The Art Of Creative Photography:Chapter 4


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So now you are ready to step out your door and start taking pictures. You have your chosen camera, you have the software you need to edit and have learned how to use it, and you have the mindset for taking these photos. So let’s step out the door and get some photos.

In this photo the background was everything. The couple up above the pond were there with another photographer but I grabbed this picture and removed the other photographer. I think the end result was worth it.

We know we can shoot everything and we know what the strengths our particular area provides. So let’s go visit some of those strengths and get some photos. But wait, you can’t just walk up to your subject and snap a photo. Well, technically we could do just that, but that is not the goal. The goal is to create something interesting and different for people to see.

With that in mind, let’s take a photo of this local statue we have found. We know nobody who lives outside the area has seen this. But we also know that most people have seen plenty of statues. So what can we do to make this statue more unique? What can we do to make this statue worth examining? The answer to these questions is one word…composition.

In this photo the lighting was everything. The framing of the photo is perfect but what really sets it apart is the light being prominent on only the right side.

When shooting a photo of any subject it’s vitally important that we walk around the subject and check each angle for background components. As hard to believe as it may seem, the background of a subject can make or break a photo. Therefore, when a subject catches your eye, the last thing you want to do is to take the picture. You must consider how best to put that subject into the proper frame, the best composition. The right angle will make the subject go from a normal photo into something worthy of people slowing down to really look at the photo.

Obviously, good composition skills are needed and this a subjective matter. However, there are some general principles to consider in creating the best composition. Here is a small, but very important, list of things to consider for a good composition:

1.Background—What is behind your subject? Does it add to the photo or detract from it? Is there something distracting in the background? Can you find an angle that removes that distraction? If you can, move! The background is your subject’s frame, so make sure it is good and does not distract from the subject.

2. Lighting—It is always important to consider where the light is coming from and it’s even more important to film photographers. If the lighting is behind the subject, the end result will often be a subject that is shrouded in shadow. Unless you are trying to do a silhouette, it is important that you move to an angle that puts that light at a different angle. The main goal with this is to make sure the subject is not just well lit but also, if possible, the brightest thing in the photo. The human eye naturally gravitates to the brightest thing in any photo. Most of the time this second part is accomplished in post-editing. However, if you can get it in the camera, it will save extra work later.

3. Angles—Straight lines, diagonal lines, even cross lines add value and interest to a photo. Always look for the chance to get these into a photo. The human eye naturally follows lines of any kind, and anything you can do to get people to look around, and into the photo should be done. This is one of the easiest things to add interest to a photo and you should look for any opportunity to add them.

In this photo the use of angles brings the eye further into the photo and forces people to look around the photo. I also removed distractions from the background to bring the focus back to the angled stones.

4. Color—While the color of a composition is not usually controllable, we can still look for certain color combinations. In art class, most of us learned about complimentary colors and opposite colors. If you do not remember these or never took an art class, learn about these now. Knowing what color combinations work well together can give you an edge over other photographers. Photography is after all, an art form and as such, does require a certain basic amount of art knowledge. It seems like common sense, but you would be surprised at the number of photographers who do not know these basics. Having this knowledge will not only allow you to notice more potential photos, it will aid in post-processing where you might desire to change the color composition of your subject, to make it more impactful and meaningful.

5. Lens—If you only have one lens with you at the time, this is not something you can consider. While sometimes we want to do exercises where we see how creative we can be with one lens, most of the time you want to have as many lenses with us as possible. While the angle is hugely important, the zoom level is even more so. I always recommend that you try to fill the frame, as much as possible, with your subject. Yet, this is not always possible. Certain situations, such as the subject being on someone else’s land or obstructions being in the way; it might become extremely important for you to consider the lens you are using. Will a different lens add to the photo or will it just add distractions? Perhaps the entire scene, such as in landscape photography, is the subject and more of that scene would be better. Consider the composition carefully and then decide if another lens would be of benefit to that photo.

These are the things I consider before every photo and then I make adjustments to angle and positioning (standing, sitting, laying down, leaning, etc.) to create the best possible photo out of my scene.

In this photo color is everything. Without the special tweaking of the colors of this room, it would just be an ordinary room in an old house.

Now that you know what to consider before snapping that photo, go get some photos!

In the next section, we will discuss processing the photos in Lightroom. What applies in Lightroom can also be done in Photoshop, Affinity Photo, or even Viveza (Nik Collection). The buttons and locations will be different but the same adjustments can be done in all of these programs.

In this photo I chose a different lens to enlarge the stumps while still keeping some of the sky in the picture. I think the wide-angle lens used, made the composition of this photo much better.

Thus, I will walk you through what I do to process a digital negative (Raw file or scanned jpeg). You will want and need to know what is important in doing this, if your main goal is to have a print-ready photo. I think whether you are selling these photos or they are just for your own personal gratification, you will want to be able to create a print of it. I will show you how it is done correctly.

If you have not subscribed to my blog, there is no better time. This FREE online course is a must for ANYONE desiring better photos. Take care and thank you for reading!


The Art Of Creative Photography: Chapter 3


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What does it mean to be a creative photographer? What kind of thoughts must a person posses before snapping off their first picture? The answers to these questions might be more simple than you think, but that does not mean anyone can just do this. I will tell you this much. A picture is taken before you even step out your door. Intrigued? Read on!

A certain mindset is required for this kind of work. It needs to be ingrained and it needs to become second nature. The thoughts and feelings you have internally must come out in the pictures you take. In essence, you are the pictures and the pictures become you. By overcoming and throwing away rules, theories and the things others say, you step into a realm of creativity that few others dream of. You do this by having knowledge before you walk out the door. The knowledge gives you the strength and determination to succeed where others dare not go. Focusing on what really matters allows you to cast aside doubts, fears and prejudice. This is where you must be and it is where I will take you today.

This was taken during my Galveston trip on Bolivar Peninsula. Notice how the photo does not focus on the ocean, but rather on a group on people lined up like the Abby Road photo on the Beatles album. The ocean is merely a backdrop.

The mindset of a creative photographer starts with one basic principal. Everything is beautiful, we just need to make it interesting. With this basic principal in mind, we no longer have to look for things to take pictures of. We only need to figure out how to make it interesting. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Aren’t there exceptions to every rule? Some things just are not going to look good no matter what angle or way you edit them. Feces will never look good, shit is just shit! Decay of living beings is not likely going to look good. However, decay of trees, plants and such can look interesting. Here is a example of that:

The above photo was taken with a nifty-fifty lens and a Canon SL1 DSLR camera. This macro shot was taken with this lens, knowing that the background would be blurred and the details of the subject emphasized.

So now that we know that the world is filled with nearly endless things we can take pictures of, how does this affect the way we shoot pictures? Well, to put it simply, it frees us of the ideology that you must find something interesting to shoot. That is not required! Remember everything is beautiful! Thus, before we have walked out our front door, we know we are going to have great pictures because there are far too many things in this world to take pictures of. We will never run out of things to shoot. In fact, you will probably be wishing you could have many lifetimes to try to capture them all.

This photo was taken from the side and I pushed the details to bring a sense of hyper-realism. While this is something most people are able to see, the angle and pushed details makes it much more interesting. This photo is so detailed, in fact, that it takes a few seconds for people to figure out what it is.

So when stepping out the front door to go take pictures, keep in mind that you can take pictures of anything and everything. So that is what you want to do! As a side note, you never have to leave your house, since there are plenty of beautiful things inside too! But, a second principal comes into play and this second principal is nearly as strong and certainly as important as the first one. It is this…you want to show people things they would not normally see. Obviously, most household items are things that most people will have seen unless you have nothing but ancient furniture in your house, lol! So this new principal helps you add on to the first by pointing you in a direction.

While the first principal says everything is beautiful and only needs to be made interesting, the second principal provides direction and narrows down the subject matter some. It says we want to show things that people will not normally see. This second principal is very useful in the way it helps you focus more on what you want to look for. It also provides you with a goal. Lastly, it allows you to play to your strengths. Every area of the world, whether it is be a small farm town or a huge metropolis, has unique features provided by its environment. Knowing this, you can cast aside excuses like ideas that you have to go to a mountain range or some tropical beach to get amazing pictures. You do not have to do any of those things. You simply must play upon the unique features of the area you live in. Not everyone is rich and can afford extravagant trips. The fact is you do not need to. Break free from these thoughts that constrict you. I have made hundreds of great photos without leaving the great state of Texas. You can do this too!

In this photo I took a local abandoned business and made it interesting by changing the style of it. Obviously, nobody is going to ever see purple skies.

When I step out my door, I am going in search of things that highlight the area I live in. Sure, a small fraction of people might have seen a few of this pictures, but the vast majority will not have. When I went to Galveston, I did not take pictures of the beach, I looked for things that most people would not notice. When I went to George Ranch Historic Park it was with the idea in mind that most people will never see anything inside this park. When I went to the old downtown historical areas of Richmond and Rosenberg, it was with this same idea. I played to the strength of things in my area and took pictures of anything that caught my eye, even if for a second. Knowing that everything is beautiful, I only had to make it interesting. This is the frame of mind you must absorb. This is the frame of mind that must be first and foremost in front of any thoughts of photography. This is the mindset you must possess if you want to be a creative photographer.

This era piece is of an 1830 home in George Ranch Historical Park. I had in mind while taking this photo that I wanted to create a photo that looks like it was taken with a camera of the same time period. Obviously, nobody alive today was around in the 1830s.

In the next chapter I will discuss exactly the things that enter the mind while out and about. These little things we consider with each picture. These little things ultimately lead to a big difference in how you shoot a photo and how the final image becomes art. It certainly is not to be missed! If you have not subbed to my blog yet, now is as good a time as any. I hope this chapter gave you an insight into the mind of a creative photographer and that I see you back for the next chapter. Take care and have an amazing day!


The Art Of Creative Photography, Chapter 2


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If anything speaks creative, it is this photo. It is called Alien Pods and has an alien look to it. No, I do not have access to Mars, but I do know my way around software. These are actually septic tanks.:)

What makes a photo creative? There are many ways to look at this question and many ways to answer it. However, there is only one way that is simple and to the point. What makes a photo creative is when the photo travels outside the bounds of reality. When the photo no longer looks similar to the reality that was present, then you have entered into the creative side.

There are many ways this can be accomplished. Sure, different angles and camera techniques can get you into that realm, however, by far the quickest way is through the use of software. I won’t lie to you and say that it is easy. No technique used to create creative photos is going to be easy. Creative photography takes patience and knowledge.

Often photographers learn the hardware but fail to take the time required to learn the software. When this happens you will see, the more you actually look at photos, that their lack of knowledge of the software side of photography shows up in the picture itself. They make mistakes, simple mistakes that if they took the time to learn, would have been easily solved. Their photos have a tendency to look much like everyone else’s. This could have been easily avoided by taking the time to learn.

With these thoughts in mind, let’s now examine the software I use and the why of each application.

This photo was developed completely in Lightroom. I wanted to push the program and just see how far outside of normal I could get and still have something that was interesting to look at.

Lightroom–This is an absolute requirement for creative photography. With this simple program,(when I say simple, I mean simple for me) you can do nearly everything normal that you would like to do with a photo. You can process the RAW file and yes, I always shoot in RAW. The RAW file preserves much more information than a jpeg. This is especially important to creative developing of photos. With Lightroom you can do far more than you can imagine and that is just the program I start with.

In this photo I used photoshop to create a duplicate and flipped the duplicate to create 2 of the model. I then changed the hues to something a bit more pleasant.

Photoshop–Yes, I use the elements version of this software, however, I rarely use it in the way that you would expect. I don’t like to use effects in a photo. I certainly know how. I have been doing graphics for 17 yrs. and used to build websites from scratch with this program used extensively throughout the process. However, much of what Photoshop can do for photos I find Lightroom can do better. Plus Lightroom catalogues all my photos, making it invaluable. I often use this to replace backgrounds or for combining multiple photos. Sometimes, I do actually use the filters, but that is on rare occasions when I am working on creating a pattern.

In this photo I used Affinity Photo to remove an entire barbed wire fence. Look all you like, but you won’t find a hint of that fence.:)

Affinity Photo–This program is cheaper to buy than Photoshop and has nearly all the same features as the full size Photoshop. It opens faster, is more intuitive and all of the tutorials you will ever need to learn how to use it can be found in one place. The tuts are all in video format, they load quickly and are not long and confusing. I use this program for in-painting (removing distracting things from photos), for replacing backgrounds quickly, HDR, and for tonal mapping occasionally. I like the fact that it is cheaper and in general faster than Photoshop.

In this photo I use Nik Collection to change the entire tone of the photo. It was something dismal…an abandoned old business. I used a filter found in this software to change the sky hue and give a more nostalgic look to it overall.

Nik Collection–The is free software now that comes with 6 different applications. I use this mostly for Define 2 (remove noise from photos), Color Effects Pro 4 (mostly for adding detail), Silver Effect Pro (for creating good contrasty black and white photos), and for Output Sharpener Pro 3 (so that my prints will always look their best). There are certain things each one of these applications can do that just can’t be done with Lightroom or Affinity photo. Besides, after spending all my money on equipment and other software, I really love the price of FREE.

On rare occasions, when I cannot get a photo to make me happy, I will toss it in a program called FX Studio. This is a rare thing, but it should be mentioned. This program consists of slightly adjustable filters and nothing else. It only cost me $5 from the Mac store.

Speaking of Mac, I use a Mac to do all of my photo work on. I would only recommend a Mac if you already have other Apple products. They are good products but there are not significant advantages in developing photos on a Mac or PC. None of the photo programs I have mentioned are exclusive to either PC or Mac, so use whatever you have that has the processing power to get the job done.

Now that you are aware of the programs I use, go get some software!!! I would be remiss if I did not say that you must really learn whichever program you use. Like people, programs have their own strengths and weaknesses and this must be learned. There are so many good tutorials on using each of these programs on youtube and other sites. Do your research, find a set of tutorials, and don’t just learn the basics. Milk each tut that you can find. I spent months just watching tuts before I developed a single photo.

The reason for doing that is simple. I know and you should as well, that there are many gifted photographers out there, and every photo you post is competing with them for attention. Of course, you may not be wanting to learn this to sell your photos or to get attention. You might be reading this just because you want to improve the quality of your photos. Whatever your reason for reading, one thing is for certain…knowledge of the software you are using will vastly improve your photos.

Now let’s discuss briefly photo developing on a mobile device. There are so many apps out there for mobile devices, that it is hard to tell which to choose. I won’t say you have to get this one or that one for these apps. They are cheap enough you should get them all! LOL! Seriously though, there are a few programs I do recommend, due mainly to their ease of use and reliability.

I mostly use for my flower macros Photo Toaster. It has enough depth to get a great end photo and is easy to use. I did not have to read anything other than the mini-tutorial the app shows at the beginning of opening it. I use Enlight because it has more options for all kinds of photos. I also use Pixelmator and Afterlight. I have even used on occasion Polarr, PS Express, Photolab, Lightroom Mobile, Brushstroke, Bokeh Photo, Prisma, Tangent, Pixlr and Snapseed. My recommendation is to try a few and find one you like.

Mobile photography can be fun and developing on a phone or tablet does not require quite as much learning. The apps are smaller and have less features, but I have had iPhone 7+ photos get more attention than some of my DSLR photos. If this is the route you are taking toward being a creative photographer just learn the limitations of your device and try to emphasize the strengths with each photo you create.

A photo taken with an Instax camera,scanned at 1200 dpi and then given a slight amount of editing in Lightroom to improve color.

Lastly, those who have chosen to use film for their creative medium, all is not lost for you. Yes, you cannot change the original photo, it’s fate is sealed the minute you press the shutter button. However, any photo can be scanned, even the negatives can be scanned. I have scanned a tiny Instax photo and made it into a full-sized photo of over 2500 x 2500 using a 1200 dpi setting on my scanner. Once a photo is scanned, it can then be opened in one of the above programs mentioned and enhanced. While you don’t have the ability to do exactly the same level of editing, you can fix mistakes and improve the overall photo. So, even for you learning the software will give you more flexibility.

In the next chapter we will discuss the mindset of a creative photographer. It is vitally important that you approach creative photography in a way that is conductive to finding and creating these types of photos. I will explain to you exactly what I think, feel, and do, before I even walk out the door to go photograph.

Get your camera, get your software, learn both! Then come back for chapter 3. It is a not to be missed chapter. I hope you are enjoying reading so far and you have an awesome day!


Don’t Commit Suicide!


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Recently, I was informed that I lack positive messages in my posts here. Of course, anyone who does a little investigation here, will find plenty of poetry and prose of a positive nature. However, due to recent events(read previous article) I have to decided to share the wisdom of old age with a few of the younger folks.

But you might be thinking, what makes me such an expert on this subject matter. I don’t have a degree in any mental disorders, nor in anything even remotely related. However, if there is another person who has pulled themselves from the brink of suicide more times than I, show me.

I had a rough childhood by any standards, I spent time in jail and even lived on the streets for awhile. I know what darkness looks like. We have been friends for a very long time. I doubt you will find a more qualified individual to speak on this matter. Not sure? Give life a chance and read. Set down that gun, that knife, that rope…whatever you were thinking of using and give yourself not just a chance at life. Give yourself a chance at a better life! Here are some truths I have discovered in my 52 yrs. of fighting the idea of suicide:

1. Remove negative people from your life.

There are many people in this world who know, no other way of making themselves feel big, important, or better than others, than to belittle, insult, or degrade others. They cannot help that they are this way. They have some whacked-out belief that they must be better than other people. So they do whatever it takes to make them feel that way. If you begin to see them for what they really are, it becomes easy to make the decision to remove them from your life. No, I am not talking about using that gun, knife, or rope, etc. I am speaking of banning, blocking, putting up a no trespassing sign, and getting a court order, if needed. No, I am also not speaking about a person who is mostly positive. I am speaking of the people who are consistently negative. They must be removed because they will never do you any good, mentally, emotionally, or otherwise.

2. Realize that things change daily.

If things can change in a New York minute, how much do you think they can change in a day? A week? A month? A Year? You see the world is constantly changing. It has been since the dawn of the universe and will be long after we tiny specks are gone. Tomorrow that person who was taunting you might have a change of heart. Tomorrow that job you thought you did not get, may call you back for another interview. Tomorrow that mountain of debt may be resolved, by an inheritance you never expected. Humans have a tendency to only see what is right before their eyes. We often can’t see beyond the moment. Just think what tomorrow could bring. Everything may not change, but there will be differences, and small differences over time add up…to huge changes. A valley is not created overnight and neither is a life.

3. Everyone is different, everyone is a singularity.

Here is small secret that most people do not get. Nobody owns the rights to cool, hip, happening, fresh, or whatever term you want to use. Each of us, while having the same basic needs, is an entirely different person. No other person defines you or will ever really know you. You are different, you are unique, and so is everyone else. The only difference between you and the people who might be tormenting you, is they are better at ACTING like everyone else. This does not make them better than you. It actually makes you superior to them. You are not afraid of being yourself, they are. Take strength in this knowledge. Listen to yourself. Nobody else knows what is right for you. You are an individual, so now think like one.

4. You control how you react to situations.

There is this old oriental saying “You cannot control without, you can only control within.” What that means in simple terms is that you cannot control anything outside of yourself. You can only control yourself. The more you try to control others and the world around you, the more frustration you will find. Accept this knowledge for it is, it will give you strength. When you see that you are in control of yourself, you have conquered the greatest enemy and made yourself, your greatest ally. This means you control how you react to every situation. It means you control what you send out into the world. Those ripples of what you send out do come back. It is a universal law that, what comes around goes around. If someone treats you badly and you chose not to give them the reaction they expect. They will be the one with frustration. Don’t choose to give into that temptation of suicide and things will take an unexpected turn.

5. Realize there is a plan.

If you begin paying attention to the little things, you will start to see a pattern emerge. Life is surprising, but only if you live long enough and pay enough attention to notice the coincidences that happen daily. When you begin to notice these things, you will see there is a bigger picture, a larger plan: something is guiding it all. Life has a plan and a meaning, don’t you want to stay around long enough to find out what it is? Once you end it, you will never know.

6. Think about those you leave behind.

You may not realize it in the moment, but someone out there actually does care if you live or die. They might be a mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, or friend. They could even be someone on the internet, who’s life you changed or affected, with your words. The thing is, whether you realize it or not, there is someone who will be left behind to deal with all sorts of feelings that arise, when someone you know commits suicide. Do you really want to do that to them? Do they deserve it, when all they did was care for you? Suicide is the most selfish act you can do. Just consider for a second, that life is not all about you and your pain. Life is about all of us. We all suffer. We all have pain. We all have broken dreams and lives we did not plan on.

In conclusion, life is the biggest mystery you may never solve, but it is worth trying. Life is always changing and full of surprises. Hidden amongst those changes is a plan, a design, waiting for you to discover it and find the answer of who you are, and what your purpose is. Life is worth living, just one more day, to see where it will take you next.

Now, go put away that suicide tool and find out what life is really about. I think you will like the answer…if you give it the chance to show you.


Looks Like We Have Fallen On Black Days…


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Many of you might know that the title of this article refers to a song by Soundgarden. Some might also know that the lead singer, Chris Cornell died yesterday. While it is incredibly sad for such a great talent to leave us early, my life was impacted on a personal level by the death of a neighbor yesterday also.

Sadly, I was having an argument with my son, when my neighbor grabbed a gun and ended his life. I did not even hear the gunshot. For this, I feel a bit ashamed.

I suppose it is common for anyone who knows/knew someone who killed themselves, to feel some kind of guilt. You feel as if you should have known on some level. Yes, I suppose I feel that, even though I did not know him very well.

We had more in common than a lot of people I have met in my lifetime. We both were in long-term relationships. We both had physical problems that did not allow us to work. We both had issues with being home alone a lot. Yet, he is gone and here I am.

Why is this so? He was younger. He had a pig and a dog. He even had a car. He certainly had more to live for than I. Yet, he is gone, while I remain.

The only real difference between us, was that he drank alcohol and I do not. I suppose that was my main reason for not getting too close to him. I had been down that road for a very long time and was glad to be off of it. I don’t doubt, for even one second, that it was this one simple difference that determined our very different fates.

Alcohol has a tendency to elevate whatever emotions you are feeling at the time. Certainly, that had to be the thing that influenced his decision to end his life. In some ways, I should be happy that my thyroid went crazy and I decided to quit drinking.

But I would be remiss to act, as if I am certain, that is a good thing. Not his death, but my life I refer to. Had I not changed my ways, then I would have missed all the bad things I have had to experience since. Like him, I suppose, I want it to all just be over. When the black days never seem to end, it feels at times like the best option is death. Trying to shake the dark thoughts is not always an easy task and on black days like this, it is even harder.

However, there are things my neighbor will never get to learn, for he ended his life too soon to discover them. He won’t learn some the great truths of life, that only come with time. He will miss the moment of eureka that happens when you learn something profound, something life changing. He will never get to the other side of life, where you begin to see the guiding hand of the universe. He will never learn that there are reasons, there is a purpose, there is a plan.

Instead, he will be just a footnote in a life that barely matters. He will be a lesson learned, a truth given, a moment of loss…in an ocean of suffering.

…Goodbye my casual friend and neighbor. I hope that your black days have ended and that you find yourself at the gates with Chris Cornell. May you both find some peace of mind.