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Elizabeth West

I'm a person who loves both words and images. A writer by profession, I'm a passionate photographer in my free time. I do not see the arts as a competitive activity, since no two people would ever create the same work even if they had the same subject. I welcome comments and suggestions from all.

Mastering a Subject

daisy showerDo you take the same types of pictures over and over again? You know what I mean—hundreds of flower images (or cars or cats or whatever) fill your photo albums, but no portraits, buildings, action shots, or street scenes. One school of thought urges you to push yourself to shoot what does not come naturally. However, I have another suggestions: stick with what you love, but work to perfect that subject.

There is a vast difference between lacking the imagination to try new subjects and deliberately working on one subject to develop skills. The first is a type of laziness; the second is a path to mastery. I like to think that I’m following the second path, but I’m too close to tell, so I’m going to use another example, flickr photographer Steve Wall.

Now, I’ve never met Steve; I know nothing about his life; he isn’t even an online correspondent, or at least he wasn’t until I asked permission to use his photos. But I have been following his photography on flickr for a few years because I saw some pictures of his that I liked and marked him as a contact. As such, I see a thumbnail of his latest image whenever I sign on.

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Stock Photo Superseller!

Those of you who are interested in stock photography might want to read more about Lise Gagne, a freelancer who recently set a new record for stock photography sales. Lise has sold more than half a million photos to iStockPhoto.com. To learn some of the secrets of her phenomenal success, read this interview with her. Although she credits much of her success to a background in Web/multimedia design, most readers will also be impressed by her strong work ethic, her analytical abilities, and her sense of fun. Perhaps it is this latter skill that makes her scenes appear so happy, natural, and relaxed, attributes mentioned by several of her clients.

Using Overexposure

Most times when photographers shoot pictures, they work hard to get the exposure correct so that their images reflects what they saw in real life. At times, though, I deliberately over or underexpose for effect. In an earlier post, Creating Blackgrounds, I discussed how to use underexposure to create dramatic black backgrounds. Similarly, you can use overexposure to create other specific effects.

tulips

For example, overexposure can create a light, dreamy, impressionistic atmosphere. Edges blur, colors soften, and a light background fades to white. The subject is enveloped by light.

The tulips here look soft and delicate, even though their petals and leaves are firm. The pastel colors suggest spring, new growth, and freshness. A different exposure might have captured the shapes more clearly, but the effect would have been totally different.
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Photographer Gary Parker

I admit it—I’m smitten. Photographer Gary Parker is my man of the moment. An award-winning photojournalist, portrait and commercial artist, Parker’s work delighted me instantly.

His website is correct when it describes him as a photographer who truly captures souls. It states, “No one’s quite sure how he manages, but Gary elicits from his subjects – human adult, child, animal, four-legged or two-toed – the part of themselves most of us try to hide – the spirit within.”

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Improve Your Images

Most of us like our photographs, or we’d stop taking them. Yet often we will see someone else’s picture and stare in awe. “How did the photographer do that?” we may wonder. Often, the leap between that person’s work and our own seems vast.

Physician and photographer George Barr has posted a series of online essays that may help answer that question. “Taking Your Photography to the Next Level” provides details about a host of factors that combine to create impact–or lack of it–in an image.

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