Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Photographer are you well suited and prepared for business

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
These football players know: the play; what's the goal; and their competition that are in their way. Are you this focused with your business?

Metaphors

A metaphor is a great way to get our head around something we are having to work on in our lives. Now the bible uses a lot of metaphors and I think today's football is very similar to the metaphor used in Ephesians 6:11 Paul writes "Put on all the armor that God gives, so you can defend yourself..."

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Defense 

Today in football you will notice that more than ever the defense isn't just trying to bring down the guy with the ball—they are trying to strip and turn it into a fumble.

Today you must be gripping the football with everything you got or your competition will turn you big play into their big play.

You need to know your core values for your business and hold on to them just as if you were having others trying to make you fumble.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Offense

You can break free of your competition and reach your goals day after day—if you execute your plays that you practiced over and over.

Worthy Opponents

You competition isn't your "enemy." These are your colleagues. Just like the NFL or MLB you can get traded and the following week be playing on their team.

What you will notice is a worthy opponent makes you better. You also appreciate winning a bid more when you have worthy opponent than with no competition at all.

Questions for you
  • What is my goal?
  • Who are the players? Who is my client and who is my competition?
  • What is my weakness that my competition is reaching for and trying to make me fumble?
  • What are the weaknesses of my competition?
  • Why should a client pick me when they have other choices?
  • What kind of preparation should I be doing now? Just like athletes train and watch game films to be ready for game day, is there something I can do to prepare?
  • Who is my coach?
  • Who is my trainer?
  • During my off season what am I doing to transform myself to be even better?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

What to include or exclude in a photo

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 140, 1/100
Theater

A great place to practice your craft is in the theater. For this production of Steel Magnolias at Roswell High School I sat on the back row and for a good reason.

On the back row you are able to see the feet of the actors whereas on the front row you often find the angle has you missing their feet. Another great reason is you are able to shoot above the heads of the audience and be somewhat out the the view of the audience.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
You can use your long glass for more than a football game. Here I am shooting on a monopod and sitting on the back row. I am shooting zoomed in with a 600mm lens at ƒ/5.6.  You can see from the first photo to this one I am able to get pretty tight on the actors on the stage.

So do you shoot wide or tight? The answer is simple—BOTH.

Lighting

The good news is the stage crew and lighting crew have taken care of just about everything for you. Here I just set the white balance to tungsten and found the correct exposure and just shot away. The lighting changes just once in the production to a darker scene, which made the color temperature a little warmer.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
I prefer shooting with a cinematic approach. This is where you are thinking of filling the frame that the viewer will experience the photos, which is assuming more of the size screen in a movie theater. The size is more about proportions of 16x9 or 3x2.  You are not thinking of cropping to a square or vertical.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 1800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
I choose to fill the frame of my Nikon D4. This means I am watching the frame edges to see what to include or exclude. Here in this photo I am letting the actors on either side determine the width and I am watching the curtains and the feet to be sure they have a little room. Too much higher and you see the top of the set.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
Now I am also thinking about what the play is all about. They are in a hair salon and when I think of this place I think of the gossip that goes on. So in this photo while I could have cropped in to just show the two on the right a lot tighter. I am letting the actress sitting and the photo up on the wall both show how this is a place for eavesdropping.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 140, 1/100
Sometimes I am including more around the edges to help establish the scene, which is inside a High School theater. I am intentionally showing the audience as they watch the production.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
Now in this last photo you can see that the bottom of the photo is just including the bottom of the chair and the top is including the photos on the wall. Those photos are then proportioned left to right to again keep the full frame filled. Now if this were for a print piece I may crop a little on the left and right, but this is a great example where you make the very best you can of the composition. I tried to go tighter, but thought the bottom of the chair helped to anchor this photo much better.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 4000, ƒ/4.8, 1/500
I went back the second night to get some photos with the second cast of the show. I decided to shoot some of these photos with my Fuji X-E2 with the FUJINON XF 55-200mm ƒ/4.8 lens. This worked great.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 4000, ƒ/4.8, 1/500
Here is a small collection from the show. Can you see why I composed the shots as I did for these? Maybe you would do something different.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Key to growing your business—Surprise your Customer

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 50, ƒ/4, 1/160—off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger with flash at 1/128 Power
How to make emotional connections

There are brands like Apple, Starbucks, Ritz Hotels and others you can think of that have some of the most loyal customers. These are what we call Raving Fans.

As Ken Blanchard wrote in his book, Raving Fans, a raving fan is "a customer who is so devoted to your products and services that they wouldn't dream of taking their business elsewhere and will sing from the rooftops about just how good you are."

So how do you get these loyal fans of your brand?

Ken Blanchard says to give the customers what they are asking for, and then give them 1% more. That 1% more is what I call the surprise.

Knowing what customers are asking for is the key ingredient. However, Steve Jobs did more than give customers what they were asking for, Apple anticipated needs that customers didn’t even know they had until they saw the Apple product.

Probably the most famous example of total customer service empowerment is the carte blanche monetary discretion The Ritz-Carlton have given to staff members for decades: $2,000 per employee per customer, to be used to solve any customer complaint in the manner the employee felt was appropriate.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 400, ƒ/1.8, 1/200—off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger with flash at 1/128 Power
I don't have $2,000 to spare

There are more ways to give great customer service and surprises than with money.

Quick & Inexpensive Gestures
  • Listen and Remember—You have to really care about your customers to pull this off. This is where you listen for not just what they need but what is going on in their life. How you remember is the next time just asking them about the family member they told you about.
  • Thank You Note—Just a simple hand written thank you note goes a long way.
  • Mix Thank You Note & Remembering—Maybe the customer said something that made your day. Tell them about how that thought stuck with you and made your day.
  • Piece of Candy—I had a defective part from MagMod. I wrote to them and they sent me a new one and also just a small fun size bag of M&Ms. That was a great surprise. Cost very little but I have never had a company do anything like it before.
  • Operational Excellence—You cannot do any surprises if you product isn't top notch. While your competition is doing everything to keep costs down, sometimes you need to spend a little more and keep that quality. One thing I notice my work stands out from many is skin tones. Too many people shoot on Auto White balance but I work hard to dial in the white balance to be very precise.
  • Quick Turn Around—When all your competition is always on a two week delivery, just turn your product delivery time faster. The one industry I think this is terrible is weddings. That is because many of those wedding shooters have other jobs. I know many shooters who are booked up because they deliver great images quickly.
  • Small Gift—You can remember their birthday or at a holiday just send a card, gift card or small gift just to let them know you are thinking of them. This works best if it is later after the job is complete and near a significant moment for the customer.
  • Celebrate their accomplishments—Keep in touch with your customers. If they like your facebook page you can see their posts. If something great happened in their life, comment on their post, give them a phone call or send a card. 
Biggest Surprise

How you talk about your competition and your colleagues can surprise your customer in one of two ways—Positive or Negative.
James 3:16-18 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
16 Whenever people are jealous or selfish, they cause trouble and do all sorts of cruel things. 17 But the wisdom that comes from above leads us to be pure, friendly, gentle, sensible, kind, helpful, genuine, and sincere. 18 When peacemakers plant seeds of peace, they will harvest justice.
You may have heard if you have nothing nice to say then say nothing at all. That is great advice. I challenge you to also say something nice about your competition when you can think of nothing but something positive to say.

I often have clients call me and I am booked. I tell them I can find someone for them or I tell them let me send you a couple of names and links to their websites that I recommend for them.

I do my very best to talk about all the reasons these other photographers are great for the client. I have had even a few of those photographers come back and ask to use my recommendation for others. They had never had anyone talk so positive about them and their work.

Because I talk up the photographers the customers actually get excited to meet them and ask about some of the things I have bragged about on them.

Who will you surprise today?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Peak Action + Exposure/Focus + Post Processing = Great Football Action Photo

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 1100, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
If Ansel Adams shot football games the way many photographers do he would have never become famous.

Ansel Adams is not a great photographer because he was able to capture a great moment and compose it in a compelling way. He is a great photographer because he went beyond just the capture and spent literally months trying to process and print images just right.

Today's cameras help you capture the zone system with little skill required by the photographer. This is the problem today. Too many photographers shoot football games for example and just crop the photograph and then publish the photo.

Same photo as above but this is with no post processing other than slight crop.
Post Processing is Key

You can see the difference between the photo above that I took into Adobe Lightroom and worked on to give me the results above, verses the same Nikon RAW NEF file exported from PhotoMechanic to a JPEG after a slight crop.

Here is another example for you to see the comparison.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

No processing other than slight crop
Comparing the Histogram on top photo

Before
After
You are not trying to get a perfect bell curve histogram. You are trying to be sure that in the top histogram you can see a lot of information on the far right. This is the details being blown out. Recovering this by sliding your highlights to the left to recover that information.


These are just the adjustments I did for the top photo. Notice with the middle of the day light the inside of the helmets tends to go black from the shadows and the highlights are blown out. I am trying to open up the shadows and recover the highlights.


Here you can see the area that I then dodged in the photo to be sure you could see the player's face. Here are the actual slider settings for the dodge here:


RAW vs JPEG

I understand that shooting RAW takes more space and more time to process than just shooting a JPEG and using that image. I hope I have established this is not the way to make your work stand out.

With the RAW image you have all the information that landed on the CMOS chip of the Nikon D4. I have more dynamic range in this file than can be seen by my computer monitor.

With a JPEG the camera's computer makes some assumptions and then tosses out some of that information to save on space for your image file size.

Couple of things that if you shoot JPEGs for daytime football that will become difficult for you to correct later in post processing.

First of all if your white balance is not just perfect and you want to correct it later the nuances of color shifting this to what is possible is no longer there. You have tossed out some of that information.

Second all the information in those blown out highlights is no longer there. Your ability to add folds back into those white jerseys for example will not be possible.

Third the amount of information in those shadows is also lost. The camera software assumed you wanted those areas black and therefore you have less information there to open up those shadows.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Which photo do you prefer? This one just above or the one just below?


When it comes to evaluating the two photos there is one thing that I look for in sports photos that is hard to see in the second unprocessed image—expression. I believe your sports photos are better when you can show the expressions of the athletes you help communicate the effort and competition of the peak action.

Notice the highlights that are blown out in the lower photo and how many of the shadows are just too dark.

Post processing matters with your photos. Do more than just crop your photos and add captions and you will stand out from the pack.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Great portraits are built on trust between photographer and the subject

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/400
Three things for a great portrait
  1. Expression
  2. Expression
  3. Expression
Everytime I get ready to do a portrait session I have butterflies. I get extremely nervous and anxious.

I believe most seasoned photographers and artists feel the same way. They may react differently from each other, but there is something scary when your ability to do your best relies not just with you but with another person.

Yesterday I photographed Jane and as I always I started off with those butterflies and anxiety and as time went on I started to calm down and really enjoy our time.

Its not all about you

In the case of portraits it is all about capturing the subject's best expressions.  

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 50, ƒ/2.8, 1/200, 20"x30" softbox powered by Alienbees B1600 and Vagabond battery pack
Jane was one of my favorite subjects in a very long time. The reason she made for such a wonderful subject is she was willing to try just about anything and also she enjoyed giving me a range of expressions.

First the technical

The very first thing I am doing is getting the camera settings and lighting set just right. Also I am trying to pick a good location when it comes to shooting on location somewhere.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/250, 20"x30" softbox powered by Alienbees B1600 and Vagabond battery pack
This was my very first photo of Jane. I noticed when she arrived what she was wearing and took note of the color. I thought the dress was similar to the color of the bricks of the Roswell Mill—just a little lighter.

A good complimentary color to what she was wearing was green. I liked this setting a lot, but quickly realized that it was just a little too busy for my taste. I felt like the setting was competing with Jane too much.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 50, ƒ/2.8, 1/60, 20"x30" softbox powered by Alienbees B1600 and Vagabond battery pack
This is one of my favorite photos from the day. You may ask why I like this so much. Well I believe a photographer should be able to articulate why they like a certain photograph over another.

This photo to me feels like a Dove commercial. Dove brand has done a great deal through the years to define what is beauty and having wonderful skin and great expression was core to their brand.

Today the Dove Real Beauty Campaign is for girls and women to understand that their power and their beauty does not come from a tube or an airbrush or a cream, but rather from their own personalities and power.

Authenticity

The key is for the photographer to be authentic with the subject. I listened a lot to Jane and her mother. I listened with my ears and eyes. 

"What kind of look are you going for?" was my question and they had an answer. Jane liked the look of the model from the 60's Twiggy and Taylor Swift.

While that was the look, I was really interested in also capturing her personality. Jane is such a ham and loves to goof around and I tried to be sure and encourage her to be herself.

Here are some other photos from our time:



One thing I think helps me capture the best in people is when I am really in tune to their personality and recognize moments that really accentuate it.

By the way I am reminded over and over through interviews with major recording artists that most of them also get butterflies and anxious just before they step onto stage. I think those that understand how fragile relationships really are and how much they must work at them will succeed more often than those who plow ahead.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Nikon D4 Analyzing your focus

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 28735, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
FOCUS

The largest issue I find with many photographer's sports images is out of focus photos. If your focus point is on the subject it is most likely going to be in focus. How do you know where your focus point was when you are editing your images?

I have two software solutions for tracking my focus.


Nikon ViewNX 2 software is a great way to see where your focus point was when you shot your image.


In the software you just click on showing the Focus Point. I have shown you here all you need to do.

Once you have this you can see if your focus point was in the right place to be sure your subject is sharp and in focus.


I just discovered a new software plugin for Adobe Lightroom called Show Focus Points.   It is a Beta version and it if free, so if you don't like it you have not wasted any money.

I do like the information that this gives to you that is missing in the Nikon Software.


The icons let you know more than just where you tracked for focusing.


I love the information that it gives you. It is a lot more detailed and helps me analyze what went wrong.

The only thing I don't like is you cannot make this stay up and you just toggle between photos. I hope later on Lightroom incorporates this into upgrades.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Covering Football: Action, Reaction and more

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 28735, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
ACTION!

The most obvious photos from a football game are the action during the game. If you only shoot this you will miss a good amount of what the game is all about.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 51200, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600
REACTION

The fans really care about the game and the outcome. Don't spend all your time looking at the action on the field look into the stands for the reaction to plays.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Go back and shoot more action. It is best to get the big plays. It is the time in between plays that you can turn the camera away from the field.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/800
A lot happens in those stands. Keep your ears tuned in around you as well as your eyes.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000
After major touchdowns many schools cheerleaders have traditions of celebrating on sideline or like here in the endzone.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
After big plays like this one you will find fans reacting.  Sometimes you will see coaches on the sidelines interacting with the referees.  

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 28735, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
The idea is if you are at a game it is a big event with a lot of people doing different things and roles.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 18102, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
There are the bands that perform before the game, during the game and at half time. They practice as much as the football team. It is a major performance for them.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 10000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Not so obvious

Nikon D4,  Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 560, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
I take photos of people on sidelines that I work with during games. I try and then send them a copy of the photo. This helps to build relationships so that the next game when I need some help with access these friends are now seeing me as someone they want to help.

Look for different angles

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600
I like to go up into or onto press boxes to get a different perspective of the game. Don't shoot all the action from the same position the entire game. On the other hand don't move around so much that you are missing action because you are always moving.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/800
Hopefully you will have editors cheering with your coverage. The key is to give them variety and hopefully these tips will have you looking for different photos at your next football game.

Nikon D4,  Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 4000, ƒ/9, 1/200
Don't leave early

Stay shooting after the game. There are still photos to be made.

Nikon D4,  Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

Monday, September 15, 2014

Working under Mercury-Vapor Lights


As you know if you read my blog regularly my favorite way to set my white balance is to do a custom white balance setting using the ExpoDisc. Here is a quick reminder–skip down if you want to see another way to set your white balance.

Remember under fluorescent and mercury-vapor to set the white balance at shutter speeds of 1/100 or slower. You can later shoot under faster shutter speed after custom white balancing the camera.
ExposDisc goes in front of the lens and then you use it to get an incident reading rather than a reflective reading of the light.

Notice the direction of the light hitting the subject.  You move to the same position to get the light reading below.

Point the camera toward the direction of the light that is falling on the subject.
The latest upgraded version has introduced the warming filters that you place in front of the ExpoDisc. They are light blue and since the camera tries to neutralize the colors will add yellow to your photos thus warming them up. the actual color is really a blend between cyan and blue adding a little red/yellow to your photos. They come in different densities to allow you to add just a little or more depending on your taste.

Presets in Nikon D4

Check your manual for your camera because this is for the Nikon D4. Somewhere in your menu you can go and adjust using presets for white balance.



On my Nikon D4 in the menu for White Balance you can choose up to seven different presets for fluorescent.  There is a major problem I have found trying this method, it isn't easy to pick the right color, because the monitor on the back of the camera isn't that easy to see color in all situations.

Fluorescent lamps are manufactured to a chosen color by altering the mixture of phosphors inside the tube. Warm-white fluorescents have color spectrum of 2700 K and are popular for residential lighting. Neutral-white fluorescents have a color spectrum of 3000 K or 3500 K. Cool-white fluorescents have a color spectrum of 4100 K and are popular for office lighting. Daylight fluorescents have a color spectrum of 5000 K to 6500 K, which is bluish-white.

Note that on the Nikon D4 you also have a pre-set for those awful Mercury-Vapor lights. Sometimes I have found that I prefer one of the fluorescent settings under some of the newer mercury-vapor lights when using this system instead of the custom white balance.