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Photography practice through mimicry


The Practicing Photographer

with Ben Long

Video: Photography practice through mimicry

Very often when teaching a class, I will ask students who their favorite photographers are. And it's pretty shocking to me how rarely students will have an answer to that question. And they'll feel pressured to say something, so, of course they'll all say Ansel Adams, because that's the only really famous photographer that's kind of entered the mainstream consciousness. If I was to walk into a writing class, and ask the students who their favorite writers were, I think they would all have an answer. It's very strange to me that nowadays hobbyists who learn photography don't learn the history of photography.
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  1. 20m 3s
    1. Pulling stills from a timelapse NEW
      6m 8s
    2. 1m 35s
      1. Introducing The Practicing Photographer
        1m 35s
    3. 12h 10m
      1. Choosing a camera
        5m 27s
      2. Looking at light as a subject
        2m 22s
      3. Using a small reflector to add fill light
        5m 45s
      4. Editing photo metadata with PhotosInfo Pro for iPad
        6m 30s
      5. Let your lens reshape you
        7m 26s
      6. Compositing street photography images with Photoshop
        7m 44s
      7. Expand your filter options with step-up and step-down rings
        3m 56s
      8. Shooting without a memory card
        3m 6s
      9. Give yourself a year-long assignment
        5m 28s
      10. Working with reflections
        1m 26s
      11. Exploring mirrorless cameras
        7m 25s
      12. Batch processing photos with the Adobe Image Processor
        7m 30s
      13. Limiting yourself to a fixed-focal-length lens
        2m 13s
      14. Creating tiny worlds: Shooting technique
        4m 15s
      15. Creating tiny worlds: Post-processing techniques
        11m 41s
      16. Shooting macro shots on an iPhone
        3m 18s
      17. Using a tripod
        3m 33s
      18. Wildlife and staying present
        5m 58s
      19. Batch exposure adjustments on raw files
        6m 52s
      20. Why Shoot Polaroid
        11m 12s
      21. Seizing an opportunity
        4m 4s
      22. Four photographers do a light-as-subject exercise
        12m 24s
      23. Shooting macro bug photos with a reversed lens
        4m 54s
      24. Varnishing a photo for a painterly effect
        13m 36s
      25. Shooting wildlife
        7m 24s
      26. Discussion on how to shoot architecture
        12m 27s
      27. Using a lens hood
        4m 48s
      28. Working with themes
        2m 48s
      29. Setting up an HDR time lapse
        7m 55s
      30. Processing an HDR time lapse
        7m 55s
      31. Two perspectives on travel photography
        12m 28s
      32. Scanning Photos
        5m 37s
      33. Photo assignment: shooting an egg
        3m 13s
      34. Reviewing the egg shot images
        6m 47s
      35. Shooting in your own backyard
        4m 38s
      36. Jpeg iPad import process
        3m 17s
      37. Shooting a product shot in open shade
        9m 34s
      38. Reviewing the product shot images
        4m 5s
      39. Warming up
        3m 26s
      40. Taking a panning action shot
        10m 17s
      41. Scanning polaroid negatives and processing in Photoshop
        8m 17s
      42. Shooting a silhouette
        3m 9s
      43. Going with an ultra-light gear configuration
        5m 29s
      44. Working with masks and calculations in Photoshop
        12m 38s
      45. Working with flash for macro photography
        4m 56s
      46. Colorizing a black and white photo in Photoshop
        5m 10s
      47. Using duct tape and zip ties in the field
        4m 14s
      48. When the on camera flash is casting a shadow
        3m 4s
      49. Using Lightroom on the road
        6m 28s
      50. Listening to your camera to get good exposure
        2m 20s
      51. Shooting a successful self portrait with a phone
        7m 18s
      52. Switching to Lightroom from another application
        9m 48s
      53. Photographing animals in wildlife refuges
        6m 41s
      54. Shooting level
        2m 42s
      55. Photoshop and Automator
        8m 54s
      56. Shooting when the light is flat
        3m 23s
      57. Discussing the business of stock photography
        9m 48s
      58. Shooting tethered to a monitor
        3m 21s
      59. Making a 360 degree panorama on the iPhone
        4m 45s
      60. Understanding the three flash setup
        3m 34s
      61. Shooting a three flash portrait
        4m 6s
      62. Understanding the differences with third party lenses
        4m 43s
      63. Understanding why files look different on depending on device
        5m 25s
      64. Working with a geotagging app on the iPhone
        4m 43s
      65. Using high speed flash sync to dim ambient light
        7m 29s
      66. Using your iPad as a second monitor
        5m 46s
      67. Understanding exposure with a leaf shutter camera
        3m 28s
      68. Photography practice through mimicry
        8m 8s
      69. Canon wireless flash with built in radio control
        5m 59s
      70. Posing and shooting pairs of people
        5m 35s
      71. Shooting with a shape in mind
        3m 15s
      72. Shooting tethered to a laptop
        4m 40s
      73. Softboxes vs. umbrellas
        2m 55s
      74. Getting your project out into the world
        6m 25s
      75. Exploring how to think about shooting a new environment
        3m 56s
      76. Discussing the book "The Passionate Photographer" with Steve Simon
        6m 4s
      77. Highlighting iOS 8 updates on the iPhone5S
        10m 46s
      78. Exploring manual controls with iOS 8 and ProCamera
        5m 30s
      79. Understanding how to compose with an empty sky
        4m 54s
      80. Using an iPhone to make a print in the darkroom
        7m 16s
      81. How to use glycerin as a photography tool
        2m 16s
      82. Understanding micro focus adjustment and Lens Align
        11m 19s
      83. Working with hair in post
        3m 28s
      84. Taking a quick portrait and directing a subject
        5m 50s
      85. Getting inspired through the work of others
        11m 22s
      86. Taking a flattering portrait with flash
        4m 21s
      87. Creating an unaligned HDR image
        3m 3s
      88. Exploring how to use Bokeh
        5m 38s
      89. Shooting stills from a drone
        6m 57s
      90. Using a monitor to get a first person view of the aerial camera
        8m 0s
      91. Understanding lens profile correction
        5m 33s
      92. Working with models
        2m 40s
      93. Understanding the labels on SD cards
        10m 32s
      94. Setting up a macro time lapse of a flower
        6m 18s
      95. Taking a portrait that's tightly cropped or slightly obscured
        3m 24s
      96. Tips for shooting panoramas
        7m 16s
      97. Carrying a point-and-shoot camera
        4m 44s
      98. Adjusting the color of shadows in an image
        5m 35s
      99. Evaluating camera-strap options
        4m 42s
      100. The 100th Practicing Photographer
        3m 31s
      101. Using light-pollution maps for planning night shoots
        3m 26s
      102. Shooting a series of star shots for a stack
        8m 32s
      103. Stitching together stacks of stars
        8m 59s
      104. Understanding how to clean sensor dust
        10m 27s
      105. Dry sensor cleaning
        6m 23s
      106. Cleaning the sensor with moisture
        7m 32s
      107. Composing in the center
        2m 48s
      108. Working with an electronic shutter control
        2m 50s
      109. Understanding how to use the Wi-Fi feature in some cameras
        2m 56s
      110. Exploring the software equivalent to graduated ND (neutral density) filters
        7m 8s
      111. Don't be predictable in your framing
        10m 21s
      112. Shooting with ND filter and flash to balance subject and background exposure
        2m 42s
      113. Understanding when to go low contrast
        3m 15s
      114. Reasons for shooting images alone
        4m 5s
      115. Working with colored lens filters and converting to black and white
        14m 4s
      116. Waiting for a subject when the light is good
        5m 2s
      117. Understanding options for tripod heads
        7m 23s
      118. Shooting a slow-shutter zoom-and-spin shot for light effect
        4m 47s
      119. Shooting and processing a long exposure at night
        10m 0s
      120. Getting creative with image curation
        4m 12s
      121. Why equivalent lenses don't always meter the same
        5m 42s

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Watch the Online Video Course The Practicing Photographer
12h 32m Appropriate for all May 16, 2013 Updated Aug 27, 2015

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.

Ben Long

Photography practice through mimicry

Very often when teaching a class, I will ask students who their favorite photographers are. And it's pretty shocking to me how rarely students will have an answer to that question. And they'll feel pressured to say something, so, of course they'll all say Ansel Adams, because that's the only really famous photographer that's kind of entered the mainstream consciousness. If I was to walk into a writing class, and ask the students who their favorite writers were, I think they would all have an answer. It's very strange to me that nowadays hobbyists who learn photography don't learn the history of photography.

They don't have a context for their images in the larger work that has been everything that's happened in photography for the last 150 years. So, I want to talk about two things. One, just encouraging you to look at other work. Right now between the massive amounts of publications that you can get, beautiful coffee table books full of works. And simply the web, which, provides access to basically every photo, famous photo that's ever been taken. There's no reason not to have a very good understanding of what has come before you in terms of taking pictures.

You wouldn't expect a musician to not know some musical history, especially within the genre that they play. It's strange that we, as photography students, don't demand that of ourselves either. In addition to being a good way of getting better as a photographer, it's just a lot of fun. Not just because of what you learn about photography but what you learn about the subject the photographers are taking. So I really encourage you to just start sitting down with some photo books and simply looking. You can start anywhere, you can go alphabetically, you can, you can ask friends who their favorite photographers are.

I've got a nice stack of books here that were just laying around the Lynda studio here. I've got some Eugene Smith. Some Keith Carter. Actually I got a lotta Keith Carter, which is a great way to spend your time. There are a lotta great photographers out there. It's nice to develop an aesthetic for it. Then I would suggest you take the next level. As an exercise, once you've identified some photographers you really like, consider. Taking their style apart, really learning what it is, and trying to shoot that way. Trying mimicking a particular photographer. Not because you're really gung-ho about creating derivative work, but very often by going through the motions they went through, you'll learn a lot about how they work, and that can influence your own shooting.

I'm looking at this Eugene Smith book here, and I've seen a lot of this work before. It's straight documentary work. And, while looking at I can sit here and take apart what he's done. Technically, I can say, oh, he's shooting with a wide aperture, which shallowed up the field. He's probably really struggling with that backlight here, and that's certainly valuable to do. What's much more intense is to look at it and go, how did he get himself in this situation? How did he get permission to do this? How did he get access to these people? How did he get so comfortable, that he could get this close to a doctor working with a patient? That was the amazing thing that Eugene Smith did.

The rapport that he developed with these people, his ability to, go into these situations and see that way and allow, get people to open up to him. So there's a lot more to learn from looking at these people than just their technical style, it's, you've gotta think through their technique. And a big part of that comes out when you're going to mimic someone. Now, you're probably seen the work of Richard Avedon, even if you didn't know that's what you were seeing. Very famous 20th century photographer. Who's best known for taking what appear to be candid portraits of people in front of white limbo backgrounds.

So, I'm going to do that right now. I got a couple of, of friends here. Chrissy and Doug, come on in. I'm going to set them up here. This is a regular place that we shoot here in the Lynda studios. It's this great, it's called a cyclorama. It's a white limbo set. This is the type of set that Avedon shot in. But he didn't do it in a studio. He carried one around with him. And you can do the same. You can get very, a very similar lighting situation that I've got here, just by finding a shady wall and putting up some white butcher paper or a white sheet. Just something that's going to give you a really good, easily knocked out background.

Okay, guys, our lighting is not quite where it was. If you could step back a little bit. So what he did, what Avedon did was try to find people as they really were in a particular situation. Sometimes that was going to an area of the country and picking up people that he thought it was interesting. Sometimes it was celebrity portraits, and just getting them being themselves. And he typically shot them in this limbo background, with and he, he contact printed so that he had very natural frames. Obviously we're shooting digitally, so we're not going to do that.

So the first thing I'm doing is just trying to figure out what I can get here. I'm just going to knock off a couple of practice shots. I'm trusting them to be patient. Just to see what kind of framing I've got. This look kind of Avedon to me. I'm not really doing any work with them yet, I'm just trying to figure out what is Avedon. And right away I see, wow you, you really. Sometimes to get in the frame that you want to get, the composition that you want, you gotta be really far away. Boy, it feels strange yelling at my subject telling them to do things. So is that how Avedon worked? Did he right away? Was he always this distant from his subject? Is that perhaps why very often his pictures.

I, I really like Avedon pictures, but I do find sometimes there is a coldness to the portraits. Maybe that's why. Maybe he wasn't close enough to talk to them. I don't know. I'm just making stuff up at this point. But this is what I mean, by going through the motions of taking an Avedon style photo, I'm kind of maybe more in his head. And, and seeing the problems that he encountered. So, guys you look great but. Let's get a little closer together. Interact with, with each other somehow even, yeah, just the hand on her shoulder. Something like that. Okay. Now, this is maybe starting to look a little high school prom picture.

>> Yeah there we go. Still, it's something. One thing, particularly with his, in the American West work, Avedon had very neutral expressions. So let's try that. Give me look you know, cynical and dour and, and hip. yeah, that's good. Now, I can sit here and try and play Richard Avedon all day long and at the end of the day I might know exactly how to shoot a Richard Avedon photo.

And I might have learned a lot about his process along the way. The result though would be, so what, I can shoot like Richard Avedon. This may be an interesting starting point. What can I do from here that's my own or that is following my own interest? I can tell you right now. I just feel too far away. That feels weird. So I'm going to go in here. And, except now I'm casting a shadow on you guys, so I can't go that close. Okay, that's fine, working within the lighting constraints, that's part of being a photographer. I really like the limbo background. I've got some shadows behind them, I know I can knock that out really easily in Photoshop. But, I think, for me, I'm maybe more interested in getting in tighter.

Not the full body thing, but more up here. So guys, if you could come back together somehow, alright. And now I'd rather see you interacting with each other I think. Or maybe one of you. Doug look at me, Christy look at Doug. Oh, that's nice. You have no idea what she's doing now. You have no idea how she's looking at you. So I can just go on like this.

I, I started with Avedon, I started with the limbo background idea, and now I'm moving into it and just trying things and taking things apart. This is where the mimicry can go. And, it's really important to take that next step, because sometimes if you mimic something too much, that's going to become your habit. And then you're stuck, then you're stuck being a Richard Avedon wannabe. You need to be able to make it your own. So start with the mimicry, but really try and take that next step into doing something else. At the very least, even if you don't come out with any images you like, you're going to know a lot more about how a particular photographer shot.

You will have gone through some good thought process that's going to be helpful in any type of shooting you do. And after your study of some photographers, you're going to have a better idea of the broader world that has come in photography before you.

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A: We publish a new tutorial or tutorials for this course on a regular basis. We are unable to offer a Certificate of Completion because it is an ever-evolving course that is not designed to be completed. Check back often for new movies.
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