Photo Notes

February 20, 2011

Looking For Work?

Filed under: Looking at Photographs,Marketing — John Siskin @ 7:36 pm

For Aids Walk, Los Angeles

Here are the shameless plugs at the beginning of the blog. My book Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers is on Amazon.com. The wonderful folks at Shutterbug magazine are printing a 3 page excerpt in the current issue. Please pick up the magazine.  Here is a sample chapter from the book. Of course I still hope that you will consider purchasing my fine art book B Four: pictures of beach, beauty, beings and buildings. Frankly purchases of this book mean a lot to me, and it is also a fine gift for any occasion. As you know I teach for BetterPhoto.com. I really hope you’ll sign up my class: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting.

Shot for a breeder.

Sign up are very good this month!

Recently I’ve been having a conversation with a couple of people on the discussion board at BetterPhoto.com. We’ve been discussing selling photographs. One of the problems that a person has as he/she becomes a more committed photographer is that she/he needs some sort of validation. Many people will participate in contests, but often the judging of

Shot for Ramada South Bay.

a contest is capricious or even insane. Selling photography can seem like a much better way of getting validation, and it might even buy you some new gear. Heck, it can even turn a hobby into a tax write off.   If you want to sell photographs you need to look at the photographs that get bought, rather than the photographs you want to take. I have been selling photographs for almost thirty years. I started out photographing backgrounds for the Chipmunks: Alvin, Theodore and Simon. The last job I did was photographing a concrete

For Aids Walk, Los Angeles

pour for the footings of a new building. In the middle I’ve done work for General Motors and Aids Walk. Almost every photograph I’ve ever sold I sold to a business or a magazine. These are markets that need a lot of photographs. I’ve already done 6 jobs this year for one client. You can see some of the work I’ve done for this client at www.beelerbuildsembetter.com. Families don’t need a lot of photographs, would you do a family portrait more often then every other year?  People don’t have weddings frequently, at least most people don’t. I’ve seen a lot of bad photography that got paid for, because the clients needed the images. If you want to sell photographs look at the businesses

For Rhythm Child

that buy photographs. Also get the Photographer’s Market. The Photographers market lists ad agencies, magazines and publishers. It even lists art fairs. It also tells you how to approach various kinds of businesses.

I have the 2010 version of Photographers Market right now. If I were going to do a major push for new accounts I would go get 2011 version. While there may be new markets, and that is important, the key thing is that you have up to date information on who the buyer is in a particular company or publisher. I found the publisher for my current book, and my next book, in Photographer’s Market. I sold to the New Yorker because of Photographer’s Market. What is not to love?

It is difficult for emerging photographers to understand that

For West Wind Studios.

they need to develop a broader definition of what a photographer does. You might want to look at my website: www.siskinphoto.com, to see the many kinds of photography I do to make a living. Oh, and I also teach at BetterPhoto.com. The pictures this week are images I’ve made for clients.

On a related note, I am really interested in what people are sending out as digital portfolios. If you have a digital portfolio, and you don’t mind, could you send me a copy? If you want I could add a link to the portfolio here in the blog, or not. Of course if you could tell me how the portfolio is targeted, and how you send it, that would be great.
Thanks, John Siskin

I hope you’ll suggest my BetterPhoto class An Introduction to Photographic Lighting to other photographers you know, or perhaps you’d like to give it as a gift? Amherst media sent me the cover for my second book, you can see it here, of course you can still look at my first book at Amazon . Also if you look at the current issue of Shutterbug you’ll find a three page excerpt form my book. I am so pleased that they did this.
BetterPhoto.com, The better way to learn photography

February 13, 2011

Editing Images

Filed under: Looking at Photographs,Photography Communication — John Siskin @ 7:22 pm

Before I get to the shameless plugs for my book and stuff, I’d like to mention something I think is important. Over the last few days I’ve traded a couple of e-mails with one of my students who is an Egyptian. It is a remarkable experience to have such a connection to world events. This would not have happened to me without BetterPhoto. I truly have a world full of connections because I shared what I know and the photographs I’ve made with the world through BetterPhoto. I urge you to get connected, either with BetterPhoto or in some other way. I wish the Egyptian people good fortune in their new adventure.

And here are the shameless plugs. My book Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers is on Amazon.com. The wonderful folks at Shutterbug magazine are printing a 3 page excerpt in the current issue. Please pick up the magazine.  Here is a sample chapter from the book. Of course I still hope that you will consider purchasing my fine art book B Four: pictures of beach, beauty, beings and buildings. Frankly purchases of this book mean a lot to me, and it is also a fine gift for any occasion. As you know I teach for BetterPhoto.com. I really hope you’ll sign up my class: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting. Sign up are very good this month!

This shot was done with 4X5 film so there were significant expenses.

Back in the misty depths of time I was a large format photographer. I shot mostly on 4X5 and 8X10 film, which was expensive. A single piece of processed 4X5 film was about $4 and a sheet of Polaroid was $3. An average shot took 2 Polaroids and 2 pieces of film, so $14 per shot. Expenses were marked up for the client so film and Polaroid were a very significant part of the client’s bill. The reason I mention this is that I didn’t shoot many extra images, so I didn’t need to edit. You edited with the Polaroids, and the set-ups, getting the shot perfected before you took it. When I began using digital it became obvious that since an additional image had no additional cost more images would get made. Of course this means that editing is very important.

I made about 250 exposures on this shoot.

The number of images I shoot has continued to go up as digital equipment has improved and the cost of memory has come down. I did a typical construction shoot last week. I shot about 250 images of earth moving equipment. I love it when the earth moves. The problem is that the client needs only about 20 images. So I need to edit.

I know photographers who claim that they just can’t edit their own work. I think that anytime you tell me what you can’t do you are probably

A musician's head shot

right. But I also ask myself what kind of a photographer will limit himself or herself by saying that he/she can’t something? There are things I can’t do now, but if I wanted to do them I would learn. Some skills are hard to learn, but a professional will find a way to learn them. An amateur might not feel that they want to learn a skill, and that makes sense, because they are doing photography for personal expression.

When I take a photograph there is always a personal element to it. I am affected by the day, the people, the nature of the job and so on. The thing is that this won’t be part of my picture; my picture is only what I put in the frame. So when I look at a group of images the first thing is to concentrate only on what other people will see. I need to analyze the shot as someone else would see it. This isn’t all that difficult to learn, but it is really important. Most people use photography to diarize their

The musician doing a stock shot.

lives, to remember the moments of their own life. This is exactly what you need to avoid if you are making pictures for someone else. The first thing I look for is will the shot interest the intended audience.

The next step is to understand my shot in terms of the purpose of the shot. So I wouldn’t expect a shot of a musician to look like a shot of a realtor. If I’m shooting construction the look is going to be grittier and more graphic than the shot I would do of a finished home. I may have shots that would be excellent for family, but not for commercial usage. The client gets a group of the images for their stated purpose, but I may include additional images in a separate folder.

For analysis and for understanding my shots, I’ll probably

I did quite a number of similar images, but this had a little more emotional impact. I had to compare several images to make the decision.

use a fairly small version of the shot in an editing program. I use Adobe Bridge most of the time. I may edit with 4 or 5 images on a row. But for the next step I’m going to look at the images much larger. In the early editing process I’m looking for things that keep the image from working. In the final edit I’m looking for what makes the image work.

I want to think in terms of the graphic nature of the image, is it strong or subtle? I want to think about the nuances of expression, how intimate is an image? I want to think about color and technical aspects of an image.

One more thing: you want to go back to your images, in a few months or a year, to see if you’ve missed anything. As much as I try to see my shots from outside the experience of the shoot, putting some distance in time between editing and shooting will still change the way I see my work.


I hope you’ll suggest my BetterPhoto class An Introduction to Photographic Lighting to other photographers you know, or perhaps you’d like to give it as a gift? Amherst media sent me the cover for my second book, you can see it here, of course you can still buy my first book on Amazon . Also if you look at the March issue of Shutterbug you’ll find a three page excerpt from my book. I am so pleased that they did this.
BetterPhoto.com, The better way to learn photography

February 4, 2011

Lighting a Background

Filed under: Do It Yourself,Lighting Technique — John Siskin @ 6:30 pm

And I am continuing the shameless plugs at the beginning of the blog. My book Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers is on Amazon.com. The wonderful folks at Shutterbug magazine are printing a 3 page excerpt in the next issue. Please pick up the magazine.  Here is a sample chapter from the book. Of course I still hope that you will consider purchasing my fine art book B Four: pictures of beach, beauty, beings and buildings. Frankly purchases of this book mean a lot to me, and it is also a fine gift for any occasion. As you know I teach for BetterPhoto.com. I really hope you’ll sign up my class: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting. Sign up are very good this month!

I used a Rosco CTO for the background. The light came from a snoot which was covered by a piece of cine foil with cuts in it.

I’ve continued to work on the projector powered by a strobe. The results have been very effective, as I demonstrated in the last blog entry. While the strobe projector is very effective for putting light or an image onto a face, it isn’t giving me as much ability to control background light as I would like. People used to project images behind a subject before Photoshop. Now, it’s easier to drop in a background, after the shot, using Photoshop. However it is really good to be able to add color and dimension to a muslin or canvas background. You can change the background color easily this way and make the background lighter or darker in different parts of the shot. The strobe projector I built isn’t really bright enough to do a change a background unless

This time I used a magenta gel and a piece of foil with holes cut into it.

the light on the subject is very low power. You can do this, but it isn’t what I really want. I am hoping the strobe projector will show up in a magazine article soon. For the background on this week’s shots I have been putting cine foil over my snoot and cutting various openings. I am attaching a picture taken with a piece of cine foil with straight cuts, which has a warm filter. And there is another shot using cine foil with several holes in the foil. This second shot has a magenta gel, which makes a very saturated background. Of course both shots are made on a simple mottled gray muslin background. This is really a fun way to change the background. I should point out that it only takes seconds to change the cine foil and/or the

The foil and gels I used for these shots

colored gel.

For these shots I used a strobe set at 250 watt-seconds pointed into a 45 inch umbrella with a black back. This was the light for the subject. I used a gold reflector on a light panel frame on the opposite side of the face. I also used one more panel, with a black cover on it, behind the umbrella. This reduced white light spilled on the background.  If you get light from the umbrella on the background it will mix with the colored light and reduce the saturation. The strobe in the snoot had 1200 watt-seconds when I used the CTO gel and the foil with the cuts in it. For the other set-up, with the magenta gel, I used 800 watt-seconds. The camera was set at f8 and ISO 100. This really works much better than my tests with the projector light. In the tests with the projector the aperture was at f5.6 and the power was set at 2000 watt-seconds, and the background was still to dark.

The cover of my next book. This book will be available in the fall of this year!

 

I hope you’ll suggest my BetterPhoto class An Introduction to Photographic Lighting to other photographers you know, or perhaps you’d like to give it as a gift? Amherst media sent me the cover for my second book, you can see it above, of course you can still look at my first book on Amazon . Also if you look at the March issue of Shutterbug you’ll find a three page excerpt form my book. I am so pleased that they did this.
BetterPhoto.com, The better way to learn photography

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