Capture Cafe Tue, 14 Jun 2011 01:18:59 +0000 en hourly 1 A Few Truths About Photography Business Tue, 25 Jan 2011 23:56:19 +0000 Aaron LEGO Photographers
Photo by: turkguy
Along with this increase of digital media, we also are see a dramatic increase in the amount of cameras that are being bought. With all this new equipment many people are discovering their creative sides with camera’s. It starts with a camera phone, point and shoot or shooting with a friends camera. After a few epic shots, you find that you have some talent. You start to dream of grandeur. Everything becomes a photograph and you begin to hear the “siren of a nicer camera”. It calls out to you to buy it. You save your money, get a loan or some credit and it happens. You buy the camera. Then that is when “the dream” sets in.  Most of the time (9 out of 10) tend to all have one common dream. It’s a grand dream and to an extent, the ultimate sense of accomplishment. That dream is to make money or get rich by taking photographs. Everyone wants to be the $20,000 wedding photographer or the traveling landscape photographer.

This is where some of you either start to hate me or love me. Make your choice after you read this.

I know people (me included) that has started their photography business expecting grand results. Many times, however, it just doesn’t happen. Well, it doesn’t happen like you expect or want. My desire is not to squash that dream. Instead, I want to save you some trouble and give you tips on what actually to expect from your photography business and how it relates to your dream.

It takes some time.
One of the greatest tips I have is not to rely on your photography as a main source of income. Especially when you are just starting out. If you are just cutting your teeth then chances are most of the people in your city have never heard of you. Because of this lack of recognition, you will have difficulty finding enough client’s. It takes time to build your professional portfolio and reputation. I have an article that will help you to do this.

Financial viability
In order to make minimum wage in photography you would have to make around $1200 a month. This is a huge problem. Not only because finding clients in the current market who are willing to pay a decent price is really hard but also paying for the thousands of dollars in gear will cut into your financial stability. Consider the costs. You will be responsible for the gear, overhead, business fees, taxes, time, employees (if you have them), production and all the other costs that come with the profession.

It’s a business
I used to think that professional photographers just got to run around shooting things and had no responsibilities. Boy was I wrong. I would say that owning a photography business is about 60% business and 40% photography. When making the jump to having it be a profession, you take on all of the tasks of a business owner. You are now in charge of gaining new clients, costs, profit margins, maintaining clients, workflow, customer service, employees or assistants, web and city presence, branding and all the fun things that are involved in running a business. If you are fortunate enough to hire out from the get go then some of these pressures are relieved.

No work no work
Its pretty simple. If you are having a lull in business or don’t maintain your business then you won’t gain business. I remember business was booming and I went out of town for a few weeks. When I got back it took about a month to get things back the the way they were. If you don’t work on your business and craft, you won’t get business. Having a business requires great attention to detail but having a successful business is a great feeling.

Anyway, there are a few tips. Hope you enjoyed them. Let me know what you think or give us your tips by commenting

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Capture Cafe Giveaway! Fri, 21 Jan 2011 16:33:20 +0000 Aaron Current free thing:

Cowboy Studio Light Stand

Once and a while I like to give away free things. This time it is a Cowboy Studio Light Stand. This comes with a handy carrying case.

In order to be eligible for one of these free things you have to follow a few simple steps:

1: Follow us on Twitter or follow on Facebook. If you already do, skip this step.

Twitter- Retweet this message by copying and pasting into your tweet box.
Facebook- Post this message on your wall.

“Get a free Cowboy Studio Light Stand from Capture Cafe!”

3: Make sure you post this exact message or else it wont be tracked. If you post this both on Twitter and Facebook you will have a better chance of winning.

That’s it! that’s all you have to do. On February 20th, 2011 I will announce who won the contest. If you didn’t win….. that is totally ok, I will be giving away tons of free things.

If you don’t want to wait to win, you can just purchase a great inexpensive light stand right here.

Congratulations to Deb Wood for winning the Nikon Lens Mug!

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Digital Coffee With Nathan Elson Fri, 14 Jan 2011 19:46:26 +0000 Aaron

Once in a while you just meet those people who have “it”. You know what I am talking about. Those people who are down to earth, honest and who don’t seem to have a harsh bone in their bodies. I like people like that. They tell you how it is rather than trying to present a false image of themselves. I was spending some time on twitter the other day and somebody suggested that I check this guy out. I took a look at his images and they were really great. Then I read some of his blog posts and I was hooked. Nathan Elson is one of those down to earth people. That is why I wanted to interview him. So I did. Here you go!

I go by Nate and I’m based out of Calgary, AB. I specialize in environmental portraiture, but more bluntly, I’m known for combining edgy/awesome locations with a mix of natural and artificial light to create photos with a lot of snap to them. From a photographic perspective, I’m obsessed with light and how you can use it to create shape and texture. Photographically that’s what I live for. From a personal perspective I’ve never been big on trying to describe on a website who I am as a person (or been very good at it for that matter), so if you’d like to get to know a little more about me, drop me a line using the contact form and we can chat.

CC: You have some really great environmental portraits. What kind of conditions or places are your favorite?

I can’t say so much that I have a favorite kind of place to shoot, but what I do love is when I take a client somewhere and they look at me like I’ve lost my mind, then they freak out with excitement when they see the result of my mix of lighting and composition. The usual comment is, “oh my god…that doesn’t look anything like it does in real life!”. I thrive on showing people what I see vs what’s just there.

CC: Sometimes we as photographers go through creative ruts. How do you get out of those ruts?

It’s actually crazy timing that you asked this question because I recently found myself in a rut where I didn’t even take my camera out of its bag for 3 weeks. I find my creative ruts come when I spend too much time shooting for everyone else, and not enough shooting for just me. I love my job, and I love the kind of photos I get to take for my clients, but it’s similar to something like owning a shop building custom cars, you love doing it, but working on your own car is what brings you the most enjoyment / inspiration, and I’m the same way with photography. My personal work is what most clients tend to be drawn too, and that’s because that’s where I can take more risks and make more care free mistakes, which of course is what we learn the most from. Anytime I don’t feel like taking out the camera, it’s because I haven’t shot enough for myself, and of course there is a quick fix for that.

CC: I noticed that you teach workshops in Calgary. What is your favorite part about teaching workshops?

I’ll actually be teaching my first full blown workshop On Feb 12, 2011 here in Calgary, AB, which is the result of being asked to speak at the 2010 Digital Photo Expo about my use of on-location lighting. The Expo was basically me showing my work, and explaining the process of how I took my photos to roughly between 75 – 100 photographers in a large room. My knees were literally shaking as I did it, but I also had a blast, and the coordinators of the Expo got a lot of requests from the attendees to have me do something a little more extensive, which turned into me with 50 photographers in a studio talking about lighting for a few hours. After that there was more requests for a full on workshop, and voila, on Feb 12th I’ll be spending an afternoon in a studio doing some lighting demos with 15 other photographer folk.

As far as the teaching aspect goes, its just really awesome when I can help someone to understand something they’ve been struggling with for a period of time, and when they get excited its really rewarding. I’m definitely not a ‘trade secret’ kind of guy and there really isn’t anything I won’t answer about photography or lighting if someone asks and I think I know the answer. I was fortunate in the fact that I could call on other photographers (and still do) when I had questions about one thing or another, and to not pay that forward would just be bad karma.

CC: The photography market is rapidly changing. What marketing technique do you find works for you?

There are really two things that seem to work well for me, and they weren’t so much techniques I thought about and implemented as much as just who I am as a person.

1) I make myself available to anyone and everyone. As I said before I’m really open about what I do and enjoy answering other photographer’s questions when they have them. Its gone as far as getting phone calls from people I have never met or talked to in my life that had questions about something they couldn’t figure out and figured by the way I write on my blog I’d be nice enough to just call. I ended up talking for an hour an a half on the phone each time with these people, which was actually kind of hilarious as my wife kept looking at me like I was bat shit crazy. Even though I don’t market myself directly to photographers, the fact that I’ve made myself available has resulted in a lot of friends in the photo world and as a result of that, when those photographers come across a job they can’t do for one reason or another, they tend to fire my name into the mix which usually ends up in work for me. It wasn’t the intention when I decided to make myself available, just sort of a win that came as a result.

2) Secondly, I’m myself. It sounds like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen on many occasions that people dress themselves up as someone their not in order to attract people to their business, but in the end they end up attracting the wrong people and are never really happy with where their business is heading. I don’t blame the photographers doing it, it’s been hammered into us from the ‘regular’ working society that there are certain ways to conduct business, and that’s fine if you’re working for someone else and they require that as part of your pay cheque, but I didn’t start my own company to become someone I’m not. I tend to talk about business over a pint of Stella Artois, I meet with potential clients wearing my favorite jeans and t-shirt, and I talk to potential clients as if they were my friends for years, because that’s the most comfortable way for me to talk to them. My target market is anyone who enjoys photographs that are a little edgy and thinks all of my jokes are funny. When those people find me, we become friends, and I can guarantee anytime they know someone who wants photos done, it’s my name that is going to be suggested.

Basically my ‘technique’ isn’t so much a technique as just drawing in clients that I can relate with on more than just a photographic level, because their recommendation carries 1000x the weight in terms of advertising than any facebook ad ever could.

CC: You seem to have some pretty great work and some really great lighting. What drew you to that style?

The first time I fired a shot using off-camera lighting was a few years ago and I was hooked. At the time I was using a hot-shoe flash with a small light stand and a bounce umbrella, which really gave me no control over my lighting in terms of light spill, but it looked cooler than anything else I had shot so I decided to experiment more with it. Since then I’ve moved more into shooting Alien Bee strobes with a variety of lighting modifiers. The idea of being able to control light, and create awesome light in any shape or direction I wanted was the major draw. It’s allowed me to create photos with a lot of contrast when the natural light is flat and boring, as well as opened up doors in terms of the kind of jobs I can take on when clients need a photo that natural light simply won’t work for. I do still shoot a lot of natural light when I feel the photo benefits more from it, but knowing how to light when it doesn’t has been a huge feather in my cap.

CC: I noticed your portraiture ranges from kids to weddings. What is your favorite thing to shoot?

I love shooting creatives. Getting together a model, hair and makeup, styling, assistants, and my camera, then heading out as a crew to create some photos is easily one of the funnest parts of what I do. Working together as a team for no other benefit other than to create some great photos is pure awesome, and quite frankly if I ever become incredibly wealthy and no longer have to hustle for my money, that’s the only kind of photos I’ll be doing from that point on.

CC: What other photographer inspires you the most?

Dan Winters has always been a favorite of mine, and I plan to do more portrait style work like his in 2011.

Chris Crisman is someone I just learned about recently, and his use of environments in his photos makes me want to sell all of my equipment.

For photographers local to Calgary, there are my friends Noah Fallis who I assisted for a year and easily experiments more with lighting than anyone else I know, his mind is always cooking up something, and Phil Crozier who is easily one of the best guys I know and has an amazing vision when executing his photographs.

CC: I noticed you have a post up on your blog about your friend Kaz. What can Capture Cafe readers do to help out?

There is a donation link at the bottom of the post where all the proceeds are going towards helping his family financially so that they can spend whatever time they have left together as a family, as well as help to create an education fund for his 18 month old daughter Sloan. As of writing this there has been $2000 in donations made, and the outpouring of support from those who know Kaz and those who have never heard of him before my blog post has been truly amazing. There is also a fund raiser being held in Saskatoon at the Sutherland Bar on Jan 22, 2011 if anyone is in the area and wanted to bid on some prizes, it’s going to be a good time.

Aside from that without sounding cheesy, just take things like this as a warning to how little time we have here, and try to spend the time you have doing things you love and hanging out with the people in your life that matter.

CC: What is your favorite piece of equipment?

I’d have to say that its a toss up between my 70-200 f/2.8 and my newly purchased 47″ octabox w/ grid, as a combination they are incredible.

One thing that I’d like to touch on in regards to this question is that we photographers are a very funny bunch when it comes to gear, and a lot of time we convince ourselves that our photos would be so much better if we just had that (insert piece of equipment here) like somehow new gear is going to solve your photographic frustrations. The reality is if you feel your photo sucks with a $100 50mm f/1.8, buying a $1500 50mm f/1.2 isn’t going to change anything except the amount of money in your bank account. Better gear doesn’t magically produce better photos, and what someone else uses won’t necessarily match what you need. What most people should be doing in my opinion is buying one lens, use it for a few months, shoot it like crazy, and figure out where your holes are, then purchase more gear if needed based on your own input. The same goes for lighting, buy one light with one modifier, use it in every way possibly you can think of for a few months, and add on from there. You’d be amazed what you can achieve with one light.

CC: Is there anything that you would like to say to Capture Cafe readers?

If you’ve made it this far I am extremely flattered. If you ever meet me in real life, tell me about this interview and we’ll do a thunderous Top Gun High-5.

Thanks a ton Nathan!
You can check out Nathan’s world in the following places

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A Few Tips To Dealing With “That” Client Tue, 04 Jan 2011 22:18:17 +0000 Aaron angry_woman_1
photo by: s_falkow

I usually love nothing more than to grab my camera, head out to some beautiful epic landscape and shoot. Most of the time it is calming and it gives me a chance to clear my head. I can work, learn, grow and relax all at the same time. It’s great. The nicest thing sometimes about shooting landscapes and other personal projects is the fact that the landscape doesn’t talk back. You don’t have to worry about the mountain liking your photographs. This is a very opposite reality with people. Many times people are harsh critics of how they look or what they want to look like.

I remember in one of the earlier weddings I was shooting, the mother of the bride was standing besides me saying “you better get amazing photos”. On top of that I had about 3 people telling me how they wanted the shot to turn out. I just about wanted to crumble. Not only I am responsible for capturing possibly the most important day of someones life, I am expected to do it with absolute perfection. The pressure can be overwhelming. You can’t re shoot a wedding.

Once in a while, you get that client. Most of you who have been shooting for a while know about that client. You get the client that has a perception of what they want and they will do anything whatever it takes to get what they want. The worst part is when they don’t have a clue what they are talking about but they try to tell you how to set up the lighting, background, ect. Even worse than that is what I like to call “committee photography”. This is the instance when a group of people decide they know how it should look so each of them give you different opinions of what “needs to be included” in the final product.

When you get clients like this, it can make the working environment very stressful. As you grow, you will learn how to navigate these situations with easy but I usually follow a few simple things to make the circumstances easier.

1: Compromise on something.
I know some people may think that their job as a photographer is to capture the exact image in their client’s head but that is not right. When you have a client that has a crazy demand try your hardest to capture their vision but don’t lose the vision you have for the shoot. If you compromise fully, most of the time you will produce really bad shots, lower your quality and most likely never get the exact image that the client has. The key to this is to give them some of the things they want but keep your style. Sometimes if a client absolutely want’s something I don’t want to offer then I will refer them to someone else.

2: Confidence
When you are on a shoot, people will watch you. I have done my fair share of committee shoots and I find that when I don’t like the work, I start to lose confidence and in turn, those around me begin to lose confidence in me as a professional and they feel the need even greater to give their “two cents”. Even if it takes a small amount of confrontation, in order to produce great shots, you need to direct the details of the shoot. You are the one who has taken your life to learn the craft. In the long run, your client will thank you.

3: Be honest
When someone is telling me how I need to do something and it’s not going to work, I tell them. Sometimes I will even go as far to take the photograph and show them why. Sometimes they want you to shoot something from a specific direction but when you show the port-a-potty growing out of the brides head, most people understand. If they think that 5 different lighting white balances is good for the white dress, I take a photo and (kindly) show them why that wont work. Nine times out of ten, it works. I usually bring out some of the technical speak to try to educate them a bit. When you explain to them why something won’t work then they will almost always trust you.

4: Show them how awesome you are
Once in a while, show them the shot that you just took. This will just reaffirm to them that you need to be the one directing the photos. A lot of times, when they see how great your photo is, they will realize you are doing a better job than the photo in their heads.

I’m not saying to ignore your client’s. In fact, many times I have gotten great shots because a client has suggested something. There is a difference between taking suggestions and becoming a slave to someones demands. The more you keep your style and the more you develop a name in that style, the more success you will have.


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Things You Should Know About RAW Wed, 29 Dec 2010 16:58:15 +0000 Aaron This post is packed full of good things photo by: Aaron "RAW Vs. JPG" If you go through the jungle of photography information blogs, you will find a million and a half articles on this subject. You have both parties from the RAW haters to the JPG haters. I know over at Ken Rockwell's]]>
This post is packed full of good things

photo by: Aaron

If you go through the jungle of photography information blogs, you will find a million and a half articles on this subject. You have both parties from the RAW haters to the JPG haters. I know over at Ken Rockwell’s blog , he has created quite a stir by continuously preaching the benefit of JPG and horrible aspects of RAW. I am actually quite impressed with the amount of thought that he has put into his blog and if you have time to process through the pages and pages of text then I encourage you to do so. He has some good info.

While I appreciate Kens stance on the issue, I think his approach and info is outdated. This is not a “kill Ken” post like some others have posted, this is merely my take on the digital age old battle. Before we go on, I am going to make sure we are clear that you understand that I am avidly pro “RAW”. At one point, I developed a workshop (that I may continue to do in the future) called “photon to photoshop”. The goal of the course was to allow people to begin to understand how digital camera works. It allowed people to understand the exact process that a photon went through from when it hit the photosite all the way to the pixel you edit. Understanding that process has allowed me to pick up my camera and know exactly what is going on when I press the shutter button. It was an interesting journey for me to learn this process. It also gave me a different view on this debate. I’m going to take you through a little bit of the RAW process. I want to give you a few technical details on RAW along with debunking a few myths

Now that the formalities are over and my intro is written, I am just going to delve into the nerdy goodness.

The beginning of an image
Digital cameras capture light via a sensor panel. These panels (because of popularity I am talking about the Bayer CFA) are made up of thousands of little sensors called photosites. When light hits a photosite, it is then recorded as a voltage reading for that photosite. That value is then digitally recorded. This record is the base of your digital image. This is the most basic form of data that your camera has about an image.

Decisions, decisions, decisions
This is where the real split begins. Depending on the camera, in a professional DSLR, you can have between roughly 12 and 16 bits of information. That is roughly 4k-16k levels of recorded light. Side note: true 16 bit is not possible in most cameras, the data is just converted to “16 bit”. Most camera’s shoot 14 bit. Without going into the whole other topic of bits per channel and color profiles, I will give you the short version. The more bits you have, the more levels of information you have. It applies to both contrast levels and color levels. When you save your file as a RAW file, all “12-14 bits” is stored. When you shoot in JPG, this image goes to the camera’s processor.

Compress, demosaic, rinse, repeat.
Once that information hits the processor, this is what it goes through.

Once that file hits the processor, it starts an interesting journey. First, your camera takes each photosite and applies a color to it based on the information from the photosites around it. This is called the demosaicing process. This process is done with the camera’s built in firmware. This is usually when chromatic aberration, false color artifacts, aliasing and any zippering is introduced.

-Tone curve
Sensors and all the algorithms and logarithms involved are intensely complicated. Because of this I will try to put it in layman terms. The image at this point will appear to vary in natural contrast so a tone curve is applied to the image to correct for this. This is also where gamma correction takes place.

-Insert sharpening
Sharpening is usually applied at this point. People generally have a few options of sharpening. Unfortunately this process can lead to some halo’s or bad tonal control. In low contrast exposure you wont have too many problems but in high contrast situations you can have some major halo’s. Side Note: if shooting RAW and using photoshop, try the “high pass” filter. It has some smooth sharpening.

-Apply the rest of the presets
The camera goes through a process of applying all of your presets. The white balance, noise reduction, contrast, saturation and any other preset is applied.

After the image is “beautified” by the camera, it goes through compressing. This is where it takes the 12-14 bits of info and scales it down to 8 bit. This is where artifacts and other weird things can be introduced. First of all, you are scaled down to 256 levels of information. This is a huge drop. Where some of the tonal data may be kept, a good deal of color data is scaled down from a possible 16k of gradient data to 256 levels. You do get smaller file sizes but at a little bit of a price. Once this happens, you cannot undo it. The JPG is set. There is no getting back the information.

The “RAW” fear.
There is a fear that has been spread by some people that I have to put to a complete halt right now. People tend to think that when you shoot in RAW, you will never be able to open your images on your computer. Fortunately for us RAW shooters, that is very far from the truth. With the increase in popularity of DSLR’s, more and more companies are supporting RAW. It is true that each company has its own RAW file but that isn’t an issue. There are a handful of paid and free image programs that provide RAW codecs. Because I am committed to this statement, I will give you a list of SOME programs that open RAW files.

Any Apple Computer
Aperture (paid)
Picasa (free)
IrfanView (free)
Windows Photo Gallery(paid, works with correct WIC standard codec)

There is a ton of programs that will open RAW files but chances are, if you have a camera that shoots in RAW, you will also have a disc provided by your manufacturer that opens RAW files.

If you take the time it needs to take, you take less time.
IF you are looking for a photo to post straight to facebook or flickr, then JPG will be easier for you. If you are planning on not doing any editing and sending it straight to the net then I can see the benefit of JPG. The only problem is, is 90% of the shooting I do, I like to edit and do some corrections. I never send a photo off to a client unless I do some form of editing. If you are planning on doing ANY editing at all then JPG will severely limit you. As far as time goes, there is no actual time difference for me when editing the two. I put both RAW and JPG through the same process and both take the same amount of time.

But it takes a lot of space
Another of the popular arguments against RAW is that it takes space. While the file sizes are larger for RAW files, storing those RAW files is very cost effective. I bought a 1TB hard drive for a hundred bucks. This will hold hundreds of thousands of RAW files. Their are some great deals on storage that will be way more than enough space. Because I am a nice guy, I will even give you some links to some

Western Digital WD Elements 2 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive ($99)
SanDisk Cruzer 16 GB Cruzer USB 2.0 Flash Drive ($20)
SANDISK Card, SDHC, 8GB, Class 10, 30MB/Sec 30MB/Sec($54)
Verbatim Acclaim 500 GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive($71)

Quality Difference
There are some opinions out there that RAW and JPG are not actually different in quality. The only people who make this statement are people who don’t know what they are talking about (did I just say that). Because your computer is more powerful than your camera’s processor, the output is cleaner and better than your camera’s output. Because JPG is a set process, you have limited say in the output. When editing to JPG with your computer, you have complete control over every detail. Human interpretation of an image will always be better than machine so for this fact alone, the quality of a image will be higher with human control. When you are viewing a small JPG on a screen you will not be able to see these differences but the moment you make a large print, blown up on a computer or even crop in, you will see a difference. Even in his anti-RAW article, Ken Rockwell states:

“I will admit that on the D70 the differences in default sharpening are such that the raw images do look sharper than the JPGs if you’re looking zoomed in to 100% on a computer, but were still invisible to me in 12 x 18″ prints.”

Basically, he was saying that if he wanted a larger print or wanted to crop into his image, the RAW image would be sharper. Don’t even get me started on dynamic range. JPG may possess the same contrast range that a RAW has but it only has 256 levels of contrast between the extremes. RAW can have up to 16k. This means that your gradients are smoother and your color has more detail within two extreme values. With JPG you lose detail. If you need proof, try to do a tonemapped HDR image with a RAW image and a JPG.

If you would like to see photos of some of the quality difference, there is a neat post here. Keep in mind his photograph is 11×14 with no crop. If you were to crop in or if you were to print off a 20×30, you would see the difference from 5 feet. The worst part about it is you can’t just sharpen your image to get back detail. Because it has already gone through the camera’s demosaicing process, it has already discarded that information.

Saving my RAW
For those of you who don’t know. There is a standard RAW format that will never change. It is called DNG. When I am dealing with a fine art piece I go out of my way to save that image. When I am going to be making good money off of a single image, I will save it as a DNG, NEF, TIFF and JPG. Now, to some this may seem like overkill but I think people like Ansel Adams would be on my side. He worked on Moonrise over Hernandez NM till the day he died. He spend time perfecting that image. Let me put it like this. Would you rather error on the side of “too much information and saved work” or “not enough information and limited possibilities. When I revisit my work, I like to know I have extracted everything.

If the technobabble didn’t convince you, this emotional appeal will.
I understand the myths spread about RAW files. I understand the appeal to not have to edit. Heck, I even understand the desire to “have your photos now”. What I don’t understand is, why you would not want the most out of your photograph? Why would you not want that extra sharpness in larger print? Why would you not want more information to work with to extract every bit of beauty from an image? Why would you choose to be limited in creativity in any way?

In everything that I shoot, I craft. I touch every photo I take, that is what gives me my style. I create an piece of art, not a reproduction. When I was a wee photographer, I took an image of a lighthouse. I took it in JPG. I created a really great image but a few years later, I was working with a really cool editing technique. I realized that that image would be perfect for the style I was using. When I went back to the image, the technique I was using looked like crap because of the lack of light information. Many times, I have wanted to try an HDR or some other editing technique on my old JPG’s and I cant get high quality because the information is just not there.

Did you like this article? If you did feel free to comment or share it!
Thanks for reading.

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Setting Up Your Amazing Website Sun, 19 Dec 2010 20:18:27 +0000 Aaron

Just in case you are wondering, by putting CC in the photo, I am not saying that this is the most amazing website but have you ever tried to find a cool picture that relates to websites. It’s harder than you think.


Many of you are thinking about creating a website to showcase your work or passion. There are so many reasons why having your own website can be helpful and great. Some of you are looking for your first photo or design site. You just want a place that you create that will showcase your work in a professional manner. On the other hand, if you are the casual artist with a social side, you can create a blog so people can keep updated on your life. You can create a fun environment for people to interact with you.

I have had some crazy experiences with building my sites that range from blogs to “easy set up” services so instead of going into a “which is best”, I am just going to skip ahead and tell you what ended up working the best for me. The method that I use now is by far the best and most customizable way that I have found. Both Capture Cafe and my photography site is built with wordpress. Not the “” option but the free and open site platform. The reason I do this is because I can not only get the benefit of a static site, If I want, I can also blog my work. My photography site is built like a static site but with many levels of use.

Update: I forgot to mention one of the biggest reasons I host my own site rather than use the “build your own site” services is a lot of them have hidden things in the small text. Some of them say that they own everything you post, some charge you a lot of money once you start getting lots of traffic or if you want something more. I have found that you end up paying more money or wasting more time by using these services. The benefit of using the method I am talking about is you own your content and nobody has any legal control over your site. Just skip the hassle and own your site

This is how I do it:

Step 1:
Get your domain!

This is a pretty important but self explanatory. I usually use The reason I do this is because of the service. I have used large registering services (godaddy anyone?) in the past and have only ever had bad experiences. Going through has allowed for more personal service when I need something changed. On a side note, when picking a domain name, try to find something that is easy to remember and type. I would try and stay away from things like “”. Most of the amazing site domain names are taken but if you keep searching for a while, you will find one that fits.
Side note: If your name is available, I would buy it just in case.

Step 2:
Get your hosting!

I use Hostgator for my hosting. They have some great plans for unlimited bandwidth and unlimited storage. I currently pay $12 a month for my photography site and I have everything that I would need. They are really really simple to use and really easy to navigate. You can use any hosting service you want but they are all pretty much the same. I just have found better service with hostgator. When I was setting up my new site, I made a mistake and their live chat fixed it in 5 minutes. It was great!
Side note: I have used godaddy in the past. They are on my list of the top 4 companies I can’t stand. I have had nothing but horrible service from them. Not to mention the hidden charges and nearly impossible cancellation process

Step 3:
Easily install wordpress!

If you are using Hostgator then scroll to near the bottom and you will see a icon that says “quickinstall”. After that click on wordpress, type in your email website name and presto, it is created. You will get an e-mail with a confirmation.
Side Note: The control panel in hostgator has so many other neat options. All of them are relatively easy to set up.

Step 4:
Find a theme!

The next part is fun because this is where you get to choose what you want your site to look like. There are tons of services, free or paid, that will give you themes. You can find hundreds of themes when you click on “Appearance” in your wordpress dashboard. If you are like me and like more options you can visit for some great free themes or you can buy some really well developed themes at Theme forest. All you do is download the theme (a .zip folder) and upload the theme.
Side note: If you are looking for some good photography themes, check out this site for some free photo themes.

Step 5:
Develop away!
If you are happy with the theme you chose, then you may be done but if you are like me (and know how to do it) you can tweak it a bunch from there. On all my sites, I actually get into the coding of the site but if you don’t want to do that, some themes will come with some really great customization tools.

Now, this post is pretty general in that I don’t provide a lot of technical specifics. I just wanted you give you a good idea of where to begin. IF you are a nerd like me, you will have tons of fun customizing your new site. If you aren’t too technically savvy then you will still have a really fun time with some great customizable themes. If you don’t even want to deal with it and need some help then you can visit my buddy over at He offers everything from hosting to website development and does a kick butt job doing it.

There you go, that’s what I have for ya. Feel free to comment.

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Did The TSA Go Too Far? Fri, 19 Nov 2010 01:56:27 +0000 Aaron

If you read back through the site, you will notice a trend throughout my posts. I am opinionated and expressive but I usually shy away from political oriented content. The only exception was an article about a soccor club banning photographers. It’s not that I don’t have personal beliefs on things, its just that I don’t want every article to a battleground in the comment section. I don’t have the time or desire to moderate a debate or even debate someone’s disagreement with me. With that said. I am going to break one of my unwritten rules and write on a somewhat political topic.

The poster above is was a poster created by the TSA to help people stay alert of suspicious activities in airports. The goal is supposedly to help people better identify what “terror” looks like. I understand the motive and purpose of this poster but I think that they have taken things a step to far. Let me tell you why

1: Most of the time, people who are out to destroy or get information about a plane aren’t going to be walking around with a giant camera that begs attention. Generally, I imagine, they would have smaller, less conspicuous devices.

2: If they wanted information on an airplane, they can find it out online. There is no need to take a photograph of a 747 because you can find almost any detail you want on 747′s.

3: What this poster is saying is that anyone who has a giant camera and is taking a picture of an airplane should be suspected of terrorism. I have taken pictures of airplanes before and I have had my fair share of glares and questionable looks from people around the airports.

4: Because the poster is relating photography to a devious act, it is enforcing negative impressions of photographers that people may have. There have been many, many stories of photographers being questioned and forced to leave because they were taking pictures of a landmark or monument with a “big camera”. People sometimes have a tendency to react harshly towards photographers and associating photography with terrorism is helping to fuel that negativity.

5: Photography is a right not an option in the same way that freedom to write this article is a right. I can understand not allowing photographers to photograph private art collections, private locations, private people or even top secret government locations but an airport is far from a “top secret” government location. This is a case where we could be trading freedom for “security”. The freedoms we have are getting taken away for the “security” we think we want. If this trend continues, don’t be surprised to find that photography will become more regulated and controlled.

The issue with this poster is just a drop in the bucket. There are tons of examples when photographer’s rights are suppressed because of security or control. I have been involved in cases where I have been photographing national landmarks and was approached and asked to put my equipment away. I have even had my small camera bag searched for a bomb when tourists back-packs were allowed by. Some of these actions taken by these security agencies are going a bit to far. I’m not trying to degrade the effort or demonize “the man”, I’m just wanting to express my lack of agreement with some actions taken and hopefully cause some amount of awareness.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed. Maybe next time I will write an article on how to get those shots in those security crazy areas.

Comment away dear friends

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3 Secrets to Communicating Creatively Sat, 30 Oct 2010 00:29:12 +0000 Jenni Photo by:Michael Johnson Dear Highly Creative People: This article is not for you. This article is for your wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, roommates, friends, close family, distant relatives, and pets. This article is for anyone in your life who “doesn't 'get' you,” “thinks you're crazy,” or]]> (or, How to Survive Living with a Highly Creative Person)

Photo by:Michael Johnson

Dear Highly Creative People:

This article is not for you. This article is for your wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, roommates, friends, close family, distant relatives, and pets. This article is for anyone in your life who “doesn’t ‘get’ you,” “thinks you’re crazy,” or “can’t understand why you won’t get a ‘real’ job.” Go and get them now. Post this link to their facebook pages. Tweet it. Email it to their smartphones. Print it out and hand it them. Done? Are all of the right people reading this now? Excellent. Let’s begin.

Dear People Given This Article by the Highly Creative Person Who (Probably) Drives You Crazy:

This article is for you. In people as in magnets, opposites attract, which means that you are probably a Highly Administrative Person. In fact, you were probably an extremely happy Administrative – driven, successful, keeping track of every important detail of daily life – until your copacetic existence suffered the barrel roll of creativity, insanity, and frenzied inspiration that is the Highly Creative Person.

Your initial wonder and awe at the Creative’s “fresh perspective,” “enthusiasm,” and “fearlessness” quickly gave way to frustration at their “inability to plan sensibly,” “endless work hours,” and “foolish risk-taking.” But don’t forget – there’s a reason you wanted to hang around this person in the first place. They probably add skills and ideas that you’re missing in your life. And you add skills and ideas that they’re missing in theirs!

With that positive perspective in mind, here are a few communication tips to help you and your favorite Creative learn from each other without killing each other:

1. Dial down the details.

You are a Highly Administrative Person. You thrive on managing the details of every day life. You probably manage the banking, the bills, the appointments, and the schedule for car repairs. You live in a constant cacophony of highly PRESENT concerns.

But listen: If you tell the Highly Creative Person all of your immediate, very pressing, very important PRESENT concerns, do you know what will happen? You will stress them out. A Creative is FUTURE focused. They already live in a world of their own pressing concerns – future business plans, dreams, life goals, etc. – and they structure their present lives as if they lived in their future world.

Is this delusional? Yes. Does it also contain a seed of genius? Certainly. Your job then becomes, rather than forcing the Creative abruptly into the present, to patiently scatter the seed of present concerns. Think about timing and spacing. Remind them on Monday of the Tuesday car repair appointment, but wait until Tuesday night to layer on the details about the kids’ Thursday soccer practice. Just because you see the entire week mapped out ahead of you one detail at a time doesn’t mean that the Creative brain needs to see it that way. Give them just enough lead time to react to the present in the moment so that they can keep their mind on their ten-year goals.

2. Listen; don’t analyze.

The Creative’s brain is full of “big ideas.” You know this, because you hear 5-6 of them a day. The problem is, that when an Administrative hears a “big idea,” what we really hear is the sound of the cash register ringing up exactly how much the idea is going to cost. Some of us may also see the piles of older “big ideas” abandoned in the pursuit of the new, and never cleaned up. But here’s what we don’t see:

The Creative needs to share ideas with us. The Creative breathes and lives ideas, and to shut down that flow of creativity because it “stresses us out” to hear it is to miss out on the best part of living with a Creative. So, next time your favorite Creative shares a “big idea” with you, try this: Don’t think about the pricing, the timing, the scheduling, or the logistics. The Creative isn’t asking you for a five-year business plan – they’re sharing a dream. And unlike Administratives, Creatives don’t need to immediately think about how to achieve their dream.

Let’s say that an Administrative and a Creative both realize at the same time that they each have a dream of climbing Mount Everest. The Administrative will first research the height of the mountain, the weather conditions, the best season in which to climb, the team, gear and rations that will be needed, and the cost of putting everything together for the trip. The Creative will first sit back and think about what it will feel like to be at the top of that mountain, the mindset and mental stamina the climb will require, the camaraderie that will develop between team members, the possible global influence of a successful climb, and whether or not they would like to gear the climb to bring in money for a specific charity.

To an Administrative, that’s counting your chickens before they’re hatched. To a Creative, it is the vital process of laying down the vision clearly enough that it will motivate them to slog through the details it will take to make that vision a reality. If you cut short the Creative’s vision-casting process by talking about the practical details too soon, you will actually short-circuit their ability to reach their goal.

3. Fear not.

This is the most important lesson that Administratives can learn from their Creative friends. Many Administratives live with too high a consciousness of probability and not enough awareness of possibility. When we think of our dreams for the future, we think of what we can reasonably accomplish in one lifetime, given the resources available to us. In contrast, a Creative’s dreams are frequently too wide in scope to be reasonably accomplished in ten lifetimes, and require hundreds or thousands of times the resources currently available. To an Administrative, it looks as if the Creative will run themselves into the ground, and into bankruptcy, trying to accomplish even one of their “big ideas.” And some of them do. In fact, a Creative who can not learn to partner with the Administratives in their life is frequently set up for this kind of lifestyle. But that’s a subject for another article. Because an Administrative who can not learn to partner with the Creatives in their life is set up for another kind of failure: the failure to build bigger than themselves, to dream beyond their own ability or lifetime.

I heard an anecdote once about Walt Disney. In 1971, five years after Walt’s death, Disney World was first opened to the public. During the opening ceremony, one of Walt’s friends turned to Walt’s brother, Roy O. Disney, and whispered, “Boy, I wish Walt could have seen this.” Roy leaned over and replied, “He did, or you never would have.” Thirty-nine years later, in 2010, Disney is still making the list of top companies in the world for quality and consistency, because everything that Disney does is done with Walt Disney’s original vision in mind.

Did Walt Disney have great Administratives who helped him accomplish his vision? Of course. Would Disney as a company ever have become a reality if Walt had allowed those Administratives to limit his dream to what he could reasonably accomplish in his own lifetime, with his own resources? Certainly, no. Administratives – this is our greatest failing, and the greatest thing we could learn from the Creatives in our lives. We have the ability to build big dreams, and the organization to tackle “big ideas.” We all want the Creatives in our lives to “start listening to reason.” But first, we must stop listening to fear.

A final word: The combination of a talented Highly Administrative Person and a gifted Highly Creative Person can lead to one of two scenarios: a Highly Successful Life or a Highly Explosive Life. Hopefully, as you follow the suggestions outlined above, you will find yourselves living the former, with the only fireworks being those above the “big idea” that you just built.

Jenni Patterson is a Highly Administrative Person married to a Highly Creative Person. She loves writing, horseback riding, and is learning the value of partnering her Administrative talents with a Creative perspective on life.

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Baby Steps to Increasing Web Presence Wed, 13 Oct 2010 22:09:09 +0000 Aaron A lot of us have goals to become the most popular or the most successful person on the planet. Unfortunately, unless you are a software and computer guru, you probably won't be running Google, Microsoft or Apple anytime soon. Chances are, you are are a creative person wanting either your work or yourself to be seen, but it]]>

A lot of us have goals to become the most popular or the most successful person on the planet. Unfortunately, unless you are a software and computer guru, you probably won’t be running Google, Microsoft or Apple anytime soon. Chances are, you are are a creative person wanting either your work or yourself to be seen, but it it doesn’t seem like your photos, designs or any other creative endeavor are exploding.

Now, I don’t mean to be a downer, but statistically, most ideas, businesses  or styles don’t become overnight successes. Many people seek “exploding” ideas (or businesses), but the key is “growing” ideas (or businesses). To be even more honest and blunt, I’m not sure that having an overnight success is a good thing. I have heard many stories of business or “personalities” that have grown so fast or become famous so quickly that they couldn’t handle it. The structure for business (or the internal structure of personal character) that they had created was not constructed solidly enough to withstand fast, exponential growth. So what is the key in all of this business/art/social craziness? Consistent growth. I think there is more wisdom in consistent growth than instant growth. As you grow as an artist, entrepreneur, or person, you will be able to establish solid and sound parameters for what you are doing, no matter how popular. Consistent, slow growth at the beginning gives you the time you need to build a structure that will sustain you and your business through future periods of growth, no matter how intense.

Now that I have established my position on growth, let me give you a few tips (rules actually) to building and growing yourself digitally. If you follow these, then you should be sitting pretty.

1: Put yourself everywhere.
Some people may be opposed to putting themselves on social networks or sign up for some unknown social networking service. If you want to grow your web presence, you should seriously consider signing up for everything you can. Here is the catch: You may only have 1 person following you on Google Buzz, but your content and voice will gain Search Engine Optimization ranking. Every single bit of content you put up will start adding up to one major presence.

2: Treat every follower as an important client.
I still have a long road to go till I perfect this technique, but every follower you have is valuable. That 1 person you have on Google Buzz is 1 potential client. That could be the client that provides you with a really well-paying project.

3: Engage.
Another great tool to help out is actually responding to things. Anything from responding to a comment to commenting on someone else’s blog works great. When you are proactive in gaining a following base, your network will grow.

4: Create an efficient network.
The things I post on CC automatically post to Facebook and Twitter. This means that I have just eliminated a bunch of steps from my workflow. If you can make your workflow efficient, it will open up time for you to do what you love to do. If you have to go update 10 things when you put something up, then you don’t put as much stuff up. Now the key is still posting other things and still engaging in the network, but if you use things like RSS feeds to do your work for you then you will be way better off.

5: Build relationships
If you can build relationships with other people then you have not only expanded your “name,” you will have expanded your reputation. Relationships are a vital part of the structure upon which successful businesses are built. Having a few reliable relationships and people to collaborate with will help your idea tremendously. If you are going out to shoot something, go with someone. If you are designing something, ask for someone’s opinion.

Hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, then you can build your web presence by leaving a comment.

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Digital Coffee with John Batdorff Wed, 08 Sep 2010 20:06:28 +0000 Aaron It's super easy to get caught up in the mechanical process of photography. I find myself sometimes "processing" like a robot: Take photo, upload, edit, save, send away to somewhere. Understanding of this "process" is critical, but there is a difference between mere processing and true crafting. Our guest today is not just a photographer; he is what]]>

It’s super easy to get caught up in the mechanical process of photography. I find myself sometimes “processing” like a robot: Take photo, upload, edit, save, send away to somewhere. Understanding of this “process” is critical, but there is a difference between mere processing and true crafting. Our guest today is not just a photographer; he is what I would consider to be a craftsman. He is a guy that seems to know how to extract the beauty out of everything he shoots. John Batdorff has it goin’ on. He is a landscape and cultural photographer based out of Chicago.

John’s work has been showcased at the prestigious National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. His work has also been featured in numerous publications. He has a strong following on his photography blog and he gives photography instruction and seminars in Chicago where he resides.

CC: You started photographing for your family’s newspaper business. What was it about photography that really captured you?

I was never good at kicking out a 400 word news story in 30 minutes, and I guess I’ve always been a visual guy, so photography was a natural. I remember taking my first picture for the newspaper and seeing it in print with my name underneath, and thinking, “this is the coolest thing ever.” I think I’ve also always been drawn to the fact that a really great photo could tell a story all by itself. While the words gave the details of the story, the photo gave it the feeling.

CC: Photography and history go hand in hand. How do you want to impact people who look at your photos a hundred years from now?

Everyone has a key trait they look for in people. Sincerity is really important to me, so I always want my photos to feel genuine and honest. I hate looking at photos and sensing that they were staged, or that the person was putting on a smile just for the camera. I like images that tell the real story or show a truth. Hopefully my images will be known for that, and that sense of honesty and sincerity will stand the test of time.

CC: You have some incredible black and white photos. Do you have any tips for our readers on creating stunning B&W images?

Don’t be afraid to think and see in black and white. Whenever I’m out shooting, I’m constantly asking myself, “would this look good in black and white?” Train your eye to start seeing things in grayscale. Look for strong tonal contrast; lines, shapes, and shadows are all excellent markers for a strong black and white image. I’m currently writing a chapter on black and white photography for Peachpit, so if you’re interested in reading more about my thoughts on black and white then check it out HERE. And remember that in black and white, contrast is super important, so keep that at the forefront of your mind when shooting and when processing your images.

CC: You have traveled to some really neat places. Are there any “keys” to shooting in culturally sensitive areas?

I spend very little time researching my trips. I don’t want other photographers’ images in my head. The key for me is making sure I’m in an area where I’ll have good opportunities, such as markets, public squares, festivals, etc. Remember, go with the flow and enjoy yourself. Don’t panic if you feel like you’re getting lousy shots. Make sure to build in some extra time on a trip so that you can warm up. Try leaving your camera behind to walk around a bit. While in India I spent several hours in Jaipur just walking without my camera so that I could get a feel for the area and the people. Then I went back and grabbed my camera and ended up capturing some of my favorite images from that trip. Remember to be curious and talk to the locals because they’re the very best source for good photo opportunities. Be respectful, kind, and courteous. There is nothing worse than an ugly tourist. Finally, hire a local guide. Having a local guide can be critical, especially if there is a language barrier. They not only can help you find some of the best photo opportunities, but they can help make sure there aren’t any unfortunate miscommunications.

CC: What “digital tool” has been the most impacting in terms of marketing your business?

I would have to say my blog , my Facebook page and Twitter account have all had significant impacts on my marketing. This is an amazing time for photographers. The opportunity to publicize your work has never been easier. The key, as Simon Cowell would say (yes, I really did just use an American Idol reference ; ) , is making sure it’s “relevant” to your audience. Always assess your audience to make sure you know who you’re talking to, then try to sincerely connect. Don’t be fake. Remember social marketing is really just a souped-up version of a good old handshake, so keep it real…;)

CC: I noticed that you majored in business in school. Many photographers struggle with the “business” side of their craft. How do you navigate your dual roles as photographer and business owner?

Don’t go throwing compact flash cards at me when I say this, but I really enjoy business. I truthfully had no idea so many photographers struggled with business aspect of their craft. I think one’s approach to the business side of things is very much like our vision in photography: it needs to be clear. Having clear, well defined goals and a business plan is a must. I know a lot of people that suffer from what I call “paralysis of analysis.” They think too much and just don’t act. I’m a big believer in throwing a lot at the wall and seeing what sticks. I’m also a big believer in surrounding myself by people that balance me and have different strengths than I do. For example, if self promotion is one of your weaknesses then find someone that will challenge you and push you in that arena. It doesn’t need to be another photographer necessarily, but maybe a friend or associate who has successfully marketed and promoted a business. We can’t all be good at everything, so be honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and seek out people who can help you fill the gaps. You may have to offer up a portrait session with their kids, but usually people are willing to help in exchange for a few great photos.

CC: You offer mentoring to newer photographers. What is your favorite part about mentoring?

I really enjoy teaching people. The truth is I’m not much different than many of the people I mentor. Many of these people just want to learn to take better photos of their kids, pets and vacations. They don’t want to feel stupid when someone asks, “are you shooting in aperture priority?” Being self taught myself I know exactly how they feel, and being able to understand their frustrations puts me in a better position to help them. Plus, working one on one with people really allows me to get a better feel for who they are and what they want to do with their photography. It’s that intimate relationship that I think benefits the learner the most, and also gives me the most satisfaction.

CC: Which piece(s) of equipment or software has most impacted how you shoot or edit?

My Canon 5D Mark II and Lightroom are essential, but if I had to pick one software program that has changed my life it would be Niksoftware’s Silver Efex Pro. Silver Efex is just an amazing piece of software for creating stunning black and white images.

CC: Anything inspire you lately?

Earlier this year I acquired a Phase One 645DF, and I’ve enjoyed stumbling along the learning curve of shooting with a medium format camera. Learning something new is always a challenge and a source of inspiration.

CC: Is there anything you would like to add for Capture Cafe readers?.

Chase Jarvis once said something to the effect of, “the dirty secret to taking good photos is taking a lot of photos.” I couldn’t agree more. Relax and have fun. Take a ton of photos, study them, and learn from your mistakes. I spend a lot of time reading blogs just like Capture Café. I love learning, and just like everyone else, I’m trying to get better at my craft. Blogs, books, networking, mentorships, etc., are all wonderful ways to improve your craft. I think the most important thing is not to worry about being better than the other guy. Focus on your work, be true to yourself, and let your personal style come through.

Thanks a ton John! John is one of those guys who just does it right. His work is evident of that. If you want to see more of his work at his website. I highly encourage you to do so and I also highly encourage you to follow him!




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