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Photo Geek Alert — The Camera Sensor as Emulsion + Why Your Digital Camera is More Like Film Stock Than You Realize

Geek alert. Although the mentality stems from the last century, the megapixel wars are not over. It is, however, safe to say that those of us familiar with our cameras have started to realize that they are much more than megapixels + dynamic range. There are other factors that we have come to admit are important to consider – case in point, the sensor. Some are noisy, some are big, some are juicy, others are…well… you get my point. These apparent truths prompted a conversation with my friend Sohail and led him to this in-depth post about the comparison of digital sensors and processing systems that go into today’s cameras — all with the emulsion (the photo sensitive side of film) discussion that used to kick around in the era of film. It’s all coming full circle now… Take it away Sohail. -Chase

A few months ago, I made a switch in camera platforms. Comparing images taken with a 5D Mark III and a Nikon D800, I found that there was something about the Nikon image that I really liked, something that went beyond the standard things that can be quantified, like its 36MP resolution, or its 12 stops of dynamic range.

D800 shot on the left, 5D Mark III on the right. Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

D800 shot on the left, 5D Mark III on the right. Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

The atmospheric conditions for the two shots were different, but even accounting for that, the 5D Mark III image was uncomfortably crunchy, with some pretty serious color noise and banding in the shadows. The D800 shot, on the other hand, had amazing tonality, and the noise was mostly luminance noise, smoothly rendered, almost organic, like film grain.

Shadow Comparison. D800 On Left.

Shadow Comparison. D800 On Left.

I’d love to tell you that this was a moment of epiphany. It would be great if I could say something like, “And at that moment, it was as though the heavens themselves had opened up and poured the sweet song of angels down upon my ears and I realized I had found the camera I’d been waiting for all my life.”

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Though I did end up switching to Nikon, for a number of reasons. (Let no debate rage at this point…please).

An idea is born

Comparing the two images — especially the comparison of the Nikon’s luminance noise to film grain — did serve to make me aware of something that I think has been happening for some time now. Though the megapixel wars aren’t over by any means, we have started to look at our DSLRs as more than the sum of their megapixels.

Two of my current favorites when I shoot film.

Two of my current favorites when I shoot film.

I’m old enough to remember the halcyon days of film. Back then, we had vigorous discussions about tabular versus classic grain, T-Max vs Tri-X, why no one should shoot caucasian skin with Ektar 100 and why only masochists shot with color slide film (Chase tells me this was his primary mode). The old darkroom hands swapped developer recipes back and forth, or kept them close to the vest, like preciously guarded state secrets, while the young hands spent hours in the darkroom with pieces of cardboard punched with holes for dodging and burning under the enlarger.

It was with much amusement that I realized the parallels in our comparison of digital sensors and processing systems that go into cameras with the old film hands’ discussions about various emulsions.

Really? What parallels?

Let me break it down for you.

In the old days, every film could be said to have a purpose. Fuji Velvia was the landscape film, with awesome, popping greens. Kodak Tri-X was the photojournalist’s film, a 400 ASA film that you could push to three stops and shoot at ISO 3200. Kodak Portra was, as the name suggests, for portrait films.

We left a lot of that specialization behind when we went to digital – and thank goodness for it. Unlike real emulsions, however, digital emulsions can’t be switched out — unless you’re shooting medium-format or with a Ricoh GXR system — so it made sense to have a more “generalist” chip doing the job. Instead, we resorted to post-processing to recreate the look and feel we wanted, and this is an approach that still yeilds dividends today. The cityscape above was finished in Nik Color Efex Pro 4, for example, and I applied the Kodak Portra 160 effect to it to make it look the way I wanted.

Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

But look around you. In the last couple of years, specialty sensors are, in fact, making an appearance. The Sigma SD–1, with its Foveon sensor, which purports to deliver a file that claims to rival medium-format images, for example. Or the proprietary X-Trans sensor in Fuji’s X-Pro1, with its EXR processor and built-in film effects, which does away with the standard optical low-pass filter and the traditional Bayer array of pixels, with fantastic results. Or the aforementioned D800E, with its ridiculous resolution and dynamic range. Or the most blatant of all specialty sensors – the Leica Monochrom-M with its black-and-white-only sensor.

That piece of silicon in your computer that sits on the film plane is starting to look a lot more like film, isn’t it?

Okay. But why does any of this matter?

Simple. It matters because when you reach for your wallet to buy or rent your next camera, accepting that there are differences in sensors beyond megapixels is going to go at least some way towards helping you pick your next camera.

Let me give you an example. If you’re the kind of shooter who likes HDR photography, then knowing that the D800E has incredibly dynamic range might help you chose that over, say, a Canon 5D Mark III. Or, if you’re nuts about great, popping, luscious colors, you might chose an X-Pro1. Black-and-white enthusiast? That Leica Monochrom might have your name on it.

The realization that the sensors going into digital cameras have their own unique characteristcs, just like the film emulsions of yesteryear, can actually direct your choice of cameras. I’ll happily put up with the X-Pro1’s foibles, for example, to get that awesomely luscious color out of it.

JPEG straight out of the Fuji X-Pro1. © Sohail Mamdani

JPEG straight out of the Fuji X-Pro1. © Sohail Mamdani

Wait a second. I can do that Velvia film look and get those colors in post, can’t I?

In many cases, sure. There are some great programs out there now that can help pull color out of RAW images like never before. And if you have the time, energy, and funds, you should invest in them.

You are, however, going to have a much better starting point if the sensor in your camera gets you that much closer to the look you want to begin with. To go back to images at the beginning of this article, I’m sure that with enough massaging, I could work that color noise out of the Canon image, deal with the banding to a large extent, then apply the film grain of my choice. I tried that, in fact, and like my experience, your results may not meet your expectations. After an hour of work on it, the image from the 5D was still murky in the shadows, and didn’t have the look I wanted.

The Nikon image, on the other hand, took less than ten minutes to get it to where I wanted it.


Unlike the days of film, you don’t need to delve into the minutae of the differences between film grains, the response curve of Portra 160 vs 400, or the tonality of Neopan Acros 100. But if you understand that — and accept — that modern sensors do, like their film analogues, have quirks and capabilities beyond those listed on the camera’s spec sheet, then you’ll be able to make a more informed decision about where you spend your money.

In the end, you’re going to make the image, not your camera. But it helps to have a great starting point.


Gear provided by – where still photographers and videographers can rent virtually everything.

12 Tips for Entering the Commercial Photo & Film World [Hint: It’s Not What You Think]

Hi folks, Megan here, long time staff Producer for Chase. We get a ton of email inquiries every day from guys and gals looking to “work their way into the industry” or utilize skills learned while at school. Most inquire about being a photo assistant. And while that’s certainly an option to learn a ton on-set, it’s not the only path you can take to get your feet wet in the business of commercial photography and film. It’s not often discussed, but as valuable as a good photo assistant is to a photographer, a good production assistant can be just as clutch. And it’s a way to ease in the biz without the same level of knowledge as the photo assistant gig, because a production assistant is even more about the hustle.

So I thought I’d have a little fun here and describe to you the Best Production Assistant in the World. This is all hypothetical, but if you think these are all qualities you possess, please, feel free to give your local photographer hero (or heck, even me) a call..

…are the 1st person on set
One of my favorite sayings in photography + film industries: If you’re early to the set (or location), you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. And if you’re late, you’re fired. You should be standing around waiting, long before you’re supposed to arrive. You might not get fired the first time you’re not early, but the point is, don’t be late. Ever. Ever. Ever. Trust me, the producer doesn’t care if traffic was bad, or if your dog threw up. Be on time (= early).

…know when to be quiet
We champion the concept that a good idea can come from anywhere, but there’s a time and a place. The best PA knows when to chime in to their peers (almost NEVER directly to the photographer or director with a “creative idea” unless they ask but ALWAYS as a matter of safety – “hey that light is about to fall!”). So you’ve primarily got to know to stay quiet and observe. Getting caught chatting with the crew and making a bunch of noise is a quick way to not get hired again. Don’t be a know it all, but offer solutions to your peer group on set if you have a great idea. Generally speaking, keep your nose down and the work ethic up.

…have a car
And a decent driving record. A big part of being a PA is running errands, which is hard to do efficiently if you’re always waiting for the bus. Public transport is acceptable in NYC, Paris, London, etc, but usually frowned upon in non major-metro areas.

…are able to lift 50 lbs… easily.
There’s a lot of schlepping that goes on. You need to have some decent bicep strength and a healthy back. Be in shape, don’t be a slacker. If you’re not tired after a day of work, you either a) didn’t work hard enough or b) got lucky with a slack job. If b), don’t count on getting too many of those and don’t build your mentality of how in shape you should or shouldn’t be around the b) scenario. Be at least moderately physically fit – it will pay off.

…have no ego
Being a PA is not glamorous. At all. You’ll be asked to do things like take out the trash + clean up spills, all with a smile on your face. But doing so with pleasure and expediently is sure to get noticed and respected. Seriously. And in fact, I’ll add to this category… maybe even the most important thing… Have an amazing attitude. Nobody likes a whiner, a nay-sayer, a negative Nancy. Be a yes-boss, with a smile and some skills. Be positive. Oh, and be polite too. It’s amazing how far that goes.

…have a strong work ethic
You are working your tail off from the moment you walk on set, until you step out the door. The best PA is ready to work as hard and as long as it takes to get the job done. If any other PA or assistant is carrying stuff, cleaning, etc and you’re not, you’re not doing your job. Know when you need to steer clear of certain roles (Gaffer, Grip, etc) especially on union jobs – and know when to help. The more you’re around this stuff, the more you’ll understand the subtleties here.

…have a slight case of OCD
Attention to detail is the name of the game in production. The best PA is super organized and on top of his or her stuff. Always. If you’re a flake or even moderately poorly organized, this will show up quickly. Respect gets doled out if you can take on a project and complete it without being micro managed. On the contrary, no one wants to have to tell you the best way to “get coffee”. So you have to be able to figure it out. Efficiently and effectively.

…anticipate what needs to be done
See that the recycle bin is full? You empty it before being asked. The coffee pot is empty? You brew another pot before another crew member goes to refill his or her cup. Find yourself with nothing to do? Start making the rounds and ask if anyone needs a water. Anticipation shows that you understand what the heck is going on. Which, in turn, is the fastest way to get respect, a raise, a promotion.

…think on your feet
We’re always dealing with real-time problems on-set that need real-time solutions. The best PA is able to go with the flow and help resolve the issues at hand in a timely manner.

…remain calm under pressure
In the immortal words of Jimmy Dugan, “there’s no crying in baseball.” Or on photography sets. Be clear headed. Like Fonzi.

…value presentation
Sometimes there’s a designated Craft Services professional on set, and sometimes it falls on the PA to shop for and put out breakfast, lunch, snacks and bevies. The best PA has a keen eye for presentation, whether it’s food, a pile or cords, a stack of apple boxes, or whatever. Make stuff look nice. (You also hopefully have a sense of style, whether it’s food or design. Understand that setting down a can of Cheese Whiz and a pack of Saltines OR wearing your flip flops to a celebrity shoot is usually no bueno.)

…are resourceful
Perhaps the most useful and prized of all PA attributes, this one will help you out in any and/or all facets of the creative industry. You know who to call, where to go, how to make it happen, or you can figure it out without much oversight. Try to “know people” who can get shiz done – whether it’s a welder or a car wash, the owner of a photo store or the guy behind the rental counter. Make an effort to know people. And know how to do stuff. Lots of stuff. Sure you can make coffee, but can you properly coil cords and cables? Can you paint (as in walls)? Can you parallel park? Can you fix broken stuff? Can you MacGyver your a$$ off? The more stuff you know how to do, the better. BE RESOURCEFUL.

Of course having some experience is preferred in every line of work, but it’s not 100% required when starting out. There’s something to be said for possessing the innate ability to “figure it out.” If you’re eager to please and ready to work your booty off, starting as a PA might be a good entrée to the industry. You’ll certainly get to see the underbelly of the photography + film worlds, which is often a good thing if you’re wondering if this photography thing is a good line of work for you. Gotta see the sausage being made in the basement to know where all that industry flavor comes from…

Everybody’s gotta start somewhere.

Insider Interview with Macklemore — Staying Independent, Humble + Going Quadruple Platinum

As many of you who are regular readers know, I am longtime friend (and fan of course) of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Ben (Macklemore) and I get coffee at the same joint. He has played dinner parties at my studio and he and Ryan deployed a magical performance on chasejarvisLIVE among other things over the years. But it is with a special appreciation that I’ve been attuned their meteoric rise to the top of the musical charts in the last six months. Quadruple MF’ing platinum, that is. For those who are counting, that’s 4 million copies of “Thrift Shop” alone… all without a label. Not only do these guys represent a great new era of conscious hip hop, but they represent the opportunity of the future for independant artists everywhere And I can say these guys are hard working, humble and dedicated to their craft.. unabashedly this success couldn’t have happened to better people. Well, last weekend those cats achieved their dream of being the musical guest on Saturday Night Live (video above). A few weeks ago, just a couple hours before a sold out Red Rocks show in Denver, my homie and manager Jerard sat down with Ben and his manager Zach Quillen (also a stellar gent) for an interview. Enjoy. -Chase

[Interview has been edited and shortened for print]

CJ: Can you tell us a little bit about this time in your life right now? This album’s only been out for five months and has sold hundreds of thousands of downloads. Thriftshop is double-platinum. You’re blowing up. (chase’s note… this was a month ago, and it’s already quadruple platinum now…)

Macklemore: It has completely exceeded my expectations of what I thought the project would do and what I hoped it would do. We sold 78,000 our first week. We were expecting to sell around 25,000 to 30,000.  It was a lot bigger than any of us anticipated.  Coming in at number two on Billboard independently is something that we are all really proud of. We decided to put out the album ourselves. And it kind-of worked. And we didn’t know if it was gonna work; we didn’t know what the, you know, what the reaction was gonna be.

I think that you have, on one side you have things like numbers that mark how far you’re going up, like, the hierarchical ladder of success. And you also have something which is the art. And wanting your art to resonate with the people that are hearing your art. The people, the fans that were there, the people that are hearing you for the first time, you hope that you have an album that garners critical acclaim as well as selling units. And you hope that you have both. And I think that, with The Heist, it turns out that, you know, we’ve had success in both of those areas. But the most important, for me, is the art. And that’s something that I am very proud of on The Heist. And I’m not saying that to be like, “Look what we’ve done. Ha!” I’m saying that because I’m still really fucking surprised that has happened. And you know, when we made “Thrift Shop”, we made the album, I didn’t think there was any chance that we would have a shot at commercial radio whatsoever. Like, if we didn’t sign a major label deal, literally in my head I didn’t think there was a percentage of a chance that it would take off at radio.  It’s weird to be recognized in public as kind-of like the “Thrift Shop Guy” right now.  I didn’t anticipate that. And once the record kind-of takes off to the level where it has, to where you’ve sold, you know, you’ve gone double platinum and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down… it’s very exciting but at the same time it’s a little bit scary. Like, “What the hell did I sign up for?”  “I can’t turn back now.” It’s a transitional period. And also life feels completely the same as it did a month ago or as it did three months ago. But in terms of where I’m at in my life…everything’s the same. And yet, the attention is such a different level and you’re still the same person. And yet you have the number one record in America. That’s bizarre and strange. So I’m adapting to that.

CJ: I like what you said about underneath all that recognition, for you, is really the art. And you first came to my attention through Chase. Back in 2009 or so you were on his show Songs for Eating and Drinking and you did a song that, at that point, was called “Air Jordans” and that’s actually on The Heist as –“Wings”.  You put your heart and soul into this album. Starting way back then, really busting this song out for, what I assume was, one of the first times.

Macklemore: It was THE first time. [I recall] I had forgotten about the event and I woke up from a nap and it was like fifteen minutes until it started. And I printed off the last thing that I had written which was “Wings”, which was then titled “Air Jordans” ‘cause I had just woken up from a nap and had no idea what to call it. Yeah that was the first time.

CJ: At that point, you had turned the corner in your career. You were a professional musician. You’re…

Macklemore: Nah, I was fresh out of rehab, living in my parent’s basement.

CJ: Okay, we’ll go back to that, but you had made a choice to be a musician. You were pursuing your craft full time.

Macklemore: Drugs and then art. [laughs] Nah, I at that point, yes, I had… you know, stopped smoking and drinking and I was just trying to get kinda get back on my feet.

CJ: The transition from that point to today is… is rather dramatic. Today you are double platinum (see earlier note) and then you were waking up from a nap. But underneath it is really your art and your craft. And I think that’s important for you know people who are interested in you and pursuing their own work That here’s Ben saying, Macklemore is saying, “Hey, even when you’re at the top you still have perspective on that.” Now lets take it back to your parents basement and how your work pulled you out of that time period in your life as well.

Macklemore:  To go back even further, I think I was then, and always have been the type of person that would have no moderation with drugs and alcohol.  Ever since I first started at fifteen years old. I also wasn’t the type of person that could create while being, you know, high on weed and drinking alcohol. And I smoked weed, once I was smoking weed it was like a wake-up-in-the-morning-’til-go-to-bed-and-pass-out thing. Wake up the next morning, smoke the roach, call the drug dealer and wake him up at nine o’clock. It was just that type of cycle. And so I wasn’t making music, and it continued to get worse. And I went to treatment, got out, and it was really kind-of a rebirth for me. I got another shot at this. And I thought, if this doesn’t work now, I’m gonna have to go and pursue something else. That’s a scary place for an artist to be. I always had this faith.

Somebody asked me recently, “What was it that kept you going when it wasn’t popping off, when you were broke? What was it that kept that artistic spirit going?” And for me it was this thing that if I did get sober, if I could get sober, that I knew I would have a career making music. I didn’t know that it would look like this; I didn’t know that it would look like what it looked like two years ago. But I felt like I could sustain myself off of my art. But getting out of treatment that was gruesome, dark. That  was a very dark and depressing time.year. It was very much, “If this doesn’t work I’m gonna go get a nine to five and do something that I probably am gonna hate doing and resent a good portion of my early twenties for not handling my shit.” And, very blessed the fact that it worked out.  And that’s when Ryan [Lewis] and I were making the verses to EP.

CJ: The guys here at The Business of Fun have this analogy that’s called the aircraft carrier analogy.  That there are five thousand guys that run an aircraft carrier. There only a  hundred pilots. But there’s this huge support system behind any of the things that are out front, the people that are out front. So you and Ryan are out front but your manager Zach is sort-of in the boiler room sometimes. It’s relevant because when you have a passion for something, you don’t necessarily have to be the MC; you don’t necessarily have to be the double platinum artist. There are people behind the people.

Zach Quillen: What Ben and I have in common there is that I was never gonna be satisfied or happy with a nine to five–a traditional nine to five. I got fired from like every job I had in high school for having an attitude problem. And it ultimately was that I didn’t wanna work for anybody but me. And always had a passion for music but not, you know, not necessarily the other things that you need talent-wise to be out front, be up at center. So this was as close as I could get. I wanted to stand as close as I could to people like Ben and use the talents that I had developed over the years to help them achieve what they want to achieve. And ultimately achieve what I wanted to achieve alongside.  I never saw any other option. And if you know anything about getting into the music business it’s, especially at first, there’s nothing glamorous about it. While Ben was performing in front of eight people in Omaha I was making like $22,000 a year living in New York City, barely coming up with money to buy groceries. It’s a similar path in that way – where you just have to love it. It has to be everything for you. I was totally fine to be broke in New York as long as I got to stand next to these super talented people that were making music, that were changing people’s lives. I didn’t care about really anything else.

CJ: There’s this perception of the glamour of it, but really there’s a grind. Whether it’s sport, or art, music, photography, how are you gonna be committed to it when the work  is really kicking you in the balls everyday?  And you guys both went through that.

Macklemore: That process it doesn’t stop. It… that never lets up.  I’m off like an hour of sleep right now coming from New York. And we do Red Rocks tonight, fly out at six o’clock in the morning which means that we’re back at the airport at four o’clock in the morning to catch the flight. It’s more of a grind than it ever has been. A lot of it isn’t fun. Still. But it is my life’s work. This is what I’ve always wanted. And you need to constantly be reminding yourself that as you evolve because, if you’re not grateful in those moments, like, sure I might’ve got an hour of sleep last night but I was on David Letterman. And I never thought in my life I would be on David Letterman.

CJ:  Can you share with us some of those influences today, and some of the things that helped bring you up, that you really paid attention to?

Macklemore:  I try to pay attention to art outside of hip-hop. I don’t do a very good job of doing that. But when I am paying attention to art that’s not just hip-hop, I am often times inspired in a way that I can’t get if I just go to like the same like four hip-hop blogs that I go to everyday. Yesterday I watched a concert film from David Byrne of The Talking Heads. And it’s this show that he did probably like in the eighties.  I didn’t know anything about David Byrne of The Talking Heads. Like I recognized some songs as I was watching this film, but… You know, he comes on stage with just like a boombox and presses play. And it’s just him with the boombox. And as the show goes on, you know, he adds a bass player, and a guitar player, and some dancers, and a drummer. And it turns into this whole, huge set–a huge production. And it’s watching things like that. Like great, great minds–people that are thinkers–that wanna challenge what a show looks like, wanna challenge the audience to really be engaged with them, with what they’re performing. And thinking about it in a different way. Like I think that, you know, I’ve been thinking about our show and not really happy with the show that we put on. I’m really happy with what we can deliver but I think we can do better. And I don’t know that I could do better if I’m only watching, if I’m only checking out hip-hop blogs. ‘Cause for the most part, like, rap concerts suck. You need to be inspired by other mediums. When I was writing The Heist I was taking walks in graveyards and trying to write at the art museum. Buying books and reading a couple chapters and putting it down and picking up a different book. Just trying to constantly be inspired by culture and just trying to get that spark that can lead to a new song. ‘Cause if I’m only listening to hip-hop music, if I’m only living my day-to-day life the same every single day, constantly, there’s no fuel to create something brand new. And that’s how I stay inspired.

You have to be able to experience life to have something new to write about. I don’t wanna write The Heist again. Like The Heist was a moment in time. I am a very conceptual writer. I can’t write those same songs again. I need to have new experiences to draw from to be able to put into my art.

CJ: [Question from live studio audience] If you could choose one song out of any of the songs that you have written for the world to hear, what would that song be and why?

Macklemore: I’d probably say, right now–and hopefully it will change ‘cause I write new songs and it evolves–but in 2013 it would probably be “Same Love”. THat song carries a message that I want to be heard around the world. And I think it’s an important message. It’s a message of tolerance, of equality, of compassion, of understanding, of pushing ourselves and our own bias and our own stereotypes. And I think that that’s my highest potential as an artist is to write songs–anyone’s highest potential–is to write songs that have an impact on society, have an impact on people’s lives, that can create dialogue within other people. You know “Same Love” is not a song that’s like you listen to it and I want you to immediately agree with everything that I say in the song. I don’t want you to feel that way out of any of the songs that I write. Everyone interprets music differently and messages differently. But what I hope is that it facilitates dialogue, that people listen to “Same Love” and then have a conversation. Or re-evaluate the words that they use, the language that they use. Or their, potentially their own, um, their own set of beliefs and retrace the lineage of why they are the way that they are. That’s essentially the greatest tool of music, is to… for us to examine who we are, find our truth, and evolve. And I think that “Same Love” falls into that category.

CJ: [Audience Question]Malcolm Gladwell talks about how if you really dedicate yourself to something and invest 10,000 hours you cmaster your craft. But he also really connects that blood, sweat, and tears, the passion, with kind-of this serendipitous opportunity, if you will, like a moment, a magical moment where the universe aligns and allows you commit to that craft.  Was there a moment or a period in your life that holds true to that ideal for you?.

Macklemore: Woah, yeah, That’s a great question. It kind-of gave me like a, uh… it brought up some emotion actually. There was a moment. I was, um, I was in treatment. I tried, as I said before, I tried my whole life to get sober. And I didn’t know how to do it. And always felt that I had  words to share with people. I didn’t know on what scale that would be. I didn’t know if that was like a hundred people or a hundred thousand. I didn’t know what that meant but I felt in my heart that I had something to share.  There was a monk And in treatment I had this moment. I was accumulating these tools to stay sober and part of the guy that was kind-of leading me through the steps in treatment was a practicing Buddhist monk. And we went to a monastery. And we were doing this kind-of this chanting and walking in a circle, walking in some figure eight circle. And you know earlier in my life I, when I got out of high school I couldn’t get into any colleges. No one would accept me. I cheated in school on math from sixth grade on. So I, when it came down to like the SAT’s, it’s a lot harder to cheat on the SAT’s. Looking over your friend’s shoulder doesn’t exactly work the same. I don’t recommend anybody doing that. I couldn’t get into  any schools. So I went to I went to India for a couple months when I graduated from high school. And I had this experience there of, I was like meditating on top of–this all sounds like really “Losty” and like very hippie but it’s just the truth. So I was meditating on top of a hill and I had this very serene peaceful moment. I meditated. And it was the first time I had ever done it where there was like no thoughts in my mind. It probably lasted for like two seconds, but I did it. And I’d been trying for a while. Mostly through hallucinogenics I was trying and that didn’t work.

So I finally like hit this point naturally and the first, thing that kind-of brought me out of this state of, you know, two seconds of kind-of just serene peace was this thought of, like, “This is so incredible. This is so amazing. What I’m feeling right now is the truth. This is my highest potential…” And then, “but you’re gonna go back to using drugs and alcohol.” And I was eighteen years old at the time. And it was a very depressing way to kind-of exit out of this moment. And I knew it. I was sober at that moment, but I knew I was eventually gonna go back to Seattle. Or it was gonna be a couple days later or whatever and I was going to go back. And when I was doing this chanting, you know, some, you know, probably eight years later, I had that exact same kind-of moment. And it brought me back to that place. And I was like, “I don’t need to go back anymore.” And then, “That’s it.” I didn’t come out of that like meditation space as I did before.  “I’m gonna go back. I’m gonna fuck up again. I’m gonna be a drug addict.” My thought was, “You don’t have to do that. And it’s your choice.”

That was my moment that I turned around. You know, since then it hasn’t been perfect. If you’ve heard the song “Starting Over” that’s obvious. But, my life changed in that treatment center. You know, I really have my life and my craft, and my art, everything that is good in my life, my relationships with my girlfriend and my family and my manager, and being present in this moment right here is all do to the fact that I’m sober.

So that was that moment.

CJ: Great question, awesome answer. I think we actually have to take you guys back. I think you’ve got something to do tonight. Thank you so much for making the time to come and talk to us.

Macklemore: Thank you. This is fantastic. I appreciate everyone for coming out.

ZQ: Thank you.

[To see the video of the above interview go here]
And check out the folks who made this interview possible (doing some very cool things) at The Business of Fun

Join Me! LIVE in a Google Hangout from Aspen Talking Photography, Music, SXSW and more…. with Robert Scoble & Chris Davenport.

UPDATE: here’s a recording of our chat…above! Thanks to all of you who watched live.

LIVE today at 9:30 PDT, 10:30 Aspen, 12:30 NYT, 17:30 London right here on the blog or on my YouTube channel

I’m smack dab in the middle of shooting next year’s campaign for Aspen (last years BTS video here with octocopers and wicked visuals) but had the morning off and managed to wrangle a couple friends for a live Google Hangout to discuss a bunch of questions that have come across my desk in the last week about the Aspen/Snowmass campaign (helicopters and photography), my new favorite music, the democratization of technology and a few other odds and ends that you will find of interest. Joining me is one of the key talent for my Aspen shoot, one of the world’s best skiers, Chris Davenport, the tech guru Robert Scoble (fresh outta SXSW) and the digital maven here in Aspen, David Amirault.

Transparent Cameras – Photo Gallery of X-Rayed Cameras


Copyright @Blake Billings,

In the shuffle of airport security I like to sneak a peek over the shoulder of the TSA agent and catch a glimpse of my gear as it moves through the X-ray. Shaving kit, headphones, a book, my ipad and usually a camera or two. It’s cool to see a quick view of the inner workings of the things we carry. Even cooler when it’s your camera’s hidden internal magic.

Photographer Blake Billings has created an entire series of that moment with his X-rayed camera photos. Here are the things that are moving around inside the magic light box.

Can you identify the model/make of these transparent cameras? Any of your favorites in the series?


Copyright @Blake Billings,


Copyright @Blake Billings,


Copyright @Blake Billings,


Copyright @Blake Billings,


Copyright @Blake Billings,


Copyright @Blake Billings,


Copyright @Blake Billings,


Copyright @Blake Billings,


Copyright @Blake Billings,

Original story via our friends at PetaPixel

What You Need for Your Photography Business – [Guess What? It’s Not a Camera]

Put bluntly, if we creatives want to make a real livelihood with our work – we need to realize that the business end of the stick if we’re holding. And while you know I’m always up for the occasional rant on this topic, I today decided to save myself a few blood vessels and some hot air, and instead passed the baton over to my homie, best-selling business/finance author and master of psychology, Ramit Sethi. I’ve said this before in public – Ramit taught me more about the business side of art in 30 minutes than I’d learned in the previous 5 years. As such, if you listen to one person about this shiz, I suggest you listen to Ramit. – Chase

Thanks Chase.

Let me start by asking you a couple questions.

Do you need the latest camera or software? Will it help grow your business?

Or is it more likely that the latest shiny equipment is distracting you from finding clients who will pay what you’re worth?

Today, as in right now, creating a framework to think about whether buying the latest equipment will actually help you grow your creative business and earn more money. Here’s how this came up: I was in San Francisco, shooting a day of video, and on a break I overheard my crew talking about whether they should buy a $70,000 camera to grow their business.

My ears perked up. I asked them why they would buy it. Their answers were wishy-washy and vague: “Well…it’ll help us get exposure…” So on the spot I suggested a framework to use when deciding whether to purchase new equipment for your creative business.

You might be surprised to hear what I suggested.

1) There’s a time and a place when buying the right equipment will help grow your business
2) But surprisingly, most clients don’t care about your equipment
3) If you can figure out what they value, you can save tens of thousands of dollars on equipment and actually make your clients happier — at the same time.

Put another way: I’ve hired many photographers, videographers, writers, and designers in the last 3 years. Can you guess how many times I’ve asked what camera or software they use? Answer: Zero. I’ve spoken to Chase about this as well. How many times do you think he’s been asked about his equipment unless it’s a super elite, over the top shoot. His answer is the same: zero. Put simply… buyers simply don’t care about that. And usually that equipment won’t help you make the thing you need to make.

Now, there is a time and a place to invest in the right equipment. You can become the ‘specialty guy or gal’ at this or that, but I bet dollars to donuts that we’re not talking about what you need NOW. When you’re growing your creative business, here’s a little video to guidance how to know whether you should invest in new equipment…or decide to first focus on other areas of your business….

By the way, in the video I mention deeply understanding your clients to figure out what they value. (This is how you can find better clients, charge more, and work with the people you want to.) If you’re curious how I study my own clients, here’s the actual survey I’ve used to generate over $100,000. Feel free to use it for your own business.

I now return you to your regular programming. [Thanks Ramit! – chase]

Canon EOS 6D Hands-ON — Canon Giveth, Canon Taketh Away

Canon EOS 6DIt seems our exploratory swim in the waters of full-frame DSLRs is far from complete. With the ink from his recent reviews of the D600 and the mirrorless Panasonic GH3 still drying, I asked my homie Ben Pitt to put the Canon EOS 6D between his microscope plates and share his findings here. As you’d expect with a lower-priced semi-pro camera, the EOS 6D is a mixed-bag. It’s light and boasts integrated GPS + Wi-Fi, but a couple notable omissions are enough to yank this camera from the “obvious choice” list. Scrutinizing consumers have come to expect a catch with the $2,000 price point products. Does the EOS 6D have a big one? I’ll let Ben take it from here. – Chase

A year ago, a full-frame camera meant a professional camera. They were simply too expensive for the majority of amateur photography enthusiasts. But with the Nikon D600 and Canon EOS 6D, the landscape has changed.

Last month I wrote about the Nikon D600, and whether the inevitable compromises it makes compared to the pricier D800 are worth living with. I concluded that – for me at least – they were. Given the choice of a D800 or a D600 plus an extra $800 to spend on glass (or more realistically, household bills), I’d happily go for the latter.

This month, it’s time to ask the same question about the Canon EOS 6D.

There are no nasty surprises regarding image quality. The 6D’s 20-megapixel full-frame sensor is new, but quality is hard to distinguish from the EOS 5D Mark III’s 22.3-megapixel output. Details are marginally lower, but so too are noise levels. Incidentally, detail and noise levels are very similar to the D600, too. Canon and Nikon each has its distinctive colour processing but there’s nothing much to separate these three cameras’ image quality on an objective basis.

1/320s, f/5.6, ISO 400, 400mm (click to enlarge)

1/60s, f/5, ISO 100, 32mm

1/125s, f/2.2, ISO 320, 50mm (click to enlarge)

1/200s, f/2.2, ISO 12800, 50mm (click to enlarge)

Their video modes are more varied. The 6D’s videos lag a little behind the D600’s for detail levels, and it lacks a headphone out to monitor the microphone input. However, unlike the D600, its aperture setting can be adjusted while recording. Overall, I’d class that as a draw, but both come a distant second to the Panasonic GH3 for video.

As with the D600, the 6D takes its design cues from a cropped-sensor sibling – in this case, the EOS 60D. The 6D is only fractionally larger and heavier than the 60D, although the lack of an integrated flash and articulated screen possibly account for the minimal weight gain. The layout of buttons is very similar, with a generous number of single-function buttons but a few less than on the 5D Mark III. It’s great to have the AF-ON button included – something Nikon chose to omit from the D600. The lack of direct access to white balance settings is disappointing, though.

Some people will lament the single SDXC slot, which compares unfavourably to the D600’s dual SDXC and the 5D Mark III’s SDXC and CompactFlash slots. I can live with a single slot, but it seems that this particular one hampers performance. Testing with an SDHC card rated at 94MB/s, burst mode set off at 4.2fps but slowed to 2.3fps after 26 frames. When I tested the 5D Mark III (which uses the same DIGIC 5+ processor), I found that the 6fps burst rate lasted indefinitely with a 90MB/s CompactFlash card but slowed to 2fps after 28 shots with a 94MB/s SDHC card.

Still, 4.2fps for 26 frames isn’t so bad. If you’re looking for a fast camera for sports or wildlife photography, you should be more wary of the 6D’s autofocus sensor.

As with the Nikon D600, its points are bunched towards the centre of the frame – it’s as if Canon has taken an APS-C SLR’s autofocus sensor and plonked it into a full-frame camera. But whereas the D600 has 39 AF points, nine of which are cross-type, the 6D has a much simpler 11-point autofocus with just a single cross-type point in the centre. That rules out the automatic subject tracking that’s available in the D600 and 5D Mark III – there simply aren’t enough AF points to track moving subjects. It’s also a pretty big drawback for portrait work, where you want to be able to focus on the eye without having to focus and recompose the shot. Then again, the 5D Mark II had a nine-point autofocus system, and it sold by the bucket load.

So far, the D600 is coming out on top for features, but the 6D’s trump card is integrated Wi-Fi and GPS. GPS worked without a hitch in my tests. The GPS radio stays on when the camera is switched off, so it needn’t spend ages recalculating its position when you want to take a photo. An icon on the passive LCD screen reminds you to switch it off (via the menu) at the end of the day – shame there’s no hardware switch.

The Wi-Fi implementation is one of the most sophisticated I’ve seen. With the help of the EOS Remote app for iOS and Android, the camera can be remotely controlled from a smartphone or tablet, complete with live view, touchscreen control over the autofocus point and full access to exposure settings. Image browsing is well catered for too, with responsive full-screen previews, detailed EXIF data and the ability to apply star ratings. There’s no option to transfer photos to the app at the full 20-megapixel resolution, though.

The EOS Remote app running on an iPad

The 6D also supports wireless tethering to a PC or Mac, which worked flawlessly once I’d jumped through various hoops to set it up. There are various other features, such as uploads to Facebook and YouTube over a local network and the ability to stream slideshows to a Smart TV via DLNA.

Overall, the EOS 6D is a heady mix. Image quality is outstanding. Video capture has its limitations but picture quality is certainly flattering. Its controls and performance are decent enough, the autofocus is disappointing and the wireless features are spot on. That might sound like a fair compromise considering the breakthrough price, but it’s very much a case of taking the rough with the smooth. To me, the D600 feels more balanced.

As ever, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Are 11 autofocus points enough, or has Canon misjudged its market here? Bear in mind that Canon wants the 6D to appeal to people who are ready to move up from a cropped-sensor SLR – it’s not designed for potential 5D Mark III owners who are looking to save some cash. Are the Wi-Fi and GPS must-have features, tempting extras or a waste of space? And putting any allegiances to one side, which company do you feel has made the best cut-price full-frame camera?

3 Undeniable Reasons To Pursue Personal Work — Why Being The Guinea Pig Pays Off…Bigtime

I have been a long-time, huuuuge proponent of taking time to pursue personal work. Its in fact my pursuit of personal work to which I attribute a good bit of my success. In short, it’s by taking time to investigate your personal vision that you will be rewarded. My homie Joey L., has been finding time to uncover personal gems throughout his career. And you’ll see in his guest post below – it has paid off for him bigtime. Take it away Joey. – Chase

UPDATE: Joey has a creativeLIVE class. You can check it out right here.

Thanks Chase and greetings Chase Jarvis readers. I am humbled to be able to post here, and speak to you directly.If you’re familiar with my photography and behind the scenes blog, you probably already know that I’m a huge advocate of photographers spending time on personal work.

Although I’ve shot many commercial photo shoots you may or may not have bumped into on the street or on a magazine rack, I’m glad to say I’m actually most associated with my portraits of people from Southern Ethiopia, and the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia.

The Image above is a Panoramic image of Hamar Women at Sunrise, Southern Ethiopia. Photographed with Mamiya 645DF with Phase One P65+ Digital Back. Lit with 1 Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa and a Profoto 7b power pack.

When I say “personal work”, I’m referring to any body of work that wasn’t paid for by a client; work you created out of sheer passion. Now, I’m not saying I am not passionate about my commissioned jobs! Lately I’ve been fortunate to work on some truly interesting stuff that keeps me wired all day long. However, what I am talking about is a project that comes 100% from your soul. While your commissioned work may be an artistic collaboration with a brand or product, your personal work is an extension of yourself.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share how committing to personal projects can directly benefit your portfolio and career as a whole. Even if a photographer has never done a commercial shoot before, it doesn’t mean they can’t get hired off a body of personal work that relates to a brief. Whether you like to shoot landscapes, beautiful women, quirky characters or still life, there is a client out there that is looking for this type of work. For me, its environmental portraits. Images of humans in their surroundings extends to everywhere around the globe, not just the endangered cultures in remote locations I choose to focus on. There is a market for this type of photography, as well as many types of photography you like to work with, I’m sure.

The movie poster above, shot for National Geographic’s “Killing Lincoln” just came out the other day. I think it’s a perfect example of my personal style extending to a commissioned job. The lighting is actually quite simple. A Briese DP90 camera left, high above eye-level of the actors, angled in such a way to get dramatic shadows on the opposite side of the face. Inside is a 5K bulb, which allowed me to get an exposure ideal for my Phase One back- which only really shoots up to ISO200 before the grain is terrible. There are 3 constant lights on the background set- 2k Arri fresnels at the left and right side, and a 5k Arri fresnel in the middle. A hazer machine brought in a thin layer of “fog” to help the light feel more painterly. The microscopic particles of the haze catch the light trails. To view more information about this project, check out my blog post here.

Now, I realize a lot of you are like me, and enjoy nerdy gear-related technical information too, so I’m dropping some of those goodies below each one of the photos.

Okay, let’s start with the 3 main points:

1- Personal Work Keeps The Portfolio fresh
Above you will see me half submerged in Lake Turkana, Ethiopia, photographing a man named Shallowgo checking his fishing nets. The final image is below. I’m shooting with Mamiya 645DF with Phase One P65+ Digital Back. Assistant is holding Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa and a Profoto 7b power pack.

You’d be surprised at how many artistic people there are out there who reach a certain level, then simply give up on improving their craft. Even photographers with extensive client lists who were once busy can find themselves going through dry periods because they forgot the value of progressing their work to even greater heights and creating something new.

In the past, I have absolutely been guilty of this. Sometimes I work myself into a creative funk and it takes months to realize I haven’t been pushing myself hard enough. Then all of a sudden, a storm of new ideas hits me, and I start experimenting and trying new things I’ve never done before. Sometimes these new shoots work out and provide valuable pieces to my portfolio, but sometimes they don’t work at all. Even if I spend a week in pre-production, a whole day shooting, and walk away with one new picture that is portfolio worthy, I’m happy. I recommend a photographer’s portfolio to not last over 30-50 images, so a single photo every once and awhile is going to build this body of work in no time.

The best thing about testing new ideas in a personal setting is that there is no pressure to deliver. A real commercial set where people have paid you to deliver a certain amount of key images is not exactly the place to be testing new wonky ideas you aren’t sure will work. So, you start a guinea pig project on your own time to try new things, and hopefully you can implement what you learned on paid gigs later.

Failure is okay. After all, as photographers and filmmakers we don’t even have to show the world the work we failed all. In our portfolios, all we show is a pretty little selection of where we succeeded. The rest can stay hidden on a hard drive forever, (which you can decide to keep or destroy with a sledge hammer, depending on how bad it was.)

2- Passion Draws Eyes

When he was young, Lal Baba’s parents arranged a marriage for him. Uncertain about his future, he ran away from home in Bihar Siwan and took up the lifelong task of becoming a sadhu. This was taken in Varanasi, India.

I like to show people updated portfolios. Whether I meet new potential clients, or co-workers who have known my work for years, I always like to start the meeting with new personal work. This way, these new images become a conversation piece, since there are usually some interesting stories behind how the images came to be. “I got a flat tire in Ethiopia and was stranded for days” can be an interesting conversation.

Passion doesn’t lie. When other photographer’s show me their work and I can hear an undeniable sense of excitement in their voice, it gets me interested in what they have to say. Instead of pretending to be excited about work that’s several years old, it’s much better just to go out and create something new that keeps your blood pumping.

Sharing personal work is one simple way of showing passion. The last person someone wants to hire is someone who doesn’t care about what they do, and only creates when they’re on a job. There is a way better vibe, and it is easier to be productive around motivated people.

3 – Personal Work Gets You Hired To Shoot What You Like to Shoot


The above portrait I took of Robert De Niro was for Screen Actor’s Guild which has light reminiscent of my personal portraits. 

When you photograph a subject or in a certain style that interest you, it’s usually the same style you end up getting hired to shoot. An art director has a lot of confidence in hiring a photographer who has already shot something that vaguely matches their vision for the project. Personally, a lot of the times I am hired because of what’s already in my portfolio. I often hear something like “we used this photo of yours as a reference, and we’d love if you could create something similar for our photoshoot.” This doesn’t mean you should do the exact same thing you’ve already done, it just means that you’re being hired for what you’re most passionate about! Now it’s time to apply those skills for other purposes. I’ve developed a lot of skills I wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for keeping myself busy. For example, I’ve found that working with foreign subjects who aren’t used to photography has really boosted my communication skills in every aspect of my life. Another example, is that I use a lot of the same lighting styles first developed in a safe, controlled studio setting when shooting in the field.

Another key thing I’d like to mention here is spreading your photographs by using the power of the internet. With todays technology there’s no excuse for your work not be seen. With social media, blogs and photography contests such as PDN, if you do good work, someone is going to see it and share it. This doesn’t mean that these tools do the work for you, but it does give you a platform that spreads your work instantly. The more eyeballs on my portfolio, the more likely it is that a single one of those pairs of eyeballs can translate into a real job.

So now a plan of action. Ask yourself these question: What’s something you’ve always wanted to photograph that excites you? How are you going to photograph it differently, and make it yours? And most importantly — how are you going to make it happen?

My Next Personal Project

I want to share my next kickass personal project with you. It’s overly ambitious, and recently keeps me up at night with extreme jolts of both fear and passion. (A good sign- this means it’s something worth doing.)

People of the Delta is my first major film project, which was written in collaboration with the tribes I’ve photographed in Southern Ethiopia while working on my personal series “The Cradle of Mankind.” This video pretty much sums up everything I could write about the film in this post, so if you’re interested, take a gander here:

Kickstarter Campaign for: “People of the Delta” Film Project from Joey L on Vimeo.

You can check out everything about the project on the Kickstarter website here:
I’m not going to ask you to back this project unless you can get something valuable in return. I’ve set up a bunch of interesting rewards geared at photographer’s to help this project happen. On the Kickstarter site, you’ll find all sorts of rewards. There are downloads of the final project, a complete lighting and production tutorial on the creation of the film, gallery prints, gear with my photos on it, and even portfolio reviews where I’ll sit down with you on Skype to have a one to one chat.

Another reward I just launched is an NYC photography workshop with me, and spaces are quite limited. If you’d like to meet me and see me ramble about Lighting, Photoshop and other stuff related to our industry, this would be a good chance.

I’m guessing that if you’ve sat there and read this whole article, you’re passionate enough about what we do to go out there and start your own project. You don’t need fancy tools or a plane ticket to some remote place, all you really need is a vision and a strong desire to make it happen.

Joey L.

People of the Delta Kickstarter:
Portfolio Website:
Behind the Scenes Blog:
Facebook Page:

Get Photo Fit — How to Properly Maintain Your Body: Interview with Dr. Kelly Starrett


I originally met Kelly Starrett through my pal Tim Ferriss (cjLIVE episode here) – who had nothing but amazing things to say… Kelly is a coach, physical therapist, author, speaker, and creator of, which has revolutionized how athletes think about human movement and athletic performance (and he’s teaching a workshop with our friends over at creativeLIVE today btw…..) In fact, I remember that Tim told me he thought that Kelly could really “help me”. I was curious. “wadaya mean, help me? I’m fiiiine I thought to myself…I’m fit, healthy etc etc.” But it turns out he’s right. Most of us (me included) experience body pain that is the product of not treating ourselves right. So I started listening to Kelly. He’s amazingly articulate and enthusiastic, his deep knowledge, combined with the energy behind his words, have the effect of making you sit up straighter – even over the phone. And guess what. It’s not cool anymore to be unhealthy. It sucks. Especially for us photographers and filmmakers who have to be on set for 12-15 hours per day, holding heavy sh*t, in extreme environments. So, in anticipation of his cL workshop, I caught up with Kelly over the past two days on the phone as he was driving back and forth from a special training session: Taking a ride in the backseat of a F/A – 18 Hornet with the Blue Angels (US Navy Demonstration Squadron). On his trip down he shared that his goal was to pass out as a result of the G-forces….

CJ: Did you achieve your goal of passing out in the back of a F-18?
KS: Yes! It was awesome. My vision closed in and suddenly I looked down and my hand was twitching a bit. ‘I think I just passed out.’ It makes you realize that [the movie]Top Gun is such bullshit. When Goose is moving his head all over the place, ‘I lost him Maverick,” You cannot move your head like that at 7x gravity! It’s impossible. I have a whole new understanding of that the real test of skill in a dogfight is so much about the physiology of the pilot. The force these guys are under is extraordinary. To be concentrating on multiple things while piloting the plane and coping with the physical stress is crazy. I came close to blacking out 8 times and I was just along for the ride. And…I went SuperSonic. Which I think is very cool. I sort of feel like I’m going supersonic in life right now.

CJ: That’s inspiring. What the single most important piece of advice could you give photographers about their body posture?
KS: Well the first piece is – it is impossible to be photographer and be in a great position all the time. Photography is a physical art. You have to accept the physical compromise in order to perform the art. So you must have some sort of physical practice to withstand this compromise. Or eventually, something fails. You blow a tire. You need to have some sort of physical practice. How can you train to sustain to be a physical artist? You need to be in some strength training, yoga, something that will make it a more robust platform. You need to have the basic principles of support. If you know how to organize yourself physically – you can make the most of the weird positions you have to put yourself in. Part of this is dedicating 10-15 minutes a day to ‘undoing’ the bad positions. You absolutely need to do some maintenance. if you’re spending 2 hours a day all hunched up peering through a viewfinder with a 9-pound weight at the end of your arm – you’re going have to undo that posture. Let’s be honest, photographers are not known for their health, right? With the artists and creatives – we tend to see some of the same basic errors. Bad nutrition, smoking, drinking, poor sleep habits – this makes us more susceptible to the problems. Which really makes us less efficient and less optimal in all things. I remember thinking how sexy photography seemed. Then I went with my friend on a few all-day, all-night shoots. The glam is the grind. Don’t fool yourself kids. You have to have the process in place to support the hard work. We’ve already run this experiment 100 million times. We know how to fix it. And it’s easy fix. Figure out what works for you. You don’t have to be an Olympian. You just have to have a practice. Guess what? It’s difficult to take good pictures when your hands are numb. Anyone at the top of their field. What ends up happening to them – is that the work ends up feeling just like that – hard work. It doesn’t feel transcendent. It feels like work. When Chase is working not the most glamourous job in some great location with models and helicopters… I’m betting it still feels like hard work. The highest expression of art is really craft. And it is hard work. Embrace it. Organize for it. If you’re spending more time cleaning and maintaining your equipment, wiping your lenses and stuff, than maintaining your body… you might want to consider that the ultimate camera support is not that fancy tripod – it’s your body.

It’s really three things to remember:
1) Can you be robust enough to maintain positions? This comes down to doing some sort of training.

2) There are some principles that can really help you. So you have to have an understanding of the best positions possible within your daily movement. How to stand, how to sit, how to shoot.

3) Do you appreciate that you have to do some preventative maintenance? You must understand how to fix yourself when you are forced to compromise your best posture and positions to do your job

CJ: Should creatives work out more? Get bigger muscles?
KS: No. Everyone should train for peak physiological health. Look, you’re actually designed to be 110 years old. You need to plan to have the type of function you want when you’re 100. So we train for position and the expression of good human movement. The side effects are: you’ll have bigger muscles, look better naked, have more efficient lungs. These are side effect of being a better and more efficient human. You have to be doing something with progressive loads, something for your cardio respiratory system – there are a lot of ways to skin that cat. Until you have a practice – this is all minutia. People say bigger muscles – I say bigger lungs. You have to have your cardio respiratory system in good condition. There needs to be some heart exercise in your practice. In fact, for the proper expression of human genome you need to exercise hard. For your whole system to organize and work efficiently you must exercise. So what’s your practice? Do we want just functional? Or do we want optimal? The brain evolved to move the human organism through the environment. Cognition and the higher creative processes are actually boot -strapped onto the movement brain. Better movement – better cognition. It’s not an accident that the Yogis understood that better mind practices were linked to better body practices.

CJ: What practice should people do to be better creatives? Meditation? Crossfit? Yoga?
KS: I think meditation and your physical practice can be one in the same. When we speak to artists and creative, it’s also important to note that the creative process in-and-of itself can be a very focused mediation. If you need to meditate on top of that – that’s up to you. Very dedicated exercise is a deep practice. Intense creative work is a deep practice.
So as a creative, if you’re getting that creative focus and finding dedicated exercise that trains, organizes and “undoes” the damage – you’re going to feeling good. What practices should people do to be better creatives? It turns out – eat right, drink enough water, exercise. It’s the same solution for the Olympian as the creative. It simply varies by degree – not kind.

CJ: I hear you drop the phrase, “Practice Makes Permanent.” What does that mean?
That we understand specifically how you can move and organize your creative practices, your craft, so it becomes a wired biological habit. Bring mindfulness to how you move, how you behave. Develop best practices – if you are texting and hunched over on your computer…this might be how you look when you talk to your spouse or your client. Bring awareness and cultivate these practices. If your camera is with you all the time – all day everyday – then how do you organize your posture around it? And when you start to develop better mind and body practices – these patterns of behavior are really skills in the brain. The pathway that you light up most of the time is the pathway that is reinforced physically in the brain. It is important that you realize that you are undergoing practice all of time. Look, I should never be able to identify you by the fact you are photographer – by the fact you are bent over and hunched and look like quasimoto. Finally, search for info graphic “sitting” see the increased risk of heart disease, these are NOT biologically compatible to being an efficient human being. Sitting for two hours is the physiological equivalent of smoking two cigarettes. The health detriments are no different.


CJ: Thanks for your time Kelly. I know I’m thinking a lot more about how my brain and body are organized. Where can we send people to find out how to better manage these things?
KS: Check out my creativeLIVE workshop [happening NOW right here]. Go to our site

Fat versus Tall: Why Wide Design Is Catching On

Knowing how to deliver images that play nicely with the current design trends is paramount for any working photographer. But why does one orientation work better than another? My friend Sohail breaks it down in the article below: Horizontal versus vertical and why wide design is pervasive and catching on. Take it away Sohail. – Chase

Thanks Chase. Changing habits is tough. I used to, for the most part, use my iPad in portrait orientation. Now I’m trying to break that habit.

Ditto for things on the shooting side. At one point, I used to leave a vertical grip on my DSLR and shoot in portrait mode. Most of what I shot was vertical, and I loved it.

Now? Not so much.

The obligatory iPad Hero shot

The obligatory iPad Hero shot


I’m shooting more horizontals. I’m consuming more content in that orientation too. And, like any self-respecting geek obsessed with the underlying reason behind things, I wanted to know why.

I think I’ve figured it out.

Continue Reading →

Hands-On Camera Review with the Panasonic GH3 — [Side By Side Comparos + Can it Beat a $250 eBay Bargain?]

Given the response and discussion around last week’s post on the D600, I invited pal Ben Pitt back to share another hands on review of a camera that has been competing for eyeballs: the GH3. Since the introduction of the Lumix DMC-GH1 back in 2009, the GH-series’ has been gobbling up mindshare for photographers looking for some great technology in a tightly sized and affordable package. I’m a big ol’ fan of the mirrorless category of cameras of late…seems that all the manufacturers are making massive leaps to give us astounding quality in small packages (I’m currently playing with the Olympus OM-D EM-5 and loving it…and did a run-down on the mirrorless category — Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Leica, Fuji — a few weeks ago here). But now, let’s let Ben do a deep dive on the Panasonic GH3 below. Take it away… -Chase

Thanks Chase. Panasonic has long been the maverick outsider of digital cameras – consumers have long been not quite sure where it fits into their lexicon – but with the GH3 it looks like it’s lining up to join the establishment. Reviewers have been falling over each other to heap praise on this camera, and it’s easy to see why.

The GH3 is bristling with the right sockets, buttons, levers and dials, an articulated screen and a large, high-resolution electronic viewfinder. Autofocus is startlingly quick, and being able to place the autofocus point anywhere in the frame via the touchscreen is a major advantage that conventional SLRs can’t match. There’s 4fps burst shooting with continuous autofocus, rising to 5.6fps with fixed focus, and a large buffer for sustained quick-fire operation. A PC sync socket and optional battery grip demonstrate that this is a reasonably serious photographer’s tool.

Image quality is a big improvement over previous Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras, and broadly on a par with the Nikon D7000 for noise and details. However, it’s the video mode that really shines. Its videos are incredibly sharp, and there’s less moiré interference than from Canon and Nikon’s SLRs. They can’t match the GH3’s smooth video autofocus, either. With full exposure control while recording, bit rates up to 72Mbit/s and frame rates up to 60p (50p in Europe), nothing else at this price comes close for video.

Nothing, that is, except its predecessor, the GH2. The GH3 makes big strides for photo quality and ergonomics, but a lot of reviewers have found that improvements in video quality compared to the GH2 are relatively subtle. That’s not a criticism of the GH3 but praise for the GH2, which has been a big hit among independent filmmakers.

I’ve been using the original GH1 since June 2009. I’ve reviewed a wide range of cameras since then, but I haven’t used anything that has tempted me to upgrade. Admittedly, the GH1 is showing its age for photo quality, particularly for noise levels. But for video, it’s very similar to the GH2 and more capable than anything else I’ve used.

However, I’ve recently been shooting with the GH3 (on loan from Panasonic), and I’m seriously tempted to upgrade. But then, the GH3 costs around $1,300 (€1,200, £1,200) and the GH1 is only fetching around $250 (€200, £170) on eBay.

That got me thinking… the GH1 is currently a phenomenal bargain for video producers. Glass tends to keep its value much longer than cameras, so are video producers who are considering the GH3 better off picking up a GH1 and spending the rest on lenses? And should I stop pining over the latest model and be content with what I’ve got?

Frustratingly, the answer isn’t as clear cut as I’d hoped.

In many of my tests, the GH1 and GH3’s videos were hard to tell apart. The GH3 had a slight advantage for sharpness and its colours were a little punchier, but there wasn’t much in it. Here’s a frame from each camera’s 1080p output, split into three to show the GH3, GH1 and Sony’s NEX-5N – another excellent camera for video, but clearly trailing here for sharpness and colour response (click the image to enlarge it and type F to expand to actual size).


Next, here’s the GH1 and GH3 again, this time set to minimum contrast in an attempt to capture as much dynamic range as possible. Both cameras excel for detail but neither of them have managed to capture anything in this over-exposed sky. Having said that, the GH1’s murky grey sky isn’t much to look at – I’d prefer to settle for the GH3’s bleached out white.


The GH1’s handling of skin tones has always bugged me, with a strange habit of vein-like bands of desaturated colours along the edge of highlighted areas. It’s pretty subtle, but having noticed it, I keep spotting it again and again. It’s just about visible in the example below, but there was no sign of it in the GH3’s output. Otherwise, there’s not much to choose between them here. If anything, the GH1’s colours are generally more flattering and noise is less pronounced.


The GH3 really starts to prove its worth in this high-contrast shot. The sky is well exposed in both cameras’ output but the GH3 has captured lots more detail in the gloomy foreground.


Boosting the shadows in editing software shows just how much more detail there is in the GH3’s output. There’s no contest.


Finally, here’s one more example, with the Nikon D600 thrown in for good measure. The D600 trails slightly for detail in the rushes at the bottom of the frame. However, the GH1’s lack of detail in the dark trees on the other side of the lake brings it to third place here. Then again, I wouldn’t consider the D600 for video because of its moiré problems, fixed aperture while recording and lousy video autofocus.


So what’s it to be? I think it’s clear that the GH3 is worth the extra for those who want the best. No other mirrorless or SLR camera can touch it for video quality. As for me, I think I’ll stick with the GH1 for now. It may struggle in high-contrast scenes but it still packs an incredible bang for its buck. And that new Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 lens is pretty tempting too.

You can buy the GH3 at B&H Photo here
You can rent the GH3 at here

How to Raise Your Rates, Deliver Better Work & Get Paid What You Deserve — [Guest Post by Ramit Sethi]

Photo: Mike Folden

No one has single-handedly given me better insight about the business side of art/photography than New York Times best-selling author, Ramit Sethi. As artists, if we want to make a living with our work, we – like it or not – must foster our business/entrepreneurial skills, we must realize the value of our work, and we must know how to get paid. In this tight little guest post, I asked Ramit to share one of his favorite tips on finding high-quality clients. I’ve used his strategies, and they work. A worthy read. – Chase

When Chase asked me to come on chasejarvisLIVE a while back talk about the business side of photography, I decided to share some material I’d never shared before.

One of the most popular segments was the Briefcase Technique, a way to hook clients into your work, “wow” them, and differentiate your approach from most other creatives.

Hop into the interview below and skip to 34:00 to hear me and Chase talk about the “Briefcase Technique” – or in this case, let’s call it the “portfolio technique”.

This technique allows you to:
• Instantly increase your rate and get paid what you deserve
• Filter the serious clients apart from “looky-loo” prospects who waste your time and never pay
• Stand out from the bottom-barrel competition, who will offer their services for $200 and a ball of yarn

Best of all, using the Briefcase Technique, you’ll actually deliver a better service to your clients — one they’ll be thrilled to pay for.

If at all in the past you’ve wondered why clients didn’t select you, or why they argue with you about your rate, there is a way to sidestep that entire conversation.

I’ve hired many photographers, videographers, editors, writers, and designers, so today, I want to give you a peek inside your client’s minds — and share the truth that many clients won’t tell you:

• Clients are rarely interested in art for art’s sake. They’re interested in business — usually the bottom line.
• That means if you go to them talking about your camera equipment, or how long you spend on copywriting, they will stare at you and get confused. When you speak the client’s language — how you can save them time, cut costs, or best of all, earn them more money — they will instantly trust you as “one of them.”
• The most successful photographers are NOT necessarily the most classically “talented” ones. They’re the ones who understand their clients’ hopes, fears, and dreams best — and articulate it in the client’s language. Once you can do that, money is a mere triviality.

The Briefcase Technique will show you how to speak your clients’ language. It seems simple, but the video masks the deep research that goes into knocking your client’s socks off.

When you can do this effectively, you can triple your rates, negotiate $10,000+ raises, and land clients that previously demanded 10+ years of experience. My students have done each of these things using the Briefcase Technique.

Here’s the video on exactly how to do it:

If you’re still curious about more details on how to raise your rates, I put together a free mini-course for you:

Good luck.

The Best Camera — The Everyday, Can Do No Wrong Camera Kit

One of the most common questions we hear from all of you is, “What is your everyday kit?” Our digital cinema guru, Erik, wanted to take a minute to chat gear with you and answer that question from his perspective. Please give him another warm welcome… This post is another installment of a series that our staff is doing about the gear that we consider essential for our work…the stuff we don’t leave home without. -Chase

Thanks Chase. As I sit here on my couch writing this blog post, I’m surrounded by no less than 22 cameras in my living room alone.  Some are decorations, some are used on occasion, some are only used for video shoots, and one gets used every. damn. day. I’m a collector [read: junkie] and I can’t get enough cameras, so when one becomes a regular fixture of my daily creative arsenal, it’s worth taking a moment to recognize its greatness.  Right now that camera is the Olympus OMD E-M5.  I picked mine up last may, and have since taken it around the world and shot the hell out of it.  My kit consists of the E-M5 camera body, an Olympus 14-150mm f/4-5.6 lens and a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens, all wrapped up in a Think Tank Retrospective 30 shoulder bag. It’s a simple setup, but it’s yielded results good enough for me to keep bringing it out of the house while my bigass DSLR kit stays on the shelf.

There’s a lot to love about the E-M5.  It’s weather sealed, it’s got a slick retro design, and the image stabilization is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  But for me, the camera really shines in two categories: speed, and low light capability.  Everything about this camera is fast, from the startup time to the autofocus to the frames per second it can fire.  Even the layout of the buttons and dials make for a brisk shooting pace.  In regards to low light, the image quality holds up quite nicely at high ISO’s.  I don’t like to use a flash, so this is a huge bonus for me.  ISO 3200 on the E-M5 looks like ISO 1000 on my Canon 7D, it’s crazy, and everything shot at ISO 1000 or lower looks the same, so grain and noise are rarely a concern.  Throw the cameras insane 5 axis image stabilization into the mix [which allows for shooting at slower shutter speeds] and you can shoot in the dark with results like this [click to enlarge]:

This picture was shot at ISO 3200, f/1.7 at 1/13th of a second. If you can't do the photo math on that, trust me, it was dark.

Now let’s talk lenses.  Keeping my kit lightweight is important to me, so I’ve paired it down to just two lenses; the 14-150mm zoom, and the 20mm pancake lens.  The zoom lens keeps me covered for just about everything I want to shoot as long as there’s enough light.  With the 2x crop factor on the E-M5’s sensor, it’s effective focal length is 28-300mm.  That’s some range.  Check out these shots from our recent trip to Villefranche for an example.  They’re shot from the same spot using the same lens zoomed all the way out on the left, and all the way in on the right.

The only drawback to this lens is that its aperture is a little “slow”. The widest aperture on the lens is f/4, and f/5.6 when zoomed to 150mm.  While that’s fine and good for bright landscapes, it doesn’t lend itself well for indoor or night photography.  This is when I switch to the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens.  This was the first lens I picked up when I started using a micro four thirds camera 2 years ago [the Panasonic GF1], and it might be my favorite lens of all time.  It’s super sharp, it’s tiny, and it can see in the dark [as shown in the above photo of Mike Horn holding the giant wine bottle].  Its focal length is a sweet spot in my opinion.  At 20mm, or 40mm equivalent with the crop factor, you can take a few steps closer to your subject and take a portrait with no weird lens distortion, or take a few steps back and get a wide shot with no lens compression.  Here’s a portrait of Norton looking like a baller on Fancy Friday, shot with the 20mm:

And here’s a landscape from the Guardian Peak Winery in Stellenbosch South Africa, also shot with the 20mm:

The final component of this camera kit that I think is worth mentioning is the oh-so-classy Think Tank Retrospective 30 shoulder bag.  Think Tank nailed the design of this bag with one simple characteristic that ALL other camera bag manufacturers need to take note of; it doesn’t look like a camera bag.  There are no bigass logos anywhere to found, no hideous bright green interior, no giant awkward straps for securing tripods or trekking poles or whatever else you wanna weigh yourself down with.  This bag looks like something your cool grandpa handed down to you after he retired from chasing his secretary around.  The bag is smart too.  I love the deployable “Sound Silencers” that cover up the velcro so you’re not the noisy photographer swapping gear in and out of their bag.  The Retrospective 30 is my preference since it holds my camera body, lenses, batteries, and the occasional iPad with room to spare, but they make them in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, so check out their website to see if they have what’s right for you.

I hope you found something useful from this minimalist approach to photography.  If you’d like to try any of this photo gear out, it’s all available to rent from  Feel free to tell us about your walkaround kit in the comments section and, as always, keep snapping.


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