The simplest question in photography is also the most complex: What makes a good photo? It isn’t enough to say that a good photo comes from its lighting, composition, subject, and so on; this question has a deeper answer. Good images – as different as they may be from one another – all stem from the same roots: The photographer has a strong goal for the photo, then expresses that goal in the most effective possible way.
As people look at photos on smaller and smaller screens, there has been a growing trend towards taking photos that are more and more minimalist. Especially on platforms like Instagram, minimalism is exploding; it’s everywhere, and it has been for a while now. There are some pros and cons of minimalism, and I have mixed feelings about how common this trend has become, but there’s no denying its popularity. In this article, I’ll cover some of the main reasons you’d want to capture minimalist photos, along with some tips for using this style of photography as effectively as possible.
The concept of personal style is a fundamental topic in all art, not just photography. Everyone has their own way of seeing the world, and everything that people create is based upon this underlying uniqueness. In terms of photography, though, even mentioning personal style can seem strange — since our work is inherently based upon the real world, is it even possible to have a unique style? This question is especially relevant for fields like landscape and wildlife photography, which often rely 100% on the scene that nature presents to you, rather than any elements you add yourself. How can you insert your own personality into an image that mirrors the way the world actually looked at one point in time? It’s a complex question. Things get even trickier if you look into all the features that must be copied perfectly in order to produce a convincing forgery (or a benign imitation) of another photographer’s personal style — and, even further, the implications of analyzing and imitating your own personal style. In this article, we will explore the topic of personal style and how you can find it in your photography.
In the first of a series of follow-up articles to The Quality of Light, I have posted this article to share a series of photographs (along with the thought processes behind them) that I hope will accentuate the interplay of light, directionality, shadows, and mood in landscape photography. As previously discussed, the directionality of light is a powerful factor in defining the quality of shadows, the contrast, textures, and three-dimensionality of a scene, as well as the mood and emotion that the photograph will convey. In particular, unidirectional light qualities (e.g., side lighting and backlighting) serve this purpose well in landscape photography.
If you want to take your photos to another level, camera equipment is a natural place to look. It’s a very tangible part of photography; we work with our gear constantly. In fact, new equipment often does help you capture certain photos more easily, or it improves the technical quality of the images you take. However, it’s easy to get swept away in this marketing message and forget that there are other, better ways to improve your photos — techniques that don’t require new equipment to put into practice, and tips that are applicable to every photographer.
Even though my first camera was the digital Nikon D5100, I always have felt a sort of secondhand nostalgia for the days of film photography. The vast majority of history’s great photographs were taken on film; masters like Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell defined the medium of landscape photography in my mind, and both were entirely film photographers. Personally, by using a digital camera so early, I felt that I was missing a more hands-on appreciation for photography’s complex history. Perhaps this thought was not first on my mind while in the field, but it certainly surfaced from time to time.
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.
In this fourth installment to this series, I have selected a series of photographs that I made with long exposures on three film stocks to share in the context of a discussion of film reciprocity departure and the use of filters in color film photography. Although I had originally intended to include a discussion of exposure corrections for close-ups in Part IV, in the interest of brevity I decided to defer this topic to a final Part V to this series. Of note, reciprocity departure and filtration in color film photography are complex and interesting topics. This article is not meant to be a comprehensive treatment of both topics, but rather an introduction that I may expand upon in future articles.
Your choice of focal length will affect what you see. Would you agree with that? What if I also said that your choice of focal length will affect how you see? That’s a whole different story, now isn’t it? Instead of discussing how focal length affects your view when you look into the viewfinder, I want to talk about how focal length can affect how you look at everything around you before you ever even see it in the viewfinder.
In this third installment to this series on visualization and film photography, I have selected a sample of photographs (mostly made in the 35mm format) to share and discuss. Although I heavily focused on technical aspects in film photography in Part I and Part II of this series, my goal with this article is to provide a more aesthetic description and simplified approach to the construction of photographs. I thought it would be of interest to beginning 35mm photographers to briefly discuss some of the film choices available. Although the choices of film stocks have dwindled over the years, fortunately there remain a plethora of excellent professional and consumer 35mm films from which to choose and enjoy. Even though I have used many – but not all – of the available film stocks, I cannot possibly discuss all of them here. For one particular film stock, I am delighted to share a pair of interviews with more experienced photographers that readers might find interesting and helpful. Of note, Photography Life contributor Vaibhav Tripathi has previously shared his experiences and beautiful photographs made on 35mm with Fuji’s Velvia 50 and Kodak’s Portra stocks in his inspiring photo essays on Acadia National Park, landscape photography, and Waterfalls of New England series that may also be of interest.