Anatomy Of A Winning Ad – “So God Made A Farmer…”

These words summarized what was arguably the best commercial of the 47th Super Bowl between the Ravens and 49ers. I was not surprised that this Dodge Ram Truck commercial rose to the top of the pack, since I have been a long-time fan of the man whose touching words graced the 2 minute ad – Paul Harvey. The most intriguing aspect of this ad was that it was as low-tech as it gets. No fancy computer graphics. No matinee idols. No pop culture icons. No questionable language. No massive creative ad budget. It was merely the legendary voice of Paul Harvey, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 90, reciting a 35 year old text… and a series of touching photographs. Let’s take a look at the elements of this great ad and understand why it proved to be so appealing to so many – even lifelong inhabitants of big cities whose only experience with farms has been watching them on TV.

Photo From Dodge Ram Commercial
Image Credit – Chrysler Dodge

The Power To Move People – The Messenger

Based on my recent article regarding Looklet’s LookCreator software replacing photographers and models in the clothing catalog arena, some of you may have thought that I was ceding the world of photography to high end computer graphics. Nothing could be further from the truth. I still believe that a photograph can have profound impacts and change people’s minds and hearts, and in some cases, their wallets as well.

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Ryan Brenizer Talks About His Panorama Method

A while ago, I posted an article explaining the Brenizer method panorama. Ryan Brenizer is a NYC based wedding photographer and the “father” of Bokeh Panorama, or Brenizer panorama, technique, which allows one to achieve an otherwise impossibly shallow depth of field at a given angle of view. While I did my best to explain how it all works, it’s often better to see how one does it once than read about it ten times. And who to better do it that Ryan himself?

So here are a couple more tips for those of you interested in learning this technique, followed by Ryan’s much more understandable and professional explanation.

Brenizer method panorama

1) Remember Composition and Light

While Brenizer method panorama can help even the most simple and dull photograph look amazing, any eagle-eyed photographer will be able to tell you’re just trying to fool people by using simple aesthetics, such as bokeh, which has nothing to do with your skills as a photographer, only the lens you’re using. Light, Subject and Composition are the main aspects of an image, even when it’s 9463-ish pixels wide and has the most beautiful background blur you’ve ever seen. Work on it – find the best light, the best pose or lack of one, and work on your composition skills – Brenizer method is there to improve your photography and give you more creative choice, but that’s all it can do. The rest is, once again, up to the living, breathing creature holding the camera with a lens set wide open.
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Advanced Photography Technique: Brenizer Method Panorama

A while ago, I posted an article asking for your feedback. We were all very thrilled to see so many of you comment (even though I didn’t get to answer all of the comments, we already have a list of things we will be working very hard on during the coming months). One suggestion, made by Marcin (thank you!), was of particular interest to me. “What inspires us?”, he asked. Let me rephrase that – who inspires us?

Learning something new is vital for any aspiring photographer, not to mention how interesting it can often be. But then there is a question – whom to learn from? There are a lot of photography forums and blogs around, both with good and not-so-good content, and it can take quite some time for one to differentiate them accordingly. Luckily, just when I was starting my wedding photography business about two years ago, I came across Ryan Brenizer’s blog, and from him I learned one of the best techniques I’ve seen around – the Brenizer method panorama.

Panoramas have been around since film days, and there were actually cameras specifically designed to take such images by using a longer portion of film than conventional 35mm or medium format cameras. Today, most point-and-shoot cameras, as well as some mirrorless and DSLR cameras, are capable of taking panorama images automatically, and, frankly, the result can often be spectacular. So what is so special about this so-called Brenizer method panorama? Well, take a look at the following image.

Brenizer Method Panorama

I took this photograph using my Nikon D700 camera and a 20mm lens set at f/0.5, and gave the full 80 megapixel image to my clients in case they wanted to print large, for those of you curious enough to ask. It was a very fine day and an amazing wedding. No one truly cared about the oncoming rain, least of all the gorgeous bride with her makeup and hairdo. As I was…

Hold on. A 20mm f/0.5 lens? This can’t be right… Can it?

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Nikon 50mm f/1.8G vs f/1.4G

Ever since I published my Nikon 50mm f/1.8G review, where I showed that the lens outperforms pretty much any other Nikon 50mm lens, including the more expensive Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, I have been getting a lot of questions from our readers. Some wonder if perhaps I made errors in my assessment of the lens – it seems hard to believe that a cheaper lens would outperform its bigger brother. Others wonder if the 50mm f/1.8G truly is that good, why Lola and I continue to use the 50mm f/1.4G lens for our work (it is also listed in the outdated “Our Gear” page).

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G

After many years of dedicated service, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G finally went kaput on us (it has all kinds of focus issues, probably as a result of field abuse, so it is on its way to Nikon for repair). I had no intention of selling the older 50mm f/1.4G, because it shows a lot of wear and tear and I knew I wouldn’t get much for it anyway. Since Lola cannot live without her favorite 50mm lens, as soon as this one died, I knew that I would be getting the 50mm f/1.8G version.

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Why Film?

Let me start by saying that I’m a digital camera junkie. I love technology. I love everything about working with digital images… the number of images that can fit on a tiny memory card, the sharpness and amount of detail that can be captured with good bodies and lenses, the instant gratification that comes from looking at an LCD screen and the amount of flexibility available while editing. Why, then, would I ever want to shoot film instead of digital?

First off, this is not a film vs. digital debate. Some people like shooting film, others prefer digital. Each has its own unique benefits. Each also has a downside. I’m not trying to defend either medium of photography. I think everyone should shoot with whatever makes them happy. Instead, I want to tell you why I started shooting film last year and why I’m still shooting it today.

About a year ago I was browsing the stalls of an antique shop and came across a Yashica-D twin lens reflex (TLR) camera. For some reason I felt compelled to buy it and shoot a few rolls of film. Having never used a TLR before, the first time I opened the lens shade and looked inside I was mesmerized by what I saw. I became infatuated with peering down through the ground glass viewfinder at the reversed image of what was in front of me. While I metered for my exposure and slowly focused and composed each shot, I found myself really paying attention to my composition and waiting for the perfect moment to trip the shutter. After all, I only have 12 shots per roll of 120 film. Each shot has to count!

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Are you ready to be “Packed”?

A friend of mine sent me a video from the WSJ called “Don’t Forget to Pack a Photographer” (link to the video, link to the article). Seems like there is a new trend in higher-end markets, where people are hiring professional photographers to photograph their vacations. It is certainly an interesting concept that could create potentially good business for us photographers (if priced right and done right).

Pack a Photographer (Photo by Helene Havard)

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Maximizing Dynamic Range

The more time I spend in my photography pursuits, the more I appreciate cameras that capture and photos that exploit their maximum dynamic range potential. Digital cameras have undergone dramatic improvements over the last 12+ years, but they still don’t come close to the human eye’s dynamic range capabilities. By some estimates, the human eye can distinguish up to 24 f-stops of dynamic range. Higher end DSLRs such as the Nikon D800 by comparison, can capture up to a theoretical max of 14.4 f-stops of dynamic range. The usable dynamic range of most DSLRs, however, is closer to 5-9 f-stops, considering the impact of noise, which can render some of the DSLRs’ f-stop range impractical to exploit. Thus your eyes – at least for now – are still far more capable than the best DSLR relative to recognizing various tonal gradations. As I will demonstrate via my new model, “Doris” (shown below) of the Pittsburgh Zoo, even photos taken with high quality DSLRs sometimes need a bit of extra processing to match what your eyes can see. The photo below is the result of a processing technique I often employ to boost dynamic range when it is apparent that my camera’s sensor failed to capture what I remember seeing.

1) Good Dynamic Range Starts With A Good Camera

The first step in maximizing dynamic range is to have a camera that scores high in this category. DXO Mark can provide a good understanding of how DSLRs stack up against each other in this regard. The results from the D800 dynamic range testing have been amazing, clearly showing that it has the capacity to pull significant shadow detail while still keeping noise levels relatively low. If and when I actually get my hands on a D800, I will be able to determine this for myself! For this tutorial, I used my trusty Nikon D7000, which despite its modest price, has a very good dynamic range score.

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Are You Afraid to Ask?

We rarely get to see extraordinary people in our everyday lives. Have you had one of those moments when you saw a stranger that you really wanted to take a picture of? I am sure you have. So what did you do? Did you just photograph the person from afar without them knowing, try to talk that person into being your 30 second model or perhaps you might have tried to sneak up and take a picture? Or even worse, maybe you did not take a picture at all? I guess it has to do with our personality. If you are of shy type with a low confidence level (often a photography rookie), you might be even afraid to ask. That dreaded “No” can be quite discouraging to say the least and many of us don’t even bother to ask for that very reason.

I once asked a big tattooed guy to take his picture, because he had a very colorful outfit that looked very interesting with his tattoos. With plenty of anger on his face, his response was that he would break my camera if I even tried. Oh well, not everyone is approachable for sure! It certainly sounded very discouraging, but did it make me give up on asking? Of course not. I have asked many people since then. And I have photographed many of them, some of which later became my clients.

While doing a short photo walk with the Canon 5D Mark III in Disney Downtown, I came across an Italian guy, who danced away to tunes played by local artists. His dancing was not very good (meaning, he is not a professional dancer or anything), but the way he was dressed and he moved attracted a lot of people:

Street Dancer (1)

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The Greatest Post-Processing Tool

I often get asked if there is a certain way of achieving a particular look in a photo. How to make colors and people “pop”? How to properly color correct? How to make the skin blemish free? While there are lots of different ways to post-process photos using tools like Lightroom and Photoshop, the most powerful tool in any visual artist’s arsenal is typically forgotten – your eyes!

Wall

We perceive the world around us by looking and observing things, people, lines, etc. Ever wondered why diagonal lines, curves and specific object placement are pleasing to most people, even to those who are not involved in art? That’s because every brain comes pre-equipped with some tools that help us visualize what looks good and what doesn’t. These visual tools are already there, but they might not be fully “activated” by you. How would you do that? With lots of training, learning, patience and interest in your craft, it is just a matter of time. There is no shortcut, no magic bullet.

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Selective Color Correction in Lightroom and Photoshop

In my previous Lightroom Dodging and Burning Tutorial I chose a photograph that had multiple issues. I addressed most of them in that tutorial but specifically left out one major issue (which was quickly discovered by one of our readers) to be a subject for fixing selective color in Lightroom and Photoshop. If you take another close look at the photograph I chose in that tutorial, the face of the model is visibly brighter than the color of the rest of her body. While in many cases our facial color tends to differ from the rest of our body, it can look rather awkward in photographs. Especially in this particular photograph, it is obvious that the foundation on model’s face did not match to rest of her skin color.

If you have photographs like these, there are multiple ways of fixing them and these two methods could be used for a variety of other things. So, follow along to find out how I deal with such issues. First, I will show you how to do it in Lightroom, then I will also do the same in Photoshop.

1) Selective Color Correction in Lightroom

Thanks to Lightroom 4′s selective white balance correction, fixing colors in a certain area is a very easy and straightforward process. Start out by using the Adjustment Brush and painting the affected area. In this case, I carefully brushed the model’s face without touching her eyes and mouth. A quick tip: if you accidentally over-brush, do not forget that you can simply press and hold the “Alt” key, and the “+” sign in the adjustment brush will turn to a “-” sign, which indicates that you can erase the over-brushed area. Keep holding the “Alt” key and carefully un-brush the area that you do not want to touch. Here is my selection:

Lightroom - Adjustment Brush

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