Saturday, 19 of April of 2014

Spring Photography

Spring Photography

Spring is a great time to get some beautiful photos added to your portfolio. With the flowers in bloom, the sun shining for longer, and the world warming up to tolerable temperatures, more and more people are getting active and going outdoors. The next two weeks host several major religious celebrations — Passover and Easter — which also have some very photogenic components. However, before you break out your camera and start snapping away, take some time to plan the best way for you to capture the images you want.

1) Consider going off the beaten path. Everyone is going to hit the garden and the local park. Instead, try finding a nature trail or some forested area where you can find real wildflowers. Just be careful not to trespass and not to inadvertently break federal law by picking protected flowers.

2) When capturing images of baby animals, remember that mothers tend to be protective…and not too far away.

3) Don’t feed the animals. Yes, it seems mean, especially if they walk up to the car (or bench) and make cute little human-ish gestures with their paws. Still, don’t feed them. If they get too used to people providing food, they won’t forage for themselves and that could not only cause them to be unhealthy (or to attack a human later), it could cause a population imbalance among their prey.

4) While not as dynamic in the color contrasts as fall is, spring is still an excellent time to get some very colorful photography done. Find a hill or cliff overlooking a well-populated forest and you’ll see what I mean.

5) Hummingbirds make great photographic subjects.

6) As spring gets closer to summer, you’ll get the chance to capture much more diverse and differing images than you would in any other season — including fall.

If you do get out to do some photography, share your photos with us. We love seeing them on our Facebook page!

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been another busy week in the world of photography. With the death of Anja Niedringhaus in Afghanistan at the start of the week, this week’s offerings have really focused on photojournalism. James Estrin swung by PDE to give advice to would-be photojournalists, the Smithsonian Magazine displayed their 2013 photography contest winners, and much time was spent looking back over the major events of the past twenty years — from the Rwandan genocide to the Cyprus revolt.

All of these stories and more were covered in our Twitter feed. If you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below!


That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great weekend and see you again next week!

– da Bird


James Estrin Offers Career Advice for Photojournalists

James Estrin Offers Career Advice for Photojournalists

PDNPulse has a great video interview with James Estrin on what budding photographers with a bent for journalism can do to help get their careers started. Surprisingly, his advice can be summed up with “Be yourself.” He cautions photographers against imitating other work that has won awards or gotten published. Instead, he suggests that aspiring photojournalists try to develop their own unique style and their their own unique stories. Also he warns against traveling to exotic locales to try to cover stories that have already been done. There are good stories on every street corner — you just need to know where to look and you need to be there to capture the images that tell the story.

Those two pieces of advice (Estrin does go on to cover the photo editing process, mentoring, and developing relationships with editors and peers) are profoundly important. All too often aspiring photographers of any stripe see a great photo and their ambition becomes to recreate it. There are a lot of Ansel Addams or Alfred Stieglitz imitators out there. And, while imitation is the highest form of flattery and does offer lessons all its own, it would be better for photographers to become less imitative and try to find a way to view the same scene with fresh eyes and a new lens.

So, if you’re a photographer looking to move into the professional realm or if you just want to spice up your photography, try something different. Try being yourself. Take photos from your own point of view and don’t just follow the crowd. Who knows but that one of your “weird” or “zany” photos might be the ticket that gets your career out of the gate!

– da Bird


Suing Your Clients Is A Bad Idea

Suing Your Clients Is A Bad Idea

Last week, the guys behind TWiP (This Week in Photos) tackled the issue of photographers who were suing clients who gave them bad reviews. In this day and age, when social media and the Internet are major ways for new and established photographers to get the word out about their works, a negative review on Yelp or on their Facebook or G+ page can cause all kinds of headaches.

That said, suing a bad reviewer is probably the worst way to handle such a thing unless you can prove that he was maliciously defaming you as a photographer (and even that can be tough to prove in the United States). Instead, there are better strategies to employ to handle a negative review. We’ll share some of them with you in this post as they are often things we use in our Customer Support efforts.

1) First things first, familiarize yourself with the Streisand Effect. Oftentimes lawsuits, takedown orders, or other negative reactions to a bad review can draw more attention to the review (and to your reaction) than just ignoring the review. So, if you’re going to go after a negative reviewer, it’s better to either resolve the issue with them or to show their demands to be unreasonable in the extreme than it is to try to quash the review.

2) Read the review and consider the issue. You may often be forced to ask the client to provide more information. Sometimes the review will be “DON’T TRUST THIS PERSON.” So, you’ll need to try to coax out of them what it was that upset them and see what you can do to make them feel better. This may sometimes necessitate you to smile and bear it when the customer says that you should know exactly why they are upset. If they do this, simply apologize for not being able to remember exactly what may have upset them but restate that you would like to know so that you can see what you can do to make it right.

3) Take time to research the issue. If you recommended a specific brand of camera or gear and a client who followed your advice shows up screaming about how terrible your suggestions are, ask them to provide the exact models they’re using. Sometimes newer stuff has some bugs to work out in the software and firmware. Point them to solid tutorials online. Look to see if their problems are known issues and, if so, point them to support forums.

4) Encourage your clients to leave reviews but never force them to do so — Reviews are something that should be offered, not forced. Some businesses think they can drum up great reviews by making reviewing them a required step. Most of these businesses have learned the hard way that trying to force someone to do something is a great way to score a negative review.

5) Don’t ever sock-puppet. Don’t ask your family and friends to leave you false reviews and testimonials. It’s better to be unreviewed than it is to have your spouse or parent be the only ones giving you a review.

6) Talk to the client at the end of every session or step and see if they have any feedback. Sometimes a lot of negative reviews could be prevented by stopping and doing a five minute re-shoot the day of the problem!

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Another Friday brings us to the end of another great week in the world of photography. With April 1st falling squarely in the middle of the week, we’d love to see some photos and hear the stories of any particularly memorable pranks you’ve either pulled or had pulled on you. All joking aside, though, there have been a lot of big stories for photography journalists and disaster journalists to cover this week. There was a moderate earthquake in the western United States followed by a massive earthquake in Chile. Others were out covering the ongoing civil war in Syria and the preparations for the Afghani 2014 elections later this year. There has also been a lot of free advice on improving and promoting one’s photography out there on the web.

All of these stories and more were covered on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you are not following us on Twitter then we will recap the highlights for you below!


That’s all for this week, folks! Have a great weekend and see you again next week!

– da Bird


Long Exposure Photography — A Few Suggestions and a Lot of Samples

Long Exposure Photography -- A Few Suggestions and a Lot of Samples

This morning we ran a great long exposure image on Facebook and asked if any of our fans there had ever given long exposure photography a try. It’s a style of photography that requires a good bit of planning and patience to put together — not to mention a lot of trial and error. Still, the effort is well worth it because the reward can be astounding. Long exposure photography can show the vibrant night life of any city, can make a solitary street corner come to life, and can show the motion of the Earth as it spins its way around the Sun. Now, though long exposure requires a bit more forethought and planning, don’t let it scare you. With a few simple tips, you should be on your way to learning how to master this tricky but amazing field of photography.

1) Invest in a solid tripod – Holding the camera really still won’t cut it. Even the steadiest human hands quiver a little bit. So, get a good tripod and make certain the camera is mounted firmly on it. If you’re photographing where the ground is soft, push the tripod legs into the soil. If the ground is hard, then try to anchor the tripod well. In an urban environment, set your camera up far from any place where trains pass by.

2) Don’t be afraid to experiment — Maybe you don’t want to capture water rushing so that it looks like smoke. Maybe an atmospheric sunset isn’t your thing. You can still get some great images taken using long exposure photography and a light pen, a flashlight, a match, or a glow stick. Just keep it moving in the pattern you want to show on the final image.

3) Beware of light — Most long exposures are done at night or in dark rooms. However, it is possible to get some really great long exposure images by day outside. However, if you are going to do this, you’re going to need a neutral filter to keep the image from being over-exposed.

4) Set up somewhere you can control — If you’re doing photography in the city, then you would hardly leave your camera and tripod standing on a street corner. Same thing for the outdoors — make certain that you know the area well enough and either will be around to monitor the camera or can block out unwanted visitors of the feline and canid variety.

5) Check the weather — If it’s going to get windy, this is not the time for outdoor photography. If you’re going to try to capture that brook in the forest, you should check to see if it will be raining or sunny. Rain can do funny things to long exposure photos and sometimes the effect can be stunning. Other times, it just leaves the photographer shellshocked.

For more tips and for a good look at the beautiful images long exposure photography can bring to the table, visit Tuts+.


Pushing the Boundaries of Art or Decency?

Pushing the Boundaries of Art or Decency?

Photographers, like all artists, are looking for ways to expand their art. Where painters had Picasso with his cubism, sculptors had Auguste Rodin, and musicians had Elvis Presley, photographers more or less stuck to the limitations of their field, notable exceptions being Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams. However, in more modern times, some celebrity photographers have been trying to push the boundaries of their portrait photography in ways that often leave viewers more scandalized than supportive. Most everyone can recall the kerfuffle over Miley Cyrus’s photoshoot with Annie Leibovitz, the argument there is less “is this edgy and new?” and more “is this creepy?”

And, sometimes, photographers might go over the line by participating in their shoots in a way that, if the facts of the case are true, is definitely unethical. Terry Richardson currently stands accused of abusing his position as a celebrity photographer in order to coerce several women into compromising situations.

Now, both Richardson and Leibovitz will defend themselves with the argument that they are “pushing the boundaries of their art.” While I am no photographer myself, I can say that the argument is fairly weak in both cases. Taking racy photos is hardly innovative. Chances are it’s been being done since the first camera was invented. While every generation likes to tell itself that it “discovered” all of these “new” things when it comes to sex and nudity, that’s not the truth. Pushing the art of photography isn’t happening because a couple of celebrity photographers can convince people to take off their clothes. Photography is growing as an art and a field by both technological innovations (like smartphones), ways of playing with lights and colors during processing, people figuring out new ways and techniques to use in photography to create new optical illusions — all things that generally encourage people to stay fully clothed and use their cerebrums instead of their hindbrains.

But that’s just the opinion of a bird who works for a photography retailer. What do you think? Who’s really pushing the boundaries of photography as an art? Let us know in the comments below!

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

Another Friday brings an end to another week in the world of photography. This week saw the announcement of a new super-powerful mini camera from Samsung and saw their arch rival Apple filing for a dual sensor patent. One begins to wonder if we’re looking at the beginnings of yet another lawsuit on the horizon. Aside from that news, photographers have been busy capturing the images of the mudslide in Washington state, the on-going fighting in Syria, the changing of the seasons around the world, and much, much more.

All of these stories were on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the top stories from this week for you below.


That’s all for this week, folks! Have a great weekend and see you again next week!

– da Bird


Disaster Photography

Disaster Photography

I’ve been checking the latest news stories — especially the ones about the missing Flight 370 and the recent mudslide in Washington state. There’s also the ongoing troubles in Turkey, Syria, and Egypt along with the Ukraine. And, in all of these places, photojournalists are there sending images of what’s going on back to those of us living in safe, comfortable conditions.

It must take a really special kind of person to do that. I know that my personal response to being in a dangerous situation is to look for a way to get out of it, not pull out a camera and start snapping photos. Like most normal people, I prefer to observe world-shattering historical events from a distance. Preferably a distance of time as well as space. But photojournalists flock to these locations and often risk their own lives to let the rest of us see what is going on. String reporters and local reporters also do the same, helping to get the story out. And, in this new 24/7 news cycle, we’ve gotten used to the “fog of war” effect where the first stories on an event are usually dead wrong.

Still, it must take a really special person to run towards the sound of gunfire, towards police pounding on a protester for taking a photo of them, towards the ground zero of natural disasters and man-made ones alike. Are they adrenaline junkies? Disaster fetishists? Or just incredibly brave people committed to telling the truth and not letting it be airbrushed and glossed over by people in the green zones.

What do you think? And could you do it? Let us know in the comments below!

– da Bird


Spring Photography

Spring Photography

Spring is a great time of year. Even though it seems like, for some of us, Spring is determined not to show up until nearly summer-time, it’s still a much better time of year than the long, cold, dark days of winter. Spring is alive and ripe and filled with color and warmth. The end of the abomination that is “Standard Time” gives us more hours of daylight to work with. Shoots of green are beginning to fight their way out of the barren ground. Flowers have not yet begun to bloom but they have begun to appear in tiny buds on trees or bushes. The world is waking back to life and with these days, we have a few fun photography experiments you can try to help you shake off the winter doldrums and embrace the fresh spring air!

1) Sky photos — The calendar says it’s spring but, right now, in a lot of places, it doesn’t quite feel like spring yet. The temperatures are still chilly (it’s actually supposed to snow here tomorrow). The winds are blustering and biting. The ground is still cold, wet, and icy in a manner that makes you remember to wear shoes even for a quick jaunt to your car. But, the sky is definitely different. The angle and position of the sun has changed for most people. So, making certain you take steps to protect your camera, take some photos of the sky. Don’t take photos of the sun itself without the proper kinds of lenses, filters, and sensor guards but you can take some good photos of the sky at dawn, at sunset, or even the wispy white clouds that mark the arrival of spring. Also, spring is a great time for some storm photography in certain parts of the world — just keep your head and stay safe.

2) Time lapse — If you’re wanting to show how quickly things can change, spring is a great time to demonstrate that with time lapse photography. Shoots will be coming out of the ground, flowers will be forming in buds that will soon open. In just a few weeks, the world will look completely different.

3) Cute animals — If you hang around the Internet for long, you’ll have trouble distinguishing us from the ancient Egyptians because both civilizations are known for writing on walls and worshiping cats. Photos or short videos of animals — especially kittens or puppies — doing something adorable (poking at a flower, trying to eat a plant, confronting another new-born animal) will get you lots of attention. Even better is if you have a grown animal who has learned some kind of funny trick (such as a dog who can play basketball to some extent).

4) Spring festivals — Spring often brings with it a lot of festivals. Some religious, some cultural, and some little more than a “time to get outside and PAH-TAY because it’s not winter anymore!” kind of event. These events often are great avenues for photography as the unexpected can always be expected to happen whenever enough people get together.

5) Urban exploration — Once again, stay safe doing this and try not to break any laws. But, spring, with new shoots coming up from the ground and plants and animals reawakening, is a great time to explore abandoned buildings and lots. Greenery forcing its way through cracks in the cement can often been more beautiful to look at than an entire yard covered in grass.

These are some of our suggestions for how to spice up your photography this spring. What are some of yours?

– da Bird