Why We All MUST Fight Adobe And Stop The Creative Cloud!!!

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IF YOU HAVE ANY CONNECTION WITH THE PHOTOGRAPHY, DESIGN, ADVERTISING OR PUBLISHING BUSINESS, I ASK THAT YOU TAKE THE TIME TO READ THROUGH THIS MAGNUM OPUS OF MINE AS I TRULY FEEL IT IS ONE OF THE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS I’VE POSTED SINCE I’VE BEGUN DOING THE BLOG…BRAD TRENT

Last week Adobe announced that, going forward, all of its software products will only be available on a subscription basis. No more perpetual licenses for Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, or any of the applications that make up the Adobe Creative Suite…from now on, users will have to pay a monthly subscription fee forever if they want to use any of these products!

But before I set off on what might get interpreted as a narcissistic rant, let me make my opinion on Adobe’s decision to move to what they are calling a ‘cloud-based’ subscription only licensing model up front and crystal clear…

As a professional photographer who relies on Photoshop just as much as I rely on the digital cameras that produce my RAW files, I believe having to pay an ongoing monthly fee to use the application is an incredibly shortsighted decision by a company that essentially has the monopoly on digital asset management, and if I may quote David Hobby…the Strobist…”feels like the biggest money grab in the history of software”.

I will also say that the majority of what I’ll be talking about relates to Photoshop, since that’s the World I live in. Whether or not users of Adobe Muse, Dreamweaver, After Effects or any of the other applications in the Adobe Creative Suite find added value in paying the new $50.00 monthly subscription scheme, I have no idea. I’m gonna focus on the concept on what an ongoing $20.00 per month subscription means for photographers…

Adobe announced that by moving to cloud-based subscriptions they will have a better handle on software piracy, be able to better update the application as needed, and cut their development and distribution overhead. I can’t speak to their development costs, but as for software pirates, I’m not so dumb to think that if there is a will, there is a way. You can bet there is already a kid in a basement somewhere with a pretty good idea on how to distribute free “Cloud Copies” of piracy-proof software!

With the “Creative Cloud” being the really big news, it came as almost as an afterthought (perhaps to take your mind off the whole subscription thing???) when Adobe mentioned some new features they’ve added to Photoshop…like the Camera Shake Reduction tool, Smart Sharpen, and that you can now apply Camera Raw edits as filters. But let’s forget about any new features, since new features are why you would have paid for an old-school upgrade to Photoshop anyway. New features are a given. The real controversy is that from now on, you won’t have the ability to move forward incrementally as you see fit. In the past, if Adobe trotted out an upgrade to Photoshop that didn’t fit your workflow, you could just keep using the version you had and wait for the next version before you kicked in your money to be up to date. Adobe obviously didn’t like this. They saw it as a money-losing proposition if users didn’t slavishly continue along the upgrade ladder, paying for the privilege, of course. To counter this trend, they even changed their long-standing upgrade policy so that if you didn’t have Photoshop CS5, you wouldn’t be able to move up to CS6. That pissed off a lot of Photoshop users, but I understood it. I’m not against Adobe being able to charge for upgrades to their software, that’s their right. But apparently that wasn’t enough for Adobe. They have obviously decided that a perpetual subscription licensing model is the only way to continue bringing in a substantial cash flow. Assuming that hobbyists and ‘occasional’ photographers make up the vast majority of Adobe’s customer base, do they really expect these people to happily pay a $20.00 per month licensing fee to continue to use Photoshop? And if you can also assume that they will lose a pretty good percentage of that customer base…the casual Photoshop users, or those who decide to switch to Lightroom or Aperture…what are their plans to recover that lost income? Or maybe they’ve already got that figured out, and that is how they came up with the $20/month pricing plan for the Photoshop-only side to their cloud strategy. Maybe the actuaries have figured that since everyone who uses Photoshop doesn’t march over the upgrade cliff every two years, if they were to install a mandatory payment schedule it would ensure their income stream and they could claim the new plan, while more expensive, is actually better because it ensures a much more up to date Photoshop experience (even if the user doesn’t need the new features).

But let’s look at what they are really proposing…

Adobe claims the new “Creative Cloud” strategy “includes everything you need to experiment like never before”, and will allow you to “track comments posted to shared files, keep tabs on your work and your followers on Behance…”, and they drop buzz words like “Collaborate”, “Grow” and “Change” as though they are candies to be gobbled up by sugar-hungry children. I read this and couldn’t help but wonder if they have lost track of what a professional photographers work flow is REALLY like?!! Professional photographers aren’t looking to pay a $50/month license fee to ‘experiment’ with Illustrator, Premiere Pro or Dreamweaver! Professional photographers don’t use Photoshop as a social media tool. We don’t finish off an assignment by hitting the ‘Send’ button so our work posts in real-time on ‘Behance’ (which, in case you missed that press release, is owned by Adobe!). Professional photographers shoot, process, archive and retouch images in Photoshop. We send those images to our clients. And then it’s on to the next gig where we do it all again. I dare say that the overwhelming majority of professional photographers don’t waste too much time worrying about how Photoshop might aid them in ‘sharing’ their assignments on social media sites.

As for the “Creative Cloud” itself, it’s not actually a typical cloud service either. It’s simply an electronic distribution method of getting software to the end user. OK…there are some very minimal cloud services included…cloud file storage, syncing of settings, etc…but electronic distribution of software is hardly a new concept for Adobe. They’ve been selling upgrades for years using this technology. You will still have an actual application on your hard drive, but it will have to ‘call home’ to Adobe every month (or every 99 days for those who pay up front for a yearly subscription) in order to continue to function. What Adobe seems to think makes their cloud more desirable is their ability to issue more frequent updates and patches. In the past they have made patches available as needed and the version upgrades available every 1 to 2 years. With the cloud these feature upgrades can theoretically be added as they are developed. I suppose that is a plus, but again, there are huge chunks of Photoshop I don’t use or need now, so dropping even more features on most users isn’t going to be a make or break decision for most people anyway.

But let’s get to the two awfully huge elephants in the room…the pricing and what happens if you stop paying! After reading Adobe’s claims that the new pricing scheme has an arguably lower annual cost, I guess we’re supposed to all join hands and sing the Adobe Theme Song and be happy for the windfall that has been bestowed upon us. Personally, I don’t believe that paying $240.00 annually to rent a software program adds any value to my business model, but that would be narcissistic, and I’m trying hard not to make this all about me. Adobe is making it abundantly clear that they intend to employ this model to increase a revenue stream they feel they have lost because of those users who don’t upgrade on a regular schedule. We can’t keep going back and forth on that point. However, there is no mention from Adobe what happens after you lose the use of the software once you stop paying. How does a long-time user of an Adobe product access their files if they have stopped paying for a use license? And alternatively, what about your clients who may not have a subscription to Adobe? I guess they will not be able to view your work, unless of course, they decide to pay Adobe for the privilege. I have no issue with a company wanting to profit from their product. Adobe deserves to be paid for their marketing and R&D when it comes to all of their software, but under the old model if you stopped paying for upgrades to the new version, Adobe didn’t take away your software license on your old version! Stopping an upgrade cycle didn’t mean you couldn’t open a file you processed fifteen years ago! And believe me, if you get on the Adobe subscription licensing model train, if you get off that’s exactly what will happen with all of your work. It will become useless digital trash. The only way to continue to access your work is to keep paying the subscription license. And that is just wrong.

With this new decision to implement a subscription only licensing model, Adobe is in fact trying to change they way software licenses as we know it work. But is there something so totally broken with the idea of paying an initial fee for the license and then paying a scheduled upgrade/maintenance charge? As long as the user pays the maintenance charge, you continue to get the upgrades. If you stop paying the maintenance, you lose access to NEW upgrades, but your software will still function as you expected it would when you signed on. And I have nothing wrong with the idea that if the user stops paying the maintenance fee for a certain period, the user would then have to start over and re-purchase the base license if they want to continue along the upgrade path. I just had to do this when I moved from FileMaker version 5 up to version 12. I hadn’t the need or the want to pay for annual upgrade over the years, since I saw no added value…FOR MY PURPOSES…but when version 12 came out that changed. Since I had long since fallen out of the scheduled upgrade track, I had to repurchase a full version of the new software. That is a business decision best left to the consumer. What the vast majority of Photoshop users have been complaining about over the past few days is that Adobe has removed ALL choice in the software buying process, while reducing the value of the software for certain segments of their customer base…and increasing it for others. They seem willing to lose a large portion of their base clients…those hobbyists and ‘occasional’ photographers who don’t regularly stay on the upgrade path…and to make up that lost income it appears that the rest of the users will now and forever have to pay an ongoing fee to rent their product.

But perhaps the real reason Adobe is so hot to lock in a subscription-based scheme is because even they know there are only so many filters and gizmos they can add to ANY program before the end user reaches a saturation point and doesn’t see a cost benefit to upgrade! A new sharpening widget here or layering tool there every year isn’t gonna be enough to make most users feel the need to push $200.00 Adobe’s way, so before they ran out of ideas of ways to improve the software, they might have figured out this entire plan. And they don’t really have a compelling incentive to continue developing new tricks if their users are forced to pay FOREVER for a subscription just to ensure continued access to the files they’ve created with their software, do they?!!

These are only a few of the things that I really think need to be talked about. Adobe is, of course, making their “Creative Cloud” strategy sound like a wonderfully happy place and we should all bow down and thank them for thinking of us, the end-user, when they came up with this solution. But I’m sorry, but I can’t help but see this as a solution to a nonexistent problem! And I’m hardly the only person saying this. The outcry online has been thunderous. Just about every techie geek board on the interwebs has been filled with mostly negative comments. And these are aren’t the typical, “This Sucks, Man!” stuff…no, instead, thousands upon thousands of regular users of Adobe software are voicing their outrage in very clear terms. And if you’ve made it all the way through my own diatribe, I urge you to also make your voice heard. An online petition is sitting on www.change.org that demands Adobe to kill this ridiculous scheme and offer it’s customers what we expect…choice!!! Please check it out and add your name. There is also a new petition over at www.petitions.whitehouse.gov calling for a DOJ investigation on the legality of Adobe’s move, and it can’t hurt to put your name on that one, too. And if you have the ear of your Adobe rep, or even the guys at your local camera store, digital outlet or rental shop, make your opinion known. This is not going to go away without a significant groundswell that will be heard in the boardroom at Adobe.

Please sign these petitions I’ve linked to below in an effort to stop Adobe from moving forward with their new scheme for Subscription-only access to their software:

www.change.org

www.petitions.whitehouse.gov

R.I.P. Alan Abelson

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Me and Alan at the 2008 Roundtable

Alan Abelson, the veteran financial journalist and longtime writer of the “Up and Down Wall Street” column in Barron’s Magazine, died last Thursday. The former Editor of Barron’s was a regular member of the panel who quizzed the Roundtable members each year about their predictions on the coming years financial markets, and as many of you probably know, I’ve shot that Roundtable issue for the past seven years. Alan was well-known as being a thorn in the side of Wall Street for his fearless style of journalism. Ben Stein, the writer, actor, economist, and humorist who was a longtime friend of Alan’s, wrote in the American Spectator

“…His columns were dour, hilarious, insightful. He never bought into the prevailing “wisdom” of Wall Street. It was all about hucksterism and self-promotion. He realized that from the first day until the last. He could and would deflate any balloon, from the dirigibles of the Fed to the smaller ones of hedge funds. There is no one like him now. The rest of us are just ordinary people. He was Superman.”

Goodbye Superman.

Where in the Hell is Damn Ugly?!!

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I got an email today from the 22 year-old son of a photographer who follows Damn Ugly Photography. It seems that while his Dad hangs out in here for the photo-related stuff that dribbles outta my brain, he turned the son on to the music that I (ever more infrequently) post here. He was wondering what the Hell I had been doing that’s so important to be keeping me from my duties of distributing free new music to the masses! He told me that once he spent some time here, he’d gotten hooked on the Song of the Day and had gone back to the beginning of the blog and downloaded every song I put up, but now he was going through serious withdrawal waiting for me to start up again.

I’m sorry….I’ve been busy.

Well, more correctly, I’ve been busy and distracted and homeless. The busy part is great, actually. We here at Damn Ugly haven’t been working this much in a long time, and trust me, we ain’t complaining, but that bit about being distracted and homeless has meant that devoting time to devote to the old blog has been tough. Some of you know that I sold the Damn Ugly World Headquarters last September. The plan was to move into new digs shortly after, but a few wrenches got tossed in the works and I had to scramble to figure out a new plan. Still…contracts were signed on a new location October 1st, with assurances that we would be moved in by, “December 1st…the 15th at the absolute latest!”…today is May 12th and I’m still couch surfing! The excuses as to why it’s taken so long don’t even matter to me any more, but the lack of a Manhattan base of operations has really been kicking my ass. All that work we’ve been doing is fine, but it means that I typically have to finish the gig, then head up to the Damn Ugly Northern Command…where the bears are…to work on the processing and such. So between the work we’ve been doing, the travel time to and from the gigs and all the other minor details that make up my life, the posting frequency at Damn Ugly Photography has certainly suffered.

But I’ll try to do better. I promise! I’ve got months of stuff I gotta catch up on…starting tomorrow!!!

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Making Sun Where There Was None

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Today’s behind-the-scenes (and lighting tutorial) is from my recent shoot for the Wall Street Journal’s Review Section on Connie Brown, who paints one-of-a-kind wall maps on canvas that are, quite simply, works of art. She researches each private commission and creates much more than a map, but instead produces what can be described as personal portraits of a region special to the client.

I spoke to Connie and she told me she lived in a converted schoolhouse, but her studio was an all-new building out back, with lotsa white walls, high ceilings, and quite bright…which it was…but it was also surrounded by a lot of really tall trees…

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…and as bright as it may have been, those trees did a super job of keeping any direct sun from lighting up the studio. And since I wanted to have a bright, airy look to the shots, it fell upon me to invent some Sun…fast! Thankfully I had the perfect thing for making Sun when there is none…a Profoto Magnum Reflector

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As a light modifier, the Magnum couldn’t be simpler…it’s just a deep dish with a 50 degree throw that is highly polished to a mirror finish. This not only makes for an extremely efficient light…even backed off 50 feet from your subject you still get a huge output…but the quality of light has a nice, open feel to it that looks just like the Sun!

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We placed one Magnum with a Half CTO (for warmth) on a Profoto Acute 2400w/s pack about 20 feet from the main, double-height window…with a second pack & head lighting up a smaller second window…and were amazed at how realistic the results were…

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Connie Brown

Connie Brown

The white ceiling and walls acted as natural fill cards, so we were able to point and shoot from pretty much any angle we wanted, and the hot backlight perfectly mimicked the Sun. And when we switched to a more head-on shot of Connie against her easel, the bright, open, lifestyley look of the first shots now turned wonderfully dramatic…

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With the portraits done, I now had to do some vignettes of her studio, and the outside lighting still proved to work without any changes…

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I can’t say enough how impressed I was with the lighting effect we were able to achieve with essentially one pack and one head. This is the kind of thing filmmakers do all the time by dropping a few 10K HMI’s outside of a window, but this was much, much easier!

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Cooking With Cash For The Barron’s Roundtable

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Here’s a quick follow-up to what we did with that $30 Grand in cash I needed as a prop for the Week Two and Week Three group shots of this years Barron’s Roundtable shoot. Once again, our object was to shoot as many different single images of each Roundtable member playing around the cooking theme so that we could later assemble them into our little stories. Since the theme played on the idea of cooking up a recipe for the perfect economy, cash…lotsa cash…was required as our main ingredient!

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And here’s how the final pages looked…

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Behind The Scenes At The Most Expensive Barron’s Roundtable Yet

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We here at Damn Ugly Photography have done many, many, many Barron’s Roundtable shoots over the years, but this time we came close to breaking the bank…literally! Our cover idea was to have the members of the Roundtable rockin’ Chef Props as they cooked up the perfect economic recipe for the coming year, and for our ‘ingredients’ we needed cash…lots and lots of cash

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Since Photoshop has added high-tech security filters that make it almost impossible to scan money and print it out…and prop money looks way too fake…we decided to hit my bank and just get real cash (that’s about $30 Grand in the bag) to use in our recipes…

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The basic cover setup was a raised plexiglass platform that I could shoot from both a low angle for the cover image, and from slightly above for the inside compositions for the Week Two & Week Three images…

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Hasselblad H1/50mm f4.0 with a Leaf Aptus 33 for the cover and the 5DmkII/24-70mm f2.8 for the higher-angle inside shots…

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As in previous years, we have only two hours to shoot everybody…all separately as they arrive at The Harvard Club for the meeting…on two different sets, and we must come away with two covers (for the January and June Mid-Year issues), two inside openers for those covers, two feature openers for the second and third week follow-up issues and individual shots of each person for the June Mid-Year issue. In those two hours we try to cram in as many different poses and props as possible so we have enough to work with when it comes to assembling the final group shots. Here’s some of the fun…

Marni worked her super-fast makeup magic on everyone before they got on set…

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Oscar Schafer…

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Brian Rogers…

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Fred Hickey…

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Abby Joseph Cohen…

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Scott Black…

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Adrian and I liked the idea of placing everyone on the edge of a mountaintop made from a butcher block cutting board and viewing them from below…

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…so once I shot a bunch of angles on the board, we had all the raw materials in place. Now it was up to me to assembly the individual shots into our cover and feature opening photos…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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This stuff never gets old!

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Stay tuned next week and you’ll see what we did with all that cash once Barron’s runs the Week Two and Week Three images…

Spending A Day In Wine Heaven

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As a wine geek, getting a call from Adrian Delucca asking if I wanted to spend a day photographing Tom Ryder in his World-Class wine cellar, made me extremely happy that I do what I do for a living. Tom has been the President of American Express Publishing, CEO of Readers Digest and was the Chairman of the Magazine Publishers of America, and over the years has amassed a truly amazing wine collection. He was writing a feature for Barron’s that discussed how the bottom has fallen out of the wine collecting (as an investment) market and told his own story of when he auctioned off a small portion of his own cellar. As part of the process, he had the auction house appraise the wines he wanted to sell and was shocked to learn that the 1,000 bottles he was looking to divest would ‘only’ fetch between $70,000 – $100,000…but if he were to sell only three Magnum bottles of his 2005 Romanee-Conti he would get roughly the same $100,000! It was my job to show him with those three bottles of very pricy DRC. Here’s how it went…

Nick and I started by stacking up cases of his very best Grand Cru Burgundies that would be our posing table…

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…and then cleaned up the background a bit…

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Nick enjoying the view from the stacks…

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…but Tom fit the mood a bit more…

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Because of the tight quarters in the cellar, we were kind of limited with what we could do, lighting-wise, but we pulled off a nice, warm and dramatic look with only two lights…an Elinchrom 39″ Mini Octa high and to the right of the camera, and a Ringlight…that’s it!

Our final select, with the three Magnums of DRC valued at $100,000 (and those messy cases behind him cleaned up in post )…

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And here’s how it looked in the magazine…

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Alec Baldwin Is Santa Claus

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In the Dreamworks Holiday Blockbuster, Rise of the Guardians, Alec Baldwin is lending his (Russian-accented) voice to Santa Claus, and in a bit of cross-promotion, David Baratz at USA Weekend called upon me and the crew to shoot him for the cover of their Holiday Tech Gift Guide. So a few weeks ago, we turned a room at the Crosby Street Hotel into our studio and brought a bit of Christmas to Soho…here’s how it went down…

Since it was a Christmas cover, I figured it was OK to dress up the set with a few Xmas lights…

Even though we knew we would only have Alec for maybe half an hour, my stylist, Cynthia Altoriso, pulled together a stunning array of clothes, including a couple of $7,000 Brioni burgundy velvet jackets (that unfortunately didn’t get worn)…

Since the idea of the cover was to have Alec plugged in to the tech gifts, he worked with the few props that played on that metaphor…

…and here are the final images…

Merry early Christmas!!!

Where Has Damn Ugly Gone?!!

Relax…relax…I know I’ve been incognito!

The ongoing project of moving the Damn Ugly World Headquarters has proven to be a much more daunting task than we ever could have imagined and with that, updating the old blog has certainly suffered. But never fear, we’ll be back with a vengeance come Monday morning!!!

In Case You Were Wondering…CEO’s Are VERY Busy!!!

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I logged another CEO Spotlight for Barron’s a few weeks back when Adrian sent us to shoot Bob Benmosche, the CEO of AIG. As usual, the drill is we get told The Boss is extremely busy and I will only be allowed five minutes to get everything I need in the can. I typically take the ‘five minutes’ as shorthand for we hafta be quick, but this time I knew we had no wiggle room. Benmosche was going to shoehorn us in between an earnings statement conference call and a Town Hall Meeting, so his schedule was carved in stone. There was going to be very little time for small talk, but I know how important it is to come away with a portrait that shows the subject’s personality. Obviously, with such little time to shoot we had to have our setups nailed down when he showed up. Here’s how it went.

The CEO Spotlight is formatted as a full-length portrait on white, so on this day we turned the top floor of the AIG building…with it’s 18-foot ceilings and Million Dollar views…into our studio…

That gave us our feature opener…

We also did a second shot where I used my Ghetto-Flos in the hallway area directly behind where we had the seamless set up…

…which gave us this…

…that morphed into this after a wee bit of Photoshoppery…

And we were done…in five minutes.

The Doctor Will See You Now – Sanjay Gupta For Prevention Magazine

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It took a while, but my friend Marybeth Dulany finally called me with a gig over at Prevention Magazine. I used to work for Marybeth a lot back in the days of ‘Rosie’ magazine, but once that folded she moved on to ‘Health’ where my particular style wasn’t a good fit. She ended up at Prevention last year and now she had something kinda cool…a profile of Dr. Sanjay Gupta for the July issue. The Damn Ugly crew made the trip down to Industria and here’s a bit of our day with the Doctor…

We started with a white setup for some cover stuff. Cate Sheehy was styling…

…and Marni Burton handled makeup…

We even did a bit of off-set/artificial portrait stuff that made it into the story…

I also set up a canvas backdrop that had a nice, terra cotta look to it…

I got to use my new 5-foot PLM umbrella for the first time…what a great light! I was really impressed at the quality of light and how large the coverage was. It was set up about 15 feet away from the subject and kicked out an open, but still contrasty light that gave me a wonderful shadow.

Finally, since it was such a nice day, Marybeth asked if we could do a few outdoor shots, so we fired up a 600-B and hit the street…

Marybeth was very happy…

And here are the final pages…

Soccer by the Pool with Olympian Megan Rapinoe

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Stacey Pleasant offered me a fun gig a few weeks ago. She produces a series of advertorials for McDonald’s that runs in Sports Illustrated and they wanted me to shoot Megan Rapinoe, a mid-fielder on the United States women’s national soccer team that’s going to London for the Olympics. Megan was gonna be in town doing some P/R and had very little time available for a shoot, so Stacey arranged to do everything at her hotel, the Dream Downtown. The advertorials are single-page interviews with the athletes and formatted in such a way that there has to be a lot of clean space around the person in order to run the type over the background. For our purposes, the options for locations at the hotel were limited, but we were offered the swimming pool area. Both Stacey and I figured using the pool as a clean backdrop would work perfectly for the type…but we didn’t know about one of the main design features of the Dream’s pool…

Portholes!!! Hundreds of little (and a few BIG) portholes at the bottom of the pool! Well…we were locked into the location, so I was just gonna hafta deal with that later…right now we had to start shooting!

While Marni worked on Megan…

Ben stood in so we could pick an angle on that pool, but without the sun things were looking kinda flat…

Megan’s a pro…she immediately understood the Damn Ugly Photography aesthetic…

And as if by magic…a few frames into the shoot the Sun came out…and all was right with the World. We decided to still keep the full-CTO filtered bare head we set up for a Sun-like skim camera left, ‘cuz it added a nice warmth to the highlight created by the real Sun…

But as good as that looked, I still had to deal with all those portholes…a few hours and a lotta mouse-clicks later, and the shot was now ready for type…

The final page…

With the pool shot in the can, I pressed for a couple of minutes more to do a second shot. Immediately to the left of the pool was a wall clad in Stainless-Steel that could be kinda nice. The natural light was a little flat, so we threw on the ringlight which gave us a hot highlight that ran vertically through the middle of the shot…

That looked like Hell, but once we got the available/strobe balance down, we had a little fun…

The final image…and that ringlight added a nice, smoky highlight rising off of her…

The issue hit the stands this week. Good luck in London, Megan!

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The 2012 Barron’s Roundtable Mid-Year Report

First off…I’m gonna thank Timothy Archibald for getting me off my ass and back on the blog! He wondered aloud on his own blog the other day about how facebook might be causing a lotta guys like me to slack off on our blog duties, so thanks T.A.

Now, back to business!

My twice-yearly Barron’s cover story on the meeting of their Round Table participants popped up a couple of weeks back, so just as I did for the Black Board cover back in January, here’s a little behind-the-scenes on how we put together the cover for Part 2…

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Since we only have about two hours to shoot all ten Roundtable members individually for both covers and all the inside photos for the two issues, we have to have our two sets nailed down pretty tight. And because we decided on the very complicated Black Board set for the January cover, the Mid Year cover set had to be somewhat simpler. Barron’s Photo Editor Adrian DeLucca and I came up with the idea to use arrow props that would be held to illustrate the Up and Down market trends and pose everyone on white around a few cubes…

Once we got all ten members shot, now I just had to assemble them into believable groups for both the cover and the inside opening spread…

…the final spread had most of those red arrows changed to blue…

…and for the cover we went without props altogether…

See y’all next January…

Where is Damn Ugly Photography?!!

Thanks for all the cards & letters expressing concern for my health and well-being, but yes…I know…I haven’t exactly been burning up the interwebs with pithy comments lately! That’s ‘cuz there has been a lot going on here at Damn Ugly, not the least of which involves an impending move of the World Headquarters. But we’ll be getting back on the horse…PRONTO!!! In fact, I will prolly drop something later today…

Smithsonian Magazine Goes to the Museum of Math

Hot off the press, my portrait of Glen Whitney, the Director of the Museum of Mathematics, is in this month’s edition of Smithsonian Magazine. I went down to DC a while ago and saw Molly Roberts…the Photo Editor at Smithsonian…and she said it would be perfect for a new feature section they were starting that profiled “Big Ideas”.

You can check out the story HERE!

Song of the Day

SOPHIE BARKER
Say Goodbye


DOWNLOAD: Say Goodbye

Remember Zero 7…??? Of course you do…who didn’t have the album Simple Things on the top of their iTunes list when it came out?!! It practically defined the entire Chillout genre of music. As luck would have it, Sia got crazy famous because of ‘Destiny’, but for some reason the same didn’t happen to Sophie Barker who sang lead on ‘In The Waiting Line’. But Sophie’s had three solo albums of her own material, the latest…Seagull…was released in the UK late last year, and even though you can pick it up on iTunes, it hasn’t had any kind of publicity over here. However…since ‘Say Goodbye’ has been dropped on a bunch of music blogs recently…it showed up in my email box this morning…I’m thinkin’ it’s about to get a stateside release soon. You can follow Sophie on her website or over on facebook

There Is No Photoshop Easy Button…

Click on Any Image for Full-Size
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Over the past few weeks you didn’t have to look too far to find an online review claiming how spectacular the new Photoshop CS6 upgrade is and how it’s gonna make everything you photograph so much better…but all I could think was no matter how easy the software engineers at Adobe make image editing by adding fancy new filters, content-aware tools or sexed-up widgets, none of that amounts to beans if you don’t have the smarts to envision the final result in that pile of mush that occupies the space between your ears. And it reminded me how I recently had to put some of my Photoshop smarts to good use and ‘fix’ a less than ideal situation when I was shooting the Annual Report for Philadelphia-based Glenmede…using Photoshop CS3, no less…

I had gone down to Philly a few weeks before the shoot to scout the location…Lenfest Hall at The Curtis Institute of Music…and on the day of the scout it was bright and sunny and would give us the perfect light & airy backdrop for the Management Committee photograph…

Problem was, on the day of the shoot, those 30-foot high windows gave us a view of Philly at it’s darkest and rainiest…

That’s when it became pretty clear I had to figure a way to let Photoshop brighten things up and get me to where I needed to be.

Here is the unretouched original, straight out of the camera…

The first thing I did was slide a new floor under everyone that was shot separately using a 16-second exposure…

For the next step, I figured the hardest thing I would hafta do would be to blow out all the detail in the windows to give the impression of it being a sunny day…but then things even got more interesting…the layout changed! My client wanted to know if it would be possible to give them more space on both sides of the group. Now this wasn’t something I had planned for, but if James Cameron can make the Titanic come to life I guess there had to be a way to generate a whole mess of information that didn’t exist…right?!!

I had some empty frames I shot after everyone had gone that I could use to clone the wood trim under the windows, but the real test would be adding perspective-correct banks of windows on both sides of the frame…that had me working well after midnight. Then I had to fake the entire right side of the piano, remove the rolling wheels under the piano, erase the clock and lighting panels from the back wall, and then turn on the sunbeams, add a little overexposure flare and brighten up those windows…

For the final step, I adjusted the color balance, heightened the Curves and Levels, and amped up the contrast with a High Pass Filter layer…

To see a larger version of the animated GIF at the top of the post that shows all the steps, click HERE