Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Growing as a Photographer

First off, I don't want to come across in any of my posts as an expert or that I know it all. I think that photography, like any art form, should be an evolving process. Hopefully, we will all get better at it as time goes on.

Two aspects of my personal photography growth that have stuck out in my mind are:

1) Revisiting familiar sites with different conditions and
2) Implementing new post processing techniques

I often get excited about shots I take at a new location. Everything is so, well, new! And if the weather is half way decent, I think the shots are even more valuable, possibly portfolio images that I may try to sell. This is a personal pitfall, and a rut that I recommend anyone try to avoid.

My advice, visit those same spots over and over again. Go in different seasons, go in the sunshine as well as the inclement weather. Try different lenses. Try different angles. Shoot in portrait orientation if you tend to shoot in landscape and vice-versa. Work the spot for all you can.

I cannot tell you how many images I have shot that instantly out do the ones I thought were the "best" from a specific location.

As for the post processing, well, let's just say that I do believe how you process an image is a vital tool to any photographer wishing to make their images look better. I am still in the stages of my learning where experimentation and using new tools are the norm. I have yet to develop my own unique work flow. Maybe I never will. But as my confidence grows with how I process my images, I hope to start writing tutorials to help others get better as well.

One tutorial that I found easy to follow as well as showcasing a process I think I will use more regularly is Tony Kuyper's luminosity mask tutorial.

When shooting landscapes where the sun is part of the final image, the extreme dynamic range can be difficult to handle. My first attempts at taming the bright lights of the sky was investing in some good graduated neutral density filters.

But sometimes these filters aren't quite enough and the sky is still too bright. I started bracketing shots for the sky even with the filters in place. Back home, I would blend all or parts of the images with better exposed sky using Photoshop's layer masks. This could be problematic if the clouds were moving, even slightly. Blending with layers in Photoshop is fairly easy, but not if the subjects in each image don't line up. Having 60% of one image and 40% of another won't work when they aspects of the image aren't aligned.

Another method is using the lasso selection tool and feathering the edges of your selection to make your adjustment less noticeable. Even still, the edges of your adjustment could have a very noticeable transition from light to dark. I also found using the lasso tool tedious and too difficult to use.

Luminosity masks find light and dark pixels and automatically create smooth transitions to the adjustments you apply to them. You can fine tune dark and light areas of your image with precise control and the effects are much more natural looking and seem more problem free.

Depending on where you are in your Photoshop skills, I highly recommend experimenting with luminosity masks if you shoot landscapes or seascapes such as myself.


  1. Great post. You are so right I think about revisiting spots. When you know the ins and outs of a particular place, you can capture it so much better I think too. This image is gorgeous ;)

  2. Awesome images Jim, as always! It`s a real pleasure! Always nice to come back here and see what`s new on yr blog! Keep up the stunning work, Im watching you:-)


  3. Wow what a image it's fantastic' awesome i am not having any more words to describe it..
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  4. Thanks for the tips and tutorial link. I'm glad I found this blog, will be following!

  5. Just finished the first page.
    I bought an SLR last month and am looking forward to getting better at taking photos. Information like this is invaluable. Grassy Ass.