Toronto Boudoir Workshop

So how do you get ready for a boudoir workshop?

Jen Rosenbaum’s Boudoir Workshop is coming to the very trendy Gladstone Hotel (this is a Heny’s Cameras sponsored day-long class) this Saturday and I’m registered. Good thing too as the workshop is sold out!

So how does this work that a 66-year-old (in a couple of weeks) geezer gets to go to a boudoir workshop?

First I ask my wife for permission :)396962-heidi_klum_picture_2

You see we have a deal. If Heidi Klum will agree to go out with me on a date, I’ve got a pass to go. Anyone else, not so sure!

Plus and I know this will come as a shock to some but I am really more interested in learning something new than shooting relatively younger women in their underwear. Besides I’ve been shooting professional and amateur models since the 70s when the newspaper I worked for had a “Girl Friday” feature. It was a different era. After a while it actually loses its luster. Honest.

Anyway boudoir isn’t what you think.

It’s actually one of the hardest styles of photography to approach let alone master. Often your client is someone who is somewhat insecure about how they look. In that, they’re not alone. Most of us wouldn’t be too comfortable having a stranger shoot us wearing a parka let alone much, much less.

They’re usually not a professional model but someone who wants some images for their bedroom walls that are provocative while still mainly family rated.

So the objective of the boudoir photographer is to photograph someone who isn’t too sure about the whole idea (even if they are the client and asked for the work to be done) in a situation where there isn’t any room for error when it comes to composition, posing, lighting and mood.

How do you like it so far?

As the photographer, it’s your job to help your client relax and even enjoy the experience. You’ve got to find ways to shoot your client in a manner which minimizes issues and emphasizes attributes.

Boy if somebody could do that for me, I’d be eternally grateful. My best shot is from a distance of me walking away from the camera :) In boudoir photography you don’t have that option. Usually you’re back is to the wall of a smallish bedroom setup with lights and assistant and your client posing on a bed trusting that you know what you’re doing.

From a lot of the boudoir photography I’ve seen online, a lot of boudoir photographers haven’t got a clue. And then there are those who do and regardless of the size, shape and appearance of their subject the photo makes the subject (sometimes it is a man) look fabulous and happy and relaxed in their own skin.

Wouldn’t it be great if we all felt that way about ourselves?

So how to prepared for a boudoir workshop?

First clean all your cameras and their sensors. If you don’t know how Google YouTube and read your manual. Second pick your lenses and clean them too. You don’t want to be spotting your images just because you got lazy.

Pick your lenses for the job at hand.

I’m taking my 35, 50 and 85mm lenses which are all fast primes at f/1.8. This is so I can shoot at a fast enough shutter speed so as not to get camera shake in what might be challenging natural light conditions. I’m also taking my 105 f/2.5 macro, a 14-24 wide zoom and a fast f/2.8 17-55 mm main lens plus two SB-900 flashes and a tripod.

Just for fun I’m throwing in my Olympus Pen bag with an EPL-5 (which creates images as good as my D-300) and fast 12, 18 and 40mm primes plus an external flash which can be controlled off camera. I doubt I’ll have time to be able to use it but who knows. It makes the pros laugh hysterically when I bring it out but  funny enough the laughter stops when I put the images up on my SmugMug gallery.

I hear Olympus is bringing out a new high-end camera body in the spring so who knows :)

Anyway report to follow after Saturday. And if Heidi calls tell her I’m booked for the weekend :(

Iceland Intensive

Jared Fein and fellow Oakville Camera Club member Wojtek Zlobicki found themselves on the same Martin Bailey Iceland Workshop earlier this year and they presented a review of their adventure last night at the club meeting. (BTW Martin Bailey has an enhanced podcast with lots of his own images.)

First off let me say that I’ve spent most of my life editing photos for newspapers and magazines and I know what I like and I really liked what I saw last night. (It helped that the organizers killed the lights in the auditorium so we could completely appreciate the images.)

Most big-time pros will tell you that if they get a handful of exceptional images in their entire career they can retire happy.

Jared and Wojtek managed to do this in one 14-day workshop!

Why? Of course they are very competent amateur photographers who knew what they were doing and were both carrying pro-level full-frame cameras and lenses. BTW there’s nothing wrong with being an amateur photographer. I’ve been a pro shooter all my life and all that means is somebody paid me to shoot for the last 40 years. Now I too am trying to become an amateur shooter which only means I am shooting for the love of photography and not because somebody wants to pay for my time and talent.

There’s another reason why they got such great images. Iceland is an insanely great place to shoot photos. I call it a target-rich environment. Best of all, the workshop took place in September which is a couple of weeks after the main tourist season so there weren’t a lot of random folks standing in front of the image.

Jared and Wojtek’s images were so good that I heard myself saying things like “wonderful” and “amazing” in my outside voice. I wasn’t the only one in the audience of roughly 80 to 100 folks.

The photo below shows what the photographers were up against when it came to just walking around but it’s the only image I could find and I wish the guys would post a gallery of their images on Flickr or elsewhere for you to be amazed at the quality of the shooting. (The green look to the moss and grass is pretty close to what’s actually there!)


(Photo above by Jared Fein 2014 found on the Oakville Camera Club’s Facebook Page.)

Even better than just watching fabulous images, I learned a few new things and anytime I can learn something new it’s a good presentation and this one was terrific.

Lesson one: If you’re going to Iceland to shoot photos buy two pairs of the best semi-mountain terrain hiking boots you can afford. This will prevent you from breaking an ankle;

Lesson two: Buy the best waterproof winter (not water resistant) outer wear (jacket and pants that zip up the sides so you don’t have to take your boots off) and bring spares. Get dark colours so you blend into the background if other shooters get you in the image, And yes it’s expensive clothing but you’ll thank yourself everyday you’re in Iceland :)

Lesson three: Shoot full-frame. This is going to cost more than the trip (around $6000 plus flight) but not only should you be shooting full frame (much much better than DX for landscapes of this size and scope) but your cameras must be waterproof as well and it wouldn’t hurt to use waterproof covers on your camera and lenses. This limits you to the high-end expensive Canons and Nikons. Despite what I just said I’d be temped to shoot with a waterproof digital Olympus Pen OM-D series camera. The pros will laugh hysterically but you’ll come back with amazing images at 1/3 the price of their equipment!

Lesson four: Unless your significant other is an avid photographer leave him or her at home. Four days standing in front of a glacier shooting images is likely grounds for a divorce for non-shooting spouses especially if they’re cold (which they are going to be) and wet to very wet (which everybody was at one point or another). Enthusiastic amateur photographers will ignore the weather :)

Lesson five: Once you come back with your 4,000+ images (stored in 3 or 4 devices) edit your images in Lightroom and use NIK (the guys loved NIK) external editors (Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro) and take some Lee neutral density filters so you can get that dreamy look to your images of water.

It rained every day but one and the wind was relentless. Everyday there was an off-road equipped bus ride to the shooting locations. One day included a Zodiac trip to shoot icebergs.

More than one very expensive camera got dropped on the rocks and at least one camera and a bag of lenses went into the salt water. Tripods got blown over. Not good and a reason to have pro-level riders on your pro-level camera equipment.

This is why you should join your local camera club and go to meetings. Not only will you learn to be a better photographer but guys like Jared and Wojtek will blow you away. A great presentation by two very good photographers.

Scott Kelby Is My New Hero

I attended the day-long Photoshop Creativity Tour this week at the Toronto Convention Centre and in a word it was EXCELLENT! First of all the instructor Ben Willmore was amazing. (He always is: A great Photoshop and Lightroom instructor.)BenMug200x200 I’ve watched (and bought his videos) from his work on which I also highly recommend.

But sitting in front of a computer for a three-day free workshop with video downloads at a discount price (usually around $99) during the event and available at a little higher cost (usually $150 or so) after the event isn’t for everybody.

Watching Ben do his Photoshop magic in person along with about 800 of my newest closest friends was terrific.

Even better it costs less than nothing! Yes I know there’s a ticket price of $99 but here’s what you get:

  1. A first-class perfectly well-run day-long workshop
  2. A professional instructor who generously gives of his time during breaks and lunch (almost unheard of)
  3. A 90-page workbook that is filled with tips and information on Photoshop
  4. You can also get a free copy of Photoshop User Magazine
  5. A great bunch of draw prizes including a ticket to the Los Vegas wedding show ($600 value)
  6. A decent venue in the Toronto Convention Centre (easily assessable to GO Train and subway)
  7. And when you get home, in your package is a two-course set of videos valued at $49 each
  8. So when you add it all up $99 for the course ($10 off if you register at least 10 days before the course) minus $99 in free video courses (on Mastering Curves) = zero cost…well actually you’re up $10!

What would I suggest? (Scott Kelby brochure)

  1. When the Scott Kelby tour comes back to Toronto (or a city near you) get a ticket online
  2. Get there early (doors open at 9am) to get a great seat (although there is no bad seating)
  3. Bring a pen
  4. Talk to your fellow participants as there are some pretty interesting photographers in the audience
  5. Bring a lunch and coffee (it’s a long, long walk to the nearest food outlet on Front Street)

So how does Scott Kelby make any money? He has designed and marketed an extremely popular online training program. There are hundreds of courses conducted by top-notch instructors like Ben Willmore. 

The annual membership is an investment in your enjoyment of photography and at the Toronto tour date photographers lined up at every break and lunch to buy a membership. At $250/year it’s an investment for you but if 200 people bought memberships, we’ll you do the math, this is a pretty good day for Scott Kelby too.

Should you buy a membership?

It depends. If you want to learn photography and Photoshop or Lightroom you might want to consider the membership. It’s a lot of value and information but you must commit yourself to watching the videos and practicing the lessons.

When you compare the annual cost of Kelby training membership to the cost of let’s say joining a health club for a year or going out to an expensive restaurant with another couple (add wine and a dessert) it’s obviously a great deal if you’re going to use it. Guess it’s the same with the health club.

Which reminds me, I got to go workout.

Zombie Edit

I’ve got over 1000 images from the Toronto Zombie Walk to edit.

So for all you ghouls you can expect to see your images on my SmugMug gallery at Peter West Photo where you can download for free anything you want in a couple of days. Until then, take a bit of this :)_DSC4622b

How To Shoot A Zombie

First of all show up this Saturday for the Toronto Zombie Walk taking starting at Nathan Philips Square. If estimates are correct, we might see 10,000 zombies on this year’s walk. That’s a lot of shooting.

Peter West Photo-1-21-XLSo how do you shoot a zombie? Peter West Photo-1-181-L

First dress right. Here I mean wear really sturdy shoes. Hiking boots won’t be out of place as you’re going to walk…a lot even if you don’t move from Nathan Philips Square. Second don’t over dress as you’re going to get warm carrying your gear and moving from shot to shot. If it rains (and it looks like it won’t so far), wear hight rain gear. If it’s cold put a pair of really light gloves in your packet. (You’ll thank me for this one!)

As for equipment, you do what you think best, but I don’t bring my camera bag. It’s just too much weight on the shoulder especially after five or six hours and since it’s bulky you’ll keep banging it into the zombie hordes. You don’t want to do this to your equipment or to the zombies.

If you’ve got a choice bring your most robust cameras. For example I’ve got a complete Olympus pen setup with three bodies and six lenses and an external flash and I love the images I get with this really light and street-worthy setup but for shooting zombies it can’t compare to my Nikon setup with a D-300 and D-90 bodies with an 18-270 on one and a 12-24 on the other with one external flash with an external battery pac on my belt if it’s an overcast day (the flash bangs up the light in the faces).

2010 To. Zombie Walk (1 of 1)Why the Nikons and not the Olympus? While the Olympus Pens can produce an image as good, if not better than the Nikons (sacrilege I know but they do), the Nikons can shoot all day long with their external battery pacs and the Olympus Pens cannot. Also use at least 16 gig cards that are as fast as you can afford. I prefer 32 gig cards as I can shoot most of the day without having to change.

It’s that simple. When it comes to shooting rapidly over a long period of time the heavier and more robust Nikons are the way to go.

Now if you’re just shooting casually then anything will do as you’re in a very target rich environment.2010 To. Zombie Walk (1 of 1)-4

So again how do you shoot a zombie?

First get in their face where they can see you. 99% of all zombies will perform for you if they see you’re a serious photographer.  Bared teeth (where there are teeth) and bloody hands reaching out make for some great images.

Don’t waste time. Shoot on “P” (program mode) as depth of field isn’t as important here (and if it was you’d be shooting in aperture mode) as getting the shot right the first time. Crop in camera exceptionally close and run your autofocus on single point or all points and continuous focus depending on what works best for you and your camera system.

I tend to shoot on single point as I am filling the frame with the person’s face and I want my focus to lock in right away.

Now as to whether to shoot JPGs or RAW?

This is a serious consideration when shooting a couple of thousand zombies in one day. RAW is great as you can do so much with it when it comes to exposure and special effects.

But some cameras (most) will shoot faster using JPG mode as compared to RAW. But you don’t want to be shooting in high speed mode either as you’re just going to fill up your hard drive with tons of duplicate images which you’re going to have to edit in post. Ugh! So if you’re camera can handle the size, shoot RAW so you’ve got tons of data to edit.

Peter West Photo-1-578-X3Here’s my post setup.

I’ve got a MacBook pro with 8 gigs of RAW and a solid state and regular spinning hard drives plus I’ve got two external drives. I will manually download images off the memory card and put them on one of my external hard drives and the internal spinning drive in the computer.

So now I’ve got my images (RAW or JPG) in two separate places plus the memory card. Then I’ll remove the card(s) and put them in a safe place as I fire up Lightroom 5 and I don’t import the images but just add the image information to the LR catalogue without moving the actual images themselves.

From then on I only use Lightroom to do anything with the images as LR is a database and it goes nuts if any other program moves the files.Peter West Photo-1-31-L

So once LR is ready to go I go to the Library module and I rate my keeper images. With any luck I can get 1500 – 2000 images down to 700-1000 in the first pass.

If I’m in a real hurry I can batch process all these images and if they were not shot as JPGs, make them into JPGS of suitable size (100 kb for online display to full resolution for downloadable prints on my SmugMug gallery at Peter West Photography and I’m done as I offer all my Toronto Zombie Walk images to the zombies for free.

If I’ve shot in RAW and there are a bunch of really good images (say about 200) I’ll take the time to edit them in LR using NIK’s excellent external editors or my newly purchased Alien Skin Exposure 6 editor or Seim Filter’s really great presets (I own them all!)

Since you’re working with lots of colours it’s really nice if you’ve got a Passport Checker to shoot the colour squares and create your own camera profile for running in Lightroom. Plus calibrate your monitor.

You can see by my images that I like special effects and using external editors. When it comes to zombies, I mean why not.

But here’s a comparison of two separate images of two zombie girls.  On the left I processed it with a warming effect and on the right it’s the same two girls processed using a gritty filter setting. Quite a difference in tone and mood?

The most important thing? Get out there and have fun with your camera.

Peter West Photo-1-222-XL

Algonquin Park Splendour

My two-day trip to Algonquin Park and neighbouring places was a great success. _DSC7935

I loaded up the car with enough food for two days and a thermos of coffee for the two and a half hour drive from Oakville to Huntsville. I brought both my Nikon system (two cameras and a bunch of lenses) and my much smaller Olympus system (three bodies and another bunch of lenses) and I used both over the two days.

Either system would be fine for this type of shooting. The Nikons do bracketing for HDR shooting effortlessly. The Olympus cameras shoot amazing JPGs especially when using the built-in art filters.

I used Lightroom and a whole bunch of presets (Seim Filters) to process the RAW NEFs out of the Nikon. And yes the images are pretty bright. I like bright. _DSC8100 _DSC7913

All of my edited images are on view at Peter West Photo.

Fall Colours 90% In Algonquin

Reports from Ontario’s Algonquin Park suggest that the fall colours (which come earlier to the park which is 250 km north of Toronto) are nearing their peak and this might be THE WEEKEND to visit this amazing photographic event. _dsc0051

Even if you’re just driving up for the day (3 hours each way) it’s still worthwhile as some of the very best shooting can be had from Hwy. 60 which runs through the south end of the park.

Fall colours come early to Algonquin as it’s farther north than Toronto and is situated on higher ground (which gets cooler faster than the lands to the south).algonquin-fall-2009-524

While this weekend should be amazing for shooting, it’s possible that Monday or Tuesday (while 10 degrees cooler) might be even better as the weather forecast calls for partial cloudy weather. Bright sunny blue skies make for contrasty bright colours. Cloudy to overcast make for deeper less contrasty scenes which often look better as photos.

Cloudy weather also makes it possible to shoot at slower shutter speeds which is essential if you shoot water or waterfalls and you want that milky look. Set ISO to as low as possible, put your camera on a sturdy tripod (essential), set your aperture to f/11 – f/16, turn your auto focus off!! and focus manually. (Why? You don’t want your autofocus seeing a blade of grass in the foreground and focusing on it rather than the river behind. Don’t ask me how I know this!)_dsc0128

Try and get a shutter speed around one second or slower and experiment. BTW use a remote shutter release or the self timer to keep camera shake to an absolute minimum.dsc_8140

If you’ve got an incident or spot light meter take it and take your Expodisc if you’ve got one and your PassPort Checker (the colour patch device) to help get your exposure dead on. Check your white balance and shoot RAW if you’re camera has it.

Finally, dress warmer (see photo above) than you think you’re going to need. You can always take off a parka when the sun comes up but trust me if you’re out shooting at dawn in Algonquin Park it can get really really cold. Wear light gloves and a hat ( a toque is perfect) . You’ll bless my name over and over again for this one hint alone :)

BTW if you can avoid the weekend, there will be less competition for shooting spots in some of the more popular places.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 728 other followers

%d bloggers like this: