29 July 2013

The Disappointment of a Failed Proposal

Land Between the Lakes, TN ©2007 Terrell Neasley
“A large-boned unexceptional young woman. Yet as soon as she disrobed and took her place on the platform, she became not only a bare body but a splendid living design. She became a nude.”
~Maureen Mullarkey

Off the Cliff Edge, Black Canyon, CO
©2006 Terrell Neasley
You know that feeling you get when you stump your little toe and there are other people around? The pain is excruciating as hell, but somehow you are able to stifle the outburst that is welling up like a volcano in your throat so as not to startle or frighten those around you. Funny thing is, those same people will often know exactly what you are going through and the second they see you, they experience a sort of phantom pain in their own toe. You see their faces wince as YOU try to keep a straight face.

Well, that's what I experience when I got a letter in the mail last week from a client who gave me the final verdict on a proposal for a project that was going to net me between $6 and $8 Grand over 2 months of shooting. This project has been in the works for close to 3 months, which was started back in April. Now normally, I don't discuss or show pics of my client work so much. And I'm not going into detail here but suffice to say it was more of the REASON I lost the gig, more than anything. I got the "we regret to inform you" letter and took it in stride, but it was hard to let go without calling the client and making sure I didn't miss something.

Nevada Desert, ©2012 Terrell Neasley

"If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment."
~ Henry David Thoreau 

The "why" was because of my nudes. And yes, my nude work was brought up in the beginning. It was known about throughout the entire negotiation, the planning, and narrowing down of the scope of work and all parties involved. But just as the trigger was about to be pulled to green-light the project, it was the wife of one of the decision-makers who called a halt to everything. Apparently, as she revealed to her husband, my nudes did not set the right precedence the company needed to uphold. I countered with the fact that I did not hide my artwork and many photogs shoot nudes, but the simple reason that I do it and do it so often disqualified me from the association I desired. So this was not an executive decision, but rather the (non-employee) WIFE of an executive who made the call for him. And chances are, they'll take my idea and pay another photographer to help them realize the concept I had them so excited about.

Nevada Desert, ©2013 Terrell Neasley
Yeah, it stinks. Am I over it...no. But understand this. My nudes are mine. I'm not halting or altering my process. I shoot the nude and will continue to shoot the nude as often as I can shoot and edit and find some time to eat and sleep in between. Am I crazy? Probably so. That's never been a debated case.  So as maddening as this is, I have to understand and respect it. I've always held that not everybody will be able to appreciate what I do for one reason or another. Some have a moral issue with it. Some have a religious problem with nudes. Others see it as pornography, plain and simple. Regardless, I still respect their values and opinions. The only difference in this case is that I had every indication to believe we were moving forward and there was a lot of money involved. I feel like falling on the floor and throwing a temper tantrum like my grand-daughter might. But the reality is I have to keep with my respect of other people's tolerances and move on. Its a failed quest. Next challenge, accepted.

16 July 2013

Riding on Top of the Wave

Art Model, Emma ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse!  As I have often found in travelling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one's position, and be bruised in a new place."
~Washington Irving

There is a lot of stuff going on in this business of photography. I can spend the rest of the month in constant discussions without taking a rest and still never touch on half the issues. This is definitely an interesting time in photography...a new paradigm shift, possible devaluation of the services, and trends that will, in all likelihood change how we capture and manipulate light. There is enough to make you wonder whether or not you even want to venture into this thing. You may even contemplate what gear you decide to purchase, and the brand or format. As with all times of change, transition is a definite challenge. My goal is to ride it out like a surfer on a wave. In which case, it is highly important to be on top of said wave, as opposed to being under it!

Art Model, Christina
©2013 Terrell Neasley
What do I mean with all this? Lets look at a couple of points. If you've been reading my blog lately, I've touched on problems for the pro photographer. Look at the news and you can see the Chicago Sun Times firing its entire photo staff. You can read about copyright infringements for photographers in record numbers. There is an increasing expectation of free/cheap services from photographers. Many wedding planners will spend big on food, flowers, the dress, and the venue, but when it comes to the photography, they look for the deal or find the cheapest person holding a camera they can. Let their house catch fire and the first thing they grab is the photo albums. I've been in situations where I've watched a client pay huge sums for everything else to cater an event, then call me and ask me to photograph it for credit and exposure. There is not one event or situation I have worked where the "exposure" ended up as a future gig that made me money. And until they start taking photo credits in lieu of cash for my rent, I'll continue to charge my regular fees, thank you very much.

What about the future of DSLRs? Are these big cameras gonna last? Are they still necessary? I'm predicting that within 2 years, a major camera manufacture will introduce a mirrorless full-frame DSLR. I think its inevitable. Some include the almost 3 times crop sensor like the Nikon 1 system, the 2 time crop Micro Four/Thirds format like the Olympus OM-D, or my fave, the Sony NEX system, particularly the NEX-6 with the APS-C sensor found in DSLRs. Canon is still trying to find its way into the mirrorless market. Some of these gimmicky features like built-in wireless/GPS may be handy for some, but not the masses. But mirrorless technology? Yes, this is coming to a DSLR real soon. Big and clunky will be a thing of the past and that's okay.

Art Model, Alethea ©2013 Terrell Neasley
Times are a-changing. I'm not stopping my photography, so I want to be on top of this wave, hanging ten. I can even tell my own tendencies have adjusted. With travel becoming more and more important to me, weight is of a major concern. I want smaller gear. While I'm still partial to my Nikon D800E for fine art, I don't really want a DSLR second body like I used to have when I shot Canon, along with almost every L-series lens out there. There's not another full-frame to complement my 800e (that I like) and I don't want to duplicate that platform. The D7100 may be close, but I still prefer full-frame. Depending on the money, I think I'd opt for the Sony RX-1R (for $3000) when becomes available, as my second body.

"It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory."
~W. Edwards Deming

Art Model, Emily ©2013 Terrell Neasley
What I would really like is the Leica M Type 240. Now we're talking about a SYSTEM here. Check out this review. If you don't read all of it, skip to the end. Spoiler: He buys the camera! The Leica is the Mercedes of 35mm format of cameras. Its a rangefinder and is definitely not cheap at just under $8 grand. I would love to travel with just a rangefinder and a single lens, probably the 35mm prime lens. That set up would put me $11,000 in the hole. I can do a lot of traveling on $11,000, or actually $7,000 (the difference between the Sony and the Leica). The thing is that, I just feel like I need to be a Leica owner. There are just some things you need to do at some point in your life. If you haven't done it yet, I think its a must to fly first class on a good airline. I always thought it was trivial. I mean, everybody gets there at the same time, right?

Under the Super-moon,
Art Models Christina, Emma, Emily, Alethea
©2013 Terrell Neasley
No. First Class is the shit. Even if you only experience it once, you need to do it. In addition to that, get behind the wheel of a luxury car on an extended trip...not just a test drive. Whatever you have to do, make that happen. You'll never look at cars the same after that. And in the same light...I think I need to be a Leica owner. You don't have to own the plane you are flying First Class in, nor the Mercedes for your road trip. The same cannot be said of this Leica M Type 240. Renting it would not be the same. You must own it.

I'm certain there is still room on top of this wave, but as any surfer will tell you, you're going to have to practice, get to know your way around a board, and understand the water. In photography, understand the light. Get to know your way around the new technologies. And practice, practice, practice.

11 July 2013

Eleven Ways to Reduce Camera Shake

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart." 
~ Arnold Newman

How many times have you had to throw away a shot because of instability or camera shake. I just picked up the Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 with Vibration Control. Tamron is the only lens manufacturer that makes a stabilized 24-70mm f/2.8 lens (surprisingly) and its significantly cheaper than both Canon's or Nikon's. As for this post, I'm not getting into who's got the better lens. This one is on methods to reduce camera shake and options to stabilizing your camera. I'm having to assume you understand terms such as stops, f/stop, aperture, and so forth. You may have to Google some of them if you aren't familiar with the terms of ask me in the comment section. So here we go. Eleven methods to reduce camera shake:

1. Fast Glass - Usually we're talking a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or wider, such as an f/2, f/1.4, etc. Remember, the smaller the number, the wider the aperture. A wider aperture lets in more light, which allows for a faster shutter speed.

2. IS, VR, VC - Image Stabilization (Canon), Vibration Reduction (Nikon), Vibration Control (Tamron). These are additional features that some lenses have that allow more steadiness, especially when you are hand-holding the camera. Most of the lenses with this capability will claim 3 or 4 addition stops of control using an internal mechanism that compensates for lens movement and shake.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
3. High Shutter Speeds - This may sound obvious, but nonetheless its the main thing that allows you to get a sharp image when photographing a moving object. Movement has to do with time and the shutter controls time. A shutter speed of 1/60th or faster will usually allow you to hand-hold your camera to shoot a slow moving subject. If you are trying to freeze the action of a passing car, you'll need to be at 1/250 or better. Try freezing the action of a baseball as it comes off a bat and you better be at 1/500th or better.

4. High ISO - ISO regulates the sensitivity of the sensor to light. High ISOs means you are increasing the sensor's sensitivity to light so it takes less light to get the same shot. This is going to depend on the quality of your camera. If you have a Canon 40D, you'll max out at ISO 1600 before the image starts to look grainy. However, if you're shooting a Canon 5D Mark III, you can go upwards of ISO 12,800 with ease. That's a 3-stop improvement. Shoot the lowest ISO you can get away with, as a general rule, but make sure you get the shot.

5. Use a Tripod - This is the easiest way to stabilize your camera. You simply take it out of your hands and put it on a tripod. Just don't go cheap. I'll talk bad about you if you spend $2000 on a camera and put it on $60 sticks. Expect to fork over $200 on a good set of legs and decent ball head, but there are definitely deals to be found. I personally like carbon fiber tripods and use this Manfrotto as my main tripod.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
6. Flash - Shutter speeds get slow because there is not enough light coming hitting the sensor. Flash fixes this by flooding the scene with light thereby allowing a faster shutter speed. You can have flash guns (speedlights), or mono-lights on light stands. Your camera will usually sync up to 1/250th of a second with flash, but if you need to go faster, the latest flashes will have some sort of high-speed sync feature built in. I use Nikon SB-700's and Paul C. Buff Einsteins.

"I never have taken a picture I’ve intended. They’re always better or worse."
~ Diane Arbus

7. Rear Curtain Sync Flash - Wait...what?? Its called rear-curtain sync which is another feature on many flash guns. You're basically telling the flash to fire just as the rear-curtain (or second curtain) of the shutter begins to close. In the normal mode, flashes fire as soon as the shutter opens. The problem is that on longer exposures, that freezes the image initially, but since the shutter doesn't close right away, movement is still being captured on top of that frozen image. With rear-curtain sync, the flash fires right before the shutter closes, so the frozen part of the image is on top of the movement.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
8. Cable Release - Or Remote Shutter. This keeps you from having to touch the camera at all. When you REALLY need a steady shot, even hitting the shutter release button can cause camera shake and make you miss that clean shot.

9. Mirror Lock-up - Okay so you have a cable release. If you're doing some night time photography with pin-point stars in the skyline, you can still get camera shake simply via the camera's normal operating mechanisms, specifically the mirror raising and lowering. Mirror lock-up makes you have to hit the shutter button, (or cable release button) twice. One to raise the mirror and lock it in the open position, and then again to actually open the shutter and take the picture. The mirror comes down again after the shutter closes and the operating cycle ends. This is a menu function on most digital cameras.

10. Intentionally Underexpose - This is very interesting and goes against most rules. Its often frowned upon to say, "I'll fix it in post". But essentially, that's exactly what you want to do here. If you're sitting on a shutter speed of 1/30 and you need at least 1/125th of a shutter to stop the action, you're talking about a 2-stop difference. I'll take that. By manually going to 1/125th, you are cutting the light and underexposing the image, but the action is frozen. Okay, if you're shooting RAW...no problem. You can increase that exposure those two stops again in Adobe Camera RAW or Lightroom. The important thing is to get the shot, so if it takes fixing it in post, then so be it!

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
11. Photoshop CC Camera Shake Reduction Feature - And finally, speaking of fixing it in post...this is exactly that. The latest version of Photoshop, Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud) has a feature that does an excellent job on camera shake compensating. Whatever algorithm this thing runs to make a determination on how the image should look is phenomenal. It doesn't perform near as well with an image that is simply out of focus, though. So if you're manually focusing or if the camera auto-focuses on a point other than the spot you intended, its not going to fix that so well. But if you have good focus, but simply can't be still, its got your back. So movement issues...yes. Focus issues...not so much.

08 July 2013

What I Wish Photographers Would Do, Part 3

Art Model, Kristi C. ©2013 Terrell Neasley
Alright. Here we are at the last and final part of this series, "What I Wish Photographers Would Do." And this third part is probably the one that means the most, benefits you the greatest, and cultivates the photography trade in the best manner possible. So as a matter of much import, this last part should most likely have been brought up first. However, in the natural order of things, it has to come last. Now where are we? Number 1...Stop giving away work. Number 2... Study your trade. With the first point, I'm trying to get you to respect yourself and this business. We already make it seem too easy with our clients. There's no reason to validate that notion. And with the second point, I want to illustrate how important it is to grow your skill set and improve your ability to get a shot in any situation. So what's the third part?

Part 3: GIVE BACK!

Art Model, Kristi C. ©2013 Terrell Neasley
Now this third part comes last in the natural order of things because it operates under one primary assumption: That you have been successful at the first two parts and now HAVE something to give back. Let me elaborate on this a bit further. If you haven't studied your trade and you continue to give away your money in the form of cheap services and hi-res images, THEN YOU CAN'T HELP THE NEXT GUY COMING UP!! Giving back is simple. You take the knowledge that you have learned and you help that new batch of aspiring photographers learn a thing or two about the trade. THAT'S giving back.

Or how about this. Volunteer! "Wait...volunteer? Didn't you JUST say quit giving away your work?" Yes. Yes, I did. And I mean that shit. Volunteering is something entirely different. A portion of your work and time can still be donated to a worthy cause. The brand new couple who just became parents that spend $5,000 dollars on a new crib and $20K remodeling the room for Jr, but balk at paying you $500 for good family pics is NOT a worthy cause. That's business. However, if this same family, who has just spent all this money, is devastated because they suddenly find out Jr. has a terminal birth defect...Well, if you volunteer to do remembrance photography for them...THAT'S a worthy cause. I don't care how much money they make. Losing a kid hurts the same across the economic scale.

Art Model, Kristi C. ©2013 Terrell Neasley
I've talked about the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Foundation on this blog before. Everything I do is at my own expense. Every family gets my best work as if they are paying me top dollar...but for free. It serves my community, it serves my trade, but it also serves my own heart. Give back. When the young man or woman admires your work, honors you with praise, and then asks for some advice, guidance, and suggestions on how they may also achieve, take a second to light that path. Chances are, you didn't get there on your own. Somebody helped you learn the ropes. Pay if forward. Give back. But I know... everybody can't do NILMDTS. I get it. If you can, great. If not, find your thing. My good buddy Scott Roeben is a complete NATURAL at shooting kids. I mean... A NATURAL. He, and several other friends shoot Joy Prom every year. That's his thing. I can't say its my gift. But we each do our thing and GIVE BACK!

Art Model, Kristi C. ©2013 Terrell Neasley
How else can you give back? Find a worthy cause...check. Teach a new photog...check. How about donate some time, prints, or gear to an auction raising money to beautify your community, fight cancer, or help out the homeless. Okay, you're right. That still sounds like just another worthy cause. Okay. How about this then: Every 7th paid gig you do, offer to do an under-privileged family for free. There's no cause to it. Its just an altruistic gesture for somebody that wasn't even expecting it in the first place. Somebody who normally could not afford you gets your full and undivided attention as if they were one of your top-billed clients. How about that? What else? I don't know...YOU BE CREATIVE! Come up with some of your own ideas. I don't care. I just wish more photographers were giving back. Give back. It does your heart well.

07 July 2013

What I Wish Photographers Would Do, Part 2

Art Model, Christina ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time."
~John Berger 

Everything I write here for this 3-part series of posts are actually for the purposes of self-preservation. I'm not in any way saying photography is dying, but let me be clear, it is definitely sick. As I've stated earlier, a third of the blame lies with knuckle-heads in the business. So yes, self-preservation is my goal here, but its always been my nature to help, teach, protect, and edify. Understand me. I love this thing of light capture and pixel punishing. Its my thing. Passionate is too light of an adjective to ascribe to my thing for photography and I don't like seeing it sick. So let me get started on the second part of this series.


Art Model, Christina ©2013 Terrell Neasley
Like anything you undertake that is worthwhile, planning, research, and ongoing study is imperative if you wish to be better and achieve some reasonable degree of success. Far to often, I run across a photog doing paid work, who has no idea of how to operate their camera out of the "scene" modes, know the relationship of aperture to depth of field, use flash off camera, work with radio triggers, understand when to use ND filters, do post-work in Photoshop, use a lens other than the 18-55 or 18-135 kit lens their camera came with, ever use Bulb mode, or do anything else that might be evident that they take photo seriously. Okay, so you know the alphabet in order. Now identify the f/stops in order of widest to the smallest you can recall.

I'm not picking on anybody...well, okay. Yes I am, but for good reason. If you are not training yourself to get better, eventually you get yourself caught in a situation that you can't account for and thereby fail to deliver on promises you made. In addition, how can you place any value on your services when you do nothing to justify your worth. Spending big money on a good camera gives you no more right to call yourself a photographer than someone who buys an expensive hammer and calls themselves a carpenter. Knowledge and skill must wield the tool.

Art Model, Christina
©2013 Terrell Neasley

“I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.” 
~Mahatma Gandhi

I'm not saying anyone has to go spend 4 years in school and get a degree in photography. Not at all. But you still have to read. There is too much information online, much of it free in the form of tutorials and articles that can bring you up to speed and help you grow in your trade. Much of it is scattered all over the internet, but there are also central areas of creditable knowledge that can steer you on the straight and narrow. Lynda.com is a powerful source of info on just about anything for creatives. Plearn.com is one that I'm becoming familiar with. Take a look at my iPhone and you will see several subscriptions to photo-related podcasts that keep me abreast of the latest in photo news, issues, techniques, opinions, and more. Two that I am religious about are TWIP, with Frederick Van Johnson and PhotoFocus run by Richard Harrington and Scott Borne (located here in Vegas!). Chances are, if you see me on the road, I've got my ear-buds in listing to a podcast of some sort.

Art Model, Christina ©2013 Terrell Neasley
But wait, there's more. Do you subscribe to any magazines? Why not? Rangefinder Magazine, by the Neilson Photo Group (who runs WPPI) even has a paper version for free! My daughter first told me that. They do a State of the Industry report on the photography business in general every year. How about joining PPA? There are all kinds of benefits and networking opportunities there? Join a local photo club or meetup group lately? You have the benefit of learning from each other in those things. Does your city have a local camera store? Mine does. B&C Camera. You can go in and see the new gear that's just released and ask questions from a sales staff who are actual photographers. There are pros that come there on Saturdays to hang out and answer questions for you. Why? Because they love this thing. You can't do that with online stores. And try it at Best Buy and chances are, you'll be talking to a kid who can read the information off the card for you. Every use a Tilt-Shift lens? Wanna see what you could do with a fast telephoto lens? Spend a few dollars and rent one. I recently read an article about the Nikon 200mm f/2 as being the best for portraits. So I tried it out. Now I know that the Canon 85mm f/1.2 is still the best to me, but the Nikon 200mm comes in a close second for its sharpness and quick auto focus. I got to experience it and know for myself and that's powerful. Don't be too tight to rent some gear. Sacrifice some Starbucks and McD's. Its worth it.

Art Model, Christina ©2013 Terrell Neasley
All I'm saying is this. It cheapens photography when people get into it to make a buck, but don't want to put in the study or the work. It devalues the trade when you don't do it right. We all help ourselves when we treat the trade with respect. Practices that benefit you for the moment, but kills you and everybody else in the long run is just stupid. I don't care how many people buy cameras and join the club. I'll even help you do it as best I can. But I'm going to hold it against you if you are hollow, cheap and irresponsible with my love. Be respectful.

05 July 2013

What I Wish Photographers Would Do, Part 1

Art Model/Painter, Emily ©2013 Terrell Neasley
More and more people are wanting to get into photography these days. Why? Because its much easier. A lot of the hard and challenging aspects of photo have been eliminated by cameras that do more for you in the automatic modes. Does this make it tougher to earn a living in photo? Yes and No. Photography, as we know it, is definitely under attack. With the Chicago Sun Times firing its complete photography department, you can already see the credits starting to roll on photojournalists. A few months before this, Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer makes a statement claiming "there's no such thing as a pro photographer".

Art Model/Painter, Emily ©2013 Terrell Neasley
I'll talk more on this a little later. The state of the business has got my blood boiling a bit and a third of the fault (if not more) falls at the feet of photographers. Again, more on this later. For now, I would like to see more and expect more from photographers. So I've compiled a short list of what I would like to see more photographers doing, whether they are in business or not.

Art Model/Painter, Emily
©2013 Terrell Neasley

Let me clarify this a bit. I don't mind free work. Two things, however that make me go batty is CHEAP work, and HI-RES give-aways. I would honestly rather do something for free and donate my time rather than go cheap. Cheap work devalues the trade and thins the blood of the business. This is the absolute Number ONE harm and threat to the business. If a client wants cheap, they can go the Wal-Mart studios. If you are doing it and charging $50 or $100...for anything, you need to have your head examined. If your work and your time can only demand that sort of value, get the hell out of the business until you are better. And getting better is easy. Don't fear that or get intimidated by your camera. Don't become a "natural light" photographer just because you don't understand flash or monolights. There are too many tools and free techniques out there for you to learn on, IF you really want to learn.

"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value."
~Thomas Paine 

Why are photogs doing work on the cheap? For a couple reasons. For one, many don't know any better. These photogs are not confident enough to put a real value on their work and don't know what the going rates are anyway. So they throw out a small figure to a client...usually a friend or relative whom they don't want to offend with a price that's "too high". Then you have those photogs who know better, but become desperate for the business and will low-ball another peer or succumb to pressure from a client who threatens to walk in favor of a cheaper photographer. I gotta say, sometimes you have to let people walk. Price conscious clients are going to take advantage of this as best they can, and what shouldn't they if we choose to let them?

Art Model/Painter, Emily ©2013 Terrell Neasley
The second part of that is the handing over of Hi-Res images. What I mean by this is doing the photos and then handing your client digital images that they can go print on their own. That's your money and your work that's just hemorrhaging out of your wallet. I've heard the argument that its what clients demand. Well, for one they wouldn't be demanding it if photographers all over weren't giving them away en masse.  Its not different from back in the day.

Photogs didn't hand over negatives without triple the pay, at least. On top of that, I know of a photog that debated this point ad nauseum, UNTIL a client used said Hi-Res images to RE-EDIT them in a really crappy manner, yet still leaving the photog's watermark on them, and plaster them all over Facebook. I don't know about you, but I own the copyrights to all my images and control the quality of my work and prints. Only ONE group of people get my Hi-Res imagery and that's the families I do the volunteer work associated with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. I voluntarily share those copyrights, and put that info into the meta-tags on each picture.

Art Model/Painter, Emily ©2013 Terrell Neasley
There is no way you can complain about not making money in photo if you are guilty of any of this. Thankfully, all you have to do is change your ways, but it will take longer to change your reputation. If you start out cheap, it's gonna be a pain in the ass to get beyond that expectation, because you've conditioned your clientele and market to view you this way. Word gets around.