GUYER PHOTOGRAPHY: Blog en-us (C) GUYER PHOTOGRAPHY [email protected] (GUYER PHOTOGRAPHY) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:34:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:34:00 GMT GUYER PHOTOGRAPHY: Blog 120 120 A Review of "Photography Q&A - Real Questions. Real Answers." This review originally appeared on The Photo Brigade.

In August of 2012, Atlanta-based commercial/editorial photographer Zack Arias embarked on a mission-- to save us all from really bad advice.  Zack launched his popular Tumblr blog, "Photography Q&A - Ask Me Anything About Photography" with the lofty goal of answering 1,000 reader-submitted questions.  Honestly, I'm not sure which feat is more impressive-- the fact the he met the challenge, or that he managed to do it in just under four months.  For those of you keeping score at home, that's answering about 60 questions per week.  It was this collection of questions-- ranging from gear, lighting, and confidence, to portfolio-building, submitting your work, and selling yourself-- that became the rough-draft for Zack's first book, Photography Q&A - Real Questions.  Real Answers.


PQ&A takes 106 of those questions and expands on them, taking the reader on both a practical and philosophical trek from, "Hey, I have this new camera, maybe I can make some money with it on the weekends," to, "It's been 90 days and the magazine still hasn't paid me, what do I do?"  One of the things I love about this book is that you don't have to read it in order.  While I suppose it does follow a loose chronology, it also reinforces how so much of HOW we do things is intertwined with WHY we do them.  A seemingly straightforward gear question (what lens/camera/lights should I buy?) easily dovetails into a business discussion (budgets), morphs into a creative debate (35mm vs. 85mm), and finishes off with how all of it impacts the #1 priority-- taking care of your family.   The only minor drawback to this format is that it makes going back to find specific quotes a little difficult, so if you feel inspired, take note of where it struck.

Zack, never shy about sharing not only the highs, but also the lows of what got him where he is today, essentially joins with his audience, using a question of his own as the basis for the Forward.  In it, Zack asks Rolling Stone magazine Senior Photo Editor Sacha Lecca what he looks for in new photographers.  Really?  Here is a guy who could have asked just about any "acclaimed" photographer out there to write the Forward.  Instead, he asked someone he's never even worked for and the rest of us have likely never heard of.  While some might see using his own question as a bit of a literary contrivance, I look at it as adding credibility to the premise.  While a lot of the advice out there comes from photographers enjoying a level of success many will never achieve, Zack pretty much stakes a claim to a piece of our own real estate.  In the Introduction, he says, "As I answer these questions, I'm doing so from the perspective of dealing with current issues in my own life, or I'm speaking to myself in the past.  I'm saying things I wish I would have known 'back then.'"

By the third question you realize this book is going to cover topics as wide-ranging as the photographers who submitted them.  With emotional questions (Do you ever feel like a farce or a phony?), skill questions (What drills will really drive home exposure so well that it's like breathing?), and gear questions (Which soft box should I buy-- the 28" or the 50"?), somewhere in this book's 293 pages you're going to find something that resonates with you.  As he says in the introduction, "I promise there is at least one sentence in this book that is going to impact your life as a photographer."

This book cuts to the chase.  It breaks through the noise and distills away the bullshit, giving honest answers to real questions.  It might not be the answer the person submitting it was hoping for, but it's an answer designed to make them a better photographer and you have to respect that.  After all, if you took the time to ask whether it's ok to include a collection of nudes in the same web gallery as bar mitzvah photos and family portraits, chances are you already knew the answer.

Interspersed throughout the book are ten "Visual Intermissions," where readers get an inside look into photo shoots-- both personal and professional-- which illustrate many of the book's lessons.  While they are obviously Zack's shoots, their messages are universal.  Finding those benchmark moments in your career.  The importance of photographing the people you love.  The photograph that changed everything.  Working with what you've got.  Personal projects.  Chasing the light and not the gear.

Speaking of the gear, fret not, you GAS-afflicted shooters (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).  There's a good bit of gear porn in these pages as well.  You'll find a complete breakdown of everything that goes on the cart for practically every shoot, as well as how to pack it for travel.  Tips on the optimal working distance for a soft box?  Check.  Packing for street vs. packing for portraits?  Yeah, that's here, too. 


Shortly before the book's release, Zack took a little time out to offer some A's to a few of my Q's.

JG:       People have been interested in what you have to say for a long time.  What made you decide that now was the right time for a book?

ZA:       I wasn't planning on writing a book even though I've had a number of offers to do so. The idea for this coming together as a book happened around question 700.  I sat back and thought, "I think I just wrote a book." Writing a book about photography and getting it published has always been a thing I thought would be cool.  I didn't know how or when that would happen for me though.  I'm glad it came together in an organic process.

JG:       In essence, you joined your readers' cause by turning one of your own questions into the Forward.  How did getting Sacha Lecca (Senior Photo Editor at Rolling Stone magazine)on board fall into place?

ZA:       I met Sacha at a portfolio review a few years ago and have kept in touch with him.  He's a great guy and has always given me solid feedback on my work.  I noticed his name pop up on my Tumblr blog one day when he liked one of my posts.  I was honored.  As we were editing this book the subject of having a foreword written came up.  We bounced a number of names around of who I might like to write one.  Then my wife, Meghan, and I thought of Sacha.  It was perfect. I don't want to position myself as someone at the top of the game because I'm not.  I wanted to start the book with me asking a question.  I emailed Sacha about it and he was on board with it from the start.

JG:       You're nervous about this release.  Is that because this is virgin territory for you, or are you nervous whenever you put any new work "out there"?

ZA:       Yes and yes.  I don't want to put mediocre noise out into the world.  I also didn't want this to just be a straight blog-to-book kind of thing.  I wanted to make something that was different than other books on the shelves and this is all new territory for me.  I hope it is received well.  I also get nervous with everything I do. From photos to videos to workshops to this kind of thing.

JG:       It seems that a lot of the questions have to do with confidence-- finding it...losing it...holding onto it.   Was that how it played out in the actual submissions, or is that the direction that the editing took when it came time to compile the questions?

ZA:       Most of the questions I deal with concern pricing and marketing, technical and gear, and inspiration and confidence.  Pricing and technical things are sort of nuts and bolts topics.  Inspiration and confidence hang out in the ether and are harder to nail down and those are, sometimes, things I like to talk about more because I'm trying to figure it out as well.  I started the book there, peppered it through the rest, and ended it there.

JG:       This is not the typical checklist photography book.  While you offer specifics in some areas (what every pro's marketing kit should contain, for example), would you agree that in many ways this book is more philosophical-- about people getting their heads and priorities in the right places?

ZA:       Photography is as much technical as it is emotional.  Many questions that people start with in their photographic life are about the technical.  I want to help people there but then get them to think about the more philosophical aspects.  Here's how... now I want you to think about why.

JG:       Was it important to NOT write a typical nuts & bolts book?  Some people might have been pretty stoked about a "How to Shoot Like Zack Arias" book.

ZA:       There are TONS of nuts and bolts books.  Tons of them.  I'm not against writing one, but you have to ask "why" questions as much as "how."  I've been asked to write a lighting book several times.  One day I might do that but there are a lot of lighting books out there.  Good ones.  Bad ones.  Ok ones.  Lots of books on lighting.  If I'm going to do a lighting book then I need to take some sort of new angle to it.  I haven't figured that one out yet. 

I look at those kind of books being tiles or bricks in your career.  This Q&A book is more like the grout between the tiles. It connects a lot of little things together.  It's the stuff that might get missed.  The information in this book is the stuff I've learned that is the glue that holds all the other stuff together.

JG:       In the introduction you say, "If there is a mountain top, then I just recently made it to the base camp."  Whose brain do you pick when you're the one asking the questions?

ZA:       I'm fortunate enough to attend a number of industry events throughout the year.  When I'm there I typically corner a few folks and pick their brains about photography.  Joe McNally and Greg Heisler are two of my go to folks when I have questions.  Those two are well on up the mountain. 

JG:       Some of this stuff seems like it should have been a no-brainer (like not putting nudes-- fetish or otherwise-- in the same gallery as family portraits).  Was there ever a question that had you saying, "that's ridiculous-- I'm not answering that"?

ZA:       Not really, but there are a lot of questions people ask me that I can't answer because they haven't provided enough information.  Things like, "How do I get started in photography?"  Well, what are you trying to do?  Weddings? Commercial?  Editorial?  Fashion?  Is this a hobby or a career path?  Where are you located?  Are you green as grass right now or do you have some experience?  Is this full time or part time?  When someone says "I've been messing around with a camera for two years and I'm thinking about shooting weddings part time in the small town where I live. How do I get started?" -- That's a question that I can build an answer on. 

JG:       What was the most daunting part of this project?

ZA:       Editing the work together and putting relevant photos together with the text and doing it on tight deadlines. Once I signed the contract and handed in some sample chapters, the finished book started it's way into the distribution pipe line.  You don't write a book, print it, then take it to Amazon.  My book was listed on Amazon before the cover art was even approved.   As I was getting the book together there were already people marketing it.  That's some pressure.

JG:       You combined similar questions for the book.  Of the original 1,000, how many would you say actually made it into the book in one form or another?

ZA:       I pulled about 150 questions from the blog to start editing for the book.  Some got cut. Some were combined.  I went back into the blog a few times for a few replacements.  106 ended up in the final book.  I didn't want the book to be the usual title of "101 Questions Answered" sort of thing.  We had no preconceived number of questions from the start. If it was 97 then it was 97.  Turned out to be 106. 

JG:       Who do you think will get the most out of this book?

ZA:       Emerging photographers who are either trying to do this full time or are at least thinking of it being a part time endeavor.  I'm a working photographer and that's where I speak from.  If someone wants to just take better photos at family events or of nature, then this book is not going to help them much.  This is more about becoming a photographer and sustaining yourself with a camera.  Also note that I shoot portraits for a living so that is where I speak from.  I'm not the go-to person for landscapes or still-lifes.

JG:       I once heard a musician say that you have a lifetime to produce your first album, but six months for your second.  Any plans yet for a follow-up?

ZA:       Not as of yet, but this was made with it possibly becoming a series.  We'll see.  I'm surprised I got this one done. Let's see how it does before I start thinking about the next.  Maybe I'll just be a one hit wonder. :)

JG:       OFF-THE-RECORD QUESTION...   Along with a lot of other people, you thank David Jay in the Acknowledgments.  You launched the original Q&A project shortly after he introduced "The System."  You (and a lot of other photographers) were very vocal at the time in your criticism.  Were you thanking him for the motivation?

ZA:       ON the record.  Yes.  Many folks in the industry flamed DJ for that top 10 site he built.  I started my Q&A blog as push-back against the spray and pray mentality that he was espousing.  It's interesting to note that around the time I started my Q&A blog he caved to the pressure from so many people in the industry that he brought his photo system site down, saying it was being revised and would be back up "in a few weeks."  I've answered 1,200+ questions since then and published a book... and that site has never come back.  You can add noise to the industry or signal.  Signal always wins.  I would have never started the Q&A blog if I hadn't gotten my panties in a wad about that stupid System site, so I have DJ to thank for it. :)


While this book may help improve your photography, I think its greater goal will be improving your quality of life as a photographer--  or at least the quality of your head space.  If you're anything like I am-- still grappling with crises of confidence, fighting and clawing through creative and practical ruts, or still occasionally convinced that "my photography/business will skyrocket if I can just buy THAT," then this book is for you. 

"Photography Q&A - Real Questions. Real Answers." is available on



[email protected] (GUYER PHOTOGRAPHY) Book Reviews Zack Arias Tue, 13 Aug 2013 04:37:08 GMT
Capture Camera Clip Gets an Update A little over a year ago I wrote my review of the first version of the Capture Camera Clip from Peak Design.  Since then, Capture has become an integral tool for my location, event, and street photography.  When I heard that Peak Design had launched a Kickstarter campaign for two new versions of Capture (Pro and V2), I got excited.

So, what is Capture?  Imagine taking the quick-release assembly off your tripod and attaching it to your belt.  Or your backpack strap.  Or the shoulder strap from your camera bag.  Or a climbing harness.  Getting the idea?  Simply put, the Capture Camera Clip allows you to use virtually any strap of almost any thickness to keep your camera close at hand and ready to go.  The images below show Capture attached to the shoulder strap of my Think Tank City Walker 30 bag and my Think Tank Pro Speed Belt.

I've never been a fan of traditional camera straps.  Regardless of whether it is around my neck or over my shoulder, the weight eventually becomes a strain-- particularly over the course of a long shoot-- and at least one hand is always on the camera, making sure it's not bumping into anything or anyone.  Sling straps are a great solution, but also tend to get in the way when you are carrying a camera bag.   The configurations in the photos above are my two favorites-- one for when I need a bag and the other for when I'm at an event or on location.  In both scenarios, though, Capture not only keeps my camera securely at my fingertips, but in doing so also frees up my hands.

As good as the original was, however, it was not without a few minor drawbacks (e.g., hard corners and uncomfortable screws).  It's always refreshing when companies take the time to not only listen to feedback from their customers, but to implement those suggestions into a newer, better, product.  Constructed from die-cast aluminum, the clip is tightened into place with zinc-alloy clamping bolts, which allow the clip to adjust to belts and straps of different thicknesses.  The new streamlined design is stronger and lighter, with a more narrow profile and smoother mechanics, while retaining all of the convenience and functionality of the original.

Perhaps the best added features however, are the 1/4" mounting hole on the bottom for monopods and tripods (Pro version only), and the twisting safety lock on the quick release buttons for both Pro and V2.  The standard ARCAplate is already compatible with ARCA-style tripod heads, but making the entire clip tripod-mountable adds a new facet of convenience that did not exist in the original.  While the original version already had a twist lock for added security, both CapturePRO and Capture V2 have added an additional safety lock to the quick release button, making sure that once latched, your camera isn't going anywhere.  This comes in particularly handy for event photographers who have to navigate through large crowds.

The Capture Camera Clip offers a great solution for photographers who don't like traditional straps, but still want a well-made, safe, secure, hands-free way of carrying their camera.  One of the best things you can say about Capture-- or any product for that matter-- is that it does what it's supposed to do and it does it well.  A nice added bonus is that you can expand Capture's functionality by incorporating the Leash and Cuff, also from Peak Design.

I've said it before and I'll say it again-- Every once in a while someone comes out with a piece of gear that leaves you scratching your head, wondering why you didn't come up with the idea yourself.  This is one of them.


[email protected] (GUYER PHOTOGRAPHY) Capture CapturePRO Equipment Gear Photo Tue, 06 Aug 2013 07:46:21 GMT
A New Use for an Old Friend A common refrain in my photography classes is that photography is about solving problems.  And even though this can cover an almost endless list of possibilities, let’s face it—it usually has something to do with our light.  Is it falling where we want it?  Is it too bright?  Too dark?  Is it bending to our will or acting like a pissed-off toddler?  We are artists, but sometimes creating that art requires a PhD in logistics and problem-solving.

This is the hurdle I was facing this past weekend when angles, time-of-day, and only one chance to get it right for the client all conspired against me in the form of overpowering lens flare.  Now, I know what some of you are saying-- “Lens flare?  Bring it on!”  I might agree with you, but this shoot did not include a vintage couch mysteriously appearing in a wheat field, and there was definitely no solitary walk along abandoned railroad tracks.

Flare was killing my shot.  Change shooting directions?  Not an option.  Pick a different angle?  Didn’t work.  Pack it in and reschedule?  Not if I wanted to keep the client.  I was shooting without an assistant, so I didn’t have anyone to hold a board or otherwise block the spill.  I couldn’t do it myself because I was shooting without a tripod and had no place to clip a Nasty Clamp.  None of the usual tricks/solutions were working, so how was I going to solve the problem?

This was when I discovered a new use for one of my favorite flash modifiers.  The Rogue Flashbender from ExpoImaging comes in a variety of sizes, but the small version—traditionally used as a speedlight bounce card—also attaches perfectly around the lens barrel with a velcro strap.  I was then able to bend and position the panel in such a way as to block the lens flare and still keep the Flashbender out of the shot.  You could rig up a DIY version with cardboard and rubber bands, but I'm a sucker for gear that can pull double duty.









Obviously, “The Shot” is the ultimate goal.  It’s why they hire us.  It’s why we do what we do and it’s what keeps us coming back for more.  But I also find a certain measure of success any time I come up with a new solution to an old problem.  Ask ten different photographers for a solution to a single problem and you're likely to get at least six or seven different answers.  The prize, though, lies in working through it and finding a solution that works for you.

[email protected] (GUYER PHOTOGRAPHY) ExpoImaging Flashbender Tue, 19 Mar 2013 23:02:54 GMT
Getting the Chimp Off Your Back Click...Check the LCD.  Click...Check the LCD.  Click...You get the idea.  You may not realize it, but you do it.  So do I.  At some point or another, we all find ourselves relying a little too much on the comfortable warm glow of that three-inch square on the back of our cameras.  I wrote a guest post for Digital Photography School a few months ago about "chimping" and how to get past it-- or at least manage it.  In the article, I offered a couple of possible reasons why the practice is so wide-spread and outlined one option aimed at helping photographers "get the chimp off their back."  A favorite exercise of mine is covering my LCD with gaffer's tape and spending a few days "shooting like it's film."  Done right, this is a great way to reenforce what you know about exposure and boost your confidence shooting in Manual mode.

The article was met with very mixed comments and reviews.  Some felt I was way off base in my assessment that too much chimping stems from a lack of confidence.  Others were of the opinion that the LCD is a valuable tool and should be used to its fullest potential.  Some readers thought my suggested exercise was a stroke of genius, while others thought it was a bit simplistic and not at all necessary.  Personally, I still think that anything that can help boost your confidence and make you a better photographer is time well-spent.  What do you think?  Check out the full article here.

[email protected] (GUYER PHOTOGRAPHY) Exposure Tue, 26 Feb 2013 23:20:20 GMT
LensPen There are a gazillion ways to clean your lenses.  OK...maybe not a gazillion, but a lot.  Air blowers.  Microfiber lens cloths.  Combination wet/dry cloth packs.  Maybe you still use the tear-off tissue paper cloths with a little bit of liquid lens cleaner.  The truth is I have all of these and use almost all of them regularly (although the finally-almost-empty, 3-ounce bottle of Zeiss lens cleaner has lasted at least six or seven years).  The bottom line is that different methods work best for different situations.  Air blowers like the Giottos Air Blaster pull double-duty, getting rid of dust particles on both lenses and camera sensors, but they don't do anything for smudges.  Microfiber cloths (my favorite is the Spudz from Alpine Innovations) are a great solution for most situations because they can usually get the job done quickly, with minimal hassle.  Wet/Dry packs like Lens Cleanse from Hoodman USA are ideal for when you have a lot of lenses or other optics to clean because one combo pack goes a long way (one pack recently got me through six lenses, three computer monitors, two smart phones, one laptop, and an iPad).
My apparent obsession for clean glass got another shot in the arm recently when my friends at LensPen sent a box of their redesigned LensPens to share with my students.  See that small piece at the bottom?  That's a non-liquid, carbon compound cleaning element, designed to safely remove fingerprints and other smudges from the glass without damaging the lens coating.  The retractable brush on the other end removes dust and other particles.  This is a great cleaning option while you're in the field, on location, or in any other situation where you need to clean your lens quickly, without disrupting your workflow.  Will it last the 500+ uses the packaging claims it will?  Time will tell, but it's off to a great start, and at about $15.00 you really can't go wrong.
[email protected] (GUYER PHOTOGRAPHY) LensPen Lenses Mon, 18 Feb 2013 19:36:49 GMT
Nice Industries Trade Secret Cards You know those books with all the fancy lighting diagrams side-by-side with anecdotes from the photographers about how they set up the shot?  Sure you do.  And even though it seemed like a great idea when you bought it, now that book pretty much just takes up space on the shelf, right?  What if you could have all that great information in a more convenient package?  Something like the Trade Secret Cards from Nice Industries, maybe?
Available in two sets, each contains durable, high-gloss cards with a photo on one side and the lighting diagram and "How-They-Got-The-Shot" story on the other.  The Strobist set of 25 cards runs the gamut from portraits to products, to landscapes, to light painting, and lots of cool stuff in between. 
Strobist V1.0 Set

The Chase Jarvis set offers some unique insight into 22 highly-stylized portrait sessions.  If you're a photographer who really knows their lighting, these trading card-sized refresher courses are a great way to stay sharp.  If you're still learning the nuances of lighting-- both in the studio and on location-- these images will inspire you to experiment and take your lighting to the next level.

Chase Jarvis Portrait Sessions V1.0 Set
As a teacher of photography, Trade Secret Cards have become an invaluable piece of my classroom workflow.  Let's face it-- you can talk about lighting all you want.  There is absolutely no substitute, though, for actually getting out there and doing it.  These cards will absolutely help you do just that.
[email protected] (GUYER PHOTOGRAPHY) Lighting Nice Industries Portrait Photography Trade Secret Cards Wed, 13 Feb 2013 19:22:56 GMT
Think Tank City Walker 20 There are at least two different types of gear reviews.  There is the "Fresh Out of the Box" or "First Impressions" review, and there is the "I've Been Putting This Through Its Paces for a Few Months and This Is What I Think" review.  The first type might snag your interest, but the second really breaks it down for you.  I did a FOTB review of Think Tank Photo's City Walker 20 over on Facebook a few months ago, and now it's time for a closer look at what has become one of my favorite bags.

The CityWalker 20 is part of Think Tank's new line of messenger-style camera bags.  Currently available in three sizes and two color-schemes, this bag has everything I've come to expect from a Think Tank product, along with a new added twist.  There are a few things that immediately stand out the first time you pick up any Think Tank bag.  The first is superior construction.  It's built to last without adding unnecessary bulk.  Right down to the zippers, you know you're dealing with quality.  The second is the straps.  As photographers, we spend a lot of time with a lot of weight hanging on our shoulders.  Think Tank's shoulder straps are designed to not only hold the weight, but to distribute it evenly and comfortably.

So, what's new about this bag?  Besides it's casual, soft-sided, light-weight design, the City Walker has been conceived with the urban street photographer or photojournalist in mind, as well as any photographer looking for an "essentials" bag.  It would also make a great bag to take on vacation.  There is no shortage of pockets, compartments and dividers, and the dedicated interior iPad pocket is a very welcome addition.  In what I am pretty sure is a first, the entire padded gear section can be easily removed, converting from camera bag to messenger bag (and back again) quickly and easily.

Fresh out of the box, this bag did not look like it was going to hold very much, but I was very pleasantly surprised.  Without even packing it all the way, it is pictured here with a Nikon D90 with 24-70mm attached, 35mm and 70-200mm lenses, SB800 Speedlight, iPad, rain cover (included), and Black Rapid strap-- plus spare cards, batteries and other essentials like notebook, pens, and business cards.  For the working professional, this would be a great secondary bag.  Serious hobbyists and amateurs looking for a durable, comfortable bag with quick access to all of their gear might find their solution with the CityWalker series.

[email protected] (GUYER PHOTOGRAPHY) Camera Bags City Walker 20 Think Tank Wed, 13 Feb 2013 16:42:05 GMT