Sunday, 21 of December of 2014

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Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s Friday again and, even with Monday having been a holiday, it’s still been a busy week in the world of photography. Now that the kids are out of school for the summer, there have been a lot of articles written for parents who want to capture the special summertime moments of their kids’ lives and for children who are just beginning to express interest in photography. There have also been a lot of reveals and hands-on with Olympus, Pentax, and Sony over the past week as they get the cameras scheduled for fall release into the hands of testers across the web.

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

That’s all for this week. Have a great weekend and see you again on Monday!

— da Bird


Group Stock Photography

Group Stock Photography

Taking photos of large groups of people — such as at family gatherings, business meetings, conventions, etc — can be very tricky. And, while this article over at Improve Photography has a lot of great advice on how to get better photos of groups, the photos its using literally set my teeth on edge. It’s pretty obvious that these are all heavily posed stock photography shots using professional models which is a great way to convince the real, normal people out there that there is something terribly wrong with them when the group photos they’re involved in turn out looking like groups of real human beings.

For the most part, I have no real beef with stock photography. We make use of it a lot to showcase examples of certain kinds of photography — nature, wildlife, scientific, etc. And, marketing departments use it all the time which is why it’s becoming increasingly obvious when a photo is a “real” photo as opposed to a stock photography photo. So, I’d like to offer some advice to stock photographers out there in hopes of improving the quality of the photos they sell to stock photography sites and decreasing the number of “some VP will love this photo that would absolutely never happen anywhere in the multiverse because real people don’t act that way” style photos that tend to pervade such exchanges.

1) Stop with the overblown expressions already — The only way a photo like this would actually exist in nature would be if the two women were looking at a hated rival’s computer screen that had, helpfully, shown them every single bit of information they needed to ensure that said rival would have their life, career, marriage, and social life completely destroyed. Or if they were looking at Godzilla, King Kong, and Mothra working together to rebuild Tokyo. Yes, I know, these photos are popular with marketing departments. They’re also extremely unpopular with customers.

2) In any group of people, there is going to be someone who looks like crap — If you take fifteen people at random, someone in that collection will have had a poor night’s sleep. Or they might have sunburned over the weekend. Their hair won’t be perfect. They’ll have freckles. Someone will be overweight. So, seriously, stop with the groups where everyone is trim with fresh makeup and in suits. Also: suits. Suits do great on the East Coast. They get you laughed at for being a complete Poindexter on the West Coast. And that business casual yuppie thing needs to stop right this minute. No one dresses like that. Ever.

3) Tokenism is still bigotry — Any photographer or company who uses images with only one black person, only one Asian person, or only one person in “ethnic” dress to try to communicate how diverse they are is a company run by people who are socially inept. So, seriously, stop with the tokenism in stock photography. It’s stupid.

4) Never again take a photo of false enthusiasmThis never happens. Never. So stop photographing people doing it. There will never, in the history of the multiverse, be an instance when a bunch of people dressed like they just walked out of JC Penney’s will stand around a laptop without a logo on the back looking beyond it with their fists in the air in a victorious manner. The closest you might get is a bunch of sports fans watching a game or something but their expressions won’t be so fake and they’ll be looking at the screen and not the camera.

5) There is no family that sits in bed with a laptop and someone holding up a credit card — Generally, if someone has a laptop in bed, they’re single, in their 20s, and aren’t going to have immaculate living spaces. If someone is old enough to have two children and a spouse, they’re not going to gather the whole family in bed to do online shopping. Actually, they’ll probably rarely consult with the children on a purchase (seriously, are there any parents who involve young children in financial decisions?) that isn’t for the children themselves. So, photos like this one should not exist.

Now, with all that said, there are some really great stock photographs out there that involve people and look real, sincere, and communicate a clear message other than “I’m doing this because some idiot above my pay grade thought it was a great idea.” If you’re ever curious about which category a photo should go in, ask yourself if you could imagine the photo happening without being elaborately staged. If the answer is “no,” then that is a stock photo you should stay well away from.

— da Bird


Memorial Day

All gave some. Some gave all. Today, we honor those who have paid the price for our freedom.

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. While many take today to barbeque, get together with their families, and enjoy the warming weather, it is also a day of remembrance for all who fought and died in the wars from the Civil War to the War in Iraq. According to our resident historian, the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries were something of a charnel house with the Civil War, two World Wars and then a longer Cold War with several flare-ups. Yet, through it all, brave men and women answered the call to fight and die so that others could live their lives in peace and freedom.

Memorial Day is more than just a day for cooking on the grill, catching the latest sales, or spending time with the family. We should all take a few moments today to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live on, carrying their lights in our memories even after they themselves returned to dust.

Thanks to all who have served and are serving now!

— Beach Camera


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s Friday again bringing an end to another busy week in the world of photography. And, there have been plenty of things for photographers to cover this week from the flooding in the Balkans to the latest cameras from Sony and new lens design materials from Nikon. There have been plenty of helpful how-tos and guides posted as well covering everything from indoor photography to astrophotography.

All of these stories and more were featured on our Twitter feed this week. However, 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 Memorial Day weekend and see you again on Monday!

— da Bird


A Good Start on Photography Basics

A Good Start on Photography Basics

If you’ve been wanting to get a good grasp on the basics of more advanced photography and a good reference guide you can consult in one place, you should check out Improve Photography’s Photo Basics guides. In five simple-to-understand installments with plenty of good illustrations and examples, they explain everything any aspiring photographer would need to know in order to start moving up in the more advanced fields of professional photography. They also have a great series of articles on setting up a professional photography business and studio for those who are further along the path in their photography.

Probably the best piece of advice given is to get off Auto Mode and start learning how to gauge and handle exposure yourself by manipulating the aperture, shutter speed, and the ISO so that you have greater control over the white balance in your photos. White balance is a very important part of making a photo look “right” and, on auto mode, the camera tends to overexpose images and let in too much light instead of muting the images and going with less light. That’s why beginning sunset and sunrise photographs generally look very washed out or look good only if the photographer is also using HDR mode tricks. HDR can bring a lot of depth of color to a photo but relying on it to always do that is unwise and is a crutch that photographers should work to get away from. Additionally, there are many cases where HDR will not help you at all but knowing how to manipulate the settings would (cave photography, nighttime photography, shooting in a forest with thick overhead foliage).

Additionally, once you understand the different parts of how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO work, it will make it easier for you to decide which lens to use in a DSLR for a given effect you want to achieve. For instance, while macro lenses are great for scientific photography (close-ups of flowers, bugs, etc), they can also be used for portrait or landscape photography but with a different look-and-feel. Telephoto lenses are generally used for wildlife or nature photography but a skilled photographer with a good sense of humor could easily use them for capturing images of friends and family at play.

What are some of the questions you wish you’d had easy answers to when you first got into photography? Let us know in the comments below!

— da Bird


Working With the Sun in Photography

Working With the Sun in Photography

This weekend will be Memorial Day weekend and that’s when many of us here in the United States consider summer to start — regardless of what the calendar and the moon say. Summer photography means generally more light, brighter light, and more heat needs to be taken into account when doing any kind of outdoor photography. Lens flares and ghosts from the sun’s rays can be either intrusive or desirable depending on the effect you’re going for in that particular photo. So, with that in mind, here are a few tips to help you deal with the sun and its impact in your outdoor photography during these summer months.

1) People will squint if forced to look towards the sunlight. This is not a controllable thing. Plenty of parents and novice photographers seem to think that their subjects can control all of their involuntary reactions. The desire to use the sun as any other lighting source is strong and far too many photographers have their subjects face into the sun and are then displeased with the squinting eyes.

2) Be careful of shooting into the sunlight. The optics and sensors in the average commercial camera are not designed to withstand repeated shots of the sun. Generally you’ll need to place a screen of a welder’s mask over the lens to protect the optics if you are trying to get a shot of an eclipse or a transport or something else crossing between Earth and the Sun. Also, if you’re doing sky photography or sunset photos, then you will still need to be careful to use the proper settings and filters to keep from burning out your camera.

3) Don’t go to the other extreme of no-light. Okay, so you’ve finally gotten sick of squinting photographs and decided to put your subjects in the shade where the light is diffuse and the temperature moderately cooler. Only now, your photos are too dark. What’s a photographer to do? Well, you can pick a shady area that isn’t completely dark but where the sunlight is softened and muted by overhead foliage, a screen, or buildings.

4) If the lighting is getting to you, try bouncing it. You don’t need a big, expensive muted or frosted-glass mirror that weighs a ton to help you redirect light. A few pieces of cardboard and some tin foil will do the trick nicely. This way, you can reflect and refract the light from the sun to exactly where you want it and, with practice, you can even control the intensity of the lighting to a limited extent. Portrait photographers often do this with those umbrella lighting rigs you see in their studios.

5) Sunscreen. Don’t be reckless about being out in the sun and don’t demand that your subjects be reckless. Use sunscreen to ensure that the next day’s photos aren’t either painful or involving people who are beet-red and tired from a night of not sleeping well.

6) Water. As the temperatures climb, take frequent water breaks and insist that your subjects drink water as well. Better that you need to arrange for an unscheduled trip to the loo than an unscheduled trip to the ER for heat exhaustion.

— da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s Friday again bringing us to the end of another busy week in the world of photography. Mother’s Day was last Sunday and we hope you all got a chance to spend time with your mother and gave her something she would appreciate. This week has been filled with news coverage from around the world with vivid photos by talented photojournalists. It has also been a time of several big announcements from Olympus and Sony regarding new photography equipment they’ll be bringing out. And, as always, photographers from around the globe and all branches of the field have been out providing advice and guidance to new photographers.

All of these stories and more were covered in 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


Musician and Band Photography Tips

Musician and Band Photography Tips

With summer on its way, there are plenty of music festivals being held all over the United States and Europe. Many new bands and even some well-established bands will be headlining events in order to perform before their fans. And, with the mobile photography becoming a thing among the younger generations, you can be certain that there will be plenty of photos of bands and band members performing. However, if you want to really make your photos stand out from the crowd, here are a few simple tips you can try.

1) Learn the rules of the venue — Some concert halls and arenas do not allow cameras. Depending on how strictly they enforce this, they may even remove people who are using smartphones or tablets to record the concert or to take photos. If the venue is not photography-friendly, then don’t try to sneak a camera in. If it is photography friendly, ask about access before the gates open. If you do manage to get early access as a photographer, be polite and don’t get in the crews’ ways as they are finalizing the set-up. Getting such access may require that you register as a press photographer so check the rules for doing that. Additionally, some bands will have their own rules about photography that may conflict with the venue’s rules so do your research ahead of time.

2) A good camera will be a smartphone camera every time — Concerts — especially of the non-orchestral types — are very kinetic events. The musicians will be moving constantly, the lights will be moving constantly, and the crowd will be moving constantly. A solid camera with image stabilization will return better results than any smartphone camera. It will also be able to help with balancing the lighting so that your images aren’t too dark or too overexposed. However, if the venue you’re attending doesn’t allow cameras or photography, you may find that a smartphone is your only option. Still, if you are in such a venue, try to obey their rules regarding photography and video capture.

3) Learn your settings — Setting your camera to manual mode and knowing which lighting settings, aperture settings, focal settings, etc to use will help you get clear photos. You can’t rely on Auto Mode to be able to fix everything since there are so many variables going on at a concert and your brain will be much better at factoring them in than your camera’s chipset. Over-relying on auto white balancing can lead to ghostly images and other lighting issues in your photos.

4) Don’t use flash — Most venues will forbid flash photography as it can create problems with the crowd in the audience pit and it can temporarily blind a musician, causing him to miss a step in his routine. With the big name bands who use a lot of pyrotechnics in their concerts, missing a step can be fatal.

5) If the venue allows you to move around, try to get shots from different angles — Some venues will let you move around a bit so long as you don’t cause problems. If the one you’re at allows this, then make use of it to get shots from a distant, from close to the stage, and from a variety of angles.

Are you planning to attend any concerts this summer? If so, let us know in the comments and be sure to share your photos with us over on Facebook!

— da Bird


Aerial Photography Tools

Aerial Photography Tools

Aerial photography has long been one of the provinces reserved only to those who had the means to get a camera up in the air. While it has been possible to put a light-weight camera on a remote controlled airplane, it also requires a lot of skill and finesse to work the controls so that the entire thing doesn’t come crashing down in heap of broken circuitry and tears. However, some enterprising companies are seeing that aerial photography is becoming more and more popular and have begun to design and sell small personal-use “drones” that photographers can put their cameras on and see them relatively protected or that have built-in cameras ready to go on them.

Rigs like the Parrot Bebop Drone are fairly easy to use and come with a design that is easily stabilized so that crashes aren’t as common with it as they are with novices testing out RC planes or helicopters (which can be both funny and frustrating at the same time). They also generally have a very good range on them while RC gear may or may not function well once it’s gone beyond line of sight.

However, these rigs with built-in cameras do have one severe draw-back that RC toys do not share — battery-life. The Parrot Bebop Drone has a flight-time of 12 minutes. One of the longest-lasting aerial photography drones, the Phantom 2 Vision+, can go for 25 minutes.

Now, if you’d really like to get into some aerial photography but don’t want a drone that’s going to need a recharge every quarter hour and you don’t want to have to master the intricate controls of a remote-controlled helicopter, there is still a possibility that offers a good bit of control, flexibility, and is not terribly expensive or risky. Helium balloons can do everything that a helicopter can do but without the need to fiddle with the controls so much or having to worry about losing buoyancy. Depending on how much helium you have and how many balloons you rig up, you can have your camera ascend to any height you desire. By attaching a string to the balloon(s) and holding on to it, you can guide them in the direction you want them to go or even manipulate the height a bit. Also, so long as your camera rig is sturdy and well-secured to the balloons, you don’t have to worry about it landing somewhere beyond your reach (unless you let go of the balloons, of course).

What are some ways you’d like to give aerial photography a try? Are you an RC-addict? A balloonist? A drone user? Or something else entirely? Let us know in the comments below!

— da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been another interesting week in the world of photography. Samsung, Olympus, and Nikon are announcing new cameras and putting proto-types in the hands of photographers and reviewers. There have also been a lot of photojournalists out covering the stories about the disaster in Afghanistan and the Ukraine. Seasoned photographers have also been doling out advice for photographers to use for Mother’s Day gift-making and for setting up photography businesses for those who are ready to plunge headlong into making their hobby make their living.

All of these stories and more were featured on our Twitter feed this week. However, 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