Is Your Photography …

Mentally Engaging & Visually Efficient?

Does your photography captivate – The Viewer?

Two Qualities Make Good Photography

1

Be Mentally Engaging

Good photography rewards the photographer and viewer. – Bad photography rewards the photographer only – NOT the viewer. You must trigger the viewers emotions, curiosity, and imagination. – If your photography doesn’t provide any benefit for the viewer, – Why expect the viewer to like your photography?

2

Be Visually Efficient

You can’t communicate anything if it’s a mess and chaotic. – Visually efficient means control the visual elements, structure, order, emphasis, and design, so you communicate an idea fast, easily, and efficiently, based only on what the viewer sees in your photograph, – Without any explanation from you!

You Create Good Photography In 4 Steps

1

Identify The Quality

‘What do you want to tell me, in the photograph you show me?’ – Identify one crystal clear idea first. – ‘Essence’ is the subjects unique quality, ‘fingerprint’ that defines its character, personality, mood, or moment. Your photograph is based on conveying that ‘Essence’ and triggering an emotional reaction.

2

Isolate The Quality

‘Essence’ is weakened if polluted by showing unnecessary information. – We must purify ‘Essence’ by removing all unnecessary information that is not part of your story. Isolate only the information you need, from all the background noise and chaos. – Only show me, what you NEED to show me.

3

Amplify The Quality

Amplify the ‘Essence’ so the quality DOMINATES the photograph. Amplify the strength and clarity so the viewer clearly understands what the idea or story of your photograph is instantly. Concentrate the viewers attention, on what and where you want the viewer to look in your photograph.

4

Stimulate The Mind

The absolute priority of the photograph is to mentally stimulate the viewer. It is not what the photograph SHOWS, but what the photograph SAYS, that is critical. – If the photograph does not stimulate the viewer, the viewer gets no benefit, no reward. To stimulate the viewer, we need a ‘Trigger’.

How You Stimulate The Viewers Mind

1

Simplify The Design

‘Arrange what you see. Trigger what you feel’. Design the composition for visual simplicity. Reduce the design down to simple shapes, being careful how they all interact. Viewpoint and light also affect design. – The design is not the ‘Trigger’. Design only creates an ordered BACKGROUND for the ‘Trigger’ to function.

2

Create The Trigger

‘Triggers’ are the photographs ‘Clickbait’. – The quality which stimulates you to think. They trigger the imagination and emotions of viewers, put purpose and life into the photograph. A photograph that relies only on design, is only an exercise in design. Design alone does not ‘Trigger’ serious engagement.

There Are Two Forms Of Mental Trigger

1

Immediate Triggers

First response triggers. – Two qualities we perceive first in the photograph are ‘Light’ and ‘Time’. Qualities we see and don’t need to think about to understand, so they are fast, immediate triggers. Time is conveying a transient moment. The fundamental elements for every photograph are: Subject, Design, Light & Time.

2

Association Triggers

Second response triggers. Signature, Connection, Ambiguity & Innovation, all require thinking about. – They rely on first understanding what you see, then thinking about what you see. Slower, contemplative triggers that offer more reward to viewers. The ultimate triggers every photographer should aim for.

The Two Called Immediate Triggers

1

Light

‘Direction & Quality’: Direction defines what you see, and quality defines what you feel. – Direction creates the three-dimensional illusion and the form of the object, while quality creates the mood, drama, and atmosphere which triggers the emotional response. Light creates contrast, and contrast creates energy.

2

Time

‘Time injects life into the photograph’: Without ‘Time’ the photograph is dead. A photograph will never really feel alive if it has no momentary content. This can be the expression or body language of people or a transient moment of light on the landscape. ‘Time’ gives your photograph a unique feel and value.

And, The Four Called Association Triggers

1

Signature

‘Signature’ is identifying, then portraying the visual elements which make your subject, location, or event UNIQUE. The subjects’ unique fingerprint, the visual properties that define it. – Portray those properties and you communicate the ambience of your location; triggering what it would feel like to be there.

2

Connection

We naturally place meanings on objects, then create associations between the objects. Working out the connection between objects creates curiosity and stimulates the brain to find a logical answer. ‘Connection’ is provoking a viewers reaction by intentionally showing one subject in relation to another.

3

Ambiguity

‘Ambiguity’ is similar to ‘Connection’. – Except, the ‘PUZZLE’ is harder to solve! We IMPLY something more, but don’t show ‘it’. You want the answer to come to your mind, not from the picture. Mystery stimulates us to complete stories in our mind because they are enigmatic; only clues, not answers are shown.

4

Innovation

We all have the natural desire for ‘NEW’. – New is refreshing and reenergizes curiosity. When ‘new’ becomes common, it fades into the background noise, no longer noticed because it has lost its curiosity ‘Trigger’. – Showing a new perspective is stimulating. New draws our attention and makes us feel good.

Essential Qualities Based On Human Nature

1

Mentally Engaging

‘Pleasure Motivates Humans’. – We get a feeling of ‘pleasure’ when we solve a problem, but not from the effort used to solve the problem. This motivates us to solve life’s problems. By adding a visual problem or ambiguity, we create a chance for the viewer to win a prize, when solved – ‘The Feeling of Pleasure’.

2

Visually Efficient

Human nature is aimed at survival. Our chances of survival are increased if we conserve energy. We always prefer the solution which requires least energy and effort because it’s an efficient survival solution. – This applies to pictures. Visual simplicity and clarity require less time, energy and effort to process.

Why Factoring In Human Nature Is So Critical

‘The Principles of Human Perception’ define how we view photography, how people look at pictures, so it’s only logical to use the same principles as guidelines when creating photographs. Viewers only need to ‘feel’ it’s a good photograph. Photographers must know ‘why’ it’s a good photograph. Then, know how to ‘create’ a good photograph. All of the principles are based on science, not opinion. The more familiar the subject is, the less curiosity we have about it. – This places pressure on familiar subjects to be shown in a different way to counteract our natural loss of curiosity. Anything new, different, or unusual catches our eye and gives us a little rush of motivation to explore. Different makes us anticipate a reward. Producing literal and generic-looking photography doesn’t reward the viewer, because they don’t stimulate the viewers’ imagination or curiosity.

However, Photography Needs Other Criteria

1

Only The Photograph Is Important

It’s not about what you got out of ‘taking’ the photograph, it’s about what your viewer gets out of ‘looking’ at your photograph. Viewers want to get a reward, nothing more. They don’t want to read words, hear your backstories, problems, or deal with egos. Nothing matters except the photograph you show viewers.

2

You Must Communicate Instantly

What you do show, better communicate fast – or they will leave. The viewer owes you nothing and will not stay long, it’s your job to stop, captivate, and reward, fast. How fast? Five times faster than the blink of an eye! That’s how fast people ‘extract information and form an opinion’ from a photograph!

3

Literal & Generic Is Now Pointless

300 million pictures are uploaded EVERY DAY. There are 750 billion images on the internet. – Viewers are desensitized to photography! Showing literal and generic-looking photographs is now pure photographic suicide, they offer no reward to the viewer. Give your viewers something new, make them care.

4

You Must Convey Your Personality

Viewers want to connect with the person behind the photograph. – What is your personal view or opinion on the subject? Don’t just show a descriptive recording of what the subject looks like. Viewers must feel the photograph’s created by a person with an opinion, not the product of a clinical machine.

The Camera Records & Photoshop Creates

1

Photography

The digital photograph is a product of image-editing software, not the camera. Isn’t it logical then to prioritize the image-editing software and use the camera to maximize the creative potential of that software? Cameras are designed to record, so we use the camera to record the components for Photoshop later.

2

Photoshop

It’s not about ‘Speed & Automation’, nor ‘Instant Gratification. – it’s all about creativity; take the photograph beyond what the camera recorded. Aesthetic skill transforms literal and generic-looking views into beautifully crafted and refined, personal artistic statements that people stand up and take notice of.

Use Photography To Create The Photoshop Assets

1

The Base Image

The base image is the traditional approach of aiming to get the perfect picture in one exposure. This becomes the final photograph once all the technical and artistic exposures have been added. The identical time, care, and attention to detail are taken as if we only had one sheet of film available to get the image.

2

Technical Assets

Technical exposures improve the technical and tonal qualities of the picture. 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 the objects.

3

Artistic Assets

Artistic exposures are when the light falls on various parts of the landscape at different times; not captured at one time in the main base image. The artistic exposures are artistic improvements to the content of the photograph. These assets allow you to create the ideal artistic interpretation you previsualized.

4

The Sky & Clouds

Sky and clouds are the pictures forgotten jewels – vastly overlooked given their importance. Quiet heroes responsible for creating all the light that sets the mood and communicates the life and soul of the landscape. The design and composition of the clouds gently directing the viewer back to the hero.

Use Photoshop To Create The Final Photograph

1

Align The Exposures

When we photograph, we photograph one composition only. This forces us to think harder about the picture we want. It also allows us to invest 100% of our time in getting one really great picture without wasting time on pictures that you delete later. A tripod is used so all of the exposures align in Photoshop.

2

Composite The Assets

Step 1: The aim is to composite all the assets together to make a single image as if it were taken by the camera without any artifacts showing. Compositing is where we plan: How we are going to achieve ‘Mentally Engaging & Visually Efficient’ – before the content is locked in. We must visualize the final image.

3

Create Technical Quality

Step 2: The aim is to create the three-dimensional illusion of reality with light, form, texture, and spatial depth. This has great psychological power that will draw the viewer ‘into the picture’, rather than just look – ‘at the picture’. This creates a powerful connection, a bond between the subject and the viewer.

4

Create Artistic Quality

Step 3: The aim is to create a personal artistic statement. It’s no longer about creating a sense of reality. – It’s about creating your interpretation of reality. Don’t be afraid to transform the picture. The worst thing you can do is make another bland, literal, and generic-looking photograph no one cares about.

Use Structure To Create Visual Efficiency

1

The Lead Actor Or 'Hero'

Like a theatre stage performance, – the photograph must have one, very clearly recognizable lead actor. – ‘The Hero’ of the photograph. This will get the viewer straight to the heart of the photograph with speed and clarity by concentrating attention on the core subject of importance. Having no hero creates confusion.

2

The Supporting Cast

The secondary actors and supporting cast ‘support’ the hero but must never dominate the hero or we create a conflict. The supporting cast are dominant objects that add to the story but are not the main story. The supporting cast is kept to a minimum, but they will provide ‘clues’ to the photographs story.

3

The Stage Backdrop

The general landscape and the sky are the stage backdrop. Stage backdrops provide the context for the cast to perform. The backdrop provides evidence of the environment and geographical location. Combined with stage lighting, they set the overall mood and atmosphere for the hero to perform and shine.

4

The Stage Lighting

Light creates the mood and emotional atmosphere. Strong spotlights focus attention on the lead actors, softer lights emphasize the supporting cast. All the elements from actors to lighting, designed to work in harmony: Creating a cohesive, polished performance offering the audience maximum reward.

The Heart Of Photography Is Tonal Control

1

The Palette

Highlights give the photograph light, life, and sparkle. The mid-tones give mood and atmosphere, Shadows create strength and structure. The shadows are the foundation tones of all photographs on which everything else is built. The color component is more of an artistic overlay helping create emotion, not structure.

2

Shadows

‘Visually Efficient’ would imply keeping the shadows easily readable, but this removes ‘Mental Engagement’. No work is required to discover all the details. Making the shadows ‘Visually Inefficient’; making them darker, means we get a pleasurable reward when we discover new details we didn’t notice earlier.

3

Midtones

Midtones create the three-dimensional quality of objects: Shape, roundness, volume, and sense of depth. Midtones set the general emotional ‘tone’ of the photograph. – We deviate from a neutral palette towards a brighter or darker palette depending on what mood or emotion we want to communicate.

4

Highlights

Highlights inject life into the picture, they convey light and momentary time. Highlights are essential for ‘Visual Efficiency’. They attract attention, instantly drawing the eye. – Therefore, they must be kept to details you want to draw the eye to. They create areas of high contrast or areas of high visual energy.

But, Cameras Alter The Tones You See

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Fine Art Landscape Photography Workshops

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Camera Response Curve

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Overexpose Shadows

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Fine Art Landscape Photography Workshops

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Computer Interpolation

1

The Highlights

The camera creates very good highlight separation. The camera adds 45% more contrast to the tones, but at the expense of the midtones and shadows. That is a great benefit when shooting subtle skies on a gray day. The camera gives us a beautifully rich palette of tones in the clouds. Perfect for soft, painterly skies.

2

The Shadows

The camera creates terrible shadow separation, in fact, it totally destroys the shadows. The camera reduces shadow contrast by 53% and, as much as 79% in the very darkest tones. The shadows also contain a very high proportion of noise. – You will NEVER create beautiful rich shadow detail using these tones.

3

Shadows: Camera v Software

Overexposing shadows in the camera is RADICALLY BETTER than brightening them in software. Overexposing all the dark tones will create beautifully rich, smooth shadows with more detail. Software destroys the quality even more. Software cannot create tones or details you never shot! – Read why next.

4

Computer Interpolation

You cannot make 2 feet of rope become 10 feet of rope! You could cut the rope up, and space the pieces evenly apart to get 10 feet of rope – but with gaps! This is what you are asking software to do. The ‘gaps’ being filled in by the computer with estimated tones. Not the same as buying 10 feet of rope!

We Control The Tones Using Artistic Principles

1

Light

The ultimate story of the photograph is a story about light; the subject is just a means to portray the light and tell the story. Light sets the mood of the picture and creates the emotional connection with the viewer. Without a story of light, the picture has no life, soul, or energy. Light is the landscapes personality.

2

Form

Light creates form. The feeling of every object having solid substance, shape, volume, and texture. Form also creates spatial distance; how all the individual objects relate to each other as they recede further into the distance from us. Form creates a convincing, realistic three-dimensional illusion of reality.

3

Emphasis

Emphasis takes the viewer straight to the hero of the photograph, then all of the secondary subjects in their order of importance. The hero is composed in the camera and enhanced, ’emphasized’, in Photoshop. Emphasis is giving the picture a cohesive visual order and clarity by removing all visual conflicts.

4

Contrast

Contrast is not limited to contrast of tone. Contrast is opposing one quality against its opposite – large against small, the smooth against texture, warm against cool. The eye is drawn to the brightest tones and edges with highest contrast. Contrast creates emphasis, variation, and energy in the picture.

5

Variation

Variation creates an energy and interest. When our eyes explore the picture and finds an area that does not change, we lose interest very quickly. We get ‘visually bored’. A flat blue sky is boring, it has no variety. In photo retouching, we create ‘visual energy’ by keeping every part of the picture changing.

6

Cohesion

Cohesion is making every element work together in harmony with one aim; to create a polished performance and deliver a clear, concise and rewarding experience. To communicate the story clearly and efficiently by removing all conflict, confusion, and distraction with clear emphasis on one main ‘hero’.

And, Apply Artistic Principles With Technique

1

Photoshop Logic

The following is a quick overview of the main Photoshop techniques I use and teach. Before teaching the specific techniques, I do an overview of Photoshop and explain how to approach Photoshop from a problem-solving angle, along with an overview of my complete, structured, picture-making workflow.

2

Align, Clean & Sharpen

File preparation from editing the shoot to raw conversion. How to check for a pixel-perfect alignment. Cleaning images; removing unwanted details from simple dust spots to very complicated object removal. Why I sharpen images at the start and the sharpening process. Sharpening sets up Dodge & Burn.

3

Blending & Masking

Compositing techniques. How to blend the bracketed exposures to control contrast without needing HDR. How to create perfectly detailed masks with my own advanced mask-making process that allows you to replace skies so perfectly, you can replace the sky in between individual leaves of a tree.

4

Dodge & Burn

The most misunderstood and incorrectly taught Photoshop technique of all; yet the most important technique to inject life and energy into every part of the picture and give it that WOW factor. – Dodge & Burn is NOT brightening and darkening. – It is increasing the micro-contrast of all the very fine detail.

5

Create Sense Of Depth

The most powerful way to entice the viewer to connect with the picture is to create a three-dimensional illusion of spatial depth. It captivates us and demands we psychologically walk in and around, searching, exploring, and discovering. It rewards us with a journey, an intellectual experience.

6

Create Rembrandt Light

Light, the heart and soul of all pictures. Light dictates the mood, drama, and atmosphere. It concentrates attention to create visual efficiency, structure, and order. Understanding light and how to portray light is the most critical quality to learn so you create: ‘Mentally Engaging & Visually Efficient’.

Artistic Principles Proven By Painters & Science

1

Generic Look - No Artistic Principles Applied

Visual attention software produces a heat-map report showing where we look during the important first 3-5 seconds. Blue areas having a low chance of being noticed. Yellows to reds have a high chance of being noticed with red at a 99% chance of grabbing audience’s attention. Above is the raw file and its heatmap. There are no red ‘heat’ areas on the hero of the photograph: The Cathedral. The photograph fails ~ it does not communicate my story in that first 3-5 seconds.

2

Artistic Look - With Artistic Principles Applied

Above is the finished version and its heat-map. Notice the largest red ‘heat’ area is now on Florence Cathedral. The cathedral now having a 99% chance of being noticed in the initial 3-5 seconds of viewing. The image now works because science proves you notice, what I wanted you to notice: ~ Florence Cathedral. All I did was manipulate how you view the image by applying the artistic principles in retouching. I concentrated and controlled your attention!

Learning Science-Based Knowledge Is Logical

1

'Good' Has Provable Fact

There are qualities all great works of art have in common. The world of art calls these ‘Artistic Principles’. Science came from a different angle, ‘The Principles of Human Perception’. In effect, an identical list of principles. ‘Good’ has provable, time tested principles that can be taught and learned. ‘Good’ is not just opinion.

2

Facts Replace Opinion

Everyone has an opinion, and their opinion is always, the right opinion. Not much help when you’re learning. It just creates chaos, confusion, indecision, wasted time and effort. Principles extract the facts you need to know from the background noise of opinion. You can trust facts, not personal opinion.

3

Facts Are Core Knowledge

You can’t be good at what you do, if you don’t understand what you’re doing first. Art has fundamental principles. Would it not be logical then, to learn the principles first? Then you can build on them. Photographers are so focused on photography, that they don’t learn the lessons from the wider world of art.

4

Facts Make Learning Easier

Principles can be learned. Unlike opinions, they are limited in number. Each principle is a nice, clean, concise piece of knowledge. This makes them easy to teach and easy to learn. They also give you guidelines when you create a photograph, and a set of criteria to judge what you have created, against.

Improving Your Photography At The Fundamental Level

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