A while ago, I wrote an article on low-contrast B&W conversions with Lightroom. After reading through some of the response the article received I was pleasantly surprised that so many of our readers actually prefer low-contrast look over the ever-popular high-contrast conversions. That is not to say high-contrast B&W photography is in some way inferior, not at all. It is merely the more popular, the more easily accepted sort of look, which is exactly the reason why I saw fit to go against the wave and start with the opposite. Now, ever since I wrote that piece, I’ve received several requests for a similar article on a high-contrast conversion. This topic is particularly tricky for me since I rarely do high-contrast B&W, but the requests did remind me of one occasion where I was deliberately working towards such a result from the very start. And so, as always, we begin with a photograph.
A lot of wedding photographers think their work is mostly for the bride, and I can see why. Usually, it’s the bride who spends countless hours looking for the right person to capture the best day of her life, sometimes even years before the actual wedding. I’ve had men contact me more than once, of course, but eight times out of ten, it is the bride’s letter that reaches me. Every little detail has to be perfect, and brides-to-be are more than happy to dive into the planning to make sure it is exactly like that. On the wedding day itself, it is the bride that receives the most attention and most admiration. Not to say the groom is secondary – oh no. His admiration and attention are the most important, he is her knight in shining armour, so to speak. And yet, she is the princess. So if she is happy, he is happy, isn’t that how they say it? Strangely enough, I’ve found that it is not the bride that is hardest to impress with your work. After all, if she’s chosen you, she already knows, more or less, what to expect. And the groom? That is a somewhat different story.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, as well as ways to deal with the latter. And it is only natural for us to sort of… drift towards our strengths. Hold on to them, practice as often as we can and, by doing so, get even better at them. And so, before I inevitably talk about close-up portraits (which I am not very good at), I thought I’d first discuss much more loosely composed photography (which, though far from having mastered, I dare say I am rather better at).
My word. This is such a relief to write about.
Horse Polo is normally played on a field that is nine times the size of an American Football field, making it a very challenging sport to photograph. A smaller version of the game, Arena Polo, is played on a field that is slightly smaller than a Football field. For purposes of this article, I will mostly discuss the large field version of Polo.
As a dedicated sports photographer, I look forward every year to fall. The American school year starts, plus horse polo season is just around the corner. So you can imagine my reaction when my wife announced that we would be taking a month long vacation in September; my heart damn near stopped. I looked sadly at my new D810, with the attached 70-200mm f/2.8G forlornly staring back at me. Football, Golf, Swimming and Volleyball seasons were just starting, and I would not be there. Instead I would be at the beach for the next month, with nary a chance to photograph any sports. So I packed up the D810, the D800E (with an attached 24-120 f/4), threw a 50 f/1.8 in the bag for good measure, grabbed a tripod, some memory cards, etc., and off to the beach we went. A felt like a fish out of water (or, since we would be at the beach, a bear chained to a stake). Just what would I take pictures of?
As part of my field work for my upcoming hands-on review of the 1 Nikon CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 telephoto zoom lens I went to the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory to take a few images. I spent a few very enjoyable hours at the conservatory taking photos of the various butterfly species and ended up with many usable images.
So this time of year in the United Kingdom, many people will be enjoying fireworks displays and bonfires to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. For those who aren’t familiar with the night, Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses Of Parliament (Westminster Palace) on the 5th November 1605, but he was caught and executed. Thus every year on that date he is burned in effigy (less so nowadays due to health and safety concerns) and a fireworks display usually accompanies.
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.
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.
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.