The iPhone as a tool to tell a war story
Friday, December 17, 2010
Here's an interesting photojournalism discussion. A New York Times photographer in Afghanistan used his iPhone to make a series of photographs of soldiers as they trudge through their daily lives at war. Damon Winter believed that his iPhone could not only do the job, but do it in a much less intrusive way than if he'd used his typical D-SLR gear. The photographs are amazing and they offer a glimpse into life at war quite unlike most we've seen before. But there is some controversy around this body of work, and it's got to do with the iPhone app's propensity for post-processing wizardry (which is done automatically, much like a Photoshop filter you don't even have to click). The Times has very high standards in terms of non-manipulation of documentary images. Does this Hipstamatic iPhone app, which applies significant post-production special effects automatically, violate those strict standards? Some commenters believe so, and in my opinion they make a good point. When we start seeing style in front of substance, we may not be seeing the right things. It's an interesting debate, either way, and well worth a look.
One-Light Portrait Advice
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Just yesterday I was making simple studio portraits with a couple of lights and I was thinking about how great photographs require great light, but great light doesn’t mean lots of lights. Case in point: photographer Matthew Jordan Smith speaks in this Profoto-sponsored how-to video about creating a gorgeous one-light portrait of model Tyra Banks. More than your average short video, this clip has Mr. Smith diagram the shoot and offer insights not only for working with one light but for positioning lights for the ideal effect. He also offers advice for working with models when you're using a powerful source like a ring light. It's a great shot, and a great video—both done simply and both done quite well.
A guide for pricing photography
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
With more and more amateur photographers dipping their toes in the waters of paid photography, there's a lot of discussion these days about exactly what to charge for assignments. The conventional wisdom seems to be that newbies aren't sure of what to charge, and so they underbid established photographers quite significantly, which has a triple effect: the newbie is paid less than a fair value for the work, the established photographer loses income altogether, and the market value of photography in total goes down. This is not good for photographers at all, new or old, period. Now there's a new web site called Shakodo that aims to help new photographers determine what to charge for their work. It's not a price guide per se, but rather a venue where photographers can share ideas, facts and figures on pricing all kinds of photography. If you're considering charging for a photo shoot, even if it's just a one-time thing, have a look at Shakodo and see if it helps put more money in your pocket.
Smartphone Model Releases
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Here's another indicator that I'm completely behind the times. It's the model release via smartphone phenomenon, and I'm ready to jump on board. First, a bit about model releases: you need them. I recently spoke to a photographer who's able to turn his entire archive into a money-making stock image library specifically because he's been getting model releases for people shots since the 1980s. I, on the other hand, struggle to get model releases even when I know it's in my best interests. With the advent of a handful of smartphone model release apps, now I've got no excuse. In most cases, it seems that the subject is able to sign right on the smartphone screen just by using their finger in lieu of a pen. Pretty cool. The real question is which app to choose. There's iD-release, which is free and allows you to create and store releases on your iPhone. There's Easy Release, which seems to do the same sort of thing, sans freeness, for both iPhone and Android operating systems. Then there's mRelease, which offers a variety of releases (including talent, property and location releases) for the iPhone OS. Are there any others? Do you utilize one of them? I'd love to know which way you think I should go.
Reuters Pictures of the Year
Monday, December 13, 2010
It's that time of year once again where everyone starts talking about their year-end highlights. Every media outlet seems to put together some variation on a slideshow of its favorite pictures of 2010, and to get us started here's a good batch from Reuters, by way of Rob Galbraith's blog, that focuses on world news. It serves as a great reminder of the power of photojournalism to tell a story quite unlike any other medium can. These are powerful, and in some cases disturbing, photographs.
Always use a tripod, even when you can’t
Friday, December 10, 2010
I'm constantly touting that photographers shoot with a tripod, because it can make all sorts of shots much better. The tripod is practically a necessity for still lifes or when shooting in low light at dusk, and it’s most definitely necessary for shooting after dark. But what about when you're shooting in places where a tripod can't go? Even worse, what about where you're not allowed to take your tripod? That's when you have to get crafty. The point remains the same—and that is that steadying the camera makes sharper pictures. So here’s a workaround courtesy of Scott Kelby’s blog. It’s about how to achieve the same effect as a tripod even when you're unable to take a tripod with you.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Fashion photographer Patrick Hoelck recently emailed with information about a new book project he’s working on. It’s called Polaroid Hotel. Here’s what he had to say: "I decided to pay tribute to the dying art of Polaroid photography with a book of images and an exhibition that capture intimate moments of my career... I want to show that just because a certain technology has aged it doesn’t have to lose its appeal." Patrick’s project is a neat one, and it’s certainly new. Really new. So new, in fact, that the book itself is not yet made. That’s part of what makes this interesting. Patrick is using a web site called Kickstarter to help raise funds to turn the idea into a reality. Kickstarter is a unique web service built expressly to raise funding for creative projects. Visit Patrick’s Kickstarter page to see a slideshow of some of his Polaroid work, to learn more about Kickstarter itself, and maybe even to contribute money to help the project along. If you want to see more of Patrick and his work, take a look at his personal web site.
The Inverse Square Law
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I lost a one-dollar bet yesterday when I challenged a fellow-photographer’s understanding of the inverse square law. Turns out I was the one who had the math wrong. I don’t know where in my years of understanding this rule I got off track, but I sure was wrong yesterday. Hopefully it was just a momentary glitch. Anyway, I figured I’d review it one more time here in case anybody else has their math mixed up like me.
The inverse square law, as it applies to lighting, means that with every doubling or halving of the distance of a subject from the light source, the intensity of light doesn’t change strength equally. It’s not just half or double, it’s in fact four times stronger (when moving closer to the light) and a quarter the strength (when moving away from the light). In real world terms that means that when you have a light source four feet from a subject, a background (or secondary subject) eight feet from the light source will be one quarter as bright—or two full stops darker. A subject exposed at f/8 in that scenario would see the background register f/4 on a light meter.
In practice, this principle is used to make backgrounds lighter or darker, to cast even lighting over a wide area, and to frustrate photographers like me and win money in ridiculous bets about who knows more about photography.
Read more about the inverse square law and see great examples of it in practice on Zack Arias’ blog at www.zarias.com/white-seamless-tutorial-part-3-from-white-to-black