Photography has been a major passion for John Ferrentino of Things 2 Digital Inc. OMP Member #213350 since he first picked up a camera almost four decades ago. But the first photos he took were not with a camera. After graduating from Radiology School, the Florida resident worked as an x-ray technician in a hospital in The Bronx, NY. It was there that his interest in photography began to develop.
JOHN: As an x-ray technician, I learned that radiology is shooting negative film images, based on the time and amount of radiation reaching the film. So, it is basically the same as photography – they both depend on time and light.
One day in the hospital, I salvaged a thousand-foot roll of unexposed 35mm black-and-white movie film from the garbage. That’s when I got hold of a camera and I then started to roll my own canisters and develop the negatives at work in the x-ray processing machines since they were set up for this movie film.
Then the hospital was revamping the dark room and was throwing away lots of equipment. I decided to take advantage and I actually put together a dark room in my closet! I ended up with professional timers, tongs, trays and safe lights. I completed my project by buying an enlarger. The entire darkroom cost me $150!
Of course setting up in a closet meant no running water or ventilation, but it was my very own space where I could do exactly what I wanted and spend as much time developing as I wanted to. I also thought doing it myself would save me some money, but in reality I was so fussy it cost me more money because I would redo every print about ten times to make it perfect.
OMP: How long have you been doing photography professionally?
JOHN: That is a very hard question, because what is a professional photographer? I know great photographers that pay models to shoot for their own portfolios and have never made a dime in photography although they think they are professional photographers. I have been making money for about eight years, so is that the amount of time I have been professional? Or is it the time you set up a studio and photography is your sole source of income?
I would consider myself semi-professional since I still have another job as a comedian. The semi-professional photographer has to work harder since they may have to set up a portable studio every time they do a studio shoot and have a lot more lighting adjustments.
JOHN: I had a website that was getting very little traffic and it was costing a fortune. Then I shot a model who found me online and she told me all about OMP. I checked it out and saw the amazing photos and the amount of traffic it brought and I figured I would give it a try. Within a few weeks I had more hits on my site then I did on my other website in two years.
Two of the best parts of OneModelPlace.com are the “Image of the Day” and the Showcases — they bring a lot of traffic to your site. They also look very good when somebody goes to your site to see your work. OMP has helped me get in contact with many local models in Florida and helped me create a very large and diverse portfolio. It also allows you to see other models’ and photographers’ work that you would never usually get to see.
OMP: What are your favorite styles of images to shoot?
JOHN: If you look at my portfolio, I shoot everything. Being a professional comedian, I work a lot of cruise ships and am lucky enough to travel all over the world – I am one of the lucky ones who get to see and inevitably shoot incredible people and places.
I shoot models in my studio, but the post production work is very time consuming as of course the images must look as good as the model thinks she looks! Other than that, I go through phases of what I like to shoot. I just got back from the Mediterranean where I shot a fascinating array of interesting windows in Italy, Greece, Turkey and Spain.
I like to shoot just colors in the Caribbean, glaciers in Alaska, surfers in Florida where I live, and most recently I have an obsession with rust! I know it sounds strange but I think rust tells a story. It starts off life generally as something functional and weathers into art. And there is always a story behind those objects. For example, you look at a rusty abandoned train engine from the 1900s in Alaska and think who traveled on that train where did it go? Perhaps it was taking a man to Alaska in search of gold? An old boat winch or a piece of factory equipment in a field it all has a story.
OMP: How do you prepare for photo assignments?
JOHN: First, I check that my batteries are charged and my memory cards are reformatted. I always take the same camera equipment. I take my 50D and my 30D for back up, Canon 300mm, Cannon 17mm to 85 lens some filters, one 8 gig and two 4 gig memory cards, 2 in my camera, 4 extra batteries, canon 580E flash and wireless attachment for the flash camera bag.
If I am shooting a model on location all of the above plus a light meter, a white and a 5 in 1 48″ reflectors and spring clips (to fix clothing – always be prepared!) In the studio, white vinyl and black backdrops are my favorite. I use three Alien Bees 1600 and 60″ soft box, 16″ by 48″ soft box and some umbrellas. I also have some foam-core board — white and black – along with reflectors and focus screens.
OMP: What is the photography market like in Florida?
JOHN: Like everywhere, the economy is slow right now and it seems that everyone in the world has a digital camera and can do a little Photoshopping to get by. This is why you need to be different and good.
Models still want portfolio shoots, people want Facebook pictures and I guess the wedding business is still good (something I only did a few times). So I travel the world making people laugh and shooting all sorts of things around the world and wait for the economy to pick up. Sometimes I think I could make more money fixing and retouching photos then shooting them.
OMP: Can you give some tips for models to remember during a shoot?
JOHN: Do not put images on your site that you took with your point and shoot in a mirror, because serious photographers will just past right by your site. Many photographers will do TFCD shoot with you, so find them and take advantage of that opportunity. The photographer’s time is as important as yours! Don’t be late, especially it you are doing a TFCD shoot. Remember, you are both looking to get good images and you can’t do it without each other.
Go through magazines and see the style of pictures you like, tear them out, and put them in a book. Bring them with you to the shoot so the photographer knows what you are looking for. Just as the photographer has to pack for a shoot you should too. Make a check list of makeup, clothes, and hair things and make sure your nails are polished and not chipped… It takes hours to fix that stuff in Photoshop!
OMP: What advice do you have for photographers just starting out?
JOHN: First of all, go on-line and find a memory card recovery program — it will be the best purchase under $50 that you will ever make. Memory cards fail and you can recover images even after the card has been reformatted. That is why on an important shoot I will use 2 gig cards so if something goes wrong you don’t lose the shoot. Always shoot Raw and large jpeg. Save the Raw files as every version of Photoshop brings new results to old files.
Make sure to back up your image files on hard drives. I back everything up three times, and I keep one of the hard drives in a different location in case of fire. Obsessive? Maybe! But at least my files will always be safe. Try shooting your camera like it had film in it and you are paying to develop each shot. You don’t have to bracket every exposure. Think about what you are shooting: the ISO, which meter you should use in your camera, the depth of field you want.
Learn all about white balance and how it works. This is the single most important element in digital photography. Never use your camera on auto white balance, ISO and shooting. Shoot at least 50 pictures a day. Learn Photoshop — versions CS3 to CS5. The best camera doesn’t make you the best photographer. You have to learn light and composition to be a better photographer. When working and smoothing skin in Photoshop be careful not to make the model look like a wax figure. Less is more! Learn the concept of lighting in the studio and using natural lighting.
OMP: Do you have any other advice for people who are serious about the business?
JOHN: Read everything you can on photography — study it like a school course. Learn about composition; look at things always imagining how they will look through a lens. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different lenses, exposure and white balances on the same shot.
Study the really good pictures you see, and decide what makes them great. Photography has come a long way from the days of carrying two cameras, you now can turn a dial to shoot color turn it again for black and white. Dodge, burn and change exposure and see it instantly in Photoshop. Take a picture and look at it in the screen instead having to wait for film to be developed. Print your pictures on your own printer without having to wait for your print or for an extra week because you wanted an enlargement.
Upload your pictures to share with millions of people with a click of a button. Every day is a new day for photography. Take advantage of it by doing something new and great!
See more of John’s work on his OMP Portfolio