Feb 22, 2010

Commercial Photography Checklist: On-location

I love flying airplanes.  In fact, long before I picked up a camera for the first time and well before my commercial photography days, I was intent on becoming a pilot.  Within six months after starting flight school I received my private pilots license and had a whopping 40 hours of flight experience under my belt. I was stoked!  6 short months later I was close to my instrument rating and half way through my commercial rating and was pushing 100 hours of flight time.  At every step in my short aviation career, this notion of using a "checklist" was pounded into my head.  After deciding I'd rather do barrel rolls than bus people around from point A to B, I left my pursuit of becoming a commercial pilot.  That was years ago, but to this day I can still recite from memory several of the checklists that were engrained in my head.  Checklists are a way of life in aviation.  Pre-flight, prior to take-off, emergencies, crossing different airspace, communicating, landing...the list goes on and on.  There's a checklist for EVERYthing you do in aviation and a pilot will have a short life if he ignores his checklists.  You are taught to never rely solely on your memory, but to reference your checklist, item by item, every time!

Have you ever forgotten an important item on a photo shoot (lens, CF cards, lights)?  I have and it's a sickening feeling (take my word for it if you haven't).  Granted we as Photographers don't get into life and death "situations" per se, but we do have a lot of stuff to remember and if you're like me your memory can only handle so much.  So pilots use checklists. Why not photographers?  (maybe you already do)  --  This past week I had a location based shoot and was scrambling around checking the 20 different places I keep my equipment (ughh).  I needed a checklist, just like in my flying days.  So I opened up a spreadsheet, listed my all my equipment in an order that makes sense to me, printed it and voila, was right back in the Pilots seat.  Here's what I came up with:  commercial photography checklist. If it's a helpful starting point for you, drop a comment below or email us and I'll make it available as a downloadable spreadsheet file (created in Apple Numbers) so you can customize it to your gear and working style.  I'll likely follow this up with a production checklist for self-produced shoots.

I've organized the checklist into categories and subcategories.  The lighting section for example, is organized around different lighting kits I use depending on the size and location of my shoot (Small, Medium and Large Kits).  The last thing I do before leaving on a shoot is confirm everything required for the shoot is in my vehicle ready to go.  Don't start checking stuff off before it's physically in the car. (I wouldn't start my landing checklist 50 miles out from the airport) You'll forget something!

I'd love to hear how you organize and keep track of what is needed when you go on a shoot.  Drop a comment with any thoughts or ways to improve this checklist.

-Kevin Winzeler
Utah professional photographer
Photography | Motion | Stock

Feb 15, 2010

Failure & Fear: Photography - Keep Moving

I've spoken about failure as a "good thing" in a prior photography related blog post and so when I across this Harvard commencement address by J.K. Rowling (aka Harry Potter for those living in a closet) recently, I was again quite inspired once again. There is something profound in the notion of coming to grips with our fears and failures in photography (and life) and moving forward despite all of it. It's not that I believe people really seek failure, maybe some do, but those that have failed miserably and persisted to greatness are particularly inspiring.  The idea is beautifully expressed through her address.  

Fear often paralyzes us before we even get to the starting gate.  I know when I NEED to do something by the nerve racking feeling inside that causes a semi-paralysis of thought turning into over-exaggerated fear of all the reasons I might fail, if I do this "thing".   I guarantee [and I rarely use that word] we all experience fear of failure about something in life, whether it be a job, relationship, public speaking or simply photographing something new.  I sure felt this way leaving a corporate position in a Fortune 500 company to become a professional photographer, all while considering my family responsibilities, mortgage, and future "retirement".  Failures have come along the way and will surely come in the future, but those failures shape me as a person and an artist.

If we get past the initial paralysis that fear brings and do that "thing" we feared, often we still find the result is failure, despite our best efforts.  I often call myself an "experimenter", but in reality it would surely be failing.   With no formal photography education, I work really, really hard to understand all aspects of photography and motion from both a technical and an artistic perspective and then I experiment like mad.  Just ask my wife!  This past weekend for example, I was preparing for an upcoming commercial photography shoot so I took over the largest room in our house, kicked the kids out, moved the furniture and set-up shop.  After three hours of experimenting (failing), I had a a few shots and concepts that I would consider successful, but not many.  It seems that most of my successes in photography however, come after a lot of failure and the principle is to keep moving, moving, moving.  JK Rowling kept moving both toward her true passion as well as forward in life after what she calls complete failure.  It is easy to hang up the camera after having felt the fear, acted and then failed.  "At least I tried", we might say to ourselves as we move to something that is less risky and ironically, less of a passion.  We just aren't "visionary", "artistic", or "technical" enough to be great at photography.  Wrong!  In reality, most of us feel this way.  We keep moving forward driven by the passion, even when we feel overwhelmed by failure.  Success comes because we keep moving!  Be courageous to find your vision!

I intended to simply post the video this morning, but hopefully my ramblings have been somewhat worthwhile for you.  Here are a few quotes I found insightful from the address:
Quote 1: "Rock Bottom became my solid foundation"

Quote 2: "Stripping away of the inessentials"
Kevin Winzeler is a Commercial Photographer based in Utah and available worldwide.

Feb 8, 2010

Future of commercial photography and film?

I'm not sure what this means for the future of photography, particularly in the world of advertising and commercial photography which I'm a part of, but the fact that computer generated images are this realistic, makes me wonder.  Alex Roman delivers the most compelling argument I've seen for computer generated (CG) imagery especially when we're talking about one guy pulling this all together not the whole Avatar team down in Weta NZ for example.  It's pretty insane to think about.  What blows me away is not just the realistic nature of every frame in this film, but the level of art he achieves as well.  There's an interesting discussion taking place at "A Photo editor" with predictions about whether CG will or will not take over the role of a photographer as we know it.  It's a fact that Photography and film are becoming more and more about compositing the "pieces" together to make the final image than shooting everything "in frame".  This bow hunting image is an example from my own portflio (rain, clouds, lightning all composite work).  Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your perspective, in the commercial world it's a question of resources and if the "same" film or photograph can be made cheaper, that notion will rule the day.  Here's another example on the topic:

What are your thoughts?  Does any of this affect the type of photography you do or how you view the world of photography? Chime in!  All I know, is I that I have a ton of real, "live" locations to visit all over the world with photographs to be made in each and CG won't do any of them justice!  

Park City Utah, Photographer

Feb 1, 2010

Commercial photographers: 5 apps in my Mac Pro dock

As a commercial photographer in utah there are a few applications I use almost daily.  Without talking about Adobe products, here are the ones I could not live without:

1) Chronosync - (Back-up software - $30)
2) TweetDeck - (Social media - Free)
3) Latest press or publication (keep your latest press in your dock to share)
4) Cyberduck - (FTP Client - Free)
5) SnapnDrag - (Screen shot tool - $1)

What are your favorites?  Share with us!

Here's why I like these applications:

1) Chronosync - My philosophy is that if your back-up system isn't automated, you're going to lose data, at some point, guaranteed!  Chronosync allows you to run an automated back-up every night, hour, or at whatever interval you choose. So essentially, you can back-up as many main drives as you have to as many back-up drives as you choose. This works over both a local set of drives (USB, Firewire) or a network.  Cheap peace of mind.  Now I just need an automated off-site solution.  Any ideas?  Places like Mozy or other online back-up either A) would never be able to back-up multiple Terabytes initially or B) require a huge payment to get your data out if you ever need to.

2) TweetDeck -  I hate updating both Facebook and Twitter separately.  Nuff said.  Not only does Tweetdeck allow you to see your social networking across multiple platforms, it also has a bunch of other cool features.  There's an iphone app also.

3) Latest publications, awards and other docs.  Besides my applications, I pull a bunch of other documents and items into my dock as a reminder of what I should be working on.  If I'm sending out an email to a new prospect or contact, I'll often include some recent press or publication.  Currently, Skiing magazine's shot of the year is handy (see below) for easy access when scripting new emails.  If you have a bunch of new goals for 2010 in a spreadsheet somewhere, pull it up to your dock today.   Remind yourself every morning what the focus for this year is.

4) Cyberduck - There are lot's of FTP clients out there.  I prefer Cyberduck because it's trouble free, allows me to bookmark all of my FTP locations for easy access and It's free.

5) SnapnDrag - I love this application!  Simple as that.  It gets used every day and is one of my favorites.  It's not much more than a "screenshot" tool, but it's the most effective one I've used.  I'm constantly grabbing screenshots (i.e. see #3 above).  One of my favorite features, is the direct email link right in the application.  Grab a screenshot, click "email" and up pops your mail client with the image (screenshot) attached.
Another example:  Client Z asks for a quote (Homepage website usage).  You ask for the size and they point you to their website and say, "just like that top banner".  You say, "great, so the size of the product shot of Kobe's shoe?" client "yep".   "I'll get right back to you".
Now, pull up SnapnDrag, line up the crosshairs exactly on each side of the image, take a snapshot and name it. Next, drag to Photoshop and check the Image Size...ah...915px X 419px.  Now click "email" and confirm with client or send yourself a reminder to estimate usage (since you are in the middle of a shoot right now). ***btw - yes, you can grab screenshots w/Mac shortcut "Shift, Control, Command, 4",  but they automatically go to the desktop and there's no quick email feature or renaming the shot feature.

What are you using on a daily basis?

Park City Photographers