Category Archives: Report

Do you find it difficult to photograph art?

• The World Is A Different Place When Viewed Through Art •
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The World Is A Different Place When Viewed Through Art By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

It’s all about interpretation…

We all have a little difficulty photographing art. We know that interpretation is important to the success of a piece – have we got the interpretation right? Should we hesitate when shooting art by others? Analysis paralysis could stop us doing anything. My view is we have to give it a try.

When photographing art there are two broad approaches. One way is to create a record shot which tries to represent the art as seen. You are producing a sort of factual postcard representation. The other is to take the shot putting your own interpretation on the piece.

Both these approaches are legitimate.

Some general points…

As with all photography there are some general principles that need to be established. In a nutshell we should try to…

  • Declutter the scene so the eye goes to the subject
  • Make sure our subject is the main focus of the shot
  • Ensure we have a clear purpose for the shot
  • Work hard to remove distractions (eg. bad focus or burnt out highlights)
  • Treat the subject with complementary light to bring out its best features

…these help us to ensure that we are conveying the meaning of our shot to our viewers.

The purpose

Clarity of purpose for a shot is an important part of crystallising our idea about how to present it. If we make a conscious decision about why we are taking the shot, it will help us to make the distinction between a record shot or an interpretation.

A judge at a photography competition once told me, “you should never put a picture of a piece of art in a competition unless you have put your own mark on the piece of art”. “Otherwise,” he said, “it is a record of someone else’s art”. For a judge that’s important. If it is a record of someone else’s work, what has he got to mark that is yours?

So, with photography of art I think you need a clear idea about your intentions. A record shot is about preserving the piece, ensuring that it’s essence is retained.

That judge I mentioned told a story. His friend was passionate about public art – pieces on public display in the open air. He travelled widely photographing sculpture. He always had something with him that he put on the sculpture. A scarf. A hat maybe. Sometimes a teddy bear. The strategic placement of that one thing was enough to add a new meaning. It was a sort of reinterpretation. The judges friend was creating a new work of art.

This clarity about “representation verses interpretation” comes up in many aspects of photography.

Often beginners are not aware of its significance. That is the reason there is often “something missing” in their pictures. The pictures of beginners often look sterile because they have tried to represent reality. The standard of their photography is not good enough to make the picture stand out. The picture itself is insipid because it lacks interpretation.

When someone has an artistic eye, even if a beginner, the interpretation they bring to a shot trumps the lack of technical skill. That is why some artists can create great images within a short time of first handling a camera. They know how to create an event in the imagination of the viewer – even if they lack the skill to create a great photograph. That event is the image that stays with the viewer.

Making the difference

Once we have established the purpose of the shot we should have a clear idea about some of the things that we can do to actually make the image…

Record shots: You are looking to create a clear, technically excellent representation. Work on sharp outlines and clear colours which are as close as possible to the original. Try to capture any essential textures, but also try to show the piece in its entirety. You will probably need to take a regimented progression of shots to do this. Typically a good record shot is one of a series. Record the full detail of the piece, capture it from all sides. Try not to embellish or exaggerate. Make a plain statement of its existence. Use plain light. However, if you only have time for one shot then make it as faithful to the original as possible.

Interpretation shots: You can let your imagination run wild. Anything goes. You are doing it to express how you feel about this piece. Get your feelings out there, exaggerate, magnify, close in, show it all or just enough… wild angles, odd views. You get the point. You are making the shot yours. You are doing some thing different.

Photographing art is one example

The principle of “expression versus representation” runs right through photography. Natural history shots are a case in point. We want our pictures of birds to be essentially record shots. We are looking for a faithful record of them. The trick with wildlife is to show them performing some behaviour which is peculiar to them.

You can probably think of other examples of the way this split affects your shots.

Once you become aware of this essential tension within every shot you can begin to work on the imagination or the representation in your own area of interest. It is critical to conveying meaning in your shot.

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’.

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Finding lenses and buying to suit your needs

Finding lenses | A wide range of lenses makes choice difficult

The choice is wide. Finding lenses requires careful thought.

Finding lenses that are right for you can be hard

Knowing what lens to buy is a challenge. It can be made simple if you have a few ideas. It is all about understanding your needs and making sure you fit the lens to a budget. First, some general advice about buying lenses.

Are you happy with the camera brand you own?

After a line of different cameras SLRs and different brands, my first digital camera was a Canon. It was my first Canon too. I was impressed. Well, they told me that Canon lenses were the best in the world! So I stayed with Canon.

I know, I know… you don’t agree with me on the best lenses. Whatever the outcome of that argument, I am not going there. That’s the whole point. Buying lenses is a personal decision. It relates to a range of needs and understandings you have about your photography.

You need to be completely happy with your camera brand before you buy lenses. Otherwise you will be stuck with a camera brand you don’t like and lots of money invested in lenses. Love the brand first. Then look for the ‘glass’.

Finding lenses… Things to consider

Usually the budget is fairly clear. However, I have one word of advice. Make sure you look at the upper range of your budget where the quality will be better. Don’t cut corners. Quality lenses don’t come cheap. There are lots of cheap lenses around, but you get what you pay for with lenses. They are expensive, but they are also high precision instruments. If the lens is cheap it probably will not be very robust and the quality of the optics will tend to be low.

After budget the next most important thing is to define your needs. It may be lovely to have a 500mm behemoth of a lens weighing two kilos and costing thousands. But if you are only in a position to use it once a year then it will not be worth investing. Far better to buy a more general purpose lens of higher quality to benefit your general photography and will use often. Focus on your regular photography action and expand your lenses around those activities. If you need that behemoth one weekend, hire or borrow one.

Defining your ‘needs’ is often confused with defining your ‘wishes’. Try to be realistic. Finding lenses is about knowing what you need. Only go for a lens that will be of regular, practical use. Do not define your needs based on your wish to pursue a dream. Most types of photography can be performed with a non-specialist set of lenses. Get good with those. Only buy good quality lenses to replace them. Only buy lenses when you can afford it. And, when you have the mega-once-in-a-lifetime trip actually planned, then factor in the specialist lens (if you really need it for most of the trip). Finding lenses suited to your needs is about being realistic about what you can achieve and how you will use them.

Of course the focal length and how ‘fast’ the lens is are both important. Also important is the type of lens – zoom, telephoto, prime, normal, wide angle and so on… However, most of these will come out in your decision around why you need the lens.

There are other things that are a little less obvious when finding lenses…

  • Weight – Some people simply cannot hold up a big camera and a big lens. Be realistic about what you can handle.
  • Size – especially for travel purposes, big lenses are a complication and a problem.
  • Image stabilisation – Modern lenses usually have stabilisation – consider its weight, availability, cost and if you need it or not (large lenses are normally where there is an option).
  • Glass quality – with professional grade lenses the glass is usually of very high optical quality. However, it is also expensive. So consider the importance of glass quality and overall lens quality for your budget and use.
  • Brand name – Are you paying for a manufacturers reputation, or is the lens equalled by a third party manufacture – check the review websites. Ask around to see what other photographers think.
  • Suitability for purpose – does the lens you want to buy actually suit your intended use. Check on the manufactures website, review sites or on discussion forums to get more information about the best type of lens for your use.
  • Consider the insurance implications and cost. Covering several thousand pounds of lens for a foreign holiday is a significant extra cost.
Buying your lens

The sheer number of lenses available is bewildering. Finding lenses is best done with a finder tool. This tool for finding lenses on Amazon has made lens searches much easier.

The tool for finding lenses allows you to enter the factors that you consider important. It will return you a list of the available lenses to suit that purpose. After years of buying lenses I find this tool invaluable for helping to me to find a range of lenses from which to choose my ideal purchase.

If you want advice on what to do once your new lens arrives, check out this post: Getting started with a new lens.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

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

Focus On Imaging NEC Birmingham 3 – 6 March 2013

Focus On Imaging 2013

Focus On Imaging 2013  External link - opens new tab/page
National Exhibition Centre Birmingham 3 – 6 March 2013

A broad range of new equipment.

It appeared from busy aisles at this years Focus On Imaging Exhibition External link - opens new tab/page that photographic business is actively fighting off the economic depression, possibly even in rude health. With around one hundred and sixty exhibitors there was plenty to see. There was a whole range of new developments as well as the old favourites.

A Key aspect of the show this year was the new ranges of cameras. Leading manufacturers were actively promoting mirrorless cameras. The gradual shift away from the point-and-shoot market also seemed to continue. The camera market appears to be changing. Heavy duty technologies from the top-of-the-range DSLRs are being used in the lower end cameras. The market seems to be shifting in favour of high resolution processing right through the full range.

The economic climate is obviously still impacting. A predominant theme on retail stands was deals and offers. There was plenty on offer too. In previous years many of the accessories available in the UK seemed to be expensive compared to current prices. Today imported goods appear to be impacting the market. Exhibitors were showing equipment which appeared robust and very competitively priced. The shift in the camera market also appears to be creating deals. There were very good prices offered on cameras in all segments of the market. Many of these deals reflect depressed prices in the market in general but the many of the stands were offering greater reductions than even shop prices.

The show organisers unfortunately failed to publish the event list this year. Show goers were left to pick up what information they could about various talks and demonstrations from stands themselves. It made choosing how to spend our time was a little difficult. However, I managed to see three interesting demonstrations. There was a lot of emphasis on lighting techniques this year. Some very good models and backdrops were shown and lots of people were taking photographs. If you are going to go to the show take your camera for some additional fun.

Aside from impressive stands by Canon and Nikon, Sigma had an impressive spread of lenses available. There were some excellent tripods on show this year on several stands. Despite the reluctance of beginners to buy them, the tripod market is both competitive and innovative. Tripod heads are getting smoother and there are some very interesting new ideas, particularly in the high-engineering end of the market. However, the top tripod head units were weighing in at around £500… not a price to be taken lightly.

Other stands of interest included the extremely active Disabled Photographers’ Society. That society fosters a wonderful camaraderie and energy among its members. The Royal Photographic Society were also at the exhibition showing continuous short events which were well attended. They also are in active recruiting mode.

My overall impression of the exhibition this year was one of great energy. There was a lot of business being transacted and show-goers were being dynamic on all the stands. It was an enjoyable day, and one that will help to keep me informed about products and trends in this business.

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’.

Creative block – how to overcome seven types

Break your creative block

• Break your creative block •

It happens to us all…

Everyone gets a creative block now and then. Photographers often find themselves in a down period, apparently unable to pick up the camera, somehow stuck. I have identified below seven common ways your creativity can be blocked and how to get past them.

Creative block 1: Mental stagnation

Symptoms: No matter what, new ideas do not come out. You feel lacking in energy and you cannot see past your last piece of work. Your thinking goes round and round and does not seem to embrace anything new.
Solution: This form of creative block is largely about lack of energy and too much inward looking. Here are some things that will help…

  • Get some sleep. Lots of sleep.
  • Go and meet some new people, listen to them. Forget your situation.
  • Renew your past projects – associate them with other photographers similar projects.
  • Do some exercise, regular, challenging and rigorous exercise.
  • Do something creative that is not photography – drawing, painting, sculpture, writing…
  • Get lots more sleep.
Creative block 2: The knowledge block

Symptoms: Procrastination, slow to start your photography, reluctance to try something new, constantly distracted by low priorities.
Solutions: Allocate short periods of your time to doing research into the area you are lacking in knowledge. If you do too much you will make things worse. At the other times work on something that is different to take your mind off the problem area. You will get past this creative block by tackling it directly.

Creative block 3: Emotional blockage

Symptoms: Fear, embarrassment, emotional confusion, lack of focus, lack of commitment, self doubt. These all lead to crippling procrastination.
Solution: Facing emotional blockages is never easy. The very thing that motivates your creativity, your passion, is overcome. There is always pain in confronting your emotional blocks, but you have to face them head on. Any attempt to side-step will leave you with a lasting impact. Write down all the things that are affecting your emotional situation. Then actively look for solutions and tackle them. You will only be able to create again once you have cleared this creative block.

Creative block 4: Overwhelmed

Symptoms: This is when everything is on top of you, you are over-committed, over stretched and pushed to the limit. There is so much that appears to suck out your energy that creativity is the last thing on your mind. We all have this type of block at some time. There is just too much that demands our attention and it stops everything else dead. Attempting to forge ahead despite the overwhelming issues will just mean more distraction.
Solution: Prioritise. If your time for creativity is limited then you must clear the things that are demanding your attention. Deal with them in a methodical way, one thing at a time. Take one step at a time and sort them out. You will be overwhelmed for a while. If you keep in mind where you want to be you will eventually get passed the issue. You will get past this creative block by working through the issues.

Creative block 5: Your methods

Symptoms: We often find that what we once did is very different to what needs to be done now. I have often found that my students become unproductive because they find that their methods early methods are no longer right for them.
Solution: Examine what you are currently doing. See if you can find a better way to do it. Photographers often get to point where they know they can produce sharper images, but are not doing it. Try writing down your process, what you do when taking photos. You will probably find it is a bit chaotic. Lack of discipline is a classic issue for sharpness. Working out a new approach and an appropriate procedure to ensure quality shots will help. This new approach takes time and practice, but it will help you get past your existing poor methods. It will allow you to get back to your creativity.

Creative block 6: Personal issues

Symptoms: If you are a creative person your personal life can often get in your way. The exact problem or reason may not be clear. You need to think about what prevents you thinking creatively.
Solution: Once you have the issue clearly fixed you have also defined your solution. Write a plan for overcoming your problems. Some things are not going to go away easily. Divorce, poverty, ill-health and many other persistent problems need to coped with. So try to give yourself space to be creative and space to be able to work on your plan. If things that are problems for you are going to be there for a long time having some creative space will also help you come to terms with the problem itself. Your personal life is a part of your creative life. You cannot separate them. But you can try to deal with them separately. Your creativity can then be a refuge from the problems. Get passed this creative block by putting parts of your life into their own compartments.

Creative block 7: Lack of creativity options or stimulus

Symptoms: Sometimes what you have been doing to stimulate your creative thinking no longer works. There are many things you can do to change that. Quite simple ideas often help. But, they may take a bit of work. Our creativity is a complex thing. To change our creative approach can be complex too.
Solution: Here are some ideas to help you get new creative angles…

  • Research a completely new area of interest. Start taking photos in that interest.
  • Read a book that’s a new interest. Think about taking photos as scenes from the book.
  • Start to learn a new language.
  • Research jobs you have never done. Try to understand the perspectives or drives.
  • Do something you have always wanted to do but never had time for in the past.
  • Turn some of your pictures on display upside down. Look at them frequently.
  • Review past photographic projects – consider doing them differently now.
  • Take some unrelated ideas and try to combine them – thought experiments.
  • Pick 30 random words from a dictionary. Spend 30 days expressing them photographically.
  • Buy a magazine on a subject you want to know about. Look at the photos. Can you do any?
  • How would a pilot, doctor, or fireman take your previous pictures? What would they see?
  • Sleep a lot. Creativity is very taxing for your mind and sleep helps a great deal.

Each of these ideas are a guide for you to think in new ways. Aim to change your approach. To pick up new creative ideas. Think differently about your photography. Let in new concepts. Try new perspectives. What you are doing here is renewing your photographic interests. Open up your mind to get past this creative block.

The creative block is…

Learning to recognise you are stuck in a rut is not easy. It may be just a case of tiredness. It may be something deeper. One of these creative blocks above, or another type of block may come at any time. These ideas are a tool to open up the issue for you. They can help you to find a way out the next time a creative block strikes.

Five great ways to improve your photography

I heart Photokonnexion

The top five posts from 2012

In our first year as a website we learned a lot about our readers and worked hard to provide great content for you. We did some research and identified the most read posts of the year.

Number five

Light is the most important component of our work as photographers…
Six things to know about light.
[Also check out other Light and Lighting resources].

Number four

Composition was an important theme through the year. Simple ideas are the best. This post captured a consistent readership…
The Rule of Odds – Uneven Composition

Number three

This is a great post from my friend Steve Maidwell ( As a contributing author he made a hit with our readers. He’s promised another post soon…
Creating a Fake Smoke Effect

Number two

I made a personal recommendation for two ideal Christmas presents. They really went down well. These would make great gifts to yourself too…
Two great Christmas gift ideas for photographers

And the top post of the year:

Number one

Street photography has been a consistent success on Photokonnexion. The most viewed post in 2012…
Forty six quick street photography tips

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’.

Camera markets to change shape – bargins available

Changes coming in the global camera market

The intense competition in the general photographic market has lead to casualties. High profile losers like Kodak show us a harsh market. The camera market is about to change again.

Global decline

The camera market has showed extraordinary growth over most of the last decade. Now it seems to be crashing. Japan’s ‘Camera and Imaging Products Association’ is quoting a fall in shipments of digital cameras of 42% over the year Sept. 2011/2012 according to Significantly, compact cameras were a huge 48% of that fall. It appears that Smartphones are crushing the point-and-shoot camera market. Smartphones have long been breaking ground on the compact camera markets.

DSLRs have become relatively differentiated with technological improvements in recent years. The cameras remain expensive and the market is limited and the focus of camera manufacturers has been broad. While not buoyant the upper-range market appears to have fallen only around 7%. That itself may be indistinguishable from the global economic conditions. More interesting is the the report on “Canon Rumors” that Canon are considering cutting their wide ASP-C range of cropped sensor cameras… “It was also noted that the 1100D and 60D would quietly be discontinued in the first part of 2013 with no replacements being imminent”. Nevertheless Canon are obviously firming up their commitment to the range with other projected releases on the way.

I guess that the loss of the Canon 1100D would be no surprise. It would be weak link in the market as the lower end DSLR market has turned out to be an opportunity that never realised its potential. It seems logical for Canon to fight the advance of the smartphone at the lower end by the consolidation of the mid-range of DSLRs where they really hold a great strength.

Consumers are more savvy than sometimes recognised. People who invest in “half-way-house” technologies are seen as off-trend. Expensive point-and-shoot cameras, bridge cameras and the lower end of the DSLR market are in a weak position. They exhibit insufficient differentiation. Consumers will go for the smarter or more flexible options. Under attack by Smartphones, these camera groups do not fit into either the convenience market or the technologists group. The global economic situation, and perhaps market saturation, is putting a pressure on the camera market toward consolidation. The weakest link is the one where there is insufficient differentiation between convenience and technology a recurrent theme in the history of technology. So it is no surprise that low end DSLRs and bridge cameras are on their way out. In addition manufacturers will want to focus their efforts where there are greater margins. The mid-high end of the DSLR market would be a good place to start.

This all bodes well for some great bargains next year. The point-and-shoots and bridge cameras markets will be in opens season as camera manufacturers recognise their short-sightedness. It also suggests that structural changes in the manufacturing ranks may be coming as camera manufacturers need to look to their margins when the belts tighten.

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

Copyright infringement situation improved in UK


Copyright infringement has been a serious problem.

Photographers and other artists have long seen erosion of their sales territories by image theft, ‘passing off’ and blatant non-payment of fees. Now things are set to improve with this new development.

Copyright infringement law changing in UK

Ordinary snappers to professional photographers now have a practical, effective legal solution to copyright infringement. In September 2012 the UK Government announced a simple and easy method to pursue damages for copyright infringement. For damages of up to £5000, photographers can make a ‘small claim’ in the Patents County Court  External link - opens new tab/page (PCC).

The growing Internet and the explosion of online images has created a lawlessness around image use. With billions of images being published annually there is a huge reservoir of potentially available images for copyright thieves to target. This has put pressure on image makers to lower prices and made tracking of stolen images difficult. If photographers find one of their images has been copyright infringed the legal route has been a nightmare.

To improve the plight of UK photographers and others the UK Government has taken radical action. UK copyright laws are sound, but a legal solution has proven expensive and unwieldy until now. Copyright cases take years to progress and costs far outweighs the value of the disputed image in most cases. For photographers, small business owners and amateurs, the legal route has so far been impractical. The little guy loses out. Introducing the “small claims” route makes copyright legal action easy. You don’t even need to appoint a legal representative.

Proposals also mean damages awards may rise to a £10,000 limit next year (2013). Such a limit would make it worthwhile for photographers to pursue claims. The new system means long court battles are avoided and there is no fear of huge legal fees being awarded against you if you lose a case. These changes make it increasingly likely actions will be taken against relatively minor infringements. This will put strong pressure on people not to steal or misuse images.

This move should be considered a great improvement for photographers in general. Interestingly, the new legal route is not restricted to copyright infringement. The jurisdiction of the “Patents County Court” within the “Small Claims Track” also covers:
• trade marks (UK and Community registered trade marks).
• passing off.
• unregistered design right (UK and Community unregistered design right).

To find out more about the legal process download: “Guide to the Patents County Court Small Claims Track”  External link - opens new tab/page. (PDF 0.21mb)

Readers of this blog around the world should watch the situation in the UK with interest. Many countries suffer from legal problems with copyright infringement. If the new UK legal model works, other governments worldwide would benefit from considering the same route. Image theft is a global problem. The PCC “Small Claims Track” could looks set to improve the UK situation. However, UK photographers are still going to have problems over images stolen by overseas organisations and individuals. Similar laws worldwide would make everyone’s life easier.

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