Being so obsessed with photography, friends and family tend to think of me as an expert in the field. I’ve got the gear, they love the pictures and I live and breath the medium, so the credentials as far as they know add up. With this perceived status comes the occasional question regarding the craft from folks who are just getting into it and being that I love to geek out talking about photography, the question will be fielded with the utmost respect and interest. Let the perception become reality, even for just a moment!
Last week a friend at church asked a good one; one that tied him up with me for a good 10-20 minutes that he’ll never get back for sure. He had some experience with film in the past but had been away from photography for a while. Earlier this year he purchased his first DSLR (a Canon Rebel I believe) and along with it bought a book on composition. He liked landscapes, portraits and macro. His question: “How do I get started?”
That was a first for me. Some folks say they want to learn more about their camera or ask how to take great pictures, but this question was totally different. How do you start? Where to begin? I don’t think he expected me to ramble on like I did after asking the question, but I was really sort of feeling for the answer – it was not something you chalk up in the front brain shelves like, “get down low” or “add a strong foreground element.” It required me going back to the beginning, filtering things forward and seeing what was left. After thinking about it a few days, I thought it would make for a great topic here at Current Photographer, so here goes. Read More→
Being a fan of High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography, I’ve become very intimate with the Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) function on my Canon camera. What I’ve come to realize is that obtaining the entire tonal range of an image at 1 EV increments can be difficult if your AEB settings will only allow 3 exposures to be produced. Sometimes -2, 0 and +2 are just not enough. If you have an extra $300+, you could purchase a Promote Control which offers amazing bracketing controls, but it’s hard to justify that kind of purchase for some of us.
Then, there’s Magic Lantern. It’s a third party software for Canon cameras (sorry Nikon) that sits on top of the camera’s firmware and adds awesome flexibility to DSLR video shooting, but also gives up to exposures for HDR bracketing and a cool Autodetect feature that takes some of the guesswork out of bracketing. I’ve been flirting with downloading the product onto my 60D for some time, but finally pulled the trigger a couple of weeks ago. The video below will take you through the options for bracketing on the 60D prior to having Magic Lantern, then will show how things have changed with it. Take a look.
The digital age has definitely become a part of who I am, connected to the internet at every turn, but I am far from being an expert at any of it. Social networking, blogging, websites, etc. – I know a little about all of it, but that’s about it. If you’re similar to me in this way, then you can understand how difficult it was to go through the process of designing a totally new website. But I did it and am totally happy with the results (see for yourself here), so I thought it might be helpful to share some of what I learned with the other Jacks of all trades, but masters of none out there who plan to go through the same pain in the future.
You might be asking, “Why would someone who has been blogging for sometime now want to go through a total redesign?” That’s a great question and one that we should all address before actually going through with one. Jeremy Cowart was doing a website review for some of the folks at the Lifefinder Tour (Awesome – please go if you can) here in Minneapolis earlier in the year and the same thing kept coming up with each review – your website needed to reflect who you are as a photographer, not just the pictures you take. And it needed to do it quickly, because visitors are not going to stick around if they’re looking for something and you’re not showing it.
This hit me pretty square in the face being that my website was 100% my blog, which is primarily one picture a day and not one that interacted with the business I was trying to build (family and event photography). If my website was going to mean anything to helping my business grow, it was going to have to change. The decision was made.
Unfortunately, this decision to do a redesign was just the start of the hard work. The next step was to decide who I was as a photographer and how to brand myself. I had never done that before and had put little thought to it, but if your website was going to be you, a decision needed to be made of who you are! The first thing we see and think of for most businesses is their logo or a trademarked product, neither of which I had, so that was the starting point.
For a long period of time, I tried to come up with my own logo design, but as stated in the first paragraph, I am no expert at anything so this turned out to be a spinning wheel kind of thing and lasted much longer than intended. I finally contacted a designer who had put together some of my friends’ logos and worked with him to get one put together. The key, once again, was for the logo to represent who you are. I needed something simple, photo related, somewhat informal (no BOLD type) but unique. I think we hit pretty much on the head.
One of the latest additions to the last revisions of Lightroom and Aperture is somewhat of a game changer in my book, and that’s the ability to apply a white balance setting selectively. Being an Aperture user, I have not experienced how the Lightroom option works, but based on the many discussions and posts people made when version 4 came out, I’m guessing it’s quite good.
The latest update to Aperture included a few new options for white balance, such as three types pertaining to how you’d like for the temperature of a picture to be adjusted: Natural Gray (new), Skin Tone (new) and Temperature and Tint (previous standard). The two new additions allow you to use a brush to selectively apply the effect.
For most folks, the big reason for using this new tool is when you have competing light sources within the same picture, like having both incandescent and natural window light in the same image. You can shoot for one and apply the other in post, evening out the image. My first experience, however, was from more of a creative need. Let me show you.
The image below is an 8 second long exposure taken at the Mississippi River in St. Paul Park, MN. That’s the Blue Moon in the sky reflecting off of the river and some rather interesting tree roots sticking out from the bank. There were two things in the image I wanted to make standout, the great blue and magenta tones in the sky (and watert) and the gnarly roots on the bank. I started with the sky colors.
Every photographer I’ve met has gone through what is generally referred to as ‘creative block’ – we struggle to see creatively when out with the camera. If you ask ten photographers how they get out of a creative block, you’ll likely get 10 different answers, or close to it, because there is no one correct answer – what works for one person may not for another. Personally, I use a couple of methods to try and snap out of the block and one of them is panning.
In simple terms, panning is following a moving subject with the camera. At higher shutter speeds, this technique can freeze action, a method used by sports photographers covering events, like football games, cycling and auto racing. At lower shutter speeds, panning can give a sense of motion to a frame, which is the method I prefer. This can also be used in sporting events, but when the creative juices need help, I like to use it for street photography, like the image below.
Presenting a sense of movement in a photo can really add life to it and that goes very well with street photography. Take the image above. Just standing there watching this Cooper Mini drive by is pretty much a ho hum deal, but blur all of the objects around it and give the wheels some movement and you turn this lady into the one from Pasadena that Jan and Dean used to sing about! Now that’s dating myself! Here’s how I go about taking panning shots. Read More→
One of the best pieces of advise I can give to someone who’s trying to improve their skills as a photographer is to get involved in social networking and start looking at other people’s work. First of all, the social part of it can be very rewarding, meeting and getting to know the really great folks in this industry and being able to get your work out there in front of other people. But the real benefit in looking at other great photographers’ work (and not so great ones, too) is that you can learn what aspects of an image you really like or dislike and apply them to your own product.
When I first started taking pictures, my images would look like nearly every other new photographer. We plant the tripod up fully extended, compose the frame and take the shot. This didn’t change for long time, until I saw an image from my friend Brian Matiash that really had an impact on how I would take pictures in the future.
For our son’s 6th birthday, we gave him a Nintendo 3DS and a Ben 10 Alien Force 3 Pack game. There was no doubt the game would be a big hit, but one thing I didn’t expect to go over so well was the built in camera on the DS. On occasion, when some of his friends are hanging around the house, he’ll bust out the DS camera and just start firing away, taking silly pics of his friends, or anything else that comes to mind – not for the intent of publishing them or selling them, just simply for the fun in taking them. That’s right, the fun!
It triggered something behind my eyes - sometimes we get so caught up in producing the best images possible that we forget that having fun in taking pictures is allowed. It’s OK! I think this is one of the reasons the cameras in our cellphones have become so popular – we can take instant images of life happening – you know that stuff we neglect so much – and can instantly see the results and share them with our friends and family. It’s not about how great the composition is or the quality of light, it’s about enjoying life and sharing it with one another. You know, fun! Read More→
The brief bio below for yours truly tells of HDR (High Dynamic Range) being my first love of photography. That will never change – the creative and artistic flexibility of the process allows a part of my brain that was fairly dormant for years to pop out now and then and say hello. There are also a few instances where HDR just works better (in my humble opinion) than any other processing method, like extreme contrasts in light and bringing out textures. At one time, every time the camera was pointed at something, brackets were collected and run through the tone mapping process, without much thought or consideration – it’s just what I did.
As time has moved on, I find myself moving out of the auto bracketing mode on the camera more often, and even choosing to process a single image out of a bracket set rather than processing all of them through the HDR software. This is likely a natural progression for HDR photographers. Maybe there’s some boredom involved or wanting to save some time, but there’s also other processes out there that I’m finding interesting and fun that produce some pretty cool results. Let’s take a look at an image and go through how the stuff behind my eyes is processing things these days.
Take this image above. It’s the middle shot of a bracketed set of 5, ranging from -2 EV to +2 EV at 1 EV increments (this image is 0 EV). It was taken back in February 2010 and is a monument devoted to the Confederate dead buried in the historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA. Back in 2010, this set was immediately run through Photomatix and tone mapped. Looking at the stack now, my preferences have changed – here’s why. Read More→
There are numerous tools at our disposal to edit photos and the same effect can be applied with virtually all of these tools. Lightroom, Aperture and Photoshop are some of the more popular ones and the plug ins and presets for each of these programs are great in number. We typically choose these tools for editing based upon how they fit in our workflow and our comfort level for using them.
For me, I use Aperture for managing my library and basic photo editing, then will export images into other tools for specific effect application, with the main program being onOne Software’s Perfect Effects within their Perfect Photo Suite 6. The effects obtained from Perfect Effects can undoubtedly be achieved with other tools, but I go to Perfect Effects because it fits my workflow and comfort level where the other avenues may not.
Below is a video showing how using a couple of presets within Perfect Effects can quickly and easily take a normal image of a flowering plant to one with dark, rich greens and a bit of glow to give a totally different appearance than the original frame. What software would you use to produce this kind of effect? What would you have done to this image? What behind your eyes would drive you in this image?
My son was working on his spelling the other night and he was trying to perfectly write his name, ‘Sam’. His ‘S’ and ‘a’ were pretty much on the money, but his ‘m’ was a bit off. The problem was not with legibility, it was clearly an ‘m’, but instead of rounding the humps, he treated them as if they were points, or direct lines, so it looked like a miniature upper case ‘M’ instead of a rounded lower case ‘m’.
From a communication standpoint, there was no problem, his name was clear and easy to read. But when writing the ‘m’, I could imagine his mind saying, “…point, to point, to point,” making straight lines to limit distance and ‘technically’ get the letter correct.
As I thought about how to help him conquer this, the thought of a stiff, straight up dancer moving from point to point on the floor came to mind and it was mentally compared to a dancer with grace, flow and curves (think the good dancers on Dancing With The Stars versus the very bad ones). Even though they both move from one point on the floor to another, the one who is loose and graceful would look so much better and comfortable than the stiff, upright dancer, counting the least number of steps it takes to get there. Read More→