July 14, 2018 - July 20, 2018
I have written many
times about your producing ‘impact’ in your photographs, and not just
‘record’ shots. I have also written about choosing your best shots for
display. Helmut Newton believed that his photographs were meant to be seen –
not stored away forever.
Newton was one
photographer whose work is characterized by ‘Impact’. He turned fashion
photography on its ear in the 1960s with his extremely confrontational
images, and has left the world the most amazing photographic book, called
“Sumo” - a tome which weighs in at 66 kg and costs USD100. Even some of his
previous works which are now out of print can fetch large sums. I have one
of his books published in 1984 called “World without men” which is currently
valued in the USA at $50. And, no, it is not for sale!
Newton is a unique
character. Born in Berlin in 1920, he was the son of well to do Jewish
parents and was apprenticed to the studio of Yva when he was 16. However,
two years later with hostilities looming and his father arrested by the
Gestapo, Newton was sent to Australia in 1938.
After the war he
resumed his photographic work gaining some international clients and then
moved to Paris in 1961. His hard edged approach to his fashion shoots stood
him apart from the others of the day, as well as his exacting perfectionism
in the actual taking of the photographs.
In 1971 he suffered a
heart attack and gave up the impossible time schedules he used to take upon
himself with the fashion houses’ showings, and embarked on a style of
photography that was personally pleasing for him. That style was even more
confrontational, with women fighting often being a recurrent theme, and
erotic images and cynicism showing through in his fashion shots.
Some of Newton’s work
has been labeled pornographic, but he refused to admit to a definite
demarcation between the erotic and the pornographic. He just has an eye for
the image that will produce the most impact, and even the fashion shot
published here has that powerful presence about it.
A portrait done by
Helmut Newton will not be an airbrushed soft focus beauty shot, but will be
something like the one of Paloma Picasso - powerful and traffic stopping. As
I wrote at the start of this article, Newton’s work has “Impact”.
Now while many will say
that Paloma’s portrait is “art”, Newton himself had no time for the “Fine
Art” school of photography. Speaking about those photographers he said, “I
admire their steadfastness but often find their pictures boring. I have to
thank the ‘consumer society’ for whatever success I have had, not
foundations, museums or grants.” He spoke further, “When I take pictures I
don’t do it just for myself, to put away in a drawer. I want as many people
as possible to see them.”
In his lifetime, Helmut
Newton the photographer has become an icon for many, and the legion of
photographers who have copied his style are also a tribute to him. When
Newton adopted the ring flash, used in medical photography, to his fashion
shots, sales in ring flashes went wild. However, none have the sharp edged
way of presenting the subject matter as did Helmut Newton.
Initially, he worked in
Black and White, but in later years showed that he could produce just as
much impact in color. Newton’s images remain as some of the most powerful
shots of women ever published and every one full of impact.
July 7, 2018 - July 13, 2018
12 Rules for 12 months
Last week we went through 10 tips for
amateur photographers. This week I will add to the professionals’ tips by
suggesting 12 rules for 12 months. These came from a similar article I wrote
20 years ago, and all of them are still very important if you want to
continue to improve.
In no particular order, by following
these “rules” you will improve your picture taking.
1. Shoot more
2. Walk closer
3. Use the focus lock
4. Buy a tripod
5. Have more than one memory stick
6. Make enlargements of your better
7. Use different formats
8. Use a polarizing filter
9. Carry your camera with you
10. Use the flash during the day
11. Develop a project
12. Change the batteries
Let’s expand on these somewhat.
Shooting more images - photography, like any sport, recreation or pursuit is
something where the more you do it and practice it, the better you get. That
just means shooting more and improve by doing. Capturing an image is really
the cheapest part of photography, especially when you compare it to the
purchase price of a half decent camera. Shoot more!
The one major fault in most amateur
photographs is taking the shot from too far away. The “hero” becomes so
small in the final image that is it no longer the hero. Make the subject the
“hero” and walk in several meters closer to make the hero fill the frame.
Don’t be lazy and use the zoom instead of walking closer.
With modern auto-focus cameras the most
obvious focussing problem is where the subject is off-center. The magic
electronic eye doesn’t know this and focuses on the center being background,
leaving your close-up subject soft and blurry. Focus on the subject and keep
your finger depressed on the focus lock while arranging the shot.
Tripods we covered recently, but one of
these will expand your picture taking no end. Get a good quality sturdy
tripod, not one of the cheap aluminium ones.
Memory sticks/cards, always have one in
the camera and another safely in the camera bag. Trying to delete images on
the fly is not the way to winning pictures.
Another thing to keep your interest
going and give you pride in your work is to make some enlargements of your
better photos. At around 100 baht for most places, this is very cheap and
enlargements do make good presents at Xmas time too.
We all get lazy and it is too easy to
end up just taking every picture in the horizontal (landscape) format.
Always take two shots of each subject - one in the horizontal format and the
other in the vertical. You can get some surprising results that way. Don’t
be lazy - do it every time!
With color photography, which covers
about 99.99 percent of most people’s pictures these days, the one major
factor to give your skies and seas and scenery some color oomph is the use
of a polarizing filter. Get one and use it.
You will always miss some “classic”
shots and regret it later, but you certainly will never get them if you
don’t have a camera with you. With so many incredible sights around Pattaya
you should be photographically ready at all times!
To give your daytime shots some extra
sparkle, use “fill-in” flash. Most new cameras have a little setting that
will do this automatically for you - even with point and shooters. If you
haven’t, then spend some time learning how to do it. It’s worth it when you
see the results you get.
To give yourself the impetus to go out
and take photos, develop a project and spend your leisure time building up
the images. It can be flowers or fashion, cars or canaries, but fix on
something and follow it through. It’s worth it, just for the fact that it
makes you become an “enquiring” photographer.
Finally, every year at the end of
December, give the camera a birthday by buying it some new batteries. You
won’t have a problem damaging the sensitive innards with neglected battery
acid and the camera’s light metering system will work correctly every time.
June 30, 2018 - July 6, 2018
Getting involved in photography
There is so much more to photography
than “You Press the Button, We Do the Rest” which was George Eastman’s Kodak
advertising in 1888. These days, you can do it all by yourself, no waiting.
However, you can produce better photographs if you follow some of these tips
from a selection of pro shooters:
Photography is combination of art,
science and technology. And don’t forget serendipity, not all great shots
work out, and not all great shots were worked out first.
Photography is a wide field with
various ranges of expertise – from complete beginners to established
experts. If you’re just starting out, you can enjoy the knowledge
accumulated by professionals over the years as you learn and improve your
skills. One of my teachers-on-the job, always said that photography was the
only skill he knew where people paid you to learn.
Here is the first and very easy tip.
Hold the camera tightly, not holding it outstretched or with one hand, while
counting down “one-two-three” in any language you like. Brace yourself, stop
breathing as you squeeze the shutter button, and brace yourself against a
telephone pole or wall if you can. Don’t be distant, keep the camera close
to you and maintain maximum stability.
If you find you are getting “soft”
photos because of camera movement, you can stop this by mounting the camera
on a tripod and using a remote shutter release. This will stop camera
Another tip involves using flash during
the day, and not relying on available light. Shooting with flash during
sunlight helps the camera to deal with unexpected natural light that may be
coming from the worst possible direction. This works especially well if you
shoot against a very bright light (backlighting).
Move yourself and the camera to give
you different perspectives. There is nothing to be gained by taking the same
shot 10 times. Try different angles and positions: Don’t set your mind on
just one position. Be agile as you shoot and experiment with different
angles. You don’t know for sure which one will bring you the winning shot.
Moving around will also teach you a lot about the strengths and weaknesses
of the different positions.
The zoom lens is for lazy
photographers. Zoom with your legs. Need a close up? Move in closer. Zoom
can be a great feature (especially if you have professional gear, which most
beginners don’t), but zooming can reduce quality. Walking a couple of meters
closer will produce better shots.
Now to the thorny subject of “post
production” and Photoshop and similar applications. There is still a feeling
in the photographic community that post production is somehow “cheating”. It
isn’t, but you should look critically at the final image. Too much
photoshopping gives an ‘unreal’ result, which people do not like. The best
to do is to begin by using the application to use it as a cropping tool. And
do it through a memory card direct from your camera to the computer.
The best photographers in the world
also use technology to enhance their works. Using photo editing tools will
help you get more out of your images, and also help you understand contrast,
colors, light and other important photography elements.
Here is a different idea for your
photography. Don’t delete images direct from your camera. Regardless of how
terrible a photo may seem to you on the tiny preview screen of your camera,
please have the patience to wait and view it in normal resolution on your
monitor screen before making any rash decisions. Even if it is a bad photo,
watch it to learn from your mistakes. Some judicious cropping might even
help resurrect the shot.
Finally, just shoot! Don’t overthink
it, don’t be hesitant and don’t try to save time. Just shoot as much as you
can. You learn by experimenting and you gain confidence by doing. On the way
you also take a few awesome photos. You are using a digital device, so it
doesn’t even cost you anything! Make your camera work. It’s the best way to