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Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

I came up with this neat little memory/visual trick to let me know at a glance the charge state of my NiMh batteries. It’s really simple. If your batteries are fresh from the charger, orient all the positive ends in the same direction when you store them. If your batteries have been used, simply flip one of the batteries (I charge in units of four) around so that three will show the positive ends, and the fourth will be, of course, negative and the indicator of your batteries’ condition. The photo below illustrates what a set ready for recharge looks like. 

 

If the batteries arent all showing the same pole, its time for a recharge!

If the batteries aren't all showing the same pole, it's time for a recharge!

 One more battery-related tip…look for the new low-discharge NiMh batteries. Instead of draining 1% of their power per DAY, these babies will lose 1% of their juice over a MONTH! That means you can toss ’em into your camera bag and be confident that they’ll be ready to work six months from now. They cost a bit more but, for my money, they’re worth it.

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Don’t be one of those people who say “I wish I had my camera with me” after something truly spectacular happens. Carry your camera with you wherever you go! If you’re unable ot carry a bulky DSLR, grab a point and shoot with a sensor chip of at least 3 megapixels resolution and stick it in your purse or jacket pocket.

You never know when you’ll be witness to a great photo situation and, believe me, you’ll kick yourself if you can’t lay hands on something with a lens when you do.

My personal choice for a carry-everywhere camera? The Canon Powershot G10. It’s one of the few point-and-shoot cameras with RAW capability and is reasonably inexpensive. If you’re interested in something cheaper, the earlier model, the G9, is very nice too. We’re talking $500 or less, fyi. Yeah, photography ain’t a cheap hobby…

While we’re at it, set your camera to auto ISO, aperture priority (set to f/5.6) and, if you’ve got it, set image stabilization ON. Setting your camera in this manner will leave you prepared to capture photos in almost any situation

So make a habit of taking your camera along…you just might make a picture that’ll reward you for it!

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Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting my tips for building a killer photo portfolio. If you haven’t already figured it out, having a portfolio of your work handy (and online) is the best way to get work. After all, no editor in his right mind is willing to hire a photographer without first seeing examples!

One of the first decisions you’ll have to make is what sort of work are you trying to attract? Will you present a portfolio of photojournalism, portraits, sports action or an overall selection of your best work in all genres? There’s no reason why you can’t have one of each portfolio edited and ready to go!

First, gather your work and give every photo a hard, critical viewing. This is where another set of eyes comes in handy. In fact, I recommend that you get input from other photographers or, better yet, a picture editor as you determine which photos will make the “cut.” This is where you’ll lose some of your favorites…trust me.

How many photos to choose? Don’t have any set number in mind. I’d rather see a portfolio of ten killer images than forty so-so photos. Choose your photos with an eye toward showing off your creativity, technique, versatility and mastery of photography.

More to come….

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Judging photo contests is something I’m asked to do from time to time. I had the enjoyable task of choosing the best photo from a recent photo walk (yes, the one I posted earlier). That winning entry, by Kristina Johnson, was chosen as the best of over one hundred photos.

Kristina Johnsons winning entry, ladybug road

Kristina Johnson's winning entry, "ladybug road"

So, you might ask, what does a judge look for when judging a photo contest? Hmmm, that’s a toughie. Well, we all know that photography, like any visual art, is subjective. A photo I like might not get a second glance from another photographer/judge. Photo contests are much like beauty contests in that there’s a lot of pretty entrants and most will be going home without a crown.

Here’s how I approach judging photo contests. In many ways, it’s the same way I edit photos for my newspaper. First, I take a quick pass through all the images. This is when I’ll bounce the unsharp, off-color and poorly-exposed images out. This first purge will usually knock out a quarter to a third of the entries and leave me with photos that deserve a closer look.

On the second pass, I’m looking for images that are different. Different techniques, compositions and subject matter are king here. If it makes me do a double-take it goes on to the final round. Here’s also where I factor in the type of photography being judged. For example, I’ll approach judging a photojournalism contest differently than I would a nature photography competition. In the former, capturing the “moment” and telling a story is most important. In the later, form, color and composition play a bigger role.

The final selection is the toughest. Here’s where I earn my money (well, not really, I’m lucky to get a meal or free drinks). This is where I look very critically at the remaining images. I want a photo to “move” me and stir my emotions. I’m also looking for the photo I wish I had taken myself. Finally, I want the winning image to “wow” me. If I’m excited about an image and it meets all the criteria mentioned above, it’s my winner.

I’m sure my approach is unique. My experience as a photographer and photo editor for almost three decades affects the way I look at photographs. This is why I advocate multiple judges for photo contests. Entrants deserve to have their work seen (and judged) through more than one person’s eyes. Plus, it’s more fun to watch the judges argue!

One last bit of advice. If you ever have a chance to watch a contest judging session, do it. Being there and hearing the comments made by judges will help you better understand how your work is seen by others. Usually, the judges will explain why they like one photo over another. The discussions over why one photo is better than another will give you insight into the judges’ visual thought processes and will definitely affect the way you approach your next photo session.

For me, judging a photo contest is exciting, energizing and exhausting. That said, I never say “no” to the opportunity to judge a contest. It’s fun and, sometimes, I even get fed!

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Tomorrow (August 23) is the day set for a world-wide photo walk sponsored by the National Association of Photoshop Professionals. I’m leading the walk in Newport News, Virginia and, if you’re new to photo walks, here’s a list of things you can do to make the event more enjoyable.

  • Wear comfortable shoes. Most photo walks last a couple hours. Wear shoes that allow you to be mobile on and off the beaten path. Who knows were you’ll find that “once in a lifetime” photo?!
  • Bring a camera and a couple lenses. No need to bring everything in your camera bag to one of these. For example, I’m planning to bring a camera, a wide zoom, a tele zoom, flash and extension tube. That’s it. The point of these photo walks is photography, not weightlifting. Don’t bring along more than you want to carry for a couple hours.
  • Have enough memory cards. Estimate how much free space you’ll need, then bring 50% more. No one likes to run out of memory space in the middle of great photo opportunities.
  • Listen to the weather forecast and dress accordingly.
  • Introduce yourself! Don’t be shy. A photo walk is a social event! Have fun and meet new people who share your love of photography. Maybe they’ll share their lenses with you!
  • Afterwards, upload your best photos and comment on other people’s pictures. I know you want to see their photos….and they want to see yours too! Share tips and don’t be shy about asking others how the “got  that shot.”

It’s not too late to sign up for a walk in your area. Check this website for cities with photo walks near you. Get out there and have some fun!

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An idea book, for me, has become a useful tool for those times when I have trouble coming up with a new way to approach an assignment. Having subscribed to magazines like National Geographic, American Photo and Smithsonian for years, I was constantly finding inspiring, interesting photos that I wanted to remember for future “borrowing.” Twenty years ago I devoted a three-ring binder to be the place where I would stash those visual ideas for future use. The wee effort spent in pasting clips into this book has paid off handsomely throughout the years. Today, many pages are yellowed but that binder is still chuck-full of great ideas for lighting, composition and ways to approach tough photo situations. I don’t know what I’d do without it. Grab a binder during the back-to-school sales and start one of your own. I’ll be starting my third volume soon…

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The key to making portraits that capture the “real” person is to make that person relaxed during the portrait session. This is the reason why most candid portraits trump those taken with elaborate studio lighting setups. Candid expressions have a certain “realness” that’s hard to capture in a studio or location shoot filled with lights and assistants. You’ve gotta relax your subject in order for magic to happen.
I’ve found that the easiest and best way to do this is to mount your camera on a tripod, use a cable release or, as they’re called in the digital age, electronic camera release, and get out from behind the camera. Doing this allows you to carry on a conversation with your subject without having a camera partially blocking your face. Casually standing beside the camera with release in hand allows you to chat, joke and interact in a way that’s less strained will allowing you to fire off a shot when your subject is relaxed and has forgotten that you’ve got a camera aimed at her. This connection with the person you’re shooting makes all the difference. 
Case in point is this photo of my daughter Erin. Yeah, she’s cute. She hates having her photo taken — especially by her Dad! During past photo shoots, she would get stressed by all the gear and attention, I’d get stressed and the photos would suffer accordingly. This time I locked my camera down on a tripod and used the technique described above. The result was a much more enjoyable shoot for both of us… and this beautiful photo. 

 

Erin relaxed

Erin relaxed

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