Why I never shoot in Manual mode

At one point in my photographic career I’ve noticed that many photographers proud themselves in shooting only in manual mode. I get it, they want to emphasize the fact that they mastered exposure technique and  know exactly what f-stop and shutter speed to set for each lighting scenario.

“I shoot manual only” people generally look down on all the regular folk who are not in their club.
Well, guess what, in my opinion it is not wise and plain unnecessary to shoot on manual in this day and age.

Let me defend the case of Aperture Priority mode as the only one you’ll ever need to use whether you are an amateur or even pro photographer. There’s only one caveat here – if you shoot high speed events such as sports or racing you might want to consider Shutter Priority mode, but I’ll get to this down the road.

Why Aperture Priority you ask? It’s simple – because it gives you full control of your camera without forcing you to always be cautious of accidentally under/over exposing your shot. I wrote ‘accidentally’ on purpose, since you still have full artistic freedom of intentionally blowing out your highlights or deepening the shadows.

Ethereal beautiful woman swirling in a dance move

 

But first thing first – what is Aperture Priority mode?
In Aperture Priority mode you set your desired aperture and camera sets the shutter speed according to its built-in light meter. From my description it seems that you get only to control the depth of field (since that’s what changing f/stop does to the image). However, in addition to setting the aperture in this mode, you can also set exposure compensation, which leads us to the next question.

What is exposure compensation? By setting exposure compensation you basically tell your camera to use its built-in light meter to set the exposure, but then intentionally over or under expose the scene by the amount that you specify. For example you are shooting a sunset pointing your camera directly at the setting sun. Built it light meter will set exposure according to the bright sun, leaving the rest of the scene under-exposed. So if you want to achieve correct exposure, you need to set exposure compensation at about +1 or +1.5 stops. This way the camera will ‘add’ more exposure time to its measurement.

Now that we are familiar with exposure compensation, add it to your arsenal when using Aperture Priority mode, and you are almost set for any shooting scenario. The remaining bit of knowledge to mastering Aperture Priority is the ISO control.

Celebration of color and movement

By setting ISO you control your sensor’s sensitivity to light. The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive your camera will be to light. But why do we need different values of ISO? Example to the rescue again! Let’s say you are shooting people indoors where the light is dim, and people are moving. At ISO 100 and f/8, your shutter speed will have to be 1/15th of a second in order to correctly expose your scene. But at 1/15s anything that is even slightly moving will be blurred in the resulting image. One solution would be to open your aperture to f2.8 (for example), but what if that’s not something you want to do? Or in some places the light is so dim that even at f2.8 your exposure times are too long. The only option you have is to set ISO higher. In the example above you’ll need to go up to ISO 400 or even 800 to get acceptable shutter speeds.

The lowest ISO is usually 50, which you would normally only use when shooting in bright daylight. The highest ISO differ between cameras, the highest that I heard of was 409,600! It means that this camera can basically shoot in very dark conditions and still produce visible details.  Remember though, you always want to shoot at lowest ISO possible because the higher your ISO, the more noise you’ll have in the image.

That’s it! By setting your desired f/stop, exposure compensation, and ISO, you have full control of your camera as if you were shooting in manual but still let your camera do the tedious job of metering the light so you don’t have to worry about it.

Let’s reinforce this claim with a few examples.

1. Shooting sunset with sun visible in the frame.

a. Set the desired f-stop. I’ll go with f/11 to achieve optimal overall sharpness and depth of field for my taste.
b. Since the sun is in the frame, the camera’s built in light meter will under-expose the scene, so I’ll set exposure compensation to +1 stop.
c. If I use tripod, I don’t care that the exposure time might be too long, so I don’t mess with ISO and leave it at the lowest setting possible for my camera. If I don’t use tripod, I half press the shutter button and see what shutter speed my camera chooses. If it is too long, I’ll bump the ISO to the next level (ISO levels are 50-\>100-\>200-\>400-\>800-\>etc.) and check the exposure time again.

2. Shooting portraits indoors.

a. Set the desired f-stop. I’ll go with f/4 in this case to achieve low depth of field that will give me enough sharpness for all facial features but also a pleasantly blurred background.
b. Check that there’s no exposure compensation set, because I want my portraits to be correctly exposed using the available light.
c. Half press the shutter button and see what shutter speed my camera chose at the lowest ISO setting. Then bump up the ISO until the shutter speed is acceptable. Shooting handheld I normally don’t go slower than 1/30th of a second, or even 1/60th if my hands are a bit shaky.

3. Shooting rays of light protruding through trees in the forest.

This is not an obvious thing to achieve. I am talking about those beautiful rays of light seeping through the dense foliage, and hitting the low vegetation.
a. Set your f-stop at whatever value that you want. No suggestions here on my part.
b. Here’s the important part – set the exposure compensation to about -1.5 stops. Reason being – you want the rays of light to stand out, so you need to under expose your scene. Don’t worry about the rays – they are so bright that they will still be perfectly visible, but your background now will be dark enough for the rays to stand out!
c. As usual, if you are not using tripod, half-press the shutter button and check the exposure time. Adjust the ISO accordingly.

Ethereal beautiful woman swirling in a dance move

In conclusion – Aperture Priority mode can be used to deal with any photographic situation without the hassle of manually metering the light as you would need in manual mode. Therefore it is to me an absolute winner between those two modes. If you have another opinion, please, feel free to share it in the comments as I am always willing to learn.

 

Oh, I forgot to mention the Shutter Priority mode for sports and stuff. When you shoot fast moving objects such as race cars or football players, and you want to freeze their motion in your frame (in other words produce sharp images), you need to make sure that your shutter speed is short enough. Let’s say 1/500th of a second and shorter. Achieving that is easy with Shutter Priority mode, in which you set the desired shutter speed, and camera sets the f/stop. In Shutter priority mode you can still control all the rest of the settings by using exposure compensation and ISO controls exactly as you would in Aperture Priority mode.

The curse of Instagram

If you want to achieve any sort of publicity, it’s all about social media nowadays. Businesses are getting their names out there, individuals become famous, and  various groups grow in popularity. So anybody who wants any sort of attention takes it to social media.

I am a photographer, and obviously, I want to share my work with as large audience as possible. And if you are a photographer (or any other kind of artist) chances are that you too are seeking attention.
For photographers the obvious choice would be Instagram – the largest photo sharing social platform on the planet. Even though I’ve been using Instagram almost since it was created, I really started actively trying to gain a following little over two years ago.

A photo posted by Greg Brave (@gregbrave) on

I have to admit – I wasn’t successful in this endeavor, but I am not giving up just yet. In this article I’d like to share my experience and insights from the last two years of trying to get a following on Instagram. Please remember that this article consists of my opinions based on my own experiences with the platform.

I’ve studied various guides on ‘how to get a following on Instagram’, which basically all give the same advice. In short, here it is:

1. Post unique, beautiful, interesting etc. content.
2. Post regularly – posting images every day is considered to be the best practice
3. Add an engaging story/description to your images
4. Engage with your audience – when somebody posts a comment under your image, reply to them.
5. Be active on Instagram in general – leave meaningful comments under images that you like etc.
6. Participate in contests, giveaways, and collaborations on Instagram.
7. Use hashtags wisely – they have to be relevant to your content but also not too popular. If you use a hashtag like #instadaily, your image will get buried straight away in thousands of other images.

That’s about it.

A photo posted by Greg Brave (@gregbrave) on

I tried to incorporate most of the above into my Instagram routine and here is what found out:

1. When everybody tries to be unique, there is kind of sameness to it. We are all the same in our uniqueness (C) 🙂 . I am mostly a nature photographer, so nature and landscapes are what I am creating and sharing. There are so many beautiful and unique nature photographs out there that sometimes I no longer see a point in sharing more of those. Even if each photograph was amazing and unique, when you have millions of them – they start to look all the same.
2. People mostly comment for two reasons: Either you have a big following on Instagram and therefore you are popular so they want to be seen ‘in your company’ and maybe get a follower or two from people who see their comment. Or you don’t have a big following and will be so happy to receive a comment that you’ll go follow their profile straight away as a way to say thank you. Of course there are exceptions to this, but in my opinion this is a pretty accurate generalization.
3. Most of the comments I receive for my work consist of one or two words, or even less – an emoji, which in most cases I even don’t understand the meaning of. Like an emoji of clenched fist under an image of sunset over ocean. And the words are typically: ‘Amazing!’, ‘Gorgeous!’, ‘Love it!’, ‘Really Good’, ‘Very Cool’, ‘Great shot’ – you get the idea. I don’t want to be too harsh on these people, they left me a nice comment after all, but I feel that the intention behind most of these comments is only to grab my attention and maybe to get me to follow the commenter.
4. I get many people who start following my account, but after two days unfollow it. At first I didn’t understand why after posting an image I get 2 to 5 new followers but by the next day, when I post another image pretty much the same number of people unfollow my account. I thought to myself: can it be that this photo is that much worse than my previous one that those people got disappointed in me so much that they decided to unfollow? This question bothered me very much until I found a great little iPhone app called “Followers”. It shows you exactly who unfollowed you (instagram app only tells you the good news – when somebody starts following you, but when they unfollow you don’t get notified). Using that app I found out that a lot of my new followers unfollow me after a few days (or just one day). So I decided to do an experiment – I started following back every account that started to follow me. The results were very interesting – number of ‘unfollowers’ was greatly reduced. My conclusion from this experiment is simple – people start to follow me in hopes to get a follower and not because they like my work. The worst among these people (and there are quite a few) are the ones who unfollow you anyway – it is just their strategy to get followers without clogging up their own feed.

A photo posted by Greg Brave (@gregbrave) on

To sum it up, nobody has the time to really look at photographs and think about what they are looking at. At least not on Instagram. Hard to blame people for that – we are constantly bombarded with content that competes for our attention. Instagram became a stage for worldwide competition for attention.

I know that it is  popular to be all happy and positive these days, but in this post I tried to look at the reality of things, at least the way I see it. If you have anything to add or dispute – you are welcome to leave me a comment here or on Instagram 🙂

Our Incredible Obsession With Gear

What do I mean by “gear obsession” ? It is the thought that using better photography gear will get you to take better pictures. I was so guilty of it in the past, and still sometimes get the irresistible urge to buy that new something that just came out.

Let’s do a little test. Does the following thought process sound familiar to you?

– The camera that I have is pretty old, and just yesterday they put out this new model with far better focusing, noise reduction, continuous shooting, _____________ (fill the blank).
– Once I get it, my photos will be crisper, sharper, clearer, and definitely MUCH better.
– Ok, I got this camera, but my huge collection of lenses (more than three I consider to be huge) doesn’t have the new 50mm f1.4 lens, which is MUCH better than its predecessor, and is not that expensive!
– Once I get this lens, I’ll really start using a 50mm lens and get wonderful photos with it! (Doesn’t matter that I already have a ‘worse’ 50mm lens and at least two of my zooms cover 50mm mark).
– Ok, I have a 50mm f1.4 lens now… But hey what about this new tripod from Manfrotto!? Yeah, I do have a pretty good tripod, but this one must be that much lighter and more stable! Having it will FOR SURE make me get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to shoot sunrises.

This constant feeling that something is missing from your photo bag, and getting it will finally allow you to take better images can go on forever.

If it does sound familiar, then you have the same problem that I had for quite a while. The real problem here is that getting all this stuff Absolutely Will Not help you take better photographs. And since the flow of new and better cameras and all other photography related stuff never ends, you are facing the danger of constantly chasing that next new thing coming out next week, month, year.

You might say that I am not totally right, and better equipment does produce better images. Well, yes and no. If by ‘better’ you mean better technical quality then, maybe yes. This is even not a certain yes. In many cases, the quality of light is one of the most important contributors to the technical quality of your work. Let’s say you want to shoot portraits in natural light, but it is high noon, and your subjects are standing in an open area without a hint of a shadow. It doesn’t matter that you have the best camera out there – you will still get unpleasant lighting on your subject and very harsh shadows. But if you wait for the sunset (for example), and move your subject into a slightly shadowed area where you’ll get beautifully diffused light, even a point and shoot camera will get you great results.

However, technical quality constitutes only about 1% of how good your image will be, and this is something that I’ve come to learn the hard way. Photographic forums are filled with thousands of bleak, uninteresting, and simply ugly images taken with the best cameras out there (Canon EOS 1Dx, Nikon D800, you name it). On the other hand I also found many beautiful photographs taken with point-and-shoots.

So what makes a photograph to be good, or even great? Well, it is a pretty tough question and here is my take on it. Good photograph is one that makes the viewer feel something, that evokes emotions within the viewer. Good photograph creates a mood or tells a story. And the more intense the emotions it evokes in the viewer, the stronger the mood – the better image it is.

How can all this be achieved within a single image? Well, most certainly not by technical quality of photographer’s equipment. It can be achieved through lots and lots of practice, through looking at work of masters and trying to understand what is it in the image that makes you feel the way that you feel. It is way past the basics such as rule of thirds, contrasts, lines, patterns, etc. Of course, you have to be familiar with all of the above, but to use it effectively, and break the rules where necessary is a whole another level of photography. In short, only developing your vision will allow you to create good photographs, and you can do it with almost any camera out there.

I find it liberating taking pictures with my mobile phone because I don’t have to worry about changing lenses, and being afraid of missing the shot because I don’t have the correct lens on my camera. With the phone I simply don’t have that choice, and instead I start to look around more, think about what I am looking at and create various compositions in my mind, The camera is there only to capture what I saw in my mind. It is really just a tool that helps the photographer express himself.

What do you think makes a good photograph? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Headache and Photography Copyrights

Many photographers nowadays are concerned with how to protect their photos on the web from others using them and I think this is bullshit for the most part of it. Over the last couple of years I came across lots of forum discussions, blog posts, podcasts, and articles around this issue and I think the main driving force of most people’s complaints about rights violation is greediness.

Here’s the argument I saw the most:

“Well if they found my photo on the Internet, and used it in their project then they should pay me!”

It was the same thing when recently Instagram tried to change their TOS – most of the angry people said “If they use our photos then we should get paid”.  It’s like – if no one uses your photos then anybody can look at them and it is fine by you, but the second you notice that someone makes money off them, then you immediately want a share of that. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that it is allright to steal others work, but something about people’s reaction doesn’t sound right to me.

My take on it – if you want to make money off your photography then take action, do something about it. Create your own website and sell your photos there, upload them to stock photo websites, sell prints. There are many ways you can make money from photographs. Hell people are making money from iPhone photographs. I’m not saying that it is easy, but it is possible. If your photos are any good of course.

If you don’t want anybody to illegally use your photos, don’t share them on the web period. The reality of the current situation is that if I can see your photo on my screen, I can have it. Not in great resolution, but just fine for web applications. If you put your nasty watermarks all over the image then people won’t be able to see your work so that kind of defeats the purpose of putting it online. I am adding my name to my photographs for one reason only – for people who see my photo and like it, to be able to find out more about me. And I am a strong believer in sharing, and not only in photography but also in life – the more you share and give the more benefits you get back from it. Karma thing.

To conclude this rant – my advice to all the people who are loosing sleep being afraid that their amazing photographs are being stolen on the web – stop worrying about it, strive to put as much amazing work out there as you can and promote the shit out of it.

Adding filters/effects to your photos – good or bad?

It has been a long going trend, most notably with Instagram and Hipstamatic to slap a filter on any photo that you take. As a result we have lots of photos converted to all kinds of retro styles with artificially added “film” grain, faded colors, funny colors, distortions of all kinds and many other “cool” effects. Normal colors in a photo just aren’t cool anymore.

My question is – what does this trend mean to photography as a form of art, and to our perception of what good photography is?

I think nowadays people forget that in the analog age photographers tried hard to achieve the true colors of what they photographed, and to reduce the amount of film grain as much as possible. But now this “retro” look is highly sought after and is created artificially by adding digital effects to initially very good photographs (true colors and no film grain).

Personally I like using these great iPhone apps and playing with various effects to see what they can do to my photographs. But I also think that any effect that you apply to your photo has to serve a purpose, and not be applied just for the sake of it. For example if you photograph your friends at costumes party and they are dressed in the 60s theme, then applying some retro effects to your photos would make sense. However adding these effects when photographing a corporate event is inappropriate.

Another thing that worries me is that many people, especially on Instagram, feel that adding an effect to any photo instantly makes the photo great. So they just snap away their photos thinking that they’ll slap a ‘Sutro’ or ‘Nashville’ on it and they will look like a million dollars no matter what is actually on them. In my opinion you can’t save bad composition by changing the colors.

In conclusion, I think that photography is first and foremost about expressing yourself and sharing your way of seeing the world. If you need to add filter to your image to help do that, then its fine. But slapping filters on all your photos just for the sake of it is simply wrong.

What do you think?

Have an opinion people!

Going through my photographic journey I’ve slowly started to notice this very negative fact… at first it was a vague thought on the back of my mind, but then slowly I started to see it more and more clearly (I am talking about the world of photography enthusiasts and also professional photogrpahers) – too many people don’t have their own opinion.

Let me explain. I found famous photographers, who also have blogs, in which they showcase their work and write about photography related issues. And then there’s the comments section – and in those comments I almost never see anything other than compliments. “Oh what a great article!”, “Wow, what a nice photograph!”, “You are absolutely right”… but when I read that article or look at that photo I am thinking to myself – well this stuff is worse than average… nice photo but nothing special… but if I write in the comments that this photo is not that good and also why I think that, and I always do it politely, in response I receive replies from other readers that I don’t understand the work, and I don’t see the author’s vision… I am sorry but this is bullshit. Those people don’t have their own opinion and they go with everybody elses judgement, who in turn think that if this photographer is popular then his works MUST be good.People tend not to think by themselves. After a while I stopped writing such comments because I saw that instead of contributing to the discussion I am just stirring the air.

Just recently I was searching for an interesting photography podcast to listen to while driving, and I found a podcast with very promising name “Art of photography”, but after listening to four or five episodes I couldn’t bear it anymore – all the guy talked about was film cameras and related technical stuff – reviewed some old film cameras, explained something about how to project light on a fork and onto light-sensitive paper to get an image of a fork, and even how to make film negative out of digital image (!!!). So this guy probably thinks that “Art of photography” is shooting with film…

Another very popular guy rants about how gear is not important, and how the vision is… and then I look at his photographs that he presents on his blog, which are mostly landscapes and I don’t see the vision… the thing that scares me is that those guys have their following, and people look at their work and want to be like them, while there’s not much to look up to. Yes, I know, in the world of photography everybody knows those guys, and nobody knows me, so they must be right and I must be wrong, but in my defense I have to say that before judging work of others I am thinking, by myself, listening to my inner voice, trying not to be swept by the opinions of others.

There are photographers who I look up to. Surprisingly most of them are not too famous. I visit their websites and blogs and listen to what they have to say and learn from them, but most importantly I am always trying to THINK and FEEL everything by myself. And this is what I wish for everybody who wants to get somewhere in photography – think for yourself, don’t let others do the thinking for you.

 

P.S. One of the websites that constantly presents great photographs is 1x.com. Just one thing to have in mind – they offer hosting service, and if you pay an annual fee you can have your own gallery on their website, where you can put whatever photos you like. When visiting the website you might accidentally end up in one of such galleries – those photos are not going through their tough selection process and hence their photographic value (the term I thought of myself! 🙂 ) varies.

Seascapes and other issues

Lately I haven’t made much noteworthy photographs… either that or my understanding of what “good photograph” is has changed. Either way I don’t like almost anything that comes out of my camera. And what’s more important, I don’t know how to improve.

I guess I’m just searching now for something… another point of view on the world maybe. This is really confusing for me – to search for something not knowing what it is.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Nevertheless I keep on shooting and analyzing my work, most of which you will never see here on my blog because I don’t think it is worthy. The photos I included in this post are nice, I like them, but I also think that they are nothing special, just another bunch of seascapes among thousands.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

One of the things that I changed about my photography is that I take much less pictures, and before taking one I stop and think about the composition, about what I want to say with this photograph, what emotions I want my photo to express. And later, when viewing the photo on my computer I try to understand whether I achieved what I wanted or not. Most of the times I don’t.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Long exposures of the sea and sunsets (just like the one below) simply don’t cut it for me anymore.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

If you have or had similar issues, and have any suggestions, I would be more than happy to hear them.

Think and become a better photographer

The Internet is full of advice on how to become a better photographer, but quite frankly most of this advice is misleading.

Browsing the Internet (or a book shop for that matter, it’s just that Internet has infinitely more information) one might get an idea that if he would just read this book or complete that course he would become a better photographer. Others go further than that – they strive to read as much books on photography as they can, attend as much seminars as they can afford, and process god knows how many additional different kinds of educational material on photography.

Part of the courses or books suggest you buy a better equipment, so people get hooked on that, upgrading their cameras as frequently as their purse allows, but not all of them – others try different software products, which promise to make their photos look professional with a click of a mouse, and yet others combine it all together.

Well, guess what – it is all useless. It is useless because deep underneath its shiny cover it suggests no effort on your side. The key to your success as a photographer lies within you. You can only read in books what already exists inside you, and if you do not evolve from within, you will not truly become a better photographer.

If you wholeheartedly want to become better, then at this point you are screaming, if only in your mind, “then how do I do that? How do I evolve from within to become a better photographer?”

I do have an answer for you, but be aware it is not an easy one. It will demand your effort and time… how much effort and time? I have no idea. But it is the only way. If you still want to hear it – read on.

In order to become a better photographer you have to do several things:

– Think. Think about photography. What is it? How it works? Why are you interested in it? And I mean really think, even meditate on it. Look deep inside yourself to answer these questions. Don’t lie to yourself. Write down the answers. After a week do it again, then after a month, a year. You will see that each time your answers will be deeper and more profound.

– Study art. Look at drawings of great artists. Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Dali, Repin, just to name a few. But again, simply looking, flipping through the pages, is not enough. Try to understand WHY these paintings are exquisite works of art. This is very important. Do the same with works of masters of photography – Ansel Adams, Cartier-Bresson, and others. Have in mind that the process of getting to understand and appreciate art doesn’t happen instantly or even quickly for that matter. It can take years…

– Take photos constantly. If you don’t have a camera with you then take them in your mind. But merely taking thousands of photos is not enough. Look at your photos, analyze them. What do you like about them? What would you like to change? When looking at photos from a shoot, pick one that you like the most and think – why do you like it? What would you do differently if you had to make that shot again? Why?

– Save your best photos (the ones that you think are best), come back to them at later times, and remove the ones that you change your opinion about.

– Print your photos (in large format if possible) and hang them on the walls of your living space. Look at them over time and think about how your opinion about them changes. Think about why does that happen.

– Work on your imagination. Create photos in your mind, which not yet exist in reality. Make them so vivid in your mind, as if they were real. These photos are most likely to define your unique style in photography.

– Think about a photo that you would like to create. Imagine it to the smallest detail. Then go ahead and try to create it. Use photoshop as much as you like (or not), I don’t care. Just try to achieve whatever you imagined in the first place. If you feel that you lack some technical skills at this point – Internet most definitely has the answers.

Conclusion

Getting better in photography mainly involves THINKING.  It also involves emotions and feelings, and thinking about why you feel the way that you feel. No course and no tutorial will make you a better photographer, and the first step to becoming one is to understand this fact. To become better you have to dig deep inside you. That photographer is already there waiting to be discovered. On this journey at different points you will see that you want to achieve this or that effect, look, or feel, you will see it clearly in your head, and it will be the right time to go online for technical information on how to achieve it – but this will be only after you already have the image in your mind.

And one more thing – even though this process will require time and effort, have fun! You won’t get better if you don’t enjoy your journey!

Telling a story…

Greetings, I am back from my vacation!

Big thanks to everybody who didn’t loose faith in this blog 🙂

I had three unforgettable weeks of trekking in Nepal, saw and photographed unbelievably beautiful mountains, and different cultures. More about that in my future posts, in which I will share my photographic experiences and, of course, photographs from my trip. Few of these photos you can already see on my Facebook page:

www.facebook.com/photopathway

Now I would like to go back to the article that I started writing before my vacation, but didn’t have time to finish.

There are different ways to tell a story with a photograph. Photojournalism is one of the most common. There are also various kinds of creative edits. For example, Katerina Lomonosov creates great story-telling works of art, which stir the viewer’s imagination. Landscape photography in addition to showing the beauty of nature can also sometimes tell a story of the photographed place.  Thinking of it, any kind of photography tells a certain story, and this fact is what makes the viewer to look at a good photograph for more than a brief moment.

I don’t remember where I saw this quote: “If you want to tell whether a photograph is good or not, hang it on your office/home wall. If after a week (or so) you’ll still enjoy looking at it, then most of the chances that it possesses artistic value”

A few days before my vacation I was buying food in our local supermarket, and I’ve got the idea to photograph ordinary people that I saw there and to try and tell a story of “people in the supermarket”… you know – to see extraordinary in the ordinary. I used my iPhone to photograph these people because it was be the most discrete way to do it. I wanted to capture them in their most natural environment, doing everyday chores (in this case – shopping).

So when I came home I had a collection of photographs, which I needed to somehow combine into a single photo. After playing with the idea for a while I decided on a collage, and here’s the final result:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

To create this collage I loaded all the photos as layers into a single Photoshop file, and then used layer masks. The most difficult thing was to choose photos for the collage, and then to arrange them. Another problem was the choice of background.

I hope I succeeded to tell a story with this image, but I will let you be the judge of that.

As always, your comments are highly appreciated!

Photography As Form Of Art – Free PDF Download

Everyone following my blog must’ve noticed that lately I am getting into more serious study of photography as form of artistic expression. In Photopathway it all started with my post “Wisdom Of Photography” where I wrote about my exploration of an old book about art of photography. Next came the post “About the Attitude Toward One’s Own Artistic Endeavours”  , in which I tell about wonderful Czech photography magazine “Revue Fotografie” from the 1960s. In that post I also presented my translation of one of the articles I liked the most in that magazine.

In this post I continue in the same direction but with a slightly different approach – I created a photo album (in PDF file) containing most of the photographs from the 3/1961 issue of “Revue Fotografie”, which I would like to share with as many aspiring photographers as possible by making this PDF file available for free download.

In the photo album I also wrote a foreword article outlining my reasons for creating it. Let me share parts of the foreword here, and make sure you download the album by clicking on the banners above or below.

“… I strongly believe that in order to advance in photographic vision and skills, one has to learn from the masters. Not to copy their work, but to understand what actually good photography is. Looking at good photographs one can begin to understand what do the words ‘photographic vision’ mean, and also to learn how to powerfully express thoughts, feelings, and emotions through a photograph.
Nowadays, one of the most serious problems lying on the path of any aspiring photographer, is the enormous amount of mediocre photographs presented everywhere, making it hard, especially for the beginner, to distinguish between real works of art and a ‘nice wrapping without the stuffing’.
So what am I presenting in this photographic album?
To explain that, first I have to tell you about a photographic magazine “revue Photographie” that was published four times a year in Czechoslovakia between 1950s and 1990s in several languages. Don’t  even try to compare it to most of currently published photography magazines, which are filled with advertisement and “shoot like a pro” articles!
In its early years “revue Photographie” was considered one of the (if not THE) best photo magazines in the world. Founder and editor-in-chief of the magazine during 1950s and 1960s was Václav Jírů, a very talented photographer himself, whose photographs are now being displayed in museums and sold on auctions.
Václav Jírů selected and approved most of the photographs, making the magazine a true work of art. In today’s terms it would be comparable to 1x.com. Of course photographs weren’t the only asset of the revue. The articles too were very educational and informative, dealing not only with questions of photographic techniques but also with more important issues such as:
                                                      – Photography as form of art
                                                      – Moral obligations of the photographer
                                                      – Place of photography among other art forms
and many more.
Even during the time it was published, “revue Photographie” was very sought after, and not easy to acquire, not to say about nowadays.
I got very lucky to lay my hands on one of the issues. It is the third issue of the year 1961, published in Russian. I happen to know Russian so I had an enormous pleasure reading it. One of the articles was simply too good to not share it, so I translated it to English and you will find it on the next page. The photographs, on the other hand, don’t require my translation, and are there for everybody to look at, learn, and appreciate.
In this photographic album I arranged most of the photos from the 3/1961 issue of the revue. I hope that many aspiring photographers will get to see this album, enjoy, and learn from the photographs presented in it.
I will continue my search for other issues of “revue Photographie”, translate its best articles, and put up its photos here, on the pages of my blog… “

Feel free to share this album with anyone who you think can benefit from it, and I would appreciate any feedback regarding this album in the comments section below this post or to my email – greg at photopathway dot com.

 

About the Attitude Toward One’s Own Artistic Endeavours

In one of my recent articles titled “Wisdom Of Photography” I shared with you, my readers, some of the interesting thoughts about photography that I found in an old photography book. After finishing that book, I continued my search after interesting old photography related material, and I found a magnificent Czech magazine named “Revue Fotografie”, which was published four times a year in the middle of the 20th century (approximately from 1960s to 1990s). This magazine was widely considered to be one of the best photo magazines in the world at the time. It was also translated from Czech to some other languages including German, and Russian. The specific issue that I found was Russian edition of third magazine in 1961.
I can’t even begin to describe how much I was impressed with the articles and photographs presented in this magazine! But as always, I want to share some of the wisdom I learned from it. I am aware of the fact that my blog becomes more and more serious, but after all – it is my path in photography, and it is what it is.
From the magazine, I particularly liked one article. I translated it to English and sharing it here. While reading it, please have in mind that it was written in Czecho-Slovakia in its “Communism” period. I tried to omit as much as possible the parts which are not relevant to our times, but most of the article is as relevant to photography now as it was back then. Along with the translation I am also including a few of the photographs from the pages of the magazine.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Carel Gibner - 'An Area'

Carel Gibner – ‘An Area’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Written by Tamara Shevchenko, translated by Greg Brave

About the Attitude Toward One’s Own Artistic Endeavours

One of the most gratifying things in our work as editors of the “revue Fotografie” are the letters from our readers, and whole stacks of them! In these letters many photographers share with us their plans and views on photography. Often they write about their lives, and are being very demanding, as only sincere friends can be, towards the work of our magazine. The sincerity and friendliness of our addressees pleases our editorial staff, and countless praises awakens the desire to devote ourselves even more to our work.

Often, however, warm, friendly, and sincere letters are accompanied by poor, indistinctive, similar to hundreds other, photographs. One couldn’t help not to think about it. Why it is so? Why in such a wealth of different destinies, characters, and points of view, people who pick up cameras, try to reproduce overused themes or to emulate the masterpieces instead of revealing their own true selves?

Here we will not touch on the subject of talent and lack of it. In any case I don’t think the question of talent should be only regarded as a “gift of God”.

L.Fischer, Austria 'Secret'

L.Fischer, Austria – “Secret”. Click on the photo to enlarge.

As we all know, Leonardo da Vinci was the first to develop laws of perspective for painting. And since then young artists don’t need to wait for “divine intervention” in order to rediscover these laws as they can all be learned from Leonardo. The cultural heritage of humanity is freely available to everybody. Therefore, looking through hundreds of photos, again and again I wonder if the inexpressiveness, impersonal nature, and similarity of them is in reality a hypocrisy and insincerity of the photographer towards himself?
Such an amateur photographer, having read on the front page of our magazine the words “review of artistic photography” immediately decides: “let’s send them photos of trees, water, sunset, or cloudy skies”… and our editorial office receives hundreds of photos of trees, water, sunsets etc. as if these subjects are the true discovery and revelation to the people.

L.Fischer, Austria 'Curiosity'

L.Fischer, Austria ‘Curiosity’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Art arose from the desire of the artist to tell about himself. After all, even when artist speaks about his surroundings, or events that he witnessed, he in fact tells us about himself, about things seen through his own eyes. And magnificent art, which survived its creators, was created by the artist’s ability to see things so originally and so deeply, as nobody saw ever before him.

If a person does not want to talk about himself, he is silent. But if a person is not silent, if he picks up a camera and tries to use photography as an art form because he feels that its means of expression fit him the most of all other forms of art, such person should not be afraid to create his own artistic statement. It is the right and the privilege of any human being of our modern times – to find and acknowledge the meaning of his own life, express it, and strive to live the life of significance, brightness, and excitement, to find one’s self.

A.Zybin - 'In Art Gallery'

A.Zybin – ‘In Art Gallery’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Of course, one should still photograph trees, waves, and sunsets, but the photographer must be an artist, a person who can see the landscape in his own original way. We are surrounded by a huge variety of things, creatures, and destinies, but we ignore them, hiding behind the undeniable beauty of the generally recognised subjects. In our photographs we avoid expressing the controversial, the unresolved issues within and around us.

We often comfort our self-esteem with the dream of our existence in true art by imitating famous photographs thinking that by doing that we can’t go wrong.

Equally wrong is the way of those who constantly increase the color saturation of their photographs (this can be understood not only directly, but also metaphorically – Greg’s note). This is an evidence to one’s inability to appreciate the beauty of life, to prefer real life’s beauty to the artificial one.

Leopold Fischer - "In a Storm"

Leopold Fischer – ‘In А Storm’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Our editorial office received one curious objection from one of our readers, condemning the photo of patterns created by foam on water, and other such photos in our magazine, which the reader personally didn’t like. From his letter I understood that many years of age separate this person from his childhood, and apparently also from the fresh, lively, and direct perception of the things around him. Childhood memories, though naive, are very profound. In childhood one sees things, so to say, up close (like in macro – Greg’s note). A small blade of grass is visible down to its root, a crack in the pavement is scary because it is deep and unexplored, thick walls of old buildings – what a fertile ground for imagination! These were just a few examples of course.

Yaroslav Parcovsky - 'Time Walks The Earth'

Yaroslav Parcovsky – ‘Time Walks The Earth’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Over time a person learns to evade the puddles, not to climb up on every obstacle on his way, not to drag a stick along the fence. And learning manners is generally a good thing. But how many interesting things start to slip away from our attention as we grow up! In true artists many recognize soul of a child. Maybe this “childishness” actually is a profound understanding of things around us, the ability to see them “up close”.

Miroslav Yodas - 'Construction'

Miroslav Yodas – ‘Construction’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Therefore isn’t it better to be more curious of things surrounding us, which may even sometimes irritate one’s “untrained” perception, and not condemn them unconditionally just because they are perceived as something not usually shown in photographs?

Yuri Gantman - 'In The Morning's Silence'

Yuri Gantman – ‘In The Morning’s Silence’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Wisdom Of Photography

My fellow readers, I am glad to meet you here on my blog and in this article in particular! I have to warn you though – the article that you are going to read is by far the most serious and in-depth piece of text I’ve ever written in this blog. So if you don’t feel like going deep into some photography related subjects, feel free to browse my other articles, which are “lighter” and have nice photos to go with the text.

These days I’m reading a book named “The Poetry of Photography”. It is a book by two russian authors Mikhalkovich and Stigneev published in 1989. It talks about different aspects of photography as form of Art, comparing it to pictorial art, and trying to explain various definitions found in photography such as various genres in photography, composition, use and qualities of space in photographs and much much more.
I have to say that I’m really learning so much from it, but it is also very demanding, meaning that I have to think hard about the material presented in the book in order to fully take it in.
While reading, I write down aside the key sentences and concepts offered in the book and continue to think about them. In this article I would like to share some of these concepts. I really tried to translate them from Russian as precise as I could, and I will also provide more explanation for each saying.
Take a deep breath and let’s begin.

1. “Picture is a visual statement. Every statement possesses in itself three kinds of relations. Firstly it relates to the “speaker” (the one who makes the statement), secondly it relates to the depicted subject, and finally it relates to the ones who take it in.”

Basically it means that when you take a photo, first of all it means something to you, since you have a certain idea as to why you took this photo the way it is. Then this photo shows something, a portrait, landscape, still life, as if to say that when you take the photo you see a certain scene (object, person) through your own “filter” of consciousness, but the photo still shows a piece of reality which has a quality of its own. And thirdly this photograph looks “differently” to the viewer because he looks at it through his own “filter”.

To me this is a really profound thought, and having this in mind when photographing helps me to create more meaningful photographs.

2. “The impact of the photograph, the impression of it, lies not within the photograph itself, but within us, the viewers.”

This is a kind of elaboration to a third part of the previous saying. While seeming pretty straight forward, I find it to be deeply profound. You can also look at it this way – the same exact photograph can be very meaningful to one person, while being completely indifferent to another. I think that the best photographs out there are very meaningful to large groups of people.

3. This one is a saying by Siegfried Kracauer (1889-1966, a German-Jewish writer, journalist, sociologist, cultural critic, and film theorist). I tried to translate it as precisely as I could:

“Taking in the material “frozen” and presented by the photograph, the viewer sometimes “hears” the tiny voice of true reality – the “whisper of existence”.”

Here, I think, Kracauer tried to put into words what we feel when we look at a certain photograph and think “This is it! I can feel this! I understand what this photograph is telling me”. Such a photograph can be considered a successful one as it does a good job of depicting a certain piece of reality.

4. Continuing with Kracauer’s sayings:

“And while the reproducing quality of photography has grown to be very accurate, this accuracy itself will not allow the viewer to hear the “whisper of existence”. For this, photograph needs to have figurativeness.”

Basically Kracauer says here that simply snapping a photo of what you see is not enough for the photograph to be expressive, to be “good”. This is still true in our times when photographs are sharp, crisp, with precise colours. You, as a photographer, still have to put in thought and effort when creating a photograph, so it will make an impact on the viewers.

5. “If the subject retains its uniqueness, e.g. the full spectrum of its qualities, when presented in a photograph, then it equals to the real thing.”

This is also a deep thought. I’ll elaborate on it a little. When you take, for example, still life photo. Let’s say a flower in a vase, you have endless possibilities as to how you do it. The lighting, the angle, the background, the vase – everything can be altered. Depending on how you do it you can either create totally “indifferent” photo of just “a flower in a vase”, which won’t reveal any qualities of your subject, and it won’t matter which kind of flower it is, and what vase you used. But you can also create a photo that will vividly present the qualities of this particular flower, which can be accentuated by your choice of lighting (colour, angle etc.), by your choice of vase, and the background. You can add additional elements to the photo to further increase the impact, such as fallen petals. When the viewer looks at such expressive photo, he perceives it as THIS flower, “the real thing”, and not merely an illustration of flower.

I encourage you to think about these sayings and relate them to your photographic experience as it will help you in your PhotoPathway.

As always your thoughts, comments, and suggestions are highly appreciated!

Why Light Needs Darkness

In this TED talk, Lighting architect Rogier van der Heide unveils an interesting way to look at the world by paying attention to the light quality and to the contrast between the light and the darkness. And even though he doesn’t talk about photography, I found this talk to be very interesting to me as a photographer, because light plays very important role in photography. One of Rogier’s ideas in this talk is that you have to appreciate the darkness when creating light, and I think it is a very profound thought, which any photographer needs to ponder about.

Here’s the talk, I hope you enjoy it:

As always, your thoughts and comments are much appreciated!

Cheers,
Greg

Should Photography Cost Money?

In our digital age, photography became much more accessible to everybody, and it is mostly a good thing. But there are few outcomes, which are not all positive.

I would like to talk about one such aspect in this post – how this technological advance affected professional photographers. In the old times, when people needed to cover an event, make family portraits, or anything else that had to be photographically documented, they would have to use professional photographer’s services, because there was no other choice. Nowadays, however, in order to save money, many prefer just asking a friend who has photography as a hobby, to drop by and take some shots. Of course, I am not talking here about mass media events, but for example small companies do that when they have all kind of social activities for their employees. When I was working at a high tech company, and they knew that photography is my hobby, they used to ask me to cover various company events and meetings… for free of course. A few years back they’d have to hire a professional photographer to do that.

Family portraits – I think the practice of gathering the whole family together and hiring a pro to shoot family portraits is almost extinct because everybody has a digital camera, and snaps tons of photos all the time, so people think there is no need to spend extra money on a pro.

And one of the most important events – weddings. Even though for many people wedding is an event of utmost importance they still try to cut costs by asking their friends-amateur-photographers to cover it. And even when people hire a professional wedding photographer they look for the cheapest prices, thinking that photography can’t cost “this” much, because it is so easy nowadays. And really good professional photographers have to lower their prices, which in turn affects the quality of their work because they still have to make a living, and now it means doing more work for the same money – thus spending less time on each assignment. I’ve turned down some of my friends requests to shoot their wedding because I don’t feel experienced enough, and it is way too much of a responsibility for  me. I only shot one wedding, for my very close friends and only because they couldn’t afford to pay professional photographer. Doing that I realized that shooting weddings is a hard work!

After being involved in photography for a few years, I can say with confidence – a good photograph is still as hard too create as it was 10, 20, and 30 years ago. I am not talking about ‘color representation’ or ‘correct exposure’ or any other technical aspect for that  matter. I am talking about ‘the photograph’ itself, you know, what it tells the viewer, and how it does that. Powerful, beautiful, tender, exciting, creative, breathtaking photographs are still as rare as they were before. It might not seem like that because you can see many beautiful photos on the internet, but that’s only because internet brought billions of people and many talented photographers among them into one place (the internet).

Lets go back to family portraits – a good family portrait made by professional photographer will capture the family, their feelings, the affection between family members the way that no snapshot ever will. Many years later, looking at that portrait you’ll remember what it was like back then, and it will be a pleasure to look at all your life.

Weddings – there can be no substitute for a good professional photographer. You really want you wedding day to be remembered in all its glory, and no inexperienced amateur can do that. And there are all kind of unexpected things that can happen. For example what if your friend’s camera breaks in the middle of the event? Or his batteries die? What then?

People, remember that good photography is hard to create, and it is a full time job, so don’t try to find the cheapest guy out there, which could mean that he won’t spend enough time on your assignment.

European award winning photographer Magnus Bogucki created a video describing how much time it takes to photograph wedding – from preparation, to the wedding day, to post processing and final wedding album. I highly recommend watching it. You will be surprised how much time it really takes, and how many different activities are required for a successful wedding shoot.

Surprised? I bet you are.

You can also visit Magnus’s website at  www.magnusbogucki.com, he is a really good wedding photographer, and to prove that one of his photos won an award for being among the world’s 50 best wedding photos of year 2010 by Junebug!

So, now what do you think, should people pay professional photographers, or anyone can snap good photos with his digital camera?

Cheers,

Greg.

Artistic Interpretation

In this post I’d like to talk about photographer’s artistic interpretation of the observed scene.

When I decide to take a photograph of a location, it is usually because I feel some sort of impulse. This impulse comes as a result of the surroundings communicating a certain mood, or association to me. You can say that I am photographing more of a mental image of the scene that I have in my mind at that moment than the actual scene. And consequentially, later when I see the photograph on my computer, it is quite different from my mind’s picture.

I call bringing the two images together “Artistic Interpretation”, and use post processing to achieve that. I constantly feel the need to improve my post processing skills to be able better present my photographic intentions.

In the following two examples, you can see the photographs before and after my artistic interpretation (left photo is before and right photo is after).

It was  evening time, about 40 minutes after the sunset. The darkness came quickly and the sky was cloudy, it  was going to rain any minute. I felt the “pressure” of the coming rain in the air taking this photograph. When I saw the resulting photograph, I felt that this feeling of a close rain and late evening was gone and I had to bring it back. I increased contrast and reduced saturation. I feel that I succeeded in bringing that mood back, but I’ll leave it for you to decide.

Seaford Beach, Victoria, Australia. Photo 1 before. Seaford Beach, Victoria, Australia. Photo 1 after.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

On another occasion I was again walking along the beach. It was a shortly after the sunset, and because it was cloudy, I could barely see the faint remnants of sunlight. The clouds were really beautiful and I couldn’t resist taking a photo. In post processing I increased contrast and added a bit of saturation to the yellow. I also added slight vignetting to concentrate the viewer’s attention on the horizon.

Seaford Beach, Victoria, Australia. Photo 2 before. Seaford Beach, Victoria, Australia. Photo 2 after

Click on the photo to enlarge.

What do you feel looking at these images? Can you bring your own examples of your artistic interpretation?

As always any comments, suggestions, ideas and anything else you’d like to say are welcome.

Till the next time, take care!

Greg.

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Sayings

Lately I came across something I didn’t realize existed – collection of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s quotes, and they fascinated me! I learned from them so much about Bresson’s vision of photography, and I also could understand better his photographs. I have also enriched my understanding and feeling of photography from Bresson’s quotes, and I think any evolving photographer would benefit greatly from reading them.

One thing to remember though is that Henri Cartier-Bresson was a photojournalist (he is actually considered a father of modern photojournalism), and many of his sayings result from this type of photography.

In this article I am going to present you my favorite Bresson’s sayings “bundled” with his photographs for better impact on you 🙂

” To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy. “

The photograph below is a great visualization of this idea. The captured moment was there only for a brief moment with no chance of repeating itself.

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“To take photographs means to recognize – simultaneously and within a fraction of a second – both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one’s head, one’s eye and one’s heart on the same axis.”

Again, the photo below illustrates this saying perfectly. All the elements in it had to be there to get final result. There is nothing redundant in it, all the elements contribute to it creating the final impression.

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt.”

The photo below is a portrait of Henri Matisse shot by Cartier-Bresson, in which you can see two of his (Matisse’s) greatest passions – painting and pigeons. Actually I found an article about Henri Matisse in Wikipedia, but there wasn’t a word about Matisse’s pigeons. Nevertheless I was sure that they must play an important role in his life if Bresson included them in the photograph. So I kept looking for a more elaborate biography of Matisse just to make sure that these pigeons weren’t just a one-time subject of Matisse’s painting. And guess what, I found it – Marguette Bouvier in interview said about Matisse: “Henri-Matisse has a passion for birds. He considers a bird cage as indispensable as a bed in a bedroom…”. In the Matisse’s portrait there are also three bird cages, and now you know why they are there. As you can see there is no meaningless objects in Bresson’s photos.

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Photography is nothing – it’s life that interests me.”

It is also something to be thought of. Photography by itself is nothing really, you don’t photograph just for photography’s sake (at least I don’t). You photograph to express yourself, to show something that caught your attention…

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“You are asking me what makes a good picture. For me, it is the harmony between subject and form that leads each one of those elements to its maximum of expression and vigor.”

I don’t know about you, but for me this photo is powerful, and it is such not only due to the look and posture of man on the foreground but also because of the second figure behind him on the right. There is a certain similarity in the way how they look at the camera. One of the thoughts that went through my mind when looking at this photo is that maybe the person behind is the father. Or even in general looking at these two men made me think that when you are young, you are strong, and with age your body looses it’s toughness but your gaze stays the same…

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“This recognition, in real life, of a rhythm of surfaces, lines, and values is for me the essence of photography; composition should be a constant of preoccupation, being a simultaneous coalition – an organic coordination of visual elements.”

If you didn’t understand the “rhythm of surfaces, lines … ” part, take a look at the rhythm of trees in the photo below.

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“You are asking me what makes a good picture. For me, it is the harmony between subject and form that leads each one of those elements to its maximum of expression and vigor.”

Take a minute to look at the photo below, not just flick through it, and you will see many interesting little details (the gaze of the man standing behind, the little handbag…).

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.”

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“I believe that, through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us.”

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Thinking should be done before and after, not during photographing. Success depends on the extent of one’s general culture. one’s set of values, one’s clarity of mind one’s vivacity. The thing to be feared most is the artificially contrived, the contrary to life.”

This is a powerful thought. In photojournalism and street photography you have to learn to anticipate how the situation will evolve in order to be in the right place at the right time.

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“We photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory.”

Here is another wonderful example of a fleeting moment caught just at the right fraction of a second.

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

And here is the last quote.

“Photography appears to be an easy activity; in fact it is a varied and ambiguous process in which the only common denominator among its practitioners is in the instrument.”

The more I photograph, go over my photos, and think about photography, the more I understand how difficult good photography really is.

I hope you learned something from Henry Cartier-Bresson’s sayings, and enjoyed the photos I chose to present here.

Any comments as always are much appreciated and,

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Till the next time, take care!

Greg.

Finding Sources Of Inspiration And Ideas for Photographs

It is a very common issue among photographers, therefore many articles were written on this, and now it is my turn. In this post I will describe how I try to keep myself inspired and what helps me to come up with ideas for photographs hoping that you find my experience useful.

Inspiration and ideas go somewhat together – when you feel inspired, most of the chances that you’ll have ideas for photographs, and when you have an idea for photograph, it’ll probably inspire you to bring it to life. Therefore the following text will be a mix of tips for getting inspired and coming up with ideas for images.

  • I have a notepad in which I write quotes from different sources, which inspire me. You know, you read something or watch TV and at some point you hear a sentence that makes you go ” That’s right! What a great thought!”. If you don’t write it down most of the chances that you’ll forget it. So I write down these quotes and go over them from time to time or when I feel uninspired. That helps a lot, because not only you will be reading inspirational quotes, but you will also remember the circumstances at which you wrote it down, and that in itself can bring back the inspiration.
  • During your “good” periods, when you feel inspired think of the things, events, places, people, which inspire you and write all that in the same notepad. It’ll help you a lot to get some of the inspiration back during the “low” periods.
  • Another thing that inspires me is listening to the music that I like. Listening to music while looking around for ideas for photographs can be a huge help. Think about it for a second – in the movies they always use various kinds of music to create different moods. Take action movies for example. A certain music can add tension to otherwise usual situation. So when you listen to certain music and look around you, you will see things differently depending on the music that you listen to and it just might inspire you to raise your camera.
  • I have a separate folder on my computer with my best photographs. When I create an image that I like very much, I add it to that folder. When inspiration leaves me and I feel that I won’t ever be able to create one good image, I go over my best images to remind myself what I am capable of.
  • When I come across an image that captivates me, I try to find out who is the photographer and then visit his website. If I find his works exceptional I bookmark his website. Over the years I gathered list of photographers that inspire me, and I come back and go over their work when I need inspiration.
  • I bet it happened to many of you, you keen photographers! You walk around doing your daily routine, and then suddenly a picture or a scene pops into your mind. It might be due to something that you see in front of you (on the street, in public transport, etc.), or because of your thoughts at that moment. It doesn’t matter why. But when it happens – write it down in a few words so that you won’t forget it. I do it in my iPhone because it is always with me. I have this nice diary application called Momento, and I write down there in a few words these pictures of my imagination. It doesn’t mean that I implement them all, but when I am out of ideas, I take a look at my notes and it helps.
  • In the Momento app that I mentioned above I can also add photos to text. So if I see certain situation and an idea pops to my mind based on that situation, I simply take a photo of it and add it to the diary entry.

Well that’s about it. All these things combined help me stay inspired and keep shooting during my lowest periods and I hope that you’ll find useful at least some of them.

If you have your own ways to get ideas for photographs and stay inspired, I sure would like to hear about them in the comment section below, and

Remember, you only need to enter your name to leave a comment!

Greg.

Expressing Emotions Through Photography

One of the greatest powers of photography is the ability of expressing one’s emotions through it. The most powerful photographs out there are the ones that successfully convey a certain mood or emotion.

But to convey an emotion through photograph is not an easy task. Often times you photograph a scene and think that it is pretty powerful, and then the resulting image disappoints. In order to successfully achieve the desired result many things have to come in place.

Let’s see what are the tools that if used correctly will allow your photographs to be emotional.

Light. It is very important in any photograph, and it has to be just right when expressing emotions. For example when you express anger, you might want to keep the scene in dark colors, while photographs expressing joy and happiness are mostly bright and shiny.

Color. Another important component. The first example that comes to my mind is the Red color, which can represent danger (in various signs) but in other contexts can also represent romance (red roses, red lips). Another example would be Green color, which has calming effect, if you want to create sense of tranquility in your photo you might want to fill it with green color (trees, plants, jungle, sea). When you consider various combinations of colors – the possibilities are endless, and don’t forget the power of black and white photographs!

Composition. It is absolutely essential to have an appropriate composition for expressing any emotion through your photograph. Sometimes just a slight change of camera angle can make all the difference and emotionally faded image comes to life.

Focus. When you want to emphasize a certain part of your image you put it in sharp focus while making other parts more blurred, but this rule isn’t written in stone. Sometimes the blurred parts of an image create all the mood, and hint the viewer about the story of the photograph. So it is not about the image being sharp or not, but about using the focus in such ways that will contribute to your final result.

There can be endless combinations of these components, and it is photographer’s job to find and create the ones that work, the ones that convey emotions to the viewer in a powerful way.

I decided to try and convey the emotions of love and affection. There are million of different ways to do that – photograph a young couple in different settings,  a mother with child, etc. I decided to do that with still life.

When Ira and I were on vacation a few months ago, we bought this tiny figure of two hippos as a symbol of our feelings, and this figure immediately came to my mind as being perfect for the task. But just a figure wasn’t enough, so I thought what else can I add to the composition? I knew for sure that I wanted the image to be in bright and happy colors, so I was looking for something colorful. I ended up with these beautiful tiny blue flowers (forgive me for not knowing their name), and below the hippos and flowers I placed dry tree leaves, which were bright yellow.

Hippos In Love 1 Hippos In Love 2

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Now, when I had all the components, all that was left was to combine them together in one composition. I tried many different variations and the two that you see above I liked the most. In order to concentrate the viewer’s attention on the hippos I used wide aperture and focused on their eyes. This way most of the flowers were blurred creating a happy, bright, and colorful background for the “hippos in love”.

Photographing hippos, I noticed how tender these flowers were, and photographed them alone to try and show their tenderness. Two photos below is what I came up with.

Flowers in Black and White Flowers in Color

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I can’t say to what extent I succeeded in conveying the emotions of love, affection, and tenderness through these images. It is for you to decide. Can you feel it through my images? How would you express your emotions through photography?

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Till the next time,

Greg

How Photographic Ideas Can Come to You

This is a very interesting question you know. I am sure that anyone who takes interest in photography at times thinks about it. In my head sometimes these thoughts sound like “I’d really like to make a great photograph… yeah… but what should I shoot?… what should I create?…

If you really want to create something, especially if you are not sure yet what it is, you have to allocate a certain amount of time to thinking about it. I mean that you have to tell yourself – “today between 10:00 and 11:00 I am thinking about creating an interesting (also can be beautiful, romantic, breathtaking, sad… anything you prefer) photograph”.

I want to demonstrate this from my own experience. A few days ago I felt this urge to photograph something at my tiny home studio. I didn’t have any idea what it would be, but I just had this desire to create. So I made myself sit down for about 45 minutes, come up with ideas, and briefly sketch them on piece of paper.

My first problem was that not ANY idea that came to my mind was possible to shoot because I was limited to the objects that I had in my apartment. Having realized that fact, instead of just thinking of any idea for photograph, I started looking around my home at different objects and thinking how can I use them creatively?

While looking I saw my table lamp. Actually it was always standing on my table, but until I made myself to think creatively, I never thought about this lamp as a subject for my photographs. And then, while looking at this lamp I remembered of some TV program I saw as a kid that had these two lamps jumping around like live beings, and I decided to try and create something in that direction.

I still had no idea what would come out of it, and I didn’t have any definite final result. So I just started sketching this lamp standing on the table in different poses and thinking what can be done with that. No, I can’t draw, and it doesn’t matter, because you need sketching only to help your thinking process.

One of the ideas that came to my mind was to photograph this small lamp with it’s light bulb lying beneath it, while the lamp “sadly looking” at the bulb. And so I did as you can see in the image below.

thinking lamps

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

In this image of lonely lamp looking at its light bulb I used only one flash from the left side with 1/2 CTO gel on it (this gel makes the white flash light to be warmer). I wanted a warm lighting here. Looking at the result I felt that it is not enough for an interesting image… I felt that it doesn’t conveys the “stare” of the lamp at the light bulb.

And then suddenly it hit me – I need another lamp to make this more interesting! And luckily my life partner Ira had one on her table. I took that lamp and started playing with two lamps. Finally great idea came to me – to make the second lamp “look” inside the first lamp as if to see “what happened? why you lost your bulb?” and so you can see my compositional setup in the photo below.

thinking lamps

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Now, having the final idea of a shot in place I started thinking of little details. I wanted to emphasize the fact that the second lamp did have its bulb. How would I do that? Well, I decided that I would light the whole scene with white light, but I would also have yellow (warm) light coming out of the second lamp towards the first lamp. And you can see in the photo below that the down-looking lamp is warm-lit.

The final photograph below I accomplished using three strobes. Two strobes without any gels from left and right sides (I had to play with their powers to achieve the desired lighting), and the third strobe with 1/2 CTO gel on it I held in my hand and pointed inside the first lamp.

thinking lamps

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

After getting the final image above, I felt that there is not enough emphasis on the light that comes out of the second lamp. I wanted those rays of light to actually be seen. And here is a point that I am sure not all of you thought about. Rays of light are invisible unless they reflect off of something and hit our eyes. So in order to make these rays of light to be actually visible I had to have them reflect off of something – for example dust, or smoke. So if I would fill up the whole area with smoke then the rays of light would be seen. But then the rays of my two other flashes would also be seen, and the whole image wouldn’t be clear and crisp.

So I decided to take this work to Photoshop, and artificially add the rays of light, using the original light warmth that 1/2 CTO gel gave me (just used eyedropper tool in photoshop to sample that color). To give you an idea how I did it – think of Radial Blur filter in Photoshop. If you have additional questions regarding how I did it feel free to ask me in the comments. And for all the people who are against “Photoshop manipulation” –  in the case of this photograph my goal was not to show reality, but to convey an idea of mine, therefore I am totally cool with using Photoshop here.

Here is the final result, which I am pretty happy to come up with.

thinking lamps

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

In conclusion – the main idea of this article is to show that in order to come up with interesting photographs, you have to allocate time for thinking – what you want to do and how you are going to do it. Even if you don’t have any specific idea in mind, just make yourself sit down and think for half an hour or so, and I am sure that you’ll come up with something interesting!

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Do you agree with this article? If you don’t then why? Can you suggest additional steps towards being more creative?

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Till the next time,

Cheers!

Greg.

Photography Post-Processing – Good or Bad?

To post-process or not? This is a somewhat philosophical question. It is also a very controversial one. Some people claim that photo should be seen the way it gets out of the camera without any adjustments. Others do adjustments freely and sometimes even take it to the extremes. So what is the right thing?

Any photographer, even an amateur one like me, has an opinion on this issue. And here is mine.

I think that even if you don’t adjust anything after downloading your photo from the camera, it is already not faithful to reality. It doesn’t have “real” colors or the “real” white balance. That photograph looks as your camera “saw” it considering the settings you set. There is no such thing as one and only reality. So even by the action of pressing the shutter-release button you are already making adjustments to the reality.

Another thing is that even before you press the shutter-release button, when you building your composition, you are already adjusting the reality by making the viewer of your photographs see things the way you want.

Then what is the difference between these “adjustments” and adjustments in Photoshop like contrast, levels etc.? I don’t think there is a big ideological difference. In my opinion you are free to make any post-processing you like as long as you manage to convey the meaning, the idea, the story of your work to the viewer – just like any other art.

Of course there may be adjustments or extremes that people go to in Photoshop that I don’t like. For example – any kind of fraud, I mean editing the original photograph by changing or adding (or detracting) some features in it, and then saying that this is how it was from the beginning.

But if you present your photo as work of art, then personally I relate to it only in this way, and examine only the final result whether do I like it or not.