Friday, May 26, 2006

On the road again and wedding photography

I'm off on my travels again and will be back next week. Which means another break in the blog.

In the meantime if you want to see the work of one of the most highly acclaimed wedding photographers then check out Joe Buissink. Yes, I know weddings! But these go beyond the normal pictures of someone elses wedding. He has an artistic flair, and a flair for business too, charging 10,000 dollars for a wedding reportage.

I like many of Joe's images and believe it or not I really like photographing weddings too, especially when the client wants something special that goes way beyond the normal formal set of poses. You can see some shots from one on my weddings here.

Catch you soon,

Paul

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

News snippets #1

Spent the weekend and monday in Dublin. Really enjoyed it despite the pouring rain on sunday. Anyway, I'm painfully aware of being a bit behind in posting, so here are a few news snippets.

What Digital Camera Magazine has just published a comparison test between the Fuji S3 Pro, the Nikon D200 and the Canon 30D. The D200 came out tops as the tester's choice because of it's superior build quality, handling and superb image quality (although the camera performs best producing images from RAW rather than JPEG). The Fuji S3 still has the biggest dynamic range and best ability to deal with high contrast but is painfully slow. The 30D performed well in all areas but could not match the D200. In fact there's not much in it between the three cameras. Each one is a superb mid-range DSLR capable of delivering outstanding images. Testers are having to become increasingly picky when trying to differentiate between cameras because there's so little difference in quality.

So whatever you have, be happy and concentrate on making better images.

Don't forget to check out my fotolog.

Cheers,
Paul

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Why do images get rejected?

If you’re marketing your images then hopefully all over the world art directors and graphic designers are looking at them and deciding whether to use them or not. Often the reason an image gets rejected is not something you may think of as photographer who’s taken care the image is sharp, well exposed and wonderfully composed.

Here are three common reasons. Firstly, within the image there is not enough ‘neutral’ space where copy can be inserted. Although an image with a large chunk of nothingness may not do well in a picture critique it is definitely something graphic designers look for.

A second reason is that the subject is difficult to cut-out. Frequently designers need to be able to cut something out from the background, so tight crops and busy backgrounds will make it difficult for them.

Thirdly, if you want to get an image on the front cover of a magazine or brochure it usually needs to be shot in portrait format. Landscape format limits useability, so it’s best to shoot both formats if you can.

Your images should be pristine in terms of the removal of blemishes like white spots, dust bunnies etc. If it had been mine I would have cloned the cone out. Never assume anything. The caveat though is really heavily manipulated images, seriously oversaturated, levels and curves pushed to the limit and sharpening should not be done by the photographer.

One other thing when you hand your image over that's it. I've had several badly cropped by designers or flipped to fit in with the design. No sense in being precious about it. This is also something to bear in mind when critiquing other photographers published work. Unfortunately we don't control the way our images are presented.

The most basic rule when submitting work to magazines, or other media, is to find out what the client requires - exactly.

However in my experience it also depends on who you talk to at the client's and sometimes a designer may try to get you do part of their job. Where do you draw the line? Just send them a tiff or jpeg or do you get it print ready so they can just drop it in. Remember time is money so where exactly the boundary is between your job as a photographer and the designers job is something that needs to be clarified with the particular client. Don't give in too easily but also of course don't upset the client.

I love negotiating and sometimes you'd be surprised what you can achieve.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Compare your prices

I regularly get asked for advice on what you should charge as a photographer. There are so many different areas to cover but for event photographers in the UK this might help.

I commission photography fairly regularly and have just received prices for exhibition photography from a well established supplier. So this will give you a good idea of what you should charge to be competitive.

Colour print of exhibition stand 20x30cm = £40
High res image on CD = £40
Both print and CD = £48
Extra pics with different views of stand £36 each
Extra prints of the above 20x30cm £12
Medium format transparency or neg + 20x30cm print £49
Email a digital image £10 (res not specified)
PR photography of event (30 minutes) up to 30 pics on CD £128
Pr photography of event-15 mins) up to 15 pics on CD £78

Full payment ahead of the event with guaranteed refund if dissatisfied.

I plan to provide more commercially interesting information in the future and free help to photographers – if you want it. You know where to find me.

I'd also be interested to hear from photographers around the world to see how your prices compare. Any information will be treated in the strictest confidence and nothing published without your agreement. Anonymity guaranteed!

Cheers for now,

Paul

PS why not check out my new Fotolog before you dash off.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

New Fotolog

For sometime I've been adding articles but not photographs to this blog. So the solution is a photographic blog dedicated to my images. Of course this blog you're reading will continue in the same vein as before, and I've got lots of interesting articles planned.

I discovered the perfect vehicle for a photography blog in the form of fotolog.com.

If you'd like to get your daily dose of an image from me then please visit my Fotolog here.

You're very welcome to sign the guest book too :)

So there we go. A blog for words and a blog for pictures. Hope you enjoy both.

Cheers,

Paul

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Improving sharpness - photo tips #2

Recently I was asked how to improve the sharpness of images. As with most things there are a few easy answers and there's the complicated way of explaining it all too. Defining and improving sharpness is a science. For this article I'm going to try to keep to the straightforward stuff.

The first thing you should appreciate is that sharpness in a photograph is not easy to define - it's a perception dependent on numerous factors. These include; contrast, colour balance, definition, level of detail, grain or noise, level of blur across the image and difference in the levels of blur between adjacent areas etc.

There are five main things that affect sharpness: the quality of the lens, the qualities of the sensor or film, the nature of the subject being photographed, focus and movement of the camera in relation to the subject.

The single greatest cause of unsharp photographs is camera shake. Camera shake may be virtually imperceptible when you take a picture but it can really make your images look softer than they should - which is the reason camera manufacturers put so much effort into building cameras that are smooth and don't vibrate when you take a shot - using devices such as mirror bounce suppression mechanisms. Many professional cameras allow you to lock the mirror up before taking the shot. Minimising camera shake is also the reason why tripods are so popular with professional photographers and the proliferation of anti-shake systems in cameras and lenses. Yes, an awful amount has been and continues to be invested in finding ways to keep the camera 'still' in relation to the subject.

When hand holding your camera to take a picture, support the camera properly from underneath using the heel of your hand, gently squeeze the shutter button while breathing smoothly out, don't jerk the camera abruptly away after taking the shot and choose as high a shutter speed as you can (watch for camera shake warning symbols in your camera display - generally as a rule of thumb you need to use a shutter speed matching or higher than the focal length of your lens eg 1/100 for 100mm lens, 1/250 for a 200mm lens etc)

An image will also look sharper if texture on the subject is clearly defined by the lighting - in fact the quality of the light plays a huge role in the how sharp we perceive an image to be. Strong colours that contrast with each other will also give an image a sharper look than subdued pastel colours.

Contrast is absolutely key to our perception of sharpness. In fact image manipulation software uses increased contrast between pixels on the edges between light and dark areas as the main means of sharpening pictures.

When it comes to sharpening images using software you do have to watch out for oversharpening. As a photographer working for printed publications I do not sharpen my images before submitting them. Each printer will have their own optimal sharpening settings, dependent on another vast set of factors ranging from the printing process to the type of paper, inks etc. This brings me to a bit more advice. If you're hoping to sell your images commercially, save your original image file without applying any sharpening and if you shoot JPEGS in camera, turn off the sharpening feature. Remember you can always sharpen an image but you cannot undo sharpening once applied without seriously damaging the quality of the original image.

I hope you find these tips useful. Please let me know. By the way when I save an image for the web in Photoshop, with the longest side having a pixel size of between 500-800, I usually set the radius to 0.3 and sharpen between 120 and 150 percent.

All the best,

Paul

PS If you fancy reading more here's a link to an index of my most popular articles

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Image structure

In my last post I mentioned the structure of an image. One of the most important aspects of visual structure is the range of tones between light and dark and their distribution across the frame.

Imagine a photograph of a white fish bone skeleton lying on a flat, almost black stone surface. The white bones stand out against the dark background. The contrast is easy to see and you're literally looking at the skeletal structure of the image.

Of course every image you take has skeletal structure. The success of the composition often depends on getting the distribution of light and dark right. The Great Masters of painting knew this as did the impressionists but sadly this way of seeing is often not taught to photographers. Yes, photography is all about light but even more it is about the distribution of that light within the image.

If you've worked with black and white film and viewed a negative in front of a light source the structure is easy to see. With digital its a different kettle of fish, so to speak. There are two ways to assess the light structure in an image. A quick and handy way is to use the depth of field preview button on your camera. By stopping down the lens you will more easily see the distribution of light across the frame. Another way, which works well with a bit of practice, is the almost close your eyes, in effect stopping them down, to see the lighting skeletal structure in the image.

Once you've got the image into your image editing software package there are several ways to check, for example using curves to exaggerate the contrasts, or simply going mono and heightening contrast.

The real message here though is to pay attention to the structure. Making sure that it works in your image will help you to improve your photography.

Cheers for now.

Paul

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Photographic seeing

What do you look at when you compose an image? There are millions of things to consider but you've often only got a split second to calculate whether the composition is going to work or not. When you distil it down to its simplest components there are a few key things to consider, which are often not covered very well in books and articles about learning photography.

Firstly you should have an idea of why you are taking the image. The clearer the intention behind the image is in your mind the better the shot will be. Photography is about framing a section of reality, it's about deciding what to leave in and what to exclude.

Secondly at the same time you need to look at how you can make the most of lighting to enhance the image. Beautiful, interesting lighting that compliments your subject is essential to creating striking images.

Thirdly, and this is the one that often gets left out, look at the structures within the frame in terms of their relative values. These values can be the distribution of light and dark, the 'skeleton" of the photograph, strong geometric shapes with a visual pull, colours interacting or specific subjects that attract our eye, such as faces and text.

The balance between the elements with visual pull and the overall structure has to be right in order for the image to work.

I plan to discuss these three key components of photographic seeing in more detail in the future. In the meantime don't hesitate to drop me a line if you've got any questions.

Cheers,

Paul

Monday, May 01, 2006

Back (in fashion) again

I'm acutely aware that it's been almost a week since my last blog. Apologies! I'll write out a hundred lines "I must not neglect my readers".

There's a lot planned in the near future so please hang in there. In the meantime if you like fashion photography of the highest caliber you should take a look at Michael Thompson's work.

The Jed Root Agency represents several top fashion creatives and their site is well worth a visit as it gives a good international overview of the industry.

Catch you soon,

Paul