Photo Prints That Pop

Prints that pop
For a portrait like this standard glossy paper just won't do - By Assorted-photo-guy

Many people have their home printer doing double duty for printing pictures. That’s fine in most cases, even inexpensive printers have come a long way in quality and with a high grade of glossy paper, most produce fairly respectable results.

For serious photographers your home printer isn’t going to cut it. In those cases you might look at a better photo printer like an HP Photosmart 8750 or one of the pro models.

For prints that are going to be on public display, or the shots you’re going to hang in your portrait studio waiting room, you’ll want something really special. If you really want prints that pop, the kind that, under the right lighting, appear to be back lit, then you might consider enlisting the help of a lab.

What you’re looking for is generally referred to as a “metallic print” on one of several metallic papers, which include Kodak Endura Metallic, Inkpress metallic, Fuji Metallic, Fuji Pearl and Pictorico Pro Opalescent paper.

Select photos of exceptional color depth and detail for this lab treatment, it’s a good choice for HDR and exceptional panoramic pictures. A bonus to metallic prints is they not only practically jump off the paper, they last a lifetime.

There are several shops online that offer metallic print services, including custom sizes, like Nations and Bay Photo, shop around for the best prices.

If you’re going to spend the money on a metallic print, get a big one. Make it six feet long if you have the space. Go big.

Don’t get a metallic print confused with pictures printed on actual metal panels, because those do exist and are fabulously expensive.

Insurance For Photographers

Fireman's Insurance building in Newark
Fireman's Insurance building in Newark - by Jim.henderson

I was on location last week when it dawned me that I was carrying about $2,500 worth of gear, and that’s just what I had hanging around my neck and in my vest.  Most of the expensive stuff was at home.

At home a disaster would likely be covered by our homeowners insurance and, in some cases, if it was taken out of the car.  But if the insurance company gets wind I was on a paying job, they’re not going to pay on a homeowner’s policy, no matter what.

That doesn’t even begin to cover liability.  If you break or damage something while on the job, or, even worse, hurt someone.

Types of Coverage

For photographers you’re looking at three basic types of insurance:

– Equipment

– E&O

– Liability

Equipment coverage replaces your gear if it’s lost or stolen.  E&O is Errors & Omissions and it covers you from being sued for negligence in providing professional services.  Even if the suit is frivolous, unless you have $10,000 or more laying around to pay a legal bill, the cost of defense can be crippling.

Liability is probably the most neglected and the one that can really save your bacon.  Knock over that priceless antique vase in someone’s home, accidentally push another photographer down the stairs outside a courtroom, or have a model trip over the background paper and you could be looking at a staggering bill for damages.  Many localities require liability insurance before they will issue a permit for film or photography sets in urban areas.

Other liability coverage you’ll want is coverage for leased equipment.

Where To Get It

One stop for most of you will be WEVA.  Members have access to their insurance pool where you can obtain all the coverage you need.

PPA offers coverage through third parties and there are companies like the Chubb Group.  Fortunately today there are far more options for photographers to obtain insurance than the days before the internet.

Makeup for Photography: The Basics

photography makeup
Photography makeup done mostly right. A touch dark under the eyes, otherwise spot on - by Benjamin Humphrey
I’m not necessarily suggesting you wear makeup yourself, although that might be an improvement for some of you mugs, along with shaving and a clean shirt, but you really do need to understand makeup basics for portrait clients and models.
Software has come a long way and most makeup mistakes and oversights can be corrected in post.  Even at that, it’s hard to beat a really professional makeup artist and I like to capture the best quality product I can in the camera before turning to post-processing wizardry.

I miss the days when a shoot included a hair stylist and makeup artist.  You can still find those on really big shoots on a commercial set, but these days it needs to be a big job. More often models are doing their own makeup and the experienced ones know exactly how to make theirs look perfect on camera.

Newer models and portrait clients may need some guidelines.  I’m always surprised at how few women really do their makeup right.  For some of you it might be worthwhile to publish makeup guidelines on your web site.

Matte Good, Shiny Bad

Whether it’s base, eye liner, lipstick or sealer, anything that creates a shine is going to present problems under strobes and studio lights.

A shiny base and sealers can look greasy under strobes and I’ve never had good luck getting lip gloss to look right without covering my lights with reams of diffuser material.  It’s even hard to clean up in post.

You’ll get better results all around going with flatter matte finishes and avoid translucent powders.

Match The Liner and Lipstick

Some women opt for more contrasting colors between lip liner and lipstick, which is fine in a dimly lit club, but is going to look cartoonish under strobes.  For portraits and model work, match those colors.

Powder For The Camera

I actually have a favorite powder, which is MAC Select Sheer Loose Powder in NC 30.  It’s got a slightly yellow tint that photographs better than translucent powders.Keep in mind when you request that powder, unless your talent already has it, that stuff is $25 a container.  Don’t insist on it without being aware of the tab.

The downside for translucent powders is they can make a subject look pale and sick.  I’ve never missed with that MAC Select powder over a matte base.

Watch The Under Eye Concealer

Under eye concealer is what’s used to hide dark circles under the eyes.  I’ve had to use concealer and a neutral powder on some men, too.  A little puffy looking is better than looking like a cat burglar.

If your talent or client is going to use under eye concealer, make sure they blend the daylights out of it or it will show and, because it’s partially translucent, it’s a time vacuum to fix in post.  Blend it and blend it again and check ti with one or two test shots.

Avoid Dark Eye Liner Colors

That’s another one of those habits that looks good going out but can take a turn for the worse under strobes.  Dark eyeliner isn’t going to make your subject look goth, it’s going to make them look like a raccoon with a heroin habit.  If that’s the look you’re going for, fine.

Lighter eye liner colors will make the eyes stand out and be kinder to imperfections.

That said, I have seen dark eyeliner used to dramatic effect, but it was bold and deliberate in its application.

Natural Light Makeup Table

If you have a big window in your studio, put your makeup table in front of that instead of trying to light it.  Not only will makeup flaws be easier to spot, but I know one photographer who used it to attract new portrait customers by putting the makeup table in the front window.

Here’s how the pros do it.

Essential Lighting Tools – Light Panels

Photoflex light panel kit
A Photoflex light panel kit - by Photoflex

I’m always skeptical of people calling themselves “natural light photographers” because what I hear in my head is “too cheap to rent a studio”.  That’s until they start pulling out bag after bag of light panels and reflectors.

To me that’s natural light only in the sense you’re utilizing the hydrogen ion key light positioned 93 million miles from subject.  Otherwise, it’s the best of both worlds when it comes to lighting.

Light panels are handy in many situations and are light enough to pack around without feeling like a pack mule.

In the old days if I needed to soften sunlight coming through an office window it would involve a roll of fabric and some gaffer tape.  That still works, but these days a couple light panels will do the job without the tape and are useful in more situations.

If you’re doing a shoot at the beach and it’s going to be past 9 am, you’ll likely be needing light panels and a reflector.

Remember, when shooting at the beach, it can help a lot to cut some old tennis balls to fit over the feet of your panel, tripod and reflector stands.  You’ll also need some bags to make sandbags to weigh down the base if the wind picks up.

For those of you with the time and talent to make them yourself, light panels are an easy weekend DIY project.  PVC is cheap and you can always use an inexpensive shower curtain and a bag of clamps to hold it in place.  The only reason I like the aluminum frames better is PVC can get brittle over time and if you clamp down on the grip jaw you can break it.

For more information on using light panels:

Tips for Photographing Skin Tones

My idea of quality skin tones
Skin tones can one of the hardest exposure challenges in photography - by dbking

As long as photographers have been taking pictures, they have been chasing the perfect skin tones.  What I’ve discovered over the years is that we’re actually chasing a look that’s better than real life.The look of human skin is not necessarily improved with more detail and the “perfect” exposure is not always the most technically accurate one.

The other problem with human skin is the tone can be wildly variable, depending on genetics, lifestyle factors, age, makeup, and the natural amount of oils in the skin.  Skin tones are, literally, like snowflakes; every one is different and each presents unique challenges.

I’m not above working in post until the subject’s skin looks pure as an Antarctic snowdrift, but I’m going for the absolutely best look I can get out of my Canon 7D to cut down the amount of post processing I have to do later.


Background is key for getting quality skin tones.  If there is too much contrast between the subject’s skin tone and the background you’re going to spending a lot of time in post masking off the subjects face and trying to correct under-exposed skin tones.

You want some color contrast, but not in terms of luminosity.


Whether indoors or out, I’m looking for the most diffuse and even lighting I can find.  The single hydrogen ion key light, located 93 million miles from the subject, filtered through 100 miles of Mark I water vapor filter can be difficult by itself.  I’m looking for reflected sunlight or indirect light in a shaded area.

Most often I’ll still use a diffused fill flash and a reflector at a 45 degree angle.

If I’m shooting indoors, I’m using soft boxes and a snoot for highlights.


Sure, I’ll meter the whole scene, then spot meter my subject and background.  I’ll even pull my incident light meter out of the bag.

In the end, however, and I’m not too proud to admit this, I cheat.  When I’m shooting a portrait, I bracket the daylights out of the shots.

It’s not pretty, but it works.