Monday, January 29, 2007

Post shoot notes: Stacy

I just finished shooting with Stacy - very nice shoot. I'm not sure when I'm going to be able to edit them - might be a week or so. As always "edit" mostly means finding the good shots - this picture has had nothing done to it other than resizing it. It might not even be a keeper - I just scrolled down the list of shots to make sure they copied OK and grabbed one that looked fun from the thumbnail.

About the editing - sometimes people talk about how nice my Photoshop/post production skills are and they're usually pointing at some file with nothing done to it. As you might imagine I derive some amusement from this.

You'll notice she's wearing glasses if you look carefully. We left her glasses on for part of the shoot - I haven't done that for a while. It's fun sometimes.

Not a lot of news otherwise - had some great portrait shoots. Got a big batch of ziatype chemicals in so I can go nuts with that. I made some very cool traditional platinum prints the other day but haven't had a chance to photograph them yet.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Book Cover

I mentioned a few months ago that I had another book cover. Well, it's finally come out (this stuff always takes longer than you think it does). They're just about to start book tour stuff, but it's already up on Amazon. That's Sarah on the cover. You can see the original here. I checked and it's also on the Barnes and Noble website but you can't order it yet.

I haven't read the book - haven't received my copies yet - but I read a synopsis and it looked pretty interesting.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

New Model: Cathy

Well, I finished editing Cathy's pictures. As you look through the sequence basically the different styles are a combination of shots she wanted for things and some lighting tests I wanted to make and some shots I wanted for various purposes. I don't do a ton of trade shoots, especially with clothed models, but this is an example where it made sense for both of us.

I did end up making a little headshot page. It's partially just a stub - I'm fishing for any interest - but I'll shoot a commercial-style headshot of the next few models to come through to beef up the page. I've found it's best to get something up fast even if it's not perfect if only to give the search engines something to start working on. Plus once it's up you have to maintain it!

Sometimes to start a sideline you don't necessarily have to do a lot of advertising or make sure everything is gold plated. You just have to say "Oh, and I can do this too" and people become willing to contact you that might not have otherwise. And if they don't, well, you can decide if it's worth putting in the effort to take it to the next step or if you would rather spend that time on an existing aspect of the business or branching out in another direction.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cathy Shoot Notes

I just finished up a shoot with Cathy. It was kind of an odd shoot for me - she's a local model that I approached for a nude shoot. Well, she's not comfortable doing nudes, but she did need a specific set of shots for a contest. She lives very close to me as it turns out, and I wanted to try some different lighting with some clothing, and I wanted to take another commerical-style headshot with somebody for a new page on my portrait site, so I did a rare clothed shoot.

The contest? There's an annual Hooters calendar. You have to work there to apply and it's very competitive - 4,000 waitresses apply each year. You need a fairly specific set of shots including headshots. You can send in snapshots but obviously if something is nicely lit that can't hurt. There's probably a little niche market shooting this kind of stuff every year, but I don't think they would typically be able to pay a lot. I have to figure out if there's some way to make it work for all concerned. I love the idea of having them all carpool over and shooting a half dozen in one big session. Heck, you could charge admission for that. ;-)

Monday, January 22, 2007

New Model: Tristen

Whew! I got the Tristen shots up.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Post shoot notes

I had a nice shoot last week with Tristen - I'll get some pictures of her up shortly with any luck. I also had a special portrait shoot with a four month old... who I had sort of shot before... six months ago. It's not really what I do but the mom's great so why not?

Next week I have a model shoot and a portrait shoot and some printmaking - I owe a few people ziatypes for various reasons and it's backed up a bit because I wanted to do them with the new printer. The good news is that I did some preliminary prints and they look terrific - the new printer makes a great negative and I can proceed with the real prints. The bad news is that all means I'm not sure when I'll get Tristen's shoot edited. Ah, well, better to be busy than not.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Assorted Musings

I thought some time ago that I was running out of copies of my first book, and then found some more, whoops. But at this point I'm actually about to run out of both books, although you'll still be able to get them direct from the printer. If you want a signed copy, however, I'd check out the books page to see what your options are.

This does bring up the issue of if it's time to bring out a third book, since I probably have enough new material to come out with something similar. Lulu is still apparently the highest quality print on demand publisher and I'm happy with them so that's an option. It would be roughly the same length and would cover work done after Simplicity came out.

But it's also apparently possible to get the Chinese to whip up a hundred copies of a book with great results. If I do that it will be a numbered limited edition, and probably covering 2004-2006.

No need to decide now, but if I learn of any interesting options I'll post them.

The other news is that I've made test charts for cyanotype and ziatype off of a negative from the new printer and they look nifty. I should be able to get calibration curves and print negatives tomorrow, let those dry overnight, and then make prints with one or both processes on Friday. Then if that all goes well I'll make test charts with vandyke, platinum vandyke, toned ziatype, traditonal platinum... I think that's everything I'm set up to do... make some negatives for each one, test all of those... and I also have some fun stuff on my plate, like I have some gold chloride to add to a ziatype. (Ziatype is capable of making a platinum-palladium-gold print oddly enough).

Anyway, point being this business of getting a new printer is really painful in the sense that you can spend weeks recalibrating everything if you know how to do a bunch of processes. But once you have a good calibration curve, you can take an image, print a negative customized for that process, and have it come out great.

Monday, January 15, 2007

New Printer

This is my best time of year for print sales, so I try to invest in infrastructure now when it's not so painful. (During the summer "starving artist" can get a bit too literal!) I picked up an Epson Stylus R2400 Photo Printer which is a really nice inkjet printer. It can do pretty big prints (13x19), can take rolls, and has a really high end set of inks. The archival qualities are pretty decent as long as you use matched products and do some research so you know what you're doing. By "pretty decent" I mean better than even real color photographic paper, but not as good as various traditional methods (cyanotype and platinum prints notably). The trick as an art collector is that you really have to trust your photographer both to have done the research and to have bought the right (expensive) stuff. I wouldn't buy an inkjet print off of eBay unless I really knew a lot about the photographer... or didn't mind if my print faded in a year. You can get wildly different lifetimes out of different inks/papers and it's not necessarily obvious without testing by a 3rd party lab which is the way to go.

I actually got it to make negatives, not prints, but of course I had to try it out. I printed a couple of prints, and sure enough, the quality is very good. It's better than a lot of photo labs I've seen but not as good as a pro lab. Then again I'm using Epson's ICC profiles and not hand calibrating which might make some small difference. (If you're not a color geek, just ignore that last line!) But this is the first inkjet I've seen that does a really nice job with black and white - it has three black inks which apparently makes the difference.

I have a small amount of some of the fancier papers on order for it - people keep swearing by Epson's velvet paper so we'll see. If I find some combination I absolutely love I'll offer it for sale, and I'll probably offer it as an option for portrait folks so they can get prints while they wait, but again, it's mostly for making negatives on transparency film.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Random small updates

I had a nice shoot yesterday. It was for a friend - she needed shots for something - not a full model shoot. You can see a shot here if you're curious. I'm not really into the swing of things yet - I have a bunch of model shoots scheduled starting around the 18th although I just had a cancellation due to vague personal problems. At least there was plenty of warning, but once again I'm reminded that there's generally not a lot of point in scheduling these things too far out in advance.

It's absurdly cold here by California standards. Water can apparently turn to a solid at these temperatures but I don't believe a word of it.

I'm finished with the whole re-edit process I was going through, including realizing that some color settings on the program I use to generate my pages was off, and having to upload everything again, oops. Anyway, you might want to poke around the archive page - things there are much improved.

I added the ability to do international purchases to the shopping cart system, and sure enough international sales are way up. Most photographers who sell prints online, or try to anyway, have some vague "email me" thing up. And for the most part people don't, they really just want to buy some stuff and be done with it. It doesn't have to be fancy, just functional.

I think that's it for now!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Calendar Note

Sales of the 2007 Calendar seem to be accelerating. I uploaded it a couple of months ago and it really didn't see much action until a couple of weeks ago. I sort of have mixed feelings about it - if I had put a lot of effort into it I'd be unhappy with the sales, but when you already have a ton of edited images around it's really not that hard to pick a dozen and set it up. So all in all I'd call it a moderate success.

I'll leave it up until at least the end of the month, and then remove it either immediately or a little after if there are some seriously late sales. One assumes at some point everybody who wants a calendar has one!

Monday, January 08, 2007

New Pictures: Dona Signs and Faces

As promised I uploaded the second part of the Dona shoot. (Update: These were eventually merged into the original set.)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

New Model: Dona

I just uploaded the set with Dona. There's actually going to be another set soon - I've broken the shoot into two pieces. The other half will have to remain a mystery for the moment. :-)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Post shoot notes

I'm always a bit dazed after a studio shoot - the flashing is kind of irritating. I can only imagine what it's like from the model's perspective.

I had a great shoot - very nice model. I wanted to try some familiar lighting to start, but using the new White Lightning flash unit as the main. No problems there. And then try some other things I'd been wanting to try that would have been unreliable with the old setup simply because of the triggering system I was using. The usual method is to trigger one flash, and the other has a photosensor that responds. Well, that's great, but when you're using very directed light as I often do it won't even hit the back of the other light. There are several solutions but I went with a new wireless system with dedicated receivers on every flash unit. Worked great.

When you're trying something new it is super nice to have an experienced model like I had today - you can really just focus on your end of things and let her do her part. This particular model is deaf and I imagine she's kind of used to being put on autopilot - just jot down a few instructions, point out the critical angles (body this way, face that way, whatever), and just get it done!

Anyway, hopefully I'll have a new shoot up fairly soon!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Odds and Ends

First off, in case folks don't know, the post office doesn't reopen until the 3rd. It's late this year because of President Ford's memorial service. My understanding is a certain amount of back-end stuff will continue to operate and some deliveries of express mail, but I can't actually drop anything off at the post office for a couple of days.

I've finished the process of going through the archive page and either re-editing or deep sixing the oldest shoots (Dec 2003 - April 2005). Some of the deep sixed stuff will probably return when I have a chance but for whatever reason it was a lower priority - often I shot again later with the same model and there's already better material on the site.

This all ties into my year end inventory revamp, incidentally, so part of the point is that I'm having my lab make prints from some older shoots that I haven't sold in a while so those will be appearing on eBay.

I have some other sets from mid 2005 I want to revisit for one reason or another - in some cases they're just sets that have a couple of shots that sell really well and I might be able to dig up some more if I go hunting for them. But in the short term I'll be focusing on other things.

By the way, speaking of eBay, I keep telling people who try it out for a week and don't sell anything to try again. There's an enormous week to week variation in both sales and traffic. I had a good example of that in December where in two consecutive weeks, one week was ten times the sales of the week prior. The variation is even larger with direct sales (which tend to be fewer but larger orders). Basically you just have to keep plugging and hope slumps are temporary.