Real Photographers Take Their Camera Everywhere.

“F8 and be there.”

It’s the old mantra of news photographers.  It means that getting the photo, even if its out of focus and over exposed is far better than not getting the photo at all.  The history behind this was if you left your camera at F8 (decent depth of field) and with an film like Tri-X at ISO 400 that you could grab any photo of any breaking news as long as you were there “with your camera”.

I was engaged in a conversation with a local photographer about this very subject.  The statement is “Real Photographers take their camera everyone” or “Real Photographers would not be caught dead without their camera” or some other phrase.

For a Photojournalist, your camera is a natural extension of your arm and eye and as a PJ, being sans-camera is like being naked.  Photojournalists who are passionate about their work and they never really go off the clock, always looking for a great feature/standalone photo.

Of course they have some downtime, but its a bet their gear isn’t far away.  During my days as a PJ I was very much this way.  Other photographers though are not as naked without their cameras.  A portrait photographer or studio photographers are just as real and they don’t live with their cameras.

But we also have a new class of photographers today who never travel sans-camera and those are your camera phone people.  I’ve seen a huge growth among people who have nice dSLR’s opt for their camera phone to document those moment’s in life.  From a mom in Ashville snapping pics of her kids showing off their activities to a pro in California snapping his surroundings.  These cameras are total garbage quality wise.  Even the touted iPhone’s camera looks like your shooting through fog, but yet hundreds of thousands of these flow through the net every day.

This phenomenon is creating a new type of photojournalist where the community is encouraged to submit their works to be published along side the staffers for the papers.  When the US Airways flight landed in the Hudson River, the first photos of the accident came in from an iPhone via twitter.  This gives readers more eyes on scenes which translates to faster reportage.  We no longer have to wait on the news crews to arrive on the scene.  Of course the media outlets love it because they generally don’t have to play for these user submissions or pay their minimal stringer rates for unsolicited submissions (which is generally less than requested assignments).

This gets back to F8 and be there where getting the image (and in this case faster) is far more important than the quality.  As phone cameras improve so will the quality of this reportage and the reader wins.

As a former photojournalist, I hate it when I get caught out and see something I want to photograph and don’t have my camera.  There are days I wish I had a camera phone or a small point and shoot so I don’t have to lug my 20 pound camera bag around.  So for me personally, I feel that I am being less than a real photographer when I allow myself to be without camera.

I think many hobbyists are going to fall into this category as well.  They are passionate about their photography and want to shoot as many conditions and events as they can and so there would be a natural reaction to feel that your not real if you don’t have your camera.  My advice, pack your camera, keep the batteries hot and keep spare cards handy, you never know when your going to catch that important moment.

The twitter conversations moved to a discussion of are there times where its in appropriate to be shooting.  Of course there are, you probably don’t want to be randomly snapping photos in class or in church or situations where you need to be paying attention to the event.  The topic of shooting Funerals came up.  And while there are no rules against it, its certainly an uncomfortable event.  Unfortunately this was through twitter and its hard to have these conversations through a 140 character limit time delayed media.  It was that discussion which really lead to this post.

I’ve lost both of my parents.  My mom went first and the last time I saw her was a good three months before she passed and I never felt I got closure with her.  I got to see my Father about a week before he passed and it was apparent he was holding on long enough to reach closure and he passed quickly after our final time together.

Both funerals were different.  I took my camera to Mom’s viewing and I shot a few photos of her in her casket.  It was very weird feeling, but it wasn’t wrong feeling.  However during the funeral, I was such a wreck, there is no way I could even think about the camera, nor should I.  My father’s funeral was quite a bit different.  I wasn’t the wreck I was with Mom and phentermine I was even able to read my eulogy that I wrote for him (apparently that was abnormal as the survivors don’t do that).  Dad’s funeral was also a military funeral so there was a bit more ceremony to it.  I didn’t even think about my camera even during his viewing.  Perhaps it was because there was so much to deal with since we now had to handle all the arrangements and the estate.

But I can say this.  I wish I had a photographer at both.  I believe that family and invited friends should be there for the service and should be focused on what’s going on, but much like a wedding, having someone (and it could be a designated friend or more distant family member or in-law) record the event is as important as the wedding or birth or a high school graduation.

Even though I may have been crying uncontrollably during Mom’s photos I kinda wish I had photos from the event because as painful as the memories are, they are memories non the less.

I’m sure this will be a bit controversial, but I would like to hear your thoughts on this.  What do you think?  Should we shoot funerals?

Fix-it Friday — i Heart Faces Feature

The source image....
The source image....

This week I had the honor to be the photo judge for a photo blog called I Heart Faces (http://iheartfaces.blogspot.com/), a blog dedicated to portraiture.  This week’s theme was “Wonder” and after sifting through nearly 400 photos in both an adult and kid’s category, the top ten in each category was selected and the winners will be announced on Saturday.

But the blog has a cool feature called “Fix it Friday” where the blog owners post a photo and challenge members to fix it.  This week I decided that the “Fix It” would make a good post, so here goes.

Step 1. Convert to sRGB
The photographer was working in Adobe RGB color space.  Most professionals prefer to work in Adobe RGB since it supports a wider range of colors (gamut), but if your primarily working on photos for the web or your likely to print your photos at a local mini lab and don’t want to mess with color Management, an sRGB workflow (sRGB is the color space for web browsers) while not allowing the maximum colors, keeps things simple and easy.  Think of it in music terms.  Adobe RGB is like Vinyl LP albums and sRGB is like CD’s.  The keen ear, not offended by the scratches and hiss of an LP will find a fuller sound from the LP’s and the CD’s are clipped a little.  But most people prefer to not have the scratches and hiss in favor of the clean sound.

My photoshop setup detected the Adobe RGB file and gave me the option to convert it when I loaded it.  If I left it Adobe RGB and you looked at it in your browser the colors would look muted.  Since this is heading to the web, sRGB conversion was a no-brainer.

Step 2. Crop to 8×10
You can see in the original, that the photo is centered horizontally, and there is a little space above the subject’s head.  Not caring for the empty or negative space on either side of the subject,  I decided that a vertical crop was in order.  I couldn’t reasonably get the photo to a rule of thirds crop and keep it horizontal and I’m not sure I would have liked it anyway since it would have just shifted the negative space from one side to the other.  I also like to crop to print sizes, 4×6, 5×7 or 8×10 since I have to assume at some point I will want to print the photo.  For this one, an 8×10 crop let me crop the photo fairly tightly.  This put the subjects eyes on a rule-of-thirds line.

Step 3. Blemish Removal
Using the Rubber Stamp or Clone tool, I cleaned up a couple of blemishes and cleaned up some other skin coloration issues.

Step 4. Bright Eyes – Dodged whites, overlay layer – iris lightening 50%
Next, I attacked the dark eyes.  Using the Dodge tool (12% midtones, soft brush a little larger than the area to lighten) I lightened the whites a bit.  Then it was time to tackle the irises. To solve this, I add a new layer above the background, set the blend mode to “Overlay” and check the “Fill with 50% gray” check box.  Then pick a paint brush a little smaller than the iris and with the color white, paint on the overlay layer around the iris’s making sure to stay away from the outer and inner edges of the iris.  This will typically be too bright and sometimes can have an odd color shift.  So I typically set the overlay layer to 50% opacity to not go overboard with the eyes.  You can adjust to taste.

Step 5. Flatten
Then flatten the image.  I find that the overlay layer gets in the way for future actions.

Basic Corrections Added
Basic Corrections Added

Step 6. Equalized (3 channel white balance)
Looking at the Levels tool, the histogram shows that the tones don’t make it to black, nor do they make it to white.  An easy fix, called equalization stretches the tones to range from black to white giving the image a little more contrast.  But in this case, I took a peak at the histogram for each color channel, Red, Green and Blue (you can pick the color channel from a drop down on the layers tool (CTRL-L or Apple-L) or you can use the short cuts CTRL-1 for the Red channel, CTRL-2 for the Green and CTRL-3 for the Blue channel. CTRL-~ gets you back to the combined RGB view.

Well the Red and Green channels needed more stretching than the Blue channel, so using the White point dropper I visited each channel, dragging the dropper from the right side of the histogram box until it touched where the histogram bottomed out on the light side.  This is a very quick color correcting white balance method, presuming there are whites in the photo!  I then went back to the combined channel view and slid the black point dropper in until it met the histogram.  This did wonders for the color.

Now I have a good photo, suitable for printing or uploading to the web.  But lets take it further and see what we can make out of it.

The Result
The Result

Step 7. Screen layer 50%
I was in a particularly high-key mood today, so I decided to lighten the image.  After playing with some contrast curves and not liking what I saw, I felt it was time to try this tried and true method.  Duplicate your background layer and set the blend mode on the new layer to Screen.  This is like over exposing the photo by a full stop and it doesn’t blow out highlights.   In this case, it was still a bit too much.  I used the opacity to adjust to taste, and as it worked out 50% made me happy.

Step 8. Alabaster Portrait Action from Action Central.
Next I tried a couple of canned actions that I have. First up was Urban acid, so working on a duplicate copy of the image, the Urban acid script ran and the results were pretty good, but I still wasn’t feeling it.  I went to another script I have called “Alabaster Portrait” that I got from Action Central (http://www.atncentral.com).  And after running that script, I was very happy with my results.

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