More great stuff from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! This selection of photos is from those entered in the pool between 02/23/2010 and 03/08/2010.
[tweetmeme]We’ve been on a roll lately talking about post-processing curves: video tutorials, linear adjustments, and nonlinear adjustments. I have one more in the works, but I wanted to take a little break from all that technical software stuff.
I also wanted to stay on topic with the theme of “curves”, so here’s a slightly different take on it. Curves are also a key component of composition. In this article, you’ll find eleven tips for using curves in composition along with sample photos.
1. LEAD TO A COMMON FOCAL POINT
Leading lines are a basic compositional technique, and curves can be used in place of straight lines. Try using natural curves to force the eye of the viewer to a common focal point. In the image below, the main draw is toward the intersection of the curves.
photo credit: Éole
2. RADIAL CURVES AND SPIRALS
Curves can take on many shapes and forms, including circles and spirals. These forms also force a natural point of focus to their center. This particular photo also uses straight lines aimed directly at the center for a stronger effect.
photo credit: ramyo
3. CURVE REPETITION
Repeating curves tend to make a stronger compositional impact than a single curve. Bonus points if you can get an odd number of them like 3 or 5 — odds tend to be more attractive than evens. This photo shows triple repeating curves with nearly identical shape. The simple color scheme also helps to not distract from the composition.
photo credit: tanakawho
4. HUMAN FORM CURVES
We’re basically nothing but curves. If you have the opportunity to photograph people in a revealing manner, be sure to look for the natural flowing curves. In this photo, the soft curve is accentuated by the lighting, and the placement of the hand interrupts it to provide some amount of tension in an otherwise relaxing shape.
photo credit: Ozyman
5. CURVES AND LINES
I mentioned this in tip #2, but I’ll mention it again. Combining curves and lines can be a powerful compositional technique. The intersections can create compelling patterns, while the lines and curves provide pathways for the eye to travel. In this photo, there are far more straight lines than curves, but the curved sections draw the eye because they stand out from the rest of the pattern.
photo credit: Thomas Hawk
6. SEPARATION OF FOREGROUND
A plain foreground or background can be good in some instances, but other instances will benefit from a subtle break. Curves can provide that soft break in an otherwise flat foreground or background. In this photo, you can see that the foreground curves provide areas of higher contrast to break up the low contrast midtones of the snow.
photo credit: extranoise
7. CONVERTING 3D TO 2D
Obviously, the typical camera will capture any scene in 2D. But 3D curves and spirals can change their shape and appearance when flattened. This photo shows spirals and loops of smoke being converted into repeating sinusoidal curves on a 2D plane.
photo credit: Dude Crush
8. INTERSECTING CURVES
Intersecting curves can create a sense of depth and give some extra notion of the 3D layout of the scene. Notice that this image exhibits several levels of intersections — roof structure, shadows, and straight lines. Also notice that the radial curves draw your attention to their center while the sweeping curves and band of sunlight draw your attention to the same location.
photo credit: Jasmic
9. HUMOR BREAK
This one popped up when I was searching for “curve” photos… I couldn’t resist putting it in here. Rock on.
photo credit: Marvin Kuo
10. CURVES AND CONTRAST
When you have multiple curves or repeating curves, play on the contrast between them to create a pattern of stripes. This high contrast helps to define the curves as a strong point in the composition. In this photo, you can see the very strong contrast between the steps as they sweep along the buildings.
photo credit: Pieter Musterd
11. MULTI-LEVEL CURVES
Curves can be presented within the composition at may levels. Small curves, big curves, lazy curves, tight curves, loopy curves, etc. Finding a scene with more than one type of curve can present your viewer with an interesting piece to digest. In this photo, you can see the big curves separating sand from sky, curves separating the foreground, and lots of little curves providing texture.
photo credit: Appy29 (very busy away)
12. FRAMING WITH CURVES
Natural frames are also a good way to help your composition, so look for any curves that can provide a stronger focus for your subject. Here, you can see that the curve of the bench draws your attention toward the may laying on it and away from the lower left corner.
photo credit: paul goyette
How else can you use curves to enhance your composition? And be sure to share your own example photos in the comments below!
Reading histograms is an important skill to acquire in the world of digital photography. Most images from digital cameras will require some amount of post processing, particularly if you shoot raw format. And most of the processing can be done by viewing the aesthetics of the image as you go, but having the ability to read and manipulate a histogram will increase your productivity and output quality.
So what exactly is a histogram? And how the heck do you “read” one? Take this, for example:
At a glance, it doesn’t tell you much. But there are certain things that you can take from the histogram. No, it doesn’t tell you that it belongs to a photo of a deserted trailer half buried in the middle of the desert. It doesn’t tell you if the image is in focus or if your composition is good. It only tells you the tonal values of the pixels contained in the image — blacks on the left, whites on the right.
For this article, I’ll be looking at a black and white image and histogram in order to simplify things. Color histograms work on the same concepts, but with 3 channels rather than one.
MID CONTRAST AND BRIGHTNESS
This is pretty much a straight b/w conversion with no contrast or brightness adjustments. It doesn’t look too bad, but it isn’t terribly dynamic either. And if you look at the histogram, you’ll see that the pixels fall into a centered group with a little breathing room on the shadows and highlights. We’ll use this one as our baseline to compare against. The other histograms will show this in a transparent green.
You can visually recognize the lower contrast in this image, and that correlates to a change in the histogram distribution. The pixels near the black and white points have moved in toward a neutral gray, which gives the appearance of lower contrast. The whole thing has basically been squeezed to the center.
Again, you can visually recognize the higher contrast in this image, and the histogram changed too. The pixels near center have basically migrated outward toward the blacks and whites, thus giving us more contrast. This time we’re squashing pixels from the middle outward.
Lower brightness is just a shift of tones toward the black region. You can see that the entire histogram has been pushed to the left. Also notice that the tonal range has been decreased, as shown by a narrower histogram.
Higher brightness is a shift in tones toward the white region. Here you can see that the entire histogram has been pushed to the right. Also notice that the tonal range has been increased, as shown by a wider histogram.
THE FINAL IMAGE
You can see that I went with a high contrast, high brightness image for my final path. The histogram shows this with the wide tonal range and a heavy concentration of pixels in the highlights.
CAN YOU SEE IT NOW?
This chart shows a combination of contrast and brightness adjustments on the example photo. As you move from left to right (low brightness to high brightness), you can see the histograms shift to the right. As you move from bottom to top (low contrast to high contrast), you can see the histograms widen.
Click the image for a larger version
The reason I’ve posted this article is because I want to get into the topic of manipulating the histogram during post processing — using it to guide you in what adjustments to apply. So the next article will look at how some of the basic adjustments affect the histogram and the image. We’ve already covered contrast and brightness adjustments here, but there are a few others we’ll need to utilize.
In the meantime, here’s some additional reading on the topic of histograms:
My near-future adventure into the world of photographing models has my gears turning, and I’ve been looking for examples of extraordinary model portraits. A lot of stuff I found out there is somewhat generic with lighting and pose — and maybe because that’s what works for the client. But as an art photographer, I felt a little empty with that kind of stuff. So I went in search of some extraordinary model photography.
What I found was that I’m most attracted to the portraits that stand out from the rest. The really unique stuff. I also found that the unique qualities can come from either the models themselves or the photographers. And when you combine a unique and talented model with a unique and talented photographer, you get magic.
The following selection of photos come from a mix of professional and amateur photographers. The models in the shots might also be a mix of professionals, amateurs, friends, and even the photographer taking the photo. Do note: a couple of the photos below are quite informal and the subject is not a model, but I included them because they are good examples of what could be done in a formal portrait situation.
Do you have any good examples of model portraits or other posed portraits? Feel free to drop your photos into the comments below. And if you have any favorites from fellow photographers, leave a link so we can check it out!
New Year’s Resolutions… so cliche, I know. But you can’t deny that the turn of the year is a good time to evaluate your life and make some goals for the next year. I’m in the process of defining my photography goals and resolutions for the upcoming year, in part thanks to Andrew Boyd and his list of “Photographer’s New Year’s Resolutions” (and it seems as though his goals are very much in line with my own). I find that writing them down helps me out, so here are my big ones for 2010.
TAKE MORE PHOTOS
After pulling together my favorite photos from the past year, I realized that I had been very passive about taking photos. Several months were filled with family photos, but no art/commercial photos. The reason for this is because I didn’t make the effort to get out and take photos of new things. So this year, I’m planning on getting out there more often, either by myself or with friends.
I also want to get the kids taking more photos. They both shoot 35mm now, and they love to print their stuff in the darkroom. The problem is that I don’t take them out enough to have a good base of negatives to choose from.
WHAT’S THE PLAN?
At best, I can probably afford to get out once each week with the the cameras. At worst, I should be hitting twice per month. I’ll be making an effort to head out each weekend, even if just for a local walk-around to fire off a single roll of film. I’m also going to be bringing the kids with me more often so they can start building up their archive for printing. And every one or two months, I want to do a bigger outing that requires me to be out most of the day shooting.
PRINT MORE PHOTOS
I’ve been investing a lot of time and money into my darkroom, so I should make better use of it. At first, I was getting in there a few times each week learning how it all works. Lately, I’ll be lucky to print something once every two months. This sucks, mostly because the chemicals go bad before I can finish them and I waste even more money. And now that I’m almost ready to print color in addition to b/w, I’ll need to be a lot better about conserving money for those expensive chemicals and papers.
WHAT’S THE PLAN?
I think at least one night per week is a reasonable goal. This will allow me to keep producing a constant flow of prints (most of which are for my personal portfolio or living room wall). I’ll probably also have to allot one of these nights per month to develop film since I’m doing my own b/w and color stuff now. The rotary processor will allow me to run more rolls at once, so a month’s worth of film in one night shouldn’t be unreasonable.
NO NEW EQUIPMENT
I have a confession to make… I have G.A.S. Yes, it’s true. I can’t help myself when I see a good deal on a great piece of equipment — I just have to buy it. I do use most of the stuff I’ve purchased, but I also have a cabinet full of cameras that rarely get used because there are so many of them. At this point, I pretty much have all the cameras I could need. The only thing I’ve been craving lately is a large format camera, but that needs to be put on hold for a while.
I’m also just about there with the darkroom and I don’t anticipate needing any big ticket items. The last outstanding item is a power supply for the dichro head. After that, I’m all set for b/w and color, film developing, and prints up to 16×20″. This is another reason I don’t want a large format camera yet — my current setup is only good up to medium format (large format will require a whole new enlarger).
WHAT’S THE PLAN?
Well, hopefully I can resist the temptation to buy new toys. I’ve been really good about it lately, and the last purchase was the rotary processor for the darkroom. I haven’t bought any cameras for a while, so I think I’m in a good position to keep it up. I’ll have to keep buying film, paper, and chemicals, but the cost of developing my own color film should go down from $4/roll (at the lab) to $1/roll (in my darkroom).
TURN MORE PROFIT
There are two ways to turn a higher profit: make more money, or spend less money. So this resolution includes a little bit of both. I’ve been doing the photography and blogging thing for a few years now, but I don’t have much to show for it. My hobby barely pays for itself at this point, but I’m also spending every bit of my free time doing it. I wouldn’t mind making a few extra bucks by the end of the year.
WHAT’S THE PLAN?
The “spend less money” part is basically the point above: no new equipment. If I can manage to follow through, my profits should be considerably higher. The “make more money” part needs to come from selling photos and selling advertising space on the blog (I actually make more with the blog than with my photos). I’ve been slacking on my ImageKind uploads and Fine Art Photoblog posts (I don’t do stock, I just can’t get the hang of it) — so I need to spend more time on those things. I also need to make this blog more profitable because I know it makes far less than what it could. I have a plan for this point, but I’ll lay it out later this month.
MAKE TIME FOR BLOGGING
I spend far more time blogging about photography than I spend actually taking or working on photos. This thing is a huge time-sink, but I won’t give it up anytime soon. I’ve learned so much and met so many awesome people through blogging. My problem is having enough time to do it. I would love to spend every night with a clear agenda and a head full of ideas to write about, but that just isn’t the case.
WHAT’S THE PLAN?
First off, I need to be more productive and more organized about my time spent blogging. I usually just get around to it whenever I can, writing up the articles right before I publish them. This is not a good way to blog. I need to set aside at least 2.5 nights per week to write content, answer emails, update software, brainstorm, proofread, feed-read, etc. Eventually, I need to work my way back up to having a few finished articles in the queue at any given time.
MAKE MORE TIME OFF
I have a full time job, a family, plus all this other junk. So I thoroughly enjoy my time off when I can afford to take it. Every once in a while I’ll just drop everything and lay around for a few days watching movies or playing video games… then I spend a solid week catching up on things. This sucks. I need to give myself breaks and nights off here and there so I don’t burn out and go AWOL.
WHAT’S THE PLAN?
It ultimately boils down to the fact that I need to schedule my time better. Work time means work, lazy time means no work. I’ve scheduled my time in the past, but it never stuck because it was either too aggressive or too inflexible. Having a family to look after means that my time comes second, so I have to be flexible with it. But seriously, I love turning off the computer and wasting time with movies and video games.
THE FINAL VERDICT
It’s obvious to me that I need a schedule of some sort. Like I said, I want it to be somewhat flexible, but I also want to cover my bases each week so I don’t put off the important things for too long. What I came up with is a method of blocking off 2 or 4 hours at a time for individual tasks (and the day job eating up 8-9 hours). Some of the pieces can be moved around from day to day so I can adapt to my seemingly chaotic life. Here’s a sample of what my week might look like… keeping in mind that “day job” and “family” time blocks are universal constants and completely inflexible.
I’ll have to give it a shot for a few weeks to see if the time blocks work out for me. But the idea is that each block of time can be moved around to any day of the week to accommodate my life at that time. Oh, and this is also assuming about 16 hours of blocked time, 6 hours of sleep, and 2 hours of “who knows what” time that manages to escape me every day (probably eating food or something else stupid like that).
What about you guys? Do you have any “New Year Resolutions” for 2010? And are you so busy that you have to schedule your time with chunks of paper?
Ah yes… another year is coming to an end and it’s time to reflect on what we accomplished in the last 12 months. With photography, it’s pretty easy to look back on our work and pull together a collection of favorites. I did a similar thing at the end of 2007 and 2008. And each year, I’ve been reminded and encouraged to do so by two friends: Hitesh Sawlani and Jim Goldstein.
Hitesh always manages to remind me about the year end photo thing, and I adopted his monthly format that you see below. You can also see his 2009 post on his blog.
Jim also encourages this yearly reflection by hosting a group project on his blog. The idea is to look back on your year and create a blog post or Flickr set containing your best and/or favorite photos from the year. A lot of people participate in this thing, so it’s cool to get in on the action.
And with that, here are my photos that I feel are worthy of looking back on.
I kicked off the year with a photowalk up in Newport Beach with a few buddies and my Son. It was a decent photowalk… nothing huge, just a chance to get out and grab some shots.
In mid January, I took the Wife and Kids up to North Idaho to visit family (because ticket prices for Christmas time are outrageous). It was good to get back up there during snow season. Did a little landscape photography, skiing (with a camera of course), and relaxing (without cameras).
Went out on a spectacular photo excursion with fellow photographer Richard Wong. We made our way around the Salton Sea and I can honestly say that it is the most surreal place I’ve ever been. Just a strange mixture of beauty and decay all out in the middle of nowhere.
Also did more photowalking with the pals up in West Hollywood. My good friend Bryan Villarin was also playing with his band at the Whisky A Go Go that night, so I got a little taste of concert photography.
Had a couple of small photowalks in San Clemente and La Jolla while testing out the new medium format Kodak Ektar 100 film.
Did a quick photowalk with a friend in Oceanside before heading up to the Grand Prix in Long Beach. Tried out some awesome orthochromatic film I got from my buddy the_wolf_brigade, but ultimately shot 100% digital for the race.
My Brother came down to visit and we did the SoCal tourist thing for a few days — San Diego one day, Venice Beach and Hollywood the next. I also took the Wife and Kids on a short trip to the mountains for Mother’s Day for horseback riding and hot springs. Oh, and Memorial Day up at Lake Arrowhead with my Aunt and Uncle.
Didn’t do a whole lot in June other than the San Diego County Fair. I had a couple of photos in the art display, so it was fun to check them out with the other entries. We probably spent half our day just looking at artwork.
Did the 4th of July celebration thing with my Cousin up at Lake Arrowhead… I’m still amazed at how many boats get on the water at one time. I also did a few solo photowalks in Pacific Beach and Point Loma with the TLR.
August was mostly family time. The kids were up in Idaho for most of the summer with the Grandparents, so we spent a lot of time with them when they got back before school started. I also met up with Jim Goldstein for a short time while he was down for a wedding — it was good to finally shake his hand and chat with him outside of Skype.
Labor Day was the only real photo-op we had in September — with school starting back up and everybody getting into their schedules, we didn’t do a whole lot else.
October was filled by a few family visits and whatnot… but nothing really major happened.
NOVEMBER & DECEMBER
Either I didn’t take many photos in the last few months, or I just haven’t developed/scanned/processed anything. At any rate, I spent a lot of time hanging out with family for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
SO HOW WAS MY YEAR?
Honestly, I’m not totally impressed with myself this year. I didn’t do as much photo-taking as I would have liked, and I definitely didn’t do as much photo-printing either. I also felt a fairly large shift in my photographic focus this year. I spent more time just capturing the events and gatherings that I happened to be a part of rather than going out and looking for opportunities… sort of a passive approach I guess. I did a few photowalks and outings, but not like I had in the past.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing… just a different thing. I’m not a professional photographer by any means, so I can afford to drift with my focus and intent. But in general, I’ve keep the same passion for photography that I’ve always had — I’ve just been more relaxed about it. And maybe that’s what I needed this year to motivate me for something new next year.
I’m not sure what the new year has in store for me. I would guess that I’ll be shooting more film and less digital though. I’m also hoping to get the color darkroom set up soon so I can fully utilize my collection of negatives (sucks not being able to print nearly half of my work just because it’s not b/w). I would like to focus more on printing before I fall too far behind on my archives and the whole situation turns into a lost cause.
For equipment, I don’t plan on acquiring anything new… OK, maybe a large format camera of some sort, but no definite plans yet. And like I said, my darkroom is almost complete and ready for color and b/w developing and printing so I should be fine there (unless I do actually get a large format camera). At any rate, definitely no plans for new digital equipment.
Subject-wise, I’d like to focus more on street photography and street portraits. I did a good deal this year, but I want to get out and do more. Street photography with my newly refurbished rangefinder, and street portraits with my trusty TLR.
And as far as websites go, I do have a joint venture in the works that should launch sometime in January. But I’m sworn to secrecy, so that’s all I can say.
How about you guys??? How was 2009 for you? Is anybody else planning on participating in Jim’s project?