A friend recently received his new Nikon D300 camera, and as soon as he had a battery charged he went out picture taking and shot his images in the RAW format as was his usual practice. He stopped off in his travels at a another friend’s house to show off his new camera and to share some of the test pictures. Not satisfied with the small view on the camera back he sought to transfer the images to his friend’s Mac computer.
When I was in college I can’t tell you how many times the subject of “what makes art–art” came up. Everyone had his or her own ideas and theories some of which I agreed with and some not so much. Of course there was the occasional “non- art major” who belted out with ” How can someone call that art?” when viewing a slide of one of Jackson Pollock’s paintings or my all time favorite – Mondrian. So what does make art, art? Well I have my own theories, one of which I discovered years ago when I came across what has become my all time favorite quote. It is something I have molded my own business and design theories around. Whether it would win an argument in the war room we used to call Art History 101 or not – I don’t know. But it has proved successful in turning an overnight freelance designer into a very successful design agency.
I took a huge risk for the sake of making art six years ago. After graduating from College I worked several years in design firms, including a magazine, a recruitment advertising agency, a design/printing firm and lastly as an in-house Art Director for a very large restoration company in Fort Worth, Texas. In my years as a designer for firms, I learned a lot about what makes the industry work and what doesn’t. It was a major time for me to become more than just average with the tools used to do my job. However, one of the greatest things I learned about advertising wasn’t the applications, or how to work under great demands and crazy deadlines. The most valuable lesson I learned is how quickly the design business can become mundane and no longer fun. Even more importantly how marketing under the direction of someone else can become nothing even resembling art. While I value very much my time spent in agencies, I know that my real learning experience came once I set out on my own.
When my family was transferred back to East Texas I had two choices. I could work for a small town ad agency struggling to make the “mom and pop” businesses’ of the world seem more than just mundane. Or, I could demand more of myself by setting out on my own, and take the chance to try to be successful creating real art for advertising the way I felt it should be. I chose to utilize the contacts and relationships I had built while in the industry in Dallas and Ft. Worth and get them to take a chance on me. Of course, the first year was scary, and many times I asked myself if I had lost my mind. However, after I got into the swing of things I realized without a doubt it was the best bridge I ever jumped off.
The thing I liked least about working for an agency was that I was given a certain set of customers to focus on, or in-house I was working to market the same business with only limited ways to sell. Trying to be creative and artistic in a redundant world was very smothering. I now have a client base of over 40 companies, ranging from investment firms to high fashion couture designers–and everything in between. Although some of my customers are, what you could call, “limiting” on the creative end, those who aren’t limited open up my mind to possibilities that carry over to those who are. There are no limits now to what I can do out from under the restrictive agency thumb. I can take risks and make mistakes all day and my boss will not fire me because “she” knows that from that will come art!
It has been six years now since I set off on my own and I have almost tripled my earnings from the agency days. I now have two programmers and two print designers contracting to me to take the overflow of work. Most importantly I am the only person I know that loves to go to work every day. So with that being said, I guess the term ” works for me” is appropriate when speaking of my theories of art.
I not only took the risk of venturing out on my own, but I use this theory every day in running by business. This is how I feel my company has become as successful as it is today. The most important thing to remember when designing–whether it is for your own business or at an agency– is… MAKE MISTAKES! Be free enough in your design to venture into new areas. Try new things, from new applications to new design techniques. Don’t steal ideas- that is lame–BUT do watch and learn from other designers, especially if you are on your own.
There is nothing like a brainstorming session to bounce things off the brains of other designers. If you are on your own, you may not have this luxury, so network with other artists and designers and search the web. Scouring the sites of other great designers, you can create your own virtual brainstorm session. Again do not steal designs. That is an insult. Use their work of others to inspire and spark fresh ideas of your own. Many times over the years customers have asked me. “How do you always come up with so many new ideas – I would have run out by now.” and the answer to that is that I make mistakes. I record everything, concepts, ideas, thoughts,–even if I may look back at them one day and say, “what was I thinking?” It is worth having the other 10 thoughts that may rock. Taking risks can create the most beautiful works and brilliant concepts.
The negative to working for a large firm or growing fast in your own design business is that you don’t have enough time to be creative because you are too busy cranking out the work. Never let this happen! Then you become a production mill and not a designer – definitely not an artist! Give yourself time to give your customers the “Best” you have. How do you know what is the “Best” if you don’t take to time to have some “Worst”? Not once in the last six years have I pitched concepts to a customer that they did not choose the first design out of the box. Why? Because every time I concept, I take the most risks on the first design. First, I try something new that the customer may or may not choose, but that I would choose if I were the client.
Then there is the trick of deciding what is worthy of putting your name on, and what isn’t. Some may say, “Why spend time creating something you won’t pitch?” That is what being creative is all about. I make sure nothing leaves my “outbox” or is posted to my betasite that is not what I consider the best I could do. Now I will admit that I look back at old work periodically and question my choice at the time? But this is because I am constantly studying, researching and forcing myself to take the time to learn new techniques and software, and venturing out into new areas of design. I feel that if I looked back and loved everything I have done in the past that I would definitely NOT be following my own theory of taking risks to make art.
This brings me to the inspiration behind my madness…
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams.
And for all the Mac addicts reading this – I typed this article on my Iphone while traveling from Texas to Georgia over the Holidays. I too am a Mac addict. Of course that is a whole other topic!
Arnold Graphic Design
Rocky Nook was founded in 2006 in Santa Barbara, California, and is closely associated with dpunkt.verlag in Germany. Rocky Nook is associated with, and releases books, through O’Reilly Media Company, hence the distribution through the O’Reilly address.
Rocky Nook specializes in books on digital photography, imaging, and workflow. Their stated goal is "to support creativity, and improve the quality and efficiency of photographic work".
The writers chosen by Rocky Nook are photographers with serious experience and a thorough understanding of the technical nature of the subject matter. I must also add, their writers have an ability to communicate clearly and logically the sequences of events they wish to explore, and equally clearly explain the reasons they chose those sequences.
In the case of MANAGING YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC WORKFLOW WITH PHOTOSHOP LIGHTROOM, their authors bring serious practical experience packaged in an extremely attractive format. It is a pleasure to me to hold a book in my hands that is beautifully printed, laid out in a manner that lends itself to lying open on a table (so that I can work from it without having to nail down the corners to keep it from curling), and finally is bound in such a manner that it will survive continual handling. Combine careful packaging with good writing and quality illustrations and you receive a full service for your money.
I like to watch TV in bed at night. Sometimes I like to record what I am watching, but this involves getting out of bed, putting a tape in the recorder and getting back in bed. Usually I have to open a new tape by somehow ripping off the cellophane that has been adhered to the tape pack by static electricity (a force often stronger than I am), and by the time I have the tape in the recorder I’ve missed the first few minutes of what I wanted to record anyway.
Still Photographers in the Film Industry shoot stills for the publicity of a movie and to document the film, and everything connected with the production of a film. Then the finished material will be usually be turned over to the studio which will be distributing the film so they can mount a publicity campaign leading to the release of the film. This includes, but is not limited to, a Press Kit (which is now a digital Press Kit), The Poster or One Sheet as it is called in the business, and exclusive photos for a particular magazine such as Time, People, Entertainment Weekly, etc.
Film has never been able to capture the dynamic range of reality, and trying to achieve that result has been the goal of photographers and chemists, and then later lens and film designers, since the early beginnings of the photographic process. But digital imaging has brought us to the possibility of producing images that contain a higher dynamic range than is possible with any type of film. With digital imaging and the proper techniques it is now possible to produce a dynamic range in an image that fast approaches that which the human eye perceives.
The press release from Rocky Nook says it quite neatly:
"Once Hollywood’s best kept secret, this cutting-edge imaging technology is a method to digitally capture and edit all light in a scene. It represents a quantum leap in imaging technology, as revolutionary as the leap from black and white to color imaging. HDRI is the final step that places digital ahead of analog.
With this technology now available to everyone, the only problem was that it was poorly documented…until now. THE HDRI HANDBOOK is the manual that was missing."
As a photographer, having given up film for a digital camera, I have struggled and read forums, kept up with journals, and exchanged notes with other photographers as I have attempted to master the fundamentals of High Dynamic Range Imaging (let’s call it HDRI for short). But I have not until now found a complete WHAT, WHY, and HOW in one package until now. THE HDRI HANDBOOK by Christian Bloch will take you from understanding the concept of HDRI to the production of quality images."
"Who is Christian Bloch?" I had to ask when I started reading THE HDRI Handbook. Somehow I had missed out on his name as a reference in regard to HDRI. I like to think that I am at least familiar with most of the names of those who are photographers and who write about photography, but I had been reading in the art business and the photography industry rather than the cinematography, television, and computer graphics areas.
Christian Bloch is a highly acclaimed German visual effects artist who works and lives in Hollywood, California. During his professional career, he has created effects for several TV shows; StarTrek:Enterprise, Smallville, Invasion, Lost, 24, and Studio 60, as well as a number of commercials.
His work has been rewarded with an Emmy Award, and a nomination for the Visual Effects Society Award. He has been a pioneer in the practical application of HDRI in postproduction, specifically under the budgetary and time constraints of the television industry.
I have to quote Rocky Nook publications again:
" Bloch earned a degree in multimedia technology. Years of research and development went into his diploma thesis about HDRI, which was honored with the achievement award of the University of Applied Sciences Leipzig. Since his thesis was published online in July 2004, it has been downloaded more than 15,000 times, and it has been established as the primary source of information on HDR in Germany."
THE HDRI HANDBOOK is the successor to Bloch’s diploma thesis. It has been rewritten completely from the ground up in English, and it has been heavily expanded and updated through May 2007. Continuing updates are available from the HDRI Community Forum website (http://www.hdrlabs.com/cgi-bin/forum/YaBB.pl). Careful illustrations and step-by-step procedures are outlined in a wonderfully logical manner. They take you from a basic understanding of the image formats used to define imaging software, through the structure of the camera’s imaging hardware, to the final assembly and production of an HDRI end product. Literally, hundreds of high quality samples and precise screen shots leave no question of the author’s intent to convey—most specifically—the ideas and procedures that he discusses in the text. The overall feeling of the book is one of loving preparation that is evident in the page layouts and quality of the printing. There is a definite "class act" feeling to the volume when you hold it in your hands.
Contributing to the updating and information are other writers as well. Dieter Bethke (with more than 17 years media production and artistic photography), Bernhard Vogl (one of Vienna’s finest panoramic photographers), and Uwe Steinmuller (owner and chief editor of DigitalOutbackPhoto.com) all add their contributions to the overall package.
Included on the accompanying CD are trial versions of Photosphere (Mac), FDRtools (Mac and PC), PTGui Pro (Mac and PC), Photomatix (Mac and PC), and Picturenaut (PC). Also included are all the tutorial images you need to follow along with the chapter examples.
THE HDRI HANDBOOK topics include:
- Understanding the foundation of HDRI (What it really is and why it works that way).
- Tools for a high dynamic range workflow (The available software as of the present time, and the imaging chip which records the data)
- How to capture HDR images: today and tomorrow (The "how it all works"—the chip and the software—and how to set up the digital camera properly)
- Tone mapping to create superior prints (Setting up the range of exposures for the optimum result)
- HDR image processing and compositing (Processing and assembling the exposures)
- Shooting and stitching HDR panoramas (The problems that arise in panoramic shooting and how toovercome them)
- Image based lighting and CG rendering (Understanding lighting for Computer Graphics creations)
- World premiere of Picturenaut and Smart IBL (New software to play with)
- Creative uses and unconventional applications (A lot of things you never thought of)
I read the HDRI HANDBOOK from cover to cover in six days, but this was without working out the samples and seeing for myself each provided software demonstrated and examined. From the academic standpoint I look at the HDRI HANDBOOK as a semester’s worth of work…or longer. But having finished it overall on the one reading I can say that I now have a volume with a couple of hundred small, colored, annotated sticky tabs scattered around three sides of the book which refer me to specifics that seemed important on the first reading. Maybe I understand 10% or 20% of the hard data—perhaps more—but I can say that I no longer feel as though I had been working strictly hit-or-miss at the idea of High Dynamic Range Imaging without understanding so much of the limitations or possibilities; now I feel that I know where I am and how to systematically explore the pros and cons of each software and to open up the unexplored vistas of the creative aspects of the whole concept of HDRI. Now it is up to me to tackle each concept that Mr. Bloch and his colleagues have demonstrated, and work out an appropriate workflow of my own. Sometimes that will mean listing workflow steps that he has given to define the order that certain processes should follow, and other times it may mean camera and software settings to try as base lines. Only when I understand the basics will I be able to logically experiment and seek creative and aesthetic solutions. Lots of practice will be in order; but now I have a much better understanding of the "rules of the game" in HDRI. The rest is up to me.
I recommend it totally.
New software for backing up your files and folders crossed my desk recently and I decided to give it a try. This software, LifeAgent from Memeo (http://www.memeo.com/) attracted me by the way it could be set up to backup a file or files automatically any time that I plugged in to an external drive. Since I use a laptop normally (MacBook Pro, 2.33. C2D) it would mean that simply plugging in to my external drives would backup selected files without my needing to specify anything.
Wow, what a great title for my first article on Adobe CS3 Bridge. Really, I came up with it myself. Me, you ask? Well, I’m kind of a manual/mechanical guy. I’m a photographer, and somewhat of a computer geek. I have always preferred cameras that can work without batteries, and have all the shutter speeds and f/stops work. I capture images in digital format almost exclusively for both my commercial photography and my personal work. So far I haven’t found any of the new-fangled digital gear that is mechanical, but the manual settings are all available. Just keep lots of batteries handy to power the sensor.
I’m a rambling man, but I generally ramble with a purpose. I love CS3 Bridge and Camera Raw, and can talk all day about how I use them. However, I understand that most folks kind of get catatonic when I ramble on too much… so here is the only somewhat rambling story of how I work with CS3 Bridge and Camera Raw to make my life easier, more enjoyable, more fulfilling, well… you get the picture.