Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Learn From A Highly Opinionated Professional

Today's reference website is Cazillo Photography. Mr. Cazillo is a professional with strong opinions. If I followed everything he does, photography wouldn't be that much fun for me. He's the stereotypical pro in that he has a ton of gear to sell you that you probably don't need and he can talk and talk on these videos. I had to dig a little to find the proof in this pudding(his images). He's got some great portraits, some decent nature shots, and others that are just snapshots.

I found Mr. Cazillo looking for information about when and when not to use auto or "P" mode. His video about it said to NEVER EVER use it. I've seen quite a few great photos that have it in their EXIF data. The camera companies pride themselves on it. Most people use it extensively. Many important and great spur of the moment shots would never have been made without it, but Mr. Pro says to never use it.

I don't want to slam him to hard, but he's preaching to a certain type of photographer here. In a controlled studio or a landscape shot where time is not of the essence his advice very well could be dead on. I'll use many of his tips when I do use manual mode. What I won't take away from Mr. Cazillo is the idea that his methods are the best and only methods that I should be using.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"A Lesser Photographer Manifesto" Changed My Outlook On Photography

Here's a link to what I consider the most important article I ever read on photography.

A Lesser Photographer Manifesto

In short, he's telling photographers to create limitations with a cheaper camera and it will improve their art. I only agree with that to a certain point. We live in an ever changing world where you can do incredible things with technology. If it doesn't break your budget and you want to try whatever technical gadget, I say go for it. The thing is, you have to realize that it probably isn't going to improve your game that much or help you enjoy photography more.

Sports and wildlife photography are the exceptions to this rule and they're some of the most appreciated photos. If you're trying to get great photos in poor light, you're going to have to spend some money. It's that simple.

Then, there's the matter of glass. Great lenses make a difference. That's just that simple too. You can still get a great photo without them, but not consistently.

The manifesto's biggest lesson though is that you can use constraints instead of complaining about them. Exhausting the possibilities with the gear you have can be a great teacher too.

Every photographer should at least read  A Lesser Photographer Manifesto and consider some of the points, especially beginners or those who aren't happy with the results from the gear they have.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Right Light For Photography

The most common complaint for photographers is that the light is just never "right". Photography is nothing more than capturing light, so "the right light" is really important. Many times the complaint is valid. If you would like to increase your chances for great photographs, don't wait for "the right light", shoot whatever subject is right for the light that you have.

As amateurs, we're not bound to a customer who wants a specific shot. It's ok to spend time looking for other subjects when our goal photo is just not attainable. Here are some general guidelines for what to shoot in what light. As amateurs, there's no real benefit to staying with one style of photography, so adding more to what you shoot to suit change light removes those limits.

The Golden Hours

Added note - sunsets are better with something of interest in them. 

The "golden hours" are the hour before and after a sunrise or sunset. the angle of light at these hours is always the most warm and dramatic. If you want more interesting photos, don't shoot sunrises and sunsets, shoot the landscapes that are illuminated by them. 

For great landscape photography, the golden hours are a must because this is when the best photos are taken. If you're going to take great landscapes, you need to work in these hours. That means rising early and missing supper in most cases. It's kind of been a turn-off for landscape photography for me during times when I'm just plain lazy. 

For me, limiting my photography to only the 4 golden hours everyday, just isn't practicle.

Cloudy Days

Cloudy days make bring out colors and detail due to lack of shadows.

I live in Ohio and there are so many cloudy that waiting on "the right light" is common for landscape photography. One solution is to take the photo anyhow, dramatize the clouds if possible, and convert to black and white. It can have a nice look, but it's obvious that you're making up for the lack of "the right light". 

A better solution is to switch to macro photography or to photography that will not include the sky. Clouds diffuse light and that allows for richer colors and reduced contrast. Flowers and anything with color have an entirely different look than they would on a sunny day. 

But what if it's windy and the low light makes fast shutter speeds impossible. Flowers and other small objects will blur due to the movement of the wind. Portraits are a good option. So are other still life images that benefit from color saturation and low contrast. Outdoor markets and festivals come to mind for a good source of images on a cloudy day. 

Don't forget to switch your white balance to the cloudy day setting. It will give a warming effect to your photos.

Direct Light

Direct sunlight adds to interesting architecture like this office shaped like basket.

Direct sun is great for anything that requires fast shutter speeds. Sporting events are the first things that come to mind. Street photography is another option. 

Direct light brings out the texture of objects. If the direct light is low, it elongates shadows giving an interesting effect to any architecture or object. 

Direct light gives a dramatic look to photos with the harsh glow it produces. People's eyes tend to squint giving their photos a sense of intensity.

Night Photography

Night photography is tricky, but worth the effort. Everything changes at night.

Night photography is a light situation that forces a photographer into bend to the light's will. There is less off it, so subjects are more limited or you need to illuminate it with your own lighting. 

It's easy to get carried away with gear acquisition with night photography. As much as I dislike carrying tripods, they are the most important piece of gear for the night. Inexpensive cameras with slow lenses can do very well if the camera is stable. If you lack a tripod, just look for highly illuminated subjects like signs and lit streets. 

Always Be Shooting

I think I've covered most lighting situations that can be encountered and they encompass all 24 hours of the day. The light may not be right for what you initially intend to photograph, but it's always right for something else. It's just a matter of knowing what to look for. 

The Forbidden Colored Camera

Incredibly, the professional photography world mocks and belittles the colored camera. I find it so odd that a profession that is in the art realm would take offense to a colorful camera. The claim is that the color will not change the quality of the image that it produces. Ok, they got me there. The colored camera can open doors, make a child more likely to small, and cause those being photographed to smile just a little more and not take the situation so seriously.

Photographer with the taboo red Nikon superzoom camera. 
The photo above is a young lady with a red Nikon superzoom. Would a pilot be more open to her with her little amateur camera or a big Canon 5D with a mega-lens on it? My money would be on the shiny red camera. It looks more fun and less intimidating than that of the typical professional. Not to mention, in skilled hands, it's capable of very good photos.

It's true, a black one will take technically the same photos, but the red one will change the mood of the shoot. In photography where no human subject is involved, any color will do, but if you're working with people, some color can actually do a little bit to change the attitudes of people.

Colored cameras are a marketing ploy, but that same emotion they're pulling from the buyer works on those photographed with it too. If you have or want a colored camera, get one! Don't let a pro tell you differently. If you're drawn to them, appearance is one more thing to aid in figuring out what type of camera to buy.

If you like the look of this camera, it's a really good 30x zoom from Nikon at an affordable price.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Juxtaposition. A Big Word For A Simple Concept

Juxtaposition is just another term that means that a photography has things in position that make sense. As a photographer, we're trying to put together an image that draws interest and juxtaposition is one way of doing that. To find a good juxtaposition, you have to work at it and look for it.

Finding things that just fit together is how we find a good juxtaposition. It's rare and fun when we find words that make an obvious juxtaposition for us.

Sunoco gas station sign with the sunrays.
Sun rays and the Sunoco sign just go together. 
Travelodge welcomes NASA airplane.
NASA airplane parked next to a Travelodge Motel. Extreme traveling.
Juxtaposition doesn't always have to be something witty and humorous. Those rare finds just emphasize the point that adding meaningful things together add value to the photo by making it more interesting. In this photo, I used the leading line of a fence rail to a woman whose watching the waterfall. This addition wasn't so much that it made the photo to busy and it told the story that people come to this enjoy this waterfall often.

Woman viewing the waterfall at Chagin Falls, Ohio.
A lady enjoys the calming power of a waterfall at Chagrin Falls, Ohio. 
Noticing a good juxtaposition comes from being out there taking photos. They just happen and you train your eye to look for them. They can be forced for posed photos, but it's usually so obvious to the viewer that they it may actually distract them. It can also be found by working a subject until you find one or waiting for one to occur, such as a person or animal walking into the scene.

Great photos tell stories and juxtaposition is major tool for telling the story or creating a scene for the viewer to make their own. Enjoy finding them as you would enjoy treasure in a treasure hunt.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

There Is Always Something To Photograph If You Look Hard Enough

I went to a groundbreaking ceremony for a project in my town that I really don't support. A group of wealthy people have partnered with people trying to get rich quick(politicians) and they're using their money and public money to wipe out some prime parking spots for a park. They're proud of themselves and this groundbreaking ceremony was a bit to let them to the public just how proud of themselves they are.

This group of suits is quite possibly the most boring group I've ever been in the company of. They're so boring that they bore each other. I used this ceremony as a test to see if I could get any photo that wasn't what I consider boring.

I found this guy in a suit looking intensely interested, but fidgeting with his hands behind his back to fight the boredom. He's the biggest of the big money in town too. More money's pass through those hands than anyone else in town, yet he was standing there suffering the BS like everyone else. I was lucky having a camera to look intensely interested with.

Hands Fidgeting To Fight Boredom
It was shot in intense sunlight and a conversion to black and white brings out the texture in the suit and hands. 

You can find interesting subjects with a story anywhere.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How To Use Criticism To Improve Your Photography

Photography criticism is a complex arena of thought. Whether a person enjoys a photo or not is emotionally based opinion in most cases and the audience that is looking at the photo is important. Placing an image on the Internet makes it available to many, but only a few may see it and it is difficult to know even who that audience is. There are some general ways to draw information from the criticism(good and bad) That can help a photographer improve.

Family And Friends

Your family and friends generally will not tell you if a photo is bad. It's far to easy just to compliment you and avoid the risk of harming a relationship over a simple photo. If they are a photographer too, they may offer some criticism, but it's still really tough.

One indicator that you've done well is when they ask for a copy of the photo, especially if it involves them paying for it. If they're willing to part with money, even a small amount, that at least shows interest in the photo. That interest may only be of a personal level though and may only indicate that the subject alone is the reason for their interest. Even so, the subject is the most important part of the photo.

Photography Teachers And Other Professionals

Criticism from photography professionals can be some of the best or worst that that you'll get. It depends on the person and their agenda. There is no possible way to teach without criticizing a student, but that criticism should only be constructive. By constructive, I mean that the student needs to be told what they could do differently to achieve better results.

Constructive criticism from professionals is rare because it takes their time and effort. Professionals do photography to earn a living and many don't make much money doing it. Unless their earning money from giving lessons, telling you how to do their job isn't going to pay the rent. If they're giving you constructive criticism, value it because something sparked their interest enough to make mention of your work.

Photography Forums

This is possibly the worst place to get criticism in my opinion. Anyone who's found their way to a the forum you're on was probably much like you and looking for answers to photography questions. They were looking to share their work and learn from others. Photography forums are the path of least resistance to that. 

People get addicted to the conversations and feel the need to give their input on everything, whether they know about it or not. I've seen very involved posts of someones opinion of a camera and they never even held that model of camera. I've seen photos that I thought were very good get scathing non-constructive criticism from a forum member, only to notice later that there it was nothing more than was revenge for a negative comment.

Most forums are free or cheap and worth every cent. 

Flickr And Other Sharing Sites

Flickr and other photo sharing sights offer an interesting perspective. It's not just photographers that go there like a photography forum. All types of visitors visit. The attitude is much more relaxed as visitors scroll through an endless stream of photos. If they land on yours and take the time to even like it, you know that at least you created a photo that grabbed their attention in some way. 

A Flickr success doesn't mean that the photo is a great photo, it simply means that attention was grabbed. People tend to like photos that they have a connection too. A poor quality photo here that reminds many people of something the like or experienced will do very well. It may have been "starred" for that reason alone.

My mindset is that photography is about sharing your vision of a split second in time. If Flickr helped you do that and the photo was grabbing enough to make it happen many times on that platform, it means you had at least a good concept. It may also mean that the photo had the right keywords and followed all of the platform's rules to get noticed frequently so consider this and don't get discouraged unless your view count is very high, but there is little action taking place with the photo. If that is the case, try some new ideas to see if the situation changes. 

Your Own Blog

Starting your own website or blog can be a good indicator of how good your photos are, but only after the technical aspects are mastered. It takes time to get the website ranked and there is quite a bit to learn about how to do that.

If you can manage to follow the directions at one of the free sites, like Tumblr or Blogger, it's easy to get started. This allows you to interact at many different levels. The website should be referenced wherever possible. On forums and social media, drop a link whenever it makes sense to do so.

The information gathered from the website will tell where interests are when they find the site, how long they stay on the site, and how they find your photos. If you're trying to gauge your photos by this type of information, a website is the way to go.

I've always thought the ultimate compliment one can give a photo is to buy it. Nothing says, "I like your work.", like a customer willing to put down their hard earned money for it. If e-commerce on your website just isn't your thing, give them away with a Creative Commons license. I've known a few photographers that have become well known just because of their generous licensing found on their website.

Art Exhibits

I wish I had experience with an art exhibit, but I don't. This is one on my bucket list. In order to sell photos at an art exhibit, a photographer needs to invest his money and this means you need the confidence that you'll sell enough photos to recoup that money. There is usually an entry fee and the photos need to be mounted and framed. I think this is the best goal for testing your own self-confidence and selling photos at an art exhibit would put you in a competitive sales situation with other photographers of the same confidence level.

Use Criticism Wisely And Enjoy Photography No Matter What

Learning to use criticism to improve your photography should improve your photos, not discourage your photography endeavors. Pick the most constructive criticism and continue taking and sharing photos no matter what your critics say. Some truly are out to discourage you!

Professional photographers have the edge in that they have to continue no matter what critics say. An amateur should have the same mindset. Those who do well in any endeavor tend to do it just because they love it and feel the need to practice their art no matter what.