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Life Before Photoshop

Life Before Photoshop: Pacific Bell

Look ma, no Photoshop.

Look ma, no Photoshop.

I shot corporate and advertising photography spanning a forty year career, and most of those years (the dark ages) were spend without the help of Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, and the plethora of plug-ins one can find shopping on the internet; if ones needs help that much.

In fact, Adobe was a type of house in the Southwest part of the US. Thinking back, I can also remember when there weren’t even computers, and as they came into being companies were quick to include photography of their new (freezing) computer room to go out to stockholders in the form of annual reports; to assure them that they were on the leading edge of technology. It’s amazing to think that my maxed out iMac27Retina is probably as powerful than the entire room full of giant machines.

Most of my fellow photographers that take my online classes with the BPSOP, and take my “Stretching Your frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around our planet became photographers during the digital age and have no idea that you can actually “make” good photos before clicking the shutter.

A million years ago, right after the dinosaurs disappeared,  I was shooting an advertising campaign for Pacific Bell, the California based telephone company. I was sent to three locations: Nameless, Tennessee, Remote, Oregon, and Home, Pennsylvania. Three very small but real places spread across the US. With me, I had a phone booth a wall phone and a phone that was mounted on a stand and placed where people could drive up to it.

Before I left my studio, I had a sign made up to look like it was a sign you would see on a road stating the miles left to a particular town or city; in this case Home, PA. I had an idea in mind so in case I found the right location, I would have the prop I needed.

Using my Sunpath coordinates I found just the road I wanted where the sun would set just to one side and down the road apiece!!

We set up the sign and with a portable generator, lit it up.

I remember it missing something and was going to put the rent car driving away from the phone, but at that moment an Amish man drove by and saved the day. As Eddie Adams once said, “When you get lucky, be ready”.

I know that in today’s world, the phone and sign would have been shot in a studio, and the back end of the Amish buggy would have been bought from some stock agency and added after the fact.

I consider myself very lucky that I started out in the film days when you were able to use your head and imagination to solve problems… in the camera where it was fun instead of in front of a computer.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my workshop schedule at the top of this blog. come shoot with me some time.

Keep sending in those photos and questions to: AskjoeB@gmail.com, and i’ll create a video critique for you.


Life Before Photoshop: Budweiser

The finished product.

The finished product.

Looking back through all my post in this category, brings to mind all the years I spent without the help of Lightroom and Photoshop. I’m closing in on fifty years of shooting advertising and corporate photography, and I would say that three-quarters of those years were spent without their help. These years were during the period of time when computers were not invented, in their infancy stage, and later on when Adobe was a type of house in the Southwest part of the country.

I was recently talking to a woman that had taken both my online class with the BPSOP, and several of my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around our planet. One of the things she said was, “I can’t imagine shooting and not seeing what you’ve captured while it is being developed.  That in itself, has to make one think very carefully before clicking the shutter. ”

She’s right, but it was a lot scarier than that!!!

Imagine a large production shot that included an out of town location, people, interior lighting you had to make believable, and important props that helped tell the story. Now imagine getting everything in the frame to be withing one stop of one another; from the front to the back, and from one side to the other…that’s not counting the exposure on the faces of the subjects. All this on one 35mm Kodachrome transparency.

Now, imagine not being able to see your finished photo until you got back home, sent the film to the lab, then waited nervously until you saw the first three to four frame clips. I only knew it would be close ahead of time based on the countless meter readings I took with my Minolta One-degree Spot Meter and bracketing in one third intervals. Had it not been for this meter, I would have never been as successful as I was…plain and simple.

In the photo of the boxer, Budweiser sent me a layout depicting a young Hispanic man posing with his trainer and manager, to be taken in the gym they worked out in. These were not to be models, but the real deal. I sent a location scout to San Antonio to check out his gym to see if it fit all the requirements. In other words, if it looked real. Needless to say I was exited when I saw the photos and quickly set up a date to take their portraits.

Knowing from the photos that the room was going to be too dark to really work with, I took virtually all the lighting I had in my studio; I wound up using everything I took.

Here’s the finished production photo with a video of how I achieved it with out the help of any post processing. Everything was created in the camera on one piece of film.


Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out the workshops I offer at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime.

Keep those photos and questions coming to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll create a video critique of your photo.


Life Before Photoshop: Kanapali Beach Hotel

Ad #1 Beach activities

Ad #1 Beach activities

I often wonder what it would have been like if I had access to the products that are now being made by Adobe, instead of in the way back when Adobe was a type of house in the southwest part of the US.

Would I not care as much about getting things right in the camera since I didn’t have to? Would there be less stress about making sure my exposure was within 1/3 of a stop of what the art director or designer wanted? Especially since he couldn’t fix it either.

I’m not just talking about exposures, but what went on inside the edges of the frame; props for one thing. If it wasn’t convenient or if there was a size constraint, or logistics or timing made it impossible, you could always add them later.

What if you were shooting a group of people and in each exposure there was always one person that wasn’t smiling, or looking away, or in the middle of a blink and you couldn’t do anything about it; which is why you shot so many rolls of film. Now you can just mix and match and wind up with everyone looking just right; or even add a guy because he was not available add the time of the shoot.

Ad #2 Meeting rooms

Ad #2 Meeting rooms

Well, between you me and the lamppost, I wouldn’t trade those times for the world.  I’m glad to be a product of the film (stone age) era, and now being able to use Adobe as I see fit; to enhance, but not fix and to improve on but not rely.

In the digital world, I see way too often someone in my online class with the BPSOP or in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” Workshops I conduct around our planet telling me or referring to the notion to not worry about it because…”I can fix it later”.

I always love this category because I can show my fellow photographers that you can actually create before clicking the shutter, and resolve any problems with thought and imagination.

In this campaign I did for the Kanapali Beach hotel, I was to use a certain species of butterfly in three completely situations. This was a big part of their branding and it was everywhere, including a tiled butterfly at the bottoms of their many pools.

Ad #2 Fine dining

Ad #2 Fine dining

My producer found an Entomologist on the Island that would find me six butterflies of the specific species the hotel wanted; so I could have extras in case any were damaged and rendered un-usuable. As luck would have it, he also was looking for this particular variety. They were not cheap, and he was not willing to negotiate with us (since we were in advertising) so the price was five hundred apiece.

Since the set-up time for each ad took most of a day, we spent three days shooting three ad, and wound up using four butterflies. While it was a fun and challenging project, looking back I would not have minded some post-production help. Unfortunately each image shown here was shot on one piece of film, and one exposure.

Visit my workshop at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime.

The Los Angeles Center for photography has invited me to come out and conduct a three day intensive workshop over the August 18th weekend. I’ll be making a presentation of my work on Thursday July 14th and the public is invited. The full description can be see at the top of this blog, with a link to the site. I hope to spend the weekend with all of you.

I have added a new workshop to my 2016 schedule. On September 21st, ten photographers will get together with me at my evening “meet and greet” to begin a fantastic five-day workshop in New York, New York. Check out my description at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me.

Keep sending me photos and questions to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll create a video critique for you.


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