Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mastering the right kit part2

Happy Tuesday from Prospect.

Well, back in the studio today perfecting the traveling headshot kit. Today we set up the typical clam shell.

This set-up is typically used in fashion but works exceptionally well for head shots, when set-up right, and the beauty is it can have a black, dark (non distracting) or pleasing, environmental, background depending on your light ratios. The kit only includes one main light and an optional second light to add separation where and when needed.

Something I wanted to add. I, for the umpteenth time, heard Zack Arias' ( his link is on the side bar) talk about an honest and inexpensive starter kit when starting out as a a photographer. He chose a Canon 5D mark 1, 2 primes and some basic flash gear, all used for easy pocket book pricing. What he failed to mention is why this gear. Although it may not be the latest and greatest in camera gear with oodles of mega pixels, it is a full frame package that fits a productive bill that delivers real results your client will love.

Full frame vs Crop sensor discussions are all over the place. Sorry, Full Frame rules…and delivers, period. (My XPro-1 is the only crop I've ever enjoyed and I use it for street, not business or deliverables.)

So for the shoot today, I used just that. I shot some of these with a 5D mk1 (this is my back-up body) with an 85mm f1.8 and the rest with a 5D mrk2 with a 70-200mm f2.8. Same strobe and separation flash set-up for both. Doubt you can tell the diff and I'm not tellin'. (Aperture/shutter speed/ISO/white balance are identical between the two. That's what happens when you take the time to calibrate your gear. PREVIOUS POST HERE

BTW, when I'm in the studio or on location doing these I always want my clients to enjoy themselves so we shoot as much fun stuff along with the final serious pieces, even if they don't leave the studio and no one else sees them. It makes for a better shoot and my clients end up much happier that they decided to do these. No humdrum Walmart here.

Good Headshots are just as important as your business card or brand. It's what you put forward. Can you really afford to go cheap. A Bad headshot (Maybe shot from your computers camera. Don't laugh, I see it all the time) is just as detrimental as a bad logo (50 bucks online).

Stop hurting yourself and look good to your potential clients, it's worth it.

Enjoy the fun poses, Derek

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Does Social Media Devalue what we do?

Good Thursday from Prospect.

All pics shot with Fuji XPro-1 with 35mm f1.4
Queen Street TO.
So I'm going to make a jump here and talk about my xpro-1 and street photog. I'm not one to do camera reviews and this isn't one. I want to talk more about usefulness instead.

Then here I am with about every format covered and what do I grab as I run out the door? XPro-1.

Out on the street is where this camera shines. Sure you can use it in studio and, guaranteed, it will perform as well as any c-sized camera on the market, and I mean top gear dslrs. (Check my previous post)

But outside and during events you just can't beat it. 

While I was in TO this summer I touted this camera everywhere I went. You need to know that I was suffering from a pinched nerve in my right shoulder the whole time I was there. If I had have taken any of my Canon DSLRs I would have been out of luck for shooting. Just too heavy gear.

Now with the onslaught of quality mirror-less/range finder gear that meets pro standards I'm truly wondering why I have such heavy stuff. Oh I know why, because it's sole purpose is to shine in studio and nail sporting events. And you just can't beat full frame quality.

But wait, what about the Leica M for street and studio? Oh yeah, have to sell my kids for one with some great glass. Oh well, nice idea.

Costing is usually the main factor to purchase any gear. Whether it be for personal or professional/production. It needs to have purpose. It needs to perform and ultimately, in business it needs to return a profit.

Personally I'd love to tout a Leica M (240) system around and maybe some day, but right now I need to be practical. There are so many people selling their wares as photographers I need to stay focused. Use the great gear I have that does what I want it to do that satisfies not just my clients but ultimately me. Yeah I'm a bit fussy, so it's got to be great stuff.

You know, this post looks like a good time to lead into whats been going on as of late.

To be honest my career seems to be at a stand still. Everyone keeps telling me that it's slow all over. It is easy to just buy into that and hope it gets better but that's just not me.

What does it take, beyond my current efforts to get above the newest crop of mouths all looking to take that bit out of the that one apple.

I know my skills, hell I better, been in this game for over 30 years. It's always been a struggle with new faces on the scene vying for the same piece of pie, for next to nothing and devaluing the general market. But eventually there's always been enough to go around.

I just loved the contradictions here.
Nice patch though
But here's where it's been taking a turn as of late. Recently I was covering an event, freelance in a public space, and the organizer had the gumption to hauler over to me and ask if I could hand over all the pics for them to use when I was done. No this wasn't an offer to purchase. They thought it acceptable to expect them for free. I mean it was their event, in a public space without entrance fees, why should they have to pay.

Where do you start when the general public just don't understand the value of a craft. Is it caused by the freedom of info we see around us? Is it caused by the manufacturers saying how you too can be great by just buying x gear?

It's one thing to strive to be you, different or unique. To standout. But what do you do when the market just doesn't get it?

I have rates, ones well within the industry standards, sometimes lower than I feel are acceptable, but I've got to eat too right? I mean I have my share of overhead. Being a designer and photographer does come at a price. And I don't just mean the 10s of thousands of dollars for hardware, software, office/studio space phone, internet and travel. I also mean the countless hours spent selling, educating and improving your craft to be the best you can be.

Is that really only worth a snap shot to share for free. It's one thing to request a discount but to see no more value than a gift?

I honestly do believe the whole social sharing thing has gone too far. We're expected to share everything we do so anyone can use it.

The whole industry has gone to hell in a hand basket so to speak because of it. Or am I wrong here.

What real benefit does producing to share really net. I know you can't sell anything if you don't get out there and show it. Let people see what you do. But after years of doing that does it really cover the cost of sales?

I will continue to trudge along sharing what I do, what I love, and displaying it in galleries and portfolios but I have to wonder. Does social media truly net any ROI? Recently, Coke just released a study that buzz generates zero short term sales. And I think they know what's working. They haven't ended their study yet but I just wonder where it will take them.

So the perception shows, can people like Zack Arias, whom I admire as an honest and down to earth photographer, honestly say social has made him money. Or is he in the light for the buzz. Or should he say a head of an educational company, Scott Kelby, pushed his career by referring him as a wonderful photographer and human being, working for Kelby Training at the time, through his sales network. So it definitely benefited Kelby.

Is it Zacks' fame through Scott that gets his work or old fashioned sales? He says trudging along selling his wares does it for him. He may have a statement about what I've said and that I'm wrong. 

Maybe I so, only he really knows. I wish him all the best. I mean if it wasn't for social media I'd have no idea who he was.

Working hard usually nets you your goals, but I wonder if we are devaluing ourselves to the point of being not worth the effort we apply. 

Note: this doesn't just effect photographers, see how many photographers devalue all areas of creative by buying things like 50 dollar logos through a competition on line or wonder why models are so expensive, I mean they just stand there, right?

You know I could go on and on about this stuff, but I think you may have the gist.

To boil it down I've got time on my hands, things are as slow as I've ever seen it. I may not have a handle on why, but I can assure you I'll continue to plug away until I'm done. I mean I love my work and can't see myself doing anything else.

Look close he doesn't really think it applies to him

Oh, for the hell of it I've included some of my favourite shots from TO this summer (on the streets with my new found tool) since that's what started this post in the first place. It is, after all, what I love to do.

Enjoy Derek

My girls enjoying the trip
BTW, if you have the solution or constructive thought to my questions place a comment below. I know you're reading these so pipe up. love to hear it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lighten that Load

Good Wednesday from Prospect.

Set-up including living light stand
So here I am proposing on location headshots. You know, the one's that don't hurt. 

Well for the most part they only hurt me, lugging way too much gear for seamless shots. 

It usually takes me three trips and a car load when doing a larger shoot.
But I want a kit for those quicker runs. You know less time setting up and more with my client.

I finally decided to trim this big kit down. If I can walk out of here with one bag of stands/modifiers, one box of lighting and one camera bag with bodies/lens I'll be happy.

Well I think I've done it. Even tested it with my main digital bodies so I can handle what I need when I need it.

List is now 3 stands, 2 light booms, 2 reflector/diffusers (for white, grey, black backgrounds, 1 60" umbrella/softbox, 2-3 speedlights (1 main, 1 background, 1 hair-light when needed) , 3 pocket wizards (may make that 4), 1 light meter, assorted cables, batteries and 1 stool. Camera plus lenses (depending on the shoot).

One thing to bear in mind this is a "headshot" kit. Not a full body set. That would require an existing wall or available background.

Canon 5D markII, 85mm f1.4. ISO100, f9, 1/125th
I've included a couple of test shots to verify my lighting set-up, plus a look at the set-up.

Enjoy Derek
Fuji XPro-1 35mm f1.4. ISO200, 1/125, f5.6

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sailing and Halifax are a great lifestyle choice.

Good Tuesday from Prospect.

This post is to update you on a few things I've been up to. The summer in Prospect hasn't been stellar but it's still warm and not winter.

Prior to my trip to Fan Expo, which I won't bore you with any more, I started chasing sail boats during their amature racing events here in Halifax. Specifically out of the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron.

We don't really have an official photographer to highlight what the club does as mission. Promoting and teaching sailing both recreational cruising and world class competition.

So I've attempted to get that rolling. This past weekend (Sept 28 and 29th) was the RNSYS club championships once again. It's an annual event including qualified member racers who partake in either club regattas or wednesday night racing events and have achieved a certain level of wins.

The race is done using 6-J22s owned by the club so as to level the playing field. Each team is required to complete at least 3-4 races to qualify for the final 4 (we had 11 teams this year). Each time a team races they use a different boat, once again to level a fair playing field.

Well this year they could not have asked for better weather and although I wasn't a spectator for Saturdays races I did get out on Sunday for the qualifying rounds.

On the charge to the mark. The crew on the number 4 boat were the ultimate weekend champs
Rory MacDonald and the crew from McMac
I've included a couple of shots here and included the link to the RNSYS galleries on my site. They include 2 galleries for the 2013 championships, the last Wednesday night races before Chester race week for this year, and the championships from 2010.
Committee boat while changing crews

They are for sale as listed on the site if you're interested. If so just follow the instructions on the site.

The plan is to get out tomorrow night for the season final for the Wednesday night series.

Don't worry, sailing isn't quite over yet, with at least two more regattas left and what looks like stellar weather for the near forseeable future

Enjoy these in the meantime, Derek

Link to the Galleries.

Yes the younger members were out to practice their skills and watch as well