Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Getting the most out of G+ for your photography experience

Yesterday I posted a thread over on my G+ ( which is here by the way )  about how G+ has literally become my photography home. Colby Brown (who wrote the incredible article "Google+: The Survival Guide for a Photographers Paradise" ) chimed in with a comment which made me stop and think. He said in this thread here was;

"What it comes down to is quality interactions. That is one of the reasons that stagnent magazine ads are dying. Peoples attention span is way to short and the cost is way to high. When you look at FB or Twitter, we all may get a decent amount of people commenting on our photo posts, blog posts or marketing ploys...the amount and type of interaction, atleast in my experience, is far worse outside of G+. I will take 10 real conversations from a post on G+ then 300 people "Liking" a post of FB. This of course also depends on our business models. For me, putting people in workshops is my main source of revenue, with contract work a close second and print sales a distant 3rd. I make a very good living, but mostly because I am so active in engaging with people, both locally, on the job and in social media. That has helped build my brand and create a desire to take a part of some of the educational services I offer.

Those that I see struggling with G+ are the ones that try to treat it like Twitter or FB. I also so alot of us "pros" going about social marketing in the COMPLETELY wrong way (just my opinion). No one wants a sales pitch or to only see posts of a workshop you are teaching, a webinar you are offering or an ebook you are selling (and others). I look at some of the big names in the industry, posting direct sales pitches and wondering why they get 5 +1s and 3 comments. There is an art to marketing and it starts with engaging people at a personal level :) "

So I thought that I would take a few minutes this morning and sort of expand some on that and run with it. Colby is certainly right, that many do struggle with G+ and see it as a sort of facebook, when in fact it is anything BUT facebook. I see quite a few people saying something along the lines of "no one comments on my images, no one sees my work". Do you want to know why that is? The answer is quite simple; IT IS NOT ABOUT YOUR WORK.

See, people treat G+ like it is any other other social site, facebook, twitter, flickr....that whole deal, but where the power of G+ lies is in the conversation itself. Be engaged and enter in to dialogue with your fellow photographers. each and every day I see photographers posting topics for discussion, how many of you are entering in to that "coffee shop atmosphere" and engaging with like minded people? It is that very train of thought which I have likened G+ to, a coffee shop with beautiful and stunning photography hanging on the walls.

So let's get on with it and how you can make G+ absolutely beam for you as a photographer!

*You ARE your content!--- Literally, you are your content. The first thing to be mindful of is if you are there to interact with your fellow photographers (which I suspect you are or you wouldn't be currently reading this) post stuff which is relevant. Leave the facebook junk on facebook and post stuff that will have your fellow photographers intrigued, curious and interested. No one likes a spammer, and posting animated gifs and endless youtube videos of music is a sure fire bet that you just shot yourself in the head and committed G+ suicide. You will drop off peoples circles faster than you can say "terminal velocity". Don't do it, leave that junk to that "other" site. Post content in to your circles which is relative.

*Easy does it!--- As a rule of thumb, don't upload more than maybe one shot a day, that is unless you are just starting out and getting your galleries going on G+ (that is a different story entirely) remember, it isn't so much about the images you post, but rather the relationships that you make and the conversation which you carry. Keep that train of thought and you will find that you suddenly have your G+ experience hitting the level of awesome.

*Ask questions--- Yes, you read right. Ask questions. G+ is a different world than most every other site and people love to help others, especially with questions when it comes to photography. No question is to big or to small, and G+ is made up of many professional and seasoned amateurs who can help on short notice. If you are having a hard time understanding how exposure works, ask away. If you are wondering about a lens, ask away. If you are wondering what you should charge for something, ask away. Everyone is ready to help!

*Be yourself--- Be you. Treat others how you would in real life, as example. I haven't especially come upon any trolls since my first week of joining G+ and came upon some guy who wasn't to fond of one well known photographer and posted saying as much. He disappeared after being berated for being unprofessional. This may be the internet, but G+ is where the adults in the room tend to hang out. It is the place where friendships happen and education is a daily occurrence.

These are just a few of the things that you can do to make G+ work for you as a photographer. The key to it all is the conversation and I think everyone should remember that, along with posting content that is relative. I don't think that G+ would work if you are the shy type and just like to lurk, you have to be proactive on here and that is pretty easy to do. Look around and read updates, join lists such as those on and there are a TON for photographers, from landscape shooters to critique circles.

Nothing ventured, nothing go get it done! The best awaits for you!


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Oils or Acrylic?

It's all a question of brushwork.
I have always been of the opinion that you use whatever tools you have your disposal to get the shot and you get it the dang best you can. I was never loyal to a paint company when I would do Oils on huge 5 foor canvases...Liquitex, Windor & Newton, Grunbacher...I used whatever I had at my disposal. I guess that is one reason why I have never really understand the whole 'brand wars' thing. People are so fierce in what they shoot, always of the belief that whatever system they have in their hands is the absolute best. Always knowing that this little voice is whispering inside their head and in their ears saying "psst relaity check, it isn't the camera you donut!"

If you frequent sites like dpreview in their forums then you have surely seen it. All the 'my camera camp is best' kinds of posts. Maybe I have moved on some, or maybe I just outgrew it all, I am not sure, but one thing sis for sure and that is these days I seem to be more focused (no pun intended) on the making of the image itself. The whole technique of photography, the ability to catch the light whne it is at it's finest and best. Sure, new cameras excite me, I won't ever deny that, but it all seems so secondary these days. I want to know the best locations in Colorado to shoot, go there, experience them with the gear I do own instead of worrying if the latest camera takes great high iso images nicely.

Speaking of dpreview, I was recently reading the Sony dslr forums and saw some complaints about how the upcoming a77's jpeg images at high iso are not to good and I kind of sat there for a moment and just shook my head. Thinking why on earth would someone spend basically $2,000 on a new camera and lens and then turn around and shoot jpeg images with it? Maybe I don't get it...but if it was up to me, I would eliminate jpegs all together on entry level pro camera to begin with so they only shoot RAW. It made me kind of wonder, and I think it is that which maybe seperates the boys from the men, or in this case, the serious photographer from the occasional hobbyist. Jpeg is the devil and shooting with it is like taking your wedding photos to 1hr photo to be processed. To each their own though.

Gear. Who cares what you shoot. WHo cares what brand you shoot. As long as you are happy and getting what you need out of it, is all that matters. It's all secondary when you are standing in the middle of an amazing landscape, doing what you love to do and living out the experience itself. It's all about "brushwork". So, oils or acrylic?

"The Sunworshiper"-From a recent photoshoot of the Colorado sunflower fields on the eastern plains

Monday, August 1, 2011

Don't be a lazy shooter!



They are forever hard to break. They are especially hard to break when it comes to photography. 


One of the reasons I decided to go with Minolta/Sony gear (this was when Minolta just started making dslr's) was because of the in body A/S. (VR or IS as it is often referred to) No other company at the time had in body anti-shake (in fact, it was Minolta who invented it) I never really wanted to carry my tripod around with me and the tripod I had back then was some cheap thing built for point and shoots. I also couldn't really hike much as it was when I started toi get really sick and my lungs were very fried (yes I have a lung disease I would later find out) so I would shoot a lot from the car with no support, relying on my cameras ability to get sharp shots at 1/10th a second. Sometimes I did, other times, I didn't. Of course not having the steadiest of hands doesn't help either. 


In some ways I think I still have this habit of being a lazy shooter at times, knowing all well I should be using my tripod to get the shot I want, but my mind goes in to hyperdrive and often times I get so excited by the scene I am looking at that I want to do nothing but shoot it, fearing that it won't look the same 1 minute later. Last Fall I set on a personal quest to rid myself of this habit as best as possible, determined to do the very best I can do with using the gear which I have and to make every shot count. It is still rather hard at times as my oxygen level dramatically drops when I stand for more than 1 minute, but I am getting better with it all, and in it, I am finding that I am getting the shots I have always wanted to. 


Last Fall I also invested in what I can only describe as the best $29 I have ever spend on photography equipment; a Puffin Pad Basically it is a beanbag alternative and comes in very handy as a full support that latches on to the car window. I use it a lot on my wildlife photography with my 400. I have also found it to be really worth wild for long and slow shutter exposures as well. This past December it came in especially handy when shooting the sunrise in the mountains. We were in the outflow of a powerful snowstorm with winds gusting to 60mpg at times. Not especially the kind of stuff you want to be outside in with bitter cold temps and wind. Tripods are known to be not exactly the warmest things on the planet, so I went ahead and decided to try my Puffin Pad out for the shot, using the car as a sort of shield from the elements. This is the shot I was able to take using it;


"Dawn At St Malo" (click for larger image)


One of the best pieces of advice I can tell anyone when I am asked the question of "how can I be a better photographer? How can I get better looking pictures" is "don't be a lazt shooter, use what you have and use it to it's full extent. It will show in your images directly otherwise. If you need new equipment, things like filters, don't put it off, get some, even the cheap ones will help you versus nothing at all." 


It has been interesting this year, with really poutting my foot forward, and it times it hasn't been physically easy for me, but the payoff has been rather priceless. I used to think a few years ago, that the sheer number of shots you got meant something. These days, I am finding that it is the number of GOOD shots that you get which means something. Quality over quantity. If you take your time and actually evaluate the scene, you will find that you can indeed get the shot that you want, just don't leave the tripod in the back seat (sans shooting at mid day...but who does that anyhow?) If you don't have one, buy one. 


Here are a few shots taken this past Saturday night along Boreas Pass outside of Breckenridge, where the thought of "don't be a lazy shooter" kept running through my head as I stood here with my tripod about to pass out from lack of o2 lol The pay off though was worth it. 




"Boreas Pass" (click for larger image)


"Road To The Sky" (click for larger image) 


"Alpine Sunflower Meadows" (click for larger image)