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May 2011: Questions & Answers

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Post box in CroatiaIt is time once again to open up the virtual mailbag and answer the questions which you have been dying to know….

Marianne Schwab asks: What are your top five tips for taking GREAT photos? Get a little technical please. :-)

I am a self taught photographer. I’ve never taken a course or read a book. Everything I’ve done has come from taking a lot of bad photos and researching things online. There isn’t really a lot technical to be said about taking great photos. Here are my tips:

1) Take a lot of photos. Tens of thousands of photos. When you go through them, do so with an eye of trying to figure out which ones are good and which ones are bad. Moreover, be able to say exactly what makes the good ones good and the bad ones bad. Once you can identify those things, avoid what you are doing to make bad photos and replicate what you are doing in taking good photos. It sounds simple, but it takes lots of time and lots of photos.

2) Half of photography is editing. Believe it or not, Ansel Adams didn’t just press the shutter button and wound up with great photos. He had to spend a lot of time in the dark room to process them. Adams was a master of darkroom manipulation. That was where he made his photos great. If you look at his negatives vs his prints, there is a huge difference. Today, you use a computer instead of a darkroom. There are some people out there that think that editing images in Photoshop or Lightroom is somehow dishonest. This is totally wrong. Editing in Photoshop is the exact same thing photographers have always done in the darkroom. If you aren’t editing your photos, you aren’t done. Install Photoshop and start to learn how to use the software. If nothing else, learn how to crop and adjust the exposure in your images.

3) Know how your camera works. I see too many people who have their flash go off every time they take a photo. It usually ruins their photos. Know what every knob and button does and especially know how to turn your flash off. Know what apature, shutter speed and ISO are. Try taking photos of the same thing after making adjustments on your camera to see how it works. If you are just using your camera in full automatic mode and pressing the button, you will never reach your potential.

4) Use a tripod. The simplest thing you can do to improve your photos. When I try to find common themes in my favorite photos, they were usually taken with a tripod.

5) Fill the frame. Try to have things in the foreground and the background. Just because a vista looks good to you doesn’t mean it will look good in a photo.

Linda Wainwright asks: Do you see yourself still travelling when you’re 70?

Assuming I am physically able to travel, then I intend on doing it my whole life. I don’t know if I’ll be traveling non-stop, but even if I were to get an apartment somewhere I still think I’d travel 10 months out of the year. I have a hard time staying put in one place. The only reason why I take breaks from traveling now is to catch up on work that piled up while I was off doing things.

Liz Borod Wright asks: Should I go out of my way to visit Lichtenstein?

There really isn’t anything in Liechtenstein. Nothing that you can’t find in other small towns in Switzerland or Austria. The real reason to visit Liechtenstein is to say you’ve been to Liechtenstein. It isn’t that hard to reach if you are in Zurich. You can hop on a train and be there with only one train transfer and a bus transfer. If you are in Zurich or closer and you have a free afternoon, then I think it is a fun side trip to make. If nothing else, the mountains around Liechtenstein are beautiful.

Valentin Van Nhut asks: What is you system for mobile phone across the world ?

The current system for international mobile phone usage sucks. It is truly horrible. It is even worse when it comes to data. There are no good solutions for dealing with roaming data. Even the best packages you can buy cost a lot of money.

What I do is just use wifi and in particular, Boingo wifi. I’ve been using Boingo since 2007 when I was in Japan. I’ve been using it ever since. They have over 325,000 hotspots around the world. I’m writing this in Swizterland where I have been able to find hotspots that use Boingo everywhere. Almost everywhere in the city of Bangkok for example can be access via Boingo.

Boingo is a sponsor of mine, but I have also been a customer of their since 2007, so I’ve put my money where my mouth is.

What I would eventually like to do is get mifi card which I could carry around Europe or Asia with a local sim card. I think that would be the best solution for my wireless needs. I was able to use one for 2 days last week in the Costa Brava region of Spain and I loved it.

Charmine Srivastava asks: You’ve been to the south pacific Islands. Is it convenient to travel between them, say Fiji -Tahiti, any travel advise for that area will be much appreciated.

The only practical way to travel between islands in the Pacific is by plane. There are some islands where you have to travel by boat (Tokelau comes to mind) but for the most part the distances in the Pacific are so great that boat transport isn’t possible. Moreover, most supply boats don’t hop from island to island, they go between ports like Apia and Auckland. There wouldn’t be a reason for a ship to have a regular route between Tahiti and Guam.

Plane tickets in the Pacific are often expensive, especially if the island isn’t on a stopover between other countries.

  • 13 Comments... What's your take?

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Comments

  1. Frances says:

    I loved the picture taking advice (I even shared it with my mom, lol). Very simple and to the point. Thanks!

  2. Peggy says:

    Comparing digital editing to the darkroom editing done by Ansel Adams is brilliant! It finally makes it clear for me. I’ve felt like I can’t be a good photographer if I need to do too much editing. Ah, but not so…!
    Thanks, Gary!

    • Gary says:

      While I do admit I’m pleased if I have to do little editing on a photo, the fact is a camera is not as good as a human eye. What you see vs what the camera will show you will almost always be different.

  3. We are headed to see one of Shawna’s friends in Liechtenstein in early July…and although we are looking forward to it, I think you are right, there isn’t a ton going on. “who can say they have been to Liechtenstein?” was actually her primary selling point to get us to come visit… :)

  4. izy says:

    I’d say the biggest tip for taking great travel photos should be to shoot in RAW!!! haha :)

  5. I have been working hard on improving my photography and getting a feel for it before I upgrade from my point and shoot. I think some touch up here and there does no harm at all. Do you have any recommendations for a good DSLR? Is it difficult to travel with a larger camera?

    • izy says:

      Liz, I’m a 23 year old girl and I traveled with a Canon 5d mark ii for 4 months in Asia and a month in Europe. It’s not too big for me because it’s worth the quality. As for what type of camera to get first you should pick between Canon and Nikon and it’s of course going to depend a lot on your budget.

  6. Jimmy says:

    Knowing your camera is definitely up there for me. After months of fiddling with mine, I’m still not 100% confident in using it.

    It actually makes me feel guilty for not putting to use its full potential.

  7. Crissy says:

    While I agree that post-processing doesn’t make you a cheater in the photography world, I think there is point where you go from being a “photographer” and being a photo editor. If you take a crappy photo and make it great in editting then you’re not a photographer. But if you take a good picture and make it great with a little processing, then you’re a “photographer.”

  8. Matt Gibson says:

    I have to disagree with David. Although software has given us incredible amounts of control during post-processing, any photographer will tell you that there is no substitute for a well-framed perfectly-exposed photograph.

    Besides, the problems that will take you minutes or hours to fix in the (digital) darkroom can be avoided with a few seconds of extra attention behind the camera. Do yourself a favor and take the time to learn what makes a good composition and exposure, and, like Gary says, how to use your camera to get them.

  9. David Webb says:

    As long as you’ve got your fundamentals down, I’d say it’s more like 80% of being a great photographer is being a great photo editor. That’s why cameras have continuous shooting modes… sort it out in the (digital) darkroom…

    • Don Faust says:

      I disagree with David (and agree with Matt). Every pro on digital does photo editing, but most will say that composition is what makes a great photo. There are tons of photos out there that have been exposed as properly as possible in-camera, and correctly adjusted in PS, but they are boring – they have no subject or interesting perspective.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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