Audi R8: Before-After

From a recent shoot, I had the privilege of photographing an Audi r8 super car. I had the car for a brief time, and no rigging was permitted, so to make a rolling shot, I edited it in post using Photoshop. Here’s the before and after:

Befor – After

Lenticular Clouds

While driving home on California State Route 14 from Nevada, the winds began to gust and I noticed some unusual cloud formations. I was nearing Red Rocks Canyon State Park when I pulled over and took this shot. These are rare lenticular clouds, and yes, those iridescent purple hues are real. if you’ve never seen these clouds before, they are spectacular! I hope you get a chance to see them some day.

Cheers,
Ivan

New Space, New Place

My_Desk
New workspace!

Our move to a new place in Los Angeles is done. The exciting work of re-establishing myself and meeting new friends has begun. I’m excited about the change, but being a life-long east coaster, it’s going to take some time getting used to the culture here. Admittedly, I’m home sick. I miss my old house in Plainfield, and all my friends and family back in NJ, but LA is my new home and I’m committed to giving it a chance and to do the best work possible, give back to others, and make a new life here.

Cheers,
Ivan

Watermarking, why I think it’s nonsense.

Watermark-NOT

 

This is an opinion, to make the case for NOT UGLI-IFYING your photos with watermarks!

I see it every day, spackled over photos posted on social media sites all over the web. Watermarks are ugly, and they do nothing useful. We already know it’s your photo, you are sharing, right? So why be redundant.

Unless you are an amazing professional, the reality is there’s only a small chance your photos will ever be stolen. And watermarks will not prevent your images from getting stolen regardless of who you are.

Who are those horrible theives anyway?

Most likely, it’s the average person who wants to refresh their wallpaper, or a person who wants to make a print and hang it on their office or home wall. Yes, that’s awful, it’s wrong, they should ask permission first, and pay you, but you can’t stop them, watermark or no watermark. If they want it, they’re going to screen-shot it, or right-click it off your web page, crop or clone out the watermark in Photoshop or other editing software. A more savvy user may know code enough to decipher the HTML and download the original. Those dirty S0#$ of B!#%*’$!!!.

In the rare instance, someone steals your photo for commercial use, again, a watermark will not stop them either. However, there are some things you can do without watermarking to help prevent theft, that I will explain later. But more important, stop worrying about your photos being stolen.

Why are watermarks ugly?

They are distracting, egocentric, and destroy everything that is good about a photo. Leading lines, rule of thirds, golden mean, light, gesture, color, all those traits that make a photo strong, are rendered broken.

But what I dislike the most is the egocentricity. It’s as if you are screaming “This is MY signed masterpiece, I made it, I’m amazing, I own it, I’m great, and don’t even think of stealing my precious jewel. Your lucky I even let you look at it. And while you’re looking, don’t forget to press the “Like” button and “Vote for my photo” buttons.

The watermark is not real ink from a pen, or paint from a brush, and is not personally signed by your very own hand. It’s an electronic font, tattooed into the photo, like a branding iron on the assess of a herd of cattle.

Why should you care?

You shouldn’t. Get over yourself. Does it really matter that someone likes your photo enough to want to use it for wallpaper or a screen-resolution print for their office or home? The quality will be screen-resolution, and horrible quality at best. Do you really think you are outsmarting the bad guys?

Ok smartypants, what can I do to protect my precious masterpieces?

If you are that concerned about protecting your photos from theives, there some steps you can do that are better, actionable, and don’t muck-up your photos with goofy, ugly, ego marks.

1.  Register your photos copyrights with the U.S. copyright office. This way, if you register in time, you may  receive statutory damages up to $150,000 for willful infringment. Legal fees and costs may also be recovered. Here’s the link to the US Copyright Registration website. Ok, I registered my photo, how do I know someone stole my babies and are using them to earn commercial windfalls? This is tough, but there are some tools that can help search the web for stolen photos:

Google Reverse Image Search

TinEye

CopyScape

2. Add your copyright notice to your EXIF data. What is that? EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) is data that is embedded into your photo that contains info such as what camera, lens, focal length, f-stop, aperture, time of capture, GPS location data, and the biggie – copyright, and your name. This identifies the photo as copyright protected and that you are the owner/author/maker. You can add the copyright info, even if you don’t register your photo, and you should. If you are concerned about theft for commercial use, you must register with the government’s copyright office, to be certain. It’s illegal for someone to remove CMI (copyright managment info) in your EXIF data, that identifies your name as author and copyright holder, and the fines start at $2,500 and to up to $25,000 plus lawyers’ fees, if infringed upon. Most people don’t know these consequences.

3. Make it more difficult for others to take your photos without your permission. Disable “right-click” so that novices cannot easily download. READ the terms and conditions of any website you post your photo, particulary Facebook. You can watermark untill you are blue in the face, but once you post directly on certain social media websites, you are likely signing away your usage rights to them. This defeats the watermark, and turns it into just an ego mark. If you disagree with the terms, post a link to the photo from your own website, instead of uploading the photo itself. Be smart about this, plus social media sites often down-sample your photos, which deteriorates the quality and color accuracy. This is huge, no photographer that’s worth their salt wants their photos tampered with. The irony is, posting a watermarked photo on social media, is like saying, I love myself more than I care about the quality of my photos posted here.

4. Discreetly inform your viewers that your photo is copyright protected, in a caption, a comment region below or alongside the photo, not ON the photo. Like this: © 2016 Big Shot Photography. Do not use without permission.

5. If you must share a photo directly to a social media site, and you just can’t stop worrying about theft, downsize the photo. Re-sample the resolution/size down to a small, screen-resolution copy. This will make it impossible to use as a print. This may still not stop someone from stealing it for their website, but the smaller size will make it harder for them to want it.

Last words, please stop the insanity, and stop watermarking your photos. Let them be seen in all their magnificent glory, so you the art-tist can be proud. There may be exceptions where you must watermark (I cringe at the thought), but I can’t think of any right now. And yes, a long, long time ago, for a very short time, I too was the a victim of the watermark disease. Thankfully, I got the vaccine and my photos are all clean now.

Sound off! Agree, disagree, feel free to discuss and please do comment.

This is my opinion, and I’m sticking to it. 🙂

Cheers,

Ivan

I saw the Oculus

The new WTC Transportation Hub

I recently visited the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub, with some friends for a photo outing. The hub was designed by internationally acclaimed architect Santiago Calatrava, and it just opened on March 3, 2016. Although as you can see above, construction is still going on.

The design and position of the Hub will maximize the autumnal equinox sun rays, which occur in September, around the anniversary of the catastrophe. Calatrava designed the Oculus to resemble a soaring bird with wings spread, to add a spiritual dimension to the structure.

At the top of the structure is long window to let in light, known as the Oculus.

It is stunning to see, and will no doubt become a destination for tourists when visiting downtown or the 911 memorial museum nearby.

Here’s a few more from my visit:

Cheers,
Ivan

 

 

Mercedes Benz SLR, Before-After

I was attending a conference in Florida a few years ago and noticed this beautiful car parked under the hotel entrances’ canopy. It was the perfect photo opportunity as the canopy blocked the direct sun and most of the reflections. I took advantage and shot a few quick ones. I had forgotten  about the shots until recently, and decided to process one.

Here’s the before-after. Not too bad for a spontaneous photoshoot, using the existing light!

Ivan

Appa, Before After

Here’s the before after overlay – from the studio and into the forest!

I like showing the transformation of a photo. To learn how I did this, see my previous post here: Appa the Dog Photoshoot

BTS Appa the Dog Photoshoot

A behind-the-scenes look at how I photographed and composed the following photograph of our daughters’ wonderful dog, Appa!

07 Photoshop Layers

The studio setup:

  1. Key light – 22″ beauty dish with grid, Einstein 640, mounted to a super boom on a C-stand.
  2. Kicker – Einstein 640, on a back light stand.
  3. The softbox seen on the left side was not used.

01 Appa - Studio Setup

Camer settings:

  1. Canon 5DIII
  2. 1/125 second @ f/18
  3. ISO 100
  4. 24-70 mm f/2.8 L @ 35mm

The Raw file was processed in Photoshop Lightroom CC, and edited in Photoshop CC for the silhouette.

02 Appa-Studio-Shoot

To silhouette, I used the quick selection tool and dragged across Appa to make a rough selection. Since the background was smooth and contrasty, the rough selection was a decent start.

The area that did not work well was her shadow on the floor due to similar tones. Since this area will be covered with a foreground image, I was not concerned about an accurate selection there, so I let it go.

Next, I used the “Refine Edge” mode in Photoshop to fine tune the selection edges, so Appa’s fur along the edges, would look realistic when cut out and placed in a new scene.

Here’s a look at the “Refine Edge” screen:

03 Refine-Edge

You’ll notice, it did a pretty good job with “smart radius” selected. I played with the amount and may have increased it slightly, to what you see above.

Next, I searched my collection of background photos, for something interesting and found this shot taken with my Fuji X100s mirrorless camera:

04 DSCF0270-Trees-sharp

The challenge with adding an image into a different background scene is making it look realistic enough to fool the eye into believing it was photographed that way.

The foreground would look odd with Appa floating in the scene, so to make it look realistic, I softened the background using a lens blur filter in OnOne software’s Perfect Effects 8.

See here:

05 DSCF0270-Edit-Trees-Blur

I don’t recall the specific settings for the lens blur effect, but you will need to experiment and adjust as each image is unique. I wanted enough of the trees be recognizable so there would be no mistake it was a forest, yet have them appear blurry, to help solve the difference in camera angles from Appa and the scene behind her.

To solve the difference in colors of lighting, I created a layer in photoshop on top. I sampled an average green color from the background trees, filled the layer. I created a mask and on the mask, I loaded the silhouette of Appa as a selection, then deleted it to reveal only the green color over Appa.

The color cast was too heavy, so I reduced the opacity of the layer to 25%.

06 Color-Overlay

The photo was taking shape but needed a foreground of grasses, to portray the forest ground. I found this shot in my archives taken at the NJ shore:09 Appa-Grassy Forground

All I needed was the grass, so I added the photo to the layer stack at the top, above the silo of Appa, but just below the green overlay layer. I added a layer mask and used a graduated fill to eliminate the sky and fade the grass into the scene. I used a soft paint brush using white to reveal some of the strands of grass, so they didn’t look cut off abruptly, and used black to paint away some of the grasses over Appa, to make it look more realistic.

I lowered the opacity of the foreground grass slightly, to 70%, to blend into the scene.

Here’s the finished image:

10 Appa-FINISH

 

I ordered an 11 x 14  print on metallic paper from Bay Photo, framed with walnut wood and a simple white mat with clear acrylic on top.

The image on metallic paper is stunning and adds a unique 3-dimensional quality to the composition.

It has been well received, and no one knew it was a composition until I spilled the beans!

It was great fun and I hope this inspires others.

Cheers, Ivan

Reasons for hiring a professional photographer

  1. A pro knows his gear, inside and out.
  2. A pro has invested thousands of hours to master his craft.
  3. A pro understands proper exposure and creative exposure.
  4. A pro knows the rules of composition.
  5. A pro has invested thousands of dollars in the best tools to do the best work.
  6. A pro knows how to use the industry’s best software tools.
  7. A pro uses web hosting and safe backup and storage systems.
  8. A pro knows retouching and color correction.
  9. A pro knows how to use and shape light, both natural and artificial.
  10. A pro knows how to pose subjects to get the most natural look.

Why you pay a pro

 

 

Pictured above are the base tools and their approximate costs that a pro photographer needs. Yes, a pro photographer needs two camera bodies, just in case one fails on the job, there’s a backup.

There are much more accessories not pictured such as tripods, monopods, camera straps, camera bags, flash accessories, light stands, reflectors, telephoto lens extenders, lens filters, portable hard drives, ink-jet photo printers, paper, inks, and dozens of software additions that are needed.

And, there’s additional costs for insurance, transportation expenses, assistants, stylists, props, backdrops, seminars and training expenses.

What you get when you hire a professional photographer is all of the above. It’s a valuable investment in his/her time, energy and expense to get to the level of competency that is required to be competitive and excellent.

Next time you think you can shoot it yourself, re-read this blog post!

Bike Details

It’s been a long while since I posted so I thought I’d start off with a quick behind the scenes photoshoot. Inspired by Scott Kelby and Tim Wallace’s photography of exotic and expensive sports cars, so I decided to give it a try myself. To begin with, I don’t own an exotic car, nor do I have access to one. And, I certainly can’t afford one myself. However, I knew I could use their lighting principles on any shiny object. So, I decided to shoot my daughters bike!

Click images to see larger.

I purchased the bike for my daughter as a gift many years ago. I don’t know how old she was, but I found the bike at a Toys Are Us  nearby.

As things go, my daughter never got into mountain biking, and the bike sat in the garage for years, hardly used.

After being inspired by Scott Kelby’s detailed photographs of an Acura sports car, and Tim Wallace’s amazing work and tutorials, I thought I’d try shooting the bike!

First, I had to clean the bike. It was filthy and it took several hours to scrub it clean.

I don’t own a studio, and my basement is tiny, but that’s where I setup the shoot because I wanted to control the ambient light and get it as dark as possible. My home is an old stone colonial, built in 1780, and is on the historic registry in New Jersey, so you can imagine how limited the space is in my basement.

The last photo above shows the strip bank in relationship to the bike. The modeling light helped me figure out the lighting, and  I moved the front wheel many times, to get the angle just right. I switched from a prime 24mm lens to a 24-70mm zoom and found it much better for getting in tight and composing.

Settings
Canon 5DIII
24-70mm f/2.8 L
24mm f/1.4 L
f/20 @ 1/100
Some shots were @ f/22
ISO 100, and auto white balance

Lighting
Einstein 640 @ approx. 1/3 power
10 x 26 Strip bank
Triggered with sync cord
Avenger A5043 Stand with extension boom

I hope to get the opportunity to do this again on an exotic car, or motorcycle. I love what some people have done to customize their Harley Davidson motorcycles, and I’d love to shoot one someday. It’s always fun using big studio strobes, and learning. I feel I can do better, but I’m pleased with these shots as start. I hope to do many more. 😉

Cheers,
Ivan

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