Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Just an update...

Wow it has been ages since I wrote anything.. So long that the blogger interface changed and I have to re-learn how to use it. LOL.

So I figured I should send all my many (lol) loyal fans an update as to what I have been up to photography wise.

Firstly, as usual, I took a bit of a hiatus from doing lots of photo work during the winter. I just don't like the cold and in general I kinda stay indoors a bit more then normal. So that's one big reason I was kinda dormant. My "real" job has also been very busy of late with extra hours and travel, and has left me with little to no energy to put towards Photoshop or anything of that nature. So *no* I didn't quit.. I just got busy.

That being said.. I did have one or two minor shoots that I was able to add to my gallery including one during Cherry Blossom time, and a second for the Space Shuttle Enterprise flyover (I really should have written a blog on that one.. maybe I will later). I also have well over 1000 photos on my hard drive that I have shot in the last few months that need to be gone through. This includes some beach photos, and 10 days worth of work I did while on vacation in Bermuda and the Caribbean. And then on top of all that... I *still* have a shit-ton (pardon my French) of old work that I have been trying to re-process and display. So really my issue right now is getting through all the digital darkroom stuff... which is the hardest since at the end of the day I'm left with no energy to concentrate on it.....

To top it off... A few weeks ago I did a "photo weekend" at my daughter's school to benefit the PTA. It ended up being 12 photo shoots worth of work over two days. At the moment only a handful of clients put their orders in, but those orders are *huge*. I guess on one hand it is great because it means I did a good job, and the PTA will get a even bigger check out of it.. but it also means I will be tied up with it for quite a while... It is OK though.. because I am pretty much considering that to be my "retirement" from taking portrait work clients on a regular basis. I just had to go out with a bang I guess...

As far as additional shoots are concerned.. My wife and I have tentative plans for some day and weekend trips which should result in more raw material. A few things in NYC, and then a larger one in Washington DC (CAN'T WAIT for  that one.. :) ). We also have our yearly trip to the lake in PA. If I have any more time for it there are other things I would like to do.

SOOOOO... In conclusion.. At some point in the next while You'll start seeing a ton of new work published by me... Until then I'll just be sweating away into the wee hours of the night with one hand on my XKeys, the other on the graphic tablet......

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chris's NYC Photo Plus Expo guide for 1st timers...

So it is October... and with that it is almost time for the annual Photo Plus Expo held at the Javits center in NYC! This is the MUST-GO-TO event for photographers in the area. It is the best opportunity you will have during the year to shop, learn, network, and over all move forward in your craft and push your business.

If you have never been to this event you absolutely MUST go. Going to my first expo is what made me realize how huge the photo industry was and how much there was to do with it. My casual client work turned into a full blown business in just a few months after that.. and every year that we have gone since has helped drive me forward one way or another.

Now.. I know from Facebook conversations that there are a few people who plan to go for the 1st time this year. To help you all I have written up some things of what to actually expect and some pointers on how to take full advantage. Remember.. this is the only expo of this size in the area and it is only done once per year... take FULL advantage of it! :)

Firstly.. every single major manufacture of camera gear will be there, and they will have on display everything they sell. Canon, Nikon, and Sony always have GINORMOUS booths. They have every single camera body there for you to handle, use, and ask questions about. Every lens in their inventory is on display. For canon they always have a 2nd huge booth for their printer technology. Nikon always has a stage where they have leading industry people speak on various topics. Sony does similar things, and Olympus is kinda an also-ran with a smaller booth. The other lesser volume brands are there but with smaller displays.

If you are in the market for anything.. tripod, camera bag, or whatever.. this is the hands down best place to shop. You can bounce from brand to brand handling the products and ask questions. I have always thought this process was great for camera bags and cases since all of the major brands are there (Lowepro, Tamrac, etc etc) and they literally have every single bag out on display where you can grab it and mess around with it. Once you pick out what you want you can head over to the B&H order desk and place your order.. usually with a show discount, inexpensive shipping, and zero tax unless you are shipping to NY. Adorama, Unique, and others are there as well with the same deal. So definitely bring $$ with you if you actually looking to buy. (Credit card, AND some cash... )

In addition to camera gear, there are booths for just about anything you want or need for a studio.. lighting, modifiers, stands.. you name it. If you are unfamiliar with this stuff this is a great place to learn. Many of the booths have displays of their equipment setup as they would in a studio, and they even have demonstrations with models shooting standard head shots, 3/4 length shots, and so on. (more on that later)

Computer software and hardware is also very prominent. Adobe has a HUGE booth with a stage for demonstrations and speakers. NIK, OnOne, and others are always there. The big thing, once again, is demonstrations. For the hardware you are looking mostly at storage solutions, memory cards, readers, and a few input devices.

For studio products obviously the major labs are there (WHCC, MPIX, National, etc), and about a zillion photo album makers. Other booths are for the photo product sellers like jewelry, novelties, fancy wall mounts, and just about anything else you can make or print photos on (metal, acrylic, etc). There are also handfuls of manufacturing equipment makers if you were really interested in mass producing the photo crystals and the like.

Companies offering services are also at the expo.. things like web hosting, online shopping carts, backup solutions, stock photo, marketing and promotion, and customer management...

Three other things I will mention as far as who is at the expo hall....
First... One of the other great things to shop for at the expo are props and backdrops. Backdrop Outlet, one of my favorite vendors for that stuff, always has a huge selection of stuff at discount prices. They always bring a boatload of props and sell them first come first serve... 

Another thing.. the expo hall always has a large selection of start-ups offering the latest "must have" gadgets or problem solvers. Definitely plan on spending some time checking that stuff out.. you never know what you will find.. but don't just rush out and give them money at the show. Do some research first because you just may see there is something similar out there which is less expensive to obtain. 

Finally... the expo is a place, above all else, to be INSPIRED. Don't just focus on the equipment and shopping.. also look at all the photographic work being displayed.. (especially in the printer booths.. Canon, Epson, HP..). There is a TON of awesome stuff to look which (At least for me) helps spur my creativity and gives me ideas of what to try over the next year.

Another big part of the expo is education. There are a TON of seminars which are given every day on every topic imaginable. Photography, Lighting, Business, Creativity, Photo manipulation, and so on. These are all taught by industry pros or other notables. Unfortunately they also cost $$. I have attended a few and can tell you that your mileage may vary with each one. The seminars I think fall into two different categories:
1) Strict how-to based off of a lesson plan offered in the speaker's latest book.
2) The speaker basically goes through their latest book or their latest work, presenting it while discussing the topic at hand, then opens up the floor to questions which *usually* fill in the blanks.

Both formats are good.. but it really is speaker dependent on if you will get your money's worth. I have had good and bad.

Now.. here is the secret with the show.. you do NOT have to pay $$ to learn! On the expo floor at least 50% of the booths have some kind of demonstrations going on. Most of the major booths have full blown stages and presentation areas. Most of it, obviously, is geared toward getting you excited about the products they sell and (of course) encourage you to buy them. Whether you use it or not, or plan to use it or not, it makes no difference.. you WILL learn something.

Another very cool thing is many of the booths setup opportunities to do some shooting. I've seen BMX tricks done in a half-pipe setup by Nikon (to promote their sport shooting gear), Models doing full blown body painting demonstrations (yes.. topless) at the Unique booth, and mock fashion shows where you can stand there like a real fashion photographer shooting the models on the runways. You never know what you are going to see.

Some tips:
  1. Get there EARLY and plan on spending the entire day even if you only plan on doing the expo floor. If you can, and especially if you have lots to do, consider a 2nd day.
  2. Prepare ahead of time... Make sure you review the list of booths on the expo web site and make a rough plan on who you are most interested in. Take into account what you may be shopping for..  make a list of topics you are interested in and things you want to know more about. Use that as a driver to focus you on the right booths, and the right demonstrations.
  3. First order of business should be to get a lay of the land and identify which booths will have demonstrations and speakers... make a plan to attend as much as possible. You may be able to get that info off the various web sites but usually it is only avail at the show. 
  4. Be on the look out for some notables in the industry talking/teaching for free.. Rick Sammon, Scott Kelby, and others are regulars but sometimes only appear ONCE. Don't miss it. (especially check out the NIK and Unique Photo schedules...)
  5. IF you are in the market for props etc get to Backdrop Outlet's booth ASAP and preferably on the 1st day of the expo. Most of the good props on display will be gone very quickly (you can still order and have them ship it to you though).
  6. Bring your camera! But don't bring a huge bag with you. Walking around the floor you will not be able to get around easily with a big backpack or shoulder bag.
  7. When looking at the non-free seminars.. factor in bang for your buck when deciding what to go to. Remember that Unique photo runs many similar classes at their facilities in NJ.. and consider that most of the time these seminars are primarily a vehicle for the speaker to sell more copies of their book(s).
  8. factor some time in to smell the roses and take in all the work hung up on the various walls..
  9. As much as you may have the urge to wait in the long line at the Canon booth to put your hands on a $8000 1Ds your time may be better spent elsewhere. Leave stuff like that to the end after you have achieved your goals. Remember to stay focused.. put your energy and time into the things that are important and will push you ahead in your business and/or craft. This is a once-per-year event and nothing else comes close... MAKE THE MOST OF IT! :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

New York.. New York... My muse...

Today, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I have spent the day reflecting.. Like many people I have so many thoughts and emotions about it. You obviously feel terrible about all the people who were killed. Even if you didn't know someone directly, chances are you know someone who knows someone.. When it happened I thought I didn't know anyone who was even there... 10 years later I am still discovering old classmates or family members of friends who were at the WTC and escaped the towers before they fell.

This morning I watched a variety of the 9/11 related programming which saturated all the channels. The one that brought it home the most was on MSNBC where they were replaying their news broadcast from that day. On 9/11 my wife and I were down in FL (on our honeymoon no less) and our only link to what was going on was the TV news. To relive what we actually saw that day brought it back quite a bit.

For some reason, I have always had this indescribable feeling of loss about 9/11. I know that all of us Americans feel something like that. But I felt like it was more personal then it should be. I could never understand it because I didn't lose anyone close to me. It wasn't until today that I finally understood why.

All of us artists have our muses... someone or something that sparks our creative spirit and brings out the best in us... an inspiration if you will. For me when I was first starting out with photography the NYC skyline was what did it for me. A majority of my first major work with my first digital cameras all had to do with NYC. I lost count of the number of trips I made to Liberty State Park, Ellis Island, and took cruises around Manhattan Island where I shot hundreds of pictures. I used to walk around the streets shooting anything and everything. Since then I have had other muses... my daughter, my wife, and Arizona for example.. but NYC was and still is one of the first that really did it for me.

When the terrorists took out the towers, and damaged that skyline, they were in effect damaging my muse. They broke a piece off of what inspired me. It is only now that I fully understand that this was what I had been feeling. It is such a insignificant thing as compared to losing a loved one, but all the same it is just another way those insane people hurt us. 

So today I decided to undertake a project that has been on the back burner for quite a while. I have a ton of NYC related material from my early days that has not been processed or even touched in years. It was all done with my old Olympus cameras (C2020Z, and E-10) and not only were they relatively low resolution (2MP, or 4MP) but they also had a ton of sensor noise even at ISO 100. I have resisted working on that stuff since I didn't want to put the time in when I had plenty of more recent work to play with. However, I think the time is right. So over the next weeks I'll be gradually putting this stuff up in my galleries.I am not sure how many will make the cut.. I figure there are at least 10-15 images I have always liked that will go up. Maybe more. I'm very picky as you know. Time will tell.

On another different but similar note.. I tried today to get some shots of The Tribute in Lights. I had planned to go to the waterfront but that didn't happen. Instead I stayed locally and went to Eagle Rock Reservation.. Of course I was not the only person with that idea and it was utterly saturated with people. The whole thing was for naught.. atmospheric conditions really didn't allow a usable shot from that location. So I went home empty handed. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On the topic of Copyright and Likeness....

Recently I saw an article a friend had posted which covered the basics of where you were allowed to shoot. (i.e. street photography). It made me think that so many people out there who are getting into photography have no idea about their rights to the images they take. On the flip side, so many clients and potential clients do not truly understand basic concepts of what they can and can not do. So I decided to whip up a blog entry which covers the basics on two major areas. All this info comes from several years of operating as a portrait photographer, dealing with clients, and making my own mistakes. Please save yourself some trouble (that I had to deal with) and read on:

First lets look at the topic of Copyright...
Copyright is essentially ownership of the image. When you take a picture using a camera (ANY camera) you own the copyright to the resultant image. This means you own the rights to that image and no one else can use it, publish it, or create copies of it in ANY form without your expressed permission.

This does not extend to just using your own camera. If I borrow a friend's camera and take a picture that picture belongs to me. It makes no difference if I used someone else's hardware to do it.

The only caveat is if you are doing the photography work "for hire". So if someone hires you to take pictures, and the contract is structured such that the photos are owned by the client, then you do not own them. But this must be expressly put into writing. The same thing is true if you work for a company and as part of your job, during working hours (for which you are being paid), you take pictures. Unless something is put into writing those pictures belong to the company since you generated them on work time (same as if you come up with an idea or invent something during working hours that belongs to them as well).

Most of the time, when you do "for hire" work, copyright ownership is jointly held by the client and the photographer. But again.. this needs to be worked out ahead of time. DO NOT WAIT TILL AFTER A "FOR HIRE" ASSIGNMENT TO FIGURE IT OUT! Get it on paper before you do anything. Also make sure that if your employer asks you to do some photography "on their time" that the ownership of the resultant work is understood (and in writing!)

So now.. you own the copyright.. what does that mean? It means only you control how and where the image is used. No one can just make copies without asking you. No one can publish without your permission. This ownership is where most of a photographer's income comes from. You take pictures and sell copies to your clients. You sell publishing rights to magazines, web sites, and so on. You sell usage rights to corporations so they can take your pretty image and put it into a corporate slide show. You sell the rights to a musician who then puts your image on their album cover. NO ONE ELSE can make any money off the images without your permission.

So lets take a look at some examples..
Lets say I sell you a print of one of my images. Now you "own" the print itself. Which means you own the paper and the ink used to generate the image. You also own the "right" to display the image in the normal ways you would do that.. on the wall, in a frame.. etc. This is no different then if you buy a CD from the store. You own the plastic, paper, and metal which make up the CD and it's packaging. You also own the right to listen to the CD on your stereo, or maybe even play it during a gathering at your house.

But do you OWN the image? Absolutely not. You no more own the image then you would own the song that is on a CD. You have no rights to the image to do anything other then look at it in the formats which you purchase. This means you can not:
  • Make copies of the image using a copy machine.
  • Scan the print and create a electronic file containing it.
  • Hand it to a publisher and have them publish the image in some shape or form. (yes even those engagement announcements in the news paper)
All of the above effectively create new copies of the image, or publish the image in some way. You can not do that. Period. You do not own the rights to the image so you can not create any new work using the image or publish the image in any way.

A 2nd example.. lets say I take one of my images in electronic form and publish it on my web site. In that situation I have chosen to publish the image and am effectively licensing web site visitors to look at the image on their web browser. Some people think that if it is on the net, it is there for the taking.. so they right click on the image and do a "save" to their hard drive.. guess what? You just stole from me. You are NOT entitled to save my image for any use other then viewing it within the context of the web site I have published it in. You can't make it your screen saver, nor your desktop background, and you certainly can not make a print (see above.. same thing). You can not email the file or put it up on Facebook.. why? Because you are effectively publishing it.. which you have no right to do.

A 3rd example... lets say I provide to you (my client) a low resolution jpeg which is a proof of a image. Now you love that image so much that you make it your Facebook profile picture. Guess what? You just broke the law. You *can't do anything* with that file other then look at it on your own computer. You can't even forward the email to someone else to look at because that is publishing as well.

A 4th example.. Lets say you work for a company and you are putting together a in house presentation. You need a particular graphic for a slide. You search the net and find one of my images on my site. It is perfect, so you save the image (somehow) and then put it in your slide. Guess what? You just opened up your company to litigation. Even if you are not making actual money off the image (by using it in house) you are still using it for purposes far beyond what is allowed. In this case you SHOULD have gone to a stock photography site.. picked something from there, and made a micro payment to the owner. You could also have contacted me with your request and I'd probably let ya do it for a small fee.

5th example.. I shot some photos for you of your kids, and now you want to enter them in one of those online baby contests, or one of those mall pageants (which you shouldn't do anyway.. its a rip off.. trust me.. been there done that). So you take one of my shots and give it to them... without asking. Bad idea. Sometimes these places have fine print in that when you submit an image they assume some rights for publishing the photos or using them in some way. Obviously you are not a copyright holder, and you do not have the right to extend that permission to them.. so their agreement with you is null and void.. which means if I happen to see one of my shots in a magazine somewhere I am going to sue you, the company you worked with, and the magazine.

You would be surprised how many people out there break the law by doing any of the above. You would be surprised how many times I have seen clients putting up proof images on Facebook, or have heard about them scanning a print and using it for something. I know it happens more then I am aware. It is just a fact of life. The truth is I am a pretty easy going guy when it comes to my work. As long as you aren't planning on selling my photos I am usually more then willing to let you do what you want with them. I have never turned down a request from a client to use shots for news papers, or even submitting pictures to competitions for their kids. I've shot bands and provided them with tons of pics and given them the right to do what they want... all I ask is that somewhere it says "Photo by Chris Onjian" (or something to the effect of that).

As a photographer it is up to you to protect yourself from people violating your copyright. If you do not protect yourself your right is essentially worthless (And then someone can later claim that since you did not defend your right that it no longer exists.. and they can win). Obviously we want others to see our work, and we want those who buy our prints/etc to enjoy them as well, but we also have to be careful. Most of the time it isn't an issue.. but you never know when you are going to take that one special shot.. that one memorable shot.. which has an impact.. and then somehow some way it spreads across the internet (and thus the world) like wildfire.. and you are left standing in the dust with nothing to show for it because you didn't protect yourself...

(Example.. that person who shot that picture of the last shuttle launch from an airplane as it flew near the launch site.. put it up on a blog.. and it spread all over the world within hours.. )

So what can you do? Obviously you can't protect against everything. But there are some practices you can follow which will help.
  • Never EVER give anyone a high resolution file unless you are giving them "rights" to the image as well. If you ARE going to give someone a file make sure it is a compressed jpeg, no more then 600x400 in resolution. That should be good enough for screen viewing but not really that great for making prints (less then that would be even better).
  • Use watermarking where possible for proofs or examples. Be aware that people can very easily crop out your watermarking if it is just around the edges.
  • Share your images only on web sites which allow you to add "right click protection", and give you control over allowing (or not allowing) people to download the images. I.e. NOT FACEBOOK. Two that I use are Zenfolio, and Smugmug.
  • Distribute proofs on a web site like the above.. never via jpegs sent through the email. Never put your work up on a blog without protections.
  • Wherever your work is published clearly mark the ownership of the image on each page, and also under the image if possible.
  • Make sure your prints are marked (on the back) DO NOT COPY. Most pro papers such as Kodak Endura have this built in. I also suggest creating labels with your name/studio on them and applying them to the back of anything you hand out. At the very minimum if the person takes that to Walmart/CVS/etc and asks for a copy they will flat out tell them no.
  • Password protect online galleries that you do not want open the public (more on this later).
Now.. there will be some times when you DO want to give rights to someone. Maybe they purchased a "high resolution" digital copy and you want to give them the right to make prints. This is very common. In that case all you need to do is write up a copyright release and sign it. They can present that release to anyone who questions their authority.
  • Make sure the release is as specific as possible. Date/Time of shoot, File name or image number, and you may want to include a small thumbnail of the actual image.
  • Make sure the allowed use is as specific as possible. You may want to allow them to make prints, but you might not want to allow them to publish the image in a newspaper. You will most certainly will want control if the client can use the image for commercial purposes. Be as restrictive as possible.
So now lets say you have a client that you take some portraits of. You love how they came out, and you would like to display them on your online gallery. You figure "I own the copyright.. so I can do whatever I want with the pictures".


You may own the copyright.. but if you took the picture of a person you do NOT own the rights to their "likeness". You can not do *anything* with these images other then produce products for the client (in the picture) unless you have their permission. You can't make your own copies and show them to others. You most definitely can NOT put them up on Facebook, or on a publicly accessible online gallery. If you do, and they have a problem with it, then you are in for big trouble. At the very minimum they can get mad and demand that you take the pictures down (and you have to, no matter how inconvenient it is). Even worse they can sue you and anyone that had had anything to do with publishing the images (the newspaper, magazine, etc). This is very bad stuff. ***You do not want to go there***

So what do you do? Simple.. have the client sign a release which allows you to do what you need to do. It should be standard practice to have your clients sign this agreement and it should be worded so that everyone in the images is covered. So lets say grandma hires you to shoot pictures of her two kids and their families. You need to make sure that your agreement covers EVERYONE in the images.. both families..and grandma. Everyone needs to sign. If there are any children then a legal parent/guardian needs to sign for them. It is a big ass hassle, but a totally necessary one.

My suggestion is to create a single one stop shop client agreement which also has a likeness release incorporated in it. Therefore you cover all your bases. Get it signed BEFORE the shoot. And make sure that they understand what is in it. Do not just spring on them later that pictures of them are up on the internet. Not everyone is thrilled with that idea. If later on you decide you want to use some of their work as examples in your galleries you should let them know in a very nice and congratulatory way, offer them some token gift in appreciation (extra 8x10, whatever), and lightly word it to them that they can decline this honor if they wish. If they say no... honor that (even though you DO have the rights). It is NOT worth the hassle... and pissing off a client is a sure fire way to have them never to come back and never to recommend you.

Some Do's and Don'ts:
  • Do create a client agreement with a iron clad likeness release.
  • Do have everyone in the shot sign it, as well as parents of the children involved.
  • Do honor requests NOT to publish images. Don't argue. Just go along with it. There will be other shoots.
  • Do use non publicly known (preferably password protected) sites to provide online galleries for proofs to clients. Don't just throw a link up on your main page for them to click on.. that is effectively publishing it (bad). Give them a link instead via email.
  • Do take down any proof web sites as soon as they are done with them.
  • Do be very sensitive about the content of the images. This is especially true with pics of children, pregnancy shots, and anything else of that nature.
  • Do NOT published ANYTHING client related on Facebook. Ever. Just don't do it. Its wrong in all sorts of ways.
  • Do NOT keep clients in the dark about how their images are being used. They can still file a lawsuit against you even if you are "in the right". Lawyers are expensive. Avoid them at all costs.
  • Do NOT assume that likeness covers just people. Pets, personal property, and especially corporate property (logos, designs, products, etc) are all in the same boat.
  • Do NOT assume that just because a client is a friend that "they won't mind" you doing what you want. Treat them like any other client. If they are your friend they will understand signing a piece of paper.
  • Do NOT ever, ever, ever, stand on verbal agreements on photo usage. Verbal agreements are worthless. Everything MUST MUST MUST be in writing otherwise it don't mean jack.
Rule of thumb.. when in doubt.. ASK PERMISSION. You can't go wrong (even if the answer isn't what you wanted to hear).

I hope that some of that info is helpful... and also.. I am in no way an absolute expert on these topics... everything I have learned I have done so in the battlefield of being a working photographer. I have made plenty of mistakes, pissed off a few people, gotten into arguments, lost a few friendships (which i guess goes to show how much of a friend they were in the first place), and so on. Each time was a learning experience for me. If you happen to disagree with anything I have written.. if i have any of it wrong.. PLEASE feel free to let me know (just don't be an dick about it). I would be more then glad to correct my txt and give you proper credit for setting me straight.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On my way to PA with my camera...

Heading to PA today for the yearly trip to the lake. Every year I do some photography up there. I did the whole lake photo thing, and have shot enough sunsets.. so the last few years I have tried to do different things. Last year I did a lot of macro stuff with a lens I rented. This year I am going to put in a good solid effort on some star trail photos. I tried it last year, but I was woefully unprepared.

Last time I mainly did long exposures.. which came out OK except for the massive amounts of noise in the images. Even with a 5DmkII you get massive noise with a 15 min exposure.. I believe my problem was that I didn't have long exposure noise reduction enabled. That should have helped. I am going to try that again with it enabled this year.. but also going to try to use the stacking technique. This involves shooting many frames at much shorter exposures.. and then stacking them into one in post processing. Never did it before (other then with HDR) so it will be interesting. Wish I was bringing my PC with me so I could actually see on the spot how things are going to look.. but that's kinda unrealistic. (all the more reason for my next computer to be a laptop.. but that is at least 2 years out)

Weather reports are favorable (unlike last year).. moon phase is workable (not full at least).. so hopefully everything will work out. :)

I'll post some results and a blog if I get something useful.. if I don't mention it again then it is because I screwed everything up. LOL

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fireworks 101...

So in typical fashion I am posting a "how to shoot fireworks" blog a few days after the 4th of July... pretty useful right?!?! LOL
Sorry about that.. I just don't think of these things until after the fact.

My approach to fireworks is similar to waterfalls... and that is to use longer exposures to capture the motion of the subject. With a waterfall you will see a nice sheet of water as opposed to water droplets frozen in mid air (although those shots are also nice too when zoomed in real close to capture all the details... its just a stylistic choice). With fireworks you will see a bright light trail, and hopefully multiple complementary bursts which create a nice composite image.

My go-to exposure setting is M 1", f16, ISO 200. With that you get a nearly black sky, and capture a nice trail. I have used 1/2" as well with the appropriate change in f-stop. Tripods are mandatory obviously, as well as a wired remote release. I normally set it up with a wide focal length pointed at the scene of action. I always end up cropping things down (22MP FF to work with anyway...) so it don't matter too much to compose it perfectly then and there. One other thing to do is pre-focus the camera and then once set, switch the lens to manual. This will avoid those silly delays with the camera re-focusing (if it even can given there will be very little contrast to use). If your camera has it definitely turn on the long exposure noise reduction. With Canon this will effectively double your shot to shot delay but at 1" that matters little.. (now when I am doing night photography with a 2 stop ND filter and use 15 minute exposures... yeah then it matters much LOL). I have no idea if Nikon offers this feature or what it does..

So once all that is ready you just sit and wait.. I try to time my first shots with the launch of the rockets. Remember the camera will capture 1 seconds worth of action each time.. After the first shot i just bang away on the shutter button and hope for the best... you end up with a ton of throw-aways but it's effective.

Post processing wise there isn't much to do. Raise the saturation just a bit, and slightly raise the black point to really make that color pop.. add some sharpening (but not tooo much), and a bit of clarity. Crop it down the way you want to present it and then you are good to go. Obviously I am shooting in RAW mode here (and you should be too), and using ACR to process (ditto).

You can see some of my work from a few days ago on my new Fireworks gallery

..just one more thing on color calibration.

As I was re-reading my last blog post on color calibration I realized I had forgotten one more point to make..

After you have established solid color management in your digital darkroom you will be able to process your images and print what you see on the screen.. basically if your output is prints, and only prints, then you are all set...

However... most (nearly all) digital photographers these days don't just make prints.. the most widely used way to display your work is using online galleries on web sites. Now from what we learned last time we know that the standard web browser does not support color management.. also 99.9999% of your viewers will not have calibrated monitors.. So all these people viewing your work will not really be looking at faithful representations of the original image...

There isn't much you can do. It is just a fact of life with digital display. You have no idea if people will see your work on a full blown digital monitor or a cell phone. You just have no control over it. The best approach is to always double check your digital galleries on different types of set ups. This is a lot like what (at least used to be) done in music studios where the final mix of a song was previewed on different types of speakers, stereos, and even Walkmans to make sure that the average listener (who wouldn't be using $1000 studio monitors) was going to hear what the artist intended even if all they had was a cheep set of headphones. Quite a lot of techniques with notch filters, eq-ing, etc were developed to create a mix which would work on most situations.

In this case view your gallery on a few different "average" computers, on a cell phone, and maybe even an apple Ipad.. make sure that in each case the images (while still not being faithfully reproduced) at least come close to what you intended. If, for example, you have a very high key image make sure that enough highlight detail is preserved on these setups so the user doesn't just see a totally blown out image. If not then you may want to consider creating a new version of the image tailored for online display.

When working with clients who see their proofs on a web gallery it is critical to inform them of this dilemma. Forget about filling them in on the finer details.. most people don't get it nor do they want to know. Just a statement like:
"Due to the irregularities in computer displays and how they are configured the images you see on the screen will not faithfully show how the final printed product will look. In nearly all cases the prints will look substantially better."
And then let them figure it out from there...

I find with most clients they get the point right away... and after they see just one example they no longer even care about it..

Anyway.. that just about sums up what I want to say about color calibration and management at the moment.. if anyone wants more details just fire off a message to me.