Tyson V. Rininger's Blog

TVRPhotography – If it moves, Shoot It!

Category Archives: The Business of Photography

When a Photoshoot isn’t a Photoshoot

Connie Header

TVR16_lockheed_constellation_columbine_7396

The first Air Force One which flew Dwight D. Eisenhower, returned to flight on March 19, 2016, taking off from Marana airport in Marana, Arizona. On March 22nd, Columbine II began the cross-country journey to Bridgewater, Virginia to undergo a complete restoration.

About thirty feet away, a freshly restored P-51 Mustang was coming to life after a four-year restoration by Airmotive Specialties in Salinas, CA. The Mustang, a former air racer once owned by Lefty Gardner, was having her legs stretched by Eliot Cross as an historic resemblance to WWII Ace, Charles E. ‘Chuck’ Weaver’s aircraft. Knowing both Lefty’s and Weaver’s history, standing alongside this aircraft was simply magical.

It was about that time my phone rang; how I heard it over the roar of the Mustang’s Rolls Royce engine, I’ll never know. On the other end was good friend, Scott Glover of the Mid America Flight Museum in Mt. Pleasant, TX.

Wanna Photograph Air Force One?” He asked.

TVR16_lockheed_constellation_columbine_7269

Ironically, landing gear may have saved the Lockheed Constellation from becoming an agricultural sprayer. Gear from a L-1049 model was placed on this earlier version preventing the FAA from allowing it to continue operation.

Only a few weeks earlier I had heard about the purchase and intent to restore the first Air Force One, a Lockheed Constellation named Columbine II that had become President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal transport. Needless to say, I was beyond excited to have been asked to document such an historic moment.

The aircraft was purchased as part of a lot of five Lockheed Constellations which were to eventually be heavily modified for low-level, high-acrage crop spraying. Three of the acquired Constellations were converted, one was used for parts and the fifth aircraft was denied certification by the FAA due to incorrect landing gear. Apparently the military chose to replace Columbine II’s stock landing gear with that of the more robust L-1049 variant and the FAA didn’t like that. Due to the cost of replacing the landing gear, the aircraft sat in the Arizona desert.

TVR16_lockheed_constellation_columbine_9314Fast-forward to March 18, 2016, nearly a year after that initial phone call, when the diligent work of Dynamic Aviation, with the assistance of the Mid America Flight Museum, came to fruition and Columbine II took to the skies once more.

For the rest of us, that was our cue to head to Marana, AZ, and begin the next phase. She was to embark on a cross-country trip to Bridgewater, VA, where she would undergo a thorough restoration and become a flying museum piece.

TVR16_lockheed_constellation_columbine_7065

Flight Engineer station onboard the Columbine II

When I arrived in Marana, I was able to see first-hand the amount of work the two teams had put into getting the nearly 70-year old aircraft flying. Structurally, the aircraft is like new, but the years still took its toll on the aging aircraft and like most things her age, everything needed to proceed slowly and with extra caution.

The crew moved all of the aircraft closer to the runway the night before departure. On the apron sat Karl Stoltzfus’ King Air chase aircraft as well as his new pride and joy, Columbine II, in addition to Mid America Flight Museum’s immaculate B-25 ‘God and Country’, which would become the platform from which the flight would be documented.

TVR16_lockheed_constellation_columbine_7114

The former location of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s desk onboard the Lockheed Constellation ‘Columbine II’, better known as the first Air Force One.

The key word used throughout our briefing process and conversation was, ‘document’. Sure, I had high hopes of in-your-face dramatic formation positioning, precise lighting, stunning prop blur and every other image a photographer strives for when going on a photo mission. But, this was not that…it was not a photoshoot.

Typically, when flying with another aircraft being photographed, I’ll position them by asking for minute movements in relation to the photo platform; 5 feet forward…10 feet down…10 feet back, etc. The challenge lies with the subject aircraft’s pilot making fine adjustments to the throttle and yoke in order to accomplish those positions. Doing these types of maneuvers in a partially restored aircraft which still needs the input of a flight engineer in addition to the pilot and co-pilot, would put unnecessary strain on the already aging mechanics of this special aircraft.

TVR16_lockheed_constellation_columbine_4854Get to Virginia in one piece…that was our goal. However, photos would be nice, but far from the primary mission.

Sitting in the back of the B-25, the Connie approached slowly and cautiously over the course of nearly an hour. As pilot, Lockie Christler; co-pilot, Scott McDonald and Flight Engineers, Tom Woodward and Tim Coons inched the aircraft closer to the B-25, I was able to provide some basic suggestions like, more to left, more to the right, stack high, stack low and scissor. Precise positioning was out of the question as was a change in our heading. Basically, what you see is what you get, and I was perfectly happy with that!

One of the biggest technical challenges was the focal length of the lens vs. the shutter speed required to get motion in the propellors. Most of the air-to-air work was shot with a Nikon D810 and 70-200 f/2.8, mainly used at the long end. Rule of thumb, (prop-blur aside) is that the shutter speed should be equivalent to the focal length being used, so at 200mm my shutter speed should have been no slower than 1/200 sec. to insure sharp images.

That simply wasn’t going to happen. The RPM of Columbine II’s radial engines were significantly slower than that of a P-51 or aerobatic Extra 300. In order to get full rotation of the three-bladed assembly, a shutter speed of 1/40 was needed. In the freezing cold tail of windy B-25, the Kenyon Labs gyro saved the day. Had it not been for the improved stabilization of the gyro, many of the images would have been unusable.

TVR16_lockheed_constellation_columbine_8617Over the course of the 4.5hr flight to Mt. Pleasant, TX, I was able to get in some Yoga courtesy of crawling over the bomb bay and under the flight deck to get to the nose. Although it had probably been some ten years since I’ve had to do that, it was a stunning reminder of what these 20-something year olds were faced with on a daily basis flying B-25’s into combat zones during WWII. The big difference, we didn’t have anyone shooting at us and the temperature at 9500ft was far more bearable than their high-altitude missions.

TVR16_lockheed_constellation_columbine_4878

With Scott Glover at the controls of the B-25 and Matt Bongers sitting right seat, they managed to position the twin-engine bomber to reveal the Constellation’s beautiful lines from the rear-quarter view. Add the sprawling American countryside to the equation and you have your photoshoot-esque images of an American icon coming back to life.

The complete restoration is estimated to take 3-4 years and will take place in Bridgeport, VA. Once finished, Columbine II will be the only civilian-owned Air Force One and will travel across the country educating people on the history of presidential aircraft as well as how Columbine II changed the course of history regarding all aircraft that would eventually transport the President of the United States.

TVR16_lockheed_constellation_columbine_8017

Special thanks to Karl Stoltzfus and his incredible crew at Dynamic Aviation for making the impossible possible along with his aircrew, Lockie Christler, Scott McDonald, Tom Woodward and Tim Coons. Without the incredible friendship and enthusiasm of Scott Glover and his crew at Mid America Flight Museum; Matt Bongers, Gregg Williams, Erik Johnston, Frank Glover, Jr., Linda Cortelyou and many others, I wouldn’t have anything to write about. Thank you for this incredible opportunity!

Advertisements

No, you may not have my RAW files, and here’s why…

LACAS15_NASA_ER2_TVR_4425a

It doesn’t happen too often, but every now and then I’ll get a request for my RAW files. Usually it goes something like this:
I understand these 20 are your best shots, but I want to see everything!
or
How about I edit them and save you the time?
or
I don’t understand this editing fee. Aren’t you going to send me all the files anyway?

The RAW portion of the file on the left looks muddy and flat compared to the edited and more accurate version to the right.

The RAW portion of the file on the left looks muddy and flat compared to the edited and more accurate version to the right.

All perfectly reasonable requests for those who are unfamiliar with the editing process. But once the process is explained, it tends to make a little more sense why giving clients RAW files is a bad idea.

My simple explanation is that the client hired me for a reason; to supply them with the best images possible. A RAW file is not a finished product, not even close!

The most successful analogy I have been able to come up with is to that of a master painter. One wouldn’t expect Michelangelo or Leonardo daVinci to hand over an outline of a painting thinking the recipient is going to finish it. (Not that I am in any way comparing myself to these amazing artists and thinkers!) But could you imagine an unfinished Mona Lisa? A half-carved statue of David? Inaccurate coloring of The Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel?

A photographer’s imagery and vision shouldn’t be treated any differently. Often times I will sit down with a client and share all of my files with the warning that these are incomplete and not representative of the finished product. They’ll pick out a few and I’ll begin the editing process, but I never turn over the RAW files.

Remember, your portfolio is only as good as your worst image. The same goes for your reputation. Should you cave in and hand over RAW files thinking they will never be seen by anyone else, those files may very well end up in the public eye without your finessing. And of course the one time you get proper credit for the image, it will be this image you get credit for.

To Enter, or Not to Enter Social Networking Photography Competitions

Social NetworkingIn an attempt to gain readership, or as one of the more popular social networking sites call it, Followers, many organizations are creating photography contests whereby the winners are those with the most votes. Viewer’s Choice, Popular Choice, Public Choice, all names given to the top photo awarded by these organizations.

Unfortunately there are more reasons not to avoid in these contests than there are to partake and hope for the best. Assuming the rules of the competition are agreeable to both parties and the organization isn’t planning on a rights grab from all entrants, most participants will have an uphill battle in securing the top spot regardless of how amazing their image may be.

The most common social networking site to conduct these popular vote contests is Facebook and the image with the most ‘Likes’ wins. But getting those ‘Likes’ is more about how many people you know and how much you can share your own image against others doing the same.

There are plenty of resources that describe Facebook’s algorithms and how they share posts with friends, fans and followers. Posts that include links are viewed far less frequently than posts with only an attached image. So, sharing a link to your image will garner fewer views than posting the image alone. Additionally, posts are distributed to viewers based on their most recent and relevant interests, which may not include your posts.

Along with finding ways to cheat Facebook’s algorithm, contestants will also have to compete against others who may have a larger following or be more adept to other social networking sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Google+ and more.

What it all comes down to is that Popular Choice contests really don’t focus on the ‘best’ image, but rather the most savvy social networker. Besides the individual who eventually gets the most ‘Likes’, the only real winner is the agency hosting the competition. After all, you worked very hard to send everyone to their page.

Archiving Can Be Fun! Ok, not really….

Untitled-1It’s that thing we do when we’d rather be out shooting. First you dive into the really cool shots you created editing the best of the best to share with the world. Then you take a wee bit more time to scour through the thousands of rejects to find the obvious winners only to go through them all one more time to single out those with potential. Once everything has been separated, the editing and archiving process begins. But it shouldn’t end there.

All those supposed rejects that we hold onto for that ‘just in case’ scenario still need a little love. This is where I hope I can help.

Everyone’s archiving techniques are different and none of them are wrong so long as you are able to find what you’re looking for quickly and efficiently. If that’s not the case, maybe my system can offer a few ideas.

My system is very simple. I archive my digital images the same way I archive my slides and negatives. I never lose touch of the original file or frame number. A photo of an A380 taken at Airventure in 2011 will look just like this:

osh11_a380_1234.tif

It denotes the location; Oshkosh, the year; 2011, the subject; A380, and the original file name assigned to it by the camera; 1234. I can even add a few more descriptive notes to the file name such as manufacturer or another aircraft that may also be in the image, such as an Airbus A330. It would look something like this:

osh11_airbus_a380_a330_1234.tif

Why might I choose to be more descriptive with a file name? A little thing called SEO is reason enough for me. Search Engine Optimization is the core tool used by Google, Yahoo, Bing and other companies to find appropriate images, links, websites and more. The more descriptive I can be in the file name, the better chance I have of my images showing up in a consumer search. It goes without saying Metadata and Keywording is also extremely important, but I’ll save that for later.

Now that you have a library of edited images with keywords built right into the file name, searching for the appropriate shot should go a lot quicker.

But what about all those rejects? Same thing. Before I even begin editing photos, I batch rename everything! I personally use Adobe Bridge, but this can be done in Lightroom as well as Aperture. Batch renaming will allow you to search your entire hard drive, whether the images have been edited or not, for that perfect image for which the client is seeking but may have not seemed relevant at the time.

iPad Portfolio App Comparisons for Photographers

iPadWith the sudden proliferation of quality iPad portfolio applications on the market, I wanted to figure out which one(s) would suit me best. In doing so, I realized my research had become rather extensive and to the point of potentially becoming a resource for others. Although there are dozens of iPad portfolio apps available, I felt confident narrowing it down to these eight based on consumer feedback, overall price and features. Because of the incredibly fast advancement in technology and software, this article is probably going to be out of date before it can even be posted. The information here is as of April 25th, 2013 and includes the version of each featured application.

FolioBook

FolioBook (Version 3.3)

Perhaps one of the most frequently reviewed applications, the creators of FolioBook have listened to their viewers and continue to make updates placing them amongst the best portfolio apps on the market.

The creators of FolioBook have worked closely with some of the top commercial photographers to create a highly customizable portfolio that can be loaded onto multiple iPads for maximum exposure. Content can be hyperlinked and layout can be designed to fit the look of your business in both portrait and landscape mode.

When creating a portfolio, up to 200 images can be imported at a time and either a still image or a video can be used as the custom splash screen with the added option of an overlaid company logo. Users can choose from 70 different font styles along with varied text color and transparency as well as supplied background textures and motion graphics. Included are four types of transitions as well as the ability to email an image to a client directly from the portfolio with or without copyright information.

Video support can be added through an in-app purchase of $1.99 and customer support is made easy through the application’s main website.

UPDATE: For users of Photoshelter, FolioBook is now integrated with the popular image hosting website for greater ease of syncing images and modifying a portfolio. More information can be found here: FolioBook now integrated with Photoshelter.

Review by Scott Kelby
Review by BestAppSite

PadFoliosPadFolios (Version 2.0.1)

Creator, Juan Pablo Mazuera set out to develop not only a versatile portfolio application for photographers and graphic designers, but a presentation interface that can be put to use by just about anyone. A resident of Columbia, Juan is a 27 year-old graphic designer and photographer who found the iPad lacking that perfect app to showcase his images, so he created one and called it PadFolio.

One of the few portfolio applications that works on both the iPad and iPhone, Padfolio is completely customizable with the added option of creating up to 30 different portfolios, each with their own look and containing up to 400 images per gallery. During the portfolio creation process, the application automatically saves your work so there is no need to worry about remembering to save as you go and if you choose to remove photos from your device library, it will not remove them from the application. The customizable splash screen can be locked in order to prevent a client from accessing user tools and any file type that can currently be used on an iPad can also be imported into the application.

Currently version 2.0.1 lacks the function of an automated slideshow as well as the ability to sync a presentation with music, but these features are currently in the works and should be available in the next update. Until then, music can be played in the background by making use of iTunes and the iPad’s multitasking feature.

http://www.padfolios.me/home.html
Apps for iPads Review (Version 1.5)

Portfolio for iPadPortfolio for iPad (Version 3.03)

Portfolio for iPad is another highly customizable application that puts your business at the forefront of the viewer’s attention. Besides having the ability to import images through iTunes, this application can also sync with a Dropbox account for greater versatility and ease of updating. The uniquely designed splash screen and galleries can be locked as well as shared on multiple iPads. Additionally, user portfolios can be streamed to a larger monitor through Apple’s Airplay functionality.

The application is compatible with most types of media including still images, video and audio and allows use of either pre-designed themes or completely customized layouts featuring your business attributes. Viewers can either manually scroll through images or use an automated slideshow complete with background music if so desired and view a portfolio in both landscape and portrait mode.

http://ipadportfolioapp.com/
BestAppSite Review

MediaPad ProMediaPad Pro (Version 2.0)

If you plan on showcasing multiple types of media, MediaPad Pro may be the best choice for you. Designed for use by photographers, videographers, designers, directors and anyone else looking to share a portfolio, this application boasts having support for the most diverse types of files.

After your content has been imported through iTunes, MediaPad Pro allows for adding personal and business information to a customized splash screen or your choice of one of five different background images included within the application.

When creating your presentation, you can choose any color scheme from the supplied color palate as well as fonts, transitions and adjustable timing to better coincide with any supplied background music. What sets this application apart from most others is the ability to offer a guestbook allowing you to increase future business potential.

http://www.medlmobile.com/apps/ipad/mediapad-pro
Professional Photographer’s Mag Review (Version 1.2)

Minimal FolioMinimal Folio (Version 1.2.1)

Minimal Folio is just as it sounds, a basic portfolio application without too many bells and whistles void of an automated slideshow and music. While this can present itself to be a good thing, absolute customization of your portfolio to reflect your business look may be a deal-breaking compromise.

Despite its minimalist approach, the application will allow syncing through Dropbox and will accept most image files as well as .PDF and video files. Users can manage multiple portfolios and like most of these types of applications, lock the device to prevent viewers from accessing the underlying management tools.

At $2.99, Minimal Folio won’t break the bank if you’d like to give it a spin. An additional .99 will allow you to download the iPhone version.

http://www.simonheys.com/minimalfolio/
BestAppSite Review

XtrafolioXtraFolio (Version 2.2.2)

Another versatile, yet pricey portfolio application is Xtrafolio. The application allows for images to be downloaded through Dropbox, iTunes or from the iPad’s existing photo library. Once images are contained within Xtrafolio, captions and subtext can be added based on the user’s input or the existing metadata. Like most portfolios, the splash screen can be customized and locked as well as skipped altogether if the photographer or viewer wants to skip directly to the images.

Xtrafolio allows for an unlimited number of galleries and an unlimited number of images and videos within each gallery. The application also allows for nesting, or folders within folders within folders. Slideshows can be enhanced with added music and each portfolio can have its own tunes. A big plus is having the ability to keep multiple iPads up to date when making changes to the application on the designated master device. Should the view become interrupted during the course of a portfolio slideshow, the application has a ‘Save State’ feature that allows the viewer to return to the place where they left off.

http://www.xtrafolio.com/
BestAppSite Review

FlexFolioFlexFolio (Version 1.4)

Developed by fine art photographer, Emmanuel Faure and fashion photographer, Antoine Verglas, FlexFolio has gone through an immense growth process since its initial introduction. Originally priced at $24.99 for the first version, it was later dropped to $14.99 and can now be had for .99 through the iTunes store.

The application allows for multimedia files including still images, videos, audio files as well as Word and Excel files should the user wish to include an existing price list or complex biography. Another feature of the application is the ability to include unique business cards or contacts within each portfolio. This feature would be most appropriate for photographers who contract to outside sources whereby sharing a mutual copyright or concerning a business partner.

Unfortunately, after reading multiple reviews, the application seems to lack an ease of use and despite some reviews claiming it also works on the iPhone, it is an iPad only application. But, if you’re willing to put up with the learning curve of how the application operates, you can’t beat the price.

iPhoneography Review

PadPortPadPort (Version 1.0.1)
Designed as a minimalistic portfolio application, PadPort offers the basics to getting a portfolio on your iPad. Currently there are only two themes available to base your portfolio around, “Essential” and “Mnmlst”, both incorporating a single font; Century Gothic.

As with most portfolio applications, the splash screen can be customized with your unique information, but still needs to be designed around the included themes and can then be locked in what the creators call “Kiosk Mode”. The application allows for up to seven portfolios containing both still image files and video files. Batch loading of images through iTunes was recently added to the application speeding up the import process.

A negative I have learned of, and have not found any updates to the contrary, is where upon start-up of your portfolio, a splash screen appears from the creator of the application. This appears to be the only portfolio application that puts themselves ahead of the photographer.

http://padportapp.com/
JonathanJK Review

This chart represents information available about each iPad Portfolio Application listed in this blog as of April 25, 2013. Details are subject to change as individual applications are periodically updated.

This chart represents information available about each iPad Portfolio Application listed in this blog as of April 25, 2013. Details are subject to change as individual applications are periodically updated.

Think Different

I don’t often share my Apple Store experiences with anyone outside Apple even though I regularly have some pretty amazing interactions with customers. Quite frankly, with Apple’s intense secrecy I’m not sure I’m allowed to, but it would be a shame not tell this story.

Although this may seem like another Apple Feel-good saga, and in a way it is, if you’re reading this blog for photography related material, you’re still in the right place. Hang in there, it will all come together.

Wandering through a sea of aluminum computers and solid wood tables, an elderly couple attempted to interact with these relatively alien devices. The husband appeared a little more lost than his wife, but that was only because she was the one who had an interest in a new computer. He couldn’t care less.

She and I talked for a bit while her frail husband continued to meander around the store. Another staff member brought out the desktop computer she wanted along with all of her fun accessories. We unpacked the computer together and with the help of another Apple associate, began the process of setting up the basics and making the computer her own.

Her husband sat down at the same table but at a distance and alone, still appearing lost as he curiously watched other people in the store. I moved a bit closer to him and began a completely unrelated conversation so as to occupy a bit of his time and not make him feel ignored. We got onto the topic of how computer savvy younger kids are today and how quickly they pick up on technology. He asked if working at Apple was all I did. I told him my primary job was that of a photographer and I mainly photograph airplanes. He laughed a little.

“I don’t understand,” he said. “A plane is a plane, a car is a car and a cow is a cow. How can you make a living taking photos of these ordinary things?” To relay my best customer service, I agreed and told him that’s a very good question. “If the photos I create look just like the objects I photograph, I would no doubt have a very difficult time making a living,” I told him. “The challenge is to make every aircraft look unique but familiar and bring out the strongest feature of that plane.”

I could tell he was a very objective man and doubtful that a simple photograph could make an ordinary object look extraordinary.

On the table was a 15” MacBook Pro laptop. I navigated the web browser to my gallery of Reminisce black and white photographs and proceeded to show him some of my photography. What happened next was nothing short heartwarming.

The fragile older gentleman’s eyes began to water as he watched image after image flash before him. I asked if he was ok. He glanced over at his wife, then back to the screen followed by a simple nod. After a few more seconds and without provocation, he started to tell me a very powerful story. “I was at Normandy and remember seeing these planes. They didn’t look like this,” he said. “I have few words to describe what I saw and what I experienced. Come to think of it, it’s been nearly 30 years since I’ve even talked about Normandy.” Another lengthy pause followed as he watched the slideshow intently. “These are beautiful,” he said. “You’re right, a photograph of an airplane can look a lot different than just an airplane.”

I was speechless. Not only did I suddenly have a better understanding of his objectivity, to him at the time these aircraft were simply tools of war, but I had so many questions and was poised to listen intently to his stories if only he were willing to share them. At that moment however, I could sense the sight of these aircraft seemed a bit overwhelming. The fact that he was willing to open up to me and share a piece of his past that he hadn’t shared with anyone in three decades almost brought a tear to my eye.

He continued to surprise me as he named off the individual aircraft. “I jumped from quite a few of those C-47’s,” he recalled. “I also remember seeing those white stripes on the wings for the first time [referring to the D-Day invasion stripes applied to all allied aircraft]. They painted hundreds of them that way.” He went on to describe the actions of P-38’s and P-51’s in the European Theater. For someone who managed to distance himself for so long from such intense experiences, his memory was flawless.

Soon his wife was all set and her computer was back in the box. He and I both thanked each other for the shared stories and shook hands. I watched as they walked hand in hand toward of the front of the store and then out of sight. What really caught my attention was how his once frail shuffling steps turned into a more confident stride. Moments like these remind me of why I do what I do, both at Apple and as a photographer.

As an artist, it is my job to show an ordinary object in a way it has never been seen before. What I don’t expect are for the resulting photographs to convey an emotion, especially one that effects me just as much as the viewer. While Apple’s privacy policy prevents me from mentioning the gentleman’s name, it is one I’ll never forget. It is an experience I’ll never forget.

To some, winning a contest defines a good photo. To others, selling a print defines a good photo. To me, nothing could define a good photograph more than a single tear.

Be different, think different, make your mark.

When NOT to use HDR

There’s no doubt I’m not a huge fan of HDR, or High Dynamic Range, photography. While I think it’s a neat effect and a fun thing to do with photos that didn’t turn out quite right, I’m seeing this overused effect pop in places it never should have even been considered.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) typically involves the blending of multiple images taken at different exposures to create a single image with a broad exposure range. In this image, three exposures were made from a single image and then blended together to create an HDR image. The HDR edit can be seen on the left with the original image on the right.

Now before I begin my little diatribe, I have given HDR a try and I even own RC Concepcion’s book, “The HDR Book: Unlocking the Pros’ Hottest Post-Processing Techniques”. It’s a fantastic and thorough book detailing the process. However, this overly used effect is becoming common place in places where it shouldn’t be common.

So what exactly is HDR? The proper way of creating an HDR image requires the blending of multiple images, usually three to five photographs, shot at different exposures. Think of it as a bracketing burst all in one exposure. The results enable a wider range of exposure similar to what our natural vision can capture. Unfortunately, this effect also pulls out details that are unrealistic and over saturated. Essentially, HDR images take on a more painterly or illustrated look rather than appearing like a traditional photograph.

Now I’d like to think I’m relatively accepting of new technology and techniques. My workflow incorporates the latest in software and computer technology, my equipment is constantly being updated to keep up with the Jones’, I’ve even embraced the world of DSLR video and motion picture editing. But, when it comes to tweaking photos to the point of creating an unrealistic world and still calling it photography, I personally have to draw the line.

An example of before and after HDR image manipulation. The HDR edit can be seen on the upper left with the original image on the lower right.

Case in point, my wife and I have recently begun our search for a new home. Browsing the thousands of listings, I occasionally come across homes where the real estate agent has accepted images from a photographer employing HDR or the agent has tried HDR first hand themselves. As I mentioned earlier, HDR brings out details not visible to the human eye in a very unrealistic nature. This is an instant turn off for me. Any time the photographer or agent feels the need to manipulate photography of an item for sale, my trust for that agency disappears.

High Dynamic Range was used in this image to bring down the intensity of the lamp and light seeping in from the window. Moderate use of HDR also helps brighten up shadows without turning the image into an illustration.

Another example I recently came across was an aircraft for sale. This particular broker showcased numerous aircraft all featuring HDR as the photo technique of choice. The effect was so prominent I had difficulty telling what kind of plane it was. The sky ended up becoming more defined than the aircraft and the leather seats looked like a newly discovered material never seen before.

But is HDR completely out of the question? Absolutely not.  I offer my clients the option of using studio lighting to properly light a home for brokerage or architectural photography or, if they choose, I can apply a subtle use of HDR to brighten up shadows and dim down hot spots. To reduce the cost of the shoot, most clients prefer the latter. There is however a bit of an educational process when comforting photography-savvy clients about the subtle use of HDR. When used in moderation, HDR can provide a realistic and pleasing image that will not change the overall appeal and still provide a factual representation of the subject matter.

Very subtle use of HDR can assist to fill in shadows and balance highlights without harming the overall subject of the image.

The point is, be very careful when using HDR. If you enjoy the effects of HDR photography, great, but the resulting illustrations should remain outside the considerations of showcasing products for sale if the effect is not used in moderation. If you’re a photographer, do your clients a service and utilize your knowledge of photography and post processing techniques that provide a realistic perspective of the product you are photographing. While HDR may be fun, it’s not a solution for everyone and can end up being detrimental to your client.

How to Price Your eBook

With the ever growing popularity of the tablet, anyone who has ever dreamed of publishing a book now has the means. Owners of iPads, Kindles, Tabs, Nooks, and others are purchasing eBooks at a record pace due to their portability and environmental conscientiousness. But who would have predicted the actual creation and implementation of an eBook would be the easy part?

Pricing a book used to be relatively easy. Take all the parts of the book like printing costs, marketing expenses, advances and other author related fees, publisher fees, distribution fees and desired profits, add them up, divide by the number of printed copies, end it with a ‘5’ or a ‘9’ and voila, you have a price. With eBooks, some of that process is still in place, but there is no longer a physical book along with printing costs, or distribution fees and thus the basis of pricing is flipped on end.

Regardless of the size or amount of time you've spent on your publication, the consumer will only spend what they feel the eBook is worth.

In many ways, the growing eBook industry has much to learn from the digital photography business. When film disappeared, photographers needed to find a new way of justifying prices based on an intangible product. Customers at first didn’t understand why they were paying the same price, if not more, for a digital image when the expense of film was no longer a part of the process. As most photographers know, the price of technology skyrocketed, the responsibilities of processing film simply transferred from the lab to the photographer and storing images digitally on hard drives replaced the cost of purchasing film.

Producing an eBook is no different. Instead of a publisher working to lay out the book, the author now does the work. Although a publisher may no longer incur the expense of printing the book, the author may instead be tasked with hiring a pre-production company to digitize and troubleshoot any layout inconsistencies. And of course there’s time invested.

Those looking to get their books published have been eased into the market through ‘Print-on-Demand’ publishing companies like Blurb, Flickr, Lulu and CafePress just to name a few. Unfortunately these markets allowed little room for profit but enabled new publishers a base from which price from.

The eBook market has no standard. Typically ‘How-To’ books are priced higher than your fictional love story so in the online world, entertainment isn’t quite as valuable as information. Expect to pay about $2.99 for an entertaining novel by an unknown writer versus $7.99 and up for an informative ePub.

The consensus to arriving at a competitive price comes down to what you want out of your project. Selling an eBook is no different than selling anything else in this world; there are pros and cons.

People will tell you to price your work at next to nothing so you can sell hundreds, thousands, even millions of copies and possibly make a profit from bulk sales. Others will suggest taking a loss so you can get your name out. And still others will claim testing the market by setting a high price only to gradually lower it until sales improve is a great way to operate. Unfortunately all of these have a downside.

We all dream of selling millions of books, so do the other millions of people who have uploaded their books. Selling your book for nothing or next to nothing will still get you nothing. Why not make a little money while your name gets out there? After all, we’re talking about a digital book, not a physical one that people will share with their friends. If your book is good, they will email their friends about it and your book will go viral regardless of the price, so long as it’s a reasonable one. And gradually lowering the price of your book will only lead to upset buyers who purchased your book when it first came out. Remember, those buying your book are still customers and you want them to eventually buy more books, so don’t burn your bridges with poor customer service.

With that in mind, keep your pricing economically viable. In other words, it may be unrealistic to get $29.99 for your book just because you’ve invested six months to a year of your time in its creation. That kind of pricing may need to be saved for the physical copy and your eBook price may have to drop to $4.99. It’ll be a hard pill to swallow, but eventually worth it.

To best figure out what your book is worth, do a little homework and check out other books similar to yours featured on eBook sites. The more unique your publication, the more people will pay for that knowledge.

The most important part, check out your competition. If you’ve completed a stellar cookbook, check out other highly rated cookbooks with similar content and structure and price your book accordingly. If this happens to be your first book, price it slightly lower than authors with multiple books. Research has shown that up to 80% of consumers that have purchased one book from a particular author will go on to purchase additional books by that same author if they like the work. So, pricing your first eBook slightly below theirs may put you on the same level playing field and at least get readers to acknowledge your skills.

So why end in ‘5’ or ‘9’? Most of it is psychological and if anyone has ever been shopping, you know the psychology works. Would you rather buy something for $19.99 or $20.00? Furthermore, many of the eBook distributors require a pricing structure that ends in $.95 or $.99. Apple’s iTunes, for example, happens to require an ending price of $.99.

And don’t forget, you don’t get to keep all the dough. Suppose you print a book through Blurb and then submit it to iTunes. Blurb will keep their operating cost, about $1.40 and Apple will keep about 30% of the purchase price. If you’re selling a novel marketed through Amazon’s Kindle, pricing it at $2.99 or above will enable you to keep 70% of the profit, but if you price it below $2.99, you only keep 30%.

Most importantly, don’t underprice yourself. Your knowledge and ideas are valuable. Just spend some time doing a bit of homework and browsing the eBook store to get a better idea of what the market will bear for titles similar to yours.

And congratulations on becoming an author!

When is Exclusivity Not a Good Idea?

A single image can have multiple uses from editorial to commercial. But, it has to be marketed just right.

Providing art directors with editable images will enable them to use a common photo that has been cropped or modified to create a different presentation.

There are some things that only happen once in our lifetime and sometimes there are only a few people present when that happens. Although there will always be that one publication that wants the “scoop”, can you really afford to market that coverage to just one entity?

Of course client loyalty is paramount, but so is communication. If you know you’re going to be covering an event that will yield massive coverage, be sure to communicate that with any potential clients beforehand.

Most publishers will be willing to work with you as long as they know what other publications will be bringing to market. Two competing magazines showcasing the same image on the cover would be a very bad idea, so be open with your clients as to what is going where.

Besides good communication, logistics are also vital to successfully distributing imagery to multiple clients. Know each client’s market. Not all aviation magazines are aimed at the same aviation market. Some magazines are aimed at warbird enthusiasts while others go for the modern military jet crowd, and still others are read solely by those fascinated with the luxury of aviation. In many cases those magazines are not considered competitors and similar images and accompanying stories can be run simultaneously.

Once the editorial coverage has taken its course, the images can then be used in marketing campaigns and for other commercial purposes.

An assortment of vertical photos from the same shoot will also provide publications the ability to choose photos more suited to their liking thus eliminating the risk of duplicating covers.

Even if you’ve done all your homework, this process can still backfire. While one magazine may not see another as a direct competitor, the other magazine may deem otherwise. In the interest of running the story first, a magazine may not be totally honest about their position, especially if it is a smaller publication. Often times you will be forced to make a choice as to who gets what even though two competing publications want to run the story. You’ve spent a lot of time building relationships, don’t ruin it with a competing story that will only yield a couple hundred bucks. Client relationships are worth much more than that.

But magazines aren’t all that’s fit to print. There are still other markets that may be interested in coverage of the event outside the magazine industry such as aircraft manufacturers, air shows, aviation parts manufacturers, and the list goes on. The key to understanding the timing for exposing your imagery is to understand the life cycle of an image. A magazine has a life span of approximately one to two months and a limited readership. An advertisement can be wide reaching and remain in the public eye for many months. Because of the publicity advertisements provide, it is usually best to let any potential magazines share the story and images first before marketing the photos for use as advertisement pieces.

A single historic event, if covered well and marketed properly can be distributed to various clients successfully for six to eight months or more. And with good communication and forward thinking, it can be a win-win for everyone.

[Images seen here are a result of the US Navy Tailhook Legacy Flight training program. Special thanks to Dr. Richard Sugden for the use of his aircraft along with Peter Kline for his excellent piloting skills. Additional thanks goes to Lt. Erin “Eeyore” Flint for putting the commemorative Hornets in the air and Captain Mark “Mutha” Hubbard for his incredible support for the program. Of course without the hospitality of VFA-122 and the cooperation of all the civilian Legacy Pilots, none of this imagery would be possible. It is also with deep regret the passing of Lt. Matt “11” Lowe and Lt. Nathan “Beefcake” Williams as their F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed at NAS Lemoore on April 6, 2011, shortly after the conclusion of the Legacy Training Program. Both aviators were to have taken part in the 2011 Airshow Season as demonstration and Legacy pilots. Moreso, they each served this country dutifully and honorably both locally and in hostile territory. May they fly on in our memories forever.]

A layout from Warbird Digest Magazine shows how even though they used a large number of images from the shoot, their audience is mainly relegated to warbird enthusiasts. Therefore the same images can be used in other publications marketed to different interests.

World Airshow News Magazine is aimed towards those with a fascination of airshows. Although similar images were used, combining two contributors will insure the contents are significantly different.

Often times, a single event can be covered in different ways. Here, coverage from the Legacy Training Program was satirically presented from the first person point of view for World Airshow News Magazine.

Aimed at the more adventurous pilot as well as luxury aircraft owners, PilotMag used the Legacy Training Flight piece as a human interest article enabling those with limited knowledge of military aviation to go behind the scenes.

Aircraft Illustrated Magazine printed in the UK has their own set of readers fascinated with older warbirds and civilian restorations. Both they and their sister publication, Combat Aircraft, printed variations of the Legacy Flight Training that best suited their readership.

Making The Switch

Above my desk lies a shelf full of various camera bodies. These tools have been instrumental in sharing my experiences and memories over the years. My very first camera, a Kodak Instamatic 126 rests alongside my first SLR, a Pentax K1000 and my first medium format camera, my 501C/M Hasselblad. The first automated camera I owned was a Ricoh KR-10M and sits next to my first pro-camera body, a Canon EOS-1V/HS. Two digital cameras also reside with my antiquated collection, a Canon 10D and a 5D.

Nikon was kind enough to allow me use of their equipment at the Reno Air Races in 2010. Evan, over at http://www.evanflys.com, spotted me a few RV's away along the Valley of Speed using a Nikon D3s and a 600 f/4. (Image courtesy http://www.evanflys.com)

Some equipment I had once used is no longer with me such as my Pentax Super Program bodies, Pentax ME, my Nikonos V bodies, Canon EOS-1 and others. The point being, I’ve had the pleasure of utilizing the technology provided by many camera brands.

It was tough moving from Pentax to Canon in the late 1980’s, but Canon had some very impressive AF technology at the time. For the next 20 years, I had moved through the Canon professional line until digital became the norm. In the late ’90’s I owned an EOS-1 and an EOS-1N which performed incredibly…until they were stolen. They were then replaced with two EOS-1V High-Speed bodies which performed well until 2003 when digital could no longer be ignored.

The switch to digital would not be an easy one. At the time, each EOS-1V body cost about $2,200. A professional digital SLR couldn’t be touched for under $5,000…and actually closer to $8,000. A compromise had to be made.

I ditched the pro-level bodies and ventured back to the pro-sumer category. After all, digital technology was changing practically by the minute. A 6-megapixel Canon 10D was about $1,500 at the time and served me very well. In 2003, the camera was put to good use covering the 100th Anniversary of Powered Flight and images from that camera were first published in Air & Space Smithsonian’s issue covering the Dayton Air Show. It was clear digital was not going away. In 2007, the 10D was retired in favor of the $3,000 Canon 5D full-frame camera.

In late 2009, Canon introduced the EOS-1DmkIV with an unprecedented ISO range and a terrific frame rate all in a solid body. With resolution reaching a steady and versatile range, it was now time to think about reentering the pro-level of camera bodies. With my 5D showing age and my lenses all reaching their 10-year age, it wasn’t just the body that needed to be replaced, but my whole camera bag. Now would be the time for me to take a look at what the ‘other guys’ were up to.

From the backseat of a T-2 'Buckeye', I had to quickly teach myself the intricacies of the Nikon D3x and a 24-120mm to photograph these two SuperHornets in formation with a Hellcat being flown by Capt. "Mutha" Hubbard, Commodore for the Navy's Strike Fighter Wing Pacific. This would be my first Air-to-Air with the new equipment.

Canon is and has no doubt been an incredible company and their products have served me well. I had candid conversations with Nikon representatives, Bill Pekala and Bill Fortney along with other Nikon photographers. They, along with Canon, allowed me to make use of their products in order to come to a more educated decision.

Just like buying a home, one needs to consider where the community is headed and what level of resources are available. When comparing the variables, the product quality, long-term support, ease of transition and ease of communication, Nikon squeezed ahead of Canon.

It’s going to be a long journey for me to relearn the basic camera functions and differences between Nikon and Canon. From component compatibility and accessory part numbers to zooming, focusing and menu functions, the two companies couldn’t be more different. But, a camera is a tool and an investment and needs to best suit the photographer and their needs. For that, I feel Nikon has best filled the criteria and I look forward to what they have to offer in the future.

Many thanks to Nikon’s Bill Pekala, Bill Fortney, Jose Ramos, Deborah McQuade, Melissa DiBartolo and many others for assisting in the acquisition and future relationship. And of course a big thank you to Dave Carlson from Canon for his continued friendship.