Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Getting Closer All the Time

To paraphrase a great Beatles tune, I'm getting closer all the time... to releasing my newest ebook that is, the cover of which you can see to the left.

I'm still editing and proofing the book but its ten chapters and 115 pages of natural-light, portrait-shooting goodness is, as far as I'm concerned and except for some very minor tweaks, done, complete, finito!  Next step, and it begins tomorrow, putting together the web page for it.

My first ebook, "Guerrilla Glamour," was R-rated. My next two books, "Guerrilla Headshots" and "Zen and the art of Portrait Photography" were, as far as I'm concerned, both G-rated. Perhaps the "Zen" book would get a PG rating for a bit of language. I don't know. I'm not the MPAA of ebooks. As you can probably surmise from the cover on the left, my newest ebook is G-rated.

Flash-Free Portrait Photography covers the subject with many tips, suggestions, and more. It has chapters on exposure and camera settings, natural light shooting gear and their uses, composition, where you'll find the best quality light and how to "see the light," working with your portrait subjects and more. The book is aimed at beginning/novice through intermediate level photographers.

I also think more advanced photographers may also benefit from the book, especially if they haven't shot too much natural light portraiture. If nothing else, I've invested the time and energy in compiling a book on natural light portraiture from soup to nuts. Sure, everything on the subject isn't included. But who knows everything about it?  Certainly not me. Not anyone, for that matter.  By the way, for the purposes of the book, natural light portraiture refers to portraits where daylight/sunlight alone is utilized as the sole source for capturing the images.  That doesn't exclude lighting tools like reflectors, scrims, and flags, but it does exclude all artificial lighting instruments no matter how seamlessly the light they produce is integrated into the photos.

Anyway, I'm getting closer all the time. Days away, in fact. I'm excited!  I'm also starting my next ebook immediately. This one will be a little different as it doesn't focus on still photography. Instead, it focuses on video for photographers who are making the transition to video (thanks to video-capable dSLRs) especially those who are including video amongst the services they offer or have decided to become newly-minted film-makers. In addition to being a photographer, I've been shooting pro video since the 80s. Just saying. I mean just establishing some credibility as its author.

The young lady on the cover of my new ebook is a relative of mine. She's my nephew's daughter. Does that make her my grand-niece? Regardless, she'll be a junior in high school next year. She is quite the natural model with that engaging smile and bright, friendly eyes! I wish more models were as easy to work with as my grand-niece was.

I snapped the pic on an overcast day at a local park. I used my 4x6 Westcott Scrim Jim with silver-side-out fabric attached to light her up beyond the ambient.  Even though it was overcast and late in the day (with the light quickly fading) the Scrim Jim still bounced appreciable amounts of soft light onto my subject. I was shooting in Aperture Priority mode set at f/4.5 with my ISO at 200 and my WB set to "Shade." My camera, a Canon 5D Mk1,  automatically set the shutter speed to 1/160th. I was using my Canon 70-200mm f/4 L for glass.  It was zoomed in about 3/4s of the way for this shot. Hence, between the open aperture and long-ish focal length, some nice bokeh resulted.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Getting It Right In the Camera

You've heard it said or written often: Get it right in the camera!  I subscribe to those words in big ways. In my just completed, soon-to-be-released ebook, Flash-Free Portrait Photography: How to Shoot Awesome Portraits in Natural Light, those words come up a number of times in the text. Lately, it seems, I see those words popping-up more and more on photography web pages and on forums. As well they should!  They're important to hear and read and should be embraced by all serious photographers.

Just because you shoot RAW and you can fix/change many things when you convert your images, it doesn't mean you shouldn't do all you can to get it right in the camera. Just because you can crop in post, it doesn't mean you shouldn't frame your images in ways that reflect good composition. Just because you can... never mind. You probably get the idea.

Here's a few, short, excerpts from the new ebook regarding getting it right in the camera:

In my chapter, "Exposure and Camera Settings," when writing about White Balance and color temperature settings often used in natural light portraiture, I mentioned that...

"Many photographers capture their portraits using the RAW or RAW+JPG settings. Because of that, some shooters seem less concerned about color temperature when the photos are captured since they can correct it in post when they convert the images. Personally, I'm a Get it right in the camera! kind of shooter, even when it comes to camera settings and other elements which are easily fixed or changed in post. When you do your best to get things like White Balance and color temperature correct when you're capturing the images, that mindset begins extending to many, if not all other aspects of your photography."

I also noted, "There's nothing particularly Old School about getting it right in the camera. It might seem (to some) to be a hold-over from the days when film photography was all there was and photographers had fewer options once the film was exposed, but that's not what Get it right in the camera! is all about. Sure, some of it was born of that, but there's more to it than a film-shooter's supposedly old fashioned ways of doing things. It's my firm belief that all serious photographers should strive to Get it right in the camera! (Or, as near to right as they are able, whenever they are able to do so.) It's simply the best and most efficient way to shoot photographs without multiplying the processes beyond necessity. (Ockham's Razor!)"

I also referred to getting it right in the camera in other chapters of the ebook. If you're unfamiliar with Ockham's Razor, it states, "Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity."  In plain English, that means the simplest explanation, method, process, or way to do something is usually the correct one.

Call me crazy but routinely getting things like camera settings and exposure (and so much more) right in the camera represents -- in plain, simple, and practical ways -- NOT multiplying entities beyond necessity. Doing so is a simpler method than relying on post-processing to later do something or correct something that could have easily been done correctly in production. If the concept of getting it right in the camera doesn't conform to Ockham's Razor, I don't know what does.  Keep it simple, stupid! (KISS: A modern-day variation of Ockham's Razor, which was first postulated by a 14th Century Franciscan friar.)

The pretty girl at the top is Penthouse Pet, Celeste Starr. (Click the pic to enlarge.) I snapped the images on a white seamless using three light sources: A 4' Photek Softlighter for my main light plus a couple of much smaller, Softighter knock-offs, either side, slightly behind the model. I also used a LumoPro Lite Panel for fill, set below the main light and angled up. Canon 5D, ISO 100, f/8 @ 125.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wrapping It Up

Whew! Finally, I'm on the last chapter of my new and soon-to-be-released ebook, "Flash-Free Portrait Photography."  I've cleverly titled the last chapter, "Wrapping It Up," which seems fitting, if not actually clever, since it's mostly a wrap-up/bullet-point-recap of the previous 100 pages. I'm also including a few words about post-processing, but very few. Post-processing, after all, isn't what the book is about. Somehow, though, it seems to be sort of incomplete without at least a few words on the subject of post. Nothing technical or how-to-ish, just some general suggestions regarding post. (Not that I'm anything close to being a subject-matter-expert on post-processing. I'm definitely not!)

BTW, still running a 20% Off sale on my previous three ebooks through the end of June. If you purchase via one of the links in the right-hand column, enter JUNESALE as the discount code when checking-out. It will automatically deduct the 20% from your total.

Authoring ebooks like these are always big learning experiences for me!  Not in terms of learning to author ebooks, but regarding my own photography. (I hope it will also be the same for those who read the book.)  It's not that I'm not already familiar with most of the stuff I've included in the book, but writing about it forces me to organize and focus on what I already know. (And research those things I might be weak on.)  It's one thing to put this stuff into practice, that is, to use what I already know about shooting in natural light when I'm actually shooting in natural light. It's another to explain it to others via words and pictures.  I'm a better man for the experience!  Well, perhaps a better photographer? Okay, I'm probably a better something because of it. I'll leave it at that.

I suppose I should quickly wrap this blog update up and get back to wrapping it, my ebook, up. I really, really want it to be done. Not that it will be done done. There's still always more editing, rewriting, and proofing to be done before it's done done and even then, it always seems like there's more that could be done before it's done. (Wow! I done put a lot of dones in those last last few sentences.) Anyway, writing is rewriting they say. (Whoever "they" are.)

BTW, I also purchased a URL for the ebook this morning: FlashFreePortrait-dot-com. It wasn't my first choice. My first choice was NaturalLight-dot-com, but when I entered that choice GoDaddy told me it was available for sale, but not at the normal URL pricing. They said it's a "Premium" URL and wanted nearly $4K for that freakin' thing! Seriously? Four thousand bucks? Thanks but no thanks, BigGoDaddy. I'd have to sell considerably more than 400 ebooks at ten bucks a pop just to pay for the URL! (Have to pay my affiliates their commissions, after all.) My second choice was simply FlashFree-dot-com but that was already taken. So, my third choice, FlashFreePortrait-dot-com, was what I ended up purchasing for my new ebook's web address.

The lovely young thing at the top is Jenna. (Click to enlarge.)  I lit Jenna with a 4' Photoflex Octo for my main, plus a couple of kickers either side. I cranked up the camera-right kicker, a medium Chimera strip box, for a harder edge light. The other, camera-left, was a small shoot-thru umbrella, powered low just to gently fill and bring out her hair on that side. It was set about head-high on the same axis as the model.  In post, I converted to monochrome via CS3's B&W tool and added the vignetting. The image was captured with my Canon 5D Mk1 with a Canon f/1.8 85mm prime. ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125th.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Blog Popularity Headed South?

First off, as of today, I'm happy to report the light at the end of the tunnel for completing Flash-Free Portrait Photography: How to Shoot Awesome Portraits in Natural Light, continues growing larger and brighter! I've kept at it -- diligently and feverishly -- and I'm currently estimating completion in three days, plus or minus a day. Leastwise, completion of a first complete draft.

That doesn't mean it's totally done in three days. There's still editing, proofing, and rewriting. Probably more than a little of each, especially rewriting. (Writing is a process of rewriting, after all.)  But that should take, at most, a week. What that means to me is that I will meet my self-imposed deadline of completing my new ebook by the end of June. (Patting self on back.)

Speaking of my ebooks, the special June sale is still going on for all three of my previous ebooks. Just click on the book you may be interested in via the graphics for them in the right-hand column, visit the pages and, if you decide to purchase, use the special discount code of JUNESALE when you check out and 20% will be automatically deducted from your total. Twenty percent is like two bucks off! With your savings, you can buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks or somewhere else you like getting coffee from, sit back, and read the ebook on your smart phone, tablet, or laptop, whichever you downloaded it to or put a copy of it on. Such a deal, right?

Okay. Enough with the self promotion. Let's talk about blogs, my blog or anyone's blog, and whether blogging is in decline. By "in decline" I mean readership, visitors, page views, however you might want to figure it.

For the past year or so, I've noticed a decline in readership of this blog. I'm not saying no one reads it any longer. They do. A fair number of people do. Leastwise, according to my stats they do. But those stats definitely reflect a decline in visitors, page views, readers. I've made a lot of excuses to myself for that decline, with many of those excuses pointing a finger at myself. (I was raised a Catholic so it's easy for me to point a guilty finger at myself for many things.) Some of those excuses included, but haven't been limited to: 1) My writing/blogging is boring and it sucks, 2) I haven't updated enough, 3) I haven't come up with interesting topics to write about, 4) My writing/blogging is boring and it sucks... Oh. Wait. I already mentioned that one.  Regardless, it's been easy for me to accept personal blame for my blog being in decline, readership wise. But then, I've spoken with other bloggers and they tell me the same thing... not that their writing/blogging is boring and it sucks but that their blogs have been in decline.

To be fair to myself, I also came up with other excuses that have had to do with things like seasonal trends. and. other. bullshit.

But then I decided to do some research and, wouldn't you know? It's not just me, my blog, and a few other blogs who are seeing this same sort of decline taking place. One such bit of research I did was taking a look at a University of Massachusetts/Dartmouth study entitled, "The 2012 Inc. 500 Social Media Update: Blogging Declines as Newer Tools Rule."

Dartmouth's study focuses on the blogging habits of Fortune 500 companies, something this blog sure ain't, but I think a small-time blogger like myself can extrapolate some valid excuses information from such a study. In a nutshell, it seems blogging has been, and continues being, replaced by other social media tools, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube. That, of course, is something I already suspected, especially regarding the blog usurper known as Facebook.

It's not just blogs that are taking it in the shorts. So have forums. Leastwise, photo forums. (None of this is probably news to a lot of you. But unlike many photographers I see and follow on Twitter, this photographer spends more time focused on the art and craft of photography than on the particulars of social media.)

There were about three photo forums I routinely participated on and all three are either dead or terminal. Where'd they go? Well, if there's a forum afterlife, and I think there is, they've headed over to Facebook. (Or that's where they probably should head if they haven't already.) Yep. It's been a veritable migration, like fish going to spawn in places other than where they usually swim. But here's the rub: Some of those forums and forum operators were generating revenue for themselves via their forums. It's one thing to generate revenue off your own forum (through advertising and such) and a whole other thing to make some money off of Facebook. If the playing field were level, I'd choose to invest my time and resources in a forum. But that was then and this is now and Facebook is mostly about making money for itself, not its users. (Which is fair, after all.)

Just today, I read an article on a site called "ProBlogger" which lists 6 reasons why my blog, anyone's blog for that matter, might be in decline. The reasons included things like seasonal traffic, topical interest, posting frequency, poor quality posts... Well fucking Duh, guys!  You really don't think people like myself and others, perhaps thousands of others, haven't already thought of that stuff and slapped ourselves in our collective heads thinking we're guilty of some or all of that?

Anyway, I have no intentions of quitting blogging. For one thing, I like blogging. Often, it's a way for me to relieve some stress and reduce angst. Photographer's angst. Hell, writer's angst as well. Plus, I like sharing my work and helping aspiring pretty girl shooters up their game. So, here I am and here I intend to stay. (You're not getting rid of me and my blog that easily, oh world of social media.) Alrighty then! Cya on Facebook! (Just kidding.)

The pretty girl at the top is Angie. (Click it to enlarge it if you're so inclined.)

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Pre-Release eBook Sale!

In anticipation of the upcoming release of my newest ebook, "Flash-Free Portrait Photography: How to Shoot Awesome Portraits in Natural Light," I'm running a 20% Off discount sale on all my previous ebooks.  That's right, 20% off their already low price of $9.95 (US)

That's like.... wait, let me fetch my calculator...  That's like $2 off!

Till the end of June use the discount code, JUNESALE, in the spot provided when you check out your shopping cart and the discount will be automatically deducted from your total.  How easy is that? No muss, no fuss, no calculator.

By the way, my upcoming new ebook, Flash-Free Portrait Photography: How to Shoot Awesome Portraits in Natural Light, will be released before the end of June.

I'm very excited about this new book. It's my first new book in nearly two years. I've put a lot of time and effort into it. From A-to-Z and Soup-to-Nuts, it covers all the important aspects of photographing all kinds of portraits in natural light.

Whether you're shooting models, actors, kids, seniors, titans of industry, local business people, dating site and other social media folks, engagements, whatever and whomever you're photographing, the information and How-To contents of this new ebook -- a book with plenty of photos, illustrations, and more -- will be just the ticket for any photographer from beginner/novice through intermediate-level shooters.

From gear to camera settings to finding and using the best light to using your gear and employing the techniques the book offers and more, it's all provided between the electronic covers of one carefully and thoughtfully designed and authored ebook that will help you make your natural light portraits truly memorable!

Use the links in the side column of this page to access all my previous ebooks!  Use the discount code JUNESALE to get 20% Off those products!