Creative Cloud for Photographers Only!

This morning Adobe announced they are offering a version of the Creative Cloud designed for digital photographers.  It is a $9.99/month subscription based program for anyone who currently owns Photoshop CS3 or higher.  This solution aimed at photographers includes the following.

  • Photoshop CC
  • Lightroom 5
  • Behance ProSite
  • 20 GB of cloud storage
  • Access to Adobe tutorials

Took a long time but it seems Adobe listened to the large numbers of people who were less than pleased with the move to the full cloud.  Offer should be up in a couple of weeks and is good if you sign up before 31 December, 2013.  Adobe says the price will remain the same for at lease one year and they have no intention of raising the price in the future. 

From our perspective at Light, this is a no brainer; sign up for this when it is available! 

You can read more from Adobe at the link below. 

Photography Checklists - A simple option to make you a better photographer

We are proud to introduce a simple product designed to make photographers of all skill levels better.  Based on the aviation pocket checklist Hal flew with on every mission, we created Hal Schmitt's Digital Photography Pocket Checklist, or Photo PCL for short.

With digital, we find very few photographers that specialize in only one subject or use only one technique.  That is one of the awesome parts of digital but the hard part is remembering every different technique and all of the critical steps necessary to make the shot.  On any given day or maybe even during any given shoot a photographer may need to use flash, studio strobe, HDR, panorama, focus stacking, neutral density filters, action, and other techniques.  For most shooters, it is a challenge to remember every technique and even more challenging when the shot needs to happen quickly.  This is where the pocket checklist comes in to assist with all of the different techniques.  For reference, the Photo PCL table of contents is shown below.


The modern, operational checklist is based on the early aviation checklists created in the 1930s.  Since then, the aviation community in particular has come to rely on the checklist as the best way to ensure pilots do not forget the critical steps of a procedure, especially when something goes wrong.  The checklist is not designed to teach you a full procedure but instead should remind you of what you already know.  That is why we were able to fit this many checklists into one small publication as each is only one page of the most important steps.  Hal became incredibly familiar with and relied heavily on operational checklists when flying the FA-18.  The pocket checklist or PCL did not contain every part of a procedure but instead only the most important items.  This was critical as the PCL had to fit in the relatively small cockpit and be user friendly in an operational setting.   The aviation PCL is shown below.

FA-18 pocket checklist

FA-18 pocket checklist

Today many other disciplines have turned to the checklist as a means of increasing performance and reducing human error.  The best part is there is an almost immediate return on a very small investment.  Whether doctors, nurses, pilots, or energy industry workers, checklists have become an essential cross check to boost performance.   

The checklists in Hal's Photo PCL are derived from long-form photography procedures compiled from shooting with many instructors and thousands of clients.  We put together what we call the photography "best practices" and then shortened to the critical steps.  For example, the checklist describing shooting a hand-held high dynamic range series is shown below.


The checklist is laid out in a simple to follow format and contains steps as well as warnings, cautions, and notes that help to remember the procedure and all necessary information.  This format is very similar to that used by carrier pilots in an operational setting.   

Often when checklists are introduced to a new discipline, the reaction is that a standardized, box-checking process will never work.  To quote from the Photo PCL introduction, "People often reject standardization as they believe it creates an army of robots all doing exactly the same thing and removes personal though and choice.  In photographic practice, nothing could be farther from the truth.  Technical standardization does not free you from thinking but instead frees you to think and concentrate on the creative and artistic side of your photography."

As Hal often speaks of, flying fighters is one of the most dynamic operations in the world.  It is precisely because of standardization, procedures, and checklists that our pilots are able to work and excel in such an environment.   As we have noted over the last six months of testing these procedures and checklists with our clients at LIGHT, photographers who use the checklists also excel and make better images in a more consistent and repeatable manner.

The Photo PCL is a simple, interactive PDF that may be printed or used electronically.  Our testers have printed the PCL on 5 x 7 cards and taken to them to the field or have referenced on iBooks or with a  PDF viewer.  To download the PCL, visit the link below.


Topaz Labs ReStyle - Quick Look

Take a look at the new plug in from Topaz Labs called ReStyle.  Hal demonstrates and discusses the plug in this quick video.  Restyle offers one click access to create stylized interpretation of your original image.  You can easily make dozens or hundreds of variations when using the 1000+ presets available in ReStyle. 

The presets are awesome; single click mapping of tones and colors to create unique images, but what makes ReStyle even cooler are the additional controls.  Once you apply a preset you can modify the settings, mask the effects, and even change Blend Modes!Blend Modes are one of my favorite features in Photoshop and it is great to have them available in ReStyle.

ReStyle will retail for 59.99 but the price is 29.99 until the 31st of August with the discount code "restyleit ".

Click the link below to check it out.   


Interesting New Plugin - ReStyle

Started playing with a soon-to-be-released plugin from Topaz Labs yesterday.  I will do a more detailed video on this software soon but in the meantime here is a six pack of the same image to show some of the effects.  All five variants of the original photo are made with a single click in Topaz ReStyle.  The plugin contains about 1000 presets to choose from.  The hardest thing so far has been looking through everything! 

Topaz Restyle generated variants of an Alaskan sunset rainbow. 

Topaz Restyle generated variants of an Alaskan sunset rainbow. 

Hal's Videos and all Elephorm Content Streaming Free

Elephorm, the company that hosts Hal's Lightroom videos, transitioned to a "freemium" model today.  That means all content streams free all the time.  If you prefer to download to your local machine or device there is a small fee.  Pretty cool.  Incredible training at a great price.

Hal's current content on Elephorm is Lightroom 4. With that said, about 98% of the content is directly applicable to Lightroom 5.  His new material will be up soonest. 

Fiat Lux! 

Building a Printer Profile Video Demonstration

Hal recently recorded the process to build your own printer profile using an X-Rite Color Munki.  There are many choices out there but as Hal describes, the Munki delivers pretty good "bang for the buck."

If you prefer to read the process, click on the following link to Hal's description over on the Alpha Strike blog. 

California Photo Festival Adds Classes and a New Instructor!

This year we welcome Fletch Murray to our premier instructor list for HDSLR video classes this year! Fletch will give us a thorough and complete education all week long from beginner to advanced and all types of interests. If you just want to learn video capability on your DSLR camera or if you want to become a certified professional we have given you the opportunity to learn as much or as little as you would like!

Fletch is a multi-Emmy award-winning director of photography. He has shot over 200 films in 25 countries from commercials for Coors, Kawasaki, Alpine, Universal Studios Jaws Lagoon etc. to 90-minute documentaries. He has shot with a number of cameras made by Panavision, Mitchell, Cinemascope, and Arriflex. Of his eighteen documentaries, the first won the Chicago Film Festival, his last documentary, ‘Google Me the Movie’, was spotlighted on ‘Oprah’. Fletch has shot hand-held, car-to-car, and helicopter, aerial shots in his award-winning career.  An Award-winning, Full Service Marketing Group  "The Longest Running Canon Boot Camp in the World"

Check out his California Photo Festival schedule here!

What You Should Know About Registration

 Common phone calls we get about the festival are two things.

1. How does 1+1 work and

2. What happens when a class I "need" is full?

In a quick answer for the first one there are 2 places to get this information and now I'll add a third one for easy access! Check our Facebook Notes Page as well as our FAQ page for common questions and how-to's here.

The 1+1 pass is something that came up for attendees who bring their friends, club members and loved ones who share in the passion of photography. First, one of you gets to choose who will register first and pay the $798 registration; you will complete the pass registration form and create one account. Once we receive that registration form we will contact you and ask for your +1 name an email (or you can email us the information). We will then make a coupon code for the +1 person so they can create their own unique account and start their schedule. You and your +1 can decide how to handle the “split” of the registration fee behind the scenes. So bring a friend! It saves $100 on each of your week passes!

As a follow up to that, if you have already registered for a gold week pass you can still bring a friend! We like to reward those who bring people with them in order to get more attendees enjoying our awesome event. All you do is contact us with your +1 information and we will explain the details!

2. What happens when "the class I NEED" is full?

This is going to happen since so many of our classes are small and awesome! First of all remember that there are a lot of really wonderful classes on the schedule and don't worry about the few classes that are full. I have personally chosen for you 15+ (and adding) top industry photographers to not only teach you their photography joys in life, but to get you to expand out of your box and try new topics, subjects and workflows. Don't get tied down to a make it or break it class because you may learn just as much and have just as much photographic fun in the next class over. If you've never taken a Hollywood portrait class, give it a try this year! Have you ever taken the time to learn color theory and find out how it can improve your photography? We know that basic classes, lectures and workflow aren’t the “spectacular” topics like long exposures, but there is a lot of important and useful information that you may find worth the time spent. Also, don’t forget to take the intro classes. The instructors want to make them mandatory and I know you’ll sign up for what is the intro to a class you’re taking since you don’t want to be left behind or miss out.

OK, having said all of that...consider the first month or two of the schedule as "trial based".  We have assigned instructors to rooms and venues behind the scenes and are watching to see what fills and what gets higher numbers and input from registered attendees. As they fill, if and when available we will move an instructor to a larger room. For instance, if I have an instructor booked at LIGHT (holds 16) and 30 people want the class, I will most likely be moving that instructor to a 30-person room at Embassy and we'll learn on our laptops instead of the LIGHT"s Lab PC computers.

Now, there is a limit to expansion.

Our goal for the festival is to give you a hands-on, one of a kind experience that very few other festivals, expos or conventions can give you. The only way to achieve this is to keep smaller group numbers in outdoor shooting sessions and hands-on classes. I hope you can help support the spirit of the festival when we say there just isn't enough room this year and hopefully you will try another class or instructor and experiment. But do not hesitate to let us know what you're looking for...I may just be able to add another instructor if we get more attendees asking...nicely. I will also let you in on a secret. Many registered attendees overbook themselves and fill their schedule beyond their mental and energy capacity! If you watch the schedule, even during the week of the festival, you will see people unregister from classes. Only registered attendees will have first dibs at open spaces.

We realize that it is tough to see "class full”. And within reason we will do our best to accommodate the large number of people coming this year. And we do hope that you keep coming (and register earlier) to get a jump on those popular topics!

If any of you are interested in receiving push notifications through an app for when classes have spots added, or classes have been added please leave those comment below.

Thanks for reading! Thanks for helping support the festival, it truly is a very unique and wonderful event and we hope to see you come this October!

Victoria Schmitt and the LIGHT Team.

Schedule Launched for Click4! California Photo Fest!

We are proud to announce the California Photo Festival Click4! website is now live and ready for action!

This year we invited a few new names to add to our already awesome list of top photography pros. Stay tuned to ourFacebook page and Blog for updates, tips, tricks, and information on classes you might find interesting!

Remember to use the Early Bird discount if you register before August 7th.  Enter "EB2013" and save $50 off of your Gold Week Pass.

Another great option is to bring a friend and use the 1 + 1 pass.  This saves each participant $100!

For Military and Student offers please contact the office and read our terms on the website.

You can also find more pricing information on our registration page.

Looking forward to seeing you, learning, and making great images this fall. - Hal & Victoria

How to Use a Coupon Code to Save you Money This Year!

Here's what you do:
Register for the Gold Week Photo Festival Pass
Enter this code into the discount area of your shopping cart   EB2013  and make sure your press "apply".
Once you see your discount applied continue on to finish registration by logging in and making your schedule!
If you already have an account from the last year just login with your email and password and finish the registration for Click4!
If you are new, welcome! Just create your account, accept the terms and conditions (after you've read them of course) and finish your registration.

The $5 Photo Accessory (that could save your life)


As nature, landscape, and wildlife photographers we often place ourselves in locations and situations that are a bit off the beaten path. When we do go out to make photographs it is worth thinking a little about possible contingencies and how we will handle them should something occur.  As the most basic precaution, I consider one of the least expensive pieces of gear a photography essential, the simple whistle.

In our modern society, we tend to take our safety or our ability to rapidly communicate for granted.  Sometimes that is the case.  For example, if you are out with me you know you are with an instructor who is certified in CPR and first aid, has had extensive survival training, and handles high stress situations well.  More often though, most photographers think if they have their cell phone they are ready and help is just a call away.  But it is amazing how often we find little to no cell coverage, a dead battery, or a situation where the phone is just out of reach.

As a pilot, I learned to plan for contingencies and to prioritize redundancy in safety or communication systems.  To back up your phone one of the simplest preparations you can make is to carry a whistle when you go out to make photographs.  Survival situation after survival situation has proven that a whistle is a "must have" piece of gear.  Look at any list of items you should have in the field or wilderness and a whistle will be on it.  Oh by the way, it is not enough to have the whistle with you, have it on your person and easily accessible with either hand.

Photographers in the field are just like hikers, campers, and other outdoor enthusiasts.  Interestingly, they tend not to think of themselves as such because our hobby, passion, or profession is so dependent on high tech gear.  But in most cases there is no difference. As an example, Hal has a friend in Alaska who recently almost lost his life while out in the wild.  Overcoming incredible odds he was rescued and recovered, but only because of his whistle.  He was in a bad position and the only way he could try and find help was to blow his whistle.  He blew for over an hour and finally someone heard and investigated. They joked afterwards that his whistle was the $2 accessory that saved his life.  Pretty amazing considering the guy had thousands of dollars of other gear with him. It is also worth mentioning that Hal's friend broke one of the cardinal rules, he went out alone without using the buddy system (the topic of another post.)

So when you are packing up the camera, lenses, and tripod, make sure to put a simple whistle in your pocket.  If you ever run across him in the field, ask Hal to see the four essential pieces of shooting gear: Hoodman HoodLoupe, cell phone for DOF calculations/comms, a good knife, and a whistle.

Always remember making the photograph is optional but making it home is mandatory. (Paraphrased from my mountaineering buddies.)

Fiat Lux!