Better Photography: Give your photos some breathing room

Often the suggestion to improve one’s photography is “fill the frame”.  Fill the frame advice is often stated as “Get close. Then get closer.”  The idea being that you want the subject to dominate the image while minimizing background distractions.

Old Typewriter Black And White Low Key Fine Art Photography Framed Print
Old Typewriter Black And White Low Key Fine Art Photography Framed Print The subject is pushed right to the edges of the frame – https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/old-typewriter-black-and-white-low-key-fine-art-photography-edward-fielding.html
Old Vintage Press Camera
Old Vintage Press Camera by Edward M. Fielding – Going in close to the old vintage press view camera, showing only the lens board.  https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/old-vintage-press-camera-edward-fielding.html
Vintage Typewriter Black and White
Vintage Typewriter Black and White by Edward Fielding – Getting in closer to the old antique typewriter, focus is on the keys. https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/close-up-vintage-typewriter-edward-fielding.html

Of course filling the frame doesn’t work for all photographs or necessarily make an photograph more meaningful or powerful, because zooming in removes the context of the image.

 

For example in photojournalism and street photographers often work with semi-wide lens like a 35 mm for the express purpose of being able to include some of the background around the subject to give it context.  You see what is going on when you see more of the story or more of the environment.

Fill the frame advice for beginner photographers helps to avoid disasters such as this:

Snap shot by amatuer photographer
Snap shot by amateur photographer

Here the photographer needs a nice big push towards their subject so the bird, flower, squirrel or in this case a hot air balloon isn’t the size of a fly in the final photograph.

You can see some interesting concept in the making – the matching of the flag with the flag hot air balloon but the execution fails with the center composition, horizontal framing and the vast blank and boring blue sky.  Had the photographer turned their camera to the vertical position and zoomed in, they might have captured something interesting.

But fill the frame is only one of approaching composition.  Composition is the distribution of space and the arrangement of objects within the frame.

Better Photography Through the Use of White Space

Another major composition choice is NOT TO FILL THE FRAME.  When appropriate, not filling the frame or giving the subject some breathing room or white space, makes the composition of the photograph more powerful by allowing to the subject to be seen in context.

You can think of it as allowing space for text or a magazine article, although be sure that the “white space” areas are not too boring.  Vast area of stark blue sky is not that appealing.  In landscapes you’ll need some great clouds to keep the non-main subject areas interesting.  In studio work you can introduce great back ground texture to keep the white space interesting to the viewer.

Let’s look at some example.  For vast landscapes on of my favorite compositions, borrowed from western art painters, is to present the main subject at the bottom third or fourth of the frame and allow the sky to loam large.

Western art
Western art – notice subject is placed in the bottom of the image and the vertical format allows for the tall background rock formations which provides a sens of place.  Filling the frame with the cowboy would lose the context.
Storm Coming To The Old Farm
Storm Coming To The Old Farm by Edward M. Fielding – https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/storm-coming-to-the-old-farm-edward-fielding.html

In Storm Coming to the Old Farm, I wanted to capture the relationship between the fast approaching thunderstorm and the Canterbury Shaker Village farm houses.  By giving the storm clouds more than two thirds of the space, the farm buildings look small and vulnerable to Mother Nature’s approaching fury.

White Space Works Horizontally or Vertically

1899 Ely Vermont Barn
1899 Ely Vermont Barn by Edward M. Fielding, framed in barn wood. – https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/ely-vermont-barn-1899-barn-cupola-edward-fielding.html

This black and white photograph of an old historic barn in Ely, Vermont uses the same concepts but in the horizontal.  The white clouds in the background are given plenty of space and contrasts nicely with the old worn wood of the barn.

Forsaken Dreams by Edward M. Fielding
Forsaken Dreams by Edward M. Fielding – https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/forsaken-dreams-edward-fielding.html

In “Forsaken Dreams” an old abandoned cottage on Prince Edward Island is  placed in the bottom of the frame and texture is introduced in the sky above.  The “white space” allows the viewer places to rest as they take in the scene.

Theme: Remote Cabin in Winter
Theme: Remote Cabin in Winter by Edward M. Fielding – https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/remote-cabin-in-winter-edward-fielding.html

This composition, placing the old wooden cabin in the center of the frame with mostly blank snow below and a white sky above givings the image a bold graphic feeling.  White space contributes to the feeling of remoteness and isolation as winter covers the landscape perhaps invoking the ideas of cabin fever or the bliss of getting away from society.

Blizzard at the red dairy barn.
An upper valley barn in Etna, NH during a winter blizzard.  Photograph by Edward M. Fielding – https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/new-england-red-barn-in-winter-snow-storm-edward-fielding.html

In this photograph of a classic red New England barn, the subject is placed in the upper right, eliminating most of the sky, which is white from the storm while allowing a good portion of the image to show the snow on the ground.  Here one can imagine themselves in the scene and how difficult it might be to approach the barn through a deep field of snow.

Add White Space to Your Bag of Tricks

So by all means, explore your subjects from a variety of means and methods.  Zoom in, fill the frame when the idea is to display an uncluttered look at the subject such as a bee on a flower, but when the situation calls for telling more of the story, step back and allow the viewer to explore the environment and context around your subject.

See more fine art photographs by Edward M. Fielding here – https://edward-fielding.pixels.com

Dog Photography 101: 10 Tips to get better pictures of your dog

Dog Photography tips from professional photographer Edward M. Fielding.

Want to take great photographs of your dog but your pet seems to have a Gmind of their own which doesn’t include listening your posing commands? Got a dog who just won’t sit still for your camera? Here are some tips to get great photographs of your dog.

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10 Tips for capturing the best dog images

1. Keep it fun.  Associate your camera with a fun time like going for a hike or getting lots of treats.  A winning attitude will result in winning photos.

Dogs can sense your energy level and mood.  Don’t stress out.  Keep your photo sessions positive and fun.

2. Patience is required

Not every photo session is going to be great.  Have patience and wait for the right moment.  Don’t try to take pictures when your dog is full of extra energy or their are a lot of people around.  Take a walk before the photo session and work off some of that nervous energy.  Keep your session one on one so your pet isn’t distracted by a lot of people giving commands.

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3. Shoot lots of photos but also plan out your shoots

For casual photos of your dog at play at the local dog park, take a lot of photos because most of them will be out of focus, blurred or just not the right timing.  Put your camera on sports mode for a fast shutter speed and put it on burst mode to shoot  a lot of rapid shots.

At the same time, plan out your shots at home.  Watch the lighting conditions and choose the best time of day to shoot your dog on the couch or in a favorite chair.

Later, edit, edit, edit. Only show the best shots and toss the rest.  Don’t bore your audience on social media with blurry, out of focus misses.  Just share the best few shots.  Less is more!

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4. Treats, toys and squeakers

Treats will keep a well trained dog in position as you compose the shot.  Toys and squeakers will get their attention right before the shutter is released.

The photo above was captured by hiding a treat in the camera, just out of nose reach.

5. Lighting is what makes a stunning shot stand out from a “ho hum” shot

Photography is all about the lighting.  Wait for the best light of the day or create a studio set up to light your pet with beautiful light.

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6. Capture your dog’s personality.  What makes Fido unique?

Try to create photographs that explore your pet’s unique personality, likes and favorite activities.

7. Get down on your dog’s level

As with kid photographs, don’t shoot down from the “Adult Perspective” all the time.  Try getting nose-to-nose and capture an image from your dog’s perspective.

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8. Sneak around

Keep you camera handy and take pictures of your dog when he or she is unaware and be amazed by the sweet and funny moments you capture.

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9. Eyes are often the key to the emotion of the photo.

Take a tip from fashion and portrait photographers – make sure eyes are in sharp focus.  Always focus on the eyes for breathtaking photographs.

10. Get creative!

Plan out unique shots and partner with your pet to create funny, sweet, cute and adorable pet portraits.

More great dog photography ideas at:  https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/art/dog

Meural Digital Canvas Art Frames Are Hot This Christmas

Meural Digital Canvas – Technology advancements in display technology has reached the point of affordablity and quality to make digital canvas art frames not only affordable but they look great.  Either to display your own artwork or to stream artwork from amazing artists from around the world.

Our choice is the Meural Digial Canvas.  A major step up from the cheap, little photo displays you put on the kitchen counter, this a fine art display worthy of the living room.

The Meural canvas is a smart art frame that gives you access to tens of thousands of works and it’s easy to upload your own. You control with our app, online dashboard, or the wave of your hand. With true art technology, a proprietary blend of hardware, firmware, and software images are rendered as textured as an original. Each frame is made from fsc-certified, sustainably sourced American hardwood.

Specs:

  • A smart art frame that renders images lifelike and textured
  • Get access to the mural art library, tens of thousands of works both iconic and unexpected
  • It’s easy to upload your own art and photography
  • Control with the wave of your hand, the app, or the online dashboard
  • Each frame is made from fsc-certified, sustainable sourced American hardwood

We got one of these beautiful frame for Christmas and set it up between the living room and dining room for maximum visibility.  It has been a lot of fun.

You can subscribe to a library of fine art supplied by Meural if you want but we got it mostly to showcase our own photography.  I simply format some files to the Meural image file specs:

1920×1080 at 100 pixels per inch

Create a playlist and upload the files from my computer, or put a microSD card full of images in the back of the frame.   You can have up to four play lists on a microSD card but unlimited images.

From the Meural app on your phone or computer you can schedule the frame to turn on and off and even schedule what art you see during the day and how often it changes images.  I imagine these frames are a no brainer addition to the lobbies of any office or waiting room.  You could even create and upload some informational type posters.

How is the image quality? Awesome.  Images really come to life.  The screen has a mat finish and the images have a backlit quality.  My black and what images are particularly stunning in this format and its great seen my work this large.  Even at 100 pixels per inch, at a viewing distance of a few feet, the images are dynamic, sharp, and luminous.

The frame itself is a bit thinker than a typical frame, has a white mat around the image area and now outer glass but the effect from a distance is that it is a real print.  It freaks people out when the image changes!

Now I just have to figure out how to hide the cord.  I have a few spots in my how that have power built into the wall at picture height but unfortunately the wall wart on the Meural is rather large.  I’ll probably end up snaking the cord through the wall.

They make these pass through ports for low voltage cables. Get the ones with memory foam to stop any air passage.

 

Vermont – fine art photographs from the state of Vermont

In this new video, fine art photographer Edward M. Fielding (http://www.edwardfieldng.com) showcases some of his photographs from around the beautiful state of Vermont.

Prints, canvas prints, museum quality framed and matted artwork, metal prints, acrylic prints, wood prints and gift items with this Vermont photographs are available here – https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/art/vermont

The music is “Waterfall” by Aakash Gandhi

Stock Photography Reality Check Part One

So you think you might like to dabble in stock photography?  Here is a bit of a reality check to keep your expectation in line with reality.

What is stock photography?

Stock photography is the solution to expensive custom photo shoots.  Not every commercial photo use such as a magazine advertisement,   online ad,  local ad circular, small business business card etc. has the budget for a full on custom photo shoot.

Brand name fashion ads in Vanity Fair and Vogue, yes, but not Joe the Plumber’s ad in the yellow pages.  So stock photography provides a library of already made photographs for designers to use.  They might not get exactly what they want but it will be close enough.   Also what they get won’t be exclusive but their lower budget clients will have to deal the very real possibility that other pizza joints will use the same shot of a steaming hot slice of pizza.

In the old days, stock photographs were on slides and the stock agency would do a search for their clients and show they possible images on slides.  They would also publish stock books showing the images available.  All the images were provided by professional photographers.

Then came the internet, cheap, unlimited storage and access to photographers of all walks of life.  This allowed the stock libraries to expand and to accept images from professionals and amateurs alike.  These new stock providers were dubed “microstock” because the economics of lots of images procured inexpensively allowed them to offer the images to their clients for less then stock images previously cost.

Will I make a zillion dollars selling stock?

The microstock industry has matured to the point where there are millions and millions of images available for licensing.  In the very early days, one could up load a crummy photo and it would sell over and over.

Now a days your images are in competition with millions of other images.  The reality of today’s microstock market, is that you can see a few sales here and there but you can’t expect to give up your day job for microstock.

Are there more sellers or buyers?

The reality is that there are zillions more images available to license then the buyers will ever need.   Just like most things on the Internet – eBay, the fine art photography market, people trying to sell used Ikea Lack coffee tables on Craigs list – there are far more sellers than buyers.

How many images do I need in my microstock portfolio before I start seeing sales?

When I first started selling some of my work as stock, I figured I’d upload 40 or so images and I’d be soon laying on the beach watching my bank account fill up.  Then the reality struck and I realized I’d have to become an image factory if I was going to sell anything.  It was around 400 stock images in my portfolio before I started to see steady sales.

But you can’t stop there.  You have to continually feed the beast just to keep your head above water.  Images flood into the stock agencies every day, you need to provide fresh inventory to your portfolio just to be notices.

It’s gotten to the point where the stock agencies play games like rotating the contributors in the search.  They want to keep the good contributors interested so they try to make sure everyone gets a sale once in a while to hold their interest.

What are the best selling stock images?

The best selling stock images are the ones that are the most costly to procure.  Custom photo shoots with models cost a lot of money but at the same time in the advertising world, photographs with people are the most valuable – images with people are the most sought after.

Every amateur photographer wants to shoot landscapes, flowers or birds so of course the stock agencies are saturated with these images.  If you want to stand out, shoot people or other hard to obtain subjects.

You also want to create images with copy space so designers can add text.  A good way to learn about what types of images make good stock can be found in these books:

Summer Time and the Living is Easy – Summer Poems

Nubble Light Cape Neddick Lighthouse

Summer Poems

[n] the warmest season of the year; “they spent a lazy summer at the shore”

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Summer

Sweet as a berry
Summer is merry
Popsicles and lemonade
A memory that will never fade
Vacations and going to the pool
Of course Summer has one rule
Always have FUN
Out in the sun

Author: L. Farrington

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Dark

Robins finally quiet.

The mountain has pulled on its blue hood
of night, its spruce-lined cloak
looses owls from deep inner pockets.

Here below, moths flutter around porch lights
gathering secrets at each door:
who’s not home, who’s got an unexpected, unwanted guest.

A few houses away, someone listens to jazz alone,

someone reads a crime novel set in Iceland –
the wind is blowing over a barren landscape
where a boy was lost.

At dawn, lilies called Embers of Vesuvius
will slowly unfurl their hot orange petals.
Robins will start up again.

This whole thing will feel premeditated.

Even when the mystery is solved at the end
someone still lies dead.
Close the book, turn out the light,

it’s too late now.

Poem by Kristen Lindquist

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A cottage

A cottage
at the end of the path,
between maple trees and evergreens,
a front porch, weathered boards,
memories in the grain,
summers by the lake,
green converse allstars,
monopoly into the wee hours of the morning,
pancakes and bacon mornings,
red ginham table cloths,
chasing fireflies, sparklers,
hot dogs on the grille,
spitting watermelon seeds, sticky chins…
a cottage, memories,
and now we make our own,
hand in hand as love
once again sits on the porch,
counting stars and drinking lemonade,
you and me and a cottage
at the end of a path…
love
Good night beautiful

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Summer Cottage

Father’s in the woodshed,
Cleaning forty fish;
Mother’s in the kitchen,
Washing every dish;
Sister’s upstairs making
Every bed we own;
The company is on the porch
With the graphophone.

Father does the rowing,
Brother does the chores,
Mother does the baking,
Sister sweeps the floors;
Everybody’s working,
Here at Idlenook,
Except the company — and that
Sits down and reads a book.

– Edgar Albert Guest

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To make more interesting photos, become more interesting

“If you want to make more interesting pictures, become a more interesting person.” – Jay Maisel

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Legendary NYC photographer and workshop instructor, Jay Maisel is a quotable fellow and one of his most famous sayings involves the idea of being a more interesting person leads to more interesting art and photography.

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Being more interesting requires being well-read, exposed to new ideas and different points of view and seeing all that life offers. Think about who the most interesting people are at a party. Is it the guy talking about his new lawn mower and the snow tires he bought at Walmart or is it the gal who likes to eat exotic things and just came back from a trip backpacking through India?

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Who do you think comes back with the most compelling photographs? The one who dusts off the camera every time the roses are in bloom, or the one who ventured into an abandoned factory to capture dust swirling in the air?

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To make interesting and compelling images one has to have a sense of adventure and purpose. Playing it safe or standing in the Kodak moment spots in the most visited National Parks ain’t going to result in exciting images. This is more of “I was there” or “I saw a buffalo” type images that clog up the arteries of Facebook on a daily basis.

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Creating something new, something unique, something exciting requires leaving the beaten path and finding your own voice. Giving yourself permission to follow your own interests and passions, not the “approved” photography subjects that have been done to death.

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Artist, designer and fine art photographer Edward M. Fielding strives to live an interesting life.  Next  stop:  A 10 day trip around the Ring Road in Iceland in an RV.  Should be an interesting adventure of a life time.

Is my photography hopelessly out of style?

Styles change.  Fashion never sits still.  Yet there are plenty of photographers who still churn out the same old style year after year.

Recently a photographer on a Fine Art America forum was moaning about their dropping sales this year.  They had great sales in the past but now nothing.  Perhaps the market has left their style?  Maybe sad looking big eyed children just aren’t the thing any more?  Things do change and people do get tired of certain styles and move on.

Perhaps ten years ago they wondered into a Peter Lik gallery while on vacation and said “wowza, I love this over saturated, metallic paper landscape” and have  been striving to achieve that look ever since.  Or they had a Ansel Adams poster in their dorm room thirty years ago and have been traveling to the southwestern US every chance they get to create dramatic black and white images of Yosemite or the desert.

Or maybe a five years ago they caught the HDR bug and have never left to the realm of surreal colors and impossible dynamic range.

Avoid the HDR and cliche photography trap!

So what happens when HDR becomes a cliche?  Something for amatuers or for people to do with a phone apps?  Perhaps its time to go to a more traditional or classic style.  More retro.  Or more futuristic.  It depends on you, your sense of style and what the market is looking for.

Ask yourself.

  1. Do you have any style?
  2. Can you describe “your” style?
  3. Can you adapt to trends or are you going to wait for your style to come back in fashion?

According to Format Magazine the trendy styles for 2017 are:

  • Minimalist Fashion Photography
  • Plants
  • Chairs
  • 35mm Film
  • Suburban America

  • Girl Gaze

  • Collages and Diptychs

    Read more here:

https://www.format.com/magazine/features/photography/photography-trends-2017-predictions

 

Love of Photography or Love of Being on Vacation?

I think there is some confusion out there in photography land.  There is a true love of photography and then there is a “love of being on vacation with a camera”.

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A true love of photography is the deep need to document the world around you.  This when you never leave the house without a camera, you are always taking photos and looking around for photo subjects non-stop.

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Then there is the pull the camera out of the closet, dust it off, perhaps buy a new lens because finally it is vacation time again!

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You can tell this type of photographer in online forums as they are the ones arguing about the latest cameras and which lens is the sharpest.  They are also the ones asking for photo spot suggestions and where they should go on vacation – Cuba? Iceland? Ireland? Which national park is the best? etc.  In otherwords, where can I justify pulling out the tripod and standing next to my fellow vacationers to get that same photo I see on the post card rack.

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Nothing wrong with this of course, I do it myself.  I get pumped for a vacation with the family and think about all of the great shots I’ll get while the family impatiently waits so we can go to dinner.

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Every new location brings a fresh scenes to captivate the imagination and a change of scenery recharges the soul.  Plus its good for the brain to have to plan out your adventure and navigate a new landscape.  Often one is restricted to basic equipment so planning and adaptation is required.

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But the true artist can bring out amazing images from their own backyard. The amateur puts full faith in the exotic location in order to impress.  As if their vision lays within their equipment and relies on the landscape to provide the artistry.

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Perhaps if the amateur didn’t put the camera back in the closet after an exotic vacation they would learn to see the wonders all around them in their own backyard.

 

The Other Side of the Tracks

Old Train Bridge Bath, NH
Old Train Bridge Bath, NH

My Train Portfolio

My love of trains brought me back into photography after a long absence fraught with the concepts of career and raising a family. Making a move to a house with a bonus room rekindled an idea of building that dream model railroad I’ve had since I was a kid reading Model Railroader magazine.

Train photography by Edward M. Fielding
Train photography by Edward M. Fielding

Researching ideas online lead to the desire to document my progress which lead to my first serious DSLR, a micro-four thirds Panasonic G2. And then this snowballed into more lenses, an upgrade to a G3 and then eventually to starting to sell my photographs which justified upgrading to a full frame Canon 6D as well as various studio lights, lenses, bags and so on.

Train photography by Edward M. Fielding
Train photography by Edward M. Fielding

No doubt this is a similar trend. Typically people probably purchase their first serious camera when a child is born which may for may not lead to an obsession that takes them way past taking family photos.

Train photography by Edward Fielding
Train photography by Edward Fielding

But my train obsession has continued although its certainly not my only subject. I’ve shot trains and train tracks, stations, abandoned equipment and lost lines all over New England and even in Canada. From museums to living breathing steam engines on tourist lines.

Train photography by Edward Fielding
Train photography by Edward Fielding

One of my most intimate train experiences came one summer in Connecticut when I was helping my parents move out of their summer home for a permanate move to Florida. In between trips to the Goodwill and the dump, I was able to sneak away and capture some great shots of the Essex Steam train.

Train photography by Edward Fielding
Train photography by Edward Fielding

I shot on the train and from vantage points carefully mapped out along with the train schedule.  By the end of the summer I knew every crossing and every parking spot up and down the Connecticut River from Essex to East Haddam.

Train photography by Edward Fielding
Train photography by Edward Fielding

I got some of my most iconic shots of those great old steam trains that summer and what happened to my model railroad?  Unfortunetly photography bit hard and my poor model railroad sits unfinished waiting for me to get off the real real railroads and back into the attic.

See more great train photography here