Gallery show…

Well, I was trying to take a break from gallery showings this year, but I guess I’ll have one more piece (maybe two) shown this year. I was asked to participate in the show. Info can be found on the flyer:

I’m totally stealing that idea…

I just read a post on LinkedIn that suggested delivering cookies or cupcakes to a potential client after an interview/initial meeting as a thank you. How cool is that idea?!?

I’m totally stealing that idea! Well, maybe not stealing it. I’m going to think about a way to alter it and make it my own. Maybe have some cookies baked with my logo on top? Maybe find a way to incorporate my brand identity into the cupcakes? I’ll think about it for quite a while before I decide how to implement the plan, but man! What a plan!!! I wouldn’t forget a person who gave me cookies!!!

Similar, but different…

This is a blog by an Atlanta photographer named Zack Arias:

As you can see by the link, some of his techniques and style have a similar quality to mine. Of course, he does some stuff very different than I would. I like seeing a different approach to subjects. It keeps me thinking, keeps me growing. You should be spending a little time every day, trying to look at and learn from your fellow photos. Whether their style is similar or different than yours, you can always pick up something new.

The biggest questions…

Wow! It still amazes me what you people have questions to. It is always the same thing: Invoices and taxes. I don’t know who is searching for this info, but I do have access to some basic data related to my blog, like what search words you used to get here and how long visitors stayed on certain pages.

Each week, with the use of this data, I can put together a simple list of what topics were most important to you all. Every week seems to be the same topics: Invoices and taxes. Yup, I could say it again and you would probably love it… well, I’ve decided to give a sort of yes/no faq today.

Most searched was about sales tax for Dallas photographers: Yes, you are REQUIRED to charge sales tax for the majority of your customers. You had better collect it, too. If you are doing this as anything more than a hobby, the government will know. Trust me. I have a friend being audited right now. Luckily, her photo business is run like a top, so she’s safe.

Who doesn’t have to pay sales tax? Out of state customers are one example. Someone in New York may see one of your prints and set up to pay you for a copy. You mail that copy out of state and you don’t mess with collecting state sales tax. They come to Texas and pick it up? Then you collect sales tax.

Who doesn’t have to pay sales tax? Businesses who have a Texas sales and use tax permit AND who are using your service/product in something they are reselling (and ultimately collecting sales tax from and end user for that final product). In other words, I am shooting for the local newspaper. The pay me to take a picture, then they use that picture for their final product – the actual newspaper. They deal with tax, not you. If they have a tax permit and are planning to resell your work, they are good.

Who doesn’t have to pay sales tax? Charitable and/or religious entities that are registered with the state. There are certain restrictions here as well, so don’t just assume that tax should not be collected, because you are shooting for a charity or church.

The next highest search was about a photographer’s invoice. Well, I already detailed that in an earlier blog. I’ll add a search feature to this blog soon, so you can easily find that entry.

The next biggest search was about w-9 forms. In simple terms, this is the form you fill out as a freelance or contract worker. You client will let the IRS know that you were paid X dollar amount over the full year and that you will be reporting this income on your return. You should report ALL income no matter what, but if you filled out a w-9, you better make SURE you reported it! They know about it.

In turn, if you hire a photo assistant a bunch, racking up (I think) $600 or more in deductible fees, you are supposed to have them fill out a w-9, then you file that (or have your accountant do all that messy, non-artistic stuff like filing and deducting).

I think this is enough info for now. I’ll try to address some of the other frequently asked questions later. But I have to get back to work. I have a couple invoices due to clients by tomorrow morning… Oh, and by the way – Don’t take this as the final word. If you REALLY want to know about this stuff, go here for the definitive answer:

The Canon 5DmkII vs Poison…

OK, next victim… But first, let’s recap: After testing the Canon’s video/audio capabilities straight out of the box, I concluded that the mic just can’t handle the extreme decibels from the photo pit. Maybe if there was a way to attenuate the sound coming in, so it wouldn’t clip? And we know the video will have the same issues that still pics will have… Reds can easily blow out and block up, since most concerts use a ton of red stage lighting (and camera sensors can have issues with an abundance of that part of the light spectrum – can anyone find me a scientific explanation why CMOS sensors seem to lose details in over-exposed red channels, easier/quicker than in blue and green?)

We also learned that following focus in such a fast-paced, dynamic setting was a big chore, since you have to base focus off the small on-camera screen (which doesn’t flip up/down/out). However, there was still enough potential in the Canon 5DmkII that it is worth refining.
Now, to the next match-up… The 5DmkII vs 1980’s rock band Poison:
OK, so my main focus on this trial was to improve the sound. The video wasn’t too important to me, so I didn’t worry about critical framing or focus. I really just wanted to see what I could do to fix the weakest link in the camera’s chain. The next logical step? Add an external mic that has the ability to attenuate the input and reduce the chance of clipping.
I used a set-up that I already had for better sound on my camcorder – an XLR-style shotgun mic and a Beachtek input adaptor with phantom power. It is basically like this one here: Beachtek adaptor
I’ve used this sound system with pretty good success on my camcorder-created videos. The only downfall is the lack of meters. You can ballpark the sound with a set of headphones, but meters would be MUCH better. This unit is more expensive, but is specifically designed for the 5DmkII and I think it has an input VU meter: Beachtek adaptor for the 5DmkII
So, without a meter and no headphones to rough in the settings, I just decided to knock down the input to the halfway mark. The sound is MUCH better, but 90% of it is still way too hot. I can see clipping across all but the quieter sections, when I view the sound levels in FCP. However, this set-up made a BIG improvement over the stock, in-camera mic. I bet with the correct input levels set on my Beachtek, I would have great sound.
But all is not perfect in the audio world. The shotgun mic is facing forward and picking up C.C. Deville’s guitar. It was either grabbing his stage monitor, or the sound straight from his guitar amp(s) and not much else. You can tell the difference when I pan away from the stage around 8 sec and pan back around 20 sec. The sound is more uniform during that minor period, then it’s back to being overwhelmed by the guitar directly in front.
This issue makes C.C.’s amazing guitar work really stand out and shine from 21 sec to 30 sec, but won’t cut it for an overall video recording. Just look at Bret Michaels’ vocals around 51 sec to the end. He’s talking, but you can’t hear him. Not good if you can’t pick up any vocals. So is there a solution?
There IS a solution! I am wondering if the cheapest thing to do is to face the mic up or away from the stage, trying to pick up the stage’s main speaker system. It will have a mix of ALL the performers. Another choice is to try a different type of microphone. Mine is a shotgun type, which works perfect for my interviews. It focuses in on the sound from the person in front of me, and it pretty much ignores stuff to the left, right and behind. It is a focused mic.
Instead of a mic with a very focused, narrow field, the use of a microphone designed to pick up a wide range/field might be the way to go. This might’ve seemed obvious to you guys that do video as a main career and stills as a side thing, but I’m the opposite. I’m learning video as a supplement to my stills work.
Another option is to capture sound from the soundboard (the place where the guy sits and adjusts the monitors, speakers, mic input, etc for the show). The soundboard input will be a rough mix, but still much better than the shotgun mic or the in-camera mic. There are other, more complex options, but then it gets to be a big production, and that’s missing the spirit of using the 5DmkII for concert video.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the 5DmkII would make a great pro concert video. Get three of them running and a pro sound recording rig and you could make a GREAT video! You could have one guy on each side of the stage and one in back getting the long view… Man, that would be wonderful. But, this is really about a one-man photo-j style video.
So, let’s tally the votes so far. Canon vs Slayer? A definite win for Slayer. Their massive lighting and powerhouse sound pummeled the stock camera. Canon vs Poison? I think Canon could’ve held its own visually (you can see I got some nice close-in stuff of C.C. Deville during his intro riff), if I had concentrated on the video better.
The sound, though? I think Poison still beats Canon, or at least with the way I have it set up so far. But, this gave me a few ideas on how to finally beat the next opponent, whoever decides to challenge this superb little camera. I bet I come back with some nice – OK, acceptable – sound from the next match!

Real or Fake?!?

I have a friend who edits over at Life. It is no longer a printed magazine like it used to be, but it still has a strong web presence. While looking through the images, I spotted this page:

It’s fun trying to pick out the real images from the fake ones. It can be hard on some of them. I maybe got 60% to 70% correct. There were several that threw me. It just goes to show you how hard it is to tell a “real” photo from a “fake” one.

Round three: Marilyn Manson vs Jason Janik…

Yet another audience-made video of the Mayhem Fest concert in Dallas, TX. This one was made during Marilyn Manson’s set. You can clearly see me at 1:40 as I change some settings on my camera. You can’t see the point in which I get a little of his spit on me (yes, it was gross), but you can see me here and there throughout the video… looking like a nerdy photographer: