Sunday, May 30, 2010

REVIEW: 100 Techniques for Professional Wedding Photographers

Not your traditional review

100 Techniques for Professional Wedding Photographers by Bill Hurter is a tricky book to review because my normal methodology for doing a review doesn’t apply here. Rather than talk about each chapter (of which there are 104 in this book), I will simply share my thoughts about this book in general.

This book starts off with some advice about what makes a great wedding photographer and then goes through 100 thoughts really on what is important for a wedding photographer, but really most concepts apply to any type of photographer. The author includes images and antidotes from his experiences as well as 50+ other photographers (listed at the end of the book in the “The Photographers” chapter). However, a better way to think of this book is as a conversation you might have if you were sitting in a room with Bill and his friends enjoying a beer and just having conversation. This is great because you get a lot of information and will find yourself nodding your head in agreement with many of the concepts, but what a scenario like this lacks is the depth to apply many of these concepts. For example, point 27 – Posing Couples – is something entire books have been written about, but here it’s a couple paragraphs and a few great photos. Now this isn’t a bad thing, but it is something to keep in mind when going into this book. This isn’t “How to Apply 100 Techniques…”, it’s more like “Here’s a list of 100 things you better know well before becoming a Pro Wedding Photographer”.

Conclusion

I was very excited about this book when Kate at Amherst Media had sent be a big stack of books last year, so I saved this one for last. Even though the first 18 points were clearly not very good, it picks up when Bill starts talking what he knows about and doesn’t disappoint. It’s a food for thought book that leaves you well fed and inspired to learn more, so I recommend it as a primer to anyone who thinks they are going to take on the daunting task of shooting a wedding (and we all get asked at some point).

You should be able to put “I have mastered that concept” checks next to all 100 points before you shoot your first wedding solo. If you can’t, then spare the bride the disappointment and suggest to those who ask that you’ll simply be a backup wedding photographer. It’ll save your reputation, friendship and maybe even your wallet (i.e., legal ramifications).

Skill Level: Anyone who hasn’t shot a wedding, or didn’t know what they were doing when they did
Value: Very good as a primer to get you oriented
Recommendation: If you are going to shoot a wedding, then get it

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

onOne Software 20% discount expires on May 28th 2010

My blog has been fortunate to offer a 20% discount off of onOne Software products for quite some time, but sadly that discount is being reduced to 15%. Now is the time to take advantage of this discount before it expires at 11:59 PM on May 27th, 2010.

Enter the code RMART20 in your shopping cart when ordering.

Visit http://www.oneonesoftware.com/ to see a full list of products offered. Read my reviews of some of the onOne Software products below.
Genuine Fractals is also being offered at $100 off through tonight ONLY when you click the link on the right side of this blog.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Nik Summit – Day 1

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Color Efex: Graduated Neutral Density, Polarization Filters, Tonal Contrast & Contrast Only

Friday morning we started early by leaving the hotel at 6:30 AM to go to Cabrillo National Monument (specifically the Lighthouse, Monument, and Tidal Pools) where our mob of 250 people were split among some of the photography leaders including Rick Sammon, Tony Sweet, Laurie Shupp and Vincent Versace.

 
Tony Sweet 

 
Vincent Versace 

It wasn’t a sunrise event, but it was plenty early for me! I initially started with Tony Sweet as my group leader, but then I switched to Vincent Versace and then ultimately ended up with Rick Sammon. All of the instructors were good guys who were willing to answer questions, but Rick went to the next level by giving instructions and teaching techniques rather than letting people come to him with questions – or watching them do the same type of shooting (mistakes) as they always do. For this reason, day 1 definitely goes to Rick Sammon as the best of the best for a photo walk of this nature.

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Tide Pools from Above
Color Efex: Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast, & Skylight

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A sea of photographers at the tide pools 
Color Efex: Graduated Neutral Density, Tonal Contrast,
Polarization & Skylight
 

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Lighthouse
 Color Efex: Graduated Neutral Density and Polarization Filters

No, I didn't misfocus - Hell has frozen over - I've done an intentionally blurry shot of the lighthouse and focused on the rocks
Getting down low and enjoying the rock textures
Color Efex: Graduated Neutral Density and Polarization Filters

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The Model
Color Efex: Tonal Contrast
 

Surfers at The Tide Pools

Living in the Seattle area means that I don’t have much access to surfers (at least I’m not aware of any), so while out at the Tide Pools I had the opportunity to enjoy photographing some surfers. All of these photos were processed using Nik Sofware’s Color Efex using the Tonal Contrast to bring out the detail in the splashing water and waves and then the Polarization filter to bring a little more pop back to the skin. I used the Canon 1D Mark IV with a 70-200 f/2.8L IS II USM lens and simply cropped the huge images down to a 2400+ pixel wide image to get me the zoom I needed for these guys who were roughly a football field away.

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Wipeout 

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Wheelie 

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90 Degrees

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Hang On 

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Surfer Dude 

Old Town San Diego

 

Our visit to Old Town San Diego was way too short as we basically had time to eat lunch and get back on the bus. It was unfortunate too as there were tons of colors and things to see there. I did manage to snap one shot (above) on my way back to the bus, but there was so much more to see. Hopefully next time Nik will have more time on the schedule for Old Town!

One of the things I discovered when writing this trip report is that I’ve been so busy that when I had a chance to relax that I forgot to take some pictures when I should have been shooting. One of those occasions was my lunch with Rick Sammon at a local Mexican Restaurant in Old Town.


Canon Explorer of Light - Rick Sammon was always
on hand to answer questions

Hands on Lab

The lab was sponsored by Apple so there were a handful of MacBook Pro’s. It was clear this event was geared towards Nikon shooters and Mac users, despite the fact that there were nearly as many Canon shooters on hand (although I’m unsure about the number of PC users). Josh Haftel of Nik Software also confirmed that roughly 50% of their sales were for the Mac version of their products, so despite Apple only holding a meager 5% operating system market share, they are king of the hill at this conference where it seemed that PC’s were too uncool for words. :-) There were also plenty of attendees with their new iPads and buzz about these new devices was very high throughout the day. Apple was also on hand doing a Aperture 3 demo where they showed how far it’s come along to get parity with Lightroom 2.x, and surpasses it (i.e., non-destructive video edits, and way better zoom feature).

Digital Workflow by Rob Sheppard

Former editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine, Rob Sheppard (and http://www.photodigitary.com), discussed his digital workflow. His mantra was “shoot it right” . and he made a claim that he can always tell a shot that was shot with AWB. I wasn’t a big fan of his speech because a lot of his recommendations are clearly outdated and not really necessary. For example, he cares a lot about file system organization for his files, but with tools like Lightroom it doesn’t matter what your disk structure is – Lightroom takes care of those details for you. Now, there’s no harm in doing file system level organization (in fact, at a basic level I do too), but I kept hearing a lot of things that were classic recommendations 4 or 5 years back but not really as applicable today (i.e., the AWB comment above). Ultimately I got bored and walked out, but much to my surprise there was another session going on that was not to be missed!

Advanced Portrait Retouching by Janice Wendt of Nik Software

This was by far the highlight of the day. Sadly it ran concurrent to the Digital Workflow session so I had to miss the first half.

During this session Janice showed her guru skills with Nik Software products that made even a heavy Nik Software user like myself hurry to scratch down as many notes as possible. This woman has mad Nik Software skills and did some amazing work in a big hurry. If you ever get a chance to see Janice in action, jump on it – you’ll be amazed at what she can do and how fast she can do it. She’ll also show you how the filters that you thought were useless in Color Efex can be used to do wonderful things that you could never imagine. Stay tuned for a future blog on this topic!

State of the Industry Panel (Paul Hurter, Rob Sheppard, Manuel Willie, Douglas Dubler, Vincent Versace, Chris Robinson)

Nik Software’s Tony Corbell asked questions to a panel of industry experts on a variety of topics. This was an interesting discussion that gave us a peek into what these photography gurus think will be going on in our industry moving forward.  Here are some random comments I managed to jot down from this session:

  • Camera companies need to stop coming out with higher megapixel cameras and focus on the quality of pixels. Rob Sheppard was especially frustrated that the G11 sales declined due Canon’s decision to offer fewer quality megapixels over what he claimed were inferior G9 & G10 bodies (based on image quality). He also cited how the 50D was inferior to 40D.
  • Workflow is the next big problem to solve – from image to exposure. Lightroom better way to go than Capture NX2, but there’s no substitute for Capture NX2’s – RAW handling & U-Point technology. – Vincent Versace
  • A recent industry report stated that an estimated 300 billion photographs were never monetized (i.e., not printed, etc…). Vincent Versace claims that although less than 1% of his images gets printed – but he makes much better prints now than in the film days.
  • Range Finder has said that print making will go down
  • iPad a big deal – and connected living rooms especially for displaying photos that tell stories
What are the jewels of Digital Photography over Film?
  • I can direct viewers attention (selected focus, lighting a specific area, etc…) – Tony Corbell
  • ProPhoto RGB is a brilliant color space – Paul & Douglas
  • Douglas – I can go from Inspiration to Execution to Observation with no interruption (film you had to wait for observation). The workflow can now be continuous & unbroken.
  • Rob – I can translate traditional darkroom techniques to color (because color sucked so bad in the darkroom compared to black and white)
  • Manuel – I can experiment more and spend less with more control  (“free exposures” – shoot & learn)
  • Vincent – I spent $9000 year on Polaroid yet a $5000 camera saved me money and I can make a huge print. Now we are only limited by our imagination.
  • Chris – Experimentation. I always felt tense with film (worrying the film would be damaged before successfully printed). Now he is happy to experiment with underwater photography.
What’s Next – where are we going? More video?
  • Paul Hurter – 3D photography and visors
  • Rob – Video is a great example - you can’t predict – it was an afterthought that took the world by storm
  • Manuel – Technologies in development like Focus after the shot
  • Douglas – iPad gives more flexibility  – take technology and think outside the box
  • Vincent – Laptop going away – the iPad is the UI of humanity – digital still capture (video and pull still frames out), and the advancement of workflow
  • Chris – I don’t know – who could have predicted where we are now?

Robert Beck of Sports Illustrated Keynote

Robert showed a bunch of cool images and briefly discussed gear, but didn’t really educate the audience. There wasn’t much about the details of how the shots were captured (i.e., camera settings were rarely discussed) so it was basically a slide show of his best recent sports photos. He has some amazing work so it was fun to see, but not as informative as I hope it would be.

Conclusion

Pushing it from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM (although activities were still going until 11:30 PM) was tough. There wasn’t much in the way of breaks, so after one day I’m pretty exhausted. It was  great because I experienced a lot, and beginners learned a ton, but a little less aggressive schedule would have been a welcome improvement. the Nik staff acknowledged that they are learning a lot from this first session so that they can do things better next time. We have another big day on Saturday so I’ll be a dead man by the time I go home on Sunday (sadly at 6:00 AM!!!).

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Hello from Nik Summit in San Diego!

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Hammock enhanced with Color Efex's Skylight Filter
Canon 1D Mark IV – 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM – f/2.8 @ 1/1250 at ISO 160

I’m down in San Diego for the next few days attending the Nik Software’s first ever photography workshop called Nik Summit. I’m here along with 250 other attendees, all of the Nik Software team, and some photography gurus like Tony Sweet, Rick Sammon, Robert Beck, Vincent Versace, and Joe McNally. The weather is 72 degrees with not a cloud in the sky and the Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa has fantastic location right on the water. Lots of great stuff to come for sure.

Photowalk Photos

I decided to take a tour of the grounds this evening. Here are the photos that I took that I thought you might enjoy seeing. All but one of the photos in this article were enhanced using Nik Software’s Color Efex and Sharpener Pro.

Here’s the beach a about 1 minute away from my room:

Enhanced with the Tonal Contrast Filter in Color Efex
Canon 1D Mark IV – 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM – f/2.8 @ 1/3200 sec at ISO 100

I thought this motorcycle looked cool, despite being dirty. A little Nik love hid the dirt and made it look pretty cool:

Tricked out with Tonal Contrast in High Pass Mode in Color Efex
Canon 1D Mark IV – 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM – f/2.8 @ 1/500 sec at ISO 100

These flowers are all over the place here, so I had to take a shot of one. This one is especially nice because the flower didn’t have a bunch of funk on it like most of the others. I didn’t do any cloning, healing, etc… on this shot – just some Nik Color Efex love:

Enhanced with the Skylight Filter in Color Efex  
Canon 1D Mark IV – 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM – f/2.8 @ 1/800 sec at ISO 100

Just as the golden hour was beginning I captured this shot here. Using the partial metering on my camera I got a perfect exposure in camera, and the version you see here is 100% unmodified from the RAW that I took. Well, Lightroom does some default RAW processing, but I personally haven’t done anything to it.

 Actually I lied, this is unprocessed and straight out of the camera
Canon 1D Mark IV – 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM – f/2.8 @ 1/3200 at ISO 200 (no post-processing)

This shot needed a little love from Viveza to get the flower from being so shady and the foliage filter in Color Efex helped to make the colors pop a bit better.

Enhanced with the Foliage Filter in Color Efex & Viveza 2
Canon 1D Mark IV – 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM – f/2.8 @ 1/640 at ISO 100

This is the first “for pleasure” shooting I’ve been able to do with my 1D Mark IV and 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. Despite using other lenses, all of my favorites came from this lens. All shots were handheld (which isn’t saying much as the sun allowed for crazy high shutter speeds) and there are tons more where these came from. I highly recommend Canon’s latest lens and Nik Software – they make a great team!

Conclusion

It’s too early to tell how the conference will go, and I’m not crazy about the 6:00 AM – midnight schedules, but so far so good. The grounds smell like flowers everywhere, so it’s a lot like being in Hawaii here – just without the heat and humidity! If you are looking for a great place to visit the next time you are in San Diego, I think I’ve found at least one recommendation for you! Stay tuned for more from San Diego!

More Articles from this Event

Click here for discounts on Nik Software, and order your Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens or Canon 1D Mark IV here.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

REVIEW: REDIpix.com Satin Cloth Gallery Wrap Elite

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Photo of the actual print – colors and sharpening not100% accurate
with real life during the translation to digital again

Do you like the fact that mounted canvas images stand out, but hate the fact that they are rough textures? Did you ever wish you could just do a nice lustre print on a gallery wood mount, but still have that nice wrap around effect like you get with canvas photos? Do you hate how fragile canvas images are in their vulnerable weak spots outside the wooden frame? If you answered yes to any of those questions, I’ve found the perfect product for you- REDIpix.com’s Satin Cloth Gallery Wrap Elite.

This is the most unique printed product I’ve seen in quite some time, and I love it. What you have here is a nice satin print that is wrapped around a nice foam core frame as shown above. It seems like a canvas mounted to wood, but the image print is totally smooth and unlike anything I’ve seen before. I wasn’t familiar with satin prints before this article, so I wasn’t sure of what to expect, but the best way I can describe it is that it is like a lustre print but very smooth (no texture like you sometimes have in a lustre print). If you aren’t familiar with lustre prints, then I can tell you that they are like the best balance between the wow of a glossy print and anti-glare of a matte print, with the disadvantages of neither. This is one notch up from that and very cool, especially when they do the protective coding on it, which seems extraordinarily durable after given proper time to dry. It doesn’t seem to show finger prints, and even my wife dragging the bottom across textured sheetrock didn’t seem to make a mark.

I also loved how they included a paper with details about my image and my logo on the back of the print. This was a really cool feature which you can see better when you click the image above and zoom.

The Ordering Process

Printing large prints is nerve-wrecking because you are spending a nice chunk of change and you don’t want it come back looking horrible. If you are like me you fret over the colors, the brightness, the sharpening and the sizing of the image. I had started with the image you might have seen on my photo blog of Skate Creek. That shot had little processing and was just given a standard digital framing that I do for my outdoor landscapes. I had a similar style print done by CanvasOnDemand that turned out nicely, but after giving it some thought I decided that I’d try to do this one without the digital frame so I could see the wrap around effect.

I started by reading the Photoshop editing tips and Print Ready articles on their site which I found to be helpful. This lead me to the Color Management page on the REDIpix.com web site so I could get the profiles for soft proofing. I’ll admit that I’m not very good at this process as I’m not a printer, so I found the soft proofs to be way more bleached out than the final product. In the end, I did the best I could without soft proofing and told the REDIpix.com team to just make it look like the file that I sent them when I printed – they succeeded, but it might have been a touch darker than I expected (this is common as prints are always darker than our backlit LCD’s). 

I also read the image sizing page carefully and used Alien Skin Software’s BlowUp to resize my image to the exact size required. When I was done, I used Sharpener Pro to get my final sharpening for the resolution of the printer that REDIpix.com uses (info available on their web site or by request). I had my flattened PSD file all ready to go, but now what? Usually I have to convert it to JPEG which always concerns me a bit but fortunately they are the first printer I’ve used which accepts PSD files! Here’s my file being uploaded to the site:

When my file was done uploading, I got this nice mail to let me know so I didn’t have to stare at the screen watching the progress dialog! I love’d this!!!!

Next, I placed my order as shown here (click for a larger view – and this is the most expensive print so don’t be shocked by the price):

As you can see from this order form, there’s lots of questions to help give you the control you need to ensure your print will be done to your satisfaction! I was very pleased and felt comfortable that these guys really know the right questions to ask. After I completed that, I got the invoice as shown here:

You’ll notice there’s a RONM discount code for readers of this blog (not applied yet in the image above) – be sure to use it when placing your order!

After I was done with my order, I got mail later the same day from REDIpix.com where they sent me a couple jpeg’s to show me how their final imaging looked on my image I gave to them. They had made adjustments based on their experience to ensure the best print results, so I was happy to get this overview and 100% crop image. Now it’s impossible to tell from this review as there’s so many color translations that take place between my shot above of my print and what I see in real life, but I can tell you that the proof shown below is very close to what I got:


Redline that shows what part of the image will be on the sides of the wrap


A 100% crop to give me an idea of the final sharpening
(which is optimized for print, not display, so heavy is good)

The 100% crop had me a little worried, but the reality ended up being a perfect sharpening result thanks to Nik Software’s Sharpener Pro’s ability to let me optimize for display and then set the output target to the printer target resolution. I was so happy to have this feature! 

Delivery

I always worry about my prints arriving safely, despite the fact that I know the printer will replace it if shipping company damages. However, I’m the paranoid type and hate the hassle of having to complain and return a damaged print. I’m pleased to say that despite being shipped via UPS ground which ended up taking longer than expected due to a weather issue, my package arrived safely.

Here’s some shots that show how this image was packed:

I wouldn’t say that it was packed as securely as what I get from Mpix.com, but it was packed very well. Ultimately it arrived safely, so that’s the most important thing.

Conclusion

I’ve had my print for about a month now and I’m very happy with it. As I mentioned, we haven’t been very gentle with it and it’s held up well. I haven’t noticed finger prints on it, but I haven’t been abusive with it either so I can say that with ordinary care your image should be pretty safe.

Despite being online, this experience really felt like I was dealing with a local printer. The upload and communication process throughout the order was excellent, and the result was fantastic. I highly recommend this print style if your the type that doesn’t really care for the rough texture of a canvas. If you do like canvas prints, I still recommend REDIpix.com as they print canvas as well as a wide assortment of prints.

Special Offer

Please use the RONM coupon discount code created exclusively for readers of this blog (not applied yet in the image above) when placing your order!

Disclaimer

I was given the print discussed in this article at no charge so that I could evaluate this product in a way that wouldn’t be practical for a print I paid on my own (i.e., put my dirty fingers on the print side, test it against surfaces which would scratch a canvas, etc…). I also get a commission if you take advantage of the special offer, so please do that to help support this blog and to show your appreciation for this article!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

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