Big-Time Post Production

I’d like to follow up my post from a couple weeks ago regarding retouching and the general process of “Photoshopping.”  To be clear this is not really part 2 of that post series.  That will be on it’s way in a few days.  This is more so the other end of the argument.

While it’s the best possible choice to get things right in-camera, sometimes it’s just not an option.  By just not an option, I mean nowhere remotely close to an option.  A good example is advertisement photography.

You probably know that no product or service is ever the same as you see it in an ad.  EVER.  If you disagree, I’d like you to compare your Whopper you’ll be having for lunch with the one on the menu.  Sure – this is slightly different issue.  That burger never existed in the first place – it was made out of mashed potatoes and spackle before the picture was even taken.  Instead, let’s focus on something clearly different than the original picture.

You’ve probably seen this video:

That’s an issue that happens more than you’d think/more than you’d like to know/ALL THE TIME.

However, there is one reason to justify such an obscene level of post production – finances.  Sometimes it’s just impractical to fly a model to outer Mongolia.  If there’s a small budget, if time constraints are fundamentally impossible, or if the picture of the setting already exists – sometimes the picture can be stitched together later.  Now, I know what you (might) be saying: “Where’s the photographic skill?  isn’t that just going to breakdown to someone drawing on a computer until the final image looks ‘good enough’ ?”

Not really.

Sure -there’s a descent amount of isolating, some burning/dodging, and a handful of trial and error.  BUT…

The picture still HAS to be correct in camera.  In many ways, it has to be “more correct” than a normal picture.  It all comes down to my favorite part of photography:  LIGHT.

If the background was photographed outside at sunset and the person/object was shot in a black studio with on-board flash, the color, angle of light, depth of field, and separation will look completely wrong .  So many factors have to be considered, I feel this type of post production absolutely qualifies as “good photography.”

Of course, I’m always open to comments and varying opinions.

That said – here’s a small sampling of some “image combination” I started as a side project a number of months ago.  Let me know what you think!

– Jon

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The urban surfer

A bit ago I had the opportunity to shoot some subject matter I had been lacking: a full-on skateboarding promo campaign.

My cousin is a fairly skilled longboarder.  (For those of you who don’t know – long boarding is like a cross between skateboarding and surfing, all preformed on – you guessed it –  a long board.)

He actually won the board.  It was a literary competition illustrating why each entrant love long boarding and should win the board.  Mike Strong won.  This thing is worth hundreds of dollars.  It’s a big deal.

The problem is that we both live in Michigan… and Mike won his Loyal Dean board in December.

Basically he had to stare at it an wait for almost 5 months.  So, when spring rolled around, we hit the asphalt.  He busted some moves and gave the board a run for its money.

Check out some of the series!

– Jon

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It’s Summer and I’m Polish.

It’s just about summer and as far as I’m concerned, that means festivities.

Now, I don’t know about where you live, but in my neck of the woods (Metro Detroit) there are fairs, events, and festivals EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  However, there is one kick-off that draws people from a really really long way off.

The Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Polish Country Fair.

This thing is straight up awesome.  Forget the corn-dogs and elephant ears for a second – most fairs take a few days to set up the rides and pavilions.  This one takes 2 WEEKS.  It started small and insignificant about 40 years ago… as of last year, it topped 110,000 attendees.

North American Midway Entertainment puts on the show (they’re the “world’s largest traveling outdoor amusement park”).

There are, of course, many a photo opportunity at this thing.  For your viewing pleasure – here’s a little gallery from my trip to the fair yesterday.  If you’d like to check out the rest, or pick up a print, be sure to swing over to the full event gallery!  <– (link).

-Jon

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility – Part 1

I’ve been kicking this one around for a bit.  It’s going to be a 2-parter and I really feel it has some important stuff to consider.

I’d like to talk about retouching or “Photoshopping,” as some people refer to it.  What I’m specifically talking about is the difference between intention and an afterthought.  Often these days, with a basic knowledge of the software and a library of filters and actions, a common mindset is “I’ll fix it in post,” or “I’ll just ‘shop’ that out later.”

NO SIR!

The issue with that mindset is that it does nothing to enhance photographic skill.  Think about the 3 basic parts of an exposure – aperture, ISO, and shutter speed.  With proper control, you have to sacrifice less for a fantastic image.  Instead of having an over-exposed image, it could be sharper, less noisy, or have a deeper depth of field.  Of course your specific taste factors in, but the point is not to assume you can “fix” the picture later.

Millions of people around the world use the same software.  The odds are that someone, somewhere has processed their picture the same way.  But, every single person has had different experiences.  That why we’re different.  If more of the final picture comes from the initial capture and less from post-processing, then that much more of the picture will be unique – coming from a moment in time that you and only you experienced in just that way.

This doesn’t stop at camera settings – not even close.

If you’re composing a scene and taking your time – then take your time.  Move that empty pop can, brush that hair out of the model’s face, take a step to the side so that tree isn’t sticking out of someone’s head.  Take advantage of time and get into the picture.  As cheesy as it sounds: “BE the Photoshop before the image even exists.”

But…that being said.  I’ll get to the point of all this.

There is most certainly room for creative adjustments.  The trick is to think about the final image before the initial picture has even been shot.  That way everything lines up.  If a person is going to be isolated and put into an existing background – think about where the light is coming from.  If they’re going into a picture of a sunset, don’t use on-camera flash.  If the foreground is way lighter than the background, use a tripod and take a bunch of exposures.  It’ll look a lot better.

Of course there are exceptions – If your kid takes his first step… take the picture.  The moment is the most important and you’re working in a pretty short window.  If a fly lands on your lens as you take the shot, well, you probably didn’t notice.

Before you take a picture, pause for a second and ask yourself – “Is there anything I could fix now, that I won’t need to later?”

So, here I have a selection of a few images that have gone through some post-production.  You can see the initial (out of camera) file along with the final image.  In each instance a handful of last-minute changes were made on location that greatly improved the workflow, the look of the retouching, and that of the final image.

Stay tuned!  Part 2 coming in a few days.

– Jon

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I scream, you scream, we all scream…

It’s rare that I get this geeked about a project, but this one really came together – and we aren’t done yet.

You may recall this post and this post from the last couple months.  I have been part of assorted groups focusing on art direction and team-oriented projects.  For this round – the assignment was “dessert.”  We may have gone a bit off the reservation…

Our focus was on taste – specifically, a taste that you would go through horrible experiences just to enjoy.

As with each previous set – our teams got shuffled before-hand.  This time around Jessica McIntyre, Brian Doig, Nancy Garcia, and myself got our sweet tooth on.

– Be sure to swing by in the next week or so – we’ve got some video with your name on it.

**No dogs, street-fighting girls, or business men were seriously injured in the making of these images.**

 

– Jon

A Wonderfully Delicious Series

Hey!  I shot a menu!  It was a delicious day…

You may have seen this post (in fact my very first post).  For the past 8 months or so, I have been acting as visual/marketing coordinator for a local bowling center (Wonderland Lanes in Commerce, Michigan).

There’s been stuff like advertisement photos, event coverage, high school leagues – basically full coverage.  Even busted into logo and business card designs.

Recently the hard and heavy phase of projects got under way.  Wonderland is home to The Mad Hatter Pub.  However, unlike the everyday bowling bar – this place has some tricks.  Comedy night’s a huge hit, as is Wonderband.  Basically there’s some ambiance you wouldn’t expect.

Of course the food is a welcome surprise, as well.  That’s where the menu comes in.  A little bit ago we began getting the raw “ingredients” set up for all the upcoming promotional material.  With the culinary mastermind, Bobby Durrant, the whole shoot got knocked out in one day.  Now, extra-designy Ashley Lawler is in progress of menu layout.

There’s to be a heck of an unveiling for the new items, but – for you folks – here’s a little sneak peek.

– Jon

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Kansas or Bust.

For those who are unaware – I am currently a student at the Art Institute of Michigan in Novi.  We have a heck of a team of upper level photo students.

This term, 3 of our fellow students participated in the SkillsUSA regional competition for photography.  Brian Doig won silver and Ryan Schafer pulled in a gold.  (That’s 1st in the state, people!)  Now – the national competition in Kansas is looming, and we need to get Ryan to the competition.

A FundRazr account has been established for the cause and needs some support.  Please swing over to the donations page and drop in a couple bucks, if you can.

Also – be sure to check out GO RYAN GO – a Facebook page helping him get to Kansas.  To keep up to date on some stuff our group has been keeping up with recently – swing by our page and quench your curiosity. – (PHOTOCLUB)

I’ve got an idea – Let’s inspire some people.

I put up that last post (100 Tips from a Professional Photographer) a few days ago.  Then, I was lucky enough to catch presentations by Rosh Sillars as well as one by SpiltSugar.  It got me thinking a bit.  I figured that since I have ideas, perhaps I should write a list.  The best way to advance as an artist is to try new things.  What better catalyst than an objective party’s suggestions?

But this could be bigger – WAY BIGGER.

I want everyone to participate.  Why should this be limited to one person’s concepts?

Over the past three days, I have compiled a list of photographers from across the United States and from around the world, that I follow regularly or know personally.  However, I don’t know everyone on the planet – so it’s a safe bet that I’ve missed one or two… million.  This is where I need your help.  If you are a photographer, know one, follow one, or simply know of someone that would be great for this sort of collaboration, please pass this along.

I’m looking for tips or concepts to keep in mind while we’re creating work – no long presentations, nothing proprietary to your businesses- just friendly advice.  If you were at a convention or presentation and a fan came up to you and asked for a couple tips, what would you say?

I sent the initial email to my list of people this morning.  Please forward this post to as many photographers as you know.

If you have a concept for the list or a person I should contact, please leave a comment.  Thank you so much – I look forward to hearing from you.  Let’s make something!

– Jon

100 Tips from a Professional Photographer

This was forwarded to me a couple weeks ago.  I’m not sure who sent it to me, it’s just been an open tab in my Firefox for a while.

It’s fairly self-explanatory: a list of 100 things that should regularly be rolling around in every photographer’s head.  Now, I’m not one to repost lists of opinionated stuff that I see on-line, but this is a bit different.  It’s not preachy, it’s not all opinion-based (black and white is better than color, digital sucks… so on), and it’s not specific over-stated tech talk.  Most importantly, it’s just good advice.

Eric Kim is a street photographer who teaches workshops all over the world.  This is his brain child:

1. Just because someone has an expensive camera doesn’t mean that they’re a good photographer.
2. Always shoot in RAW. Always.
3. Prime lenses help you learn to be a better photographer.
4. Photo editing is an art in itself
5. The rule of thirds works 99% of the time.
6. Macro photography isn’t for everybody.
7. UV filters work just as well as lens caps.
8. Go outside & shoot photos rather than spending hours a day on photography forums.
9. Capture the beauty in the mundane and you have a winning photograph.
10. Film isn’t better than digital.
11. Digital isn’t better than film.
12. There is no “magic” camera or lens.
13. Better lenses don’t give you better photos.
14. Spend less time looking at other people’s work and more time shooting your own.
15. Don’t take your DSLR to parties.
16. Girls dig photographers.
17. Making your photos b/w doesn’t automatically make them “artsy”
18. People will always discredit your work if you tell them you “photoshop” your images. Rather, tell them that you process them in the “digital darkroom”.
19. You don’t need to take a photo of everything.
20. Have at least 2 backups of all your images. Like they say in war, two is one, one is none.
21. Ditch the neck strap and get a handstrap.
22. Get closer when taking your photos, they often turn out better.
23. Be a part of a scene while taking a photo; not a voyeur.
24. Taking a photo crouched often make your photos look more interesting.
25. Worry less about technical aspects and focus more on compositional aspects of photography.

A good defense is the best… defense.

We’re back for round 2 of the collaborative projects.  You may have seen the first post a little while ago.  For those just joining in, allow me to recap:  I began participation in a series of group endevors.  Each round involves an art director, a photographer, and a variety of other individuals (positions as needed).  We trade roles for each new project.

Basically, it’s a set of group building exercises.

The time around, our team tackled some tough technology (see what I did there?)  Anyway, one of the more important concerns in today’s world of digitally-creative individuals is security.  Our ads are a look at ioSafe’s nearly invincible hard drives. Dave Rodriguez, Nancy Garcia and myself decided to go “stereotypical” on the security.

As always – opinions and comments always appreciated.

– Jon