The following non-exhaustive list is a compilation of individuals that have influenced my style of photography and post processing to date. Most of these individuals have their own websites, Facebook pages, or other sites such as 500px, Tumblr, and YouTube. You will probably not have any trouble finding these individuals online.
The top of my personal favorites list is probably Evan Sharboneau – a.k.a. the Photo Extremist. Forget family portraits and cute kid pictures, this photographer is about making people stop and ask “how in the hell did he do that?” He is probably the most creative photographer I follow (and at such a young age). From what I gather, he began his passion for photography while in high school. He has some ‘how-to’ videos as well as some ‘best-of’ compilations. If you like his work, I can personally vouch for both his ‘Trick Photography and Special Effects’ and ‘Photography Masterclass’ series. In addition to detailed pdf files, you also get several hours of video tutorials. Although I think he is an accomplished general photographer, I specifically follow him for his more creative and outlandish ideas.
For learning the basics of using a camera and when and how to use certain settings, I find Mike Browne the easiest to follow. Aside from his entertaining accent, I love how he explains concepts in very simple terms and gets right to the point. He has several videos on a vast array of techniques and also has recurring FAQ videos that I enjoy as well. If you’re new to photography and want to find your way around your camera, find his basic videos and start from there. You won’t regret it. He also does some photographic equipment reviews that are helpful as well.
One of the few photographers I watch almost immediately when he releases new material is Gavin Hoey. Another photographer from across the pond, Gavin Hoey works with Adorama TV and frequently produces short videos on both composition and post processing techniques. What I like the most about his work is he explains why he makes certain adjustments. The simplicity of his ideas combined with the minimal post processing adjustments makes you feel like you can replicate his work relatively easily. The only downside to his Adorama videos are the brief commercial interruptions for photography equipment. He also often provides his own Photoshop brushes free to download from his site for non-commercial use.
Photography is a universal language. How do I know this? One of my favorite photographers for unique modeling ideas is Alexander Heinrichs, whom I assume speaks German. I do not speak a lick of German but I have used his work for inspiration on more than one occasion. Alexander Heinrichs combines wildly creative shoots with gorgeous models creating images that are incredibly visually stunning. He has several ‘behind-the-scene’ videos of his work. In addition, he describes the shoot in detail at the beginning of each video. I only know because I have discovered I can translate his videos with an app on my smartphone. You need daring models if you want to try your hand at emulating his work. Fortunately, I have found several models that are more than willing to help me out with crazy ideas.
For astrophotography, I find Forrest Tanaka my favorite. He actually does amazing work across all types of photography, but I get the most from his videos about capturing objects in the night sky, especially with telescopes. He also walks through the post processing as well. He covers everything from selection of telescopes, to attaching your camera, to tracking objects in the sky. If you have any desire to try some serious astrophotography, start here. Be warned however, astrophotography using a telescope can become very costly depending on your setup. Unlike most other types of photography, astrophotography depends a lot on factors such as light pollution, the weather, cloud cover, and the fullness of the moon. You can be all ready to capture a unique event, like an eclipse, only to be thwarted by stormy weather.
There are two sources I consider my ‘go-to’ for Photoshop help and explanations. The first is Aaron Nace from Phlearn.com. He makes Photoshop look easy! He explains what to do and how to do it. He is the reason I tried using a pen tablet for retouching photos. After a steep learning curve of a couple of months, I cannot imagine using Photoshop with anything other than a pen tablet. What I like most about Phlearn is they will show you multiple ways to achieve a desired outcome and which method works best. I routinely visit Phlearn when I have a Photoshop issue that I cannot figure out on my own.
The other Photoshop source is Marty Geller from Blue Lightning TV. I am convinced this guy created Photoshop and is just parading as an avid user. I have never found any other source that is so versed at using Photoshop. Not only does he walk you through how to use Photoshop to edit images, he also is incredibly versed at the use of text in Photoshop which I think gets overlooked by other photographers. The only downside to Blue Lightning TV is that he routinely refers to A LOT of keyboard shortcuts in explaining how to do things. Not being as well versed in these shortcuts, I find myself stopping the videos often just to keep pace with the tutorials. However, don't let this stop you. The results are nothing short of amazing.
These are by no means the only sources I go to for photography help and inspiration. I also follow Froknowsphoto, Snapchick, The Strobist, Houa Vang, the House of Immaginare, and local favorite Dave Dugdale just to name a few. In all honesty, my inspiration comes from almost everyone and everything. From the most simple and unassuming moments to the moments created on purpose, there is beauty!
I’ve never really considered this question until I ran across an article discussing purist photographers. A purist photographer, as described by the article, is a photographer that does not edit photos after they have been taken. What you got the moment you pressed the shutter is what you get as a finished picture. Some photographers believe touching up images after the fact is cheating. The philosophy is that poor photographers that can’t get the composition right at the time of the shoot, will attempt to ‘save’ the picture later by editing it. They also argue that editing a picture destroys the ‘true-ness’ of the original image. Um, yeah…..whatever.
I guess it could be considered cheating, but not by me. The only reason I didn't edit every picture when I first started photography was because I didn't understand how to use editing software. I try my best to get the image I want at the time of taking the picture, but only so that I have less to do in post processing. For years now, every picture I plan on keeping has gone through some form of post processing – some more than others.
Cheating aside, editing photos can be extremely fun! Sometimes I have more fun editing photos than actually capturing them. Once I started to get the hang of editing photos, the more I realized what a powerful tool it can be. And for the purist photographers out there, I can honestly say using editing software efficiently takes more skill and talent than you might think. Not only can you alter a picture to achieve a certain look, but understanding how to add highlights to certain areas and increase shadows in other areas can actually make you a better photographer. Making such corrections in post production can make you more aware of those subtle aspects when taking the original picture.
Some images simply cannot be created with a camera alone. During my 365 day photo challenge for 2014, I decided I would use Photoshop heavily for at least one month to better learn the program and how to use it. For every day in the month of October, I forced myself to create images with some degree of editing to represent the scary/horror nature of the Halloween season. One of my favorite images I created was “Mouth Man”. Obviously there is no way to capture this image with just a camera. And how fun!! This is a perfect example of how the process of editing was more creative and fun than the actual original shot.
Another photo (non-Halloween related) I really enjoyed creating was this photo of a girl with a colored iris. While the majority of the image is untouched, the little photo-shopping of the iris makes the image far more intriguing, to me at least.
You can go even further and eliminate the camera altogether! This image is purely a product of Photoshop. No camera involved at all. Obviously an image like this would be impossible from just a camera, unless it’s an absurdly expensive camera attached to some even more absurdly expensive N.A.S.A. orbiter. This is an extreme example of photo editing but it shows that photo editing, if done properly, can create amazing results. I think this holds true to editing photos in general.
Photoshop is a tool – just another piece of equipment I use for creating the images I like. I have never had a model tell me NOT to edit their photos. Quite the opposite. You would be very hard-pressed to find any retail magazine that doesn’t have some sort of editing for some of the photos in them, if not all the photos. If a simple portrait is over processed, I think it can become very obvious and fake looking. Like any other photographic tool I own, I use it just as much as I need it. I don’t set my flashes to 100% for every shot I take. Likewise, I don’t edit every aspect of every image to the fullest I can. I use only what I need to get the desired result.
The only arguments I agree with the ‘purists’ is that photo editing software can be very expensive and complicated to use. I currently use Photoshop CS4. I have VERY mixed feelings about Adobe’s Creative Cloud packages. I’ve never liked renting apartments or leasing cars and I’m not all that enthusiastic about renting my software. Photoshop is also not all that user friendly either. It is very complicated with features I have yet to discover and some of the features I have discovered aren’t all that intuitive. THANK GOD for the internet. Need to learn how to change the color of a horse in Photoshop? Google it! Better yet, search it on YouTube and get step by step instructions on how to do just that! With a little patience and a lot of YouTube time, you can learn how to get the most out of Photoshop, or any editing software. So to the ‘purist’ photographers out there, keep snapping away and let me know when you capture an unaltered image of “Mouth Man”! ;)
Are women more photogenic than men? Are they intrinsically prettier, more beautiful, or sexier by nature? I think the quick, easy, and politically correct answer is NO (although I am sure some would agree that they are). Then why the proliferation of females in photography, especially sexy or erotic photography?
You can quickly do your own research on this matter by doing an internet image search for erotic photography, sexy pictures, gorgeous images, or even what would appear to be a benign search for ‘pretty images’. I’m willing to bet you have to go several images deep, or maybe even pages, before you run across any male images. But why? Aren’t men just as sexy as women? Even on search sites for models such as modelmayhem.com you can see the gender differences quite vividly. When doing a search for models in my area, I get a return of 39 models, only 6 of which are male. Keep in mind this is just a search for models, not necessarily models for erotic photography. This would make sense if there are more women than men but worldwide the gender ratio is 101 males to 100 females. My geographic area can’t be that skewed from the rest of the world. In researching this issue, I ran across an article that stated the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that female models earned 80 percent more than their male counterparts.
Can it be as simple as ‘sex sells’? If so, that phrase may need to be qualified even further. Female sex sells! If you go to any site that displays photography where the images are ranked by popularity, you will quickly see that the less a female model is wearing, the higher the ‘likes’ of the image. A picture of a naked lady on a beach will get far more ‘likes’ and comments than a picture of a cute kitten playing with yarn.
Assuming female sex sells, is this a bad thing? I don’t think I am stretching the truth when I say we live in a patriarchal society and that our society is geared towards the male perspective and attitude. It would only follow that the female form would be more sought after in images than the male form. But this is where I find a disconnect – for me personally. As a photographer, I look at all kinds of images from landscapes to boudoir. I can honestly say that I do not find female erotic images more compelling than male erotic images; there are simply far more of them! I find this image of a man’s back just as compelling as any female image of similar composition. For me, beauty and/or eroticism is genderless.
Some photographers have page after page of images of women in all stages of undress and in all sorts of positions with suggestive expressions. Most of the images are simply amazing from a purely artistic standpoint. But where are the men? If a photographer feels uncomfortable photographing a man in the same positions wearing just as much (or as little) clothing, then I think there is a problem. Call it sexual objectification, gender inequality, or whatever, women are subjected to this form of photography far more than men, willingly or not.
Why do I care? Because I have two little girls that I must raise in this patriarchal society to the best of my abilities. Would I be upset if one day they were the model of an erotic shoot? No, not any more so than I would be if I had a son that did the same thing. Don’t get me wrong, I am not placing any value judgments on models, female or male, that desire to have erotic pictures taken of themselves. Conversely, I could care less what a photographer chooses to be the subject of his/her work or how they wish to express it. I guess I just find it so obvious how females are portrayed in photography in general, and erotic photography in particular, and how it seems to be the norm. I think it is safe to say that women are far more sexualized in our society than men. Historically, I believe this has always been the case for better or for worse. I am simply expressing my thoughts and trying to start a discussion on the issue.
And yes, the irony is not lost on me that I too have more female ‘erotic’ pictures in my portfolio than I do male pictures. Am I attempting to justify that fact, or am I a part of the problem?
It’s not often that my passion (photography) and my paycheck (being a lawyer) cross paths. But over the last year or so, I have seen examples of the two intersecting in very interesting ways. Just recently, Colorado introduced HB -1290. In short, this piece of proposed legislation would make officers and police departments civilly liable for damage done to a photographer’s equipment should the police intentionally interfere with a person’s right to record their actions. This appears to hold true for both video and still photography. In addition to any compensation for damaged equipment, the photographer/videographer could also receive a civil penalty award of up to $15,000.00 and attorney’s fees and costs. The officer may also be charged with ‘tampering with physical evidence’. It appears clear that Colorado is trying to send a message to law enforcement that they will be held accountable for their actions and that the public can, and should be, a prime witness.
Colorado has had some recent issues with police and recorded police conduct. To be fair, it is not all police departments and obviously not all police officers. Nonetheless, there has been enough media attention thrown on the issue to apparently make several individuals propose this pending legislation. I also believe this is a preemptive action from the backlash of public opinion on recent national cases involving the deaths of minorities at the hands of the police (including a new incident making national attention at the very moment this blog was being written!) I do not think Colorado’s House Bill is protecting just the professional media outlet photographer/videographer. I think the bill is aimed at protecting anyone with the ability to record an officer’s action. With today’s complicated smart phones with built in cameras, this means just about everyone could be protected from recording the police.
Not all states appear to be moving in the same direction. Apparently Texas has a similar bill moving in the opposite direction. House Bill 2918 would make it a misdemeanor offense for any private citizen to record police within 25 feet of the officer. In addition, any citizen that is armed could not record police activity within 100 feet of the officer. Note that the language only addresses ‘private’ citizens. Radio or television organizations with an FCC license would have the right to record police apparently without the distance limitations. Citizen safety appears to be the reasoning behind the bill. It will be interesting to see how both of these bills fair in the near future and how many other states follow either Colorado or Texas. Having a close friend who is an officer, I’m curious to get his personal opinion on the issue.
As a photographer, I think it is important to get in the correct position to capture that amazing image. But as a lawyer, don’t think just because you have a camera in your hands that some kind of creative force gives you license to ‘get the shot’. The law I think most photographers break, is trespassing (mostly on train tracks). Keep in mind that because a location is open to the public doesn’t mean that it’s public property. Parks and recreation areas are prime examples. Yes, your taxes may have paid for the facility, and yes, you are free to go there during the day, but most parks and facilities have hours of operation. Visiting them outside of those hours is trespassing, plain and simple. Even the federal government recently attempted to require photographers to purchase a permit to take pictures on federal wild lands. This included both the professional photographer and the random visitor with a cell phone. Fines could be up to $1,000.00. I’m not sure the old saying ‘it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” will work with most judges.
I will keep an eye on Colorado and Texas out of personal interest both as a photographer and a criminal defense lawyer and will hopefully provide future updates.
As a photographer, I spend a fair amount of my free time simply browsing the work of other photographers. I don’t limit my browsing to just other professional photographers, but I browse images posted by friends on Facebook, Flickr, 500px, Tumblr, etc., and even images randomly captured on my friends’ cell phones. Great images can be found just about anywhere. With the proliferation of advanced smart phones and the cameras built into them, everyone can be a photographer. But does that mean you ask your friend to swing by your wedding to take pictures with their latest and greatest smartphone? Probably not.
So then what is the difference between a good photographer and a great photographer? Short answer: the person looking at the picture. It’s that simple. You can find site after site of people telling you how the image has to evoke a feeling or emotion. You will find other sites that rate great photographers on their composition, lighting, use of leading lines, subject matter, etc. and so on and so on. I think this is a very traditional way of defining great photography and therefore great photographers and it makes sense to a point. But only to a point!
Photography is both a science and an art. Don’t believe me? Google the term “inverse-square law” for light. Since ‘photography’ literally means capturing light, the inverse-square law is fairly important to photography. Another example is having your settings manually set in your camera, taking a picture, looking at it, and realizing you need 2 more stops of light to get the picture you want. Instead of blindly changing a setting or two and taking several more pictures, a photographer that understands the science can more quickly, and more accurately, get to the desired outcome.
But there is more to it than just being scientifically proficient and accurate with lighting and camera settings. There is the art of photography and with any art, the value is defined by the viewer. A picture of something, anything, may get a certain response from one person and yet a completely different response from someone else. Neither response is right or wrong. If you are about to get married and have a very traditional ceremony in mind, you may want very soft looking pictures with loving expressions and glowing sunsets behind a kissing couple. But what if you and your significant other want a non-traditional ceremony with Harley-Davidson motorcycles as a theme and an array of tattoo images as the focus? The finished images will probably be quite different. What appeals to one may not appeal to another. What one considers art, another may consider junk, or even offensive and THAT’S OKAY! If someone, somewhere, isn’t offended by it, it’s probably not art.
All of this is a long winded way to say a ‘great’ photographer is who you think is a great photographer. As mentioned in the beginning of this blog, I follow all types of photography by all types of photographers. Some award-winning photographers with images published in several different publications don’t interest me near as much as a random photo a kid may have taken with a toy camera; even if the award-winning photographer may be proficiently flawless! A ‘great’ photographer as defined by Sports Illustrated may not be a great photographer as defined by National Geographic. If you are looking for a photographer for any occasion, look at their work! If it speaks to you in a way that makes you want to work with them, you have probably discovered a great photographer.
If you are a photographer and are wondering if your work is great, keep in mind that you may be able to please all of the people some of the time, or maybe even some of the people all of the time, but you will never please all of the people all of the time. Even as a photographer, if your work speaks to you, regardless of what others think, you are a great photographer. And stop comparing! “Comparison is the death of joy.” ~ Mark Twain.
Keep the interesting parts of life in focus.