I was certain that today was the day. It was going to be my 50th post for DIY Photography. To prepare, I’d been putting together bits of advice, lessons learned, and general observations about photography and life. It was when I decided to go back and re-read all of my earlier posts, though, that I realized the numbers were off– I’d lost track of the dates. As it turns out, this is actually post #51. My milestone had come and gone. My initial thought was to simply trash the post and move on, but a milestone is a milestone, even if it’s a day late. So, instead of 50 observations, I offer 51– the 51st from a rather unlikely source. There is no particular order. There is no ranking. While they are all a matter of personal opinion, I think there’s a little something here for everyone. I hope that at least one or two of these are as helpful to you as they have been to me.
Let’s face it– photography is expensive. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hobbyist or working professional. We use a lot of stuff and none of it’s cheap. Camera bodies, speedlights, reflectors, memory cards, lighting equipment, backdrops, batteries, stands, hard drives, tripods, back-ups, gear bags, hard cases, the latest gadget-that-you-seriously-cannot-possibly-live-without. And, of course, don’t forget the glass. Next to the camera itself, quality lenses make up the most expensive component of just about any gear closet. In an ideal world money would be no object and pesky things like gear budgets would be non-existent, paving the way for me to purchase all of the shiny, brand-new lenses I could possibly want (“Hi, Nikon? I’ll take one of everything!”). The reality, though, is that I have to balance my lust for gear against how many meals my rapidly growing 13-year-old son gets to eat each week. The truth is, the buying and selling of used lenses has almost become an industry all its own. There are a lot of high-quality second-hand lenses out there, which means you can satisfy your “need” and still save a good bit of money if you’re smart.
We love photography and we love our kids. It makes sense, then, that finding a way to combine photography and spending time with our kids would be a major win. If your kids are anything like mine, though, they’ve either already reached that point where they vanish into the mist the moment they hear the zipper on your camera bag, or will reach it soon enough. So, how do we enjoy our hobby without abandoning our kids for hours or days on end? If they’ve grown weary of their time in front of your camera, it may be time to put the camera in their hands and see what kind of magic they can create themselves.
I just got an email confirming my press registration for this week’s Photoshop World Conference and Expo, and I’m actually fascinated by the notion of an annual convention built around a computer program. On the other hand, I suppose I shouldn’t really be all that surprised. While there are other editing options available, Photoshop and Lightroom have pretty much become the standard by which all others are judged. And let’s face it– to a certain extent we’re all a bunch of geeks. We obsess about our cameras, lights, and other gear, so why not that important final link in the chain– the software that puts the finishing touches on our vision? In fairness, all of this quasi-philosophical rambling comes on the heels of a busy weekend of shooting, combined with an extraordinarily short turnaround time on the editing. Three days of shooting ended at 8:00 last night and the images were delivered to the client at 6:00 this morning. If shown as a mathematical equation, my current state would be probably be something like:
(Creative Overload + Sleep Deprivation) ÷ Caffeine Intake = Stuff I Wonder About
I’ve written before about what shooting film means to me, and I almost always have a film camera in my bag alongside my digital arsenal. I find it relaxing. In many ways it becomes something of a ritual for me. Loading the film. Advancing the frames. Resetting the counter. Taking my time. Doing my best to make every frame count. Don’t even get me started on barricading myself in the darkroom for hours on end. I know that a lot of photographers talk about “making” photos rather than “taking” them, but nothing brings that sentiment home for me more than shooting film. Thankfully, there are legions of photographers out there who still enjoy shooting film– even if just occasionally– which means that there are still companies catering to our need for the film experience. One such company is Lomography, a website dedicated to cameras, films, lenses, and accessories. I recently had the chance to build and test their Konstruktor DIY Kit.
I teach a kids photography class twice a week. In Digital Photo Challenges, my eager group of students range in age from 12-17, and are some of the most creative people I’ve ever met. Since they are kids, I’m not really in a position to require a particular level of camera. My only requirement is that they have some sort of digital camera other than their phones. Having some students with DSLRs and multiple lenses in a class alongside students with very basic point & shoot cameras poses certain challenges for me as a teacher. If I spend too much time teaching to the DSLR group, my p&s kids will quickly lose interest. Similarly, there is only so much detail to be explored with a p&s, which would mean not presenting challenging information to those students with more advanced equipment.
I’m told I give good advice. In my previous life as a lawyer, people were even known to pay a considerable amount of money for my advice. When presented with a question or predicament, I’m pretty good at cutting through the extraneous BS, narrowing my focus, and arriving at a thoughtful, well-reasoned plan or solution. This assumes, of course, that the person seeking advice or guidance is anyone in the world other than myself. When it comes to addressing some of my own issues head on, I often have trouble finding that place where I can be objective. Instead, I tend to get bogged down in my own tunnel vision. I come out the other side eventually, but the path taken is often much more of a winding road than I would like.
Not to be overly dramatic, but keyboard shortcuts can– and will– change your life. Okay, maybe it’s a little overly dramatic after all, but I’m not kidding. Considering how much time some of us spend in front of the hypnotic glow of a computer screen, it makes sense to incorporate something into our workflow that’s specifically designed to reduce some of that time– at least the part spent in editing and post-production. I can’t help you with the hours you wile away on Facebook, Pinterest, solitaire, or cat videos, but I can help you draw a line in the sand when it comes to Photoshop.
I’m often intrigued when my worlds collide. When I left my career as a lawyer behind, I never realized just how often it would encroach on– if not occasionally take over– my photography career. And yet, when it comes to model releases, client contracts, licensing agreements, protecting my copyright, and a host of other issues, I shouldn’t be at all surprised that my arsenal of legal knowledge and expertise still continues to pay dividends– even now, ten years since I’ve seen the inside of a courtroom. I usually see the legal issues coming a mile away, but a recent meeting with a new wedding client caught me completely off guard. She’d been referred to me by a mutual friend, but I was not the first photographer she’d interviewed. For the most part, it had been a very typical meeting. We talked about her venue, where she’d met her fiance, what she was looking for in a photographer– the standard stuff. She was flipping through a portfolio, though, when she looked up and asked a question that was anything but standard.
I’ve mentioned the importance of mobile battery backup and charging in a few articles recently (see 10 Travel Photography Essentials and 10 Tips for Better Photography Conventions & Trade Shows), so I decided it was finally time to start taking my own advice. Let’s face it– “getting away from it all” sounds great in theory, but the reality is that most of the time we have to stay connected. And while location shooting, travel, trade shows, chasing down new business, and shuttling my kid from one activity to the next can all be fun and rewarding, they do tend to drain the life force out of phones, tablets, and laptops pretty quickly. While a car charger obviously helps, it doesn’t come anywhere close to solving the problem. That’s why I decided to try the Anker 2nd Generation Astro3 12000 mAh External Battery Charger. In a sleek- lightweight package only slightly bigger than my iPhone, this thing really packs a punch. [Read more...]