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  • Do It Yourself!

    Posted on December 7th, 2014 John Siskin No comments

    My books and my classes give me a reason to keep doing this blog. If you’re in Indiana I hope you’ll consider taking my Portfolio Workshop. You can see a little more information about this workshop if you check out this blog post. Thanks so much for your attention.

    As the faithful readers of this blog will know I updated my website a while back. I wanted the site to appeal to commercial photography buyers. So, for instance the site is designed to work on a desktop computer rather than a phone. It’s been working out for me, perhaps because of the changes, or maybe because I’m using Adwords from Google. Regardless I’ve been getting a few jobs from new clients, which is great. I’ve added a couple of recent pics to this blog entry.

    _DSC5850

    One of the things I didn’t put back on the website is the Do It Yourself page. Frankly I really don’t want to encourage my clients to do it themselves. So I thought I would put links to some of the stuff that was on the page here. Don’t hurt your hands clapping. These aren’t all my designs, but they are things I use. My favorite project is the Chain-Pod. It’s easy to build and really useful. It helps to steady your camera when you don’t have a tripod or a monopod. And it fits in a pocket. Check it out!

    _DSC6269 copy

    You don’t have to actually build anything to use the Booty Light. It’s just a cover for your flash, but it really works!

    fdc1S

    If you came to my studio you’d see a lot of Light Panels. I use them a lot in the studio, more than softboxes. They are really great tools for modifying light. You can change the size and character of a light much more than you can with a softbox or an umbrella. There are a lot of plans for light panels. I like this plan because they have feet.

    _DSC4070

    Here’s a plan for a Monopod. It’s probably not as good as one you can buy, but I think it cost less than $5, so it’s not a big investment.

    _DSC4189

    I like using this Computer Table on location. It’s simple to build and it’s very helpful if you’re tethering your camera to a computer.

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    I like this Modified Umbrella for quickly lighting a room. It’s designed after a table lamp and it works very well.

    _DSC6236

    There are a few other projects at this link, including several cameras I’ve built. I’m not sure these really come under the heading of Do It yourself, as you might not even need these cameras, but I really like them. This article has a lot of information about the cameras & lenses I’ve built.

    I’ve been mentioning my classes at BetterPhoto since I began doing this blog. I’m sorry to say that BetterPhoto has discontinued their interactive classes. I’ve really enjoyed working with BetterPhoto, so I’m sorry to see this happen. I may have a version of my classes at my website soon. Please look for it.

     

  • Junk Man

    Posted on October 20th, 2014 John Siskin No comments

    My books and my classes give me a reason to keep doing this blog. If you’re in Indiana I hope you’ll consider taking my Portfolio Workshop. You can see a little more information about this workshop if you check out this blog post . I’ve listed my BetterPhoto classes at the end of this post. Thanks so much for your attention.

     

    I’m a junk man. I think that it’s better to have more gear than newer gear. So I have a lot of Norman 200B strobes. Norman 200Bs haven’t been made in about 20 years, long time. Norman still makes a 200C, which costs about $1200, while a used, well used, 200B can be had for around $100 on eBay. So, if I can find them I can get a used unit for less than 10% of a new one. The used one weighs more, which is too bad, but it has some actual advantages. The 200B recycles quicker than almost any other strobe; the best 200Bs recycle to full power in a second. Norman 200Bs use 12-volt power, so you can run one off a cigarette lighter socket in your car, you can use a cheap lead acid 12V battery, you can even use a car battery. I don’t know of any other strobe that has so many inexpensive power options. A Norman 200B is pretty powerful, with a guide number around 114 with a standard reflector. The thing is that a Norman reflector spreads light a lot wider field than a Canon or Nikon strobe. The reflector isn’t built in so there are a lot more ways to modify the light, you can even use the bare tube (bare bulb) alone. I’ve also checked and with a big soft box, say 3X3 foot the 200B is about the same brightness as the much more expensive Canon or Nikon units. Now a 200b, even a 200C is a manual strobe: you can control the output, but the strobe won’t automatically change the output. If you’re designing the light for your shot this won’t be a problem, but if you want to have the flash make your choices a Norman 200B, any manual strobe, is not the way to go.

     

    A Norman 200B Head (called an LH2) bare bulb and with some accessories

    A Norman 200B Head (called an LH2) bare bulb and with some accessories

    If I’m shooting interiors, for an architect or a designer I’ll take 7 of the 200B strobes with me. There are so many places that you might need to put light when shooting interiors, so sometimes even 7 strobes isn’t enough. It’s better to have a lot of strobes, even if they’re junk, than not enough lights. With architectural lighting power isn’t as important as having light where you need it. If I was shooting people or product I might not take as many lights, but I would still grab the 200Bs first.

    Norman 200B power pack

    Norman 200B power pack

     

    If I’m shooting an event, and frankly I’d rather not, I grab a different strobe: the Sunpak 120J. Another piece of old junk. A 120J has a little more than half as much power as a Norman 200B, but it has automatic exposure! This is an earlier version of strobe automation, not the current ttl system. Still it’s accurate most of the time. Here’s a couple of things I like about the 120J: it uses the same strobe tubes as a 200b and the same reflectors. It can hold its own batteries or use a high voltage battery pack. Also it mounts on a hot shoe or a 1/4X20 thread. Oh yeah, they’re cheap, well reasonably priced. Quantum made some similar units that are worth checking out. The current Quantum strobes are probably worth having if you shoot a lot of events.

    A 200B rig for flash fill

    A 200B rig for flash fill

     

    There are a couple more classic (old) strobes I should mention, first the Vivitar 283. They made millions of these and you can consistently find them for less than $30. I owned a couple of these modified with an extra capacitor to have a stop more power and there were a lot more modifications and accessories. The high voltage battery packs were really quite helpful because they reduced the recycle time a lot. Another strobe from the same time period is the Sunpak 411. I still use these because the head was so well designed it moved up and down as well as side to side. Unfortunately you don’t often see a 411 in good shape.

    Norman kit for location

    Norman kit for location

     

    Of course there are a lot of other good used strobes available, and I should mention Lumedyne in particular. These are manual strobes, similar to the 200B, but can produce much more light. With the right accessories you can get up to 2400watt-seconds from these battery powered units. Lumedyne strobes are available new and used, and a little pricier than the Norman 200B. Still if you need battery powered strobes with as much light as a studio strobe this might be the way to go.

    Vivitar 283-with manual power control and 2nd capacitor modification

    Vivitar 283-with manual power control and 2nd capacitor modification

     

    If you need a lot of light on location there are a couple of ways to go. First there are battery packs that you can plug a mono-light or a studio strobe into. Many companies offer these now, and they can be quite helpful. I prefer to use a gas generator. While it is much heavier you can shoot all night and day with just a few gallons of gas! Of course you may need an assistant to lug the thing around. Gas generators start at less than $150.00, batteries for mono-lights are generally more expensive.

    Gas generator for location work

    Gas generator for location work

    d/I could discuss the new stuff on the market, but not in this entry. There’s a lot more information about strobes in my book: Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers
    If you’re interested in how to light interiors and other architectural shooting you might want this book: Photographing Architecture
    Or you can check out my classes at BetterPhoto:
    An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
    Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
    Getting Started in Commercial Photography

     

  • One On One Photography Workshops!

    Posted on September 23rd, 2014 John Siskin No comments

    A lot of class promotions start with the term: learn at your own pace. I’m offering you an opportunity to learn at your own pace, one on one, with the instructor. You choose the material we’ll go over. I provide the studio, the equipment, heck I might even buy lunch! Here’s the deal: A day in the studio with me. One on one. Pick a day. Pick the material. You set the pace. While we could discuss anything I think we should stick to photography, since that’s the subject I usually teach. This is a fabulous deal, and it will only last a short time. Just $300 for the studio, the equipment and me! Keep in mind the studio generally rents for $200 a day, so the studio, the equipment and me is a fabulous deal.

    Some people have had schedule problems people with past courses, but now You Pick the Date! I hope we’ll have at least six hours together, but the class will fit your schedule. We could even do a second day for just a little more money. Let me know what you want to learn and when you want to come by. Also if you’d like to bring another person we can arrange that for a little more. Of course there’s no extra charge if you want to bring a model.

    For my portrait class at BetterPhoto.com

    For my portrait class at BetterPhoto.com

    Now I know that you wouldn’t want to spend a day in the studio with just anyone. So I have to tell you about my accomplishments. Anyway I do this it’s going to sound like I’m blowing my own horn, but here goes: I was 15 when I had my first photography job, as an assistant to a commercial photographer in Los Angeles. His name is Steve Berman and he also taught at one of the best photography schools in LA: Art Center. I learned a lot! In the more than 40 years since then I’ve worked as a photographer and taught photography. In Los Angeles I’ve shot for Disney, Munchkin and General motors as repeatedly. Since I’ve moved to Indianapolis I’ve shot for the Hilton, BMW Construction, Mid West Studio and more. I’m currently teaching three classes at BetterPhoto.com: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio, and Getting Started in Commercial Photography. BetterPhoto has sent me students from all over the world. I’ve done two books for Amherst Media: Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers and Photographing Architecture. Both are available from Amazon and also local camera stores. I’ve done a couple of dozen articles for photography magazines including Shutterbug, Photo Techniques, Studio Photography and View Camera. You can learn a lot more about me by visiting my website: www.siskinphoto.com. You’ll find most of my articles on the magazine page at my site. Of course I’ll answer any questions about my experience, just call 317.473.0406 or e-mail to john@siskinphoto.com

    I also want to introduce you to my studio, because it is a terrific place to experiment and learn. I have more than twenty strobes, including a strobe powered projector! There are another half dozen quartz lights, various types. In addition there are umbrellas, light panels and soft boxes, even a ring light and a beauty dish. So you’ll have the opportunity for hands on learning with any equipment you might want. The shooting space is 24X45 feet with a 12 foot ceiling. Of course we could also arrange to do a location shoot, even an architectural shoot.

    Shot of the Irving Theater for a workshop in Indianapolis.

    Shot of the Irving Theater for a workshop in Indianapolis.

    This is a custom learning opportunity. You can choose the material we cover. Here are some ideas, these can be a class or a starting point: How Light Works, Portraiture Lighting, Product Lighting, Shooting Jewelry, Commercial Photography, One Light Shooting, Location Shooting and whatever else I can help you with. For many subjects we can begin with a structured program or we can experiment and discover together.

    Shot with a group of Ivy Tech students in my studio.

    Shot with a group of Ivy Tech students in my studio.

    The truth is I plan on continuing to offer this, but I expect to raise the price. So if you want to reserve a space at just $300, please use the Paypal link to send me a deposit of just $75.


    Remember you can choose a date that fits your schedule, but I do hope we can find a time before the end of 2014. The balance will be due when you pick a date.

    Shot with a class from The Learning Tree University in Los Angeles

    Shot with a class from The Learning Tree University in Los Angeles

    The pictures are from workshops and classes I’ve presented over the last few years.

    If you’re in Indiana I hope you’ll also consider taking my Portfolio Workshop. You can see a little more information about the Portfolio Workshop if you check out this blog post . For those of you who can’t get to Indianapolis, I hope you’ll consider my books and classes at BetterPhoto.com.
     

    My books and my classes give me a reason to keep doing this blog, so I hope for your support. Here are the three course I teach at BetterPhoto.com, perhaps you’d like to take another one or share them with a friend.
    An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
    Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
    Getting Started in Commercial Photography

  • Retouching with Deep Etch

    Posted on July 28th, 2014 John Siskin No comments

    My books and my classes give me a reason to keep doing this blog. If you’re in Indiana I hope you’ll consider taking my Portfolio Workshop. You can see a little more information about this workshop if you check out this blog post . I’ve listed my BetterPhoto classes at the end of this post. Thanks so much for your attention.
    My relationship with post-production has evolved over the years. When I first started capturing images with a digital back (a leaf DCB II) I was suspicious of Photoshop. I’d been working with transparency film for years, and with transparency film if you didn’t get the image just right in camera then it was never going to be right. It took me a while to understand that making good images didn’t stop when you pressed the button. I’ve been buying updates of Photoshop since version 3 or 4, but I don’t think I’ve ever been an expert user. Photoshop requires practice and regular use to achieve mastery. I’m quite good at the things I do regularly, practice will do that, but there are things I don’t do very often or at all. In addition Photoshop requires some hand skills that I never seem to get good at. Finally all post-production work takes time. Sometimes I’d rather do other things than spend hours retouching.

    Fortunately there are companies that will do handle some of this for me. I’ve been sending out some retouching to Deepetch.com. There are many companies that do this work, but Deepetch came to me for some content for their site when they were starting out. I came to understand that post-production is like lab work was when I shot transparencies: yes I can do it, but others do it better and cheaper. I’m attaching a couple of before and after shots that Deepetch worked on for me. These images were just placed on the updated web site. Right now I’m usually sending Deepetch images for clipping paths and retouching, but they do provide other services. By the way Deepetch hasn’t asked for this blog post, I just wanted it to post it. You can send me any thoughts you have about retouching. You can always send at e-mail to john@siskinphoto.com

    240Z: Adjusted the color. Smoothed out the light on the side of the car. Darkened the ground in front of the car.

    Retouched version

    Retouched version

    Before Deepetch

    Before Deepetch

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Atlanta Airport, New Terminal: Removed crane, porta-potties and exit sign.

    Retouched version

    Retouched version

    Before Deepetch

    Before Deepetch

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Horse: Removed the fence and sharpening.

     

    Retouched version

    Retouched version

    Before Deepetch

    Before Deepetch

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This site now has 695 subscribers, and more join everyday! Frankly I don’t know why since nobody posts. If you have any thoughts about this blog please let me know. I appreciate your membership. Of course there are other ways of improving your photograsphs, like taking a BetterPhoto course. Here are the three I teach, perhaps you’d like to take another one or share them with a friend.
    An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
    Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
    Getting Started in Commercial Photography
    One other note about BetterPhoto: I’ve been in the habit of sending out a private note to all my former students at BetterPhoto (Almost a thousand people!) each month. There’s some sort of hang up in the e-mail system for this so, for a while anyway, I won’t be sending that note. I hope no one is too disappointed.
    Thanks, John

  • Changing Your Way of Seeing

    Posted on July 6th, 2014 John Siskin No comments

    My books and my classes give me a reason to keep doing this blog. If you’re in Indiana I hope you’ll consider taking my Portfolio Workshop. You can see a little more information about this workshop if you check out this blog post . I’ve listed my BetterPhoto classes at the end of this post. Thanks so much for your attention.

    Frame 16

    I see as a photographer, constantly breaking the world into still images. I think that most people who spend a big chunk of life doing photography see a little differently from people who aren’t involved in static art forms. I’ll look at something and think: “I’d shoot that, maybe a little warmer and with more contrast” or maybe: “That was a really great instant” and: “Look at that design.” I think this is part of being a good photographer. I once heard a guy say that he always adjusted a TV to look like Kodachrome, since that was the way he saw the world. Of course this illustrates one of the problems with this way of seeing: you start to see everything the same way. I’ve been known to walk by an interesting subject while thinking that’s not the kind of shot I do. I often make my shots warmer, even my black and white shots, but I can’t remember the last time I made a shot cooler.

    Frame 22

    So I’m always looking for ways to break out of my way of seeing. I know that many people want to have a style, but not me. I’m a photographer, not a painter, so I can be prolific and do work that’s new. I want to push myself to see in different ways. One of the ways I do this is to work with different tools: cameras, lenses and software. I just got a Horizon Perfekt, which is really helping me to see differently. This camera shoots a 120º image, horizontally anyway. It’s really different from other wide-angle images because the lens actually moves during the shot.Frame 12

     

    I shot with a Koni-Omega camera last week. It’s a medium format film camera. This is a manual camera with range finder. Shooting it reminded me of the acronym FAST: Focus, Aperture, Shutter and Think. I think that my digital camera has allowed me to get a little sloppy with technique. Of course shooting with a new camera is not the only way to open yourself to new ways of seeing, but it can be fun as well as enlightening.

    Frame 15

    I got an 11X14 camera recently, but I haven’t shot with it yet. I still have to build a lens board and order some film, but it should be a quite an experience. Whenever you work with a very large camera the difficulties increase and so does the expense. But if 11X14 is anything like 8X10 getting a good result will be really fun. Sometimes just getting a good exposure can make you feel great. There’s another practice tool I want to work with. I have an old Spiratone 400 mm f6.3 lens. I’ve really only used it a couple of times because I’m more interested in wide-angle lenses. But in an effort to expand my vision I’m going to put in on the digital camera and start shooting. Who knows how that will affect my seeing? By the way I’ve included a couple of panoramas from the Horizon camera and one more from the Koni-Omega. Also I recently updated my website so you can get an idea of how I’m seeing now. Please check it out at www.siskinphoto.com

    Of course there are other ways of expanding your seeing, like taking a BetterPhoto course. Here are the three I teach, perhaps you’d like to take another one or share them with a friend.
    An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
    Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
    Getting Started in Commercial Photography
    One other note about BetterPhoto: I’ve been in the habit of sending out a private note to all my former students at BetterPhoto (Almost a thousand people!) each month. There’s some sort of hang up in the e-mail system for thst so, for a while anyway, I won’t be sending that note. I hope no one is too disappointed.
    Thanks,  John

     

  • Portfolio Workshop Next Time On December 15!

    Posted on June 16th, 2014 John Siskin No comments

    The last Portfolio Workshop went really well. Why not join us on September 29th for the next one? We meet at 6:30pm at my studio in Downtown Indianapolis. Read on for more details.
    Making photographs might be a solitary experience, but as soon as you’ve made a photograph you’ll want to share it. As you gain experience as a photographer you’ll want to share your photographs more broadly, beyond friends and acquaintance. Of course you’ll be concerned about how other people perceive your work, or at least I hope you will. If you want to present your images to galleries or contests or businesses it’s important to learn how other people see your work. Frankly it’s quite difficult to learn this on your own. I’ve learned this for myself. When I look at my shots I remember the circumstances of the shoot, and this always colors my perception of the shot.

    Mosaic

    The above shot is a good example I made this shot for a hotel in Beverly Hills. The owners of the hotel and the designer weren’t ready for the shoot and there were other problems. So, while the shot is good, I didn’t put it on my website for quite a while because I remembered the problems when I looked at the shot. So choosing photographs to show is very difficult. When I do a shoot I have certain reasons for the shots, the reasons may be commercial, personal or something else. Because the first time I edit the shots the choices are based on the reasons I did the shoot. I sometimes miss a shot that has other possibilities. This is why I go back to older shots and review them again. That even happened with this shot:

    What?

     

    The purpose of the Portfolio Workshop is to help you develop skills for editing and presenting your shots. There are different ways to present your portfolio, and presentation is important. I’ve seen a lot of people who only have digital versions of their portfolios. While a digital portfolio is good, I think you might also want a print portfolio; for one thing it helps you sell prints. More important you want to show various ways of presenting images to your client: digital, website print and more. These tools may be important to a commercial client. For instance I had a high end landscaping client that showed very large prints to potential buyers. He told me that he was going to be landscaping a couple of acres of land and you just couldn’t present that with a 4X6 inch print. Of course he knew he needed really good photographs if he was going to show prints that big. I have a 16X20 inch portfolio that I present to architecture clients; it’s been quite successful. I have a couple of portfolios on my tablet and even a few pdf portfolios my clients can see on line: www.siskinphoto.com/aportrait.pdf and www.siskinphoto.com/aarch.pdf. In the workshop we’ll be talking about the most effective ways of sharing our work. We’ll also talk about how to get people to look at our work. The shot below is in my16X20 portfolio.

    Mark David

    There’s a lot more to this workshop than listening to me pontificate about someone else’s photographs. This is a small group and everyone is encouraged to participate. The idea is to see how several different people react to your images. One object of this workshop is to develop a supportive environment where you can get detailed feedback about your images. Another object is to develop everybody’s skill communicating about images. This is always challenging to photographers because few photographers have a background in design. When you can better describe why an image works you’ll also create better skills designing and building images. Of course we’ll also share technical information about making images, but, in this sort of workshop, technology is secondary to developing our design skills.

    I’m asking participants to bring two images to each meeting. This way everyone will get a chance to have an image reviewed and to comment on other people’s images. I’m sure there are people who would like to have just their portfolio reviewed rather than be part of this workshop. I certainly do portfolio reviews, but they cost more than $20. A portfolio review is static, this workshop will help you develop your skills as a photographer over time and build great portfolios. The Portfolio Workshop is a live experience. It meets once a month in my Indianapolis Studio.

    You can start attending this workshop with just a few images. We meet once a month so you’ll have the opportunity to create more images for your portfolio and bring them to the workshop. You can use the workshop experience to help you decide what kind of a portfolio to develop, or you can develop several portfolios at one time. I’m always working on several sorts of images at the same time. I encourage everyone to participate, by bringing images and by giving feedback to the other participants. Sign up at the Workshop Page on my site. Please join in!

    You can get my books through amazon or other booksellers.

    You can take an online course with me at BetterPhoto.com
    An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
    Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
    Getting Started in Commercial Photography

     

  • I Updated www.siskinphoto.com!

    Posted on May 28th, 2014 John Siskin No comments

    I’ve often posted about the marketing I’m doing. I’ve just finished a complete makeover of my website, which is a very critical part of my marketing. If you didn’t just click over from www.siskinphoto.com I hope you’ll visit soon. I haven’t renewed the site in several years, so this update was overdue. I made a number of decisions about how my site should be seen and about who I want to attract to the site. While I know that many people are trying to create sites that are friendlier to phones and other devices, my site is specifically designed to be viewed from a desktop computer. That’s because I built the site for designers and commercial clients, and I expect they make decisions about photography while they’re at work. If I were looking for wedding, portrait or other retail clients I wouldn’t have made this decision. I think the biggest change is that the images on my site are larger, since I’m selling my services as a photographer I think that bigger images look better. I’ve left some text in the site to satisfy Google’s searching mechanism, but the site is really built to show images. I’ve included a couple of images that weren’t on the site before in this blog.

    Disney work

    It’s always interesting to review the images I’ve made. I find that I change my perception of an image as the experiences of making the image recede. Sometimes, if I had a good time on the shoot, my first impression is that the images are better than they might actually be, and the opposite is also true. Of course I also see how the business and techniques of photography have changed over the forty odd, some very odd, years I have been in the business of photography. While I know that many people think that digital photography is the most significant change, in my work I think the way that Photoshop allows you to manipulate images has had a greater effect. When I used to shoot transparency film for a client there was no way to change the image after the transparency film was shot in the camera, you really had to pay attention to what you did in camera. It’s easier now and you also have much more ability to create. I think the current toolkit available to photographers gives us great opportunities to make commercial and other sorts of photographs.

    Horse 1

    Of course I don’t always feel that digital imaging is the most personally satisfying way to make photographs, so I still do personal work with large format cameras. There are several posts in this blog about images I’ve made with my 8X10 Toyo camera. I can’t find a perfect explanation for what is so satisfying about making an image with a big camera, but I assure you that I find something special in working with a big camera. This is why I just bought an 11X14 camera. That’s right it shoot an 11X14 inch piece of film; each exposure is on about 154 square inches of film. Several people have already asked me if this is better than a digital image. Of course that depends on several factors. The 11X14 isn’t easier to use and in most situations it doesn’t make better pictures. However if you are making black and white images, whether on modern silver bromide papers or with hand coated alternative emulsions, it will make prints that are visibly different from anything you’ll get with an ink jet printer. There’s no way you can tell the difference by looking at a screen, you have to go look at original prints by people who used large cameras, say Edward Weston. There are many reasons: no enlarger, continuous tone, no grain and more, but trust me the effect can be quite compelling.

    Perincamera #0001

    The new 11X14 camera!

    I’d like to tell you that I’ve already had good results with the camera, but there’s more needed than just the camera to make images. The fact is that I don’t have any film holders. 11X14 inch film holders are quite expensive, several hundred dollars apiece. So if you happen to know of an 11X14 holder that I can get for a reasonable price please let me know. The holder will be going to a good home. I think I have the other tools I need to make images: lenses, tripod and so on, but if you know of any tools for an ultra large format camera please let me know.

    Deere

    Recently a rather large number of people have registered at this blog, at least a couple of hundred folks. In fact I’m getting several new registrations each day. While I’m pleased and flattered that so many people have registered I’m wondering why? None of you have left any comments. Am I missing something? Well, regardless thank you!

    Munchkin Inc.

    In addition to supporting the blog by registering you can do more and increase your photographic knowledge! My books Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting
    and Photographing Architecture are available at Amazon and other places. You can take a class with me at BetterPhoto.com no matter where you are. I’ve had students as far away as Bangladesh and as close by as Indianapolis. Please check out these fine classes:
    An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
    Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
    Getting Started in Commercial Photography
    Of course if you are in the Mid West you can come to my studio for a class. The next opportunity is the Portfolio Workshop on June 16 (http://www.siskinphoto.com/workshop.php). I’ve recently offered a Strobe Lighting Workshop and a Matting and Framing Workshop. I’ll offer these workshops and more soon. Please let me know if you have any ideas for more workshops. Also I’ll be giving a lecture/demonstration about photo microscopy at the Venture Photo Club here in Indianapolis on June 5. Please let me know if you’d like me to present at any photo club that’s local (that’s local to Indianapolis).

    Thanks for your attention,
    John
    www.siskinphoto.com

  • Notes From the Lighting Workshop

    Posted on April 30th, 2014 John Siskin No comments

    Please check out my on-line classes at BetterPhoto: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio and Getting Started in Commercial Photography, take a look at my site for workshops in Indianapolis and check out my books:

    The Lighting Workshop happened last weekend and it went very well. We spent all day discussing and working with strobes. Since the class size was small I was able to be very responsive to the specific interests of each participant. We set up the strobes to see how the tools work in specific situations as well as discussing the basics of how light works. If you understand the basics of a light: size, color, position and power, you can understand what a light will do. We did a lot of shots so that we could see the effect. Of course the shots were for demonstration so we concentrated on the lighting. In this shot I’m the model, which is not my best talent. I used a light panel with a white cotton broad cloth cover. These are great light modifiers. I wanted to use a hard light in the shot so I set up a strobe with a snoot to the right of the camera. I like snoots more than grid spots because the light spreads more than with grids as you pull the snoots back from the subject. This shot shows the set-up.

    The light panel gives a smooth gradation across most of the face. The snoot defines the other side of the face. One of the first things I wanted to demonstrate was how to use a colored gel to change the color of the light. I usually use warm gels, but I wanted to make a change here so I added a CTB gel, which is a blue. The CTB gel is from Rosco and is designed to make a tungsten light act like daylight. The shot below shows how the shot looked at first: not great. The light on my face is a little dark while there is probably too much light from the snoot. It burns out the left side of my face.

    In the next shot I made some adjustments. The light on my face is a little brighter, which helps. Also I’ve positioned the light panel just a little more in front of my face; this make the light cover more of my face. The snoot is positioned to keep the light on just the side of my face. This is accomplished by moving the snoot a little more toward the center of the shot. The light from the snoot is still too bright. You’ll notice that since the light panel is still situated pretty far to the side of my face as  there is little or know reflection in my glasses. The further the light panels comes toward the camera position the more reflection there will be in my glasses.

    In the last shot I added a 1-stop neutral density filter to the blue gel. This reduced the light on the left side of my face nicely. The light panel is a little closer to the camera position so there is a little more reflection in my glasses. When you use a large light modifier, which makes soft light, the reflection (specular highlight) is larger and less bright, relative to the rest of the light. So the reflection is as strong as a reflection from a small hard light. This works well in this shot. The same thing applies to the catch lights in the eyes, which have a nice size and brightness in this shot.

    You can see the two gels on the version of the shot below. They’re held onto the snoot by a very small spring clamp.

    I hope you’ll consider taking one of my workshops. The next one is the continuing Portfolio Workshop on June 2. You can find more information on the workshop page of my site. You can also find the books on my site, and I hope you’ll check them out. I’ll be speaking about micro (not macro but micro) photography on June 5 at the Photo Venture Camera Club here in Indianapolis. Finally please don’t forget my classes at BetterPhoto, you can take them anywhere!
    An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
    Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio

    Getting Started in Commercial Photography

    Here are a couple more shots from the workshop. Thanks Bill!


  • Strobe Lighting Workshop! April 27th

    Posted on April 10th, 2014 John Siskin No comments

    If you’re close to Indiana this will be a great workshop, if not you can take an online class with me at BetterPhoto.com. The shots this week are demonstration images and diagrams from my classes and books.

    It’s sometimes useful to remember that we don’t actually photograph things or people or places; we photograph the light reflected off people or things or paces. For instance if you take a picture of someone under a blue light that person will be blue, also you can’t take a picture without light. So, in a very real sense all photography is painting with light. Like painting a photographer can choose to make a straight recording of a subject, but also like painting, a photographer can choose to manipulate and interpret the subject. I think that manipulation is part of want makes an image a photograph rather than a snap shot. Manipulating the light is one way the photographer can change an image, and it’s a powerful way to manipulate an image. Creating light can allow you to build a shot that isn’t part of the world and to take a shot where the light is wrong or just insufficient.

    A house painter uses a different tool kit than a portrait painter. I don’t think portrait painters ever use rollers! Of course there are different tools for creating different kinds of light for photographs. You might use a dedicated flash to open up the shadows in an outdoor portrait, but if you try to do a studio portrait with the same flash you’ll be disappointed with the results. A good artist, with any medium, knows how each tool will affect the picture. This workshop is designed to give you greater confidence and ability with the tools of lighting.

    Strobes are fantastic tools for lighting still pictures. You can get a dedicated strobe that will do a good job shooting 500 pictures at an event powered by just a few batteries. You can carry the thing in a pocket. When a movie crew shows up there is at least one truck entirely full of lights; a movie light with the same power as a good strobe is hard for one person to lift. There is only one problem with strobe lights: the photographer can’t see the light that will make the picture. The light is only on for 1/1000th of a second while the shutter is open. So to make good shots with these lights we have to be able to predict, pre-visualize, what our strobes will do. That’s what this workshop is about.

    Automatic or dedicated strobes are good tools when you need to get a good exposure quickly, say if your shooting a wedding or other event, but automation doesn’t give you complete control over the light. It’s more like painting by numbers that painting with light. In addition to a light we need the right tools to modify the light: to get quality light rather than just quantity light. It’s a big problem for photographers to choose good tools. The manufacturers of the gear want to sell you more things rather than help you make better pictures, so they don’t always give you enough information. So one goal of this workshop is to help you decide what tools would be best for you. My studio is a kind of test kitchen for light modifiers. You’ll be able to see the light that different tools make. Other goals are to learn how to use several lights together and how to use strobe with ambient light.


    Strobe Lighting! April 27th
    This workshop will take place on Sunday the 27th of April. We’ll meet at my studio: 971 North Delaware, Unit B, Indianapolis. We’ll be starting at 10:00 am, and we’ll be working together all day. The cost will be $225. There are only three spaces left. You can sign up for either workshop at the workshop page on my site: http://www.siskinphoto.com/Workshop.html, or give me a call (317) 473-0406.

    If you control the light in your picture you are doing so much more to build the image than when you just record the light. Finding light is good, but building light is fabulous. The idea is to understand how to control and create light to build your own vision.

     

    I post on this blog mostly to promote my classes at BetterPhoto and my books. I’m lucky enough to have students from around the world. If you’re interested in taking one of these classes here are the links:

    An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

    Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio

    Getting Started in Commercial Photography

    And here are the books:

    I’ll mention a couple of more resources that might interest you on my website: my magazine page has two-dozen of my articles on subjects from lighting to lens building that appeared in such magazines as Shutterbug, Photo Techniques and View Camera. Check it out at: http://www.siskinphoto.com/magazinearticles.php. And if you like to build some of your own equipment you can check out the projects here: http://www.siskinphoto.com/cameraeqp.php. You can check out my page at facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JohnSiskinPhotographer. Or my website: www.siskinphoto.com and of course you can probably find traces of me at places like LinkedIn, Behance (www.behance.net/siskin), Flicker and even Twitter (twitter.com/JohnSiskin).
    Thanks for your attention!

    John
    john@siskinphoto.com
    www.siskinphoto.com

  • Working With Clients

    Posted on April 4th, 2014 John Siskin No comments

    Please check out my on-line classes at BetterPhoto: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio and Getting Started in Commercial Photography, take a look at my site for workshops in Indianapolis and check out my books:

    I’ve been doing commercial photography for several decades. One of the problems with what I do is communication with my clients. Often they haven’t worked with photographers, and really don’t have an idea about the process. I’ve been wanting to update the information I give them about the jobs I do. Most of my clients are businesses rather than ad agencies, so this is particularly important. As I thought about this I realized it might be a good thing to put this on the blog because I’d like to get feedback about how you work with clients. As you read this keep in mind that my clients are looking for shots of their jobs and products rather than weddings and babies. I like working with businesses; there is more variety in the work and businesses come back for more work sooner than families. I’ve included a couple of pictures just to keep things interesting.

    The most important thing in creating an effective image for a client is to engage the client in building that image. Without an ad agency the client is the only source of expertise on the subject. I have shot things the size of a pinhead and subjects about as big as a city block. I have literally shot everything from cuticle cream to parts for a submarine. While I find it’s useful to know a little about a lot of things the only subjects I know in depth are photography and lighting. So if I can’t get the client to help me tell the story many jobs will be worse off. Whenever possible I want the client, or their representative, at the shoot. Certainly someone should be at the first shoot, after that I will know more about the product and the client’s taste. However the results are usually better when the client is engaged. I have a wireless system for showing the images to the client as the shoot progresses.

    Before I can begin a job there needs to be a shot list. The client and I need to agree on a time and place for the shoot, and of course the price. It’s at this point that I explain to the client that my price is largely based on the amount of time that will be involved doing the client’s shoot. In three hours I might have finished shooting a bank’s board of directors, but I’d still be doing the set up for a motorcycle shoot in my studio. One of the problems of negotiating with a client is that they often think that the prep, shot and clean up happen in almost no time at all. I’ll just walk in with a camera and shoot. Not only is this a problem when we’re negotiating the price, it can be difficult to get the client to block out enough time for the shoot. If you don’t address this issue before the shoot you might have trouble during the shoot. In addition the material needed for the shoot, assistant and the location will affect the price.

    Before I can give the client a price the client and I need to agree on what will be delivered when. My preference is to give the client an edited low-res version of most of the files. Then I hope the client will choose the files they’re most interested in and final retouching can be done on those files. I will include the time to prepare the edited version of the files in the original estimate. When I do the editing I will remove images that are just bad and others that are redundant. I will open each file in Adobe Camera Raw and adjust such things as color, exposure, cropping, sharpness and lens distortion. While this only take a few seconds on a single image, a shoot with 500 images can take a while to edit. I reduce the size of the files to them easier to review. I spend the time to prepare this set of files because I want to show the client a good version of my work, obviously this group of images will reflect on my talents. The difficulty is that the client doesn’t always review these files. I don’t know if I should reduce the number of files I send or make other changes. Regardless I will deliver whatever version of the files the client wants, but I do try to keep the mistakes to myself. The client can even have my Raw files if they want, but since most clients can’t open these files I generally don’t deliver them. I will give the client an estimate for image editing, if any, before I do any additional work to a particular file. This is all part of the negotiation with the client. We need to define just what the client will get and when.

    I’ll get a deposit from the client before the day of the shoot. Generally the deposit is 50% of the estimate. I try to deliver the first version of the files to the client in 48 hours or less, and I’ll include a bill for the balance with these files.

    If you know what usage means to a photographer you are in the minority. Of course this can make it difficult or impossible to charge a usage fee to a client, and most of the time I don’t. Usage is simply the way the image is used, say in a magazine or on a web site. By extension it is a license, for a fee, to use the image in a specific way. If a photographer sells a photo from his/her files to be used once in a magazine and then sees it used on a billboard or a national advertising campaign the photographer has been cheated and the usage agreement has been violated. This can result in litigation. My policy is the when the client pays me to create a custom photograph, rather than buying an image from my files, that purchase includes the right to use the photograph to aid the client’s business for as long as the client feels the image is useful, with few exceptions. The client can’t sell the photograph, as a photograph and not part of packaging, to a third party. So a contractor can’t sell a photo to a window manufacturer with out negotiating compensation for me. If the client chooses to give the image away, well that’s the clients business. Any stock images that I license a client to use have specific limits on usage. I hope that my clients will be successful, and that they will return to me for more photographs. I also do consulting for businesses setting up in house photographic systems. I expect that the material I create for these businesses will not be shared outside the business. In addition to my concerns about how my images are used I understand that the client has concerns about how I use the images. My policy is that I don’t offer client images for sale to other clients or third parties. Specifically I don’t license client images through any stock agency. I will use the images to promote my business: in print, on line and in magazine articles. However I appreciate that some images have proprietary information so I will give the client a chance to review images before I use them.

    There are things I’m still thinking about, for instance weather and working hours. When I had a business in Los Angeles years would go by without a weather conflict. That isn’t true in Indiana. I would prefer that a client reschedule a job if the weather is predicted to be unworkable two days in advance. If the client insists and the job can’t be done then there’s a problem.  I haven’t been able to use the time in another way and I think I should charge the client. Any thoughts? In addition I wonder about what hours I’m expected to keep? A wedding photographer expects to work weekends and evenings, as an architectural photographer I might have to be on site a dawn to shoot a building. Should I charge extra for special hours? Should I charge extra if I have to do rush work on the files? Of course I do charge extra for a day that is more than 10 hours long. I fyou’d like to let me know what you thing please (john@siskinphoto.com) or register with this site.

    There’s no such thing as a package job around here. At least the first job with any client requires us to create a mutual understanding of possibilities and responsibilities
    Of course, if you can’t come to Indianapolis you can still get my books or take my classes. And I hope you will!
    Books:
    Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographer

    Photographing Architecture

    My Classes at BetterPhoto.com:

    An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
    Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio

    Getting Started in Commercial Photography