I’m A Photographer

March 23rd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

In My Photographic Opinion

Have you ever been asked, “Are you an amateur or pro photographer?”

I have often thought about this question. It is almost as popular as the camera question: “What camera do you use?” Most of the time it does not concern me, but there are those occasions when it rubs me the wrong way.

Labels have always been a part of human history. It is a way of identifying and being identified. Not all labels bad, but sometimes they can create negative emotions or divisions in people.

The labels in question are used to describe photographers, and they have often been used to divide them. An insecure photographer will often use it to create classes and leverage themselves over other photographers, especially in the realm of opinion. This was clearly a trend during the 19th and 20th centuries. But, as we have entered the 21st century, we have seen an explosion in education and collaboration amongst photographers, and an ever decreasing line between pro and non-pros.

When I am asked whether I am a pro or amateur, I simply say that I am a photographer. I say it unapologetically and boldly. I have also used this label on others when they try to explain themselves. Just say, “I’m a photographer.”

I am not trying to criticize, but simply express my opinion on the matter. I was asked once if I was a pro, and I simply answered, “Yes”. But, they questioned my answer by asking if I got paid. I said, “No”.

I thought about it for a moment and told them that it was like asking whether I was a prostitute or a lover. Both do the same thing, but one gets paid to do it. They laughed and saw my point. I do not think professional photographers are prostitutes, but it was the closest analogy I had to prove my point.

What are your thoughts? I’d like to hear them. Remember, do not be afraid to call yourself a photographer.

iPhone Photography Discussion On Camera Campus

March 22nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I listen to many podcasts while I work during the day, and 90% are photography related. As you can tell, I love photography, so I choose to listen to as much as I can. This helps my day go quickly, and I learn more by listening to others and by staying up to date with the latest news.
20120322-181451.jpgOne of the podcasts I listen to is produced by Keith Tharp called Camera Campus. Keith is a New Hampshire photographer, and he also co-hosts two other podcasts called Tiny Shutter and The Lens Wipe with Marc Sadowski.

Check him out at http://www.cameracampus.com

And, you can hear our conversation here:


Gray Cards

March 5th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

20120303-235205.jpgGray cards are an important tool in a photographers arsenal. They serve two purposes:

1. Exposure
2. White Balance

Ansel Adams helped develop the Zone System that consists of 10 stops of light from black to white. (You can google the Zone System for more information) Zone 5 is considered middle gray or 18% gray. Since cameras (as of yet) can only capture half the zones in an image, the photographer has to choose which zones that would give the best exposure.

Cameras and Light Meters (reflective) are programmed to meter a scene at 18% Gray, but not every scene or object has a gray to meter. The camera or light meter will try to give an approximate reading, but it can often be incorrect. The best choice in this scenario is to spot meter a gray card that is reflecting the light back at the camera or light meter.

20120304-001414.jpgHow do you use it? Let us use the image above as an example. I set a bowl against a dark background and had it sit under a 100 watt shop light using my iPhone camera. As you can see, my iPhone auto exposed the scene and blew out the bowl since the scene was mostly dark. The meters will lighten a dark scene and darken a light scene.

20120304-002221.jpgStart by placing the card in front of your subject. The light reflecting off the card will give a true reading of middle gray, and the photographer can choose the exposure needed.

20120304-002824.jpgI selected the X on the card, with my iPhone, because the focus requires contrasting elements to lock on to, and it was also one of the lightest parts of the card. A slr camera and light meter is different. The spot meter is aimed at the gray for a reading, and the photographer can focus on the X or remove the card and focus on the object.

20120304-003727.jpgRemove the card, and start taking pictures. You may need to adjust the card for better readings, but for the most part, your exposure should be correct.

As for the white balance, the gray card has also changed the color temperature to make the colors true. Tungsten, fluorescent, LED, sun, moon, and other types of light have their own color temperatures that can change the look of an image. White balance is different with each camera, so refer to your owners manual for more information.

Give the gray card a try, and you will be amazed at the differences that are made to you’re images.

Shadows And Light

March 3rd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

20120303-105724.jpgShadows are a blessing and a curse in photography. A good photographer will use them to their advantage.

Camera – iPhone 3GS
Capture App – Native Camera

Synonymous Oxymoron

February 16th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Non-Photography Post

There is a word going around that I refuse to use, and I cringe just thinking of using it in this article. It is very popular with Teens and Tweens, but this concept is not new among youths.

Generations of teenagers have taken common words and ‘reinvented’ them with their own meaning and use. Words like ‘boss’, ‘righteous’ , ‘cool’, and ‘bad’ come to mind, but this one, in particular, is different. I had never heard it before (and really hoped it would die faster than it was thought up) and had no clue what it meant. I thought it was unique until today. That word is Swag (I just threw up in my mouth to get rid of the bad taste).

This word, for lack of better words, is an insult to my intelligence, and I have been fortunate not to have people use it in my presence. That was until today when it was used by a 59 year old man.

I was shocked! But, I had to hear his explanation. He was getting ready to dig around my telephone and fiber cables, and we were talking about engineers and how things on paper don’t always line up in the field. There was an approximate number of feet that needed to be dug for the job to be completed, and Mike said that they use to call ‘approximations’, SWAG in the old days.

I asked him what it meant, and he said it stood for: Scientific Wild Ass Guess

I laughed. He probably thought I was nuts, but I told him he made my day. All I could think about was that swag was synonymous with an oxymoron and how it was not an original word. I told him that kids were using it today, and that I has no idea what it meant.

I take words and their meanings seriously. These word trends come and go, but we will have to suffer through it. I know there will be other worthless use of syllables that will spew from the mouths of our youth, but I really hope this one will soon be forgotten.

Why You Need A Battery Grip

February 13th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

20120213-144106.jpgHave you ever been out photographing and ran out of battery power? I have. Luckily I don’t have clients depending on me to get the images, but it is an inconvenience especially if you traveled to get them.

One of the first things I did was buy a backup battery for good measure, but that is no guarantee either. My next purchase was a battery grip, and I found a couple bonus features that came with it.

20120213-145513.jpgThe first thing I observed was the portrait shutter button. This took some getting use to, but it was not a game changer. The kit also came with a remote and AA holder which I found very nice. This is not a Canon kit but an aftermarket kit. Not all kits come with a remote or a battery holder.

The remote is great for self-portraits or remote triggering for long exposures when you want to eliminate camera shake. The camera has a timer that can allow you to do the same thing, but it usually takes 10-15 seconds. All of these are great options, but they do not compare to the AA battery tray.

20120213-151419.jpgThe battery tray holds 6 AA Batteries and fits in the same slot of the camera batteries. This is huge. Remember when I mentioned a scenario where both camera batteries can go dead? Well, with the battery tray you can continue shooting with AA Batteries.

20120213-152142.jpgI would use this option as a last resort, but it is an option I would not have if I did not have a battery grip. AA Batteries can get expensive if you use them all the time. The initial cost for rechargeable is greater than disposable batteries, but in the long run they last longer and trash less.

So, keep these options in mind when you look for a battery grip. Remember, the difference between getting the shot or not can be six AA Batteries.

IG Exorcist

February 12th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink


Alright. For those of you who know, I am a huge Instagram fan, and I have many praises for it simplicity and usefulness. There are many things that I can write that I personally do not like, but I will feature one with a solution.

IG Ghosts. What are IG Ghosts? Instagram Ghosts are users who are there and not there at the same time. Meaning, Instagram users will friend you because they want to ‘follow’ as many people as possible. While they collect their next follow, they neglect to actually view or interact with the ones they already have.

Why would someone do that, you ask? They want to become ‘popular’. The likelihood that you get on the popular page increases when your following increases.

Lets use a 10% rule. If you ‘follow’ 10,000 users, then it is safe to say that 1000 (10%) will follow back. Out of that thousand, 100 (10%) will ‘like’ your crappy images. One hundred ‘likes’ will get you on the popular page. This line of thinking plagues teenagers and adults whose goal is to have their face, ‘wisdom’, or crappy images on the popular page.

So, what is the IG Exorcist? This is a site that accesses your IG account and looks through your followers for inactivity (ghosts). It was created by Michael Landers aka @mykel on Instagram. The site goes back 180, 120, 90, and 60 days and categorizes the ghosts into 4 separate reports for your viewing. Here is an example:

20120212-102836.jpg(this is an image of the people I follow because I already vanquished my ghosts)

How does it remove them? I contacted the developer and he told me that the program blocks and unblocks the ghosts to remove them from your account. He said that you can do it in the app yourself just that the program does it faster. I took some screenshots prior to and after the exorcism that you’ll see below:



This is an awesome solution to an annoying (not life threatening) problem. The process took about an hour because there were 76 users before me. I do not foresee this taking as long in the future as the number of users who use it plateaus, and I will probably do this every new year to maximize the process.

The site does ask to log into your account, so always take into consideration who or what you let have access. I was pleasantly surprised on how accurate and easy it was to vanquish my ghosts, so I highly recommend giving it a try.

You can check the site out and read more about it by going to: http://www.igexorcist.com

The Other Popular Page

February 2nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I have really been ragging lately on Instagram’s popular page and for good reason. It’s like being stuck in a school with a bunch of teenagers. No offense to teenagers, but there are better things to do than listen to your problems and or philosophy (sometimes there is no distinguishing of the two) or look at feeds of your face or underwear.

But, lately I have found inspiration from an alternative to the popular page. There are two options at the top of the News page labeled Following/You. The ‘You’ page shows all the likes and messages you have received, while the ‘Following’ shows the likes and messages that are sent from the people you follow.


Following is the alternative popular page. Here is the method of my madness. The Popular Page give the user no control over what images populate the page. There is no criteria or delete measures, only ‘likes’. These ‘likes’ are given out recklessly by individuals because they want followers, and followers ‘likes’ are what propel you to the popular page.


Here’s the pièce de résistance. The Following page is populated by photographers you have chosen to follow. They have images that are excellent, and in turn, they are following other great photographers also. The images they ‘like’ can help you find inspiring images and photographers without being contaminated by the nonsense on the popular page.

Go there and check it out. You will be amazed by the quality, and hopefully be inspired at the same time.


The Photographers Best Friend

January 26th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

‘The Photographers Best Friend’ is a bold statement to make, but you may find some truth to it when this post is complete.


What am I talking about? The gray card. In 1999, I took a photography class in college. It was an introductory to photography course that took us into the darkroom where we used film and developed out images. Besides the film and camera, we were required to purchase a set of gray cards, and believe me, they were not cheap.

There were two 8×10 and one 4×5 cards in the set, but over the years I have lost both 8×10 cards. The camera I used in the class was the AE-1 Program camera, and it had a decent light meter built into the camera. In order to get the correct exposure reading, you needed to fill the frame with the gray card, but today’s cameras have the spot metering option which I use primarily.

Lets look at a couple reasons of why you need a gray card. First, our cameras are programmed to meter a scene at 18% or middle gray, but not every scene is balanced enough, between the highlights and the shadows, to capture the correct exposure. Second, each and every scene has a light source that gives off a different color balance that can effect the lighting of the image.

The gray card is rated at 18% or middle gray, and our cameras have a reflective metering system. So, with the correct metering, we can establish the correct exposure for or subject or scene.

Here is how you use the gray card:


Place the card in front of your subject or scene so the light reflects back towards your camera. Do you notice how the camera exposes the background and blows out the cards?


Select the area of the gray card until the correct exposure is obtained. As you can see, the background darkens and the cards have been exposed correctly.

Let me give you an example using a model car on my couch.


As we saw with the first image, the background has blown out the subject because it is dark, but as you will see below, we can correct the exposure with the gray card.


The background has darkened, and it will not distract you from the subject. After you have locked down the correct exposure, you can capture a series of images without having to meter with a gray card every time, but if you make any adjustments, it would be smart to re-meter the scene.



Here is a last thought on this subject. Without the gray card, you can select an area the would be considered 18% gray, and you would be able to capture a great image. I will select the pavement when I’m shooting cars or the grass for landscapes. Depending on the conditions I will usually need to make corrections in post.

Try this out for yourself, and you will be amazed on how your images will improve.

iPhone Studio Camera

January 25th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Personal Project: Maximizing My Photography With Minimalism

Here is an idea that you probably have never thought of: iPhone Studio Camera. You may be thinking to yourself, “This has already been done.”, and you would be correct.

When the iPhone4 came out, there were professional photographers who took it into the studio and created beautiful images. But, how many iPhone users are actually able to have their own studios?

Not only am I going to share how I can create a low budget studio, I’m also going to show you how you can get great shots from an iPhone 3GS.


Here is an image of bananas. The image is simple with the subject off center and contrasted against the background.


Here is a bottle of hand soap. These are simple images that are easy to setup and make, and I did them all from my living room couch.


Both images were shot on my dark blue couch. I set up a 100 watt shop light on my tripod, and I set the exposure with a 4×5 gray card. (My next post will go into depth on the use of a gray card and how it can greatly improve your photography.)

What did I learn from this experience? First, I did not have to rent space or build elaborate sets in order to create great images. Second, you do not need top of the line gear to create great images. I have film and digital slr cameras that can out perform the iPhone, but I have the same capability that will fit in my pocket.