The Digital Photography Book – Scott Kelby

Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Book was one of the first books that I read as an aspiring photographer, and was definitely one of the best. Originally published in 2006, over the years it has been updated and revised as well have new books added to the series. As of the time of writing, there are 5 volumes available, each continuing where the previous book left off.

The idea behind the books is to explain concepts easily, without too much technical jargon. This excerpt from Scott sums it up best.

“If you and I were out on a shoot and you asked me, ‘Hey Scott, I want the light for this portrait to look really soft and flattering. How far back should I put this softbox?’ I wouldn’t give you a lecture about lighting ratios, or flash modifiers. In real life, I’d just turn to you and say, ‘Move it in as close to your subject as you possibly can, without it actually showing up in the shot.’ Well, that’s what this book is all about: you and I out shooting where I answer questions, give you advice, and share the secrets I’ve learned, just like I would with a friend–without all the technical explanations and techie photo speak.”

The story set as if you and Scott are two friends out on a shoot. The books are broken down into several chapters, each focusing on a certain type of photography, i.e. weddings, sports, landscapes, portraits, etc. Each page within the chapters presents a particular tip or technique, conveying it a simple, straight forward manner. It mostly avoids getting too technical, rather it simply focuses on what you need to do or what settings you need to change to achieve a certain kind of shot.

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 9.02.46 AM.png
Excerpt from The Digital Photography Book Volume 3 (Kelby, 2009)

The books are filled with Scott’s light hearted humor and puns. This serves to lighten the mood of the book, helping to turn it into a fun read instead of a textbook. This is what makes Scott’s series stand out from the other photography books out there. It’s fun.

Some key things that I learned from the books – 

  1. Holding the camera steady (Scott shared a technique about how to wrap the camera strap around your arm to achieve better stability.)
  2. Framing (Where to crop your portraits.)
  3. Perspective (Using a wide angle vs using a zoom to achieve very different effects)

Scott’s books are one of the best selling photography books in the world – and for good reason. If you’re a beginner just starting out in photography, these books will definitely help you learn what you need to know to capture better pictures. And if you’re a seasoned photographer, these books make a great read – and you might learn something new too.

part5cvrAt the end of each book Scott presents some of his photos and tells you exactly how he achieved that result. All of these and more, are compiled into volume 5 of The Digital Photography Book. So if you want to know more about how Scott shoots his subjects, and his exact thought process and workflow, book 5 is worth exploring.

The Digital Photography Books are available to purchase as physical copies or ebooks on Amazon.

References

Kelby, S. (2006). The digital photography book. volume 1: The step-by-step secrets for how to make your photos look like the pros’! Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press.

Kelby, S. (2008). The digital photography book: The step-by-step secrets for how to make your photos look like the pros! Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press.

Kelby, S. (2009). The digital photography book: The step-by-step secrets for how to make your photos look like the pros’! : Volume 3. Berkeley, Calif.: Peachpit Press.

Kelby, S. (2012). The digital photography book, part 4: The step-by-step secrets for how to make your photos look like the pros’! Berkeley, CA: Peachpit.

Advertisements

Style Analysis – Mark Singerman

Introduction

Presenting the fourth post in the Style Analysis series. The idea behind this series is to help form a better understanding of various photography and editing styles and methods.

Point to note – photography is subjective. This is not a post pointing out what I think are “good” and “bad” photos, rather I’m trying to take a fairly objective view and simply examine the techniques and style preferences of the photographers.

Mark Singerman

Mark Singerman is a portrait photographer. His photography can be found on Instagram @marksingerman and on his website.

Photography

While Mark does shoot various types of photos, which can be found on his website, the focus for this post are his vibrant portraits. Portraiture was chosen simply because that’s what his Instagram account focuses on.

21294463_103590587048599_671098608619094016_n

  • Color

Color-wise, at first glance the photos do have some resemblance to Brandon Woelfel’s style, but upon closer inspection the differences become more obvious. Firstly, Mark’s photos are warmer and focus on the blues and oranges, while Brandon’s pictures are cooler, more desaturated and have a tint leaning more to the pink side. These are fairly simple variations, but provide the photographers with two vastly different styles. Another point to note is that Mark’s alters the blues to be more aqua, something that seems to be an increasingly more common trend on the Instagram.

  • Composition

The models in the photos are placed almost always in the center, putting the focus on them, and creating a pleasing symmetry to the image. There aren’t any extreme camera angles, with the camera placed more or less around eye level. The portraits are usually framed as a mid-shot or close-up, rarely showing the entire person, but instead focusing more on their face and expression.

  • Props

Mark also uses props such as prisms, sparklers and fairy lights to add some flair to his photos. The props coupled with the bokeh caused by a large aperture lens, give the images an extra element to them, although they’re not used in every picture and Mark ‘s style doesn’t rely on them as much as, Brandon Woelfel.

Conclusion

As usual, this is not meant to be an detailed analysis, but simply my observations. Have you notice anything else in Mark’s style? Leave a comment if you did!

Refrences

Singerman, M. (2017). [photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/marksingerman

Goodbye Lightroom?

Adobe’s Lightroom is without a doubt one of , if not the most popular RAW photo processing software out there. The vast majority of professionals use it for their photo editing needs, and even if you don’t use it, you’ll have at least heard of it.

However in the past few versions, Lightroom has been acting up. Performance is painfully slow, rendering previews take forever and it guzzles up RAM like a monster. And it’s not just me, a quick internet search will turn up hundreds of unhappy users over the past several years, in various forums and websites bemoaning Lightroom’s performance. And while Adobe has very recently acknowledged the issues in Lightroom (Fitzgerald, 2017), it will still take some time for them to roll out fixes to the problems, if at all. And to top it all off, a subscription to Lightroom isn’t cheap, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that shelling out cash for a program that is simply too slow to use at times is simply not worth it.

So what is a photographer to do now?

Well, one option is to give up photo editing, but that probably not an option for most people. The second choice is to switch to another program. While none of these software have the popularity of Lightroom, they still provide a fairly solid alternative for editing photos. Two notable ones include DxO Mark’s DxO Optics Pro and Phase One’s Capture One Pro. Of the two the one I prefer is Capture One, and as such that’s what’s going to be the focus of this post.

By far the biggest problem with switching from Lightroom is the interface change. Capture One’s interface isn’t bad per se, but it will take a while to get used to, especially if you’re used to a Lightroom workflow. The black and orange layout may not be to everyone’s taste and unfortunately there’s no way to change it, although you can customize other aspects such as windows and toolbars.

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 2.14.18 PM.png

The performance though is a long way from Lightroom, it renders previews and applies changes much faster. It’s still not perfect though. It does occasionally lag and there are some stutters here and there. But it’s still a far cry from the almost unusable mess that is Lightroom. Adding to the benefits of Capture One you also get a minor image quality boost (Richardson, 2016). RAW images processed in Capture One simply have better color and sharpness. Another plus point to Capture One is tethering. For me, Lightroom has simply never worked when trying to tether my camera, so this feature is a nice added boon to have.

However the switching workflow hasn’t been easy, and I still have Lightroom installed – just in case. But for those of you wanting to give Capture One a try, I highly recommend watching this guide from Fstoppers to get aquatinted with the software (Woloszynowicz, 2014).

References

Fitzgerald, T. (2017, July). After years of complaints, Adobe acknowledges Lightroom performance issues. Retrieved from http://blog.thomasfitzgeraldphotography.com/blog/2017/7/after-years-of-complaints-adobe-acknowledges-lightroom-performance-issues

Richardson, M. (2016, June). Is it time to switch from Lightroom to Capture One Pro? Here’s why it might be. Retrieved from https://www.slrlounge.com/time-switch-lightroom-capture-one-pro-heres-might/

Woloszynowicz, M. (2014, July). The ultimate guide to getting started with Capture One Pro. Retrieved from https://fstoppers.com/originals/ultimate-guide-getting-started-capture-one-pro-27179

Interview – Mahesh Ravi

Mahesh Ravi is a Multimedia Generalist, currently residing in Bangalore, India. He works in various mediums, including photography, filmmaking and design.

Below is a short transcript of the interview. The full interview can be found at the bottom of this post.

How did you get into the field you are in now?

Since my childhood, I’ve been really interested in visual design. I’ve always wanted to study film design, but at that time I didn’t even know there was such a discipline. It was at that point I realized that I was an artist and wanted to do something really creative. The main reason I chose multimedia was the leverage I would be getting to work in mixed media, which I’ve always loved to do – and still do. I love the combinations of analogue and digital media, and combining film with an aspect of design, and photography with an aspect of typography.

What motivates you to keep doing what you do?

I think when you’re in this field, your motivation is what’s happening in the world around you. You’ll constantly be in touch with what your competitor is doing, what your friends are doing, what’s the latest in technology and art. It’s a very competitive world and if you want to be on top of something you need to continuously push yourself beyond your limits. It [motivation] can be anything, from a good piece of music or a good photograph.

Could you imagine yourself doing any other job than the one you’re doing now?

I can imagine myself in another title that’s not connected to the creative field, but I know for a fact I won’t be very good at that.

If you could go back in time and do something differently what would it be?

It’s very difficult to answer this question, because every artist who is constantly improving would want to go back and change something in a design or film that they’ve made. I can’t say one particular decision that I’ve made in my life, which I’d go back and change, it’s not my way of thinking about what I do. I’d rather use my time to focus on the future than thinking about changing the past.

If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t do anything differently, I’d just take my camera, shoot a couple of scenes, come back and claim it as the most realistic and most authentic retro film ever made.

20891708_10156634691899768_1079359135_n

One piece of advice you would give someone starting out in the creative field?

If you want to be in the creative field, no matter what discipline – it can be photography, design, film – it is really important that you get enough exposure about what’s happening in that particular media. Even before you start something, you need to have done some research on it. Keep yourself updated with what is currently happening in your field. Be very good observers and choose your artistic integrity wisely.

More information about Mahesh and his work can be found at his website.

The full interview can be found below.

Style Analysis – Bobby Vu

Introduction

This is the third post in a short series that will focus on forming an analysis on a selected photographers works. The idea behind this is to form a better understanding of various photography and editing styles and methods and to eventually create my own style. The end goal of this series is to eventually create my own unique style of photography whereby I will at a later point create an Instagram account to showcase.

Point to note – photography is subjective. This is not a post pointing out what I think are “good” and “bad” photos, rather I’m trying to take a fairly objective view and simply examine the techniques and style preferences of the photographers.

Bobby Vu

Bobby Vu is a film director and photographer based in Los Angeles. His photography can be found on Instagram @kingvuddha while his latest film project can be found here. More information can be found on his website.

19623272_1321114928005845_7934697709921894400_n

Photography

Bobby shoots portraits, around the city and during his travels with a distinctly old school vibe. His photos tend to reflect the feel and style that he creates his videos in. For his photography, he uses a Nikon D750 with lenses such as the 35mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.4.

  • Color

The first thing about any photo that I notice is the color. Most of Bobby’s photos have a desaturated look, with all the colors toned down. However a lot of his photos incorporate neons, or other light sources and in these cases the color of the light is made to pop just a little bit more. Another point to note is that the blues are usually edited to be more aqua, which seems to be a popular Instagram look these days. Lastly, the photos lean ever so slightly to the green side of the tint slider.

  • Model

Bobby’s photos are almost exclusively portraits, and as such the model plays an important part in the frame. The model is almost never made to smile, rather maintaining a more neutral expression. In certain shots the model looks away from the camera, conveying a distant, dreamy expression, while other shots have the model looking straight at the viewer. Both of these looks portray a sad, moody emotion.

  • Composition

Composition-wise, the photos are relatively simple. The subject is usually centered and the camera is placed at eye level with the subject, making the person look “real” instead of the over dramatized look provided by positioning the camera at very high or very low angles. The background is very plain and in a single color for studio shots, while outdoors a large aperture is used to blur it out and create bokeh.

Conclusion

These are a few key points that I have noted from Bobby Vu’s photos. As usual, this is not meant to be an detailed analysis, but simply my observations, meant to help me develop my own visual style. Did you notice anything else? Leave a comment if you did!

Refrences

Vu, B. (2017). [photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/kingvuddha

Style Analysis – Sam Kolder

Introduction

This is the second post in a short series that will focus on forming an analysis on a selected photographers works. The idea behind this is to form a better understanding of various photography and editing styles and methods and to eventually create my own style. The end goal of this series is to eventually create my own unique style of photography whereby I will at a later point create an Instagram account to showcase.

Point to note – photography is subjective. This is not a post pointing out what I think are “good” and “bad” photos, rather I’m trying to take a fairly objective view and simply examine the techniques and style preferences of the photographers.

Sam Kolder

Sam Kolder is a traveling film maker and photographer from Canada. His photography can be found on Instagram @sam_kolder while his videos are hosted on his YouTube channel.

18879750_771960779644952_3045020603275804672_n
(Kolder, 2017)

Photography

Sam’s photos are usually portraits of himself as he travels to different places. As a result his portraits are designed to showcase the place or background more than the person.

  • Composition

For Sam’s photos the background is as equally important, if not more important, than the person in the frame. To accomplish this he uses a wide angle lens with a smaller aperture to keep the background in focus. Another point to note is that the camera is almost never at the same height as the person, it’s usually either higher or lower. This helps provide the photos with their dramatic vibe.

  • Model

Just because Sam’s photos are captured to show-off the grand backdrops, doesn’t mean that the person in the frame isn’t important though. One of his styles is the way he poses for the camera. His head is nearly always faced away from the camera, not looking at it directly. And the expressions – well there isn’t much. He keeps a straight, neutral face throughout most of his photos.

  • Color

Lastly there’s the color. Sam’s photos lean toward a warmer, almost brown, color tone. The oranges and blues especially are given added attention in editing making them pop a little more compared to other colors.

Conclusion

And those are my observations of Sam Kolder’s photos. This is not meant to be an detailed analysis, but simply my observations, and as such I might miss some things that you might have noticed. So did you notice anything? Leave a comment if something caught your eye!

Refrences

Kolder, S. (2017). [photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/sam_kolder

Style Analysis – Brandon Woelfel

Introduction

This post is the first of a short series that will focus on forming an analysis on a selected photographers works. The idea behind this is to form a better understanding of various photography and editing styles and methods and to eventually create my own style. The end goal of this series is to eventually create my own unique style of photography whereby I will at a later point create an Instagram account to showcase.

Most (if not all) of the artists featured here will be from Instagram as that’s the platform that I use most for photography purposes.

Point to note – photography is subjective. This is not a post pointing out what I think are “good” and “bad” photos, rather I’m trying to take a fairly objective view and simply examine the techniques and style preferences of the photographers.

So now onto the post.

Brandon Woelfel

Brandon is a freelance photographer based in New York. He’s on Instagram under the handle @bradonwoelfel where he has over 1 million followers. More information and photos can be found at his website – www.brandonwoelfel.com

Processed with VSCO with e8 preset
(Woelfel, 2017)

Photography

Brandon shoots portraits with a very distinctive feel and vibe. Below are some samples of his work.

Listed below are three key points that make Brandon’s photos distinctive.

  • Color

The first thing that stands out to me are the colors he uses. Brandon usually favors a more cooler tone with a lot of blues and magentas. This provides a great contrast between the colors and shapes his unique style.

  • Bokeh

The second thing of note is the shallow depth of field, or bokeh. There’s a lot of that. Brandon shoots with prime lenses, such as the 85mm and 50mm, with the aperture wide open. This allows him to obtain the gorgeous bokeh, and as a bonus the large aperture also helps keep the camera ISO down when shooting in places with low light.

  • Props

Finally, Brandon uses various props to achieve his style. Scrolling through his Instagram feed you can see that nearly every picture has fairy lights and oversized retro glasses. The fairy lights work to help create the bokeh mentioned earlier, and the glasses subtly reflect the light sources in the picture. Brandon also uses CDs and prisms to create reflections or “rainbows”. Lastly he also incorporates neon lights, signage, and sparklers into some of his works.

Conclusion

This is by no means an exhaustive or comprehensive breakdown of Brandon’s photos or his shooting style. But it does note several key points that I observed. The aim of this brief examination is to observe the styles of various artists and draw inspiration from their works.

If you do want to explore in more depth how to recreate Brandon’s style there’s a great video done by Mango Street (2017) that shows you how.

Refrences

Woelfel, B. (2017). [photograph]. Retrieved from http://www.brandonwoelfel.com/photography-1/

Mango Street. (2017, July 10). How to shoot and edit like Brandon Woelfel [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7Mk-C8un6E