Lighting Essentials Workshop in San Diego

I’ve got some pretty cool news for all the photographers in the Southern California area! Don Giannatti is bringing his Lighting Essentials workshop to town on February 6th and 7th, 2010! If you have always wanted to learn about lighting, are just starting out, or even if you have a good bit of experience working with lighting you will benefit greatly by attending!

The workshop is two days long, with the first day shooting in the studio and the second day working on location. And when I say, “shooting” I really mean it. There is not a lot of show and tell to be had, it’s more like shoot and shoot!

The lighting topics will range from reflectors to studio flashes, and not to worry… there will be plenty of gear to go around. Even if you’ve never put your hands on an actual studio flash before, you will feel pretty well-versed by the time you finish with the workshop.

On the second day, you will be out shooting on location. Here’s where small flash really comes into play. They are so easy and portable that they are a go-to light for lots of location shooters. This part of the workshop will bring you out of the dark, and into the light (pun completely intended).

I’ve spent all this time talking about shooting and by now you’re probably wondering who you’re going to be shooting? Models. Real, live, models. The other benefit of this workshop is learning how to interact with your subjects and provide direction in order to achieve your vision.

As great as I’ve made this workshop sound, it’s got to be expensive right? Wrong. The price tag is $450.00 and that’s less than half of what some other people charge for a workshop of this caliber. I’m here to tell you that this is a small investment for what you will gain. There are only a few spots left, so be sure to head on over and sign up! I’ll be there myself, so I hope to see you there!

Screenshot above courtesy of Lighting Essentials Workshops.


The iPad Is Here: My Thoughts and Yours

So Apple announced the iPad yesterday and already I have seen photographers all over Twitter ready to buy. I’m not sure that this was the tablet that everyone thought Apple was going to release though. I think many had visions of a device similar to the ModBook, which is what most of us think of tablets thanks to PC.

But I don’t really think that the difference is a bad thing. I watched the keynote and Steve Jobs presented some really cool things about the iPad that got me thinking. The iPad is really a mobile device and not a mobile computer so it’s going to do things that we expect out of a mobile device like: browse the web, check e-mail, listen to music, watch movies, view photos… you get the idea.

So where could the iPad fit in the photographers life with no camera built in? My answer is pretty simple: a completely mobile portfolio solution. Imagine being able to had a client your iPad with a kick-ass slideshow that you put together for them to view samples of your work or even proof images from their shoot with you. You can take it anywhere! As thin as it is and weighing in at a mere 1.5 lbs makes it hardly a hassle to carry around. That’s just one of many ways that photographers can put the iPad to work.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments section below.

Image above courtesy of

Studio Quality Portraits Just About Anywhere

A few days back I wrote this post about a few ways photographers can save money. Today I kind of touch on the subject again, but I’m also adding flexibility to the mix. In today’s economy most photographers don’t have the luxury to sit back and wait for clients to walk into our studio for portrait sessions. The big box stores like Sears and Picture People can do this because they have a recognizable name and corporate funding that gives them really great retail space in a ‘walk-in’ market. So what do the REST of us do?

One of the reasons that I love location portraiture is because of the variety and flexibility it offers. I can shoot at someone’s house, the park, the beach, the mountains, the desert, and just about any other place I can think of. Not to mention that my background is almost never the same.

But what if a client wants a studio-type setting for their portraits and you don’t have a studio? Well, you can rent studio space as I mentioned last week or you can bring a studio to their location. For about a $150.00 (give or take) you can get a really nice background support setup with a roll of seamless paper. The one I use I picked up from Calumet for $120 and a 53″ roll of paper is $28. It breaks down completely and fits in a convenient bag that I can take with me wherever I go.

I took the shot above in my garage (of all places) using nothing more than my background support, some white seamless paper, and two flashes. My lighting setup was an SB800 fired into a Lastolite Ezybox softbox and then an SB80DX with a homemade straw grid fired at the background on a stand behind my subject. I placed a white reflector camera right to provide just a little fill on the shadow side of my subject’s face.

Here’s the setup shot:

Very simple, yet very effective. That’s what I’m all about. So if your client is looking for studio shots, this is another way that you can bring the studio to them. Before you head over, make sure they’ve got plenty of space for you to shoot in. Minimum would be around 10×15 feet, larger if you’re shooting more than 1 or 2 people at a time.

Hope you enjoyed the tip, tell all your friends, and don’t forget to back up your photos!

Dancers and Destroyers

If you are a Facebook fan or follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed my post last week about Joe McNally shooting a ballerina on the foc’sle (bow) of a destroyer. Joe’s no stranger to shooting on military installations, but this time he brought a ballerina from the California Ballet.

I got a call on Wednesday afternoon from my buddy RC, explaining that Joe was in San Diego and he was looking for locations to shoot at. He asked if I was free and if I was interested (which of course I was) and then he put me in touch with Joe’s First Assistant, Drew.

I called Drew up to find out exactly what they were looking for and gathered as many details as I could in order to present something solid to my Chain of Command on the ship. Note: It’s always advisable to put together a solid plan before approaching anyone with something like this because it’s a helluva lot easier to sell on such a short fuse.

After getting it all set up, I met up with Joe, Drew, Kayla, her Mom, Brad (ballet instructor), and Rob Stephen and we headed to the ship. In Joe’s usual lighting style, he was thinking Rangers, 74″ Octa, and Lastolite panels. Well, the wind didn’t lend itself to Octas and Lastolite panels that day. It was blowing so hard that you might have thought we were at sea.

After Drew, Rob, and Joe lugged 150 pounds of gear onto the ship, Joe went with natural light. I don’t blame him one bit either! As you can see from the BTS shots I took, the light we had was absolutely gorgeous! Who would’ve guessed?!

When all was said and done, it was a great shoot. I’m looking forward to seeing the selects. Thanks to Kayla for being a great sport and braving the elements of probably the worst week of weather San Diego has seen in a long time.

Video: Processing A Gritty, Contrasty Look in Lightroom & Photoshop

One of my readers, Rusty, had asked awhile back about posting a video of how I process for the gritty, very contrasty look that is popular right now. Exactly how I do it varies by photo, but I put together a short video with where I start and what I tweak as I go.

I hope you enjoy the video and let me know in the comments what else you might like to see. I just hacked my new Flip Mino HD camera, so I now have a dedicated camera to shoot tutorials take family videos with. Just let me know what you would like to see and I’ll be glad to put something together.

Have a great Thursday because Friday’s almost here!

Photographers: 5 Ways Not To Waste Money

Salespeople are really good at what they do. Seems obvious right? Otherwise, they wouldn’t have a job. Advertising folks are just as good. Whenever there is a new camera, lens, gadget, device, plug-in, or widget, people jump all over them. It’s one of the many ways that photographers wind up wasting money.

If you’re starting out in photography and want to earn a living with your craft, you have to save every penny you can. If you haven’t noticed, jobs aren’t pouring in for you like they are for the seasoned pros. At least not the big jobs anyway.

So today I’m going to touch quickly on 5 simple things that you can do as a photographer to save yourself some money. For some of you, these will be common sense and others will struggle greatly with a few, if not all of these. Shall we?

  1. Buy Only What You Need – Photographers I have known seem to struggle between wants and needs. Do you really want that new $5000.00 camera body because it’s the ‘latest and greatest’ or do you NEED it to perform a job for a client. Sure, we can all come up with a ’round about way of justifying that new purchase. But what we have to do is remove emotion from the decision and scrutinize what gear we spend our money on.
  2. Rent Whenever Possible – Ok, I’m talking about gear here. Say you always shoot in the studio with lots of high powered strobes – portrait work. A client hires you to shoot a dance performance at a theatre because they really like your work and think you will do a stellar job. You know you need fast glass – we’re talkin’ f/2.8 here. You also know that you’re never going to use that 200mm f/2 lens you’re about to buy for a long time. Here’s where renting comes to the rescue. You can rent this lens (or other lenses, bodies, flashes, strobes, etc.)  for a small sum of money for a week and now you’re not stuck with a piece of gear you’ll rarely use.
  3. Buy Used Office Equipment – Most photographers that I know work from home when they first get started, especially if they are only starting out part-time. While I agree that you need some basic office equipment like a fax machine, scanner, and a decent printer, these things don’t have to cost you a fortune. Check Craigslist, eBay, or your local paper for some good deals. You never know what you’ll find. I recently picked up (3) all-in-one laser multi-function machines for $30.00 on Craigslist! So why did you just drop $400.00 on that brand new fancy all-in-one? This also applies to desks, chairs, etc. Shop around for a deal and your bank account will thank you.
  4. Need Space to Shoot: Rent It! – I know I already mentioned renting, but this is big. If I need studio space, I will rent it. Why? Because the overhead is REALLY low. There’s a new studio here in San Diego that rents for $25.00/hour and includes lighting and a whole host of other gear. Granted, the place isn’t gigantic but it works well. Oh, and did I mention that it’s $25.00/hour? Don’t think you have to rush out and dive head-first into a commercial lease for your business. That’s a lot of overhead and this whole approach is to do this all without going into debt. Personally, I wouldn’t run out and lease commercial space until I was consistently bringing in four times the amount of what my monthly lease cost me. And no, two months in a row doesn’t constitute ‘consistency’ in my book. We’re talking six months or more here.
  5. Be Efficient and Charge What You’re Worth – What exactly do I mean by ‘efficient’? Let me explain. Say you’re charging a client $100.00 for a one-hour shoot. If you go beyond that, then you’re cutting into your profit unless your client has agreed to pay you on an hourly basis. You can be more efficient by preparing for your shoot, knowing your equipment, and getting right to work. Maximize your time. I’m not saying to all but ignore your client, but remember that you’re there to do a job and provide a service for them.
    What are you worth? That can be a tough question, but you’re essentially worth what someone is willing to pay you for your services. Don’t sell yourself short here. We work hard at our craft and we invest time and money in what we do. Do it well and charge accordingly.

I’ve had the ideas above running around in my head for quite awhile now and it was time I got them up on the blog. You may agree or disagree, it’s up to you. These are things that I practice as I continue to grow my own photography business and I hope that you find at least one of them (if not all) helpful. Have a great day!

“So, shoot much HDR these days?”

SOAPBOX ALERT! – Apparently there is some war going on over HDR and whether or not we as photographers should be shooting it. WHO CARES!? As photographers, we should care more about the IMAGE and less about how it was made. As I mentioned onTwitter and Facebook last week, keep fighting about it… I’ll be out making pictures and working on building my client base.

I’m pretty new to shooting and processing HDR, but I’m not new to the concept. I have been reading about it for a long time now and I have even processed some images that are “pseudo HDR” that have been published.

What really attracts me (and lot of other viewers) to HDR photos is that the final image represents something a lot closer to what our eyes can see and our brains can process. This is why people who aren’t photographers rave over the images. The human eye is an amazing optic and has a dynamic range of light sensitivity that we could only dream our DSLRs being capable of.

So you’ll probably start seeing more HDR images as being to experiment more and expand on this new tool in my camera bag. The wheels are already turning in my mind over other things in and around San Diego that I can shoot, that I think would make great HDR images.

On top of that, this year is going to be a ‘project year’ for me. I have decided My wife has encouraged me to work on a photo book, and I think that a fitting subject would be San Diego. After all, I’ve spent almost ten years living and working here… why not? Now, it’s not going to be exclusively HDR, so if you’re one of those Super Anti-HDR protesters your efforts would likely be more useful somewhere else. I hope to have the book finished up by early fall, but we’ll see.

The Holidays are behind us, the New Year is upon us, so stop making excuses and go out and shoot!