Complete Digital Photography https://completedigitalphotography.com Fri, 17 Jan 2020 23:13:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 6764980 Items of photographic interest, January 2020 newsletter https://completedigitalphotography.com/2020/01/items-of-photographic-interest-january-2020-newsletter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=items-of-photographic-interest-january-2020-newsletter Thu, 16 Jan 2020 21:29:50 +0000 https://completedigitalphotography.com/?p=7268 Our January 2020 CDP newsletter, “Items of photographic interest” was sent via email this week to subscribers, and it is also now available as a free downloadable PDF. Download: Jan-2020-CDP-newsletter.pdf List of primary links found in this month’s newsletter: Delicate Arch, with Moon (photo) Managing Your Photo Library: Pruning Old Growth (CDP post) Complete Digital Photography ebook (CDP […]

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Our January 2020 CDP newsletter, “Items of photographic interest” was sent via email this week to subscribers, and it is also now available as a free downloadable PDF.

Download: Jan-2020-CDP-newsletter.pdf


List of primary links found in this month’s newsletter:

Delicate Arch, with Moon (photo)

Managing Your Photo Library: Pruning Old Growth (CDP post)

Complete Digital Photography ebook (CDP store)

Documentaries

Jay Myself (Metacritic info)

Curbed article on the sale of Jay’s bank

Movie availability (January 2020): iTunes; Amazon Prime Video

Harry Benson: Shoot First (Metacritic)

Town & Country profile on Benson

Movie availability (January 2020): Netflix; iTunes; Amazon Prime

The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography(Metacritic)

NY Times article on Dorfman closing down her studio

The Portraitist (Harvard Magazine)

Elsa Dorfman: Me and My Camera exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Feb. 28 to June 21, 2020)

Movie availability (January 2020): Netflix; iTunes; Amazon Prime

Miscellaneous items

New York Times Year in Pictures

Guardian’s Best Photographs of 2019

Flickr’s top 25 photos of 2019

Paris Metro Photo (book)

Robert Götzfried’s Tokyo series (Creative Boom)

Götzfried’s website

Mary Baker’s Half-Century of Street Photography (New Yorker)

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Managing your photo library: pruning old growth https://completedigitalphotography.com/2020/01/pruning-old-growth-photos/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pruning-old-growth-photos Mon, 13 Jan 2020 23:51:38 +0000 https://completedigitalphotography.com/?p=7213 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 […]

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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.

A few years ago, I decided to do something about this problem. Every winter, I would pick a year’s worth of photos and revisit them. I build 1:1 previews of all the photos from that year, which improves performance as I move from photo to photo, and lets me view detail quickly. Then, I look at each image for a few seconds (some a bit longer) and decide whether I really need to keep it. Every photo I don’t want gets a ‘reject’ flag; when I’m done, I display the rejected photos and scan the group in thumbnail/grid view, and press the Delete key to remove them from my library.1One note about workflow: the primary organizational tool I use is Lightroom Classic, but this process will work easily with any modern app that supports browsing of photos on disk or in the cloud. You can do this with ON1 Photo RAW, Skylum Luminar, Capture One, Adobe Bridge or Lightroom CC. (Apple Photos doesn’t have great tools for quickly culling through photos, but you could make it work with the use of ‘reject’ keywords, or something along those lines.)

before-after view of the pruning process in Lightroom's Folders view
Before (left) and after (right) view of one year’s worth of pruning. As I work through each month’s folder of photos, I’ll give it a red label, so I know that I’ve completed that month. That gives me a good sense of where I’m at during the pruning process, which happens in small chunks of time over the course of a month. (Once I’ve completed a year, I also give the year a red label.)

Why do this, aside from slimming my library? For one, my compositional skills have increased over time, as has my eye for evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of a photograph. Similarly, I’ve gotten better with focus; many of my old photos are woefully deficient in terms of appropriate (or acceptable) sharpness. I really don’t need to have out-of-focus, poorly composed, or poorly exposed photos hanging around.

I also have lots of 3- to 7-shot sequences taken for panoramas and HDR composites, and I’ll work through those groups as part of the pruning process.2This is actually the worst part of the whole exercise, and it takes the longest amount of time. Woe unto me for choosing to do a slew of 5-shot HDRs in the mid aughts. Two is plenty, especially these days. For panos, I’ll check focus, look at the slices to see if I think there’s a better composition over others that might have already been blended into a finished product. (Sometimes, I’ll build the panorama, just looking at the preview.) For HDRs, I tend to be a bit more brutal: I check focus and composition, and will often just keep the middle exposure or that and a second shot if I think the sequence worth keeping.

It’s not just about deletion

musee d'Orsay shot, rediscovered while working through 2009's photos.
Sometimes, I’ll find a ‘lost’ photo, or one that can now benefit from the better raw processors in today’s photo-editing apps, as well as my own improved editing skills. (Click the photo to see it larger.)

The image-pruning process reconnects me with the past, and strengthens my understanding of the photos I took that year. I always find a number of ‘lost’ photos that strike me today as worthy of saving, re-editing, re-rating, or keywording, so that they can be found more easily in the future. If there is a photo that I really want to do something with right away, I’ll add it to an album created for that year’s photos (usually with a title such as ‘2009 new selects’).

I have also found that, as raw processors have evolved over time, some of my older photos can now be processed with better results. It’s not magic, but every time I run through this process, I find a photo or two that can be re-edited with a bit better fidelity than it could have been in the past. (I also look with chagrin on those over-saturated and over-sharpened shots of yesteryear; luckily, I still have the raw files to rework them if I so desire.)

It’s important to understand that this is not a ‘do it in an afternoon’ process. Despite the speed with which I’ll flip from photo to photo, this is a task that requires my complete concentration. It needs to be set apart from my normal daily and weekly tasks. So I tend to prune at the fringes of my work days, giving an hour here, a couple of hours there, so that I’m not overwhelmed with the task. Depending upon the number of photos in a year, it can take anywhere from a week to a month to complete the process.3The first time I attempted this, I tried to deal with an entire year’s worth of photos in a long weekend. It was a disaster, and I ended up stopping the whole thing and coming back to it about six months later.

final Folders view of pruned photo library
The folders with the red labels have been pruned over the past six years, via the process described in the post. I now have a much cleaner, and better-organized library.

This year, I worked through 2009, which had a relatively low (3,100) number of photos taken. After two weeks of work, I removed 950 images, updated keywords for nearly 500 photos, changed the ratings (up and down) on about the same number, and added 20 or so photos to my ‘take a look’ album. I also found a bunch of forgotten family photos that were worth adding to a master album. And, in the end, I had a much better handle on what I shot in 2009, and why.

Like everything else about photo management, my pruning task is not going to work for everyone. Some photographers hate the idea of removing a single photo from their library. Others delete more frequently, while still more have an encyclopedic knowledge of what in their library and how to get to it. For me, though, pruning old-growth photos is more than just a task that streamlines storage space and makes my library more efficient. It also a meditative process that deepens my understanding of who I am as a photographer, and gives me a quiet affirmation of my progress over time.


This post is part of an upcoming book and video series about organizing and managing your photo library, coming this spring from CDP Press. Comments or questions on this or any other topic? Drop us an email.

Notes   [ + ]

1. One note about workflow: the primary organizational tool I use is Lightroom Classic, but this process will work easily with any modern app that supports browsing of photos on disk or in the cloud. You can do this with ON1 Photo RAW, Skylum Luminar, Capture One, Adobe Bridge or Lightroom CC. (Apple Photos doesn’t have great tools for quickly culling through photos, but you could make it work with the use of ‘reject’ keywords, or something along those lines.)
2. This is actually the worst part of the whole exercise, and it takes the longest amount of time. Woe unto me for choosing to do a slew of 5-shot HDRs in the mid aughts. Two is plenty, especially these days.
3. The first time I attempted this, I tried to deal with an entire year’s worth of photos in a long weekend. It was a disaster, and I ended up stopping the whole thing and coming back to it about six months later.

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PDF, Kindle and epub versions of CDP online https://completedigitalphotography.com/2019/12/pdf-kindle-and-epub-versions-of-cdp-available/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pdf-kindle-and-epub-versions-of-cdp-available Mon, 30 Dec 2019 20:32:12 +0000 https://completedigitalphotography.com/?p=7148 You can now purchase the electronic edition of Complete Digital Photography in PDF, ePub (Apple, some e-readers), Kindle azw3, and Mobipocket versions. When you buy the ebook in our store — currently on sale for $25 — we include download links for all four book formats. Choose the version that applies to your desired device, and […]

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You can now purchase the electronic edition of Complete Digital Photography in PDF, ePub (Apple, some e-readers), Kindle azw3, and Mobipocket versions. When you buy the ebook in our store — currently on sale for $25 — we include download links for all four book formats. Choose the version that applies to your desired device, and follow that device’s guidelines for installing the book.

Further information on the file types is listed below.

  • PDF is designed for use with Windows and Mac computers, and can be opened with most PDF reader applications, including the free Preview app (macOS), and Adobe Reader (Windows, macOS). The PDF can be printed directly from most of those apps.
  • ePub can be read by many ebook readers, including Apple Books (macOS and iOS), Calibre, Sigil, and others.
  • azw3 is the format used on most Kindles made after 2011. It offers superior typographic options, better graphics handling and more. If you’re sure that you have a recent Kindle, try the azw3 file first — it looks a lot better than the Mobi format. (Note that azw3 files cannot be viewed in the Kindle app on iOS devices; you’ll need to use Mobi, or download the ePub version for the Apple Books app.)
  • Mobipocket is the original Kindle format; this version should be viewable on all third-generation Kindles and above. Use this if you have an older Kindle, or want to use the Kindle app on iOS.

One final (and important) note: Please respect the work and the time that we’ve put into Complete Digital Photography by not sharing these files. These files are intended solely as a study aid and reference; we have priced the book (which has more than 400 pages of content!) so that it is affordable for most people.

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Photo Workshop in Cuba, April 4-9, 2020 https://completedigitalphotography.com/2019/12/photo-workshop-in-cuba-april-4-9-2020/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=photo-workshop-in-cuba-april-4-9-2020 Wed, 18 Dec 2019 20:30:20 +0000 https://completedigitalphotography.com/?p=7088 Join Hudson Henry and me on a special, six-day photo workshop in Cuba, April 4-9, 2020. It promises to be a magical photographic and cultural experience: Cuba is one of the more exciting, rich photographic locations I’ve been to in a long time. Wonderful people, great landscapes and cityscapes, gorgeous beaches, music and good food […]

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Join Hudson Henry and me on a special, six-day photo workshop in Cuba, April 4-9, 2020. It promises to be a magical photographic and cultural experience:

Cuba is one of the more exciting, rich photographic locations I’ve been to in a long time. Wonderful people, great landscapes and cityscapes, gorgeous beaches, music and good food abound. We’re going to have a ton of fun on this all-inclusive workshop to explore Cuba and its culture. Our group will be traveling on pre-arranged ‘help the Cuban people’ visas and we will meet, photograph and interact with artists and local craftspeople.

We will ride in vintage cars through Old Havana, and see how cigars are made…and we’ll meet with Cuban artists — including a dinner with local photographers.…This trip is not just a photo workshop; it will also be a cultural exchange, and I think you’re going to be amazed at how special the experience is.

This workshop is priced at $4,495, and is all-inclusive; during the first part of the trip, we will stay in a beautiful, private residence in Old Havana, then we will move to a hotel with spectacular dawn and sunset views in the limestone-rich agricultural valley of Vinales. Come join us on this special, once-in-a-lifetime workshop.

Additional 2020 workshops: Kauai, Portland, Yellowstone, Tetons and Moab

Hudson is also leading a workshop to Kauai in late February, complete with an open-door helicopter tour; there are a few spots left, but they will go quickly. He will be assisted in this workshop by his good friend (and amazing photographer in his own right) David Archer.

I will be helping Hudson run a number of other workshops in 2020, including Portland (July 31 to August 3), Yellowstone National Park (Oct. 2-6), Grand Tetons National Park (Oct. 9-13), and Moab (Oct. 16-21). Signups for the latter three workshops aren’t open yet, but you can add your name to the priority waitlist on each workshop page, which will get you the first shot to sign up.

You can find information on all of Hudson’s workshops at hudsonhenry.com.

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Magnum/Aperture Square Print sale https://completedigitalphotography.com/2019/10/magnum-aperture-square-print-sale/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=magnum-aperture-square-print-sale Mon, 28 Oct 2019 17:12:29 +0000 https://completedigitalphotography.com/?p=6912 This year’s Magnum Photos and Aperture Square Print Sale, entitled Hidden, is underway right now. For $100, you can get a 6×6-inch museum-quality print from one of 120 modern and contemporary photographers, including Elliott Erwitt, Elinor Carucci, Joel Meyerowitz, Todd Hido and many more. Most of the photos offered are signed by the photographer; others—from […]

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This year’s Magnum Photos and Aperture Square Print Sale, entitled Hidden, is underway right now. For $100, you can get a 6×6-inch museum-quality print from one of 120 modern and contemporary photographers, including Elliott Erwitt, Elinor Carucci, Joel Meyerowitz, Todd Hido and many more. Most of the photos offered are signed by the photographer; others—from folks like Eve Arnold, Robert Capa and Mary Ellen Mark—are authorized by the photographers’ estate, and are stamped as such.

The Autumn 2019 Magnum Square Print Sale in Partnership with Aperture brings together a selection of over 120 images by international photographic artists, exploring the idea of what the photographer sees that is otherwise hidden.

This yearly event is always a fun one, and it’s a great way to get a high-quality print from well-known photographers for a reasonable amount of money. Even if you don’t buy a print, it’s worth looking through the website; you might find a new photographer whose work inspires you.

The sale ends Friday, November 1, at midnight EST.

 

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How to get better at photography https://completedigitalphotography.com/2019/08/how-to-get-better-at-photography/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-get-better-at-photography Wed, 21 Aug 2019 16:24:06 +0000 https://completedigitalphotography.com/?p=6867 (This is an excerpt from the introduction to the companion exercise book for the 9th edition of Complete Digital Photography. It can be downloaded free from the CDP 9 support page on the website.)  Throughout your life you have probably been told to practice one thing or another—musical instruments, sports, handwriting, whatever. If you’re like me, you […]

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(This is an excerpt from the introduction to the companion exercise book for the 9th edition of Complete Digital Photography. It can be downloaded free from the CDP 9 support page on the website.) 

Throughout your life you have probably been told to practice one thing or another—musical instruments, sports, handwriting, whatever. If you’re like me, you were never thrilled with the idea of practicing, and though you understood that the exhortation to practice was true and important, you also didn’t really believe it. Maybe you clung to some of the popular cultural myths that we share—the myth of the “natural” athlete or the “gifted” musician—and so skipped practicing with the hope that you would turn out to be one of those natural, gifted individuals. The truth is that, while there are people that start with a skill level above the normal baseline, those people only achieve greatness because of their extreme dedication to practicing. The same is true with photography.

It can be difficult to understand how important practice is to the discipline of photography because the camera takes care of so much of the craftsmanship of making an image. There is, of course, plenty of theory to understand, as well as technical considerations to weigh when making a photo, and learning those things takes practice. What can be less obvious is that visualizing and seeing as a photographer also requires practice. The good news is that the process of seeing is something that you can learn and improve at.

Because we are constantly looking at things during the normal course of being alive, we don’t always think of “seeing” as a skill that can be learned, but I can offer two proofs that your ability to see changes with practice:

First, in addition to seeing, most of us are also constantly hearing things. If you’ve ever learned to play a musical instrument then you know that, through practice, you can train your ear to hear pitch, intervals and rhythm. Similarly, your eyes can be trained to recognize form, light, and many compositional ideas. 

The second proof is something that might sound familiar: you spend an afternoon wandering about with your camera, searching for things to shoot, only to end up frustrated because you feel like you’re repeating yourself. All of the compositions you come up with are similar to other compositions you’ve made before, and all of the subject matter that you notice is similar to other things you frequently photograph. While this kind of photographic rut can be very frustrating, it’s also evidence that seeing is a skill that can be learned, because what has led you to this rut is repetition, and while feeling like you’re in a rut can be demoralizing, it’s also a valuable step toward developing something that all photographers need.

More about how to build a photograph

In Chapter 9 of Complete Digital Photography I wrote about how an aesthetic for light is critical to the photographic process and how all photographs begin with an impulse, sometimes slight, which the photographer must tune into and explore to make the best photo. No matter how you do it, occasionally, you will “solve” a photograph in a very satisfying, successful way. Perhaps that compositional solution also requires specific exposure ideas—dropping shadows into black, for example, or depending on shallow depth of field for subject isolation. When you find those satisfying solutions you will remember them and, because they were successful, you will probably find yourself deploying the same solutions in other situations.

In Chapter 9, I discussed the practice of trying to fill your media card when you go shooting. In that section I also showed four images that I shot over the course of an hour of shooting in an industrial park. The images are very similar in terms of their central compositional idea, and I mentioned in the book that I had shot those four images at different times during that hour and that I had not been actively looking for images with similar compositions. But there’s a second part to that story, which I didn’t mention.

After importing those images into my Lightroom library I tagged them with the keywords “vertical line” and set them aside. This was in the middle of a Lynda.com shoot and I had other images to find and lessons to prepare and, over the course of the next few days I stumbled into  a few other images—shot at other times—that had a similar composition. I spent a few hours looking through my catalog and found these.

vertical lines demonstration
I didn’t realize until recently that, for years, I’ve been noticing the same composition in lots of different places.

The time stamps on the images were enlightening. The oldest of these photos was shot in February 2008, the latest in October 2017. I had been shooting this collection of similar images without realizing that I had other images composed the same way. One could argue that I’m in a rut that’s so deep I can’t even tell that I’ve fallen into it; I prefer to think of it in a different way.

Improvisational musicians, whether they play jazz, blues, or rock and roll, typically engage in a similar process. They practice their scales and modes and intervals, but they also “noodle.” They fiddle with melodies, snatches of music, and when they find one they like they repeat it over and over. These are known as “licks” or “riffs,” and over time a musician builds up a collection of licks that they’ve practiced so much that playing them is simply an act of muscle memory. When it comes time to improvise a solo, these licks and riffs are brought out, re-arranged and strung together—within the structure of whatever song is being played—and it is these snatches of song that make an individual musician recognizable. These licks and riffs comprise the player’s musical vocabulary.

Over time, photographers also develop a vocabulary. One component of my personal vocabulary is to find vertical lines that bisect a scene. Sometimes the lines are formed by objects, sometimes by tonal change; sometimes the images are in color and sometimes they’re black and white. I don’t think that this particular bit of vocabulary has ever led me to a great image, but it has served me in several other ways. First, I find it pleasing, which, in addition to being its own reward, helps me keep my confidence up. On an otherwise unproductive shoot, coming back with any pleasing image can keep you motivated. Second, as I’ve said repeatedly, your job as a photographer is to guide the viewer of your photograph to see a particular thing. Apparently, I have a tendency to see vertical lines. While an individual vertical line might not be interesting, however, having a large collection of expressions of this particular piece of vocabulary reveals something that isn’t normally visible—a form that repeats through time and space. 

Finally, practicing this piece of vocabulary through repetition (even if it’s a practice and vocabulary that I wasn’t consciously aware of) has a potential future payoff. Somewhere out there in the world there might be a piece of subject matter that would make a fantastic photograph if only it were represented as a vertical line up the middle of a portrait-oriented image. If I ever stumble into that particular situation, I will certainly recognize it, and I’ll be ready to shoot it.

Your photography will improve as you have a larger vocabulary to work with—more photographic licks and riffs that you’ve composed and shot many times—which you can bring to bear on subject matter or light that you have had an impulse to shoot. You can only expand that vocabulary through repetition and practice.

Why practicing photography is hard

Actors, musicians, and dancers understand when they’re practicing. They go to rehearsals or into practice rooms and have no doubt that what they are doing is practicing. Similarly, a painter, sculptor, or illustrator knows when they are simply sketching or creating a “study” that will later be developed into a larger idea. The ability to go to a place of practice is important because, psychologically, it’s a safe space. You can get frustrated while practicing, but if you don’t produce great work during a practice session, you usually don’t punish yourself (at least not too badly) because you know you were simply practicing. 

With photography, it’s much harder to allow yourself the safety of a practice space. Every time you go shooting you know there’s a possibility that you could stumble into something fantastic and come back with a career-making shot. Because of that potential, it’s very difficult to allow yourself the freedom from creative responsibility that practitioners of other disciplines get to have when they practice. 

I don’t have an answer to this problem, but over time, I have come to realize that I’ve grown more capable of allowing myself to practice without being disappointed when I finish. It is ok to only have “practice” images rather than a great portfolio shot. Here are some ideas that might help you more easily embrace the discipline of practicing photography.

  • Define a particular photo session as practice. Whether you’re taking a walk through the neighborhood or heading into a studio with a bunch of gear, if your goal is to practice and experiment, then acknowledge that goal before you start. Set the stakes, manage your expectations and try to internalize that the goal is simply practice. Over the course of your career you will spend far more time practicing than producing great images, so don’t worry about saying “for the next week, my goal is practice, not keepers.” Defining a session as practice is easier if you will be working on a particular exercise, such as the ones in this book.
  • Eliminate the stakes. In Chapter 9, “Finding and Composing a Photo,” I suggested the exercise of shooting without a card in your camera (see page 135). This is a good way to enforce a practice mindset during a shooting session because you won’t actually produce any images. Of course, if part of what you want to practice includes postproduction, then shooting without a card hobbles your goal. A simple way around that is to say, “I’m deleting everything from this session once I’m done processing it.” That will let you work an image to completion but still relieve yourself from the pressure to produce great work.
  • Know that there aren’t career-making images. Sure, there are iconic photos like Steve McCurry’s Afghan girl image (the refugee-camp girl with the piercing, green eyes on the cover of National Geographic) and Joe Rosenthal’s famous photo of the flag being raised on Iwo Jima, but, for the most part, a photographic career is not made by stumbling into a single great image. This means that you’re actually not going to miss some kind of life-changing experience if you spend an afternoon devoted to practice, rather than keeping an eye peeled for that spectacular shot.
  • Photography isn’t precious. Related to that last point is this one: there will always be more great images. I think the main reason that I’ve been able to relax more into the process of practicing is that I know that great photos are made, and practicing is required to become a better photo-maker. If I’m focused on an exercise of some kind, and I don’t notice some sort of great photo opportunity that was happening nearby, it doesn’t matter because there will always be more great photo opportunities later, because great photos happen because of skill. In other words, it’s not up to chance to make great photos, it’s up to you to make great photos.

 

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Photo Practice: Creating a Project https://completedigitalphotography.com/2019/08/photo-practice-creating-a-project/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=photo-practice-creating-a-project Mon, 19 Aug 2019 23:57:23 +0000 https://completedigitalphotography.com/?p=6858 There are a number of psychological battles that you face as a photographer (or anyone pursuing a creative endeavor). If you’re like most people, then you’ll likely find yourself fighting, at one time or another, doubt as to whether you’re a good photographer, or whether a particular photo is clichéd or obvious, or whether there […]

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There are a number of psychological battles that you face as a photographer (or anyone pursuing a creative endeavor). If you’re like most people, then you’ll likely find yourself fighting, at one time or another, doubt as to whether you’re a good photographer, or whether a particular photo is clichéd or obvious, or whether there was a better shot to be had. Over the last few years, one of the annoying questions I’ve found myself facing while shooting is “why am I taking this photo?”

For years, I was quite content to simply wander about, looking for good light or interesting subject matter. When people asked me what I like to shoot, I was fine with answering “interesting light” because that was, for the most part, all that guided my shooting. But then something started to change. I began to question the point of an image that was simply a well-crafted photograph. I found myself looking through the camera, building a shot, and then thinking “so what?”

From the photographer Keith Carter I learned that one answer to that question is “Because why not?” which is a pretty good answer, and it can sometimes get me to take the shot anyway, in spite of any existential photo dilemma. But there’s another way to tend to this question, if you’re finding yourself regularly facing it, and that is to engage yourself in a photographic project of some kind.

In Chapter 9 of Complete Digital Photography I offer the suggestion of simple photo projects, and the ideas there are good starting points as well as good exercises to take on, even if you’re not finding yourself plagued by questions of whether stand-alone photos are worth shooting. The idea of a project can be intimidating because it sounds so portentous, but a project does not have to be something of National Geographic caliber. You don’t have to go make first contact with a rainforest tribe, or pursue an endangered species or stumble onto a lost civilization to have a worthwhile project. A project can start with anything that you find interesting or compelling.

My project with the Gnawa

A few years ago, as I was planing a trip to Morocco, I realized there was a very obvious project to take on. That project, in turn, gave me a much different shooting experience there, guided some of my travel through the country, and ultimately led me to a previously unrealized link between photography and something else – a link that I’m very curious to explore more. In this short video, you can see how I put the project together and what the experience of shooting the project led me to.

I know that it might seem a little strange for me to say that a project doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, and then I show a trip to Morocco, but the point is that the actual starting point for this project was very simple: “I like this particular music.” Following any kind of interest can give you the structure and foundation for a project. If you’re taking a trip somewhere, I especially recommend trying to find some sort of project to work on while you’re there. Pursuing a project will take you to places you might not normally go to, and open up new subject matter.

To be honest, I’m not crazy about any individual shots that I got of the Gnawa. As standalone photos, they don’t do much for me. But as a starting point for more work, and when I think about what I could do with a broad enough selection of images – that excites me in a way that a single well-crafted photo does not.

If you’ve never tried shooting a project, I consider it a must for anyone’s growth as a photographer. Even if you never do it again, it will still teach you much that you cannot get from simply shooting standalone images.

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Fall Moab workshop with Hudson Henry https://completedigitalphotography.com/2019/06/fall-moab-workshop-with-hudson-henry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fall-moab-workshop-with-hudson-henry Wed, 19 Jun 2019 16:35:04 +0000 https://completedigitalphotography.com/?p=6794 I’ll be helping my good friend and ace landscape/adventurer photographer Hudson Henry in late September for a five-day workshop in scenic Moab, Utah. Moab is one of the most spectacular places on the planet, home to the magnificent Arches and Canyonlands national parks—and Utah’s own Dead Horse Point—and centered around a delightful small town with […]

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canyonlands sunset

I’ll be helping my good friend and ace landscape/adventurer photographer Hudson Henry in late September for a five-day workshop in scenic Moab, Utah.

Moab is one of the most spectacular places on the planet, home to the magnificent Arches and Canyonlands national parks—and Utah’s own Dead Horse Point—and centered around a delightful small town with tons of charm and great food.

It’s hard to beat the sweeping vistas, magnificent rock formations and rivers in Moab, and this workshop will exercise your photographic passion in this beautiful place. As Hudson notes:

There’s no place like Moab, Utah. This location has something for every photographic style and taste. In this small (10 person) workshop we’ll split time between exploring this epic location and honing your photographic skills and creative vision through classroom training, shooting, editing and critiques.

Workshops are a fantastic way to immerse yourself in all types of landscape photography, and Hudson is one of the most amazing guides you’ll ever encounter. Hudson has a unique understanding of the landscape as subject and place, and Moab is one of his favorite locations (as it is mine), so come along with us to celebrate this special land.

I have helped Hudson on workshops to the Oregon Coast, Death Valley, and the Palouse, and I can guarantee that you will find yourself exhausted, energized and exhilarated at the end of one of his workshops. (I learn something new every time I tag along on one.) You won’t look through the viewfinder the same way ever again, nor will you want to.

The Moab workshop, which goes from September 27 to October 1, is the only one of Hudson’s remaining 2019 workshops with spaces available, so, if you’re thinking about diving in, sign up today!

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Do You Really Need New Gear? https://completedigitalphotography.com/2019/05/do-you-really-need-new-gear/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=do-you-really-need-new-gear Fri, 31 May 2019 16:48:35 +0000 https://completedigitalphotography.com/?p=6761 If you’ve been with us for a while, you’ll know that we stay away from the rough-and-tumble world of “Which camera should I buy?” While we’re happy to talk about the plusses and minuses of specific cameras with people, it’s not our focus on the website. We strongly believe that it’s not the camera that makes […]

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If you’ve been with us for a while, you’ll know that we stay away from the rough-and-tumble world of “Which camera should I buy?” While we’re happy to talk about the plusses and minuses of specific cameras with people, it’s not our focus on the website. We strongly believe that it’s not the camera that makes you a better photographer—it’s you.

In that vein, I recorded a short video with Hudson Henry last week, as part of his Approaching the Scene series on YouTube. We had a lively—and short—conversation on the topic, focusing on the things you can do to develop your photographic vision that don’t involve buying new gear. Along the way, we talk about understanding the gear that you have, knowing the principles of composition and exposure in the field, and looking at other photographers’ work as a way to inform your your own work.

Below are links to the CDP articles referred to in the video:

Taking Better Pictures Doesn’t Mean a New Camera
Overviews of Photographic History

If you’re interested in Hudson’s Moab workshop this fall, you can find more information on his Workshops page. I’ll be helping him in the field on that one.

And, if you have comments or questions on this topic (or anything else), we would love to hear from you. Drop us a line via our Contact Us page.

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Complete Digital Photography ebook is now available https://completedigitalphotography.com/2019/04/ebook-now-available/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ebook-now-available Fri, 26 Apr 2019 19:05:21 +0000 https://completedigitalphotography.com/?p=6529 The ebook version of Complete Digital Photography is now available on both the Apple and Amazon bookstores for $34.99, which is $30 off the print price. The following is from the “about this ebook” section: The ebook version of Complete Digital Photography is identical to the contents of the printed version, including that version’s fonts, […]

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The ebook version of Complete Digital Photography is now available on both the Apple and Amazon bookstores for $34.99, which is $30 off the print price.

The following is from the “about this ebook” section:

The ebook version of Complete Digital Photography is identical to the contents of the printed version, including that version’s fonts, and was designed for optimal readability on most iOS and Android tablets that support either Apple’s or Amazon’s book files. While this ebook is readable on most modern Kindle e-ink readers, we don’t recommend this solution as a primary reading platform for the book, given that those readers lack color screens.

The images, graphics and charts found in the book are high-resolution, and double-tapping on any image will let you view it full-screen. Due to the large number of images and other graphics, some readers might find that turning on their app’s continuous-scrolling feature will be helpful in preserving the continuity of the text.

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