Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blog Blog

Black Star Rising
Please, No More Pictures of Dying Africans
I do not want to see another photo essay, multimedia presentation, or visual of any kind on the subject of dying Africans. Never, ever again. Enough. I understand that these images can be compelling. I understand that the photographers seem to care. But at this point, the harm done by such photos outweighs the good...

Dane Sanders
Dane's Speaking Calendar

Ken Rockwell
Image of the Milky Way
Wow, this stuff is easy with an M9
: ISO 2,500, 24 seconds at f/1.4. It did the same thing in Auto ISO and Auto: I simply pointed and shot on a tripod.

Mike Larson
Cabo San Lucas, Mexio (Album shoot)
A few weeks ago I took my team down to Cabo and we shot Westley, who is one heck of a guitarist. His music immediately captured my attention and when they asked me to shoot their album art for his upcoming debut CD, I was honored. The disk is called "Wavedance". I'll blog it as soon as the mp3's become available online. Its not even in print yet! So we shot at sunrise and sunset for 2 days and got some amazing shots. In between the shoots, I was able to get some fishing, exploring, fish tacos and siestas! I think its been over a year since I've had a siesta. Needless to say, we had an amazing time and came away with a body of work I'm proud of. I want to thank the family for taking such good care of us and putting us up in their sweet pacific ocean view home.

New York Times - Behind the Lens
Behind the Scenes: Rewriting the Rules
After a flurry of e-mail messages and blog posts in recent days, the military command in the eastern region of Afghanistan backed down on Thursday from a new rule that would have prevented photographers from taking pictures of soldiers or marines killed in action.

Does Your Attitude Impact Your Photography?
I’ve been doing a great deal of self-reflection lately. I’ve tried to analyze every aspect of my photography. While gear, technique and craft are all things I’m trying to improve, I also realize that my attitude is important.
Here are some steps I am taking to improve my attitude.

a. I am trying not to let my opinion of my circumstances guide my actions. If it’s raining outside, I can either decide the weather is crap or I can decide the weather offers great storm cloud photography options.

b. I am trying to look at my past mistakes to see how I can improve and learn from them rather than lamenting them.

c. I am trying to focus on what’s really important rather than what’s supposed to be urgent.

d. I am trying to challenge my own assumptions about my work and asking if there’s anything I should revisit or revise based on new information, tools or skills.

e. I am trying to ignore any and all echo chambers in the field of photography.

f. I am trying to open my mind and my heart to new ideas.

g. I am trying not to let my emotions get the better of me.
I make no claim at all that I am successful in this endeavor – I only claim that I am trying. Perhaps this sort of self-reflection will help you. I firmly believe that by considering all these things, I’m finding ways to improve my work and to remain excited about all things photographic.

Editing Tips for Microstock Photographers
1. Look at your image up close. It’s very important that you take a really close look at your photos during the editing process. Zoom in to 100%, and sometimes even 200% and scroll around the image to look for things like artifacting, chromatic aberration, noise, sensor spots, etc. Image inspectors will do this as they check your images, so it’s important to make sure that you clean up the photo as much as possible before uploading.

2. Check your focus. Proper focus is really important with commercial stock photography. If you are photographing people or animals then you want to be sure that the focus is on the eyes. You also want to make sure that you have a clear focus point in your image, regardless of the subject. If your focus is slightly off but is not extremely blurry, sometimes it’s acceptable to down-size the photo before submitting to the microstock site.

3. Don’t over-sharpen. If you need to do any sharpening, do it selectively to areas of the image that really matter. Adding too much sharpening to your image is a surefire way to get a rejection, since over-sharpening can cause unwanted artifacts and haloing in your image.

4. Watch out for chromatic aberration (CA). Chromatic aberration, also known as “purple fringing”, is usually going to show up in areas of the photo where there is a lot of contrast. You will want to scan the edges of items in your photos and look for discolorations. It’s not always going to be purple-colored; sometimes it is cyan, or even red. If you have a small amount in your image it is usually pretty easy to eliminate (here’s a link to a video tutorial to show you how).

5. Don’t over-process. It’s okay, and expected, that you will need to do some processing (like levels, curves, HSL) to your images, but don’t push the processing too much. There is no solid rule on how much to do (or not to do) you really just need to pay attention to the image as you are making changes to be sure that you aren’t taking away too much detail. With tonal adjustments you need to be sure you aren’t clipping your whites and blacks, and with color changes (especially with the saturation slider) watch the color to see if it starts getting “neon” looking or blocky; if it is then you need to tone it down a bit.

6. Cropping is okay … but don’t over-do it. It’s important to remember that a lot of the customers of microstock sites are designers, and oftentimes they like to have some copy-space surrounding the subject of an image. If you crop too tight then it can limit the image’s use, but it doesn’t hurt to crop a little bit. Ultimately you need to find the balance between cropping so that the image looks good, and leaving enough room for a prospective designer to use in many different ways.

7. Keep it simple. Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, along with many other software applications have a lot of great plug-ins and filters that really do amazing things to images. The thing is, when you are selling microstock you want to provide a nice, neat, clean image to your customers. There are some exceptions to this, but in general you don’t want to play around with wild filters and plugins for the images that you upload to be used as microstock.

8. Noise reduction. It’s okay to use noise-reduction software on your images, but, once again, don’t push it too far. Over-using noise reduction can make the image look “mushy”. It’s best if your images are already shot at a low ISO to begin with (like ISO 100 or 200), but if not and the image is worth saving then apply the noise reduction on a separate (duplicate) layer and reduce the opacity.

9. Clone out logos. Logos and trademarked shapes are a big “no-no” with microstock photography. It’s important that if they are in the image that they are removed. It’s best to try to limit and control the appearance of them as you are taking the photo, but sometimes it’s impossible to keep them out, or you don’t notice they are there in the first place. Just be sure to check over your image and clone out as much as possible.

10. Save your JPEGs at the highest quality setting. When you are editing your images, make sure that you try to only save the JPEG one time, and always save it at the highest quality possible (level “12″ in Photoshop). Re-opening and saving a JPEG over and over will compress the image and degrade the quality by introducing artifacts to the image, so do your best to only edit it one time and be done with it.

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