Getting an amazing shot

I’ve been involved with photography for over 30 years, and even with all the modern technology of digital cameras, editing programs, and all of the information that can be found on the Internet there are still some issues with photography that have been with us for years. One of the top 10 questions I get asked by my photography student’s has nothing to do with camera operation, but has everything to do with getting an amazing picture and that question starts with ” How can I make my pictures look better?”

A lot of people are disappointed in what their pictures look like, their pictures just don’t have that extra special quality that they see on the Internet or in books.  Many students want me to tell them what the secret is to get these amazing photos, some think the secret is in the camera body that you use, others think it is in the lenses.  We’ll really there’s only one secret and that is to shoot, shoot and shoot and to shoot in the lighting conditions that will enhance your images.  If you are just a weekend photographer that takes one or two pictures when it is convenient to you you’ll never improve your photography and get those amazing images.  Likewise if you’re one of those photographers that only shoots during the afternoon when you have some extra time, your pictures will never have that amazing lighting to set them apart from the average everyday pictures.  The biggest thing that any photographer can do to improve their images is to take more images when the light is outstanding and to look at what the light does to enhance the images.

I often tell the story of National Geographic photographers and how they would get the amazing pictures that filled their magazine for years.  These photographers would show up at a location days, weeks or even months before they’re actually going to take the image.  They would scout out the location, they would learn about their subject, they would check out the lighting, and they would take test shots to see when the best time was to take the images.  Only after all of this research would the photographer actually take the image that would appear in the magazine. Today many photographers, including myself, try rushing through taking an image.  We will drive someplace and see something that we find interesting, stop the car and take what we hope will be an amazing picture.  So many times after taking the image we are disappointed because the lighting just does not do anything to enhance the photo, and many times will do a lot to destroy the image that we saw in our mind. So what should we do to improve our photography?  Well it is very simple we need to take time to check out a location and to see what the light does to that location to make it look amazing, and only after checking the location thoroughly we should take our images. Yes this takes time, yes this takes commitment but only by doing so will we ever improve our photography.  So next time you’re driving around and see that amazing picture take a minute to figure out what makes it so amazing.  Is it the actual light that is striking the subject at that minute, or is it your mind telling you that this could be an amazing subject if the lighting was a little different?

Getting that amazing shot

The above image of the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton is one of those images that many people photograph, but not a lot of people are really happy with.  I have driven by this hotel tens of thousands of times. I must have photographed it hundreds of times.  Each time it just did not have the look that I was looking for.  It was either backlit, flat lit or just plain did not look right.  I knew the lighting that I was looking for, and many times I tried getting there to capture the perfect lighting and many times I failed.  Then one day I was driving back to my campsite after photographing some elk early in the morning and I saw the perfect light just starting to light up the hotel.  At the time I was more interested in getting something to eat than getting a picture of the hotel but I knew that after so many attempts I better take the opportunity to stop and get the picture that I’ve been looking for. I stopped and shot 100 or so images before the light softened and ruined the look that I wanted and the look that I saw in my mind so many times.  I’m so happy that I took that opportunity, since that date I’ve not seen the exact lighting on this hotel that I wanted so those few minutes worked for me to get the perfect image that I wanted.

So next time you want to take some amazing pictures make sure that you’re getting out when the light is working for you.  A little planning and a little luck and you will be able to take your images from the everyday to the amazing!

Always back-up – even your passwords!!!

I have written many times about making sure that you back-up your digital files but I also want to remind you to back-up your passwords, as well as to use passwords that are not easy for others to guess.  I know that many say you should never write down your passwords but lets be realistic, how many people can remember all those passwords.  As a quick tally I looked and found over 100 passwords that I have to remember and I am sorry but I cannot memorize all of them.  I know that there are many more but I cannot even remember the sites that require a password. Also if we are all using 123456 or similar easy to remember strings then really there is no sense in having a password, I know many people that do this as they say they can never remember all their passwords.

So I advocate something a little more secure than 123456 and that is to record your passwords in either a secure data base (see below) or even easier a recipe box with cards listing all the sites that have passwords. Honestly how many of us have people visiting that are going to be searching for passwords?  If we are concerned with people accessing these cards then get a fireproof locked safe and put the box in there.

Another way is what I have been using in addition to the recipe cards is an app. A number of years ago I installed an app on my tablet that helps with keeping track of my passwords.  It is secured with a password (yes another one) and you can even set it so after a number of wrong passwords are entered the program will erase the entire database, a little extreme in my opinion but I guess if you are a fan of 007 or other spy thrillers then this would interest you.  I do like this system as I can carry it with me on my tablet but this company keeps asking me to buy the “free” program so it makes me nervous that some day they will not allow me access to the app without me paying so I also use the above recipe card idea at home and lock it up in a safe for even safer keeping.

I did hear of a new (at least new to me) program that also allows you to secure your passwords, and again is free, and it is installed on your own computer.  I need to investigate more into this before I recommend it.

But even if you are not going the more high tech route of a program lets take some time today, or this weekend, to make our passwords harder for others to guess and at the same time to record them so we do not loose them!!!

There’s no free lunch!!

There’s no free lunch is a saying that I’ve heard since I was a little boy, and it rings as true today as it did those so many years ago.  I was just doing some work on one of my blogs and updating a few of the programs and I found what was called a “free” app that I thought I would install.  So I installed the app, activated it, and then I got the request for extra information that they require before I could use this “free” app. So what is all this information that they require?  First they wanted my e-mail address, then they wanted my name, my age, occupation, sex, country of residence, then they wanted me to sign up for their “free” newsletter.

Read moreThere’s no free lunch!!

Focus Test (repost)

This is a repost from January as I have people that are looking for the test sheet and wanted to bring it back up front.

One of the great things about this time of the year, especially when it is a blizzard, is that I have time to catch up on projects.  Yesterday after a shoot I did some research on doing a focus test on my lens and came across a great video about a different way of checking the focus on your lenses.  Now before I go any further let me say a couple things; one is that not all cameras can do what I am going to describe in that you can adjust the focus yourself and two I am not recommending the guy that is doing the video (I only watched this one that he did and it looks like he has done dozens) other than this is the best video that describes how to do a lens focus check that I have seen and it is explained perfectly.

Read moreFocus Test (repost)

Buying quality, the search can be worth it!

Buying quality, the search can be worth it!

I am not sure if quality is going out of style, prices are just getting ridiculously high for mediocre items or if it is just me, but I am finding it a lot harder these days to find the quality products that I actually want to spend my money on. This is true in many areas of our daily life as well as photography and it can be really frustrating!

Read moreBuying quality, the search can be worth it!

Help to identify birds

Help to identify birds

I was sent this link by one of my clients to help identify bird species.  I gave it a try and was very impressed!!  It did miss a couple different birds, but I’m not sure if it was the type of photo I was trying to use or if the birds are not in the database yet. I was able to identify several different birds that I had photographed over the past couple months.  I thought I knew what they were and this programmed confirmed my suspicions on one, and corrected me on the other.

Bird ID

Give it a try and let me know what you think?