Jeremy Cowart’s LIFEFINDER DVD Review
Here is something I rarely do on the blog but definitely need to get in the habit of doing much more frequently, reviewing stuff! With a commitment to step up the blogging once Xiao Miles is born (since I will be on a Leave of Absence from the corporate world), today is as good of a day as any to start reviewing if Xiao Miles comes this week!
Ok, so maybe I have done ONE review so far, I attempted to do a video review for Camera Concierge of the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II. Well until I start shooting some more video this blog review will have to do!
Ok on to LIFEFINDER…
I received my copy of Lifefinder thanks to a great contest that Lara Casey was running on her blog that was announced on Twitter. For anyone interested in the wedding industry, Lara is one to read up on with her unique perspective as Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Southern Weddings Magazine and founder of LaraCaseyReps. Hi Lara and thank you for running the contest, love your blog! 🙂
Ok now for real on to the review. For those who may not know Jeremy Cowart, I first learned of him through his work founding Help-Portrait when Betty and I participated in the inaugural Help-Portrait event with a group of photographers back in Orlando. Besides his work with Help-Portrait, he is also a noted commercial and music photographer, and has done another charity project called Voices of Haiti after the earthquake.
I actually devoured this 4-hour 2x DVD when it first arrived in December, so this review is long overdue. The DVD set is two parts, with the first disc covering Jeremy’s shooting philosophy and some insights into the artist, with the second disc devoted to behind the scenes at a couple of shoots with Jeremy. As a wedding photographer, the content does not specifically talk about how to get great poses for brides and grooms, however as a well-rounded photographer I can say that the insights into Jeremy’s shooting styles will help any style of photographer no matter what your specialty may be. I will try to review each segment to see if the DVD is right for you to purchase, to see if it really makes sense for your own photography. Thinking of buying Lifefinder? Read on!
Interview by Zack Arias
This may be one of my favorite parts of the DVD and not just because Zack Arias is a fellow Atlanta Photographer or that we share the same first name! Rather than talk about himself, Jeremy is interviewed by the “People’s Photographer” himself, Zack Arias. What we get is a short biography of Jeremy, his work, his style, his influences, and his history coming from a graphic design background and falling headfirst into photography. A great way to lead off the DVD set to give you a deeper understanding of the artist. You really feel like you are in the same room as these two well-respected photographers have a nice chat on the couch, and you can feel that the respect they have for each other is mutual.
Here is where things get interesting and we start getting down to the vision that drives Jeremy’s photography. We start off with Jeremy narrating his portfolio, but as he points out himself this is more than a simple portfolio review. Jeremy takes a bit of time to go into the thought process behind the images both from a shooting perspective and from a post-processing editing perspective, also how the two intertwine. I definitely liked the fact that he really talked through making the photos besides just talking about the story behind the photo about the artist or model.
Maybe the least informative part of the DVD for me, but will still hold value for others and some parts were good theory. Now we are really getting into the how-to part of how Jeremy processes his images from shoot to client delivery. The software he uses is not your typical Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture, so the details may be lost on most people but the theory again remains the same. The applicable parts will be the entire workflow process from capture, to color correction, to editing, to the software Jeremy uses to present the images to clients. Again, not that everyone will do the same thing but at least you can see how a working professional does it and it works for him.
This is basically the Q&A portion of the disc, where Jeremy gave his fans to ask questions and he selected 10 to answer during the DVD session. Some good ideas here such as how Jeremy stays creative (the first question he answers). Little nuggets of information here and there throughout the other 9 questions as well.
Locations and Libraries
I really enjoyed this section and found that it might be the most applicable to wedding photographers, something that we can take away from the commercial photography industry. As part of his commercial work, Jeremy keeps a library of various locations he has been to to reference later when the possibility of a shoot arises. Also, Jeremy keeps a library of various reference materials such as a clouds database to use in various commercial pieces if the sky that day just doesn’t cooperate. While I don’t foresee the latest trend in wedding photography to start photoshopping clouds that were not there, the idea that we should always have a database of interesting photoshoot locations for engagement shoots is something that I need to start organizing with my old photos.
Besides the charity work with Help-Portrait and Voices of Haiti, Jeremy has had some amazing opportunities in his short career as a professional photographer. During this segment we go behind the scenes with Jeremy on the Passion World Tour and how he traveled with Louie Giglio documenting the amazing experiences people were having with the Tour. This segment also has some sub-sections which any photographer may find useful on gear selection for a Tour like this and also file management of all of the images that one would generate from traveling with a group for months on end. Geeky stuff but I think most photographers are gear-heads and enjoy seeing the tools of the trade that working professionals use. What was sort of surprising was Jeremy’s lack of elaborate gear and more focus on lighting, preferring zoom lenses in an age when the trend is to shoot prime lenses.
Projects of Purpose
Here is another area that all photographers need to focus on, myself included! I was also having a discussion with our good friend Barry Kirsch and how his “Murder City Project” has opened up all sorts of doors to him outside of the project itself. Jeremy talks about his two best known projects, Help-Portrait and Voices of Haiti discussing some of the backstory that went into creating them and the experiences that have come out as a result. I don’t know exactly what my personal project will be just yet, but I know that when I start it I will pursue it with passion and purpose much like Berry and Jeremy. The Voices of Haiti segment was my favorite of the two – maybe because I participated in Help-Portrait and already knew that story. We travel with Jeremy to Haiti and meet some of the people that he photographs and from a technical side, also see how some of the shots were made using simple minimalistic equipment.
Behind the Scenes
Ok, rather than go through each and every shoot that is covered here I will just give a quick overview of the entire second disc. I believe this disc will closely mirror the experience of the recent CreativeLive session that Jeremy taught called “Experimental Portraiture with Jeremy Cowart.” I purchase the “Wedding Photography with Jasmine Star” on CreativeLive so I can attest to the quality of the production, if you like what you see on this second disc of Lifefinder.
Throughout each shoot Jeremy talks about the creative decisions for the locations, for posing the subject, and the gear used to get the shot. In particular I enjoyed the Imogen Heap shoot where things started getting more and more creative especially with projecting images onto the singer. Also, a neat trick in these shoots was the use of a smoke machine for dramatic effect. It’s the little tips like these that make the second disc worth watching.
In conclusion and in all honesty, I’m not really sure I could recommend this DVD to many people just because of the price point of $249. I know it’s all the rage these days for photographers who have “made it” to release an instructional DVD or teach a workshop. Even for as much as I respect Zack Arias (and yes I understand Zack’s philosophy that you have to feed your family), his One Light DVD is also $250!
If you are a portrait photographer and need some inspiration for your next session, the on-location tips are useful and will replace or supplement an expensive workshop. My recommendation though would be to get Jeremy’s session on CreativeLive for $149 if you really want the Jeremy Cowart experience or get some of the much more reasonably priced instructional DVDs from David Ziser (which I just ordered myself!) if you are into wedding photography. Even the excellent material at Kelby Training is only $199 for an ENTIRE YEAR of training!
Thank you Lara Casey for the chance to view this DVD! As I give an unbiased opinion I don’t think I would have ever bought it myself, so it was a chance to see the hard work which was put into the entire Lifefinder set. I hope anyone reading this will use it to help them make an informed decision, if you do decide to get the DVD I hope you get as much out of it as I did! The content is still there and clocking in at 4 hours you do get a lot for your money.
Zachary Long is a wedding photographer based in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Together with his wife Betty Feng they form Feng Long Photography. Zac and Betty are available for weddings in the Metro Atlanta, GA area and destination weddings throughout the United States and China.
Please view our website and blog at www.fenglongphoto.com/