Archive for March, 2009

My formal training was for illustration. I had never dreamed that 4 years of figure drawing would help me as a photographer who photographs a lot of people. We did study the textbook Gray’s Anatomy for Artists. graysfcThe human skeleton is the supporting framework for the attached muscles. Skin and clothing cover muscles, lending shape to the form. Viewers will detect in a minute when something drawn doesn’t “look right” in a drawing of the human body but often cannot identify the “why.” Drawings can be telltale, but cameras aren’t supposed to “lie.”

Posing stools vs. chairs
There’s nothing like a great chair as a prop, but what’s all the push for “posing stools” about? Do stools pose themselves?

Simplicity ranks highly in portraiture for the attention on the subject/person.  A person may look entirely different seated than standing. Many people are focused elsewhere when posing for you. A person can be more relaxed if seated so you’ll consider sitting them on something as well as different poses. If there is a great disparity in height and you’re photographing two people, it’s a frequent solution to have them both sit so you can photograph them together as a single subject without interference in composition. Stools take up less space than chairs and you can move your subjects closer together if more than one person.

Sitting can force a person to support their weight on their own structure that is the backbone. Remind them to arch their back slightly and not slump.
If you’re using a chair, you’ll notice that the thigh area of the leg will rest on more of the seat portion of the chair. This has a tendency to flatten out the thigh against the surface and make it spread wider. It’s never flattering. Even a skinny thigh can appear wide if pressed. Move the model forward some and allow the lower leg to support more of the weight. If the foot is on the floor, the weight distributes to this endpoint. Chairs are normally a fixed distance seat to floor.

Posing Stools

posing-stoolA posing stool has a smaller surface area in the seat. This naturally helps the model resist the temptation to inadvertently rest thighs on the entire seat or slump into the backrest portion like a chair would have. You’ll still need to observe that the person doesn’t find a way to press those thighs against the seat. The adjustable stools for height are good so the model can rest the sole of the foot on the floor. Adjustable stools will accommodate variances in height. Adjust it for the height of the person. Keep them comfortable. If the knee is much higher than where the join of the leg attaches, you’ll need to adjust the seat height upward. You don’t want a person with knees scrunched up unless it’s obviously intentional.

Help the person in front of your camera. They are reliant on you to communicate what you see and to direct them. They will certainly be happier with the end results if you can mention what you see and how to correct it before the shutter release trips.

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Let’s zoom in to another freebie. 🙂

Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski of KelbyTraining.com have a new TV series! If you love shooting Nikon, this is very specific to Nikon users. Manuals only go so far. Episodes are 10-12 minutes so if you have a short attention span, you’ll still be able to digest content. I like both these two as trainers. I’ve read Scott’s books. He’s also used one of my stock images in one of his books. Dang! I hadn’t bought that one.

It’s Nikon D-Town

Brought to you by
NAPP National Association of Photoshop Professionals I’m a member of NAPP and there’s a wealth of benefits to it,  but Nikon D-Town is free.

They’ve detailed some really great stuff.
Digital begets chimping. We don’t just shoot without checking what we’re shooting. I like to see if things are sharp and in focus, and I’ll bet you do too. How many button pushes will get you to 100% magnification? Roughly, six. Six pushes? Yikes.
Supported by the D300, D700, D3 and D3x. D200 is different. Slightly different to set up in the controls menu.

One touch zooms right in. Get to 100% fast when you’re reviewing your images. Secret’s in the Custom Settings menu. I won’t get into details about it, you’ll need to watch it for yourself.
It’s in Episode 2. Set it up and you won’t look back.

This is a weekly show. It’s full of useful tips. Not textbook, but real working type tips. Not only that, but it’s portable. You can subscribe to them as iTunes podcasts. I’ve downloaded the episodes to my iPod Touch. I can watch them at my leisure. Joe McNally stands in too for some live demos with Nikon speedlights. Speedlights—yum! Thanks, guys.

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I honestly am excited about the free Photoshop webinar 10 week class being offered by CreativeTechs. The next class is tomorrow. It runs 60 minutes but the Q&A 30 minute time following the webinar is actually productive too. Jason Hoppe (the trainer) is doing a good job. Make sure you sign up for Twitter if you don’t already have an account so you can join in the chatroom live during the course of the seminar. The audience is muted over the live broadcast.

CreativeTechs is pushing the goodies a little further. They have added a bonus class in Color Management, scheduled for April 1. Steve Laskevitch is the trainer. Color Management for the Adobe Creative Suite CS3 and CS4. Laskevitch is Adobe Certified.


on their blog for details.

I’m tired of seeing all these orange images of people all over facebook. It torques up my white balance radar. But those are not the peeps that need to learn this aspect of the biz. If you’re a designer or photographer, you should have the baseline knowledge at your disposal before you decide to tweak the daylights out of those pixels. When your client asks you to match a color that s/he is viewing on their monitor, you should be able to explain. Ditto for the color proof that they spit out of their inkjet. Do you know why an image looks different in Photoshop than your page layout application and how to fix it? How about viewing it in your web browser vs. Photoshop? *^&%^%^0-= hello color profiles!  Devices and applications, oh my. Hmmm, I wonder why the Goe System (formerly Pantone) hasn’t shown up in my color palettes? Maybe all the designers decided not to spring for $349 for the new swatches.

Do I know how to color correct? Yes, I do but I’m still going to calibrate my monitor and show up. 🙂 If I take away only one or two tips for the growing number of devices and software that I have, it’s worth it. Time = $.

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Nikon rebates end in a week. If you haven’t laid hands on a D300 or D700  by now, maybe time to push the economy forward with a purchase.

Get that body at a discount if you’ve been waiting. Rebates end March 28.

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I attended the free CreativeTechs webinar on Photoshop today. A  few stumbles with the audio portion in the beginning but once that was solved, rolling along. Kudos to Jason Hoppe for the Q&A answer session as well as extending the webinar timeframe to cover the topics since delays caused by the audio.

Lots of fun in the Twitter chatroom set up alongside the webinar. This is the way to go with webinar attendees. It allows the audience to interact with each other. Good laughs too.

What I didn’t know is that Adobe didn’t include the Extract tool filter built into the filters as part of the CS4 release. It’s in the Goodies folder on CD so you need to load it yourself or download for free from Adobe’s website. Hope these links work.

Optional Plug Ins CS4 (Mac)

Optional Plug Ins CS4 (Windows)

I have used the Extract tool in the past for isolation work. Egads, I haven’t loaded it yet for CS4. I picked up a few nice tips for the Photoshop arsenal. Good explanation of the Extract Background tool behavior. I’ll be back. Thanks Jason and CreativeTechs.

Nice touch with the certificate screenshot. The boss will really know that you attended and weren’t just eating doughnuts.


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I’m loving these webinars. Not only is technology speeding ahead, but software development of the applications that we use is too. I began my transition to digital tools in design in 1988 after training traditionally in the ’70’s.  Mastery is accomplished by training and practice. You ask yourself “Who has time to learn all this stuff or keep up with it? I’m working!” Speed and mastery also beget productivity. If you learn how to use the software, you’ll be blazing along nicely. Faster delivery of your product if it’s photography or design. You’re also not futzing around with trying to figure out in software what you’d like to execute what’s in your mind. Structured environments like classrooms have their merit, but sometimes you can’t physically be there.

Well, many qualified people are listening. Digital delivery to your desktop. A plethora of classes are available online. Not just materials to read, but video. Live streaming video. Thank goodness I’m not on a 1200 baud modem dial up connection like it was when I started. Complaining that your new camera or monitor has set you back a lot? Go for free. The resources are out there if you look.

Photoshop CS4 10 week course FREE. I hear ya!

PS CS4 Webinars

CreativeTechs sponsors the webinar. Classes began in late Feb. but you can still sign on. My registration just processed. Classes are limited to 1,000 participants. If you miss the class, you can download the webinar QuickTime video for $15. You also get a pdf sheet. That’s very reasonable for one hour of instruction. There’s an advance purchase bundle of all the classes for $50. USD. Jason Hoppe, Adobe Certified instructor is coming to my desktop for an hour tomorrow at 2PM. If you sign up, check your times for your location. Webinars are delivered out of Seattle, U.S.

Here’s the list of classes.

Week 1, Feb 26 – Interface, Tools, and Shortcuts
Week 2, Mar 5 – Photoshop Layers
Week 3, Mar 12 – Selections
Week 4, Mar 19 – Advanced Selections
Week 5, Mar 26 – Masks
Week 6, Apr 2 – Pen Tool / Shape Layers
Week 7, Apr 9 -Drawing Tools / Brushes
Week 8, Apr 16 – Retouching
Week 9, Apr 23 – Color Correction pt 1
Week 10, Apr 29 – Color Correction pt 2

CreativeTechs is also on facebook and Twitter. Looks like some of the Twitter conversation on the webinar spilled over in the classroom. They also cover InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, Dreamweaver and Fireworks in some of their other offerings. Brush up on applications to remain current or learn something new.

It’s worth one hour out of my busy week. I do read manuals and books on everything but seeing it live has a remarkable, lasting impression. After all, I’m in visual businesses. It pays to pay attention when you’re chained to your chair.

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Valuable educational resources exist online for those who 1) don’t have the time to read lots of books and 2) want to familiarize themselves with some of the gear out there that is current. More and more YouTube videos, podcasts and webinars abound.  I signed up and attended Bogen Imaging’s free lighting webinar last Friday.Will Crockett and David Fisher were hosts. I mentioned it in an earlier post here on my blog.

It was informative and Will Crockett detailed use of small flashes with lighting techniques he used to produce some of the great images that he pours out. Visuals showing light stand mount for a flash, use of one flash (Metz) to light a portrait, discussion of settings to use, indoor/outdoor, metering a flash, TTL or manual, Lastolite panels, Elinchcrom Skyports for triggering. The works. Anyone who is interested in using small flash lighting would have done well to attend. I’m pretty familiar with technique by now but picked up better knowledge of gear and how it could be applied in different applications. I appreciated the idea of metering the flashes with a light meter with a PC sync cord and how it could be helpful in setting up ratios for portrait work.

I had a good chuckle. Will Crockett is shooting a Nikon D700. He uses the identical settings I use to start.

I use Nikon speedlights and a Quantum QFlash for most of my flash work. It was good to see the Metz product line of flashes that are handy alternatives to Nikon or Canon speedlights. The Guide Numbers (GN) on many of the Metz flashes are quite high in power output and they come in shoe mounts and not just handle mounts.They can also incorporate right into Nikon’s multiple speedlight shooting.

Bogen products (naturally) were also discussed. I’ve used Bogen products for a while. Their umbrella swivel adapter for mounting flashes on lightstands will survive just about anything. Their Justin clamp is also superior.

This isn’t a product plug, but it really is good to push yourself to know what is out there. The product isn’t free but the webinar went the distance for free. A good deal! Thank you, Bogen Imaging.

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Since digital photography has been in the mainstream for a while, most consumers don’t consider that photography at a professional level costs money. I think this misconception is due to how the general public relates to the equipment that they can buy for their needs. You can pick up a point and shoot compact camera for under $200. A cheap SD card for $15. (SD cards are cheaper than CF cards). Use the software that comes with the camera to offload the card onto a computer or even offload the card directly at a kiosk for prints. There is no post processing involved, so no purchase of PhotoShop CS4 that retails for $700. or time used in image editing on the back end that the consumer never sees. Forget the training and time to learn to use the higher end gear or software.

One camera, one lens, 3 speedlights, modifiers, CF cards, etc. = $6000. to walk into a set to take a shot that is 1/60 of a second. This is a bare bones setup too. Add in more for additional lenses or a different type of setup using strobes, backup camera body, insurance, etc. It’s not free because it’s digital. That 1/60 of a second has associated expenses.

The good news is that technology marches on with the megapixels. Most pros are using 4GB, 8GB and 16GB CF cards. I paid $160. for a 4GB SanDisk Extreme IV Compact Flash card in Feb. 2007, two years ago.

Today’s deal from Calumet with $20 rebate for the same card is $53.49. Go for it if you need it.

Now if they would just lower the other costs of doing business for that hefty profit margin that you think I’m raking in. 🙂

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After shooting with other modifiers so much, I decided I need to use my softbox(es) more often. These images are illuminated by two speedlights. Softbox—camera right, one SB800 with a grid spot on it—camera left, to make the light travel in a straight direction for the spotlight/hair light. It was also good to see how my new 85mm f/1.4 worked. I’m still not practiced with it just yet. It was hunting a little bit with all the ambient lights turned off.


I’m experimenting on getting nice hard edges to separate the subject from the background. I was able to feather the light with the softbox more than I thought possible. RJ is the model who was very patient with me. He has a variety of looks, even apparent in the same session. We’ll do some environmental portraits when the warmer weather sets in.

Fav ShirtApologies, WordPress was crabby last night and didn’t insert the images or tags.

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We live in such a comprehensive digital world of technology that it’s good to get outside and experience nature in the real world with friends in person. I have many cyber friends and often long for them to join me in person. One of the best ways that I can bring my world to them is through my images. Not as bucolic as the Alps, but it’s my locale.

NJ has not received significant snowfall amounts in the last two winters so when Mother Nature did her dump of 10-12 inches on us earlier this week, I pushed the schedule around to head outside (that means working nights on other things and drinking Diet Coke). This is often prompted by my friend, Sandy Sandy who lives on the fringes of suburbia and preserved State land. She has embraced nature and animals since I have known her and that goes back many years when we went to art school together. She’s lived in the tactile world of watercolor artistry up to the present and with great success. We both took photography together at Moore College of Art & Design. It was required for illustrators so they could shoot their own reference material.

If you add Carolyn to this prodding, well, I can’t say no. Carolyn’s roots are nature and wildlife photography and she’s accomplished at it. Check out her work, it speaks for itself.

bridge 1


Sandy in the stream

Despite the dark brown cedar water indigenous to this region, the blue sky in more open expanses reflected in the stream at bridge one. I did use a circular polarizing filter to cut down on the water reflections. Nikon in-camera Active D-lighting setting as well since snow often presents problems with high contrast scenes.

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