“Open your presents at Christmastime but be thankful year round for the gifts you receive.”—Lorinda Ruth Lowen
Submitted for your Secret Santa’s approval: a list of gizmos, gadgets, and gear for the digitally-minded who “have everything” but didn’t know that they really needed lots more stuff to produce that ultimate image. Use this month’s...
"...for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill." --J. R. R. Tolkien
People often ask me, "What digital camera should I buy?" They then typically ignore my advice after I answer them. A person, let's call him Steve, asks me which of two cameras to purchase. Based on his needs, I suggest...
One of the most interesting promotional items created for my long out-of-print book The Photographer’s Digital Studio was a cartoon drawn by the brilliant artist John Grimes (www.grimescartoons.com) which showed trays of developer, stop, fix, and wash with floppy disks being dipped in and out of each one. The caption: “A common mistake in digital photography.” Years ago I labored many hours in a wet darkroom to produce a composite image showing what an historic statue would look like when moved to a different location. Digital imaging software would have let me do a better job in less than an hour and I wouldn’t have had to spend time working in the dark with smelly chemicals. Part of the reason some people even ask “why digital?” is that many believe that digital imaging is somehow different than traditional photography. That’s not really true. I think there is no more difference between the two methodologies than you would find when comparing photographers working with large format view cameras to those grabbing snapshots with point-and-shoot cameras. It’s just that the tools are different and this month I’ll introduce you to some new image-processing tools.
One of the guiding philosophies for my personal work is to “have fun with photography” and that involves using image manipulation software to create either an idealized version, as in a portrait of a subject, or an interpretation of a previously captured photograph. Retouching portraits goes back to the hand-tinting Mathew Brady added to daguerreotypes delivered to his customers but in more recent times photojournalists have been fired from newspapers for applying a bit too much Photoshop on their images. The whole question of what is “too much” is fraught with contradictions: since we see the world in color, is a black-and-white photograph manipulated? Is burning and dodging or changing an image’s contrast a manipulation? Trying to find answers that everyone will agree on is enough to make you crazy so I don’t let it bother me because all I want to do is have fun with my photography. If you agree, here are some useful tools to help you do just that.
“Human mechanisms are made by human hands, Robin. None of them is infallible.”—Adam West as Batman
What’s in your utility belt? This month, I’ll introduce you to some useful Mac OS and Windows imaging software that will enhance productivity, increase your creativity, and often costs just a few bucks. To add some spice I’ve included a few useful hardware accessories that will make life in...
As I write this controversy is swirling over Adobe Systems abandoning Creative Suite to focus on Creative Cloud. Even if this is solved by the time you read this, there will come a time when you’ll have to face a decision about whether or not to upgrade your software. There are two different schools of thought on software upgrades: one approach suggests that if a program is working, why spend money to upgrade? The reason behind this philosophy is that sometimes upgrades create more problems than they solve. A second viewpoint is to always upgrade to the latest version—no matter what. The thinking is that since change is inevitable that you should upgrade to the newer version to minimize or eliminate future problems. How Adobe has handled Camera Raw over the past few Photoshop upgrades is a testament to that theory. Over the years I’ve changed from an upgrade-regardless person to a more cautious approach. I may prefer to have the latest version of everything being used on a daily basis but now will wait weeks (months, years?) all the while listening to the drumbeat of grumbles from early adopters. That’s why I’m waiting to see what happens with Adobe’s new policy.
October is my favorite time of year: not only is it Mary’s birthday month, but the mornings are brisk and the aspens are turning gold. Winter is around the corner, so there’s still time to get outside and make photographs before the snow gets too deep and the temperatures get too chilly for my old bones. Shutterbug’s editorial offices are in Florida and sometimes when it’s cold and snowy I envy those lucky sun worshippers, and yet I still love October in Colorado. The crisp air gets me anxious to make new images and to capture infrared photographs before the leaves are gone with the wind. Just remember, as always, to have fun with your photography no matter what the weather is like.
“They say it’s your birthday. We’re gonna have a good time.”—John Lennon & Paul McCartney
May is National Photography Month that was originally started by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 as a week-long American Photography Celebration but now it is a full month. It’s also the former home of the “Take Your Camera to Work Day” that I...
“Photography is about finding out what can happen in the frame. When you put four edges around some facts, you change those facts.”—Garry Winogrand
History was made on October 11, 2008 when 200,000 people at Lowe’s Motor Speedway—167,000 in the stands, another 50,000 in the infield—stood for a moment of silence before a NASCAR race to honor the memory of...
At this time of year some Shutterbug readers are getting ready to go back to school while others, like me, feel they’ve already put in enough classroom seat time, but that doesn’t mean we should stop learning. One of the best ways to improve your photography is the self-assignment. Many people think they need to travel to exotic locations to do this, when chances are there are great photo ops just around the corner. For the past 30 years my personal self-assignment has been making images near my home. How close? I prefer making photographs I can easily walk to from my front door. This self-assignment wasn’t done for any commercial purpose and it’s personal projects like this that help us stretch our talents, skills, and imagination. What’s your self-assignment?
All You really need to take a picture is a camera and a lens, but if you decide what you really want to do is make a photograph, a few extra tools come in handy. Any one of the imaging tools in this month’s column will make creating a photograph or making a portrait easier and, in some cases, better than they would be otherwise. For the pro or aspiring professional anything that increases productivity by streamlining workflow while improving the quality of the product delivered to the client translates into making money too, not just photographs.
Many people think they need to travel far from home to make photographs when, chances are, if they took the time to look around they would discover that photo ops are right around the corner. That’s where self-assignments come in: for the past 30 years mine has been making images that I can walk to from my front door—like the tiny flower in my front yard I captured this afternoon. It wasn’t made for any commercial purpose and is just a way for me to appreciate and document the small things of daily life that many people take for granted. It’s personal projects like this that help us all stretch our talent, skill, and imagination. You can think of it is as a form of digital meditation.
Richard Avedon once said, “I think all art is about control—the encounter between control and the uncontrollable.” That’s what a dedicated studio, no matter what size it may be or where it may be located, provides a photographer. It is a safe haven from the real world where, like the Outer Limits voice says, you can control the lighting, the background, and the subject. When working in this kind of environment, I control everything from the subject’s pose to their clothing and makeup and the resulting photographs tend to be as much a portrait of me as they are of my subjects. What often emerges from all that control is a style. Photographic style is not something I’m conscious about when shooting but the truth is that over time we all develop a signature way of shooting. The danger is, of course, that we keep shooting that same way or different versions of the same shot for the rest of our lives, so any style you develop must grow and change as you learn. To get you started, here are a few tools that will help enhance or define your style.
“How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb? Fifty. One to change the bulb, and 49 to say, “I could have done that!”—Anonymous
I wanted to kick off this month’s column with an old trick that gets better every year: green screen photography. Lighting considerations are extremely critical when shooting against a green or blue background. Your...