Nick Murphy AKA Chet Faker

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I recently got to spend a day with Australian singer/songwriter Nick Murphy, better known by his stage name, Chet Faker. The Sydney Morning Herald was doing a cover story for their Sunday magazine that talked about his new album and how he was going to use his real name after five years as Faker. Tegan Sadlier, the photo editor at the Herald, and I tossed around a bunch of ideas before deciding on “Will The Real Nick Murphy Please Stand Up?” as our cover headline. More on that later, but here’s how the shoot went…

I have long had Ruby Bird Studios in Greenpoint on my radar, but haven’t had the right subject to take advantage of the wonderful grunge they have to offer…Nick was that subject! The old warehouse on the Brooklyn waterfront was made for a day of rock star portraits…

While studio 520 can hardly be described as a daylight space, it does have a cool casement window…

…that with minimal lighting (one big umbrella directly over Nick’s head) made for a nice, moody start…

Just to the left of the window was a beat up old sliding metal door that I liked for some tight portraits…

To the right of the window was an even more interesting door, but this one was recessed in a brick wall that would make for a frame around Nick…

…and that furry green coat…perfect!!!

Finally, for our cover concept…I convinced Tegan I could do a multiple image photo of Nick in different positions, wearing different outfits, to illustrate the ‘Will The Real Nick Murphy Please Stand Up?’ idea…

This wall was our base…

Next, we had to place our ‘Nicks’ in different spots in the frame…

And when that was done, all that was left was for me to spend a day at the computer making a group shot…with the ‘real’ Nick standing up!

…and here’s our final cover…

Joseph Altuzarra For the Wall Street Journal

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I haven’t done a real how-to blog post in a while, but the shoot we did last week of Hot fashion designer of the moment, Joseph Altuzarra, for the Wall Street Journal ‘Weekend Confidential’ feature sort of lent itself to that sort of thing. Both portraits we did look ridiculously simple, but it’s the little details that go into shoots like this where I get asked the most amount of questions. Questions about my lighting choices, color balance and post processing. I kinda take all this stuff for granted, but I’ll pull back the curtain and try to break them down for you…

The inspiration for our first portrait sort of hit me right away when I checked out Joseph’s showroom and saw these two mannequins…

I was immediately struck by both the starkness of their design and the beautiful way the soft light from a wall of windows in the studio wrapped around the faces against the white walls. But as beautiful as Joseph’s designs were, I sort of want to simplify things even more…and that meant getting rid of the clothes…

We positioned the mannequins in the largest open space in the showroom…

…and to mimic that soft wall of light from the windows, I decided to light the set with two 65″ white umbrellas plugged into 2000 w/s Elinchrom packs, set up 90 degrees to the camera (and almost 20 feet from the subject) for a split-light effect…

This was our first test shot (with Robert standing in for Joseph) just using the two umbrellas…

Honestly, for a first test it was very nice. It fit the ‘Weekend Confidential’ requirements of being graphic and powerful, while also immediately telling the story. This was exactly how I wanted to portray Joseph. But technically it just a little too soft, flat and monochromatic for my liking. Those two umbrellas essentially made one big, even light source, but although Joseph and the mannequins would be exposed properly, the brightness of white mannequins was too much. I needed to bring up the light on the subject without affecting the mannequin’s light. So I added a 20″ Profoto Beauty Dish on a Profoto Acute 1200 pack, with a 30 degree grid, for just a little more light at the center of the scene…

As you see in the lighting diagram, by positioning the Beauty Dish in front of the umbrellas and feathering it so that it hits my subject but stays off the mannequins, it brings up the light on the subject just enough to separate him from the rest of the set. But I also wanted to shift the overall color palate because ‘normal’ just wasn’t cutting it! Since I always shoot tethered to Capture One Pro with the Hasselblad/Leaf back, I have a lot of options when it comes to selecting ICC input profiles. Leaf has always had the best designed input profiles that allow me to do what I did next. I switched from the basic ‘LF3 Portrait 5’ profile (very neutral, very normal) to my favorite profile…’LF3 Portrait Warm 5′. Warm 5 heightens the contrast and saturates colors, and because of that, our next test looked like this…

The new input profile allowed me to lower my white balance from 5100K down to 4150K which gave me a cool, blue overall look, but the skin tones remained pleasant without me having to add a warming gel to the Beauty Dish. Next, using the Capture One ‘Color Editor’ control panel, I was able to further adjust the blue and cyan channels to make them even more saturated, and also was able to improve on the skin tone in the red and yellow channels. Now it’s certainly possible to do this kind of thing in post using Photoshop, but with the Leaf input profiles and adjustment panels, I’m not only able to see the effect as I’m shooting, but it cuts down on my post processing a ton! You can also see how the addition of the Beauty Dish brings up the light on my subject so that he stands out better.

With my prelight & Capture One setup nailed, I think we’re ready to get Joseph on set…

Before we finished, I switched from the 80mm to the 150mm lens that compressed the perspective further and lowered the output on the umbrellas by about half a stop that slightly darkened the mannequins and allowed Joseph to stand out even more…

Next, we had set up a thunder grey backdrop for some seamless portraits…

It doesn’t get any simpler than this…one big, soft light source (a 47″ Rime Lite Grand Box) placed on a boom stand about 2.5 feet above his head. No fill, no tricks. Here’s how it looked on Robert…

Again, that first test shot looks pretty good, but we can still improve on it with a few easy adjustments. All we had to do was lower the white balance from 4650K down to 4150K, tweak the Levels and Curves a bit, add a little shadow detail and pull in a bit of vignetting on the corners and we were ready to go…

Finally, here is the story as it appeared in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal ‘Review’ Section

The 2017 Barron’s Roundtable

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When January rolls around, one constant for the past decade has been the crew from Damn Ugly Photography has gotten to load a couple of thousand pounds of gear into a small room at the Harvard Club to shoot the members of the annual Barron’s Round Table. The basic formula is always the same. We start shooting at 8:00AM as the folks arrive. We have to shoot them separately since we need to be able to move each person around into whatever situations we’ve cooked up…and we have to be completely finished by 10:00AM since that’s when their all-day meeting begins. In that time we have to come up with images that will run on three consecutive covers in January, plus the cover for the mid-year report in June, as well as inside feature photos for all issues. Easy, right?!!

Adrian DeLucca and I wanted this year’s theme centered on the year itself…2017…and we came up with the idea to place the Roundtable members into the year 2017. To do that, I had to come up with the perfect 2017. I always liked the numbers on the Damn Ugly World Headquarters building…

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So that seemed like a good place to start. I found similar numbers and went about shooting them…

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But the silver seemed too passive…red spray paint was definitely called for…

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Numbers…done. Now onto the moving parts. Our setup this year was actually much simpler than previously years. We only had two separate sets, one for the January issues and a second for the midyear.

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I had a couple of 2017 ‘cheats’ taped to the gobos on our main set to help me keep track of where to place people…

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Everything got dialed in pretty quickly (that ripped seamless in the background is a teaser for the midyear cover, so I can’t say any more about that for a while) and we were ready to get started.

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Makeup artist Margina Dennis, Kaz playing digital tech and Adrian looking happy…

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Kaz holding up Brian Rogers…

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Oscar Schafer shooting Jeff Gundlach…

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To get people into the correct positions, we used a few very simple props. Brian had to lean into the ‘1’…

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Mario was standing inside the ‘0’…

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Abby was holding up the ‘7’…

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And Oscar would be laying back into the ‘7’ for the Week 3 cover…

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After a few days at the computer, here’s how things turned out…

Week One Cover and Inside Opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Week Two Cover and Inside Opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Week Three Cover and Inside Opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

And finally, here are the printed pages…

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Turning The Barron’s Roundtable Into ‘The Minority Report’

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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In the last episode of ‘Damn Ugly Photography’, we took a look at the first week of the 2016 Barron’s Roundtable Shoot…but now I’m gonna show you how I convinced our nine financial professionals to act as stand-ins for Tom Cruise in his movie, ‘The Minority Report’. You remember…this one…

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Adrian Delucca and I had been tossing ideas around for months on how to make this work. I had to generate the floating graphs and other graphics that would be ‘moved around’, and we also had to come up with the perfect background images to position the people against…

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…but probably the hardest thing would be how we could quickly get each Roundtable member to understand exactly what the final image would be and how to get them into position. Remember…I have less than ten minutes with each person and I had to shoot two other setups besides this one! I figured the smartest way around this would be to show them a pretty detailed mockup of our cover ideas with one of my assistants standing in, so on our setup day, I had Robert work his magic…

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The lighting was super-simple…just a single Profoto 3′ RFI Octa bank way up high on a boom…and a couple of medium strip skim lights with blue gels to mimic the lighting from the background…

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And the night before the shoot, I quickly Photoshopped this together…

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Showing each person the print before we got started proved to be the exact thing they needed to illustrate what we wanted them to do…

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Now we just had to get them to do their best impression of Marcel Marceau without feeling too self conscious…

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Point up at the graph…uhhhh….hand…..

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Here are a few of the raw images…

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And now comes the fun part…editing through the 1000 images I took to find the few I can use that will actually look like everyone was in the same place at the same time. Then, floating all the graphs in place while remembering I had to save lotsa room for cover headlines. Here’s how the Week Two cover came together…

First, the background image…made a bit fuzzier for perspective…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Now, add the people…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Then, the basic graphs…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Now I had to add in some shadows, haloes and color shifts to the graphs so they looked like the were actually floating in space…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Next I pasted in a few techie-looking graphics and charts…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

I decided to tone down the blue of the background cuz it as taking away from the overall dark mood I was aiming for…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

And finally I increased the contrast, desaturated the skin tones and added a glow around the fingertips…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Our final cover…

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Using the same steps, I worked up another image for the opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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The Week Three images came together pretty much the same…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

For the final steps, I messed with the focus on the background cuz it was drawing attention away from the foreground and shifted the overall blue cast more towards cyan/green…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Here’s the Week Three cover…

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…and the opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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Now if all that Photoshop geek talk hasn’t put you to sleep and you’re hankerin’ for more, you can watch the layers progressions on both cover images in these two YouTube videos…and then I promise, no more Roundtable talk for a while…..

Week Two Cover Layers:

Week Three Cover Layers:

The 2016 Barron’s Roundtable Extravaganza – Part One

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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As anyone who has visited Damn Ugly Photography on a regular basis knows, the first week of January is when we decamp for the warm embrace of the Harvard Club to shoot the annual Barron’s Roundtable. This year was no different, and apart from there being a few familiar Roundtable members missing and replaced with a couple of new guys, the formula remains the same. We have two hours to shoot each of the nine Roundtable members…separately since they all arrive at staggered times…with the objective being that we need enough varied poses to fabricate four individual covers (three in January and one more for the mid-year report in June) as well as four feature photos to open the story with each week. We start at around 8:00AM and have to be totally done by the time the meeting begins at 10:00. If the thought of shooting nine people for four covers and four openers in two hours isn’t daunting enough, we also have to get each Roundtable member to wrap their head our concepts for the covers immediately…and remember…these aren’t models. They’re financial professionals. Trying to get them to understand the varied poses I need so that I can manufacture a cover where they all look like they’re relating to each other is harder than any of the technical tricks we work on!

So here is how the shoot for the first week’s cover went…

Our Week One cover and opener revolved around this image of a World Map…

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Using some old images of the Roundtable members from a previous shoot, I put together this comp…

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…so when people arrived, I could quickly show them a visual representation of what we were going to do…

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As usual, we have to set up multiple lighting sets for our different poses in a very small room…this time we had three individual sets…

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…everything is in the same place…hair & makeup, three sets and a very small area where people can hang out until we get them on set…

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For the cover, we wanted everyone to react to the people around them…people who weren’t there when we did the shoot…so Robert got to carry on imaginary conversations to get each persons attention aimed in the right direction…

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We did luck out once when Bill Priest and Brian Rogers overlapped, so we shot them together…

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…but for the most part, they had to wave their hands around like a weatherman in front of a green screen…

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So my raw materials from this part looked like this…

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Now I just had to pick the appropriate images where everyone looked like they were all together at the same time. Here’s how the cover got pieced together…

First, the base background image…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Next, the base image is flipped to make the floor, and I also de-focussed it so it looked more like a real reflection…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Now I could mess with the color & contrast for the combined background…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and add a few people…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and the rest follow…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and finally, I added shadows and more color & contrast tweaks…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…which gave us our cover for Week One…

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Now I could move on to the inside feature image. I stated with the same base image layer, but I destaurated the blue cast a bit and lightened the upper area so that we could overlay type onto it easier…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The inside poses needed to be a bit more serious, due to the recent instability of the markets…

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The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The ‘assembled’ group…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…the final image with shadows & color alterations…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and our opening feature image…

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So that was Week One. Tune in again next week to see how Adrian Delucca, Pam Budz and I put together Week Two & Week Three!

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Misty Copeland’s New Website Is Damn Ugly…

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Misty Copeland’s new website just went live, and there are a surprising number of Damn Ugly photographs taking up space…

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I’ve been working with Lisa Clayton at Starving Artist Web Design who did all the heavy lifting with the layout of the new site…especially the inventive way she Photoshopped that swirling red skirt onto my shot for the home page…Bravo!!!

848 Shots…One Final Photo

Barron's Penta Fashion - Paul Smith

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A while back, Mr. Delucca called me up and asked it I wanted to do another fashion piece for Penta, Barron’s Quarterly lifestyle magazine. The feature was on Paul Smith and he wanted to do the shoot at the Paul Smith store in SoHo. After I checked out the store, I came away thinking it would be kind of fun to do all the shots he wanted to do…but in one photo. So I put on my David Hockney hat and devised a way to shoot our model in three positions at the entrance to the showroom for a deconstructed fashion photo. After popping off 848 individual shots (and why I used my Hasselblad/Leaf back is a mystery cuz now I have over 50gb of raw files to archive forever!) this is the result…

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And here is the final image in Penta…

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Pullin’ Out The Bull & Bear Costumes For Barron’s

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It’s June, and that means I hafta jump back on the Photoshop Horse and put together another cover story using elements from our January shoot of the Barron’s Roundtable members for the Mid-Year Issue. Adrian Delucca and I thought it might be fun to once again make use of those very expensive Bull and Bear costumes we had made for the 2014 cover, but this time the idea would be to have our mascots walking hand-in-hand down Wall Street. Sounds easy. It isn’t. For a whole mess of reasons, shooting ‘live’ down on Wall Street was never gonna happen. Forget about the expense of shooting this type of thing on location, just try to shoot on Wall Street when there aren’t a million people milling around! No…this was gonna be much more manageable shot in pieces…

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First off, we had to shoot a ton of variations of the Bull and Bear in the studio that I could drop into my Wall Street photo. To save a few bucks on models, Adrian and Assistant Photo Editor Jenna Bascom elected to get all sweaty in the mascot suits…

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…how about a ‘selfie’?!!

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Next, I had to shoot our empty Wall Street scene. Shooting on weekdays were out, since Wall Street folks are already filling up lower Manhattan before the Sun rises, so that meant an early morning weekend shoot. Almost every weekend of March and April was either too damned cold or rainy (or on one Saturday when I arrived at 6:00AM, the street was filled with Jodie Foster, George Clooney, Julia Roberts and about 200 grips setting up a film shoot!), but I finally got off a few frames of a relatively empty street and Stock Exchange building…

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Now I had to get rid of any people and other extraneous crap out of the background and stretch it out a bit (and make it square) to fit Barron’s format…

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…then throw the buildings a bit out of focus for perspective…

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But the early morning grey look wasn’t working, so I sparkled things up a bit…

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And it was finally ready for our Bull and Bear…

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Throw in some final color & contrast adjustments, a few shadows and more Photoshop magic…and voila!!!

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For the cover images, besides the portraits we did for the Chess theme, we quickly shot a few individual portraits of each Roundtable member on a neutral seamless…

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…a quick Photo-Bomb…

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The idea was to insert them into Financial District street scenes…here are a few of the results…

Mario Gabelli:

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Marc Faber:

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Bill Gross:

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Bill Gross - Barron's Roundtable

…and the final cover…

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And we’ll do it all again next January!

Suite Judy Blue Eyes

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Judy Collins…!!!

When Ronnie Weil called and offered me this one, all I could say was, “Wow!”. For five decades…my entire life…she’s been making music…beautiful music. Now Judy is recording a new CD that is tentatively titled “Duets with Guys”, an album that will feature her signing with Jeff Bridges, Jimmy Buffett, Don McLean and Kris Kristofferson, and Alexandra Wolfe was writing a profile on her for the Wall Street Journal. Here is how our day went…

Kaz sitting in for our first shot…

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Ms. Collins in the makeup chair…

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And our shooting day begins…

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We also had a Journal video crew following us around…

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Here are a couple of final images…

Judy Collins

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For the next setup, I wanted to do something dark & dramatic, and more etherial. And while it doesn’t look like much with Kaz in place…

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…once Judy stepped on set, things got dialed in pretty fast…

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Judy Collins

…and our final image…

Judy Collins

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As a little bonus, follow the link below for Ali Wolfe’s interview with Judy…

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…as well as some more behind-the-scenes from our shoot:

Judy Collins Interview & Behind-the-Scenes footage

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Playing High-Stakes Chess With The Smartest Guys In The Room

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When January rolls around, one thing you can always count on is that I’ll be packing up 1000 pounds of gear and heading to The Harvard Club to shoot the Barron’s Roundtable. This year, Adrian Delucca and I worked up a few ideas based on the game of Chess. Here were Adrian’s chicken scratches that led to our cover shoot…

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This year we would be publishing three covers in January, and the usual mid-year cover in June, so we had to set up three different lighting setups in the very tight quarters of the Presidents Room at the Harvard Club…

The main setup for the Week One cover and opener…

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…the Chess Table set for the Week Two & Three covers…

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…and third area for the mid-year portraits…

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As usual, we would start shooting the ten Roundtable members separately as they began arriving at 8:00AM, and we had to be finished everything when the meeting began…at 10:00AM! That meant we had to shoot each person in enough different situations for three covers and three openers as well as individual portraits of each for the midyear issue…all in two hours. And we also had to convey exactly what we needed each person to do since they wouldn’t be posing with anyone but themselves and everything would be put together in post! They’re given no advance warning of what we’ve cooked up for them until they arrive.

That kinda thing is hard enough to pull off when you’re dealing with professional models, but when you’ve only got 5 or 6 minutes with a financial expert, getting him to instantly channel his inner actor is a wee bit harder…

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With our Roundtable members safely in the bag, now I got to spend the next three days locked in front of my computer. I had already spent a day shooting a Chess Board & Pieces for our base cover image…

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Now came adding the human chess pieces…

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And after a considerable amount of Photoshop work, the final cover image looked like this…

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Next up was the opening image…

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And the final image…

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Finally, I had to put together two different chess playing situations…from two different angles…for the Week Two and Week Three issues. This was our high-angle test shot (you can see the low angle tripod at the bottom of the frame)…

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What would be so easy if we could just shoot it as one photo becomes a very complicated puzzle when you hafta shoot everyone separately while trying to keep track of who you’ve already shot and in what position…

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These are the two final images…

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Now on to the low angle…

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Man…am I ever tired…….

The BIG One: Behind The Scenes At The 2014 Barron’s Roundtable

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In an attempt to freshen things up around here, today I’m giving the blog a fresh coat of paint in the form of a new Theme. The old dark grey was getting a bit depressing, so I chose a brighter version complete with much larger photos…and larger text for those of you who might rely on reading glasses. I also slightly modified the title. After much deliberation, gone is any reference to the Song of the Day, since my increased work schedule has made dropping a regular stream of free tunes on you guys just about impossible. I’ll still post on music that catches my ear when I have the time, but I think going forward I’m gonna focus on why I’m here in the first place…Damn Ugly Photography. With that in mind, I have a lot of catching up to do, starting with today’s mega-post, long-winded as it is…

The posting frequency has been reduced to such a level that we completely blew off discussing this year’s Barron’s Roundtable from earlier this year, but fear not…today I’m gonna spew out the full behind-the-scenes for the three issues that ran back in January, as well as how we put together the mid-year cover story that hit the stands this past Monday. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been eight years since Adrian Delucca first called me to shoot the Roundtable Feature for Barron’s, and each year we have tried to one-up ourselves with new ways to shoot the ten Roundtable members for both the January and June issues, including multiple cover images, inside opening shots and individual portraits…and get it all done in the two hours before their meeting begins. And this year, for the first time, we would have to come away with four cover images instead of the usual two. We had our work cut out for us…

With the increased image count, we had to set up three separate shoot areas in the very tight confines of the President’s Room at the Harvard Club…

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Adrian and I cooked up a re-working of the old financial Bulls & Bears theme, and our Big Ticket prop items this year were a couple of mascot costumes we had made for the event. Photo assistants Rob MacInnis and Takeshi Koike got to spend the day sweating inside the furry suits.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself…we’ll talk about those costumes later…

The first January cover would involve shooting each Roundtable member on white in various poses to make them look like they were in Pamplona…running with the Bulls…

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…then in post, I would hafta do a bit of magic with a cobblestone street and a toy bull I shot earlier…

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…which eventually turned into this…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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Now as complicated as that might seem, the inside opener for Week One was actually waaaay harder to pull off. I now had to convince these ten financial gurus to imagine running away from, jumping outta the way of, cheering for and riding…an imaginary bull. For this, I first went down to Wall Street and shot the famous Bull statue…

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…then I took some outside shots of the Federal Reserve Building…

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…and combined the two images with those cobblestones again…

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Now we had to get some reaction shots of the Roundtable members…

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Oscar Schafer and Mario Gabelli are probably hoping they won’t have to ride the sawhorse…

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…and finally, many, many Photoshop hours later…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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With Week One outta the way, we now had to get workin’ on those furry suits for the Week Two & Three covers.

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And here are the final images…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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Are you gettin’ tired yet?!!

Finally, for the Midyear Roundtable cover, Adrian and I wanted to assemble a group shot in the form of a jigsaw puzzle. Our initial idea was to do the puzzle effect in Photoshop, because I had heard there was actually a filter for that, but after a bunch of tests we decided it just looked too fakey and so…we had some real puzzles made by PortraitPuzzles.com!

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I put my still-life photographer cap on and shot the assembled puzzles…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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And with that, one more year of the Barron’s Roundtable is done!!!

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Ricky Gervais & Kermit’s Evil Twin for the London Sunday Times Magazine

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Click on any image for Full-Size

Ricky Gervais. In New York. For the London Sunday Times Magazine. And it was one of the most fun shoots of my entire career.

Adam Hearn is the photo editor of the London Sunday Times Culture Magazine and some of the other folks I work for at the Times recommended he give me a call next time he had a shoot on this side of the Atlantic. I am so happy he did, cuz not only am I a BIG fan of Ricky, but I had just lost out on a shoot with him for another client only a week before Adam called. The story was tied to his new film, “Muppets Most Wanted”, and would feature the other star of the movie, Constantine the Frog, the world’s “Number One” criminal and a doppelgänger of Kermit the Frog. Adam kept it fairly open-ended as to what we could do…he just needed fun interaction between Ricky and Constantine for the cover and left the rest up to me. With that in mind, I went on a mad tear of propping…

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…dragged my crew down to Industria on a Saturday morning and let Mr. Gervais and Mr. Frog do all the heavy lifting. Here’s how it went…

Ricky and I talk to Matt Vogel…the Muppeteer behind Constantine…about a few ideas…

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…and even before we start, the fun begins…

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Here are some behind-the-scenes shots of how you photograph a Man and his Muppet…

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One of the best things about the whole day was having Ricky’s input as we went along. He came up with so many great ideas of what would look good, that I just had to keep my finger on the shutter and wait for things to happen!

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Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Then Ricky suggested they each pose with sunglasses…

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…and our cover was in the bag!

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After a quick background & wardrobe change, the two A-Listers were suddenly at each others throats…

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

…but a left-cross from the Frog ended that argument…

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

…and gave us the opener to the story!

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I also wanted to to shoot Ricky, sans Frog, but had picked up a few Froggy bits and pieces to stick with the theme, including a t-shirt with strategically-placed eyeballs…

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…and a very special pair of Kermit Adidas that Ricky put to good use…

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

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Finally, I wanted to cool things down a bit, so I had Ricky get into his trademark black…and accessorized him with some very blingy fuzzy Frog Slippers…

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

Ricky Gervais

Then we both kicked back and enjoyed a Green Drink…

Ricky Gervais & Constantine the Muppet

And yes…that is a Karl Pilkington t-shirt. I told you I was a big fan!

Behind The Scenes For American Lawyer

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Maggie Soladay, Photo Editor at American Lawyer, recently had us shoot the cover feature for their annual Associates Survey. The cover image had to convey the rather subtle idea that female associates gave their firms lower marks than the male associates did in many areas on the survey. Here’s a little taste of how it went…

For the cover, I wanted to use a color that immediately grabbed the reader’s attention and Art Director Morris Stubbs was on board, especially after seeing what I did with Bill O’Reilly a few months ago…so we pulled out the orange seamless and went to work.

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As you can see in the lighting diagram, I kept things fairly simple, but I wanted to light our models (Jo Quiles and Johnny Tyrone) with two separate main lights…20″ Profoto Beauty dishes with 25 degree grids…in such a way to add to the drama. The male associate had to be in a hero light…something that would make him more prominent in the photo, while the female associate was lit slightly from below to give off a more menacing vibe. Not exactly ‘monster lighting’, but just enough to not come off as a wash of soft light. Other than the dish reflectors, I added a ringlight with the soft reflector to give a sheen to their suits.

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Then we backed up the orange set with a similar look on blue…

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Next, we moved on to the inside look…

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To illustrate the idea of a law associate moving out of the shadows and stepping into the spotlight, I literally pulled out my modified Desisti spotlight for the task…

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I positioned the Desisti directly behind and above my camera and cut the light with two cards on either side that gave me a exact slash of light I wanted. A little pop from the ringlight filled in the shadows just enough without throwing a ringlight-effect shadow…

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The resulting image opened the story…

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…and all was right with the World…

American Lawyer - Associates

Screaming At Adobe May Actually Have Helped…!!!

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As any of the regular viewers of the Damn Ugly Channel can attest (and by regular, I mean those who have stuck with me through this past Summers marked lack of action in here!), I have been a rather vocal opponent to Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription scheme. I made my feelings about their plans to charge $20/month to use Photoshop (and Lightroom, Behance, and have access to a 20GB Cloud Storage account) very well known, as I saw it for what it was…a blatant money grab! The smart kids in class realized very early on that moving to a subscription-based pricing scheme wasn’t about innovation and the seamless transfer of upgrades to its end-users, as Adobe claimed…no, the writing was on the wall that in order to keep their business going, Adobe had to do something to lock in a steady cash flow since it was obvious they weren’t gonna stay profitable forever relying on periodic upgrade fees alone. There are only so many new gizmos and filters they could add to any piece of software before the end user wouldn’t care and bail on paying for upgrades. Now comes word that all that screaming from the mountaintop by those of us in the Photo Community may have have a positive outcome as Adobe just announced a “New” Photoshop Photography Program…only $10/month…forever…if you’re already a Photoshop user (minimum CS3) and you sign up buy the end of the year.

Now by lowering the subscription price to $120/year, it kinda brings the cost down to what have been historically what users paid if they were fastidious about sticking to the Adobe upgrade path. But as good a move in the right direction as this might be, I’m not exactly ‘rejoicing’ at the news, as the PetaPixel Photo Blog suggests all photographers should be doing just yet. At ten bucks a month even I can’t come up with too many arguments for not joining…except one…why isn’t Adobe addressing the biggest issue with their plan for an ongoing subscription model…the lack of any viable exit strategy for loyal users once they get off the subscription track?!! I mean, I’m not planning my retirement party just yet, but there will come a day when I won’t wanna fork over even $10/month for occasional access to a program I will use sparingly at best! All Adobe would have to do to win over the entire Photo Community would be to say that after you’ve paid into “The Cloud” for a period of time…say three, four or even five years…the end user can end their subscription and their software will be locked in at that level of upgrade. This would ensure the user could still have full working access to their work and Adobe will have made a healthy profit over the subscription time frame. And best of all for Adobe, should that user decide at a later date that it is once again necessary to get back on “The Cloud”, then they would have to pay whatever the going rate was at that time to re-subscribe and build time credits towards the next allowed jumping off point.

See…very simple…why can’t everyone just listen to Damn Ugly Photography?!! But let me know…what do you think of Adobe’s price drop?

On the Top of the World for Barron’s

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A few weeks back, Adrian sent me uptown to the GM Building for a feature on Jeff Kolitch, the manager of Baron Capital’s Real Estate Fund. Since the focus of the article was Real Estate, they kinda wanted to see Real Estate, so on the scout, even thought they had a lot of fish tanks that might make for some fun portraits…

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…I still had to make sure to come up with something that might actually relate to why Jeff was being interviewed…

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Adrian really liked the window and its view, so Ben and I figured we could turn it into a ‘frame’ that would hold our photo…

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And the final images…

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Jeff Kolitch

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But we weren’t done yet. When Jeff walked me around the offices on the location scout, I really liked the space-age, floating glass staircase that joined the 48th & 49th floors…

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…and after a bit of lighting…

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Jeff Kolitch

…we ended up with this…

Jeff Kolitch

Sharp eyes will notice that in the final image I cloned the wall on the right side of the photo onto the left side to make things more symmetrical, a technique I used once before on another staircase shot for Businessweek.

Adobe & Goldman Sachs – A Match Made In Heaven?!!

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It’s Friday afternoon, and to close out my week-long rant against the proposed Adobe Creative Cloud, just in case there are any of you out there who still don’t believe that what Adobe is doing amounts to a straight-up money grab, I offer you this to chew on…

Quoted from a Goldman Sachs research report on the subject:

With the announced update of Adobe’s flagship content authoring tools Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign the company rebranded them Creative Cloud instead of Creative Suite and stated that the new editions would only be available on a subscription basis. Further, the company stated that going forward all new features for these apps would also only be available with the subscription offering. Adobe will continue to sell and support CS6. While our conversations with Max attendees indicate that most found the timing of the move surprising, we view it as likely accelerating adoption of Adobe’s subscription offering…….We believe the lack of VIABLE ALTERNATIVES to the Creative Cloud apps along with the productivity enhancements in the new editions will drive the majority of CS users that are ready to upgrade to migrate to Creative Cloud despite what will likely be a vocal but small backlash.

That was followed with this little nugget:

In a report published Thursday, Goldman Sachs analyst Heather Bellini upgraded the rating on Adobe Systems from Sell to Neutral, and raised the price target from $34.00 to $48.00.

In the report, Bellini noted, “We upgrade ADBE from Sell to Neutral with a 12-month $48 price target. Since we added ADBE to the Sell List on 7/12/11, the stock is up 47% vs. the S&P up 21% (LTM ADBE is up 37% vs. the S&P up 17%). The stock’s relative outperformance comes as investors have given the stock credit for a more normalized operating model post the transition. At around $44 the stock currently trades on 30X consensus’ NTM EPS forecast vs. the three year historic average of 14X on compressed earnings (consensus is at $1.45 for FY13 vs. $2.36 in FY12).”

Adobe Systems closed on Wednesday at $44.70.

So…knowing they have the creative community by the balls because of the lack of “viable alternatives” to their applications, Adobe moves forward with the subscription only pricing scheme…and the biggest investment bank in the game upgrades their stock outlook by more than 40% on the news. And yet there are still those who think Adobe has OUR best interests at heart. If this isn’t a wakeup call, then what is?!!

Hitler Hates Adobe’s Creative Cloud Too!!!

OK…OK……we’ve all seen at least a thousand of these Hitler memes, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t pass on when Hitler learned about Adobe’s new Creative Cloud model…

…85,000 hits and counting!!!

DIGLLOYD Takes On The Adobe Creative Cloud…

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The past 24 hours at Damn Ugly have been pretty damned busy. We’ve gotten more hits from that Adobe post than just about anything I’ve written about in years! And as I continued scanning the interwebs to see what far smarter folks than me are saying about the entire mess, a came across a treasure trove of information posted by Lloyd Chambers, the Capo di tutti capi of making your Mac computer Ferarri-fast. Lloyd is also known as DIGLLOYD…the driving force behind MacPerformanceGuide.com…and he devoted a few days going over the fine print of the new Creative Cloud scheme, and he’s none too happy about any of it. He breaks down…with a whole lotta very funny & sarcastic asides…a whole mess of stuff I hadn’t even thought of, not the least of which is the particularly heinous contract Adobe expects you to sign prior to joining their Big, Happy Cloud Community. I loved the part where he said that since he actually took the time to READ the contract, when it came to the point at the end where he had to click the ‘ACCEPT’ button, the page had timed out!!! Apparently Adobe never intended ANYONE to actually read what they were gonna give away before signing the thing!

Now a warning…as with my post yesterday, reading through this requires a certain investment in time, but trust me, it’s well worth it! As a public service to all my Damn Ugly groupies, I’m linking to all of what Lloyd dropped over at MacPerformanceGuide.com regarding the cloud. Enjoy!

Adobe Clouds Software Choice (Adobe Creative Cloud Only Going Forward)

Adobe Creative Cloud: Date of Birth Mandatory, Lopsided Legal Agreement

Adobe Creative Cloud: Lopsided Legal Agreement

Adobe Creative Cloud: A Time-Wasting Chat

Adobe Creative Cloud: No Fair Warning Given for Upgrades

Adobe Creative Cloud: Why no ‘Buyout’ or Read-Only Option?

Adobe Creative Cloud: Reader Comments

Adobe Creative Cloud: The Main Point

Adobe Creative Cloud: Summary View

Adobe Creative Cloud: The “Toaster”

Adobe Creative Cloud: Activate/Deactivate and “Phone Home” License Check

And please…if you haven’t done so already, head on over to www.change.org and sign the petition to get Adobe to offer us users a choice!!!

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