Focus or sharpness in a photograph, in my opinion is a relative and totally personal choice. When you look at the work of a famous or even not-so-famous photographer, do you ever complain that the subject of the photo is out of focus and then dismiss the work as being sub-par?
By what standard can you declare an image to be in focus anyway? Is it the sharpness of the pupils in a person's eyes? What if the person is jumping and the whole point of the image is to illustrate the action? I would think that having the person blurred would be required in order to get that across to the viewer.
What if there are more than one major point of interest, with one moving and the other static? Who decides what should be sharp and by what degree?
I heard a photographer say the other day (on a video) about a triangle of photography. On one point is the sitter or subject, the other points are the photographer and the viewer respectively. Each of these are key to the success of a photograph. A change in any of these key points means a radical change in the image.
I would like to think that if 3 different photographers were given the task of photographing the same subject they each would produce a distinctly different image. Each image would therefore impact a potential viewer in a different way. Using sharpness or lack of it, could play a key role in this process.
As of late I've been considering the use of movement, and the lack of sharpness in my portraits. What I like about this opportunity is that it affords me the ability to show, or at least interpret my idea of energy and life. I can attempt to express a feeling of life by using motion. Living creatures (humans included) are not static. By using motion the sense of life/spirit is caught in a non-precise manner and presented to the viewer.
One or more exposures at the camera may be a long-winded approach to this expression, but at this time at least for me it is a necessary one. At other times, simply moving the camera lens during a long exposure produces the desired result. I never know exactly how to go about it until I'm fully involved. That's the fun part. I might plan the project completely, but until I actually get the camera in my hand and the subject in front of me nothing is set in stone. All of it could change in an instant. This is the joy of creating an image that is driven by creative energy, the light (and shadow) and of course the response of the subject and all that effect it in regards to the viewer.
I think that I will continue to work on images that express my feeling of energy far into the future. There is no reason for me to alter my intent. I suppose it could be the basis for a long-term personal project. Now there's an interesting thought.
Till next time.
I can't imagine photographing a person for a portrait and not taking a moment, no matter how brief, to make sure that they are looking their absolute best.
One of the best tools for a photographer to have on hand is this little beauty. Perhaps you've never seen one, but I would highly suggest that you as a subject of a photograph, and if you are indeed a photographer grab one. It is a lint roller, or lint brush.
These little gems are a quick solution to hours of post-processing work and cost less than $6. I purchased this one at Staples for $4.99. I couldn't imagine spending all the time to set up a shoot and forget to be sure that every effort had been taken to make sure my sitter appears their best. Especially if a stylist is not available. In many cases for me, the photographer is also the stylist.
Another nifty tool is a makeup pad to quickly remove shine from the face, as it absorbs perspiration. Again, this speeds up the post-processing which saves time and can save the client dollars better spent elsewhere.
What little tips can you offer fellow photographers to help their workflow, as they have helped yours? Leave a comment below.
Have you every had the feeling that you've been working away at the wrong thing for longer than you'd care to remember?
Earlier this year, I was getting that feeling. Mostly because I was feeling like I was doing work that was what people expected me to do. I was doing work to satisfy the visual needs of people who didn't share my vision. They simply wanted images that helped them achieve their goals, Fulfill their agenda.
My images are/were starting to looking like those by hundreds of other photographer. The only difference is that I got the job.
So, I've taken upon myself to make a change. A pretty drastic one.
I've decided to step away from what is expected of me, and work towards creating a body of work that speaks to my own creative vision (thank you Joel Grimes). This is why as of today you won't see any portraits on my website. Not until I revamp my portfolio.
I've set a goal to do at least one cool new portrait each week, more if I can. These portraits will be strong with my creative vision. They will show technical skill, excitement, energy, spirit. Life-not-still-life will be my new motto. This is how you will identify a portrait that I create.
Portraits that show people as more than statues with smiles. People rarely sit still and smile. We are more than just a bag of skin covered meat. We are spiritual creatures on a physical journey. We are energy. It is my job to express that thought and make the viewer feel that energy.
I'm truly looking forward to this new chapter in my photographic experience. Watch for the new portfolio coming in the next few months. Life-not-still-life.
Almost every day I find a new bit of information put out into the world by a successful business person and/or photographer.
I thought I would start sharing some of that with you fine visitors to this here blog.
Chase Jarvis is a multi-talented photographer, entrepreneur based in Seattle WA who has built a very successful business with the philosophy of sharing information so that all involved can benefit. One of his most common sentiments: "a rising tide floats all boats". I agree.
Here is a link to one of his videos that I think will benefit a wide audience: https://youtu.be/ccXxU5J1T3w
Enjoy and please share with your crowd.
Imagine for a moment that you are a photographer who only photographs mechanic gadgets for a manufacturers catalogues. Day in and day out. That's what you do.
You get pretty good at it over the years. You are quick and efficient. The boss loves you and you earn a decent dollar for your efforts.
A number of years go by and you continue shooting the exact same images, over and over. This is a factory mentality where by you are the machine churning out copy after copy of highly repeatable product for a receptive hierarchy of managers and business executives. They know what your work looks like, but they probably have no clue what your name is.
If you were in such a position would you not have the desire to expand your experience beyond that of the factory floor? To get out into the world and stretch your creative body, test your limits, grow and expand? What's holding you back?
This is the driving force behind my two personal projects currently on the go. I started one a couple of years ago and have since put it on hold. It involves me visiting the workshops of Ontario based musical instrument makers. These people have some serious skills. Most of them are full-time builders of instruments. A few are working a full-time job while making instruments on the side. I hold these men and women in high regard. They've each welcomed me into their homes and shops for 40 to 120 minutes while I pick the best angle, fiddle with lights and make them look amazing to the viewer.
The other project is ongoing and coming to a local gallery this summer. This one involves the photographing of artists local to Peterborough city and county. The plan was to do 40 portraits. About half way through, people started emailing me to see about being included. Hey, that's pretty cool. How could I say no? Meeting these artists was a big step for me. I'm not really one to put up my hand and offer my thoughts in public. I guess it's my introverted nature. But I'm growing through that in tiny increments.
These projects have driven me to expand beyond my own fears and hesitations. I've learned more about myself in the process of working these projects that at any other time in my adult life. Each project is a challenge to organize, schedule and execute. They both have developed further than my original mock-ups. Each project has produced a few gems that I'm very happy with. I've increased my skill and built on my personal style of shooting. I've refined my approach to doing portraits, especially since each was done in and entirely new space. Sometimes 3 in a day.
It's giving me the incentive to go in a direction that I would have been hesitant to look at just 10 years ago. When the show goes live in July/August, I will get even more impactful feedback that I hope will guide me in my creative direction. This feedback from the public, I will probably take with a grain of salt. I don't expect anything revolutionary, unless I am eavesdropping. Getting an honest opinion might be difficulty I will have to find a workaround for.
My point is that you need to get involved in personal projects as a way to keep your wits and expand your creative abilities. It doesn't have to be a huge one or an expensive venture. All you have to do is start.
Every photographer should have a backup of all their files. Images, book keeping, contracts and agreements etc.
Yesterday I picked up this little unit from LaCie (pronunced la - see)that I plan to use a s my backup while shooting tethered to my laptop computer. Even though I keep duplicates of each image on my laptop' hard drive, I can't hep feeling that I need to safeguard against a catastrophic event that might take down my laptop hard drive at the worst possible moment.
Imagine having spent days planning, hours shooting and just before you pull up your files for editing, the hard drive bails. It won't spin up, or the whole things just starts to smoke. With an external back up scheme, your chances of getting the job done increases exponentially. I will probably get another in order to have multiple copies stored in different physical locations in the future, but this is a good start. I'm waiting until I upgrade my laptop before I settle on an additional external as the input ports have changed over time.
Ask me how much I would recommend you to have backups for all your necessary files and client projects. I'll tell you that crap happens, and you simply don't know when that might occur. Case in point, I have replaced 2 hard drives from my desktop computer. I did not back up all the files, unfortunately and lost many important files. I have since learned my lesson, and you should too.
This hard drive cost me just over $160 with taxes and will potentially save me thousands should a big problem occur that takes out my laptop drive. (or the entire unit gets stolen) I know with all certainty that it is a worthy investment. No hesitation. For a more robust backup solution, take a look on YouTube for a video by pro photographer, Chase Jarvis as he outlines the lengths he and his crew go to in the name of insuring the safety of their work >>> https://youtu.be/Y-6EQo6it7Y
Down on my belly in the muck, broken twigs, bugs and general forest waste. That's simply what it takes at times, to get the angle and the image.
There are times when my work takes me out of the comfort (?) of my work room and into the not-so-clean-and-tidy real world. Such as was the case lately, when I shot a series of images for local sporting goods retailer, Fontaine Source for Sports.
We headed out to the Harold Town Conservation Area for a few hours of mountain bike excitement. All in the effort to create awe inspiring images that demonstrate the product and show what fun and joy you can have when fully engaged.
This visit, the second of two, was a bit more enjoyable than the first, as we didn't have the flying, biting insects to contend with. And, I was lucky enough to return with all the equipment I arrived with. Always a bonus.
While I wasn't cycling, I did have to deal with a couple arms-full of photo gear while trudging along the same trails as the guys riding. No, I didn't take a nose dive down a hill or trip over one of the myriad branches, boulders, tree roots etc. I did, however have the pleasure of watching others do it. (Sorry, no photos) I believe that there were 3 minor crashes, during the second trip to the trails. No blood or broken bones, but a bit of concern for expensive bikes.
To grab the sensation for the viewer, I felt the need to incorporate a flash or two. Tall trees and low sun angle, meant for a pretty dark scene. The flash clamped to a tree branch in these photos, for example, meant that the riders (Ben Logan above and his friend, Cody) were crisply illuminated against the dark trees. No modifier. Just a 1/8 CTO gel on the flash head for a touch of warmth. The dark trees tend to cool the light, so the CTO is warranted.
All the images were inspected for blunders and very basically edited in Adobe Camera Raw, and that's about it for adjustments. The gems were delivered to Ben at the store where he transferred them to a USB drive. Now the images are proudly displayed on the wall-mounted TV screen for all the visitors to enjoy.
Now honestly, how could I just sit at an office all day when I can have this kind of fun? Sometimes getting dirty is what it takes, and it's way more fun.
Dan O'Toole, whom I'd never heard of before I got the email from the Peterborough Humane Society, seems to be a pretty down-to-Earth dude. He and the family were in the process of moving into a 19th home on the main street of Orono, when I showed up with my minimal photography kit to photograph him and his kitty, Vera.
It seems that Dan is a pretty well known half of a TV sports reporting duo here in Canada. Like I said, before I got the email, I had no idea who he was. I have to say, that even though he is relatively well known amongst a certain crowd, he seems to kept his feet firmly planted. I had a pretty good session with him and his little family. I'd happily do it again.
It's not too often that I volunteer my time, but I felt that it was a good cause and the least I could do to help out the Humane Society. Not that I haven't volunteered in the past. Back in 1996 I shot speed skating and other events for the Winter Special Olympics in Toronto. That was interesting, but I'm not sure that I would put in that much time again without some sort of financial compensation.
Thanks again Dan and Vera. Watch for their portrait in the upcoming fundraising calendar for the Peterborough Humane Society.
Which do I change to get the desired effect on my image?
Well, that depends on your situation and what you are trying to do.
First, let's look at what each of these changes actually do. Aperture. The aperture, or the opening in the lens through which the light travels from your scene to the light-sensitive surface (film or sensor) can be widened or narrowed using the dial indicated in the image above. In this case it is a Nikon D800 camera.
By making the aperture (opening) wider, you are letting in more light from all sources. That includes flash units, sunshine, manmade lights etc. Alternatively, by making the aperture smaller, you are reducing the amount of light that reaches the sensor or film.
Pretty simple. Now lets look at the Shutter speed.
The shutter speed is essentially the length of time the shutter stays open once you press down on the shutter release button. It can be measured in fractions of a second, all the way to minutes and even hours depending on the situation and camera.
Combining these two adjustments will determine how bright your subject will be and to a point, how bright the background will be. It can also determine if a moving subject is frozen still in the scene or if it appears blurry.
Let's say for example that you are photographing a 3 year old child playing in the park, and that you want to freeze the action, keeping the facial features sharp and recognizable. By using a fairly open aperture you can keep the child in focus and blur the background. Something around f5.6-f8 would be a good starting point. Combine this with a shutter speed of around 1/250 second will give you an image that stops the moving child, making them the centre of attention.
One caveat of this technique is that as the lens becomes longer, the depth of sharpness decreases. For example, if I use a 200mm lens at f5.6 my depth of sharpness (depth of field) will be less than if I use a 50mm lens. If I use a wide angle lens, such as 24mm at f5.6, the majority of my scene will be in focus. Keep this in mind when you choose a lens for shooting portraits. The best thing to do in deciding which lens to pick, is to practice before you need to.
Are you shooting landscapes? Do you want all the scene to be in focus from near your location to the distant hills? In this case, a wide angle lens in combination with a small aperture will serve you well. For example, a 15 to 24mm lens could be perfect depending on the composition you are going for. Set that to f11 or so, and your depth of sharpness (depth of field) will be the greatest. When you start shooting at apertures in the area of f16 to f32, the lens may introduce distortion because of how light is diffracted through the tiny opening. This is a good time to do some testing in order to judge the ideal aperture for your situation.
Using a flash to illuminate your subject?
In cases such as these, your aperture is even more important. Read about what to do in these situations in the next blog post.
Feel free to ask questions if you need to clear up anything that confuses you. I'm here to help.
The Internet. We've been deeply involved with it for a number of years now. What have you noticed when you go searching out photography? Well, personally I have noticed that many, many "photographers" are posting images that are similar to their collegues, friends and family. I've also noticed that portrait photographers, wedding photographers, baby photographers and similar are shooting pics that kinda all look the same after a while. His pics look like her pics.
I blame the internet and the unnatural addition to equipment and all that techie stuff. People are simply shooting images that are easy to create. They are letting the equipment do ALL the work. There's little if any, creativity in photography. Except for a very small number of truly creative photographic artists. Frankly, it's getting pretty dull to surf the net and continually see the same process, same lighting (none), same angles, same colour palette. I'm almost prone to saying that if you own a camera, you should be obligated to graduate from a creative arts course before you can use it. Certainly before you post any images.
Sure, it's easy to make an image with practically any technology with a lens on one end and a recording medium on the other. Sure, it's easy to share that image with the world a few seconds later. But does that mean that we should? Wouldn't it be more special to simply watch and listen at the concert instead of holding your smartphone over your head for 2 hours, simply so you can watch it on that tiny screen in a weeks time? What happened to just "being present"? That's another pet peeve, I'll save for another time.
So how do we set our pictures apart from the myriad of others out there?
I think it comes down to taste, creativity and final usage.
Taste: I have no interest in looking at the same dull image, no matter who shot it. If you post a photo of a cat being injured, I'm not spending more than a second to view it. It will get passed over pretty darned quick.
Creativity: I will spend more time appreciating an image that obviously was the result of a creative process. Double exposures, muted tones (for a purpose), classic film processes. If it suites the image and shows a great effort on the behalf of the photographer, I am probably more interested in looking at it.
Final usage: Images that are clearly only created for the purpose of sharing on social media are of no interest to me. They are literally a waste of my attention and will get quickly passed over. Images that are created for a specific purpose will hold my attention longer. A set of pictures showing the interior of a spectacular home, if done in an expert fashion, will keep me watching and absorbing. Photos of a bike race in a cycling magazine will have me reading all about the product, event, people. You get the idea.
Setting your work apart means that you stand out from the crowd. Your work is easily identifiable by genre, visual style, use of equipment and technique. Don't shoot stuff just because you can. Shoot stuff that moves you, and do it in a way that is distinctive and remarkable. If I don't remember seeing your image a day after I did, It wasn't worth remarking on.
Photo-Artist working a personal vision.
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