All posts in Photoshop

  • Changing White Balance for a Better Look

    About a month ago or so I was shooting a model for a personal portfolio shoot.  We went into the studio for a series of shots that I had thought about, sketched out and planned prior to the shoot.  It was a great, full day of shooting this gorgeous woman.  I had seen a recent post on The Slanted Lens about changing white balances and I thought I would try my hand at it based on memory from reading that post and seeing that video. One of the shots I had planned incorporated a nice window with sheer curtains.  However, we were shooting at around 11am and I knew the light would be very bright and overpowering when coming through the window and I wanted a darker, night time look to the image to create more of an elegant, moody scene. What to do...? I could over power the light coming in with my massive Elinchrom Rangers and try to darken up the area with a really high aperture and strong lights but then I would run the risk of blowing out my model too in order to make the scene work.  Or, I could just use the natural light coming through the window for the shot.  But neither of those sounded great to me and didn't make for an interesting image.

    The camera is on AUTO white balance here and while the image is not bad and looks nicely balanced it's just not as interesting as I would like.

    So I chose OPTION #2! Option 2 was to change the white balance on my D3s to a TUNGSTEN white balance in order to turn the white light coming through the window to blue and make it look more like a night scene than a day time scene to make a more interesting shot.  This shot shows how I took the light from day light to night without all the lights in place on the model.  If you look very carefully on the right on the image you can see my assistant, Judy, moving the curtains and getting everything ready for the shot.

    Changed the white balance from AUTIO to TUNGSTEN to get this look and start to make the image more interesting and colorful.

    VOILA!  There's the shot and look I am going for here.  Something as simple as changing the white balance can completely alter a scene like it did here.  Even though the lights are not in place and adjusted I already have a more interesting scene that can now be built with lighting, (IMPORTANT POINT) It should be noted here that in order to make this shot work I need to add a CTO to any of the lights hitting the model (Key and Rim).   If I were to use my strobes "as is" the color of her skin would be way off and she would look just as blue as the background.  In order to make this happen I placed a full CTO gel on the rim and key lights to ensure her skin tones are preserved and to create a nice separation from the scene.  I prefer to use these Rosco Color Corrections Gels but you can find large size CTO/CTB gels at most photography retailers. The lighting set up here was pretty simple and I will provide a diagram at the end of this paragraph.  All I used to get the desired effect were two lights since I had an abundance of window light coming through to camera right and creating a nice, but subtle rim light on the model's left shoulder.  More importantly, I used that light to do the heavy lifting for me by lighting the scene.  Because I had so much light coming in from the window I could concentrate all of my lighting efforts on the model.  The light modifiers used were a Calumet medium softbox (30" x 40") with a Grid placed to camera right and a Westcott Bruce Dorn Strip Bank with 2/3 of the light flagged off so that only the top 1/3 of the light would directly light the back of the model's head and shoulder on her right side set behind the model on camera left.  This was so that the strip bank acted more as a really small softbox than a strip bank for my desired effect.  The last piece was a 48"x72" Scrim Jim Large White Reflector used to fill in shadows on her right hand side. Here's the diagram

    The lighting diagram from the shoot.

    And, after a little touch up in Photoshop to eliminate a gap in the wall by the curtains and  cloning in the foliage outside to window so that it covered the entire window I pretty much had a finished image.  I did do a little retouching to the face - very little retouching needed here though.  Other than that, there was very little extra work done here because I was able to get the lighting precise and controlled after planning for this shot and visualizing the shot  well in advance.

    Here's the final image processed with the lighting set up chosen for this shot. The clients were extremely happy with this shot and, frankly, so am I. Better look all around.

    I hope this inspires you to try this trick outdoors as well as indoors so you can create a mood within the photo and not just settle for what the light is giving you.  We have the power to control most every element of light when we pick up the camera by changing color, look and feel right within the camera so that we don't have to spend too much time in Photoshop. Until next time, SH

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  • VIDEO TUTORIAL: Freezing Water/Splash Photography

    I have been asked about getting the Diet Coke/Water Splash images from several people so I decided to create a video tutorial.  This is my first video tutorial so please go easy on me.  Let me know here, on the blog, if you have any questions so everyone can learn from the questions and discussion.  Enjoy this short video tutorial - I hope it helps!   SH

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  • RAW vs. JPEG Debate – Why RAW RULES!

    People love to debate gear and processes in photography more than any other profession I have ever known or seen.  Maybe with the exception of car parts, photographers love to take pride in ridiculous debates over what camera is better with Nikon vs. Canon, what lighting equipment produces better results with conversations about Elinchrom vs. Profoto vs. Dynalite vs. Alien Bees/White Lightning/Einstein or they get even more ridiculous with conversations about Strobe versus Continuous Lighting.  The bottom line is this... WHO CARES!  All that should ever matter is that you know your equipment well enough to get the results you want and need.  I know photographers who use Canon and ones who use Nikon and can light the hell out of an image with just one Paul C Buff Einstein flash head or an entire scene with 5 or 6 Profoto strobes.  The one thing everyone has in common here is that they know their stuff.

    War, good God. What is it good for?

    I have often heard the same debate about shooting RAW vs. JPEG.  Of course there are several instances when shooting JPEG comes in really handy.  Sports photographers or photojournalists shooting in 4-9 frames per second can't worry about the buffer in their DSLR slowing them down while they are trying to get the shot.  I also can imagine that some Wedding Photographers would shoot in JPEG for the very same reasons.  So, by my deductions, it seems as if JPEG shooting is great when you really only have one chance to get something that's happening quickly and you (the photographer) may not have the chance to capture that frame again.  For those instances I can see why JPEG is necessary but as a Portrait Photographer I always shoot in RAW so I never lose the information imbedded in the image file on my CF card.  Let me show you why...

    This is the RAW, untouched image SOOC (Straight out of the Camera) opened in Camera RAW.

    I made the above image of actor, Steve Durgarn in the middle of the day on a very bright afternoon.  Now before anyone gets on me about shooting people in the middle of the day I can just say, "save your lecture."  I know all about the pitfalls and problems of a midday sun, harsh shadows, lens flares, etc.  Sometimes schedules are such that those times of day are the only times when people can get together for a shoot.  Such was the case here.  While armed with only an Elinchrom Quadra and a 39" Deep Octa I had to make this image.  I didn't have an assistant with me as I was traveling and to keep costs down to my client I knew I could use the tools I had to make this image.  While this image is fine and technically solid I am not completely satisfied with the final image and post processing in Photoshop is in order.

    As you can see, there are details just waiting to be extracted from this fence/railing here that I can easily extract from Camera RAW.

    As you can see above, there is not a tremendous amount of contrast between Steve's clothing and fence/wood behind him.  We actually had to find shelter from the sun as it was surprising ferocious that day in October.  We were standing in a wide open area and I couldn't hold my camera, a Lastolite Tri Grip as my scrim to shade the sun from his head and trying to maneuver the 39" Deep Octa at the same time.  Fortunately, I found this area on the path we were walking that provided some shade and knew we could get the photo here.

    Here you can see the light on, above and below the right ear that will need correcting in Photoshop as to not distract from the image.

    I think the image of Steve is pretty nice and balanced for the time of day and my lighting setup but something needed to be done to separate him from the background and create some contrast in the image or to make it at least a little more appealing.  There a couple of things I instantly notice I will have to remedy in Photoshop like the bright sun spot just above his right ear and the fact he wore two different socks that day and those things are somewhat easy for me to do in Photoshop.

    Didn't notice this until I opened the RAW file... UGH!

    But the real magic comes from opening up this image in Camera RAW in Photoshop knowing I have a tremendous amount of vital information I cannot get from a JPEG file.  One of the things I love about still shooting B&W film is that even after the negative is developed I still have close to 5 stops to work with either way within the image.  I like to think of working in Camera RAW the same way.  I know I have 5 stops of light to play with in post processing and I can create contrast where none seems to exist.  That's one thing I desperately needed to do here.

    Plus 5 Stops of Light allow for lots of freedom and information in processing

    Lots of light to play with here.

    Lastly, I started playing around with my settings in Camera RAW and got the image close to how I wanted the final image to look and then opened it up in Photoshop.  The first things I did were to match his socks and get rid of the bright spot on his head above his right ear.  After that it was a matter of retouching.  I needed to make his skin less red, darken the background a little more, bring out more detail in his clothing, hair and beard and remove the junk from around his feet.  Below is the final image and while I could have done some of this with a JPEG file I know I wouldn't have had as much information available to me without compromising the image quality.
    Indiana Actor Steve Durgarn

    Here is the final image once processed in Camera RAW and Photoshop.

    People can have the spirited debates over cameras, lighting and gear.  I always enjoy reading the zealousness and passion they have for their brands.  But to me there is no debate when shooting anything other than sports and photojournalism images... RAW RULES EVERY TIME! Until next time, SH

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  • Now this is how to shoot wedding announcements!

    Here's something I never thought I would create that would end up as a wedding announcement.  If you know me, you know I don't shoot weddings but have the utmost respect for those who do.  This post is about creating something, knowing your clients and being able to adapt to situations that present themselves on location.  It's also about creating a rapport with your client's and earning their trust so you can get creative and make something memorable. While on my trip to NorCal to do some shooting for a winery and a new clothing designer, I contacted an old friend and someone I have worked with before to see if she would want to work together again.  Her name is Amanda Craven and I love working with her.  Sometimes you find those models who are willing to do whatever needed and have some fun working together.  When I have worked with Amanda in the past, we have just started shooting and before we both knew it several hours had passed and we walk away with some great images.  What I also like about Amanda is that I can throw several ideas her way and she is amenable to almost anything I suggest.  In fact, here's an image I created with Amanda a couple of years ago.

    This image was created in 2010 with the wonderful Amanda Craven in my studio in Northern California.

    This image is a composite.  I shot her in a studio and then placed her onto this background image I had, changed the lighting around a bit and made an image of an otherwise pleasant, sweet person into a menacing, pouncing monster wearing shorts and a shiny white shirt.  The idea behind the shot was to put someone who looks harmless into a position of power and fear.  Amanda is a sweet, nice, honest and sincere person and I thought having her in this pose/image is a complete opposite take on her (as I know her - some people may think this is spot on.) When I revisited her on this particular trip we wanted to do something that Amanda normally doesn't shoot.  Amanda is a beautiful person who has a lot of sexy images (did I mention she has A LOT of sexy images of herself) and I wanted to make some images that show the nice, sweet and interesting Amanda I have been able to get to know.  With that in mind we created some different and thoughtful images of Amanda like this one below. And, another image of here like this one here as well. But, after a while I realized that we have taken this image/look as far as we could go and I wanted something more interesting for her.  With her fiancee´present and at this great location, I thought it would be fun to get her fiancee´, Mark Davis, into the mix.  While looking around I noticed that Mark could hide in the weeds while Amanda stood on the rocks.  BTW, I loved these rocks and wanted to incorporate them into as many shots as possible.  While they are pretty to look at they are treacherous to stand on and I applaud Amanda for posing on these rocks in heels and barefoot.  So we had the water, rocks, sky and weeds and I thought this would be a great place to make a creepy image with Mark hiding in the weeds.  Once I had the idea I started to assemble the lights and position them around to get the shot.   Here's the final image... I used three lights on this shoot.  One was placed behind Amanda (camera right), the second was placed camera left to illuminate Amanda's face and Mark's right side.  The last light had a grid on it and was placed in the weeds and pointed directly back at Mark's face, chest and hand.  The lights and modifiers used are as follows:
    • 2 Elinchrom RX/AS 1100  (Full Power)
    • 1 Elinchrom Quadra 400 (Full Power)
    • 2 Paul C. Buff PLM White Shoot Through Umbrellas
    • 1 Elinchrom 8" Reflector with 30˚Grid
    They loved this final image and are considering using it for their wedding announcements.  Again, this is why I love working with Amanda and think these will make the most entertaining and memorable wedding announcements.

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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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  • Studio City Tattoo Project (Part 2)

    As I mentioned in my previous post about this subject matter - Studio City Tattoo Project (Part 1) - I had already knocked out the individual shots of the artists and now I am left with making a photograph (well, two to be exact) of the owner of Studio City Tattoo, Clay Clement.  Clay is not only a really great guy but he is also an author of a highly received and award-winning children's book.  So going in, I knew we were going to make an image for the Studio City Tattoo website as well as a publicity photo for his PR team to use in promoting the book to magazines like People and US Weekly.  Simple right?  Well, nothing is really ever that simple.  We had 30-40 minutes of his time and he was only available to shoot at the most unflattering time of day at 11:30am.  We had our work cut out for us but fortunately I was able to be somewhat creative in the process of where we shoot and the overall look.

    Sunny days in LA don't always provide great light.

    As you can see in the above image, the sun was really bright on Ventura Boulevard at 10:30am.  We arrive around 10:15am to start setting up so that when Clay was ready at 11:30am we could get him in and out with no other delays.  I knew it would take about an hour to set up and we used every bit of that time to get things ready.  For this shoot (See Images Below), I knew battling the sun would be our biggest problem so I brought out three lights, a 10" high performance reflector, a beauty dish and an 86" parabolic umbrella.  I needed as much power and reflectivity to overpower the hot, bright sun.   I needed to work with two Elinchrom Ranger packs and one Elinchrom Quadra pack for this Portrait/Lifestyle photography session.  The other essential element in this shoot was to make certain I would be able to get the settings I needed.  I wanted to get f8 - f11 and a shutter speed of 1/250.  For that the lights were still not enough so I needed to bring my Variable 2-8 stop ND Filter.  That way, I can specifically dial in the exact setting for the shots and the changing sunlight.  While most days in LA are sunny with no clouds, this particular day posed some changing elements because of the changing light with some small, wispy clouds overhead.  The changing light meant that my Variable ND filter would be the best tool in my arsenal for this shoot. HERE IS THE LIGHTING SET UP 
    Look at all the details going into this shoot under the noon day sun.

    Look at all the details going into this shoot under the noon day sun.

    More details to deal with the only time of day I could photograph Clay Clement of Studio City Tattoo

    More details to deal with the only time of day I could photograph Clay Clement of Studio City Tattoo

    Taking off the diffuser realizing I needed more light

    Taking off the diffuser realizing I needed more light

    Lighting the van proved to be the hardest element to the day considering the brightness of the sun and time of day we had to work with Clay.

    Lighting the van proved to be the hardest element to the day considering the brightness of the sun and time of day we had to work with Clay.

    Lighting Set Up - Specifics The Tree - We started with the shot of Clay as the owner of the Tattoo shop.  There is this great prop of a decayed, burned skeleton in a rusty cage.  This is a perfect prop of the "Pirate" themed tattoo shop.  In lighting this set up I wanted to make sure each element had it's own light since it was so bright outside.  There was a perfect parking space in front of the shop where I had Clay park his van.  Just to camera left is a nice tree that added some green and color to the shot.  So, it needed it's own light.  I put the Quadra here with the 10" High Performance Reflector at full power.  I didn't want to blow out the tree but just to add some color to the shot.  Adding a "kiss" of light to the tree was something I wanted to do since we would see other trees in the distance/background and it would help to brighten the image since a lot of the other elements are dark (the van, Clay's clothing and the black, burned out skeleton). The Van - Since the van is the largest element in the photo shoot I needed something big and bright to bring out the details on the van without giving me a tremendous amount of reflective highlights.  So I went with a Paul C. Buff 86" Parabolic Umbrella with the silver interior.  I positioned the light about 6 feet away from the van and raised it as high as my C-Stand and boom arm would go.  And, last, I angled the light down to a 45 degree angle so I could get as much coverage of the van and ground area around it.  Here I used an Elinchrom Ranger pack at full (1100 w/s) power. The Subject - Setting up the light for Clay was probably the easiest of the set ups.  I used a 27" Elinchrom BD with no diffusion sock and a silver deflector as to match the specular highlights with the BD to all the other modifiers used.  Also, Clay was being side lit by the sun as it was moving East to West.  The light on Clay was specifically placed to light his face.  I wasn't worried about lighting his legs because I knew the spill from the Parabolic Umbrella and ambient light would do enough.  The purpose here is to light his face and make a portrait with this photography session.  I also used a Ranger pack but only needed to use it at a little more than half power.  Below is the final image chosen from the shoot.  I did do a little work in Photoshop to darken the sky and make it look more ominous.  I also used a couple of plug-ins from Nik Software and Totally Rad to give the image it's final look.

    Final Lifestyle/Portrait Photograph of Clay Clement

    PUBLICITY PHOTO For this image, I already had the lighting in place.  So we changed out the skeleton for Clay's "Pirate Santa" children's book.  I then had to just make some minor adjustments in camera to make this image more bright, warm and friendly.  I adjusted my shutter to allow a little more light into the image.  Once again, I finished the image with a couple of plug-ins from Nik Software and Totally Rad.  Once finished, I received approval from Clay and his team and sent the publicity photo off to them for their use.  I know these are going out to People and US Weekly magazines but I just don't know their timetable.  Believe me, when it happens I will let you know.

    The final publicity photo for Clay Clement and his book "Pirate Santa."


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  • Studio City Tattoo Project (Part 1)

    Early in March of 2012 I landed a gig shooting the great artists, piercers and owner of the famed Studio City Tattoo (SCT) in, of all places, Studio City, CA.  I am a little biased here because all 4 of my tattoos were done at this shop but I am not biased in calling them the "famed" location because when you look at the best tattoo shops in LA then you will see Studio City Tattoo is constantly one of the top three tattoo shops in all of Los Angeles.  And, if you know anything about LA, being one of the top three in all of LA is a pretty big deal considering the insane amount of tattoo shops in the city.

    Seth Hancock Photography Studio City Tattoo Los Angeles

    The famous Studio City Tattoo


    The assignment: Create images of the artists, piercers and owner that will be used on the web site, media, advertisements and publicity photos.  I say publicity photos because the owner, Clay Clement, just published a great children's book this last November called "Pirate Santa" and he is going to use my photos for publicity and promotion for his book.  As a side note, Clay is getting a tremendous amount of critical success from his book and has already won several awards including the prestigious "Mom's Choice Award" for children's books.  Also, he is in talks with a couple of media and animation companies to have this made into a Christmas special.  One company is owned by a pretty big celebrity who has taken a huge interest in Clay's book.  Also, I learned that the images I am taking of Clay will be used for magazines like People, US Weekly, etc.  So... I can't suck at these photos.

    Here's a test image of Mike Irwin. It was shooting here that I realized I needed to cut out all light and just use my lights

    I was looking at another angle and testing the light and just didn't love all the background light and clutter.

     The biggest challenge in shooting something like this is the timing of the artists since most tattoo artists don't work 9-5 and some work mornings, some work evenings and some only work weekends.  So coordinating schedules was my first obstacle.  My second obstacle was the actual size of the tattoo shop.  SCT is a really small tattoo shop - and when I say really small I am not exaggerating by any means.  When you walk into the shop you walk up a small ramp with a hand rail and then have to turn right.  Directly in front of you are four tattoo chairs, a piercers chair and the appointment desk.  From front door to the piercers chair (the farthest chair in the shop) is a whopping 14 steps.  Space is limited!  However there is a nice little space on the other side of the ramp walkway leading into SCT.  Here there is an aquarium and then the restroom.  The area from the desk to the restroom and end of shop (heading back toward street) is about 6 steps.  So this area is what I used for the shots of the artists and piercers.

    Shooting layout for the project - Click to view larger

    As you can see above, there was not a lot of room, a nice bit of clutter and colors that were not the most interesting for a portrait.  I therefore decided to completely darken the space through the camera by dialing in 1/250 shutter speed and a small aperture so I could completely darken the space.  And, since the area is really tight I couldn't bring in my Elinchrom Ranger Lights so I decided to go with two lights: a Nikon SB-900 shot through a Lastolite Tri-Grip and a Ring Flash.  These two lights were able to get me the images below.  I did a little tweaking in Photoshop but not a tremendous amount.  I just wanted to do enough to get rid of any other distracting pieces and parts around my subjects.  All in all, there were 6 Tattoo Artists, 3 Piercers, 1 Owner and Exterior Images.  Here are just some of the images from the shoot and big thanks for Gary Quart for assisting me in the process.

    Images from the two light setup Studio City Tattoo Jose Studio City Tattoo Captain Dave Studio City Tattoo Ilya Studio City Tattoo Steven Studio City Tattoo Will Only using the Ring Flash while the artists worked
    Captain Dave Tattooing

    Captain Dave Tattooing

    Ilya Tattooing

    Ilya Tattooing

    Will Tattooing

    Will Tattooing

    On the next blog I will focus on shooting Clay, the owner, and the different challenges that I faced in shooting him outside at Noon in Los Angeles on a busy Ventura Boulevard.  I only had about 30 minutes of his time so I needed to nail the shot.  I think the images look great and you can check out PART 2 of this project here - Studio City Tattoo Project (Part 2).


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  • Ever wonder why she looks so good?

    I just found this and had to share.  This is why all models look so good and why you will never look as good as them.  The age-defying secret is now available to the public for the low, low price of $700.00.   You too can achieve the look you always wanted without worrying about what you eat, sun damage or hereditary flaws.  Yes, it's just this easy! 🙂 Adobe Photoshop Parady

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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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