Retouching, Wakeboarding, Surfing & PhotoShop Art In One Minute!

Below are wakeboarding shots of our rabid wakeboarding sons on the Wye River, in Maryland on the Eastern Shore from this past summer. This is one of our favorite places for summertime boating and you might enjoy a couple of the images posted here. Also included is a surfing shot from a trip to the beach. I converted them into “PhotoShop Art” in just 1 minute, using Photoshop CS5 and their wonderful (and simple) filter options.

There are many photographers and artists much more skilled and practiced in the area than I am. I don’t like sitting in front of a computer for hours doing this, but it shows you how simple it is for a less experienced practitioner like myself to take advantage of today’s advanced technologies to create something only available to professonals just a few years ago.

In our Professional Wedding Photography, we routinely use Photoshop to retouch blemishes, hair strands, facial shine, eyeglass reflections, waistlines (believe it or not) and remove everything in our images from exit signs to telephone wires and, yes, people! To view more of our work, see our professional website at www.philipkent.com.

What Makes a Great Photograph? 10 Factors…

Photographs are a universal language that like any language, communicate to the recipient a message. Like any spoken language there are certain elements that are required to communicate what the speaker, writer or in this case the photographer, is trying to say. And like any language, the photographer, professional or amateur, must learn the language before they can speak it.

Having a nice camera without the proper knowledge of photography is no different than an illiterate having a nice pen (or today, a computer) and trying to write something meaningful. Such is the nature of many wedding photographers practicing today, given the availability of inexpensive digital cameras, websites and online advertising.

Having learned the language of photography over many years I have had success in competing in state and national professional photography competitions sponsored by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and have even had the honor of judging these competitions on the state level. As a judge, we must be able to explain and justify the scores that we give to the works of the competitors, who can be both fledgling or experienced pros.

To analyze an image, we break it down to several accepted elements neccessary for it to communicate its message effectively. Anyone, amateur or professional, who understands and applies these concepts, can become a much better photographer. And, I believe that if engaged couples can understand even a little about photography, they can make a better educated decision about who to choose to preserve their wedding day.

There are more, but these are the key factors in judging photographs. Any photograph ever made can be analyzed and critiqued using the following criteria…

1- IMPACT…the sense one gets when viewing the image for the first time. Compelling images can evoke the emotion desired by the photographer.
2- CREATIVITY…is the image original and fresh? Does it express the imagination of the creator to convey an idea?
3- TECHNICAL EXCELLENCE…is the quality of the image–sharpness, exposure, color harmony presented properly?
4- COMPOSITION…the proper placement of the subject matter–are the elements in the photo “balanced”, for a pleasing effect?
5- LIGHTING…is it controlled and utilized properly and does it enhance or detract from the image. Proper utilization of lighting whether man-made or natural can enhance an image and create depth and a more 3-dimensional effect.
6- CENTER OF INTEREST…the point in the photo that gets the viewer’s attention. There can be more than one, but the eye is drawn to that position in the photo. Where it is placed will draw the eye to that location and its position will assist in the overall composition.
7- SUBJECT MATTER… should always be appropriate to the story being told.
8- COLOR BALANCE…provides harmony to the image when different tones work together to support the image.
9- TECHNIQUE…the process used to create the image. From straight camera capture with no manipulation to heavily enhanced images using advanced digital techniques, the proper (not excessive) use of technology can created terrific images.
10- STORY TELLING…using the above factors, is the photograph effective in telling a story?

Nonetheless, the photograph, if it is still called a photograph, must still adhere to the above principles to be effective in communicating what the photographer or artist is trying to say. The language of photography has not gotten more complex, just the tools available to convey the message has.

YOUR TURN: using the above criteria, critique the photographs on the Philip Kent website!

The Best Camera? …Part 2

Another question I’m often asked is “what type of camera should I buy?”  Well, I can only answer this with another question:  “what are you going to use it for?”  If you’re a serious amateur and want to take some great photos on a trip for example, there are plenty of good makes in various price ranges and a good camera store salesperson can guide you through the selections based on what you want to do.  Penn Camera at Tysons is my favorite locally.  Sometimes I use B&H in New York, which is an excellent mail order firm unless you’re in NY.  If you’re in NY, GO THERE in person!  An amazing place, it’s the holy grail of camera stores!

I take my pocket camera everywhere because I often want to record something, whether a scene when traveling, or a product if shopping for something.  It’s a 10MP Canon Elph and is an amazing camera.  Even shoots a low-resolution video.  There are many great pocket cameras out there and you just have to sort through them with an experienced salesperson. 

One important factor to consider:  More megapixels is NOT better, unless you’re doing BIG prints, such as 16×20 or larger–and few do.  8MP is plenty.  Look at the camera “processor” or, how fast does it take the photo when you push the button.  Some cameras have high pixels but slow processors and there is a delay when you push the button.  Not so good for sports or moving objects.  Think of a big truck (high pixels) with too small an engine (processor).  It’s slow.  Otherwise look for comfort when holding, simple controls and if it seems to be built solid.  Taking pictures has never been easier.  Taking good photos is another subject! I’ll address that in an upcomimg post. Meanwhile, check out some of our professional photos at our website philipkent.com.

The Best Camera? …Part 1

Friends and clients are always asking me “what type of camera do you use?”   Well, if I’m photographing a wedding, I prefer my Canon 5D Mark II.  One of the most advanced professional digital cameras in existence, 21 megapixels, lightning fast, and it even shoots an HD (high definition) video!  It’s so good, I even use it for my family portrait business where  the typical size ordered is a 24×30 wall portrait. 

But if I’m in the studio doing business portrait of someone for their firm’s website, I prefer my Olympus E-3.  10 megapixels, it has a perfectly proportioned chip size so I never have to crop an image if composed properly, which is often the case with other makes, like the Canons I use and the Nikons.  And it’s way more than adequate for displaying the one or two-inch image on a website.  But the Canon scrolls through the images super-fast which is important when you’re doing hundreds of wedding photographs.  The Olympus does not have this ability but that’s not important for reviewing just a dozen or so business portrait selections.  Point is, each camera has its strengths and you use the tool that does a particular job best. See some of what I’ve done on our website philipkent.com.

 Are Canons or Nikons better?  They’re both great cameras and it’s just a matter of which one you like best.  I prefer the Canons but many good photographers prefer Nikons.  Canon does seem to have the bigger market share.  Certainly at professional trade shows the Canon booths are usually bigger and busier than the Nikon booths.  Maybe that tells you something!

Not all Pixels are created equal?

Everyone knows pixels–megapixels, that is.  A camera with 10 megapixels is better than a camera with 8 mp–right?  Not neccessarily!  The biggest little “secret” in digital photography is that not all pixels are created equal.  Let me explain.  More pixels means more light sensors capturing light so you have a sharper photo.  Problem is, smaller pocket cameras generally have smaller pixels than say, larger consumer or professional cameras.   That means that the smaller pixels are not as good at collecting varying amounts of light as larger ones, so the overall quality and detail in the photo suffers.  A larger bucket can carry a greater variety of volume than a smaller one.  A larger pixel can carry a greater variety of light than a smaller one, resulting in a better image, especially in low light.  Its “signal” needs less amplification by the camera’s processor, thus creating less “noise” as it is called, resulting in a better range of tones and detail in the picture.

Most pixels in today’s cameras range from about 6 to 12 microns in diameter.  A micron is one millionth of a meter, or .000039 inches.  An average human hair is about 100 microns thick.  Most pixels in cameras sensors are less than 1/10th the diameter of a human hair! 

So, look at other features in a camera in addition to the number of pixels.  Cameras today have more than enough pixels for the average user who would be happy with anything that is 4 megapixels or more.  Look for the camera’s response when you push the button:  is it virtually instantaneous or is there a delay?  And remember: more pixels means bigger file sizes for your computer to process and store, slowing it down and possibly taken up more memory than you’d like.  Tried emailing  large picture files to family or friends lately?  Think about what’s really important…easy picture taking with adequate  quality along with processing and storage efficiency.  Simple isn’t it?

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