Saturday, March 17, 2007

One more nail in the coffin

What do the movies X-Men, X2, Contact, Rambo III, The Karate Kid III, and Batman & Robin have in common? Director of Photography David Stump, who says about The RED Camera, "The RED Mysterium sensor has finally pushed digital acquisition past the timeless 35mm barrier in resolution and clean color fidelity."

What he's not saying it how it's going to affect still photographers. At 29.97 FPS, the previous standard, and with a smaller chip, HD was "almost there" in replacing still photography at major news and sporting events. It would have required special merging software to take two frames that were shot at 1/30th and merge them into one sharp image.

Now, at 1/60th of a second, AND with 11.4MP, you can bet for certain that the 2008 Superbowl and ensuing Olympics will be shot primarily with these cameras, and were *I* the holder of the TV rights to the broadcasts, I would be looking to monetize key-moment stills from my events, and talking with, say, a major sports wire service to license out those images from their 15+ cameras at each game.

Yes yes, TV would need an amendment to their contract, probably, for the rights to sell still images, but once say, CBS put a number on that, the leagues would take that number to commercial photo agencies and dictate a pay-to-cover scenario. This will then leave, at best, local-to-the-team newspaper coverage, who would then have to pay careful attention to NOT allowing the commercial photos to get too much play, or risk their own independant access/credentials.

This means that the glory of covering "the big game" is fading fast. What little assignment money that remains will come from smaller college games, and events where TV is not covering, or is covering with antiquated equipment. So, in about a year, pay close attention to the TV guy next to you, it may be his corporate parent company that you are competing with, along with the skycam Red HDTV images never before seen in print, as well as the rest of the unseen cameras around each stadium, that is your competition!

How much are these cameras? According to Engadget, "the initial batch of $17,000 pre-orders are long gone...", and they go on to say (in this article) " all starts with the $17,500 RED ONE base can add your choice of the $1,250 Basic or $2,750 Premium production packs...$1,650 RED ONE Power Pack featuring 2x RED BRICK 140Wh batteries and charger, a $1,950 RED Electronic Viewfinder, and the $1,700 5.6-inch LCD. Optics accessories include a $3,500 B4 lens adapter and both Canon and Nikkor 35mm photo mounts costing $500 each. There are also several RED branded media accessories for CF, SATA disk, and something called the "RED RAM 64GB" for $4,500 -- extortionate if that's just a RED-branded SSD in an external housing. But hey, no one said that a 4k resolution and 60p frame rate would come cheap."

Well, that about makes this camera as costly as a standard Sony or JVC professional betacam. In other words, it's not some boutique $100k camera that no broadcast operation could afford, it's something that costs the same as the cameras they are using now. Wikipedia has more technical information about this 4520 x 2540 pixel camera.

Want less size and 1920x1080 pixels (that's 12.8" x 7.2" at a standard 150dpi for newspapers)? Check here for a much smaller 60fps.

If you're a photographer shooting major sporting events, this is going to be one more (really big) nail in the coffin, as with major tv news events. Evolve and survive, or keep doing what you're doing how you're doing it at your own peril.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Photo Booth Rig

I've been getting several inquiries about the photo booth setup I had put together up at the Northern Short Course last week. I'd never done this setup quite like this before, save for once at a friend's wedding, but in that setting, there was no printer for the immediate gratification of the self-portrait subjects. Up in Warwick, subjects walked away with a 5x7 to memorialize their experience. My colleague, Brian Storm (a multimedia genius) insisted I post the specs of the setup, so here goes...

My journey began when I decided that my lab needs were not being met through outsourcing, and I came across the new Sony DR-150 being sold by Imaging Spectrum, whose folks I met at the PPA ImagingUSA event early in January. I ordered this to decrease my reliance on my outsourcing lab, not for a photo booth operation, but ended up deciding it would work great for this project.The results were amazingly fast, and here's the blurb from the ImagingSpectrum folks about the printer's capabilities:

Sony's fastest dye sub printer, which offers high-volume roll printing, durable print heads, and a simple front-access design, is now available for a net price of $305 (after mail in rebates)! Buy a Sony 150 before March 31 and get via mail, a $250 rebate, 2 cases of 4x6 paper ($470 value), and 2 cases of 5x7 paper ($770 value). The UPDR150 prints 4x6 images in about 8 seconds, 5x7's in ~15 seconds, and 6x8's in approximately 20 seconds.
To get your own, contact Steve at, click that link.

My next step was the software necessary for immediate gratification. We of the now digital age want to see our files within seconds. This printer doesn't disappoint, but getting the files from camera to print was the challenge. In steps Tim at TriPrism, who has this amazing TEPS-X software that delivers files from shutter release to media in about 20 seconds total.

First, the setup:

Here , you'll see how Baltimore Sun phototojournalist David Hobby produced repetitive 5x7's and continued to photograph himself with them. Hobby also writes the blog

Here are ONE, TWO, and THREE examples of people that are posing WITH their 5x7's with the software-added event logo overlay.

Here, you can see almost all of the images that were printed during the weekend.

For the subject's instant preview of their self-portrait, I used my own external 20" Visio monitor (seen to the right of the autopole in the second image), with s-video in for previews. About $400 at Costco. This was critical for people's interaction with the setup, and s-video was important as that was the video out from the laptop.

I have since placed an order for this ZigView from Penn Camera, which, with the accessory removable 2.5" LCD screen, will let people see themselves in the viewfinder as they are arranging themselves. I have other uses for this, of course, I am not buying it for this rig, but I know it will be helpful.

Laptop 1 - Primary 17" laptop. USB port 1 goes to Camera, USB Port 2 goes to a USB hub that connects the printer via USB and the necessary USB Software Authentication Key that comes with the printing software. Since you can find a USB hub anywhere, I'm just sayin you need one, otherwise, you're one port short, since you need the USB authorization key, printer, and camera plugged in at all times.

Laptop 2 - Secondary 15" laptop. I was only able to find one way to automatically have the images (on a Mac), AS THEY ARE SHOT, refresh, and it was using the "desktop images folder" set within system preferences to do that. All other applications, once you started the slide show, it only accessed whatever images were in the folder when the slideshow started, even the screen saver. This laptop connected wirelessly to the 17" laptop, mounting it as a network drive, and then used as the source for "desktop images" the folder that is created by the software that keeps a file saved of just the images printed. In turn, this laptop was connected via a 50' VGA cord to my LCD projector, which displayed the images on the wall, in the background.

Nikon D2X with 17-55mm lens. This worked great with the 9' backdrop. Note: The Nikon battery needs to be changed twice within a four hour period. My first camera test was with my Canon 1Ds Mark II, and it worked fine too. I think that as long as your camera has a USB or Firewire out, you can make it work teathered just fine. I've not toyed with doing this wirelessly, altough I do have a wireless transmitter for both bodies. To maximize throughput of the files, I always shot at the smallest JPEG size, which still sends over a 2000 pixel wide file, suitable for an 8x10, if necessary at a later date.

One Autopole with tri-leg base. This allowed the entire setup to attach just to the pole, with pressure to the ceiling and the floor, and the added stability of the tri-leg to ensure it all wouldn't fall over. The gold wiring at the top was where I disassembled the ceiling fixture that hung over the table, and clamped the wires up out of the way. That pole is under pressure with the rubber foot on the top holding it up to the cieling. Note part of the tri-leg base at the bottom of one of the photos.

Two Mathelini clamps on opposite sides of the pole to attach the lights to, just above the camera's superclamp, and just below the autopole's tensioning lever. This was the easiest way to connect the 40" extension arms that held the lights.

Two Hollywood Heads with 40" extensions on them to attach the lights. This was important because I didn't want people tripping on the lightstands for the heads/umbrellas. (note the one lightstand in one of the photos is not holding up the head, it's just standing back there as it was a prop for an earlier picture.)

One Superclamp and Bogen geared head tripod head with quick release plate. Mine is an older model, the 410 Junior. This head is important because there is no loosening, adjusting, and then tightening if you wanted to raise or lower the angle, just dial the gear and it always stays tight.

One Hensel Vela 1500 pack, with two heads, at about 1/4 power. Fast recycle ensured. Two Hensel 3000 heads. You could use lighter Monobloc heads if you'd like. Just make sure you hardwire them, as lots of people like to take their own snaps, and you want to ensure the heads only trigger to your camera. This may require a Y-splitter for the wiring. I suppose you could also use a Dynalite pack with two heads too.

Two Wescott silver umbrellas, about 30" in diameter.

One wired remote for the camera so people could do self-portraits.

One superclamp with a U-hook on it so that people could return the wired remote to it's correct place below the camera for the next guest.

At one point, we used Pocket Wizards to trigger the pack by the camera, but switched to hard wired when the batteries ran out and we'd forgotten AA's.

Note that the equipment is raised off the table during the party with equipment cases, incase anyone spilled a beer. It didn't happen, but we wanted to be safe!

LCD Projector - Standard Epson projector, raised to the cieling with an autopole, and connected via superclamp and Magic Arm to a Bogen accessory tray that held the projector (like their Video Monitor Tray 3152, or their accessory tray FF0844.) This projector made a big difference, as people who were not in the photo booth could see what their friends and colleagues were up to, and served as a form of "performance platform" for people to try a variety of off the wall things in a very freeform way. You can see the projected images in one of the photos past the autopole in the background.

Paper was standard 9' superwhite Savage brand, used for both the backdrop wall, and the projected image wall. All paper was taped up, eliminating stands that people could trip on.

Note that it is not my plan or intention to go into the photo booth business. I figured this rig out because I wanted to do something fun at the NSC, and it may make it's way to another upcoming photographer's gathering. However, I like the ability to be able to offer this type of service to my regular clients, when requested, and, more importantly, to be able to produce reprints in house for those clients who need printed pieces.

So, why use this rig? Why invest in the software? Because when subjects have to wait even a minute or two, they will wander off, and not return for their print. If it's in a corporate convention center booth, you want the corporate sales person wrapping up their dialog with the prospect as the print is printed in under 30 seconds. Further, in a closed environment, like a wedding, the ability to pass around and share with others, will increase the interest at the event of getting a print. In fact, you could sell this service as what the bride and groom give as favors!

I've assembled a complete list of what's needed. Clicking on the links below completely pre-populates the e-mail with what you need, as noted above, To get your own Sony DR150 printer, click to reach Steve at To get the TEPS-X software, click for Tim at TriPrism. And, for all the hardware, click Jeff Snyder, at Penn Camera. While the Penn list does not include the camera, lens, or laptop(s), because I am assuming you have suitable stand-ins for them, they sell those too, just ask.

So, what should you charge for this? Hmmm. I'm still working on that. My general sense is that, to spend a day for a client, including you as the photographer (also shooting other things), an assistant to hit "print" and attend to the rig, and all the media (which is probably 300 to 400 prints a day), the cost should be somewhere around $2,500 for the day, all in. I may change my mind on this figure, but I'll work through it, and let you know. This would, of course, be where you were "giving away" to subjects all the photos, which, in the end, is covered by the client who hired you. If you're doing prints where you are selling them individually, the model I have to go by is the photo kiosks that charge $10 for a 5x7, and $25 for an 8x10, but I have not fulling investigated those figures enough yet. More on pricing later.
Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Self Confidence

Remember when you were under age, and tried to fake your way into a bar, buy at a liquor store, or buy cigarettes? Perhaps it was a cousin's license that sorta looked like you. Maybe it was your license that you'd changed the date because your birthdate somehow was easily switchable with a slight stroke of a pen to turn you from 18 to 24. Or, perhaps, a more underhanded way - a totally fake license.

When the license evaluator cast a critical look at it, and handed it back (or confiscated it!) and said "fake. You're not coming in." You stammered something, but you had no fortitude in your position. You knew you'd been busted.

Fast forward to a week after your 21st birthday, when that baby face has the bouncer or store clerk saying "you're not coming in, this is a fake." Within seconds, you are all over him, "What do you mean fake? That's me idiot! I am 21, and I've waited years to get to this date. Get me your manager. You can't keep me out!"

In a short period of time, you've had no confidence in your position (because you knew it was a fake) to the ultimate in self confidence "How dare you...!" This is the attitude you must have about your work as a photographer.

You must develop self-confidence in your work. One of the most important things in business is self confidence, and to believe in yourself. You will almost surely fail if you don't believe in yourself. In the not to distant future, I am going to write about Ego, it's risks and benefits.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

A Commitment to Excellence

Today I turn my attention to the legendary coach Vince Lombardi, and share a few of his quotes for you to ponder:

The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.
Lombardi's words here ring true. If your work is mediocre, and if your service is lackadaisical, your commitment will be lacking, and thus, excellence will not be within your grasp, fair-to-middlin will be.
Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you're willing to pay the price.
This past weekend, at the NPPA's Northern Short Course, I met many up and coming photographers who clearly are doing everything within their power to become successful. Here in town, I encounter the occasional photographer who is not doing all they can, and I see the sad fact that they are heading towards a life they wouldn't choose full of disappointment, and jealousy of their peers who are succeeding, and they can't understand why. I have seen many come and go, I wish them well, of course, but more importantly, I wish they had made the right choices in the first place.
A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.
Many of those photographers I see on the going end of coming and going are amazing artists and storytellers. They could be great, if they wanted to be. And, they say they want to be, but something, somewhere, somehow, is precluding them from really truly wanting to be great. Perhaps it's fear of success. Perhaps the abscense of determination or dedication. Often, it's the unwillingness to make sacrifices here and there.

I encourage you to make a commitment to excellence, and turn as much of your attention as humanly possible to your own success.You can be a great photographer.
Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

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