How could I have improved these?

Started Dec 26, 2011 | Discussions
Leonard Migliore
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Re: How could I have improved these?
In reply to kgbruce01, Dec 26, 2011

kgbruce01 wrote:

Leonard Migliore wrote:

For the first one, I have no idea what you were trying to do. My only suggestion for improvement is to not have taken the picture.

Really? Your advice for one trying to improve their photography is to NOT take a picture, because you don't like the outcome? Using digital... on their very first day using the camera? Really?

Totally idiotic.

Op - run far, far away from this 'advice'. Read and study the basics of photography but by all means - click away! Good, bad, 'making sense' or not... click, click, click, click away!

Sorry to have elicited such a non-linear response from you; the O.P. didn't seem to react that negatively to my reaction, which was an honest one.

What advice would you have given other than click, click, click, click away?
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Tom Rogers
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Re: How could I have improved these?
In reply to KennethKoh, Dec 26, 2011

Wow! I had no idea that I would stir up a firestorm by suggesting that a beginner would do well to get a book, or take a short course in photography. I still stand by that advice. I probably stirred more with my Xanax response. It was an unkind response to being called an idiot, an elitist, a blowhard, and bunch of hot air. I happen to believe that I have learned much from books, and workshops.

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Joseph T Lewis III
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Re: How could I have improved these?
In reply to KennethKoh, Dec 26, 2011

Wow

You innocently stirred up quite a little dust-up with your original post. I hope the one chap has calmed down by now; his blood pressure must have gone through the roof.

At any rate, if you are a novice photographer with a new camera, I wouldn't worry too much about artsy shots and postprocessing quite yet. Your first photo quite honestly looked like your camera had gone off by mistake when you were adjusting it or something (I say this not to be mean, but to let you know the impression it made upon me). So, IMHO there really wasn't anything that could be done to make it better. I won't' go so far as to say you shouldn't have taken the shot; however, a clearly recognizable shot of a very fancy or unique ornament on the tree might have been a better subject to start with. That way everyone would have understood what it was, and could have critiqued its sharpness, color, was it too bright or too dark, etc.

Take photos of things you like and enjoy looking at. Instead of the severely pruned tree, also take shots of a nicely formed tree in your yard or in the park, or other nice scenery. Take a photo of your kid/dog/significant other in front of the tree (Xmas tree or a pretty tree outdoors). Take pictures of an old church, a new skyscraper. Take photos of a stream or river. Take a photo of your significant other with a sunset behind them. Try to make them look clear and sharp, and have the subject framed in the LCD so it looks like it would in a picture frame. In other words, start with the more conventional things people usually take photos of; the kind of things you'd presumably put in a scrapbook if they turn out nice. Then, come back to us and ask us how they could be better. That way you'll get more meaningful suggestions.

NOTE: If the OP wants to take photos of severely pruned trees, that is of course his prerogative. The severely pruned tree in the right context (perhaps with a demolished factory behind it; the tree could represent re-growth) might work. I'm just suggesting he do a bit more mainstream stuff to start with. He can of course accept as much or as little of my advice as he wishes. I am not a pro photographer; just a guy who muddles around with it, enjoys it, and occasionally takes a fairly decent shot amidst a bunch of routine snapshots.

Other things to do, to start developing your photographic skills:

-Look up and learn about the "rule of thirds" (note: someone will almost certainly point out it isn't a RULE; it is a guideline. That's true, but you will find it if you search for "rule of thirds").

-Buy/borrow a couple of books on photography. Two that I started with were "The Digital Photography Book" by Scott Kelby; also, "The BetterPhoto Guide to Digital Photography" by Jim Miotke. Both are slanted towards new photographers. There are of course many others; these are just a couple I had.

-And, as another poster said, do take a lot of photos. Start with the simple stuff first, then branch out. If nothing else, taking lots of photos under different conditions, with your camera at different settings, will help you become adept at using it.

-Most importantly, have fun!

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Tom

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sierraphotography
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Re: Stop reading past random.....
In reply to Leonard Migliore, Dec 27, 2011

Random shots are some of the best. Keep it real, stay true to yourself, and take constructive criticism. Learn to sift through the s% t posted in these forums, and do the key thing, don't respond to it. Feel free to ask all the questions you like, and read the answers you like. Hope this helps. Good luck.

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mlackey
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Re: How could I have improved these?
In reply to KennethKoh, Dec 27, 2011

KennethKoh wrote:

Would love to hear some comments and criticisms on how these images could have been improved!

Never, ever, underestimate the power of a tripod.

Mike

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Guidenet
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Leonard's advice is not bad
In reply to KennethKoh, Dec 27, 2011

Hey Kenneth. Mostly I agree with Leonard. I'm not sure why there was such an uncalled for response there about him. Leonard does a good job instructing people and I think is caring and understanding. I agree that the first shot might have been better not posted. You also said it was just a random shot to see what it looked like. I'm not sure trying to help make it better would have done so. I'm also not sure just shooting randomly is a good way to learn.

Just to throw in my advice. I think it's always best to try to previsualize what you want out of an image. It doesn't have to Xerox what's there. In fact, I don't think you want to even try to do that. You want to visualize what you want that image to be. Think about it a little. Even hold up your fingers to frame the image first. Where do you want the light to come from? What is the story? What is your main and secondary subject? What parts are useless and detract from the above? Can you get rid of those things by moving? Are there any things in the background that detract like a telephone pole growing out of someone's head? Can you move to change that?

You can previsualize the image knowing you might have to do post work on it. Maybe you could not remove the pole coming out of someone's head and have to do it in post. That's ok too as long as it's part of your creation.

As Ansel Adams said, "You don't take a photograph, you make a photograph." I think that's the best advice for someone just starting out. Think about it. Have fun and good luck. Also, in the future, pay attention to Leonard Miglore. He's a great resource on the forum. I promise.

One more thing off topic about posting poor images. Sometimes posting a poor image can really be instructive for both you and everyone else. But, there are sometimes where you know up front it's poor and you won't really derive much benefit from answers. At those times, remember that you're judged on the aggregate of your work. People lump it all together in their judgment of you. Nothing wrong with that, but consider it when deciding on whether an image will really help you learn photography. I'm not sure there's anything about the first one where any advise would help you. I might totally be wrong. I often am.
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Joe Pineapples
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A few suggestions...
In reply to KennethKoh, Dec 27, 2011

I've taken plenty of shots like the first one... You see something interesting, so you take a shot; but when you look at the photo it looks like nothing at all! Don't be discouraged! Seeing something interesting is the most important thing here, and it is one step that plenty of photographers never seem to make. One simple exercise is, when you see something that interests you, try taking four or five different photos of it. Try different viewpoints, different composition, get close with a wide lens, or move away and zoom in, experiment with large and small apertures. See how the elements in the photograph interact, and what expresses the thing that attracted your eye in the first place, and look out for serendipitous accidents that give good results.

The second shot is a great photo. I love the pattern of the sky against the solid shapes of the branches and the delicate shapes of the leaves - like little birds. Also you have used subtle PP, rather than PP it to death. There's plenty of good stuff in that image; the composition is nicely balanced; and it is a little bit different. I think you did a good job.

Ignore the people who say that a tree photo has to look a certain way. Learn the "rules" (Rule of Thirds etc.) and try them out, but don't be a slave to them.

Finally, don't expect every photo to be great. Heck, I hate most of my photos after I've taken them. A good photograph is a great achievement and takes a lot of hard work.

Joe

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Sree R
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Re: How could I have improved these?
In reply to KennethKoh, Dec 27, 2011

Hey Ken, your first pic too is not that bad. It has all colors in it. This is what I could do in LR in 2 minutes. I added that pic to my gallery just to reply to this msg, I have no intention to steal ur image

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tomjar
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Re: How could I have improved these?
In reply to KennethKoh, Dec 27, 2011

You can learn a lot from this book:
Bryan Peterson: Understanding exposure (now 3rd edition)

It explains very clearly not just how to get correct exposure (combination of shutter time, aperture and ISO), but also how to achieve "creatively" correct exposure (the right shutter time and/or the right aperture for the desired effect). Don't shy away from it if you think this topic is too advanced at the moment, just take it step by step. You will be coming back to this book for advice time and time again as your skills improve. I still do (I have the 2nd edition of it). You will also get some tips about composition from this book, but you will be better off by getting something else as a tutorial on composition. To learn about exposure, however, this book is definitely one of the best.

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KennethKoh
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Re: How could I have improved these?
In reply to tomjar, Dec 27, 2011

Wow suddenly there's a deluge of helpful replies

Thank you all for your replies. I sincerely appreciate them. I suppose I've learned a few things just by this thread alone:

1) Get a book and learn about the rule of thirds

2) One man's meat is another man's poison - i.e. any number of us could hate a certain photo, but any number of different people could also love it (I guess that's art isn't it? Just like how I still don't get the Mona Lisa)

3) Practise thinking through my shots. In my defense I did try that out with my tree shot. But certainly not in as much depth and detail as I could have. So thank you for that
4) Be guided by the 'rules' of photography but don't be enslaved by them

I'll certainly look out for that Understanding Exposure book you recommended.

Once again, thank you for all the replies, and for all the drama too!

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jrtrent
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Re: How could I have improved these?
In reply to KennethKoh, Dec 27, 2011

I don't remember which posts they are now, but a couple things you asked about are a good book and how to lighten the trunk with Olympus Viewer. As to the first, if you have a public library, browse the shelves in the photography section and just pick out anything that appeals to you. Don't neglect pre-digital books; Kodak's How to Take Good Pictures has been around for decades, and continues to offer good pointers for a wide range of subjects. Olympus Viewer has a feature called auto tone adjustment that can lighten dark areas without adversely affecting midtones and highlights. I haven't used Viewer, but if this feature works the same as in Olympus Master and Olympus Studio, you aren't tied to its auto setting, but can adjust the strength of the effect manually, too. I believe the SAT (shadow adjustment technology) setting (usually put in effect by choosing auto gradation in the picture mode settings) applies the same technique at the moment of capture, but that doesn't mean further application can't be made later if desired.

•Automatic tone adjustment function. Automatically creates an optimized tone curve revealing details lost in shadow or highlight resulting in a more life like image.

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Gary_Scotland
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Re: How could I have improved these?
In reply to KennethKoh, Dec 27, 2011

Hello,

Some interesting and very useful comments here. I thought that I would add my take on things too.......

I think that we should never stop learning, How you learn should be your chosen method (e.g. books, videos, personal attendance at a course, 'trial and error', etc, etc). What you chose to learn about is going to be very much based on your aims for your photography. For example, do you want to end up 'copying' photography styles (useful if you plan a career in certain photography jobs) or do you want to be more unique and develop your own recognised style?

If you look at any magazines, websites, etc - the one thing with photographs that tends to be common is that so many look exactly the same. If you want to stand out as being a great photographer, then learning to 'copy' these folks probably isn't the way forward.

Then think of the photographers who do stand out, and very often it is because they haven't 'followed the rules'. They have taken risks and tried something different.

What I would suggest for 'learning material' and pretty much an essential element to any photography style you wish to pursue are - exposure and lighting. If you can gain skills/experience in these areas then the rest pretty much falls into place as you will start to 'look at' the subject in a different way, position yourself/subject in certain positions, position lighting where it will catch highlights/shadows, etc.

Another area that I feel is crucial (but I know that not everyone agrees with this) is - learn about post processing. While a 'reasonably acceptable' image can be taken straight from the camera, it isn't allowing for the full potential of the data that the camera actually captured. Whether you shoot in RAW or Jpeg (RAW would be my recommendation) remember that a camera's processing power is going to be a fraction of what you can achieve in your computer 'darkroom'. Digital photography is not different than film photography - it needs processed. I think that because we can 'see' an image straight away on a digital camera, it takes away the emphasis for the need to do anything more with it. I wouldn't get caught up in that way of thinking or you will tend to churn out lovely 'snapshots'.

Another BIG challenge that you are likely to come up with is the fact that so many of us have been conditioned by what we have read, seen in magazines, etc into thinking what a 'good photo' should look like. Therefore it could be argued that many responses made by folks are going to be 'blinkered' (and I don't mean that in a bad way or negative criticism about anyone ) Again it relates back to what I was saying about the 'style' of photography you wish to pursue - a copier or an innovator? Nothing wrong with either, but it is something worth thinking about.

I can see what you were trying to achieve with your photos, so there was a degree of planning. What might have been useful to do was to review the photos immediately on the camera and decide if you achieved what you wanted, and if not, take more until you got the right result. This in my view is one of the best learning experiences you will get because it is unique to YOU, and YOU would be solving the problem. Never be afraid to play with camera settings either. If a photo is too dark then think of ways the get it brighter (e.g. add a fill light, lower the shutter speed, widen the aperture, etc) Often a combination of these are needed. The key thing to remember is that, in basic terms, all you are trying to do with your photograph is allow the right amount of light to get into your camera and fall on the sensor. Whilst sometimes we get lucky, it rarely happens on the first shot. The first shot/s are usually the tests to see what we need to do. As we develop our skills/knowledge and competence the number of test shots will probably decrease as we will be able to get to the settings we need 'faster', but never underestimate the importance of taking these test shots. If your camera has a 'tonal histogram' , learn how to use it as it is one of the most valuable 'tools' in a digital camera

The most important advice I would give is - take control of your camera and 'tame it' Get it to do what you want, and don't let it give you what it wants (i.e. get it out of 'auto everything' a.s.a.p)

Regards,

Gary

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snake_b
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Re: How could I have improved these?
In reply to KennethKoh, Dec 29, 2011

To be honest, I think you should look into better equipment. The xz1 is a nice cam, but it's still compact. Something like a 7D would open up a world of possibilities for you, so I'd look into an upgrade in equipment because I think that's more than 50% the problem here.

KennethKoh wrote:

Wow suddenly there's a deluge of helpful replies

Thank you all for your replies. I sincerely appreciate them. I suppose I've learned a few things just by this thread alone:

1) Get a book and learn about the rule of thirds

2) One man's meat is another man's poison - i.e. any number of us could hate a certain photo, but any number of different people could also love it (I guess that's art isn't it? Just like how I still don't get the Mona Lisa)

3) Practise thinking through my shots. In my defense I did try that out with my tree shot. But certainly not in as much depth and detail as I could have. So thank you for that
4) Be guided by the 'rules' of photography but don't be enslaved by them

I'll certainly look out for that Understanding Exposure book you recommended.

Once again, thank you for all the replies, and for all the drama too!

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dcassat
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Sorry, no.
In reply to snake_b, Dec 29, 2011

I disagree, the camera is NOT at fault. A better camera may enable a better shot but it would still be left up to the person behind it to know how.

Dan

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snake_b
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Re: Sorry, no.
In reply to dcassat, Dec 29, 2011

The OP has hit the limit of his equipment and that's quite obvious. With better equipment, he can more easily resolve the challenges that get in the way of his compositional ability. It's more than obvious.

dcassat wrote:

I disagree, the camera is NOT at fault. A better camera may enable a better shot but it would still be left up to the person behind it to know how.

Dan

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Identity
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Re: Sorry, no.
In reply to snake_b, Dec 29, 2011

Now I remember why I put snake_b on "Ignore"

One of the nice features of a compact camera with a very good screen like the XZ-1 is that the resulting photo will look very much like the image on the screen - the preview is quite accurate in terms of exposure, focus and color and entirely accurate in terms of composition.

I know you were trying to focus on the little spot of lit-up-tree in the first shot, and that's probably what your eye was focusing on, but the shot was taken from too far back in that case. The XZ-1 has amazing macro capabilities - put it in macro mode and get much, much closer to your subject if you see a small detail that interests you in a larger scene.

Also, in terms of focus in a busy scene, I would recommend switching to center-point focus instead of the default auto-area focus which may choose a focus point that you don't want. If the camera always focuses on the center point, you can focus on exactly what you want with a half-press of the shutter, and then move the camera a bit before shooting to re-frame the scene.

And like others have said, don't be afraid to experiment. It's not like you're wasting film like in the old days! Pixels are free and I've deleted far more photos than I've kept. I'll take a couple hundred shots in an hour if I'm trying something new with my camera.

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zabatman
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Re: How could I have improved these?
In reply to KennethKoh, Jan 1, 2012

You can lighten up the tree trunk next time by switching on gradation (shadow adjustment technology (SAT))

Make sure you are NOT in iAUTO, ART, SCN or Low Light mode.

In Menu, go to the Picture Mode of your choice eg Vivid, Natural etc and then click the right arrow. Here you can set Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation and Gradation.

Set Gradation to AUTO. This will lighten up foregrounds considerablly.

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RickBuddy
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In reply to sierraphotography, Jan 3, 2012
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Enjoying life one moment at a time.

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RickBuddy
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Re: How could I have improved these?
In reply to KennethKoh, Jan 3, 2012

Read this:

http://www.bythom.com/gettingbetter.htm

Do this:

http://www.bythom.com/you.htm

Repeat until satisfied.

Rick
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YellowBudgie
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Re: How could I have improved these?
In reply to KennethKoh, Jan 3, 2012

Hi KennethKoh,

In your post processing software try to increase the fill light. I copied your 2nd photo into lightroom 2.5 and increased the fill light to 60 and the tree looks good and the background stayed the same. You could try fill light on your first photo as well.

Happy shooting!

Dana

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