photographers, what have YOU done today to advance your business?

How serious are you about succeeding as a photographer in your business, whether part-time or full-time? I know, I know, we are all serious about photography. After all, we all have a passion for photography. So there’s that. But really, how serious are you, and what are you doing to advance your photography career?

A while back I did a presentation to a group of photographers, and as usual, there are distractions that you as the presenter have to overcome and work against. Distractions can be as crazy as competing on the floor of a photo trade-show and trying to get and keep people’s attention. But for a presenter, there are always some kind of distraction that you have to overcome and keep the audience engaged. This evening though, there were people playing pool in the background at this venue. Not noisy or disrespectful or obnoxious at all, but I had to wonder why they were there – the photography group invites various photographers to speak there once a month, and you’d think that regardless of the topic, everyone would be attentive.

My presentation about photographic lighting on location, deviated momentarily towards a more immediate topic – competition in the photography industry.

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The Business of Boudoir

Petra Hermann, (who you might remember from the guest article, increase your sales in boudoir photo sessions), and Lynn Clark, (who you might remember as the subject of photo homage: a regal portrait with a ferret), have teamed up for a new website dedicated to one topic – The Business of Boudoir.

The Business of Boudoir, is a free resource for boudoir photographers worldwide who share an interest in the beauty and art of this genre  - but with a specific intent: building and maintaining sustainable businesses. Their scope is broad enough that they want as many perspectives as possible, to allow you, the boudoir photographer, to create a business that works for you. So check them out.

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NJ headshots photography

headshot photo-session: what makes for a good headshot?

A few out-takes mixed with a few keepers from this headshot photo session, and it helps illustrate some of the process of getting to a good headshot.

The lighting is key. Posing is important. But there’s another aspect that makes a great headshot – your subject’s personality needs to come shining through. So, yes, it is in the lighting. It is in the posing. It’s in the expression … but a very important key is the personality of the photographer – how to make your subject feel relaxed. How to make the photography not feel like an intrusion.

For most people, being photographed is a fairly vulnerable thing – we don’t want to appear foolish or unpresentable to the wider world. Although you could make a valid argument against that idea, with the bad snapshots that people post of themselves on social media. So there is that. Still, I’d say it is quite a vulnerable thing to do – to be photographed. And it is up to you as the photographer to make someone feel relaxed in front of the camera.

The key here – your personality. It starts with a warm handshake and a friendly smile. That handshake is important. Not limp, but firm. Go so far as to ask friends to honestly give you their opinion – a brutally truthful opinion about your handshake. Your body language needs to be confident.

By now your skills in basic lighting should be such that you don’t stress about that, but can concentrate on getting the best out of your subject. It’s up to you.

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review: Nikon D4S – auto-focus / AF performance

The Nikon D4s (vendor) updates the already-awesome Nikon D4. The short summary lists some improvements, which while they may appear incremental, overall make for a solid new release by Nikon:
- a newly designed sensor, offering better high-ISO performance,
- an additional AF mode has been added – Group Area AF – for more accurate subject tracking,
- 11 fps continuous shooting with continuous AE/AF (compared to the 10 fps of the D4)
- ‘small’ Raw size of 8 Mpx,
- 1080/60p video
- faster processing with the new Expeed 4 processor
- improved battery performance,
- Multi-CAM 3500FX Autofocus Sensor Module with “thoroughly recalibrated AF algorithms”

For this review, I want to highlight the auto-focus performance. AF speed and accuracy is in a way subjective. There’s no numerical value we can attach to it that will tell us in discrete steps how much better the “thoroughly recalibrated AF algorithms” with the new AF sensor module will improve on the D4 camera.

My friend Yasmeen Anderson specializes as a fitness portrait photographer in NJ, and I asked if I could tag along on some of her shoots. With this photo session of actor / model Joe Monbleau, we shot in a colorful urban area in NJ. Joe tirelessly sprinted and bounced and jumped for numerous sequences. Enough time for me to fire off the D4S and see how it perform in grabbing crisply sharp images of someone moving fast.

And yes, I am very impressed. The Nikon D4S is noticeably more responsive with auto-focus on moving subjects. I’ll blame those “thoroughly recalibrated AF algorithms” in the new AF sensor.

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my hard drive has died – what should I do?

“What do I do right now!? I don’t know what to do!”

These were the sounds the angry woman next to me at the Apple Store counter made, while crying about her hard disc that had died.

“But it was fine this morning!” *sob sob sniff*

My sympathy was with the blue-shirted geniuses who had to take her anger with a calmness that I would’ve have been able to muster. My sympathy for her? Well, I just thought to myself, “now there is someone who doesn’t understand the concept of single point of failure.”

Back your data up, all the time. Constantly. Back it up to different devices and the cloud. A hard drive crashing should be no more than a minor annoyance. So if you’re running this risk of not having your data backed up, DO IT NOW. And get a system into place. Now. I mean, NOW!

If you don’t know how, ask someone. The tools and software aren’t expensive or difficult to implement. But if you need help, ask. In other words, if you lose data on your hard drive, you have no excuse.

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infra-red black & white photography – urban landscapes

Funny how personal projects often work – there’s the initial enthusiasm, and then life and work takes over. Last year I bought a used Canon 5D mark II that had been converted to Infra-Red. I did take it out twice for walkabouts in New York – and posted the initial results. But then the work-load added up, and then a particularly harsh winter where it was just too miserable outside to go exploring in the city – and I never took it out again, until now. With the weather improving now and the sun shining, it was just a good time to go out and shoot for fun again. 

A photographer friend, Amanda Stevens, joined me with her Fuji X20 that had been converted to deep Infra-Red … and we went exploring in Manhattan. One trick that Amanda showed me that  should’ve been so obvious to me from the start – since you can’t really meter for infra-red, it made sense to view the scene via Live-View, and then adjust the camera settings until it looked good on the back of the screen. So obvious, and yet, I still worked within the old-school mindset of looking through the viewfinder, and trying to read the scene.

The image at the top was taken at Columbus Circle, NYC – the bit of green shrubbery started to turn white where the sun hit it. The sun behind the globe also gave a glow to the image.
Canon 5D mark II (converted for IR);  Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (vendor)
1/50  @  f/16  @  1600 ISO

Here are some of the other images that also worked particularly well:

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post-processing workflow: how to deal with color banding / posterization

If you’ve ever noticed banding or  posterization in your photos, where you’d expect solid colors, then there’s a relatively easy fix for it. This posterization effect appears as bands of colors, where the transitions between similar tones aren’t smooth, but have jagged edges instead.

It is caused by the 8-bit JPG not having enough data to give you a smooth gradient when large blocks of color slowly change. You’ll often see it in the blue sky in landscapes, or as in this case, with large areas of color in the background. Actually, the image above doesn’t show this – I fixed it. Here’s how.

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Peiwen & Eric – wedding in Melbourne, Australia – slideshow

I’ve shown a few images already of the wedding I photographed in Melbourne, Australia, early in March 2014. Everything fell into place during our visit to Australia – and on the wedding day itself – great weather, lovely people, a truly fantastic couple. It’s a huge honor indeed that Eric reached out to my last year, enquiring whether I’d be up for photographing his and Peiwen’s wedding in Melbourne. And yes, I did feel a lot of pressure. The images dared not be mediocre!

But Eric and Peiwen really were great to work with – sparkling personalities, and full of energy and ideas. It also helped that they allowed for ample time for the romantic portraits on the day, as well as the next day with a visit to Brighton Beach. It all turned into a set of photographs that I am truly proud of. Here, are some, (yes, only some) of my favorite photographs from Peiwen and Eric’s wedding.
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software review: Capture One Pro v7 RAW Converter Tests

guest article by: Adrian
Mackay wedding photographers
(Adrian is better known as Trev in the Tangents forum)

Recently I have been trialling the Capture One Pro v7 Raw Converter to see if I could get my files better from the get-go before I started tweaking in Photoshop.

Short Verdict: Simply outstanding; makes ACR and Lightroom look very mediocre compared to Capture One Pro v7 in initial rendering of images.

Now, to be clear, I am not doing full edits within it like a lot of people do in ACR/Lightroom, etc. but basic edits like WB and Exposure, Shadows, then I export out to PSD files and tweak it in Photoshop.

The reason I wanted to try was mainly to see what sort of highlights I could retain so I experimented on several images which were well over-exposed, up to 3 full stops. The samples shown here are 2 over-exposed images and 1 very difficult image with extremely bright Highlights and very dark Shadows, shooting against the sun, seascape type image.

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exposure metering: under-exposure / over-exposure vs exposing correctly

When I posted this photograph of Peiwen & Eric’s wedding in Melbourne, Australia, on Facebook, someone asked the question: how much did I over-expose this photo by?

We have to be very clear with our terminology regarding over-exposure and under-exposure. This photograph is not over-exposed. It is exposed correctly! Did my camera’s light-meter jump all the way to the right-hand side? Yes, it surely did. Does it matter? No, it does not. Why not? Because I exposed correctly. Not under, not over, but correctly.

This photograph (which is ambient light only), is exposed correctly … because my subject, the bride, is exposed correctly. This is a key concept – we have to expose correctly for our subjects. Even if you decide to turn your subject into a silhouette, the decision was still very specific about how you wanted to expose for your subject.

If you are a landscape photographer, then most likely your entire scene is your subject. If you are a portrait photographer, then invariably, your subject is what you need to expose for correctly.

However, if you want to balance your subject which is shaded, in relation to a much brighter background, then you’re going to have to use additional lighting to expose correctly for your subject. But working with just the available light, you will invariably aim to expose correctly for your subject.

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