Portfolio – Instagram

As mentioned in a previous post, I plan to host my portfolio on a specially designed website. However, while a website is undoubtedly a great way to showcase your works, it simply doesn’t generate the same exposure as a social media account.

There are a wide variety of social networks available today, some are well known, while others are limited to a smaller niche. As far as photography goes, Instagram is undeniably the largest social network. With over 500 million active users, it’s behind only Facebook and Youtube (DeMers, 2017). Almost every photographer can be found on Instagram. It’s an almost necessary step to getting your content out there for people to discover.

But this post isn’t going to discuss the merits of the platform or weigh out its pros and cons – that is a topic for another time. Rather the focus here will be about my attempt at creating an appealing Instagram portfolio.

1. Choosing a subject

The first step was to choose a subject or area that will be main focus of my feed. A helpful way to do this is by looking through old photos and finding a common theme. In my case I ended up choosing people and travel. Now, this doesn’t mean that you’re limited to just these two areas, but they will take up the majority of the photos I post.

2. Choosing a style

This part is with a doubt the hardest problem I faced. Some photographers have a particular style (which I take a look at here), this gives their photos a consistent look and feel. I however, like to experiment with different styles and haven’t yet chosen one particular form that is consistent throughout all my photos. So to work around this problem I’ve designed my feed to incorporate different styles, but still maintain an aesthetically pleasing visual. This leads to the third point.

3. Designing the feed

On your feed, Instagram displays photos in 3s. So the approach I’ve taken is to upload 3 photos with the same style or feel in a row. This helps give the feed a pleasing look, but still lets me change the style every 3 or 6 or 9 posts.

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As the screenshot shows, the first 12 images (with the exception of one) retain a black and white aesthetic. The last 3 images are where I’ve switched styles and gone for a very vibrant pink and blue vibe. The idea now is to add 3 or 6 more images that keep the pink and blue, and afterwards switch to another style.

As the photos pile on, keeping track of your Instagram feed can get quite complicated. And so, listed here are a few apps that I’ve used to help keep my feed in check.

Unum

Unum is a visual planner. This means you can upload your photos to the app and see what your Instagram feed will look like. This is helpful in keeping your aesthetic and style consistent and clean.

Command

Command is a statistics and analysis app for Instagram. It gives you insights such as the best time to post, which filter is more popular and how you could generally improve your feed.

References

DeMers, J. (2017, March). Why Instagram is the top social platform for engagement (and how to use it). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2017/03/28/why-instagram-is-the-top-social-platform-for-engagement-and-how-to-use-it/#750784b236bd

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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.

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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.

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.

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  • 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.

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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

Mirrorless vs DSLR

Recently I had the opportunity to briefly use a Sony A7s. The Sony A7s is a mirrorless camera. As the name implies, mirrorless cameras lack the mirror that typical DSLRs have. Due to this mirrorless cameras don’t have the optical viewfinder found in DSLRs. Apart from that one key difference though, for the most part they’re pretty similar. So why would you choose one over the other? Using the Sony A7s got me thinking – as a pretty avid DSLR user could I switch to using a mirrorless? Would I one day switch to a mirrorless?

The most obvious change when going from a full frame DSLR to a mirrorless is the size. The Sony is tiny. This is great because, there are way too many times I left my camera at home simply due to its sheer size. The Sony’s weight, or lack thereof, make it easier on the arms during long trips and photoshoots. However the downside is ergonomics. Now this may vary with different brands and models, but I found the A7s difficult to hold comfortably. It’s edges are sharp and there simply wasn’t much space to get a grip on. This problem was made worse when the lens mounted on it was a gargantuan 70-200mm f/2.8. I preferred my DSLR’s larger, softer grip and better balance with larger lenses. On a similar note, I didn’t like the buttons and the scroll wheel either. This could be seen as a minor quibble, but when you spend north of $2000 on a camera, little things matter. They matter all the more if you plan to make a living by spending hours a day using the camera.

Apart from the size, the next most obvious change is the viewfinder. Because they lack a mirror, mirrorless cameras have to rely on an electronic viewfinder. At first this takes some getting used to – the whole image just seems off. As electronic viewfinders go, it’s definitely not a bad one, but if I had the choice, I’d pick an optical one every time. At least until technology progresses and electronic viewfinders improve. Regarding image quality – there are absolutely no issues. Pictures are every bit as good as a DSLR. In some cases this is because both cameras use the same sensor!

So would I switch to a mirrorless or recommend a mirrorless to someone?

I wouldn’t switch to one, largely in part because switching between camera ecosystems is mind numbingly expensive, and I’m already invested into Nikon’s DSLRs. However for someone who hasn’t yet chosen a ecosystem, I might just recommend getting a mirrorless camera. While they may not replace DSLRs yet, mirrorless cameras are proving to be a pretty popular and viable alternative.

 

Cover image from Sony (2017)

Portfolio – Website Research & Development

Objective

The foremost role of a portfolio website is, as the name implies, to show off your portfolio. With that in mind my idea for the website is to keep it simple, displaying a handful of my best works – in this case, photographs.

With that being the main objective, a secondary intent would be to get people visiting the site to connect socially. The central method of doing this would be to link them towards my social networks, i.e Instagram, Facebook, and encourage them to follow and connect using those platforms. The reason for this is because social networks will inevitably get far more updates than a website would, simply because they are so much more convenient. In addition to more frequent updates, social networking also enables me to interact with my audience, to a greater extent than the website would allow.

Perhaps at some point, I could offer the option to purchase prints or even a book using the website, but at this stage, it is an unnecessary addition that would require extra, unwarranted time and effort.

Inspirational References

Below are three notable examples of popular photographers’ sites.

Eric Ryan Anderson

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Eric’s website is a simple, vertically scrolling list of albums and their titles. The unique about his website though is that after clicking on an album, you can scroll through all the images contained in the album horizontally. This creates a very intuitive and natural way to browse through his photos.

Jeremy Cowart

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The first thing that stands out in Jeremy’s website is the sheer amount of content it presents. Clearly Jeremy is not just a photographer, included in the categories on the website, he is also an artist, teacher, speaker, and more. Personally, the website at first looks really crowded with an overabundance of pictures and text. However it is in-fact quite well laid out, with the photos forming a neat grid under their respective categories.

Ryan Michael Kelly

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In a similar vein to the other websites listed, Ryan’s portfolio is very simply laid out grid of photos. Categories listed at the top of the webpage help organize the photos into the style you want to view.

Design & Implementation

The chosen design is inspired by the above mentioned websites. The main page will be a grid of photos, with a splash screen preceding it. Organizing the photos by category is something to be considered, although that will require considerably more pictures than I have currently uploaded. As for the menu, there is the usual “contact” and “about” pages, with social media links as well. I would like to emphasis the social media links though, as they are an important part of the website, as mentioned in the objectives section.

The draft mockup can be found here.

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Platform Selection

It’s 2017. There are – for better or worse – an overwhelming amount of website creation options. For the draft version of the site WIX is used, however I found the interface somewhat sluggish and unintuitive to use. Never mind the annoying pop-ups and banners advertising WIX.

For the final website, the plan is to use Squarespace or something in a similar vein, such as Format and 22Slides – both of which are created with photo portfolios in mind. The only disadvantage to such platforms, is obviously the subscription fee required. Most of these platforms do offer a certain period of trial though, so I can test them out and explore the best option. If for some reason none of these platforms workout, the last resort is to use WordPress.

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.

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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.