Call for Entry Submit your images to DCP's current call for entry Light. Selections will be featured in a virtual exhibition on the DCP website, in an in-person gallery exhibit in June, and an exhibition catalog. Submission deadline is April 27!

Corporate Sponsor Spotlight: Red River Paper

In the digital age, most people view photographs on the screens of their devices. But there is something special about getting that image onto paper and displaying it on your wall, as a card or in a hand-bound book. There are a few choices for good, photo-quality printers, and any review roundup will point you in the right direction. Where the choices explode is in the selection of what paper you’re going to use. The weight, tone, surface and texture all affect how different photos will present themselves in the physical world. There are a dozen companies that sell hundreds of variations of paper. Dallas is fortunate to be the home of a company that offers the highest quality papers at prices that reduce printing budgets for all levels of photographers.

Red River Paper was founded by Richard Clampitt. Richard spent most of his life selling paper to print shops with Clampitt Paper Company. In 1996, he started Red River Paper with medical ultrasound paper. A year later, Drew Hendrix joined and both saw photographs printed on inkjet printers and decided to expand the paper selection to include inkjet photo paper. As inkjet technology has improved over the years, so has paper quality and selection. Red River Paper is now run by Drew Hendrix and carries 25 paper surfaces in various weights and sizes to meet the needs of today’s photographer.

WHAT SETS RRP APART:

Red River Paper manufactures paper by buying large bulk rolls from the top paper mills in the US, Japan, and Europe. They then sheet the paper and cut them down to the sizes they carry or create smaller rolls. RRP also scores all paper in house for their greeting card selection, and they sell everything directly to the customer to keep costs lower for the end user. They offer extensive inkjet printing support with their paper and more online tutorials than any of their competitors. Here is a video about what sets their photo paper apart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3H5pGfGlhO4

STAFF FAVORITE PAPERS:

KAYLA (Customer Service) – 75lb. Arctic Polar Luster for landscapes

LESLIE (Marketing) – 68lb. UltraPro Satin for portrait photography and Palo Duro SoftGloss Rag for fine art photography

CINDY (Customer Service) – Both Polar Gloss Metallic and Polar Matte for landscapes and architectural images

DREW (President) – Palo Duro SoftGloss Rag for black and white landscapes as well as artistic infrared work

NEW TO PRINTING?

Red River Paper’s biggest piece of advice is to call them at 888-248-8774 if you are trying to figure out which inkjet printer to buy. They will help you find an ideal printer for your budget, paper preference, and space. They will also help you choose a paper or recommend a sample kit that will meet your needs.

HELPFUL LINKS:

Not sure which paper would be best for your landscape shot versus a traditional portrait? Shop paper by photography subject.

Cost per Print Analysis: What’s the true cost of inkjet printing.

Printer Reviews: Founded in 1997, Red River Paper has “been there and done that” in terms of digital image capture, editing, and output.

RRP equivalent paper chart

The sickening possibility of data corruption

Digital photos are very fragile. Ask anyone who has had a hard drive crash. That kind of data loss is sudden and can be tragic. But it can be prevented if you have a good backup routine. Remember the cardinal rule: Data must be in at least two places and one of them must be off-site. Best practice is to have one local backup and one remote backup which could be a cloud service or another external drive that you keep at your aunt’s house.

The other kind of data loss that is more insidious is data corruption. It sometimes happens when you’re shooting but usually it’s later on, when the images are transferred and stored. If it happens in the camera or on your memory card you’ll see it right away as you’re shooting. If your photos ever have stripes or odd color bands while shooting, put another memory card in the camera. If the errors are still there you know it’s the camera. If they’re gone you know it was that other card.

Once the images are on your main hard drive is where the trouble can pop up. A digital image is made up of millions of “words” of digital information. If just one letter of one word gets switched or corrupted in some way it can destroy a photo. The more damage there is, the worst the visual effect is. This kind of damage is not reversible. What’s especially concerning is that you won’t usually notice the errors until you open up an image for years ago. Somewhere along the way the file was corrupted but you won’t know till you view it. That corrupt file has most likely been backup up so all copies will be damaged.

This kind of data corruption comes from three major sources. The first is an actual mechanical hard drive failure. The second is an electronic or connection issue. Disconnecting a hard drive while it is writing data will frequently result in corruption so be careful with your external drives and do not ever bump, drop or move a hard drive quickly. If you’re using a solid state external drive, or SSD, you’re in better shape since they are very resistant to physical trauma. The third, and most mysterious source of data corruption, is what’s called bit rot. This is the random corruption of those bits and bytes (the words) and it can happen at any time. This is a good overview of the problem. https://getprostorage.com/blog/bit-rot-stop-destroying-your-data/

There are a couple of ways to prevent bit rot. One is to buy a RAID storage system that does data scrubbing or parity checking. That just means that the device regularly looks through all the files and repairs them based on some fancy software. The other option is to convert all of your files to DNG format if you use Lightroom. DNG uniquely has data correction built in and you can, at any time, have Lightroom go through and check all the files through its validation routine. It can’t fix the corrupt files but at least you have time to replace them from a backup.

Having a favorite photo show up with green and pink stripes or grainy blocks is heartbreaking. Following some precautions will minimize that risk. One final way to prevent corruption? Print your favorite images or make a book! Neither of those crash or have to be loaded into a computer to enjoy.

Robert Herman 1955-2020

Some of you may remember Robert Herman when he was at DCP for a street photography workshop and lecture in the summer of 2016. He died recently and below is a remembrance from Robert Moore, one of our board members who attended the workshop.

“I felt like a very vulnerable person. Photography was my intermediary between me and the world. I was trying to find peace wandering the city.”
Robert Herman
1955 – 2020

Street photography captures fleeting glimpses of the world we all wander. Robert Herman was a master of the street, especially in his hometown New York, but the peace he sought ultimately evaded him and he lost his battle with bipolar and depressive disorders when he took his own life on March 20, 2020.

Born in Brooklyn, as a youngster he worked as an usher in his parents’ movie theater and his years long exposure to cinema deeply affected his work. He studied film making at NYU in the 1970’s before turning to photography. The cinematic styling is evident in his work. Vivid colors. Engaging, recognizable stories.

Robert’s acclaim in street photography circles was cemented with his two books, The New Yorkers and The Phone Book.

The New Yorkers is a collection of work taken from 1978 to 2005. The Kodachrome images are a time capsule of an evolving city, painted in striking colors and making use of NY’s street light. The Phone Book draws from Robert’s travels around the world and was shot on an iPhone using the Hipstamatic App’s square format.

I was familiar with both books and signed up immediately when DCP announced Robert was coming to Dallas to teach a workshop in June 2016. It was a rich week. His passing reminds me that life can be as fleeting as our images.

Peace, Robert.

Photographing Artwork

It’s important for artists to get excellent and accurate photos of their finished pieces for their websites or portfolios. DCP board member and fine arts painter Jo Mattison shares her journey into photography as a means of documenting her paintings.

Photography has been an interest of mine since childhood. When I was very young, I had to have the latest camera on hand and lots of film. In high school, I was the unofficial photographer for the yearbook. Lots of my photos made the books my junior and senior years. Then I went to college and studied art, painting in particular, but not photography. Sigh.

Several years ago, as my inventory of paintings grew, I got really tired of having photographers come to my studio or me dragging my large paintings to them. But art has to be photographed! And it has to be done right in order for the pieces to look great on a website, a brochure or business cards. Also, pictures have to be the correct file sizes for the different shows you enter. And the color has to be right. The last thing you want is for someone to see one of your paintings online and then when they see it in person, it looks different to them. This happened to me once. I lost a sale. So far, it has not happened again.

Jo Mattison in her Dallas art studio

When I decided to take matters into my own hands and photograph my art myself, I went to Competitive Cameras in Dallas and bought the equipment they recommended. I got an entry level DSLR camera, a tripod and strobe lights. Then I worked with someone at Dallas Center for Photography to learn how to setup the strobe lights correctly distanced between each other and from the piece of art. You can place a pencil perpendicular to the surface of the painting to make sure the lighting falls equally onto the surface from both lights. Proper lighting is extremely important. I have heard some artists take their artwork outside and use natural light but that is very unreliable and the color can shift. Strobe lights are consistent; and once you have your setup tuned, your photos will come out the same every time.

Proper art photography starts with everything being square and level. Start by measuring the distance of the middle of the art to the floor. Place the center of the lights at the same height as the center of the art.

 

Place the center of the lens at that same height as the center of the art.

I ended up with a pair of Versalight 360 monolights by JTL which give me plenty of power and are easy to use. With your lights set up, put your DSLR on a tripod and get your camera settings right. If you don’t have a handheld flash meter (which I don’t), this sometimes takes trial and error. First, put your camera on manual mode and make sure your ISO is not on auto. I usually put my ISO on 100 or 200. The shutter speed should be set to 1/125 because any faster and you can end up with shadows of the actual shutter blades; slower and you end up mixing in the ambient light. I set my aperture at around f11 which gets rid of vignetting and is sharp edge to edge. As you approach the bigger f-stop settings of 16 and 22, you can start to get diffraction limiting which basically just makes the whole photo fuzzy. I take several shots and adjust the strobe power as needed. 

I make some large paintings that have a clear glossy coating on them. To avoid a glare on the photos from the gloss coat, I use a polarizing filter on my camera and a large plastic polarized sheet on the front of each of the strobe lights. I ordered 17”x 20” Rosco linear polarizing filter sheets from B&H Photo. It is very important to have the polarizers lined up the same on each light in terms of polarizing direction. The polarizer on your lens has to be lined up in the opposite orientation. It just takes a little trial and error, but it works like a charm and you end up with no glare or you can dial the filter on the camera a little to allow for a little bit of glare which can show depth to the surface of the painting. 

Detail of the polarizing sheets taped over the strobe soft boxes. Orient the polarization axis of the camera filter at right angles to the light polarizers.

It is important for your monitor to be properly calibrated, so when you’re editing in Lightroom or Photoshop you know that you’re seeing the right colors. A good color checker is Datacolor Spydercheckr. Then you need to calibrate the camera using the Xrite Passport system. It’s a small test card with multiple colors that are industry standard. By plugging the software into Lightroom you can be sure that all colors are represented properly, especially those challenging hues like blue/green and burgundy. You can get these tools on Amazon, B&H, or at your local camera store. There are lots of YouTube videos that show you how to use them.

Jo working in Lightroom to finalize her image.

When I get several shots that look good, I download them into Lightroom. I took classes on Lightroom so I could get the hang of it. And it’s so worth it! In Lightroom you can adjust the exposure, contrast, texture, hue, vibrance, tint, etc. Even though the Xrite Passport gives you the best color possible, there are often pigment colors on a canvas that just don’t translate properly to the more limited palette of a computer screen. You can make sure the colors in your art work are correct so that you don’t misrepresent the work on your website and social media. Also, you can make the file size of your picture whatever you need it to be for the situation. That is, small for quick downloading on certain sites, or larger for publication, etc. Lightroom is a must-have tool for showing your art accurately online or in print.

Since I bought the camera and lighting equipment to photograph my art, I have gotten the photography bug again! Now I also use my camera to have fun, and it has become my other art! I have taken several photography classes and workshops and even started learning Photoshop! There is a whole other world out there for artistic pursuit in photography. I am having a ton of fun learning and creating art that is different from painting. I enter contests occasionally and I don’t worry about selling my photographs. Ahhhhh!

Jo Mattison

Instagram: @jmattison

Website: www.jomattison.com

DCP Client Tracy Allard Places at International Photography Competition

We love celebrating DCP clients’ photographic achievements. Longtime student and client Tracy Allard placed second in the Assistance Dog Category of the 2019 Kennel Club’s Dog Photographer of the Year contest. Tracy recounts her photographic journey and how she captured this winning photograph:

Tracy’s winning photograph: ‘Laying Down on the Job’; Assistance Dog Category 2nd Place Winner

When I was offered an early retirement package, I jumped at the opportunity. I’d been on a very fast career treadmill in the corporate world for quite a long time and I was ready for a break. My exit package gave me two things that I’d never had at the same time before: free time AND money! One of the first things I wanted to do was finally take a proper photography class and so I started searching the Internet for local options. I was pleasantly surprised to find Dallas Center for Photography. I started at the beginning with the DSLR series of classes, then Lightroom. If it involves a camera, I’m interested and I went on to take classes on travel, macro, panorama and tabletop photography, studio lighting, natural light portraiture, dog photography and more. But it was two multi-day, immersive workshops from Sam Abell and Ed Kashi that really changed me as a photographer, both in my personal documentary-style work as well as my client portrait work.

Sam taught me patience, to compose and wait, and the importance of composition – that every photo has a macro and a micro-composition and to pay attention to both! I learned about internal framing and to carefully watch the horizon line. I learned that flawed and interesting is better than perfect. An image needs to give life to a still life and include a setting, expression and gesture.

The strongest lessons I learned from Ed were how to tell a story through images and to ruthlessly self-edit. We photographed for 4 days and had to tell the story of our subject in no more than 20 images. I became fascinated with reportage photography and to this day I’m always looking to challenge myself with succinctly telling a story with thoughtfully captured images when photographing family and local events. “It doesn’t matter what you had to do to get that image, if the story isn’t in the frame, it doesn’t make the cut” is an “Ed-ism” I’ll never forget. That and “Don’t insult the viewer by photographing signs. They shouldn’t have to read text to know what you wanted to convey in the image. It’s your job as the photographer to capture that in the frame.” Tough love for sure, but that week improved my photography twice over.

Fast forward to present day; I decided to enter the Kennel Club Dog Photographer of the Year contest this year. It’s the largest dog photography competition in the world, receiving in excess of 10,000 entries every year. I had client work to submit in other categories (which didn’t place) but needed to photograph specifically for the Assistance Dog category entry. I knew this therapy handler and dog team so asked if I could photograph him at work. That kicked off a few weeks of permissions from the school and parents, but I finally got the go ahead.

I attended three 2-hour reading sessions with multiple children coming and going throughout. The kids entered the room and sat down without any prompting or posing from me. I had to make the most of what was in front of my camera. I tried multiple angles and heights, constantly moving around the room and took almost 400 images over the course of those sessions, but there was one image that popped up on my screen that I knew this would be my submission. It had a clear setting. It had expression and gesture. The composition holds the viewer in the frame and tells a story. There’s both macro and micro internal framing and a harmonious color palette. The Kennel Club awarded it 2nd place, and I traveled to London in October to collect my award.

Tracy (left) receiving her award in London

Tracy Allard
Instagram: @pennywhistlephotography
Website: www.pennywhistlephotography.com

How to shoot the full moon

Anytime there is a full moon I encourage you to go out and shoot at sunset and beyond. At full moon the moonrise and sunset happen together so you’ll get the huge glowing orb of the moon just above the horizon while the foreground will still be lit by the dusk of the fading sun.

Use a tripod and a remote release if you have one. If you don’t have a remote, use the self timer to help the camera settle down before the exposure. Experiment with different White Balance settings on your cameras. If you’re shooting raw you can play with white balance later in software. On some cameras there will be a dedicated WB button. On many Nikons you get to the WB setting by pressing the “i” button twice on the back. That gets you into the “Info” display which lets you set a lot of the most important functions on your camera without having to dive into the menus, where you could be lost for hours. On many Canons the equivalent button is “Q” which stands for “Quickset”.

Look on the left side of your lens. Most of you will have a button that either says VR (Vibration Reduction on Nikon) or IS (Image Stabilization on Canon). Turn that to the OFF position when you’re on a tripod. It sounds weird, but leaving it on will actually cause your images to be blurred. The VR/IS system is trying to neutralize vibration in the camera and when it’s on a tripod and nice and stable, the vibration of the shutter itself will “wake up” the VR/IS system and cause image blur. **Remember to turn it back ON when you’re through shooting for the night.

For exposure mode, if you’re still new to DSLR cameras I would try the P or Program mode. It will work well when the moon is low on the horizon and there is still color in the sky. Don’t use the full Auto mode or the flash will keep popping up. When the moon gets a little higher and the foreground is darker then the auto modes won’t work very well any more. The metering system will be confused by all of the dark sky and you’ll get a blank white circle for the moon with no features. If you’re a little more advanced then try the M (Manual) exposure mode, adjusting aperture and shutter speed until the metering marker is in the middle. Try a shot, then adjust to get the look you want. This would be a good time to play with Spot Metering as well. Put the metering spot right on the moon and use that exposure.

Have fun. If you get something good we’d love to see it.

 

The Mirror Tip from a Corporate Photographer

Steve Foxall is a well-known commercial and corporate photographer in Dallas. He shares studio space at DCP and we often see him packing and unpacking from location jobs. Recently he was loading up one of his bags and I noticed an interesting piece of gear and asked him about it:

Once I get my subjects on the set, I found that the most important thing is to be able to show them how they look and this is where the mirror comes into play. I actually have 3 different mirrors and they all cost 99 cents from the Dollar Store. One of them has a very fancy surround on it and it’s a good ice-breaker because it reminds me of the mirror that Amy Farah Fowler would use in The Big Bang Theory.  Another one has a red surround on it and the third one has a black surround with cracked glass.

I’ve kept the cracked one for the really stiff corporate clients who are going to say “Oh, the black one is actually cracked” and wonder why I’ve kept it!  It can also break the ice. The person will tell me that they are going to break the mirror and I’ve given them a broken mirror already.  It’s basically the most important thing because they can see the position of their hair and make little corrections to it. 

Photographing People

The question I get most often is “How do you handle shooting people? Should I ask permission or just take the picture?” This is a tough one and depends on so many things. In a public space like a street, square, festival or park I think it’s usually OK to shoot people without asking, up to the point where you are getting into their space or shooting something that might be embarrassing. This would depend a lot on local culture and norms. It might be much more acceptable in a European country, for example, than in a Middle Eastern country. Also be sensitive to the camera fatigue that many people must have when tourists and travelers find them interesting and shoot them all day long.

Sometimes you just have to be a little sneaky. One of the things I like about the newer mirrorless cameras is that many of them have a truly silent mode. The camera makes no noise at all which makes shooting unobtrusively so much easier. The flip screen on many cameras helps even more, allowing you to keep your eyes off the camera. I frequently line up the shot and then look in another direction, using my peripheral vision to wait for a good arrangement of elements before pushing the button.

The safest thing is to ask permission and then live with the answer. One thing I am against in almost all cases is paying money to shoot someone on the street unless they are a performer or you are on an organized trip and know that tipping is part of the deal. Paying people for pictures just perpetuates an unhealthy relationship between traveler and resident that dehumanizes both. Just my opinion.

Large public events are, of course, great places to photograph people. Not so much for the front-facing parades and shows, but for the behind the scenes chaos and moments that happen whenever that many people are in one place. The last photo below of a family unwinding after the official ceremonies was shot in Oslo during Norway’s National Day. There are so many cameras around those kind of events which gives the more serious photographer (you!) more freedom to shoot what looks interesting.

Tips for Entering Photo Contests from a Serial Submitter

Photo contests and juried competitions are a big part of the photographic community. Longtime DCP client Jill Blanchar has navigated this scene and has had her work selected for several competitions. We asked her to share some tips on why it’s important to participate and how to hedge the odds in your favor:

There comes a time where a photographer asks, should I enter a contest? As an amateur photographer myself I get much pleasure out of making the best image I can given the lighting, situation, and setting. Dallas Center for Photography has made me a better photographer through workshops and teaching me to become my own worst critic. I get great enjoyment when I have created an image that is well composed with interesting subjects. Sometimes self-satisfaction is not enough. Posting my images to Instagram allows me to share more broadly. I get “likes” from various people whose motivation or understanding of photography is unknown. Contests can provide a sense of achievement when an image is selected by a known professional photographer with the added benefit of providing motivation to continue to improve skills. However, there are things to consider when entering a contest.

This image was the first one I got accepted into an exhibit. After spending a summer in the cool, isolating North Carolina mountains, I was eager to go shooting so I attended the Texas State Fair. I felt like I was melting in the heat and found I wasn’t alone. This poor steer handler was having trouble keeping the sweat out of his face. Clearly the steer wasn’t fazed.

The world of contests is seemingly endless these days. There are some local contests as well as international contests to enter. Using Google is a good place to find one. Nearly all contests charge a fee to submit anywhere from 1 to 5 images. The typical fee is currently is around $35. Contests will post the theme and a biography of the juror. Themes will vary from portraits to wildlife to landscape to street photography to black and white to… the list goes on. Often a small number of winners are selected along with a limited number of honorable mentions. Most, but not all, contests offer cash prizes. Selected images are then displayed in a physical exhibition for a period of 3-4 weeks.

Prior to entering a contest, I have found it helpful to do some research on the juror and their style. I will also review previous contest selections to see the types of images that have been selected. Things to look for are contests that favor more artistic photography versus documentary. Enter which best suits your craft and stick with the theme. Particular attention should be paid to the requirements for file naming and file size to assure your images will be accepted.

I’d noticed a large number of birds roosting in trees so I set out at sunrise to make my image. Suddenly they flew out together and I captured them in flight above the power lines. The clouds above added more layers and I received a second place award for it.

One of a juror’s responsibilities is to choose images that not only relate to the named theme but also complement each other while providing different styles. This is important when the images are displayed in a gallery to assure a cohesive experience for the viewers of the show. There are many fantastic images that don’t get selected because they just don’t fit in.

If your image is chosen, you will be notified by email. Each contest will have its own requirements for receiving the final print. Some will print your image for you for a cost. Some will frame your image in temporary frame for you while others will require you to send a framed image. All will have a short but sufficient time period to assure your print can arrive on time. Understanding these requirements and being prepared will ease the stress. Then comes the fun. You will be invited to the show opening at the gallery. If possible, I encourage you to attend. It is a great opportunity to tell the story behind your image to many interested people, and to meet the juror and other fellow photographers. Finally, of course, you will feel proud of work that undoubtedly was the result of your technical knowledge and creativity.

As part of a Sam Abell workshop assignment I had to find interesting images to make. I found this outside of a hair salon. The loving moment between the woman and her dog was the perfect gesture to capture. However this image was not accepted in a contest.

Should your image not be chosen, do not let it stop you from entering more. There can be hundreds or thousands of worthy entries. I’ve been fortunate to be chosen for some but not for others. When I’m not chosen, I just move on to the next contest. If you are thinking of entering a contest, I highly encourage you. If you’re not sure, I suggest giving it a try. Asking other photographers for help in choosing images can be helpful. Just give it a “shot” and you may be surprised to find yourself standing in front of your print in a gallery on opening night!

Jill Blanchar

Instagram: @jilljordanimagery

Slow Down

One of the best ways to get better travel photos and enhance your own trip is to give your photography time.

If you’re in a hurry you’ll miss out on the time-stretching experience of having your camera on a tripod, just waiting for the nice light. Or framing up a side street and waiting for something interesting to happen. This is what National Geographic photographer Sam Abell calls “compose and wait”. It’s something that takes practice but can make a big difference in the quality and energy of your photos.

I framed up the sign and stairs and waited for some people to come up out of the Metro. I didn’t expect what looks like a choreographed move from a boy band video!

The real gift is that even if you don’t get a good shot every time, you’ve stopped and noticed what’s happening in that foreign place, even if it’s just photographing a row of shopping carts in a Walmart parking lot in Reno.

Booksellers on the Left Bank in Paris. I was waiting for the other pedestrian traffic to clear to get a shot of this perfectly styled shopper. As I did, I noticed the other photographer off to my right with a D810 and a 70-200mm lens. Then I heard her giving directions to the woman in the red dress. It was a setup, which would explain the picture perfect outfit!