Stumbling around downtown I discovered one thing about portraits. I like to photograph people who look smart.

Hanging out downtown with Selena.  We shot on Second Street and Third street.  Love the glasses.  Love the serious/smart look.  We stuck with open shade and shot with the Canon 7D.  My lens of choice (for the whole day, it seems) was the 70-200 f4 L (the non IS version which actually uses cooler glass...).  I brought along my tripod and used it just like my seat belt.......all the time.

It was the perfect counterpoint to a day of meetings, photo shoots at law offices and medical practices.  No lights anywhere.  Not even LEDs.

Portrait of the day.

This is a classic one light portrait in a style I've done for a long time.  I was happy to be able to photography Selena.  She's a musician and an actor.  Very professional and patient.  I used a 4 foot by 4 foot Chimera Panel with a diffusion cloth as close to her as I could get it.  The light comes from a 1,000 bulb, ePhotoInc., LED panel used at full power.

I used a Canon 7D with the 70-200mm L f4.0 zoom lens.  ISO 200.  We went on to shoot other set ups but this was one of my favorites.  Hope everyone is happy and busy.  KT



Getting the white balance right.

Several regular readers have taken me to task regarding the spectral inconsistencies of the LED lights I've been using in the studio for a few months now.  I've been working on getting the colors right.  I think the secret of getting the best color out of every situation is to do a custom white balance.  When I process stuff in Lightroom 3 there's enough control to get the color palette I like without big slider moves.

I'm happy with the image of Meredith, above.  I'm looking at a big file on a calibrated monitor but I'm sure when it hits the web and it's been filtered thru blogger's compression it will be different.  And I guess that's the unknown in this whole "evaluate color on the web" imbroglio.  While we all may be using tightly calibrated monitors it may be that the compression of the initial file and the re-compression of the jpeg file to store on web servers, makes changes that can't really be controlled by the initial creator.

I wish we could sit around and show each other prints.


Stuff I've learned from goofing around. And practicing goofing around.

 One of the things I've learned in years of trial and error is that "short" light generally (always) looks better than broad light.  I also have come to understand that, while it might be a stylistic preference, nothing makes a beautiful face look quite so beautiful as a big, soft main light.  That's why I love blasting light into a 6x6 foot diffusion scrim and watching it come undulating sensually out of the other side.  Works best when your subject is already quite beautiful.  Above portrait from our Summer workshop on lighting at Zachary Scott Theatre.  I had fun.  I should do another one........
 One of the things I learned, after being disappointed by fate time and time again, is that having a camera with you is a much more certain way to come out of a situation with good photographs than traipsing around without.  And the camera really doesn't matter much at all.  I was in Marfa, Texas when I met this gentleman.  I had the Olympus EPL camera and kit lens with me.  Look how it handles the direct sun on the guy's jaw while looking omnisciently into the shadows.  Who needs HDR?  I've seen people paralyzed and overwhelmed by their gear and I know too many people who only take cameras along if they have something already in mind or have made "strategic" plans to photograph.  Screw that.  Take a camera with you all the time and whip it out when it seems like the right time.  Just like your credit cards, you don't have to use it all the time but when you see something you'd like to have it's nice to know your capable of reaching out and taking it.......
 Over the years I've learned that having a talented person in front of your camera is/ can be just as important (or more so) that having a talented person behind the camera.  This is my friend, Martin Burke.  He's the funniest man I know, after Mike Hicks.  And he has an incredibly expressive face.  If I point my camera at him and let him do his stuff I generally get much better photographs than I would if I tried to hammer down my point of view.  Even though I'm pretty much of a lone operator I am smart enough to understand that sometimes the other guy is right.  Martin was awarded "top actor" in Austin last year by the Austin Chronicle.  He deserves it, and just like those photographers whose fame rests on their celebrity subjects or the availability of a helicopter, a good harness and a pretty city, he makes me look like a better photographer.
 One thing I've learned the hard way is not to over think your toys in the pursuit of a photograph.  The image just above of Jana was taken with a Canon 5dmk2 and an 85mm 1.8 lens.  I could have lit the photo but it wouldn't have been as nice.  I could have waited until I could justify the price of an 85mm 1.2 and had a bit less DOF but I wouldn't have been there to take the photo.  I could have had an entourage of assistants standing behind and beside me but it would have messed up the rapport we both wanted to establish. And they would have drunk all the Gatorade while we worked. (They get thirsty texting on their iPhones.....)  We could have waited for cooler weather (it was 100+ in the shade) but would we have gotten the nice glow on Jana's skin?  I could have brought "one light" but then I'd have to carry it.  I could have been all "strobist" but then I would have made someone else's photo.  Not mine.  I've learned that sometimes less is less and it's better.
 I've learned over the years that there will always be someone doing an assignment that you might think is more fun than the job you're doing as a photographer but every job comes with its own set of compromises.  The grass on the other side of the fence might be greener but it may not taste any better than the grass at your feet.  Embrace the happiness that being in the job in front of you brings.  If you let go of the need to compare what you do with what everyone else is doing you'll be happier.  And you'll probably make better photos. (Can we stop calling them images?).  Fun is in the process.
 I've learned that the true value of the portfolio is its role as a reservoir for all the frames that editors and art directors were too dull or slow or locked in to use.  Many times an art director will go for an inferior image just because the client has already signed off on a comp that matches and they are afraid to go back and substitute something better because they already have "buy off" on something that will work.  I used to get upset if they passed over a photo like the one above to use a photo of a fruit tart.  But not any more.  Now I take the overlooked overachieving, under-appreciated photos and put them into my portfolio and show them off.  Sometimes they boomerang and get used for something much better than the job we originally shot them for.  And we got the pleasure of creating the light and the look and then sharing them.....happily.
Finally,  I've learned that even the projects that sound boring can be incredibly fun challenging when they involve craft and problem solving.  As most of you know I'd rather make portraits than just about anything else photographic.  But every once in a while one of my good clients (who assume I can do anything with a camera) will give me a project with a brief that says,  "we need a totally sharp shot of a home theater receiver with the front panel lit up, on white.  We also need to be able to "see" thru the top cover and "reveal our product, perfectly lit, inside.  Can you do this?  We need it tomorrow for a big pitch that will make or break the company...."  And then the clock starts ticking and your brain makes it into a game.

Nine times out of ten you'll dust off the brain cells that interlink with different techniques and be able to bring together a working strategy.  On the tenth time you'll wake up one of your friends in the middle of the night because she's a much better product shooter than you are and they'll give you the "magic formula" that saves the job and you deliver on time and the client thinks you're a hero.  Only they just expected that you'd deliver on time and on the money.  Because that's what you do.  Because you are a professional photographer.

And no matter how weird this industry gets it still beats the heck out of digging ditches or being president.  With ditch digging you'll always get mud on your shoes.  And when you are president at least half the people think you're always wrong.  Good night.