Do You See What I See?

Why, why, WHY do we sometimes see different things on our monitors? Occasionally I hear about image brightness or color. Surprisingly though, not too often. When I edit an image, do you see it the same way I did? Depends.

Computer monitors, like almost anything else in the world of tech (thermostats, tire inflators, your Subaru’s speedometer), need to be calibrated to be consistent. What does that mean? Calibration means setting up a device to a specific set of standards. If both our monitors are calibrated, they should match in brightness, color, and contrast.

Note: Out of the box, and adjusted to your visual preference, your monitor is NOT calibrated. Calibration makes it accurate, but not necessarily pretty. How I calibrate my monitors:

Using a specific hardware device and software package (this requires specialized external hardware), I plug this little puck in and stick it to the face of the monitor. I then allow the software to access color settings, and let it rip.

The next few minutes are interesting: The screen goes black, bright white, a hundred shades of gray, and cycles through multiple colors both bright and pastel. The process takes a few minutes. The result? They call it: White Point to 6500K (D65), White level to 120 cd/m2 and Gamma to 2.2 – recommended settings for editing photographs.

If you’re in marketing or communications, or are in the business of reviewing graphics and photography, you need to calibrate your monitors! Ask a photo or graphics vendor what to buy to do it yourself, or ask your IT department to do it for you. Happy editing!

Is Your Photographer Insured?

You make sure the gardener, cable guy, plumber, and roofer are insured, right? Often trade licensing carries a liability insurance requirement, but photography does not. You should still require it.

Liability means that if the photographer, or any other contractor working on your property, breaks something or hurts someone, they will be responsible for it, not you or your company. Altitude Arts carries $2 million in liability, plus other additional coverage.

Here’s a standard “Acord” certificate. Once you confirm that your photographer is insured, it’s your option to request an insurance certificate, or proof that you (your company is mentioned specifically) are covered. There may be small fee.

Not sure? Ask HR. The answer will be an unequivocal yes! Read a short column by Gordon Rudd, CISSP (a risk expert) here. And call me with questions!

Gotcha Covered: How Altitude Arts Backs Up Our Work

Stop worrying.

That’s my gig. Nobody thinks more about lost files more than me. And that should give you peace of mind! That and the fact that Altitude Arts’s backup system is battle-tested.

Here’s why your files are safe: Every shoot, as it’s put onto my editing computer, immediately starts backing itself up both locally and in the cloud. Just copying the files onto my machine puts them in five—FIVE—places:

  • Two cards in the camera
  • My editing machine
  • My local backup drive
  • My cloud backup (Backblaze)

And after that, they get manually dragged, when editing is complete, to another cloud backup, Amazon Web Services. So, six copies total. If something terrible happens, we can probably get our hands on at least one.

Just last month, I was asked by a client for a shoot from 2001. That’s right, twenty years ago. I had it. I unarchived it (sometimes unarchiving carries a small fee, just FYI), reprocessed it, and delivered it the next day. Boom!

And guess what? This complimentary redundancy is included in the price of every single shoot. However, if you want guaranteed backup, covered by an actual insurance policy, that’s extra. Please inquire .

Elevated Event Photography

A few weeks ago, I was asked by Mile High Stadium to cover one of their high-profile events. Mile High, the home of the mighty Denver Broncos, has a large event area on both the east and west sides of the club level.

But this assignment was interesting: There were already photographers covering the guest grip n’ grins and the photo booth area, so what did they need me for? The event coordinator asked me to simply document the decor, activation, lighting and furnishings, and busy guest areas.

But I wanted to try something different. If my sole job was to show the grandeur of a top-shelf event in a top-shelf venue, I was going to make it cool. So I brought a camera remote, a very tall lightstand, and a spare tripod head.

This allowed me to shoot from WAY up above the crowd and see the whole place. Some venues offer vantage points like these and we love them, but this one only had a disabled escalator.

This is an example of where a pro will use technology that matches the client’s needs. Now, Mile High Stadium Events will have some very interesting, but also informative, photos of their setup potential.

For more conference and event photography, click here.

Architectural Exteriors

A few months ago, we made a handful of new architectural exteriors for a great client, UC Health. They had a lot of locations to photograph, but I was honored to be the one selected to shoot the main campus in Aurora. The buildings change regularly, as does the signage.

Although our shoot there a few years ago was a rousing success, enough had changed that the marketing people felt they were due for another shoot.

7-01-HDR22-01-HDRArchitectural exteriors are funny. You pray for (or buy insurance for) great weather, bring in crazy construction lifts, high-resolution equipment, and specialized optics, shoot HDR, panorama, RAW, and whatever other oddball file type you can think of. And then spend at least a couple days in a dark room editing and retouching. Joy!

See more architectural images here.

How Do I Save My Pictures?

Good question.

Our new system is cool and fast, but those little CDs that used to come in the mail (a week later)? Well, you probably won’t miss them.

So here’s a step-by-step guide to saving and backing up your shoot.

  1. Enter your final shoot (not proofs) URL and password. Note the download button.Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 5.23.43 PM
  2. Click “Download” then “Select All”Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 5.24.40 PM
  3. That’s it! They’re on their way to wherever your downloads go.

You can download individual files as well—Just select them one at a time. Be sure to burn them to a disc, copy them to a backup drive or the cloud, and make a note of where they’re living. You’ll need then again soon, I hope.

If you need a CD, just ask! They’re not free anymore (Sorry!) but I’m happy to make you one just the same. Pricing depends on data capacity.

Architects on Location

This month, I was happy to hear from Ware Malcomb, a great California architectural firm with a lovely office right here in downtown Denver. The assignment was to match their existing photographic style, and make location portraits of some of their principals.

They’re great to work with, and happy to accommodate me with my furniture moving and blind tilting.

For actual architectural photography, click here.

CU Health Web Overhaul

This month, I had the pleasure of working with Taylor Carpenter of Carpenter Design on a ground-up web redesign for the Health & Wellness Center at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. As far as Taylor and I are concerned, a cohesive design and photography plan is the only way to totally redo a web site. The visual consistency, the uniform style, and the happy lack of stock imagery are all keys to a successful update.


Our shot list, planned over several days, consisted of everything from groups to headshots to afer-hours architectural exteriors.


The team was amazing from our photo assistants to the crew that actually had to show up at all hours to pose. Note: Summer days are long.


Learn more about the Health & Wellness group here.

HDR For Architecture

What the heck is HDR and why do you care?  HDR_Compare_RGB
If you require architectural photography, whether interiors or exteriors, you need to know about HDR. High Dynamic Range photography combines several captures, usually 3 to 7, of an identical room or building made at different exposures. Special software (Not Photoshop!) combines them to brighten the darkest parts and darken the brightest to deliver a stunning, snappy, highly-saturated final image. The above is a good example, which also includes perspective correction.HDR_Compare_Int_RGB

This summer, the University of Colorado Hospital marketing and communications team commissioned a series of photographs in and around their new construction that would visually convey their core principals. For a building this pretty, I knew they had to be HDR. We used a 30-foot rented construction lift to get above distractions like trees and signage, and made two angles of Pavilion 2 in one evening.

And it works wonders on interiors, too.
Why is this important? Part of the job of the photographer is to, when appropriate, capture what the casual viewer sees. A cool glass building on a great night, or a lavish penthouse interior, really look this way. The camera just needs to be talked into it.

Chez Elway II

File under: Celebrity Architectural Photography

Some months ago, I had the pleasure of photographing details around Chez Elway in Cherry Hills, Colorado for Vantage Controls. (They make the coolest home automation/lighting controls anywhere.) Eventually, Electronic House Magazine got wind of this project and decided to wrap their October 2012 issue around it, cover and all.

So, I brought in a super-high-resolution system (120 mb/file) and spent the day photographing the grounds, inside and out. Yes, that includes the pool house, home theater (which is basically a theater) and the Lombardi Trophies.

Look for it on newsstands October 1. Go Broncos!