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#2. BASIC EDITING: Photoshop Elements & iPhoto

#3. 2011 CREATIVITY: Making Photos, not taking Snapshots

#4. 2012 CREATIVITY: Making Photos, not taking Snapshots


Principles of the craft are tackled below in the digital age.   See for advice on what camera to buy.

1.    BE A PHOTOGRAPHER:  Despite our “automated” cameras, you are still the photographer.  To paraphrase the late, great photographer, Galen Rowell “I wish I had a nickel every time someone told me ‘gee you have a great camera’ when I show them a print.   Nobody ever asked an Author, ‘what word processing program did you use to write your novel?’”  Getting photos with an impact  beyond a technically good image takes effort, creativity and getting immersed in the process.  The rest are just snapshots.  The best book on photography I ever read was Galen Rowel’s “The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography.” You also have to have a basic grasp of math.  Knowing fractions of a second, proportions, focal length implications, and ‘how much does this stuff cost!’

2.    DECISIVE MOMENT:  Henri Cartier-Bresson was famous for the concept of “the decisive moment  "Photography is not like painting," Cartier-Bresson told the Washington Post in 1957. "There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative," he said. "Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever."  (

3.    UNDERSTAND LIGHT:  Steve McCurry puts it very well:  “I can look at something and say, “That light is going to be amazing.” You learn to see sections of things and you edit with your eye. In time, you pick up those skills.

I remember in the past, I would get my pictures back thinking they were going to be great. And they're not that great because you have one idea in your brain but the camera saw it differently. The more experience you have, the more you can close that gap between what you see and what the camera sees.

I’m interested in human interaction, human relationships, and how people react to their environment, or maybe to their pet, or to the dog on the street. People talking amongst themselves, some guy sleeping on the park bench; for me, the story is paramount. I want to frame it, I want to compose it in a concise and interesting way. Whether it’s digital or film doesn’t really matter to me."  (

4.    COMPOSITION:  The rule of thirds is still pretty much a law that has not been repealed or overturned. Also GET CLOSE.   Check out the following for more:

5.    BE READY:  If your camera in safe, protected in its case, purse or backpack, you will never photograph the sudden opportunities.  The camera needs to be around your neck or belt and ready to be turned on.  You always need spare charged batteries and extra cards.  Minimize the potential for failure, always format the cards in the camera, don’t just erase all the files.  Read your manual on how to do this.  Have it close.

6.    SURPRISES:  Frequently, the best photos are the unexpected.  You can stage them or just be ready for what happens in front of you.  Look for different angles, up or down!

7.    CAMERA FOCUS POINT:  When shooting animals or underwater, use the centered focus point on your SLR.  Point and shoots may not have this feature.  Using the center point allows you get the animal in focus.  Alternatively, you may need to adjust the focus point to be situated directly on one of the animal’s eyes to get the best perceived sharpness.  Letting the camera decide the focus point will not give you optimum results as the camera may keep searching for what should be in focus or determine the wrong point.

  Shoot RAW unless you are shooting B&W from a war zone and transmitting to your newspaper from the field.  This allows you to get the most control and best color from the images.  Using a non-destructive RAW converter like Adobe Lightroom or Apple’s Aperture will allow you keep the original and create images that will leap off the page in JPEG (for the web) or TIFF Formats.

9.    HISTOGRAM:  Know your histogram, the light meter for the digital age.  Most in-camera Histograms are calibrated for JPEG.  You will start to see blinking that indicates that you still have about one f/stop to go in RAW before you blow out the highlights.  Here is a really good article on the subject:

10.    SHARE YOUR STUFF:  Photos, while many are strictly personal, most aren’t.  To loosely quote Jacques Cousteau, “If one is blessed enough to live a fortunate life, it would be a crime not to share it.” 

What purpose does it serve if your magnificent photo of your sleeping dog in the throes of ecstasy in a dream never sees the light of day?  Share. 

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