Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Making the Most of What You Have

Most of us can admit that we all want that new something. Whether it's a new camera or lens, we are all looking forward to getting something new. Take some time to reflect and ask yourself, "How much is too much and when will I ever be satisfied?" I have personally experienced the feeling of wanting the next and best. My parents would always ask me, "Will this finally satisfy you?" and I'd always reply "yes", but it was never enough. Years later, I have finally come to realize when enough is enough.

So what is the connection to photography? Be satisfied because rarely it's our equipment that prohibits us from creating great photography. I brought 4 cameras to Israel because I might need them all, but I've really only used two of those cameras extensively - my D300 and my Yashica 635 twin reflex medium format film camera. I love the Yashica because it only has one lens. I don't have to worry about what if I had a different lens because there is only one. It's liberating to have that 80mm lens (50mm lens on 35mm film) because I can just focus on what I do have instead of what I don't have and all the wonderful photos I could be making with the lens I don't have. I brought 4 lenses for my Nikon D300, but yet the 18-70mm Nikkor lens is what I use 90-95% of the time because it's just so flexible.

Plenty of people question as to what to bring, but my philosophy now is to just bring your favorite lens and don't look back. Not only will you save time and energy not having to carry everything and keep track of it, you'll always protect yourself from going mentally insane and stressing. A few days ago on the beach, I did something very liberating - I set the camera to automatic (P mode) and just shot... the shots came out just fine. So just grab your one camera with your favorite lens, go out and explore, and have a good time. Focus on creating, not overloading.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Learning to See Light and Textures

Light and Texture

One way to become good at photography, is to learn how to see light and texture. I shoot black and white film and sometimes digitally to hone in my ability to see light and texture. The reason for which I use black and white is because I find color distracting - it's another element and it's easier to concentrate when you have less elements. Even when I work on color images in Adobe Lightroom, I first convert to black and white, work on the tones and contrast, then convert it back to color. Doing it this way allows me to ensure that the lighting within the photo is good. Color just distracts my eyes and I just see better in black and white.

Black and white is also a distortion of life. It again just boils everything to the bone - light and texture. I'm not telling you to shoot only in black and white, I'm asking you to get out and try new things. Photography concerns itself with lighting and as photographers, we too must concern ourselves with lighting.

Returning to the idea of boiling things down, black and white really has forced me to look harder at composition and textures within a photo. I also come to understand the limits of my digital camera in that I can't capture all the variations in the lighting in the scene. When I view black and work, I find myself forced to look at the essence of the subject.

Friday, July 17, 2009

4 Ways to Improve Your Photos

4 Ways to Improve Your Photos:

I've been in Israel and with a little time to kill, I went outside into the neighborhood to find photo opportunities. If you think your area is boring, think again! Here are 4 tips to help get your creative juices flowing.

Expore your angles!
Check out those shadows!
Find those colors!
.... Play with the light!

Explore your angles:
You're going to sometimes get high or low...There are times you're going to have to put in some effort to find those angles, but it'll well worth it!

In this photo, I had to get low to the ground to capture this image. I used an 18mm lens on my Nikon D300 to distort the image. As your eye scans the image, it leads from the man crossing the street to the in focus ground. When you shoot, shoot with purpose and you want to convince the viewer that there is some logic in your photo.

It was evening, so I had to use a higher ISO, but for digital users, don't free about high noise... just capture the image. Subject matter is more important than being very sharp or slightly noisy.

Check out those shadows:
Using shadows conveys a different outlook on reality. Shadows are distorted shapes based off real objects.

I loved the warm tone here given by the sun and the shadow really jumped out. I like the contrast as well. For me, there remains some mystery in the shadows! Really, shadows and reflections are akin in that they both represent a distorted reality of things that are. The Greek philosophers believed that what we see are shadows of what really exists. So what or whom do the shadows really represent?

Find out those colors:
Colors just draw the eyes in... especially bright, vivid, primary colors.

The red and the green just pop out! The reflections also contain some "hidden" details if you should look harder. I like to make the viewer dig deeper and deeper into a photo. It remind me of the Dutch painting at the Toledo Museum of Art whereas a kid, the art teacher pointed out a man off to the side relieving himself at a tree. The details are important as well.

You probably have an eye for looks good and what does not color-wise. Color can be found everywhere and contrasting and complimenting colors can be both used with intention.

Play with the light:
Mix shadows, reflections, different types of lighting, etc. This helps to make your photos look dynamic.

I just felt something about the warm colors and the bright, golden light being thrown off from the evening sun. You'll notice that most of these have been done with wide angle. I usually don't use wide angle for head shots, but for scenes, I like to squeeze everything in.

Hopefully you can make use of the tips in various situations to improve your photos. One important thing I've learned is to NOT bring many lenses. I've been using mainly my 18-70mm Nikkor lens. I've only used my 50mm 1.8 once this entire week.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Use a Prop to Spice Up a Photo

Use a Prop!

One of the best ways to get a good portrait is to make sure that the person who you are shooting feels comfortable. Many amateurs and people new to photography try to make their subjects comfortable, but find it difficult. This article seeks to assist them in this process.

For several months, I shot almost exclusively indoors with a white backdrop before transitioning back to the outdoors. During those months, I finally understood that people tend not to know what to do with their hands, and that props were necessary to give them more confidence.

When I shoot senior portraits, I ask the seniors to bring some props that reflect their personalities. One girl brought her art accessories which enhanced the photos by incorporating her personality into the photos. Not only did the props enhance the photos, but they also made her more comfortable, and she knew where to position her hands. I don't think her session would have been anywhere as fun nor as productive if she had not brought those props.

Combining excellent lighting with great props, the results were likewise excellent. It is equally important to justify the elements within the composition. A prop should not look out of place - it should work to compliment the rest of the photo.

Not only are the notepad and pencil props, but the background is a prop that enhances the photo by giving it visual interest. The rustic look of the train interior with the side lighting all lend to an even, balanced composition. Again, this is art and it is subjective, but there should be a justification for the elements within the composition.

When we did our trip to Kellys Island near Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, we stopped at an ice cream store before leaving back to the mainland. There was a restaurant with a beautiful brick wall which I thought went well with her outfit and the ice cream topped it off. Sure I could have just had her pose strictly with her arms, but I felt the ice cream would add something different.