Through the Looking Glass
Through the Looking Glass
Author: Ben Libby, Creative Director, Bear Notch Studio
Contributing Author: Gleb Budivlovsky, Photographer, Gleb Budivlovsky Photography
Photography is one of the most amazing mediums and careers one can have (especially if they are talented). I picked up my first DSLR in 2015 which was a Canon T3i and experienced a lot of fun with it. Recently, I upgraded to a Canon T6i and has been really interesting capturing both photography and videography, I still have a ways to go but it's always amazing to reach out to those who have really good skills. From novice to experts, there are plenty of photographers out there, but only the true experts rise in my 5% book, and one person I need to mention in my blog is Gleb Budilovsky, a multi-subject photographer who specializes in wedding and entertainment shoots.
[Bear Notch Studio]: Back in high school, did you have a dslr or mirrorless camera? I don’t think we even had iPhones yet! Did you also take high school yearbook?
[Gleb Budivlovsky]: Back in high school, 2001-2005 (damn we're getting old!), I didn't even have a point and shoot camera to my name. I wish I took a photography class then just so I could've gotten some experience with film, which I still lack. I also regret not participating in putting together the yearbook, since it seems like a perfect skill building opportunity.
Up until I got my first DSLR in 2009, my only experience with cameras was taking the occasional photo using my parents' point and shoot while on vacation somewhere.
[BNS]: After Masconomet, where did you attend college? What was your major? Did you ever think about going to Photography school?
[GB]: I attended Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, followed by the University of Massachusetts in Boston. While there, I realized that even if I got my Ph.D., I would still most likely be paying off my college loans for the rest of my life, so I began to seek a different career path.
During my time at UMass, I was an avid music festival and concert goer, sneaking my newly acquired Canon Rebel T2i into any show I could to share the incredible experiences with friends who weren't there. Eventually, I had a portfolio that was decent enough to get press passes to shoot events for various blogs. Shooting EDM shows was my photography education, along with Youtube. I learned how to get shots in some of the hardest to shoot environments out there; dark clubs with low black ceilings. I eventually was asked to photograph a friend's wedding, which terrified me to my core, but I enjoyed the challenge. This led me to the path I'm on today.
I honestly don't think photography school is necessary, and for many people, a waste of money. I can't tell you how many people I've met that went to photography school but can barely use their camera on manual. I'm not sure what schools they went to, but my advice is that if you choose to go to college for photography, make sure you're going to learn more than just how to critique a photo or work in a dark room so you can make a living from the skills you learn.
On the flip side, I know some people who went to school for commercial photography and now they either work for a large production house or own a photography business themselves. They have told me that what they learned in school can also be learned online (as with most things), but the connections they made there were invaluable. I'm never looked at a curriculum for a photography school, but if they don't include a business class on how to run a photography business, then there is a good chance the students would be missing a huge piece of knowledge that is required for a successful photography career.
[BNS]: Tell us your setup, what’s your absolute go to when it comes to gear, especially traveling?
[GB]: Currently, I'm shooting with a Canon 1DX Mark II and a newly purchased Sony A7RIII. I use all Canon L glass that covers me from 15mm to 200mm. For weddings, I shoot with primes (24mm f1.4, 50mm f1.2, 85mm f1.2) as much as the environment will let me. The 70-200mm f2.8 is sometimes my go to if there is enough room. I currently use 3 Canon 600EX-RT flashes on location or 2-3 Paul C. Buff Einstein E640 for more studio type settings.
After traveling with the 1DX Mark II around Europe a little bit, it's size quickly became a burden. The attention you get drawn to yourself once you take it out makes you an instant target, which is why I got the stealthier Sony A7RIII. The Metabones adapter makes all of my Canon lenses compatible with the Sony camera. I'll usually bring my 24mm f1.4, 50mm 1.2, 24-70mm f2.8 and a 70-200mm f2.8 if I'm going on an extended trip where weight isn't a factor. For backpacking, the 24mm and 50mm is a great combination.
[BNS]: Can you tell us a crazy story when you were fulfilling photography out in the field? (To show readers what can potentially happen out there as a professional).
[GB]: One of the craziest things that has happened to me was at a wedding last year. The first thing you shoot at a wedding is the bride getting ready in the morning with all of the bridesmaids. I had my 1DX II hanging by my side while moving a flash stand. The flash wasn't fastened on tight enough to the stand and fell off hitting my camera then the floor, spilling batteries all over the place. Luckily the flash hit a carpet covered floor, so it survived with minimal damage. While cleaning up the batteries from the flash, I noticed my camera's LCD screen looked a little funky. I turned it on and realized the flash had completely smashed the screen, making it unusable.
Fortunately, I had a backup Canon 5D Mark III, but it was still devastating to think that I could not use my 1DX II. I could still take photos, but I couldn't review them, so it was like the old school days of film. Using only the light meter within the viewfinder of the camera, I was still able to use the camera throughout the whole day to nail the wedding. It was a great unexpected exercise.
The important lesson here is that neither the bride or groom knew anything went wrong. Nothing could've gotten accomplished if I brought it up except to needlessly freak out them out.
[BNS]: What’s your absolute favorite subject to photograph? And, are you trying to reach other dimensions of photography?
[GB]: It’s hard to pick a favorite subject to photograph since I enjoy so many things because of my ADD mind. I mainly love a challenge, something that can't just be photographed with a smartphone. Astrophotography is something that has always amazed me. Even though I can obviously get better in all aspects of photography, I'm currently trying to develop a better skillset to get truly breathtaking shots of the Milky Way. I'm also just getting into photographing cars as a way to combine a few passions into potentially paid gigs.
The best part about photography is that once you learn how to do something within one subject, you can apply it to many others. Everything I learned from covering music festivals is directly applied to shooting weddings, and vice versa.
[BNS]: When you finish a photography shoot, you head to Lightroom, can you give us an overview of how to properly edit our photos with Adobe Lightroom?
[GB]: After a shoot, I create a Lightroom catalog for the client (for weddings it's the couple's name) and import the photos in. I go through the images and tag the keepers with 1 star. I have a variety of presets that I either bought or created myself and apply that specific preset to every image. I then go through every photo to adjust the exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites and blacks. The tone curve data is usually in the preset, so I rarely play around with it after. If it helps the image, I'll enable profile correction. Occasionally I'll apply a touch of post-crop vignetting to focus more attention to the subject. For photos of concerts, I have a little more freedom in playing around with the split toning.
For skin smoothing, I used to use photoshop, which was time-consuming, until I found the plugin, Color Efex Pro 4. The dynamic skin softener within that plug-in is quite powerful. Color Efex Pro 4 is part of the Nik Collection, which I believe used to cost up to $500, until Google bought it and made it free. Also, the detail extractor within Color Efex Pro is occasionally mind blowing. It is definitely a great compliment to using Lightroom that many photographers can benefit from, especially if it's free.
When it comes to editing, I've learned one important lesson over the years; less is more. Over editing/skin smoothing, is something that plagues most novice photographers. The better I get, the more nuanced my editing becomes, or at least that's how I feel.
[BNS]: Where do you think you and your photography will be in 3-5 years?
[GB]: I feel like I'll always want to keep doing weddings since few things are as gratifying than capturing someone's most memorable day in their life in an artistic way, but now I'm starting to want to work with professional models in a studio setting. I'm hoping to break into more of the commercial side within the next 3-5 years. Maybe you'll see my shot on a billboard someday soon! :)
[BNS]: And, I'm sure we will! Any last words Gleb?
[GB]: Photography is not about the gear you have, but what you do with what's in front of you. That's referring to not only the gear at your disposal but also about the scene in front of you. Change perspectives; get low, get high and get out there!
If you're interested in seeing his work, check out his facebook, instagram, and portfolio website below. And as always, if you love his work, make sure to like and follow!