Posts By David Williams

Hi all! Dave Williams here, coming at you this week from a very cold Chicago where I’m spending a few days shooting in the city. Perfect timing, it seems, to share some top tips for shooting a cityscape.

When we shoot a cityscape, we can often relate it to landscape photography, applying similar camera settings to achieve similar results. What differs in the main is the objective of the photo. We are quite often seeing a faraway land and putting our spin on its appearance by making notable points within the scene stand out, by bringing something in focus (whether that be one element or the entire skyline), and sometimes reflecting the local culture within the shot.

Yesterday, I was shooting Chicago with KelbyOne member Kevin Scott, who I know reads this blog daily.

Tip 1: Golden hour and blue hour are the best times for shooting a cityscape. As the sun rises, the city is quiet, as it begins to wake up. The changing colour of the light can bathe the city and warm it up, ready for the day ahead. In a similar way the sunset changes the light of the city, but the difference here is that the lights that are probably switched off at sunrise are being switched on for sunset. The tones in the sky are usually quite beautiful and there’s a harmonious balance between nature and the influence of people.

Tip 2: Change your perspective! The city is usually shot from a handful of good locations, over and over again. If you get the opportunity to shift perspective and shoot from somewhere else, you should absolutely make the most of that.

Tip 3: Bad weather = good! So, yesterday, I was moaning quite a lot about the cold—I won’t lie about that. That cold weather did something for the city, though, and the ice was an extra element. This translates to a rainy day, too, where the rain gives nice, shiny, reflective surfaces to shoot within a scene. The reflection not only adds a mirroring effect or a deeper element to the photo, but it also adds a level of saturation and an often overlooked location can look really great!

Tip 4: Consider the foreground. Speaking of bad weather, the ice was my foreground yesterday and it’s a foreground that isn’t permanent, so it gives my photos an edge over the rest of the market. I won’t go too much into the subject of foregrounds, save to say that they’re a good thing!

Tip 5: Lead in with leading lines. Leading lines are a powerful compositional tool because they force depth and they cause the viewer’s eye to move exactly how and where we want it to. What can potentially be a messy scene can suddenly become coherent with this simple addition.

Tip 6: Stabilise. To get the length of exposure we need, in order to keep the entire range in focus for such a deep scene, we often need to use a tripod, or where tripods aren’t allowed or are too heavy to carry around, a Platypod.

Tip 7: Use your imagination! Look for patterns, look for light, think about movement, such as water and vehicles, and capture the essence of the city as best as you can! When planning your city shoot, use the tools available to you to get the best shots in the best locations: – Instagram, 500px, Pinterest, Flickr. Take a look at what everybody else is doing, so you can decide on your location. And, most importantly, have a great time!

Do you notice from the photos I’ve shared that there’s no real right or wrong? It’s more a case of considering what’s there and how to make the most of it, whilst keeping the photographic principles we know in mind!

Much love

Dave

Hey hey! Happy #TravelTuesday, once again. I’m Dave Williams, coming at you from the UK to share something about Photoshop, photography, and life. This week: photography! Pick up what I put down, and let’s go!

Time and time again this question lands in my inbox: – “How many megapixels?” Well, in truth, the only time you really need a lot of megapixels is when you’re shooting something for a billboard. Here’s why:

Photography is both an art and a science. It’s an art in terms of its creativity, but a science in terms of the application of all the elements that lend themselves to the creative result. The science is made up of gigabytes, megapixels, photons, and a whole load of other cool sounding words. The problem can often derive from people’s scientific or technical way of thinking being transposed into the art of photography, and particularly, in terms of the requisite number of megapixels, it’s often misunderstood.

Here’s the marketing myth that goes with the theory: – the more megapixels you have, the better the camera.

Nope!

So, a megapixel is basically a million dots. These dots make up the image. It would seem that more megapixels mean a sharper photo, but this is not necessarily the case—you could just have more dots on a bad photo. The lens you use, the sensor in the camera, and the photographer’s grasp of light and composition are far more important factors about what makes a good photo than the megapixels cameras are arranged by in the electronic store. It’s often said, in various different ways, that the most important thing about a camera are the six inches behind it.

The big things to consider when buying more megapixels, along with the aforementioned potential creative differences, are that more megapixels mean bigger file sizes, which in turn, means you need more hard drive space. And, that more megapixels cost more, owing to the marketing value associated to megapixels when retailers rank cameras.

Look at all those megapixels!

Let’s go back to the billboard thing. You know when you watch TV and you have the option to go between the regular channel and the HD version of the channel you’re watching? On the whole is there actually a difference? Perhaps there’s a difference on a huge screen, but on the average TV screen, it’s not noticeable. This is exactly akin to comparing what most people will use a photo for versus the one in 100 photographers who is shooting that billboard ad. Make sense?

Taking that a stage further, a very common use for images is social media. Often we find that we’re downscaling the images before we post them, and then the posting algorithms of Instagram and the like will resize our image and its resolution, once again, when we upload it. Those megapixels you invested in are, in this case, wasted.

In short, if you’re going to make a tight crop on an image or shoot for that billboard, megapixels matter. In almost all other cases, they simply don’t.

Megapixels matter in some cases, but not many! If you’re shopping for a new camera, look at other things first—read reviews on sensor quality, ISO performance—and make sure you invest properly in your lens, as well as the camera.

Much love

Dave

I’m Dave Williams and it’s #TravelTuesday here on Scott’s blog. This week, I’m going to tip most articles on their head.

When we start out in photography, we seek inspiration and education from all manner of sources—YouTube, KelbyOne, magazines, blogs, workshops— but I think the most important way to learn is to make mistakes.

The thing these methods all have in common is that they tell you what to do. Obviously! They tell us the mistakes to avoid, so that we can be better photographers. But, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my journey and I strongly recommend you do too! (Stick with me here!)

I’m not saying make all the mistakes I’ve made—for example, don’t drop your camera from a rock on the coast of Iceland straight into a rock pool (it survived), or don’t continuously trek to a remote location to shoot only to realise when you arrive that you have one bar left on your battery. I’m talking about other mistakes.

We learn in life from mistakes, and often it’s the best way to learn. A combination of both regret and education, mistakes are something from which we learn how to do something and how not to do something, as the lesson from the experience is etched into our memory.

Shooting at too high an ISO and having an overly noisy image is one of the mistakes that’s important to make in order to understand how your camera’s sensor interacts with the available light, and how your manipulation of the camera’s settings affect the final image. The extra effort that would have gone into using a tripod and shooting a longer exposure at a lower ISO would be the fix and the lesson to learn in such circumstances.

Speaking of ISO, when I used to shoot weddings, I lost track of the number of times I’d be shooting inside a beautiful church at a high ISO to balance the tonal range of the images, but then stepped outside continuing to shoot at that high ISO and ruining the first handful of images. It was essentially a learning curve—it happened a few times, but once I eventually got it in my mind, it never happened again!

On the same sort of level, one thing that used to often happen when I was shooting in the high north during winter, is that I would go out to shoot the Northern Lights (or at least look for them!) and have my camera set on a long exposure to capture the motion, with a high ISO to be sensitive to the level of light coming at me (which I obviously wouldn’t overlook), but I’d also have the autofocus switched off! The following morning I’d grab the camera, having seen a cool-looking mountain or something, and shoot it, having adjusted the ISO and shutter speed to suit, but forgotten about the autofocus! Again, once I’d made the mistake a few times, it was set in my mind and it hasn’t happened since.

And again, on the same sort of level, the cold, in this case. Have you ever had a wet tripod and not dried it off properly? The result is terrible—trust me! It’s a lesson not forgotten when everything seizes up!

Over-processing is a mistake often made in the early days, and it’s worth noting here that if you want to make your images look unrealistic and have a halo around every object, make sure you crank the Clarity and Saturation sliders right up. ;)

See the big shadow, here, in the sky over Turkey? A reminder to clean the sensor or lens is learned from the mistake of not doing just that!

Making mistakes is very important. I’d like to say we only make them once, and although that is often the case, it’s not always the case. Nevertheless, when we make mistakes, we (sooner or later) won’t repeat them and will get our time to shine and get it right every time. It’s in our nature to make mistakes, and it’s also in our nature to learn from them. I just wish I didn’t make the same mistake twice!

Just be yourself; it’ll all fall into place.

Much love

Dave

If you want something, go and get it! Find a way or make one!

I’m Dave Williams and, as always, I’m here on Scott’s blog for #TravelTuesday for you! I aim to enlighten and inspire every week with something to do with photography, Photoshop, and life. Today, I want to provoke you to take last week’s personal project and monetise it, either directly or indirectly.

When we shoot as professionals, that is to say, we are making money from our photography, we are doing more or less everything with a goal in mind—a bill that needs paying! Removing that element of life and shooting for self-development allows a relief of the stresses and pressures placed upon us (by others or by ourselves), so we can afford more of our efforts on the creative aspects of the shoot rather than the “end goal.” It’s important to have that creativity in the moment, to enjoy the moment, rather than simply aiming for that end goal, and it’s an aspect of photography that is worth incorporating into everyday life. Here’s why: –

Whilst it’s good and often important to have a goal in sight, staring at that goal won’t get you anywhere on its own. Concentrating your energy and efforts on the here and now is what makes things change and ultimately what shows your value as a person. It’s what shows your commitment and understanding, not of what you want to achieve but how you’ll achieve it.

I’ve found that whilst I can take a good image of a place the first time I visit, I often think of better images and better techniques and want to revisit until I nail it. It’s this which prompted me to undertake personal projects, which develop my skill as a photographer (and storyteller) and allow me to get better images the first time around. But, that said, the second visit (and third and fourth) will never go away because…

“There’s no such thing as ‘just one last shot'” –Peter Treadway, 2014

This kinda has a few meanings to us photographers. It can mean that we’re usually such perfectionists that an image is never really finished, or it can mean that, actually, it is finished but we just find it hard to recognise when! That’s something to think about.

Here’s my current go-to example of second visits: –

Mont St-Michel, France. The image above was taken about five years ago, and the below image was taken a couple of months ago. I’d like to think both images work, and they’ve both sold so each has their own merit, but that is the very point—each has their own merit. Each shows the same place but in entirely different ways. It’s going to my development as a photographer that that’s happened, through grit, determination, practice, perseverance, and through personal projects! So, what about that one word I just said: “sold.” Let’s talk about that.

I’ve been talking to a few photographers lately about this, and whether it’s for the purpose of paying your bills or simply for funding new gear for your hobby, I implore you to get involved with monetising your photography. The people I’ve been talking to have been largely successful in the first stages of getting into stock photography, but there are other ways to monetise your photos. The world is a small place; you no longer need to be “famous” to make a living from photography, nor do you need to drive from home to home with a strobe and a backdrop in your car shooting family portraits. Here’s the thing: –

All those photos you see on billboards, in magazines, on leaflets, in menus, in newspapers, in brochures, on packaging, on computer screensavers, in books, on ads you scroll past online, literally everywhere, they all came from somewhere. Why not come from you?

Signing up for stock photography for these things is easy—all you have to remember is to play by the rules. For example, a test submission to a stock agency will state “common theme, not overly retouched, no brand names. in focus,” etc., etc., and as long as you stick to the rules (so that you pass the test submission), you can start to sell your images! It doesn’t have to be stock, of course. You can monetise your Instagram account in a similar way—find agencies who are looking for people and, again, follow the rules! Perhaps the rules are a common theme, signature look, 5,000+ followers, good engagement—follow the rules and you’re in! How about postcards? Take a look on the back of postcards next time you see a display rack and you’ll see the company who produces them printed on the back. Why not send them an e-mail? Send a few of your best images over and see how you get on—at worst, they say “no thanks,” and at best, you’re making money!

Seriously, no more excuses! It’s 2k19; it’s time to make your photography pay!

The cover image here is of me 13 years ago when I was living in South Africa. I was busy shooting thorns in the Klein Karoo area with my SLR (yes, SLR, no screen) and working out what kind of a photographer I was. Essentially, a whole series of personal projects, one after the other, finding a niche through the process.

Much love

Dave

Not every trip I take is about making money. Some are about bettering myself, challenging myself, and throwing myself out of my comfort zone in the interest of self-development. Personal projects are key to staying on your A game in photography, or in fact, in any creative art. As such, it’s very important for us to take a break from what is “normal” in our style of photography to learn some of the transferrable skills in other aspects of the art that we can translate into our own, everyday work, thus improving ourselves.

Personal projects are the leading method in this self-improvement. Have a little think about it and you’ll notice, consciously or otherwise, that there are so many personal projects out there ready-made for us to jump on. The “photo-a-day” challenge, the alphabet challenge, the colour challenge, the season challenge, they all serve to help us criticise ourselves, and this self-critique inevitably leads to improvement (although, in rare cases, it may lead to us throwing our gear down in frustration as well!).

If we are to stand out among a crowd, which is ever-growing and ever-changing, we must be noticeably different than the rest. If, in this industry, we remain stagnant, then we risk collapse. Everybody else will be racing forward, while we’re still stationary and stuck in our ways. Here’s a case study: –

Kaylee Greer, a great friend and an all-around amazing human being, told me about a problem she had. Her dog photography is world-class and she employs a simple setup and simple technique to create amazing portraits of doggos. She was approached by KelbyOne and asked to teach this technique, which she did. This meant that her “signature look” was being emulated the world over and she had a whole foray of photogs essentially catching her up. She was being joined by a crowd, from which she needed again to stand out! She told me what she did to step her shoots up a gear—I won’t elaborate, but needless to say, it was a personal project that was copied into her everyday shoots, and it worked!

At Imaging USA, I noticed that Joel Grimes was demonstrating a technique that was traditionally reserved for architecture photography, however, he was using it to photograph people! Models! And, in applying this technique from what was undoubtedly a curious personal project, he’s come up with something that is, for all intents and purposes, groundbreaking!

The cream of the crop, as you can see from these very specific examples, are pushing themselves with personal projects rather than simply “riding the cloud” because they know how very important they are. For me personally, I try to occasionally take whole trips which are “personal projects”—not having any prior knowledge of a location and testing myself in seeing what I can get, pushing the content to things I’m not comfortable shooting, and deliberately trying to make the best of bad light. It’s these personal projects which have carried me to where I am as a travel photographer, and if I may reference it, it’s my past life as a wedding photographer which has helped me understand composition and given me the ability to see light, alongside batting ideas off my partner in crime, Peter Treadway.

So, here’s my challenge to you: –

You may only venture 50 paces from your front door (communal front door if you live in a block) and I want to see you photograph light. Portray light, show that you can see light, read light, represent light, and use the experience to improve your skill as a photographer.

Then, I want you to upload a photo to Instagram using the hashtag #lightpp as part of this personal project, so we can all see.

Good luck!

Much love

Dave

Happy #TravelTuesday one and all! I’m Dave Williams, coming at you from Tallinn, Estonia where I’m exploring this old city in search of coffee, burgers, and awesome views! This week, I have a secret tip for your drone photography.

 

 

Everyone wants to know what they’re doing wrong, right? Well, here’s what you’re doing wrong! The top rookie drone pilot mistake, aside from flying in the wrong places (I won’t go there, though), is…

When people get a drone they go through actions not dissimilar to when they get a window seat on a plane. What us humans tend to do is take a photo of that place down below us, familiar to us, from a new perspective. We get on the plane and, as it takes off over our local city, we see things we recognise out of the window and shoot them for the sake of shooting them. It’s not a bad thing; I’m not saying that at all. If anything, it’s pretty cool to get that new perspective of such a familiar place and to see how things look relative to one another from up there. It’s tantamount to what we all did when we first discovered Google Street View—we suddenly had the technological ability to literally go anywhere we wanted in the entire world and despite that, we all did the exact same thing. We opened up the map, we took hold of that little man, and we all dragged him and dropped him into the exact same position: our front door! We like to see things from a new perspective; it’s clearly in our nature. This little trait we all seem to have rubs off in our drone photography and we need simply to be aware of it in order to avoid it.

 

 

When flying a drone, as I’ve explained in my KelbyOne class, we need to fly like a movie director. This means not simply lifting off and turning the camera to view the place we took off from. It means applying all that we know about photography, such as light, composition, and subject matter, and applying it to the new camera up in the air. It’s simply another camera, which is now removed from us—the same rules and principles apply.

Don’t be the passenger in the window seat. Make your drone photography stand out among the crowd.

Much love

Dave

 

Close