Tagged: improve your photography

20th February 2014 – Four on getting published

Consider this. In the field of consumer magazines alone, there are around 3,500 titles in the UK market. If the average publication is monthly that means 42,000 issues a year. Take a nice round figure of 100 photo’s an issue – for no better reason than it makes the maths easy but a quick and dirty survey of Issue 5 of the free Photography News suggests not an unfeasible number – that makes 4.2 million photographs published a year. Add in other print media, that is anything that gets published for a general or specific readership on paper, then that figure shoots up enormously. Before we add in the World Wide Web. They have to come from somewhere.  Now I am not suggesting that everyone can make a living out of photography – it is a crowded market and as much if not more, a lot more, time goes into getting and organising work as taking photographs. It is a BUSINESS and therefore both technical and competitive – but there are people, picture editors and alike, who spend their working days looking for suitable material. Not all of it is the result of a direct commissioning processes.

Four club members, Myk Garton, Mark Stone, Simon Caplan and Mark OGrady,  who have had their work published, took us through some of the how’s and why’s, the cold approaches from picture editors and the direct commissions and showed us some of that work..

Myk was first up and he talked about being approached about work that he had on his Flickr account. The first and foremost point is that if no one can find your photographs then no one is in the position to approach you about using them, for love or money. The key is tagging. I don’t mean running around in a hoodie with a spray can of paint, though the effect is the same in announcing to the world that you were (are) here. Tags are labels giving directions as to content including an image, webpage, blog, file etc. Its technical name is metadata,  in the sense we are using more accurately as descriptive metadata. We are going to stick with Flickr because that was the example that Myk, Mark S, Simon and Mark O all referred to but it applies to most sites that you can upload content to that are more serious about your content  than simply-monetarising your content for their own purposes  – Facebook being a big exception, and also one where you have to very careful because of the license you grant simply by uploading any image to it. Myk underlined the importance of accurate tagging. If Kate Middleton isn’t the subject of the image, then don’t use the tag. It might appear in a lot of searches but when it turns out to be your hamster in a tiara or a picture of your birthday cake it isn’t going to get taken seriously. Most probably. It won’t get a second glance from someone looking for images of HRH visiting locally.

What makes a good tag? If you want to know about a situation there are basically six things that you need to know about it. What, where, who, when, how and why? This is not a bad place to start. What do you see when you are looking at your image, basically what is it a photograph of? Where was it taken? (Myk’s picture in the Angling Times came from that piece of information. Your camera will provide some technical data as a matter of course but even if it is GPS connected a Blagdon Lake tag is more use than 51.337063, -2.703268) Who is in it (if you know, of course)? When can be a time of day, or is the location connected to a specific date or period (Battle of the Somme 1916 for example – as in the Musée de Somme 1916 in Albert, France)?  How is usually provided by the camera (Exif data) but might be a description in itself such as bokeh, and the why can either be  something like an anniversary, for example Golden Jubilee, or a formal occasion, investiture of the Bishop of Pie. Some or all may be relevant. They should be kept short and you should cover alternatives (World War 1, World War One, WW1, WWI all relate to the same event) . All this helps with the dark arts of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)  about which I shall say no more.

Myk also pointed out the importance of joining and being active in Flickr groups, such as the Reflex Camera Club Group (a hint to those of you yet to join). There are thousands, no tens of thousands. A search on Bristol in groups brought up 4,455 references on Flickr – that is groups, not images. Flickr groups shouldn’t be confused with the sets and groups options where you can – wait for it – organise sets into themed groups – wow! – as they are groups of contributing individuals to themed photo streams. That doesn’t mean you cannot post one image to more than one photostream as each account is treated separately. This gets your work – with its tags, of course, to a wider audience and this more likely to get your images noticed.

 

Mark Stone was next up. Mark talked about the difficulties in protecting images from freeloaders, thieves, pirates, borrowers, elves, goblins and the ill-informed, especially good quality images on fora like Flickr. Mark related that watermarks can be removed in seconds and may not be worth the effort, at least though, you have shown the effort and intent to protect your intellectual property rights as the thieves signify their intent by removing it. He suggested using low resolution images that can still look good on the screen (as with the club competition 1400 x 1050 maxima for projected images) again not fool proof as interpolating software can be used to increase the resolution to a certain limit. Mark suggested around 50% of the original. This can easily be done in a lot of photo editing programmes and if you want a quick and easy online version you could do a lot worse than picresize – 54 million+ images resized (they say) and counting. That said a combination of the two at least makes more effort for the would-be looter. Also, you should make it clear that your images have all rights reserved unless you are giving them away and even then there is such a thing as a creative commons license. These are options on Flickr and can be varied from image to image, though All Rights Reserved is a good start.

 

Mark underlined Myk’s point about the importance of tagging your images – if they can’t be found then they can’t be used which is a good thing when you are talking about copyright, but a distinctly bad thing when you are talking about selling your images. The latter tends to outweigh the former and if you take reasonable steps then at least you have made the freeloaders, thieves, pirates, borrowers, elves, goblins, aliens, drug cartels, blaggers, the ill-informed, psychopaths, sociopaths and the generally ill disposed job slightly more difficult. Tags, watermarks, licensing, low res images, generally “A good thing”.

 

Simon took up the reins and talked about a commission that took him all over the country, but was more complicated than it need be because the client didn’t really have a definitive idea of what they wanted. Indeed they didn’t have much of an idea at all. He described the key thing in putting together a bid for a commission is tying the client down as far as is humanly possible.  It is important that the photographer knows to what end and use the client is going to put the commissioned images, how many they expect and expect to use and what shape. These are all factors that have a physical impact on how the images can successfully be planned and then get every possible angle of the subject. Pricing is difficult in any trade. It is a Goldilocks problem. Too little and it will not pay the bills. Too much and it will not get the commission, but just right has to be at the highest point the client says yes but still remains competitive. There are hidden traps for the unwary. On a geographically dispersed commission like this one, which pretty much seems to have taken up all four corners of Great Britain, a lot of time is likely to be spent travelling. That time needs to be accounted for and charged at a reduced rate or the commission can become unprofitable. There may be production hidden costs so some agreement has to be made over those. Mileage, hotel bills, wear and tear, insurances, post production, food and other consumables, paperwork etc. are all part of the total cost.

Simon extended the discussion on copyright, which was also something that Mark O took up on. You must protect your copyright or your revenue stream will dry up and you can be out of pocket. Never sign away the copyright, make sure that the client is aware that you retain it and exactly what you are licensing them to use the copyright for. There are some common misconceptions surrounding copyright, especially around what constitutes fair use and what that applies to. Everyone who presented agreed that you need to be explicit on the terms of credit and the uses to which the images can be put. Simon recommended the Association of Professional Photographers book “Beyond the Lens” available here, at a hefty £30 + p&p. There are others you might look at/use at your own discretion, they generally cover three areas:

Photographing Minors

Photographing Adults

Photographing Property

You must get these type forms, not necessarily the forms linked to, filled in as part of the process. Finally Simon pointed out that you are taking photographs for someone else and that they can butcher them in any way they please – they are paying for them after all and they are paying you for precisely that privilege.

 

Mark O finished the evening on getting known. As with everything else in this world what you know isn’t as tradable a commodity as who you know. Doing free work can lead to paid work later, networking is the important thing. His big break came via the company his girlfriend works for. The footwork is always necessary if you want to make a living and the world of image editors is fairly small, in any given area they are likely to know each other pretty well. This can work for you or against you, but however they treat your hard graft it is as well to remember the old maxim, “The customer is always right”. Repeat business is many times cheaper to get than new and the relationship and understanding that you build over time helps you interpret what it is they are looking for.  That said you must make clear what the terms of the trade are, make sure release forms are in place and accessible, and get as much detail from the commissioning editor as possible.

 

All in all a very informative evening and thanks are given to all who made it possible, particularly to Myk Garton, Mark Stone, Simon Caplin and Mark OGrady for their time and materials.

 

Next meeting we have a visiting speaker, Ian Wade on Landscape Photography.

13th Feb 2014 – Editing with Adobe Lightroom

For most of us, it appears, Adobe Lightroom is all we are ever likely to need in a photo editor, and in this insightful evening, Kevin Spiers, Mark OGrady and Dan Thomas gave us a whirlwind tour of some of the possibilities. It certainly isn’t the only editor available, Gimp, Pixlr, Picasa, Paint.Net are all free alternatives with their supporters but none, as they appear to me, have an interface quite as slick and certainly none have the full capability of the cloud based full suite (Photoshop CC and Lightroom) which can now be rented at just under £9 a month. Mind you, photo-shopping is not always approved of!

 

Kevin was first up and showed us the cataloguing feature. An image isn’t much use to anyone if it can’t be found, and with the ease and cheapness of taking another frame comes the problem of sheer volume. The number of images quickly adds up. Looking for that photograph can soon become evidence of that old proverb involving needles and haystacks, though why anyone would think to even begin to look for a steel needle in a stack of dried grass, much less think that was a suitable storage medium in the first place, has always defeated me. Sounds like bad filing practice, which is exactly what the cataloguing system is designed to overcome.  Like trying to find a needle in a sewing box. Simples!

 

Mark’s contribution was a lot more technical. Using an image  from a hairdressing shoot  Mark took us through the somewhat arcane world of frequency separation enhanced by some dodging and burning.

Frequency separation is a technique that gives the user the ability to process the surface and the depth of an image in different detail layers. The image is divided into two layers, containing the high frequencies and the low frequencies and allows the use these layers to work on colours, on broad and fine details independently, using non-destructive changes to the original image.

Definitely an advanced users technique, but one that seems to be getting wider use over the last couple of years . It is, in essence,  about utilising  the different strata (think of a photograph as a sandwich and each component of the sandwich is both part of the overall sandwich and a thing in itself) that make up a photograph. Or think of your favourite song played by different artists , there are individual notes and there are chords arranged together in subtly different ways that form the overall, still recognisable but differently rendered, tune. If you change the chords and notes sympathetically you change the harmonies but can still retain the tune. Frequency separation is about using these strata to enhance or alter  parts of a photograph in the process of retouching and moving the image to a more striking, enhanced representation. Again not a process without controversy, but something that started when the first human artist drew the first image and the first human critic ,that is the first person the artist showed it to, thought “That ain’t right”.

The technique involves creating two layers, a high frequency layer and a low frequency layer.  The low frequency layer contains large areas of colours and tones and the high frequency area fine details like skin pores and blemishes, hair and so on. Julia Kuzmenko McKim gives a blow by blow account of this and also includes a Photoshop action that automates the process (which you might use, but entirely at your own discretion).  These actions can be replicated in some other programmes too, Gimp, for instance has its own frequency separation plug in.

To the low frequency layer, Mark applied desaturation (taking it to black and white) and Gaussian Blur, also known as Gaussian Smoothing.  Carl Friedrich Gauss was an C18th mathematician, perhaps the greatest since antiquity, whose work has had a huge effect on the modern world. It is the application of an algorithm derived from his work and that of Fourier which we need to know not even that much about, leaving such technicalities to people who have use for them.  All we need to know is that it is a blur effect that reduces image noise  and detail. Mark suggested using a brush around 3.5 to 5 pixels and though the size used would depend on the job to be done and the preferences of the user he suggested that would be a happy medium. The larger the brush the bigger the effect. On the high frequency layer he changed the blending ode to linear light and talked about the relative merits of the healing brush and cloning.

Starting with the low frequency layer Mark evened out the skin tones and then switched to high frequency layer to work on the blemishes, making sure that the healing brush was set to sample from the current layer. There are a number of techniques, he assured us, that can be applied, and people derive their own favourites and short cuts. The results were quite stunning and well worth trying out, more finely controlable than just stamping around with a clone brush. Mark recommended Scott Kelby‘s book on photoshop.

After break Dan took us through the Lightroom layout, which is set out in a way as to aid workflow in that the tools that it shows you at the top of the  menus the things you are more likely to productively work on first. This all helps with the work flow. Dan emphasised the lossless nature of using Photoshop, leaving the original untouched. To emphasise these points he took us through some images that he had provided earlier and applied some of the options that the abundant menus allow the user to easily apply. Dan’s top tips?  Take in RAW and Slide the Sliders! RAW gives you more data to work with and the sliders let you apply effects incrementally and as long as preview is switched on you can see the effects on your image in real time, saving considerable effort in going back and forth to check your image. There is a downside of course and that is, in the words of Yogi Berra (American baseball player and yes, that was his real name), “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else”. It helps to know what you want to do before you start fiddling around.

A great evening and thanks to Kevin, Mark and Dan for making it possible.

You can find an expanded version of what Dan took us through here and includes ground covered by Kevin as well and a whole lot more too.

 

Ian G.

Changes to the Meetings

A bit of a change

For various reasons we’ve had to make a few changes to some of the upcoming meetings. These changes are now shown on the Meetings page of the website and I’ve put them here for those of you that find clicking on a link exhausting.

 

20 Feb

Published Works – Four members show and talk about images they’ve had published or sold

27 Feb

Guest Speaker – Ian Wade

13 Mar

Trick Photography –  Practical Bring your Cameras, Tripods, Flashguns etc.

27 Mar

Trick Photography –  Editing Bring your Laptops etc.

Summer Programme 2013

Here we go the information that you’ve all been waiting for. I’ve finally been able to get most of the information about our summer programme of meetings. As you know we used to have a Summer Break the same as a the majority of Camera Clubs across the country. For the last 3 years we have decided not to have the time off but instead to hold meetings that were heavily geared towards teaching & explaining the basics of Photography for our members.

Different this year

This year we are doing things slightly differently. We are still having our Summer Tuition but the meetings are being split into two distinct parts. The first half of each meeting will be aimed at beginners and after the tea break we will get more in depth and cover more advanced techniques.

Summer Progamme:

6 June

Exposure

Beginners

  • AV/TV/ISO Basics

Advanced

  • Manual Mode
  • How to expose
  • Techniques
    • Motion Blur
    • panning
    • noise
    • long exposure
    • using the flash to freeze movement
    • second curtain flash

13 June

Lens & Focus

Beginners

  • Lens Choice
  • Lens Compression
  • Focus Modes
  • ImageStabilisation /VibrationReduction

Advanced

  • Hyper Focal Distance
  • Chromatic Aberration & how to remove in editing
  • Extension tubes
  • Macro Demo

 20 June

Composition

Beginners

  • Composition Rules
  • Leading Lines
  • Triangles

Advanced

  • Q&A session (we need you to take an active part in this section of the meeting. All you have to do is think of a question about photography that you would love an answer to.  Kev has promised he can answer every single one of them and will buy a pint for you if he can’t answer your question! (parts of this may be an outright lie, I leave it up to you to figure out which parts).

27 June

Histogram & Metering

Beginners

  • Histogram Basics
  • Metering Basics
  • Modes

Advanced

  • Expose to the Right
  • Filters
  • Graduated Filters
  • Calculating Stops

4 July

Editing

Beginners

  • From import to basic processing

Advanced

  • Halo Removal
  • Focus Stacking
  • (it says on my list) 45 minutes of Kev. Good luck with that Kev! 😉

11 July

Practical

Photo shoot. Bring your camera’s you WILL need them. We are going to have several sets of studio lights (I think there will be 4) set up around the room and you will have the opportunity to use them to take pictures of models which will be there.

18 July

Road Trip

A trip out to Priddy Pool a site of special scientific interest. If you want to try your hand at Landscape, macro or just want to practice your photography this is your chance. Map showing the location of Priddy Pool car park. Parking is free (at least it was last time I was there). Meeting times & car sharing will be sorted out closer to the date.

25 July

Editing

We want to hear from you if you have a specific editing technique you would like to learn and we will do our best to show you how its done. It doesn’t matter if its something simple (everyone has to start somewhere) or complicated. We will do our best to show you how to do it but if it is a complicated technique we would love to have a bit of advanced notice.

1 August

TBC

Unfortunately at the moment I do not have any details on what is planned for this night, I will fill this space in as soon as I find out.

8 August

Another Road Trip!

Bristol Balloon Fiesta. We are planning a trip to the Balloon Fiesta. You can either pay & park in the grounds or find somewhere else to park & walk in. More details on where to meet up and times will be announced closer to the date.

15 August

Mini Lectures

Short 15-30 minute talks by club members on what they like to photograph, techniques they use and anything to do with Photography.

22 August

Guest Speaker

I’ve not been told who it is so its going to be as much of a surprise to me as it is you. Obviously if I find out I will let you all know.

29 August

Another mystery night

No idea what’s planned. Will let you know soon as I do.

Creative Competition

a photograph entitled Gravy Train by Mark O'Grady used as a joke for the Creative Round of the Reflex Open Competition

Gravy Train by Mark O’Grady

Creative Round of the Reflex Open Competition

Thursday is the results of the first ever Creative Round of the Reflex Open Competition. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while and I’ve made every effort possible to not see the entries when I collated them for the Judge. So it’s going to be as much of a surprise to me as the rest of you when they are shown at the meeting. Our Judge, Steve Cox, is going to judge them on the night, he won’t have seen any of the images before they are displayed in front of everyone. I really think it’s going to be a superb showcase of everyone’s work.

Good Effort

Now I bet your all wondering just why I’ve put that image up there. We’ll I just couldn’t help noticing the wonderful effort Mark O’Grady has made with his creative entry. It was so good that I just had to show it to everyone. Don’t forget to give him a pat on the back & a cheer when he walks into the Hall on Thursday.

Bokeh – what is it?

Bokeh is one of those words that have newcomers to photography scratching their heads! Their confusion is made worse by the way that the word is misused by many authors and bloggers who should know better.

The Japanese word “bokeh” is usually pronounced with bo as in bone and ke as in Kenneth, with equal stress on either syllable.  It is often defined as the way a lens renders out-of-focus points of light. In general, some lenses render it in a more pleasing way than others.

OK, so what do we mean by “pleasing”? Well, you can easily spot “bad” bokeh. The out-of-focus areas of a picture will have a feeling that could be described as gritty, clumpy or wiry. These areas tend to draw the eye and detract from the picture, especially if they contain bright highlights or are in the foreground. Have a look at this or this. Warning – some of them may hurt the eyes.

“Good” bokeh on the other hand is often described as smooth or creamy. There is little to distract the eye from the parts of the image that are in focus. Out of focus highlights will be rendered smoothly without harsh edges. Often they will be circular, but will sometimes be a polygon whose number of sides depends on the lens diaphragm (frequently seven or nine-sided). Try some random examples – this or this or this.

The real problem with bad bokeh is that once you are aware of it, it draws the eye and can’t be ignored.

How can I get better bokeh?

There are articles and even books that imply that you can control bokeh. You can’t. What you can control is depth of focus, and anyone who has been on the Reflex beginner’s course will know how you can do that:

  • Lens aperture
  • Distance from the camera to the subject
  • Distance from the subject to the background

If you are aware of the rules and are still suffering from bad bokeh, what can you do about it? Use a different lens! There are some well-known rules of thumb:

  • Prime lenses usually give better bokeh than zoom lenses. Some zooms are really good for bokeh, but they tend to be large and expensive.
  • So called superzooms (with a zoom ratio of 10x or so) will generally have bad bokeh.
  • Very wide aperture lenses (e.g. F/1.2) can sometimes render very strange bokeh when wide open. They usually improve when stopped down but that rather destroys the point of them!
  • You usually get what you pay for. Cheap primes like the well-known brand 50mm F/1.8 lenses often have poor bokeh. That’s not to say they are not worth buying but it’s worth bearing in mind.
  • Mirror lenses have disastrously bad bokeh: highlights are rendered as bright doughnuts!

As always with rules of thumb, there will be exceptions…

 

Practical Night – Editing Your Images

Practical Night

After last weeks very successful night of editing and with you all now, hopefully, thinking of different ways to edit your own images we are going to continue with a Practical Night where you get to edit your own images with the help of other club members if you want it. So what we would like you to do is to bring your laptops and make sure you have some images on them that you would like help with the editing. If you don’t own a laptop or can’t bring it with you for some reason, don’t worry, there will be at least 1 spare laptop for people to use and I’m sure that at least some of the people who do bring laptops won’t mind you having a go at editing the images on them. Also if you don’t have a laptop you can still bring your own images in on a memory stick. The volunteer editors from last week will be available for advice or help if you want it. Or you can just give it a go yourself.

Creative Round of the Reflex Open Competition

This Thursday, 31st January, is the final entry date for the Creative Round of the ROC. Please ensure that if you are entering PRINTS you also hand in a digital copy of the print.