Thursday, November 20, 2014

What happens after we place an order?

Once an order has been placed, it is up to me to properly prepare the images to the specifications needed for the individual lab that will be handling the post processing work.

Light Meter.  I use this to calibrate
each camera/lens combo, and also
to create perfect exposures in the
camera room.
Now, some may say – “Tim, why don’t you print things yourself?”   Ah, good question.  My answer is this:  I want to spend as much time as I can doing what I do best – creating great images, and designing the end products.  I know a bit about printing, and I also know enough that I would have to hire a full staff, open a much larger shop, or off-site building just to handle print orders.  I also know that there is a multitude of equipment to buy (and provide upkeep for), and then I would have to oversee all of the quality control for those things.  By having a professional lab handle my orders, I am left with more time to spend with clients, creating images that they are going to love, and finished art pieces for their home that are going to be displayed for a lifetime.
White/Grey Card.
Got to keep that white
balance accurate!

Back to the topic – Processing an order.  So, once an order is placed, I have to properly prepare everything for the print lab.  Back up a step.  Before I even get into the camera room, I have to make sure all of my equipment is properly calibrated for the labs that I use, this ensures that all final images (which are to become art prints) have a perfect representation of true color and exposure.

xRite Color Checker.  This allows me to create custom color
profiles at each shoot - ensuring true color accuracy, and
perfect prints each time.
Right, back to the topic – Processing an order.  OKAY – so I’ve got my cameras and monitors calibrated, we did the photo session, I processed the images, the clients came back to review everything and put in an order.  Lets say they ordered a wall collage, a canvas, a pop-out holiday card set, and some ornaments.  Typical order.  So, to get started, I have to make digital copies of each image that is going to be sent to each lab, with the right color profile assigned to that image.  During the color profile assigning part of the task I also size the image with the ideal resolution for the specific product it is going to be printed on.  SO – for the order above, the wall collage could have (3) 5x5s, (2) 11x17s, and a 5x11.  Each image will be sized to the exact dimensions with the proper resolution.  Now – to make things tricky, the canvas could be one of the images from the collage, and then used again for the greeting cards an ornaments...
Spyder4 Elite.  This tool allows me to calibrate my computer
monitors and projector - this way I know that what I am looking
while editing is going to be accurate and true to what my final
printed product is going to be.

This means that for the 3 separate products using the same image I will process that one image 3 separate times (which may mean 3 different color profiles for each lab, as well as different sizing to match the appropriate printing surface) to make it perfect for each product.  And yes – it may be going to 3 different labs!  I use one lab for the metal wall collages, another lab that specializes in canvas gallery wraps, and then yet another lab that has the best press printed cards I have ever seen.  SO, it isn’t just merely taking an order and pushing “send”.  I’m spending some serious time preparing the files for the lab to ensure that everything is going to come back looking PERFECT.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Santa Is On His Way!

This year we are doing things a little differently!  We have Santa available for sessions by appointment.  This means that we can spend a little more time making the most adorable images with Mr. Clause and your kiddos!

Of course, you can still come on either Saturday December 6th, or Saturday December 20th from 2-5pm for an Open House with Santa!

Egg Nog Will Be Flowing!

Where Craftsmanship Begins for a Wedding & Portrait Artist

Where Craftsmanship Begins for a Wedding & Portrait Artist

Brides often gush about the beauty of their wedding images, or how amazing their custom art installation is at their home – or the beauty and quality of their wedding album.  Nothing really makes me feel better than making a client happy – it is very self gratifying to know that I have given someone something that they love, and will last a lifetime.

I have spent countless hours honing my skills with camera equipment, from the camera itself to light meters, to remote flash triggering systems, to specialized lens/camera/monitor/projector calibration hardware and software.  I have also spent more time than I can log designing in photoshop, and working with print labs to create perfect printed products. 

With all of the above in mind, there is really no piece of equipment, no technique, no product, and no magical way to create a well crafted image without the right pose and expression.  I always tell my photography students, “Pose, Compose, Expose, - but Expression trumps all”.  I could spend all the time in the world creating a technically flawless portrait, but if the expression doesn't draw you in, make you laugh, make you cry, or make you think, then the image failed.

For this reason, I am always watching people (nothing creepy), taking note to how people interact with each other – what do beautiful moments look like, and how did they originate?  This helps me to provide direction to clients and create organic scenarios in which real expressions happen, and I can put all of the technique to use.  I study images from other photographers, magazines of all sorts (even my wife’s knitting magazines), and I find things that I like, then imagine what it took to create the scenario. 

Working with people to create poses, scenes & scenarios is certainly an art of it's own, and this is where the real craftsmanship as a wedding and portrait photographer begins.  

Photographic craftsmanship is the ability to work with someone, make them feel comfortable, confident, and beautiful, then create an image that they never could have imagined,  then produce the image as a perfect finished product – weather it be a beautiful art canvas, a metal print, or a custom framed/matted art print.­

Monday, November 17, 2014

I Failed...

There were about 20 imagesfrom this batch that were total and utter
failures!  I knew the spot had some 
great potential, but I wasn't sure how
everything would look once I got back
to the studio to edit everything.
To make the photo,
I found this neat old fire escape, and began
experimenting with it.  I had to make shade
from the sun, and then bring in some lights.
I tossed an orange gel over the hair light,
and used one key light to the left of
the subject.  I just experimented with light
and shadows, and we had fun at the session.
Turns out that those 20 failed images were
totally worth it, because this one is great!  
I make it a point to fail at something during every photo session or wedding.  WHAT! ?  Yep.  I know I’m going to do it – I’m going to make an image that is terrible.  I am always trying new things – new ways to direct people, to pose people, new ways to play with light and exposure, to compose an image, new ways to put multiple images into a single composition… the list goes on and on.  This means that I am going to fail, and fail often.

Failing is a huge part of success, discovery, and growth as a photographer.  If I only stick to what I know makes an excellent photo, then I will never make something extraordinary.  I know that I want to make the best images, which are unique to and for the people I am working with - and that requires me to experiment all the time.  I have a core of key compositions and poses that I use (I call those the "safe" images) because I know they will work, which ensures that clients are going to be happy, just incase whatever I try thats new ends up being a flop.  I don't tell them that I may be creating a crap photo though... I just do it.  Honestly though, 70% of the time the images that are out of the normal realm of "safe" poses/lighting/composition setups are the ones that my clients love the most, and end up putting on their walls.

I thought I'd try something new at this wedding.  I saw this
beautiful field of ferns, and a natural tunnel created by
pine trees.  I had this vision of a sunset being in the photo...
only problem was that it was a cloudy day and the sun
was directly over our heads.  So I decided to experiment a bit,
and this is the image I came up with.
I knew that I wanted a composition with drama and tension,
so I framed it with the bride slightly off center facing
the short side of the frame instead of into the big area
of the frame.  Then I created a sun, and did a bit of
dodging and burning in PS5 to add depth.
I had tried this technique 2 times before, and it was a total epic
failure, but I was determined to make something amazing.
I love this image! 

Are Your Files Safe with Tim Walck Photography?

File handling is a very very important part of being a professional photographer.  I am an over organized geeky file Nazi when it comes to proper storage of a client’s images. 

The thing about storing a clients files, is that they may come back in days, months, or even years, looking for a specific image that I made for them.  They could be looking for an image because they just wanted one, or they finally had the budget for an over the top customized art installation, or… tragedy could strike.  What if the client lost their home to a flood or fire, along with their wedding DVD, custom designed album, metal printed wall collage, and 30x40 canvas gallery wrap….  Insurance may cover the replacement costs, but if the images were nowhere to be found, what would they do?  Cry.   And it wouldn’t be the tears of joy that normally happen in my shop!
I know the images that I create at a wedding are a once in a lifetime memory, and it is imperative that I keep those precious memories safe.  I employ a simple system for safe keeping of everything.  First – Images are transferred from memory cards onto two external hard drives.  At this moment there will now be 3 copies of each file (until the camera’s memory cards are cleared).  After I get through processing the gallery of images, it is then uploaded to my website, and the memory cards are cleared.  This means that there are always 3 copies of the images – 2 in house, and 1 copy in an off-site location.  Now – to get to the super nerdy stuff!
One hard drive is a dedicated “archive” drive, which will eventually become full, then it is date labeled and stored.  The archive drive only gets the RAW files – un processed.   The other drive is my “working directory”.  On this drive, I do all of the actual editing, processing, and storing of essential business files.  No actual images are stored on my computer itself – the computer is mean for running applications, so I keep it clean and free of space sucking high-res imagery.  And then there is a third drive - which exists only to back up the computer itself using TimeMachine.

My working directory hard drive is actually a configuration of 5 2TB drives stacked in a Drobo5D enclosure.  I use Western Digital Red drives because of their archival qualities (I could go on and on about these, but you your eyes will glaze over if they haven’t already!).  The enclosure is set up in a "BeyondRAID" configuration, which means that each individual file is written across 4 drives.  This way if one drive fails, the other 3 will have the necessary information to re-create the missing data.  Think of it as a math equation (and really… that’s all computer data is – 1s and 0s) – if
you have A + B = C, you know the number for A, and C, so to find B you subtract A from C.  BeyondRAID also allows for swapping drives in and out of the enclosure that are of different manufactures, different spindle speeds, or even SSDs.

To add even more security, I have my specific enclosure set up so that the 5th drive is a clone of one of the other 4.  To add to the security and durability, I chose the DROBO unit because it has an excellent built in surge protector, as well as a battery backup that allows for final data transfer to occur before the drive cuts tasks off and shuts down properly in the event of a power failure.  Not that I am a Drobo representative - but this enclosure also has a 6th bay for a solid state drive in the bottom, which acts as a hardware accelerator (a solid state drive can write much faster than any drive that spins, so data is pushed onto the 128GB SSD, then moved a
cross the rest of the drives within the unit - allowing very high data write speeds, and dramatically increasing the overall system's performance).

Tim, that sounds great, but won’t you run out of room eventually?  Yes, and No.  The Drobo unit is very expandable.  I can pull out a 2TB drive, and swap in a 4TB drive, and the Drobo unit will re-build the necessary information, plus I will now have more head room.  But yes – one day I could have the entire thing maxed out with 5 of the highest capacity drives.  I could do 3 things in this scenario – 1) Pick a fixed amount of data… lets say 4 years of work – and copy it to another external drive to become archived.   2) Daisy chain another Drobo enclosure via the Thunderbolt port, and continue to expand the storage room.  3) Upgrade to an infinitely expandable network storage solution.  

As you can see – I have spent a great deal of time and resources to cover the possibilities of device failure, theft, or un foreseen tragedies such as fire or flood.  With images stored in 3 places, and one being off-site, as well as the well armed RAID 5 configured Drobo unit, all of the work that has been put into creating images of once in a life time event is very well safe-guarded.