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Writing a Book, Need Input

I've spent the past 5 years or so reading and learning about photography on top of actually doing it.  One of the things that drew me to it in the first place was that it's both science and art.  You could come at photography with light meters and calibrated tripod heads, or show up with a Holga and and mindlessly snap away with a hope that serendipity is riding shotgun.  There are those extremes and everything in between which is why it's so vibrant a culture.

Those who don't know me might not now this but I love talking to people (hear this people who want me to give presentations, I'm waiting for your call) And I think I have a somewhat unique perspective on photography as an autodidact who wants to share and knows what he's talking about.  And not 'what knob to turn when' but rather 'why do you turn THAT knob'.  I've read countless tutorials, but most just teach you how to do it their way without explaining enough for you to make it your own. Well I've wanted to give back as of late and start helping other people.

Therefore I've started to write a book, the working title of which is "self-taught photography by a self-taught photographer" (I know, it needs to be a little snappier and YES the fake cover to the left is meant to be a joke). In it I plan to pour everything I know about the craft and mechanics of photography. Hopefully in a way that people can understand and enjoy.  So far I've only written around 10,000 words, but it's a progressive thing.  The point of this post is to make a list of what I'm talking about and making sure I'm not missing anything you'd like me to talk about.  So here's what I've got so far.

Camera basics and a quick history -Sizes, types, and qualities of film

Exposure -Shutter Speed and Aperture and ISO

Light -Color temp and spectrum -Available and artificial light (including the sun, speedlights, big strobes) -Light modifiers -Taking pictures with strobes

Deconstructing other people’s photos. - shadow number and direction

- figuring out the lights - focal length and aperture

The anatomy of a digital file formats (pet peeve)

Digital Assets management - computers and software - flash cards and readers - hard drives - meta data - folders and naming conventions. - backup (online)

Buying a camera - Specs that matter, specs that don’t. Manufacturer’s Voodoo.

So if there is anything that I've obviously missed, let me know in the comments and I'll add it to the list.  I'm shooting to be done writing in the next month or two, so sooner is better people.  Thanks.

Retouching Way Overcooked

Look I'm not going to lie, I do a lot of post production to my images and I think retouching has it's place. Nowadays as a commercial photographer, you almost have to to make pictures look the way people expect them to look.  We've become inundated with perfection in advertising and movies. And I'm ok with all of that. I know it's an illusion and I expect that most other people do too. I expect it from cosmetic and beauty ads, or fashion shoots, but when TV and Movie actors start looking like plastic mannequins, you've gone too far. Recently there was a poster for the Little Fockers movie with Ben Stiller and De Niro.  Stiller is 45 and De Niro is almost 70, but on the poster, I swear to God, they looked 25 and 40 respectfully.  It was retouching run amuck and you know the guys who work on movie posters are pros as well as my heroes so I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and blame it on their clients.  This was totally some exec or producer who kept coming in and saying, "You've got to make them look younger" and the retoucher said, "But sir, it's going to start looking really stupid soon because it looks a little stupid already".  But of course the money talks and you end up not with a couple of good looking hollywood men with some make-up on and their skin cleaned up for zits, but rather something much close to a photo illustration than a photograph.

Here's another one.

Look at Kevin James'  neck, and don't get me started on either of their foreheads.  Are these guys supposed to be in college? You know they don't look like this in the movie, so why not make them look like well groomed actors, which I'm sure they are.  Do a little work to clean it up, but don't sandblast them.

Speaking of sandblasting, take a look at this poster for the new season of White Collar.

I watch this show, so I know what this guy really looks like.  And you know what?  He's one of the better looking people I've ever seen.  He doesn't need the help guys, and he certainly doesn't need to look like this. This is such awful retouching that it's a bit embarrassing. Back when you don't know what you're doing so you just create a new layer, blur the shit out of it and then paint it in with a mask, THAT is what this looks like. It looks like what I would do if I only had 15 seconds before the bomb went off.  I hope that I speak for all of us when I say that we'd much rather see the real person.

I guess the main point is that ideally, pictures shouldn't LOOK like they've been retouched.  The best people's work, and the goal that I aspire to, doesn't look like it was touched at all. I'm ok with idealizing reality in photographs. Just don't make it look unreal or it looks incredibly stupid.  The pendulum as swung way too far in the other direction and the people who make decisions really need to know when to stop because they're overcooking stuff way too much.  Ok rant over, you can all go back to your lives. Thanks.

My day involved in goodness: (RED) 2015 poster

So a few weeks ago I was asked to participate in project to create a poster for the (RED) campaign against AIDS.  Well mostly I watched designers Craig Ward and Ian Wright create the 4x8 foot poster out of raffia fibers and rope. It's always fun to watch masters at work. Though it took several hours to create, in the end it was my turn to take a few minutes to photograph it.  They had worked with tan rope on black board and then did a little wizardry to flip it to red rope on white for the final poster.

The entire campaign is launching today and they've posted the images on the (RED) blog, so I figure it's time to give you a peak. You can check out the final as well as the posters from the other designers here: http://blog.joinred.com/2010/11/aids-free-generation-is-due-in-2015.html

Here's a portrait of the gents with their creation: