7 Tips for Better Compositions

7 Tips for Better Compositions

John Cooper specializes in corporate, industrial, and commercial photography for various business communities in Texas and teaches basic skills to other burgeoning photographers. If you are just starting out, or looking for a refresher, check out his advice below. 7 Tips for Better Compositions by John Cooper What makes one photo better than another?  Good photographs have compositions comprised of visual elements that abide by certain design principles.  Photography, it is said, is the subjective application of objective tools. Here is a cheat sheet on how to get better photographs. It is not an analysis of art theory or physics.  However, I urge you to research those topics if your passion is photography. In the meantime, here are 7 quick ways to make better photos.  You “make” photos, by the way – you do not merely “take” them. You Can’t Fix Blur Yes, we can put a man on the moon but we still cannot focus a blurred image.  The rule of thumb for hand-held shots is to use a shutter speed that is faster than the reciprocal of the lens’ focal length.  Using a 200mm telephoto, for example, would require you to use faster than a 1/200th second shutter speed.  A 50mm would require faster than 1/50th and so on.  Image stabilization has changed this up to 2 stops but it’s not worth the risk, in my opinion.  Remember, you can’t fix blur no matter what version of Photoshop you may have.  Increase your ISO and/or open you aperture or use a tripod.  Do whatever it takes to get tack sharp focus every time the shutter actuates. Understand...
5 Reasons to Reject an Image

5 Reasons to Reject an Image

Journalist and adventure photographer Jay Goodrich is always looking for new approaches to producing images, which means getting plenty of practice in rejecting photos that fail to rise above the mundane. Learn how you can quickly separate the good from the bad in your own body of work and increase the quality of your portfolio. 5 Reasons to Reject an Image by Jay Goodrich With the age of digital photography now becoming a mainstream part of society, how do you decide what photos are good to keep and what ones should be thrown in the trash? While we need reasons to reject an image, we don’t necessarily want to form a hypothesis of rules. If you ever take a workshop with me you will quickly realize that I choose to disregard rules in almost every aspect of my life and my photography. And I believe that creativity cannot be contained within a set of rules. Rules force us to follow a standard of practice, and while that may work for controlling crime, slowing down speeders, and successful scientific discovery, it completely ruins the concept of creativity. While my way of teaching others how to create a compelling image differ from the norm due to my educational background as an architect, there are areas of image making where decisions have to be made. So in a world of creative decision making that has many drinking the Kool-Aid of free expression, how do I decide on what work to keep? Here are 5 reasons to reject an image that I have discovered work best in most image making scenarios. Just like...
6 Website Mistakes You’re Probably Making Right Now

6 Website Mistakes You’re Probably Making Right Now

Our friends over at SmugMug.com help photographers from all walks of life put their best memories into beautiful and safe photography websites. They have seen every kind of website, from breathtaking portfolios to always-under-construction blunders. To kick off a new blog series of photography website tips and tricks, SmugMug lists the most commonly made mistakes of the website world. Avoid these and you’ll be on the right track toward making a good first impression! 6 Website Mistakes You’re Probably Making Right Now by Schmoo Theune So you’ve put your photos online? Great! At SmugMug we believe photos are best when shared, even if it’s only with a few people you really trust. Many of us love to make new connections by building a fully public website but to throw open your door to opportunity (or profit), you’ve got to have the right combination of personality and presentation. Your personality is ultimately up to you but as website builders we’ve got a few tips to help you get the most presentable, functional, online home possible. We’ve seen thousands of websites by photographers who shoot all kinds of stuff so we’ve compiled a few of the most common website bloopers we help customers eradicate every single day. 1) The Dead-End Hello: Zero Contact Information This is one of the most common mistakes we see. You may have done everything right and created a beautiful website but what happens if your visitors love your work and want to hire you? So many websites have great photos on them but zero personality, such as an email address, a personal photo, or even a brief bio....
Microadjustment for Lens and Camera Front/Back Focusing Issues

Microadjustment for Lens and Camera Front/Back Focusing Issues

All lenses and cameras that return to one of our two headquarters are tested and cleaned by our Receiving Team. Sometimes a lens, in particular, will go out on a rental and need to be replaced by another one from our stock because of focusing issues. The majority of these re-tested lenses end up having nothing wrong with them. Here is an explanation for why this happens and how you can dig deeper into the settings of your camera so that you get the most out of not only rental lenses but your own stock of glass as well. Mass Manufacturing and Range of Accuracy All cameras and lenses are manufactured within certain tolerances. This means that a camera or lens is considered in spec if it falls within a certain range of accuracy. Every manufacturer is different. Sometimes a lens that is front or back focusing +/-3 is considered within normal operating quality. Other manufacturers are more stringent. What Is Front/Back Focusing? Front focusing is when the focus falls in front of your intended subject and back focusing is when the focus falls behind your intended subject. Most of the time this is caused by the user. Barring user error, a lens could be tested at -2 and back focusing slightly or tested at +1 and front focusing slightly. Both are considered within the range of normalcy. Cameras compound the issue. Sometimes, a lens can be back focusing slightly and that is not a problem. But if it is mounted on a camera that is also back focusing slightly then you are now shooting outside the range of spec....
5 Resources to Help Protect Your Photography

5 Resources to Help Protect Your Photography

In an ideal world you will not have to use some of these resources to protect yourself against image theft. However, the use of OPP (other people’s photography) is rampant – sometimes out of malice and sometimes because of a simple misunderstanding or lack of research. Here are 5 things to explore to help you protect your work in the first place and what to do if something unlawful happens to it. Copyright Your Work For $55 a batch (as of this writing, updated July 2014), you can have your photographs registered for copyright. Register Yourself as a Photographer For free you can register yourself with PPA so that others can find you when they are interested in duplicating your work. If you are an ASMP member, you can also get into their Find a Photographer database. Additionally, register yourself with the Plus Registry, which is also a great resource for all things licensing related. Keep Your Rights Nearby Know your rights as a photographer without having a lawyer on speed dial. A U.S. attorney has put together a handy printout to refer to if confronted for taking pictures (UK version here). Prepare to Write a Nastigram Sending a DMCA takedown notice is scary. DMCA Info makes it a little less daunting with plenty of info, including a notice template. Where applicable, you can also request items to be removed from Google products, including a subsection requesting the removal of items because of copyright violation. Further protect yourself with a free account on Lenstag, a gear registry that also offers free DMCA and Model Release documents as well as optional...
Working With Magic Lantern RAW Files

Working With Magic Lantern RAW Files

In case you missed it, we started carrying a version of the Canon 5D Mark III modified with the Magic Lantern firmware modification last year. One of the really cool features of this tweaked body is that you can now shoot 1080p video in RAW format. Still shooters know what this means: better control over white balance and a file that stands up to post-processing really well. RAW is still something of a new bag for video shooters working with DSLRs, however, and there are a few things you should know when you start working with RAW files from the 5D Mark III. Making the Magic Lantern RAW File Usable Let’s start with this: The RAW file you get from the 5D isn’t immediately editable. It’s a single file with a .RAW suffix that none of the popular video editors, neither Final Cut nor Premiere, currently recognize without additional plugins like GingerHDR. So you have to modify this file to work with it. The converters for Magic Lantern RAW files essentially do one thing: they take a single RAW file and split it into a sequence of image files in either DNG, TIF, or JPEG files. Your video clip is then available to you as a folder full of hundreds or thousands of single images, each one representing a single frame of footage. That’s not ideal in that you now have a fairly large number of files to manage, but it’s not too difficult to work with them. But first, you have to get to that point where you have those hundreds of files. For this, you have a...
5 Important Photography Business Tips to Start the Year Off Right

5 Important Photography Business Tips to Start the Year Off Right

The holidays are prime season for getting new cameras and lenses. It is also when photographers take stock of their images as well as their income and expenses. Here are 5 important recourses for any business-minded photographer, whether you’re a seasoned shooter looking to hone your business skills or a complete novice who wants to get a jump start on organizing their future. • Never Shoot for Free In this interview with freelance photographer Court Leve, you’ll discover how important it is to find financial value in your work as well as artistic value. • Register Your Gear Insuring your camera equipment is essential but did you know you can also register it for free? Register your serials online with Lenstag and it will send out indexed alerts in the unfortunate event that your gear gets stolen. • Prepare for Taxes One of the less celebrated rewards of owning your own business is having to file taxes for it. Fortunately, there is a lot of online help! • Manage Your Time In the Nutritional Facts of Photography, Jay Cassario breaks down how much time you can expect to spend on each task as a freelance photographer. • Update Your Site SmugMug share some of the rules to a successful website no matter who you used to host your images. We hope these tips will help you reach your goals in the coming year! Want more? Visit the blog every week for great advice, tricks, and even special offers on photography, videography, lighting, and more! Cover Image: “Jump!” by John Loo is licensed under CC...
10 Tips for Better Architectural Photographs from a Former Architect

10 Tips for Better Architectural Photographs from a Former Architect

Architect-turned-photographer John Cooper has spent the last year converting his three decades of building experience into high quality architectural images.  Despite already having the knowledge of a registered architect and member of the American Institute of Architects, Cooper has learned a lot through trial and error after changing roles and capturing the structures he once helped to create. Here are his 10 pieces of advice for aspiring architectural photographers. 10 Tips for Better Architectural Photographs from a Former Architect Architectural photography should be a prerequisite for all photographers. It covers all of the basics of available-light shooting in one subject matter. Understanding these principles, and heeding some of these extra bits of advice, will improve all of your photography – not just architectural photography! 1. Obtain permission to be on location. I totally agree with our legal right to photograph public spaces but things are different in actual practice. At 4:30 in the morning it is much easier to show a permission slip/pass than to discuss the Constitution. 2. Shoot only in “blue” and “golden” hours. It may seem restrictive (and it took me a long time to be convinced) but the quality of light really is just better during these early morning and early evening hours. The blue hour is the hour preceding sunrise and the one following sunset while the golden hour is the first and last hour of sunlight in a day. Check the times throughout the year to find out when it is optimal to take advantage of these magical hours. 3. Scout your location and check a few problem questions off a list: What is the...
10 Ways to Shoot Better Wildlife Photos

10 Ways to Shoot Better Wildlife Photos

As a professional travel and wildlife photographer, I am frequently asked the same question: “How do I take better pictures of animals?” My answer is usually always the same. There is no perfect recipe but there are some things you can do that will substantially improve your end result. Here are 10 rules that I live by. 10.  Vary your lens choice. A common misconception is that you need the longest lens possible to get the best wildlife images. In some cases that is true but there are many situations in which a wider lens is more desirable. For example, I found myself reaching for a wider lens in Africa to capture a cheetah on the hunt in northern Kenya. A nice tight headshot is always wonderful but incorporating an animal’s native environment into your composition is also very pleasing. 9.  Use a monopod or tripod. Wherever possible, use a monopod or tripod. You will always get sharper images the more stable your camera and lens. This is particularly true in low light conditions such as dusk in the African bush or hiking in a tropical rainforest when your shutter speeds are slower. 8.  Use a small bean bag when shooting from a vehicle. Often you cannot get out of your vehicle to capture an image for safety reasons. When a monopod or tripod is not an option, a small bean bag can be very helpful to stabilize a camera with a longer lens.  These bags can be found at most camera shops, are very portable, and can be filled and emptied right on location so weight is not a...
Shoot the Blues Away: 10 Motivating Winter Photography Tips

Shoot the Blues Away: 10 Motivating Winter Photography Tips

Photography often takes a hit during winter. Wedding gigs start to slow down and holiday obligations, bad weather, and shorter days give us plenty of reasons to procrastinate shooting. We have compiled 10 tips for staying motivated during these brumal months. Discover new ways to practice your craft and avoid a rusty start during spring’s heavy shooting season. 1) Bad Weather = Unique Images “Get out to shoot photographs even when you don’t think the weather is nice enough. A lot of great winter photos are taken when weather conditions are less than ideal. Bad weather or changing weather can translate to great atmosphere making the mundane seem extraordinaire.” – Jim Goldstein 2) Collaborate “I stay motivated in the winter by meeting and collaborating with other like-minded artists. When I am surrounded by people who are driven, passionate, and full of love for life, it seeps into my winter moodiness and completely wipes it all away. There is no substitute for really great hugs, especially when it’s cold out.” – Renee Robyn 3) Go Out Just as a Storm Clears for Extra Drama “Let’s face it, going out in the winter sucks. This image was taken on a particularly cold and windy morning. The wind was piercingly cold, the kind that makes your bones ache. Ski goggles were a requirement to see through the blowing snow and operating the camera was nearly impossible. So why would you want to go out in this misery? Dramatic weather conditions are the only way to get an image like this – fresh snow and clouds rolling over the mountains after a clearing storm during sunrise....