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.

Simplicity – Made Complicated…

I am just kidding about simplicity being made complicated.

My goal as a photographer is to capture images that make a clear statement. My integrity, character, skill, morality and intent respectively should not/cannot be with-held or disguised. This is not a case for a lack of discretion but rather the purpose of clarifying our visual communication.

Visual communication is vital to many areas of life, like business, self-preservation and interaction (both personal and professional). Communication by hand signs is called Sign-language. Sign-language combines motions or gestures that give intuitive and definitive meaning as well as a visual alphabet. These signs are simple and distinct from any other sign making its meaning clear.

This is purpose we want to have in photography, so several things should be brought to its least complicated form to communicate well.

Glass trinket box

First, what is my object or subject? What about my object or subject am I communicating? What draws out the subject? What clarifies my point of communication? What distracts from my subject? What obscures my point of communication? These questions seem tedious and a waste of time, however I can assure you that as soon as these questions become sub-conscious and your actions to correcting these issues are instinctive your image quality will rise with all haste.

The picture above of a glass trinket container is an example of keeping the setting simple. This image communicates the object is the glass container and that the design is important because of the glass clarity.  The surrounding set-up is designed to support the showcasing of the glass container and its design. The lighting of the object is important or there would be no exposure to see the container or its design.

A simple surrounding, focus on the object, light the object well and if necessary add intriguing lines. Enjoy!

Reflections – Surface

So you want reflections, but under instead of on your object?

Mirrors – Shoot into or on mirrors is an amazing technique which not only gives reflection but adds more light to the scene.

Plexiglass – Being reflective yet it is not as strong a reflector as the silvering coat of a mirror. So while providing a great reflection, it will not add light to the scene as would a mirror.

Besides plexiglass comes in various colors. Take a minute to search the options manufacturers offer in plexiglass color.

Plexiglass can also add a density to shadow and reflection unlike other translucent materials. It is one of the most versatile materials I know of within the uses of photography.

Glass – A great reflector as the mirror and not as direct in adding light to the scene as plexiglass, glass itself in a great surface for reflections. One drawback to using glass is that it is fragile. That is only a drawback if you intend that your pane of glass remain intact throughout your photo shoot. Some photographers will use reflections in broken glass which brings up a whole new realm of ideas.

Water – Perhaps one of the most powerful, difficult and predictable substances on the earth, is also one of the cheapest and most accessible substances to capture reflections.

Considering the weather and time of year when planning a photo session is a good idea, even if only to verify that your annual day of rain is not schedule in the same day.

Possibilities are only as limited as my imagination! I love the study of light! Have fun as you learn and grow!

A parting thought: “We only have this moment once to enjoy, so I choose to enjoy it with this foundation; faith, on which to build the structure of physics as I soar into the realm of freedom, liberty and true creativity!”

Portraits – Candid

Candid shots can be hard to pick out from a few select pictures because posing does not have to show the subjects awareness of the photographer. However for our purposes we will call those posed shots candid anyway for simplicity’s sake.

What does “Candid” really mean? :

“Truthful and straightforward; frank.
(of a photograph of a person) Taken informally, especially without the subject’s knowledge.”

So we could even say that the most important quality of a candid photo is not, the lack of knowledge on the part of the subject but how truthful the image is to practical life versus our Utopian fantasy. This is not to say, a photo should include our frustration, irritation and messes, but rather kept simple and uncomplicated.

Is that easier said than practically applicable? Perhaps, although here are some suggestions to inspire your own creativity for simplicity.

  1. Focus on your subject and what has drawn their attention.
  2. Beware of your frame corners so as not to include distractions.
  3. Intentionally use backgrounds that support your shot and not stealing your viewer’s attention.

Focusing on your subject and the object holding their attention: Using a macro lens will crop a lot of the surrounding scenery bringing your focus to rest on your subject and their object of attention.

Being aware of what your frame corners catch which may distract a viewer is easy to forget. In fact I have found that if I am not paying attention I still catch minor undesirables. It can sound like photography is an art impossible to meet or only for the totally devoted  who do nothing else but study for the next super-image. I can nearly guarantee you this is not the case in most photographer’s cases.

Intentionally using backgrounds that are not flashy or precisely perfect have helped me draw out more of my subject’s presence versus a nice scenic shot with a presence.

“All aboard!” Part 1

There are so many things that can be used  as a fresh “vein” in cultivating creativity, but I do not want to ware you out with all of the possibilities. There are literally a million and more options waiting for you!  So this will be the final post in the series of “Cultivating Creativity”.

Could it be possible that we give ourselves too many options in a photo shoot and therefore hinder our ability because we are not focused on the best two or three shots with any variation requested?

Shooting by location can be one of these “open ended” opportunities. On the other hand, there could be some “creative” ways of narrowing the probabilities to make the possible become reality.

Take a train station for an illustration: A train station contains so many possibilities that to use it as a portrait location would require some organization in order to come away with a profitable portrait set. In the same way it can be too much for one imagination to work in for stock photography.

Let me first define some terms: (Or at-least this is how I define these terms.)

  • Portraiture – photography which centers on a person and generally includes a recognizable portion of the face.
  • Stock – photography designed as art for any range of uses which may include the human figure for interest.

The basic issue comes down to this; portraiture is photography designed to sell because of emotional attachments, whereas stock sells because of the artistic value. I would sound rather cold if anyone were to hear me say it this way without this explanatory context. This by no means is a put down to portraiture! Portrait photography is one of the most recognized markets in the art world and a very good job done by all of my photography peers, professional and hobbyist alike!

Now let us consider some more ways to narrow our options of shots by location. Shooting some of the basics of composition, such as; leading lines, focal direction, rule of thirds and time lapse.

How about photographing components of an object, or vehicles that come and go from the location? Buildings on the grounds or doorways? You can even make it complicated if you wish; regarding physics, shoot the components of an object which create or absorb friction. …

 

Part 2 will come out this Friday. Stay tuned!

Objective Photography

Objective photography is my term for how I explore the crater bottom of “sans creativity” and climb back out again.

Choosing an object and looking for all variations possible to find whether they are only observable or tangible:

  • By observable, I mean seeing the shape or design made by shadows or form. Sometimes shapes are formed when we look at things in two dimensions and when viewed from the perspective of the third dimension it appears nothing like how we first observed the shape.
  • Tangible – an object that can be handled and does not depend on a certain perspective to remain the observed form.

Example: The famous painter “Thomas Kinkade” always creates the letter “N” in every painting. I understand that “N” is the starting letter of his wife’s name and so to honor and amuse her, he hides it in every work for her to find. Sometimes he paints it in plain sight such as on a house (thus my use of “tangible”) or by shadow, object movement and the like (again my use of “observable”).

So, what is “objective photography”? A slide show of motor vehicles is a small illustration of how you can take an object or subject and explore the possibilities.

It does not even have to be a narrow topic, such as “motor vehicles”. Vehicles in general is just fine and leaves a greater opportunity for all types of vehicles. For example some types of vehicles can be:

  • Bicycles (recumbent, mountain bike, road bike, hybrids and scooters)
  • Shoes (sandals, dress, casual, sports, roller skates/blades, ski boots, etc.)
  • Airplanes (paper, balsa wood, project flyer, Cessna and Passenger airliners)
  • Motor vehicles (street legal, mass production, go-carts, gold carts, etc)

Have some fun and play around with the topic by using common phrases like “That cracker is only a vehicle to eat more peanut butter.”

You do no have to keep using the same technique for each photo. The photos of the vehicles above, were taken in time-lapse and the only added light is from other vehicles driving by and a flash light (mentioned in the article “Insider tips”). In fact, there are many different techniques that photographers have used and discovered which can change the feel and message of a photo in an instant.

Remember, this is designed to give you some rest from your normal style of photography. So kick back and enjoy a photographic “stay-cation”!

Photographer’s block

You have heard of writers getting “Writer’s block”; well, have you ever experienced “Photographer’s block”? It is the most uninspiring feeling and demoralizing experience for a photographer to perceive no new ideas or creative takes on classic genius. Take heart! You are not that first to come to this dilemma, so there are people with experience to help you nor will you be the last to experience this seeming lull of creativity!

Photographing your children often prolongs the creativity because you are not required to supply all of the creativity, but simply play off of the child’s cute antics. Posed shots require more creativity in finding the right surroundings and the most flattering positions. There are times when you feel creativity waning that even pointing the camera in the right direction with the children in view and opening the shutter does not produce the desired end.

This is where I have a suggestion that has helped me through some awful “slumps”.

Take one item, an object, color, letter, number or brand and shoot it for a period of time. Choose something far from the style you have been shooting. I have found focusing on this new style for a period of time helps to rejuvenate my creativity.

It helps to think of creativity as a renewable substance. It is not completely used once you see nothing more, but simply a call for you to step away and begin to take awe in a new interest of creation.

This post is short and sweet, but I hope it provides you with some ways to renew your God-given creativity! Enjoy and God bless!