Category Archives: General Tips

General photography tips.

Some Incredible Photography Stories, Tutorials and Awesomeness from This Week

Well it’s about time we fired up the blog again, so I thought it would be a fun experiment to share what we have found in our rounds of the Internet in the photography world. There have been some absolutely stunning things shared lately, so let’s jump in.

Photography Composition by Anton Gorlin- This has to be one of the most definitive blog posts of the year in the photography world. Anton goes into a staggering amount of detail on the topic of composition in a way that is almost worthy of a short book on the topic. He has also reset the clock somewhat for tutorial sites like this one on the quality of content that is possible, and increasingly expected, in the photographic community. Well done to him on this amazing piece.

The Best Photo Printer for Photographers by Dahlia Ambrose – While it’s a pretty dry topic, if you get seriously into photography, you will probably want to start printing your images at some point. And it is actually a good exercise it it makes you consider the details when you’re shooting and also when you’re doing post production. This very long article offers a solid reasoning as to what sort of printer photographers should be looking for and why the Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 came out top of her reckoning.

How to Capture Great Photos in Low Light by Craig Hull – The folks over at Expert Photography are really turning up the volume on some very useful tutorials lately and this low light photography article is part of that push. This one goes through the different types of light and how to react to them, covering gear and process as well as the best camera settings for low light photography. Very useful and worth a read.

£300 vs £5000 Camera Setup by Pablo Strong- This video goes into the core of gear envy. Can you get comparable shots on a 300 pound setup as compared to the most modern and quality 5000 pound rig? Now, experienced photographers will know that a good photographer with a poor camera will almost always outperform a poor photographer with an expensive camera, but it’s always worth watching videos like this as it really hammers home the issues. Horses for courses as they say.

The Day the Soviets Arrived to Crush the Prague Spring- If you are a history nut like me, then you are going to want to have a look at this amazing historical collection of Soviet tanks and soldiers rolling into Prague in 1968 to quell a popular uprising. These images are very powerful, but also very useful for any student of history or photography. It’s also the reason why a lot of people decide to become photojournalists.

Free Image Editor for Mac – If you are a Mac user then you might like to check this out. This guy built a totally free (no cost, no ads etc) image editor for the Mac. Just like that. Personally I love stuff like this and I think it’s always worth supporting it when it comes out. I don’t know why he did this, but it’s great. Take a look and you can even ask him a question about it over at Reddit.

Photographing an Ultra-High Contrast Landscape: Case Study by Spencer Cox- When you’re curious about technique or just starting out, then not much is more useful than a solid and practical rundown of how something was done. That is why “case studies” in photography are always hugely popular (and rightly so). This one has a lot of tips and tricks for the landscape photographers among us and is well worth reading.

Final Thoughts

That should give you a LOT of stuff to get started with. Hopefully it doesn’t overwhelm you. We will try to make this a more regular column here on Epic Edits so hit us in the comments if you come across something that should be included on our next list.

Stepping Back for a Better Perspective

By the title alone, you may be thinking that this article has something to do with composition and perspective in photography. While that may be a useful topic at some point, that’s not what this is about… not directly anyway.

I’m speaking more about the big picture stuff here. Life in general.

My life has been in a state of drastic change over the last five months, and a lot of ups and downs have come with that change. The whole situation allowed me to really evaluate what was and was not important in my life. So here are a few thoughts on photography from the viewpoint of a hobbyist.

MY UNINTENTIONAL DISAPPEARANCE

Five months ago, I had no intension of putting the camera down or stepping away from my blogs. But life happens and I wasn’t left with much of a choice. Back in August 2010, I announced that I had packed up from San Diego and moved back to North Idaho where I grew up. That one event sparked a drastic change in my life.

Not only did we move (which is a painful and expensive process in itself), but I also decided that it would be a good time to become self employed as an engineer. It made a lot of sense because we live so far out in the boonies, the commute to the nearest city would eat up several hours of my day. I got all set up to pull work from my previous employer to get me off and running.

But then I started looking for work with other clients — more previous employers, previous associates and bosses, local companies. This takes a lot of time, and I don’t get paid to do it. But I did land a few other jobs via my contacts and I ended up being very busy. Not just a little busy — I’m talking 12-14 hour days, 7 days a week. Of course, that type of thing doesn’t go on forever, but there was a solid month where I couldn’t leave the house, watch TV, see friends, etc. Honestly though, I’m not complaining… the paychecks make it worth the effort.

It hasn’t been all profit though — it takes money to make money. The move alone set me back $15,000 out of pocket between all the house stuff and the move. Then I had to drop another $8,000 on a piece of software for my engineering business. So yeah, a couple hundred bucks for Photoshop looks a lot different to me now. At any rate, I’m finally starting to get caught up with the money situation.

In short, I’ve been busy either working or trying to scrape up future work for myself. I wouldn’t have it any other way though — I absolutely love working from home, setting my own rates, deciding what to work on, and wearing pajamas and slippers all day. So far, it seems to be working out and I plan to continue being self employed as long as I can.

THINGS THAT FELL OFF MY PLATE

With the self employed gig keeping me busy, I really had to evaluate what other activities were important enough for me to spend time on.

My family has to come above all else, so any small amount of time I have off has to be directed toward them. And now that I live across the street from my parents, next door to my grandmother, and within 30 miles of my brother and the in-laws, I have more family to spend time with on a regular basis. It’s great though, I do enjoy being back home (as does my wife).

The next two biggest things in my life are photography and blogging. With everything else going on, I just haven’t been able to justify spending much time on them. Sure, I posted a couple things here and there, shot a few rolls of film from time to time, but nothing at the level I was at before the move. Hell, I even managed to acquire a bunch of “new” film cameras and darkroom equipment in the last few months… but I’ll get into that on the film photography blog later this week.

Part of me feels terrible for letting things go for so long, but I always remember to take a step back and look at the big picture.

BIG PICTURE FOR A HOBBYIST

I’m not a professional photographer or blogger. Not even close. I make about 30-40x more per month with engineering than I do with photography and blogging combined. So when push comes to shove, it doesn’t make sense to spend a bunch of time on my hobbies. The first priority has to be putting food on the table and paying the bills.

I enjoy doing both of these things, and I don’t see myself giving up either of them completely. I just need to come to terms with the fact that they are, and will be in the near future, only a hobby. Just for fun.

The other interesting thing about photography and blogging, for me, is that they continue to make a small amount of money even when I stop doing them for several months. The blogs have been earning consistent numbers for the last five or six months — I even picked up a couple of direct advertisers and saw some spikes in affiliate payouts. Photography has been fairly even too — a couple of small sales plus a signed print.

So I don’t get terribly stressed out when I have to step back from my hobbies for a while… they seem to just keep going on their own at some moderate level. Of course, by taking time off, I’m not growing these hobbies. My goal is to eventually make a decent income from blogging and/or photography so I can decide if it’s a viable career path, but engineering is my primary career and money maker right now.

LESSONS FOR MY FELLOW HOBBYISTS

Most of you can probably relate to having photography as a hobby/passion. And most of you can relate to having ups and downs in your life.

So when you find yourself short on time, don’t sweat the small stuff. Photography shouldn’t come before the really important things, like your family or your job. Even if you have a lot of followers on a blog or on Flickr, most of them will still be around when you get back to it.

And taking a bit of a break from time to time might not be a bad thing. I’m getting to the point where I really want to get back into things — shoot some photos, get the darkroom up and running, post some stuff on the blogs. If you feel obligated to pursue your hobbies in rough times, they’re not fun any more.

Of course, it’s a different story for those making a significant income from photography and/or blogging. They don’t have the same luxury of choice — it is an obligation. As a hobbyist, be happy that you can choose where to spend your free time.

This is getting drawn out, so I’ll end it there. My big message here, is that I’m still alive and I plan on continuing with the photography and the blogging. I’ll be too busy for these hobbies from time to time, but I’m still around.

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.

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.

Getting Your Work Online With a Photography Portfolio

[tweetmeme]This guest post was written by fotograf Rune Johansen

One of the many challenges of working for yourself is finding work. As a professional freelance photographer, the more avenues through which you can obtain work the better. One great way to gain exposure and get potential clients to view your work is to set up an online portfolio. An internet-based photography portfolio if designed well can really bring a touch of class to your work and allow people to view it at their leisure. It also gives you the opportunity to control exactly what your potential clients see, highlighting your best work and leading them through the information you want them to have.

HOW DO I BUILD AN ONLINE PORTFOLIO?

There are many ways to get your work online as a photographer. There are websites set up that allow you to sell prints of your work just by uploading high-res images to your account and letting the website do all the sales work. Of course they take a commission but for a lot of photographers this has become a steady stream of income. There are also websites like iStockPhoto that allow you to sell generic images for designers to use in their work such as on websites and in magazines. This can also pay well.

If you want a personal online portfolio, however, you will usually have to build it yourself. Don’t worry though if you don’t have any web design skills to speak of and the thought of building websites intimidates you. Adobe and many other graphics application developers have added the capability to build basic portfolios directly from inside their programs. Photoshop has a built in gallery feature that will automatically size your images, create thumbnails of them, and create an XHTML/CSS or even a Flash-based webpage containing all your images. Play around with the software and see what you can come up with.

Other options for a portfolio include using an open source solution such as Joomla! or WordPress to create a framework for your site, then using the many plugins and extensions available for these platforms to customise the site and turn it into a gallery based website. If this is too much of a challenge or you simply don’t have the time, hiring a designer to do this for you will usually prove to be much cheaper than having one develop a website from scratch. Have a look around freelancing websites and call some local design agencies to see what the prices are like, you may be pleasantly surprised.

WHAT SHOULD I HAVE ON MY PORTFOLIO?

It is important to make sure you have the right information on your website, but it is equally important not to overdo it. Many people make the mistake of writing their entire life story on their portfolio and crowding the images with lots of text. As a photographer it is important that your work speak for itself, so a minimal description – usually just a sentence – will normally suffice. An “About” page should be included, but should only have the minimum of information needed for your clients, such as relevant qualifications and experience you have as a photographer. Possibly include some hobbies and interests as this helps people get a better idea of who you are, but a photograph of yourself will go a lot further to winning you clients (if it’s a good picture!).

In summary, there are lots of ways to get your work online and no professional should really be without an online portfolio in this technological age. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a professional portfolio and it will serve you well for years to come.

Written by fotograf Rune Johansen

The 10 Second Pre-Shoot Camera Check

[tweetmeme]I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve ruined shots because I failed to check my camera settings before shooting. Haven’t most of us been in that situation? You’re shooting something out of the norm (maybe some manual controls, exposure compensations, ISO settings, etc), and you don’t set your camera back to the “regular” settings. So you pick up the camera again after a few days and start shooting, only to realize that you completely screwed up a bunch of shots because the camera was still set for that last outing.

After doing this a few times, I’ve gotten in the habit of spending 10 or 15 seconds checking my camera settings before I shoot. Of course, all cameras are different (as are shooting styles), so this is just my own personal checklist of things I look at. Yours may be different, but the point is that you should have that habit of checking the settings prior to releasing the shutter. Here’s a rundown of what I look at and how I typically set my camera.

1. PRIORITY MODE

My usual setting is aperture priority mode, but I’ll sometimes switch to shutter priority or full manual. I always make a note to set it back to aperture priority before I start shooting, unless the situation calls for something different.

2. SHUTTER / F-NUMBER

This one varies on the lens attached, but I usually preset my 50mm lens at f/2 or f/2.4 while in aperture priority mode. The reason I do this is because I know that’s fast enough for most lighting situations, and it reflects my personal shooting preferences (I like somewhat shallow DOF most of the time).

3. EXPOSURE COMPENSATION

For me, this setting usually stays at zero, but sometimes I’ll move it around in difficult lighting situations. This one is a big deal — I’ve been burned more than once because I didn’t set it back to zero. If your compensation is way off, you can’t recover a bad shot.

4. ISO SPEED

My usual ISO setting is “auto” — and my auto is allowed to vary between 200 and 1600. In bright situations, I’ll set it to 100. And in dark situations, I’ll set it to 3200 or 6400. I always check that I set it back to auto-ISO so I don’t go out in full afternoon sun shooting at ISO 3200.

5. DRIVE MODE

Most of the time, I’ll leave my drive mode on machine gun mode (or hi-continuous). I don’t use it very often, but it’s nice to have it ready if I do need it (sucks when you need it and it’s turned off). On occasion, I’ll switch over to single shot if I keep firing too many accidental continuous shots.

6. AUTOFOCUS MODE / AREA

For the most part, I like to keep my camera in AF-S (single shot) mode. I find that continuous AF and auto AF slow down my continuous drive when I do need it, and Manual focus is rarely used on my digital camera.

7. METER MODE

I’ve grown to like spot metering, and I rarely change it from that. If I do, I try to make sure to set it back to spot so that my exposures are closer to what I expect.

8. COLOR SPACE

I don’t think I’ve ever changed this setting, but I glance over it to make sure I didn’t change it by accident last time out.

9. WHITE BALANCE

Another setting that I rarely change. Auto white balance usually does an OK job (except for incandescent lighting), and it doesn’t really matter much when shooting in a Raw format.

10. BATTERY POWER

Although this item is near the bottom of my screen and the bottom of my list, it’s probably the most important. ALWAYS check your batter power before you even walk out the door. I messed this up just once… haven’t done it again.

11. FILE FORMAT

Yet another setting that I rarely change, but a good one to double check. I’d be kinda pissed if I spent a whole day shooting only to realize that I shot all JPEG images rather than Raw.

12. REMAINING SHOTS

I usually have the same memory card in the camera and I know that I can get a bit over 400 shots on my card. So if I see less than 400 available photos, I know that I need to format the card and clear out the old photos.

Again, these are just the things I quickly glance over before shooting. Other cameras and other photographers will have different needs and different checklists. But the point is that you should have some sort of camera setting checklist burned into your mind.

What other things do you check before shooting? And what are your typical settings for some of these items?

10 Online Photography Portfolio No-No’s

[tweetmeme]Online portfolios can be an important tool for photographers wanting to share portions of their work with an audience. When done right, they portray your work in a highly professional and concise manner. When done wrong, you just look like a hack. I wrote about this topic some time ago, but I’d like to cover it again.

I should also state right up front that I don’t have a dedicated online photography portfolio in the traditional sense. Perhaps one of these days when I take some decent photos I’ll put one together. But I’ve had to look through many other portfolios and I’ve seen a fair amount in passing.

What I can say from those I’ve seen is that some of the same mistakes and nuisances are common to a good number of them. Now, it’s rare to find a portfolio site that exhibits all 10 offenses listed below, but it’s also rare to find one that exhibits none. (also keep in mind that some of these things are only my personal preferences and opinions)

If you have an online photography portfolio (or, more likely, a collection of portfolios housed under one website), here are a few things worth paying attention to if you want the user experience to be a good one.

Red crown
Creative Commons License photo credit: sunnyUK

1. SPLASH PAGE

Do you really need a whole page dedicated to your name or the word “Enter”? I probably know your name if I’m visiting the home page, and you ought to have your name present somewhere on every other page in your portfolio. Don’t force me to find your frilly little entrance link on the splash page, just get straight to the point.

2. MUSIC

I don’t encounter this one much anymore, but it’s still out there. Seriously people, don’t put music on your photography portfolio. It’s not adding to the mood or ambiance, it’s just annoying. I usually have music going on my computer and nothing pisses me off more than some website with music or audio ads messing with my tunes.

map
Creative Commons License photo credit: robpurdie

3. DIFFICULT TO NAVIGATE

A photography portfolio should be quick and easy for the viewer. Navigation is a key component here — make it as simple as possible for me to see your photos. If I spend too much time digging for the images, I’ll just leave.

4. PHOTO SIZE

Most photographers are pretty good about sizing their photos appropriately, but I do see some extremes from time to time. Images that are too small (< 600px) don't show enough detail to be interesting to the viewer. Images that are too big (> 1200px) won’t fit on some screens and you lose a lot of impact when you have to scroll. I find that somewhere in the neighborhood of 800-900px on the long edge is a good compromise: large enough to be viewed, small enough to load quickly.

too many dices
Creative Commons License photo credit: BovenX

5. PHOTO QUANTITY

A portfolio isn’t a dumping ground for every photo you’ve taken in the last 10 years — it’s supposed to be a small collection of your best work that represents you as a photographer. Each portfolio should contain 10-20 images on a specific topic or subject (maybe 30 or 40 depending on the subject and how they’re presented). Any more and I’m bored. Any less and I’m unimpressed.

6. PHOTO DIVERSITY

While photos in a specific portfolio should be on topic, they should also show differences in subjects, locations, styles, etc. If your portfolio for “fashion photography” has images from only one studio session, it just looks like you have almost zero experience. Show some diversity, and show that you’ve done this more than once.

7. PHOTO ORGANIZATION

How you organize your photos and portfolios is totally up to you — the important thing is that they’re organized. Unless you shoot only one specific subject/topic, you shouldn’t be presenting every photo on your site in the same place. Break it up and make it easier for your viewers to understand what they’re looking at. Even if it’s something as simple as “Landscapes”, “Plants”, “Animals”, “Waterfalls”, “Portraits”, “Weddings”, etc. Portfolios should be topical and concise.

8. ALL FLASH, NO INFO

Flash sites don’t bother me and I’m not going to start a flame war on the subject. But if you use Flash for your entire site, have the decency to also place a title or image number on the same screen as the photo (since most flash sites don’t have a separate url for each image). It’s so frustrating to contact somebody and say “I’m interested in that image of the staircase. If you click on the menu item that says “patterns”, then click on the other menu items that says “3″, then click the right arrow 14 times. That’s the one I want.” It’s a lot easier to grab a url from a non-flash site or just state the title of the image.

cookie cutters
Creative Commons License photo credit: danmachold

9. STANDARD TEMPLATE

This isn’t a huge deal, but it’s something to think about if you have some spare time. For sites that use templates or standard designs, a little customization goes a long way. The cookie-cutter design can sometimes send the message that you’re not serious about your work.

10. NO NAME, NO EMAIL

Similar to #8… if you don’t want people to contact you, then don’t put your name or email on the website. Contact forms are usually fine too, but some people prefer to send an email so they have some record of what they’re inquiring about. This is not a joke, I’ve actually seen portfolios that had no way to contact the photographer.

ANYTHING ELSE?

What other things with online portfolios bother you? What really gets under your skin from a viewer perspective? Any good examples of portfolios done right?

A Secret Tip to Becoming a Better Photographer

This little tip has nothing to do with your camera or post-processing your images. In fact, it has nothing to do with your images at all. Over the last several years of blogging, I’ve come to realize a very important method for improving your photography skills.

BECOME A PHOTO EDITOR

The type of editor that selects photos for publication. Anybody that has been in such a position knows how difficult it is. They should also know how important it is for indirectly sharpening your own photography skills.

SAY WHAT?

Here’s the thing… when you’re forced to select a few photos from a large possible set and show them off to a public audience, you put your artistic eye to the test. Here’s the other thing… it’s hard as hell to do. You want to be “nice” and select over half of the possible photos to show off? Information overload for your audience. You want to be “stern” and only select the best of the best? You’ll have 3 or 4 photos to show off — who cares? Seriously, putting on the “photo editor” hat is a difficult task, but a very rewarding one.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

Over time, you’ll learn a few things about yourself as a photographer. If you do enough of this stuff, you should start to see that you gravitate toward certain types of photos, styles, and genres. Personally, I’m a fan of film, street, xpro, portrait, and quirky images. I like things that stand out from the norm. The images that you like most ought give you a clue as to which types of photos you should be shooting. You like flowers so much? Go take some flower photos! Curating galleries and publications with other people’s photos will also give you a hint about the quality required for a photo to be “interesting”.

On that note, you’ll also raise your bar for quality control. If you see enough amazing photos, you’ll start to desensitize yourself to the “ho-hum” photos — including your own. This should lead you to improving your quality and trying harder.

One other benefit of being a photo editor is the “feel good” aspect of promoting other artists. It’s always nice to have somebody else recognize your work as a photographer, but it’s just as nice to have other photographers recognize your recognition of them.

HOW TO BECOME A PHOTO EDITOR

This part is easy… online publishing is simple and accessible to just about everyone with an Internet connection.

One method for trying your hand as a photo editor is through Flickr. They have a feature that allows you to curate a gallery of photos from other photographers. Flickr galleries are usually created with a specific topic in mind and you’re limited to 18 selections. This method is great because it’s quick, easy, and very open.

Another method is to publish photos on your blog. Just be aware of copyright infringement and look into the Creative Commons as a way to publish photos.

Once you have a method for publication, just pick a topic or theme and start searching for some photos. See what you come up with, and share it with your audience.

EXAMPLES!

I do the photo editor thing every day, every week, and every month in one place or another — mostly on my blogs.

At the Fine Art Photoblog, we opened things up for guest contributors. I get several new submissions each day and I have to choose whether or not to publish them.

Here on Epic Edits, I’ve been doing the PhotoDump feature for a while. I cut it back to once every other week, but I still have to go through several hundred photos and select about 30 to show off. I also started up the Flickr Challenge thing recently, so that’s a theme based evaluation. And then there are the infrequent posts that exhibit certain types of photos along with some occasional tips (see here, here, here, here, and here).

I do the same type of stuff on Feeling Negative with our Flickr pool photos, and with random theme-based exhibits (see here and here).

NOW YOU GO

Feel free to share some links in the comments below — Flickr galleries, blog posts, and any other publication that you’ve put together as a photo editor.

7 Tips for Shooting with Normal Primes

[tweetmeme]Some time ago, I wrote some tips for shooting with extremely wide angle lenses. Then I did it again just recently. So rather than cover the topic for a third time, we’ll talk about a different set of equipment: the normal primes.

Prime lenses are easy to fall in love with, partly because of their simple nature due to the fixed focal length. There are certainly more reasons to love them, but this article is more about how to use them effectively and efficiently. I’m also focusing on the range of “normal” lenses (something in the range of 35-55mm, give or take a few mm) because they’re most widely used and easily purchased.

1. MEMORIZE YOUR FIELD OF VIEW

March 25th 2008 - Everything about this is square
Creative Commons License photo credit: Stephen Poff

If you shoot long enough with a particular lens or focal length, you’ll “just know” where your framing is without looking through the viewfinder. This is a handy skill to acquire for situations when you can’t be constantly looking through the camera. If you memorize your field of view, you’ll be quicker to take the shot and you can plan things out a little better.

2. PLAN YOUR PERSPECTIVES

Over the Can
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

Building on point 1, primes don’t allow you to compose your framing with the quick turn of a ring. If you want certain subjects in the image, you’ll have to plan out your distance and angle of attack to get what you want. On the other hand, if you want to bring more attention to a subject and exclude surrounding objects, you’ll need to plan on getting close enough.

3. BE PREPARED TO USE YOUR FEET

The barefoot selfportrait
Creative Commons License photo credit: dhammza

Shooting with a prime isn’t completely restrictive, it just means you’ll have to use your feet to zoom. After using primes for a while, you won’t really notice the “foot zoom” factor. Sometimes using your feet will require you to move or through hazardous locations, so don’t walk around with the camera up to your face because you’ll probably trip, fall, or get hit by a car.

4. WORK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE

I Stand Alone
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

Sometimes you just can’t get the shot you want with the lens you have. Maybe you need to be further back than possible, or maybe you just can’t get close enough to frame it right. That’s ok. Worth with what you have and make the best of the situation. Keep your eyes open for other opportunities that surround you.

5. BEWARE OF YOUR SHALLOW DOF

031/365: 60 second walk
Creative Commons License photo credit: dotbenjamin

Now on to a few technical notes… normal primes typically have a very large maximum aperture (f/1.4 and f/1.8 are quite common and inexpensive). It’s great to have f-numbers in this range, but be careful with how you apply them. A shallow DOF can do great things for a photo, but it can also ruin it. It’s easy to get too shallow and blur out some important part of the image (of course, the focus in the image above is quite intentional, but you get the idea). In addition, the viewfinder and your on-camera LCD screen are too small to effectively judge DOF — things look more in-focus than they really are. So if you’re not certain that you want razor thin DOF, maybe stop it down a few notches… I tend to like the look of f/2 or f/2.8 better than f/1.4 anyway.

6. WATCH OUT FOR SUNSHINE

Happy flare friday!
Creative Commons License photo credit: zzaj ♫ {Thomas}

Another note on those large maximum apertures, this time having to do with the limitations of your camera. If you like to shoot wide open at f/1.4 or larger, you probably have to throttle back your obsession in broad daylight. With my digital camera, even at ISO 100, I can’t shoot in harsh sunlight at f/1.4 because my shutter speed maxes out at 1/8000s and the meter tells the camera to go higher than that. Of course, I can take the shot, but it will be overexposed because of the physical limitations. Now, if I knock it down to about f/2, I can take a shot within the range of my usable shutter speeds.

7. PHOTOGRAPH PEOPLE

Pool Girl
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

Normal lenses excel when it comes to people shots. Their field of view and perspective matches the human eye more closely than the extreme focal lengths. This makes subjects in the photos appear more natural and realistic. The wider end of normal lenses (30mm) will give a slightly wide angle look, but it’s useful for capturing people in groups or in their surroundings. Get too close, and a full frame headshot might look a bit funny. On the other end (60mm), you might have a hard time getting groups or full body shots unless you’re back a ways, but the close-up portraits will look more natural.

What other tips to you have for shooting with normal primes? And what is your favorite normal prime lens?