Monthly Archives: November 2007

Another Day At The Beach

Another Day at the Beach
Brian Auer | 08/26/2007 | Encinitas, CA | 300mm * f/6.7 * 1/750s * ISO100
[Buy Prints] [Buy Rights] [See it at Flickr]

I showed this one last week as part of a project entry, but I didn’t go into any detail on how it was created. I took this photo on the beach at Encinitas, which is just north of where I live by a few miles. I was with my Dad (who was visiting for the weekend) and while he was testing out his new 2X teleconverter with his 300mm lens, I was forced to focus on subjects a little closer to dry land. It was really overcast and a little chilly, but that didn’t stop many surfers from getting out in the water. As this guy walked toward the water, his surfboard really caught my eye so I took a few shots. I’m fairly pleased with the outcome of this image, but my vertical composition was ever so slightly off — I would have like to gotten the bottom edge of the surfboard in the frame.

Another Day At The Beach Post-Processing

  1. Original JPEG
    Crooked, slightly underexposed, and washed out. The JPEG really sucked for color and contrast on this one.
  2. Processed RAW
    Straighten, crop, white balance adjustment (slightly cooler for mood), and contrast improvements. Better than the JPEG, but still not great.
  3. Curves for Contrast
    Did an “S” curve adjustment to boost the contrast, which also increased the perceived saturation and really made the cool tones stand out.
  4. Layer Mask
    I wanted to blur the background even more, so I created a layer mask by using the gradient tool and brushing out the surfer in the foreground.
  5. Background Blur
    Applied a Gaussian Lens Blur to a copy of the work thus far and attached the layer mask to preserve the foreground elements and allow the blur to fade into the background. This step really helped defocus the contrast in the water and bring more attention to the main subject.
  6. Darken Background
    I used the same layer mask and applied a curves adjustment layer to effectively darken the image. This produced a dark sky effect and tool some emphasis off of the upper portion of the frame.
  7. Inverted Layer Mask
    After selecting the previous layer mask, I inverted it so I could work on the foreground elements without effecting the work done on the background.
  8. Lighten Foreground
    Applied a curves adjustment layer to brighten the image and pull more attention to the foreground. This also produced more detail and contrast in the surfer’s wetsuit while lessening the bigger contrast differences in the shore area.
  9. Curves for More Contrast
    Yes, I just reduced the contrast in the last step, but I wanted to bring back some of the highlights to make some of the background elements a little more pronounced. This also really cooled of the image quite a bit.
  10. Foreground Sharpening
    I applied an Unsharp mask at 81% 1.5 pixels and a threshold of 1, while also masking with the inverted layer mask so I could preserve the background blur.

Enjoy!

Quick Zoom Techniques in Photoshop

Photoshop Zoom Tool

When working with images in Photoshop, I rely heavily on the Zoom tool. I’m constantly zooming in on tiny little spots, viewing sections of the image, checking things at 100%, or backing all the way out to fit the screen. Using the zoom button can be quite tedious and even impossible if I’m in the middle of using another tool. But have no fear there are better ways to zoom.

CTRL+”+”, CTRL+”-”, CTRL+0, CTRL+ALT+0

And for you Mac users, replace CTRL with COMMAND. These shortcuts are pretty handy sometimes because you can quickly zoom in, zoom out, fit to screen, or zoom to 100% without clicking on the Zoom button in the tools palette. As useful as these keyboard shortcuts are, there’s an even better solution.

ALT+SCROLL

That’s right, just hold the ALT key (OPT for Macs) and scroll that mouse wheel (do Macs have scroll wheels yet?). Scroll up to zoom in and scroll down to zoom out. Photoshop also zooms to the point that your cursor is at so you can avoid excessive panning after the zoom. The same trick works in Adobe Reader, but with the CTRL button instead of ALT.

Creative Commons or Copyright for Your Photos?

Jim Goldstein started a good poll on November 15th called “Copyright & Creative Commons: The Poll“. It’s a follow-up to the recent posts on the use of Creative Commons, and I ran the same poll as Jim for a week so we could combine our results for a more comprehensive look at what you guys are using.

Here are the results from 145 total votes between our two polls — values are shown as a percentage of total votes.

So we can see that Copyright holds a majority of the votes, but Creative Commons actually has a decent showing at nearly 30%. Breaking the Creative Commons down into its individual licenses…

It’s pretty obvious that the most restrictive license is also the most popular, which makes sense — as photographers showing our work online we’re still a very cautious group.

The Building Blocks of Success in Blogging and Photography

Last week, Antoine Khater from “All Day I Dream About Photography” asked me this question: “I noticed that you have started your blog in Jan 2007 that’s about 4 months later than ADIDAP and you have much more readers & traffic than I have. So I was wondering if you have any feedback/comments about what should improve at ADIDAP?” So as a generalized response, I’ve put together a few thoughts on building oneself up as a photographer and a photography blogger. In almost a years time, here are the things most important to what success I’ve had.

TIME

As with anything in life, the more you put into something the more you get out of it. Putting in the extra time is the number one thing you can do to ensure your own success. In my later years of college and grad school, I’d get to campus at 8AM and stay until 2AM the next morning — that’s a 16 hour workday after taking some time out for eating and taking breaks. I had many accomplishments in grad school, and it was only possible because of the extra time and effort I applied on a daily basis.

AS A BLOGGER: I can’t work 16 hour days anymore because other parts of my life require my time, but I do put a good deal of time into blogging on a daily basis and I try to manage my time wisely. On average, I probably put four hours per day into the blog… sometimes more, sometimes less. I do a lot of different things related to the blog each day: reading, writing, networking, socializing, research, marketing, thinking, designing, organizing, analyzing, etc. Four hours of blogging activities per day may not be for everyone, but I think that time and success are directly proportional.

AS A PHOTOGRAPHER: I wish I could spend more time working on my photography, but at the moment most of my free time is directed toward the blog. But again, I’m certain that the more time you put into it, the greater the rewards will be. Putting time into photography includes things like continuous learning, taking photos, organizing photos, processing photos, promoting photos, selling photos, and whatever else you might choose to do as a photographer.

CONTENT

In the worlds of blogging and photography, content is at the root of what we can offer to others; It is a foundation on which we can build our success. Good content can take many forms: educational, informative, inspiring, entertaining, provoking, opinionated, and so on. Without good content, there’s no amount of networking and marketing that can make up for it.

AS A BLOGGER: I try to provide useful posts that teach or educate on a given topic. I also try to throw in the occasional inspirational and thought provoking piece to keep things from getting too academic and dry. I also post consistently in frequency and quantity, and having a weekly schedule keeps me on track. Consistent posts will result in consistent readers; inconsistent posts will result in inconsistent readers.

AS A PHOTOGRAPHER: Content is also key in your photos. Always show your best work to your onlookers and give them a reason to follow you. As with blogging, consistency is important — don’t upload 50 photos one day, then go dry for 2 months. If you’re putting in the time and posting good photos, people will follow.

NETWORKING

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know… this is so true, online and off. You don’t have to be buddies with everybody on the block before you step into the scene, but you’d better start making friends fast. People are the Internet’s most powerful asset, and if you’re ignoring that notion and trying to go it alone you’ll be going nowhere fast. And when I say “networking”, I’m talking about the give-take relationship between you and another human, not the “Add XYZ as a Contact?” in one of your social profiles.

AS A BLOGGER: Other bloggers are your allies, especially those who write about the same topic as you. If you have the competitive mentality toward other bloggers, you’re missing the whole point. Find bloggers who inspire you and impress you, and start forming that relationship. Leave thoughtful comments, visit their site often, send an email, chat/IM, call them, link to them, tell your readers about them, just don’t stalk them — know your bounds.

AS A PHOTOGRAPHER: Same thing as with blogging, other photographers aren’t your enemy — the market is big enough for everyone. You can learn a lot by following the work of other photographers on their blogs or through a photo-sharing site like Flickr or Zooomr. Meeting up with other photographers for a group shoot or a photowalk is also a great way to boost your network and gain some important allies.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media and networking can be closely tied together, but there are differences between the two. Social media is a tool that can be used to gain some serious exposure, but it’s not free or without effort — it will cost you a lot of time if used correctly. There’s a huge difference between signing up for a social media account only to promote your own work versus signing up for a social media account to become part of the community and make valuable contributions. Whatever you do, focus on no more than 2 or 3 social media communities and stick with them… the returns will come in time.

AS A BLOGGER: My favorite social media sites are StumbleUpon, photographyVoter, and Digg. It can take a long time to build up a profile on these types of sites, but after a while things get easier. There’s always mystery around how these sites work and what you can do to use them for instant gratification — but there’s really no mystery once you get the whole community thing through your head. The biggest mistake I see people make with social media is to submit nothing but their own work. Submitting your own work is not a big deal (I’d say it’s even encouraged), but exclusively submitting your own work shows very clearly what your intentions are and people aren’t so dumb that they can’t see through you.

AS A PHOTOGRAPHER: Social media is a little less geared toward photos than written works, but the same sites mentioned above can be used quite easily with photos — especially StumbleUpon. StumbleUpon also has a lot of good discussion groups just for photos and photographers. Digg is also supposed to be coming out with a photo section, but I’ve seen many photos make it to the front page in the news section.

PROMOTE OTHERS

The act of promoting others is the glue that holds all of my points together. I promote other people that do great things at every chance I get. If you’ve ever had somebody praise your work and give you a little spotlight of your own, you know how good it feels. Promoting others takes time, but in doing so you’re sharing great content, making new friends, contributing to the social media, and making somebodies day. It doesn’t cost anything to promote the work of others and it’s a great way to show somebody you like what they’re doing.

AS A BLOGGER: I do things like weekly roundups and photodumps to make mention of the things that impress me. I also do the occasional article or review that completely focuses on other people. I use del.icio.us to bookmark my favorite articles and I show those bookmarks on the sidebar of my blog. I also have a photo feed in the sidebar from the Epic Edits Flickr group to show off the work of my awesome audience. I’m not stingy when it comes to linking out, but I don’t link without reason… meaning that it’s got to bring some kind of value to the people who visit the blog.

AS A PHOTOGRAPHER: Promoting other photographers isn’t quite as easy as with blogging, but there are plenty of ways to do it. Social media is probably the easiest way to accomplish this, but things like forums and discussion boards are also good places to drop names (and links) to other photographers or particular photos that inspire you.

IS THIS THE PERFECT PLAN?

No way, not even close. Everybody will have different levels of success with different avenues. I’m merely pointing out the things that seem to work for me, but only on a very high level. If I went into all the details for each of the things I mentioned, you’d get tired of reading before you hit the bottom. If anybody has other suggestions for success with blogging or photography, feel free to share them in the comments. And if anybody has specific questions for me regarding any of this, don’t hesitate to ask — there’s not a lot that I won’t answer.

UPDATE: Skellie has posted a similar article on How to Get 1,050 Subscribers in 3 Months. Quite an amazing feat, and there are plenty of good tidbits in her article.

PhotoDump 11-18-2007

The Epic Edits Flickr Group has managed to keep growing all around. To me, the overall quality of photos entering the pool this last week were exceptionally high — I favored nearly half of them! I’m really enjoying being able to look through the images as a slideshow, because the higher resolution and dark background really makes a huge difference. Given that I enjoy seeing your photos at higher resolution, I’ve decided to start uploading my images at 800 pixels instead of 500… I think it does them a lot more justice.

From Colour VoidFrom halcoFrom sneuwegerFrom BrianLarterFrom laanbaFrom homme de chevreFrom wickdginFrom kwerfeldeinFrom donnaidh_sidheFrom dawn m. armfieldFrom neilcreekFrom libeco18From bryanvillarinFrom vandyll.netFrom A MarquesFrom heyjules45From ron_mcFrom eclectic?From Steve CraneFrom | GW |From photokayakerFrom xysmasFrom laanbaFrom the_wolf_brigadeFrom Colour VoidFrom eclectic?From KoRaYeMFrom kozzmenFrom Colour VoidFrom PhillipFrom neilcreekFrom ron_mcFrom the_wolf_brigade

Link Roundup 11-17-07

Another pre-link announcement this week: Trevor carpenter is heading up another “Challenge” series coming up soon. The “December Challenge” is all about portrait photography — similar to the things you’d expect to see on 365 Portraits. I know my portrait skills are way below par, so I’ll be attempting to participate by taking and posting a new portrait every day for the entire month. Check it out, and let Trevor know if you’re interested in participating.

  • Loreo 3D Lens in a Cap
    Neil Creek
    Neil’s secret weapon for creating those cool 3D images he’s been taking. Cool little gadget!
  • Tips on How to Take Tack Sharp Photos
    Beyond Megapixels
    Getting the sharpest images out of your digital cameras for better photography. Very informative, and beginner-friendly.
  • What exactly is a Single Lens Reflex anyway?
    Alphatracks
    A breif history of the camera, and how the SLR came to be the way it is today.
  • Tips on Shooting Good Landscape
    All Day I Dream About Photography
    An overview guide to landscape photography. Includes general tips, camera settings, timing, composition, metering, focus, and taking the shot.
  • Creative Commons + Flickr = 22 Million Sharable Photos
    MediaShift
    This is an old story from 2006, but it’s the first I’ve seen of it. Interesting story on Flickr and the Creative Commons. Our buddy Kris Krug (now a fairly successful Vancouver fashion photographer) is featured and quoted quite a bit in the article talking about his use of the Creative Commons.
  • How to Shoot in Direct Sunlight
    digital Photography School
    Shooting in direct sunlight can lead to images that have high contrast, blown out highlights, lens flare and colors that might even look overly saturated. Here are some tips for shooting directly into the sun.
  • The Importance of Keywording Your Photos
    Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection
    Thomas describes the difference between keywording and tagging (a feature on photo-sharing sites). He also gives some great tips for coming up with lots of applicable keywords for your images.
  • Videos of the Week — 2 having to do with Larry Lessig and the Creative Commons.

Shoot From The Hip

UniFlyBy

As photographers, we’re so often bound by the rules of the game. Hold your camera correctly, keep your horizon straight, check your histograms, remember the rule of thirds, close your mouth when you chew, etc. Don’t you ever just feel like breaking ALL of the rules… even for a little while?

Pacific Sunset

One of the things I do that I find to be really invigorating is shooting from the hip. It’s not hard to do — you just pick up your camera, go somewhere, and take a picture without looking through the viewfinder. It doesn’t have to actually be from your hip, but it can be if you’d like. See something that looks interesting? Just click! Another thing I like to do is take pictures while I’m walking with my camera in my hand at my side. It looks like I’m just walking along, but I’m really taking snapshots of points of interest. That’s how I got this silhouette shot.

Drive-By Shooting

I’m always surprised at the results that I get from doing this sort of thing. Most turn out really crappy, but some actually turn out better than they would have if you were trying to get the shot. There’s a lot that you can teach yourself by analyzing the composition and lighting of your “Hip Shots”. Why? Because you’re outside the box and you’re getting shots you would normally never allow yourself to take.

One last note: wide angle lenses are great for this type of thing — all 3 of the shots above were taken with my 10-20mm zoom. The DOF is awesome, you don’t have to be dead-on with your aim, and it’s a lot of fun to do a drive-by on your Dad 12 inches from his face while he’s trying to drink a beer.

Southern California Beach-Town Culture

The PhotoBlog post this week will be a bit off from the norm. Rather than show one photo and describe how & why I took it, then proceed to talk about the post-processing, I’m just showing six photos. Why? Jim Goldstein is running a project called “In Your Own Backyard” and this is my project entry. He’s only requesting that the participants show off one photo from a location within 5 miles of their home, but I like to go overboard when I do things. The idea is to give folks “an opportunity to share an ‘artistic’ view of something they see every day in their own neck of the woods.

My neck of the woods happens to be in Southern California at some undisclosed location between Del Mar and La Jolla, about a mile off the beach as the crow flies. It’s a really neat area, and the local coastline is scattered with the stereotypical beach-towns. Within a five mile radius (OK, maybe 10 miles, but who’s counting?) I’ve got Pacific Beach, La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff by the Sea, and Encinitas. Really cool, laid-back places to hang out. So enjoy the photos, and if you’re ever in the area don’t hesitate to get a hold of me.

And one last thing: for the purpose of this project, I’m open to critique.

Creative Commons: A Great Concept I’ll Continue to Employ

Disclaimer: I’m not pretending to be a lawyer, so read the following article as editorial commentary.

Two nights ago, Jim Goldstein posted an article titled “Creative Commons: A Great Concept I’ll Never Employ“. It’s a great discussion about the Creative Commons and a few of the pitfalls from a photographer’s stance, but (to me) the article seemed somewhat biased against the Creative Commons. With as many items that I wanted to respond to in Jim’s article, I feel that my thoughts are better suited in a post of their own. Some of what you’ll see here is me playing Devil’s Advocate, but in general these are the opinions I’ve had for some time now. And in no way is this an attack on Jim Goldstein, his article, or his opinions.

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WHAT EXACTLY IS THE CREATIVE COMMONS?

Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry [from creativecommons.org]. Basically the Creative Commons defines the licensing opportuinites of creative works in a spectrum between Copyright and Public Domain.

The Creative Commons is not a replacement for Copyright protection. All original creative works (photos in our case) are protected under Copyright law, whether you register the works or not (though it can be helpful in the event of a dispute). The Creative Commons does not remove or replace copyright protection from your work — it’s more of an addendum that allows non-copyright holders exercise Copyright rights as specified by the specific Creative Commons License applied to the work.

I can’t help but relate the Creative Commons to the Open Source Initiative for programmers, which has been around for a while and it’s quite popular. Open Source allows programmers to distribute their work with an attached license that then allows others certain rights to the work — such as redistribution, derivative works, monetization, etc. The Creative Commons works much the same way in that for the license to be valid it must remain attached to the work as specified within the licensing terms of agreement.

WHAT’S IN THE FINE PRINT?

Jim pointed out that many who apply the Creative Commons Licensing to their work don’t fully understand what they’re doing. I tend to agree, and I don’t claim to be an expert on the topic myself. But then again, most of those same people don’t fully understand the rights and restrictions associated with Copyright law.

I’ve read through the Creative Commons Documentation in the past, but I took another look at things over the last couple of days. It’s quite a bit to digest, but still nothing in comparison to Copyright documentation — it’s actually quite readable. Some places to start are the Creative Commons homepage, the about page, the before licensing page, the licensing page, and the frequently asked questions page. I’m not going to go through all the details, but understand that they are there and they are readable.

In summary, before applying a Creative Commons License to a work you must be sure that it is something protected by copyright to begin with, and that you have the authority to apply that license. It’s pretty simple for us photographers — if it’s a photo and you shot it, you’re good to go. If you decide to apply a Creative Commons License, be sure to read through the descriptions of each license carefully — don’t just assume you know what it means.

GRAY AREAS IN THE CREATIVE COMMONS

Not everything is cut-and-dry in the Creative Commons. Some documentation is worded vaguely and has room for interpretation. One point Jim brought up was the Virgin Mobile misuse of a Flickr photo licensed under the Creative Commons for commercial use. The problem is that no model release was in place to allow the use of that photo for commercial use. This is where I’m a little fuzzy on things — Is it the responsibility of the photographer or the publisher to ensure that photos licensed under the Creative Commons also have a model release to go with them in the event that the publisher uses a photo for commercial purposes? My gut tells me that the publisher is responsible, since they’re the one monetizing the image. What publisher in their right mind would use a photo of a person in an advertisement without acquiring the model release?

Another thing Jim mentions is that Creative Commons Licenses are non-revocable. I think this statement has been at least partly misunderstood by some. What it means is that if someone acquires your work under a Creative Commons License, they have the ability to exercise the rights granted to them by that license even if you change your mind and revoke the license. This also means that they can use it and redistribute it with the Creative Commons License. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t revoke the license on your original work, because you most certainly can. This makes me wonder though, how would a licensee prove that the work was acquired under the Creative Commons? Is this information contained in the file? Is Flickr (or somebody else) keeping track of the license history for every image?

One last thing that I’ve been unsure about is the noncommercial condition. A license utilizing this condition just states that the work can’t be used for commercial purposes. That leaves a lot to be interpreted. Luckily, there’s a draft guideline on noncommercial use on the Creative Commons website, and it helps clarify some of the questions I’ve had as a publisher.

SHOULD PHOTOGRAPHERS USE THE CREATIVE COMMONS?

I honestly think that a majority of us should use the Creative Commons Licensing as a way to promote our work, as long as we understand what the license means. It opens up an opportunity for our work to be distributed (and attributed) under certain rules and restrictions that are somewhat less restrictive than fully Copyright, while still reserving our core rights to the work. Of course, preventing misuse of our photographs relies on those using them to adhere to the license — but the good news is that if the terms of the license are broken, that license dissolves and the image is then under full Copyright for that licensee.

I’ve always been a proponent of things like the Creative Commons and Open Source, and I’ll probably continue to be. I may change my mind some day if I ever become a highly sought after photographer, but the thing that may have helped get me there could be my use of the Creative Commons Licensing… you never know. I license all of my Flickr images under the “Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives” license, which is the most restrictive license available short of fully Copyright. This reserves my right to prevent others from monetizing or changing my work, while allowing them to share it with proper credits. A side note on the Open Source thing — I also released a piece of software under the Apache License V2.0 several years ago. It was a program I wrote for my Master’s Thesis (which is an amazingly good read).

So the “sharing” licenses are nothing terribly new to me, and I enjoy being able to have that extra level of control and openness to my work. If you’re thinking about using the Creative Commons with your own photography, I urge you to read the fine details of the terms and conditions associated with the license of your choice. If you’re still unsure about the whole thing, then stick with Copyright — it’s your safest bet.

Eolo Perfido VS Fredrik Ödman

This week, we’ll do a bit of a photographer face-off between a couple of my favorites: Eolo Perfido and Fredrik Ödman. So take a look at their work, and vote for the one you like the best.

{democracy:25}

And check out the results from last week’s poll: Do You Make Money From Your Photography? It turns out that most have never tried, and the majority of those who have are making little or nothing from it. On the bright side, there is a good handful of people who are earning enough to at least buy some new equipment from time to time.