20May

A great deal for Photoshop lite

Love me some Costco – great deals, yummy food, quality products. While shopping there with my daughters last weekend, I couldn’t help but notice the great deal Costco has for Adobe’s Photoshop Elements.


Most list the product for $139 (including Adobe), maybe as low as $99, but Costco has it for $79.99.


They only have it for Windows (didn’t see a Mac version there), but so many of you are on PCs, and it’s a great program to own. A must have piece of software for many photo enthusiasts wanting to get into Photoshop, but not interested in shelling out a ton for the full CS4 version -a version where they may only use a small percentage of the amazing functions available.


Click this link to see the software on Costco’s site: Costco-Adobe PS Elements

Enjoy Photogurus and Photoguruesses….

08May

The White Whale


Although I’ve never had the chance to own a German-made rangefinder Leica camera (always wanted to – one of my dream cameras), I just wanted to share this dope Special Edition All-White Leica M8.


Sure it’s around $8500 (ouch), the black and silver versions listing around $6500 (what a deal!) and the Safari camouflage version at ten grand, but at least you can tip your nose up as other peasant photographers capture images around you with their American and Japanese counterparts.


In all seriousness, Leica makes an amazing product, simple, clean, durable, and unassuming (I know, that’s a bit ironic with the price tag, but most who aren’t into photography don’t realize the price or quality of it).


Made famous by photographers such as Henri Cartier Bresson and Diane Arbus, their lenses have been top-notch for years, and past models dating back to the 50s are always in demand (just type in Leica on eBay and see for yourself).


If you just received your bail-out check or play shortstop for the Yankees, you can call Leica at 800-222-0118 in inquire about adding this cool 10.3 megapixel gem for your collection. Don’t forget to go back to Congress when you need to buy a few lenses for it.


And when Leica sends me a free one, I’ll test it out and add more info. 🙂


17Apr

Want to become a pro photographer?


I want to have a career as a professional photographer.

I hear this from so many people whether through email, at live lectures and events, or from my students at various workshops. But I must admit, in all, it’s a very tough competitive industry where the money is even harder to come by than it was 20 years ago-not to mention the oversaturation of the stock licensing market – can something be oversaturated? Is that an oxymoron? Can’t find it in my dictionary. I digress.


Back to the industry, from 1991 (when I graduated college) to today, the changes have been dramatic, some positive, some negative (I remember when my stock agency contract went from 7 pages to 27 pages in a matter of 6 years). As always, you must have so much more than a good portfolio to make it- and no one or company will do it for you- you have to do it all yourself. It ain’t easy, and sacrifices, luck, hearing “no” over and over, as well as risk are all part of the game. But more importantly, you need to be professional- and that means learning business (more an that later).

In 1995, I used the first digital SLR Nikon put out, the E2s, and could see the changes coming down the pike (there I am at the Eco-Challenge adventure race in ’95 using the camera above the Colorado River). And although some say digital has been a big positive to the industry (exact copies of image files instead of poor-quality dupes, fixing mistakes post-capture, and the famous cloning tool to add that third eye to your friend’s head), I would say that it too has it’s pros and cons – one of which being the fact that you have to buy new gear all the time, new software, and new computers- it’s an expense, not an investment everyone.

Plus, I carry more gear than ever these days in the post 9/11 hell that is airport travel – ugh- someone buy me a new shoulder and a couple of knees please – and a whiffle-ball bat to beat on the seven TSA agents when they decide to test every roll of film – all 150 rolls at midnight (true story in Las Vegas in 2004 after catchin’ six other flights where they didn’t do this).

I was asked recently what it is to be a professional photographer. If it was someone who made over 50% of their income from photography, or just someone who gets published from time to time. As a full-time commercial travel photographer for 19 years, I’d say a pro photographer is someone who not only makes a living from photography, but one who charges appropriate fees, is technically sound with their equipment and craft, respectful and professional with his/her subjects, and one who uses proper business practices. That, to me, is what this job is about.


Another example of this is learning the art of negotiating, and realizing that if you want to do this for a living, you have to go back and forth with clients about contracts, rates, and rights. I recently had a client want to license an image, trying to pay rates half of what we normally charge (rates that really fit into 1989 and not 2009). We respectfully declined when they said they wouldn’t pay higher fees than theirs- the excuse was the economy (as if to say my business is not affected by the economy – I love that new argument – “our tight budget” has always been a staple for low rates). The following day the client came back and licensed rights to the image at our quoted rate. If photographers don’t learn how to value their image and determine specific fees for their services, they won’t survive in the industry.

More to learn more? My Business of Photography workshop isn’t scheduled yet for 2009, but does run from time to time, and we hope to have a date in place soon. I also offer personal consultations where I can focus on your goals and interests, as well as discussing specific industry information. I can discuss some aspects of being a pro at other workshops (such as the one coming up in June in Seattle, or Santa Fe in July), although my time during these courses is usually dedicated to the topic at hand. Here’s our main workshop page for more info.

In all, becoming a pro photographer is possible. Here’s to your dreams and ambitions- make ’em happen, it’s worth it. Enjoy your week everyone!


07Apr

Point-&-Shoots in the realm of 15 Megapixels


Recently, I wanted to upgrade my 8 megapixel point-&-shoot, a Sony Cybershot which I loved (it had a large touch screen and was very compact, especially amazing since it originally came out in 2005). But as the PhotoGuru, I needed to keep my street cred, so I began the search.


When I saw Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FX150, 14.7 megapixel compact camera about the same size of my Sony (possibly a tiny bit smaller at 2.12” x 3.8” x .98”) my mind said “dope!” and my late 90s lingo said “no you di-ent!”. It’s almost the size of a business card, just under an inch thick (non-chunky-style), and weighing in just over 5 ounces. Wow.


It wasn’t easy to find one in stock, but after searching the web, and making a few calls (with pain-in-the-rear reps tryin’ to fake the “in-stock” sales pitch), Amazon.com’s third party company provided me with one in stock (even Panasonic currently lists the camera as “backordered”).

I’m still getting to know my new little friend, just having it for less than a month, but I’m diggin’ the RAW capability (that’s right, RAW files, rarely seen in point & shoot cameras today), the massive 14.7 MPs (sure it’s packed into a small 1/1.72″ CCD image sensor, but what would anyone expect for the great price and compact size?), as well as all of the quick menu options (giving me the ability to change flash option, ISO, as well as other features on the fly).


For some reason, the auto rotate function isn’t working, so I have to rotate any vertical shots to review them larger, taking up the entire 2.7″ LCD screen (hope to fix that or figure out why), but in general I’m very pleased with this compact beauty – the sleek black body very stylish and functional (I like to roll GQ style).

I also feel the f/2.8 wide-angle Leica mass-produced lens (28mm to 100mm) is of quality, and I dig the new auto-focus tracking feature (focusing for you without touching the shutter button).

The 8 GB SDHC memory card (I picked up after the fact – made by SanDisk) gives me over 300 images on the highest file size (RAW + JPEG, which is what I use on my 35mm DSLR)- more than enough as long as I download every so often (which is best to do anyway since you never want to trust your memory card to store your memories for too long). Plus, with the Lithium-ion rechargeable battery draining down after 330 snaps, I simply recharge the battery while I download the shots (hoping to pick up an extra battery as a backup). The camera even has 50MB of built in memory if you jam up with an extra card- thanks for caring Panasonic.

The Lumix DMC-FX150 also has a nice ISO range from 100 to 6400, with many exposure functions = Manual, Program AE, Movie/ Motion Picutre, Intelligent Auto mode, along with many Scene modes. I always love the Manual exposure mode option, giving me full control of my camera when the meter is fooled. The metering mode options even include Spot metering. Sure, it doesn’t offer an HD movie mode as other Lumix compact cameras do, but I wasn’t looking for HD in a compact digital camera personally – what am I, movie-boy?

Here are a few shots I captured with the camera this past month:

For more on all the technical specs, click here: Lumix DMC-FX150 tech specs

For more on the camera in general, go here: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150

I highly recommend it to anyone- sure the digital noise increases with a higher ISO over 100 (mainly due to a small image sensor), but you can’t expect everything in such a beautiful small package. All this in a price range around $250. Well played
Panasonic, well played– nice idea for my photo life.

02Apr

Nevada 50


Old West Highway, desolate road, traveled one summer week,
Blue sky days, sagebrush seas, mirages from asphalt heat


Mining towns far apart, dreams of prosperity gone so fast,
Jets thunder over petroglyphs, native hunters present and past


Countless characters with tall tales, life engraved throughout their face,
From Austin, Stagecoach, Middlegate, Cold Springs, & Majors Place


I drive the waves of mountain ranges, ridgelines of Pinõn pine,
The type of scenery to help the thoughts depart a cluttered mind


This desert is often branded as a vast and wasted land,
I see its stark and wild beauty touched by a higher hand


2002 poem by Sean Arbabi while on assignment capturing Nevada’s desolate Highway 50

13Mar

My images in Via magazine & Nat Geo Traveler this month


Check out some of my photographs in the current issues of a number of publications:


National Geographic Traveler’s March 2009 issue ran one small image on page 88 for an article entitled “Good As Gold”, originally captured in Downieville, California. It’s no cover shot, but it makes my Mom happy.

And in Via magazine’s March/ April 2009 issue published numerous images from Angel Island State Park, Death Valley National Park, and Yellowstone National Park (a full page, a spread, and a few smaller shots inside).

I’ve shot over 100 assignments with Via magazine, a publication for AAA (Automobile Association of America) – great editorial staff and one of the biggest travel magazines in the US (not on newstands, but over 2 million circulation). Support these people – not only will you get a jammin’ travel mag, but they’ll tow you in a pitch.

I’ve also been published in the past numerous times with National Geographic in their books, calendars, and magazines including Traveler and Adventure. I hope to do more for the iconic photo-driven publication in the future, including feature assignments if given the chance. We’ll see- I’ve have to send ’em a nice fruit cake this holiday season.

Also on Sunday, March 1st, most of the San Francisco East Bay newspapers (including the Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, and Contra Costa Times) ran a feature Q&A piece on my work, career, and new book in their “Career Path” section. Sure my chicken-mcnugget head in the opening spread isn’t pretty to look at, but I’m thankful for the wonderful publicity and hope the article inspires many.

Enjoy Photoguru-heads!


01Mar

My photo segment on "The View From the Bay"


On Monday, February 23rd, had the pleasure of being on The View From the Bay – a wonderful afternoon San Francisco Bay Area show on KGO-TV Channel 7, hosted by Spencer Christian and Janelle Wang.


We did a five-minute segment on taking family photos like a pro – it went very well and was a blast to do!

We talked about taking great photos with any camera, and I showed 10 slides on how to easily improve your picture taking through simple techniques and fun camera functions.

We also discussed how critical backing up your digital images are- so important to do- and to do it with reliable drives like Lacie hard drives (great desktop and rugged mobile hard drives I’ve used for years in my business), as well as Delkin’s archival gold DVDs (for which I burn thousands of images on to for safe keeping – 100 year archival DVD discs).

I also showed how to display your images in fun ways through Apple’s iLife ’09/iPhoto program (showing an album we had printed from a trip to Disneyland), or buying wonderful archival albums with style from Kolo.com. Kolo also added the segment to their blog at Koloist.com – check it out (simply click on the link)!

When I came home and watched it, and I was jazzed- sometimes it’s hard to remember how things like that went (and sure I’d love to be 30 lbs less!) but I was very pleased how it flowed.

Crazy, it felt like it went a minute and a half, but turned out to be exactly 5 minutes long as we planned. I also received a message from another producer of a local CBS show on The CW (Bay Area focus), complimenting my segment. We booked another tv interview for the fall (sometime in November). I’ll add it here once we have firm dates.


The show and hosts of
The View From the Bay were pleased as well and I thank them for the opportunity- a great professional staff of wonderful people putting together a top-notch show. This is what I’m working toward- to be known as that funny guy on tv that teaches people all about photography. The PhotoGuru.


If you’re interested in watching the segment, here’s the link: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=view_from_the_bay/everything_else&id=6674127

For more on Photoguru with Sean Arbabi, to review our tv show pilot, or read articles on photography, tips and tricks, new gear and software, and more, go to: http://www.photoguru.tv

03Feb

Photo Potpourri

A few fun february facts, images to check out, and items to think about in the photo world. By the way, here’s a fun image of the Na Pali coast in Kauai, I captured from a helicopter a few years ago while on assignment.


A piece of news I got from Calypso Imaging‘s newsletter (a great printer in the San Francisco Bay Area, although I personally use West Coast Imaging– awesome printer)- 18 years ago this month, Adobe shipped Photoshop 1.0. That was the first year of my career, but in February I was a few months away from graduating college at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. So although I had learned a ton about photography in college, by the time I graduated, a whole new world of digital was emerging – an aspect I had to educate myself on to keep up with the times. How Photoshop opened so many doors toward quality imagery. Now in the 11th version of the program (Photoshop 1-7, then the CS series, now at CS4), the software has morphed into something amazing and unreal – congrats Adobe.


Wanna see how unreal digital photography HAS become? Check out this 1,474 Megapixel shot of the
President Obama’s inaugural address, created by David Bregman, combining 220 images together in a process / robotic camera mount called Gigapan. The final image size was 59,783 X 24,658 pixels or 1,474 megapixels. Nice shot David. Wow- I’ve gotta try it soon! (click on David’s name to review the shot)

A hundred and seven year ago this month, Ansel Adams was born (in 1902),

and although he past away 25 years ago, the impact he had on photography is not only beyond measure, but well beyond what any other photographer has done to date. I never had the chance to meet him, but I feel what he feels about image-making. Here’s a wonderful photo of Ansel, taken by an amazing photographer Jim Alinder (with permission – © Jim Alinder) – to see his work and gallery, go to: http://www.alindergallery.com/

Have a wonderful February all – keep an eye out for me on “The View From the Bay” in a week or so, Feb 23rd, at 3pm on ABC’s San Francisco TV station, KGO channel 7. Then my first book signing event in Clayton CA February 15th.

23Jan

Photo of the Week

I’m starting a “Photo of the Week” section of my blog, to display an image, describe how I shot it, and what my thought process start to finish – here’s my first:


USA: Nevada: Clark County: Las Vegas: Visitors watch the amazing Bellagio water show at night along Las Vegas Boulevard

This image was part of a week-long assignment to capture Las Vegas for a photo essay for Endless Vacation magazine.  I prepared the job by contacting dozens of casinos and resorts, acquiring permission to photograph on various properties, submitting my million dollar liability insurance (which is required for many different types of photo shoots, especially resorts, casinos, and large corporations), then driving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Las Vegas (just to lug more gear without the airport hassle since I was on my own for the week).

This evening I went out with my Fuji 680 III camera, a bulky medium format beast that I love, with a large tripod and walked along the Strip.  I shot many angles of the Bellagio water show but this one was one of my favorites.  The first thought I had while finding a spot to shoot was incorporating all the elements of the show- the water, the glow at night, Bellagio Hotel and Casino, and the visitors gathering around to watch it.  I backlit the entire scene using the tree to help frame my composition hoping it would be outlined by some of the high shooting water.  I metered the front facade of the building to get a reference, took other meter readings around the scene, and used my best guestimate for the shot (shooting film, I wouldn’t see my results until a week later). The lights on the tree and the nice spacing of the people was a nice small addition.

Once I received my film and picked the top selects, I scanned them in with my Nikon CoolScan 8000 (not available anymore- today Nikon makes the CoolScan 9000, they turned digital in a 300MB file, and a tiny bit more detail was pulled out to stretch the contrast ratio to fit what I saw – for the most part, 99% of what you see is in the film.

My editors thankfully loved the shots I captured that week.  It ran as a cover story and feature spread, and some of the work now rests in my files as well as my stock agency’s files.  I’ll be back in Vegas in March to capture new images of the ever-changing resort city.

When it comes to digital photography, exposure, technical details, and photographer theories, many feel you simply can’t lose your highlights in the shot – you can’t cut them off on your histogram, have ‘blinkies’ (showing you in your digital image where the detail is lost) etc, etc.  I don’t necessarily believe for all instances.  To me, photography is also about capturing mood, a feel, a glow, a moment, the heart of something – that’s when technical aspects are important but throw out a bit- it’s about the final image.

20Jan

Radio interviews, News profiles, and the life of a working photographer

Wanted to update everyone on all the happenings around the release of my new book, The BetterPhoto Guide to Exposure (out in bookstores around the world).


Lots of fun highlights, but anyone who’s a working photographer knows, we love talking a good game, but our job is not nearly glamorous. It’s hard work, frustration, long hours, feast or famine, tons of marketing trying to land new jobs, consistently reinventing yourself, and so on – and that’s after 19 years in the game. Regardless, my book is out, it was many months of work, and I’m gonna take the fact that the light is shining on me just a bit.


Inside Digital Photo Radio: Had an interview with Scott Sheppard last Friday on my book and career- it went great. If you’re not familiar with them, they produce this show (80,000 listeners) along with: Inside Analog Photo Radio, Inside Mac Radio, Inside Mac TV, and more. They have a large audience bringing thoughtful interviews and information on new gear, photographer profiles, and trade show news to the listener. My interview will be out on their site and iTunes Podcast soon.

WKPT ABC Radio (an ABC News affiliate broadcasting to East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, & Western North Carolina via AM 1400, AM1490, AM 1590, FM 94.3, FM 97.7, and FM 97.9) will interview me on Tuesday, February 3rd, at 10am Eastern Standard Time for their popular mid-morning talk show, “AM Tri-Cities“.

Bay Area News Group: The largest media publisher in California (4th in the nation) will be interviewing me for their Career Profile section, an in-depth Q&A feature on a successful professional. The piece will appear Sunday March 1st in all of their publications including The Contra Costa Times, The San Jose Mercury News, The Marin Independent Journal, and The Oakland Tribune.

The View From The Bay: ABC’s San Francisco affiliate station KGO Channel 7 will be interviewing me for their Bay Area tv show Monday February 23rd. Want to come? Need tickets? Visit the event on Facebook with all the info and phone numbers to get tickets and see the live taping: Facebook/ View From the Bay event

The Modesto Bee: One of the bigger newspapers serving California’s Central Valley will feature my book in their book reviews page this Sunday (January 25th)

JainLemos.com: Ran a nice blurb on my work, my book, our recent conversation, and my goals in photography- check it out!

Zoom Street: An online magazine covering the world of digital photography will be profiling my Exposure book in their March issue.

For more info on monthly happenings, go to our This Month page on our site: http://www.seanarbabi.com/thismonth.html or our Lecture & Workshop page: http://www.seanarbabi.com/workshops.html


Enough self promotion! Next blog, back to photo gear, software, tips & tricks, and more!