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    Hi everyone!  I’m a long time lurker on the site.  Today, I finally signed up for an account.  I was hoping to get some feedback or advice about my photography.  I’ve always enjoyed photography but it’s fast becoming a passion of mine.  Art is important to me and although I have dabbled in painting and music, this is the first art-related activity where I genuinely care about the technical skill.  I’m not just trying to half-ass things while attempting to pass it off as “art”.  My equipment is amateur:  Canon T3i body, Canon EF 50mm 1.8, Canon EFS 55-250mm, Canon EFS 18-55mm and one Yongnuo YN560-II.  I’m hoping to be able to upgrade in the near future, but money is pretty tight right now.  I don’t have any formal training in photography.  However, I have been reading a lot and watching a lot of videos.  Also, I have a subscription to Jerry Ghionis’ website and a few Karl Taylor DVDs.  The problem is, I’ve never had anyone guide me, personally, on what I could do to be better.   Getting praise from family and friends is nice but even if they were the brutally-honest type, I don’t think any of them know much about photography.  I know shooting more often is important and I try to, whenever I can.  I get a little frustrated with my photos because I’m not always sure whether it’s my cheaper lenses or me causing the lack of sharpness.  Whether you believe in it or not, I try not to be the type of photographer who takes 1000 photos and uses 3.  I like learning how to be consistent, not accidental.  Any way, here is a link to my Flickr:


    All of the photos were taken between July 2013-Feb 2014.  I think I’ve gotten a bit better since I started but at this point I’d do well with some advice from experienced photographers.


    EDIT: I know I haven’t developed a style, yet.  I enjoy shooting everything, really.  Hopefully, one day I find my style once I figure out what to do to work on my shortcomings.


    I think you are doing OK. I really like one of the cat photos.


    I also think others are pretty reasonable.  I will use one to address some of the things you said.  (Clicking on photos here will take you to the Flickr file)


    Here is an edited version of your photo:

    I thought she looked a little too bright so I pulled back on the exposure a bit. I thought since her face is turned slightly to the left side of the photo she may look better on the right side. And, I sized the photo for display on a monitor, to 900 by 600 px then applied some sharpening (more about sharpness below). I think her eyes are a little strange. To me, her right eye is looking right at the camera, and her left eye is focused some place else. Also, her left eye’s iris looks odd. Somewhere on here, we have an eye doctor. Perhaps later he will stop by and tell us I am crazy …

    I get a little frustrated with my photos because I’m not always sure whether it’s my cheaper lenses or me causing the lack of sharpness.

    Sometimes a lens is not as sharp as we may like. I have returned lenses because they were not sharp. Reading through various forums, I see I am not the only one who has done that. Get a tripod, or a table. Put a page or two of your local newspaper on the wall, held flat with some tape. Light the paper well. Shoot it with each lens, at various focal lengths for your zoom lenses, and at various apertures. Look at the results. You will know if it is your lenses, or something else.
    Your camera’s sensor has a filter that is designed to remove sharpness. It is your job to put the sharpness back in, and there are several sharpening methods to do that. Research them, see which ones appeal to you. Some sharpening methods are complex and others are pretty simple.  I find the simple ones work well enough for me.  When posting or printing, size the photo to the correct dimensions, then apply sharpening to taste. Resizing affects sharpness, so sharpening should be one of the final steps.  Posting to any of the on-line forums results in too large images being resized to fit, it is better to choose the correct size and adjust the image yourself than to let their automated process do it.

    Focus and blur also affect the appearance of sharpness.  Sharpening does not fix either of these things.  For portraits, focus on the near eye.  Choose a fast enough shutter speed to freeze motion and learn to pan for those times when you want some motion blur but need your subject to be sharp.  Image stabilization, a good grip and a good tripod can all help.

    Whether you believe in it or not, I try not to be the type of photographer who takes 1000 photos and uses 3. I like learning how to be consistent, not accidental.

    Being consistent is good.  Sometimes accidents are good too.  Getting the photo is the first step.  Editing is usually necessary.  You should see the effect  dodging and burning had on Ansel Adam’s prints.  A straight print looked nothing like his production prints!  I grew up with Time, Life and National Geographic magazines.  You would not believe how many photos were taken, by experienced photographers, to get the few photos you see in the magazine.   One photographer took 2,500 photos, and 4 were used.  Another took over 30,000 which resulted in 40 being in the article.    Don’t worry about taking enough photos to thoroughly explore your subject.


    A couple of extra thoughts:

    If you are using off camera lights, try to get them up higher.  Your lighting is a bit flat.  Try putting the key light on the side with the part so hair over the face does not cast shadow on the face.

    Try moving your subjects further from the background.  Frequently that will help with shadows on the background.  They will be lower and softer.

    Think about getting lens hoods for your zoom lenses.  The 50 mm has a deeply recessed front element. The zoom lenses don’t.  A hood improves contrast.  You can purchase Canon hoods, or rubber ones that screw into the filter threads.   Most of my lenses came with hoods but I also have the rubber ones because they are useful when shooting through a window — so I frequently carry both.

    Digital Photo Professional shipped with your camera, so you have a good editor even if you do not have Photoshop.  GIMP is another good editor, and it is free, too.

    A few of your photos have more dynamic range than JPEG can handle.  Shoot raw, then you can adjust to compensate.

    Pay attention to your backgrounds and the edges of the frame.  The Rebel has a 95% viewfinder, so sometimes junk will intrude that you didn’t see in the viewfinder.  Sometimes, cropping a little is needed, or the clone tool.


    Thanks so much for the input.   I appreciate it!

    I’ve been shooting RAW since I got my rebel.  I figured if I was going to learn, it was best to learn properly by shooting RAW in manual mode.  I have Lightroom 5 as well as Photoshop CS5.  I usually use LR for batching, light corrections, straightening horizons and cropping.  I didn’t know that the Rebel viewfinder wasn’t 100% accurate, before.  It does explain certain things, though.  As for CS5, I prefer it for retouching.  I get a lot of lag retouching with LR so I’ve been using plearn.com and Julieanne Kosts videos to learn more about masking and colors.  It’s always a fear of mine, knowing where to draw the line with post processing.  I hate the idea of over-processed images but I’m not always sure about my choices.  Currently, my computer monitor is not calibrated.  I know it’s one of the stupidest mistakes to make with respect to color management.  I’m not sure what the best way to calibrate it is but that’s definitely on the agenda.  Some times I use my iPhone 5 to review the images because someone told me Mac products are more accurate.  They come out slightly warmer on the phone than in the laptop.

    I have one inexpensive flash, however, I didn’t use it in any of the posted images.  For one, I’m only now beginning to understand the relationship of aperture and flash power.  I took some family photos over the holidays with the flash unit on my camera but it was pretty ugly looking and I don’t want to spend that much time working on light corrections in post.  I tried to use the on-camera flash to trigger the speedlite but my experiments did not turn out like Zack Arias’ on DigitalRev’s channel, haha!  I’m working on finding a good, inexpensive flash trigger.

    I didn’t think about it, before, but I actually quite like the photo of my daughter that you pulled the exposure back on.   I didn’t realize how bright it was until I saw the darker version.  I was relying on my LR histogram to make sure I didn’t blow out the highlights but I definitely see the difference.  The eye strangeness is definitely genetic.  She inherited my good fortune of having slanted eyes that make it seem like they’re looking in different directions, under certain angles.  To be honest, I didn’t notice that right away, either.  It’s a good thing to start paying attention to.  I didn’t have studio-level control over that light.  It was a little beam of light that came through the window onto my front door.  I tried to expose for the highlights in her face and it seemed okay on my viewfinder but it was much brighter when I downloaded the image.

    Thanks for the tip for testing lens sharpness.  I do have a tripod but I probably haven’t used it as much as I should have.  I don’t stage my shoots as often as I probably should.  I’ve been guilty of finding light and using the “stand right there for a sec” method.  That’s probably gotta stop.  My current lenses are not the best for quick focusing.  Often, even when the image is sharp I find color fringing during my 1:1 inspections.  I can’t stand that.  I’ve been thinking of getting the Canon 135mm f2 (when the money’s right) since I heard from a few sources about how sharp it is.  I’m a little intimidated about committing to that focal range.  I used my telephoto (with a lens hood) more often in the beginning.  I’ve enjoyed using the 50mm much more, lately, but a good 50mm is expensive.

    Usually, I save low resolution copies for use on social media.  I uploaded the high quality ones on Flickr but maybe I was wrong to assume Flickr could handle that.  Do you recommend sharpening after saving the low res copies?

    I’ve never seen Ansel Adams pre-dodging/burning images.  I think his images are amazing, especially given the technology he had available.   I think my comment about how many photos I take came across snootier than I meant it to.  If my paycheck depended on getting the shot, I suppose I would do whatever I had to.  Being a photography newb, I think it forces me to think more without justifying that I’ll fix things in post.  The other method definitely makes sense when you may only get one chance to get a certain kind of photo.  I do appreciate all the advice.  It’s definitely given more things to think about!


    Raw is good.  More work to get to the final photo, but since JPEG throws away over 90% of what raw contains, you get the opportunity to make bigger changes by shooting raw.

    Manual mode has its place.  Shooting in a studio with studio strobes, for instance.  Most of the time, it is just a lot of extra work.   The camera’s computer can adjust exposure and focus much faster than you can.  Let it.  If you find you are disagreeing with the exposure the camera is giving, you can use manual, or you can use Exposure Compensation.

    If you have CS5, you have Bridge.  Open the raw files from bridge, which will start Adobe Camera Raw, where you can make both simple and complicated adjustments.  Once you are happy with what you have, you can transfer the file at 16 bits into Photoshop.  Some photos need a little, some need more.  Knowing where to stop is the “art”.  We all second guess ourselves.

    Colour management — Colormunki or Spyder.  They sit on your monitor, run software, and figure out what profile file you need.  Colormunki has a self calibration piece so it makes sure it is healthy before you start.  It does monitors, printers, projectors and colour swatches.  Spyder is similar but there are more pieces.  The frustration is that those looking at your photos will mostly be using uncalibrated monitors.

    The pop-up isn’t very powerful.  If you have a real Canon flash, 430 EX II, 580 EX II, 600 EX RT, I think a T3i can use the pop-up to talk to it, so you can do off camera flash without a radio.  You can still have full ETTL mode.  Cheap flashes are OK if you have lots of time and really know what you are doing.  Having one or more of the Canon models I mentioned will be more enjoyable and faster to use while delivering better results in many situations.  Before spending money on a flash trigger, get a better flash.  Perhaps spend a few dollars on a light trigger, it causes your cheap flash to fire when it sees another flash.  Then you have to use manual flash mode because the pre-flash used to set flash power and the flashes used to communicate with the other flashes will cause it to misfire.

    If you pull my edit off Flickr and look at the histogram, you will see it does not get anywhere near the right edge.  I didn’t let that worry me because I was not aware of anything in the photo that should be pure white.  The whites of her eyes should be a very light grey and her skin should be slightly pink.

    If you are shooting with flash, or even enough ambient light, you don’t need a tripod.  You don’t get help from one if your subject can move, anyway.   But for a lens sharpness test, it is great, presumably your walls will not move, and the tripod holds and aims the camera while you adjust.

    Many of my lenses are L series lenses.  I also have some Sigma lenses.  A while ago, I borrowed my son’s film body, and did some tests with a couple of L lenses, both film and digital.  Even L lenses suffer some fringing under the right conditions.  Digital is much sharper than film.  Looking at your monitor while displaying at 100% is the equivalent of putting a slide in a projector, displaying the image 6 or 7 feet wide across a room, then walking up to a foot from the screen to examine the photo.   Next time you are at a mall, walk right up to one of their large advertising photos, you will be amazed at what you can see!  If you are using Adobe Camera Raw, under the Lens tab, you can correct for aberrations.  Sometimes it works better than others, but the tool is there.

    Canon’s 50 mm f/1.8 is a pretty decent lens, considering.  For a few hundred dollars you can move up to Canon’s 50 mm f/1.4, or Sigma’s 50 mm f/1.4.  Canon’s 50 mm f/1.2 is expensive and only has a slightly faster aperture while focusing more slowly.  I think DigitalREV did a comparison of all 3.  Yep!  They have done a few:




    Don’t expect upgrading your lens to fix fringing though.

    Whenever I upload files, JPEG compression is the best quality available.  File size will usually be limited to somewhere between 1920 and 600 px width by whatever the height works out to for the shape 4:3, 3:2, or 1:1 usually, but sometimes I do a panorama crop, then it is anyone’s guess.  Once I have decided on a size, and set it, I sharpen.  Same for prints.  Sharpening for prints usually needs more than for a monitor.  Experiment to see what works for you.  I only upload a full size image if I expect someone will be editing it.   For my own web page, photos are sized to the various sizes and sharpened then uploaded so if you look at large, it is a different file than if you look at medium, etc.

    I think it was B&H that had a talk given by one of Adam’s assistants.  She showed a couple of examples of a straight drop it in the enlarger and make a print, vs. one that had Adam’s wizardry applied to get the final print.  Huge difference!  He knew a lot about taking a photo, and even more about printing.

    Robert Davis is a photographer, teacher and author in Oregon.  He believes you should only take one photo, and get it right.  He has expressed that to me when criticizing my view that you should take a lot of photos of your subject, especially now that digital is so inexpensive.  We don’t see eye to eye on much.  Sometimes, a single photo is all you need, like Nick Ut’s napalm girl which won a Pulitzer prize.  He got that shot while the rest of the photographers in the area were all changing film.  But, if you are taking a photo of more than one person, someone will probably blink, so take an extra photo or two.  Or more.  When Joe McNally photographed James Brown, he only got a dozen photos before Brown called a halt to shooting.  A week later Brown was dead!  When Bert Stern shot Marilyn Monroe, just six weeks before her death, he took three days and over 2,500 photos.  Duggal in NY organized them for a show on the 50th anniversary of her death.  Try to make every shot count, but also try to get as many shots of your subject as you can.  Sometimes one will be much better than the others and which one may not be obvious when you are taking them.

    It’s not so much a case of “fixing” in post as “enhancing”.

    Hope some of this helps …


    as a word of warning, the 135 is going to be unwieldy on a crop rebel body. Mostly because of the long focal length, the equivalent of 200mm is great for outdoor portraits where you have lots of space but for studio shooting it is usually too long even on a full frame camera. It is also going to be front heavy on the plastic rebel. A 50mm is going to be a lot more useful than a 135mm though an 85mm will probably look better than the 50mm option.

    If you are shooting indoors you don’t really need a flash trigger, use the built in flash on the camera at the lowest flash exposure comp you can and set the flash to optical slave mode. Other option would be the very good yongnuo rf-603 triggers that go for about $30 for a pair. If you get more flashes there are the YN-560 III that have built in receivers to work with those triggers.

    For using the flash on the camera a TTL flash is going to be a lot more useful, yongnuo make a couple of versions that vary in power and price and they work remarkably well considering what they cost.

    From a photographic point though. You have a lot of tightly cropped portraits, it gets a bit in your face when you are looking at them all together. Try mixing it up more with less tightly cropped portraits and

    Shots like this the focus is simply off, the focus is on her front sleeve and her eyes are soft. http://www.flickr.com/photos/116658164@N04/12640488123/

    Some of your photos have very flat light in them and would benefit by some burning to bring a bit of shape into the photo.

    The shot of the two kids suffer with flat light but also that the girl isn’t sharp. If you want to preserve the bokehness get your subjects further away from the background and stop down a little and it will look basically the same except you have sufficient depth of field to make it work. The skin tones are also off

    You have nice and clean photos. Some I won’t comment on as they simply aren’t doing it for me, these are all the non portraits apart from the snake that is nice.

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