All posts in Business

  • Renovating the Photography Studio

    Since moving to our new house here in LA I have been not only renovating our house but have had the great pleasure of renovating the small, but useful studio on the property. The renovations to the house are massive and costly but the changes to the studio are merely cosmetic and much, much easier... thankfully!  Over the course of a couple of weeks I was able to put in a new floor, re-paint the entire studio and add some great lighting modifiers and features.  Here are some pics of the great new flooring:
    Model and Actress Ashely Nedd

    Ashley sitting on the OLD floor

    Studio Photography, Maria Breese Seth Hancock Photography Los Angeles

    Wilhelmina Model, Maria Breese posing on the NEW floor in the studio.

    One other big deal (at least to me) is that I was also able to get my old, broken down and beaten up fan fixed.  I was able to buy a Mole Richardson Wind Machine for $25.00 at Hollywood Rental's yearly sale of old equipment.  They sell C-Stands, Apple Boxes, Scrims, Lights and many other goodies.  While waiting in line to check out I asked one of the workers if they had any Wind Machines.  I was happy to learn they had one left but the blades were broken and the Wind Machine needed some love.  So, I gladly bought it for $25.00 and took it to Mole Richardson for repairs.  After waiting about a month and $1700.00 later, I had a completely new Wind Machine.  They re-painted it, cleaned off all the gunk, put on and calibrated new blades and replaced the motor.  Check it out -
    Mole Richardson Wind Machine Repair and Purchase

    Here's my newly refurbished Mole Richardson Wind Machine

    Now while you may think that's A LOT of  money to spend on a wind machine you have to understand the new ones sell for over $9500.00 and the older ones (like I have) sell for about $4000.00.  I think spending $1725.00 for a (essentially) brand new Wind Machine is pretty dope.  I am happy to have it and it makes a really nice addition to the studio and the overall renovations! 🙂  And, I added the best studio fridge I could find... and it goes up to 11!
    Marshall Amp Fridge

    The best damn studio fridge I could find. I love this!

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  • How I Got This Shot – Broadway Ballerina Stephanie Kim

    Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic Lighting I have been wanting to do a shoot with a ballerina for quite some time.  When Stephanie contacted me asking me to make some images of her I was ecstatic since I have had several ideas for a ballerina shoot floating around in my head for almost 8 months.  The main idea was to capture her in motion and then freeze her at the end of the shoot.  I have seen, hell, we all have seen too many shots of ballerinas in static poses.  Beautiful poses, of course, but static and a little cliche at this point.  The biggest issue is to find a location with fresnel lights and the space to capture her overall motion. The location for this shoot was at a place with a massive stage and stage lights.  These are constant lights, fresnels with various colored gels on them (red, blue, neutral, purple and green).  Once we arrived at the location I started scouting the stage and lights to see the overall space with which I have to work and how best to bring my vision to life for Stephanie.  When I talked with owner of the location, Steve, I was informed that all the fresnels are on a board and can be individually controlled.  After I learned this I was running up the stairs to the control room to start playing with the various combinations of colors and intensity so I can make my vision come to life.  After a little trial and error I found the right combination of lights that I wanted to use for the shoot.  They were a combination of red, blue and neutral (lights without the gels). The whole purpose of making certain I had constant lighting for this shoot is because I want to create the motion with the constant lights and then freeze her with the strobe lights at the end of her movements.  By running up and down the stairs to the control room for the fresnels I wanted to make certain I had the overall look I needed for the "moving" parts of the shot.  I knew the strobes I place at the end of her movements would freeze her motion and I wanted to keep those lights daylight balanced (no gels or coloring) to create a nice "POP" or separation from the other lights.  I am also a HUGE fan of late night infomercial barker Ron Popeil and his "Set it and Forget it" mantra.  So, by setting the lights to get what I want allows me to just focus on the ballerina, her moves, expressions, gesture, etc.  The more you can learn about "Set it and Forget it" the easier it is to make the photos you want. In case you are not aware of the infamous infomercial from Ron Popeil then you can see it below I truly believe in the "Set it and Forget it" principle especially when it comes to something like this type of shoot.  That way I can focus on getting the image we want from the shoot.  The finished shot above was the SECOND in the process.  The first shot (below and in RAW format) was used to get the feel of the shoot.  And, when I first started I only set the camera to a :02 second exposure.  I quickly learned (after one image) that I needed to be in BULB mode with my remote trigger so I can pop the flash when she finished her movement.  I say that because by only letting her move for :02 seconds limited her in her movement.  It's like trying to time, to the EXACT tenth of a second when she will finish her movement.  Rather than rely on chance, I stood back and watched her movement and then let go of the cable release as soon as she finished her movement.  In the image below you can see a little bit of trailing movement but in the image above you can see her more clearly and crisply.  That's because I fired the flash as soon as she was done with her movement.
    Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic Lighting

    This is the first, RAW, image from my shoot with Stephanie. This image relied on timing and chance rather than precise firing of the strobe. Fortunately I recognized that and quickly changed things a bit.

    Perhaps some of you are wondering why I just didn't make one image of her with the fresnels and then another image from the strobes and then combine them in Photoshop.  I could have done that and did, for the purposes of this blog, make images to demonstrate how those images look separately.  But as you will see, I believing getting the image right in camera and in one shot saves me a TON of time in post production.  Plus, why make extra steps when I can get it right in camera and have a better, more organic image.  The sequence below shows what the images look like with just fresnels, just strobes and when I made one single image from getting it right in camera. Fresnel lighting to create movement in a photograph Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic Lighting Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic LightingLastly, I wanted to provide a quick description of what gear I used, the settings and the lighting set up for the shoot.  Please feel free to ask any questions or comment on this process.  I would love to see your images like this as well. SETTINGS
    1. Nikon D3s (Manual Mode)
    2. 70-200mm 2.8 Lens (Manual Focus)
    3. Really Right Stuff Tripod and Ballhead
    4. Bulb Mode for Shutter
    5. Aperture f8.0
    6. Nikon Shutter Release Cable
    7. Had model stand in roughly the finished location of her movement and pre-focused
    8. Rear Curtain Sync
    9. Broncolor Move 1200L Pack (both lights)
    10. Broncolor 5-Foot Octabank
    11. Westcott Bruce Dorn Strip Bank
    LIGHTING/SHOOTING SET UP Stephanie-Kim-Lighting-DiagramUntil next time... SH

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  • Anatomy of a Photography Promotional Mailer

    The real marketing behind "10 Minutes with a Stranger"

    The real marketing behind "10 Minutes with a Stranger"

    As many of you are aware I spent most of my 2013 working on a personal project called "10 Minutes with a Stranger" where I drove across America meeting, photographing and interviewing 150 random strangers.  Ultimately this got turned into a book.  I know, you all know that stuff.  But, did you know this personal project wasn't turned into a book to be sold (although I did sell some of the books to the people who were clamoring for one).  It was actually created to be a promotional piece that got mailed out to 150 Photo Buyers, Photo Editors and Art Buyers/Producers with ad agencies and several magazine companies in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles. I think you can imagine just how incredibly daunting of a project this can be.  Sure, not only was the process of photographing people, selecting the 30 of the 150 people to be featured in the book, hiring a designer, printing the book and then having a company design the packaging a daunting task but now that the book is complete and the packaging is done I have 150 book and packages sitting here in the living room waiting to be assembled and shipped.  So even though I completed the road trip and photography work in August of 2013, I still had several months of work ahead of me to complete the entire project.

    This is the space I created in my apartment for the books to go into once they arrive.

    On January 8th, 2014 I received 8 boxes of books for the promotional delivery.  The following day I received the mailing packaging.  Fortunately this was one box but all 150 pieces were flat and had to be assembled.  On top of that I had 150 personal notes to write to each person receiving the book.  Yep, it's a lot of work but it's well worth the effort to help raise my work, my personal project and, well, hell.. ME... above the clutter that has become part of being a professional photographer nowadays.

    Here are 5 of the 8 boxes of books for the massive marketing project of mailing out the book

    The first thing I did was to start the part that would provide me the least amount of mental challenge and that was to assemble all packaging for mailing.  Once that was completed I worked with my team to determine who would receive this mailer.  After that, I asked my wife to pick up some mailing labels from Office Depot on her way home from work.  By the way, after that night when she brought the labels home my wife went on a business trip and was gone for about a week.  I did all of this on my own without the help of my wife or team or assistants.  This was something I wanted to do and complete on my own.

    The packaging took so much time to put together but once I got going I became a one-man assembly line.

    Once the packaging was done and the labels were printed it was time to move onto writing personal notes to each person receiving the mailer.  That took about two days to complete and organize.  Then it was time to assemble the packaging with the book, the personal note (and envelope) and sealing each package getting it ready for mailing.  That process was broken up into thirds.  I would work on 50 at a time and then take a much needed break.

    Taking a break from putting together the marketing packaging. Of course I had to watch Hardcore Pawn!

    Finally, after 4 days of working to complete this mailing all 150 pieces were complete.  So now what to do?  I tried going onto to buy and print shipping labels (yes, I had to pay for all the shipping too).  But, to my tremendous disappointment the USPS site wouldn't take credit/debit cards at that time as the system was down.  So I did the next best thing and went online to schedule a pickup.  Fortunately I was able to spread out the pick ups over two days (I know the USPS was grateful for that too).  But since there was no postage I had to walk to the post office and work with the people at the 104th Street location to get labels and pay for postage.  Needless to say the people in line behind me were SCREWED but I didn't care because this is one of the most important things I, or any photographer, could do.

    Outside my apartment on a cold, January day in NYC helping the USPS load my books for delivery.

    At the end of the week all pieces were in the care of the USPS and were mailed to 150 people.  As a follow up, I have heard from several people about the book and have garnered some pretty great press about the book.  When I was sitting by myself putting all of these together and working my tail off to get these mailed I often wondered if it's going to be worth it.  Well, I can attest that it was very much worth it and it's something we as photographers MUST do.  There is no one helping us in so many facets of this business.  It's a very solitary business but the harder we can work to separate ourselves from the insane clutter that is part of our profession then the better we will be in the long run.

    The cart is empty and the packages are now in the hands of the USPS.

    Not everyone who received a book has contacted me and I am not disappointed by that because I do know that those people now know who I am and may be keeping the book handy just in case they have something that comes up and my work may be exactly what is needed for that shoot/assignment/campaign.  Marketing is KEY to rising above the clutter. SH

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  • Photographers – You Need to Know Your Rights!

    Here's a quick post from some recent information I stumbled upon.  As I make my way between NYC and LA I am always amazed at what some police officers tell me I can or cannot shoot.  But this information from the ACLU puts most things into perspective.  NOTE: You should never break the law or interfere with real police matters when photographing anything.  However, you are able to shoot a lot more than what you think. Check out this link here from the ACLU: Download and keep a copy of this great PDF here:  

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  • Totally Rad Deal for Mother’s Day

    For a limited time you can get $50 off any product at Totally Rad for Photoshop or Lightroom.  Just use the code "MOMSDAY" and you can get a tremendous discount on any of their great Photoshop Actions, Lightroom Presets or, my favorite, RadLab. Click on the banner above to learn more, purchase or check out their products. On a personal note, I don't use a lot of extra plug-ins within Photoshop or Lightroom but have found the tools from Totally Rad to make my workflow so much more efficient.  If you can only have a couple of plug-ins in your arsenal then anything from Totally Rad will help make your life easier.  Don't take my word for it though.  Check them out and use the code MOMSDAY and save big.  Oh... you're welcome! 🙂 If you have any questions or thoughts about Totally Rad then please don't hesitate to ask me or them. SH

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  • Photography camera for sale on eBay

    A good camera is like a friend.  Someone who is always there for you, listens, does what you want (most of the time) and is a great travel companion.  I love my cameras. They have gone all over the country with me, helped me make some great images, and taught me what bad images look like.  When I'm standing in the middle of a forest waiting to get that perfect light or image the camera is, all too often, the only other thing there to talk with or interact with during those lonely hours.  Don't get me wrong, I am not an insane person (although some will debate that :D) who talks with my camera expecting a response or anthropomorphizes inanimate objects by giving them names or personalities.  But the relationship with a camera is different, I think. Knowing that, I think it's time to part with one of my dear camera friends.  My Nikon D300.  I love this camera and have learned a lot about my photography and myself from this camera.  But, I have outgrown this camera and now it just sits around not being used.  I know someone will get a great deal by buying my Nikon D300 and the accessories I am providing.  This is a great camera with very low use.  In fact Nikon rates the D300 to last 200,000 shutter fires (or actuations as they're called in photography) and this camera only has 15,630 actuations - not even 1/10th of its life.   Outside of my wife and dogs, there are only two things I love more than this camera and those are (in order) my other Nikon camera and my Jukebox.  Not much else means as much to me but I am not using it and I know someone else can get a great camera for a great price knowing it was personally cared for by me the entire time. Here's the link to the sale on eBay if you are interested or know someone who needs a great camera that is the next step above a "Point and Shoot" or a consumer DSLR.  There are loads of great add-ons too.  All in all, this would cost around $2200.00 in today's market but I am selling this for much, much less. eBay Sale Link - SH

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  • My take on PhotshopWorld – September 1-3, 2010

    On August 31, 2010 I set out from LA to Las Vegas to attend my very first Photoshop World Conference.  This is something that I have wanted to do but was leery of dropping close to $500 for the conference and then any additional monies for airfare, lodging and food.  But, thanks to my persistence and my avid following of Photoshop User TV I was able to snag a FREE pass to Photoshop World in Las Vegas.  The next thing was to book my airfare and lodging.  I was able to book my airfare (round trip) and a three night stay at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino for a whopping $334.00!  If you aren't using Expedia to book a lot of your trips then you are really missing out.  And, yes, this was the cost for airfare and hotel. So I went to Vegas with an open mind and a lot of excitement because I had been wanting to attend this convention/conference for about a year and a half.  Since the admission was free and if I was disappointed then I would only be out the airfare, hotel and food.  Now, before I go any further I need to explain that the only other convention I have attended is NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) which is also held in Vegas and has over 125,000 attendees.  However, this is the second largest convention in the US falling behind CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in terms of total people.  So my experience with conventions is on a large scale... a REALLY large scale. That said, I have compiled my list of my 10 takeaways from PSW in Las Vegas 2010.  Please keep in mind that I am viewing this from a photography perspective and NOT from that of a novice photoshop user, web developer or graphic designer.  I am sure their takeaways will greatly differ from mine. 1.   I know a lot more about Photoshop that I thought I did - Yes, I learned a new thing or two but because I have used Photoshop for nearly 10 years now, subscribed to Photoshop User TV for over fiver years and use Photoshop nearly everyday of my life there really wasn't anything I didn't already know.  If someone is new to Photoshop then this would be a tremendous resource - possibly a bit overwhelming. 2.   If you are looking for one on one time this is not the place - If your favorite photographers are Scott Kelby, Moose Peterson, Joe McNally, etc. and really want to talk with them or pick their brains then this is not the place for that.  You, just like everyone else, wants a piece of their time and they are constantly being pulled in all directions.  If you just want to shake their hands and say thanks then this is the ideal location for that.
    Scott Kelby Photoshop World

    Here is Scott Kelby taking with just one of many looking for his time.

    3.   Zack Arias is one cool dude - In a world where a lot of photographers have TREMENDOUS egos, Zack Arias is someone who is humble, down to earth and genuine.  Heck, even his assistant Dan is a cool too.  Nothing else needs to be said here,
    Zack Arias Photography

    Zach Arias is just a good guy

    4.   The Expo floor is really, really small - This is one of those situations where I am used to NAB and getting blisters on my feet from ALL the walking.  Here, I was able to traverse the entire expo floor in 20 minutes.  I actually found myself getting really bored over the three day period.  I was able to meet some people from B&H, Wacom and Elinchrom and talk with them about specific products but that was on day one.  I got bored and tired of seeing the same thing over and over and over again.  I needed something else to keep me interested.
    Dave Cross, Corey Barker, Photoshop

    Dave Cross battling Corey Barker at Photoshop Wars on the Expo Floor.

    5.   The course selection is thorough but short - There were a lot of "Tracks" at this year's conference ranging from Lightroom to Creative Suite to Photography to Design.  And, at this conference they introduced a new Social Media/Business Track.  I checked out a couple of the Social Media/Business classes and found them to be interesting.  I thought the Blogging class offered a tremendous amount of insight since it featured Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, Richard Harrington and some guy I didn't know.  But, the Blogging course was the ONLY one I found helpful because I think they are too short.  How much can you really dive into a topic in an hour.  There was a lot of elementary information but that's something they had to do to cover all basis.  I would have loved to have seen an "Advanced" track on ALL subjects including photography.
    Here is Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, Richard Harrington talking about blogging.

    Here is Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, Richard Harrington talking about blogging.

    6.   ONE is the loneliest number... - I went to this conference by myself in the hopes to learn and network.  I think networking is somewhat hard here too.  Sure, I met some people from across the country and am interacting with them on Twitter/Facebook.  But, if you know me at all, you know I am an extremely social person.  I found it easy to casually talk with people but hard to really connect.  Now they do offer a special get together called "Dinner with a Stranger" but I spoke with someone who attended and he told me that only 7 seven people attended the dinner.  Furthermore, they offer the dinner when the big party is taking place (I paid $59 to attend the party) so I felt like I had to choose one or the other.  I, obviously, chose the party and got to talk with Matt Kloskowski for a bit but I also met some great people from Wacom - but that was the party.  I really did try to meet people and had tons of casual conversations but found it difficult to interact while trying to learn during the classes as everyone is scurrying to get to their next class. 7.   There are some GREAT instructors and then there are some, well, not so great! - Yes, I said it.  Some of the instructors were great to learn from and extremely personable.  People like Larry Becker (one of the nicest people I have ever met), RC Concepcion, Jim DiVitale, Matt Kloskowski and (my favorite) John Paul Caponigro.  They all took time to answer everyone's question (not just mine and many times I didn't have a question).  I sat back and observed how they interacted with people.  I walked around listening to them talk to people while noticing their interaction.  If they acted uninterested, put off, terse or disingenuous then they INSTANTLY went into my "AVOID" list. Unfortunately there were several instructors who fall into that category.  Yes, I know they are popular and get the same question over and over.  I know they have to get to their next session but some of these people asking the questions will NEVER get that opportunity again and would just like one iota of their time.  On a positive note, I overheard RC Concepcion say that he had about 14 different things on his mind right now to properly answer this man's question but then he gave the inquisitive man his email address and said please email me your question so I can properly answer it.  WOW!  That blew me away and while I have never met or spoken with RC I have a new found respect for him because of the way he treated that person.  I wish more instructors were like RC!
    RC Concepcion

    RC working with a model at the Elinchrom booth.

    8.   JAY MAISEL, JAY MAISEL, JAY MAISEL! - Considered to be the father of color photography, the nearly 80-year old photographer shared his passion, information, expertise and insight for 2 hours.  You better believe I was there!  Seeing and TALKING (he doesn't fall into the D'BAG category at all by the way) with him was worth the airfare and lodging.  I had the chance to ask him about his influences and he was very forthcoming and engaging.  Imaging that, a legend in the field taking the time to talk with a lowly, newbie - me.  Thanks Jay. 9.   If you ever go to Photoshop World then PLEASE go to Midnight Madness - This was by far the most fun and interesting time I had.  They only provide 200 tickets and people (including myself) had to wait in line to get these.  They start passing out tickets at 7:30am and the line starts forming around 5:30am.  I was there at 5:50am and was #7 in line.  While at Midnight Madness I had a lot of fun watching people participate in "game shows" to win prizes.  These prizes are incredible and if you are one of the lucky ones chosen then you have a chance to win some really great stuff.  They even served us pizza.  The festivities started at 10:00pm and went for almost three hours.  The only disappointing part was the fact that they didn't even check to see whether or not you had a pass to get in.  That means I just could have crashed the party without anyone even knowing.  If I go again I may rethink the whole getting up at 5:30am thing and just crashing the party!10. 10.   The BEST takeaway from the entire conference is the workbook - Let's face it, we all cannot attend each and every session so the organizers pass out this MASSIVE 800+ page book with most of the class notes from the different sessions.  Now some instructors like Jay Maisel, Zack Arias and Vincent Versace didn't provide class notes and that is really disappointing but almost all of the other instructors did.  So, now I can go back and review anything I forgot or read material from other classes I thought my be interesting but couldn't attend due to conflicting course time.  To show how massive this book is just look at the picture below and compare it to a regular can of soda.  It's a lot of great information. So the big question is, "will I attend again?" and I have to say that I will probably not attend.  My reasoning for this is pretty logical I think especially when you look at the cost involved.  If I were to attend again it would cost me around $400 to buy a pass.  Then I would have to get a flight from LA to Orlando and hotel.  Right now that package is going for $600.  Now, I have to factor in food so throw in another $200 or so for food and anything else I may buy at the conference.  The grand total is $1200.00 for something I found to be OK at best.
    PhotoshopWorld Workbook

    This is the MASSIVE workbook you leave with from PSW. Who needs trees...

    I would rather do this method to learn more -  I can and still continue to watch Photoshop User TV to get my latest information, updates and tutorials on Photoshop if I need them.  That service is FREE.  I can subscribe to Kelby Training for $179.00/year and then I can join PPA, APA or a local chapter of PPLAC to network locally and learn more about photography.  My complete cost there (if I include the Kelby Training is around $500.  As you can see I can do more to advance my career as a photographer on a local level, network with my community and learn on a daily basis than I can by going to Photoshop World.  I am sure others had a different, albeit better experience and will attend again.  I DO think it is a great resource for people just starting out but I am ready to take my skills and career to the next level.  I can't say I would NEVER attend again.  If they introduced an "Advanced" Track with real, in-depth, one-on-one learning then THAT would be beneficial to my career and possibly worth the cost. I know this was long and thorough but I wanted to provide my honest take on what I experienced at my first Photoshop World.  Until next time... Seth

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  • RELEASE FORMS – Have ’em, Use ’em, Get ’em Signed!!!

    Today has been interesting to say the least.  It started off like any other beautiful day here in California.  I was checking email messages, looking at pictures and eating breakfast before getting some work done.  But before I could get busy I received an email someone questioning my ability to use of one of the images I created.  As I started getting more and more into a back-and-forth conversation, I was comforted in knowing I had a signed, legally-binding release in my possession to back up my statements.  Once that document was brought forth, the conversation ended and I was happy.
    Model Release Form

    This is a sample of a photography release form

    That's what brought me here today to talk about the importance of having and using Model Release Forms.  People will and do forget conversations they have had or what they meant when they said something.  Over time people can change what they meant to say to take something completely different than what was intended.  That is why you need a signed and documented release form from the model/client.  I don't care if the model is a scantily-clad female a six year old child or a Fortune 500 business; a release form is YOUR best friend.  A release form is explicit in its intentions and meanings and there are no blurred lines or misconceptions about who owns what and what images can and will be used commercially, on a site, in a magazine or in a portfolio. As an artist and businesses person it is important, check that - imperative, to make certain I am always thinking about my work and how it will ultimately get used.  If you are in the media industry then please have your lawyer draw up release forms.  It doesn't matter if I am walking down the street photographing people, on a TV production set or shooting a model in a studio.  Before we get started I have the person(s) sign a release form.  Once all the legal stuff is out of the way then we can focus on creating something great. Here are some great resources for getting release forms if you don't have an attorney to draw those up for you - Model, Talent and Minor Release Forms Kelby Training - This site is a paid training site but provides some great advice on all kinds of release and copyright issues. Until next time... Happy Shooting!

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