Workflow – Part 2

Workflow is a process that details the first step to the last. Setting up a workflow will become an instinct to you, but until then let us catalog and learn the process of priorities. By priorities I mean, by completing the previous step you now have what is required to complete this step and have made available to yourself the tools for the next step.

Taking a small project using the same principles as photo processing will help us explain the process in as few words as possible.

To build a storage shed there must be some decisions made of the size and design. From these decisions an architectural blue print can be made. Now with the blue prints we can make a materials list and go shopping. Do you see the progression? Here is another way of looking at the process:

  1. Design and size
  2. Architectural drawings
  3. Materials list
  4. Materials shopping
  5. Ground breaking and construction

Each step when completed is setting up the success of the following step.

Starting with a new project, what are the signs of the first step?

  1. What is the first puzzle piece? First, set up your end product. How will it look? What are you providing; service or tangible product?
  2. What will you give with this service/product? What else should hold your attention in the phase of “material gathering”?
  3. How many practical steps can be made or planned to affect a clear understanding for everyone involved?

Something I have found invaluable in this process is having a scratch pad and new paper to record both ideas for consideration and decisions leading to the conclusion.

Take deep breath and relax. Things will start to fall into place on their own with these foundational questions answered. A challenge is not worth gray hair, unless you like the distinguished look. *Grin*

Enjoy.

Workflow

Workflow is a tool that promises to save you time, stress and money if used and delivers! Allow me to explain.

Say you just finished taking photos of your child’s birthday party and the camera is set down out-of-the-way until you can deal with downloading the pictures and do your minor edits. When do you pick it up again (to download the pictures or on your way to the next event)? Probably on your way to the next event, right? Perhaps I can give you some cheery news.

Cameras now being digital are made to be “plug and play” ready. That means that as soon as it is plugged into the computer the computer recognizes the camera and can do almost anything with the information for you by automatic protocol. This is not scary, just be aware of what goes on after key events.

Key events being the device having been plugged in to a computer (laptop or desktop); opening a program while the digital recording device is plugged in; etc.

Take a moment to read the owner’s manual for your camera or read an internet “how-to” on your software to help yourself better understand the tools given to you and ready for use at your finger tips.

Many digital camera manufacturers offer some basic programs that will download your photos automatically to a place on your computer hard drive. There are many other programs that also do this as a means of processing workflow and personal convenience. Take some time to look, read and make an inventory list of your tools to avoid working any harder than necessary.

Let automation take the work and stress out of your life by taking care of the small details for you.

If you have most of this available to you, try plugging your camera into your computer the next time you set it down after a shoot and let it work for you.

History Records

Recording history via photography is something that may seem as a profession for the unskilled, however consider taking the challenge of recording the events of your family alone. The difference between recording the events for a city records and those of which concern a family are more quickly understood in an experience to which we can relate. A family’s social calendar maybe busier than a city’s but things occur on a greater scale in a 24 hour period within the city limits than a family.

Take the challenge of recording the events your family encounters through photography. It is may not be as easy as anticipated. Events may involve one person or multiple. Please also take notice of everyone’s right to privacy. I have heard stories of families taking snapshots of other at times that are extremely personal. The purpose of this challenge is not black-mail gathering but learning to discern between photo emphasis.

Every family I know has pictures of the firsts in the lives of their children or wish they did. I wish that I had more photos that surround my memories of the last few months I had with my grandparents. You see, there are many levels in photographing history than appears on the surface.

We have covered some basics to photographic records and I will take some time to list these levels (perhaps not in the best order).

  • Physical event and motion
  • Elements included and worn during the event
  • Emotions, communication and facial expression
  • Overall event (purpose and reason for gathering)
  • Accomplishments
  • Experiences (from a personal perspective)

There really are a lot of things to fill your time with family events. Now consider the skill required to put your talent in such a time crunch on a scale of 18,000 families. I think we just discovered a fascinating career!

Appeal

Since I know that asking questions about a photo will help me get answers to how the photographer was able to get the look I see, I can ask some similar questions of my photo set-up to get the appeal I want.

What are these questions? Well, they do not change as much as my photo changes. Starting with the basics;
“What is my object in focus?”
“What have I used to draw the viewer’s attention to it?”
“What style am I using (leading line, lighting, suggestion)?”

Photography Shopping – Part 2

It is not easy for me to swallow a number on a price tag with numbers that continue 3 or more digits and then appears a decimal, especially when I consider that amount as coming from my wallet. However, this is not considering the purpose for the product purchased.

We considered some questions to ask to help decide the purpose of the shopping trip and each piece of equipment. I also mentioned that I cannot give you any suggestion on “coupons” or price breaks because anyone making this compromise is taking a serious risk that can and most often will be more expensive than the price of the lens.

I write this to urge you to be wise in what you buy, because somethings are not worth “going cheap”. If your photographs are worth good money, then be willing to pay good money for your equipment. I have read many articles on what is most important for creating good photographs. Some have a good understanding of the process and others do well at articulating what they do not understand. I want to both understand and be able to articulate it so that you can learn from my mistakes.

Good photography is not about 1 piece being more or less significant. It is about all the pieces working well together. In any team sport, the team must work together to carry out their goal. Thus it is the same in photography. Photography is my sport and my team consists of me, the camera body and the lens. Also in this team sport the team that will win must use the actions of the opposing team to their advantage. This “opposing team” in my sport of photography is a light source, object and shadow (meaning contrast).

I win the game when my team works together without error, using the light, the object and the shadow to tell the story I see.

How will you choose your team? Will you choose the team that “gets by” or the proper team for the win?

Lighting – Part 3

Lights are not easy to work, however not impossible. Directly lighting an object without first being reflected or diffused should be carefully handled. We will get into the reason for this point in a moment but let us first remember what transpired bringing us to this point.

In the time this blog has been in operation, we have discussed contrast, highlights, shadows, elements, focus, scene design and light source positioning in preparation for this new level of photography design. Direct lighting will be harsh and bright; so what else around the object should be lit to make sense of the scene?

What elements are important to the message of your photo? Remembering to keep it simple and thus unifying the message, light the desired elements enough for the purpose. If this photo involves a model, be sensitive to their comfort. Natural poses may be comfortable for a short period but if continued may become an irritation.

Irritation can be something the model will have to fight through for proper facial expression, motion stability to prevent blurring with moderate to slow shutter speeds. None of these issues are worth battling when they are avoidable.

Take a look at some advertisement photos and notice how little they add to the photo. At the same time, notice how they add, what they add, why they add and where they add those extra elements. This is not to learn the style or technique of another photographer, but to learn a principle, “Too much spice can ruin the soup” and not enough means it is a good start though undesirable.

Light can change the focal point of shot by misdirection, improper power setting and poor timing with the camera shutter. Be sure to know your equipment. Acquaintanceship means nothing when you are entertaining a customer and simultaneously troubleshooting your lighting system. You are the expert of your equipment. Learn it well.

Photography Shopping

Looking for photography equipment? What is your intended purpose with the photographs?

Understanding the equipment and what it will do for you is an important part of shopping. rebel_xTiBuying the best piece of equipment on the market will not do you any good if its capabilities do not exceed your expectations. Each manufacturer has technical and general specifics on each camera they make for your convenience in research.

Do you want sharpness in each photo?

Looking for large format ability?

Want to shoot great photos in low-lit surroundings?

It is important to know what you will do with your equipment. The key to sharp images is good “glass” (or lenses in other words). Good “glass” meaning the quality and design of the lens and its parts. Research is important, especially for lenses because the manufacturer will not put these lenses on the market for no cost. All of that time in material gathering and manufacturing a lens does not come cheap so your equipment cost is going to grow. There is no good way of compromising on price for a lens of this quality. So I suggest that you do not go cheap on your lens for sharp images.

The large format issue begins a new line of questions; “How large is your project?” The smaller SLR camera image sensors can handle image sizes up to 20 x 30 inches. If you want to screen print vehicle window clings or prints for the full side of vehicles, you are looking for camera with a very large image sensor. Now you will be looking at spending the same amount of money on a camera as the lens spoken of above.

Shooting in low-lit situations means you will be looking for camera that does not create a lot of “digital noise” when the ISO is raised above 100.

I hope these “bench marks” are helpful to you as you search for the right camera and lens for you. Enjoy and do not feel obligated to buy from a store. The customer service employees are paid to help you find the right product, so ask them for advice and take their “sales pitch” with a grain of salt. Enjoy!

Lighting – Part 2

Lighting can seem as fickle as a fair weathered friend, although gratefully lighting can be manipulated as friends should not (fair weathered or committed).

I have written in earlier posts that lighting should be “flat” or even meaning without noticeable variation. Well an announcement: not all photographs should use flat lighting. Some photographs may need lighting in three dimensions than two and incidentally completely changing the rules of the photography game.

I would duplicate the work of others if I explained the process of three-dimensional lighting and far less than adequate. However to be fair I will give a few things to consider as well some research sources.

Digital-Photograly-School.com provides some excellent tips and tutorials on photographic art. Equipment reviews are also available when you find more equipment or replacements necessary.

DPReview.com offers a Photography Forum, Equipment Buying Guide and Challenges to keep you sharp and learning new techniques.

I urge you to make a list of websites like the Digital-Photography-School and DPReview (hopefully mine, foetoss.com included) that gives you the profitable resources and attainable steps to improving your technique which is already suitable for your desires, making it to an exciting skill for you and your family. Photography is an art based on science, so there is always room to learn and grow but also a sure foundation that will not change even if our understanding of it does.

Something to consider: How should your subject be lit? Am I looking to give it a look of mystery? Am I trying to display it for the purpose of visual description? Am I simply wanting to tell a story of life events? The answer to each of these questions have many answers, some good, some poor and many others which simply suit one person’s taste over another.

After your question is answered, the next begs answering, “Where then should I place the light?”

Lighting

This is all rather basic, although it is something key to remember when making the lighting more even. Surfaces range from being flat to randomly corrugated.

Just some examples of varied surfaces include but not limited to clothing, walls, faces, sporting equipment, grass, plastics and tree bark.

All of theses surfaces pose a great challenge when working to control the shadows. Please notice that I used “control” instead of “end” or “remove”. We do want some shadow for contrast, but we do not want the shadow to be uncontrolled.

The light spread in your direction is important for the fact that shadow a created at a low angle is going to be “darker”. Changing the angle should allow the light to spread more evenly across the surface. Lighting illustration Experience is one of the best ways to learn what is occurring and how to resolve the issue.

A large illustration of this topic is the sun against any semi-solid object. The shadow is cast  because the object stands in the way of the sunlight’s pathway to the ground. The direction and depth of the shadow changes as the earth travels its pathway around the sun.

This change of shadow depth and place is effectively the same as moving the light. I have said there is one good way of learning what is happening and how to resolve it, by experience.

Experimenting in available time will help. Give yourself some projects that emulate the same problem. Work out other lighting difficulties without over working yourself. I often will push too hard and run out of creativity when I should stand back asking questions. Questions should lead to answers, answers can lead to solutions and solutions make the way (specifically for us) to better photos.

Enjoy.

Communication

It has been said a “Picture worth a thousand words.” how can I get my photos to be that chatty? Communicating should be intentional, direct, tactful, transparent, considerate and kind. How is this possible in photography? Well, let us take a look at some examples.

I was recently watching a movie based on a historic event and during the movie I was amazed to see the detail and clarity with which the director communicated the points of history as the events occurred. It drew me in and kept showing one key issue, leaving the others minor. To draw out a point in the same way it is important to ask questions and answer them with observable facts.

Here is an example of what I mean by “communication”: How does a film director communicate the difference between the camera’s view and a cast member’s point of view? This is not a question I want to answer for you, but more of a question for you to ponder, to answer and add to your skill set. I have rolled this question around in my mind for some time and I have concluded that I can find new methods to experiment with as I see other techniques used.

How can I take these principles and add them to my still photography? After the shot type is selected, planning the scene is important. Is the person looking through the camera’s field of view watching someone through a window? Is this person hiding from someone? Could there be a hand, arm or feet seen in the shot from whose perspective the camera captures the scene?

This is a wise open realm to be explored. Not every attempt has to be perfect and you can certainly learn from your own photographs as well as you can from another’s, so enjoy and get some experience!