August 31, 2011

#34 – Shoot what you love.

I hate nature.

Well “hate” is a pretty strong word, but I’m a stereotypical suburban kid. I dread a weekend at the cottage. Freak out if my swimming hole has a muddy bottom.

Funny thing about all of this is that the fact that I’m not a nature baby is reflected in my photography. I’m an awful landscape photographer. My brain simply doesn’t want to register what makes a great landscape. I can get guy with vacation snaps, but when I see brilliant work like that from Frame One fan Mark McCulloch, I realize I’ve got my limitations.

Most of us can’t be fantastic at every type of photography and that’s actually a good thing. Most of us aren’t interested in turning our photos into a full-time pro career. We just want to make better memories.

You make the very best memories by getting good at shooting the kind of pictures you love. For me, those are portraits and abstracts, and those generally tend to be my best shots. Funny thing is that as I’ve gotten better at taking those pictures, I’ve also gotten better at taking the types of photos I don’t love as much.

So get great at taking your favourite types of photos – and all your photos instantly improve.

What type of photos do you like to shoot?
·      Portraits
·      Landscapes
·      Abstracts
·      Wedding
·      Documentary
·      Aerial
·      Black and White
·      Sports
·      Night

Checked out Frame One Photo on Facebook yet? Get on over there for inspiration, more insight into this week's post. Plus, we're giving away a shiny new camera in September for everyone who likes us!

August 26, 2011

#33 – Try something different every time out.

Garbage day had the potential to cost me a lot of money.

We put our house up for sale yesterday and being a photographer-sort, I offered to take photos of the place for the agent’s listing.

Problem was, we’d spent three weeks cleaning the place and there were 14 boxes of recycling on the lawn out front. I had to run to a morning meeting and was in a whole lot of a time crunch. This sort of thing happens to me (and to you) all the time. Something in the photo isn’t right – there’s an obstacle, you’re running out of light, the kids won’t cooperate.

In a situation like this, you need to imagine something new. Use your growing photo skills to try something different out:

Kids won’t cooperate?
·      Bribe them. Surprise them (shout when you take the photo).
·      Make them laugh.
·      Talk to them so they forget about the camera.

Running out of light?
·      Play with ISO, aperture and/or shutter speed.
·      Move somewhere where there’s more light.
·      Put your camera on a tripod/rock/something and go for a longer shutter speed.
·      Turn on your flash (if you haaaaaave to).

Something in your way?
·      Look for a different angle.
·      Get closer and zoom way out.
·      Shoot part of the object/landscape instead of the whole thing.

Me? I got closer and moved to the opposite side in two separate shots. I did cheat a bit by using my SLR – but you can make the same thing happen with your point-and-shoot or phone. Now let’s hope this place sells.

August 19, 2011

Bonus – Laptop v. Netbook. Fight!

The seduction of it all sure is nice.

Small footprint. Instant start up. Inexpensive. At first glance, Netbooks seem like a fantastic idea all around.

For me, notsomuch.

Lemmee back up a second. Our son’s 10th birthday was in June and after toying with the iPad idea (too expensive for a 10-year-old), we settled on giving him a Netbook. About a month later, I found myself upgrading my own primary machine to a new Macbook Air featuring that swanky Second Generation Intel Core i7.

What I expected from the Netbook was a peppy little machine that could handle all of the boy’s YouTube needs, teach him to type and a offer up some homework help. And that’s sort of what I got – eventually. But before I could do that, I had to endure endless pop ups (Security alert! Update this piece of pre-loaded software right now!) I very seriously considered chucking it clear across the room.

·      All the things that seemed to be big plusses when I bought the Netbook, ended up being minuses in reality. Instant start up? Kinda. Netbooks seem to be mostly slow and sleepyb and it takes forever to start software (btw – don’t think about doing a bunch of things at once, multitasking makes the machine even more sluggish).

·      Small footprint = small keyboard. If you’ve got smaller hands, like a ten year old, great.

·      Inexpensive? Just a marketer’s way of saying cheap – cheap plastic construction all around and of course, no DVD drive. For a kid who wants to bomb around the Internet, it’s a decent investment, but I wouldn’t even consider it for much more than that.

Compare that to my laptop experience. Granted, Apple doesn’t stack its machines with shovelware right out of the box and that reduces a bit of the annoyance. The operating system on the Air makes it simple to transfer old files to new machine. All I did was make a handful of clicks and sit back. Most of my data was in place on the new machine a few hours later. 

The new Air is crazy fast – which is why I use it as my primary machine. I bought the top of the line ($1699) and it shows. As I write this, I’m running two different browsers, Word, a notetaking program, iTunes, RSS reader email, calendar and address book – all on a 30” external monitor – and this thing is flying.

As a photographer, the place I notice the difference is in Adobe Lightroom – the biggest resource hog on my computer. It’s just an astonishing eight seconds from clicking its icon to working on photos. Editing is just as fast. On my old Air, I had to wait a bit for photos to load. On this new machine, the photos seem to wait for me to load – and I’ve heard from others on Windows laptops that the new Second Gen processors are just as zippy.

Why I’m comparing these in the first place.
To be fair, Laptops and Netbooks are entirely different beasts. They’re meant to do different things. But I get the question from people all the time – Netbook or Laptop, which means that consumers don’t see the difference, except in those low, low pricetags. Truth is, if you’re serious about doing anything on your computer, think about a Laptop – and spend the money to get a decent one. It’ll keep the thoughts of turning the thing into a Frisbee at bay.

August 17, 2011

#32 – Turn your subjects and unborify your photos.

Mounties know how to pose. Me? I could have turned my feet a bit more.

People are not flat.

Yet if you go through the pools of photos on the Facebook, Flickr or instagram, you’ll see snapshot after snapshot that makes it seem like everyone in the group seem less real than a Pixar character. There they are, standing straight up with toes pointing straight ahead – you’ll notice it a whole lot in those small group photos you take at your best friend’s birthday party.

Good photos – and good snapshots have dimension and depth. They should look like you could step into the frame and put your arms around anyone in the frame. Here’s how.

Start with the feet.

Taken straight on, the would have looked boring.
I once had a photo teacher who said “start with the feet and the body will follow.” Turn your subject – or in a group photo, turn a few of them – so you can see some depth. You want shoulders to be angled instead of flat. Suddenly, your photos look a whole lot more interesting.

Make it look natural.
On a great angle, but not sure he looks a llllllll that natural (still a great looking' kid!).

As soon as you tell someone to do something when you’re holding a camera, you’ve got a decent chance that they’ll “pose” for you. For most people, posing looks just wrong. Keep talking to whoever is in the photo to make them forget the camera. Still posing? Make them do the goofiest pose you can imagine. It helps shake out the butterflies.

If you’re standing on perpendicular to your subjects, move yourself a bit. They’ll hardly recognize what’s happening and by the time that they do, you’ll have your killer photo.