I’ve been spending quite a bit of time recently consulting with various Tokyo modelling agents and agencies to gain a better understanding of exactly what they want in portfolios from aspiring talent. So, shortly I will be able to offer a specific and very competitive package tailored to aspiring models and actors needing a model portfolio. Stay tuned…
I wouldn’t normally review a book until I’ve finished it. However, I’ve completed two of the three distinct parts (the pen tool tutorial and the first composite tutorial called Floating Books), and as I’m going to be really busy in the upcoming weeks, I’m doing my review now. I know in a month or so this would slip away onto the far distant back-burner.
What is it? A video tutorial from Phlearn (http://phlearn.com) called The Beginners Guide To Compositing (http://phlearn.com/product/beginners-guide-compositing). This is only available by download and it is only for Photoshop. I can’t find the info now, but I think it is for CC versions, and maybe CS6. If you have doubts here, you should contact the Phlearn folks. Also, it is only available in English.
What does it contain?
- support documentation (one video and two PDFs)
- a pen tool video tutorial
- an introduction to compositing video tutorial
- a 3D lighting video
- two compositing video tutorial sets (one for each of two images, the first called Floating Books and the second, Going Home) - it’s important to note too, that the tutorial for each image actually consists of several individual videos
- source image files for the two compositing tutorials
- a brush to add to Photoshop
How long is it? In total, around 4 hours and 30 minutes of instruction. But, if you are following along properly, doing the same things on your images, pausing and taking notes and the like, and really treating it as a learning experience, it amounts to several days worth of instruction and practise (well, it has for me anyway).
Who is presenting it? Aaron Nace, the chatty and personable president and co-founder of Phlearn who also happens to be a world class / major league / high end / (insert superlative here) user of Photoshop.
What does it cost? Currently on special at US$34.99. However, if you sign up for the Phlearn newsletter (bottom of the home page, and other places) and download the Sample 5 Pack (http://phlearn.com/product/sample-5-pack) you will revive some discount codes. Apply the best one to geta reduction. Also, signing up for the newsletter will get you a free Pro tutorial.
Who it is for? It is rated as beginner and I feel this is accurate in the sense of beginner compositors, as in, people with little or no compositing experience. However, if you have little or no experience with Photoshop, you will still be fine. You just might have to pause at times and replay things to catch what Aaron is doing.
Value for money? Pretty darn tooting good. I’m not a fan of people / companies wanting hundreds of dollars for video tutorials - no matter how famous in New York they are. I much prefer the high quality, moderately priced, easily accessible products. Zack Arias’ OneLight series comes to mind here (http://dedpxl.com/product/onelight/). I think the Phlearn products fall into this category too, perhaps even more so, considering their length and how much information is packed in.
How good is it? Pretty darn tooting, once again. I went into this knowing very little about compositing - it’snot what I do normally and, after all, that’s why I bought this tutorial. I find myself quite surprised by the amount I have picked up so far, having only done the pen tool tutorial and the frame compositing section (the Floating Books image). In quite a short amount of time I have been able to learn everything I originally wanted to (I went into this looking for a quiet specific and limited knowledge set to aid me in a quite specific way with my portraiture work) and also a whole lot more. Considering I still have the final stage to work through, I find this quite startling.
Any other points people need to know? Yes. The pen tool tutorial is very close to being worth the price alone. If, like me, you have always struggled with this tool, then I highly recommend this tutorial. In a very short time I went from a confused user to being quite capable with the pen tool. Also, both image tutorials contain retouching sections, which was an unexpected surprise. I‘ve only seen and followed along with the info relating to the Floating Books image, but it was very useful and I’m impressed by it’s inclusion here. This is a compositing tutorial and the folks at Phlearn didn’t need to add this information, and the fact that they did shows both how complete and how generous their approach is.
Problems? Not really, but at times I suspect most beginners and some intermediate Photoshop users could get a little lost. It’s not really a problem and so far I’ve done just fine when Aaron uses a tool / technique I’m not familiar with, as I’ve been able to pause and replay to figure it out. Perhaps in the future though, a few more moments could be spent making sure each new tool or technique selected is clearly indicated. Again though, not really a problem. Also, I see that a user on the Phlearn site left a review claiming that there is a useless 45 minute section where Aaron supposedly repeats the same information over and over about getting it as right as possible in camera. That’s simply not true, and that review should be disregarded. He did spend a good amount of time talking about the importance of the initial image captures, but this is definitely not wasted time and hopefully it drives home one of the most important things about compositing.
The image below is my version from the Floating Books composite tutorial. I did not take the photos that make up this image and (presumably) all rights remain with Phlearn. I’m using it here purely for editorial purposes.
From a recent visit to a forge / blacksmith's workshop.
Please note that I'm heavily committed throughout the rest of July, but I still have Sunday the 12th and the third week free at this stage (Monday the 19th to Sunday the 26th). So, if you are reading this and thinking about a booking, it might pay to act quickly, before these dates go too.
Also, for all of August and much of September I'm either fully committed or travelling, so again, for this period, enquiring sooner rather than later is more likely to be beneficial.
Here's one of the final shots from a session yesterday, outside in Waseda, Tokyo.
Two portraits of friends.
A new Portrait.
I'm not long back from a portrait session with the owner of an engineering firm. This is the first edit of the first photo. Again going with the Agfa Vista look.
Here's a first working image in a new still life seres.
While setting up some lighting for use later today as part of a still life series, I used my son's kabuto, or samurai helmet to fill out the scene. It will be Childrens' Day here in Japan soon, and so the helmet has come out.
A new portrait.
I've spent several days walking around Tokyo and Omiya recently, conducting what I jokingly refer to as my Spring Marketing Offensive. And now my feet hurt. One thing I've learnt, I need some cushioned insoles. On the bright side, I've met a lot of interesting and creative people.
For the next three months or so, between now and the latter part of July, I have only a limited number of days clear, so if anyone is contemplating a booking for that time period, I would urge them to do so quickly.
Here's a double exposed self portrait - kicking myself in the head with my hard shoes.
Currently I'm in the process of changing the price for the basic non-commercial portrait session fee and also adding more information about commercial day rates, etc. Some of the 'terms and conditions' language in The Kitchen Sink is also being honed a little. It's all a little bit of a work in progress.
I didn't really want to have to put my prices up for non-commercial portraiture, but 'reality' is what it is.
Fear not though, all sessions organised before midnight today, Wednesday April 8th 2015 (just to be clear), stand at the old prices. That's not only for confirmed bookings, but includes all non-finalised bookings and even general enquiries that lead to bookings too!
Just back from a 6am family portrait session. Cherry blossom season tends to last at the most a week here in Japan, and much less if the wind picks up. You have to get the photographs while you can. Nothing to show yet, other than this blossom strip.
While coming back, I saw that we had not only beaten the professional cherry blossom photographers time wise, but also location wise. If they had only gone to the effort of going another 200 metres down the road and around the corner...
Chuck Kelton is a master B&W printer and has had an amazing career. He has worked closely with a large number of very famous photographers. The list includes Danny Lyon, one of my personal favourites. There's a nice little piece about him here, at the New York Times photography blog Lens.
Here are two portraits from last week. They are of James, a reticulator from Melbourne.
Taken using a one light setup and with an X100s + TCL-X100 combination. Processed in Lightroom + VSCO, via Capture One Pro.
The nature of photography means that you sometimes have to wait before you can show your work. This one is from six months ago. I like it so much I've also included as a regular shot on the Children's Portraits page.
Franz Barta, a Hungarian emigre who settled in Dunedin, New Zealand is the first photographer I ever became consciously aware of. Several of his prints hung on my grandmother’s walls. It was a long time ago now that I first became aware of them as the work of an actual individual person (I can just barely touch on the memory of the conversation that did it), but I was probably somewhere between the ages of five and ten. Of course, before that I knew vaugely that somehow people made photographs. It’s just that I had never really appreciated that real individuals created them, as works with intention.
It’s very hard to find information about Franz Barta, but I did come across this delightful passage, which quotes his contemporary Morris Kershaw referring to his style: “…the “Continental freedom” of his colleague Franz Barta, a photographer known for his very relaxed style, that seemed to “catch people out” before the camera.”
So, it was my great privilege this week when I had the opportunity to photograph his great granddaughter, Stella.
Graphics On Television, a two piece band I've done some work for in the past, has just made available (for free) a new 'concept' album.
Basically, 15 musicians from around the world, all fans of Graphics On Televisions last album release, Pun, have resampled, remixed or completely rerecorded a song each from that album. It's called Another Pun. I think it is rather good.
A little video ad can be seen here.
And the album can be streamed or downloaded here.
Here's another rural portrait. Along with the other one of my son, these are basically location test shots, filing away the info for possible future use.