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How to save time in post processing

How to save time in post processing

Recently I read a book on the 80/20 Principle.  This book started me to ponder a number of things from my business to my personal life.  When I thought about photography I began to think about how many posts on social media and in conversations with newer about fixing exposure, white balance, and composition of photographs.  I am in many social media groups centered around photography and it just isn’t those starting out, it often includes those who have been photographers for a long time.  In fact, I posed a question in a few of these social media sites asking “What do you spend most of your time doing in post processing? What would you say if I could show you how to cut your post processing time and increase quality and the number of “keepers” in your photography?” All the responses believed it has something to do with post processing.  What if I were to tell you there is a way to cut the amount of time you spend doing “basic” adjusts to your photos, if not eliminating the need to adjust exposure, white balance or composition, and you can do it for almost no, or little cost?  Interested?

Exposure

The best way to correct exposure is to get the exposure correct when you take the photograph.  You have probably heard the comment, “get it right in the camera”.  Learn how to meter the light.  Learn how and when to change or add supplemental light.  This all sounds complex and expensive but it doesn’t have to expensive or difficult.

I have written and talked about metering the light many times in the past.  There are two basic types of meter readings.  Incident and reflected light.

  • Incident light is the light falling on your subject.  To measure this type you will need a dedicated light meter.
  • Reflected light is the light being reflected by your subject.  You can measure this with either the meter built into your camera or with a dedicated light meter.

To learn to meter better it is important to know that modern camera has a variety of metering modes.  There are three basic metering modes; matrix, center-weighted, and spot.  One isn’t better than the other since each mode has circumstances where it may be better or worse than the other two.  Often, this is covered in the owner’s manual of your camera.  Familiarize yourself with the metering modes and when to use which mode.

But I shoot RAW so I have more latitude in adjusting exposure in post processing.  I know, I know.  I have heard this statement thousands of times.  Yes, you can have more latitude in adjusting a RAW file but what would you rather be doing, taking photographs or adjusting exposure in post processing?

If after you meter, you realize you don’t have enough light, a simple solution is a reflector.  Use it to reflect that natural light upon your subject.  This will help to separate your subject from the background.  I keep pieces of large white cardboard that I get when I order prints.  I use these to show students how using a mere piece of white cardboard can become an awesome reflector even though I prefer the commercially available reflectors.

 

The photograph above is similar to the reflectors I use.  They are often called a 5 in 1 because you have 5 options, silver, white, black, gold, and a diffuser.  One that I use a lot is a 42″ (42 inch) reflector you can find for around $20 up.

But I don’t have anyone to help me.  First, let me say it is always a good idea to have an assistant.  It could be a spouse or significant other, a parent, friend, etc.  The assistant can help with a variety of things freeing you up to be more creative and ready for the moment.  If you are working alone you can get or build an inexpensive light stand.  I believe my first light stand was less than $20.  While it may not be sturdy enough for a studio strobe or softbox all we need at this point is it to hold our reflector, be it the white cardboard or a 5 in 1.  For a long time, I used an inexpensive light stand and some spring clamps you can buy at Wal-Mart or any home improvement store.  Even today, when I have portable studio lights and off camera flash I always carry a couple of 5 in 1 reflectors and use them a great deal.

Once you learn how to use the reflector and your meter you can meter for the background and use the reflector to light your subject.  Voila!  You now may have eliminated your need to adjust exposure.

Yes, there will be those times that you may need to fine tune exposure but those should be only under some difficult conditions or special circumstances.

Another great tool for getting better exposures is the use of an “old-time” tool.  The 18% gray card.

 

You can buy a set of cards like those above for less than $10.  We will talk about the white and black cards later.

So far, we have an awesome and powerful set of tools for around $50 or less, and if time is money then we have saved countless hours in post processing time and as a result of our time savings our ROI, return on investment is significant.

One thing I will mention is we want to use off camera flash, you won’t be able to get a meter reading from your camera.  The use of “off camera flash” will need some more specialized tools which I will discuss at a later time.

Composition

So many times I see people who crop an image to achieve the composition they wanted for a particular photograph.  While it is sometimes necessary many, if not most, times it is just that the photographer didn’t pay attention to composition when taking the photograph.  I use a method that is often called “border patrol”.  While I am looking through the viewfinder I scan the edges of the frame and look for distractions.  With practice, this happens very quickly.

When setting up the shot, pay attention to mergers such as trees, branches, or other objects that seem to be “growing out of heads” or other parts of our subject.  Pay attention to distracting elements in the background or other parts of our frame.  Can the distracting element be removed by moving our position or subject?  Can the distraction be eliminated by moving it?   Pay attention to the positioning of your subject in the frame, are they too close to the edge?   Plan ahead and think of getting the photograph printed and framed.  You may want to leave some space for framing and matting, especially with portraits or fine art photographs.

White balance

 

White balance oh the mystery of white balance.  As the passage from the poem above goes, “Red is gray and yellow is white but we decide which is right and which is an illusion” or do we leave it up to our camera to decide?

Auto white balance is and awesome thing, in fact, the multiple choices we can set, in camera to decide white balance is awesome.  In film days, I had a choice of daylight balance or tungsten balance.  Anything else required color correction filters.  Ever shoot a photo with daylight film inside with fluorescent lighting?  Let’s just say bizarre colors.

Often the problem with auto white balance is that it can change from frame to frame without any real difference in the light, camera position, or subject position.  The first and most simple way, choose the proper white balance.  If you are shooting in sunlight, use daylight, incandescent lighting uses the incandescent setting, and so forth.

In mixed lighting, it often becomes necessary to use a custom white balance.  Remember the set of three cards from the section on exposure?  We can use the white card to set a custom white balance.  In essence, we are telling the camera what is white.  Another option, have your subject hold the set of three cards, the white, black, and gray. We can take a reference photograph and then in post we can set the white balance using the reference photograph and batch the others under the same lighting.  We will now have consistent white balance across our photographs and have saved ourselves time from adjusting individually.

How to learn these things

These topics often appear complex, especially to new photographers.  I am not a huge fan of the “University of YouTube”.  There is some good content out there and there is a lot of bad content, but my biggest issue with learning via YouTube is there is no student/teacher interaction.  If you don’t understand something, who do you ask?  You can ask in social media forums but it is likely that you will get a range of answers, some right, many wrongs.  This will add to the confusion.  You can read books but again there is no direct student/teacher interaction.

My suggestion has been and will probably always be to take a class or lessons from a school or instructor on these topics, these can be paid for lessons or if you can find a willing mentor/instructor who is both knowledgeable and willing to work with you.

But the client loved it!

But the client loved it!

 

I’m going to address some things that I have seen on a re-occurring basis.  These types of exchanges are constantly re-appearing in online photography forums, especially those when people, often new to photography, ask for critiques of their photographs.

I will warn you that much of what I have to say some will think is offensive, others will believe it to be harsh and without respect or care for new photographers.  If you aren’t prepared or willing to read some blunt and to the point thoughts of mine, which I am certain that many other experienced and skilled photographers, especially in the realm of professional would agree, don’t read below the “don’t read beyond here line.

****** Don’t read beyond here *******

Today, there is a growing number of people interested in photography.  There is also a growing number who are interested in earning money as a photographer, to start a photography business.  Some begin to think about starting a business because their friends and family are so proud of them and tell them how great their eye for photography is and how wonderful their photographs are.  So, with camera in hand they make a Facebook page for their photography business.  They design a “cool logo” or go to a place like Fiverr.com and buy one.  They put the cool logo on their photos and make their “portfolio”.

Their friends and family line up for sessions, free or close to it of course.  The new photography business owner then starts to use words like “clients”, “sessions”, “shoots” and “minis”.  They then join a Facebook group frequented by experienced and skilled hobbyists and professionals alike.  They upload some of their photos for comments and critiques, which they get.  The experienced skilled photographers offer honest assessments of the work.

The new photographer is now crushed and accuses the experienced skilled photographers of being rude and mean, others new photographers jump on the “bandwagon”.  Let me say this to those new photographers.  YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY LIED TO YOU!!!  I’ll repeat it in case you missed it, your friends and family lied to you.  They did this because they love you and want to support you.  They see your excitement for your new hobby and want to support you in your endeavor and there is nothing wrong with that.  Why do I say that?  Been their done it.  I have had others do this with me in my early stages of photography.

Many new photographers say want “honest” critiques.  (Note:  when I use the term new is isn’t exclusively beginning photographers.  It includes beginning photographers and those who have never progressed beyond beginning) It often turns out they really didn’t want an “honest” critique from experienced skilled photographers.  They wanted what their friends and family gave them.

In many conversations I have had with experienced skilled photographers we have discussed what our real first thoughts are with some photographs, especially those used in conjunction with words such as, business, clients, sessions, etc.   Most of the time our public responses are much more tamed, even when we are blunt.  I, as well as most experienced photographers I know, avoid name calling and out and out admonishing the new photographer.  Many times, I feel insulted that some photographers are billing themselves as a photography business and a professional, especially when the new photographer justifies their photograph with a statement similar to, “The client liked it!”.  Of course they did.  You know why?  It cost them next to nothing or nothing.  They got 100 free, or nearly free, photos on a DVD or flash drive.

The new photographers are also often touting the “I try to get it right in the camera so I don’t have to post process”, as if to imply that the experienced skill professional or hobbyist photographer only uses Photoshop or other software to “fix it” because they “didn’t get it right”.  Photoshop and similar programs are tools.  These tools are just as important as your other tools such as lighting, cameras, lenses, and tripods.

If you have read this far I’m proud of you, especially if you are a new photographer and at this point I would like to say that I welcome new people to photography.  I support newcomers.  I will work with them, help them, and reveal any of my techniques, workflows, and processes.  I get it.  I am passionate about photography.  I dream photography.  I wake up at night thinking about the next creative technique or photo shoot.  I talk about photography, often to have my friends and family think, “He’s at it again”.

I wish that I had access to online forums and groups when I first started in photography.  I had to learn it either in school where you very often got harsh, blunt critiques in open class.  I had to struggle to learn by doing and deciding on my own what worked and what didn’t work.  Today, we have open access to many great and skilled photographers and yet when we hear honest and blunt critiques where our work is viewed as less than good by those great and skilled photographers we become a victim of “that mean rude person” instead of paying attention and maybe, just maybe, learning something.   Even after all the experience and training (yes I paid for classes, seminars, and lessons) I get some honest blunt critiques.  One of my harshest critics is my wife, and I appreciate her thoughts and observations even though she isn’t a photographer but has learned by hanging out with me.

You need a person or people to be blunt and honest with you.  These are the people who push you beyond your current skill levels, to take you to the next step.

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Welcome new photographers

Welcome new photographers


Often today we see many established photographers complaining about the number of new photographers, especially the ones referred to as “moms with a camera” (MWAC’s).  Many include those who are weekend “warriors” who have regular jobs but do photography on the side, often charging considerably less than the “working pro”.  Many times these people find little help and guidance from established photographers because of this attitude.

Even though I am just getting started as a “photography business” and still working on establishing a clientele base I am here to welcome those new photographers.  In fact, I am here to offer them help, guidance, training, and sharing 30+ years of experience.  I originally learned through the school of trial and error, with a big emphasis on error.

Just like the family above, photography and the photography business is a journey.  The new family has set out on a journey.  Along the way, the journey will not always be peaches and cream.  The sidewalk may have some rough spots, it may have hills and valley, it may even be dotted with barriers, sometimes those barriers may appear insurmountable. The journey of photography isn’t much different.

We often hear long time photographers complain that the business of photography is being destroyed by discounted photographers and the giving away of digital files.  Many also blame the new photographers for this demise.  To this, I call bullshit.  Sorry for the crude term but I don’t believe there is a better way to describe my disdain for such an argument.  Discounted photography has existed since the beginning of the photography business.  While digital files are a more recent issue, let’s face it, we live in a digital age.  Like it or not, digital is now.  Where will we go in the future, who knows?

I want to welcome the newbies and moms with a camera.  I want to welcome the weekend warriors.  You know why?  They bring innovation to the business.  They bring fresh ideas and perspectives on photography.  Many of those moms with a camera understand the struggle of making “ends meet.”  They understand the balancing act of keeping within the budget and preserving memories.   I want to welcome them so much I am willing to help them learn and hone their photography, not because I believe they will hold the same tired attitude but so they too can become successful, by their own definition with quality images, be them print or digital.  I am so passionate about doing so that I often donate time to help them, even though I would rather sell the learning and training as part of my business.

Back when I was working my first career I would often hear a statement when a change was proposed something like this; “We can’t do it that way because we have always done it like this.”  I hate that kind of thinking.  Change is inevitable.  This is the 21st century.  We can’t still do things they way they were done in the past.  We need to look towards the future and fulfill the needs of today.

Again, welcome new photographers.  New photographers keep the business going.  New photographers keep the passion going.  New photographers cause innovation.

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The two biggest errors photographers make

The two biggest errors photographers make

kill-creek-park


There are two areas I find that many photographers are making errors which often holds back their ability to drastically improve their photography.  These two areas are metering modes and focus modes.  

Modern advanced cameras, such as digital SLR cameras have a variety of metering modes; spot, center weighted, and matrix or evaluative, etc. and a variety of focus modes; Auto-Servo, Single Servo, Continuous Servo, and Manual.  We also have autofocus (AF) area modes where we can designate the number of dynamic focus points, single points, and tracking modes.  

I recently read a post in an online forum where the photographer was taking a photography course that said to “ALWAYS” use spot metering.  I cringe at the “ALWAYS and NEVER” statements with the exception of some very rare situations, such as “always avoid saying always and never” especially in the realm of photography.  

Cameras today come with a variety of metering modes and focus modes for a reason.  If one mode fit always there would have been no need to include the other modes.  For me, this is the “one size fits all” which we have figured out is “one size fits no one.”  

ADVICE:  “Be leery of a photography instructor that says, “Always or Never”.  Question them as to why they say always or never.  Question the answer they give because it is best to understand why they say always or never.  Verify the answer through other sources.  I say this even as an instructor and believe my students have a need and right to know the why and fully understand even though I can say I rarely ever say always and never.  

Let’s talk specifically about these two areas.

Note:  In this article we are working in the non-automatic camera modes.  These would be aperture, shutter priority, and manual.  In many of the automatic modes, including “program” the camera will try to achieve a zero meter exposure, e.g. not over or under exposed.  The reason we want to work in these more manually controlled modes is to achieve the exposure we want at the shutter click to fulfill our creative needs.

Metering modes

Most cameras have, at least, three metering modes; matrix or evaluative, center-weighted, and spot.  Some brands and models may include modes such as highlight weighted and partial.  

Check the examples below:

MatrixMatrixMatrix metering

Matrix Metering


Spot darkestSpot darkestSpot metering on the building on the left.

Spot metering on the building on the left.


spot lightestspot lightestSpot metering on the white trailer (center of image).

Spot metering on the white trailer (center of image).


CenterCenterCenter-weighted

Center-weighted


In each of the photos above the exposure was adjusted to zero out the exposure meter.  In others words, what the camera’s meter showed to be exposed properly and not under or over exposed based on the metering style.  

As you can see, the photographs each look different.  You may think, I like x metering mode example best so can I just leave it there and get a “good” reading in all situations?  The answer is maybe but probably not.  You may come across scenes that would be best rendered by using matrix metering and another that would benefit from spot metering on the brightest area, and yet another using center-weighted.  

Many of you are now thinking, “how will I know which one to use?”.  The answer to that question is to understand how the metering modes work, practice, and how you envision your photograph to look.  Let’s take a brief look at each mode to get a very basic understanding of how they work.

Matrix or Evaluative metering.

You camera’s manual may go into far more details on how this is achieved and what criteria the camera uses it is basically evaluating the scene and making a suggestion based on the overall scene.

Spot metering

Your camera is basically selecting a “spot” typically this is the same as your focus point and making a suggestion for a proper exposure.

Center-weighted metering

The camera meters the entire frame but assigns greatest weight to the center area.

In our examples above the camera, each photograph was shot in manual.  The ISO, aperture, and focus remained constant.  The only setting changed was the shutter speed.  

Matrix metering displayed a zero exposure at 1/125th of a second.  Spot metering on the building was 1/50th of a second.  Spot metering on the white trailer was 1/320th of a second.  Center-weighted metering was 1/80th of a second.  

Why is this important

This is important to understand because it is best to achieve our best exposure at the time of capture.  The more we have to adjust exposure the more noise we can introduce, or we may lose important details in the highlights (bright areas) or shadows (dark areas).  We as photographers need to determine what is important for the image and ensure we capture those elements.  This becomes especially true when attempting to capture dramatic natural lighting such as in the image below.


In this photograph, I used spot metering and metered the bright area.  This allowed the darker areas to become almost black and nearly void of details even though this was shot in the middle of the day.  The reason I wanted the background darker and void of details were because I believed it to be distracting and wanted to ensure I captured the flowers in the dramatic natural light falling upon them.  

In the photograph below I used matrix metering because I wanted to ensure I was able to capture details in both highlights and shadows.  

Conclusion

Understanding metering modes are essential, in my opinion, when attempting to bring out the best in photography.  The use of the appropriate mode and exposure allows us to be more creative.  We can use these tools to ensure our photographs express the mood, emotion, drama, or scene as we saw it or envisioned it.  Study the various exposure modes, practice using each on the same scene and compare the results.  Practice with each and you will soon be able to determine when to use the various metering modes and why you chose to use that particular mode for the scene.

Focus modes

Focus modes are just as important, in my opinion, as are metering modes.  In this article I will limit our discussion to on four focus modes, of Auto-Servo, Single Servo, Continuous Servo, and manual.  

Auto-Servo

The camera automatically selects single-servo auto focus if the subject is stationary and continuous servo if the subject is moving.

This may appear as if this is the mode you want to use all the time right?  The camera will decide and use what is best.  You will find there very well may be times that you want keep the focus on a specific area and an object you don’t want to be the focus point will move, i.e. a leaf moves, which may fool your camera and it may refocus.  

Single-Servo

The focus locks when the shutter button is pressed half-way.  Using this mode will allow you to use a focus point, press the shutter button half-way to lock the focus and re-compose the shot.  

Continuous-Servo

For moving subjects.  The camera focuses continuously while the shutter-release button is pressed half-way.  You may be thinking, “but auto-servo will adjust if the camera decides my subject is moving right?”.  The camera may not know exactly what your subject is.  This mode would be useful for action sports, wildlife, etc.  

Manual

You focus the lens.  Have you ever tried to take a photo in low light and the lenses keeps searching for focus?  Have you ever shot macro (very close up photos) and your camera focused on a portion of your subject you didn’t want?  These are all good reasons to use manual focus.  

Conclusion

As with metering modes try each mode on the same scene.  Practice, experiment and soon you will feel comfortable in knowing when and why you would use each mode.  

 

 

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If I take away anything from this what should it be

If I take away anything from this what should it be

 

I’ll start this post with a story, but first, I would like to say; Dear student if you see this post call me or email me I would love to work with you to help you learn your camera.

Recently I was the host of a photography workshop.  The workshop was about HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography.  After a short introduction and talk about taking HDR photographs I suggested that we go and start to shoot some photographs to use in our HDR process.  There were quickly several people who had questions about setting up their cameras.  At one point I would have one or two people waiting in line to ask their question while I was helping another photographer.  This was a great group of photographers, everyone wanting to learn and not afraid to ask questions and engage in conversation with each other.  

One of the most difficult things for me was being able to help the others to navigate their cameras.  Since I am a Nikon user I often had difficulty in navigating Canon menus.  Even with many of the Nikon users I wasn’t familiar with their models but the system was more familiar to me.  

One of those in attendance had a lot of questions, which I thought was very good.  She mentioned that she had owned the camera for several years but hadn’t really learned anything about it.  She was trying to figure out how to set it up to “bracket” the exposures.  I started to help her and noticed several menu options were grayed out (not available).  I then checked and saw the camera was still in full-auto mode.  We switched her to aperture priority and found that her model camera didn’t do auto bracketing.  We then talked about bracketing manually.  I must add she was a great student, eager to learn, quickly taking notes.  The photographer then asked the best question of the day.  “If I take away anything from this what should it be?”  What an awesome question.  

The question is so awesome in my mind because it shows a total willingness to learn and to put to use the information about photography.  Even though this was a workshop on HDR photography, my advice wasn’t about and HDR concept.  My advice was for her to learn and take her camera off auto mode.  She had such an eagerness to learn and I was throwing tons of information to her.  She had shown me a photo she had taken of the moon because she thought the light and the way it looked was just awesome.  The problem she even recognized was the moon had become a streak.  We then talked about shutter speed and how the camera thought it needed to use a really slow shutter speed causing the motion blur.  

The reason I started with this story is that many times there are people who really want to learn photography but don’t know where to go or who to ask to learn.  As another person in the workshop noted if you ask in social media forums you often get quick advice but it may be a while before the people who “really know” respond.  Many times people are “attacked” because of the question they ask because it is viewed as very simple and something “everyone should know”.  Sometimes they get the “Google is your friend” or “this question has been asked before search the group”.  This sort of thing often leads to frustration of the new photographer, many times resulting in their giving up their quest.  When this happens we as a photography community lose.  We lose a potential person who may inspire us, who may help move photography to another level.  We lose a comrade. 

My business goal is to offer education along with my photography, but my personal goal is to take awesome photographs, meet awesome people and to share my knowledge.  I’ve met those photographers who won’t share their “secret” spots or their “secret” techniques unless you’re in their “inner circle”.  I’m not that way.  I will gladly share my locations and my techniques.  

If you take away anything from this post let it be this; “Don’t be that photographer who is won’t help others.  Don’t be that new photographer afraid to ask a question for fear of being thought of as to new or because you think the question is too basic”.  

I’ll finish this post with a few lines from the Impossible Dream, 

o dream the impossible dream 
To fight the unbeatable foe 
To bear with unbearable sorrow 
And to run where

The brave dare not go 
To right the unwritable wrong 
And to love pure and chaste from afar 
To try when your arms are too weary 
To reach the unreachable star 
This is my quest

 

 

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Photography is it art or science

Photography is it art or science

A few days ago I engaged in a conversation on the internet about the depth of field.  The conversation digressed into a discussion of the physics of optics (lenses) and their effect on the depth of field.  There is no doubt that there is a whole heaping helping of science involved in photography.  Back in the early days, there was a whole chemistry along with physics of the principals of light and how optics affects the focus, dispersion and diffraction of light particles.   Then came digital photography, introducing topics like the signal to noise ratios, programming, electronics engineering and more.  I am thankful for all those science minded and pioneers of photography but does it really matter?  Does it make any difference if I know and understand, at least in a basic form, the math and science behind it all?  Is it better that I just understand how to set my camera, lens and lighting to get the image I envision in my mind?  

I guess it all depends on how you view yourself.  Do you view yourself as a technician or an artist?  For a technician, those things could very well make a difference.  As an artist, it doesn’t make much difference.  Does a painter care about how a brush is made and the science behind the bristles or the handle or are they concerned with the look and quality of the stroke?  Does a writer care about how a pencil is made, the science behind why the graphite leaves a mark on the paper?

As photographers who have, at least, a basic, understanding  of such things do more harm than good when topics become involved in the science?  Should we as teachers, instructors, or mentors be more concerned with teaching the art and leaving the science to scientists?  

I view myself more as an artist with my photography.  Some may not like my style or how I achieve my photographs and state that I am not following the technical principles of the design.  In reality, it doesn’t matter to me if a photograph is technically correct as long as it achieves my vision.  We often get into some of these conversations when we read or write critiques on our work or the work of others by asking, “what settings did you use”?  Often this is pointless information unless we know more.  What kind of light was there?  Where was the light coming from?  How far were you from your subject?  What were you wishing to achieve or convey with your photograph?  Unless we were there at the time of the photograph the most we can offer is a suggestion on what may have worked or why something did not work.  

As I was researching what others thought about this topic I found an article about using “two-legged zoom”.  This is often a term used by the fanboys and fangirls of prime lenses who say if I want a wider view or get closer I’ll walk further away or closer to my subject.  The article pointed out that doing so did keep the subject the same relative size, but it also changed the perspective of the image.  As an artist is it more important to know what you want a photograph to look like and how you get it or the science behind why it happens?  As a teacher, instructor, or mentor is my best answer, it depends on or sometimes when a student asks a question about how to get a look or which is better to use then explain why it may change based on your light, subject, distance, or vision?  As a teacher, instructor, or mentor should we teach our students more about problem-solving and making the determination based on this particular set of circumstances?  

I guess the best answer to the question, is photography art or science is; it depends on your goal.  

 

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Portrait vs snapshot vs candid

Portrait vs snapshot vs candid

The differences between a portrait, a candid, and a snapshot can be confusing to many.  Before I wrote this article I researched to see what others had written about the topic beforehand.  I was somewhat disappointed.  In reading articles written by others, they often missed some keys elements to the differences.

Portraits

Portraits are planned.  The lighting is planned and managed, the setting is planned and managed.  The pose is planned and managed.  The photograph above was staged with the props of the family.  Dad’s shirt, mom’s throw blanket.  The clothing was selected specifically.  The lighting was done with a specific purpose.  The baby was placed strategically, exposure and aperture were set with intent.

Candids

A candid or candid portrait is one where the subject is often unaware of being photographed, but it can also be one where the subject knows they are being photographed but continues with doing their “thing” or action.  As with portraits the photograph is done with intent, thought and to tell a story.

The photograph below is a candid.  I watched the baby, I saw the light I liked, I waited for the moment I wanted and took the photograph.

 

Snapshots

Snapshots are photographs that are merely I see something and I point my camera at it and without thought or intent, I take a picture.  I could even be, “hey go over there and I’ll take a photograph”.  We controlled the pose and the setting but without regard for the lighting or really work to set up the shot.

The photograph below is a snapshot.  It was, “go stand by Papa”.  While it is “posed” little regard was for the settings, the background the lighting.

 

More conversation

Each of these types of photographs has their uses and purpose.  Often the spur of the moment snapshot is our best memories of friends, family and life events.  They are unplanned and often just when we are “hanging out” having fun.  Most of these types of photographs won’t get printed in a 16 x 20 to hang on the wall but quite often have a place in our memories scrapbook or family collage frame.  Candid photographs can frequently be printed large.  While we may not have planned the shot we saw a story and executed the photograph with intent.   The line between candid and snapshot can be more easily blurred than the line between portrait and snapshot or portrait and candid.

We can probably all agree that a portrait was done with planning, management of light, management of pose, management of background.  So how do we tell the difference between a candid and a snapshot?  This is a good question, in my mind.  One of the biggest differences is often that candid is done with the intent to tell a story or relate an emotion.  A candid is often where our subject either is not aware of us taking a photograph or is unconcerned with us.  While I may not set up the lighting I still manage the light.  I use the lighting to my advantage to help tell the story.  I have planned my depth of field to include those elements that are important to my subject.  Many of these decisions are quickly set up they are none the less done with intent.  On the other hand, typically little planning go into the snapshot.  Point and shoot.

So how do you go from snapshot to candid portrait?  Learn to manage light, exposure, depth of field.  In other words, learn your camera how to use it, composition, and how to best utilize available light.  Great photographs are more involved than, “hey go stand/sit over there”.  Planning doesn’t have to be a long and drawn out process.

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The problem with getting help on social media

The problem with getting help on social media

 

Social media, the venue we often love and hate at the same time.  As artists, we love to share our work with others.  As photographers and business people it is necessary to maintain a web presence, which often means also a presence on social media.  As photographers who wish to hone and improve our skills, it is often necessary to interact with others for advice, support, and problem-solving.  The issue often becomes so many conflicting opinions and techniques.

Recently I was reading a post in a professional forum.  I don’t mean like a Facebook or other social media areas, but a forum on a website for professional photographers who are paying for membership.  The post was about how to deal with a couple who were getting divorced.  One was angry because the other had scheduled a shoot with them for photographs of the baby and didn’t want her to do the session because she had not agreed to it.  As is typical, there were opinions all over the place, from actual working professionals.  I know it is sometimes good to see a variety of methods and advice but how much help are those conflicting messages?

This is often especially true for new photographers.  They start hearing how great their photographs are from family and friends and start to share them with others in social media. In some groups frequented by other new photographers.  While there is nothing wrong with new photographers, many times it is like the unknowing leading the unknowing.  You don’t know what you don’t know because you don’t know.  Or worse yet, they have read something from some “famous photographer” who notoriously gives horrible information but has an awesome website and makes it sound like he knows.  The new photographer blindly follows the poor or even horrible advice without really understanding the concepts.

Now after a few months of involvement in this world of social media, they jump into an advanced or professional level group and quickly get honest harsh reviews.  Another new photographer, who also recently joined the group quickly defends the other.  Now we start having conflicting opinions and since we often want the path of least effort, the new photographer continues to follow the path they had originally used.

Now many years later, the now not so new photographer is a “seasoned” veteran.  Often throwing out comments like, “I’ve done this for years so I know what I’m talking about”.

YouTube and free education abound and are all around, some good some horrible.  Everyone is selling actions, presets, and videos.  (This is even coming from a photographer who is selling education, tutorials, and such.)  How do you get better?

Here are some tips I have for finding the proper source for you to learn more and improve your skills.

  • Find a mentor.  Someone whose work you like and admire.  Your mentor should have some real experience and/or education.  Your mentor should be someone who is willing to work with you.  You may have to pay a mentor, which is often a better choice because their success often depends upon your success.
  • Work hard every day.  Even if it is to read about photography or visit websites such as  500px  where you can easily see some awesome photography.
  • Submit your work for critique, actual real critiques.  These may be harsh (not belittling, rude, or otherwise).  Pay attention to who is actually offering the critique.  Look at their work, does it look and sound like someone who knows what they’re talking about.
  • Don’t pay attention to how many FB likes you get.  FB likes are very often meaningless.
  • Learn to critique your own work.  Be brutal.  Make sure you can separate yourself from a photograph because it is of someone or something close to you.  Despite what many may say, compare your work to that of a well-known well-respected photographer who does similar work.

An example I have used before and will continue to use is one of the sports players.  Tiger Woods didn’t rise to the top of golf by playing only on the weekend.  He wasn’t born a natural golfer, they don’t exist.  Top athletes and performers all practice ALOT.  Be cautious of practice, practice doesn’t make perfect unless it is perfect practice.  Practicing bad habits, bad technique will only re-enforce those bad habits and techniques.  Practice with intent.  By this I mean decide on what your goals are such as getting better exposures.  Practice exposures.  Next work on practicing compositions, study the rules of composition.  Once you have an understanding of those rules, now you can learn when it is acceptable to break those rules.

We didn’t spend the kind of money on our gear just to be able to take photographs anyone could get with a basic point and shoot camera.  We spent the money on our gear to get the best photographs we can which mean we must learn to use our gear.

Social media is often a good resource, but it can also be a horrible place to learn or get advice.  Research the conflicting opinions.  See which method you prefer but be willing to change if necessary.