Thursday, April 30, 2009

Media Literacy in the Age of Photoshop

(Posted by Ryan)

Photoshop is a tool that has become synonymous with photography. Every single photo that I deliver to my clients or use to market myself has been through Photoshop at least once. I am a very minimal retoucher, but even still I use Photoshop as a tool to deliver higher quality images to my clients. I think you would have to be crazy not to use this powerful tool to polish your images, but I also think it's incredibly important not to rely too heavily on Photoshop to make a bad image look somewhat interesting.

I strive to get everything the way I want it in camera before I press the shutter button. I think this is a practice that is often overlooked. I've had clients say to me, "You can Photoshop that later can't you?" The answer that to question is, 'Well yes, maybe. But it's most likely going to cost you more than if we just take care of it now.' Sometimes as photographers it can be easy to get wrapped up in the heat of the moment and think, 'I'll just take care of that later.' I've been guilty of this in the past and let me tell you from first hand experience that a heavily photoshopped photo does not make a crappy photo better. It might just make it tolerable to look at.

This quote from Martin Schoeller says it all: “If you want to be a photographer, be a photographer ten hours a day instead of spending five hours retouching some half-ass picture you don’t like in the first place.” - from Charlie Fish via APE.

Photoshop is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used for high levels of creativity, but at the same time it has been utilized by many to reinforce mass media's unnatural idea of what constitutes beauty. Photoshop is used on virtually every image you consume on a day to day basis and often helps to support these exaggerated ideals of beauty.

I came across a link to a website called Girl Power today and thought this a perfect example of how images are worked so much that the subject becomes a false representation of itself. Take a look at the Girl Power retouching demo. Keep in mind that this is an interactive image, so give it a moment to load and please take the time to share this with your family and friends. It's important that as media continues to evolve and shape our social identity that we ensure our children are growing up to be informed and media literate consumers.

What do you think of Photoshop? It obviously has relevance in today's photographic marketplace, but to what extent does it distort our perceptions of reality? If you're a photographer or designer, in what ways do you utilize this powerful tool?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Please read and rate our story!

(Posted by Larissa)

Hello friends and readers,

I have written a story about our business for a contest to win a small business grant (up to $25,000!). With your help, we could get the attention of the judges who will make the final decision. Please follow this link to read, rate, and leave comments. The story won't take long to read (in fact, I would have liked to have had more of a space allowance). We would really appreciate your help. A grant would mean a lot to our relatively new and blossoming business!

Many thanks!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

(Posted by Ryan)

Happy Earth Day everyone!  Get outside and enjoy our world and make a pledge to take care our planet this year and every year.  If you want to volunteer or donate to a great cause have a look at the Earth Day Network website.

For those of you who are curious, learn the history of Earth Day here.

An Unlikely Weapon: The Eddie Adams Story

(Posted by Ryan)

Film Synopsis

In 1968, in 1/500th of a second Eddie Adams photographed a Saigon Police Chief, General Nygoc Loan, shooting a Vietcong guerilla point blank.  Some say that photograph ended the Vietnam War.  The photo brought Eddie Fame and a Pulitzer, but Eddie was haunted by the man he had vilified.  He would say, "Two lives were destroyed that day, the victim's and the general."  Other's would say three lives were destroyed.

Eddie Adams, like most artists, was tortured by his need for perfection.  Nothing he did ever satisfied him.  He carved out many careers shooting covers for Life, Time, and even Penthouse. Yet, somehow he was always pulled back into documenting wars, 13 all together.  Finally he hit the wall and couldn't take it anymore.  He began shooting celebrities because "It doesn't take anything from you."  Eddie was comfortable with kings and coal miners.  During his time with Parade Magazines he photographed Clint Eastwood, Louis Armstrong, Mother Teresa, and Pope John Paul.

Still haunted by General Loan (The perpetrator in his photo), Eddie visits him 40 years later in a pizza shop in Virginia.  Scribbled on the wall of a bathroom stall are the words 'We know who you are, you fucker!"

Eddie's camera was his most powerful weapon, but it failed to protect him from himself.  

The film premiered last week in New York and will be traveling the country over then next few months.  I'm hoping to catch it in Baltimore or D.C. this August so give me shout if you want to go see it with me in either city.  

Eddie Adams is a photographer whom I greatly respect and I'm very excited to see this film. Watch the trailer here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lessons in Patience and Mindfulness

(Posted by Ryan)

"So my theory is simple: there is something really important, perhaps magical, about the fact that film is so unforgiving that it creates a special mindfulness in the photographer, which in turn increases the chances of making great pictures."

I was reading the Chase Jarvis blog today when I came across this post about something Doug Menuez said.  Doug has a very interesting post on his blog about "The Zen of Film vs. Digital Gratification." 

He talks about the days when digital was something that few photographers ever thought they would be using and how the advancement of digital technologies has changed the scope of photography forever.  The quote above is something that I feel is very important yet often overlooked by many photographers, myself included.  

Film forces us to be more mindful as photographers.  Don't get me wrong, I love my digital cameras and am grateful for these image making tools.  I shoot digitally 98 percent of the time, with that tiny little 2 percent being my occasional inclination to shoot film for personal work.  Within that 98 percent of digital shooting time I have been working hard to be more mindful of the process.  Sometimes I turn off the LCD screen and focus on shooting more deliberately.  Without having that instant gratification that comes from immediately seeing what I just shot some of the mystery of photography is reborn.

I have also been working to shoot less to create more.  With digital cameras it is so easy to rattle off thousands of images without any concern for film costs.  Just put the camera on continuous shooting mode and fire away.  You're bound to get something . . . it's a simple matter of probability.  But by shooting more slowly and more deliberately I can open myself up to alternative possibilities.  

I remember when I was at Colorado Mountain College being forced by my professors to keep detailed exposure statistics for every single image I made.  This was with film so there was no metadata attached with each shot upon exposure.  I had to keep a written record of every single shot and this forced me to slow down and learn.  The thought of recording every exposure by hand now seems ludicrous, but the lesson is there.  Slow down, think, compose and create a strong image.

When I shoot digitally I sometimes pretend that I am shooting film.  I only have 24 frames to make something interesting so I better take my time and think through each exposure.  LCD screens don't exist so I'll have to wait to see the results until I develop my film.  Oh, the anxiety of wondering if I got the shot or completely messed it up is almost too much for me to handle.  But I hold off and that excitement and sense of wonder is returned to the process allowing creativity to flow naturally and freely.  

I shoot a lot of personal work with a Holga.  It has got to be one of the crappiest cameras out there but I have created some of my favorite pictures with it.  I use 120 film so I only have 12 exposures with each roll and it gives me the opportunity to be patient with my compositions.  The Holga has the added value of only having 2 exposure options . . . sunny or cloudy.  Pretty simple.  

When I get a roll back from the lab I always experience a tiny bit of nervousness before looking at the negatives.  Sometimes these fears are realized and the entire roll is underexposed, but more often something magical happens.  The subjects I photographed were transformed inside the camera and visually come to life.   

The mystery and wonder of photography is fully evident with the Holga and I try to bring this philosophy to my digital shooting by being mindful of the process while utilizing sophisticated tools and technologies.  

I urge all of you to go out with your camera (whatever it may be) and limit yourself to only shooting 12 frames.  Shoot 12 frames and enjoy the process.  Allow the mystery and magic to take over for a while and most importantly, have fun.

'Fred and his Eagle'
Shot with my Holga

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


(Posted by Ryan)

We have a small landscape exhibition at Integrative Medicine in Hagerstown, Maryland.  Rob Bastress, the owner, suggested I hang some of my prints during a recent acupuncture appointment.  I seldom matte and frame my prints, but it's something I am interested in doing more of, so I thought, what better opportunity to put together a fine art portfolio? 

Integrative Medicine offers a unique atmosphere for artwork and I decided my landscape photography would fit into the environment well.  My landscape work is very serene and is based around the idea of finding beauty everywhere in the natural world.  This turned out to be a great collaboration between a place of healing and some of my favorite landscape photographs.  

If you've ever considered acupuncture, I strongly recommend Rob at Integrative Medicine.  Go in for a consultation and take a look at some prints.  If you're already a patient, let me know what you think of the new artwork in the hallways.