Confessions of a Photo Sinner

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WARNING – this contains adult humor of the PG-13 variety, sassy double entendres, and a bunch of my trademark puerile humor too – read at your own risk.

A couple weeks ago Nasim climbed Mount Zeiss with his D810 and returned with Photography’s 16 Commandments (Nasim’s an overachiever, duh). Before Nasim laid down the law, I thought I was doing okay at this photography thing. Now I realize that I’m a really bad photographer, but a golly-danged good sinner. In the hope that confessing my sins in public will lead to absolution, I present the following evidence and beg for forgiveness.

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Introduction to Black and White Nature Photography

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What makes a good black-and-white photograph, how do I take one, and why should I try when I have this nifty hypersaturation preset that makes even my lamest photos look awesome? I’ll answer the last question first – your oversharpened oversaturated photos stink. Their gaudy colors may suck the eye in, but then the eye gets stuck, realizes there’s nothing more to look for in the picture and hastily moves on. Effective black-and-white photography relies on form, texture, lines, contrast, tonality and composition to engage the viewer. Without flashy colors to draw viewers in, the black-and-white photographer either masters the principles of composition or perishes. Shooting in black-and-white is a great way to improve your photography skills.

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The Importance of Straightening The Horizon and Aligning Lines

Portrait Sample #2

One of the most common mistakes I see when reviewing images submitted by our readers, or when reviewing portfolio images during our workshops, is a rather simple case of crooked horizons or badly aligned lines. Although most photographers are very well aware of this one, for some reason many simply fail to see such problems in their images. Now it is one thing when an image is tilted intentionally to create an interesting composition, and totally different when the photographer is not paying attention to or is unaware of the surroundings and background elements that are part of their photographs. In this article, I will demonstrate examples of crooked horizons and badly aligned lines, how they can be easily fixed in post-processing software like Lightroom, and talk about the importance of lines in composition.

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Photographing High School Lacrosse

Lacrosse #1

Lacrosse, like American Football, is played on a large field, however the differences between the two sports are numerous. The ball used in Lacrosse is quite small, so you need a sharp eye to follow it. The helmets worn by the players cover most of their faces with a grid pattern, yet they are still open enough to get good face shots. Action moves up and down the field, with frequent changes in direction, so be prepared to move around, which is easily done with the large sidelines.

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Top Photography Sins and Mistakes to Avoid

Dreamy Portrait

It seems that many photographers go through a certain cycle of mistakes and errors during their photography journeys and careers. Some of these mistakes and photography “sins” have become so predictable, that it is usually easy to identify one’s level simply by looking at their recent work. During my past workshops and one-on-one sessions, I have seen many images that could have been great, if it was not for one or more of the typical mistakes outlined below. I have personally made many of these mistakes in the past and some of them I am still guilty and ashamed of even today, although I continuously work hard on getting rid of them. The article below is not meant to offend or criticize anyone. Although it might sound a bit arrogant or snobby, that is certainly not the intent – in fact, most of the images presented below are mine.

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Classic Low-Contrast B&W With Lightroom

Classic Low-Contrast B&W With Lightroom

There are most likely as many ways to achieve a beautiful B&W look as there are photographers. Maybe I am exaggerating it a little, but then I am in love with B&W. It is not as if I don’t like colour, oh no. It’s just that I like the “classic” look that much. So today, instead of doing some general article on B&W conversion and trying to cover several different looks, I am going to pick out a photograph and just work on it until it is exactly how I pre-visualized it a second before pressing that shutter. First of all, though, we need a photograph. I think I have just the right one.

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That Classic Vintage Look

That Vintage Look

I get asked very, very often how I process my photographs. And it is no secret – most of the time, I simply use VSCO. It suits me so well, coincides with the way I see and pre-vizualise my work, my style and my taste so accurately, only rarely do I need to dive deep into the post-processing closet to pick something else on my own. And yet despite me saying it, I get asked this one question really rather often – how do I achieve that look? It took me a while to figure out what do most people mean by that look, but I have. It’s not the colour or the light or the composition that a lot of you are so interested in when you ask me that question, it turns out. I also figured out why it’s so hard to describe properly – there really is no term for it (a reader has told me it is called “matte” and while personally I’ve not come across it before, we will see if the term will stick for good). It’s a sort of… vintage-retro-dreamy-low-contrast-film look. Sounds vague? It is. That is why any help on the matter is so difficult to find. And yet I am pretty sure you understand – or at least imagine – what I mean. Basically, a lot of you are wondering how to make the photograph on the left look like the photograph on the right.

You will be glad to know it really is rather simple.

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Post-processing Difficult Images

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I recently spent a lot of time working with some quite challenging files to prepare my recent article “Photographing aircraft in flight with the Tamron 150-600mm”, and a Photography Life reader asked if I could share some of the details of the processing that I do with difficult files.

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Photographing American High School Football

American High School Football (5)

Almost every American High School has a football team, and it is perhaps the major sport for all such schools. Homecoming is almost invariably scheduled for a week when the team has a home game. As such, this sport, perhaps more than any other, serves as a great opportunity for taking pictures. I normally shoot Football with two cameras: one with a zoom lens for the action shots, and one with a shorter fixed lens for the sideline shots. For cameras I used to use a D3S (action shots) and a D800E (candid shots), however I have replaced the D3S with a D810.

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Photographing High School Volleyball

Volleyball (1)

After the heat of summer, when students return to school in the United States, Volleyball is one of the sports played in the Fall season. It moves from being an outside sport, to an inside one. This is unfortunate, at least from a photographic point of view, since most High School gyms are poorly lit. However, even in these conditions, with some practice and the right equipment, you can still get good pictures.

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