Archives for Photo Education

How The Photography World Is Like The Gym

I managed to drag myself to the gym this morning to try and get in a little cardio.  I absolutely hate doing it- but it has to be done.  While I was there, I noticed a few things that were not too different from the photography world.  The people at the gym were having the same problems and making the same mistakes as photographers.  Sound far-fetched?  Let me give you a few examples. No matter where you work out, there is undoubtedly at least one Talker.  The Talkers are the guys who spend about two hours at the gym, but only work out for about 10 total minutes.  The rest of the time they are standing around talking to the other people who are working out.  This is like the people who go to the photography conventions, but don’t sit in on any of the classes.  Working out your brain isn’t always fun or easy, but if you want to grow your business, you need to pick up a few new tricks.  If you are just going to conventions to socialize, you are missing out on a great deal of potential education. The next character you are likely to encounter
Read More

The Trick To Becoming A Better Photographer

It doesn’t matter where you are in your photographic journey – at the beginning or well down the road – we all want to get better. While there are so many ways to improve your skills, I’m a firm believer that nothing will help you to grow faster than entering print competitions. When you compete with your images, your competitiveness will force you to grow. If you stick with it, your photography skill will grow – without a doubt. The big question that people seem to have is WHERE to enter. There are many different contests out there and most of them cost money. The trick is to choose the ones that aren’t just scams trying to make money off of photographers. Because of this, I tend to enter competitions that are affiliated with major photography associations. There are basically two of these organizations, The Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (WPPI). Both are excellent organizations, but most of my experience is with PPA. Within PPA, there are a few different levels of print competition. The best place to start is usually at the local level. Most major cities have a PPA chapter and many
Read More

Feeling Blue?

If you are looking for a book to peruse this weekend – something a little off the beaten path- you might consider “Blue” by Michael Pastoureau.  I came across this book a while back and started reading it out of curiosity.  It was nothing like I expected! The book is basically an Art History book, but with a focus on the color blue.  I guess I had never given it much thought, but colors have quite an interesting history.   Blue has gone from being considered “inferior” during the time of the Roman, all the way to being THE color of colors.  In fact, most paintings used blue to identify the Virgin Mary.  I found it very interesting how many elements contribute to a color going in and out of fashion. The book is loaded with great illustrations as well. Pastoureau also touches on things like symbolism and iconography as well.  As an artist, you can’t help but find this stuff interesting.  It might even give you a few ideas that you can incorporate into your next fine art piece! If you think learning about color is something for painters and not photographers, you couldn’t be more wrong. I hope you
Read More

Know Your Role: Sales

When I used to coach my son’s football team, we had a saying:  “Know your role- Do your job”   What it meant was that if a kid didn’t know what his assignment was, it would be incredibly unlikely that he would complete that assignment.   A photography studio is like a football team in some ways.  Not everyone is cut out to be quarterback or running back.  Somebody needs to block, someone needs to play defense, someone needs to kick, etc.  The trick is evaluating the roster so you put the right kids in the right positions.  As a studio owner, you need to do the same thing. There are many roles in a photography studio – the photographer, the sales person, production, marketing, etc.  Do you need to be good at all of these?  Absolutely not.  In fact, I doubt there are many people out there who ARE good at all these areas.  Art is very personal and it is hard to be objective when selling our photography.  The important thing is to evaluate your skills and figure out what you are not good at – then hire someone else to do that. In many cases, that weak spot is
Read More

The Decisive Moment

In the history of photography, few images are more iconic than Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “Derriere la Gare Sint-Lazare.”  Photographers often use the phrase “decisive moment” and this image is the ultimate illustration of that term. Cartier-Bresson created the image behind the Gare Saint-Lazare train station in Paris in 1932.  He says he was peering through a fence and captured this image as the man jumped across the water puddle.   The arrangement of the image is incredible.  The more you look at it, the more you notice.  For example, the metal loops in the foreground echo the rings of water that are rippling away from the ladder.   The sign in the background is for a performer named Railowsky, the shot was taken behind a railyard and the ladder resembles a train track.   Add to that the repetition of the the shadow, the jumper, the man in the background and the clock tower behind him.   When you take it all in, it really seems too good to be true.  In fact, many have accused Cartier-Bresson of setting up the shot. However it was created- either by planning or sheer luck- it represents a masterpiece in composition and timing. The more you study it,
Read More

Guest Post: 7 Considerations before you buy that DSLR

( Note:  This week, we have a guest post from Atlanta-based photographer Ingrid Owens.  Enjoy! ) Are you on the verge on taking your photography to the next level?  Thinking about making the jump to a DSLR?  It’s a big investment and one that will impact your photography for sometime to come.  I get asked all the time – “which camera should I get?” and as someone whose sold cameras in a retail setting for many years I know the answer to this question is not straightforward.  Otherwise there’d just be one camera type right?  Here are some things to consider to help you make your buying decision a little easier. 1. Full Frame vs Crop sensor The first big thing you’ll notice about the various DSLRs on the market is that they are separated into 2 types. Higher end DSLRs such as the Canon 5D Mark ii are considered Full Frame Sensor cameras.  This means that their sensor is equivalent in size to traditional 35mm film.  This also means that the focal length of whichever lens you are using will also be the equivalent to the “true” focal length so if you have lenses that you used previously with
Read More

What Makes A Good Portrait Great?

With the rise of digital cameras, the world of photography has drastically changed – for the better AND for the worse.  Now everyone is a photographer.  As a result, the market has been flooded with new photographers over the past few years.  Some have taken the time to learn their craft, while many just rely on the shotgun method – shoot hundreds of shots and hope to get a dozen decent ones.  The portrait is becoming a bit of a lost art, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few things that will separate a good portrait from a great one: 1.  Lighting.  Learning how to control light is not easy.  It can take years to get to the point where you are really comfortable with it – but it is worth it.  Whether you are in the studio or on location, you have to learn how to see the light and make it work to enhance your images.  When I first started out, I was 100% “natural light” photographer.  My website proudly stated that I did this because I loved the natural, carefree feel of available light.  The truth was that it was all I knew.  Once
Read More

Examining Creativity

Last night, I went to a fantastic lecture by Julie Burstein at the Dallas Museum of Art.  Burstein has produced public radio’s Studio 360 program for the past 10 years.  During that time, they have interviewed hundreds of the world’s best artists.  Julie pulled from these interviews to create her new book, “Spark:  How Creativity Works.” It was a very entertaining lecture and an interesting examination of the creative process-interspersed with audio clips from many of the artists that were being discussed.  So what were some of the common keys to creativity? Be Observant – always be on the lookout for inspiration all around us.  There is a lot of material that we come across every day that we just don’t take the time to notice. Take Time To Refill your “creative pantry.”  Sometimes you need to step away and allow your creative batteries to recharge.  Expose yourself to great art and allow it to inspire you. Be Persistent – Set a goal and go for it.  Don’t give up and don’t wait around for inspiration.  Artist Chuck Close one said, “Inspiration is for amateurs.  The rest of us just show up and get to work.” Appreciate your friends and
Read More

Levels Of Print Competition

I’m a huge fan of print competition.  Since I joined Professional Photographers of America several years ago, nothing has helped my image-making more than entering competition.  If you haven’t entered, here is a quick overview of the different levels of competitions. Local Level Many large cities have their own PPA Affiliate guilds that meet monthly.  Many of these also have monthly print competitions.  This is where I got started and is a great place for any newbie to jump in.  Generally, the rules will be a little more loose and the entries will either be judged by the attendees or perhaps a few of the Master Photographers who are guild members.  Although the scoring probably won’t be all that accurate, it’s a  pretty good indicator of which images have impact and which ones don’t! State Level When you enter your state’s competition, it will generally be more structured- meaning more like PPA International judging.  The prints will be judged by a panel made up of PPA approved jurors, Master Photographers and convention speakers.  There are usually a bunch of awards given away at these conventions, which makes entering them quite popular. District Level The next step is to enter at
Read More

Creativity: You Are What You Eat

If you are a photographer – or any other artist for that matter- creativity is the key to your success.  It is the engine that drives us to create beautiful pieces of art or startling images that make people look twice.  Unfortunately, many artists don’t dedicate enough effort into feeding their creativity.  To me, it’s kind of like nutrition – you are what you eat.  If you eat a bunch of junk, you won’t be nearly as healthy as someone who eats a nutritious, balanced diet. Several years ago, I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – one of the most celebrated books about growing as an artist.  It was truly an eye opening experience.  If you’ve ever had those days when the creativity just wasn’t flowing – this is the book for you.  Cameron talks about how we can train our minds to make the creative process second nature.   Part of this process is taking in a lot of artistic experiences. The more art you can consume, the more tools your creativity has to work with.  Maybe you can spend a few hours at a museum, really studying a few specific paintings or perhaps choose an artist and
Read More