BrickHouse Photo School

Tips, Tricks and Reviews for Photo Hobbyists

Posts Tagged ‘creative

Keep Your Eyes Open and Be Patient

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Since photography is a form of visual communication, it seems a little silly to tell photographers-in-training to keep their eyes open. Once you start concentrating on composition, camera adjustments and the like, however, it’s easy to forgot to just stop and look.

There’s a whole world going on outside of your camera lens and you have to train yourself not to be too myopic. It’s not easy. As you’re learning the steps to go through to make a good image such as making sure you have the correct ISO, white balance, aperture and shutter values selected and making sure a ton of other things that can go wrong, don’t, you simply forget to look.

Digital cameras have made the whole photographic process much easier and has brought photography to even more people, which are all good things. The downside, however, is that people spend less time composing good images and more time “spraying-and-praying,” a term I heard once for someone who just takes a whole lot of pictures and prays one of them turns out OK.

In photography, we measure time in fractions of a second and as any photographer knows, a whole lot goes on in 1/250th of a second. That’s why it’s important to keep your eyes open and learn to anticipate an event.

Patience is also a virtue not lost on photographers. I know I have spent countless hours waiting for something to happen in front of my lens and it seems right when I’m about to give up hope, an opportunity presents itself.

Be patient and keep a lookout for good images to appear. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Be patient and keep a lookout for good images to appear. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

I use for an example this picture of a little boy riding the lamb. I was sent to cover a fair in Gallup, New Mexico, and it was the last assignment of the day. It was hot and I wanted nothing more than to shoot the assignment and go back to the hotel and in the air condition. Yet, nothing was visually pleasing. It was the typical fairground scene and there were no images that really made me happy. Then I heard over the loudspeaker an announcement asking any children who wanted to participate in the “mutton bustin’” to report to the arena.

I decided I would go and see what “mutton bustin’” was because it at least sounded interesting. Then I saw this little boy with his flame-throwing helmet and I knew the image was going to happen.

An occasional good image may be chalked up to accident or luck. To successfully, time-after-time, make good images isn’t luck or happenstance. It’s training and using your knowledge to work to your advantage.

Good luck and keep shooting!

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Written by jeremyparce

February 25, 2009 at 12:21 am

Photo Critique 5: ‘Colombia’s Endless Mountains,’ by Gabriel M.

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I love critiquing photos. It’s the best way to learn and get new ideas for photo shoots. Today, we’re going to critique an image made by Gabriel, a friend of mine in Miami, Florida from his trip home to Colombia.

'Colombia's Endless Mountains,' by Gabriel of Miami, Florida.

'Colombia's Endless Mountains,' by Gabriel of Miami, Florida.

General Overview:
Gabriel, this is a great idea for a landscape image. You found a beautiful location and you waited until the right time to make the image. You have a great eye for natural beauty and it shines through in this image. I know landscapes are relatively new for you since most of your shots are portraits so it’s nice to see you branching out and trying other genres.

I like the idea of using the barbed-wire fence in the foreground. I think it helps set an interesting contrast. You have the fence, which depicts captivity and then the background of mountains that seem to never end. I think it’s a nice play on the theme.

Very well done.

Improvements
There are a few improvements I will suggest. First, the sun in the right corner is too distracting. In order to capture the dark background, you needed to use a slower shutter speed, thus causing the sun to appear overexposed. There’s a few ways around this. On camera, you could use a neutral density or a split density filter to help offset the overexposure or you could have selected an area where the sun was not so imposing. In post production, you could have cropped out the sun or used the dodge tool to help bring it back into proper exposure.

Second, the mid-ground is a little too underexposed. I think you should have dodged the sun, burned in the mid-ground and it would have made a better image.

For your reference, I did a quick edit. See if you like the difference or not.

A quick re-edit by Jeremy Schneider. (Photo Credit: Gabriel M. of Miami, Florida)

A quick re-edit by Jeremy Schneider. (Photo Credit: Gabriel M. of Miami, Florida)

You always do a great job. Keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing some more images from you.

Thanks for the submission, good luck and keep shooting!

If you would like to submit a photo for critique, e-mail us at submissions@brickhousephotoschool.com.

Written by jeremyparce

February 24, 2009 at 11:46 pm

Photographers You Should Know: George W. Ackerman

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Information for this article came from the U.S. Archives
George W. Ackerman was one of the many U.S. government-employed photographers who made images during the Great Depression. Ackerman started with the Bureau of Plant Industry for an annual salary of $900.

Unlike his peers, Ackerman’s photographs often depicted farmers utilizing modern farm machinery and the modern advances that had come to the U.S. agriculture community. He traveled the nation, documenting how farmers labored. Many of his peers during the Depression often focused on the poverty and difficult conditions many rural people faced, yet Ackerman showed hope in his images by focusing on the positive things that were happening in rural America.

'Farm Family Listening to Their Radio.' (Photo Credit: George W. Ackerman, August 15, 1930 National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Extension Service)

'Farm Family Listening to Their Radio.' (Photo Credit: George W. Ackerman, August 15, 1930 National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Extension Service)

Ackerman said he tried “to paint the rural scene as I saw it, modern and up-to-date in many respects.”

During his tenure in federal service, Ackerman made an estimated 50,000 photographs during his 40-year career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, many of which appeared in private and government agriculture publications. Often, those images were not credited to him.

Workshops

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Here’s a list of photographic workshops that may interest you:

John C. Campbell Folk School
March 29-April 4: “Photography Boot Camp”
April 26-May 1: “Nature Photography for Digital Enthusiasts”
June 28-July 4: “Digital Macro Photography”
July 5-10: “Introduction to Photography”

Wilderness Institute
August 28-September 8: “Alaska Adventures 2009”

Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures
April 2-5: “Savannah, Grand Lady of the South”
April 23-26: “Springtime on the Outer Banks”
May 21-24: “Maine Coast & Lighthouses”
June 12-19: “French Wine Country”

Photo Critique 4: ‘Barb,’ by Jona M.

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I love critiquing photos. It’s the best way to learn and get new ideas for photo shoots. Today, we’re going to critique an image made by Jona, a former student of mine in Miami, Florida.

'Barb," by Jona M. of Miami, Florida

'Barb,' by Jona M. of Miami, Florida

General Overview:
Jona, as usual, when you put your mind to doing something, you do it well. This is a nice image and it’s good to see you flex your creativity. The staging on this shot is very nice and I’m glad you decided to do something a little more stylish – the hair over the eyes – than just a simple, head-on shot.
Again, this is a nice image due to its simplicity. You use a simple theme and let your creativity shine through without forcing the image.
Great job.

Improvements
There are a few improvements I would like to suggest. First, I’m not sure I like the graduated background. I would like to see the image with a solid background, especially the blue. If you are going to use a graduated background, work on the vignetting in the right corners so the brown stays relatively consistent. Also, there’s some vignetting going on in the left corners with the blue. If the vignetting is intentional, perhaps a little more would make it look so, versus now, which makes it look accidental.

Second, you need to work with the model on facial expression. I’m not particularly happy with the way the lips formed in this image. Don’t be afraid to tell the model what message you would like to convey in the image so she knows what to do. Give her a theme and see what she comes up with.

Third, spend some time in Adobe Photoshop and clean up some of the fly-away hair. Then, retouch the skin so it’s a little more smooth and consistent. Finally, there’s a hotspot on the right shoulder that you should try to tone down just a little bit.

As usual, you did a great job overall. Keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing some more images from you.
Thanks for the submission, good luck and keep shooting!

If you would like to submit a photo for critique, e-mail us at submissions@brickhousephotoschool.com.

Written by jeremyparce

February 21, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Tilted Horizons: Maybe, Maybe Not

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Of all the techniques a photographer can use to create a sense of motion in an image, tilted horizons are one of the gray areas. Some people like them; some don’t. Some photos look good with a tilted horizon; some don’t.

Tilted horizons are created by holding the camera off-level. It’s a technique used to give a sense of motion or to throw the viewer off angle. It’s a technique that can easily backfire as some images just really don’t look good tilted no matter what you do.

Sometimes a tilted horizon really expresses a sense of motion. It's a good technique but not applicable to every shot you're going to make. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Sometimes a tilted horizon really expresses a sense of motion. It's a good technique but not applicable to every shot you're going to make. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

But don’t be afraid to try it. You never know when you’re gonna make an image that looks good.

Here’s some tips to follow when shooting a tilted horizon:

  • Don’t make the tilt look accidental. If you’re going to tilt the horizon, it has to demonstrate that you did it on purpose or else it looks like an “oops” moment.
  • Try different degrees of tilt. Move your camera different degrees between true horizontal and true vertical.
  • Make sure the angle you use compliments the directional movement you want to emphasize.
  • Don’t make the tilted image the only photo you take of the subject. The tilted horizon shot should be one of those “let’s see if this works” photos, and not “all of the eggs in one basket” photo.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 21, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Photo Tips: The Two-Minute Portrait

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The words, “smile and say cheese!” usually does not mark the beginning of a great portrait. As a beginning/novice photographer, you probably want to make portraits that “look professional” but lack the information on how to do so.
It’s simple if you follow some very basic steps. Here are some tips that will have you making great portraits in less time than you would think.

Step 1: Get the right background

If you want to highlight the subject, don’t allow the background to compete with the subject for the viewer’s attention. Busy, noisy and loud backgrounds distract from the subject unless you’re very experienced and have a great lighting setup and even then it’s a crapshoot.
Keep the background simple. Backgrounds with solid, neutral colors work best. A white wall is ideal but any solid color works.

A simple background and good natural lighting will help you make great portraits. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

A simple background and good natural lighting will help you make great portraits. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Step 2: Get Good Lighting
Unless you’re using a shoe-mounted flash or other pro-quality lighting, find a strong source of natural light. A portrait near a window where there is a good quantity of light is ideal or go outside where natural light is plentiful.
Remember, the sun should be to the side of your subject. If the subject is looking directly into the sun his/her eyes will squint and if the sun is behind the subject, you’ll get an underexposure.
The popup flash on your camera will probably ruin a good portrait with cast shadows so try to avoid using the popup flash.
If you are using a shoe-mounted flash, then try bouncing the flash instead of shooting with the flash pointed directly at the subject.

Step 3: Get Vertical
Horizontally aligned portraits don’t really allow you to utilize your frame the best. Shoot vertical instead so you get more up-and-down room. Even better, shoot the portrait both horizontally and vertically and see for yourself which photo looks better.

Step 4: Get the Right Emotion
Portrait subjects don’t always have to smile. Believe it or not, that’s a tough habit to break for some photographers. Don’t get me wrong, smiling is OK but try to make it less forced. A nice, natural smile will outshine a “Say Cheese!” photo anytime.

Step 5: Get Close
Try to fill the frame with your subject. Try getting close and then work you way back.

Don't be afraid to get close to your subject. Try different distances for different looks. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Don't be afraid to get close to your subject. Try different distances for different looks. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Bonus Tip:
Don’t forget to try the images in both color AND black and white. B&W will help really well if you want to focus more on the subject than the color of clothing or background colors. Plus, B&W gives an image a nice, “classy” feel.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 20, 2009 at 3:15 am