Resolve

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It’s not just photographers who are looking for new ways to apply well-developed skills. Matt Randall, who managed the editorial photo department at the L.A. Times for 15 years, recently founded the Pro Photography Network as a way to keep doing what he does best — organize a photo staff and hand out assignments.

Miki Johnson: How did the idea for Pro Photography Network come about and when was it officially launched?

Matt Randall: The idea came to me through various portals. Some from just brainstorming ideas and some from advice given to me about “doing what you do best.” Since I had managed the editorial photo department for 15 years at the L.A. Times and knew all of these photographers very well, it was just a natural thing to do. Let’s get them back together again so we can market their skills as photographers, and I’ll do what I like to do, which is logistics, financial innovations, and event planning.

MJ: How does the group work logistically? How are assignments handled?

MR: I will start by working with the needs of the client and confirming the who, what, where, when and why. Once I have the logistics of the shoot, I can work with the client and find the right photographer for their needs: male, female, bilingual, or any other special needs that require a photographer with a particular skill set.

“We can always find a photographer for any job.”

I then send out a request based on the needs of the client to the pool of photographers that meet the clients criteria. Since we all have our Blackberry/iPhone devices, reaching the group is easy. I then hook up the photographer with the client. From this point on, the photographer can focus on being a photographer and doing what they do best. At the L.A. Times, we are always trying to find the best photographer for every assignment too. But the beauty of this approach is the client has more input up front when hiring a photographer. More »

Gene Higa is a destination wedding photographer based in San Francisco, but he’s got great tips for all kinds of photographers. In today’s Tip of the Week, Gene has a quick and easy trick to help you remember the names of the bridal party and family, to make those group shots faster and friendlier.

“You always want to call the bridal party by their first names.”

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Gene has some great tips lined up, but we’re always eager to hear what you’d like to know more about. Leave your questions in the comments (with a link to your website, of course) and Gene will be happy to respond.

Joseph Rodriguez launched his extensive career as a documentary photographer with East Side Stories, a project examining the cultures of violence in East Los Angeles. He returned to L.A. recently to document the importance and difficulty of helping people re-enter society after incarceration. I spoke with Joe about his first foray into multimedia, and how he applied his still photography skills to a new medium.

Miki Johnson: Tell me a little about the re-entry project, how you got interested in it, and why you wanted to tell the story.

Joe Rodriguez: I’m going to be very honest with you. This is a very personal story. It started when I was a young child. I watched my stepfather come in and out of prison over the years, about a decade or more, and a few of my uncles did the same thing. Then he was also an addict, so we had to watch this whole process, this up-and-down roller coaster ride with the family. And there wasn’t really much support for addicts back then in terms of re-entering society.

My stepdad died many years ago, and as a young boy growing up into a photographer, that story has always stayed with me. So this project was a personal journey. When I was working in Spanish Harlem and all around the country doing socially impacting stories, I started to see that this issue of incarceration was affecting many families. So I’ve been watching this growth of incarceration throughout the United States of America for some time. You know, I watched it go to 1 million, then 2 million over the years.

Then last year the Pew Research Center did a study called “One out of a hundred people in prison.” That was kind of the spark to seriously revisit this story and see what I could do about telling it in a different way. I did not want to repeat myself, and I didn’t want to repeat what other photographers have already done with work inside prisons. I wanted to challenge that story somewhat, because I think when you come out of prison, you’re still doing time in many different respects. You may be on parole, you may be an addict, you may have problems getting employment, and you can’t vote — all those different issues that affect many ex-offenders.

I thought it could be interesting to look at a non-profit organization like Walden House, which has been dealing with people coming from prison, specifically addicts, and working very intensely on changing their behavior. So a couple of years ago, in 2007, I connected with the people at Walden House. And a whole year went by talking about this possibility of working together or me coming to work inside some of their facilities in Los Angeles and San Francisco. And then last year they gave me a green light; I visited three of the facilities. One was dealing with mothers and children, one was dealing with just women, and one was just with men.

It was overwhelming and daunting because I profiled 40 to 45 people. And out of the 40 to 45 people, I focused on about 5 who we did these multimedia pieces on. I am hoping to reach a larger audience, because of the Internet and its long reach. I also just wanted to create a historical document of these people. And to be very honest, I don’t know what more I could do right now. I would love for it to change things, but I’m not that gullible.

“I wanted to create a historical document of these people — I don’t know what more I could do right now.”

MJ: Tell me about that decision to make this into a multimedia piece and, especially, to gather audio?

JR: The first trip was completely on my own, but I received a grant from the USC Annenburg Institute for Justice and Journalism for the second trip. That was specifically to do multimedia stories. The reason I wanted to do audio was because I can’t always get down everything the subjects are saying in a written interview. So the audio became a way to tell a more concise story and also to bring the audience in, in an emotional way. I want to grab the audience so hopefully they can feel Tracey’s story and Darlene’s story and John Vaughn’s.

MJ: And also they can’t ignore the words, right? I think a lot of people never get around to reading text with photos.

JR: We’re living in the age of interruption. I’m starting to look around and watch people when they’re reading on the web. It seems to be tricky for them to stay focused for pages and pages of text. I think audio really helps get the story in their head much faster. And then if they really want to learn more, they’ll be hungry enough to read. I think it’s a way to pull people in, not just into your immediate story, but to hopefully give them something more where they can go further with the issue or with this person’s life.

MJ: And when you were actually doing these interviews, how did you make the creative decisions, when to record and when to make images and how those work together?

JR: I just tried to keep myself calm knowing that what this person is saying while I’m photographing, I’m gonna hopefully be able to revisit in audio. One guy, Marko, was working in a bakery and I wanted to take pictures of him there. I photographed him working behind the counter, dealing with the public. Then the pictures slowed down and while I was waiting for him to go in the back with the ovens, I did some ambient audio of the store.

Then I knew I needed to do a portrait. I went into it thinking that if I could make a very engaging portrait, and I have a pretty engaging interview, I was gonna be happy with that. If I got anything extra, more reportage-type stuff, that would just help it even more. So I was actually multitasking with that particular interview. It really just depends on the subject and what’s happening.

What I like about the way I work is that it’s slow, so it enables me to revisit the person. And the more I revisit, the better story I get, either in audio or pictures. But I try, really, really earnestly to separate them — if I’m taking pictures, it’s gonna be about pictures. I try not to start thinking about what they’re saying or what’s going on, because then that just fractures me even more.

MJ: When you were planning the actual multimedia pieces, how did you think about how you wanted to put them together?JR: The first thing that was very important for us was just to listen to the audio. For an hour’s worth of audio, we could use maybe 5 or 10 minutes of workable audio from that. And after listening to the audio — and saying, is that important, that could be good, that could be good — then we laid out the proofs.

We feel that proofs are a more concise way for us to edit than on the monitor, because we can leave them down on the floor or leave them up on the wall and revisit them. That was the thing that we learned, the importance of revisiting. It took actually two or three months just to do the first multimedia piece. Now we know how to do it. I have to give major props to Benjamin Jarosch, our studio manager, who had never done this before, just like myself.

Revisiting is key because some days you think you’ve got it, and then you go back and you see it differently that time. Not to the point that you’re gonna pick it apart to death, but just making sure everything makes sense. When we laid the pictures out and looked at it with the audio, we’d say, ah that doesn’t really work there. Do we have a photo that kind of relates to this or can be a metaphor for this? Or can give us some atmosphere?

In the Darlene piece, she talks about her father passing away, and there is an image of a cemetery. That cemetery is not far from where she grew up, although that image was not taken at the same time the interview was. Because I know this culture so well, some of my images from other projects, even from East Side Stories, came into that story. And I would not have been able to do that if I didn’t allow myself the time to look and listen and then leave it alone and come back and revisit.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: What role does “revisiting” play in your work?

Gene Higa is a destination wedding photographer based in San Francisco, but he’s got great tips for all kinds of photographers. Today’s Tip of the Week is great idea for wedding photographers — or any photographer with a busy client — that will help reduce stress and increase client satisfaction on shoot day.

“I want to make sure I have enough time to take care of everybody.”

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Gene has some great tips lined up, but we’re always eager to hear what you’d like to know more about. Leave your questions in the comments (with a link to your website, of course) and Gene will be happy to respond.

RESOLVE contributor Ed Kashi sent me some notes last week from his recent trip to the Niger Delta about the creative differences between shooting video and stills. This is an evolution many photographers are going through right now, so I decided to ask a few other multitaskers to share their thoughts. Please share your own experience with stills vs. video in the comments!
Ed Kashi – Ed has integrated video with his documentary photography for years, but recently shot his first video-only project.

1. How much do you shoot video compared with stills?

I have been working on a film in the Niger Delta, and although I’ve been shooting video for the past nine years, this is the first time I’ve shot a complete film without any stills.

2. What tools do you use to shoot video?

When I contemplated shooting this film in the Niger Delta, one of the toughest places I’ve worked, where most people don’t want to have any kind of camera pointed at them unless you explain yourself or you pay them, I was initially considering using the Canon 5D Mark II in video mode, thinking it would make me less conspicuous. That was a silly thought. In the end, I decided to work with a great standard definition video camera for excellent sound and none of the unresolved issues in video with the 5D.

3. What is the biggest difference for you between shooting video and stills?

Whereas still photography resides in the fractional moments, video lives in whole moments and complete segments. Keeping the editor’s needs in mind, you must provide sustained coverage with video, instead of pecking away at the fractional moments with your still camera. This can be a killer on your back, neck and/or wrist. The physical strain shooting video is definitely increased, at least for me since I work quite light, with one camera and one lens, when I shoot stills. With stills I am also slavishly dealing with the light, beholden to it’s patterns, moods and dictates. Light is important with video too, but I can still make a compelling video in almost any light. Then of course there is audio. I often ponder situations in terms of the audio it will render, what it will say and how it helps shape the narrative.

4. How do your still and video work influence each other?

Shooting stills is more torturous mentally but ultimately more deeply satisfying. I am a photographer at heart. Video is interesting, vital, challenging, relevant and captivating, but photographs are sacred to me in a way that video is not. It has something to do with my long relationship to photography, but more metaphysically, it relates to the stillness, the quiet and meditative quality of still images. No matter how enveloping and captivating video can be, there is an essential truth in still images for me. And I am finding that I miss working with my images — looking, editing, thinking about them, sending them to friends and family. They are much easier to move around, share and work with.

Bill Frakes – Bill has always mixed it up, but has been stepping it up lately with lots of great videos for Sports Illustrated and his many clients.

1. How much do you shoot video compared with stills?

It totally depends on what I’m working on. I’m just finishing a short documentary now that is entirely video. I’ve directed music videos and television spots for years. Usually I let the subject matter make the decision for me about the amount of video vs. stills that I’ll shoot.

2. What tools do you use to shoot video?

I shoot primarily with the Nikon D90, which allows me to switch between video and stills very easily. I have several professional-level video cameras, but the optics I can use with the D90 makes it a superior choice. I gather audio separately and I have had the D90s modified so they can accept outboard microphones.

3. What is the biggest difference for you between shooting video and stills?

From a physical standpoint, shooting video requires a tripod — otherwise it’s just not going to look good. From a photographic standpoint, composition still rules, but what works for each is totally different.

4. How do your still and video work influence each other?

My video and still work is totally in sync. Each is meant to enhance the other.

Guy Rhodes – Steeped in lighting and film techniques, Guy shoots a lot of independent films plus still images to keep his eyes fresh.

1. How much do you shoot video compared with stills?

The majority of my work over the past five years has been video-related, much of it in the independent film market. I shoot stills in my downtime to supplement my income and to keep my creative eye fresh. Over the past month, I’ve been out on three independent short film shoots, two as the director of photography and one as a Steadicam operator. I also had a handful of still shoots. Shooting video and stills at the same time is not generally required by my clients. Most hire me for one or the other, as they understand that trying to do video and stills at the same time often results in both suffering to some degree. The two mediums require different thought processes, and it’s very challenging to go between the two and do it well, especially in a deadline situation.

2. What tools do you use to shoot video?

I shoot on a Panasonic SDX900 for much of my independent film work. I’ve also shot several indie films on the Panasonic DVX100, which records in 24p, but on the more affordable MiniDV format. The short film I ran Steadicam on last month shot with Canon’s new 5D Mark II cameras. It was pretty exciting shooting HD video on a full-frame SLR, being able to use very wide aperture lenses to emulate the shallow depth of field of the 35mm motion picture format. For the rare instances that 24p is not required, I shoot on my Sony VX2000 MiniDV.

3. What is the biggest difference for you between shooting video and stills?

One large difference between shooting video and stills for me is lighting. Still images are pretty easy to manipulate after the fact, but you really can’t dodge and burn video. That’s why I try to nail my video lighting setups so I can hand the client a DVD of my camera raw video without color correction and not be embarrassed by it. I studied lighting in college so it’s not uncommon for me to spend an hour or two lighting a scene for film shoot, with only the last five minutes of that time devoted to setting up the camera and framing the shot. I think a lot of new video shooters and photographers get so wrapped up in the camera technology that they forget how important lighting really is.

4. How do your still and video work influence each other?

My video and still disciplines keep each other in check. I find that after shooting stills for a few weeks, the next time I pick up a video camera, the shots come easier. Sometimes I’ll try things with the video camera that I tried earlier with a still image, such as radically underexposing for a dramatic highlight or colorful costume. I have an equal love-hate relationship with each medium. Video editing is more tedious than editing a still photo shoot, but I do like the camaraderie of video shoots. First and foremost, though, I consider myself a lighting designer. Even when I’m shooting video all day, the majority of my time is spent lighting the scenes. The same goes for setting up a portrait shoot. When shooting on location with available light, lighting is still at the forefront of my mind.

Robert Caplin – Robert has been experimenting with the video capabilities of his Canon 5D, figuring out how to translate it into paying gigs.

1. How much do you shoot video compared with stills?

I shoot about 80% stills. Often I’ll capture video on interesting assignments, but more for memory’s sake. I’ve started working on video projects with my family and friends, but I have yet to capitalize on actually making a living with video. The transition is underway, but I don’t expect to ever give up still photography.

2. What tools do you use to shoot video?

I’ve exclusively used the Canon 5D Mark II for capturing video. For general audio I have a hot-shoe-mount mic made by Sennheiser (MKE 400). For music videos we record the music in a studio and lay it as the main audio track. For my latest project I used a separate sound crew who used professional booms, shotguns, and LAV mics.

3. What is the biggest difference for you between shooting video and stills?

The biggest difference during the shooting process is motion. Moving the camera while recording makes all the difference whether it’s a pan, dolly, crane, or steady-cam shot. I’ve found that keeping the camera motionless makes video more stagnant and less appealing. On the editing end, it’s a much more laborious process due to the file-sizes of the videos. It’s also more difficult to tone and edit 30 pictures per second.

4. How do your still and video work influence each other?

I feel that I’m a photographer at heart. Since I’ve started toying with video, I consider myself more and more a filmmaker as well. I think I have a lot to learn, but the ease of the 5D II makes it enjoyable to teach myself.

Martin Sundberg – Fielding frequent questions from clients about video, Martin recently produced a video shoot to test the waters.

1. How much do you shoot video compared with stills?

I’m still shooting nearly 100% stills for my professional and personal work, but nearly all of my clients are no inquiring if I can also produce video in addition to stills. On my last large shoot I started out thinking I would shoot a little video to show my clients how the activities might translate when we began our video productions. Yet, over 10 shoots at 10 locations, I only shot stills. Right now my mind set is, one or the other — video OR still. I think there have to be two different shoots or I have to have a video camera operator on set who I could direct while I shoot the stills.

2. What tools do you use to shoot video?

I am exclusively using the Canon 5D Mark II. We are capturing audio separately using a Marantz digital recorder.

3. What is the biggest difference for you between shooting video and stills?

When shooting photos I am really focused on perfecting the single moment. One perfect image. Video is about the flow through the frame and linking moments. Not all the moments in a sequence are perfect, but you only spend a fleeting moment looking at any one frame.

4. How do your still and video work influence each other?

I’m a photographer who is exploring video. I definitely think like a photographer… but I LOVE applying that to my new work in video!

Food and advertising photographer Michael Lamotte created his own postproduction studio, GreenBox, a year and a half ago. Here he outlines the pros and cons of different postproduction strategies, including starting your own postproduction studio. Don’t miss his last post explaining how he built GreenBox and distinguished it from other studios.
© GreenBox Imaging

A composite image taken by Michael, with postproduction by GreenBox. The main images in the composite are below. © Michael Lamotte

The way it used to be for commercial photographers was, once we shot the film, it was given to the agency and we never saw it again. It was very rare that you were involved at all in any of the postproduction. Which was fine sometimes, but sometimes the end result was different than the original intent. Now, because of the advances in technology, there has a niche has developed between photography and pre-press.

Instead of pre-press doing all the postproduction, today the photographer does postproduction on their own, or they hand it off to someone like GreenBox to do the work before it’s passed on to pre-press. One-way to look at it is: The budget is out there for retouching on every job, regardless of who does it. There’s nothing that doesn’t get touched by Photoshop these days. The question is, who is going to get paid to do that postproduction work?

If photographers want to do their own retouching, it’s a good skill to develop and I think it’s good to retain control up to the very last minute. But that only works if you’ve got the time and the deadline fits your schedule. When you get really busy, you end up thinking to yourself, “I’ve already shot this and sold it to the client; I want to do the retouching, but I don’t have the time to because I’ve got another shoot the next day.” And inevitably everyone wants everything delivered immediately, so you get to a point where you realize there is only so much you can handle. I’ve also heard stories about agencies getting burned by photographers who want to do their own retouching but are not really technically skilled with Photoshop and pre-press requirements. They deliver the file and then the agency has to source it out for someone else to fix.

Another option would be for the photographer to hire a freelancer, so the files can be worked on the next day while the photographer is shooting another job. That’s a possibility too. But again, then you’re relying on the availability of the freelancer. Typically if you find someone who understands what you want and how you like it, then you’re much more dependent on that person. If you call them up and say, “I need you to do this tomorrow,” and they’re booked for the next three days, then you might have to go to someone else whom you’ve never worked with before.

The third option is to have someone on staff full-time to do retouching, but then you have to be shooting enough to support that. Having someone in-house to do retouching is a great option for a photographer because the Photoshop work is a good second revenue stream, if you can find additional clients who only want retouching services.

The ebbs and flows for a postproduction studio run along the same lines as those for a photography studio. But when you’re a photographer specializing in a certain area, that’s the only source of income coming in, as opposed to this model with GreenBox, where we could be drawing from several sources. So even now when a lot of people are really slow, there’s always somebody working — and they need retouching services. That way you can becomes less dependent on just one circle of income.

If you’re going to start your own postproduction studio, it’s good to have a focus, an area that you specialize in, just as you should as a photographer. I’ve always felt that, if I were a client and I looked at someone’s portfolio and they had some fashion, they had some still life, they had some landscape, even if they’re all good, I really don’t have a clear picture of what they love, where their passion lies. But then I might interview someone else and they only have food — well it becomes obvious that person really likes doing food photography. And if I needed food photography done, I think I’d want to go to that person instead of someone who says, well, yeah, I do food photography too. And that directly translates to what we do at GreenBox Imaging.

No matter how photographers do it, I think it’s important that they always include retouching as a separate line item — I cannot stress this enough. Because no matter what you do with digital files, it takes time to process them and prepare them to be handed over to the client. Even simple processing, renaming, and organizing your images without any retouching can take some time. The big danger is if photographers include processing and retouching in their photography fee, clients start to think, why should I pay extra for it, it’s included. Just like anything else in business, it’s always a good idea to have it called out as separate charge, even if you’re doing it yourself.

Pricing for retouching can be all over the place, but it generally runs from $150 to $300 an hour from a postproduction house. In my experience, that is what agencies and design firms typically budget for retouching and postproduction services as part of a project. We try to look at it on a per-project basis and quote it that way, but in general if you go somewhere with your files, that’s the range that’s out there.

The client explains what they want and you try to estimate how many hours it will take as closely as possible. Sometimes that’s very difficult to do; you never know what’s going to happen down the line during the postproduction process. Maybe the designer goes through the image and gets it the way they want it and only then it gets passed on to the client. The client may say, “That looks great,” or they may have a bunch of changes, and those are the things that are unpredictable. All you can do is estimate as close as possible; then when we get to that point where we start running out of time, we notify the client and say, we have this much time left. The request you just sent is going to push us over, or it’s within the budget but anything after that we’ll need more hours added on. That’s all you can do, to keep the client informed of where they are money-wise and time-wise, and in the long run it only makes you more respectable as a postproduction studio.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: How are you handling retouching and postproduction? Do you find that it’s a helpful second revenue stream or just a burden on your time?

Food and advertising photographer Michael Lamotte created his own postproduction studio, GreenBox, a year and a half ago. He explains here how he decided it was time to build a completely separate business out of his studio’s retouching services. Of course, not everyone is ready to open their own postproduction studio, so in his next post he outlines how photographers can decide what level of postproduction is right for them. Don’t miss his past posts about working with stylists, agents, and high-end advertising clients.
The separate images GreenBox Studio composited to create the seemless image below.

Six separate images that GreenBox Studio composited to create the seemless image below. ©Michael Lamotte

We converted to digital capture in 1999, and were curious about color reproduction, image quality, and what we could do with retouching and compositing. Compositing seemed like a powerful tool to create new images from existing ones — about anything you could imagine, you could produce. I got really involved with Photoshop at the very beginning so that I could begin compositing new images. I was lucky enough to be invited to the first Photoshop Invitational sponsored by Adobe introducing Photoshop 1.0 in 1990. This was when I really realized the huge potential Photoshop had as a creative tool, and I knew that in the long term mastering this tool would be important for the success of my studio. Using Photoshop, as well as attending the conference got me more interested in color and color reproduction, and that’s when I really got involved with color management.

Because we were early adopters of digital photography, it made sense for our studio to do simple digital retouching too. It also seemed like the perfect time to offer retouching to our clients, which we started in 2000. At first we had a person working full-time in the studio who focused only on Photoshop retouching. We would shoot one day and she would work on the files the next. Then, about a year and a half ago, we decided to split off a separate business, GreenBox Imaging, Inc. We found a building directly in back of our photo studio, moved everything over there, and made it into a separate corporation that is totally independent of Michael Lamotte Studios.

When we were considering whether GreenBox would make enough to justify being a separate company, we already knew it would since we were already doing it in-house profitably. One of the reasons we decided to split GreenBox off was because it was making enough money to support itself and make a profit. With some projects, the postproduction ends up costing more than the photography. Not because you did a bad job with the photographs, just because everyone is always trying to find a new way to see things; everybody is always pushing the envelope and using retouching as a solution. It’s also a great tool to help photographer solve problems like scale amd lighting that come up on set.

With some projects, the postproduction costs more than the photography.

Up until now GreenBox Imaging hasn’t taken on many projects besides my own images because we wanted to get all the kinks out before we offered our services to others. That’s what we’re in the process of doing now. I hired another person, Ian Stone, who is doing the marketing and sales for GreenBox Imaging. We also have Colin Birdseye, our Photoshop artist, John William Lund, our color expert, and Gail, my wife, who is the CFO. Then we hire freelance Photoshop artists as we need them so we can be flexible; when it gets busy we just bring on more staff. We take pride in our staff and our ability to quickly adapt and serve our clients within their specified time constraints.

Our general workflow works like this: GreenBox gets instructions of what a client wants us to do. Colin may talk to the client first and see if he has any suggestions to improve the image. Then we do those corrections and we send them a JPG or proof and say, “This is the image with the corrections we discussed, and this is how it looks at this point.” That may be final or we may do additional corrections, based on what happens during that conversation with the client.

© Michael Lamotte

©Michael Lamotte

If we create a custom color profile of the prepress house’s proofing device, we can then predict their results, essentially emulating their printer so both outputs will match. The client then makes final comments from our proof, and once everyone approves  it and signs off, we send the prepress house our custom CMYK file and our proof. Using our custom CMYK file, their first output on their proofing device should look pretty close to our proof, which everyone already approved. That’s a better scenario than sending an RGB file to prepress, then they have to separate it, turn it into CMYK, and try to make their output look like our approved output. That’s not the most efficient way to work; it’s just going to cost the client more money in the long run and take more time.

It’s a little difficult sometimes because technology has faded the lines between photographer, retouching, post production, and prepress; its sort of unclear where everybody’s responsibility stops. For me, the more control the photographer has over the image, the better. This way someone can’t take your image and change your original vision. Maybe you have a warm look to your image and you like that look, then a prepress retoucher decides, we should neutralize, the color is off. These are all reasons it pays to build an ongoing relationship with your retoucher, the prepress people, as well as your client. Once all of the components are in sync, it’s much easier to produce reliable, consistent, beautiful work and in a very cost-effective way. It also helps streamline the workflow to get the highest possible quality in the most efficient manner — something that GreenBox is always doing.

The more control the photographer has over the image, the better.

A big reason for a photographer or agency to work with a studio like GreenBox is that it’s a resource  that’s always there, always consistent, always available and most importantly doing the highest quality work. You’re building a relationship where you know what your client likes and needs. And for smaller photo studios, it allows them to offer to their clients additional capabilities. They can shoot it, retouch it, and deliver CMYK files with approved reference prints — everything — with GreenBox’s help. So it can give a smaller photo studio the ability to look bigger, without putting up the money and staff to have that capability on their own.

We’re trying to create more of a boutique studio at GreenBox. We want to be a place that is more personal, not a huge place with a night shift where you’re not sure who’s working on your images and you’re getting inconsistent results from project to project. We want to keep our service focused and personal and really work with clients to get the best results possible. When you send something to a big place, they’re only going to do what you tell them to do. With GreenBox you’ll actually talk to the Photoshop artist, and if he or she has any ideas for ways to further improve your image, they will at least discuss that with the photographer or client. The other thing that sets GreenBox apart is our ability to help you develop a color-managed workflow that will deliver accurate results and save both you and your client time and money.

On April 3rd, photographer Chris Linder and science writer Helen Fields joined a team of 38 scientists for a 40-day expedition to study the impact of climate change on the Bering Sea ecosystem. While crisscrossing the Bering Sea with the science team, Chris and Helen will post photo essays, sounds, and videos to the Polar Discovery website every day, as part of the Live from the Poles project, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation. This week Chris explains the importance of simultaneously making images for short-term and long-term photo essays. Sign up for Chris’s webinar on May 5, and check out his past posts on writing the grants for such science-based photo expeditions and preparing for a sub-zero photo shoot.
Photo caption: An example of give and take. While I loved the composition of this shot, which shows Dr. Katrin Iken taking an ice core on a small ice floe near the ship, we used an image that also showed the ship for the daily dispatch. Photo by Chris Linder, WHOI

Chris says he loves the composition of this shot, which shows Dr. Katrin Iken taking an ice core on a small ice floe near the ship, but he ended up using an image that also showed the ship for the daily dispatch. Photo by Chris Linder, WHOI

After two weeks on an icebreaker in the Bering Sea, science writer Helen Fields and I have settled into a comfortable groove, cranking out photo essays every night for the Polar Discovery website. This is our process for turning out daily news with an ice-bound, two-person team.

The goal of the Live from the Poles project is to tell stories about how scientists study the polar regions. Our stories fall into two broad categories. If something unique happened during the day, the photo essay will be a “Wow, this amazing thing happened today” narrative. To keep the website fresh and interesting for 40 days, we also sprinkle in stories that draw photos from different days, like the one we’re working on today about the different types and shapes of sea ice. So while I may be shooting for a “daily news” story, I will also have about a dozen other future stories rattling around in my head.

For example, I may be photographing a graduate student analyzing the contents of a mud sample from the seafloor. I’ll shoot not only the storytelling shots showing her doing the work in the lab, surrounded by mud and equipment, but also a few tightly cropped portraits for a possible future story featuring graduate students, plus some close-ups of her mud-covered gloves for a story about working hands. As I walk from the lab back to my stateroom, I notice a textbook example of newly formed sea ice glinting in the light of the setting sun, and I snap that for today’s post about ice.

Throughout the day Helen and I compare notes on our theme and the list of potential photographs that will illustrate that story. I typically take between 500 and 1,000 12-megapixel RAW photos during the course of the day. After dinner I download the images to an external hard drive and edit, deleting the junk and moving keepers into appropriately named collections using Adobe’s Lightroom software. This takes roughly two hours.

Once I have a collection of 20-30 photos, the haggling begins. Helen and I sit down and discuss what shots best tell the day’s story and the order in which they should appear. This means that some of my pet shots don’t make the cut because they don’t fit the story. Conversely, sometimes Helen has to do extra reporting so we can include a really outstanding image.

While Helen is writing, I do some basic tone and color corrections, size the images for the web, and email the photos to the editor and web designer back at our home base, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The entire process is usually finished by 10pm. Then I format the compactflash cards and head back out on deck to catch the last hour of light and some nighttime science operations. It always pays to work ahead because there are no days off until we get back to the pier on May 12.

Commercial photographer Martin Sundberg decided a few months ago that it was time to explore the potential of video capabilities in high-end DSLRs, as in his Canon 5D Mark II. He knew he could offer his clients extra value by shooting both video and stills for campaigns — but he also realized he had a lot to learn about the new medium. So he assigned himself a shoot with two professional triathletes and produced a video that not only provided valuable lessons, but also gave him something to show potential clients. We talked recently about choosing the right subject and the biggest difference between editing still and moving images. Check back soon for the second installment.
A frame grab from Martin's triathlete video. ©Martin Sundberg

A frame grab from Martin's triathlete video. ©Martin Sundberg

Miki Johnson: What was your idea for this shoot and what did you want to achieve creatively?

Martin Sundberg: This was a personal shoot that I put together to begin cultivating my video skills. The idea of the shoot was to explore some of the new technologies and tools that are being presented to photographers, such as the video capabilities now being packaged into our still cameras. Video is a hot topic among photographers these days, and it seems that individuals on all fronts are testing the waters, exploring what this physical merging of media means for the creative process as well as the business. Having never shot much video, I was really interested to see how my mind, one that has been conditioned to create still images, might instinctually apply that vision to motion.

I chose the triathlete as a subject for this project primarily because my style of shooting is very active, which lends itself well to shooting active people. The triathlon also required that I shoot footage in three outdoor locations, which I could weave into one continuous standalone piece that would be about a sense of place as much as an activity or person. From the beginning, I conceived of this project as a collaboration between the athletes, Matt and Chris Lieto, their coach, Matt Dixon of Purplepatch Fitness, and Derek Weiss of Piton Productions.

We set out to tell the story of what it feels like to participate in the three activities — swimming, biking and running — at such an elite level. To make pictures like this, I often find that it’s absolutely necessary to get physically into the shoot yourself; otherwise, it’s too easy to capture what it feels like to be a spectator. We shot from strategic angles and a mixture of vantage points, including from the air and the water. We were constantly on the move, trying to keep up with Matt and Chris. And let me tell you, that wasn’t easy. But all of these efforts are felt, if not directly seen, in the footage, which was our goal.

MJ: How did you plan for this video shoot? How was it different from planning a still photo shoot?

MS: Planning for this shoot was very similar to producing a photo shoot. One aspect that is different is the fact that video is experienced on a continuum, thereby forcing you plan for how the subject enters and exits the frame, what will come before and after that scene, and how the transition between scenes will occur. It’s no longer one moment but a series of moments within each frame, and ultimately, within the entire piece. And not only does the entire piece have a beginning and an end, but each scene also has its own beginning and end. Everything needs to be considered on this larger continuum.

With video, it’s also necessary to plan for sound. For this project, we chose to utilize a soundtrack, which allowed us to really focus on the visual aspect of video while shooting. Otherwise, I scouted locations, coordinated with the models, discussed shots and scenes, researched access issues — basically the same planning as a still shoot.

We shot over the course of four days and took advantage of the visually powerful locations available right here in the Bay Area. The biggest differences between video and still photography is evident in the post-production work. With video, more time is spent sequencing shots; whether it’s a narrative piece or not, you’re still communicating something to an audience and the right sequencing will determine whether that ‘something’ is clearly delivered.  In addition, you’re simultaneously working with the many other variables that harmonize to complete a video piece, like transitions, sound, intro and closing.

Video always reminds me of the tremendous team effort that goes into producing a finished piece. With stills, I have a very refined workflow and can navigate my editing tools, like Lightroom and Photoshop, with ease. For this project, however, I culled footage and selected the clips that worked well individually and that told the story, but my editor Derek took over from there. I knew what I wanted to see, and he edited the many variables together to communicate the story we intended to tell. I have a huge respect for this part of the process.

Editing is absolutely vital to any final product. With most of my still photography work, I’m looking for one iconic image, which doesn’t necessarily rely on what comes before or after it. With video, sequencing is everything. Again, this is a notable departure from the process of editing still images. Unless I’m working on a portfolio, an essay, or a particular series of images, sequencing doesn’t figure into my still photography edits.

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