The best job in the world is to be an amateur!

One of the interesting things about being a professional photographer is that you’re hired because of your vision and creativity (and other things, including reliability, price, value, etc.), but still, in the end, must please the client. When it comes to portraits, especially, the client may want creativity, but only if it flatters the subject. I remember senior portraits from my high school days that made it very difficult to identify exactly who was pictured in the photograph.

Today, one of the most popular tools is Portrait Professional, a stand-alone/Photoshop plug-in utility that can automate and streamline the retouching that sometimes is needed to produce the kind of results that the client (but not necessarily the photographer) wants to see.

The image at left is more or less right out of the camera. In the center is a PortraitPro rendition using the default preset. (You’re actually given a considerable amount of flexibility in choosing your own settings.) At right is a less drastic version.

I’ve made my living emphasizing how to get the best results possible right in the camera, with a minimum of post-processing. When you do that, you probably don’t need textures, excessive HDR, or batch processing plug-ins that give your images that ’60s high school yearbook look.

That’s why amateur photographers have an almost ideal “job” as an image creator. The only expectations they must meet are their own; they follow their own timetable, and if they goof nobody gets upset (or, if results are unexpectedly good, they can claim “I meant to do that!”)

Three views…

Photographing a living legend…

Some things stick with you all your life…and in my case two of those things are sports and concert photography.  One of the very first photos I ever took was a double-exposure of my brother playing baseball with himself when I was 11, and after four years of shooting basketball in high school, I was hired by a daily newspaper as a sports photographer/reporter.  I shoot sports year-round even today.
My other love was taking pictures at concerts, at first local guitar heroes like Joe Walsh (before the James Gang and Eagles), and soon immortals like B.B. King.  In the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to shoot living legends like Ronnie Spector (pictured) from 12 feet away, and always enjoy the challenge of finding new ways to capture the excitement of both classic and contemporary performers.  This shot was the result of careful timing, as I watched the soulful singer well up with emotion as she worked through a sensational oldie.    At the venue I frequent most, I generally shoot at 1/200th second at f/2.8 and ISO 1600 with a 70-200mm zoom lens.  I always shoot in continuous mode, both because the performer’s mood can change quickly between frames, but because I find that in any given five-shot burst, the middle image is often the sharpest.  At 1/200th second hand-held, even with image stabilization, excellent bracing, and shooting technique you’ll experience a bit of camera movement during a burst, and the middle shot is frequently the best.