Photo Notes

March 26, 2012

Doing Business with Interior Designers

Filed under: Architectural Lighting,Commercial Photography,Marketing — John Siskin @ 10:18 am


Amazon is shipping copies of my second book: Photographing Architecture. This is really exciting! Of course you can also get my first book Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting. You can download copies of most of my articles and some do it yourself projects. I teach three classes at BetterPhoto: Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio, An Introduction to Photographic Lighting and Getting Started in Commercial Photography. I hope you’ll check them out.
I was asked to write something about how to hire a photographer for a thread at Linkedin. The group is from the National Kitchen & Bath Association. I spoke to one of the chapters last year. I thought it might be good to start with a few things about how to do business with a designer and post it here. If you came here from the Linkedin group you’ll notice that some of this was posted there.

I’ve included a lot of kitchen and bath photos I made for Terry Beeler and Son Contractors, Inc.

If you’re a designer there are a few things you want to know before you start contacting photographers. First, what do you want from the shoot. Is the shoot for your portfolio only? Are you going to use the shot on a web site? Do you want to submit it to a contest or a magazine? What will you do with the shot? Do you want to hire a photographer who has a relationship with a magazine? This can increase the chances of publication. Is there a particular time or day when this project needs to be shot? Does the weather matter? What is your budget? Exactly what needs to be done? If you only designed the kitchen, then that is what needs to be done. If you also designed a bath or a second floor kitchen tell the photographer up front. What you’re really asking yourself is how are these photographs going to fit into my overall marketing plan?

For both photographers and designers: large portfolios are very impressive. I had a client with a 16X20 inch portfolio; it was very effective. The person buying the kitchen or bath shouldn’t be asked to make an important decision off a 4X6 inch print or your ipad.

Questions to ask the photographer:

Are you available to do the shoot? This is a question about time, location and date.

Do you have experience with this kind of job? If you’re shooting a kitchen a photographer should be able to show you sample interiors. Honestly, if you don’t really like what you see don’t hire the person.

Ask to see a print the size you use for your portfolio. Prints require much more resolution than screen shots to look good. If you don’t see a print you don’t know what the photographer can provide.

How does the photographer charge? How much of a deposit? Is there a late cancellation fee or a weather cancellation fee? Can the photographer provide prints or books or web sized image or other services?

Tell the photographer you want to receive the RAW files (if technology changes you may want RAW files, if not they are probably useless to you) of the shots as well as converted files. You’ll probably want the converted files as jpg.

Your shots will require work in Photoshop. You want to know how the photographer charges for Photoshop work. Photoshop work can be difficult or impossible to estimate before a shoot. Things that seem to be easy are not always easy.

Understand your rights. You are not only paying for photographs you are paying for the right to use them. If your client copied the kitchen you designed into another house you would feel cheated. The photographer has rights to images even after the bill has been paid. Both sides can be unreasonable about this. I believe that a client should be able to use the images in a portfolio or on the web for as long as he/she would like. If my photographs are used in a magazine article I expect credit printed in the magazine and at least five copies of the magazine; I may also expect compensation. If you expect to use the images in a magazine or television ad it will affect the work I do on the images and it will affect your costs. If an image I made is sold to a third party I expect compensation. I want the right to sell the image to the contractor or other interested companies. In general I really want you do anything that will make you more successful, as I think it may lead to more work.


Everybody involved in this sort of a job should understand that time is important. Generally you’re going to be in someone’s home and you don’t want to inconvenience the homeowner more than necessary. Everybody should be on time. Designers need to understand this clearly: if you make the photographer wait for two hours, or twenty minutes, while you adjust things in the photograph it will add to the cost of the photography, often quite a lot. I have arrived at shoots and been told: “Oh, sorry not ready. Can you come back tomorrow?” Maybe I’ll come back after you pay 100% of today’s charges. Honestly, this shouldn’t happen as often as it does. If you’ve hired a photographer to work, at a given time and place, be ready. Photographers tell your client the are paying for your time: day rate or hourly, so be ready for the shoot.

Photographers:
Ask for a list of suppliers and contractors who worked on the job. If the designer will give it to you up front be willing to offer a substantial discount. If anyone on the list wants an extra shot, or a shot of a different room, clear it with the designer and the homeowner. If there is any chance of magazine or ad publication get a property release. Additional sales of these images can be very profitable. In addition these contacts can lead to additional jobs.

Be very specific with the client about their needs and how they will use the image. Write this down and get the client to sign. If the client says the shot is for the web and then tries to print it in a magazine that low-res file will be a problem. You need to be able to show the client that you delivered what was ordered. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver! Deliver on time. If the client busts the budget tell them how and why.

You should have a written agreement with the client, and it should include the following information:

Client’s name and contact information

Date and time of the shoot

Address of the shoot

A description of the photographs you will make.

What kind of files and how many files will be delivered.

Projected delivery date of the final images

Cost and the size of the deposit. When the balance is due.

Inform the client that images may be sold to contractors and suppliers if you have discussed this.

Any information that is particular to this job, including the client’s rights to use the photos.


Well that’s it. Back to a plug for BetterPhoto classes. Seriously folks take a class, please.
Thanks, John

I teach three classes at BetterPhoto:

Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio

An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

Getting Started in Commercial Photography

I hope you’ll check them out. I have been told that prices are going up this year at BetterPhoto, so you might want to sign up soon.

March 14, 2012

Shooting the Irving Theater!

Filed under: Architectural Lighting,Indianapolis,Lighting Technique — John Siskin @ 3:53 pm

I was talking about the workshop at the Irving Theater is the last blog as well. This week I’m going to show you the steps in the shoot.  This was the actual shoot for the Irving so the participants got to see the actual process rather than a staged version of the shoot. I’ve been teaching for a couple of decades and I’ve discovered that many students like to see the way shoots actually work, and the actual problem solving that goes into a shoot. This blog will help those who couldn’t attend. Of course not every moment in this kind of a production is good entertainment. Personally, I sometimes feel as though I’m making a bad landing in front of an audience. Especially if I’m shooting in a theater. I hate to start with a bad shot, but most things begin in the dark. This is the progression of shots that led to the final shot from the Irving Theater on March 4. More than twenty people were present for the experience. There is a short equipment list at the end of the blog. For more information please check out my books. The links are at the top of the page.

Irving 01: Ambient light, the place is a cave with little light. Exposure: 1/90 at F8, which was the exposure for all these shots. The differences are in the light.


Irving 02: Two lights, a Norman LH2400 with 500 watt seconds on the right side of the frame into an Alien Bee parabolic reflector, and a Norman 200B pointed at the back wall. Both of these are tests.

Irving 03: I added a 45 inch umbrella with a Calumet 750 watt-second Travelite near the camera. The Travelite is set to 1/2 power. I added two more Norman 200B units to the back wall with full CTO gels on each. The CTOs are filters to make the light warmer.


Irving 04: I put a Norman LH2400 in the front of the room, just in front of the first pew. The light has about 500 watt-seconds. I put barn doors on the light to control the spill. The spill is bad in this shot.


Irving 05: The Travelite and the Norman 200Bs are the only lights that fired. The CTO gels have been replaced by red gels, looks better. A shot with fewer lights makes it easier to balance the 200B units, but I didn’t plan it. I had problems with the slaves. The chairs appeared.


Irving 06: The Normans at the back and at the front fired. Better! I abandoned the Alien Bee Parabolic reflector and used a 60-inch umbrella on the Norman. This umbrella has a much larger and softer spread. I had hoped the Parabolic umbrella would give me some sort of spot on the stage, this was obviously way to optimistic.


Irving 07: More power in the Travelite and the Norman LH2400 at the right of the camera. Things look better. The red lights have been slightly repositioned.


Irving 08: Another bad slave shot, the light in front didn’t fire. I had radio slaves on the 200Bs and the Travelite near the camera; the other strobes had optical slaves. Slaves can be a problem.Here’s an article about slaves.


Irving 09: I kicked up the power on the strobes. The light at the front ended up with 750 watt-seconds. It has more in this shot. The Travelite was at almost full power. The LH2400 on the right had 1200 watt-seconds. The Norman 200Bs ended up at 100 watt-seconds, which was less then they started with.


Irving 10: The LH2400 in front of the pews was reduced in power to the final 750 watt-second. Norman 200Bs were added on the stage. The one on stage left has a 30” shoot through umbrella. This didn’t work: too much light out the back, 200 watt-seconds. The one on the right had  a metal 8” parabolic reflector to throw a spot on the chair, I25 watt-seconds.


Irving 11: The 30” umbrella on the stage was replaced by a shoe cover. Shoe covers are very useful. One of my assistants, Jeff or Jeff put a jacket between the speakers to help hide the light on the stage.


Irving 12: So we get the idea that slaves don’t work every time. This is particularly true with optical slaves in a room with dark walls.


Irving 13: Basically the final shot, but the fluorescent light is on. I think this is the same as #11, but without people.


Irving 14: The final capture! The fluorescent has been turned off, so we are in the dark.


Irving 15: The shot after retouching. For more on the retouching please see my last blog entry.

Norman LH2400: these are studio strobes. Lights have to be plugged into a power pack to work. The power pack is plugged into the wall. My lights are Norman’s 900 series. I have 8 heads and three power packs, 1-2000 watt-second and 2-1250 watt-second units.

Norman 200B: These are location strobes. The have separate power packs, both AC and DC so they are very flexible. Maximum output is 200 watt-seconds. I used DC packs on the wall and AC packs on the stage. I have 7 heads and 5 packs. This is a very flexible system.

Calumet Travelite 750. A 750 watt-second mono-light. This is a self-contained unit that plugs directly into the wall.

Alien Bee 86 inch parabolic umbrella: Let them describe it. They do a better job: http://www.paulcbuff.com/plm-silver.php.

Norman 8-inch parabolic reflector. This throws a very tight spot. For a little more information on Norman’s reflectors for the 200B: http://normanlights.com/battery_reflectors.asp.

Well that’s it. Back to a plug for BetterPhoto classes. Seriously folks take a class, please.
Thanks, John

I teach three classes at BetterPhoto:

Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio

An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

Getting Started in Commercial Photography

I hope you’ll check them out. I have been told that prices are going up this year at BetterPhoto, so you might want to sign up soon.

March 8, 2012

Retouching the Irving Theater

Filed under: Indianapolis,Photographic Education,Post-Processing — John Siskin @ 4:52 pm

I did a workshop at the Irving Theater in Indianapolis on March 4.  I offered 25 tickets and had a sell out. I shot the Irving with the participant and the owner and a couple of assistants. This was the actual shoot for the Irving so the participants got to see the actual process rather than a staged version of the shoot. I’ve been teaching for a couple of decades and I’ve discovered that many students like to see the way shoots actually work, and the actual problem solving that goes into a shoot. Of course not every moment in this kind of a production is good entertainment. Personally, I sometimes feel as though I’m making a bad landing in front of an audience. Especially if I’m shooting in a theater.

The next step in this process is to discuss post-production. What you do after the shot can be as important as what you do in front of the camera. I should point out that the images here will enlarge if you click on them. The next shots are the before and after Photoshop for the first shot:

Original Capture

 

Final Version

I used eight lights to make this shot. The theater lights were turned off.

In this next shot I used only 4 lights, plus a little daylight co ming through the windows. I’m going to walk through the steps of post-production with this shot.


Version 1: The raw file is converted to jpg without adjustments. There are four lights: 2 behind the camera each at 800 watt-seconds with a 45-inch umbrella. One mono-light on the right side of the frame, which you can see. It has about 600 watt-seconds with a 45 inch umbrella. Finally a 500 watt second light hidden at the back of the shot. This had a shoe cover over the strobe.


Version 2: Raw file converted with Fill Light adjustment at 9, blacks at 1, Vibrance at 15 and Saturation at 10.


Version 3: Same as above with 1 stop higher exposure and blacks set at 0. This version might be used to create lighter areas in the finalversion. Under other circumstances I might make a dark file as well as a light file. This was the last work done with the RAW files.


Version 4: I took the dark version and put it over the light version in Layers. I used the eraser tool set at opacity 15%. This gave me a way to lighten the image selectively. I can vary the size and softness of the eraser tool for good control. This works better than dodging for me. I wanted the ceiling dark. The walls are just a little lighter and I kept the floor dark. I lightened the pews just a bit. When things looked good I flattened the file. You need to do any work in layers before you work with cropping.


Version 5: This is all the cropping. First I use lens correction because my light has slight barrel distortion. I usually have this set around 3. Then I do the cropping and change the perspective with the cropping tool. I do the cropping incrementally that works better for me than one big correction. You‘ll notice I cropped out the light on the right side of the frame.


Version 6: Next I used the burn tool. In some circumstances I would build another layer from raw (not after cropping) but the details of this shot don’t require it. I had the tool set between 8% and 20% for this and I changed the size of the tool as needed.


Version 7: I usually do unsharp mask twice, once to increase contrast in the image. This time my settings were Amount 10 and Radius 40 for that. My second sharpening was Amount 35 and Radius 2.5, this actually sharpens the image. Of course how you do this is going to depend on your camera and lens.


Version 8: This image is a little grainy, especially on the wall. I made a duplicate layer and removed the noise on that version. The settings were Strength 9, Preserve Details 10, Reduce color noise 90 and no sharpening. This is a lot, but this isn’t the layer we’ll look at. Then I used the eraser tool, as did I above, to custom blend the two versions. The eraser tool was very big, 900 pixels, so that I could fix areas of the shot.


Version 9 (Final): I’m going to look at the image at 100%. I’ll fix dust and problems in the image like the hanging fluorescent lights. This will take a while. I kept the reduced noise layer for this, so I can also spot fix noise. This is the image I’ll hand to Dale at the Irving Theater. He may want additional cropping or other changes, but I’ll do these after I consult with him.

Now maybe you don’t want to do this. or perhaps there are jobs you don’t have the skills to retouch. That happens to me frequently. I use a company called Deepetch.com when I need extra help. You can see that there were a lot of ceiling tiles missing in the first version of this shot. This is from my recent airport shoot.

Version 1

Version 2: fixed ceiling tiles

 

In Version 2 all the tiles suddenly appeared. Deepetch did the job in just a day and for an extremely reasonable price. As photographers it is our responsibility to get the job done right, but that doesn’t mean we have to do everything ourselves.
I teach three classes at BetterPhoto:

Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio

An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

Getting Started in Commercial Photography

I hope you’ll check them out. I have been told that prices are going up this year at BetterPhoto, so you might want to sign up soon.

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