Tag Archives: focus

Link Roundup 09-20-2008

So much going on this week…

Take on a Long-Term Project

Day 17 (September 27th): Memories
Creative Commons License photo credit: blythe_d

I’ve spoken before about the benefits of shooting with purpose — taking on small themes or projects to keep your focus and sharpen your skills. So to expand on that topic, I’d like to talk about taking on a long-term project.

Not too long ago, friend and fellow film photographer Tom Webb wrote about his undertaking of a major project that would last for over 12 months. The idea being that he would focus on a single subject over a long period of time to create a substantial body of work. He chose to take on the Lithgow Blast Furnace as his topic. I fell in love with the idea and I began to look at my own photography in search of something that I could take on.

It hit me that I had already been focusing on beach town photography here in Southern California, and I started forming a plan that would take this concept a step further. I decided that I would make an effort to document the culture found in these beach towns near my home, and that I would stick with it for at least another year.

After some conversations with Tom, he talked me into a deadline of Winter, 2009. Between now and then, we would both pursue our project in creating this body of work. Once we approach that deadline, we’ll be working on presenting our work through various avenues. Some of the ideas he and I have had for this final presentation include gallery exhibitions, art shows, documentary films, photo flip-books, etc. So it’s kind of like a thesis in photography.

Why is it beneficial to take on something like this?

Focusing on a topic can give you extra inspiration and motivation. Short term projects are cool because you don’t have to commit for any substantial amount of time (in case you end up hating the topic). But long term projects can keep you running when you’re feeling all dried up and uninspired. These projects can be a great filler for the times when nothing else seems to be going on. Not only that, but if you stick with a project for any amount of time, the outcome of the project can be quite rewarding and a great source of pride in your own work.

So if you’re looking for a way to add some true meaning to your photography, consider picking up a long term project. Choose something that’s close to your heart and piques your interest. Stick with it, struggle with it, and turn it into something much greater than a single photo.

Link Roundup 07-26-2008

Your weekly dose of photography reading from around the web:

Link Roundup 07-19-2008

Links from around the web…

Link Roundup 07-05-2008

  • 8 Photography Myths Debunked
    Hyperphocal
    The points presented in this article are spot on 100% awesome. There are a lot of notions out there that many photographers end up believing to be true, but the accepted truth is not always true.
  • the appeal of the 50mm camera lens
    ProPhotoLife
    The 50mm prime lens is the king of all lenses… it’s just a fact. Check out some of Jim’s thoughts on why these lenses are so useful to have.
  • The importance of focus and quick tips on how to get it right
    Photodoto
    Focus in photography is about a lot more than simply sharpness or being able to see what you are looking at. Focus can enhance a subject by making it stand out from or blend into its surroundings. Here are some tips for getting it right.
  • the 15 second DIY adjustable snoot!
    F/1.0
    Five dollars and 15 seconds will get you a robust and adjustable snoot for your strobe. Great concept, and great DIY project!
  • Filters 101
    Beyond Megapixels
    It’s back to the basics with filters. Check out the different types, styles, and sizes available for your filtering needs.
  • Photo Term Series #17: Hyperfocal Distance
    JMG-Galleries
    Jim defines the term “Hyperfocal Distance” for us in this quick and educational series of photography speak.
  • The Top 10 Things You Want Most In The Next Version of Photoshop
    Photoshop Insider
    Survey results for what features people want in the next Photoshop
  • PIXCHANNEL
    An amazing collection of interviews and advice from equally amazing photographers. A MUST See website!

How Do You Autofocus?

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on Understanding Autofocus, I’d like to run a poll to find out which methods are most commonly used. So refer back to the previous post if you need some definitions, and if your camera has something I didn’t mention, let us know in the comments.

Day 79 - f o c u s
Creative Commons License photo credit: margolove

I also realize that many of us use more than one setting, so choose the one that you most commonly use… or the one you couldn’t live without.

{democracy:44}

Also, take a peek at the results from last week’s poll asking “What’s Your Choice Brand for Digital Cameras?” Looks like Canon still has a 50% stronghold, while Nikon moved up to 35%, and Sony dropped to a measly 4%. Really? …4%? …yikes.

Understanding Your Autofocus Options

I spent some time recently talking about manual focus with film SLR cameras, but I don’t want to give the impression that I hate autofocus. In fact, I love it. Autofocus is fast, mostly reliable, and occasionally smart.

Messing with manual focus can be a cause of lost opportunities. Likewise, a shallow understanding of autofocus systems can cause missed or improperly executed shots. Newer autofocus systems (especially those on dSLR cameras) are getting smarter, but they still rely on some sort of input from the user. So here are some basics on the various autofocus options — read up and go experiment with them.

Do note that I’m covering the most basic settings and that some cameras may have more, less, or differently labeled options. Read your manual if my notes aren’t making sense.

(A) AUTO

This most basic of the autofocus options. The “Auto” setting gives you a single autofocus when the shutter is depressed half way down. Take the shot and do it again — you’ll get another autofocus. If you shoot in continuous drive mode (or rapid fire), the camera will attempt to refocus between shots. This will slow down your rapid fire rate, but each shot will be focused. This setting is good for most situations that don’t require special setups.

(S) SINGLE

The “Single” setting is very similar to “Auto”. The only difference is how it handles rapid fire situations. Rather than refocus between each shot, “Single” mode will focus prior to the first shot and keep that focus until you release the shutter button. The upside to this is that your rapid fire will run faster, but at the expense of possibly losing focus on moving objects. This setting is good for situations where speed is critical and your subjects are not moving across multiple focal planes between shots.

(C) CONTINUOUS

When it comes to moving objects, “Continuous” mode is the way to go. This setting is very different from “Auto” and “Single” modes because the focus is never really locked until the image is captured. Depressing the shutter half way will cause continuous focus tracking to activate. The camera will constantly adjust the focus as long as you hold that button down. This setting is good for sports photography or other situations where your subjects are moving in or out of focal planes.

(M) MANUAL

Not really an autofocus setting, “Manual” is the opposite the other settings. This will require you to manually adjust the focus ring — depressing the shutter half way will do nothing for your focus. This setting is good for low light situations or any other time your autofocus is having a hard time getting it right. It’s also the fastest way to get a shot off since the camera doesn’t have to focus prior to capturing the image.

Link Roundup 03-22-2008

While you guys are reading this on Saturday the 22nd, I’ll be snow skiing in North Idaho. I just thought you all should know that. Enjoy your weekend!

  • Giclee Printmaking FAQ’s
    Jonathan Penney
    A good question and answer post regarding giclee prints from a master printmaker.
  • February Challenge recap
    April Challenge announcement
    PhotoChallenge.org
    The official February Challenge recap by Trevor Carpenter. February was all about the colors. The next photo challenge will be held in April 2008. This month will focus on entropy, or devolution.
  • How To Stress A Camera Lens
    The Online Photographer
    This is a really great article that talks about common lens issues to avoid while shooting. Not only does it go into what to avoid to achieve good photos, but it also talks about what to do in order to achieve bad photos with technical errors.
  • Photography and The Law: Know Your Rights
    Photojojo
    You’re sure you haven’t done anything wrong, but you don’t know whose side the law is on. Fret no more, here are the 10 commandments of legal rights for photographers.
  • Apple’s iPhoto – A Review for the Uninitiated
    PhotoWalkPro
    Pretty much a full-blown review of Apple’s iPhoto image editing/organization software. It looks like a good choice for the folks who don’t want to fork out a ton of cash on Photoshop, Lightroom, or Aperture.
  • Two-Color Technicolor Photoshop Tutorial
    Photoshop Tutorials
    Kind of a neat little Photoshop tutorial for creating a Technicolor film effect with your full-color photos.
  • Photography 101 – Lenses and Focus
    digital Photography School
    Neil has certainly done his homework with this one… A nice lesson on the physics behind optical lenses and their ability to focus light.

16 Inspirational Portrait Photography Techniques

I’m learning that portrait photography can be tough in more than one way thanks to my participation in the December Challenge. I’m already getting bored with taking the standard cookie-cutter portrait, so I started digging around Flickr for some inspiration. Here’s what I turned up:

[tweetmeme]And yes, I realize that the accompanying text is much shorter than I would usually supply, but the idea of this post isn’t to teach these techniques — it’s to introduce you to them and hopefully give you some inspiration with your own photography. I feel that these photos are strong enough to stand on their own without lengthy descriptions.


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1. PHOTOSHOP

If you’re good with post-processing and manipulations, use it to your advantage. Get crazy with the adjustments, try some new Photoshop techniques, and maybe even a composite image.

2. TEXTURE

If texture is a big part of your subject, make it stand out and make it obvious. Match up the textures between your subject and your background. You might even try texturizing the entire photo for additional impact.

3. OVEREXPOSE

Blowing out the highlights or making a high-key image makes a nice soft portrait with kind of a light airy feeling. Another advantage of high-key photos is that the smaller details and defects are blown away, making the image look much smoother.

4. UNDEREXPOSE

A dominantly dark or low-key image will naturally draw your eyes to the lighter parts. These tend to have a grittier and harder look to them than the high-key images.

5. BACK-LIGHT

Hair lights up like crazy when it’s back-lit, so if hair is a big part of your subject make it stand out by placing your subject between you and a light source. You could also take this a little further and push the image to a silhouette.

6. POSING

Get crazy with the pose and positioning — extra points if it looks uncomfortable. Not only with the poses, but also with your own positioning — shoot from different angles to achieve different impacts.

7. CULTURE

Capture the local culture — what’s mundane to you is exotic to us. Culture is everywhere, even in your own town. Just image you’re visiting from a different country — what things would then seem more interesting to you?

8. REFLECTIONS

Make use of different surfaces to add that extra dimension — windows, mirrors, and water are all very good reflective surfaces that give a different result and texture.

9. SHADOWS

Make the shadow an important part of the image. Sometimes the shadow can even be more prominent than the actual subject casting the shadow.

10. GET CLOSE

There’s no rule against cropping out most of the subject’s face. This draws more attention to the parts that are left in the frame.

11. (UN)FOCUS

Out-of-focus subjects can be more interesting than the in-focus subjects. It kind of adds some mystery to the image because you can’t quite make out who that person is.

12. MOVEMENT

Use movement to show action, even if it blurs out the subject entirely. In cases like this, think of the person as a means of creating the subject rather than being the actual subject.

13. CAPTURE THE MOMENT

Catch somebody doing something they love, even if it’s not staged. Street photography is one of my favorite genres because it captures life as it happens — unstaged and unposed.

14. COLORS

Use vibrant and contrasting colors to draw attention to parts of your subject. This could be makeup, clothing, accessories, or whatever else you can get your hands on.

15. GET SERIOUS

Not all portraits need to have a smile, capture the serious emotions too. Some of my favorite portraits have no hint of a smile in them, and they’re highly emotional.

16. PROPS

Use the props and tools around you to make the setting more interesting. Find things to place your subject in, on, under, around, etc.