Since Pictage partnered with the marketing and investment efforts of WeddingChannel.com last year, consumer-oriented ad campaigns have been popping up in major bridal magazines nationwide, with the tag line "Brides trust photographers who trust Pictage." "The message is that brides can trust that their precious wedding images are safe and cared for by a well-established company," says Fong.
This guarantee also lets clients know they can trust the photographer of these memories. From a business perspective, it's pretty well-documented that weddings posted on Pictage average about $500 more in additional print and product sales.
PUTTING THE FUJI S3 TO THE TEST
Whenever a digital camera hits the market, Fong test-drives it so he can advise photographers who frequent www.digitalphotographers.net on settings and techniques. "The best testing ground for a digital camera is a wedding," he says. "You have to deal with fast action, constantly changing lighting conditions, and white balance changes. You don't have the luxury of careful metering or custom white balance, so a digital camera needs to be a sophisticated system of metering, sensor, and processing to be a good wedding camera."
Fong was very enthusiastic when he tested the preproduction prototype of the Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro recently. "Fujifilm obtained an amazing patent on an amazing inventionthey have two sensors in the pixel instead of one," he says. "The biggest enemy to digital photography is blown-out highlights. Fujifilm's engineers devised a way to basically take two pictures at once, at different sensitivity levels. It's like taking two imagesone on ISO 200, one at ISO 800then blending the best parts of the two photos. Blown-out areas are 'rescued' by the overflow pixel, and the results are amazingly filmlike."
Even though the S3 has a 12-megapixel sensor, that's not the most important aspect of the camera for him. "Photographers are way too concerned about the megapixel size of their camera," he says. "I could shoot for the rest of my career on a four-megapixel camera and create stunning images at large sizes. The most important factor in a digital camera is dynamic range. A camera with a wide dynamic range has the ability to capture the most mid-range detail, without blowing out highlights or losing shadow detail. It's like using 64 crayons instead of 8."
Fong played with the Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro's many settings in his shooting experiment. "Each setting dramatically changes the 'look' of the final image," he explains. "It's a completely customizable camera, with dynamic range boost settings, tone and contrast settings, and the ability to choose or customize color spaces and sharpness." You can see his recommended settings at www.fujis3.com.
For the past few years, in between capturing matrimonial memories, Fong has led private two-day workshops. "Day one focuses on techniques, including file handling, digital infrared, lighting techniques, camera settings, and how to interpret a histogram," he says. "Day two is all Photoshop, color management, color correction, and how to build digital albums quickly."
While his digital summits were very successful, they were also totally exhausting. "I stopped doing them, but continued to receive a lot of requests for help," he says. He eventually had 16 hours of classroom instruction taped and put it into a four-DVD set, with an image CD and workbook. The set works out better for photographers because they are free to repeat chapters as frequently as necessary.
A WORLD OF LIGHT
A while back, Fong became frustrated when he tried to find an adequate light diffuser for his digital shoots. He felt the available alternatives were too small to be effective, and wouldn't allow him to bounce off the ceiling or keep the same orientation when shooting vertical or horizontal.
"Flash diffusion is extremely important for digital photography," explains Fong. "What mostly messes up images is huge variations in exposure and high contrast in the highlights."
So he got out the drafting table and created his dream tool: the GF Lightsphere.
"Since I carry three cameras, a bracket was an awful solution. I came up with this diffuser, and applied for the patent right away." Thousands of units were sold worldwide in the first two months.
Gary Fong's Gearbox
Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro with a Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D AF
Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro, Fujifilm FinePix S20 Pro
Apple Mac PowerBook 17"
Apple PowerMac Dual 2GB G5
PNY 512MB memory cards
Apple 60GB iPod Photo
Driven by equal parts of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, Fong has introduced other innovative products into the wedding photography market segment. He concocted BullZeye image management software; launched www.digitalphotographers.net to answer digital questions and serve as a forum for pro photographers; tapped into instant movies as a marketing tool (www.instantmoviesonline.com); and offered investing and wealth-building lessons.
"Although I don't do the Summit Workshops anymore, those seminars led participants to request more information on wealth building," says Fong. "So for the past three years, I've done a three-day workshop called 'Wealth Building for the Photographer.' It's an intense workshop where I talk about marketing, business management, saving/investing, and creating an exit strategy as a photographer. It's rewarding to see how many attendees have gone on to generate wealth for themselves and their families."
What's next on Gary Fong's to-do list?
"These days I'm mostly an inventor," he says. "I think it comes from my frustration of wanting better, more creative products when I did a lot of photography. I was too busy getting orders out to clients to be able to sit down and think about how I could improve things."