Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Black Mercedes

This week I faced the challenge of photographing a black Mercedes in the studio. As with all black cars, dealing with reflections was key to success.

It was worth the effort as I really enjoy photographing cars. From classic hotrods to awesome exotic cars, each presents their own challenge for the photographer. Finding the perfect angle to show off the curves of a fender, or just the right light to bring out details hidden in shadows are just a few of the problems I enjoy solving.

I’ve got another car coming in soon that will provide the opportunity to use some new techniques.

Orcatek Automotive and Motorcycle Photography - Phoenix, Arizona

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Your Modeling Portfolio

So you want a modeling portfolio to start your career. A model’s portfolio is her resume. It shows what she has done and is capable of doing. Before going out and getting your portfolio done, contact the agencies you want to work with and see what they prefer to see. Some don’t want anything more than very basic photos showing what you look like.

A portfolio should include at least the following: casual head shot, fully styled head shot (hair & make-up professionally done), a body shot (swimsuit is ideal, or lingerie), fashion shot, an action/lifestyle shot and even an editorial or catalogue shot. The key is not to put styles you don’t want to work from in your portfolio, ie don’t include several lingerie shots if you don’t want that type of work. Include at least one B&W shot as a lot of work is still done in B&W.

Over time you will replace old photos with newer ones. Best of all is you will get to add tear sheets from work you have done. Tear sheets get there name from pages being torn out of magazines showing a model’s work.

Your best two pictures show be the first and last in your book. If the first shot doesn’t catch their eye, then they may not go much further thru your book. And you want the last shot to be remembered so you close on a high note. Very often the first shot is the made-up headshot.

It is better to have a few great pictures than a lot of just average pictures. Standard book prints are 9x12 and contain a max of 20 photographs. It is better to have only 10 really great photographs, as quality is key. Yes, I’m repeating myself, but it is an important point to remember.

You need 2 good headshots. One should be the fully made-up shot mentioned before and the other with minimal make-up and retouching. Ideally your hair will be back on the second photograph as they really want to get a good look at your face as you are naturally.

You need a good mix of environments in your book. This means that you need some location work and some studio work. Don’t use two shots of the same outfit. Pick the best one and use it.

Beware of agencies that want you to pay them or their "special" photographer to get your portfolio made. If they won’t let you use your own photographer, run, run away fast. It is fine for them to have suggested photographers.

Modeling can be a fun and rewarding career that will require a lot of hard work and good decisions. Photographs are a major expense that you will be paying. Be sure to get what you need, when you need it.

Orcatek Photography - Phoenix, Arizona

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Photography - How to succeed part IV

This is the final part on being a success as a photographer. In past articles I talked about working with clients, providing them with what they want and equipment choices. This week I am going to discuss some more tools and training. I am going to assume you are working digitally.

The worst thing you will ever say as a photographer is “I will fix it in Photoshop.” I wish every time a photographer said this they would get a shocked by their camera – ZAP! Yes Photoshop is a great tool, but it should be used to enhance a good photograph. Removal of stray hairs or getting rid of blemishes are good uses for it.

You notice I said Photoshop. There are several other good programs that you can also use such as Gimp or Paintshop. The challenge with these programs is when the need comes to share your work or get training your options will be limited. What does come down to is the need for a good program to process your images.

The next question I get is, “what plug-ins do I need?” Plug-ins are add-ons to Photoshop that automate or add features. None are needed. You can achieve what you need to do in most cases without them. Some are nice to have as you have revenues and time becomes more valuable. If you must spend some money, I suggest looking at a sharpening tool and a skin softener. You can download trials from every good vendor. It is a matter of tasted as to which works best for you.

Learn to create or find actions to do your work. Actions are an automated series of steps that Photoshop will follow very quickly. I have about 4 that I use daily which I have created. They are typically 15 to 20 steps long. What would take me 15 minutes to do manually, the action does in a minute. For example I use an action to take a two page album spread and cut it in two to images, adjusting the image for the gutter (area where pages come together) so the spread looks good when the book is opened.

If you can’t write them, look on-line for them using your favorite search engine. One good site is atncentral.com - Lots of free actions. Even if you don’t use them, you can see how they are constructed and learn some things about Photoshop. Assign the ones you use to function keys to save time running them. You can even use these in batch processes to do a hundred images at once.

Get some training on Photoshop. Attend classes, read magazines or even on-line. Lots of good free videos are available on YouTube. Photoshop is very powerful and some basic training will go a long way.

The one tool you should get is a tablet, such as those by Wacom. They make a $80 small tablet that does everything a photographer needs – the Bamboo. It will save you huge amounts of time once get used to using it. Later you may wish to upgrade to a large one, but I have both and have found the small one is as good or possibly better for my photo work.

The other big time saver I cannot stress enough. Learn the keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop. I cannot stress enough how much time this will save you. It doesn’t take long. Here’s how to do it quickly. Each time you go to click on a tool or menu item. Look at the short cut and then use it instead of clicking. The items you use a lot you will learn in a very shot time.

Once again I’ve gotten long winded here. Feel free to drop me a line with questions. For those in the Phoenix area I do teach retouching with Photoshop.

Orcatek Photography - Phoenix, Arizona

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Photography - How to Succeed Part III

This is the third part on succeeding as a photographer. The question I am always getting is what equipment and tools should I buy. Canon or Nikon is coming out with a new whiz-bang gizmo, should I buy it? In short, probably not. I am not going to recommend brands, because as long as you stick to the major manufacturers it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference in the long run.

First off are cameras. The body you choose depends on what you will actually be shooting. Shooting action sports a camera with decent frame rate should be considered. Also read up on focus speed and tracking. Portraits low light may be important, so look at noise levels for these images. In the end a lot of photographers choose a camera which does well in both areas, but isn’t the best at any. Another option is two cameras, one suited for each style.

Eventually you will want to have two cameras. As a professional you need to have a back-up available. In the beginning I suggest renting your back-up camera until revenues justify owning a second. Also remember your back-up does not need to be the same model as your primary. A lower end camera can work fine.

Which brand of camera should you use? If you know other photographers, using the same brand could be beneficial. You have the ability to possibly borrow a lens for flash in an emergency if you use the same gear. Also you will have someone to ask questions.

Lenses are another area of debate. A prime vs. zooms is the one of the biggest questions. Primes almost always give better results than zooms. But in the real world, it can be very difficult to tell if you have good zooms. The most important thing is to buy good lenses. You will have them for a long time, whereas camera bodies in the digital world have become consumables unfortunately. Again, rent the specialty lenses as you need them.

Lighting completes the picture. Reflectors and bounce cards are your friend. Learn to use them and you will need fewer lights. If you are shooting outside the studio you need a good on camera flash. Lots of modifiers are available read reviews and get one you like, or make one. Also the ability to use your flash off camera will come in handy, so consider this as a future upgrade – brackets with cords or wireless remotes for longer distances.

In studio you can do a lot with just two lights, especially with the use of reflectors and a few modifiers. Umbrellas are the lowest cost for starters, but softboxes tend to be the favorites. Get some decent stands and some sandbags to keep the lights from falling over. Once again look at wireless remotes. Some lights have them built-in. Again this equipment can be rented as needed when you are starting out.

In fact renting a studio is a good idea when starting. A studio is a huge overhead. Many studios rent to other photographers, and some cities have studios that only exist for rental purposes.

Insurance is probably one of the most important items that photographers overlook. You need to not only insure your equipment, but also have liability insurance. You may be able to add onto your home owner’s policy when you start out.

The biggest equipment area is spending. Don’t buy until you can justify with revenue. If you don’t manage your money, there will be no money to manage.

Next week I will continue this discussion and talk about computers, software and organizations.

Orcatek Photography - Phoenix, Arizona

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