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Being a Photographer

City Swap

City Swap

You know your own town so well, you could probably walk blindfolded down the street and know exactly how to get to your favorite café. All of the photo-worthy spots are not only ingrained in your memory, but well-documented in your photo album as well. In fact, you’ve probably got photos of the same spots taken at different times of the day and in different seasons, too. As far as photography in your local area goes, you are the expert.

Now, I’d like to challenge you to step outside of that very comfortable comfort zone and consider exploring new territory. Your town is a fabulous place to take photos, but it’s familiar, which means that you may not always be thinking creatively about how to take pictures of those well-known places. For this photo challenge, we’re going to do a little bit of traveling — I’d like you to think about some of the towns that are within driving distance of your local area. Pick the one that you are least familiar with and plan to spend the day there.
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Numbers Project

Numbers Project

Are you running out of ideas? Don’t worry, every photographer goes through a period of time where he’s in a rut—he’s bored with all the usual subjects, he’s shot every landscape in his area at every time of the day and in every season, and he’s just not feeling very inspired. If you’re experiencing a little bit of photographer’s block yourself, now is the time to embark on a new project. Assigning yourself a photo project is one of the best ways to force yourself into creative mode and bust out of that photographer’s block mode for good. Keep reading for some ideas.
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Turn your child into a photographer

Turn your child into a photographer

Sometimes I feel sorry for the children of photographers. It’s a hard life. From the time of their birth, they have had that camera constantly in their faces, through every milestone, birthday party, and major and minor life events. Yes, the children of photographers need never worry about forgetting anything that happened to them during their childhoods. Chances are, whatever it is, it’s stored somewhere on a memory card or hard drive somewhere inside their shutter-happy parents’ home.

Besides being eternally tormented by mom and her DSLR, the children of photographers do have something going for them, and that is exposure to photography at an early age. The chances are pretty good if your child has grown up in the presence of a camera, she’s also developed somewhat of an interest in photography. Your job as a parent is not only to make sure that you capture a ridiculous number of photographs of your child as she’s growing up, but that you also teach her how to use a camera herself.
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What Photographers Need to Know About Copyright

What Photographers Need to Know About Copyright

Have you ever worried about theft? Now, when I ask this question, I don’t mean the tangible sort of theft that might happen if you leave your camera in an unlocked car or if you set your camera bag down next to your table while you have a cup of coffee. I mean that less tangible theft that can happen when you put your photography online, on a public forum like Flickr, Facebook or Instagram. Can someone take your photos and use them however they like? What sort of protection do you have from online theft, and what steps do you need to take to secure that protection? Keep reading for the information every photographer needs to have about copyright.
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Three ways to make your photographs look more professional

Three ways to make your photographs look more professional

Here is a question I often get from beginners and more advanced students alike: “How can I make my photos look more professional?” No matter what learning stage you’re at, it’s hard to resist the temptation to compare your photos to photos shot by pros—whether they are professional portrait photographers or professional magazine photographers who produce material for National Geographic and other photo-heavy publications.

Just about everyone would like to shoot photos that look like they belong in a magazine, but not all of us know exactly how to get that done. We may chalk it up to just not having the right equipment: “I need an expensive DSLR,” you might decide, or, “I need a really expensive lens.” But the truth is that equipment can only take you so far, and you can take truly professional quality images with something as simple as a smartphone. Read on to find out how.

One of the best ways to develop a sense for what makes a professional-quality image is to look at professional quality-images. I often recommend Flickr as a source for studying other people’s work, but perhaps an even better idea is to review the websites and portfolios of professional photographers, particularly people you admire. First, identify the genre in which you would like to achieve more professional-looking images. Then spend some time really studying the images of those photographers you admire. What do they all have in common? Are these things that you could apply easily enough to your own work? If not, what are some other ways that you could achieve professional-quality results? What is the photographer’s style and how could you develop your own style? These are all questions that you will need to answer before you can reasonably expect your images to start looking like the pros’.

##Fill the frame

One of the number one steps that professional photographers take to really create compelling images is filling the frame. This also happens to be one of the biggest mistakes that beginners make. We seem to have an inborn desire to include as much of a scene as possible whenever we take a picture, and that is a desire we need to fight against. Let’s take portraits as an example—how many times have you shot photos of your kids or other family members and just not been that happy with the results? If you look at some of the photos you thought were going be wonderful and just didn’t turn out that way I think you’ll find a common thread. In many cases it could just be that you didn’t fill the frame. For example, that picture of your child playing in the park is full of other distractions. There are other kids in the background, there’s a trashcan nearby, there are some parked cars in the distance. None of these extra elements is adding anything to the composition, and they are in fact distracting from your subject. That is one of the reasons why that photo may turn out to just not be very compelling—because your subject has been lost among all the visual clutter.

http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-328676510/stock-photo-portrait-of-cute-beautiful-young-girl-with-freckles-close-up.html?src=GEIcxg88lC4JIdJgh4dm4A-1-2

The simple solution to this problem is to just zoom in. Remember if you’re using a smartphone or a camera with digital zoom, it’s better to zoom with your feet—that is, walk towards your subject and fill the frame without using the zoom capabilities of your camera. If you’re using a DSLR or another camera with optical zoom, it’s okay to use your zoom lens to get closer—aim for filling the entire frame with your subject’s face or head and shoulders, unless you have a very compelling reason to shoot the person from head to toe.

An exception to this rule is if you’re shooting an environmental portrait and you need to include some context. Context can be very important for environmental photos because the goal of an environmental photo is to show your viewer how your subject is interacting or existing within a certain context. So for that type of photo it’s always important to zoom out a little bit and show your viewer your subject’s surroundings, but the same rules do apply to the extent that you don’t want to include any clutter in the background or objects that are not a part of the story you’re trying to tell.

##Find beautiful light

One of the most obvious differences between professional quality photographs and snapshots is in the light. A lot of beginners fall into this trap for the very simple reason that people tend to take photographs at the wrong time of the day, or in the wrong lighting situations.

Now, you may be asking, “What is the right time of day?” Well, that has to do with the direction of the light. When the sun is directly overhead, it doesn’t have as much atmosphere to shine through, so it is much brighter. And bright sun creates blown out areas and shadows that are an impenetrable black. This can create the dreaded raccoon-eyed portrait subject, and can also have more subtle effects such as obscuring detail. To avoid this problem, try shooting photographs very early in the day (an hour after sunrise) or very late in the day (an hour before sunset). We call this “the golden hour” because of the quality of the light—it’s soft and even and literally has a golden quality to it. You’ll find that if you aim for taking most of your photographs at this time of day you will end up with much better photographs overall.

Now what if you’re out shooting photographs and it’s mid day, and there really isn’t any way you’d be able to capture the same images if you waited until sunset? Now you have to start thinking about ways that you can improve the lighting situation that you’re stuck with. For example, if you’re shooting portraits you can use fill flash to help fill in some of those impenetrable black shadows. You can also move your subjects into better light such as open shade (note, avoid dappled shade such as what you get underneath a tree because that can provide for uneven lighting). You can also use a reflector or a diffuser to bounce light into the shadows or to diffuse the sun before it even arrives at your subject. These are all very good and reliable ways that you can make even those midday photographs look more professional.

http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-97696616/stock-photo-magic-pink-rhododendron-flowers-on-summer-mountain.html?src=IgzWFD-plf3xBEWIC-sDgw-2-49

Seeking out interesting light is another way that you can make your images look more professional—try backlighting your subject and taking advantage of lens flare and veiling glare, which is that low-contrast look that is so popular in portraiture today. You can also use dramatic lighting such as a single bright light on one side of a person’s face and darkness on the other. Anytime you use light that varies significantly from that standard, average midday lighting, you’re going to create an interesting photo.

##Develop a sense of style

This is actually one of the hardest things for beginning photographers to wrap their minds around. Professional photos look professional because they have a sense of style. A photographer who has a very strong style is someone whose work you can identify regardless of whether or not their name is attached to the image. Think for a moment about Ansel Adams, the famous landscape photographer of the 1900s. Most people who are familiar with Ansel Adams’ work can pick out one of his images from a selection of a similar photos, simply because his style was so well defined. I’m sure there are plenty of modern photographers and maybe even those you follow on Flickr who also have very distinguished styles. When you look at your Flickr feed and notice new images, do you have a pretty good idea of whose photo stream they belong to before you even click on them? If so, that’s because that photographer has a very well-developed sense of style.

http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?irgwc=1&id=418635694&tpl=38919-111120&utm_campaign=Eezy%20Inc&utm_medium=Affiliate&utm_source=38919

So how do you define your own sense of style? Well, that is the $64,000 question. The actions that each individual photographer takes in order to create a sense of style can be quite subtle, and it could be as simple as always waiting for a certain type of light, having a strong sense of politics and shooting everything through that political veil, or even just applying certain stylistic changes to each photograph in post-processing. For example, you could shoot all of your photographs using a high ISO. You’ll get an image that has a lot of noise and looks gritty and photojournalistic, and if you convert all of your photos to black and white using the same desaturation procedure, then all of your photos are going to have the same basic style. You could also add a little saturation tweak to give your photos a sense of you, but remember that your goal is not to create a set of photos that look exactly the same, but rather a set of photos that appear to have been shot by the same person.

http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-157910507/stock-photo-an-ansel-adams-inspired-view-of-sedona.html?src=-y7b9LgvnhkkHazKi1SjRg-1-5

##Conclusion

If you are still a beginner, remember that reaching this point in your photography takes a lot of time, skill and practice. Most of us are not going to achieve professional quality images right away—it’s a skill we develop over time and with lots of practice. So my final piece of advice for you is to spend a lot of time taking pictures. The more you practice, the more time you spend examining your work and asking yourself questions about how you might be able to make your photos better, the closer you will be to having a portfolio full of professional-quality images.

##Summary:

1. Study the work of pros you admire
2. Fill the frame
3. Find beautiful light
– Golden hour
– Use fill flash and reflectors
– Use backlighting
4. Develop a style

Making a Statement: How to use your camera to protest and express your opinion

Making a Statement: How to use your camera to protest and express your opinion

Everyone’s got an opinion. Some of us are more passionate about certain subjects than others, some of us complain about the state of the nation and its politics in the privacy of our own home, while others say it out loud and proud. If you’re the sort who has a lot of complaints and observations about the world at large but would rather mumble those complaints and observations under your breath rather than start a confrontation, why not make a quiet but profound statement with your camera? Read on to find out how. Continue Reading »

Six Ways to Beat Photographer’s Block

Six Ways to Beat Photographer’s Block

Have you ever stared blankly at your camera, just waiting for a flash of inspiration? Have you ever racked your brain for some new idea about what to go photograph, but just couldn’t come up with anything? Maybe you found the whole experience so disheartening that you put your camera back in its bag and switched on your favorite TV show instead.

This is called photographers block, and it happens to everyone who owns a camera. So how do you beat it? Continue Reading »

Three Things You Can Do Today to Become a Better Photographer Tomorrow

Three Things You Can Do Today to Become a Better Photographer Tomorrow

I call it “beginner’s rut” – that mode that so many new photographers get into when they’ve become pretty comfortable with their new camera, they’ve set it up to be just about as automatic as it gets, and they are more or less happy with their results. But when you are in a beginner’s rut, there’s always that little nagging voice telling you that you could do better. And the good news is, there are some very simple ways you can do that today, without the need to buy new equipment or take a six week course at the local community college.
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What To Do When Your Camera is Stolen

What To Do When Your Camera is Stolen

I am not ashamed to say that this is something I have literal nightmares about. I’ve left my camera in my car, or in a hotel room, or horror-of-horrors, I left it hanging on the back of my chair at a restaurant. Some unscrupulous person found it there and decided to claim it for his own, or worse, he broke into my car or home and took my most beloved possession. I generally wake up from these dreams in a cold sweat, and sometimes I even go check on my camera to make sure that my dream wasn’t based on any kind of reality.

We don’t want to think about it and we like to believe that it won’t happen to us, but the fact is that camera theft is big business. Cameras are big-ticket items, which makes them desirable to thieves, which means that we have to take steps to protect them. Here’s how.
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Five Things Fiction Writers Can Teach You About Photography

Five Things Fiction Writers Can Teach You About Photography

Most of us can recall some sort of instruction in story writing, whether it was in grade school, high school or college. Never mind that you didn’t really have an interest in writing fiction, for some reason academics seemed to demand it. So do you remember anything you learned while you were penning those required mysteries, romances and sci-fi stories? Believe it or not, you may find some of those lessons useful in your photography. Read on to find out what they are. Continue Reading »

Photo Lingo (or, how to speak photography)

Photo Lingo (or, how to speak photography)

If you’re a raw beginner, you may sometimes find yourself a little in the dark when it comes to the lingo. Pretty much any hobby that you take up is going to be full of slang, expressions, and technical terminology that you’re not going to know unless someone explains it to you. Photography is no exception. If you often find yourself scratching your head at words and phrases like “bokeh”, “chromatic aberration” and “chimping”, this is definitely one guide you’ll want to spend some time studying. Compiled here is a list of some of the most common photography expressions, slang words and other terms that you probably won’t find in any other hobby.
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Printing images – size does matter

Printing images – size does matter

Digital cameras do a lot of things that film cameras could never do. But in a way, film photographers had it kind of easy. There was no such thing as “file size”, because everything you shot on a roll of film was exactly the same “size” as everything else you shot on that roll of film.

Today we are blessed – or perhaps cursed – with the ability to shoot photos at any resolution and quality setting we want. But all of these choices come at a cost, and that cost is most obvious when you try to print the photos that you take with your digital camera. Let’s see why….
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How to Organize Your Digital Photographs

How to Organize Your Digital Photographs

Film photographers were so much more organized than we are. They had shoeboxes. Remember shoeboxes? When you got your photos back from the lab, you flipped through them, you gave away a few extra copies, and then you stuck them in a shoebox, promising yourself that one day real soon you would put them into a photo album.

Today’s shoebox equivalent is the hard drive. I’m very sorry to say, that just because you store your digital photos on the computer does not mean that they are more organized. If you want to be able to retrieve your digital photographs with ease, you need to have an organizing system in place. In case you don’t know where to begin, here is a short list of suggestions.
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Twelve Mistakes Rookies Make

Twelve Mistakes Rookies Make

No one is born knowing how to use a camera. Every single photographer you know from amateur to professional at one time picked up a DSLR (or an SLR) camera, turned it over awkwardly, looked at all those buttons and thought to himself, “How the heck do I use this thing?”

Rookie mistakes in any field are usually pretty predictable. That’s because they’re honest mistakes, and it’s pretty easy to see how the unschooled and unpracticed might end up making them. Even if you’ve come a long way since the first time you held a DSLR, it’s worth reviewing this list so you’ll know which mistakes you’ve moved past, and which ones you may still be making (don’t worry, your secret is safe with me).
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Why You Should “Get It Right In Camera”

Why You Should “Get It Right In Camera”

I know, you spent a bundle on the latest piece of post-processing software. Your most over-used photography phrase is, “I’ll just fix it in post”.

It’s not surprising, really, and you’re not the only one. After all, post-processing has given us some really wonderful tools. We can make images sharper. We can clean up noise. We can fix underexposure and overexposure. We can adjust white balance. In a sense, we’ve kind of made things too easy on ourselves. Because that phrase “I’ll just fix it in post” is on a lot of photographers’ tongues, not just yours.
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