Category Archives: How to…

How-To articles… how to do specific things, preparation for, planning, shooting, etc.

Making an abstract image – opening your eyes

A personal path to making an abstract by Alison Bailey
Interplay By Alison Bailey.

Abstract image :: Interplay.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365project.org Interplay By Alison Bailey | External link - opens new tab/page
Dated: 15/01/2017
Click picture to see full size image.

I became serious about photography through doing a 365 project My 365Project | External link - opens new tab/page in 2011. I got my first DSLR camera for Christmas that year and have been happily obsessed ever since.

At the end of 2014 I had a eureka moment: abstract photography was for me. It’s ideal for depicting what moves me most in my world – the aesthetics of the characteristics of things. Abstract photography’s exciting, exasperating, exhausting and exhilarating. I love it. I hope you will too.

Making an abstract image

Abstraction is intensely personal and one of the most imprecise art forms. There are no recommended settings or specific lenses that will produce an ‘ideal result’. The accepted ‘rules’ of composition are often deliberately broken or disregarded. There’s no magic formula that will guarantee success. This article aims to provide you with thoughts, ideas and suggestions, along with information about how I work. These may help you to make an abstract image or gain experience to make many of them.

Groundwork

I began my journey by researching exactly what is meant by ‘abstract’. I didn’t find a universally accepted definition. The definition of abstract photography in the Photokonnexion glossary hits the spot for me. It is easy to understand and includes a list of the different aspects of abstraction. It makes a great reference guide for use in the field. I re-read it occasionally for revision.

When I think about an abstraction, what I see in front of me is not manifested in my mind’s eye. Well, not as a picture. I don’t ‘see’ – I experience. Things come to me as impressions with verbal descriptions. I have recently learned that when people say they ‘see’, it’s not shorthand for a thought process that’s like mine. They really do make pictures in their heads. I first thought we all imagine in the same way. It seems that is not true. ‘Seeing’ an abstract is an intensely personal thing. You have to do it your own way.

Studying, analysing and commenting other people’s work teaches you a lot. So, I researched the idea of the ‘abstract image’ on the internet. I viewed many abstracts, examining their composition. I had fun, gained insight into what abstracts can look like and developed ideas and personal preferences too.

The next step toward making an abstract image

I began habitually looking everywhere for shapes, structures, patterns, lines and textures. I looked for them whether I was taking photos or going about daily life.

Then it was time to put what I’d learned into practice.

If you’re unsure where to begin, here are some ideas to get you started. Three dimensional artworks can be inspirational. They are a good choice for the abstract image novice. Less representational work is particularly suitable. Find a piece you like and can legitimately photograph. The artist’s concept and execution of it will give you some useful pointers. However, your appreciation of the work is key to how you interpret it. Beyond works of art, here are some other sources…

  • Look at items in your house. The kitchen is a great source of inspiration.
  • Is there a type of photography you are especially enthusiastic about?
  • Architecture: plenty of lines, shapes and patterns, often textures too.
  • Street scenes (people and/or transport) have many abstract sides.
  • Wildlife and fast-action sports photography lend themselves to expressing movement through abstraction.
  • Macro photography shares an emphasis on detail so it too lends itself to abstract image work.

Keeping an open mind and expecting to find a promising subject is a good recipe for success. The more you look for subjects, the more you will see, sometimes in unlikely places. Whatever you choose, it is important it moves you in some way. A way that makes you care about it.

Rhythmic - I spotted this chair stack in an out-of-the-way corner of an historic cathedral.

Abstract Image :: “Rhythmic”
I spotted this chair stack in an out-of-the-way corner of an historic cathedral. Their lines caught my eye. I felt they had a rhythmic quality.
Breaking the pattern, a compositional device often used to focus the eye, wasn’t appropriate here. The rhythm – the whole point of the image – would have been lost.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365Project.org Abstract Image :: Rhythmic | External link - opens new tab/page
Dated: 10/07/2015.
Click picture to see full size image.

Studying the details

Once you find something meaningful to you, examine it closely from all angles. You are looking for a way to portray it.

This is a process that cannot be rushed or forced. It is important to be relaxed and receptive. Take a long, leisurely look, soaking up the details. Ask yourself:

  • What do I feel about this?
  • What visual aspects – lines, shape, texture, etc – make me feel that way?
  • How can I present, compose, those aspects to engage viewers and tell them what I saw?

Look carefully. Allow the answers to those questions, and any other ideas that might occur, time to form in your mind. For the best results, keep these answers and ideas in mind at all stages of making an image.

I study a subject via the camera’s viewfinder to remove distractions from the periphery of my vision. I often take photos at this stage too; the act of pressing the shutter button helps me think.

Layers upon layers :: Detail of a sculpture comprising seven pillars of piles of slates.

Abstract Image :: “Layers upon layers”
Detail of a sculpture comprising seven pillars of piles of slates. The profusion of layers and the arrangement of the slates are wonderful. I spent nearly an hour looking and studying them. The light – bright, midday sunshine – cast hard shadows that define and separate the slates and augment the idea of profusion. I composed to create opposing diagonals that prevent a jumbled confusion of lines by drawing the elements together.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365Project Abstract Image :: Layers upon layers | External link - opens new tab/page
Date: 20/11/2016.
Click picture to see full size image.

Making the abstract image

Choice of lenses, use of light, camera settings and how close you can get to your subject are all factors to take into account when composing your abstract image.

It’s usually not possible for me to use a tripod or flash. I prefer natural or constant, artificial light, anyway. So I have to work round resulting restrictions. You should consider how best to make use of light, depth of field, angle, and point of focus. A good angle and an appropriate focal point can make or break the flow of a composition. That is especially true with a shallow depth of field.

I have discarded many shots owing to poor choice of focal point. I still struggle with it. However, an effective composition is important. So it is worth the effort to get the focal point right.

Once you are satisfied with your composition, take a photo, maybe several. It is good to experiment with other settings and angles, you might discover another approach to your subject that is more meaningful to you than your original idea.

Abstract image :: “Thorny subject”.

I had intended to compose for the spiral created by the arrangement of the leaves of this plant but realised I was more taken with its thorns. I angled to emphasise them whilst, again, looking for a cohesive composition. To emphasise the spikiness of the thorns stronger tonal contrasts were created in processing.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365Project Abstract Image :: Thorny Subject | External link - opens new tab/page
Date: 30/09/2016.
Click picture to see full size image.

Assessing your work

After you download your photographs, consider and critique them. Take time to do this.

Don’t delete a shot straight away; experience might alter your opinion of it. If I am uncertain, I reassess a photo periodically, sometimes processing it, until I feel sure about it. I’m still mulling over a few taken a year or more ago.

Got a keeper? Then it’s time to add the finishing touches.

From photograph to abstract image

Thoughtful processing will take your photograph to another level. How this is achieved is very much a matter of personal taste.

I almost always process in black and white. Colour isn’t usually what my images are about. For me it will distract the viewer’s eye from the aesthetic aspects that I want to express, weakening the image’s impact. Other authors may take a different avenue. Final processing is very much a personal style.

I often choose to use high tonal contrasts to accentuate, even exaggerate, detail (see Thorny Subject above). My preferred method is to enhance clarity in the image processor’s ‘raw’ filter when developing the image for *.jpg. Then I adjust contrast, brightness and light levels in the main editor.

Whatever you do, the aim is to enhance your composition for maximum impact. You should work to help engage viewers with the aesthetics of your subject and give them the best chance of understanding the artistic intent of your image.

More after this…

The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography The Edge of Vision. A book about abstract photography. External link - opens new tab/page
There are few good books on abstract photography. So this historical view is welcome. It brings together the concepts and the art in abstract photography. Spanning the earliest images to modern processes with quality colour pictures too, the book includes up-to-date work from well known abstract photographers. The book gives readers an all-round view.
What readers said:
» Great buy! :: 5*
» A lovely book :: 5*
» Be educated and stimulated :: 5*
» …filled with deep and insightful articles and ideas to inspire. :: 5*
The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography The Edge of Vision. A book about abstract photography. External link - opens new tab/page

 

Completing the abstract image

Abstract image :: “Internal structure”
A macro image and a personal favourite. High contrast wasn’t appropriate here. I love the the way this whelk shell is constructed. The fragility of its exterior (suggested by the light tones) belies the strength of the internal structure, brought out by contrast created with natural, diffused light.
On reassessing, I felt the right-hand curve was drawing my eye down out of the frame, so I cropped the bottom of the image to draw the eye back to the pillar.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365Project Abstract Image :: Internal structure | External link - opens new tab/page
Date: 02/11/2016.
Click picture to see full size image.

After a day or two, I reassess my image. I take time to let the initial pride of authorship fade. Then, if needed, I do whatever is necessary to improve it. Any processing you want is allowable. It could even mean scrapping the image and starting again. It’s frustrating but not daunting; mistakes are excellent teachers and I want to learn and improve.

If that sounds serious, it is. But, it’s seriously tremendous fun. Happy abstraction!

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Post contributed by :: Alison Bailey

Alison is a veteran participant in 365Project.org 365project.org | External link - opens new tab/page. She worked as an assistant librarian and a Civil Servant before becoming a traditional housewife and mother. She enjoys life with her retired husband – and her camera. Alison has at last realised that photography is the medium best suited to her artistic abilities. She is having serious fun striving to express, through her images, her love of, and fascination with, the world around her.

Low light action shots – tips for getting them right

“Low light action shots” is contributed by Melanie Hyde (Bio) of PaintShopPro.com Low light action shots | External link - opens new tab/page.

Low light action shots need care to get them right.

Low light action shots need care to get them right.

Action photography itself can be extremely challenging. Being in the perfect place at just the right time, capturing that incredible moment. Then, hoping to transport anyone who sees your photo across time and space to take them back to the moment the image was taken. It’s a truly a magical experience, whether you’re taking the picture or the viewer.

Given the challenges that come with action photography, removing most of the light only makes it all the more difficult.

There is good news. The same principles of action photography and proper exposure apply. It’s just a little more challenging to get those low light action shots.

Light sources for your low light action shots

When it comes to taking low light action photos, you’ll need to combine the available light sources. This will help to make the most of the situation. First, take a look around and identify whether the lighting is constant or variable.

Constant Light

Constant light occurs within your setting when you can isolate out a source for a shot. Framing the shot is important so that the light is consistent for that shot. The next shot may have a different source – you need to isolate the light for that too. For example, if you were shooting a wedding reception, you might capture an image of the bride and groom on the dance floor. Then, you turn around and capture an image of the bride’s parents dancing across the room. Depending on the setting, the lighting may be different between the two subjects but consistent within each shot.

When lighting is consistent, operating your camera becomes much easier. The camera can adjust to meet the needs of the low light action shots. Here are a few points to keep in mind when shooting with constant low light:

  • Shoot in shutter priority mode so the camera can adjust.
  • Use Auto White Balance so the camera can adjust.
  • Manually control your ISO.
Variable light

Variable light occurs when light sources are constantly changing and are inconsistent across your field of view. Imagine you’re photographing the lead singer at a rock concert. You may have to deal with strobes, spotlights and pyrotechnics. The constant changes in light sources will cause your camera to struggle to automatically expose the image correctly.

Low light action shots with variable light sources can confuse your camera - go manual.

Low light action shots with variable light sources can confuse your camera – go manual.

When dealing with variable light conditions it’s usually best to go manual. In this situation, remember to:

  • Manually set your aperture and shutter speed.
  • Manually set your White Balance.
  • Manually set your ISO.
Balance aperture, shutter speed, and ISO

You have three ways to control the way your camera exposes an image. Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. To successfully capture great low light action shots, you must be able to manipulate these elements. Select settings that allow you to capture the highest quality image for the ambient light conditions.

The exposure triangle helps you to keep your shot’s exposure within the capability of the camera and lens. So when going manual your settings should allow these three essentials to balance. Look in your viewfinder to get the needle settled in the centre for a proper exposure. For more detail check out The Exposure Triangle – An aid to thinking about exposure.

The exposure triangle is an idea that helps you balance aperture, shutter speed and ISO for a good exposure.

The exposure triangle is an idea that helps you balance aperture, shutter speed and ISO for a good exposure.

Start with shutter speed

Low light action shots are by definition going to be in difficult light for your camera. Getting your shutter speed right can be tricky. However, it has a huge impact when shooting movement in low light. The following diagram will help you select the right setting.

Camera shutter speed guide.

Camera shutter speed guide :: Low light action shots need the right camera speed. If the shutter speed is too low you get blurring.

You have to select a speed that is fast enough to capture the motion clearly and without blur. The speed should still slow enough to deal with the lack of light. For action shots, it’s always best to use the fastest shutter speed that the light allows. It is a balancing act so you will need to practice.

Select the widest aperture for your low light action shots

In action photography, capturing crisp and clean images is usually the priority. When shooting with low light settings, it’s crucial to get as much light to your sensor in the small amount of time that your shutter is open as possible.

For low light action shots use a wide aperture to increase the incoming light.

The aperture sets the initial amount of light coming into the lens. For low light action shots use a wide aperture to increase the incoming light.

To accomplish this, use the widest aperture that your camera allows. While shooting in shutter priority mode, you allow your camera to do this automatically. Shooting in manual mode however, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your exposure. You need to make sure that your images are not underexposed in the low light.

Using high ISO

Are your images are consistently coming out blurry with your aperture is as wide as can be? Consider stepping up your ISO settings.

Your low light action shots can really win the day if you get your ISO right.

On the dance floor the light is almost always difficult. Your low light action shots can really win the day if you get your ISO right.

By changing your ISO, you alter your camera’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the more exposed your image will be. Just be cautious: using a higher ISO may introduce more “noise” to your photos. This noise can often be reduced or corrected in a post-processing software like PaintShop Pro Low light action shots | External link - opens new tab/page or Lightroom Low light action shots | External link - opens new tab/page. (Shooting in RAW is especially helpful with noise reduction).

Check your work as you go

Throughout the shoot, use your histogram. (See: Can you use the histogram on your camera?) It will help to make sure you’re exposing your images correctly. The histogram shows the distribution of the type of light in your shot. It aims to help you capture a consistent amount of light across the full spectrum of your image.

The histogram on your camera helps you ensure effective use of light in your exposure.

The histogram on your camera helps you ensure effective use of light in your exposure.

The histogram on your camera helps you ensure effective use of light in your exposure.

You’ll also want to make sure that your white balance looks good and adjust accordingly. In most cases, your camera is going to be able to set white balance automatically, but you may need to tweak it; especially if your lighting is wildly inconsistent.

Increase your odds

Low light action shots are all about being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment.

Use the fastest lens you can find. The wider the aperture, the more light your lens allows to strike your camera sensor. Anything higher than F2.8 will cause you to struggle with exposure.

Set the camera to continuous drive. This equips your camera to capture a burst of images every time you press the shutter release and gives you a better chance of capturing that perfect picture.

Use a fast memory card. Your camera can only capture images as fast as it can write them to the memory card. If you snap too many images in rapid succession, you’ll have to wait for the card to catch up with your camera and you might miss “the shot.”

Be prepared to shoot…a lot. You’re going to have a lot of images that are no good. So remember to keep tinkering with your settings. The key is shooting lots of images at different settings until you get the perfect mix.

Don’t forget to have fun

Low light action photography can be both challenging and fulfilling. As you refine your skills and your eye for lighting, action, and composition, remember to regularly experiment and try new settings.

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Seven Easy Photography Tips With Simple Props

Simple props  Seven DIY Photography Tips Using Household Objects | External link - opens new tab/page

Seven DIY Photography Tips Using Household Objects
(Image from the video)

Use your imagination

You are a photographer right? Then your imagination must be one of your key assets. So don’t just use it with your shots, use it to find simple props too. Think about how you can make your shot better without buying new expensive stuff. Go DIY. Just look around your home for inspiration. Here are some tips to get you started.

Simple Props – just look around you

When we are working on our shots we often think only of the difficult shot, the ‘different’ viewpoint, or the unique perspective. With all aspects of our photography we try to bring something different to the shot. Something to make our viewers think. Something to give them a new insight.

Often ordinary things in our lives inspire a new way of looking at things. In each of our houses are many things we can deploy as simple props in our everyday photography. The video below shows us some of those things and how to shoot with them. But it is not too much of a push for us to look at other household objects as inspiring for our shots. Here is a list of the sorts of things that can help you get started on some new ideas…

  • A pile of books
  • Kitchen tools
  • A candle
  • Chess board and pieces (or other game)
  • A toy
  • Drawing pins (or any stationary)
  • Cut glass ornaments

With a little imagination you use simple props to make some extraordinary shots. I am sure you have many such items you can use for your shots.

The key to using simple props…

There is nothing extraordinary about the simple props I have listed. What will make your shots different is how you use these things. You can start very easily. Get some ideas together first as inspiration. Try these links. The phrase in quotes was entered into the search engine:

Personally I find stationary is great for photography. It definitely provides simple props to work with. Here is an example of my own…

Simple props  Bulldog clip - When you are different, make sure you stand out! | External link - opens new tab/page

Bulldog clip – When you are different, make sure you stand out!
[Click the image to see it full size on http://365project.org/

Spend a little time playing with the phrase you put into the search engine. You will quickly expand the range of images you get as examples. Draw your ideas from the pictures you see. Then set about working on how you are going to use your simple props as you make your image.

7 DIY Photography Tips Using Household Objects – the video


Uploaded by: COOPH

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Using tablets in photography

[Todays article comes from contributing author, Honest Blossom]

Photo of a camera taken with a tablet as a light source.

Taking shots in soft light is so easy with a soft light source. A tablet can provide just that.
{Image by Damon Guy}

Mobile devices give us new tools

Mobile photography is on the rise. Yet despite high usage of smart phones and tablets many believe nothing beats photos produced on a DSLR.

Mobile devices do have a place in the photogs bag. Many pros use mobiles Tablets in photography | External link - opens new tab/page effectively. Photographer-author Anne Hamersky used her iPhone 5 to take photos for her book, “Farm Together Now Tablets in photography: Link to Amazon | External link - opens new tab/page (jointly authored with Amy Franceschini and Daniel Tucker)”.

Apart from being used as cameras, smart phones and tablets in photography have huge potential. They can assist with simple lighting, easy viewing of images, and controlling cameras.

1. Simple Lighting

You don’t need professional lighting equipment to create a soft light. Your tablet can create shadow graduations on your subject. How? Use a bright-white image on your screen (Download white-screen image here). Point the display toward your subject. It will create soft light and shadows. You can also use your smart phone to light smaller objects. The screen illumination produces white light. It’s a source of localized soft light in your image.

Table-top studio photo showing how to use a tablet as a soft light source.

The camera image at the top of this article was taken using the table-top studio set up in this image. Simple to do and simple to set up.

Use tablets in photography to create direct light too. Devices with built-in flash can be used as a photographic light. Use a flashlight (torch) app. There are also some LED light apps. that you can use on your tablet to create coloured light sources.

2. Camera Controller

Want to control your camera functions via your tablet? Try the Chainfire app for Android devices. You can use your tablet as a Canon EOS camera controller. Here is how to do it:

  1. Install the Chainfire app Tablets in photography: Chainfire app. | External link - opens new tab/page.
  2. Connect your DSLR to the tablet via a USB OTG connector line and a mini USB cable for the camera. {Tip: It’s best to get a longer USB cable}.
  3. Turn on the camera and the app to view the subject.

Navigating through the app is easy, as it uses the controls of your camera. Photos taken using the camera can also be saved to the memory card of the tablet. I suggest downloading photos to your computer later. Photos take a lot of space and are safer on a PC.

View a guide on how to use the Chainfire app Tablets in photography: Chainfire app guide. | External link - opens new tab/page. Also read more details on the Chainfire website Tablets in photography: Chainfire website | External link - opens new tab/page.

3. Field or Preview monitor

It’s advisable to opt for a tablet with at least a 9-inch display. The main purpose of using a tablet is as an extended monitor. You will get a better preview of the subject than the small display on your DSLR. According to O2, tablets such as the Apple’s iPad Air (9.7-inch screen) and ‘Samsung Galaxy Tab S’ (10.5-inch screen) are the best preview monitors you can use on a photo shoot Tablets in photography | External link - opens new tab/page. They allow more space to view and work with the images. You are less likely to strain your eyes with decent sized screens.

Using tablets in photography to control the camera uses the same procedure as any shoot. Taking the shot is set up and released from the mobile. You will need a USB OTG connector to use the tablet as a preview monitor. Applications such as the DSLR Controller, GoPro, CamCap, Helicon Remote, and DslrDashboard are the advisable software to use.

Tablets in photography – top devices

What are the top tablets for photographers? There are various devices to choose from. They offer many features and functions. Choosing one can be quite confusing when picking the best to help your shoots.

To make it easier, consider the other reasons you’re buying the tablet. Email and editing photos or other uses are also important. This will help narrow down your list of choices, as most devices have their own strengths. It will also help to opt for a tablet that has been recommended by other photographers. Here are some examples:

  1. Apple iPad with Retina Display
  2. Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2
  3. Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
  4. Microsoft Surface 2
  5. Lenovo Yoga Tab

Mobile devices have found their way into DSLR photography because of powerful camera lenses and relevant apps. These assist professional and amateur alike. The changes have come about because using tablets in photography helps and simplifies our work.

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Contributing author: Honest Blossom

Honest Blossom is a seasoned blogger and practising photographer from the UK. She has written various articles ranging from the latest technology and innovation, travelling spots, mobile and digital photography and more.

Artwork images – record or new art?

Artwork images are not as easy to photograph as they seem.

Artwork images are not as easy to photograph as they seem.
Image of paper art by Peter Gentenaar
More from this artist on: http://www.gentenaar-torley.nl/  Artwork images: Link to Peter Gentenaar | External link - opens new tab/page

Artwork images are sometimes questionable as art

Most photographers look at work by an artist they like and feel compelled to take a picture. Of course it serves to remind them of the art they saw. That is reasonable. The keen photographer thinks differently. They like to see the artwork. They also like to produce photographic art of their own. But more often than not the picture they take is actually a record shot.

It is often said by judges in photographic competition that a sculpture photograph is a record shot. I have said it myself when judging. A pure record is not a piece of art by the photographer. Just exactly what do we mean by that?

Artwork images: Record verses interpretation

An example of a record shot is the photo at the top of this article. This work is by the wonderful paper artist Peter Gentenaar. His work is stimulating and interesting to the eye. Photos of his work bring out the splendour of his art. That is the point. They are less about the photographers interpretation of the art. Instead, they are about repeating the work in its fullness to show the work itself. It is a record. As such, it will show off the skill of the original artist.

Record shots are a legitimate photographic form. But they are often a record of the exhibit - not new photographic artwork images in their own right.

Record shots are a legitimate photographic form. But they are a record of the exhibit – not new photographic artwork in their own right.

[Seen on www.starr-art.com/ on 30/05/2015
Sol LeWittWall Piece,
1988 Painted wood,
76 x 5 x 5 inches
Published by Edition Schellmann,
Munich and New York.]



Reproduction of artworks in a record style is a proper photographic form. For remembrance, or sales purposes, it is fine. For those seeking to make their own art there is something more needed than simply snapping someone else’s work.

That something extra is a new re-interpretation of the work. The photographer has to invest something of their own into the picture. They have to make more of the original artwork than is presented solely by the work itself. There are a number of ways to do this.

A new interpretation may not be a complete image of the work. It may include the full work, or only be a part of it. The environment of the image, how it is presented, or its framing are all important. Overall there will be something in the new artwork images that the photog makes their own.

 

How can you make new artwork images from an art piece?

Abstract from a piece of art

In this abstract of another piece by Peter Gentenaar the photographer has not shown the whole piece of work. They have taken a piece of the work that shows the wonderful lines and curves, but as a whole it creates a taste for seeing more.
See: Peter Gentenaar–Paper Magician Artwork images:  | External link - opens new tab/page.

• Abstract artwork images: One way to get something new out of a piece of art is to create an abstract of some sort. Abstract photos can be deeply satisfying to create and provide an interesting image for the viewer to consider. Most of the time abstracts are about making an image of a part of the artwork. An example is shown on the left. There can be a lot more to creating abstract photos than simply framing a bit of the total. The power of abstract is to create the essence of the total.

Abstracts require an eye for what works when the whole is not seen. For more on abstracts see our Abstracts Resources Page.

• Creating an new environment: The environment where sculptures are displayed is often important to the sculpture. Sometimes images are still record shots even if they are not on a simple white background. This link is an example of a Henry Moore sculpture record shot (Author unknown).. The author has displayed the sculpture just as it is with little enhancement. In fact it is almost devoid of its environment. The sky serves only as a backdrop.

The same could be said of this picture of an elephant sculpture (below). The artist has created a superb piece which mimics the body of an elephant defying gravity. The first shot is a pure record shot. But, the second is a superb interpretation of the sculpture in it entirety with an audience, depersonalised by movement blur. Very clever. Both images are taken by the sculptor himself, Daniel Firman. A simple but excellent reinterpretation. Such re-inventions are in themselves artistic. As such they are creating artwork images in their own right.

Gravity-Defying Elephant Sculpture

Gravity-Defying Elephant Sculpture by Daniel Firman.
Images by Daniel Firman.

Published in: Gravity-Defying Elephant Sculpture.
(Seen on WordlessTech Artwork Images: Gravity-Defying Elephant Sculpture by Daniel Firman | External link - opens new tab/page 29/05/2015).


Another Henry Moore Sculpture is shown below. This image makes as much of the environment as the sculpture. The artist has created a great panoramic picture using a letter-box crop. The length of the principle subject (the sculpture) is complemented by the almost central position. But, it is highlighted by the mundane, but important line of sheep. The latter gives the eye an excellent weighted contrast to the sculpture in the background. Clever compositional devices like this often create great great artwork images. There is no way this is a record shot.
Artwork images: The compositional devices in this image make it an interesting example.

The compositional devices in this image make it an interesting example of artwork images – definitely not a record shot.
(Seen on: Backstrap Weaving Artwork Images: Henry Moore sculpture on Backstrap Images blog. | External link - opens new tab/page.
(Click the image to see full size).

• Adding something: Another way to make something new of a piece of art is to put something new into, or onto, the piece. I leave the artwork images to your imagination here.

I have often heard judges say about record shots, of say a sculpture, “this needs your hat on it”. Alternatively they might say something like, “a cat just here would make the image something different”. What the judge is saying is, the author has created a shot that does not have anything from the photographer in the image. Whereas, with a little thought, or a little prop, or even a person – the picture could be transformed. Instead of the simple (and boring) representation, the author could have added that little extra that makes the image into a reinterpretation – something different. It would be something created uniquely by the photographer.

Works by you are artwork images

The uniqueness of a photograph is something that makes photography interesting. But, make the main subject a simple representation of somebody else’s work, then the uniqueness is lost. A simple record is created. But with simple compositional thoughts, re-frameing, or the addition of some new aspect, you create a new synthesis. One that is unique to you. One that is a real contribution to the body of artwork images. That is what makes photography so special.

The main point to take from this is simple. Think, plan and consider the composition when taking pictures of other peoples art. A subtle treatment of the art piece can transform it into an image only you could make.

Artwork images – further thinking

Which of these are record shots of Henry Moore Sculptures and which are artwork images by the author…
Henry Moore sculpture on Google Images Artwork images - further thinking | External link - opens new tab/page

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Backdrops – make them yourself

Create your own backdrops.

Here is a quick and simple way to create a great backdrop. You can produce your own great designs with a little creativity.
Image from the video below.

The shots and the props can be creative

Great backdrops often make a picture. The simple ones are the best. They do not pull the viewers eye from the subject of the shot. Instead they focus your viewer on your subject. A backdrop should create an environment for the shot that both completes the scene and brings out the best in the subject.

Photography is creative and the backdrops should be too

There are a million creative things you can do with your pictures. Making backdrops can be equally as creative. In addition they add a new spin and level of creativity to your shots.

You can make backdrops out of wood, canvas, sheets, paper, metal… well millions of things. Be careful they are not too heavy. If they fall and hit someone they might be injured. Don’t make backdrops too flimsy. They might fall apart during the shoot. Apart from that the sky is the limit!

Here are some ideas I have seen used to good effect.

  • Autumnal leaves densely stuck to an old sheet.
  • Spaghetti stuck to an old sheet.
  • Chinese lettering enlarged in a copier and stuck on white wall paper liner.
  • Wallpaper of many designs.
  • Hundreds of pieces of string hanging down.
  • Dozens of electric lights hanging down.
  • Hundreds of Wooden scraps nailed to five planks in a random fashion.
  • White back drop paper with lightly pencilled circles drawn all over it.
  • A white sheet “tie and dyed” with various patterns.

I am sure you can think of many more creative ways to enhance your shoot with DIY backdrops. Just take a little time to think over what you need for your shoot.

Here is a Google search for “Creative backdrops images“. Plenty of ideas there to stimulate your thinking!

Some simple principles for good backdrops

Some backdrops are simply not right for the shot. Of course there are those artists who seem to make anything work. For those of us who need a little guidance, here are some principles to help you design your backdrop:

  • Do not make the backdrop stronger or brighter than the subject.
  • Choose colours that bring out the colours in your subject.
  • Use colours and designs that almost fade into obscurity allowing the subject to blossom.
  • Allow your backdrops to complement the subject – not clash with it.
  • Use texture, tonality and hue to vary the background so it appears to be slightly 3D.
  • Be careful that patterns do not emerge unless they are deliberate.

These are not rules. They are guidelines to get you started. Of course as your skill as a photographer and backdrop-maker develop you can make or break these principles. Have fun. Make great shots!

How to make your own studio photography backdrop – video

In the video below there is a quick and simple method of setting up a canvas backdrop. It can be done in a few hours. If you don’t have much space you can make it out of doors. Enjoy this video short and let it help your mind be creative.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Buying Lenses – a quick guide…

Buying lenses

Buying lenses is not as straight forward as it seems. There is a lot to consider.

Critical features to consider when buying lenses

The key to buying lenses is knowing what you want to achieve with your purchase. It is also important to have a clear idea of your budget. However, there are a whole range of other things that have an impact too.

There are a wide range of photographic lenses to buy for most cameras. Each has their own characteristics. A lens can easily cost more than your camera. Take care with your choice. The wrong decision can leave you with a lens that is not suitable to your interest.

Getting started on buying lenses

First of all sit down and write down all the reasons you want a lens. Also, write down all the possible things against buying lenses (of any sort) at this time. Try to convince yourself you really don’t need to buy. In most cases of purchase-fever the buyer gets things they don’t want. So, when spending lots of money you should be careful. Buying lenses is a big investment. If you make the right choice then your purchase may last you through a number of camera bodies. So think carefully and make the right decision up front. That way your money will not be wasted.

I have purchased about thirty lenses over the years. Of those, five were bad purchases. Four were impulse buys – not suited to my needs. In another case, a hasty decision meant I bought a poor quality lens. From this experience I have compiled the list below to help you when buying lenses in future.

Some of the basics for buying lenses

1. Focal Length:

  • a. Measured in millimeters.
  • b. Smaller Focal lengths provide wider angles of view.
  • c. Longer focal lengths show less of the scene and tend to magnify the view.
  • d. Distortion may be found at the extremes of focal length.

2. Aperture:

  • a. Measured in f stops (eg.f2.8 [wide open] f5.6 , f16 [small aperture]).
  • b. Wide aperture lets in most light – faster shutter speeds possible (eg. F2.8).
  • c. Small aperture lets in less light – requires longer shutter opening (eg. F22).
  • d. Wide aperture provides short depth of field.
  • e. Smaller apertures gives sharpness throughout the depth of the picture.
  • f. Zooms – Aperture size gets smaller with increase in focal length.

3. Stabilisation:

  • a. Slow shutter speeds mean more chance of camera movement, which makes blur.
  • b. Stabilised lenses typically give one or two f stops smaller aperture without more blur; the stabilisation compensates for movement.
  • c. Cost is higher if the lens is stabilised.
  • d. Canon = IS (image stabilisation); Nikon = VR (vibration reduction); Sigma = OS (optical
    stabilisation); etc…
  • e. Stabilisation may be in the camera rather than the lens.
General considerations when buying lenses

1. Optical characteristics

  • a. Glass optical quality varies with the production process and ingredients.
  • b. More lens elements/groups reduces light able to pass through the lens.
  • c. High quality optical glass does not reduce light as much as cheap glass.
  • d. Each manufacturer has a specific type of glass for higher quality lenses.
  • e. Optical aberrations come from low quality optical glass.
  • f. Lens optical coatings reduce aberrations and flare.
  • g. Distortions are caused by specific groupings of lenses.

2. Motors/drives:

  • a. Used to drive the aperture control; stabilisation and auto-focus.
  • b. Sometimes noisy – not desirable for wildlife shots.
  • c. Adds a lot of weight to the lens.
  • d. Not necessary on manual-focus prime lenses.
  • e. Some cameras have them only for auto-focus.
  • f. Older lens models have slower, sometimes heavier, often noisier motors.

3. Weight:

  • a. Often forgotten attribute. If you can’t carry it, then it’s no good for you!
  • b. Weight often increases with wider apertures – fast lenses may be too heavy for you.
  • c. Weight will tend to increase the amount of hand-shake movement.
  • d. Stabilisation motors put a lot of weight on the lens too.

4. Sensor optimisation

  • a. Lens focal lengths are usually stated for full-frame cameras (quoted for 35mm sensors).
    But…
  • b. A cropped sensor will still have the same focal length lenses as a full-frame, but image size will multiply it by the crop factor. (See: crop factor).
    So,
  • c. Cropped sensors increase the lenses’ magnification. Eg. Canon APS-C lenses are optimised for the Canon cropped sensor. The crop factor is 1.6. So a 100mm lens on a Canon 450D is actually equivalent to a 160mm focal length on a canon full frame camera like the 5D.
  • d. Different crop factors apply to different manufacturers and cameras.
  • e. Some optimised lenses will not fit different sensor sized cameras – APS-C – check the fit and crop size in the specification for the lens.
More specific issues affecting you when buying lenses

1. Zoom vs. Prime

  • a. Zoom lenses give you a variable focal length; you control magnification.
  • b. Prime lenses have fixed focal length. Move nearer/further to change the angle of view.
  • c. Zooms give you focal control over the framed view.
  • d. Primes tend to be higher quality lenses, sharper, faster (wider apertures).
  • e. Primes more compositionally challenging.
  • f. Primes – colours and exposure control more realistic.

2. Why you want this lens…
Make sure you know why you are buying lenses. Consider these points below:

Fisheye lenses (8 – 18mm on cropped sensor; 14 – 18 mm on full frame)

  • Introduces central focus with peripheral distortion.
  • Highly creative focus provides extreme visual views drawing the eye to the centre.
  • Used primarily for highlighting specific subjects or attributes of the scene.
  • Ideal (according to some) for full-frame sensor work for portraits.

Zoom lenses (long focal lengths 50 to 600mm)

  • Sometimes dubious quality in some parts of the zoom.
  • Flexible for many purposes, but especially wildlife photography at longer focal lengths.
  • Ideal for getting ‘into’ the shot.
  • Creativity related to the placement of the subject in the frame; angle of view variable.
  • Extreme zooms (350 – 800mm zoom ranges)(Very long range lenses greater than 800mm available).
  • Extreme expense – (expect cost around £5,000 for the 800mm sort of focal length).
  • Excellent for specialist wildlife and long range work.
  • Angle of view very limited at extreme end.
  • Very heavy – absolutely requires tripod for longest ranges.
  • Really only supportable for specialist work (professional wildlife photographer).
  • Cheaper to hire for the odd trip.
  • Macro (from around 35mm to 200 mm) (sometimes achieved using extension tubes).
  • Used to get close-up shots of very small subjects.
  • Focal length is artificially extended to magnify for close-up work – aim to get 1:1 or larger result.
  • Can be used for longer views; tends to be at restricted apertures for non-macro work.
  • Great for magnification shots.
  • Great creativity scope.
  • Tilt and Shift.
  • Specialist – for control of where to place sharpness in the depth of field OR how to deal with
    converging parallels (lines in the road or converging verticals in buildings).

Wide angle lenses (16 – 24 mm on cropped sensor) (24 – 35 mm on full frame sensor)

  • Used for getting wide views of the subject; sweeping view across a scene.
  • Some optical distortion at the very wide end accentuates central subjects.
  • Tend to be used by landscapers; often capable of very small apertures (f22 – f36).
  • Standard zoom lenses (35mm to 200mm of varying focal lengths).
  • Provide great flexibility because can change from wide angle to magnification.
  • Quality often highly price dependent.
  • Optical quality variable with change in focal length.
  • Very long focal lengths often have high f-stops (eg. F5.6).

Standard prime lens (50mm)

  • Sees approximately what the human eye sees (full-frame sensor cameras).
  • Slightly wide angle for cropped sensors.
  • Usually good low light performance because of aperture size is usually wide.
  • Approx.. 80mm for cropped sensors – good for portraits.
  • Creativity allows for the same flexibility that the eye sees.
  • Controlled angle of view is determined by photographers position (no zoom control).
  • Standard prime lens (80mm).
Ultimately it is about image quality

When you are buying lenses consider what you are going to get. If you buy a cheap lens you will get a poor picture.

Most modern camera bodies are going to produce pretty good pictures. But if you stick a poor quality, budget lens on a camera it will give you a poor result. A top quality lens will serve you for many years. It will swap between bodies of the same manufacturer. It will produce quality pictures from your body.

On the other hand a poor quality cheap lens will degrade the ability of the camera body. Which will devalue your overall investment. It is pointless upgrading a body to a higher specifications if your lenses are not up to the same performance standard. Buying lenses is about setting your aspirations. Buying lenses of poor quality is about limiting your potential, for now and for years to come.

Buying lenses – checking the various options

The sheer number of lenses available is daunting. Try starting with a lens finder. This great Lens finder on Amazon.co.uk makes buying easier.
Note:
USA users may not be able to get the above “Lens finder on Amazon.co.uk” link. See below…
Link version for USA users: Amazon.com Lens Finder
Please report problems with these links.


If you are buying lenses enter the important factors for your lens choice. It returns a list of the lenses to suit that purpose. I find this an invaluable tool for helping to me to find a range of lenses from which to make my ideal purchase.

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Damon Guy (Netkonnexion) - Author of Buying Lenses

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.