Sunday, December 13, 2009

Giant billboard from a tiny chip

This is a giant billboard on New Jersey Rt 3 as you are heading East into the Lincoln Tunnel. It's sitting on top of a building and is probably over 50 feet wide. I am putting this up on the blog because I shot the images of the three pro athletes individually with my lowly Fuji S3. I shot the main body portion of the guys first and then their hands with the packaging (which was replaced in Photoshop) separately. I shot the guys with a 10-20mm Sigma lens and their hands with a 28-75 Tamron f2.8 lens. As I said before, it's a 12 mpx Fuji S3. The shots look totally great from street level and being so near the Meadowlands, I'm sure it will do the Sensible Portions company very well. So when someone tells you that you need film or at least a medium format digital back to shoot for a billboard, tell them about me and the huge billboard that I shot with my Fuji S3. This is too much fun!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Anything (almost) for a buck!

When a client calls, the answer is yes. With very few exceptions, that describes my life as a professional photographer. This blog probably shows that I am a primarily studio photographer. My food photography blog shows my studio speciality. But when a food client calls and asks me to shoot an event, I answer yes... and then run around to figure out how to do it. This client hired me to shoot three days of a big corporate meeting last year. I had to learn then how to use an on-camera flash (not even TTL). I ran around and shot tests until I was secure in my new ability. It's funny that with over 30 years in this business, I have never had to shoot one of these things. Well, the 3 days went great. I shot the meetings, gave them jpgs each day for a slide show and even set up a portrait shoot in a hotel room. Since then I have gone back to shooting products and food for this client. Then 2 weeks ago they called again, this time for a sales meeting. My answer was: yes! Especially for my day rate.
I set up my MacBook Pro on a table in the corner and launched Lightroom. Then I switched between 2 cards as I shot, downloading one card to Lightroom while shooting to the other. I was able to equalize all of the images quickly and even ran a slide show of the downloaded images on the laptop as I went back and shot. It was actually fun, made my client happy and made the studio money. What could be better than that?

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Digital Photographers: Today, you have to become totally comfortable with Photoshop if you are going to make the most money from each job and keep your clients happy. A good knowledge of Photoshop began helping me as soon as this job started. I knew that I had to strip the cakes away from the background so I made sure that if the cake was dark, I had white paper behind it. If the cake was white, I had dark paper behind it. This was all done after I made sure the light was perfect. When I got back from the client's place, I was able to strip a lot of cakes from their background pretty quickly. The plate for all of the cakes was made in Photoshop. I have all kinds of Photoshop plates saved and use them often. I had originally placed a wooden table below the plate. That was the images they saw on the first website. During the second shoot, we photographed different cloths that the client had. I used parts of them to replace the table at the client's request. These went up on the second website. The client's final request was to make the white cloth dark red-ish. I have sent them two different red choices and one has been approved. Now it will be a case of quickly adding the color same layer from file to file. See, the original lighting took around 20 minutes to perfect and gets changed a little from cake to cake. All the rest is added time and money in Photoshop. In the end, the client is happy and so am I. One last note: when the last change is done, I will put up another web site to replace the second one. I can do this so often and easily by using Adobe Lightroom. I just import the images, fill in the appropriate information, hit the Export button and go get coffee! What a wonderful life.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chef Howie

Yeah, yeah, yeah... It's a food photograph because the client who pays me is a food company and it's people photography because, well, it's a people. See how a food photographer has to know how to do a great job shooting everything? This is chef Howie. He is a great guy and we had a wonderful day. We not only shot pictures like this of him, but also did some beautiful editorial shots for packaging of this companies' crackers topped by chef Howie's recipes. I can't wait to see the packages in the grocery store (I never get tired of that). I used Photoshop's Extract filter (which I have moved from CS3 to the CS4 I use now) to strip out 8 different poses. That's it for this job, I just need to upload the files tomorrow and were done. Now it's on to a day of cakes on Friday. Yeah, I like this life.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Filling the empty spaces

Boredom: I can't stand it. Maybe it's the ADD or maybe it's just human nature but I dread being bored. I'm not booked on a food packaging job until next Tuesday. I look forward to that job but what am I supposed to do in the meantime? Thank God a FedEx package arrived this morning. It was filled with NUK products for me to shoot. I like photographing NUK products because they handle light well and have lots of small detail that I can obsess over while I light. Most photographers seem to hate simple product shots (compared to the larger packaging type jobs) but I see them as a way to stretch my creative lighting legs on a lowly job, a good way to make money and most of all a way to fill my days between the bigger jobs. For me they are a boredom killer. I will be teaching two classes at William Paterson University this fall. That will help to keep me busy but my favorite boredom killer continues to be these simple product shots.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bobby Simmons

Why does a food photographer have to know how to shoot everything well? Why do we have to be Photoshop experts? The reason is that food clients have lots of ways to promote their products beyond food shots and we want to shoot it all (and earn all of the money). This client asked me to go to the Javits Center in NYC and shoot Bobby Simmons as he signed autographs at their booth. My assistant and I went in and spent around 2 hours shooting candids of Bobby.
Then before we left for home, we set up a full length portrait studio in a conference room and shot more formal full length portraits of Bobby for our client. It was a fun day, we got to meet and spend time with the NJ Nets new forward and we kept making money. It's a great life and I feel blessed.

Friday, June 26, 2009

what a creep.

Have I mentioned that I am blessed with ADD? While it may be a blessing to me, it is much less so for those who have to live with me. Medication has been a big help but I still have to battle the passive aggression and anti social tenancies that used to be my natural personality. It is to that end that I present the beautiful hand crafted model of my old Nikon F that I had in high school. A girl named Jeannie made it for me. It still amazes me. She was a girl friend but so were one or two others at the same time. This ceramic Nikon sits on my desk as it has for many years. Unfortunately it reminds me of how poorly I may have treated Jeannie while we were together. My wife had lived with me that same way for 23 years. Wow.
I think I have been greatly blessed by the patient women in my past, but most of all by my wife who reminds me when I slip back into the old, selfish habits. Thanks for loving me Barb.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ya gotta know Photoshop

These were some of the 18 quick shots I did yesterday for Gerber. The finals will be PNG files for Power Point, but I still shoot RAW and save the images as layered Photoshop files. I just emailed the files to Gerber.
It's jobs like these that keep me working (thanks Ellen) and I love the way they fill the empty spaces and keep me busy.
As simple as these shot appear, you have to know what my client expected and why Photoshop was so necessary.
First, each of the 18 images needed to be stripped away from the background. Sometimes that means using the magic wand, sometimes that means using the path tool. Whatever works best is the right tool. Next, each of the images needed to be retouched. Corners were dented and had to be redrawn and for three of the shots, one front had to replace another so the box top would read the right way around.
When a photographer knows what is possible with Photoshop, they can shoot with that in mind making products easier to strip and capturing pieces that will be needed later in retouching. The more you do it, the faster you become and the more productive you will be. So you see, Photoshop made for one happy client, more money for the studio and one less bored photographer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

History Channel

This is why I love working on my own. Sometimes things just work out great. I got a late start yesterday after spending about an hour on the phone with my friend Bruce Frazier, another photographer. We had a great time catching up. After the call I got $20.00 cash, air in my tires, and headed down to NYC to shoot for Pearl Media again. On the way I called Josh and it's a good thing because he told me there were 2 different locations to shoot. Since I was heading into the city anyway, I arranged to meet my old friend Mike Harris at ICP to see the Avedon fashion show in NYC. I hit the first location at 5th and 43rd by 12:30 with just a bag full of cameras and began shooting the building piece by piece. The images go around the corner to 43rd street so it took a while to cover the whole thing. I shot a full 2 GB of images so I would have enough pieces to assemble and get rid of most of the people in Photoshop. The top image above is the assembled 5th Avenue side. I hope it looks like one quick shot, but it's really assembled out of over 20 files. By 2:30 PM I was done so I headed over to the ICP at 6th Avenue and 43rd Street, just one block west. It was great walking through the huge exhibit with Michael because he began his career as an art director for such companies as Revlon. That was in the late 60's and early 70's so he actually knew some of the people in the images from those years. I didn't arrive in NYC until the mid 70's (when I assisted Michael) so I missed out on knowing people like Jean Shrimpton. We had a great time. I shot us as we stopped for a nosh, I wasn't even supposed to take a picture there....
After the show I got my car out of hock and dropped Michael off at Penn Station so he could catch a train home. I then drove down to West Broadway just below Spring Street and waited while the guys finished installing the other History Channel building art. When they were done, I shot pretty quickly and was all done by 5PM. When I finally got home I began the Photoshop work of taking all of the disparate pieces and loosely joining them in layers. I have spent today correcting and cleaning up the shots. We'll have to wait to see what the client thinks. All in all it was one beautiful day in NYC.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Biggest Loser

This is Bill Germanakos the winner of the 4th season of The Biggest Loser. What a great guy and believe me, no loser. He was a pro in front of the camera, funny and just made my life as a photographer easy. I appreciated having my son Daniel assisting me on this shoot. These shots were for the Sensible Portions company.
We began this day by setting up and shooting Bill and a grocery cart full of product in a Costco parking lot. It was hot and the light was too, so we took some light of Bill with a big white umbrella.

After we had lots of shots out there, we moved into the store and did shots with Bill against shelving filled with product. While Costco has plenty of power outlets all around the outside of the store, there don't seem to be any as you move toward the center. That, of course, was where we had to shoot. Fortunately, I had a small Sunpack strobe in my case, so I stuck it on my camera, slowed down the shutter speed to brighten up the florescents overhead and shot tethered to my MacBook Pro so I could see exactly how the shots were looking. Our final shots took place outside the offices where we set up a 1/2 wide white seamless, and lit Bill nicely with a bank and strobe. That is the shot at the top. I have moved the extract plug-in from CS3 to CS4 and used that to easily strip Bill away from the mostly white background.
Okay, I shot using my beloved S3 using Fuji's Studio Utility to save to a certain folder and then launched Lightroom and set it to watch that folder. My clients love to see the big images as we shoot. We got home late, but still I was able to do a quick cleanup of the files in Lightroom and then gererate a flash web site. I emailed my client the link and I got choices back from John (the client) by 10PM the same night! Hey folks, digital rocks! Don't let anyone tell you differently. Gee, John seems to be working way too hard...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Product shots keep you busy.

Let's see... feed the family, pay suppliers, have some fun... this is why we trade checks for images that fulfill our client's layouts. This job was for Andy at Gerber. It was a rush job. I had two days to shoot and strip 55 Gerber products and then overnight a Fed Ex envelope so Andy would have the disk in his hands the morning of the third day. Andy did a great job of providing me with an Excel spreadsheet that laid out each shot needed and I kept throwing jpgs at him so he could see if what I was shooting matched what he was thinking. I only had to reshoot two shots and Andy got his disk on time. We call product shots like these our "bread and butter" shots. They can be done well and quickly and can be shot in the dungeon so the expenses are close to zero and everything is profit. We depend upon these kind of jobs to keep all of the bills paid. They are an important part of keeping a commercial photo studio profitable over the long haul. Hey - it's making money with a camera. What could be better than that?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wide lenses

There is something special about using a wide lens. They don't work for every shot but when they do, they are amazing. Okay here is the truth: The lens I used for this series of pictures (I only show one here) was a Sigma 10-20 mm rectilinear wide angle lens. On my digital camera it acts as a 15-30 mm lens. That's still wide. I originally purchased this lens for a shoot of the Gerber building redesign. I have used it for the Sika antique flooring jobs as well as these Pearl Media jobs. In this shot I wanted to see the big white pointing finger, the general HP signage and the fact that this building is well placed next to the David Letterman Late Show studio. The only way to get it all in is with a very wide lens. Most of the shots for this job were straightened up using free transform in Photoshop. That way we got to see all of the different aspects while having the vertical things vertical. Somehow, I prefer to see it the way it shows above. I've got to say, this lens is super sharp. If you get the chance, try a really wide lens. It adds to the fun!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kids with Cookies

This was a fun day. Sure, I only had 5 hours of sleep the night before and it was a full day on a concrete floor, but all of the kids were great and John from World Gourmet Marketing is one of my favorite clients. John had booked our models (real people) to come in one after the other with little overlap so I could demand the model's full attention with little effort. I only had to ask a parent of one of the younger models to leave (to the waiting room) so the youngster would look into the camera. Over the very full day (11 hours) we shot 17 individuals and groups. I arrived home around 8PM and after another hour, Photoshop had created a 560 image website that allowed for comments to be mailed to John. The company liked the images so much, that they want to do more (that means more fun and more money) with different people. I just got an email and we're trying for tomorrow. I guess I'll go and get ready.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lie To Me

It's been a slow start to the year but every job I have done has been tons of fun. This job involved shooting on a cold but clear day in NYC and then a lot of Photoshop back at the studio. I was able to park near the target building at a Muni-Meter on Broadway. I even ate breakfast at the Applejack diner after the shoot while I backed up all of the files to a portable hard drive. The bottom image ended up being one single pan image but is actually built out of 4 different shots. I didn't use Photoshop's photomerge feature, but instead dragged them all into one big (32" wide, 192MB) file. I then used free transform and masks to match and blend the layers into one.
My client had asked me to shoot around 2PM to capture people lined up for the David Letterman Show, but this was a Friday and they don't tape on Fridays. Ah well, I captured as many people as I could and retouched them into some of the shots for the finals. Another happy client and more money for fun. It's still a great life.