Category Archives: Features

In-depth how-to articles intended to teach something.

Capture Your Passion in a Paycheck: Promising Careers for Photographers

[tweetmeme]This guest article was written by Ellen Berry, a member of the BrainTrack writing staff. She writes about a variety of job and career related topics.

It’s hard to find photographers who aren’t passionate about what they do. Perhaps it is the boundless potential of what can be done with photography – and the images that it captures – that inspires such enduring interest. Used to create art, document details or tell a story, photography is both an artistic and scientific medium – unlike any other.

But there are so many ways that photography is used – in almost any industry and location – and it can be hard to choose which career or careers are best suited for you.

Careers in Photography

Now more than any time in history, images are used to make money. Trends in innovative design, documentation methods, diagnostic approaches, and Web-based services combine with technological advancements in camera equipment and image processing to create an ever-increasing demand for skilled photographers. Industries that rely on photographers to conduct business, and the careers within them, include:


My camera makes an ideal travel companion, and taking photos that I plan to sell allows me to write off expenses from my trip.

News / Publishing – still photography is used in combination with multimedia to record and present what is seen by the photographer

  • Editorial photography used to illustrate stories in magazines and books in print or online
  • Photojournalism for newspapers and news websites
  • Paparazzi candid photography of celebrities and newsworthy figures
  • Teaching photojournalism students

Fine Arts / Craftsmanship – producing original works of art using artistic techniques for display, production and sale

  • Fine arts photography for exhibition, commission and print sales of frameable art; includes still life, abstract, portrait, documentary, nature, botanical, and landscape
  • Crafts photography for creating pieces of art sold as crafts or used to create art pieces such as fashion accessories, tableware, giftware, etc.
  • Teaching of artistic techniques and use of camera equipment

Learning graphic design changed the way I take photos – now more than just to capture an image, photography allows me to create the foundation for a final product.

Scientific – used in scientific research and applied sciences, business, military, and the arts

  • Medical photography for keeping medical records, publishing journal articles, and diagnostic purposes
  • Forensic photography to aid in investigations and courtroom cases by accurately reproducing a scene of a crime or accident; black and white, infrared, and spectroscopy may be used
  • Astrophotography to record astronomical objects and large areas of sky and space
  • Aerial and satellite photography for use in the archaeological, geophysical, and cartographic sciences
  • Stereophotogrammetry used in archeology to combine photos to create mosaics which document and reproduce large areas. Equipment uses satellite GPS technology to map specified areas
  • Geologic photography for surveying, mapping, and documenting rocks, minerals, and formations
  • Photomacrography and photomicrography for capturing magnified images through lenses or microscopes
  • Infrared, ultraviolet, fluorescence, and high-speed photography, and thermography for capturing unseen scientific elements or processes
  • Industrial photography for documenting equipment, production processes, work organization, employees, products, and layout for administrative or industrial relations use
  • Teaching scientific photography techniques and use of camera equipment

I try to keep things simple by taking pictures of my jewelry on my kitchen table using household knick knacks and natural lighting.

Commercial / Industrial – used to create images (as compared to works of art) for sale

  • Stock photography for creating collections of photos sold in catalogs or online that are purchased for use in brochures, websites, magazines, posters, etc.
  • Advertising photography for illustrating and presenting products; used by marketing departments and ad agencies
  • Fashion and glamour photography for taking pictures of clothing designs or products presented by models, or the models themselves
  • Restaurant / food photography for use in packaging, advertising, magazines, and websites
  • Real estate photography presenting the structure and decor of commercial buildings and private homes for sale or rent; includes 360 degree panoramas
  • Event photography for ceremonies, parties, conferences, and promoted events
  • Studio / portrait photography for families and individuals, pets, school pictures, and headshots for performers
  • Teaching of commercial photography techniques and use of camera equipment

Underwater photography is used in many of these industries, and uses special equipment to capture images that cannot be captured by standard camera equipment.

Choosing a Photography Career

Most careers in photography require a combination of creativity, knowledge of specialized photographic equipment, specific knowledge of the relevant industry, a keen eye, patience, and the ability to travel frequently and carry equipment. Some jobs in dangerous situations require courage and risk. Many photographers are self-employed (so business training is essential) and expected to own their own equipment. Additional considerations when choosing a photography career include:

  1. Building a portfolio

    Even before you know what industries or kinds of photography interest you, start taking photos. In every aspect of your life, look for ways that you can try different camera equipment, take photos of different subjects, experiment with techniques, and create pieces for your portfolio. Challenge yourself to tell stories with images, capture telling moments, make objects look aesthetically irresistible, and portray commonplace things in uncommon ways. Nothing is more important in photography than being able to demonstrate your talent and skill.

  2. Exploring careers

    Start with an assessment of your current interests and skills – perhaps with the use of career tests and books, or career counseling. Consider which industries (like real estate or news) elicit a deep interest in you and offer lots of areas for discovery, and then become familiar with the details of the various kinds of photography careers relevant to those industries. Research blogs and websites about different kinds of photographers and their careers. Find successful photographers and ask if you can shadow them on the job, or apprentice with them, to get practical experience. Check out the many professional associations for different fields of photography. Be sure to include the creative, technical, and business sides of photography in your exploration.


  3. When taking stock photo images, I try to think of all the ways the image might be used – by graphic designers or administrative assistants in specific industries for use on websites, in brochures or presentations, etc.

    Identifying complementary careers

    Once you’ve identified three primary areas of interest, consider how you can combine them. By developing skills and knowledge in complementary areas, you create a unique skillset that distinguishes you from the competition, and establishes a wide foundation for career growth and stability. For example, knowing how to use Adobe Photoshop and other post-processing programs, scanners, and graphic design techniques can infinitely enhance your skills and hireability. Adding formal training in marketing, business, science, food photography, or fashion are examples of ways to further increase your earning potential.

  4. Personal branding

    As early as possible, begin to consider yourself as a marketable commodity when it comes to your career. Consider becoming self-employed (even if you are working or in school full time) as soon as you’ve identified your career path, since becoming a sole-proprietor is easy, usually free or low cost, and can provide tax benefits and support your business learning. Keep in mind that your presence online, in addition to in-person, reflects your personal brand so be sure to put your best foot forward when networking and interacting through social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

  5. Gaining skills

    Having identified a career path that appeals to you enough to warrant formal training, compare different options for learning. Photography programs are readily available through four-year colleges and vocational schools, both on-campus and online. College degree programs for photographers are usually in the fine arts, and can vary in length from two to six years. Any program should be accredited through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the United States Department of Education (USDE).

Ellen Berry is a member of BrainTrack’s writing staff, and contributes regularly to BrainTrack’s Career Planning Guide, which features additional articles about developing career goals, matching passions with careers, and job searching.

The Rise and Fall of Digital and Film

[tweetmeme]This guest post was written by Jason Acar. Jason is currently a content writer for MyCamera.co.za. He has extensive journalism experience and a keen interest in photography.

Many budding photographers still debate whether to buy digital cameras, or opt for older analogue film models. The truth is, technology has advanced so much that digital cameras can achieve just about anything you want when it comes to photography.

To easily display the rise and fall of both digital and film eras, we have compiled this interesting timeline, highlighting some of the most important moments in the history of photography:

1826 - Nicephore Niepce took the first permanent photograph in history. Although there may have been other photographs taken during this time, the photograph of the exterior of his home is the oldest photo on record. He took the image using a camera obscura and a sheet of pewter coated with bitumen of Judea, which hardened permanently when exposed to light. Capturing the image took eight hours.

1839 – William Fox Talbot invents the positive/negative process. Although essentially a negative photograph, which he dubbed as the “photogenic drawing process”, he streamlined the process a year later and renamed it the calotype. This effect remains popular today.

1854- André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri became known for the introduction of the carte de visite (French “visiting card”). Disdéri’s rotating camera could reproduce eight individually exposed images on a single negative.

1861 – Renowned physicist and mathematician James Clerk Maxwell took the first ever first colour photograph. He created the image of a tartan ribbon by photographing it three times through red, yellow and blue filters before combining them into one colour image.

1868 - Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron of France became a pioneer in the field of colour photography. Using additive (red, green, blue) and subtractive (cyan, magenta, yellow) methods, he turned colour photography into an art form. He would go on to patent some of his methods, while one of his most famous, and earliest, photos is a landscape portrait of Southern France, taken by the subtractive method in 1877.

1887 - Gabriel Jonas Lippmann, a physicist and inventor, landed the Nobel Prize in 1908 for using the phenomenon of interference to reproduce colours on a photographic basis. This later became known as the Lippmann Plate.

1888 – The Kodak No. 1 Box camera was introduced, allowing the mass market to finally try their hand at photography. Once one hundred photos had been taken, owners would ship the camera back to Kodak and have the images printed at a price of $10.

1900 – If the No 1 Box introduced the average Joe, the introduction took things a step further. This camera made low-cost photography popular and introduced the world to the snapshot. This basic cardboard box camera offered simple controls and a price tag of just $1.

1902 - Arthur Korn discovered practical photo-telegraphy technology, meaning that images could be sent via wires. Europe quickly adapted the technology, sending photographs locally by 1910. Eventually inter-continental delivery was done by 1922.

1923 - Doc Harold Edgerton introduced the xenon flash lamp and pioneered strobe photography. This paved the way for improved portrait pictures, as well as photographs in areas with little or no light.

1936 - The world was introduced to the first single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. This 35mm SLR camera was named Ihagee Kine-Exakta and made in Germany.

1948 – Edwin Land, who founded the Polaroid Corporation in 1937, released the instant film camera in this year. This device would become their most popular product line for decades to come.

1959 – There was a time when AGFA was close behind Kodak as a leader in the world of photography. It was at this point that the company introduced the first ever fully automatic camera, the Optima.

1972 - The rise of digital happened a lot earlier than many people realise. Texas Willis Adcock, a Texas Instruments engineer, actually created a design for a filmless camera and applied for a patent in 1972. Unfortunately, nobody knows if it ever came into existence.

1973 – Fairchild Semiconductor paved the way for digital imaging, releasing the first integrated circuit, just ahead of Texas Digital.

1975 –Steven Sasson unveiled the first digital camera using CCD image sensor chips. This groundbreaking device took black and white (recorded onto a cassette tape) and offered a resolution of 0.01 megapixels. The first image ever captured on this prototype took 23 seconds to record.

1981 – Sony released the Mavica, the first commercially available digital camera. Although this was a revolutionary product in the photographic industry, it was actually digital video recorder that took freeze frames.

1986 – Leading photographic company, Kodak, brought out the first megapixel sensor, which was able to record 1.4 million pixels. By 1991, the company had created the first professional digital camera system (DCS), a Nikon F-3 which was targeted at photojournalists.

1994 – Only a select few were able to enjoy digital technology up until now. Apple introduced the Apple QuickTake 100 camera in February 1994, a digital camera aimed at the average Joe which was able to work with a home computer. Others soon followed including the Kodak DC40, Casio QV-11 and the Sony Cyber-Shot.

2006 – Digital photography steadily edged out the use of a film camera, so much so that Polaroid announced that it was halting production on all of their instant film products.

2010 – Digital cameras are introduced monthly, if not weekly. Each with more advanced features, better quality picture quality and enough on camera space for thousands of images. To top it off, printing of images is quick, cheap and never wasteful as you select the images you want without have to deal with overexposed or dud images.

This guest post was written by Jason Acar. Jason is currently a content writer for MyCamera.co.za. He has extensive journalism experience and a keen interest in photography.

eBook Review: Portrait Tips and Techniques

Portraits… a very broad topic with deep technical and artistic aspects. A portrait photographer must have control and understanding of the subject, surroundings, light, and camera in order to create images with impact. This is generally the case in any type of photography, but portraits demand a higher level of control.

Educating yourself on the subject of portraiture can be difficult because of the inherent technical material. But with the right teacher or author, this material can be absorbed with minimal pain to the brain.

Volume 1 of Wayne Radford’s Portrait Tips and Techniques is a book that covers the many aspects of black & white natural light portraiture (and the material applies to color portraits as well). The lessons and teachings are somewhat technical, but the material is presented in a “down to Earth” fashion that anybody can understand. You can download an 8 page sample of the eBook here [PDF].

Check the end of this review for your chance at a free copy of the full version!

[tweetmeme]You can purchase Volume 1 of Portrait Tips and Techniques from Wayne Radford’s website. Links in this post are affiliate links to the product.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Portrait Tips and Techniques, Volume 1 is a 126 page downloadable eBook containing 4 main chapters encompassing 10 distinct lessons. The end of the book also contains a selection of sample work from the author and a couple of clean and concise guides to facial analysis and lighting. And the supporting graphics… this book has over 90 great sample shots, diagrams, and charts. Click on the images below for a larger view.

The book starts off with an introduction from the author in addition to some extra background material on his journey as a portrait photographer. Then we jump into “Facial Recognition”, or posing techniques for your subjects. The next main section is “Lighting Techniques”, all of which are in the realm of natural light. The last two chapters cover “Exposure” and “Composition” as they relate specifically to portraits. The book wraps up with a sample gallery of work from Wayne Radford and two single-page charts for lighting and posing (very handy).

Throughout the book, sample images and illustrations are used to convey the lessons found in the text. Wayne also deconstructs his photos to convey a particular technique and show how it was used to create that photo. All in all, this is a very visual guide.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wayne Radford is an Australian professional portrait photographer specialising in Black & White, and he’s been doing it for over 25 years. While he’s done his fair share of weddings, in 2000 Wayne switched over exclusively to children’s environmental portraiture.

Throughout his career he has received numerous State and National awards for his unique style of photography including the Australian Professional Photography Awards category; “1996 Wedding Photographer of the Year” at both National and State judging. In addition he also received the classification of “Master of Photography”. On two occasions he has won the “Highest Scoring Black & White Print” at these awards.

You can see some of Wayne’s work on his Radford Photography website and on Flickr. For his non-portrait work, also check out his Radford Editions website.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

This is a wonderful, educational, and inspirational book on the topic of portrait photography. I love the fact that it focuses on natural light techniques and uses black & white images for illustration. It’s direct, focused, and it cuts out the extra fluff and off-topic discussion.

This would be a great book for two types of photographers: those wanting to learn portraits from the ground up, and those wanting to add more to their existing knowledge of portraiture. Either way, this book will certainly step up your game.

You can purchase Volume 1 of Portrait Tips and Techniques for $19.95 until December 20, at which point it will return to the regular price of $24.95. (the image says Dec 12, but the end date is really Dec 20)

WANT A FREE COPY?

[UPDATE 11/22/2010] The winners have been chosen. You can see the results here.

Of course you do! I’ve got 3 copies of the eBook to hand out and we’ll run this as a simple raffle in the comments below. Here are the rules:

  • One entry per person.
  • Leave a comment with the word “freebook” in there somewhere.
  • Do it on or before 11/19/2010.

After the deadline, I’ll pull 3 random numbers and see if the corresponding comments have the word “freebook” in them. If not, I’ll pull additional numbers until 3 winners have been chosen.

Don’t Forget About Those Old M42 Lenses For Your Modern dSLR…

[tweetmeme]This is a guest post by Rob, from robnunnphoto.com.

If, like me, you’re a photographer on a very tight budget, one of the hardest things to come to terms with is how expensive lenses are for your dSLR. Apart from the “Nifty Fifties”, which for most manufacturers can be had for around $100, new lenses are hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Fear not though – there is another way, where you can buy lenses for a few dollars, rather than a few hundred – M42 Lenses. M42 refers to the type of screw mount these old lenses use, and it was a standard for companies like Zenit, Praktica, and Pentax for many years. There are also lots of other lens manufacturers who produced M42 lenses from the ‘50s to the ‘70s, when Auto-Exposure, and a little later, Auto-Focus, rendered a screw type mount impractical.

To fit these lenses you’ll need an M42 adapter (available on eBay), which is normally just a piece of machined and finished metal, with a bayonet fitting on one side and a screw mount on the other. Having no electrical connection, you then have to focus, change the aperture, and meter manually, but this is a good learning experience and gets easier with practice. If you’re using Canon you can set your command wheel to Aperture Priority, and your camera will adjust the shutter speed automatically as light levels change or you change the lenses aperture.

Some M42 Lens Mount Adapters include an optic, and it’s always best to check compatibility of your camera body with a particular lens. Some old lenses protrude into the body of the camera, and this can cause problems with hitting the mirror.

I get my M42 lenses from car-boot sales, second hand shops, thrift stores and charity shops. There’s a thriving market on eBay, but the most popular and highest quality can demand steep prices. I normally just look for old 35mm Film Cameras that are clean, I make sure the lens works, then pay a couple of quid at a car-boot sale.

Most M42 lenses are fixed-focal length prime lenses – zooms just weren’t made for M42 in great quantities, and their optical qualities weren’t as good. Using a prime teaches you to zoom “with your feet”, a good skill to develop for everyone anyway!

The most common focal length of lenses you’ll find are 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 135mm. Wider lenses are very rare, but you may come across the odd ultra-long telephoto prime – and normally at prices that are unbelievably cheap.

LENS CHECK LIST

Before you hand over the cash for a M42 lens, you want to check a few things:

  1. Is it really an M42 Thread? Make sure you bring your lens-mount adapter (I actually use an extension tube) along to test it is what you think it is. There are other screw-mounts that aren’t compatible.
  2. Is the glass clean? You’re looking for mould, fungus or big scratches. Any lens that looks a bit cloudy or has things growing in it should be passed over. Expect to see surface scratches on most old lenses – don’t worry, it won’t affect your photographs.
  3. Does the focus turn smoothly? We don’t want any grinding or stiffness.
  4. Do the aperture blades work? A real important one this. If a lens has been sitting in an attic for 40 years, chances are any lubricants inside will have dried out, so those blades could be stuck. Look for a pin sticking out of the back of the lens. Press it in, then look through the lens while turning the aperture ring. You should see the aperture blades opeing and closing. Ask yourself if the lens is opening up all the way to its biggest aperture (biggest hole, smallest f number), and closing up to its smallest aperture (smallest hole, biggest f number). You’ll often find lenses where the blades only open up so far. Put the lens down and move on.
  5. Is it a decent piece of glass? A tricky question this – unless you’ve got a really good memory, chances are you won’t be able to remember which are the lenses, brands and models you should be looking for. My rule of thumb is to look at the maximum aperture. Lens manufacturers don’t tend to make poor fast glass. So if the lens is a 50mm, I’m looking for at least an f/1.8 aperture. For 28mm to 135mm I’m looking for f/2.8. With longer glass the bigger the aperture the better, and be aware that Zoom Technology wasn’t at it’s best in the M42 era, so don’t expect great results from non-primes. (Although M42 Zooms, combined with extension tubes, are great for macro work.)

ACCESSORIES

That brings me nicely onto the accessories that you want to be looking for as you’re on your hunt for M42 lenses. First up we want a selection of extension tubes. These are simple hollow tubes of various lengths, that allow you to take incredible macro shots.

Teleconverters look like extension tubes, but have a small glass optic inside. These handy gadgets multipy the focal length of your lens, usually by 1.6 or 2 times. Inspect them for scratches and fungus. Using a teleconverter does cut down the amount of light coming into your camera, and they do degrade the image, but they are fun to play around with.

Filters. With all your new lenses you’ll need filters. Don’t bother with UV protection filters, these lenses are cheap anyway, so why put another piece of cheap glass in the way? Look for CIrcular Polarizers (C-PL) to reduce glare and increase colour saturation. You may find Linear Polarizers. These have the same effect, but could affect the metering of your camera. If you’re shooting fully manual, this doesn’t matter one bit. Look out for special effects filters – soft-focus, star-bursts, grads and neutral density. Coloured filters aren’t that useful if you shoot in colour and convert to b&w in post, but they can add a fun look to your images. Keep an eye out for Cokin Filters, holders, and adapters – a whole world to explore!

Lens Hoods. Very, very, important. The coatings on modern lenses that keep our photographs contrasty and flare-free are probably missing from these old M42 lenses, so the best practice is to always use a lens hood.

MY EXPERIENCES

I particularly like my Pentacon 29mm f/2.8, and my Helios 135mm f/2.8. I use my Soligor 90-230mm with extension tubes for macro work, and I’m currently playing around with a Hanimex 200mm f/3.3. There’s no way I could afford to buy the equivalent Canon EF primes of these focal lengths, and half the fun of using these lenses is paying a couple of pounds for them at car-boot sales, then seeing the wonderful images they produce.

WHAT TO DO NEXT

Go on eBay and buy a lens-mount adapter for your digital body. Just search for “M42 Lens adapter Canon” or whatever model of camera you’ve got. Do a little research on the ‘net as to what lenses you could be looking for, then get out at those garage sales, thrift stores and flea-markets to hunt out those bargains. Have fun and marvel at the prices you’ll pay for lenses that are perfectly good enough for the majority of photographers.

Thanks for reading! Rob.

You can read more about Rob and his photography at robnunnphoto.com.

(All photos in this article were taken with a Canon 350d dSLR and M42 Lenses).

FURTHER READING

M42 Lenses On Wikipedia.

M42 Lens Mount Adapters On Ebay.com.

Compatibility list of M42 and manual lenses on Canon EOS 5D. (And Other Makes)

M42 and dSLR’s Flickr Group.

HAVE YOUR SAY!

Have you used M42 lenses, on a dSLR or perhaps on the original Film Body? What have your experiences been? What are your favourite lenses, and what has been your best buy? Please add your comments below!

Filter Forge Contest Results

[tweetmeme]Last week, I posted a review of Filter Forge, an advanced Photoshop plugin. I also posted a way for three lucky winners to get a free license for the software — a photo contest using the trial version of Filter Forge.

We had some great work entered in the contest and I had a difficult time picking only 3 winners. A big thanks goes out to all the participants!

THE THREE WINNERS ARE…


Devin Hayes, Lomo Filter

This one took me a minute to figure out because I’ve never seen a photo of the building. This is a tilt-shift photo of the Milwaukee Art Museum and it sits at an angle as shown in the image (no tilt on the composition). The Lomo filter used maintains a relatively “clean” look while shifting the colors just a bit.


Roy Moore, Grunge Filter

The Grunge filter was a popular choice among participants, but this photo exhibited the best use of the filter. The simple subject and color set gains strength from the busy texture of the grunge filter and produces somewhat of a visual cross between painting and photo.


Robbie Ewing, Dreamy Filter and Film Frame

The dreamy filter applies well to portraits because of the softening effect. Highlights and colors are also pushed up a bit, producing a slightly high-key and high contrast/saturation image. The film frame adds a nice organic border to the image, keeping the viewer interest near the center of the photo.

OTHER PROJECT ENTRIES

These entries are shown in the order they were received. Great work from everyone — I had a hard time bringing my top 6 or 7 down to my top 3.


Gilberto Agostinho, Vibrance Filter and Film Frame


Paulus B. Weldy, Dreamy Filter and Photo Frame


Victoria Pickering, Colorize Filter


James Kammin, Old Photo Filter and Photo Film Frame


Mark Ledingham, Plastawrap and Bridge Lighting Filters


Susan Pollard, Grunge Filter


Malcolm Smith, Old Photo Filter


Justin Kuhlers, Real Contrast Filter and Film Frame


Rob Anderson, Grunge Filter


Heather Katsoulis, Watercolor Painting Filter and Watercolor Frame


Steven M., Sunburst Filter


Leszek Leszczyński, Watercolour Frame

Again, a big thanks to the folks who participated.

Filter Forge Photoshop Plugin Review (And Giveaway)

Filter Forge - an advanced Photoshop plugin

[tweetmeme]The folks at Filter Forge contacted me about reviewing their advanced Photoshop plugin software. I’m always interested in checking out new things, so they provided me with a review license of the software and I started exploring it. I must admit that it’s an impressive piece of software.

Read on for my review and be sure to check the details at the bottom about the contest and prize giveaway. This review contains affiliate links.

WHAT IS FILTER FORGE?

Filter Forge is a Photoshop plugin with a huge variety of filter and texture options for photographers and designers. The plugin contains over 7500 textures and filters, most of which are user generated. And that’s another key feature of the software — you can generate your own filters and make them available to other users.

The real strong point of the Filter Forge software is the extensive library of user generated filters and textures. There is a seemingly endless supply of options out there, and the library is constantly growing. The folks at filter forge also offer an incentive to create and promote new filters, handing out reward points for the more popular filters created. Those reward points can earn you discounts and free software.

There are two sides of Filter Forge — textures and effects. If you’re into applied textures, this software will keep you occupied for quite a while. At the time of writing this review, there are nearly 4000 textures available. Filters, or creative effects, are also in abundance with over 3600 options. You can search and browse through the filters at the Filter Forge website.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH IT?

Applying filters is relatively simple. You start up Photoshop, pull in your image, and start Filter Forge from the Filters menu. Once inside Filter Forge, you can select the textures or effects you want to apply, check out a few presets, or modify the settings for that particular filter. After you apply the filter or texture, you’re back in Photoshop. That’s pretty much it.

Creating filters is a little more complicated, but the interface is still fairly simple. You can start from scratch or modify an existing filter by using the components available in the filter editor. These components include things you would find in Photoshop: brightness, gamma, hue, saturation, threshold, invert, levels, curves, gradients, blurs, blends, and a whole bunch of other tools you won’t find in Photoshop. The process is very similar to creating a Photoshop action, but more visual and self explanatory.

Enough talk, here are a few of my own photos with various applied filters. Click on the image to see the originals at Flickr.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

This is certainly a handy piece of software for the folks that apply textures and filters on a regular basis. The sheer quantity of options is staggering. If you’re a “naturalist” with your photography, maybe this isn’t for you. But other photographers, and even graphic designers, should check it out if it sounds remotely interesting.

Filter Forge can be downloaded as a 30 day free trial with no other limitations (and check out the free plugin packs on the same page that don’t require the Filter Forge software). If you want to buy the software and continue to have access to the full library, you have three price options: basic, standard, and professional editions. The basic edition only allows you to use the filters, the standard edition allow you to create your own, and the professional edition has a bunch of other bells and whistles. Check the website for prices because they may change in the future.

WHO WANTS A FREE COPY?

Now for the fun part — I have three licenses for the basic edition of Filter Forge to give out! We’ll run this as a photo contest using the Filter Forge plugin (and if you don’t have Photoshop, you can use it as a standalone software). Here’s what you need to do to enter:

STEP 1. Download a free copy of Filter Forge and install it.

STEP 2. Choose any photo of your own and apply your favorite filter.

STEP 3. Email your photo to blog@epicedits.com. Size it to 1000px on the long edge, make sure to include your name, and tell me which filter(s) you used.

DEADLINE: October 10 13, 2010

One entry per person and the photo used must be your own. By entering the contest you only give Epic Edits the right to display your image as a contest entry no larger than 500px. You retain all rights to your photo.

After the deadline, I’ll size the images to 500px and post them here on the blog along with your name and the name of the filter used. I’ll choose the three winners myself (or I’ll have a couple of guest judges help me out).

10 Things Photographers Should NOT Do

Don't Panic
Creative Commons License photo credit: quimby

[tweetmeme]We usually see photography tips on the things we should be doing, so I thought it would be interesting to turn it around and look at the things photographers should not be doing.

The items in my list are not comprehensive by any means, but I find them to be fairly important with regard to most photographers out there. And of course, these are only suggestions and opinions… so don’t get too twisted up about them.

I got the idea for this title and article from a post at Daily Blog Tips called “10 Things Bloggers Should NOT Do“. Also worth a read for my fellow bloggers.

1. DON’T EXPECT RESULTS OVERNIGHT

Learning photography takes time — and that goes for the artistic and technical aspects. Sure, you might be artistically and/or technically inclined, but you probably won’t have galleries begging for your photos a month after you pick up your first camera. The process of learning photography and developing a personal style can take years (or even a lifetime). Just keep at it and you should start to notice improvements in your work as the months turn to years.

My latest accessory
Creative Commons License photo credit: n0r

2. DON’T LUST FOR NEW GEAR

New gear is exciting, isn’t it? Bigger better cameras, faster lenses, filters, tripods, flashes, bags, etc. Don’t get me wrong — it’s fine to get excited over this stuff. But don’t make it your life’s goal to constantly buy the next best thing on the market. My advice is to buy new gear when you need it rather than when you want it. You’ll know that you need something when you repeatedly find yourself missing opportunities (or even paying jobs) due to a lack of some feature or piece of equipment.

3. DON’T BE AFRAID TO FAIL

This one goes for anything in life — failure leads to success, improvement, and learning. You might screw up one or two shots from time to time, but you’ll remember those mistakes next time you head out (and hopefully you won’t make them again).

gallo_02
Creative Commons License photo credit: Zolfo

4. DON’T GET COCKY

Whether it’s seemingly justified or not, nobody really likes a cocky bastard. So you sold a print, got into a gallery exhibit, got featured on some big website, etc — that’s great, but don’t let it go to your head. Don’t talk down to other photographers or put yourself on a pedestal. If you do, it’s only going to drive people away.

5. DON’T IGNORE THE CRITICS

If you share your photos anywhere on the web, you’ve probably had unsolicited critiques. Of course, you’re more than welcome to ignore them, but it usually doesn’t hurt to read them and think about it. You might just learn something or improve a photo. But, keep in mind that not all advice is good advice.

6. DON’T MAKE IT COMPLICATED

Photography is relatively simple on the technical side. Too many times, I’ve seen new photographers get hung up worrying about modes and settings when they really don’t need to. As you continue to shoot and educate yourself, you’ll pick up the technical stuff quite easily. Besides, if you worry too much about the technical side, you’re more likely to miss shots entirely.

Discuss ideas, explore trends, find the new, be inspired
Creative Commons License photo credit: jonhoward

7. DON’T STEAL IDEAS

This goes for any form of creative expression. You see what I did at the top of this article? I gave credit where credit is due because I borrowed an idea and turned it into something of my own. Same thing for photos — if you borrow a concept from another photographer, make sure you give them credit. And look at it this way — if you inspired others to create new things, wouldn’t you like it if they gave you recognition for that?

8. DON’T NEGLECT YOUR GEAR

Cameras and other photographic equipment can be delicate at times. With the cost of cameras and lenses today, it’s worthwhile to take care of them. Try not to bang it around on things, drop it, get it wet, etc. And keep your gear clean if you want it to last — lens elements and sensors in particular.

9. DON’T IGNORE “THE RULES”

The rule of thirds, symmetry, leading lines, perspective, background, depth of field, framing, crop, and so on. You’ve probably come across some of the basic rules of photography either on the web or in a book. Then you also see advice out there saying “break the rules”. So what’s the answer? Follow them? Break them? Here’s the thing… there’s a major difference between breaking the rules on accident and breaking the rules on purpose. It’s called intent, and that’s what separates the good from the bad. So learn the rules, then learn how to break them.

10. DON’T STOP LEARNING

Probably the worse thing a photographer (or any hobbyist/professional) can do is stop learning. There is a ton of stuff to learn about photography and art in general, and the flow of new information only increases as technology advances. So always be open to learning new things — even if you think you know it all!

What other things do you think photographers should not do? Are you guilty of any on my list?

When is School Necessary for a Photographer?

This guest post is contributed by Becky Patterson, who writes on the topic of Become a Photographer. She can be reached at beckypatterson89[@]gmail[.]com.

Graduates Share a moment
Creative Commons License photo credit: Will Hale

There are different schools of thought on this issue – while some people feel that education lays the foundation for success in any kind of profession, there are others who feel that creative jobs like photography don’t require a formal education and are best learned through experience and a good eye for detail. The jury’s still out on this one and I doubt there will ever be a verdict that’s unanimous; however, there are certain times when a formal education comes in handy when it forms a part of a photographer’s arsenal:

  • When an employer demands it as a pre-requisite for a job – it makes no sense to remain adamant against going to photography school if it’s a job that you really want.
  • When you don’t know the first thing about photography and are eager to learn everything there is to know about this field.
  • When you want to learn the technical aspects of photography and are unable to do so with the aid of self-help books and tutorials alone.
  • When you want a degree in photography even though you don’t really need it – you want to go to college even though you’ve already made up your mind to be a photographer; you would rather do a degree in photography than choose just any random major.
  • When you want to become a professor or teacher of photography – some established photographers choose this route as a way to change careers if they don’t want to travel much or if they are looking for a new way to stay on in the same field.
  • When you want to learn and become an expert in the finer aspects and more complicated techniques of photography – some skills are best picked up in school where you have experienced teachers to impart them to you.
  • When you want to study photography at a school that’s reputable and renowned for its degrees.
  • When you want to learn more about photography to augment and support all that you already know.

[tweetmeme]While an education in photography may be more relevant today, no matter how many degrees you hold in photography, and no matter how prestigious your school is and how good your grades are, you become a good photographer only with practice; it’s the most important thing for a photographer – the more you practice, the more experience you gain; and the more experience you gain, the better you become.

This guest post is contributed by Becky Patterson, who writes on the topic of Become a Photographer. She can be reached at beckypatterson89[@]gmail[.]com.

15 Examples of Environmental Portraits

[tweetmeme]Here are the results from another great round of Epic Edits Flickr Challenge! #5 was all about “environmental portraits” (chosen by the winner of the last round), and we had another great set of entries. This round was difficult for me to choose photos because environmental portraits share a blurry line with traditional portraits and street photography.

The winner this round was Carsten Fischer, also known as “topfloor” on Flickr. As the winner, he gets to choose the next topic:

CHALLENGE #6: “CAMERA PORN”
FLICKR TAG: “EE-CAMERAPORN”

For those not familiar with the term, “camera porn” is a photo of cameras or other photography gear as the main subject. Just remember that the photos must be in our Flickr pool and tagged with “ee-cameraporn”. Now for the environmental portraits, starting with my favorite:

counting fish
counting fish by topfloor

This photo is really catchy to me… though I can’t put my finger on a single reason for liking it so much. The low perspective gives a more intimate feel to the scene. The complimentary yellow hood and blue fins work well together as secondary focal points. The man himself is an interesting subject. All together, it works very well.

On with the other selections I made:

Risky
Risky by topfloor

Surfer and Board
Surfer and Board by Brian Auer

Mahout
Mahout by KBTimages.co.uk(uk_photo_art)

Cheesman Park and Grey Skies
Cheesman Park and Grey Skies by RussHeath

Dads with crazy cameras are hilarious!
Dads with crazy cameras are hilarious! by RussHeath

La hilandera
La hilandera by Miguel Aguilar

Name Forgotten
Name Forgotten by Brian Auer

Model for the masses
Model for the masses by topfloor

Sketch Artist
Sketch Artist by breischl

_MG_0168Monk
_MG_0168Monk by Joanie H

DSC_2450
DSC_2450 by joshuamorris15

Homeless, Names Unknown
Homeless, Names Unknown by Brian Auer

Master of Light - Joe McNally is blessing us
Master of Light – Joe McNally is blessing us by topfloor

Chamunda Devi 1_Chilam
hamunda Devi 1_Chilam by SaritsInOz

New eBooks Worth Checking Out

[tweetmeme]With my lack of spare time during the move, I’ve managed to miss 4 new eBook announcements! Since I don’t want to flood the blog with a bunch of book reviews all at once, I’ll post all 4 together with brief descriptions. I have, however, downloaded and flipped through all 4 books, and they’re all great reads from outstanding photographers and authors.

So if you’re looking for something new and informative to read, start here and see if anything interests you. If you’re looking for more, check out my archive of book and eBook reviews.

This post contains affiliate links.

NEW BOOKS FROM ED VEROSKY

25 Amazing Boudoir Photography Techniques ($9.95)

“This is a natural followup to my eBook, ’10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now’,” says Verosky. “In this book I’m presenting a quality list of 25 solid boudoir shot examples. This isn’t just a sequence of poses to copy; I’ve designed it to serve as a very concise, flexible, and extensible set of real-world examples to learn from. Each one details, in plain language, what the look is supposed to accomplish, the general setup/blocking of the elements, the technique I use to prepare and direct the subject, and the gear and settings I use to achieve each look.”

And for those of you into flash photography, Ed is giving away a Canon 580EX II flash unit on his website. See the details for entry rules.

NEW BOOKS FROM CRAFT & VISION

SAFARI, A Monograph ($5.00)

SAFARI, A Monograph is the second in the series The Print & The Process. David duChemin unpacks the images from a 10-day safari in Kenya, first letting the images speak for themselves then diving deep into the process behind the photographs. This eBook offers an honest discussion about the issues connected to the creation of duChemin’s SAFARI monograph, including the gear used, the techniques employed, and the lessons learned. It’s a 62-page PDF eBook that will provide you with inspiration amidst the details of the Why and the How. This is not so much about how to photograph your first safari, though you’ll learn that too; it’s a look at the lessons learned, and re-learned, by a photographer who is now 25 years into his craft. Also included are the Adobe Lightroom settings used for Serengeti Chocolate, the duo-tone look in which much of his SAFARI monograph has been styled, and a downloadable Lightroom Preset.

Chasing Reflections ($5.00)

Chasing Reflections is the third in the series The Print & The Process. Eli Reinholdtsen is a creative photographer who, through her unique and skillful approach to reflections, captures moments and juxtapositions that are truly an art form at its finest. Reinholdtsen digs deep and shares tangible ways to scout, setup, and shoot complex and magical photographs that push the envelope of visual poetry. Her playful descriptions aren’t shy of digging deep into the techniques required to capture movement, timing, and contrast. Chasing Reflections is an inspiring collection of 37 photographs that stand on their own a pieces of pure art (The Print) followed by a discussion of the creation of those visual moments (The Process).

The Magic of Black & White – Part III, Nine Photos ($5.00)

The Magic of Black & White – Part III, Nine Photos, takes us through nine gorgeous black and white images with the goal of teaching more advanced techniques to give our images more subtlety and power. Clearly taught in Photoshop, and 5 of the lessons in Photoshop Elements, Andrew takes us through Toning, Split Toning, Exposure Blending, Textures, and the creation of Diptyches and Triptyches, all without losing sight of the idea that our work should be driven by intent with the goal of creating photographs that honour the Artist’s need for expression and the Geek’s need for excellence of craft. And all that without getting mired down – the examples and the illustrations Andrew provides compliment his clear teaching style and make this book a pleasure to read.