Category Archives: Photography

Creative slump? Just cannot get going? Try thinking inside the box!

Creative slump? It is easy to get into one…

Often, as photographers, we seem to lapse into a state of almost mindless snapping. For some reason we simply cannot get into a productive frame of mind. Creative thoughts just do not surface.

In A Creative Slump? Get out of it by thinking "Inside" the box!

In A Creative Slump? Get out of it by thinking “Inside” the box!
Image taken from the video – see below.

Photography is no different to any other creative activity. To break the Creative Slump mind-set, you need to find a technique that gets you out of it. There are three things that I sometimes find helps me to get more creative. They are simple…

  • Get more sleep!
  • Start a new project;
  • Work with someone else on something.

Of course these do not always work. Sometimes it is just easier to vegetate. The problem with that is, you may never get out of the slump. It is better to have some active way to refocus and get out of the creative slump.

Trick your mind into being creative

The video helps you to get into a new way of thinking. It reviews a time-honoured way of describing creative potential. However, it changes the way you approach the actual problem of lack of creativity. A very simple idea. But, WOW, so powerful. So, do watch this video. Then next time you feel a Creative Slump coming on, use this technique.


Uploaded by TED Talks In a creative slump? Trick your mind into being creative - Video. | External link - opens new tab/page – an excellent resource for self-developers, thinkers and innovators.

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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+.

Directing and Posing: Do you know the relationship?

Directing and posing seem to be two opposite ends of the photographic spectrum. Yet, they share a very close relationship. Successful images usually break the barriers because of both directing and posing. At least, more so than the rest of the day-to-day fluff that floats on the photographic wind.

In successful images directing and posing must share an intimate relationship.

In successful images directing and posing must share an intimate relationship.
Image taken from the video below.

Directing and posing – the meanings

It is interesting that the meaning of posing rests more on misrepresentation than action. Here is what I mean…

Posing; posed; verb – to pose…

  1. To assume a particular attitude or stance, especially with the hope of impressing others: “He likes to pose as an authority on literature”.
  2. Presenting oneself insincerely: He seems to be posing in all his behavior.
  3. To assume or hold a physical attitude, as for an artistic purpose: to pose for a painter.

Dictionary.com :: Seen: 03/10/2018

These definitions of posing are mostly about how the subject represents themselves.

On the other hand, directing is more about the power behind the action…

Directing; verb – To direct.

  1. To manage or guide by advice, helpful information, instruction, etc.: He directed the company through a difficult time.
  2. Regulating the course of; control: History is directed by a small number of great men and women.
  3. To administer; manage; supervise: She directs the affairs of the estate.

https://www.dictionary.com/ :: Seen: 03/10/2018

In this definition we are in no doubt where the driving force comes from.

So, is the rift between these terms a real one for a photographer? Yes! And, the division often separates the successful photographer from the rest.

A common mistake…

When I teach portraiture classes, the most obvious gap in knowledge is not about the photography. It is about the connection between the people involved. Amateur photographers, and some professionals, rely on the subject to come up with the posing strategy. They take the passive and weak attitude that the posing person knows how to present themselves for the photo the photographer has in mind. This approach leaves the directing in the hands of the subject of the portrait. Worse, the subject is posing to meet your goals, but they probably don’t know what they are! Regardless, the subject is probably the least qualified person to steer the outcome of the photograph. So, do not let your subject misrepresent your vision of the image.

Have a goal before you start

It pays to have at least an idea of what you want to photograph. Too many photogs put themselves in front of a subject (person or object) and hope that they have the right photographic technique to capture it. Success relies mostly on luck with this approach.

On the other hand, the stronger approach is with the photographer that has a concept to depict. They research it and set it up. Success becomes a matter of visualisation and fulfillment. There are two steps there that the passive photog misses. First, they don’t do any visualisation and research before starting. Secondly, they just react to the scene, not direct it or manage it to ensure photographic success.

why do photographers often fail to direct?

In short, I think there are several reasons…
• Practice: The successful photographer has had enough practice to know that the passive point-and-shoot method is too haphazard and error-prone. The passive photog does not drive for a result.
• Fright: Most self-taught and developing photographers have not learned to direct and, so, do not recognise its value. They are frightened to “take control” of someone else (the subject). Directing requires them to drive for the result and be the instigator of the outcome. This is an extrovert approach. However, it is a big step to take for the unpracticed – or at least they think so. Actually, it is the path to success.
• Lack of knowledge: The reluctant, passive photog is an example of a great educational irony. They think they should not do it because they don’t know how to go about it. However, they won’t even begin to know about it unless they experience it. In fact, the way to get past the problem is to simply push past it – have a go! Just do it! You will learn by your mistakes and feedback.

Directing and posing have a dynamic connection

To step outside of the meanings quoted above, we should be more bullish, more participatory, more inclusive, more descriptive. Directing drives the subject and the poses. However, it is only through co-operation and joint understanding can the posing be effective. Success depends on you, the photographer, breaching the divide between the traditional meanings of directing and posing.

Directing is an extrovert activity. That does not necessarily mean that its for bullies. Instead, to succeed, we need to grasp the bull by the horns. To direct is to articulate an outcome. Make it clear that the poses you work with are the ones that fit the goal you are trying to achieve. Work with the sitter to jointly get the posing outcome that will make the best shot.

Directing and posing flows from participation and inclusion

Be more participatory. As photographers we need to interact with our subject – not just react to them. Talk to them, know them, live a part of their lives for a few minutes. Listen to them, but know what you want to achieve. Then work with your subject bringing out the advantages they have just told you about. The best poses are those that show the character of the person. They have the character, you do the interpretation through your direction. Directing and posing come together through the cooperation and participation of both photographer and subject.

Be more inclusive. Once we are involved and communicating with our sitter or subject we can cooperate with them to achieve our goal. That is the previsualised goal we set ourselves before the shoot. Often what we want out of the shoot is a reflection of what your subject wants too. Include them in your vision. They will understand and perform the pose better if they are included in the discussion leading to it.

You will not succeed in a shoot where you alienate, annoy, ignore or destroy your subject. Generally, your shoot stands a greater chance of success when you view the whole process as one of teamwork between the photographer and the person you are framing.

Directing and posing – the moral of the story

Be the driving force. See the goals, articulate your vision. Always bring your subject along with you. The dynamic connection between you will enable you to bring out the character of your sitter, open up the subject and pick the best approach possible.

From feedback, I have found that learning to engage through directing and posing gives students a big boost in their development. If my students come away from a portraiture session thinking, “I must try directing, I must try directing!”, then I know they will be on the way to making great images. Remember, not all your shots will be a success. Nevertheless, you stand more of a chance of some good hits if you push for what you want to achieve but also involve your subject.

A quick video

Directing and posing often does need a degree of knowledge and understanding or practice and experience on the part of the director. In this video short, you can see some of the issues that the photographer has considered prior to the shoot. The lines and captions show the previsualisation in the shot. The photog works with the subject to produce an outcome that is both unique and empathizes with the character of the subject. It is a quick video, but worth thinking about on several levels. While watching, think of the directing aspect, the posing aspect and the actual poses that are being struck.

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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+.

Expressing ourselves

Expressing ourselves is more than simply representing what is in the frame.

Expressing ourselves in photography goes beyond just rendering what is in the frame when we make an image.
View the video below :: Image is from the video.


Expressing ourselves is more than just clicking the shutter button when we see a scene we like. The point-and-shoot photographer says little to the viewer beyond blandly representing the scene before them. That is probably why the dreaded “holiday photo evening” is so acutely boring. Those images speak only to the author and family. To go beyond our close associates and reach a wider audience, the photographer has to be able to say more. We must speak to the viewers and open a dialogue with them through our images.

Expressing ourselves when the viewer knows the language of images

We photogs are communicators. As such we often forget the audience is more literate in our art than we realise. So personally, we are able to decode images with success, but think the audience can not interpret our work. As a result, we work too hard to try and say something. Perhaps we try to say too much or over-complicate the message we want to send. Taking the simple approach is what is really needed. In photography, as in all art, simplicity often has the most powerful impact. With a simple point, our images speak to the audience.

Remember, it is the thought you put into a photograph that makes it work, not the rapid capture on the spur of the moment. Think, and you will communicate. React and you will merely render. We should try to go beyond mere rendering of a scene. Our images need to have a point if they are to be a success. With every image we should seek to make a point. With every image we should speak to the viewer.

To make the meaning of a photograph clear takes some thought. Knowledge of the “Elements of Art” help us to develop the visual power in the image we can create. However, thinking about how we communicate gives us the language we need to actually create images that convey messages. That is about trying to show your viewer something. For example, if we wish to create the “Aaaahh!” experience of the fluff-ball kitten with big eyes, then focus on that. Exclude background clutter, the baby near-by, the toys on the floor. Get rid of distractions. Instead, get right in, close, and show that kitten with all its endearing qualities.

Expressing ourselves in images is a primary skill that successful photographers work on as they develop. So, think carefully about what you are trying to say before you make your image. Work with your subject to include only the elements you need to make your point. Exclude other things from the shot, so your point is clear.

Video – an insight to expressing ourselves

The video below is about expressing ourselves through visual art. The lesson is simple. We are all fluent in the language of images without knowing it.

Knowing that the viewer can decode our images helps us. With a little thought, expressing ourselves as photographers is easier than we think. Make the image simple.

In this short, hilarious video, Christoph Niemann, illustrator, opens up the language of images. He shows us how artists (and by extension photographers) can tap into human emotions and thought. This simple visual tour can help you understand how we express ourselves effectively as image makers.

You are fluent in this language (and don’t even know it)

See this video in the TED page Expressing ourselves :: You are fluent in this language (and don't even know it) | External link - opens new tab/page.

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Article Author

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 courses in digital photography.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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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Wedding retouches – the five most common techniques

Wedding retouches are essential to great results. Of course, they can be a challenging aspect of wedding photography. Every professional photographer has at least tried retouching their work. However, wedding specialists are particularly under pressure to provide the perfect image of the newlyweds. Specialists in the wedding genre, who also excel at retouches, are rare. The work is sometimes complex and often a tedious procedure. Each part of the work is important. There are no shortcuts. But, you have to do the work if you want perfect results.

[The article today is by Sara Reinhard, Wedding-Retouching.comBio]

The clone stamp can be used to do a wide range of wedding retouches

The clone stamp can be used to do a wide range of wedding retouches

Application and experience

There is a great variety of editing programs that can be applied to solve retouching tasks. Of those, Adobe Photoshop remains an undeniable leader. This application has proved its great usability, wide range of options and graphic potential.

The techniques I have chosen are by the way of experiment and developed through my experience. I hope that this list will help your workflow and make your life easier. With a good start, and practice you can really make an impact with your digital wedding retouches.

Wedding retouches – 1. Develop the picture in Raw

To get the best results with editing you should always work in RAW. This format allows the greatest manipulation of the data in the file. The common *.jpg file has very limited ability to make changes.

The first thing to work on is adjusting tone, temperature and exposure. This is done early in the process. Good skin tone and colour temperature are important. Of course, applying them is not obligatory and I use them only if I need them. This work involves a variety of sliders and largely depends on adjustment by eye. You have to develop your colour sense over time. So practice and careful observation of true colours and light are important. (See: Using curves for skin tones – Google search Using curves for skin tones - Google search | External link - opens new tab/page).

With editing wedding photos, I focus on shadows and highlights next. To make wedding images look realistic and natural, I usually try to make the highlights dull. Bring down the brightness on the highlights only a little. At the same time bring the visible shadows back from black. Flatten them so the visible shadows are not distracting. It is ideal for wedding photo edits when all shadows are as flat as mid-tones. That gives the most realistic result.

This procedure, toning deep shadows and highlights, helps make my later work in Photoshop faster and easier. When I get it all right, the image will have a perfect contrast. If I do not tone the lights and darks before starting, adding changes and effects later can ruin a photo. Correct basic contrast levels are so important.

Wedding retouches – 2. The Healing brush! Mask imperfections

The healing brush is an effective tool when editing wedding portraits or guests pictures. There are two variants. You may use either the common Healing brush or Spot healing brush. I prefer the first. The reason is simple. I like to choose my own color source points. This brush is effective in masking all kinds of skin inconsistencies from acne to permanent scars or birthmarks. The healing brush produces a masking effect over the blemish. It takes its mask colour from the surrounding area, or a point of colour of your choosing.

The healing brush is just as effective for removing the spots in other places in the image. Removing facial marks are important. It is also handy when I need to improve the backdrop of a picture. I am amazed how an image changes after simple background work with this brush. Often people do not notice individual spots and marks in an image. However, they certainly notice when the image is crisp and clean. The careful use of this brush really improves the overall impact of the shot. (Learn about the healing brush: Using the Healing Brush – Google search Wedding retouches - Using the healing brush | External link - opens new tab/page).

Wedding retouches – 3. The clone stamp

This is the quickest way to change the level of lightness or darkness in parts of a photo. I mostly apply this technique to lighten the dark areas in a photo. Basically, it is used on the background, but you can use it on the skin too. I use an opacity of 15%. Unlike the healing brush tool, the clone stamp is best used on the areas that do not have many details. For instance, it works well on landscape backgrounds, limited texture, or areas of a single tone.

Using the clone stamp can be pretty harsh at 100% opacity. At 15% it is barely visible. So, once you have selected the opacity you want then also select the mode as “lighten” or “darken”. In this mode the clone tool will do what it says, lightens or darkens the area it affects. It has the added bonus of not affecting areas around it that are the opposite to the selection you have made. (See: Lighten Up with the Clone Tool Wedding retouches - Lighten Up with the Clone Tool | External link - opens new tab/page).

Wedding retouches – 4. Dodge and burn

That is one of my favorite photo editing techniques. To be able to shape the visible light in a picture is brilliant. Photoshop has versatile ways to do this. I don’t use the actual tools for dodge and burn over wide areas of the image. I simply make the exposure brighter with one curve, and use a second curve to bring out the darker tones. That is better for making the overall contrast give a feeling of depth in the image. (See: Using curves in Photoshop – a Google search Wedding retouches - Using curves in Photoshop - a Google search | External link - opens new tab/page).

Dodge and Burn as well as Healing Brush  techniques are essential

Every photographer should use these tools for wedding retouches


From time to time I use the actual dodge and burn tools in Photoshop. They are better for more detailed work. Why do I like them as a professional wedding photo editor? I can set the mid-tones, shadows and highlights quite easily. I have noticed that for wedding pictures the most effective use is to add depth. That is possible by bringing out the lighter areas and toning down the darker areas where lights and darks lie close to one another. The obvious transition from light to dark in close proximity causes the eye to see depth. To use the subtle effects of these tools use the ‘Range’ and ‘Exposure’ drop-down settings on the Photoshop top bar.

Wedding retouches – 5. Frequency separation

There are plenty of photo editing tips for improving the skin condition. For wedding pictures, I am convinced that perfect skin is a keystone of success. The problem is that it is a very intense task. This technique makes the skin smooth. Still, it should be used in moderation. If you smooth out the skin too much it looks unnatural. The technique brings effective results in enhancing backdrops, clothes or other parts of the image that need smoothing. Try it on your own images. You will find it a great technique. However, it takes a lot of practice. Once learned it provides a solid way of preserving skin texture but taking out some of the more distracting aspects of tones, highlights and blotches. Have a look at the video below.

Two more techniques for great wedding retouches

Using layer masks

When I retouch pictures, I want every effect to be applied to a specific part of the photo. That is because every thing has different colors, tones and relationships with the surrounding areas. To successfully keep a natural feel I work with layer masks a lot. Each change I make has to be specific and effective. Layer masks allow me to isolate these specific parts of the image without my work spilling onto surrounding areas. The layer mask makes it easy, and quick to isolate each area I need to work with to make the changes.

Furthermore, when using different layers, your changes will not have a global effect. You can limit each change to a specific layer. I often add filters and dodge and burn on different layers. That too saves time and makes the overall task simpler.

Here is a little secret. I often edit a background and a photographed subject on different layers. I use layer masking to take out the photo-subject onto another layer. This allows separate toning and other treatments.

When you are using layer masks, it is important to remember while toning that the black colour conceals and the white colour reveals. (See: Working with layer masks in photoshop Wedding retouches - working with layer masks in photoshop | External link - opens new tab/page – Google search).

Blending modes – a versatile choice

Commonly, editors overlook blending modes. They appear to be complex. But actually, they give you a lot of creative scope. It is really worth having a go with them.

There are 27 possible blending modes (including ‘Normal’). They can be used in many ways. Basically, they allow you to blend something on a selected layer with an image below it. Blending modes change the way layers interact. The layers remain separate. Your image is quite safe! You actually just see the image with the “blend” laid over the image.

For wedding retouches, there is a high level of romantic impact. So, you can use blending modes to bring texture, tones, colours and hues into your image. Using overlays this way, allows you to raise the artistic and emotional impact. You can use textures in Photoshop templates or, there are a wide range of textures available on the Internet Photoshop textures - Google images | External link - opens new tab/page.

Here is a great video. It introduces the gentle art of using blend modes. They are not nearly as intimidating as they sound!

There is a lot to learn. Therefore, the best idea is to experiment both with the choice available and the opacity you use.

I have a favourite blending mode – ‘soft light’. It suits my tastes and photo preferences. From time to time I experiment and change curves to appealing ‘luminosity’ mode. It adds an elusive charm to wedding pictures.

An amazing world of opportunities

All these techniques, in skillful hands, provide results beyond the expectation of the original. They are powerful enough to change a photo in the most unbelievable way. Still, I ask you to use these techniques with care and attention. It is too easy to be over the top and spoil the effect.

Concerning wedding pictures it is especially important to preserve naturalness. Thus, it is better to add less rather than to over retouch. If you are experimenting, take my advice. It is best to use a separate layer for each effect or tool that you apply. That allows you to cancel changes you have made by deleting the layer. And, never make changes to your original. Always keep your original file as a safe back up file. Work only on a copy.

One further point. The presented pictures above were taken with natural light. That is important with wedding retouches. Why? Because the bulk of contemporary wedding photo shoots are held outside. It is quite expensive and difficult to adjust natural light. Modern photographers are used to professional editors improving imperfect light digitally.

If you are worried about the level of your skill when doing wedding retouches, or other digital work, our team are happy to help. If you face some unsolved editing problem, we also will give a supporting hand. (Wedding-Retouching.com My company is Wedding-Retouching.com | External link - opens new tab/page)

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Post contributed by :: Sara Reinhard

Sara works at “Wedding Photo Editing Service”, a leader in picture editing since 2003. They have a team of experts that edit wedding photos. The service works to tight deadlines and high quality standards. The photo retouchers work directly to support photographers through every photo order. They work directly with photographers to build professional relations offering wedding photo editing at all levels and varied styles. The business also offers photo editing in other forms of photography, such as body, portraits or family pictures. A range of editing services are available at modest prices.
Wedding-Retouching.com Wedding-Retouching.com | External link - opens new tab/page

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.

Stay Motivated in Photography if You need to Grow

Post by Brendan Hufford [Click here for Photo MBA’s 7 days of free training Click here to get Photo MBA’s 7 days of free training | External link - opens new tab/page].

Stay Motivated in photography

So there I was, yet again, searching Instagram for hashtags related to photography inspiration. I’d lost steam. I’d gotten new cameras and new lenses, but my photos weren’t improving.

I’d tried learning new techniques, but my interest still waned. I couldn’t find a reason to pick up my camera.

I was facing the second biggest hurdle we face as photographers. It seemed like a mountain to climb.

Stay motivated in photography - Taking the first hurdle - beat the taste gap

Getting ahead in photography means taking the first hurdle to beat the taste gap.

I’d later learn that this hurdle is ironically called “the dip”. It’s the price of entry. It’s when your skills start to catch up to your taste. Here’s what I mean…

Hurdle #1 – The Taste Gap

When you start photography, you know what kind of photos you love. You have great taste in images. However, having good taste means you know that what you’re doing does not match what you see quality photographers producing.

Being able to continue working, taking photos, editing them, and sharing them will get you over the Taste Gap. It will allow your skills to catch up to your taste.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

From a Video by Ira Glass  Ira Glass on Wikipedia | External link - opens new tab/page

As you develop, you’re the best photographer in your family, then among your friends, then probably, one of the best in your local photography club or community. But, you still don’t feel like you’re “there” yet. It’s then that we encounter the second hurdle.

Hurdle #2 – The Dip

Coined first by Seth Godin in a business context, the dip is the small inflection point right before we start to move toward mastery of our craft.

The Dip [Graph Image By Seth Godin]
The Dip – shows how performance dips just before mastering our craft [Graph Image By Seth Godin Seth Godin | External link - opens new tab/page].

The idea of growing as a photographer has already been covered quite a bit on this web site. However, it all involves using your camera to “get better” by doing more. Here, we want to look at staying motivated enough just to pick up the camera after you’ve started to really feel stuck.

Stay Motivated in photography through a 5-step process

Here’s a ‘5-Step Process’ that others have used to overcome the dip and stay motivated in photography even when they want to quit.

1. Develop a “Not Do” List :: This is all about protecting your time and creativity. What you don’t do determines what you can do. Eliminating stressful habits around photography is one of the best ways to do your best work.

Here’s a few that I think are super-helpful:

  • Don’t do tasks that kill your creativity as they occur; batch them.
  • Don’t fully book your schedule; leave white space so you can be creative.
  • Don’t be overprotective of your camera; take it everywhere with you.
  • Conversely, don’t feel like you always have to be taking photos.
  • Don’t take a million photos at once. If looking through them later is overwhelming, you’ll skip it completely.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others; their work isn’t inspiring you, it’s making you feel bad.

2. Be Tougher :: This isn’t overly complicated. Just decide. Decide to be tough. This is a short period of time. Push through it. You’ll start growing in more noticeable ways soon enough. See this time period for what it is (temporary) and decide to come out the other side.

Think back to the past whenever you’ve struggled with something. You’ve probably struggled with thousands of things in your life. How many of those do you still struggle with? Close to zero.

When you push through, you learn something important (even if you’re forgetting it right now): the thing that’s on the other side of this struggle is you. It’s the realization that you’re capable of so much more than you initially thought. Be tougher, beat this momentary block, you’ll grow as a photographer.

I’ve found it helps to break an overwhelming task into micro-goals. When you can’t be tougher than something huge, break it into smaller parts. Then you simply need to be tougher than that one small goal. With that small goal accomplished, move onto the next and so on. This has a cumulative effect. You can accomplish much bigger goals in the end.

3. Surround Yourself with Success :: Earlier I mentioned not comparing yourself to others and your photos to theirs. What I mean is, physically surround yourself with successful photographers. Go to meet-ups, join a mastermind (more on that below), go to events and photo-walks. If these don’t exist in your area, start them.

You can also meet people online. However, online meetings shouldn’t be used in lieu of meeting in person. The benefit of meeting people online is access. We have a tremendous amount of access to successful people who can help us grow when we’re struggling. There is a problem, however. We think that if we join a few Facebook groups or follow a few people on Instagram, we’ll become successful. That is not necessarily true.

The answer is to do both. Join a club or create local groups of successful photographers that can help you grow. Then, follow photographers who are active on social photography sites, like Instagram Active on Instagram | External link - opens new tab/page. Build a relationship with them. Join with a group of other photographers on a 365 project. You’re the average of the five people you associate with most. Make them count!

One of the best pieces of advice I can give a photographer is to join a ‘mastermind group’. A mastermind group is a committed group of people that meet together. Stay Motivated in photography through your meetings on a regular basis with those who help each other achieve their goals.

Nothing encourages growth like accountability. I’d been running businesses Photo MBA | External link - opens new tab/page for years before I joined my first mastermind group Join a mastermind group | External link - opens new tab/page. We met every week to talk and the accountability that I received from those three other people was a game-changer for me.

The same is true for photography. Meet regularly with a set group of people to review each other’s work and push each other and watch yourself grow.

4. Make it Binary :: Binary decisions are between two options, typically “yes” and “no.” When we make decisions into variables, like shades of gray, we lose focus because we can be overwhelmed. “Where should I go on a photo walk today?” is overwhelming because of too many variables. What if it rains? What if the sun isn’t out? What if…

If I have to decide fifteen different things before photographing, I’m making it difficult for myself. However, re-framing that question helps make it easy. Asking, “Should I go on a photo walk before work or after?”, makes it an either/or decision. That question is much more easily decided. Growing as a photographer is hard, but making questions a binary “yes or no”, makes it easier.

5. Limit Yourself :: When you introduce constraints into your work, you’ll force yourself to really get the most out of what you are using. You’ll find new opportunities that you weren’t even aware of before.

Whenever I don’t feel like I’m growing as a photographer, I take things away to force creativity and growth. Instead of trying a million things, I focus on just one, such as one of these:

  • One camera
  • One lens
  • Only black and white
  • One editing program (or no editing program!)
  • One location
  • One time of day
  • …and so on.

For instance, by limiting the number of shots that you take, you start to put more time and effort into setting up the shot. You become a sniper rifle instead of a machine gun. When I limited my focal length, I had to consider how to photograph things differently. Where I’d previously taken hundreds of photos of something in the past I now had to look at them in a whole new way. I had to move around my subject, instead of relying on my zoom lens.

By forcing a constraint, you’ll grow in that one area of your photography. You will also quickly see a carryover into other areas. Limiting my focal length meant that now I move around a lot more as a photographer. It has an impact even when I am using a zoom lens. In another area of my work, shooting only in black and white taught me to respect the effect that contrast has on my photography. I have seen that benefit carry over into my colour photography too.

5. Motivation and Action :: I’ve always felt that searching for motivation was a distraction. Reading motivating quotes, looking at the work of other photographers, trying to be someone else… All of this lead me to feel like I needed those things in my life in order to be creative and grow as a photographer.

I was wrong. The best way I’ve found to grow as a photographer is through action. Motivation is fantastic as long as it translates into action. Motivation feels like action. So, we often spend time thinking about doing the things we should do to grow as a photographer, but we never get to them. If you want to stay motivated in photography you also need to continuously take action upon it.

Combine motivation and action. Look at things that inspire you and stimulate your creative sense. But temper that with the commitment that, no matter what, you’re still going to put in the work.

Some great resources to help you stay motivated in photography:

And, two tips on taking action:

You Can Do This

Being motivated isn’t something that comes from outside of you. It comes from within. And, it is the child of discipline. Commit to pushing through this small hurdle and remember why you were excited about photography in the first place.

Comments Are My Oxygen

I read each and every comment. Comment below and commit to doing one of the things above. How has this article helped you? Don’t feel like my comments are a fit? Comment below with what you’re struggling with. I’d love to help.

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Post contributed by :: Brendan Hufford

The hardest part of running a photography business is the stuff that let’s you take photos, like marketing and sales. Click here to get Photo MBA’s 7 days of free training Click here to get Photo MBA’s 7 days of free training | External link - opens new tab/page that will change how you look at running a photography business and start making your business work for you.