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Anecdotes: You’re Perfect

"You're perfect".

“You’re perfect”.

One can’t shoot advertising and corporate photography for forty-four years and not have amassed several funny stories during this time. Some included the client, some the designer or art director, and some when I was sent on my own to shoot whatever I wanted. This was the case when a graphic designer and his client (a paper company based in Houston) hired me to work on a brochure that was featuring a new line of paper. It was to be called “Kromekoat”.

The idea was to shoot things that were chrome, and it needed to somehow say Texas. Those were the only stipulations, and besides those two, I could shoot anything I wanted. I had read that the Texas State Fair was coming up in a few days and one of the main attractions was the giant Ferris Wheel that has the word Texas in large letters on one side. Now all I needed was something chrome to take with me.

I found what I was looking for when I walked into a CVS Pharmacy near my studio. I was walking by a rack of sunglasses and spotted a plastic pair that looked just like chrome. As I tell my online students with the PPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet, follow my Did It Do It list for good composition. One of the points I mention is to Pre-Visualize.

I quickly imagined the finished photo in my mind and the next morning my assistant and I took off for Dallas and the Texas State Fair.

My idea was to find one of the Carny men that worked the games in the carnival section of the fair, and have him put on the chrome sunglasses so I could take a portrait of him in front of the Ferris Wheel. As the sun was starting to set, I still hadn’t found just the right man to pose for me. When I had less than twenty minutes of late afternoon light still available I started to get nervous. I had one afternoon to get the shot and it looked like I was going to miss it.

The sun was getting low enough that there was only a few places left that had sunlight. I was about to throw in the towel and call it a bust, when I took a quick look at my assistant and there was this epiphany that hit me over the head like a big pizza pie…”You’re perfect”, I said. “Quick JD, put these glasses on and look towards the sun.” He did and I got the shot.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com and be sure to check out my workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Next February in conjunction with Epic Photo Tours, I’ll be leading a group to Myanmar. My next Springtime Workshop will be next May in Portugal. Come shoot with me sometime.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com.

JoeB

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My Favorite Quotes: Henry David Thoreau

 

What else do you see besides clouds?

What else do you see besides clouds?

“It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see” This quote, written by nineteenth century author, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau (you might remember him from your American Literature class as the author of Civil Disobedience) is probably one of my all time favorites and one that I’m always sharing with my online class at the PPSOP, my six-month private mentoring program, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshop I conduct around the planet.

My workshop and classes are all about using the six principles of Gestalt and the elements of Visual Design and composition to aid you in taking your photos what I refer to as “up a notch”. Line, Form, Shape, Texture, Pattern, Perspective, Tension, Light, Color and Negative Space are the elements we work on every day and there out there all around you. you just have to see them.

You walk up to a tree and you see a tree. But what else is it? It’s the whole made up of several parts. It’s made up of Lines, Patterns, Texture, and various Shapes. How does it relate to the environment around it? How is the Light affecting it? Does it tell a story? Does Color factor in?

What about golf cart tracks or a stream? Does the golf cart tracks converge at a point on the horizon creating a Vanishing Point, leading the viewer around the frame to that point? Does the river sparkle or glow because the light is coming from behind it? Does it lead the viewer in and out of the composition suggesting more content outside of the frame? How could power lines running along a small highway be of any interest?

 Do you ever look at an old decayed window and see the beauty in it? Can you envision how father time has transformed it into a cacophony of colors, shapes, textures, and patterns.

What about something as simple as clouds in the above photo? Do they create a design? Shapes? Do they suggest some type of colored line that divides the frame from white to gray?

The next time you go out shooting, don’t look at things the way they are, look at them the way they could be.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2014 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime. Join me in my next Springtime Workshop next May in Portugal.  I only have two spots left for my joint trip with epic photo tours to Myanmar.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com.

JoeB

 

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AskJoeB: Would It Be More Dramatic?

Crop or not to crop.

Crop or not to crop.

Dawn is a very good shooter that recently took my “Springtime in Paris ” workshop. She sent me this photo to take a look at. and as usual, I like to put the exact message my fellow photographers send me. the reason is that so many of you out there have similar questions or have been in similar situations. Here’s what Dawn had to say:

“Hi Joe,
Attached is an image I photographed a few days ago at the Mucem, the  new museum in Marseilles, as it left the camera. I wonder if it would be more dramatic, if that’s not too serious a word, if I were to crop the sides and the foreground to make the 3 people bigger? Crop the sides to the edge of the blue-ish lights at the top left and to the edge of the horizontal light on the other side; and cropping the foreground so the side railings end at the same point. This would reduce the depth of the scene, however……
Thank you in advance for your comments,
Regards,
Dawn”
First of all, as I tell people that take my online class with the PPSOP, and my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet, NEVER CROP your pictures in front of a computer. You’ll never know where the edges of your frame are and you won’t be able to use those edges as a compositional tool. Henri Cartier-Bresson said that when you crop, you lose the integrity of your original composition. If it wasn’t good enough at the point of clicking the shutter, then it never will be.
That said, since you know how I feel about cropping, you must be talking in theory and would have cropped it the way you thought before clicking the shutter!!!
:-)

Take a look at this video:

http://www.screencast.com/t/PAvVrpgc

Nice photo Dawn, and thanks for sharing it.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and be sure to follow my 2015 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. My next “Springtime” workshop will be in Portugal next May. A wonderful city filled with history and photo opportunities. I still have two spots left with my photo tour in conjunction with Epic Photo Tour to Myanmar. Talk about history and photo opts!!!

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll send you a video critique of your image.

JoeB

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Quick Photo tip: A Cheap Safari At Your Door

300mm @ F/2.8

300mm @ F/2.8

How many of my fellow photographers that have taken my online class with the PPSOP, or been with me in one of my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet can afford to go photograph wild animals? Probably not that many, and fewer still can get away for that long.

For the ones that can, and I’ve know several friends that have gone to Africa on a Photo Safari, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll even come back with pictures that were worth the cost. You’re in a special truck with lots of other people shooting, and the time of day is not usually the most advantageous for quality light or seeing animals moving around in their natural habitat. I’ve been told that when they went out a lot of the animals were sleeping in the shade of a very hot sun.

Well, here’s a good idea that will dazzle your friends and at the same time give you an idea of what it would be like to photography exotic animals… go to your closest zoo!!!

Yes, I know it sounds dorky, dumb, and a host of similar adjectives too numerous to count, but I can tell you from experience that it can be a lot of fun. One gray day I was kind of bored, so I picked up my camera, my tripod, and my longest lens and headed to the Houston Zoo. I had no idea if it was going to work out or what I would come back with, but before long I was having a great time; I was in Africa. The key for me was to make sure the animals looked like they could have been free and wandering all around me, which meant to not show much of the environment…as in cages or walls with moats around them.

No cages or walls.

No cages or walls.

With my 300mm lens always set on F/2.8, I could knock everything out of focus except for my subject. I wondered around the zoo several times hunting animals. Since I had gone on a weekday morning, I felt as though I was wandering around in the jungle all alone, and it was great. It felt as if the animals sense this and acted as if they were also alone in the jungle. It was a great experience, and one I plan on repeating; now that I know what to expect.

You should give it a try sometime. Your friends just might start calling you Bwana!!

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and be sure to check out my 2015 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime. I still have a couple of openings for my “Springtime in Portugal” workshop, and my photo trip in conjunction with Epic Photo Tours to Myanmar.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll create a video critique for you.

JoeB

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Food For Digital Thought: Roaming

Roaming around the frame.

Roaming around the frame.

It’s interesting to note that whenever you hear the word roaming in these days of rapidly changing technology, you immediately think of your ‘Smart Phone’. Well, while that’s true, I conjure up something completely different. I think of the psychology of Gestalt, and how it plays such an important part in keeping the viewer of our photos around as long as possible.

In my online class with the PPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet We work on the different ways to manage how the viewer perceives and processes  when looking at the visual information we lay out to him in the form of a photograph. Since humans rely on the perception of the environment that surrounds him, it’s our objective to present information in such a way as to take control of what he sees.

The more ways we can get the viewer to ‘roam’ around our composition, looking for new things to discover, the longer he’ll stick around. What I try to do is create “layers of interest” in my imagery. What I mean is while I like to have one subject or center of interest, I like having secondary points of interest. Generally that means having pieces of the puzzle sprinkled around the four edges of my frame, and letting the viewer put all these pieces together creating the finished product…A well composed, balanced photo that meets several of the criteria I’ve discussed in my “did it do it” category. a photo that the viewer will remember long after he’s moved on.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com and check out my 2014-15 workshop schedule. I’ve recently added a workshop in Myanmar in conjunction with Epic Photo Tours. next February. Also, check out my next Springtime Workshop next May in Portugal. Come shoot this timeless country with me.

Don’t forget to send mr a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com.

JoeB

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Quick Photo Tips: Plain Old Window Light

One of my early North Light portraits, shot over forty-years ago in my first studio.

One of my early North Light portraits, shot over forty-years ago in my first studio.

When I first started shooting, that is to actually make a living at it without a day job, I had very little equipment and no lighting whatsoever. Even if I could have afforded it, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it at the time. So I’ll always thank the Art Gods for including Art History in my studies.

I studied the light the Old Masters used, and I can safely say that they didn’t own any strobes with big soft-boxes. Some of the greatest paintings in history were produced with North Light coming from a window. They used  North Light because of how cool and controlled it was. What I mean by controlled is that when the windows face the north, you never have to worry about direct sun coming in. North Light gives you greater control over contrast, values, and last but not least…the color. Johannes Vermeer was in my opinion the best at using north Light to create his paintings, and the painting entitled The Kitchen Maid is a great example

My first studio consisted of the first floor in a very old house in Houston, and the front top floor room that faced North. This is where I took my portraits for the first several years. Now, my fellow photographers go out of their way to re-create North Light by using strobes. There are companies ( at least there use to be ) out there that called their equipment North Light Strobes, and you paid dearly for what actually could be had for free.

In my online class with the PPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops we spend a lot of time on light and how to use simple window light effectively. That’s how important it is to me.

So, the next time your thinking about shooting a portrait, think about putting them next to a window facing North. I guarantee you that you’ll be happy with the results.

Shot for Budweiser in an old gym in San Antonio

Shot for Budweiser in an old gym in San Antonio

:-)

Visit my website at:www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2015 workshop schedule at the top of this page. My next Springtime Workshop will be in Portugal next May. I have two spots left for my photo tour in conjunction with Epic Photo Tours to Myanmar.Come shoot with me sometime.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question  to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and receive a video critique.

JoeB

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AskJoeB: What Do You Think?

What do you think?

What do you think?

Canice sent me this photo to ask me what I thought. As usual, I like to show what the person said so that others that might be feeling the same thing, or have gone through similar situations can read what was said. Here’s what Canice had to say:

Hi Joe,
Attached is an image I took the last night we were in Sienna during the workshop. You now know why I was late for the last supper !!!

You will recall the square was packed that night and we had arranged to meet up for our final meal on the last night. I had worked my way around the square and figured that if I went up one of the streets leading off the square I might get a shot of some people leaving the square with the sun back lighting them. I hear a lot of photography experts criticizing photos because they say there is no way any highlights should be blown. This has me confused because in this image I feel that the blown highlights on the hair make the image much stronger, What do you think?”

Canice, If I had a dollar for every time I had a fellow photography taking my online class with the PPSOP, or in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshop I conduct around the planet, tell me that he or she were told by so called “photography experts” to never blow out highlights, I would be sitting by my pool right now, on my island waiting for my French maid to bring me another cocktail. Something blue and frothy with an umbrella hanging perilously from one side.

In my opinion, you should stay as far away from these self appointed experts…why? Because they will lead you down a one-way path…straight down to the burning fires of mediocrity. I’ve talked about this sooooo many times, and have written a post about it: http://joebaraban.com/blog/pearls-of-wisdom-never-clip-the-highlights/

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE, AND WHY ARE THEY CONSIDERED EXPERTS????? If I were Emma Lazarus, and I were also a photographer, I might have written this on the Statue of Liberty for my fellow photographers, not just for the immigrants coming to America:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled photographers yearning to breath free from of all these silly rules. The wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Send these, the narrow thinking photography experts, to me:
I lift my lamp besides the blown out golden door.”

Ok, I digress a tad!!!

I really like your photo!!! I’ll usually go out of my way to backlight something. I’ll also try to blow out the highlights since like you I think it adds a different dimension to it; a dimension filled with Visual Tension and Energy.

Canice, if you remember, some of the ways to generate Visual Tension is the use of light, contrast, and capturing a moment in time and leaving it un-completed. In your photo, you have all three. If i were you I would continue up your dedicated path to glory!!!

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2015 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. come shoot with me and Epic Photo Tours to Myanmar next February. I still have two spots left for this once in a lifetime experience. I’ve also written my description for my next “springtime ” workshop, this time in Portugal the end of next May.

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"Seeing past first impressions".

“Seeing past first impressions”.

Before I go any farther, let me define the word Idiom. An idiom is: (1) An expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own. (2) A form of a language that is spoken in a particular area and that uses some of its own words, grammar, and pronunciations.

Here are some common idioms: “Sunday week” for a week from Sunday. “Give way” for retreat, and “Rock and Roll” is a musical idiom.The one I’ve always thought was especially pertinent to photography, and one I mention in my online class with the PPSOP, and also in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet is. “There’s more to it than meets the eye”

In other words I tell my fellow photographers that there’s two ways to look at a subject: You can look at it with the left side of your brain, the analytical side, or the right side of your brain, the creative side. So many of my students don’t look at things as they could be, only as they are.

Doing that will keep you from taking your photography to what I refer to as…”up a notch”. What I mean is that looking with the left side of your brain will only show you what things are. Looking at those same things with the right side of your brain can show you what they could be. Take the photo above for example.

First, allow me to digress for a moment. I teach photographers how to use the basic elements of Visual Design and composition to create stronger images. A complete description can be read by clicking on the link above.

Ok, so last week I was sitting in my backyard on my deck; it was the end of a beautiful day. Seventy two degrees and sunny, so I had my book in one hand and my Bombay Martini and a bowl of nuts at the ready and close to my other hand. I was trying to filter out all the sounds of a house being built next to us and occasionally looking up at what was going on. The sun was setting behind my house and hitting the house next door. As the sun was setting the light was slowly disappearing from the bottom up, leaving only the top part still in sunlight.

If I had been looking at the house with the left side of my brain, I would have only heard the incessant hammering and then seen the man working at the top of the house that was causing it…that’s what was. Since I’m always looking at things as they could be, I saw more than just a house with a man working on the top floor.

I saw the Texture of the Crape Myrtle’s, branches still bare from the Winter. The square and rectangular Shapes, and the blue Negative Space that defines and creates the Shapes. I’m always looking for ways to create Visual Tension, and placing the man close to the edge of the frame is one of the ways. The way the light is only left at the top of the construction is another, and the contrast between his bright, saturated red shirt against the soft blue sky and clouds is still another.

These elements of Visual Design and composition are all pieces that make up the finished puzzle…another idiom meaning the final photograph.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and be sure to watch for upcoming workshops listed at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime, and I’ll show you what could be.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskjoeB@gmail.com.

JoeB

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Workshop Stuff: 2014 Maine Media Workshop

Bill took this at the Lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine

Bill took this at the Lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine

The class having fun on a foggy morning in Belfast, Maine

The class having fun on a foggy morning in Belfast, Maine

One of the posts I look forward to writing is right after one of my workshops. As most of my followers know I recently wrote a post on my last “Springtime” workshop, this time in Paris this last May. It was followed by a second post on the Eiffel Tower competition where everyone went out to capture the famous structure as creatively as they could.

The end of this last July, I conducted my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” class at the Maine Media Workshop, and it was the twenty-sixth year I had done so. The Maine Media Workshop is the granddaddy of them all and it’s where many of the know-famous workshops got their beginning. It was a great time with a great class, and the resulting images they took are among some of the best I’ve seen in all the years I’ve taught there. The lasting friendships and experiences all of us came away with, are indelibly etched in the minds of not only all my fellow photographers who took my class, but mine as well.

As I trek towards my thirtieth year teaching in Maine, next summer I hope I’ll have an opportunity to meet some of you that have followed my blog over the years. FYI, I also teach this same class with the PPSOP, probably the top online school out there.

Meanwhile, enjoy the slideshow created solely by all my recent students.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and be sure to watch for my 2015 workshop schedule coming out in a couple of months. Although my workshop, in conjunction with Santa Fe, to Cuba is full, you can still put your name on a waiting list. I still have two spots open for my workshop with Epic Photo Tours to Myanmar next February.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com.

JoeB

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Quick Photo tip: Photographing Your Kids

A twenty-five cent photo.

A twenty-five cent photo.

I have four grown kids ranging from twenty-five to thirty-eight and two grand kids ages seven to nine, and have been taking pictures of them most of their lives. Not so much with my three daughters and one son as they all have “flown the coop”, and leading grown up lives!!!

There was a time when I took lots of pictures of them, and my fellow photographers that have taken my online course with the PPSOP, and my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshop I conduct around the planet always are amazed when I show them some of mine in response to some of their submission they always have the same disclaimer…”It’s all they would let me take”, or “After one shot they wanted to quit”, or “This is the only pose thy would give me”, or finally, “They had a complete meltdown when I asked them to smile”.

“What’s yours secret”?, they always ask.

It’s easy, pay them!!!!! I’ve always felt that if you were going to take them away from what they were doing, it seemed only fair to pay them for their time; and it has always worked.

When my kids were just past the walking for the first time stage in their life, I was taking their picture for family personal use as well as using them for some of my jobs. At first they wouldn’t hear of being photographed. Covering their eyes and laying on the ground was their way of saying no. So, I offered to pay them twenty-five cents. It worked like a charm. Then as they got a little older, it went to fifty cents. Around the age of ten, it became a dollar, and that meant they agreed to be photographed for as long as I needed, because it was mostly for my work.

By this time, they were as good looking and better all around models that took direction better than any model their age a client could pick. This held true for all the modeling agencies in Houston.

The dollar became five, then twenty-five, fifty, and finally one hundred dollars by the time they were teenagers to young adults. You ask why? When a client wanted to look at model portfolios, I would always put in whichever of my kids would fit the profile of who they were looking for.  If one of them was picked, I would tell them it was one of my kids and the rate was one-hundred dollars for whatever use they wanted. A price my kids gladly agreed on.

The difference in price between a model registered with an agency and one of my kids could be a quite a lot. One of my kids charged a hundred dollars and the modeling agency would easily charge a thousand dollars or considerably more depending on all the different places the photo would be seen. There was never an issue concerning Nepotism with the advertising agencies. It was always about the money.

So, next time you want to photograph your kids, pay them for their time. A quarter can go a long way, which is exactly what my daughter (photo shown at the top) charged to get on the teeter totter with our dog Lucy.

A fifty cent charge by another daughter.

A fifty cent charge by another daughter.

Visit my website at: www.joeBaraban.com and check out my 2014 workshop schedule. Come shoot with me at the Maine Media Workshop July 27th, or in Paris May 28th, Jerusalem September 17th, or in Cuba November 4th.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com.

JoeB

 

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