acquaintance to go to my site and see if it does what it is supposed to do. Most often I get great feedback and sometimes I get constructive criticism and that is ok too.

I think the most people who come to my site are people who have received my business card. I know when I receive a business card from someone I want to go to there website and see what they do. I find this very interesting because I come from a time before the internet. In the old days someone gave you a business card and all you could do was save it and call them later. However today I feel as a photographer your website should directly relate to your business card. I even use the flagship image of the home page on the back of my business cards. In this day of “everybody is a photographer” I want people to know I am a serious photographer and I have put thought into what I do and how I am perceived.

While your website is a place to find out who you are and what you do, it is also an important piece of the many pieces that make up your brand and for this reason you do want to put some thought into the overall message your website is saying to the viewer. Your website is your digital ambassador of sorts and as we know first impressions are lasting ones. Another thing you need to be mindful of is “how fast your website loads” because nobody like to type in a web address and then have to sit and wait for the site to load.

I keep a constant check of my website, but in a subtle way. I use Chrome for my browser and I have my website set to be one of the opening tabs when my browser first opens. Once I see it, I know everything is good and I move on. Also, every few months or so I will run through the site to make sure all pages and images are loading properly and I will check that there are no broken links.

I use a Google Voice number so I never worry about having my phone number on the web. I have used this number for years and have never had a problem.

So, in closing; again, I would like to “dare to be different” make your site yourself. Think about it, but don’t overthink it. Keep it simple and to the point.

That Teal & Orange Thingy Has To Go (just whack them upside the head and say “don’t ever do that again.”)

International Model Zhan. Location Javitz Center NYC Very lite Teal & Orange LUT applied.

That Teal Orange Thing

Happy New Year to everybody and with a new year we hope for new and better things in our lives. We wish everybody from family, friends and colleges joy and happiness in the new year. We set goals and overall it is a time to “throw away the old and bring in the new.”

Now there are many things I would love to throw away from 2K18 and wish to see very little of in 2K19. As for photography; That putrid “teal orange” bullshit has got to go. Most of you know what I’m talking about and I would guess there are others who have no idea what I’m talking about, so I’ll elaborate.

Beit a filter or a LUT the teal to orange look has inundated the photography world, particularly on social media. It is akin to the horrible “HDR look” that took place several years back and still happens to day when a new photographer very first discovers HDR. He/she will jump into Photoshop and create the horrid mess on an image with halos and virtually no shadows and think they “really have something here” and then they run off and post it on Flickr and elsewhere.

However, hopefully this photographer has a good enough friend who will pick up a big stick (not just any stick, but a big solid stick) and just whack them upside the head and say “don’t ever do that again.” Kind of like teaching your dog not to poop on the kitchen floor. Now to be honest I would never hit a dog in the head with a stick, but I would whack a photographer who creates bad HDR. Why? Because it is that bad.

Same goes for this teal orange thing. So where did the teal orange thing come from? Legend has it there was this German photographer named Berger Meister, Meister Berger that hated other photographers so much that he… Ok so of course I’m pulling your leg there but here is my opinion on where the teal orange tide came from.

Instagram or IG for short has filters for your photos. I think by now everybody knows what IG is and how it works. So, some IG filters are more popular than others and people love applying the filters because it gives them a quick way to edit a photo into something a little more interesting than the color profile their phone assigned to the photo as it was shot. Essentially everybody wants to be a better photographer but without doing a lot of work. I don’t say that as a bad thing really, its just human nature. Who doesn’t want to have a beautiful physically fit body without going to the gym?

So, IG is only part of the equation, there is more to the teal orange tide than just IG. Ig is in my opinion what spawned the everyday photographer the ability and desire to apply filters and again this is not in and of its self a bad thing.

I feel LUTs are maybe a bigger culprit than IG. LUT is short for Color Look Up Table. I’m not going to go into all the details of LUTs because what a LUT actually is and how it “really” works is a topic as about as vast as the Iceberg that the Titanic hit. But here is the short answer; LUTs are generally used to color grade video because they have the power to change one color to another and a LUT can just overall enhance a scene by conveying a look and feel to the viewer that enhances the movie, video or photo. In a nut shell it helps to tell the story the creator wanted to tell.

At this time more and more creators are shooting video on cameras that record in logarithmic format or “log” for short. Log format is a very flat looking style that is void of color saturation however this in-turn allows the camera to capture video in a higher dynamic range, essentially meaning more editable information in the shadows & highlights.

Log format is not new, it was reserved for very high-end expensive cameras, but now it is readily available on many prosumer cameras. Many vloggers shoot in log format everyday and using a LUT or more than one LUT allows the editor to put color back in to the video footage I a creative way.

At this point you may be asking “how does this log video thingy relate to photography?” It relates because of a few reasons, but mostly because most DSLR cameras are hybrids that capture both video and still images. I honestly don’t know who started using LUTs on digital images, but I first heard about them from a British photographer when he did a tutorial about them on his YouTube channel. He showed how you could stack them and blend them using Adobe Photoshop (he did not use teal & orange). I found this very interesting and I’m always exploring new editing techniques for my photography. Around this same time a realized LUTs were used in Adobe Premiere Pro and I also stared using them to edit my video. I downloaded free LUTs from the internet and they were horrible, they did not enhance my images at all, in-fact were not usable at all. The reason for this problem was because the LUTs I downloaded were for log format and my images and video were shot in standard format using whatever camera profile that was in my camera.

Now with all that said I find that there are many photographers that us LUTs to an extreme much the same way that photographers over used HDR editing a few years back. So, for whatever reason the “teal & orange” look seems to be the hot flavor that has risen above the rest, with the teal color (or some variation thereof) being more common than the orange. I will admit it looks good on some images and I have used it myself… on some images. But I have seen some photographer using it on every single image they post to their IG or other social media. I mean like every single image on the IG for the past two years, almost as if that is their signature thing or their style. If this is your style; what happens next year when this fad passes? What happens to your style when the teal & orange tide recedes and your left holding the bag (so to speak).

Maybe I’m just ranting, however I really do feel it is a look that is very over used. I will be the first to admit I’m not a color grading expert but do as much as I can to learn more about it and about using LUTs.

So, let’s hope 2019 is the year the teal & orange look recedes.

Happy 2019!

Entering The Drone World. (Like many people I really wanted to embrace this new technology…)

Mavic Pro with Polarpro ND filter.

I purchased my first video/photography drone in May of 2017. The Mavic Pro was all the rage when it was first released in late 2016. I held off my purchase until spring of 2017 because I was very leery of a few things. I was very curious about the fact that it was taking a long time for DJI to come up to speed on the manufacturing and shipping of the Mavic Pro. Like many people I really wanted to embrace this new technology so I spent countless hours watching videos, reading blogs and checking out some spectacular video & photos that would appear every minute on social media. So at some point I said “let’s just do it” and I ordered the Mavic Pro and my journey began. And quite the journey it has become. I have had and continue to have so much fun, that I purchased the Mavic Pro 2 on the day it was released; ironically it was also my birthday.

But not all thing are so great about DJI drones and this post is going to be a multi part series of posts  in which I will cover the fun and the not so fun things that have happened with me and my little propeller friends. I’m going to try to stick closely to my own personal experiences and not touch so much on hear-say and rumored info.

So let me get started by saying that today many companies have found a very unique and cheap way of advertising the release of a new product. Being 54 years old at the time of this writing I have seen this change of advertising take place, whereas younger people think it has always been this way.

So let’s mock up an example; I manufacture drones and I want to get the word out. In the old school way I had to spend quite a hefty budget on TV commercials and magazine advertising, not to mention all the other forms of advertising such as billboards and giveaways ect… However today we have the “YouTube stars” or vloggers as they are called (at least for this week). The vlogger makes money from the advertisements that are placed on his videos. The more subscribers his channel has the more people, who watch, the more money our happy little vlogger makes. So I (the drone maker) send a free drone to the vlogger for him to review. The vlogger is so happy because he is one of the few to receive this product before it has come to market. This in turn creates a buzz amongst his subscribers and he’ll gain new subscribers. So he fly’s the drone and reviews it. Now here is where the magic happens… The vlogger will never trash the drone for fear of never receiving another free drone. If there is something about the drone that is just plain down right fucked up, our vlogger will more or less just say things like “I hope they change this before it goes to market” or some other smoke screen verbiage that just trails off into “it’s not so bad.” I have also seen super vloggers who just don’t even mention the worst thing about the product. So in the end it comes down to “hype” and let’s face it “hype” works. Hey if I stood in the street and hyped up eating dog shit on a cracker and was able to keep a straight face because I was making a boat load of money doing it, people would start lining up and buying dog shit on a cracker. And then of course they would bite into it and say “hey wait a minute, this tastes like dog shit on a cracker.” Okay, so then I say (with lots of hype and a smile) “you’re not doing it right, you have to buy this overpriced cheese to cover up the shitty taste.” … and yes then all the sheeples line up to buy the overpriced cheese. And so the saga continues.

Yes sadly this is how I felt when I first purchased the Mavic Pro. I unboxed the drone and I must say that the actual quality of the aircraft it’s self was and remains to this day a stellar piece of equipment. DJI (the drone manufacture) had the aircraft part down to a precision and amazing design. However the camera fell two miles short of the runway from what all the vloggers were saying about it. All the vlogger were screaming in orgasmic tones that this camera on the Mavic Pro was…  omg it’s like… you know it’s just… When in reality it was a cell phone camera on a drone. Just imagine the drone is a fine tuned Formula 1 race car and the camera is the driver, only the driver is the old guy that was your school bus driver. Yeah that’s pretty much it right there.

So much hype was put on how great the aircraft fly’s and how awesome your video will look. Yeah your video will look awesome after you spend weeks trying to figure out the settings for sharpness, contrast and saturation. And your video will look awesome after you spend around a $100 of ND filters. And your video will look awesome after you edit it in Adobe Premiere Pro CC (or comparable software). You have Premiere Pro? Right! Everybody has a subscription to Premiere Pro and everybody learned to edit cinematic grade 4K video in 3rd grade. Oh yeah… and you do have 4K monitor so your video doesn’t scitch along like it has turrets.

Let us not forget the 2 hours spent updating firmware the moment you take the drone out of the box. Even better yet… I open the box to find connection cords for the controller for every phone but the phone I own. At the time I owned a current and up to date android phone. However I had to wait two days for a cord to come from Amazon before I could fly my Mavic. Now let’s just think about that for a moment. I just purchased a $1300 drone (extra batteries, chargers ect…) and there are cords to connect the controller to various phones, but not my phone. A quick trip to the online message boards and I find that I am not alone. So this little incident was another strong clue that while DJI can design and build a stellar aircraft the company strongly lacks common sense in several other areas. And this seems to be a running theme that today’s Millennials just seem to think is the norm with a huge tech companies and it is ok to just bend over and grab your ankles. Apple which is most often thought of as very innovative is very innovative… at bending you over when it comes to buying   peripherals. Best of all their customers love it. Actually they do bitch about it, but they rub their sphincter and say “it’ll be ok because I own an Apple.” So get ready to feel a little hurt from DJI.

Ok, so cord issue solved and I’m up and flying for a few weeks and getting used to the drone. But the video was just horrible; blurry out of focus or when it was in focus it just wasn’t crisp. So here we go back to YouTube to spend countless hours listening to vloggers who are not experts at all. One vlogger says this and another says that. Then there are the DJI tutorials that were not really that helpful for my problem. Now let’s just make it more interesting, let’s change the DJI GO4 app every two weeks or so. Color profiles that were there last week are no longer available unless you uninstall the app and roll back to an older version. Then DJI releases and update that will not let you roll back once you’ve accepted the new update.

All I want to do is fly the drone and shoot video and photos. I am a photographer and I can reach in my camera bag and grab my new camera or my 10-year-old camera and start capturing images or video with no problems at all, just a memory card and a battery and I’m good to go.

I purchased the drone with the thoughts and intentions of having what I really thought would be a good quality flying camera that (from all the hype) was something you could easily carry and put up and take down with not too much of a problem at all. Instead I have this wonderfully engineered aircraft that needs firmware updates, app updates and the camera is nothing more than a flying cell phone camera with a fixed aperture. What a letdown!

So now you are probably asking “where does the fun part come in to the picture” (pardon the pun).  The fun in flying came right away because the aircraft is amazing. The fun in video started after I purchased a set of ND filters and finally figured out the proper camera settings, along with the use of LUTs for grading the video shot in D-Log & D-cinelike. But that camera fun faded quickly when I started to see the video was still falling apart due to the capturing bit rates and blah blah blah. Just remember “flying cell phone camera.”

At this point (about 4 months into owning the Mavic Pro) I decided “let’s just keep flying and shooting. Get good at maneuvering and capturing and practice good work flow habits so when the Mavic 2 come along I can hit the ground running.” I know that sounds a bit idiotic, but it is true.

Let’s run through a breakdown of things the average drone buyer may not know about video. Ok, so there is video and then there is cinematic video and there is a very big difference between the two. Most all of the vloggers I seen promoting the Mavic Pro were promoting the creating of cinematic video. Some would actually walk the viewer through the process while others did not. I, being a photographer and shooting a fair amount of video already knew about camera settings, ND filters and editing. However I have met (in person & online) many Mavic owners who did not really understand the “cinematic” process and they assumed the video (mostly coloring) came straight out of camera.

I have talked with many first time drone owners who did not understand firmware and constant updating.

Then there is the big mystery of “laws, rules & regulation.” This topic is baffling to many because it keeps changing, although we’re getting closer to a standardized regulation, it has not happened yet as of this writing. From the day I first heard of consumer drones I knew it would be a rocky road until the government is satisfied with the amount of money the government can make from it. Sure I will be the first to agree we need laws, rules & regulations to keep you and I and our country safe. But that will come with a price tag… to be paid to Uncle Sam.

So that about wraps up this post, but I will continue with other topics such as the problem with internet message boards and where to seek advice or help with your drone. I will also cover my opinion and experiences with the Mavic Pro 2. Also moving a little off the drone topic I will talk about my experiences with other DJI product and the horrendous misleading advertising DJI has performed directly. Yes DJI want you money bad enough they’ll promise you the moon and then some.

Drone laws and my experiences with the place I have flown my drones.

Thanks so much for reading.

Can you find a flower on Instagram? (Coco Rocha’s name Zhan’s face lit up like a Christmas tree… You just had to be there to see it and feel the energy from it.)

Can you find a flower on Instagram?

I have had the social media app Instagram on my phone since 2009. I have blogged in the past how I was turned onto IG by a chat/photography friend I had in China. Her name was Grace. We met on Skype and we wanted a way to chat with our phones and I must add that in 2009 there was no Skype app for phones. China doesn’t allow Facebook, so IG was perfect for sharing a photo and sending comments. Over the years I have used IG to grow my photography business and at the same time build a network of friends and acquaintances. While many people open IG and just hit hearts and leave emoji’s in place of comments… and I have to admit I’m guilty of that too, or at least to a certain extent. I do however open IG and actually sit and taken in some of the content that really resonates with me.

 

For me IG is about photography, it is not about trying to find a date or sex or love or anything like that. I have to say that now because there many people on any of the various social media platforms who are there to scam money or who are looking any number elicit forms of entertainment. So yeah… for me it is about my passion of photography which also happens to be a business.

So back to my question “can you find a flower on IG?” And I have to say the answer is “yes.”

Sometimes I will sit and troll through hashtags just to see what is out there. Or I may just look at profiles of random people or lifestyles… Let’s just say for example “surfers,” I will look at profiles, look at the locations and most of all look at the photos they are posting. Are they phone shots, Go-pro shots, or are they professional shots. These are all just few of the things that I will look at. Having never surfed I know nothing of that lifestyle, but IG gives me some insight into “what surfers are about today.”And if I like a certain topic I may look at it more than just one time, I may spend a few days looking.

So in one of the IG rabbit holes I ran down about a year ago I came across a female model who I thought was interesting enough to follow. She is Asian and looked most likely Chinese and I don’t know what or why, but she just stood out to me. I would see her post content from shoots she would do with various photographers and she always gave off an authentic vibe, as if she was really into it.

I say “really into it” because sadly as a photographer I get hit on all the time from people who say they want to “collaborate” or “create” and it turns out they are just looking for IG content that is professionally shot and edited and of course they want this content for free.

Anyway moving on… So this model was located in Nova Scotia and I thought to myself “if I’m ever in Nova Scotia I will look her up and see if she would shoot with me.” However the chances that I, a photographer from West Jersey ending up in Nova Scotia would be very slim… But hey, never say never.

One day I see that this Asian girl (name to come later) posted a plane ticket to Newark New Jersey and I knew this most likely meant she was coming to NYC. So I jumped at the chance to ask her if she would like to shoot with me and create some nice photos. Hey, it never hurts to ask and I have been shot down more times than Zeros over the Pacific. To my surprise she gladly said “yes.” Although this was the answer I wanted to hear, now I had to put together a plan lol.

Turns out she was going to school in Nova Scotia and came to NYC on student exchange to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology, however she is from China and her name is Zhan (Chan).

After a few weeks of settling in and getting acclimated to NYC we planned a shoot. We conversed back & forth via IG messenger (not my favorite form of messaging). I did what I always do and chose a location and then researched the hell out of it to make sure it would be a good place to shoot. I chose the Javitz Convention Center in Midtown Manhattan. I was limited because of… well let’s just look at the logistics of the shoot.

She in in NYC going to Fashion Institute of Technology and having limited resources as most students do, she could not travel very far, so I had to go to her. I had visited the Javitz Center many times, mostly photography seminars. I had often thought “how nice it would be to have a model right here and shoot.” So I need to plan out how I would get there and how she would get there and then after all the planning I need to create the dreaded “plan B.” Not to mention wardrobe makeup and all that jazz. So “yes” while I need to make a plan I also know I should not get my hopes up too high because the failure rate of TFP (time for print) models showing not showing up for that first shoot with a new photographer is very high. For me it runs about 50%.

Amazingly enough it all came together, she brought two looks and I provided a third look with shoes & sunglasses for one of her looks. She did her own makeup and hair and we were good to go. I parked on the Jersey side and took the ferry across to NYC and I also brought an assistant to carry and watch over my gear bags. I sent a ride to pick up Zhan and her friend and it was as easy as that. We all met inside the nice cool Javitz Center and talked for all of about 5 minutes and out the door we went.

My biggest fear was that security would chase us away; because we were literally shooting by the taxi line and then Zhan was standing up on top of the cement walls… she would go anywhere I asked her too. I might add plan B was that if we were told to leave we would all just grab an Uber to somewhere like Union Square and just shoot in the park with all the people. However plan B was never needed and we shot inside an outside at the Javitz Center with no problems at all. Well almost no problems…

As I first started to shoot the sun was on a high angle with not a cloud in the sky. I had checked and calculated the sun angle days prior to the shoot so I knew exactly where it would be and I was hoping for a cloudy day. However there was not a cloud to be seen all morning. I fired my first shot at 11:51am and I was really fighting hard to keep her face out of the sun and get a good background at the same time. And then within a few minutes the clouds arrived. I saw her face turned from harsh to even light and I looked up that sky to see large clusters of clouds rolling in over the city. What a relief! So the sun was really the only problem we encountered and even that turned out to be minor.

We moved around a bit to change up lighting and background and we found ourselves down on the lower level but still outside. The only people down there were cigarette smokers looking at their phones and relaxing. We ran through the three different looks that we had planned and while shooting the last look Zhan started to “go flat” as I call it. She just didn’t have the posing anymore and I could see on her face she had enough. So I just said “we’re done, you’re looking flat and we’re not going to push it any further.” She understood and agreed and this really is something I would like to point out.

I learned a long time ago that when the model is “flat” your shoot is done. And in all fairness as per our planning we said in the beginning we would shoot three looks in two hours and I actually fired the very first test shot standing inside the Javitz Center at 11:45am and the very last shot at 1:39pm. Of course there was some time spent with wardrobe changes, me sending my assistant for cold water and Zhan and I talking and discussing shots. In the end it was all good and we had a bounty of beautiful images to edit.

Although Zhan and I had agreed a TFP shoot. I still provided the Lyft service for her to & from the shoot and gave her enough to buy Sushi for her and her assistant’s lunch.

Yes I did find this wonderful Asian flower of a model on Instagram and I look forward to shooting with again soon. She is the first model I armature model I have come across in a while knew who Coco Rocha is. I know that sounds crazy, but that is the reality of my experience in meeting armature models. Some will say they’re “doing it for fun” and that is fine. Others will say they are “serious,” but cannot name a single relevant or current well known model. When I mentioned Coco Rocha’s name Zhan’s face lit up like a Christmas tree… and that reaction was so intense. You just had to be there to see it and feel the energy from it. And it was at that moment I knew this girl really into what she is doing.

Will Zhan become a professional model? In talking with her she said “jewelry design” is her passion. However she liked armature modeling because it helps build confidence. And I agree 100% on that.

When I asked where or how did she learned to pose? She claimed “mostly from looking other models and just trying emulating what they are doing.”

So yes she was a joy to work with and a true pleasure to meet in person.

Thank you Zhan Zhan.

Technical: The shot total came in at 680 and that includes the test shots, out of focus and misfires. I shot using a Canon 6D with EF70-200mm f/2.8L and I also had a few shots with the EF24-70mm f/2.8L. I jumped between manual and aperture priority, but mostly staying in aperture priority. Most times I shot at f/3.2 & f/3.5. There were no shots at f/2.8 because I wanted to make sure the face was well focused, even on those angular shots. I kept the ISO set to auto but most times it would fire at ISO 100 and in a few special shots I set to ISO 50. I used no reflectors other than using the sidewalk to reflect light back of her.

After shooting the Sandisk card was locked and I dumped everything to a wireless hard drive as a backup before I even left the city. I love this method because as soon as I arrive at my PC I can start editing while I am uploading a second backup to the cloud and that about covers the camera/technical.

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