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September 2009 Archives

September 1, 2009

29 Take-Home Tips from the Two Worlds, One Dream Workshop

Two Days of Intense Study with Doug Gordon and Kevin Kubota

By Diane Berkenfeld

Photographers Doug Gordon and Kevin Kubota presented a special workshop called “Two Worlds, One Dream” on August 4-5, 2009 on Long Island, N.Y.


Photographer Doug Gordon lies on the ground below the bride and groom, shooting upward. Photographer Kevin Kubota is in the foreground, shooting the couple and crowd in the background. Most of the crowd are workshop attendees. Image ©Diane Berkenfeld

When it comes to technique, Gordon and Kubota are as far from each other as two people can be. Gordon’s studio is located in fast paced New York, Kubota’s is in tranquil Bend, Oregon; Kubota and his wife Claire are the sole photographers in their studio, Gordon employs a staff of shooters, salespeople, and digital imagers; Gordon poses everything, Kubota is a photojournalist; Gordon shoots everything in JPEG, Kubota captures images in RAW.

Over the course of two days, the power duo of Doug Gordon and Kevin Kubota imparted much of their technical, marketing and business wisdom to about 50 photographers who attended the workshop. Both classroom-like discussions as well as on-location shoots provided attendees with the opportunity to see how these two pros worked. From idyllic formal gardens to a neon-light-filled bowling alley; from a trip to New York City at night to a sunrise trash the dress shoot, those who attended learned how to pose and light a Bride and Groom in each of these situations. In the classroom, topics covered everything else, from business and marketing to a day filled with workflow tips and techniques, including Kubota showing off his workflow. 

Here are some of the best nuggets of wisdom, tips and techniques I picked up at the workshop.

10 to Remember:

1.   Open your mind.
2.   Do something different.
3.   Be spontaneous.
4.   Every impression counts, not just the first one.
5.   Let your work speak for itself.
6.   Timing is everything.
7.   Always keep your eyes peeled.
8.    “Our job as photographers is not to show the world as it is, but as we want it to be.” –An insight from the late Monte Zucker, repeated during the workshop.
9.    “You can put a price on a piece of photo paper, but you can never put a price on a moment.” –Kevin Kubota
10.  “You can do every pose under the sun, but if your lighting is wrong, you might as well have never shown up.” –Doug Gordon


One of the stops during the evening trip to New York City was the South Street Seaport. In the foreground are some of the workshop attendees. The bride has been lit in front by a Torchlight, with the light from the pier shining through her dress. Image ©Diane Berkenfeld

Continue reading "29 Take-Home Tips from the Two Worlds, One Dream Workshop" »

Review: LensAlign PRO

Calibrating your camera’s autofocus system for best performance with individual lenses

By Ellis Vener

Every now and then a specific autofocus lens and body combination just do not work perfectly. You may not even be aware that one or more of your lens/body combinations do not perform as well as it might if it were properly tuned, or maybe you require above average performance and want assurance that is what you are getting for your money. Several manufacturers now include a function for fine-tuning autofocus performance in their newest top-of-the-line bodies. (As of early August 2009 these include: Canon EOS-50D, 5D Mark II, 1D Mark III, and 1Ds Mark III models; Nikon D300, D300s, D700, D3, and D3X; Olympus E-30 and E-620; Pentax K20D; and Sony A900.) If your camera has that option, we now have a good reliable tool from rawworkflow.com for finding out exactly how out of whack a lens /body combo might be and what AF micro-adjustment setting is needed to maximize performance.

The LensAlign PRO kit consists of three pieces: a target to focus on, a steel Depth of Field Display Ruler, and a settings Enumerator to keep track of your settings in the photo. There are two other versions available as well; a Lite version, which is less fully featured, and the PRO PLUS, which features a larger target and a 47-inch long ruler.


Image ©Ellis Vener

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Review: Animoto, Custom Video Slideshows

Animoto productions aren't really slideshows; they're professional looking music videos created with your images.

By Betsy Finn, CPP

SPECIAL OFFER EXTENDED: Purchase a three-month Professional pass using Coupon Code: PPAnov09 and get an extra month free. Offer ends Nov. 30, 2009.

Animoto blends video and music with still images to create a dynamic, interactive video. A relative newcomer to the photographic industry, Animoto has only been around since 2006. If you’re curious to find out why Animoto has been hailed as the “end of slideshows,” keep reading as I examine the movie-making process.

When creating a new video, Animoto prompts you to choose short or full-length video options, if you’re a paid user (a basic account is free, but you’re limited to creating 30-second videos). After you select video type, you tell Animoto where to get your images. You can upload from your computer, or retrieve from sites like Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket, etc.


Animoto will then begin uploading your images. While movie length will ultimately depend on the tempo of your music selection, Animoto recommends 12-15 images for a 30 second video. You can rearrange the image order by clicking and dragging on an image (or set of images). The spotlight button lets you choose images you want to feature, and the text button lets you add a slide with two lines of text.

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September 2, 2009

Preliminary Review: StudioPlus Overview

[Editor's Note: Because studio management software serves many purposes and performs dozens of functions, this article provides an overview of StudioPlus Software in advance of a review of its accounting-specific function and integration with QuickBooks, which will appear in a forthcoming issue of Professional Photographer magazine.]

By Betsy Finn, CPP

Managing day-to-day operations can be a complicated task, and finding the right piece of software to manage your studio’s data can be equally challenging. StudioPlus has been around for 11 years and was developed specifically for photographers. The company emphasizes that StudioPlus is more than just a piece of software, it’s a studio management system to help photographers efficiently manage clients from the first phone call, to image capture, and to order pickup. While StudioPlus has too many features to review in a single article, this overview should give you an idea of its capabilities and how it might help your studio.

StudioPlus provides customer support during the setup phase so that you can learn how to use the software most efficiently—and I made sure to take advantage of this offer. After familiarizing myself with the software’s default settings, and changing the preferences to fit my studio’s operation, I began to explore the main areas of StudioPlus. Each section of StudioPlus is optimized for a specific function. For example, the Home Page gives you a snapshot of studio activities, including upcoming appointments/sessions, to dos, phone calls, financial figures, and even the weather.

[Click on interface images for a larger view.]


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September 16, 2009

Tips for Greener Photography: Shipping


By Jessica Riehl

Most of us underestimate the impact of shipping our products and supplies. Did you know that components of photographic products are often shipped multiple times before they are assembled? Did you know that air shipping is the most carbon-intensive form of shipping? From Yvon Chouinard’s book “Let My People go Surfing,” here are a few statistics on generic energy costs to ship per ton:

Rail or boat: 400 BTUs per ton mile
Truck: 3,300 BTUs per ton mile
Air Cargo: 21,760 BTUs per ton mile
Air Cargo uses 6.5 times more fuel than shipping by ground.

We should not only ask questions about where things come from, but how they are shipped as well. As Elisabeth Rosenthal reported for The New York Times, “Under longstanding trade agreements, fuel for international freight carried by sea and air is not taxed” (Elisabeth Rosenthal, "Putting Pollution on Grocery Bills," The New York Times). In other words, no one is paying the environmental cost of shipping.

What can you do to reduce the impact of shipping?

• Build the extra time into your workflow to use ground shipping and inform your clients of the ecological benefits.

• Recycle your print boxes and sheets of cardboard used to protect your photographs. Cardboard sheets can be donated to art classes. Most local shipping stores will take your old packing peanuts and reuse them.

• Consolidate your orders. By ordering once a week or every two weeks you will reduce the number of boxes you receive and the number of trips a shipping carrier will make to your door.

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September 17, 2009

Guide to Quantum Instruments Trio QF8 System Situational Setups

By Stan Sholik

The Quantum Instruments Trio QF8/Pilot QF9/Qflash T5d-R equipment forms a powerful and versatile wireless system that can handle many of the tasks that up until now have required larger, less portable lighting equipment. I found that the system will perform extremely well when it has been set up properly. But I also encountered a fairly steep learning curve in setting the units up to perform the way I wanted.

For others who may be trying to work out settings for some common photographic situations, here is what I have found.

1) How to set up a Trio on the camera hot shoe and a T5d-R as a remote to use the camera’s built-in TTL system to determine the exposure.

The T5d-R remote flash must be set to the same Wireless Group and Channel as the Trio, in this case Wireless Group R1 and Channel 1. The remote flash must ALWAYS be set up before the on-camera Trio is turned on.


On the Trio, you set the mode to QTTL, the first setting in the menu bar at the top of the LCD.


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September 21, 2009

The Healthy Photographer: Injury Prevention Optimizes Business Success

By Serge Timacheff with Peter Harmer, Ph.D., ATC

It’s not uncommon to catch sight of a photographer skirting a football field, squatting on the sidelines of a basketball court, or crouching in the midst of a wedding reception and carrying multiple camera bodies and lenses, a camera bag, a tripod or monopod, and wearing a vest containing who-knows-what. Equipment is a heavy burden, but carrying it is better than having to run across a room or field to change lenses or attach a flash.

Photography is an athletic occupation. Indeed, it can place many of the same rigors on a photographer as sports do on athletes. Professional photography in the field often requires endurance, strength, flexibility, and even (on occasion) speed. The problem is that many photographers are in less-than-optimal physical condition—much less athletic—and, unlike athletes, they seldom do much to prevent injuries or career-threatening conditions. And despite of the advent of the digital age, photography equipment hasn’t gotten substantially lighter or less bulky.

200910we_healthyphotog001.jpg   200910we_healthyphotog002.jpg
Lift with the legs from a steady position. ©Amy Timacheff

For example, many professional photographers complain of back and neck problems as well as sore elbows and wrists from carrying and holding equipment. In addition, poor dietary habits can result in weight problems, which exacerbate back and neck problems. Unlike job-related injuries in more formal corporate settings, little has been done to quantitatively or qualitatively research the rates of injuries and illness or their associated risk factors in the profession. And few photographers have the option to file for Workers’ Compensation.

Moreover, digital photography has the added threat of repetitive-stress injuries such as carpal-tunnel syndrome due to hours spent in post-processing time on the computer. Anecdotally, both acute and over-use injuries are becoming more common in professional photographers.

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September 30, 2009

Review: Sigma APO 50-150mm F2.8 EX II DC HSM

By Don Chick, M.Photog.Cr., CPP

As a passionate portrait photographer, I prefer to use a zoom during a session for the flexibility and range that a zoom lens has to offer. In order to minimize distortion, much of my portrait work is done in the 85mm or greater range. So when given a chance to evaluate the Sigma APO 50-150mm F2.8 EX II DC HSM I jumped at the opportunity. This lens seemed to combine the ideal features that any portrait photographer could ask for, i.e., range, speed and price.

©Don Chick

The 50-150mm has a fast fixed f/2.8 aperture, which comes in handy when you’re working in low-light conditions or looking to capture images with a very shallow depth of field. I believe the look of a shallow depth of field is essential for the professional today as a way to differentiate your work from the plethora of non-professionals. And while I don’t often work wide open at f/2.8 due to the extremely shallow depth-of-field at that aperture, being able to stop the lens down to f/3.5 or f/4.0 is an advantage.

This lens does not have built in image stabilization, which may be a deal breaker for some photographers at this price (current street price, $775). But because this lens doesn’t incorporate image stabilization, it weighs in at only 27.5 ounces, making it a relative lightweight compared to other f/2.8 lenses with image stabilization. The Canon and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses each weigh in at 51.8 ounces, nearly double the weight of the Sigma. The lighter weight makes it easier to hand-hold the lens and is less likely to cause fatigue when you carry it around for long periods of time.

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Tips for Greener Photography: Greening Your Battery Usage


By Jessica Riehl

We use batteries in everything from our cameras to our computer mouse. While eliminating batteries from our camera bag is not an option, we can reduce the environmental impact of our battery consumption with a few simple tips.

• Properly store your batteries. Proper storage of your batteries will increase their life. Energizer.com has an excellent list of do’s and don’ts for battery care. For example, when carrying batteries in your pocket, do not allow them to rub against metal objects. This can short-circuit your battery, which can lead to leakage. For the same reason you do not want to mix different types of batteries in a storage container. Use battery cases, such as this one found on Greenbatteries.com, to keep loose batteries organized in your camera case.

• Recycle your batteries. Rechargeable batteries contain heavy metals, which if not properly disposed of can become an environmental hazard. To find a recycling center near you, visit Earth911.org. Earth911.org also has an excellent Rechargeable Batteries 101 help section.

• Buy the right battery. Greenbatteries.com states that “for most high drain electronic devices, like digital cameras, rechargeable batteries will continue to work much longer than alkaline batteries. In fact, in devices like digital cameras, NiMH batteries will run on a single charge for 3-4 times as long as they would on an alkaline battery.” Rechargeable batteries come in different capacities such as 2700 mAh or 1700mAh, so be sure to purchase the highest capacity available. Additionally, all batteries are not created equal. For a review and rating of the current batteries on the market, check Consumerreports.org.

• Be smart about your battery consumption.T urn off your equipment when not in use to eliminate unnecessary battery drainage. Use a battery charger that is specifically designed for the type of battery you are using. For example, you should use a smart fast charger for a battery described as quick charge. Charge batteries only for as long as necessary rather than overnight. Greenbatteries.com states that over charging a battery will reduce the life of the battery.

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Review: onOne Software PhotoTools 2

By Kim Larson

PhotoTools 2 is a Photoshop plug-in from onOne Software that allows you to quickly apply a variety of Photoshop effects to your photos and video clips. PhotoTools 2 provides an extensive library featuring multiple effects created by onOne and Photoshop Gurus Kevin Kubota and Jack Davis.

I was concerned that PhotoTools 2 would not compare to my own vast library of Photoshop Actions (My name is Kim, and I am a Photoshop Action-holic). But after using PhotoTools 2 for one month, I realized that the power of PhotoTools is not the effects themselves, but really the way the effects are organized and applied.

Finding the Right Effect

With PhotoTools 2, finding the effect you want to apply to your photo is extremely simple because you can search for it in multiple ways. I am very impressed with how well-organized the effects library is. If you’re looking for an effect that applies specifically to eyes, simply do a search for “eyes” and you’ll see a list of effects meant to enhance eyes. If you’re looking to apply a moody effect to your photo, you can select “moody” from the keywords list. A good description and sample before-after photo is provided with each effect, so it is easy to pick out the one you want!


The PhotoTools 2 Library provides a very organized and keyword-searchable set of effects, making it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. (Click image for larger view.)

Stack, Unstack, Modify, Repeat

PhotoTools 2 allows you to apply effects in a stack. You can take up to 16 effects and apply them to your image at once, and you can go back to modify, hide, or remove individual effects at any time. This is a great advantage over using multiple Photoshop actions because typically when you apply multiple actions to an image, you cannot go back and modify the first actions. With PhotoTools 2, you’re free to go back and edit the first effect without destroying the effects you applied after it.


You can modify any layer of the stack without changing the other layers.

When you find a combination of effects you like, you can save them as a preset, and can then apply them to other photos with one click. You can import and export presets from PhotoTools to share them with friends. You can even post them on the onOne Exchange site, where many people have already shared their favorite presets.

PhotoTools 2 also lets you apply the effects to multiple photos in a batch from Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom and Apple Aperture.

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About September 2009

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

August 2009 is the previous archive.

October 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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