Our very scary Halloween contest results.

You fantastic photographers responded enthusiastically when we announced our Halloween photo contest this October. With big-time cash prizes on the line, the submissions were varied and quite simply–awesome. We had over 5000 photos submitted ranging from epically spooky scenes that may fuel more than a few nightmares to the unbearably adorable unbounded excitement of first trick-or-treating trips.

Our fearless judging panel, which included Dracorubio whose jaw-dropping work always leaves us inspired, sifted through all the submissions and chose four distinct photographs that really captured the essence of our favorite holiday.

Grand Prize — Sarah Cruzdsc_4780-x2

2nd Prize – Julie Peveto
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3rd Prize – Richard Terborg
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4th Prize – Thomas Lieser
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To see more of the great images from our Halloween contest, you can browse some of the top submissions here. A special thanks to all who participated! You helped make our Halloween truly memorable.

How to make Halloween photography a treat.

Our friends at The Photographer Academy have released this great video tutorial to ensure you’re taking the scariest, spookiest, and eeriest photos possible this Halloween. Here are Mark Cleghorn’s four favorite tips to create fun, bone-chilling photos.

Keep it creepy by:

1. Use two back lights, lighting your subjects from both sides (right and left) with different colored gels to give a haunting feeling.

2. Use black seamless paper as a background to let light graduate and be absorbed

3. Set up a front light with a simple strip box to give your subjects the illumination and good transition across all subjects’ faces. This lets the light wrap around the subjects, if even moving, and gives a natural look.

4. Smear vaseline on an acrylic sheet and shoot through it for a foggy appearance.

Do you have any go-to tricks that make shooting Halloween photography a treat? Share them in the comments!

Photographer Profile: Dracorubio

With Halloween fast approaching, we wanted to highlight the creatively dark and fantastical work of SmugMug customer, Roderique Arisiaman. Roderique’s images take viewers on an imaginative journey, so much so that we couldn’t resist asking him to judge our upcoming SmugMug Halloween Photo Contest (launching soon, very soon!). Please note, some images are NSFW, so please review his website first before sharing with younger photography fans. Read on to discover Roderique in his own words.

Hello, and welcome to my story. My name is Roderique Arisiaman, and I’m a photographer and digital artist known to many as Dracorubio.

I used to be a 3–D animator, motion-graphics artist, and visual-effects artist. Photography crossed my path a few years ago. At first, I was only documenting what I saw, but I soon discovered I could use my skills with Photoshop and other software to actually tell the stories I wanted. Working with a single image, instead of a set of frames, allowed me to work fast and get my idea done.

I will always stay a creative person. I don’t know if I will keep doing photography and photo manipulation. Maybe some new kind of creative art form will emerge from our technical advances, or maybe I’ll pick up wood carving or oil painting after a few years. As long as I can keep telling stories and design worlds, I will.

Being a digital artist.

I have a lively imagination, and being a digital artist allows me to create worlds that are hard to create in real life. Additionally, my ideas are quickly realized. Working digitally is usually a personal effort, where I can dive into my own thoughts and music and shut myself off from the world around me. And best of all, digital mistakes are only a CMD-Z click away. 😉

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Ay Carambaaaa by Dracorubio.

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Esmeralda by Dracorubio.

About creativity.

I have my ups and downs when it comes to creativity; I never fail in ideas and concepts—my mind is full of them. As are my sketchbooks. I do have times that I can’t get myself to create…sometimes I have too many ideas and have no idea where to start. But I’m learning to work on that, tackling one idea at a time. When I’m not creating, I try to immerse myself with inspiring stimuli like movies, comics, theatre, and museums. And from time to time, it’s also important to just disconnect from the creative whirlwind and be in the everyday moment. Things like going to the gym, spending time with loved ones, and having a good time. It’s a tough balancing act, but I try to make it work.

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Precious by Dracorubio.

Creating a compelling image.

The photograph acts as my canvas and starting point for my edit. It dictates my main lighting and the color palette. Also, the dynamic of the photo directs the final image. I always try to retain as much of the original photo as possible. I have a few images where there is too much digital and not enough photograph, and they do bother me.

No matter what the subject of the image you’re trying to create is, make sure you have your story to tell. Figure out the narrative of your image and how you can best describe it in one single image. What or who is your main subject? What props are needed? What is your color scheme? If you have these written or sketched down, you can start creating.

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Hellraiser by Dracorubio.

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Spiderman by Dracorubio.

Also, don’t try to recreate the exact image you have in your head; that will never happen and will leave you unhappy. Allow yourself freedom and room for experimentation. Step out of your comfort zone.

Find what tickles you, what gives you a tingle in your tummy. Follow that path and look for other creatives in your field, see what they are doing, and learn from them. And never get yourself stuck inside this one field. Go out and be inspired by everything around you. Read a book, go to a museum, or have a walk in nature. Be sure to enjoy real life as well.

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Do you believe there is a demimonde, Mr. Chandler? by Dracorubio

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Valentine by Dracorubio

Five Reasons I Ditched my Giant DSLR for a Compact Mirrorless Camera

Guest Post by Brent Gilmore, SmugMug customer and subject behind our SmugMug Film ‘Just a Dad with a Camera’.

“The best camera in the world”… we all know the biggest cliché in photography, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  Because, as I learned firsthand, if your amazing, bleeding-edge camera stays in your closet, it’s certainly not the best camera in the world, at least not for you.

I like to think of myself as a “just a dad with a camera.” But for a stretch of 18 months I was just a dad with a camera in the closet. Then I “moved down” from a pro-style DSLR to a mirrorless compact. And I am over-the-moon, blown-away happy.

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Predictably, when my wife was pregnant with our first child I upgraded my Nikon DSLR, which I had been shooting with casually for almost 12 years, for the just released Nikon D800 with a Nikkor 24-70mm. Yes, I spent the equivalent of our new baby daughter’s first year of college tuition on a huge pro DSLR and lens combo.

And for me it was love at first sight—both baby and camera. Neither one left my side. Every day was a formal portrait session. Almost hour-by-hour I documented our daughter’s life for the next 18 months. Until our second child, a son, was born.

Suddenly, my setup seemed way too cumbersome and photography became no fun, for three main reasons:

  1. Carrying or pushing a stroller with two very young, active children while attempting to use my almost six-pound camera with one hand was impossible.
  2. Waiting for those massive 36MP files to process was maddening, straining both my MacBook Pro and my patience.
  3. Storing all those files was becoming unsustainable.  A casual afternoon in the park might leave me with 8-10GB of photos. Even with today’s cheaper online storage solutions (like SmugMug), I just don’t want to have to deal with another terabyte of family photos every year.

So, the beast of a camera went on the top shelf in our junk closet. Eighteen months and two family vacations later, I realized I hadn’t touched the beast even once. I either passed up opportunities to document our life as a young family, or I haphazardly tried to capture fleeting moments with my iPhone.

Either way, I wasn’t having fun. I missed shooting. I missed capturing more than just iPhone moments. But not enough to haul the DSLR beast down from the closet.

What I needed was a camera to fill the gap between my iPhone and my DSLR, something with better quality than the former, and way better portability than the latter.

Armed with zero knowledge of any brand but Nikon I went to my local camera store. Based on my must-have list, they introduced me to the Fuji X-T10. Quite simply, I fell in love, and fast. It seemed to meet every requirement and then some.

Never mind my original quest for a “gap” camera. This compact mirrorless wound up completely replacing my DSLR, and I couldn’t be happier. I am shooting, processing and posting every day again. I’m loving the results, and, most importantly, I AM HAVING FUN AGAIN.

The five reasons I am in love with my new mirrorless:

  1. It shoots JPG and RAW. This gives me the option to edit in Lightroom or use processed JPGs right from the camera OR both! This is a perfect scenario for photos I just can’t wait to share on Instagram or with grandparents, but allows me the flexibility to edit RAW files in Lightroom later. This fits my workflow perfectly — share in the moment, then perfect my favorite photos to showcase on SmugMug later.
  2. Always Connected. The Fuji has built in Wi-Fi with an amazing mobile app! Using the mobile app is the simplest, fastest, and most reliable way I have found to immediately transfer and share photos. Half of the fun of photography, for me, is sharing and now I find myself doing that twice as much.
  3. Faster editing. My Lightroom time has been cut from hours to minutes. That’s not hyperbole, I literally mean minutes. Because the sensor is smaller, file size is relatively tiny while not sacrificing any of the image quality I actually need. I spend time massaging the photos I love to perfection — not staring at the Lightroom ‘processing’ bar. Happiness and productivity up! Frustration way down!
  4. It’s compact. The X-T10 is small, OK, it isn’t pocketable but it’s tiny in comparison to the DSLR.  The camera has become an extension of me and literally travels everywhere with me with NO hassle.  Embarrassingly (or not) it is literally on my shoulder even when I take the trash out!
  5. It’s affordable. Remember, I’m just a dad with a camera, not a rock star, so the price was incredibly attractive. Body and lens set back my childrens’ college fund (kidding!) exactly $1,000.  With the proceeds from the sale of my DSLR I actually made back a chunk of change. Change that I can later use on some really amazing, really affordable Fujinon lenses.

The first real test was a family vacation to Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts this summer. It was the most fun and effortless shooting I’ve ever experienced. And the photos I took are some of my favorite, ever.

Maybe the old cliché is right after all: the best camera in the world is the one you have with you. Provided that that camera makes photography effortless and fun — and helps you create images that are part of an enjoyable, sustainable process.

Check out some of the first images I captured with the new camera and judge for yourself. I credit all of the photos and the amazing shooting experience to my new Fuji X-T10 and the tiny 18mm pancake lens.

Cerie and Xavier flying east into the rising sun.

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See the full gallery here.

Find Brent at:

SmugMug: GilmoreGang.com

Instagram: @lbrentgilmore

The dark art of concert photography.

By Sarah Arnold, QA

I’ve been surrounded by music my entire life. I grew up in a family of musicians, one of whom toured the world in the sixties. Being drawn to concert photography was only natural for me as music was such a vital part of our family. I loved feeling the music through my feet and eventually through my fingertips while photographing the musicians on stage. Starting at the age of 14, concert photography has become a large part of my photography business. I’ve learned a lot over the past 10 years through huge amounts of trial and error. Here are some of the things I’ve learned that can be useful to anyone just getting started in concert photography.

Getting in

Don’t be shy. The majority of the concerts I’ve shot, I’ve walked straight up to the band and asked them directly, “Would you mind if I take photos?” 99% of the time, they are excited a photographer is interested and have absolutely no problem saying yes. You have to be a bit of reporter when trying to track down the band. I usually find where they’re located backstage or wait until they are on stage setting up and simply approach them. In many cases, I’ve ended up becoming friends with the band members and am given stage passes as well as put on the guest list for future shows. Stage passes are key for great shots of the crowd and band interaction. These shots are usually the ones bands use for marketing purposes, which in turn can bring a lot of traffic to your site when the band gives you proper credit. This brings up a very important rule: ALWAYS make sure the band is giving you credit when they post your photos. ALWAYS. This can be a verbal or written agreement via email. You can also draft a quick and simple photo session agreement before releasing photos to the band.

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Want this shot? You’re gonna need a stage pass!

Plan ahead. Some concert venues require permission from the venue as well as the band, sometimes as much as three weeks prior to the event. In such cases, reaching out to the location on social media is a good way to start. Mention that you’re a photographer, share some previous concert galleries you’ve photographed, and tell them you would love their permission to photograph at their venue. Persistence is key in this case. Follow up with them if you don’t hear back. Not hearing back from the band manager? Try reaching out to individual members of the band. Still not hearing anything? Reach out to other bands in the line-up. Ask if they would like your photography services. Even if you don’t get approval from the headliner, you can still shoot for the opening bands. They can report their experience back to the headliner and, in the future, you’re more likely to get approval once they’ve seen what you’re made of!
Get official. When shooting for festivals, the best approach is to start at their official website. They usually have a “media” section where you can request to be part of their media team. This process can be a bit more picky. You must have a concert portfolio and usually they require a list of all the gear you own and plan to bring. Most of the time you’re signing a contract saying they have full rights or “own” your work, but you’ll get attribution for the shots you’ve taken. The bigger the band, the more likely they are to take full rights from you — meaning you can’t sell the photos. If this is the case, make sure you’re being compensated properly. Keep in mind you won’t be making money selling prints and digital downloads. Calculate this into your final price so you’re walking away happy and not feeling taken advantage of.

Gear up, Buttercup

The bare necessities.

Concert halls by nature are dark, making low-light lenses a necessity. The lower the aperture, the better (f/2.8 and below) because the lens opens up wider, allowing more light to reach the sensor. This means you can get away with using lower ISOs, minimizing the graininess of your photos. You’ll still need a faster ISO setting given the lighting, approximately 1000 to 2000 in order to not get too much movement. A shutter speed of 1/50 of a second is the lowest you should set your camera to when shooting drummers and other band members who are likely moving very quickly.

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Don’t let graininess overshadow the emotion you’re capturing.

Don’t get flashy, kid.

Whether it’s natural spot lighting or a colorful light show, concerts have unique lighting systems. Usually the stage lighting used produces a much more natural capture, while flash can distract the musicians during their performance and can interfere with the experience for those involved. A good rule of thumb is to refrain from using a flash. It won’t add anything to your photos that the stage lighting isn’t already providing for you.

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Say yes to starbursts and no to flash.

Beware the spots.

When relying on stage lighting, you have to be careful that your shutter speed isn’t TOO fast. Lights pulsate in a way that the eye can’t see, but the camera can. So you don’t end up with spotted lighting, a slightly longer exposure will allow the sensor to have full light on the entire band. When I shoot concerts, I tend to have my camera set to aperture priority. This way I ensure I stay at the lowest aperture and don’t miss capturing key moments while adjusting the manual settings thanks to constantly changing light.

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Streaking is only fun in college, not in concert photography.

Get the shot!

Framing.

Details, details, details. Bands love getting close-up shots of each member working their craft and playing their instrument like a pro. One shot I love to capture is where you can see every single band member’s face. This can be tough given all the equipment on stage, the placement of the drums, band member movements, etc. But getting a full shot of the entire band is a money maker. Some of my favorite shots are when the band members interact with each other. It shows a bit of fun and the relationship that the band has with each other.

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Forget cowbell, 2016 is the year of the tambourine.

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I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille.

Location.

Moving around is key. You want to get entire venue shots showing the band and the concert attendees from behind, as well as those awesome detail shots taken from the front of the stage. The bigger the band, the more likely the front of the stage will be crowded and difficult to navigate. Staying in one place is easier, but you’ll miss some great shots. Usually if you show concert-goers your camera, they’ll move out of your way to allow you to change location. This is another example where having a stage pass comes in handy. You can skip the crowds by being directly on the stage.

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Sold-out crowd = visual bragging rights.

Nail that action!

Overshooting is better than undershooting. Capturing those hair tossing, spit-screaming moments can be tough, so I have my camera on multi-shot mode when I anticipate some action is about to happen. Within four or five shots, there’s usually that golden moment that results in a perfect action shot. Watch the musicians and their mannerisms. Is the singer highly animated? Does the bassist toss their hair around? Capture that! They make for great photos. I love watching drummers because they usually have great facial expressions and use every muscle in their body to keep beat. Watch for band members jumping around. Air shots are fun to capture and fans love buying them.

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All about that bass.

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Capturing character and the beat.

When the curtain closes.

Fix it in post!

Since you’ll be using higher ISOs, graininess will be inevitable. When editing with Lightroom, I use a tad bit of “Noise Reduction” > “Luminance.” This makes a surprisingly huge difference in the amount of grain that appears within your images without making the image look too doctored.

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The only noise in the photo should be the band.

Don’t sell yourself short.

I get paid for my work in a variety of ways. Sometimes the band and I have agreed to a price before the concert (which is usually an hourly rate since one set is typically an hour). However, a lot of the time, I’m showing up to a concert where the band doesn’t know me and I’m trying to get my foot in the door and need to show them what I’m made of. In this case, I bring business cards and let them know their photos will be available for purchase on my website.

Share the wealth!

This is where the beauty of SmugMug comes into play. With SmugMug, I can set up a gallery to show up on a map. Band members can use this map to locate their event and view their galleries. It’s also where they can purchase downloads or prints, and share the gallery on social media for their fans to purchase from as well. Using watermarks and a right-click message, I make sure my work is protected from theft. These features have helped my business grow in such an unexpected way. Thanks to SmugMug, I can shoot for strangers and sell my work without having to meet them or get any of their information in advance.

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No “Where’s Waldo” here!

Encore.

The dark art of concert photography can truly be a vividly beautiful experience. Whether you’re photographing a large festival or just checking out your local band, you can learn so much about your camera, how to interact with big clients, and how to market your business. Follow my tips and you’ll drastically improve your results and how you connect with the artists on stage. What are some of your experiences in concert photography? What bands would you like to shoot? I would love to hear in the comments below!

Check out more concert photos by Sarah Arnold here.

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Play us out, Sam.

 

 

 

SmugMug rescues nearly 200 million priceless memories from Picturelife.

SmugMug has always embraced the mission of being Heroes for our customers—leaping tall buildings to make sure their photos are safe, beautiful and accessible. So, when we heard that Picturelife, a photo/video storage company, ended their service without a way for their customers to preserve their photos, we knew we had to do something (and fast) to help reunite the Picturelife community with their memories.

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The SmugMug team offered its services to Picturelife and worked tirelessly over several weeks to develop and implement a plan to reconnect Picturelife files with their owners. As a service to Picturelife and its customers, SmugMug is now offering a zero-cost solution for Picturelife customers to access and download their photos and videos.

Our number one concern is putting as many Picturelife photos and videos as we can into the hands of their rightful owners. We’re making their photos available to them at no charge and no obligation.  If some of Picturelife’s former customers want to become a part of SmugMug’s family of photographers, we’ll welcome them with open arms, but that’s not our primary goal.  Helping Picturelife’s customers preserve their priceless memories is our goal and just another example of our mission and passion in action: providing a safe, beautiful home for everyone’s photos.

If you’re a former Picturelife customer looking to retrieve your photos and videos please visit our Picturelife FAQ page to get the process started.

Latest “gallery” hanging at SmugMug HQ – Bella Kotak!

The SmugMug headquarters can sometimes feel less like an office and more like an art gallery as you wander the halls and corridors. We have hundreds of photographs from our customers and employees hanging on our walls and are adding more all the time. Recently, we had the opportunity to hang some new images from Bella Kotak, whose unique style has earned her renown in the photography world. Blending her incredible portraits with editing and retouching mastery, Bella produces otherworldly images that can transport the viewer into a fantasy world of imagination and color.

untitled-8-2The photos ready for hanging!

untitled-16-2Sneak peeks of the gallery hanging.

IMG_1854No crooked photos on Brent’s (Facilities) watch!

untitled-27-2Straight as an arrow.

untitled-70Smuggy tape measure FTW!

untitled-68Bella’s gallery looks stunning!

Any time we get a new selection of photographs to hang, we like to make a little celebration of it and include folks from the office who want to have a chance to learn more about the artist and their work. Bella creates mystical worlds in her photographs. Playing with light and color, she weaves visual daydreams with evocative portraits of strong females submerged in incredible scenes and settings. Her images take you away, creating a story in your mind of the subjects or at least leave you with questions, wondering where the subject came from and what circumstances might have brought her here.

untitled-48It didn’t take long for the new gallery to gain attention.

IMG_1875The Bella Kotak Gallery is open for visitors!

IMG_1895The photos are a huge hit at HQ.

IMG_1909Mobile Apps Guy, Ian, plays docent.

untitled-22Director of Operations Shandrew takes it all in.

unspecified Haley from QA and Designer Chris are inspired to begin a career in modeling.

untitled-138The complete Bella Kotak Gallery at SmugMug HQ

Our passion for photography is what fuels our fire, and we’re incredibly proud to display inspiring images like Bella’s in our Mountain View headquarters. Visit Bella’s SmugMug site to see more of her work. If you’re not a SmugMug customer, Bella even has a sign-up special that will give new customers 15% off their subscription.

untitled-25-3YAY!