Chicago Pics: A Demonstrative Evolution

I spent last week in Chicago at the Cause Marketing Forum. Before the show and after the first day was done, I had the opportunity to take a couple of photo walks, which produced some of my best work so far in the 365 Full Frame Project, including the header image for this post.

It is nice to see the progression in my skills via the project over the past 11 months. But what was really amazing to me was how far I’ve come since I picked up my first DSLR in 2009, a Nikon D90. In that year, I visited Chicago and took quite a few pics. I think those images showed some good framing, but overall they were classic tourist shots.

I returned a couple of times in 2012, and took some more pics. This time I was shooting with one of the first micro 4/3 cameras, an Olympus PEN 3. There was clearly a progression, but perhaps at this point I was what is called a casual enthusiast.

In 2015, I published fewer shots and took them with a Nikon D810. In my opinion, these newer photos are clearly better in framing, capture and post production.

It’s a clear evolution. Really, it shows what happens when you stick to something over a long period of time. And of course better equipment helps. But I’ll let you be the judge. Here are three shots from each set.










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6 Photo Tips Gleaned from the 365 Full Frame Project

It has been five months since I started the 365 Full Frame project. Here are six lessons learned from my immersive photography experience to date:

1) Framing is Everything

Waterfall Way for Google+

You can edit a photo all you want, but it’s much easier to produce a good photo when your original capture is solid. Find your story and focus on it.

In some settings there can be many eye catching things to include in your photograph, but these can distract the viewer away from your message. Whenever possible try to frame your photo so that it focuses on your subject. Leave out as many distractions as you can. If you cannot frame the photo while capturing it, crop and if necessary (or possible), edit out distractions.

2) Don’t Take the Rule of Thirds Literally


The rule of thirds is very helpful to new photographers. For those that don’t know, the rule of thirds suggests framing your picture by dividing the frame in thirds vertically and horizontally. You then frame your subject in the middle square and capture the shot.

At the same time if taken literally, the rule of thirds can create formulaic photos with every subject in the dead center of the image. Over the past couple of months I have tried to break away from perfectly centered images. So long as my subject touches the primary center — even if it just grazes the rectangle — then I am good.

3) Edit Your Photos


There are purists who say photos shouldn’t be “photoshopped” or edited. They are wrong. Some of the most iconic film photos of yesterday were significantly altered in the darkroom. If the no filter crowd likes bad photos then God bless them, but the more time you invest in processing quality shots, the better they will look.

4) A Take-Away from the Minimalist Crowd

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That being said, some photos can be overproduced. And God knows sometimes I intentionally create light intense photos because that’s the look I want. This Capitol Building shot is one where I did that to emphasize the scaffolding and the lighting.

Minimalists like images that are edited as a touch up only, instead focusing on the capture. They edit in LightRoom, but just enough to make clean, crisp photographs. My thoughts are make a great image, and when possible, do so with as little editing as possible.

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This dawn image features very little editing. Per the minimalist link, 80% of the work was in the Basic Light Room panel. I opened the shadows and reduced the highlights. I sharpened the image and punched up the color contrast. Then I enabled lens correction. And that was it. The same is true of the Frosty, the Snowman image that opens this post.

Do only what you think is necessary to create a good image. Follow your heart. Every photo doesn’t have to be an over-wrought 500 Pixels gem.

5) Sunsets and Sunrises are Like Bait


I stopped taking as many sunset and sunrise shots recently. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that I have found them to be less challenging as of late, in large part because I have shot all the local vistas in my immediate neighborhood. While sunrises and sunsets are photo bait for likes and what most people seem to enjoy, it’s not necessarily the most challenging subject.

There are a couple of short trips that may yield an opportunity this month. But I will likely revisit sunrise and sunset pictures in earnest this January when the earth’s tones are muted by the dead of winter. The harshness of the land in this light interests me and presents a challenge. The soft oranges, pinks and reds are less of a challenge these days.

6) People Are Difficult Subjects


Photographing people is hard. I am not talking abut the smiley pics you see on Facebook. In many ways those are easy, but they don’t strike me as good or sincere. In fact, I see most smiling pics as fake, unless they are in the moment.

Capturing people’s spirit, their true essence, is the challenge, and it’s one that I fail at often. Every month, I rent some studio time and photograph someone, usually a friend who volunteers. There is much to learn with retouching here, but I hope to get better at photographing people over the next seven months.


What tips would you add? Or, what are your thoughts on the 365 Full Frame Project to date?

Activate Run-Ons with WIFM

red pen
Image by Mad African!

The best way to spruce up boring business writing? Activate verb tense, parse run-ons into multiple sentences, and add the what’s in it for me (WIFM) factor.

Yes, some colleagues focus on grammar, but when I edit business text these are the first three things my red pen seeks out.

Inevitably business text crams an overt amount amount of jargon and hyperbole into copy to ensure that it stays “on message” and achieves branding goals.

Business writing seeks to market and inform stakeholders. Over-focus on messaging and positioning hurts that goal, instead fulfilling an internal need to appease executives.

An editor should punch up copy to resonate with stakeholders.
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Live and Die with Headlines

Image by deathtiny41

In a world driven by social network and search engine marketing, you live and die by headlines.

Today’s social media blogosphere discussion revolves around content marketing, but little is said about the actual headlines.

Too bad. Writing great headlines matters more than ever.

Attention spans have shrunk, and if you can’t interest someone right off the bat with a great, witty headline then you won’t get read. It’s as simple as that.
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