MeWe & Me (Imagine if you picked up Time Magazine or an issue of Rolling Stone and all it had was photos with no descriptions or articles.)

1/30 sec at f/8 ISO-200 90mm

We have all captured an amazing or very interesting photo of something. Of course, photography like beauty is very subjective and your interesting photo might not appeal to everyone. For the most part what makes an interesting image capture is one that tells a story in some way form or fashion. Often that story has a very interesting backstory and that will be the topic of this post.

The backstory is always there and in today’s social media it is often overlooked and in fact kind of “not cool” to post. I myself am guilty as charged when it comes to what I post on my Instagram. Nearly everyone of my posts will have what I believe to be an interesting photo followed by a quote of some sort. The quote of course is in someway related to the context of the image. Why do I do this? I’m not really sure but, it just kind of became part of the norm for my IG. I do of course credit anyone associated with the photo such as models or makeup artist and then of course hashtags. Sadly, I rarely tell the backstory when posting to IG. It seemed when I first started to get followers most people would acknowledge the photo with a push of the heart and move on. The only actual comments would come from someone who was involved in the photo, that usually being the model.

It just seemed to me (and maybe I’m wrong) that at least for IG viewers it was more about zipping through their feed and mostly paying attention to the photos… if it is cool it gets a heart and if it doesn’t catch their eye, they just keep swiping up. I kind of get it, I mean today we are inundated with images, I myself being 56 years old look at more photos in one day than I could have ever imaged 20 years ago. When I think about it, it is actually mind numbing and after a while I just get bored swiping up on my IG feed. But I still love photography and I like looking at something interesting.

Often, I will force myself to “slow down” and look more closely at images. If it is a pointless selfie I just move on. However, pretty much anything other than a selfie I will take a moment to really look at the image and many times I think “what is the backstory” to this photo? I look in the description and most times find nothing. Sometimes the post will have a location tag and that offers a little information but I’m still left wondering.

Post to my blog: If I am writing a general blog post I always include at least one photo. after all my blog is about photography. However, the post may be about a general topic of let’s say for example traveling so I will post a very generic travel photo. But, when I do this, I will at least put the camera settings (shutter speed, F/ stop, ISO & focal length) in the photo description. It gives a tiny backstory to the photo. With that said; most of my blog posts are written about the photos and the post itself tell the story of what, when, where and the why about the photos attached to the post. Again, it is a photography blog and what would be the sense of just posting photos without talking about them? But that seems to be the norm with most social media… posting with no real context. Imagine if you picked up Time Magazine or an issue of Rolling Stone and all it had was photos with no descriptions or articles. So, for me seeing photos on social media often leaves me with more questions than answers lol.

New social media: I recently created a profile on MeWe.com and started checking out the various groups. I joined a photography group that was open to photographers of all levels from amateur to professional. So here again I find myself scrolling through photos (mostly amateur) and while some of the photos are interesting on their own because the photo tells a story, I find that other photos might be more interesting if there was some sort of a description or context.

1/80 sec at f/8 ISO 200 55mm

They say “a picture is worth 1000 words” so let’s look at this photo of this man holding a small boy. With no description we are left with… a man holding a boy. One could assume the boy is his child and we see palm leaves, a boat and two chairs in the background. It would be like a slow boat to China trying to find 1000 words from this photo.

1/250 sec at f/3.5 ISO 640 18mm

So, let me also include a photo of the same man walking along this building. This photo is a little more interesting because it has more objects in the photo and we see the whole body of the man. Certainly, with this photo we could come up with a little bit more of a story about this man. However, we are still miles away from knowing the true context of what the photo is really about. And now let me put a little backstory to the images and see if it makes them just a little more interesting.

The man is from Myanmar, he is the only permanent resident and a tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand. The boy is his son who was born on the island. His wife gave birth to the boy on the island with only the help of her husband. The boy has never played with other children and does not speak, although he can speak. In the first image I asked the man if he could pose with his son so I could take a nice photo of him. His wife didn’t want to be photographed. I returned to the island two years later and gave him a print of this photo. It was at this time I captured the second photo. The building in the second image is the house where the three of them live. The opposite side of the island has a few small seasonal resorts however, he resides as a caretaker for a private piece of land on the backside of the island. Maybe I’m jaded because I was there, I captured the photos and I met the man, his wife & son. But still, I think the photos are more interesting with a little bit of context and a backstory.

Back to MeWe: The photography group I joined has a 3 photos per day posting limit and I think that is very fair. As I scroll though the photos I will sometimes stop and ask questions about a photo and every time I will get a reply with info that puts the photo into a better perspective. Most people hare happy to tell you something about their photos but for some reason are reluctant to write at least a short description for the photo.

Conclusion: I get it… without dispute there are some photos that need no description. There are iconic photos (mostly journalistic) that that tell a story just by looking at the content of the image. This is often the talent of the great photographer and… speaking of great (iconic) photographers, look at Joe McNally’s Instagram. Every photo posted has a great description of what you are looking at. Whether it is a description of the lighting technique or a story about the person in the image the viewer comes away with a knowing of what they just looked at. So I will leave at that and say thanks for reading and have a great day.

The Autumn Witch (a different Halloween photo shoot)

The Autumn Witch 

Just the mere mention of the word Halloween will conjure up images of witches along with the rising of a full moon on a cold autumn night. Today we often think of the green faced witch with the pointed hat from the story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, most of us know that a true witch was something different. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth the image of a witch was depicted as an old wart ridden crone and yet again this could be somewhat misleading. Truth be told witches could have been young or old, rich or poor and ugly or as beautiful as can be. 

In most cases the label “witch” was something that was bestowed upon a female by the society that surrounded her, by the people whom she knew as members of her community, her church, friends and often her own family. It did not take much to acquire the label of being a witch. All you had to be was different, look different, talk different or be able to do something out of the norm such as cure a sickened person with some herbs & wild roots. Being different was truly the key thing that all witches had in common. Sometimes her difference was that she stood strong and she spoke up to be heard above the men. Going against the grain of society could often be a death sentence for a woman of these early times in history.  

While we have all heard the stories of witches being burned to death, many were hanged or died during the torture of an inquisitor. And then there were the few… There are a few incidents in history where accused witches merely perished from the sight never to be seen again. This only added to her guilt and the mystery of her magical powers, when in reality she had just slipped out of town under the cover of the nights darkness and cast herself to a life of solitaire among the forests and the fields.  

So, it is here we find our beautiful Autumn Witch wandering her new found queendom. A queendom she presides over not as a ruler but, as a care taker, for we know the true ruler of the forests & fields is the queen of all queens Mother Nature herself. However, the Autumn Witch will spend her time becoming one with the wildlife and the land of which she dwells. She will bathe in the pure water of the mountain streams and adorn her beauty with that which Mother Nature provides her. Once a witch and now a queen she wears her new found crown with peace, dignity and pride.  Peace and solitude preserve her beauty and allow her inner spirit to grow and glow beyond that of any woman bound by the chains of society’s oppression. Yes, she “is” truly different… with and unbreakable spirit, inner & outer beauty and a mind of her own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The name says it all… “A different Halloween photo shoot.” 2020 has certainly taken a toll on my photo shoot creativity. Due to restrictions from the virus crisis the budget for a creative photo shoot just did not exist. You can have all the creativity you want however, if there is no budget the creativity will just sit inside your mind and… well, that is about it, it will just sit there. It is kind of like being hungry and having no money for food.  

In January I had set many goals for my photography for 2020. One goal was to achieve an awesome Halloween photo shoot such as I did back in 2016 when I wanted to create a portrait of a clown. The idea was an evil clown walks into a studio to have a photographer create a portrait of him. The shoot had a budget that allowed for a paid model and SFX makeup artist. Without a budget there would have been no makeup and therefore no clown and no shoot. 

The virus crisis killed many people and that is truly the saddest thing about 2020. But there was a lot of collateral damage from the crisis with shutdowns and job loss. My photography business has been almost nothing, other than a few portrait jobs here and there. Certainly, no big jobs like weddings or events. 

As the year was passing by, I watched as many of my goals fall by the wayside and I did not think much about it. As Halloween was approaching, I suffered with the death of a 30-year-old family member who suffered from addiction and then my elderly mother was injured in a fall. Could 2020 be any worse of a year? Yes, actually it, could.  

I had actually told the model whom I been planning on shooting with that I was cancelling all future shoots until further notice. I felt I needed to take a step back and… Then it just hit me, the thought that I was letting it win. “It” being the year 2020 and all the horrible misfortune we have all had to deal with. I’m not a quitter, I have never quit anything. I have been beaten down, beaten up and left a bloody mess by many things in my life and all those beatings have been the result of not quitting.  

So only a few days after telling the model I was cancelling all future shoots, I contact her and contradict myself saying I want to do a shoot. (My whole life has been a contradiction lol.) It would be a Halloween shoot and like 2020 it will be not a normal Halloween shoot. Actually, I had no real idea because in January I had set a goal but had never came up with an idea because Covid hit and everything came to a grinding halt.  

So, I turn to my various places for inspiration. Places like magazines, (remember them) yes, I still subscribe to various magazines like Vanity Fair, Vogue, Cowgirl and more. I also spent hours looking at 500px.com and Pinterest as well Instagram. I think it was Instagram that I was looking at when I came to the realization that most all Halloween shoots involve makeup, lots of makeup. I found a little money for a budget but, not enough for makeup & wardrobe. So, let’s just go with wardrobe. As for a theme… I just sat there thinking “Halloween” and how many times I see girls dress up as cats & witches. Then It struck me that the typical “Halloween Witch” with the black dress and pointy hat is as far from what a true witch even looked like. And then I remembered years ago reading a book (can’t remember the name) about a girl in medieval times who was accused of being a witch. She never really did any real hocus pocus and her crime was that she was good looking and out spoken. The other women had deemed her an “odd character” because she drew the attention of men, sang to herself and when a child in the village she had been looking after became unexplainably ill… well you know how the story goes after that. She’s different so she must be a witch. Before they could round her up and put her on trial, she disappeared. Her disappearance only confirmed that she must be guilty and confirmed she was in fact a witch. In reality, she had slipped out of town in the middle of the night and lived as an outcast in the forest… and then the story continued on. 

So, there it is, that is my photo shoot idea. It will be a different kind of witch photo shoot because 2020 has been a different kind of year lol.  

As I was putting together all the ideas for the shoot wardrobe, location, shooing date ect… I thought about how today’s society is not much different than that of long ago. Being different always comes with a price tag. Being different comes with scrutiny, labels and judgments. But, being different is what make life exciting.  

Happy Halloween 2020 

 

The Day Our World Went Crazy (Somehow we all arrived here at this point in time in the year of 2020)

Everything is going to be ok; you are going to be ok. We are going through a troubling time with the current spread of the Corona Virus (Covid-19). There is a lot of misinformation and a lot people making misleading statements that is causing a lot of anxiety, both personal & public. I do not have all the answers but, I do have common sense. A lot of people have common sense however, anxiety and stress will blind and deaden your common sense. We all know common sense will take you a lot further in life than any highly educated scholar. I’m not knocking education but look at history’s evidence of “common sense.”

As we go back through the pages of man’s existence, we can attribute a lot of our accomplishments to common sense. Somehow we all arrived here at this point in time in the year of 2020 and it was not all due to high education.

When I was in my high school years I lived in a very rural part of the southern part of Virginia. I guess most would call it the “backwoods.” While living there I seen a lot of very uneducated people that my friends back in the Northeast would call “hillbillies.” Call them what you’d like but, what I found were people with a lot of common sense. Sure, they were by definition “uneducated” however they were far from stupid. “Uneducated” is just a label same as the term “hillbilly” is a label. Labels mean nothing about what a person can do or not do.

In times of a real predicament, I will often turn my mind back to where I have come across common sense people in my life. My mother, grandmother and other old sages I have met in my life.

So, in this troubling time just stop and relax, sit and think about where you are and who you are. If you have taken the time to read this far most likely you have a little (hopefully a lot) of common sense.

Look at facts.

If you are a healthy person you will be just fine. Sure, you may get sick but, you will self-resolve as you have many other times in your life that you were sick. This is a fact not an opinion.

Social distancing; certainly not a hard thing to do.

Might I add a little of my own advice; “Social Media” distancing.

I came home today and yeah, I did the “Facebook” thing. Looked at some funny memes, antagonized a few people. Then… I shut it off and I turned on some good music. I have spent the whole evening listening to music and doing little things I like to do in my private time. I like editing video and photos but, for you, you have something that you like to do, everybody has something they like to do. Something that is easy and takes your mind off of the rest of the world.

After editing a video to send to my mother, I then contacted a friend on the other side of the world via email just to say “hi” and tell them I am thinking about them.

Then I though about finishing this blog post. Not really know what I was going to write… I though about how relaxed I feel after such a hectic day. I thought about how relaxing it was to just shut off the rhetoric of the news media, social media and all other forms of BS.

Now as I finish this blog post I am already thinking about my plan for tomorrow. News & weather in the morning for about 15 minutes and again in the evening just to stay current. Social media?… Maybe the same about 20 minutes twice a day and I have had my fill.

Thank you for taking the time to read and most of all be safe, stay healthy and use your power to help the vulnerable stay healthy. Look after your elders.

 

Everything will be fine.


							

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is why copyright infringement is a serious offense.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

They Have All Become Cartoons (Yes ladies you can take offense to what I am saying and that is ok)

Un-filtered and unedited image of Bree Arkham

Un-filtered and unedited image of Bree Arkham. Asked to submit a test shot, she did so while driving to work. Now this is a good selfie.

Sadly enough they have all become akin to a cartoon character. If you’re a male you may have noticed over the past year or so and even more so of recent months that many female faces on social media have become very cartoon like. It doesn’t matter young or old, but the need to make themselves look… prettier? I guess? Either way it has led them to look like something out of an animated cartoon.

Yes ladies you can take offense to what I am saying and that is ok, but seriously you really need to stand back and take a look at what you’re doing. I equate it to the botchery that people like Joan Rivers and Michael Jackson bestowed upon themselves. The only difference here is that it is not permanent and it is only being done to images. However we all still have to look at them. From my following many people both male and female on social media I have found the biggest culprits are the ladies who are not bad-looking at all. But still they take it to an extreme and blur their face almost beyond recognition.

Blurring the skin is nothing new with images. Photoshop blurring has been done for many years now. In fact when I starting learning how to retouch and edit human skin in Photoshop the first technique was to use a blur layer on skin. But I soon found it was way too easy to overdo it and it looked very fake. Today’s retouching uses a technique called “frequency separation” and it too (in my opinion) looks very fake when overused as it often is.

The problem with the blur techniques that all the girls are using today is that the filter is applied “globally” to the image. This means it is applied to the whole images like a smear. When a retoucher uses the technique in Photoshop we do not apply it to eyes, nostril openings, lips, teeth, jewelry, hair ect… It is only used on the skin. Many of the images I see every day are actually laughable. It is like when a 14-year-old girl first uses makeup and she goes totally overboard until somebody (hopefully) steps in and shows her otherwise. But until then the female population will continue to look like smeared clowns. Seriously Miss, when did you ever see a real live person with skin that looked like “porcelain”? It does not exist, period, end of story. So you’re making yourself look “unreal” many times the breast implants become the topic. Girls get boob implants and I get it, they want to gain self-confidence or maybe they are in the entertainment industry and that is par for the course. But creating a false image and publicizing it is downright strange if you ask me? (I know you didn’t ask me lol)  When the girl with fake boobs walks in the room she looks the same as she did in a photo. But blurring a photo to make yourself not visible is weird. …I just don’t get it.

GUYS BEWARE: If you are hooking up with babes online and you have never met her in person. Is she luring you in with a selfie that has been blurred? The first meeting could be a doozy when you first see each other and she really “looks worse than a rough strip of Texas highway in the hot summer sun.”

I have posted many times in the past on the topic of retouching and editing skin and blemishes. I have a rule I go by and it takes two different paths. First I decide “is it a real photo I am looking for in the end result”, or am I going for an illustration. If it is a “real” image that I want to be my end point, the rule is as follows; I will remove what should have never been there. Examples are zits, pimples, and other skin flaws. If you weren’t born with it and it wasn’t always there then why have it in the photo. Skin can be softened as can crow’s feet and lines. But once you start removing lines you have crossed over to “fake” and that is not good (in my opinion). Moles and birthmarks are optional and I’ll ask the client or model if he/she is bothered by them and if so I remove them. After all moles & birthmarks can be covered by makeup, so therefore I say they qualify to be removed. Lines can be softened by makeup and I can do the same in PS. The big rule for skin is; Skin has texture, even with makeup applied skin still has a texture or the makeup has some sort of texture. If you slightly blur you will soften the texture. If you use the new professional techniques of “frequency separation” you are simply putting in “fake” texture. If done correctly Frequency Separation looks amazing, done wrong it looks just as fake as blurring.

If the end image is going to be an illustration I will take a different route. There are no limits because it is art, so “yes” I may make her skin like porcelain and that is ok because the image is not expected to be real.

I do understand that everybody wants to look their best… I get that. But how are you looking your best if your face is blurred or smeared?

Let’s look at some example.

Too much blur on skin.

Too much blur on skin.

Model 1 Model 3

In these two examples of frequency separation you have to use you own opinion. Some people like and some don’t.

Model 2

 

Food for Thought, The Social Media Photo Ruse (“A photo is worth a thousand words” and it could also be worth many questions as well.)

Organic Pumpkin Doughnuts with pecans and maple glaze. 1/60 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 50mm

Organic Pumpkin Doughnuts with pecans and maple glaze. 1/60 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 50mm

Do you ever stop and look really close at photos on social media? Do you want people to look closer at your social media images? If you are seriously using social media to represent a brand or maybe your image is your brand, I ask you; are you putting thought into the quality of the images. I know that sounds a little corny but seriously take the time and look at some of the photos of the favorites you follow. Now I’m not talking about your BFF or Aunt Martha’s picnic photos but rather the images of some of the higher profile people you follow. From Instagram, Facebook to blogs they all have their place on the web and they all serve a purpose and they all need image content whether it be photos or video, you should be putting thought into this content and not just the quantity but also the quality. One great post speaks volumes of ten good posts.

We all know (or you should know) the one way to kill followers on Instagram (IG) is to fill your followers feed with multiple images posted just minutes apart. I have dropped fairly interesting people from IG just because they post ten photos of the same party or MX race or photo shoot ect… IG is where you need to be right now if you want to promote or if you are a good photographer, but just don’t get carried away. The girl who posts ten selfies a day is just as bad as the guy who posts one selfie a week but it is in front of the same mirror in his bathroom. Boring! Just as boring is an image of a beautiful meal you’re getting ready to indulge in and there is no description as to what it is or where it is. “A photo is worth a thousand words” and it could also be worth many questions as well. So help your viewers out and give a description and respond to comments. Responding to comments even just to say “thank you” makes your viewer/follower feel like you know they are there. Of course if you have hundreds of thousands of followers returning comments can be daunting to say the least, but with that many followers you now hold an extreme amount of leverage over social media and you should be using that leverage for advertising and there for have someone dedicated to returning comments.

Now back to the questions at hand; the reason I ask these questions is because there is a bit of a ruse going on with a lot of high-profile bloggers and IG-ers. I am a photographer myself so I follow certain people or entities to keep current with news, trends or maybe for inspiration. I follow the Victoria Secret models such as a Lily Aldridge, Elsa Hosk and Alessandra Amrbosio just to mention a few. Sure they are beautiful women and they are super models and they appear on Victoria Secret’s social media. However they have their own IG accounts and they post selfies and meals just like any other girl on social media… or do they? Now please know I am not bashing or in any way disrespecting these ladies in what I’m about to say. But how is it that Elsa can post what appears to be a selfie taken inside of a vehicle and it has near perfect lighting. Or nobody ever has a photo that has lens distortion and the big give away is “we all know models are just regular people” so how is it that their faces are always free of blemishes. I’m not saying they are fully retouched images in the sense they look flawless, but rather they look natural just coming out of a pool or hanging with friends and there are no blemishes… none. Nobody is that perfect and the ruse is in this case models looking as if they are in everyday situations. But it is not just limited to models I’m merely using them as an example. It could be an image of food but if it is representing you or your brand make it the best it can be before you post it.

So my whole point is that it is obvious somebody is controlling the content and most likely there is a photographer taking the images and making them appear as if they are selfies. Smart move when you think about it. I know many agents in Hollywood will never let a client’s images go to print or social media without being retouched. Only paparazzi shots go to print or posting without retouching. So if it is good for Hollywood why not for the advertisement industry and why not for you and your social media. If you are not a photographer I would suggest you find one or learn yourself. A decent point & shoot and Adobe Lightroom would suffice for editing most images.

So there is your food for thought. Take a few minutes to look at the social media of some high-profile companies or people and look at the images that are meant to look as if they were shot with a phone camera and see if you notice the obvious.

 

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.

 

Social Media Run Amuck (It is so easy to get lost in the “Likes” the “Hearts” the “Stars” they are all so meaningless.)

Chloe (Model)

Model Chloe at in a cell at Eastern States Penitentiary. 

There has to be an official name for them, but I don’t what it is. My name for them is not really all that nice. Simply put they are like little assholes of the social media world. With all of the worldly knowledge of a 14-year-old girl they want someone to notice them… “Please notice me or I will just vomit and die.” Ok… so what I am talking about are the little “dicks” that plague any form of social media that photographers use. Here is how it works; you the photographer has an image that you think is worth sharing with the rest of the world… or at least the people who are connected via the various forms of social media. I’m not referring to Facebook, if you are not a photographer you may not be familiar with the other social media formats such as 500px.com, Behance, and of course there is Flickr and several others. In fact some platforms come and go so quick you don’t hear about them until they’re gone. So you posted a photo, but instead of someone coming to view it and actually “like” it or critique your work they leave comments like “love your image, now check out my page” or “wow great work, now view mine” again it reminds me of young silly girls who are so vain and want everybody to look at them. Please, please look at me… even though I look just like a thousand other girls.

Let’s face it beauty is in the eye of the beholder and therefore so is the appreciation you have for someone’s image. You may like it and I may not or vice versa. Hitting a “Like” button for me is just equating that someone seen the image but as far as actually “liking” the image… When I like something, I mean truly like a photo I will comment on it, but I have never and will never ask the person to “go look at my work.” If they feel inclined to go look at my work then so-be-it, but to leave a comment like “oh this is great… now go look at me” is utterly childish.

For the most part I like to follow people who I feel are better than me as a photographer or Photoshop artist… after all I want to learn how to be better myself. So why would I not want to follow somebody like Lindsay Adler, Emily Soto, Joe McNally, Cliff Mautner… and so many more. And how dare I leave a comment on their work and ask that they go look at mine.

It is so easy to get lost in the “Likes” the “Hearts” the “Stars” they are all so meaningless. They only mean something when they reach to the hundreds of thousands and then it is a calculated game. When you’re a blogger like Charlie Barker with 610,000 Instagram followers not to mention Twitter, Tumblr and anywhere else she is, all these numbers mean she has a solid core of fans worldwide and that equates to $$$. Any company would be crazy to not want Charlie Barker to wear their shoes, dresses, makeup ect… But until you reach the stratosphere of social media fame you are just another blip on the radar and all the “please look at me” bullshit gets you nowhere. There are very few people or entities on any social media format that got there by accident. Despite what they (themselves) say or anybody else such as news media and the like, reaching a super status in any form of social media is a calculated road. These icons are not just posting selfies or an image of their morning cup of coffee. At a glance their images can look harmless, but most times they are meant to cut to the core of their audience… and they do.

So where do I stand? In this entire abyss that is social media it is easy to get lost or to lose focus. I use Facebook personally to connect with family and friends and I have a business page for my photography and catering businesses. I use Instagram as an outlet for my photography with very little personal posting. Strangely enough with a mere few hundred followers I get more “real” interaction from other photographers, models, and people in the entertainment business then I do on any other social media format. I will get direct messages from musicians, art directors, photographers, lower level movie directors and other bloggers. Most just honest comments on my work, so I have learned to do the same. If I really like someone’s work I will DM them and let them know or comment in a genuine way. I feel this is true networking and in some way builds a relationship. I also use WordPress for my blog platform as I am doing right now. I use Adobe’s Behance and it works great because I can link the Behance projects to my website. When a person goes to my website they can view content that is hosted on Behance and they never really knew they left my website.

I also use Pinterest as a means for research mostly. I will make mood boards and store ideas there. 500px is another great place for research if I want to shoot at a location that I have never been to before. I will search it on Google Earth and then 500px, more than likely someone has already been there and I can see their images and hopefully make mine better lol. 500px was horrible with the little assholes a few years ago. In fact it was so childish with the “please look at me” people that I had actually deleted all my images and had a blank profile. I decided to return a year or so later and the wave of assholes had subsided.

LinkedIn to me is utterly useless. We all know people fluff up their résumé to make themselves appear… well, something more than they really are. So LinkedIn is full crap, utterly full of crap. I have a LinkedIn account and I hardly ever go there. Although I do get the “Peter Green” wants to connect with you in my email all the time. I think everybody gets the Peter Green emails, just pure bullshit. But the best part about LinkedIn is to actually go and read profiles of people you know. They all say the same thing, “specializing in operations management, focusing on team work and project management, with a background in advanced understanding. Background in senior business management and accounts… blah blah blah. All the while you worked with this joker at one time and he/she was a frickin disheveled mess on a daily basis. LinkedIn is the opposite of all the other social media in the fact that you get to make yourself feel good. What a joke! Runner up to LinkedIn is About.Me, another “how good can I make myself look format.

Social media… here to stay but always changing.

Watermark Your Photos (“copyright” is the only “right” mentioned in the US Constitution)

 

 

As come the daffodils to remind us winter is going away.

As come the daffodils to remind us winter is going away.

Is a watermark worth it? Should I really or do I really need to put a watermark in my photos?

The answer is yes… and no. Ok that was confusing. Seriously there are times when it is prudent to put the mark in and there are times to leave it out. And recently while seeing an interview with Ed Greenberg famed intellectual property attorney and co-author of the book “The Copyright Zone,” Ed cites a recent case to come through the courts that upped the ante for the removal of a watermark to between $30K to $150K and that is some serious cha-ching for taking someone’s photo and say “cropping out their watermark.

The average person should be concerned about images being clipped off of social media sites like Facebook, Flickr and Twitter and so on. But do you really have to watermark everything? I say “no” of course not. But let’s take a closer look. So if you take a photo of your dinner and post it, then I say no. Or you take a photo of the new shoes you’d like to buy and you want to show someone on Facebook, again this is a no. But let’s say you have a beautiful shot of your granddaughter blowing out the candles on a birthday cake then this is a big yes. Oh and how about that beautiful shot of the girls, even though you shot it with your phone it was awesome and again we have a big yes. Placing a watermark is not going to keep somebody from stealing your photo, but it sure helps a lot. It is kind of like putting a lock on your bicycle. If the thief really wants it he will find a way to steal it, but it keeps 95% of the bad guys away. Also remember once you post to Facebook you don’t own the photo anymore, Mark Zuckerberg owns your photo and he isn’t going to do a thing to keep somebody from stealing it. But by putting a watermark in is a big deterrent.

Go a step further and put the © symbol in. It means very little and it hasn’t been required since Jimmy Carter was president, but by putting the © in it does give your attorney even more leverage if you were in court. You don’t have to be a famous photographer creating fine art prints to have your photo stolen. I always remember the case many years back about the girl who had her teen photo stolen and it found its way to being on printed abortion literature and was being used four states away at various medical facilities. It had been used for over five years and lo and behold a college friend seen it and notified her. So not all cases could be that extreme, but why take the chance. One thing you must know is; if you created it then it is yours and you have the right to decide who can use it and where it will be used. Yes you have that right and the US Constitution says so. As Ed Greenberg & Jack Resnicki point out “copyright” (exclusive Right ) is the only “right” mentioned in the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 states “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;.” All other “rights” or freedoms are part of the “Bill of Rights,” so I guess our fore fathers were really up on people protecting intellectual property. With that said remember you give up sole ownership when posting to social media. It is in the fine print when you agree to the terms of use. So while you do not own the photo, by putting a watermark in you do show that it was once yours.

Here is another example of when to watermark. Let’s say you have a business website and you have photos posted to the pages as almost all websites do. If you are using photos that you created then you should watermark them. Let’s just say Jack is a nice guy and has a landscaping business and part of what he does is building beautiful stone walls. Jack is very proud of what he does and wants to use photos of past work to get future work and he is so proud of his stone walls that he wants the photos to look the best they can. He hires a local photographer to take some images, edit them and Jack sends them over to the webmaster for his site. Now the photos are up and they look great, everybody can see examples of Jack’s work. But… ole slippery Sam is in the same business and lives 500 miles from Jack. Sam builds his own website and he has photos that he shot with his iPhone, but well… they don’t look as nice a Jack’s photos. So ole slippery Sam does the copy & paste and steals Jack’s photos… you know? The ones with no watermarks. Like I said Jack’s a nice guy, so nice he paid the photographer to take the photos and now he just gave them away for free to Sam. This scenario plays out every day all day long. Would Jack give his truck and tools away for free so another guy to go make money? Most likely not. In this example those photos are like “tools” and they are used to make money.

So how do I and where do I? Watermarking is very easy there are free apps you can download for Droids and iPhones that make simple text watermarks and some will also put in an image. If using an image you have the best results with a png file rather than a jpeg file. Png files are transparent and are perfect for watermarking. There are several ways to convert a jpeg image over to a png, but at the very basic you can open a photo in Microsoft Paint (every PC has it) and choose “save as” then choose png file under the box at the bottom where you type the file name, hit “save” and you’re done. I’ll post a tutorial later.

Now we have made our clever watermark so where do we place it? I know I’ll put it right in the center of the photo and this will certainly stop the photo thief. Yes it will and it will basically ruin the viewing pleasure of all who come to see your photo. I like to keep the watermark in the lower corners, although I have friends who like to put just simple text along the edge running top to bottom. Matter of fact I recently at the beginning of 2015 made my watermark a logo for my photography business. Prior I had used simple transparent text with a © and after a few years I was bored with that and made the logo I use today. It is not a matter of “will someone steal my photo” but rather “when will they steal my photo.” I have posted before about how I have had photos stolen and even had them re-edited and the bastard put his watermark in but credited me as the photographer. Did make sense, anyway I see his Instagram profile is gone now lol.

So you decide for yourself… Most people are lazy and will never do it.

Foot note: For an ultimate source of copyright info I recommend picking up a newly revised copy of The Copyright Zone by Ed Greenberg & Jack Reznicki or checkout their classes on www.kelbyone.com

A Must Read For New Models (And “yes” many days in life are like a minefield. )

_MG_5313untitled-Edit

This post is directed towards new models coming into the world of modeling and it is to give them an idea of what one might want to do and not do as they start off on that long journey. You did know it is a long journey, right? Ok, so as a model you are more than just a pretty face. In the beginning you are just a pretty face, but you need to take it to the next level. Many models are using modeling as a way to propel themselves to something higher, like acting or other aspects of the entertainment business. While I will agree there are some models out there of all ages that are “hobbyist” so to speak and they just like being in front of the camera and there is nothing wrong with that. It certainly is a fun way to start to see if you really like being in front of a camera.

But let’s face it, it doesn’t matter if you’re using modeling as a step up to something higher or you just want to go straight for professional modeling, you need to brand yourself. I am not going to go into branding in detail because it is a topic that should be looked at in detail and I am not an expert. I do know a lot about branding, however like I said I am not an expert. It all sound kind of scary and complicated and rightfully so, however if you break it all down it is not that complicated and if you want to succeed & survive in a cruel world it has to be done. The biggest piece of advice anyone could ever give you is “take business courses” and learn about business. I know you’re thinking how does this all relate to modeling. Ok, so as you grow you are going to make money, hopefully we can say you will make lots of money, so you need to be prepared for this chapter of your career before you come to it. You have to know this may be the most important decision you’ll ever make and like many things in life you’ll never fully understand it until you look at it in hindsight. It doesn’t matter if you are a model or a photographer or someone who wants to open a restaurant, you need to know how to make business decisions and all the other do’s & don’ts. You could have the best food recipes in the world and have the nicest restaurant in town but if you know nothing about how to run a business, you have a perfect plan for failure. As a model you may think that when you become well known and start working for bigger clients you’ll just hire and agent or a manager and this is a fine thing to do. But how do you know they are good at making business decision?  If you know nothing about what is and isn’t a good business decision and you hired a manager or an agent, they could be stealing your profit or worse yet, lead you down a bad business path. So I’ll say it one last time take some business courses, you’ll be so glad you did. Besides if you decide to make career changes it is a very valuable set of skills to have.

So moving on… You need to establish a web presence and I don’t just mean a Facebook or Instagram page. You need to learn about social media.

  • How it works and doesn’t work.
  • What content belongs on what social media?
  • Keep up with the times as social media is constantly changing.
  • Social media vs a website.

First and foremost if at all possible you need to secure the domain for your name. This means buying the web address that is your name. I’ll explain; my name is Richard Smith Jr and I also go by Richie Smith Jr. I own both of those dot com names. I don’t have them attached to a website, but I do own http://www.richardsmithjr.com & http://www.richiesmithjr.com. I have a very common name but I am proud to own those dot coms as it gives me the power to control the web presence of my actual name. For me it is somewhat important, but let’s look at somebody like Lily Aldridge. Come on you know who Lily Aldridge is right? She is a Victoria’s Secret Angel and a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue model. Now how would it look if she did not secure the dot com of her name and it fell into the wrong hands? So I think by this point you are starting to see why you need to secure the dot com of your name if you can.

Now social media is an ever changing thing. Do you remember Myspace? If you don’t remember or are too young to know, MySpace was huge before Facebook came along. Will Facebook always be here? If you answered “yes” just remember that’s what MySpace thought. Who knows maybe Facebook will last, but as of now a lot of the younger crowd has kind of split off of Facebook and went over to Instagram. Instagram is more of what the younger crowd is looking for, but there will always be the “new kid in town” and everybody will try it. I thought Twitter was worthless when I first seen it. Now I use it. I actually use several forms of social media, but I use each one a little differently. I have a personal Facebook for family & friends and then I have two business Facebook pages, one for my photography and another for my catering business. Twitter is great for news, Pinterest is where I create mood boards for photo shoots and Instagram is where I follow people whom I find interesting although I may not know them. IG is also where people find me, both photographers and models. They follow what I’m doing ask questions and interact, of course I do the same. So that is a brief overview of social media and there is a lol more to it, but most of all is to know what to post and where to post it. Don’t be rude on Instagram and post 20 selfies a day and fill up your follower’s feed, which is a great way to lose followers on IG & Facebook. If you want to post a selfie, make it one really cool selfie. Make it special, make it different and make it something people want to see. One interesting selfies is so much better than 20 selfies of you looking like a deer in the headlights.

A website is different than social media because it will always be there and you will always control it. It will be where anybody can go to see what you are about, what your business or career is. Maybe you sell products of services or in some way produce content for learning or entertaining purposes. Either way it is your website, your dot com and it is your little part of the internet.

I have worked with several models and I have met and talked with even more than I can count. I find so many young or maybe just new to modeling that have all this drive and willingness and most of all dreams to achieve, but they’re clueless about where they should be going. I mean clueless as to “they don’t even know that they don’t know anything.” And clueless is not always a bad thing, clueless people have no fear because they don’t even know they should have fear. And with fear being a big obstacle, not having it can be good… that is unless you’re walking through a minefield. And “yes” many days in life are like a minefield. So I guess the purpose of this post is to get new models to just stop and look and think, before heading to the minefield.