Why The Best Camera Really Is The One You Have With You

It’s easy to get caught up in creating the perfect image; stressing over the sharpness, the saturation, and the bits and pieces that others say constitute a ‘good’ photograph.  This inevitably leads us to obsess over which hardware can help us get the best results.

If you love photography chances are you enjoy the time you spend with the camera in your hand trying to capture the world around you.  And you probably enjoy some creative tweaking afterwards.

But then when you evaluate your result, your final image, you might find yourself feeling disappointed or inadequate as you compare yourself to others.  And we’re prone to this because, while we live in a time where sharing our images is easy and our reach is great, photography is a visual medium.  Deep down, we want someone else to see it.  Naturally, you will then wonder what others will think of your image, worry even.

Continue reading Why The Best Camera Really Is The One You Have With You

Photography: The Practice of Making the Familiar New

Earlier I shared a quote by William Thackery about the two most engaging powers of a photograph.

“The two most engaging powers of a photograph are to make new things familiar and familiar things new”

As a photography enthusiast I think that capturing something new is part of the passion.  We all want to get that shot of something people rarely see or, if we’re lucky enough, something no one has ever seen before.  We go to new corners of our cities or travel to distant shores to capture the new.

But what about breathing new life into the familiar of our lives?  Thackery’s quote got me thinking about how I can use the familiar to become a better photographer.

It isn’t easy to make the familiar new.  You’ve got to position yourself both physically and mentally in a new place to see the familiar differently, to envision how we can portray it differently, and thus make it new.

As we begin 2017 some are thinking about new photography projects and others may be thinking about resolutions.  Endeavouring to make the familiar new could be a great project to improve your photography but it can be so much more.

Looking at our every day lives with fresh eyes and capturing it from a different perspective may well give us a renewed perspective on our lives.  It could be a creative practice of mindfulness.  You may find you are surrounded by more beauty than you were aware of and you may see all the things you can change to make things better for yourself.

Wishing you all a prosperous 2017!

Instagram Discovery #6 Sham Jolimie

Sham Jolimie is a photographer featured in this Fstoppers article.  Her haunting animal portraits are a thing of beauty.  Jolimie is an advocate for animal welfare and social justice and her portraits of animals, particularly wild animals, shine a light on their humanity (for lack of a better word) and ask us to see them differently.

Her shot of an owl in the rain has captured many hearts for its raw emotion.
“I shot this precious moment on a rainy monsoon day. I stood in ankle deep rainwater and shared a silent conversation with this shivering wet owl. We stared at each other for a long while. Its deep intelligent eyes and sad demeanour changed my perception of birds forever. They are more sentient and self-aware than I ever imagined. Owls have tiny facial muscles that allow them to show their feelings on their faces, just like humans.”

Jolimie’s Instagram is filled with shots like this and more.  Without doubt you’ll find creative inspiration and beautiful photography.

Instagram Discovery #5 Emma Howells

I found Emma Howells’ photography after reading a PetaPixel article entitled Dear Men: Stop Disrespecting Women Photographers in the Field.  In the article Howells shares her experience of women having to prove themselves on a daily basis to their male counterparts.

“Ever since my initial post, I’ve received an abundance of comments and messages from other women photographers with their own similar experiences. I assumed this was happening to all of the female photographers I knew, even the ones so madly talented that I felt too starstruck to approach.  But in this case, talent isn’t even relevant, is it? Whether or not you know of our work when you first meet us, why not treat us with respect?  Part of what kept me quiet at first was self-doubt in my own work — maybe I wasn’t deserving of their respect. But in this case, the work itself isn’t the problem.”

Howells is a visual journalist and after reading her article I went over to her Instagram.  Just as you would expect from a talented photo journalist, her images are bursting with story.  I loved looking through her beautiful images and I’m sure you’ll enjoy them too.

Instagram Discovery #4 Matt Stuart

I found Matt Stuart‘s street photography in a LensCulture interview.  I was immediately drawn in to his images for his eye for the quirky and humorous in everyday life.

#wetfloor

A post shared by Matt Stuart (@mattu1) on

I also loved this upbeat and supportive quote which is good for street photographers and life in general.  The sentiments of it are echoed in his photography.

“Be patient, optimistic; remember to smile, both for others, and for yourself. Don’t get depressed when you miss the shot; there’s just another around the corner if you keep your eyes open.”
Matt Stuart

This is why I really enjoyed his instagram feed – it is filled with great street photography that will make you smile and appreciate the quirky, humorous world we live in.  He has such a great eye for street photography and I’m sure you’ll enjoy scrolling through his work.

 

 

Instagram Discovery #3 Ng Weijiang

I found Ng Weijiang  (@orhganic) through an article on Exposure Guide where you can see some of his incredibly cool collages made by taking advantage of the Instagram layout to create larger art pieces composed of individual posts.

💮

A post shared by Weijiang (@orhganic) on

His feed is a beautiful blockwork of monochromatic photography.  Most of his work is street photography and architecture in subject – always well composed with interesting perspectives.  Every now and then you see the beginnings of one of his collages starting to take shape one square at a time.  It’s magnificent!

I’m positive you’ll enjoy following him as he journeys through the urban world and occasionally turns it on its head one square at a time.

 

Instagram Discovery #2 Beat The Grind

Beat The Grind is a travel blogger with an amazing eye for capturing a place and its people.

You can read about his travels on the Beat The Grind blog in a bit more detail but if you’re not into reading, no problem! His Instagram feed is stunning and you’ll see the world as if you were travelling by his side.

What I really enjoy is Beat The Grind is not just about the sights; it’s about the people who live there, their way of life, their street art, food, and what happens to be going on there at the time.  It’s the full story.

A great feed to follow for some awesome visual storytelling.

Photography Experiment: Abstract

Sometimes we focus heavily on exposure settings to create sharp and well composed images while we garner experience to improve our photography.  And while it’s a very good idea to get acquainted  with the ins and outs of the exposure triangle out in the field it can become monotonous and, dare I say, uninspiring.

The last thing you want is to lose that wonderful feeling of getting lost in the moment of capturing that all photography enthusiasts feel when experimenting with new subjects and light conditions.  One great way to add diversity to your photography is to try abstract techniques.

The fantastic thing about experimenting with abstract photography is that, firstly, there are no rules.  Abstract is what ever you want it to be.  And secondly, what ever rules we have been told about photography technique can be broken when experimenting with abstract.

Panning

The rule to always use a tripod when using a shutter speed of about 1/20 or slower can be discarded if you decide to experiment with motion blur and panning.  You can create some beautiful images by slowing down your shutter speed and panning your camera.  This works particularly well in low light conditions with an adjusted aperture & ISO to avoid a blown out image.  The great thing about trying this technique is you’ll learn more about what your camera can do and about exposure all while being creative in a completely different way.  There’s loads you can do with panning so have a look at this article with examples for ideas.

Zoom Burst

In this technique you can handhold or tripod your camera.  Again you use a slow shutter speed and once you’ve pressed the shutter you zoom in to (or out from) your subject.  It creates a very interesting effect and is a lot of fun to experiment with.  You can read more about zoom burst in this article which also has some nice examples.

These are just two examples of ways you can experiment with creating abstract photography.  You can read about some other ways to do this in this article.  The idea is to create and practise using different creative techniques than you would normally use when you’re out capturing.  It’s a wonderful creative exercise and the results can be surprising.  You might even get that creative boost you needed when you return to your normal photography.

Post Processing

I’m a huge fan of post processing too so the fun doesn’t have to end once you’ve created the image.  You can also do all kinds of cool things with your abstract images in post processing particularly related to colour.  So don’t forget to get creative on your computer and experiment with colour and texture.

If you’re keen you can share your images on Instagram using #LiloliaPhotographyExperiment and #Abstract

Instagram Discovery #1 Brice Portolano

I discovered Brice Portolano through a Lens Culture article; Arctic Love: Way, Way Out in the Wilderness in which Portolano talks about the beginnings of his No Signal series of photo essays.  The photos in the Lens Culture article are from his Arctic Love photo essay which is one of four in his No Signal series.

Arctic love

A post shared by Brice Portolano (@briceportolano_) on

“With over half of the world’s population living in urban areas, man has never been so disconnected from nature and the open spaces.  Through the photography project ‘No Signal’ started in 2013, Brice Portolano documents the return of man to nature in the western world and the reflections surrounding this issue.” 

The hauntingly beautiful images from Arctic Love led me to his website where you can see the rest of this project and his other work.  Ultimately I ended up on his Instagram feed to follow him and his work and you will not be disappointed.  The beauty continues there and I believe you will enjoy following him as he continues to share images of his projects and travels creating a captivating Instagram feed.

Photography Experiment: Rule of Thirds

Photography is all about a balance between artistic vision and technical skill.  Mastering your camera’s manual mode is the technical skill side which is important but your artistic vision is also key to great photography.

Composition is your opportunity to express your unique take on a subject by framing a perspective that lets your subject stand out, conveys emotion, directs the eye, or gives weight to the most important part of your image.  Like all art, composition is subjective.  And while there are some very helpful ‘rules’ to guide you in thinking differently about your composition (and cropping), you should do what best suits your photo and vision which might require you to break the ‘rules’ sometimes.

This photography experiment is about the Rule of Thirds composition guideline which states that: “an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.” (Bryan Peterson’s Learning to See Creatively)

rule of thirds positive and negative space

Sometimes following this rule strictly will benefit your photo’s composition, other times you’ll want to apply it loosely to get the most out of your subject.  There are also going to be times when you’ll want to break this rule completely.  This is the joy of photography as your art.  Experiment with it and enjoy it.

The earliest reference to the Rule of Thirds is attributed to John Thomas Smith in his 1797 work Remarks on Rural Scenery (pp. 15-17) in which he writes about the ‘rule of thirds’ expanding on Sir Joshua Reynolds idea of the balance of light and dark in paintings.  You can read the full passage but in short Smith talks about framing elements in a ratio of 2/3 to 1/3.  He gives the example of a landscape where you decide whether to frame 2/3 of the sky and 1/3 of the land or the other way around.

“I have found the ratio of about two thirds to one third, or of one to two, a much better and more harmonizing proportion […] than any other proportion whatever.”

Smith also applied the concept of the rule of thirds to an image’s light, shade, form, colour, and space not just physical elements.  We can look at the positive and negative space of an image with the rule of thirds in mind too. The positive space of a photo is filled with something; subjects, lines, shapes, etc. Negative space is what surrounds the positive space and is generally empty or void but it can also be a repeating texture or pattern. The rule of thirds can also be a good guideline for framing the positive and negative space in your image especially when deciding which will get more weight in your frame.

Rule of thirds

Experiment with the rule of thirds.  Go out and take new photos with this composition in mind or go back over some of your photos and recompose with the cropping tool.  I enjoy doing this because sometimes going back over your photos with fresh eyes gives you a different perspective and you can breathe new life into an old image.

Share your experiment images on Instagram using the #LiloliaPhotographyExperiment hashtag.

Have a look at examples of the rule of thirds in action in Creative Market’s post and watch this video on the rule of thirds by Joshua Cripps.  His videos are awesome.

 

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5 Step Photoshop Elements Basic Editing Workflow

Photoshop Elements is one of my favourites for photo editing software.  I particularly like to use Ps Elements for my JPEG images where I need to do some basic editing.  In this post I want to show you my basic editing workflow for JPEGs.  Some people use RAW all the time and that’s a good option depending on your needs.  This isn’t a discussion about RAW vs JPEG because there are already a lot of great articles covering this topic. This article from SLR Lounge has great photos illustrating the differences between the formats while this article from DPS gives a nice detailed explanation.  This post, then, is for everyone who wants to edit JPEGs quickly and easily.  I’ve chosen a photo that I think best illustrates how to make use of my 5 workflow steps which I’ll go through with you from beginning to end.

Ps Elements Basic Workflow Lilolia

Step 1 – Crop & Rotate

Step 1 Crop and Rotate Lilolia

The first thing I do is decide whether my photo needs to be cropped for better composition and if it needs to be rotated to straighten either the horizon or my subject.
To do this in Photoshop Elements you select Quick, and then select the crop tool in the left hand toolbar.  Then you make your crop selection, resize it if need be, and then rotate the selection from the corner squares if you need to straighten.  When you are satisfied, click the green tick to accept your selection.  If you’re not happy with it you can always undo and try again.  You will notice when you select the crop tool that there are a number of options to help you in the tool options at the bottom.  I like to use the rule of thirds grid to help me with my selection and I generally choose use photo ratio for sizing guidance but you can choose any kind of grid you like and any size you prefer.

Step 2 – Levels

2 - Step 2 Shadows Lilolia

In the right hand panel you will see a tab labelled Levels.  Expanding it, you will notice three more tabs for you to use in adjusting the levels of your photo.  If your image has darker areas that you would like to lighten, you select shadows and you can either hover your mouse over the boxes to choose the best option for your image or use the slider if the first box lightens up your shadows too much.  You’ll notice your image looking brighter overall.  Now move onto the midtones tab.  This brings back some of the darker shades of your image and stops it looking washed out after you lightened your shadows.  Finally, move to the highlights tab.  If your image has blown out white areas bringing down the highlights can help reduce that brightness but be cautious because lowering your highlights too much can leave a strange effect on your image.  Sometimes you just can’t fix those blown out highlights in JPEG and this is one area where RAW is better for adjustments.  You don’t have to use any or all of these tabs when you edit.  Decide what areas your photos need help with and then experiment to see what you like.  I don’t always use the shadows or highlights tabs unless I need to.  I do, however, tend to like boosting my midtones.

Step 3 – Colour

5 - Step 3 Saturation Lilolia

Adjusting colour is a very personal thing.  You must do whatever pleases you.  Expand the Colour tab and again there are another three adjustment tabs.  Saturation can either be brought up or down depending on your tastes but be careful not to bring your saturation up too much.  I recommend bringing your vibrance up first to see if that boosts the colour enough for your liking before touching saturation.  I hardly ever change my saturation but I always up my vibrance.  If you do up your saturation I highly recommend checking your temperature balance because I often see photos with high saturation in desperate need of some temperature balance.
So move to the Balance tab where you’ll see two adjustment tabs; temperature and tint.  Click temperature and move the slider in very small increments to either a cooler (blue) or warmer (red) balance and see if this betters or worsens your image.  Note that in my screenshot of this step I have adjusted the saturation to show you what it looks like but the choice I made for the editing of my image was no saturation adjustment.  I chose only to up the vibrance.  So my final image shows no saturation adjustment.

Step 4 – Lighting

9 - Step 4 Selective Lighting Lilolia

There are two ways to adjust the lighting (brightness/contrast) of your photo.  The first method is to adjust the brightness or contrast of the overall photo.  To do this you select EnhanceAdjust LightingBrightness/Contrast on the top toolbar.  A box will appear which will provide you with brightness and contrast sliders.
The other method is to adjust the brightness/contrast of just a selected area of your photo as in the screenshot for this step and which is the method I will use for my photo here.  I’m choosing to use this method because the sky in my image is already as bright as I want it but I want the building to be brighter than it is.  To do this you must click Expert (top centre) and a new set of tools will appear.  Under Enhance in the left hand toolbar click the paint brush or Smart Brush Tool.  You can use this tool for a number of different things but to brighten a selection you’ve got to go to the tool options at the bottom, expand the tab second from the left and select brighter.  Adjust the size of the brush circle and click on the areas of your photo that you want to include in your selection.  Use the brush+ and brush- to select or deselect areas in your selection but be as precise as possible.  Once you’ve made a selection you’ll notice firstly, a coloured box in your selection which if you right click gives you options to adjust the brightness/contrast settings of your selection, and secondly, that a new layer called brighter has appeared in the right hand panel.  When you are satisfied with your selection and its brightness/contrast settings click on the background layer in the right hand panel and then click on Quick top centre to return to basic adjustments where we complete the final step of the basic workflow.  Note that when you save an image that has multiple layers you must change the format from .psd (photoshop file) to a .jpg or .png.

Step 5 – Sharpen

10 - Step 5 Sharpen Lilolia

The final step in the basic editing workflow is to sharpen your image.  I like to sharpen to 125 (2 squares) but you do what pleases you.  You can now save your image.  I prefer to keep my original JPEGs so I always save as a copy.

I hope you find this helpful and a base from which to explore and experiment with Photoshop Elements which I find to be a great program for its combination of photo editing and Photoshop features.  If you have any questions feel free to drop me a line in the comments and I’ll do my best to help you out.

 

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Photography Experiment: Shallow Depth of Field

Shallow Depth of Field Photography Matches
Mode: A priority | Aperture: f/5.3 | Shutter Speed: 1/125sec | ISO: 400

Creating a shallow depth of field (DoF) in your photographs is really quite easy and it looks amazing.

When I first began experimenting with depth of field I switched my camera to Aperture Priority Mode (A on the dial) and changed my aperture to the widest (smallest f number) it would allow at my desired focal length.

I chose Aperture Priority so I could focus on changing just the aperture setting to get that shallow DoF while the camera took care of the other exposure settings for me.

Then, I focused on an element in either the foreground or the background to leave room in the frame for the shallow DoF blur or bokeh.  This is an especially pleasing technique to use when photographing people but you can get creative and use it whenever it serves your creative purpose like in food photography for example.

  • Select Aperture Priority mode
  • Set aperture to max (smallest f number)
  • Focus on something in fore or background
  • Voila!
Shallow Depth of Field Photography Matches
Mode: A priority | Aperture: f/5.6 | Shutter Speed: 1/160sec | ISO: 400

I’ve included the images I made when I first experimented with DoF and the settings in case you’re interested.  Before I got out the matches I had already used all kinds of household objects placed at varying distances from one another to see the effects.  In the end, I really liked how well the matches showed the shallow DoF a wide aperture can create.

This was done with a Nikon D40x, an entry level dslr, so don’t think you need a top of the range camera to try this.

There are other elements that affect depth of field so if you’re interested I recommend reading further.  There are loads of photography blogs out there; one of my favourites is Digital Photography School.  Check out this post on the DPS site: How to Take Control of Aperture and Create Stronger Photos

 

 

Instagram: Your Creative Outlet

Instagram is one of my favourite creative outlets.  The opportunities for creative expression with Instagram are endless and one of the main reasons is because you are free to experiment.

#shells #photography #snapseed #stilllife

A post shared by Verity M (@verity_m_) on

A couple of shells, take some photos, a bit of playing around in Snapseed and you’ve made a lovely image for Instagram.

Your photos don’t need to be perfect shots or your portfolio best.  You can be creative with perspective, colour, composition, and editing and get feedback from your followers.  You can just practise and play. 

Instagram is a wonderful community; everything goes, anything is possible, and everyone can just let go and create.  You don’t need to agonise over what to upload; you can be free, try new things, and keep your creative juices flowing.  There are also thousands of other highly creative people out there to follow and inspire you!

If you’re interested in still life photography, 10 Tips to Get Started with Still Life Photography will help you on your way to creating beautiful still lifes easily at home that’ll have you busting out your creative moves.  And what will you do with these images?  Instagram them of course!

Review: Langford’s Basic Photography by Michael Langford

Langford’s Basic Photography was first published in 1977 and continues to be updated with the most recent 9th edition published in 2010.  This photography book comes highly recommended and is the prescribed textbook for some courses.  Michael langford's basic photographyLangford is a well accomplished and respected photographer and teacher.

“Michael Langford, renowned author, teacher, and practitioner, is a legend because of his skill that balanced art and technique. He inspired and taught thousands as Photography Course Director at the Royal College of Art, London, UK.” (GoodReads blurb)

You would then, given the above, expect this book to be extraordinary and while I will say that it is in fact well written and jam packed with technical details, it was not the book I needed.  This book is much more for the absolute beginner.  I would recommend it for anyone interested in film photography and film processing since this book covers those areas in great technical detail.  I, however, am in love with digital photography and the digital darkroom.  Sadly, digital is covered only fleetingly.

I enjoyed the first chapter, What Is Photography, because of the theory element and the references to notable professional photographers and their works.  The two chapters on the technicalities of light and lighting were also useful to me.  I particularly liked that each chapter had a summary and project section at the end.  All in all, though, the book isn’t for me.  Too much of a focus on film photography and not enough of a challenge to keep me going.  I think there are better books out there for the beginning digital photographer who has chosen the self study route like myself.

The Langford’s Advanced Photography book is the next step after this one and I’ll still have a look at that one to see what it covers because there truly is a great deal of detail in Langford’s style so I’m hoping my disenchantment with this Basic one is purely a matter of mismatched level.

 

lilolia review rating 2 stars ok

A Photographer’s Theory Reading List

The Photosmudger did a great post on the books photographers should read to get insight into the critical theory side of the art.  I want to share with you the top three books on his list that he’s convinced me to read.  To see the rest of the reading list and to be convinced, as I was, why you should delve into critical theory head over to the photosmudger post.

Ways of Seeing by John Berger

Ways of SeeingThis, according to the photosmudger, is “the grand-daddy of them all” and required reading.

The GoodReads blurb: John Berger’s Ways of Seeing is one of the most stimulating and the most influential books on art in any language. First published in 1972, it was based on the BBC television series about which the (London) Sunday Times critic commented: “This is an eye-opener in more ways than one: by concentrating on how we look at paintings . . . he will almost certainly change the way you look at pictures.” By now he has.

On Photography by Susan Sontag

On Photography

This one comes highly recommended by many so it’s worth taking a look at.

“First published in 1973, this is a study of the force of photographic images which are continually inserted between experience and reality. Sontag develops further the concept of ‘transparency’. When anything can be photographed and photography has destroyed the boundaries and definitions of art, a viewer can approach a photograph freely with no expectations of discovering what it means. This collection of six lucid and invigorating essays, the most famous being “In Plato’s Cave”, make up a deep exploration of how the image has affected society.” (GoodReads)

Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

Camera Lucida: Reflections on PhotographyThat epic line about looking on eyes that looked upon Napoleon is from this book.  Need I say more?

“This personal, wide-ranging, and contemplative volume–and the last book Barthes published–finds the author applying his influential perceptiveness and associative insight to the subject of photography. To this end, several black-and-white photos (by the likes of Avedon, Clifford, Hine, Mapplethorpe, Nadar, Van Der Zee, and so forth) are reprinted throughout the text.” (GoodReads)

Have you read any of these?  Share your thoughts with us.  Do you have any more suggestions for photographers?

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