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Rick and Ben
I have been in a photographic funk of late, unable to get into the right frame of mind to shoot. Last week, in the midst of this struggle, I knew that I needed to force myself back into my photography practice. I gave myself an assignment: go out for an afternoon and challenge myself, using one lens at a single focal length.
I use this exercise from time to time, to push me out of my comfort zone and get my mind unstuck. I’m not looking for great photographs; I’m looking to practice the art of seeing. And the great thing about choosing a single focal length — whether using one setting on a zoom or a prime lens — is that it forces me to move around a scene. If I find that I’m receptive to the exercise (it doesn’t always work), it can help me see.
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At the end of October, 2019, my photo library contained approximately 60,000 images, mostly taken over the past 20 years. (Of those, nearly 40% are from the past five years.) Comparing the size of my library with those of friends of mine, I’m about average, but still, 60,000 is a big number, and managing that many photos can be a bit intimidating. I once topped out at 80,000 photos, but about six years ago I came up with an exercise — pruning a single year’s worth of photos — that has helped me get my library better organized and more efficient. As a photo-management tool, I felt it was worth sharing here.
The editing conundrum
I tend to do the majority of my editing — culling, sorting and post-processing — on my most recent photos. For example, out of a shoot where I end up with 600-800 images, I’ll quickly get that to upwards of 50 selects, and I will then spend most of my time working on those photos. The rest soon get lost into the archives. It’s not that they’re unimportant, but they aren’t compelling to me at the moment, and as such, they end up disappearing. As time goes on, and I take more photos, it becomes harder to find key photos from the past (at least those non-portfolio photos), or to even know what I might have hidden that is of some value.
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The new book Fifty Years offers a wonderful opportunity to explore a sampling of the complete career of a single photographer. When that photographer is Keith Carter, such exploration is especially satisfying because for the last fifty years, Keith has produced work that is sometimes exemplary, and is always interesting. Even if you’re not taken by Carter’s style, diving deep into a single photographic career is a valuable exercise.
It can take a long time, and a lot of work, to develop your own style. During that process, you can find yourself worrying about all sorts of things from “am I repeating myself?” to “is this a cliché?” to “Is this a dead end/have I taken a wrong turn?” In addition to sapping your confidence, such thoughts are a distraction – they keep you from doing the thinking you should be doing when you’re working. What can be difficult to understand is that everyone has these thoughts, and no one follows a simple, consistent, linear path when pursuing any creative endeavor.
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Last week we wrapped the shooting of my latest LinkedIn Learning (Lynda.com) course, Advanced Flash: Modifiers and Strobes. This was a fun one because we crafted scenarios to light and shoot. Shown above is “writer having a good day” which contrasted heavily, lighting-wise, with “writer having a bad day.” We also brought in dancer Andrew Palermo to provide some fast-moving action to freeze with strobes and to do a little modeling. This course will walk you through more advanced uses for your handheld flashes, how to work with larger strobes, addresses the question of when you need to move to a larger strobe, (and how to buy one) details the use of several kinds of modifiers, and outlines a thought process for solving lighting problems. Keep an eye on this site for details of when it’s live, or you can check out my LinkedIn Learning author page.
Ben Long has been producing the weekly Practicing Photographer video series on Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning) for five years. To celebrate, LinkedIn is making the series available free to all viewers through May 28:
In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each one concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.
The series includes more 450 videos, with most of them well under 10 minutes in length. (You’ll need a full day—and then some—if you want to watch them all.) There is a list of topics on the Practicing Photographer home page.
You may have noticed that there’s a new voice behind the Complete Digital Photography blog. Hi, my name is Liz LePage! Let me give you a quick introduction into who I am and what I do:
I’m a professional photographer, a creative retoucher, a dedicated educator and a life-long artist. I was lucky enough to be raised in an artistic household, with a father who loved photography and a mother who loved quilting. They both taught me to always try new things and to never let fear stop me from living. Their lessons have carried on with me and seep into every part of my life: I’ve never thought of myself as just a photographer. And I think that’s my biggest asset. I’ve tried everything from paper making to screen printing to oil painting, and I am constantly searching for new ways to express myself. Read more »
This blog has been published in various forms since 2001. Ben started with hand-crafted HTML before moving on to the WordPress platform in 2004 (or thereabouts—our memories are hazy on these points), and I (Rick) have helped out here and there at various times over the years—and over on our dear, departed sister site, Printerville.
[If you’re interested, you can see the first version of the site over on the Wayback Machine, as well as some choice variations along the way. Be kind, please.]
Since the beginning, this website’s primary focus has been to support the various editions of Complete Digital Photography with example files and extra content, and that’s been our only constant since this site went live. The support page for the current 8th edition of the book is here; and you can still access the the 7th edition’s support page here.
Yesterday I mounted the Ricoh Theta on my motorcycle’s handlebars and went for a spin with a friend. The Theta software has a built-in Tiny Planets feature that is very fun. Sadly, it only outputs a final product that’s 640 pixels wide, but given that it’s a 2-button solution to create this effect, I’m still impressed! Read more »