One of those weekly phone calls that makes you question your career choice...

I was driving home from Maria's Taco Express, where I had a great lunch, when my phone rang. I thought it might be my errant lunch companion who failed to show up so I answered it. The call started out pleasantly enough, it was a woman from a publishing company in another city. She immediately went into the sell mode to tell me "what a wonderful series of books they produce about major cities in the U.S. and, isn't it wonderful?" They're going to do one on Austin.

Well, that's okay with me, I guess, but why was she calling me? "Well, in order to make it a great book about your city it would have to have photographs of stuff, including some food shots from some of our more famous local restaurants. So the publisher asked the restaurants to send in photographs. But here's the problem, the photographs from one restaurant are too small and mushy and they need big, meaty, high res images for their super deluxe, super high quality printed book." And they just kinda think I may have taken the photographs of this wonderful food that they want to put in a wonderful book that might just put Austin on the map as a city. Imagine that. Austin as a famous city. I can see people walking with more spring in their step right now....

I described the image I thought the person on the phone might be interested in and she more or less agreed that it probably was that image. Great, I say. What is your budget for the use of photography (one time) in your beautifully printed book that will put Austin on the map and save us from obscurity?  "Zero.  Ziltch. Nada."

But there are a couple of stumbling blocks to her wishful "free" thinking... The first is that the images were done for a magazine on a one time usage rights agreement. Oh darn, you mean the restaurant didn't get all the rights to my magazine assignment? That damn, pesky copyright law. Then came the "leverage."  "But well, if we don't get the high resolution files to use then we'll just have to pull that restaurant out of our book!!!!"  Oh no!!! This particular restaurant with a two hour wait for a table on week nights, the restaurant that's been here for twenty five years-----all that may crumble if I don't send off my intellectual property, ASAP.

Then why are you calling me? I ask.  "Well, you see, we need a high res version of the image and since you might be the person what took the image we were thinking we might be able to get the high res version from you. Because we need the high res image. See? For this impressive book."

Why didn't you ask the restaurant for a high res image? Isn't that their responsibility? "Well, they like this image but they weren't sure where it came from.... "  So why are you calling me? "Because we need a high resolution version for our book." But you don't have any budget to pay for it?

Now I'm getting a bit feisty. So you're producing a book to make money? "Yes." Your company is in the business of making books for profit? "Yes!"  And the restaurant will get free advertising because it will be in the book? Is that right? Yes!  And so why is the artist of the work the only one who doesn't benefit from the use of the work?  Why is the photographer the only one who isn't getting paid?

"Well, stutter,  I just trying to find out if you have some deal with the restaurant, like they pay you a yearly fee or something so we can use the image...."

But I don't have any business relationship with the restaurant. I own the photograph and I need to be paid if you intend to use it.

And then she asked, "Why are you getting so upset? Is someone you know dying or something?" (actual question...).

And I asked, Do you have any intention of paying to use my photograph?  "NO!" she said ".... .and you've been so unhelpful and mean I'll never call again and if I ever see your name come across my desk I will never use you!!!"

Thank you, I said, because you'd only be calling to see if you could get more stuff for free.

I don't remember who slammed their phone down first. But it never helps my blood pressure to be on either end of a call that's all about getting shit for free.

LED Lighting. My first choice for studio still life projects.

As you may or may not know I wrote a book about LED Lighting for photographers that was published this past Spring. Naively, I expected the book to be the hot seller of the season.  After all, who won't want to read an "edge of your seat" thriller about the promises and perils of the coolest hot, new lighting trend of the decade? Well, as it turns out photographers are more like stamp collectors and model railroad train hobbyists than they are adventurous revolutionaries. While the vast majority of reviews are five stars, and people who've actually read the book love it, most people keep looking for yet another iteration of a book on... How to Make Happy Light with a Battery Powered Flash... (can we all say, "been there, done that. and the t-shirt was lame?).

I've given seven or eight speeches and demonstrations about LED lighting and I guess I'll have to admit that I'm not a fiery on stage evangelist. I think my big marketing mistake was showing off the lights by using live models. People. The average photographer has worked hard to become comfortable shooting family and friends with his reliable electronic flashes and is loathe to learn new tricks if he or she can help it. But, I'd like to try a different tack in both selling my book and the general use of LED lighting------it's the best thing yet for anyone who does still life photography.  No long explanation, rather it's really just a matter or what you see is what you get. Or, what you light is what you get.  Good quality LED panels have never been cheaper, easier to use or more visually reliable. I still believe they are the game changers in the lighting space, going forward.  And with the special secrets revealed only in my book or my two week long, $15,000 workshop you too can learn the.......

I'd like to formally request that, if you have been a long term reader of the blog, you consider ordering a printed copy of the book. Even if you never decide to pull the trigger on purchasing a single lighting panel you'll have the knowledge to at least convincingly attack the whole folly of everyone else's adaptation of LEDs... And you'll make me happier into the bargain. But, if you shoot food, still life or studio work, and especially if you are dipping your toes into the world of DSLR video I think you'll be amazed at how fluid and easy LED lighting can make your jobs.  And, of course, your book club will thank you for introducing the drama and power of LED Lighting: Photographic Techniques for Digital Photographers, to them....

Below is a quick tutorial about using LED lights to photograph an old, folding Kodak camera. It goes like this:  "set up camera. set  up two lights, one on either side. turn on lights. play with positioning until the effect looks good in the viewfinder of your taking camera. Push shutter button.

 An in-depth look at the very complex lighting set up.

By using an EVF endowed camera I was able to pre-chimp the entire shot, from comp to exposure, to color balance, without looking away from the finder.

If you are interested in dipping your big toe into the LED waters and trying out the promise of the future I recommend one inexpensive lighting unit about all others. It's is the Fotodiox (or similar OEM) 312 AS.  The output is great. The color balance is infinitely adjustable between 3200 and 5500 and the whole fixtures output can be controlled with a simple rotary control on the back of the unit. It comes with two rechargeable lith-ion batteries and a keen carrying case. It's about $160 bucks.  But if you have to choose get the book first.  It doesn't have three easy steps to losing weight or making new friends but it is the first book on the subject on the face of the planet......