25 December 2012

Getting into Photo, Part 5... The Business

Heather Rae in Guatemala from In Search of Squid © 2012 Terrell Neasley
 Merry Christmas, Everyone. I hope you've found the information in this series helpful so far!

Heather Rae in Guatemala from In Search of Squid
© 2012 Terrell Neasley
This is probably the hardest part of this series and likely the most important. Why? Because you can have excellent gear, be great at your work, and still go hungry in this profession. On the flip side, how many times have you seen a photog's work and absolutely KNOW your shots are better, yet that guy is making bank, getting the cool gigs, is published on a regular basis, and has their work plastered in galleries/corporate hallways, etc? The only difference between you and THAT guy is the fact that THAT guy knows how to market his business, network effectively, and manage his operations and money. THAT guy probably doesn't have a cashflow issue. When something breaks or is needed on the fly, they just go buy it. You'll see them getting paid 10 times what you might get for the same if not better work.

Peter Lik is on top of his game (Bio). He has established a brand and a reputation that commands 6-figures for a single print. He gets to travel all over the world, getting access to shoot in locations that you will probably never ever be aware of much less see. He's got million dollar galleries in at least 4 locations on the Vegas strip alone. The odds say you will never ever do enough work to account for even one of his best-selling prints. Your chances at achieving a single percent of his career results are about a million and five to one. The question is... Can you be that one? Is it possible to actually attain even more accolades, notoriety  and fame than Peter Lik? Well, the correct answer to that question is an emphatic, yes. I guess a better question might be, do you want to.

The Photographers You Idolize Are No Better Than You - (Business excerpt by Lee Morris)
"Hugely successful photographers are master businessmen and women. If they aren’t good with business, they hire someone who is. Most of these photographers have agents that can not only help them find jobs but also do all of the negotiating. If these photographers don’t have a private agent they will have a manager on staff that deals with this aspect of their business. Underbidding a job in many cases is worse than overbidding and these photographers know exactly how to negotiate with each client/campaign."

Heather Rae in Guatemala from In Search of Squid
© 2012 Terrell Neasley
I think the potential is there. This is America. (Peter Lik is Australian.) In this day of age, you have almost every tool to be successful in this business available to you. This isn't like the Medieval days where the chances of you moving up from a peasant to a person of nobility and wealth was nigh impossible. In the last 20 years there have been more wealth made from newbies than in any other time in history. The requirement to be middle-age, white, and male is no longer the mainstream to achieving substance today. Children are creating millions of dollars with ideas. A kid fed up with having his Halloween candy taken away after a night's worth of successful looting, asked himself why candy couldn't be tasty and actually good for you. He and his father are now the engineers behind a million dollar a year revenue generator for nutritious candy. I am firmly confident that you can do the same in photography if you can establish the right attitude, networks, team, and with a little bit of creativity you can revolutionize the photo standards of today. Too often I hear that photography is dead and that the amateur/weekend photog is cheating the pros out of work. Here are some of the biggest excuses I hear most often:

1. The advent of the digital age has killed professional photography.
2. Cameras are getting better and cheaper every year so consumers need me less.
3. Photoshop is too difficult to learn. I miss the darkroom.
4. Everything original has already been thought of.
5. Someone will always undercut my fees and force me out of the business.
6. I can't compete because too many photogs are giving their work away for free.
7. Photography is getting way too expensive and I can no longer afford to be in the business.
Heather Rae in Guatemala from In Search of Squid © 2012 Terrell Neasley
Some of facts these people mention are true, but the conclusions they draw from them are ill-conceived. Digital photography has indeed put a camera in everybody's hands. Technology is making it cheaper to own better cameras. Nikon put a 24-megapixel sensor in their baseline entry level camera. Canon and Nikon have entry level Full-Frame (FX) cameras now. Pretty soon the DX format will become obsolete since FX has become cheaper. Cell phones and Mirrorless systems are killing the DSLR. Does that kill photography for the professional. NO! Being a Nikon/Canon camera owner does not a photographer make. If you think about it, EVERYBODY used to be full-frame. It was called 35mm film and it was the standard for the majority of camera owners. Yet the professional services were still required.

Heather Rae in Guatemala from In Search of Squid
© 2012 Terrell Neasley

Don't be afraid of tech. Things change. Change along with it and therein find your niche in the transition. Photography has been changing on a regular basis since 1820 and the same argument has been proposed regarding the ease of use for the consumer since the Kodak's Brownie in the early 1900's, the Polaroid in 1948, and disposable cameras in 1986. Digital is simply the latest paradigm. So since change is inevitable, the most important element about the business of photography is this...MOTIVATION. If you have the motivation, you will find a way. Pick a genre of photo that you love and run with it. If you hate fashion photography, don't do it just to make money. If you love underwater photography, carve out your spot in it and own it.

In most cases, a change of attitude is all it takes. Maybe you thought I would focus on marketing, management techniques, and financial control measures. I think those are all secondary. I won't waste your time discussing it because this post is already long enough. If you have the motivation to do this, be better at it, and all out succeed, then you will study, research and implement all the marketing and management you will need. So if you want me to approach this from an commercial perspective, then okay. Let me break it down like this:

1. Decide to do this and maintain a high motivation for it.
2. Remember at all times, this is a business.
3. Treat this like a business.
4. Make time for personal projects. (Shoot what you like often)
5. Give back. (Tithe, volunteer, help out upcoming togs)
Here is something more along the lines you might want to take a look at as for tips at FStoppers.com - Career Tips for Emerging Photogs

Here are some other good sites or the Emerging Professional:
1. Black Star Rising
2. Skip Cohen's Marketing Essentials International
3. Entrepreneur Magazine
4. Photopreneur
5. Small Business Administration
6. Marathon Press
7. US Library of Congress (Copyright Registration)
8. Professional Photographers of Amercia
9. Photo Attorney
10. Package Choice (Photography Business Insurance)

22 December 2012

Getting into Photo, Part 4... The Print

© 2012 Terrell Neasley
"The negative is the equivalent of the composer's score, and the print the performance."
 - Ansel Adams

In the majority of cases, this is what it boils down to. The Print. Nothing else really matters. I'm not talking about the shots that wind up on Facebook that you took with your cell phone from the Christmas party last night. And this isn't intended for people who will only use their cameras to take pics of family and family events to share with other members of the family and friends. This goes to those desiring to "Get Started in Photography", whether you turn pro or do it as an amateur/enthusiast. Its the print that matters most. If you have a moment, check out my April 2012 post regarding, "Focus on The Print".

Why do I say this? What point am I trying to emphasis? Well, its mainly regarding photogs who give away hi-res images on a CD to their client and never do anything beyond shooting and editing. This job is then incomplete. The photographic process is three parts, not 2. Its Shoot, Edit, and then Print. Cutting corners by not completing this last stage kills your own money and that of mine because I am part of the industry. Rangefinder Magazine did an excellent article in their annual "State of the Industry" year-end report on photography trends in the US. One of the last parts in this report covers the "Album-less Bride".

© 2012 Terrell Neasley
The Album-less Bride,
"But that doesn't mean commercial photographers aren't concerned about the negative effects of digital and of file sharing. Last year, WPPI described a growing phenomenon: the album-less bride. “What is an album-less bride?” writes Kathleen Hawkins, a Florida-based photographer and author, in the WPPI newsletter late last year. “Amazingly, many of the photographers who took pride in the fact that they were artists and not business people are now seeking the quick and easy sale with the evolution of digital photography.” Or in other words, an album-less bride is a shoot-and-burn job in which the client (often a bride) gets the master images on a disc to do what she wants with them; she, in fact, doesn't order any prints from the photographer at all. 
As a business practice, shoot-and-burn has a collateral effect, says Graphistudio director Maureen Neises. “The photographers that cave in and give their clients a disc are creating a pent-up pressure in the market place,” she says. “The trend now is that consumers are calling us directly.” Or, she says, they are searching online book printing services. “Shoot-and-burn photographers that provide a disc are not finishing the job." - Excerpt from Rangefinder Magazine's State of the Industry: Business Trends 2012
© 2012 Terrell Neasley
“The photographers that cave in and give their clients a disc are creating a pent-up pressure in the market place.” 
- Maureen Neises

The thing is, the article goes on to say that a representative from one of the largest album makers said their sales have not fallen off, despite this trend. This is because they have been getting more contacts directly from the consumer to make their own albums, which means they take your hard-earned work, your copyrighted images, and make their own products from them, doing so with your permission!. I won't even get into the plethora of stories I hear from other photogs who's clients also RE-EDIT those Hi-Res shots to their own liking or at the very least RE-CROP the images. Sometimes this is a crop to get a close-up portrait shot (creating two images from the one) OR, they do it to take off your watermark. I talked to another shooter just last week who represented the business side of a husband-wife photography studio. From everything I understand, they are very successful at what they do. They have a great studio and I can't help but respect their business. However, I have to entirely disagree with their business model. They feel like their market demands the CD and therefore that's what they cater to. Specializing in weddings, the Hi-Res CD is given to the client with little to no concentration on prints. "The market doesn't support prints. They all want CDs." Well, of course they do! The market would also support free photography services. If you want to stifle the business of photography, keep doing this. Its analogous to cutting small slits in your own necks and bleeding out slowly.

© 2012 Terrell Neasley
Here's why this is so important. Lets forget for a second that the print is the final end-product and that the photo [GRAPH] is the reason we we do photo [GRAPHY]. Consumers don't look at your overall expenses in the photo game. You can't blame them. They don't see the other side. They see you snap a picture with an expensive camera and that's it. As if all your money is tied up in your camera and lens investment and once the money for that is earned back, everything else is gravy. But you know what, I have a business licence to maintain with the state of Nevada every year. I have business insurance that covers my equipment anywhere in the world, as well as if I get sued. I go to some sort of continuing training program every year, trade shows, and have monthly subscriptions to services that aid me at being better at what I do. My website is not free. My software is not free, nor the computer hardware or network. 

“For me the printing process is part of the magic of photography. It’s that magic that can be exciting, disappointing, rewarding and frustrating all in the same few moments in the darkroom.” 
– John Sexton

All my redundant back-ups cost me in equipment and storage. I deserve to be well-compensated for my years of expertise, knowledge, and education. I spend money to go network with other photographers and scout locations so when my client has a vision for a special place, I can suggest several options that match or exceed what they have in mind. I could go on and on regarding copyright registration fees, accounting and tax fees. This is still a business. How do you fund your retirement and medical when you are giving away profits? We do more than just "push a button", as I was once told by a guy at a wedding who didn't feel like I offered any more than he could with his $300 point and shoot. He asked me how much my setup costs me. I told him. Then asked what I was charging for the wedding. Of course I told him that info was only between my client and myself. I took his picture and sent him a portrait of himself shot at f/1.2 and told him that he could have his pic at any one of my cameras and a lens if he could duplicate that shot with his own camera. I never heard back from him.

© 2012 Terrell Neasley
Thankfully, not all consumers are like this. I have had the benefit of working with clients who understand my trade, appreciate my art, and respect my business. If you want to be a good businessperson who is also credit to their trade, operate your business the right way. I fully recommend doing business with your local print labs. I work with both the local businesses here in Las Vegas as well as some of my online vendors. I work between about 6 different lab choices on a regular basis with business accounts with each. My choices may depend on promotional specials or the quality of work my client is willing to pay for. High-end work will go to one of 3 labs choices whereas the others are more economical. And then sometimes it has to do with the services offered. Not many labs offer framing services as an additional option, for instance. Either way, do your work and offer print options and sales that end up with your artistic efforts on residential and business walls...not just social media walls.

Next up, and final of this series... The Business

20 December 2012

Getting into Photo, Part 3... The Light

Shot with a Paul C. Buff  Einstein 640 with a large softbox at about 1/4 power from the right side of the frame
The word Photography can be broken down into 2 parts; Photo, meaning light and graph meaning to write. So basically, Photography is the process of writing with light and that's exactly what you are doing. Your ability to see visible light, funnel it through a lens, and record an image to a medium is what photography is all about. In its most simplest form, all you need is a box with a small hole in it. That tiny hole will project the view in front of that box upside down on the opposite inner wall. If you place a light sensitive medium on that back wall, you can record that projection.

Most beginner photog will either refuse or misuse flash and thereby call themselves a "natural light" photog. What they really mean is that they don't have a flash, can't work monolights, and can only manage the pop-up flash on their cameras. So they stick to ambient light, which is sometimes call available or natural light. Ambient light is the light that is already present, no matter how strong or direct it is. This may be window light, interior light, or sunlight outdoors. Amateurs tend to believe that you don't need flash when you are outdoors and this is because they don't understand the nature of fill flash.

Shot using off-camera Canon 580EX II Speedlite very low power blended with
available sunlight just to add some fill in the face and to bring out color in dress 

So here's the thing. There is no way I can go into great detail about light in just a few paragraphs on this blog.  The intent is not to leave you with full on flash knowledge, but rather encourage you to not fear the light, to get you in the right gear, and send you  in the right direction to learn light. There are some masterful photogs out there who never use flash. You are not one of them. Get to know and master light. Start with ambient and introduce flash. I love available light and use it as my only light source quite often. Know when it works and know when to bring in some artificial light.

Client shoot, available light only
Now here is my pet peeve. I don't light paying a lot of money for light. Light is cheap and I can't understand why manufacturers want to charge me $500+ for their top of the line flash guns. I can understand underwater light costing a dime or two, but I don't like coming out of pocket for an on-camera blaster like that. $300...tops. That being said, I'm gonna say you can do more than just get by on the 2nd tier flash like the Canon 430EX II, or a Nikon SB-700 for under $300 each. I've had top of the line and can't say the extra power was every really warranted. I don't need to attach a battery pack. I'm never shooting from 100 feet away to warrant the full power of a SB-910, and I'm never shooting so friggin' fast that the less than a second recycle time is a great demand. I prefer the lighter, easier to carry, but powerful flashes of the SB-700 and Canon 430EX II. I've used both. They are great. I damn sure ain't dropping the $630 for a Canon 600-RT. That's monolight range. Which is my second point. If you need MORE POWER... get a set of monolights with battery packs that you can take anywhere. I love the Einstein 640 by Paul C. Buff. Paul C. Buff gear is phenomenal. I also rock with a White Lightning X3200 and use the large softbox and the strip soft box. I even use these on location outdoors by plugging them into my Vagabond battery packs.

Then you gotta check out radio triggers. What's the standard? PocketWizard. The Plus III is now the new boss of radio triggers at $150 per. You'll need at least 2, of course. Now ask me what I like. That would be the Yongnuo RF-603. You can get a set of 4 of these for under $70! And they work like nobody's business. I've never had one fail on me. These transeivers (transmitter & receiver in one) are each firing up to 200ft away. I tested them. The only downside is they only sync at 1/200th of a second vs. 1/250th, but I've been able to deal with that. You can too. Get a couple of flashes and a set of 4 of these radio triggers and you are set.

Using low level on-camera flash swiveld left to trigger White Lightning X3200
off to the left side filling in front side details
The thing is, you gotta learn manual mode on these things. But its easy as pie. A few tips to remember is that shutter speed controls ambient light. Aperture controls flash. So when you are balancing flash with ambient light, keep those considerations in mind. Understand the sync speed of your camera, which is usually going to be 1/250th of a second for pro-level and prosumer cameras. You can get by this by utilizing the high-speed sync function on your flash which fires a series of low-powered flashes over the span of a shutter speeds faster than 1/250th of a second instead of just one big flash. Ever get that black band at the bottom of an image when using flash? That's because the shutter is closing before the flash can illuminate the sensor. The black band is the rear curtain closing before the light hits the sensor.

Another thing to consider is modifiers. These are things that MODIFY how the light comes out and hits your subject. Diffusers, of some sort are the most popular type of modifiers. These scatter the light so your subject is hit more evenly instead of the way harsh direct light flattens out an image and creates ugly shadows, maybe under the eyes, nose, and chin. Reflectors are also popular. You can use the sun to just bounce light back into the subject, but this might be a problem if you're bouncing the light of the sun with a silver reflector back into your model's eyes. What do I like? As ugly as it is, I gotta say the Gary Fong Collapsible Lightsphere is the bomb. It may not look like its worth $60, but when it delivers the shot and you get paid, you rethink that notion. Softboxes on monolights are the only other thing that compares.

Nude hiking, available light only
Bounce the light. You can make the ceiling or a wall into a modifier. Try using filters (included w/Nikon flashes) to help balance flash with ambient (so light is the same color temperature). I like a little CTO on my flash when doing fill for sunset shoots. READ the friggin' manual. Learn the functions. Carry the flash everywhere. If you can swing it, get TWO and shoot Off-Camera using the radio triggers. Get creative. Use one for fill and the other as your key light. Have another one to backlight your subject. Search the internet for great tutorials on multi-light set-ups. If you want to go all out, check into the power of the Sun in your camera bag with the Quantum Lights. Maybe I've already said it before, but those things give you the power of the SUN in your camera bag. You can even get softboxes for flashes nowadays. There's no limit to the way you can alter and play with light. Manipulate it to capture the image that is in your head. I've never needed a 57 light setup like some people. 3...maybe 4 is the max I ever need. And then sometimes I flip the off switch on my flash and shoot natural light. There's nothing like natural light, but you should not be afraid to add a little when necessary. The idea is to master light and that means to know when to use it, how to manipulate it, and when to take it away.

Next...The Print.

Here are a few nice Go-To links to follow through on:

1. Strobist - Excellent source for lighting tutorials, articles, and DIY light building.
2. Adorama TV - Tutorial videos. I have this link specifically related to lighting
3. The Top 10 Photography Lighting Facts You Should Know
4. Painting with Light - Google image search
5. Guess the Lighting.com - Excellent blog that illustrates lighting techniques using diagrams
6. Sketching Light - Book by Joe McNally on working with flashes
7. High Speed Sync - Explanation of how it works
8. Mark Wallace on Rear Curtain Sync
9. Mark Wallace on Sync Speed, High Speed Sync, and Radio Triggers
10. Canon Professional Network - Getting the most from your Speedlites
11. Nikon Creative Lighting Systems - In my opinion, Nikon has the edge in lighting
12. Luminous-Landscape - Another top photography blog that talks a lot about lighting

15 December 2012

Getting into Photo, Part 2...The Lens

So now onto the glass.

Glass is a tad bit tricky, so this post is a little longer. I'm writing this with the understanding that you want to be a good and better photographer. If you're just shooting every now and then trying to get the kids as they grow up and don't require the better quality, there's no need to read any further. I also write this only touching on the basics of aperture understanding. It would greatly benefit you to research further on this. You can visit the links at the end of this post for starters. In addition, you can always go to B&C Camera where there are professionals who can answer your questions and help you decide on a lens. If you go to Best Buy or Costco then you are on your own. You've been warned.

Brie...Shot with a wide-angle lens, distorting perspective especially on the edges
First... Quite buying cheap glass! That 18-55mm kit lens? Get it off your camera and use it for target practice, especially you Canon shooters. You want to talk about a "starter" lens? Cool. You don't need to spend $2,000 on your first lens. But you do still need to get respectable glass. Notice I said glass. Not plastic lenses, but glass. If you call yourself a pro and I see this in your camera bag, I'm going to talk bad things about you behind your back. Most of the name brand low-end lenses use a plastic barrel and lens. On top of that, they are slow as hell. You ever buy that extra lens, the 55-200mm zoom lens thinking you got a great deal? And then you shoot with it, but can't freeze the action because the camera doesn't take a really quick picture? That's because this lens is slow, but its popular because people don't know any better. The speed of the lens is a factor of how much light it lets in. This is measured by the diameter of the opening, or the aperture as its commonly referred to. Sometimes aperture and the term f/stop are used interchangeably. The maximum aperture of the lens this lens is considered small...too small to let in a lot of light for a quick exposure. More time is required to get enough light in through the smaller opening which means the shutter must stay open longer. So if your subject is being still...great. For moving subjects...not so much. Most zoom lenses have a variable maximum aperture that get's even smaller, and thereby slower the more you zoom out.


Shot with a 85mm at f/1.2. Notice how shallow the DofF is?
Basically, from the tip of her nose to her temple.
In buying a lens, FIRST think about what you are type of photography you are going to shoot. What interests you and what will you spend the majority of your time shooting? This will be the first determining factor in your lens choice. Landscape? Portrait? Sports? Flowers? All these require different lens characteristics. Wide-angle for landscape, Normal lenses for portraits. Fast zoom glass for sports...or really quick kids. And you'll need a macro lens for close-up shots of flowers. But lets say you want to still be a little versatile, despite those specific preferences. A normal lens should then be the first choice with a typical range of 24-70mm, which is the workhorse for most photogs. Or you could go a little longer like the 24-105mm Canon or the 24-120mm Nikon. The 24-70 is usually fast glass at f/2.8. The other mentioned lenses have a maximum aperture of f/4 (slower, but still decent). You can do a lot with these lenses.

The aperture of the lens is the opening in the barrel that lets in light. The smaller the number...the larger the opening. Think of it as a fraction just without the numerator (top number of the fraction). 1/2 is bigger than 1/4, ergo... 2 is bigger than 4. Any lens with a f-stop smaller than f/2.8 is considered slow and like wise f/2.8 and larger is considered fast glass. You want fast glass to learn on because you have more flexibility to experiment. A f/4 lens can do in a pinch at times, but you lose the depth of field option. Any slower lens than that, have your tripods ready.

*Wikipedia example. As you can see the openings get smaller as you go right. Each next aperture is half the size of the preceding one. F/2.8 lets in double the light as f/4, but only half the light as f/2. (Sizes are not to scale)

Another thing that is a factor in lenses is Depth of Field. Ever see those shots with the real creamy/blurred background, (referred to as Bokeh) but the subject is tack sharp? And then you wonder why your shots NEVER turn out like that. Chances are its because you have cheap lenses which are slow. Why does that matter? Because Depth of Field is a factor of the aperture setting. The wider the opening, the narrower the depth of field. So larger (hence, faster) apertures will give that effect the wider you open up. Focus on your subject and everything behind goes blurry. The effect is magnified the more open you go beyond 2.8. If you have a lens that opens up to f/1.4, it gets REALLY creamy. Remember...fraction. F/1.4 is opens 2 full stops wider at 4 times the amount of light and thus faster than f/2.8. Conversely, the smaller the aperture, then the longer the depth of field...out to infinity where everything is in focus, including all the foreground and all the background. Depth of Field is extremely important when you shoot portraits.

Close-up shot with at 100mm f/2.8 with a Macro lens. Also narrow depth of field.
Primes vs. Zooms. As you probably already realize, zoom lenses start from one point and then "zoom" out to a longer end and you can take a picture at every point within that range. Prime lenses don't have any zoom other than manual. Manual, meaning your feet! You move in or back, manually. These lenses have only one focal length which is the stated focal length on the lens. That's measured in millimeters. 50mm is considered normal, as in what the eye sees. Its often referred to as a STANDARD lens. So basically, your ability to see is derived from the two 50mm eyes you have in your head. Prime lenses are most often considered to be sharper than zooms and that's just because there is less glass and mechanics that light has to travel through to reach the image sensor in the camera. The 50mm with the maximum aperture of 1.8 is the ONLY cheap glass that you can buy and hear nothing from me. These lenses are under $150 and are considered by many to be the best lenses for the value...emphasis on VALUE.  However, the 50mm 1.4 is not much more expensive so you may as well get it instead.

Katherine with extended DofF at f/8.
All of background is still in focus.
Make sure the lens you buy is sturdy, solid, and has a metal mount. The back of the lens where it attaches to the camera should be all metal...not plastic. Say it with me..."NO PLASTIC MOUNTS!" ... Good. Now the next few lines are just suggestions and my professional opinion. Please make up your own minds and do your own research. If I'm not getting a high-end lens, I'm getting a Tamron. Other popular 3rd party lens manufacturers include, Tokina, and Sigma. I tend to stick with Tamrons if I'm not getting my main manufacturer high-end lens. They simply do the best, IMHO, at providing the better quality at the lower price and better guarantee (6-year warranty). Most of the newer Tamrons have the metal mounts. They have much better build quality than the low end Canons, and are on par with Nikon's low ends. They use mostly glass and have more f/2.8 options on the low end than either major manufacturer. For $500, you can get at least 6 lenses that are 2.8 glass or better. You'll spend more than twice that on 2.8 glass for either Canon or Nikon, (other than the aforementioned 50mm). And if money is no object and you just want the best quality, think Zeiss...all metal. I mean, everything on this lens is metal except for the high-precision ground, special coated glass lenses. These are manual focus lenses.

Now this one is tricky. The background is blurry even though the aperture is f/5.6. How is this possible?  Because the focal length is in the telephoto range at 135mm! Telephoto lenses "compress" the perspective allowing shorter DofF even at smaller apertures.
One last consideration is the camera's sensor type. Is it an FX (full frame) or a DX (APS-C cropped sensor)? When you buy a lens for a full frame camera, the focal length is exactly what it says on the lens. If you buy for a DX camera, you have to factor in the camera's multiplier. For Canon, that multiplier is 1.6. For Nikon its 1.5. This means that if the lens says is a 100mm lens, its actually a 160mm lens on a Canon. This is because its thats the Full frame equivalency. A Canon full frame sensor is 1.6 times as large as the DX sensor (see the links below). Some DX lenses won't fit on FX cameras. Canon's won't. Nikon's DX lenses actually do. Tamron lenses also fit on either lens, but be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN you get the right mount lens when you buy any third part lens. Tamron makes lenses for Canon or Nikon mounts. But if you buy a Tamon with a Nikon mount...it won't fit on a Canon camera. So just make sure that the box says, "FOR CANON" if you have a Canon camera, or "FOR NIKON" if you have a Nikon camera. Make sure the sales person knows which camera you have.

Vibration Control...Image Stabilization...Vibration Reduction...whatever the particular manufacturer calls it, all it means is there is some type of element built into the lens to help reduce camera shake when hand held. So a lens that is considered slow, but has VC may be okay because you can still hand hold it, in some cases this compensation can mean 2 or 3 f/stops slower. I like stabilized lenses and get them over the non-stabilized version when possible, because some lenses will come in two versions: a stabilized version and non-stabilized one. Tamron, as a point of fact, makes the world's only 24-70mm stabilized lens and costs a whole grand less than Canon's.

So start out with the faster glass. You learn better on them because you have more options with speed and depth of field.

If you have a DX camera, here are my top 4 lenses to buy in this order:

1. Either :Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 with VC (normal lens) Canon Mount / Nikon Mount 
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 designed for full frame but works on DX very well Canon Mount/ Nikon Mount
(I give the option of the focal range to you. Either one will do. Edge goes to the 28-75mm. Remember the multiplier. The 17-50mm is actually a 25-75mm on a DX camera. The 28-75mm lens is actually a 42-112mm lens on a DX camera. At f/2.8 you'll appreciate the extra reach!)
2. Tamron 10-24 (wide angle) Canon Mount / Nikon Mount (with multiplier, its like a 16-35mm lens)
3. Canon or Nikon 50mm 1.4 (for portraiture. Looks like a 75mm on DX camera)
4. Tamron 70-200mm 2.8 with VC Canon Mount / Nikon Mount (looks like a 105-300mm on DX cameras)

If you have a full frame:
1. Tamron 24-70mm 2.8 Canon Mount / Nikon Mount
2. Canon 16-35mm 2.8/ Nikon 16-35 f/4
3. Canon or Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 with VC
4. Canon or Nikon 50mm 1.4

For other interesting lens, look up Tilt-Shift, Fisheye, Teleconverters, Circular Polarizers, Neutral Density Filters, and the fun LensBabies!

Here is some further reading to help you understand:
Canon Full Line-up of Lenses / Nikon Full Line-up of Lenses
A Tedious Explanation of the f/stop The Long Answer!
Understanding Camera Lenses Cambridge in Color Tutorial
What is a DX Lens? Ken Rockwell covering Nikon DX Lenses
Understanding the Magnification Factor Luminous Landscape
Understanding Depth of Field Cambridge in Color
Understanding Sensor Sizes (DX vs FX, etc)

Next post, I'm going to touch on Light!

12 December 2012

Getting into Photo, Part 1...The Camera

Often enough, I get questions about getting started in photography and since its my nature to teach and I have no lack of love for sharing my trade, I rarely hold back on freely giving info on this thing. I know I can sometimes get overly enthusiastic about it. Getting me started can be like taking a full-on Kamehameha blast to the face from a family of Saiyans. But understand this is fun for me. So here are my GENERAL suggestions if you want to get started in photo using DSLR cameras (Digital Single Lens Reflex - normally, ones with interchangeable lenses).

Anonymous Model ©2012 Terrell Neasley
First and foremost, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. Are you serious or no? Do you want to earn money or no? Asking whether you are serious or not will help you establish your priorities. If you're serious, photo comes somewhere near the top of the list, so be ready to dump money in this thing. And if you want to make money at it, then you also need to learn the business side of photo as well as how to shoot your camera so you are not starving. Be sure to be honest with yourself. You do yourself no favors when you say you are serious, but your time and money are consumed with everything else, BUT photography. On a small note, the type of photography genre you favor may also play into your brand. (For instance, more sport pro's shoot Canon.)

Over the years, the first and No. 1 question I've been asked is about the camera...Canon or Nikon. So lets start there. EITHER Canon or Nikon will do. They are both great companies and each have distinguishing features that set them apart from each other on a yearly basis almost. One year, Canon might have the edge and then Nikon catches up or vis versa. You won't go wrong no matter how you start out. I tell people to first see how each brand feels in your hands. Which one feels natural to you. Then I also ask, what do the majority of your friends have because you might be able to trade out or test equipment. If you're shooting with your buddy and your flash goes bad, you can borrow your friend's. Loyalties to one brand or the other is usually a generational thing. Dad owned a Nikon, so you go Nikon too...something like that. Most photogs today stay with a certain brand because of their investment into lenses. Regardless, don't get sucked into the Nikon vs Canon war. It ain't worth it. Both companies make excellent gear. (Nice Graphic Here)

Art Model, Panda ©2011 Terrell Neasley
Next, do everything you can to start out right. When you know what brand are ready to purchase, resist the temptation to start on the entry level gear. I very often get asked about a good "starter" camera. There is honestly no such thing. Get the right tool for the job. There is no such thing as a starter wrench and neither is there a starter camera. There are cheaper wrenches and cheaper cameras. The question is, will it do the job? The risk you run into is that you can quickly outgrow your camera if you start on the low end. I spend two days a week working in a camera shop. Students come in and buy a Rebel or a D3000-level camera. Toward the end of the semester, many come back to me and say they wish they had gone with my suggestion. They outgrew the entry level camera which doesn't have some of the more advanced functions they now need. Sometimes the lower end consumer cameras won't have Mirror Lock-up. You may not be able to bracket exposures or hook up a cable release. Does the shutter speed go from Bulb to 1/8000? Probably not. These cameras don't even operate with a real pentaprism, but rather pentamirrors.

On top of that, the better cameras usually have twice the shot count for the battery life. The build quality is often better with weather sealing and made of a magnesium alloy rather than plastic. When I take on a gig with a client, I'd rather have a camera in my hands more advanced than what my client might potentially own. See what I'm saying? Its hard to justify your rate when your client is wondering why they are paying you to shoot them with a camera like what they have. If you want to be a pro, get pro gear...not consumer gear.

Suggestions... If you go Canon, start with a Canon EOS 7D. They are cheap right now. Its almost 3 years old, but its one of the few cameras on the market right now that really does not need an upgrade. As for DX cameras, I think its the best. Its fast at 8 frames/second, durable, rocks TWO Digic-4 image processors, bad ass ISO capabilities, and the new firmware upgrades practically turn it into a new camera. The 60D is one step down and I can not knock it. Not as great a build, doesn't have the speed, but still a solid camera, especially for video. I also can't laugh at the new Rebel T4i. But if I'm going to be a pro shooter, I'm not doing it with a consumer-promoted Rebel. If you're a hobbyist and only use it on occasion, go for it. If money isn't so tight and you want to go Full Frame, you've got the options of either the brand new 6D, the  5D Mark III or the Big Daddy 1Dx.

Art Model Brittany V, ©2008 Terrell Neasley
What if you wanna go Nikon. Start with a Nikon D7000. I don't think its as good as the Canon 7D, but it rocks. I love the dual SD media card slots. You can get 6 frames a second, does great shots at high ISO's, and is a solid build. You can do High Speed sync up to 1/8000 of a second and the video capabilities will blow you away. You won't out-grow this thing. You can upgrade, but you'll still keep this camera as a back-up. No need to get rid of it, unless you are going Full Frame with a D600, D800, or D4.

Do whatever you can to start out right. If you have to wait for a few extra paychecks, then wait another month. Sell something on eBay, quite eating out, or whatever to come up with the extra cash to get what you need. I've seen some people do some great things with a Rebel. My buddy Felix will leave you gasping with his images with a Rebel over some people's work with a 5D Mark II. But he couldn't wait to get his hands on a 7D. And then its all about the lenses. I'll cover that later. Hi Vanessa!

**Update 14 December 2012 **
Let me bounce back and spend another paragraph on the camera. Some people talk about megapixels and that most of these cameras have so many that they really don't matter anymore. They believe that once technology went past 12 or so megapixels, you can print a good 16x20 from that, so how often does anybody print bigger than that. To some extent that is true. BUT... if you ask me, the more, the merrier. That's like using the analogy of film. The bigger the film size, the better the resolution. Medium format was better than 35mm. The 4x5 was better than Medium format. 8x10 was better than the 4x5. The difference is that you might be able to print a 16x20 from a smaller megapixel camera, but its not the same detail and richness. As an artist, I want to have the option of cropping in and pulling out that section and have it still look like the original shot. This is why I shoot with a D800e at 36 megapixels over the Canon 5D MarkIII.