Wrap-Up: Photoshop World

By Roger (16 August 2015)

Mark and I just finished Photoshop World, and I’m still on the road. This will be a short one.  I’ve left Las Vegas for the east coast and Newport, Rhode Island. The only photos I have with me are from this week’s PSW, so I thought I’d interrupt the learning resources series with a quick wrap-up of the week in Las Vegas.

A couple of weeks ago, in the Conferences and Workshops blog, I may have mentioned PSW, a time or two, but we didn’t do our normal “You-Should-Go” blogs this year because we’ve done them so much in the past. But can I give you the bottom-line, up-front summation of this conference? You should go.

Aside from the craziness of going to the desert in August, we had a great week. Start planning and saving now for next year’s conference, 9-11 August, again, in Las Vegas.

We always try to these events early to explore on our own. This year, that exploration took us to the Neon Sign Museum (link). Mark will have that blog, later. This kind of shoot is Mark’s territory; abstracts have always been tough for me. I’m much more comfortable with people. So, although I made some attempts that were acceptable, one of my favorites was this old sign. It isn’t an abstract, but it definitely caught my eye.

Neon Sign Museum

Neon Sign Museum

Our second “adventure” was spontaneous. While we were having a fine dinner in the Ri Ra Irish Pub (link), we admired the décor. We asked the manager for permission to make some photographs around the bar. He wanted a license to use them for the business and a promise we wouldn’t interfere with the flow of the pub. Easy enough. 

We showed up at 8 a.m., before most folks would be in for breakfast. I only photographed a couple of places in the bar, for a total of 40 photos. It was another opportunity to shoot something I don’t normally shoot.

Ri Ra Bar

Ri Ra Bar

I know some photographers don’t feel comfortable asking for things like this, but think about the worst case scenario: the manager could have refused our request, and we would have continued to eat our dinner. Look for opportunities and try to make them happen.

For me, the model shoots are always the highlight of the conference. Westcott (link) did their usual bang up job, bringing models and sets to demonstrate their fine products. I own many of their products and will, undoubtedly, buy some more, Since they are advertising on the expo floor, there is no fee for this. As you can probably imagine, fees for models, make-up artists, and sets can add up quickly. Here is your chance to try something like that, without spending any money.

Westcott Model Shoot

Westcott Model Shoot

In addition, the PSW folks set up several available-light-only sets, with models and still life subjects. Naturally, I went for the models.

B&W bride

I especially enjoyed the one in the wedding chapel. We had a large window and several light panels around the chapel. No reflectors, no flash. Restrictions can force you to try new things to compensate. Several of the PSW instructors would wander in and offer assistance and critique.

Looking for his bride

Looking for his bride

We’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: Talk to your models. These models were surrounded by multiple photographers. Too many weren’t saying anything. When there are 30 photographers surrounding them, clicking, without a word spoken, the situation turns awkward. Awkward situations do not usually make for good photographs. Talk to the models; direct them to what you want. I’ll climb off the soapbox.

The conference was loads of fun, and, to tie this blog to the previous two, I talked to many of the authors. Yes, I bought more books.

Time to head out and take some photos of Newport and enjoy the grandchildren.  See you next week.

Models at Photoshop World

By Roger (13 May 2014)

One of my favorite booths at Photoshop World is operated by the FJ Westcott Lighting folks. I stop by there, every day of the conference. Their fiendish scheme to draw me in and sell me their products has worked – I own several of their lighting tools. Their gear is top-notch. You can find additional information about their products on this link.

Westcott brings in a couple models; lights them; and provides an expert to demonstrate the products and provide shooting advice. The background setting, props, costumes, and themes are different every day. This keeps you coming back, if only to see their latest set-up.

Each Photoshop World has its own theme, and, this year, it was pirates. Naturally, there was a model dressed appropriately.

I've seen this pirate costume somewhere before

I've seen this pirate costume somewhere before

You can see the background stand on the left. They do a pretty good job with background, but there are always so many photographers gathered around that putting yourself in the ideal position is not always possible. I would love to stay and shoot the models all day, but isn't what I paid for. I'll get rid of the stand in the final image when I get the chance.

Here is another model photo I'll have to work on if I want to make it a bit more realistic.

The point is lighting, not realism.

The point is lighting, not realism.

The set-up is to demonstrate Westcott lighting, not to create portfolio pieces. Even if you get an absolute stunner, you wouldn't put one of these photos in your portfolio because hundreds of other photographers have the same shot. Not to mention, the set-up isn't your design, and the lighting is done by the Westcott crew. You can't really claim it as your own. But they make great photos for you to practice with. So, this evening, I threw the canoe rider into a quick composite on the river. (It needs more work, but I didn't prepare the photos until tonight. Excuses, excuses....)

Sometimes, the sets can get pretty extensive. They brought in a pick-up truck for one of the days. The models work for about four hours with cameras clicking every way they turn.  ("Play Freebird!")

Besides the inherent fun of shooting people instead of things, I really enjoy some of the more eclectic sets and costume designs. The makeup artists come up with some pretty wild stuff.  Most of the people I photograph are in a “normal” background and wearing casual clothing. They don't wear tutus, tiaras and red contact lenses.

The black swan

The black swan

Apparently, this model had the right hair for a tiara because, the next day, they decked her out as a socialite from the 40s, with a cigarette holder and another tiara.

The crowds are really thick at times, and the models can't move much, or they will move out of the lighting set-up. I'm sure it makes for a long day.

I was surprised by how few of the photographers were talking to the model. This is a basic skill you shouldn't need to be told about. Models are taking their cue from you when you're behind the camera. You talk to them to get them to adjust to the lighting; change expression and stance; and, really, just to be polite.

Imagine standing on the other side of the camera, and your photographer doesn't communicate. How will you know what the photographer is trying to make? Now, imagine being in front of 50 photographers in the middle of a convention center floor! Not me.

If you ever find yourself in this kind of pack, always talk to your model. First, the model will look at you – much better than trying to catch them as they desperately scan the pack for a friendly face. You'll get more natural expressions, and you'll both enjoy the session much more.

Another Amazing Photoshop World

After years of begging and pleading, the wonderful team at the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) brought the east coast edition of the conference to Washington D.C.  It was the highest attended one they have ever had and it was just a blast from start to finish.  Our heads hurt from seeing so many techniques and interacting with the dedicated instructors for four straight days. Since we got back last night, this will be a fairly short blog with just a few pix thrown in. As a result of this year’s session, you will be seeing some big changes to the Efcubed website and some exciting new ways to connect with us.  I am not going to spoil the surprises, so stay tuned.

One of the really neat features of the conference is the Expo floor where all the vendors show off their new products in small class size demonstrations.  Westcott lighting sets up a booth and brings in live models and there is a crowd of people jammed together like sardines, trying to take their pictures.  The models were really great sports and try to take direction from this babble of shooters. One of the things we learned is to just talk to them about what you want and they will give back good ideas as well. The first day had a very interesting couple from PA.  They were garbed as a fantasy warrior princess and a “Steampunk” explorer. Steampunk   He made both of their costumes and all the props. 

They were fun to shoot, once you got through the crowds

The other model that day provided quite a contrast—a very serene guitar player. Lonely guitar

Oh, and since the purpose of the booth was to convince the attendees to buy lighting equipment, I have to report that I did indeed fulfill that requirement.