Getting Yourself Out There

I have met a lot of great people. Many of them, while being truly brilliant at something, have a hard time understanding their potential. It is sad to see them just drift away wherever life takes them and not take a step of their own. Are you like that? Do you ever stop yourself from going out, meeting people, starting photography or videography projects? While no one can change that but you, I think a little bit of inspiration can go a long way.

This is a short film by three student, who, as they say, did not care about nature, and then decided to do something about it. And they did. While the attention this project received is quite amazing – their website has been visited by over 900 thousand people already – it’s not even the idea that I found most inspiring. This film was made by three students, and while I am quite certain they did not have a million dollar budget, they sure found a way to unleash their creativity, something we all have an unlimited amount of. Do you still think there is something you cannot do?

Get out there. Take your camera and shoot. Make a film. Stop drifting, stop wasting your time. Stop thinking you can’t. Not tomorrow, not in a year – now, whatever it is, whatever you dream about.

There is no better way of doing what you love than simply doing what you love.

Click here for official “WE MISS YOU” project website.

Know Your Rights as a Photographer!

Occupy Movement

Photographers spend a good bit of time, money, and energy on craft and their equipment. This same focus, however, rarely extends to the investment of time necessary to understand their legal rights and obligations. Why? Investigating legal matters can often be less exciting than watching paint dry, eating plain yogurt, or listening to a State of the Union speech! It is far more engaging to have a raucous debate regarding the resolution of the Nikon D800 vs. the Canon 5D MKIII, zoom into the first full size RAW samples from the D4, or dig into the details of some other photography minutia! Well, at least for some…

Know Your Legal Rights as a Photographer

It is important for you to take some time to understand the legal aspects of photography, however, since if you are engaged in the field for any appreciable length of time (particularly in the area of photojournalism), you will eventually encounter a potential legal situation. The purpose of this article is to offer some tips and guidelines that may help you better understand and deal with common issues related to your rights. All of my comments are strictly from the perspective of United States law. Since I am not a lawyer, I cannot offer legal advice (at least not legally!). Should you find yourself in a situation that calls for legal advice, attempt to find a reputable attorney (preferably recommended from a fellow photographer or organization such as the ASMP) that routinely deals with such issues.

1) Lack of Understanding Galore

The main concern is the amount of misunderstanding regarding these issues. This applies equally to photographers, those they take pictures of, police officers and others that enforce the laws, and those that manage content, such as newspapers, magazines, and websites. Even those managing photo contests may not have the necessary depth of knowledge. This can produce quite a bit of confusion, confrontations, and unnecessary strife. 9/11 only aggravated this situation, with some in law enforcement becoming increasingly suspicious of those with professional camera equipment.

2) What Can You Photograph While on Public Land?

Just about anything and anyone, and you don’t need permission. If you are standing on a public sidewalk, and spy Madonna walking into Starbucks, you are free to take her photo. If you shopping in LA, and observe the police busting Alec Baldwin for impersonating an actor, you are free to photograph Baldwin and the police arresting him, assuming you are doing so from public property. If you encounter an accident scene, there are no restrictions to your taking photos of the scene, the people involved, the EMTs, and police officers.

Lock

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Have Fun While Working

Kissing Couple Not Kissing

I’ve always found photographing engagement sessions and weddings to be rather stressful for both the couple (and the guests, too) as well as myself. But stress, at the same time, has proven to be the force that makes me want to do as well as I can. I get over it, eventually, because I have an obligation to do my best. My couples, on the other hand, sometimes have a harder time getting over their nervousness just as fast. The trick is in keeping it fun for them until they’re as comfortable with you around as if they were alone.

Kissing CoupleKissing Couple

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The Significance of Depth, Background and Color in Storytelling

Shallow depth of field

We as photographers often make the final call on deciding the life span of an image according to our own perception, imagination and expertise. As much as we should be open to constructive criticism, I have always thought our own satisfaction from a photograph should come first. My own self-criticism is always the deciding factor on where I take my craft going forward. While those creative juices affect what I do behind the camera, knowing the technical aspect of photography to give life to any idea is very essential. It can take the story telling ability to a whole new level. Being able to analyze each shot before it is taken eventually will become a second nature as you photograph. I hope the below steps will help you get there a little faster.

Shallow depth of field

Depth

Mastering the depth of the story and being able to translate it into a visual prospect is very important, so it certainly helps to have a solid understanding of how depth of field can affect your images and the story you are working on. Whether it is a portrait or a landscape shot, the right amount of bokeh should be able to transport the viewer into your story. You can choose a longer lens with a large aperture (small depth of field) to pinpoint one element in an image that your viewers could concentrate on, or use a small aperture (large depth of field) to portray the melting pot of action, with many elements to the story.

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Diseases That Plague Photographers

Diseases that plague photographers

Photography is an art meant to invigorate our creative side and facilitate our ability to see our world in new and interesting ways. Many books, articles, tutorials, and blogs focus on various aspects of the artistic and technical merits of photography. Rarely discussed, however, are some of the strange maladies that afflict photographers. There are the occasional whispers and, “Did you hear about Joe?” types of exchanges, but all too often, such problems are rarely acknowledged and dealt with openly.

In an effort to bring such diseases to light, Dr. E.X. Posur, a leading psychiatrist that specializes in treating photographers, highlights a number of common illnesses he has encountered, and their associated symptoms and treatment. Although described individually, they are all part of a common illness labeled “photographus excessivitis”. Rarely will a photographer exhibit symptoms a single disease. Close examination almost always reveals multiple afflictions.

Diseases that plague photographers

It is important to point out that professional photographers rarely deal with these illnesses, but those that wear the label, “serious amateur” bear the brunt of these diseases. Because professionals have been inoculated by the need to earn a living, they seem to have built up a strong immunity to the diseases outlined in this article. Though they appreciate the merits of their equipment, professional photographers see their equipment as tools to achieve an end, not an end unto itself. This subtle, but critical, difference between the professional and the serious amateur prevents the former from acquiring many of illnesses outlined below. Professionals are not totally immune, however, and can succumb as quickly as any serious amateur if they are not careful.

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Photographing What You Love

Photographing Flora. ©B.S.

Eyes wide open! ©B.S. Yesterday, I spent some time looking at the infamous “Stages of a photographer” chart again. The graph starts out with a blue line – the one that marks “How good you think you are” – at the top of the scale. It mentions that the photographer, at an early stage of his/her photography career shoots mostly flowers and cats (or anything else that’s pretty, cute or more or less easily accessible). The green line marks the actual quality of the photos, which is at the very bottom of the chart. It all makes sense – at one point, we all thought our work was, well, pretty.

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Tips on Photographing Wedding Formals and Group Portraits

Family and Friend Portraits on Weddings

Photographing formals during weddings can be very tiresome and stressful to all parties involved. It’s the part of the day both the guests and the photographer often want to get past as quickly as possible. Friends and family want to enjoy the cocktail with others. Bride and Groom are tired from standing far too long and a looking forward to get some rest before the reception. Could anyone blame them?

Family Portrait

On some occasions, I have been even asked to skip the formals in hopes of avoiding guests from stress and chaos, which sometimes can happen during the formal session. While not everyone might enjoy this experience, it is also understood that taking formal pictures is an essential part of wedding photography. This is how the memories are preserved. This is a precious way for a bride to remember her family for many, many years to come; in her happy state. So, the challenge remains for the photographer to make sure that the time allocated for the formal portraits is spent efficiently and as quickly as possible. In the eyes of the wedding guests, a photographer is a miracle worker, control freak and a very sweet person who can turn a very difficult session into something magical. So, my dear magician friends, let’s get on to it. You are the expert and what do you do next?

There are steps you can take to achieve your goal and have everyone happy on your watch. Your first step would be to make sure that the watch doesn’t go over 30 minutes for any formal session.

Bride with her mom

1. Talk to the bride and groom before the wedding. Do your research and get to know your subjects earlier. Let’s admit that there is no way for you to get to know so many people at once. So, start early and talk it up with the bride and groom during the consultation session. Find out what their expectations are towards the formal portraits and how many people might participate in those. Sometimes it is easier to get a list of the family members who ought to be photographed alongside the bride and the groom. Ask the bride to inform her relatives that there will be a point during the wedding (if the exact timing is known, that would be more helpful) when they will be asked to get photographed. Keeping everyone informed will help you gather people around efficiently. Always make sure to ask the couple if there is anything you need to know about their families and have a strategy worked out to take care of any potential problems.

Usually, close family make it obvious for you to notice them. Walk around them, be a regular guest and interact with them before the formals, so that you are “familiar” to them. Let the guests talk and meet and have fun while you steal a few of them to get photographed. This way, everyone can be engaged all the time by either you or by other guests. It will only help you get those sincere emotions naturally, with much ease.

Also, keep in mind that you do not have to fit every single guest into a formal session. Friends and distant family members can be photographed all along the wedding reception and cocktail hour.

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Don’t Get Stuck with Your Gear – Pursue Your Passion

Wedding preparation

A lot has changed since digital came around in 1999. Film has always been about quality – all kinds of it, too. It was about resolving power – we have Fujichrome Velvia for that now; it was about color accuracy, which also suits the former as well as, say, Fujicolor Superia Reala; or, for those who want sharp and vivid, there‘s always the beautiful Kodak Ektar. Now, however, there’s one kind of film for all those purposes. Just as film was finally providing the quality, the age of digital sensors came. And, some think, wiped film‘s quality ambitions off the table as if it were dust. We now have one film that can do everything – low light, color accuracy or vividness, sharpness and endless manipulation possibilities. One film that fits all.

Engagement session

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Defining Photography

Manipulation Example 2009

Once, I came upon a thought provoking comment on some local online photography community in Lithuania. It was posted under an apparently heavily, yet skillfully manipulated image, and in fact it was done so well that, at first glance, it was rather hard to believe it was a manipulation. The text was posted by an elderly photographer who is known to write very argument-rich comments under many works on that particular website. From what I’ve noticed before, he was usually intrigued by a lot of different images in different styles made by different photographers and he seemed to be very objective with his evaluation, if slightly conservative with his approach to photography as a form of art and expression. Still, given his age, experience and especially taking into account post-soviet influence in understanding of what art is, it was only natural. However, this time the respected online critic (as strange as it may sound to some) was strongly bewildered by the author’s approach to photography and how much digital manipulation (Photoshop in particular) was part of the work. “Where does photography end and digital art begin?”, he wondered. I wondered too.

Manipulation Example

It seems the understanding of what photography is (and art photography in particular) has changed during the last few years. Few? It’s a been over a decade now since we had the launch of Nikon D1, a camera seen by many as the first big step towards the revolution brought by DSLRs. Not only was it usable and offered decent at the time resolution, it was quick and as robust as the film SLR it was largely based on, the Nikon F5. And artists – not only photographers, but all kinds – must have burst with excitement. “New ways to express ourselves”, they’d think. The beginning of the real, readily available digital imaging offered artists new ways to deceive, and trick, and provoke the viewer.

I’m an artist. At least I should be – I study at the faculty of arts, and not the kind you would think of first. We, sadly, don’t talk much about Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams or Salvador Dali – they are too ordinary, as funny as it may sound. Too known. Too legendary and too classic. We do talk about the likes of Leigh Bowery and Marina Abramović, who, while just as known to some, are much less acceptable, at least in a country as conservative as Lithuania. And so it is good – we are taught to be less conservative, to evaluate not purely with emotions, but with our minds. To try and understand before becoming judgmental. We are taught to expand our understanding of art. Not to necessarily like, no – this remains our freedom, but to understand why artists do what they do even when it seems to be the strangest and silliest thing in the world.

And then there are lines that, not so long ago by some standards, were not to be crossed. They defined where photography ends and, for example, videography begins. But now, now we have sculpture, but also installations. Now we have theaters and video art, but also performances and video performances. We have conceptual art and art that has yet to be named and defined only to lose the definition in a year, or five, or ten. What does Vik Muniz do? Is he a sculpturer, or a master of installations, or a photographer, or a painter? He’s everything.

And we crossed the lines. Art is becoming just that, art. It’s harder and harder, sometimes, to define it and frame it. But the process of evaluation is no easier because of this, and harder still. Where does photography end? I believe it’s hard to compare such different things. A portrait made by Irving Penn can hardly be compared to a modern photographic manipulation, even though they are or can be both great works. It’s also hard to compare Irving Penn to someone like, say, Magda Berny, although they both do portraits. Too different. Both good, yet different in their purposes and thus incomparable. As long as we keep that in mind and accept photography as a way (or part of it, however small or big) to express ourselves, we should have no problems evaluating different works differently.

Keep an open mind, they teach us at the University. It’s what we all should try to do.

A Window of Opportunity

Castillo de San Cristóbal - 2010

When photographing various places and landscapes, I sometimes make a note of a location or a spot that I particularly like, so that I could come back and take pictures later. Often times you will find a really beautiful scene, but poor lighting conditions, bad timing, lack of proper equipment or other circumstances might prevent you from capturing the perfect shot. There are numerous locations that I saved as my “favorites”, which I try to go back to and recapture when I have a chance. Sometimes I come back with nothing, other times I might get lucky and come back with a picture I actually like. I might even visit the same place in different seasons to get a completely new look, like in this set of pictures.

Here is a picture of a cool-looking entrance at Castillo de San Cristóbal that I photographed in 2010:

Castillo de San Cristóbal - 2010

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