“Black Angels” – An Assignment for a CD Cover

This week the Project 52 PROS for 2014 are working on an CD album cover for a faux assignment. The music is George Crumb’s “Black Angels” for Electric String Quartet.

It is very challenging music.

The students for this morning’s Friday class really knocked it out of the park. Check out these amazing images.

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Karen Kaiser photographed a 200 year old violin that must contain a fantastic story.

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Meggan Trobaugh’s Light Painting technique.

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Jean Pierre De Rycke Photographed a child’s wings with this unique Photoshop technique in mind.

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Clare Bambers visited a local cemetery in the UK to shoot the various angels. The light she created with natural and reflected gold was amazing. The then composited them into this haunting image.

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Jay Chatzkel used a page of the original score for his background while adding a touch of whimsy in the colored paper.

You can see more of what these talented photographers are doing at Project 52 Pros.

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A Life, A Lifetime, and a Tie

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John Thomas Banta had over 200 ties.

Most were bold, loud, occasionally whimsical and always hard-to-miss.

In short, they were very much like him. He dressed for occasions, often wearing his wildly interesting ties. And he lit up the room with his presence. He was a big man and could be intimidating at first… but only for a few moments. His generous warmth won over even his detractors. Everyone liked him.

I never met the man, but from what I know about him from a wonderful letter from his daughter, I would have liked him. A lot.

He was proud and giving, fair and honest, and deeply loved being someone who was thought of as a helper.

He went in to the hospital for a simple knee surgery, and didn’t leave. His body formed a clot, and it took this great man down.

One week later, a blood clot nearly took me down… but I did come back.

Yesterday I received a beautiful note from his daughter and a beautiful tie from his collection. It is bold, colorful and unapologetically wild. Susan Barta has sent his collection of ties to people who she thinks her dad would have wanted to have them.

I am on that list. And I received this tie.

And I will wear it with pride, sir.

I will indeed wear it with pride.

 

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Is Giving One’s Images Away for Free a Brilliant Marketing Move?

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… or a very very bad idea?

Trey Ratcliff (Lost in Customs) has always given his images away on the Non-Commercial Creative Commons License. What is new today is his link to grab ALL of his favorite 500 images for free and download them in full high res form.

See more here: Free Download: Trey Ratcliff’s 500 Best Photos in Full Resolution

This is the new paradigm of photography that wasn’t really around in the old days. There were professionals with very expensive and exotic gear and the rest of the world was happy with a point and shoot that took 2 rolls a year.

Now photography is ubiquitous. From cell phones to big DSLR’s more people are engaged than ever before.

This has created a new source for photographers to benefit from; the teaching of the amateur photographer who wants simply to be better at that activity.

When you think about it critically, it is just another source – a channel so to speak – of revenue. The vast majority of them do not wish to become ‘professionals’, they simply want to have fun, make cool imagery, and be a part of the rich heritage of photography.

Nothing wrong with that. Lots of people take piano lessons who do not have their eye on Carnegie Hall. Lots of people go to painting workshops to learn how to do their art without designs on the Met. Ballroom dancing, Yoga, creative writing, scrapbooking, running, Pilates…. the list is pretty long.

These people want to be better at something and there are professionals out there to help them become better.

Trey’s always given his images as CC Non-Commercial, so they are not really seen as commercial anyway. His main revenue source is the amateur photographer who wants to make a ‘cool’ HDR shot on vacation. He has, to my knowledge, never pretended to be something he is not (and there are plenty of those folks who do out there) but has always maintained his amateur status as teacher and photographic vagabond. Actions/Presets/Ebooks/workshops.

Professional photographers will someday realize that the amateur and advanced amateur is as viable a market as corporations and ad agencies. And this new market carries no guilt or ‘wannabee’ status at all. It is a person wanting to know ‘how you do that’ so they can do it too.

Is that ‘pure photography’?

I am not sure I even know what ‘pure photography’ is these days… in fact: We must understand that what was once a “photographer” is now a different categorical definition. Where once non-photographers maybe shot a roll or two per year, they now shoot tens of thousands of images per year.


His market is a great swath of people who love making photographs that please them, and their own audience. We can sit on high and pass judgement, but that is sort of like telling me that nobody likes Rap music because it takes little to no musical ability.

True on what it takes, wrong on who likes it.

Photography is now a ‘participation’ hobby, with a possible nod to sports. It is no longer in the confines of the ‘professional’ with lots of exotic gear and expensive tools. It is open to the masses and they are eating it up with gusto.

Photography is no longer a narrow niche. It is no longer in the purview of the professional. It will NEVER go back. Never.

Trey (and others in that genre) are not interested in shooting for corporations or ad agencies or for magazines, he is of a newer breed of photographer who recognizes a market and fills that market with educational tools and intellectual property that it craves.

Where once we had two channels – professional photographers / the rest of the world – we now have dozens or more.

Professional photographers.
Professional photographic educators.
Semi-professional artists, semi-professional consumer photographers.
Serious amateurs who devote tens of thousands of dollars to participate.
Instagrammers and Hipstagrammers and the companies that print books.
Blurb, Artifact Uprising, MILK and more
Wedding pros / wedding amateurs…
Vigorous amateur participation that brings BILLIONS into the genre.

Why we continue to find fault with this new and widely diverse new model simply stumps me.

Pianists teach people who do not want to be professionals.
Guitar and drums and trumpet and french horn teachers do the same.
There are painting and poetry and creative writing workshops and education for people who do not want to be professional, just better at what they love.

Universities keep turning out people with sociology degrees, and early french literature degrees, and philosophy degrees (and hundred thousand dollar debt) to people who will never be able to make a living with that information.

Why is it wrong, or somehow devastating to some, that a guy like Trey comes along and says.. “Hey, I have a different approach. I don’t want to make money from my photographs, I want to teach and help and be compensated for that.”

As far as I know, he has never offered anyone the “Tips to a Six Figure Business” or the “Seven Secrets Every Photographer Should Know”… He has a loyal and fairly deep fan base that loves what he does and compensates him for doing it.

That his business model seems to worry so many “professionals” is far more troubling to me. We better learn to embrace the change or we will all be old farts sitting around bitching while the youngsters spin circles around our tired asses.

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“What Should Photographers Charge in 2014?” – A Discussion with Rosh Sillars

My bud Rosh Sillars’ recent article on “What Should Photographers Charge in 2014?” really hit home with me and a lot of my Project 52 PRO’s. Pricing and figuring out what to charge is always a very difficult part of starting a photo business, and Rosh takes a very pragmatic, and value producing look at this timeless conundrum.

A significant truth:

“Here is the bottom line:  You can’t win if you play the lowest-price game. You can’t beat free and stay in business. Friends with cameras, cell phones and free stock photography are going to win every time if you don’t have something better to offer.”

Rosh makes the point that setting ourselves apart from the mediocre, and the mundane is absolutely necessary. Whether in the work we do or the way we do business, bringing value to the table for our clients is a game changer.

Another real world challenge is that the day of the ‘button pusher’ is over. Amateurs with talent can make images that are far beyond what the best shooters were able to make 20 years ago. The technical skill involved is learnable for free, and there are many, many talented people with great ‘eyes’ for imagery.

You simply cannot be “average” anymore.

“Just because your friends and family tell you that you have a good eye doesn’t mean people will pay you for your photography.  We are in the heyday of photography. Photos are everywhere. Unfortunately, being able to create an in-focus, well-exposed and nicely composed photograph is not enough for a photography career.  You need more.”

I hope you enjoy this interview and the great questions that were asked by our Project 52 PRO’s.

Thanks for watching.

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Shooting a Beer with Rui Bandeira

Cerveja Letra for Don

We have so many talented people in the Project 52 PRO group. Meet Rui Bandeira.

He shared this shot with my last night and I knew I had to share it with you all. Here is Rui:

“Hi,

I had 3 goals for this shot:
1) it had to be fresh and make the viewer desire to drink it
2) keep the bootle, the lable and the glass important
3) keep a traditional and rustic look

I made the image with a Canon 5DmKII and 100mm L MacroII

After deciding on the framing I wanted I started the shooting.

I knew I would do some compositing so I started by making the base shot. I would then build the rest of the shots i needed based on my drawn comp.

After the base shot I started doing the images needed for the comp.

I had to do a few images with a gold card for the interior of the bottle and glass, for doing this I hand moved the flash so I could get it pointing to the cards.

For doing the bottle images I removed the glass, and for the glass images I removed the bottle.

After having all the images, it was time to composit it all in Photoshop.

You can see a hi Res image here.”

Thanks Rui. Below are some shots Rui furnished for the shoot. See more of Rui’s work at his website.

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Here is a GIF that shows the process.

Cervejaletra

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Photoshop Repair: Bri in the High Desert

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I like to play around in Photoshop a lot, and when I do I am going to start sharing what I do with my Project 52 Pros. And anyone else who wants to know what I do.

I am not putting myself out there as a Photoshop Guru by any stretch of the imagination. I am simply sharing what I do for those who have asked.

Here is the original, terrible photo I took out there on that desert morning.

bri-desert-bad

The Photoshop work is here.

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WHY I AM CHUCKING ALL MY GEAR AND RETURNING TO SAND PAINTING AS MY VISUAL MEDIUM.

I have always loved sand. When I was a kid I would play in it, except when mum let the cat play in it first, and then it smelled sort of like my little brother, but… I digress.

Cameras are obsolete. We hear every day about this new gizmo and that new gizmo, and how iPhones and soccer moms are killing the industry. And – I have come to understand that they are correct.

Photography, as an industry is totally dead. No life at all left in it. The fact that billions of images are uploaded daily is testament to the fact that no one cares about images anymore.

But sand… sand is eternal. Sand is from the earth. Sand is organic. Sand will save the planet, which will someday get hit by a mighty meteor and explode, thus saving “Sanctumorius Two” in the Umbawumba Galaxy from a terrible fate.

Sorry, digressing again.

Sand is now my medium.

And not that gritty ol’ beach sand, nosirree, that sand is for amateurs and wannabe’s … I will use only fine, Italian sand. (They have sand in Italy… right? Right?)

I have moved beyond mere photography into a world where there are NO Craigslist competitors, soccer moms with sand, and the constant fear of being the most expensive. Hell, we all wanna be the cheapest, right?

Right?

Anyway. This is my fond farewell. I have decided to go bravely into this new world of sand painting with eyes wide open (well, you know, with goggles of course) and my off sand lighting and create some great ‘sandist’ work.

Depth of field? Screw it.
Focus? Screw it.
Inverse Square Law? I don’t even know what that is so screw it.

Me.
Sand.
A dog (to keep the cats away)
Art.

And, since I am not using batteries, I am single handedly saving this wretched planet.

You’re welcome.

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Book Ideas: “What If…”

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What if.

What if you created a magazine instead of a book? Told a story or two in the magazine, showed a subject in depth, then printed 10 copies for influential art directors in your town and offered all who came to the site a PDF?
(Blurb does magazines for as little as $10)

What if you wrote a novel and instead of describing the house where the family lived, you included a photograph of it. Not a photographic novel, but a novel that included photographs.

What if you made a diary of your travels, made small prints and pasted them on the pages and then scanned the pages into a book, and then wrote in the book with pen and marker? What if you made only twenty of those books?

What if you made a book of screen grabs from Lightroom thumbnails? Nothing but screen grabs of thumbnails on every page. Show the process.

What if you made ten big books at Graphi ($4000) and sold them for $1000 each? Collectors items – one offs – custom books. Art.

What if you made a book of every shot you did on a roadtrip? Just thumbnails, but every stinking shot.

What if you made a book, and included 6 small and numbered prints with each book? Hand signed, and in a limited edition.

What if you hooked up with an illustrator and a poet to create a hybrid book about the mythical beasts of Slot Canyons? Just askin’…

What if you worked with a band to create a story that was half images and half rock-opera? And what if you included the CD? And what if you included some of the score? An photographically illustrated rock opera with the music attached.

What if you hooked up with a MUA, three models, a stylist and some incredible wardrobe and shot a fantasy fashion story, then printed it as a small magazine or published it on ISSU?

Books are cool. Books can be amazing tools.

What are some of your ‘what ifs’?

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ISLA: A New Book by Ernesto Bazan, Photographer

“No, I don’t [do assignments]. I stopped doing that, more or less, when I decided to become a teacher in 2002. Because of my workshops, I had to leave Cuba in 2006, which is ironic. I fund all my work thanks to the generosity of my students. This will be the third self-published book now. In exchange for their support, I usually give them two options. The first is to pre-acquire a limited edition of the book. I’ve done the same with ISLA. Of course some who could afford the limited edition of one book cannot any longer, but there’s a hardcore group of students that have bought all three limited editions of each book.

 

The economic situation is what it is, but these students can help me by buying these books at over $1000 each. That is the foundation of how I build a book. Even if they can’t buy the limited edition, their names will be a part of the thank you note at the end of the book. I think that by helping these students to take better pictures over all these years, I’ve developed all of these incredible friendships and I’ve also had the unique and amazing, priceless privilege of just concentrating on taking my own photographs over the last thirteen years.”

– Ernesto Bazan

The entire article is here. It is long, but full of insight.

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What Is The Biggest Problem with Your Photography?

The biggest problem may also be the one that most people focus on. No pun intended.

“So let’s get the elephant out of the bag most of you keep it in and into the room where we can discuss it: most people are complaining about their cameras because otherwise they’d have to put the blame for their photography on themselves. It’s the camera’s fault their photograph isn’t great. Or maybe the lens’ fault. Not theirs. 

 

Now don’t get me wrong. If you managed to take an incredible photo of a compelling subject in a way that the world hadn’t seen before and it was with a D600 that was throwing lubricant and dust onto the upper left area of the photograph, you’d be pissed. Equipment can get in the way of your enjoyment. But let me also be clear: you’d still have a great photograph, though you’d be spending a lot of time cloning out the crud the D600 put into the photo. Generally we don’t want our photo gear adding to the tasks we have to do in our workflow, which is one of the reasons why the D600 shutter issue was such a big deal and has really hurt Nikon’s credibility with users. One Nikon technical support person apparently suggested to one of this site’s readers that they not use such small apertures or take time-lapse images. Really? Then why are the features there?”

– Thom Hogan

It is always interesting to me how much discussion goes into the crap we use and how little goes into the crap we produce.

Perhaps we should change that around.

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Photographs = Communication = New Creative

Photographs as communication.

The new uses of photography continues to grow.

“It’s not that my memory improved but, instead, that I started archiving these events and ideas with my phone, as photographs. Now, if I want to research the painter whose portraits I admired at the museum, I don’t have to read through page after page of my chicken scratch trying to find her name. When I need the title of a novel someone recommended, I just scroll back to the day we were at the bookstore together.

Looking through my photo stream, there is a caption about Thomas Jefferson smuggling seeds from Italy, which I want to research; a picture of a tree I want to identify, which I need to send to my father; the nutritional label from a seasoning that I want to re-create; and a man with a jungle of electrical cords in the coffee shop, whose picture I took because I wanted to write something about how our wireless lives are actually full of wires. Photography has changed not only the way that I make notes but also the way that I write. Like an endless series of prompts, the photographs are a record of half-formed ideas to which I hope to return.”

– Casey N Sep

I am working on something that is so far out of the box for me that it is a kind of a whole new path.

With an iPhone.

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Documentary Photography with a Fresh Twist

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PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL DAVID FRIBERG

Michael Friberg and Benjamin Rasmussen find a fresh way to explore the conflict in the Middle East. Part reportage, part editorial, they create a powerful new way of communication on a contemporary problem.

“The way that we shoot for magazines, you try to photograph a subject in a way that people are going to think they are important enough to read that story,” Rasmussen explains. “We have a visual language that we use to communicate the fact that somebody is important. We wanted to take that language and use that on a group of people that no one was really paying attention to.” He points to the cover of “By the Olive Trees” as an example; in it a handsome, young man stands holding an olive branch. His clothes fit well, a fashionable shirt unbuttoned to the chest, and he holds the branch carefully, looking away, but his gaze is troubled. Friberg shot it in natural light, but the key to their approach was spending quality time with their subjects and letting the photographs become an extension of that, instead of simply following someone around taking pictures.”

Article here.

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The Last Project 52 Assignment for the 2013 Group

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“Cooking With Chili” is the name of the faux cookbook. The assignment was to shoot to the layout. The students did a magnificent job with this, and I want to share the work with you all.

You can see the layout, and it was provided as a layered PSD file to the students. They then shot the concept (brief) and put the image together in Photoshop.

We are now working on a book for the end of the year, and it will be amazing. I will post the book (free PDF or purchase hard copy at Blurb) here when it is ready. Believe me, it will be amazing!

See how a lot of different photographers interpreted the same layout.

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Irene Liebler’s “Cooking With Chili” BTS Work

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Irene Liebler is a photographer/designer in Connecticut. She is also a Project 52 member and has developed quite a unique style.

This is a recent image for an assignment on P52, a “Cooking With Chilis” Cookbook Cover, shot to layout.

In this post, she walks you through how she did it, and the thought process that goes into this level of work.

She also has a book at Blurb that walks you through the processes she uses for making her unique and wonderful imagery. Pick up a copy of “The Man In The Red Jacket” to see the magic being made.

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Art And Its Detractors

“How has your art been received in your community? Do you have any detractors?”

“Oh, yeah. That comes up all the time. If you really, really commit to something, someone will hate you for it. And that’s ok. But the further you pursue your art, and the more you come to understand that it’s coming from who you are, the less that stuff gets to you. When you reach that point and put your work out there, and somebody hates it, what are your options? Are you gonna move forward or completely realign your work? Somebody will always be there to tell you they don’t like what you’re doing. To do work that pleases people is a constant investment in gauging trends and evaluating opinions and measuring yourself against them. If you align to what’s popular, and then in two years everyone hates it, you have to completely change who you are. But if you just figure out who you are and how you want to work, all you have to do is commit to that the rest of your life. People’s reactions might change, but you won’t have to. You’ll be doing something you care about, whether people like it or not.”

Photographer Ryan Muirhead Talks Depression, Creativity, and What It Means to Be Human

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“NO” versus “YES” – Which Got The Most Response?

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On the previous post I mentioned, almost in passing, how negative articles and stories are more highly engaged than are positive ones.

A few minutes later, this catches my attention:

Just Say NO

“So, one answer to my student’s rhetorical question is “Just say NO.” As in, no, I will not make your donut commercial for free; no, I will not play at your restaurant “for the exposure;” no, you cannot have my painting to hang in your home because your “important” friends will see it; no, I will not paint your set “for the experience.”  What I will do is accept a slightly below market wage because I’m still in school and you’ll get what you pay for; yes, I will play at your restaurant for one night if you provide dinner for my family of six beforehand; yes, I will loan my painting to you for a fixed period of time if I am invited to the cocktail party to meet your important friends; yes, I will paint your set with you so that you can train me on a specialized technique with which I am unfamiliar.  Or, yes! I will gift my talents to you with generosity and an open heart because I love you, your cause, or your work. But no, I will not make your donut commercial for free.  [In a follow-up post, I discuss saying "YES!"]“

It received over 114 responses before the comments were closed.

The following week, the author wrote “Saying YES”.

“Just – or even more – important than knowing when to say “no,” is knowing when and how to say “yes.”  Giving builds community; giving builds friendships; giving builds social capital (although one need not think of it in those terms); giving lifts the spirit of both the giver and receiver.  We may give of our time, we may give of our money, we may give of our things, we may give of our talent.  Related to giving is sharing – we may share knowledge, share food, share an experience (good or bad), without any exchange of material goods.”

It received three comments.

Negativity is the common thread of all failed anythings. The author has it right on both of these articles. Absolutely right… and yet the negative by far has more engagement.

Why?

WTF? You think I am some sort of sociologist or somethin’? I have no data, only my life long experience of finding that negative people are more persuasive and impassioned than they should be.

It is almost as if people go LOOKING for negative things to use as some sort of blame shifting mechanism.

After all, if you aren’t successful it is probably because of ‘those people’… you know who I mean… the others that steal dreams and force us to constantly make bad decisions and sit on our fat asses whining.

Yeah… them.

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On Change Changing What was Changed…

hiway
… or something.

My friend Jan Klier (NYC) and I were discussing the recent Getty move to grant access to millions of images for only a byline. He feels it is a good move for photographers, and while I am still somewhat ambivalent we both agree that the worst thing is the overall message that photographs are not worth much anymore.

We also agree that message will fade as photographs are becoming more and more valuable all the time.

No, I am not talking about wedding photographs or baby shots, brochure covers or even ad shots for the newest wizbang gadget.

I mean as a value to our lives. The communication and interaction they facilitate. The shared experiences and cultural manifestations of images are not to be ignored.

From Jan’s post this morning:

“Photographers lack that scale in their marketing. How many portfolio reviews have you been on in the last year? How many people have seen your entire book and seen the majority of your photos? How many people’s opinions have you gotten about your work? Is it a statistically significant number? Doubtfully. Yet, how many people have seen some of your images in some form or another without you knowing about it? How much better could your business be if you could reliably create and market your next photo with the accuracy of an Amazon recommendation?

So while Getty’s latest move may not yet be the photographer’s meta data solution, it’s a move in that direction. Paul Melcher has been involved in Stiple, another smaller endeavor in the same vein.”

From my half of the email exchange this morning:

Change is hard. Change is always harder when multiple models change at the same time. The traditional ‘dollars for hours’ model of the service sector is being tossed on its head. The traditional ‘licensing’ for use’ model is being challenged and in many cases eviscerated.

When we take today’s market and look at it from today’s perspective (rather than one of 20 years ago) we can clearly see that if we began this industry now, we would be using a far different set of tools to create the values we want to maintain. We would not be looking at day-rates, licensing, and controlling access, we would be looking at reach, engagement and open access.

Business models that made no sense 20 years ago, and will make a lot of sense 20 years from now. Or something else entirely, change is indeed constant.

Simply said, the old models don’t work smoothly in today’s environment. It will not get smoother.

And yet that failed model of trying to shoehorn an unworkable model into a clearly bad fit is what so many spend their time and efforts on.

The old model of the business of photography is breathing its last breath. Mediocre photographers who got by in years past are today’s roadkill. Big time shooters are finding other models to follow (McNally the celebrity, Heisler the sage etc…) and this is the natural progression of disruption, be it good or bad not withstanding.

The new model of photography is also quite difficult to see at the moment. It is still in flux, and in fact may never again ‘gel’ into a single, describable entity. It may remain ethereal and erratic, shifting forever without a clear and discernible set of parameters.

Quickly changing cultural beliefs and communication standards will be entering and weaving for quite a few more years… and the pace will most likely not subside (barring a catastrophic failure of society, which may not be out of the question these days).

The fear that photographers have over losing what they had is misplaced. It is already gone. Looking back and wishing it were not so is of no value, and it will avail nothing but more distraction and pain and time lost from moving ahead.

Looking forward may indeed be painful, but it will at least be a start toward understanding the changing nature of photography, how photography is perceived and used, of what value is photography to the culture and how one who creates imagery fits in.

This of course requires more effort, so we will continue to bitch and whine, which of course provides nothing of value, but is far easier to do.

Notice the amazing hit counts on the ‘oh poor woe is us’ posts at Petapixel, VSL, f-stoppers and such. Doom and gloom are still the big attractions for the human race. Early newspaper owners knew it. Media organizations know it. Nothing different in the photography realm.

But we are all aware of those that ignored the doom and gloom fascination of the day to move into a more prosperous tomorrow. Instead of wringing hands and enjoying each other’s suffering, they went out and did… something else. A choice we all have an opportunity to make every single morning we open our eyes.

Today I am trying to figure out how to incorporate Snapchat into my business… not sure I have a breakthrough yet, but I believe there is a way.

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Chocolate: Two Shots

Photographer David Price shows us two ways to light chocolate.

In the first shot, he is using a very large light source. The source is above and behind the chocolate, and that masks the individual color of the items. This is because the specular – the reflected light source – is white, and that is what we see predominantly.

Assignment-6-David-Price-Tue-1-Chocolate

You can see the set up here:

Assignment-6-David-Price-Tue-2-Backlit-SETUP

In the second shot, David moved his light to the side of the chocolate. This provides a specular highlight on the side of the chocolate, but allows the colors of the chocolate to be seen as they are now the “true value” of the chocolate.

Assignment-6-David-Price-Tue-3-Chocolate

This is the setup.

Assignment-6-David-Price-Tue-4-Sidelit-SETUP

There is no right or wrong decision when working with the specular effects on subjects, there is only your choice as regards to the style of the work you are completing.

Thanks, David.

David Price Photography,

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