iPhone Photos – Let’s face it, it’s a better camera than it is a phone!

I have an iPhone.  Have had one for many years.  I was an early adopter and have suffered at the hand of the contraption for the entire time.  It is a great little device, but it is a terrible phone.  If you call and catch me on my iPhone and I am out on the road or even in my office, you will most likely get dropped.  I am told by AT&T that it is due to the fact that too many people are on the 3G network so it gets overloaded and apparently randomly chooses who get’s thrown off the network.  But anymore, I am certain that it is not random.  It drops me first, then my brother Rex, and then everyone else gets in line for the privilege of being the next dropped call.

But I must admit, the iPhone (which should be called the iGadget) is amazing at everything else it does.  And one of those things is a cool little phone with all sorts of cool photo applications.  My hats off to all the programers of the applications.  I bring this up because I went to lunch with some photographer friends (Melissa Jill, Rebecca Bouck, Isaac Bailey and Kimberly Jarman) a while ago and was introduced to an photo app called ShakeitPhoto, which takes a photo in the form of a Polaroid.  It is a fun little app and even makes you wait for the photo to develop.  How fun is that?

Anyway, here is a photo taken with that app on the iGadget.

It really is quite true that the best camera is the one in your hands.

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Do You Want A Discount

I just read a blog post by Melissa Jill about her rule on discounts.  So many people would like a discount on the services we provide as photographers.  It is interesting to me that the dentist, or the lawyer, or the mechanic is not interested in giving me a discount on their services, but when they come to me for services, they would like a discount.  It is a classic issue of pride: overvaluing ones own worth and undervaluing everyone else’s worth.  My father always wants to buy his new car at a discount and yet, he wants to sell his old car at a premium.  Of course, if one can get away with it, it is good business for them, but if I want to stay in business, I can’t work for free or even half price…  It is hard for people to get this concept, so I am re-posting this video Melissa found that puts the issue in perspective…

My Discount Rule:

So, what is my discount rule?  It is even more simple than Melissa’s.  I work for full price.  If you are special enough to me to get a discount, my services will be FREE, otherwise, it is full price.  My price structure puts my photography within reach, so I don’t offer discounts to anyone.  I enjoy doing things free of charge as a service to the ones I love, or for those in extreme need, but I also have a family to feed, so when I work, I work for full price.  It’s that simple.

I do have one exception to my discount rule.  I give a discount to our military.  They are willing to give their life for me, so offering a discount to them is the least I can do.  I have many friends and family in the military, and I hope that everyone out there is taking care of them.  We all owe them a debt we can never repay.

New iPhone / iPad Web Site Launched

Thanks to liveBooks, my amazing web design company, I now have an iPhone / iPad web site that draws its images from my standard flash site.  Check it out if you are on an iSomething: www.plattphotography.com.  If you visit the site on a computer with flash installed you will still see my flash site, but if you visit from an iSomething, you will see the new mobile site.

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Those of you who have been in my workshops know how much I love liveBooks.  Now, I have another reason to love them.  And now you have another reason to switch to a liveBooks web site.

Those of you who are not photographers, you should know that liveBooks can also create an amazing web site for your business as well.  They have custom sites as well as template sites that are available for as little as $39 a month.

Anyway, just a little happy news from inside my studio!

Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ

A Dust Storm Rising: Takes Me Back Home

Living in the desert is a unique experience.  Forget about the 120 degree summer days and the horribly unfriendly plant life.  To me, the weather is quite fascinating.  I love the monsoon rainstorms and the lightning is fantastic.  Other places in the world have their own challenging weather situations, many much more dangerous.  There are tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, etc…  and none of these options are very appealing to me, which is why I prefer my native state of Arizona.  But we do have our own unique weather effect: the dust storm.

I was traveling back from a job in Tucson and took a back road route home (rather than the freeway).  I enjoy doing this because everything goes by so quickly on the freeway and there is no inclination to stop and look at anything (and of course, it would be illegal to do so).  So the back roads are much more enjoyable as road trips go.  On my way home, I saw an approaching dust storm and immediately pulled off the road and pulled out the camera and went hiking.  The Arizona dust storm has a beautiful effect on our world.  It creates a ghost of anything in the distance if not, it completely obscures it.  Like a blizzard, it creates a thin sketch of the landscape with little to no contrast.  I am generally haunted by vacancy in an image.  I am not sure why, but of all the photographs I would select to hang in my home, it is those filled with quiet and solitude that appeal most to me.  That doesn’t mean that I choose to photograph this way all the time, but it has the deepest emotional affect on my soul.  I think it is because that is who I am at my core.
 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ

If you are drawn to a particular style of photography, or art, and looking at that work brings you home, you can be sure that that attraction says a lot about you as a person.  In fact, weather you like a photograph or don’t, says less about the photographer or the photograph and more about you as a person.  Which is why, I think, that I get along so well with my clients.  They have selected me as their photographer based on their emotional and intellectual response to my work.  Which means that they, in some way, deep down at some root level, are like me.  We agree on what gives us peace and brings us home.

When I got home and started working with this image, I asked my wife about this image.  “Am I off base, or is this image extremely haunting and beautiful?”

“I can see what you are attracted to in the image,” she replied, “but it’s not all that great!”

No, I wasn’t devastated by her comment.  I just decided she was wrong.  It is great, but perhaps only to me and people like me.  Remember, her reaction to the photograph says more about her, than it does about the photo.  In contrast, I think my friend Isaac Bailey would like it.  But I think we share a common love for solitude (or perhaps it is a sullen longing for sleep).  My wife grew up in the city with all of its distractions and noise, I grew up on the prairies of Northern Arizona where the only noise is the constant wind.  So, my wife’s take on this photo was an instructive reminder to me.  My wife is a good judge of a photograph, which tells me that this image is different, my attraction to it isn’t just about some other brilliantly employed compositional strategy, I didn’t make this picture to sell something or even to make a statement.  I made it because something inside me wanted to go home for a little while and relax there in the shadow of the Zuni Mountains and look over the endless flat land, smell the dust, swap stories with my brothers and wait until dark for a ride back into town.  This was a free ticket back to Bitter Springs after the long climb through The Gap to witness the brilliant view from the tops of the Vermilion Cliffs.  Sometimes photography isn’t about the subject in front of us at all.  The subject is just a catalyst for memory, a sort of psychiatrist’s couch for introspection and self discovery.  And sometimes, a photography session reminds you of who you are.

These introspective moments almost never happen while the camera is in your hands.  They come in the quiet times in the darkroom, or the Lightroom as you study the results.  And while my mantra is always about efficiency in post production. When I feel that prompting, I do my best to slow down, and examine my work closely without distractions or deadlines and find out what it is, I have been trying to say to myself.

A few more images from the series that I think you might enjoy.

 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ

 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ

 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ
 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ

Tech Talk: All of the images in this post were completely processed in Lightroom.  They were never opened in Photoshop.  Tones, grain and vignettes were all added in Lightroom without the use of any additional plugins etc.  Below is a video about creating custom vignettes in Lightroom like those you see above.  This video is also on iTunes and on the Pictage Blog.  Check out more of my podcasts at iTunes and more blog posts at Pictage Blog.

Creating Custom Vignettes in Adobe Lightroom 2.6 from Jared Platt on Vimeo.

An Interesting Photo Assignment: George W Bush

I ate dinner with the Secret Service the other night.  Former President George W Bush attended an intimate dinner with about 12 people and I was there to photograph the event.  So while they ate, I ate with the rest of the staff and the Secret Service.  There were almost 20 of them, of course I only saw 4 of them at any one time.  It is impressive how thorough the Secret Service is.

I was there mostly to take a few quick portraits of everyone with President Bush.  But I also did some documentary photography of his arrival and his meeting everyone.  Former Vice President Dan Quayle was there as well.  This was one of my favorite photos from the evening.  I love how President Bush’s hand is rising out of the darkness and the determination on his face is indicative of his character.

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This next photo just made me laugh, so I am sharing it with you.  It was the perfect out of context moment where everyone looked like they were aghast at conversation.  Mr. Quayle looks like he is saying something like “you have got to be kidding me, I can’t believe you said that…” and you might just disregard that as a poorly timed moment in the flux of speech, but then out of the top right hand corner comes the server who has a similar look of surprise and maybe a hint of disgust.  And that seals the deal.  And all of it was a completely begin conversation, I just happen to capture that exact moment where everything came together in an accidental moment that says the opposite of what was really going on.  That is the trick of photography, isn’t it?  It is at best, a half-truth and at worst, an out-right lie.  Because moments are frozen in time and frames are taken out of context, one can never be certain, or trust that what they are seeing is in fact an accurate portrayal of the real world, even if Photoshop is never used.

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President Bush is a very gracious man.  I was surprised at how casual and fun he was.  No matter what your political leanings may be, I would be willing to bet that, once you meet him, you would like him very much as a person.  He has a very pleasant demeanor and makes everyone feel important, from his wealthy and well connected dinner guests, to the kitchen staff.  After dinner, he came back to meet the kitchen staff and thank them for the meal.

I always find the moments between the grip and grin photos to be the more interesting moments.  In this photograph, President Bush has just had his picture taken with this chef, and has begun to chat with the rest of the kitchen staff.  I love the expression on the chef’s face and the relaxed and natural smile on President Bush’s face.

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Everyone had a great time whenever he was in the room.  He is simply a magnanimous person with an electrifying personality.  I suppose you don’t get elected to be President of the United States without knowing how to light up the room.

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My assistant, Rex, snapped this shot.  I’ll leave it to your imagination what he is saying to me.

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Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

A Chance to Hear Kevin Burdick Live in Arizona

Kevin Burdick is one of my favorite musicians, and it is not just because I know him very well.  He has a very unique story telling ability and is an incredibly talented musician.  Well, he will be in Arizona at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts on March 31st at 7 PM.  If you are anywhere in the area, you should come.  Not only will you hear some great music, but you will be supporting a great cause.  All of the proceeds from the concert go to The Dempsey Burdick Memorial Foundation and to the Coronado 8th Grade.  The Dempsey Burdick Memorial Foundation helps struggling and grieving families pay for headstones as they bury their young children who have died.  The concert is only $5 per person and $20 per family.  It really is for a great cause.  Please take the time to come and have a great time with your family and help other families in their deepest hour of need.

I will be there.  You should be there too…

DATE AND TIME: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 – 7:00PM – 8:00PM

LOCATION: Higley Center for the Performing Arts‎ – 4132 East Pecos Road, Gilbert, AZ 85295  MAP

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

Kevin is a talented and entertaining performer.  You can listen to his music on iTunes or at KevingBurdick.com.  And if you can not make it, please go toDempseyBurdick.com and consider donating the price of admission to help a family in need.  It really does make a big difference in a family’s life.  I hear stories from Kevin all the time about people they have helped.  Anything you can give will make a difference.

Portrait Session with Kevin Burdick

It is always a blast shooting Kevin Burdick (www.pianorockstar.com).  He’s wildly expressive, has no inhibitions and is just an all around great guy.  And I’m not just saying that.  We’ve been friends since high school, made music together then and even some very screwy home movies and music videos.  One of them included a scene that almost resulted in Kevin’s death, but instead, thanks to Kevin’s strong neck muscles, and our quick response, we ended up only with a massive rope burn around his neck.  Come to think of it, I think we continued filming for a while before we realized he was in trouble.  Flailing legs and a red face can either mean great acting, or eminent death…

I’m glad he’s still with us.  He has made some great music since then and he’s always been a great friend.

So, this is a fun little set of images to wet your whistle.  We first shot a few studio shots and Kevin went to town with the facial expressions.  The best way to see them is in connection with each other.  Tomorrow I am posting the fantastic images we got from the on-location portrait session, which include Kevin, various umbrellas, lots of wind and a vast empty landscape.  Until then, enjoy this funny little set of photos and go listen to some of Kevin’s music at www.pianorockstar.com.

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My Golf Lesson with a Golf Pro

Just thought you might want to get brushed up on your golf game.

While I was shooting a portrait of Long Ball World Champion Sean Fister, he offered to give me a little golf lesson, which the film crew got on camera, and now it is in the Dixon Golf You-Tube Promo.  Sean Fister is a funny guy.  I had a lot of fun shooting the portraits.  Now I just want one of his Punishers (his driver) .  I hit it, it is a very nice club!  My drive was long!

Dixon Golf makes the Earth Ball.  It is a long hitting ball that also happens to be the worlds first and only completely recyclable golf ball.  Oh, and did I mention that it is a LONG ball?  It’s a long ball.  Put that Punisher together with the Earth Ball and you’ve got a long drive.  (Yes, I golf).

My golf lesson is at 2:20.  Let me know what you think of my form.

Article on Burning and Dodging in Professional Photographer Magazine

I just received my copy of Professional Photographer Magazine where I wrote an article on burning and dodging in Photoshop.  It is a great article with a great photograph.  The reason the photograph is so perfect for the article is that it didn’t need a lot of retouching or manipulation, but still opening it in Photoshop was worthwhile.  There are so many subtle shadows and tones that can be enhanced by the process of burning and dodging, a photograph is just better once it has been burned and dodged.  My philosophy is very simple: I do not burn and dodge to change the photograph, but rather to enhance the natural shades and highlights that are already there.  You can see the final enhanced photograph below and on my portfolio web site at PlattPhotography.com.

Look for the magazine on the racks now.  If you don’t know how to burn and dodge your images in Photoshop, or if you are currently burning the actual image layer, you need to read the article.  If you are not a photographer and don’t know what I am talking about, it might get a little technical, so let’s just say, Jared wrote a cool how-to-article in Professional Photographer Magazine and his photographs are really great!

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The photograph I chose to use for the article was one of my favorite images I shot on a wedding in Rome, Italy.  We woke up very early in the morning to get out before all the tourists.  This was the first image of the day, the Spanish Steps.  The Spanish Steps are so crowded with tourists and locals during the day that there is no way to take a great photo.  So we hit the them just as the sun was rising, as the vendors were preparing for the day, and the carriage operators were preparing their horses.  I couldn’t have asked for a better situation to take a beautiful photograph.  And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want a wedding portrait on the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy?

When looking at this photograph, pay close attention to the incredible detail on the walls and the shutters.  All of these details, the stains and the cracks exist on the buildings naturally, but it was the process of burning and dodging that brought them out and made them so vivid.  This is the kind of detailed attention that every one of my “Art Prints” receives as I prepare them for my clients.  I personal work on every “Art Print” myself and each one is printed under my careful supervision.

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Say a prayer for those in Haiti

I look out at the heavy thunderstorm here in Phoenix tonight and say a prayer of thanks that I have a warm home and complete safety from the storm.  While there are hundreds of thousands without any shelter or dead in Haiti from the earthquake there.

We are blessed here in the US with such prosperity and ease.  Even in a bad economy, we live comfortably and without much fear.  My biggest fear tonight is that the storm will create a power surge and damage the computer.

So, everyone say a prayer for and do what you can to provide something for those who now have absolutely nothing in Haiti.

By the way, earthquakes are another reason I love Arizona.  We don’t have them.