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Update June 2017

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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern

SNAP SHOTS   by Harry Flashman


Update June 24, 2017

Making money with your camera

The subject should jump out at you!

Yes it can be done! You can make a small fortune out of photography - provided you start with a large one.

I listened to a BBC radio program the other day, and they mentioned Cartier-Bresson’s photo library called Magnum (not after the ice cream) which has now been going 70 years. To get your photographs into Magnum is difficult; however, even amateur weekend photographers can make some money with their cameras, but they have to understand the marketplace first. It is no good trying to sell a beautifully exposed photo of hydroponic tomatoes growing in magic broth to a magazine called the Bird Fanciers monthly.

Research the market by going to the bookshops and get a feeling for what is on offer. Then find a subject that interests you and after that start planning your own photo shoots. All that research needs to be done before you even think about the hardware (cameras and tripods) you are going to need.

For anyone starting off, look for magazines and brochures that cover travel. Look at the stock photos of palm trees leaning out over the water from a tropical beach. Seen one, seen them all, but still you should try and get some shots like that for your own portfolio.

Next in the travel pic grab bag are ceremonies. The Vegetarian ceremonies that include demented people sticking rods through their cheek and tongues will always have a market somewhere – and they have these ceremonies in Thailand, so you are miles ahead of your brother photographers in Europe, who only get castles and woods in winter.

In fact, the tropical lifestyle will always be a ready market for good photographs. Note that I said “good”, snapshots are very rarely “good” enough.

The saffron clothed monks remain ideal subjects, especially as you can get one on the corner of your street any morning. Just don’t intrude. A long lens is best for those sorts of pictures. Of course, the temples themselves offer the photographer endless subjects to photograph. But try to get a different viewpoint of a very well photographed subject.

All the images mentioned above must also have another common feature. They must be well exposed and sharp as a tack. Art directors or photo-editors may need to enlarge the image, by 100 percent or even more. You must be 100 percent sure that the subject of the photograph is in focus. Near enough is not good enough! If you are shooting medium format, you can generally expect to get sharp pictures, but the lenses on modern 35 mm equivalent are more than adequate.

That brings me to the next ‘must have’ piece of equipment – a good heavy tripod. You will always get sharper pictures with the camera locked onto a strong tripod. The el cheapo light aluminium things are quite useless for the job you will want of them. I have used a Manfrotto for 30 years and it is still good, despite the scratches that they get from plane holds, rail travel and going twice around the world. Get a good one and don’t try and cheat yourself with the bottom of the market ones.

Similarly, while chasing sharpness, you must have some good lenses, otherwise your work is compromised before you begin. I am not going to join the debate about after-market lenses. Some of them, I am sure, are excellent – but not all of them.

Previously I have mentioned zoom lenses versus prime lenses. The pro marketplace tends towards prime lenses and to avoid zooms. The purist in me agrees, but again I think much will depend upon the subject being shot, and where it will end up.

In my previous life I used 6x6 Hasselblad and had the complete system. (My transparencies were always met with smiles, but I found I could dupe 35 mm transparencies up to 6x6 and still get the same smiles.)

To sell a photo it must tell the story it is illustrating, and it must be sharp. Good luck with the Fancy Birds!

Finally, try and get a copy a Richard Sharaburra’s book, “Shooting Your Way to a Million”. The best textbook you will ever buy. Long out of print, but try Amazon.

Update June 17, 2017

Getting great glamor

You want to take ‘glamor’ shots? Well better master the ‘Golden Glow’ first. And before getting the Golden Glow get some massage oil as well.

I am writing this with reference to Thai models, rather than European ones, which have their own quirks as well.

Let’s use the massage oil first. This is used everywhere that is not covered by clothing, The oiled skin reflects light and increases the light to dark ratio, to give the model’s body a much more tactile sense.

Now to get the Golden Glow, with the model positively ‘glowing’ with health and vitality and have you ever wondered whether people actually look like that? This is actually another photographic ‘trick’ but one that you can use to your own advantage. A trick that will cost you less than 100 baht for the equipment and three minutes to master.

The ‘golden glow’ that comes from the subject in the photo is really just reflected golden light, bounced back on to the subject. People shots benefit from this warm healthy look and when you use the technique properly, and the results can be spectacular.

Now in the photographic sense, the natural golden glow comes in the late afternoon, with the sun getting low on the horizon. There are good scientific reasons why this is so, but here is not the place to discuss them. Just accept the fact that late afternoon sun is the “warm” time. Take pictures at this time of day and you will get that golden glow – but our photographic trick will allow you to get that warm golden glow at any time of day – and control it as well, something you cannot do so easily with the sun as your light source! The celestial light technician can hide behind clouds at any time. And you will be able to produce this lighting even indoors.

What you have to do is build a light reflector that reflects that warm color. Go to the newsagent and get some gold foil paper. The sort of wrapping paper you use for wedding gifts. It may be embossed or patterned, and in fact it is better if it is, but must be gold in color. Glue the gold paper on to a sheet of cardboard or polystyrene sheet approximately one meter square. You do not have to be deathly accurate or neat. If the surface gets a little ‘scrunched up’ that is fine too. Your capital outlay is probably around 50-100 baht. Not bad, so far!

Now you have a reflector, which if you play with it near a window for example, will shine “gold” on to any subject. You are now ready to impart that golden glow.

The best photos for this exercise are people shots taken outdoors, with the sun behind the subject. This we call ‘back lit’. You will find that the subject’s hair becomes very bright around the edges, almost like a ‘halo’ effect.

Now for the addition of the golden glow. To do this, you position your reflector to shine some sunlight back towards the subject (that is why the sun should be behind the subject). Prop the reflector in the best position to give the degree of golden glow you want (I generally just prop it up with the camera bag, or you can get an assistant to hold it for you) and look through the viewfinder. See what a difference this makes? The ugly chin shadow has gone as the light is coming upwards, and the subject now looks brilliantly glowing and healthy. The one meter square reflector will also impart catch lights to eyes to make them sparkle as well. The end photo has shiny hair, bright eyes and a golden complexion radiating warmth. A fabulous glamor picture.

Now, the downside! It is more difficult to get the correct exposure setting in the backlit situation. If your camera has a Backlight button, then use it. If not, walk in close to the subject so that the persons face fills the frame, and take your exposure reading from there. Use the exposure lock, or just memorize the readings and put them in on manual mode. It is worth it.

Update June 10, 2017

Good points and bad points with smartphones

This is not the future, this is now

Just as digital cameras changed the photographic world, so did smartphones 20 years later. In fact, smartphones have all but killed the low end of the compact camera market. So why are they so popular?

At the outset I should also admit that I own a smartphone. I also admit that it is a lot smarter than me. Fortunately I have children to show me the ‘smartness’ of it all, and they are kind enough not to complain when I need another dose of the ‘smarts’. Yes, smartphone is here to stay. Have you noticed that your spell checker accepts ‘smartphone’ (all one word) when it used to be initially ‘smart phone’ (two words).

The first good point with smartphones is you are likely to have one in your pocket at all times – unless it is too big and you keep it in your handbag (or manbag). Those ‘once in a lifetime’ shots are yours for the taking, provided you remember to shoot it and the battery is charged! Because of its size it is also easy to carry around; however, here’s the first drawback. If it is very small to be portable, the screen size is also very small, so all the hype about watching movies, is just that – hype. To get the larger screens you have to invest in a smartphone ‘tablet’ or ‘iPad’. Neither of which is particularly portable because of the larger size.

Of course one of the initial plus points for digital anythings, is the ability to get instant gratification. That is the prime requirement of all three year olds. We were supposed to grow out of that, but instead we grew to adulthood with the need, and now the ability, to see your photos instantly, and then upload the image to other smartphone users, or people who can access your electronic images. Like the barber shop needing three chairs working and no waiting. Nobody wants to wait anymore!

One very negative point with smartphones is the almost universal fascination of looking at the small screen while walking along, not seeing anyone in front of you, in fact not seeing anyone else at all. And getting killed.

Smartphones really are killers, when you think about it. Not only have they killed the compact camera, but also killed personal communication. Look at couples in a restaurant, flicking through their messages and not talking to each other. I particularly liked the cartoon of a restaurant notice board saying “Sorry. No WiFi. Try talking to each other.”

The third demerit, as far as I am concerned is an acceptance of the mediocre. Smartphones just give you ‘record’ shots. An ability to change the depth of field has been lost. Stopping motion has been lost. In fact, any creative instinct is not transferred to smartphones. And if you really want something dreadful, try using one of those after market “wide angle” lenses!

But the battle hasn’t stopped there. The smartphone people are continuing to be smarter. Remember all those ‘soft’ out of focus shots you took and didn’t retake at the time because you couldn’t see how blurry they were on your small screen? The latest technology can correct what you took, and like the electronic filters that gives you ‘sharp’, ‘sharper’ and ‘sharpen edges’, this new technology does it for you in the smartphone!

The new technology is also ready to fix the small screen problems. Imagine a screen that opens out like a folded piece of paper, to give you a large screen, then folds to go back into the handbag (or manbag – another silly name).

Samsung has been awarded patent rights for a foldable screen.

Patent for a design of such a fold-out smartphone which would curiously put Lenovo in a rather dangerous position as they have been touting a foldable smartphone already this year.

No, we have not seen the end point of smartphone abilities, the big names are working on all the problems right now. Be prepared.

However, they will never displace the photographic eye. You!

Update June 3, 2017

The Photojournalist’s creed

Just by being at the “scene”, photojournalists can have a problem with morality and ethics. The following test shows just how much stress there can be for these photographers. Think carefully before answering.

The situation: You are in Pattaya. There is chaos all around you caused by the hurricane with severe flooding. You are a photojournalist working for a major newspaper and you are recording this epic disaster.

Suddenly, you see a man in the water. He is fighting for his life, trying not to be taken down with the debris through the tunnel. You suddenly realize it is a well known violent criminal on the run. You notice that the raging waters are about to take him under.

You have two options:

(1)You can save the life of this man – or -

(2) You can shoot a dramatic Pulitzer Prize winning photo, documenting the death of one of the country’s most despised, evil and powerful men!

Now the question, and give an honest answer (nobody can see you)!

Would you select high contrast color, or just go with the classic simplicity of black and white?

So now, to be sensible after that little chuckle, the job of a photojournalist is to get back to the editor with a usable photograph of some event, be that a fire, a debutante ball or the Combined Chambers of Commerce networking night.

The photojournalist’s creed of “f8 and be there,” may have come from Arthur H. Fellig, known as ‘Weegee’. Born in Poland in 1899, he came to America in 1909. He worked for a few studios and then got a job in the darkroom at Acme Newspapers. Life in the newspaper business is always exciting and frantic. Arthur H. Fellig reveled in that excitement. He had found his niche. He was only 21 years old but he decided he was going to be a freelance news photographer.

He soon became known as the first on the scene of any newsworthy happening, be that fire, murder, suicide or landslide. He was so uncannily aware of what was happening that people began to feel he had some kind of psychic powers of prediction. At that time, America was also in the middle of a Ouija (“Weegee”) Board fad and from this Fellig was to adopt his nickname “Weegee”.

Of course, Weegee was not psychic, but just used to sleep fully clothed, with a police radio on his pillow. In the boot of his car was his “office”, complete with typewriter to knock out the words, spare film and lots of flash bulbs. Weegee would arrive, record the shot, type the words and have everything on the editor’s desk within the hour. It was no wonder that Weegee was so popular with the news media of the day. (He would be even more popular today!)

By 1935, Life magazine was doing features on Weegee and his work. There was no doubt about the fact that he had the photographic “eye”, but for Weegee, the subject was the all important part of the photograph. And the subject he dealt with was done incredibly directly. Weegee was not one to be horrified by the sights before him, such as gangland killings. He took the shot that kept that horror for the eyes of the newspaper readers the next day. (Interestingly, that direct, confrontational photographic style is still used in the Thai language papers today – check any front pages for graphic images.) Another quote from this amazing man, “I like to get different shots and don’t like to make the same shots the other dopes do.” When asked what his formula was he replied, “I just laugh. I have no formula, I’m just myself, take me or leave me. I don’t put on an act. I don’t try to make a good or bad impression. I’m just Weegee.”

Weegee will be remembered for his record of the seamier side of New York life. This was put into book form, called the Naked City and was published in 1945. Unfortunately, the wide public recognition that came from this book ended the directly grotesque nature of his images and Weegee went to Hollywood where tinsel-town swallowed him up. He died in 1969.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Making money with your camera

Getting great glamor

Good points and bad points with smartphones

The Photojournalist’s creed



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