Archive for the ‘Interview’ Category

Euphoria, redux!

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Elizabeth A. Harris and Adriane Quinlan, with Alexis Mainland, The New York Times, reports on the euphoria of West Village:

‘We’re there, finally, but we’re not all the way there. This is only one step,’ said a man dressed in drag who identified himself as Lady Havoc, 23, standing in front of the historic bar. Celebration, he said, however, was still in order. ‘Who wants to marry me right now?’

Just two words: I do!

The elements of creativity

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Written by dominiquejames

June 21, 2011 at 5:01 PM

The convergence of still and video

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David Walker writes for PDN:

“A fashion photographer’s usual pathway to shooting a campaign video for a major fashion clients is a gradual ascent through smaller productions.”

Yes, it’s happening.

Written by dominiquejames

June 21, 2011 at 2:07 PM

Conversations …

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Written by dominiquejames

June 21, 2011 at 1:22 PM

Pictures everywhere! (An interview with Marisse Panlilio of MPGrafx)

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Photo of Marisse Panlilio

Marisse Panlilio of MPGrafx at work on location. (Photo courtesy of MPGrafx.)


Nowadays, pictures are ubiquitous and pervasive at the same time. Often, it doesn’t matter what is pictured. The fact is, pictures are everywhere we look—if and when we choose to look at them at all.

We see pictures gracing almost every page of magazines and newspapers. We see pictures gleaming on every click of the electronic web. We see pictures decorating, as it were, one block of street after another.

Yet, we never really think about how pictures seem to pop up all around us all the time. We’ve simply come to taking for granted that pictures are there where we are.

Of course, pictures don’t just magically appear—here, there and everywhere. It takes some sort of complicated and professional behind-the-scenes machination and maneuvering for each and every single one of them to be placed or installed where they are, where we can all see them.

Photographers are therefore necessarily connected to all sorts of publicly accessible media, outlets, and suppliers—an array of opportunities and possibilities to showcase and display photographs. With the right placement, photographers are able to target specific audiences.

But whatever media outlet a photographer decides to choose (and there are many of them—photographers and media alike), and whatever the aim may be—to inform, to motivate, to sell, or simply to showcase and to enrich, it cannot happen in a vacuum. It has to happen within a framework of the media.

In this sense, consider media and the context with which you are able to view them, as the legal and generally acceptable equivalent of graffiti walls. Sanctioned and allowed, a photographer’s commercial work, whether a single photograph or a group of photographs, acquires a sense of acceptable public presence, legitimacy even, with the transformative process of its legal (and professional) installation, to be openly seen by all and sundry.

We rarely get to see a photographic work in the process of installation. On the streets, it’s usually done at night or at times when there are the least number of people. In galleries and museums, it’s constructed and completed inside a cocoon of an enclosure—a temporary restricted area. On shop windows, it’s presentation is arranged behind shaded covers, even during down times. And in most other cases, it’s fixed-in ambush-style, stealthily putting it up when no one’s looking or paying any mind. Next thing we know, when we look up and look out, there it is—as if it has always been there.

But dressing up a place or an area or a location to show pictures takes careful and deliberate planning, time, effort and logistics. Because of this, any photographer whose work has been publicly displayed must have necessarily known a professional or two who happens to work in this strange, baffling and behind-the-scene line of business. They who work in this seemingly “invisible” industry makes things visible. They who are almost themselves magicians.

In one recent and successfully completed project, I had the opportunity to meet, interact, and work with just such a professional. Her name is Marisse Panlilio of MPGrafx. For our project, she expertly “handled” the media that securely held and prominently displayed the photographs on several two-front show windows, as well as the printing of collaterals that were hand-distributed.

Marisse has been working as a media producer and installer for professional creative artists (often serving as a bridge to their clients as well) for more than 10 years now. Also, within her sphere of interest and expertise, she’s a supplier and an experienced technical director for all sorts of events and functions such as concerts, shows, and private parties.

I caught up with Marisse Panlilio recently for a brief Q&A:

Dominique James: Tell me a bit about MPGrafx. How did you get it started and what sort of services do you offer?

Marisse Panlilio: I started MPGrafx as a business after I retired in 2003. I bought my wide-format printer in 2006. Since then, our offerings and services has expanded to include not only to large-format poster printing but also other several alternative media prints and installations such as vehicle wrapping and signs.

DJ: What did you have to do in order to be able to put up MPGrafx? What kind of education, training and experience are required?

MP: I studied graphic design with specialty in print at the Union County College in Cranford, New Jersey. I’m a certified wrap installer.

DJ: What are the biggest challenges or the difficulties that you encounter in your line of work?

MP: In this field, competition is very stiff. However, it is obvious that there is still a lack of qualified or experienced wrap installers. For instance, I have to make sure that I have to personally train my assistants. For me, conducting on-the-job training, and sharing my skills and knowledge, is one of the best forms of experience.

DJ: Who are some of the biggest clients you’ve worked with so far?

MP: My list of clients include Red Ribbon, Western Union, GMA Pinoy TV, TFC, Max’s of Manila, Fiesta Grill, Philam Merchandising, NJ State Library, to name a few.

DJ: What do clients usually tell you with the kind of professional work and world-class service that you provide? What feedback do you get?

MP: I make sure that I provide exceptional service and use only exceptional quality materials on our products. Clients appreciate the fact that we go way beyond our commitments, thereby going over and above their expectations. I take pleasure in delighting my clients.

DJ: What makes you and your company different from the others who provide similar products or services?

MP: I follow a very simple formula—my policy is to always provide world-class service using the highest quality materials at the best price.

DJ: What is your style or approach in dealing with the many different people whom you encounter in your business dealings?

MP: My years of experience has taught me to be understand the needs and goals of my clients, and to be always flexible in order to accommodate all types of requirements. This is how we earn their trust. To me, their accolades for the work we do speak volumes.

DJ: If you have the chance to establish the same business today, if you were going to start all over again, will you still do it? Why or why not?

MP: Yes, I would definitely be very happy to do the whole thing all over again.

DJ: What are the things in your line of work that people are always surprised to find out and discover? What are the things that they never expect from you?

MP: Clients and associates are almost always surprised that I am a certified wrap installer—that I studied for it and I can professionally cover uneven, rough, curved, angled, and all sorts of surfaces such as that of vehicles.

DJ: You seem to be a workaholic, and people see you working all the time; what would you consider are your peak working hours? Do you ever take days off from your work to relax? How do you spend your time when you’re not working?

MP: When it comes to creative work such as designing the presentation of photos and graphic elements for printing, I work best during late nights up until the wee hours of the morning. I feel my creative juices flowing freely during these times. When installing the materials for display, I work during the hours that are most convenient to the client, and whenever and whatever the practicality of the situation calls for. We make sure to factor into the work schedule not only the convenience of people we work with but also even such considerations as the weather and the seasons required for proper job installations. You can definitely say that this is not a routine job. On my free days, I love taking long drives with my partner and my two 4-legged boys.

DJ: What advise can you offer the many working creative professionals, specially photographers, with whom you work with?

MP: My best advise is to earn the trust and respect of clients through professional experience. The strong record of one’s sterling accomplishments will always speak for itself and carry one through. Also, the love of and commitment to one’s work is essential.

[Note: For free professional advise and guidance on your large-format printing requirements, installation and wrapping service requirements, and also on creative visual design, contact Marisse Panlilio via email at For free professional advise and consultation on advertising and commercial photography and visual media design, contact Dominique James at Also, you can view and purchase the fine art photographs of Dominique James online at Zatista’s website. Thank you.]

Book Review: Derrick Story’s The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers

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The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers by Derrick Story

The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers by Derrick Story

Through the years, Adobe has kept up with its robust pace of adding new and more powerful tools to Photoshop. If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll observe that it has turned out to be a seemingly never-ending cycle of new release superseding the old one. This, in part, has made Photoshop the undesputed weapon of choice of countless creative professionals. As we understand it, the evolution of Photoshop has one purpose: to address the insatiable needs of all sorts of creative digital artists in their quest to perform impressive feats of amazing visual acrobatics.

But as Photoshop grew into one gigantic digital Swiss army knife, with more and more new cool features heaped on top of previous ones, it has grown so big that no one, except perhaps Deke McClelland and a couple of other guys, is expected to learn and use everything it has to offer.

Imagine Photoshop as New York City. Countless people living and working there. Each one goes about doing his own particular thing, and yet, no one is expected to do everything. In very much the same way, while many different people use Photoshop, each one goes about it in his own way, focusing and mastering only the use of a handful of its myriad tools to do a job. Anyone who has been using Photoshop for quite a while still gets surprised at a few “new” things they discover they can do with it.

Of course, in time, it is possible to learn everything about Photoshop. But really, it seems unnecessary. With too many things going on in a gigantic digital editing tool, trying to learn and master all that Photoshop has to offer can be time-consuming, and somewhat of an unnecessary burden. It makes sense, therefore, to simply focus only on certain tools and features that are most useful to what one wants to accomplish.

That is what renowned photographer and author Derrick Story wants to do, with the release of his recent O’Reilly Media book, The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers.

The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers focuses only on the tools that photographers need to know, while at the same time, judiciously leaving out the multitude of other tools and features that photographers might not find useful. The only information packed in this svelte, companionable volume is everything that a photographer might want to learn in order to get the job done. In essence, Derrick Story’s book contains everything that a photographer essentially needs to know in using Photoshop CS4 from the moment of downloading the images to its delivery into the hands of the clients.

How this book came about is an interesting story. On several occassions, author Derrick Story have seen first-hand and up-close how some of the top professional photographers actually worked, specially when confronted with tight deadlines. From this perspective, and through his Photoshop CS4 book, he has laid out a sensible, easy-to-adopt post-production process that aims to cut out the bottlenecks in a photographer’s post-production workflow using only Photoshop CS4. He provides a simple and very straightforward roadmap on how photographers can efficiently organize and more systematically complete the work in the shortest time possible.

Can a photographer really learn everything that’s essential about Photoshop CS4, and smoothen the workflow just by learning and adopting the process described in this slim volume?

The answer is yes. This book provides you with only the kind of information that is relevant to a photographer.

The form of Derrick’s book, and it’s goal as well, is for you to invest as little time as possible learning only about the aspects of the application that is relevant to your needs as a photographer. There is so much more that Adobe’s new Photoshop CS4 can do for different creative digital artists such as designers, graphic artists, Web producers, special effects technicians, among others. Each of them has a different set of needs that Photoshop CS4 can handle. But for a photographer, Derrick’s companion book is a compact guide that points you to an easy direction on how to get set and running, and really make the most out of what Photoshop CS4 has to offer.

How about if you want to dig deep into what Photoshop CS4 has to offer? Well, for that, you need Deke McClelland’s comprehensive Adobe Photoshop CS4 One-on-One, also published by O’Reilly Media.

Because Photoshop CS4 has grown to be a tool for everyone, it has become almost difficult to learn each and every feature that it has to offer. The most practical way to learn it therefore is to focus only on those tools that you as a photographer needs the most, master them, and at a later convenient time, particularly when the need arise, slowly add and build on to what you already know. But first, it is essential that you figure out the software for what it can do to you. And Derrick Story’s practical companion book is your first crack at this monstrous software.

The book is easy to read, understand, and follow. You won’t have a hard time figuring out what to do. Derrick’s writing and tone is that of a friend, colleague and a coach, taking the time to talk and walk you through, providing step-by-step guidelines in a clear, concise, logical, and friendly manner that’s easy to absorb. Derrick provides you with instant information, only the ones you need to know, that you can apply right away.

In describing the process you need to take, as well as the options available to you, Derrick provides easy-to-understand instructions. He also generously expounds on some helpful information, and provides numerous examples, that gives you a clear and comprehensive know-how about what may or may not be important to you and your work. In addition, he even draws upon his knowledge, expertise and experience on how the functions and behavior of Photoshop CS4 compares to previous versions, and other similar photo management and photo editing software that’s available. And in some instances, he freely recommends what other tools you might need.

Photographers who are eager to get started will appreciate the first few pages where Derrick explicitly outlines a roadmap. If you are used to working with previous versions of Photoshop by diving directly into its editing capabilities, you might be in for a surprise. This companion book will show you how to make the most out of Photoshop CS4 by providing you with a sensible workflow that begins with transferring your shots from camera to computer, adding metadata, rating and selecting the images, and only then edit your top choices.

The book immediately sets you on the right course by giving you a sense of what expect to learn and how to do your work correctly using Photoshop CS4. He immediately demistifies the steps you need to take in order to maximize the use and power of the software. If you were to jump right into Photoshop CS4, which most of us are inclined to do, thinking that we know what we are doing and we can wing those that we don’t, Derrick’s book saves us the time and effort from trying to discover things ourselves on our own, and perhaps, at a time when we need it the most–when we need to deliver a job and when faced with a tight deadline.

Off the bat, Derrick Story describes the Photoshop CS4 workflow, or as he’d like to call it, the “basic steps” for a photographer, as follows:

1. Open Bridge and choose Get Photos from Camera. That launches a companion application called Photo Downloader.

2. Check your settings in Photo Downloader, choose the images you want to transfer, amke sure your backup drive is connected, and download the photos.

3. Review and rate your pictures in Bridge. Here’s where you determine wich are your best shots and mark them accordingly.

4. Add keywords as necessary.

5. Apply basic image edits to your best shots in Adobe Camera Raw.

6. Further refine the photos that need additional care with the advanced tools in Adobe Camera Raw.

7. Move images that require detailed attention in specific areas to Photoshop CS4 for further work. This will only be a small percentage of your shots.

8. Perform advanced techniques, such as portrait retouching, color changing, and panorama merging, in Photoshop CS4.

9. Print some of your work for further evaluation and enjoyment.

It is easy to see why this workflow is useful to photographers. With the advent of sophisticated photo management tools such as Apple’s Aperture and Adobe’s Lightroom, there are still a lot of photographers out there who are handling their workflow in an old, ineffective, and inefficient way, from transferring the contents of their full cards from camera to going through and refining the select images. Aperture and Lightroom are top-of-the-line tools that can help photographers do it easily and quickly. And yet, they still aren’t. With Adobe’s Photoshop CS4, and the guide provided by Derrick Story in his companion book, photographers will be introduced to an intelligent way of working and processing the flow of thousands and thousands of images in post-production.

Derrick Story’s book is all about proposing efficiencies to your workflow when you use Photoshop CS4. The goal, as the author himself wrote, is to “make your photographic life happy and carefree.” It truly is a companion book with “portable Photoshop advise that you can take anywhere.”

One reader wrote, that it is an essential guide “for upgraders to CS4 or those considering it.” Another reader also wrote: “I was impressed with how much I learned.”

To make this book inimitably useful and accessible, O’Reilly Media made this book available not only in print format, but also as PDF and online versions. You can therefore “read” the book in three different ways: while on-the-go, on your desktop or on a laptop, and while online. Each format allows the readers access to the same great information, reinforcing the learning experience in three different, convenient ways. And since O’Reilly Media have recently started making their titles more accessible, a digital, mobile version of the book may soon be introduced for devices such as the iPhone.

Derrick Story said, “I think the electronic version is handy if you like storing your tech docs that way. The nicest part is the search function that makes it easy to find just the thing you’re looking for. Personally, I like using the book itself. It has been designed so it’s easy to carry in the laptop bag, and I paid close attention to organizing the ToC and index so readers could navigate it easily. That being said, I’m glad both versions are available.”

If you are a photographer and you are planning to upgrade to Photoshop CS4, or perhaps, you are already on it, it definitely pays to get a copy and read Derrick Story’s The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers.

Check out the book’s table of contents here, and also read an excerpt here. To order this book online now, click here. Also, check out Derrick Story’s other book, The Digital Photography Companion and Deke McClelland’s Adobe Photoshop CS4 One-on-One. You can order these books as a print (with free shipping), a PDF or as an online resource directly from O’Reilly Media. These books are also available from several other brick-and-mortar and online stores such as Amazon.

[Note: For more on Derrick Story’s digital photography podcasts, photo tips, reader-submitted pictures, and equipment reviews, visit his informative online blog, The Digital Story.]

Interview: Merlin Mann on time and project management for photographers

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This is a photograph of Merlin Mann taken by Jeremy Harris.BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

This week, we’ve been focusing our attention on how photographers can better manage their time and projects. In this exclusive interview with Merlin Mann of, I asked him to zoom in on some of the things that photographers can do to gain productivity by way of properly allocating time, managing projects well, and handling tasks more efficiently. In our conversation, Merlin also talked about the potential value of learning David Allen’s GTD (getting-things-done) methodology, how photographers might be able to effectively adopt it, and, defining the necessary personal traits as well as the psychology that may be needed in developing a well organized mind to actually make GTD work.

Last time, we also did an exclusive interview with Ethan Shoonover. Ethan used to be photographer before joining OmniGroup, and he talked about how photographers might choose to use an application such as OmniFocus to better frame the work and personal productivity needs of creative pros such as photographers. And now, in surveying the expansive landscape of time and project management while keeping the needs of photographers in mind, Merlin Mann points out to us the elegant beauty of implementing GTD.

Dominique James: What are the time management needs of photographers, and how does it differ with those of other creative professionals?

Merlin Mann: I have some friends who are photographers, and from what I can gather, they share a lot of the same problems that knowledge workers have, people like designers or programmers or artists. And that’s the problem of having a lot of projects that are in different kinds of states at the same time. So, you may have one person where you’re discussing bids, there’s another person where you’re trying to schedule the time to do a shoot, there’s another person where you’re doing reshoots, and another where you’re sending finished work. So, there’s all these different things that you’ve got to manage, and you need a system for capturing all that stuff in one place so you don’t have to think about it anymore than you need to. The challenge faced by many people today is having so many projects going that you can’t keep it all in your head.

Dominique James: By putting everything in one place, how should a photographer prioritize or sort though all the stuff and start getting things done?

Merlin Mann: I’m not sure that I would do it any differently if I were a photographer from one else. I guess, the one way in which photographers have challenges is, obviously if you’re an outdoor photographer, you’ve got to have a lot of flexibility about whether the weather is not going to be right or something like that, but the core problem is still a shared one, which is what I always say, putting all that stuff in one place. And then, I think one idea that’s great for anybody is an idea from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, which should be the idea of trying to always think about each of your projects in terms of what he calls the “next action.” The “next action” just means: “What is the next physical action that I have to do to get this project closer to being finished?” If you are managing a lot of different projects, that’s the way to make sure you always understand what you need to be doing across a range of different projects.

Dominique James: So that is the essence of David Allen’s getting-things-done methodology, right?

Merlin Mann: That’s right. In its simplest, it is a system that can work for many different types of projects or jobs, regardless of what you do.

Dominique James: Is it therefore right to say that there isn’t much difference with the way a photographer should manage his time and projects, and in performing tasks, compared to others?

Merlin Mann: Well, I think there are areas in which being a photographer has special challenges. Most of the photographers that I know are actually very, very organized because they have to be. They’ve got everything moving in Lightroom or Aperture or in whatever it is that they may like to use, and they develop some kind of personal taxonomy (a systematic means of classification and arrangement) on how they organize their work.

Dominique James: In terms of the actual workflow, photographers do tend to follow an organized worklow that’s within the framework of the software they use, but in terms of working on the bigger picture, which is running the business, what can they do to get a grip on the end-to-end workflow?

Merlin Mann: One thing that I think is important, when I was a kid, I always heard the cliche that “there’s a place for everything, and everything in its place.” I think on a professional level it is important to have a system where you understand all the stuff that comes into your world, you should have some idea of where it goes. And I think whether you’re a photographer or whatever your job, it’s useful to have an idea in your head about whether that’s an email, or a phone call, or film strips, and then having an idea in your head where everything goes. So later on, when you need to find it, you don’t have to think about it for too long. It doesn’t cause you stress. You know where everything goes, there are no two places anything could be. So, I think that’s one way to reduce a lot of the stress.

Dominique James: Many photographers seem to have trouble managing the amount of time it takes to do things. Everything just seems to take forever. What can be done?

Merlin Mann: One thing I think is helpful is to set alarms. To be able to work with lots of projects at once, you need to have a lot of trust, that whatever system you have in place, will remind you when you need to do something, and so you can just forget about it and do other work without that anxiety and stress of worrying that something’s not getting done. So if there’s something where you want to add reminders for yourself, for example, to call somebody at a certain date, rather than trying to hold that in your head, I think that’s great. The other thing is, I’m not a big fan of using priorities, because priorities tend to be a way of making yourself feel bad about something you don’t want to do. Because if make something very, very high priority, well, why don’t you just do it? Do you know what I mean? — It’s a rhetorical question, but what stops you o me or anyone from doing that high priority thing, the real question is, in my head, “What’s blocking me from getting that finished?” So, instead of making something high priority, it’s better to spend that time and that brain power figuring out what would make it into something that can get done. Or, ask yourself, “Is this something that I really want to do?” Sometimes the best thing you can do is throw something away.

Dominique James: What is the best way, therefore, for a photographer to start implementing a GTD program?

Merlin Mann: GTD is a nice system, and it works. One’s you’ve read the Getting Things Done book, you have, at the start, to set aside some time because the idea in the book is to set aside some time to make sure you’ve gathered everything that’s on your mind. You never really will relax as long as stuff is on your mind. They call it capture — taking all that idea and putting it in one place like an inbox, and then one at a time, going through everything that’s on your mind, and figuring out what you’ve got to do about it, and it can take a day or two to go through that, or more, but it’s very empowering, to get all that stuff off your mind into some kind of an actionable format.

Dominique James: Are there instances when a photographer will gather and write all things that needs to be done, but once it’s all written out, the motivation fizzles when it comes to actually doing it?

Merlin Mann: It happens all the time, and part of the problem is that we skip the phase where we think about why we even want to do something. There is something in our mind that says, “Oh, you know, you should go do this thing,” and if you just write it down without actually thinking about it, then, you’re probably not gonna do it. Again, it’s just gonna cause stress. So, it’s really important, whenever you’re accepting a project, and you’re saying, “This is something that I’m gonna get done,” it really is important to understand what success looks like–to have an idea in your head why you are doing that, because if you skip that step, and just sit around collecting tasks all day, you’re not going be doing rewarding work. You’re only going be shovelling tasks from one place to another.

Dominique James: For a Mac-based photographer, what GTD software would you recommend?

Merlin Mann: I have a friend of mine who used to be a professional photographer, who wrote something for the Mac called Kinkless GTD, a guy named Ethan [Schoonover], and that guy, actually he got hired by a company called OmniGroup, and he and I both helped to work on a product called OmniFocus. I’m not trying to sell that, but it’s just that I mentioned it because he started out as a photographer, and part of it was he needed a way to put all these stuff into a system that works. But you know, the thing about GTD, the system itself is very personal. It’s a personal decision, nobody can really tell you how to do that. It really starts with getting your mind comfortable with the fact that something has to be done, and putting a stake on the ground that you’re going to do something with it. Some people could organize their whole life out of a notebook, and other people come up with these very complicated systems or web applications but my only advise would be try and adopt the simplest tool that you can tolerate, something very, very simple. Because you don’t want it to become something where you’re just playing with the tool all the time. You have work to do. You have photos to shoot. And so, whatever it is, find some way to capture stuff, and organize it in a system that’s sensible, but then make it all about actually accomplishing that work and getting it done, and that’s really the important part.

Dominique James: So, how was your experience developing OmniFocus?

Merlin Mann: It was really good. There are some people who say OmniFocus is too simple, and then some people who think it’s too complicated. They really developed it though around people like me, and the way that my mind works, and so if your mind works like mine, it’s really good (laughs). Like I say, there’s so many options out there right now, like iGTD and all. There’s a lot of web-based applications for people who are on more than one platform. David Allen himself, until a few years ago, just used paper. He had a binder that he did everything out of. Some people use Moleskine notebooks. Whatever it is that works for you, you just have to find the simplest tool that you can stand, and it will make your life a lot easier.

Dominique James: So, any other advise for the photographers?

Merlin Mann: Nothing more except that I’ll just say have fun and keep using the Mac.

[Note: Merlin Mann is the founding editor of, a family of websites about personal productivity, “life hacks,” and simple ways to make your life a little better. Photo of Merlin Mann by Jeremy Harris.]

Written by dominiquejames

April 18, 2008 at 8:30 AM

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