Photobooth by Yoder Art Works: Blog en-us Ben Yoder (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Wed, 21 Aug 2013 17:53:00 GMT Wed, 21 Aug 2013 17:53:00 GMT Photobooth by Yoder Art Works: Blog 90 120 Photobooth Mk II: The Engineering Now that we know the thought process of what we need, and what we need to change in our next generation, it's time for the (radical) redesign of the original Photobooth. Remember what we're after here: portability for a wider audience; easier setup and tear down; simplified electronics (which goes hand-in-hand with easier setup/tear down); and greater ability to sell the Photobooth at a competitive price.

In this post, we'll go over some of the decisions we've made in the engineering of the new booth. It will cover a bit of the last article, but with a bit more detail of some of our considerations. 

The current Photobooth shown in the back of my Ford Flex; small compared to when set up, it still takes a considerable amount of space Portability

First thing's first: Weight. As I mentioned in the last article, the wooden sides of the booth were there to give solid support to everything we needed in the booth. Wood, in a structural role like that, is heavy. Especially the base and top sections, which are 3/4" plywood, with 2x4" frames to hold it all together. We went that direction, figuring it would be less expensive. However, as we are researching material for the next generation, it turns out our new design - with a metal skeleton - is going to be about the same cost as the original, wooden booth.

The other downside to the wooden construction is how big everything is when we break it down. Wood obviously doesn't like to be folded up much, and, since it was structural, we didn't want to put any additional cuts into the wood itself. The metal skeleton design will allow for less overall structural material; that smaller amount of structural material will also break down to a smaller "stowed" footprint allowing it to take up less space in a car (and in my garage!). Add to it that we are taking out a couple electronic pieces, which allows the booth's footprint to be made even smaller. Smaller, lighter pieces allow for the booth to fit into more, smaller spaces, and be carried by more people. It's a win-win.

The last part of portability is the easy adaptation of fabric sides to the booth. While I still plan to have solid sides on my Photobooth, other versions could be optioned with fabric sides instead, allowing for an even more compact, "stowed" booth. Metal snaps welded onto the outer edges of the frame would make for a slightly less cluttered approach to attaching the sides, too (versus possible hardware to attach solid sides).

Setup and Tear Down

The last thing you want to encounter while setting up for an event is to not have the right tool for the job. To this end, my business partner's goal for the original booth's design was to make it's assembly "No Tools Needed." This has worked out well, because the only tool I really need for setting up is a small driver to attach the legs of my bench. This means I only have to keep track of one driver, one bit, and one charging cord, not double or triple all that. With Photobooth Mk II, we are mostly keeping the assembly no tools needed, because it's just that important to us. 

A Photosynth constructed photo of the booth, set up for a recent birthday party Instead of the tab-and-slot design of Mk I, we are going to have slightly over-sized joints that will let the metal tubes of the skeleton slide right in. That means the structure of the booth will be quick and easy to assemble. There are two places of structure, however, that will need some sort of fasteners and tooling to assemble: the support for the camera-light combo, and the support for our tablet computer that will stick out the front (more on that below). While the ideal would be for no tools, just some hardware (think a bolt and wingnut), there would be the possibility to substitute a phillips-head bolt to do the work. 

The other area that some tools may be required would be for the paneling on the outside of the booth. Right now we are looking at wing nuts to do the job (though I am not sure if I want the wings sticking out from the sides of the booth). In all, the changes make for much quicker setups, because of a) less weight, and b) not having to be quite so gentle with many of the pieces. With the current, wooden booth, one scratch can really stand out!


When my cousin first saw the inner workings of the Photobooth, he marveled a bit at how the electronics went together. Him being the computer hobbyest he is, made the mention that, at some point in the future, I'd have everything running off a tablet computer, instead of the cumbersome computer and touchscreen monitor I have now. At the time he mentioned it, I said, "yeah, probably, but not today." 

Turns out, that point in the future came a lot sooner than I had thought.

I was looking at an update of my photo booth software where they mentioned updated compatibility with Windows 8. That got my brain going, since Windows 8 was designed to work on a desktop, laptop, phone and - most importantly for me - tablet equally well. (How well depends on your feelings about this newest Windows OS; mine are mixed so far, but I'm going to stay positive that things will smooth out!) Being able to use a tablet for my computer and for my viewing screen inside the booth eliminates a lot of complexity in setting up the booth. I am now able to eliminate one electronic piece, and three (!) individual cords inside the booth.

This one switch makes the Photobooth easier to set up, and able to have more compact dimensions, since we don't have to find room inside the booth for a computer. We're also going to mount the screen lower, and closer to the camera. Since the screen is so high right now, we get a lot of people looking up at the screen and not at the camera. While I'm not sure we're going to have fewer people looking at the screen, it won't look quite as goofy since the screen will be a lot closer to where they should be looking anyway. 

Otherwise, the electronics are staying the same: a great Canon DSLR, a high speed, high quality dye sublimation printer, and a studio-quality, ring light strobe. Why change what's working so well for us?!

Making it Saleable

Possibly the biggest problem facing us when we considered selling the current booth is cost. Because we built it out of non-standard dimensions of plywood, just about every piece needed fairly major cutting. And that's not to mention the addition of internal structures to guide the prints down to the pick-up, to hold the monitor, to hold the (quite heavy) printer, and a spot for the computer. All of which added a whole bunch of screw holes that had to be filled, sanded, filled and sanded again. Then we went and rounded many of the corners, and prepped for paint. Along with a seemingly endless bunch of other little modifications that take time to put in the right spots. This made our costs outrageous and huge, and it wasn't able to come down at all if someone ordered multiples, since the complexity of the build meant there would be little to no time saved building a few at a time. We figured that we were - at best - 50% more expensive than anyone else. That's too much. 

With this new design, we will be able to get much more out of "off the shelf" materials. There is much less modification to do to each piece, and we should be able to easily scale up our raw material buying if we need to build multiple copies. Not to mention that, since we don't have to modify each piece so heavily, we can see better usage of our time as we build, allowing us to build in more of an "assembly line" fashion if we get multiple orders, or orders for multiple booths!

The other big advantage we have is the portability. While I want hard sides (that take up a bit of extra room) on my booth, we also will have the option to have fabric sides to attach as well. This one small addition allows our booth to be hauled around by just about any small hatchback (think Dodge Caliber, Kia Soul, Scion xB or the like) or larger. Photo quality and portability better than the competition at competitive pricing is exactly what we set out to do, and I think we're there!


So there you have it. The newly engineered Photobooth! We're getting close to going out and building our first one, which should happen sometime in early- to mid-October. Stay tuned for behind the scenes photos and blog updates!

Next up in the series: Design Enhancements

]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Design Engineering Mark II Photobooth quality Wed, 21 Aug 2013 13:15:00 GMT
What's in My Bag: Cameras and Lenses I have long been a technically minded person that needed a creative outlet of some sort. When I was younger, it was drawing cars, but I didn't quite ever get out of 2-D drawings and onto the 3-D part that would let me really design cars. I had my go at music, and painting (a really little bit of painting), and even model building. Nothing ever quite took until I found photography - an art form with so much technical stuff built in that I was in heaven. I taught myself f/stops, shutter speeds, lighting ratios, and so much else. I also taught myself how to read MTF charts for lenses, and worry if diffraction would ruin my shot (probably not, as it turns out). I had big trouble not seeing the forest (the photo) for the trees (the stupid worries of diffraction and the like). Because of all of that, I tried to stay away from talking about my gear, for fear that I would be too long-winded and boring. 

However, now that I want to start talking a bit more about my photos and what goes into them, I think having a post or two people can look back on to see why I made the decisions I did could be helpful. I promise to rewrite this as many times as it takes to keep it relatively short and to the point, so you won't be too bored if you decide to read it all! 


I carry two D-SLR cameras in my bag, a Canon EOS 40D and an EOS 7D. I started with Canon because that's what the people around A stock photo of a Canon EOS 7D camera me were using when it came time to make the decision; sometimes the tide just takes you the way it wants to go! Not to mention, at the time, the 40D was competing with Nikon's D80 and D200, which made my decision a bit easier! (The D300 had been announced about the same time I chose the Canon, but nothing was really known about it, and it was just a bit out of my price range.)

As time went on, I started covering more diverse stuff, and needed something a bit faster acting. Not to mention that, the Summer I picked up the 7D, I had three weddings to shoot; any photographer worth their pennies will tell you that backups are a necessity with any paid assignment, but doubly so with weddings. So I had a great reason to get a new camera to take on my honeymoon that summer, too! 

I am just starting to have some reasons to upgrade again (to full frame, with the EOS 5D mkIII), but that is on hold until I either win the lottery, or until I get enough paid work to justify the business cost. For now, though, these two cameras take very good care of any assignments I can throw at them. 

I have a battery grip for each camera, as well. Some people ask me why, since the grips add so much bulk to the camera. My reasoning, beyond that the battery life is doubled, is just a comfort thing. I like to have my hands in the same position whether I'm taking a horizontal or vertical shot. Sometimes the weight bothers me, but that's only after a long day of shooting; otherwise, I hardly notice!


This is the long part, but only because I have collected so many lenses! I'm going to start wide, and end on telephoto:

Canon EF-S 10-22mm: This lens quickly became my favorite lens as soon as I ordered it. This is the type of lens that lets you get in close to your subject, but still show off their surroundings. A lot of my work has made me leave this in my bag a bit more often lately, but I still love getting it out to take some landscape shots, where I can play with the wild perspective given by that ultra wide focal length! 

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS: As of this writing, this lens is not long for my bag. For the past few years, workhorse is the only word I have to describe it. Just like a 24-70mm for a full frame camera, this covers the just-about-perfect focal lengths for a lot of the magazine A stock photo of the Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens and product photos I've been taking more and more of. Add in the f/2.8 and image stabilizer, and this lens does everything I need it to. 

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 VC: A new arrival to my bag, I picked this one up so I could - eventually - easily move to full frame when I'm ready. When I picked up my 7D, I wanted to make that move to full frame, but couldn't justify the extra cost of a lens like this. I'll write up a bit of a review once I get a chance to use the lens a bit more extensively.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II: A lens like this is just about everyone's first prime lens, and I was no exception. This lens helped me out a bunch early on when I was shooting bands in caves local bars. Call me lazy if you will, but for most of my shooting, I prefer zoom lenses, so this lens doesn't get used a whole lot. Even so, for a long time I couldn't stand the thought of selling a lens that has performed so well for me. Then I made an offer I couldn't refuse, and got:



A stock photo of the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM "Pancake" lens Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 "Pancake": A few weeks ago I had a customer trade in this lens on his purchase. Me being me, I looked at my 50mm and decided I could live without it if I could make an even trade. A little conversation with our used department later, I was indeed able to make an even trade. I haven't been able to use it much, but the little bit I have has been great. I lost a little bit of low light capability, but got something light, sharp, and fun (it's a conversation starter, for sure). I'm looking forward to using this lens on an EOS-M variant that can actually focus...

Tamron SP 70-200 f/2.8 Di: When I was originally looking at this focal length, I almost got a completely different lens, but the sale fell through, and I "settled" on this one. In retrospect, this is the best luck I've had with equipment. This is possibly the sharpest lens I have, and it has let me shoot Crew soccer, weddings, and national touring concerts that the other lens I was about to get would have made much harder on me because of the different focal lengths. Biggest downside: no sabilization system. It will be a very sad day when this lens "has" to be upgraded.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM: I got this lens in a moment of impulse, but is another example of a lens that is too good for the money to give up. This is a pretty long lens for my taste, so it's relegated to some product photography and a portrait or two. I'm kind of almost holding on to it so it can get a second life when I make the move to full frame. 


I've got a couple of toy lenses I'll mention in another post, but this is pretty much my bread and butter list of "daily" stuff. Next up in the gear posts: lighting! 

]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) What's in my bag cameras gear lenses Thu, 15 Aug 2013 13:00:00 GMT
What I've Been Up To: July 2013 Today is going to mark the start of a new series that will let me show off a bit more of what I do. Most of my photographic production these days is for (614) Magazine, as well as the publisher's other magazines. What this means is I'll shoot a bunch of stuff, then I have to sit on it for a while until the magazine(s) are out on news stands.

So, in order to make things nice and neat (for myself!) I'm going to have a new monthly blog post to cover everything and show you what I've been up to. While I may pull out other assignments and/or personal projects for expanded blog posts, you can find it all here! 

Although July was full of fireworks celebrations, I didn't brave downtown Columbus for Red White and Boom, and we skipped the local shows due to rain and a rambunctious nephew visiting from out of town, so there are no fireworks photos to show off. I also stayed busy with watching my brother's three (3!!) kids so he and his wife could get a weekend away. Talk about going 0 - 100mph on the kid front! That all meant that July was held solely for (614) assignments. (Well, there was one other magazine's assignment, but it won't get published for a while yet.) I'm hoping to have some more personal project stuff in August!

Here we go:

First up was a piece on drinking in the morning for (614). The editor wanted an egg being dropped into a Guinness:

The beer drinker So I got this one, but knew I wanted to push it farther. So a couple more eggs, some coffee and some Bloody Mary mix later:

A collection of drinks for the morning drinker | Photo by Ben Yoder The next assignment was to get some shots with a band by the name of Sleep Fleet. This one was one that I was very nervous about, because I really wanted to knock this one out of the park. The band was playing at a venue that isn't great for live shots (read: it's like shooting in a cave!), so I knew I was going to need to hit the mark with the posed shots before they went on.

The initial feedback I got was to get a shot inside the bar part of the venue. I picked the spot, but didn't look closely enough at the GIANT MIRROR behind the booth. Awesome. That made me uncomfortable, and that part of the night just didn't go well. Since they were willing, I used their most amazing van as a prop, and things really got rolling:

The band Sleep Fleet and their tour van. | Photo by Ben Yoder We were having fun with the van, and, spurred on by a comment from one of the guys, we tried this next setup:

The band Sleep Fleet reflected in a van window at sunset | Photo by Ben Yoder I saw this in my head, and knew I could capitalize on the cool looking sunset. While this shot was heading in the right direction, I knew it could be pushed a bit farther.

Sleep Fleet posing with their tour van | Photo by Ben Yoder This was my absolute favorite of the entire night. As soon as I saw it on my camera, I knew I hit on something very cool. The best part was that the guys in the band dug it as well!

My final set I'm able to share is from the (614) August issue, themed around DIY. There is an artist that plays with fire. The rig is awesome, and a bit "mad scientist," which I tried to incorporate a bit:

Fire art, made with 10 foot tall propane flames, and a mad scientist at the helm | Photo by Ben Yoder I even got to push the button(s):

The full fury of nearly 250 psi of propane being lit on fire | Photo by Ben Yoder

I did push the buttons, but not for this photo. Safety first..!

So that was my July in a nutshell. I do love that nothing is quite the same from shoot to shoot, one of the things that will always keep me loving photography!

]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) (614) Magazine Recap What I've Been Up To band fire food portraits Wed, 07 Aug 2013 13:30:00 GMT
Photobooth Mk II: The Thought Process Today I'm starting on a series of blog posts outlining our trek toward the "Next Gen" Photobooth. I've got a meeting scheduled with my business partner - a design engineer by trade - this coming weekend, and we're hoping to have the ideas we've already started talking about solidified and on "paper." Hopefully, buy the end of the weekend, we'll have all the info we need to start ordering materials. 

Before that, however, I'd like to share the approach, and the ideas we're aiming for. There are a few things that have prompted this next generation: portability for a wider audience; easier setup and tear down; simplified electronics (which goes hand-in-hand with easier setup/tear down); and greater ability to sell the booth at a competitive price. 


This was one of the pieces that got the ball rolling. I have a good friend who works for a company that takes pictures for schools in theA sample from Photobooth, Mark I. area. There was an opening to pitch my 'booth to them, and provide my services for school dances through this company. That didn't work out, and I looked at it as a good step that I even pitched to them. A few weeks later, my friend asked about the possibility of a booth that would be able fit into his car - a much smaller amount of space than my Flex allows. I told him I'd think about what I could do, and then he casually mentioned it was for his company again. I immediately saw the next pitch that I could make. 

Being able to design a booth that is able to fit in almost any car opens the door not only to the possibility of selling to this company, but to many other individuals, as well. (And, someday, I may be able to downsize my car needs, as well.)

Setup & Tear Down

When we built the current booth, we wanted something that wouldn't need tools to assemble, and, without doing all the homework we have done this time around, figured that the best way to achieve that was with wooden sides that slot-and-tab together. The other great advantage of the wooden construction is the stability it affords. I've seen other booths out there that had fabric sides, and a printer on a table next to the "booth." This is the look and feel I wanted to avoid; I wanted to have more of a feeling of stepping into an old-school photo booth, and I figured that the best way to do that was with a large-ish, solid structure.

The problem with this thought process is the weight of the silly thing. When you are using 3/4" plywood for the bulk of your construction, weight adds up quickly. While we have enough pieces to make this problem not so big, all those "only kind of heavy" pieces are a pain to pack, unpack, assemble, disassemble, repack, and finally unpack again. There were also some errors in construction that led us to some interesting workarounds during assembly. 


As I was setting up a friend's wedding reception, my cousin just so happened to be in the crowd. Since I was alone that day, he lent a hand, but was also very interested in the inner workings and electronics of the 'booth. As we talked, he marveled a bit, then mentioned that he saw that, one day, I'd just plug in a tablet computer where the monitor went, and that would be all there was to it. Although this wasn't even a year ago, I kinda thought about it, but then put it off as something that wouldn't be here that soon, since the software I use wasn't made for anything but "normal" computers.

In May, I was browsing the website of the program I use, and noticed there was an update to make the program compatible with Windows 8. That really got me going on the redesign path, since the entire plan for Windows 8 is that it should be the same no matter if it's on a desktop, laptop, phone, or - just like my cousin told me - tablet. 

The biggest advantage in the redesign that a tablet gives me is twofold - I get to replace two devices with one (my laptop and touchscreen monitor), and it should make the design process and assembly of the booth much easier and cleaner. (But more on that in the next post). 

Another Photobooth example. Making it Saleable

At the first month of Fourth Fridays in Westerville, we had a man ask us if we ever sold the 'booth, or would consider it. From the beginning of this entire project, my business partner bought his way in though funding the booth itself (the wood, paint, construction, etc.). He "made me" (though it wasn't a hard push) consider trying to market the booth once we had an idea of how it all worked. That gentleman in Westerville made us seriously consider, for the first time, really selling the Photobooth. The problem that we wound up with was competitive pricing. 

Although we had a great thought process in designing the original, it was extremely time consuming to build, as very few bits of it are able to be completed without modifying beyond just trimming the sheet of plywood to size. Everything from cutting a door, to adding pieces to the back side to form a chute for the prints out of the printer (which requires careful measuring, drilling, screwing, filling, and sanding, among other steps). Labor intensive is a great way to describe the production process. 

Labor intensive means expensive, and, by the time we had calculated all of our construction time, electronics and engineering costs, and our profit margin (even a slimmed down margin to try to be competitive), we were thousands more than competitive booths. Not a good place to find yourself, thus the planning for our Mark II.


Next up: The Design Process

]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Design Experimental Mark II Photobooth Fri, 19 Jul 2013 13:30:00 GMT
Our First Four-Legged 'Booth Visitor, and Right After That, a Dog As we are a week away from the next Fourth Friday in Westerville, I'm going back through the computer and looking at the photos from last month. I'm reminded of a blog post that was supposed to happen early this month, however with travel starting the day after last month's Fourth Friday, I forgot about it until going back through these photos. 

We had our first four legged visitor to the booth, and then, right after that, we had our first dog in the booth! Check it out:

First the skunk:

Our first four legged visitor. The second round for our furry friend!

As I had a bit of a line at the time, it took me by surprise when a couple kids started saying something about a skunk. Sure enough, I look down, and there he is, calmly waiting to go in. I can't think of a better furry patron to kick it all of with the 'Booth! 

So, yes, pets are allowed in the 'Booth. The more the merrier!

If you're free next Friday night (the 28th of April), come on up to Uptown Westerville for some neat craft vendors and lots of food! I'm on E. College Ave, right next to the best kettle corn I've ever had.

See you there!


Oh, right, the dog. :)

Our first dog on camera.

]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Fourth Friday Photo Booth Photobooth Westerville Westerville Fourth Friday Fri, 21 Jun 2013 14:15:00 GMT
My iPhone Photography (Mis)Adventure The cliched shot of our reflection in the Cloud Gate (a.k.a. the Bean). At the end of May, my wife and I spent a weekend in Chicago for our anniversary. Chicago, being the big city it is and all, parking - especially down in the crowded areas the Magnificent Mile where we stayed - is expensive. The hotel we were staying at valeted our car for the low, low price of $52/day. Not to mention any tipping you might feel inclined to do to keep your car parked in a good space, or not have it driven around like the car in Ferris Beuller.

In my hurry to unload the car the first day we were there, I left a few things in the car, most notably my compact camera (a Fuji F660 EXR). I didn't think much of it at first, as I figured we were going to use the car either that night or the next day. So off I went with my DSLR kit (in "Travel" form), and my iPhone, for those times I didn't want to mess with the big camera. The next day came, and we never actually needed to use our car, and I was being a bit lazy (and cheap), so I didn't pay the valet to grab the car just for me to get the small camera out of; besides, most of the morning I was going to be using the DSLR anyway. 

So, there I was, for two days without my compact camera, relying on my iPhone for the quick grabs I was going to need and want. I started wondering how bad this was actually going to be; with the explosion of iPhone-photography, and all the stories of professional photographers using only their iPhones for weddings, and even the Chicago Sun-Times recently deciding to have their reporters become full fledged photographers with their iPhones, in addition to the rest of their reporting duties. It wasn't even like I was going to rely on my phone for the bulk of the photos, either, it was just going to be some quick things where I wouldn't want to call any more attention to myself as a tourist, or even just for things I wanted to throw up on Facebook and Instagram to share with friends. 

                                                                                      In Use

Our view - and our drinks Probably the best part of the experience were some of the apps I had to take, combine, and share pictures with. While I don't have an extensive array of apps for photo taking, I ended up using a couple that helped big time - one for quick HDR type shots (HDR Fusion), and one for panoramic stitching on the fly (Panorama). Of course there was some Instagram, and just the built-in camera app. I also used the collage-building app Diptic, too, which created one of our favorite images of our visit, from the bar at the (almost) top of the John Hancock Tower, seen here at the left. 

Of course, using the phone is straight forward enough, and there weren't many surprises. The biggest things I had to get used to were the framing, and how close I could get to an object for a macro-ish type shot, which I tended to do a fair amount. I hadn't used the front-facing camera much before this experience, but I used it a bit more, when I needed to make sure I got both the Wife and I in frame.


What I Liked

Unfortunately, this is a short section. The best part of the iPhone-as-camera was the ability to share so easily. While I had a newly purchased Eye-Fi card for my little Fuji, I'm sure it wouldn't have been quite so easy, and certainly not as quick. I was able to take a photo, and send it away to family from the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower. Very cool, but something we're all used to at this point. 

Why it Was My Misadventure

So, as easy as it was to share and take photos, it wasn't a trump card to what I had set up with my Fuji. The biggest disadvantage to the iPhone as a camera is the quality compared to my Fuji. There have been volumes written about the quality of iPhone imagery, beginning with the iPhone 4, and certainly expanding with the 4s (and now 5). However, most of the quality tests take place in (very?) good light, and what we had in Chicago that weekend was anything but. Another from the John Hancock tower. Taken with an iPhone 4s and HDR Fusion app

Most of the weekend was cloudy, with spotty rain showers chasing us (but luckily not catching us... much), which meant outside shots were in decent enough light, but once we got inside, there was little natural light helping with ambient illumination. This meant that the camera was often in situations where it struggles the most - poorly lit, high ISO shots. That sort of situation was why I am so sure I would have had better images to remember the weekend if I would have ponied up and got my little Fuji. The compact camera world has been upping their game in recent years, trying to stay ahead of cell phone cameras, and low light is one area they really concentrate on. Fuji, with their EXR technology, have come up with a very creative take on low light, and it works very well. (Though I won't say unequivocally better than the compact competition.)

The other area I was let down a bit was in the resolution of the front-facing camera, and some of the apps' outputs, which meant prints were almost certainly off the table for a few shots. However I'll take some of the blame for that, having not truly tested the apps for output sizes before that weekend, and getting free versions of nearly all of them. You don't have to have much resolution to share, but I am sorely missing it now that I want to print a bit. I made an 8x8" print of the image above, and our faces are pixelated, suffering from the small output of the panoramic processor I used. The image here to the right was taken with the front-facing camera and the HDR Fusion app, and it is going to be a fair stretch to print, with an output of only 478x639 pixels, or barely 100dpi for a 4x6" print. 

My Panoramic (tm) App photo from the inside of Gino

A quick pano from our stop at Gino's Pizza East, right next to our hotel. There were lines out the door all weekend, not so much on a Tuesday afternoon!

What I Learned

Other than the obvious bit about not complaining when I'm too cheap to get my camera, I learned that what thought about all those posts about an iPhone being a true replacement for a compact camera were not by people shooting in "real world" conditions. Not my real world, at least. My life tends to happen in less-than-ideal conditions; after all, there aren't many big cities that are less sunny than Columbus.  

The photos look great... when they are viewed on a smart phone screen. Get them onto a good computer screen or print, and I definitely start to see the lack of quality. Call me picky, but it is my job as a photographer to nit-pick all my photos; I see things some might never see, but if it bothers me even a bit, I have to do whatever I can to fix it, or I'll always have some reservation over a photo.

Final Thoughts

I have said for years that it's not the equipment you use that defines a good photograph, and you can't be worried about the imperfections of the image if your choice was to either have the photo or not. The photographer controlling the camera is the most important part. While this still holds true, I will admit that I am bothered a bit lot that my (iPhone) images didn't come out nearly as well Our seats at Chicago as I wanted them to (in respect to image quality), and not as well as I know they could have. I am truly happy to even have the images, as I wouldn't give those up for the world. However I'm a little worried that I'll never forget that I had the chance to do better, and let that chance pass me by. 

I know that I'll never rely on my (current) phone to be a "day-to-day" type of camera, and this doesn't come as a surprise to me. I've seen enough iPhone images submitted for print through my day job to know that. I also know that I'm not going to stop using my phone to make images, as it's too easy to share, and it can be a different form of expressing an idea I have in my head. 

So in the end, I end up in the same spot I began. Now, however, I have my own experience to rely on. I will still shake my head at parents in the stands trying to use their phones to take photos of little Jimmy on the football field, or at the 6th grade production of Shakespeare. But I will not change how I've been using my phone's camera: just for quick grab shots to share on social media or with friends, or for those times I just want to use something a little different than my norm.


Just a Few More

Because the best thing you can do with your photos is share them, here are a few more Chicago photos from the phone:

My breakfast at Yolk. Red Velvet French Toast, and Cinnamon Roll French Toast. It was awesome.

My breakfast at Yolk. Cinnamon roll French toast on bottom, red velvet cake French toast on top. Thank goodness we walked 3+ miles after breakfast! 

It wouldn

To our friends, it will come as no surprise that we stopped at a wine bar. In this case, it is Bin 36

From our window seats at the Signature Lounge on the 96th near the top of the John Hancock Tower. This was looking down from the bar at the top of the John Hancock tower - The Signature Lounge on the 96th. We were extremely lucky to have gotten seats right at the window, it was packed that day!

]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Chicago iPhone quality travel Tue, 18 Jun 2013 14:00:00 GMT
A Rebranding: "Published" to "Editorial" One of the things I've come to learn the longer I work for a publisher is that the "best" photo isn't always my favorite from an This is the Macy assignment. The best photo is the one that looks the best, but only the one that looks the best and fits the space there is for the photo in the magazine layout. Take this year's (614) Magazine's ColumBest issue, and my shot for Macy's. I had a shot in my head that I knew was going to rock.. assuming I could make the technical meet the vision. 

Macy's doesn't let just anyone into their stores to take pictures, so that leaves something to be desired for a creative shot. The last couple of years I chickened out, and made due just quickly snapping a shot of the outside from the street. This year, however, I knew I wanted to make something better. After a bit of time, I came up with the photo to the right, and knew I nailed exactly what I was going for. It's in the bag. I'm done. Send it to the publisher. 

However, when I got home, I was so excited about the shot shown here that I totally forgot to shoot a horizontal of the same setup. Rule #1 when you don't see a layout before hand is to always shoot the shot horizontally and vertically. Oops. The horizontal shot I did take was very early, as my model and I just pulled up to the scene, the Sun was just about set, and it made for a great show of color in the sky (as seen below). Naturally I took the shot, was satisfied it met the requirements, but knew I could do better, and I went off to get the shot shown to the right. 

What does this all have to do with rebranding, you may ask? As I get more assignments under my belt, I'm starting to have more examples like this show up. What I really want to show may not be the one that was actually published. In my portfolio galleries here on, I have a space to show off all the editorial and advertorial work I've done, but I've named it "Published." I'd much rather show off the first image than the second. It's not that there's anything wrong with the second, but it is not what I am most proud to show off. Some of the shots will Here is the photo that actually ran. definitely stay in there, as I didn't give much choice to the editor as to which one should run (and I'm sure he just loves me for that!) 

With this one change, I'm starting a process of really looking into my work, and seeing how I want to represent myself. How I want to show myself off. I'm starting on a couple personal projects as well, and will build in a spot for those on the site, too. More photos are being taken, and more limits are going to be stretched. I'm in for an exciting Summer!

]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Photos portfolio Thu, 13 Jun 2013 13:00:00 GMT
Pushing My Boundaries - and Equipment. Part II So, when we last met, I had just learned the bad news about booths only, which really threw off my composition. I initially wanted to have the couple - on a nice, romantic dinner-date - interacting across a table corner, with the dessert plate, flaming fondue pot, and waiter in a nice square composition, rotated 45-degrees to the table. The lack of a free-standing square table threw that out the window. Luckily, I had thought about that just that morning, and had been thinking of an alternative composition all morning long.

As I was setting the shot up, I harked back to my schooling, mainly the lighting classes, of course. I figured it was going to take three to four lights to accomplish what I wanted to do for lighting, but I remembered my first lighting class, and the idea that you should add one light as needed, and keep things as simple as possible. With this in mind, I added a fill, bounced off a piece of white foam core I gaff-taped to the ceiling. After that, I put a flash on a light stand with a grid spot to light up the food, and only the food. I got that light, looked at the image, and knew I was starting something good! Next up was a snoot (I hear the laughing Kevin and Howard...) for the happy couple. Luckily, my Rogue Flashbender is able to open up just a bit at the end of the snoot, which allowed enough light to fall on the couple to light the front of them completely. That's when it all started going downhill for a while.

As I was trying to change a setting on the snoot, I clumsily kicked the leg of the light stand that had the (brand new) flash responsible for the plate of food. The flash - and the wireless trigger it was on - went crashing down 6' onto a hard floor. The flash was still in working order. The wireless trigger, however, wasn't as lucky. Since I was using three flashes, I needed four wireless units, which I had. Exactly. That left me scrambling for what to do next. I tried everything I could think of with the built-in wireless trigger, but to no avail. Then, for kicks, I started looking for a light-sensitive trigger that may have been built in (this was my first use of the flash, remember, first time it had been out of the box for more than a few minutes, in fact). I found it in the menu system, and was back in business!!

Then, as we were shooting the first round of photos, I heard a "POP" that I thought came from a large clump of cinnamon practically exploding from the fire. Then I noticed the flash responsible for the couple had stopped working. I tried changing the batteries, but that didn't work at all. As I felt a fair amount of heat coming from the back side of the flash, I realized the "POP" came from the flash, as it decided it was done working so hard.

I had one flash in reserve, so I quickly swapped them out and started back to work. Travis had the flames going; the cinnamon frying, and the couple only had eyes for each other. I snapped away for one final flourish of flaming chocolate fondue, and...

The Melting Pot, taken to another level with the addition of people!

Got the shot!

OK, it wasn't exactly what I had in mind. However, it is exactly what I thought I was capable of! After pushing myself like this, I know I am ready to keep this level of quality in my assignments, and, with luck, move onto the next challenge in my photographic life!

]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) (614) Magazine lighting on assignment Wed, 01 May 2013 15:00:00 GMT
Pushing My Boundaries - and Equipment. Part I I was once lucky enough to have a weekend pass to the side stages of Rock on the Range, and one of the bands on stage 3 was Mushroomhead. On the sides of the stage were giant drums with a flow of water over them, that made for a spectacular photo. While I was getting ready for the show to start, another photographer innocently asked what the deal was with the drums. After I explained it, he gave me a bewildered look, and asked, "what happens if your camera gets wet? What happens if it breaks?" I just had to look back at him and give the only answer I could think of on short notice: "Well, I just hope I get the shot before hand." 

It is with this thought process that I ended my string of assignments for this year's (614) Magazine May issue, better known as the "ColumBest" issue (in the form of a reader poll to choose Columbus' "Best," for those not in the Six-One-Four...). For the past couple years, I have been handed the "Most Romantic Restaurant" superlative, which had just so happened to be the Melting Pot at Easton Town Center (so far the only Melting Pot in Central Ohio). The manager there, Travis, was super helpful from the word "go" on the first year. When I walked in hoping to get an empty fondue pot with some forks sticking out, Travis gave me everything seen here, practically insisting I use it all. Precedent. Set. Not only for Travis, but myself as well.

Last year, I took it up a bit by adding a different point of interest, while keeping the trance-inducing flames in the shot. The lighting got better, the composition got better, and I walked out wondering how I was going to top it this year. Of course, the photo editor challenged me, which made me want to do even bigger things. I wonder if we could make the biggest pot of fondue... (and here is where I try channeling Jeremy Clarkson from BBC's Top Gear) In The World...

As I was thinking of the shot, I thought of the dessert plates in previous years. I thought about a popular style of food photography right now, that has the camera directly above the plate. I needed to introduce the "romance" into the shot of the "Most Romantic" restaurant with some people. I was going to take that straight-down style, widen it out, and apply it to a scene with people.

As I thought about and thought about the composition of the scene, I was getting more confident in what I was going to attempt. However, as I woke up this past Sunday morning, I had a thought pop into my head: I wanted a typical, square, 4-person dining table found in most restaurants. However, I suddenly remembered that I only saw booth-style tables for that restaurant, important when you need to be able to hide the electric wiring needed for the fondue heaters. As soon as I made it to the restaurant, I asked Travis if there was anything other than booths, knowing the answer, but hoping for a miracle; he confirmed there were booths only...

And then the equipment problems started....



The rest of the story - and the photo - next week!

]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) (614) Magazine freelance lighting magazine on location Wed, 24 Apr 2013 13:30:00 GMT
Obsessing Over Quality I recently had a conversation with a friend about how to make the booth easier to run and operate, and he insisted that my obsession with the quality of the photo didn't matter, and no one would care enough like I did. (To be fair, that is my very over-simplified view of his side of the conversation, but it works out better for me to remember it like that.) That same week, my next client commented on how good the photographs looked. I also got an email from a gal that had been in the booth at a recent wedding, letting me know how much she liked the booth, and the quality of the photos...

To rewind a bit, that last booth engagement started out in a string of frustrating growing pains. By the end of the night, I was over it, as the booth started running smoothly, and everyone was having a blast! However, as I was talking with my good friend -- who helped me design and build the booth -- about the events that transpired that night, and how I already was thinking of improvements for the next generation booth, he gave me a replay that I should have seen coming: If you just change the light source, we could make the hardware fit much more easily. I know there are easier ways to get the light to the booth, however after seeing all the results, I know I'll never change it.

A photo booth image from my wedding day. The idea of a photo booth was born in a place many great ideas are conceived: a bar, with some good blues music playing in the background, and cold drinks on the bar. My buddy had already thought about finding an old, defunct film photo booth and converting it to digital. While he never did, I knew it was something I could do, and I went about trying to put all the right hardware together to make a great booth. While everyone's definition of great images will differ, I've always prided myself on trying to produce the best looking images with my own photography, and I knew I could take some of that knowledge and apply it to the booth.

I describe a bit about what I ended up with on the Photobooth page, but I'll go into a bit more detail so you can understand why it complicates things so much.

To the right above is a sample of the type of image that came from the photo booth we hired for my wedding. We did genuinely love having him there, and we got some awesome photos to help remember our day. However, there are instantly some things I see - being the photographer I am - that I knew I would want to change. This image is possibly the best example of why I wanted to use the light I chose.

The light in this particular booth was from two strips of light down each side of the camera. The light is on an automatic setting, so when the camera sees our hands so close, and receiving so much light, it dials it back, and our faces end up a bit dark. While there are some ways around it with that setup, you're still left with small lights that give harsh, unflattering light. I knew that would need to change.

As I was searching for my light source, I found a studio ring-light strobe, which is a type used often by fashion photographers because the even, nearly shadowless light is flattering to most people. Not only did I find a good ring light, I found a soft box that was specifically made for the strobe. The soft box only enhances the effect of the ring light; in photography, the larger the light source relative to the subject, the softer, more pleasing the light (even though the Sun is huge, because of it's distance it is considered a small light in photography). So I ended up with a good looking light source, that I then accentuated to look even a bit better. So far, so good.

The big drawback to the studio strobe for my light is size. The soft box itself is 32" across at the flats (it's in an octagonal shape around the outside), and the whole unit is about 14" front-to-back. Because of this size, placing the camera was tricky, but it made the printer placement even harder, as the printer, in the end, needed to go above the camera! Although my friend liked the challenge, he was almost immediately questioning if I needed that light at all. Needless to say, I didn't budge. It did cause some headaches in the booth construction, but we pressed on.

As the Launch Party neared, I was apprehensive about how it was all going to work. Even as the party was underway, I was always wondering if I made the right decisions on the light, the camera, the software, the printer, etc., etc., etc. Everyone enjoyed themselves, and I knew I was onto something good. Then I saw the following photograph:

The Photobooth photo that conviced me I had the quality I was after (Number 1). After I saw this on my nice, big computer monitor instead of my smallish laptop screen, I was absolutely convinced that I had made the right decision on the booth hardware! Then the quality just kept coming:

The Photobooth photo that conviced me I had the quality I was after (Number 2). The Photobooth photo that conviced me I had the quality I was after (Number 3). Getting goofy in the booth, and showing off the quality of the product! Not only did the light show superb quality, but, because of the size and the manual power setting, the light was loads more even front-to-back than what I got during my wedding day.

Fast forward back to the conversation with my friend: When he told me that no one would care if I changed the light, that it was such a small image on the print that no one would be able to know the difference, I knew he was wrong. I would know the difference. I would know that I'm not doing everything I knew I could to get my clients the best images possible. When you are obsessing over the quality you want to sell, you sell quality you want to see. Even if no one sees it except you, you will know the quality isn't there. If you wouldn't absolutely love the quality of your product, you can't expect anyone else to even start to like your product.

I love my Photobooth's photos!

]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Photobooth business lighting quality Mon, 12 Nov 2012 12:00:00 GMT
Making History More Colorful I was on Facebook recently and saw a post about a blogger that was on a rant (shocking, I know). The topic of the rant interested me enough that I did end up clicking on the link to see what all the hubub was about. In the blog post was a link to Time Magazine's Lightbox website; I've been to that website a few times in the past, and there are definitely some cool photos there.

This time there was no original, "Commissioned-by-Time" photographs on display, instead there were photographs from throughout photographically-recorded history that had been digitally cleaned up and colorized. The blog poster was, in a word, upset that these photographs had been adjusted as they were. This set up the rant, which I read with amusement. The basis of the rant was about how the colors were poorly done, poorly researched, and that it should never have been done in the first place, as it messed with the photographer's choices as the photos were originally taken. While there are points made that I'll agree with, I don't think they're all valid points.

The slideshow starts with a few photos of Abraham Lincoln - on the battle field, in a portrait, in a bit of down-time when he was getting a death mask made. They all seemed fairly well done to the casual observer, and as you get on a bit, you get to more "recent" photojournalistic photographs of events that were definitely striking, and powerful images of their time. My only gripe with the slide show itself is that I want it to show the black and white/original photographs first, then the colorization of the photo. However, I am just your humble narrator here, and not the editor of the Time site.

As to the technique and execution of the colorization, I see the blog poster's point of needing to do a bit more research on the matter. A quick Google search for Lincoln's physical description shows that the artist who colorized the photos did get it wrong, at least "by the book." Lincoln is shown with pink-ish, colorful skin and saturated, sky-blue eyes. Lincoln described himself as having "dark complexion... and gray eyes." With that in mind, you will probably look at the Lincoln photos especially in a bit of a different light. However, to me, that doesn't matter a bit.

What Time was trying to accomplish was to bring a new life to old photographs of people and events that shaped our history and changed our world. In my eyes, especially with the Lincoln photos, they have succeeded! You always see the photos of Lincoln in B&W or sepia toning, and that's just how we think of those times. However, our parents didn't exactly tell us the truth that the photos of them when they were kids were in B&W because the world didn't turn colorful until the 70s (this isn't The Giver, after all). So, seeing Abe Lincoln in "full living color" brings, to me, a new dimension of history. I like color a lot, and the color brought to those Lincoln photos is amazing to me.

It's not only the Lincoln photos, either. The photo of the monk's protest was amazing, and the color brings it to life even more; it makes me instantly sense the lengths the monk would go to (indeed, did go to) in order to show devotion to his cause. Color tends to do that on the whole, it tends to bring us another dimension of understanding and connection to a photo and scene.

This is not to say, however, that I think they all should have been done in color, and there were a few that I thought had a disservice done to them with the color adaptation. The iconic photo of the sailor and nurse on V-J Day, for instance, is less powerful, as your eyes are drawn to all the color in the signage around Time's Square and leave the impact of the sailor and nurse. Also, the photo of Alfred Hitchcock; at the time that photograph was taken, there was definitely color photography available, especially to portrait photographers who were, possibly (probably?), using medium or large format film. While it's interesting to see, artistic choices like that probably shouldn't be messed with.

So to me, while it was interesting to read the rant, I don't see the big hubbub. Color tends to connect us to a scene much more than monochromatic imagery. Especially when you only know the monochromatic version of the scene.

I say go and enjoy. Marvel at what can be done by a skilled artist and technology!

]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Interesting Photographs Lincoln Other's Work Time Magazine colorization history Thu, 08 Nov 2012 02:54:05 GMT
The First "Real" Booth Event: More Lessons Learned
  • Make a checklistMolly and Adam themselves in the booth. Congratulations Mr. and Mrs.!
  • Don't save the thumbnails
  • Double check the checklist
  • Make the checklist again
  • Don't scrape the wall of the parking garage with the car
  • This is what was going through my head as I was trying to sleep Saturday night. The Photobooth had it's big night out Saturday, the first event for a paying client, and I found out quickly that things don't always go to plan, even if you think you have every detail covered!

    Saturday started out like a normal Saturday, and after some morning errands, I headed back home to get things ready for that night. After some quick assembly of a hand cart, I went to my desktop computer and emailed the files for the starting screen of the booth, and the printed strips (as seen to the right with the bride and groom). I tried to save myself a few steps in the download process and clicked right on the thumbnails of the images, hit "Save As," and put them on the desktop of my laptop computer that runs the booth. Those of you that are computer savvy know what's coming, but, for the rest, more on that later; I had the files ready and in place, and it was time to start packing up the YAW-Mobile. I had a bit of help from Mrs. Art Works before she had to leave, and I got the rest of it loaded in no time. So far, so good.

    The bride and a few of her close, personal friends! I cleaned up, grabbed some snacks, and headed down to the Athenaeum. Unloading the booth brought frustration #1: without being able to get the YAW-Mobile any closer, and without a good way to cart the booth around (my quick, cheap cart from Home Depot was inadequate to say the least), I struggled mightily to get the booth where it needed to go. Most of the smaller pieces were OK, but the bigger ones were a hassle, moreso in the breezy conditions downtown, where they acted like sails. Solution #1: Get a better cart, dummy. (I did look around, but expected to be able to find what I needed at a home improvement store. I did, but they all seemed to be "online specials." Obvious note to self: Don't wait so long next time!)

    Frustration #2 came in a slight design flaw. The original design of the booth was taller than the end result, and I was too hasty to remember to redesign the space that holds the touchscreen monitor. This is only a problem when I keep my checklist in my head and forget to consult the silly list after every step! Having put everything together, I went to start the booth, and realized I hadn't turned the touchscreen monitor on. Uh-oh. With the help of my cousin who was at the wedding, I didn't have to take the whole booth apart, but it was close.

    Even with my cousin's help, I wasn't ready to go when I was supposed to be (frustration #3). And, once I got the booth software running, I found out why you're not supposed to just right-click and save the thumbnails in the body of GMail: That's all you're saving is the thumbnail (gee, how could I miss that?!). (Frustration #4)

    "Well, crap," is the nice way of putting what was going through my mind by this point. Fear not, however, "Technology will save me!" Once dinner started, my cousin, to the rescue again, started a new-found mobile hot-spot app, and I was off to the races downloading the proper templates.

    From that moment on, the night went exactly to plan; the booth ran perfectly (with one quick time out for an overheating issue), everyone was having a blast, and, as always, time flew by as everyone was having a great time! Tear down and load-out were non-issues, as I was able to use the freight elevator and a big cart from the Athenaeum to get everything out within two trips.

    Getting home that night and starting to get everything uploaded, I was reminded why I do this: The happy faces of people just having some fun. The Photobooth is perfectly designed to capture this, and I can't wait for the next time out!

    Love the smiles!

    Just having fun with the Photobooth and props!

    Mr. and Mrs. having a blast with the Photobooth!

    Oh, and if you're ever at the Athenaeum's parking garage, it's tighter than you think. Swing wide, and make sure you have some clearance as you enter the garage...

    To Molly and Adam: Thank you for the awesome party, I'm glad I could be a part of it! Congratulations, and may you live happily ever after!

    ]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Learning Experience Photobooth Tue, 30 Oct 2012 20:52:36 GMT
    I Love it When a Plan Comes Together Every so often, I find something requested of me and I fret over how I'm going to live up to the expectations. The best example I can think of is the (614) ColumBest shooting for this year's list. The email I got letting me know what I was responsible for shooting had this little line in it: "Melting Pot - Something cool like you did last year." The pressure was on!

    It was a different sort of pressure I found myself under a couple weekends ago. My sister-in-law had received a few photos of a friend's daughter, and loved the concept so much she wanted me to duplicate it with my niece, Leah. While it was a very straightforward task, I felt like I needed to do it better, make my niece look that much more cute than the example I was shown. So, home I went, thinking about all the different ways I was going to make it better. I had thoughts of going to the park, bringing along some Speedlites, light stands, and modifiers. You know, a big production! But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized simplicity was going to be key.

    Happy babies make awesome photos!

    So, out to the back yard we went. I brought along the frame, Mrs. Art Works supplied the awesome antiquey beaded necklaces, and Mother Nature supplied about the perfect shooting conditions. Shooting in open shade - with a bit of tree-filterd sunlight coming through made for some awesome lighting. I had a reflector on hand, just in case, but didn't even think about using it once we got started.

    Leah was closing in on nap-time, so we were a bit apprehensive about what type of mood she was going to be in. Turns out, with the exception of a one-year-old sitting in one spot only as long as a one-year-old wants to, she was as smiley and happy as could be, at least as long as Mom was in sight, and the frame didn't fall down around her.

    Uh oh. Am I in trouble?

    All in all, I feel great about what I captured. Mrs. Art Works swears that I did a better job than the example I was shown, but I think she's a bit biased! I always seem to conjure up these unbelieveable images in my mind of how I want something to come out after the shoot. The problem with that is, while I can produce work that looks good, and is almost what I pictured, I end up overly critical of my work because it didn't live up to my expectations. This round, however, everything came together just so, and I got exactly what was in my mind. An more, really, as you never know quite what expressions a nearly cranky one-year-old may give.

    This weekend coming up is going to be spent at the pumpkin patch with the nephews; I hope I can turn it into something just as fun!


    The beginning of the end, when she just wouldn


    And she

    You lookin

    ]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Family Portraits Toddler frame girly tutu Wed, 10 Oct 2012 16:03:56 GMT
    Having Fun with a Little DIY Every photographer who has shot some product photography before knows to be fairly afraid of two types of objects: clear glass and rounded, shiny metal. With either type of object, the amount of area you have to pay attention to for reflections is huge, practically the entire room! Shooting a bit of shiny, rounded metal is where I found myself this past weekend.

    Now, I've done this before, and I had a great lighting teacher in school, so I knew what I was up against. One of the big things I had going for me was the small size of the product, which let me cover much of the reflected surface between my two soft boxes. I had a minor (very minor) revelation to use my reflector to create a light box-effect, laying it over the product, propped up on the soft boxes. This knocked out most of the unwanted reflections! However, there was one nagging spot that needed attention: the very front of the containter where my camera was pointed toward.

    The reflection of doom. With my light box filled in around the sides and top, the one area I didn't think about was the little rectangle of space that I was trying to poke my lens through. That little area made a big reflection, and it was in a spot that stuck out like a sore thumb to boot. Then it hit me, and I wondered why it hadn't before.

    Off I went in search of some printer paper, some tape and some scissors. A few minutes later, I had a neat little "side" of the "light box" added onto my camera.

    DIY shoot through reflector!

    With a little bit more tinkering, I was able to mostly cover the hole in the "light box" that the reflection "saw." It does bring up one more thought to me, and that's having a tilt-shift lens; I could have hid that last little black hole of a reflection a bit better with one. Now to convince Mrs. Art Works that a new $1,200+ lens really is needed...

    And, not to be forgotten, a little "after" shot with the lens reflection removed:

    Bad reflections gone, even with a little post processing help.


    ]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Fri, 21 Sep 2012 17:33:34 GMT
    Playing With My Food This past weekend, The Wife and I went out to the grocery store and bought no fewer than 6 boxes of cereal. The passers-by and employees of the store must have thought we were nuts, because these were not "adult" cereals, but rather ones my nieces and nephews would thoroughly enjoy. And, by the end of the weekend, a good portion of them ended up in a plastic grocery bag covered in Elmer's glue and shortening.

    It all started as an idea The Wife had while we were touring places to rent. She told me she wanted to decorate the breakfast nook with close up photos of cereal. No bowl, no table, nothing but the cereal. Me being me, I thought I needed to add some milk, just to give it that feeling of "I could reach in and eat it." The Wife was skeptical, but I knew I could pull it off.

    A bowl of flakes cereal with fresh strawberries | Photo by Ben YoderSugar Frosted Corn Flake Cereal with Strawberries My original thought was to use heavy cream for the milk, however, a little research reminded me that Elmer's glue with a little water made for a much better "milk" that you can place pretty much anywhere you need. Check. Through a little more research, I also found out that putting a little shortening on the bottom of the bowl helped place the pieces right where you wanted them, without them moving around as you added liquid (real milk or glue). That one tip saved me more trouble than I will admit to! So, the day after getting all the cereal, we went out to gather the "milk" and shortening. Now all that was left was to make 7 "perfect" bowls of cereal.

    Even though I wanted the bowls of cereal to look freshly poured, I had to make sure the pieces were appropriate for "the look" of each cereal. So out came a TV tray, and I poured the cereal little by little, and searched to make sure the pieces were whole, not too big or small, held their shape appropriately enough, etc. For some reason, I thought this was going to be a quick process; 2 hours later, I had my "perfect" bowls.

    The setup for actually taking the shots was kept simple and straightforward, as there was absolutely no reason to complicate matters (even as much as I tend to do that). Once I got the lighting just right, It was just a matter of placing the cereal on the shortening layer, adjusting what pieces didn't fall into place like I wanted them, and then pouring the "milk" into place. It was very much an assembly line after that, with the bowls flying through the kitchen, onto the set, and into a plastic bag. The glue made things fun to deal with (I'm still not sure if I've got it all off my camera), and it was tough being hunched over for about 6 hours. However, once I got the photos onto the computer, I knew it was all worth it!

    The idea that started the cereal photo set! To the right is the photo idea that The Wife came up with, and it grew to the other photos as well. The shortening idea saved me so much time and hassle it's crazy. I might still be at it if it weren't for that tip. Plus, it meant that the amount of glue I used to make the shot happen was drastically lower, as it's just enough glue to cover the shortening and make the letters look like they are floating. I still look in disbelief when I remind myself that it's Elmer's glue and not milk!

    To see all the photos from the weekend, head over to the "For Sale" section of the site, or just click here.

    Have any food photo ideas you'd like to see? Just leave a comment below!

    ]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) cereal food for sale product Wed, 15 Aug 2012 21:48:28 GMT
    Traveling Drives Me Crazy... ... but, man, I love to do it!

    This weekend I get to fly out to Connecticut to shoot a wedding. Traveling to somewhere I've never been is cool enough on its own (not that I'm going to have much time to take any of it in), but getting to be a photographer, with (most of) the expenses covered is something I wish I could do more of! It does however pose a few things that drive me up the wall, mainly because I can be somewhat forgetful. For instance, remember the blog a couple weeks ago about the star trails photo? It almost didn't happen because I thought I had my memory card wallet in the bag; turns out, it was in the back pocket of the driver's seat in the car we left at home. Add to that I didn't have a memory card in the camera that could be cleared off, and it left me wondering just how many photos I would end up with at the end of the night. (Turns out, I had enough to spare for getting some photos for another project I'm working on. More on that in a later blog post.)

    In order to try and combat that feeling, I have, of course, come up with a few lists to be sure I know what not to forget. I keep making a new list for all the camera gear, because that would be a bit too expensive to replace just for a weekend. Memory cards, lenses, batteries, batteries for the flash transmitters, light modifiers, lenses, flashes... The list goes on. Even with the list, I will, inevitably, be sitting on the plane tomorrow morning, and have a sudden panic attack about forgetting this or that. I'll be worried about it until I land in Hartford, get the rental car, and double check the whole camera bag.

    There Of course, landing in Hartford is only going to be the start of the fun. The bride is a long-time family friend, and she and her fiancee have joined in flawlessly with our circle of friends. We've got the rapport down. We've got a good feeling of what the couple wants to see of their wedding day, and I've got an awesome plan together with my second shooter. This is going to be an amazing weekend. What I'm probably most excited for is the bridal party at the beach.

    Getting 18 (!) people on the same page for a few photos is going to be no small task. No matter how much you warn a group, you always seem to end up with someone looking away from the camera at exactly the time they shouldn't be - who remembers all the photos a photographer took at a family reunion, even after he said "OK. One more!" for the third time? So, I've got a few plans as to how to keep the Photoshop-eye-swapping to a minimum. A couple months ago, the website had an entry about Ryan Brenizer, who has perfected and made popular the "bokeh panorama," commonly known now as the "Brenizer Method." With his speed of making panoramics, not only has he been able to give his photos the feel of a different era, but also done some really cool composite images that would have been (practically speaking) impossible in one shot. This has given me the courage to try out something similar this weekend. (That is, of course, after I'm satisfied with the "normal" group shots I get first!)

    However, before any of that happens, I've got to get back to making the list for the 42nd time. Batteries. Batteries. Charger. Memory cards...

    ]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Travel Weddings Thu, 07 Jun 2012 18:17:01 GMT
    Busy Month, Record Broken, and Some Experimenting As I look back to the last month, I can't believe how much has been stuffed into 28 short days (so far). The month started with a jam-packed week at work, followed by the first ever road trip with the photo booth for a Cinco de Mayo party in Toledo. If you missed that blog post, it was a big opportunity to learn about what not to forget when I'm packing in the booth. We did set a record for number of people on-camera in the booth at one time, however. We set the number at 10 1/2 at the Launch Party, and those crazy faux-Mexican-Nationals on the 5th crammed 11 people in! Not a shabby way to end the night.

    What was that Spiderman line about responsibility again? It has reared its head to me this past month at the "day job," with an employee suddenly quitting for personal reasons. Well, being the manager means picking up the slack, and that has meant around 50 hours a week for much of this month, leaving me not only tired, but with much less time or desire to get out and shoot much for myself. This has led to a list of self-motivated projects I want to complete the second half of this year. It ranges from relatively easy stuff, like some simple flower closeup shots on a pure-white background, to fun stuff I want to try and come up with, like taking the father-in-law's 1994 Dodge Viper for a photo shoot, to something totally unexpected for me, like portraits of local store owners to promote both their businesses, and my own. (I have kind of aped that idea from David Hobby over at after reading this post about the start of the same type of project.) I have a bunch of ideas written down - hopefully with more to be added - fully intending that not everything will get marked off the list this year. I'll be working as hard as I can to start getting them marked off, however.

    A bokeh panorama, also known as the Brenizer Method after the photographer that popularized the technique. It hasn't been a photography wasteland this month, however. I not only got to try out my first star trail image in the Hocking Hills, I went out to get started on that list I mentioned above. I took my car down to the Columbus Airport, intending on using a deserted hangar by the Aircraft Observation Area at the East side of the South Runway (off Hamilton Road). I have used that location before, and I thought the hangar would look awesome behind my new ride. However, unbeknownst to me before Saturday night, not only has that hangar been torn down to facilitate a new runway construction, the observation area is no more as well. Crud. I did get the shot just to the right, which is done using a new (to me) technique I've been wanting to practice. However, shortly after that, I found out I forgot a few things (that rant can be it's own blog post...), and an Airport Police K-9 unit came by to recommend that we not shoot so close to the perimeter fence. Such is life. Now to search out new automotive photo shoot locations. If you've got an idea, throw it out there, because I'm not finding it easy to find one!

    There are a bunch of things to look forward to in June, though. The weekend of the 8th I get to travel to Connecticut to shoot a wedding. It's going to be my 3rd "away" wedding in just over a year; I think I like being able to bill myself as a "Destination" wedding photog. Not only does it have a nice ring to it, but maybe some of those destinations will be of the tropical variety. In the middle of a gray Ohio Winter day. I'm also getting a book to try and tech myself about food photography. Along with that, I'm likely going to need to teach myself about cooking some of that good looking food!

    I can't get to next month without getting to tomorrow, when I celebrate my true 1-year anniversary with my wife. It's not going to be as romantic as I would have hoped a year ago, what with life getting to be so busy. It looks like it's going to be a standard work day, with Chinese carry-out for dinner. It will be amazing!

    ]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Brenizer Method Experimental Looking Forward Tue, 29 May 2012 02:24:22 GMT
    Trying Something New Here in about a week and a half, I'll be celebrating my one year anniversary with my wife. As cool as it was to get married on a holiday weekend - what with all the family that could suddenly justify coming to a Sunday wedding - the downside is that getting away for a "true" anniversary celebration is never going to be exactly easy or cheap. In that spirit, my wife and I spent last weekend in the Hocking Hills area (well, the far east hills, as I went almost due South from Columbus), so that we could spend two nights instead of the required three nights for a holiday weekend. This presented me with an opportunity to try something that has enticed me for as long as I have been into photography.

    Ever since I was a kid, I've always been amazed at what lies beyond the Earth. I used to want to be an astronomer, but, as with all kids, I soon moved onto some other job that was "the One;" and I never did quite stop looking up into the night sky with amazement and wonder. Last weekend I was finally in a position to try and take my first picture of the stars. Now, I could have tried to set up the cameraJust one of more than 200 photos that make up the complete star trail. and pick up some constellations and, maybe, even some of the Milky Way. However, catching the stars' movement was something I've always wanted to do myself. So, I made sure to have my tripod and a few fully charged batteries ready; then it was just a matter of waiting for it to be dark enough, and get the right thing for a good foreground element.

    I knew that if I was going to get a good shot at getting clear skies, it needed to be the first night we were in the hills, as the next day called for increasing clouds, and a chance of rain later in the night. So, after dinner, we set off to get a campfire started, and grabbed some drinks and enjoyed the warmth of the fire on a cool-ish night. As the light in the Western sky started to fade, I started to get excited, as the sky was staying absolutely clear, and I knew I could get my chance that night.

    Once I finally decided it was dark enough, I grabbed for my camera and went to set up the shot on the opposite side of the cabin from our campfire. I took a few test shots at the ballpark settings I researched to give a good exposure of the stars. It was looking awesome! I then grabbed for my phone, started the "Night Sky" star-map-app, and made sure I had the North Star in my field of view. I plugged in the cable release, set the camera for continuous shooting, locked down the shutter release, and walked away.

    After some s'mores and a quick soak in the hot tub, it was time to find out how the camera was doing, and end the series. As I walked up to the camera, I heard one more exposure start, so I unlocked the remote from the continuous drive, and waited as patiently as I could for the exposure to end. Once it did, I grabbed the camera off the tripod and started looking through the images. What I saw was amazing, and made me more excited to get home and put everything together to see the trails. (Just above, you can see just one of the 203 images used to trace the stars across the sky.) What I also noticed, however, was the condensation that started to accumulate all over the camera and, unfortunately, the lens as well. This had me nervous, but there was nothing to do at that moment. (Note to self: bring hand warmers to rubber-band  to the lens next time!)

    After playing around with things this week to get the images - all 203 of them! - just right, I piled them into the stacking software, and set it off on its mission to give me my final image. About a minute later, I had my answer:

    203 30-second images - or 1 hour, 41 minutes, 30 seconds - stiched together for this star trail. The image here is made up of 203, 30-second exposures. To do the math for you, that's a total exposure of 1 hour, 41 minutes, 30 seconds. By keeping Polaris, the North Star, in the frame, the look is of spinning around one point, and a more circular impression is made in the star trails.

    What I learned:

    • There are more colors to the stars than I ever thought I could capture!
    • Be sure to bring something to warm the lens enough to not have to worry about condensation!
    • Remember that the foreground is as important - if not more so - as the star trails themselves!*
    • I really need to live somewhere closer to the middle of nowhere, and take more of these images!

    I was absolutely thrilled to see the image come out this well for my first try. That being said, I really wanted more from myself for this image. Unrealistic? Maybe. However, that will drive me to get back out and try again!

    *In the time between setting up the camera, and deciding I had enough to make a good star trail image, I forgot to grab the flash to try and illuminate the foreground a bit. I was so excited to see what I had for the star trails that illuminating the foreground just went out of my mind completely, and it's something that will nag at me every time I look at the image.

    ]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Experimental Star Trails Travel Sat, 19 May 2012 19:08:47 GMT
    More learned at a great party So, last weekend was the second time I had my booth out in the wild. Of course it couldn't go smoothly, so again I'm left with a weekend that has better prepared me for those times when things don't go quite as planned!

    It started with forgetting the center post that I use to prop up the camera. This one had me floored, since if I don't have that post, I can't really prop the camera up. After a few moments of panic, and thinking some words that would make a pirate blush (with a few sneaking Having fun with the neice and nephew, getting the booth ready to go! past my lips), I had the brilliant idea to go snag a wooden dowel from a hardware store. This turned out to be a great fix, and one that I know I can count on (at least as long as I've got a saw around as well!). That also left an indelible mark on my mental checklist to make sure that doesn't happen again. We'll see how much other clutter in my mind covers that mark right back up in the future.

    The other "key" item I forgot was - of course - the keys to the locks on the doors of the booth. This meant I couldn't get the computer into the side of the booth where it is supposed to live, and I couldn't get into the booth in case anything else needed tended to. That was a relatively easy fix, though it left the booth looking less polished than I'd like. A couple screws backed out, and the back door was free to swing right open! I put the computer in through the back of the booth, and no one was the wiser (except the guys who peeked in through the unlocked door).

    Other than those two big glitches, everything else went as well as I could expect. The photos were gorgeous, people had a blast, and the booth escaped (mostly) unharmed. What else I learned: lacquer the outside to protect from spills; remember to start the program from the touch screen to make sure the program displays correctly; and alcohol-infused adults will, eventually, take their toll on the booth!

    I can't wait to get the booth out there a bit more!

    ]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Lessons Learned Photobooth Fri, 11 May 2012 17:17:47 GMT
    Photobooth Launch, Part 2 So, the original launch party for the Photobooth was a success, in so much as it didn't fall apart, (mostly) kept taking photos all night, and didn't have any major mechanical glitches. I feel like I need to give it another run, however; I just wouldn't feel 100% confident taking it to a paying customer tomorrow. So I had the seemingly great idea to take the booth to my sister-in-law's Cinco de Mayo party this weekend. In Toledo.

    Now, I still contend that this is a good idea, and is important to do. However, after a long work week, and going out to dinner with my wife to use a gift card before it expired, I still don't have the booth loaded in the car, and I'm planning on leaving as straight from work as possible. Looks like it will be half an hour later than I really wanted to leave! Also, I'm going to have to try and load the booth back into the car either right after the party, or early enough on Sunday to be able to make the 3-hour drive to work Sunday morning. These two issues are the biggest downers on the situation. Now the good side...

    First, I got to have some fun designing the start screen (seen here) and photo templates that are going to be used; it was full-on "corny" mode, going out to the internet and finding a fun "Mexican" font. Could I have gone cornier? Absolutely. However, I thought, in the interest of keeping things legible, it would be best not to. Next, I get to have the niece and nephew have some fun while I dial the settings back in again. They had loads of fun with our booth at the wedding; I can't wait to see them again! And, possibly most importantly, I get to put the booth through its paces with people that may not be as forgiving as those invited to the original launch party.

    This is going to be a lot of work, but it will most definitely be worth it! I'm excited to share some of the fun next week!

    ]]> (Photobooth by Yoder Art Works) Photobooth Travel Fri, 04 May 2012 21:20:55 GMT