Friday, November 5, 2010

In Honor of Willie Nelson...

I'm headed to Austin in eight hours to go shoot Willie Nelson and Asleep At The Wheel for a feature story in a magazine I occasionally shoot for. In honor of my chance to meet Willie Nelson, I have posted some pictures I've shot of him over the years...


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Still to Motion Event...

I'll be here tonight:

You should come, too!


Sometimes You Don't Know Best...

There will be plenty of times that your favorite photo gets pushed aside for something different - something you would've never run. You won't always know what's best for your client, so you should ALWAYS shoot extra frames and turn in a few extra finished images to cover your bases (and keep your client happy).

I'd guess that half my shoots wind up having my second or third (or sometimes least) favorite shot published. Sometimes I wonder if my clients missed my favorite shot. Of course they didn't miss it. They put a lot of time and money into their publications, and they aren't going to randomly choose a photo for hundreds of thousands of readers to see. They give each feature story a lot of thought.

The real deal is that I have a very specific eye and very specific taste. I also have an urge to push myself creatively, and sometimes those edgy shots may be a little too much for the readers. Other times I second guess those edgy shots, and wind up convincing myself the safe shots are the best ones, but the clients flip over the same images I was nervous about.

A quick note: Always shoot an assignment with safe, conservative shots before you try out any wild ideas. You need to have a "safety net" of conservative images for your client to fall back on! They won't always think your crazy ideas are the right fit for their publication, product, etc...

Below is a perfect example of a client running an image I wouldn't have thought about printing as my first choice. I photographed actress Diane Lane for a feature story on the front page of the Dallas Morning News' entertainment section. I did some conservative portraits, and she looked great. As my time with her was running out, I decided to spend a minute doing something a little different . I put on the ring light and tried for an indie magazine look... something a bit more stylized - and risky for a respected, conservative newspaper.

I thought the ring light shots looked good, but in an Urban Outfitters sort of way. A bit too dirty, edgy, rough for what I thought the News would want. I was absolutely sure one of the above "safe" portraits would be published, but I submitted the ring light shot anyway, kind of like a bonus shot.

What did I know?!? They skipped over the three images above that I thought would be cover page contenders and ran the ring light shot, seen below (I think they made the right choice after seeing it published, as it looks much more energetic and exciting):

Another perfect example is this shoot I did for D Magazine a few months back. It was for a story on a bike shop and its owner. Boyd Wallace of Dallas Bike Works was very friendly and was willing to do some silly, playful things. However, I was positive the shots were just too silly for the publication. I guess I was wrong. They passed over the conservative portraits and ran the bottom image! In the end, I'm sure a lot more readers remembered that shot, because it was so fun.

I might not always be able to guess which shot a client will use, but I sure know enough to submit a variety for them to make a good final decision on their own. If you want to guarantee that only your favorite shots get published, you'll just have to start your own magazine!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Camera vs The Burger...

Sometimes I get called to do a last-minute photo shoot. Well, I say sometimes, but it is actually a lot. Sometimes I get called the day before, sometimes I get called thirty minutes before. It's not like weddings, where you book the shoot months in advance. It's the life of a freelance editorial photographer in a major city like Dallas, I guess.

Usually, I get last-minute calls from major newswire services to photograph an important news conference at Southwest Airlines, Exxon Mobil, American Airlines or one of the other big corporations based in the DFW area. This time it wasn't a CEO that needed to be shot, it was a hamburger!

I'm very glad this cover photo shoot for Quick came through, because it was a lot of fun to do! The day before, I got a call with a request to shoot the cover for a story on the best food in the Lakewood area. We had the location set (The Lakewood Landing), but that was about it.

Luckily, I had recently worked with a very talented model who I thought would be perfect for the photo shoot. Her name is Melanie Archer and she signed with The Campbell Agency a while back. She has that perfect all-American look - exactly what was needed for the burger story. Thank goodness she wasn't already booked on another job, because it is hard to find good models at 5pm Thursday for a 2pm Friday shoot!

The shoot was a total blast, with lots of messy burger mishaps and lots of fries and onion rings being consumed. Regarding the technical aspects of the shoot: The cover was a simple two light set-up. A ring light was used for the main light source and the secondary light was set directly above and slightly behind her head in a stripbox (a thin, long softbox). The inside shot is even more simple... a single ring light!

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DIY Lens details...

I posted about another DIY camera lens I was playing with recently:

I have three old enlarging lenses - two Wollensak lenses, and the other I'm not quite sure about - that I got for dirt cheap (five bucks a piece), and I wanted to try and mount them to my Canon EOS camera bodies. I've done similar projects with other lenses, so this wasn't anything new to me. However, this time I wanted to put a new spin on it... using a Pringles potato chip can as the lens board/mount! Here is what I did, along with a couple quick snaps to test it out:

The first few images show it mounted to my back-up camera body, the Canon EOS 5D. A lot of different lenses could be mounted this way. All you have to do is cut a hole in the can's tin bottom. My hole is almost exactly the right size, so I was able to wedge it in there without the need for any extra tape, screws, threaded lens rings, etc... Good thing, too, because this specific lens didn't come with its mounting ring!

This picture below shows a close-up view of the DIY project. I cut up a Pringles can, gaff taped it to an old Pentacon to EOS lens mount adaptor I had sitting around and mounted a lens on the front. If you don't have an adaptor like this on hand (most people probably won't), you can buy a camera body cover and drill out the middle of it. Then just tape the can to the body cover for a similar end result.

This shows that I actually built the can in two sections, so I could change focus. It makes the unit more versatile, though a fixed focus at infinity or macro length would also be fun to use.

This is the can taken apart in two pieces. I had to cut the can closest to the camera body, so I could reduce the diameter, allowing it to slide in and out of the front can piece. You can see where I taped it back together. You can also see that I sprayed the inside of the can flat black. The reflective silver inside might make for some cool-looking photos, but it will definitely cause problems with image quality.

Here's a closer view of the EOS mount adaptor I had on hand. It makes it easy to take the DIY lens on and off of my Canon mkII (or any other EOS body you might have). However, you do not need this mount to make this project work. Like I mentioned above, you can modify a body cap, or you can even just use a bunch of gaffer's tape! That's how I mounted my last DIY lens... a bunch of tape! Just tape it right to the outside of your camera body - remembering to keep the tape AWAY from the camera insides, mirror mechanism, electrical contacts and any buttons you'll need to use/push.

Here's a test pic I took of my middle boy. Normally, I like to play around with these little projects a bit more, but it was raining pretty bad. I'll take it outside when it clears up and post more pics soon.

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Do you suck as a photographer?!?

Someone pointed me towards this old video that Zack Arias did, regarding the life, career and motivation of a photographer. I don't really follow his blog as much as I should... he's got a lot of good tips and stories, he shoots similar things for similar clients... heck, he's even the same age as I am, give or take a few months. Anyway, you might see a little of yourself in this video (oh, the first minute or so is just a silly skit. He gets into the real philosophy of photography around the minute and a half mark). It gets a little cheesy and cliche at moments, but listen to the real message and tell me if you agree:

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