Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why is my color off?

Spyder2Express Color Calibration
From the moment you click the shutter to make a photo till the final place the photo is to be viewed can make or break a photo.

After you transfer your images from your digital camera to your computer you can view the images on the screen of your computer.  If you choose to make any changes to the photo's colors this is where if your monitor is not calibrated correctly you could be changing colors that need no change at all.

I use the DataColor Spyder2Express to calibrate my monitor.  There are many different tools you can use to calibrate.  Pantone huey, X-Rite Eye One and there are other devices to help you calibrate.

The difference between the devices is how many monitors you can calibrate and how many choices of colors that you can choose to calibrate.

If you are using PhotoShop, Lightroom, or any other software to manipulate images then you need to calibrate your monitor so you as you work you are seeing the most accurate color possible with your monitor.

Calibrating the blue channel

Calibrating the red channel

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Good photographers play checkers, while great photographers play chess

If you have played checkers you know that each piece moves the same. When a piece reaches the furthest row from the player who controls that piece, it is crowned and becomes a king.

The other game that uses the same board is chess.  Chess has 6 different pieces of which each one moves differently than the other pieces.  One of the many problems a beginner faces in a chess game, once he is familiar with the rules, is what to do when playing the game, how should he start the game, how to attack his opponent position and defend his own at the same time?  

The difference between the two games that I want to use for illustration is that in checkers all the pieces are the same and in chess they are different.

I remember taking lessons on how to play chess from a grand master who played on the Princeton team in college.  There were two pieces I had more trouble learning how to play than all the others.  The pawn and the knight for me were difficult to understand.

It took a while to understand that the pawn’s first move can be one or two squares straight ahead and unlike the other pieces where it can move to is not how it takes the opponents pieces, rather it takes them diagonally.  The en passant capture is when your opponent moves his pawn two spaces trying to avoid capture by your pawn on the first square.  You may take their pawn if they make that move. Also unlike the other pieces the pawn cannot move backwards. As you can see this can make your head spin and this is just the pawn.

Once you learn what all the pieces can do then you realize in combination things they can do that alone they cannot.

My teacher taught me how military leaders used chess to help them plan their attacks on enemies and how to respond.  The pieces represent the people and their roles.  If you watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, you will have seen how the pieces of the board came to life as they played. Even today you will find around the world humans used as pieces on large boards of chess games.

There are two ways photographers play either chess or checkers that I see. The first way is how they treat their subjects in their viewfinders.

Many photographers see people as just an object to fill a space, but great photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson know that not just any subject will do for a particular composition.  His photos became iconic due to how everything in the frame all worked together at the right moment—the decisive moment.

So the first lesson we can learn as photographers is to see people like chess pieces—each one as unique and moving differently.  This requires you to get to know your subjects and the more you know about them the better your photographs.

The second place photographers are often playing checkers and not chess is in their business practices. You may only make headshots in your business as opposed to another photographer who offers a wide variety of services.  The mistake is often made not by the photographer offering only 1 product, but by the photographer who thinks their variety of services makes them more service oriented.

If you want to play chess instead of checkers with your business, then you need to see each client as different and learn to listen to them.  While you may only offer headshots, they may need you to come to them or be more flexible with your schedule.  They may need large prints or just a Facebook size photo and the question is, are you flexible to offer them what they need?

If you are playing chess with your photographs then:
  1. You know your subjects names in your photos
  2. The photos reveal their personality—not necessarily yours
  3. You know something about your subject—how else were you going to tell their story if you didn’t know it
  4. You are making new friends with your subjects
If you are playing chess with your clients of your photo business
  1. You have accommodated a request you don’t normally offer—you may charge more to do this, but you were willing and excited to meet their expectations
  2. You are asking what they want and need, rather than just showing them a menu of your services
  3. You listen more than you talk
  4. You are thinking after you are no longer interacting with the client about them and how you can do something else to help them
  5. You are making new lifelong friends with your clients

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What can I photograph?

If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn't need to lug around a camera. 
- Lewis Wickes Hine

Addie Card, 12 years. Spinner in North Pormal [i.e., Pownal] Cotton Mill. Vt.
Lewis Hine is a photographer I have studied and admired and I think of him when I struggle for something to photograph. Like Hine, I started my studies in the social sciences.  I studied social work and would quickly realize my calling was to be photojournalism. 

Lewis Hine studied sociology at the University of Chicago, Columbia University and New York University. He became a teacher in New York City at the Ethical Culture School, where he encouraged his students to use photography as an educational medium. The classes traveled to Ellis Island in New York Harbor, photographing the thousands of immigrants who arrived each day. Between 1904 and 1909, Hine took over 200 photographs, and eventually came to the realization that his vocation was photojournalism.

Hine went on to work for the Russell Sage Foundation, created to improvement of social and living conditions in the United States. After just a couple of years with the foundation, he went to work for the National Child Labor Committee. He did this for 10 years where his work helped to change the labor laws for children.

During WWII he worked for the American Red Cross covering the work in Europe. In 1930 he would photograph the workers building the Empire State building.  To get the photos of workers through the years he would take similar risks the workers were taking. To get that unique angle while working on the Empire State Building project he was in a special basket 1,000 feet out over 5th Avenue.

Raising the Mast, Empire State Building, 1932
The reason Lewis Hine’s work is so powerful is he knew what he was photographing and why he was doing it.  He was doing something useful with his photography.  Hine said, “If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn't need to lug around a camera.”

The fun in photography is when you take on a challenge and bring all your creativity to it to help communicate an idea or concept to your audience.  When you use a lot of routine cliché’s it quickly becomes boring.

Not knowing what to photograph is a good time to ask yourself what you stand for as a person.  You need to have an understanding of your relationship to the things around you and their meaning to you.  This is how you form thoughts and convictions about the world. It is not from formal education—it is from a sense of caring about people and the world in which you live.

Child laborers in glassworks. Indiana, 1908
When you have this gut check it will give you the inspiration to take on a subject and communicate how you feel about it and not just a documentation of its existence, but rather its significance to you.  You want people to respond and this is what motivates you.

Struggling to find subjects is often lack of personal convictions

The secret for me is to think about where the photos will be used when I am done. This gives me a goal in mind. I must really love the subject or hate it to get my emotions going and create a mood and feelings that I want to communicate beyond the obvious.
A moment's glimpse of the outer world. Said she was 11 years old. Been working over a year. Rhodes Mfg. Co. Lincolnton, North Carolina.
When you find yourself in a mental block there is a tendency to scapegoat your responsibilities.  This is where you often will look for a formula or even copy someone else’s concept.  I see this most often in sports photography.  You see the photographers all standing together.  One of my friends Scott Cunningham who photographs the NBA for Getty Images is rarely sitting next to other photographers.  He is in the stands and always looking for something different. 

Another scapegoat photographer’s use is they don’t have a piece of equipment or their equipment is limiting them. Remember we still haven’t exhausted all that is possible with the simple point and shoot. Be careful that you are not buying new equipment as a way to inspire you.  Take the time to think and feel about your world.

“What shall I photograph?” will not be an issue. Instead, the problem becomes “How can I say it clearly and with enough emotion that my audience is moved to action because of my photos?”

Friday, March 25, 2011

Take Advantage of Spring Time

Dogwood in my front yard.
Tis the season is such a cliché for a reason.  We all understand that timing is everything when planning our vacations.  We go to the beaches in the summer and to the mountains to ski in the winter.  If you go the wrong time of year you will miss the ability to take in the best of a place.

If you Google the phrase “Tis the season” you will find more than 5,690,000 hits. 

Tis the season photographers to be getting outside in your backyards and planning those road trips to capture the spring time in full bloom.

Azalea's have started with buds in my yard.  They stay in bloom about two weeks.

If you have a business this is the time to do those photos you need on your website to show off your properties.  This is when you plan for those outdoor weddings to take advantage of the flowers and trees in bloom. 

You still have time to take advantage of the season. Be sure you put aside the time to capture the blooms in your yards and places of business.

Dogwood blooms in my front yard.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Photographing in Charleston, SC

These are some photos I made this past weekend at Corp Day at The Citadel.  Which ones do you like and why?
1st Battalion marches out to the parade field.
Summerall Guards 2012 make a slight breathing noise together to keep in cadence and so everyone is together.

Summerall Guards 2012 closeup of the breathing technique for timing.

Summerall Guards 2011 last time together before handing over their rifles to the class of 2012.

Summerall Guards 2011 last time performing.

Summerall Guards 2011 take the field with all the alternates in position.

I took the photo showing the alternates for Class of 2011.  These guys seldom are photographed as compared to those marching.

Timing is everything to show the precision.  If their legs are all down not as impressive.

Summerall Guards and BVA run together the night before the rifle exchange to the new guard.

Bravo Company during parade review.

Nelson Lalli checks the alignment of Bravo Company.
I am reminded every time I photograph the cadets how important it is for each person to have a nice photo.  After I post these to my facebook account I spend hours accepting the requests for tagging and friends.  I try and make "portfolio" quality images, but find often just simple clean image of a cadet is really appreciated.

Nelson Lalli  and Tj Fischer 

Christopher White

Matt Spysinski, Nelson Lalli, & James Riley Harrell

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Interactive post here on Panoramic Sphere photos of The Citadel

This past weekend I spent one of the last weekend’s at The Citadel before our oldest son graduates from there. 

I thought this time besides the standard photos I always do, I would do a few Sphere Panoramic shots of the campus.

Do you think colleges/universities should have interactive panoramics on their website for those who cannot get there to take a tour?  I think so, but what do you think.  Please post your comments below.

Also, which of these 4 do you like and why?

Personally I think I would enjoy these as ways to remember my time at The Citadel in addition to all the other photos and videos available.

Parade Field - The Citadel
Bravo Company - The Citadel
1st Battalion - Quad (center)
1st Battalion - Quad

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How to get really sharp photos

Here are a series of photos showing full-framed image and then followed up with a crop 100% view of the same image.  If you want to enlarge your photos and have people admire them on the walls of your home or office, be sure they are in focus & sharp.

I used for this exercise a point and shoot camera. I used the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 camera.  I made the photos of the same object handheld and then with a tripod.  Can you tell the difference in these bright sunlit photos?

Hand held full-frame

100% view of the image above (hand held)

Full framed shot using tripod

100% cropped view of the tripod image
Full frame of hand held photo

100% cropped view of the hand held

Full frame of Tripod photo

100% cropped view of the Tripod Image

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lens Choice: Just the subject or a story

Filling the frame with a subject can look quite different depending on the focal length of the lens.

These three examples the f/stop stayed the same. I moved the camera forward or backwards to keep the stuffed ducks the same size in the frame.

The 28mm wide-angle lens lets you see the environment around the subject more as you see in this photo of the What the Ducks.

The 105mm short telephoto focal length lens makes the background less distracting.

The 300mm telephoto focal length lens makes the background even less distracting.
Which one do your prefer and why? 
What you need to do is understand how a lens choice can really help your subject.

You just need to say here is the subject then look at using the telephoto lens.  This will help you make the subject pop out away from the background. All the focus will be on the subject.

If you need the subject to be part of a sentence where you use adjectives and adverbs to help give a context for the subject, then move in close with a wide-angle lens. Now you see what is around the subject as well as the subject.

There are varying degrees to this change. Just as the writer uses simple sentences and sometimes longer sentences to tell the story, the lens helps you make it a simple sentence or complex.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The moment it clicks

 “The instant can be the end product of a long experience as well of that of immediate surprise.”
--Henri Cartier-Bresson

Mika Ariel with her new camera bag in Hawaii

This past week I was at the Museum covering the Founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy’s, 90th birthday.  While there I saw some of the exhibit of Henri Cartier-Bresson

I think every photojournalist knows about his work and probably more about his philosophy of the Decisive Moment. This is when the photographer is thinking, “I need a figure in that space, but just any figure won’t do.  It must no merely fill the space but also give the space a meaning that is as yet incomplete.  The figure will need to have a credible reason for being there, will have to relate to the space in a significant way, and, above all, add something to it.  His or hers appearance in that space must be considerable to make the resulting picture a clear expression of what I want to say.”

This is when the timing is just right for the photographer when they click the shutter and capture the subject in a context that helps tell a story in a very compelling way. 

I have a series of photos and this was the one where the water smashed against the rocks to help communicate the power of the ocean.

I think there are five steps that a photographer will go through to capture this decisive moment. There becomes a two-way relationship with the subject and it often goes like this.

1.     Genuine interest in the subject
2.     Effort is made to understand and know the subject
3.     Due to this new knowledge you have deductions about it
4.     You now feel moved to say something about it
5.     You say something when the subject is ready to participate with you


I have been on those class or camera club assignments.  You are just looking for something that fits the subject matter assigned.  This will not get you a “Decisive Moment.”  You need to have an interest that leads to enthusiasm and a desire to know it better.  This real interest is the first step.


You must know a subject intimately before you can attribute a certain value to it through composition and timing.  This intimacy helps you to convey the purpose of the subject to his or her environment. 

Barbara, the head cook at North of NOLA in Roswell, Georgia is enjoying the moment during the busy Mardi Gras celebration

How can you know the right moment to take a picture unless you have a good idea of what the subject means and what you are after?  When you are interested in a subject you get to know more about it.  You go below the surface stuff to the meat of the matter.

You must first know yourself before you will be able to know others.  You are in touch with your feelings and therefore can have empathy for the subject.

You will have some reference points in your life that help you connect to humanity.  This will help you connect your subject with others as well.

As a result of our understanding of the subject, we have a reaction, and opinion or feeling about it.  Based on this we make photos.


The understanding you gained now helps you to know what the hook is that will engage the audience and help to communicate the knowledge you now have to the audience in a compelling way.  At this point you are no longer using “rules of composition” to guide you, rather you move the subject around the frame and find a placement that communicates your heart about the subject.  This is not just the emotions and affects, but also the intellect and will.  

Some photographers may zoom in and out and others may just move the subject all around in the frame until they feel the composition of the elements around the subject are helping capture much of the essence of the person.


You can do everything up to here and never move to this step, because this is where the subject must allow you the moment. They may relax in your presence and you are just the fly on the wall able to be present with the person.  They may give you a look, which is personable and intimate.  I believe underlying the first steps is a willingness of you to be transparent with the subject.  The more you are open and honest then the subject will respond in kind.  The more you are closed off, the less the chance of a moment.

My wife and daughter enjoying a moment together that will be remembered forever by them and me.


If you do the above steps regularly as you photograph subjects over time you will develop a keen sense to moments.  You will take nothing for granted and be ready for the smallest change.  You are a master of your camera and can quickly make adjustments to capture any moment.  You have done this long enough that your vision is translated into the camera like a muscle memory.  You don’t have time to think but just instinctively react, because you have practiced and disciplined your routine of getting to know subjects so as to recognize the moments if they reveal themselves early in the process.

The prize

For me the prize is the relationship I have developed with a subject and the photograph is just icing on the cake, because I get to share this person with the rest of the world.

Friday, March 11, 2011

If you could eavesdrop on a critique

Keep the subject off center
If you were listening in last week when I was doing one critique after another at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference, you would have heard a theme to my comments.

First, I like also to review all the photos before I comment. This way I can categorize some of the comments that apply to some if not all the photographs.

Second, I usually find a positive attribute of his or her work. Sometimes I might be pointing out how I can see why you might be interested in that subject. My point is I think there is usually a small redeeming factor to make you stop and make a photo.

Watch those edges and keep it simple

Third, probably the number one thing that I say to people starting don't center their subject. Use some rules of composition to help guide the audience and make the composition more interesting. We might talk about rule-of-thirds, leading lines, framing and of course using light as a way to help improve the photograph.

Fourth, most everyone I find struggles with the edges of the photograph. They see the subject and haven’t quite made all the stuff around the subject and within the frame to work together to create a strong photograph. We might have things growing out of their heads or parts of the body cropped funny.

Fifth, one of the things I struggle to this day with myself is my camera drifting up. I end up with more space at the top of the frame and not really doing a good job anchoring the photo at the bottom of the frame.

Everything I have mentioned up to now is the fine-tuning thing one does to improve the photograph. You might compare what a photographer does to a sniper. The sniper takes aim with a rifle at a target a long way off. They will do everything to keep the barrel as still as possible. They will even control their breathing and fire the rifle in between heartbeats. If they do not control these minute details they will miss their mark.

When photographers do not pay attention to the minute details like the sniper they too will miss their mark and the message will not come across to the audience.

Connect with your subject, you should be showing their personality.

Sixth, up to a couple of years ago I would have stopped here. But this is when I am now ready to talk to those who do photojournalism about the most important thing they can concentrate on the most to improve their photos—the subject.

I believe until you know the subject well and not just on a mental level, but with your heart you will not connect the audience with the subject at a level to move an audience to action.

As I go through the photos with the photographer, I ask them questions like: What did you want me to know about your subject? How did you feel about the subject?

You don’t have to ask this question with photographers at the top of their game—you feel like you know their subjects from their photographs. The reason I ask this question is to reveal what I think is the core value missing with many photographers today.

Most of the photographer’s answers to those questions were—I don’t know. To which my reply was then how do you expect the audience to know anything or care?

I you look at any photograph and it brings up feelings of warmth or sadness, I can assure you the photographer felt this. Most likely the photographer is crying behind the camera when you cry from one of their photos. The photographer is smiling when he made the photo of the joy in a child’s eye. The photographer is pissed when you see something that angers you in their photos.

Do you want your photos to look better? My advice is to get to know your subject and know what you want to say about them. Get to know them so well that your heart is moved to emotions and not just a mental understanding of the story. When you know what you want to say and how you want to portray the subject, then you will place the subject in the frame at the best place and wait for the moment and the light to all convey what you want to say until you feel it in your viewfinder.

If you don’t know what to say and you are not feeling it behind the viewfinder—put down the camera ask some questions and get to know them better. My faith teaches me that all mankind is made in the image of God. I pray that I see the world with my heavenly father’s eyes.

Genesis 1:26

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

How to be critiqued


Reviewing each other's work.

If you want to grow as a photographer you will need to have someone review your work. There are two types of people to review your work_the general public or a professional. The professional can be another photographer, photo editor, graphic designer or art director.

The public should be able to look our photos and tell us what they get out of a photo and therefore help us know if our intended message came across.

The advantage of a professional photographer who is further along in their journey than you is they can tell you if a photo is good or not, but can give you some tips on how they might improve the photo.

Ground Rules:

1. Let your photos speak for themselves—Be Quiet

2. Edit and show only your best

3. Have everything needed to show your work

4. Get multiple opinions

5. Take the advice and change

6. Go back and show them your changes

age1Brad Moore critiques Deanna Santangelo's work.

Letting your photos speak for themselves will help you know if you were successful or not. If you wanted a photo to show how much two people are good friends, then the audience will tell you.

If the person reviewing the images ask for more information provide it. Too much information will actually hurt your critique. If you tell the person this is a photo where you were trying to illustrate friendship then the person will then say if it worked or not, but you really needed to know what it says to them when they have no information other than the photo.

Sometimes you might actually have a very strong photo that is a failure. It may be a successful photo in the audience likes the photo, but failed to deliver the message you were going for.

Edit and show your best work will help the person reviewing your work. Showing too much work will weaken your portfolio rather than strengthen it. Your portfolio is to show your skills. You may have a collection of different subjects and/or a photo story. Either way each photo should be showing something different.

You only need one photo to show you know how to do something so make it your best effort. Your second photo should show something different about your abilities. Maybe the first photo was available light and the second one shows you know how to use flash. Your third might be shooting in a studio.

Your photo stories need to work like a written story a beginning, middle and end. The beginning is often an establishing photo to help us know what the story is about. You need to vary the images from wide to medium and then close-up.

age3Scott Kelby reviews a person's portfolio.

Have everything you need to show your work. Don't show up with a USB drive and expect the person you are seeing to have a computer. Be sure everything works and try it a few times to be sure all the photos load for example if it is on a computer, iPad, or some other device.

Sometimes the best way to show your portfolio is in a book or prints. This way you are not relying on technology that could quit. Don't want that to happen on a once in a lifetime meeting.

Get multiple opinions before making changes to your work. If you show your work to 3 or more folks and they all say there is something wrong with a photo_then you know it needs to go. What will not be so consistent is what they might say as a way to improve that photo. One person may say to back up and another might say crop in closer.

Take the advice and change. Go out and make the changes to your portfolio. Take the photos out that most everyone agreed need to come out. Go and crop the photos that need cropping.

Go back into Lightroom or PhotoShop and re-edit those photos that can be improved.

Most of all take the advice to heart as you shoot your next photos. Watch the edges of the photo. Know what you want to say to your audience about the subject.

Go back and show your changes. Find those people and show them your revised portfolio after you have made the changes and shot some new material. See if you got what they were talking about. Often you will find out that you didn't fully understand what they were saying and by revisiting you will discover this.