Copyright and image usage: Can I Use That Picture?

On October 9, 2017 by piambro

Not really sure what you can and cannot do with an image? The guys at Visually created a very useful flowchart about that!

The elements are your camera’s worst enemies, no matter how well you protect it

On October 9, 2017 by piambro

Back in 2008 the race shown in the video below (in Spain) ended up costing me quite a bit of $$$ (don’t be fooled, the first part of the video is about Saturday practice, the weather was perfect…). On Sunday I shot all day under the rain with my Canon 1D MKII and I had no problems. All the bodies in the 1D series from Canon are weather sealed, but for good measure I wrapped my rig with some shrink wrap (the one normally used for food, easily found at any grocery store) and I used an umbrella until the weight from the mud shattered it.

It was a miserable day, btw.

Anyway, the next weekend we all went to Portugal for the following round of the Motocross MX1/MX2 Championship and my camera locked up right after warm-up, pretty much at the start of the first race. Luckily I had a backup body so I was able to keep shooting and bring back the images my magazine needed. But the 1Dd MKII (that I still have and sometimes use…) was done.

What happened is that the very thin muddy water got somehow inside the mirror chamber (despite the camera, like I said, was sealed and tropicalized) and some dirt deposited on the small springs that recall the mirror itself. It sat there for a week eating the metal and rusting the springs, which after being put under stress for a full 1 and 1/2 days eventually let go at the worst possible moment. The fix from Canon Service costed me around $1000 ūüôĀ

The Customer Experience

On October 9, 2017 by piambro

One of the things I believe set me apart from my competition is my customer oriented attitude. I’ve spent years shooting for magazines and websites and I understand how crucial is to meet my clients expectations. But there is also another big part involved, somewhat intangible: it’s not just about the results but also how you get there. This is the customer experience. I always try to put my client at ease and make them relax, so they focus on posing (or following my directions when needed) without stressing too much about the photo studio environment. Yes, because if you’re not used to a dark room full of weird stuff, where you are constantly in the spotlight with all these huge strobes flashing around you, a studio photoshoot can be pretty stressing.

I try to make the customer experience as smooth as possible, from the very moment where they get to my studio until when they are ready to leave. I offer free covered parking, coffee and water, free WiFi, a clean bathroom and a comfortable changing room with a nice beauty station. Of course I also have a mirror on set, so my client can constantly see her/himself and keep all the wardrobe and hair/makeup details in check.

But the most important piece of my setup, I believe, is the Live View feature: I setup a tablet very close to the client and while I’m shooting the images coming from my camera show directly there, streaming live. That way the client and I can both get real time feedback and adjust any detail we feel needs to be addressed. I’ve noticed that even the most “camera shy” client instantly relaxes and deliver the best they have when the Live View feature is going in front of their eyes.

And when everything is said and done and the shoot is over, my clients can sit down and swipe through the pictures right there and then, getting the final feel of with the accomplished together. It makes for a fun, yet professional experience that I literally swear by.

Good images are good memories: why quality photography matters

On October 9, 2017 by piambro

I don’t do weddings or engagement photography, but I was thinking about what a good friend of mine recently told me.

We were talking about how good the images from his second wedding turned out (the photographer he hired did a very good job!) and he told me that he learned his lesson the hard way. For his first wedding, he admitted, he and his ex-wife spent so much money on securing the location and offering a memorable catering that little to nothing was left for the photography budget.

Funny thing is that he got married in June, and a few of his friends and colleagues also got married in that same period.

Bottom line: after a few months none of his guests could exactly remember who got married where or what delicacies they offered for lunch, or even the cake itself. It was a blur, and he admitted even his memory is failing him a bit too, everything is a blur now.

What he knows is that he is left with some very poor quality images, the only thing that really matters after all, given that everything else is pretty much gone and forgotten. He didn’t know back then that his marriage wasn’t going to last, but for a few years he lived with the notion that he missed out on the one thing that would eventually last. So when his “second chance” came around a few years later, he carefully balanced his budget to be able to secure a good location, good catering but more than everything a good photographer and even a videographer to document the (again) most important day of his life.

I believe the message is really straight forward here: I’m not blowing my own trumpet because, like I said, I don’t do weddings. But you now have another very good reason to hire a professional and experienced wedding photographer to shoot your wedding. Because 6 months down the road nobody will remember where your wedding was or what the catering was all about. But you will surely have wonderful images to enjoy for the rest of your life. Those are the memories you should never discount!
The same is also true for any other important moment in your life: graduation, baby showers, maternity, family portraiture and all of that good stuff. Don’t get to the point where you spent all your budget to pamper your guests only to be left with poor photography and less than spectacular memories. That’s why you did it in the first place, right? To have something to remember…

How to prepare for a Photoshoot

On October 9, 2017 by piambro

As a general rule, if we are shooting headshots or portraits, bring clothes you are comfortable wearing and avoid crazy patterns or decorations. We can always try something unique later in the session but it’s better to keep it simple in the beginning.

Make sure that you have something tight and something a little looser. Ladies: bring along a few pieces that range from the cute/casual (even t-shirt and jeans) all the way to something dressy but simple. Guys: same thing, something casual starting from t-shirt and jeans, maybe slacks or kakis and a shirt and finally a full suite and tie. Make sure to polish your shoes, tie and socks should match, same for shoes and belt.

Color really doesn’t matter, I have several backgrounds we can use to match it, but generally speaking black always works for ladies, white or cream if your complexion is really light.

Go to sleep earlier than usual the night before the soot and make sure you drink a lot of water for at least one week before shooting: your skin is going to look way better, with less blemishes and lines.

Ladies: if you are doing your own make-up remember that it doesn’t really show in pictures unless you really go heavy handed. Studio lights tend to wash it out a little bit. Keep it simple and light but bring your make-up essentials with you so you can always touch it up.

Wear your hair as you would normally do and bring a brush for touch-ups.

Also make sure to apply fresh nail polish.

The photographer/client connection

On October 9, 2017 by piambro

Being a photographer is a dream come true. To be¬†able to make a living out of my¬†true passion is a blessing that I never discount and I’m always thankful for. Sure, about 25 years ago I started setting up my life so I could eventually do what I love, I often had to choose the harder path and often struggled with the notion that sometimes people don’t really consider being a photographer a “true” job. Just because I make money out of something that for the large majority is just a beautiful hobby. I now understand it, it’s human and I’ve come to accept it, no drama or crusades here.

Photography, when taken seriously, presents a lot of challenges and it’s not always a bed of roses. It’s not just about the huge investment in gear, studio¬†space and all that pesky legal stuff. Any professional¬†photographer spends less than 25% of his/her time actually taking pictures: the rest is education, marketing, networking and A LOT of hours spent in front of a computer, sorting¬†and editing images for the clients. But every job has its own pro and cons, after all and I gladly accept the quirks of my own profession.

But when the time to shoot finally comes I like to highlight one very important thing: the client has to lead the way. Finding a reasonably priced professional and showing up on the agreed date is not enough to achieve great results.

Expecting a photographer to take over from there and deliver “the magic” is often wishful thinking.

I believe the biggest driving force has to come from the client. It is the client that ultimately decided¬†the need¬†for professional photos¬†and the first step was then and there¬†taken. It is now time to find¬†the right fit, a photographer who¬†can deliver the images that truly meet the client’s expectations, in terms of quality, vision and price.

From my personal experience of being in this business for 25 years, I’ve noticed that the single, most important aspect of a good photo session is the connection between the client and the photographer.

I believe the connection has a 20% chemistry component to it: if client and photographer don’t click (pun intended) when they meet in person, it’s usually next to impossible to get¬†good results and one of the parties will end up not being fully satisfied. The client will be disappointed by the images or the photographer will feel¬†that he didn’t deliver what he/she originally intended, or both!

Ok, with that said, let’s assume that the “click” actually happened: it’s now time to sit down and discuss in detail what the client really wants and how the photographer thinks he can fulfill those expectations.

Believe me or not, this is the exact moment when great images are created. The actual photo session is just a matter of putting it all together: the client will have to step up to the plate and work towards the end result as much as the photographer will now have to lay down all his/her expertise, vision and technical skills to make it happen.

I sometimes compare this as switching on a GPS navigator before a road trip. The client needs to know where he/she wants to go, the photographer (like a GPS) will give directions, waypoints and suggestions along the way. And he will take the client to the desired destination.

I understand this approach puts a lot of weight¬†on the client’s shoulder but let’s think about it. When the client committed to professional images he/she envisioned a specific look or feel for¬†those images. The client has a much clearer idea of what the final result needs to be and it is absolutely crucial to communicate that to the photographer. Remember: a GPS is totally useless until you punch in a destination!

I personally have different ways to help my¬†clients to bring out and define what they¬†want to accomplish. Not everybody is good at describing images from a technical standpoint, so I always suggest a preliminary meeting to sit down and discuss the project face to face. Usually the original spark that made the client want professional pictures is¬†a single photo or a gallery, or a painting. I encourage my clients to do a little research and put together a Pinterest board with all the images that “speak” to them. In other words, the images that convey the look and feel they want¬†to accomplish.

That’s the first step. The next¬†step is to specify what the client likes in every single picture on the board. It is very important because photographers by default have a very technical mind and they tend to drift towards gear and light setups (I’m guilty, too) when the client is maybe only looking at other details like color tone, pose and wardrobe. The more specific my clients can be about what they like in the “inspirational” pictures, the more I can understand what I need to deliver. And I can also help with the waypoints (the GPS analogy, again) to get to destination.