March 24, 2010

The Jarvie Window

Copyright Scott Jarvie

Editor’s Note: Scott Jarvie is part of the very active, very cool, very involved, very talented photo community in Salt Lake City, UT. In all my travels there have been few photo communities that impressed me as much as the one in Salt Lake. And few ideas have impressed me as much as the Jarvie Window. Read on because this is really something you should try. It’s fun.

Guest Post by Scott Jarvie – Follow Scott Jarvie on Twitter

Recognize Embrace “Mistakes” It’s the old adage.

ME: I’m a full time wedding photographer very involved in teaching and the Utah photo community. I love traveling to my locations and staying there to shoot up the town.

The Story

Knowing the story of how the JarvieWindow all went down is important in understanding the lessons I learned. The hope is that it will help in applying some of the same principles for the great ideas you’ll come up with in your life.

At a PhotoWalkingUtah event there were 10 lighting displays. I roved around with an 11th. The Ray flash. A friend Jeremy Bechthold had a 8mm and said, “Scott look what lens I borrowed from work!” I have never been much of a fan of fisheye so I wasn’t terribly excited, specially since it meant I’d have to take off my Ray Flash which I was presenting. But being the lazy guy I am, I said to myself, “Screw it, I’ll just take a picture with the ray flash on.” Part laziness, part curiosity, part smart-aleck.

I took one picture and knew my settings were completely messed up, but I got the vision of what could happen. Quickly, I switched things around and people started reacting to their snapshots. Due in large part to their reactions, I knew this was going to be fun.

Since then, I’ve had many requests and people excited to be at an event with me because they wanted a new profile or avatar picture. I’ve had brides looking forward to having it for their guests at their receptions. I’ve been to WPPI and parties and other photographer meetups. It’s always brought smiles to the faces and a bit of excitement.

LESSONS LEARNED
1. Recognize

Now, I don’t pretend I’m the only one in the world who owns a Ray Flash and happened to slip on a fish-eye. I’m sure someone else has done it somewhere, maybe even with the 8mm.

The first lesson is that it’s not just a matter of being the first person to do it, but be the first person to RECOGNIZE IT and do something about it.

Run with the idea, and actually use it and show others to make it known. Recognizing means realizing there’s something special going on. Don’t go looking at someone’s idea or artwork and say “I could do that,” or “I’ve done that (2yrs ago and never showed anyone)” The difference is that they made something out of the idea, whereas perhaps you didn’t recognize the potential. Don’t be the one-up-you-guy.

When you come up with an idea (wether someone in some unconnected part of the world did it before or after) the biggest thing you can do is recognize what you’ve done. Then make something out of it… or else you really didn’t recognize it at all (it was more a forgotten mistake).

2. Embrace “Mistakes”

It’s the old adage in photography (and life) that rules are meant to be broken. If you are so perfect that you never make mistakes, well congratulations! I envy you, but then again you might be missing out on some serendipitous opportunities.

Putting an 8mm on the camera when using a ray flash just seemed completely wrong and felt more like a joke for me. Now it’s not a joke anymore. It transformed from something meant to be funny into something awesome.

3. Be Prepared

Like the Boy Scouts motto: be prepared.

You probably won’t get very far with an idea that you don’t even know how to navigate. Be prepared for the situations and problem solving opportunities that come your way.

I didn’t just stumble across the idea and happen to be on the perfect settings. I took the first picture and it looked horrible, but the idea of what it could be clicked. With my experience and photo knowledge, I knew how to quickly adjust the settings to make it work like I quickly envisioned it. With the JarvieWindow I find myself frequently referring back to my my flash knowledge to decide what settings I need based on how far the subject is.

So yes, learn about the technical aspects of photography because when placed in a situation, you can problem solve and come up with the answer.

Someone that only mimics training or photo-tricks won’t be able to come up with new ideas because they won’t be prepared to make them work. They only know how to do what they’ve been shown.

4. Endless Creativity

It just goes to show that in thousands of years of art and well over 100yrs of photography, there are still plenty of avenues to investigate and always something new to try.

Like I said before, the creativity so far with the JarvieWindow seems to have only just begun, by both the photographer and the subject.

5. See it for what it is

Don’t go overboard and hype it like a used car salesman, because people will see it for what it is. However, be confident and sell it and people will buy some of your enthusiasm. Real enthusiasm is contagious.

6. Manage people’s expectations

When people are concerned about getting their picture taken up close and having their face that big (sometimes with distorted effects of the fisheye), I tell them to think of it as a caricature. That changes the perception right away, no longer is it a normal picture where standard rules apply, now they can be whoever they feel like and do whatever they want. I also tell them this will be a crazy funny picture so that they can then try crazy and funny things. They’re then OK with the crazy funny results. In the end some people just won’t like the idea, just like some people just don’t like their picture taken at all.

7. Expect Varied Reactions

The reactions have surprised me. I liked the look of the pictures well enough, but sometimes I am stunned by the responses. I didn’t realize people would get so excited about it, or that they would say some of the things they’ve said. They’ve often talked it up so much to their friends and I that they’ve sold me even more on the idea. I’ve been affected by their passion and excitement for the pictures.

And don’t worry, there are always distractors to bring you down to earth. As the saying goes, “No good idea goes unpunished.”

At WPPI, I was talking to 2 photographers. While one of them called the pictures horrible, the other couldn’t stop talking about how amazing the idea was.

Can you guess which individual was the older grouch and which was the younger, more successful photographer?

8. Find your Support

Everyone needs friends, especially people who will lift them up and help them.

Every idea needs a few cheerleaders, and I’m thankful that I had no end to cheerleaders for the idea on that first day. When I went home to work on the pictures, I couldn’t get over one photographer (@bwjones) who enthusiastically supported the idea while I was there and then later on twitter. I respect Brian and his photography and he made me think this was really pretty special. Later down the line, I’d have lots of people excited about the idea like @jrbechthold (who lent me the 8mm) and @jeremyhall and then @heninger. Many of the SmugMugPro crew were big supporters at WPPI as well.

I was talking to Scott Bourne at WPPI while taking some pictures, he was so very impressed that he pulled me aside to make sure I understood the potential of this idea. He did the same thing several times that week. That’s more than just a cheerleader; that’s borderline coach, commanding me go and hit that home run already. Thanks Scott et all.

9. Make it happen

There’s believing and then there’s believing enough to make it happen. There are whole books written about this concept. Nike coined the theme: “Just Do It.”

10. Share It

I believe in the “share it” concept. I teach many of aspiring photographers everything they want to know and I share lots of tips on my blog and other feeds. It was natural that I would share the concept with everyone. In fact, I tell everyone that they should try to replicate the process themselves and use it for their benefit.

In my case, I had a concept which involved 4 products from 3 different companies Ray Flash ring flash, Sigma 8mm, Nikon Sb-900, and camera body.

I said to myself,”It’s not a difficult system to duplicate, so I should just share it openly, honestly, and not try to hide anything.” If I didn’t share it and tried to keep it a secret, there would be no end to the people figuring it out, calling me a scrooge, and then sharing it themselves in any way they wanted. (without the cool title, haha)

I went home and that night wrote a post on exactly how to replicate the pictures.

I encourage you to go out and try to make it happen and experiment with this style!

11. Aim for a Win-Win

I believe strongly in finding and embracing ideas that are WIN-WIN, or even Win-Win-Win.

As I share a cool new idea to my fellow photographers… I also get a WIN in that my name will be a little more well known as everyone shows off their own JarvieWindow pictures. I didn’t come up with the name but I’m certainly glad when I crowd sourced it, some of my friends did call it that. People will start recognizing the Jarvie beyond the borders of Utah.

You get the coolest new idea for parties, receptions, and photo gatherings… and hopefully, as I give, one day I’ll receive something back. (Like how traffic on the sites have jumped, haha)

How I view it

I love the JarvieWindow pictures. They show so much character from each person, and showing someone’s character is one of my favorite parts of photography. To me, I see the JarvieWindow as a fun gimmick that makes people happy. The definition of “gimmick” is “an innovative or unusual mechanical contrivance; a gadget.” It’s very similar to the photobooth. Whatever you consider the photobooth, the Jarvie Window falls into the same category. I don’t believe it replaces the ability to take good pictures. I don’t want to be just known as the guy behind the Jarvie Window. I want to be known as the awesome photographer everyone likes who just  happened to spur on the phenomenon of the Jarvie Window.

So will I be using this a lot? Of course! I have said that I’ll slow down when people stop coming up with new ideas for the window. When “I’ve seen it all” it’ll probably be time to lay it down or just pick it up for parties,or where it’s paying the bills and the people are having fun. After all, photography for me is a performance where my goal is to make people happy and an art to bring out the unique. But I’ve been surprised that there is so much creativity in front of the JarvieWindow.

I plan on doing what I call the 10,000 faces project… it shouldn’t be too hard to get 10,000 faces in front of my camera since it usually happens in a years time anyway.

At the end of the post I’ll put the recipe on exactly how to create these pictures yourself. I welcome the company.

How to do the Jarvie Window yourself
What you need:

- A Ray Flash – (available at OPGear or Pictureline and other places)
- A Fisheye – (I recomend the Sigma 8mm, the Nikon 10.5 barely works if you do it just right, super wide zooms usually stick out from the camera too far.)
- A flash – like the Nikon SB-900 or Canon 580 etc.

I usually shoot f/11, give or take a stop. Shutter speed doesn’t matter too much but will effect the background of course.

Put your flash down to lowest possible power 1/128 on manual – the farther way your subject the more light you can pump in or change aperture. If you jump around from 1 person up close to 2 people to larger groups you better get fast at changing the output.

Note: this is how I do it… let me know how an aperture priority mode works for you w/ or w/o flash set to TTL.

During post processing, use a square crop and up the contrast a bit, or at least use vivid profile in Adobe Lightroom (for nikon users). Darken the edges or any other light bleed-off. The brush in Lightroom set to darken is invaluable.

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This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

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  1. [...] The Jarvie Window Editor’s Note: Scott Jarvie is part of the very active, very cool, very involved, very talented photo community [...] [...]

  2. [...] And here a more detailed write up! photofocus.com/2010/03/24/the-jarvie-window/ [...]

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