Friday, 28 December 2012

how to understand bit depth bytes and why they are important

For most aspiring photographers one of the biggest challenges is understanding the technical stuff especially if you are taking pictures to scratch your creative urges. Understanding some technical information will enable you to deepen your knowledge and make the whole digital world less of a mystery.

Digital means the 0s and 1, black or white or on or off. As you are probably aware digital cameras only record in B&W but they output in colour.

Bits and Bytes.

Bit stands for a binary digit: 0 or 1.   1 byte = 8 bits

A byte (or 8 bits) can therefore represent 256 different states; 2^8th power. Generally speaking there are 256 shades between black & white and this is what your camera will record in. Most of the digital world operates on 8 bits including your monitor and inkjet printer. 

This is why you don't want to print a B&W image on an inkjet printer using just black ink. The printer would only be able to provide  256 shades of gray, from black to white and these are not nearly enough for a decent image. Instead you should print using colour inks as well, which means that all three primary colours (Red, Blue and Green) will be mixed together to create 16 million shades of gray (256X256X256). More than enough.

As you can see from the diagram one of the biggest advantages is the smooth gradation of the tones that look more natural and are easier on the eye. The less tonal information that you have the less memory it will take up although the extra memory is a false economy if you are trying to achieve a natural and professional looking result.

 This is a 'byte sized' version of the subject of bit maps, yes I know but I could not resist, and will hopefully have answered a few questions.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

how to use reflections for abstract

nick brewer
The photograph is a reflection in water taken on a recent trip to Derbyshire, England. The wind across the water has helped to obscure the shape of the trees.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

how to use creative blur with waterfalls

Nicholas Brewer

How many times have you seen pictures taken featuring a waterfall with 'ghostly water' similar to the image above? Yes loads, but unconcerned by the many pictures already out there I thought I would add my interpretation for your appraisal and to explain how to get the simple effect.You will need a tripod, neutral density filter (ND) and the ability to set your camera manually.  Using a Nikon D200 with a focal length of 27mm a shutter speed of 1/2 a second and F stop 5, this image was created. Pretty easy however: the tricky bit was standing on the top of the waterfall on wet stone trying to maintain my balance. I managed to get away with using a faster shutter speed because the water was moving quickly as I was near the top. Typically ND filters will help you to get the slower shutter speed but of course it depends on how much daylight you have and the speed of the water. In this case there was not much daylight as I was under some large trees on an overcast day. A cable release ( a lead that allows you to fire the camera without touching it) is also helpful but if you do not have one set your camera on self-timer with the mirror up and this should avoid any camera shake. 
“A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” - Ansel Adams

Friday, 17 August 2012

what is surrealism?

Man Ray
How many times have you heard the word surreal used and wondered what the true meaning is? Often it is used out of context with people describing Monty Python as surreal comedy for example. The word is now frequently used to describe something that is a little bit unusual. The surrealist movement dominant in the early 20th century, in terms of photography, is influenced  by the writings of Sigmund Freud and his work concerning the 'dream state' or unconscious mind.  The famous surrealist image above combines not only the 'dream state' but a sexual reference. When you hear the term 'Freudian Slip' it is frequently used in reference to a slip of the tongue implying a sub-conscious  sexually motivated desire. The naked girl and playing her like a violin is quite evident. This is naturally a vast subject and I wanted to provide a (very) brief outline of surrealism in photography.
Philippe Halsman

Sunday, 5 August 2012

pictures of the olympics

Here are some outstanding pictures from the London Olympics via Chase Jarvis's blog on the link below.
Enjoy the Games!

Come on Team GB!

Friday, 27 July 2012

the olympics have arrived.....

The London Olympics are nearly here and I am a mixture of excitement and nerves. If the London Underground makes it through the next few weeks I will be convinced that it is an act of divine intervention- it could be nothing else! Hackney Wick, home of the Olympic Stadium,  is one of the biggest areas of photographers and artists anywhere in Europe. Sam Scott-Hunter, who is probably best known for his music photography, has produced a short piece made up of hundreds of still images considering the environmental impact on his local area.

Notes From Fish Island from Sam Scott-Hunter on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

how determination paid off

You can just make out the 'boots' and was the glimpse of a sign I had walked past hundreds of times and not noticed. It was painted before the additional shops were added which would have provided a prime advertising spot.

You are now looking at the view from the shopping center balcony in Wimbledon. The Center Manager kindly agreed to let me use this vantage point to help with the 'Ghost Signs' project after I explained what I was doing. While better not good enough. At the top of the building on the right are offices. I took the name of the company based on the top floor. After speaking with the Office Manager a few days later he let me lean out of his window and take this final picture.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

exhibition week

Alice Hawkins
 We are rapidly approaching the end of another teaching year and busy with exhibitions. I feel a strange sense of frustration from most of the student's work and know that with effort, it would be much stronger. At 17 I was not the most dynamic individual and I enjoyed sleeping a lot but thankfully we have the capacity for change. Yesterday I went to another end of year show and was impressed with the quality of work. The overall standard seemed high and I could see the lecturer's influence quite clearly. Sarah has been a friend for a few years so I understand her taste and technical ability. There is a London theme which the students interpreted in an engaging and creative way.  I had the pleasure of meeting Alice Hawkins, a fashion and portrait photographer whose photographs are stylish and beautifully composed.  Click on the link to see more of her work.
Alice Hawkins
To make a success of anything hard work is a must and good contacts are vital. Finding the motivation to be a photographer is not always easy when there are easier and more profitable ways to make a living. The reality for some is that there is just nothing as rewarding as a photographic career who would rather starve then do anything else. A noble sentiment for such great photographers like Edward Weston  who died virtually penniless.

Edward Weston

"My true program is summed up in one word: life. I expect to photograph anything suggested by that word which appeals to me." - Edward Weston

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Nicholas Brewer

This image, taken about 18 months ago, got over looked at the time. As this is a stencil by an unknown artist I sometime struggle with the idea of plagiarism. This image is shown full frame and and the colour was correct at the time taken in the 'golden hour.'

Friday, 20 April 2012

how to work as a fine art photographer and still be a gun for hire

Edward Steichen
The debate between the most noble use of the camera has been raging since photography first started. The  photographers of the post world war including: Eugenie Smith, Robert Capa and George Rodgers cast a compassionate eye on major historical events. Public opinion in America was more easily influenced by the still image in a magazine, without the benefit of television or the Internet supplying instant pictures. Our capacity to be amazed by and have faith in the images we see, has changed forever,  we are now more aware of post-production techniques and mass media manipulation. There are a wide range of photographers including Martin Parr, who have let their most prominent works be used for advertising the most banal products. Students of photography are taught early on that images can have dual meaning and that subject matter (what the picture is about not of) can be used in various forms has long been accepted. The rivalry between the two camps is astounding and feels very childlike in origin. Alfred Stieglitz chastised Edward Steichen for 'prostituting his art' by shooting commercial work which is demeaning to the ground breaking work that Steichen produced for Conde Naste. Working as an assistant in London during the early nineties for a range of photographers from still-life to fashion the sniping continued, although I did feel that some of this was 'tongue in cheek.' Still-life photographers often criticised fashion photographers for their lack of technical ability and felt that the use of colour negative  'proved beyond doubt' they could not expose film properly.

Nick Knight
Nick (we are so not worthy) Knight is a technical master and to suggest that he uses colour negative to compensate for dodgy exposures is laughable. Weather  you are being paid a lot of money to produce advertising images or you have fifteen minutes in a hotel bedroom to photograph a Hollywood star this requires very different skills and an ability to work under enormous pressure. Contrast this to images created from imagination that may take many months to plan and execute. The reality is that neither is easy and they are both equally challenging for different reasons. We are all part of the same family and while it maybe good fun to sneer at others (in a professional way) it is neither accurate or valid. Let us move on from professional snobbery.

Friday, 9 March 2012

always learning

Herbert Bayer
Young minds are incredible. Their fresh approach to looking at pictures is a constant source of wonder. The day has been spent having an end of project critique which is sometimes a nightmare. The class sits in silence for long awkward periods messing about on the latest iPhone with me telling them to stop every thirty-seconds. Not the case today I am pleased to report when they were energetic and engaged in the discussion. It is only by the constant reviewing of our images can we hope to improve. Critiques provide a great environment for work to be discussed in a style that provides mutual benefit. A photographer's work can flat line were you produce images that do not provide the jolt that you crave to help you improve and stay motivated. Considered and constructive advice can change the direction of a photographers work and is an effective tool for progression. We can always learn from others so long as we are willing and open minded. Naturally they are difficult forums for young people who are keen to fit in with their classmates and criticising the work of others might mean upsetting the status quo. Overall the students work is improving steadily and there are some who show real potential but no matter how much talent you have; without hard work to support it the chances of success are slim. Successful photographers work hard and take risks and this is what makes the difference between those who have a career and those who do not. As part of the process I asked learners to critique 'Lonely Metropolitan' by Herbert Bayer. They correctly identified the three words I was looking for; lonely city and montage. Top marks to them.

“ Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow. – Imogen Cunningham

Read more:

Thursday, 1 March 2012

how to make the most of cloud storage

Alfred Stieglitz
It is not often I can give advice that provides you with a free service to help your growing collection of raw files and images. Cloud storage is a network of virtual servers to store data. Once the work is stored  you can send a link where it can be download. Naturally one  advantage is that you do not need to send large attachments that might be blocked, avoiding the need to re-size your images and lose quality. It serves as a great way to back up for your existing work. There are certain attributes which providers have in common. 
  • Ability to access the files and space using a variety of ways and devices
  • Pay as you go (for paid plans)
  • Completely managed by the service provider 
  • The market for cloud computing is very competitive and looks to continue which is the reason that many suppliers offer a free amount of space. 
  • The amount varies and you can take out storage with multiple providers.

CompanyFree Cloud StorageMax FilesizeLink
Dropbox2GB-10GBNo limitDropbox
Amazon CloudDrive5GB (20GB with an mp3 album purchase)2GBAmazon CloudDrive
Ubuntu One5GBNo LimitUbuntu One
Windows Live Skydrive25GB100 MBWindows Live Skydrive
iDrive5GBNo LimitiDrive
Memopal3GBNo LimitMemopal
Zumodrive2GBNo LimitZumodrive
TeamDrive2GBNo LimitTeamDrive
Spideroak2GBNo LimitSpideroak
Syncplicity2GBNo LimitSyncplicity
Safecopy3GBNo LimitSafecopy
Google Docs1GB1GBGoogle Docs

 'Results are uncertain even amongst experienced photographers' Matthew Brady

Saturday, 4 February 2012

One In Ten

Welcome to the latest blog.
Walter Fogel     
Last years winner in the motion Category 
Photography competitions are a great way to put your name out there, win some cash and get work exhibited. There are many to choose from and I entered one already and now entering my second.  The Renaissance Photography competition raises money for the Lavender Trust and all the funds raised go to support breast cancer. Art therapy and photo-therapy are established  ways to express how we feel about a topic without having to use words. Naturally you do not need to make your pictures a visual message about breast cancer but if you know someone who has ever found a lump or if you have lost someone through this disease then it is a good reason to enter. With one In ten women experiencing the illness it is quite likely that you will know someone. Using your creativity to support a cause that has maybe touched your life is a noble thing to do. I find there is always something to learn by entering any competition. It could be a simple technical lesson like the correct dimensions for the images, meeting a deadline or attention to detail when reading the rules of the competition.
Nick Knight
The legendary fashion photographer Nick Knight has made some sensitive and moving portraits of women who have had a mastectomy. Please click on the link and have a look at this seminal work.

"Photography helps people to see" Bernice Abbott

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Getting away with murder...

John Stoddart
Homage to a murder is an interesting concept tapping into our fascination with the macabre and the murder mystery genre. John Stoddart's work has always had touch of Helmut Newton about the choreography and a feeling of the smash grab aesthetic of a paparazzi so his style naturally fits the theme of the 'Black Dahlia Murder.' Earlier this week my learner's had been looking at themes in photography so I found the murder mystery narrative in John's work particularly relevant. The ability to tell a story clearly in a single image is not easy. The work on show also provides a rather 'dark' humorous look at the modern fascination with being famous at all costs. John is an internationally published photographer whose clients have included Vanity Fair, GQ and The New York Times. If you are going to be in London over the next month then this is worth a look especially as it is situated right in the heart of Soho at The Society Club.
Nicholas Brewer
Recently a class discussed pictures of twins and in particular the famous image by Diane Arbus. It is a lengthy process explaining that pictures of natures clones raise deeper questions than just our initial response to trying to spot the difference. I try to get students to think about their own identity and how that has evolved. Is it harder for twins to find their individuality as they are often treated as a collective?
"A positive attitude really can make dreams come true, it did for me" David Bailey.
Below is an interesting drama about David Bailey,  you should be able to watch it for about a week.

Monday, 16 January 2012

what a kerfuffle about sexualizing children

Mary Ellen Mark
Last week my students chose a well-known photograph and then critiqued it for a few minutes in front of the class, the group asked questions about the student's response followed by a brief discussion.  This picture caused my learners to feel a sense of moral outrage and created a sense of unity in purpose by condemning the Mother for allowing such an image. I reminded the class that images are often factual but never truthful so was it possible that Mary Ellen Mark somehow convinced the Mother to put the girl in make up and get her to smoke a cigarette for aesthetic purposes. I suggested to one learner, who has a daughter albeit younger than the one shown here, that in a few years she should allow me to photograph her daughter in this way. I thought there was about to be another riot in London! They did not think it was likely that the photographer orchestrated the look and felt the image was genuine in this respect. Now I do like to take the alternative point of view because moral outrage binds a group together and builds a team spirit within the class. The learners are a mixture of ages but the majority fall into the 16-19-age bracket and I was delighted by the unifying affect of the photograph.

It is a sign of maturity to admit that you have made a mistake, or at least my parents always told me this.  They must be very proud at the extent of my maturity this week. One of the learners, during a presentation of a photograph mentioned that there had been a 'kerfuffle' during the time that the image was taken. I was shocked! I work hard to improve their vocabulary and was mortified that all my good work appeared to be unraveling with this disregard for the Queen's English. 'Kerfuffle' was not a real word and by that definition I mean it needs to be in a dictionary. After a good natured and useful exchange of opinions we checked it online. I had humble pie with my tea during the break......

Nick Knight.
On Saturday I was filled with a mixture of emotions and tried hard not be tearful.  The cause of this was witnessing Nick Knight's beautiful and sensitive images of women who had a mastectomy. My Mother  had the same operation in the early 1980's and it created a surge of emotions as truly great photography can often do.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

How to Keep a New Years Resolution.

Ed van der Elsken
Feliz Ano Nuevo
We all have ambitions that we would like to achieve with our photography and making specific plans and having a clear understanding of how to achieve them is the key to success. In education there is an acronym called S.M.A.R.T. 
S - specific, significant, stretching
M - measurable, meaningful, motivational
A - agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
R - realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T - time-based, timely, tangible, trackable
I have used a broader version of the variety than used in education as I trust it is more suitable for your achievements. 
Let me give you an example of how I am going to apply this today. 
I would like my Facebook 'Teach Yourself Photography' page linked by this blog to hit 65 'likes.'  It is currently at 35 so the increase is a decent amount and realistic. I would like to achieve this by the end of next month. If you have not done so already please hit the 'like' button at the top left of the blog.
It is easy to measure if this has been reached and it will definitely provide extra motivation to increase the amount of posts for the page.
Yes. The increase while quite large simply requires some self-promotion and asking people to like it. 
The more people that 'like'  the page on Facebook the more it helps me to find stuff that is useful and enjoyed by others. It increases my knowledge and helps with future lessons.
I trust that a brief over view of this method will enable you to meet your aspirations this year or even this month. I watched an interview with Matthew Jordan Smith and he wrote his goals down and put them on the mirror so he could see them each morning. The advice form this photo tutor is to set smaller goals, achieve them quickly and then set new ones.