Friday, April 23, 2010

The Name Remains The Same

And so does the science and the art...of photography, that is!

Yes, there's a 'D' (digital) added to cameras and lenses, and indeed the capture media and post production are now digital, but photography is still photography. That is recording light and shadow. The tools have changed a bit, and all for the better in my opinion.

That wasn't my opinion when digital was first gaining a hold of the market, but improvements in digital media and printing has come a long way, baby! I worked with film for over 20 years, and most of that film was medium format, so I was used to the results of a larger negative. It's been ten years now since I made the switch to the digital format and printing.

I won't go into a comparison of film to digital here. That's for another blog...and it's been done endlessly...And I've engaged the subject before. Suffice to say that Kodak has announced it will be retiring film in just a few more years.

The thrust of this post is that even though the media has changed, photography remains photography. True, digital cameras do have advanced metering, faster focusing, and better program modes, and all that does improve the chances of making a good photograph even if you don't know any more than to point the camera and press the shutter release button. But all that would be true now even if we still used film rather than a flash card. It's just the result of ongoing development.

What makes a great photograph? 1) A great subject; 2) Great composition, (framing); 3) Great Lighting, and : 4) Perfect exposure. Other things can play a part such as focus and depth of focus, and of course post production. All these factors are exactly the same as they have always been.

Post production even remains the same as before digital, except that the tools have changed. Where before digital, one would have to make test prints and adjust the color balance and density by the use of filters and length of exposure on an enlarger, now we use computer programs like Photoshop and Lightroom, etc. And where retouching and dodging and burning to get the look one was after, with film all that was done by painting on the negative and using dodging paddles and masks in the enlarging process. Now with digital, all that is again done with computer programs. Digital is a lot "greener", that's for sure!

The thing is that the tools have changed, but great photography still requires working knowledge of how to make a perfect exposure with your camera. It still requires knowing how to manipulate light, and an "eye" for composition. And if you're working with people, it still requires knowing how to help people pose and be at ease in front of the camera.

The Digital Revolution in photography has made it so that the photographer can have control over the entire process of image making without spending time in a dark room with smelly and toxic chemicals. However, creating great photographs still requires the skills and artistic talent that it always has. So, the name remains the same, and so does the science and art!

For more articles on photography, and to see my take on the whole "Digital VS Film" thing, go to and click on Articles & Links. Feel free to leave your comments! ALOHA

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Who Do You Trust

Let's say you go into a store to buy a "weed whacker". You see two on display side by side. They both look like they'll do the job. One is $150, comes in a box un-assembled, and has no guarantee. The other is $250, comes completely assembled and has a full 90 day guarantee. Who do you trust?

Now let's say you're shopping for a car for your teenage daughter. At the car lot you see two cars that look to be in excellent condition, and are the same year model. One is somewhat less in price and has a sticker that says, "AS IS". The other is a bit higher in price, and is offered with a "Satiafaction guaranteed or trade it in for 30 days". Who do you trust?

For some things, like chopsticks for example, a guarantee isn't a necessity. They're very inexpensive and you use them once then toss 'em in the trash. If you are going to invest in something that will have an impact in your life and that of your family, it makes sense to to invest with someone who has a good reputation, and backs their product with a guarantee.

Fine family portraiture can certainly have an impact in your life and that of your family. The one-hour labs, and "Big-Box" stores photo processing is fine for snapshots, but they aren't going to do the art work and re-touch required to turn your snapshot into a portrait for you.

Photographers using the "shoot and burn" business model, that is, they make photographs and burn them onto a disc and give the disc to you to have prints made...or not, will no doubt save you some money on the initial investment, but.... If the photographer isn't willing to finish the portraits for you and guarantee the quality and your satisfaction with them, essentially what you're doing is gambling!

You see, it's virtually impossible to guarantee quality and satisfaction if you simply put parts in a box then turn it over to the buyer to figure it out for themselves! And if a photographer isn't willing to finish their work and back it up with a guarantee that you will be happy with the results, you are better off continuing your search for a photographer who will!

When I started my full time portrait business in 1993, I did everything I could to make sure I made a pleasing composition, guiding my clients into attractive poses, making sure the lighting was just right, and making perfect exposures. Then I gave the film to the lab and left it to them to make the best possible prints.

One day my partner was delivering an order to a gentleman who after looking at them said, "These aren't portraits! A portrait has enhancements done to it!" And he was right! With all the care I took in creating the photographs, there was still shine on his forehead, nose and chin, and every line and wrinkle was boldly captured in my perfectly lit and exposed photograph! Of course back then I sold my photography for a fraction of what I sell my portraits for today. But that encounter left a lasting impression on me.

Now days I guarantee three things to my clients: 1) Everybody will have a good time and enjoy the experience of having the photographs made; 2) My clients will look better in my portraits than they do in "real life"; and 3) They will be THRILLED, not just satisfied with the portraits I make for them!

I can make the 2nd and 3rd part of that guarantee because I personally do art work and enhancements to each photograph they select. I take the time to reduce or remove the shine on faces, I soften lines and wrinkles, I enhance contrast, and I vignette. I make sure that the final portrait prints are as beautiful as they can be. And I guarantee it! Yes, you will need to invest more with me than with the photographer who will photograph you, burn the images to a disc and turn it over to you, but really, who do you TRUST?!

I invite you to visit my website at and see the work I do, and the testimonials from my clients. ALOHA!