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Tutorial 02: Learn How To Take Better Pictures

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Tutorial 02: Learn How To Take Better Pictures

37-Years Professional Photography Experience. 18-Years Photoshop Experience

You have a maximum of 2 seconds to stop the viewer. 18 seconds for viewers to study your photograph.
Brutal times don’t allow for your confusion. Any weakness by the photographer will cost the viewer time and they will leave.
You will only create successful photography, if you understand what you are doing. Relying on luck guarantees failure.

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Photography: What You Must Achieve

Research Proves Viewers Invest Minimal Time Looking

1

Stop The Viewer

Studies have shown on average people look at a photograph for 20 seconds. In the first 2 seconds they judge whether to stay or leave. Without understanding the fundamentals of how to create a good photograph, you will never be able to create a photograph that does everything required within that 20 seconds.

2

Captivate The Viewer

If they look longer, you have 18 seconds to visually direct them to your main subject, ‘tell the story’ and create the emotional response before they make their final judgement. The viewer will not make any allowance for weakness or confusion by the photographer. Visual communication must be instant.

3

Reward The Viewer

The photograph must provide an enjoyable, beneficial experience as a reward or you have failed. Viewers only have your photograph to judge. They do not know or care about what was involved in getting the photograph. You must judge your work in the same harsh and very critical way viewers will do.

4

The Gallery Test

Imagine your image displayed in a gallery. Imagine it was taken by another photographer. What would you criticize? Would you find it interesting? If you find the image uninteresting or faults, imagine how harsh and critical viewers will be. Is it ‘really good’ – or only good because you took it?

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Astronomical Clock, Prague, Czech Republic. In Person Workshop Photograph

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Photography: The Theater Stage Analogy

An Easy Way To Remember Composition

1

Lead Actor 'Hero'

Like the theatrical stage performance, our photograph must have one, clearly defined lead actor; the ‘hero’ of the photograph. Also a main secondary actor; the relationship between the two, tell the main focus of the story. If we have multiple ‘lead actors’ we create confusion. The viewer will leave.

2

Supporting Cast

The supporting cast, ‘supports’ the hero but must never dominate the hero. Secondary objects add additional, general information or ‘clues’ to the story. The supporting content must be relevant to the story while directing the eye towards to the main hero. Helping make the hero be the center of attention.

3

Stage Backdrop

The general landscape environment becomes the stage backdrop, providing a context for the cast and story to perform. The stage backdrop provides us with an indication of the geographical location or type of terrain. The stage backdrop helps set the mood and atmosphere for the main stage.

4

Stage Lighting

Light sets the mood and atmosphere while creating the emotional response; explained on the ‘Creativity’ page. On a theater stage and photograph, spot lights focus our attention on the lead actors and supporting cast. Everything works with cohesion to create a polished performance for the audience.

The Dancing House, Prague, Czech Republic. In Person Workshop Photograph

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Photography: Compose The Story, Capture The Light

Created With Logic. Viewed With Clarity

1

Logical Means Clarity

‘Something catches your eye, you take a picture’. This is too random for creating consistently good photography. A logical approach will give clarity to your idea, story and composition. The clarity that went into creating the photograph also gives clarity to the viewer looking at the photograph. Clarity communicates.

2

Compose The Story

The logical approach is identify the hero first, then ask a series of questions: What angle shows the hero cleanly and at its best? What is the story I want to tell? How much supporting cast and backdrop do I need to include; to tell that story? The final composition is a compromise of all those questions.

3

Capture The Light

Having the physical composition decided, we turn to light. The questions are: What’s the ideal time of day to make the hero look three-dimensional? What weather do I need for the mood I want? Can I get that light today by waiting or do I need to return another day? The light must emphasize the hero.

4

Composition Is Visual 'Jango'

All content works either for or against the story. Compose with only relevant content that adds to your story, remove all irrelevant content that detracts. Composition is visual ‘Jango’ – How much can you remove, before there is not enough left to tell the story? Simple compositions communicate fast.

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Gondola Builders, Venice, Italy. In Person Workshop Photograph

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Photography: Take The Exposures Required

The More Assets Captured, The More Creative Choice Later

1

The Base Exposure

Base images are the traditional approach of aiming to get the perfect picture in one exposure. This becomes the finished photograph after all the technical and artistic assets are added. The same time, care, and attention to detail is taken to capture the base image, as if we only had one sheet of film available.

2

The Technical Assets

Technical assets are exposures to improve the technical quality of the image. Primarily bracketed images to control global contrast and create rich shadow detail. Other reasons include freezing moving objects or removing unwanted objects. Also exposures that provide better separation between objects.

3

The Artistic Assets

Artistic assets are when the light falls on different subjects in the landscape at different times; not captured all at once in the single base image. Artistic assets are creative improvements to the photograph. Other reasons would be adding objects like people and animals or long exposures of water.

4

The Sky & To Do List

Sky is non-geographical, being taken anytime from anywhere provided they match the main subject. While we photograph, we visualize the photograph we could create from the assets we have taken and then identify the critical assets we still need to capture to create the photograph we want.

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Lofoten Islands, Norway. In Person Workshop Photograph

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Photography: How To Create Rich Shadows

Shadows Are The Foundation Of Every Photograph

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Camera Response Curve

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Overexpose Shadows

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Computer Interpolation

1

The Response Curve

The camera response curve, red line on graph, shows the relationship between incoming light received by the camera and the tonal value of that light created by the camera. The camera alters the tones it records and not in a uniform way. Shadows are darkened and compressed, killing the richness and detail.

2

The Camera Histogram

The camera histogram represents the captured tones of the scene, after the camera response curve has altered the tones. As we expose to the right, the histogram shows the effect of this on the shadow tones. The left side of the curve becomes a smooth curve, meaning smooth shadow tones.

3

Over Expose Shadows

The key to good quality, rich shadows is to greatly over expose them. Move the shadows up the red camera response curve, well away from the bottom, flat part of the curve and into the straight line area higher up. Proportionally, this also reduces the amount of noise content which also improves quality.

4

Computer Interpolation

Dark shadows brightened in software are further destroyed. ‘Tonal’ gaps are created during brightening which the computer fills in with estimated tones; interpolated data. Over exposed shadows are higher quality with less noise and do not need interpolation as no data gaps are created to fill in.

Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy. In Person Workshop Photograph

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Photography: Where You May Be Going Wrong

Confusion Only Communicates Confusion

1

Lack Of Clarity

Lacking a clear idea of why you are taking the photograph, ‘the story’, is read as confusion by the viewer. The danger is to add more content than you need. The rule: One picture, one story. The best way to get clarity: Write a short paragraph that summarizes the story you want to tell, then illustrate it in your photo.

2

Lack Of Continuity

Photography is viewed as only having to organize the content neatly in the camera and job done; composition. Not everything can be achieved through composition alone. You must use every artistic principle, at every step of the production process, especially retouching, to clarify and unify the story.

3

Lack Of Confidence

There are 3 types of photographer. Those that play it safe, afraid to be bold and commit; creating dull and literal images. Those not afraid to be bold and commit; but create bad images through lack of knowledge. Lastly, the good photographer is bold and commits, but it’s done with artistic knowledge.

4

Give Up Lightroom

Lightroom is like trying to ‘repair a watch with a hammer’. Simply not surgical enough for the detailed work critical to make the quality of my photographs. Lightroom’s limitations are making your photographs look like everyone else because everyone is also working within the same Lightroom limitations.

Florence, Italy. In Person Workshop Photograph

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Photography: Main Artistic Principles Of Image Making

Success Through Knowledge Not Luck

1

Simple

Simple and bold composition grabs the attention and communicates instantly. Keeping the overall design simple and harmonious means less information for the brain to decipher, so what information there is, is deciphered quickly. The core ‘story’ is understood quickly due to the lack of confusing clutter.

2

Variety

Minimalist pictures while bold and often beautiful, grab our attention but do not retain our attention. We must supply a secondary layer of information to captivate the viewer. Variety refers to always rewarding the viewer as they explore the image with something new to look at. Keep the image changing.

3

Depth

Creating a realistic three-dimensional illusion of reality in the image, has great psychological power to draw the viewer ‘into the image’ rather than just look ‘at the image’. The viewer becomes a participant in the scene, not an outsider looking in at the scene. Creating a sense of depth is critical for the illusion.

4

Scale

The benefit of scale is two fold. Having a object of known height, like the human gives a size reference for other objects. On an emotional level, the juxtaposition of objects of different size can create feelings of loneliness, awe, power and the sense of ‘a higher power at work’; the non physical.

Old Town Hall, Prague, Czech Republic. In Person Workshop Photograph

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YouTube ~ The ‘Blind Leading The Blind’

YouTubers Are The Worst Qualified To Teach You Any Photography

1

Self-Proclaimed Experts

YouTube has created a tsunami of ignorant ‘self-proclaimed experts’. YouTubers have no reason to be good photographers. They earn their living from YouTube, advertising and product promotion based on volume of views. Videos made for their income, not your education. YouTube is only good for basic techniques.

2

Professional Experts

The quality knowledge you need to learn is held by the professional working photographer. They don’t have the time or desire to spend their lives making YouTube videos. The result is those you see and hear the most, are in fact the ones with the least experience, knowledge and talent to teach: YouTubers!

3

Corrupting Photography

Amateurs have hijacked photography education through YouTube and the internet. This has created a massive void of professional quality knowledge. YouTubers are dumbing down photography and corrupting standards. The real, good quality knowledge now almost impossible to find or learn.

4

Promoting Lazyness

YouTubers promote cheap and lazy – ‘tips, tricks and effects’. Their minimum effort approach has now flooded the world with banal, generic and soulless images that all look the same, lacking quality or creativity. If YouTubers were good photographers they wouldn’t have the time to waste making videos.

The Summary Of The Workflow:

“Compose the subject. Photograph the light. Print the atmosphere.
Identify the main hero, clarify your story. Compose your story with the minimum content possible. Wait for the light to create the ideal atmosphere. Use Photoshop to transform the photograph using artistic principles to clarify the story further, enhance the light, create the three-dimensional quality and spatial depth. The final photograph must be artistic, cohesive, instantly understood and a personal interpretation that evokes an emotional response.” David Osborn Photography.

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