Is The Orton Effect Taking Over Landscape Photography?

Have you heard of the Orton Effect? This post-processing technique has been around since the 1980s, if not earlier, but the trend has exploded tremendously in the past few years. If you haven’t heard of it, you aren’t alone – it only recently began to gain mainstream popularity. And yet, in some ways, the Orton Effect is swallowing the modern world of landscape photography. This is barely an exaggeration; after seeing the Orton Effect in practice, you should be able to spot it in at least a third of the trending 500px landscape photos, as well as many winning photo contest entries. This article covers all the basics of the Orton Effect, including a tutorial on how to implement it in your own images – and a discussion on why you may not want to do so.

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The Importance of Simplicity in Photography

At the heart of photography is the idea that you are conveying a message to your viewers. Perhaps you want to show the beauty of a waterfall or the drama of an incredible sunrise. Or, you may hope to depict the dark intensity of a jagged mountain peak. A photograph with a clear message can be as effective as possible; its composition, colors, subject matter, and lighting all add to the impression that you are trying to convey. And, more than any other element of composition, the concept of simplicity helps you achieve this goal. In this article, I will cover the ways in which simplicity plays a role in successful photography, including how to implement it to improve your own photographs.

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Looking For The Moment

I’ve written before about making the familiar unfamiliar with a view to creating a more original image or a different take on something. An important element of making an image more interesting than a mere capture can be to reveal a story or intrigue within it. In a world awash with random snaps and selfies it can be a challenge to find images that hold our attention.

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Framing Subjects with Natural Elements

You have probably already read some great articles at Photography Life regarding framing of your subjects and all the rules that are applicable while doing so (if you have not, check out the section on composition in the photography tips for beginners page). This time around, I want to draw your attention to framing subjects with natural elements to create compelling images. For me personally, photographing is like narrating a story, so I often find it important to incorporate the surrounding elements of the scene along with my subjects. While you can certainly take fantastic photos isolating your subjects with creamy bokeh, I believe that decorating your shots with creative framing will help you add some substance and a pleasant visual appeal to enhance the story.

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Dissecting a Photograph: The Split Rock

While photographing famous landmarks and photo spots is usually a safe way to obtain a beautiful photograph, being able to scout and find own subject to photograph is a skill that many of us have to acquire at some point. Identifying good light, finding the right angle for proper framing and composition, pre-visualizing the end result and using the right tool for the job in order to create a unique and compelling image takes years of practice in the field. This is the area that many of us, including myself, struggle with the most. Despite the difficulties and the challenges, it is important to keep on advancing the “photographer’s eye”. Sometimes we look at a beautiful image and really like it, but have a hard time understanding exactly what in particular attracts us to it. Is it the beautiful light, the composition or the subject itself? An untrained eye often sees certain elements of an image, while neglecting to see other, equally important elements that make an image successful. Being able to see and visualize all the minute details in order to properly execute a photograph is something we all need to continuously work on, because those details really do matter. Personally, I find great help in “dissecting” a solid photograph, to try to understand what kind of thought process and work went into making it. During this process, I pay close attention to everything from light, framing, composition, colors, subject, area of focus and other details, so that I can apply that knowledge in the field. In this article, I would like to present a landscape image that I recently captured in Joshua Tree National Park and go through the process of unveiling everything that went into making this image.

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Additional Questions on Ethics in Photography

The questions are as old as the technical advancements that made the mass reproduction of photographs possible in the first place: What are the role and scope of photography? What is it capable of, where do its limits lie? Which contents are acceptable, how does a photographer need to behave with his or her subjects? The relationship between photographers and the people they capture with their cameras has been discussed on numerous occasions, mainly in the context of war or crisis reporting. Social taboos, artistic freedom and the journalistic mission to document are key elements within this ongoing discussion. Objectives, goals and ethical guidelines have to be newly defined over and over again.

Note: Please read the Importance of Ethics in Photography before reading this article.

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The Importance of Ethics in Photography

When the world saw the very first photographs, the idea of being able to capture the world as we see it took off rapidly. In a relatively short period of time, film photography evolved from black and white to color photography. From there, it made motion pictures possible, allowing us to see the world from our couches at home. When the first digital camera was invented, little did the inventors know that it would later revolutionize the world of photography and media in general. Today, billions of images are captured and shared between people and the number of image recording devices is growing at a rapid, unstoppable rate. There are cameras literally everywhere – in our mobile phones, homes, computers, cars and even in wearables like eyeglasses and watches. We trust these devices to give us a glimpse of reality, documented moments of time that we can go back to and review. And yet with the fast growth, ease of access and use of image and video manipulation tools, we have been seeing more footage that can twist reality: whether we are looking at popular magazine covers, Internet sites or news media, the imagery we see is getting harder and harder to trust, since it is being altered, faked or staged. Media turned out to be a powerful tool to influence and manipulate people, which brings up the question and the importance of ethics in photography. Should photography only be allowed to display reality, or is it acceptable to alter images for presentation purposes? And if manipulation is acceptable, what are its limits, if any? These are very hard questions to answer, but with some common sense, we can create a set of ethical rules and guidelines that should help photographers in determining what’s acceptable and what’s not.

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Visualization and Film Photography: Part V

In this final installment to this series, I have chosen to discuss one of my favorite topics in photography: close-ups. My goals with this article are to provide a basic understanding of light and exposure when photographing a subject at close range, the rationale for exposure loss during magnification, and guidance on how to correct for this exposure loss. To illustrate these principles, I will share my own empiric observations, review the pertinent calculations that govern magnification and exposure loss compensation, and discuss select photographs that I have made at close range. Hopefully, this article will help beginning and advanced photographers grasp the physics of light at close range and take command and control of magnification and exposure compensation. Although I crafted this article from the framework of a photographer using traditional close-up and macro equipment (i.e., bellows, extension tubes), the use of an external light meter (i.e., non-TTL metering), and continuous lighting (e.g., natural light, lamps), the tenets and technical considerations for close-up exposure compensation are still relevant to those photographers who prefer automation, TTL metering, and electronic flash. Finally, I will wrap up the discussion by sharing some thoughts on the use of film as a tool for learning the visualization process.

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Read These Books and Become a Better Photographer

Better technique and appropriate gear can help you take better photos, but that will only take you so far. To reach the next level in this pursuit you need to become a student of photography.
A student of photography is somebody who dives into the pool of photo history, soaks in the images of the masters, and seeks out the best work and wisdom of his or her contemporaries. A good student realizes that observing the work of others is crucial to one’s own development as an artist, not to copy those he or she studies, but to discover his or her own eye. I’m a ruthless tech geek, soaking in as much info as I can about reciprocity failure, signal to noise ratios, circles of confusion and the like. But I spend just as much time pouring over photo books from the great photographers. The kind of books I’m talking about don’t have exposure metadata listed with the pictures. That isn’t important – only the emotional impact of the image counts. A good photo makes you wonder about the subject, not the exposure settings.

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The Hidden Benefits of Panorama Photography

Since the early days of film, panoramic photography has been synonymous with landscape and architectural images, and sometimes with other genres like street and wildlife photography. By combining two horizontal frames of film, typically 120 medium format, some film cameras actually shot panorama photographs by design. Most of these cameras emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century, bringing the panoramic format to the public eye. The panorama had existed long before this time, of course, but its popularity has only grown — and with good reason. Panoramas are fun and dramatic, and their subtleties are just as important in today’s mostly-digital age as they were during the heyday of film. In this article, I will discuss some of the important but less-common benefits of taking panorama images, as well as sharing a set of my photographs from Iceland in the classic 6×17 aspect ratio. If you are new to panoramas, you might enjoy reading our general panorama tutorial first.

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