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Archives for posts with tag: Photography

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One of the 24 photography e-books in formats for tablet readers and your computer that I have published. You can see all 24 at

Photography E-books

where you will see details of the titles.

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Not long ago I was looking at one of the portrait pictures I had made when shooting on film in a Mamiya C33 camera many years ago and rued the fact that I had not opened up the aperture enough to reduce the depth of field and so blur the background. The result was that the background was just too sharp and so tended to take the eye away from the sitter. To my mind, it destroyed what was a good image of the model.

In film days, that meant that the transparency was all but useless; today, we have Photoshop. So I scanned the transparency and began my experiments with what I thought was the most likely way to achieve the result I was after — to tone down the background by blurring it but to leave the model sharp.
I opened the scanned file and made a duplicate layer. From the Filters drop down menu I selected Blur>Gaussian Blur and played with the slider until I had the background as I wanted it. Of course, this adjustment did not only apply to the background but it blurred the whole image. I then made a Layer Mask (if the Layers dialogue box is not already open, select ‘Layers’ from the Windows drop-down menu at the top of the screen, then click on the grey square with a white circle in it at the bottom of the Layers dialogue box) and inverted it by clicking on it and then clicking Control ‘I’ so that it wiped out the adjustment I had just made and the unadjusted image re-appeared. I made sure that the white square was on top at the bottom of the Tools menu and selected the Brush Tool, adjusted the size to suit and began brushing over the background so that the blurred adjustment began to show through. I had the brush set to 25% so that I could maintain a fine control over the brushing. This approach did work but, having used Photoshop since version 1, I knew that there were always several methods to achieve a result so I began searching through my photographic library and soon found some answers.

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More ways of improving your portrait pictures can be found in my e-book in formats for tablet readers and your computer.

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Buy Here

If you are interested in improving your photography, have a look at the e-books I have published at Smashwords or Amazon (see below to visit their sites). I am a regularly published writer and photographer with over 1200 images on sale with Alamy the on-line photo library. I also founded and edited the magazine The Black and White Enthusiast. Over the years I have interviewed many top photographers for several magazines (you can see some of these interviews on this site under the tab ‘Photography’) and am currently a columnist for F2 Freelance Photographer magazine. Do have a look at my e-books. They are reasonably priced.

To view my e-books at Smashwords click here

and to see them at Amazon click here

To some, autumn signals the beginning of the end. It’s all downhill from here. Short days leading inexorably to even shorter ones. Summer warmth and long days, are disappearing. Gloomy skies are on the horizon. Cold, wet, and even colder days to come.

William Cullen Bryant, the nineteenth century American poet, wrote, ‘The melancholy days have come, the saddest of the year’. One can almost feel him shuddering with distaste as he penned those lines.

But not all feel like Bryant. His compatriot James Whitcomb Riley exulted at the change of season when he wrote, ‘O it sets my heart a clickin’, like the tickin’ of a clock, when the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock’. And, of course, England’s John Keats welcomed the ‘Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ with something akin to open arms.

This ambivalence to the onset of autumn is common for many reasons. Sufferers of hay fever for instance are glad to see the dampening down of their pollen producing tormentors while those who suffer the excruciating itching of chilblains live in dread as the year moves on.

For landscape photographers, it is an exciting part of the year. Summer is all very well but at times our lenses get overpowered by the omnipresent greens of high summer. What a thrill it is to sight the first flaming torch that is a poplar tree in autumn.

To read the full article Click here

This interview is now several years old and many things have changed but it is still worth reading as an insight into how a professional went about establishing himself. Michael’s gallery is now closed as the high rent finally persuaded him that the time had come to consider his next photographic project. He now sells his superb prints through his website at www.michaelscottlees.com.au and through many retail outlets in Jindabyne.

I met Michael Scott Lees at the Kosciuszko Mountain Retreat at Sawpit Creek, a favourite place for me to stay when in the New South Wales High Country. It seemed an appropriate place, tucked away as it is in the bush, to talk to a photographer who makes his living from selling images of the Snowy Mountains in all their moods.

Having explored our backgrounds, we got down to the serious business of discovering just how Michael had ended up with a gallery selling his fine art prints in Jindabyne.

My research had already uncovered the fact that the photography bug had bitten while Michael was in Year 10 at school — coincidentally at a school which was a close neighbour of the one where I was Publications Officer and in charge of the school Photographic Society.

It was at a time when his school was having considerable success in outside competitions thanks to the enthusiasm of the photography teacher and Michael won first prize in the portraiture section of the Sydney Morning Herald competition. As he commented, “The school made an almost clean sweep that year.”
Photography was firmly established in Michael’s life and he went off to Art College.

“At the time, I felt Art College was a bit of a waste of time,” Michael said, referring to his disappointment that it appeared that the technical aspect of photography had been subjugated to the demands of artistic creativity. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and he quickly added, “but not now”. The fact is that he now recognises that it is that very creativity and good grounding in design that has enabled him to produce the stunning images that people are prepared to buy from his well-known gallery in Jindabyne.

Once out of college with his brand new degree under his arm, Michael followed the traditional path of becoming an assistant to a professional photographer. It happened that he was a fashion photographer but that was incidental as this period enabled Michael to fill in the technical gaps that he felt he had missed at college. It also introduced him to the panoramic format in the shape of a Widelux and, as Michael puts it, “I fell in love with the format”.

Still following the traditional path, Michael then became a freelance commercial photographer with a leaning towards industrial photography. He survived for eighteen months but he failed to promote himself and by that time Africa was calling.

That continent had been a bit of a passion so it seemed as good a time as any to buy his own panoramic camera, an Art Panorama, and head off and “then come back and start again”. Michael had the idea of a coffee table book — they were all the rage then — but that didn’t see the light of day but, he commented, “I grew up a lot in Africa”.

To read the full article Click here

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Success as a freelance photographer relies upon maximising our return for every minute that we invest in our business. This is true whether we are full or part-time freelances. We have to keep our cameras working so if you are ever at a loss for a subject during a wet and uninviting day, here is something that you can do at home with almost no special equipment.

You will have seen in magazines and newspapers the images that are used in such things as the financial column or on the food or computer pages. Often these images have no direct connection with the words, they are there just to draw our attention to the article and to get us to read it. They are generic images and it is these that you can shoot simply at home, the only limitation being your imagination. And, imagination is the key. You will be competing with many other photographers who have tapped into this market so innovation is as vital as technique.

The only essential items of equipment other than your camera are a tripod and, if one can be fitted to your camera, a cable release and, if you don’t have a macro lens, a set of extension tubes. You don’t even need special lighting or flash unless you are shooting at night. I usually get by with just window light and an occasional reflector — generally a piece of white card or aluminium foil. Keeping it simple is my philosophy.

While innovation is vital, if you have not been involved in shooting very close ups, experiment with some simple ideas to begin with so that when you do come to shoot your innovative set ups you don’t have to think about your technique and can concentrate on getting your pre-visualised ideas on to film or sensor.

What you are looking for as generic images are items that can be photographed so as to be recognisable without showing all their detail. With things like books, this can simply mean shooting so that their titles are not visible but with other items it may be necessary to have just a part of the subject sharply in focus. For instance if you want to show that it is a camera without showing its make, use a large aperture to reduce depth of field and focus on the shutter button or the side of the lens or anywhere where the name of the manufacturer doesn’t appear or can be thrown so out of focus that it is illegible. Or you can do the same with a credit card without giving away important details such as its number. Grab a pen and some paper and start listing your ideas for generic images. In quick time you will probably have up to twenty written down.

Generic images may not be the most exciting of pictures to shoot but they can be one way of keeping your camera active and earning its keep on days that are not conducive to much other photography. They can be one way of maximising our return from our freelance business.

To see my e-books on photography, go to http://tinyurl.com/ofbqeeg

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When I began making pictures of the landscape, it was always the big picture that figured and I suppose it’s the same for most of us. It was a case of a few exposures and then move on to the next grand view.

Then came the day when I ‘needed’ to make some pictures — photographers will know what I mean — and the weather was against me. Uniformly grey cloud and lousy light are no recipe for great landscape shots.

With the itch in my shutter finger unsatisfied, I had to find a subject so I began casting around the area and, what do you know, there were dozens of them. Of course there were for those who have eyes to see. The big picture is made up of thousands, maybe millions of smaller pictures and this is what I had been missing.

I have used film and digital to produce my micro-landscape pictures but what you use is immaterial. It is the result that counts and that result will come from your ability to see the picture in the first place and then from your technical know-how which will enable you to make the image.

The picture with this post was shot on my Olympus digital DSLR and shows the sort of image that can be found at any time but is especially valuable when the light is just not right for landscape photography.

Keep your eyes open but don’t just look, see!

Whether you make your sales direct or through an agent or photo library, do you have a target to keep your mind focused on your output? And, if you do, is it measurable? It needs to be otherwise you cannot assess just how you are performing against your target. It can be as simple as the number of submissions/pitches sent out each month or the number of sales made, or the monetary amount of sales made, all of which are measurable. My targets began as the number of submissions made each month but I felt that that didn’t stretch me enough. Regular submissions are, of course, essential in this freelancing business but results are more important.

So, I amended my goals by setting myself an income-based goal for each month which encourages me to continue to send submissions out but will not let me feel satisfied just by the making of a submission. Now I won’t feel satisfied unless I can eat! Hopefully this approach will improve my selections and lead to more sales.

Don’t forget, that setting a target is not the end of it. There is no point in having a target that there is no chance of achieving just as there is no point in having a target that is too easily achieved. Setting targets that challenge is a fine balancing act so review your goals regularly. And don’t feel that you are cheating if you downgrade your targets if you find that you are not achieving them even though you have put a 100 per cent effort in. Of course, if the non-achievement is brought about by lack of application on your part, you know what to do.

Equally, if you are achieving your targets fairly easily, do consider upgrading them.

Whether you are a freelance writer or photographer, rejection is a nasty word with all its implications of ‘failure’. But, it is a word that we as freelances have to get used to and accept it for what it really is, an indication of one editor’s opinion which could stem from a number of factors. He or she may not like our article or picture (which is their right), they may have another (in their mind) better article/picture to fill their space, they may have covered the subject recently, the article/picture doesn’t fit in with the magazine’s mission, and so on and so on. I am assuming, of course, that the article is grammatically correct with no spelling mistakes and the pictures are correctly exposed, clean, well composed and sharp.

Do remember that most judgments are subjective with opinions being formed taking into account the past history of the individual. I know of one photography judge who cannot abide pictures of pelicans. Why, I do not know. Maybe he was frightened by a pelican as a child, maybe he doesn’t like the long beak or the way they waddle when they walk but, more likely, he has seen too many pictures of these birds in the competitions he judges. Whatever the reason, a picture of a pelican will get short shrift from him. And, editors are only human and we have to accept that their judgment may have nothing to do with our writing or photography being poor.

So what do we do when our words and images are rejected or should I say, ‘not accepted on this occasion’?

What I do is to look carefully at the article to make sure that there are no mistakes that I should have picked up and, assuming all is in order and it doesn’t need re-writing to suit the style of the next publication on my list, I send it back out into the wide world. I do the same with my pictures. I check for blemishes and, when satisfied, they go off to the next editor on my list. That way, I have no time to sit and fret about my ‘failure’.

With reference to my previous Post, Monochrome from Digital Colour, you may be interested in the picture I posted to my Facebook photography page yesterday.

To go to my Facebook Photography page Click here

As a former keen monochrome worker, I miss my darkroom and the thrill of seeing a print appear in the developer and watching as it builds to its climax. And, I miss the simplicity of a black and white print.

I know that I can shoot digital in black and white but I never seem to. As a freelance I have to capture the images that magazines want and 99 plus% want everything in glorious colour. So, as I no longer have a darkroom, the only way for me to satisfy my craving for black and white is to convert suitable colour images to monochrome using my trusty computer.

As with so many things in Photoshop, there are a number of ways in which this conversion can be done. Grayscale Mode, De-saturate, Channel Mix, LAB Mode etcetera and at some stage I have used all of them. If you want to see what I have settled on, my e-book The Black and White Enthusiast sets it all out including the conversion of colour slides.

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The Black and White Enthusiast is available in formats for tablet readers at Smashwords Here

Whatever you do, if you like black and white photography then have a go and experiment until you are satisfied

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