Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Assistant Quicklinks

In praise of assistants, today brings a small group of links for and about photographic assistants.

  • This exceedingly detailed article by digital assistant Patrick Lavoie explains the workflow he uses when he works with fashion photographers. I’ve used a very similar workflow on shoots and Patrick’s piece will give you more info than you will likely be able to digest in one sitting.
  • A post from Vincent Laforet discusses a photo of Michael Phelps from the Beijing Olympics in Sports Illustrated and the fact that it is credited to both Heinz Kluetmeier and his assistant Jeff Kavanaugh. As Laforet states, “it’s incredibly rare for photographers to give their assistants any credit for the images they take while on assignment with them,” but in this case, the photographer acknowledged the work of his assistant by sharing the credit for a great photo.
  • And lastly, PDN has two interviews with photographers relating how they made the jump from assistant to photographer here (PIper Carter) and here (Sherry Loeser). The short answer: once your work and confidence are good enough, just do it and commit to it.

The Big Picture’s Scenes from India‘s always-inspiring The Big Picture today has a batch of images from India.

The Big Picture is consistently full of great photos and is a great site to visit on a regular basis, but this gallery, in particular, caught my eye. It makes me eager to head back to Asia. Fingers crossed that I might get to do so sooner than later…

Aerial Photos of Islands

Here’s just what everyone needs on a Sunday morning: some great aerial photos of islands from National Geographic.

I have to say, Bora Bora looks like something out of a dream. Palau too. If I win the lottery anytime soon, I think some island hopping might be in order.

NY Times on Travel Photography

This past Saturday’s issue of the NY Times featured a travel section dedicated to travel photography and it’s online for your reading pleasure. (You may need a subscription to log in.)

The section features articles on photo tours, images of Angkor from John McDermott, photography in Shanghai and plenty more.

Modify Your Bokeh

DIYphotography has a tip on how to change the shape of your bokeh that might produce some fun results. Get yourself some thick, black paper and start cutting!

Blind Photography

It’s usually taken for granted that vision is a crucial factor in a photographer’s ability to compose and create a photograph. Israeli photographers Kfir Sivan and Iris Darel-Shinar and their workshop that taught nine blind people how to take pictures may prove that notion wrong.

Their “Blind Photographer” workshop taught their students a brief history of photography, the basics of operating a camera, and various photographic techniques and the results are surprising. While some of the shots suffer from some of the expected technical deficiencies like errant focus or exposure, a number of the photos have a compelling purity to them.

One of the more interesting aspects of the project is that that the students were taught how to use other sensory input to be able to guide their photographic efforts. Sounds and smells might point them in the direction of their chosen subjects and the temperature of the sun might suggest to them the brightness and what kind of exposure they might need to use. Perhaps clues like these could be useful to other photographers who aren’t impaired by a lack of vision and teach us to hone our sights on more than just what comes into our field of view.

It could be fun to spend an afternoon with a camera and a blindfold to see if other senses can guide your photography.

The Biggest Man on the Field

Sports photographer Thomas E. Witte’s Sports Shooter article about his experiences shooting Bobby Martin, a legless high-school football player in Ohio, is worth a read both for its human interest side and for its photo business side.

Witte explores the challenges of paying due respect to his extraordinary subject and then dealing with the flood of suitors for his photos after they appeared in Sports Illustrated. His conclusion leaves us with the following advice:

At the moment of writing this, the combined resales of what I sold and my split from SI Picture Sales total a few bucks shy of twelve grand… for a photo from a high school football game. If that’s not reason enough to maintain your copyright, I don’t know what is.

2007 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography

Renée C. Byer is this year’s winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography and the honour is well-deserved. This account of Cyndie French, a single mother of five, and her care of her dying son Derek Madsen is a moving look into a family’s ordeal and their struggle against cancer.

World Press Photos Winners 2007

For some outstanding, inspiring and moving photos, check out this winners gallery of the World Press Photos 2007.

SI’s Most Interesting Pictures 2006

Sports Illustrated has a great collection of their most interesting images of 2006. Check it out for some excellent sports photography.

New York City Children

For two years, Danny Goldfield has been working on a beautiful project in which he aims to photograph one child from every country in the world, but each of them is a resident of New York City. His photographs are lovely and the project itself is a lovely exploration of cultures from around the world and their commonalities living in perhaps the only city in which this endeavour could be completed.

See the project at and a video on the project here.

International Color Awards Winners

The winners of the International Color Awards were announced on May 7, but as far as I’m concerned, inspiring images are allowed to make the news a month late. The images of both the winners and nominees are viewable here.

Categories include abstract, nature, photojournalism, advertising and much more. Both the amateur and professional galleries feature outstanding work.

Photographic Layers of Interest

The Strobist has deviated slightly from the usual tasty buffet of good lighting articles and served up a delicious article that discusses layers of interest in photographs

From the article:

“Top to bottom, left to right, front to back,” The Washington Post’s Mike Williamson told me once. That’s the standard. Fill the frame. Make it work. Make someone want to stay there a while.

Usually, the more layers of interest I can pull off in a photo – and still have it “work” – the happier I am.

The layers of interest discussed here are the elements of a photo that tell a story. They are the details in a photo that make viewers step in closer to have a better look at what you have captured.

Creating a depth of interest, however, a tricky balance. There is a temptation to include more compositional elements in the hopes that they may create additional interest in the photo, but this can often lead to clutter. This is why creating such images is so difficult: the details must compliment and add to the subject, not compete with it.

2006 Press Photographers Awards

Results for the 2006 Press Photographers Awards have been announced and you can see the winning entries here. There is some lovely work here, but navigating through the flash slideshow format is cumbersome. If you’re willing to put up with the user interface, you’ll be rewarded with some great images.

Top Ten Greatest Photographs Ever Made

The Online Photographer has just completed their list of the Top Ten Greatest Photographs Ever Made. Each selection features an essay detailing the rationale for the selection. Good cases can be made for each of the photos and interesting discussion already surrounds their picks.

The Digital Journalist

The June issue of The Digital Journalist is online with an impressive collection of articles ranging from the innocuous woes of shooting high-school sports to the ponderous woes of the people of Sudan and Iraq.

This diverse collection of articles gives absorbing insight into both the photojournalists and the stories they are covering.

Tornado Photographs

Because photos of tornados are always always impressive, check out this fine collection of storm images featuring the work of storm photographer Warren Faidley.

Simon Norfolk Photography

Simon Norfolk has a diverse collection of images ranging from supercomputers and recreations of English paintings to the highlight of his site, the landscapes of war zones. Check out his Flash-based site here.

Photos of Dubai’s Rapid Development

This Flickr slideshow of Dubai’s massive development projects is pretty amazing. The scope of construction in the city is astonishing.

From the site:

“In many areas, it is not easy to see Dubai’s sky without at least one crane in your view; Industry experts cautiously estimate that 15 to 25 per cent of the world’s cranes are in Dubai. Some US$ 90 billion are on-going in Dubai alone.”

Storm Chasing Photos

Ryan McGinnis has some gorgeous storm chasing photos on his blog. It’s great stuff that makes me want to check the weather reports so that I might try to find something even half as pretty.

100 Photographs that Changed the World

The Digital Journalist has a page featuring 100 Photographs that Changed the World. Of course, not all 100 of the photos are present – they are an excerpt of the 100 photos available in the Life book of the same name.

Nonetheless, the heights and the depths of humankind’s place on earth (and beyond) in the last century are succinctly summarized by this small collection of images. More information about the book is available here.

Top Photoblogs

If you’re a photographer lacking inspiration, check out some of the top sites on this list of the best photoblogs. Maybe the work of others can get you going.

And of course, if that doesn’t do the trick, there’s always my article on Breaking Shooter’s Block.

Breaking Shooter’s Block

If writers get writer’s block, do photographers get shooter’s block? Whatever you want to call it, we photographers are sometimes stumped for an idea of what we should place in front of the lens.

Snapping out of these doldrums (sorry for the pun) is usually just a matter of trying to see something new or seeing familiar subjects in new ways. Sometimes a fun exercise or two is all you need to get your creative gears spinning once again.

The following suggestions for exercising your eye come from a variety of sources (and one of those sources happens to be the brain of yours truly), but one source I must recommend for shooters who could use some help regaining their vision of the world is the writing of Freeman Patterson. His two books Photography And The Art Of Seeing and Photographing The World Around You are both excellent sources for subject ideas and techniques to get you viewing your surroundings in a fresh fashion.

But if you want to go out and shoot right now, here are a couple exercises to try that are based on Patterson’s suggestions. Pick a unit of measurement (e.g. a city block, a meter, a mile, a furlong, whatever), then go out your front door. Go straight for 4 of that unit of measurement. Then, turn right and go 7 of that unit. When you get to the end, take at least 30 photos of anything within the ten meters/yards of where you stopped.

Here’s another one. Get a hula hoop. Go to a place that might have some fun stuff to photograph in your subject matter. A few suggestions: a forest, a junkyard, the city dump (but maybe bring a nose plug), a garden, etc. Now, take the hula hoop, spin around and throw it in a random direction. Take 30 photos of things that fall inside the perimeter of the hula hoop. A macro lens may help with this one, but you might be able to manage without.

Now, those suggestions are not likely to land you a lot of opportunities to photograph any moving subjects. If you’re inclined to have a person in front of your lens, but you don’t happen to have a willing model on hand, perhaps it’s time to try a bit of street photography.

John Brownlow has some excellent suggestions for street photography, in particular overcoming shyness. Check out his article on the subject here. Here is the beginning of his technique for getting started shooting street photography:

Here’s how I suggest you begin to lose your fear. Take four rolls of film and tell yourself that you are going to shoot those four rolls as if you had no fear. Just those four, no more. You are going to believe that you have a total right to be doing what you are doing, and that people are going to accept you. Now shoot those rolls, without worrying if the pictures are any good or not. That’s not what we’re working on here…

To read further, click the link above and follow some of his ideas for getting out of a creative rut that may be caused by the fear of photographing strangers.

If, however, shyness isn’t a difficulty but you are still looking for something a little more unique than your city’s daily life, start planning to shoot at an event. Is there an upcoming festival in your area? A parade? A concert you can shoot? Professional wrestling? A hot dog eating contest?

At all of these kinds of events, people will be expecting the presence of photographers and you shouldn’t have any trouble getting either natural behaviour or willing participation in your photography. When present at such events, I find one helpful technique is to imagine I am covering the spectacle for a local newspaper or a magazine. I ask myself what images would best capture the spirit of the event and what would best compliment a story. You may be surprised at how this will get you moving around and interacting with the players of the events. Whereas you might naturally be inclined to find a comfortable spot and root yourself to it, if you feel like you have a job to do, you will find yourself more willing to challenge yourself to find the best possible coverage of the event.

So, start scanning event listings in your local newspaper and online. Also, ask your friends to keep you abreast of any events that may be of interest to a photographer. That’s exactly how I learned about Calgary’s First Annual Zombie Walk. Without the reminder of a helpful friend, I would never have witnessed the march of a few hundred undead through the downtown streets. An occasionally good source of event information is What’s on When (which, I should note, is a good place to check if you’re planning a trip with flexible dates – you don’t want to end up in Edinburgh a week after the Fringe Festival has ended).

Perhaps event photography isn’t where your passion lies. Perhaps you don’t know where your passion lies. One option is to begin participating in some competitions. Both DPChallenge and Fred Miranda run weekly competitions that feature talented photographers and stiff competition. Each week, a new topic will be assigned and you will have to shoot your photo within the week. The winners are decided by votes from users of the sites. Above all else, winners with get a shot of pride at having bested a talented group of peers. But, perhaps an even greater reward is just the motivation these contests can provide. Similar competitions are also available at Worth1000 and other sites.

Some of the talent at these sites may be daunting for a blocked shooter and not everyone thrives of competitions with others. An alternative is to check’s Word of the Day and give yourself some time to produce a photo illustrating that word or a concept related to it.

If there is no shortage of interesting subjects for you to shoot, but you still find yourself a little unmotivated, perhaps try some new shooting techniques. Do you normally shoot in colour? Try seeing the world in black and white. Never tried cross processing? Give it a go (and yes, you can try it digitally if you want). Never use your flash? See how you can get some different results with it. Always use your flash? See what you can do with natural light. Normally use a tripod? Consider throwing your camera into the air.

The idea here is to break out of your routines. The easiest way to get out of a rut is to change your direction, so do something that doesn’t follow the same path you’ve been taking. Examine your habits then see if you can do something different or even opposite to what you are used to. If you are feeling uninspired while using your current techniques, it’s probably time to stop living in your comfort zone and try something new.

As I think of more, I would like to add further ideas for shooting, but I would be happy to have contributions from readers as well. If you have a good idea, please consider adding it in the comments below.