Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Supporting Cast

In most cases the subject of your photo is considered to be using the positive space in your image. Anything that is NOT part of the subject is considered to be negative space.

Most beginning photographers only concentrate on the subject itself, and that can be a problem. The photograph shown here was taken in front of an apartment complex. If a dog walked by or a car had been parked in the background, it would not have had the same visual impact as what you see here.

In most movies the subject of the story line is the main actor or actress. But more often than not, what makes their performance memorable is the interaction with the other actors (the supporting cast).

We as photographers MUST consider the negative space in our images as the supporting cast. If it does not add to or support the subject, then GET RID OF IT!! Crop it tighter, change your angle or direction, but do not ignore it.

People may be attracted by a big name actor (or your subject) but if the supporting cast (or your negative space) doesn't do their (or it's) part, people will loose interest.

The Art of the Craft

My Mother has been a Potter for over 30 years. She prefers hand built pottery to anything created on the potter's wheel. She considers herself an Artist as opposed to a Craftsman. By her definition an Artist creates something that is unique, wherein a Craftsman (no matter how talented) creates something that can be produced again and again.

By her definition, I suppose all photographers are Craftsman, yet being a rebellious son I tend to dispute her definition. When we (as photographers) capture a moment in time, it often can not be duplicated. Therefore photojournalist MUST be artists, right?

When we (as photographers) capture an expression or mood there is no guarantee that our subject will ever feel exactly the same way again. Therefore portrait photographers MUST be artists, right?

When we (as photographers) capture a prospective or angle in nature that most others walk by, we influence how others view the world. Not something you can do everyday. Therefore landscape photographers MUST be artists, right?

My definition varies a bit from my mothers. An Artists makes something unique by putting themselves into the finish product. A GOOD craftsman is always an artist, those that are not deal with mass production and have no emotional tie to their work.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Non Traditional Portrait.

The old cliché that says: "smile and look at the camera" is not always the best way to take a portrait. In fact, many informal or candid portraits don't have the subject looking at the camera at all. The idea behind taking a portrait verses just another snap shot is to clarify, intensify, or otherwise enlarge our experience of life. Your goal is to capture the emotional statement that your subject or subjects are projecting.

In this picture, there is no smile and the subject is not looking at the camera, but is it a successful picture? I think so. You feel a mood or expression. It may be weariness or boredom, but their is still something that the viewer can relate to. Think of people at work or play involved in what matters the most to them at the time. A mechanic working on a car, a dancer stretching before the performance, a bull rider strapping himself in; can all be perfect times to capture that perfect moment.

I've contemplated the idea that 1 month I should have a non traditional portrait contest. Rules would include not in a traditional background, not in a traditional pose, and the subject is NOT looking at the camera.
Let me hear your thoughts on this idea.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Any Big Ape

As this cover indicates, any big ape can take a picture; but that doesn't mean they are really a photographer. As you may have guessed from this blog, or the hundred + photo articles I have written in the past, I also enjoy writing (although rarely have I ever been paid for it.)

Tradition says to write about what you know. I have in mind to write a story about a man and a woman, he being a photographer, she being the writer. Together they have to solve something (yet to be determined); and he will teach her how to visualize, while she teaches him to express his feelings in words. Expected to be of the romantic mystery type genre.

The reason I post this here is to get feedback on examples of how you teach others to visualize, or . . . how you would describe what you go through when you are looking for that perfect image. As I want this to go book length, I am looking for multiple perspectives and things that can be taught through out the story line.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Clyde Brown's work shown on TV

The TV show "Twin Cities Live" recently asked for photos taken around the Minnesota area that they would have a professional photographer who works for National Geographic critique their photo on the air. Out of who knows how many sent in, they only chose 2 and Clyde Brown's Photo "Stone Arch Bridge" first seen on our site as a contest winner back in March 2008 was one of those lucky winners. You can see the video clip here; but be aware Clyde's photo is not mentioned until the last minute of the clip.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

MORE than what you saw.

When walking around in Zion National Park (or any other scenic location for that matter); you often have to see beyond the existing subject matter for others to experience that same sense of freshness and beauty.

The tall rock walls are beautiful and awe inspiring, but when shot against an open sky, they often go dark and loose detail. Remember the camera is going to try to average the light it sees.

When I looked for something to frame the subject, I had the same problem, the leaves were almost silhouette, because of the bright sky in the middle. I solved this problem by using my flash outdoors to fill in the details in the leaves. More details in the leaves, better framing. Better Framing, more feeling of depth between the leaves and rock. More feeling of depth, the more it feels like you were there.

More often than not, for your viewer to have the same type of visual experience you did when shooting, you have to include MORE than just the subject. Yes, the rocks caught your eye, but to keep them looking again and again, there must be something to compare it to. Keep an open mind, when shooting what catches your eye.

Serious about Photography

Over 30+ years ago when I started in photography, I had another job that always kept my family secure. We were far from rich but we were secure enough that I never hesitated to get better photography equipment when I could.

In the last 4 or 5 years, the economy has been bad, and I had several "other jobs" besides photography. I turned to the web and spent more time on my website (about photography) than actually doing photography.

In one of the articles I wrote, I said, "If I had to start all over again, I would spend two hours a day; either reading about, writing about, or doing Photography." The Key I said was to do something every day to prove to myself as much as anyone else, that I was actually serious about photography.

Well, that day has come. I am tired of actually being envious of those photographers that are doing more than I am. I am ashamed when I make excuses to myself, why I can't make a living at it full time. I know I can not afford to quit my other job now, but my goal for 2011 (be it a month early) is to start believing in myself again. I plan to be more serious about my photography, and if you will follow this blog; I plan to share with others, how I make that change.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Photography Art or Craft?

The question is often brought up if Photography is more of an Art or is it a Craft? To answer that you have to define what is an Art or what is a craft.

Most people would agree that a painter (scenic not house) is an Artist. Likewise a person that builds furniture is considered as a Craftsman. Using that as a reference point it could be said that an Artist creates something unique, whereas a Craftsman makes something that can be repeated again and again.

Based on that definition it would seem obvious that photography is a craft, but . . . it's not quite that simple. Give 5 photographers, the same camera, the same subject, and the same lighting and more often than not you will still get a variety of unique images. Therefore, photography must be an Art, right?

My personal opinion is that it is both a Craft and an Art. While many people learn the Craft (exposure, depth of field, shutter speeds, etc.) not everybody bothers to take it to the next level and learn the Art (Framing, Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, etc.) I have great respect for both; but for those who argue it is one or the other, I believe they are not getting the whole picture.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pre Baby Photos

Although I was never successful in getting my own wife to pose for pre baby shots, I was privileged to be able to take a series of these shots recently.

The most obvious thing to remember with this type of shooting is to put mom in a favorable light. Don't exaggerate her size or distort her size. Do find ways to emphasize love and joy.

Originally I was hired just to do Mom, but it ended up being a family shoot. Which in my opinion is a good thing. A new life in the family effects everybody, so why not include everybody?

If you can get your foot in the door by shooting baby before he or she gets here, who do you think the family will call when baby is here? Shooting a dozen or more pregnant women will not only get you better known, it may also bring you clients for many years to come.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Polarizing Filters

A friend recently wrote and asked, what is the best filter (polarized) for my Nikon D90? What is the difference between filters? My response was this:

There are two types of polarizing filters available — linear or circular. (similar to JPG vs Raw Format) Linear polarizers are more effective and less expensive than circular ones; BUT . . . circular polarizers are needed with just about any camera that has a through-the-lens metering system, or auto-focus.

Polarizing filters exist for most camera types, from medium format to digital point and shoot cameras. Auto-focus SLRs (like the ones I use) need circular polarizers, like mentioned above. In these, the front side rotates which enables the user to see the effect gradually appear in the viewfinder.

There are many manufacturers of filters out there. Personally I prefer actual glass filters as opposed to plastic which means most of the filters I own are either "Tiffen" or "B+W" or "Hoya". Tiffen and Hoya are probably the two biggest names out there (similar to Canon or Nikon) with B+W as a very close 3rd (similar to Pentax). You do NOT have to stick with just one manufacturer, shop around and compare prices.

One Last tip. If you have several different lens filter sizes (52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, etc) consider buying for the largest size you own and then also purchasing "step-up ring adapters". Step up adapters as the name applies has a small size that fits the actual lens being used and then "Steps up" to the size of filter you own. They are cheap compared to the cost of purchasing every filter 3 or 4 times.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Photo Contest Challenge

Why do dancers, dance? Why do singers, sing? In most cases, it has something to do with sharing their gift. Why every four years does the world stop what they are doing and watch a group of people perform their very best (the Olympic Games)? There is something intoxicating about watching an event where every single person is trying to push their limits to become better than before.

The Photo shown here was taken by Kami Myles, and it did NOT win this months photo contest, but it easily could have. Kami has won 4 photo contest of ours since Feb. 2007. She keeps turning out beautiful work and has a really cool website at "" She has won many awards and is living her dream. Photo Contests are not a means to put down those who do not win, they are a means to inspire and uplift those who do not even have the courage to try. Kami keeps trying, and keeps a winning attitude regardless of the results. If I had a section on my site for winning attitudes, I'm sure she be on there quite often. I encourage all of us to do the same. Keep putting your best images out there and enter often so others may also be inspired by your work.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

ART improves Photography

When I was in High School, I took pictures of everything. I won several awards. Everybody knew me as a photographer and life was good. When I went to college, a teacher reviewed my portfolio. This man studied every picture, then calmly said,

"Do you know what you're problem is?"
A little nervous I replied, "No. What's my problem?"
"Your problem is . . . you were told you were good." He answered.
I was only 18, so in a cocky voice I asked, "And why is that a problem?"
He grinned like he expected my reaction. "You've been told you were good, by people who have no idea what good really is. Now, you're going to be good, according to those who know what good really is."

That is when I started studying ART to improve my photography skills. Although I have taken have a dozen photography classes of different types since that time, NONE of those classes have effected the quality of my work as much as my Art classes. Learn the elements of design (leading lines, balance, harmony, rule of thirds, etc) and I GUARANTEE the quality of your photos will improve too.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

More Vs. Better

In the beginning, photographers had huge massive cameras like the Calumet 8x10 view camera, or the Horseman 5x7 View camera. This type of camera was limited to 1 sheet of film at a time. To be more accurate the individual holders, did hold two sheets at a time. You took one shot then flipped it over to expose a second shot. Then we moved into medium format cameras like the Mamiya RB67 or Hasselblad 4x5 camera these had film backs that held 8 or 10 shots at a time.

For the last 50 years or so, the most popular consumer format has been the 35mm camera, which took rolls of film with 12, 24, or 36 exposures possible. Now with the popular digital format cameras, it is literately possible to shoot thousands of photos on a single memory card.

Master photographers like Ansel Adams or Edward Weston were known to spend hours or even days to get a single shot. As a member of the Sierra Club; Adams for example would often hike a full day with pack mules, packers, cooks and others just to get to the right location. He would find the perfect location, and then wait for the perfect light. He was in tune to every highlight, shadow, shape and line that made up his magnificent work.

When 35mm cameras added power winders modern photographers boasted of being able to shoot a roll of 36 pictures in just over 7 seconds. Somehow, that just doesn't seem like the same level of dedication or even understanding as those who showed us the way.

In the process of making camera's lighter and able to do more, hold more, and shoot more have we actually made ourselves less about creativity, and more about mass production?

When I was a high school photographer, I often shot two or more rolls of 36 exposures at a sporting event or drama production. When I got to college; one of the Master Photographers in my life (David Meyers), critiqued my work again and again. Eventually, he only gave me a single 24 exposure roll to shoot ANY event. "Don't show me how much you can shoot," he would say, "Show me how good you can shoot."

It's been over 30 years since I heard those words, and a lot has happened in the world of photography since then. But truth is still truth, and the wisdom of what he taught will never leave me. Just because you can shoot multiple shots in a few seconds, doesn't mean you should. You decide, do you want to be lucky or do you want to be good?

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Right Expression

This little girl was blowing a kiss to Mommy and Daddy at the time this shot was taken. I almost didn't include it in the group of shots given to the parents.

Why would I NOT include it? Because like so many photographers, I sometimes let my preconceived shots dominate over my reality shots. In other words, I was aiming for a smile, I didn't get the smile, therefore this shot must be a failure . . . right? WRONG!!

This is one of their favorite shots, because it captures the spirit, energy, and personality of that child. Remember, photography is a journey, not just a destination.

It's like taking a two hour hike to get to a waterfall and not taking a single other shot along the way. Don't get so focused on what you want, that you forget to be open to other possibilities.