Tag Archives: Expression

Expression in your photography is you

Expression :: Put you into your portfolio

• Expression :: Put you into your portfolio •
[Image taken from the video below].

Let go of other peoples expectations

Photographers often say about their work that they “should” be doing this or that. Or, maybe they say they would be “better” doing this instead of that with their work. Often that just adds up to a statement about their aspirations. Often these aspirations are reactions to what they think people want. They are not true expressions of who they really are.

It is all too easy for us to fall foul of fashion and social pressure in our photography. Amateur and professional alike, photogs are artists. True expression is really about what we feel. Not what we do to meet the expectations of fashion or popular interest.

Expression – understanding our inner selves

When we are truly satisfied with a photo it’s not because we think everyone else is going to think it’s great. It is because we know we have done something good. We’ve done something that really expresses how we feel about the shot we have just made. Expression is our inner artist coming out.

I met a photographer once who thought, when he got started, that it was all about glamour and glory. He tried hard for four or five years to be “be a professional photographer”. He did everything his boss told him. He took the pictures his boss said would make him successful. He worked continually to meet the goals set by the photographic fashions and the aspirations his boss had for him. He even did a part time college course and learnt all the academic and background ideas. He did as he was told, learnt the trade – and failed.

Twenty years later, when I met him, he was working as a local government officer. I asked him why he had given up photography. He told me he had not. He gave up being a pro-photographer and for a long time did not pick up a camera. Then, one day, years later he did. And, he discovered what photography was really about. It is about expression.

What he’d not seen in those heady days when learning the trade was his own inner artist. Everything he did was for others. All his pictures were motivated by external influences. Then, years later, when the pressure was off he discovered something. Actually photography is a very hands on, gritty sort of profession. There really is not much glamour. But there is a lot you can say about the world. A photographer, like any artist needs to let themselves out. The expression of what they feel about a scene is what they should be working on. Not what everyone else thinks should be said about a scene.

Expression IS photography

Make sure your pictures say something. Let people know who you are through your pictures. Tell them what you are interested in. Communicate with them through your images. Make pictures in their minds. Expression is everything in photography. It says “I love this”, or “that is important”, or “my heart was in this scene”… or whatever. Expression IS photography.

Who you are goes deeper than your portfolio

Here is a short video clip with a famous photographer, Jeremy Cowart Expression :: Jeremy Cowert | External link - opens new tab/page. It shows something many photographers forget. When your pictures reach out to someone, the influence is more profound than the talent of technical excellence. Telling people who you are and what you are thinking through your pictures is a powerful expression.
Uploaded by CreativeLive


What’s Your Mark? Every Moment Counts Expression :: Book review - What's Your Mark?: Every Moment Counts | External link - opens new tab/page | External link - opens new tab/page
In this extraordinary book Jeremy Cowen delivers amazing photography. With it he tells some equally extraordinary stories. The book breaches the boundaries of ordinary coffee-table photography books. The stories cut straight to the heart. Human interest and art do live together. This book brings that out.
What’s Your Mark? Every Moment Counts by Jeremy Cowart (Photographer) and Brad Davis (Designer), Expression :: Book review - What's Your Mark?: Every Moment Counts | External link - opens new tab/page | External link - opens new tab/page

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

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

Why do new? Just do you!

Reflection of a girl in a shop window. Don't do new, do you

• Monochrome girl in blue •
When starting out try out lots of things. As you develop your interests will start to find a focus.

Style is you.

Photography is your interest. Do it your way. When learning you’ll find joy in just trying out many new things. As you develop you will find your way of doing things becomes a form of self expression.

Self expression

Letting out the inner you in your photography is one of the highest forms of success. Every photograph is a unique form of communication. So when you focus on something that you are interested in, passionate about, you express your inner self in a powerful way. Self expression is how top photographers make a success of their business. Clients come to them because they like the way the photographer does it.

Doing new is not you

Less experienced photographers think that they will only “make the grade” by dreaming up something new. It is a seductive idea – our modern culture is built on “new”. Trust me on one thing. There are very few ways of doing something “new”. New techniques, new ideas, never-seen-before views… totally new stuff – these things are far and few between. Photographs are published online in their millions every day – literally. A photographer cannot hope to do “new” all the time or even frequently.

“New” is something that will happen – but normally as a result of a very individual form of expression. When you really express you, really do it your way, you are doing “new”. Truly individual expression comes from doing it your way. The picture may be of an oft-seen subject. The way you do it is what will make it a lasting image in the mind of the viewer.

If you concentrate on developing your pictures around your special way of seeing you will be developing your style. That is what will give you the edge, the new way of doing it. Look for the light the way you like it. Take the point of view you like to see things from. Express the colours in the scene in the unique pallet you love to have around you. These things will all contribute to your style and your expression.

Ironic isn’t it? So many photographers look for the new, the different, the next new idea. If they spent a little time looking at what they were really interested in they would find the “new” within themselves.

Remember to enjoy your photography

If photography becomes an stressful search for something that is not in you, then the fun will go out of it. Investing your shoot-time in a personal interest will bring out your passion in a unique way. In so doing you will increase your enjoyment. You will also find the “new” you were looking for. You will also find a new way to express your inner feelings about the world around you.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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Six things to consider for starting portraiture

A dear friend

• A dear friend •
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• A dear friend • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Portraiture – the photographers passion.

Starting in portraiture can be daunting. We are going to look at the important things to consider when getting started with photographing portraits. There are also links to some of the portraiture resources available on Photokonnexion.

This post is aimed at introducing the portraiture resources found here…


Choice of location can make or break a portrait. If you choose an outdoor location you have to consider a range of issues like the weather, how to pose your subject and exactly what you will be putting in the background. The problem with outdoor portraits is that there is potentially a huge number of composition decisions to make. Taking the shot can be quick. Deciding on what background is right can take a lot of effort and research.

If you are just starting out with portraits it might be better to focus on indoor shots. The environment and light is potentially simpler and the lighting more controllable. The essence of good indoor shots is to reduce the composition to a very simple background and lighting and to focus your attention on the subject. This gives you time to practice the posing, including expressions, and the lighting set up.


Light and Lighting can be as simple or complicated as you make it. My advice is to make it as simple as possible. Most great portraits are done with one simple source light. Working with one light gives you the ability to try out shadow casts and hard light vs. soft light. Practice with simple ideas will help develop your skills more than working with confusing multiple light sources.


This is not the same as the location (which is really more about the surroundings). When you are considering the background this could be as simple as a blanket suspended behind your subject. It could also be as complicated as a workbench that your subject works at. What you have to do is decide how to set it up, how to light it and how to place your subject in front of the background. You have to make a decision as to whether you are taking an environmental portrait (a large amount of the background is visible) or a simple portrait where the background is a minimalist setting, where you show very little of the environment and make it as simple as possible.

It is better to start simple. Placing your subject in front of a coloured, white or black background is a great way to get started. You will be able to focus on posing your subject and spend less time worrying about what to include or exclude in more complex backgrounds.


The best advice for starters is to work with your subject. He or she will be comfortable with certain poses. Get them to start the posing. Then, when you see how they like to pose, you can ask them to vary it to get your light right and get them showing their best side (the left side of the face is best).

Remember that that definition of the features of the face are defined by light and dark. Your poses should be aimed at using the shadow/light relationship to bring out your subjects facial and body features.

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It is difficult to provide resources about props. There are as many props as there are things people can hold, wear, sit on, stand next or or play with. Yes, props can be pretty much anything you want. However, one thing is certain. Your portrait subject will suddenly come alive when they have a prop to distract them from the daunting prospect of the camera. Try to get them to work with a prop they are familiar with – get them to tell you about it or show you how they use it while you photograph. These things will make the comfortable and help them to relax. It will also show you the character of the person they are.

Camera settings and lenses

Some people will tell you this is the most important point. Others will say the posing, still others will focus on the other things above. How you set up your camera, and how you place your subject are very closely related. But there is a lot to learn here. Start simple so you can feel in control. If you are not yet working with manual controls then be comfortable with auto mode – try to become aware of the types of settings that seem to work.

Exposure settings are an important study. There are some exposure links in the link box below. However, you should be concentrating on natural colours. The type of light you use is important to your exposure. I have one piece of adice on this. Beginners at portraiture almost always over-light. Keep your lighting soft and your exposure moderate and not over-bright to start. If you are using flash, turn it down. Bright flash always washes out flesh colours and sometimes causes nasty highlights on the face. It is worth reading up about how you can ruin your shots with flash.

I hope that this article has provided you with some options for getting started in portraiture. Please spend some time going through the links on the portraiture resources page to get more detailed information.

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’.

Competition Photography

Photo competitions are often open to everyone and they change your horizons...

Photo competitions are often open to everyone and they change your horizons...

Competitions change your horizons

The talent of many amateur photographers is un-channeled. I have found that, despite not being a very competitive person, competitions make me focus on improving my photography. It has become a mission. I want people to love my shots. I want to be good, if not excellent. Competition has helped me hone my skills.

Think quality

In the UK club competition are fun events but serious. Judges discuss every picture in detail. The artistic aspects, the technical issues, impressions… they look at the shot for its merit, its story, its meaning. They look for quality. If you don’t meet that quality then you get a low mark.

Competitions are also a learning experience. Judges are experienced photographers and artists in their own right. They talk over improvements and how to make better images. Their comments are from personal experience. With monthly competitions we benefit from the experience of a wide range of judges. Lessons from competitions helps raise our standards.

Input from judges and inter-club competitions engage the club with the standards understood nationwide. The standards which judges aspire to by their training help everyone to think about the quality of competition submissions. We all work hard to improve our photography and work at new levels with each competition. It is often more about how to improve your shots than about winning. But the most importing thing is you learn how to shoot an image that engages the viewer. Your audience is a highly important element in photography. Ansel Adams, one of the most famous photographers of all times, said, “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer”.

You hear experienced photographers saying, “Do your own thing”. When it matters, doing your own thing is fine, but you are not appreciated without an audience. Working to the standards of experienced photographers, judges and artists, helps you to understand and even emulate what is appealing, what is quality, what is skill. Once you have acquired those THEN do your thing… because then people will see your message.


Doing competition and working with competent and experienced photographers is a great way to learn. It is fun and you make great friends. However, to get the best out of your photography you have to put in something too. Like all skills it takes a little learning and application. Pushing the limits has been the making of photographers for 150 years. Ironically, the single most important skill needed to become a photographer is focus. No, not that type (well, yes that too). No, focusing on your skill development, your knowledge and your art. Like any other endeavor, if you want to be good you need to learn, practice, learn and practice. Competition is the marker that tells you if you are getting there – to your goals. “Focus, and ye shall find” to paraphrase a famous saying.


Here are some of the skills I have learned and I am still learning through regular competition…
Meeting the brief: many people don’t realise that photographers have to work to a brief all the time. They are told by clients, family, friends what is wanted and then they take the shots. Working to a brief is not a simple skill and it takes time and thought to develop a theme. Competitions are frequently themed. It makes you think of the ways to achieve the brief and to creatively image your ideas. Find out more about working with a brief.
Involve the viewer: I used to be a snap-and-go photographer. Then I learned that to capture your viewers imagination you need to think about what you are photographing. If I want my viewer to be impressed, scared, drawn in, shocked, pleased, emotional… anything, I need think about what I am photographing and why. When I clarify my thoughts about a shot then the message will impact on my viewer. So now I try and say something in a shot. I try to bring something of my own interpretation to a shot and involve the viewer in that. Learn more about composition.
The human eye: You don’t have to know anatomy and the biology of the eye. You have to be clear about what we see and how we see it. Certain things humans see and do are in our nature. Understanding that perception, that way of seeing, is important to all artists. Art is a language. A very varied one. Nevertheless it is a way to speak to your audience. Photography is quite a literal language. It tends to be based less in fantasy and more in the real world. It allows infinite creativity and expression. Photographers as artists ‘see’ things that others don’t and express themselves through that medium. Knowing how most people see things, and learning how to make the viewer see things is the skill of the photographer. Understand more about the vision in art.

Putting You into the shot: Judges often say, “you have not put anything into the shot”. What does that mean? For a long time I did not know. However, over the last few years I have begun to understand that your photograph is more than just a record. It is a unique thing made by you. Your vision, your composition, your art, is in the shot. If you have just compiled a record with your image you have not imparted something of you. A great photo is made of ideas and skills – not just skills. Make sure that every photo you take says something in a powerful way. Justify the shot, every shot. Make sure your viewer gets its full impact. It is not just about what you have seen – it is about what you want your viewer to see. It is shifting the emphasis from the passive ‘take’ to aggressive ‘communication’.

It is more than simply getting someone to mark your shots. It is about putting yourself over in a language involving rigorous communication and high standards. Learning photography is fun and you are learning a skill, an art and expression. It is more than all of these if it is appreciated. If you talk loudly to your audience your photography will go places. Competition helps you to appreciate it and work towards that goal.

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’.

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?

“Abstraction forces you to reach the highest level of the basics.”

Alan Soffer

Abstract photography concentrates on the very simplest of components in a piece of art. Those are are known as the “Elements of Art”. They are…

  • Line;
  • Two dimensional shape (2d);
  • Three dimensional (3d) form;
  • Colour;
  • Space;
  • Tone, and
  • Texture.
Extra dimensions in abstract photography

Two extra dimensions are often found in abstract photography. One is the use of ‘movement’ – mostly through movement-blur. Perhaps, used more often is the use of focus, especially by controlling the depth of field. In addition, abstracts often incorporate “pattern”, which is a more complex structure from the “Principles of Art”.

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. Abstract photography is all about simplicity. Getting down to the basics is often the best route to a good abstract.

Using the “Elements of Art”

The list above is perhaps difficult to think about in terms of actually creating an image. However, think carefully about what you see in the frame for your shot. Often you can see these simple elements in your subject. Try to simplify your shot so that you see only one, two, or at most three of those elements. If you manage to get the image to remain simple, you will make the shot more understandable. If you also manage, through that simplicity, to capture the readers eye, you will excite the viewer. Simple components, simple connections, simple insight to a subject – all these give you effective abstract material.

Study the Elements of Art, at length. Try to see the simplicity within your frame. That is the key to developing your insight into abstraction.

Other techniques…

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.

  • 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+.