Tag Archives: tips

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.

Link Roundup 09-30-2010

Don’t forget that we have ongoing themes in our Flickr pool and I’ll be selecting my favorites on the topic of “Camera Porn” sometime next week. We only have a few entries in the pool, so be sure to see here for details on participating.

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.

Link Roundup 09-01-2010

Finally starting to clear out my feed reader and catching up on these link posts. I have about 10 or 15 more in the hopper, but I’ll save them for another day.

Link Roundup 08-23-2010

Okay… these are a little old, but I’m just getting back on the ball with my feed reading and link sharing. I have plenty more coming, but I didn’t want to push them all out at once.

On a side note, we’re also going to get the Flickr Challenge going again. The current challenge is “environmental portraits” — you can read the announcement here and see the current entries in the pool. I’ll be choosing the winners sometime this week.

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?

Link Roundup 07-17-2010

Before we get to the links, I apologize to anybody that visited the site recently and found it to be infected with a malicious redirect exploit. I became aware of the issue this morning (thanks to an email from a reader) and I had it fixed within an hour. These things happen from time to time, and I appreciate folks letting me know when something is wrong with the site. Now for some weekend reading!

A Simple Method for Creating Composite Photos

[tweetmeme]Composite photos are made up of two or more different images. There are several different types or styles of composites, but I’ll be focusing on just one in this tutorial.

The type of composite we’ll look at is made up of multiple images with exactly the same framing, exposure, and lighting. Using this method, you can add or subtract objects from a scene. Obviously, this isn’t something you want to do in photojournalism, but it does have applications in other sectors of photography.

Here are seven basic steps for creating simple composite photos.

1. CAMERA SETUP

First off, you need to use a tripod so each frame doesn’t move. To make your post-processing easier, you’ll want to shoot in manual mode if you can. This will give you the ability to produce multiple images with the same exposure (assuming your lighting situation is constant).

2. CAPTURE MULTIPLE EXPOSURES

Once you have the camera ready to go, take as many images as you think you’ll need. Then take a bunch more. You can always throw out the extras, but you can’t go back and get one or two more after you’ve taken the camera off the tripod. I shot 29 different poses for my example composite.

3. OPEN IMAGES

If you shoot raw format, just be sure to process the images with the same settings. After raw processing, open them all in Photoshop, The Gimp, or any other software that allows you to use layers and layer masks.

4. CREATE LAYERS

Choose one photo to be the base image for the composite. Place all other images in layers above that base image. We’ll be grabbing bits and pieces from these layers to create the composite.

5. MASK LAYERS

On each layer above the base image, add a layer mask and hide all or fill with black. The black layer mask will block out the pixels from that layer, so you should only see the base image at this point.

6. PAINT THE COMPOSITE

Now you can go back to each layer mask and paint white over the areas that you want to show. This could be the addition of objects present in that layer, or the subtraction of objects present in the base layer. If you need to see what’s in your working layer, press “shift” and click on the layer mask. This will temporarily disable the mask and show just the image. Press “shift” and click the layer mask again to enable it again.

7. FINISH POST PROCESSING

After you get the composite image looking good, you can either save it out as a new image or continue working with it in Photoshop. Any adjustment layers that are applied above the composite layers will act on the composite as a whole.

And here’s the finished product.

I See Three of Me

That’s about it… there’s not a whole lot to it. If you get the initial shots identical in composition, exposure, and lighting, the rest is pretty easy. Here are some other examples of composite photos.

Mirrored self-misidentification
Creative Commons License photo credit: eqqman

paradox v2.0 (1 of 2)
Creative Commons License photo credit: pochacco20

Composite
Creative Commons License photo credit: j-william

Kestrel Composite
Creative Commons License photo credit: markkilner

04/50 - everyday is a mindless routine.
Creative Commons License photo credit: eleven days into april.

bmx stunt
Creative Commons License photo credit: katiew

Too many babies
Creative Commons License photo credit: PhotoBlackburn

Anthony Equals Three?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ben Chau

366 • 65 • Shadow monster
Creative Commons License photo credit: Pragmagraphr