Sunset Image Awards Spotlight: Dwight Okumoto

When it comes to weddings, it’s no secret that a bride wants everything to go perfect on the big day. One of the most important guests at the wedding is the photographer. For Honolulu-based Dwight Okumoto, it’s always been about capturing those special moments.

Once the Sunset Image Awards opened for submissions, Okumoto knew he had a few great entries for the “Wedding” category. After the judging was finished, two of his images had captured the attention of the panel. “Elegance” took first place and “Spirited” placed third.

“Elegance” by Dwight Okumoto – 1st Place – Wedding

“I took those during the COVID shutdown. The wedding was downsized from 300 attendees to 10,” says Okumoto. “I assured her that we would make it work. We were able to spend more time on the photography and try different locations.”

With few people milling about town, Okumoto and the beautiful bride were able to set up some shoots at local government buildings. “We tried to make the most of the time and tried different locations on the same day,” he says. “What was great for us was the lighting, because it was so flat.”

“Spirited” is his personal favorite of the images he submitted. “It really showed off her gown and that was my intent,” says Okumoto. “I wanted to photograph the back of it and show all the lacing. I thought it was very feminine.”

But after 40 years in the industry, he also knows that when it comes to competitions, the judges usually like to see the details in the face. “I know judges like closeup headshots and portraits seem to score better than when you try to show the entire dress,” he says.

Looking back over the years he’s spent capturing important family moments for others, it’s a member of Okumoto’s own family who led him to pick up a camera for the first time. “It was an older cousin. I was 8 years old, and he was 11,” he says. “He was always interested in photography, and we had Instamatic cameras, way back then. That’s how I got interested in photography.”

Once he went pro, Okumoto started working with Don Emmerich, a pioneer in commercial photography. “Don was a technical advisor with PPA during the 90s and into the 2000s,” he says. “He was doing commercial photography with film and did beta testing with digital cameras for Eastman Kodak. He also got me interested in dry lab and wide-format printers.”

Whether he’s picking up an Instamatic camera for the first time or capturing a bride’s special day, Dwight Okumoto certainly knows the importance of finding the right setting, lighting, and staging to create award-winning photos.

If you are interested in submitting your creative wedding shots for a chance to win $300, you can enter the current Sunset Image Awards HERE. Not a wedding photographer? That’s OK, enter in Fine Art/Composite, Portrait, or Wildlife/Landscape.

To see highlights of Photography Essentials, check out our series of LexJet Reviews to get ideas on new equipment or media, contact a LexJet sales specialist at 800-453-9538, or visit LexJet.com.

Make an Impression with ChromaLuxe Photo Panels

Since we started telling photographers and print service providers about ChromaLuxe Photo Panels a few years ago, they have become one of our most popular products. Why? It’s simple: ChromaLuxe images make an impression.

From the bright vivid colors with the gloss to the durability of the EXT products, the dye-sublimation technology helps art, signage, and photographs stand out from the crowd. We are excited to announce that a new finish has been added to the ChromaLuxe family: Textured Aluminum panels.

Textured ChromaLuxe
ChromaLuxe Textured Aluminum

The texture adds a unique look to your images, it also reduces glare and hides fingerprints for graphics in high-traffic areas. As with all ChromaLuxe products, the textured panels are durable and easy to clean.

ChromaLuxe metal prints are lightweight, durable, made with recycled material, and are 100% recyclable.

Be sure to visit our new easy reference guide to see informative videos and the wide variety of available ChromaLuxe panels. If you are interested in learning more about dye-sub technology or about the new textured panels, give us a call at 800-453-9538 today.

The Front Porch Sessions – Photographers Get Creative in the Wake of COVID-19

Photographers by nature, are “people” people, and when sheltering in place and social distancing guidelines went into effect in March, they were among the many who were temporarily out of business. It was no different for Elise Wicklund, and her husband Tracy, of Wicklund Photography in Parrish, Fla. “It virtually stopped our business,” Wicklund says. “In an instant, we had to clear our calendars.”

With so many cancellations – and they were cancellations and not reschedules – the Wicklunds had to get creative and come up with something different to capture this historic moment of the worldwide pandemic. “We considered education, but we know we aren’t teachers,” she says. “We are photographers, so our reaction was to come up with different types of sessions.”

That’s when Wicklund got the idea for the “Front Porch Sessions”. She reached out to neighbors and clients to see if they were interested in doing family portraits on their porches. The popularity of the sessions exploded, and they booked all the sessions they had available. “We decided to let families document this part of their lives, just like they would any other – birthday parties, graduations, pandemics – if we don’t take photographs of these times, we won’t have anything but memories, and memories fade with time,” Wicklund says. “That’s why we photograph, so we figured this is just another memory to photograph.”

The sessions proved to be a great outlet for many of the families and some of them proved it with their sessions. While some families took a serious approach, Wicklund says others had fun with it. “Everyone had been cooped up inside their homes,” she says. “The sessions were whatever the families needed – some took them very seriously; others had a ton of fun.  We didn’t care or direct that part.  We were there to document and serve our families.”

While they enjoyed chronicling the pandemic through these sessions, the Wicklunds did not charge their clients for these sittings. “We still weren’t officially allowed to operate, so in lieu of session fees, we took donations for the food bank,” she says. “Our brand is all about servicing our clients and we believe if we have a servant’s heart, our brand will succeed.” Photographers who are doing charitable work, like Elise and Tracy, may consider printing on LexJet 8 Mil Production Satin Photo Paper, an economic solution that offers a wide color gamut and gives photos a natural look with minimal glare.

As the state of Florida has slowly begun reopening, Wicklund says they are starting to see more interest in regular sessions. They’ve also reached out to past clients, especially wedding clients, about design services for albums or videos that were not purchased at the time of the event. “We’ve reached out to see if people want to pre-book their sessions once isolation orders are lifted,” she says.

Looking at the future, Wicklund says she’s not opposed to scheduling more porch sessions, even after things return to normal, but it comes down to helping their clients get the most out of the sessions. “If this hits again, we will probably offer them again,” she says. “There’s no real reason to only offer those sessions, but it might be fun to see how things have changed in a year.”

As with most “people” people, photographers will certainly be happy to get back to weddings, graduation, and newborn sessions, but in the meantime, they are looking to get creative like Elise and Tracy Wicklund. However, as we approach the second half of the year, Wicklund is cautious about what’s on the horizon. “Based on how 2020 has gone so far, there’s no telling what we will be photographing this time next year!”

3 Ways to Create Statement Art with Your Images

Looking for new ways to add creativity to your printed images? You can create one-of-a-kind pieces of art with a few creative choices. If you are using an aqueous printer, here are three tips to delight your clients and finish your photos with flare:

GIVE THEM AN EDGE. Three-time Sunset Print Award winner Kimberly Smith loves the Sunset Bright Velvet Rag, which she uses to distress the edges of some of her fine art prints. “The thickness [of the paper] means the tears on the edges are perfect for a soft, multi-layered look,” she says.

WRAP IT UP. Another way to impress clients is to turn their photos into wall art. Printing on Sunset Select Matte Canvas and wrapping it with the easy-to-use GOframe system creates a final image that is worthy of hanging in any museum.

ADD SOME SHINE. To bring a little extra shine to your images, try printing on Sunset Photo Metallic Paper. Aluminum prints are increasing in popularity, but if you don’t have access to dye-sub equipment, you can get a similar effect with the metallic photo paper. It’s a cost-effect alternative solution that is compatible with aqueous printers. The metallic paper can also be printed and face-mounted to acrylic, using a clear permanent adhesive, to create a unique piece of statement art.

If you are looking for new opportunities with your clients, contact a LexJet sales specialist at 800-453-9538.

Visit Our Redesigned Sunset Print Awards Website

The next time you log on to the Sunset Print Awards website, you’ll notice some changes. The sleek new appearance makes it easier for photographers to learn about the prestigious Sunset Print Awards as well as local print competitions offering the award.

Other updates include:

  • Easier navigation
  • Better views of past winners
  • Easy access to the blog for all the latest Sunset news
  • Interviews with winners
  • Recommended Sunset branded media

What hasn’t changed are the benefits to district and local winners or the top three prizes awarded at the International Photographic Competition. Each winner receives a customized crystal trophy, a lapel pin, and a free pack or roll of Sunset Media, while the three IPC finalists receive engraved trophies and cash prizes.

If you are involved in a local PPA group, camera club or other photography organization that has a minimum of 150 printed entries and would like to include the Sunset Print Award in your competition, have your chairperson register today.

This year, we will be presenting awards to the 2019 IPC winners at Imaging USA in Nashville. If you are attending later this month, be sure to stop by the IPC Display and pick up some information about the 2020 Sunset Print Awards.

Get to Know the Installation Location Before Shooting for Large-Format

Guest blog by Billy Elkins

Billy Elkins

In my last blog, I wrote about communication and went over the five-part process for photographing for large-format printing. Let’s look more specifically at scouting the final installation location. This is the part that is usually the most intimidating for photographers who are not used to photographing for large-format.

Often it is not a simple single surface. In fact, most of the time, the location is more complicated. As the photographer, we normally do not have access to the location of the installation so knowing as many details about the location as possible is important when capturing the image. The previous example from the Sarasota International Airport illustrates that perfectly.

Riverwalk image after final installation at the Sarasota Airport

The image for the airport had to be installed on the back wall directly behind the baggage claim area. This presented a few challenges because of the actual baggage claim window, a large advertising display screen, a column in the middle of the wall and the actual baggage claim conveyor belt system.

Like any other large format photography project, having a photograph of the installation location is useful for conceptually trying to decide how to capture the right image and from the right angle and the right size.

Understanding the location of the final image applies to all large-format photography projects. If you consider vehicle wraps, wall murals or trade show displays, they all have their own installation challenges that, as the image maker, we need to be aware of for the best results.

For this next example project, I was commissioned by LexJet to create an image for their “Carnival” themed trade show booth. The booth itself was 50-feet wide, and they wanted the photo to be the whole backdrop. The installation would be printed on LexJet Simple Flo Wrap Vinyl, and then installed on the back wall of the trade show exhibition floor.

The final image size ended up being 50-feet wide by 25-feet high. This was huge! When you entered the trade show floor, you could see the “Carnival” in the background and could smell the popcorn from the booth. I worked directly with the marketing team to create different versions of the background so they could integrate the best option with the rest of the booth design.

The fair image installed behind the LexJet trade show booth.

So how did we do it? We visited the Florida State Fair and spent most of the day capturing different scenes that were potential backdrops. I brought my full bag of lenses, and we decided on a focal length of 50mm, it is the closest focal length to what we actually see. I made very tight overlapping images so that we had as much resolution as possible knowing that final image size needed to be so big.

And because the marketing team was going to experiment with the concepts after the fact, we had to capture as many different scenes and as large as possible. The idea was to give the feel of walking right up to the carnival. In addition, we crafted images to be used for the rest of the booth and to be used for sample material give-aways.

Technical Details:

  • Camera – Nikon D800
  • Lens- Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8
  • Focal Length – 50mm
  • F-Stop – f/9
  • Shutter – 1/650
  • ISO – 200
  • Frames – 20 overlapping NEF files

The image was merged using Adobe Photoshop CC Automate > Photomerge. I provided a final layered PSD file to the marketing team so they could make any adjustments for layout and for printing.