Will Crockett from Shootsmarter.com shoots Kirk

The two images on the left were done by Will Crockett, the Chicago area photo wiz who started and still energizes a website called www.Shootsmarter.com

I have the honor and privilege of being on the advisory board for the Photography Department at Austin Community College and I enjoy heading over to the school when they throw special programs just to see what everyone is interested in. ACC does a great job of bringing in really interesting photographers from all over the place so students get a good mix and know how diverse the universe of commercial photography really is.

I've known about Will and Smartshooter for a couple of years and found his website to be a really good resource for new photographers and, I'll admit it, I've even learned a thing or two on my visits there. But I'd never heard him present in person.

Wow! This guy is an encyclopedia of great information and he presents with incredible energy. He started the presentation right at 6 and there wasn't a dull or unfilled moment for the next three hours. He showed students how to light using a large Octabank, then an Octabank and a fast and easy white out background, then a totally different set up with a beauty dish and finally a set up (with yours truly as the guinea pig....) using a ring flash. His information was concise, succint, well thought out and to the point. If you were there and didn't learn something you were asleep.

I was amazed at how many things Will and I see eye to eye on that are at odds with large parts of the professional photography population. To wit:

1. More megapixels are not a benefit. Will shoots with a Nikon D700 and sets it at medium resolution for portraits. Proof is in the pudding. Will sent jpeg image files directly to an Epson 7800, bypassing Photoshop entirely, and printed out pretty darn gorgeous 16 by 24 inch images. Sharp as you'd ever want a portrait to be. Medium res would mean shooting at around 6 megapixels. He showed several images that had been blown up into enormous posters that looked great from the 6 meg files....

2. Did I say Jpegs? Yes. Will and I are both of the opinion that if you are shooting in a controlled environment you should be able to get excellent, repeatable results with jpegs provided you do two things before you start shooting. First, you need to use an incident light meter, take a careful reading and set your f-stop within a 1/10th of a stop of accurate exposure. Second, you need to do a good custom white balance from a grey card or a white card. We both get that RAW works better under uncontrollable lighting situations so let's not get too wrapped up in that one.

3. Yes. Will and I both strongly suggest using external incident light meters. Neither of use shoot without them. Fact is that the LCD's on the back of the current cameras can't be profiled and the histograms aren't the most accurate way to set exposure. Argue all you want but Will was shooting tethered and his exposures were amazingly accurate.

4. We both know that we live in an sRGB world and it's pretty much insane to shoot bigger file formats if you can only see 50% of what you've got on your monitor. Most (nearly all) labs are set up to print from sRGB and if you ask them they'll tell you that when you give them RGB or Bruce or 1998 or anything else you read about on the web they take your file and convert is to sRGB before they do anything else. If you do need to use Adobe 1998 for CMYK work make sure you've got a monitor that handles the full gamut. If it's a not an Eizo or an Artizan it's probably not quite there.......Also, if you shoot for the web please be aware that it is 100% sRGB.

Getting it right in the camera saves a great amount of time diddling around in Photoshop and that's time you can use to exercise, catch up on your reading or meet friends for coffee with.

Even though I've used the same concepts for years it was great to watch someone who's absolutely mastered his tools. I loved the way he explained stuff and I loved to watch the obvious excitement and enthusiasm he still has for the job.

Check out www.shootsmarter.com as soon as you can.

The evening was sponsored by the Bogen people and is called the Bogen Cafe. They brought a truck load of Elinchrom strobes and modifiers, nearly the complete line of Gitzo tripods and tons of lighting and portrait accessories. They also donated $30,000 of gear to ACC this week. Ringmaster of the whole event was Gregg Burger from the nation's finest local camera store, Precision Camera and Video. www.precision-camera.com. Peel back the curtain at any great photo event in our town and nine out of ten times you'll find the guys from Precision Camera there doing the heavy lifting.

All in all it was a wonderful evening. If you get the chance to go hear Will speak you won't be sorry. You'll be amazed. And if you're like me your rush back to the studio and revisit your techniques. Amazing.

On another note, I'm teaching a lighting workshop on Sunday October 25th and there are still some open slots. Here's the info: Kirk's lighting workshop

Almost forgot to mention: It is weird being on the other side of the camera.

Images used with Will Crockett's permission. All rights reserved.