Tag Archive for 'seim'

Finding a Style – And Why Most Photographers Don’t Have One.

PinExt Finding a Style   And Why Most Photographers Dont Have One.

By Gavin Seim, Updated 10/11

Something one often hears tossed around in this industry is the word ‘style.’ “It’s my style” or “love your style.” Sometime it can get pretty funny: “My style is, uh, everything.” Now, this is not a bash session. We’re all at different levels, and that’s OK. This is just another post to get us thinking, something to get us all to raise the bar. I think the idea of style bears consideration and refinement. So let’s start where I often start, with the word, itself.

Webster’s Dictionary – Style.
1. a distinctive manner of expression (as in writing or speech)
2. a distinctive manner or custom of behaving or conducting oneself
3. a particular manner or technique by which something is done, created, or performed.

Seim Studios 4 600x400 Finding a Style   And Why Most Photographers Dont Have One.

Hunters Bridge - 2009, HDR Portrait.

SO perhaps a photography style is just what you thought it was. But look carefully. “Distinctive, distinctive, particular.” I see photographers (especially new ones) frantically trying to define their style. But they don’t. It may change from week to week and month to month. If you go to their site right now, that high contrast, over saturated look is their style. But really, it’s probably because they know nothing else or saw someone else doing it. Your style is a big part of your brand. But developing it is not quick or easy. It’s a process.

NEXT let’s get one thing out of the way. Just because you do something does not make it your style. The most common “style” I see is “high contrast” or “edgy” or “bold” or “fun”. Now all those things can be a style, but they’re generally non-distinctive and used by people who don’t really know their style. Sometimes these vague styles are used by photographers who are inexperienced and use “art” or “style” as an excuse for their work. (I.e. “The high contrast look is my style” or “The flat light is my style” or “The blown out highlights are part of my style”)

NO. Those are not your style. You just don’t know what you’re doing. The first step in developing your style is to STOP trying to be something you’re not. It takes years and years to become a good craftsman. If you’re a new photographer, stop trying to fake a style that you don’t really have or convince people that that thing you do (because you don’t know any better) is your style. Don’t do it. Using style as an excuse just slows your career because it allows you to make excuses and avoid learning to things properly.

BUT can’t high contrast, blown out, journalistic, be a style? Sure. But often it’s not, because people who are comfortable, experienced, and have really found a style generally know better than to take the cliches and call them a style, because the result tends to appear like a generic copy of everyone else.

SO WHAT makes a style? Sure, it can be somewhat subjective, but let’s go back to the dictionary for the facts. A style is “distinctive.” It’s “particular.” That means it has the ability to stand out on its own. So based on that, if your style looks like 80% of the rest of the world’s photographers, it’s not much of a style. That is, not unless you call your style generic, which does not sound too appealing.

Now, I’m not saying a style can’t be inspired by the work of another photographer. In fact, it’s almost impossible to do something completely new. But there’s inspiration, and there’s outright copying. Most photographers don’t have a style because they have not yet taken enough time to refine their craft and develop that style. This can apply to a newbie as easily as to a 25 year veteran.

A STYLE is not simply taking photos. It takes something more. It requires thought, planning, and skill. But even further, a style is your brand. It can be combined with your personalty, the products you make from your photos, and the way you present them on your website. It does not mean being in a rut or always being the same or applying a particular technique to everything. It’s a process.

WHAT is my style? I’ve been making photos for over 14 years now, and in just the past few, I’ve started feeling I understand my style. It took me that long. I know what I do, and I know how to make it come out nearly every time. I feel I have a style, but I’m still improving on it.

If you were to go to my portrait or wedding site, you might see me describe my work as “A natural cinematic style inspired by the masters and tempered with modern flair.” But the text is merely the beginning. I have an visual in my mind of the kind of image I make, and while every one is different, I have a focus. Also, the way I display my final prints as carefully crafted wall portraits is a very relevant part of my style. It’s taken me about 13 years to pin myself down this much. And I’m still discovering and refining my style.

WHAT does all this this mean? Well, my goal here today is not to say you can’t have a look, or that you can’t describe your work. It’s not to make this style thing abstract and confusing. Maybe you’ve truly found your style, maybe not. But my intent is to get us all thinking. To raise the bar on our style, study, and practice, and become such proficient craftsman that we truly understand our medium and our style. Maybe you’ll be faster than I was, maybe not. But either way, it’s a process. A valuable one.

SO, STYLE is important. But it’s not something you can simply make up. Before you can really define your style, you have to know your craft well enough to understand what you’re doing with it. You have to have worked enough to find that distinctive consistency in your images. Imagine a singer. A singer does not have a style until they learn to sing and perform. It takes time. They have to work it out. Photography is no different.

WHY do most NOT have a style? Because they’ve not refined their craft . It does not mean they’re all bad photographers. But in truth a lot of photography today lacks distinction. Admittedly, it’s hard. Finding your style take more than just doing a wedding every weekend. It takes more than copying the latest trend you see your friends using.

I often see photographers who are really busy with jobs, but it’s all they can do just to keep up and get the jobs out. They’re generic. If you’re paying the bills that way then fair enough. If volume is your business approach, it may work for you. But it’s not usually distinctive. Rushing offers too little time to experiment and define your work. You probably want something more. To define a unique style, you have to take your extra time to study and refine what you’re doing until you draw out something unique about it. Until there’s a pattern. Until it becomes a style, not just the latest fad.

How to Find Your Style. A style is images, personalty, presentation, branding, and more. Really finding it takes enough experience to know what you do and how you make it unique. I think the way to find your style is to stop looking so hard. Stop trying to rush to having it all figured out, and spend more time figuring. Study your craft and be content with the fact that you’re making good images and improving. Forget about your style for a while and learn how to style better. In time, you’ll find your own unique approach. You’ll find your STYLE naturally.

WHAT AM I GETTING AT? Stop having confidence? Stop charging for quality? Heavens, no! I’m not even saying at what point you have a style. I’m just saying slow down and think about it. Take the time to make images just for the joy of it. Explore ideas and techniques, read books, go to workshops. Do that, and your style will blossom, as will the quality of your work. Photography is not a quick journey. It’s a long one. It’s OK to be starting out. Just be honest with yourself. Keep working on your craft and always raise the bar.

Keep styling,

Gav

Seim Studios 1 3 600x347 Finding a Style   And Why Most Photographers Dont Have One.

Midnight Seattle - 2009. 2010 PPA Loan Collection. 2011 PPA Magazine Feature.

 

A bit of Gavin’s work below. You can see more on his website, seimstudios.com

Continue reading ‘Finding a Style – And Why Most Photographers Don’t Have One.’

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The Straight Dope on Digital Resolution and Printable Size.

PinExt The Straight Dope on Digital Resolution and Printable Size.

by Gavin Seim: Updated 11/22/12. There’s a lot of confusion out there about resolution as it relates to making prints, so I want to help clear it up. I make mostly large prints and spend quite a bit of time studying factors that effect my image quality. Often I use a 5D MK II, which is 21MP. I also use 4×5 film because of it’;s vastly higher resolution. It scans in at closer to 200MP. But to start with lets use an average 18MP file as our example.

First let me say that digital has a long way to go in terms of resolution. Today’s camera’s are amazing, but lets get a perspective. Ansel Adams did much of his work on 8×10 sheet film. It’s hard to compare film to digital exactly, but using a good film he probably would have had a rough equivalent of around 400 million (mega) pixels. This makes our digital cameras look pretty paltry at times and it’s one of the reasons I’ve started working with 4×5 film for some of my projects, as it can give me  200+ effective megapixels when scanned (more of that on my pictorials website).

Say we have a full size file from a Canon 7D. The resolution of that file would be 5184×3456 pixels. About 18 mega pixels (roughly 22x less than that 8×10 film). Our file comes in at just over 11 x 17 at 300 PPI. Note that PPI and DPI refers to Pixels Per Inch or Dots Per Inch (a printing term). For today’s purpose I’ll refer to it as PPI as it’s becoming the more common term.

First and foremost, PPI and actual file resolution (or pixels) are not always the same. For example I could take our file in Photoshop and set the size to 30×20. Unless I told PS to Resample (or increase the resolution) of the file, the computer would now see this file as a 20×30. Only now it would show as being just over 172 PPI instead of 300 because the pixels have not changed or increased, which means there must be less pixel per inch when printed at that size – It’s still an 18MP file. I’ve just told the computer it’s larger in physical print size. What really matter however is if you have enough overall resolution. Here a screen capture to show how I was changing PPI. The PPI on each is different, but the pixel quantity is the same.

dpi ppi resolution example 600x239 The Straight Dope on Digital Resolution and Printable Size.

So what if I printed this file as a 4×6. I’m not sure why I would want a print that small (see the wall portrait article), but bear with me. At 4×6 our 18MP file would print out at just over 860PPI if we left it at full resolution. That’s a lot since most human eyes can’t see any difference above 300PPI. Bottom line, my file has more than enough pixels. Printing with that extra PPI won’t hurt anything. Though depending on the printer, all that information may not be used.

Why does all this matter. Well mainly so you don’t get confused. PPI has relevance in sizing and printing because it can quickly tell us something about how good our print will be. That brings us to larger prints and how this all relates.

gavin seimprint ex1 600x212 The Straight Dope on Digital Resolution and Printable Size.

Click for larger view – Gavin’s 30 inch canvas, Bull of the Mist. This a medium sized print. Taken in early morning at ISO 3200 made the detail on this slightly less, but it was needed for shutter speed. As you can see, the detail is good, but not flawless. The canvas helps give it an organic art feel. This was made from a file that was 5464 x 2732 pixels. It was up converted to 9000px wide before print. More about this image here.

Resolution VS Large prints.
This is where things get subjective. I’ll speak from my own experience as I regularly produce prints 40 inches and beyond. With our 18MP file we know we have plenty of information for a baby print. What about a serious print meant for the wall. Lets look at that 20×30 again. Lets go into the “Image Size” box of Photoshop and changing the file dimensions to 20×30, without altering the resolution as I did above. I left Resample un-checked which means I changed the print size but not the amount of pixels in the file. We’ll now have 172PPI at a print size of 30×20. Are you getting it? This is telling us how much information we have to lay on paper in terms of real life printed pixels – 172PPI is not bad. Most peoples eyes can probably see a bit more detail than that, but the print should still be good. Continue reading ‘The Straight Dope on Digital Resolution and Printable Size.’

See you in California for Spring 2011 workshops.

PinExt See you in California for Spring 2011 workshops.

by Gavin Seim. So I’ve planned another road trip, along with Spring workshops. I’m hitting the road early April with my little family and heading to SF area for two workshops in Oakland. I’m stoked. We plan to spend about a month on the road in the RV. After the workshops, we may head up towards the Grand Canyon as I hunt for stock and landscape images, then who knows. Here’s the workshop lineup. I hope you’ll help me spread the word and I hope to see you there.

banner hdr See you in California for Spring 2011 workshops.

April 16-17 is  my Lights and Shadows workshop. This is a fresh 2 day event that covers HDR and beyond. It’s an intimate workshop limited to about 20 people. We’ll be doing work in the field and editing back at the home base. More info here. There’s also a Facebook event page.

banner lrp See you in California for Spring 2011 workshops.

On April 18th is the Lightroom Power workshop. This has something for everyone. We’ll cover basics, but also get deep into power user stuff. It’s another fun hands on workshop, so bring your laptops with LR and prepare to think differently about your editing. More info here, and the Facebook event page here.

I’m also working on setting up something for Fresno. Still working on the details of that, but stay tuned to this post or the Seim Effects FB page for details. I’ll also update the workshop pages if a new location is added. Hope to see some of you there… Gav

Pro Photo Podcast #73 – Christmas 2010

PinExt Pro Photo Podcast #73   Christmas 2010

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itunesbadge Pro Photo Podcast #73   Christmas 2010

Today’s Panel... Gavin SeimDenns ZerwasBarry HowellScott & Adina HayneKevin Swan

This year on the Christmas episode we talk A LOT about the industry business and pricing ideas, what we see for 2011 and even some great tools and gadgets to pick up for Christmas. Note that this is a long show. If it’s a bit much break halfway using the time index below and listen to it as two episodes.

Podcast #73 forum discussion:

Notable Time Indexes:

  • 00:00 Introductions and news.
  • 18:50 2010 Christmas Contest.
  • 21:10 Business Talking about the industry.
  • 31:00 Facebook and other musings.
  • 45:00 Pricing thoughts and more business.
  • 1:23:10  2010 in review and looking to 2011.
  • 1:37:22 The 2010 gadget and gift guide.
  • 2:09:30 The After Show.

santa is a photographer Pro Photo Podcast #73   Christmas 2010

Links to things we mentioned.

The 2010 Christmas Contest

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Gavin’s Thoughts on Photoshop CS5. The Straight Dope

PinExt Gavins Thoughts on Photoshop CS5. The Straight Dope

Adobe Photoshop CS5 300x284 Gavins Thoughts on Photoshop CS5. The Straight Dopeby Gavin Seim: I’ll keep this brief because Photoshop CS5 has been out for months now and reviews have been floating all over. Rather than get redundant with an ultra in depth review, I’ll just talk a little about what I think. I’ll be frank and you can make your own decision from there.

Photoshop CS5. Full = $699 – $999.
My overall rating 6.5/10.

New features worth noting…

  • Content Aware tools are the big news in CS5. It works when lassoing and deleting sections of an image, using the healing brush and more. Neat tool, but not perfect. More on that below.
  • New “Mixer Brushes” blend color like paint, similar to something like Painter (but less powerful).
  • Crop has a rule of thirds overlay now (finally).
  • Remastered HDR tools and Pseudo HDR with HDR toning. Better, but not perfect.
  • Remastered Refine Edge. Will find more detailed edges for better masking and has automatic edge decontamination.
  • Puppet Warp allows you to modify in a new ways. Move limbs, horizon lines and more by defining control points.
  • New process versions and improved camera RAW.
  • Mini bridge right within PS.

Content aware fill. This feels more like a beta feature. It got hyped a lot prior to release. Probably over hyped. Once we got the product in our hands, reality set in. Content Aware was not the magical tool that Adobe made it out to be in demo videos and they took some flack for it. I think the problem was that they showed it as being so perfected. Erasing entire areas of photos, cleaning out power lines with a single stoke. It looked wonderful in theory.

Continue reading ‘Gavin’s Thoughts on Photoshop CS5. The Straight Dope’

HDR & Dynamic Range Episode on the Dojo

PinExt HDR & Dynamic Range Episode on the Dojo

dojo HDR & Dynamic Range Episode on the Dojo

by Gavin Seim: Dynamic range is a big deal in photography and I’ve been making a point to study it over the past few years. Last week I joined Kerry Garrison on the CameraDojo podcast, for a new episode on HDR. In fact however, it’s not just a discussion of traditional HDR, but on all things dynamic range.  It’s always fun guesting on other shows (not to mention a lot less work) and I think we pulled together something good here.

Thanks to Kerry for having me. Head over to CameraDojo to give it a listen. Then stay tuned because there’s also a brand new PPS Roundtable coming real soon.