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Life Before Photoshop

Life Before Photoshop: Shell Rotella Oil Calendar

Look ma, no Photoshop!

Look ma, no Photoshop!

I miss the good old days when you had to actually think before you pressed the shutter; you had just one click to do it right.

By today’s standards, it was very difficult to do it all in the camera, but since we didn’t know any better it seem the natural thing to do; it was the only thing to do!

I often think back to some of my photos and think what they would have looked like if Lightroom was around and Adobe was not just a type of house in New Mexico. Maybe I would have been dangerous, but i like the way it turned out.

Having said all this, I certainly don’t sit around every day pining for days gone by. I like to rely on Photoshop when something I want to do can’t be done at that moment…the decisive moment when I press down on the shutter and record what is.

What I don’t do and what I tell my online students with the BPSOP and my fellow photographers that sign up for my “Stretching your Frame of Mind” not to do is tell yourself that you’ll just fix it later. Instead of moving to the right to create a better balance between the negative and positive space, or to get that telephone out of someone’s head, or to fix the ridiculously overexposed  subject the meter told you was just fine by bracketing, people will sit in front of the computer and deal with it then.

I was shooting a calendar for Shell Oil, and every year owners drive their huge eighteen-wheelers to a designated city in hopes to be featured on one of the month’s pages.

In the past they simply rented a huge warehouse that had a large overhead doors at each end, put up white seamless paper and each rig drove through, stopped, had it’s picture taken and drove out; I wasn’t interested in doing that.

I presented an idea to the art director. The idea was to take portraits of all the owners and try to make it work with a particular month. I sent my producer ahead of time to find me interesting locations I might use as a backdrop. We arrived in Nashville a couple of days early to look at the locations and decide on the twelve trucks we wanted to use. I walked among a hundred rigs looking to pick out the ones that were simply the coolest!

Since I love purple and Manny and his son (who was spending the summer driving around with dad) were great guys I picked their rig to be on the July’s page. We found this great location and went for the 4th of July theme.

What you see was taken on one 35mm Kodachrome transparency, and just one click of the camera.

Visit my workshop at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2016 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime.

Don’t forget to send me photos and questions to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll create a video critique for you.


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.


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