Recently someone commented on one of my images: “I wish I had your eye for composition.” My reply: composition can be learned. Art classes in high school and college helped me learn the basics of composition, color, lines, shapes and the elements of design that go into creating good compositions in art, drawing, painting and yes, photography. There are plenty of online resources about art and learning basic composition. Normally my process is to get it as right as I can when I shoot it. Sometimes, though, I know what I want in my head but … [Read more...] about Seeing and Composition in Photography
Marco and I were recording the Inspiration Podcast on the Photofocus Podcasting Network and he reminded me of an old Edward Weston quote: The fact is that relatively few photographers ever master their medium. Instead they allow the medium to master them and go on an endless squirrel cage chase from new lens to new paper to new developer to new gadget, never staying with one piece of equipment long enough to learn its full capacities, becoming lost in a maze of technical information that is of little or no use since they don't know what to do … [Read more...] about Stop Chasing Gear If You Want To Be A Better Photographer
Picking bookmarks is a little adventure for me. My daughter is constantly creating pictures and doodles, so I usually use one of these as a bookmark for whatever book (or books) I'm reading. Unfortunately, I didn't get to pick a bookmark for Jay Maisel's Light Gesture & Color. In fact, I didn't use a bookmark at all. It's so engaging and so easy to read that I only put it down twice, and the distinctive photos on every page it simple to find my place. Light Gesture & Color is a must read for all photographers. Every genre and every … [Read more...] about Book Review: Jay Maisel’s “Light Gesture & Color”
We all have times when were waiting for somethingmaybe the doctors office, or a meal at restaurant, or at the auto shopand many times we spend that time checking Instagram with our eyes glued to our phones. Id like to suggest a more productive use of your time that will exercise your mind and make you a better photographer. Light the Room When youre waiting around, engage your mind by lighting the room. Consider what it would take to make the room look good in a photograph, and then spice it up by adding the person youre waiting for to the … [Read more...] about Don’t Waste Your Time: Light the Room
When I started getting serious about photography, I stopped concentrating on gear and started concentrating on developing a photographic eye. Unfortunately I was not born with the gift of visual acuity. I am glad to report that it is something you can learn. One of my early teachers used self-assignments to help move me along my path. And three of those assignments rolled into one. I first did these decades ago. Every once in a while to brush up on my visualization, I will do them even now. And even thought these are some of the oldest lessons … [Read more...] about Three Ways To Improve Your Photographic Eye
Heres a great assignment for equipment junkies who own every lens ever made. Shoot for one entire week using just one focal length. Choose a focal length you don't normally use. If you normally shoot sports with 300mm, 400mm or 600mm lenses, try shooting a game with a normal or wide angle lens - look for ways a different focal length can help you see a familiar game in a new way. If you shoot architecture with wide angle lenses, try shooting with a telephoto lens to capture details or compress the building as part of the skyline. If you … [Read more...] about Take the Challenge: One Week. One Lens.
Tens of millions of cameras are sold every year. More than one billion people around the world own a camera or a smart phone with a camera. Billions of photographs are made weekly. How are your photos any different or better than those made by everyone else? Why would anyone want to look at YOUR images? What is about your work that stands out from the millions pictures made by people around the country who also have cameras? I know the answer even without seeing your work. I know there are two very distinct reasons your photographs stand … [Read more...] about Why Your Pictures Are Better Than You Think They Are
Just a few weeks ago, I got up at the crack of dawn and went to Trillium Lake with a few other photographers, intent on photographing the sunrise. Soon after we got there, we met up with a few more photographers at the same location. The lake was beautiful, and so was the mountain, but there were zero clouds sky to soak up the sunshine as it started making its way up into the sky. We all ended up gravitating towards the dock that was sitting in a beautifully foggy lake. So here we were, eight photographers photographing pretty much the exact … [Read more...] about Why We Should Stop Worrying About Other Photographers
This post won't be for everyone. It's in fact a very advanced concept and it might miss the target. If it does, I'll take the blame because of my inability to share the heart of what drives me to find the perfect photo. But here's trying a little bit. Some photographers go through life randomly documenting what comes their way. Others pre-visualize their photography and set out to tell a story. There are many approaches to photography. All of them are valid. But there's one you may not be familiar with. It's a little bit Zen, but it's very … [Read more...] about Seeing A Photograph – Looking For What Isn’t There
I recently bought a condo at Las Vegas City Center. I still have my house in Henderson but on nights when I want to hang out on the Strip it saves me the half hour drive home battling all the drunks on a weekend. While City Center certainly had a rough start the place is now a mecca of beauty and magic. Next door to my condo is Crystals. It's a very high end shopping center so I've been taking morning photo walks there to both familiarize myself with the area, get a little exercise and work my photo brain. I'm using nothing but my iPhone 4s … [Read more...] about One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure – Try To SEE Photos In Everyday Places
As some of you may know, I am a big fan of pre-visualizing your shots. If you can see it in your mind's eye before you capture the image, you have a better chance of making a significant photograph. I've written about this a bit with my Cranes in the Fire Mist shot. I pre-visualized this shot in camera. I am not a photo-journalist. Accordingly, the only thing that matters to me is the final image. So for you purists out there who think merely owning a copy of Photoshop is an offense worthy of beheading, read no further. There's nothing for … [Read more...] about Photographic Pre-visualization in Post
I constantly tell new photographers that one of the best ways to become a better photographer is to look at lots of published photographs. Seeing how other photographers did it, looking at their success, can give you a great understanding of what is possible. Knowing what is possible is the first step toward learning. But how do you actually LOOK at a photograph to get the best advantage of this exercise? Here are some ideas 1. Don't just look - analyze - think about the photograph. What was the photographer's main subject? What story was … [Read more...] about How to “LOOK” at a Photograph
Sometimes we get in a rut. We photograph the same thing over and over and over. That's not always bad. But it can be. Would you eat the same thing for dinner every night of the week? Would you watch the same movie every Saturday? (I'm afraid of some of the answers I'll get here but you get the point.) It might be worthwhile to change things up. Stop photographing the same thing over and over and over. The word "ban" might be strong, but you can reduce (or temporarily eliminate or discontinue) something you usually shoot in favor of something … [Read more...] about Is There One Photographic Subject You’re Done With?
(*Root for the other guy is just an expression - substitute gal as appropriate) I recently had the pleasure, and privilege of spending some quality time with my friend, Pulitzer Prize Winning photographer and filmmaker, Vince LaForet. He spoke at Skip's Summer School in Vegas and as usual, wowed the crowd with an amazing slide show and talk about creative vision. But afterwards, when he and I were eating lunch it struck me; One of the reasons we all sat there during his talk - spellbound by his amazing imagery - was because we were all … [Read more...] about Photographers – It’s Okay To Root For The Other Guy*
Go to the ballgame. Go to any kind of ballgame. Take your compact camera (not your big honking pro camera with long lens which will make you stand out.) At the ballgame, you will find all sorts of interesting things to photograph. Look for signage, the game itself and most of all, the interesting people you will see at the game. The great thing about sporting events is that they are a melting pot. People of all races, colors and creeds, from all sorts of different backgrounds and beliefs attend sporting events. Whether it's the well-heeled … [Read more...] about Photography Eye Training – Go To The Ballgame
A while back I wrote a post called: Seeing The Invisible A Photographers Vision. In that post I gave you an exercise - to describe a tree to a blind person. The point of that post - and this one - is to improve your visualization skills. I want you to take that exercise and switch it up a bit. Now I want you to draw, paint or sketch a picture of a tree. I don't care if you suck - just do it. You don't have to show the picture to anyone. You won't be graded on your work. The idea is simply to engage different neurons in your brain and to help … [Read more...] about Even If You Have No Talent For It – Drawing, Sketching & Painting Will Make You A Better Photographer
Fairly or unfairly, I am generally considered a gear head. I do have lots of photo gear. There's no denying that fact. Some of it I purchased just for review on Photofocus. Some of it was given to me in an attempt to sway me. Some of it was purchased for resale later. Some of it was purchased just to write a book. Some of it was purchased for one or two specific projects (before I found out about Borrowlenses.com). In any event, my studio is full of stuff. Lots of stuff. So much stuff that I sometimes discover cameras and lenses I didn't even … [Read more...] about Why I Am Selling Most of my Photography Gear
Jonathan Swift said... Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. This quote inspires me daily as a photographer. As I walk by a grove of trees, I see things differently than my non-photographer friends. They see a clump of trees. I see the grass beneath the trees, the light streaming through the leaves, the birds in their nests on the branches, the intricate pattern in the bark, the strength of the trunk, the outgrowth of the roots, the different colors and tonality in the leaves, the way the shadows fall across the wood, the … [Read more...] about Seeing The Invisible – A Photographer’s Vision
In January, many of us make resolutions to get more exercise. That's a good idea. But don't forget the photographic exercises. Here, I've created a list of 20 creativity and photography exercises that you can work on all year long. I want to warn you that some of them are rather ethereal. Don't let that stop you. Transfer the ones you like to your calendar and make a strong commitment to do the work. I've seeded my own vision with many of these exercises and believe they will work for you too.1. Photograph your definition of "Sunday Afternoon" … [Read more...] about 20 Ideas: An Exercise Plan That Won’t Help You Lose Weight But Will Help You Become a Better Photographer
Tag Cloud Courtesy Douglas Weber On Saturday, I posted this on Twitter: "What is your favorite thing about photography?" I was utterly amazed at the outpouring of response. Twitter is usually a quiet place on Saturdays, but within an hour I had hundreds of responses. It was one of the most illuminating and fulfilling moments I've ever participated in on Twitter. It showed me the power of social media to create a real conversation. People got really engaged with this question. More than 500 responded by Sunday. It's clear this question resonated … [Read more...] about What is Your Favorite Thing About Photography? The Results
It's time for me to play the part of Tony Robbins. It's motivational speaker time here at Photofocus. Sometimes, we all need a pep talk. Here's one from me to you. Hoping that SOMEONE out there reading this today needs to hear this and can benefit. When I talk about what's lacking in your photos, I bet many of you will start finding ways to talk about gear. That's easy. Everyone wants more gear - new gear - better gear - etc. But really, when it comes right down to it, what's missing is often deeper than just a new lens or a new camera. Is it … [Read more...] about What’s Lacking In Your Photos?
It happens to everyone. If you have photographed for a long time you find yourself in the occasional rut. A simple way out of that is to start (and finish) a photo project. Here are five ideas to get you started. If these don't work for you, try to come up with some of your own. 1. Collect Backdrops You never know when a cool pattern or background could be used as a texture or a digital backdrop in a composite. Shoot colors, textures, patterns. Look for old, new, and in between. Use your imagination. Closeup lenses make this easier. Build … [Read more...] about Five Projects to Jumpstart Your Photography & Fight Photo Boredom
I know we live in a USA TODAY, drive-up window world. Everybody wants what they want now. So here are five things you can do in six hours - in fact on this very day to BECOME (not be) a better photographer. 1. Go to a museum. Yep - any museum. STUDY don't just look at the art there. Ask yourself the same questions about every piece you see and keep notes. What was the artist trying to say? What may have inspired the artist? What tools or techniques did the artist use to make the piece? Is the piece effective on an emotional level? Is the piece … [Read more...] about Five Things You Could Do In Six Hours To Become a Better Photographer
You may have heard the old saying: "I was going to write you a short letter, but I didn't have time, so I wrote you a long one instead." It's hard to write tight. It's hard to photograph tight as well. Most professional photographers separate themselves from the amateur by knowing what NOT to include in a photo. It takes more work to decipher what should and should not go into a photographic composition. The lazy photographer just shoots everything and figures he/she will deal with it in post. Your images should be direct and to the point. … [Read more...] about It’s Hard To Shoot Tight
Okay time to shake it up a bit folks. You've been shooting the same thing over and over and your images are all starting to look the same. Time to stir up the creative juices. Every once in a while I come up with a post like this for myself as much as for anyone else, so let's try it together. Here are seven things that may freshen up your photographic eye. 1. Shoot with a speciality lens. Try a fisheye, a Lensbaby, a tilt-shift, a pinhole or just a classic manual lens. 2. Go out shooting strictly for a personal project. I don't care if its … [Read more...] about Seven Things To Freshen Up Your Photographic Eye
It's time to jump-start your photographic vision. Here's a fun photo assignment that will absolutely help. You will need another photographer to complete this assignment. But not just any photographer will do. You need a special photographer. You need a kid! That's right - a kid! Go get your son, daughter, niece, nephew or neighbor kid and take them out shooting this weekend. Buy up one of those disposable cameras at the grocery or drugstore. Go find something pretty. Show the kid how the camera works. Then sit back and learn. Yep, I said … [Read more...] about Fun Photo Assignment
When you decide to make a photograph, who are you making the photograph for? Are you making it for yourself, a client, posterity, or perhaps, you're making it to impress the folks at the camera club? Whoever you are shooting "for," make sure you understand that THEY are your AUDIENCE. They (in this case, even if it's YOU) are looking for something in your images. Whether or not they find it will often have as much to do with whether or not you understand who THEY are, as anything else. Remember that the audience decides everything. THEY decide … [Read more...] about Attention Photographers – Who’s Your Audience?
I'm a Seth Godin fan. If you get a chance, read any of his books (Tribesis one of my favorites.) They are usually quite inspiring to me. He said something recently that gave me an idea. "The best ideas come out of the corner of our eye, the edge of our consciousness, in a flash. They are the result of misdirection and random collisions, not a grinding corporate onslaught. And yet we waste billions of dollars in time looking for them where they're not." It occurred to me that this could apply to photography as well. Sometimes, when you're … [Read more...] about Finding New Paths in Your Photography
One of the things that helped me improve my photography was learning how to stop, pause, reset my brain, breathe deep, take a moment and look more closely. It's always intoxicating to walk up on a visually-exciting scene. Whether it's a hot model, a beautiful mountain or field of flowers, the temptation to machine gun your way to success is strong. Being deliberate, studying the scene, looking for the real meat of the photograph will improve your shots. Sometimes, you walk up on a scene where the larger objects grab your attention. It's … [Read more...] about Look Closely
Trust me - this is photography-related. I went to a writer's conference last month. I was there to support a friend. The conference featured several very famous authors who gave readings from their published works. They also taught workshops, discussing technique and craft. There were many similarities between the writer's workshop and several photography workshops I've attended or spoken at. There was one very big difference. During the question and answer period where the attendees could ask these famous authors any question they like, … [Read more...] about What Brand of Pen Do You Write With?