Oh the Difference a Crop Can Make

18 11 2008

Intent., originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

I’m back! Sorry for the delay. So I decided to pick something simple to warm myself back up.

The crop. Above is a picture of one of my best friends. As you can see she has a strong but simple intent expression on her face. The framing of the picture is verticle with the subject slightly left with excess space towards the top. Think about how you feel, what the picture conveys to you?…now take a look at this crop:

Crop Example

Now…you how do you feel, what does the picture convey?

I’m not going to describe how you should feel, how I feel, or even try to speak directly on the differences between the photo. Why? Well because this photographer operates largely on experimentation, and I don’t want to rob you of the same liberty. The point is that slight crops can work wonders and change images SIGNIFICANTLY. I feel totally different when I look at the second version of this picture. Moving subjects forward in a frame can add a since of urgency, show ore detail, and answer more mental questions. Moving subjects further away can give you a more abstract approach, more view of the background in the photo, etc. Shifting to the left or right can add a twist, and give you a fresh perspective.

Not to rock the boat too much, but you can also cut significant subject matter out. Whether it be because certain things are a distraction to the central focus or because you find that one area of the photo yields a better feel…you can use crop as loosely or as strict as you’d like. It is a simple tool but an amazing one when used effectively. Good luck using it, and remember to always experiment.


The Silhouette

21 07 2008

By the Water, originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

Hmmm…so I realize it is about time for a blog post, and I decided to tackle the use of silhouettes in photography. Just so happens that Digital Photography School recently showcased “12 Super Silhouette Shots”…so I guess great timing!?

With this post I’d like to describe in layman’s terms how to take a silhouette shot, as well as tell you how I think your collection of photos can benefit from a couple well done silhouettes.

First, let’s understand what a silhouette is:

“A silhouette is a view of some object or scene consisting of the outline and a featureless interior, with the silhouette usually being black.” Source – Wikipedia.org

As you can see in my photo above, the subjects (the people) appear featureless as described, with much of the detail coming from the background (skyline/ horizon). Now, there are definitely variations on this technique, so keep that in mind and make sure you take into account some other examples I will include in this post.

How do you take a silhouette you ask? Or maybe you didn’t, but if you are curious on how to black out the subjects, I will now begin to explain. In this article, I will essentially mirror a bit of Digital Photography School (so here is your credit DPS!) because I mean there really isn’t that many different techniques. I figured it out on my own, but I will blend my process with their explanation.

In the scene above, I was set up behind the subjects I wanted to shoot. This was fine, because I didn’t care too much about capturing their faces or what was going on in their world. The important part about the direction I am facing is that it is in the direction of the light source. This is your number one priority. Shoot with the light source behind your subject. There is a slight catch however – you have to force the camera to meter the light areas of the composition. This, I found, can be done in two ways.

1) You can try the good ‘ole focusing trick where you half press the shutter on the bright spots to adjust the metering and then re-focus on the subject(s) and keep the same metering…snap the picture.

2) This is harder, and probably unnecessary, but…you can focus on the subject first, then with the shutter half pressed, scan to a bright area to get the meter read and come back to the subject, adjust the shutter speed and snap the photo….(stupid huh?….lol)

As an aside, in extreme bright sources, you can meter on just about anything and get the same effect.

The end message is you want to underexpose your subject while correctly exposing the backgroud (i.e. everything else). That’s really it on what I have to say about technique…my biggest piece of advice in all cases is to EXPERIMENT, EXPERIMENT, EXPERIMENT. You will learn a lot! With that out of the way, some interesting take-aways from the DPS article are:

1.) Choose a strong subject.
2.) Turn off your flash.
5.) Make silhouetted shapes distinct and uncluttered.

Those are three things I didn’t really describe in detail, but you can find the article here: How to Photograph Silhouettes

Above is a photo that I took, but below are some more examples that you can find in the link directly above this sentence:

Make sure you visit the article and find out who the original photographers were…I’m not a fan of stealing content without paying tribute.

Lastly, I think that silhouettes are a great add-in to your portfolio. Why? Well, it showcases the grasp of another technique that can do wonders when executed correctly. On top of that, silhouettes have the ability to express certain things easier than do their regularly exposed counterparts. There is much more mystery and intrigue in a subject which we can’t totally understand due to the lack of details. There is an eloquent simplicity in picturing a story from a blacked out subject and using the background as your setting. I just think there is a wealth of creativity that can spur from this technique, so give it a shot!

Also check out 12 Super Silhouette Shots at DPS as well. I hope this helped…let me know if you have any questions!

Featured Photoblog: Obsidian Eye Photo

12 07 2008

I have decided to do my first blog feature. The inspiration for this feature came from contemplating why I got into photography and what reminded of the very essence of the passion. The person I am featuring is actually one of the only photoblogs, so far, that I check on an almost daily basis. When I saw her three most recent posts about her trip to San Diego…it gave me a chill as it sort of touched my photographic soul.

Marlene Hawthrone is a photographer after my own heart. She has an eye that roams wherever she is and finds the geometry, the balance, the appeal, and whatever else you can think of in our world. And if it isn’t quite present at the time, she won’t mind snapping a couple shots as test runs. I actually had the pleasure of going on a photo journey with her and mutual friends, and I can attest to her ability behind the lens. I don’t quite have permission, so I am going to show 3 of her most recent shots from her blog, and post them here as samples (as I cross my fingers):

Just looking at these pictures brings me back to the realm of adventure. Those days where you just grab the camera bag, and start walking the streets. That is the true essence of photography for me, and the reason I’ve decided to feature her. In fact, I challenge every photography to make sure they go on a photo stroll every now in then when they aren’t too busy doing portraiture or paid jobs, etc.

Marlene also does the most stunning engagement and wedding photography, which you can find on her blog and her website. I will be adding her into the links section of this blog, so feel free to look her up anytime. Also, take a look at her photostream by clicking the following:

Flickr.com photostream – http://www.flickr.com/photos/obsidianeye/

Blog – http://obsidianeyephoto.com/blog/

Website/Portfolio – http://obsidianeyephoto.com

And since I am probably not the best person to describe her, I’ll let her describer herself (as copied and pasted from her Flickr profile):

Camera nerd. Soon-to-be student of photography. Shy. Introspective. INFJ. General nerd. Likes shooting weddings.

Enjoy her work.

The Subjectivity of Art/ Photography

10 07 2008

Subjectivity can work for you and against you. Photography is a passion of mine, love it with all my heart. It releases me, teaches me, helps me appreciate the everyday things many pass by…it does so many things that let’s just leave it at that. And part of this art passion is the ability to share with others.

I have always been a competitive guy. From varsity basketball in high school to pumping weights in the gym…even trying to date girl after girl as a young man in college. One thing about photography is that it has allowed me to be decidedly competitive. By that I mean, when I want to compete, I kick the gears in motion, and when I don’t a state of humility shrouds my mind. Humility has been my natural state for this hobby because I started “late” in the craft, and because hey, skill is relative anyway, why not appreciate the beauty that other people are experiencing through their eyes.

However, none of what I’ve said actually prepares you for all of reality’s twists and turns. Flickr.com, the photo sharing website, has given me a chance to share my art with others, receive feedback, get rated, and discuss techniques and ideas with a multitude of talented photographers around the world. This is a blessing of technology, but it also can present some real challenges.

The picture of above is one I took of a friends tattoo. Using my 50mm f/1.4, I was able to capture the tattoo in great clarity, while blurring the surrounding picture. I got the picture home later for editing, and moved one slider in Adobe Lightroom, and this is the end result. I was instantly happy with the conclusion. It reminded me of an oil painting, illustrating some singer in a jazz night club some decades ago. When I moved that one slider and stopped, all I could think was ART! and I was happy to share this creation with the world.

After adding the photo to Flickr and dropping it in a couple of groups, I awaited feedback and ratings. Unfortunately, the reception was lukewarm. So I was instantly pissed, but not in a bad way…just didn’t understand how some people considered what they considered “Art” and then this piece received the comments it did. “The DoF is too narrow,” “I don’t get it”…etc, you can click the picture and read. I even spelled out my thoughts in the caption, but to know avail I guess.

My point in writing this blog post is not to whine or complain, but to share with the public something that you all probably realize but never think about. It is quite vexing actually…as teens we walk in to a gallery or museum, look at masterpieces and say “What the hell is that, I don’t like it.” Then we turn around as full fledged adults, walk into the same places and stare at a piece for 15 minutes, examining every angle, until we are at least confident enough to understand why people consider something a masterpiece. For the Flickr users out there reading this, there is an embedded message within this paragraph. As practitioners of our craft, we owe it to our fellow artists to think more about what he/she is trying to deliver. Don’t spend 15 minutes analyzing a piece, but also don’t be that teenage kid in the museum speed walking past art that makes you think so you can get to all the undisputed fun stuff at the end of the museum.

We live in a world where there are a lot of things that are indisputable, but those things exist only at the ends of the spectrum…and everything else is debatable. For instance, you know an ultra conservative or a neo liberal candidate, and you end up spending no time on politicians like that. All the debate happens around the candidates in the middle of the spectrum. And this is what subjectivity is made of, stuff that is in the middle of two or more varying viewpoints. Our art form yields millions and billions of new images a year, and of course, a majority of those images will be scattered amongst the middle of the spectrum where we will have fun debating and discussing. But be aware of what you are getting into and always be responsible with how you approach. Different from politics, ART is connected directly to the heart, and you never know when a certain view will hurt a fellow photog…tread lightly. Nevertheless, don’t hold back either because there is always something to learn and ways to be better…this process is just as important individually as it is collectively.

Get in Tight

2 07 2008

I’m not sure about the percentages, but I’m pretty sure a lot of people who take pictures (notice I didn’t say photographers) like to fit everything into a shot. Photographers would probably opt to find a pleasant and pleasing composition when greeted with an immense scene, but people who take pictures tend to zoom out or back up. Well here is a message to picture takers and photographers alike – GET IN TIGHT!

I haven’t had a lot of time, due to my moving to NY, so I went back in my Photostream a bit to come up with an idea to blog. I stumbled across this photo and it hit me. People should know that frames and compositions are EVERYWHERE. Taking pictures of giant landscapes or of an entire building or an entire group of people is cool and all…but a photo becomes artistic, unique, and different when you get in close and find what really strikes you the most. With the picture above I did just that. I had the girl and the flower in one big shot, and it did nothing for my mind. It was a good picture but not a great picture. So I got in closer, found a frame that spoke to me and voila! A tighter crop produced a more vocal piece, and that is what it is about.

Here’s a piece of learning advice and a good way to practice – take pictures of a lot of small objects one at a time. If you are sitting at your desk bored, pull out your camera and take shots of your mouse from several angles, your monitor, keyboard, etc…and then see what looks good. If you have a super fast lens, like say – 50mm f/1.4 or something in that maximum aperture range, use it. Try out different bokehs in order to create the perfect amount of blur. Practicing on things around the house will get your eye trained to be anticipatory and ready for opportunities when you see them in the street or on your next photo shoot. So good luck and good shooting!

Don’t Focus on the Subject

25 06 2008

Brotherhood & Music, originally uploaded by kamikaze productions.

There are tons of reasons to take portraits of people. Money and for fun rank among the highest if I had to venture a guess. This blog entry actually applies to all reasons though. I have titled it “Don’t Focus on the Subject” as an approach to becoming more artistic and creative during your portrait sessions. No matter what, you will always have a “subject” or else you won’t have an area of focus. But who is to say you can snap a couple extra photos during a job to grab some artistic photos for the portfolio.

Recently, I did a individual/group portrait session for a group of friends trying to break into the music industry. The photo above is an image of my Fraternity brother – Qui-Juan Jones. During the shoot, I was of course trying to capture all of my subjects in ways that would show who they are as musicians and people. Often times, when we have a specific intention in mind, our brains get bogged down trying to hammer out pictures within only one realm of creativity. That may have sounded confusing so I will simplify. We have a job – portraits. So we concentrate only on the face, because, well heck, the face is an important part of the portrait don’t you think? Well here is my call to shoot some extra shots and avoid the face as your subject.

Qui-Juan, as you can see, has a tattoo. I decided why not get creative with that as well. There are tons of things that one could emphasize, and you could probably snap the photo while your subject thinks you are still focused on their face. Don’t let your creativity be silenced by what you think you are limited by based on the purpose of the shoot!

Think about shots you’ve seen on sites like Flickr. Many wedding photographers take pictures of the hands (focus the big diamond ring of course!). Photographers focus on the stomach for pregnancy photos…the limbs for mom/dad and newborn…and those are just the themes that I’ve seen. All of our minds work differently, so find other things to focus on based on your subject’s individuality and unique physical characteristics. Keep the creativity in your flow, even though sometimes things seem a bit mundane.

Here are some great examples of portraiture without a clear shot of the face involved! Now get out there and try!

Reflection is a 2-Way Street (B&W) Day 45 - One Vodka down, three beers to go How to get your child to pose... Bad habit

Explore the photostreams of these photographers by clicking the pictures.

Quality Suits, Quality Price

18 06 2008

Ok so here is the thing, some times while I’m searching for photography equipment, I search for clothes too. It’s a bad habit, but I like fashion and moving to NY and all, gotta keep up! So anyway, one of my friends told me about a great company that makes good suits and all for under $500! We all know that suits cost a lot of money, especially for the good ones…my attitude has always been until you can afford a good suit, just go to Macy’s, get an affordable one, then have it tailored to your body and there you go…fresh stylish suit.

But now Quality is affordable in the form of Indochino. Indochino is a custom made suit designer, who provides a great product at an affordable price and free shipping. And if low price + free shipping wasn’t good enough, if the suit doesn’t quite fit right and you are unhappy, they will pay you $25 to get it altered by your personal tailor! Talk about proactive customer service.

Take a look at their site: Indochino.com.

Everything is quoted in a global price (USD)…so for the Europeans out there, congratulations, you are getting more for your money I suppose. Also, you can buy more basic suits or go for a more fashionable trendy look. Not to mention, there are several other things available: dress shirts, ties, cuff links, blazers…etc. Go ahead and click the link and check out their style book…I guarantee there is at least one suit in there that will fit one of your manly fashion needs (office, leasure, oh…I forgot to mention black tie).

Order now and turn around is like 2 weeks…from what I read on the site. That’s spectacular for custom suits!

Now to appeal to the photographer in my audience…if fashion wasn’t what you were expecting to read…in terms of great deals in photog equipment, exercise patience and craiglist/ebay. Every once in awhile a great deal will pop up!