3 Reasons To Collect Sky Pictures

 To repair “gray skies” in pictures – Here in Rochester, New York we joke about how often our pictures include gray skies.  It’s usually easy to  replace a sky using Photoshop, but the trick is making the image look like it was shot that way, and that means choosing a sky with lighting that’s similar to that of our problem image.  Because of that, it’s important to have a collection of sky pictures with as many different kinds of lighting to pick from as possible.  The shots above are just a few of over a hundred in my collection. Also for you DSLR purists, don’t rule out getting shots with your smart phone cameras for this job.  Consider what the shot will be replacing:  In most cases, a little softness will do the job nicely.

barnwood background

For website or photo backgrounds – Website pages often have background images, and those images can be created from images that you take yourself.  Even if you’re not a website person, consider shooting backgrounds for photos as well.  What’s more, don’t limit your search to just skies:  What about tree bark?  Stone surfaces?  Barn wood?  If you think about it, the list is practically endless.

To improve our vision – Wildlife photographers spot wildlife while driving on country roads.  Wedding photographers see great settings for group shots while sitting in a restaurant.  Why not make shooting backgrounds a priority in your life and begin to see more of your world each day, rather than less of it?

Seven Ways to Make Our Photography Meaningful

meaningful photograph
  1.  Create a Family History – We’ll start with the most meaningful photos to me:  I have eighteen grandchildren and my wife has none of her own.  I’m very interested in creating a detailed family history and she doesn’t think about it at all.  She’s also not much of a camera person, which may or may not be a coincidence.  The thing about family histories is that the older they get, the more valuable they become.  Eighteen grandchildren:  How many descendants will that be a hundred years from now?  Keep your eyes on them and how interested they’ll be in all your details about today, however mundane they might seem to you now.
  2.  Church or other ministry – In our local camera group one member is a retired nun.  She’s used her twenty-thousand images to assemble several calendars and other printed reminders of God’s role in her and our lives – however we choose to see that.
  3.  Teach a class – This one isn’t for everybody of course, but it’s been a big one for me.  One great reason for teaching any subject is that often the teacher grows more than the class does.  If you want to really learn a subject, teach it to someone – even if that someone is only your cat.
  4.  Create a book – This can be a coffee table book, an instruction book, a book for children or anything else that interests you.  Search for self-publishing firms online, or just print the images and put them in a binder.
  5.  Enter  Photo Contests – I’ve enjoyed shooting for contests, and have even won in a couple of local ones.  I soon learned that some of the big ones are mostly interested in selling your contact information to marketers (it’s called lead-mining), but the challenge still added to my experience while shooting.
  6.  Club Photographer –  One other member in our camera group is into antique cars in a big way, and he was asked to do all of their photography needs.  You can imagine that he was in a “target-rich” environment!
  7.  Tell a story – A story can be anything you want it to be.  Pretend you’re a 60-Minutes photographer and it’s your job to get “coverage” for one of their exposes.  Or maybe a “before and after” story about landmarks in your town using old pictures mixed with your new versions.  Or let’s finish our list where we began:  Why not tell the story of some special or interesting person you know:  Your mother?  Or maybe the reclusive old man down the street whom nobody seems to know very well?  Use your imagination!

10 Hints That You Might Be a Tutoring Prospect

  1. You don’t own a tripod
  2. You describe your blurred pictures as “artistic”, or “soft focus”
  3. The best pictures you take are with your smart phone
  4. You set your picture size to small or medium to save space on your memory card
  5. You believe that real photographers don’t need photo-editing
  6. You believe that real photographers can fix anything with photo-editing
  7. You’ve owned your camera for years, but still aren’t clear on what “f-stops” are
  8. You returned a new camera because it took terrible pictures
  9. You hate flash, and are proud to be “strictly a natural light shooter”
  10.  Your friend asked you to shoot her wedding with your new camera and you said “yes”, adding that you’ll do it alone to save her money

10 Ways to Get Great Exposures

great exposures

Cameras are really just “light management tools”, and their main job is to get great exposures of the light that enters the lens and strikes the sensor.  Here are the techniques to know, in no particular order:

  1.  Learn and Use the Histogram (above) – It’s included in most cameras and can tell at a glance whether or not to use EC to improve your second attempt
  2. exposure compensation EC – Exposure Compensation – A shortcut device that really just tunes the light up or down using the exposure control that you haven’t locked in (shutter or aperture).  It’s a horizontal scale with a marker that you simply dial up for more light, or down for less.
  3.  Shutter – The “slices of time” adjustment.  To control motion blurring, choose “shutter priority” on the mode dial and let aperture or ISO float.
  4.  Aperture – The “DOF” adjustment.  To control background blurring, choose “aperture priority” on the mode dial and let shutter speed or ISO float.
  5.  ISO – AKA “Film Speed”.  Make a decision here and lock it in, or let it float just like the other two “exposure partners”.
  6.   AEB – Exposure Bracketing – Best used with Aperture priority when on a tripod and the subject isn’t moving at all.  Use layer masking in a program like Photoshop to blend three different exposures of the same scene, using the best of each.
  7.  Fill Flash –  Usually a mistake if you don’t know what you’re doing.  If you do though, magic can happen, especially if you get the flash OFF the top of the camera.
  8.  Turn the lights up/down –  Indoors or out:  Try to position the subject so they’re lit by, rather than shadowed by the lighting.
  9.  Reflectors – For example, hold a white poster board in front of a human subject to fill facial shadows with bounced sunlight.
  10.  Levels and Curves – Two tools included in nearly every photo-editing program.  Blurring in pictures can NOT be fixed, but exposure levels often CAN be!


5 Warnings That Your Digital Pictures Aren’t Safe

  1.  You’ve never backed them up
  2.  They’re on a backup drive that’s sitting next to – or in the same building with – your computer
  3.  Your backup file(s) are proprietary, meaning that if the company goes out of business, you’re out of luck
  4.  You only have one backup system in place, and you’ve never tested it to see if it works
  5.  Your computer has never crashed, and you’re sure it never will