Friday, June 26, 2009

Ten Top Tips for a Photographer's Wish List

Photo taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5A 9.1MP Digital Camera

Being on top of your game in the photographic field not only requires top photo skills but keeping up with new developments. Here are some product tips and short review of what I have found interesting.

Some of these I own myself, others are on my wish list. And some, I thought might just be interesting, but I have no plans to purchase. Check my recommendations here for an honest opinion.

1. Eye-FI SDHC card

* Wi-Fi Security: Static WEP 40/104/128, WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK Mac and PC Compatible
* Stores photos and videos like a standard memory card
* Wireless upload of photos and videos via Wi-Fi to your PC or sharing, printing, social networking or blogging web site, even when computer is off
* Upload photos and videos wirelessly from over 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across the nation.
* Automatically adds geographic location information (geotags) so you can easily find and organize your memories.

This is not on my list to buy. A neat idea but is it really necessary item for me or you?

2. Polaroid Pogo:

* Digital camera with integrated printer instantly delivers full-bleed borderless images that are dry to the touch
* Features automatic image quality optimization with water-resistant, tear-proof, smudge-proof and peel-off prints
* Prints 2 x 3-inch borderless color images in under a minute
* Print speed: 60 seconds per print, from snap to share

Wow, I thought this was interesting Polaroid is getting back to the instant picture concept again. I can't see the need for this camera for me. But there maybe some creative minds out there that see advantages I do not.

3. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5A 9.1MP Digital Camera

This is one very cool camera to carry in your pocket. I bought one before a trip to Yellowstone and I am impressed by its ability to have a long aspect ratio. As an added benefit the HD movies it can record are just superb. The picture above is an example of its ability. I use this camera on every camera shoot even if I have my DSLR with me. An indispensable pocket camera.

4. LensBaby Composer:

Yes, this is definitely on my wish list. I have seen what can be done with this lens and I want a lens baby to call my own.

This new lens from Lens Baby offers creative control for the experimental photographer. The ball and socket design and interchangeable lenses offer the ultimate in getting that sweet spot just were you want it.

5. Joby GP1-EGEN Gorillapod Flexible Tripod:

This tripod is definitely on my to buy list. I see uses for it when I do event photography and need a third hand.

Flexible tripod designed for digital cameras weighing up to 9.7 ounces (275 grams)
Fits into your purse, backpack, or jacket pocket
Innovative segmented leg design to ensure secure mounting
Standard universal 1/4-20 screw for attaching your camera to the tripod mount

6. Caselogic UP-2 Universal Pockets:

If you have had any experience with caselogic cases, you know their quality at a reasonable price. These pockets are great for small camera protection in your pocket. I own several and use them daily. One is connected to my key chain now.

7. Holga 120CFN Medium Format Fixed Focus Camera with Lens and Built-in Flash with Color Filter Wheel:

Not exactly an innovation, but a blast back into film cameras. This is one of the premier cult cameras with all the desired idiosyncrasies of the beatnik artistic photographer. Be sure to read extensively about lomo photography. And you too can become a debutant in off beat artistic photography.

This goes on and off my wish list as often as a coin turns up head or tails. A low priority, but may get one someday.

8. Lowerpro Sling bag:

Definitely on my to buy list. I have a camera bag that carries all my equipment and it is great to get everything in one spot: the car. Twenty pounds is a little much to lug around. A small light bag like this would be perfect to carry the essentials on a hike or event shoot.

9. Tamrac N-5055 Neoprene Shock Absorber Digital Camera Strap (Black):

I own this and love it. Do you ever get tired of the camera strap digging into you neck. This solves the issue and I love the two pockets on the strap that I store my memory cards. Now I always have my memory cards ready to change. A definite must have.

10. Wacom Intuos tablet:

You mouse is like a bar of soap on rough slate. This is like a precise instrument that can reach to the one pixel level. I have this love it and do not know how I did without it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Top Ten Tips to evaluate your photos

Two wolves at Yellowstone

Photo caption: “When twilight drops her curtain down and pins it with a star, remember that you have a friend though she may wander far.”

How to self critique your photograph, may be one of the most important evaluations that you can do. This can be especially important if you are photographing for others. You need to refine your eye to do a critical analysis of your photograph.

1. Begin before processing: Remember to take many pictures. And if possible from different angles and heights. Check the framing, composition and lighting. Process the picture that has the necessary material in the raw form to make an exceptional photograph.

2. Process your photograph: Use your best skills in processing a photograph. Photographer's have style. What is yours? Is it based in the tonality of the picture, light, contrast and composition? Is the photograph telling telling your audience to say wow? Just from the implementation of your style.

The way to develop style is to look at the photographs of those that are considered best. Look for their style, but do not be a mimic.

Could you recreate the styles you like? And more importantly can you use what you learn from others as an embarking point to develop your own unique work.

3. Does your photograph have depth: Photographs are two dimensions portraying three dimensions. If your photograph looks flat you automatically lose your audience.

Refine your understanding of composition by thinking in spacial terms. Good photography leads the eye through the photograph. The deeper a person can look into a photograph is directly related to the appeal of the photograph to the viewer.

Simple principles of geometry can add greatly to the feeling of depth.

4. Does your photograph tell a story: Not all good photographs tell a story. Nevertheless, if your photograph does it will help peak the interest level in your photograph.

The story need not be elaborate, but does the photograph tell you something or make you think.

5. Does you photograph have meaning: Photography is much like writing in this sense. You have to define your audience. Who is your audience?

Are you playing to a larger universal audience or more of a personal audience? Does your photograph have meaning to your audience?

6. Does your photograph capture the senses: By default photography is a visual medium. But good photography can and does engage other senses.

How does the photograph make you feel? What other senses are engaged: taste, hearing, touch. Does your photograph speak to other senses?

7. Is your photograph half baked: Did you take your photograph out of the processing oven too soon?

Enlarge your photograph and look at the small details. Are these the best they can be? If not correct your photograph. I usually magnify my photo to about 800 percent and pour over the details looking for flaws.

8. Can you be unbiased in your appraisal: Everyone is subjective including me. Realize you are not looking through the perfect prism when you evaluate your photographs.

Put your photographs up in social sharing sites like Flickr. On these sites people are generally complementary about your photographs, so a measure of best photos could be the number of views and invites you may get.

Sometimes harsh criticism is hard to find. Any you do get should be valued and looked into carefully.

9. Review your photographs again at a later date: Take a fresh look at some of your older photographs. How can they be improved?

Consider reprocessing or even deleting to have the best photographs represent your work.

10. Continually review the work of others: Study the work of others often. Surf the net and see what surfaces to the top.

See what others think are great and try to understand how it was done. Photography is a school that you never graduate it is a continual learning process.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Top Ten Essentials for Event Photography

For the last two years, I have been doing dirt race track photography. And it has been a successful sideline. If you would like to get into event photography there are some essential steps that I have learned from experience.

1. Do your research: Pick an event that you know you will enjoy. The ideal event will be re-occurring on a weekly basis. You will want to be a fixture at the event coming each week.

Make sure you are welcome, talk to the owners/mangers and tell them you would like to help support their event. Show them samples of your work so they know what you can do. And by all means have your own style to separate yourself from other photographers.

2. Have the right equipment: I use a Nikon D80 and several vr lenses.

Beyond the camera equipment you may need a Step Stool, a folding table, and a way to display and carry your photos. And a notebook and a pen to keep track of orders.

Drinks, food and a good hat I have found all necessary for long intensive shoots. You may be standing in the sun all day and these essentials are a necessity. And have some camera rain protectorsand plastic bags just in case you need to cover things up.

3. Develop a methodology: If you have to carry everything figure out the best way to make things easier for you. For instance I use reusable shopping bags to combine all the small items, a back pack for my camera gear, and bungee cords to tie together my step stool and aluminum table.

Realize your day is going to cover two functions shooting pictures and selling. Figure a good times for both these activities. A lot of my selling happens a couple of hours before the event begins.

Scope out the best place for sales. Near restrooms and near concession stands are two prime locations for sales. If at all possible have an assistant to help you. I have found that indispensable. Event photography is hard work I take at least a 15 gig card an event. And many times more.

4. Maximize your sales: Most of my sales happen at the event itself. I shoot one week and have the pictures available the following week.

As you get to know the participants and fans you will get requests for pictures. I always print spec photos (8x10s) and keep them in notebooks and keep them displayed through the event.

I use plastic sheet protectorsand when I make a sale include the protector in the sale. You want to keep your prices reasonable and you will get repeat sales week to week.

5. Miminize costs: I do most of printing locally. It took me awhile to find a printer that was reasonable and good. I use the profits from the previous week to print the following week.

6. Have an online gallery: This can help you have added sales directly online. Mostly the participants tell me I saw that picture online and I want it. This has really been a boon for business. I also have two sites that promote the event itself.

On one, I feature many of the photo products that I can do with their favorite photos. Not only do the event managers like this, but it has increased my sales of other photo products. Take a look at my video blog and take a careful view of the left sidebar.

You will quickly see how I capitalize on sales. I also have a YouTube site that links directly back to my gallery.

7. Treat the event staff well: There is nothing like building good will. I often give freebies to the event staff and the owners. After all, if it was not for them the event would not be happening at all. Do all you can to be a positive asset to the event itself.

8. Build relationships: The more relationships you build the more successful you will be overall. Perhaps one way of thinking about this is like building incoming links to a web page. The more incoming links the more opportunities you will have. And perhaps even beyond the event for other photo shooting opportunities.

9. Schedule time for photo processing: I usually spend a full 8 hours or longer processing photos before the next event. Photo processing is something I do not rush through. Plan ahead and get your work done.

10. Consider what you can do better: Would a Portable Printerimprove your sales? Do you treat everyone with the respect they deserve? Keep asking yourself how you can refine your craft.

Related Posts:

Ten ways to sell your art and photography

Ten Top ways photographs sell

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Top Ten raw videos of the Iranian Riots

Iran has been shutting down media contact with the outside world. Hoping that the world would not see what is occurring in Iran. Regardless of their efforts pictures and videos are getting out. The majority of the videos below are not produced by video journalists, but coming directly from people in the street.

Some amazing pictures of the riots can be found here on the Big Picture.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ten Top Tips for Winning Photo Contests

Title: Angel Awakening
caption: If one looks closely enough, one can see angels in every piece of art. ~Adeline Cullen Ray

The above photographic montage will be entered in a contest in July. I have based my decision on this entry on the ten tips below. I am already thinking this will be a winner.

Can you win photo contests? I would think so. I have had winning entries in over 50 percent of the contests that I have entered, both locally and internationally. So are there secret keys to success? Yes, so please don't share these tips it is our secret.

This is what I do with every contest.

1. Read all the rules carefully: Be sure what you are getting yourself into. Some contest are just a sham to have your copyright. So be careful. Once you have read the rules comply. And, make sure you use the exact format the contest requires.

2. Look at the past winners: Here you can find exactly what the contest is interested in. Do you have photos of similar quality? Study the past winners for compositional elements, color, subject, and representation. Then study again. These people were not winners of a lottery. They fulfilled the expectations of the judges. And, if a contest put out by a company, or organization: How does your photo play thematically into the message or mission of the contest sponsor?

3. Look at the judges: Not always but often the judges are listed. Now, you need to search and seek out their photographs. Study their photographs carefully. Find in their photographs salient traits and style. Study carefully and you will unearth their taste. Study their bio and their writings. The more you know about who is judging you the better you will be in choosing the photograph to enter. If they write about light, composition or other photo attributes: Then these are the secret keys in unlocking their interest your submission. I would not say mimic their style, but I would say try to present what they would appreciate in a photograph.

4. Go through your photographs carefully: Set up folders of candidate photos based on you would think the judge would pick. Pick perhaps a hundred. Put all your candidates in a folder called "winners." Yes, you need to think positively. Pick out the top ten and put in another folder called "the winners."

5. Get appraisals from others: Now this is the real test. Invite some friends over for evening of photo appraisal. Go over everything you learned in researching tips two and three. Ask them to play the role of judge and show them the folder called "winners." Ask them to pick out the top ten that makes the grade. Once done, compare with your own top ten picks. How many choices were the same? Now, you should have a good idea of which photos to use in the competition.

6. Decide if you should start from scratch: Now decide if your photos really have the mustard to compete. Be honest. If the photos are not competitive you have a camera and editing tools. Armed with what you know it is time for a photo outing and get what you need.

7. Examine your selections: Put your selected photographs back into your editing program. Enlarge you photograph and check every small detail of the photograph. Decide if it can be improved. Attention to detail is an important key. You should offer the most technically correct photograph that you can. Perhaps you have learned a new technique of improvement since you last edited your photograph that you can now apply.

8. Title and caption: Taking the knowledge you have learned in tips two and three, carefully decide on a title and caption. Sometimes the decision of a title and caption for me can take longer than actually editing the photo itself. Do not take the importance of this lightly.

9. The unavoidable bell curve: Realize you are trying to push you photograph to the very best end of the bell curve. If you have followed these tips you are getting to the good end. Ninety percent of the photos submitted will be rejected quickly. You should now have a photo in the top ten percent. One little tip, is to submit early. It may be okay to submit your taxes at the last moment, but photo contests are a very different matter.

10. Be a winner: You are a winner if you followed these steps. You have improved your chances of winning the photo contest dramatically. So sit back and wait for the notification. Don't be disappointed if you lose. Look at the winner and his photos. Congratulate them in your mind. My experience is being a winner 50 percent of the time. Try again and know you are going to succeed.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ten Top Things Photogs Want to Implant in Your Mind

If photographers could control your thoughts:

1. This would look great on my wall. Right above the sofa. It's going right in my shopping cart. It is a sure thing this is going to go up in value. I think I will collect all his art.

2. I would really love this hanging on the wall behind my office desk.

3. I want to put this right on my magazine cover.

4. I think this would work great for an ad for my business. It will pop right off the page.

5. This picture would be great for my announcement. I wonder if he does cards, postcards and matching stamps?

6. My customers would love a calendar like this and it would promote my business for a year.

7. This photo would be a great book cover. I am going to make contact right away.

8. Wow this would be perfect in the movie I am making.

9. I really want this on my business card, people would be sure to keep it.

10. I could surprise my love with a card while I am away so she will think of me.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ten Top Reasons Photographs Say WOW

Beyond all the rules of photographic is the intangible WOW. WOW happens at lightening speed in the viewer's mind. They know WOW and perhaps they can not explain why they were WOWed.

So how can the photographer achieve WOW in the viewer's mind? To reach this intangible are some tangible hints.

1. The medium is the message: Marshall McLuhan theorizes on the effect of media on the mind. In the Wikipedia explanation is a good start in understanding the relationship of the viewer's mind in response to media. And of course photography is a medium.

2. Tonal quality: Tonal quality can add sensual undertones. These can be over stated or under stated. And, I suppose this relates to style. Even in Black and White photography the tones of transition can have a deep effect on the viewer mind. In color photography, I try to achieve a pleasing smoothness to acquire that eye candy feel. Other photographers delve into harsher tone transitions. The real point is to offer something unique that is not found in snap photography. Tonal quality is an evolving process for me, and it has been part of the evolution of my style.

3. Style: Style is the fingerprint that an artistic photographer places on his photograph. Style can be achieved from the compositional elements, the post processing techniques and even the camera settings, or the kind of camera a photographer uses.

All of these elements really have a bearing on style. And each good photographer develops his unique approach. Many photographers try to emulate work.

Imitation may be the best flattery, but learning from others then evoking your own style should be your goal. Style is a process that grows with the photographer. As I look through my photographs, I definitely see a progression. I have posted most of my work on Flickr and a time line of development can be noticed.

4. Atmosphere: What photographs are likely to send a viewer into orbit?

I have found that atmosphere can be a deciding quality. A foggy scenes taken in the woods, a mountain landscape or a river scene adds immensely to the visual appeal of the viewer. I look for these atmospheric events to add accent to my photographs. I know when nature interacts it positively affects the WOW.

5. Interaction: When people or animals interact in your photographs you tell a story.

You have one frame to tell a story. Your subject can interact with others or even the viewer. A one frame story does not have to be the whole story. If it leaves something unsaid the better. Letting the viewers interact with their own musings is the ultimate in making a photograph interactive.

6. A sense of mystery: We always enjoy the imponderables. If our photographs can inspire a viewer to reflect we will hook the viewer.

I really can just can't tell you how to do a photograph with a sense of mystery. I can give you a hint. It is all in how the photograph leads the eye. If you can lead the eye into a deeper more provoking space you may achieve the sense of mystery.

7. A sense of disbelief: In good novels an author who can suspend the sense of disbelief can consume the reader.

The same is true for the artistic photographer. No photograph is an exact representation of reality, even snap shots. Reality is changed from three dimensions to two. Colors light and contrast are different from what reality presents. How effectively a photographer makes this transition depends on his ability to suspend the viewer's sense of disbelief.

8. Thematic Photography: Thematic photography helps a photographer develop his specialty and evoke style.

Thematic photography can broadly span the photography a person does. Nature, politics, sports, journalism and even wedding photography can promote certain styles.

Personally, I present two themes in my photography. I find it interesting that each have evolved separately. My style in nature photography is different than my race car photography. Themes help build a photographer's evolution in creating style and his own personal WOW factor.

9. Conceptual Photography: The idea here is to covey a concept.

As a nature photographer I am constantly emphasizing the importance of nature. Photographs are subliminal messages.

Other photographers have other messages in the photographs. I do not always agree with their message, but I appreciate the style and delivery. Every time you can inspire a viewer to think you are tapping into the WOW factor.

10. Originality: Perhaps you have gleamed from my last nine points an emphasis on originality.

If your photographs fall into a general commonality with others you are not exploiting the WOW factor.

Photoshop tutorials tend to lend to that commonality. And while I do suggest you explore these, you might try striking out on your own plowing new ground of creativeness. After all, only if you are different will you truly tap into the WOW factor of your viewers.