Photography Wonder

Did you ever go over to the Yahoo Answers web site? It’s a nifty idea, albeit one that sometimes seems to fall short in practice. It works like this: somebody poses a question to the masses, and then the masses answer. Here’s where the problem lies: the masses sometimes get off track. Now someone else has come along and applied that concept specifically to photography and made it, at least at this early stage, considerably better. Maybe it’s because the masses in their entirety aren’t haunting the halls of Photography Wonder because it’s only for people who are interested in photography. So a photographer poses a question—from beginner to advanced—and other photographers answer. It’s a great way to pool our collective knowledge to learn from each other.

http://www.photographywonder.com

Did you ever go over to the Yahoo Answers web site? It’s a nifty idea, albeit one that sometimes seems to fall short in practice. It works like this: somebody poses a question to the masses, and then the masses answer. Here’s where the problem lies: the masses sometimes get off track. Now someone else has come along and applied that concept specifically... Read more

How do you set the perfect white balance?

A lot of photographers seem to be wondering what exactly is the best way to set their white balance. It seems like if you ask ten people you’ll get ten different answers. Some photographers use a dedicated device like an ExpoDisc to nail custom white balances based on the available light in a scene. Some folks use a gray card to achieve the same sort of thing. Other people just set their white balance off of anything white available in the frame: a shirt, a tablecloth, a sign… So who’s right? There are a lot of different ways to set white balance, and no single approach is always the best. For me, a gray card placed in a scene is perfect for custom white balancing when I process the RAW files in Lightroom, because I can simply click the eyedropper on the gray card to set the exact white balance—and I don’t have to do it before I shoot. But I don’t always worry about setting a custom white balance at all. For example, I know that with my external strobe setup I get good results with my camera’s flash white balance preset (it looks like a lightning bolt) and that I like the look of my studio strobes when the color temperature is manually set to 5200 degrees Kelvin. Of course, all of those are particular to my personal equipment, but the idea holds true: One photographer can use multiple methods to get great white balance results in a variety of situations. There is no single “best” way to set your white balance. (Also, for what it’s worth, just about the only time I use auto white balance is when I’m mixing hot-shoe strobe with ambient light in a fast-paced, changing-light scenario.) The point is this: if you’ve got a method that works for you, stick with it.

A lot of photographers seem to be wondering what exactly is the best way to set their white balance. It seems like if you ask ten people you’ll get ten different answers. Some photographers use a dedicated device like an ExpoDisc to nail custom white balances based on the available light in a scene. Some folks use a gray card to achieve the same... Read more

Don’t be a cameraist. Be a photographer!

I’m a big fan of Paul Burwell’s Wildshots photo blog. I’m an even bigger fan of this idea: there are cameraists, and there are photographers. A cameraist, according to Paul, is somebody who can’t see the forest for the trees. These cameraists somewhere along the line became more concerned with gear than with pictures. Cameraists also may not know about great photographs, but they know about great cameras—even if they don’t really know how to use them. Basically, cameraists don’t seem to have their heads on straight. Read Paul’s blog to learn the top 10 ways you can keep from becoming a cameraist in your quest to become a better photographer.

http://www.paulburwell.com/blog/2010/09/top-ten-ways-to-separate-the-cameraists-from-the-photographers/

I’m a big fan of Paul Burwell’s Wildshots photo blog. I’m an even bigger fan of this idea: there are cameraists, and there are photographers. A cameraist, according to Paul, is somebody who can’t see the forest for the trees. These cameraists somewhere along the line became more concerned with gear than with pictures. Cameraists also may not... Read more
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Optimizing Images for the iPad

I’ve been playing with my iPad a lot lately. I’ve been trying to put it to good photographic use, though in truth I’m mostly playing games and Facebooking with the thing. When I finally put my portfolio on my iPad, I discovered that some images looked perfect while others were just a bit off. Why? Because I didn’t optimize my photographs for display on the device. Thankfully there’s a great article from Serious Amateur Photography about making your photos display perfectly on the iPad. From image sizing and sharpening to the perfect proportions for your pictures. If you’re looking to make your iPad promos look perfect, it’s a must-read.

http://jefflynchdev.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/the-ipad-portfolio-how-to-look-your-best/

I’ve been playing with my iPad a lot lately. I’ve been trying to put it to good photographic use, though in truth I’m mostly playing games and Facebooking with the thing. When I finally put my portfolio on my iPad, I discovered that some images looked perfect while others were just a bit off. Why? Because I didn’t optimize my photographs for... Read more

Wire Worm

Ever made a perfect picture except for the telephone lines running through the frame and ruining the scene? You’ve always had a couple of choices: live with it as is, or spend hours in Photoshop cloning away those tiny little lines. Well now you’ve got a third choice: the Wire Worm Photoshop plugin by developer Martin Vicanek. It looks like a marvelous little program with a powerful effect: automatically removing power lines and wires from photographs. I may not want to use it to remove zoo bars from the foreground of an image (as one example demonstrates), but I may definitely put it to the test pulling power lines from the skies of my outdoor images. If it works half as good as it looks, this free software just might be invaluable.

http://www.vicanek.de/plugins/wireworm.htm

Ever made a perfect picture except for the telephone lines running through the frame and ruining the scene? You’ve always had a couple of choices: live with it as is, or spend hours in Photoshop cloning away those tiny little lines. Well now you’ve got a third choice: the Wire Worm Photoshop plugin by developer Martin Vicanek. It looks like a... Read more

Selling RAW Image Files

Digital Photography School recently published a short piece by photographer Elizabeth Halford. In it, Ms. Halford advocates that photographers who earn any part of their living licensing images never turn over to clients (or friends and family) unprocessed RAW image files. It’s a good argument too. After all, if you put your unfinished photographs into your clients’ hands, who knows how the finished product will turn out? That’s especially bothersome if you’re the one whose name will be attached to the finished photo. While Ms. Halford’s advice is certainly sound, the discussion that it provoked makes some interesting other points too. For instance, if you’re in the business of selling images to clients, wouldn’t you be well served by providing what your clients want? After all, isn’t the customer always right? Wherever you default on the issue, it’s extremely interesting and informative to consider both sides of the story. It shows how complex many professional photographic issues can be, and how they do apply to photographers at every level of the business. So if you’re a working pro or considering dipping your toe into the business waters, it’s a great opportunity to learn about one of the most common, and somewhat controversial, issues facing professional photographers today.

http://www.digital-photography-school.com/should-we-ever-sell-raw-unedited-images

Digital Photography School recently published a short piece by photographer Elizabeth Halford. In it, Ms. Halford advocates that photographers who earn any part of their living licensing images never turn over to clients (or friends and family) unprocessed RAW image files. It’s a good argument too. After all, if you put your unfinished photographs... Read more

Behind the Scenes of a Fashion Shoot

Perhaps my favorite consequence of this whole photo/video convergence thing is how prevalent the behind-the-scenes video has become. It seems like every photographer, and every fashion house, is now producing behind-the-scenes videos that show just how complex and involved their shoots can be. Best part about all this is that we photographers can use this as a learning tool. For instance, in this behind-the-scenes look at a Forbes Company fashion shoot, I realized a few things about lighting gear that I can apply to my own shoots, and I also saw just how much work from how many different people goes into a successful fashion shoot. It may not be quite as direct as a true “how-to” video, but that’s partly what makes it so interesting. You’re not learning from examples set up in a conference room or a hotel ballroom—you’re learning from an actual fashion shoot with actual photographers and actual talent. It’s invaluable to see actual pros at work.

http://vimeo.com/15234619

Perhaps my favorite consequence of this whole photo/video convergence thing is how prevalent the behind-the-scenes video has become. It seems like every photographer, and every fashion house, is now producing behind-the-scenes videos that show just how complex and involved their shoots can be. Best part about all this is that we photographers can... Read more

Must-have iPad photo apps

I just got an iPad so I’m constantly on the lookout for great photography apps I can use to make the most of this thing. From what I can tell, it appears that the UK’s Guardian Eyewitness app (free from the app store) is a must-have for folks who are interested in seeing world class photojournalism on a daily basis. The images are presented with an explanation from the day’s photographer about how each photograph was made. I don’t know where I first heard of this app, but I know that in a recent list of must-have iPad apps for photographers it topped the list and was the third time it has come to my attention. I’ll take that to mean I should go get it asap. The list I was just perusing came from BestAppSite.com. That seems like a fairly good URL if you’re looking for the best apps, no? The list is pretty great, including the Guardian Eyewitness app, Photoshop Express (another highly touted iPad app for photographers) and a couple of others I am keen on trying. The one I’m most jazzed about, though, is called LightKit. It turns the iPad itself into a light source for use during actual photo shoots. Impressive! Read all about it, and see the whole list, at BestAppSite.com.

http://www.bestappsite.com/2010/09/22/8-must-have-ipad-apps-for-photographers

I just got an iPad so I’m constantly on the lookout for great photography apps I can use to make the most of this thing. From what I can tell, it appears that the UK’s Guardian Eyewitness app (free from the app store) is a must-have for folks who are interested in seeing world class photojournalism on a daily basis. The images are presented with... Read more

Single Light Quick Tip

I spend a lot of time making portraits and product photographs with multiple lights. It’s fun and challenging and almost always interesting, but sometimes I find myself drawn to the challenge of making equally powerful photographs with fewer lights. Especially when I try to do it with just one light. Just last week I made a one-light still life to illustrate the ominous effects of three red hot peppers I grew in my garden. Not only was it possible to make the shot with one light, it was actually better since the single source upped the drama. I used a light from a high angle designed to rake across the peppers to showcase their shape. I used a soft source (a fairly large softbox about two feet above the peppers) to keep the highlights from looking like specular spots that might distract from the effect. (If the subject wasn’t shiny, or if it had a lot of texture, I would have probably used a harder light source to bring out the texture and increase the drama even more.) It’s a simple shot but one that is improved with the use of a single light source. The lesson in that? You don’t always have to complicate the lighting to make a better photograph. In fact, keeping it simple increases your chances of letting the subject shine through. It’s a great exercise, no matter what you shoot or how you light. So try lighting simply to see how powerful one light can be.

I spend a lot of time making portraits and product photographs with multiple lights. It’s fun and challenging and almost always interesting, but sometimes I find myself drawn to the challenge of making equally powerful photographs with fewer lights. Especially when I try to do it with just one light. Just last week I made a one-light still life... Read more

Learn about depth from Van Gogh

There’s a lot we can learn from Vincent Van Gogh. In this case, though, thanks to an art student we can learn more about Van Gogh’s works—and that can teach us something special about photography too. This young lady has applied tilt/shift focus control techniques in her photographs of famous Van Gogh paintings. It’s weird, I know, but it’s also supercool. The student, Serena Malyon, used a tilt/shift lens to turn two-dimensional paintings into simulated 3D. There seems to be some argument about whether she actually used a tilt/shift lens to make the photographs or whether she simulated the look in Photoshop. Either way, the effect is clear: the illusion of depth is dramatically enhanced by the careful use of depth of field and a precisely placed plane of focus. If you can turn a literally two-dimensional image into such a successful faux 3D picture, imagine what you can do when photographing the actual three-dimensional world.

http://thechive.com/2010/09/21/brilliant-student-uses-tilt-shift-photography-to-bring-van-gogh-to-life/

There’s a lot we can learn from Vincent Van Gogh. In this case, though, thanks to an art student we can learn more about Van Gogh’s works—and that can teach us something special about photography too. This young lady has applied tilt/shift focus control techniques in her photographs of famous Van Gogh paintings. It’s weird, I know, but it’s... Read more

Shoot empty scenics in crowded destinations

Have you ever been on vacation, or maybe just being a tourist in your own town, and while setting up a perfect shot only to have a crowd ruin your picture? Maybe you’re all set up to shoot a great scenic shot of the Eiffel Tower when suddenly some French dude wanders into your frame. This can be terribly detrimental to an otherwise perfect picture. Well Digital Photography School points out that with just a tripod and a clone stamp how you can still craft a perfect people-free photograph. It’s simple, really. By shooting multiple exposures and layering them together, you can paint away the parts with people and reveal the important parts of the scene to eliminate distractions from the frame. It’s a powerful tip that’s also pretty simple—and those are always my favorite.

http://www.digital-photography-school.com/taking-photos-in-busy-tourist-destinations-with-no-people-in-the-shot

Have you ever been on vacation, or maybe just being a tourist in your own town, and while setting up a perfect shot only to have a crowd ruin your picture? Maybe you’re all set up to shoot a great scenic shot of the Eiffel Tower when suddenly some French dude wanders into your frame. This can be terribly detrimental to an otherwise perfect picture.... Read more

Fall Color Finder

It’s not often as a photography writer that I get to cite the Christian Science Monitor, so I’m going to seize this opportunity and enjoy it. And I’m going to really enjoy telling you what the Monitor called a recent post: Fall Foliage Smackdown. What a great name for a great gallery of fall color imagery from across the globe. Besides being a great gallery of colorful autumn images, it works as a bit of a guide to help you figure out when and where you should go out to find great changing leaves to photograph. Since the images in the gallery are from last year, you can see when these peak colors happened in order to better help plan your travel this year. That makes it a worthwhile gallery because of the great photos and because of the useful info for foliage photographers everywhere.

http://www.csmonitor.com/CSM-Photo-Galleries/In-Pictures/Fall-foliage-smackdown-The-vibrant-reds-yellows-and-oranges-that-come-only-once-a-year

It’s not often as a photography writer that I get to cite the Christian Science Monitor, so I’m going to seize this opportunity and enjoy it. And I’m going to really enjoy telling you what the Monitor called a recent post: Fall Foliage Smackdown. What a great name for a great gallery of fall color imagery from across the globe. Besides being... Read more
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