I am heading back to the UAE soon, feeling so invigorated and excited to get back to work. It's not just because I've had two months of nothing but fun and getting to see people that I love being around, but also because things have changed for me as a photographer this summer. Maybe some of these things I should have already known!
Ok, in no particular order, these five things have changed my photography self:
1. CreativeLive. Well, more specifically, Jared Platt's workshop on Lightroom. I have used Lightroom for a few years and I already knew it was an invaluable tool to the digital photographer. However, I was BLOWN AWAY with what I learned in this workshop. Jared is an excellent instructor... he is clear and moves through the material at a pace that kept me glued to the screen. And he's funny! I love funny. One of my biggest ah ha moments from his workshop came early on and it was to not "reject" every photo that I don't like, but to "pick" the ones I do like. It is a more positive experience to select my favorite 15 photos out of 100 than it is to reject 85. And positivity aside, it's WAY faster! As Jared points out, why click 85 times, when you can click a fraction of that for the same result. For me, there were a lot of times throughout this workshop that I banged my hand to my forehead (figuratively), thinking of all the inefficient habits I've developed over the years. Another big thing was the art of culling and how to get through selection more effectively. As an aside~ I think anytime a hobby photographer tries to make the switch to pro, the process of weeding out becomes such an important but difficult task. I only took photos of my family and friends for 2+ decades before I decided to make a business out my hobby. I had very little ability or desire to delete a photo of Dad just because he was a little blurry, because, well he is my Dad! Now it's imperative to have an eye for what must go. Jared's way of culling the photos (Yes, I was one who was switching back and forth between A & B trying to decide), and his advice to wait a few weeks to let the emotional connection settle, was a huge eye opener. These are just a couple of the hundred of nuggets I got out of this workshop. I've watched other CreativeLive workshops and I love, love, love CL as a whole (keep reading to see how else CL has been a factor this summer!), but this one definitely takes the cake! I've shot about 4 times with a significant photo yield since watching the videos and my time in LR is shorter and much more pleasant! See the links at the bottom to check out CreativeLive, the LR Workshop and Jared's blog.
2. Etsy. Ok, I realize I may be the last person, or at least the last creative type, on Earth to not have been to Etsy. I had heard the name over and over but I had literally never even clicked through to the homepage before. Now I have an account and a cart loaded up with enough stuff to give my husband bad dreams for a life time. The selection of backdrops is drool worthy, as well as loads of great props. I find my work mostly in corporate photography but after discovering Etsy, I am determined to incorporate a rustic chalkboard into my photos somehow!
3. Florabella Collection. I wrote a blog a few months ago about not using actions because I was teaching myself CS6 and didn't want to "skip steps." While I am glad that I learned the how and why of some of the most common editing tricks, I am literally jaw dropped at what these actions from the Florabella Collection can do. When I am on the road, I usually use PSE10. However, after I bought and loaded the B&W action set into PSE on my laptop, I was so impressed I couldn't wait to return to Abu Dhabi before trying the others. I downloaded CS6 onto my laptop and have since also purchased the Classic Workflow. My son turned 9 last week, so I wanted an official photo of him for his birthday. I used the Classic Color action with a touch of Sweet Tea on this one. As a fellow photographer pointed out, the really cool thing about these actions is that they are so adjustable that two people could make the same selection and yield a very different look. If you look on the Florabella Facebook page, you will find many of the photos are gorgeous, with beautiful sun and warm flowing colors. I used her actions on a darker photo but still love how her work makes mine pop! I can not wait to get back to my iMac and download more from her fabulous collection. Yes, I love learning the nuts and bolts of editing but what she has created adds a beautiful flare to my photos and her collection has a firm place in my workflow from now on! Florabella's link is also below.
Straight out of camera:
With Actions Applied (and a little cloning!):
4. My newest Canon body: a 5D Mark III. Ahh, friends, this is a biggie. I've graduated to full frame! Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my 7D. It will be with me at sporting events and Abby's horse shows and the like. But the Mark III is something pretty spectacular.... The low light capabilities compared to the 7 are really, well, not comparable! I want to do a full review from the perspective of a relative new comer but I want to use it a little longer so I actually know what I am talking about. For now, I will say that I had a great experience out of the box, then I tweaked a few too many settings and was in slight pain with the focusing, but now have it exactly where I want it. The focusing on this guy is amazing once you determine what works best for you. Another plug for CreativeLive... if you purchase this camera or even rent it, it's worth watching the CL video by John Greengo on the Mark III. The workshop takes you step by step though every menu screen and button on the camera... something I wish I had done when I jumped from a Rebel to the 7D. The 5D menu is actually fairly intuitive, but I know I would have overlooked some important options if not for learning properly from John. The tutorial is $49.00 and I feel it was worth every penny. Click here to see some photos on my FB page that I took out of the box the night I got my 5D! Feel free to weigh in on our "color or b&W" debate on the last one!
5. The intangibile one: Confidence is not the evil demon I thought it was. Ok, so as someone relatively new to this huge and intimidating world of professional photography, I am pretty low on the confidence scale. Pretty much, I think most of what I do ranges from not completely horrible to barely ok. And to be honest, I thought that was sort of a good thing. I have seen some pretty God-Awful photography pages on FB with people praising their own "amazing" work and thought, if that's what confidence looks like, I want no part! I do believe it's hard as an artistic person to judge yourself accurately and to not become emotionally invested in your work. I don't know how it would be for a doctor after surgery... I guess he or she can't go back and look at the scar 500 times to critique the job, but as photographers, we can and oh, believe me, I do! However, over the last few weeks I have gotten some really nice compliments... not just from my Mom =) (whose opinion is very important to me but incredibly biased), but from respected fellow photographers and from people who have no reason to compliment (i.e., no bloodlines ;) and it has made me think, maybe I am on the right path. My motto has always been I want to be better at this craft tomorrow than I am today, but I have started to come to respect what I am capable of at this moment. It is not perfect, but it is a reflection of who I am and how I see things. How I shoot and edit defines me as an artist. I think that's pretty cool. I'm gonna run with that for a while...
So... there you have it, five things that have helped me grow in my profession. Ironically, I didn't work at all this summer (by choice), except for a quick family shoot for my cousin. I took approximately 3500 photos in the last two months, and all but those few were for me alone. Stepping away from the job aspect has helped me tremendously after I kind of jumped in feet first last year and haven't had time to reassess until this summer. It's a luxury not everyone gets and I know how lucky I am. Especially if you're a year or so into to the business, I definitely recommend finding some time or way to clear your head of the money side of things and focus a bit on the personal development every now and then.
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