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Joey Lawrence Tutorial: Review

If you read our chat with 17-year-old hotshot photog Joey Lawrence earlier this week, you probably made the jump to check out the new Tutorial he just released. And your first reaction was probably, "$299? WTF?"

Well, I have spent the last few days digesting the material in the tutorials, and I'll tell you WTF after the jump. Plus, there is a sneak preview of a full, 10-minute video segment of the Protest the Hero shoot, which is when he made the photo above.


The first thing I want to dispense with is the price. At $299 ($249 through Oct 21st) it is easy to look at this and compare it to the cost of a commercially produced DVD of whatever was playing 6 months ago in the theaters. If you are looking to watch this once and be entertained for two hours for X dollars, just save your money and buy "Superbad" for $20 when it comes out. Then get you laugh on, McLovin. Better yet, rent it for even less.

(Superbad may well be the funniest movie I have ever seen. But it is definitely a guy thing and most decidedly not for the kiddies.)

We are in a culture where you can get access to an almost unlimited amount of infotainment for very little money. This is based on the idea that you create this very expensive thing and millions of people share the cost load to make it work for everyone. Which is cool, really, but it also warps our perception of the value of information.

This blog, for instance, is free. But the information (hopefully) still has some value. But that doesn't mean I should expect to get, say, a degree in psychology for free.

So, before I get into the DVD itself, here is who definitely should be interested in it:

• People who shoot musicians for income. No brainer.
• Fine art types who want to learn how to take their photos into more alternative visions.
• Sports shooters -- seriously, this is Gatorade/Nike ad stuff.
• Senior portrait photographers: One could make a killing shooting 18-year-olds from rich families who want to look alternative and epic. You'll have some work in front of you to study and learn the shooting/post techniques, but wow.
• People who shoot for -- or aspire to shoot for -- progressive and/or alternative publications or websites. Duh.
• Doctors, lawyers, professionals and otherwise rich hobbyists who have more money than they know what to do with. But then, they get to buy everything.


What You Get

To avoid any confusion, you should know that the package is not and standard DVD designed to be dropped into your player and seen on TV. It is a package of files (1.5 gigs) that can be either downloaded or shipped on a DVD ROM. This enables the inclusion of texture images. (They are hi-res jpegs, and you'll never look at a concrete wall the same way again.) They would not otherwise be accessible on a TV DVD format. I bring this up because someone left a comment on Monday's IM interview in which they seemed pretty upset that they did not get a traditional DVD, and had problems playing Quicktime on their PC.

The info is navigated using your browser -- as if you were on the web -- but the content is all stored locally. So you can view it offline, and there is no waiting for movies to load.

The package is divided into two sections, videos and tutorials. The videos are shot on location during a few shoots, with some how-to vignettes thrown in. While the real meat of the presentation is in the tutorials, I found the videos very interesting. There is a full video segment embedded below.


Learning Like a Teenager

Lawrence is one of a breed of new shooters who have grown up with digital and Photoshop. He studies shooting and post techniques the way one of his friends might learn how to beat Halo 3. There is no downside to making mistakes - you just mess up, learn and advance.

His shoots show this, too. He is working with studio lights in some shoots and speedlights in others, but the ethic is the same: Assume there is a way to do anything you need to do. Need blood? Make it. Need new textures for your grunge-look photos? Bake some in mom's oven.

The way he choreographs his subjects, interacts with them, collaborates with them -- it all serves to show you how a 17-year old thinks differently than you probably do. For me, the biggest takeaway was how little there truly was standing between what I am doing and moving into his level. I love this kind of stuff, so I am certainly biased in this review. But being exposed to a new way of thinking is, for me, far more valuable than adding another piece of gear to the bag.

Check out the following video from the "Protest the Hero" shoot, which Lawrence uploaded to YouTube:

The guy is frugal, creative and simply does not acknowledge limits. I love that. I should think that way more often.

But for Lawrence, the shoots are just the appetizer. The first phase of an image creation that gets him the platform to create his final product in Photoshop. You are gonna laugh, but the thing it reminded me of was the three-book series by Ansel Adams -- The Camera, The Negative and The Print. (I wore my copies out.)

Yeah, all except it is totally different in terms of tools, technology and a complete lack of anal-retentiveness.

The Photoshop tutorials were gold to me. As a long-time newspaper shooter with ethics always guiding what I do, these tutorials just exploded the way I think of post processing. I know lots of you out there are Photoshop jockeys, so you may be way ahead of me. But I am certainly going to be doing some different photos from here on out.

He is not holding back, going totally fishbowl on all of his techniques. That's awesome, and it speaks to the different way he views the craft as compared to many of his older colleagues. There is no one technique that rules -- they all are just tools to him. If you are the kind of person who obsesses with backward engineering Dave Hill's stuff (or Tim Tadder's) you'll go for this.

He moves fast, but explains everything. You'll be backing up to see stuff again until you understand it. This is not a begginer's Photoshop guide, either. But if you use PS with any regularity, you'll be able to understand it.

Is this thing totally comprehensive? Nope. Nothing is. But it is a total and honest info dump of all things Joey Lawrence, from soup to nuts, showing you everything he possibly could about his technique, style and approach to image creation.

Sure, people are ragging him for the price tag. But this guy is finding incredible success at a young age and is sharing his techniques with the industry at a time when they have real value. Good on him for spreading the word, and he deserves to sell a lot of copies.

So, will he bury his career with this project? Hardly. He is giving you what he has learned up to here, but he doesn't need to rely on these techniques to make a living going forward. He is a very creative, talented and driven young adult. And with this project, many people will be funding the next stage of his career.

And my guess is that senior portraits are gonna get a lot more interesting -- and expensive -- in the next few years.

Get a second opinion: Amercan Peyote review
IM Chat Interview here
Joey Lawrence Tutorial
Joey Lawrence Website


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