Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Value of Immediacy

Also in This Edition

  • A New Photoshop Trick
  • Seminars!
  • In the Pipeline
  • The Value of Immediacy
A New Photoshop Trick

I'm intentionally not the most knowledgeable at Photoshop.  (I prefer to control my light instead.)  And so when I learn something really obscure I like to share it.  

It started out with this modest portrait of downtown Los Angeles which I posted on Facebook:

Someone commented on that photo, saying I was there a bit too late.  I said "No, I've been waiting for about 90 minutes for the right light which never really arrived", and to prove it I uploaded this picture I had taken earlier:

Photo taken while waiting for dusk.  It took me awhile just to find the right spot where downtown Los Angeles was framed by two palm trees.

Then a friend, Stuart Lee Friedman, who had taken my seminar in New York but we didn't realize we were related until years later, took those two pictures and produced this beautiful hybrid:

"Wow!" I said to myself.  "That looks great."  But how did he do it?  Every effort I made to try to duplicate what he had done looked awful - I couldn't match the color, and everything I tried left masking artifacts around the tops of the buildings.  We spoke a few days later and he explained the secret. 

1) First, he copied the lighter picture and pasted it as a new layer on top of the darker one.

2) He then did a quick selection of the mountains.  (In this instance, it doesn't have to be exact.)  

3) Then he set the Blend Mode to "Pin Light"

(What does "Pin Light" do?  The official explanation is "It replaces the colors, depending on the blend color. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, pixels darker than the blend color are replaced, and pixels lighter than the blend color do not change. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, pixels lighter than the blend color are replaced, and pixels darker than the blend color do not change. This is useful for adding special effects to an image."  If your eyes just glazed over, think of it as just showing the brightest areas and not showing everything else.)

Then he tweaked the layer to taste (in this case increasing the saturation.)

This looks WAY more impressive when you click on it!!  :-)

Seminars!  Seminars!  Seminars!

Plans for 2018 are starting to congeal.  If you're interested in any of these send me an email to Gary at Friedman Archives dot com.
  • Denmark (possibly Sweden or Norway as well) - Spring, 2018
  • Marietta, Georgia - August 2018
  • Boulder, Colorado - September 22 - 23 2018
  • Portrait Lighting Seminar - co-hosted by me and the amazing portrait photographer Brian Ramage.  Mid-July in Orange County, California.
  • Scottsdale, Arizona - November, 2018
In the planning stages:  Bedford, Massachusetts

In the Pipeline
  • A7R III ebook is just a few weeks away!  You can Pre-order now at 10% savings, or just send me an email and I'll let you know when it's ready.
  • .epub and .mobi versions of the RX-10 IV

The Value of Immediacy

It was really dark in the wedding reception hall.  Hardly any light at all.  All the guests were shooting away with their smartphones, getting poor-quality photos in the poorest of conditions.  Many then posted these images to Facebook as the event was occurring.

Me?  I brought my RX-100 V (I was a wedding guest, remember?) which I knew would provide much better results compared to the smartphones, given the larger sensor and f/1.8 lens.

Taken with a smarphone.

Taken with the RX-100 V.  My camera did a better job, but so what?
When shooting people I've found myself in the habit of shooting continuously at about 3-5 frames per second, which helps me capture just the right expression, especially of the kids who never pose.  Later on I'd go through the images, pick out the best, and post just those.  It's just too time consuming to go through the shots in camera, pick the best, upload them via the camera's Wi-Fi connectivity, and post them from the field.  "My pictures are worth the wait!" I tell myself.

Really dark, lots of motion, fast shutter speed... most smartphone users don't even know how to select a fast shutter speed.
But guess what?  Normal people don't care about the difference in quality, the lower noise or the higher percentage of better expressions.  By the time I get home, find time to cull and tweak and post, the photos are already considered "stale" and tend to garner less interest.  Mine will only be of consequence to someone who is creating a photo album from the crowd-sourced input.  My images may be better (at least in my mind), but the differences are meaningless for non-photographers.  It's no different from the days when people would shoot Polaroid instant cameras at a party - those who shot with film may have produced better results a week or so later, but the value of immediacy wins out - people would rather have it fast rather than have it good.

This just reinforces what I've been saying for years, regarding the differences between a snapshot and a photograph.  A snapshot triggers a memory and doesn't have to be technically sound.  A photograph is designed to make others say "Wow!" without having the benefit of the prior experience.  Kodak understood this for decades, which is why consumers just ate up their progressively poorer film formats starting in the 1970's - first with the small 110 film format, then the horrendously smaller Disc cameras (remember those?).  Customers never noticed the poorer image quality, as they were used just to jog a neuron.  Smartphones can actually do both (with good light the new models are perfectly enlargeable).  We live in amazing times.

Heaven Art Gallery - Entry Deadline Extended

If you're on my email notification list then you're already familiar with the deal I've worked out with the Heaven Art Gallery.  Basically I've negotiated a great deal for you - two months of exposure for the price of one, on a special screen dedicated just to Friedman Archives subscribers!  The next deadline for the February - March time frame has been extended to January 27th.  Here's your chance to have your work displayed in an art gallery for a mere $10/image!  For more information email  info@heavenartgalleryusa.com and reference the Friedman Archives Featured Artists exhibit.

Until next time,
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman

Waiting for the light to be right for the Downtown L.A. shot.


  1. Hi Gary. I find the ‘value of immediacy’ idea a little depressing to be honest. Not because it doesn’t have value of course, but because I really have no interest in making poor quality images to post on Social media right away. However I do see the attraction of being ‘early to the party’ when it comes to posting and have experienced that rush myself. I guess the downside comes when you become a bit too fixated on being first, but I think that’s a criticism more of social media in general, than a criticism of photography specifically.

    I shot some of the reception and after party for my closest friend’s wedding last summer, whilst the professional was busy in other rooms. It took me a few days to edit and post the images on Google photos for the couple too see and distribute to guests. I’m glad I took the time for that, as they loved the album and I had a lot of good feedback in the weeks afterwards. I’m still proud of that album and the fact that my friends will be able to look back on it long into the future I hope.

    I guess there is a balance to be found somewhere and it probably depends on the style of the photographer. I can’t deny that with WiFi and Bluetooth now common in a lot of mirrorless cameras, we are all in a really good position to make the best of that balance!

    Thanks for your informative blog and great A7r2 guide, which has been a godsend in getting my head round that camera!!

    Al the best,

    1. Very level-headed assessment, Don!

    2. Hi Gary, I wholeheartedly agree with your point of the importance of immediacy. Unfortunately, I think Don missed the point because he focused on the social media aspect of your anecdote. Polaroid did in fact understand that people would indeed embrace catching the moment over missing the moment because a "professional" photographer with his or her "professional equipment" wasn't on the scene. I would venture to bet that Don's friends would appreciate having any visual remembrance of their special day than non at all.

  2. I've moved away from using my phone for pictures. It made made me lazy in my efforts to documents our family life. Before the smartphone I would download my pictures, fix a few, toss a few out and always back them up on my EHD and Smugmug by year then month then event. When I have time I go back and make 10x10 albums in Shutterfly and wait for their discounts and order two books for my daughters. They love them.

    With the smartphone I don't always move them to the folders to be used in albums and I only get my kids' pictures when I think to use airdrop. I've lost the opportunity to document some fun times because I failed to bring my camera. This year I take one of my cameras wherever I go. My goal is to get back on track making albums.

  3. Maybe you should just get in the habit of sending a few shots to your phone right after taking them for resending to social media. They may not be your best shots, but by now your composition skills, light sense, & anticipation of the moment are so instinctive & keen, that your spontaneous camera shots will still beat the pants off other's phone shots. You can still send the edited masterpieces later. I just love my camera's wi fi feature & use it a lot to upload & resend. I used it at my husband's athletic reunion, sending photos to my phone, then texting them to a few who retexted them to others. The photos when viral right at the reunion :)

    1. Good advice, but it goes against my Kenny Rogers philosophy of "You don't count your cards when you're sittin' a the table... there'll be time enough for countin', boy, when the dealing's done".

      I've learned that if you're looking at your photos then you may be missing another opportunity. I got what I got; so look for what's next. (That's why I don't do "chimping" either in most circumstances.) What you suggest requires that I break a strong and well-justified habit!

    2. Totally agree with Gary. My wife will take a photo or two, then switch the camera to display mode and assess them. Meanwhile, I've taken several more photos and 90% of the time I get the better shots.

    3. The advantage of the electronic viewfinder! Was watching the professional at my nephew's wedding - take a photo, chimp, enlarge - meanwhile missing so many facial expressions, moments! Everything "staged".

    4. I've always found the process of sending photos to a smartphone tedious which is why I'm a great fan of the "Sync to Smartphone" app. While I'm not a heavy user of social media there's been a few occasions when during a quiet moment I've simply got my phone out and posted a photo. (This assumes that I turn my camera off occasionally to save a bit of battery.) The fact that the A9 & A7III aren't supporting apps (yet?) is a real concern.

  4. Hi Gary,
    I took your class in San Francisco more than a few years ago. Very much enjoyed it. My photography hobby has stalled a bit but I have always enjoyed the art of taking pictures. Back then (2013?) I purchased a Sony A77 for bird photography among other things. After trying out an expensive and large Sony telephoto lens I switched makers and purchased a Nikon Coolpix P900 because of the incredible zoom lens. turns out it is not too sharp, but still gets me some bird photos for identification.

    But that's not why I am writing. I have dusted off my old A77 and have purchased a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 wide angle lens to try and get some night sky Milky Way photos. In looking over your book on the A77 I do not see how to zoom in on a picture I am viewing in the display. Do you know where I can find that link?

    I love your Archives and Blog. Keep up the good work.

    Jeff Miner
    South Lake Tahoe, CA

    1. in picture view just hit the AM/MF button. Us eht econtroller to move around the photo

  5. I could have been at this wedding. I'm typically one of the guys holding the chair although I leave it to the younger people now.

  6. I take photos to keep and immediacy has no value to me. As such my iPhone is pretty useless for real photography but if I'm at a store and want to send my wife a photo of a product she's interested in that's where it comes in handy.

  7. I was married in 1990. We had a professional photographer at our wedding who took some great posed photos.
    My wife's father was a press photographer. He reeled off a few rolls of film shooting candid "snaps" during the day. Of course those "snaps" were pretty good quality.

    They would have made great "immediate" photos for facebook. But 28 years on, we still treasure the photos he took.

    Yes you need a good photo. But for a lasting memory, you also want quality.

    1. In my experience, the bride and groom place equal value to the smartphone snapshots vs. the professional photos. See my earlier blog post and scroll down to "Wedding Horror Stories" at http://friedmanarchives.blogspot.com/2011/03/in-this-issue-shooting-for-yoga-sony.html

    2. Gary, that's what I was saying, too.

  8. We tolerate some bad images in the service of instant feedback. Some of us prefer Art and Beauty over fast-photos. Yes, I have a super-phone, and I send "snaps" as memories. But, the thoughtful image gets turned into hard-copy and put up on walls. The same comments apply to Video. Smartphone wiggly vs. Stabilized/tripod.

    1. I have a different slant on this, Gary. To what extent do you think having the camera affected your enjoyment of the wedding? As a non-professional, I sometimes feel a conflict between enjoying a scene/monument/party and taking the best pictures.
      And sadly I live way too far from anywhere you are giving your courses this year.

    2. Michael, you're hitting a nerve with me. Having grown up documenting things that would never happen again (children's choir adventures, weddings, etc.), there was a time when I would actually be stressing out (i.e., not enjoying it at all) if I *wasn't* documenting it. And my mission has paid off countless times, when I got valuable photos at weddings that the paid photographers just missed.

      Having said that, it took me literally years before I could let go and just enjoy a sunset. You would think that with so many crappy iphone shots that nobody sees a problem with I should be able to just shrug my shoulders and go dance a little more. :-)

  9. Here, here, well said. My mom has a photo taken with a Polaroid Land Camera in 1965 of me and some friends and classmates after 8th grade graduation. I wish I had it to post but she won't give it up not even for me to scan. Even though it's badly exposed and horribly posed everytime I see it I get great joy and so does my mom. I am so glad my mom took her money she saved for over a year to buy that camera. BTW, she has given me the camera and it still works. I had to jump through hoops to get a battery though.


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