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To be a better photographer look at  paintings

Well before photography came into being in the 1800's, artists had been experimenting with composition, light, form, contrast, color and concept.  That's why when people ask me how to become a better photographer, I tell them to study painting.  By studying the masters of that medium, one can learn a tremendous amount that applies to photography.

I was reminded of that yesterday when I made  a trip to the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.  There I saw several magnificent paintings by Bierstadt, Sargent and others.  The sense of light in the Sargent painting, Alice Vanderbilt Shepard (above) was truly capivating, as is the contrast of the bright areas of the face and blouse against the deep, rich background values.  Some of the most successful portrait photographs use this same approach.

And the use of shadow and light in the Bierstadt painting, Sunrise, Yosemite Valley (below) portents the wonderful images by Ansel Adams and other members of Group ƒ64 school of photography.  It employs the time honored technique of a strong foreground to bring you into the image, a powerful middle ground to take you further into the composition, and a delicate background that completes the image.



Athentech Perfectly Clear Plug-Ins 2.0

I've favorably reviewed Athentech, a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop in the past, so when I got an email announcing that the program had been updated, I was interested to see what had changed.

 I was delighted to see the numerous additions to the program.   Beyond taking out the grey that seems to be inherent in digital images, the core strength of the plug-in, the company has now added the ability to clean up portraits with a feature called Beautify.  They've also refined their noise reduction feature, and improved their auto corrections algorithms.

I'll definitely be digging into the program more, but on first examination, what caught my attention was how much faster the program is over the previous version.  Adjustments seem to be almost instantaneous, certainly a welcome improvement when having to adjust lots of images from a shoot.

Here's one quick example of what the program can do on simple landscape images.  Besides brightening up the image, the plug-in added saturation to the colors and added contrast that makes the image pop.

Over the next few days, I'll be highlighting some of the other features of Perfectly Clear Plug-Ins 2.0.  Stay tuned.



Camera raw fileWith Perfectly Clear



Using complementary colors to make more impactful photographs

I'm often asked for tips on how to make great photographs, and how I create dynamic compositions.

To my mind, one of the most powerful tools in crafting a successful photograph is using complementary colors to draw the viewer into an image.  Here are two good examples of that.  Walking in our neighborhood last week, the fall color was really at peak.  Everywhere I looked, there was beautiful red, orange, and yellow leaves both in the trees and on the ground.  So how did I choose where to aim my camera?

Rather than do a photograph that only had those warm tones, I chose to make pictures where there was a complementary color scheme in play.  In one, I used a green sprout growing out of a tree trunk to contrast with the primarily red leaves on the ground.  Doing so makes both hues more impactful. 

The same holds true for this photograph of the vibrant yellow leaves of this tree.  Rather than focus in on the leaves, I made sure to include some blue sky in the upper right.  Doing so made the yellow all the more powerful.

To make better photographs, there are lots of tools we can use.  Keeping complementary colors in mind when composing a photograph is one of the most valuable.


Dance Photography workshop in Santa Fe Day 2

After a spirited and insightful critique of images from the first day of the dance photograpy workshop at Santa Fe Workshops, we resumed our journey into lighting dancers in the studio.  Working off of the foundation from yesterday when we only used one light, today we worked with three.  In this demonstration with dancer Deollo Johnson, in addition to the key light, a Chimera medium Super Pro soft box, we added two Chimera Super Pro Strip lights on the left and right.  The results were dramatic in that we could separate the dancer from the background and create more depth in the picture.  And more than that, help define the muscles in the torso and left leg.  Of course because this is a demonstration, I can't take time to evolve the image as far as I would like, but clearly there was a lot more we could do had this been a personal shoot.

It was great fun to see the participants take this approach and run with it to make some wonderful images on their own.  And that is truly rewarding for me to see.

Tomorrow, after a morning critique,  we go to a wonderful primordial property outside of Santa Fe to shoot dancers on location into the early evening.  It's bound to be a great day. 


Dance photography workshop in Santa Fe Day 1

Today was the first day of the Dance Photography class at Santa Fe Workshops.  Ten participants came from all over the country to attend, and we jumped right in to creating images.

The first thing we focused on the using a single light source to create drama and depth.  Here is an image I shot as a demonstration with the talented Rulan Tangen of Dancing Earth.  The photo was made with a medium Chimera Super Pro softbox positioned overhead and slightly right of center to give some directional shadows.

Tomorrow we move on to working with multiple light sources, and it's bound to be another fun day.