Category Archives: Advice

Sloppy borders

I see them on Instagram, on Flikr, and on Facebook.

You’re not fooling me. I know, because I’ve used sloppy borders since 1989.  Real ones, not overlays generated by an artist who maybe has never been in a wet darkroom in their life.

REAL sloppy borders are achieved in the darkroom using roughened and oversized negative carriers.  Each negative creates a unique border as it reflects the image along the highly reflective surfaces of the mangled aluminum negative carrier, this reflection appears in the print.

Filed out Beseler negative carriers. (Not actually mine, mine are in a box somewhere.. but you get the point.)

Filed out Beseler negative carriers. (Not actually mine, mine are in a box somewhere.. but you get the point.)

I first started printing B&W with these borders soon after my arrival in Los Angeles in 1989, upon moving into a cool loft near downtown. A neighboring kid, a photographer, was moving over seas and had an old Beseler enlarger he was selling, so I bought it and a bunch of other stuff.

He had filed out one of the 35mm negative carriers, and these were the older ones with bright aluminum tops, not the newer solid black carriers. These created a unique border. A huge border, but this didn’t work for all the images I was printing.

Since there were 3 35mm carriers, I grabbed one and went to work on it with a file. I made one with a smaller gap, but really rough.

Wow.  It printed beautiful borders.

Mirror Mirror, beautiful REAL sloppy borders. Click to enlarge (electronically, tho)

Mirror Mirror, beautiful REAL sloppy borders. Click to enlarge (electronically, tho)

So I went on a spree of printing all my 35mm in full frame centered on the printing paper.

Then in the mid-90s, back in Austin, I started scanning slides and along came a plug-in for Photoshop called PhotoFrame. This also allowed me to customize the frames and I scanned a large print, cut out the photo to leave the sloppy borders. I then took to placing these around color slides or negatives I’d print.

Now, with apps, you can try to fool people into thinking you shot with film, processed the film and scanned from a real print.

But I still have that border file. I’ve located it and will start using it. It creates a border frame unlike anything provided by Instagram or XnRetro.

Marissa in the old studio. Notice the way her legs are reflected in the border? Doesn't happen in Apps, people...  (click to kinda enlarge)

Another REAL print with sloppy borders.. Marissa in the old studio. Notice the way her legs are reflected in the border? … (click to kinda enlarge)

Go hit my gallery and look at the older Glamor stuff. 90% of the B&W images were scanned from an actual B&W print. Sloppy borders being the real deal there, folks.

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True HDR explained and examples

I thought I’d spend the 2nd day of 2015 talking about “True HDR” versus “HDR effects”.

One is actually HDR, the other isn’t.

A bit of background. HDR is unique to digital photography, because back in the olden days (Pre-Bush Jr) most photography was done via a chemical process. Exposing film in a camera caused a reaction with light sensitive silver nitrate compounds, which were then dunked in various chemical baths to be “developed”. It was during this time/temperature process that the real magic of photography occurred. You never got to see the results until after this process, and I can vividly recall my palpitating heart the first time I opened a processing tank to view my first ever developed roll of Tri-X. Almost beat out by my first ever solo landing in a Cessna… Almost.

Film had a small range of contrast it could handle before it either made shadows go completely black or the highlights went complete white. This range depended on the film you were using. Slide film has the lowest (narrowest) contrast range; certain negative films the widest range.

With black and white negative film one could adjust exposure and then development to compress the image, also called “Zone System”. The Zone System is best remembered as “expose for shadows, process for highlights”

This was best used by photographers utilizing large format cameras, where a single frame could be processed differently from the other frames.

With digital, there is really no processing. So HDR was developed as a way to compensate for the limited exposure range of digital sensors. This is accomplished by making several exposures of a scene, bracketing each exposure to get images with good shadow detail then images with good highlight detail.

Using Photoshop or another piece of software, you then could stack the images and merge them into one single image with shadow and highlight detail. There are various effects that happen, and a good HDR image is almost like what the human eye can see.

Everything else is artistic intent.

HDR effects are simply taking a single, evenly exposed image and getting the HDR look by compressing highlights and shadows and causing edge effects. It’s not really, truly HDR. It’s just an effect.

That effect certainly can’t bring out details in shadows in a scene with extreme range.

Let’s take an extreme example. I uploaded to my gallery a scene of a piece of gnarled tree trunk with the sun backlighting the wood and pine needles. This one I did a 7-EV bracket to allow of the extreme brightness of the direct sun peeking through the pine needles.

Here’s a collage of the 7 exposure range I used….

All 7 exposures. (Click to Loupeify)

All 7 exposures. (Click to Loupeify)

Looking at the contact sheet, you can see where my trusty Nikon thought the proper exposure should be, exposure #4.  Wow…  It’s losing the shadows badly…  and the better single exposure is #5, or plus 1 EV.

And that’s where True HDR comes in.

Using only photoshop, I did a Merge to HDR pro, and played with the settings to achieve a very nice HDR of the scene.

Vola!  Click to gigantisize

Vola! Click to gigantisize

Next post I’ll examine several of the Android apps for HDR photography….

Also posted in How-To, lessons, Photo Lessons, photography Tagged , , , , |

Gratitude matters…

Jeffrey Froh, a professor of psychology at Hofstra University, did a study in which he asked a group of middle-schoolers to keep “gratitude journals” for two weeks. The kids wrote down a few things they were grateful for every day. A second group of kids wrote down the day’s petty annoyances, and a third group did neither. The students who were made to think about what they had to be grateful for experienced a surge in optimism and a decrease in negative feelings.

via How to Teach Your Kids to Be Grateful, by Marjorie Ingall – Tablet Magazine.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

But.. if today is the only day you “give thanks”, better start rethinking things…

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Model Portfolios – What is needed….

Call me old fashioned.. Call me picky, or even call me a stickler about “the process” but I like to view a model’s portfolio. Why?

Dozens of reasons.

The first and foremost reason is that a serious model, one who is set on being an actual working model, will have an actual, real world, printed and put into a binder portfolio.

I also do not bring a laptop to a model meeting and it’s hard to judge a picture on the screen of even the largest of iPhones. A badly adjusted screen will make even the best photograph look like a snap shot.

It’s simply not that hard. When working with a photographer, get a CD of the best shots and go get them printed professionally.

By professionally, I mean choose a size bigger that 5×7, and make sure each print is as good as possible.

8×10 works best. Places like AdoramaPix have great prices on prints. Make sure each print is a WOW shot. Second best and maybes should not be in a portfolio. Ever. Never. Just don’t. Make a great impression and leave your personal favs out. Consult with the photographer or an agent. Not your friends. Unless those friends are agents or photographers.

Then put these in a binder. Make sure it’s a real photo binder, not some 3-ring loose-leaf binder found at MallWart. Places like Micheal’s and Hobby Lobby have decent portfolios.

Personally, I’ve taken to printing my portfolios as actual magazines, using HP’s MagCloud site. Makes a nice presentation PLUS you can leave it with a possible client and not have to worry about it’s return.

I can help a model print up a portfolio this way. It’s cheap. Contact me and let’s talk.

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Model Search in Progress

You might have noticed it on the home page, the menu item “Models”… here is where I lay it all out for potential models who want to work with me in any project I have up my sleeve.

I’ve changed my business model a bit. I’ve decided it’s not ethical for me to try and charge models for test shoots or portfolio shoots. I’ll be photographing models for their portfolios ONLY if its someone I wish to photograph.

I’m also deciding to include some of my milder nudes into my online portfolio as soon as I can lock it against minors viewing it…

Anyway, back to the search I’m running….

During such searches, I always have to deal with the GWCs* who love to wade into the modeling waters and take a nice, long dump upstream form where the rest of us have to drink.

(* GCW= Guy With Camera. Not a true professional photographer. Closest to being a professional photographer they’ve gotten us buying a camera that didn’t already have film loaded into it… )

I’ve fielded a few possible replies already – but there was one which tipped me off there are several GCWs trolling the free ad sites right now. Several ads are tipping me off. It’s the ad which doesn’t come right out and say they’re looking for girls to get nude (naked) but it’s their intention. They often run scam ads to attract models hoping to “con” them into posing nude, usually without stating he’s wanting nude models. Watch for terms like “comfortable in own skin” as a tip-off. These guys only serve to scare off what may otherwise be a decent model…

One could, I supposed, list with the BBB but they really do not police photographers except those who do weddings & portraits.

I’d use a site like One Model Place except I feel they charge a bit too much for the responses I typically get. There I usually get models contacting me but they wish for me to pay for the privilege of photographing them.

I only pay models when I have a paying gig myself. I only use models I’ve shot with before, and I shoot only Trade For Prints with models now. If I need some models sight unseen, I’ll call an agency.

So, if you are a model reading this… what can I say except I have 30+ years as a working pro. I’ve dealt with editors and art directors and had my work actually published in magazines. I’m also a writer with lots of published work. Also, having to go through editors and end clients.

“Publishing” isn’t worth spit if it’s just your own website. Get a set of images past an art director & editor.. THEN you are published.

If you are a model reading this, PLEASE do not contact me for only paying gigs, I will not use you unless we’ve shot before on a TFCD(*P*) basis.

Yes, we have to make a living, but I’m in business and I have to make a profit and I simply will not shoot a model and pay her unless we’ve shot before.


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