4 More Photo Tips Gleaned from the 365 Full Frame Project

We are in the final week of the 365 Full Frame Project, and it seems fitting to share four more photo tips I have picked up over the past year. You can read the first six tips here, which include framing, the rule of thirds, minimalism and sunrises/sunsets.

And with that, let’s begin.

1) If It’s Not Sharp, then Don’t Post It (Unless)

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It’s tempting to post a good capture with a subject that you like even though it’s a little fuzzy. Don’t do it. You need the subject to be in focus. Yes, there are photos that have fuzzy continuation or depth of field and bokeh, which make for a great image. But those photos have a subject that is clearly in focus.

A fuzzy pic is not a good pic, no matter how strong the subject and composition is. The only reason to keep it is for sentimental value. If that’s the case, cool. Memories are precious.

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There is another exception, which is if you are intentionally blurring or distorting a photograph. In that case, go for it. Art is art.

2) Rich Vibrant Color Is a Technique

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People remark on the color I get in my photos, particularly in the skies. They often assume the shots are HDR. Probably one in every 25 photos I post uses HDR processing. In reality, a good part of rich coloring is the way the photo is shot and edited.

One critical aspect of color is exposing for it. When you shoot manually, you can choose what you expose in your photo. So when I take a sunset or sunrise pic, I expose for the sun or the most colorful part of the sky.

Remember, a camera is just a computer that interprets light. Most cameras offer several interpretations (e.g. Standard, Flat, Portrait, Vivid, Landscape) for the same shot. When you manually expose a shot, you are helping the computer by directing its function rather than letting it make a best guess.

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On the editing, HDR lets you expose for the sky and then take a second or third photo and expose other aspects in the scene and then blend. This produces rich color and detail throughout the photo. But not everyone likes HDR, nor does every photographer have the patience to blend the images.

When I expose a single shot for the sky, I open the highlights to reduce glare and pull out the rich color. I adjust whites and blacks accordingly. From there, normal edits on vibrance and contrast finish the job.

I also open the shadows in Lightroom to expose the foreground or the dark parts. But that’s not a universal approach for me. Sometimes I leave the image silhouetted like I did in this pic.

3) Use Filters Mindfully

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Whether you create presets of your workflow, buy presets or use a tool like Intensify, you are using filters. I have heard the no filter argument, and I know what classic photographers used to do. They altered their photos in the darkroom.

When you edit photos using presets others filters, it’s an attempt to make it better. Generally, people like the photos more.

The above photo of the Ngorongoro Crater was very difficult to produce. The crater had some intense light elements with diverse shadows and light. There were cloud walls on the rim and to the left, somewhat filtering the sunset. The final production involved merging three different photos (one to the left, one in the middle and one to the right, but not an HDR overlay) in Photoshop to get the right exposure across the crater, significant Lightroom time, and about three different brushed Intensify filters in parts of the photo.

The real issue that happens with filters is when people mindlessly filter images without thinking about what they are communicating. While the haphazard filtered movement produces a few diamonds, the real product is rarely photography. However, it’s what makes people happy when they Instagram or Facebook or whatever. This also gives a real photographer an opportunity to distinguish themselves with strong unique images.

I believe a photo is a person’s interpretation of something they witnessed, realistic or abstract. Each photo is a unique experience. I never use the exact same edit or a universal filter for touch-ups.

4) Black and White Works

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A good color photograph almost always makes for a good black and white photo. But so does a photo with blown out highlights, bad light (for example, your atypical middle of the day shot) or muted tones. I try not to produce photos that are shot in mid-day, but sometimes you don’t have a choice.

Often I produce these shots as black and white works. The above shot is the el train in Chicago, and it was shot in the morning blue hour before dawn. However, it came out looking dusty and blue. So I went black and white.

The editing was done as an HDR edit in Photomatix using three exposures merged on top of each other. I significantly boosted the contrast further and gave the photo a vignette to make it even more brooding. As Serge Ramelli notes, going over the top in black and white seems to work.

What tips would you add?

Launching the 365 Full Frame Project #365FF

A couple of weeks ago I asked folks to consider the 365 Full Frame project. Today the project offically launches as a photo blog.

The project began publishing on Friday to help populate the site for today’s launch. The featured image for this post is today’s photo, a shot of McWay Falls in Big Sur. For the remaining 361 days starting tomorrow, the project will publish one high resolution full frame photo a day at 4:00 p.m.

Generally, these photos will be posted on the 365 blog, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter and a cropped version on Instagram. Facebook friends will only see some, but not all posts.

You can see the site has a minimalist blog design. It pretty much is all about the photos, and works well on mobile. That’s what made the most sense to me. Frankly, it’s nice to post because the images are worth sharing and for no other reason, a refreshing return to the old days of social media.

More on #365FF

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In all, 12 supporters came together to raise $2700 to fund the purchase of a a Nikon Df sans the lenses. Each of them has select licensing rights.

Anyone can share the images. Folks that purchase licenses for the photos will help buy more equipment. Rather than become a true professional photographer, I’d rather trade photo rights for more gear. Seems like a fair trade to me, and it helps fuel my hobby.

Thank you to everyone who helped get me here, from supporters to good pals like Richard Binhammer (who may guest photoblog on 365) and others who encouraged me along the way. It’s cool to have an outlet for my photography.

Again, thank you for encouraging me!

Introducing the 365 Full Frame Project

Many people have asked me in recent months how or if I was going to monetize my photos. Some have even asked to buy some (thank you for your interest!).

After thinking on the topic, I have decided not to proactively build a business around my photography. I like the artistic aspects of photography, and want to shoot as I see fit. So I will remain semi-pro, licensing via Getty Images and only selling photos to people who specifically ask me for them.

At the same time, I’ve come up with a cool way to give people access to my photo content and use the images in their own lives or work. I call it the 365 Full Frame project on Indiegogo, a social media experiment, if you would.

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My 365 Full Frame project seeks to fund the acquisition of a full frame camera to take and publish one high resolution image every day that could be used for a whole variety of purposes, from social media shares to print. My Nikon D7100 does a decent job, but with better tools I can deliver even stronger results for my colleagues. To get a full frame camera (D800) and the appropriate lenses, I need a minimum of $5,000. If more money is funded, then I will get a top of the line D4s camera.

This is an opportunity to own some or a whole group of 365 full-frame high quality photographs, taken by me. There are two packages for individuals and content creators alike. Funders will be able to access 365 high quality, full-frame photos published daily over a year.

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Specifically, funders will receive access to the photos on a limited or fully open basis depending on their commitment level. Higher level funders can request subjects so long as it does not require me to travel. All funders will receive recognition on the 365 Full Frame website when it is revealed. General subjects will include:

  • Travel sights as business permits (currently I have Silicon Valley, Big Sur, New York City, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Hawaii planned)
  • Networking events
  • Washington, DC landscapes
  • Sunsets and sunrises
  • Select parent and pet photos

With the 365 Full Frame Project, people that want to buy my photography can do so in a cool way, and content creators can access the high quality photos they need to succeed. Me, I get a new toy to feed my photography hobby without necessitating the launch of a new business.

Please support the 365 Full Frame, a Visual Social Experiment today!