Question #44: 3 questions in 13 minutes and 13 seconds

Let's try something different this week! I did a live Q&A on my FB Page today and put the video on YouTube. I'll be doing more of them so please join me on FB if you can!

Elizabeth Gray: "Hi Valerie, I meant to ask you this in Vancouver but forgot. How often do you use the wide angle and tele converter for you X100T? Are they easy to swap in and out on the fly? Would you recommend them as an alternative to one of the interchangeable lens Fujis?"

Susan Goudge: "Hi Valerie! I want to work on getting some shots with motion blur with people on the street--can you advise what settings to use to get this effect? Thank you!"

Monty Montgomery: "I believe you have said you use single point focus mode. If the subject is off-center you will focus and recompose and take the shot. How does that work for you when you are shooting from the waist level? Do you change the focus mode to zone or are you skilled enough that you are able to focus and recompose using single point? Thanks."

Question #43: About Sunbursts

Bonjour! I decided to restart the Q&A blog posts. I put them on hold for a long time because of my Street Focus podcast. I answer listener questions in a monthly Q&A segment and thought that redundancy would not make much sense. I'll try to answer different questions here, but they may cross over on occasion as well. I was also busy writing my first street photography ebook :)

So this week, I want to talk about sunbursts!

Recently someone commented on one of my silhouette pics by asking if I used a sunburst filter. I must admit that, being somewhat of a gear minimalist, I had never even heard of a sunburst filter and wondered why anyone would use one when you can achieve sunbursts without a filter. So I investigated further... There are indeed such things are Star Effect Filters that you can put in front of your lens. They even come in 4 point or 6 point options.

But why? First, a sunburst is quite easy to achieve without the added expense of a filter by simply setting your camera to a small aperture (big number ;) ideally start at f/16). And, wouldn't the use of a filter reduce the quality of the lens? 

Does a star effect filter make the sunburst more 'perfect'? Again... Why? Is perfection so important that we need to alter everything to try to achieve it? Are we even wired to respond to perfection? Or rather, aren't we more likely to respond emotionally to imperfections. As a street photographer, I certainly don't look for perfection. I photograph everyday life, it's raw, it's not perfect and it's often those imperfections that make the photograph special.

Okay, but people buy those filters so they must be really awesome. I looked further and saw one great example where such a filter would be very useful: Night street photography. I can definitely see its use to create a star effect on street lights. 

I usually try to capture a sunburst when I shoot a silhouette. It's an added challenge and it looks cool. I really never even paid attention whether it has 4, 6 or more points... For one thing, the sunburst is never the subject of my photograph. I look at it as an added bonus that makes a good shot a little bit more interesting. 

As I was doing a Google search on the filters, I stumbled upon many tutorials on how to add a sunburst to an image that doesn't have one in the first place... Yikes! Don't even get me started... Call me a purist if you wish. I find it much more fun and challenging (and so much faster) to capture it in camera than spend my precious time making one up in PS. But hey, post processing is an art and I know many amazing photographers who enjoy that part of the craft and do it very well. I admire their PS skills, I'm in awe with what they can do with the tools. But it's just not for me, and that's probably one of the reasons why street photography and I are such good friends.

Conclusion: Maybe my first reaction towards using such filters was a bit strong, they are just another way to create 'in camera', no different than using a creative focus lens or even a toy camera. It's all good, especially if it makes the photographer go out with his/her camera more and make pictures! I may just have to try a star effect filter some day :)

Here are a few of my sunburst pics, they are 'au naturel', no filter or PS magic applied.

A Roman evening f/16  ©Valerie Jardin

A Roman evening f/16  ©Valerie Jardin

A New York morning f/16 ©Valerie Jardin 

A New York morning f/16 ©Valerie Jardin 

Yes, once in a while I also photograph the natural world in my own backyard :) f/18 ©Valerie Jardin 

Yes, once in a while I also photograph the natural world in my own backyard :) f/18 ©Valerie Jardin 

Street Focus

Bonjour!

This blog has been a bit quiet lately... I've been traveling a lot and teaching photo workshops. I also started hosting my very own podcast Street Focus: An Ongoing Exploration of Urban Photography. I invite you to listen to this new weekly show which is part of the popular TWiP (This Week in Photo) network. The podcast is free for download on iTunes and you can also sign up to receive it via email (the audio is available on the show notes each week).

Every three weeks I answer listener questions and run a photo contest, so do not hesitate to send your questions for the show!

Also, I've added some workshops for 2015: A weekend of street photography in Paris in January, a week in Rome in April and a week in Paris in May. I hope to meet some of you during a photo adventure in 2015! To read my latest newsletter you can click here. To receive updates, please sign up here.

Valérie

Question #42: About My Camera Settings

Q: "Valerie, I love your photographs, there's a timelessness attached to them and very French if I may say so! These are in the tradition of the great French photographers of the fifties. One thing though, I'm dying to know what your settings are if you shoot Raw or Jpegs out of the camera. Hoping you will put me out of my misery. Best wishes." Alan Thomas.

A: "Thank you for the nice compliment Alan, made me blush! :)

As you probably know, I shoot almost exclusively with the Fuji x100s. I love its simplicity and user-friendly dials. I shoot RAW because I like the control it gives me. I don't spend much time in Lightroom but I like consistency and control in my B&W conversion. I don't use presets, I adjust each slider in seconds and the job is done. I have used the JPEG setting on many occasions and the fun filters. I have often set the format in square high contrast B&W with yellow filter and got great results that didn't differ much from the adjustments I make to my RAW files. Basically I shoot RAW out of habit more than anything else...

I shoot in Aperture Priority most of the time. A dial I use a lot is exposure compensation, which is very conveniently located on the x100s (not the case for every camera where you have to go into a menu to change it!) 

My two cents: It's not about shooting Raw or Jpeg, full manual or auto, it's really about learning to see and know how to use your camera to tell your story. I see a lot of bad imagery shot in full manual mode and quite a lot amazing photography shot with camera phones. Vision is still the most indispensable element to produce good photography :)

I hope this answers your question. Happy shooting!" Valerie

If you received this blog post via email, click on the title to view the actual published post. If you found it useful, please leave a comment below and share your experience with the community. If you have a question, feel free to send it to Valerie for an upcoming Q&A blog post. This blog cannot exist without your questions! 

photo-2.JPG



Question #41: About Developing Your Photographic Eye

Q: "Newbie here.... What's the best way to develop your photographic eye? I know experience is important, but any other key ideas?" Tony Burtt

A: "Good question Tony, and one that I get asked often. A big component of my photo workshops is about learning to see photographically. Practice, practice, practice. Exercising those 'visual pushups' as often as possible is key to growing as a photographer. 

  • Shoot as often as possible. What to shoot? I always encourage people to shoot what they love to get the motivation to go out more often. Whether it's classic cars, horses or flowers, you will always get more enjoyment photographing things that you are most passionate about, you will shoot more and get better in the process. 
  • Get out of your comfort zone. Why? It's very important to try new things too. If you love photographing flowers, I would encourage you to try your photographic eye at something completely different. You will learn a lot in the process and you may surprise yourself by discovering and enjoying something new. Trying your eye at different genres will also make you a well rounded photographer, better prepared in any situation.
  • Slow down! Why? The digital age tends to make photographers a bit lazy. It is definitely an advantage to accelerate the learning curve and give immediate gratification. On the other hand, the unlimited shutter click possibilities can be a crutch. Many photographer take the 'spray and pray' approach instead of slowing down to make decisions before pressing the shutter release. I encourage my students to practice setting some limitation on some photo walks. One camera, one prime lens and a limited number of frames (let's say 36 exposures). Every time photographers slow down and make decisions in camera without relying so much on post processing tools, they always have more keepers at the end of the day. Try it!
  • Seek inspiration online. But don't spend all your time on the Internet. Going out with your camera will still be much more valuable that drooling over the amazing images featured on 500px.
  • Go on photo walks with like-minded people. It's fun and a great way to learn a lot from each other. No photo walk group in your area? Start your own!
  • Give yourself some themes or challenges to work on when you go out with your camera. Work on a shot list. Try new techniques. Limit yourself to a prime lens or the camera on your phone.
  • Attend a photo workshop! :)

I hope this helps and that the community has more tips to share in the comment section below." Valerie

©Valerie Jardin   Flowers are not 'my thing' but I like to see the world through my lens and I shoot pretty much anything that catches my eye. Those daily 'visual push-ups' add up to develop your vision and make you a better photographer!

©Valerie Jardin  

Flowers are not 'my thing' but I like to see the world through my lens and I shoot pretty much anything that catches my eye. Those daily 'visual push-ups' add up to develop your vision and make you a better photographer!

If you received this blog post via email, click on the title to view the actual published post. If you found it useful, please leave a comment below and share your experience with the community. If you have a question, feel free to send it to Valerie for an upcoming Q&A blog post. This blog cannot exist without your questions! 

 

Question #40: About Scouting a Location for Street Photography

Bonjour everyone. Sorry for the long absence from the Q&A blog. I've been busy teaching a workshop in Paris followed by a much needed family vacation. A few questions have come in and it's time I start answering some of them... So here we go!

Q: "For street shooting, are there any scouting tools you like to use when you're looking for target neighborhoods in a location you don't know well, other than Google and maybe Flickr?" Stan Philippe

A: "Great question Stan, as I am occasionally running photo workshops in new and unfamiliar locations. Doing research on photo sites and checking out YouTube videos to get a feel for a place and its various neighborhoods is a great way to get started. It's always my first step in the scouting process. Next, I get in contact with local street photographers to get their input and talk to them about their favorite street photography locations. Many times I co-lead a workshop with a local street photographer, such as my NYC and LA workshops. Nothing beats having the first hand experience of a local street photographer to help you find the best places to shoot.

When I am not scouting or planning for a workshop and just shooting for myself, I like to let the city surprise me. I can walk all day with my camera and get lost on purpose. There is always a story happening and I enjoy the hunt as much as the resulting image. I tend to roam the less travelled areas and stay away from the touristy spots. Taking side streets and back streets as much as possible, and with safety in mind, is the best way to get a more authentic feel for a place. Public transportation in any large city is a great place to do street photography as well. That's real life. It's important to be respectful and discreet. I would avoid photographing people in the Paris metro with a noisy DSLR, although I've done it in the past... 

Talking with locals, not necessarily photographers, is a great way to find out what's happening in a neighborhood. The changes and/or struggles that most tourists are oblivious to, may help you tell your story in images in a more meaningful way.

I hope you found these tips useful. Good luck!" Valerie.

 ©Valerie Jardin ~ Taking less travelled side streets will help you get a more authentic feel for a place.

 ©Valerie Jardin ~ Taking less travelled side streets will help you get a more authentic feel for a place.

If you received this blog post via email, click on the title to view the actual published post. If you found it useful, please leave a comment below and share your experience with the community. If you have a question, feel free to send it to Valerie for an upcoming Q&A blog post. This blog cannot exist without your questions! 

Question #39: About Going Through A Creative Rut

Q: "I'm attending evening classes in a photography school - we basically have weekly workshops where we're given assignments on imposed subjects on a regular basis. So far I've been quite inspired by those and enjoying it a lot. The "end of year" assignment that's coming next, in contrast, is a freely chosen topic and our photos will be exhibited in a prestigious place and potentially exposed to lots of people.

I'm excited about this great opportunity to have my work shown but still can't possibly figure out which direction to head towards - a kind of "photographer's block" I guess. I'm most passionate about street photography, however I fear that my usual kind of street images is too mundane and not catchy enough to be exhibited. I believe in the power of simplicity and I'm aiming at producing striking, graphical pictures but I just don't know where to start. Every street around where I live I feel like I have roamed a hundred times for assignments or personal work, and there's not much new to get my inner photography flame kindled again. The deadline for giving out the photos for printing is June.

Do you have any advice on how to overcome that block ? Any artist you'd recommend as an inspiration, be it photographer, painter, filmmaker ?

Thanks and keep up the good work ! It's always a pleasure reading your blog and hearing you on TWiP." Guillaume

~

A: "Hi Guillaume, thank you for your kind words and for submitting a question to the blog. Tough question as I'm not sure if you are planning to pursue photography as a hobby or a career.

Street photography is really something you do for you and you alone. I wrote an article about that recently, which you might want to read: To Be Or Not To Be A Street Photographer. Street photography is not something that will get praises like landscape or nature images will. I don't think that's a bad thing. Not everyone understands the beauty of street photography and the audience is more limited. When you are out shooting, you should aim at pleasing yourself, not others. If they like your work and buy it, that's the bonus! 

You don't have to travel to exotic locations to capture beautiful street photographs. If you feel like you are in a rut, give yourself assignments. But not the same assignments that are required for your classes.  Some days you may just want to shoot some street portraits, other days focus your attention on silhouettes or motion. Find a stage and wait for the right subject to walk through. Maybe you need to do something completely different for a change. Pick up a macro lens and try your eye at macro photography for a while. Give yourself limitations, pretend you are shooting film for a day and shoot 36 frames only. That will make you slow down and think.  Get in your car and get lost on purpose, take a path you've never taken before and explore it with your camera.  You never know what is going to move the artist in you. Follow your heart!

I get inspired by art in general. Go look at paintings at your local museum, immerse yourself in a photography book, not only images that are available online. Watch inspirational videos on Lynda.com (Richard Koci Hernandez comes to mind) or Kelbyone.com: (Wonderful videos featuring Jay Maisel). 

We all go through creative blocks. Don't look at it as a bad thing. On the contrary, it may just be a sign that you need to push yourself, to grow in the process. I think that a loss of passion may be an opportunity to renew and refresh your vision and turn it in a positive experience. 

I wish you the best of luck in all your creative pursuits. Keep in touch!" Valerie

Give yourself your own assignments. Work on silhouettes for a day for example. Find the right stage, wait for the right subject to walk through and capture the shot you envisioned. That is a sure way to boost your energy and passion! 

Give yourself your own assignments. Work on silhouettes for a day for example. Find the right stage, wait for the right subject to walk through and capture the shot you envisioned. That is a sure way to boost your energy and passion! 

If you received this blog post via email, click on the title to view the actual published post. If you found it useful, please leave a comment below and share your experience with the community. If you have a question, feel free to send it to Valerie for an upcoming Q&A blog post. This blog cannot exist without your questions!