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Tethering problem in Lightroom appears fixed

Posted in workflow on April 13th, 2008 by gregr

Whew! Kudos to Adobe for finally fixing the auto-import problem in Lightroom for Mac, and finally making it reasonable to shoot tethered into Lightroom once again. Woo-hoo!

For those who were not aware…older versions of Lightroom on the Mac had a nasty trait of waiting for the entire auto-import folder to be unchanged for 3-5 seconds before it would actually import anything new. If you tend to shoot quickly (say, one shot every 2 seconds), this effectively made it not start importing until you stop shooting – which needless to say, made things just a little bit north of useless. Lightroom for Windows did not have the same problem.

Selecting shots

Posted in workflow on February 3rd, 2008 by gregr

Once you get off the set, the next big challenge starts…how to select just a few great images from all of the shots you just took. I just read a couple of forum posts where folks were discussing how they did this, and I thought I’d share my process with you here. It varies depending on what the shoot is for, and who the client is, but it generally goes like this.

In the example I have in mind, this was a shoot for a model’s portfolio. In these cases, I usually make final selections myself, rather than showing the client hundreds of images to choose from.

First, get some sleep. Really! If I just did a shoot today, if at all possible I try to wait until tomorrow to start the selection process. What I’ve found is if I start culling photos immediately, I’ll eliminate some of them based on things I remember from the shoot (oh, I discovered that hair light was a third of a stop too hot, better delete these), rather than evaluating them based on their merits. Be rested and fresh.

Next, I’ll go through all of the photos from the shoot (I currently use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for this, and I used to do the same thing with Bridge), and assign one star to any photo that has any aesthetic value whatsoever. This eliminates shots where eyes are closed, they’re unintentionally out of focus, strobes didn’t fire, etc. Also exclude any photos that are technically ok, but you just don’t see yourself using for whatever reason. On the example shoot I’m looking at as I write this, I had 315 total photos, and 195 of them get one star.

One key point – don’t delete all of the 0-star photos at this point! If they’re black frames or something, sure, delete them…but don’t delete anything just because you didn’t intend it or don’t like it. You never know what you might think about it tomorrow. Or 3 months from now. Or a year from now.

So now we’re looking at the 195 photos that got one star. I now go through these, and either leave them alone, or upgrade them to 2 stars. A photo gets 2 stars if it’s really a potential candidate for the client. Be hard on yourself here; you’ve got 195 photos that could work – but which ones really deliver?

Now I’m down to 80 photos with 2 stars. Now I go through them again, upgrading some of them to 3 stars. The criteria I use here is “is there any chance I’d consider this for my (or someone else’s) portfolio?” In this example, 40 got 3 stars.

One more time – I go through and upgrade some to 4 stars. By now I know the photos pretty well – and I’m choosing the final photos I’m going to retouch and deliver. I’ve got maybe 5 or so per look to choose from, and I’m narrowing each down to the one hero shot…in this case, we’re down to the 6 shots I’m going to use.

What about 5 stars? I rarely use the full 5-star rating; when I do, it’s a shot that I know for sure I’m going to put into my own portfolio.

There are a lot of caveats to this process; for example, if I need a sequence of photos that form a story, I’ll keep that in mind as I’m choosing photos, to make sure I’m selecting not only the best stand-alone photos but the best photos that will work together. This adds another layer of complexity, as you’re thinking not only about your photos, but page layouts and such as well.

One more example – for this shoot, there were:

922 total photos
340 1-star selects
159 2-star selects
34 3-star selects
9 4-star selects, used in the final sequence

So what about colors, and other flags? I use colors along the way to mark shots for something out-of-band; for example, if I want to mark some shots to send to the hair stylist (because perhaps they focus on the hair, useful for her but perhaps not part of the final set of images), I might mark those with a specific color as I go.

So anyway, there’s one example of a process for selecting images. I don’t do it this way every time; sometimes I send out the 1+ star images for client selection, for example on a recent commercial shoot with tons of variations of group shots with some different moods and emphasis…and if I were doing (say) a catalog shoot, I’d do things pretty differently. But at least this gives you a rough idea of a place to start!

A suggestion for models

Posted in modeling on November 3rd, 2007 by gregr

I get lots of email from models looking to do a photo shoot. I have one big suggestion for you all, when you’re contacting photographers:

Make sure your information you send along (this could be your resume, or your model profile on a modeling site on the web) is correct and up to date! Probably 25% of the profiles I look at, after receiving an email, are obviously wrong – usually in measurements that clearly have a typo. Start with your height, weight, sizes, and measurements – make sure they are correct!

PhotoPlus

Posted in misc on October 17th, 2007 by gregr

If any of you want to connect in person, I’ll be at PhotoPlus in NYC this week. My email and phone number are here – I look forward to chatting!

Of ninjas and photo shoots

Posted in misc on June 9th, 2007 by gregr

You’ve got to love this short behind-the-scenes video from Chase Jarvis, doing a portfolio shoot with stuntmen and bikini-clad women…

Making-of video

Posted in misc on May 5th, 2007 by gregr

Here’s an interesting behind-the-scenes video of a T Style Living cover shoot, complete with an artificial beach created in-studio. Even with the amazing amount of set-building and prep work that went into this, it was probably still cheaper than flying crew, equipment, and talent on-location…and plus, it’s easier to control the weather conditions in the studio!

Try new things

Posted in misc on March 25th, 2007 by gregr

 

Back in August of last year, I was out on location doing a shoot. I had been shooting a lot with a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens, and frankly, I was getting a bit lazy. I’d stand (more or less) in one place, and zoom in and out to vary my composition. Might as well have pulled up a chair and had a beer!

When I was getting ready to shoot this set, it was late afternoon one day, and I was truly reaching the height of laziness…I was thinking, “you know, that 70-200 sure is getting heavy.” Lol. So when we got to this spot, I put on a fixed 85mm f/1.4, and started shooting with it. The photo to the right shows what the location looked like; there was a small boat dock I was sitting on, and the lovely Amy was sitting on a rock in a little alcove.

At the time, if I put on the 70-200, I probably would have sat there on the dock, zooming in and out, changing composition, and making Amy move around a lot. And in doing so, I would have missed some of the best shots of the day.

See, what happened when I was using the fixed 85mm lens was, I had to get up off my butt. I had to walk around, find new angles, find new shots. Want a closer crop? I had to walk closer. Looser? Further away. And while I was doing all this walking around, I noticed things. New angles. New ideas. New shots. A new background didn’t necessarily mean changing locations – it just meant changing the way I was looking at the existing location. It meant opening my eyes.

There was also more energy on the set. I was jumping all around, finding new angles and new shots. Amy picked up on my obvious energy, and it really helped make a connection with her and draw her personality out – especially important, as we hadn’t met before this particular shoot.

I also shot these images at around f/2.2 – something that’s clearly not possible with a 70-200 f/2.8 :-). But as I was walking around, looking for new angles and new shots, I could stop looking at the “background” as it were, and start looking more at colors, tones, and shapes. What worked for the shot? What didn’t? I took a lot of shots that didn’t work well, believe me.

But by the end of the session, I knew I had the shot I wanted (on the left). And I can tell you, with some certainty, that if I hadn’t changed lenses, changed what I was doing, and stood in the water, I never would have gotten this shot.

So in the end, I learned an important lesson on a hot day one August. And that was, get up! Move around. Look for the hidden gem wherever you’re shooting, and don’t fall back on “old reliable” techniques. Change something – try something new – and you might come up with something you really like.

To tether or not to tether…

Posted in gear on February 13th, 2007 by gregr

…that is the question.

Tethered, by the way, means shooting with the camera connected directly to a computer; the photos typically download to the computer as you shoot, and you can view them immediately. There are ups and downs to this.

There are lots of advantages. You can preview the actual lighting on the model before shooting too much, and make minor adjustments. The crew can watch the images as they come up, and make adjustments as necessary (lighting, hair, makeup, etc). The art director can make sure you’re getting the images you need. And you can show images to the model occasionally if you wish. And with some medium format digital backs, you don’t have a choice. :-)

There are downsides though, too…first, you have a cable coming out of the camera. Depending on the location, this can be a deal killer. And second, you really have to be careful about where the screen is, which direction it’s facing, and who’s looking at it. The one thing you do NOT want is for the model to be able to see the screen while you’re shooting – they can’t help but get a little distracted by it. And what I’ve found is if the computer is close to the set, the model will pick up on the reactions of those watching the screen, so you have to be careful about that as well. If they frown, she’ll assume things are going badly; if they laugh, she’ll assume she looks funny (or is being funny :-).

Whether a shot is good or great typically comes down to the interaction and chemistry between photographer and model – and anything that distracts from that is a risk.

And one more thing I’ve found, while shooting tethered to a laptop…be SURE that your computer can keep up with the shots coming from the camera. In one instance, shots were taking on average about 4 seconds from shot to screen. The camera would buffer 10-15 shots, but then I would have to wait for them to download before I could continue shooting. When we’re close to a shot I like, I’ll sometimes shoot 1 shot every second or so for maybe 30 seconds, getting lots of slight variations to choose from later; when I’m in a groove like this, and the model is working with me and knows exactly what I want, there is NOTHING more annoying than a technical limitation that makes me slow down. In this case, the limitation was hard drive speed, so lesson learned – don’t skimp on the computer!

So should you shoot tethered? In the end, it depends. I’ve found that my crew typically prefers it, so they can make sure everything is going perfectly, and it’s nice to know FOR SURE that you got the shot you need. There are certainly advantages – but be careful, and don’t let the temptations of the screen disrupt the shoot!

New shoot online

Posted in shoots on January 27th, 2007 by gregr

Whew! I’ve finally got the fashion shoot from last weekend online here. Took a while – I didn’t really plan ahead, and I had to change the website around a bit to accomodate a complete fashion “story”…whereas before, it was really set up for individual images.

A quick shout out to those involved…first, the model Karli – she was amazing, fun, professional, and a pleasure to work with. Zoe did a fantastic job on the makeup, which not only helps set the mood for the shoot, but makes retouching go so much quicker. Kelly from Off Broadway Styles did a great job turning my very rough ideas into an actual hair style, despite my use of adjectives that could mean just about anything. :-) Thanks to Wendy at Swank for wardrobe…and of course a big thanks to my assistant for the shoot Jeff, who makes everything possible.

Take a look!

Shoot over the weekend

Posted in shoots on January 21st, 2007 by gregr

I did a shoot on Saturday, pretty much all day.  Loaded into the studio at 8:30am, and everyone left at about 5:30pm. Yikes!

I don’t really even notice during the shoot…when the energy is flowing, and the shots are working, the time just flies by. I’m totally focused on what’s going on, and for the most part, it’s just me and the model.  I mean, there are other people there involved with the shoot, but when things are clicking, we both tune everything else out.

But after the shoot, when everything is unloaded, whew – what a crash. I grabbed some taco bell, and plopped down on the couch – finally realizing how exhausted I was. Shooting usually isn’t physically demanding (well, unless you count a 5-pound camera/lens combination as demanding – lol), but it’s mentally exhausting. But I don’t notice until I get back home!

One thing I’ve learned is never, ever, edit the shots the night after a shoot. I’ve found I’m hyper-critical at that point, and I would discard great shots just because I’m tired. I always try to wait until the next day – or at very least wait a few hours.

I also shot tethered for the first time in quite a while – I have mixed feelings about shooting this way. Maybe I’ll write a bit about this later.

And I’ll post the shots from this weekend in the next couple of days – check back soon!