Tag Archives: photography advice

How to Improve Your Photography – Pt 3 Podcasts

C. S. Lewis has this great quote which goes  “the next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a company of people who are.” Last post I wrote about libraries and the vast wealth that is found in books and magazines. While podcasts will not replace need of students of photography to pore through “printed’ works, they do perform an important role in education.

So, what is a podcast?

Generally they are audio only productions recorded in an electronic format distributed through the internet.

Why is that a big deal?

Well, since these are in electronic format you can listen to these on computers, either streaming or as downloadable files, and with mp3 players (not just Apple devices like IPhones, or IPods). This allows for easy storage and flexibility to listening.

Who put out these podcasts?

A number of professionals and high-level enthusiasts put out these shows in addition to their already hectic schedule.

What is their motivation?

While there is some self-interest with podcasting, they are all done in a spirit of giving and sharing. Some of the podcasters do put on seminars and even sell books, but their podcasts are not 50 minute infomercials. Generally their intent is to build their reputation and which may eventually, (for some it is happening now) pay off in $$ either directly or, more likely, indirectly.

What types of things do they talk about?

If you listen to one, is there any need to listen to another? To be a bit flippant, they are all like snowflakes, individuals putting out work that, even if the format is similar, it comes across quite different. Some podcasts are interviews with high-end professional photographers, some are philosophical insights while others take a question and answer format.

What is the easiest way to get them?

While going to each site on a weekly or monthly basis is one way to manage the files it is not a very efficient method. Personally I use the ITUNES store, which will require you to download their program, which is about 90 megabyte file. From here you simply search for your shows (under podcasts) and subscribe to the ones you like. Then every time you run the program, it will automatically download new files. There are other ways to subscribe to various podcasts, but I find this to work very well.

What are some of the photography podcasts that I listen to?

  • Camera Dojo – Kerry Garrison – Great all around podcast and wonderful blog.
  • F-Stop Beyond with Ron Dawson – While Ron seeks out famous photographers to interview he focuses the discussion in areas that most photography interviews do not go – people’s personal history, feelings and circumstances.
  • Frederick Van – Various interviews.
  • History of Photography – An honest to goodness lectures from an ongoing college photography class.
  • Lenswork – Great short morsels of insight, philosophy and speculation from the editor of Lenswork Magazine.
  • Lightsource Studio Photography – Interviews with high end commercial photographers.
  • Photofocus – Scott Bourne and a guest answer questions submitted by readers.
  • The Candid Frame – Ibarionix Perello – Great interviews with various people in the photography field. Not just “big names” but even promising students.
  • This Week in Photography – Discussion about news and events related to photography. This is in an Apple media file, which, to me, is very inconvenient as Windows Media player will not recognize the file and nor am I able to play t on my Sansa MP3 player.

    There are other photography podcasts to be found on the internet. The intent was list every single podcast, but to give you a “starter pack” to some that I feel are worthwhile and will have a broad range of appeal. Feel free to share your thoughts and favorites with me.

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Posted by on August 8, 2010 in Photography Advice


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Is Good Good Enough?


DSC_7617-Edit- topaz.jpg, originally uploaded by Jeffrey Jones.

So you take very decent photos and your friends, and even strangers, love your work. Armed with an arsenal of compliments you figure it is time to sell your work to the public at large. Is being good, good enough to be successful? The answer is a resounding “no” and there is a number of reasons why.

Is your work distinguishable from the crowd of other photographers?

If it isn’t then you better work hard to give people a reason to choose your work over another’s because when a person sees your work they shouldn’t get your work confused with somebody elses Look around at the work people do in the area that you plan to sell. See what themes and subjects are popular.You may find certain themes are popular and that may be an avenue to pursue. But don’t copy the work of the countless photographers who shoot that (whatever). Instead find your own individual way to shoot the subject or theme.

Do people want to hang it up in their home?

As I learned the hard way, just because people love your pictures, even the point of remarking and asking questions about your particular work, that does not mean they want to hang your pictures on their walls. If I had a dollar for every time somebody told me “I sure do love your work” I would be wildly successful (actually that is a bit of and exaggeration). But looking strictly at art print sales, while I do sell, it isn’t in high enough volumes to even be considered mildly successful. . I think part of the issue is this: while we tend to think of pictures as art, in the mind of the buyer it is really just décor.” People purchase photography to accent a room rather than to accent an emotion.

How do you plan to market yourself?

Artwork, even photography, does not sell itself. It requires more than just posting some pictures on the web. The “if I post it, they will come” attitude will net you a big fat NOTHING. Even putting your work in busy venues may not offer much in the term of sales either. Selling your work means selling yourself. That doesn’t mean that you must greet every person you meet with an elevator speech, but it does mean that you need to play an active role in promoting you and your work.

My biggest “market” is the people I know. I never push my products or services on them but they know about my work and I find ways to display my work in a non-pushy way. This ranges from posting pictures on Facebook to bringing new prints into work. Seek out even simple opportunities to promote your work.

Is your work exceptional?

There are plenty of good photographers out there. Technology has removed some of the barriers of entry and reduced the learning time for dramatically improving one’s photography. If you work is only good, you need to rethink entering into this business until you improve, especially regarding fine art. There is no room for mediocrity.

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Posted by on July 28, 2010 in Business Advice


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How To Improve Your Photography – Pt. 2. Get Thee To A Library


Tate&Lyle_Decatur_Illinois_9, originally uploaded by Jeffrey Jones.

Sometimes the best things in life are free and fortunately the library falls into that category. Immersing yourself in photography and photography related books and magazines is key to developing a photographic eye. One thing you may not know is that you can check out magazines, at least ones other than the current issue..

The number of photography books and the quantity of newer titles vary from library to library. Often, the bulk of titles are pre-digital age, but don’t let that discourage you. While some aspects of photography have changed since the days of film, the majority of the techniques still apply. Aperture, shutter speeds and even ISO still work the same way, the only real changes are mostly how images are developed, darkroom versus digital.

By delving into the world of images develops a sense of what a good picture is. Just like almost everything else photography is subject to fads and what is fashionable today may look terrible, or dated, tomorrow. When looking at older photographs see what images have stood the test of time. Look past the dated clothing and hair styles and instead look at the picture itself.

Also, don’t limit your reading to just photography books, look at other types of books and magazines that heavily use images. From magazines like National Geographic, Vogue , Life and Wired to biographies, travel books and cultural books, they all provide wonderful examples of good (and bad) photography.

Learning does not have to cost you money. The library is probably the source of the cheapest education that you can give yourself. And regardless of the size or newness of the collections, you will find books and magazines to draw inspiration and learning.

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Posted by on July 19, 2010 in Photography Advice


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How to Improve Your Photography – Part 1

While not everybody pressing the shutter release buttons on their cameras thinks about improving their skills, a good part of us do. It doesn’t take much self-evaluation to realize that in many areas we, as photographers, fall short. Often this realization hits us when we compare our pictures to those of others and realize that we need to take our work to next level.

My first bit of advice is simple. Perhaps so simple that it goes overlooked. If you want to improve your photography you need to take pictures. That is it. We can all go to seminars and read magazines but if we aren’t shooting, what is the point?

When I say that you need to shoot pictures, I mean you need to shoot a lot of pictures and you need to do it often. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a great book entitled Outliers in which he described the steps to master something. Usually people think that greatness comes from some strong innate talent. While “natural ability” does play a role, that role is very small in comparison to the amount of time a person spends practicing and doing. Even people that we think of as geniuses, Gladwell points out, spent an extraordinary amount of time working. Greatness did not just happen to them, like some lucky pull of the slot machine. Their accomplishments seem less miraculous once one factors in the amount of time they spent working at it. While we spend our childhood playing video games and watching movies, Mozart spent composing music. So is it any wonder that, as a young adult, Mozart produced masterpieces? Think of all those hours you spent on tv, computer games and hanging out. What if, instead you focused all that time on a craft what you could have accomplished?

Gladwell believes that mastery comes after 10,000 hours of doing something. That comes to 5 years of putting in 40 hour days. While we may not want to, or even have the ability to, devote that much time in this period of our lives, the principle still holds. The more time you spend the better you will get.

So, what are you waiting on? Grab your camera and start shooting!

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Posted by on July 8, 2010 in Photography Advice


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Shooting in the Sun

Because people take a lot of pictures during events and outings that means a large number of those pictures are taken during the brightest part of the day. One would think that abundance of sunlight equates to getting better picture, but in reality, it ain’t so. Look closely at some of those high-noon snapshots that hang on your wall or refrigerator. Strong light makes for harsh shadows. Sometimes those shadows fall right into the subjects eye sockets giving them a raccoon appearance. Sometimes the harsh light makes the subjects perform a not-so-lovely squint. Other times the front of the subjects are in shadow while  the background is perfectly lit. There are tricks to overcoming these problems.

  • Position the subjects with the sun to their back and force your camera to flash. This will fill in the shadows and provide a more decent picture. This is called “fill flash” and is a long time standard technique. If you don’t have a flash OR if you want to try something different use a large white object to capture the sunlight and bounce it back into the subject’s face and body. Be careful or you may overpower your subjects eyes and cause squinting.
  • Instead of shooting in harsh daylight, find a shade. This will provide more even lighting and more flattering pictures. Look for over-hanging roofs and tree branches to provide relief from the sun.
  • There is a simple technique for fixing the squinting problem; have your subject close their eyes until you tell them to open them. Give the command and snap the shot immediately after given the command. You want to get this right in the first few tries or your subject may tire of this exercise.
  • Pick another time of the day to shoot. You may not always have this option, but if you do, it is your best choice.
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Posted by on May 19, 2010 in Photography Advice


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