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February 2009 Archives

February 1, 2009

Book Review: Light - Science and Magic, An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

Light—Science and Magic, An introduction to Photographic Lighting
by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver and Paul Fuqua
3rd Edition, Focal Press, 2007

“What we do have to offer you is a set of tools. This book is about technology. Science … Learn about light and the science. The magic will happen.” —Hunter, Biver & Fuqua

This is the indispensable guide to photographic lighting for photographers at all stages of their craft.

My first impression had been, “Just great, exactly what I don’t need, one more lighting cookbook,” and I avoided reading it for years because of what I thought was a hokey title. Well, you know what they say about the fallacy of judging books by their cover.

“Light –Science and Magic” explains not so much where to put lights as how photographic light works the way it does, and how that determines what type of lighting modifier to use and where to put it. That knowledge in turn leads to an understanding of how to quickly and repeatedly create and use, or even just find, great lighting for studio and location work, from products to portraits, from architecture to events.

“All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare wrote, and that is doubly true in photography, a constructed word which made its first appearance in 1839 and has linguistic roots in the Greek words for light and writing, and is handy term to describe a theater of the frozen visual gesture. Your productions need a great lighting designer, and since lighting is a skill you can learn, this book is a fine place to start. Applying the principles in this book will definitely take your game up a couple of notches, no matter where you are in your career, and whatever tools you use to create light.

—Ellis Vener

Book Review: Minimalist Lighting, Professional Techniques for Location Photography

Minimalist Lighting

Minimalist Lighting, Professional Techniques for Location Photography
by Kirk Tuck
Amherst Media, 2008

Kirk Tuck is a long-time advertising and corporate photographer hailing from Austin, Texas. Around the time digital photography started changing all of our lives, he realized that, among other things, the new cameras meant he no longer needed to schlep hundreds of pounds of lighting and grip gear across town or around the world to get the high-quality photos his clients required. Matching means to ends, he started exploiting the power of small, sometimes intelligent, flash units combined with existing lighting and made his photography evolve in the process.

Mr. Tuck’s makes his philosophy plain early on:

“With each pound of gear I’ve jettisoned, I’ve found that I arrive on locations with more energy and a better ability to focus on creative problem solving. When I go home at the end of the day, I’m not worn out from dragging around a cart filled with hundreds of pounds of heavy equipment. And while I’m shooting, I’m able to do many of the adjustments to my lights from the camera position using a wireless controller. That helps overcome the attitude of ‘good enough’ that seeps into our creative work when we’re physically tired.”

Specific pieces of gear—not all of which need batteries, and many of which are ridiculously inexpensive—are covered as are the strategies and tactics needed to making small Strobist-type solutions work for the busy photographer.

Richly illuminated with location portraits and a few still lifes, and written in a clean down to earth style, what Mr. Tuck really shows in this book is that good photography is not about the gear, and that the most important thing about photographing people well is capturing the evanescent connection between a photographer and the subject as well as the visual representation.

Ellis Vener

Book Review: Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers

Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers

Practical Artistry: Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers
by Harold Davis
O'Reilly, 2008

By Ron Eggers

Harold Davis’ “Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers” blends the techniques of traditional photography with the tools of digital imaging. As Davis says, “In recent years, the art and craft of photography has changed beyond recognition. Today's photographer is one part digital artist and one part photographer. This book aims to present the best practices of the craft of photography in the context of the digital era.”

While there are numerous books on the market that cover the fundamentals of photography, most of them were written for analog photography. Davis explains what remains constant, and he covers what's changed with digital imaging.

One of his early points is that photographers don't concentrate on the fundamentals of light and exposure as strongly as they should. There's the misconception that, since it’s digital, exposure problems can be fixed in software. It is possible to correct some exposure problems with digital editing, but, he points out, imaging software is best used as a creative tool to improve already good photos rather than to try to save marginal ones.

This book is both helpful and an easy read. You’ll get the most out of it if you start at the beginning and work you way through. It's also educational just to leaf through the pages and read some of the extended captions that go along with full-page illustrations.

Continue reading "Book Review: Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers" »

February 2, 2009

Custom Guestbooks Make an Indelible Impression

By Norris Carden

“You look like you fell in love during your engagement session,” the bridesmaid told the bride. While it is certainly a statement about the photography, it is just as much an endorsement of my custom guestbook and an example of how this product helps set me apart as a wedding photographer.

My top tier wedding packages include an extended engagement session and custom guestbook. I always have a sample guestbook on hand at any sales presentation or bridal show. It makes a huge impression and, so far, no bride has turned it down.

Producing the guestbook actually starts with the engagement session. Because of the time involved in selecting images, designing, printing and delivering the book, I prefer to shoot at least two months before the wedding, though I could force one through in just under a month if need be.

The photo guestbook makes a huge impression on your clients and their wedding guests alike. It provides an exciting conversation piece for the big day, and for years to come. Image ©Norris Carden

Continue reading "Custom Guestbooks Make an Indelible Impression" »

February 12, 2009

February Issue Facebook Article Correction: Page Not Profile

In the February issue of Professional Photographer, in Lindsay Adler's article "Facebook: Network With Seniors," we inadvertently suggested readers create both individual and business profiles, which is a violation of Facebook terms of use. We regret the error.

Instead, a photographer can set up a business account or set up a personal profile and then create a Facebook Page for their business identity. Only the official representative of an artist, business, or brand may create a Facebook Page, though that person can choose to allow others to help administrate it. You may transform a business account into a personal account, but once you have created a personal account, you cannot revert back to a business account or create a business account.

The Facebook Help Center has a section that completely explains Pages and business accounts

This is the article republished with corrected text and clarifying information from Facebook's Help Center.

Facebook: network with seniors

Learning to take advantage of the No. 1 Web site among seniors can be a huge sales advantage.

By Lindsay Adler

Quoted text is information that comes directly from Facebook’s Help Center.

What’s the one place nearly every high school senior goes daily? Online, to Facebook.com. This center of mass communication has more than 36 million members. It’s the No. 1 social network for the modern high school student. Facebook users post profiles of themselves containing such information as their age, e-mail address and interests. They post photos and videos of themselves for e-friends the world over to view.

Continue reading "February Issue Facebook Article Correction: Page Not Profile" »

February 13, 2009

The liveBooks Process: A Total Website Revamp, Part I

Professional Photographer asked Ellis Vener to work with liveBooks to create a fresh redesign of his website and to report on the process and the results. This report covers the process from concept to design and going live. The next report will cover search engine optimization.

By Ellis Vener

Though it was still generating work and lots of inquiries from potential clients, I hadn't updated my website in any meaningful way since it was launched in January 2002. Since then a lot of things have changed: I moved from Houston to Atlanta, and I had lots of new work I wanted to showcase.

One of the hardest parts of designing or redesigning a website is figuring out exactly what you want. I knew what I didn't want in my website this time: a format and structure that required someone versed in website authoring software to make changes. I wanted flexibility and expandability.

Rebuilding a website from scratch is a huge investment in time and usually a significant amount of money as well. LiveBooks is a well established and highly respected company that specializes in designing and building websites for pro photographers with the features we need most, like easy gallery editing, automated metadata upload, visitor tracking and keywording for search engines. LiveBooks packages are priced with non-recurring, one-time fees plus a $90 annual hosting fee. The Basic plan starts at $800, the Select package is $1,700 and the Unlimited package is $3,200. Each package is organized to come with a certain level of design services and features and storage space.

The design services from liveBooks are the most easily demonstrated benefit. Visual acumen in photography does not translate into skill at Web design.

This was the opening page of my old website. Viewed today, it screams "I haven't bothered to update my website since 2002." That's not exactly the message you want to sent to potential clients.

Below is the page that liveBooks helped me design to make a much more positive first impression. 

Image ©Ellis Vener

It's elegant and professional, shows a single image to full advantage, and has easy-to-find links to the most critical  information a client would be interested in: galleries showing additional work, a client list showing other businesses that value my work, and a contact page.

Continue reading "The liveBooks Process: A Total Website Revamp, Part I" »

February 27, 2009

Pro Review: Sony (alpha) DSLR-A900

Sony joins the major leagues with 24.6-megapixel DSLR

By Ron Eggers

When the Sony (alpha) DSLR-A900 camera hit the market, it had the highest resolution available in a digital SLR. With a 24.6-megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor and maximum image resolution of 6,048x4,032 pixels, it has more than double the resolution of the previous model, the A700, and is the first Sony digital body with a full-frame (35mm-size) sensor. Aside from the A900’s much higher, the two models have similar shooting characteristics, ergonomics and menu structures.

My first experience with the A900 was with a prototype version during a Sony-sponsored shooting excursion in late summer 2008. I wasn't convinced that Sony’s target market, the serious photo enthusiast, really needed such high resolution, particularly if it came at the expense of image quality, color fidelity, shooting speed, and responsiveness. But after that first experience, followed by a couple of weeks working with a production model, any trade-off was obviously minimal. It’s not so much that the camera’s resolution is too high for its target market, it’s more like Sony undershot the target market.

Among the reasons Minolta equipment users cite for switching to Sony is that they can use the lenses and accessories they already have with the new bodies. That’s true, but with the quality of Sony’s latest equipment, it’s time to consider choosing Sony gear on its own merits. To get the most out of the new Sony bodies and the highest quality images, it’s best to pair them with the lenses and lighting units being developed specifically for these models.

Often, boosting a model’s resolution slows down its shooting speed, but not with the A900. It’s fast enough for just about any professional application, with a rated capture rate of 5 JPEG frames per second (fps). In my trials, using a SanDisk 4GB Extreme IV UDMA CompactFlash card, which supports transfer rates up to 45MB per second, the actual performance matched the specs. I could take 49 frames in 10 seconds. With two memory card slots, the camera accepts both CF cards and memory sticks.

Continue reading "Pro Review: Sony (alpha) DSLR-A900" »

About February 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives in February 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2009 is the previous archive.

March 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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