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.