Judges Favorites: Photo Calendar Contest

7/29/2011 4 Comments A+ a-

The judging has been completed for the 1st annual KEH Photography Calendar Contest! We had three different industry professionals as judges, each with different personal tastes and favorites. Today we wanted to share a few of their favorite images, along with some comments that they made about the work. 

Top two images with the most votes are:

Cone Shaped Trees 2, by: Nora Vrublevska. Taken with a Hasselblad 500cm on Fuji Neopan Acros film. 

The Fair, by: Mollie Clark. Digital image.

Judges Favorites: (you can read more about our guest judges here.)

Brett Abbott-

High Noon at Midnight, by: Greg Zauswoz.  

Judge comment: I was attracted to the serenity and mystery evoked by this moonlit nightscape.  The array of texture brought out by the play of light across various surfaces - grass, thick foliage, leafless branches, and clouds – makes for a rich and subtly fulfilling composition.

Four, by: Michael Reese. Medium Format 6x6 Tri-X 400. 

Judge comment: I enjoyed the blending of still life and landscape genres in this evocative and quizzical picture.  The introduction of a fly to the scene adds an attractive element of instability to an otherwise highly structured composition. 

Will Crockett-

Untitled, by: Andrew Burgh. Shot with a Hasselblad 500c on Kodak Portra 160nc film.

Judge comment: This image really captures not only a moment, but a feeling that comes across the second I look at it.  It's simple, and complicated at the same time and it encourages my mind to wonder about the people who go there, what happens there, and what it's like to be there.  Using the split frame with a vignette on each half makes it into an intriguing layout of two halves from one moment.  Well done.

Antique, by: Chris Brooks.  Shot with a Canon EOS Elan w/50 f1.8 lens. 

Judge comment: Ok, I'm a sucker for any image that is patriotic or shows the American flag.  With that aside, I think the textures in this image really tell a story that I am interested in hearing. The weather-worn century old siding on the house and the wonderful windows setup the scene for one little pop of color and the flag does it.  This photo makes me want to talk to the person who lives here and ask about the house, the decor on the wall, and who that person is that lives like this.  It's fascinating and I would like to be there.  That's the power of a good photo for me - drawing me into it to want more. Great shot!

Gary Bogdon- 
Union Station Concourse, by: Randy deKleine-Stimpson. Shot on a 1956 YashicaFlex TLR w/ Ilford
XP2 120 film.

Judge comment: I narrowed down my choices to my Top 15, and although it was very difficult to narrow them down, my eyes kept bringing me back to this black / white image of the hustle and bustle of what looks like ( not sure exactly since there were no captions for judges) a train station terminal or possibly an airport. I love the slow shutter speed that was used to capture the motion of the people busy hustling about to their destinations, and I also like that it was shot back-lit, but not a total silhouette, where I can still see some detail in the people as well as the highlights along the walls and floors.  As a photojournalist myself and a former newspaper photojournalist, I love the simplicity of the photo, but also that there are many things going on in the image as well, and it makes you as a reader and viewer of the photo want to know more.  It reminds me of the style of the great Henri Cartier-Bresson and some of the works back in the days of Life Magazine.  I really enjoy looking at this photograph, and it's executed very well. It captures a moment in time, which is what photojournalism is all about.

 Fire, by: Hayley Warner. From the series Contemporary Carnie.

Judge comment: Well, I have always been a fan of the circus and any performers (whether they are in the circus or just street performers) that can use 'fire' as their means of entertaining.  This photo (which looks like the only light that was used was the natural light coming from the fire) has a sense of tension and wonder in, it all wrapped up.  I really like how the photo was composed, and the lighting (natural from the flames) that was used. I can't help but wonder how many times the performer was burned before he perfected this stunt.  Great picture and very well executed. I would like to see more photographs of what this performer can do with fire.

* Other photographs that won over the judges and will be included in the 2012 KEH Photography calendar include work from: Geza Darrah, Rachel Carrier, Rebecca Gutwin, Rian Satterwhite, Otto Kitchens, Jose Morales, and John Prince (we will be posting some of these entries at a later date).

* A huge "thanks" to our guest judges and to everyone who submitted their work! The calendar will be coming out later this year and we will be sure to let you know once it's out and where you can get one!

How To: Hummingbird Photography

7/28/2011 6 Comments A+ a-

Photographing perched hummingbirds is one thing, but photographing them flying is another. You may think that  you need a special camera or a super fast shutter speed for photographing hummingbirds in flight. But while you do need a faster shutter speed, the key is actually having a  fast flash, or better yet, several flash units.

The best type of flash for hummingbird photography is an external flash unit, a flash that has a foot to be mounted on your cameras hot shoe, on an off-camera shoe cord, or on a stand. These flash units are typically called Speedlites (Canon) or Speedlights (Nikon). Choose one that allows for manual settings, where the power of the flash can be reduced to 1/16th power or less. Speedlites have the unique ability to shorten their flash duration as the power is turned down. Most Speedlites on 1/16th power have a flash duration of 1/5,000 of a second or faster. Studio flashes won’t work as well for hummingbirds in flight because they don’t work the same way and the flash duration is too long to be effectively used for these fast, little birds.

I use a Canon EOS camera so I stayed with that line when I purchased my flashes from KEH Camera. I went with some Canon 430 EZ flashes, which can be manually dialed down to 1/128th of a second, although I set mine at 1/16th power. There is a trade-off however. In reducing the power of the flash, you also reduce its effective range. At such a low power, the flash needs to be placed under two feet away or less from the hummingbird.

Typically for this set up I use six flashes that are all placed less than two feet from the feeder spout. Two at 45 degree angles on the background. One flash above the subject, and one below. The other two flashes are at 45 degree angles above and to the sides of the subject. They are aimed at a point about seven inches away from the feeder to catch the hummingbird when it backs up to take a break from feeding. I mount all the flashes on light stands and old tripods and trigger them using a wireless flash triggering system.

my set-up

I do my hummingbird photography in the shade. My yard has a lot of sun so I use an instant shade pop-up that is 8 feet square. That way, all of the light is coming from my flashes and I’m not hindered much by ambient light. It’s also a pleasant place to photograph on a hot sunny day. A typical set up also uses flowers placed close to, or in front of, the hummingbird feeder spout. Often times I will also include flowers just behind the feeder as well.

While you can shoot this type of image using a natural surrounding background, you can also bring in your own. My personal preference is an olive green backdrop made of painted Masonite hardboard, that I place about four feet behind the feeder. Whatever you choose to use, make sure that it is large enough to cover your area behind the feeder.

Exposure varies depending on your ambient lighting, on the flashes you're using, and on your cameras sync speed. Typically I use a shutter speed of 1/200th of a second, at an aperture ranging from of f13 to f18. I prefer stopping down to keep the hummingbird in focus.

For focusing, I manually pre-focus on the tip of the hummingbird feeder with my camera on a tripod. Then I turn the camera so that it is pointed to an area with the feeder spout just out of the frame. The camera position is about six feet away from the feeder.

As far as lenses go, I use one of two telephotos. I use a Canon 100 to 300 IS or a Canon 100-400 IS. When using the 100-400 I use extension tubes so that I can have a closer focusing distance.

To do hummingbird photography having a hummingbird feeder is critical. I put mine up in early spring filled with a mixture of plain white sugar mixed at a ratio of one part sugar, to four parts tap water.

With hummingbirds, it is a bit of a waiting game. If you don’t use a blind you must sit as motionless as possible with your fingers on the shutter release, or consider using a remote. Wait for the hummingbird to begin feeding a few times before you start blasting away with the flashes. Start off slow and eventually they will get used to the flash. Usually the best time to click the shutter is when they back off from the feeder to rest a bit. They will move forward and feed and then back off about four to eight inches and hover there for several seconds before moving forward to feed again.

If you're into hummingbirds or are just up for the challenge, this is a great photographic exercise. So put some gear together and go out and have some fun!

Bio: Chris Hansen is a stock photographer in California. He loves shooting with his Digital Canon camera, a Pentax 6x7, and an old wooden 4x5 field camera. Hansen is a proud member of PhotoMission, a Christian photography group that serves to further spread the word through photography. His images have been featured on the covers of Mule Deer Magazine, California Hunter, and used in Big Game Adventures, Whitetail Bowhunter, and North American Hunter.


all photos © J. Chris Hansen

Using Exposure Compensation

7/26/2011 3 Comments A+ a-

Last month we talked about understanding in-camera metering. We mentioned using exposure compensation, but wanted to expand on the topic by covering not only what it is, but explaining what it does and how to use it.


In a perfect world, anyone could take a picture and get wonderful results every time. Unfortunately, most people will confirm that our world is not perfect. That being said, we photographers will sometimes need to override the automatic settings on our cameras in order to get the desired results - properly exposed images. Let's consider a few examples that most of us have encountered, and what we can do to make things better.

a digital meter scale

For those of you who get to experience the cold winter weather, I'm sure that you've experienced those pictures in the snow where the subject is darker than it should be, and if you're shooting in color, the snow may have a light blue cast to it. Or, for those of you that like to take pictures at the beach on a bright sunny day, how about those pictures taken with the water behind the subject, or a portrait with a beautiful sunset in the background. Most likely, the subject will be under exposed and darker than you'd like. Keep in mind, most cameras with automatic settings will try to average out the exposure between the subject and the background, and in extreme contrast situations like mentioned above, the camera can get fooled. So what can you do?

an exposure compensation button

There is a setting on most SLR cameras called Exposure Compensation. This is a setting that will allow your camera to set its exposure, and then allows you to intentionally override the exposure by up to 3 f-stops in either direction (under or over expose) to get the desired results. With many of the early film cameras, this was usually a dial on the top of the camera that went from -3 to +3. With some of the newer SLR cameras, it was changed to a button.

an exposure compensation dial (on a newer p&s digital)

If your camera doesn't have an "Exposure Compensation" setting, you can still correct for this. If your camera has a manual override, you can read what the camera would be set on (if left on automatic), then change to a manual setting that is 1 or 2 stops different. If the camera only has an automatic setting (no manual override), you can manually change the ISO (ASA) setting to fool the camera into thinking that it has a more sensitive "film" in it. For example, if you're shooting ISO 100 film, change the setting to ISO 200 and you're going to underexpose your image by 1 stop. IF you set it on ISO 400, you'll be underexposing by 2 stops. *REMEMBER TO CHANGE IT BACK WHEN YOU'RE DONE*. So how do you know where to set the override? That, my friends, comes with knowledge and experience. You can acquire the experience by simply going out and trying these ideas on your own. Keep a note pad in your camera bag so that you can make notes of the settings that you used on each picture, so that you can understand and then duplicate what worked on future images. Many digital cameras will allow you to display this data after the picture has been taken by looking at the EXIF data.

A good example of why you would want to underexpose and image would be if you were taking a picture of a full moon on a clear night. If you keep your camera on automatic, you'll see a bright light in the sky, but no detail in the moon. By underexposing by 2 or 3 stops, you'll see the detail and might just capture the best moon photo you've ever taken.

Another setting on your camera that was designed to help correct for these issues is called the Exposure Lock. This is typically a button that you push to lock in the exposure that the cameras light meter had taken. In order to do this correctly, you would have to walk up to the subject, push the exposure lock button, then while holding the button, walk back so that you could get the snow, or sunset back in the photo, and then take your picture. This button allows your camera to choose a setting based on the subject and not on the background, which will in turn let you correctly expose the area of your photo that is most important.

- AZ

Nikon F3H

7/25/2011 0 Comments A+ a-

Nikon F3H (High Speed) HP- A special version (of the F3P) that can shoot 13 frames per second with the MD-4H motor drive (making it the fastest Nikon film camera). This motor drive was built specifically for this version, but the camera also operates with the standard MD-4 motor drive. This camera has a fixed, partially-reflecting (Pellicle) mirror with 70% transmission and 30% reflection in order to obtain the high speed.

Like the F3P, the larger controls were created for easier use with gloves. It also has a better sealing against dust and moisture because of the elimination of certain features including the self timer, multiple exposure lever, and viewfinder blind. This model also has a taller shutter speed dial and a hot-shoe contact on the prism.

The F3H was originally made for the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Productions numbers were quite low, as Nikon only took orders for these for a few months from credentialed professional photographers and collectors.

We currently have two in stock: LN $9,999, LN- $8,999. Find them here. 

Defining Exceptions and Abbreviations

7/22/2011 0 Comments A+ a-

You may have seen our abbreviation or exceptions lists before. They simply tell what an abbreviation we use stands for, and what defines an exception. For example, the abbreviation list says that AIJ means "All in Japanese". But what does that really mean? This is where we are going to break down a few of the more complicated words or phrases and define them further for you...

All In Japanese (AIJ)- This means that the camera menu defaults to the Japanese language. You can switch it to English, but when the battery is removed or the camera is reset, chances are that it will switch back to Japanese. This item was originally sold to an Asian market.

Non US- This term relates to its original origin of sale. When an item is sold new, under warranty it must be repaired in its area of origin. An example would be Europe. If it was sold new in that area, it must be repaired in that area. When the item is sold used, then that no longer applies except when it comes to sending a repair to the manufacturer. Nikon or Canon will not repair a "non US" camera, but KEH will.

Non Manufacturer (non-mfg)- Non-mfg stands for non-manufacturer. Lenses under these categories would be for a specific mount, but made by another company. For example, a non-mfg lens under the Canon category would be a lens made by Tokina, Tamron, Sigma, etc. and not a Canon brand lens.

Front Ring Damage (FRD)- This can mean anything from a dent or crack in the filter ring, to a portion of the front ring that is missing. This could be any type of damage that occurs around the filter ring of a lens.

Engraved (ENGR)- Any type of engraving found anywhere on the item. This could be something scratched on with an engraving tool or other sharp object. While this isn't so much common practice now, many people used to engrave their names or social security numbers into their cameras. This also includes any markings that are obliterated, like the product name.

Inoperative (INOP)- The item does not work properly. It may be a total failure or have many small problems, i.e. shutter speeds are off and flash won’t fire from the hot shoe, or camera has no function at all.

Rangefinder off (RF off)- A rangefinder is a device that measures distance from the observer to a subject. Rangefinder cameras do not focus through the lens like SLR cameras do. It’s usually built into the camera (as in 35mm), but not always (as in large format), and is coupled to the lens. Most show two images of the same subject, one of which moves when either a calibrated wheel or the lens barrel is turned. When the two images align and converge into one, the subject is in focus. If the images are not aligned either top to bottom or side to side, the rangefinder is off and will cause your image to be out of focus.

Zoom loose (ZM loose)- When a zoom lens can’t hold its focal length if the lens is pointed up or down, we call that a loose zoom.

Aspherical (ASPH)- This is a lens whose surfaces has a profile that is neither a portion of a sphere nor of a circular cylinder. The asphere’s more complex surface profile can eliminate spherical aberrations and reduce optical aberrations compared to a simple lens, and can often replace a much more complex multi-lens system. The resulting lens is also smaller and lighter.

Bayonet mount (BAY)- Refers either to how the lens mounts onto a camera body or how a lens shade mounts onto the front of the barrel. This mount has multiple "tab like" parts that click into place.

Screw mount (SM)- Many early 35mm cameras like Pentax and Leica used lenses that screwed on to the camera. This mount has threads like a screw.

Breech lock (BL)- Early Canon manual lenses use what is referred to as a breech lock system to attach to the camera body. It was a chrome ring that turned to lock the lens on. Later manual focus lenses used an FD lock, which was a silver button near the mount.

Bounce (BNC), Swivel (SWVL), Zoom (ZM)- Refers to any type of flash, hot shoe or bracket mounted, that has a head that can tilt upwards or “bounce” from 180 degrees to 90 degrees, “swivel” from side to side, and “zoom” from 24mm to 105mm.

Buffer upgrade (BU)- Buffer size is important for photographers that take picture sequences. For example, during an action sequence, with a Nikon D1X used in C mode you can shoot pictures at the rate of up to three (3) per second (actual rate will vary with shutter speed in use and/or a camera custom setting selection). During picture taking, photos are temporarily stored in the camera's memory buffer, which holds a maximum of nine photographs at any given moment (again, capacity varies with file type and other conditions). Once the buffer fills, picture taking will pause until the buffer has passed images through the memory card and space-available resumes. Upgrading the buffer will allow more images to be stored at once. A camera that comes with a BU has already had a buffer upgrade performed.

Film Only (FO)- Film only refers to what a lens is compatible with. When digital cameras first came out, not all auto-focus lenses were compatible with them. Some lenses, particularly after market lenses, were suitable only for film cameras.

Guide Number (GN)- The guide number for an electronic flash measures its ability to illuminate the subject to be photographed at a specific film or sensor sensitivity and angle of view. A higher guide number indicates a more powerful flash.

Internal focus (IF)- A lens whose helical focus does not rise and fall, but rather focuses internally.

Universal (UNIV)- Works with multiple items. A universal screw mount lens will work on the Leica screw mount, Canon Rangefinder, and Nikon Rangefinder cameras. A universal charger will charge many different kinds of batteries.

-Chris Brooks

Why Buy Refurbished Camera Equipment?

7/21/2011 0 Comments A+ a-

There are several great reasons to buy refurbished photographic products including:

- Most refurbished gear is brand new, returned product, from a retailer or was used as a demonstration display unit.

- The item's manufacturer is the one who actually does the refurbishing, so the piece of equipment has gone through their inspection process like a new camera does.

- Quality is usually indistinguishable from new.

- The savings can approach 40% off buying the same item new.

 - The manufacturer includes a factory 90 day warranty.

- And buying refurbs from KEH is even extra special because we stand behind all refurbished products with an additional 3 month warranty, giving you a 6 month warranty at no charge!

* We currently have a variety of refurbished Nikon SLR cameras, lenses, and digital point and shoot cameras in stock. If an item is a refurb, it will specifically say so in the description. Check out our inventory here.

Working Within A (Photography) Business Partnership

7/19/2011 4 Comments A+ a-

When I first began shooting portraits of people, I worked alone. I loved it on that level - working one and one (or one on three, four, five, if you're talking about a group or family) was really fun for me. However, when I booked my first wedding I had a mild breakdown - how would I ever pull off shooting an entire wedding, aka one of the biggest events in many people's lives, by myself?

I asked my friend Ashley, who is my now business partner, to help me out. She happily agreed, and we had an awesome time working together. Shortly after shooting this wedding I moved out of state, so Ashley and I didn't work together any longer. We were each still shooting, however, and when Ashley booked a three-day Hindu wedding and asked me to come back to Alabama to help her shoot it, I was all over it.

Between the booking and the shooting we ended up moving back to Alabama, and starting a business with Ashley seemed like a natural step to take. We both loved our jobs as wedding and portrait photographers, got along well (we went to high school and have known each other for nearly ten years, off and on), and brought different perspectives and styles to the mix. We now equally own and operate White Rabbit Studios. While many people may balk at the idea of working with a business partner, we both love it. Here are a few things I've learned from working with someone in a business partnership...

Keep your dialogue honest and frequent
One of the best things Ashley and I do is to maintain total honesty within our business. We have so far been able to quite easily separate our personal and business relationships. If one of us takes issue with something the other one is doing, editing or shooting wise, we bring it up. If we love something the other one is doing, we bring that up also. We're very good about complimenting and constructively critiquing each others work. It's vital to our business that we're able to discuss anything and everything related to it in an environment that is wrapped in trust, otherwise we'd always be second guessing one another.

Make sure your principles agree
There are a few things that are mutually very important to each of us: we always want to offer our clients a DVD with all of their full-resolution edited images from their event. We want to always offer an affordable, but locally competitive wedding package - no matter how high the other ones go. We also both always want to maintain a sliding scale option for couples and clients who need it. While we want and need to make money from this job, we both believe everyone deserves awesome photos, and we love to be the people who provide those. While not every photographer or business owner will agree with our practices, the two of us do, so it works for our business.

Learn how the other one works
I am a VERY visually-oriented person. This is important because Ashley's husband, Andy, does all of our design stuff. Logos, business cards, website - you name it, and he builds or creates it. Ashley and Andy have the luxury of being able to work on these things together in their house... but I can't always be there to see what they're creating. Instead of just forging ahead with what they imagine, Ashley has been awesome about making sure I have hard or digital examples of every single thing they're working on before it goes live. It's incredibly important to make sure you're following one another when you're talking about something as important as how your business is presented.

Support one another
I have a two-year-old son, Jasper. He was just over four months old when Ashley and I shot our first wedding together as White Rabbit Studios. He was also breastfeeding, and I didn't have a pump. Since weddings are usually at least six hours, this meant my husband and son came with us to every single wedding we shot until Jasper really started eating solid food which was somewhere around seven or eight months. While this was awesome of my husband, it was also incredible of Ashley. Unless we were right in the middle of a crucial moment, I'd have to disappear every two hours or so. There were even a few times that I had to leave a wedding a little early, and Ashley never said a word. Instead of asking me why I couldn't just feed Jasper something else or discouraging me from bringing Jasper, Ashley encouraged the integration of my family into our business. One blissful result of this is that my son absolutely adores her and now he sometimes even comes along just for fun. Ashley's support of our parenting decisions (nursing, etc.) is something I'll never forget and immensely appreciate.

Keep your professional and personal goals current and active
It's important to both of us that we get to spend time with our families. Ashley and I love our job, and we adore traveling to new places for weddings, but neither of us wants to give our lives over to always being on the road. Making sure we have weekends off to be with the people we love the most has always been mutual intention. We both also have other jobs and hobbies - Ashley and her husband own a record store, and she's incredibly active in local bands and a theater troupe. I am also the Managing Editor of the website Offbeat Mama and have hobbies (such as writing and yoga) that are also very important to me. We both agree that we want to be successful as wedding photographers, but on our own terms.

And finally... make sure your business senses agree

Ashley and I are definitely more non-traditional businesswomen. We pay our taxes (I swear!), but we don't do a lot of other things that many professional photographers do. Our goal is to celebrate as much love as possible with as many amazing people as we can, and we've found a perfect little pocket of the wedding world that helps make this happen. We also want to always grow as people and professionals, and we incorporate this goal into every business decision we make. I think our business partnership is successful because we have many personality traits in common, but a few key differences: Ashley is a micro-manager, which is awesome because... I'm not. I am however, awesome at keeping up with money, profit-loss sheets, and client receipts. So while she's planning our next event (we hosted a wedding fair in January 2011), I'm making sure our ends are meeting. It works great for us that we have these personality and skill differences.

Bio: Stephanie Kaloi is a photographer, blogger, and the Managing Editor of Offbeat Mama. She currently lives in the SE United States with her husband, son, roomies, and crazy mutt.

White Rabbit Studios: http://www.thewhiterabbitstudios.com
Blog: http://www.casadekaloi.com
Offbeat Mama: http://www.offbeatmama.com

*P.S.- We've swapped posts today and have an article on the Offbeat Mama site about camera options for kids. See it here.

Vintage Camera Ads & Covers: Children

7/18/2011 0 Comments A+ a-

From College to Career: One Photographer's Story

7/15/2011 1 Comments A+ a-

My first job after college was at Celebrity Kids (CK) Portrait Studio. Go ahead and laugh at the name; it is misleading though. Our clients were not the children of celebrities. Our clients were children, families, and babies – all in high volume. High volume meant short session times, and short session times meant you had to think quickly and constantly be on your toes. I had to learn about early childhood development (something that I did not expect to learn as a photographer). I had to learn how a 6 month old is likely to react to a studio shoot, and how different a two year old is from a one year old. I had to adapt and react quickly or else I would have been left in the dust.

I also learned a lot about photographing in a short amount of time. Daily use of studio lighting and Photoshop brought me experience and confidence. The talented people I worked with were great teachers as well. It was a sad day when bankruptcy made CK close its doors forever. I was there for 3 ½ years, almost as long as I had been in school. I formed some lifelong relationships with both coworkers and clients. When CK closed, I didn’t know what to do next. I worked my way through school as a waitress; should I go back to that? Should I look for mall Portrait Studio work, i.e., Sears? Portrait Innovations? Picture People? Should I start my own business? Should I go live in my parents’ basement? Opening my own studio had always been a dream of mine. My secret plan of myself as a business owner, older, wiser, and well-dressed was somewhere down the road, not today, not even this month, this year. I knew that I wasn’t that person just yet; I still had a lot to learn. Celebrity Kids had taught me many things, but how to open my own business was not one of them. I was, however, still getting sporadic inquires from CK clients. Would I continue taking pictures of their children? Could I do a wedding? These requests would come in inconsistent spurts, encouraging, but not enough to sustain a business. Besides, I didn’t know what to charge. I had no studio. My personal camera was not as good as the old CK camera. It was exciting and scary. What was next?  So many unknowns. But there were two things I was about to learn about becoming a professional photographer. One: I was a photographer – there was nothing else I wanted to do. And two: I didn’t know the business.

I learned them in reverse. Here was my first clue to how clueless I was: I was chatting with my hairstylist and she was telling me about withholding her own taxes. Didn’t I do that? I told her that I wasn’t. She looked at me like she had just accidentally shaved a patch of hair off my head. ‘You know you have a paper trail, right?’ I really didn’t get it. She explained that when she does a wedding (the hair), she has to pay taxes on the money she gets. And when I did a wedding (the photos), I had to do the same. I never thought of that. Of course, I had never had a job that didn’t just give me a W2.  

That haircut really opened my eyes. I realized that I couldn’t use ignorance as an excuse anymore. I needed to educate myself. One can only play dumb for so long. God bless my sister, Amy, who bought a book for me, a book with a really long name that really helped me to gain some perspective. The book is called  The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-timers and the Self-Employed; The Only Personal Finance System for People with Not So Regular Jobs, by Joseph D'Agnese and Denise Kiernan. I’m sure there are other books of this ilk, but this one helped me (and continues to help me) to be the best boss that I can possibly be to myself. It taught me a lot of very basic knowledge about the business of being a photographer.

The second clue to my enlightenment came from my favorite restaurant. Since my occasional weddings and sessions didn’t pay the bills, I decided that I needed a ‘real job’ for some steady income. I went downtown to my favorite restaurant and got a job (they hired me on the spot!) as a server. But I realized, as soon as I got the job, I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to do anything other than photography. I went home and thought about it. Sometimes it takes the possibility of not doing what you love the most to realize your direction. I called the restaurant and told them no.

That’s when I began looking for jobs in creative environments, photography studios in particular. One day I noticed something new on one of the photography blogs that I followed, Tamara Lackey Photography.  Tamara’s studio was looking to hire an associate photographer; I promptly updated my resume, wrote a cover letter, and sent it in. 

I was hopeful. The studio is located in Durham, NC, and she had opened her studio the year that I left Durham (my home town) for college. I exchanged emails with the studio manager, but no job materialized. That could discourage a person, but I was very persistent, following up once a month with the studio manager, for five months. One weekend when I was going to be in Durham, I emailed Tamara and let her know I would be in town and could stop by her studio (I put a link to my website so she could see my portfolio). Tamara and I met face to face, chatted about photography, life, business and coffee. It felt like a great fit. Tamara called a few days later to offer me the position, and I made the move back to Durham.

Suddenly I was working for an internationally known photographer. How did I get here? By being persistent, not giving up when I felt discouraged, being prepared, and having my portfolio readily available online.

Now I work as an independent contractor for Tamara Lackey Photography (that means I have to withhold my own taxes, document my expenses and so on). Tamara has so much to offer. She is inspirational and motivating. She gives me great feedback. I have new opportunities, new adventures. I have had my first magazine cover, my photographs on national television. I have met and worked with incredible talented people. I have been pushed out of my comfort zone and forced to grow. I am constantly inspired and challenged. 

I know that I still have a lot to learn, but I can see that I have come a long way. I am grateful for my photography schooling. All my teachers/mentors helped me find the artist inside me, helped me be the creative person I am today. Now I have new mentors helping me to refine my vision, helping me to figure out how to be a working artist, helping me to make a living as a photographer.

My advice for other photographers looking to assist or work in a group studio is to stay active in your photo community, go to seminars and workshops, and follow blogs. Also, look up local photographers/studios, and try and meet for coffee or lunch. Personal connections are so important. And sometimes they can also lead to great opportunities!  

Bio: Jessi Blakely is the Senior Associate Photographer for Tamara Lackey Photography. Jessi’s passion for photography started at a young age as a student at the Durham School of the Arts. Her experience and education in photography began in the darkroom and continued on into the digital age at Appalachian State University, where she received a Bachelors of Science in Technical Photography.

Jessi’s work has appeared in Carolina Parent, Our State Magazine, Chapel Hill Magazine, Metro Magazine and Endurance. Her photography has also been featured on ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Her fine art photography has been featured in solo shows in North Carolina, Maryland, and Oklahoma. 


all photos © Jessi Blakely

Photos of the Month

7/14/2011 0 Comments A+ a-

The theme this month is color portraits. All photos were submitted to the KEH Flickr Group.

t e s l a
Tesla, by: Klifton
in a trance
In a trance, by: Jordan Parks
Rhodo Park
Rhodo Park, by: Jussi Hellsten
529 copy
Untitled, by: Jack Williams
Untitled/Malika, by: Jason
Grammy Award winner Esperanza Spalding-3
Grammy Award Winner Esperanza Spalding- 3, by: Tonya Austin
"Clothes come out cleaner, brighter!" (and women say men can't do laundry...)
Clothes come out cleaner, brighter!, by: John
Margot Parkes
Margot Parkes, by: Steve Christides

Isabel, by: SL Photos

* Next month's theme is open. Join the group and submit your photos here.

Nikon S3 With Motor + Jacobson Powercon Model

7/12/2011 0 Comments A+ a-

The Nikon S3 was introduced in 1958 as a less expensive version of the Nikon SP rangefinder. In fact, the two camera models are identical except for one feature, the viewfinder system. As opposed to the projected, moving frame lines used in the SP, the S3 has etched frame lines for only the 35, 50, and 105mm lenses. This eliminated the need for a second frosted window to illuminate the projected frame lines in the SP.

Out of 9 batches of S3's made, only 2 were made in black, totaling only about 250 pieces. Different from the Black S3 'Olympic', the original Black S3 has the older style winder (shorter and hollow) and self timer, and used a cloth shutter curtain instead of a titanium one.

To add to its rarity, the Jacobson battery pack was introduced around 1963, 5 years before Nikon had even come out with their version of a cordless battery pack. Jacobson Photographic Instruments was a California company founded by Irving Jacobson that produced cordless battery packs called "Powercons" for Nikon's F series cameras. They also produced at least one type for the Rangefinder S series, the 36SP model, which is also an extremely rare item.

Nikon S3 Black (marked in feet), with motor, Jacobson Powercon Model 36SP, 35mm rangefinder manual focus camera body. In BGN grade condition, $9,799. Find it here.

- Mollie Clark

In-Camera Filters

7/11/2011 0 Comments A+ a-

Newer camera models often come equipped with in-camera filter and special effect options to add to your images. We previously covered a few of the typical digital art effects that come in many point and shoot cameras such as soft focus, pop art, pinhole, and grainy film (see them here). Today, we're covering a few of the newer filters in D-SLRs such as in the Pentax K-5 (this is what was used for the examples below).

This is the list of available filters that come in this specific camera (bold ones are the options we chose to test and show below):

1- Toy Camera
2- Retro
3- High Contrast
4- Extract Color
5- Soft
6- Starburst
7- Fish-eye
8- Custom Filter (alter several filters to make a custom filter)
9- HDR Capture (3 images merged into one)
10- HDR Filter (Faux filter)
11- Miniature model effect
12- Sketch
13- Water Color
14- Pastel
15- Posterization
16- B&W
17- Custom Color
18- Slim

To use a filter, start to review/playback an image that you have taken. Press the down arrow on the direction pad, and then press "ok" to access the menu.

Fish-eye:  In this filter you get 1 editing option: Intensity/size of effect- low/medium/high. I used the medium option.
L: regular photo. R: with the fish-eye filter

HDR Filter:  In this filter you get 1 editing option: This is a Faux HDR filter (it does not combine images to make a true HDR image like in real HDR imaging. The combining method is used in the K-5's other HDR filter option, HDR Capture.) The 1 editing option is intensity- low/medium/high. I used the medium for this shot.

Custom Filter: This filter allows 8 options to edit your image: High Contrast / Soft Focus / Tone Break (Red, Green, Blue, or Yellow) / Shading Shape / Shading Level / Distortion type / Distortion level / Invert Color. I used a dark shade in a frame around the image, with a green cast tone break.

Miniature Filter: (This is my favorite one) It allows you to make an image look like it is a miniature model scene. It throws focus off similar to tilt-shift. For in-camera editing (quick and easy) it does quite well.

Retro: Another personal favorite, with this filter you get 2 editing options: Toning (Shades of Blue to Brown) and Framing (you can add a white border around your image with varying thickness).

A big plus to having these filters in-camera is the ability to post-process on the go. I was recently at a shoot doing a bunch of headshots for a group of executives. One of the participants said his photo was too sharp and it showed too many wrinkles. I said “give me a minute and I will fix that”. I went in to the digital filters  menu and chose the soft focus one. I added a medium soft focus filter, saved it, and was then able to hand him the original and the soft focus version in less than 2 minutes. He was very happy and amazed I did it so quickly and without an editing program.

© Patrick Douglas