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Review your own photographs

Low flying aircraft

• Low flying aircraft •
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• Low flying aircraft • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page
Every picture has its merits. However is there enough in the picture to interest and invigorate the attention of your viewers? Sometimes, like this picture, if you don’t have a point worth making then you should not really bother with it.

A picture is a wonderful communication.

But like speech if there’s no point there is no impact. To help you see if you have made a great picture here are some guiding points.

We are going to consider…
• What you are communicating:
• Presentation:
• Camera technique:
• Technical Quality:
• Visual Awareness, Visualisation, Seeing and aesthetics:

Looking critically at your own picture

When you make a picture your previsualisation of what you want to achieve is critical to the outcome. If you don’t know what you are trying to make how can you make it convincing? So try to have a mental image of what your picture it going to look like when you make it. If you can see the image before you make it you should have a good point in mind – a reason for making it. All too often snappers see something and just ‘snap’. That being the case, few of the images will have real meaning or impact.

When looking at your own picture you must see if there is really something there. Are you really saying anything? Are you really communicating with the viewer of your picture? Or, is what you have just made only a simple picture? To have real impact is to create in the viewers mind an image. An image that means something to them. So look at your picture and honestly ask yourself what is the viewer going to get from it? What will it mean to them? If you find that you have really said something in the picture then the first criteria for success has been passed.

To this end you should consider how successfully each of these things has contributed to the success of the image…

  • Personal input: have you understood and connected with the subject
  • Appropriate communication the message, mood, ideas, and information you want to pass to your viewer
  • Complementary use of the photographic media (mounting, projection, printing, texture of print etc.)
  • Appropriate imagination and creativity / suitable timing for the shot
What about the other things?

• Presentation: It is important to have a good presentation for your picture. Have you edited out distractions and sensor/lens spots, removed the errant sweet rapper littering the foreground etc. In other words, have you done the little tidying up tasks that make the image stand up as clean representation of your original vision for it? If it is a print, is it well mounted in a non-distracting way. Is the printing immaculate or are there streaks and spots; over-run and smear.

• Camera technique: Is the sharpness the way you want it – deliberate softness is fine as long as that is making an artistic point in a way you intended. Is the depth of field right for the composition? Have you emphasised the point or simply missed the point. Is the digital noise too high, or the contrast too low. What you are looking for here is to see if your prowess with the camera has come through. Did your technique work or were there any errors or mistakes that detract from the delivery of your point? Some of the other things to consider are…

  • Viewpoint to the subject – exciting, interesting, different, right?
  • Choice of lighting – does it complement or complete the subject or is it at odds with your point?
  • Accurate focusing – accurate choice of focus for the subject.
  • Appropriate quality and choice of exposure.
  • Suitable use of depth of field (aperture).
  • Appropriate shutter speed for the subject (and shot timing).
  • Highlights and shadows (ensuring detail is retained)
  • Appropriate quality and choice of exposure – does the balance of light and dark complement or detract from the subject?
  • Is the quality of the light effective or bland; does is make a statement or is it of little consequence?

• Technical Quality:
In this category you should consider exposure, colour and tonal control…

  • Absence of processing faults (dust, spots, hairs, processing artefacts, image damage by sharpening etc.)
  • Appropriate adjustments of colour temperature; hue, saturation, colour balance etc.
  • Appropriate tonal use and control of the range of tones.
  • Good image finishing: removal of distractions, removal of abrupt or discordant features.
  • Appropriate use of levels, curves, colour management, filters, overlays etc (post processing)

In this category you are looking to make sure that the image is digitally developed properly. Is the exposure even or has it been obviously enhanced and changed. Is the light effective to make the point or has the exposure not been fine tuned. It is easy to take a picture, but all these thing go into making an image. Think about what you are trying to achieve and does this picture achieve it with its colour and technical delivery/

• Visual Awareness, Visualisation, Seeing and aesthetics:
Do you think that your shot, the one you have in front of you sees anything different? Are you reporting what you saw or expressing a point, message, communication, feeling… does this picture have IMPACT?

  • Is the composition, design and cropping of the image an effective aesthetic construction?
  • Appropriate simplification (minimising complexity and clutter)
  • Distractions / intrusions should not divert the viewers eye
  • Good use of light, mood, texture and colour
  • Good use of masking/manipulation where appropriate
What you are doing…

Each time you want others to look at your picture you want to impress them, to lift them, to… well, get out your message or point for the picture. The type of questions I have asked above are aimed at getting you looking at your images with a critical eye. If you are honest, you will find that none of your pictures will be satisfactory in all of the above. But if you find you are gradually improving your standard of delivery you will see that the above get closer to ideal with every new picture. Critically reviewing each picture before you publish print or show it to other people helps make sure you are producing something worth showing.

You won’t be right every time. But you will see as you develop, your comments will begin matching those of other people. You will than have a benchmark that tells you if your work is measuring up to peoples view of it. Or, more importantly to see if your picture is measuring up to your original vision of how you wanted the shot.

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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 photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Winter photography inspiration – colour, texture and tone…

• Winter Bliss • By Kyle McDougall

• Winter Bliss • By Kyle McDougall

Winter – free your vision.

Too often the dull, dim and dank days of Winter leave us cold. Venturing out? Photography? Noooo! Yet Winter offers a world of inspiring colours, textures, sights and light not there at other times of the year.

Not grey, great!

Like any other time of the year sunset and sundown are times of the day when the most amazing colours are revealed. The magic of the golden hour pinks and golds is just as exciting in the winter as it is in the summer – and you don’t have to be out so early or so late with shorter days. What is not so obvious to the inexperienced Winter photographer is the mellowness of the colours. There is amazing colour, strong colour. However, especially in snowy environments, the golds, pinks and blues are mellowed into a softness that you don’t see at other times of the year. The wonderful pink tones in the image above show the point beautifully.

I have spent some time today looking over www.kylemcdougallphoto.com External link - opens new tab/page. Kyle is a fine-art landscape photographer based in the beautiful Muskoka region in Ontario (see: About  External link - opens new tab/page). He is a keen, insightful, observer of the natural world around him. You can see the depth of his vision in the quality of the tonal treatments and the beautiful exposures of textures that characterise his work. I was particularly inspired by the winter photographs although his work is equally as insightful for all the seasons.

The particularly interesting thing about Kyles work is his exquisite control of tonal ranges. I have mentioned before in these pages that often the best pictures are captured just after the sun has gone down or just before it comes up. This “blue” period of the day provides infinite tonal blues that caress the eye. I just love these times of day. The great thing is that most photographers have packed up and gone home as the “blue” time starts… you have the stage. Make the best of this time as you will be among the few who use it well. Kyle McDougalls works really capitalise on this time of day when he explores those tones.

In Winter, texture wins the day

The lower light levels, and lower angle of light in the sky, often puts off photographers in Winter. But this is the best time to capture some wonderful textures. Muted winter colours and low light combine to create excellent contrasts and micro-shadows. Along with the soft light these environmental factors are a gift to the seeing photographer. Ice, snow and even water take on an almost ethereal glow punctuated by texture. If you can capture that with a good composition your pictures will create wonderful and lasting images in your viewers mind. Look for opportunities to get the sun low in the sky and those lovely early morning or evening tones and shadows from the side.

Opportunities

In your winter photography look for opportunities to express the colours and contrasts that appear. They are different to those you find in the Summer. The subtleties of tone, texture and colour are there for all to see, but only the insightful photographer will make good use of them.

My thanks to Kyle McDougall for his permission to link to his website. Please take some time to look over the other wonderful pictures available on: www.Kyle McDougall Photo.com  External link - opens new tab/page

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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 photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Five simple composition tips for great snow images

Snow in the deep South - Vestavia Hills

Snow in the deep South – Vestavia Hills
Loosing detail in the whites is a big problem in snow photography. Lack of contrast is the main cause. Look for subjects that have contrasts or ensure you have an exposure that pulls all the detail out of the whites.
Snow in the deep South – Vestavia Hills – IMG_5382 by Bahman Farzad, on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

Snow images requre special compositions.

As you can see from the photo above, snow photography can present special problems. In the case of this photograph the lack of contrast could have spoilt the image. Loosing detail in the whites is a big problem in the snow.

In the photograph (above) the author has made a good exposure and the whites are well defined and detail is not lost even with a white building in the scene. However, be careful with your snow compositions. You can lose a lot of detail and normal compositional features because of the way the snow obscures many of the normal features in the landscape that we use to draw the eye.

# Tip one: Contrasts – Make sure you are able to see the details. Too much white and the detail is lost. Too little white and the snow looks grey. Use exposure compensation or full manual mode to make sure you have the right whiteness without losing the detail. See: Correct snow scenes using exposure compensation. (Photo above).

# Tip Two: New compositional and curvey lines – Find a scene where strong lines are well defined. Snow often covers major lines in the scene. Look for new lines. Snow is great for creating curvy lines. As it settles on a fence or wall top, the snow creates great shapes presenting different lines to the ones you normally see. Search out new types of snow defined lines and tracks to help define your composition. “Fencing” By tgroeger_canada  External link - opens new tab/page.

# Tip three: – When you have a strong line make the most of it. Try to make the scene simple so it stands out without confusing things with other features. Snow is a notoriously soft environment to compose a shot within so try to work with soft compositions. Gentle curves and easy lines are inviting to the eye and promote a sense of peace and well-being.

“Snow”
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“Snow” by Kathy~, on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

# Tip four: – Rule of thirds Of course the general principles of composition apply in snow. The rule of thirds and the rule of odds are both strong contenders to helping to improve your snow shots. Just because everything is lost under the snow don’t lose sight of these old compositional tools.

# Tip five: Tonal variations – With snow being so white it is easy to make the picture too bland. In fact the light you shoot in has a big effect on snow. There is nothing more exciting than a snow scene in a golden sunset. Sunset and Snow External link - opens new tab/page. Snow is especially good at reflecting tonal changes in light. One way to bring those out is to look for changes in light locally. A road disappearing into the trees, or snowy mountainsides with different angles to the light both cause exciting variations in the colour and tone of the snow.

Snowy morning, golden light

Snowy morning, golden light
Click image to view large
Snowy morning, golden light by Mike Thomas, on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

Finally, try to make your composition as different as possible. Don’t just do landscapes. Snow changes the shapes of everything. So try to find things that are barely recognisable under snow because the snow has created unusual or unexpected shapes. Then you will have the viewer guessing… that will draw them into the picture.

Have fun! Snow photography is not something we can all do daily so make the most of the great opportunities.

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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 photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Abstract photography – what it is and how to do it

Abstract photography - great pictures and lots of fun!

'Red' - In the style of Rothko
Abstract photography can produce great pictures and be lots of fun!
Concentrate on colour, form, shape and focus for best effect.
Click to view large.

What is Abstract Photography?

Abstract photography concentrates on the two dimensional shape (2d), three dimensional (3d) form, colour, pattern and texture. This is in line with abstracts in other media. Two extra dimensions are found in abstract photography. One is the use of movement through movement-blur. Used more often is the use of focus, especially by controlling the depth of field.

Photo abstracts take the viewer away from knowing or recognizing the subject. Instead they invite the viewer to almost ‘feel’ the textures, forms and other elements of the subject. Often abstract photography makes the object unrecognisable as an object in its own right. Instead it directs attention to the look and feel – the essence of the object.

For a more detailed definition of Abstract Photography check this page in our Glossary…
Abstract Photography – a Definition

How to Shoot Abstracts

Abstracts are about our creativity and not about the object. The simple shot above, with its rich emotional orange, is a glass of water coloured with red dye and slightly backlit with a desk lamp. Many abstracts are created using the simplest things – often they are found around the home.

To help you shoot a few abstracts I have put a list of things you can try below. Try one, or a few at a time. Compare them to some of the examples in the links below the list. Reduce or remove clutter. Keep your shot as simple as possible. Have fun.

  • Look for patterns – especially very close up.
  • Textures – show the ‘feel’ of surfaces and faces of an object.
  • Try unusual or unique angles.
  • Use a macro lens, macro tubes, or get really close.
  • Crop very tight to an interesting/unrecognisable part.
  • Concentrate on multiple colour variations without showing the whole object.
  • Concentrate on tonal variation – minimise colours.
  • Use long, low light exposure to bring out subtle shadow variations.
  • Use soft or hard light variations on close-ups.
  • Emphasis the ‘shape’ (2d) of an object – keep it from being recognised.
  • Exaggerate the ‘form’ (3d) of something – keep it from being recognised.
  • Concentrate on curves and rounded shapes or forms.
  • Concentrate on angular and geometric shapes or forms.

Many of these can be applied to everyday objects or common items. Once you become aware of the shapes, forms, patterns and textures in the things around you a new world opens up. So try to take one of the above and spend a few days looking at everything around you for ways to see that item. Then move on to others. Before long you will be an abstract photographer!

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

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