While it may not be nice to fool Mother Nature, photographers have been doing just that since Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths photographed the “Cottingley Fairies” in 1917, but a lot has changed since then and we’re now more skeptical of images that appear “shopped.” (Portrait photographers engaged in retouching even before Mathew Brady opened his New York studio in 1844.) To me, part of the fun of photography is enhancing reality, creating images that could be true or might be true in a parallel Fringe-like universe. That’s one of the reasons I like shooting digital infrared images because photography, for me, is all about having fun and if you happen to play a harmless—emphasis on harmless—photographic April Fool’s prank on someone, let’s hope it’s accepted in the spirit of the day.
Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, reports that a study of online retailing in 2006 found that a third of online shoppers with broadband connections abandoned a site if its pages took 4 seconds or longer to load; two-thirds quit when the delay reached 6 seconds. Recent studies by Google and Microsoft found that people abandon a site with a page loading delay of 250 milliseconds. If, as is becoming common in some photographers’ web design, there is a prelude before your real content launches or your server is slow, it does not bode well for increasing the number of visitors to your site.
It doesn’t matter what you call it—available light, unavailable light, available darkness or low light photography—often the most rewarding photographs are produced when working under the most challenging lighting conditions. Photographs made under these lighting conditions are different from those made on a sunny day and often have a more eye-catching look. They also open the night and low light to making photos, times you might not have thought about as presenting fun photo ops in the past.
Mixing monochrome with color is a fun technique, and one of my personal guidelines about any software use is to have fun with your photography. In all of the manipulations and screen shots in this article I used Adobe Photoshop (www.adobe.com), but you can use any image-editing program that lets you apply Layers. There are a number these days, including the less-expensive Adobe Photoshop Elements and even plug-in programs like onOne Software’s Perfect Layers 2 (www.ononesoftware.com) that allow you to work in Layers from programs like Lightroom and Aperture, and Nik Software (www.niksoftware.com) products that make any adjustment you make a Layer within the file itself.
While some people believe the proverb below is really a curse, what’s often overlooked is that it’s part of three such phrases that includes “May you come to the attention of those in authority” and concludes with “May you find what you are looking for.” There is no doubt that we’re living in interesting times, photographically speaking. The paradigm shift that replaced film with silicon continues while spiraling off in different directions with SLRs delivering more megapixels and image quality than the Honda Accord-priced medium format digital backs of a few years ago and small chip interchangeable-lens mirrorless cameras that are more powerful than early digital SLRs. As the point-and-shoot market implodes, being replaced by ever-more competent smartphones, the paradigm shift doesn’t show any signs of abating, but as I’ve said here before, it’s not the tool that makes the image, it’s the photographer.
Speedotron’s power pack and head systems are the studio lighting world’s equivalent of the American muscle car. They’re powerful, made in the U.S.A., and ruggedly built to take hard use. Since its beginnings the company has offered two lines of lighting systems for photographers with different requirements. The premium-priced Black Line is intended for commercial shooters, while Brown Line products are aimed at portrait photographers, yet when used normally both have similar quality, reliability, and longevity.
I said it last month but it bears repeating: “Never was there a time when it was so easy or inexpensive to create a great-looking website than right now.” Yet one emerging trend is to pack as much text onto the opening screen as possible and if a picture must be used it should be tiny and maybe show a portrait of the photographer. There’s an old joke whose punch line is, “First, you have to get their attention.” That’s true of websites as well. That landing page should be your signature image—that gasp factor—that makes the viewer look, linger, and want to see more. Give it a try.
The important characteristics of any studio lighting system are the quantity, quality, and color of the light they produce. Other factors such as recycle time, type of output control, build quality, and the ability to accept accessories may be crucial, but for many of us the most essential element is price. I was impressed by previous Flashpoint monolights (April, 2012, issue of Shutterbug) because they’re rugged, dependable, and significantly, for the advanced amateur and aspiring pro, inexpensive. Now Flashpoint has introduced a new family of monolights—the DG series—that builds upon all of the positive aspects of previous models and takes them in a new direction.
Never was there a time when it was so easy or inexpensive to create a great-looking website than right now. I created my own site (www.joefarace.com) using a WordPress template from Obox (www.obox-design.com) that’s hosted on GoDaddy.com and the whole magilla cost a little over $100—along with lots of my own time. What about your site? If you read Web Profiles regularly you know that from time to time I like to feature Shutterbug readers and if you would like to see your website or blog featured here, click my site’s Contact button and tell me about it.
Plug-In Of The Month
Want to add an arty touch to your photographs? Simplify 4 from Topaz Labs is the easiest as well as most fun way of creating digital artwork from your images. This latest version costs $39.99 and includes more than 100 presets collected into five categories—plus your own customized presets and favorites—to produce more or less instant artistic transformations. I say “more or less” because Simplify 4 offers sliders that you can use to tweak for adding depth and localized contrast, for example. There’s also a set of edge-aware and selective brushes that can be used to dodge, burn, smooth, or brush out effects.