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Sunday, August 13, 2017

My New Book!

 
  My first photo instructional book is finally finished and will be available next month. I'm so excited! Thank you to those that encouraged me to write this book and supported me through the entire intense process. It's been a long journey from start to finish and I am proud of the results.



    I wrote this book for all flower lovers who want to explore their passion for flowers through photography. Whether you are a beginner with a desire to learn about capturing the beauty of flowers, an experienced photographer looking to create floral images with style, or even just a flower aficionado, this is the book you have been looking for.

In this book I present three distinct sections:
Technique: The basic techniques needed to capture high quality flower photos.
Style: The elements of style to consider while capturing images of flowers.
Art: A gallery of some of my favorite flower images and notes on the thinking behind the photographic eye.

  

Packed with many beautiful images to illustrate the specialized techniques inside. Many of the techniques I developed over the years of exploring flower photography. This book aims to visually please while teaching you and inspiring you to go outside to capture your own flower images.

























Autographed copies are now available for presale here:


I will post links to my bookstore once available for general sale in mid September. 







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Monday, July 18, 2016

Jessica On A Sunny Late Afternoon

It was a beautiful sunny summer day in the late afternoon. Warm golden light from the setting sun was streaming in from behind my model, what a lovely day it was! And such a beautiful model! Well, the model was beautiful but the day was dreary and hot. Nothing like what I had planned in my head.



I originally planned a shoot where I intended to use the late afternoon sun as a backlight for my subject and a speedlight in a beauty dish or soft box as my main light. I wanted to capture some delightful warm toned images, and perhaps play around with lens flare. But alas Mother Nature had a different day planned for me. Luckily I’m the flexible type and I come prepared to my portrait sessions.



A wedding photographer, whose name I can not recall at the moment, once wrote in a photography article "I use only available light. I bring my flash units, so they are always available to me." A hearty LOL from this photography nerd for that one, but it is a sentiment that is pretty much shared by any photographer proficient in the art of lighting.



I used to not be amongst those photographers, along with many others simply because lighting is difficult to learn. I would either be a slave to whatever the natural light was, or at use on camera fill with some advanced bouncing/softening techniques or a reflector. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with using natural light alone or with fill. But it can be limiting. And as a photographer, I don’t like feeling limited. So for the past few months I had been honing my lighting skills. And on this overcast day, I tapped into my newly learned lighting skills.



I started the session off using just available light. Because the day was overcast, the light was nice and even and the photos were lovely. But they just didn’t have the drama I was looking for.


Adding one speedlight in a beauty dish, the effect was getting more dramatic and more suitable to my photographic style.


A little bit of edge darkening in postwork finished the images off to match my creative vision as planned during the shoot. 


But I just couldn’t let go of that late afternoon sunlight theme that I had originally planned for this session, so I decided to add low angle light afternoon sunlight myself. I broke out another speedlight, and added an amber gel. That made that late afternoon glow available!



BTW: If you are a photographer, you don’t need a fancy and expensive kit to create images like these. All you need is a creative mind and an attractive model. My simple equipment consisted of my Olympus E-M5 with a 14-54mm lens with MM2 adapter, Olympus FL50 & FL40 speedlight flashes (used on manual setting, no ttl), simple & cheap radio flash triggers from China, a couple of inexpensive light stands, and the beauty dish & amber gels from the Neewer K9 Speedlight accessory kit which I purchased off ebay. If you are new to photographic lighting, I recommend spending some time learning via a schol/workshop, books, and/or you tube. I particularly love the books & videos by Frank Doorhof, Miss Aniela, Lindsay Adler, Lara Jade, and too many others to list.



You can see more from this session here:
Jessica On A Sunny Late Afternoon


And if you are in need of a photographer and are interested in my work, you can view my portfolio online and book me via my web site:
Dorothy Lee Fashion Portraiture

Thanks for viewing and I hope you enjoyed this post.




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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Fotasy Lens Adapter


Ok, so this is my first blog post of the year even though it may not be in my typical style. I don’t normally post equipment reviews but I wanted to share my experience with this product.

A few weeks ago I ordered up one of those cheap Fotasy lens adapters from Rainbow Imaging. I have a neat little Nikkor F Mount 50mm F1.4 lens that I’ve been wanting to try out with my Olympus. I knew going in that this was a cheap Chinese made accessory, with some quality control issues. I read about the various problems associated with the product, but since most of the reviews were favorable I decided to give it a shot.



My first impression was that it seemed heavier and sturdier than expected. It’s made of metal and felt pretty sturdy. On the body end of things, it’s a perfect fit with no issues attaching it or dismounting. But on the lens end of things, that’s where the issues were.

My particular copy was too tight, I couldn’t get the lens to attach fully to the adapter. It would only turn ¾ of the way, I just couldn’t get it past the point where it needed to go for the locking pin to engage. That meant that although it would stay on the adapter if the F-stop or focus ring weren’t touched. But as soon as I tried to focus or change the aperture, the lens would fall off. Ugh, frustrating. But I just wouldn’t give up.



I really have to thank the wonderful people that post their helpful tips on the internet because after an hour of unsuccessfully trying to get the lens mounted completely, I finally went on an internet search. My favorite photo forum site, dpreview.com, let me down in the search. Too many posts came up to sort through – ugh, my eyes! I hate reading online. But the link I am sharing here was the first one that popped up in the google search when searching for Fotasy loose adapter. Now my problem was the opposite, the lens adapter was too tight with the lens not fully attaching (rather than attaching easily but being loose once fully mounted.) So my solution was the opposite of the one recommended, I had to take a pair of pliers to lessen the gap in the "slits" as shown in the photos. I have shared the link at the end of this post, there you will find the instructions and many helpful photographs.



So now my neat little Nikkor is attached firmly. It works perfectly, I took a few photos and I was very happy. It does exactly what it is supposed to do, and the problem was easily fixed. One of the other problems I have heard is that the lever to release the locking pin can be easily broken, resulting in a lens that is permanently attached to the adapter. Not a problem I feel like experiencing, so I’ll just be leaving mine on it permanently. The only other Nikkor lens I own is a 50mm F1.8, cheaper build than my 1.4 and not as "bokehlicious." Also, as clearly noted in the item descriptions for this adapter, there is NO automatic diaphragm or autofocus. This adapter is for F mount lenses and you will need to change the aperture yourself and shoot in either Aperture priority or manual modes (shutter priority and full auto are not available.)



Conclusion:

For $10.99 including free shipping, I feel it was a worthwhile purchase. If I had more Nikon lenses that I would want to switch between, going for one of the pricier options may be the way to go ($45 to $400, that’s quite a range of pricier options.) The reviews that I read about the locking pin switch getting broken concern me. While handling the one that I just bought, I believe as long as you are not rough with it that it should be problem free. But in truth, I would not be willing to risk any pricey lenses on that assumption. And I did attempt to remove the lens after I attached it, and I have to say it’s hard to release the locking pin and it makes a clicking sound that doesn’t inspire confidence in the product. I won’t try to remove it again, I have no reason to.



I hope this quickie review helps you in making a purchase decision. I have no affiliation with Fotasy or Rainbow Imaging, or beomagi. I just wanted to share my experience with this product.



The post that saved me from wasting a couple of more hours figuring out a solution on my own:
http://beomagi.blogspot.com/2015/02/fix-loose-lens-adapter.html




Rainbow Imaging On Ebay (they also sell on Amazon, but I got mine from ebay because it was a little cheaper. But if you want to read the reviews you’ll need to go to Amazon.) I was pleased with their super fast service, and would not hesitate to order from them in the future.

Rainbow Imaging



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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Passion Reignited

Clouds reflected in a mirrored building captured on the Highline.
A continuation of my last blog post: Why Bother?



Day 2 of my August New York trip and up onto the Highline. Close to my home base, the Highline is a regularly visited site for me. So up the Highline steps I went and I was instantly "in the zone." The blue sky and fluffy clouds reflected in a nearby building’s mirrored windows was the first scene that greeted me upon my arrival. And not only were the reflections beautiful, but the sun was in the perfect position to add a sunburst to the scene. F22 and magic happens, joy! And from time to time those "Why Bother" thoughts crept into my head during the day. But while taking that first photo, I noticed that nobody else seemed to be interested in that building with the clouds reflected in its windows. Many people had cameras, and some were taking photos, but not of that building. Not to say somebody else at some other time on another day didn’t shoot something similar, but the fact that nobody else seemed to care about it at that busy moment encouraged me to pursue my own vision and got me off with a good start to my photographic day. After months of a ho-hum attitude towards my photography, could this be the spark of passion reignited finally? I thought it could be, and so I was off…

Typically most people that visit New York City are going to be attracted to the "big scene subjects" like skyscrapers and wide angle views of the city streets. But as a former New Yorker, I seek to capture the scenes and subjects that are more meaningful to me. And that means capturing what I call the "smalls" of the city. I love Chelsea and The Village because they are sections of the city that feature smaller buildings, courtyards, an array of flowers, interesting store displays, small parks and gardens, reflections, and many other photogenic subjects that often go unnoticed by most passersby. The smalls of the city are easy to miss while looking for the grander view. But I like to capture these more intimate scenes, most of which mean more to me personally than photos of Times Square.

Shooting in the middle of the day can be a challenge. But when on vacation we can’t always choose to skip taking photographs during the mid day hours when the natural light is typically at its harshest. It may be a challenge, but it’s a doable one. And that’s when my passion for the "smalls" comes into play. Intimate scenes are often more easily photographed during the midday hours than shooting wider angle of views where the harsh contrast in lighting can be distracting. See my old blog post "All Pros Shoot Only During The Magic Hours"
for some of the tips I use to photograph during the midday hours.
Above: A beautiful Mandevilla flower captured at the Chelsea Piers at midday.


An attractive boat and fluffy white clouds captured at the Chelsea Piers.
With that middle of the day harsh light and an optimistic attitude, I went off on my way along the familiar path of The Highline. After a few uninspired shots on the Highline, I decided to get off and head towards the Chelsea piers. I love being by the water while photographing the boats and flowers that I find there. Although this was during peak tourist season, for whatever reason the piers were not crowded and most of the activity was inside the restaurants and sports center. That worked out wonderfully for me as I pursued regaining my passion for photography by doing the best thing to cure photographic burnout: taking photos! After shooting a bunch of images that I liked, I felt inspired and so I continued walking from the piers to The West Village.






Break time!
Once again feeling a bit over-challenged by the harsh lighting conditions and August heat, I decided to take a much needed break. After a having couple of very refreshing Blue Point Blueberry Ales, I felt recharged and motivated once again to photographically explore the city. I headed to the East Village and then decided to venture east towards the river and see what I could find there to photograph. And what I found was the Williamsburg Bridge! I had never photographed Williamsburg Bridge before, and the sky was very dramatic with dark clouds rolling in. Those were the final photos of my trip, and my favorite ones.




Williamsburg Bridge and dramatic clouds..


And while I had originally thought that yes, passion for my art was reignited on that trip – it was only a spark at that point and not back to it’s full raging inferno. It is now December and I have fully regained my passion for my art. I have been experimenting with new techniques as well as continuing on with my usual favorite techniques and building on my favorite photographic themes. I have also regained my sense of optimism, and have started pursing my photo marketing efforts once again. I have also recently reopened my Fine Art America store which I am populating with images, and have several projects planned for 2016 including a book on Digital Flower Photography. And there is just something about an artist with passion for their art that attracts success. While I was down, and feeling passionless – I had no photo sales. Now with my rejuvenated attitude, I just sold something after only 1 week of reopening my online store. Without passion, there is nothing. If you are having a passionless moment for your art – don’t sell your gear just yet! It took me almost a full year to get my passion back, sometimes you just need to ride it out.



I gave a few tips to regain passion in my blog post "Loss Of Passion."



I wrote that while I was still in my passionless "funk" and was still playing around with ways to regain my passion. But now that the passion has been reignited and here are a few more things that helped me get excited about my art once again:



Get Out There And Shoot

Sometimes, you don’t feel like making art. If you are going through one of those phases, the first thing you need to do is simply to just do it! So maybe you’re feeling passionless, and your photos are reflecting that. Just keep trying. At worst, you’ll have wasted some time and shutter rotations. At best, you may find yourself absorbed in your shooting and capturing some pretty cool images. Perhaps they won’t be your best attempts, but at least you’re out there trying.
I did not take a lot of photos this year, but it's less about quantity than quality.




Stylistic Shift

Try shooting in a different style. I have been doing that a lot this year and as a result I have noticed a distinct stylistic shift in my work. I often prefer shallow depth of field and dreamy bokeh for my nature photography. This year I have found myself shooting more deeper focus imagery. As a result, while shooting photos this Autumn I found myself instinctively framing deeper focus images without as much effort on my part to do so. I actually found it difficult to do my soft and dreamy style for this autumn’s captures. Have I permanently shifted my style? No. I most definitely will be building on my collections of soft dreamy nature imagery on a subject to subject basis. But you can expect to see more of those deeper focus images amongst my newer captures.

Stop action moment at Chikara Pro Wrestling's Top Banana season finale, flash free.





New Techniques

A variation of above. Simply trying new techniques can help to spark your interest in photography again. It’s great using the same old techniques that are tried and true, when you do it that way you are sure to capture high quality images. But it can lead to boredom. Sometimes it’s good to break out of your usual safety zone and experiment. For example, I love to use flash for my wrestling photography. Having done it that way for 17 years, I know just exactly how to strike the balance I like between ambient light and flash to capture sharp stop action photographs. But every once in awhile I like to experiment. Sometimes I will use a long shutter speed with flash for creative blur images with some sharpness. And lately, now I have been experimenting with shooting with just ambient light when shooting in a brightly lit venue. I especially enjoyed shooting without the flash at a recent event. It was wonderful to not worry about the TTL exposure messing up or waiting for the flash to recharge. It made shooting the show a little different for me, and it was a lot of fun. And I was 100% happy with the results (as were my subjects.) While I don’t necessarily recommend shooting an important event in a new way, I do recommend trying new techniques when shooting your personal work.
 DamNation Machine concert image processed as an experimental black & white during the RAW editing process.




Spend Some Time Viewing Your Old Images

This is what I have been doing for the past few days. Every year in winter, sometime between December and February, I go through the past year’s work decide what images I am going to add to my web site and market. Last year I skipped my year end review because I was too busy with my weight loss program. So this year I am going through 2 years worth of work. I do most of my critiquing while editing the photos, see my old blog post "Editing As Part Of The Learning Process"
for more on that. But at the year end review stage I make my final picks for what images I am going to promote. I also give myself a year end critique during that period, and I think about what types of images I want to create the following year. This year I’m taking this step a little further by also going through some of my much older works as I try to populate my online store with a most diverse range of images rather than just concentrating on my current work. I have been enjoying the process so much that I have decided to write a blog post about the process and how I do it. It has been a most valuable tool to me and I am sure many other photographers will also benefit from taking the time to review their own work. Doing so has helped to fan the fire of photographic passion which I am happy to say is now burning quite brightly.
A favorite image from Mexico City captured in 2002.



Thanks for reading my blog and I hope you will continue to do so as I have many more interesting posts planned or 2016. Enjoy your photography and Happy Holidays!


 

 

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Why Bother?

Here I was drawn in by the color combination of the  row of yellow chairs and the blue of the sky.




I have passed this church many times. First time I bothered to photograph it.

Lately while I’m out taking photos I often wonder how many people have stood in the same place and have taken the exact same picture. Certainly, I have had this thought before, mostly while viewing those "photo spot" signs at tourist locations. But lately I find myself thinking that thought every time I’m photographing at any public place or event. Everyone is a photographer nowadays and with camera phones being so inexpensive and prevalent these days. I see more people than ever before taking photos. Sure, probably a good number of those photos are not good ones, but they are being taken, And with technology and automation improving, many novice photographers are shooting photos that could have just as easily been shot by a pro. And with those thoughts I often find myself thinking "why bother?"

This year I have been spending a lot of time thinking about that and struggling to reignite my passion for my art. I frequently leave my camera at home these days and even when I do make the effort to bring it, I seldom take it out of the bag. I’m not sure what has caused this recent loss of passion, although I suspect it may have something to do with being "middle aged", a period of life even more volatile than puberty. It’s a time when many take stock of their life and reevaluate things. So I find myself questioning my passion of photography and all the time and money I have invested into it over the years. Combine those thoughts with the reality that photography is at a low point value wise (a decrease in paid opportunities and a substantial increase in talented photographers that want those jobs) and it is no surprise that a "why bother" attitude has presented itself.

So here I sit on the first full day of a trip to New York City writing this blog post and questioning what my efforts have all been for. I have been down on photography for the past few months and have been struggling with trying to regain my passion for something that I have loved all my life.

Usually for my New York trips I’ll bring my basic camera and lens (14-45mm) along with some extra
Another image from St. Anthony of Padua Church.
batteries, cards, charger, pluas and extra lens or two (40-150mm, Lensbaby) and sometimes my macro tube and a few filters. Frequently I would find myself using only the basic lens as I hate messing about with lenses on crowded NYC streets. So for this trip, I nixed the extra gear and just brought a most basic kit of 1 camera body, the 14-45mm lens, batteries, cards, and a charger and that was it.


While out photographing today, those "why bother" thoughts crept into my brain. I wondered how many photographers have shot the very same photos. I found myself punking out early and just going back to home base to take a nap. That is unacceptable and needs to change. And soon. I must find a way to regain my lost passion on this trip before it's time to go home.***

So of course the first thought I have is "why didn’t I bring those extra lenses?" At the last minute before leaving, I almost did. But you know what? I don’t need them. You don’t either. We all have what we need to create with us at all times: our creative minds. Sure, creativity takes a nap from time to time. That’s when it’s time to set the alarm and wake it up!

So why bother? Well, no matter how many times a subject has been photographed, your photo is yours. You took it, you own the rights to it. Feel free to print it, post it, sell it (if you can), or just simply archive it. No matter how many times a subject is photographed, a true artist will always add their personal style and vision to the image. It doesn’t matter how simple and basic the equipment used to capture the image is, you can still capture something special if you put a little extra effort into it. I think the recent I-Phone ads really drive that point home. All those images were captured by pros with no use of gimmicks, just a good eye for composition and a solid knowledge of exposure. Many of those images have blown me away with their beauty. In addition, I also know of several pro photographers that often use their phones for their personal work and are consistently creating high quality images that any DSLR users would be proud to put their name on.

Truthfully as down on my craft that I am at the moment, I do not regret any of the time and money that I have spent on it. I truly enjoy my photography and the resulting images for my efforts. I use my photos to decorate my home, use them for vanity book editions, print a calendar for myself every year, share them (low res) online, submit them for publication in magazines and books, and even sell the occasional print. That’s why I bother, and so should you.

So here I am, still sitting and writing. But now I’m getting excited for tomorrow’s adventures. I will go out and use my unique vision to seek out interesting subjects and photograph them my way and not worry about how many others stood there before me with a camera. Maybe I’ll use the "gimmicks" that are available to me, such as my camera’s art filters, double exposures or shoot in black and white. Or maybe I won’t. But either way, I’ll capture images that are meaningful to me and hopefully that will cure my "why bother" attitude and regain some passion.
A beautiful Mandevilla flower.

And if you have been going though the same phase that I have, perhaps this post has helped to inspire you to bother. If it has, please feel free to let me know and if you have some tips to overcome those "why bother" moments, please feel free to share. Enjoy your photography!


***
When I wrote this post, I wrote it on the road before reviewing the photos that I had shot that day. Those "why bother" thoughts were rolling around in m head, but somehow I still managed to take some shots that impressed me when I got home and had a proper chance to review and edit them. I have illustrated this post with some of those photos.


I ended up getting ill on my trip and had to cut it short. But not until after one more full day of shooting.





Part of my "Building Blocks" series of images. 


And see my previous post "Loss Of Passion" to read some of the tips that I used to help reignite my own passion again.



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Friday, August 14, 2015

Loss Of Passion?



In Love At The Carnival
Captured as a straight image, I developed the RAW file in my Olympus software and applied the Pinhole art filter to a cropped version of my initial capture. The filter added a nice vignette and popped the colors a bit
.









Most photographers first pick up a camera because of a love of subject matter. But what happens when your passion for your subject wanes?

I have been a photographer for more than twentynine years and this year has been one of the strangest years for me photographically speaking. For the past nine years I have been a nature and flower photography nut, exploring every flower, insect, tree, bird, and just about every nature subject that I came upon. Year after year I expected my obsession to wane, but year after I eagerly kept at it. When my flower obsession started six years ago, every year I wondered when I would "hit the wall" of boredom and cease to have the motivation to photograph them. But again year after year the obsession continued.




Until this year. Maybe it’s because of changes going on in my life like my recent 66lb weight loss. Or maybe it’s just a plain ol’ simple case of burn out caused by the same old subject year after year. As this is something I am going through, I can offer no 20/20 hindsight on this situation. But this is not the first time that I have experienced a photographic burn out.

Over the years I have experienced a few periods of various forms of photographic burn out. And for various reasons including boredom of the same subject matter, physical difficulty (after getting sick & weight gain) or just simple lack of creative motivation.

So how does one get motivated again? That’s a tricky question and there are many different answers as there are photographers. But here are some things that have worked for me in the past and what I am doing currently to reignite my creative passion:







Get Inspired

Often when I am feeling creatively challenged, I’ll browse the works of my favorite photographers. Viewing awe inspiring images from other photographers can often motivate me to get out there. And if those images are accompanied by instructional text, it may also motivate me to try new techniques which is often a cure for any kind of creative burnout. So…





Try New Techniques

Many photographers have a mental list of the techniques that they may want to try out. One of the greatest things about photography is that there are a countless number of techniques to experiment with. If you are feeling creatively burnt out, maybe trying out some new techniques on old subjects can ignite that creative spark you’ve been looking for.
Here I captured the image using my camera’s Pinhole art filter which added a vignette and pumped up the colors. While not exactly a new technique, it’s one that I’ve only been using the past year and a half since having my Olympus OMD EM5 camera.






"Hit Your Formula"

The complete opposite of the previous tip. This is the one that I’ve been using the most this year. I have been shooting less so I want to guarantee the highest number of keepers during the short number of hours that I have to shoot. I have been relying on my favorite techniques that I have developed over the years. This is where experience comes in and you receive your payback for all of your previous learning and shooting experiences.









Here I used a telephoto lens and a wide aperture for a nice bubbly bokeh that I often favor. I also added the vignette effect during RAW processing using Olympus’ Pinhole art filter
Find New Subjects Or Photograph Old Subjects A New Way

This is a variation of tip 2 except finding new subject matter may not necessitate the use of new techniques. It can be as simple as finding new subjects local to you or hitting the road to seek out new scenery and subjects.


Or you can try photographing favorite subjects a new way. This year, instead of spending all my time photographing flowers like I usually do, I actually took the time to turn the camera on me. While I have always done "selfies" over the years since I was a teenager, many of this year’s attempts have gone beyond a simple snapshot to actual photo sessions where I am trying to learn lighting, posing, and other portraiture techniques. These sessions have been fun learning experiences, and when I’m done I have high quality portraits of myself as a consolation prize for my efforts. It has been both challenging and rewarding.




Self portraiture has been a recent favorite project for this year. And although I have been photographing myself since I was a teen, my recent photos have been more lessons in lighting and portraiture than my previous attempts. Here I experimented with hot lights and atypical posing for this image.

New Gear

I’m not much of an equipment junkie but new gear can sometimes be the solution to the boredom, especially if it’s a new lens. Adding a new focal length, such as adding a telephoto or wide angle lens to your kit, can offer you a new perspective which could spark creativity. This year’s budget does not allow for a new lens, but I already had a lens that had been seeing less use since I’ve been using my Olympus OMD EM5, my Lensbaby. So I pulled out my Lensbaby this summer and have been playing around with that on some of my recent flower photo sessions and my passion for that lens has been reignited by these sessions.



I captured these potted Petunia flowers with my Lensbaby.

After thousands/millions of photos it is no surprise when one temporarily loses passion for a craft that one loves so much. And when it happens, it’s up to us to reignite the passion, take a break, or perhaps even just give it up forever. Few choose that last option, creative passion rarely leaves us forever. If you are experiencing a temporary loss of passion, I hope my tips help. And if you have any tips of your own that you would like to share, please do!



 
From my NYC trip in April, my creativity always gets a spark from a change of location.


PS
After the writing of this post, I have since been to NYC which further helped to reawaken my creativity. And while I shot many of the same subjects, I found myself shooting them in fresh ways. This was in part to a different mindset and a suddenly renewed creative spark. Add to that the shooting a new subject on a late afternoon with dramatic clouds, and my brief trip was productive creatively. I will write about it in a couple of upcoming blog posts.





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Monday, June 22, 2015

Learning Through Critiquing Others




We all see photos every day. Whether online, in books & magazines, on billboards or other advertising, on tv, photos are just about everywhere we look. And we all critique those photos whether we realize it or not. That critique may be positive such as in "oh what an awesome photos" or negative "I could have taken a better photo using my feet for eyes." But did you know that you could actually learn to be a better photographer by critiquing other photographer’s photos?

I became most aware of that fact when I started to explore 3d digital imaging programs in the early 2000s. At that point, photography was at a comfortable skill level for me. I did most of my learning of photography through reading books and magazines and through real life shooting experience over the many years since first taking up photography as a teen. Widespread internet did not yet exist, so I had to learn the old fashioned way. But to help me learn how to create digital art, I now had a new learning tool that I didn’t have with my photography. Access to online art communities is a wonderful thing.

While posting my 3d digital art to Renderosity.com, my favorite 3d art online community, I realized the true value of commenting on other artist’s work. When you post art/photos to a site, you should always take the time to give a little back by commenting on other artists’ work. It is not mandatory, but it creates goodwill and encourages others to keep commenting on your work. While some may take that a little too far, commenting & "liking" or "favoriting" others’ work just to get comments on their own images as part of a silly & meaningless numbers game, the real value is when you slow down and really take the time to look at a stunning image and really put into words what makes it so mesmerizing to you. While formulating those thoughts into words, I discovered that I was learning exactly what elements & qualities that I found appealing and started to incorporate those qualities into my own work. For example, I may have found certain color combinations that I wanted to experiment with, lighting styles and moods, etc.

Eventually my interest in 3d imaging waned, not for lack of love of the art but rather due to the preference for being outside with my camera in nature instead of inside messing around on the computer all day. But I learned so much during that period which has had a strong influence on my photography. That is why many experienced photographers tell those starting out to study all art forms, not just photography. And one of the most valuable skills I picked up during that digital art phase of my was learning through critiquing others. While I may not have as much time to actually comment online, I do still take the time to look at high quality photographs and make the critique in my head. There are many photographers creating inspiring work and there is much to learn from them just by studying their masterful imagery.

Here are some tips on learning through critiquing others:

#1 The Golden Rule

Never be cruel! Seriously. If see an image that you think is absolutely awful, feel free to critique the photo as you wish – in your own mind only though. Don’t place cruel and negative comments on other artists’ works. Why make someone feel bad? I know some great photographers that have had some of their images receive low "star" ratings or negative comments and then they just stopped posting because it bothered them that much even though they received way more compliments than negativity. You may of course feel the need to critique it honestly, offering tips for improvement. But why bother? Unless specifically asked to do so, it’s better to just work out for yourself why you don’t like it so you don’t ever shoot anything like it, and then just move on.

Concentrate On The Positive

See an image that blows you away? Why is that? Is it the color? The atmosphere? The composition, the focus, the subject, what is it? If you see something you like, figure out how it relates to your own photography and how you can possibly incorporate whatever that special something is into your own art.

 

Formulate It Into Words

Go beyond a standard comment, like "beautiful" "wonderful" "gorgeous" and really explain why you like the image. It will not only help to enlighten the other photographer, but also help you to learn how to improve your own images along the way. And the photographer may even return the favor and give you some enlightenment in return. Or not. But either way, it will be a learning experience.

Don’t Expect Others To Reciprocate

Just because you commented on someone’s work doesn’t mean they will return the favor. Some artists never do. Don’t let that discourage you from commenting. I admit I rarely make the time to comment these days, but I do frequently "like" and "favorite" other artists’ work to encourage them to keep posting the good stuff that I love so much. And I always take the time to critique those outstanding images in my mind even if the words never get posted.

Don’t Take It Personally & Have Fun!

Really this applies to all things, photographic or otherwise. Most of us started taking photos as a casual hobby which then turned into a passion because we enjoy recording the world as we see it. Critiquing other artists’ work can be a valuable part of the learning experience. But don’t view it as a chore or duty. Feel free to just leave a comment that says "beautiful", no need to write a love letter about it to the artist. But when you do take the time to formulate what you love about a particular image, even if only in your mind, it can be an invaluable learning tool. Slow down and enjoy the process of viewing other artists’ works, it is often the first step to becoming an artist oneself.

And don’t let other people’s comments & ratings on your work effect you too much. Sometimes you can learn a lot through other people’s comments on your work. When I first started to get into nature photography seriously several years ago, I did get a unique perspective on my work as people had noticed certain trends in my work that I hadn’t really considered. I found their comments most helpful and encouraging. I rarely receive negative or even just alternative perspective comments on my work, but on those rare occasions it happens I have never let it get me down. Remember, comments are just opinions – nothing more.

I hope this post has encouraged you to start participating in online galleries or at the very least has started you on your way to furthering your own advancement in photography by enjoying the works of others.

http://www.renderosity.com/index.php
3d imaging and they also have a small photography community

https://www.flickr.com/
My favorite online photo sharing site at the moment


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The Highline After Dark NYC II