Question #34: About NX300 vs. X100S?

Hi everyone! It's been a while since I've answered a question on my Q&A Blog. I have a few hours to catch up as I am sitting on the plane from MSP to SFO. Perfect time to answer another question! 

Q: "You're playing with the Samsung NX300? Have you used it long enough to have arrived at any opinion. What lens are you using with it? I've looked at it, as well as a Fuji, which is much more expensive. An impression I have is that in either case, the lenses that are available are not that fast. Do you find this to be a problem. (I'm used to Canon f/2.8 lenses)
I'm not ready to scrap my Canon 70-200, but am thinking about a second camera for travel. I do have the x100s, but believe it would be somewhat limiting. Your thoughts would be appreciated.. Maybe this can be your question of the week." Hugh H.

A: "Thank you for your question Hugh! First, I would like to start by saying that I left the Samsung Imagelogger program, not because of the gear, simply because other exciting opportunities have presented themselves, but more on that in due time…

Although the Samsung NX300 is a fine little camera, I don’t think we can compare it with the Fuji x100s which, in my opinion, is in a class of its own. It would be like comparing apples and oranges (is that the right expression?)

The NX300 is small, light weight and has an appealing retro look. Its large tilt LCD is very convenient and the touch focus quite efficient. Its 20MP and WiFi connectivity make it quite appealing as well. I would not recommend the kit lens, I’ve used it almost exclusively with the 30mm f/2.0 pancake lens and I think it’s the best combo. I don’t see the point in putting a big long lens on such a small body, it would defeat the purpose of using such a small camera. But at least you do have the option to change lenses and use one of the many Samsung lenses available. Some of them are quite fast. 

The Fuji x100s is, so far, the best camera I’ve ever owned. I love the quality of its fixed 23mm (35mm equiv) lens, the quality of the images is excellent, its low light capability is amazing and you can’t beat its cool retro look. As a street photographer, the silent mode is priceless! I don’t think it is a camera for everyone. The limitations of not being able to change lenses can be very intimidating for many who are transitioning into the mirror-less systems. I find those limitations refreshing and liberating. The camera becomes an extension of my vision and doesn’t get in the way. 

The Samsung NX300 would be a perfect first step into the mirror-less world. I can also see it being a great companion to a DSLR kit for anyone who is wanting to have a great little camera with them all the time without sacrificing on the quality, like you would with a camera phone. Whereas, in my opinion, the Fuji is definitely a primary camera, one that will make you want to give up your DSLR altogether!

Note that the Fuji x100s is also twice the price of the Samsung NX300... I hope this helps!" Valerie

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! 

Conversation #5 With Ugo Cei About Photographing A Stranger A Day

Hello!

It's been a while since I've had the pleasure to invite a guest to talk about photography. Today I enjoyed a conversation with Italian travel, landscape and fine art photographer Ugo Cei.

Photographer Ugo Cei

Photographer Ugo Cei

Ugo claims to be a geek at heart, who loves the technical aspects of digital photography and understanding what goes inside the machine.

His clients include Architectural Digest, Condé Nast Traveler, and Alitalia.

Ugo and I have known each other for quite some time via social media. Recently, I've really enjoyed seeing the daily images of his new A Stranger A Day project. I invited him to share his experience with you through a G+ Hangout. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Ugo Cei.

Sorry for the technical difficulties at the beginning and the end of the recording... Ah, the Joy of modern technology!

You can find out more about Ugo through his website and blog and follow his project on Google+

Here are a few images from Ugo's A Stranger A Day project...

Question #33: About Transitioning To A Mirrorless System

Q: " Hi Valerie! I'm currently transitioning from dslr to mirrorless and my passion lies within the field of photojournalism/street photography and portraiture. I'm leaning towards the fuji x-e2, but not sure which lens I should purchase due to the lack of knowledge in the mirrorless world. I use to shoot with a Nikon d90 and the lens that never let me down was the 55-300mm (beautiful portraiture/IQ). Well, I guess I want to know what gear can I use as my workhorse until I get financially stable enough to add more lens/bodies. I guess my main concern is the AF (photojournalism woes of missing the shot or getting a bad shot all do to lack of focus). Thanks! Love your work!" Sha-Sonja

A: "Congratulations! Making the decision to leave the world of DSLRs is a big step. It's also an exciting one, change is good! I haven't shot with the x-e2 yet, but I love my Fuji x100s with its fixed 23mm lens (35mm equiv.). Perfect tool for street photography in particular. Auto focus never let me down, it's super fast on the x100s and I'm sure the x-e2 would be no different. 

As far as lenses are concerned, if you are used to the range of a 55-300mm on your Nikon, my suggestion to get a prime lens may be an even bigger step for you. I hear that the 18-55 mm kit lens for the x-e2 and its aperture of f/2.8-4.0 is quite good (it's 35mm equiv. to 27-84mm). This may be the best one to start with. Then I would suggest getting a fast prime when you can afford it.

I hope this helps. Have fun in the new world of mirroless cameras!" Valérie

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! 

My Fuji X100s ©Valérie Jardin

My Fuji X100s ©Valérie Jardin

Question #32: About Switching from JPEG to RAW

Q: "How to do it simply. I have resisted because I did not want to have to work on each and every photo." Joan H.

A: First what is a RAW file? Simply put, a RAW file is an uncompressed file which contains the full data from the camera sensor. It has a high dynamic range but is also quite flat with little contrast because it still requires processing. You cannot use it to print directly from the camera.

What's a JPEG then? It's a compressed image file in a standard readable format. It has a lower dynamic range. A JPEG file is ready for printing or sharing without any manipulation or correction. Post processing of a JEPG (adjusting white balance, contrast, etc.) is still possible but you are not working with the full data captured by your camera sensor, your camera already processed it. There is also a loss in color and resolution.

Note that the picture you see on the back of your camera is a JPEG rendition of what you just shot, even if you are shooting in RAW. 

Space considerations: A RAW file takes A LOT more space on your memory card and your computer hard drive than a JPEG, so be prepared for that!

Processing: Yes, you will need a processing software if you shoot RAW. But most likely you are already using one, even if it is only for minor corrections on your JPEGs such as adjusting the exposure or straightening the horizon line.

So what should you shoot, RAW or JPEG? There is no right or wrong answer. It all depends on your needs and goals. If you've never shot RAW before, just switch your setting to RAW + JPEG and play around with it for a few days. You may discover that a little bit of post processing and more flexibility to do so will help enhance your images. 

What do I shoot? I shoot RAW pretty much exclusively. The only time I switch to JEPG is when I do panning because it requires shooting a great number of frames in burst mode and it also saves space on my memory card if I do a lot of panning. I also often set my Fuji x100s to RAW + JEPG, this allows me the see in a monochrome and square format on the back of my camera. The advantage is that I still have all the color info in the RAW file just in case I want to use that.

 I hope this helps demystify the RAW vs. JPEG question.  Memory is cheap so try shooting  both for a while and see what works for you! 

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! 

 

 

 

Conversation #4 With Martin Bailey About Sharing Our Passion For Photography

Bonjour!

Sorry for the long stretch of time between posts. I've been traveling again! I always leave for a trip with the good intention of writing blog posts during the long flights but, truth is, I rarely open my laptop on a plane. I much prefer to lose myself in a good book.

I have a treat for you this week! I spent an hour chatting with my good friend and photographer extraordinaire Martin Bailey. We finally managed to find time in our busy schedules to sit down for an hour. I am just returning from Paris and soon heading down to Australia and he is about to leave for his Winter Wonderland photo tours. Martin is an amazing nature and wildlife photographer, a talented writer and a great guy! 

As my previous conversations for this blog, this is a candid chat between two photographers. Today Martin and I discuss how we've both come to a point in our careers where it's all about sharing our passion for the craft, mostly through teaching and writing. Martin is also the host of the popular Martin Bailey Photography Podcast which just reached 400 episodes. This is a huge accomplishment and I applaud him for that.

 

Martin's Website and Podcast 

Link to his photo tours and workshops

The Martin Bailey's books on Craft & Vision

 

Valerie's website and photo workshops

I am honored to be a master at The Arcanum, Trey Ratcliff's new exciting Academy of Photography!

 

I hope you enjoy my conversation with Martin Bailey!

Question #31: About Inspiration

Q: "I like to look at the work of photographers to learn and get inspired (you're one of them). What do you think about learning from looking at photographers who's work you enjoy, and who, if any, do you look at and enjoy?" ~ Shannon

 

A: "Thanks for your question Shannon! Looking at other photographers' work is one of the best ways to get inspiration, looking at art in general inspires me. We can learn a lot from the great painters as well. The use of light is no different.

Of course, as a street photographer, I am inspired by well known photographers such as Bresson, Doisneau or Erwitt. The recently discovered work of Vivian Maier is amazing and such a source of inspiration as well. I am also in awe by the amazing work of photographers of my own generation and I regularly go through sites such as 500px or Google+ to look at art.  There are so many amazing unknown artists out there who create stunning images. We are fortunate to be able to have access to such a wealth of talent thanks to the Internet. It wasn't so long ago that we only had access to work in print form, which was very limiting. So many talented photographers were never discovered and their work never seen because visibility was reserved to very few well known artists. 

I think we need to derive your inspiration from the Internet, museum exhibits and books. Emulating the work of others is also a great way to learn different techniques, such as lighting. This blog post by fellow photographer Rick Sammon comes to mind.

Most of all, I get inspiration in everyday life. I just spent three days roaming the streets of Paris and the unique atmosphere inspires me every time. It reminds me to slow down, observe and record with my camera." 

Valerie Jardin Photography - Cafe-1.jpg


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 #30: About Cropping Photos

Q: "I love your photos and enjoy listening to you when you are on TWIP. I was wondering what your thoughts are about cropping photos. Do you usually plan to crop or try to frame in camera? When you do crop a photo to you usually stick to "standard" sizes or usually just to get the image you want? Thanks again for sharing your love of photography." Wes

A: "Thanks for being a TWiP listener Wes! And thank you for submitting a question. Cropping in camera and getting rid of distracting elements before you press the shutter in order to make stronger images is actually something I teach in my 'Learning to see photographically' workshop. That is also the reason why I urge my photography students to use a prime lens. A fixed focal length lens will make you work harder, it will slow you down to compose your image more carefully. In my opinion it's all about shooting less and shooting better and with more intent. With digital, photographers tend to shoot a scene from every possible angle and compose their image in post processing with the cropping tool. I think that approach takes the merit and the fun out of photography. There are decisions that should be made in camera and in the field. We are photographers, aren't we? 

Of course shooting a large number of frames of a single subject and leaving room for cropping is necessary when you photograph birds, children, sport, etc. It is also a necessary step in the learning process. The digital age has certainly eased the learning curve with the possibility of unlimited shots, immediate gratification and no cost attached. My point is that once a photographer becomes proficient, he or she should not depend on the lucky shot and should make decisions in camera in order to spend as little time in the digital darkroom as possible. Cropping in camera is one of those decisions. 

Do I crop in post processing? I do, occasionally, and I love the ease of the cropping tool. That said,  I don't shoot with the cropping tool in mind. Yet, it can be an image saver! I often used a square crop for street photographs when I was shooting with a DSLR for example. Now I have the ability to see in a square before I press the shutter and that is a great advantage to train the eye to see in that format. I often set my Fuji x100s to square.

I don't worry too much about keeping the standard ratio when cropping in LR unless I want to print and I want that print to fit in a standard frame size. I like to add a white or black border to my images, which also allows for more flexibility if the crop is not standard.

I hope this answers your questions, please feel free to send more. Thanks again!" Valerie 

I love setting my Fuji x100s to 1x1 format and see/photograph life in a square!

I love setting my Fuji x100s to 1x1 format and see/photograph life in a square!

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 #29: About Lens Choice For Low Light Situations

Q: "Hi Valerie! I really enjoy your blog. My dream would be to take one of your workshops in Paris one day. I need guidance on which lens to purchase next. I have a Nikon D80 camera. The ISO stops at 1600. Eventually I would like a full frame DSLR. I have an 18-200 lens. The largest aperture is 3.5 . I am trying to decide if I should get a 35mm 1.4 or should I consider the 24-70 2.8. Or something else. Photography is my hobby and now that my children are grown I am trying to make growing in my knowledge a priority. I love to photograph anything. Children, landscapes, candid moments. Street and food photography really interests me. I need something that handles well in low light. Thank you!" ~ Kathy

A: "Thank you for your kind words Kathy, I hope you join my Paris workshop some day!

I am quite familiar with the 35mm and the 24-70mm lenses. My Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 has been my bread and butter lens for years. I used to travel with it but it's heavy and bulky and I've been leaving it behind, along with the DSLR for months now. It's a great lens. I almost exclusively use prime lenses these days and 35mm is the perfect lens for me. It's ideal for street photography (my Fuji x100s has a fixed 23mm lens which is the equivalent to a 35mm). I also travelled for several weeks with that focal length only and loved every minute of it (see images on blog post). The 35mm lens will be a great choice in low light and a great exercise in creativity as it will make you work harder at your composition skills. Another lens to consider would be a 50mm f/1.8, it's a great little lens and a good way to get used to working with a fixed focal length rather inexpensively. 

Keep in mind too that 1.4 will let a lot more light than 2.8 (four times more light if i'm not mistaken) and will be your best choice to shoot hand held in low light situations. 

Before you invest in expensive glass, make sure you want to stay with a DSLR system. Mirrorless cameras are definitely the way to go for most photographers today, amateurs and pros alike. You may enjoy a smaller and lighter system without compromising on the quality of images. Food for thoughts...

I hope this helps! Thanks for submitting a question for the blog!"

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! 

Conversation #3 with Ibarionex Perello about Inspiration

Today, I enjoyed a conversation with photographer, author and podcaster Ibarionex Perello. Based in California, Ibarionex launched The Candid Frame podcast 6 years ago. It has been one of my favorite podcasts for years and one that has inspired me while listening to photographers from all walks of life. During our conversation, Ibarionex and I discuss some memorable podcasts. We also chat about ways to get out of the occasional creative rut that every artist seems to go through.

I cannot recommend The Candid Frame podcast enough, check it out on iTunes! You can also find out more about Ibarionex and his work by visiting his website.

Podcast episodes that we mentioned during our conversation:

#214 Sam Abell 

#182 Angelo Merendino

#101 Chris Porsz

#105 William Albert Allard

Some of my favorite episodes:

#210 Elliott Erwitt

#87 Jay Maisel

#113 Richard Koci Hernandez

(I had the honor to be his guest on episode #154!)

Thank you for visiting this blog, please leave a comment and let me know if you enjoy it!

Question #28: About Feeling Uncomfortable To Shoot Street Photography

Q: "I recently discovered your work and what you capture is simply amazing. I have ventured the streets of Chicago a time or two with my D700 and find myself uncomfortable in a way. I feel like I am doing something wrong, is that a normal feeling? I usually do portraits and music photography but I see so much on the streets, I feel the moments need to be captured. What advice would you give to feel comfortable shooting on the streets? I often see moments when walking around but for somereason, I let them go by. Thank you for taking the time to answer." Jr Wyatt

A: " Thank you for your kind words Jr! This is a very normal feeling and most street photographers feel more or less uneasy at first. It's a matter of getting to the point when the desire to document life in the streets becomes stronger than the fear of doing it. 

There are several things you may want to consider:

  • First, as long as you are respectful of others and you are in a public place, you're not doing anything wrong! I make a point to never photograph people in an embarrassing or vulnerable situation or in a moment of crisis.
  • Hit the streets with a friend until you gain enough confidence to go out on your own. Even if your friend is not a photographer, having another person with you will embolden you. 
  • Practice in a busy place, a fair or a market. It's easier to blend in.
  • You may want to consider going out with a smaller camera or use your camera phone. You will attract less attention to yourself than shooting with a dslr.  
  • Join one of my street photography workshops, shameless plug :) I'll be in Chicago in May! Many workshop students shoot their first street photography during the workshop, it's amazing how much confidence they gain in just two days!
  • Here are some articles I recently wrote for dPS that may give you some useful tips on getting over the fear of photographing strangers.

How to Approach Street Photography in 12 easy steps

How to Make a Portrait of a Stranger in 8 Easy Steps

Get out there an have fun, don't hide behind a big lens, get close and enjoy the experience. Good luck!

©Valérie Jardin

©Valérie Jardin

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! 

Conversation #2 With Frederick Van Johnson About Marketing For Photographers

Frederick_Headshot.jpg

Hello!

I'm excited to share my conversation with photographer, TWiP podcast host and marketer extraordinaire Frederick Van Johnson.

Frederick is not only the familiar voice behind the microphone on TWiP, he is a busy photographer and the founder of Mediabytes.

 

 

During this fun conversation Frederick shares some nuggets of information about social media marketing, blogging, branding, etc. I hope you enjoy it as much I did!

Follow Frederick on Google+ and Twitter

   

 

 

Question#27: About Photographic Skills

Q: "Hi Valerie, I have always wanted to learn photography. Though I'm far from being even a novice in photography but have a very strong urge to learn it. My question is whether photography is for those born with a seed for it or can a person develop it as a skill from 0 (like me) ?

In addition to it, what must be my approach to learn photography because at present all I have is a point-and-shoot camera. Do I need to start with a workshop or any other way?  Thanks." U. Kartikey

A: "That's a great question and a topic that many probably wonder about but never ask! There's never been a better time to learn photography. Everything that you need to learn about the technical aspect of the craft is available online and mostly for free. This is a huge advantage what didn't exist 15 years ago even! For some, a classroom setting is better than learning online and there are photography classes offered everywhere through community colleges, etc.

You are also raising a very good point about 'natural talent' and the part it plays in the outcome. Learning the technical aspects of photography is the easy part that is accessible to all. Everyone can take a technically great picture but not everyone can make a compelling image. The rest of the ingredients you need is a combination of passion, determination and LOTS of practice. I do believe in natural talent but that comes in various forms. We are all talented at something. Some will see a perfect composition right away without ever having to think about composition rules. Others will have the ability to see a story in a frame and, with the technical skills they acquired with experience, will be able capture that moment flawlessly. Some new photographers have such great people skills, they can position themselves as portrait photographers because they have a natural talent at interacting with their subject, etc.

If you are just starting out, try a lot of different things until you find one genre (or several) that you are truly passionate about. If you focus on what you love, you're half way there! With passion, determination and experience you will grow and develop a style. 

About gear: Your point and shoot probably has some manual settings that you can experiment with. Start with what you own. Remember that the camera doesn't make the photograph and you can take killer shots with any point and shoot or camera phone. As your skills improve and you start to feel limited by your gear, then consider upgrading. Go to a camera store, rent or experiment with a friend's camera to determine what feels right for you. It may not be a DSLR system, there are hundreds of choices out there. There are no bad cameras. Take your time to figure out what you really want to spend your money on.

©Valérie Jardin

©Valérie Jardin

About education: As I mentioned above, most of what you need to learn on how to use your camera is available for free, you can also learn a lot about techniques and composition online. Join a local photo community or photo walk group. Start a photo project such as a 365 day challenge. Anything that will make you want to go out and shoot everyday! Photo workshops are also a great way to learn in the field with like-minded people. There are many options available that range from a few hours to a few weeks.

Most importantly, shoot for yourself. Do not worry about pleasing others with your pictures (or we'd all be photographing kittens and puppies to post on Facebook...) Follow your heart and your vision. As long as you are not shooting for clients, make yourself happy first! As you grow, get some honest and reliable critique of your work in order to improve on it.

Remember the number one rule: Have fun with your camera! I hope this helps and I wish you the best." Valérie

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 #26: About The Cold And Your Camera

Question #26: About The Cold And Your Camera

I received two questions today related to cold weather and how to protect your camera. Since it's very cold over here in the Midwest, I thought I would write a quick post to answer them right away.

Q: "How to protect the camera from the cold and condensation when bringing it back indoors" Maria Cecilia

And

Q: "Equipement protection and care in very cold conditions and back into the warmth." Bruno C

A: "Living in Minnesota, where the hottest temperature ever recorded was 114°F (46°C) and the coldest temperature on record was a chilly -60°F (-51°C), I think I am semi qualified to answer those questions...

Cameras don't like extreme temperatures, photographers usually don't like them much either... This post is about the cold so here is my advice:

Your main worry is a mirror lock up when the lubricant that helps activate the moving parts freezes. Cameras can usually handle cold temperatures. For example, the Canon 5D Mark II has a cold rating of 32°/104°F (0°/40°C). I've had mine out for extended periods of time at much colder temperatures and never had a problem. Check your manual to find out the cold rating data for your camera model.

Another thing to worry about when the temperature dips: The battery will wear out much faster so make sure you carry a spare or two that you keep in a pocket as close to your body heat as possible. Smaller cameras don't have as many moving parts, and no mirror freeze up to worry about, but their batteries will drain even faster so be prepared for that. 

When out in the cold, your camera doesn't need any special protection as long as it is dry. In case of a heavy snowstorm, any camera rain sleeve will do. The key is to keep moisture and condensation from building up on your camera and lens. Excessive moisture on your lenses can cause mold to form inside the lens, which will ruin it. To prevent damage from condensation, here is what you need to do: Before you go back inside your house or car, make sure you seal your camera in an air-tight plastic bag. This will allow the camera to reach room temperature while the condensation builds on the outside of the bag, not on your precious gear. One more thing: Avoid changing lenses in adverse weather!!

If' you're on a 'photo drive' and make frequent stops. Don't even bother turning the heat on in your car in between photo stops. You're already dressed for the cold weather, so keep the gear as close to the same temperature as the outside temp as possible to keep the lens from fogging up, then put it in a plastic bag when you're ready to pack up and head home.

You also need to take care of yourself. Frostbites hurt! Dressing in layers is key. Keep extra feet and hand warmers pouches in your camera bag. They don't always stay warm for as long as it says on the package... If you've never heard of feet or hand warmers, they are small pouches of iron powder, charcoal and saw dust that, when combined and exposed to air, react and create an oxidation that produces heat (there may be another ingredient or two, I'm not a chemist!) They stay warm for about 6 hours. Those little pouches are a life saver when you spend time outdoors during the Minnesota Winter. 

Photographers also need be able to have full use of their fingers to adjust camera settings but, in extreme cold conditions, you just cannot take your gloves off safely. I wear touch screen gloves under my super-warm mittens. They are well fitted to let me adjust camera settings and to answer my iPhone with the special touch screen finger tip technology. 

Skin freezes very quickly, leave as little of it exposed as possible. Wearing a balaclava and good sunglasses will protect you. I wear boots that are rated for extremely cold temperatures but my feet will still get cold if I don't keep moving. Warm socks and feet warmers really help keep you comfortable. This doesn't sound very fashionable you may say... Well, you're on a photography mission, not a fashion show. And frankly, when it's that cold, I doubt you run into too many other people ;)

I hope this helps my photographer friends who are currently living cold places. Please share your experience and/or tips in the comment section. Stay warm and happy shooting!"  Valérie

©Valérie Jardin

©Valérie Jardin

©Valérie Jardin

©Valérie Jardin

Winter driving... No worries, I was shooting from the passenger seat! ©Valérie Jardin

Winter driving... No worries, I was shooting from the passenger seat! ©Valérie Jardin

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! 

Conversation #1 With Street Photographer Fokko Muller

Bonjour!

This is the first of a new series of conversations with photographers from all over the world. I will continue to answer questions on this blog as well, so please keep those them coming!

profile photo fokko muller.jpg

Today I would like to introduce you to Dutch Street Photographer Fokko Muller. Fokko lives in Emmen in The Netherlands. He has been shooting street photography since 2010. He is the co-founder and member of The Street Collective . He also gives lectures about street photography and teaches workshops in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. His work has received awards and was exhibited at the State Center of Fine Arts in Novosibirsk. Fokko also writes for Fotoclub, a Dutch online publication.

You can find out more about Fokko Muller by visiting his website.

I invite you to view the conversation on the video below:

My Conversation With Street Photographer Fokko Muller

©Fokko Muller

©Fokko Muller

©Fokko Muller

©Fokko Muller

Question #25: About The Ethics Of The Street Photographer

Q: "Hi Valerie! As I explore the art of street photography, (viewing various social media boards, reading blogs, beginning to develop my own eye,etc) I wonder about the ethics of picking a shot and posting/publishing. This is not a question on the legal issues. I see photographers shooting the homeless, troubled, disabled, and often times it feels exploitive. I wonder sometimes if these photographers in some way feel superior to their subjects or that this is the modern social media version of a carnival freak show to them. Recently I saw a photo posted on a Street Photography board showing two clearly overweight women sitting on a wall near a beach and the photographer titled it "A big day out." This was followed by some rather snarky comments that suggested to me the photographer and these viewers were mocking the women photographed. I find these photos troubling and I would love to hear your thoughts." Joe C.

A: "Great question Joe, thank you for submitting it. This is a point I discuss with my students at length at the beginning of my street photography workshops. I am a street photographer, not a photojournalist. I always stress the fact that I do not photograph people is an embarrassing or vulnerable situation. The same applies for people in a time of crisis or a moment of ridicule. I put myself in the subject's shoes and if I feel like I would have a problem with a picture of me in that same situation being published, then I don't shoot it. Street photography is all about respect.

I don't believe in photographing the homeless just to get an easy shot. On the other hand, for the purpose of telling a story, the subject in his/her environment can make a powerful image. I would then have an interaction with the subject, share a few words before making a street portrait. This would more likely be part of a photo essay with a series of images.

Humor is an important part of street photography but humor does not mean ridicule. Humor can be subtle and tell a story. Making fun of someone just for the sake of getting a good laugh is not something I condone. There again, how would you feel if the situation was reversed?

Street photography is recording a moment in time, a slice of life. Respect is the number one rule. Anything else is of disservice to the community and only makes it more and more difficult for street photographers to do their job.

I would love to hear what others have to say about this topic. Thanks again for your question Joe!"

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 #24: About Watermarking Images

Q: "I am interested on your views on watermarking images. In todays market theft of images seems to be a growing concern of some photographers. Also some countries seem to be changing their laws which will make use of "author unknown" (i.e. the users doesn't look too hard) images without payment, permission or acknowledgement of copyright easier. Contrary to this many photo editors do not wish to see images with watermarks yet throughout history painters have always in some way signed their art and these signatures have been used to verify authenticity of their work. Should we as photographers not be allowed to authenticate our work? What are your views on watermarking and protecting the copyright of our work?" Derrick M
 

A: "Great question Derrick! I also like your analogy with signatures on paintings. I do watermark my images most of the time for social media use. The reason why I do it is not to prevent theft, it's to leave 'an address' in case someone wants to see more of my work. My name is small but visible and they can just Google it to find me.

Watermarks can easily be removed and they don't seem to stop anyone from using your images. You are the copyright owner of the image the minute you press the shutter. You can certainly pursue someone for copyright infringement whether your images are registered at the copyright office or not. Registration will give you a lot more leverage. The question is: Do you want to spend all that energy doing it? Is it worth it? Some photographers actually make a nice side income by suing for copyright infringements. My theory is that there are more well-intentioned people out there than dishonest ones and the latter are not worth wasting my energy on them.

Watermarks are not a bad thing if they are very unobtrusive, almost transparent, and located in a corner where they are the least distracting.

I don't like to see watermarks on a professional website portfolio. Why? The client is on your site, they know who the photographs belong to, they should be able to see your work without the distraction of a watermark.

I really dislike seeing watermarks in the middle of a picture. Why? It reminds me of the old proofs that were stamped ten times with the word 'Proof'. A watermark anywhere on or next to the subject of the photograph screams: "I don't trust you" and is very distracting. 

To sum it up, I don't mind discreet watermarks as a form of identification. They are not a deterrent to theft. If you share you images on social media, you run the risk of someone posting them as their own. It's a risk you take. Now it's up to you to determine if the benefit of showing your work to thousands of people is worth the risk of a few of them using it without your consent...

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

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 #23: About Presets

Q: "I would like to hear your thoughts on software for photo-enhancing beyond Lightroom and Photoshop. Are they helpful and do they add something the basic editing software does not? Also, the same question related to presets for Lightroom or Photoshop? And if you do find them helpful, how in the world does one decide which ones to purchase as there seems to be so many available?" Melanie Barrett

A: "Hi Melanie and thank you for your question! There are some wonderful enhancing software programs and presets out there, I just don't use them... I find programs such as PS, Lightroom or Aperture so powerful that I don't see the point of adding anything else to my workflow. I like to tweak my images myself to reflect the emotion I had when I took the picture. No preset can really do that for me.

That said, I am not a portrait or fashion photographer. They may use some tools beyond the traditional photo editing software programs in order to help them achieve a final image faster. It would be interesting to find out more about that if someone wants to leave a comment below.  

The type of photography I do requires very little post processing and I like a very natural look to my images. Anything that looks over-processed turns me off, especially in street photography or in nature. But photography is an art form and art is subjective. Presets are obviously popular and I believe that anything that boosts the artist's creativity is a good thing!

The presets available in LR are a good starting point to experiment with. I think you have to make it your own by adjusting a few sliders to achieve a final look and feel that works for you.

I think that many photographers rely on plug-ins or presets to try to make a mediocre image look better. Reality is, no preset or amount of post processing is ever going to turn a bad picture into a good one. Yet, skillful editing (via a preset or not) can definitely turn a good image into an even better one!

If you want to try some of the many products available on the market I would recommend a free trial to see if that is something your work is really going to benefit from.

 I hope this helps. Thanks again for submitting a question for the blog Melanie!"

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 #22: About Lens Correction In Lightroom

Q: "First I really love your photography/blog and I'm learning a lot from you so thanks. My question is: What is your take on Lightroom lens correction? I can't stand uneven lines and I tend to start processing every single picture with the lens correction! Do you think it's important? Or is it fine if the lines are inclined as long as the subject is well composed?" Faisal Al Fouzan

A: "Thanks for the kind words, I am glad that you find my posts useful! 

That's a great question! Lightroom lens correction is a powerful tool and we are very lucky to have it. Especially in the latest version. With years of experience as an interior photographer I can assure you that the slightest diversion of a vertical line will draw the eye right away. Even more so than a slanted horizontal line! With LR5, minor vertical corrections are just a click away with the Basic Vertical adjustment. Some images may require manual corrections, which is all you could do with earlier versions of the software. Those adjustments are quick and easy to do and will make the biggest difference in the resulting image. Your lens may also be recognized by the software, so I would recommend that you enable profile corrections as well. 

That said, there is nothing wrong with slanted or curved verticals are long as it is the intended effect. In that case the slant will usually be more pronounced and the artistic intent of the photographer will be obvious.  

So, in one word, my answer is: Yes! Use the lens correction function in Ligthroom, it's an image saver!"

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 #21: About Digital Downloads For Purchase

Q: "I've been asked for some of my photos to be purchased via digital download for use in crafts fabrication and to be sold. I'm not sure how to price accordingly as the reason for the purchase is to make money off of them. Your thoughts are much appreciated. Thanks." Vin

A: "Hi Vin, I'm a bit confused regarding the use of your images. It sounds to me like your images would be sold for commercial use, not private use. I am also unclear what you mean by 'crafts fabrication'. No matter what, there is no 'one answer fits all' when it comes to pricing photography. There are many factors that will influence the price you can charge, such as your geographical location, the current state of the economy, the specific type of photography, just to name a few. 

Also, one single image will be worth a different amount depending on its usage: print and/or online, size, high res, low res, size of the audience, etc.

In order to determine a licensing fee (keep in mind that you do NOT release the copyrights), you need to know what your image is going to be used for: Editorial, commercial, retail, advertising, etc. If it's single or multiple use, the amount of time, etc. The more the image is going to be used, the higher the licensing fee is going to be. 

You also need to consider your creative fee, as in your cost of running a business. Also, what production expenses did you incur to create the images? This would include anything from equipment rental to processing/retouching fees, hiring an assistant, gas mileage, etc.

If possible, find out what your client's budget is first. When it comes to negotiating your fee, stay flexible but remain confident!  If you have something unique that your client needs and cannot easily find through a micro stock agency, then they will expect it to come with a significant price tag. Don't undersell yourself. It would be detrimental to you and the industry. Remain flexible by offering a discount for a certain quantity of licensed images for example. Make sure that your contract and invoice state that the licensing agreement will only take effect once the invoice is paid in full.

For all information regarding licensing images I highly recommend that you visit the American Society of Media Photographers. You can also find a software to help you determine pricing, fotoQuote is one of them. I hope this helps shed some light on the subject. Good luck!"

 

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 #20: About Neutral Density Filters

Q: "Do you ever use ND filters?" Jonty B, Australia

 

A: "Hi Jonty! Nice to hear from you.

Since I rarely shoot landscapes or nature photography I don't have much use for a neutral density filter. For those who are not familiar with ND filters, they are a grey piece of glass that fits in front of your lens and reduces the amount of light that hits the sensor of your camera. ND filters are typically 3 stops in strength, some go as far as 10 stops! By slowing the shutter speed, ND filters will allow you to capture motion in water, clouds or any moving subject in daylight with a creamy or blurry look instead of freezing the action. With the use of an ND filter you can set the shutter speed and aperture you want, without having the actual light conditions dictate the settings.

In street photography, the use of an ND filter can be useful in order to add motion blur to a street scene for example. My new Fuji X100s is equipped with a 3 stop ND filter in camera which I use to reduce the amount of light hitting the sensor when I shoot wide open in bright daylight.

ND fllters are expensive and come in two forms: screw-in or slot-in. The screw-in filters are small, light and easy to fit on the lens. The drawback is that you need one for each lens diameter you own and stacking them can cause vignetting problems. The advantage of the slot-in filters is that they are also stackable and you can adapt them to different lens sizes by using an inexpensive adaptor ring for each lens you own.

 I hope my answer is useful and helps shed some light on ND filters."

 

 

 

 

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