Translating an Interior Scene from Camera to Screen

May 23, 2014 Leave a comment

I was discussing my style and photographic vision with a homeowner recently. He complimented my work and I explained my goal is to translate what I see with my eye. That process is not easy. Behold what the camera saw in this scene:

Living Area
That’s about 1-to-2 stops overexposed. In other words, I had to disagree with what the camera thought was a “correct” exposure. That’s nowhere close to what I saw with my eyes. Here is the editing process I went through to get it to look natural:

Photoshop Screenshot

 

You can see it took 6 different layers to massage the image and get it to look like this:

Living Area

 

The room has a lot of dynamic range; from the brightness outside the sliding glass door to the dark furniture. As they say, when you get lemons, make lemonade.

Review: RODE Smart Lav

April 18, 2014 Leave a comment

RODE Smart Lav

 

For some of my video projects, the client wants a talent or host; so I have the wire them for sound. In the past, I’ve used the Sennheiser wireless mics and they are great. But at more than $600 a bit pricey for my needs. So I was looking for a low-cost alternative and came across the RODE Smart Lav. At $60 bucks, it fit the bill.

The Smart Lav plugs into your smart phone and records into the RODE Rec app. The app is free but the $5.99 upgrade offers many more settings and functions including the ability to upload the audio files to Dropbox. In the field, instead of worrying about running out of memory or somehow losing the file, I just sent it to Dropbox. This allowed me to have two copies of each file. Here’s a video from the company showing some of the features of the app:

 

So how did it work? Check out this video comparing the on-board mic on my Canon 5D MKIII DSLR and the RODE Smart Lav:

 

You can hear the obvious difference. Not bad for something that is a tenth of the cost! I also like that the Smart Lav comes with a windscreen. This helps when shooting outdoors and to minimize “popping p’s” from the speaker.

There was one problem though. Out of about 11 files, 2 were not useable. One came out very low and I could not recover it in post. Another sounded very muffled. The muffled sound may have been caused by the mic slipping and being covered by clothing. But I cannot explain the low sound on the other file. I am a little worried about the inconsistencies but the other audio files sounded fine. I haven’t decided whether to try it again or to back to renting the Sennheiser.

The other consideration is syncing the audio to the video in post. This takes a little work but was easier than I expected. With the Sennheiser the audio records straight into the camera so the audio and video file are already synced.

Still, if you need a low-cost option to getting good sound, the RODE Smart Lav might be your best bet.

Recent Acquisitions

April 17, 2014 1 comment

Vide gear

 

In a recent blog post I mentioned that I recently invested in quite a bit of gear to start doing more real estate videos. I really want to increase the production value and make the videos cinematic. Here is some of the equipment I’ll be using:

 

1.) Westcott Spiderlite TD 6 Continuous Lighting Kit

2.)Manfrotto  535 Carbon Fiber Tripod with 502 Video Head

3.) Tether Tools Wallee iPad Connect

4.) Cinevate Atlas FLT 26 inch slider with vertical kit and counterbalance

5.) Manfrotto 494 mini ball head

6.) Rode Smart Lav

7.) Canon TC-80N3 Timer Remote

I plan to review each piece to let you know how it works and why I use it. So stay tuned for that.

My First Time Lapse

March 28, 2014 Leave a comment

I’m starting to do more real estate videos. Not satisfied with run-of-the-mill videos, I recently invested quite a bit of money into equipment that will step up the production value. One of those items is an intervalometer to help me do time lapse.

I did the short clip above by hand; meaning I did not have an intervalometer. I simply used the timer on my iPhone and a cable release to take the necessary exposures. After trying that, I knew I needed a remote timer to make it easier on me, so I went ahead and bought it.

There are a ton of tutorials on the web about time lapse so I won’t rehash here. Just know there is some math involved to figure out how many frames you need. I knew I wanted a 4-second clip and I’m recording at 24 frames per second. So I need 96 pictures to cover 4 seconds (4 x 24=96). I want to take a picture every 3 seconds to show the movement of the clouds. So I multiply 96 x 3=288. That’s how many seconds I have to shoot with a 3-second interval to get 96 frames. 288 divided by 60=4.8 or about 5 minutes. So for five minutes, I took a picture every 3 seconds and got 96 frames to cover 4 seconds of footage. In other words, you just saw five minutes fly by in 4 seconds.

Soon, I’ll post reviews on all the pieces of equipment I acquired including the intervalometer, so stay tuned for that.

My 2013 Blog In Review

January 1, 2014 Leave a comment

I think it’s Zack Arias who says “less noise, more signal.” David Hobby’s interpretation of the phrase is “less frequency, more amplitude.” Basically it boils down to quality over quantity. That’s how I would describe my blog in 2013. I decided that instead of reposting or re-purposing interesting photography-related articles, I would focus my blog on my photo shoots or topic related to interior photography. I still post the interesting articles on my Facebook page which gets posted on my Twitter feed. So if you want to see those, please follow me there. But I figure other photographers are not my customer base or potential clients so I want to focus my blog to help attract new business.

In 2011 my blog had 14,793 visits which just blew my mind. In 2012 that number was 18,159. Considering I blog only occasionally and make no money from my blog, I think that’s pretty good. The total number for 2013 was “just” 13,303. But I only wrote 15 new posts for the year. Less frequency. More amplitude.

I’ll really try to blog more in 2014 and I hope you continue to find value in what I have to say. You can always search the archive for helpful and interesting posts.

Anyway, take a look at the report WordPress put together and if you commented on my blog in 2013 you might see your name.

Thanks for reading…

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Categories: Uncategorized

Oh, The Places You Won’t Go (as a photographer)

November 13, 2013 1 comment

Screen-Shot-2013-11-08-at-9.13.41-PM

If you’ve read some of my past posts on licensing and copyright, you know I try to spread the gospel on why copyright is so important. You might remember my debacle with a contractor working for Applebee’s who wanted my images for free. So you can imagine my chagrin when I come across photographers who are giving their work away. It not only hurts them but it hurts other photographers.

Take a look at the screen grab above. Notice the line that reads “we will provide copyright free photos”. I really don’t think they understand the concept. Let’s review. When anyone takes a picture, be they a professional or not, they have created a unique work of art and the copyright remains with them. Copyright means just what it says: the right to copy. You decide who has what right to your work. By giving away your work, you are leaving money on the table and allowing someone to do whatever they want with your work.

Wedding photographers have long made a living by up-selling. Let’s say they charge $2,500 for a wedding which includes a few prints and maybe an album. If the couple or their families want prints or additional albums, that’s an extra charge. This is a form of licensing. The photographer is saying, you have the right to the prints and album I promised you, but if you want more products you may not print them yourself which would deny me income. You must pay more for more copies of my work.

The classic example I give is of the Harry Potter books. When Hollywood made the movies based on the books, do you think they did so without asking J.K. Rowling? I live in Orlando, home of theme parks like Universal which has a section dedicated to the boy wizard. In 2011, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter boosted the theme park’s revenue by 8.2% to $393 million. There are plans to expand the park next year. Do you think Ms. Rowling just gave away the rights to her work? Every toy wand, Halloween costume, DVD sale, etc. means more money in her pockets. That is the power of licensing and copyright. Imagine if she had given away her copyright and companies made millions of dollars from her work and did not have to give her a single dime!

Notice also, in the example above, how they are willing to undercut another photographer who might charge less. This is another sign of unprofessionalism. Only you can know what your business costs are. How much does it cost to keep the lights on and feed your family? That varies from person to person. If you charge less than normal, you are in essence making less than what it takes to pay your bills. How can you expect your business to survive? Read my post on figuring out what to charge.

website screengrab

Here is another photographer who is giving away his copyright. Let’s take the last example of “Shoot the Band”. OK, I’m in a band and hire him to take our photograph for some promotional items. It goes on our website and flyers we post around town. The marketing attracts people to our concerts which means more money for us. We release a CD and use the images on the cover. That’s more revenue for us and none for him. Let’s say we make it big and sign a big record contract. We use the images on the new CD. The pictures are used in Rolling Stone magazine (which makes money from subscriptions and news stands). Again, money for us, money for the magazine and NOTHING for the photographer.

Are you familiar with the album cover of Maroon 5’s “Hands All Over”? Here’s the story: a 19-year old took that picture. The band’s management found it on Flickr and contacted her. They did a reshoot based on the photo and viola! She’s gone on to do major shoots for clients like Elle. But let’s say it had worked out a little differently. Let’s pretend she took that photo for a little-known band called Maroon 5. The band makes it big and uses the photo on an album cover that sells millions of copies. If she had given away her copyright, she would not be entitled to any further compensation.

Remember, when you download a song, buy a DVD or book you don’t own that work. You are purchasing a license for personal use. If you want to profit from it; like using a song in a YouTube video, charging people to watch a movie or making a film based on a book, you have to pay the artist.

Look, it comes down to getting paid for your work. You go to work Monday through Friday, 9-to-5 and you get a paycheck. That’s fair, right? So why would a photographer not want to get paid for their work? The more money someone makes from your work, the more you can charge.  You are not only leaving money on the table but you are degrading the industry. Clients like Applebee’s will expect “free” photos. Perhaps you heard about how the National Association of Realtors asked renowned blogger and educator David Hobby for free photos. It cheapens photos and trains the general public to devalue the work. I can’t tell you how many times a client has asked or argued over why they can’t use my photos for whatever purpose they want. They say “well the other photographer just gave me all the images on a disk and let me do whatever I want with them”. That is the difference between a pro and an amateur. A pro knows that being a professional photographer isn’t just about taking pictures. It’s a business and you have to know about pricing, licensing, copyright, insurance, taxes, marketing, etc.

When you shoot for a client you have to specify how they can use the images. Can they post it on social media? Can they take it to Walgreens to make prints? Is it personal use or will they profit from the work?

Protect your copyright. It’s worth something.

The House on Stella Street

October 15, 2013 1 comment

It had been more than a year since I was at Bella Vida resort in Kissimmee, FL when I got a call from a new client asking to photograph a house there.

The property manager is also a decorator and I thought she did a nice job with a beach vibe in the dining area. From the color palette to the decor, it made me feel like sinking my toes into the sand.

Formal Dining Detail

I was originally just going to post that picture, but I went back a few nights later for some twilight shots.

I always check the forecast before a twilight shoot because while some clouds can make a sky interesting as it changes color; too many clouds can ruin the shot.

Just my luck, the direction I was shooting in had a dark, ominous cloud. Across the street was clear and beautiful, but this is what I had to deal with:

_R5A3097

Well, when life gives you lemons…use a sky replacement!

4524 Stella St. Twilight

The home also has a cool color wheel on the pool light. Check it out:

Pool-Twilight-1

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