Category Archives: Post Processing

Any of the activities associated with the processing of the captured photographic or graphic file.

Tips for Better Smartphone Photography

This article contributed by Liz Pekler(Bio).

SmartPhone Photography is on an up-trend

Smartphone photography is the source of millions of images per day worldwide. It is not only an important aspect of social interaction, it is also a way to express yourself. Find out how to improve your shots and make the best of your smartphone photography.


Smartphone Photography is attracting more and more people. The number of images made on mobile devices exceeds the number taken on compact or DSLR cameras. Who could blame these keen users? Smartphones are easier to carry, cheaper to maintain, and are more user-friendly than the DSLR. And, with the constantly evolving smartphone camera apps and accessories, the future of smartphone photography seems assured. Indeed, smartphones and tablets are used in conventional photography too.

Is smartphone photography the new norm?

There’s no denying that DSLRs or mirrorless cameras are still the best types of cameras to have despite their larger size and weight. They have powerful sensors that offer the most megapixels. They allow complete user control over camera settings. However, more than that, they provide flexibility and freedom to use a range of accessories, like interchangeable lenses. The flexibility and control provided by a fully functioned DSLR can help you achieve the highest quality output.

Smartphone photography provides well for general image needs, like social media sharing and family records. Using mobile devices has become standard practice in recent years. Their hardware will need time to catch up on the quality and functions of more advanced cameras. However, there are many smartphone photography accessories available. These add-ons can enable your mobile device to get quite close to the high standard of DSLRs.

As long as smartphone manufacturers continue to develop higher specs and more powerful sensors smartphone photography will be likely to trend upward. However, no matter how good these mobile devices become, using the camera will require some user skill. The best photographs are not the product of the camera. They are a reflection of the vision and skill of the photographer – no matter what the device. Smartphone photography can be artistic, can be beautiful, can return great images.

You can get the best out of the built-in camera in your phones by practicing these helpful tips below:

Tips for Better Smartphone Photography

1. Pay Attention to the light levels

As with DSLRs, think, and make sure everything is good before touching the shutter button. Make sure the image is well-lit. One way to do so is to tap your subject on your phone’s display screen. In the smartphone camera on Auto mode, tapping on your subject will command the camera to focus on the area of the tap. Then the camera will make the exposure adjustment. That will ensure your subject is lit to its best advantage. The camera adjusts the overall image in proportion to the exposure. This shows the subject to its best advantage.

To manually adjust the scene’s brightness, swipe the ‘sun’ or ‘bulb icon’ after tapping on your subject. If you want to revert back to the default value, tapping anywhere on the screen of your smartphone usually does the trick.

Brightness changes are not the best way to lighten your scene. You can over-whiten highlights – leading to distracting white burnouts. Instead, try manually adjusting your ISO levels. Higher ISO means the sensor is more sensitive to light. A high ISO number gives a brighter scene in proportion to the ambient light in the rest of the picture. This helps you adjust your image to avoid burnt out highlights.

Raising the ISO has a penalty. High sensitivity to light levels can make your photos look grainy. It is called digital noise. Dimly lit areas brightened by higher ISO are especially likely to show noise if you boost the ISO too high. Practice with ISO a bit to get a feel for the way to use it.

The best way to avoid digital noise is to add light sources or work with natural light. Camera sensors work well with good light levels. So, think about how you can enhance the light rather than rely on high ISO, if you can.

2. Apply the Principles of Composition

Another thing to significantly improve your smartphone photography is to compose your image. This means taking photos to create a more visually appealing image. Try not to “shoot from the hip”. The quick snap often leads to poor shots.

It helps to keep these basic rules of composition in mind when taking photos:

  • The Rule of Thirds – Mentally divide the screen into a grid with 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines. Then, align your subject with any of the guide lines or intersecting points to achieve a more natural-looking and attractive image.
  • The Golden Ratio Smartphone Photography | External link - opens new tab/page – When you compose your photo, leave 1.6 bits of empty space for every 1 bit of occupied space to achieve a balanced image.
  • Leading Lines – Using lines in your composition will help influence viewing behavior, draw your audience’s eyes across an image or towards a subject, and adds motion and dynamism.
  • Three-Layer Image – Having a foreground, a subject in the middle, and a background adds a sense of depth and interest to your photo. See “River Scene” below.
  • Rule of odds – multiple subjects in an image are more attractive if they are an odd number. The most famous case is to have three of something, but five and seven are often used too.

Smartphone photo showing three compositional layers

:: River Scene ::
This smartphone photograph shows three compositional layers. Introducing clear layers into your image helps to bring out a three dimensional depth and structure. Try to use foreground, mid-ground and distance layers in your images.
(Taken on a Galaxy S6 – Android phone)
(Click here to view large)


There are many ways you can use composition to improve your images. There is a whole page of composition links for you learn more here: Composition resources on Photokonnexion

3. Move as Close to your Subject as Possible

When using a smartphone to take photos, opt to move closer to your subject instead of using its zoom feature. Smartphone camera lenses usually have fixed focal lengths so they can’t zoom optically. Instead, it zooms digitally, which visibly distorts, pixelates, and lowers the quality of your images when overdone. Alternatively, you can use a compatible lens attachment that offers optical zoom capabilities.

4. Use Natural Light

The built-in flash on smartphones can sometimes be unflattering as it can wash out your subjects and produce harsh shadows. Harsh shadows with sharp lines create an angular appearance. This is particularly unflattering on faces.

To produce the best results, go for natural lighting. Natural light has an attractive quality for our eyes. We are naturally tuned to it. If you really need a flash there are some good attachments. You can use an attachable pocket spotlight or ring flash. Better still, use a more diffused light. An attractive diffused light provides just enough light for your subjects and creates flattering soft light with shadows. Shadows from soft light helps to create depth – giving a three dimensional feeling in the image.

5. Use A Third-Party Camera App

Your smartphone’s dedicated camera app can get the job done. However, third party apps allow you to do more with your phone’s built-in camera. Some of them offer better exposure adjustments, manual focus and camera settings (like shutter speed and aperture), or even integrated photo editing features so you can touch up captured photos instantly. If your interest is in better smartphone photography then use better editing too. Work to ensure you can navigate within the app and help you optimize its features for better photos.

Also familiarize yourself with the menu, settings, and features of your chosen camera app. If you’re a beginner, spend time and effort on learning photography basics. Think particularly about the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. Also, think about how they relate to each other to create the exposure. Do some reading of this blog or other photography sites. Watch a YouTube tutorial on manual camera settings. Help yourself to develop a rounded approach to understanding both exposure and how best to take photos. Smartphone photography is as good for producing images as a DSLR. That is only true, providing, you know your tools and how to use them to produce a great image.

6. Take Advantage of the HDR Mode

The HDR mode on your camera phone allows it to take multiple shots of the same scene at different exposures, and then blend them together to create an image that pleases the eye. HDR mode blends the shots to create deeper contrasts in the image. This is particularly useful when shooting landscapes or high contrast scenes where there are obviously uneven highlights and dark areas. However, it must be used sparingly, as it can leave your images looking odd and overly edited. Don’t overuse it – try to work the editor so that your eye sees reality in the results. Trust your eye.

As a safety measure, also leave HDR on Auto. Then, you can manually pick out a better photo from the bunch of shots that were initially taken, in case the HDR blend goes badly. Apply the final result afterwards.

7. Post-Process Your Images

Post-processing can never replace good photography techniques. The best images stand alone for their beautiful content. However, it is also helpful to have editing skills. You can work to enhance a great image, or to work for the overall improvement of your photos. Take out spots, noise, or other irritations. Clean the image up so you show the beauty without distractions.

Photo editing apps like Instagram, VSCO, and Snapseed can be very helpful in making basic photo adjustments that will give you your desired result. Their photo filters are also great for setting or altering the mood of your images.

However, keep your edits at a minimum – especially processing ‘filters’. Instead, strive to make naturally beautiful images. This way, you don’t have to make too many adjustments later. After all, viewers can tell when you “cheat” your way to a good-looking image. Over-editing lowers the quality of your photos.

8. Keep Your Lens Clean and unscratched

This is something that is often overlooked by smartphone owners. It may not seem to be such a big deal for a small camera. However, a lens having oil, dirt, and moisture on it can slowly damage the glass. Leaving the lens on a tabletop can lead to scratching and marking. These ultimately affect image quality. Make sure you wipe the lens before use and use a protector or case, especially when doing a lot of outdoor shoots.

Can smartphone photography ever replace the DSLR?

Not all smartphones are capable of the more complex camera functions. However, many of the models some models currently on the market already have capabilities that mimic those found in DSLRs. In fact, many of them already allow control over the important camera settings, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. These controls are native to some of the phones without having to use a third-party camera app.

Some of the latest smartphones, like the brand new iPhone and the latest Google Pixel, have more powerful and versatile cameras with more megapixels and other advanced features. Optical image stabilization for sharper photos and smoother videos is appearing, for example. The LG G6, released earlier this year, has great built in features. It carries a wide-angle lens that covers a larger area and is ideal for capturing group shots, magnificent architecture, and stunning landscapes. Many smartphone cameras from other brands offer other impressive features too. These advances are appearing just a few years after we thought such innovations wouldn’t be possible.

Smartphone photography is progressing fast. In a few years time, smartphone cameras are going to become even more sophisticated. For now, it’s safe to say that smartphones are definitely catching up, but whether they will ever surpass the DSLR remains to be seen. One thing is sure, the smartphone camera and DSLR are converging on each other. Furthermore, emergent technologies could take us anywhere. Camera technology still has a long way to go. Enjoy the ride!

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Post contributed by :: Liz Pekler

I am a travel photographer with several years of experience in the field. Being a freelance blogger enables me to help photography beginners and enthusiasts to tell wonderful stories of their travels as seen through their lenses. It also allows me to share my thoughts about another advocacy of mine: social equality and change.
Connect with Liz Pekler: Linkedin :: Twitter: @liz_pekler

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Perfect pictures, perfect lies

Thoughts of the past • Perfect pictures, perfect lies

• Thoughts of the past •
Beauty shines through in a persons character.

The inner person…

A portrait should capture something special about the person. That special thing comes out in many ways. A different way in everyone. It’s always there. You cannot edit it in. But you can sure edit it out. Perfect lies are created when your edits make a deception of the original picture.

Perfect pictures

I love working with older people. Their characters are full and their faces tell you a lot about that inner person. Through their face they shine out as people who have experience and depth. That complements the story they tell you in words. At a recent shoot I was lucky enough to meet a large number of veterans.

We talked and I made photos of them. It was a lunch held in their honour. Many of them talked about what they did in the war. There was pride in the service they did. They talked less about what happened to them. I sensed a deep sense of melancholy in some of the words I heard. It was clear that these people remembered much more than they told.

Beautiful people are much more than just lovely faces. In our modern culture we shy away from imperfection. Every magazine shouts about the perfect in something. Faces, homes, products and many more things show some aspect of the perfect. Other media are the same.

In the faces of these veterans I saw perfection of a different kind. A completeness that comes with age. It is not the wrinkles or the blemishes. Those are surface things. It is about the roundness of experience, the depth of feeling and an acceptance of the world.

The images I made of these lovely people will not be found in magazines. They were not perfect pictures. These beautiful people showed the many imperfections we all know come with age. The point is, to me, that makes them all the more beautiful and interesting.

Perfect lies

The modern media that sell perfection create a world of perfect lies. The beauty in a person is swapped out for the false beauty made in Photo editor applications. My gentle adventure at the veterans lunch is the opposite of the smooth perfection found in the media today.

I have nothing against skilled editing. Photography today demands precise editing. Perhaps to a greater degree than in the past. To develop a photograph always involved a certain amount of editing. Today, photo editors give us much more editing power than the people using chemical films had. It is this power that allows the creation of perfect lies.

It is a shame that the power of photo editors has taken the art to beyond the true story of the photograph. I use edits in my photography. It is an important way to bring out the best in an image in post processing. However, I draw the line at creating a fiction. For me everyone has a beauty that can be shown in some way or another. You don’t need to create a fiction to bring that out. Perfect lies are told by the creation of a deceptive fiction by editing.

In the video below we can see this fiction emerging with every stroke of the brush. I question the validity of such work. It is not photography. It raises questions about how the media manipulate our view of women in particular. And other aspects of our everyday lives are affected too.

I know there are arguments for and against extreme edits. In some cases they create art. But the perfect lies are there when there is deliberate deception. Once a picture tells a story to deceive with intent, actual damage can be done. Modern media would have young people believe that gaunt is good. So many women hate their own bodies because they do not fit the size zero myth. Those same women have beauty of their own. They have had it all along. It is just taken away from them. It is flushed away by unreasonable expectations and the perfect lies of modern photo editing. That is a very sad thing.

How perfect lies are created

In the video below is an extreme make-over sequence. While it shows great skill, it tells a story that is a clear deception. It is important not blame people for this work. There is no conspiracy. This work is a cultural mindset. It is one we need to be aware of in our own photography. For me it is one I would like us to leave behind.

asdesigns1

If you are interested in some other extreme makeover videos there are plenty. YouTube has pages of them. Here is a sample of perfect lies in the making… PhotoShop extreme makeover videos.

How many types of blur are there in photography?

Blur by Netkonnexion - types of blur

Blur by Netkonnexion
Click image to view large
Blur By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page
There are many types of blur in photography.

Not all blur is equal.

There are various types of blur. It sounds odd. In fact there is a lot more to blur than most people realise. It is quite a varied subject. It is used in nearly all aspects of photography. From abstracts to zooming we will find some aspect of blur. Lets take a look…

Okay bokeh…

First up, and one of the best known types of blur, is Bokeh. This Japanese word means haze or blur. It originally referred to the quality of blur. Today we use it to describe the actual blur. A sharp static subject and a blurred background is a blur of little circles, That is bokeh. It is created by the lens and aperture.

When you use a wide aperture, say f4.0 you get a shallow depth of field. The depth of field is the sharp part of the picture. The rest, the out-of-focus part, is blurred. That blur is the bokeh.

Bokeh can add a whole range of composition effects. It is also has its own aesthetic quality. The quality of the little circles varies as does the trueness of the circles themselves. Photographic lenses with apertures that are more circular produce the best bokeh. Some apertures are more like regular polygons (say a hexagonal). Polygon bokeh is not as pleasing as circular bokeh. Less sides on the polygon forms a less circular bokeh circle. It may even form an obvious bokeh polygon. Manufacturers go to some lengths to make the bokeh pleasing. That can raise the cost of the lens.

Subject-movement types of blur

When a subject moves in front of your stationary camera the resulting image has a blurred subject. This is movement blur. The types of blur which include movement can be varied. In the picture above the motor bikes are moving at around 90 miles per hour. When taking this shot I was panning with the far bike resulting in that bike being sharp. The pan meant that my camera was not paced at the same speed as the nearest bike. As a result its movement was relatively out of synchronisation with my camera. The nearest bike was in relative movement and thus blurred.

In “The Barber”, below, I have set my camera to capture the blur of his working hands. As with any movement shot, you want some of the shot blurred and some sharp. If it is all blurred it just looks badly taken.

The Barber

• The Barber By Netkonnexion in 365Project •
Click image to view large
The Barber By Netkonnexion in 365Project External link - opens new tab/page
The movement of the hands is blurred to simulate his hair cutting work. Types of blur created in-camera are most effective.


Movement of the subject is controlled by shutter speed. To get it right you have to practice with the speed of that subject. Try the subject at slow speed first. Once you have an idea of the settings, speed the subject up. As you develop a feel for the speed-of-movement versus the shutter-speed you will be able to get a sharp background but a blurred subject.

More types of blur… Camera movement

When a subject is moving pan your camera with it. I did that in the bike picture at the top of the page and got a sharp bike placed against a blurred background. That is not bokeh in the background. As the camera panned with the bike it captured a stationary background. However, as the camera was moving it created a movement blur on the background.

Movement blur of the background normally occurs when panning. If you hold a stationary camera out of a car window and take a long exposure and the same type of blur will result. However, nothing will be sharp in that case (unless something next to you is travelling at your exact speed).

Done right background blur from camera movement has great impact. In the motorbikes above it gives a race feel. It looks really fast.

Some blur is not so good

Hand movement during a shot causes all sorts of blur. You get blurred shadows, blurred faces, possibly jerky tracks… not good at all. However, you can have some fun with this sort of movement. Some famous pictures have been created by deliberate hand movements. There are lots of shots, like tree shots  External link - opens new tab/page, where the movement of the camera creates a surreal or abstract view of the subject. Some people have tried throwing their camera and triggering it in mid-air – some bizarre results can be obtained (including a smashed camera).

Out of focus types of blur

Of course it is possible to completely blur a shot quite deliberately. Some pleasant aesthetic effects can be achieved. Wedding and romantic photographers love the “soft focus” shot. This is a deliberate very slight lack of sharpness. It emphasizes the romantic, soft nature of something… kittens, brides, the first kiss, baby and so on. Google images of soft focus shots provides quite a good range of possibilities for this type of blur.

The soft focus shot can be created different ways. Each give slightly different types of blur. You can literally set the lens to manual focus. Then when properly focussed pull the focus slightly back. so as to create a small amount of blur. Another way to do it is to use a soft focus filter. These are simply screwed to the end of the lens and give the same effect. When I was first starting out in photography many wedding photographers carried a flesh coloured or white nylon stocking. Pulled tight over the lens while the photograph is taken it creates a soft focus effect. Others like a skylight (ultraviolet) filter with a tiny amount of grease smeared on it. All these work, but give you a slightly different soft focus effect. Experiment… have fun!

Zoom blur

One of the less well known types of blur – zoom blur. You need a steady hand or better, a tripod. It makes the picture look like the world is rushing toward you very rapidly.

Adjusting the zoom during exposure creates zoom blur. Set your camera to have a long exposure – around one second is good. Balance the shutter speed with the ISO and aperture to get a proper exposure. You will need to use manual focus to adjust the zoom in the shot. Press the shutter button and rotate the zoom focus ring. A short turn or through its full arc – the amount of turn gives different effects. With a bit of practice you can reduce hand-shake blur. A smooth zoom throughout the exposure creates some great effects. Look through this page of zoom blur images on Google for some ideas…  External link - opens new tab/page.

Artificial blur

Most image editors have software filters to create types of blur. In fact there are a variety of different software filtersavailable. Gaussian blur is one common type. It softens or smooths the image, but also causes loss of detail. There is also rotational blur (self explanatory); linear blur or movement blur – you choose the direction of the blur. Other editng packages will have other blur types too.

Artificial types of blur do not have the same effect as blurs created in-camera. Artificial blur tends to lack depth. Whereas, blur using depth of field gives depth to a picture. The bokeh and movement blurs both have the impact of realism and depth as they vary throughout the depth of the image. Applying a uniform artificial blur can affect the realism. Applied with care and artful work you can make artificial blur look real. It is all about care and attention.

Are there more blurs?

There are probably other types of blur. They may fit into one or more of the categories above. Why not let us know about others. I would like to hear of new ideas and types of blur.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog 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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

Composition for impossible photography

Video

Video

Working in two dimensions is easy.

The trick is to make our photograph look like 3D. Well, Erik Johansson has taken this one step further. He likes to trick the eye with his photography. His subtle constructions in the pictures make you look, think and look again. Most of his pictures are actually impossible. But the images are constructed so as to realise the reality in impossibility.

If that sounds convoluted, so are his pictures. In the video Johansson not only talks around the way he conceived the pictures, be also describes the compositional theory behind them. It’s very simple, but it is also illuminating for our general ideas about perspective and reality.

Enough from me. This short video (6mins.22secs) will fill you with ideas and give you some new perspectives… enjoy!

Erik Johansson: Impossible photography


Filmed Nov 2011 • Posted Feb 2012 • TEDSalon London Fall 2011
TED – Ideas worth spreading  External link - opens new tab/page

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog 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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

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Give your holiday landscapes a little extra punch

How to make a digital camera

How to make a digital camera

Do something different with your summer shots.

Holiday times always give us a chance to capture a few landscapes. Often they are a more difficult to get right than is appreciated. In fact a little thought can make all the difference. Think about your composition and your colours. The key to a good landscape is to find impact and contrast. In the video below Gavin Hoey shows you two things. First he shows how to think about your composition and colours. Next in the context of colours he shows how to turn your landscape into black and white in Photoshop (actually you can use any full featured image editor to do the same thing).

B&W Landscape Tips


AdoramaTV

Making black and white images

In the video Gavin Hoey made a great point about shooting in RAW. Landscape pictures often look great to the eye when in the field but they lose their appeal when the image is created on-screen. So in order to make your landscape pop some post processing is essential.

This video shows how to bring out contrasts to make the scene look great in black and white. However, he makes an important point about shooting in RAW. You don’t lose the original colour, it is retained in a RAW file. Then you convert to black and white afterwards. This is not possible in *.jpg. That format does not have the colours stored like the RAW format. If your black and white *.jpg is less than successful you lose the colour option too.

Gavin Hoey points out that you should test that your camera will process a RAW file in monochrome mode on its screen, but still leave a full colour RAW file. It is possible your camera converts the RAW file to a *.jpg file in the colour scene mode. So cover your options and try it before going in the field.

Gavin showed the conversion method to black and white using the colour sliders. Most image editors have two basic ways to create monochrome shots. Your shot can be simply colour converted to shades of grey, or you can use the colour slider method where you have some control over the intensity of colour which greys are created from. This latter method gives you much greater control over the contrasts in the picture. When working in monochrome that is the most effective way to ensure the picture has visual impact. So always choose the colour slider method to get better control of the conversion.

There are some additional links below to show how to improve your black and white shots in other ways.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog 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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

Five shocking truths about professional photography

Professionals are not always what they seem…

Don’t be fooled photography is not the easy option for a job. Everyone thinks it is a hobby. Like any job there is the fun side. But amateurs often have the better deal…

1. Photography is a glamorous job…

It can be. But most of the time it is not. You meet some great people. You meet some people who are in the greatness league but are unmentionably irritating and bad tempered. Nothing worse than a Diva when you are trying to get the job done under the hot studio lights and your subject is giving you hassle. Nothing glamorous about that. You have to be there, you have to keep a smile on your face and you have to be enthusiastic about your job. Otherwise the images will be terrible. Some people do not make it easy for you. As an amateur you can walk away from all that.

2. Amateurs produce better pictures than Professionals

Shock horror! If you are a professional you must be good, isn’t that true? No, some images by professionals are surpassed by amateurs. The definition of amateur is someone who loves what they do and are doing it because they love it. A lot of the work that professionals get is not particularly lovable work. However, the professional will provide consistently good images when they do the work they don’t like. Amateurs will not do it or will find it especially challenging to do because it is outside of their comfort zone. An amateur can experiment and spend all afternoon working to get one picture right. A professional has to do a good-to-great image, reset and move on, sometimes in minutes. They do not have the time, or the patience of their subjects, to work and rework an image.

3. Professionals get paid well

Sure, like any profession, top photographers get paid well. But they have worked for it. For the majority of photographers the competition is very heavy. The work is thin on the ground and we are being undercut by would-be photographers who charge very low rates. The latter do not realise they are devaluing the world of photography and they are also giving a bad name to keen amateurs who have great skill.

5. Professionalism is about…

Photography professionals demonstrate…

  • Consistency,
  • Responsible behaviour,
  • Work to a brief,
  • Great customer relations,
  • Good and great images,
  • The ability to help the customer achieve their goals,
  • The ability to make money and produce pictures,
  • They can work fast,
  • Adaptability to the changing needs of clients,
  • They have the right equipment for the job,
  • They can make great images in good OR challenging situations,
  • Creative ideas under pressure,
  • Enjoying the work, the pressure and the creativity,
  • They can work to a brief provided by the client,
  • They can work comfortably with anyone.
  • Sadly a lot of ‘professional’ photographers have never been trained in these things. There are a lot of people out there who do not match these standards. When you are looking for someone to do your photography for you… make sure these standards are on your list of priorities.

    5. The line between amateur and professional does not exist

    Professional and amateur photography overlap. Some amateurs are highly talented and produce some exceptional images. They thrive on the creative side of photography. On the other hand professionals do not have the time or the budget to work at the highest artistic standards on commercial projects. Instead they work at the best possible standard for the situation they are in. The balance between what is achievable by an amateur or a professional is different. To understand the professional position consider the pressures and time constraints they are under when working. Most amateurs are pretty shocked at their first commercial shoot. It’s lots of preparation, hard graft, blisteringly fast shot rates, high hit-rates are expected and long hours are spent in post production. Amateurs are generally not prepared for that.

    Have you any pet hates or interesting observations about professional photography?
    Why not leave a comment below?

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    Tips by email service.
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    By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

    Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

    Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

    Damon is a writer-photog 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 photographers.
    See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
    See also: Profile on Google+.

    How to take photos – each important step in making a photograph

    Infographic download - How to take photos

    • Infographic showing the various steps in how to take photos •
    A guide to what you should doing to make great images.
    • Click to download printable full page version

    Getting down to the detail…

    Yesterdays article was How to take photos – each important step in making a photograph. Today I want to share the detail behind each step. Be warned! You might need to think again about your existing knowledge. Unlearning old ideas will help you to move forward and improve.

    How to take photos – The location

    Lots of people think you can just turn up and take pictures. Well you can, but often they are not good ones. Getting the best out of your location involves understanding what you’ll find there. Find out about the weather on the day. An idea of light levels and times of sunset and sunrise etc. is useful too. There have probably been lots of visits by others at popular destinations. Check “Google Images” for that site. Google will help with other details too.

    When you arrive don’t just fire off loads of shots. Settle down and get into the location. Don’t make photography mistakes that mean you miss great shots. The first time you do this consider a variety of shots. Think about more than one shot, think about the whole shoot.

    How to take photos – Examine the scene

    Considering the scene is an important part of the work-flow on site. Unless you have been there before you need to get to know it. Use all your knowledge about camera angles, composition, lighting, camera settings and so on. Take the time to examine your location while thinking of these things. Consider your feelings about the scene too. How you feel will help your shot be an impassioned response to the location. What you feel about the scene is the best guide on how to take photos at that location.

    How to take photos – Review the light

    Most photographers forget this step. They are too wrapped up in the scene and the camera settings or the passion of it all. This step will make or break your shot. Look at the light. If you don’t know what I mean read these:

    Ask yourself some simple questions about the light…

    • Is it hard or soft?
    • Is it coloured or more neutral?
    • Is it at the right angle to best capture the location/scene?
    • What is the best time for the right light?
    • Is it very bright and intense or dull and diffused?
    • Do I need any artificial illumination (flash, diffusers etc)?
    • Is the shadow hardly defined (sun up high) or strongly defined (sun to the side)?

    Lean about the properties and vocabulary of light. It helps give you a greater understanding of photography. These questions, and others, help you make decisions about lighting for your scene. For more on “How to take photos – Light and Lighting” see the resource page in the SUBJECTS/ARTICLES menu at the top of every page.

    How to take photos – Create a mental version of the the shot

    If you want to make a great image – have a great picture in your head of your intended outcome. Visualisation has helped athletes, artists, thinkers, inventors and others to achieve amazing things. Train your mind to visualise in detail. If you see what you want to achieve it will guide you when setting up your camera. Take the time to create that mental picture – in detail. Consider how you are going to make the best of the light when you consider how to take photos. More about visualisation… 80 year old secret of world class photographers revealed.

    How to take photos – Compose the shot

    By now you have an intimate photographic knowledge of your scene. Composing the shot is about realising that potential. Long-time followers of this blog already know something about composition. For first-timers you can get lots of information from our Composition resources page in the SUBJECTS/ARTICLES menu at the top of every page. Composition is a skill that evolves as you develop as a photographer. Knowing more about composition helps your awareness and skill develop. Read about it to gain insight. Think about it every shot.

    How to take photos – Review and adjust the camera settings

    Now you have a picture in mind, composed, and are ready to set up your exposure. The exposure is defined by your camera settings. Camera makers will have you believe that the auto-setting on your camera is the perfect exposure. The fact is they made informed guesses to arrive at that exposure. It is different for every model of image sensor. Modern cameras do make a good representation of the scene. It is not always what you want however. You can change the exposure by under-exposing, over-exposing and by using different apertures, ISO levels and shutter times. That is your interpretation of the shot. When you think about how to take photos, plan how you want the image to come out.

    Having a visualisation in your head helps you set the camera up to make that mental image. You do it using ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed. Even using one of the ‘mode’ settings is still a way of regulating your exposure. They all adjust those three basic facets of the exposure.

    Here are some other links to pull together ideas about exposure:

    How to take photos – Stabilise the camera

    You want the photo to be sharp, crisp and clear. The faster the shutter speed the easier it is to get a sharp shot. But often, especially for a good quality shot, longer exposures are better. You need a good stance to hand-hold the camera. You will need a tripod (or other method) to steady it for longer exposures.

    Stance is down to basic technique and comfort. The stance you use will be a personal thing for you. I have found many photogs have to relearn their stance after many years of a poor stance. It is best to learn a good one early. Here is my recommendation: Simple tips for a good stance

    The use of tripods or other supports is a wide subject. It is also one that many learners tend to ignore- at least at first. When learning how to take photos sharpness is vital. Become acquainted with a tripod (preferably a good one) as early as you can. Your images will improve a huge amount. Here is some advice about tripods:

    And, here is some basic advice about improving sharpness overall – The Zen of sharpness – 12 easy ways to improve

    How to take photos – 15 second check

    OK, that may seem like a long time. However, it is actually the time you need. You can get faster at it, but if you are taking a serious attitude to your shot then give it the time. You can find out all about the the 15 second check by reading these in order:

    1. An old sailors trick to improve your photography
    2. The fifteen second landscape appraisal
    How to take photos – “Click”

    This is where you press the shutter button. How you press that button can make a difference to your sharpness. Earlier, I mentioned this link, Simple tips for a good stance. It also gives advice on pushing the button without affecting sharpness.

    An essential element of your shot is about confidence in what you have done. Today we are lucky. We just look at the back of our camera. Your first “click” may be a test shot. If your settings need adjustment then a simple technique called “Chimping” will help. Chimp and adjust. You will only need to do it a few times to get the shot right. You will not need to machine-gun the site with hundreds of “just in case” shots.

    How to take photos – Work the scene

    Chimping helps you set up for the shot and compose it. To get other possible shots you visualised earlier, you should work the scene. Repeat all the steps you have just done for each of the shots you foresaw. Working the scene is a skill and takes practice.

    How to take photos – Time line

    What is not obvious from the diagram is that the diagonal arrow is also a time-line of the shot. Of course it is a different length for every shot. You will have different problems to solve and ideas to consider for every shot. That’s fine. You have just learned a more careful, precise method for how to take photos. As you practice will quickly get faster at taking shots. But you will also make better images.

    A promise

    I can guarantee that if you follow the steps on this page you will…

    • Take less shots;
    • Get a better hit-rate (more usable shots per shoot);
    • Spend less time in post-processing;
    • Have better composition;
    • Improve your photography overall.

    What is less obvious is that you will also save a lot of time.

    By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

    Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

    Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

    Damon is a writer-photog 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 photographers.
    See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
    See also: Profile on Google+.