Archive for December, 2008

Flickr: Your Best Friend or Worst Enemy — You Decide!

Posted in General with tags , , on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 by Miserere

This isn’t a peeve with Flickr, it’s a peeve with certain Flickr users. Everyone is entitled to use Flickr how they see fit, which is why some upload photographs of trips or social gatherings so their friends and/or relatives can enjoy them, while others simply empty their whole hard-drive of photos to Flickr. There is nothing wrong with these practices.

Unless you’re a photographer trying to showcase your work.

I will often stumble upon photographers online who include their Flickr account address in their signature; being the inquisitive guy that I am I automatically click on the link to see what they have. Much too often I am greeted by a front page filled with 10 shots of the same subject framed from slightly different positions. But it gets worse, when I scroll down to the bottom of the page I see this:

You don't have 8,763 awesome photos
I immediately flee the page, never to return.

I don’t care who you are, there is now way you’ve taken 8,763 decent, let alone good pictures in your lifetime. If it took me only 1 second to look at each picture, I would still have to sit in front of my computer 2-1/2 hours to see the whole portfolio. I don’t have that kind of time nor stamina.

If your Flickr account contains a few dozen of your best shots, you’re fine (and this article isn’t for you); I’ll stay a while and enjoy your work, pausing every now and then to note my admiration for a particular image through a comment. I will then continue with my Life feeling enriched for having seen some good photography.

If your Flickr account contains every single frame you’ve ever shot, please, please, please heed my request: Create a set titled My Best Pics or something similar, and locate it at the top of the sets sidebar; inside you will place your best photographs. And no, you do not have 350 best photos, trust me. Just choose the very best, and if you can keep it under 25, you’re golden.

If you don’t know or can’t decide which are your best shots, you can use an automatic set generator such as that provided by Dopiaza. It’s easy to set up, letting you choose the number of pics to include and even which tags to look for (so you could have a set of your best B&W shots, for example, if you tag them ‘B&W’). The set regenerates automatically about once per day, choosing your most interesting photos based on how many times they’ve been viewed and favourited (is that even a word?).

“Don’t bury your best work amongst hundreds of drab shots; it deserves to be showcased!”

You spent a long time taking photographs, and maybe even longer processing them on the computer or scanning them. Don’t let all this time go to waste by burying your best work amongst hundreds of drab shots; it deserves to be showcased! If you can’t be bothered to highlight it for me, don’t expect me to spend hours digging it out. Be proud of it, and let everyone who visits your Flickr page know that — give your best images their own set. Not only will you get more exposure, but you’ll be giving your visitors 2-1/2 hours of their Life back. I, for one, will be eternally grateful to you.

Subscribe to EtL Via e-mail

Posted in General with tags , on Monday, December 29, 2008 by Miserere

We all know how hard it is to click on a link every day to check your favourite blog for updates…especially if you have 300 favourite blogs. Worry no more! At least about Enticing the Light. Thanks to the nice folk at FeedBurner you can now subscribe to e-mail updates. Many people asked me for the option, and I just can’t say no to the EtL fans.

So click here, enter your e-mail address, and you’ll receive a daily e-mail when EtL gets updated. You will also find a link on the sidebar allowing you to subscribe at any time if you don’t feel like doing it now.

Go ahead, subscribe. It’s FREE! 🙂

Coming Soon to EtL: F-BoM

Posted in F-BoM with tags , on Saturday, December 27, 2008 by Miserere

F-BoM, Featured Blog of the Month (pronounced F bomb), will be a recurring feature that will highlight some of my favourite photography blogs. If you want your blog to receive this important accolade you have two options:

  1. Send a cheque for US$1,000 to the Enticing the Light headquarters, or
  2. Work hard on your photography blog to make it interesting enough to feature here

I must admit to not having much time for perusing blogs, so I don’t have 200 blogs in my daily must-see list. If anyone knows of an interesting photo blog (it may be your own), feel free to write me about it: Miserere [at] gmail [dot] com. We all know about, and read, the famous blogs, so I wish to highlight the lesser-known blogs with quality/quirky/interesting material in them.

This monthly feature will kick off in early January 2009. And in case you’re wondering: yes, I already have a blog selected.

Merry Christmas!

Posted in General on Thursday, December 25, 2008 by Miserere

xmas2008_00

To those who celebrate it, I wish you a Merry Christmas. I hope Santa Claus brought you all the lenses you asked for!

Free Gifs and Animations

Achieve the Exposure You Want, Part 1

Posted in Lesson, Photography with tags , , , on Wednesday, December 24, 2008 by Miserere

Ex-po-sure /ɪkˈspoʊʒər/ [ik-spoh-zher] –noun

  1. the act of presenting a photosensitive surface to rays of light.
  2. the total amount of light received by a photosensitive surface or an area of such a surface, expressed as the product of the degree of illumination and the period of illumination.
  3. the image resulting from the effects of light rays on a photosensitive surface.

While the definition of exposure tells us what it is, it tells us nothing about what a correct exposure is or how to go about achieving it. For better or for worse, only you can decide what the correct exposure is in each situation. A photograph that is all white (over exposed) or all black (under exposed) is certainly a “wrong” exposure, but just about anything in between can be a correct depending on your personal, artistic choice. Examine the following 3 pictures of the same object:

Image credit: Imroy.

Most people would choose the middle frame as the correct exposure, but all three are equally “correct”. The left-hand frame could be a low-key picture, while the right-hand frame could be high-key; it all depends on what you’re after.

It is impossible to capture a scene on film or CCD that exactly reflects what our eyes are seeing (this will be the subject of a future post, but in the meantime you might want to read this or this). The reason is that the human eye can perceive a larger tonal range than film or CCDs can. To put it simply for now, a light of any colour, say red, that is bright enough to appear pure white on a CCD (because it is saturating it) can still appear red to the human eye; it will need to get much brighter before we start to see it white. At the opposite end of the scale, the opposite is also true; in shadow areas that appear black to a CCD, the human eye might still be able to see details and will require that area to be a lot darker before we start to see it black and featureless.

“Whenever you let your camera do the thinking for you, you are giving up your artistic freedom.”

Given this impossibility then, we need to decide what tonal range of the scene we want to capture. That is, we have to decide whether we want to see stuff in the shadows and let the bright parts be washed out, or see detail in the bright parts and have the shadows be dark and mostly featureless. Most cameras nowadays will decide this for you and try to take the middle road. Sometimes this is a good thing, but I feel that whenever you let your camera do the thinking for you, you are giving up your artistic freedom.

Choosing the exposure will be your first step toward taking control of your photography, and you will find that it plays an important role in making a photograph. Control is the key here: You have to decide what the photograph will look like, and do it before you take it. Don’t worry, it’s a lot easier than you think, and in part 2 of this article I’ll be explaining to you how you can do it.

Making Photographs

Posted in Lesson, Photography with tags , , on Saturday, December 20, 2008 by Miserere

I ended my first post with an Ansel Adams quote, and shall begin this one with another:

     You don’t take a photograph, you make it.
    –Ansel Adams

What did he mean by this? Ansel was known to approach photography with a very scientific mindset; remember that back then you couldn’t review the histogram on the back of the camera, so you had to get a correct exposure right then and there. When he set up his camera, he knew what exposure he would need to make the scene look the way he wanted it. He knew what filter to use on the lens, and he most certainly knew what aperture he wanted to set the lens at in order to achieve his desired depth of field. The remaining, non-mechanical issue was that of composition; again, Ansel would study his subject, sometimes for years (often a mountain that he knew well from having visited it many times during his life) and he would choose the best location from where to take the photograph. This location could be different depending on the time of day and/or year. In conjunction with the location of his camera, he would decide what focal length lens to use and choose the point of focus. A higher value focal length affords a higher magnification, with a 50mm lens providing zero magnification (also, remember that as magnification increases, the field of view decreases). Does this sound like a lot? Well it’s not over yet! Ansel would note down the settings he used for each particular photo and leave notes to remind himself how he wanted to develop the photo in the darkroom later on, as it could be weeks or months before he was able to do this. And yes, he would make different exposures depending on how he planned to develop the negative.

Ansel Adams – Moon and Half Dome Ansel Adams – Moon and Half Dome

This isn’t something you can learn in a day, or a few weeks, and it took him years to hone his craft. But once he had done so it all came naturally to him. Today, we have it easy, our cameras set the exposure for us automatically and even focus the image. If you have a digital camera, it will record all the settings you used in its EXIF data, so there is no need to carry notebooks. However, despite all these technical advances, the number of great photographs produced has not increased significantly.

“Despite advances in camera technology, the number of great photographs has not increased significantly.”

This leads me to believe that taking a good photograph has little to do with the mechanical aspects of the process, and everything to do with the artistic aspects. Camera makers can automate just about every aspect of photography, but in the end, it is up to the photographer to point the camera at a worthwhile subject and compose an aesthetically pleasing shot. Hence the opening quote of this post. When I see something I like, that tickles my fancy, I don’t put the camera to my eye and start moving it around and working the zoom ring until I find something that looks good. Oh no. I take my sweet time to observe the subject, walk around it and study it from different angles if it’s possible. I try to find the essence of what I will photograph. Once I’ve decided how I want to shoot it (location, angle, composition, depth of field and amount of light), I will find the appropriate focal length to use, and aperture (to set the depth of field); only then will I take the shot. When I look at the preview on the back of camera I immediately know if I made a photograph or not.

Don’t despair if at first you don’t succeed, and feel free to take shots at different angles or settings that you might think are silly. Initially, you will not be familiar with your camera equipment and may not know how particular settings will affect the photographs, so it is actually important to take quite a few photos more than you think you should. Use your camera and lenses often enough, and you will eventually get to know them well. At this point you will be in a position to play up their strengths and hide their weaknesses; you probably won’t even have to think about it. Keep practicing what you learn and you’ll soon find yourself making photographs, not just taking them.

Introduction

Posted in General with tags , on Friday, December 19, 2008 by Miserere

Welcome to my corner of the web! I am Miserere, and I will be your host, guide and companion during our quest for photographic enlightenment.

If you’ve found this spot, it’s because you want to learn how to take better photographs. You are not alone in this endeavour and, if I may say so, you’ve come to the right place.

I don’t claim to have all the answers; indeed, I’m not even sure that anyone has all the answers. As famed 20th century photographer, Robert Doisneau, once commented, If I knew how to take a good photograph, I’d do it every time.

Robert Doisneau – Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville
Robert Doisneau – Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville
(He definitely knew how to do it this time!)

However, I am committed to tracking down as many answers as possible…and sharing them on this site with all of you. I am also hoping that you, dear reader, will help me/us with your comments, letting us all know about your techniques, your little tricks, your photographic superstitions, etc. I hope this site will enable all of us to become better photographers.

I make no distinction between film or digital photography; how you entice your light is entirely up to you. There is no wrong or right, there is just a good photograph…or a bad one. I crave the final product, the recorded light: the image! The medium is just a necessary evil in the process of freezing photons in time.

“I make no distinction between film or digital photography; how you entice your light is entirely up to you.”

I know I will be walking most of this road alone, and I’m happy with that. This blog is as much about sharing as it is about me ordering what I know and learn, and creating some sort of “roadmap” where I can direct people to when I’m asked “how can I take a good/better photo, Mis?”.

Along the way I will present the Art of photographers whose work I find interesting, that we may all learn from it. Sometimes they will be famous, and sometimes they will be unknown; photographers whose work I just found floating around cyberspace. I will also be commenting on any piece of photo news that catches my fancy. One thing I will try to stay away from is equipment talk, at least to begin with. It seems most aspiring photographers tend to obsess over the camera or lenses they have (or don’t have) and forget the basics, the method, the Art. I’ve been guilty of this myself and it’s part of the reason why I started this site. I also have many other ideas which I will try to implement as time and resources permit.

Thus the journey begins…

     The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.
    –Ansel Adams