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Worth 1000 Words #012 -- Garbage In, Garbage Out
April 20, 2011

This month, read about photographing children, eBooks on closeup photography, getting it right in camera, liquid sculpture, and creating tension in your images.

Garbage In, Garbage Out: Get it Right In-Camera

All too often, I hear the phrase “I’ll just fix it in Photoshop” from a photographer. I must admit, it drives me a little crazy! As they say in the IT industry, “garbage in, garbage out.” In other words, the quality of the output depends on the quality of the input. There are some things even Photoshop can’t fix, and it pays to capture the best raw material possible in camera.

I think people sometimes resist spending the extra effort up front because they feel that it takes away from having fun with their photography. If they are concentrating on f-stops and leading lines, they lose their sense of being in the moment.

Certainly, there will be a learning curve when you start paying conscious attention to your composition and exposure. However, it’s a lot like riding a bike. When you first begin to learn, you have to think about steering, and balance, and watching for traffic. It’s difficult! If you persist, though, eventually all of these because automatic processes that no longer require conscious awareness, and you can start enjoying the feeling of the wind in your hair! It’s the same thing with photography. Once you master the technicalities of exposure, choosing a shutter speed and aperture will become second nature. Next to become internalized will be your composition skills. You’ll automatically scan the frame for distractions, and place your subject so as to achieve a visual balance. Then you can get back to concentrating on your subject matter, and having fun!

It’s well worth the investment of time to learn your craft well. This allows you to enjoy the creative side of photography, not to mention making better pictures. Remember: a few seconds invested up front can save you hours in Photoshop.

Check out some tips on composition to get you started:

Creativity Exercise

The Artist's Way

The Artist’s Way is a well-known book by Julia Cameron.  It was first published in 1992, but is just as relevant today.  The book helps artists (including photographers!) to maximize their creativity and productivity.  It describes two main tools for you to use throughout a 12-week process.  The first is “Morning Pages.”  This is essentially a journal where you write three pages first thing each morning.  The idea is that you end up purging the “junk” that collects in your mind, and causes creative blocks.  There’s no right or wrong way to write the pages.  They don’t need to be literature!  You just write whatever comes to mind in a stream-of-consciousness fashion. 

The second tool is the weekly Artist Date.  This is where you take yourself off to some fun and energizing pursuit, by yourself.  It could be a shopping trip to the dollar store, a walk in the woods, or coloring Easter eggs.  It should be something that appeals to your inner child.  The idea here is to fill up your “creative well.” I went through the Artist’s Way process once on my own about two years ago.  I found it to be very enlightening and helpful.  I am now embarking on my second Artist’s Way journey as part of a group (or “Circle,” as it’s known in Artist’s Way terms).  So far, the process has been emotional, as I dig deep to uncover my creative blocks. It’s also energizing and exciting, and I’m looking forward to the transformation that I believe it will bring.

If you’re interested in unlocking your own inner creativity, I recommend you give this book a look!

Tip of the Month: Something Every Photographer Needs to Know

Subject Placement to Create Tension

I’ve written about the rule of thirds here before, and how placing your subject off-center can produce a pleasing image. Now, I’d like you to consider taking this “rule” a little further. If you place your subject even more off-center, and close to the edge of the frame, you will create more tension in the image. This is a technique that should not be used in every image, but can add interest if used carefully.

Note that the tension caused by an object close to the edge can work against you. If you inadvertently place an object of strong visual weight, other than your subject, close to the edge, it will become a distraction, drawing your viewer’s attention.

Keep in mind that many subjects have an implied direction. Anything that is moving, or is capable of moving, implies a direction of motion by its orientation. Even inanimate objects, like a tree branch, can appear to be pointing in one direction. Take this implied direction into account when placing your subject. For instance, placing a person close to the edge of the frame creates tension, but that tension is significantly higher if the person is about to walk out of the frame, rather than if they have just walked into it. There is no right or wrong; you must simply be aware of your choices, and use them to tell the story that you want to tell.

Cool Link of the Month

Liquid Sculpture

Photographer Martin Waugh has created some spectacular images of liquids in motion, captured with high speed flash photography. Enjoy!

What’s New this Month at Ultimate Photo Tips

Closeup Photography eBooks

I’m excited to announce the arrival of two brand new, downloadable PDF e-Books on Creative Close-up Photography. In these books, I share my passion for, and extensive experience with, macro photography. Each book is approximately 60 pages, and is filled with spectacular, full color images to stimulate your creativity. The books are written to be clear and easy to understand, and are full of helpful tips and useful information to inspire you to create better close up photographs.

Find out more:

Photographing Children

Barbara Bender is back this month with another inspiring article about photographing children -- not in stiff, formal portraits, but as they really are. In Barbara’s words, “This article is not about making formal portraits of well behaved, dressed up little children who are smiling nicely for the camera. It's about shooting kids as they really are... messy, adorable, active, silly-acting little people who can laugh with joy one minute and have a tantrum the next.”

Read more…

Photo Challenges

The topic of March's photo challenge was “ Patterns and Repetition.” There were some terrific and creative entries! Check out the wonderful winning image of blue and orange bars by Maija V from Toronto, Ontario, Canada:

The topic for April's challenge is "Travel." It can be an exotic location, or it can be your friend's cottage; good pictures are everywere. Show us where you've been!

Submit your travel images here:

Happy shooting from Ultimate Photo Tips!

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