Flash On OR Flash Off

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 28800, ƒ/4, 1/250

To flash or not to flash that is the question? In the photo above this was done without a flash.

Nikon D5, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 5000, ƒ/4, 1/100–(2) Alienbees B1600s, Pocketwizard TT1 w/ AC-3 and TT5 w/ AC-9

Now I have an Alienbees B1600 behind them and one in front. While technically the one with flashes is better I still am not really satisfied with the flash. Due to restrictions on where I could put the flash I just never could get what I would call a natural look.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 14400, ƒ/4, 1/250

The biggest difference with these two photos is where the minister is standing. The lighting is designed to hit him on the face and not the people on the front row. So here the available light is quite acceptable.

Nikon D5, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 5000, ƒ/4, 1/100–(2) Alienbees B1600s, Pocketwizard TT1 w/ AC-3 and TT5 w/ AC-9

No question that here I was able to achieve the “natural light look” with the strobes. The major difference between the two photos is the dynamic range appears greater with the strobes.

Nikon D5, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 5000, ƒ/4, 1/100–(2) Alienbees B1600s, Pocketwizard TT1 w/ AC-3 and TT5 w/ AC-9

While the photos where the lighting can be made to look natural look best with the flash I find the flash is announcing that I am there shooting. This makes people look at me much more and basically limit the number of natural expressions.

Nikon D5, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 14400, ƒ/2.8, 1/100

I love the moment here with the little girl during a chapel service. The reason for those who are wondering about the blue light, it is from the stained glass window on the right of the frame.

Nikon D5, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/100

As you can see from these photos it isn’t always easy to choose to use flash or not. With today’s cameras having such high ISO capabilities you can get more acceptable images without a flash than we could just a few years ago.

To flash or not is often up to the photographer and how it fits into their style of photography.

Understanding Copyright and Cost of doing business isn’t the secret to success

Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, 4–Alienbees B1600, ISO 200, ƒ/11, 1/160

For the past 20+ years the photography community has been pushing for photographers to know their rights. Copyright is at the top of that list. Right next to it was you knowing the cost of doing business.

I even perpetuated many of these tips that photographers needed to know to be sure they were running a healthy business.

Before 2002 quality images were hard to come by versus today where almost daily the amount of well exposed, in focus images are being created faster than we can calculate. The reason I picked the year 2002 is that is when a 6-megapixel camera went from $25,000 to under $2,000. This made if very affordable for the masses.

Today there are so many images available that for the most part photography is now a commodity.

As photographers were pushing for more from customers and trying to explain why they must get more money the customer needed them less and less.

Let me start the business lesson where we never did in the past for photographers. We need to start running our business based on the customer/audience.

Nikon D100, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM,, ISO 200, ƒ/22, 1/160

What is the customer’s problem?

The best possible customer for you is the one going through a major crisis. You can be the super hero and help save their business. You can see plainly their problem and you have a solution that will not only fix the problem but also help them be more successful.

The reality is that this is your only kind of a customer. If they have no problem needing to be fixed with your services they do not need you. Businesses don’t spend money on things that will not help them reach their objective. At least we know they cannot afford to do that very often without going out of business.

Next you need to figure out how much it costs you to provide that solution to the client.

You see if you don’t know the problems you are solving for a business you cannot figure out what you need to be doing in the first place.

[Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 36000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

Do the math

Now this math you are going to do has two parts. You have what we call ongoing expenses, which you must spread over all your jobs. This is not just what money you need to pay your home budget needs, but also your business budget. This includes your gear, your costs to find out about customers and costs to communicate to them about your solutions. Remember you have to do all this because they may not hire you and you still have to pay for it somehow.

This cost of doing business is then spread out over all your jobs through a year. Maybe that figure is about $600 per the average job you must build into the price.

Next you must do your math again and add up all the expenses to do the specific job to solve this client’s problem.

You add these together and this is what you must make to stay in business.

How you arrived at this price or what this figure is should never be discussed with the client. This is for you only.

Now if you have a client for example in a ditch with their car in the middle of no where and you have a tow truck and are there to help them you are in a great position, especially if they are in a hurry. This is when you can get a lot more money than had you been in a large city with many more options for the customer to choose from than just you.

Take the time to get to know your market and what prices are typically being charged for these services.

Determine your Target Audience

Now if the going rates are lower than your figure you need to charge you have a problem. You will need to somehow convince people that you are a better solution. That is possible because an oil change can run from $19.95 to $20,000 for a Bugatti Veyron.

Believe it or not there is a formula for true luxury and it is called the Intrinsic Value Dependency Index. Now I am not an expert in this, but in general a product must be of the best quality and in the process creates a space in the market of it’s own. It is important that this item be rare as well. True luxury comes with over the top service as well.

When you get a $20,000 oil change they are doing a lot more than you driving into a bay and stay in the car while they change your oil. They are offering your wine, Champaign or a wonderful latte. Good chance they even picked up your car from your home and brought it back to you at your convenience.

Once you know your figures that you need to charge and you know the market place and have decided where you want to be in that market you not only set your price you create a marketing plan to execute.

You have a website, portfolio, brochures, business cards and other materials you will use to help showcase your work, which is a solution for the customers problem.

Going back to the side of the road with our customer in distress you give them your sales pitch. I am here to help you. I can have my limo driver come and pick you up and take you to where you need to be next and while that is happening I can get your car out of the ditch and take this to the repair shop of your choosing. If you don’t have a repair shop you prefer I have a few that I use regularly that will work with your insurance and get you back up and running.

They love it and ask you how much. You give them the price and they gladly pay. Your limo driver picks them up and offers them some beverages and takes them to their appointment.

Your business is grounded as every other business–you solve other people’s problems. The key is much more than the cost of doing business, copyright or having the latest camera gear. Knowing your client first and foremost is the key.

Photography/Video/Multimedia is the tool to solving problems for customers. Those who are the most successful are not waiting by the phone like a plumber getting a call because a toilet overflowed. The most successful are like Steve Jobs creating products to solve the problems for clients that they didn’t even know they had until they saw the solution.

Summary:

  1. Start with the problem of the client
  2. Come up with a solution to that problem
  3. Know all the costs involved in providing that solution
  4. Create the sales pitch that addresses their problem with your solution and how the outcome will look if they use your services.
  5. Create a price that will cover your costs and help position your services within the market place. Hopefully one that is a luxury and not a commodity.

The secret to successful business is one that is focused on solving clients problems.

How to make your family photos more valuable

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 200, ƒ/6.3, 1/160–Neewer T850, Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Radio system

This past weekend our family flew down to Jupiter, Florida to surprise my wife’s oldest sister for her 80th birthday.

Some of the family my wife had never met and some of the family she hadn’t seen for more than 39 years.

After taking this photo I didn’t wait till I got home to work on it in the computer. I wanted to be sure to make this photo the most valuable asset it can be to our family going forward.

Here is a video to help you know how to do this in Adobe Lightroom:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45_zCZnqmqU]
After I had the photo in Adobe Lightroom editing software I used the Face Recognition technology to help identify each and every person in all the photos I took this weekend. Now the software while not perfect did a great job. I did have to force it to tag some of the faces.

The good thing is now inside the metadata of the image is everyone’s name that is in this photograph.

Metadata is “data that provides information about other data”. Two types of metadata exist: structural metadata and descriptive metadata. Structural metadata is data about the containers of data. Descriptive metadata uses individual instances of application data or the data content.

Metadata was traditionally in the card catalogs of libraries. As information has become increasingly digital, metadata is also used to describe digital data using metadata standards specific to a particular discipline. Describing the contents and context of data or data files increases their usefulness. For example, a web page may include metadata specifying what language the page is written in, what tools were used to create it, and where to find more information about the subject; this metadata can automatically improve the reader’s experience.

The main purpose of metadata is to facilitate in the discovery of relevant information, more often classified as resource discovery. Metadata also helps organize electronic resources, provide digital identification, and helps support archiving and preservation of the resource. Metadata assists in resource discovery by “allowing resources to be found by relevant criteria, identifying resources, bringing similar resources together, distinguishing dissimilar resources, and giving location information.”

This is one of my family photos from my dad’s side of the family. I know the man on the far left (even this is sketchy to me) is my great grandfather who owned the blacksmith. He is H. P. Sewell.

Who are the rest of the people? We don’t know.

Make your photos from your family more valuable. Take the time to identify who is in the photo.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200

This is the three sisters from the weekend and my wife’s great niece. Just imagine a few generations later where they are telling the stories to their children about who their ancestors were.

Now putting the names of the people on the back of the print as was done by many people in the past is the same as today embedding that information using metadata.

In PhotoShop just go to the menu item File>File Info…

Under the basic table in the description box put the people’s names in the photo. You can even put them in left to right and row 1, 2 and so on to help people in the future who will not know who anyone is in the photograph.

Now this is the Spotlight search on a Mac, but you can do a text search on a PC and get the same results. Because the names are embedded in a photo you can now search and find those people. Here I put the last name in for Teubner. I didn’t even have to finish spelling it before the photos started listing for me in the search box.

I setup two umbrellas with hotshoe flashes to make the group photos this past weekend. Once I had them setup we had one our family members to take a photo of our family, which rarely happens. Like the cobbler we have few photos of us as a family.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 180, ƒ/4, 1/250–fill flash

While we did setup and take some posed photos, we enjoy just as much those moments capturing the family having fun.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 1250, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000
Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/60

I feel great about this past weekend. I not only got to meet family members I didn’t know we had, but I can now look back at the photos and tell my family who is who and help them know what a wonderful family heritage we have.

Think Rim Light or Back Lighting

Nikon D750, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/200

The back light also called a rim, hair, or shoulder light, shines on the subject from behind, often  to one side or the other. It gives the subject a rim of light, serving to separate the subject from the background and highlighting contours.

Not having this light you can see the difference here in this second photo where the lighting crew forgot to turn on the back light.

Nikon D750, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 4500, ƒ/2.8, 1/80

In one of my masters classes I took at the Maine Photography Workshop the instructor always started first with their back light to create the separation in all his photos. This was important in where he had mixed lighting.

Nikon D750, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 10000, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

While in theater you can really see it because often there is a black background, using a back light really helps create depth into your photos. It helps create those layers from front to back in photographs.

Nikon D750, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM,  ISO 360, ƒ/2.8, 1/80

In theater and most of photography a 3 – point lighting setup is quite standard.

The backlight can be on the side or directly behind the subject. it is different from a kicker light that catches the sides of the face for example in a photo.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/60 – 2 Alienbees B1600s for main light

The sun is the backlight in this photo. The Alienbees studio strobes are the main or key light to the right of the camera. The open sky is the fill light.

If you want to create depth, layers and separation of your subjects from the back ground then be sure and use a back light.

My suggestion is that is the first light you think about adding to any scene.

Shooting theater with Nikon D750 or D810 just got easier

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1600, ƒ/4, 1/80, 0 EV
If you read the manual you might get more out of your camera. I didn’t ready everything in the manual about my Nikon D750 and only stumbled across the tip about the Highlight-Weighted Metering Mode.

Highlight-weighted metering is a new metering mode that is offered in select Nikon DSLR cameras including the D810 and D750, in which the camera meters the highlights to ensure that they are properly exposed and not blown out or overexposed. Use highlight-weighted metering to meter highlights when your subject is in motion, and to meter subjects lit by spotlights or colored lighting.

Highlight-weighted metering is the go-to choice when you’re photographing a spot lit bride in her wedding dress, a dancer or singer on stage, or whenever you’re faced with uneven lighting and a background that is much darker than the subject.

To select highlight-weighted metering, press the metering button on the far left dial on the camera body, and while holding it down, rotate the main command dial until the highlight weighted metering icon is displayed.

Now before I used this mode often I would either use spot metering which required me to use single square that I move around until it is on the actor’s face. Very hard to do when they are moving around the scene.

The other way I compensated using the EV in the matrix metering mode.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 11400, ƒ/4, 1/250, -2.7 EV

So this same play similar lighting I compensated by -2.7 EV to do what is automatically done with the Highlight-Weighted Metering Mode.

Nikon D750, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM,  ISO 1600, ƒ/2.8, 1/80, -0.7 EV

I noticed the face a little white on the LCD for this scene that I shot using the Highlight-Weighted Metering Mode and dialed a -0.7 EV, which I probably didn’t need to do. There was enough detail without having to underexpose it more.

Nikon D750, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.6, 1/250, -3.0 EV

Earlier performance I shot it with -3.0 EV.

The key to shooting theater and having great technical images is Custom White Balance and proper exposure. Getting the exposure in the highlights proper is extremely difficult when often majority of the frame is often black in theater productions.

You wan the exposure to have some details in the highlights. If you underexpose just a little too much then the image becomes very flat and even in post production you will struggle to match the dynamic range had you exposed it just perfectly.

If you slightly overexpose you cannot put detail back into the image. With theater this means often that the people’s faces will be washed out.

I think Nikon is the way to go when shooting these tricky situations like theater. The camera does all the thinking that I used to have to do to get technically good images.

Capturing a “Moment” helps to build a brand

Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 560, ƒ/5.3, 1/80

I was covering a meeting where Dan Cathy the president of Chick-fil-A was talking about Daddy Daughter Date Night events. He then put this image of mine up on the screen to talk about how every daughter would love to have her daddy looking at her like this and giving her this type of attention.

This is one of those really rare moments when people are talking about the work I produced and I am getting to hear it.

Nikon D3S, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/320

This is the actual photo here. I am guessing that the photo on that stage was 45′ x 30′ big. I was really impressed that the Nikon D3s ISO 6400 image looked that great projected that size.

The client was comfortable enough to use the photo by the president of the company to talk about one of the most important things their brand does–emotional connections.

Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 3200, ƒ3.8, 1/25–Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. 

My job is to look for those moments where the emotional connection happens and be sure the brand is part of those moments. Here I was capturing a Father & Son Camp Out at a local Chick-fil-A. Chick-fil-A is creating events to help bring families closer together. What better way to capture these moments than with a photograph.

Remember while you need to technically have a good quality image you also need a “moment.”

Covering Football: Action, Reaction and more

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 28735, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

ACTION!

The most obvious photos from a football game are the action during the game. If you only shoot this you will miss a good amount of what the game is all about.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 51200, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600

REACTION

The fans really care about the game and the outcome. Don’t spend all your time looking at the action on the field look into the stands for the reaction to plays.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

Go back and shoot more action. It is best to get the big plays. It is the time in between plays that you can turn the camera away from the field.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/800
A lot happens in those stands. Keep your ears tuned in around you as well as your eyes.
Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000
After major touchdowns many schools cheerleaders have traditions of celebrating on sideline or like here in the endzone.
Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
After big plays like this one you will find fans reacting.  Sometimes you will see coaches on the sidelines interacting with the referees.  
Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 28735, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
The idea is if you are at a game it is a big event with a lot of people doing different things and roles.
Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 18102, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
There are the bands that perform before the game, during the game and at half time. They practice as much as the football team. It is a major performance for them.
Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 10000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Not so obvious
Nikon D4,  Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 560, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
I take photos of people on sidelines that I work with during games. I try and then send them a copy of the photo. This helps to build relationships so that the next game when I need some help with access these friends are now seeing me as someone they want to help.
Look for different angles
Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600
I like to go up into or onto press boxes to get a different perspective of the game. Don’t shoot all the action from the same position the entire game. On the other hand don’t move around so much that you are missing action because you are always moving.
Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/800
Hopefully you will have editors cheering with your coverage. The key is to give them variety and hopefully these tips will have you looking for different photos at your next football game.
Nikon D4,  Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 4000, ƒ/9, 1/200
Don’t leave early
Stay shooting after the game. There are still photos to be made.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

Time for Senior pictures

Nikon D4Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250—Two Alienbees B1600 mixed with daylight [diagram below]

It is that time of year that I get requests for doing Senior photos. I have not marketed myself to this market, but friends through church and work call and ask if I will photograph their Senior.

Today’s Senior pictures are much different than when I had mine made back in 1980.  Today we are seeing more and more photos of Seniors in their favorite activity.

Last night I captured Grant Newsom at the pool where he is on the swim team and also a lifeguard.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250—Two Alienbees B1600 mixed with daylight

When we first met to start the shoot I was told that Grant’s employer scheduled him to work right at the same time and didn’t tell him about the change in schedule. He didn’t want to let down his employer and was really concerned this was going to take a long time.

We did all these photos in one hour. Three locations and one of those required us to drive a small distance. This means taking huge soft box and setting up and taking down in three locations. It also meant that he had some outfit changes to do.

Well after to first few minutes Grant relaxed realizing we were getting great images and moving quickly.

This is why you practice over and over doing these type of photos so you are ready to go when you have to “Get Er Done.” I have done this so many times through my career I was able to quickly move and set up and get some pretty good images of Grant. I will let you be the judge of the images.

I used two Alienbees B1600 flashes being powered by Paul Buff Vagabond battery packs. The reason I used two at the pool was I knew that when you do the butterfly stroke you are looking down most of the time and the light just isn’t there most of the time. I filled the shadows with the flashes.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250—One Alienbees B1600 with a large softbox off to the right to be mixed with daylight

We had a lot of fun capturing these photos. The main reason I feel like you get great photos in this situation is the Senior is doing what they love the most. They are in their world of comfort and I am there to join them.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250—One Alienbees B1600 with large soft box and mixed with daylight

For the most part I wanted to capture the competitor in the pool, thus less smiles here. We did get some, but I like the fierce look.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250—Large 30″ x 60″ foldable softbox with Alienbees B1600 mixed with daylight, also one Alienbees B1600 directly behind the model

We just changed shirts and locations pretty quickly to keep on schedule for the Senior to run to work.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250—Large 30″ x 60″ foldable soft box with Alienbees B1600 on the left and then mixed with daylight [lighting diagram below]

Keeping it simple I am using one large 30″ x 60″ Paul C Buff foldable soft box as the main light and then letting the available sunlight light the rest of the photo. The flash is about one stop brighter than the rest of the scene. I exposed for the softbox light and used an ExpoDisc to get a custom white balance before shooting the photos.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250—Large 30″ x 60″ foldable soft box with Alienbees B1600 on the left and then mixed with daylight

When you look for a photographer for Senior pictures some of the best will be former newspaper photographers. They have shot everything, so it will be rare that your child has a favorite hobby that they haven’t shot before.

I covered the 1996 Olympics and specifically covered the swimming and diving. I was ready for Grant in the pool.

Remember these Senior pictures we will cherish the rest of our lives and for generations later as they look back. Next year is my 35th high school reunion. It feels like yesterday and we are all pulling out those photos from back in 1980.

By the way we finished in time for Grant to go to work and have a date that night.