Saturday, 12 September 2015

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Are you a Photographic Sucker?

Photographic suckers produce boring images.

They do that by being suckered into QUANTITY rather than QUALTY  images.

A few weeks back I noticed a slick advertising campaign 'Twenty new photography competitions every month'. And another 'hundreds of photography competitions for you to enter'. You can enter just about anything from the 'Sunsets' comp to the 'Men with just one leg' to the 'Budgerigars sitting on french poodles' competition!

Let's get one thing very clear here. Such competitions are there to make money for the organisers and for them to sell you additional products and services. They may tell you they are there for you to expand your creativity in photography. There 'pulling your leg'.  Other competitions will promise you world-wide exposure or even being exhibited in a famous art gallery. Alas, read the fine print - you may find that the exposure is restricted to being on a temporary website loosely named after a famous art gallery. More 'sucker' bait.

Less sinister than the multi-entry competitions is the explosion of on-line photographic groups. Fortunately, they are not designed to take your money but they are designed to lure you into producing more, lower quality images. How? Very simply. You join the 'closed' group, feel special and feel obliged to contribute. Even when you have virtually nothing to contribute. These groups are classic examples of 'activity traps'. They make you feel good, they make the organisers feel good, but they do very little to injecting creativite stem cells into your lacklustre system.

These groups are de facto thieves - they are not stealing your money but they are stealing your time - your own 'coin of life'. There will be the 'Film Photographers Group' who do little more than photograph other cameras, the 'Creative Photographer's group who tend to  stifle creativity and the provincial 'East Wyalkatchem North Noggergerrin Photography Club' with 3 members. For heaven's sake - why don't the members of the EWNNPC just meet up, have a few beers and shoot a few sheep and kangaroos in the end paddock.

One secret to avoiding boring photography and to take a truly creative path is to develop a personal project. A pathway that belongs to you and you alone.

Recently I attended a seminar where the presenter said he devised a project where he would photograph his 4 year old daughter every day for 365 days. I squirmed in my seat  and thought 'How bloody boring!'. The presenter than said 'I'm going to show you those 365 photos in 3minutes'. 'Oh no, what a mess' I thought. Where is the fire escape, quick!

I was blown away with his presentation - it was powerful, an insight into the changing moods of the photographer on a 24 hour cycle and the variability of his daughter's response. It was a truly stunning presentation and unifying, creative project. The presenter then topped it off by showing us postcards of his best dozen shots in black and white. No fire escape required.

Another way is to produce a book with a  theme - maybe a destination (not Syria at the moment), a passion (food or wine are good places to start), a cause (medical or otherwise), a hobby. Allow youself the best part of a year if you want to do this really well. (Tip: Every single time you click the shutter think of three commercial applications for that image).

I've always been fascinated by people. And I have always lived close by Indian Ocean and the Swan River. I devised a project to photograph people and water. People in water, on water, under water, at sunset, sundown, middle of the day, middle of the night.  I photographed them reading books underwater, taking photos in the water with non-waterproof cameras, pushing weights in the water, clad and unclad. Some avoided sharks in the water,others were swamped by passing ferries No-one complained. I called for volunteers and had so many that I had to restrict numbers. They froze in winter and burnt in summer. One thing was for sure - we all had fun and produced some memorable images. More than twenty of these images now hang on the walls of the subjects as memorable keepsakes.

Join me alongside the Swan River and dip your toes into my Creativity Pool with a UWA Extension Photography Workshop. I'll even throw in lunch (not in the water! Click HERE for details.
PS I'll also show you how to shoot images sharper than a surgeon's scalpel.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Never leave home without your .........

Henry  packed two camera bodies, 6 lenses, a speed light, spare batteries, extra memory cards ...... BUT he still missed the shot.   His mobile phone had a flat battery. He and the subject had mixed up the meeting point and they couldn't talk to each other.

A chain is no stronger than its weakest link and sometimes the smallest think can put a stop to your carefully planned portrait shoot.

Black stocking secured with rubber band
Call me a camel, call me over-prepared, call me paranoid (just don't call me late for dinner) I've found carrying a few knick-knacks can save the day. So here are my top twenty 'thingies' that I pack into my Lowepro when I'm off to do a  portrait shoot.

  1. water (drinking)
  2. umbrella (for rain or to create shade)
  3. reflector
  4. plate (to fix camera to tripod)
  5. mobile phone and subject's number
  6. rubber bands
  7. family photo (when travelling 'breaking the ice')
  8. balloons (to increase kids' attention span from .01 sec to 2 secs!)
  9. safety pins for instant dressmaking
  10. snack (to prevent hunger 'bonk')
  11. sunscreen cream
  12. band aids (I've saved a few bridesmaids' lives)
  13. emergency rain coat (size of box of matches)
  14. gaffer tape (to repair cameras, tripods, shoes and busted fingers)
  15. scrunchie (for hair up shots)
  16. towel (after the beach shots)
  17. aquium (essential when travelling)
  18. panadol (don't give me that headache excuse)
  19. nail file (for subjects with dirty nails)
  20. a five cent piece (for battery compartments on some cameras)
Reflector to bounce window light to fill shadows
I could go on and talk about packing Blue-tac, a black stocking, spare set of car keys or an onion to make the subject cry but then you would start to say I needed an assistant to carry all this damm gear. Your absolutely right. You need an assistant - preferably one who can run 200  metres with all your gear in less than 40 seconds, flirt with the police guy and fend off the growling rottweiller.

Join me for a UWA Extension Photography workshop (including lunch) and I'll reveal what else I carry in my camera bag! Click HERE for details. 

Pixel Power - FiPP2015 Entries break record

The 2015 Fremantle International Portrait Prize received a record number of 1865 entries from 29 countries.

FiPP has a growing reputation as being one of the most open and ethical photographic competitions in the world. Unlike many other competitions money raised by FiPP goes to charity - the Arthritis and Osteoporosis Foundation of Western Australia.

In 2015 the top five countries entering FiPP were:

  • Australia
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Russia
  • New Zealand
Within Australia the top five states entering FiPP were:
  • Western Australia
  • New South Wales
  • Victoria
  • Queensland
  • Australian Capital Territory

The most common exposure time used by entrants was 1/200 sec equivalent to16.7%. 
Seven entrants used 1/8000 sec and one entrant used an exposure time of 10 seconds!


To view the results of the first round of judging visit the FiPP website. Click HERE.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

14.9% of photographers used a 50mm lens

14.9% of entrants in the Fremantle International portrait Prize have used a lens of 50mm focal length. 1% have used a 500mm lens for their portrait image.

This information is probably boring and of no practical use. But! Each one of those entrants has a chance of winning a share  of AU$12000 in cash and prizes - because they have actually entered.

Moreover, every won is a winner in the sense that each entry of $20 is supporting a worthwhile charity in the Arthritis Foundation of Western Australia.

Entries close Friday 21 August

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Five Hot Tips for Creative-Edgy Photos

Macro in Kings Park WA ©Wayne Seow
I looked at the sea of faces in my Kings Park Wildflower macro workshop. They had spent a day and a half with me learning about lenses, depth of field and colour balance. Their results were ordinary at best. I felt short-changed as an educator

I switched off my politically correct button:
'Ok, outside on your next project. Do NOT come back inside with any bloody boring photographs'.
They looked shocked.
But it worked.
From the RSPCA 'Here Boy' Calendar  ©Dale Neill
They returned two hours later with the best crop of macro wildflower shots I'd seen in a long while. Several went on to win awards and prizes with those shots. We sometimes need a kick along and a reality check.

'Fall in love with yourself' ©Dale Neill
In professional photography I'm obliged to shoot a large percentage of portraits, weddings and commercial images that are all sharp, properly exposed and correct colour. They are predictable.

I aim for 80% acceptability (4 out 5 shots the client can buy). If you are an amateur or camera club photographer you also need to do a few shots like this for 'insurance'. They are little more than record photos. However many amateur and professional photographers never ever get beyond taking insurance shots. They are stuck in a rut. They are too scared to try being different or, heaven forbid,  failing.

Switching your brain to creative mode you will fail a lot more. Hopefully, you will fail 90% of the time. Achieving 1 out of 10 shots while shooting creatively is a great result. You're onto a winner.

Change up a gear and you're into what In call edgy mode, taking extreme risks with camera, subject and interpretation. In 'Edgy' mode don't expect more than 1 shot out of a hundred to work out. But, when it does, you will have something outstanding. Something that will catch the judges' eyes and get elevated into the winner's category.

Five CREATIVE and EDGY Tips:

  1. Using auto-bracket with a +/- bias shoot a rapidly moving subject with metered exposure, plus four, minus four
  2. Panning with a moving subject on 1/15 second.
  3. Ask your portrait subject to fall in love with themself every ten minutes or so.
  4. Create a narrative using juxtaposition. That means using two people in a portrait with one in a more powerful position to create a story.
  5. Capture interaction between a person and pet. Use emotion.

The narrative portrait ©Dale Neill 


Now its your turn!
Your chance to win $12000 if you have a creative or edgy portrait.
Your portrait could win AU$12000 in cash and prizes in the Fremantle International Portrait Prize.
Entries close on Fri 21 August 2015.
All proceeds to charity - the Arthritis Foundation of Western Australia.
For details and entry information click HERE.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

B R o K e N Photographs

Why do some photographs crash and burn in competition and others rise from the ashes and shimmer and sparkle!

What are the small things that influence judges when judging photographs?

  • the judge's blood-sugar level
  • height of the image above floor level
  • the 'halo' effect 
  • the 'lemming' effect
  • criterion or norm based referencing

Key 'one percenters' to give your image an improved chance of being short-listed

  • size and impact
  • which is better - colour, black and white or monochrome?
  • exploiting full range of camera settings
  • the ''E' factor 

and more ....

Friday, 3 July 2015

The Trender Trap

My Dad had a favorite saying:
There's no prize for seconds

In 2015 there is a clearly identifiable pattern with photographers, in particular with cashed-up Australian photographers; the carbon-copying of another photographer's subject and style.
These Photocopiers live in a haze of disillusioned self-belief. They mistakenly believe if:

  • they buy an expensive camera
  • fit an expensive lens
  • study the images of a photographer who won praise 2, 5, 10 or 20 years ago
  • find the same face or identical location of said photographer 
  • use the same post-production techniques
  • mimick the same style
that they too will achieve the same glory of the award winning photographer.

Its unlikely to happen because its already been done and copied by hundreds if not thousands of other photographers.

What you need are IDEAS. Your OWN ideas. 

You can't buy ideas. You can't steal ideas. You need to create your own ideas.

But there are things you can do to help create ideas. You can dream, you can chat with inspirational people (not necessarily photographers), you can observe people especially kids at play, you can take time off and observe nature at work, you can exploit the FULL range of settings on your camera.

Just recently a colleague of mine expressed disappointment because her 'flower' photographs had failed in a major competition. I looked at them and my heart sank. Technically, they were accurate. But they were dead boring images of a sharp flower in the middle of the frame. I suggested she freeze her flowers in water and photograph them in the various stages of thawing out. She looked shocked but tried out the technique. I am confident the judges will not be bored with her new images.

I recommend you look at trends, observe them, study them and then AVOID them.

Think for yourself. Think from left field. Come up with your own ideas, not someone else's.

If you want to be challenged photographically and learn how to unleash creative ideas check out one of Dale Neill's UWA Extension workshops.

There's AU$12,000 in cash and prizes for the taking in the Photographic Competion the world is coming to love. Click FiPP2015.

Friday, 26 June 2015

A Teaspoon of Emotion may sway the judges

Although this is Tip No 4, it should probably be Tip No 1.

The single biggest factor that will elevate your image as a finalist is to add the element of EMOTION.

Too many photographers think that if they secure the services of an attractive/interesting subject, arrange quality lighting and produce a pin-sharp image with an expensive camera they will automatically guarantee a top ten finish. Its not true.

'Dragonfly' Family Portrait - Nikon D700 1/60@f16 800ISO 50mm Nikkor lens. 
Portraits involve making images of human beings; living, breathing human beings.
Humans have thoughts, feelings and moods - all expressed as emotions.
Too many photographers either intentionally or unintentionally seek to hide emotions.

How do you express emotion in a portrait?
  1. Facial expressions - in particular the eyes and mouth
  2. Body language - gestures, body angle, reaction to a stimulus
  3. The surroundings can contribute
  4. Add a second person - interaction
  5. Add a dog or cat (or any animal!)  - interaction
Entries to the  2015 International Portrait Prize close on 21 August 2015. It costs just AU$20 to enter and there's AU$12,000 in cash and prizes. For full details click  FiPP2015.

If you want to learn more about Portrait Techniques and Photographing Faces click HERE for details of the UWA Extension photography workshop.

Monday, 15 June 2015

If you look like your Passport Photo you're too ill to Travel

What is the difference between an Environmental Portrait and a Head and Shoulders (H & S) Portrait?

The H & S Portrait

Dale Neill © 2012 Margaret Halsmith
There's an old saying
'If you look like your passport photograph you are probably too ill to travel'

So many times I get to view and judge portrait images and they look remarkably similar to just a big version of passport images.  Some are so bland, if you add an ID number, they could pass as prisoner ID shots! 

Photos used for identification on Driver's Licences and Passports are almost always H & S portraits, albeit very unflattering ones. Typically, they have plain backgrounds and if there is any surrounding material it plays little or no role in the portrait. The person's head and shoulders occupies 70%-90% of the frame.

One would hope that your H & S portraits are of higher technical quality and aesthetic value than a passport image!

Here are three tips if you are choosing to do a H & S portrait:

  1. Show human emotion - sadness, happiness, tears and laughter. You may have to act liek a human yourself and really communicate with your subject on a one-to-one basis.
  2. Go for superb technical quality - full highlight and shadow detail, quality lighting, sharp eyes
  3. Special features - show the subject's freckles, sparkling eyes, weathered skin, bushy eyebrows, diamond stud, tattoo, scar or 'I'm not just a waitress' lipstick.

The Environmental Portrait

In an environmental portrait the person occupies a much smaller percentage of the frame (somewhere between 5% and 25%).  The rest of the frame is the narrative or the story-telling part of the portrait. It's a huge advantage to have the narrative parts of the image working in your favour. Every element should be helping to tell the story of your subject.  Here are three tips for completing an Environmental portrait.
Dale Neill © 2013 Potato farmer and his son Turkey

  1. make the narrative elements replace the title. eg place the farmer in a farm environment
  2. make sure your subject is still the 'hero' in your image
  3. use landscape format
For your chance to win AU$12,000 in cash and prizes for your best portrait visit the FiPP2015 website.

Learn more about photographing faces at a UWA Extension Photography Workshop.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Become a Meaner, Leaner Photographer - Dale's 3 Month Diet!

If you want to avoid being a seriously plump, brain-numbed, over-automated photocopier try my three month 'Photographer's Diet'. Its boot camp for serious photographers.

The biggest danger with being overly reliant on automation is that when you face a really tricky lighting or exposure issue, your camera won't be able to handle it ...... and you won't be able to think your way through it. You will feel frustrated and probably produce a very average, boring image.
Fuji S2 Pro - shot in Manual 200ISO 1/200s @ f11. Elinchrom 1000w studio light.

First, let's look at how aeroplanes fly. With the latest commercial aircraft, an average long haul flight lasting 14 hours requires the pilot to fly the aircraft manually for just 12 seconds on take-off and 17 seconds on landing. Modern aviation computers monitor and control everything else during the 14 hour flight.

Nikon D700 - M 250 ISO 1/160s@f8. Elinchrom 500BX 
Aviation experts are now becoming concerned with the increasing numbers of near misses and also the lack of hands-on real life experiences and simulations.  They feel aviation is breeding a new batch of incompetent pilots with limited hands-on who will be unable to handle serious problems or weather condition.

So too with modern cameras. There's automatic exposure including auto ISO, auto shutter speed and auto-aperture. There's also auto white balance, auto flash and auto focus. To top it off there's a range of  modes ranging from sport to underwater, parties, babies and food. You name it, there's a mode for it.

The result of the automation of modern cameras is that photographers have stopped thinking about what they are doing. Because they've stopped thinking it means they don't understand what's happening inside their cameras. They probably don't understand what's happening inside their heads either.

On a photographic tour I ran recently I asked my group to shoot in manual mode for the first two days. There were lots of complaints and some disastrous results with exposure and focus. But gradually they got a handle on what they were doing. They started thinking, their confidence improved and they started handling tricky lighting situations with ease.

Three months later, one of my tour participants, Clive, wrote to me.  He told me proudly how he had achieved a perfect exposure for a young woman on stage under intense spotlights surrounded by a black stage and black theatre. No automatic mode can achieve that. Not even spot metering will be accurate. Only understanding and implementing Manual will achieve a perfect exposure in those conditions. The young woman was his daughter graduating from university,

If you want to rise above the photographic lemmings you need to not just shoot, but understand what's happening and think. Try this diet for a minimum of 3 months or 5,000 shots and I am very confident that your photography will take a giant leap forwards. I fear few will try this because it sounds like hard work.
  1. Use your camera in Manual mode
  2. Fit a prime lens with manual focus
  3. Make no adjustments in Photoshop
Its time for some training and discipline - no pain, no gain. So try my diet, switch on your think button and become a meaner, leaner photographer! 

See what Photography Worksops I'm running at UWA Extension

Saturday, 30 May 2015

How to be a Really Boring Photographer

Here are five easy tips to follow if you want to be a  really boring photographer.

1. You always follow the latest trend
Have you noticed how many photographers now shoot aerial landscapes or use slow shutter speeds to get the 'washing machine' effect. The same people visit the same locations where another photographer shot a pic that won an award three years ago. The new wedding photographer takes his bride to the same spot the last 200 wedding photographers used. (There was the case recently of a photographer who won a photography competition using an artistic aerial landscape that he had sourced from Google Earth and tweaked by Mr Photoshop!!)
Bulgarian Dimi Pentrova in FACEZ Studio. Photo: Dale Neill © 2014
Outstanding photographers create trends rather than follow them. They find a  new subject, location, pose or treatment. You might make a few errors but at least you're not a photo-lemming!

2. You shoot before you think
You put your camera up to eye height and blaze away. You're addicted to pressing the little silver button. If you don't hear at least 50 click an hour you become feverish waiting for the next fix.

The creative image maker dreams, thinks, visualises, plans what they want. They choose their gear to achieve their goal. They plan where and when they will click; the height, aspect ratio and angle. They have a mental mission statement.

3. You're hungry to buy the latest gizmo
There's a group of photographers I'm aware of who meet regularly on line just to show each other their latest acquisition - the new lens, tripod or body. They rarely take photographs - except of their own cameras to post on-line. Their end goal is the gear itself - the status that goes with owning sic antique Leicas with an f1.2 block of glass. I don't think I've ever seen a painter who gets a kick out of collecting paint brushes.
Mud splashes on Land Rover in Aurora Range. Photo: Dale Neill©2015 
You need to MORE than just use your camera. You need to exploit your camera. If it shoots at 1/4000 second, use that speed. If it opens up to f1.4 shoot wide open. Your aim should be to wear out every button and function on your camera before you die. Otherwise, when you cark it, your spouse/partner will advertise your camera like this 'Nikon D700, 5 years old, 1/4000 second shutter speed as new, never been used'.  

4. You follow photographic rules with religious fervour
You religiously follow the rule of thirds, the golden mean and you never, ever , ever chop off the top of someone's head. You make sure your matt board is millimetre perfect for the camera club and you clone out that bright red light in the alleyway as it might offend a sensitive soul. By following all these so-called rules you are actually being dishonest - dishonest to yourself.
So be true to yourself and avoid being sidetracked and distracted by the so called rules. Do I follow rules?Yes. I have just one rule when travelling.
I never insult the mother alligator until I have crossed the river.

5. You are easy to offend
Travis Bradbury, in his article on emotional intelligence, said that people with low emotional IQ are easily offended. 'Are you pregnant of have you just put on weight?  That's a pretty basic camera you have there!  I suggest you calibrate your screen or take a colour blindness test!

If you have a firm grasp of who you are, it's difficult for someone to say or do something that gets your goat. Emotionally intelligent people are self-confident and open-minded, which creates a pretty thick skin. You may even poke fun at yourself or let other people make jokes about you because you are able to mentally draw the line between humour and degradation.
(Travis Bradbury)

You could win AU$12,000 in cash and prizes in the 2015 Fremantle International Portrait Prize. Entries open 15 June close 21 August. Details HERE.

Join Dale Neill for lunch at the University Club for his first Photography Workshop in Semester Two at UWA Extension. 'Photographing Faces'

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The Portrait Photography Award the world is coming to love

The Fremantle International Portrait Prize is proud to announce the Third Bi-Annual International Portrait Photography Award

  • AU$12000 in cash and prizes
  • 37 countries entered in 2012/2013
  • All proceeds go to a worthy cause - the Arthritis and Osteoporosis Foundation of Western Australia
  • Entries 15 June - 21 August

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Make Me Feel Special

You can have the most expensive camera, the sharpest lenses, top of the range studio lighting and still end up with a boring image. How often have I heard the comment from a subject 'I always look awful in photographs'.

The problem with many photographers they are too interested in the equipment and don't pay enough attention to the needs of their subject.

Pam Pettit Jackson in UWA Extension Portrait Workshop © Dale Neill

Next time you take a portrait try to imagine a sign on the subject's forehead that reads

'Make Me Feel Special'

Master Photographer Dale Neill's Portrait Course  Photographing Faces is on Sunday 15 March - theory in the morning, practical shoot with models in the afternoon plus a review night mid-week.

If you think you've got the talent your best portrait shot could win the 2015 Fremantle International Portrait Prize  with $12,000 in prizes.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Ban Boring Images (Back to Basics)

If you don't get the Big Basics right you will never ever get out of the starting blocks. You will be glued forever on the starting line. With millions of cameras out there to get an edge you just have to get the basics right - I call them the Big Basics. Lets banish Boring forever.

1. Fit a lens hood
After Robin Hood a Lens Hood is the next best thing in Sherwood Forest. 
Lens hoods DO make a difference. A big difference. They cut stray light from reaching the sensor. As a result contrast and colour saturation both improve and the image will appear sharper. Make sure you buy the hood designed specifically for your lens not a generic variety.
If you fail to use a lens hood you are automatically between 10% and 50% worse off image quality-wise.

2. Clean the lens
You're driving your car singing along with ABBa and all is fine. Turn your car and drive directly into the setting sun and all of a sudden your windscreen is covered with dust, scratches, bird droppings and squashed insects. 'Where the hell did all that come from', you ask. It was there all the time but you never noticed it. Your lens is just the same. To clean your lens use a blower brush, micro-fibre lens cloth and on rare occasions some lens cleaning fluid.

3. Use a single focus point
Cameras come out of the factory programmed as females. They have many focus points. You need to give your camera a sex change. Turn it into a male camera by giving it one single focus point. 
When you have multiple focus points YOUR CAMERA decides where to focus NOT you.  You may miss the subject - the diver, the face, the dog. With a single focus point YOU decide what will be sharp, not the camera.

4. Switch from Auto to P (Program)
Is AUTo useless? Of course not.
When your Granny or Uncle Harry ask to take some shots with your camera at the wedding put your camera on AUTO and hand it to them. No instructiions required. Just say 'have fun' (and check your insurance policy)
P (Program) works exactly the same way as AUTO except you can change settings like ISO, WB, Flash off, Forced Flash and so on. Its the first baby step to becoming an independent, creative, thinking photographer. A photographer with a mind of your own.

5. No more than 3 elements in your image
How could I possibly provide five Big Basic tips without mentioning something artistic?? Something to improve your design.
This sounds simple. But many of my students find it difficult if not impossible. Most photographers love making complicated 'busy' images. Simplicity, pwer and message are required.You need discipline. Its decisive. Its good design. Its not for photographivc wimps.
Frame your image, change the angle, alter the zoom (focal length).  Even change where you are standing so that you have exactly three elenets in your image. Practise this and I guarantee your photography will take a gigantic leap forwards. You will be out of the starting blocks and racing around the great digital track.

Get your basic in order at a UWA Workshop with Dale Neill.

Consider entering Western Australia's most prestigous photographic awards - the Fremantle International Portrait Prize with $12,000 in cash and prizes.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Prime Movers

$138 lens
If you're a boring photographer you only use zoom lenses. No primes for you!
If you're a half serious photographer, you have at least one and possibly two prime lenses in your kit.
If you are a deadly serious photographer you own more prime lenses than pairs of shoes.

In discussing why prime lenses are so much better than zooms I'm going to avoid all the techno-talk and tell it layman's lingo.

Nikon 50mm f1.4 Prime

  1. Primes have a dirty big hole in the front - they let in heaps of light. They are FAST!
  2. Primes are lighter than zooms
  3. Primes are smaller than zooms
  4. Primes are sharper than zooms (fewer things to jiggle inside)
  5. Primes can make the background nice and blurry. (Depth of Field control bla bla)
  6. In many cases, primes are less expensive than zooms.

Before you race off and buy your next prime lens you might like to think about the following points:
$2029 lens
  • Which focal length primes are ideal for landscapes, travel or portraits? They are all different!
  • What is the difference between a $150 50mm prime and a $3000 50mm prime?
  • Are third party primes (Sigma and Tokina) as good as the laeders (Nikon and Canon)?
  • Which cameras do primes work best on? (yes, the camera DOES make  difference)
  • Which mode P_A_S_M will make your prime lens work more efficiently?

Want to be a Prime Mover in photography, check out my UWA Extension Workshops.

Never Let a Chance Go By

The Railway Hotel

The Railway was a real pub. Its clientele included wharfies, bikies and members of the blue singlet brigade.

In more recent times the Railway boasted a salubrious men’s hairdressing salon. For just $10 Katreena clipped your locks, massaged your neck, philosophised and gave you a chit for a drink at the bar and entry to the skimpies. This was true-blue value and Katreena was everyone’s friend.

One day I was waiting my turn while Katreena strutted around on stilettos trimming the moustache of a brutish looking bikie. When I asked if I could take their photograph the bikie swung Katreena onto his lap. I took a few quick snaps but Katreena looked somewhat uncomfortable perched on the bikie’s lap.

Moustache resplendent, the bikie headed into the bar, chit in hand. I climbed into the chair and Katreena threw the sheet around my neck. She wassmiling less than normal.
Don’t ever do that again, she said in a not too friendly tone.
Why, what’s the matter? I asked.
When he pulled me onto his knee and you were photographing us, he whispered in my ear ‘If you think this is a screwdriver in my pocket, you’re mistaken’


You can photograph all the sunsets, red roses and distant mountains you like but its a formula for boring, staid photography. Stay alert, on the look-out for every opportunity; every turn of the corner, chance meeting and opportunity to capture a real life story about real people.

Check out my Photography Workshops at UWA Extension for 2015.

Friday, 27 February 2015

The Pixel Fairy is Dead

I have bad news for all photographers.

Sadly, I need to inform you there is no such thing as a Pixel Fairy.

No, the Pixel Fairy does not visit your camera overnight and add unwanted pixels. Neither does the Pixel Fairly remove pixels that you placed on the sensor. As the photographer, YOU and YOU ALONE are responsible for all 18 million pixels (or whatever your camera happens to be) each and every time you release the shutter.

Proof the Pixel Fairy is dead - how many framing problems can you spot here?
I'm talking about framing - in fact I'm talking about bad framing and the wasting of pixels.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of co-delivering a seminar with photographer extroardinaire Michael Coyne. He exhorted photographers to 'think before you shoot'.

Poor framing is lazy photography.

Look at the scene then frame through the viewfinder.
Poor framing usually means:
  • unwanted mergers like a pole growing out of someone's head
  • Overlapping bodies in travel scenes
  • Including blown out highlights in the frame (resulting in lost shadow detail)
  • Amputation of fingers, toes and hands
  • Including distracting but non-informative items - eg the tip of a tree branch 
  • Cropping to pano so your 20Mp image becomes 10Mp

Look beyond your subject. Make the elements surrounding your subject add to the story.

Join a Dale Neill workshop at UWA Extension. Click HERE for details. 

Portrait photographers, enter Western Australia's premiere photographic competition - the Fremantle International Portrait Prize. Click HERE for details.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Kick-start your Creative Fuel Tank

Boring photographers produce boring photographs!

Be different. Express yourself. Stand out!

More than 3,000,000,000 (3 billion) images were added to Facebook today. Last year more than 100 million traditional digital cameras were purchased.  We are not counting iPhones, HPCs and other androids.

There's a sea of images swimming out in the ethernet. What can you possibly do to make your image stand out. Yes, you could set you self-timer on  2 seconds and throw camera into the air. Or you could fly your drone over the South Fremantle Potato Harvest. You could even squeeze your lens into a meeting of the  Coffin Cheaters in the Cappuccino Strip. But maybe you value your camera and even your personal safety.

Here are a few ideas that will almost certainly increase your chances of your images being rated in the top 15% of one of the large competitions.

Ten techniques to kick-start your creative fuel tank

·      Worm’s eye view

+ Show Tears and Emotion
·      Use 1/4000 sec

·      Low light
·      Use atmospherics

·      Use 15 secs

·      Overexpose 4 stops
·      Selective focus (3 zones)
·      Slow synch flash – rear curtain

·      Selective speed (3 zones)

Check out my Photography Workshops at he University of Western Australia Extension. 
Click HERE for details.

Want to enter Western Australia's premiere photographic award - the Fremantle International Portrait Prize. Click HERE for details.