Terms – Exposure 2

So what is the difference in exposure between photography fields? The answer may be more fascinating than you realize.

Without an in-depth knowledge of a science it seems basic and small. Thus it would seem incapable of containing enough product for very many markets. However they more the science is studied and further discoveries are taken the science’s markets begin exploding with possibilities. Within each market is a specialized way of dealing with the product for that market. Allow me to explain:

A coin to the founder is equal to his time, resources and product used in minting it. To a collector (still in the market of the numismatist) this coin no longer holds only the value of the coin upon its date of minting, but now any more historical and geographical significance, making its value increase (besides the rising value of precious metals).

To photograph such an item as marketed to a collector, he will be interested in seeing the coin’s condition, its inscriptions, distinguishing marks and a clear representation of the metal color. This suggests to the photographer a specific method of lighting, absence of artistic embellishment and being close up for the best view of the coin’s condition. Can we safely say this requires skill and vocational specialization? Yes, without a doubt.

Take the same coin but in a different market. This coin is not being photographed to a market focus on collectors but sold to a precious metals store who pays out cash to the seller. Photography in this market (if used) would most probably focus on damage detail, over-all likeness and any metallic tarnishing. While these shots are close enough in description, the execution and lighting set-up of the shots are quite different.

While the subject is lit just as well in both shots, the lighting is different because of the market’s push for equal, over or under exposure of the background in reference to the subject. The details of how this is accomplished is still a new topic of discussion.

Business with Priorities

In our society we do not consider the events in one person’s life would much affect the operation and earnings of a business because we think of businesses being large corporations and not being run by one person or family.

I write so that you might consider the important dynamics of building your business. Have a back-up system or support in operation so that you are not losing business.

Questions to answer are:
1. What needs frequent updating?
2. At what frequency must they be updated?
3. For what length of time can these things sustain themselves?
4. How can I most effectively support these things that are updated weekly?
5. How long can they be supported?
6. How can I most effectively support these things for the period of a month?
7. What things could take me from the business?
8. How long could I be busy with these things?

Be sure to base your plans on length of time away and not on the event to avoid confusion. It may be that you will only use 1 week and not 1 month because you can conduct your business from a distance. Thus all the time that is required is to switch from one internet connection to another.

What are the 4 basic things you must use for doing business?

I have looked into my business and the operations involved within the infrastructure. Here are my 4 basics:
1. Internet connection, laptop and power source
2. Photography equipment
3. Web-host, web site software and e-commerce
4. Writing material

It is amazing how small things can become big problems in a short time!

Workflow – Part 3

Workflows as we discussed in Workflow – Part 2, is supposed to be a logical progression from start to finish. No worries if you do not understand the process outlined in Workflow – Part 2. While the principles will work in whatever project you apply them, the logic or thought process may not be yours. Allow me to give another perspective of this process so that you can break it down for yourself.

A workflow is “a process designed to stop detail loss; to produce the best quality product in the least possible amount of time.” This is my working definition of “workflow”; a dictionary definition gives this meaning: “progress of work: the progress or rate of progress of work done by a business, department, or person”. I have described this at the level of a personal project but will become business if you use it for your photography studio and departmental if your studio hires employees. See how quickly this expands?

Let the progression be your own, but be careful to include the details. In my experience working in the corporate world, one practice run on a workflow is good and two is better but three is wise. I have run it through on paper the first time, working out the major problems. The second time I run it through with friends, explaining to them the details: I ask for their questions, understanding and critiques. Third time through, I take a test product through my process making notes of snags and problems.

Make no mistake, by this time I am tired and ready to quit. This is the point at which you are closest to letting the workflow do your heavy lifting. You are doing a great job!

One of the best ways of making certain your workflow has everything you ought to have in your completed product is to write these details on paper. Documents are your friends!

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!

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?”

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!

Portraits – Versus ? Part 2

Stock Photography is a field of scope more broad than portraiture because it does not cause an emotional attachment alone.

Stock (at-least in my opinion) includes styles Commercial, Product, Scenic, Wildlife, Botany, Oceanic, Astronomic, Architectural and Historical opportunities giving objects to be the primary focus in the photo.

Portraiture ought to emphasize the person over their surroundings, even if the photograph is not designed to prominently showcase the subject.

The difference between Stock and Portraiture is in the photograph’s use. For instance, a company selling a consumable product will use a photograph of the product for visual communication is a use of stock but meant to sell a different product than the photograph.

The Stock Photography industry is designed to sell photographs, rather than photographs being used to sell other products.

It is important to consider the purpose of the photograph whether displaying it in home or sale. Just as a photographer is critiqued for how they captured the subject and displayed the photo’s purpose, so an image out-of-place or incompatible with its surroundings is important to consider when placed.

If a portrait is placed in a photo frame intended to be used as a stock photograph but is an obvious portrait of the subject, it looks out-of-place as it sits on the store shelf. There are aesthetic changes that can be made to the portrait to show the commercial use, but without these changes it would seem that someone had left a framed photo at the store as they shopped for a new picture frame.

The same principle applies to stock photography. If a person or an object is in the photograph distracting from the photographic statement, it is better to change perspectives or wait until the person leaves the frame and not “shoot around them”.

One of the best investments in a shot is time. Do not be afraid to invest!

Portraits – Versus ?

Stock Photography is not well-known by that name publicly, but what is the true difference between Stock Photography and Portraiture?

This is as basic as I can make it without getting into a bunch of tedious details:
Portraiture often if not always requires or at-least involves an existing emotional attachment between the customer and subject which was photographed.

Stock requires no emotional attachment to the photographed subject, but draws from interest in design, style or object. (Perhaps even an emotion but coming from a experience or time in a place and not a relationship with the photographed subject.)

Stock photography ranges from advertising art for retail stores to examples of the effects of dentistry cleaning products. It is used to illustrate the help or use of the product in your daily projects.

Blogging cooks use stock photography to show the completed recipe as many readers are visually motivated over reading or hearing.

As you can see with these two examples Stock photography appears in many places and we do not even take notice of the kind of photography.

Internet sales use a stock photograph of the product to show what the product looks like accompanied the functions of the product in written description. This is not false advertising because these mass-produced items are all made the same and function the same. On the other hand sites like eBay, and other auction sites very carefully manage their resources so as not to misrepresent the product they sell but also tell the customer that this specific product. The reason for this detail is for the purpose that the customer is aware of the precise condition of the product whether new, unopened, used, partially functional or non-functional.

Photography is used as a visual description sometimes because we have put great stock in the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Often pictures are used as the best way to communicate what seems to lack in word.

Product – Natural Light

Product photography can be executed with natural light in an everyday setting. Yes, YOU can photograph your own products in your home as long as you have the proper light source – the sun. This is especially beneficial for entrepreneurs of crafts and homemade trinkets who need to advertise their own merchandise.

Pay attention to your home and where the window light spills in throughout the day. The quality and amount of light can accentuate the product you are trying to showcase. For instance, when the sun is newly risen or close to setting, you can catch soft golden hues that will not  been seen throughout a normal day. The sun is also less harsh at those times so you can have a better balance when dealing with “shiny” objects. Shiny objects are any products made of reflective material. Overexposure of shiny objects are much easier to do when the sun is strongest and highest in the sky.

If the sun is still too harsh, it helps to have a “diffuser” at hand. A light diffuser is used to even out the main light source that is being projected on the product. For example, in direct light, a product made of or containing amounts of shiny metal may have a spot that is too bright and visually overpowering. We call that a “hot spot” and there should still be detail visible in those brightest areas. A light diffuser can be purchased already made and in different sizes at a photographic equipment store. If you are on a limited budget, a light diffuser can also be made of plumbing pvc pipe, 90 degree angles, and swimsuit nylon. Determine your chosen size and assemble into a square or rectangle. For ideas and a better visual picture, check out images of light diffusers and normal sizes on the internet. Stretch the nylon tightly over the pvc pipe and sew the corners to keep in place. Swimsuit nylon can be purchased at a local fabric store and pvc pipe at a hardware store. Angle the diffuser between the sun and your product to soften the light.

Proper styling, simple backgrounds, and pertinent lighting can showcase your product in a way that can wow your clients. Bring as much confidence into advertising your product as you showed in creating it.

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.