New(er) Year’s Resolutions

Many people have already given up on some of their new year’s resolutions. If that’s you, here are some new ideas to pursue instead. After all, why lose weight or quit smoking when you could be taking better pictures?

Photo by Daniel Cheung from Unsplash.com

Set a goal this year to win an award for your photography or to make money.

Start a photo blog. Look ahead to this year’s TAPC contest topics and start shooting (rather than pulling an old photo out of storage).

Take a road trip. There are many great photography destinations just a few hours away.

Stretch yourself. Try a new shooting technique or learn (and apply) something new in Photoshop or Lightroom.

Volunteer. Find a worthy cause looking for a free photographer.

Teach someone something about photography — often a great way to learn.
Start a personal project. Why not create something that has your signature all over it? Find something you have a passion for and give it your own personal spin.

Slow down. Take time to shoot the roses. What interesting subjects can you discover
on the way to your planned shoot?

Print more photos.

Photo by Daniel Cheung from Unsplash.com

Become a better critic. Now that we get to judge each other’s work every month for our People’s Choice awards, perhaps it’s time to get better at evaluating images. Review basic rules of composition and other aspects that are found in great photography. It will help yours.

Buy a new piece of gear. Or force yourself to use something you normally don’t.

Make time for photography. As the old saying goes: If it’s not scheduled, it’s not happening.
Whatever it is you want to do, put it on your calendar in advance. Then do it.

Take a field trip. Go online and soak up all the free articles and videos. If this newsletter is the only thing you read about photography, you are seriously missing out.

Photos by Daniel Cheung from Unsplash.com

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Reflection: What Did You Do Right (and Wrong)?

Reflection

Baby, it’s cold outside, which makes it the perfect time to assess your photographs, figure out what you did right (and wrong), and set goals for 2019.

Review the “Rules”

Before you start evaluating the images you captured in 2018, think about what makes a great photo to begin with: the rule of thirds, symmetry, contrast, framing, etc. This exercise alone will help your future photographs.

Photo by Danica Liu from Unsplash.comReview your shots

Start with your favorites, i.e. the shots you did some post-processing on. If you made that effort, you must’ve thought the photo had some merit. But also take a look at your entire body of work. Analyze the duds to see what they lack. How’s the composition? Is it telling a story? Is there some contrast in color, or light, or subject matter? Are you shooting from an interesting angle or always at eye level?

Find your strengths

This can be difficult because we always tend to be our own worst critics. But you must be doing something right. Look for the things you always tend to nail. Then congratulate yourself for doing so well. You’ll need the ego boost for the next step.

Identify your weaknesses

Be ruthless or at least honest. It might help to take one aspect at a time. Review all the images just assessing the rule of thirds. Then go over them again to check focus. Then
contrast. Then look for distracting elements. Are interesting details too close to the edge? Where are the lines in the image leading your eye? Is your subject the brightest or sharpest part of the image? Remember, anything that doesn’t add to your composition is probably subtracting from it.

Ask another photographer

When reviewing a photograph, it’s easy to remember the original scene. You saw it in 3D, so your subconscious mind might be adding details that aren’t really there in the image.
Time alone has a way of helping with this, but getting a fresh pair of eyes to view your work will help you see the things that are missing.

Stay positive

If you’re new to this, you may find many issues to address. Don’t get discouraged. Everyone’s been there. Good photographers are just bad photographers who kept striving to improve.

Set some goals

They say the best goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound. So keep that in mind when creating yours. They also say that if you do anything 30 days in a row, it becomes a habit. That means 2019 gives you 12 chances to create 12 new habits. So, in January, take a new photo every day that contains something you normally overlook, say, leading lines. When the month is over, you should be seeing leading lines everywhere, even when you don’t have a camera. In February move on to the next thing. By December, you’ll be a master photographer, or at least a lot better than you are now.

Hunting Season: 6 Ideas for Your Next Photo Shoot

This time of year, some people are grabbing their guns and heading out to shoot. For photographers, this is a great time to put the camera down and hunt for things to shoot next.

Go online
Okay, this is probably everyone’s first instinct. You could start with a search for “great places to photograph in Fort Worth.” Or, if you have something in mind, you could get more specific: “Flower gardens in Bedford” or “junkyards in DFW Metroplex.” Adding quote marks around your search phrase will often give you more-focused results.

Photograph of the street view of the Alamo from Google Maps.Use this little yellow guy
Google Maps has what may be the most well-traveled location scout on the planet. And his services are free. Next time you’re on Google Maps, pull that little yellow dude icon onto whatever street you may be looking at. It’s the fastest way to see if a location is worth a personal visit. See the Alamo image above.

Peruse helpful sites
A few sites exist for the sole purpose of helping photographers find stuff to shoot in their area. ShotHotSpot.com allows you to search an area and see the types of images others have captured at various locations. This is a little hit or miss, but it can give you leads and ideas. Searching locations via FlickrInstagram, and Google Earth can also be enlightening.

Get the apps
Many apps can help you learn more about an area you plan to visit. For example, The Photographer’s Ephemeris comes highly rated. At $8.99, it’s also highly priced, but it shows topography, angles of the sun and moon, weather, and more. Mapillary is another
option for finding street-level imagery around the world.

Photo of buck by Casey Horner from Unsplash.com

Photo by Casey Horner from Unsplash.com

Take the road less traveled
Next time you’re headed home, take the long way. Who knows what exciting things you’ll find to shoot? And if you get lost, you can always use your phone to find your way back.

Ask around
TAPC is filled with local photographers who have years of experience. Someone is bound to have been where you haven’t. “Where do you like to shoot?” is also a great icebreaker question for someone you haven’t met yet.

Shots in the Dark: 7 Tips for Night Photography

Photo of city at night with car lights

Photo by Joey Kyber on Unsplash

There is still some time to capture a great image for our upcoming “In the Still of the Night” competition. Seven tips to keep in mind when photographing at night.

1. Find a dark place

If you’re shooting the Milky Way or star trails, pick a date near or on the new moon, and find a dark area using sites like darksitefinder.com.

2. Keep a low ISO

Yes, that’s right. Unless your camera is really good, you’re going to pick up more and more noise the higher your ISO. Keep it low and increase your exposure time to compensate.

3. Don’t lose focus

Your camera will have a hard time seeing at night, so the auto focus feature may not work very well. When using manual focus, it may help to use live view and zoom in on your subject to set your focus. Or use the numbers printed on your lens to determine if your subject is in the ideal range.

4. Stabilize

Obviously, you’re going to need a tripod and a remote shutter release. You can also use
the timer on your camera. Set it for a two-second delay to give your camera time to settle before the shutter opens.

5. Destabilize

For long exposures, remember to turn off image stabilization on your camera, if it has it.
Cameras that don’t may have some type of vibration reduction on the lens. Turn it off.

6. Decent exposure

Use the histogram on the back of your camera to be sure your image is in an acceptable range. It’s better to have spikes on the left side (shadows) rather than the right (highlights). Shadow detail can be salvaged if you’re shooting in RAW (which you should). If highlights are blown out, there is no way to recover that detail in post. If you’re shooting a high-contrast scene, try bracketing to ensure you have everything properly exposed.

7. Things to bring

Remember to pack a flashlight. You may need it to see the camera settings, and you can use it to light paint your subject. Wear bug spray. And if you’re shooting solo, make sure somebody knows where you’re planning to go and when you’ll be back.

Silhouette of man looking at stars

Photo by Klemen Vrankar on Unsplash

 

Open Season: 7 Ideas for Shooting Different Photographs

Closeup photo of insect by David Clode from Unsplash.com

Photo by David Clode from Unsplash.com

During the photo club’s “open” competitions, it may be tempting to look through past images and choose one of your best. It’s understandable — how else are you going to show off those shots from Prague or Bora Bora? However, it’s also possible to use this assignment to push yourself to do something new. But what? Maybe these ideas will inspire your best image yet.

1. Do something completely different

If you shoot landscapes, try street photography. If your images are usually straightforward, try going abstract. Crawl around your backyard with a macro lens. Fail hard. Fail often. Progress is ugly.

2. Give yourself an assignment

Pick a subject, and spend the month shooting only that. At the point you’ve exhausted all your options, you may break through to something truly unexpected and exceptional.

3. Change your perspective

Spend a day shooting from the hip, or the foot, or a ladder. Again, forcing yourself to stick with it may yield some surprising results.

4. Go somewhere new

National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson once said, “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.” Maybe it’s time for a local road trip.

5. Look on someone else’s paper

Go out to a site like 500px. See what others are shooting. Find something that inspires
you, and see if you can recreate it or give it your own personal spin.

6. Focus

Give yourself one thing to pay special attention to: triangles, reflections, bright spots… Whether you have your camera or not, spending a month looking for one thing will force your brain to see everything in a new way.

7. Buy, rent or borrow

Maybe it’s time for some new equipment. Try a fisheye lens, flash gels, a neutral density filter, or even a drone. Or start working with an interesting prop: a mirror, glass ball, or prism.

Angled perspective of building by Pauline Loroy

Photo by Pauline Loroy from Unsplash.com

6 Tips for Smart(er)phone Shooting

By Darren Wiedman

Phone cameras have come a long way in a very short time. It may not be as good as your DSLR, but it’s a lot easier to carry. Here are a few tips for better shots.

1. Keep it clean

Our phones take a lot more abuse than our regular cameras. And it’s really easy to get your fingers on the lens. Take a few seconds to clean it before shooting.

2. Pokus focus

Remember to tap the screen at the point you want in focus. This also sets the exposure based on that spot. Some phones have tap-and-hold options for even more control.

3. Get closer

Most cell phones use digital zoom. Swiping your fingers to bring the image closer is really just cropping, which creates a grainier image. It’s better to move in as close as you can, get the shot, and crop it in post.

4. Use the grid

Go into your camera settings and turn on your grid. This will help you keep the rule of thirds in mind when you’re composing your shot.

5. Go steady

Camera shake is a common problem with phone photography. (You have to “tap” it just to capture the image.) When possible, set your camera on a stable surface (table, fence post, etc.) especially in low light. It’s easy to get blurry photos otherwise.

6. Post your images

Make use of your phone’s post-production tools or third-party apps to tweak the image. It’s not cheating. Here are a few that the internet seems to like. (Use at your own risk.)

Smartphone camera taking picture out airplane window

Photo by Matthew Kerslake on Unsplash

  • Camera +
  • Camera FV-5
  • Camera Zoom FX
  • Diptic
  • EyeM
  • Gelo
  • Instagram
  • Paper Camera
  • Photo Editor by Aviary
  • Pixlr
  • Prisma
  • Snapseed
  • VSCO Cam
  • XnViewFX

What’s Wrong with This Picture?

By Darren Wiedman

Ever look at one of your photos and think something was off but you just didn’t know what? Here’s a short list of composition “rules” and tips that can help you create better images.

Rule of Thirds

rule of thirds

Rule of thirds

This is a fundamental rule that applies to all art in general. (See the image at right.) Visually divide your image into thirds. Make sure the most interesting parts of your photo are happening near the cross hairs, not dead center. Put horizon lines on the top or bottom third. Put trees or wall edges on the left or right third. As with any “rule,” this can be broken. Just have a good reason for doing so.

Golden Ratio

This is the Rule of Thirds 2.0. There’s not enough space to describe it here. Look up Fibonacci’s Ratio online to get the idea. Rule of Odds If you have a choice between photographing three cute kittens or four cute kittens, always go with three, or five, or seven. Studies have shown that people find an odd number of subjects more appealing. Probably because people themselves are odd.

Triangles

This is a variation of the last point. Try to find three points of interest that form a triangle. One point could even be out of the shot. Patterns Symmetry or repeating elements can greatly enhance composition. Also, using the subject to break a pattern can be very striking.

Leading Lines

Is there something in your shot that points to the subject? A fence? A road? The direction of someone’s gaze? The viewer’s eye will follow obvious or even implied lines.

More on Lines

Images with diagonal lines create a sense of action, imbalance, and depth. Horizontal lines have a calming effect because of their implied stability. Vertical lines can communicate power, strength, or growth.

Framing

There is a natural frame around every photo. But if you can create an additional frame within the photo that surrounds your subject, it will help lead the viewer’s eye there.

Point of View

This is actually one of the basics. Shooting down on something will give the feeling of dominance. Shooting up gives the subject the upper hand. Shooting on the same level has a way of pulling the viewer into the action, a great technique for kids and pets.

The Final Frontier

One of the key things in your shot is the stuff that isn’t there. Space. If you photograph a running dog, give him some room to run to. If your model is looking off camera, crop her toward the edge she isn’t looking at. Choose uncluttered backgrounds. Everything that isn’t in the shot boosts the visual impact of what is.

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