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Editing as Art

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Once the image is in the camera, the work is only half done. Depending on the ultimate purposes of the image, perhaps less than half!

Editing an image in the digital age has become as much a part of the art as looking through the viewfinder and capturing the image. Editing can take a good image and push it to extraordinary. What's more, different edits to the same image can change the story it tells.

Editing an image in the digital age comes with liberties never considered possible when images were printed in darkrooms, then developed chemically. In the era of wet development, exploring a myriad of possibilities was not practical, yet in the digital era, nothing but limits on time (and hard drive space) prevents trying variation after variation.
What is the Story? The story of an image is sometimes so apparent, the editing process is all about bringing it out from the pixels. However, sometimes, an image could tell different stories depending on how it is edited. Herein lies the pho…

Aperture, Shutter speed, and ISO

The information that follows might annoy the artist in a photographer, but it is essential to understand how the mechanics of photography work in order to be able to fully express one's ideas in the medium. This is a technical understanding that will allow the artist to find his or her voice in light.

The mechanics of photography involve getting light through a lens and onto a medium that will convert it to colors. Before the digital era, the light was directed to a film that reacted differently to different colors and strengths of light. In digital photography, the film is replaced by a sensor that saves the color and intensity information as a computer file.

The information that follows will skip past the (very, very important) contribution of the lenses and focus on the interaction between the aperture (a part of the lens assembly), shutter speed (part of the camera) and ISO settings (also part of the camera or inherent to the film for non-digital applications).
Light is Photon…

Lighting With a Purpose

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To say light is essential for photography is to be so obvious as to be unnecessary. Whether the photons are reacting with chemicals on a film or with the sensors of a digital device, the light that passes through the aperture is the origin of a photograph.

The degree to which photographers understand light and use it determines how effective their photos will be. Rather than "getting lucky" sometimes and snapping a nice image, understanding light helps a photographer plan images to have the greatest impact, whether that is to inspire someone to buy a product or to induce a feeling or emotion.

Because of the wide availability for automatic, high-quality, camera phones, this discussion will focus on natural lighting. The use of flashes and strobes opens up a huge array of options to photographers who have access to such. However, topics related to artificial lighting will be reserved for another time.

Natural Indoor Lighting If you can see something, it is because there is lig…

Composition: The Rule of Thirds

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If someone new to photography asks, "How can I take better pictures," it is inevitable that a discussion on composition will move to the rule of thirds. Before panicking and refusing to submit your art to a set of rules (especially one that sounds like math), take a deep breath, go on Instagram or Google images, and find pictures you think are stunning examples of what you want to take. Chances are in many cases, some compliance to the rule of thirds was followed.

Note, however, that photography is not math and that rules act more as guidelines than mandates. Further, there are types of images where the rule of thirds simply fails.

But by and large, rather than just pointing and shooting, composing your image into the rule of thirds will usually improve the appeal of your pictures.

So, what is this rule?

Divide your view into parts like a tic-tac-toe board. You end up with a grid having nine boxes, like in the image that follows:



Apply the rule of thirds this way:
Put the mos…

What's the Point?

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Photography is different from any other type of art that I can think of. For years, I have urged writers, poets, and lyricist to know what they wanted to do before they began with the blank canvas on which they would express their ideas through art. I have argued vehemently that to do otherwise risked pouring long periods of time into what might end up being a vapid collection of letters, notes, or words. I have further extrapolated my belief that artists must necessarily begin with the end in mind to painting and sculpture, though my experience with those is casual at best.

But photography is different. Though it is possible to go looking for a picture that carries a particular message or makes a particular point, that is, in my experience, the exception to the rule. The canvas of a photographer is rarely blank to start with. Barring studio work or exacting "on location" set-ups, the photographer usually is finding meaning in what is already there.

More than once, I have s…