Look Into the Light

I recently did a test shoot with a model and found myself working really fast with available light and, on occasion, a simple reflector. A lot of folks would naturally put the sun behind their back to provide even illumination for the subject. I, however, recommend gravitating toward the opposite approach: put the sun at your subject’s back so that it creates separation and a rim light. This adds to the illusion of depth in a two-dimensional photograph, which naturally makes for more lively and interesting images. When doing this you’ll find a strong shadow side on your subject’s face, so to bring up the exposure without blowing out the background you’ll need a fill flash or strong reflector. This technique is particularly effective if you can get your subject positioned in the shade (for soft, even illumination) with a shaft of sunlight from behind to create the rim.

Taking the approach one step farther, though, is when this technique turns really fun. Shoot into the sun—like directly into the sun—and enjoy all the flare and backlit drama it will create. It adds a sense of spontaneity to the images, which not only makes up for exposure ìproblemsî (like blown out highlights and flare) but it makes them part of the charm. Take a look around at popular media and you’ll see this technique put into effect all over the place. From vitamin commercials to fashion magazine ads, shooting into the sun is a hot look. Lucky for you it’s also an easy one to create. Just put your subject between you and the sun, open up and shoot! To see more from my test shoot, check out my project gallery at Behance.net.

http://www.behance.net/sawalich/Frame/611869

I recently did a test shoot with a model and found myself working really fast with available light and, on occasion, a simple reflector. A lot of folks would naturally put the sun behind their back to provide even illumination for the subject. I, however, recommend gravitating toward the opposite approach: put the sun at your subject’s back so that... Read more

Shoot with the wrong eye

While watching Joe McNally demo his special grip last week, I was intrigued by the fact that he said it was ìfor left-eye shooters.î I’m a right eye, as are many of us—or most of us, I assume. So what would happen if we tried to work with our left eyes instead? Would we see differently, perhaps even more clearly? I wonder if it would have much the same effect as checking the effectiveness of compositions by holding prints upside down. This approach effectively turns off the part of your brain that identifies objects in order to clearly see the shapes, colors and composition.
 
Well, I decided to test this theory out to see for myself. And as it turns out, the disorienting effects of shooting with your "wrong eye" can actually be pretty interesting. I could almost feel my brain looking at the scene differently than when I look with my right eye. Not only was it uncomfortable and slightly disconcerting, it felt like I was very consciously looking through the viewfinder at a different image than the one I saw with my right eye. As best I can tell, the difference being that after you take enough pictures with your "good eye," looking through the viewfinder can become second nature. In some ways you may not even ìseeî what you’re looking at. Or at least you don’t see it much differently than when you’re looking at the world with naked eyes. After all, aren’t we supposed to see the world differently with our cameras? Looking with my wrong eye felt different, and different seems like a great place to start to actually see the world in your own unique way.
 
My experiment only lasted for a few minutes, and I wouldn’t want to try it every day all the time, but as a change of pace and an awareness exercise it’s a great approach. My head hurts a tiny little bit, which may just be psychosomatic. Or it could be proof that I was forcing my brain to work differently. Maybe that will come in handy in the future when I’m feeling stagnant or stuck, or maybe just to see the compositions I think I should be seeing.

While watching Joe McNally demo his special grip last week, I was intrigued by the fact that he said it was ìfor left-eye shooters.î I’m a right eye, as are many of us—or most of us, I assume. So what would happen if we tried to work with our left eyes instead? Would we see differently, perhaps even more clearly? I wonder if it would have... Read more

Famous Lost Photographs

The continuing saga of Ansel’s old images (or do they really belong to Uncle Earl?) has inspired some folks, including Pete Brook, to ponder other lost and found photographs. Brook, via Wired magazine’s Raw File photo blog, has compiled a collection of famous lost photographs that, when found, achieved their own well deserved headlines. My personal favorite is the cache of unseen street photographs, including more than 1,000 undeveloped but already exposed rolls of film, by unknown photographer Vivian Maier. She toiled in obscurity for years and is finally achieving a bit of posthumous fame. A book of her work is planned, and I for one can’t wait to see it. She was clearly a gifted photographer, and her uncovered archive represents a wonderful look at the second half of the 20th century from an extremely talented documentarian’s perspective.

http://www.wired.com/rawfile/2010/08/found-photography-archive/all/1
http://vivianmaier.blogspot.com

The continuing saga of Ansel’s old images (or do they really belong to Uncle Earl?) has inspired some folks, including Pete Brook, to ponder other lost and found photographs. Brook, via Wired magazine’s Raw File photo blog, has compiled a collection of famous lost photographs that, when found, achieved their own well deserved headlines.... Read more
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Photoshop for your mobile phone

It’s official: the end of the world has arrived. There’s a functional version of Photoshop made explicitly for use on the iPhone and iPad mobile devices. The thought of actually editing photos on those little keyless, mouseless devices actually seems like a tiny little nightmare. But the more I think about it, the better it sounds. The limited options for making cell phone photos look a little bit better can be infuriating. Surely this pared down PS makes it easy and intuitive to crop, rotate and color correct pictures on the devices. In this digital world, where many photos need not necessarily ever touch a computer, it makes sense that folks who work with camera phones might like to do things other than the same cheesy prepackaged special effects every other mobile shooter has on hand. A little bit of freedom goes a long way, and the end result could be pretty cool. I wonder what the future holds for this sort of mobile imaging. Next thing you know we’ll be editing videos and publishing via the iPhone too. Actually, can’t we already do that too?

http://mobile.photoshop.com

It’s official: the end of the world has arrived. There’s a functional version of Photoshop made explicitly for use on the iPhone and iPad mobile devices. The thought of actually editing photos on those little keyless, mouseless devices actually seems like a tiny little nightmare. But the more I think about it, the better it sounds. The... Read more

The iPad used for something other than portfolio display

It’s finally happened. I knew the iPad would come in handy for photographers eventually, but I didn’t realize it would be put to use quite so quickly. The device has apparently become the portfolio de rigeur of the supercoool, which you sort of had to figure was inevitable. More than an image enhancing device, though, Scott Kelby recently linked to a video by photographer Brent Pearson who constructed a more tangibly useful iPad shooting approach. It’s a studio workaround for capturing photos wirelessly to the iPad. Technically he’s not shooting directly to the device—it’s behaving more like a second display, which is quite useful in studio situations where you might want a client or interested third party to see what you’re capturing. Pearson mentions on his own blog that one could avoid the computer altogether by using a wireless transmitter direct from the camera. Not a bad idea at all, I’d say. Truly wireless capture direct to the iPad (and who knows how many other devices) is bound to be commonplace before we know it.

scottkelby.com/blog/2010/archives/11743
brentbat.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/ipad/

It’s finally happened. I knew the iPad would come in handy for photographers eventually, but I didn’t realize it would be put to use quite so quickly. The device has apparently become the portfolio de rigeur of the supercoool, which you sort of had to figure was inevitable. More than an image enhancing device, though, Scott Kelby recently... Read more

Early Color Images of Depression-era America

The Library of Congress is another great resource for studying American history via photographs. The most popular and iconic images of the early 20th century are almost always seen in black and white. Interestingly, though, the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information in the 1930s and 1940s actually did have photographers shooting across the country with color film. These depression-era color images are now property of the Library of Congress, and they offer a considerably less abstract glimpse into this tumultuous time in America. The use of black and white film and its inherent abstraction made it somehow more difficult to relate to subjects in photographs. In color, though, the stark reality shines through and makes these images quite powerful. Thanks to the Denver Post for uploading a huge selection of them to its Plog photo blog. blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2010/07/26/captured-america-in-color-from-1939-1943/2363

Photo by Jack Delano, courtesy Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress is another great resource for studying American history via photographs. The most popular and iconic images of the early 20th century are almost always seen in black and white. Interestingly, though, the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information in the 1930s and 1940s actually did have photographers shooting... Read more

Behind the Scenes Videos

One of my favorite things about the whole combo photo/video thing that we’ve had going on in recent months is how many photographers are creating behind the scenes videos of their processes for making still photographs. A couple of recent faves include Chase Jarvis’ link to a ìmaking ofî video that gives us a glimpse behind the scenes in a stop-motion stills shoot used as a Levi’s jeans commercial. Inspiring because it’s so simple and so darn great. On the other end of the spectrum is the big budget production, nothing shoestring about it, of a high-fashion photo shoot. That is exactly the video that Rachel Hulin recently linked to via her blog. It shows photographer Craig McDean in studio (well, at least in a makeshift studio via an old warehouse—sufficiently grungy to qualify for fashions requisite juxtaposition duty) working on an Oscar de la Renta shoot. This video is done in a little less of a "how to" fashion, but the artsty clip is still a pretty cool look behind the scenes at the making of a big time fashion spread. Both are inspiring videos and well worth a look. (Got your own favorite behind the scenes video? Let us know about it!)

blog.chasejarvis.com/blog/2010/07/how-to-shoot-a-fancy-stop-motion-commercial-on-the-cheap-ish/
rachelhulin.com/blog/2010/07/in-the-studio-fashion-maven-craig-mcdean.html

One of my favorite things about the whole combo photo/video thing that we’ve had going on in recent months is how many photographers are creating behind the scenes videos of their processes for making still photographs. A couple of recent faves include Chase Jarvis’ link to a ìmaking ofî video that gives us a glimpse behind the scenes in a stop-motion... Read more

The study of great Photography

American Suburb X is a great web site for studying 20th century fine art photography. I was reminded of this by a recent post there about William Eggleston, an American master by anybody’s standard. The site acts sort of like a photoblog, but with a focus on scholarly works and essays about a photographer or particular body of work. A typical post might include several photographs and a lovely written piece of criticism or photographic theory by a renowned scholar or another photographer republished from literally anywhere in history (or at least photographic history). Take, for instance, the reprint of John Szarkowski’s introduction to the work of Eggleston, written for his 1976 book, "William Eggleston’s Guide." This piece also serves as a wonderful entree into the world of Eggleston’s work, which I believe all photographers could benefit from knowing much more intimately. He had such a keen eye and light touch, I aspire to a little bit of Egglestonian insight every time I raise a camera to my eye. For more about the photographer, do visit egglestontrust.com
www.americansuburbx.com/2008/01/theory-introduction-to-william.html

American Suburb X is a great web site for studying 20th century fine art photography. I was reminded of this by a recent post there about William Eggleston, an American master by anybody’s standard. The site acts sort of like a photoblog, but with a focus on scholarly works and essays about a photographer or particular body of work. A typical post... Read more

Toy Camera Controls for Your Computer

Lately I’ve been noticing all sorts of antiqued photos on the internet. Lots of my Facebook friends are uploading photos from their smartphones that look like old Polaroid instant film. Other folks run their snapshots through software to make them look old and worn and, frankly, more interesting. I’d prefer it if people simply made more interesting photographs to start with, but who am I to judge someone who uses any tools at their disposal to create a better photo. Setting the tone with digital trickery is totally fair game. To that end, if you want to make your great digital files look awful, I mean interesting, on purpose, check out the Toy Camera settings for Lightroom as published by Photocritic contributor Haje Jan Kamps. It recreates the effect of a Holga or other plastic toy camera, with funky colors, smudges, light leaks and more. If that’s not exactly what you’re looking for, consider a stand alone shareware program like ToyCamera AnalogColor for the Macintosh platform. I can’t say that I use this program on a regular basis, but it does come in handy on occasion—mostly for having a little lighthearted fun with photos by turning them into faux old film photos. Maybe those should henceforth be known as fauxtos?

photocritic.org/adobe-lightroom-toy-camera
apple.com/downloads/macosx/imaging_3d/toycameraanalogcolor.html

Lately I’ve been noticing all sorts of antiqued photos on the internet. Lots of my Facebook friends are uploading photos from their smartphones that look like old Polaroid instant film. Other folks run their snapshots through software to make them look old and worn and, frankly, more interesting. I’d prefer it if people simply made more... Read more

Love photography? Buy photography!

Not only do I love looking at the work of others to see what I can learn from their photographic technique and style, I love looking at the work of others simply because I love photographs. If you love photography, why not buy photography? You’re supporting the medium, surrounding yourself with work that interests you, and you can actually improve your own abilities in the process. Here are five great resources for finding, browsing and buying fine photographs online.

1. 20×200, www.20×200.com. This unique web site serves up a new image every week—from paintings to drawings to photographs. A variety of sizes are available in limited editions, with the smallest prints at the largest editions selling for only twenty bucks.

2. Contact Editions, www.contacteditions.co.uk. A British site quite similar to 20×200, it specializes in photographs. A wide variety of "30-pound" prints are available. In stronger dollar times that’s a phenomenal deal. As it is, it’s still a heck of an affordable way to own a fine 11×14 print. 

3. Etsy, www.etsy.com. If you haven’t yet blown all your disposable income for the month, chances are you haven’t yet found Etsy. Think of this site as the handmade version of eBay. Artists and craftspeople of all types sell their wares on Etsy, and often it’s quite affordable. There’s hats and vases and buttons and photographs and just about anything else artsy and handmade you can think of. Plus, many photographers find Etsy to be an ideal outlet for their work. One of my personal favorites is Sharon Montrose whose work can be purchased at www.etsy.com/shop/SharonMontrose.

4. eBay, www.ebay.com. I know you think of eBay as the place to buy and sell cameras, not photographs, but there are actually lots of folks selling photography on eBay. The massive reach of the site makes it a popular destination for those looking to buy or sell rare and collectible prints. A lot like a yard sale, though, you have to beware (as with any eBay purchase) that you’re actually getting what you pay for.

5. Artnet, www.artnet.com. Designed to be a more robust art appreciation web site, Artnet also incorporates an online auction service for collectors. The auctions can be sorted by photography only, making it a quick and easy way to begin to build a collection of master photographers. It’s often an affordable way to get into collecting the works of prominent artists, both old and new.

Not only do I love looking at the work of others to see what I can learn from their photographic technique and style, I love looking at the work of others simply because I love photographs. If you love photography, why not buy photography? You’re supporting the medium, surrounding yourself with work that interests you, and you can actually improve... Read more