Developing Your Photographic Design Skills

Some photographers believe great shots happen mostly by luck – just keep making lots of pictures and you’re bound to get some good ones. It’s true that when you shoot frequently you increase the possibility of a happy accident; a “grab shot” that works, and regularly...

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Art Term: Giclée

One of the most misunderstood, and perhaps controversial, terms you'll hear around the art world is "giclée". It's used in reference to a type of art print and is based on a French word meaning "to spray". A giclée print is an inkjet print; however, there's more to...

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Color Theory: Hue

Hue is a term that refers to the visible color of an object. In art and photography, color pictures are made up of various hues, determined by the wavelength of visible light. You already know the names of many hues; "red", "violet", "tan" and "teal" all describe...

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Art Term: Chiaroscuro

Chiaroscuro is an art term used to describe the appearance of light and dark tones in a picture. It's correctly (and quickly) pronounced "kee-ah-ro-skoo-ro". It's based on words in the Italian language: chiaro means clear, light or bright and scuro means dark, dull or...

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Photo Critique: Out of Business

This photo was submitted by Dan Gerth. I have to say up front that I really like this photograph. And the title really brings it all together. What I like: clean, simple composition with strong graphics and a very well established center of interest. Really nice color...

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Photo Critique: Jemez Mists

This photo was submitted by Dan Gerth. At first glance, the atmospheric effects are sublime, and definitely pique my interest. I love the balance and interaction between the sun-streaked clouds in the middle and the clouds at the top left. These are two very different...

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Photo critique: Yosemite

This photo was submitted by Christy Tebsherani. This photo is bold and dramatic, with a lot of immediate impact. Overall I like the way you handled the composition. There's a lot of depth conveyed by the perspective of the receding mountains, and I like how the focal...

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Photo critique: Statue of Liberty

This photo was submitted by Christy Tebsherani. I like the simplicity of the composition. The Statue is portrayed cleanly and strongly. I like that it's centered, but I wonder if it might be a bit more dynamic if the Statue was placed more to the right, so the flame...

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Photo Critique: Child Portrait

This photo was submitted by Becky Bourget for critique. This is an engaging photo that conveys the spirit of the child. Overall the image looks very sharp and properly exposed. I like that you used a wide aperture to produce a shallow depth of field that keeps the...

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Photo critique – Barn by Kevin Travis

(click for larger image) This photo was submitted by Kevin Travis. It was taken with a Nikon D90, ISO 200, f/22, 1/4 sec. Processed with Adobe Photoshop 7 and Lightroom 3.2. At first glance this photo has great impact; the WOW factor is huge. It has a simple, clean...

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Photo Critique: Apache at Sunset

This photo was submitted for critique by Edward Garner. This is a beautiful image taken near sunset in Afghanistan. I love the simplicity of the compositon and the strong graphics. There is a lot of drama in a shot like this. Looking at the composition, the first...

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Photo Critique: Swinging with the Music

This photo was submitted by Diana Birdwell. I really like the black and white treatment; I think this is a perfect example of a shot that looks great in BW due to the graphic shapes and strong contrast. I also like the title. Good titles are important for photos,...

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Photo critique: Diver

This photo was submitted by Becky Kagan of Pennsylvania. Let me start by saying I love this shot. The combination of a nearly featureless silhouette against an amazing background is simply stunning. What makes this image strong is its simplicity. The subject is...

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Photo critique: Manatee

This photo was submitted by Becky Kagan of Pennsylvania. Becky runs a photo/video production company called Liquid Productions that specializes in underwater imaging. (Check out her site; there's some nice work there!) In Becky's photo submission she expressed some...

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Photo Critique: Butterfly

This image was submitted by Diana Birdwell. The subject filling the frame is good; it creates drama and leaves no question about the message and intent of the photo. The backlighting of the wings is beautiful. This is a photo about light, as much as it is about a...

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Photo Critique: Kaanapali Maui

This photo was submitted by Dave Ruybal of Denver, CO. It was made with a Nikon D300. I love how the color and the effect of the light conveys the feeling of being on the ocean at sunset. I can almost smell the breeze! The photographer did a great job of keeping...

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Photo Critique: Pier 39

This photo was submitted by Nate Pinckney of California and was made with a Canon S90 camera. This composition is very well-balanced. The repeating pattern created by the floating docks in the foreground create a very strong, graphical foundation on the bottom portion...

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Photo Critique: Winter in Berlin

This photograph was submitted by Nate Pinckney of California. It was made with an iPhone and processed in Lightroom. I really like the high-key effect of this. (High key images are those that are overall very bright, or light in tone.) It really evokes the feeling of...

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Photo Critique: Macro shot of a frog

Today's photo for critique was sent in by Joe Saladino of Sarasota, Florida: Here are my thoughts: This image has great impact. On first glance it is very striking. Though tiny frogs are a popular subject, and I've seen lots of photos of them, this one is unique and...

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Photo Critique: Riders on the Beach

Alberto submitted this image of a sunset on a beach in Mauritius: My comments: The mood here is wonderful; very serene and I think the shot does a good job of capturing the moment. I like how you've left enough room "in front" of the horse to the left. When you have a...

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Photo Critique: Poppies

This is a good example of choosing the appropriate orientation (horizontal, "landscape" or vertical, "portrait") and aspect ratio (the ratio of length of the two dimensions of the photo). Fig 1: landscape orientation. Note the large area of green at the bottom right....

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Photo critique: Photo of a ghost?

A question from a client: "I took this photo, obviously poor quality, in a building in KY my brother is renovating. So a camera fluke I don't know about, or a ghost?" My reply: "It looks to me like "lens flare". It's caused by very bright light bouncing around inside...

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Taking Creative Control

I believe that taking control over the creative process as well as the technology is very helpful when learning to create better photographs. It's ironic... once you've got everything under control, you can really let loose creatively. The results can be profound. If...

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More About Writing

A few days ago I posted an article about the importance of writing about your work in order to improve it and to be able to more easily talk about your work to others. Another suggestion: look deeper. Closer. Harder. More intensely. And then back off again. Control...

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Writing About Your Photography Work

Many of my students as me how they can make their photographs better. Usually, my answer is "put it into words". When you write words about your photography it lets a different part of your brain engage in the creative process. Jotting down notes about your creative...

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