OK, last week’s was a bit of work, took a bit of time, but at least today’s Part 3 (of 4 total) is much easier. It does require some thoughtful decision-making on your part, but it sets you up for success in the next and final part of this journey.

NOTE: If you’re just reading this journey for the first time, you’re welcome to join in — just start with Part One — it’s a critical step.

In Part 2, we essentially played “image detective” using a checklist I gave to help you down that path. Now, let’s take this a step further for this step.

Go to your list, and assign a numerical value to which of those things you wrote down in Part 2 and decide which of those things you wrote down was the most important to making that image work. Was it the location? The subject? The person? The lens the photographer used? The Lighting? The composition? The perspective? One of these is the most important — the key thing that makes that image that image. There are probably multiple things that make it great, but you have to rank them in the order you feel they affect the image.

You only need to do the first three or four, but you can do all 11 if you want (the 10 on the list plus the bonus), with 1 being the most important attribute of the photo, and 11 being the least important.

What will help you get started is that last week the bonus question was, “What is the single most important thing in this image?” So that will probably automatically be #1 in your rankings, so just three or four more.

Here’s an example:

If this was my shot (it’s not — it’s a stock photo from Adobe Stock), how would I break this image down (image detective wise) and then how would I rank the top five in order of importance of what to me makes this a great image?

  1. So, for me what makes that shot is the location. I think it’s the Palouse, but it could possibly be somewhere in Tuscany, but I’m going with Washington State’s Palouse region. It’s pretty unique geographically, and I’ve always been drawn to The Palouse since I saw my first shots of it (though I’ve never had a chance to shoot it.
  2. After the location, I think the light is really wonderful. It’s low, so directional, and I think this same location was photographed at high noon, it never would have made my list, so take that great location and add really interesting, almost dramatic light, and it’s a winner.
  3. One reason the light is so awesome is that the sun is obviously very low in the sky. Not late enough that it turned the scene orange, but low enough to rake across the scene. Very late in the day sun, I’m guessing.
  4. The composition is really nice, too with the two lone trees set off to the far right and that made the whole shot more interesting as the image pulls your image to the trees. All that negative space to the left helped a bunch to draw your eye, too.
  5. The shot has a wide-angle look, and I would have guessed that the photographer used a wide-angle lens, but I’ve been told by friends who have shot the Palouse that to get the classic shots you need to use a very long lens, so I’m guessing that what they did here, but it is in a wide format versus tall, so let’s just say it a wide shot that’s not necessarily shot with a wide-angle lens.

TIP: Did you notice that I didn’t choose “camera settings” as an important aspect s what makes this shot great? Spoiler alert: for most images, you’ll analyze, camera settings will be almost irrelevant to the success of the shot. There’s an important photography lesson in there. :)

So, that’s the next stop. Number the ones from last week in the order that you think they contributed to the success of the shot. You can do three, four or five, but you can see from my list, by the time you get down to numbers four and five, they’re just not as important as those top two or three.

Good luck, and we’ll catch you maybe on Friday (if all goes as planned, but nothing is going as planned these days, so…).

Looking forward to teaching a bunch of photographers in Houston today (and LA on Wednesday).

We switch my live in-person eminar to a live online seminar (for everybody’s health and safety), so today I’m doing my full “Ultimate Photography Crash Course” seminar to the folks in Houston, Texas today live, just like I would do it if I were there in person. I’m doing the same thing for photographers in LA on Wednesday. I’m looking forward to chatting with those fine folks, and answering questions and spending the day together online.

Have a safe, healthy, stay-indoors kinda week. :)

-Scott

How To Photograph A Rocket Launch with Erik Kuna

Join Erik Kuna on location at the historic Launch Complex 39A, the epicenter of the space program, and learn everything you need to know to tell the story of a rocket launch. In this class you’ll learn about the history of space flight photography, the essential gear and camera settings you’ll need to use, how to capture breath taking streak shots, pad shots, and telephoto shots, the importance of pre-production, as well as tips and techniques for post processing all of your photos when the launch is over.

In Case You Missed It: Demystifying PhotoPills

Learn how to get the most out of PhotoPills when planning your next outdoor photography adventure! Join Erik Kuna as he explains exactly what this app can do, why photographers should care about using an app like PhotoPills, and how best utilize all of the features and functions within the app.

In this class you’ll learn the basic terminology needed to use the planner, how to use the app to plan a photo shoot based around the position of the sun, the moon, or the milky way, how to discover when the next eclipse will occur at a given location, how to perform useful calculations, and so much more! Erik even breaks down all the steps he used in planning for a variety of different photographic scenarios. By the end of the class you’ll have a whole new appreciation for the ability to plan around celestial events using PhotoPills.

We wanted to do something for all us photographers who are stuck inside with limited shooting opportunities, and so we’re making the Webinars we normally do just for KelbyOne members, available to everyone, everywhere for free until this awful virus is behind us. There’s no credit card required, no sales pitch, etc. — just a bunch of photographers getting together to work on all that stuff we said we’re going to do “once we have some spare time.” :-)

Check out the video for the type of stuff we’re going to do, but we’re kicking it off today at 11:00 AM ET with a Webinar on how to prep your images for printing at a photo lab. I’m going to cover everything from scratch, from the start all the way through uploading the file to the lab (it’s all easier than you’d think), and with now being such a great time to catch up on stuff like this, I think this will help a lot, and you’ll have some fun.

I’m even going to give away the print we’re sending to the lab during the Webinar to someone watching live today.

I’ll be taking your questions live during the Webinar, and we’ve got a lot more coming, so keep an eye out here, or follow me on social (Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook) and please tell your photography friends as everyone is welcome.

WHO: Me and you
WHAT: Free photography Webinars
WHERE: http://kelbyone.com/webcast
WHEN: The first one is today (Friday) at 11:00 AM ET
WHY: Cause we’re all stuck inside, and this is something we can do to help. :)
Keep your hands washed, look out for one another, stay healthy, and we’ll see you online later today. :)

Here’s to a safe, healthy weekend for everybody.

-Scott

Obligatory awkward self portrait

The Most Productive Quarantine Ever

Wow. What a wild time we’re living in. Whether by government or corporate mandate, or simply by your own personal choice, it’s entirely possible that as you read this you’re more or less stuck at home. There’s also a strong possibility that you may continue to be stuck at home for a number of weeks.

Now listen, I’m no expert on health science or politics; I’m a photographer. I’m not here to add to your increasingly anxiety-inducing news feeds, please trust me on that. Instead I’m here to simply offer some uplifting suggestions – from one creative to another.

So what advice could I possibly be here to give you in this strange and trying time? Well, since you’re reading this on one of the world’s most popular photography blog, it’s pretty safe to assume that you’re a photographer, artist, or creative person.

Now this may be a general assumption, but I’ve found the vast majority of artistic-minded people typically have difficulty creating structure in their day-to-day lives, especially when taken away from their daily routine. Routine is extremely important for productivity, and for most people, their routine is often built around a traditional 9-5 job.

I’m lucky enough to have made a living with photography for nearly ten years. During that time I’ve had to create my own day-to-day structure, come up with my own schedule, and be my own boss. It sounds great (and it is), but the reality of it is, if you’re not wired a certain way, you may find yourself sitting around wasting your days, unsure of how to best spend your time.

So now you’re at home, looking for something to do and faced with endless possibilities. So what to do… what do to…

You could certainly binge every episode of The Office again (there are 201 episodes, approximately 140 of them good ones).

You could see how many hours you can sleep in a day, and then try to break that record.

You could finally take the time to read Stephen King’s “The Stand” (or maybe stick to the one about the clown).

Or – now hear me out on this one – you could take the extra time at home to really hunker down and improve your craft as a photographer.

There are a million things you could do to improve your photography, but in the essence of keeping this blog from reaching the length of…again…. Stephen King’s “The Stand,” we’re going to concentrate on just 6 concepts.

So without any further ado, let’s get to it.

Megan Mackenzie looking ready to inspire.

CREATE 

Your creativity is a muscle. In order for that muscle to grow, it needs to be exercised frequently. Maybe you had an upcoming photography workshop cancelled or rescheduled, or perhaps you had to postpone working with your typical clients. If this is the case, don’t use it as an excuse to not shoot. In fact, it’s the perfect time to think about what you can shoot in and around your own house.

(more…)

#TravelTuesday doesn’t seem to involve a lot of travel right now, but nevertheless I, Dave, am here for you! I’ve got your back, people! I’ve done the whole COVID-19 topic already, and we all know what we know about that, so let’s focus on something a little happier—spring!

Spring is right around the corner and that means changing photographic opportunities. For me, it means less snow and ice, or a different kind at least. I have a trip to Iceland coming up (fingers crossed) and spring there is just beautiful, but what opportunities can springtime bring us in general? What can we focus on?

Seeing as everyone loves a list—here’s a list!

1 – Consider the Wider Scene

There can be a temptation to shoot narrow. The spring vibe is all about flowers, blossoms, birds, and bees. To shoot these subjects, we tend to focus on them, and them alone. We can shoot these things within a larger scene, allowing them to be a feature of the photo rather than the subject of it. I feel like I’ve said that a lot—maybe it should be my tagline! But it’s true, we can take a step back and let composition be king. Blossoming flower beds rather than an individual flower can, if shot correctly, be awesome! Take a look at this shot at Provence in France for an example to iterate my point—the building is a feature, the lavenders are a feature, and the composition makes it all come together.

2 – Early Mornings

The mornings are warming up and wildlife gets up early. So, drag yourself out of bed before the crack of dawn to make the most of the change of seasons and the reaction of the world that comes with it. Sunrise is amazing, and the world is so much more still at sunrise than sunset. The sunrises during spring and autumn/fall are so much more dramatic than in summer, so let’s take advantage. This stag in London’s Richmond Park was shot at sunrise a few springs back, and he’s clearly taking note of the season changing around him at dawn.

3 – Pick Out Some Details

Firstly, point number one still stands strong! While it can be effective to shoot wide and nail a composition, it can also be very effective to crop in tight and pick out some detail. If you want to practice macro, try following some bees around and see how you get on with this tricky style, but if not, pick a stand-out subject and shoot it as the main focus of a considered image. This image went through to the final round of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and probably because it has got a definitive subject with no distractions. Whether you have a macro lens or not, get out and try to shoot something (big or small) and make it the definitive subject of the frame.

4 – April Showers

With the rain that accompanies the spring in much of the world, plan for those April showers! Getting indoors and shooting some awesome architecture is a great way to deal with staying dry, and it’s often part of my contingency when I’m traveling. I always know what’s nearby in terms of interiors, just in case that rain falls, and it’s something you should have in your back-up arsenal, too. This is from one of my trips to Paris—the beautiful stained glass of St Chapelle.

5 – Keep Learning

Take every opportunity to learn that you can! I know for a fact that Scott and all the KelbyOne instructors will back me up on this—we must always learn in order to stay in top shape and on top of our game. When we stop learning and become complacent it shows in our photography, so as spring arrives, keep learning, keep practicing, and keep developing as a photographer!

Much Love
Dave

In part one of our journey about your photography (link), your assignment was to go on Instagram and find 20 to 25 images of the exact type of photos you want to be making; and then make a screen capture of them and save them to your camera roll.

Step Two (today): 

This 2nd step is harder, and it takes a lot longer, but it’s such an important part of this process. Step Two is you becoming an “image detective” where you analyze the images you chose in Step One, and break them down to their most basic building blocks. Why this takes longer is you MUST write your analysis down. You can do it on a text app, or the notes app on your phone, a spreadsheet if you’re really nerdy, or you can go “old school” and write it with a pen and paper. Don’t waste time on the method you choose — just choose one and get ready to write.

How to Analyze an Image

Well, here’s how I do it anyway, and I use a 10-point system to get me started. It starts with easy questions, and then it gets tougher, but the answers you write are more revealing:

  1. Is the image wide or tall? What basic type of lens do you think it was taken with?
  2. Is it natural light, flash, or both?
  3. What time of day was it most-likely taken? Dawn, Dusk, high-noon?
  4. What is the subject of the image? A person, a mountain, a stream, etc., and what is the overall setting of the image? Do you recognize the location?
  5. How would you describe the overall light in the photo? Describe the direction of the light. If it’s a flash, can you determine where the flash was positioned by looking in the subject’s eyes?
  6. Is the subject interesting or beautiful or intriguing in some way?
  7. Is there an overall tone to the image? Is it warm with many yellow and/or orange or red tones, or cold with more blue or cyan tones?
  8. Can I figure out the f/stop it was taken with (f/11? F/1.8?) by looking at the background?
  9. Explain the composition. Where is the subject in the frame and why do you think the photographer put the subject there?
  10. What kind of post-processing did the photographer apply to the image? Was it retouched? Is there a tint added? Were things added, removed, etc.

    BONUS QUESTION: If you had to choose one thing about this image that makes it special, what would that be?

That’s my starting list, and depending on the image, it might require me to write a few extra descriptive lines. OK, here’s how I would break down the image below:

  1. Is the image wide or tall? What basic type of lens do you think it was taken with?
    It’s wide. A long telephoto lens. Maybe a 300mm or 400mm. It’s pretty close, could even have used a tele-extender.
  2. Was it taken using natural light, flash, or both?
    Natural light outdoors.
  3. What time of day was it most-likely taken? Dawn, Dusk, high-noon?
    Daytime, but the light doesn’t look too harsh so I’m thinking late in the day.
  4. What is the main subject of the image? A person, a mountain, a stream, etc., and what is the overall setting of the image? Do you recognize the location?
    It’s the jet climbing out. There are mountains in the background so I imagine it’s taken somewhere out in the Western US. The setting is probably either an airshow or a Military base.
  5. How would you describe the overall light in the photo? Describe the direction of the light. If it’s a flash, can you determine where the flash was positioned by looking in the subject’s eyes?
    Soft light from the sun on a very cloudy day, so overall diffused light.
  6. Is the subject interesting or beautiful or intriguing in some way?
    Great subject (well, for aviation enthusiasts, anyway). It’s a Navy jet — an FA/18 EA Growler. I think what makes it better is that you see the thrust in the engines, and that it’s “clean” (the landing gear is already tucked away), and the soft light makes a big difference.
  7. Is there an overall tone to the image? Is it warm with many yellow and/or orange or red tones, or cold with more blue or cyan tones?
    It’s got a cool, overall bluish look to it, which makes sense since it’s up in the sky.
  8. Can I figure out the f/stop it was taken with (f/11? F/1.8?) by looking at the background?
    The background is a bit out of focus, so I imagine it was taken with a more wide-open f/stop, like f/4 or f/5.6 (I just went and checked, and I was wrong — it was taken at f/9. Now that I know that, I wish I had used f/5.6 to get those mountain more out of focus).
  9. Explain the composition. Where is the subject in the frame and why do you think the photographer put the subject there?
    The subject is off-center to the left a bit. I think the reason the photographer put it there is so there’s more room in front of the aircraft, so it doesn’t feel boxed-in to the viewer. Also, it’s just below the center vertically, so he wanted to show more sky.
  10. What kind of post-processing did the photographer apply to the image? Was it retouched? Is there a tint added? Were things added, removed, etc.
    Looks like there’s some vignetting around the outside. Also, it looks like either Dehaze or contrast was added in post. It also looks like it was sharpened in post.

BONUS QUESTION: If you had to choose one thing about this image that makes it special, what would that be?
For me, it’s that it’s a photo of a jet fighter. I think the subject is what makes me like the shot right from the start.

So, that’s one example, let’s do another. The previous shot was mine, so that made it easy — this next one is an image from Adobe Stock by photographer Eugenio Marongiu.

  1. Is the image wide or tall? What basic type of lens do you think it was taken with?
    It’s wide. The background is way out of focus, and if I had to guess a lens, it would be an 85mm f/1.4 or f/1.8. Could be a 70-200mm as well, but either way, it’s zoomed in tight.
  2. Was it taken using natural light, flash, or both?
    Natural light outdoors. Could have maybe used a fill flash, but I doubt it. More likely, the photographer just over-exposed the shot to fill in her face, or there’s a reflector just out of frame at her chest level.
  3. What time of day was it most-likely taken? Dawn, Dusk, high-noon?
    Daytime, but later in the day (based on where the sun is hitting her hair). Not dusk, but maybe 4:30 or 5:00 pm.
  4. What is the main subject of the image? A person, a mountain, a stream, etc., and what is the overall setting of the image? Do you recognize the location?
    It’s a portrait-style shot. Almost a headshot. Looks like it could have been taken at the beach. There’s almost a surf-vibe to the background surroundings. Also, could simply just be an outdoor park.
  5. How would you describe the overall light in the photo? Describe the direction of the light. If it’s a flash, can you determine where the flash was positioned by looking in the subject’s eyes?
    Overall, nice soft light on the subject’s face, because the sun is clearly behind her. Only a little bit of light is hitting her cheek on the left side of the image. Since the sun is behind her, there’s no direct sun on her face (except that cheek), so the light is soft and flattering.
  6. Is the subject interesting or beautiful or intriguing in some way?
    Great subject who is very photogenic. I would guess she is a professional lifestyle model. She has a beautiful smile and great skin, with great hair. The tilt of her head makes her look friendly — like somebody you’d have coffee with at Starbucks. The more I look at it, the more sure I am that she’s a professional model, not just a friend of the photographer.
  7. Is there an overall tone to the image? Is it warm with many yellow and/or orange or red tones, or cold with more blue or cyan tones?
    It’s got a warmish tone, with greens and yellows split between the highlights and shadows. Very popular look.
  8. Can I figure out the f/stop it was taken with (f/11? F/1.8?) by looking at the background?
    With the background being that out of focus, I’m thinking f/1.4, f/1.8 or f/2.8.
  9. Explain the composition. Where is the subject in the frame, and why do you think the photographer put the subject there?
    The subject is pretty much centered in the frame horizontally, but the top of her head is cut off at the top of the frame, so it has a very contemporary look.
  10. What kind of post-processing did the photographer apply to the image? Was it retouched? Is there a tint added? Were things added, removed, etc.
    There’s definitely some color toning added — either split-toning or some cinematic color grading, or maybe just a Lightroom Creative Profile has been applied that gives it its yellowish/greenish overall tint. I imagine some basic portrait retouching was done as well, removing blemishes, etc.

BONUS QUESTION: If you had to choose one thing about this image that makes it special, what would that be?
It’s the subject’s expression, which gives the whole image it’s vibe.

OK, that’s the idea. You’ve got a lot of work to do before Part 3 of our assignment (luckily, it’s easier, and I’m hoping to do it Friday if all goes as planned, but these days, it’s hard to make solid plans).

Please take good care of yourself; wash those hands for 20-seconds, look out for each other, help folks in our local community who need our help, and we’ll catch you all back here tomorrow for Travel Tuesday with Dave (which probably should be temporarily renamed, “Don’t Go Anywhere” with Dave).

Good luck on your assignment,

-Scott

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