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Update July 2018


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SNAP SHOTS   by Harry Flashman

 

July 14, 2018 - July 20, 2018

Helmut Newton

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 prints

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. Cheap insurance.


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 movement.

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 improve.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Helmut Newton

12 Rules for 12 months

Getting involved in photography
 

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