Saturday, June 20, 2009

Eight sides are better than four...

If I wasn't saving money to update my computer, I'd buy this today:


Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day gift for the photographer...

Check these out: 


I'm sure it's too late to order these for your photog father, seeing as how father's day is tomorrow.  However, that doesn't mean you can't get a head start on your Christmas shopping!  These came from and are made very well.  They are made from a heavy metal and the black coating (enamel, maybe?) seems very durable and shiny.  

Normally, I'm not into the novelty cufflinks, but these ones seem just low key enough for me.  I think I'll wear them tonight...


Flower power...

I had a photo shoot this morning and work in the office/studio during the afternoon. However, my evening was spent hanging out with the boys outside in the backyard. They played with their toys and I played with mine - mine being the Canon 5D mkII, a 50mm f/1.4 and some macro extension tubes. You'd be surprised at what you can find in your own yard, if you look close enough...


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Free God...

Some like it hot...

I had to go out last Saturday night and get some shots for the cover of Quick's pool feature. It basically highlights some pretty cool bars that also off a pool to play in. Well, it was quite a hot and sticky evening, but my Canon 5D mkII and I braved the oven-like weather and came back with this shot:

For those of you more interested in the geeky technical stuff than the girl in the bikini, I'll fill you in...

Camera - Canon 5D mkII
ISO Rating - 4000
Mode - Manual
Shutter Speed - 1/8 sec
Aperture - f/5.0
Lens - 16-35mm f/2.8L (used at 16mm for the image)
Flash - 580ex, set to auto minus 1 stop, zoomed into either 35 or 50mm (I forget exactly)

Image taken at 11:37pm in downtown Dallas, by the way.


A few mentions...

So, I was told that my name popped up a few more times recently, here and there. I'll share the links:

The above link lists me as being "talented", which is very flattering, I must say. It's a whole lot better than being called the "average" or "sucky" photographer, which would not be so flattering!

Not really a shout out in the body of the story, but the cutline very clearly points out my efforts on the new Rhett Miller disc. Very nice to receive more than just the standard "photo by" credit.

Not quite a "mention", but more like a picture of my backside.

Oh, and I forgot to go download that radio show podcast from a couple weeks ago where i was mentioned. I'm going to go track that down right now...


Multimedia Journalists take note...

This is a good little article to read if you want to know where the money is:

Newspapers and traditional media are scaling back, and in some cases, closing up shop all together. This article gives a good perspective on other avenues where a multimedia journalist (photog, writer, blogger, videographer, etc... all wrapper up in one) can go to continue his/her trade. I read the story in print, in the current issue of PDN earlier this month. However, I thought the online version was worth linking to, after reading David Leeson's comments regarding the story:

An informative article by PDN writer David Walker about life after newspapers. I loved my life as a newspaper photojournalist. I experienced a privileged life, where wealth was not measured by a bank account but rather in the diverse riches of human experience.

I am not a daily newspaper photographer anymore but the good news for me is that I have been able to remain a photojournalist. My camera is capable of recording motion and sound with video.

For me, and many others, a new era of photojournalism is before us. There is no equal to the power of the still image but it is equally beautiful to produce "images" that move and speak.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My art helped save a dog...

I donated a piece of art to the Cash For Cash event. It raised some money to help a friend with his dog Cash's vet bills. You can see the event (and me about 1:20 into the video on the right side of the screen) by clicking here:


Bad weather video...

That's right. I did another video. It covers the recent storm damage that our community had to deal with:



I sort of rambled my way through the last post, covering important areas of interest before the actual shoot. I looked at it from the view of a major label album shoot, since that's what I'm most familiar with. However, I can tell you that it also applies to a big commercial shoot, or almost any production that is worth several thousand dollars or more.

Since I was just going over details off the top of my head, I'm sure I missed a few important things to remember. One thing I forgot to mention is the importance of contracts. You'll be buried in paperwork that needs to be signed. You'll send over an estimate and/or invoice, a w-9, a signed contract that was probably bounced back and forth a few times during negotiations, and releases.

You'll need to get all the models to sign a release. It basically says that you are allowed to use their likeness for commercial and editorial use. You'll need to get any private location to sign a release. It allows you to use their land and building without fear of being sued for trespassing. You may also have a separate "gag order" contract for everyone on set to sign. In other words, they aren't allowed to discuss any of the shoot details until after the end product is released.

Hope you planned on printing out a ton of these, getting them signed, scanning them in to save with the digital files, and storing the originals (or sending them along with the client, depending upon your rights agreement). This all takes time, and time is money...


Monday, June 15, 2009

How to handle busy...

I haven't blogged in a little while, because I've been pretty busy.  Besides my regular clients, I've had a few extra shoots to squeeze into my schedule.  Plus, I've been dealing with the massive amounts of planning that come with a major record label album cover shoot.  

I figured this would be a good topic to discuss.  You can find all sorts of great blogs and web tutorials about proper lighting, but rarely do you hear about the before and after parts of a shoot.  Let me tell you this:  The bigger the shoot, the bigger the pay, and the bigger the amount of pre and post work that has to be done.  You NEED to factor this into your budget.  

Let me run down the list of things that you will most likely be responsible for during a major label shoot worth thousands to tens of thousands of dollars (depending on the popularity of the artist).  Some things you will delegate to other people on your team, but you are still responsible to make sure it happens.  

First, you will need to hire a photo assistant.  You don't want to waste time moving lights or messing with little things when you could be discussing details with the band or the art director.  You could be visualizing your next shot or looking over images already shot.  A photo assistant is there to move things, set up things, watch things, and basically be an extra set of hands, eyes, and ears for you.  Labels out of New York expect you to have one and won't mind seeing the fee on your invoice.  

These days, you may also have a digital tech on set.  With the added hassle of downloading and backing up images, previewing images, and all the other junk associated with digital photography, this person will be a necessity.  The digi tech will be taking all your CF cards and manning the computer, making sure all your precious images are safe.  

Next is the make-up artist and/or stylist.  I say and/or, because you might only need one or you might need both.  For easy-going rock bands, I usually just get a stylist who knows a little about taking shine off skin and fixing up some stray hairs.  It saves several hundred dollars that a make-up artist would add into the mix.  However, some shoots will keep a stylist so busy with clothing, accessories, and other styling prep work.... some shoots may require specialized or excessive make-up skill.  These are the shoots to hire both.  

Who is handling catering?!?  For all my album shoots, I've just had to pack a cooler with some drinks and a basket with some snacks.  Every once in a while, you may be working on such a big production that you will hire a separate catering company to deal with this.  I've done it for a huge multi-day advertising shoot, but most bands just want snacks and drinks on set.  

Props?!?  Did someone say props?  Yes, you will work with your stylist and art director to find and approve all the items you need for the shoot.  My shoot coming up next week requires a big sheet birthday cake with a certain phrase written on it.  Who is going to order it and pick it up?  Most of the time, it will be you.  It could also be your assistant or your stylist, depending on the amount you are paying them.  

Where are you shooting?  The last time I shot this band, I had them come to Dallas and I had some pretty good ideas in my head of where to go.  I still had to spend a day driving around and getting images of the places to share with the label in New York, so they could give final approval.  This day needs to be factored into your fee, or you are basically working that day for free.  

There is another option, and that is to hire a location scout.  These people will be extra handy if you are flying into a different city to shoot.  You may not arrive with enough time to scout the area, or you may be too busy shooting for other clients to take a day off of shooting to scout.  Scouts cost money, but can be useful.  

OK, so the what, when, where, and who are all taken care of.   Wait a minute...  We have the "behind the lens" who figured out, and we know the band will be the who in front of the camera, but what about... extras?  Yup, you may be asked to cast any extras for the shoot.  That takes time, sometimes a lot of time.  Luckily, the band is casting the extras for this upcoming shoot.  That saves me hours of calling around and meeting with or auditioning people.  

Oh, did we discuss what you are shooting with?  No??  Did you discuss it with the label???  No????  Guess what... every client has slightly different needs and expectations from you.  This one wants me to shoot RAW, but also give them TIFF conversions.  Some may ask for a minimum file size.  Some may expect you to be shooting medium format digital.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  

What about lighting?  Do you have everything you need?  Are you shooting away from an electrical outlet and need to rent a generator or battery-powered strobes?  I've rented a Profoto 7B pack in the past so I could have studio quality lighting and still be 100% battery-powered to go anywhere during the shoot.  Of course, I have my own Profoto brand kit these days, but what if I needed to rent extra heads or an extra power pack?  

You need to factor in the time and money to rent the gear, even considering the time it took to drive down to the photo district and pick up the stuff.  If you are shooting over the weekend, you need to go pick up the rental gear on Friday.  Are you able to take time out of your schedule to do it?   I hope so, or you'll be paying an assistant to do it for you or an extra day of rental fee to pick it up early.  

Think you have all the pre-shoot figured out now?  Nope, not even close.  Most likely, unless you live in NY or LA, you will do all your planning by phone and email.  Heck, even if you are in the same city, you will still probably do 90% of the planning via phone conferences and emails.  You know what happens?  A bunch of talking that takes even more time.  A bunch of emails to read and respond to.  And I mean a BUNCH!!!  This label is planning to make hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, off this band.  They are going to be bugging you night and day, bombarding you with questions and comments, making sure things are perfect.  

For my one day of scheduled shooting next week, I've probably already spent a full day of reading emails and making phone calls each week.  I have dealt with at least a hundred emails over the last few days from a million different people.  Several label execs, the art director, a few of the band members, my stylist, other people I hired, the band's management, some guy who is making some clothing for the shoot, the location contact, and on and on and on.  

I'll stop there, because this is pretty long now.  There is a bunch of post-shoot stuff to deal with, but I'll save that for another day.  The point was to make sure you understand what goes into a shoot that might bill the cost of a new car or more.  The photog didn't just come up with a magical number and grab his point and shoot.  That photog earned every penny through a TON of work for a handful of final images.  

If you land a big gig like this, you had better start asking what the budget is, what the shoot ideas are, and a million of the questions covered above, so you can accurately figure out the REAL cost of taking the pictures.  If they say you will be given five grand for the shoot and all image rights, then expect you to eat four grand in production costs (assistants, location fees, catering, make-up and props, etc), you might be getting ripped off.  If they say you will get a five grand creative fee, you retain your copyright, plus get to bill ALL the expenses to them, you might be able to pull something like this off and still feed your family at the end of the day...