Workflow – Part 3

Workflows as we discussed in Workflow – Part 2, is supposed to be a logical progression from start to finish. No worries if you do not understand the process outlined in Workflow – Part 2. While the principles will work in whatever project you apply them, the logic or thought process may not be yours. Allow me to give another perspective of this process so that you can break it down for yourself.

A workflow is “a process designed to stop detail loss; to produce the best quality product in the least possible amount of time.” This is my working definition of “workflow”; a dictionary definition gives this meaning: “progress of work: the progress or rate of progress of work done by a business, department, or person”. I have described this at the level of a personal project but will become business if you use it for your photography studio and departmental if your studio hires employees. See how quickly this expands?

Let the progression be your own, but be careful to include the details. In my experience working in the corporate world, one practice run on a workflow is good and two is better but three is wise. I have run it through on paper the first time, working out the major problems. The second time I run it through with friends, explaining to them the details: I ask for their questions, understanding and critiques. Third time through, I take a test product through my process making notes of snags and problems.

Make no mistake, by this time I am tired and ready to quit. This is the point at which you are closest to letting the workflow do your heavy lifting. You are doing a great job!

One of the best ways of making certain your workflow has everything you ought to have in your completed product is to write these details on paper. Documents are your friends!

Portraits – Candid Scrapbook

How do I use candid shots in a scrapbook?

There are a few things to remember before getting into this process:

  1. Scrapbooking starts with a good photo.
  2. Scrapbooking does not need full face shot (unless  you “the creator of the scrapbook” require it)
  3. Scrapbooking is meant to tell a story (pictorially and in written narrative). It depends on how the story is written about what pictures the creator chooses for the book.

Now this is not to burden you down and squash your creativity; however this is meant speak on the photography side of what to expect in a candid shot and how many photos you may shoot or reject as you choose between the “good” and “great”.

As we have covered in the earlier posts, all photographers will take more shots in a portrait session than they would in a studio of a piece of jewelry. This is to ease the stress on the subject by asking them to hold an uncomfortable place for an indeterminate amount of time.

For instance, the piece of jewelry is not going anywhere and will not lose shape under common conditions. For a model or paying customer, this changes dramatically because even sitting in a relaxed position, their radiant smile, twinkling eyes and squared shoulders can become a dark frown, dull eyes and rounded shoulders.

So as to avoid these issues, I urge you to learn to let the natural motion continue of daily life and capture those moments and times of spontaneous laughter, joy and thought.

Do not be surprised about getting 1 good photo out of 15 or more, because it was the continuous shooting which enabled you get that 1 good shot.

Candid shot is best focused on the persons emotions. That is to say, ask yourself what could take away from the emotion being shown. Next ask yourself what is important to draw out the emotion being shown which is already inside the viewing frame.

Have fun, because that is important! If you are not having fun, your model or person of interest may be keying off of your attitude or intensity. Besides, it is the holiday season, fun is in the air!

Leaning Your Equipment

I have talked a lot about learning as much about my equipment as possible before investing in something new or additional for the studio. I almost did not take my own advise. Let me tell you a story.

I have become “lazy” in the digital part of photography by letting my camera suggest the proper exposure time for a photo. I usually shoot in manual mode with my Canon Rebel xTi, but I have only used half of the capabilities given to me in manual mode.

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Just yesterday as I was on an errand, I looked into the sky to see some of the most beautiful clouds back-lit by the sun. So I got my camera, made sure my settings were proper for shooting into the sun. Raising my camera to my eye and observing the metering, it showed that the photo would have been much to over-exposed for the style of shot I was seeking, so I forgot the meter and raised my shutter speed to 1/50 of a second. Then as the instinctive digital photographer I am, I looked at the LCD screen to see how the shot came out. *Fail Buzzer*

I have wanted to distance myself from these “fail-safe” practices by pursuing extensive education in film photography. I wanted to know what the conditions for a shot around me were as well as knowing how to manipulate the camera settings to get the best shot for style, exposure or journalism.

So I began asking myself, why I thought film would help me accomplish this goal. My answer came to this: “Film is 1 set quality of ISO per roll.” Thus the ISO cannot be easily changed without risking the exposed film.

Guess what? I can start this training by setting my digital camera ISO and refrain from changing it. This will give me only the options to change shutter speed and aperture to best suit my shooting preferences. While this will not keep me from watching the camera meter I can accomplish my goal in maintaining a certain ISO quality and working with more effective resources.

Keeping It All Straight

When I started actively building the paper existence of my photography studio I was asked a lot a questions by interested friends and acquaintances. They were not trying to pry or be rude by asking questions, but I often would find myself silent or stammering in an attempted reply to their questions.

I find it necessary to have a goal, or perhaps more accurately described as a mark on the horizon toward which I am moving. This keeps me moving consistently forward in one direction. Since I am one person, owner of one business, it works out very well.

I couch this topic a little in the aspect of a corporate vision. Hobbyists and parents, don’t be discouraged; this post is still directed for your benefit. By the way, please understand I do not intend to be condescending when I say “hobbyists” or “parents”. I am still a hobbyist myself in differing activities and I am the son of parents. I love and respect you both.

Parents, in my opinion you have a blessed and unique position to raise and teach your children according to your desires and standard.

Hobbyists, you too have a unique ability to spend time at your leisure doing the thing you love without the requirements of deadlines or financial pressure bearing on your expertise in the field of your hobby. The only difference between you and me is that I have the added stress of selling my expertise and photos, whereas you are free to enjoy and share both.

So parents and hobbyists, please enjoy as you read the hard learned lessons of a “working grunt”.

Vision: (It may be best to leave this broad definition to answer last while you answer the specific things below.)

Goal: (What do you want of your photography. Style? Signature work? Memory Keep-sake?)

Success: (What does success look like when you achieve a goal?)

  • Having something in hand to show off?
  • A party with your pictures displayed in slide show?
  • Decorating your house with your photography?

Focus: (What is important for you to remember as you pick-up your camera and adjust it for each shot?)

As you define these things, not only are you setting yourself up for success, but I find it so much easier for me to articulate my aspirations and desires to friends and acquaintances in answer to their questions.

Foetoss Means – Part 3

So why “Foetoss”? “I get the whole photography and light connection, but what is with the whole light source and verb tense stuff?”

This is my theory in strategy for photography: a vision must be large, almost extravagant, inexhaustible and full of practical, achievable steps to each plateau of success.

Now with my theory published, I will disclose the connection between the studio name and  theory.

My vision is centered on God. From my viewpoint everything I am; everything I have and everything that exists around me has far too much order to happened by random “chance”. I believe that everything about us and around us points to Creative Intelligent Design. Therefore I put “chance” aside as a source of creative power and find no other possibility for  a source of creative power than an intelligent being whom must be far more intelligent than me.

There have been massive amounts of time, money and energy expended to find some or any sign of life within our universe besides our own with no substantial proof in return. This is not intended to be a criticism of anyone who is or has invested their time, money and/or energy into this search. I have many friends who are or have been involved in these searches and I will not offend or slander them in any way.

With an intelligent design by a being more intelligent than I am, responsible for creating the universe can only describe one; God. The center of my photography vision. Now the Greek word “Foe-toss” meaning “of light” means that “Foe-toss” is only possible because of “light”. Direct application to photography, without light there would be no way that we could photograph anything.

How does this tie back to God other than my belief that He created everything and light by which to see it all, He actually is spoken of as light Himself.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

I John 1:1-5

Elements of…SURPRISE!

I have for years, been thinking about “the perfect shot” and how I would shoot it, so as to contain all elements and little background pieces that will make it refreshing and new at every glance. In short I wanted my photos to be timeless, refreshing, new and always showing something new to the viewer.

Bringing together every element in one photograph can either take so much time that you lose the interest of your subject, lose money or make the scene too busy. The object of photography is quite different in that each element draws the viewer’s focus, directing their attention to and unifying the photo as it all points to the primary subject.

For instance: say a photographer is shooting a cover photo for a band. There are five members in the band and they want to show case the instruments as well. If each member of the band plays different instrument, that means there are 10 things to fit in the frame besides finding the right background to fit the music album’s theme. [Notice we have begun to number the elements that will be in the shot. This is ways I begin to organize a group shot.]

The last article we posted “Rough start…Smooth finish” we talked about texture and how it can add to your photo. Now we are looking for a background that will bring the band members and their instruments together as a visually cohesive group. The background should resemble a place that the band would frequent, such as a recording studio room, city square, performing arts center or even walking through a parking garage on their way to a performance. (Feel free to think “outside the box.” No one really likes the stereo-typical band shot.)

One thing is certain, that when one thing is slightly out of the “norm” but obviously intentional, it will captivate the attention of the observant viewer and usually becomes a favorite. So have fun as you add to your “repertoire” of creativity!

A studio set-up

Creating a studio background sweep for that “all professional” look is not that difficult. Your attention should be drawn to the object or subject of interest and not the lighting or set-up of the shot. In other words be sure that you lights are pointed directly at your subject and not slightly off to any one side.

Setting up your own studio does not have to be complex or involved! The basics can get confusing if they are not properly explained. I will post some pictures of my studio set-up with unusual equipment so that you can get a visual understanding of how it can work and improvise with your own set-up.

Equipment list:

2 lengths of 12.5 feet of paracord, 1 pane of 8″ x 10″ glass, fabric background sweep, Prop for glass and jewelry (cleaning pen cap and a 2 inch ring box), over head structure (Be certain it is sturdy! I used 2 securely installed ceiling light fixtures), tripod, remote shutter release, 2 soft light diffusers, 2 lights, camera and a good macro lens (as well as the obvious batteries and memory card).

I began my studio construction with an over head structure that would hold my background sweep and a light.

I began by taking a length of paracord, tying an overhand knot in the end and inserting it between the wood of the light fixture (pictured on the left) and it’s diffuser. Thus with the pull of gravity and the light weight pull of hanging objects it will be caught in a “pinching” hold.

I used this same technique for each time I made a contact point with the light fixture. For knots that were not at the ends of the paracord I used the overhand knot on a bight.

Be creative while playing around with methods of friction because friction properly applied is your best help and not destructive!

Friction, as illustrated on the left, is holding the light in one place along the paracord. The paracord is looped around the open end of the stand making it easily adjustable along the support line and providing way to  adjust the placement of light on the object.

It rarely is a good idea to have hard light shining directly on the object or subject, so I removed the reflective outside of photo reflectors and used the white fabric of the reflector disk as a diffuser. Again I used the convenient open end of the stand from which to hang the reflector disk. The reflector disk must be pulled back so that it covers the “shooting area” where the object or subject is placed. I used a straight pin to gather the reflector disk fabric around the power cord, nicely covering the shooting area of the background sweep.

A note of caution: Be careful of hanging anything heavy on the line. The weakest part of the over head structure in this set-up is the diffuser.

We have discussed how one of our lights is set-up, but there is another light that needs to be set-up at a lower angle and portable to figure out the best position to illuminate the facets of the piece or person in focus.

Let me introduce the “chair mount”. If you are familiar with lashing techniques I used the square lash to secure the light to a chair back making sure that the power cord for the light was long enough to reach any place the light may need to be positioned.

Having extra paracord from lashing the light to the back of the chair, it conveniently became the securing point for the reflector disk.

Now that the studio is ready for some of the smaller details, an 8×10 inch piece of glass (clean from dust and dirt) is a nice addition to reflect an object. Bring in you camera, tripod and objects to photograph and begin to play with object position and camera perspectives. Take your time with the first piece being sure you have properly set your cameras white balance, ISO and shutter speed to properly show off the beauty of your photo’s focus.

Have fun and  be creative, because fun and creativity will make a better statement than perfect professional rigidity.