Capture One

For years I've always heard that Capture One Pro was the best raw processor there was and that I needed to be using it in order to be producing my best work, at least my best work as far as raw processing goes. The problem was that I just couldn't ever get the hang of it and it seemed like a whole bunch of hype that I just wasn't buying into.

I constantly go through cycles where I'm never content with my work, it's never good enough. Some would argue that's a good place to be because you're always striving to be better, and that's true to an extent, I am always striving to be better. But sometimes I would wonder if something in my process was holding me back, or at the very least not letting me get better results. When this happens I would usually try to switch something up; lighting differently, change in my retouching, switching up my content (this one is a long post all on it's own for another day). And one thing I would try is to see if the Capture One hype was real.

I've downloaded trial versions of Capture One since version 5 I think. And I've got two email addresses, so if I wanted to download a trial of a version twice I could do that. While that may be sneaking and cheating the system, it's ok, because each time I never used it for more than 30 minutes. I just couldn't get the hang of it. The interface and layout was too foreign, the raw processing controls just didn't do anything for me, and one time it crashed within 5 minutes of me opening it. I had given up on understanding the hype of Capture One.

About a year since my last attempt at Capture One, I decided to give it one last go. And I Was determined to at the very least understand it. I'm not sure what was different this time, but it actually started to make sense. And no only did it start to make sense, but I started to like it. So I used it a little more and I started to love it. I realized that what was holding my back before was my familiarity with Lightroom, which I'd been literally been using since version 1. When I stopped thinking about it terms of Lightroom, Capture One started to make sense. And I've actually grown to love how it's different.

The one thing I always hated about Lightroom is after you import a photo from a card or shooting tethered it would look nice for a second, and then Lightroom would apply the Adobe profile to the photo and it would get washed out and overexposed. Easy fix, just change the profile, but it was annoying. Capture One doesn't do do that, you shoot tethered and a beautiful photo comes in, it will always look like that until you start your processing, that's a big plus. Version 10 is much more stable than previous versions and it doesn't crash anymore. Tethering is much faster than Lightroom, photos download faster and and you don't have to wait for the profile to render. I'm used to shooting tethered into Lightroom and having to stop every so often and let Lightroom catch up to make sure it doesn't "get angry" and stop tethering. "Getting angry" is what I would say happens to Lightroom when it would bog down from shooting tethered too fast. But with Capture One there's no queue of photos that are backed up in the pipe waiting to download, and that was a huge plus. 

I've only had a chance to shoot one test completely inside of Capture One (input, process, retouch in photoshop, output), but I think it's really improved my work and my workflow. In the past I admittedly had a tendency to be a little heavy handed when it came to color grading and adding contrast in photoshop, partially because I wasn't getting good color at the raw processing stage. Don't get me wrong, I like the look I've made for myself, but *sometimes* I wished I would have a lighter touch. Enter Capture One. The photo below has zero color grading and contrast added in Photoshop. Raw processing in Capture One (white balance, open up shadows a hair, and skin tone uniformity). Then I did my retouching in Photoshop, cleanup skin and dodge and burn. Capture One can read PSD files so round tripping between the two is super easy. After retouching, back to Capture one for a tiny bit of contrast and saturation. And that's it!

Grace Lee0206.jpg

Seaside Part II

Almost a year after my first shooting trip down to Seaside, FL I found myself heading back down there with Hannah, a model and a whole bunch of wardrobe. We were wanting to shoot something beachy but a little more classic than the usual swimwear route. And of course, the trip was made possible by our friend Jen Abernathy who let us use her second beach house for the weekend. 

We had a pretty hard time finding a model to go with us since it was Easter weekend that we went, everyone had family plans. I get that, but it was also kinda frustrating because Easter happens every year and free beach trip only happens once. But we eventually found the perfect person who was free to go and it all turned out better than we could have imagined!

Model: Maryse from UWM

Wardrobe and makeup: Hannah Johnson

And then as a bonus, before we headed down there, another Atlanta model that I'd never met or shot before saw on Instagram that I mentioned planning a beach trip to Seaside and sent me a message. Turns out her parents live about 15 minutes away from where we were staying and she was going to be visiting for the weekend. So the day after we shot Maryse, Taylor stopped by the beach house to hang out and shoot for a little bit. And double bonus time, Ursula has a model who lives in south west Alabama, about a6 hour drive to Atlanta, but only 2 hours from Seaside, so I hit Mary up while I was down there and she came too, it was a pretty fun weekend. 

And to top it all off, Monday morning as I was trying to find motivation to pack up and leave, Jen messaged and and told me to hang out and stay an extra day ... so that's exactly what I did (Jen is the best, you have no idea). So Tuesday morning I pack up, hit the road, drive straight to Atlanta and arrive at my studio 5 minutes before a client does for a job. I timed that one out perfectly!

 

Trying New Things

Like most photographer when starting out, you'll do just about anything to pay the bills. And shooting weddings are one of those things. Some photographers find their niche and continue that and do amazing at it (my friends Ben and Colleen are the best wedding photographers ever in my opinion) and others (myself) never could quite get the hang of it. Over the last year, I've the thought a few times that I wanted to shoot bridal stuff, but on the editorial/advertising side of it. 

Well after a while of talking about it I was finally able to get a test together and make it happen. We were able to shoot in Rob Brinson's beautiful studio at King Plow (another thing I've wanted to do for a while). The natural light in the studio was so amazing from the massive bank of factory windows and we had a perfect overcast day, just a little pop of fill flash from the Broncolor Octa 150 and everything was perfect. I used my Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art for most of the day, allowing me to get closer to the models while also allowing me to capture all the ambience that the studio had to offer. 

And once the photos were all done, Dana stuck around for a little bit longer and we made a short video with the little Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. So happy with everything!

Dresses from Buckhead Bridals at Guffey's

Models: Hadi, Sarah and Dana from Factor

Makeup by Erica Bogart

Hair by Emily Knight

Creative Lust

For a little while now I've been fascinated with the mixing of paints. It started from seeing little videos on Instagram where people would mix different acrylic colors together, the streaks and smears that happen before the pigments form a new colors are mesmerizing. And since Instagram added the stories function a friend of mine who paints with watercolor would post stories of her inks making their way through the water and it was so beautiful. So I did what any photographer/videographer would do asked her to bring all of her stuff to the studio so we could make something fun!

So here it is, Creative Lust ... which coincidentally is her Instagram handle (I may have borrowed that title from her)

Watercolors by Francis Matia Styons St. Francis/@creativelust

 
 

I've never made a video like this before, pretty much had no idea what I was going to and was winging it the whole time. I definitely learned a few things in the process and know how to improve in the future, but all things considered, quite happy with how it turned out!

Here's a little iPhone snap of the setup. Kinos lighting it from each side, the Blackmagic pocket camera with a Rokinon 16mm Cinelens on Cavision rails hanging by the top handle from a c-stand with a super clamp, and a 7" field monitor off to the side so we could see what we were doing.

 
 

Timelapse BTS

I haven't made any videos in a while on test shoots, sometimes it's just too much to run two cameras and switching between two lighting setups (strobes for photos and constant lights for video). I've missed making videos and decided to make one but not worry about all that, so dusted off the ol' Blackmagic pocket camera, put it on a tripod and did a little behind the scenes time lapse for a little test I did. 

You can't really see the whole setup, but I've got a Broncolor Octa 150 camera left, with another 3' octa below it to make sure legs are lit as well, white v-flat camera right, and a strip softbox behind the v-flat for a little bit of fill on the right side of the backdrop.

Models: Fernanda and Karen from UWM 

Makeup and hair: Kathleen Padgett

 
 

Razzle Dazzle

A recurring job that I have is shooting for a makeup school here in Atlanta, Studio Crush. IT's designed as a portfolio school, where students come in each week and learn techniques from amazing professional makeup artists, and then are given a concept for a shoot and guided in creating and executing their own makeup looks on the models. Each week they bring in wardrobe, a photographer, sets and props if needed, and models from a local agency so when the student s graduate they no only have the skills required but also have a professional portfolio. 

My good friend and favorite wardrobe stylist, Hannah, also happens to be the director of the school. She's in charge of deciding on a concept for each week, scheduling the models and photographers, and styling the wardrobe for each shoot. On the days that I'm shooting, we like to collaborate and come up with concepts that are good for the students but also good for us, who doesn't want to get paid to create their exact vision?!

For this particular shoot, the initial concept was vague, "editorial", which could go so many different ways. Hannah had decided that she wanted the wardrobe to be black, white and red with lots of shiny vinyl in the mix. Then she asked me if I had any ideas to add in. Being a huge fan of Twin Peaks, the red/black/white wardrobe theme reminded me of the mysterious Black Lodge that you finally get to see at the end of season 2 (don't worry, no spoilers). With the black and white zig-zag patterned floor and red curtains I thought it would be a really interesting jumping off point for a set build. We decided to go monochromatic with most of the wardrobe and paint the set with black and white stripes, and then have that offset with pops of red in the wardrobe. So after a trip to Lowe's I got to work on the set build, a few posing boxes and floor panels, and they already had a few wall panels at the studio. Then came the tedious part, masking off the stripes. I spent about 4 hours the night before masking and painting, and then the morning of the shoot, it took 4 people another 2-3 hours to finish taping and painting the stripes. As were taping and painting the stripes, we decided to get a little funky with it and paint the stripes at different angles on the same panel. After we finished and put everything together, I noticed that we accidentally made our set dazzle camouflage*.

And just to make sure that we got everything that we wanted and exactly what we wanted out of the set, after shooting 2 looks each on 5 different models for the students, we decided to bring in an additional model afterwards and do the shoot again with our favorite looks, mixing it up a bit so it wasn't just a carbon copy of what we'd already done. It ended up being an incredibly long day and a ton of work (both day of the shoot and prep work before the shoot), but it was definitely worth it.

Model: Ana Karas for Factor|Chosen Atlanta

Hair and makeup: Erica Bogart

Wardrobe styling: Hannah Johnson assisted by Marah Rice

Set design/build by Hannah and Myself

And special thanks to Studio Crush and Rob Brinson for letting stay after hours to keep shooting

* Dazzle Camo is really interesting. I was used extensively on ships during WWI, and sometimes referred to as "razzle dazzle". Dazzle camo wasn't designed to conceal a ship, but rather to confuse enemy vessels. The disorienting patterns and stripes made it difficult to gauge the size, distance and heading of a ship. Once a ship was spotted, the opposing ship (or submarine) would put itself on an intercept course to get in a better firing position, but with dazzle camo opposing ships would have a hard time determining where that intercept course would be. 

Kate

I recently purchased some new equipment that I was pretty excited about, the Broncolor Octa 150. I did a lot of research between different brands and read all the reviews on all of them before making my decision. The Broncolor not only had better reviews than comparable Profoto and Elinchrom, it actually cost less than both of them, always a plus, also the Broncolor is a bit shallower than the others and I liked that too. 

After having to wait two weeks to buy one because both B&H and Adorama were closed observing a Jewish holiday, I finally made my purchase and was ready to start testing. Because testing out your new gear is always a good idea before running out into the world with it. Kate, a model that I know had recently asked me if we could shoot again, so I decided to see if she was free on a Sunday afternoon and she was! Kate also happens to be the younger sister of one of the models from the very first fashion editorial I ever shot, So I've got almost 5 years of history with their family.

I didn't really have a concept in mind since it was short notice and technically just a lighting test, but I still wanted it to be nice, hard to judge the light when you just phone everything else in. So I got a makeup artist and asked Hannah if I could pull a few wardrobe items from her stockpile and we put together a few simple looks, all black. So I told Kate our concept was all black and had her bring a few things to add to it. And for the backdrop, I've got so much paper in my studio that I don't even know what's there anymore. I found a nice blue that I liked in a 4' roll, but I really wanted a wider roll so I wouldn't be forces to shoot everything tightly cropped. I kept digging and found the same color blue in a 9' roll buried behind all the other 9' rolls. 

And as for the new octa, first impressions are that I love it! Nice and soft but also has a nice falloff, something that I've missed shooting with umbrellas where it leaves everything pretty evenly lit (especially my go-to 7' parabolic). After using parabolic umbrellas and smaller softlighter umbrellas pretty much exclusively for the last several years (with the occasional beauty dish in the mix), this octa is a nice and welcome change. My favorite thing about umbrellas was how easy they were to use, no assembly required, and my least favorite thing about octas (with the exception of the Elinchrom Octabank) was how not easy they were to assemble, I hate speed rings. Every review I read of the Broncolor Octa 150 said that, like all octas, it's not easy to put together. But I'm gonna have to disagree with that portion of the reviews, I found it incredibly easy to assemble and disassemble. And the fact that it uses a standard speed ring means you can use it on any strobe system without the need for mount adapters. Definitely my new go-to modifier. 

Model: Kate W from Factor

Hair and Makeup: Jessica Craig 

Wardrobe provided by Hannah johnson

Midtown Rooftop - BTS

 

This post is coming about a year and half late.

I'd been wanting to do a shoot with flowy dresses, that was the extent of my idea. I'd initially thought about doing it on top of a mountain with the sky as a background but I hadn't sold myself on that. So I called up a wardrobe stylist and told her what I was wanting to do to see if she had any input. And she did! That's the best part about collaboration, putting my ideas with someone else's and making things happen. As it turns out, she had just met the owner of the Ponce Condominiums in Midtown overlooking the Fox Theater. They got to talking and he offered to let us use the rooftop for a shoot. Wow!

So on a hot July day that's what we did. We met at my studio that morning to get everything ready, the headed to the location where we had access to the entire rooftop overlooking the city, a beautiful spiral staircase, and the penthouse suite on that sits under the towers. We made sure to make use of every aspect we could find. 

Also, I feel the need to talk about the hat. A friend of mine gave me a hat says "pimp" on it as a joke, and everyone hates it. So sometimes I'll show up wearing it as a joke and then realize that I don't want my head to get sunburnt so I end up wearing it all day. Then periodically throughout the day I'll remember that I'm wearing it and get embarrassed, but I keep wearing it. Just in case you were wondering about that ;) 

And of course it was all made possible by the wonderful crew!

Model: Katie W. w/Factor

Wardrobe stylist: Jenna Atkins

Hair and makeup: Erin Tierney

BTS photos: Jonathan Walker

Phipps Plaza Editorial

This was probably one of the most challenging editorial assignments I've ever had. From the start it sounded like it was doomed to fail. The pitch from the editor was "hey can you shoot an editorial for us at a mall with bad lighting and dodging people all day?". Ummm, no thanks. I later found out that was their joke pitch after I almost passed on it, that's what happens when when you're reading a pitch and can't get all the inflections to know that the editor was being tongue-in-cheek by trying to sell me on what sounds like the worst job ever. Turns out it wasn't quite that bad. They were serious about the bad lighting and people dodging, but they knew that sometimes I like a good challenge. 

The idea was to shoot the editorial in the newly resigned Phipps Plaza and show off some of the new architecture in little vignettes around the mall and to serve as sort of an advertorial for Phipps and the shops there ... but without looking like "hey we're in a mall". There also wasn't a cohesive theme for the editorial either, every wardrobe look needed a different feel, they didn't want it to look like it all went together, but rather like a trip to the mall with all the different shops. That actually played to our advantage because every corner of the mall was different. All the wardrobe was pulled from various retailers which made things easier for the wardrobe stylist, Jabe Mabrey. For one look, he saw something in a shop and ran in, explained what we were doing, and came out with something that he felt completed the look. 

The challenges, obviously, were the bad lighting and the people. Not to say that Phipps is poorly lit, just poorly lit for a photo shoot. We tried to be as unobtrusive as possible and respectful to patrons, but it was tough at times. Every few shots having to stop so someone could go by, most people saw what we were doing and would hesitate before crossing, and we would pause and wave them through, but then there are the people who are completely oblivious and didn't realize at all that they'd just walked through our set until after when they'd turn around and ask if they interrupted us. But we were polite to everyone. We kept equipment to a minimum to save on setup time and to make it easier to carry everything because we had to setup, breakdown and then move to a new spot for every shot. Luckily we we scouted everything the day before and figured out a flow to keep us from having to backtrack all over the place. 

Models: Rachel and Sebastian from Ursula Weidmann Models

Wardrobe stylist: Jabe Mabrey

Hair and akeup: Stephen Mancuso

Art director: Avi Gelfond

Down By The Seaside

I'd been wanting to get back to the beach for a shoot for a while, so I pitched the idea to an agency here in town about taking a trip with some of their models. They loved the idea and we talked about it, but I wasn't sure it was actually going to happen. Thankfully, Kristen at UWM is a scheduling genius and managed to pull this whole trip together. Also a huge thanks to Jen Abernathy for letting us stay at her amazing house down in Seaside FL. And Hannah came along and really stepped it up with wardrobe styling as well as doing hair and makeup for all the models.

After 7 days and 12 models, I still didn't want to come home, but all good things must end I guess. Too much good stuff to share, but here's a little sampling of what we did down there.

 

Kellyn Dark And Moody

I've been loving this window light/blue backdrop setup lately. So nice for making things kinda dark and moody. Here's the latest installment with Kellyn from UWM.

Kellyn is one of my favorites, she's so stunning!

Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera, Rokinon 16mm T2.2 Cine lens, Cavision shoulder rig, edited in FCPX and graded with ColorFinale. 

Side By Side BTS

I'm always forgetting to take behind the scenes photos, wish I had more to share, but for now this is it. 

I wanted soft light, but soft light light can sometimes be a little dull on its own, so I added a beauty dish in front of my 7' parabolic to add a little punch and to get some highlights on the skin. Equal power on each to make sure it wasn't key/fill setup, but both are key or both are fill. 800 watt redhead just for focusing.

A little bit of mayhem as the crew gets Lillie and Mark ready for the fashion editorial in the premiere issue of Lookbook Atlanta.

Hannah painting up some panels for Lenox

Alternative Apparel Spring '16

Atlanta is home to some really amazing brands, one of them being Alternative Apparel. Last summer I had the opportunity to work with them on their Spring 2016 lookbook. It was a hot day in the middle of July at a The Wigwam Building, a condo in Atlanta that looks like it was picked up from Miami and dropped in the middle of a landlocked city. So hot, so fun, we had a great day. We had a small crew that day, but everyone was on their top game and it turned out pretty great!

Art Direction: Heather Devine

Hair/makeup/grooming: Katie Ballard assisted by Kristean Paerels 

Wardrobe styling: Emily Sistrunk

Models: Maryse from Ursula Weidmann Models and Dylan from Directions USA

Photo Assistant: Jessica Golden

Behind The Scenes

I've always loved behind the scenes photos from other photographers, seeing sets and and the people working off camera to make the photo. It's the main reason why I've included some on my website, in the hopes that someone out there would see them and maybe be inspired to create something of their own or share their own contributing to knowledge of others. I had an idea a while back to show a photo of what's happening behind the scenes, be it an iPhone snap, a test shot or a pull back to show the set, side by side with the finished photo. Well I'm finally getting around to it, so now you can see the magic that does into making the image. This is just the first round, more to come!